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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

My Mother

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 7, 2015

My mother drives me nuts. And I feel tremendously guilty in saying that. My mother and I have always had a good, close relationship. She was always there for me when I needed her. She was always very loving. When I lived out west in Phoenix and L.A. and things were tough, I could call her at any time of the day and she’d talk to me. When I decided to move back to Tennessee from L.A. during some tough times, she and Dad let me move in with them for awhile, with my cat, and they were not cat people. But she’s changed. And not for the better.

I never knew how much of a buffer Dad was for Mom. Dad spent a lot of time in his office and Mom spent a lot of time on the sofa in the living room, working on her puzzle books. But Dad died unexpectedly two years ago this month. And Mom was shocked and devastated. And then it began. I knew I’d have to be there for her and was totally willing. At the time, she lived near me in Hixson, TN, where they’d moved from Knoxville to be close to me. But she started calling me every day. A lot. Like 20-30 times a day. Too much. I thought it might be just for a couple of weeks. I was wrong. And it was for unnecessary stuff. Just cause she was lonely. And to a certain degree, I understood that. But she was also living on the phone, talking to all of her many hundreds of friends around the world, making dozens of calls a day and she would proudly tell me about all the people she had talked to that day. OK, so why talk to me so damn much then? I had to help her with Dad’s stuff and I had to go to Knoxville A  LOT to deal with the funeral, to deal with his accountant, attorney, financial planner, etc. It was a lot, and a lot of traveling and Mom loves to talk. It drove me nuts. I’m not big on talking. Meanwhile, she was continuing to call me, 20-25 times a day. I was losing my patience. I was starting to dread hearing my phone ring cause I knew it’d be her and I knew it’d be about nothing at all. Guess how many cards I got in the mail today? That sort of thing.

Time went on. She stopped getting cards. She got about 800. Literally. She stopped getting so many phone calls, although she still made them. But she didn’t stop calling me. I was starting to go insane. But she was also being generous with us. She wanted us to move, for one reason because we lived in a bad neighborhood which was increasingly dangerous and for another reason, to be closer to her. So she helped us buy a new house about 10 minutes from her that was a lot nicer in a safe, quiet neighborhood and we owe her on that. Still, she called. However, she was down to 15-20 calls a day now. By this time, however, the damage had been done. I was over talking to her. I had had enough. The irony of her helping us with this house was that she decided to move back to Knoxville to be with all of her friends and to go back to her old church! So she found a condo up there, put her house here up for sale, and moved a couple of months later. And while the visits to our house would stop, I knew the calls wouldn’t. And they didn’t. She liked her new condo and while she was busy with her friends doing lunch and going out to dinner, she was and is lonely at night. She really misses Dad, still. So she calls me. Still. I’ve had talks with her. I’ve told her she calls me too often. I’ve told her she doesn’t need to call me whenever something pops into her head that she wants to tell me about. That she can save it up for a lunch call and a post-dinner call. And for awhile, she tries that. And then she’ll start calling me at 8 or 9 AM again. And at 10. But she has gotten better. She’s only calling me between 1 and 10 times a day now, usually about five, a major improvement. But I dread every call. Every call. I hate talking to her now and I feel very guilty about that. I know she needs someone to talk to, but I’m not sure why. She can’t have silence in her home. She can’t go without talking to someone in her home. Why? Sometimes she apologizes for calling, like she knows it bugs me, but she can’t help it. Why? And I can’t express my frustration with her too ardently cause she has helped us out financially and I feel I should keep my feelings to myself as a result. She paid off my massive student loan debt that I had been paying on for years. That was very generous of her. She didn’t have to do that. But it doesn’t take away from her damn calls. And now she wants us to come visit all the time. We do go up to Knoxville every 4-6 weeks to see her. That’s not good enough. I swear, the same week we go see her, she’ll say “When can I see you again?” and I’ll tell her that she just did and she’ll have forgotten. She’s 85. Her memory’s not the best. But I’m 48. I don’t know of any other 48 year old people — men — who talk to their mothers every day, let alone 10-20 times a day. It’s crazy. Once a week I can see. That’s how often Gretchen talks to her parents. That makes sense to me. But every day, multiple times a day? Gah! She has driven me crazy and now I can barely stand her and I hate being with her and I know that is wrong and you should respect your elders, but shouldn’t they respect you and your wishes too? All I’m asking for is a maximum of two calls a day. I think that’s reasonable. OMG. Nuts, I tell you. Nuts.

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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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An Anniversary

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 8, 2014

Four years ago today, out of the blue Gretchen told me of some feelings she had for me, which was a really big step on her part. I felt similarly, and soon we had a special relationship. Of course, we had no idea it would lead to marriage. Now we’ve been married over a year and a half and we have a wonderful relationship and I’m eternally grateful to her for her bravery. Bebe, I love you!

(Here’s another picture of our new kitten, Ace.):

Ace

Ace

 

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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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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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Birthday Thoughts

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 20, 2013

Yesterday was my birthday. (Yes, I’m a Virgo.) I tried not to be too depressed at getting older. My wife and mother worked to make it a good day, so that was nice. I did some work, made some calls, read a little bit, applied for a new job. My friend Marcy sent me an electric razor as a gift, so that was nice. My mom gave me a gasoline credit card, which was thoughtful. Gretchen went all out though. She got me a lovely Godiva chocolate bar with caramel, an iTunes gift card (which I’m using right now to download the new Nine Inch Nails album), a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, and my very much desired biography of Jeff Beck, my favorite guitarist. I can’t wait to read it! Mom took us out for dinner last night at a place on the lake, and then we had some ice cream cake, which was delicious. Ended the evening with a little football on TV. Not a bad day, even though I felt down throughout the day.

This year has had its ups and downs. I got married to the love of my life, while my father died unexpectedly at my house. We went on a great honeymoon, and our house was broken into and we were robbed. I picked up a nice project management contract job, only to have the contract terminated in three months. These are the highlights. I’ve read a lot of books, especially Philip K. Dick, and played a few PC games. We discovered Me-TV and have been watching great reruns of Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, MASH, The Odd Couple, and more. Very cool. My Pittsburgh Penguins had a great year, but failed in the playoffs and didn’t make it to the Stanley Cup. Here’s hoping for this year. My UT Vols have started this season 2-1 with one of the toughest schedules in the country, while my Steelers look like they’re going to have their worst year in decades. My Pirates are in the thick of a pennant race, though, and have had their first winning season in 21 years! Gretchen has had her own job highs and lows, but she likes what she’s doing now and there’s growth potential, so that’s good. She misses her sons, who live in Maryland. Mom misses Dad, as do we all, and she’s trying to sort through that. Meanwhile, this year is the first year I haven’t had a surgery since 2009 (knock on wood), so that’s good. My health is improving somewhat, although I still have pain in areas that I can’t seem to shake. I don’t know what the coming year holds for me. I might move, but that remains to be seen. I hope to land a new job at some point. I think Gretchen and I will be spending more time with Mom than we used to because she’s all alone now. Hopefully these will be good times. Thanks to all of my WordPress followers. I have no idea why you follow me, but I appreciate it. I hope to resume book reviews soon. I’m in the middle of several very large books. Cheers!

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A Review of The Mourning Handbook

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 6, 2013

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

View all my reviews

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Some Thoughts

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 5, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anniversary

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 30, 2013

Today is the one month anniversary of my father’s death in my backyard. It still seems so unbelievable, so surreal. One minute, he’s mowing my grass, the next he’s dead on the ground. It really seems cruel. I’m still stunned that I didn’t get to see him coherent on his last day alive. That bothers me so much. I wish I could have said some things, done some things. Mom’s telling people he had been depressed and was “ready to go.” I don’t believe that. Yes, he had been depressed, ever since he retired. He thought he had no further value, which was untrue, but he still had plans and dreams. He wanted to take we four back up to Nova Scotia where we once lived and show my wife around. They were going up to Pittsburgh to be with old friends that weekend. He wanted to take we four up to Iowa and Minnesota to visit family and show Gretchen around. He still had a lot of life in him and I resent the fact that it was yanked away from him, and he from us.

There’s one thing I’m trying to keep in mind though. Mom showed me a computer print out Dad brought over to my house on his last day alive, for me to keep and ponder. It reads “The past should be left in the past because it can destroy your future. Live your life for what tomorrow has to offer, not for what yesterday has taken away.” Wow! How prophetic was that??? Did he somehow know? I can’t believe that he did, but why did he bring that to me on that particular day? I do need to look to the future and quit tormenting myself about the past, about what I didn’t say or didn’t do. I said a lot and did everything I could possibly do to keep him alive. It wasn’t enough. The paramedics couldn’t save him either, so maybe I’ve been too hard on myself.

My mom is doing okay. Yesterday was their 49th wedding anniversary, and she and Gretchen and I went out to eat. Some tears were shed, but Dad was fondly remembered. I just can’t believe I can never pick up the phone and call him again and get one of his funny emails he sent me. It’s quite sad, really. RIP Dad.

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An Update

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 25, 2013

So after our break in of two weeks ago, we now have a home security system in place. We signed with ADS Security, a regional home security company with a good reputation and we now have an alarm system in place on all four doors, as well as interior motion sensors. We also have signs in our yard. We feel a lot safer now. Yeah, you can have all kinds of weapons in your house and plans for robberies when you’re there, but those don’t do any good when you’re not around. The break ins in this neighborhood have been happening between 10 AM and noon on weekdays when people aren’t around. Ours was on a Tuesday in broad daylight! How brazen. ADS responds in 45 seconds or less, so we feel like this security system is a good investment and we feel a lot safer now.

Meanwhile, we’re still trying to get used to Dad’s death three and a half weeks ago. It still feels so unreal. I can’t believe he’s no longer around. And I can’t get the image of him on the ground gasping and moaning as he died out of my mind, and of my mouth to mouth as he was obviously dead by then. I feel helpless and guilty. I feel a great sense of loss. And my mom is trying to do her best, but she’s been overwhelmed and is a little OCD about many things. I’m trying to be patient with her.

Mom had a DVD made of Dad’s funeral service and we got a copy. We watched it a few days ago. It seemed surreal. I’m glad we have it, but it’s a little weird too.

We got the items that were stolen replaced, and my external backup worked for my computer, so I’m happy about that. There was only one software program I had to buy again, as it didn’t transfer over. That’s okay.

I had a lot of poetry submissions to Ray’s Road Review to go through. They had really piled up. I accepted poems from two people and rejected many from quite a few people.

Yesterday we went to a seminar given on the Affordable Care Act to educate people about the details. It was pretty informative. Since neither of us has employer given insurance, we’re hoping this will really help us out come January.

Mom sold Dad’s car. That was kind of sad. Next up, it’s time to sell his fishing boat. I have no idea how to find out basic information on it and how to determine what to ask for it. I need help with this. Mom’s going to be donating Dad’s books to the library of their home church in Knoxville and I guess she’ll be giving his clothes to Goodwill. She’s going to get rid of his tools, although I think I’ll take a number of them myself. Mom’s freaking out about finances, because she’s never had to worry about this before, but I’m trying to remind her that Dad left her in good shape. She doesn’t seem to get it sometimes.

We didn’t go to church today. Gretchen went biking and I want to cut the grass, but it poured last night and I think the grass is too wet to cut. I think we’ve had one day all summer long without rain. It’s been crazy! You’d think we live in Seattle or London. I’ve never seen a summer like this. I can’t wait for fall. At least football’s here. That’s something. I do think, however, that my Steelers are going to suck this year, and I have no idea how UT is going to do with their new coach.

I guess that’s all for now. Just wanted to give an update. More book reviews to come later this week. Cheers!

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