Eyeing facial exercises causes a raised brow

I keep coming across stories promoting exercises for your face. They claim you can tone your face, firm your double chin, sculpt your cheeks and reduce wrinkles on your neck with a few simple exercises.

I’m here to say I quit. I know, I know. I haven’t even started, but I quit.

I come from people who wrinkle. Both sides of my family crease like cotton sheets left in the dryer too long.

Both my grandmothers wrinkled, my mother wrinkled and I’m in the process of wrinkling. It’s in the genes. “Genes” that are perma-wrinkle.

I’ve watched a few tutorials on cheek sculpting exercises and, frankly, some of them border on dangerous.

An exercise known as The Owl says to place an index finger above and parallel to each eyebrow and your thumbs below your eyes on your cheeks. Then make big eyes while the fingers create resistance to the stretching muscles. It looks like you’re pretending to wear imaginary glasses. Personally, I doubt the exercise reduces wrinkles, but it may make you look like you’re losing your mind.

The most practical facial exercise I’ve come across is the one where you turn your neck from side to side. Theoretically, this will lift your sagging double chin and tighten the folds in your neck. I’ve been jerking my neck from side to side for years, changing lanes and merge onto the interstate, but it hasn’t done a thing.

Another exercise advises placing your index fingers at the outermost edges of your eyebrows and trying to lift your brows against the pressure of your fingers. It looks like the onset of a migraine.

Then there’s the exercise where you tilt your head way back and place your fingers near your collarbones while pulling your chin up. It might tighten some muscles, but you can also look like you’re choking. Do that one only if you’re willing to risk someone charging up to you and performing the Heimlich maneuver.

The fact is, I’ve always looked a lot like my mother. As she aged, she used to try and scare me by cupping her wrinkled face in her hands and saying, “Behold, your future.”

I would scare her back by cupping my face in my hands and saying, “Behold, your future caretaker.”

She often screamed.

She claimed her doctor told her to never sleep on her stomach, as the pull of gravity encouraged wrinkles. She was glad for the warning, but said it came about 20 years too late.

Save yourself!

I’m a side sleeper, but I don’t think my right side is any more wrinkled than my left side. At least my wrinkles are symmetrical. There’s always something to be grateful for.

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Christmas that shook the movers and shakers

A friend has long said she dislikes movers and shakers because they constantly move and shake everybody else.

It does seem that way. Movers and shakers at the top determine what we pay in taxes, how fast we can drive on the interstate and choose our friends and enemies for us around the world.

Particularly aggressive movers and shakers even attempt to dictate which words we can use and the thoughts we can think.

We can take solace knowing that for every tier of movers and shakers today, there eventually will be another tier of movers and shakers above them and another above them ad infinitum.

Deep within those layers are the movers and shakers that were part of the first Christmas as it unfolded millennia ago. Powerful people thought they were calling the shots, but they were small players in a story of incomprehensible grandeur.

Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus issued an order for a census. And so it was that a young expectant couple made their way to Bethlehem. When King Herod learned a star had risen signaling a king was about to be born, he commanded the Magi to report back to him when they found this baby. The Magi gave him the slip.

Like every period in history, there were the powerful and the powerless at the time of Christ’s birth. The powerful, who were few, lived lavish lives while the vast majority scraped by under the shadows of coercion and brutality. Most people lived somewhere on a continuum between weariness and despair.

It wasn’t just a dark night when Christ was born; it was a dark time.

The young couple featured prominently in the narrative were downwardly mobile peasants. Neither were influencers like those today with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. Although, ironically, like many big stars of today, the mother of Jesus is instantly known by one name.


Far from all things familiar, in a strange town and a very strange place for giving birth, Mary labored and delivered on a humble bed of straw. Who would have thought such an obscure beginning would forever mark history?

Shortly after the birth is when the real movin’ and shakin’ began. Celestial beings lit up the skies over fields where ragged shepherds tended their sheep. It was a heavenly announcement delivered first to commoners, those with no position, power or social capital.

Why start with the lowly? Because God often works from the bottom up. Because God Himself took on humility coming as a baby in a manger. Because the ways of God are not the ways of man. Man sees on the outside; God sees the heart.

The invitation to come to the manger truly was, and remains today, a come one and come all, wherever you are, in whatever condition you are. Christmas is for the joyful and the grieving, the broken and the whole, for those filled with hope and for those who anguish in the night.

More than 2,000 years later, around the world, the heart of Christmas remains unchanged. It is an invitation to one and all to draw near. “You will find him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Come and see. Behold the wonder.

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Keep Calm and Read On

Question: In the history of the world, has it ever been effective for one person to tell another person who is wound up to “calm down”?

Asking for a friend.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that I was wound up about something and a certain someone I have been married to for four decades tells me to “calm down.” Instead of having a calming effect, this has a polar-opposite effect. I am wound one notch tighter because I have been instructed to “calm down.”

It’s not that I mind being told to take it down a notch, it’s that the phrase “calm down” instinctively triggers adrenaline.

Perhaps other responses might be more helpful, things along the lines of “breathe” or “count to 10” or “put down the knife, now is not a good time to chop vegetables.”

I do chop fast when I’m wound tight. I’ve been known to prepare an entire veggie stir fry in under 60 seconds. In the interest of safety, I never watch the nightly news while doing meal prep.

My better half means well, just like I mean well when I tell him to calm down. Loved ones often say a lot of well-meaning things to one another that can seem, well, not so loving. Meaning well and communicating well are not the same things.

Telling me to “calm down” is on a par with telling me to relax. That one makes me want to whip out a calendar and instruct the one telling me that to block out a few days.

A son-in-law sometimes tells his wife, “Keep your powder dry.” That might be more effective because it’s a visual. It essentially says, “Don’t fire yet because things could get a lot worse.”

I am of the belief that the happiest people are often optimistic pessimists. They are the ones quietly confident that a situation can always be worse, so they are never completely taken by surprise and thereby lapse into panic.

In preparation for World War II, the Brits printed “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters intended to raise morale, fortify those stiff upper lips and encourage self-discipline. The posters were rarely displayed in public and only became widely known after someone brought several original copies to Antiques Roadshow (a program that cannot only calm but put some fast asleep).

Many variations of “Keep Calm and Carry On” have been minted since then, some of which are extremely practical and helpful: Keep Calm and . . . Have Some Dip . . . Eat Chocolate . . . Pretend You’re at the Beach . . . Call Mom . . . Get New Glasses . . . Read A Book . . . Have Recess . . . Call Your Lawyer . . . Be A Unicorn . . .  Pray . . . Plant Trees . . . Wait for Santa.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” may have worked for the British, but unfortunately, I am not a Brit.

Fortunately, I do keep a small stash of dark chocolate.

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A personal best for setting up the Christmas tree

There was a woman on the street where I grew up that put her Christmas tree away fully decorated every year. She would cover it with a sheet and scoot it into a cold, dreary utility room.

I used to think that was the saddest thing in the world. What had happened to her love of lights, ornaments and artificial pine cones?

I now know what happened— they were sucked into a vortex called Age.

We have just set a record for the time taken to set up the Christmas tree.

On Day One, I pressed the small button that opens the garage door. We can’t get our tree and decorations down from a shelf without opening the garage door. I pulled down four boxes of decorations, but the tree is too heavy for me. I’d done my part.

My better half took some recyclables to the garage later and saw boxes of decorations stacked by the door to the kitchen and the tree box still on the shelf. He closed the garage door.

Day Two: I opened the garage door again. We were now on the same wavelength as he moved the huge box with the tree from the shelf to the garage floor. Then he came inside to watch football.

Day Three:  I was out for the morning, came home and found the box holding the tree in the front room. Puzzling. We must have left the garage door open and the UPS delivery guy had hauled it inside.

I asked the husband if he wanted to set up the tree. He said sure and moved a big ladder into the front room. The ladder and the box sat untouched.

The day passed, the light faded and a beautiful sunset splashed across the evening sky. To get a better look, I hurdled over the tree box, tiptoed across the back of a love seat, dropped to the floor and squeezed between the ladder and a chair to get to the window. It was a challenge, but I needed the cardio and the sunset was worth it.

Day Four: I wrote “Set Me Free” in the dust accumulating on the tree box. I considered opening the box but remembered that I already did my part by opening the garage door.

Day Five: We have three granddaughters for the day. They love to decorate Christmas trees. The cavalry has arrived!

I leave for an appointment and they are giddy with excitement about setting up the tree while I am gone.

I return home a few hours later. Only the base of the tree is standing and nobody is decorating. The girls are doing a makeover on Grandpa, who is asleep on a love seat.  What hair he has left on top is wrapped around a red roller. His stylist yanks out the roller, fires up the blow dryer and blasts hairspray. Two others attempt to put his good shoes on him. Clearly, he’s not sound asleep because each time they try to wedge his foot with the thick athletic sock into a dress shoe, he grimaces.

The makeover complete, I am ordered into the kitchen so he can make an entrance and they can enjoy the big reveal.

He enters the kitchen holding a “love letter” printed on the computer in 100-point Balloon font. “Roses are red, violets are blue, no one in the world is a sweet as you.” They printed it; he signed it. I feign surprise at his poetry skills and kiss both his cheeks.

Everyone returns to the front room and sets up the tree.

Five days, one grandpa makeover and a short love letter was all it took to set up the tree—a personal best.

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