Saturday, February 23, 2008

Beauty secrets...and a cautionary tale

It's been fascinating to me that as my friends and I age, suddenly all we talk about are skin care products and our mad attempt to get rid of all of our accumulated wrinkles and bits of sagging skin.

Remember when, as teenagers or even younger pre-teens, we all hung out with our friends at slumber parties and played with make-up? Well, these days it's the same principal, though rather than comparing lipsticks and eye shadow, we're sharing tips about products that promise to wipe the years away.

For me this started with a "significant" birthday a few years ago. About two weeks before the big day, I emailed my best friend from college warning her to prepare herself. With her birthday rolling around a couple of months after mine, I wanted her to know that she should be expecting her face to cave in. At least that's what mine had done. Practically overnight. I swear it happened that fast. For the remainder of that summer, every email I received from her had a note: Not yet. She actually made it past her birthday without the sudden onset of sagging or crinkling under her eyes. I figure she was probably always a late bloomer, but trust me, it's all caught up with her now.

And suddenly our emails are all about various products we've tried...creams and lotions and devices that scrub away dry skin and leave you with a fresh, vibrant complexion. If it's out there, I guarantee you that one or the other of us has probably tried it. We've turned into absolute suckers for all of the advertising claims.

Neither of us -- so far, anyway -- has been willing to go the route of cosmetic surgery. I absolutely know I'd be the one who ended up with major scarring or a permanently reddened complexion. That being the case, that leaves us with anti-aging products. On a daily basis, we experiment. Just last week I passed along a tip from a make-up artist who advised using green teabags to reduce undereye puffiness. I tried it. It seems to work. He also advised steeping a few of the teabags at a time and storing the extras in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. I passed along that tip without trying it. Today my friend advised me that those puffiness-reducing teabags turn moldy after a few days in the fridge. So, fresh-brewed is the way to go...after they've cooled down, of course. Otherwise, you'll be facing a whole different skin problem.

I know it's not just my friend and I who are embroiled in this activity. Last summer a neighbor held a party for a particular product line and everyone there focused on the skin rejuvenating treatments offered. I have to admit, I bought some of those, too. Then last week, I spotted an ad in the local paper for yet another product. I went online and ordered that one at what struck me as an exorbitant cost. I've now used it for two days and actually believe I see results. If I'm right, I will be ordering it by the tubful, despite the cost.

However -- and here comes that cautionary note for any teenagers out there -- the very best thing I could have done for my skin would have been to stay out of the sun all these years. Living at the beach has caught up with me. Even now, I still spend a few minutes -- rarely more than 20 -- outside every so often because I think the sun is good for bones and it just plain feels good, especially on my achy knee. I just wish I'd used that degree of moderation a whole lot sooner.

If any of the rest of you have discovered the fountain of youth in a bottle -- or a jar -- please share it with us by clicking on the comment link below.

And if you'd like to be a guest blogger or simply have a topic to suggest that matters to you and your friends, email me directly at I'd love to hear from you.

Sherryl Woods

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

The loneliest day of the year...or not

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! For married couples and people busy falling in love, this is the day of the year to celebrate those wonderful feelings that connect you to another person. Cupid's darts are flying all over the place.

But what if you're not in the path of one of those darts? What if you've lost your spouse? Or just gone through a divorce? Or at the moment are simply happily single? What on earth are you supposed to do on this day that celebrates love?

Some people, I suspect, simply buy a box of chocolates and hide out at home with a good book. Others manage to find a party of other singles to attend. Some simply pretend it's like any other day of the year, no big deal, no special meaning. But when I read Peanuts this morning, there was poor old Charlie Brown watching the mailman come with such hope. His face was one we've seen a million times, looking sad and so darn alone as the mailman kept right on going without leaving one single Valentine behind. It made me think.

So, this morning before heading out the door, I gathered up my stash of Dove dark chocolate hearts and took them with me to the place I go every morning for breakfast. I doled those red and gold wrapped candies out to everyone around . . . the mechanic from the corner gas station, another guy whose name and job I don't know, the cashier at the restaurant, the cook and two of her friends, the waitresses, my regular morning dining companion and several other friends who appeared before I ran out. I discovered something, not just that it was better to give than to receive, but that everyone enjoys a little reminder that someone's thinking of them on this day. None of these people are the loves of my life. Some I barely know. Yet every one of them grinned and tucked that chocolate away. And for me, Valentine's Day turned into something special, a chance to remind the people around me that I enjoy their company, appreciate their service.

It reminded me, too, that not all love is the romantic kind. And why shouldn't we celebrate that, too? Why shouldn't this day be a time to tell our friends and family we care, even as we spend extra time and attention on that one special someone? And all it took to make someone's day a little brighter was a bag of chocolates and saying, "Happy Valentine's Day."

If you'd like to share your Valentine's Day traditions or tell us why this day was very special or impossibly hard for you, click on comments below and fill us in. If you got engaged on Valentine's Day, share that memory with us. We'd love to hear it.

Meantime, I wish you all a taste of chocolate and a whole lot of love.

Sherryl Woods


Friday, February 8, 2008

Inspirational women

Now that I've had a couple of rants on here, I'm going to change tone and talk more about the many wonderful women whose stories you've shared with me. These are women who've been important in your lives -- mothers, sisters, mothers-in-law, friends, co-workers -- who've battled breast cancer and been an inspiration to you with their courage, determination and strength. In each of these oh-so-brief entries, sent in response to the contest on my website,, I've felt the spirit of these women. I hope that sharing a few of their stories with all of you will inspire you, give you strength if you're going through your own battle with breast cancer, and most of all, help you to know that you are not walking this path alone.

If you'd like to share your own story here or tell us in more detail about one of your loved ones, please click on the comment link below, or email me directly at

In the meantime, a few more stories of hope, a few more heartfelt memories to be shared.

Michelle writes to submit the name of her friend, Rani, "a friend and co-worker recently diagnosed with stage 3 bilateral breast cancer. Rani is fairly young to be going through this and comes to work nearly every day with her newly shaved head(refused to wait to see if her hair would fall out) and a wonderfully positive attitude."

Jacqueline wants to honor "two lovely women in my family who are survivors. My sister, Janet, has had two bouts with breast cancer, the last one taking her breast. She looks for the positive and is soon to be a grandmother for the first time. The second young woman is my daughter-in-law, Jennifer. Jen is a hospice nurse who takes care of people with the same thing. She is amazing and shows so much compassion
to everyone. I want her to be able to see her son, 11, grow up and be a kind and caring man."

From Janet comes the story of her niece Cindi, "an incredible athlete, coach and role model. She is a past honorary survivor for the Indianapolis Race for the Cure and has inspired many people with her courageous story."

Another Janet asks to honor her mother, Marian, "the kindest, funniest, bravest, scrappiest woman I have ever known -- my all-time hero."

Vera, a survivor of more than twenty years, each year sponsors a tea "that raises thousands of dollars for breast cancer." Cheryl submitted her name to be honored.

Patricia wants to honor her mother, "who died of breast cancer at the age of 31. She had six children at the time and she found homes for all of us before she passed away and in 1999 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I remembered how brave she was. I also want to remember my adoptive mother, Evalynn, who died of cancer.

So many stories. I'll share more of them next time. If you have someone whom you'd like remembered or would like to honor, you can still enter the contest for the $100 March donation to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Go to and click on contest.

Sherryl Woods

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