A few weeks ago, I joined a site called Crowdtap, having found it through a blog that featured ways to earn freebies and goodies online. Crowdtap is a word-of-mouth (WOM) Marketing site, similar to BzzAgent, but even better in my opinion. I was a member of BzzAgent when they first started out, and it was far easier back then to acquire products and get rewards for the work I put in getting the word out about the stuff they sent.
When I found Crowdtap, I thought they were too good to be true. Not the case! Crowdtap partners with different companies which currently include Garnier, Amazon, Amope, Shell, Red Lobster, and Secret, to name a few. Members are known as “Crowdtappers” and can earn points by take surveys, sharing content about the brands on social media, and doing tasks like taking and uploading pictures that show off the products being featured.
Crowdtap sends members samples, full-sized products and coupons for free things, but first, one must apply to participate in a campaign. If they believe you’re a match, you’ll be selected to get some great stuff in return for your honest opinion.Campaigns are a GREAT way to earn points relatively quickly. There are various missions associated with each campaign, are pretty easy, but do require a certain amount of effort. It only takes a short amount of time to learn how to earn, and once I became familiar with the site, it was a breeze!
Once a crowdtapper has accumulated enough points, they graduate to the next “level” and are rewarded with a $5.00 e-gift card for Amazon. I’ve already earned $35.00 in gift cards, and I’ve used them to buy some great products (including an Amazon Kindle Fire!). And so far, I’ve been selected to participate in three campaigns. The products arrived really promptly. I just got a bunch of Garnier Whole Blends Shampoo and Conditioner sample packets today, and I’ll be using one of the three varieties they sent me later on today. Review to follow soon.
I’m all about sharing tips and tricks to save money because living on a fixed income has taught me how to be creative; I’ve found unique ways to pinch my precious pennies – so I’ve been trying out different ways to earn stuff in my spare time. I’ll be writing about these different sites and giving an unbiased opinion, as well as reporting information on who has the best, easiest ways to get hooked up!
After less than a month, I give crowdtap a rating of 5/5 stars, so if you’re not a member, you’ve got nothing to lose!
* Please note that I’m not paid by Crowdtap nor their brand partners for my opinions and/or endorsements.
“Stick with the winners, and you’ll always win.”
-My late Paternal Grandmother, Margaret Riley
My Grandmother was an anonymous legend of sorts.
Some day, I hope to write a recovery book, that is part biography of my Grandmother’s life. She passed away at 89 years old in 2011; She had celebrated her 48th year of sobriety six months prior to her death. A few years before the founder, leader, and AA guru Bill W. passed away, my Grandmother went to a convention in New York, and it was there she met and talked with Mr. Wilson himself. She also sponsored countless numbers of women, and even some men, in her time with the program. Her philosophy was simple, and though she was just as flawed as anybody else, she meant well, and the good she did for other alcoholics and drug addicts is the legacy she left behind. No doubt there were lives saved because of her work. I strayed from the 12-step model shortly after my grandmother passed. I don’t want to go into the reasons why, and I’m certainly not judging what anybody else does to stay sober, so long as it isn’t pushed on me as the one and only way to get and stay clean.
I had an epiphany a little while ago, when I decided I was going to spontaneously email somebody who is a fat, queer activist, sex worker, and successful feminist pornographer. I wanted to pick her brain, but I got shy, and deleted the draft before I hit “send”. I saved everything I wrote, because some of it would actually make better material for a blog post!
I realized that if I don’t take a chance and email this person that could potentially help me, I’ll never know whether or not that person would have responded in the first place. So in a little while, I’m going to edit that email and send it.
So how does the quote above apply to this situation? Basically, what I’m trying to say is that if I want to emulate other people, or would like to fight alongside them for a common cause, I need to fearlessly approach those “winners” as though I’m already one of them. Because I am!
This reminds me of another quote, “fake it til you make it.” I don’t feel like I’m faking anything anymore. I’m making it. There’s no other way!
February 14 has come and gone, and I, for one, am glad it is over.
But not for the reasons you’re thinking! While it may be true that I am newly (and very happily) single, I am most definitely feeling an enormous amount of gratitude for experiencing one of the best Valentine’s Day celebrations, EVER! As I went through the day, I mindfully paused to reflect on the meaning of love. More importantly, I felt tuned in to a higher vibration all day – that of true, real, unconditional love – a love that lasts longer than life and way beyond death.
My V-Day started out rather early, like 5:00 am early (and if you know me, you know that is much akin to a normal person waking up at midnight). I peered out the front door, and saw nearly two feet of snow in the driveway. The roads looked like shit. Worse than that though, was the fact that my baby brother was getting married at 11:00 am, at the West Mountain Inn, which is, well, up a pretty steep hill (it is on a mountain, after all). A determined group of well-wishers woke up that very snowy morning, got dressed up in their nicest clothing, and strapped on winter boots, knowing it had snowed all night long the previous night. Loved ones traveled mainly from Vermont, and New York (both upstate and downstate). Old Man Winter had indeed tried to throw a wrench in all our plans, but we were one determined group of loved ones, willing to go to great lengths to be there to support the happiness of those who are most important to us.
My brother Mark and his wife Beverly awoke and started the coffee. They, like me, had a rough time sleeping well the previous night, as I suspect many did. I always feel a sense of heightened, intense energy during storms. This feeling was started out the morning with a “Happy Valentine’s Day” and though we were all tired, we knew we had to be ready to leave early to account for the roads being bad and the fact that we knew what would normally be a 15 minute ride would probably take 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how well the roads had been plowed.
Our friend Annie was due to pick us up between 9 – 9:30 that morning, but she called early to say the plow hadn’t been on her road, nor her parent’s driveway. We all waited, but Annie called us back to say that she might be late or not coming at all due to being stranded at home from the snowstorm. We decided to call our Mom to ask her to pick us up on their way through. My sister-in-law Beverly, trooper that she is, put on a pair of jeans, boots, her coat, winter gear, AND WENT OUT WEARING A DRESS (with freshly glued nails I might add) and shoveled the walkway as we waited for our landlord to plow. How fabulous was THAT? That’s how Vermont girls roll!
Thank Goddess we called my Mom, because her husband Bernie drove the 4wD Ford Explorer like a pro, even though the roads were horrendous! Once we arrived at the bottom of the driveway for the Inn, we saw the flower girl, in her beautiful dress, running up the hill. There was another 4wd heading confidently up the path without issue. On the right side of the driveway was my brother’s car, with Rachel, the bride sitting in the driver’s seat. As we continued our ascent toward the Inn, we saw Rachel’s Grandparents’ Volvo stuck in a snow bank to the left. My brother, Michael, the groom, attempted to shovel them out, but it wasn’t working. We saw the other 4wd vehicle stop to pick up the flower girl, and we followed behind them as we finally made it to the top.
My brother Mark and my cousin Jerry also worked diligently to try and help get the Volvo unstuck. But it would require the assistance of a plow to eventually get it unstuck (which ultimately didn’t happen until the very end of the day). That was a bummer, and without 4wd, one would most certainly not have made it up the driveway; 2WD vehicles were destined to get stuck, go off the road, get stuck in snow banks and all sorts of other misfortunes in these hazardous conditions. Most people are just not equipped or seasoned enough winter drivers to make it from one end of a long, winding mountain road, to the other. This was a tough group of folks, many of whom ended up hiking up the road, all dressed up, trekking through two feet or more of snow on this country road just to wish a young couple well.
The Inn itself was really small, classy, inviting, warm, and charming. The staff were incredibly helpful, and friendly. However, I have some criticism: this wedding was planned well in advance, and a fair number of people risked their lives driving on dangerous, slippery roads to attend and support a special day for two people in love. The weather presented challenges for the entire wedding party that we weren’t expecting to have to deal with, but we dealt with it as it came because that’s what we do! It really brought out the spirit of community and extended family, which seemed so perfect for that particular moment in time. The Inn is located on a steep, mountain road/country driveway in Vermont. The date they booked happens to occur during wintertime – a season when Nor’Easters happen in these parts! Management should have planned accordingly, and arranged for the driveway to be plowed, and sanded earlier on in the day, as well as throughout the day, as needed.
As we entered the Inn, we were greeted by Rachel’s mother, Robin, and some of their relatives, who all seemed to be in good spirits. My Aunt Michelle and I converged on the coat room to change out of boots and into dress shoes. We then mingled, and greeted our family as well as Rachel’s as they filed in. I had some warm cider which hit the spot, because I’d been recovering from a cold that felt like a flu. I got overheated and still felt generally crappy, but I hugged family as they arrived, and even got to talk to Rachel’s stepmother, who was gregarious and if I’m reading her right, spunky!
I saw Rachel for a brief moment when she finally made it up the hill and inside, then she quickly disappeared to go get ready. While she did that, my step-father Bernie, and my brother’s friend Jeff took turns chauffeuring relatives up and down the hill, which they did practically all day long. The wedding didn’t get started until 12:30 pm or so, because of all the mishaps. It was because of the fortitude of real Vermonters that people got up and down the hill and helped one another, as a community should. This community of people came together to celebrate the love of two people whom we love. So this was a very special occasion.
TWO FEET OF SNOW BE DAMNED, my brother Michael and his soul mate Rachel were going to get married! A violinist played simple melodies of familiar songs and hymns.”Tis the Gift to Be Simple” was the song chosen for the processional. First, Hailey, the flower girl, threw fresh rose petals to her sides as she sashayed down the walkway. Next came my teary-eyed mother, who walked my brother up to the altar. Of course, we expect my mother to cry on occasions like this, and she didn’t disappoint. She even posted on facebook the night before, “I hope my mascara is waterproof.” (Ohhh mom, thank you so much for passing this trait on to me!). Finally, Rachel’s mother and father walked her down the aisle where she met Michael, as they held hands and gazed at one another. Rachel looked absolutely gorgeous, and my baby brother Michael looked all grown up.
The Pastor was an Irish woman with a very gentle spirit, and she seemed very grounded and wise. Her philosophy encompassed a combination of many forms of spirituality, which was extremely appropriate given Rachel is from a Jewish background, and Mike was raised Christian(ish). I could tell that most of the people in the room were spiritual in more non-traditional ways. The feeling of love was truly in the air, and it wasn’t simply because we were celebrating the love that Michael and Rachel have for one another. It was because we were all there, family, for a moment, witnessing something very beautiful, taking part in a sacred ritual.
The ceremony was written by and for them, as were the vows. One of the first things the minister said was, “these two were introduced, by Celisa, a friend…” to which I chimed in, “SISTER!”. She expressed gratitude for my “foresight”, and, not to toot my own horn BUT I was indeed, the matchmaker! This was by far the best match I’ve made, bitches!!! The minister read poems, quotes, and talked about Michael and Rachel’s love for and devotion to one another, and I felt my father’s presence very strongly in the room, as tears welled up in my eyes. I looked over at my brother Mark, who is Michael’s identical twin, and I noticed he, too, had tears in his eyes. Their vows were exchanged, and I got this comforting sense that my father was proudly watching over us, as were all of our departed relatives and loved ones. It was by far one of most beautiful, genuine, and heartfelt wedding ceremonies I have ever witnessed. I am proud to have had a small part in helping the Stratton name survive – because I know it is just a matter of time before I become an Aunt again! Hint, hint, Mike and Rachel, get to work!
Post-ceremony, we posed for pictures, and while I haven’t seen the professional photos yet, my mother snapped one on her phone that I’m sure made her happy: All of her children together, with their spouses, in one picture. Healthy. Alive. Well. After over five years, according to my mom (my mother is the authority on these matters). A little over five years ago is when our father passed away. So this was a really beautiful moment for all of us.
I got a chance to talk to my sister Jessica for the first time in weeks; we had gotten into an argument and I made a decision to not talk to her for a while, because I was feeling really upset over everything that had transpired between us. It seemed like all of our past and present issues with one another had finally reached a breaking point, in the context of a fight that involved several siblings. The result was a great divide in the family dynamic for a period of time. We all distanced ourselves from one another until we could talk again and try to make sense of the fucked up shit that happened before.
My family may be dysfunctional, but at the end of the day, we are loving and supportive of one another when times are tough. Life may throw obstacles in our way that threaten to tear our bonds apart, but at the end of the day, we will always have love and respect for one another. I know our father would want us all to unite strong in our love for one another rather than hold grudges from past hurts that can’t be changed. This is a challenge, and healing our family scars is a work in progress, one that most people never quite get perfect. My sister and I still have work to do, in fact, we all have work to do, but I know we can rise above the petty shit and just make peace, because we are Strattons. It is in our blood and DNA to be strong, resilient and fierce!
Since the wedding was supposed to be a brunch, that ended up starting rather late, most people were hungry because they didn’t have breakfast. Everyone eagerly awaited for the serving of our meal, while snacking on hors d’oeuvres. Brunch food was served, but we didn’t get to eat it until 2:30! There were a lot of hungry people in that line! The food was really good, and included fruit, eggs, bagels and lox (yummy), latkes, as well as sausage and bacon (I love when my Hebrew people eat bacon! It is delicious!). My mother brought the cake server from she and my father’s wedding. Rachel’s ring is the one my mother wore when she was married to my father; My brother Michael’s is the ring my Grandmother Riley’s late husband wore when they were married. I guess all the bases were covered: Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue…I’m not sure what the “blue” something was, and maybe it is apropos that I can’t think of anything blue, as it is the color of melancholy! Oh wait, no, the wedding card was blue, and so was the gift I passed on to them. Blue indeed!
Rachel’s Grandfather gave the toast, and mentioned that he and his wife have been together for 58 years! Incredible! I sat at a table with My Uncle Bill and Aunt Donna, who have been together for as long as I’ve been alive, and as a couple, they are a hoot. Their relationship is an example of how married couples keep one another in check, in a loving, oftentimes sarcastic, smart-ass (but always hilarious) way. Interestingly enough, they didn’t get married until 15 or 20 years of being together. My brother Mark and his wife Beverly have been together for nearly ten years, and though they have their explosive arguments, they are also a devoted couple, having been through hell and back together – from the brink of death and back to the realm of the living, lessons learned in the school of hard knocks. After all of that, Mark and Bev continue to stay committed to their marriage, and are considering renewing their vows this June.
The couples mentioned above seem to have what it takes to remain in love with one another in spite of life’s extreme highs and lows. This is what staying power looks like folks, and I believe Mr. and Mrs. Michael Stratton have staying power. Congratulations to both of you. It is amazing to watch our family grow and change to what it has become. I am blessed, truly. We are all blessed to have one another! So what is true love? The freedom to be who you are, and still feel loved and appreciated by another human being, who in turn, does the same for you. These bonds of love are timeless; they will last for eternity, and for that, I am thankful.
I am a hopeless romantic, and I must confess: I hate it! When I was younger, I had these unrealistic visions of what my love life should and would look like. I thought true love was something magical, because that’s what I was sold. Now that I’m older, I think I know what true love is, and it doesn’t look like the perfect picture many people paint. Fairy tales don’t exist! I am not sure I’ve ever truly fallen in love, and the way I know what true love is, is because I’ve experienced what true love IS NOT. Being a quintessential Libran, I haven’t given up on love, and I know I never will. I was taught by somebody who loved me unconditionally, who recently passed away, that the meaning of life is love. No more, no less. Of course, I’ve also learned that life is full of suffering, so perhaps true love is the antidote to that suffering.
I have been in mostly long-term relationships, ranging from one year, to nearly ten years. The one exception is my most recent ex-girlfriend. It was supposed to be a hookup and a friendship. It ended badly, just shy of three months into it. Looking back, I see that I was repeating a pattern I’ve lived out so many times before, and I’m so glad this pattern was broken at the beginning of February. She wasn’t right for me, but I thought to myself, “this is an opportunity to enforce my boundaries. This is a chance to test out whether or not I’m ready for a healthy, adult, long-term relationship.” Did I feel in my gut that it was wrong? Of course! But I went for it anyway. What was I thinking?
About three weeks into our “whirlwind romance”, we started discussing the possibility of changing our relationship status on facebook. I was hesitant to do so, but then I remembered a time in the not so distant past where I was in a relationship with a guy, yet he refused to change his facebook status to reflect the truth. That seemed fishy to me, and I knew right then and there that something was amiss. Finally, he caved in to the pressure I put on him and we were “In a Relationship”. I suspected he was cheating, and I may or may not have used my technical prowess to hack into his accounts where I found evidence of flirtation with other women. That didn’t stop me from continuing to go against my better judgement. My gut told me he wasn’t right for me, but it was convenient at the time. Foolishly, I went through extreme measures to keep him satisfied. We even did what some people would consider, “swinging“, but I considered it something else entirely.
Back up to a few months ago, and I caved in to the pressure to change my relationship status. It was official, I was in a relationship with a woman (well, a girl actually); for the first time in my life, I was out of the closet. It was a liberating feeling to finally be completely out. It isn’t as though I hid it but at the same time, I had been in primarily heterosexual relationships; I felt I was doing so for my own protection but I was really just too afraid to confess to my family that I was “bisexual” (though I prefer the term queer). I was already out to the majority of my family and all of my friends. I sported rainbow and HRC stickers on my truck for years, even when I was with men. If anything good came from this relationship, it is the fact that I finally feel unashamed to say that I am queer.
Some of my family had a chance to meet this new girlfriend; I met some of her family as well. She kept saying how she was “so happy” and “in love”, and I believed her. But I also held her to a higher standard than she is capable of. I told her I wanted 50/50 in the relationship, in spite of the fact that I was dominating the relationship, because I was 7 years her senior, more knowledgeable, and had a whole lot more life experience than she did. I expected her to communicate her feelings. I expected her to allow me to be myself; she did not like many of the things I do or have done in my past, and I wasn’t willing to give those things up just because she didn’t approve. However, the sad truth is I *did* give those things up because I wanted to make her happy. As though I hadn’t made that mistake before and failed miserably! WHAT WAS I THINKING?
“What the fuck am I doing?” I asked myself. I knew in my gut this wouldn’t last, that she and I were too different to make it work. I still did my best to make it work, but in reality, the only reason I stayed was because I needed help making ends meet. The entire time, I felt an emptiness and there was a point where I had to force myself to feel what I told her I was feeling. We were lying to ourselves, and each other. I remember that prior to getting in the relationship, she texted me, “I’m just tired of being lonely, and it’s nice to have somebody around.” Alarms went off in my head. I said, “oh shit, she wants this relationship for all the wrong reasons!”. Every time I fail to listen to my gut, it backfires on me. Not only do I not listen to my gut, but I have a history of not listening to my best friends and closest family members. They are the ones who know whether or not a person is right for me, even when I can’t recognize it. I have to remember going forward that they have my best interests at heart, and would never steer me in the wrong direction. The key is listening to my intuition, and listening to those who know and love me best.
Right before Christmas, this ex-gf and I had an awkward conversation about how she didn’t want me to dabble in adult entertainment anymore. Last year, I needed money, and I found out that there is good money to be made as an adult entertainer. I wasn’t doing porn, but because I was a “phone/webcam actress” it was a huge problem for her. I told her that I felt no shame with regards to my body and that my profiles are caricatures; they represent a version of me that is a fantasy rather than reality. I don’t think she understood this concept; she called it “disgusting” and said, “you’re belong to ME! Your body is MINE!” to which I replied, “no! This is MY BODY and I am not willing to change who I am for anybody! You don’t belong to me either! Your body is YOUR BODY and I am not going to tell you to be somebody different to please me.” I then proceeded to tell her that the issue was about her own feelings, and I asked her to tell me what it was she was feeling, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. In fact, she was hardly able to express her feelings appropriately. Her mood could change like a light switch. She took a swing at me in front of my friend, who said, “that is not acceptable. I know you have a lot of anger, but Celisa has been in abusive relationships before, and that is JUST NOT OKAY.”
Having what I call a “tendency for co-dependency” is not something I want in my relationships anymore. I tried to explain what this meant, but again, she couldn’t grasp the concept. Maybe the problem was that I am too much of an intellectual; maybe I over-analyze situations too much; maybe I’ve spent too much time in therapy/reading self-help books. Whatever the issue is, clearly I held this girl to a higher standard than she was capable of handling. What was I thinking? My good friend told me, “you weren’t fucking thinking“.
I am a radical activist. I am queer, I am fat, I am disabled, and I am proud to be all those things and so much more. When it comes to my love life, I made a decision a while back to accept nothing less than the best for myself, because I know I’m worth it! In January, 2013, the man I had been in a relationship with snapped, and his abuse escalated to an all-out assault. He beat the shit out of my sister instead of me, though I was in the middle of his violence that night and I got hurt in a way that lasted a lot longer than any of the physical pain I felt in the days after. He had only just started to put his hands on me consistently; his verbal abuse took on a new form as he threatened to tie me up, and said he would kill me. I had had enough! I was finally ready to let him go, and he couldn’t accept that fact. After the assault, I was determined to never let this happen again.
At the beginning of 2013, I decided that I would not get into a relationship with anybody for a while. Yet I also created profiles on dating sites. I obviously wasn’t really thinking rationally and I was extremely vulnerable. Since I stated that I wasn’t interested in a relationship, and that I was looking for dates of any gender, I got a lot of messages from “heterosexual” cis-males, looking for easy sex. I think some people believe I am easy because I’m a confident fat girl who recognizes that I am in fact sexually appealing. Combine that with my outgoing attitude, unique personality, and the fact that I’m “bisexual” is also something men seem to be very interested in. Well guess what, I’m not THAT EASY. Yet at the same time, a friend with benefits was kind of what I was looking for at the time. I figured it would be a way to get over my ex, and would boost my ego as well. Boy was I mistaken! I ended up meeting a total douchebag; he used lines on me that were flattering, interest, and unique. He lured me right in. I slept with him way too soon, but after that first night, I felt great. At least I thought I felt great for about twelve hours after. Then he distanced himself, called me needy, and treated me like another notch on his bedpost. I specifically told him I would not be treated as such, however, I learned that people treat you the way you allow yourself to be treated. What was I thinking?
I let him come back another four times, and we became good old-fashioned fuck buddies. It was exactly what I thought I was looking for, but I knew in my gut he was a selfish jerk, all about sex, and that he wasn’t doing anything for my self-esteem. Every time he left, I felt empty. He is the one who introduced me to the most recent ex-girlfriend. Now I’m able to see clearly that the fact that I met her through him was just a bad sign. It wasn’t supposed to be a relationship. Once again, I find myself asking a question I’ve asked so many times before: What was I thinking?
What space was I in mentally when I “fell in love”? What was I feeling when I was casually hooking up with people that made me feel like shit? At this point, I can clearly see that I was feeling insecure, lonely, and was desperate to experience any kind of connection with another human being. Whether that was a sexual connection, or what I thought was a romantic connection, anything was better than feeling alone. Yet I always ended up feeling lonely and empty in each and every relationship I’ve had thus far. I just didn’t love myself enough to be able to love another human being in a healthy way, and that’s why none of my relationships have lasted. My most recent relationship ended with a bang, much like my last. She attacked me – hit me, kicked me, and scratched me. It might not seem that bad, but she was well aware that I have physical disabilities and she could have seriously injured me. I had bruises and my joints were swollen. Lucky for me, this time I didn’t let the emotional hurt I felt in the immediate aftermath consume me. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and knew it was for the better. I grieved and cried for about two days, but I leaned on those who will always be there for me, and I have come out on the other side. I don’t miss her, I don’t love her, and I don’t harbor any ill feelings toward her either. I also know that I can’t be her friend, anymore than I can be friends with my last abusive ex. Once a person crosses that line, I let them go and never look back.
These days, I can identify my feelings, and sitting with them while alone is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. When I’m in a relationship, I can focus on taking care of somebody else and will easily ignore my own feelings. On my own, I’m forced to look at my issues and actually deal with them. Being by myself is a very scary proposition. I am making a conscious decision right now to be alone because I want to figure out how to make myself happy without having a significant other. If I can learn to do that, I know I’ll appreciate a relationship when I’m finally ready for one again. I need to take some time to reflect on the mistakes I’ve made in the past, and that’s why I’m writing about what I went through. I need to hold myself accountable, and that’s why I’m being honest with those closest to me about where I’m at in my life right now. They know what’s best for me and are able to see clearly the things I am unable to see when I believe I am, “in love.” It turns out that what I thought was love was actually lust, and I shouldn’t have tried to force square pegs into round holes.
Part of the problem with co-dependent people is they think they can fix the other person, in a relationship, or otherwise. When it comes to romantic relationships, oftentimes we think, “this person’s love is going to complete me.” That notion is completely unhealthy, and unrealistic. If we feel like we’re incomplete from the get-go, we’re setting ourselves up for failure, because another person can not fill the emptiness we feel inside. That’s why I know I need to learn to find a way to make myself happy.
I have learned the hard way that it really is true that in order to love somebody else, you first have to love yourself. I am tired of feeling pain when a relationship fails to meet my expectations. I deal with enough pain as it is. So for right now, I am taking a break so I can focus on getting my shit together. I need to fall in love with myself, and maybe some day, I’ll fall in love with the right person – somebody who is healthy, working on their issues, and with enough self-love and respect to allow me to be myself. A good friend of mine recently said, “if they don’t worship you, if they don’t treat you like the Goddess you are, if they don’t put you on a pedestal, they aren’t worth your time.”
She’s right. I haven’t given up on myself, and I haven’t given up on love either. When all is said and done, love is the one thing that matters the most in life. For all those who love me as I am, thank you. I am blessed to know you and I’m grateful for your acceptance. I love you, too!
I identify as queer. Back in the day, queer meant “weird”, and I like that definition, as I believe it suits me. Wikipedia states that:
queer has generally meant “strange”, “unusual”, or “out of alignment”. It might refer to something suspicious or “not quite right”, or to a person with mild derangement or who exhibits socially inappropriate behaviour.
While this word has been associated with derogatory connotations, particularly with regards to sexual orientation, I actually find it liberating to use the term to label myself. Sort of like when I call myself “fat”. I’m reclaiming words that were once used to hurt me – but now, these terms BELONG to me. I own them, and in doing so, they lose the negative power I once allowed them to have over me. In reality, they are parts of me.
I didn’t come out until my thirties, at least not fully. I denied myself of my true sexuality when I was in heterosexual relationships, for the most part. To the outside world I was straight, when in reality, I never was. I was too scared to come out to my entire family, especially my father. He and I did have an understanding, even though I never said outright, “Dad, I’m a queer”. He just knew, and we talked about it, in a roundabout way, when he shared stories with me about how he partied with his gay friend in Washington, DC and how he “had a blast”. He concluded our conversation with, “I love and accept all my children no matter what they are.” I knew what he meant. And he knew I understood.
I didn’t feel fully comfortable with my sexuality for a very long time, as I knew it made me an outcast of sorts. I was afraid of being judged by my family. But on November 10, 2008, while making funeral preparations for my father the day after his passing, I confessed, to my Aunt, my Grandmother, and the funeral home director, that I was bisexual. We were talking about wording of the obituary with regards to what to call my friend/ex/roommate who was like a son to my dad. We decided partner was out – the funeral home director said we “wouldn’t want it to come across the wrong way” or something of that nature. That’s when I said, “well, I wouldn’t mind if it did come across the ‘wrong way’, because I’m bisexual!” My then 85-year old Grandmother’s proclamation of, “you are? Oh! I didn’t know that!” was followed by her boisterous chuckle. My Aunt replied, “well I always kinda knew that about you.”
And there it was. I was out, and to the family members I was always the most afraid of being judged by. I was now the self-dubbed “rainbow sheep” of my family, and it took me a while to feel proud of that fact.
I have at various phases in my life identified as everything from straight, to bisexual, to pansexual. I am most comfortable being called queer because it doesn’t put my sexuality in one rigid category. To me, it means I’m in solidarity with the entire GLBTQ (aka LGBT) spectrum. My views on gender are also not rigid, as I have had close friendships and intimate relationships with people of a range cis-gender and transgender identities. Nature loves variety, and not everyone fits into the binary “man” or “woman” category so neatly as we’d like to think. This is true of queer and sexual identity as well. Some people are just different (if you don’t like it, get over it!).
You can call me whatever you like. Since I’m in a relationship with a woman, I don’t mind if you call me a lesbian. This is the first time I have had a female partner on a long-term basis, and I realize there will be people who label us a “lesbian couple” which is perfectly fine with me. Though I am still navigating what it means to be in a relationship with a woman, I am not going to hide it. I am way too old to be afraid or ashamed of who I am anymore.
While it is wonderful to receive acceptance from others, I am blessed to have found acceptance for myself. Life is too short to not be true to oneself!
I consider myself an intellectual, at least on my good days. I was asked years ago whether or not I was a member of MENSA, which is an organization for people with high IQ’s. I don’t believe my IQ is actually high enough to meet their membership criteria, however, I was quite flattered when the man who asked me this question stated that I am very articulate and come across as an intelligent young woman.
It wasn’t always so confident with regards to my smarts. I remember when I first entered college, my vocabulary was seriously lacking. Even now, I feel as though I will never be able to learn enough…my brain is starving for information and I spend hours every day reading about various topics I find interesting.
When I say, “google is my friend” it is because I utilize the internet to find the answers to questions on a daily basis. Of course, I take a lot of what I read on the web with a grain of salt. If the information can be verified by more than one reputable source, I am more inclined to believe it is fact.
That said, the whole point of this post was to point out that every day I use google to learn new words. If I read an article and I come across words that I’m not familiar with, I look them up (technically, I google them). I might not be incorporating said words into my vocabulary immediately, if ever, but knowing the definition of a word is nevertheless quite important to me. Using a variety of words makes reading, writing, and conversing a hell of a lot more interesting!
Today’s new word: unctuous. Google says:
(of a person) excessively or ingratiatingly flattering; oily.
“he seemed anxious to please but not in an unctuous way”
When I first made the decision to go to college, I didn’t think of myself as a writer at all. I was so hands-on with my learning style, and found it very challenging to attend classes that were in a traditional format. Having ADHD makes it really difficult for me to sit still and concentrate, even if I am interested in the topic being presented.
I ended up transferring to Goddard College, and it was there that my love of reading and writing really blossomed. I had no desire to write outside of what I was doing educationally. The program I was in was very writing intensive, due to the fact that it is a low-residency individualized education . I studied what I loved, and developed a lust for learning. I started writing more and more, and it seemed as though I couldn’t say enough. My senior study was 200 pages – an undergraduate thesis, that probably would have satisfied the criteria for a Master’s thesis. Once I really got into the work, I went above and beyond the requirements, because too much was never enough for me!
It didn’t hit me that I had potential until my Advisor at the time called me a “prolific writer” in an evaluation for the fall, 2003 semester. Still, the only reason I wanted to write was to get my degree. It didn’t dawn on me until recently that I could take up writing seriously, perhaps even, as a way to bring in some additional income. I realized that the way I am going to make my living is by pursuing a career as a freelancer. I have skills that are valuable in many different jobs, and in this economy, you have to be flexible and open-minded to bring in the bucks.
When I say I’m a “freelancer” I’m not just talking about writing; I’m also talking about music, singing, digital projects, entertainment, and anything I can do to utilize my talents to supplement my disability income. My goal is to eventually become self-sufficient and able to make a decent living without having to rely on the government for their help. I know the sky is the limit, but for right now, I want to focus on small, attainable goals.
Currently, I’m working with my friend Annie on a multi-media project, which is going to be a video/digital scrapbook/story about a guy who is transgender. I am also working on a learning more about my family so that I can write a book and/or create a documentary. In addition to that, I want to create a better online presence for the band I joined this year, and continue to work on my solo music too. I still haven’t given up on the dream of using my music to make the world a better place. I have stories to tell, and writing music, blogging, and performing are all ways I am able to get those stories out there…
Sometimes my goals are a little too lofty, so this year, I just want to focus on doing the most important things first. Right now, that means working on the project with Annie, while maintaining this blog, and doing preliminary research on my family project. In addition, I am going to research grants and reach out to others who might be able to assist me with my goals.
For years I’ve lamented that my bachelor’s degree (in liberal arts/music) is utterly useless. It dawned on me last spring that I am not meant to be in a traditional work environment. I have been pursuing the wrong avenues and decided that the only way for me to ever be successful, at least by my own standards, is to be in business for myself. I went to a progressive college for a reason, and I am more determined than ever to put my education to good use. “Trust the process” is what we were told at Goddard, and honestly, I finally trust that I have what it takes to make it in this world.
2014 will be a year of success and prosperity for me. I trust that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will manifest all the good things I deserve. There is no other way!!!!
I am a Stratton, an eighth-generation Vermonter, and a proud American woman. My Uncle Ronald passed away this past November, and I am still sad over the fact that I’ll never get a chance to hear more of his stories; he was an interesting character and while he embellished and stretched the truth at times, he was nonetheless very good at entertaining with anecdotes most people would have a tough time believing. His passing motivated me. I realize time is ticking away, and if I don’t collect stories from those who experienced them firsthand, I may never get the chance to do it again.
I am really interested in writing a book, and possibly producing a documentary about my family, focusing on the Stratton side. From what I’ve learned, our family came from England in the 1600’s, settled in New England, and eventually landed in Vermont. My ancestors fought in conflicts including The Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War II, and Vietnam. When I asked my Grandmother Margaret about my Grandfather’s ethnic heritage, she told me that the Stratton’s were “proud Yankees”.
There are some very tragic stories I want to tell, including the 1944 murder of my Great-Grandfather, Robert Drake Stratton, by Massachusetts native Harold Frotten. The story caught national attention due to the fact that Frotten had escaped prison and dodged justice for years. Police eventually caught up with him in Florida, and he died in a Vermont prison of cancer after a well-publicized trial.
A little over 22 years later, in November of 1966, my Grandfather Robert Shirley Stratton, and my Uncle, Don Stratton, were struck and killed by a train in Sunderland, VT. My father Mark was 12 at the time of this terrible accident, and was left traumatized by the image of his father’s decapitated head being carried away in a bag by the detective, which was published on the front page of the Bennington Banner. While it sounds unbelievable that a newspaper would print such a gruesome image, I have seen copies of the article and can verify that my Grandfather’s head is visible, though the image is old and has faded.
I have so much to learn, and I can’t wait to dive into this project head-on. For the time being, I’m doing some preliminary research, particularly genealogical related stuff. I need to get organized as well. Here are some of the ways in which I plan to collect information, at least for the time being:
* Create a family tree, and focus on the Stratton line in particular;
* Collect birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, census records, etc.;
* Conduct interviews on film – including Uncle Bobby, Aunt Marlene, and anybody else who has pertinent information;
* Search newspaper articles and town archives;
* Locate and visit sites of interest, to include the Chapel of the Snows, Stratton Mountain Base Lodge, White Chapel Cemetery, etc.
If anybody out there has any suggestions or would like to contribute in any way, please contact me via email. I can’t wait to dive in to my research. I will update this blog periodically to post progress as it happens.
FACT:I have always been a big girl. I’m over six feet tall, and at my heaviest, I was upwards of 500 pounds. I’m not ashamed to put these numbers out there, even though I know the vast majority of people in our society would be shocked to hear somebody admitting to being so large. But I’m not afraid of those numbers, because they don’t define me.
I am fat. I don’t feel ashamed to say that, because it is the truth. I’ve had people say, “no, you’re not!” or “stop putting yourself down”, which is evidence of the fact that people are taught to associate fat with negative and derogatory connotations. “You’re just fluffy” these friends will say, as though a euphemism is better than the truth, as though it is somehow more gentle or acceptable to deny the truth and put a seemingly “non-threatening” label on it. I prefer to call em’ like I see em, so I have a lot of respect for people who are honest.
Here’s what the late, great, outspoken Comedian George Carlin had to say:
“Only people are fat, and that’s what fat people are. They’re fat. I offer no apology for this. It is not intended as criticism or insult. It is simply descriptive language.”
It was important for me to come out as a fat person, because it is a liberating process. What I’m saying when I describe myself as fat, is that I’m not afraid of who I am, what I look like, or how people perceive me because of my size. The same goes true for my use of the term queer. I came out as bisexual when I was a teenager, but only to those I really trusted. It was the closest thing to a label that accurately described my sexuality. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more self-aware, and I’ve come to realize that my sexuality is fluid – I don’t have a “type”, nor do I have a gender requirement. Thought I identify as queer, I am not offended if I’m referred to as a lesbian, or bisexual, or even pansexual.
My use of these words and terms that “label me” may be misinterpreted, and perhaps even controversial to some, which motivates me to want to be myself even more. Being visible means I have a voice; it means I can speak for myself and for others who are oppressed . Eventually, society will be more understanding and accommodating to those of us who have remained silent for so long. And that’s why I am no longer afraid of what others think about me.
I’m more vocal these days than I have ever been about these issues, because remaining silent isn’t going to further the causes I am passionate about. I have been inspired and affected by some really brilliant people with whom I share some of these identities in common.
We are all worthy of love, respect, compassion, and acceptance. As the saying goes, “you can’t truly love another until you love yourself first.” So, If you’re reading this, I hope that you can say the following statement with confidence, at some point in your life:
You’ve all seen it done before. Whether it was Kirstie Alley or Jennifer Hudson or others, there’s a lot of pressure in Hollywood to lose weight. Understandable, based on the Hollywood standard of what they think is attractive.
Now, while there are some who buck the trend like Jennifer Lawrence (see video below), others succumb to that pressure.
What I always found interesting however, is how so many of them suddenly turn into fat phobic fanatics, and how they forget where they came from. This past week, Adam Richman became one of those celebrities. Most of you are familiar with Richman and his former TV show Man Vs. Food, still in reruns on the Travel Channel. Here’s a pic of Adam from his MVF days on the left, and the “new” guy on the right.
We should have known that after the weight loss Richman might be one of those…