hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Posts Tagged ‘church’

Some Short Book Reviews

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 25, 2018

I have a ton of books to review, ideally as many as possible before the end of the year. And my health has been extremely bad, so it’s hard for me to find the time, energy or inspiration to write any. However, today I got a few knocked out, leaving me with just over 150 more (!), so I thought I’d post them all here in one blog post, as they’re all fairly short. Cheers!

 

Forged: Writing in the Name of GodForged: Writing in the Name of God by Bart D. Ehrman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this a fascinating book and really loved it. Much of it was new to me when I started, but for some reason, I set it aside for awhile while I read other books. And some of these other books went on to assert some of the same things I found Ehrman referring to when I later picked up the book to finish. That doesn’t diminish the research or quality of the material, but it does mean some of it isn’t as “original” as I had previously thought, which is the reason I’ve knocked it down from five stars to four. Still, if you want to learn the “real” story of many of the books of the Bible, particularly the New Testament, when they were actually written, who did and did not actually author so many of the books, this is an excellent source. Definitely recommended.

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God Needs To Go: Why Christian Beliefs FailGod Needs To Go: Why Christian Beliefs Fail by J.D. Brucker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This short book is decent, not bad, and makes good and legitimate points. The author’s sections include 1. The Absence of Eternity, 2. The Birth of Ignorance, 3. The Flawed Logic in Modern Miracles, 4. The Error in Faith-Based Morality, 5. The Myth of Intelligent Design, 6. The Imaginary End, and 7. My Fall from “Grace.”

While I enjoyed reading it, however, I couldn’t help but think that these are largely issues that have already been addressed, mostly in more detail, depth, and intellectual mastery, by other authors out there, so aside from my feeling good about seeing another (reader-friendly) atheistic book on the market, I don’t feel like it truly contributes too much, certainly little new. Thus, while again I enjoyed it, I can’t help but view it as an average book, and am thus giving it three stars. If you have not yet read Barker, Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and some of the others, this may be a good intro, but I would quickly move on to the meatier resources out there. Cautiously recommended.

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The Templars: The Secret History RevealedThe Templars: The Secret History Revealed by Barbara Frale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s hard for me to decide what I think about this book. For virtually my entire life, I’ve heard and read rumors, stories, and myths about the mysterious Knights Templar, and most people know about the Holy Grail and have heard stories that the organization continues to secretly exist to the present day. When I got this book, I wasn’t exactly looking for or expecting to find these stories were justified. However, while I admittedly did enjoy learning about how the Templars were founded, and for what reasons, and the qualities one had to have and the sacrifices one had to make in order to become one, this book then quickly turned into basically a dry textbook of history, places, several events, politics, culminating in a very disappointing (for me) end to what had been an admirable organization, complete with confessions tortured out of the Templars who had been arrested due to political BS between the King of France and the Pope. It was further disappointing to learn that at least some of the confessions were true, as in the Templars’ secret initiation rites, which I cannot believe were original, had degraded into something undeserving of the name and purpose of the organization, and personal requirements and standards had been lowered to recruit new members, thus making for a lack of morals in some that would have probably gotten an original Templar killed by his fellows. It was also disappointing to learn of such a once-splendid organization’s demise, and as the primary author was granted access to the “secret” Vatican files, it’s highly likely that the reports of its termination as an organization are and were indeed true, thus destroying my youthful fantasies of a super-secret organization existing over the centuries to the present, exercising power in all sorts of areas. Like I originally stated, I knew that was essentially a myth, but it was still disappointing to read the historical truth.

This is a well-researched, and professionally written history of a fascinating organization that was quite powerful for several hundred years and which still interests numerous people til this day. The writing gets fairly dry at times, even boring, but there’s enough good details and history in it to make it worth reading. I’d give this book a solid four stars and state that it’s recommended.

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Sid Gillman: Father of the Passing GameSid Gillman: Father of the Passing Game by Josh Katzowitz

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve always heard about Sid Gillman my whole life, and about how he “invented” football’s passing game. Yet when the great coaches are mentioned, he’s rarely, if ever, included. I’ve always wanted to know why, and I’ve always wanted to know some real details about him. Thus my excitement when I found this book some time back. I held on to it, like it was a treasure, waiting for the “right” moment to break it open and revel in its contents. So I finally did break it open, after waiting a very long time. And didn’t finish it. Because I didn’t enjoy it. I found it, and Gillman himself, tremendously disappointing. It was frankly a disillusioning read.

Gillman does indeed deserve credit for “inventing” the passing game, and he revolutionized the game of football forever. He quite possibly was an offensive genius. He was a lifelong workaholic. He tutored assistants who went on to amazing careers, like Don Shula and Chuck Noll. You could see elements of his game in the way they coached and won. So why isn’t Gillman typically included in discussions of the great coaches? Maybe it was because he never won a Super Bowl, which is a legitimate point, although he did a good deal of his coaching before Super Bowls existed. Maybe it’s also because he was a giant asshole of a person, unlikeable to almost anyone who ever met him. I hated him from about the 10th page on. And in terms of this book, I felt it was boring, redundant, didn’t exactly go to great lengths to argue for his greatness, although it made some efforts, and it kind of felt like the book went out of its way to ensure I’ll never include Gillman in a discussion of the greatest coaches, and nor will anyone else. I don’t know if that was the author’s intention – I tend to doubt it – but that’s what happened with me. I feel the book could have been a lot better, and possibly if a more experienced, more talented writer had been writing such a book, perhaps the outcome could have been different. However, the best I can do is give it two stars and state that I definitely do not recommend this book at all.

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Well, that’s all for now. I had hoped to do more today, but I feel terrible and I’m glad I got to do any at all. However, some of the ones I have lined up are on Japan at the end of WW II, religion, theism, the NSA, changing American military power and foreign policy, nuclear weapons, Biblical archaeology and how much of the Bible it supports as well as shows to be false, atheism, hockey, the history of Rome, the current and future status of the US and China, spies, American classism, the spread of theistic religions, Sparta, nuclear politics, think tanks, and much more. I hope to get to as many of these as I can. Please bear with me and be patient, and thanks for reading what I put down here. I truly appreciate it. Cheers!

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A Review of Deconversion: a Journey from Religion to Reason

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 5, 2018

Deconverted: a Journey from Religion to ReasonDeconverted: a Journey from Religion to Reason by Seth Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic book! Seth Andrews lived my own exact life growing up, and we were both traumatized by the same types of things (the movie, “Thief In The Night!”), and we were both fundies/evangelicals for much of our younger lives before we both started asking ourselves some questions, before asking others, and began reading and researching, and while Andrews reached his conclusions and belief system before I did, I admire his resolve and his courage for “coming out” as an atheist in a strong Bible Belt city, because I live in the biggest Bible Belt city in America (I believe it was so named last year…), and unless you’re a Red State Republican bible thumper here, you don’t really feel very welcome in this city, and while I haven’t spent years as an out and out atheist as Andrews has, I may as well, because when I’m not on my feet “praising the lord,” I stick out like a sore thumb, and it can make one very uncomfortable. Yes, there there are “liberal” Christians here, as well as a few Muslims, about 25 Jews, possibly a few Hindus, although I haven’t seen any, some agnostics, some atheists, but no place to really gather and not be in church, because the only alternative is the Unitarian CHURCH, and while it’s a catchall for all beliefs and while they tend to make fun of fundies, it’s still called a “church,” so that kind of defeats the purpose. I’m reading Dawkins, Hitchins, Barker, George W Smith, and others right now, and it’s been really refreshing, and for the first time in my life, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, like I’ve been liberated, and I have Barker and Seth Andrews to thank in many ways, because unlike Hitchins, they’ve BEEN there, they understand, they know what it’s like to “deconvert” and how traumatic that can be for so many reasons, and I have found this book very helpful and very freeing and I recommend it for anyone going through a similar process or who has questions, doubts, etc. It helps fill it the holes, or flesh out the holes one finds gaping wide open in the christian bible. And the stress is not on what one believes, but what one doesn’t believe, unlike what many people think. Atheism is merely “a lack of belief in a god” or supernatural being, etc. It’s NOT a philosophical antithetical belief system, although individual atheists can choose to have antithetical beliefs or any belief they want; it pushes no life agenda, just ration, reason, being a good person, and a lack of belief in a god. That’s it, that’s all. It’s very simple. If there is no rational evidence to convince you that a god exists, you are thus not obligated to believe in a god, nor should anyone else. Very simple. Sure, you can go full blown philosophical and George W Smith does that, but it’s not necessary, and you can find out why by reading most of these authors and finding out in less than 10 minutes. In any event, I’m elated I came across this book and now I listen to the author’s podcasts and have found help, comfort, and entertainment in them. Strongly recommended for those encountering spiritual doubts….

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2014 in Review

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 31, 2014

At the end of the past two years, I believe, I’ve written about what took place during that year, so I’m doing so again. Here’s the synopsis, as best my memory can recollect.

In January, my mother celebrated her 84th birthday, so we spent a little time with her. The month was otherwise uneventful.

In February, we put our old house on the market and moved to our new house. We’re pretty grateful for the trade. Our old house was in what looked like a nice neighborhood, but it was actually nearly a ghetto. It was very loud and had a lot of crime. Now, we’re up on top of a mountain in a quiet neighborhood with no crime. We feel good about that.

February also saw the death of our beloved cat Toby. He was only six and it didn’t seem fair. He essentially died of kidney failure, although we sadly had to put him to sleep (which seems to me to be a pansy way of saying we killed him). We had him cremated and keep his ashes with my late cat Rocky’s ashes. We still miss Toby a lot.

We also got a membership to a good shooting range in February and have enjoyed that a lot.

March was pretty uneventful.

In April, I got a new car. I traded in my lemon BMW 530i for a 2011 Toyota Camry and couldn’t be happier. I found it on Autotrader at a dealer in Atlanta and went down there, beat someone else coming to buy it — barely — test drove it, and left with it to come home. It’s been a great car.

Sometime around April also saw the return of my head pain that I’ve had since 2010. I have trigeminal neuralgia, so I have to take a lot of pain pills and have had a number of procedures to try and combat it.

Additionally, Gretchen’s birthday is in April, so we went up to Baltimore to celebrate it with her friends and family. We had a very good time. It was great to see everyone and we got to go to an Orioles game, a museum, some good restaurants and even saw some friends in Virginia on the way.

Finally, we celebrated our one year anniversary in April. It was pretty low key, but we had a good time remembering our wedding and honeymoon to the beach the year before.

In May, I got a SCCY CPX-1 9 mm through an online auction site for a very good price and a Beretta PX4 Storm at a gun show. Neither gun has turned out to be my favorite — a Ruger SR9c is — but I was happy to have them. Meanwhile, Gretchen turned out to be a pro with our Marlin .22 rifle.

I believe it was May, too, when Mom moved from here back up to Knoxville, her old home. It was sad to see her go, but it was good for her to be back with her many friends and at her old church, which she had missed. She got a nice one level condo and is living on her own. We do worry about her though.

In June, we thought we had a buyer for our old house, finally. We had had to lower the price three times and it was going for practically nothing. We were about to take an $18,000 loss on it. However, the financing for this buyer fell through, so we were back at square one.

In June, I also had a disability hearing. It was my second time in court for it and I was denied for the fourth time. However, my lawyer appealed. And the judge left open the chance that he might rule in my favor if my orthopedist provided appropriate information.

July was the one year anniversary of my father’s death. That was very sad. We went to visit his gravestone in the cemetery where he’s buried in Knoxville. In July, I also had the first of three neurological procedures for my head pain. It didn’t really work, so that was disappointing.

We also had a new buyer for our old home in July. They were doing FHA financing though, so it would take awhile. They agreed to buy the house at very nearly the price we were asking. The closing was set for October.

I think August was pretty uneventful. I had been doing a lot of traveling back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville to help Mom out with things. That got old. We also started looking for a new church, even though I was on the vestry of our old church. It was simply too small and too old. We were the youngest people there and people were dying off and no one new was joining. It was a dying church. So we started going to other Episcopal churches, as well as Methodist and Presbyterian.

In September, I celebrated my 48th birthday and tried not to get too depressed.

During that month, I also had two more surgical procedures for my head pain, but neither helped. It was discouraging.

October came around and the financing for our house’s buyer fell through the day before the closing. We were livid and so were they. However, our realtor worked the phones and found a new lender within two days, so they were approved and a new closing was set for about two weeks away.

I also had my third court hearing for my disability. My lawyers prepared me for disappointment. They said everything would hinge on what the medical expert would say and they didn’t expect much. When the judge started questioning the expert, though, I was shocked to hear him say my back was too bad to work and that, combined with my trigeminal neuralgia and other assorted things, meant I couldn’t work at all. So the judge finally ruled in my favor and I got disability. I was shocked and elated, because I had been trying for this for over three years and now finally I got it.

During this time, my insomnia had gotten worse and I was consistently getting up between 2 and 3:30 AM, which was frustrating.

We did something pretty fun in October. For my birthday, Gretchen got me Penguins tickets to go see them play the Predators in Nashville. So we went up there, went to Bridgestone Arena, which was nice, and saw the Pens win 3-0. It was very fun and we had a great time. We also had a fantastic meal at a nearby restaurant before the game. Oh, and there were a ton of Pens fans there too!

October is also the month for Halloween. We never had kids come to our house at our old place, but we had about 25 kids come to our new house, so we were tickled about that.

In November, we traveled to Saint Simons Island GA, where I used to live, to go to the beach and take a nice vacation. The weather was still good and we had a nice time. We also went to Savannah and Jekyll Island. It was a great vacation.

In November, we also finally sold our old house and with the money I was able to pay off all of my old student loans, which was a sizable sum, so that was great. However, we discovered a water leak in the kitchen the day before the closing. The buyers still bought the home, but we went through a nightmare getting repairs to the floors and cabinets done while these people got impatient waiting to move in. I don’t blame them, but they drove me nuts.

Additionally, we had a new addition to the family this month. Ace, a three month old tabby cat, joined, per Gretchen’s strong wishes. He’s a bundle of energy, but he’s been fun.

This month, in December, I finally got my disability award letter and a lump sum for my back pay. I also got my Medicare card, even though I’m retaining my Obamacare insurance cause it’s frankly better.

We also found a new church we’re joining next week. It’s Rivermont Presbyterian Church, which is a UPUSA church. It’s bigger with more people of all ages and has a number of Sunday Schools to attend, so we’re excited.

We celebrated Christmas last week and had a great holiday season. We sent and got a lot of cards and exchanged some great gifts and had a good time. Of course it’s also bowl month, so that’s good.

In sports, my Steelers have made the playoffs, so I have big hopes for them. My Pirates made the playoffs for the second year in a row, but didn’t get anywhere. There’s always next year, right? My Penguins made the playoffs, but got bounced out in the second round by the Rangers, so that was disappointing. They’re playing now and even though they have a TON of injuries, they’re still having a good season. Meanwhile my Vols made a bowl game for the first time in four years and they’ll be playing Iowa on January 2. I’m hoping for a win.

So, it was an up and down year. I still have head pain. I still have insomnia. Gretchen was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and lupus. That’s bad. But we got a new house, a new car, paid off my student loans, and I got disability, so that’s all good. We’re hoping for a great 2015 and we hope all of you have a great 2015 too. Cheers!

 

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Our Little Church | SouthernHon

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 28, 2014

Our Little Church | SouthernHon.

My wife wrote this about our little church and the dilemma we face….

 

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Snippets of 2013

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 5, 2014

Last December 31st, I wrote an End of the Year Post where I wrote about highlights (and lowlights) of each month. In fact, I did so for the previous year as well. Well, obviously I didn’t this year. However, I thought I’d take some time to write a few snippets about some things that happened in 2013.

In April, Gretchen and I got married. We had a lovely wedding and an awesome reception attended by a number of close friends and family members. Then we headed for the beach at Gulf Shores, AL, where we had a blast. The weather was perfect, we did a lot of fun things, went over to Pensacola FL for a day trip, and returned home feeling good.

However, on July 28, my father died while mowing my grass, completely unexpectedly. I was at a meeting and had returned home just in time to hear him stop mowing. Minutes later he was on the ground moaning, and as Mom and I tried to give him CPR, he died. Ten minutes after we were at the hospital, the doctor came in with the bad news. It was devastating.

Three days later, our house was broken into while Gretchen was at work and I was on my way home from Knoxville with Mom. These thugs had kicked in our wooden front door and took our big screen tv and my iMac. We felt very victimized and we couldn’t get anyone to come replace the door, so I sat up all night watching the door with my Glock to make sure we weren’t invaded. The next day, we had a metal door installed. Days later, we had an alarm system installed. We felt a lot safer, but not completely safe.

On August 8th, Dad’s funeral was held in Knoxville TN. About 1,000 people attended. I spoke, as did two others. Afterwards, Gretchen, Mom, and I had to stand in a receiving line for about four hours as everyone tried to speak with us. Many of my friends came, even from as far away as Nashville and Virginia, and I didn’t really get a chance to talk to them because we were crushed with people. Family came from all over and that was nice. Sad circumstances, but good to see them.

I spent much of August and September traveling back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville with Mom to deal with funeral directors, pastors, financial advisers, lawyers, insurance professionals, and more. Mom has gotten increasingly flustered over the course of the year and relies on me a lot for things that Dad used to do for her, which truthfully doesn’t make me entirely comfortable. But she’s old and lonely and needs help, and I’m the only one there for her, along with Gretchen.

On a different note, I  had only two very minor surgical procedures last year — one in October and one in December, both on my back. I don’t think they’ve helped and am looking at major surgery or living in constant pain. Neither option seems good.

In sports, my Penguins nearly made the Stanley Cup last year and are doing well this year, while my Steelers recovered from a horrible start to nearly make the playoffs. The Pirates did make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, and the Vols football team had a rough year, but with a new coach and decent recruits, so I have high hopes for the future.

A few months ago, Gretchen joined the bell choir at church, and last month, I was voted onto the Vestry. I am to be installed today. It’s a weighty responsibility and I hope I do well.

A few weeks ago, there was a shooting with a fatality at our only local grocery store about a half mile from us. And there is so much crime in this neighborhood that even though we love this house, we’re looking for a new one in a crime free neighborhood, probably closer to Mom — although she’s thinking about moving back to Knoxville. We have found three good houses so far, with one being on top, so now we have to seriously clean our house and pick it up before we can put it on the market. The main problem is even though we live in a nice middle class neighborhood, the general area isn’t too good and there’s so much crime, that property prices are severely deflated and we’re not bound to get very much for this awesome house and will have to pay a lot more for the next one. That blows.

On an unrelated note, after two months of trying, we were finally able to sign up for Obamacare last month! We’re getting a great deal with Blue Cross with a $1,000 deductible for the both of us and a subsidy, making our payment only $35 a month! That’s sweet. Last week, I paid our first premium. Gretchen’s been without health insurance for over a year and desperately needs to see a doctor, and I’ve been on COBRA, which is about to run out, so we have high hopes for this. The only hitch is that it doesn’t cover all of my meds, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that, but hopefully something will work out.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve, we spent the evening and the night on the Delta Queen riverboat hotel, celebrating with a bunch of people we didn’t know, listening to a covers band that ranged from horrible to decent, depending on the song. We had champagne and kissed at midnight, and we had a good time, although our cabin room was tiny. Heh.

I guess that about covers it. Hopefully 2014 will be a good year. 2010, 2011, and 2012 were horrible years for me, while 2013 was mixed, so I’m hoping 2014 will be the best of the bunch. Cheers!

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More Stuff

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 23, 2013

I know, I know, I haven’t actually blogged here in a long time. It’s been mostly book reviews. But that’s what you people like, right? So anyway, this week was the 14 week anniversary of my dad’s death. And I finished up a grief support group I had been in for eight weeks. I’m not sure how helpful it was. Some of the people were there who had loved ones die years ago. I honestly think I’m handling this much better than many of them. And mine was the most recent. Of course, I miss Dad a lot. But I’m moving forward. It’s the only way to go. Meanwhile, Mom’s going crazy on the weekends, which is when she and Dad used to do things together. She’s very lonely. She’s considering moving back to Knoxville, where she has hundreds of friends and where her home church is. We had all talked about moving together, but Gretchen and I like the house that we’re in and we’re not that keen on moving, so Mom might go on her own. Which would make me worry and feel guilty. *sigh*

Our cat, Toby, has been having some problems. I took him to the vet three weeks ago. He has kidney damage. He’s overweight at 21 pounds and drinks water incessantly. Of course, he is a Maine Coon, and they like water, but still, it’s amazing to see how much he drinks. He actually gets in the shower with us, gets in the sink to drink from the faucet, drinks from my wife’s bath water. It’s crazy! We’ve put him on some kidney food the vet prescribed. This is actually the third one. The first two, neither cat would eat. They went on two three day hunger strikes before I caved and fed them their old food. The vet said don’t let them starve — if they don’t eat the “right” stuff, feed them their old stuff. Fortunately, this third type of food they are eating. I don’t know how this will help Toby, but we want him around for awhile. He’s only six.

My Steelers have won two in a row and play the Browns tomorrow. I really think we’ll win that one. My Vols play Vandy tonight and it’s a must win game. If we win this and beat Kentucky next week, we should get to a bowl game. If we lose, the season’s pretty much over. And Vandy’s no longer a pushover. They’re pretty good. So, I don’t have high hopes. Still, go Vols! Meanwhile, my Penguins have won three straight and are now 15-8 and leading their division. Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL in scoring, which is cool. I hope he wins another MVP this year. He deserves it. Of course, he has to stay healthy, but hopefully he will.

I was having trouble with my car seat. It wouldn’t move forward. Instead, it turned to the right, thus twisting my body right and making it impossible for me to see. Therefore, I had to put my seat all the way back at its lowest position and couldn’t see over the steering wheel. In any case, it was dangerous, so I took the car into the garage. I also asked them to check a window and to replace my two windshield wiper fluid jugs, both of which had cracked (for an astronomical price). Turns out they wanted to charge me a fortune just to take my seat out and apart because it was so complicated. It’s a Nissan dealer, but I have a BMW (which I’ll never buy again). They told me it was either a motor or a track issue and the part to replace it from the BMW dealer would be about $1,000 and all the work together would come to almost $2,000! I was astounded. Still, I had to have it done, so I said go ahead. I’d just have to put it on my credit card. So I was elated to get a call from them a couple of days ago telling me they could fix the front to back tracking and the recline, but not one other thing, but if I was okay with that, they wouldn’t need this extra part and it would save me a grand. Naturally, I jumped at that! When I picked it up yesterday, it was considerably less than I expected it to be, so I was overjoyed. Still, I’m never buying another BMW as long as I live.

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been reading the usual sci fi. I’ve been reading biographies. They’ve been pretty interesting. I’m in a zone.

This poet I met in Atlanta a few weeks ago — Cliff Brooks — and I have exchanged some books we’ve written. I got an email from him yesterday saying he really thought the books I sent him were awesome and wouldn’t mind featuring me on his radio show. That’s pretty cool. I was once interviewed on Air America for 30 minutes, but that was years ago. Still, it was a national show and that was neat. Who knows?

Gretchen and I live in a nice middle class neighborhood, but there’s a shocking amount of crime here, and that’s disturbing. You may recall that our house was broken into in August and some things were stolen. They kicked in our front door, which was wooden. We subsequently got a metal door. And an alarm service, which makes us feel a lot safer. It’s possible we may have a handgun for emergencies, but we really wouldn’t have much need for it, other than target practice. I found out a couple days ago, I’m going to be getting my old .22 rifle (with scope) I used when I was young pretty soon. It was a great rifle and it’ll be fun getting out on a range again with that. And it can be used as home security too. Can never be too safe. We also each have pepper spray. We carry that with us all the time. The crime really is worrisome. And the cops don’t seem to care very much. They care about the rich areas of town, but the rest of us can go suck it, right? *sigh*

Ending on a positive note, there’s a large likelihood I may be selected to serve on our church’s vestry in a few weeks. If so, it would certainly be an honor and a responsibility I wouldn’t take lightly. I might even attend church more frequently. LOL! Gretchen’s in the new bell choir they just started. She’s also in the flower guild, and I serve as the church’s webmaster. We’re fairly active there.

I guess that’s all for now. Cheers!

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