Transcript from Primary Night

Here’s a transcript from my interview with the radio show on primary night. My interview starts at about 24 minutes into the show. At about 27 minutes into the show – after I’d left – the hosts summed up the interview. I had no idea that they were still talking about me at this point – until I listened to the interview afterwards. Their words meant a lot to me.

Don Wick: We have Karen Molenaar Terrell here. She’s running for school board in the Burlington Edison School District, district #4. There are four individuals in that race. Two of them will move on to the general election. And Karen, tell me why are you running for school board?

Karen: Well, I’ve spent most of my life in education. I’ve been a teacher for more than 30 years and 20 of those years were actually in the Burlington Edison school district – I taught at three of the schools there – Allen and Edison, and West View… and I just retired from teaching at Emerson High School in Mount Vernon – which is an alternative high school. I just love being part of education. I love helping young people find their potential and find their path in life and I want to continue to be a part of that. Now that I’ve retired as a teacher I’d like to use all the experience and wisdom that I’ve gained as a teacher on the school board. I think I could do a lot of good there.

Don: You have a lot of passion for this.

Karen: I do. I love education – I love the students, I love working with the students, and I enjoy teachers and everybody that’s involved in education and in the process. I do have a passion for this.

Don: What are some of the issues that you would like to see the school board undertake.

Karen: As a teacher my first priority was always the safety of my students. I think I would carry that into my position on the school board, also. I think we have a problem right now with students not feeling like they belong, or feeling isolated or feeling bullied and picked on on social media, and there’s an opioid crisis. We have some emotional and mental health issues. And I’d like to address that with peer mentoring programs maybe, with time spent every day where students can share concerns that they have, and with a counselor-student ratio that’s healthy. I know the counselors that I’ve met are feeling kind of overwhelmed sometimes. There’s so many students. I’d like to work with those things

Don: Well, Karen, It’ll just be a few minutes and we’ll see whether you move on to the general election in November.

Karen: You know, I’m feeling really good about everybody who’s running for this position. I don’t think the district is going to lose because everybody who’s running – all four of the candidates – have something really unique and special that they can bring into this position. So it’s kind of a no-lose situation for the district.

Don: Who’d you vote for?

Karen: Well, THIS time I voted for Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Don: Karen, thank you so much for joining us.

Karen: Thank you.
***
Here’s what the hosts said after the interview was done:

“Very honorable reasons that she has for running. You can tell she’s speaking from the heart – she has a passion… the district would be well-served by having her as a school board member. She mentioned that the other candidates are also great and that shows a lot of class. In this day and age… that’s a somewhat rare, you might say, nationally – bordering on non-existent. We live in a great community.”

Click here to hear the show.

Be Kind. Be Brave. Do Good.

Dear students:

Remember during our history classes together when we talked about the Holocaust, and slavery? Remember when we watched The Grapes of Wrath and talked about how the migrant workers who came from Oklahoma to California were treated during the Great Depression? Remember when we talked about The Trail of Tears the Cherokees were forced to take? Remember how we talked about the colonization of Africa? And non-violent resistance against British rule in India? And the internment of the Japanese-Americans during WWII? And remember when we read about the prejudice and discrimination shown towards the Italians, and the Irish, and the Chinese when they first arrived in the United States?

And remember how we wondered together what we would do if we were living during those times? Would we be heroes like Schindler and Irene Sendler and Gandhi, or would we be the other people in history – the ones who just turned a blind eye to the horrors and atrocities and pretended to themselves that this wasn’t happening?

Well, now we have the opportunity to find out. We are living right this moment during one of those times in history.

Be kind. Be brave. Do good.
I love you.

– Mrs. Terrell

Ways to help –
– “Advocates say the fastest way to help immigrants separated from their children is to post bail.”
– Also: Pay for immigration lawyers; contact local law enforcement and ask that they not partner with ICE for raids or other purposes; and the usual stuff – march, writer letters to politicians, protest.

Dad Is Shrinking

Dad is shrinking. His clothes are getting baggy on him.

He is sitting at the dining room table when I get there – a full plate of avocado and eggs in front of him. He is not interested in the food. His head seems heavy on him – it keeps dropping. I ask him if he wants to sleep and he nods. Megan joins us and helps Dad move to a recliner in the living room. I sit in a chair next to him and hold his hand and we watch an old re-run of Match Game with Gene Rayburn, Richard Dawson, Charles Nelson Reilly, et al. As I see those old faces from my youth I find myself wondering which of those fine folks are still alive.

Dad looks over at me and mouths the words, “I love you.” And I mouth them back to him.

At the end of the re-run I get up to leave. I kiss Daddy on the forehead.
Dad: Are you going to take me home now?
Karen: No. I’m just going to let you rest here for a while.
Dad: (Nodding.) Okay.
Karen: (Waving good bye.) Good bye, Daddy. (I blow Dad a kiss.)
Dad: (Blows me a kiss good-bye.) Good bye.

Are You Taking Me Home Now?

*Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad* can be ordered through your favorite book store or ordered online through Amazon.

On Karen’s Campaign Trail

My inner voice said, “You need to do this or you’re going to die.” The voice did not say I was going to win. The voice did not say it was going to be easy. Or fun. It just said that I should do this – you know, if I didn’t want to die and stuff. So. Yeah.

I wasn’t really sure what the voice meant by “die” – physically? mentally? emotionally? – but running for office seemed preferable to death. So one drizzly day I found myself walking down to the courthouse during lunch break. My shoes squeaked as I crossed the lobby – the long line of people waiting to get their cars licensed looked over at me – I grinned sheepishly and pointed to my shoes – and got some chuckles from the people in the line. I went to the elections office, was greeted by some cheery ladies behind a desk who pointed me to another office, where the mother of one of my former students asked me if I was running for school board. I told her yes, and I’d never done this before, and… how do I sign up? She smiled and put me in front of a computer where I typed in my name and other particulars and the next thing I knew it I was a political candidate.

I’d signed up on the last day a person COULD sign up – a Friday. It wasn’t until after I signed up that I learned the names of the other folks I was running against. One of them had a Spanish surname and I found myself feeling a huge sense of relief – like – oh! I can withdraw my name and use this woman with the HIspanic name as my excuse! I can say I want her to win because I support diversity and equality and rainbows and so forth. But the thing is – I knew the real reason I wanted to withdraw my name was because I was scared. Plain and simple. Yes, of course, I support diversity and equality among all people – but taking my name off the ballot wasn’t in any way going to promote those things. It was just going to give the voters less choices. It wasn’t going to guarantee that people who would have voted for me would now vote for the woman with the Spanish last name. It wasn’t going to help my school district to take my name off the ballot. In short, taking my name off the ballot was just going to make me a chicken shit. And so when Monday rolled around – the last day I could take my name off the ballot – I fought my cowardly urges, and kept my name in the race.

I am a responsible person who doesn’t particularly like responsibility. Maybe you’re like me? You take on responsibility because you know you’re the best one to take it on? I don’t enjoy being the boss. I don’t enjoy being responsible for other people. But my career as a teacher and my experiences helping my elderly parents have shown me that I’m good at it.

I think I could do a lot of good on the school board. I believe I have the background in education, and the maturity and experience, to bring progress to my school district. But – and how do I explain this part? – I am not afraid of failing. I’m not afraid of losing. What I am afraid of is not trying. What I am afraid of is not having the courage to do something that I feel is the right thing for me to do.

I’ve never thought of the other candidates running for this position as my opponents. It feels more like we’re teammates together – all working towards the same goal of helping our community. And I believe that whoever wins is going to rise to the occasion and do a good job for us. I believe the person who wins is the one who’s meant to win. And that might be me. And it might not.

It has been a wonderful trip so far. I’ve met some really amazing new friends, and reconnected with old friends and former students, who have stepped up and offered their support (and their lawns and corners for signs). I’ve had a lot of fun getting out in the community and meeting people – it has given me hope for the world to realize how many good people are out there being kind, being honest, doing right by each other.

There’s some reason my inner voice guided me down to the courthouse that day. There’s some lesson I’m supposed to learn, or something I’m supposed to do that’s going to help someone or something. I’m not sure, yet, what that is. I’m still not even sure that winning is a part of the whole deal. But I’m going to go forward and do my best to be honest and live with integrity, and trust that everything is unfolding as it should.

The Window’s Open

The window’s open and a cool breeze and old memories
waft through the screen. The smells of dry grass and flowers
take me back to my youth. The window’s open there, too,
as I lay in bed in my childhood bedroom. That day I planted
a pansy my mother gave me – folded its roots into the rich
earth next to the birch tree. There’s the little building Dad put
together in the back yard so he could work on his maps and art
away from the hustle and noise of the rec room with its TV
shouting out Bewitched and Mighty Mouse and Get Smart.
The fence between our neighbors behind us and our backyard
blew down in the hurricane a while ago – Dad had been out
there, trying to hold the fence in place, when Mom called him
in because the hurricane lamp flared up. As soon as he left
the fence it tore apart into pieces that whipped away in the storm
and now we have neighbors behind us who weren’t neighbors
until the fence blew away and revealed us to each other.
For a while we play in the dirt with the neighbor children
who live behind us. But we soon lose interest in each other.
Maybe our loyalties to the neighbors to the right and left
have built another kind of fence between the backyard neighbors
and us.

We played TV tag in the front yard – yelling out the names of our
favorite TV shows before the tagger could tag us. And we rode our
bikes to the school so we could see the class list posted on the front
door and find out who our teacher would be next year. Then we
played hide and seek in the mounds and the scotch-broom
in the empty lot across the street.

The patio has a picnic table on it and I sit at it with a Pixie Stick
or my home-made juice Popsicle frozen in a Tupperware mold.
I step on a clover blossom and get my first bee sting which Mom
soothes with baking soda and water and love. I feel bad for the bee
after she tells me it died when it stung me. We pray for the bee
and for me and life goes on. We have these pipes that Dad put
up in the backyard for us to play on – two vertical pipes about six
feet tall and about five feet apart – with a horizontal pipe
connecting them at the top – and I get it in my noggin to wrap
a scarf around it and try to work my way along the top pipe
by holding onto either end of the scarf. But I let go of one end
of the scarf and land on my belly and experience getting the wind
knocked out of me for the first time. Dad’s got the bamboo high
jump set up for me and I jump and jump again until the sun
goes down – testing myself, wanting to go just a little bit higher
before it’s time to go inside and get ready for bed.

And I lay in bed at night, with a cool breeze wafting through
my bedroom window and wonder what tomorrow will bring.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Dad Update

July 27, 2019

I got word that Daddy had a difficult night. Went over to his home to give him a quick hug and tell him I love him. He smiled at me when he realized I was there and mumbled something about the “holiday weekend.” I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me. And then I got up to leave. Made it all the way to the stairs before I stopped. Turned. Went back. Pulled up a chair next to his bed and sat in it. It had occurred to me that there may come a time soon when I will wish I could be with Daddy for even one more minute.

I took Dad’s hand and squeezed it. He squeezed back. I squeezed his hand twice. He squeezed my hand twice. We just sat there holding hands for about ten minutes – watching the old black and white movie on his TV together. I sang some hymns “to” him – but… I knew he couldn’t hear what I was singing – I was really singing the hymns to myself as I held his hand –

“In heav’nly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid,
But Love is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?”
(words by Anna Waring)

Tears started running out of my eyes and down my face. I sniffled and wiped them away.

When I finally felt it was time to go and let Dad rest I leaned over to tell him good-bye. Daddy said, “Happy Fourth of July!” And I thanked him.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

Are You Taking Me Home Now?

*Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad* can be ordered through your favorite book store or ordered online through Amazon.

Time to Step Up

And now a poem…

Time to Step Up

All my life I have been politely
moving aside for other people.
When I was young I moved aside
for older people with more experience.
As I got older I moved aside for younger
people to GIVE them experience.
And now I’m 62 and I don’t have time
to move aside for other people anymore.
There are things I need to do.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell