Karen's stories have appeared in *Newsweek*, *The Christian Science Monitor*, and *Pack and Paddle Magazine* and she's the author of *Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad*, *The Second Hundred Years: Further Adventures with Dad*, *The Brush of Angel Wings*, *The Madcap Christian Scientist* series, *A Poem Sits on my Windowsill*, *Finding the Rainbows: Lessons from Dad and Mom*, and co-author of *The Humoristian Chronicles: A Most Unusual Fellowship*. Her photos are featured in the spring 2014 edition of the *Bellingham Review*, and the "Photos from the Field" page of the April/May 2017, December/January 2018-2019, April/May 2019, and June/July 2020 issues of of *Mother Earth News*. Her photos can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/60803140@N06/
Her books can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Karen-Molenaar-Terrell/e/B0044P90RQ/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1312060042&sr=8-
I was in some pain last night – I think it was from the digging and planting and hauling I did yesterday- and I couldn’t sleep. I came downstairs and sang the hymns Mom used to sing to me when I was a little girl and wasn’t feeling well. I could picture her face and hear her voice and feel her love as I sang to myself and it was comforting. I began to feel better and the pain faded away.
And as I was feeling full of gratitude for that, Sparky Cat suddenly jumped up and lay down next to me, leaned his head against my lap, and let me pet him. For you to understand what that meant to me you need to know that Sparky was a feral kitty when Scott brought him into our house five years ago, and he’s still very wary of being too close to people. He likes belly rubs from Scott and sometimes he’ll sit next to my chair and let me pet his head, but he’s not one of those cats that jumps in your lap and will allow himself to be picked up. He is skittish about too much contact. So this was huge!
Years ago, when I was teaching high school social studies, I came up with a lesson wherein my students brought in a special object to class and we used that as an “artifact” – we pretended we were archaeologists from the future unearthing these artifacts and trying to guess how they were used and what they meant. At the end of the period we went around the class and the students claimed their “artifact” from the artifact box and shared what their “artifact” actually meant to them.
There was one student in my class – a young man – who was very quiet and reticent – sat in the back of class and never spoke. When we came to him, he went up and collected a medal from the artifact box. Quietly – but clearly – he explained why the medal was special to him.
He told us the medal had been given to his family after his father’s death in Vietnam. His father had died before he was born. It was the only thing he had left of his father. And that’s why it was special to him.
I don’t think any of his classmates had known this about him. I remember tearing up, and seeing tears on the faces of his classmates, too.
When I think of the sacrifices our veterans have made in their lives – I always think of this young man. I don’t remember his name any more. But I remember him. And I remember the gift he gave us all that day by sharing his story – and the story of his father – with us.
sustained and maintained by the body of Life – we are nothing less than the whole perfection projection reflection affection of Love held in the never-ending connection with all that is Good -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Look at them! Perfect little round balls of juicy sweetness – the last harvest of the fall – planted and watered by me tended by honey bees – planted in the spring in a pot on the deck growing in the summer sun watered by the rains of autumn – it took three seasons to get them here – me and the bees and the sun and the rain – connected in the magic of these perfect red orbs.
Someone wrote a new review on Goodreads for one of the books in my Madcap Christian Scientist series, The Madcap Christian Scientist: All Things New. I so appreciate it when folks take the time to do this for authors. Thank you to Katherine A.
“Loved the familiar writing. I settled into book 3 after devouring books 1 and 2. The author’s humor was spontaneous and contagious, and dare I say that word again I’ve used way too much….familiar. As someone who often finds herself at the intersection of the human and the divine scratching my head,, The series gave me encouragement and permission to look at things a little differently.”
This political ad is meant to be anti-Patty Murray, but, frankly, it just makes me want to applaud her. Student loan forgiveness? Awesome! Equality for gays? Fantastic! Believes that we should teach about the inhumanity of slavery in this country? Great!
Re student loan forgiveness: When I was at WSU (1974-1978) my tuition/room and board/fees amounted to under $3000 a year. Today tuition/room and board/fees amounts to over $25000 a year! (Here’s the link.) That’s more than eight times what it cost 45 years ago. And we all know that income did not octuple in the last 45 years.
Re gay rights: Why in the heck would we want ANYone to be denied equal rights with everyone else just because of their race, religion or non-religion, sexual orientation, gender, or ethnicity?! I can’t fathom how anyone could possibly be opposed to equality. Giving someone equal rights doesn’t mean losing your own rights. Equality is infinite and you can’t run out of it.
Re Critical Race Theory: Slavery happened in this country. It’ a part of our history. Blacks were bought and sold and treated as property. We need to be aware of this – and feel the pain and inhumanity of it – to ensure that this doesn’t ever again happen in our country. As Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Re focusing on white supremacy in the military: Duh. There shouldn’t be white supremacists representing our country in the military! The purpose of our military is to protect our democracy and ensure our nation’s security, to defend the US and its interests – and the United States includes ALL of our citizens – no matter the color of their skin – black, white, brown, pink, orange, green, and polka-dotted.
Re hiring more IRS workers: Our IRS has been understaffed and the workers have been over-worked for years. The people who work for the IRS aren’t out to get honest, hard-working people. In fact, the IRS has refunded money to several friends and family members who overpaid their taxes last year. I’m glad more workers are being hired to help those of us who are honest tax-paying citizens.
Re helping new immigrants become citizens: Unless we’re a member of the Indigenous peoples we’re ALL either immigrants or descended from immigrants. Our ancestors all came here to find better lives for their families – they came to escape persecution, poverty, injustice, wars – why would any of us who are descended from immigrants ourselves want to deny others the same opportunities we’ve had? I’ve had students who came to this country as babies – they have no memory of their birth countries – the US is the only home they remember – why, on earth, would we want to deport these young people back to a country that’s completely foreign to them?
I am mostly oblivious about what I look like these days. I take a quick look in the mirror in the morning and then go about my day. This seems to work for me. But yesterday I saw a photo of me taken by Scotty as I walked through the Longmire parking lot, unaware I was being photographed – and…it really depressed me – I was looking at an old lady and I was like, “Who IS that person?!” (Scotty didn’t see what I saw in the photo – he told me I looked “cute,” but I saw something different.)
I almost stayed in bed this morning. Embarrassed about presenting myself to the world. But here’s what happened instead:
I thought about what the voice of the Cosmos has been telling me in the middle of the night for the last year: “You are not a body; you are a part of my body.” I realized I could make a choice to not let mortal ego impose itself on me. It hit me that – although I maybe can’t instantly change the appearance of my physical form – I can instantly change my attitude, my thoughts, my mental approach to life: My joy isn’t dependent on my physical form, or what others think of me, or my age or gender or weight. I don’t have to stop having adventures or living my life or sharing joy with others because I’ve gotten older. There are no limitations to joy or love or kindness.
“Oh! Someone said the snow geese are back! Let’s go check that out!” I said to myself.
I got dressed and got in the car. I’ve been listening to the same CD for the last six months, and thought maybe it was time to change it out – but I realized I’d brought my other CDs to Scott’s car when we went on our trip to Rainier. So I settled in to listen to my old faithful CD, and pretty soon I was on the road to Fir Island. And pretty soon I saw a pair of eagles sitting in a tree. And pretty soon I saw some way cool old barns. And pretty soon I heard snow geese honking in the air above me – and saw flocks of them winging through the sky in perfect formation. Such joy to see them again!
I decided to stop at the supermarket on the way home. When I was loading my groceries into my car, I moved a bag that had been sitting in there for who knows how long and found it was filled with old CDs! There was a John Denver one in there that was still wrapped in its cellophane – it was priced at $5 and I’m thinking I must have picked it up as an impulse item somewhere and then forgotten about it. I stuck that baby in my CD player and listened to the folksy tunes of John Denver singing about climbing Colorado mountains and farming Kansas wheat fields and the country roads that lead to West Virginia. A flood of sweet memories came back: My friend, Perky, playing her John Denver Christmas album as we celebrated “Christmas in August” at Rainier; my friend, Renee, playing her John Denver “Rhymes and Reasons” record in our dorm hall; going to a John Denver concert in Seattle with my friend, Carol. And here was John Denver, singing , “Yes, and joy was just the thing that he was raised on/ Love is just the way to live and die…” in my car. John Denver, who died almost exactly 25 years ago, still lives in his music.
Magic! Nothing – not age or ego or even death – can stop the magic.
Photos below taken by Karen Molenaar Terrell in Skagit County on October 17, 2022.
I wake from sleep. It’s still dark outside. The tip of my nose is cold from the October breeze coming through our window. The cold is rejuvenating, rather than uncomfortable. The morning chill suddenly brings me back to a day of downhill skiing. In a flash it’s all there – the waiting in line to get on the chair, and then in the chair, skis dangling over the slopes below – the whir of the chair lift as it brings me up for my first run – the anticipation and thrill as I get closer and closer to exiting the chair and “hitting the slopes.” And then my skis are on packed snow. I’m pushing off – feeling my skis bumping over the ruts and tracks until they find a smooth stretch and my body remembering how to move over ice and snow. As I lie in bed I feel my leg muscles contracting and flexing as my memory takes me over moguls and swooshing down the Daisy run.
I’m fully awake now. I’m not out of bed, yet, but I’ve already had a day of skiing in my head in my bed.
I’m so glad I didn’t give up on life all those years ago. When I think about all the new friends I never would have met; all the sunrises and sunsets I would have missed; all the adventures and travels I never would have had; and the hugs and smiles I wouldn’t have been able to exchange – I’m just so glad I made the choice to stick around.
Facebook sent me a message, suggesting that as a “community leader” (?) I post something for Mental Health Day – which is, I’ve learned, tomorrow.
So I went back to some of the posts I’ve written about my own experiences with depression – my first experience in 2007-2008; and my second experience in 2011-2012. The first experience with depression came from something “inside” me – I felt I “lost” myself for a year and had to work to find myself again. I came to see during this time that if I could love others, I had worth. If others could love me, there was hope. (I recount my “Year of Insanity” in The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book.)
My second experience with depression was extrinsic, rather than intrinsic – this one was caused by external stress that, I thought, I had no control over and that, I thought, I was powerless to change. I felt trapped and couldn’t see any way to make things better for myself.
Unlike my first experience with mental illness, this time I did see a professional for help. When I called my health insurance hotline to get help, the woman on the other end of the line asked me a series of questions. One of the last questions she asked me was also one of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to answer in my life: “Have you contemplated suicide in the last week?” I was so ashamed and embarrassed. I told her I had. She asked me if I’d contemplated a method. I told her I had.
She asked me why I hadn’t gone through with it, and I told her I hadn’t gone through with it because “I am a chicken shit, and I thought it might hurt.” She started laughing then – which is the best thing she could have done for me – and told me I’d given her a really healthy answer.
The woman on the other end of the phone found a counselor for me, but when I called the counselor’s office I learned this woman was a psychologist – and I told her office that I didn’t really need a psychologist – my problem wasn’t that serious – I just needed a counselor. The receptionist said she’d have the psychologist call me back. When the psychologist called me back, she assured me that she was, basically, just a counselor with a doctor’s degree and encouraged me to come in and see her. So I did.
My first session with her I just sat there and blubbered. My second session with her I blubbered some more and told her all the things I was expected to change in my current teaching position – things I had no control over – and I didn’t see how I could change “…and…and…”
The psychologist asked me, “Do you plan to go back to that position?” I told her I didn’t see how I could. And then she asked me a question that completely changed the course of my life: “Then why do you need to fix these things?”
Whoah. It was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders in that moment. I saw that these things weren’t my problem anymore. I didn’t need to worry about them!
From that moment on our sessions together became all about creating a new life for myself. She helped me recognize the things in my life that were making me, literally, crazy, and that I needed to throw out; and she helped me recognize the things I needed to bring more into my life – creative things, artsy things, Soul-things. She helped me see there WERE options and I wasn’t trapped.
I ended up being led to apply for a new teaching position – working with students who were dealing with challenges and obstacles in their young lives that most of us have never had to experience. I found a healthy purpose in my professional life again, and a renewed love for teaching.
From this experience, I learned that we’re never trapped, and there’s always an answer – even if we can’t see it right away. As my wonderful friend, Laura Lavigne, says: “There are things we know we know. There are things we know we don’t know. And there are a whole lot of things we don’t know we don’t know – and THAT is where the magic is!”
This experience happened more than a decade ago. I’m retired now. I’m so glad I was able to retire from my career feeling good about teaching, and about myself. I got to give the keynote speech and sing a song at the graduation that year, and celebrate the beauty of education. And all of that happened because I found the courage to make that phone call, and find help for myself. Talking with a professional helped me unlock the mental bars and see the possibilities for my life.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell
“Unthinkably good things can happen even late in the game. It’s such a surprise.” – Under the Tuscan Sun