Stand with the Students

A Facebook acquaintance recently suggested that high school students are incapable of original thought, and that the students from Parkland are being fed their lines by the “corrupt media” and “corrupt teachers.”

I’m a high school teacher. I’ve been teaching for more than 20 years. I know kids. I know the wisdom they’re capable of expressing. I have witnessed, first-hand, the intelligence and original thought of high school students. I don’t know about high school students from what FOX news is telling me about high school students – I know about high school students because I work with them every day. As a high school teacher I can assure you that there are high school students who are far more articulate, informed, and well-spoken than some adults I have met. The students from Parkland did not need to be “coached” to speak – they did not need to have ideas about gun violence fed to them by the media or their teachers – they lived through a school shooting – they saw their friends shot and killed – they have far more first-hand experience with gun violence in schools than the average adult. They are the experts – and it’s time to listen to them.

I once had to spend a day sequestered in a small room with my students because of concerns about our safety. I have experienced that kind of fear, first-hand. I am talking from experience here. Not from what FOX news has told me. I once (years ago – before Columbine) had a student tell me he could bring a gun to school and kill me. I know what that kind of threat feels like. And so when someone outside of education – someone who doesn’t have to worry about how he’s going to save his students if someone with a gun should suddenly appear in the door – tells me how I should feel about it all and cavalierly tells me that teachers should be armed – that that’s going to fix this mess – I get really frustrated. I’ve come to realize that, to some people, guns matter more than the lives of students and teachers.
That hurts, man.
We need to listen to the people who are dealing with this  threat every single day – the students and teachers who are walking into schools not knowing if they’re going to be walking out at the end of the day. Don’t discount their stories. Don’t belittle them. They are the ones on the front lines now.

“Springtime’s comin,'” he said. “Cannot tha’ smell it?”

Here’s something to ponder: If my dad (who will turn 100 in a few months) had decided to start closing down shop and preparing for old age at 60 he would have missed out on 40% of his life.

Yeah. Cogitate THAT for awhile. 🙂


So you know how in the springtime you see birds winging through the air with bits of ribbon and grass and straw dangling from their beaks – foraging for materials to build their nests? That’s been me lately. I’ve been on a treasure hunt for scraps and bits of inspiration to build a cozy little mental nest for myself. I just finished my annual spring reading of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – a book that never fails to uplift me – and I’ve been turning to the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, too, for inspiration. Mr. Rogers has, once again, provided me with a role model – someone I can endeavor to emulate in my own life. And a lecture by Michelle Boccanfuso Nanouche brought me a rush of sweet, healing tears.

Here’s some of what I’ve found for my nest –

“Springtime’s comin,'” he said. “Cannot tha’ smell it?”

Mary sniffed and thought she could. “I smell something nice and fresh and damp,” she said.

“That’s th’ good rich earth,” he answered, digging away. “It’s in a good humor makin’ ready to grow things. It’s glad when plantin’ time comes. It’s dull in th’ winter when it’s got nowt to do. In th’ flower gardens out there things will be stirrin’ down below in th’ dark. Th’ sun’s warmin’ ’em. You’ll see bits o’ green spikes stickin’ out o’ th’ black earth after a bit.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

orange pink tulips 2 this one.jpg

Tulips in Tulip Town 2017. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

“How could I have stayed abed! Th’ world’s all fair begun again this mornin’, it has. An’ it’s workin’ an’ hummin’ an’ scratchin’ an’ pipin’ an’ nest-buildin’ an’ breathin’ out scents, till you’ve got to be out on it ‘stead o’ lyin’ on your back.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth,” said Mary.
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?… To plant seeds in— to make things grow— to see them come alive,” Mary faltered.
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

entry to garden

Karen’s Secret Garden

“On that first morning when the sky was blue again Mary wakened very early. The sun was pouring in slanting rays through the blinds and there was something so joyous in the sight of it that she jumped out of bed and ran to the window. She drew up the blinds and opened the window itself and a great waft of fresh, scented air blew in upon her. The moor was blue and the whole world looked as if something Magic had happened to it. There were tender little fluting sounds here and there and everywhere, as if scores of birds were beginning to tune up for a concert. Mary put her hand out of the window and held it in the sun.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“She unchained and unbolted and unlocked and when the door was open she sprang across the step with one bound, and there she was standing on the grass, which seemed to have turned green, and with the sun pouring down on her and warm sweet wafts about her and the fluting and twittering and singing coming from every bush and tree. She clasped her hands for pure joy and looked up in the sky and it was so blue and pink and pearly and white and flooded with springtime light that she felt as if she must flute and sing aloud herself and knew that thrushes and robins and skylarks could not possibly help it.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“Just listen to them birds— th’ world seems full of ’em— all whistlin’ an’ pipin’,” he said. “Look at ’em dartin’ about, an’ hearken at ’em callin’ to each other. Come springtime seems like as if all th’ world’s callin’. The leaves is uncurlin’ so you can see ’em— an’, my word, th’ nice smells there is about!” sniffing with his happy turned-up nose. “An’ that poor lad lyin’ shut up an’ seein’ so little that he gets to thinkin’ o’ things as sets him screamin’. Eh! my! we mun get him out here— we mun get him watchin’ an listenin’ an’ sniffin’ up th’ air an’ get him just soaked through wi’ sunshine. An’ we munnot lose no time about it.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“Something seemed to have been unbound and released in him, very quietly. ‘What is it?’ he said, almost in a whisper…strange as it seemed to him, there were minutes— sometimes half-hours— when, without his knowing why, the black burden seemed to lift itself again and he knew he was a living man and not a dead one.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“Circumstances, however, were very kind to her, though she was not at all aware of it. They began to push her about for her own good. When her mind gradually filled itself with robins, and moorland cottages crowded with children, with queer crabbed old gardeners and common little Yorkshire housemaids, with springtime and with secret gardens coming alive day by day, and also with a moor boy and his ‘creatures,’ there was no room left for the disagreeable thoughts…”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“I’m well! I’m well!” said Colin again, and his face went quite red all over. He had known it before in a way, he had hoped it and felt it and thought about it, but just at that minute something had rushed all through him— a sort of rapturous belief and realization and it had been so strong that he could not help calling out. “I shall live forever and ever and ever!” he cried grandly. “I shall find out thousands and thousands of things. I shall find out about people and creatures and everything that grows— like Dickon— and I shall never stop making Magic. I’m well! I’m well! I feel— I feel as if I want to shout out something— something thankful, joyful!”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden


“The flowers are growing— the roots are stirring. That is the Magic. Being alive is the Magic— being strong is the Magic. The Magic is in me— the Magic is in me.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“The healing power is Truth and Love, and these do not fail in the greatest emergencies.”
– Mary Baker Eddy
“Innocence and Truth overcome guilt and error.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

“A false sense of what constitutes happiness is more disastrous to human progress than all that an enemy or enmity can obtrude upon the mind…”
– Mary Baker Eddy

“Humility is no busy body: it has no moments for trafficking in other people’s business, no place for envy, no time for idle words, vain amusements, and all the et cetera of the ways and means of personal sense.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
– Stephen Hawking

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood won four Emmy awards, and Rogers himself was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 Daytime Emmys, as described by Esquire’s Tom Junod:

“Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award—and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, ‘All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.’

“And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, ‘I’ll watch the time.’ There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds—and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly, ‘May God be with you’ to all his vanquished children.”
– from Wikipedia’s page on Fred Rogers

“Love cannot create His children to inflict harm on one another – not by means of heredity, or contagion, hatred, fear, violence, abuse, any other contact… anger… no – there’s no God in that history. Our eternal link to one another is Love. Our present link to one another is Love. Our past link is Love. All God’s children, in reality, are only connected through love, by Love… I let go of hurts, anger, I let go of false beliefs about connections I had with people in my life. It was so purifying. It’s like I was given a clean white page. A whole new life.”
– Michelle Boccanfuso Nanouche

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun— which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

Flipped Reflection. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

“See here,” she said. “Don’t let us talk about dying; I don’t like it. Let us talk about living.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Robin Family

Mama Robin and babies on our porch. (Karen Molenaar Terrell)

Lunchtime Walks

The sunshine called to me this week during lunch: “Karen… Karen… come out and play…” Here in western Washington we’ve had sparkly days of azure skies and fresh spring breezes; the daffodils are smiling at us; and blossoms are starting to pop open on the early-blooming fruit trees. How could I possibly resist a lunch-time walk downtown?

On Wednesday my feet led me to the walk along the Skagit River, down a side street, and then – as if propelled by their own power – my feet brought me to the Forte Artisan Chocolate store  in Mount Vernon. Yes. That’s right. It was my feet, I tell ya. My feet took me into the chocolate shop. And, of course, once I found myself in the chocolate shop I HAD to buy something, right? I chose two truffles and a chocolate-covered caramel and as the young man was bagging my chocolates up for me, he smiled and asked me if I was “Mrs. Terrell.”  And then he told me his name – and I realized that he was one of my former middle school students! Ohmygosh! It was so fun to see him again! Ryan had just come back from all kinds of amazing adventures in southeast Asia – and as he shared a little about his adventures with me I found myself grinning from ear-to-ear. I cannot tell you the pleasure it gives me to run into my old students and see the amazing lives they’re making for themselves. As I was ready to leave, Ryan said, “Come here!” and he came from behind the counter and gave me a big hug. I left the store with a smile on my face and a heart full of happiness. Also a bag of award-winning chocolate. For later. (It lasted two whole hours.)

It was another sunny day today, and I ventured back into downtown Mount Vernon during my lunch break. This time I bought myself a green-topped St. Patrick’s cupcake from the Shambala Bakery and Bistro. As I was leaving the bakery and heading back to school I ran into John the Peace Man. I’d met John a couple years ago when I’d joined up with the little group of weekly demonstrators in front of the Skagit County Courthouse to wave my “LOVE RULES” sign for an hour. The demonstrators have been standing out there every Friday at noon for years now – maybe decades. When I saw John I realized that he was probably walking to the noon-time demonstration, and fell into step beside him. When I got to the Courthouse I found my dear peacenik friends there, waving their signs. I love these folks.
peace people.JPG

I brought sunshine and love back with me to school after my lunch-time walks this week. I’m thinking lunch-time walks on sunny days should be, like, a requirement for all teachers. Right?

“It’s Ice Cream Time!”

Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: That’s exactly what I need right now.

Amanda helps me get Dad in the car and we head out on today’s adventure. As we pass a nearby retirement village I remember that one of Dad’s old friends used to live there. I point to it…

Karen: That’s where Norma Johnson used to live.
Dad: Norma Johnson? I haven’t heard from her or Bob for awhile. Are they still alive?
Karen: Bob died a while ago. I’m not sure about Norma.
Dad: That’s the thing about getting old. You stop hearing from your friends. You stop expecting to hear from them anymore. People just quietly die off. I wonder if Bob’s still alive…
(I don’t say anything – he didn’t hear me the first time, and I’m thinking I should just let it pass…)
Dad: I’d try to find him, but his name is Bob Johnson. There are a lot of Bob Johnsons. He’d be hard to find. (thinking) How’d you like to be named Bob Johnson? (pause) Dee Molenaar – there aren’t a lot of Dee Molenaars. (turns to me) Karen Molenaar. There’s a good name. Do you go by Karen Molenaar or Karen…?(Dad struggles to remember my married name)
Karen: I use ’em both. Karen Molenaar Terrell.
Dad: Yeah. That’s good. You’ve got them all covered.

(We’re traveling near LaConner now.)

Dad: (pointing to the sky) The jet stream is long and straight – that means there’s not much wind today. There’s the tip of Mount Baker. (a little further) There’s the Olympics. This is a beautiful part of the country.
Karen: Do you remember when we climbed Baker together? You and me and Scott?
Dad: (thinking, and then nodding his head) Yeah. I remember that.

(I pull over to take a picture of a field of daffodils. Then we head towards Bow. We get to the top of the hill on Farm to Market Road and I see a place to pull over and take a picture of Baker.)
Dad: What do you do with all these pictures you take? Do you put them in an album.
Karen: I share them with my friends.
(Dad nods. We stop again so I can take another picture of Baker. I show the picture I took to Dad. He nods…)
Dad: That would make a good painting. The farm buildings in the foreground and Mount Baker.

(As we near the Sisters Espresso…)
Dad: (smiling) It’s ice cream time.
(I pull into the Sisters Espresso and go up to order Dad’s root beer float and a lavender iced tea for me. I hand Dad his float…)
Dad: Thank you!

(We head back to his home now.)
Dad: Who’s taking me back to Seattle tonight?
Karen: I’m taking you home now.
(Dad’s quiet – I’m not sure if he’s processing what I just said, or if he didn’t hear it. As I drive in front of his home he recognizes it…)
Dad: (smiling) Ah, the long house.

(I pull in front of the front door and reach for his ice cream float – it looks pretty empty…)
Karen: Are you done with that now?
Dad: No! There’s some left.

(I help him out and into the home. Amanda greets Dad and helps him into the recliner in front of the TV.)
Karen: I love you!
Dad: I love you!

How cool was THAT?!

I woke up at 2:00 this morning feeling a cat curled up against my legs, kneading them with gentle kitty paws. “Clara,” I thought, thinking of my calico. And, still half-asleep, it occurred to me that Clara had lost some weight – she was feeling light against me.

I tried to doze off again, but the sleep didn’t come. I finally gave up and decided to get out of bed and do some work in my office. But as I was getting out of bed I reached down to pet “Clara” and realized that this cat wasn’t Clara at all – it was Sparky, our black feral cat, curled up against my legs. Which… whoah… Sparky is usually skittish and scaredy and doesn’t often let people near.

I curled my body around Sparky on top of our wool Pendleton blanket and, for the next half hour, communed with him – scratching him behind his ears, ruffling his fur, petting his paws. I could feel him purring underneath my hand – stretching out so I could pet all of him.

Eventually my husband – who first coaxed Sparky into our lives last autumn – moved abruptly in his sleep and Sparky – maybe deciding the humans were getting a little too lively – scampered off into the night.

But whoah… how cool was THAT half hour visit in the middle of the night?!

Sparky the black cat 2

Sparky last autumn.

Cast Thy Burden…

Earlier in the school year, at a workshop for teachers, this twenty-something man conducting the workshop said something like, “You know, we all have parents we can turn to when we need help…” and I felt myself suddenly and overwhelmingly filled with a huge sense of loss and grief. My nose and eyes started filling with snot and tears.  I had to get up and leave the room.

No, I was thinking, we don’t all have parents we can turn to when we need help. My mom is dead, and my 99 year-old dad needs me to be there for him now – not the other way around. I’m responsible for his health and safety and finances and well-being.  No, I thought, don’t assume that everybody in that room has parents they can turn to for support. As I sobbed, and blew my nose into a wad of toilet paper in the bathroom – feeling all sorts of sorry for myself – I was thinking the days when I had a mother and father to turn to for help were gone for me.

But the other day, as I was contemplating the nature of God, Love, this thought came to me: God is responsible for me. It was a really simple thought, but I found it wonderfully comforting.  “God is responsible for me,” I said out loud to myself, and turned the idea of it over in my thoughts, examining it. God made me, maintains me, governs, and guides me, I reasoned. I am here because of God, and for God. I am God’s, and God is mine – my Mother and Father. I can nestle safe and secure in Love’s arms and trust She will take care of me.  God, Love, is where I can always turn when I need help.

A sense of burden was lifted from me in that moment, and a sense of peace filled me. The false sense of responsibility I’d been feeling for everyone I come in contact with dissolved. I realized God, Love, is responsible for ALL Her children – Dad, my sons, husband, friends, students, colleagues, strangers on the street, and, yes, me, too.  In that moment it was clear to me that I’m not alone, on my own, here. We really DO all have a Father-Mother we can turn to when we need help.

It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
– Psalms 18:32

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
– Psalms 100:3

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee…
– Psalms 55:22

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings…
– Deuteronomy 32:11

Two eagles in a nest in Bow, WA. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Two eagles in a nest in Skagit County, Washington. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

We’re not here to die, but to live…

“See here,” she said. “Don’t let us talk about dying; I don’t like it. Let us talk about living.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

All preoccupied with warning signs
and symptoms, sickness and dying,
bouncing from one fear to the next –
expecting a crisis around every corner.
This is no way to live.

Death, you are not the boss of me.
My Creator has other plans for me.
Sickness and dying and fear
are not why Love put us here.
We’re not here to die, but to live.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
– Jeremiah 29:11

Were not here to die

What is thy birthright, man,
Child of the perfect One;
What is thy Father’s plan
For His beloved son?
– Emily F. Seal