Cosmic Give and Take

He was waiting outside the store
when I came out with my groceries
and I said hi. He smiled and said hi back.
Give and take.
Who taught him to smile? Who taught me?

I started to wheel my cart to my car
mentally scrolling through my shopping list
to see if I had anything to share with him.
Tangerines!
I rolled my cart back towards him.
You want an orange?
Sure!
Can you catch it?
Yeah! And he smiled at the idea
of a game of catch.
I tossed. He caught.
Who taught me how to throw?
Who taught him how to catch?
My dad? His dad? And now our dads
are connected in our give and take.

As Scott drove west, a train engine
went west in reverse. Our car
passed the train as the engineer
sat facing me and I smiled across
the tracks at him and he smiled
and waved back to me.
I caught his wave and returned it.
Who taught him how to wave?
Who taught me?
All the cosmos connected in a giant
give and take.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Scrapbook of a Year and a Day: January 19, 2020 to January 20, 2021

Scrapbook of a Year and a Day: January 19, 2020 to January 20, 2021 is now available as an ebook AND a paperback.

On January 19, 2020, my 101 year-old father (Dee Molenaar, a well-known mountaineer) died. Two days later, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the United States – in a town 40 minutes to the south of my home. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered the next month, and George Floyd was killed a few months later. We watched as our friends went insane with QAnon conspiracies; our president ordered peaceful protesters tear gassed so he could hold a Bible in front of a church; and white supremacists marched in our streets waving Nazi banners and Confederate battle flags. Then – because 2020 wasn’t done with us, yet – murder hornets were found in the United States – this time in a place 40 minutes to the north of my home. And on January 6th our country was turned upside down and our democracy almost shaken out of its bag.

In an effort to process Dad’s passing, and the year that followed, I began combing through news stories, Facebook posts, and my own blog. I found moments that made me laugh out loud, and others that were gut-wrenching for me. I found moments that had me shaking my head – wondering what the hell had happened to my country – and other moments that inspired me and made me proud to be an American. At some point during this process, I realized I was creating a book.The book, Scrapbook of a Year and a Day: January 19, 2020 to January 20, 2021, consists of news stories, personal anecdotes, essays, poems, and observations of what we all lived through in 2020.

A Year and a Day

On the nineteenth of January my father died
And so began the roller coaster ride
that was 2020 and 20 days –
a year we struggled to find our way.

At first there were empty streets and quiet weeks
of smogless skies and distant peaks
I found peace in the stillness – peace in the calm
That time alone was a much-needed balm.

But after – a montage of images flashes
now through my mind –
much of it dark, some of it kind –
exploding up, crashing down,
fire and rage all around
Our nation boils and seethes
and a Black man gasps, “I can’t breathe”

Veterans protect fathers with leaf blowers
who protect the mothers who protect our Black sons
and daughters from tasers and guns.
Ahmaud, Breonna, and George – say their names
Black Lives Matter – our nation sits in shame
as bigots and bullies scramble to shift the blame –
and settle on “Karen” (which is really lame).

And a just woman with a doily collar
and a selfish man who keeps up the holler
and lie of “Stop the steal”
and refuses to let the nation heal –
our neighbors reel and keel in their zeal –
fed rumors and news that are not real.

Dye runs down a lawyer’s face
a narcissist screams, “Show your strength!”
NAZI and Civil War flags fly in our streets
D.C. police pummeled and beat.
Racism and bullying and bigotry and hate,
caskets of COVID victims, rioters climb gates
Long lines for vaccinations, as people wait.

In the end the heroes win – as heroes always do –
they step up and vote and stop the coup –
they wear masks to protect each other – me and you –
they stand up for Breonna and Ahmoud and George –
and in the fiery fire a stronger land is forged.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

The Good You Seek

The Good You Seek

I want to take a break, I said.
Can I step out of life for a moment,
or maybe stay in bed?
Can things go on without me?
Can you just pretend I’m not here?
For life is a messy business
and I’m tired and I’m weary
I’ve made too many mistakes to count today
And I’d like to not make anymore, not any.

And the still small voice reached into my thought
– gentle, peaceable benediction –
“All the good you seek and all that you’ve sought
you can claim right now – and that’s no fiction –
for Love is yours to express, to feel, and to be
– you are wealthy beyond description.
Nothing else matters, there’s no other power
no warring opinions, no need to cower
You are loved and you’re loving
and that’s all there is to it
Love’s loving child, and there’s nothing else
but loving, simply nothing.”
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, A Poem Lives on My Windowsill

And It’s Okay to Feel That Way

I’m feeling sad tonight. Discouraged and sad.
And it’s okay to feel that way.
It’s okay to feel bad.
Sometimes I just have to sit in it, you know?
Just let myself feel what I feel
and learn what I need to learn, and grow.
There’s no battle I need to win here,
nothing to overcome,
no other place I need to go,
but right where I am.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

It’s HER! SHE’s the One with the White Privilege!

Self-censoring myself, stowing word-sabers –
sarcasm and snappy satire – in the scabbard,
and becoming the saint of scrubbed and sanitized
sacchariney sweetness
so as not to seem sensitive, insecure, vulnerable
so as to seem safe, secure, strong, unsusceptible,
so as to seem above the spikes and spurs
because we all know the scapegoat should
never sound off – her job is to be stoic
and suffer in silence for your sins
when the song stops and there’s no seat for her
– she’s the one still standing for all the other
people of privilege to paste the sign on
and establish that THEY are not racists,
maskless, vaccineless stooges
(strangely, establishing their biases
in their efforts to seem bias-less)
but – suffering succotash – it stings!
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

I Have Been a Lot of People in My Life

I Have Been a Lot of People in My Life

I have been a lot of people in my life –
I’ve been the daughter, the sister, the wife,
mother, grey-haired lady, and young lass.
I was once the littlest girl in my class –
thought too skinny by some
who couldn’t see that playing was more fun
than eating. I won the blue ribbon
for the broad jump and the dash in fourth grade.
I was the queen of multiplication tables
in the fifth grade, and in sixth grade
my teacher said I “ran like a deer.”

I was the new girl in school that year
and someone wrote “brainbucket sits here”
on my desk. Then I was the nerdy girl
in black frame glasses who weighed
more than 100 pounds and thought she was fat
and my eighth grade PE teacher said,
“We finally found something you’re good at”
when I was always the last one standing
in the volleyball elimination games –
she didn’t see that I ran like a deer.

I was shy in high school, but some people
thought I was a snob –
I saw myself as an unmemorable blob.
I was Karen when Karen Valentine
was everyone’s favorite ingénue
and I was Karen when it meant something else, too.

I’ve been chubby, pretty, plain, dazzling,
athletic, awkward, confident, insecure,
dull, creative, boring, funny, judgmental,
self-centered, open-minded, and generous.
And I guess “I” am still all of those things –
depending on who’s looking at me.

But the I who’s not in quotation marks
is what God, Love, sees
when She looks at me.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Pushing Me Into the Now

The winds blew across the bay –
creating stretch marks on its surface –
and great cleansing gusts blew through me, too –
rowdy and playful – forcing me from thoughts
of the thens and fears of the tomorrows
and pushing me instantly into the now
of doing what I could to not blow away.
Putting everything in perspective for me again.

There is no problem too big it can’t be solved.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Photo of Bellingham Bay Boardwalk by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Scrapbook for a Year and a Day

Dear fellow 2020 survivors:

On January 19, 2020, my 101 year-old father (Dee Molenaar, a well-known mountaineer) died. Two days later, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the United States – in a town 40 minutes to the south of my home. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered the next month, and George Floyd was killed a few months later. We watched as our friends went insane with QAnon conspiracies; our president ordered peaceful protesters tear gassed so he could hold a Bible in front of a church; and white supremacists marched in our streets waving Nazi banners and Confederate battle flags. Then – because 2020 wasn’t done with us, yet – murder hornets were found in the United States – this time in a place 40 minutes to the north of my home. And on January 6th our country was turned upside down and our democracy almost shaken out of its bag.

In an effort to process Dad’s passing, and the year that followed, I began combing through news stories, Facebook posts, and my own blog. I found moments that made me laugh out loud, and others that were gut-wrenching for me. I found moments that had me shaking my head – wondering what the hell had happened to my country – and other moments that inspired me and made me proud to be an American. At some point during this process, I realized I was creating a book.The book, A Scrapbook of a Year and a Day: January 19, 2020 to January 20, 2021, consists of news stories, personal anecdotes, essays, poems, and observations of what we all lived through in 2020.

I divided the book up by months – starting with January 2020 and ending with January 2021. At the end of the chapter for January 2020, I brought in comments by some of my friends about the passing of my father. This is my introduction to some of the characters the readers will be seeing throughout the book. One of the characters is my life-long friend, Jack Arends, who made national headlines later in the year when he cast his electoral vote for Biden-Harris after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Another character is a friend (whom I refer to as “Letitia W.”) who became deeply involved in QAnon conspiracies and ended up in D.C. on January 6th. A third friend is Paul Swortz, who the readers later see as one of the veterans protecting the BLM protesters in Portland.

I’m editing now – trying to comb out all the the little typos and misspellings and duplicate words and omitted words – my fellow writers will all be able to relate to that. But I wanted to let you know what I’ve been up to here.

Looking forward to seeing what 2021 bring us!
Karen Molenaar Terrell

A Year and a Day

On the nineteenth of January my father died
And so began the roller coaster ride
that was 2020 and 20 days –
a year we struggled to find our way.

At first there were empty streets and quiet weeks
of smogless skies and distant peaks
I found peace in the stillness – peace in the calm
That time alone was a much-needed balm.

But after – a montage of images flashes
now through my mind –
much of it dark, some of it kind –
exploding up, crashing down,
fire and rage all around
Our nation boils and seethes
and a Black man gasps, “I can’t breathe”

Veterans protect fathers with leaf blowers
who protect the mothers who protect our Black sons
and daughters from tasers and guns.
Ahmaud, Breonna, and George – say their names
Black Lives Matter – our nation sits in shame
as bigots and bullies scramble to shift the blame –
and settle on “Karen” (which is really lame).

And a just woman with a doily collar
and a selfish man who keeps up the holler
and lie of “Stop the steal”
and refuses to let the nation heal –
our neighbors reel and keel in their zeal –
fed rumors and news that are not real.

Dye runs down a lawyer’s face
a narcissist screams, “Show your strength!”
NAZI and Civil War flags fly in our streets
D.C. police pummeled and beat.
Racism and bullying and bigotry and hate,
caskets of COVID victims, rioters climb gates
Long lines for vaccinations, as people wait.

In the end the heroes win – as heroes always do –
they step up and vote and stop the coup –
they wear masks to protect each other – me and you –
they stand up for Breonna and Ahmoud and George –
and in the fiery fire a stronger land is forged.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Here’s some photos from 2020…

Soaking Up Inauguration Day

My emotional, mental, spiritual be-ing
is absorbing the hope and joy of the new day
soaking up the inspiration like a thirsty tree
in a desert that hasn’t seen rain for four years.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Oh man. Lady Gaga, and Klobuchar, JLo and Garth Brooks made me teary – and that didn’t surprise me, really. But I was really moved by Mike Pence’s presence and Mitch McConnell’s presentation of the flag to VP Harris – and… what the heck?! I never could have seen THAT coming. January sixth changed so much for our country – and not all of it was bad. In the end people I never would have expected became heroes. Whoah.

I’m feeling proud to be American again.