hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

Posts Tagged ‘death’

It’s Been a Year

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 30, 2014

My father died one year ago today. He died unexpectedly, mowing my grass. He collapsed and died, just like that. It was a huge shock. And it’s been difficult to get over. I can still see him rolling around on the ground, can still sense the futility I felt as I tried to aid him. I still remember his funeral several days later back home in Knoxville. A lot of people came to that. My wife says it feels like it just happened yesterday for her, but it actually feels a lot longer to me. Like it’s been two or three years. So much has happened between now and then. Our former house was broken into and robbed. Our beloved cat Toby died. We looked for a new house, moved into in, and put ours on the market. Mom decided to move back to Knoxville, so we put her house on the market and helped her find a new condo. It’s been very time consuming. And I’ve gone back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville probably 60 times over the past year, virtually all to help Mom out. It’s been draining. So it’s been a year, but if feels like several lifetimes ago to me. I wish Dad could have been around to help out with our moves. I wish he was still there for Mom’s sake — she really misses him. Of course, we’d like him around for our sakes too. Sad. Tragic. Mom got some flowers today and put them at Dad’s grave. I wish we could have gone up to see that. I sometimes still talk to him. I enjoy thinking of him up in Heaven, if there is such a place. I hope he’d be pleased with how we’re all coping without him, how we’ve moved on. I hope he would approve. I really miss him. RIP Dad.

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Reflections

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 14, 2014

Hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve actually written anything here, besides book reviews. Sorry. A lot has been going on. My mom moved from Chattanooga to Knoxville and we’ve been back and forth between the two cities a lot lately. In fact, we’ve seen my mom four of the past five weekends, which is more than we saw her when she lived here in Chattanooga.  It’s been very tiring.

A few weeks ago, we went to my high school class’s 30th reunion in Knoxville. It was pretty good, but a little odd too. So strange to see how people have changed, including me. We got a few good pics, had fun catching up with some people, and had a good time. It was nice to introduce my wife to my old classmates.

This month marks the five month anniversary of our cat Toby’s death. We miss him horribly and I wish he could have lived long enough to move to our new house with us. I’d love to see him running around here. Strangely, our other cat, Henry, has been doing some Toby-like things lately, like he’s channeling Toby. Very odd.

This month also marks the one year anniversary of my father’s death last year. He died mowing my yard and it was — and still is — a huge shock. There are so many things I wish I could have and would have told him and so many things I would like to tell him now. We really miss him. We’ve stopped at his gravestone in Knoxville a few times.

Meanwhile, I love my mother, but … she’s been driving me crazy ever since Dad died. She’s got a LOT of anxiety about a lot of things, which is somewhat understandable, but she calls me all the time. Like 6-18 times a day! She’s gotten better over the past few weeks, but the damage has been done. Now when she calls, I just sigh and pick up the phone. It’s hard. She’s changed a lot. She’s not the mom I grew up knowing and loving. She’s become extremely ADD and OCD, and that makes things difficult. And she refuses to acknowledge such things. I also got her to get Life Alert because she’s elderly and living alone. But she refuses to wear the necklace! She says she doesn’t like it and it’s “psychological.” But why is she paying $70 a month for a service she doesn’t use??? And last weekend, she fell down our stairs. She’s very lucky she didn’t get hurt. What would happen if she fell at her new place? She would not have us to help her. That’s what Life Alert is for! I don’t understand why she doesn’t get it, why she’s being so damn stubborn.

Anyway, this month also marks the six month anniversary of getting my new car. I still love my Camry. It’s so much better than my money pit BMW was. I’ve put 4,000 miles on it, mostly driving back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville, and that annoys me some. I don’t like to put miles on my cars. Still, it’s a great ride and I got a great deal on it and I’m very happy with it.

When health permits, my wife and I like to go to the shooting range. We have a .22 rifle we both like to shoot and my wife is quite good with it. We also have other guns we enjoy shooting, among them a Ruger 9 mm, a Glock 23, a Beretta PX4 Storm, a Ruger .22, a S&W Bodyguard, a SCCY 9 mm, and a Taurus revolver. Among others. I’m pretty good with the Ruger 9 mm, but need to work on the others. I think I’m going to really like the SCCY. It’s new and I think it’s going to be pretty good. I got a good deal on it on gunbroker.com.

I did something to my arm recently and have been having to go to physical therapy for it. It really hurts. It’s probably just tendinitis, but it’s bad. Meanwhile, my wife has a severe case of poison ivy. It’s all over and it’s tormenting her. I feel really bad for her. We need to find the plants she touched and get rid of them, but neither of us are that good at identifying poison ivy.

Oh, also, this month is our six month anniversary of moving into our new house! We love it here. It’s so much quieter and safer than our old place. We still haven’t gotten most of the pictures up, but we’re otherwise unpacked and we really like it. However, we can’t sell our old house. No one will buy it. No one is buying ANY house in our old neighborhood. We’ve lowered the price three times and have had two open houses, but nothing. We actually did get an offer a couple of months ago, but it fell through when their credit was damaged and they lost their loan. That sucked. It’s a nice house, but not in a very good area, so the property values suck and crime is bad. I wish we could sell it though. I’m sure there have to be people out there who would like it. It’s got character! It’s got a HUGE den and a HUGE kitchen and hardwood floors and a fireplace. Three beds, two baths, 2100 square feet, one level home. The yard isn’t that great though, and I think that’s probably hurting it. Oh well. Maybe one of these days….

As you know, I’ve really been enjoying reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books lately. They’re really enjoyable and he’s so witty. A lot of fun. I still like reading Philip K Dick too though. I haven’t read much nonfiction lately though, and I was doing a lot of that over the past couple of years. Maybe I got burned out on it, I don’t know. We have a great, huge used bookstore here where you can pick up six or seven books for $10. It’s great.

Election season is coming up and the two Republican candidates for Congress here are really going at it. The incumbent is an asshole Tea Party-type who is the angriest, most hateful person I’ve ever seen. We saw them debate on TV. The other guy is really young, but it seems he wants to work with everyone on issues, so I really hope he wins. Of course, I’m a Democrat, but here in Chattanooga, no Democrat ever has a chance at winning anything, so it’s really tough. I hate living in a Red state. I often wish I was back in L.A. My wife often wishes she was back in Maryland. Oh well.

I guess that’s it for now. We’re trying to get well. I’m trying to deal with my mother. Things go on. It’s a month of reflections. Thanks for joining me. Cheers!

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Depression

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 28, 2014

I think I’ve been in a deep depression since Toby’s death last month. And I think his death magnifies my father’s death last year. I should be feeling good, living in a nice, new house in a nice, quiet, safe neighborhood, but all I can think about is how Toby isn’t here and doesn’t get to see it and live in it and how Dad can’t experience it — he was a great handyman — and how he can’t help out around the house. It’s really disappointing and I’ve been struggling. My wife has commented on it. I don’t know how to snap out of it. Of course it’s not been helped by the poor, grey weather. That’s really been getting to me too. Years ago I was diagnosed with SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder — but I’ve never been treated for it. Basically it’s getting deeply depressed due to extended poor weather, most common during the winter. I finally caved in and bought one of those lights for it. You’re supposed to be exposed to it for about an hour each morning, but I haven’t found or made that kind of time for it, so I don’t know that it’s doing any good. I’m spending about 20 minutes a day in front of it. I need to make a better effort. Meanwhile, I’ve been listless and I don’t care about a lot of the things I normally care about. Gretchen misses Toby and my dad too, but she only got to experience being with Toby for two and a half years. He spent his entire six years with me. I watched him grow from a demon imp kitten who I wanted to kill to a loveable, dependable companion cat whose company I really enjoyed. I/we really miss him. He had become Gretchen’s cat, so to speak, over the past few years. When she came home from work, he would jump up and go to greet her, just like a dog. I’m also having to deal with my mother, who I think has unresolved issues regarding Dad’s death and who is lonely and doesn’t know how to deal with many things, such as financial things. I’m having to help her a lot, but she calls me a lot and comes over and sometimes it’s a little overwhelming. She just bought a condo up in Knoxville and will be moving back up there in a little over a month, so that’s going to change the dynamics, but it will also be weird and I’m going to worry about her living alone at her age up there without me able to come over to help her with short notice. Additionally, my job situation hasn’t changed and our cash is starting to run low due to all we’ve paid out to contractors for new home repair issues — electricians, plumbers, appliance repairmen, handymen, etc. I’ve also had car issues and have had to pay some big bills for that, and I need a new oil pan gasket which, the dealer says, costs $1,700 alone just for the stupid part, never mind the labor costs. I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’ve got a lot going on. Things are starting to ease up now, which is good, but all I can feel is blah. I’ve had moments of happiness — time spent with my wife, time spent reading or going to the gun range for some target practice — but generally I just feel bad. And I don’t know how to fix it.

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Toby is Gone

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 19, 2014

Yesterday, we had to have out beloved cat, Toby, put to sleep. We’re devastated. He was only six! It was kidney failure. He had been showing symptoms for a few months and we’d taken him to the vet before and changed his diet as a result, but a couple of weeks ago, he became really lethargic, and basically stopped eating and drinking. He enjoyed taking showers with us and drinking water out of sink faucets and he didn’t do that anymore either. He just slept and acted listless. Gretchen wanted us to take him to the vet last week, but because of the snow, we didn’t. This weekend, he appeared to be pretty bad and vomited five times in two spurts, so Gretchen took him to the emergency animal hospital (which costs a fortune!). They put him on an IV and said the blood work showed his numbers to be very bad. When I went to pick him up Monday morning, they explained that his numbers had come down a little, but not very much and recommended taking him to our vet for continued care. Well, I didn’t want to do that. He was acting better, so I took him home. And he ate and drank and let me pet him. He even rolled over on his side so I could pet his tummy, which he never does, and he got on my lap. However, as the day progressed, he started slipping back into his former state, so yesterday morning I took him to our vet. They put him on fluids and gave him blood tests to measure the results. I got a call from the vet around 1:15 PM. The news wasn’t good. His BUN had increased from 125 to 159. Normal is 30. His Creatin (sp?) has increased from 9.3 to 11.9. Normal is 1. She said the numbers indicated total kidney failure and recommended terminating his life. So I called Gretchen and we talked about it. We didn’t want to because he didn’t appear to be in any pain and he could still live, although not much of an existence obviously. So we decided to go with the vet’s recommendation. I called her back, gave her permission, and she did it immediately. We’re having him cremated and will get his ashes in an urn on Friday. And we’re just sick to our stomachs. Looking back over the past year and a half or two, we can see the signs now — the insatiable thirst was key. We just thought that’s the way he was. We didn’t know. I feel like a murderer. Gretchen said that when I took Toby away yesterday morning, she had a bad feeling she wouldn’t see him again and I worried about the same thing while I talked to him on the drive to the vet’s and again while waiting for the vet to come in the examination room. He looked beautiful. Angelic. Peaceful. I hope it went quickly and painlessly and I hope he’s in Heaven now, drinking out of golden faucets. We talked last night about his routines and how we’re really going to miss them. He was my morning buddy. I usually get up hours before Gretchen and he and I would hang out. I folded my clothes this afternoon and got sniffy because he loved to jump in a pile of warm clothes and pass out. Never again. Henry seems confused, and that’s understandable. He waited for Toby to eat last night before he ate. Toby always ate first. We’re really going to miss you, Toby. We love you Toby. RIP.

Toby and me on the sofa.

Toby and me on the sofa.

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A Review of Fiasco

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 3, 2013

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in IraqFiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gosh, there’s so much to say about this book, I hardly know where to begin! I turned over so many pages to go back and see citations or quotes that I can’t possibly list a fourth of them here.

Ricks did a great job of presenting the build-up to the Iraq war and through the first three years. Since this book was published in 2006, it feels very unfinished and I would appreciate a 2013 second edition, but oh well. Ricks seems to lay first blame at some Iraq hating, war hawks in Bush’s administration, notably Paul Wolfowitz, to take advantage of 9/11 to go after Iraq by suggesting its association with terrorists. (There was none.) We first heard about WMDs, which was the ploy used in the decision to preemptively invade Iraq. (There were none.) Cheney backed Bush into a corner during a speech in Nashville in August, 2002 I believe, in which he said there was “no doubt” that Iraq had WMDs and that “We must take the battle to the enemy.”

Let me back up to something interesting first. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush and Cheney said that they thought that “Bill Clinton had used the military too much in his foreign policy.” Of Gore, Bush said “He believes in nation building…. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.” OK — first, what a damn lying hypocrite!!! Second, what a damn lying scumbag. I guess it should come as no surprise, then, that a pre-presedential politician who goes on to steal an election goes on to lie to the world in order to preemptively invade a sovereign country. Amazing.

Other evil dudes in this book are Rumsfeld, the most arrogant, opinionated, self righteous prick of the 21st century; Paul Bremer, the ambassador who was always at war with the military and who was a bumbling fool, Iraqi exile Chalabi, who may have been working with the insurgents even as we tried to make him president, and military officers Sanchez, Franks, and Meyers. All incompetents who blew things to hell and back.

There are many narratives throughout the book of military men and women fighting hard to win an unacknowledged, unwinnable war — soldiers both brave and cowardly, such as the ones who blew our integrity at Abu Grahib and the others who blew away prisoners who posed no threat whatsoever, and who received 45 day jail terms slaps on the wrists. Mind blowing.

There’s a lot of politics in the book too, as well as musings of the highest military officials around. There was a lot of criticism and disagreement, but since soldiers are taught to follow orders and since orders were being given by stupid Bush-loving civilians with no concept of what was going on over there, disasters naturally occurred. Petraeus, however, is portrayed almost worshipfully, which I don’t think is good. Face it, there were just too many problems between the Department of Defense and the CAP (Coalition Provisional Authority), the ones giving the orders in most cases.

Another problem with this war was we had intentionally forgotten the lessons of Vietnam about fighting insurgencies. We attacked with major divisions and battalions, didn’t mingle with the people and learn about them and their customs, thus trying to win them over, didn’t provide essentials such as water and electricity, set up large isolated base camps from which to operate and so much more — all of which go against counter-insurgency tactics. Special Forces tried to warn them and some conventional units had some success, notably the 101st, but it was basically a war where we turned friendlies into enemies with our blasting into houses at 2 AM, roughing people up, taking the men away to prison, taking other family members “hostage,” turning houses into rubble, and generating ill will to the US. Where Bush and the others thought we would be viewed as liberators, we quickly became occupiers and it really hurt us.

I had so much more I wanted to say about this book, but I won’t. I had a small surgical procedure yesterday and the anesthesia still hasn’t worn off, so I’m kind of tired. The book claims that by 2006, over 200 billion had been used in the war. That figure is way off. Earlier this year, I finished a book called The Three Trillion Dollar War, which admittedly is more recent, but which gives hard evidence to the fact that we have yet again been lied to as to the actual costs involved with this war. By the end of this book, the politicians remain in denial, the military is disenfranchised and demoralized, and the Iraqi insurgency is here to stay. Again, I’d like to see a more recent book detailing what’s happened since. I don’t know why I’m not giving it five stars. It might have been worth it. I think I’m actually downgrading it a bit because it was just TOO packed with information. It was almost too much to digest, hard to remember all the names, places, people, events. Still, it’s recommended. Just be prepared to become even more disillusioned with the Bush administration, if you’re not already.

View all my reviews

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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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Dad’s Gravestone

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 2, 2013

Gretchen and I drove to Knoxville today to visit my father’s new gravestone which they’ve just put in the ground. It’s in the church’s original cemetery, founded in 1796. Here is a picture of the sign:

Sign to Dad's cemetery

Sign to Dad’s cemetery

Here is Dad’s new gravestone. It was difficult to see. It looks great though, as much as something like that can:

Dad's gravestone

Dad's gravestone with some old markers
Dad’s gravestone with some old markers
Dad's cemetery

Dad’s cemetery

Here’s another shot of Dad’s gravestone surrounded by ancient gravestones. We found some from people born in the 1700s.

The last picture is of some of the old gravestones we found there. Dad’s looks a little out of place, but it’s a good final resting spot for him.

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Things

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 4, 2013

Just a few things. I’m sorry I haven’t updated in awhile. Not too much has been going on for me personally, and I’m in the middle of three very large books, so I haven’t been able to write a book review for awhile. However, I’m nearly done with one (finally!), so hopefully a book review will be coming.

This past Tuesday was the nine week anniversary of Dad’s death. I’m still in a state of shock, I guess. I just still can’t believe he is gone. He was fit. He was healthy. He was mowing my yard while I was at a meeting when he collapsed and died. I was there to witness it. I tried to save him, but failed. I feel sick about it. My therapist wants me to go to a grief support group. It started this week, so I’ve missed one meeting. I don’t know. I think I’m doing pretty well, considering, but I may give them a call today to find out more about it.

My wife has a bad knee, meanwhile. We think she hurt it playing racquetball with me about a month ago. It’s been increasingly bad and she can barely walk. We took her to the doctor a couple of days ago and he thinks it’s a tear in her tendon. She’s going to have to get x-rays. I don’t know what comes next. She actually doesn’t have insurance and is dying to get signed up for Obamacare, which seems promising to us, but she hasn’t been able to access the site at all, so that’s been frustrating.

I’m currently upgrading my iPhone to iOS7. I have mixed feelings about this because Gretchen did this on the first day of its release and it completely wiped her phone. She had to start from the factory settings and start all over, getting new apps and everything. It was a complete disaster. That said, she tried again a couple of days later and it worked and she seems happy with it, so I’m giving it a try — with misgivings. I can’t afford to have my phone wiped. My whole life is on there — my diaries, my many contacts, my medical records, all sorts of stuff. I’m also annoyed that I had to delete dozens of albums and hundreds of pictures to free up 3 GB of space for the download. That seems more like Microsoft bloatware to me…. Well, here’s hoping….

I’ve discovered I’m lactose intolerant. That really sucks! I’d been having gastric problems for over two months. They flared up almost immediately upon my finishing lunch and continued for the remainder of the day. I went on two antibiotics twice, but that didn’t really help very much. Finally, I caved and went to a gastro specialist. I had a theory that I posited to the doctor, and she recommended I do what I’m doing. I really think it was the yogurt I ate every day with lunch and the milk I was drinking and the tapioca pudding I’d have. I didn’t have problems until I consumed those, and then did afterwards. She told me to go off all dairy related products for a week and see what happens. I did, and everything went away and I cleared up in one day. I went a week and then had some ice cream one night, and they returned. So I’m lactose intolerant. How in the hell did that happen??? Now I’ve having to find lactose-alternative products. The yogurt is really high in carbs. The milk is pretty decent. You can find some good ice cream. The cheese really sucks. And on it goes. I guess this is a new lifestyle I’m going to have to get used to.

In sports, I’m not sure about my teams. The Steelers are the worst they’ve been in 45 years with an 0-4 record and they really, really suck. The Pirates, however, had a winning season and made the post-season for the first time in 21 years, which is really something to cheer about. However, last night St. Louis kicked their butts badly, so I don’t know how well we’ll do. My Penguins have goalie problems. Don’t know how we’ll do this year. My UT Vols are 3-2, with the two losses to ranked teams — Oregon and Florida. However, we have ranked Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama coming up, so it looks like we’ll be 3-5 by the end of the month. That blows. I really like the new coach and want him to succeed, but it looks like we’re going to have some growing pains.

Lately, I’ve been having to pay bills. That’s good and bad. It’s good to pay them, but it hurts to pay so much. I had to have $750 in car repairs too. I’m never buying a BMW again as long as I live.

I’m over this government shutdown. I attribute it ALL to the damn Republicans, who are holding the country hostage in their stupid attempt to repeal Obamacare — a LAW that was passed by Congress, signed by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court, and for whom Obama was elected for a second term while running against people who wanted to repeal it. Listen to the people, Congressmen! Damn Republicans. And they accuse the Dems. What gall! They’re truly despicable people. I will never vote for a Republican again as long as I live, and I was brought up a conservative Republican. That says a lot. They’re truly disgusting humans. What a waste. I hope they cave soon, so we can return to life as we know it.

Huh. It looks like my iPhone has updated while I’ve been writing this. It seems to have been successful. I’ve only opened a few apps, and things look like they’re still there. Oh, four of my apps are missing. *sigh* This new version looks very, very different from previous versions. It’s going to take me awhile to get used to. One thing — everything seems slower. The apps are taking longer to open. Oh well. I just checked out my space, though, and I’ve got more free space than when I started. I guess I can re-load some of my music on here. That’s good.

I guess that’s all for now. Book reviews coming soon. Cheers!

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A Review of The Mourning Handbook

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 6, 2013

The Mourning Handbook: The Most Comprehensive Resource Offering Practical and Compassionate Advice on Coping with All Aspects of Death and DyingThe Mourning Handbook: The Most Comprehensive Resource Offering Practical and Compassionate Advice on Coping with All Aspects of Death and Dying by Helen Fitzgerald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book a couple of weeks ago because my father just died a few weeks ago. I got several grief recovery books and I think this one was the best of the bunch. It’s pretty comprehensive and easy to read, and it’s divided up into chunks so that you can go to a section that deals with your particular issues at the moment. It doesn’t have to be read cover to cover (although I did that). Among some of the helpful issues it addresses is denial (“Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you can avoid the process of grief.”), anger (“You may be angry at yourself for what you may have said or not said, or for not responding calmly or quickly enough, or for being healthy and alive.” It then gives tips on dealing with anger.), and more. One section that was helpful for me was the death of a parent when you’re an adult. For many people, this signifies the loss of your childhood, the loss of unconditional love, the loss of a certain sense of security, the loss of a friend as well as a parent, the loss of financial support, and more. Although there’s not a lot of coping strategies the author provides here (which I think is a weakness of the book), it’s good to see some issues I’m facing are the same ones faced by others who lose parents. That helps. The book further goes on to advise people not to make major decisions for quite awhile, which is something I’ve seen repeated elsewhere. It gives many reasons not to do so and they make sense. Another helpful section for me was on witnessing a death, particularly if it’s a sudden or violent death (such as my father’s). It was highly traumatizing, and the book advises seeking the help of a professional, but doesn’t give too many other strategies, a continued weakness of the book.

Toward the end of the book, there’s a section titled “You Know You Are Getting Better When…” and it provides a list of things you can do or will do which indicate improvement in your life. These include looking forward to holidays, reviewing both pleasant and unpleasant memories, driving by yourself without crying, when you no longer feel tired all the time, when you can concentrate on a book or favorite television program, etc. In reading this list, I’ve come to the conclusion that while I’m still grieving, I am improving, so that’s good.

I’m going to contrast this book to one I didn’t really find too helpful — The Grief Recovery Handbook by James and Friedman. It’s a pretty harsh book to read, often telling the reader that what one hears or feels is distorted, such as guilt, etc. There were some helpful things, but overall it had an unsympathetic tone which didn’t resonate with me. The Mourning Handbook had a much more nurturing feel to it and I appreciated that.

It’s a shame that anybody has to read such books at all, but I guess it’s a process of life most of us have to deal with at some point, so I’m glad I discovered this book. I’d recommend this book for anyone who’s experienced a death by a family member or even a friend. It’s a good resource and I’m glad I read it.

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Some Thoughts

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 5, 2013

I woke up in tears this morning. I woke up thinking about the many times my dad came to see my basketball games in school, as well as my football and baseball games. How many times we played catch in the backyard. How that was never going to be a possibility again. It’s been five weeks since his death and I still feel like I’m in a state of shock.

Then I started thinking about what a great packer and mover he was. He was the best. I’ve moved some 27 times, including four cross country moves. He would fly out to L.A. to help me pack up, load the moving truck, and drive it back east. Hell, he packed up my townhouse when I got divorced a few years ago and took care of that move since I was in the hospital. He was relentless. He could pack like no other. And now we’re kicking around the idea of at some point in the future moving up to Knoxville so Mom could rejoin her many friends and church there, and he won’t be around to take care of things. I’ll have to do it. I’m pretty confident I can do it — he taught me well — but it’s unsettling to think of moving without Dad around.

I met with my therapist this morning. And I just finished a book on mourning. I wonder how long I’ll mourn. Some people apparently do for years. I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to wake up in tears seven months from now thinking about Dad. There’s a grief recovery class starting in October near me that I’ve been thinking about registering for, but I don’t know how helpful it will be. Mom started going to one this week, and she was surprised at just how helpful that first meeting was, so maybe I’ll give it shot. I’d like to think that I’d be relatively okay by October though. I don’t know how long this process is or will take. It’s frustrating.

I’m through making trips to Knoxville with Mom on business. It’s been going on every week, including several times a week, ever since Dad died. Now we just have to figure out a way to sell his fishing boat, and Mom will have to make one more Knoxville trip in a month or so and that’s it. Mom’s going to wait awhile on getting rid of Dad’s clothes, etc., although she might donate his books to a library.

Yesterday I mowed the back yard and the back terrace. That’s what Dad was doing when he died. It was kind of creepy. I haven’t been able to mow because of all the rain, although two weeks ago I paid a lawn service to mow the yard. I ingested a lot of dust, grass, and bugs and wondered about what Dad ingested when he was mowing before he stopped to come to our back patio for a glass of water before collapsing. I hope his brain shut down quickly like my doctor said it probably did, because it seemed to me like he was suffering for a good 20+ minutes there on my patio. My doctor said it was the body’s involuntary reflexes — that he had probably already died. I don’t know. I can’t get it out of my head. And I can’t get what he looked like at the hospital after he was declared dead out of my head. He was dark yellow. And cold. He looked frightening. And he had been alive just an hour before. It’s freaky to think about.

I deleted the last six pictures I had of Dad. Two were taken at the hospital after he died and four were taken at the funeral home when he was in a casket, all done up for Mom and me before his cremation. I just couldn’t look at them. They were so morbid. My therapist said that was a good break and will allow me to remember him as I want to and should — as a vibrant, loving father and husband. My last picture I then have of him is at my wedding reception in April. He was happy that day. That’s how I want to remember him.

I guess that’s all for now. I was going to mow the front and side yards today, but the grass really isn’t that long, so I think I’ll wait until tomorrow. I have a number of things I need to do anyway. Sorry if this blog post seems morbid. I have a lot on my mind.

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