New Collection of Poems

Hi everyone!
I just published another collection of poems. This one is titled “Since Then” and is a collection of poems I’ve written since my mom’s passing in 2017. The book contains poems about home and our kinship with others; poems from the pandemic; poems praising our connection to earth; and poems that celebrate the joy of being alive.Here’s a quick sample:

Can I Take Your Picture?

“Can I take your picture?” I ask the folks who sit
in a line of rocking chairs in front of a Cracker Barrel
store in Indiana. And they grin for me and I click.
“Can I take your picture?” I ask Joanna and Mitch
in the Anoka Independent Grain and Feed and they
give me broad midwestern smiles and I click.
“Can I take your picture?” I ask the international students
in front of Mount Rushmore and they quickly
line up in rows for me and beam and give me hope
for the world – maybe we’ll survive after all – and I click.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Dad’s Big Birthday Bash

(Excerpt from Finding the Rainbows: Lessons from Dad and Mom)
June 21, 2016
Dad’s (Dee Molenaar‘s) big 98th birthday bash was yesterday. I spent the week before the party trying to get the house ready for our guests – dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, washing curtains, washing windows, battling cobwebs, pulling weeds, planting flowers, de-cluttering, and policing every horizontal surface in the house to make sure no new piles of stuff started growing on them. But frankly, when one lives in a house full of active, busy people, it ain’t easy to hang onto one’s feng shui. By the day of the party I was completely wiped-out.

And my house was still… well… how shall I put this? Let’s just say my house is not something you would find in “Good Housekeeping” magazine. It is not a show house. It has been lived in, and it looks like it: The ottoman has chunks out of it from when the dog was a puppy; the ceilings have hand-prints from the sons jumping up and tagging them; and the windows on the french doors have perpetual smudges at about the same level as the dog’s nose.

A couple hours before the party I went to fetch my parents and bring them back to the house. When I returned with my parents I found my sons, Andrew and Xander, and my eldest son’s girlfriend, Sierra, had arrived and were ready to help in any way they could. The sons moved furniture around for me, and, with the flip of a sheet and a strategically-placed pillow, Sierra was able to turn a battered old chair into an attractive piece of furniture. Then the three went outside to set up the volleyball net (because what is a summer party without volleyball – am I right, or am I right?), my husband, Scott, put the salmon on the grill, and Mom and Dad got comfortably settled to await their guests – who soon began to arrive.I hadn’t told my parents about most of the guests.

I hadn’t told them about Dad’s nephew who was flying in from Chicago; Dad’s niece who was coming up from San Francisco; Mom’s niece and her husband from Oregon; one of Mom’s nieces and her husband from Vancouver (Washington); another of Mom’s nieces and her husband from Seattle; and the daughter of a niece, and her husband, from Tacoma; Fred, Bill, and Roger, Dad’s old climbing buddies from Seattle, and Fred’s wife, Dorothy; Roland, who’d worked as a mountain rescue volunteer in King County; musician Tracy Spring – the daughter of Dad’s old friend, Bob, the famous photographer; Mark Schoening, the son of the man who had saved my dad’s life on K2, and his wife, Emmy; my old high school friend, Rita, who years ago had taken a trip to California with Dad and me, and Rita’s husband, Skip; and the two young women who worked for Mountaineers Books and wanted to return original artwork from Dad’s book, The Challenge of Rainier.

And then there were the people my parents HAD been expecting: My brothers, Pete and Dave; Pete’s girlfriend, Sheila, who immediately manned the kitchen for me and kept the food coming; Dave’s children, Claire and Casey, and Claire’s boyfriend, Michael; our old family friend, Jack, whom we’ve known for more than 50 years; Rick and Jana and their daughter, Cindy, who are like family to us, and Cindy’s friends who had been in the same orphanage in China that Cindy had been in before they’d all been adopted and brought to America; my neighbors and fellow mountain people, John and Mike and Cliff; and Dean, a former colleague, and his wife, Ruth – both big time mountain aficionados.

The house was soon packed full of people. Interesting, well-traveled people. Fun people. Amazing people.

I forgot all about the aesthetics of my house – my focus shifted, instead, to all the generous, wonderful folks who had taken the time and made the effort – some of them traveling hundreds of miles! – to be with Daddy on his special day. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of that.

Near the end of the festivities, Tracy Spring got out her guitar and sang for Dad a song she had written herself. It was the absolutely perfect song for that time and that place and I started tearing up when Tracy got to the last verse. Then Roland brought out his guitar, and he and Tracy strummed the song Summertime, while I sang it.

Ohmygosh. It was such a fun day!

At the end of it all, as Dad was sitting in the car, waiting to be driven back to his apartment, I asked him if he’d enjoyed his birthday bash. He said yes, he had. But he was surprised. Had all those people come for him?! Why?! “Because they love you,” I told him, and kissed him on the cheek. He blinked at me, trying to process it all.

At some point – a couple hours into the party – two or three different people came up at separate times to tell me what a “beautiful home” I have. I thanked them, but… yeah, I was surprised. They saw my puppy-chewed, son-tagged, dog-smudged house as “beautiful”?! Wow. That was very nice for them to say, but… really?!

This morning Mom called to tell me that Dad has been asking her all morning if yesterday had just been a dream. Each time he asked, Mom assured him it had all been real.

I thought again to those comments about my home and had an epiphany. My home HAD been beautiful – not because of its physicality – but because it had been packed full of beautiful people. It had been filled full of love. How could it NOT have been beautiful?!
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

I Feel Them Near

I’ve had this urge lately to go home
and visit Mom for a weekend
To laugh and talk and hear her voice
and maybe sing a song or two with her
To go downstairs and see what new
project Dad has going on
in the basement – he was always
up to something

I feel them near
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 8:38-39

A Deck Full of Blessings

Sitting in a camp chair on the back deck
in the sunshine, I open my eyes and see
the answers to my “When will I ever…?”
questions: “When will I ever find my love?”
And there sits my beloved partner of 36 years.
“When will we ever have children?”
And there sits the youngest son, eating lunch.
“When will we ever own our own home?”
And I look down at the deck beneath my chair,
attached to our house at my back.
“When will we ever have another cat?”
And there’s Clara Rose with her nose
between the slats of the deck, looking out
on our field of autumn auburn trees.
I am sitting on a deck full of blessings.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“…let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
– James 1:4

“To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

As I Waited for Them

They came home last night.
I was standing under the stars
as I waited for them – looking
up at the vast serene forever,
feeling Mom and Dad smiling
with me – and the car pulled up
into the driveway. I was hidden
in the darkness at first and they
didn’t see me – then – “Have you
been waiting for us?” – and hugs
and laughter and so glad you’re
home – gently emerging into the
here and now – and a paperclip
– Mom’s special signal to me –
in the driveway. I pick it up and put
it in my pocket. I will add it to my
paperclip collection once I’m inside.
All together again.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“I’m 100!”

November 17, 2018
I call ahead to see if Dad is up for a drive today. Megan tells me he’s just gotten up and had breakfast, and says she’ll get him ready to go.

We get Dad loaded up in the car and head out on our adventure.
Dad: (Looking around at the scenery.) It’s a beautiful day!
Karen: It’s gorgeous!

We stop at the Sisters Espresso…
Karen: Root beer float?
Dad: Yes, please!
(I bring Dad his float…)
Dad: Thank you for this!

As we’re driving down Chuckanut, Dad turns his head and keeps his eyes on the hills – I know he’s waiting for that moment when Mount Baker appears above the foothills. When Baker comes in sight Dad stays focused on its snowy slopes.

Scotty suggested earlier that, if Dad was up for it, I could bring him by our house so he could say hi. So that’s what I do…
Karen: Do you want to get out of the car and go inside to say hi to Scotty?
(Dad unbuckles himself and I come around to help out of the car and into the house…)

We situate Dad in the comfy chair in front of the television so he can watch some football, and I put his headset on his head so we can carry on a conversation without me yelling in his ear.
Dad: Who’s playing?
Scott: Ohio and Maryland are playing in this one.
Karen: (To Dad…) Who are you rooting for?
Dad: Ohio.

I bring Dad a piece of carrot cake left over from Scotty’s birthday.
Karen: This cake is from Scotty’s birthday. He turned 65 last week.
Dad: (Looking at Scott.) That’s old!
(Scott starts laughing.)
Karen: I’m 62! Isn’t that crazy?!
Dad: (Laughing with Scott and me…) I’m 100!
(Clearly, Dad has won this “competition.”)

The game is over now (Ohio won). And Dad is starting to look like he’s ready for a nap.
Karen: Are you ready to go home, Daddy?
Dad: (Shakes his head.) No.
(I lean in and smile love to Dad, and he smiles love back to me.)
Dad: You have really white teeth. You have a pretty smile.
Karen: Thank you, Daddy.
Dad: You have a pretty face. You have a beautiful face. You are a beautiful woman.
Karen: (I’m really touched by Dad’s words – I know what he’s seeing in my face is my love for him.) Thank you. I love you.
Dad: I love you.
Karen: Are you ready to go now?
Dad: Is Mom coming with us?
Karen: She can’t, Daddy.
Dad: (Studying my face.) Is Mom not alive?
Karen: (I shake my head no.) No.
Dad:  (Tearing up.) I thought she was back east in Michigan or… she wasn’t even sick…
Karen: She had congestive heart failure, Daddy. She died here in this room. She was sleeping on a bed and I was sleeping on the couch next to her and… I felt her pass… I felt her brush by me with joy and love…
Dad: I didn’t even get to say good bye to her.
Karen: You said good bye to her in the hospital. You told each other you loved each other. She loved you very much. We promised her we’d take care of you.
Dad: (Tearing up.) I don’t remember any of that.
Karen: I know. I’m so sorry, Daddy.

We help Dad out to the car. Just before he gets in it he turns to me…
Dad: This whole time I thought Mom was with me on this trip.
Karen: Maybe she was.
(Dad looks at my face, thinking…) 

As I head for his home, Dad mentions something about the road parallel, that travels along the coast – and I’m thinking maybe he wants me to drive along Bayview-Edison Road, so I take the car that direction. We head along Bayview-Edison Road for awhile. Dad’s head drops now and then in sleep, and then comes up to look at the bay. After a while…
Dad: You can take me to my new home now. The one near the Canadian border.
Karen: You want me to take you home now?
Dad: Yeah.

Dad is nodding off as we crest the hill and start down the other side into the valley. His head pops up then – and he starts scanning the hills. He points to one and asks if it’s Glacier Peak. I tell him I don’t think so – too small – and he nods.

We pull up in front of his house and Dad asks if this is where he’s going to be picked up to be brought to his home. I tell him this IS his home. He asks if he knows the people who live there. Just then Amanda pulls in behind us in her car. I ask her to come over and let Dad see her because he’s not sure he knows the people who live there. Amanda – bless her heart! – laughs and comes over and gives Dad a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She asks him if he knows her – and he says “Yes, barely.” She laughs and hugs him again, and tells him that’s alright.

I help Dad in the house. He wants to know where he should go now. I tell him he could go in the living room and watch television or he could go to his room and take a nap.
Karen: Do you want to take a nap?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah.

We go into his room, and I help him out of his sweater and put his alpine hat back on top of the lamp.
Karen: In five days you’re coming back to my home for Thanksgiving – and David and Claire and Casey and Andrew and Xander will all be there!
Dad: Oh! Good!
Karen: And in two days I’m taking you to a doctor’s appointment.
Dad: Thank you for taking care of all this for me.
Karen: Thank you for going on a drive with me today, Daddy. I enjoyed it.
Dad: Thank you for taking me on these drives.
Karen: I love you.
Dad: I love you.

More adventures with Dad can be found here: Are You Taking Me Home Now?

adventures with dad book cover

Latest book!

A Message from the New Owners

Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way.
– Mary Bakery Eddy

Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.
– Mary Baker Eddy

My parents had lived in this house, and on this land, for 48 years. They’d planted and nurtured trees, kept the local birds supplied with a steady stream of bird feed, Dad had painted a mural on the garage, and Mom had planted a rose garden. Now it was time for Dad (97 then) and Moz (87 then) to transition into a new chapter in their lives. It was time for them to leave the old homestead and leave it in the hands of new owners.

When my husband, brothers, and I looked at what needed to be accomplished in the next few months it was over-whelming. Daunting. It looked to be impossible.

There was 48 years of accumulated life to sort through – mountains of books, artwork, correspondence, journals, music, photos, mountaineering paraphernalia. As a well-known mountain-climber my dad has led an extraordinarily rich life, hobnobbed with celebrities, traveled around the world – we couldn’t just throw stuff in the dumpster willy-nilly – there might be a letter from Bobby Kennedy or Edmund Hillary hidden in the flotsam and jetsam, or a National Geographic with Dad’s picture in it. And there was so much! Three stories filled with memories.

Also – a new home needed to be found for our parents, and their old home needed to be sold. We worried: Would we be able to sell the parents’ old home in time to pay for their new home? And would we find new owners who would appreciate the homestead, and care for it, and love it the way my parents had?

I threw out our hopes and needs to God, Love, and trusted that the power of Good in which I believe would direct us and open the way. Nothing, I told myself, is impossible to Love. Nothing is beyond the reach of Love. Love would provide.

I invited two of Dad’s friends to come over and sort through books and artwork for us – to help us know what was important and needed to be kept safe and what could be donated to the Goodwill. Then my siblings and I each pledged to tackle a different floor in the house – my husband and I took the main floor, my brothers took on the attic and basement.

My husband and I gave ourselves one day to empty the first floor, and dust, sweep, vacuum, and mop it. We got there at 8:00 in the morning. About 2:00 I was exhausted and ready to give up. My husband said, matter-of-factly, “We can’t. We don’t have a choice. We’ve got to get it done.” And then he picked up a mop and disappeared. He was a huge inspiration to me that day. I couldn’t have done what I needed to do without his calm, steady, can-do attitude. At 7:00 pm – 11 hours after we’d started – we were done. It felt like I’d just summited Mount Rainier – I had that same feeling of happy accomplishment.

My mom had given me the name and number of a real estate agent, and when I called, she agreed to take us on. We couldn’t have found a more perfect person to work with us! She was kind and patient – never pushed my parents to do what they weren’t ready to do and always put their needs and wishes first.

Two weeks after putting my parents’ home on the market, it had new owners. I teared up when I read the note they sent to Mom and Dad:

Dear Dee and Colleen,

We just want to thank you both so much for choosing us to inherit this property. We fell in love with it right away. It’s our dream house. We promise to respect it and keep the spirit of love alive here. We appreciate the spirit of adventure and have the utmost respect for the incredible things you’ve done. What a beautiful life!

Dee, your art is gorgeous. We will forever treasure the mural on the garage. Colleen, we will continue to nurture the birds you’ve brought to the property. It was magical to see so many, and of such variety, during our short chat on the porch.

On a more practical note, PLEASE don’t worry about cleaning the place out. Anything you need to leave is fine. We will take care of it. It must be bittersweet to be moving on to a new chapter of life and we are in no way wanting you to feel pressured.

Of course, you are welcome any time. Thanks again. We’re pinching ourselves with the good luck of finding this home!

With love,

Chris and Janel

My parents’ old home was meant to belong Chris and Janel. They were meant to live there now. You know that old saying “What blesses one, blesses all”?  This is a perfect example of that.

My parents got full price for their old home and were able to move into a retirement community, and, more recently, closer to me – in an artsy, active little town where they can take walks along the water and visit art galleries, and get the services they need for this new chapter in their lives.

***

I recently called Janel to find out if I could use her letter in my new book, Finding the Rainbows: Lessons from Dad and Mom. She cheerfully gave me permission, and then told me how much her young family is enjoying their new home. Oh man, that just warmed the cockles of my heart. Blessings all around.

Love is good.

Dad and his mural

Dee Molenaar and the mural on his old garage.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God (Love), to them who are the called according to his purpose.
– Romans 8:28

“Home!”

Okay, this little moment brought me a lot of joy yesterday: Moz and Dad and I went to a meeting yesterday afternoon (Mom had asked me to come down and go to a meeting with their bankers with them). I could tell the meeting was a struggle for Dad – he can’t hear well and was having a hard time keeping up with what was going on. The meeting took about an hour and then the folks loaded back into my car and I drove them to their new apartment. As soon as Dad walked into his new apartment his whole face lit up and he made his way to his favorite seat on the couch. When he sat down he smiled, let out a deep sigh of satisfaction, and said, “Home!”

I am so proud of Mom and Dad. They’ve made so many huge changes in the last couple months – and they’ve approached each new change with courage and fortitude and done what they needed to do. I know it wasn’t easy for Dad to leave the old homestead – “I loved this place,” he said as he sat at the kitchen counter of the homestead one last time – and then he put on his faithful alpine hat, took one last look around, turned off the lights, and headed out the door to his new life. And now, seeing him happy in his new home – that just means the world to me.

I asked him if there was anything I could bring him to his new home. He said no. He didn’t want material things anymore. He pointed to the books lying around him and said that as long as he’s surrounded by his mountain books, he’s home.

And Moz! Ohmygosh! She has just been amazing. She’s had to make so many decisions and choices in the last few months – and she hasn’t shirked from a single one – she’s done what she needed to do for Dad and for herself, and done it with grace and humor and courage.

I am really proud to be their daughter.

A No Car Day

Home is the dearest spot on earth, and it should be the centre, though not the boundary, of the affections.
– 
Mary Baker Eddy

The sons, husband, and I had a No Car Day yesterday. It was lovely. We went for a walk to the old cemetery, and then came home and made a fire in the wood-stove, and brought our the old board games – Stratego, Monopoly, RISK. We filled the DVD up with old favorites – Christmas Vacation, The Christmas Story, Pirates of the Caribbean – and our bellies up with garlic mash and turkey. The cat sat on top of the chair, the dog lay on her bed at our feet. Christmas lights sparkled from the mantel and the Christmas tree, and reflected off the wrapping paper littering the floor.The sound of convivial board game competition and laughter filled the air.

Ah! Bliss! 🙂

??????????

photo of Christmas wrapping paper (Karen Molenaar Terrell)