Aug 13

Unconventional and Comfortable: How We Met

Dean & Marycalire 1979Dean and I met in a very unconventional way when we were both 22. I was working at “Higher Horizons” an adapted “Outward Bound Program” for troubled youth when Dean interviewed for a job there. We were quite understaffed and overworked at the time. Back then it was an unconventional program which meant our boss had an unconventional way of interviewing job applicants (something I’m not sure he could get away with now!)  He would send perspective staff on a 3-day trip with a group of juvenile delinquents and seasoned staff and when they all got back the staff would tell him what we thought of the applicant.

Dean had just returned from Alaska when he came to “interview” with our program. He had successfully finished a 42-day mountaineering expedition to the peak of Mt. McKinley (tallest mountain in North America).

The staff at Higher Horizons were all in their 20’s and worked hard and played harder. We lead 28-day wilderness trips with up to 14 youth from NYS (New York State) juvenile correction facilities. Two or three staff were responsible for the trouble youth 24 hours a day for up to 14 days at a time, until other staff came in to replace you.

When the trip was over, we always had a staff meeting to debrief with our boss and then went out together to unwind. Dean did his “interview” on a 3-day orientation trip and the staff had been “unwinding” the night before, so we were pretty tired. That morning we loaded the kids and the gear up in the van and drove up to the Adirondack Mountains to the trailhead. Dean didn’t get much training from us before we left, but it was obvious that he was a skilled wilderness leader. It was raining when we got there and we had to hike about 8 miles into the lake where we would set up camp. When we got there, we set up our tarps and spread our sleeping bags; it was still raining so we all got under our tarps. We talked for a while with the boys, but the staff all ended up falling asleep since we had been “unwinding” till the wee hours the night before.

We woke hours later to find that Dean had all 14 boys under control and they had collected wood, started a fire and were making dinner. We (the staff) felt terrible that we had all fallen asleep and left Dean to figure out what to do with all these kids, but we were all impressed with how comfortable he was.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we all felt that Dean had passed the interview with flying colors.

Because we were so short staffed and I was one of the few senior staff I was pulling more and more days in the field with little time off. About a month after Dean’s “interview” I complained to my boss about being understaffed. I asked him about that guy who came out with us last month, said he was good, why don’t you hire him and he did.

At that time, I had no idea that we would eventually marry. Honestly! It wasn’t until we had worked together for almost a year that we had our first date. This year marks our 34th anniversary, all these years later; I’m not sure why it has worked! Maybe because we are both so comfortable with whom we are that we have been able to build a beautiful lifestyle together!

Aug 13

On Being a Grandmother

Thompsons 1961Being a grandmother is one of the most rewarding and fun seasons in my life. I always felt cheated as a child, that all I had was a somewhat grumpy grandma. My grandma was widowed at a young age with two little boys during the depression. I felt sorry for her, but she was not fun like some of my friends doting grandmothers. (In the picture on the left my grandma is the one on the right. Ironically the woman on the left looking less than happy is my mother’s friend, Aunt Ella, who lived with us at that time. I remember her as being a very kind lady and have happy memories of her. By the way, the picture is also of my dad and sisters. I’m the little girl in pink! )

So far, my husband and I have been blessed with four grand children. Number one is a four-year-old girl. Number two is a two and a half year old girl. Number three and four are twins, a boy and a girl, and just 4 months old. Number one had to have heart surgery at three months. We were expecting a week of recovery and then home, but it turned into over a month in the intensive care, a second surgery and two bouts with pneumonia. During that time being a grandmother involved lots of praying and supporting our poor little number one’s parents so they could stay at the hospital with her. She did recover and has grown into her beautiful indomitable little self. She was born with Down syndrome, but that doesn’t keep her down and she charms everyone she meets.

Number two is a whole different story. She burst into the world just before Christmas, a sublime gift with a bald head and deep blue eyes. She was content and such an easy baby and as time went on, she took quite an interest in all the therapists that visited their home to help her big sister. When she was about 18 months she decided she was all grown up and headed into the terrible twos. Now with her big blues eye and long golden curls she melts the hardest heart.

heartphotoI love the time I get to spend with the. But I find that even as grandma I have to say no at times. Like when they cry because they wants to stay and play, or have another ice pop when it is time to go home. Being a grandmother also gives me opportunity to share things I love and teaching them that fun and work go hand in hand. I grew up with horses but, we didn’t have horses when my children were little. But I am glad that I get to share my love of horses with my grandchildren when they are so young. They love the horses enough that they help to brush them and even do a few things they don’t want to because it is part of being able to ride. Like putting saddles away.  Being a grandmother is more than just fun, it is teaching responsibility too. I am so blessed that I get to be a grandmother.


Aug 13

Making Life Easy and Living Happy

Dean-HalWe have never believed in making life easy for our kids. We thought that if you make life easy as a child, as they grow up they have unrealistic expectations and turn into unhappy adults. We didn’t buy them a lot of toys. I often told Dean I was glad we were poor when the kids were little so we couldn’t buy them all the popular toys. We went so far as to give away toys they had received as gifts from friends and relatives if we didn’t think they were worthwhile. That only worked for a few years though.

When our children were nine and six years old we moved out to the country on a run down farm. They loved the freedom of running through the open fields. We lived in a tent for four months while we gutted and rebuilt the farmhouse. We all worked hard from morning to night, but our children were genuinely happy. We had already decided we would start homeschooling our kids but decided to wait until the next year when the house project was done (or at least further along) and we also could research just how we would go about homeschooling. When September rolled around I cautioned our children to never tell anyone at school you live in a tent. I was concerned someone might want to come investigate our “home”.

Our kids helped in all aspects of gutting and restoring our house. They carried armloads of debris out to the dumpster and even helped with the plumbing.

Ok, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all work; we did get them each a kitten, which lived with us, and our dog in our tent. Sometimes they would draw on the backs of the stacks of sheetrock that we were going to put up on the walls. They enjoyed helping to measure mark and cut. In their spare time we asked our kids to pick up the old rusty nails that littered our driveway. If they picked up a full coffee can of nails, we paid them with a trip to town to get an ice cream.

That spring we planted a huge garden and our chief planters, weed pullers, and bug pickers were our two kids. I was amazed how hard they worked without complaints. Livestock was the next project on our list. When we finished rebuilding the chicken coop and the barn we bought two goats (my daughter wanted a horse but had to make due with  goat) and several chickens, our kids were responsible for their total care. Our daughter got up early and milked the goat and our son collected eggs, feed and watered the chickens before they went to school. Those years were full of learning difficult lessons by experience and receiving the rewards for their hard work.

Looking back, I see how those hard life lessons were making life easy for them as adults. Not really making life easy, but teaching them useful skills. Beyond, plumbing and gardening, it taught them how to work hard, to not be afraid to try, never say can’t and to handle life’s challenges with grace. There is a quote I recently came across that I really like; “Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” Robert A. Heinlein

Aug 13

Increase in Skin Allergies

1.1.34_blogphoto_cosmeticbagIf you think there seem to be more complaints of skin allergies, dermatitis and eczema, you are right. There has been a significant increase in reports of skin ailments in the past two years. Some dermatologists are suspecting a link between preservatives used in cleaning products and cosmetics. Most of these cases are some type of contact dermatitis, in other words, an allergy to something that has had contact with the skin.  Many people with skin allergies or irritations do not realize how often they may come in contact with a preservative. Preservatives are necessary if you have a cleanser or cosmetic that contains water. Without them products with water would grow harmful bacteria and fungus that can cause severe illness. Finding one that is effective at inhibiting bacterial growth without causing skin irritation is very difficult, especially for people with sensitive skin. Sometimes a manufacturer will use high concentrations of preservative to avoid spending time and money to formulate a stable product with the least concentration of preservative to be effective.

Today people use many products that contain one or more preservatives. Skin care products have been found to account for the majority of cases of allergic contact dermatitis, and how uncomfortable it can be…yet so many just live with it! From baby wipes to mascara, people are being exposed to more preservatives more often. Some products with preservatives, like dish washing liquid are not required to list their ingredients making it difficult try to avoid preservatives if you think they are a problem for you. Preservatives are used in concentrations such as  .005 parts per million to be effective, but even at these low concentrations they can be causing problems for the 1% of the population that are sensitive to them. If you are having skin irritations, try avoiding preservatives in products that come in contact with your skin and see if that makes a difference.  We choose to make our products without water so there is no need to add preservatives. You can feel comfortable using Alabu Skin Care for sensitive skin.

Aug 13

Planting “Our” Garden and the Killdeer

Killdeer faking itSo I finally put my foot down and moved planting “our” garden to the top of “my” list. (Yes, “our is in parenthesis for a reason…read on.) I knew we would be getting rain for the next few days, at least that was the latest “guess” I had heard the weatherman say. All last week when I thought I might be able to make time to plant, it was just so hot, it was in the 90’s and I thought my plants would die as soon as I planted them.  I wanted to wait for better weather. I believe that cloudy with an extended period of rain expected, it was a perfect time to plant.

The killdeer was the only thing holding me back.

Their nest was right next to one of my highest raised beds. I started in my lowest bed but that made the killdeer get off her nest and complain… loudly; I tried to ignore her.  I planted several rows of lettuce, beets, carrots and tomatoes. Then I had to move up to the next bed. I planted peppers, some jalapeño but mostly sweet. I moved up to my last bed, right next to the nest. Now both Killdeer were complaining, feigning broken wings and making a racket to draw me away. It was pretty hard to ignore at that point, but I was determined to finish before the rains came and I had missed my opportunity.

Then I left to go and get a rake and Dean came outside to meet me at the garage on the other side of the house. It was a little chilly with no sun and Dean told me he was getting worried that I was taking so long. I was so very sore and tired about this time, and I thought how sweet he is worried about me. Awwww! But no he was worried about the killdeer eggs! The mother had been off them a long time and he was worried they were cold. He wasn’t worried about me, my aching back, or my planting “our” garden.

Yes my husband is an animal lover. We had a cat for 17 years that I always said was his mistress. He wanted me to stop so she could go back to her eggs and warm them up. But I was so close to being able to complete my task, so I pushed on through his taunts of being so cold hearted for the killdeer babies. I finished planting “our” garden through the killdeer complaints and the husband complaints. Only then were the killdeer able to go back and sit on their nests. I did not tell the killdeer to make their nest next to ‘Our” garden. Am I a bad person?