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...


The thing I remember most about him is his singing.

Story has it that he joined the Lindsay Presbyterian Church because of its choir (and its choir director--Virginia Hanigan) He was, as a striking viking from Minnesota, a Lutheran. But singing mattered more than liturgy.

Story has it that he made a recording of "Always" and sent the record to my mother before he shipped out to the South Pacific.

Dad would sing whether you asked him or not. He lead the singing at any public event. He could be found at the weekly Kiwanis Club meeting leading the men of the small community in "America" or other patriotic songs.

He was Virginia's go-to tenor for solos. I have one recording of his singing- a solo in a song written by Virginia and Joe Ippolito (my high school senior humanities teacher). I play it every once in a while just to hear him sing.

One of those strongest memories that I have is of Dad singing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" to me at a family party. He had imbibed a bit but he stayed on key through the whole song.

He was the only person that could quiet my daughter when she was suffering from colic. He would walk the house singing any song he could think of.  She didn't sleep. She just lay her head on his shoulder and listened.

He was happiest when he was singing. He had no training- just a natural talent. Until he joined a barbershop group in a nearby town (Porterville). He was in his 60's then but his voice improved and his tone mellowed as he learned techniques ways to breathe.

But I never saw one of his barbershop performances. I was a single mom then and I was finishing law school and starting my career.

But now I would give anything to have hear them and to see the look on his face as he reveled in the performance.That has become a stronger feeling now that I have had the privilege of singing with a talented director (Gary Lamprecht) and a group of dedicated singers better known as Vocal Arts Ensemble who have taught me those same techniques. Singing with those who share your passion for music is indescribable. 

He had found his group and shared that passion.

Today, my high school friend, John Bastady sent me pictures for 1987 of the Mineral King Chorus (I THINK  that was the name) .

I got to see his face while he was singing.

He was happiest when he was singing.

Second row, second from the left. Harold "Giz" Gisvold
I know that feeling. I cry knowing that I share that feeling with him.

Of all my mixed feeling about my father, the thankfulness I feel for the gift of song outweighs everything else.

Friday, April 14, 2017



No weaving class today so I weave at home. It takes me three tries to get this far.


This shows that the warp yarn is on the back beam ready to be threaded onto the loom. I usually do this in one try. I am frustrated. But I persevere.


The ice maker on our brand new refrigerator goes kaput. We had the refrigerator delivered less than a month ago. So I go to the store where we purchased the refrigerator and advise customer service that the ice maker is kaput. 

They ask if I have done x,y,or z to try and fix the problem. I advise them that I have done so, per the manual provided with the refrigerator. I advise them that I purchased an additional warranty from the store so that they could come to our house and fix any potential issues with the refrigerator.

I am told that the warranty people located in the store do not handle large appliances (such as a refrigerator) and I must call the 888 number or I could by the same model refrigerator as a replacement for an additional $400. 

At this point I sense difficulty in the universe. I sit on a chair in the warranty area of the store and contact the 888 number. The automated person asks for the model and serial number. I have the receipt from the purchase of the refrigerator and answer the automated person with the number provided on the receipt. 

A LIVE person comes on the line to tell me that the numbers are invalid. I am told by said person that they will send a person out to my home to locate the serial number and then schedule an appointment to fix the refrigerator. The LIVE person asks when next month they can come to look for the serial number.

Sensing an apocalyptic eruption, I approach the store help desk with my phone in hand (LIVE person is now trying to tell me that I have to call the manufacturer of the refrigerator) and ask to see the manager of the department to explain to LIVE person that they are making no sense.

Department manager begins to explain the proper procedure for obtaining assistance in fixing a large appliance and that I should "calm down". Department manager is less than 2 feet from my face at the time. I raise my hand to silence him. (No, not THAT way. With palm towards him at chest high for me.) He tells me to get my hand out of his face!

I hang up on LIVE person and walk away from manager person.

I recall manufacturer and am told by another person that the refrigerator was sold to me in 2014 and the warranty was expire. Could I send a receipt showing that I had purchased the refrigerator in  March of 2017 and they would give me a LIMITED warranty for a used refrigerator.

I become VESUVIUS. USED? I don't think so. I explode all over poor service woman. She says her name is XXXX and can she be of help. (Finally a person with some skills in dealing with angry old women). Turns out that the refrigerator that I bought was a floor model that had "apparently been returned" and "refurbished". No notice to the consumer.

I walked out with a BRAND NEW, IN THE BOX refrigerator (to be delivered soon) with 30 bucks deducted from the price of the original purchase. Delivery is free! 


 I get to Home Depot later than I wanted (you think?) and search for a combination lock and tar remover. No employee had a clue as to where either item could be found. It took another hour to locate them.

Then, then, I go to COSTCO. Given the universal setting for the last two days this may not have been a wise choice. We were nearly cupboard bare so the trip was going to take time. Two hours later, with a cart stacked very strategically, a woman stops me and says "Wow, I never seen a cart that full." She then proceeds to follow me asking where I lived and if that was why I needed so much STUFF. I told her I lived East of Santa Margarita and she replies, "Oh, the Carrisso (her pronunciation) Plain. No wonder you're all so hungry!" I would have laughed but that would have encouraged her. (The Carizza Plain is known for its marijuana fields)

At the truck, finally. The next 45 minutes were spent strategically loading the cooler bags and other accoutrements with the appropriate items (frozen in one bag, refrigerated in another and dry goods in another---it is quite a system so that everything can make it home in one piece!). I am now officially tired. Some guy walks by and tells me I need a drink. He was right. I locked the truck and went and got a COSTCO fruit smoothie.

 I make it home in time to put everything away and jump in the car to go to VAE rehearsal. 

AND I AM STILL MAD AT THE STORE MANAGER regarding the refrigerator.....


 Go to a doctor's appointment. It is a GYN appointment and I am not happy that I am going to one of THOSE at this age. Appointment is for 9:15. I am there at 9:00 as instructed on the new patient forms. At 10:30 my name is called. Doctor  enters room at 11:30. Doctor leave at 11:45. Pleasant enough but clearly upset that she is dealing with an old lady.

 When I get home I am regaled with the tale of woe regarding the scheduling of a 5 year  medical procedure. (If you are over 50 you know which one...) So, being the kind, gentle thing that I am (and truly thinking that I have hit all the less than helpful service people around) I give the doctor's office a call. The upshot of a 40 minute conversation (using the term very loosely) the office personnel will send the appropriate forms by mail (no, they do not use email...). The patient must fill out the forms and bring them IN PERSON to the doctor's office where they will photocopy his insurance cards. The patient will return home and wait for the doctor to evaluate the forms and determine whether an office visit must be scheduled. If so, the staff will contact the patient to make that appointment.

If an office appointment is not deemed necessary the office staff will contact the patient as to the appointment date for the procedure. NOT once is the convenience of the patient considered. EVER.


 I stayed home. The ice maker started to work. The ice maker quit again. I had to thread the blanket on my loom 4 times. Seems counting to 4 is getting more and more difficult.


 I go into town to have lunch with the daughter. She is desperately trying to get all her work in order so she can fly to Fiji tomorrow. So I take the car to the car wash where I have previously paid to have the interior detailed. (The dogs had use of the back seat during the rains and the vehicle was no longer fit for human habitation) I had tried on several occasions to call the car wash to schedule said detailing but no one ever answered the phone. 

Knowing that the direct approach is the best approach (see refrigerator story, ante) I drove in and explained my situation. I was told that I had to call to make an appointment as they were all full in the detailing department.

My response was that I would then back out and try to contact them again. I was offered a free car wash (there were three cars behind me!) I relented and let them wash the car.

Now is when things got interesting.....

Bolstered by my refrigerator win, I went to the office and asked for an appointment. I was told that there would not be an opening until April 29! I told the gentleman that I would be out of the country then. He insisted that was the soonest that a slot would be available. I said, "Fine, I would like my money back."

You would have thought I had asked for the moon! "I have to talk to my manager. You are causing me trouble" etc. He leaves and comes back saying that they can do the car next week. I continue asking for my money back. He leaves again.

Now the first guy (from outside) comes in and tells the counter guy (in another language of which I have some understanding) we will do it now, tell her now.


I got the detailing done, had lunch with the kid, and got my nails done.

I WIN!!!!



Saturday, March 25, 2017


I have been asked to join a friend on a small ship cruise of the Mediterranean. From Barcelona to Rome with 2 extra days in each city. Here is the website. Take a peek and tell me that this is NOT a jeans and sweatshirt kinda thing.

Now, mind you, it took me less than 2 seconds to scream "Yessss!" I clearly did not take the time to consider that I might need something other than jeans, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt or two. 
But now I am.
And I have a problem.
I may need a ----oh, god, no-----a dress..........


I do not particularly like dresses but on some occasions I have been seen in one. And I certainly have not tried to buy one of late.

The problem is not so much that I don't like dresses but, well, uh, er,....
I have "grown" since I last shopped for such a thing. 

You see I use to be tall and rather slender. Not skinny but I was built a little like a stick. I could wear almost anything and look decent in it. By that I mean skirt, dresses, pants. There wasn't much to show off and very little to hide.

Hell, when a client complained that I had "flaunted my cleavage at him" my employer teased me (back in the day when sexual harassment was an unknown issue) that the claim would fail as "there were facts not in evidence"!

It was easy to shop for clothes.

But now that I am "mature" the letter X has entered my shopping vocabulary.

Which is why the mere thought of a dress is distressing.

I have looked in every catalog. Been to every on-line site that carries my size. The dresses are stylish. But they are mostly just a bigger size of the one made for the young and the thin. 

I use to wear horizontal stripes and not think about it. But a dress with horizontal stripes from top to bottom on an X size woman who carries the proof of age like a 45 year old man who is still drinking too much beer? No no no no no no no no!  NO!

I refuse to LOOK like the keg of beer he drank last night!

Then there are the "chiffon" dresses. Flowing, light little things with SPANDEX at the hip! WTF?????

Or the sheath dress with darts down the front. Now "they" want me to look like a pregnant whale!

You see, while my waist has grown, my upstairs accoutrements have not kept pace. My client may win that claim of his, but not by much. Besides, I would have to raise those things up from my knees to make that work.

It is possible, I believe to be stylish without flaunting my physical failings. I know lots of women who can do that. They are large and MAGNIFICENT!

So, to the manufacturers of women's clothing. PLLLLEEEEAASE! Just try to use the laws of form and function in your designs. It isn't difficult. Large women don't look like smaller women. They don't wear the same things. They are proud of their size (it IS a sign of maturity). Dress them nicely and appropriately. 

Anyway, I am back to looking at dressy pants in hopes that there is a lenient dress code on board. If not, I just might have to sue them.