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Cats Are Family Too

The envelopes are rolling in, just like they do every year. For the most part, I like getting these photo holiday cards from my married friends around the country. For many of them, it's become the only way we stay in touch as our lives diverge more and more each year. I enjoy noting the resemblances in their children, the decorated mantels in their living rooms, the choices of formal or casual poses. It's all very warm, festive and familial and I count myself lucky when I come home everyday and see my refrigerator covered with a collage photos of smiling people I've known for years.

But along with these emotions, I'm aware of something darker that simmers just beneath my supposedly cheery holiday surface. Resentment.

Just like my married, procreating friends, I too had a busy, exciting year full of adventure, mishaps and joy. I may not have a gap-toothed three year old to show off, but my life is full of things that are just as photo-worthy as their families.

The stack of cards grew each year as more of my friends had kids, and my dark side grew right along with it. Then last year I just decided enough was enough. Sitting passively by and resenting was nothing but a waste. Nobody actually ever said that I couldn't send out a holiday photo card because I wasn't married and/or had kids. This was just something I chose to believe. So why couldn't I just jump in the fray and make my statement? This is who I am. And I am worth sharing. So there.

So last year I sent out my first "family" holiday card which consisted of me and my beloved cat AppleButt (name changed to protect her anonymity) posed over the warm glow of the Hanukkah menorah. I modeled it after a photo from my childhood of me and my three older siblings watching my mom light the candles. There I stood with my thumb in my mouth, stomach and diaper jutting out, eyes transfixed on the flames. A moment frozen in time - and worth replicating.

So I asked Only Child to come over with his fancy digital camera and take some shots in front of the little Hanukkah "set" I created in my kitchen using dradel gift wrap taped to the wall and shiny silver paper under the menorah to add to the glow. I held poor AppleButt up to the flames while I pretended to light the last candle. Unlike a real child, AppleButt was not quite so entranced, but with a little help from Photoshop, it almost looked like she wasn't in total hell.

I signed it "Happy Holidays from The [Troopers]" and sent it to everyone I knew, curious to get their reaction.

I thought it was hysterical and meant it entirely as a sarcastic joke. Unfortunately, the only people who actually got the joke were my fellow Troopers. Everyone else told me it was "really cute." But I'm sure they all thought I was finally becoming the Crazy Cat Lady.

No matter what the reaction, this little act of rebellion transformed what used to be a negative time for me into something mischievously festive and I couldn't wait for the following year to top it with something even more elaborate.

When I booked my cruise to Alaska, I knew I found my theme. As I smiled for photos throughout the trip, I wondered, "Is this the one?"

It wasn't until I got home and sifted through the hundreds of photos that I found the perfect image. It was from my favorite day of the trip (and probably my life) when I hiked eight miles to a glacier where I sat on a rock, sipped hot cocoa from a thermos, ate a sandwich, and gazed at the ice all around me. Pink-cheeked, decked out in a hat and windbreaker, I'm smiling with true joy. The only thing that could have made the day better was if I could have shared it with someone special.

With a little help from Wine Guy's amazing Photoshop skills, I got my wish. And AppleButt got her first vacation.

I mailed them out on Saturday to about 50 people and the calls and emails are already starting to roll in. "You took your cat to Alaska??!" What the F*&#k!?

I can't stop giggling. I wish I could stand next to them as they absentmindedly open the envelope on the walk back from the mailbox, expecting yet another posed family photo and instead laying their eyes upon a beautiful, rocky glacier, a smiling hiker, and her startled black and white, fuzzy cat perfectly placed in her arms.

Happy Holidays!
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