Saturday, November 11, 2017


I met the guy in the front row of this picture in 1990. He was a retired Marine aviator. He retired as a "full bird colonel".

He was sitting in a plastic chair in a hospital room visiting his very ill wife. He had his legs crossed and his arms crossed over his chest. The body language alone told me to be VERY careful with this guy.

He was a Marine in every sense of the word. He showed no emotion. He got up to greet me and then sat down. Crossed his legs and arms again and I didn't say a word.

We (the now spouse and I) stayed in a hotel that night. There was a family dynamic that I was not privy to at the time which separated father and son. It did not please me.

 I had met the man a few times after that and was not longer terrified of him. But we still were wary of each other when Lois (his wife) got very sick again.

This time she was on a ventilator and could not speak. But the men in the room kept asking her open ended questions! (Do you want the large or the small pillow?...) Remember that my mother was a nurse and I had been taught how to communicate in situations like this.

I asked if she wanted a pillow. She nodded. I asked if she wanted in directly behind her head. She shook her head "No".

I continued on that way until I could pinpoint the spot where she wanted the pillow and I put it there.

It was near Christmas time and I knew that she loved that holiday and loved decorating her house. So I told her about my experience of trying to put up Christmas lights on windows with scotch tape. She reacted with delight. Eyes wide, trying to smile and patting my hand.

Lois didn't make it home but Dad Mueller observed and learned that day.

From that day on the formidable Marine aviator was my friend.

I had recently learned to play golf. It was a sport for which he and his son shared a deep and life-long passion. We began to go down to play golf with him. He took me as his partner every time. He NEVER criticized or attempted to teach me anything. We just played.

One year he made a driver for me. Best club I every swung. I actually hit a 250 yard drive with it once!

But my favorite story about Dad Mueller had to do with my brother Dan.

Dan and I were staying at Dad Mueller's house in Oceanside. Our father was dying of cancer and under hospice care in Escondido. Every day, Dad Mueller would either cook us breakfast or take us out to his favorite breakfast restaurants. He believed that we needed good fuel to get us through each day of our vigil.

On one particular restaurant the server made the mistake of placing the bill between Dan and Dad. Dan grabbed the bill (as his father had taught him to do!). Dad Mueller looked at Dan and said, "Give that to me, please." At which point Dan (being the smartass that he could be) replied, "Why should I?"

I SWEAR I could see the eagles rising up from Dad Mueller's shoulders. (No, he wasn't in uniform and there were no gold eagles on the clothes that he was wearing!) But Dad Mueller straightened to attention, turn his eyes to Dan's and said (very quietly), "Because I asked you to, son."

Dan handed him the bill.

Dad Mueller flew Corsairs in WWII, he flew helicopters in Viet Nam and he flew in Korea. He served at the Pentagon.

Like most who served in war, he rarely spoke of it.

He could be very strict.

But with me.....we shared a little golf, a little dinner, a glass or two of wine. And we laughed a lot.

I miss him.

Saturday, November 4, 2017


Oceano Dunes, November 4, 2017
He is my big brother. He is all that that title conveys. I have held him up as an idol, the perfection that I believed him to be. And then I realized what an incredible burden that placed upon him. The separation it caused in our relationship. The judgement that it cast upon him.

And, slowly, I let that fairy tale slip out of my thoughts and off his shoulders.

He is my brother. My blood. The family that shared my childhood.

And tonight, like a few days this last summer, I got to be with him and share in his joyous family.

It started with a walk on the beach, watching whales breach the horizon. Listening to his stories and telling mine.

And on the way back... a rainbow.

But the fun had only started.

I had been invited to the 45th Family Weekend of my sister-in-laws family. This year it was held in a B and B in Arroyo Grande. A home converted to guest house use with sufficient bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate the entire clan.

There was much conversation. And much laughter. I even met a fellow drunk (also in recovery) and we shared things that non-drunks don't really understand. (Not that non-drunks don't try to understand. They just haven't been to that village and don't know the language. It's kinda like having someone your own age to talk to.)

And then there was dinner. A wonderful meal prepared by my sister-in-law's brother-in-law. (Got that? My brother's wife's sister's husband.) Salmon fillets and mushroom risotto. OMG!!!! Oh, I forgot to mention a hot shrimp and cheese dip appetizer. Lord, save me from all the calories I consumed!

Many of the folk I had met before but some were new to me. One thing they all shared was a love of each other and a curiosity about the world around them.

I was asked about VAE and touring with that group. I told them about singing in Santa Trinita Church in Florence, Italy. I told them about the amazing food we were fed by villagers in France. I told them what it was like to share those experiences with my daughter. And they, in turn, told me their stories.

But it came down to sitting next to my brother at the dinner table. Talking about our brother Dan. Talking about our kids. Talking about our high school math teacher, Mr. Stephen Hannigan.  Talking about first dates in ages past. Talking about our lives.

It was a wonderful few hours with my brother.

I will treasure it forever.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Daniel Edward Gisvold

I miss him every day.

I see his face every time I see a tractor-trailer rig on the highway.

I hear his voice every time some one makes a pun.

I hear him ranting about politics and know he would be right in the middle of the controversies of today.

He was my mentor and I was his.

He was my biggest fan and I was his.

He once told me that I could do whatever made me happy. He might disagree with my choice but he would always support me.

He let me sit on his porch for two weeks, drinking his wine and saying nothing. He understood my pain.

He understood my joys.

He wasn't perfect, thank the heavens.

He was Dan.

He was my brother.

He was born on August 4, 1947.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Talkin' to Myself: I HATE COMPUTER DESKS!

Talkin' to Myself: I HATE COMPUTER DESKS!: Last night was a perfect night to relax playing mindless games and reading emails (and Facebook posts). I often do this just before I have t...


Last night was a perfect night to relax playing mindless games and reading emails (and Facebook posts). I often do this just before I have to prepare the dogs for night-night. That ritual involves carrots and a trip outside.

But, as has been its wont, life intervened.

I was sitting at my white computer desk which was a table area attached to a cubicle bookcase. You know, the ones that have 12x12 squares to store all that stuff we seem to collect and never get rid of. I had a bunch of stuff in the cubicles and my printer sits majestically on top. The desk part held my laptop, a keyboard, a large monitor, a small Bose speaker and the land line phone. Oh, there is small desk lamp.

I have had this desk for the six years we have been in our home. It had served me well. (besides, it was cheap!)

Last night, the desk, hereinafter known as "it", decided to relax. Well, relax isn't quite the word...

It decided to COLLAPSE.

It let loose of its attachment to the cubicle bookcase and collapsed towards the floor sending all of the items it supported sliding towards the cubicle. This is because the other end of it was being supported by my chair. The armrests became desk rests.

I was, unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) between the armrests. But it did not deign to touch me. Just the armrests.

The dogs, as is their wont, raised the alarm with a great hew and cry which roused the spouse.

After extricating me, I was left to disentangle the pile of electronics that it had left behind. This was a wise choice on the part of the spouse.

So today I purchased a much sturdier desk. Well, it is not called a desk. It is called a workbench.

I don't think this one will feel the need to relax.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Firey Thoughts

This is what I saw as I was driving home on Monday. I knew that there was a fire on Park Hill road but I didn't, until that moment, know how close to our home the fire was. Mel had only a few minutes to grab the dogs, the cat, the computers and little else.

We were lucky. We had a place to stay and a place to board the dogs. But it was still stressful. Anxiety is an amazing animal and we were subject to its whims.

To start with, I had lost my wallet the day before. I had no ID, no ATM card, no credit cards and no way to access money because my checkbook was still sitting in its little niche in my loom room. I had no change of clothes. I was wearing flip flops and shorts and a summer top. No toothbrush. No meds.

But Mel had grabbed my CPAP machine. He had his priorities after all! ( he likes to sleep without me snoring away!)

I felt helpless when I was stopped on Park Hill and was told that the road was closed and I could not get to my spouse to help him get out. We were under mandatory evacuation orders. Yikes!

And here is the first act of kindness that occurred. We have a guy building our back fence. He has been clearing brush for us as well and generally helping out. His back story is full of success and defeat which makes him very human. His name is David.

He saw the plume of smoke from his home and called Mel. If not for that call Mel would not have had time to get anything packed or in the car or begin to think about being safe. And about the time that Mel is beginning to , well, not panic but become highly concerned, David shows at the front door and gets Mel, animals, computers and little else, into our truck and out of the area. Later David was helping others in the area (friends of his) when he got trapped by the fire. He got his friends (and himself) out of danger but, as he put it, "it was a hairy night". I can not thank him enough for his help and his friendship. Besides, he builds a really good fence!

After Mel meets me in Atascadero (the town where daughter lives about 20 minutes north of us), I take the dogs and head to Cambria. Because, while Mel was packing, I was calling our dog trainer to see if we could board the dogs there. He had a full house but he made room for George and Gracie. They stayed happy and safe through everything. It was Marty's training (Rajun Kennels) that made them obey commands to get in the truck and be calm. They slept.......
 Without Marty we would have been in a far more serious situation because daughter's house was not dog proof. (Damaged fence with lots of hidden places for dogs to use in escaping!)

But Marley the cat was with us. But we had no cat food nor a litter box. Solution? I stop at PetCo in Paso Robles on my way back from Cambria. Great idea for me to pick up the necessarys of cat ownership.

One MINOR problem. I don't have ID, ATM card, credit cards or cash. And my trusty checkbook is in my loom room. Solution? Daughter calls store and arranges to pay for items we need over the phone with her credit card. Perfect!

Except the store has just changed computer systems and the clerk can't override the computer's demand for a card swipe.

Imagine for a moment you have been through what has been described above. And you are now really flummoxed. And the clerk turns to you and says wait here. You stand in front of the register feeling completely out of control when the clerk, who really is the store manager, walks back up with a fist full of store gift cards. She runs them through the computer that wanted something to swipe. I ask her when she will be on duty next so I can pay her and she says that I have been through enough for the day and to take care of my fur baby. (Something to that effect. I really don't remember the exact words now cuz I was sort of overwhelmed by the sheer generosity of the woman and I had started to cry.)

One of my friends said, when I thanked her for her expressions of concern and willingness to assist, "it takes a village". So very, very true.

But it takes a kind village. Many of my friends and acquaintances offered assistance. One offered her 5th wheel, others offered their homes or funds to see us through. It was humbling and overwhelming.  You and the three people I described above, two friends and a stranger, made this journey through a wildfire an amazing statement of generosity and humanness. And I thank you all!

So my thoughts now turn to all the countries in the world and all the people in them that are faced with and deal with displacement. If I, a very comfortable white American, feel helpless and overwhelmed with a wildfire, what do the people of Allepo or Tikrit or Mosul or a hundred other places feel when they are forced to leave?

I have touched a tiny edge of what they feel. A tiny, tiny edge.

I am home and safe. The dogs come home tomorrow. My life will return to its very comfortable state. The people Allepo, Tikrit, Mosul or the hundred other place will not.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Talkin' to Myself: FATHER

Talkin' to Myself: FATHER: The thing I remember most about him is his singing. Story has it that he joined the Lindsay Presbyterian Church because of its choir (an...