musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser

November 28, 2009

Dear Dad

My dad, Don R. Walker, passed away yesterday, with my sister and brother, Helen and Doug, by his side. He was 86 years old. As my sister mentioned in her message to relatives and friends, my dad was proud to be a veteran who served in the US Army during World War II. He was born in Missouri, and met my mom, Priscilla, when he was stationed near San Diego. They married in December 1942. They celebrated their 59th anniversary a few months before my mom’s death in 2002.

It’s a strange feeling when both your parents have passed, a kind of changing of the guard between generations. And yet, immersed in memories at the moment, in many ways I still feel like a child. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:08 pm PST, 11/28/09

April 13, 2009

I know there’s something good happening out there

I’ve been in a horribly bad mood, mainly due to family troubles of the kind that make me feel helpless and small — the news of the death of my oldest brother, and my dad’s loss of independence due to a stroke. I’ve also had some just silly bad luck at home, little things like stubbing a toe so hard a few days ago that I worried it was broken (it’s still sore), straining my back lifting a bag of cat litter yesterday, frustration over the economic crunch that everyone is feeling, when I really could use a newer more reliable car. Why is it that bad news and events seem to come in these overwhelming groupings that feel as if they’ll never end — or, if that isn’t what’s happening, why is it that my mind seems to make even the small problems feel big, once it starts on a downward spiral?

Today I knew I needed to crawl out of this hole I found myself in. I’ve been avoiding the news, because that usually just makes me feel worse, and worse was definitely not what I needed. I know some people think that’s an unrealistic attitude, but I find the news unrealistic, in its focus on everything bad and very little good except nonsensical news about the personal lives of celebrities — people who would likely just as soon be left alone when it comes to personal matters.

I decided to search for some positive news on the Internet, and I found this story on a blog called Great Pet Net that I thought I should share in case anyone else could use a lift: Jasmine the Mother Theresa Greyhound. Dogs tend to have a healing way about them, all around, in my opinion. But this one is exceptional. She certainly had a distant healing effect on me.

It’s a beautiful spring day here. Flowers are blooming, in spite of the gopher that keeps eating them. (Our gopher loves California poppies and nasturtiums. What does yours like?) The The Hooded Orioles arrived early from Mexico, and one almost flew right into me yesterday, maybe because I was wearing green and blended with the plants. Later I watched three Red-tailed Hawks circle the sky above our house. Clouds sail across the sky today in a stiff, delicious ocean breeze. My cat Tara is always up for a game of chase or a tumble with toys. Someone I care about is playing Bach on the piano in the next room.

Yesterday I spotted a long, sinuous cloud in the western sky that looked like a Japanese dragon. I didn’t get a picture, but if you’re familiar with the animated film, Spirited Away, it looked a lot like Haku in his natural form as a river spirit.

Now that I’ve set my mind back in its more customary direction, at least for the moment, good things are beginning to happen inside me again, too.

Every now and then I find it necessary to keep a gratitude journal, to find at least three things each day that I’m grateful for to write about. I think I’ll take up that practice again for a while.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:30 pm PST, 04/13/09

May 17, 2008

We’re cat people — even the dog

I’ve always been a cat person, and my spouse converted soon after we got together. Our dog is a cat person too, since he grew up with cats. Ever since Emily died in August, Indi has been lonely and bored. He started acting like a very old dog. We’re apparently boring, depressing people for a dog to own unless he has a cat around to spice things up, and he’d known and loved Emily all his life. Well, things got spiced up again yesterday, but good.

Meet Tara, named for the Goddess Tara, revered in Tibetan Buddhism as well as in Celtic lore. Cats are supposed to be worshiped, right? Tara thinks so.



In the second photo she’s making friends. Any time she ventures near her new doggy friend she receives a great big juicy kiss on the face, which of course any cat should be delighted to receive. Especially if she just finished washing the last kiss off her face. Indi also loves to get swatted in the face. I think Emily taught him to see that as fun, as a former owner had Emily de-clawed. Indi realized earlier today that Tara comes fully loaded, though she only swats when she’s playing.

We were a little concerned about the introduction, since lately Indi’s become enthusiastic about chasing strange cats out of his back yard. But when his new kitten was introduced as a member of the pack, he happily reverted to baby sitter. Tara took to him with no hissing, having been born into a home with dogs. She knows the drill. Avoid doggy kisses by cruising behind furniture and darting under beds. Especially after the doggy has just taken a long drink of water. (Very drippy business.) Indi is getting old, which you can tell by all that white fur on his face where it used to be mahogany. But having a kitten around has put a smile on all our faces and zest in our steps. (Handy when there’s a kitten darting about underfoot.)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:42 pm PST, 05/17/08

December 23, 2007

Trading holiday madness for holiday joy

A lot of people have been stressing over holiday preparations. I decided a few years ago that I would no longer fall into that trap. This is the first year I’ve managed to do it without much residual guilt, so this year is sort of a strange witnessing experience for me, where instead of being caught up in my own holiday madness, I have the opportunity to be aware how everyone else runs around doing what they think must be done or . . . or what? The holiday will fall on our heads like a big rock? Santa will fall out of the sky? Rudolph’s red nose will explode? The days will keep getting shorter instead of lengthening again, until they disappear? The Solstice is past now, so we can rest assured that didn’t happen. Whew!

In truth, each person tends to accomplish the things that are most important to that person. I know that sometimes in the past I wasn’t even conscious of what was really important to me. I was more conscious of what I thought was expected of me, or what everyone else seemed to consider important. I wanted everything for the people I loved, forgetting that what everyone really wants is . . . love. I felt guilty about what I didn’t do, or sometimes even resentful about what someone else didn’t do to help. But the important things got done just the same. Why can’t we be content with that and spend the rest of the time enjoying each other’s presence, or our memories of those who can’t be with us? (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 3:03 pm PST, 12/23/07

November 22, 2007

Over the river, and through the wood

We have holidays for a reason, and every culture in the world has had them. But sometimes we need to take a look at our reasons for celebrating, and exactly what it is that matters. We need a way to mark the passage of the seasons, to remind ourselves with lessons from the past why we have reason to celebrate, to review our mistakes as well as our blessings.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about this song that I learned as a kid for Thanksgiving: (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:22 pm PST, 11/22/07

October 26, 2007

Home safe and sound

We’re fine, our home is fine, and all our nearest neighbors are fine, as is most of downtown. We got home today and found everything just as we left it four days ago. In the meantime we stayed with my sister, her husband, and her two dogs, who kindly took us in along with our dog, and made us feel very secure and cared for. Thank you, all of you who contacted us and expressed your concern.

I’d never been evacuated before. It’s a surreal experience, especially early on when you don’t know whether you’ll have a home to return to. All I can say is that the more information local governments can provide evacuees the better, whether it’s positive or negative news. Information makes people feel less helpless and forgotten and tells them what they need to do, how to begin as soon as possible to get back to normal and to find a thread connecting them to their future. Sitting and waiting without much information doesn’t work for most of us. I learned in the past four days that it definitely doesn’t work for me, and I usually think of myself as a fairly patient person. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:13 pm PST, 10/26/07

March 14, 2007

Free books, first cars, and nightmares

I’ve been struggling for topics to blog about, but surely there can be no more chilling thought for a writer than people not wanting books even when they’re free. Someone posted, on a mystery mailing list I belong to, that she boxed up what I’ll presume were mystery novels, and placed them out in front of her home, labeled as free . . . and had no takers. This was in a small university town.

The story surprises me, because in our former neighborhood, where our back yard faced a community college parking lot, we had excellent luck putting things out in the driveway for free, including boxes of used books. Sometimes people took entire boxes rather than a book or two. Nearly everything we put out found a home, including an old sofa we’d acquired already well-used, which I was certain we’d wind up hauling to the dump. Ours wasn’t a busy street except during classes, when students parked there, so I have to assume it was sometimes students who took those items. Then again, my experience with that was ten years ago. Now everyone I see walking around has a cell phone stuck to one ear, and I’m lucky if they avoid colliding with me. Maybe they wouldn’t SEE the books, even with a big sign.

When I was a student, I would’ve browsed through any box of free books on offer, even though I had plenty of other reading that I should be doing instead, for school. My grandmother used to say that no one in our family could clean an attic, because we’d stop to read everything. (That was before bubble wrap, when we used newspaper to wrap fragile items.)

Which reminds me, I dreamed just last night about the car I drove as a student. I hadn’t thought about that car in years. It was a white 1964 Mercury Comet that had a lot of miles on it before I got it. The dream was a mini-nightmare, not because I found myself in that car, but because this creepy guy who’d just followed me out of a bank removed what I thought was a disguise — a wig, under which he had a shaved head — then tried to get me to give him a ride. I was suspicious of him, so first I told him that if I did that my dad would kill me. (I must’ve been a teenager in the dream, which explains the car.) He argued with me, but I got into my car and locked the doors. It isn’t the sort of dream that usually qualifies as a nightmare for me, but it woke me up, heart racing.

That first car had some real-life nightmarish qualities. One was its tendency to overheat if I drove it to a higher altitude. I love the mountains, so not being able to drive my first car to the mountains without it overheating frustrated me no end. As the car aged, it developed other idiosyncrasies. I think my dad and I were at one point the only two people on earth who knew how to start it, which involved pumping the gas pedal just the right number of times, then holding it down . . . oh well, I don’t remember the sequence now. It had other problems too, and I have to wonder now at my desire to drive the thing, but when you’re young I guess you just want to go. You don’t care what you put up with to do it.

That car’s most nightmarish problem was the front passenger door’s sticky latch. My parents paid for my gasoline on the condition that I drive my grandmother anywhere she wanted to go. One day the door didn’t catch, and it flew open when I made a turn. Grandma didn’t fall out, but that incident qualifies as more nightmarish than the dream that ratcheted up my heart rate last night.

What about you?

Do you rummage through boxes of free books whenever you see them?

What was your first car like?

Do different things scare you in dreams than in real life?

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:38 pm PST, 03/14/07

February 9, 2007

Cockatoo love

I love birds, in fact we both do, but after the death of our last little parakeet friend, Kiwi, we decided we didn’t want to keep birds in cages anymore, so the bird cages we’d collected over the years, actually quite a few of them it turns out, now hang on our patio in a kind of empty-cage symbolism—or pile of junk, whichever your preferred interpretation.

We enjoy bird friends at greater distance these days. When I came across the linked story today, I decided I had to share. It’s a love story, just in time for that love-related holiday around the corner—if you’re reading this post while it’s fresh. But why wait until a particular time of year to celebrate love?

Here for your enjoyment, straight from Australia, is a tale of love among cockatoos. Note the first time I read it I assumed the first page was all there was to it, and only saw the “next page” link on my second time through, so be aware, there’s more.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 5:14 pm PST, 02/09/07

November 24, 2006

A little late but Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Not because of the food so much, but because it’s not religious, not limited to any special interest or group like mothers, dads, veterans, lovers. No one need feel left out. It’s universal and focused on simply being grateful for what we have.

Hope you and yours had a peaceful and abundant day, and I wish you many more.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:50 pm PST, 11/24/06

July 27, 2006

This is going to sound radical

But Rhubarb inpsired me to think about estate taxes.

I wonder what would happen to our economy if inheritance was done away with. If, when you (and your spouse) died, if you hadn’t chosen charities to give the money to, the state came in and decided how to divide it up among the needy. No passing one’s wealth on to the next generation except in a contribution to the world as a whole.

Maybe people would stop hoarding so much wealth, since not only could they not take it with them, they couldn’t leave it with their children either. Their children would start out (or at least continue on) with no more than anyone else. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:13 pm PST, 07/27/06

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