hankrules2011

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Posts Tagged ‘Gretchen’

A Shocking Discovery

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 16, 2016

I had an appointment with my neurologist yesterday and in discussing some problems I had last Thursday, among several topics, I was shocked by what he told me. He said that I had had a minor stroke! I was stunned. I didn’t believe him. He said he was 100% certain I had had a stroke. I won’t bore you with what symptoms I had exhibited that led him to believe that, but as I wouldn’t believe him at all, he then conducted a battery of neurological tests on me, right side versus left side. This had impacted my right side. To my complete shock, the entire right side of my body is noticeably weaker, slower, less responsive, etc., than my left side. That was pretty convincing. I had had no idea before then. He told me I’m the ideal candidate due to my age, gender, and the fact that I’ve been experiencing some things that my doctor asserts would be typical of one experiencing that kind of trauma in that region, including years of severe pain in my eye sockets for numerous hours per day, every day. He sent me for an immediate MRI to make sure it’s not worse than what he thinks it is and he sent a request to my cardiologist for her to run some tests too. I called Gretchen in the taxi ride home and told her and she was shocked. I think she was a little distressed as well. She needed some time to process and I had to get to the imaging center, so we said goodbye and I spent my afternoon getting blasted in a loud machine. My third MRI of the year. So, after reading about this, I’ve discovered that 1 out of 20 people who have one of these have a major stroke within a few days and that 1 in 10 within three months. I kind of feel like I’m living on borrowed time. This is a bit of a shock. Gretchen seemed really surprised by my revelations about my weaker right side, so she asked me to do the basic first test of using both hands to shake her hand, something I did with my doctor. It appeared that my left hand’s grip nearly broke her hand. She winced and asked me to let go quickly. It was a tight grip, as my grips always have been. Then, I used my right hand. She was shocked! She asked me to squeeze harder and I told her this was the best I could do. I was basically making contact, I think, and I don’t think I was able to apply much pressure. It was embarrassing to me, but I think it showed her how weak my right side is. She didn’t conduct anymore physical tests. She was either convinced or too depressed to do so.  Anyway, I also had a tempestuous phone conversation with my mother last night, which make my day even better. All I can say is thank God for Gretchen, who while upset, is still a kind, loving, supportive person, there for me, and we can both lean on each other. Thanks for letting me share this, friends.

 

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End of the Year Post 2015

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 31, 2015

I wrote this blog post quite early this morning and didn’t post it. I wasn’t sure about it. Since then, I’ve reread it twice and have had second thoughts about posting it. I usually post an End of Year post on the last day of the year, but this one is too depressing, too negative. I don’t think I want to be a downer for my readers. Nonetheless, I’ve decided to post it after all, although I’m not sure it’s a great idea. It does, however, describe my year, which is my intent. If you’re not interested in reading a depressing or negative post, feel free to skip this one. No hard feelings. If you’re interested at all, feel free to read it though. Hopefully 2016 will be better for me/us and hopefully all of you will have a good 2016. Happy New Year!

 

On the last day of each year, I write a year in review post. Here are the links to the 2014 Year in Review blog post and the 2012 End of the Year blog post. I had a lot going on in both years. If you read them, you’ll note I had some health problems, particularly last year. Well, I’m about to write an abbreviated post for 2015. It’s abbreviated because this year was largely a personal disaster due to hideous, nightmarish health and pain problems and I/we didn’t really get to do very much at all.

In January, my mother celebrated her 85th birthday. Although she’s had a couple of bad falls this year with broken bones, she still is relatively good health and living alone in a condo in Knoxville, TN.

In February, I developed severe back pain to accompany my head and facial pain, out of the blue. It took time, but over the course of the year, I sought treatment from my orthopedist and a rheumatologist, as well as physical therapists. It seems I have spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, massive osteo-arthritis throughout my entire body, and a broken tailbone. They’re recommending surgery to remove my tailbone, probable spinal fusion surgery, and down the road, two hip replacement surgeries. My pain has been at about a 9.6 out of 10 level every day this year and virtually no pain medication helps.

About the same time, my head pain increased and got worse. My Trigeminal Neuralgia was joined by at least one, perhaps two, other types of head pain, which I have been trying to have diagnosed and treated all year, with little help. My two types of head and facial pain have been at a 9.6 out of 10 level every day, virtually all day all year long with virtually no relief from any pain medication. Any pain medication that used to be helpful is no longer useful. I now have three new diagnoses for additional types of head pain disorders, all three of which can be extremely painful, one of which is supposed to be the most painful condition known to mankind. I don’t know. My wife and I are convinced there’s another undiagnosed condition that has yet to be treated, since I’m responding to no treatment.

Since this spring, my longtime insomnia has worsened. I am averaging about three hours of sleep a night and am now, in fact, waking up and getting up between 11 PM and 12:30 AM. It sounds insane, but it’s true. That means I go to bed early, but I still get only two to three hours of sleep. I also can no longer successfully nap. I started falling asleep at red lights while out driving, and in chairs sitting up, and at doctor’s offices, and at church dinners, and my wife and I suspect I may have narcolepsy so I have an appointment with my sleep doctor in a few weeks to discuss this.

During the spring, somehow I was able to get to some of the concerts I was able to buy tickets for 2014 Christmas for my wife. Because of my health problems, we unfortunately had to blow some off and waste that money, but we did get to see Lewis Black, Weird Al Yankovic, The Who (which was awesome), and Barry Manilow, which was pretty much the highlight of my wife’s life. We blew tickets to Chicago and a Pittsburgh Penguins game. Oh well. We had good times.

In April, we celebrated our second wedding anniversary. It was pretty low key. It feels like we’ve been together for so much longer than that. We have a wonderful relationship and I’m very lucky to have Gretchen for a wife and best friend. April is also Gretchen’s birthday and so that was pleasant, although she’s not thrilled about getting older. I keep telling her she looks and acts infinitely younger than she is, looks at least 10 years younger than other women her age. I think she knows that intellectually, but still is annoyed with aging. I think she’s still sexy as hell. She always will be.

In July, I started going to a new neurologist who I didn’t like personally very much, but who, to his credit, did try some new things. He’s an egomaniac, but then many doctors are, I suppose. He’s given me a couple of Botox injection treatments so far and has tried a number of new medications on me, none of which have helped, but at least he’s trying.

Also, in July my head pain got even worse, if possible. Since I’m up 21 hours a day on average, it became 21 hours of pain a day, every day, without break. At a near 10 out of 10 scale, which combined with my back pain made life nearly unendurable. I applied to get into Vanderbilt’s Neurology Headache Clinic, which has a good reputation, thinking that after nearly six years of treatment in Chattanooga and only getting worse, I need to go elsewhere if I’m going to get better. July was also the second anniversary of my father’s death. It was a sad occasion.

I had my birthday in September. I suppose it was low key, as I remember nothing about it. This fall has been largely a blur, due to my pain status. I’ve been super focused, while also at the same time, largely oblivious. If that makes any sense. I particularly enjoy September and October because of sports. You have college football, the NFL, baseball, hockey just starting, college basketball just around the corner. It’s pretty awesome. I enjoyed watching my Pirates make the playoffs for the third straight year, watching my Tennessee Vols have a frustrating but ultimately successful 8-4 bowl year and my UCLA team have a winning bowl year, my Steelers have a injury-plagued year in which they still have a minor chance of making the playoffs and the hockey season, in which we paid for a year of NHL Gamecenter Live, in which you can watch any game you want – not on national TV – live for a one time set price. So I get to watch my Penguins quite often. If only they were playing up to their expectations and potential. It’s been disappointing so far. Of course, the UT Lady Vols are doing well so far, but they’ve had so many injuries, they’ve only been able to dress seven players lately, so it’s only a matter of time until they start losing many games and the men’s Vols basketball team has a great new coach, but not much talent while my Long Beach State team is having a rough year getting beat up by major teams like Duke.

In October, I finally got to go to Vandy. I was instructed to bring my medical records, so I spent two weeks and hundreds of my own dollars getting them, Gretchen took a vacation day, we drove six hours two ways, went to Nashville and met with a doctor who didn’t even want to look at my records, said they weren’t important, didn’t want to discuss my background with me, spent perhaps 15-20 minutes with me, prescribed a useless migraine medication for me, said I needed Botox immediately (so they scheduled me for three and a half months away) and, when Gretchen asked if we couldn’t just get this done in Chattanooga, reacted angrily and said it had to be done there. We left pretty ticked off at what waste of time and effort that was. I haven’t canceled my next appointment there yet, but I will. There’s no point in going. Meanwhile, my mom has stepped up to the plate and said she’ll pay for me to go anywhere to help get me fixed, cured, whatever. So, I’ve been researching Mayo, Johns Hopkins, the Cleveland Clinic, UCLA, etc. So far, Johns Hopkins would be convenient because that’s where Gretchen’s family lives, but Mayo seems most impressive by far. I’m not going to pursue it just yet though. Want to exhaust things here in town first.

In November, we traveled to Maryland to visit Gretchen’s parents, sons, and friends. It was a difficult trip for me health wise, but she had been wanting to go for months and we hadn’t been up there for a year and a half, so it was time. And we had a good time over Thanksgiving. It was good to see everyone. We also celebrated our one year anniversary of getting our kitten, Ace, who has become Gretchen’s baby. He’s now about 16 months old, and Henry just turned 10 years old, which is unreal because I can remember when he was just a month old, but they get along much better now and Ace is calming down a little bit finally. But just a little bit. Ace is also the most social, codependent cat I’ve ever seen in my whole life! He needs to be with people like nothing I’ve ever seen. He needs to be held. When we went to Maryland, we hired petsitters to come to the house twice a day to help mostly Ace. Henry is pretty independent and I’ve left him by himself for a good three days or so, but Ace couldn’t take even one day, I’m sure. It’s kind of sad. Cute, but sad. Nonetheless, we love them both and they add to our lives tremendously.

This month, we celebrated our five year anniversary of when we started dating. That’s always an exciting occasion for us and fun to remember. We also had a very subdued Christmas, which was somewhat anticlimactic. My pain was so severe and I was on so much pain medication, it was virtually impossible for me to function at all. My mother drove down from Knoxville to be with us on Christmas day and we exchanged a few gifts, nothing like last year. We couldn’t put up our tree this year like we’ve done in the past because of Ace. He goes wild. We put up a mini-tree we bought, with some lights and ornaments. That was destroyed the first night. We put up an old ceramic tree with plastic lights I’ve had for decades, but Gretchen thought better of it, so she got a little wooden tree with a string of lights and that was our tree. We didn’t even put presents out until the night before because Ace would destroy them. We try to control him, but we really can’t.

One year-long note. Early this year I was forced to drop my Obamacare and start using my Medicare I got last year when I went on disability. I had no idea how that would change my life. It’s been a nightmare. Medicare Part D is a freaking nightmare from hell! With Obamacare and BCBS, my monthly medical bills came to roughly $400 a month. With Medicare, I was quickly paying up to as much as $2,800 a month in medical bills, almost all of it prescriptions. One of my prescriptions alone had a co-pay of $800! That’s fucking insane! That total is more than double my disability check. How the hell am I supposed to pay for that? And I have no choice. As long as I’m on disability – and there’s no way I can work – I have to be on Medicare and as long as I’m on Medicare, I’m stuck paying thousands a month for medical/prescription bills. It’s unfair and cruel and I resent it like hell. It’s practically ruined my life even more. Thanks for the added stress, government. Thanks for practically bankrupting me. Appreciate it.

Well, I guess that’s about it for 2015. It was truly a horrible year. Probably worse than 2011, perhaps. I don’t know that 2016 will be any better, but I’m hoping it will be because we intend to aggressively pursue medical treatments for my back and head and solutions and ways to diminish and end my pain. I don’t know if that’s possible or reasonable, but dammit, we’ve got to try. My wife, meanwhile, has her good job, although without insurance, and Obamacare just doubled her premium, so we can no longer afford it, so that’s just great. So she’s actually thinking about looking for a new job next year, which would mean leaving her nice, cushy job that’s so great otherwise. Pity. I hope anyone reading this has a pleasant New Year and a wonderful 2016. Cheers!

 

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Correlation?

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 4, 2015

So if you’ve been reading me for any time at all, you’re familiar with the fact that I have and battle severe head pain. I have trigeminal neuralgia and have somehow also been diagnosed with cluster headache, both of which are supposed to be among the most painful conditions there are in the world. My pain this year, made worse by my daily, horrible back pain, has been hellish and debilitating. But my wife and I have started to suspect a possible pattern with my head pain and we’re interested in trying to prove this theory. I have really bad insomnia and average about three or so hours of sleep per night. I try to go to bed between 10 and 10:30 at night and often am up between midnight and 2 am, even as early as 11:30 PM the other night. I can’t go back to sleep when this happens, typically, although my sleep doctor has given me a second sleeping pill to take when I wake up so that I can try to get more sleep. Sometimes I take it and it can work. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I forget to take it. And sometimes I don’t want to take it, cause I actually like getting up fairly early. Anyway, two of the past three nights I’ve somehow slept in. One night I slept in until the horribly late time of 6:15 and the other I slept in until 4:15. It was horrifying. What was more horrifying was that my head pain was much worse than usual on both days following those nights. I had 10 out of 10 days. The pain was nonstop, all day hell with virtually no relief. Eventually, quite a few prescription pain meds helped decrease the pain by the very end of the day just a little bit, but it was way too little way too late. And the interesting thing was that on the usual days that I get up between midnight and 2, my pain level is usually more between 7 and 8, sometimes as low as 6 out of 10. Usually 7. And this isn’t the first time we’ve noticed this. I rarely get to sleep in, so we haven’t gotten to observe this often, but the few times it’s happened, we seem to recollect that my really bad headaches seem to occur on days I get the most sleep — seven or eight hours. When I get, two, three, four, the pain is somewhat significantly less. Why is that? I have no idea. There has to be a correlation, though, don’t you think? It can’t be pure coincidence. When I go to Vandy’s headache clinic next week, I want to bring this up and let them ponder this. See what they ultimately have to say about it. I do know poor sleep can affect head pain. But to this degree? By the way, I’ve told my pain management specialist I’m going to Vandy and she’s excited and hopeful for me, but I haven’t told my neurologist because he’s a massive narcissist who would probably be massively insulted and might make things hard for me. I’m not quite sure what to do about that. I don’t want to drop him yet because Vandy might not be able to help me and/or driving six hours a day to go there and back regularly might turn out to be a giant pain in the ass if they’re not seriously helping me long term. Oh, and Gretchen is taking that day off to go to Nashville with me, which is awesome. It’ll be great to have her support and also her word to confirm my assertions, as well as to drive us home as truthfully, I don’t know if I’d be able to do so based on my recent head pain patterns.

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Pain Issues Update

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 9, 2015

As I’ve written about before, I have to deal with extreme pain and have had to since about 2010. However, it’s gotten worse since around April 2014 and, if possible, even worse than that since about six months ago. I have Trigeminial Neuralgia, which is one of the most painful disorders known to mankind. Wikipedia calls it the Suicide Disease. It affects the trigeminal nerve in the brain, which impacts your entire head and face, providing blasts of indescribable pain which are completely debilitating. And I happen to have Type 2, which is a slower acting, long lasting type of TN, with a less sharp, but still extremely violent type of pain that impacts my entire head and face, usually on my left side. It makes it impossible to do very much at all. For several years, I was completely bedridden with it. I have had to have a number of minor surgical procedures for it, some of which have worked short term, many of which have not. I’ve taken a zillion meds for it, but the only one that’s ever helped has been Percocet, which I’m not fond of taking. Unfortunately, I have to.

At the same time, I’ve had back problems. I was diagnosed a year or two ago with coccydynia, which is extreme tailbone pain. I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in my lower back and some other lumbar problems. I also have arthritis in my hips and it hurts to walk any distance at all, and it certainly has hurt to sit for any duration many, many times. I have one of those “donut” pillows to sit on, which helps somewhat.

Because of these problems, I am on disability.

The problem is that in the spring of 2014, I started getting a different type of head pain and couldn’t figure out what was happening to me. It actually seemed to be an extreme type of “normal” bilateral headache and it’s stumped my doctors. In addition to my primary care physician, I have a pain management specialist, a neurologist, and a neurosurgeon. None of them seem to hear what I’m saying when I describe this new head pain to them. I guess cause it doesn’t make sense to them. It can’t be bilateral and cause that much pain, so they ignore me. My neurologist, at least, has been trying out a ton of different meds on me. The problem is most don’t work and most are so new and expensive that Medicare won’t pay for them. Great. Five weeks ago, he gave me Botox injections for the first time. I’ve always heard they can help with head pain. He told me it takes one to three weeks to kick in, but should work for two to four months. It took about two or three weeks before I noticed a difference, and my head pain did improve from about an 8 or 9 out of 10 to about a 5 or 6, which was big, but this past Saturday, the pain returned with a damn vengeance, and until yesterday, I’ve been at a 10 out of 10 every day since. It’s been brutal. And the new meds he’s given me to take haven’t done anything.

Meanwhile, about six months ago, my back started hurting really badly, every day. Like 9 or 10 out of 10 every day. Excruciating pain. Combined with my head pain, it made life virtually unlivable. I scheduled a massage or two, thinking it might be muscular, and that worked for a day or two, but I was also concerned it might be skeletal, so finally, after waiting way too long, several weeks ago, I went to see my orthopedist. They took a ton of x-rays and then had some surprising news for me. First of all, my coccydynia is worse than I realized. My tailbone is broken. Completely. My doctor recommended I have surgery to have it removed. I had already talked about that with her a year ago and since have talked about it with several other doctors of mine, all of whom advised me against it as they’ve had patients who have done that only  to wind up with permanent, horrible pain as a result of the surgery. They said it would be stupid, just live with it. I told her that and she said their surgeon is an expert and has written books on the subject and that people come from as far away as Minnesota to get him to do their surgery. *sigh* I don’t know what to do. For the moment, I don’t think I’ll have it done. Secondly, I still have arthritis in my hips, which of course I knew. Third, my degenerative disc disease in my lower back has worsened, if that’s possible. Fourth, I have arthritis in my middle back’s spine. Fifth, I have degenerative disc disease in my middle back, where my main pain is located. Sixth, and most important, she used a medical term for this that I don’t remember, but in my own words, I have the worst curvature of the spine I’ve ever seen just by looking at the x-rays. Unreal x-rays. And I’m only in my late 40s. Damn! How did that happen??? I’ve never seen an x-ray that looked that bad before, with the possible exception of my broken tailbone. She said my middle back muscles are straining to compensate for that spinal problem and are too weak to cope, so she sent me to physical therapy for eight weeks and will see me again when I’m done. Hopefully I can avoid surgery. I know sometimes I’ve slouched over the years, but I actually do try to sit straight and stand straight most of the time, so I have no clue how this happened. And all of this has been contributing to my 10 out of 10 daily pain I’ve been experiencing for months. Unreal.

Back to my head pain. I’ve come to the conclusion that no doctor in Chattanooga can help me. I need to go to a big time place. So I contacted Vanderbilt University’s Neurology Headache Clinic and talked to them for awhile. They require a referral, so a month ago, I asked my doctor to fax one to them and he did. They told me it would take two to three weeks for them to contact me. Well, it’s been a month, so yesterday I called them and they claimed not to have received the referral. Great. I’ve been suffering like crazy while waiting for nothing. I called my doctor’s office again and explained the problem and the person I talked to had an attitude. Said they’d faxed it. I said maybe they sent it to the wrong fax number, would they please re-fax it to THIS fax number. They grudgingly said they would. I waited a few hours and called Vandy back to see if they got the referral. The woman I spoke to asked which fax machine did they send it to. Man, how many fax machines do they have? They must be a huge place for a “clinic,” because they have 80 neurologists on staff. Anyway, she said she’d have to send a message to their “faxist” to research the matter and someone would get back to me. That was at 1 PM. No one ever called me back. Why are healthcare professionals such dumbshits? Why are they so damn rude? Man, it’s like pulling teeth with them and they treat you like they’re doing you the greatest favor in the world when in point of fact they’re actually just DOING THEIR DAMN JOB! Anyway, the woman I talked to also said something about all of my files being faxed to them, which surprised me because no one had ever mentioned that to me before. All I’d been told was the referral. If they want medical files, I’d have to contact a number of doctors and it would take awhile and probably tick some people off. Of course, I could do it, but why do it unless I knew they’d agree to see me? Maybe they wouldn’t agree to see me without seeing my medical files…. What a damn hassle. Just the fact that I’m willing to drive three hours away one way to get help should indicate how desperate I am. I would really like to think that they could help me. When I talked in depth with one of their nurses last month, she told me I seemed like a hard case and would need to be seen by one of their department heads. I’d really like this to work out, cause I need help. I am, however, nervous about my current neurologist finding out. He started the first headache clinic in Chattanooga, has been very successful, is a huge narcissist, and I think would be very offended if he knew I were taking this step. He might even drop me as a patient. I don’t really know. And he is trying to help me. It just hasn’t been that helpful so far. However, I see him next week, so I’ll tell him about the results of the Botox injections and see what he does next. Who knows? Maybe he’ll come up with something. I doubt it, but maybe….

Anyway, since this pain has been ongoing since 2010 and since it’s gotten worse a year and a half ago and since it’s gotten much worse a good six months or more ago, I’ve become increasingly depressed. It’s difficult to make plans to do anything when you’re always in major pain. It’s difficult to actually do anything period. It gets old lying around the house feeling sorry for myself. I do get out in the mornings, usually, to run errands, since my pain seems to be less severe in the mornings, but it worsens throughout the day and there’s nothing I can do about it. Lately, it has come to feel like I’m in a hopeless situation, like I’m trapped in a prison with no way out. It feels like no one can help me, like I’m totally screwed. If this is what I have to look forward to for either the indefinite future or the rest of my life, well, where’s the quality of life in that? It just gets increasingly hard to remain upbeat or positive and I feel like I’m dumping on my wife all the time and that makes me feel badly, because she deserves a more positive husband as she has her own issues to deal with. Well, I guess that’s it for now. I have an appointment with my neurologist next week, as I wrote, and another with my pain management specialist in a few weeks. I’m going to try and follow up with Vandy. Maybe something will come of it, although I frankly don’t have high hopes. Feel free to send good vibes, if so inclined. This is a deep pit I’m trying to climb out of.

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More Ace

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 27, 2015

Well, Ace had his first birthday on Tuesday and it was pretty good. I went to PetSmart and found several brands of chicken flavored pate cat food (that’s all Henry and Ace will eat — they’re so spoiled) and got three for each. I got some treats. And I got some fun toys, including a catnip ball. I wanted to get birthday party hats to put on their heads, but not only didn’t the store have any, but they didn’t even have ANY hats for any pets!!! Last year we went there for Halloween and there were lots of pet hats. I thought they just carried them. I was wrong and very disappointed.

Ace, Henry and I hung out until Gretchen got home. Then it was time to feed them. We chose some new food for each and Gretchen put a birthday candle into Ace’s pate and lit it. I held him close to it as we sang Happy Birthday, which Gretchen video’d. I think the fire actually scared Ace, so then we felt bad, but after we gave them their food, we discovered that I’d gotten good brands because they really dug in and went for it. They can be very picky, so that was good.

After dinner, we broke open the treats and I kind of held my breath. I’ve never had good luck with cat treats. None of my cats have ever cared for them, especially Henry. I can’t remember the name of this brand, but both cats seemed to really like it and they munched out. It made me quite happy.

Then we opened some toys. The catnip ball was a big hit with both, although Ace, the alpha cat, ended up with it for the majority of the evening. He really liked playing with it. And when it ended up underneath our living room sofa, we tried to clean out everything underneath it and discovered a ton of toys under there, so he pretty much OD’d on cat toys. Henry liked it too, but he’s not as into it as Ace. All in all, a pretty successful first birthday. Henry’s tenth birthday will be coming up at Halloween. Boy, that’s hard to believe! I still remember getting him when he was a teeny little kitten. He was so tiny. He’s sure not anymore. Heh. Here are some more recent pictures of Ace.

Ace asleep on Gretchen

Ace asleep on Gretchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ace looking cute

Ace looking cute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ace asleep in Gretchen's arms

Ace asleep in Gretchen’s arms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ace on his birthday

Ace on his birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ace’s Birthday

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 24, 2015

Today is our kitten, Ace’s, first birthday. It’s really hard to believe. He’s grown so much. Yet he still behaves like a kitten and still kind of looks like a kitten, especially compared to our older, bigger cat Henry.

Henry has always been “my” cat. He’s always been loyal to me. He likes/loves Gretchen, but after Toby died in February 2014, she really wanted her own pet. At first, she wanted a dog, which I wasn’t in favor of, because at heart she’s a dog person. So last summer and fall, we looked for a dog. We ultimately thought we had found one and she talked me into agreeing to adopt it. A week later, we went to the shelter to get it, only to find it had already been adopted. Gretchen was very disappointed. Finally, last November, on the day after Thanksgiving, the local shelter was having a day where they were giving away free adoptions. Gretchen wanted to go look. Apparently, so did the whole county. Parking was at a premium and the place was packed. We decided to look at cats first. We thought it’d be easier to get another cat, a companion for Henry, and they’re easier to care for. And then Gretchen saw. Ace was a scrawny little kitten in a room with a lot of brothers and sisters. He was a little tabby, just like Toby had been. And she claims she knew. She found an employee and asked to see him, so we were given a private room and were given “Twinkles” to play with. Twinkles is oh so not a little boy cat’s name. He was cute and very affectionate. He was fixed. He had had his shots. I wasn’t completely sold, but Gretchen was, so we filled out the paperwork and stood in line for what seemed like hours before we got him and took him home.

Gretchen wanted a new name. We talked about several possibilities, but she came up with “Ace,” which I thought was the most stupid name I had heard. But that’s what she wanted, so that’s what she got. And I couldn’t remember the cat’s name. I’ve been calling him Toby ever since, because he reminds me of Toby when he was a kitten. We let him out in Henry’s presence and while Henry wasn’t thrilled to have another cat around, they each survived the encounter and soon Gretchen was cuddling with Ace. We took him to our vet, got him some kitten food, which Henry tried to eat, and took lots of pictures. Gretchen wanted to bond with Ace, wanted to make him “her” cat, so she forbade me from bonding with him, much to my amusement. As some of you know, I’m on disability, so I’m home during the day while Gretchen works. Ace we now know is a co-dependent cat and while he was getting a lot of affection from Gretchen while she was home, he’d jump up on my lap during the afternoons and I’d have to kick him off. Very sad. He liked to jump up on our chests and lie right under our chins. It was both very odd and very cute.

Ace was three pounds when we got him. And much to our surprise, we found out he was four months old! His birthday was apparently August 24, 2014. So today is his first birthday. Ace turned into a frisky cat. Very energetic. At first, we worried that Henry, who was fairly alpha with Toby, would beat him up. Boy, we were wrong about that. Within days, our three pound kitten was attacking our 15 pound eight year old Henry, terrorizing him and chasing him around the house, causing him to hiss constantly. Henry didn’t know what to do. Ace was always jumping him no matter where he went. He stalked him. He jumped on his back. He attacked his feet. He bit him, clawed him, went after him. I had had kittens before, most recently Toby, so I knew what to expect, but Gretchen had never had a kitten, so this was all a new experience for her.

I knew Ace would start tearing our furniture up pretty soon. I didn’t count on the drapes too. And he did. Toby ripped the hell out of a nice leather chair I had. He destroyed most of my furniture when he was a kitten. Before I got him de-clawed. I’ve gotten every cat I’ve ever had de-clawed. I know it’s a little controversial now, but all of my cats are indoor cats and I value my furniture and stuff too much, as well as my skin, to allow my cats to retain their front claws. Besides, from all I know about it, when they have it done before six months, it’s not too painful, they recover very quickly, and they don’t really remember it as they age. And they don’t really miss their claws. I couldn’t wait to get Ace de-clawed. But Gretchen was kind of nervous about the topic. She had never had to go through this before. It wasn’t until we got some new furniture that was pretty expensive that he started to sink his claws into, as well as all of the older furniture he was ripping up, that she agreed it needed to be done. So I made an appointment. And then we canceled it. Felt too guilty. Yet two weeks later, we made another. He was just so bad. He was six months old, and the window of opportunity was slipping away. So I took him to the vet. Gretchen was terrified. He was away from us for about four days and Gretchen was in agony the whole time. But I knew he’d be okay. Been there, done that. When he got home, it took about a day before he was back to normal. We had bought him a three story cat condo so he could sit and look out the window and within a day, he was jumping up and down from it. So, good decision and one we’ve never regretted. And Henry’s grateful too.

Christmas was an interesting experience. Everything was new for Ace and it was so cute to see him exploring the tree and the ornaments and the presents. Of course, he tried to demolish everything, so we had to get a big baby gate and put it around the tree, which made it look stupid, but it worked, so everything worked out well.

Ace had to go back to the vet several times for shots. He grew to not like going to the vet. Heh. By this time, he and Gretchen had really bonded and on weekends, he stuck to her like glue. He likes to lie on her all weekend long, on her chest, and she can’t get anything done. She both likes it and it irritates her. I like to remind her this is exactly what she wanted. LOL! And by now, it’s okay for him to get up on me, but he doesn’t usually do it. Normally, in the late afternoons, he’ll come hang out with me for awhile, which is nice, but when Gretchen gets home, he jumps up and goes to the door to wait to see her come in. It’s cute.

Ace used to eat everything. He ate, not only meat, but vegetables too. He loved beans, broccoli, mashed cauliflower, which he still loves, and other things like cheese. He’s gotten more picky recently, which we can’t figure out, but he still likes to sit with us at the table for dinner. Dad never liked that when our pets did this and he’d be rolling over in his grave if he could see this, cause Henry gets up on a chair with us too, but it’s okay. They’re part of the family.

Ace is doing better with Henry lately. He doesn’t attack him as much. Of course, we’ve tried to minimize that. And Henry isn’t hissing as much. In fact, they often sleep on the same bed during the day, which is cute. Ace has really become part of the family. Our only concern is that he’s such a social cat, such a people person, so co-dependent, that we worry that we can’t really go anywhere for any stretch of time. We don’t feel comfortable boarding him. We had a cat sitter come over for a half hour a day when we were on vacation when it was just Henry by himself, but I really don’t think that would work with Ace. Gretchen really misses her family in Maryland and is hoping to get back up there for Thanksgiving and we’ve been talking about options. Obviously, I’d like to join her for travel and to see her family too, but we don’t think Ace could handle it, so I’m probably going to stay home with the cats and take care of them while Gretchen goes by herself. Can you believe it? Isn’t that crazy? Still, it seems like the best and only viable option and unless and until we can break Ace of this co-dependence, I don’t see anyway around it.

I’m going to post some pictures in honor of Ace’s birthday, but they’re old. I have more recent ones, but I can’t post them because I have a new phone and I’ve emailed them to myself at every email address I have and none of them have shown up, for two days. I don’t know what’s wrong with my phone — it appears to be emailing them with no problem — but something’s obviously off. So, here are some older pictures. Ace is now almost 10 pounds. He’s really grown. He’s still cute though. Happy Birthday, Ace!

Ace, 12/24/14

Ace, 12/24/14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry and Ace, 3/7/15

Henry and Ace, 3/7/15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ace, back from the vet, March 2015

Ace, back from the vet, March 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ace 3/21/15

Ace 3/21/15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ace 3/23/15

Ace 3/23/15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Great Vacation

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 11, 2014

Well, we just got back from our much-needed vacation! We went to my former home of St. Simons Island, GA, one hour south of Savannah and one hour north of Jacksonville. And we had a great time.

My wife had been getting really burned out at her job and seriously needed some time off and she loves the beach, so I thought, why not? I could show her my old stomping grounds. I’ve been under a great deal of stress myself, so a vacation sounded great. However, we were worried about what to do about our cat, Henry. Fortunately, we hired a great – and inexpensive – pet sitting service to care for him and provide daily updates, so that worked out just fine.

We left early last Wednesday morning. It’s about a seven hour drive from here, so we arrived around 3 PM and found our hotel, St. Simons Inn by the Lighthouse. I had found it on TripAdvisor and it looked pretty good. The rooms were all unique and you could pick yours out online. We picked one that looked roomy with a king size bed. We found parking in their covered ground floor parking area and went to check in. Then we hit the room. It wasn’t outstanding, but it looked good enough. The hotel itself was quite pretty.

After we’d gotten established, we walked over to the lighthouse and took some pictures. Then we walked on the path by the ocean to the pier village, went out on the pier, and then walked down into the village. I tried to tell my wife stories about all of the places we were passing.

By this time, it was about dinner time, so since my wife is originally from Baltimore, she’s a big crab lover. I called around, trying to find a place that offered blue crabs, but everything was soft shell blue crab or snow crab, etc. That was somewhat disappointing. However, we ventured out to a place I had gone to when I lived there called Crab Daddy’s. (It’s right beside the Crab Trap. Heh.) We were seated and greeted immediately by our server, Megan. She told us about an interesting special that was macaroni with three different types of crab, so we got that as an appetizer, as well as mussels. We also ordered drinks. Soon the food was out, followed by a generous salad with several homemade salad dressings and some delicious bread. Next came our entrees. Gretchen got shrimp while I got a filet. She said her shrimp was the best she’d ever had, so that was a big compliment. My filet was cooked to order, was appropriately tender, and tasted pretty good, so I was happy. We then decided to splurge and get crème brulee. It, too, was delicious. The bill was quite large, but it was worth it. And the service was outstanding. Hats off to our server.

After dinner, I decided I wanted to go to my old bar, Marsh Point. It’s a bit of a dive, but is very popular, the drinks are generous and they’re cheap. So we went. We missed the happy hour crowd, which was good because it can get packed. The only downer was it’s still a smoking bar and this bothered my wife a lot. As a former smoker, it doesn’t really bother me, but she didn’t like it. I recognized a couple of my former bartenders, but they didn’t recognize me. We ordered drinks and then Gretchen played Keno. We didn’t stay long, though, so we soon went back to our hotel. However, at our hotel, something happened that was embarrassing and frustrating. Our toilet clogged up. And we couldn’t get it unclogged. We went to bed anyway.

The next morning, we told both housekeeping and the front desk about the clogged toilet and they said they’d take care of it, so we went out for breakfast. The hotel had a continental breakfast, but I wanted something a little more substantial. We ended up at Palmer’s Village Café, which was the number one ranked restaurant on the island according to TripAdvisor. We were the first ones there, so we sat where we liked and were greeted immediately by a friendly server. She took our drink orders and then it was time to eat. My wife had eggs, an English muffin, and potatoes, while I had a huge stack of pancakes and some crispy bacon. My only complaint was, the sides were kind of expensive and I only got two pieces of bacon. For that price, I would have expected at least four. Still, Gretchen enjoyed her breakfast and I loved my pancakes – they were very filling. We paid the bill and went back to the hotel. When we arrived, a housekeeper told us she had fixed the problem. We felt relieved. Then the unthinkable – we used the toilet again and it got clogged again. I mean, it wouldn’t flush at all. How humiliating! And at the price we were paying, we expected better. My wife called the front desk to ask about other rooms and was told there weren’t any. She was told we could use the bathroom in the room across the hall for one night, that night, before people arrived who had reserved the room. That would have left us three more days with a screwed up toilet. My wife complained and was told that maintenance wouldn’t be able to get around to it until sometime the next day. Well, that was unacceptable.

We then decided to go rent bikes and ride around. Well, we did, but not very far. My knees and hips gave out on me, so I stood and waited while Gretchen went on ahead a couple of times. I didn’t think I was going to make it back to the bike shop. It really hurt.

When we returned to the hotel, we decided to go eat lunch and I just wanted something light, so I took us to Brogan’s, which was the first restaurant I ever went to when I went to the island. I have fond memories of the place, but I’m not sure why cause it isn’t that great. The service was average, the food average, the atmosphere average. I had a burger while my wife had a southwestern chicken salad. It was okay.

We decided to go to the beach while the hotel staff searched for another room. When we got there, it was at low tide and there were sand bars and shells and my wife was very impressed. It wasn’t crowded, except with people who had tons of dogs, which my wife loved. It’s a rather plain beach that I find kind of unexciting, but Gretchen loved it cause it was relaxed – just sand and water. Since she had her bathing suit on, she went out into the water. It was 80 degrees out and the water was warm, so she was happy. Meanwhile, I was having a hard time having a good time because I was worried about our hotel room.

So I started looking around for another room somewhere, and let me tell you, there weren’t very many rooms available on the island. Fortunately, there was a cool looking hotel just one block away from us that I decided to walk to when we returned from the beach and ask about. I’m really glad I did. It was called the Ocean Inn and Suites and they had a room for right then through when we needed to leave. It cost more than our present hotel, but on such short notice, I decided it was worth it. Besides, the room was a two room, dual king suite with a great balcony overlooking the lighthouse and the ocean. I felt good about it.

When I returned to the room with a luggage cart in hand, I found two people in the tiny bathroom plunging the toilet and pouring hot, soapy water down it. They were two owners and to their credit, they tried. However, I had no confidence in that toilet and had decided to leave, and that’s what I told them. They were disappointed, but classy about it. They wondered why we were told we couldn’t get it attended to until sometime the next day. They said if they had known about it immediately, they would have called a plumber. They said they would make it up to us. So we loaded up the car and I went to settle the bill. To my surprise, they waived all costs and we were charged nothing. That was nice of them.

We then went to the other hotel and unpacked. Gretchen loved the room, the beds, the TVs, the sofa, the view from the balcony – everything. I was relieved. We relaxed for an hour or so, and then it was dinner time. I took us to Gnat’s Landing, a very popular local spot, especially on the weekends. They had made some changes to the place since I’ve been gone, and the menu was light, but we made do. They had TVs everywhere on sports channels with one huge TV on ESPN. We just kind of sat back and vegged. I got a draft cider while my wife got some whiskey. Heh. Then Gretchen ordered some more shrimp while I ordered a pulled pork barbeque sandwich. The food was decent, the service was okay, but I did have to ask for refills, which was kind of annoying. Also, they never asked us if we wanted more drinks after we finished our adult beverages, which I thought was odd. So we paid up and left.

I wanted a few more cocktails, but not wanting Gretchen to ingest the smoke at Marsh Point, I took her to one of my favorite haunts on the island – the Village Inn and Pub. It’s kind of a hotel/B&B which is just beautiful to look at. Their “pub” is actually a small, full service bar in the lobby, where they have tables and stools and nearby, some easy chairs. You can also take your cocktails outside and enjoy sitting by the pool and relaxing. We ordered some drinks from the friendly bartender and sat in some of the easy chairs. It wasn’t too crowded and I was happy to be back there. I have fond memories of the place. Gretchen seemed to like it too, so I was happy. After a little while, we heard some music, so we moved back into the lobby and got a table. Two men were playing guitars and singing James Taylor and Bob Dylan songs. They weren’t too bad. It was an enjoyable evening, but we decided to go back to the hotel because it had been a long day and since I have insomnia, I don’t sleep well – or much –- and I was beat. Bedtime.

The next morning, we got up and went back to Palmer’s and had another delightful breakfast. Then it was time for a day trip to Savannah, a place I really love and a place my wife was really looking forward to seeing. Savannah is one hour up the road from the island, and we made good time, but for a long while, I had been concerned about driving around in that town and also, finding parking, which is hard to find there. The driving can be a real hassle there. Also, there’s the problem of, if you find parking, just wandering around, never knowing where you are or what you’re missing. Historic Savannah can be confusing. So we decided to take a trolley tour with Old Savannah Tours. They had free parking, were right off the interstate, and for $27 each, would let you on and off at any of 16 stops around town until 4:30. It was a huge relief for me to do that, plus it saved us from getting blisters.

We got off at a square that had a statue of General Oglethorpe, Georgia’s founder. It was surrounded by a beautiful Presbyterian church with a very tall steeple, a huge Baptist church, some places with interesting architecture, and the old Savannah Theater. After we had explored and taken some pictures, we got back on. It was really interesting hearing about Savannah’s history interspersed with current events. They were having a big marathon the next day and traffic was getting pretty bad, so I was especially glad I didn’t have to brave that mess.

We next got off at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It’s a huge building that is very impressive to look at – I’ve seen it a number of times – but we wanted to go in and we did. And let me tell you, that is one stunningly beautiful church! It’s gorgeous! Huge, vaulted ceilings, rows and rows to seat a thousand, lovely stained glass, votive candles one can light, a massive pipe organ. Words can’t do it justice. If you’re ever in town, you’ve got to come to this place. It’s certainly worth it.

We got on the trolley once more and continued our travels. We passed Paula Deen’s restaurant. We passed Clary’s. We went by the City Market. Then we went down to River Street, which is this really cool old cobblestoned street beside some ancient, tall old warehouses that now house numerous restaurants and shops, all beside the Savannah River. It’s a tourist trap, frankly, but it’s still a good place to go. For weeks, I had been wanting to go to my favorite Irish pub, Kevin Barry’s, for some good, authentic fish and chips. Meanwhile my wife wanted crab. What to do? Well, it was late for lunch and both restaurants were far away on opposite ends of River Street. We didn’t feel like walking, so we hit a nearby restaurant called Barracuda Bob’s. They had fish and chips and crab. So we went on in and didn’t have to wait. I ordered a draft cider, which you always have to have with fish and chips. Gretchen then ordered crab chowder and a meatloaf sandwich and I ordered my fish and chips. And was horrified to hear our server say they were out of fish and chips! What the hell??? How is that possible? I was so disappointed. So I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich. It didn’t take too long for the food to arrive. My sandwich was fine, but Gretchen’s bread was too soggy, which annoyed her. Additionally, they never asked if I wanted a cider refill. Shouldn’t that be automatic? We got the check, and I put my credit card down. And then had to wait forever for the server to return to get it. Average place, average food, average service. Will probably go somewhere else next time we’re there.

We had to wait a very long time for another trolley to appear. In fact, I called the company to see if they were still running. I guess it was the bad traffic. Eventually we were picked up, but it took forever to get back to our car and then the traffic on the freeway was terrible, so it took forever to get to I-95, the freeway to take us back to the island.

By the time we got back to our hotel, we were pretty beat. But we had gotten some good pictures and had had a nice time. Since we had a late lunch, we didn’t want a heavy meal, so we decided to just to somewhere for appetizers and a drink or two. We walked to the village and chose Iguanas. I think it looks very different from how it looked when I lived there 10 years ago. It’s very bright and crowded with people of all ages. That wasn’t the case then. Darker inside, younger crowd, more of a bar. This was a restaurant. Well, we were sat in a booth which was uncomfortable. I ordered a cider and my wife ordered a margarita. I ordered a plate of fried cheese sticks and my wife ordered a crab soup. Our waiter seemed a little surly, had kind of an attitude. I didn’t like him. The place was crowded and kind of loud and far too bright. Also, it was cold, because unlike yesterday’s 80 degrees, today’s high had been 62 and it was a lot colder. We got our drinks and then our food and to my surprise, Gretchen announced that this crab soup was the best she’d ever had, which was a shocker to both of us. My cheese sticks were just that – cheese sticks. Gretchen finished her margarita and was trying to figure out what to order next. She was thinking of a cosmopolitan, a whiskey sour, an Irish whiskey, or something different altogether. I wasn’t through with my cider, but planned on ordering a rum and Coke. The waiter asked my wife if she’d like another margarita and she said no. Next thing you know, he plopped the check down in the middle of our table and walked away. Um, excuse me??? Did we say we were done? Did we say we didn’t want anything else to drink? Did he ask me if I wanted anything else? What an ass! We contemplated ordering more drinks, but I think his attitude ruined it for us, so we paid and left. He didn’t get the biggest tip in the world.

That night we got to bed at a decent hour, but as often is the case for me, I was up at 2:30 the next morning for the rest of the morning. That really tires me out. I hate insomnia. It’s very frustrating. However, we were excited about the day because we had some big plans. First though, we had to have breakfast. This time we walked to the Mallery Street Café. It was packed! We had to wait and then basically share a table with some other folks, who moved away a little bit. It was a good breakfast, though, and reasonably priced, so we were happy.

After breakfast, I drove us across the island until we reached Christ Church, a very old Episcopal church that Charles Wesley founded. It’s beautiful and it has a huge cemetery, which is fascinating to go through. We found many old gravestones, including a number of Confederate soldiers. We found burial plots for entire generations of families. It was really cool.

After Christ Church, we drove off the island to Brunswick and then took the big, scary bridge to Jekyll Island, which is now one giant park, but once was the playground of the rich and famous. You have to pay $6 to get onto the island, which is kind of annoying, but I guess it’s worth it, so there you have it. We immediately drove to the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, which is beautiful. We parked and started walking, because it’s there that you find Millionaire’s Row. Millionaire’s Row is a group of mansions (called “cottages”) built at the turn of the 20th century by people like JP Morgan, the Vanderbuilts, the Rockefellers, the Goodyears, and others like them. The houses are absolutely huge and very stunning. It’s amazing to think about the luxury these people lived in (during the winter months) back then. We had a good time walking around and then went into the hotel to ask for directions to Driftwood Beach, a beach Gretchen wanted to visit. The person who helped us noticed my Pittsburgh Penguins shirt and showed us her Steelers and Penguins stickers on her computer. In fact, we met several Steeler/Penguin fans while there. That was really cool. We got a map to the beach, which was helpful since there are no signs, and we parked. It was near high tide and there was virtually no beach to speak of, but we saw some cool driftwood and walked around for a bit before returning to St Simons Island.

When we got back to our hotel, we decided to get some lunch, so we walked down to the village. This time we wanted something a little different, so we went to a little place called Palm Coast Coffee, Café, & Pub. It was tiny inside, although they had a big courtyard out back. It was too cold to sit outside for very long though, so we were fortunate to get a table inside. Several employees passed us before one was kind enough to seat us, but this girl then took pretty good care of us. She brought us some iced tea and then Gretchen also ordered a latte to warm up, and she brought that right out. They had an interesting menu. It wasn’t your average burger joint. I ordered a chicken club sandwich, which came with kettle chips, while Gretchen ordered Brunswick Stew and a veggie sandwich. She loved both and my meal was delicious too. I can see why the restaurant is rated so highly on TripAdvisor.

That afternoon, we returned to East Beach, even though it was overcast and chilly. It was just good to be in the sand beside the water. There were a surprising number of people there, as well as many dogs.

Saturday night, we wanted something different to eat, so we went to the #2 restaurant on the island – Jonesy’s Pizza and Pub. It had rave reviews and was within walking distance. The pizza was good. The crust was hand tossed and just right and the toppings were good. We didn’t finish it, but we took the rest back to the hotel room to have for breakfast the next morning. We also had some of their half baked chocolate chip cookies, which were wonderful! We then retreated to our hotel room and watched a little football before going to bed.

We wanted to get an early start Sunday morning, so we checked out and left the island around 7 AM. Traffic was light, which was good, and after an hour, we were on 16 up to Macon. However, I was really, really tired due to my insomnia, so after awhile, I pulled over and Gretchen drove. She did a good job and drove the rest of the way home. On the way, we had to stop for gas and we were in the sticks. We stopped at an exit that had a BP, but it was a mile and a half away from the freeway. When we got there, we saw plenty of rusted pickups and one pump. It didn’t even have a credit card slot. I had to go in and prepay. While I was paying, I was behind people in line buying crickets and worms to go fishing with. People out in the parking lot were talking about the bucks they had shot. We were in hillbilly heaven. There was nothing around for miles. It was creepy. We headed back to the freeway and soon hit 75 to Atlanta and then Chattanooga.

When we got home, Henry was glad to see us and we had a lot of mail. The pet sitter had left us a nice note and we unpacked, before collapsing. Gretchen watched football and I took a nap. It was a great vacation, but it was good to be home again. Whatever the case, we’ll always have fond memories of this trip.

Some pics:

 

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our hotel on St. Simons Island

Our hotel on St. Simons Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

East Beach on St. Simons Island. Low tide.

East Beach on St. Simons Island. Low tide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savannah's Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Savannah’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. John's ceiling. Impressive!

St. John’s ceiling. Impressive!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A chapel in St. John's

A chapel in St. John’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Part of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pipe organ at St. John's

The pipe organ at St. John’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen and me at the beach

Gretchen and me at the beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christ Church, SSI

Christ Church, SSI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gravestone of a Confederate soldier

The gravestone of a Confederate soldier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An impressive "cottage" on Jekyll Island's Millionaire's Row

An impressive “cottage” on Jekyll Island’s Millionaire’s Row

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Jekyll Island cottage

Another Jekyll Island cottage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet another Jekyll Island cottage

Yet another Jekyll Island cottage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A massive cottage on Millionaire's Row

A massive cottage on Millionaire’s Row

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baltimore Trip

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 18, 2014

Well, Gretchen and I made a nice trip up to Maryland and back a few days ago and I thought I’d write a little bit about it. Last Thursday, after work we headed out on the road from Chattanooga up to Abingdon VA. It took about four hours. We stayed at the Alpine Motel, a retro motel that was somewhat decent. The next morning, we ate breakfast with our friends Chris and Stephanie. It was really good to see them.

It should have taken six hours to get up to Columbia MD, our destination. It took nearly nine. Traffic was the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. About 30 miles south of Roanoke, we got stopped by a wreck and sat still in traffic for an hour. That really slowed us down. Of course, the Virginia cops were out in full force, as always, so you can’t speed there to make up time. When we got to DC, we hit mega-traffic, which continued into Maryland and all the way to our destination. It took HOURS to get through that traffic, and it was in the middle of the afternoon, not during traffic hour. Weird.

We finally arrived at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center Hotel, where we’d be staying. We were on the fifth floor, and it was very nice. (I wrote reviews of many places on Trip Advisor. You can find them here.) The room wasn’t the biggest I’d seen, but it was plush and clean and we liked it. I’ve had to deal with bad insomnia for years, often getting up at 1 or 2 AM (like this morning), but the bed was so comfortable there, that I was able to sleep in until 8 every morning. It was awesome!

Friday night, we went to a restaurant called Clyde’s and met Gretchen’s parents there. We had a lovely meal and it was good to see them. Then we went back to the hotel and had drinks at the bar there before turning in.

Saturday we got up and went to Eggsplantation in Ellicot City to meet our friend Cindy for breakfast. I had pancakes and bacon and it was delicious. The place was nice, but pretty expensive. We looked at Cindy’s new car after breakfast, before gassing up (gas was so much more expensive there than in Tennessee) and heading to downtown Baltimore. We went to the Walters Art Museum. I have already written a review about it, so I won’t say much, but we enjoyed ourselves a great bit. It was free to get in, which was cool. We particularly liked the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman exhibits, as well as the medieval exhibit. It was cool seeing a mummy. When we left, we went to a quirky area of town called Hamden. It had tons of shops and restaurants and reminded me of Atlanta’s Little Five Points or L.A.’s Melrose Avenue. We parked and wandered around. We went in a little, extremely overcrowded used bookstore, but didn’t find anything we wanted. We ate lunch at a place Gretchen has talked about for years — Cafe Hon. It flat out sucked! The food was terrible and the service was worse. I gave it a really bad review on Trip Advisor. Gretchen was especially disappointed.

After we left Hamden, we drove back to areas Gretchen used to live in to check them out. It was nice to see parts of her history. Later, we went back downtown. We found a bizarre little parking area in an alley behind a building for $20. We thought it was a pretty good deal, cause all of the parking garages were full and we were going to go see a ballgame that night and it was fairly close to the ballpark. More on that later.

We walked to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area. It was crowded, probably because it was such a beautiful day, but it was pretty neat. They had street performers, some pavilions with shops and restaurants in them, an old submarine you could tour, the World Trade Center, where you could go to the 27th floor to look out over the harbor, and more. We spent some time wandering around there before finally starting to head over to the ballpark. Outside the park, I bought a nice Orioles cap and it looked and felt pretty good. I did it even though I’m a Pirates fan. Heh. We arrived at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and waited for Gretchen’s two boys and a girlfriend to show up. It looked like a beautiful stadium. I had bought tickets online before we went, so we had sweet seats behind 1st base in the 24th row. They were shockingly expensive though. The kids finally showed up and we went in to find our seats. The stadium was beautiful, as advertised, but the seats were incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t know what midget designed that stadium, but I’m of average height, and my knees were jammed up against the seat in front of me and I had no leg room. There were essentially no rows. If people wanted in or out, virtually the entire row had to get up and get out to let them in or out. It was stupid. I was so damn uncomfortable. But it was a nice night for baseball. The Orioles were taking on Toronto. Unfortunately, it was a dull game and Gretchen and I left with Baltimore up 1-0 in the top of the ninth inning. Surprisingly, we found out later, Toronto hit a homer to tie it up and Baltimore finally won it in the 12th inning. So we started looking for our car. And we couldn’t find it. It was horrible. We walked those streets for miles and I got terrible blisters on the bottoms of my feet and my shins hurt and we couldn’t find my car anywhere we went. We stopped and asked for directions, but after more than an hour of this and after having covered seemingly every street within miles, we couldn’t find that little back alley parking spot. We started getting really terrified. We were in a big, strange city late at night with, frankly, gangs of possible thugs wandering around doing who knows what. We were really worried. Just as Gretchen was about to call the police, we found a building she recognized and went in that direction. We found another. Finally, I spotted the alley and our car and we headed for it in great relief. We were pretty panicked by then. It felt great to get in that car! We finally got out of there, made it back to the hotel, and hit the bar where I slammed some tequila shots and Gretchen had some Southern Comfort. Boy, what a day!

Sunday was Gretchen’s birthday party, the reason for the trip. It was her 50th, which is big, so we had invited family and friends to her parents’ house and she was pretty excited. On our way, we stopped to pick up the gluten free birthday cake I had ordered last month. Thankfully it was ready and it turned out great. It was really good. We got to her parents’ and chatted before people started arriving. Her parents laid out a spread and we toasted Gretchen with champagne. There were people there we hadn’t seen since our wedding last year, so it was nice to see everyone. Gretchen opened presents and she got quite a haul. She did well. Heh. The party lasted from about 1 til about 7 or later, so when we got back to the hotel, we were kind of tuckered out from the day. That didn’t stop us from hitting the bar, of course.

Monday we went to Annapolis with her parents. On the way, we passed the NSA and I was SO very excited. I wanted to go tour their museum — they actually have a museum — but we didn’t have time. Oh well. Annapolis was pretty cool. I had wanted to go on a tour of the Naval Academy, but because of my blisters, we couldn’t do it — I couldn’t walk far. Downtown was old and historic and we enjoyed wandering around. We ate lunch at Carrol’s Creek Cafe, which wasn’t too bad. We had a bizarre old server who entertained us. We went back to our hotel in the afternoon and although we were supposed to stay another night there, Gretchen and I decided to head out early because it was supposed to rain all day Tuesday and get colder and we didn’t want to drive far in that weather. We went a different way this time, without that much traffic, thank goodness.

We drove further than we intended, about six hours all told. We spent the night in a Holiday Inn Express in Salem VA, right outside Roanoke. It was a great hotel room! We were really impressed. It was a king size suite and it was huge. All that room. Unfortunately, the bed was too hard for me, so I woke up with a sore back. Oh well. The breakfast was great though. They had a pancake machine that made great pancakes in two minutes. I love pancakes, so I was elated. They had lots of room, many tables, unlike many hotels, and a lot to choose from. We felt like it was a good deal.

We left Salem Tuesday morning about 9. And it did start to rain. Visibility was pretty poor for a good part of the way, with poor Gretchen driving, and shockingly, 50 miles east of Knoxville, it started snowing!!! It was 84 just two days before, and even when we started out that morning, it was 65 there in the mountains. And now here it was snowing. Crazy. Gretchen drove through the snow, but at some point we had to stop for gas and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It was COLD gassing up the car! We finally made it home after about six hours or so. Our cat Henry was glad to see us and purred all night. We had lots of mail. My mom had gotten our mail and fed Henry each day, which was nice of her. She’s about ready to move back up to Knoxville in a couple of weeks, so we won’t have her to do that for us anymore. Don’t know what we’ll do the next time we have to travel….

Well, that’s it. It was a good, but exhausting trip. Unfortunately, Gretchen — and maybe me too — came down with something and has been sick ever since. Hopefully we’ll both improve quickly. It was nice to see Gretchen’s old stomping grounds as well as family and friends. Maybe we’ll make it back sooner next time. Sorry I didn’t post pics. I reserve the right to do so in the future. Heh.

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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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