Living most of my life in Southern California, first in the Mojave Desert and then in San Diego, I had always wanted to live someplace where it rained more than twice a year (a slight exaggeration, but not by much). 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.
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.
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, my dad turned to all of us and introduced us to Jimmy. 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.
Along with this reflection comes some news to share.
Mark and I are pulling up roots in San Diego to embark on a new adventure in the Portland Oregon area. Mark landed his dream job as the director of software development at a company in Wilsonville Oregon. It all happened rather quickly so my head is spinning a bit, but I’m very excited at the same time. So I will be leaving this home I love in search of a new one.
This has gotten me thinking a lot about home and what it means. Is it the physical structure? Is it the friends and family nearby? Is it the love inside the home? Is it where your soul is most at peace?
Noah was in 4th grade when he transferred to Explorer Elementary School, part of the High Tech High Village in Point Loma CA where I had just started working as the 12th grade English teacher. The transition was tough for him -- new people, new approach to education, early mornings due to our 35 minute commute and early staff meetings. So I was concerned, but not entirely surprised, when I received a call during the middle of my class that Noah had run out of Explorer’s building and no one knew where he had gone. I quickly told my class that I needed to leave for a few minutes and then ran downstairs to our dean, Brian, to tell him what was going on. “Let’s go find him,” was his response as he ran out of the door with me to search for my 9 year old boy. We split up to cover more ground -- and about 10 minutes later I got a call from Brian saying that he had found Noah in the grocery store parking lot a block or so from the school. I was relieved and grateful for his help, but I didn’t know the half of it. A few years later Noah told me what happened in that parking lot and what a big impact it had on him: Brian saw Noah and Noah saw Brian -- but instead of running after him (as I would have), Brian stopped and just waited. After a few minutes, Noah slowly walked across the parking lot to Brian, who said to him, “I knew you would make the right choice.” Think about that for a minute. “I knew you would make the right choice.” Not a scolding or a lecture, but an affirmation. What a profoundly empowering statement. The seeds of confidence and thoughtfulness planted in Noah that day took root and continue to grow.
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife /writer and lavender farmer located in Dundee, Oregon.