“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

Karen, Did You Watch the Debate?

Friend: Karen, did you watch the debate?

Karen: Every f***ing minute of it.

Friend: What did you think?

Karen: “Stand back and stand by”?!! If 40% of my fellow citizens are fine with that then we are in real trouble here.

Friend: No, he just misspoke.

Karen: If he misspoke then he needs to clarify that. He needs to very clearly say, “I denounce the Proud Boys. I denounce white supremacists. White supremacy has no place in our nation.” And he needs to say this without having his fingers crossed behind his back and without a wink-wink nudge-nudge. He has had two days now to denounce the Proud Boys and he has not done this. I think we can assume he’s not going to.

Friend: But did you notice Biden didn’t answer any questions?

Karen: No crap! Trump kept interrupting him!!!

Friend: Well, Biden should be able to handle that kind of pressure if he’s going to be president.

Karen: Biden is not a pre-school teacher. He shouldn’t be expected to placate toddlers having tantrums. Presidents move on the world stage – dealing with other international leaders who are grown-ups – dealing with pre-schoolers having tantrums is not Biden’s area of expertise, and we shouldn’t expect it to be.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

(I wish I’d taken a photo of the faces of the PBS commentators at the end of the debate to paste here. They looked like they’d just been through a battle – eyes wide, faces drawn. I felt tremendous sympathy for them and empathy with them.)

Okay. Here Goes…

Reply to a friend who tagged me in a comment –

I’m guessing that any dialogue we have about this is just going to be frustrating and futile for both of us. I love you – but I do not agree with your assessment of Mr. Trump’s abilities to lead this country. If you’re really interested, here is my response –

Yes, I’m glad Trump used 35 million in Justice Department grants to help aid human trafficking victims – but I think we need to be clear that this wasn’t his personal money – this was actually OUR money – as tax payers – that he used for this. (As we don’t know if Trump has ever paid taxes because he refuses to show us his tax returns – it might be assumed that he, personally, contributed NOTHING to helping these victims.) You mentioned Bill Clinton – I did not vote for Bill Clinton the second time he ran for president because he struck me as dishonest (I voted for Ralph Nader). Trump has shown me he is dishonest, also – time and again his actions and words have proven this.

Mr. Trump could care less about protecting women – he is himself a sex predator. He has bragged about entering the rooms of teenage beauty contestants as they dress. He has bragged about “grabbing pussy.” He has been accused of rape and sexual harassment by dozens of women – and no, there is no excuse for any of this. I wonder if all those who shrug Trump’s behavior off as “locker room” antics would be shrugging it off if Mr. Trump were Black. If a Black man had bragged about “grabbing pussy” and entering the rooms of teenage beauty contestants – if a Black man had been accused of sexual harassment by dozens of women – would it be shrugged off?

How anyone who is against sex trafficking can support Mr. Trump is beyond my understanding. Mr. Trump is not an honorable man. If he has some secret to ending sex trafficking then he should have let us all know about it long ago so the sex trafficking would end. You have been totally focused on this one thing – sex trafficking – for months now. And sex trafficking is evil – of course! – but what about the children separated from their mothers and still locked in cages?! What about Mr. Trump’s mocking of the disabled?! What about the disrespect he’s shown to our veterans?! What about the money he stole from his charity to use for himself?! What about the way he sent in military police to push aside peaceful protesters so he could hold a Bible in front of a church that didn’t want him there?!

Mr. Trump is not worthy to lead this nation.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

A Stickshift. A Standard. A Manual.

Feeling mighty. I am woman.
Hear me roar.
Took the car in for an oil change –
the nice cashier brought up
a list of things to pour
into my auto. I listened
and then asked, “But my car
is a standard. Why would it need
automatic transmission fluid?”
And he nodded his head –
Yes, a standard.
“A stickshift,” I said,
wanting to be clear. And he stopped
short then. Peeked in my window –
Ohhhhh. A manual. And I got it –
who could have guessed
that a gray-haired Karen drove
one of those?! A standard doesn’t fit
the demographic
and isn’t it fantastic
that my father taught me to drive
on that old VW van?
The nice young cashier clicked
a button and my bill magically
became forty dollars less than
it had been.
I am woman. Hear me roar.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

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

America Isn’t Trump’s Private Corporation

No, it is not his decision to make. It is up to the voters. He can’t just ignore what the voters decide. That is what happens in a dictatorship – not in a democracy. For him to suggest we ‘get rid of the ballots’ is traitorous to our nation and an attack on our Constitution. America isn’t his private corporation. It doesn’t belong to him. It belongs to us.

And if any of my friends tries to justify this, excuse this, explain this away – or tries to say that this is not a big deal – you are wasting your time here. I was a history major, remember. Cum laude and all that. I’ve TAUGHT American history. Trust me – THIS IS A BIG DEAL.

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)