My Year In Review

my year in chalkboard

before and after morro bay 2013 was a very good year for me.  I started out not wanting to make a new years resolution out of fear of the disappointment that would always come from breaking it.  I decided to make one after a few days, and I stayed with it, well, until July anyway.  I said I wanted to lose weight and I did.  By July I had lost 70lbs with an android app called Noom, but then the weight stopped dropping and I gained 10lbs back, but fluctuated throughout the rest of the year.  I started out the year at 264lbs, went down to 194lbs and as of today I am 205lbs.  I will make another resolution to get back on my diet so I can get down to the weight that I wanted to get down to.  I know how to do it, I just need the willpower.

xray1 On March 16th I had an accident while riding the bicycle home from the grocery store at night and I broke my arm.  It was the ball of my left arm that fits into the shoulder socket.  I didn’t have a cast, instead all I was given was a sling from the emergency room.  By that time I had already lost 35lbs, and as you can already tell from the previous paragraph, the broken arm didn’t stop me from reaching my weight loss goal.

etsy banner While I was recovering from my broken arm, I decided that I wanted to start a new craft.  Well, it wasn’t really a new craft, it was an old craft that I learned when I was 9 and in the Cub Scouts.  I had some materials, so I wanted to use them up by making a couple of keychains.  I had so much fun that I decided that I wanted to learn a more complicated pattern.  I got so good at it and I was having so much fun that I ended up with about 40 keychains, so I opened up an Etsy shop.  I started out with keychains, and I added dangle keychain style earrings, studs and hoops and I already have plans on making and selling dream catcher earrings.

On June 26th, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled DOMA to be unconstitutional and Prop 8 was finally repealed.  HURRAY!  What a glorious day that was for the gay community in California.  In fact, 18 (or 19) states made gay marriage legal in 2013 and legal on a federal level.  The reason I said or 19 is because Wikipedia doesn’t include DC, but says eighteen states AND District of Columbia.  Whatever.  18 or 19, it’s still a huge victory for us.  Illinois is in that 18, but theirs isn’t legal until June 2014.

IMAG2002 In late July I started having pain in my parotid gland, which happens at least 2 or 3 times a year for I want to say the last 10 years, but I am not positive.  It’s been going on for a very long time.  The parotid gland is the saliva gland and for some reason the saliva doesn’t release into my mouth, instead something blocks the way and it swells up to the size of a golf ball or bigger.  I try to milk it so the saliva goes into my mouth, and that does work, but it hurts really bad.  The doctors usually give me an antibiotic and it clears up in a week, but this time it didn’t clear up.  My doctor sent me to an ear, nose throat doctor and to have an ultrasound which showed that I had a stone inside of my parotid gland.  The ENT doctor sent me to have a cat scan with contrast which showed that I had several stones in both of my parotid glands, but the ones on the right side were much bigger than the left.  I had surgery on November 20th to remove my parotid gland.  The area is still numb and I was told it will probably be numb for another couple or few months.  YAY!

My back has caused me tons of pain for so many years and this summer I finally found out what was causing it.  Apparently I have scoliosis in my spine.  I told my aunt about it and she told me that my great-grandmother was born with scoliosis and she lived her entire life with it.  I remember she had a hump on her back, that was the scoliosis.  My doctor sent me to physical therapy for a month and that halted the pain, but it didn’t correct anything.  I have an appointment in January to start treatment up again, and it’s a good thing too because the pain is already starting to come back.  My first treatment was a shock, no, seriously, they put these electrodes on my back and it shot electricity to my nerves to dull them.  They had me do exercises for half an hour and then they would give me a deep tissue massage. The electrode was only applied to me on the first visit, all the other appointments were just me laying on the table doing exercises and then massages.  The last couple appointments didn’t include a massage.

bread slicer pumpkin bread We went to a thrift store in October and I found a bread machine for only $6.  I can’t say I have ever had homemade bread before, like ever, so that was quite an experience.  I did learn that I was doing it wrong for a very long time when I had such a horrible stomachache which felt like I had a 10lb brick sitting in my stomach.  Apparently the bread was too dry.  I read the instructions.  It clearly stated that I was to use exact measurements, no more, no less, so I was only doing what I was told to do, but apparently rules are made to be broken.  Now the bread is light and fluffy and it actually tastes better than store bought bread.  My favorite bread to make is Spiced Pumpkin Bread with raisins.  Have you ever had a ham sandwich or a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich with pumpkin bread with raisins?  It’s quite awesome.  Although I will have to cut back on the bread when I start my diet up again.

We also helped feed a couple of neighbors for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which frankly is what the holidays are all about.  It’s nice to receive presents, but it’s even nicer to do a good deed for someone.  I guess those were our good deeds for the year.

Of course we exchanged presents.  I got a Nook HD+ 32GB tablet from my partner, and I gave him a Google Chromecast so he can watch Netflix and YouTube from his tablet, plus I got him Netflix.

I don’t know what will happen in 2014, but I’m sure it will be as memorable as 2013.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

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Google Chromecast

Chromecast

I didn’t know what to get my partner for Christmas because he doesn’t seem to show any interest to anything.  Everyone has a hobby of some sorts, but not him, so buying presents is difficult.  Last month he bought a new tablet from Verizon and I remember seeing the ads for Chromecast, so I figured this would make the perfect gift for him so he could watch Netflix and YouTube on his HDTV.

Chromecast Icon CircledOf course when it came, I couldn’t get it working.  I thought the setup would be easy, but it was anything but.  His tablet recognized it, but wouldn’t connect with it.  I decided that he could use my CR-48 (Chromebook) to watch Netflix, so I installed the extension and it recognized the Chromecast and connected instantly.  I went back to his tablet to the Chromecast app and it was already connected there too.  Despite the fact that I never even installed the Chromecast app on my Nook HD+, I see the Chromecast connect icon on Netflix and YouTube.

When I bought the Chromecast through the Google Play Store, I read the reviews and saw a couple of people bitching about the fact that you cannot watch home videos or pictures you have taken with your phone or tablet, but I found that to be false.  If you own a Chromecast, when you go to the Google Play Store on your device you will see a category with apps made specifically for Chromecast.  There is an app called avia which says you can share your personal photos, videos and music on the big screen.  The app is free, but it might be limited because it says “In-app purchase of $2.99  gives you Chromecast support, casting to DLNA enabled devices, access to Dropbox, support for themes and removes all ads.”  As with everything in life, read the reviews and decide for yourself.  There is only one app that will allow you to share your personal photos and videos… for now.

Loading the Chromecast is simple.  When you want to watch something, just click the Chromecast icon so it streams to your TV, then hit the play button and it will automatically switch to the Chromecast.  When you are done, you will have to get the remote control that came with your TV to switch the input back to the cable.  It’s actually very easy.

It’s a great device for those who don’t have an internet streaming device like the Apple TV, Roku or a Blu-ray player, it’s also cheaper at only $35.

Here are a couple of screenshots of YouTube and Netflix with the Chromecast icon.

Chromecast YouTube Chromecast Netflix

New problem seems to be no problem

I mentioned in a previous post that I was having complications from my recent surgery to remove my parotid gland. The problem was that I am still generating new saliva which is causing some pain when it fills up too much and because it doesn’t drain into my mouth, but instead my neck.

I have an update on the issue. It doesn’t seem to be getting too big and I can feel it drain on its own without me having to push on it to milk it, for the lack of a better word. How it does it is very strange, it feels like sweat is running down my face along the scar along my ear. Although I am not positive that that is what it is, that could just be my scar tingling as it has been doing. I am feeling it right now as I type this because I just ate a bowl of cereal which generated some saliva in the gland.

I actually don’t know where the saliva would drain from that gland.  When I have pushed on it before, I feel a vein bulge inside of my mouth which is near where the parotid gland used to be in front of my earlobe, so it is possible that there is a vein, or tube or whatever you want to call it that allows the saliva to travel to reach its destination to release somewhere.  Perhaps that was releasing into my parotid gland which would release into my mouth, or perhaps it had a tube in common with the parotid gland, which is now gone since the parotid gland is gone.

So I don’t think that I have much to worry about. It seems to be correcting itself, despite how freaking strange it feels lol.

december 18 2013 When I look into a mirror I don’t even notice it much anymore. I mean, I see a little lump, but it looks normal considering there is still a hole beside it. The hole isn’t even that noticeable anymore. I mean, when I look at it in the mirror with a shadow on it, it’s very noticeable, but I just took a picture using the flash and you can barely see it. All you can really see is the scar, which seems to stand out along my neck. When I touch it with my fingers I can still feel a hole, but it does seem to be filling in.  When you look at the image to the left you can definitely see where the saliva is filling up in the saliva gland which has no exit into my mouth, but instead in my neck.  It’s that little marble sized ball.

I will definitely be speaking to my doctor about what is happening because he told me that there was a collection of “spit” (his words) that has collected and it will be absorbed into my body, but it’s nothing to worry about.  The very fact that it is still collecting, or generating new “spit” that is draining into my neck seems like it should be something that I should worry about, but I am sure it is hardly a problem considering if it were draining into my mouth, I would end up swallowing it, so it ends up being absorbed into my body regardless of how or where it drains, so again, I don’t see that much of a problem.

So that seems to be it for now.  My appointment with the surgeon isn’t until March, but my next appointment with my regular doctor is in January. I will mention it to both doctors and if it is an issue then I will post another update, otherwise I don’t see much of a reason to add another update on this because it doesn’t seem to be causing as much of a problem.

Nook HD+ for Christmas

desktop landscape

I was totally not expecting this, but my partner bought me a Nook HD+ 32GB for Christmas. I was saving money to buy an Amazon Kindle Fire because I thought it was better than a Nook tablet. I had no idea that the Nook tablet had the Google play store now. So I changed my mind, but was still saving the money and was expecting that I would finally have the money saved by my birthday in June. I told my partner what I was planning, and I think he took that as a hint. It wasn’t, but hey, I’m not complaining lol.

I have a Nook WiFi, which is still very nice to have for when I want to read a book in the sunlight. That doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen. You can’t see a tablet screen in sunlight which is what makes a e-ink screen superior than a tablet in that sense.

I was saving up for the 7″ screen with only 8GB, but when we were at the Barnes & Noble store he saw the two screens next to each other and decided for me that the 9″ screen was better, and that 32GB would also be way better than only 8GB which I highly agree with. The price however was a huge difference. The 7″ tablet was only $129 and the 9″ was $179. I agree that the one he bought me is better though, and I probably would have regretted not getting the bigger one.

library portrait There was a problem with my new Nook though. The first day was okay, but the second day wasn’t. The screen started freaking out on me. It would move side to side on its own and it would drop app icons onto the desktop from the carousel at the top. It also went into my library and started downloading books and magazines from the cloud. I saw it in the Nook store and freaked out that it would start making executive decisions on what it thought I should start reading.

I called the store and tried to explain to them what was happening, but the tech didn’t get it right away. She eventually understood and walked me through resetting it to factory and told me if I had any more problems to bring it in for another one. It did, and so we went in the very next day. It was a good thing too because they were on sale, so they gave my partner the difference, which was $32. Not bad eh? Instead of being $179, it was only $149.

So yeah, the Nook HD+ 32GB was a very good thing. I’ve been putting my computer in sleep mode while I use the Nook as a computer. No sense in using electricity if I’m going to use a tablet instead of a computer. I am disappointed that I can’t play the Sims FreePlay on it though. I’ve been playing that on my cell phone for a year now and it gets frustrating when it crashes constantly. I would love to free up some space on my phone and play it on a bigger screen.

landscape book

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to read books on the screen because I much prefer either paper or e-ink, but it’s actually not that bad to read from. I’ve been reading in landscape mode and it reads just like a book, it even looks like a book when you turn the page. The reason I’m reading in landscape mode is because of the case I have. It’s much easier for me to read with the Nook sitting on my desk than it is to hold it on my hand.

I am very happy with my gift. I’m even happier that I didn’t have to save the money for it because I can’t save money very easily because it always goes into the groceries. I’m even happier that the replacement didn’t freak out like the first one lol.

We didn’t buy the case in the store because I thought they would be expensive, so I bought it on Amazon for $11 with free shipping.  Not a bad price.  I found out that the cases they have in the store are only $15, but I am very happy with the case that I have because it rotates so it can stand in portrait or landscape mode.

We don’t conform to the rules of opening your Christmas presents ON Christmas day.  Screw that noise lol.  We will open our presents when we gosh darn well please thank you very much.  The present I bought for him wasn’t quite as expensive though, it was the Google Chromecast for $35.  He can use it to watch Netflix or YouTube directly from his tablet.  My second gift for him was Netflix itself, which we both can enjoy from our tablets and the Blu-ray player.

Parotidectomy Surgery Complications

glands

It has been 3 weeks since I had my surgery and everything seems to be healing well.  My scar isn’t red and it isn’t too noticeable, except for the scar from the hole from where the tube was draining the fluid for 2 weeks which is quite visible, but disappears with a Band-Aid.

My face and ear are still numb, although the feeling is coming back slowly, but it is coming back.  But it still feels very strange.

The only thing that seems to have gone wrong is that I still have a saliva gland that seems to still be producing saliva with nowhere to go.  According to the image, there are three glands.  Parotid, which was removed, Submandibular and Sublingual.  The Sublingual gland is under the tongue, no problem.  The gland that is still producing saliva is my Submandibular gland which is below where the Parotid gland used to be.  It is still producing saliva, but it is not releasing into my mouth.  Instead of releasing into my mouth, it stores the saliva.

This is a really big issue because that is what my Parotid gland was doing.  It wasn’t releasing the saliva, so I was having to push (or milk) it out of the gland and into my mouth.  I have been trying to do that with this gland, but it is not releasing into my mouth, instead, I can feel it releasing under my skin.  I can tell because it tingles.  I don’t want it to release saliva inside of my body, but if it doesn’t get milked, it just gets bigger and bigger and next thing you know I will be rushed to the emergency room because of how painful it is.

The surgeon told me when I came back last week to have the tube removed that it was just some saliva that will be absorbed by my body, but I had no idea it was still producing more saliva.  I only know it is producing more saliva because I could feel it getting bigger and under more pressure when I ate some chocolate the other day.  Sweet and tangy are what seem to generate a lot of saliva for me, which over the years has been a major issue for me because when I start generating a lot of saliva after drinking orange juice, my saliva gland would get backed up and it wouldn’t release the saliva into my mouth.  That’s what I was trying to get surgery for, forget the stone, I want my saliva to be able to release into my mouth as it normally would without me having to milk it.

I can live without orange juice, which I have lived without for years because I know that sour causes this issue.  The one thing I don’t think I can live without is sweet, because I have a sweet tooth.  I love sweet flavors, such as sweet tea, or sweet coffee, or sweet oatmeal.  I can live without chocolate and cookies and so on, but I can’t avoid other sweet flavors because there is almost always something sweet.

My next appointment with the surgeon isn’t until March, but my next appointment with my regular doctor is next month and he will advise me on what to do.  I just hope by then it isn’t too painful.

I was hoping that my last post on this issue was my very last post.  I guess I jinxed myself by saying it was my last post.  This seems to be a pattern with me though.  I say I will never have to worry about something again, but then it comes back and I have to worry about it some more.  It’s a “if it can go wrong, it will” type of thing.  Murphy’s Law.  Why does Murphy seem to always be hiding in the shadows cursing me?  Darn you Murphy!

I will certainly update this issue if it becomes too unbearable and I end up in the ER or when I see my doctor in January, whichever comes first.

Make Holiday Money Online

christmas cash

Want to know how to earn money on your smart phone or computer for the holidays?  It’s not very difficult, although it does take a lot of time and patience.  Here is how I make extra money.  Blogging, surveys and watching videos online.

Blogging

Blogsvertise

Click Advertise on My Blog

Blogsvertise isn’t as good as it used to be, although I am not counting them out of the game because it is possible that some day I might get new opps, although it has been a long time so I’m not holding my breath either.  They usually send you an email telling you to write a 200 word, 3 paragraph blog post and you get paid a certain amount of money depending on your blogs rating.  The higher your PR is, the more money you will make.  Although from what I understand, Google doesn’t use PR anymore, advertisers still request PR1 or PR3.  They do have pay-per-click opportunities, but I have never made a dime from those, so they don’t work very well.

It takes 30 days to receive your payment through PayPal and there is no limit to the amount of money they will deposit.  If your payment is $10, then they deposit $10.

PayPerPost
PayPerPost is a company owned by IZEA.  They send you emails with leads and you can either accept or decline them.  You just write your blog post about the website and enter the link to the post and you get paid 30 days after it is approved.  There isn’t a limit to how much money you can withdraw, but know that if it is under $50, they will take $2 from you.  It’s a good thing to wait for that to build up to $50 though.  I still have $23.50 in my account, although it has been quite some time since I have gotten an opp.

SocialSpark

Set Your Price. Choose your Advertisers. Sign up for SocialSpark!

SocialSpark is also owned by IZEA and for some reason I get more opportunities here than PayPerPost, although it has been quite some time since I have.  I also have a pay-per-click (PPC) ad on my blog which does generate revenue each month, so whether I write a post or not, I will receive money in my account, although it is a tiny amount.

Much like the other blogging websites above, they send you an email telling you that you have a lead or an opportunity and you either accept the lead, or take the opportunity, whichever the case may be.  Unlike the other 2, when you are ready to write your blog post, you have to write it within the website, not your own.  They will post it to your blog on a specific day and time, usually the next day or so.

It also takes a month to receive your payment, and like PayPerPost, you can withdraw any amount you want, but they will take $2 out if the amount is under $50.

Surveys

Swag Bucks

Search & Win

Swag Bucks is a great way to earn money by doing surveys, watching videos, playing games, downloading apps and getting paid to shop or search the web.  I haven’t received a payout yet, but that’s because it is not the easiest way to earn money because I get disqualified from I would say 8 out of 10 surveys because I didn’t meet the criteria for whatever reason.  You earn very little for watching videos and I haven’t even figured out how to earn money from playing games yet.  When you do earn swag bucks from surveys, it is a good amount.

When you have 450 swag bucks you are eligible to redeem a $5 gift card for Amazon.  Some rewards are 500 for a $5 value, but Amazon seems to require less.  They do have good rewards though, like Amazon, Target, PayPal and Starbucks, just to name a few.

SuperPay.Me

SuperPay.Me is a new website (new to me) that I just started using.  In just a short amount of time I have earned $1.43 and 104 points from doing surveys, installing apps and watching videos.  One of the very odd ways of earning money is by clicking a banner ad which opens a new tab in your browser, and you have 5 to 60 seconds to look at a website before you earn your credit.  The credit isn’t a lot, but it’s free money, so why wouldn’t you do it?

The reason I am suggesting this website is because you can withdraw any amount of money you want at any given time.  Like say you have made $1.00 and you want that dollar, like right now, you can withdraw it to your PayPal account.  How you make money from points is you can either get a $5 Amazon gift card for 500 points, or you can convert your points to cash, or you can convert your cash to points.  It is up to you how you want to be paid.  I would personally keep earning as much money as I can until I need it, then withdraw it and get a lump sum.

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Amazon Mechanical Turk is not the same thing as everything else I listed above this one.  You choose tasks called “HIT” and do whatever it is they want you to do.  Like for example, my first task was to write down everything in a store receipt along with their price, including coupons and voids.  You know how a receipt shows initials instead of long names because there really isn’t much room for a long name?  Well, you have to type in the long name I guess.  Anyway, that one particular task gave me 2 hours to do the task, well, that’s perhaps a 10 minute task if you ask me, but they kept saying I didn’t do something right and to keep checking.  I forgot to add 1 yogurt and 1 dozen eggs, but everything else was right.  I checked it, double checked it, triple checked it, quadruple checked it… I basically checked it about 20 times and it was correct.  I finally just submitted it whether it was right or not because it was right in my mind.  If I don’t get paid then that’s okay, it was only .06 cents anyway.

You aren’t going to make very much money with this which is why I don’t completely recommend it.  It is Amazon, so when you get paid, they will pay you money, or you can choose Amazon credit.  I personally would rather have Amazon credit because I’m always buying things on Amazon anyway, so I might as well just have some money in my account.  But I can’t say that I will be doing this enough to make much of a difference.  It takes way too long for only 6 cents for that one task.

Watching TV

Viggle

Viggle isn’t a website, it’s an app for your Android or iPhone.  You earn points for watching tv and doing trivia while watching your show.  They have some good rewards, although they come and go so if you want a specific reward, you may have to wait for it to come back.

In 2013 I earned $50 in rewards for Barnes & Noble.  It cost me 50,000 points for $25 which I redeemed twice (months apart).  I don’t see it on their website now, but I will continue earning more points to redeem more for the same reward.

RewardTV

RewardTV is a website I used many, many years ago.  I didn’t even know they were still around, but you can make a lot of points just buy doing trivia on shows that you watch.  Like say you watched Once Upon A Time last night, today you can do trivia on what you saw.  I completed the trivia and got 2 questions wrong, but they weren’t questions for the show, they were for the commercials during the show.  Look, I’m not paying attention to the commercials LOL.  Those are pee breaks people!  At any rate, for this specific show, I earned 10,500 points.

I can’t tell you how to spend your points.  They don’t have a rewards page for redeeming your points like the other websites I suggested.  They do have sweepstakes, pay for my stuff which I assume is basically sweepstakes, auctions, and shopping spree, which I have no clue how that works.

So even though I have no clue how you can make money from this, I am still suggesting it because points are very easy to make if you remember what happened in the show that you watched the day before.  I am sure you will figure out how to spend your points.

Those are all I can think of for right now.  I wrote a post about making money from your cell phone, but I didn’t keep those apps because I didn’t use them as often as I would have liked, but I stand by them because they are a good way to earn money if you are willing to do what they ask.

Since when did saying “Happy Holidays” become offensive?

Christmas 2007-1

I have been saying “Happy Holidays” my entire life.  There have always been cards sold in stores that say “Happy Holidays” and nobody was ever offended before.  Now all of a sudden saying “Happy Holidays” seems to be more offensive because people believe there is a war on Christmas and that Atheists are trying to remove “Christ” from Christmas, so if I don’t say “Merry Christmas”, but say “Happy Holidays” instead, then I am part of the problem and get lectured by some religious person who is very upset.

This is how I see it.  I have friends who celebrate Hanukkah and friends who celebrate Christmas.  I also have friends and family who celebrate Christmas, but not specifically for religious reasons because they are Atheists.  So why can’t I say “Happy Holidays” to them without someone yelling at me for not saying “Merry Christmas”?  I wouldn’t say “Merry Christmas” to my Jewish friends and I wouldn’t say “Happy Hanukkah” to my Christian friends.  Happy Holidays is a happy medium.  It’s a way of saying, well, Happy Holidays lol.  It’s just words, so why is it so upsetting?  I don’t understand.

I am an Atheist and I have celebrated Christmas since I was a baby.  I wasn’t always an Atheist, I was baptized when I was a baby and I considered myself to be a Christian when I was growing up.  My parents took us to church when we were very young, and I have memories of that, but then they stopped and there is a very funny story of why.

My mother and step father went to my mother’s church which happened to be the Mormon church.  The first time he ever went there with her, they asked him to stand up and say his name.  He was afraid to say his own last name out of fear of her getting kicked out of the church because they were living together, but they weren’t married.  They knew her last name was McDonald, so he used her last name without really thinking it through.  The problem with that was, his first name was Ronald.  He was so beyond embarrassed when people laughed at him for proudly proclaiming to be Ronald McDonald that we never went to church again as a family.

I went with neighbors to the Salvation Army church when I was in the 6th and 7th grade.  I even went to the Salvation Army band camp the summer before I was in the 7th grade.  When we lived in Reseda when I was in the 9th grade we rejoined the Mormon Church because they helped us with food bank, but I don’t recall going to church every Sunday, but I do remember going to teen functions, one specific function stands out, it was a dance for the teenagers.

Anyway, I was very religious up until I came out of the closet at 17, well, I was pushed out, then kicked out.  People started quoting the bible to let me know I was going to hell for being gay and over the course of a year or two, I became an Atheist.  But I never stopped celebrating Christmas because I enjoy decorating the Christmas tree and looking at the lights and having a stocking hung by the fireplace.  I enjoy all of the Christmas movies and I love it when my favorite shows have a Christmas episode.

Just because I am an atheist and do not celebrate Christmas for “Christ” doesn’t mean I want Christ to be removed from Christmas.  I honestly don’t care what it’s called, I just want to have a happy holiday without being told that I am a part of the war on Christmas just because I am not religious.

So Happy Holidays to you all.  Deal with me saying Happy Holidays because it’s just words.  If me saying Happy Holidays offends you, get over it!

BTW, the cat in the picture above is our late cat Shanaynay.  She passed away in 2009.