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…

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 wear masks to protect each other – me and you –
they step up and vote and stop the coup –
they stand up for Breonna and Ahmoud and George –
and in the fiery fire a stronger land is forged.

-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“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

Grateful for Our Connection

Back in February and March – when COVID-19 was first making the news – I had terrible fears for a loved one who was traveling though Europe. (Maybe someday I’ll share more about that.) My terror caused me to pull out all the tools I’d acquired in my life to get me through troubling times – and one of the chief tools was expressing gratitude for all the good in my life.

I remember lying in bed one night in particular – my thoughts were all agitated and I couldn’t find peace. I was just staring at the ceiling, trying to calm myself, and I started listing in my thoughts all the people I was grateful for in my life – my sons, husband, Mom and Dad, siblings, nieces and nephews, in-laws, friends from grade school, junior high, high school, university, Mount Rainier friends, neighbors, colleagues, church friends, Humoristian friends, FB friends, WordPress friends – and then I found myself including people who might not be considered “friends” – people I thought had maybe treated me unkindly or unfairly, people I’d had a rift with – and I found myself genuinely grateful for THEM, too, and for my connection to them.

It was a cosmic moment for me. I felt my connection to all of God’s, Love’s, creation – and each and every expression of Life. I knew this overwhelming gratitude that I’m not solitary and alone in this vast, infinite universe – grateful for my connection to all the infinite expressions of Life. I felt Love’s presence with me – supporting me – sure and comforting and healing and powerful. My fears dissolved away and I was able to go back to sleep.

I’m going to practice having more of those cosmic moments.

And I know those moments begin with love.

Blue Cosmos (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

Politicizing COVID-19

I’m guessing that pretty much all politicians – including the ones we like 🙂 – have found a way to politicize this current challenge. And I don’t blame or judge any of them for doing it – that’s what politicians do. But I think we need to be aware of it – and I think we need to each be honest with ourselves about our own biases, too. Wouldn’t it be great if people just wanted to do right by each other – without concern about political parties and agendas?

love is what is true

I Most Miss…

I most miss open smiles and hugs full of love.
I miss the waitress at the Colophon Cafe who takes
my order for African peanut soup as the music
of friends chatting and laughing at the other
tables washes over us, and bathes us in their joy.
I miss stopping to chat on the boardwalk and
meeting old friends, and new. I miss getting
to know people as we wait in line at the store,
and running into former students in the aisles.
I miss buying mochas for the stranger standing
on the corner. I miss the buskers and their music,
and the color and energy of the Farmers Market.

Here’s what I will miss when this is over –
I’ll miss the quiet roads and clean blue skies.
I’ll miss the No Car Days and the time at home
with family. I’ll miss the weeks without a schedule
and losing track of time. I’ll miss the stillness
and peace and time to reflect. I’ll miss this time
alone. I’ll miss the uninterrupted time to create
and garden and sing and think. I’ll miss the time
to catch up with correspondence, and the time
to sort and recycle the flotsam and jetsam that
washes from the mailbox and onto our kitchen
counter Monday through Saturday.

I’m going to remember to be grateful for what
I had then, and grateful for what I have now,
and grateful for what I’ll have tomorrow, too.
– Karen

Am I a fashion plate?

Taking the dog for a walk. I round the corner and see my neighbor (and former student) across the road. “Hi Michael!” I holler. He looks over and smiles and waves. “Am I a fashion plate?” I ask him. I am wearing floral-patterned garden shoes, purple knee-high socks, baggy denim capri pants two sizes too big and covered in mud at the knees from gardening, my standard black t-shirt and a black fleece jacket. Michael grins at the picture I make. “I just don’t care anymore,” I tell him, laughing.

Michael joins me in the laugh and points to his beard. “You see my beard?” he asks. “I don’t care anymore, either.”

We laugh for a moment with each other, and then wish one another a good night.

Priorities have shifted.

IMG_2320 (2)

For Parent Math Teachers

For all the brave parents out there who are helping their children with high school math:

After a Day Spent Teaching Math

Function notation of a linear equation
Integer, whole, irrational, and real –
What would it cost to buy this meal?
Multiplying this, and factoring that –
How many cats would fit on that mat?
Parallel and perpendicular lines in a plane
When you subtract you lessen,
When you add you gain.
Exponents and polynomials and parabolas and lines
Angles and triangles, tangents and sines
Distributive, reflexive, transitive props
Substitution really just means doing a swap.
Slope intercept form and Pythagorean theorem
how many people would fill the museum?
The minimum’s the low point, the maximum’s the high
Mathematical equations are as easy as pi.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, twitchy-eyed sometime math teacher

Essential Travel

From my place of privilege in the spring green
farmland – a place made for long, quiet solo bike
rides that begin right outside my doorstep – a place
where self-isolating has become a time of sweet
retirement for me – is it my role to judge what is
“essential travel” for that young mother enclosed
in a small apartment with rambunctious toddlers
from morning until night? Maybe that drive through
the countryside with her little ones IS essential to
her well-being. Maybe the woman in the grips of a
dark debilitating depression desperately needs to
leave her home and go for a drive so she can see
children laughing in front yards and folks mowing
their lawns, and be assured that life is still being lived.
Maybe that person we see driving on the roads hasn’t
been to the supermarket for two weeks and needs to
get groceries for another two. I can’t know what goes
on in everyone else’s life.  I can only make sure that I
make the best choices I can make in my own life –
choices that come from a place of Love.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell – a photo from a solo bike ride through the Skagit flats.)
bike ride this one