Lending a Hand

Sometimes making a difference in somebody’s life doesn’t have to cost you anything or expend your resources. Sometimes making a difference is as simple as lending a hand and a little bit of time. More often, the giver receives greater joy.

 Variations of Lending a Hand

We’ve all applauded a splendid stage performance or the accomplishment of an individual. Some people say that recognition is what children cry for and grown men will die for. Every individual (no matter how shy) needs to be encouraged for a job well done and for the dedication and hard work it took to achieve a goal or level of competency.

Health care professionals have an entire ministry based on lending a hand in the form of providing treatments, performing procedures or helping repair the body to bring about healing.

Reassuring HandsThe intangible gift of lending a hand was taught to me by my high school friend Patty. She sat silently by my side and held my hand at my mother’s funeral. There were no words she could have said to make it less painful for a 19-year-old expectant mother with a broken heart. Many people ministered to our family in many different ways during that time of grief and loss. Of all the flowers and cards I received, what I remember most nearly 44 years later is Patty simply sitting there beside me and silently holding my hand. Sometimes the best form of lending a hand is just to show up and say absolutely nothing (and listen).

In early November, I spent some time with my adult son, daughter-in-law and the most precious granddaughter in the entire Universe (in my humble, and somewhat biased opinion). Visiting them is always a joy and leaving them is always the hardest thing I do. Pulling out of their driveway, I leave a bit of my heart behind every time I go. Our time together is always too short and there are always things we wish we had more time to do together. This visit was no exception.

The first snow of the winter fell while I was there in the mountains. There wasn’t a lot of ground cover, yet the temperature dipped drastically, reminding us that it is “game on” for winter weather. My son has been very industrious for the past several months gathering firewood from fallen trees in his effort to provide an adequate store of firewood for his buck stove to keep his family warm during the winter. In addition to being a husband and father, holding a busy full time job, playing an active role in his church, and backpacking the Appalachian Trail, he has taken on many other small jobs that require a huge amount of his time. He works very hard and sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things that need to be done.

After we returned home from church and ate lunch, I began packing my car for the return trip home. “You don’t have to rush off.” He said. He always says this and it always makes me glad he wants me to stay longer. “I was hoping you’d come out and watch me split logs and talk.” The words I heard him speak were like music to a mother’s ears. Mother-son bonding time occurred amidst the roar of the motor of a log splitter. Hearing protection meant neither of us could really carry on much of a conversation.   It didn’t matter. We were together, sharing the moment and I was literally lending a hand. The joy was mine.

Mother-son bonding splitting the winter firewood.

Mother-son bonding splitting the winter firewood.

Many times I have personally been on the receiving end of someone lending a hand.   Once when I was a struggling single mother who needed help paying my electric bill, a neighbor helped me keep the lights on. I have never forgotten that kindness.   Many times I have needed a ride to work because my vehicle was in the shop for repairs. I have a wonderful friend who always comes to my aid.

A Biblical example of lending a hand can be found in Ecclesiastes 4:10 “For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. “ The simple act of lending a hand costs nothing and means so much to the recipient. Have you ever been the recipient (or the giver) of a lent hand? I’d love to hear your comments.

Pam Baker, RN


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Best Bet

Lessons learned with the harshest consequences are those you never forget.   Your best bet is to learn from someone else’s experiences without making the same mistakes.

One thing is sure. There are few “sure things” in life. There are always those curve balls life hurls at you and you didn’t see them coming. When you get struck by one of them, it can knock the wind out of you. When you manage to pick yourself back up, you are a lot wiser at ducking future curves.

My dad was not a gambler. The best bet to have a nest egg, according to my dad, was to work hard, earn your own money, be frugal and save what you could of it. That was the lesson I learned from the older, wiser version of my dad.   Little did I know that my dad had once learned that lesson the hard way.   There were only a couple of times dad repeated this story. Whenever he did, I could still hear the pain in his voice reflecting the suffering caused in the learning of this valuable lesson.

It was the late 1930’s/early 1940’s in the midst of World War II.   My parents married in 1936 and were still newlyweds. They were both in their 20’s and my dad had been working as a coal miner since he was 16. (He had lied about his age and said he was 18 in order to get the job. That is the only lie dad ever openly admitted telling.) Neither of my parents had much to bring to the table in terms of financial security or worldly goods.

Never gamble more than you could afford to spend on an evening of entertainment.

Never gamble more than you could afford to spend on an evening of entertainment.

A traveling carnival had come to town. In an isolated coal mining community, a carnival in town was a big deal. As a young man in his 20’s, my dad was no doubt fascinated with the novelty. He had just gotten paid when he decided to go to the carnival and had taken a portion of his paycheck with him.  Soon he was wooed into some type of gambling game. He never said whether it was a roulette wheel, rolling the dice, or an actual game of Poker. Whatever it was, he was losing. The more he lost, the sicker the feeling in the pit of his stomach. In a very short time, he had lost all the money he brought with him.  His best bet would have been not to take more money with him than he could afford to lose.

The truth was, dad couldn’t really afford to lose any of what he lost. Desperate to win back his own money so he could break even, he came back home, got the rest of his paycheck and went back to the carnival to continue playing. I’m sure you can guess how that scenario ended. Dad lost his entire paycheck that day. I cannot even imagine how sick that must have made him. I could still hear the pain in his voice as he remembered the ordeal and retold the story over 30 years later. Dad had learned a valuable lesson at a very high price. He wanted to make sure I learned the same lesson without having to repeat his mistakes.

If you’re going to gamble, your best bet is to be good at it. (How, I wonder, does one learn to be good at gambling without a great deal of financial losses?) What could you afford to pay for an evening of entertainment? Whatever that amount is, you should view the gambling as your entertainment and not have expectations of winning. Otherwise, you’ll be just another sucker and lose what you brought to the table.

What an anti-gambling lesson my dad had taught me! I internalized the pain I heard in his voice more than the money he lost. I never wanted to feel that pain or desperation he had felt.

Over the past 15 years, I have been to Las Vegas 3-4 times to conventions. The motels where I stayed all had large casinos. Up and down the strip were places that would allow you to mortgage your home so you could continue gambling. Plaques near the entrance doorways offered “gambling help” for those addicted to gambling.Every time I walked past those various gambling machines and tables, all packed with people depositing their money in the hope of “beating the house” I could hear my dad’s story over and over again in my head. I could still hear the tone of desperation in his voice each time. The house always wins. Your best bet is to know that in advance.   Consequently, feeding my money into those machines was about as much fun as striking a match and watching it burn. Either way, it was going to be gone.   Every single time I’ve gone to Vegas, I have “beat the house” by simply refusing to lose.

Do you know your odds of losing?

Do you know your odds of losing?

The same applies to lottery tickets. By one calculation, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery was 1 in 175,223,510.  If you’re looking for better odds, the odds of being struck by lightning in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000.   Essentially you have roughly the same chance of being struck in the head by a cow falling out to the sky than you do of winning the lottery.  Who would gamble with odds like that?  The deck is already stacked against you.  It’s a lesson in both futility and absurdity.  Thanks, dad. In your hardest lesson, I truly found an Ace that I could keep.

I’d love to hear your comments!

In my dad's hardest lesson, I found an Ace I could keep.

In my dad’s hardest lesson, I found an Ace I could keep.

Pam Baker, RN











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Daddy’s Girl

If you are a “daddy’s girl,” nobody has to tell you are.  You know it because your daddy will always be your hero, whether he is still with you or not.  Daddies like my dad and my son continually raise the bar for dads everywhere by exhibiting love in action. Through their determination and creativity, their little girls come to believe there is nothing their daddies can’t do (or fix).  I am not talking about the kind of daddies who hand over a credit card or who are financially able to buy their children everything their hearts desire (or enable them by bailing them out every time they get in trouble).  I am talking about the evidence of love through intangible gifts of time.  One such friend is Bryan.  He recruits an entire team to join him as he jumps in the chilling waters every winter to support Special Olympics and honor his daughter.  My friend Jonathan supports his children in their sports and musical aspirations (even the basic cooking and baking skills).  These dads are part coach, part mentor, part hero and each of them exhibits love in action in their own unique way.  THIS is the kind of daddies that inspire this story. 

As a child, I thought my daddy could do just about anything. My earliest memories of him cannot be confirmed. Apparently a baby of crib age doesn’t remember. The experts can’t disprove the memory I have of my daddy’s smiling face leaning over my crib wearing a red plaid cap. Granted, as an adult I can’t imagine my daddy wearing anything other than a UK blue cap, but that’s a different story altogether.

I remember the tender moments shared by the little girl version of myself and my dad. I remember him teaching me to tie my shoes.   I remember the piggyback rides. I remember writing notes back and forth with him when he was on evening shift and gone to work before I got home from school. I remember the storytelling, the banjo playing and his infamous “Bottle Rump Jim” jig he did while playing that banjo. I remember the whistles he made for me from the stalks of Speckled Jewel Weed  But of all these, the thing that stands out in my mind as a huge gift of time and love was the hand made swing set.

I grew up in the 1950’s when children still spent a lot of time outdoors playing instead of indoors on electronic devices.   My dad had grown up in the early 1900’s when there simply were no toys in a family of 11 children in the rural areas of southeastern Kentucky.   As a child, he and his siblings learned to play games and create their own fun. They swung on grapevines and climbed trees. But the 50’s were different. On our playground at school, we actually had a real swing set. Unfortunately, there was also a really long line for those swings at recess. I must have mentioned this to my dad more than once, but I never remember actually asking him to buy me a swing set.

One day, my daddy went into the woods with a double bit axe and came home hours later carrying a huge locust post on his shoulder. I didn’t ask why. I didn’t even get curious when he made several more trips on subsequent days, bringing home still more locust posts. However, I became curious when he started digging holes in our back yard below a huge Mimosa tree. At this point, I began to do what any daddy’s girl would do. I stuck by his side, watching his every move as the poles went in the ground, holes were drilled, boards were cut for the seats and chains were hung suspending 2 swings—one for me and one for my brother. Our swing set was constructed of rough-hewn, unpainted locust posts, but it was so sturdy, nothing could tear it up.My daddy couldn’t afford a store-bought swing set, but he cared enough to use his creativity and take the time and energy  to build one for my brother and me.  I spent hours every day swinging on that swing set while singing the lyrics of Que Sera Sera.  I was a child and I didn’t have a care in the world.

We were the only children in our neighborhood with a swing set and it wasn’t because we were rich. My daddy loved us enough to want to give us the little things he couldn’t afford to buy.   As you might imagine, neighborhood kids enjoyed that swing set right along with us for years to come.

Since my own daddy was a stand in dad for my children, I am sure my son learned a lot of those same wonderful attributes from him.

“I'm not a carpenter. I'm a Baker who's a farmer. But when your little girl begs for a doll bed, you cobble something together.”

“I’m not a carpenter. I’m a Baker who’s a farmer. But when your little girl begs for a doll bed, you cobble something together.”

“I’m not a carpenter. I’m a Baker who’s a farmer. But when your little girl begs for a doll bed, you cobble something together.”  These were the words of my son, Shad as he began construction of a doll bed. He is that special kind of daddy inspiring yet another little girl (my granddaughter) to become a “daddy’s girl.” With all the doll houses and dolls my eight-year-old granddaughter has to play with, what she lacked was a suitable bed for them. Thanks to a little girl’s “need” for a doll bed and the creativity of two loving parents, my granddaughter now has a doll bed that may one day be handed down to her own daughter.

In writing this, I give due recognition to my wonderful daughter-in-law as well as my son. My daughter-in-law Melanie makes doll clothes, furniture, and even made the mattress, pillows and blankets to complete this doll bed project. She is extremely creative and talented and is inspiring the same in my granddaughter. Together she and my son are a great daddy/mommy team (which is as it should be!)

Are you a daddy’s girl?  What special memories do you have of the way your dad showed love in action through the intangible gift of his time and/or talents?  Please share in the comments below.

Pam Baker, RN


Children today don’t have to wait for the Christmas catalogs from Sears, Roebuck and Company, Montgomery Ward or J.C. Penney to shop for toys. Children know how to search for the newest and greatest on the internet. They haven’t yet learned about budgets and the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees. Sadly, children are continually the targeted for advertising on television as well as the internet. Advertisers know how persistent children can be when they want something.   This is why it is important to teach children the difference between something they actually NEED versus something they WANT. It is important to teach them the value of money and saving their money to buy the things they want most. It is also important to inspire children to be creative.

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Do you know where the time thieves are in your life?  Watching TV one hour per night (local and National/World news) will cost me 21,900 min. a year whereas time spent on Facebook (checking newsfeed to see what others are doing and posting to my personal FB page) will rob me of an easy 43,800 minutes a year (2 hours a day).  

Do you know what is stealing your time?

Do you know what is stealing your time?

As I write this blog, it is “time” to confess that I am one of those people who struggles with time management.  Like money, there never seems to be enough of it.  Some say time is money.   However, all the money in the world will not buy another minute of time to add to your life.  The older I get, the more fleeting time becomes, so I am keenly aware that I need to be managing it wisely to accomplish my personal, professional, business and spiritual goals.

By simple calculation there are 526,000 minutes in any given year.  I’m forevermore saying I don’t have time to do the things I need to do to build my business or to invest in relationships with people.  Young or old, rich or poor, famous or infamous, successful or unsuccessful, (Lord willing) we each get allotted the same number of minutes each year.

Of those 526,000 minutes, I surmise that if I sleep the recommended 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, I will have used 174,720 minutes just lying there sleeping.  I know this seems like a frivolous waste of time, but our bodies really need it for rest, restoration, and for peak mental and physical function. Those who lose sleep end up mentally sluggish, with memory loss, headaches, and a variety of other problems.  Therefore, there’s no stealing from sleep on an ongoing basis that won’t “cost” you in terms of health problems in the long run.

If you already have a full time job, an additional 124,800 of those allotted minutes will be spent working (not counting time off for holidays).  Commuting to work will cost me 11,700 (45 min./day/5 days/52 wks.) That leaves me to determine what I’m doing with the other 216,000 minutes in the year that are unaccounted for to this point.

Talking on the phone is now considered “old school” communication thanks to Social Media, yet it is almost a requirement at work.  Some people don’t want to have a phone conversation once they’re home, yet let’s estimate 60 min/day x 365 day per year for 21,900 minutes.

How does one track the amount of time spent texting or chatting on instant messenger?  Is it even possible? Depending on the age group, I’m betting the time invested is significant as it often replaces verbal communication even when two texters are sitting in close proximity to one another.

God only knows how much wasted time is spent checking, responding to and deleting email messages. Even at work, some would rather dash off a quick email, risking misinterpretation of message tone rather than step away from their desks and speak to the other party face-to-face. (The retract and delete feature was a stroke of utter genius by a person who understood the repercussions of miscommunication.)

Distressing as it is to think about, I currently have over 11,000 messages looming in only ONE of my personal email inboxes, most of which are likely spam (despite all the filters, blocking and junk folders).   I recognize the process of sorting through and deleting or deciding to save or print can also be the time thieves.  I can only hope this primary email address will eventually implode and save me the trouble of trying to figure out how to delete it altogether.   Fortunately I have additional email addresses that are less out of control, but only because I haven’t given them out to others or used them as methods of contacting me.  Bottom line?  If someone really needs to contact me, they should probably just pick up the phone and call.  (By the way, I’m not great at checking voice messages either.)

If any of you have close friends or family members who are on their computers throughout the day, checking email, then forwarding messages with a fury to everybody they know (with all their friends’ email addresses visible), then you can appreciate my reluctance to give out new email addresses.  We should enroll these people in Spammers Anonymous (if there isn’t such an organization, there should be) for a SA 12-step program where they’ll get daily inspirational tips on how to break the cycle of spamming addiction (which they would do doubt forward to each of us daily as well).

For those who are on Facebook (like FB alone isn’t a major time thief), there are all those incessant reguests to play games that are the time thieves that hook many (but not me). Unfortunately I have found no good way to block these people trying to lure me in to wasting even more time with them while playing on APPS involving fruit and barnyard animals. I have a lifetime record of having played a grand total of 3 games of Scrabble with an anonymous fellow in China who beat me mercilessly every time we played.   I had no idea he was playing with an online guide that helped him beat me.  There’s no sport in beating somebody with an unabridged dictionary at your fingertips!

Consider that if you spent only ONE minute a day playing games, that’s 365 min/year and you won’t be one bit wiser or richer in the process.  Playing games is not to be confused with personal development!  It is simply a way to pass time and time is getting past each of us quickly enough already.

I honestly have no idea how much time I spend doing the following essential tasks:

  • Reading
  • Shopping
  • Preparing meals
  • Caring for pets
  • Doing laundry
  • Cleaning house
  • Paying bills
  • Visiting with family
  • Visiting with friends

TV can become huge time thief.  I no long subscribe to cable TV.  If I’m going to watch a program on TV, it needs to be commercial free.  I also feel better about watching TV if I can multi-task and be working actively on another project at the same time.  My mother was a soap opera addict.  Everything she didn’t centered on being home or free at the time her two soap operas came on every day.   She spent precious minutes out of the 52 short years she lived watching other people living fictitious lives on TV rather than the reality of living her own life.

I am reminded of my years as a visiting nurse in other’s homes.  Patients and their families sat spellbound in front of conjured “reality” TV shows, viewing the explosive exploits of “baby mamma drama” and slowly rotting their own brains in the process.   I can almost feel my IQ drop 30 points when I hear the loud voices and “bleap” “bleap” of the censored language of these same programs being viewed in the recreation room of the institution where I now work.

In conclusion, it is not the HOURS that get away from us in our lives.  Rather it is the MINUTES that turn into hours during which we have accomplished nothing toward our goals or personal development that should cause each of us to begin to take personal inventory.   Could you trim off an hour a day you’re wasting and invest it more wisely in growing your own business, learning a new skill, accomplishing a task, performing a fitness activity for your health, or developing a personal relationship?  Each of us has one lifetime to spend.  Not all lifetimes are equal.  We have no idea how many minutes that life will contain from first breath to last.  Therefore, to maximize our potential, we must first maximize how we budget the time each of us is given. What about you?

  • Have you evaluated how you invest your time?
  • Do you make lists of priorities and check off tasks?
  • Do you have a list of personal goals?
  • Do you know how to set goals? Are you able to check off which of those goals you accomplish on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis?
  • Do you have time management tips that you could share that would help others?
  • How much time do you allot daily toward your building your business?
  • How much time do you invest in building relationships with others (as well as your spouse)?
  • How much time do you invest in your spiritual growth (such as going to church, Bible study group, or studying your Bible?
  • Are you living a distracted life, not fully focused on the moment because of your personal time thieves?
  • If you cut your time thieves and invested more wisely, how much richer would you be in all areas of your life?

This blog is not about making each of us feel bad about our misadventures, but rather a reality check to help us recognize how we could budget our time to reach our maximum potential.   I have room for growth.  What about you?  Can you identify the time thieves in your life?

Pam Baker, RN









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FACING ADVERSITY: Runner versus Fighter

When faced with adversity, which are you?

When faced with adversity, which are you?


Which are you?

Have you ever run from a complex or painful situation when you were unsure of the direction that would bring you peace? Have you run for safety, security, for money, or to avoid an uncertain consequence? Has your heart ever been so broken that you ran aimlessly, not really weighing the consequences or having a clear plan? Did the success of your long-term solution hinge on one person, one situation, one job, or even one income?

Many of us have been runners at some point in our lives.  Some have made it a marathon sport.  While running for fitness is an admirable thing, running in other areas of your life is not.   Just as runners in a competitive event are categorized by age, those who run in the face of adversity are not specific to a particular age group.

This is the story of two such runners and the way each dealt with adversity.

In the late 1970’s, I was married with 2 small children, ages 4 and 5.   My life was that of a stay at home mom.   My husband worked and his income afforded our family with the bare necessities of what we needed for survival.  We weren’t financially secure, but he had one of the more reliable jobs in the area where we lived.  We survived from paycheck to paycheck in meager housing and struggled to make ends meet and raise our two children.

My life though not ideal, was soon to take me on a journey down many paths, causing me to understand “fight or flight” from a whole new perspective.  Within a span of 8 years, I lost my mother, gave birth to two children, survived post partum depression, was diagnosed with cervical cancer, had a hysterectomy, learned of my husband’s infidelity with my best friend, went through a divorce, lost my maternal grandmother, and moved 3 times. Finally, I recognized my own futility and faced the negative future on my current path.  Poverty, a defeated spirit and loss of personal pride would be my destinations.  I didn’t like what I saw because I realized it would not only impact me, but also on my children and generations after me.  Exhausted trying to escape my problems, I finally stopped running, started planning, and began building the future I wanted.  My first major step was to enroll in college.

As I surveyed the carnage of the years behind me, I remember experiencing mixed emotions of despair, fear, resentment, grief and abandonment as I cared for a dying mother at a time when I should have being expectantly joyful over the birth of my daughter.  I had never been taught how to care for an infant; I didn’t know how to be a mother.  My mother was supposed to teach me and now she was gone.  Post partum depression left me feeling as though I was losing my mind and fearful of my own behavior as a new mother.  I suffered in silence, afraid to seek medical help in a small community where everybody knows your business (and gossips about it).  It had been 6 – 9 months before I finally recovered on my own.  Eighteen months later, I had given birth to my son and was fully in the role of stay-at-home-mom, wife and homemaker.

The diagnosis of cancer had caught me off guard with 2 preschool-aged children and caused me to face my own mortality with fear and (eventually) courage.

I remember that day 38 years like it was yesterday. I had gone for my annual GYN appointment and cancer screening the day before Thanksgiving 1976.  No big deal. It was January 1977 when I got a finally got a phone call one snowy day asking me to come back to the doctor’s office to discuss my test results.  That was puzzling, I remember thinking.  Why couldn’t they just tell me the results over the phone?

So I talked to my closest friends.  No big deal they agreed.  Some of them had had to have repeat PAP tests and everything turned out okay.  They were sure that was it, so no need to worry.   Their encouragement convinced me there was nothing to worry about.  Still, I had my husband drive me over those treacherously slick roads to the follow up doctor’s appointment.  I was prepared to hear I needed a repeat PAP test.  Instead I was ushered to the doctor’s office where he sat behind a giant chart-laden desk with my test results in my hands.  “You actually have pre-cancer cells.” He told me.  “Your PAP test came back Stage IV.   We need to see how far it has spread.  If you don’t have a hysterectomy, it will turn in to cancer. We need to schedule you in the operating room for a cone biopsy.”

‘I don’t understand.  Last year my PAP test was normal.  How did this happen? Couldn’t it be a mistake? Can’t you just do another PAP test and just see if it comes back okay?’  I had asked.

“No” was his frank and abrupt response.

On my ride home that day, I was a bundle of emotion.  At one point I turned, through tears, and asked my husband “What am I going to do?”

His simple reply was “Take it like a woman.”  It was very clear from that point that this was a very personal battle I was going to face on my own.

Late one night in the interim between the diagnosis and the scheduled surgery, I had been in bed asleep when I heard the telephone ring beside my head.  I was slow to awaken, but aware of my husband answering the phone and starting to whisper to the caller on the other end.  He took the phone into the next room and continued talking in low tones.  By this time, I was fully awake.  There was apparently no family emergency and this conversation was making no sense as I heard him say, “I can’t tonight.  Maybe next weekend.”  It was then that it became apparent that there was a female caller on the other end.  That’s when I first learned of my husband’s infidelity, but I didn’t know who she was, nor would he tell me despite my confrontation with him after the call ended.

Trusting by nature, I had always given people the benefit of the doubt. I never distrusted someone unless they first gave me cause to distrust.  The shock of my husband’s infidelity with met with disbelief.  Not only had he betrayed me, but also his timing was terrible.

I learned about the power of prayer the day my surgeon bowed his head in the operating room and said a prayer for me as I was dozing off to anesthetized sleep.  He didn’t even know I heard him praying on my behalf that morning in the operating room, but God heard him.  It was then that I knew God had a purpose and a plan for my life.  It was up to me to either try and figure out what that plan was or allow God to show me.

When the surgeon had emerged from the operating room to speak to my family, there had not been a single member of my family there to receive the news. Was I really that insignificant to the people who were supposed to love and support me?

Two more years would pass, but instead of reconciliation, our marital discord got worse as my husband continued his pattern of infidelity.  There were no more late night phone calls, but there were many stories that didn’t fit as the lies continued.

The big “reveal” of the mystery mistress came when my best friend left her husband the very same night my husband didn’t come home from our son’s kindergarten graduation.  I won’t detail the events that led me to the realization of her identity.  Some things are better left unsaid and unwritten.  After 3 days of near non-stop shedding of tears, I was compelled to see her and to talk to her face to face.  Understandably, she was reluctant to face me.   When we met, there was no hostility or angry words between us.

Her wake-up call in the relationship was that my husband actually wanted her to abandon her preschool-aged son so there would be no children to burden them as they began their lives together.  Thankfully she chose not to abandon her child and was appalled at the true heart of the man she thought was her “love of a lifetime.“ Reconciliation with her husband was not easy; he felt as deceived as I did.

The first “runner” I ever knew was my own husband.  He ran from the drama he had created, and the lives he had destroyed, leaving his wife and children to survive the gale force winds of survival alone.  He ran as a guilty man, lacking the courage to face the consequences of his own actions.  I have no respect for that, and even less for a man who doesn’t provide for his own children.

The second “runner” I came to realize was myself.   I couldn’t bear to face the insecurity of being jobless and dependent on my (soon to be ex) husband to meet his financial obligations to his children and to honor the debts he promised to pay.  I couldn’t face the wrath of the scorned husband next door who actually strung up a barbed wire fence separating our property lines, holding my children and me responsible, and punishing us for wrath he felt toward my husband.  Our children, who had once been daily playmates, were forbidden to be together.  The three of us were a visual reminder of a painful situation he wanted so much to forget.

My reason for running was that there were just too many stressors to cope with all at once and there were no easy answers.  I had no real plan for how my children and I were to survive this crisis.  For a season of 4 months, I “ran.”  I was searching for a fresh start, a new beginning, and a “happy-ever-after” ending.  As in the movie Forest Gump, I ran and I ran.  I ran first to Knoxville, TN, then to Covington, KY.   I had no idea what I was looking for, but I didn’t like the view looking back over my own shoulders.

Then one day, just as suddenly as I began,  I just stopped running.   I stopped running, started facing my challenges, rolled up my sleeves and began to build my future one day at a time.  There were days I wondered whether my life was worth it.  It was on those days that my children were my anchors.  Falling down was something I have done many times, but I have never stayed down.  I have always gotten back up.  Through this, I grew in strength and all the while, my children were watching.   I wanted so much to be the dependable parent they could be proud of and to teach them how to be courageous, successful adults.

Thirty-six years later, hindsight truly is 20/20.  I’m glad the man who truly didn’t love me ran.  His running freed me from a lifetime commitment to a marriage that never should have happened at age 16 to a man I did not choose, but was instead chosen for me by my parents.  (But that’s another story altogether).  If you’re a stay-at-home mom or living in a bad situation, I hope my story gives you the courage to stand firm, stop running and begin to discover God’s plan for your life.   Stop running and start building your own future instead of watching the minutes of your life tick away without a purpose or a plan.

Pick up whatever pieces have been strewn along the pathway of your life and build (or rebuild) something incredible with what you’ve been given (or what you have left).   Build a bridge to the future for others who follow after you.  Stop running, refuse to be a victim of your past, and leave a legacy of courage and strength.

Pam Baker



This poem of inspiration was given to me by Claude H. Brown, a former college professor at Pikeville College.  A man with daughters of his own, he was my biggest cheerleader as he saw me struggle to obtain the resources to provide for my family while attending college as a full time student.  This blog is dedicated to his memory.



An old man going a lone highway,

Came, at the evening cold and gray,

To a chasm vast and deep and wide.

Through which was flowing a sullen tide

The old man crossed in the twilight dim,

The sullen stream had no fear for him;

But he turned when safe on the other side

And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,

“You are wasting your strength with building here;

Your journey will end with the ending day,

You never again will pass this way;

You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,

Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;

“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,

“There followed after me to-day

A youth whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm that has been as naught to me

To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

Source: Father: An Anthology of Verse (EP Dutton & Company, 1931)

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Climbing the Ladder: A Journey From the Bottom


LadderThe older you get, the more you reflect on the miles you’ve already come.  This article is about climbing the ladder, a journey from the bottom.  It is a reflection of my own journey.  Every footstep, every inch can feel like a horrendous uphill struggle.   A loser never wins and a winner never quits. It was Mother Goose that nailed this writer’s journey in the poem “Monday’s Child is Fair of Face” with the verse “Saturday’s child works hard for a living.”Countee Cullen said it even better in the poem below:

 “Saturday’s Child”

 Some are teethed on a silver spoon,

 With the stars strung for a rattle;

I cut my teeth as the black raccoon—

For implements of battle.

Some are swaddled in silk and down,   

 And heralded by a star;

They swathed my limbs in a sackcloth gown   

On a night that was black as tar.

For some, godfather and goddame   

The opulent fairies be;

Dame Poverty gave me my name,   

And Pain godfathered me.

For I was born on Saturday—

“Bad time for planting a seed,”

Was all my father had to say,

And, “One mouth more to feed.”

Death cut the strings that gave me life,

And handed me to Sorrow,   

The only kind of middle wife

My folks could beg or borrow.

Countee Cullen, “Saturday’s Child” from My Soul’s High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen.

I have always worked hard.  As a single mother, I sacrificed to give my children the things they needed.  I couldn’t spoil them with all the things they wanted.  I believe that has been a blessing in the development of their own work ethic and character and I am extremely proud of them both as independent, college-educated adults.

I remember being a young newlywed whose husband made only $13 a day in the late 1960’s.  He was lucky if he got to work 3 days a week.  There were no benefits and no health insurance.  Having married at the age of 16, I was still trying to finish high school. Our first (& only) home together was a 2 story wood frame coal camp house in Eastern KY with 5 rooms, a tiny bath and a dirt basement.  We had no heating system except for a Warm Morning stove and a fireplace in our bedroom.  There was no insulation in the house and the curtains would flutter as the wind made howling sounds through the cracks in our windows and doors.  Ice literally froze on the windowpanes inside our house.

For many years there was no carpet on the floors, only lineoleum.  Eventually we had 3 rooms carpeted. We bought a used naugahyde couch, chair, end table, coffee tables and a refrigerator and an electric stove with 2 elements out for $300.  We had only a metal bed frame with box springs and a mattress on top (no headboard).  My “dresser” was an electric fan box with a lavender piece of scrap fabric draped over it.   Our Melmac dishes were bought with redeemed books of Gold Bond stamps my grandmother gave me.  My only wedding present from my parents was a Sunbeam Mixer.  We bought the house for $1695 (this is no typo) around 1970.   We were poor and we knew we were poor.  Our first child was born within a year after my husband was able to get more reliable employment and benefits with Beth-Elkhorn Corporation (which eventually closed.)

In 1978, my husband and I divorced due to his continued infidelity at a time when I was going through an ordeal with cervical cancer. There was no child support and certainly no alimony.   Promises were made and broken.  Whatever debts we incurred as a couple, debtors looked to me to pay while supporting 2 children as a single parent with only a high school education.  Having to ask for welfare and food stamps were a huge blow to my pride.  I had been raised by a very hard working Daddy and our family had never resorted to hand outs from anybody.  My Dad, intent on punishing me for divorcing my husband, turned his back and refused to help me.  Much of this was due to the influence of the step-mother who came into our family only 4 months after my mother was laid to rest at the age of 52 from uremic poisoning resulting from polycystic kidney disease. (But that is also another story best left in the past.)

There were no jobs to be had except for waitressing for $1.00/hour plus tips or a 40 mile drive for a job with no benefits that paid $2.80 an hour at a fast food restaurant (which would require a babysitter who would charge more than I earned). Left without choices, I did the unimaginable.  I decided to go to college.  The day I came home from a trip to the college and told my dad, he replied “You’re going to spend every dime you can get your hands on and you’ll never amount to anything.”

That day, I remember getting angry.  I was crushed at his lack of support for me.  Still I pulled from something deep inside of me as I silently voiced “I’m going to prove you wrong, old man!” I had remembered so well my dad stressing the value of getting an education.  Having only completed 4th grade, he was no stranger to hard work and realized that those with an education were the ones who were presented with the most opportunities.  He was able to read and write, which was amazing considering his lack of formal education.  My mother had completed her sophomore year in high school when she and my dad met and married.  She was always the one who conducted all the family business, because she had the most formal education.  Yet my mother was primarily a stay-at-home mom.

At that time, Eastern Kentucky’s primary industry was coal mining.  Jobs were scarce.  When I read about the Mining Technology program at Pikeville College (now University of Pikeville) where the tuition was only $99 per semester because of grants, I decided to check it out.  If I was going to venture into the mining industry as a female in a male-dominated industry, I would need to have an education to get me in the door.  I had no desire to battle an EEO case in the court system to force a coal company to hire me.

To this day, I don’t know how I did it.  It surely must have been a “God thing.”  I was accepted into a special program for mothers on welfare that paid me a meager $3.00 an hour while I was in school.  All of this went for gas money and babysitters and I was left with food stamps and $197 per month from welfare for 2 children while attending Pikeville College. I can’t begin to detail the hard financial times my children and I faced.

I finished the Mining Tech program  in 1980 and Dave Zegeer himself, a celebrity icon in coal mining, was there for my graduation day to tell me how proud he was of me.  My Daddy, however, was boycotting my graduation because he was appalled that his daughter would go underground in a coal mine to work.  Given my choice of welfare or work, it seemed to me that coal mining was an honorable profession.

I went on to obtain First Class Mine Foreman and Mining Instructor Certifications and worked as a Safety Inspector until 1983. Yes,  the work was hard and the environment was dangerous and dirty.  Respect was something that had to be earned (& often demanded) in a male dominated environment.  I was snubbed far worse by women over my occupation in an underground mine than I was by men.  The women were the most disrespectful with their snide remarks.  Some of our small town “fine ladies” even shunned me, but they did not have to support my children.  I earned the priceless gift of self-respect by earning my own way and I had no trouble with my conscience when I laid down to sleep at night.

Pam the Safety Inspector Surprisingly, many of the men I worked with underground treated me as a sister.   The older ones treated me as a daughter.  In fact they frequently held open the trap doors in the ventilation walls underground–much like a gentleman would hold open a door for a lady.  This always made me smile.

My children and I continued to live in that same house until 1985 when the 3 of us left so I could go to nursing school in Hazard, Ky.  My work as a Safety Inspector, First Aid, CPR Instructor and Emergency Medical Technician had been a natural progression into the field of health care and nursing.

The 3 of us eventually ended up in Central KY in 1990 where we all attended the University of Kentucky at the same time.  I entered as a junior in the BSN nursing program.  My daughter entered as a sophomore majoring in Middle School Education.  My son entered as a freshman majoring in Agriculture.   All 3 of us graduated, laude, laude!  I had obtained several competitive needs-based scholarships which paid for my tuition and books.  I worked full time as an RN in a local hospital on a Baylor (weekend 12 hour shifts) program with full time wages and benefits in addition to attending classes at the University of Kentucky full time, 5 days per week.  I got only 2 weekends off per year for the final two years I attended UK until I earned by baccalaureate degree in nursing in August 1992.  I remember being tired most of the time throughout those 2 years.  The reward came when I watched both my children walk across the stage to accept their degrees from UK as well.

Me and Dad

Hard work has never been a stranger to me, but things that are earned with the hardest work also give a greater sense of pride and accomplishment.  I have always wanted to be an example to my children that they would never fail if they refuse to quit trying.  I started out with (basically) nothing.  I had no education and little hope that I could ever do more than live in poverty.  I was a disadvantaged first generation college graduate on the bottom rung of the ladder with nowhere to look but up.  I looked up and I started to climb.

It was in those character-building years and in those hardest moments of not being able to “see the light at the end of the tunnel” that I realized God’s prevenient grace.  I didn’t even know Him and yet He was there, going ahead of me and preparing the way, opening the doors for me and my children.   It was in my darkest moments, underground and alone in the darkness that I recognized Him as my Lord and Savior.  Sparing my life from the certain death from a mining roof fall while my children sat, unsuspecting in their Middle School classrooms, I came to know there was a higher plan and purpose for my life.

My children are now grown with lives of their own and my identity is no longer that of a struggling single parent.  We survived the hard times as a family of 3 and are stronger for it.  It took every available resource to provide for my family.   The journey may have been different for you, but perhaps your own story of depleted resources is similar.

Although I am in my “empty nest” years now, I know God is not finished with me yet.  (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)  I am now looking ahead to retirement and working to maintain my financial independence through those retirement years ahead.  I am still not a quitter.  I still want my children to be proud of me.  In the process, I’d like to be able to leave them a financial legacy as well as the legacy of our journey together.  I’m still climbing the ladder.  A journey from the bottom has now progressed further up due to a lot of hard work and many blessings along the way.  I haven’t stopped to rest though; I’m still climbing.  How about you?

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About PamBakerRN.com

What about you?  What has your journey been about?  Easy? Hard?  Character-building?  Are you looking to achieve financial independence, pay off debt or build a financial legacy?  Come work with me and let’s discover how we can continue the climb together!

Pam Baker, RN


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The Spirit That Never Quits

Run the Race photo for blogMost of us have taken a lot of first steps in life.  Before you did though, you probably did a lot of crawling.  You first stood on wobbly legs, fell down, and got banged up too many times to count before you confidently let go of the objects that steadied you and focused on where you wanted to go.   A good many of us have gone (often kicking and screaming) places we didn’t want to go.  The majority of us have gone places we probably should not have gone.  Some of us have gone places and were later glad we did. What motivates you?  Why did or do you persist?  Why did you keep getting back up amidst all the bruised and banged up knees (or do you)?  The desire for something more must surely have spurred you on.  Your hope of triumph helped you overcome your fear of pain, failure, or the great unknown.

Today our Pastor reminded me of a time in my life (and there have been a few), when I was “going through hell.”   Some of those times are too personal to share in this venue, but there is one I’ll share and I hope it will inspire you. One of my proudest and most triumphant moments came when I passed the Physical Ability Test (PAT) at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, GA.   Perhaps this would be no big feat to someone in their 20’s who had always been physically fit and healthy.   However, I was taking the same test at age 56 that most of my peers took in their 20’s and 30’s with no allowance for age or that fact that I was 50 plus pounds overweight.   There was also no allowance for the severe valgus deformity (“knock knees”) that had been a constant source of pain or even the asthma triggered from exercise and breathing cold air.   I considered myself fortunate that there was an age waiver for Registered Nurses during a nursing shortage.

The first time I went to take this test (on Valentine’s Day 2007), I tore my right rotator cuff and had to be sent home.  I was crushed; I returned home without triumph and feeling like such a failure.  Ordinarily if you fail this test, you also lose your job.   However, mine was a Worker’s Comp injury, which gave me another opportunity.  In the months ahead, I had rotator cuff repair, then spent the next 6 months going to PT twice a week for rehabilitation.   My ultimate goal was more than simply rehabilitating my shoulder, it was preparing me to retake and pass this test.

During those months, many of my co-workers questioned me almost daily. “Why do you want to do this?”  “You could always get a job somewhere else.”  “Why put yourself through this?” My mind translated these remarks to “You shouldn’t do this.”  “This job isn’t for you.”  “You don’t belong here.”   “You’re too old” and “Are you crazy?”   They might just as well have said those exact words to me.   So in my most discouraged moments, I could hear my mother’s voice deep inside me as she would equate these remarks to “waving a red flag in front of a bull.”  Sometimes you need to use your own stubbornness to your benefit.

By January 2008, my shoulder was finally rehabilitated and I was as ready as I was ever going to be to return to FLETC.   I boarded the plane to GA with a great deal of anxiety and fear of failure and/or re-injury.   There were friends and family in prayer on my behalf.  Since I have never been a runner,  had knees that were 23 degrees out of normal alignment , asthma and was carrying too many extra pounds, I was more than a little afraid.

Successful completion of self defense training, fire arms qualification (M-16, 9MM and 12-gauge shotgun) , the PAT and a written exam are all part of the required training.

Of those requirements, the PAT is the first hurdle.  If you don’t pass, you go straight home, unemployed.

The Physical Abilities Test

  • Dummy Drag – drag a 75-pound dummy 3 minutes continuously for a minimum of 694 feet.
  • Climb and Grasp – climb rungs of a ladder and retrieve an item (contraband) – ideal requirement 7 seconds.
  • Obstacle Course – ideal requirement 58 seconds.  (Where I tore my rotator cuff jumping over a desk, going under tables, weaving around objects, locking and unlocking doors)
  • Run and Cuff – run one-fourth mile and apply handcuffs to a non-combative “prisoner” – ideal requirement 2 minutes, 35 seconds.
  • Stair Climb – participant, with a 20-pound weight belt, will climb up and down 108 steps – ideal requirement 45 seconds.

I will never ever, ever forget the PAT.  It was a defining moment and a crossroad in my life.  My second trip back to FLETC, I failed the PAT by 8/10th of a second.  You heard me correctly.  Just 8/10th of a second and there was no benefit of the doubt.   At this point, my instructors had to notify my institution that I had failed the first attempt (without injury).  I had only one more attempt to pass it.  There was no such thing as retaking the part you didn’t pass.  A retake meant I had to do the whole thing over again.   Since I had been unsuccessful getting the completion time down on my run and cuff to under 3 minutes, my only hope to pass was to exceed on all the other components of the test.  The “prayer warriors” I knew began to pray for me fervently.  I knew it and I could feel it.

Later I learned that the Human Resources Director at my institution, (upon learning of my failure on the first attempt), closed his office door and began praying “Lord, we need this one here.”   It still brings tears to my eyes every time I remember his intercessory prayer on my behalf.  There were many of those prayers offered for me during that time.  I imagine it was like George Bailey’s friends in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  We all need friends who will lift us up (in prayer is even better), cheer for us, and genuinely want us to be successful.

I reached a point in my run when everything in my body (especially my lungs) was screaming that I should “just stop running” and “just quit.”   It was at this moment that I claimed the verse in Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Over and over and over again, I said these words in my head as I was rounding that track.   The second verse I heard was from Hebrews 12:1 (NIV);  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

It was then that I began to hear my classmates yelling and cheering for me, but the voice I heard above them all was my FLETC instructor.  From all the way across the field I could hear his booming voice “IT’S JUST ONE MINUTE OF YOUR LIFE, PAM!  DON’T QUIT!   These were the voices of angels here on Earth, sent just to encourage me.  Sir Winston Churchill once said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Translated, this means at the moment you want to quit the most or are in the most pain, don’t stop and set up camp surrounded by your misery.  Press on, get through it, and reap the reward of triumph on the other side.For double emphasis, indeed this was a defining moment in my life.  It was both a miracle (considering all my obtacles) and a crossroad.   God parted the waters and delivered me “through the Red Sea” that day.

No person who ever passed the PAT is more grateful than I or was more humbled by their own disadvantages.  After running the race with perseverance, it is fitting that Hebrews 12:2 continues:  “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”   This was the triumph of Jesus.  He endured the hell of the cross with a goal in mind.   His test was far greater than anything I endured with the PAT.

Where do you want to go?  What will you endure in order to get there?  Is the triumph of the goal ahead worth the pain and sacrifice?   Will you keep going amidst all the obstacles to success?  Do you have friends who will lift you up along that journey and spur you on along the journey (Hebrews 10:24 NIV)?

Godspeed on your journey

Pam Baker


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Run the Race photo for blog

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