Jolene Unsoeld: A Powerful Presence in a Small Frame

On Sunday Jolene Unsoeld’s son, Krag, called to let me know that Jolene had passed that morning. Jolene Unsoeld was a dear friend to my parents, and one of my heroes. The last time I saw Jolene was on the day after Dad’s epic 100th birthday celebration at Mount Rainier. She held a presence in her small frame that, even in her eighties, was powerful and bolstering.

Here’s a little of what I wrote about that day (in Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad):
I wake up and peek outside the curtains. There are blue skies out there! My thoughts immediately turn to Dad. Yesterday he missed seeing Mount Rainier from Paradise because of the clouds. It would be a tragedy to get him this close to his mountain – knowing he’ll probably never come back here – and not try to get him up to Paradise one more time to see Rainier up-close and personal.

I confer with Scott and Gwen, Dave, and Xander (whose birthday it is today) to see what they think. They all agree that if Dad’s up for it, we should try to get him back up to Paradise. I ask Dad if he’d like to go back to Paradise today to see Rainier – and he nods his head and says yes. So it’s a go!

Dad’s dear friend, the incomparable Jolene Unsoeld (a former state representative and widow of mountaineer Willy Unsoeld) and Jolene’s son, Krag, join us at 9:00 and we let them in on our plans. They’re happy to join us on our trip to Paradise.

Dad: But where is Mom in all of this? Will she be with us?
Karen: (I have fielded this question so many times in the past – but, for some reason, I find myself at a loss today.) No…
Krag: She’ll be with us in her own way.
Dad: (Looking confused.) I don’t understand. I didn’t hear that.
Karen: (Repeating Krag’s fine answer.) She’ll be with us in her own way, Daddy. (Changing the subject.) Let’s get you loaded up in the car…

The drive to Paradise is quick and without complications. Every now and then I look back to see if Dad is checking out the scenery from the car behind us. I can see that his head is up and he’s awake. I smile, imagining him catching glimpses of Rainier through the trees…

Pretty soon Dave, and his daughter, Claire, her husband, Michael, Xander, Krag, and Jolene join us in a circle around Dad. We turn the wheelchair so he’s facing the mountain…
Karen: Do you want me to turn you back around so you can see the mountain again?
Dad: It doesn’t matter. I’m happy whichever direction I face. (This is a good answer, but I turn Dad around so he’s facing Rainier. For a while we all enjoy the mountain together.)

…We load Dad up in Gwen’s car.The rest of us head to our cars and start the trek back down the mountain…

We’re all feeling hungry now and turn into the parking lot of a Himalayan restaurant that Krag suggests to us. Dad and Jolene sit across from each other at the table and the rest of us sort ourselves out into the rest of the chairs. We talk about mountains and Nepal and the Peace Corps and politics and old friends and music and Himalayan food. Tibetan prayer flags hang around us, gently wafting in the breeze. It is peaceful out there.

When we’ve finished lunch, we load Dad back in the car with Gwen.
Dad: (Smiling and happy he had a chance to see his dear friend, Jolene, again.) Did you meet Jolene?
Karen: Yes! I love Jolene! (Kissing Dad’s cheek…) I love you, Daddy.Dad: I love you, Karen.

***

Here’s the part I left out of the book: As we were all saying good bye in the parking lot of the Tibetan Restaurant, Jolene came up to me, looked me directly in the eyes and said, “You make good things happen! You do!” And those few words were exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. Jolene saw the good in me.

I will miss her.


Shameless Plugs: 2021

It’s that magical marvelous magnificent season of giving – the season of shameless plugs.

So here’s what I’ve got…

I’ve written three books about my adventures with Dad: Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with DadThe Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad, and Finding the Rainbows: Lessons from Dad and Mom. Are You Taking Me Home Now: Adventures with Dad has 15 ratings now – all five stars! Here’s what some of the reviewers had to say about the book:

“This book was so good, I bought copies for family members and friends. It perfectly captures the love between a father and daughter. In short vignettes, the author tells us of her drives with her dad, and recounts some of their conversations. It warms my heart to read of a relationship as good as this.”
– mojavesage

“As always, Karen Molenaar Terrell delivers a poignant tale that gives wonderful glimpses into her life. This novel features the author’s adventures with her now 100 year old father, a famous mountaineer and climbing expert.

“Through short stories, we are given a lovely look at a beautiful father-daughter relationship that will leave you happy, teary eyed and wanting for more. The stories let us see the love a daughter has for her elderly father, and the love he returns to her. A beautiful book, and I loved every page.”
– Princess Mei Mei

“Betcha can’t put this book down! Even if you do not know Dee Molenaar, or know of his life of adventure, the pure love and joy of a father-daughter relationship done right shines through on every page. This is a wonderful read, full of root beer floats and day trips including Dee’s 100th birthday return to Mt. Rainier. Karen writes so effortlessly and we can only hope she brings us another book on Dee’s 101st. And, in such often indecent times, this book will reaffirm the power of a family that loves one another and is never shy about saying it. Buy several copies; you’ll want to share with friends…and family.”
– Dr. Bill

Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad

I have three books of poetry out there now – A Poem Lives on My Windowsill and The Brush of Angel Wings, and my latest endeavor, Since Then – which I just published earlier this month. Here’s the title poem from Since Then:

Since Then

It’s been almost five years since then,
but it feels like yesterday that you left,
brushed by me as I slept, on your way
to the other side of infinity.
There are still days when I think I should
pick up the phone and give you a call.
But I know I don’t really need a phone
to talk with you. I feel you with me –
here and now.
The sons are both married now; and Dad
has gone – joined you on the other side
of infinity; I’m retired, sort of; and we have
a new president. Everything has changed
and nothing has changed since then.
I feel your love. You must feel mine.

I am also the author of The Madcap Christian Scientist series. The first book in the series, Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist, has 35 ratings and 4.6 stars! Here are what some of the reviewers had to say about Blessings:

“To echo the reviews of others, I did laugh, I did cry, this book touched my soul. My wife and I read it out loud on a snowy New Hampshire day and there were numerous times when I had to pause as the lump formed in my throat. I’ve been a Christian Scientist for most of my adult life and this book tells my story and the story of many fellow travelers. I recommend this book highly for anyone who would like to see how prayer can make a difference in your life, in ways both large and small.”
-RobertJ

“OK, after reading the reviews, I thought this might make a nice Christmas present for a friend. When it arrived I decided to ‘peek’ at a few pages, but couldn’t put it down. I finished reading it in one sitting. But how to review the book is a challenge. It leaves you with such a joyful uplifted feeling and one of appreciation and relevance. At first I found myself saying, ‘I want to know this woman’ and after I finished the book I felt I did.

“Karen brings very positive reinforcement into the reader’s experience and the easy flowing style just melts in your mouth like comfort food. I found dozens of instances where I saw a parallel in my own life, that were entertaining and inspirational in a down to earth sort of way.

“I’m wearing a smile having read this and can’t think of a better way to pass an evening than this quick roller-coaster ride through another’s eyes of refreshing gratitude.

“It touched my heart and soul. Highly recommended.”
VolP – Dragon User

“This book was wonderful! I enjoyed it so much I hated to have it end and am re-reading it from the beginning. It is a fun, funny, happy/sad story about the author’s life experiences, and how her faith in God helped her in many ways. It felt honest and REAL without any preaching or over-simplification. I felt as though I was making a friend, maybe because her experience is a little like my own and her point-of-view is so comfortable, non-judgemental, encouraging and practical. I hope she writes more books!!!”
– crazylegs


I have two other books I published in 2021 (the pandemic has given me a lot of time to write and publish this year). One is Scrapbook of a Year and a Day: January 19, 2020 to January 20, 2021. This book consists of news stories, personal anecdotes, essays, poems, and observations of what we all lived through in 2020, starting with the day of my father’s passing on January 19th, at the age of 101.

Maryjmetz has this to say on Goodreads about Scrapbook of a Year and a Day:

“Karen Molenaar Terrell’s Scrapbook of a Year and a Day is, essentially, a compilation of Facebook posts written between January 19, 2020 and January 20, 2021. If I were to collect my FB posts, it would be very, very dull indeed, but Karen eliminated the silly cat videos, if she ever posted any, and has instead put together a moving and coherent account of the tumultuous year we all lived through and her personal experience of the year following the death of her father, Dee Molenaar. What I particularly love about Karen–and this book–is her perspective on things and her constant striving to live up to her ideals.”

The other book is Cosmic Connections: Sharing the Joy – a book about the wonderful people I’ve met, and the joy that comes from sharing and connecting with each other.

“Amazon Customer” has this to say about Cosmic Connections:
“Cosmic Connections” follows the excursions of an extraverted author and photographer who befriends nearly every person who crosses her path. This uplifting read highlights life’s small moments of connection — with strangers, old friends she meets by chance, the hapless, friendly dogs and former students. The author uses brief anecdotes—one or two pages—to show how much goodness permeates life. One entry describes meeting a stranger, only to find out she is the daughter of the minister who married her and her husband (in another part of the state) 30 years before. Her warm writing style and enthusiasm for life is infectious.”


To find any of these books you can go to my Amazon Author Page.

Thank you – so much! – for taking the time to read through my shameless plugs. Writing the books is the easy part for me – it’s the shamelessly plugging them I sometimes find challenging. I mean…. how awkward, right?! On the other hand, it’s when we gather up our courage and share our art (whatever form that takes) with others that the magic happens, isn’t it? That’s the connecting part! That’s the cosmic part!

May infinite blessings pour down upon you and yours.

Karen Molenaar Terrell

We Get to Start Fresh

Last night:
Yikes! I have gotten myself into a weird internet loop tonight. I keep clicking into FB and my email and other internet sites, expecting to get answers to questions I don’t even know to ask.

I am now going to scramble out of this vortex and turn off my laptop. Maybe grab a book and head to bed. Sweet dreams, my friends! Tomorrow we get to start fresh!

Here’s tonight’s offering before I head to bed:

Rebirth

the old me died yesterday –
and took with her all the guilt
and resentment, the squabbles
and ego battles and losses
and victories – none of that
can touch the new me
she is beyond it
and a new expression
emerges – a new identity
new day, new she, fresh start–
all things new
-Karen Molenaar Terrell, from Since Then

Heaven Right Here

Went for a walk in the moonlight and starlight and immediately felt Moz with me. And a couple of musings passed through my thoughts: I don’t need to die to be with the people I love who have passed beyond my seeing them – because they’re already with me right now; I don’t need to die to have heaven – everything that will bring me joy on the “other side” is with me right here, in this moment. If I can’t find my joy here, I’m not going to find it “there,” either. If I can’t be grateful for now, what makes me think I’m going to be grateful for whatever comes after this?

“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
– Luke 17:21

Moonrise
, ,
, ,

What Remains

It’s dark outside, and cold,
and the rain is on the offensive.
Last summer I craved the rain –
I missed the sound of gentle pattering
on the roof, and the smell of clean
green fields after a cooling drizzle.
So I guess I should be grateful
for this rain.
But I just feel drenched inside and out,
soggy-headed, and worn down by the
relentless downpour – the watery refrain.

My heart is low. My instinct wants me
to jolly myself along – put in a funny
movie and laugh my way out of this pain.
But another voice tells me it’s okay
to feel this way – to just sit in this
and feel whatever I’m feeling
and accept it – maybe learn something
from it. It will pass – what I’m feeling,
and the rain.
And, after it’s gone, what’s eternal
will remain.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Figurative Language: A Poem

I apologize. I have no excuse for this. What you see here is an English teacher with some extra time on her hands.

Figurative Language

A poem is like a simile.
A poem is a metaphor –
stepping, stretching, strolling,
striding, sliding until you soar.
A poem can sing or cry or wail
– it can BOOM or it can ROARRR –
a poem can lift your heart to the sky
or be the biggest bombastic bore.
A poem can shatter you and make you cry
or carry you to a distant shore.
And you can find within THIS poem
personification, alliteration, and more.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Photo of snow geese by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

Cosmic Give and Take

Here’s another poem from my latest book, Since Then – when I remember this day I still get a smile on my face:

Cosmic Give and Take

He was waiting outside the store
when I came out with my groceries
and I said hi. He smiled and said hi back.
Give and take.
Who taught him to smile? Who taught me?

I started to wheel my cart to my car
mentally scrolling through my shopping list
to see if I had anything to share with him.
Tangerines!
I rolled my cart back towards him.
You want an orange?
Sure!
Can you catch it?
Yeah! And he smiled at the idea
of a game of catch.
I tossed. He caught.
Who taught me how to throw?
Who taught him how to catch?
My dad? His dad? And now our dads
are connected in our give and take.

As Scott drove west, a train engine
went west in reverse. Our car
passed the train as the engineer
sat facing me and I smiled across
the tracks at him and he smiled
and waved back to me.
I caught his wave and returned it.
Who taught him how to wave?
Who taught me?

All the cosmos connected in a giant
give and take.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell


New Collection of Poems

Hi everyone!
I just published another collection of poems. This one is titled “Since Then” and is a collection of poems I’ve written since my mom’s passing in 2017. The book contains poems about home and our kinship with others; poems from the pandemic; poems praising our connection to earth; and poems that celebrate the joy of being alive.Here’s a quick sample:

Can I Take Your Picture?

“Can I take your picture?” I ask the folks who sit
in a line of rocking chairs in front of a Cracker Barrel
store in Indiana. And they grin for me and I click.
“Can I take your picture?” I ask Joanna and Mitch
in the Anoka Independent Grain and Feed and they
give me broad midwestern smiles and I click.
“Can I take your picture?” I ask the international students
in front of Mount Rushmore and they quickly
line up in rows for me and beam and give me hope
for the world – maybe we’ll survive after all – and I click.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Aaron Rodgers: Here’s Hoping for a Speedy Recovery

I am vaccinated. Half of my extended family is vaccinated; and half is not.  I don’t love and respect the unvaccinated members of my family any less than I love and respect those who are vaccinated. I don’t think the unvaccinated people in my family are selfish – in fact, given today’s divisive and shaming culture, I think they are very brave for choosing to take an unpopular path. Of those who are vaccinated in my extended family, some identify as Democrats and some as Republicans. Of those who are unvaccinated, some of them identify as Democrats and some as Republicans. The choice to get vaccinated, or not, had nothing to do with political leanings – at least in my family.

I wish Aaron Rodgers hadn’t lied about his vaccination status – but, like the rest of us, he’s human and no human is perfect. To paraphrase Jesus, “Let whoever is perfect among us, cast the first stone.” I’m not going to join in shaming Rodgers because he chose not to get vaccinated. I hope he has a speedy recovery from COVID-19, and I hope he comes back to play football in time to be crushed by the Seattle Seahawks.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell