When we moved to Escondido 23 years ago, our house came with a dining room table — a giant, heavy, slightly beat-up dining room table. The owners were moving to Hawaii and didn’t want to lug the table with them across the ocean, so they left it for us. Now, 23 years later, that giant, much more beat-up table sits in our dining room in Oregon.
Sometimes I wonder why I haven’t gotten a new one. This one is kind of a wreck. I know that farmhouse rustic is in, but this table goes just a bit beyond that. I have tried to make it look presentable, but I can’t seem to clean off the red paint marks that were added when Lauren was making Christmas ornaments one year. I think there’s some white on there too. And I’ve tried to chip away at the spots that look like food but are actually glue from the glue gun that Noah used when he was working on his robot -- but when I chip away at it, the varnish comes off too. So I tried a black marker to make the missing varnish less noticeable, but it didn’t quite have the effect I’d hoped for. I just looks like black marker. And then there’s a gouge at one end where Joshua was working on some project with Jesse that involved an axe. I tried to fill in the gouge, but the filler keeps rubbing off. And the varnish in the grooves is pretty much gone from when Mark used a steak knife to get the food out. Also, one of the legs has teeth marks from when Jake was a puppy and thought the table leg was a chew toy. Thankfully you can’t really see that unless you look down. And every morning as I’m eating my breakfast, I have to push in one end of the table since it hangs down a little, maybe from all of the elbows-on-the-table conversations we have had over the years.
Yeah...it’s kind of a wreck. Maybe I should get a new one. My sister and brothers will be visiting for Thanksgiving and I want everything to be nice for them.
But I can see our family dinners and our kids doing their homework at this table. And I can see my mom sitting at the table setting up her appetizers for our "March birthday" get together.s I see the large holiday dinners where everyone could fit (thanks to two also-very-heavy leafs that made a giant table even bigger), and the smaller dinners with our Japanese exchange student or guests from England or friends or co-workers. I can see the long conversations Mark and I had about the kids, or his company closing or us moving to Oregon. A lot of life happened at this table. And it shows. How could I possibly replace it?
So in a few weeks, my siblings and I will gather around the table, eat lots of good food, drink lots of good wine, laugh ourselves silly, celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday, and continue to make memories. And they won’t care about the paint and the glue and the gouges. They will just be glad that we are sitting around a table together. And we will count our blessings — one of which will be that 23 years ago, this beat-up old table was left behind.
You know all of those sayings and quotes about dogs that you’ve read over the years? All of them are true. Yes all of them. Yes, dogs are our best friends. Yes, all dogs go to heaven. Etc...
Case in point: Mornings start with Henry, our white Lab, politely barking (just one short bark) that it’s time to get up because he needs to get fed. I walk out to the living room where they sleep and they both greet me with barks and wagging tails, but Henry throws in his “bucking bronco” dance, bouncing back and forth, tailing wagging, tongue hanging out. After we’ve all had our breakfast, I open the back door and announce that it’s “time to feed the goats!” and Rammus just about pops a gasket with his high pitched and very loud barking, acting as if this is the very best part of his day, and then runs just a little ahead of me to clear the way, running back and forth between the goats and the chickens, giant dog smile on his face.. Henry trots more slowly behind us, pausing somewhere between the house and the barn because he has found something to nibble on -- blackberries, grass, goat poop…anything really. Henry lives for food; Rammus lives for his “job.” As the day progresses, everywhere I go around the farm, they are right there by my side -- standing guard as I work in the field, walking right next to me as I am doing my chores, and laying right next to my feet when I’m reading or watching TV. Sometimes I talk to them about what’s on my mind, and they listen politely (and as if I have just said the most profound thing ever!), and sometimes we just hang out. And when the day is done and it’s time for bed, all I say is “OK boys, it’s time for sleeping,” and they get up and walk over to their beds.
These two sweet puppies are my daily companions, protectors, confidantes, and comic relief. How is it even possible to have a bad day with two such loving souls by my side? I don’t know that we deserve these benevolent, loyal, loving creatures, but a big shout out to the Creator, for knowing we would need such steadfast companionship on our turbulent human journey.
She’d been struggling for a while. She’d just ended a tough relationship and quit a soul sucking job with a racist, homophobic, misogynistic boss. She’d tried all the things you’re supposed to try -- exercising, no alcohol, eating well -- and nothing was working. She was depleted and had nothing left with which to fight the darkness that was overtaking her. Life seemed pointless. She didn’t want a therapist. They didn’t seem to help. And she didn’t want meds because the last time she tried them, they made her feel even worse. Maybe only if she was desperate. So I talked to her when she wanted to talk and hugged her when she couldn’t talk. I told her I would be there no matter what, that I loved her, that she was amazing and smart and beautiful and that her path would emerge if she kept forging ahead. And she limped along.
But finally one day she was desperate. She wanted -- no, she needed -- to talk to someone. But the therapists she contacted couldn’t get her in for another two weeks. She couldn’t wait two weeks. She needed to talk to someone now. And maybe she would consider trying meds again. Anything had to be better than this.
So we drove to a hospital emergency room about 20 miles away that had mental health services. She got out of the car looking scared, defeated, exhausted. We walked in together and talked to a receiving attendee -- very nice, very attentive, very understanding. And he walked her through the options. If she wanted to talk to someone today, she would need to check in. But something spooked her. She hesitated and moved over to a couch to think about it. A nurse was sent over to talk with her. Yes, there was the possibility that they might admit her. Yes...even if she didn’t want to be admitted. That probably wouldn’t happen, but no guarantees.
This, understandably, terrified her. Yet another area of her life where she felt that she didn’t have control. She balked. She stepped outside of the admitting room and into the hallway, standing against a white pillar along the wall. Crying.
I went back inside to talk to the nurse and ask a few more questions. What if I took responsibility for her? Could she be released into my care instead of being admitted? Again, that’s a possibility, but no guarantees.
I stepped out of the admitting room into the hallway to see her still crying, leaning against that pillar for support. And then I saw a small woman with long dark hair in a long colorful skirt stop by her side. The woman held out a bouquet of home-grown red roses, giving them to her, along with a hug. And then the woman walked away. This was maybe a 10 second interaction. A 10 second angel sent from heaven. I’m not sure what the woman said, or if the woman said anything at all. But when I walked up, she was still sobbing -- but not the sobbing of someone in pain. Instead, it was the sobbing of someone who has just experienced something beautiful and pure. It was the sobbing of someone realizing that there was still goodness and hope in the world.
What happened after that doesn’t matter. What matters is that some sweet soul saw a young woman crying in a hallway in a hospital and gave her hope in the form of flowers and love in the form of a hug. What caused the woman to do that? What motivated her to cut flowers from her garden and then walk through the hospital on that particular day? Does she even know the impact she had? What a generous, loving thing to do. I wish I could thank her. But since I can’t, I send up a prayer of blessing to her every time I think of this, which is often.
Today I received a Christmas card from my sister with these words inscribed on the back: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love” ~Mother Teresa. What that sweet woman did was a small thing, but it was done with such great love. And it made all of the difference.
So as this year comes to a close, and I think about the things I am grateful for, at the top of my list is that sweet little woman with home-grown roses who made the world a better place and changed someone’s life simply because of the flowers she grew and then gave away on that one day in 2018 to that one person. And this is something I will take with me into the new year -- to remember that any kindness, no matter how small it may seem to me, could be life-changing for someone else.
All my life I have wanted to live someplace where it rained more than twice a year (a slight exaggeration, but not by much). Living most of my life in Southern California, first in the Mojave Desert and then in San Diego, I can remember running outside when it rained, lifting my face up to the sky, and then jumping in a few puddles (even as an adult). I became a bit of a weather geek, watching the weather forecast constantly, hoping for a "chance of precipitation" in the five-day forecast, and becoming very grumpy if that chance dissipated, as it often did. The light mist of a foggy morning didn’t cut it for me. I wanted rain, real rain, pounding rain, saturating rain. Rain that would soak everything, running off of the house onto the pavement, rain that I could hear on the roof and that made me suck in my breath with the power of it.
When we moved to Oregon, I got my wish.
I was about 10 when I first met Uncle Jimmy. I don’t remember ever even hearing about Jimmy until one day in the car-ride over to one of our much anticipated trips to my grandparents’ house, Mom and Dad tried to explain that we’d be meeting Dad’s younger brother and that he was different and that we should all be very kind to him. I really didn’t understand what “different” meant as my exposure to different had been pretty limited in my small-town, Catholic school childhood. So when we walked in Grandma’s front door, I wasn’t prepared for the grown man that came walking over with short, quick steps and extended his hand to my Dad. “How do Brother John” Jimmy said with a big toothless grin. After my dad said hello and shook hands with his brother, he turned to all of us and introduced us. I remember shaking his smooth, limp hand as he said “How do Pammy.”
Jimmy was indeed different. I starred, I’m sure a little too long and intently, at my uncle, a tall lanky man with questionmark posture, his pants hiked up a little too far over his white button-up shirt, and his hair combed over and plastered down like a young boy’s. He was like no grown-up I’d ever met before. Grandma tried to explain. “When he was only two,” she said,” Jimmy got very sick -- so sick that his brain stopped growing and got stuck. He’s been about 2 ½ or 3 for his whole life.”
Greetings friends! Wishing you the peace, love, and joy of this holiday season!
As this year comes to a close, it provides a time for reflection about what this year has held for us. And it’s been a doozy. There are been times of great joy and excitement, but there have also been times of great heartbreak and sadness. I guess let’s start with the bad first...
The greatest gift my parents ever gave me was my sister Stephanie. I didn’t always think this of course -- in fact, one of my earliest memories was of my sister breaking my favorite doll. And then there were covers she stole in the middle of the night in our shared bed. And later there were the clothes she borrowed and didn’t return. But then again, I wasn’t the best sister to her either. Apparently, when we were young, I told her that the crows flying over us would swoop down and carry her away if she wasn’t careful. This instilled in her an unreasonable fear of crows that has carried into her adult years. (Sorry Sis).
But somewhere along the way, I realized that my sister was absolutely essential to my life. Maybe it was after she was in a minor biking accident when we were young that this became clear.
Tomorrow is my birthday. But instead of celebrating me, I would like to celebrate the woman who brought me into the world. Because it wasn’t easy. And because this is my first birthday without her.
It was a “minimally invasive” back surgery. She was supposed to recover at my house for 4-6 weeks -- time I was looking forward to. The last few years had been so busy, and I hadn’t made as much time for her as I should have. But because she wasn’t quite ready to navigate the few stairs at my house, the hospital released her to a skilled nursing facility to begin her physical therapy. A week at most, we thought. She was such a good patient and hard worker. We knew it would only be a week and then she would be at my house, and we would be watching movies, and talking about books, and about my kids, and anything else that we thought of. But she left us the next morning. And we still don’t know what happened.
Well here we are in the beautiful and snowy Willamette Valley south of Portland at the beginning of a new year, renting a house while we begin our search for Little Lavender Farm #2. We made this move because Mark landed his dream job -- and because it would allow me to follow my dream as well. Yes, I love my Little Lavender Farm in Escondido, but there was only so much I could do with it. My dream is to have five or so acres, with a few acres of different varieties of lavender, as well as keep bees, plant a big organic garden, maybe host a few events, and eventually have some guest cottages. And while I was certainly able to achieve some of this in Escondido, the land was like cement, the water was scarce, and I spent most of my time teaching high school. So here we are where the land is fertile, there is plenty of water and I’ve got a little more time to chase these dreams.
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife /English teacher and lavender farmer located in Dundee, Oregon.