Trying Something New

Those of you  who have been following my blog for a while are probably aware of the struggle I have had with insecurity when it comes to showing pictures of myself. I am overweight and over fifty and would never have won a beauty contest even on my best days. And when you add in the fact that I am not even the slightest bit photogenic, I’m one of those people who would be a lot more comfortable using a picture of my cat as a profile picture.

It was a huge step for me to post my first selfie here a few years ago. And other than one slightly batty piece of fruitcake with over-the-top negative reaction, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Since then, I’ve gotten more comfortable about sharing pictures of myself. I still think my smile makes me look like a serial killer in pictures, but I guess I can learn to live with that. I can color the gray hairs and layer on the makeup to hid the wrinkles, but I have yet to discover a filter that shaves off eighty pounds or gives me better cleavage.

I am, however, working on what I call the Popeye chapter of my life. It’s the chapter where I look at myself, shrug, and say “I  yam what I yam.”

Of course, the thought of yams makes me hungry for sweet potato fries, which tempts me to make a run to Red’s Drive-in in Paw Paw for a double olive burger to go with the fries. And suddenly I am reminded of just why I have to worry about the extra eighty pounds (not to mention acne at the ripe old age of fifty-one).

It’s life, guys. It is what it is. Like my mom used to say, there are better ways to go through life than to be dragged, kicking and screaming.

At any rate, I am slowly working up the nerve to do a video blog post someday. Eventually. Maybe to celebrate my 55th birthday. My older children both shook their heads and said, “no, Mother,” when I suggested it, but I rarely listen to their suggestions.

If I did listen to my daughter’s suggestions, I probably wouldn’t have worn the lavender t-shirt with the silver butterfly on the boobs that makes it look like I’m wearing a bustier. Pictures of me in that shirt should be in the back pages of Glamour magazine with a black bar across my eyes and a caption that says “Fashion DON’T.”

But I’m going to take a leap and put myself out there in a video this coming weekend. Sort of. I have decided to do a Facebook Live Q&A on Sunday, April 30, at 1 p.m. EST to help celebrate the release of my newest book. I don’t know if it will do anything for sales and I strongly doubt I’ll get enough viewers to even mildly dent the internet, but I think it will be fun.

I’ve got lots of coffee on hand for before, and lots of wine for after. If it doesn’t go well, I may hit some of the wine during.

I even did a little test run with Facebook Live last weekend to see how it works. For the record, I was wearing the lavender butterfly/bustier shirt that day, which is how I figured out how awful it is.  Check it out here.

So please stop by this coming Sunday and ask any questions you might have about my books or my blog, or even about those fabulous double olive burgers and sweet potato fries at Red’s Drive-In. Anyone who comments will be entered into a random drawing to win a free digital copy of Victoria’s Promise.

Click on the link below for more information. I hope to see you then!

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Facebook Live Q&A with A.J. Goode, April 30 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EST
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Family Ties

When I look in the mirror, I see someone who looks nothing like the rest of my family. I’ve never really understood the finer points of genetics, but it seems as though I should resemble at least one of the people who share my family history.

But I don’t. I look like none of them, not even my sisters.

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Mom was tiny and dark, with a little round face and a sort of natural grace that just can’t be taught. I have her wonky eyelid and a lot of her mannerisms, but no one would ever look at our pictures together and guess that I am her child. And I certainly didn’t inherit her natural grace; I fall upstairs and trip over nonexistent things on a daily basis.

Mom’s elegance and beauty skipped a generation and went directly to my daughter. The Princess looks almost exactly like Mom did at that age. I, of course, look like neither one of them.

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I got my father’s sense of humor and broad shoulders, but that’s about it. Well, I inherited his family’s tendency to gain weight easily. Yay, Dad. My middle sister was lucky enough to get his pale, crystal-blue eyes and distinctive chin dimple, although none of us got his height.

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I’ll admit, I can see just a tiny bit of myself in his sister, my Aunt Marian, and that scares me a little. I loved Aunt Marian and I miss her every day, but she could be a rather intimidating woman when she wanted to be. I still shudder when I remember the way she squared up that already-square jaw, clenched her teeth, and glared when she was angry. Holy moly, I would have confessed to just about anything when she gave me that look!

I hope I didn’t get the genes for that, although it might come in handy in my job as a lunchlady.

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I don’t look like my cousin, either. Okay, we both have pictures of ourselves with large bodies of water in the background, so that’s something. I wonder if she manages to get hit by seagull poop every single summer like I do.

I’ll have to ask her about that someday.

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My oldest sister says I am wrong, that I really do look like our father’s family, but I just don’t see it. Whenever we go to a family funeral, I see a big group of large people with lots of bony shoulders and sharp noses and round bellies. And no butts. Swear to God, there is not a single man on my father’s side of the family who has a butt.

Unfortunately, the women in Mom’s family all more than make up for that absence. Even the skinny ones have more than their fair share of derriere.

Gee, thanks, Mom.

As a kid, I often wondered if I was adopted. It really bothered me for a while that I just never seemed to fit in with everyone else. Now that I’m older, I’ve noticed just enough similarities to know that I really am related to these people, but not enough similarities to feel quite like I fit in.

And then, a few weeks ago, I found this picture of my Aunt Ida.

 

Hot damn,  maybe I wasn’t switched at birth!

I really don’t mind looking like my Aunt Ida. In fact, it makes me pretty happy. I always had a special connection with Ida.

At one point in her life, Ida looked like this.

 

There just may be hope for me. I mean, come on, she was gorgeous.

All silliness aside, what do I see when I look in the mirror? Sure, I see a woman who doesn’t look anything like my parents or siblings. I see a woman in dire need of a dye job and a good moisturizer. I see someone who really needs to get a little bit more sleep and lot less stress.

But I see so much more. I see the sum total of all the best parts of a lot of good people. I see potential — and I don’t mean the potential to look like Aunt Ida’s cover-girl shots. Trust me, that ship has sailed. It’s not happening. I mean the potential for Mom’s intelligence, Dad’s laughter, Ida’s self-confidence. Potential for my cousin’s strength in the face of adversity. For Marian’s tough exterior.

So maybe I don’t look like most of them. That’s okay, because we are family. Like it or not, we share the same genes that make us who we are, and that’s pretty awesome.  It’s not about who looks like whom; it’s about knowing where we came from and recognizing everything that’s good in all of us.

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This has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, hosted this week by Kristi of FindingNine.com and April of April Noelle.  This week’s prompt is “When I look in the mirror, I see . . .”

 

 

But First . . . .

I have never had the courage to post  a “selfie.”  Which means that today, I’m going to face my fear and show the world just exactly why I have never had the courage to do this before.

Let’s face it: I am not a photogenic person.  It doesn’t really matter who is taking the photo.   I just don’t photograph well.  My eyes look beady, my nose looks red, and my lips practically disappear.  And we’re not even going to discuss the whole “camera adds ten pounds” nonsense, because pictures of me show a lot more than ten extra pounds, none of which are the fault of the camera.

I don’t look good in pictures.

I once read an article that gave all kinds of detailed explanations about why mothers so often use pictures of their children as profile pictures on Facebook.  The author had theories about mothers losing our identities as we begin to see ourselves only as wives and mothers rather than as individuals worthy of using our own pictures.

Yeah, I don’t really think it’s all that complicated.  I can’t speak for other mothers, but I use pictures of my kids because they look better than I do.  Their pictures are much more pleasant to look at.

When they were babies, I was always sleep-deprived.  I usually had puke, poop, or some other bodily fluid on some part of my body or clothing.  Money went for things like diapers and formula for them rather than make-up and hair color for me.  So really, I wasn’t much to look at, much less photograph.

Now that they’re older, I’m still sleep-deprived and penniless, although the whole bodily fluid thing has slowed down.  (I say “slowed down” instead of “stopped” because my six year-old managed to spray vomit all the way across my queen-sized bed and even the walls of my bedroom last night.  I think I may still have puke in my left eardrum.)

But I can’t blame my kids for everything.  I wasn’t exactly photogenic when I was younger, either.  Even before gravity, age, motherhood and maple trees had an impact on my appearance,  I didn’t look good in pictures.  I remember going on a school trip to Mackinac Island in my senior year of high school and posing for a group picture on the porch of the Grand Hotel.  I felt beautiful that day, and I remember that I was smiling hugely for the camera.

I looked like a serial killer.

Now, my daughter is just the opposite.  She’s one of those people that the camera just loves.  She’s not a vain creature, but she has taken hundreds of selfies over the years, and she looks beautiful in all of them.  I don’t know how she does it.  Yes, she is beautiful; but how does she look good in every single selfie she takes?  Just once, I want her to get a full-on shot of herself with one eye half closed, in mid-sneeze or something equally awful.  Just to prove there’s justice in this world, you know.  Just one bad picture of her, just to make the universe seem a little bit more fair.

I also have some certain . . . er, technical difficulties when it comes to taking selfies:

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Need I say more?

This is my favorite selfie ever, although I think the technical term for it is “ussie” because it has two people in it.    I look happy, if a bit demented and only slightly overwhelmed by a really bad hair day, but I like this one.

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Of course, I didn’t take it, so I don’t think it counts as a selfie.

It was taken on the same day as this one.

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I hesitated to share this with anyone because it makes me look “fat.”  I tried to blame it on the wind blowing up inside my blouse and making me look bigger than I really am, but  . . . well, I am what I am.  And in this shot, what I am is happy.  Strong.  At home in the one place that can heal me and make me whole again, no matter how I look in pictures.

Me and Lake Michigan.  Now that’s a great picture.

This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday, in which writers and bloggers finish a sentence and “link up” their posts. This week’s sentence was “I have never had the courage to…”  

For information on Finish the Sentence Friday,Join our Facebook page! 

Worth More than a Thousand Words

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As a rule, I don’t like pictures of myself.   I always think I look fat and my smile looks forced.   I am not now, nor have I ever been a photogenic person.

So it may seem odd that I would choose a picture of myself to write about.

This is one of the few pictures of me that I actually like, because of the smile I’m wearing.  For once, my smile doesn’t look forced and camera-fake; I look genuinely, eye-sparkling, on-the-brink-of-joyous-tears happy.

Of course, there’s a story.

With me, there’s always a story.

When I came home from the hospital after my car accident, my hair was red.  Not by choice; it had been an over-processed, porous blonde that became stained by blood from my head injury.  The ER nurse shaved an inch-wide swath across the top so the doctor could stitch my scalp, and someone else shaved from the nape up to my occipital so the surgeon had room to rebuild my shattered neck.  Three other round spots were shaved to make room for what we later referred to as “corncob holders” – metal pieces attached to my skull to keep me from moving during the surgery.

Afterward, they strapped me into a metal and plastic contraption that immobilized everything from the waist up.  It pushed my double chins up into my eyeballs; I think it forced cleavage into my earlobes and backfat up my nose.  Then they stood me up with a walker and sent me on my way.

It was not a good look for me.

Yikes!  Tina, of course, is beautiful as always
Yikes! Tina, of course, is beautiful as always

I am not a vain person, but I like to do my hair and make-up.  As a cosmetologist, it was always important for me to look finished: hair styled, make-up applied, jewelry in all of the appropriate orifices.  But in those first weeks, I couldn’t do any of those things.   No contact lenses, no make-up.  I couldn’t shower, and those “dry shampoos” didn’t do anything about the oil and caked blood in what was left of my poor, tufty hair.  I wore wrinkled hospital gowns or baggy clothes that fit around the brace, going barefoot or in worn flip flops.  Jewelry was out of the question; even my wedding ring had been removed at the hospital, and there was no suggestion of trying to force it back onto my numb left hand.

For seven weeks, I had to look at that.  I had to smell that.  In the face of people telling me how lucky I was to be alive, I had to deal with the guilt of feeling like an ungrateful brat for being depressed about my appearance.  I hated myself, my pain-wracked body, my lost career, the hot weather.  Everything.  Especially that damned brace.

I felt shallow and ugly and stupid.

When the brace came off, my former co-workers at DGist Salon took care of me.  They cut and colored my hair, shaped my brows, applied my make-up.   They pampered me and made me human again.

And they took that picture with my phone.

What was I thinking?  I’m pretty!  I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, everything was going to be okay.   There’s more than joy in my eyes in that picture; I see hope, gratitude, love. . . and a little spark that I thought I had lost somewhere in the twisted metal and broken glass.

What happened next?  Good days, bad days, everything in between.

Recovery.

Life.