Your Value

Some interesting and thought-provoking conversations in the last couple of days have caused me to feel the need to say this:

Women – your value goes beyond any ability you have to get pregnant and give birth. You are whole human beings with your own unique talents and gifts to share with the world. Please use every gift you have to make the world a better place. The world needs you – ALL of the good in you – not just your uterus.

Men – never think that you are “disposable” and that you aren’t valued. Don’t be afraid that you’re not needed or necessary. Your value goes beyond big muscles or the size of your paycheck. You are worth so much more than that.

Listen, intelligence and wisdom, kindness and honesty and courage, compassion, empathy, and strength – these are all valuable to our world. You don’t need money to share these things with others. And these things aren’t limited to one gender – you don’t need a uterus or a penis to be kind or courageous or strong. All of us – of whatever gender or sexual orientation – can express intelligence and kindness, courage and honesty and strength in our lives.

Okay. I guess that’s all I have to say about that at this time. Please know you are loved and valued.

– Karen

“Both sexes should be loving, pure, tender, and strong.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

“Blessed to have this man for my father.”

Pop made the front page of the Skagit Valley Herald today for winning the Mountaineers Lifetime Achievement Award.

And I want to take a moment here to share some of the many reasons I feel blessed to have this man for my father. I was born before Title IX: “Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.'”  (www.ncaa.org) It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that my school finally got a girls’ track team and I was able to high jump on my school’s team. But my dad introduced me to high jumping long before that. He built a little high jump for me when I was a youngster, and rooted for me as we had our own track meet in the backyard. He also taught me how to ski; led me up Mount Rainier, Baker, Adams, and Hood; took me on my first little rock scramble (Pinnacle Peak) when I was four years old; supported me in my university education and wrote me encouraging notes throughout my teaching career – he was always proud of me as a teacher, and he’s proud of me now for running for school board. He’s never in any way limited me because I was a female.

And this was a man who was born in 1918 – two years before women even had the right to vote!

Dad on front page of svh

We Need to Talk About This

We need to talk about this. I’ve been reluctant. I wasn’t sure everyone would understand. And I wanted to be careful not to share anything that might put anyone in jeopardy. But it’s been ten years and I think it’s okay for me to share now. And yeah. We need to talk about this.

About 10 years ago I transferred from Edison to West View, our district’s dual language school. I was immediately embraced by the staff and community there, and felt right at home. I loved walking down the halls, surrounded in Spanish and children’s laughter. I loved the positive energy I felt there. And the staff! They were completely dedicated and committed to their students – they never worried about who was getting which lunch or planning period – it was always about what was best for the students.

Not long after I’d been at West View I began to realize that my students were dealing with things that I’d never had to deal with in my life – problems that I hadn’t even known existed. I feel embarrassed as I write this. I’d been so insulated!

After I’d been at West View a month or so, I asked my sixth graders to sit in a circle on the floor with me, and share with me some of what they’d been experiencing. And the stories started pouring out – I remember some of them said they no longer went shopping at a certain store because there were always agents there, waiting to look at their “papers.” I remember feeling shocked by this – I’d never needed to carry “papers” with me to prove I was a citizen – I didn’t even know that was a thing! One student who couldn’t find the words drew a picture that broke my heart – a Border Patrol van at night – children silhouetted in its search light, running into the woods.

There was the day one of my students looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and told me he’d come home from school to find his entire family had been deported. There was another student whose father voluntarily returned to Mexico, hoping he’d be able to return to the States as a citizen some day – my student loved his father deeply and didn’t know if he’d ever see him again – his father had told him to stay in the U.S. and get his education – even if it meant they’d never see each other again.

These stories were eye-openers for me. I hadn’t realized!

Later, when I taught at a high school in another district, I had several students who shared their stories about escaping the violence and poverty in Mexico by crossing the desert barefoot – and risking their lives – in the hopes that they and their families could find freedom and better lives in the U.S.

If you are interested in learning more about the lives of these young people – my friend, Janice Blackmore, who worked with these students when they were in middle school, asked the students to share their stories and published them in a book called DreamFields: A Peek into the World of Migrant Youth.

(The girl on the cover is one of my former students.)

Dream Fields cover

“Good try, though.” :)

Some wise guy turned around my campaign sign at the espresso stand so’s all you could see was the blank back of it. And I found myself cracking up. I could just picture it: I pictured a man with a baseball cap on his head, a cup of drip coffee in one hand and a rascally grin on his face – slyly reaching out and pulling my sign out of the dirt, giving it a stealthy 180 turn, and re-planting it. And – maybe it’s my background as a middle school teacher – but the idea of that just cracked me up.

It reminds me of my first day teaching eighth graders at Allen School: My partner, Teresa, and I both started in the B-E school district at Allen Elementary School the same year. Teresa taught science and math to the youngsters and I taught social studies and English. We were both dazzled by our students right from the start – I remember half-way through the day we both popped out of our classrooms at the same time, looked down the hall at each other, big grins on our faces, and said simultaneously, “I love these kids!”

At the end of the day we were outside the building, waving good bye to our new students as they loaded onto the buses, and we suddenly – again, both at the same time – looked at each other and said, “Where’s ____?!” We realized we were missing one of our students.

Without needing to say anything more to each other (and this is probably when I recognized my new partner and I had some special cosmic connection) we both hauled off in the same direction – towards the side of the school – rounded the corner and found our missing 8th grader in the process of lighting up a cigarette. Simultaneously, we yelled, “Busted!” He grinned at us and we grinned back. And that was the end of that. We established right from the get-go who he was dealing with that year, and we also established that we genuinely cared about him and he wasn’t invisible to us.

Finding the sign turned around this morning made me flashback to that scene at the side of the school all those years ago.

Ahem. And no – I did not leave the sign turned with its backside to the road. Good try, though. 

campaign sign

I felt completely content.

I had one of those perfect moments in life today – the kind of moment where I felt at total peace with the world. I was sitting in the shade of a maple tree on a bench in Boulevard Park – there was a cool breeze that brought the briny smell of the bay and I could hear laughter and seagulls and people chatting cheerily with each other. It wasn’t too cold or too hot. I wasn’t hungry. I had everything I needed. I felt completely content.

And I had a flashback to a day 11 years ago – when I was in the middle of a severe depression and walking through the same park, watching people smiling and laughing, and wondering if I would ever feel happy again – wondering if I would ever feel at peace and content, and be able to laugh again with my friends like the people around me were doing. I remember feeling sort of in awe and wonder at the happy faces around me. I remember sort of letting myself ride on top of the joy of other people for a while. And I thought if I could ever find the joy again I would be sure to share it – like the people around me were doing for me.

I am really conscious of my joy now – and so very grateful for it.

(Seen in Bellingham this morning: Bee on Big Blue Sea Holly flowers. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

bee on sea blue holly thistle like this one really

“This is my sister.”

Dad is sitting in the kitchen, ready to go, when we get there.
Karen: Hi, Daddy. You ready to go to the doctor?
Dad: The doctor? Is it bad?
Karen: No. It’s just your eye doctor appointment.
Dad: Are we going to Jo’s tonight?
(Amanda comes up to see if she can help.)
Dad to Amanda: (Pointing to me.) This is my sister.
Amanda to me: (Grinning.) Pleased to meet you!
Karen to Amanda: (Also grinning.) Pleased to meet YOU!

Scotty appears and Dad greets him, “Hi Scott!” Scott helps load Dad into the car. We buckle him in, and begin our adventure.
Dad: Is the doctor’s office here in Tacoma?
Scott: It’s in Burlington.
Dad: That’s a long way to go for a doctor’s appointment.
Scott: We’re in Burlington right now.
Dad: (Looks around.) Oh.

Dad reaches his hand back from the front seat. I clasp it and we hold hands companionably for a while.
Dad to Scott: Are you enjoying your job?
Scott: I’m loving my job. I’m retired!

Soon we arrive at the doctor’s office. We help Dad out of the car and into the building, and Dad and I go into the waiting room. It’s packed today. Dad and I find seats in the back.
Karen: Dad, your doctor is a mountain climber, too. He’s climbed Mount Rainier.
(Dad nods and takes this in. Another patient comes in and finds a seat in the back.)
New patient: This is where the rowdy crowd sits – in the back of the bus.
(I start chuckling.)
Karen: Dad is a rowdy 101 years old.
New patient: He’s 101?! You must be his granddaughter then? Or his great-granddaughter?)
Karen: No. I’m his daughter. Dad started a little late…
New patient: How old are you…?
Karen: I’m 62.
(I am happily surprised when the new patient’s mouth opens in astonishment.)
New patient: You don’t look 62! I would never have guessed…
Karen: Really?! Wow, thank you! (This kind of makes up for Dad calling me his sister.)
(There’s another pair there – an older woman and I’m guessing her daughter – the daughter perks up when she hears Dad’s age.)
Daughter: My mom is 101, too! She’ll be 102 in December. (She turns to her mom and explains that Dad is six months younger than her. The mother looks at Dad and calls him “a kid.”)
Karen: (Laughing.) Dad, she is six months older than you. She thinks you’re a youngster. (Dad grins.)
(We talk for a while with the mother and daughter and share histories – they learn Dad was born in Los Angeles and I find out they lived in Los Angeles, too. The mother spent the early part of her life in NYC, though, and reminisces for a while about New York.)

We get called back into the office where Dad will have his blood pressure taken and read the eye chart. Dad is watching the technician…)
Dad: Is she the mountain climber?
(The technician looks at Dad…)
Karen to the technician: Are you a mountain climber?
The technician: (Smiling.) I like to hike.
Karen to Dad: She likes to hike. Your doctor is the mountain climber – she’s not your doctor. She’s going to check your eyes and take your blood pressure.
The technician: (Surprised.) Dr. Saperstein is a mountain climber?!
Karen: (Smiling.) Yeah. He’s climbed Mount Rainier.
The technician: I didn’t know that!
(Dad does really well with the eye charts today. He knows exactly what to do. When we’re done there we go down to the room where he’ll have his eyes photographed. Again, he knows the routine and he’s remembering what to do.When we’re done there we go back into the waiting room to wait to be called back to Dr. Saperstein’s office. The daughter and mother pass us on their way out and we say how nice it was to meet each other. The daughter says that Dr. Saperstein was telling them all about Dad being in Wikipedia and dangling on the end of a rope on K2 – she’s impressed with all of this.)
The mother: Give my regards to Broadway…
The daughter: (Smiling.) Mom is thinking about New York now.

Final stop: Dr. Saperstein’s room. I let Dad know that THIS is the man who’s the mountain climber, and when Dr. Saperstein comes in they do the Dee Molenaar handshake – clasp hands and then turn the hands so it looks like they might start arm wrestling. Dr. Saperstein is grinning. Things happen quickly now – it’s determined that Dad will need an injection in his eye today and I explain to him what that will look like.)
Karen to Dad: They’re going to put some drops in your eye to numb it and then you’re going to have some medicine injected in your eye. It’s very quick. You’re almost done!
Karen to Dr. Saperstein: How’d I do?
Dr. Saperstein: (Smiling.) You did great!

The medicine is injected quickly into Dad’s eyeball and then we make our way back to the car, where Scott is waiting for us.
Dad: Thank you for taking me on all these drives to doctors.
Scott: No problem! You’re welcome!

Now it’s time to get Dad a root beer float from Sisters Espresso. He has earned it, for sure. We get Dad his float and then take him on a short drive. He perks up when he sees Mount Baker peeking out of the clouds. When we pull in front of Dad’s door…
Dad: I’ve been here before.
Karen: Yeah! You have!

We help him out of the car, into the house, and up the stairs. He settles into a comfy chair in front of the television.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.