Help Me Please!

I’m raising funds to get my license and eventually a vehicle. Please consider donating and helping a disabled person become independent again! THANKS!

Celisa Drives Fundraiser!

I was just informed by a friend that he will match $500 once the fundraiser reaches the $500 level, so please help me reach that goal ASAP!

With gratitude,

-Celisa

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En Fleek!?

So it has been a while since I’ve updated this blog, and I hate that I’ve neglected it…but life gets in the way sometimes and writing about beauty stuff seems trivial when I’ve got other things going on. Anyway. I wanted to write today to share a look I created that is trendy right now. Glitter and metallic eyeshadow is really hot at the moment, and I picked up a few items from Sephora (a little treat to myself, I bought gift cards using Amazon gift cards that I earned, so it was an AWESOME SCORE).

With every sephora order, yo uget samples, and aside from that, if you spend a certain amount you can get some deluxe samples – I chose Metallist Liquid Foil and Eye Glitter from Touch of Sol in the shade called “Margaret” which I selected because it shares a name with my late Grandmother. This shade is gold, but more on the orange side. Hopefully that comes through in the pictures I’ll be uploading here shortly.

After suffering from pink eye for over a week, my eyes finally cleared up yesterday, and since I hadn’t been able to put makeup on because of the pink eye, I was ready to try out the sample I got along with the Urban Decay Eyeshadow Palette I purchased for $29.00 on sale! GREAT VALUE for UD, and I love all of the shades. Cannot wait to try out new looks and experiment with the colors!

I saved the application of the Metal/Glitter eyeshadow combo for the final step – not a good idea though!I would recommend is doing your eye glitter FIRST, before doing your “face” i.e. foundation and concealer etc. I had glitter all over my face after applying it, and I regretted not doing that part of things first, because I had to touch up afterward (what a pain in the neck!).

Here are a few pics of the result, which I’m really pleased with. So far, no creasing, and I haven’t had to reapply anything in the 4 or 5 hours since I put the makeup on. I also experimented with contouring and highlighting today, but I wasn’t terribly pleased with how it came out. The lighting in these pictures isn’t the greatest either, as there was some serious sunshine coming through my window when I took them!

Yes, this is an expensive item, so if you’re looking for a good alternative, I really like Revlon’s Photoready Eye art – it is really similar, though I wouldn’t give it a 5/5 like I do the Touch of Sol product! The only reason I give it a 4/5 is because it creases a little bit, whereas I haven’t had that issue with the one I’m modeling in these pics.

Are you planning on rocking the adult glitter trend? Tell me in the comment section and give me your feedback! Stay tuned for more updates, as I have reviews I would like to share of some of my favorite products!

 

 

Review: Secret Clinical Strength Deodorant

I’ve been a member of Crowdtap for the past few weeks, and the site is a LEGIT WAY to earn freebies and goodies in return for your honest opinion. They send you samples, coupons for free stuff, and full-sized products to review. This is the way they get their members, also known as Crowdtappers, to create buzz via word-of-mouth/WOM marketing.

I received a sample of Secret Clinical Strength in the mail, and I’ve been using it each day for the past week. Secret boasts that this deodorant offers “4x the Stress Sweat protection” though I’m not entirely sure whether that statement is based on scientific evidence, or if it is merely a claim. The scent tends to be activated by sweating. Instead of smelling icky during those extra stressful times, I noticed that I smell nice, so it seems to work well on heavy perspiration. I have incredibly sensitive skin, especially under my arms, and I usually buy specific types of hypoallergenic deodorant or I’ll break out in a rash. My skin hasn’t been irritated at all. The formula is creamy and disappears rather quickly. It also lasts long enough to not necessitate re-application.

I posted a review on my twitter, which can be found here, and also answered a question about my A-Ha moment here.

Here’s a picture of me “not sweating the big stuff” in my life, because I’ve got a secret weapon! This was submitted to crowdtap and posted on twitter and facebook. (Notice my eyebrows are en fleek?!).

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I really like Secret Clinical Strength and I give it 5/5 stars! If I buy it in the future, I’m gonna do so when it’s on sale and I can use coupons too! If you’re looking for extra powerful pit protection, go out and grab this!

 

Crowdtap: A Legit Way to Earn Goodies and Freebies

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.

 

 

 

Get With the Program: A Challenge to Myself

I need to do something, anything, to move my life forward in a direction I feel content with. Not that I haven’t been content with my existence over the past however long, but I need to do something for my career in particular. Last night, I was thinking about what job titles I’m qualified for based on my educational background. I have a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, and I studied music and activism, so umm, yeah, what career path did college help prepare me for? There are lots of possibilities, but I’ve had a hard time figuring out exactly what to do with that piece of paper I worked so hard to earn. Not to mention I’m in a serious amount of debt because I decided to attend college.

I graduated at the beginning of 2005, and at that point, I was very much disabled by the chronic physical conditions I live with. My goal was to become a professional singer, and working musician. I had already been a solo singer for years, performing heartfelt renditions of romantic tunes for weddings, or pouring every ounce of my soul into hymns like “Amazing Grace” at funerals and memorials.

I started recording demos and got some session work. I sang the jingle for a commercial that was played on the radio for years. It was good enough that my mentor got some kind of award for writing and producing it.  That same year, I applied for a grant through the Vermont Arts Council, but I definitely did a half-assed job, and in retrospect, I don’t think I articulated exactly what it was I had hoped to create with the grant money. I have yet to put together a more concrete, detailed project, and never applied for a grant again from that point forward.

Some of my solo music was featured on a few compilation CD’s, and I was recruited for a project my late friend AJ Confessore put together called “Whole Lotta Love: An All-Star Salute to Fat Chicks”. I proudly sang the “Whole Lotta Love” title track, putting my own spin on it. My interpretation gave it an entirely different feel, but I honestly wasn’t satisfied with the outcome, though as a lot of people know, that’s a pretty common feeling among artists and musicians. Still, I was proud of the reviews I got, save but one very nasty blog post wherein the author called me a “heffer” (sic) singer.

The first time I made good money doing music, I jumped for joy. I was hired for session singing on a gospel CD, and I got compensated very well. The songs were recorded during several 3 – 4 hour sessions. For about 12 hours of work, I got $750, and I was THRILLED. It was the best feeling in the world, and I had all kinds of hope that I’d continue to get good paying gigs, but I still couldn’t get my shit together.

I’ve been in a band before, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had playing music. Unfortunately, due to transportation issues and finances, I had to quit, which broke my heart into pieces. And I really really need to be in a band. I’ve got to buy some recording equipment and start creating my own “beats” and tracks at home. I write songs all of the time, yet I have no way to record them, therefore, I never have an opportunity to share them. I can’t continue like this; it’s eating away at me and killing me little by slow, with each passing second.

I’m frustrated, and motivated to change things. I need to start setting small goals and aiming to get to a place in my life where I’m able to accept gigs, be in a band, and perform frequently. That’s going to take a lot, honestly, because I need to save to get my license back. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that said license was suspended due to lack of ability to pay for a couple of expensive traffic tickets I got slapped with while visiting New York. I’ve managed to come up with the nearly $300 to pay off one of the fines. The second one is going to cost me at least $400, so yay. I get $800 a month on social security, and I’ve got rent and bills to pay. Saving money is impossible, unless I want to go without something that is a necessity.

Where in the hell do I go from here? I loathe having to be supported by the government, but I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I genuinely need disability, and when I initially applied over 12 years ago, I put together a very solid application that elaborated on all of the conditions that rendered me disabled. Most people are denied their first time applying for disability, but I was not. I’ve had a sort of chip on my shoulder about it ever since, because it is confirmation that I am, in fact, unable to work. It means that I’m not looking for a government handout. It means that I want to figure out how to work and have a career while being disabled. That career doesn’t have to be full-time, and in fact, it probably never will be. Working with the body I’ve got is tough stuff, and pain is a constant, aggravating reminder that there are parts of me that are dysfunctional.

Getting a job is not feasible right now because I am not in the best physical shape, and I need to start more aggressive rheumatoid arthritis treatments. I’ve got to get my body “tuned up” because it gives me an insane amount of grief, and I’m utterly exhausted. I didn’t choose to be disabled, but I can choose to not let my illnesses and conditions bring me to my knees. I can choose to do something each day to move my career forward. By writing, I’m doing just that. It’s a start, and one I’m content with for now.

Onward and upward!

 

 

Writing, ADHD, and Me

I am seriously wondering how people with ADHD manage to be successful as writers, because I am having the most difficult time right now figuring out where to put my energy. As is typical, I’ve got draft after draft. I’ve started so many different things, but when it comes to the organization, editing, putting it together and sharing it with the world, I get completely overwhelmed or bored and end up moving on to the next thing.

I’ve put my eggs in too many baskets. I’ve gotten bogged down by the details. I’m done playing this game with myself, because I feel trapped in a perpetual cycle of self-sabotage, unable to take even the smallest step toward reaching my bigger goals.

So I’ve decided to start with one small goal, every day. Over a month ago, I decided to set a goal to write something every day. And I’ve kept up with that challenge! Now, it is time to move forward and create another small goal to keep me heading in the right direction. I’m not even sure what that goal should be. I need to find a way to hold myself accountable so that I can prove my abilities as a writer and eventually pitch and submit my work to be printed and published. I know I can do this. It’s just the steps in between where I’m at and where I’m going that I need to figure out.

Since I’m practicing the art of setting small, attainable goals, I think I’ll challenge myself to focus on one project at a time. My current project is writing a piece about living in “America’s heroin capital” and being in recovery. I already know my voice is needed because I have a lot of insight to offer on the opiate crisis that is prevalent in our culture. So that’s it then, ADHD, eff you, I’m going to write every day, and the opioid addiction in my hometown and beyond is what I will be writing about. Because once I’ve got that near-finished, I plan on pitching it, which will get the ball rolling and put me on track to start setting bigger goals…I figure if I end up writing for different blogs, publications, etc, on a regular basis, I will have deadlines and requirements to meet, which will hold me accountable and keep me motivated to work on the projects I so desperately want to finish and share with others.

What happens from here depends on me, and I’m so tired of letting myself down. If I want to be successful, I still can be. I’m smart, I’m powerful, and I’ve got lots of great qualities. I hope to make an impact on the world, starting by making an impact on myself.

WRITE ON! #writeon

 

Happy Groundhog Day

Hello reader, or readers, of my fab blog! Happy Groundhog Day! I’m looking forward to an early spring this year, so thank you little buddy for your prediction. I’m so over winter, and I’m ready for this cabin fever to end.

I haven’t posted in FOREVER, and I’m sorry for that. I apologize mostly because I haven’t been putting my work and writing out there! I’m holding so much in and keeping it to myself, when I’ve got lots to say and tons to share. My stories are fascinating, and I’ve got a really unique perspective. I need to know – what topics are folks interested in? What stories do people want to read and what kind of audience am I looking to attract?

All of these questions are ones I have to ponder and answer myself. While I mull that over, I’m going to try and challenge myself to blog more frequently. Easier said than done. There are blogs I read frequently, written by people who are professional activists, life coaches, fashionistas, writers, and more. I oftentimes see content that I am disappointed by – chock full of spelling and grammatical errors. And I ask myself, “why am I not writing my stories?”

I don’t know the answers, but I’m still searching for them, waiting for the Universe to help me manifest good things. Rheumatoid arthritis, be damned! I’m not letting my physical health conditions stand in the way of my creativity any longer. Winter weather doesn’t exactly help with those issues. Not to mention, I have a hard ass time keeping myself organized and figuring out what motivates me to strive for better things.

Life is a struggle, but I carry on, because that’s the only choice I have.

Stay tuned for more updates, cuz I’ve got some things to say, and I’ve got some goals to accomplish. First and foremost, I’m going to post this. Just cuz I *have* to post something!

“Stick with the…

“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! 

#winning

Happy Belated V-Day! What is Love? A Reflection

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. 

This is what the West Mountain Inn looked like on the day of the wedding. Holy Snow Storm!
This is what the West Mountain Inn looked like on the day of the wedding. Holy Snow Storm!

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.

Did I mention that there were about 12 people taking pictures at once (including a professional photographer)? I took a pic of this scene, because I thought it was pretty funny, how far technology has come in the past decade or so.
Did I mention that there were about 12 people taking pictures at once (including a professional photographer)? I took a pic of this scene, because I thought it was pretty funny, how far technology has come in the past decade or so.

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!

Mr. and Mrs. Stratton, just married!
Mr. and Mrs. Stratton, just married!

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.

Mark and Beverly, Mike and Rachel, Jessica, and Me, STRATTONS!
Mark and Beverly, Mike and Rachel, Jessica, and Me, STRATTONS!

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.

Me, my brothers Mark and Michael, my sister Jessica, and our (short) mother!
Me, my brothers Mark and Michael, my sister Jessica, and our (short) mother!

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!

Team Stratton FOR LIFE! Welcome to our crazy family, Rachel!
Team Stratton FOR LIFE! Welcome to our crazy family, Rachel!

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!

My Uncle Bill and Aunt Donna - they give one another hell but are an example of a couple with staying power!
My Uncle Bill and Aunt Donna – they give one another hell but are an example of a couple with staying power!

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.

Mark and Beverly, my brother and sister-in-law, married for 7 years, together for 10. And they still put up with each other!
Mark and Beverly, my brother and sister-in-law, married for 7 years, together for 10. And they still put up with each other!

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.

This picture is my favorite so far! Photo Credit: Celia Kelly Photography
This picture is my favorite so far! Photo Credit: Celia Kelly Photography

Falling In Love (What Was I Thinking?)

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!

moi