About Me — Don Stouder

The wind off the ocean, and stories left to be told.

Don Stouder
About Me Stories
Published in
7 min readDec 10, 2020


Being a hospice chaplain in the age of Covid. Photo by author.

What a lovely invitation; to be asked to talk about myself. So first I read through some “about me” stories to see how other people did it. Some of you are so creative and original! And I have written introductions and book covers for myself but that all sounds so clinical. I do like lists; maybe I should give that a try. I am a 61 year-old with ADD and dyslexia, and no way do I make it through a day without lists. If you pointed a video camera in my direction you would see that I change tasks about every 20 minutes unless I have a list to hold my feet to the fire.

I am a bit of an over-achiever. It took a few years of therapy to figure out that I was always trying to please my mother; I was the youngest of four boys, and she reminded us constantly that we weren’t good enough. At anything. Once I worked through that (age 35, maybe?) I decided to keep being an over-achiever just because it was fun.

The other thing I did early on to help my ADD was feed the adrenalin monster. I started working as an EMT-paramedic when I was 16, along with the side-canyons that went with that like volunteer firefighter and mountain rescue certifications and racing sailboats and even becoming a pilot. Actually, the pilot thing was later. But I digress.

Most fun plane I ever flew, a Stearman. Photo by Glen Daly.

Then AIDS hit, and all my friends died, and my brother died, and my whole life became caregiving and volunteering and activism. Oh except for becoming the first openly gay foster parent in San Diego county, and then adopting my foster son, and then suddenly being a father to a teenager. I told you I liked adrenalin. It turned out I also liked spirituality and counseling for folks with AIDS, and so I decided to become a chaplain, which required quite a bit of school and internships and a church that would ordain a queer.

At the time the Episcopal Church was not that church, so I ended up a Unitarian Universalist via independent Catholicism. I hold advanced degrees in theology and counseling, and since the early nineties I have worked as a hospital and hospice chaplain in AIDS, trauma, pediatric, organ donation, and hospice settings. I have been on-call my entire adult life. I have stopped counting how many death notifications I have made in my career. You only get one chance at it and you have to do it right.

Remember pagers?

Over time, I went from religious to spiritual, like pretty much everyone I know. I consider myself a humanist now, with great appreciation for all of my spiritual teachers, both living and long dead.

Sedona, AZ is my spiritual happy place. Photo by author.

Relationships. The first one was a “partner”, and that lasted 10 years. We were immature and didn’t know how to keep a relationship alive. The second one was a “domestic partner” and that lasted five years, twice. He died of alcoholic liver disease. In the end we had broken up and lived separately because I didn’t want to watch him kill himself. He still made sure that I was the one that found him dead. The third is a “husband” and we have been together for 5 years. He is the one that saved my life, in every way that needed saving. I am a writer and a poet and I still cannot write a poem that expresses how much better my life is with him in it. I did try. You can find it on Medium ☺

I proposed to him in Venice. He has the biggest heart and I am so sorry honey that I didn’t stop that time when you wanted to help that rooster that really did cross the road but I promise I will next time, I swear.

Me and the Huz in Seattle. He is the handsome one holding the flowers. Photo by author.

I think it’s time for a few lists, yes? The first one will be “Random Things I Think Are Cool”.

I have learned a ton about wine, and my husband and I are part owners of a winery in Temecula Valley, California called Monte De Oro. Google us.

Only about 1% of the US population are licensed pilots. Only about 1% of licensed pilots have a tailwheel rating (one wheel on the tail). I am one of them. It was hard. I am really proud of that.

I grew up in New Jersey, spent 30 years living in San Diego, and now I live near Palm Springs. I love the desert, but I have loved things about everywhere I have lived.

I have been a writer and poet since I was 14, and I have published 4 books and about a dozen articles, mostly for work. Also a couple chapbooks. And a zillion really good sermons. Something about the age of Covid-19 has made me incredibly creative, like an 8-month adrenalin bender. Has that happened to you? That’s how I ended up on Medium. I have had two great writing mentors; my 6th grade creative writing teacher whose name I can’t remember, and the late Steve Kowit. Google him and buy his poetry workshop book. You will be glad you did.

Our amazing grandkids. Photo by Leng Caloh.

I am also a pretty serious photographer and drone pilot. I have had work accepted to shows, actually sold some, and my photos have nearly 3 million hits on Upsplash. And flying drones fast is BADASS.

I learned how to sail in my teens along the shores of a beautiful lake in the Adirondacks called Crossett Pond. I ended up owning and racing sailboats for over 40 years.

As a medical ethicist, I have served on the ethics committees of hospitals and regional groups, but the most interesting was a two-year term on the United Network for Organ Sharing National Bioethics Committee, where we worked on national policy for organ donation and transplantation. I wrote a number of white papers there that I’m very proud of.

I love to lead expressive writing groups, and I love to lead dream groups based on the work of Jeremy Taylor. I started poetry therapy groups back in the days of AIDS; some amazing healing (and writing) came out of those groups.

My “late career” day job is as a grief counselor for a hospice near Palm Springs, California. Because I have all this training and experience and nothing left to prove, I get to be helpful and compassionate and creative just for the fun of it. I love being in my sixties.

The view from our balcony near Palm Springs. Photo by author.

Some of my inspirations and influencers, in no particular order, are Edward Abbey, Thomas Jefferson, Barack Obama, Bobby Kennedy and MLK, Stephen King, Walt Whitman, Harvey Milk, Al Gore, NASA and the Apollo Program, Charles Lindberg, John Denver, Rumi, Fr Matthew Fox, Bishop John Shelby Spong, and Mary Oliver.

I have been a lifelong volunteer as a way of dabbling in other careers and interests. How cool is being a US Forest Service Fire Tower Lookout? I have also been a park ranger, wilderness search and rescue tech, nonprofit board member (not sure how many times), and recently got trained by Al Gore to be a Climate Reality Leader.

At the moment, my Bucket List has thirteen items on it and I won’t bore you with that whole show but the two things I think about most these days are preaching a sermon in a famous church and taking my husband to Yosemite. Oh and writing less run-on sentences.

The Little Prince, docked in Mission Bay, San Diego. Photo by author.

This was fun to write, but I imagine the tagline on my articles would have been enough; queer, poz, INFP, climate activist, poet, photographer, chaplain, counselor, pilot, sailor, ethicist, professor, husband, father, grandfather, friend.

There. I told you I was an over-achiever.

Feel free to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linked In. You can also check out my website at donaldstouder.com, and of course, follow me here on Medium.



Don Stouder
About Me Stories

Al Gore-trained Climate Reality Leader. Gay, Poz, INFP, Writer, Photographer, Chaplain, Counselor, Pilot, Sailor, Ethicist, Professor, Husband, Father, Friend.