Monthly Archives: June 2014


0613 fearFear is part of life.  We are wired to react to threats in a number of ways.  Fight, flight, freeze, hide, or cry for help.  In our society, there is little to fear.  In most of the country there is little violence.  Sometimes we experience a flash of fear in traffic, or when we slip on the ice.  For the most part, however, we are safe.


Why, then, to we have a culture of fear?  Gun and ammunition sales are booming, security system companies are busy, people are taking self-defense classes, and living with fear and anxiety on a daily basis.


Within our generally safe country there are acts of violence.  School shootings, workplace violence, robberies, gang shootings, random killings, it goes on and on.  These acts, while horrific, are but a small part of life in a country of 314 million people.  They just do not affect most people.  The only time I have been truly terrified was when I was caught in a lightning storm when hiking above timberline.   I have never run so fast as that day.


The most important fear creator is television.  It is hard to get good video of a drop in the unemployment rate, but easy to show police cars, fire engines, ambulances, yellow crime scene tape, and bodies on gurneys.  The longest running TV shows are cop shows and doctor shows, with lives hanging in the balance every week.  “If it bleeds, it leads”, the mantra of local TV news.


Yes, they are showing real violence, but I have personally never been a victim of violence.  As a volunteer firefighter, I did see the aftermath of terrible accidents, but we were there to respond to those events.  In my daily life in the same area, I never saw an accident.  We are however, deluged with depictions of violence.


Political groups use fear to get support for their agendas.  Fear of economic collapse, of attacks by armed liberals, of rampant gang violence, of invasion by militant Canadians wielding hockey sticks, of invading Chinese hordes. Oh, and let’s not forget aliens and Zombies.   I may be a bit silly, but you only have to watch the news to see the fear.


Perhaps the most fearful group is the gun owners.  The gun literature is filled with articles on how to defend one’s home or auto from armed intrusion.  Sales of AR-15 rifles with 30 round magazines are booming (15 rounds in Colorado).  There is a general ammunition shortage as the hoarders buy almost everything on the shelves.  The fear generated by the gun press is feeding on itself, fear begetting fear.  Here are all these manly men buying guns and ammo to protect themselves from…nothing.


Another popular way to generate fear is with a conspiracy theory.  New World Order, International Jewish Conspiracy, International Communist Conspiracy, the Illuminati, Masons, Catholics. It goes on and on.  The fun thing is that you can make up a conspiracy, write about its nefarious aims, and watch it take a life of its own.  Net result, more fear.


The source of fear is inner.  Guns, politics, survival hoarding, nothing will alleviate the inner fear except dealing with the feelings generating fear.  Those feelings usually are a product of an abusive childhood.  Only confronting the feelings and working through the damaged thinking will work.  AR-15’s just don’t help.

A Book Review

9781608198061This week is a book review. Roz Chast, a cartoonist for The New Yorker, has come up with a graphic memoir.  I enjoy her cartoons, all quirky, EMOTIONAL, and full of insight about people.  Her new book is about her parent’s last years and death, a big subject for me.  Carol, her sister Judi, and I did a blog about caregiving for elderly parents.  The elderly parents are dead, as is our active blogging, but the website is still up.


So when “Can’t we talk about something more Pleasant” came out, I bought it. I think I am fairly typical for persons my age-I’m not a reader of graphic novels.  I have read some graphic stories, but this was my first full-length graphic anything.  Ms. Chast is a master at communicating feelings with her work and caregiving for dying parents is full of feelings.  Often children of parents who are at the end of life don’t really like their parent, and all sorts of feelings come up.  Guilt, shame, resentment, anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, and a sense of futility are some of the feelings.  The book evokes them all.


I am having trouble writing this review because the book brings all these feelings up in me, making it hard to get any flow in my writing.  I have been working on this review for three days and have 230 words written.  When we did the caregiving blog this happened to me.  Writing about subjects other than caregiving is easy.


Roz Chast does so well communicating her feelings as well as her parent’s feelings that I feel like I know them personally.  I appreciate her ability to express her reactions to her parent’s denial and show the dynamic with her parents that shaped her life and the way she dealt with their declines and deaths.  Her memoir must have been more painful to write as it was to read.


I tend not to read or write about books that I found painful to read.  This one is an exception.  I recommend it to anyone who has aging parents or is a parent.  Roz Chast deals with a difficult issue in a creative and intensely personal way.

What’s Happening


Going Up

It’s Friday the thirteenth.  The moon is full.  The sun is giving off huge solar flares.  Mercury is retrograde.

Maybe this explains our week.  Our refrigerator icemaker quit for the second time.  The oven went black and the door is locked from a cleaning cycle for the second time.  Parts for the oven are on order.  A driver forced Carol into the curb in the alley by the bank and a trim strip got torn off the side of her car.

I went to work at Four Mile this morning and the group that was scheduled to come with 110 kids went to History Colorado instead due to some mix-up.  One of the horses is lame.

I went to buy electrical conduit for our garage project, bought the wrong stuff, went back, and they didn’t have everything in stock so I had to go to another place.  I thought the electrician was going to install the conduit, but he is busy and then I forgot about it until the day before the City Inspector was due to come.  The conduit is in and inspected.  No more deep trench across the back yard.

The old garage door opener we saved won’t work, so we have to have a new one.  The muffler fell off the lawn mower.  It is LOUD.  In the process of setting the forms for the concrete, the sprinkling system piping got cut in two places.  I had to go to two places for parts for that.

On the positive side, the garage walls are up and the rafters are being built.  We will have lots of storage space above our cars-no space robbing trusses.  Ed, the contractor on the garage is a joy to work with.  His business is Colorado Craftsmen.

Carol’s neck and shoulder hurt.  My wrist hurts.  I am not sleeping as well as usual.  The last installment of Cosmos has come and gone (if you haven’t seen it, do so).

I am waiting on a letter from the VA about my disability since I won the appeal.  The DAV told me they usually take around 60 days.  It has now been 70 days.  Well, actually, I applied in March 2009, so it has been more than 70 days.

Enough complaining.  All things considered, life is good.  We are going to have a secure garage for our cars, we will have a nice patio, and lovely brick walks.  The garden is doing well,

Home Improvement 2014

Old Garage

Old Garage

We are adding a two car garage and solar electricity to our 1937 vintage house.  We thought it would be a fairly straightforward project, but it is not working out that way.  We had a brick one car garage, an ugly carport, and a parking pad, all on the alley.

Step one, I mangled the sprinkling system in an attempt to move it out of the way of the larger garage.  It cost $140.00 to get that fixed after a three week wait, then the concrete form setters drove their stakes through one of the lines.  Ed, our contractor and a great guy, replied to my email with “oops, sorry”.  Of course, I found the leak while watering the lawn and garden just before two big thunderstorms.

The main problem is delay.  We waited two weeks on the demolition contractor.  We saved 800 bricks from the garage for walks and a patio.  The demo contractor recycles bricks, so saving those bricks cost us $300.

We waited another week for tree removal, than another week to get the tree stumps ground.  After another wait, the concrete contractor showed up to start setting forms.  They had to chop out two stumps.  The first forms they set were too close to the alley.  They had to take them out anyway to bring in road base (50% gravel, 50% dirt).  That entire process took two more weeks.  Yesterday, they poured the concrete.  The evening rain was perfect, cooling the concrete as it cured.

All the delays are part of any construction project these days.  The recession of 2008 put a lot of construction people out of business.  Now the economy is back, but the companies are not.  Those in business are overbooked and having trouble getting skilled workers.  None of the subcontractors’ workers have English as their first language.  They are all good guys, hard-working and fun to be around.  I provided some cervezas as they finished the day.  One cause of the labor shortage is the oil boom in North Dakota.  Natives up there used to say that the climate kept the riff-raff out.  Lots of riff-raff up there now.  Lots of money as well.  People go where the work and good money are.

Ed is going to do the fencing, which is a good thing as I called three fence contractors and only one returned the call.  We called three solar contractors, got responses from all three, but one never submitted a bid.

New Garage Concrete

New Garage Concrete

The garage should go up starting next week.  Many decisions to make.  Doors, lighting, roofing color, whether to replace the roofing on the sunroom where more solar panels are going, what kind of gate latches, finding a hardscape contractor (I was going to do it myself, but decided I am too old) paint colors, on and on.

In addition, we added painting the north gable on the house to the project.  I got up there to scrape the old paint.  The trim on the bottom of the siding and the bottom board of the siding are rotten.  Another task and some more expense.

The next door neighbors are learning about home improvement as well.  They decided to replace the roof themselves.  Mom, dad, and kid brother came from Omaha last week to help.  five people, fairly skilled, worked Friday through Monday and didn’t finish.  Mom and kid brother had to go back to Omaha, wife went to work.  Dad and husband worked Tuesday, Dad on Wednesday.  Thursday morning Dad worked two hours and left for Omaha to deal with the water in the attic and basement from the big storm there.   The roof is about 95% finished.  They will finish this weekend and have a nice roof with new skylights.

A lot of this story is about things that are fairly normal for any project, but the delays are somewhat unusual.  We did the kitchen last year with little delay as it went along.  When it is finished, this year’s project will make our little nest more livable and more fun.  I don’t call the process itself much fun.