alk about tough work assignments. My mission for this month: Schedule a few hours of pampering at the Woodhouse Day Spa in Somerset and share my experience with Southern Kentucky Health and Fitness Journal readers.

Like many women, I long for extra time and money to schedule a relaxing massage or to have professionally painted nails. But the dream usually never materializes for most of us until we receive a gift certificate (or a work assignment!) that gives us the motivation to follow through.

Here is my chance, I thought.

But now that it’s here, am I ready to be the recipient of such spoiling?

___

To give you an understanding of my approach to this day of luxury, I should explain a little about my normal daily life.

My definition of pampering is finding a few extra minutes to tweeze my own eyebrows.

I have some anti-aging cream, but am usually too tired at bedtime to slather it on.

Taking time to apply a facial mask? Sure — I can squeeze that in about once a year.

In the summer, I try to keep my toenails polished. They usually end up smudged because I find myself running around the house before they’ve had time to dry.

I try to keep my house clean. I work strange hours and juggle my assignments. I make adjustments to accommodate my family’s ever-changing schedule. I balance my checkbook, fold the laundry, water my plants...

Taking the time to take care of myself falls pretty low on my priority list.

___

I called the Woodhouse, and spoke to the manager. Cindy explained to me that a nice “sampling” of the Woodhouse’s services would include a petite pedi, a Swedish massage, and a mini spa facial — and would take about two-and-a-half hours.

Two-and-a-half hours just for me? I must be dreaming.

The days preceding my appointment were filled with surprisingly mixed feelings. While I was looking forward to the experience, I was also a little apprehensive.

It’s a woman thing.

I had experienced a professional massage before, but pedicures and facials were new territory for me.

They’re going to touch my ugly feet! They’re going to see my callouses! They’ll be astounded by my giant pores! They’re going to know that I don’t care for my skin as well as I should!

I had to convince myself that I wouldn’t be the worst customer they’d ever seen. Surely I wouldn’t be. ...

___

I arrived for my appointment, and was immediately introduced to the luxurious atmosphere in which I would be indulging myself for the rest of the afternoon. Warm colors, lush greenery, soothing music, and bubbling fountains were a contrast to the cold, hectic life just outside the door. Greeted by smiling, welcoming faces, I was offered a long list of drink options — from tea to water to Pepsi.

I quickly learned that my experience would begin with the pedicure. Why not begin with the part I fear the worst? If it’s horrible, at least it will be over soon. If I enjoy it, the rest of my appointment will be even better.

I was escorted to the pedicure area and instructed to take off my shoes and socks, and to roll my pants up above my knees. I cringed over the fact that not only my ugly feet, but also my white legs topped by my bony knees were on display.

I felt a little ridiculous — until Kelly walked in. Face to face with the woman who would soon be getting up close and personal with my feet, I began to feel better about my circumstances immediately.

Kelly was professional through and through. It didn’t take me long to realize that she wouldn’t judge me by my calloused feet. In fact, she was very complimentary — assuring me she’d seen much worse, and telling me she never would have guessed I’d never had a pedicure. She even told me my feet were smooth! Apparently, my callouses aren’t nearly as hideous as I had assumed.

The petite pedi consisted of a foot soak, nail buffing and filing, and a fresh coat of polish. Time: about 20 minutes.

Pricier foot treatments include exfoliating techniques, reflexology treatments, and other fancy tricks which can consume up to two hours.

I soaked my feet in the warm jet tub, and Kelly worked on one foot at a time — gently buffing, shaping, and trimming my nails, and eventually applying my choice from a wide variety of nail polishes.

As we made small talk about our children, I forgot that I was supposed to be squirming about her touching my feet.

I felt comfortable. Peaceful.

Is this what it feels like to feel ... pampered?

Before I knew it, Kelly had finished working her magic on my toenails. I’ve never had a polish that was so smooth and shiny. I guess that’s what happens when you spend more than five minutes pampering your feet.

Lesson learned: Next time I splurge on a pedicure, I’m going to get one that involves exfoliation. Kelly said my callouses would be easy to zap.

The most remarkable thing about the pedicure: After all my fretting over having one, I actually want there to be a next time!

___

I was left to relax in my massaging chair as my toenail polish dried. I was struck by the realization that all I had to do was relax and let my polish dry. I would not have to get up to answer a phone or tend to a child. I just had to relax ... to stare out a window and sip on hot chocolate ... until my toenails were dry.

My thoughts of ... well, nothing ... were interrupted by Angela, who had come to prepare me for my mini spa facial.

Angela was concerned that my toenails might not be dry enough to endure having my pants slipped over them when I changed into my robe.

Would I like to wait a while longer, would I want to take the risk, or would I want to start the facial with my normal clothes on?

I was enjoying my hot chocolate, and saw no reason to risk smudging the best polish job I’d ever had. I decided to linger a while longer.

Angela said she would return in a few minutes.

I smiled to myself: If that was the toughest decision I was going to have to face while I was there, I really couldn’t complain.

Yes, I think I’m beginning to figure out what it feels like to feel pampered.

___

With a shiny — and dry — set of toenails, I was ready to embark on my next new adventure.

Angela took me to a dressing room where white, fluffy wrap-around towels and robes awaited. After I changed and put my own clothes and belongings in a locked compartment, I was taken to a softly-lit room with a padded table and plenty of bottles and gadgets.

Again, I had reasons to be fearful of my facial. I’m not very confident about the condition nor the looks of my face anyway — and it didn’t help that Angela was such a pretty girl. But before my inferiority complex could get the best of me, Angela made me feel comfortable about what I was about to experience. She was so down-to-earth. Like Kelly, Angela made me realize that I am not nearly as run-down and ugly as I think I am.

“We are our own worst critics,” she reminded me.

Nowhere had I found that statement to be more true than in the comforting environment provided at the Woodhouse. I had entered the day spa with feelings of uncertainty and self-consciousness, but each person I met there convinced me that I am valuable — and, most of all, worthy of pampering.

Angela spent a full 30 minutes giving me my facial. I felt like I could have relaxed there for 30 hours. Seriously, I did not want this to end.

She washed, massaged, steamed, toned, wrapped, and slathered my face, neck, and upper chest using a variety of luxurious-feeling, wonderful-smelling products.

She seemed to move in slow motion, gently and methodically applying each treatment to my face.

I never imagined a facial could have such a tranquilizing effect.

Angela chose a treatment tailored specially for my skin. I told her my main skin concerns were large pores in some areas and fast-growing wrinkles under my eyes. She assured me that my pores weren’t any larger than normal — and she also informed me that I had passed her “blackhead inspection” with flying colors! My under-eye wrinkles were slathered with moisturizer to finish off the session.

I was impressed by how much time Angela spent giving me my facial. At home, I barely take the time to dab some soap and water on my face, so the concept of spending 30 minutes on this treatment was foreign to me.

Even more incredible is the fact that the Woodhouse offers some facials which can last up to 1 hour and 30 minutes. A variety of available sessions can combine cleansing, exfoliation, steam, aromatherapy, massage, acupressure, and masks to refresh and invigorate the skin.

My face felt wonderful after my facial — and it appeared fresher and more glowing for the next several days. The experience also gave me a new reason to resolve to take better care of my skin on my own.

___

I couldn’t seem to bribe Angela to keep me for another 30 minutes, but I still had the third phase of my pampering experience to go.

I could get used to this ...

I slowly raised myself from the table and headed to the room where my massage would take place.

I think I should request a follow-up assignment. I think I need to investigate the Woodhouse’s services a little more thoroughly, I thought to myself.

___

Sharon, who would give me my Swedish massage, put me at ease instantly just as the other girls at the Woodhouse had done.

She gave me my privacy while I slipped out of my robe and under a heavy sheet on the massaging table. When I was comfortably settled in, she began my 45-minute full body massage.

Soft lights and quiet music once again aided in the relaxation process as Sharon used her magic touch to release what was left of any tension in my body.

The previous treatments must have already worked wonders. I was expecting Sharon to find a bundle of knots in my shoulders and back — and was surprised when she told me I only had a couple of small tight spots in my shoulders.

Most massages are designed to provide relaxation, but there are different types of massages which can also focus on increasing circulation, improving joint mobility, and relieving pain.

Sharon explained that massage also helps release toxins from the body.

When she found a tense spot — and there was a surprisingly tough one in my left forearm — she would give extra attention to the area until the muscles relaxed. She explained that she was rubbing toward my heart so that my toxins would be filtered properly, and she advised me to drink plenty of water over the next few days to flush them from my body.

Toxins aren’t something I can see — although I certainly did feel their effects in some places. But it was nice to think that whatever those mean things were, they were soon going to be out of my system.

Sharon and I chatted all through my massage, mainly because I wanted to learn about what she was doing so I could write about it. But she explained that she always leaves it up to her clients to decide whether to engage in conversation or to lie quietly and enjoy the massage.

“This is your time,” she said.

Some clients, she added, fall sound asleep during their sessions.

As Sharon worked on my legs, arms, back, and head, I fully understood why some would doze off.

And I also understood how important it is for people — maybe especially women — to set aside some time when someone else can tell them, “This is your time.”

That’s what it feels like to be pampered: To have time that is “my time.”

___

I managed to stay awake for my entire massage, and, again, resisted the urge to beg Sharon to work on me for just a little longer.

When my time was up, Sharon left the room again to allow me to dress at my leisure.

As I twisted my back to get up from the table, my spine popped from bottom to top. I assume that was a good thing. It felt good, anyway.

___

Within minutes, I was leaving behind my fuzzy robe and comfy slippers and slipping back into my own clothes. While I was a little sad that my day of pampering had come to an end, I couldn’t help but be thrilled with the sense of peace I felt.

I had been spoiled with a pedicure, refreshed with a facial, and relaxed with a massage. In a couple hours’ time, I had begun to learn that it really was okay to take a little time out for myself.

I left the Woodhouse, and noticed that the world hadn’t stopped turning while I was hiding in my quiet refuge. My family and co-workers had survived without me. In fact, I think they barely even noticed I had slipped away for a while.

I noticed, though, and I felt a difference for having spent some time being pampered.

I think I had finally learned that I am worth pampering — at least every once in a while.



While you’re at Woodhouse

The Woodhouse Day Spa offers a wide range of pampering experiences. Here is just a sampling of the services offered:

Try a “Minkyti Facial.” The treatment includes exfoliation, steam, connective tissue massage, acupressure, and a custom seaweed mask.

Boost your facial with an “Algae Cocktail” — a mix of vitamins to enhance cell renewal and restore the appearance of your skin.

The Woodhouse waxes — from fuzzy eyebrows to hairy backs, unwanted hair can be obliterated in minutes.

Think warm thoughts with a “Volcanic Stone Massage.” Warmth from the stones radiates deep into the muscles and enhances circulation.

The sea comes to Somerset. The “Detoxifying Seaweed Wrap” provides nutrients, minerals, and moisturizers to the body.

Get balanced with a “Shirodhara Scalp Massage” — a head and scalp massage enhanced with a special blend of essential oils.

Spend several hours in “Intensive Care” — a long session which includes a Peppermint Sea Twist body wrap, a Vichy shower, an extreme moisture facial, a Peppermint Sea Scrub pedicure, and a nurturing manicure.

The Woodhouse hasn’t forgotten the men. The “Executive Workout” includes a sports massage, Reflexology treatment, hot towel facial, gentleman’s manicure, and a Foam Sea Soak pedicure.

Coming in January 2007 — The Woodhouse will offer a variety of Wellness Programs, including a “Healthy Heart Program,” “Anti-Aging Program,” “Weight Loss Program,” and “Anti-Acne Program.”

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