hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

Posts Tagged ‘life’

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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My Fifth WordPress Anniversary

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 26, 2016

WordPress was kind enough to notify me a few days ago, on the 20th, that it was my my fifth anniversary with them, blogging away the whole time. It’s hard to believe. I had come over from Xanga, a blogging site I had been on since 2004 and one I loved desperately. It’s just that friends were leaving that site in droves — I didn’t know why, no one told me — and I felt like the site was going to hell, so while I didn’t delete my Xanga account, I started searching for a new blogging home. I had friends on this place, Blogger, and TypePad, but it was WordPress that really stood out for me, and besides, this online literary journal I had recently become poetry editor for had an account here, so I decided to open my new site here. I did and never looked back. My first posts were unusual and designed to introduce myself to new people, let people get to know me. I didn’t start writing book reviews until about three years ago or so. I wrote about writing, creative writing, sports, health, politics, publishing, published some memes, some lists of favorite books, songs, bands, etc., had quite a few posts which weren’t easy to categorize, etc. But then I started to find my niche with my book reviews, which, much to my surprise, became my blog posts with the most hits by far, as well as the most likes, and even the most comments, when I got any, which is rare. Since then, most of my posts have been book reviews — I published hundreds — interspersed with some sports posts, the occasional political or spiritual/religious post, an occasional creative writing post, some health posts, and a few others that are hard to categorize. But it’s the book reviews that people read. I’ve tried to figure that out but I guess it’s as simple as that’s what people want to read. That simple, right?

Well, anyway, in honor of my fifth anniversary on WordPress, I’m going to provide a link to my blog post from five years ago today: 20 Questions. I hope some of you find it interesting and enlightening. Actually, now that I think of it, I’m just going to post the whole blog post here. It’s short and probably easier than having to click on the link and go to another page. Remember, this is from June 26, 2011. Here it is:

 

20 Questions

Delete my answers and substitute your own. Enjoy!

I’ve come to realize that… I have taken far too many things for granted in my life, even when I thought I was not doing that. It’s a tragedy & I’m trying to remedy that.
Reconciliation is… ideal, but not always realistic. This is exactly the opposite of how I have felt my entire life, but I have wasted way too much time over the years trying to reconcile (or even simply remain on the same friendly terms…) with various people for various reasons and I can count on one hand quite easily the number of times it was worth the effort. Move on.
I talk… more than ever, if you can believe that. I have a lot to say. I spent the last 7+ years living with someone who really didn’t like to hear me talk much, but who preferred watching TV. Like 24/7. For years. Yeah, good times. I’ve got a lot to say and a lot stored up, so sorry….
I love… one special individual more than anyone I ever have at any time in my life, to a shockingly higher degree than I ever knew was even possible. Yeah, I admit it. I also dearly love my parents, my kitties, and several of my good friends who have stood by me over the years. My list of friends I “love” has diminished greatly over the past two years. Pity.
My best friend/s… are fewer than I thought in number, but are critically important to me and people I feel confident I’ll remain loyal to forever and who will be there for me forever. I’m blessed in this regard.
Love… is a newly important word to me, as most of my life it was largely an abstract concept, outside of my loving family. In my middle years, I have been blessed to discover what I now believe “love” is and is meant to be, and I had no freakin’ idea this was a possibility.
Marriage is… hit and miss. Usually a mistake. Usually entered into too soon and without sufficient forethought. A business partnership. Yeah, I’m jaded.
Somewhere, someone is thinking… “I wonder what that whining, bitchy drama queen Scott is going on about now.” Seriously. You think I’m joking….
I’ll always… remember times, places and the special people who have gone out of their way to save my ass in the biggest and worst of situations. Foremost among these are my parents and my best friend, Marcy. Emily, Jim & Eunice, Arnold & Sarah, and Ami have been there for me too. Many thanks.
I truly relax… nowhere. I stopped being able to relax years ago and now I no longer know how to, which is pathetic, and I even feel tremendous guilt if I even make an attempt to relax! Therapy is clearly in order.
My cell phone… is my life. I store everything in my iPhone. I’m not kidding. If that ever disappears, I’m more screwed than if my wallet disappears.
When I wake up in the morning… I now thank God for allowing me to see the sun rise once more, to be able to draw a breath, to have friends and family (and kitties) who love me. I no longer take these things for granted.
Before I go to bed… I talk to my special loved one for as long as possible in order to end each day on a positive, loving and blessed note.
Right now I am thinking… that I have a lot more to be grateful for than I – or most other people – would typically realize, looking at circumstances.
Babies… make me break out in hives. I’m horribly allergic to them. Always have been, always will be. I find them quite distressing.
I am committed to… doing everything possible to survive. And to love and live more strongly and sincerely than I ever have in my life before now.
I miss… my cat Rocky, who died in August 2007. I also miss seeing and hanging with my best friends back out west, including Marcy, Celeste, Marc, Emily and Rachel.
Tomorrow… is a hope and a goal, but not a guarantee.
I really want to be… healthy enough to live long enough to have a quasi-“normal” life and a happy one, to whatever degree that is possible.
I hate… people who don’t understand and who don’t even try to make a serious damn effort to understand.

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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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Rheumatologist Appointment

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 1, 2015

This week, I had an appointment with a rheumatologist. I had been waiting nearly SEVEN months for this appointment! I was not happy about having to wait so long. However, I was increasingly desperate and was hopeful this doctor could help me.

I’ve always had strong hands and have always been able to give long, strong massages my whole life. That stopped several years ago. I developed pain in my hands, particularly around my thumbs, that made it impossible for me to go on longer than just a few minutes. Furthermore, over the past two years, my hand/finger pain has gotten a lot worse. I can’t grip things. I can’t mow anymore. For one thing, I can’t grip the mower handle. For another, my orthopedist tells me I have arthritis in my hips and it hurts horribly to move more than 10 steps. So the past two years, I’ve hired a lawn care service to take care of our yard and our lawn mower has gone unattended. I feel guilty for this, but literally, the last many several times I attempted to mow our small yard, I had to stop many times to give my hands and hips a rest and it took quite awhile to get it done, and with quite some pain. I also have a hard time vacuuming. Not only does it hurt to grip the handle, but now it hurts my back too. Apparently, that’s because, as my orthopedist told me, I have arthritis is my spine too. I’m in physical therapy for it, but it’s not doing much good. My back hurts like crazy all the time. Additionally, I’m old fashioned. I like to write checks. I like a paper trail. So I pay a lot of bills the old fashioned way. I sit down to write seven or eight or nine checks for bills and after the first one or two, I have to stop for five minutes or so, because my hands and fingers hurt so much. And then after I write another check, I have to stop again, and so on. The point is, it’s pretty debilitating. So I wanted to go to a rheumatologist. A long time ago. And this is the earliest they could fit me in. I sure hoped they would be good.

My appointment was for 8 AM, but since they never mailed me my new patient paperwork to fill out, I had to show up early do fill it out there, so I got there at 7:15. My new doctor was named Dr. Braggs. I really didn’t know much about her. I was hoping she would be good. I haven’t always had the best luck with specialists here in Chattanooga. After I got the paperwork pretty much filled out, they called me back and put me in a room. They took down all my medications, which took a long time since I’m on so many, but eventually I was ready and then, to my surprise, I didn’t have to wait too long. Dr. Braggs came in my room quite soon and it was apparent she wasn’t a southerner just based on her accent alone. Also, she didn’t engage in idle chit chat, like all southerners do — which drives me nuts sometimes — and was very professional and businesslike. I appreciated that. And she was thorough! She asked me a number of questions, tons of them. All types of questions. She went over all my meds. She talked me to about pain meds and about my misuse of over the counter pain meds, including even Tylenol. She told me what I could and couldn’t take, how much, and why. She conducted a very comprehensive physical exam, including even taking my shoes and socks off and examining my feet, toes, and ankles. We were in the professional building of a huge hospital in town and she was able to call up all of the images the hospital system had of me dating back all the years I’ve been here. She looked them over and while admittedly, many of them weren’t recent, she was able to determine a number of things. She showed me what she was talking about on her computer while she talked about them, which was very helpful. Apparently, then, I have massive osteoarthritis spread throughout my entire body, mainly in my hands, entire spine, and hips. I knew the thoracic area of my spine had it, but I didn’t know my entire spine did. She also told me it’s likely I’ll need a couple of hip replacement surgeries in the not too distant future, which was quite depressing, although she encouraged me to do everything possible to hold that off for as long as possible. She sent me to have blood work done to see if I have gout or Lupus or anything like that and she sent me over to the hospital to have my hands x-rayed, since she actually didn’t have hand x-rays. She was pretty sure my hands were bad though, especially — and much to my surprise — virtually every knuckle she touched on both hands were very sensitive to her handling of them. It really was pretty uncomfortable.

Between the doctor’s office, the lab, and the radiology department, I was there for over three hours. She wrote me a prescription for a medication which hopefully will help with my back/joint pain, or something like it, and then told me to get three supplements I should start taking right away. She also told me I couldn’t take any more NSAIDs like Advil or Anaprox and had to limit my Tylenol intake to a maximum of six per day, but that for every Percocet I take for head and/or back pain, I had to subtract a Tylenol, so it’s tricky. She wants me to start swimming, although when I told her I can’t swim, she then said water aerobics. I’m to see her again in four months. That was Wednesday, I guess. On Friday, someone from her office called to let me know my blood work lab results came back showing I don’t have gout and most things looked fairly good and that my hand x-rays showed quite a bit of osteoarthritis, which didn’t really surprise me. So, I felt really good about her. I thought she was very competent and knowledgeable. I thought she was professional and appreciated the hours she spent with me. Even though the idea of a couple of hip replacements is depressing and scary, I was glad to come out of there with more knowledge and a better idea of what’s going on with me and what, if anything, can be done about it. And apparently, not too much can be done about osteoarthritis. It’s not curable, I learned. It’s somewhat manageable, and perhaps many of you already know that. I truthfully didn’t know much about this. In fact, until a couple of years ago, I thought arthritis was just an annoying little pain old people got in the fingers. Boy, was that stupid! Although the doctor did say I was awfully young to have so much osteoarthritis. Anyway, that’s my update. Glad I did it. This month, I have a lot of doctor’s appointments. The one I’m most excited about — and nervous about too — is at Vanderbuilt’s Neurology Headache Clinic in Nashville in a less than a couple of weeks. So far, my pain management specialist, neurologist, and neurosurgeon, among other doctors, have been unable to help me with my extreme head pain over the past year, so I’m going out of town to find help. I’m hoping a major research institution can do just that. I’m scared they won’t be able to identify the problem and fix it, though, and that’s a depressing thought. Still, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I hope everyone had a happy Halloween. Cheers!

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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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Health Frustrations

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 23, 2015

I’ve written about my health here before at times. I have health problems. In fact, I’m on disability for Trigeminal Neuralgia and several lumbar issues. The pain can be debilitating. Most pain medications don’t help. I’ve had to have a number of surgical procedures to help, but they’re limited in scope. I also have severe insomnia, which doesn’t help. I average about three hours of sleep a night. I used to try to take naps after lunch every day, for about an hour, so that helped, but I can’t do that anymore for some reason, so that’s gone. Well, this week I’ve gotten up between midnight and 1:30 AM six of the last seven nights, including midnight tonight. I’m so tired and so frustrated and I don’t know what to do. And I’m not asking for advice. I’ve already tried every sleep aid known. I have a sleep doctor. I currently take three sleeping pills to help. They get me to sleep. They just don’t keep me asleep.

Additionally, for well over a year now, I’ve been having nonstop head pain, different from the TN-type head pain I’ve experienced since 2010. It’s been more like extreme regular headaches. I don’t know how to describe it any better than that. And they don’t respond to anything except Percocet. I’ve been to a number of doctors about it. My pain management specialist is at a loss. She put me on two new medications in January, which I believe has helped with my TN-type pain, but not with this new pain. I went to a neurosurgeon, who didn’t really do anything. He’s ready to perform major surgery if and when I need it, but he doesn’t think I do at the moment and he’s probably right. And then last month, after pondering this for months, I went to a new neurologist. He seemed pretty good and pretty thorough and he diagnosed me with a cluster headache, which he said is also quite painful. I hadn’t known that. Apparently I have the symptoms. He put me on a couple of new medications, but I had reactions to one of them, so he took me off of it and put me on something else. I’m not, however, sure that he fully understands my situation because he seems to be treating this like a standard TN-type head pain, or in this case, cluster head pain, when in point of fact, they’re standard bilateral headaches that are extremely severe. I don’t know what to do.

To make matters worse, I’ve been experiencing ungodly back pain for about three months now. It starts about lunchtime and worsens throughout the afternoon into the evening. I usually take over the counter pain medications, which don’t do anything. Then I take a Meloxicam, which doesn’t do anything. Like my head pain, the only pain medication my back pain responds to is Percocet, and even then, not always and not fully. It’s very frustrating. And I don’t know what to do about it. I have no idea what’s causing it and I can’t tell if it’s skeletal or muscular. I went and had a massage a couple of weeks ago. It helped for a couple of days. I have an orthopedist, and I’ve thought about making an appointment, but I honestly don’t know what they could tell me. I don’t know that I’ve done anything new to my back and if they take x-rays or do another MRI and it shows nothing conclusive, I’m going to feel like a moron. All I know is it hurts to sit, walk, and stand. And it’s freaking horrible. Most days, it’s about an 8 or 9 out of 10. I haven’t even mentioned it to my primary care physician because I’m sure he can’t do anything about it. He would just tell me to make an appointment with my orthopedist. *sigh* So most days, I can’t do shit. I can’t go for walks. I can’t even go for rides with my wife half the time. It’s tough just to go to church and sit in the pews. I read a lot and it hurts to sit and read. I feel like a lump and it bugs the heck out of me, but I don’t know what to do.

I do have some good health news though. I’ve been overweight for far too long now. It’s largely the result of being on certain meds for years that have contributed to heavy weight gain. Well, back in 2011, my doctor put me on what I thought at the time was a low carb diet. I was wrong. I lost weight until January 2012. Then I started gaining weight and I couldn’t figure out why. By January of this year, I was a hippo. In February, my wife put me on a seriously low carb diet, which she had been on for a few months herself. It actually wasn’t that hard and it’s been good for me. So I’ve been averaging about 6 carbs per meal every day since then, whereas before I averaged about 36 carbs per meal. And I have now lost about 45 pounds, perhaps closer to 50. That’s not as impressive as some people I read about, but it still feels good. I’ve had to put five holes in my belt and buy some new pants that are three sizes smaller than my former size. I still have a long way to go, to be honest. I have a couple of target weights. I’m three pounds away from my first one. But I’m a very long ways away from my ultimate goal and I don’t know if I’ll ever reach it. But I can try, right? So this has been good and I’m grateful to Gretchen for encouraging and inspiring me to do this. She’s lost a lot of weight herself and has reached her first goal herself. Yay!

I guess that’s it for today. Cheers!

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Cursed?

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 15, 2015

Weird things have been happening to my mother and to us over the past few months. Check it out.

Mom had her taxes done. She owed over $10,000 in taxes! Never owed anything like that in her life. She lives on Social Security, for God’s sake! She wasn’t real happy about that. Then, last week, she backed her car through her garage door and had to have a new garage door put in. To make matters worse, last week she also fell on her driveway and broke her wrist and cut up her arm pretty bad, necessitating stitches. She also thought she had gotten a concussion, but it doesn’t look like it. She’s having a hard time with this, just in terms of getting dressed, etc. Then yesterday, she was sitting in her living room when her neighbor was having a tree cut down and those assholes cut the tree so that it fell right on to her roof! It cut a hole in her roof, knocked down her gutter, and demolished her patio furniture. Sounds like a curse to me….

Then there’s us. I keep having severe insomnia problems. Yesterday morning, I was up at 1:30. This morning, it was 2:30. It gets very tiring. I also still have my head pain. The medication I take for it is only doing a so so job. I’m a little disappointed, especially since we doubled the dose in the hopes of improving its effectiveness. Of course, we got hit with our own tax burden a few months ago. That was an unpleasant surprise. Then there was the Obamacare disaster, when they claimed we hadn’t provided them with requested info — which they had never requested — so they were eliminating various tax subsidies and raising our premiums. They also switched policies on us without telling us, putting us from a no deductible policy to a high deductible policy. Gee, thanks. By this point, however, I was already on Medicare, so I dropped out. But Medicare has its own costs, especially the Part D prescription costs. Last month, I spent over $2,000 on prescriptions! And I don’t have it to spend on that. Then there was the major expense of having a huge dead tree in the back yard cut down, as it was leaning over the house and we were worried it would collapse and demolish the house at any time. That was $2,700. And finally there was this disaster of this past weekend with our worry about the government sticking it to us about the assistance we had received formerly and our now having to pay them back over the next five years. It all really, really sucks.

So do we and Mom need exorcisms? Mom’s a Bible thumper and gets her houses blessed when she moves into them, so I wouldn’t think so with her. I guess these are just unpleasant parts of life. Curses? Probably not, although it sometimes seems that way. I would, however, like to know when life is going to ease up on us. It’s been hard going lately.

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Resolution

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 14, 2015

I don’t know how my wife would/will feel about me writing about this, but I hope she’ll be understanding because I feel like I’ll explode if I don’t write something about this. Okay. Late last week, my wife got a letter in the mail from a government investigator telling her she was being investigated for “intentionally” ripping off the government. But she’s never done anything like that in her life! She’s never even gotten a speeding ticket! A few years ago, when neither of us were working and we were both looking for work, we got some government assistance, but that changed with time and employment and was eventually terminated. Fine. Who’d think anything would come of that? Well, the government did. They told her she had to come in for a meeting to be held before a hearing before a judge to be held at a later date. She freaked out! She spent the weekend getting no sleep, sweating about getting prosecuted and going to jail. I told her there was no chance of that, that they wouldn’t have offered her the chance for this meeting, for this hearing, for the offer of restitution, which is what they wanted, if they were going to prosecute. She spent a lot of time researching and came to the same conclusion. Nonetheless, she wanted this meeting moved up, so she called this investigator first thing Monday morning and got the meeting moved up two weeks to this past Tuesday morning. She was nervous, but prepared. And apparently he was a nice guy. And apparently I was right, as was the research she had found. He just wanted her to sign some papers and start paying the government back the money they had given us for their assistance we had received. I thought it was cheap and tacky, but better than the alternative. He eased her mind by explaining that they had no intention of prosecuting. So, that’s that. We have a long, very long, time to pay this off. And it’s a lot to pay off, certainly a lot more than I ever realized we had gotten. I guess it adds up. Between this and my bitter feelings about my experience with Obamacare, I feel pretty disgusted with the government. Really disgusted. But I’m glad it’s behind us and grateful we can now move on.

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