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

“The Karen Special”

Those of you who are familiar with my drives with my centenarian father might remember that our go-to place for Dad’s root beer floats was Sisters Espresso (in Bow, WA), and that my drink of choice was usually a lavender green iced tea.

Sisters Espresso is assuming new ownership in a week and my husband and I wanted to stop by and order some of our last drinks from our friends, the current owners. Brooke was behind the window and I felt a little tug of nostalgia when I saw her back there, working her magic at the espresso machine. She looked up and smiled when she saw me, and pointed to her special for the day: “The Karen” – a lavender green tea!

I have never had a drink named after me before! And to see the name “Karen” used in a happy way almost brought tears to my eyes.

Of course, I had to order one of those Karen specials for myself. 🙂 (It was on the house. ❤ )

Sometimes All It Takes is the Kindness of a Friend

(August 29th)

I love this man. Charles Atkinson is one of the most courageous, honorable, wise human beings I know.

Today I found myself back in bed by 11:00 – just lying there – feeling the cool breeze blowing across my face, smelling the briny scent coming off the bay – and I realized that I could just lie there all day and be perfectly content.

But eventually I roused myself, got up – figured I’d ride my bike to the post office and pick up the mail. Once I got to the post office I thought I’d go a little further – maybe stop in and see if Charles was at Tweets – I haven’t seen him for a while and I was missing him. So I went on to Tweets – and Charles was there! Oh, it was so good to feel his smile coming through his Black Lives Matters mask! He said the exactly right words I needed – words that bolstered me up, inspired me, gave me hope. And then he told me my mocha was on him!

Sometimes all it takes is the kindness of a friend to make a day beautiful. ❤

Do Not Assume

Please do not tell me what I believe, feel, and think.
– Do not assume because I am a progressive and tend to vote for Democrats that I don’t believe in God, “hate the Bible,” and want to kill babies and take away your guns.
– Do not assume because I believe in God that I am anti-science, believe the earth is flat and the world was, literally, created in seven days.
– Do not assume that because I’m white, middle-aged and named “Karen” I am racist and want to talk to your manager.
– Do not assume that because I identify as a “Christian” I am conservative, opposed to LGBTQ rights, opposed to women’s rights, travel heavily armed, and am voting for you-know-who.

I think if we see others in terms of stereotypes we miss out on some beautiful friendships and kinship with our fellow humans.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Watching People Being Awesome

Quote

I sat at a picnic table near the children’s play area at Boulevard Park and watched people being awesome and doing good things. There was Susanne, picking up the litter she found (“I was a Girl Scout, ” she said. “Old habits die hard”). And there were Ashley (with her pup, Okanee) and Trista sitting on a couple of benches below me, becoming new friends across a socially-safe distance. And there were parents getting their children outside for fresh air and sunshine. And Alden and Ducklin carrying around a log that they just really liked. And old friends chatting and laughing together. I felt inspired by my fellow beings today…

via Watching People Being Awesome

Dear Amazon Forum Friends,

Long long ago and in a land far far away I stumbled into a rabbit hole full of delightful misfits and smartasses, wise folk and wits, and wacky and wonderful hooligans. My life would never be the same.

It was the summer of 2007. I was checking out my book on Amazon and saw that there were discussion forums listed at the bottom of the page. I clicked on one of the links and found a land full of rousing and intriguing conversations about Big Ideas – it was just like being back in university again. We talked about God and Nogod and The Bible and world leaders and policies and policy-makers and writers and books. As we bounced ideas off each other – shared and listened, debated and learned from each other – and laughed! – we built bonds of friendship and kinship that have lasted to this day.

As time goes on, I’ve come to realize just how valuable and important that time in the Amazon forums was for me. I learned so much from my Amazon friends!

A good chunk of my Facebook friends are friends from the Amazon forums. And a lot of them have become friends to my other friends, too! And I’ve become friends to THEIR friends and family. The ripples keep extending.

In the last few years we’ve begun to lose some of our Amazon classmates. Randy Kercher died unexpectedly in 2017. Dean Wrzeszcz died of COVID-19 in April. I feel like I’ve lost family.

And I guess Randy’s death and Dean’s death have given me a sense of urgency about letting my Amazon friends know how important they are to me. How much I love them. How grateful I am to have met them. We shared a unique and wonderful time together. My theistic heart believes we were meant to meet there and meant to be friends. Look at all we’ve come through together in the last 13 years! I’ve felt your support through the challenging times. I’ve been so grateful for your humor on those days when I really needed a good laugh. I’ve been so grateful for your wisdom on those days when I needed a new perspective. I can’t imagine my life now without you in it.

Thank you, dear friends.

(Through the years I’ve actually been able to meet some of my Amazon friends in the person: Kathi and Jamie in Nova Scotia; Marissa in Minnesota; Becky in Virginia; David in Michigan; and Allen, and Heather and her family, Craig and his wife, and Marissa and her husband, David and his family, and Sandy and her husband, have all taken the time to meet up with me in western Washington State. What a joy!)

Gift from a Mormon Friend

Like many of you, I have been spending time in COVID-19 lockdown going through old boxes and bins, sorting and cleaning and trying to bring some order to the accumulation of decades. And, again probably like many of you, I have found treasures in the boxes and bins.

One of the treasures I found this week was the inscription that a friend wrote to me in a copy of The Book of Mormon that she gave me. My friend, Mary, had been a teaching colleague and my sons’ elementary school music teacher. She was an extraordinary music teacher – but beyond her skills and talents as a music teacher, Mary was one of the most kind and loving people I have ever known. She radiated joy and warmth.

Mary was (and still is) a Mormon (LDS) and her religion is an important part of who she is. When she entrusted me with a copy of The Book of Mormon, I felt really honored and privileged by her gesture. I made an effort to read the book when she first gave it to me, but, for whatever reason, I was never able to get very far into it. Her inscription in the book meant a lot to me, though. The inscription came from a place of love – and, for me, it was the most important part of her gift. Mary wrote:
Dear Karen (and family)
While working with you at Edison School I have come to love and appreciate you for the special person you are.

I tried to think what I might give you to show my appreciation for our friendship. This book is the most precious thing I could think of…

I so appreciate Mary’s courage in giving me a book that meant so much to her. I think she is a wonderful representative of her beliefs and faith.

I enjoy learning how other people see the world. I enjoy seeing other perspectives. I’ve never been one of those people who felt the need for everyone else to believe exactly as I believe about stuff. I figure, in the end, no matter what path we take, we’re all going to end up in the same place, anyway – living in Love.

“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

How can I help?

I see friends struggling, hurting, in pain, vulnerable, scared.
And I want to help.
So I ask myself: How can I do that? – how can I help?
And the answer comes to me – quick and clear.
See my friends as they really are – confident, strong,
healthy, whole, fearless, full of life and joy.
And see myself that way, too.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

A Gift from Preston

A year ago I met a young man named Preston Turell at the local post office. Preston called himself a “hobo” – he was traveling and a long way from home. Preston was about the age of my sons and I found myself seeing him through the eyes of a mom.  He was very sweet to me – he let me take his photo, promised me he would stay safe, and gave me a mother-son hug before he and I parted ways.  I wrote a blog post about him. (I’ll copy and paste the post and picture at the bottom of this post.)

About a month and a half ago I received a cryptic message under my post about Preston from someone telling me that Preston was in Vancouver General Hospital and that it was his last day of life. I didn’t know what to make of it. I tried googling, but found nothing. I deleted the comment because I wasn’t sure if it was random or real.

Then several days ago I received a message from a young woman named Natalie Catherine – Preston’s partner and love. Natalie wrote: “Preston was my partner/common law husband and a truly wonderful human. He passed September 5th and our kids (dogs) and I miss him so much. I remember we found this article you posted in December of last year and he was so touched. I have shared this with his parents and It meant a lot to him. Thank you.”

I replied to Natalie’s message – told her how very sorry I was to hear of Preston’s death.  Later I received a message from Preston’s mom. She sent me a photo of Preston sitting on her lap – Preston looks like he’s about five in the photo. Tears started pouring down my face as I saw Preston’s innocent smile in the picture, and the tenderness of mother to child.

I am connected to Preston’s love now, and to his mother – a gift to me from Preston. Preston has given me a whole new community of people who love each other and care for each other. When I met Preston I didn’t realize he would be gone before a year had passed, and I couldn’t have guessed how much that brief encounter would bring to my life.

Here’s my post from October 8, 2018 :

Stopped at the post office to get my mail and met a new friend. Meet Preston. Preston is originally from Dallas, Texas. He has been traveling around the country for seven years. He calls himself a hobo. He is the same age as my oldest son, and has a red beard like my youngest son, and I felt myself going to that mother place. Preston assures me he calls his mom every day and makes sure to be home for the winter holidays. Preston is very cool. I gave him a lift to his next stop down the road. He promised me he’d stay safe, and reached over to give me a mother-son hug before he left the car.

Preston’s mom gave me permission to use the picture she sent me. It really touched my heart. The second picture is the one I took of Preston that October day in 2018.

 

 

Picnic Table at Tweets

Picnic Table at Tweets

I move from the sun to the picnic table
in the shade under a striped canopy
in a leafy orchard beside Tweets restaurant.
I ask the young man if he’d like me to take
a picture of all of them – the woman, the dog, him –
and he smiles and says yes, please, and hands
me the camera – just push that button there –
it’s that simple – and the dog looks up at the man
adoringly and I snap that moment for them
and go back to my picnic table and my breve.
A rainbow flag flies from a window across
the street. A little red finch hops near my table.
I close my eyes and listen. A dove coos from
a roof somewhere. An engine starts. Finches
chirp to one another. Laughter and voices
come from the restaurant’s deck. Motorcycles
pass by. A soft cool breeze blows across
my arms and I open my hands to all of it –
the breeze, the laughter, the joy, the peace.
And just before I leave Charles appears – I hadn’t
wanted to bother him as he worked – but there
he is! And we hug and I tell him that he is one
of those people who attracts and creates peace –
even the animals know they’re safe in his space.
And he tells me he is feeling verklempt. I wipe
tears from my eyes and say, “Me, too!”

– Karen Molenaar Terrell