Cosmic Connections: An Excerpt

Cosmic Connections: Finding the Joy is available as a paperback now. It should be available as an e-book in a few days. Here’s another excerpt from the book:

I’d Never Been Alone At All!
(Originally published on September 24th, 2019.)

He stood out – literally – he was, like, a foot taller than everyone around him. He had hair the color of copper and an Irish accent.  She stood next to him – coming just below his shoulders – with dark hair and lively eyes and an accent that came from somewhere in the middle of America.  We bonded waiting to get on the airplane – laughing together that we were in the “E” section and would get on last because “they always save the best for last, right?” and “E stands for ‘excellent’, doesn’t it?”

We were bound for Chicago. I mentioned that my husband and I had, just a few weeks before, driven from Seattle to Grand Rapids, Michigan – and had passed by Chicago on our trip. What had taken us five days to achieve then, would take five hours today.  The couple told me then that they lived in Michigan – Kalamazoo, to be exact. I told them I loved the word “Kalamazoo” and the copper-haired man told me that before that he’d lived in another town in Michigan with a native name (maybe Missaukee?). And, he told me, he’d almost taken a job in Australia with a really cool Aboriginal name (maybe Woolgoolga?). I told him he needed to go to Walla Walla next, and he started laughing.

Eventually we boarded the bus that would take us to our plane. There were no seats on the bus and everyone had to find a pole or a bar or a hand-loop to grip during the ride. I was too short to reach the bar above me and all the hand-loops were taken. I was looking around trying to figure out how I was going to keep upright, when the red-haired man saw my dilemma and moved aside so I could grip the loop near him – he was tall enough that he could easily hang onto the bar above us. I’m so grateful to him for that because as the bus worked its way across the tarmac there were a lot of stops and turns and I would have ended up doing a face plant on the floor, for sure, if I hadn’t had something to hold onto.

The bus stopped and we all got out and I quickly found my seat on the plane. Or. I THOUGHT I’d found my seat on the plane until a man tapped me gently on the shoulder and asked me my seat number. I told him and, smiling, he pointed me to a seat a row up and over. “I guess you were wondering where you were going to sit?” I asked, laughing. He laughed, too, and everyone graciously made room for me to move across the aisle. When I got settled I looked up and recognized one of the people who’d been on the bus. She was standing in the aisle next to my seat, waiting to find her own seat. The aisle was kind of clogged up, though, and it looked like it might take a while. Recognizing a person with a sense of humor, I said, “You don’t get a seat. One of those hand loop things is going to drop down from the ceiling and you’ll get to hang on to that for the flight.”  She started cracking up and said that she’d probably get to have the air mask first, though, if those things dropped down.  🙂

The flight was pretty uneventful – there were some air bumps for a while that forced the flight attendants back to their seats – but everyone was really calm about it all, and, in what seemed like no time, our plane had landed at O’Hare.

***

I had a wonderful day in Chicago – seeing old friends and getting inspired by this year’s speaker at the Christian Science association. I came away feeling revitalized and ready to heal the world.

***

But first I had to deal with my own neuroses. I’d worked myself into kind of a tizzy.  When I was younger I’d traveled a lot on my own. But as I’ve gotten older most of my traveling has been with family members and friends. And now I felt like I was all alone, trying to figure things out for myself, and it was scary. My thoughts were going around and around in circles something like this: “I’m going to need to get up at 4:30 to catch the shuttle bus to the airport. How do I set the alarm clock? How do I turn it off? What if I sleep through the alarm? What if the alarm doesn’t go off? What if I miss the shuttle bus and then I miss my plane? And… and… what if I can’t find a kiosk to get my boarding pass? And… what if I mess up at the kiosk and can’t get a boarding pass and miss my plane and get stranded in Chicago for, like, ever? And what if the TSA folks think I look suspicious or something and pull me out of the line and I end up missing my plane and… and… how do I set the alarm clock? How do I turn it off? What if I sleep through the alarm…?

You get the idea. Sheesh.

Of course I didn’t sleep well – tossing and turning, my eyes continually going to the clock. I finally dozed off for a couple hours and came to with a start to find that I’d awakened at exactly 4:24.  I got up and set about getting myself dressed and ready. At 4:30 the alarm went off and I pushed the little button and it stopped – just like that. By 4:45 I was joining other folks in the elevator (I thought I’d be the only one getting up at 4:30!) and heading for the lobby. By 5:00 we were all on the bus and heading for the airport. When the people in front of me got off the shuttle at the United terminal I moved to the front so I could hear our bus driver’s voice – it was really deep and beautiful – a James Earl Jones voice – he sounded like he belonged on the radio. I told him this and he started laughing and said that this was the voice he woke up with and it would get higher as the day went on. “This is your morning voice,” I said, nodding. And he laughed and agreed.

***

(Note: All the employees you’re going to read about who helped me – the lady at the kiosk, the security folks, the vendor who showed me where Starbucks was, and the man who assigned me a seat on the plane – were African Americans. I always feel this kind of weird self-conscious awkwardness about mentioning a person’s race – like it shouldn’t matter, right? – but at the moment I’m feeling the need to share that all the wonderful folks who helped me at O’Hare were Black.)

The Delta terminal was the next stop. I got off there and as soon as I walked in the door found a kiosk waiting for me. A Delta employee immediately joined me at the kiosk to help me get my boarding pass. She asked me for my confirmation number and I showed her the teeny tiny letters on my phone and asked her if she could read them because I couldn’t make them out without my glasses. She laughed and said she needed her glasses, too, and quickly pulled them from a pocket and put them on to read the number to me.  She soon realized it would go faster for us if she just punched the number in herself – so she did that for me. I made some comment about “women of a certain age” helping each other and she started laughing with me in middle-aged sisterhood. Soon she’d printed out my boarding pass for me, found out what gate I needed to go to, and pointed me that direction.

When I got in line for security I expected to have to go through that cubicle where you have to put your arms up and the body scan dealy checks you out. But this time the security people pointed me into a line where I got to by-pass the scanning machine altogether. That was cool.

And so there I was – safe and sound on the other side of security. All the things I’d been so nervous about were now behind me and looked ridiculous to me from this vantage point. I could feel the Cosmos laughing with me.  I imagine the Cosmos finds me pretty entertaining.

Next it was time to find a Starbucks. I stopped at a small vendor of cheeses and fruit and asked her if she could point me to the nearest Starbucks. She looked up at me with a kind of exasperated disbelief and pointed behind her – “Right there,” she said. I saw that the Starbucks was right next to her! Humbled, I said, “Oh, thank you! Sheesh.” A stunning African American woman – she looked like a competent, confident put-together lawyer – happened to be walking by us as this exchange was going on and she looked over at me, a grin on her face, and said, “I heard that.” I laughed with her and told her I was embarrassed, and went to fetch my pumpkin spice latte with whip. Once I had that familiar cup of latte in my hand I went back to the fruit and cheese vendor and bought myself a snack for the plane ride. The vendor graciously thanked me for my business and I thanked her, again, and went to sit in the waiting area.

I had been given a boarding pass without an assigned seat. So when the man appeared behind the podium I went up to him to get a seat. And oh! – he was so fun! I told him I needed a seat – and he grinned and pointed to the row of seats behind him – joking – and then he asked some quick questions, made some snappy small talk as he clicked away on the keyboard – et voila! I had a window seat!

I found a place to sit and, as the waiting area started getting more crowded, I picked up my bags and made room for Mike and Lisa, a middle-aged couple from Indiana. I really enjoyed talking with them. Lisa had arranged an Alaskan cruise for her husband and herself. They were going to visit all the places my husband and I had visited when we went up the Inside Passage seven years ago – Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka – and we talked about all the cool things they were going to see. This was Mike’s first-ever airplane ride. In fact, he told me he’d just had his first-ever train ride, too. In FACT, they’d already taken a car, a bus, and a train to get where they were. “Trains, planes, and automobiles,” I said, and they laughed and said “exactly.”

When it was time to get on the plane I stopped at the podium and made sure to let the man who’d assigned me a seat know how much I’d enjoyed listening to his comedic patter over the microphone as we lined up for boarding. He grinned and thanked me and wished me a good flight.

***

I got my window seat and spent the first half of the flight looking out the window and watching a movie on the screen in front of me. Towards the end of the flight I got into conversation with Eliana, the young woman seated next to me. I’d noticed she was taking an online college course, and shared with her my experience as a high school teacher. We talked about what she’d like to do when she gets out of school – she said she’d like to be a fashion designer – and I could totally picture her doing that. I told her she could name her line of clothes “Eliana” – and that I expected to see her fashion designs out there in a few years.

***

The plane landed a half hour early. I’d left rain in Chicago, and landed in rain in Seattle. There was something very symmetrical and pleasing about that.

As my husband drove me back home, I started thinking about all my ridiculous worries and the fear I’d had of being all on my own, trying to figure things out by myself – and I suddenly realized that I really hadn’t been alone at all! The entire trip I’d had people stepping up to help me out – to give me directions, to make room for me, to laugh with me.

How blessed we are to have each other on Life’s journey!
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Unhooked from the Mother Ship

I’m feeling weirdly untethered –
like I got dropped from the sky
and am in free fall
or got unhooked from the line
that connects me to the Mother Ship
and am floating off into space.
It is scary
and also kind of exhilarating.

Retirement ain’t for sissies.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Blue Cosmos (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

For Those Who Dare to Get Out of Bed

For Those Who Dare to Get Out of Bed

So I’m lying in bed this morning
and I realize I have a choice –
I don’t HAVE to get out of bed today.

If I get out of bed there are sure
to be problems and complications.
I am almost guaranteed to make
SOMEbody angry today.
I am pretty much guaranteed to say
the wrong thing to someone
at the wrong time in the wrong place
in the wrong way.
I may get in someone’s way.
Someone may get in MY way.
I may lose my temper today.
I may be thoughtless and unkind.
I may die if I get out of bed.

On the other hand, I may die
if I stay in my bed, too.
I may miss out on a chance
to be thoughtful and kind.
I may miss an opportunity
to learn something new and to laugh,
and meet a new
friend, and see an eagle soar,
and enjoy the sunshine
on my face.

It takes courage to get out of bed
each day.

To all the courageous people who dare
to get out bed and face whatever comes
between now and tomorrow –
I wish you all the wonder and magic
you find today
because you got out of bed.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Getting the COVID Vaccine

“In the end, it was actually my background in Christian Science that gave me the courage to get the vaccine.”

Several folks dear to me – family and friends – have asked me if I was planning to get the COVID vaccine. To those dear ones concerned about my well-being: I already got my first dose last week.

If you know me, you can probably imagine the thought that went into this decision. In the end I got the shot for my community – to help the people around me feel safe and comfortable, and to help alleviate any worries they might have for me. And I got the shot so I could travel and be with my friends and family without the guilt and responsibility I might feel if I didn’t get the shot.

I had to address a lot of fear in my thoughts before I got the vaccine. To be honest, I was more scared of the vaccine than the virus. I’ve always been less than enthused about getting vaccines – and not because I’m a Christian Scientist (pfft) – but because I’ve had this belief that my body was designed to heal itself naturally and I didn’t want to interfere with that “healing process.” In the end, it was actually my background in Christian Science that gave me the courage to get the vaccine. As I was thinking about my fears, metaphysically, it came to me that it made no sense to think it’s unnatural to put humanly-made vaccines in my body, but to accept the virus as “natural.” Metaphysically, none of it is natural, and none of it can touch my real, spiritual identity as the expression, idea, reflection, image, likeness, manifestation, and child of Love and Truth. I am safe in God. We all are hid safely in our Father-Mother.

So. There you have it. My second vaccine is scheduled in a couple weeks.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“The temporal and unreal never touch the eternal and real.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

“Let not your heart be troubled…”

– John 14

“Your life is hid with Christ in God.”
– Colossians 3:3

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”
– Matthew 22:21

“Whatever it is your duty to do, you can do without harm to yourself.”
– Mary Baker Eddy


Message to My Friends on the Other Side

I know I have friends who are feeling today what I was feeling four years ago. Devastated. Terrified of what the future holds. Sure that there must be some mistake. Wondering if it’s all a lie. Wondering if some miracle will change everything before the new president gets sworn in. I guess I just wanted you to know that I get it and I’m not going to judge you for whatever it is you’re feeling right now. And I’m not going to think less of you if you’re feeling scared.

I voted for Biden-Harris. I am relieved and happy they won. But I find I’m not even tempted to gloat about it.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“God bless the whole world – no exceptions.”

“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

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)

Lessons from the Year of Insanity

Twelve years ago I went through a massive depression. I’d never gone through anything like that before. It was life-changing for me. At the time it felt like it was the most challenging thing I’d ever experienced. I didn’t like it so much. But now, looking back, I’m so grateful for that time in the “wilderness” – I learned so much from it!

Here are some of the lessons I learned during the Year of Insanity (excerpted from The Middle Book):
“I still have moments of loneliness, and I still have moments when I’m scared. But now I know enough to know these moments will eventually pass. I don’t give much thought to them. I’ve discovered it’s possible to be happy even during these times.”

“…I have found that there’s no way I can predict what form help and ‘salvation’ will take for me. I have found that, if I just keep my thought open to all the good…every moment, I’ll find everything I need to get me off my mental ‘island.”

“Right here, where I might see fear and anger and hate – in this exact same place and space, there’s another universe filled with incredible good – and I have a choice of which one I want to live in, and which one I want to see as ‘real.'”

“I think if all of mankind were able to recognize the good in themselves and in each other – I think this, alone, would transform our world.”

“Think back on the last four years of your life, my friend – become aware of all the things you would have missed if you’d given up on life four years ago: the new friends you would never have known; the sunsets and sunrises you wouldn’t have seen; the lessons you wouldn’t have learned; the changes you wouldn’t have been able to make; the pictures never painted; the photos never taken; the songs never sung; all the love and laughter that you would have denied yourself.”

middle book cover