When you discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” — Jean Shinoda Bolen

IMG_0349Whether you’re caring for a young child or an elderly parent, it’s hard enough to schedule time for your own dental appointments — not to mention a facial or a therapeutic massage.

Like most women I know, I feel a bit guilty when I schedule beauty and spa treatments on my calendar. Luckily, my husband likes to surprise me — on birthdays and holidays — with gift certificates for local pampering. That’s how I ended up cocooned in a terrycloth bathrobe in a spa treatment room at the Douglas J Aveda Institute in Royal Oak earlier this week.

The modern Asian ambiance of Douglas J could easily hold a candle to some of the pricier professional spas Ive visited on vacations in northern Michigan.  Better yet, this escape is less than a 10-minute drive from my house.

The facility is actually a cosmetology school offering a full menu of beauty and spa services, from hair styling to body waxing. For my visit, I chose the Elemental Nature facial and Perfecting Plant Peel, both of which employ heady doses of aromatherapy.

Haley, the student assigned to apply my two treatments, invited me to take a seat in one of the treatment rooms while she filled a metal bowl with warm water for my feet. (A foot soak and massage are always included with Aveda facials.) While my feet soaked, Haley asked a few questions about the health of my skin and what I expected from my facial. We also selected the scented oils to be used in my treatments.

A scented candle flickered on a nearby table stacked with thick white towels. Meanwhile, the obligatory spa music – Native American flute and new-age piano – wafted through the hallway beyond my curtained treatment room.


My facial also included a hand massage as well as special attention to my neck and chest. And while Haley performed all of the spa services by herself – and was totally professional – her support instructors periodically stopped by to check her progress. This is standard procedure at all Douglas J Institutes, which are part of the statewide Academy of Cosmetology founded by Douglas and Sharon Weaver in 1986. (The Academy partnered with Aveda in 1993.)

All of Aveda’s spa treatments combine physiological and psychological benefits – and nothing synthetic is used in the products. It’s all about “high touch versus high tech,” with an emphasis on helping each client relax and re-balance.

It’s very affordable, too. My 90-minute Elemental Nature facial/massage was $49, plus $15 with the added Perfecting Plant Peel. (Gratuities are not accepted.) I ended up with a fresher complexion, new skincare tips, and a much brighter outlook on life.

Best of all, for two blissful hours, I hadnt given a thought to my caregiving duties, or anything else on my to-do list. I enjoyed the experience so much, in fact, that I booked another facial for January — knowing I’ll need a remedy for post-holiday burnout. As author and therapist Brene Brown advises: “We cant practice compassion with others if we cant treat ourselves kindly.”  Copy that in your day planner.

HOLIDAY TIP: Most Aveda Institutes offer gift certificates for spa services, hair styling, manicures, and pedicures. You might want to mention this to Santa.

Extreme self-care

Over-giving is often a sign of deprivation — a signal that a need isn’t being met, an emotion isn’t being expressed, or a void isn’t getting filled.” — Cheryl Richardson

I’m finally starting to shake the sense that I’ve been wandering through a dream this season. Managing my mother’s ever-changing healthcare needs — while gearing up for Nate’s late September wedding — felt surreal at times.

If I wasn’t driving Mom to the oral surgeon or the pacemaker clinic (or tracking down a pair of shoes she could wear to the wedding), I was reviewing menus for the rehearsal dinner or writing names on place cards in calligraphy.

Not that I’m complaining. The wedding was absolutely beautiful — and I’m still savoring memories of the highlights, including a dance to a favorite Roxy Music tune with Nate at the reception.

Most important of all, I’ve come to realize that guiding an elderly parent through her final years while helping a son launch a new life of his own are inevitable steps in the ongoing circle-dance of life. Needless to add, I’m blessed to have a freelance schedule that gives me the flexibility to step up when others need me.

But as Cheryl Richardson points out in her newest guide, The Art of Extreme Self-Care, it’s easy to lose oneself in the service of others. If you’re a caretaker, a professional caregiver, a people-pleaser, a mom with kids at home, or anyone else who puts the needs of others first, you know what Richardson is talking about. And I hope you’ll make time to read her book. It’s been a life changer (and a game changer) for me, and I’m very grateful that I stumbled on it while doing some research for a column on “caregiver burnout” earlier this summer.

Richardson used to be a woman who couldn’t say no. To anyone. She taught seminars and workshops, mentored clients, volunteered for organizations, and “supported needy friends who were struggling.” She was often exhausted and had little time left for her marriage. “I was a good girl. I was so used to playing the role of caretaker that it had become a normal way of life,” she writes.

Richardson’s life coach challenged her to make some changes. Encouraging her to “desensitize” her fear of stirring conflict and letting people down, he suggested that she practice “disappointing” someone every day. As soon as I read that, it made my palms sweat. Like Richardson, I’ve often said “yes” when I should have said “no” — even when I knew I didn’t have the time or my heart wasn’t in it. All because I hate to disappoint people.

It’s not easy to break out of this pattern. As Richardson notes, “One of the harsh realities about practicing Extreme Self-Care is that you must learn to manage the anxiety that arises when other people are disappointed, angry, or hurt. And they will be.”

When you stop worrying about what others think, you’re changing the “rules of the game,” she warns. Some of the folks who claim they can always count on you will play the guilt card when you dare to admit that you’re too tired to help, or that you can’t change your schedule to accommodate them.

Yesterday I finally visited Dr. Paul Ehrmann, my family doctor, for a complete physical. After driving my mother to every medical specialist in Oakland County on a monthly basis for the past four years, it felt a little odd to focus on my own healthcare, my own needs. It hit me, while the technician hooked me up for my EKG, that I knew less about the general state of my own health than I do about my mother’s. (I’ll get test results Monday.) And when Dr. Paul began my exam with the words, “Cindy, this time is about you — not about your mom or Nate’s wedding,” I nearly dissolved into tears.

“If you want to live a meaningful life that also makes a difference in the lives of others, you need to make a difference in your own life first,” Richardson reminds us. “When we care for ourselves deeply and deliberately, we naturally begin to care for others — our families, our friends, and the world — in a healthier, more effective way.”

So … what have you done for yourself lately, my friend? — CL

— Top illustration: A detail from “Renaissance Woman,” an altered book by Cindy La Ferle. Bottom photo: Cheryl Richardson (Hay House) —



“Ahhh” is for aromatherapy

If you want your life to come together, you have to start treating yourself better.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

Like most women I know, I’ve always felt a bit guilty about taking time out for myself — especially if there are people or household chores in need of my attention. Self-pampering? I rarely book a facial or a massage unless I’m on vacation. And with my mother’s health crisis topping my list of responsibilities now, well, let’s just say it’s twice as hard to find free space on my calendar.

In this week’s Patch column, I explain how a nudge from my husband gave me a much-needed break from the stress of care-giving — without driving too far from home. I hope the column inspires you to spoil yourself a little, too. Click here to read it. — CL

— Photo by Cindy La Ferle for Royal Oak Patch.com; Douglas J Aveda Institute in Royal Oak.

Into white

Tables of paper wood, windows of light/ And everything emptying into White.” — Cat Stevens, “Into White”

The thing I love best about redecorating is that it inspires us to look at our old rooms in new ways. A “re-do” doesn’t necessarily require that we buy more furniture or knick-knacks — though paint, hardware, and elbow grease are typically involved. And while shelter magazines offer creative ideas (and jazzy new things to purchase), it still boils down to re-imagining what we already own.

In January, Doug and I finally decided to freshen up the master bedroom. We’d been living for several years with murky, sponge-painted walls and a dark rug in a busy Southwestern pattern. The room looked cluttered and weary — and it felt claustrophobic.

We needed to lighten things up. So we cleared out the space and hired a carpenter-friend to rebuild the old closet. Doug applied two different shades of white paint for the walls and trim. And while we prefer hardwood floors and area rugs in our home, the floor was in such bad shape — and cold during Michigan winters — that we made an exception and had pale taupe carpeting installed.

Taking advantage of the winter sales, I bought white linens in a variety of textures, and a simple, quilted white coverlet. We didn’t have to purchase any new furniture (our old pieces look nice against the white walls), but we added a new shabby-chic style chandelier from Lowe’s — a bargain at a little over $100. The project took longer than we’d hoped, due to a mix-up with carpeting measurements and an aggravating delay in the re-ordering process. But all said and done, Doug and I are pleased with the result.

Having spent the past year immersed in my widowed mother’s ongoing health crises — and trying to help her make sense of things — I didn’t realize how many key areas I’d neglected in my own home. Until recently, I was too tired (and uninspired) to make time to sort through it all. I’m slowly catching up now, one room at a time.

How good it feels to get my own life back in order now that spring is almost here. Our freshly decorated bedroom is a peaceful oasis in the midst of so many questions marks. — Cindy La Ferle