Vladimir’s Shoes

I have something to share – but I want to preface this by saying this is not a “I’m-so-cool” story – this is a… wow… when-people-learn-you-want-to-do-something-good-they-celebrate-that-and-want-to help story. This is a people-are-good story. This is a God-will-find-a-way-to-provide-for-Her-children story – and sometimes God will provide by using US. And when that happens – when we’re the ones who are in the right place at the just right time – it is magic!!

So. I guess this story starts a week ago when I saw a homeless lady sitting near Tony’s Coffee Shop with her shopping cart home. I asked her if I could get her a coffee or something, and she came with me to Tony’s and I got her a scone and a mocha. She was/is very cool and I consider her a new friend.I ran into her again today – we were happy to see each other again! – and she asked if I could get her a sandwich for lunch. I said sure – I’d get her something after my walk.

After my walk I came back to my new friend and she introduced me to another homeless person – a young man my youngest son’s age – he said he didn’t need anything to eat, but – and he lifted up his foot to show me his shoe (the bottom of his shoe was hanging to the top by a few stitches – it was flapping around) what he really needed was a new pair of shoes. Then he wandered off – not expecting anything from me – and I went to get a sandwich for my friend and to get myself something to eat at the Colophon Cafe.

When I came out of the Colophon the young man was sitting next to my friend again. I asked him if he knew of any shoe stores near by – and he looked at me in shock – “Are you going to get me shoes?” he asked, with a mixture of uncertainty and hope. I told him yeah – he couldn’t go walking around in those shoes he was wearing. So he got off the bench and we went on a quest for new shoes.

As he was walking his shoe kept flapping against the pavement and he joked that it was making music – it was like a drum. He asked me my name and I hesitated… because… you know… people with my name are sometimes hesitant to say it these days 🙂 …but I told him “Karen” and waited for a reaction. He apparently hadn’t heard about the Karen memes, though, and when I told him what “Karen” has come to mean, he laughed and said, “You are the least like that person that I know!”

He told me his name was Vlad – short for Vladimir – and he’d been born in Russia, but adopted when he was young by people in Minnesota. I asked him what he was doing out here and he said he really liked it here. We talked some more about his circumstances – and as I got to know him better I felt all my motherly instincts coming out.

After several stops, we finally found a place that sold men’s shoes – “Fairhaven Runners” – and went in to investigate (everyone in my family has purchased shoes at Fairhaven Runners at some point). Vlad found some shoes that he really liked and the shoe salesclerk – who quickly grasped what was happening – patiently explained to Vlad how he could measure his feet for the shoe size and then went back to fetch some shoes for him to try on. As Vlad was trying on shoes, the salesclerk asked Vlad if he could use some free socks and Vlad looked up at him with a smile on his face and nodded his head. The salesclerk went in the back room and then came out and tossed Vlad some free new socks for Vlad to wear with his new shoes.

I told Vlad he could leave with his new shoes now and I would take care of everything for him in the store. Vladimir thanked me and went out smiling. There was a lady standing behind us in the store and she asked me, “Did you just buy him new shoes?!” She looked like she was crying. She said that it was really beautiful what she’d just witnessed. Isn’t that lovely?!

And then – get this! – when the salesclerk rang me up he gave me a 20% discount! And THAT had ME tearing up. People WANT to do right by each other, don’t they?

I felt like I was walking on holy ground today. I think… I think it all balances out, you know? – Good disperses itself throughout the cosmos – and I know I’ll always have what I need – there’s no lack – there’s no competition – there’s no need to go through life clutching and afraid and feeling like Good is limited and finite, and if someone else has enough then I won’t have enough.

Sure, there have been times when I’ve been led to say “no” – times when I’ve felt that giving money to someone wasn’t going to really help him – I’m not completely naive when it comes to stuff like that. But this time – today – I knew it was right. And it felt really good that I was there to be used by Love in this way.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Here are some photos of my new friend, the salesclerk who helped Vlad and me, and Vlad’s old shoe…

God, Guns, Country?

God, guns, country? Maybe y’all are reading a different Bible than me…?
“Thou shalt not kill.” – Exodus 20
“Blessed are the meek.” – Matthew 5
“…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” – Micah 4
“God is love.” – I John 4

Even on the Challenging Days

You know what? Even on the challenging days –
the should-have-stayed-in-bed days –
there is still Love. There is still Truth. There is still Good.
Nothing can separate us from what really matters –
not lost phones, nor spilled juice, nor forgotten passwords.
When it all shakes down, when the breakable shatters,
still there is Love.-
Karen Molenaar Terrell

The Great Division of 2016-2020

The Great Division of 2016-2020

Grandma, what did you do
during The Great Division?
Were you a part of the revision?
Were you a part of the decision
to follow a new vision
and heal the fission?
Did you walk in marches
and write letters?
Did you go to rallies
to make things better?
Did you do everything you could
to help the jobless and poor
the disenfranchised and mocked –
could you have done more?

Grandma, did you vote?
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy has always believed that those who are entitled to vote should do so, and she has also believed that in such matters no one should seek to dictate the actions of others.”
– from “Miscellany” (p. 276) by Mary Baker Eddy

Women’s March, January 2018
BLM rally in Burlington, WA.

“You can’t scare her. She survived 2020.”

My dear Humoristian hooligans –

2020 has been a crazy ride, hasn’t it? Dad died on January 19th and two days later the first case of COVID was reported in our state (and the country). Dad had good timing. 2020 has brought COVID-19, murder hornets, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, plagues, pestilence, political insanity, and every emotion a person can possibly feel – grief, terror, anger, fear, and also immense love, gratitude, and, (especially lately) hope. And, sitting here, I just realized I’m not “ascared” anymore. At some point – maybe when the craziness reached epic and absurd proportions – the fear just dissolved. It was like – okay, what else you got? Bring it on, baby! I think it’s going to be hard to ever again scare anyone who’s survived 2020. (I just had a flashback of one of my favorite cartoons – a lady with a bun on top of her head, whistling in hell – and one of the devil’s helpers saying to him: “We can’t scare her. She was a middle school teacher.” As a former middle school teacher that one always cracked me up. I think that same cartoon could have the caption: “You can’t scare her. She survived 2020” and it would still work. 🙂

Keep working your magic, my friends! Keep shining your light! The world has need of your pluck and courage and unfailing kindness!
– Karen

These Days I’m More Concerned With How I Feel About Myself

“Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

There have been several times in my life when I have had the opportunity to learn more of who I am by being put in a position where I needed to respond to violence, or the threat of violence.

– Once I was waiting to pick up my son from a movie and I saw a young man sitting on top of another young man, pounding his head into the parking lot pavement. Without thinking, I walked into the ring of young spectators watching this happen, and tried to pull the attacker off his victim. I yelled, “Stop it! You’re killing him!” And one of the spectators said, “Lady, you better be careful. This guy could have a knife!” I turned on him and asked him why he was just watching, why he wasn’t trying to help. And then I put my hands on my hips and announced, “I AM A TEACHER!” – like I was some kind of super hero or something and that was going to make them all stop. The guy who was smashing the other guy’s head into the pavement sort of paused then, and looked up at me for a minute, and then went back to doing what he was doing. There were other people there – outside the circle, watching while this was happening – but at one point I remember looking up to see another parent – the mother of one of my son’s friends – had stepped into the circle with me. I remember being amazed by this and she said, “Well, I wasn’t going to let you be in here alone!” That’s always stayed with me – that this woman I didn’t know well had stepped into the circle with me to back me up. Anyway. Pretty soon the police came out and took care of it all. Afterwards I realized what I’d done was pretty foolish – but I was glad I’d done it anyway. I’d learned something about myself that night.

– I remember feeling some fear as I drove to participate in the local BLM rally last June – there’d already been some stories of guys with pistols and rifles showing up at other rallies to intimidate the protesters and I’d heard rumors that there’d be some of these guys at this rally, too. But I remember coming to terms with that as I drove there – praying for the safety of EVERYone there – protesters and gun folks alike. When I pulled into the parking lot, sure enough, there were guys with rifles slung over their shoulders and holsters with guns and assorted other black metal things tucked away in belts and pockets. I got out of the car, pulled up my mask, and made eye contact with a man with a rifle – raised my eyebrows and pointed to my “TRUTH JUSTICE KINDNESS” sign – and I remember he kind of smiled and said, “We hope so.” And in that moment – maybe when I realized these guys with the weapons were the ones who were really scared – all fear just vanished for me. The rally was a peaceful one.

– And this is a story I haven’t shared until now, but I think now is the right time. One time when I was working at a nonprofit school another teacher came out of her office – still talking to the student that was in her office as she approached me – and handed me the note you see below: “We are not SAFE.” I’m going to skip everything that happened after this, except for this one part: At one point I had a clear choice – one choice brought sure safety for myself, but left my colleague on her own (this is the choice I know my colleague wanted me to make for myself) – and the other choice brought possible danger to myself, but meant I would stay by my colleague through this experience. I took a deep breath and chose to stay with my friend. I’m so grateful I made that choice. I don’t know how I’d live with myself if I hadn’t.

And I’m happy to say that’s what it all comes down to for me now – I’m no longer so concerned about how other people feel about me – these days I’m more concerned with how I feel about MYself. I know I won’t always make the “right choice” – I still mess up majorly sometimes – but I’m learning more and more I can trust myself – and there is a certain power in that, you know?
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

A Thank You to a Conservative Friend

I think it might be helpful to us to be aware that those who identify as Democrats and those who identify as Republicans are being fed completely different narratives about the state of our country. (Check out the new movie on Netflix, The Social Dilemma.) I just had an interesting conversation with a conservative friend – someone I have come to respect over the years because he doesn’t get defensive, doesn’t view me as “the enemy,” is willing to listen to what I have to say, has the courage to share what he believes in an honest and forthright way, and is able to self-reflect. He knows how to question me, but he also knows how to question himself. I think this is a rare and beautiful thing.

Anyway. We were talking about Trump and white supremacy, Antifa and The Proud Boys and the Boogaloo movements. Throwing out different links and articles to each other. And it was hugely eye-opening to me! He is getting a completely different narrative than me!

I’m not going to share all the links and articles, stories and narratives – all of that is out there – available to any of us who are willing to cross the river and see what the other guy sees from where he’s camped.

And, of course, our back-and-forthing didn’t change in any way the different perspectives we have of the world – I still see things from my perspective (vote Biden!), and he still sees things from his perspective. But what the dialoguing DID do for me is help me understand WHY he sees things as he does. This is an intelligent, kind, thoughtful human being. He is not my enemy. He is not a white supremacist. He does not want a Civil War. In fact, I think, in the end, he wants the same things *I* want – peace and prosperity, justice and fair play and equity for all.

Maybe this is the one thing we can do for each other right now – instead of dehumanizing each other and seeing each other as “The Enemy” – maybe we can make an effort to “humanize” each other – to see the good in each other.

I want to thank my friend for letting me dialogue with him tonight.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it, – determined not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor even when it is…”
– Mary Baker Eddy

Two Poems from the Cemetery

Two Poems from the Cemetery

Such a short time we are here!
The gravestones remind me of this.
Four lie near each other – all younger
than I am now when they died: 42, 56,
59, 25. And I am still alive. But it’s
such a short time we are here!
And when we’re gone – have moved on –
what will anyone remember of you –
of me? What memories will remain?
The accolades, awards, one star
or five? How much we owned?
How our jewelry shone? Or will
we be remembered for our smiles,
our kindnesses, our generosity –
the way we stood up to bullies,
helped lift others up, shared laughter,
shared life’s lessons, shared good fully?
Such a short time we are here.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Today the cosmos danced for me
at the cemetery. Sitting on a bench,
feeling the peace I always feel
there, the sun came out and a breeze
moved across the grass and autumn
flowers at the edge of the grounds.
I love you, always and forever, a voice
said. Fear not. All is well. Do you feel
me with you? Celebrate with me.
And how could I not?
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Bow Cemetery #1

Beyond the Year of Insanity

A couple of days ago I wrote a post that began thusly: “13 years ago I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it. It occurs to me now that the experience I had during The Year of Insanity helped prepare me for the challenges our world is facing right now. I believe mankind is experiencing a collective insanity today…”

The Year of Insanity was life-changing for me. After it was over I found I had to start over and build from scratch big parts of my life – my career, my approach to life, my relationships with friends – because my old way of doing things wasn’t going to work for me anymore. I think this is going to be true for our world, too, once it makes it through its own Year of Insanity.

A few years after The Year of Insanity I found myself in a transition between one job and the next – The Year of Insanity had helped me realize that my mental health was more important than any amount of money and that I could no longer continue in a position that didn’t feel “right” to me. The transition into a new career was a scary, exhilarating, audacious, crazy wonderful time for me – rich with possibilities. I was unfettered and open to whatever new opportunities came my way – ready to create a whole ‘nother career for myself. For the first time I went to a counselor – and she helped me discover for myself what it was I needed to do to bring sanity to my life – what I needed to discard, and what I needed to nurture. Creativity moved up to the front of my life – photography and writing and music. The insane stuff – nonsensical edicts (stuff like that scene from “Office Space” involving “the memo” – you know the one), schedules and bureaucracy, fear and anxiety – got tossed.

And, once I opened my thought to all the infinite possibilities, cool things started happening: I was offered a small salary to work as my church’s Reading Room librarian; I got a contract to proofread and write for an educational publishing company; I made note cards of my photos and started selling them at a little coffee shop; my book, *Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist*, was bringing in a small amount in royalties every month. I wasn’t making a LOT of income at first – it was more a symbolic income, really – but it was enough to give me hope that there was something waiting for me beyond the career I’d left behind. And soon I was offered another job, teaching at an alternative high school, that brought my life purpose and great joy for the next seven years – until I retired a year ago last June.

Love, God, has always been with me – through the good stuff and the “bad” – leading and guiding me, and opening up new doors ahead of me, as other doors have closed behind me. I’ve come to recognize that Love will always provide for me and mine, and that I never need to fear what the future holds; It holds nothing but good – because even the “bad” is transformed into something good when we put Love at the helm.

You know that old adage – “Quitters never win and winners never quit”? Well, I have found that sometimes the bravest and best thing we can do for ourselves – and the world – is to quit the course we’re on when it’s not the right one for us, and start something entirely new.

“No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”
– Matthew 9

“Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, – this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

Pinnacle Peak in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo from the Plummer Peak trail. (Karen Molenaar Terrell)