“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. ❤ )

Making a New Friend in the Time of COVID

So Scotty and I take a walk on the boardwalk. When we get down to Boulevard Park I’m thinking vegan pizza from Ovn, right? I make a call and order the pizzas – a couple to bring home to our vegan young people, too. Matt takes my order. I can tell right away – from our quick banter and the smile in his voice – that he has a sense of humor. I can have some fun here. We get to the part where I give him my credit card info and now he wants to know my name. 
Karen: Okay, so my name is… don’t laugh… my name is Karen.
Matt: (Laughing.)
Karen: (Laughing.) You’re laughing.
Matt: (Continues laughing.) I’m only laughing because you told me not to laugh. But you sound like a very nice Karen.
Karen: (Still laughing.) Thank you.

Matt tells me that the pizza should be ready in 20 minutes – which is just about right for our walk back up from Boulevard Park.

When we get up to Ovn I give a call to let them know we’ve arrived. When Matt picks up the phone I feel myself instantly smiling – I’m so glad it’s him! He knows how to laugh.
Karen: This is Karen. We’re here now. Hey – do you have any truffle salt?
Matt: No, unfortunately we don’t have any right now – we can’t import it because of COVID.
Karen: Bummer. Do you have any other cool stuff there?
Matt: (Laughing.) We have all kinds of cool stuff here. We’ve got smoked salt and habanero salt. We’ve got… (and he lists a whole bunch of other salts – but my mind has wrapped itself around habanero salt – that sounds pretty interesting.)
Karen: Habanero salt – does that have any animal products in it?
Matt: No animal products. It’s really spicey, though.
Karen: Spicey! Cool! We’ll take a habanero salt and a smoked salt, too.
Matt: You got it!
Karen: Thank you!

Pretty soon Matt comes out with the pizzas. I finally get to see my new friend! Of course, we’re both wearing masks – but I can still tell he’s smiling under there.
Matt: Are you Karen?
Karen: Yes – are you Matt?
Matt: (Smiling.) Yes. Here are your pizzas. (Hands me the stack of pizzas.) Thank you for giving Karens such a good name.
Karen: Thank you so much! It was nice meeting you!

A Karen Reflects on True Identity

“The sense of identity is the root of all suffering.”
Mooji, Vaster Than Sky, Greater Than Space

Your true identity does not depend upon
a job title or a five-star review or your age
or the money in your bank account
or how many followers you have on your page
or your gender, weight, height, skin color, or name,
or your religion, political party, family or fame.

Your true identity is eternally held and maintained
safe in Love and Truth, free from shame.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Karen to Andrew: I’ve lost my parents; I’ve lost my youth; I’m losing my hearing; I’ve lost my beauty; I’m not a teacher anymore; now even my name stinks.
Andrew: You know what comes next?
Karen: The grave?
Andrew: (Laughing.) Nah, you get closer to God.

I just had a HUGE breakthrough, my friends! Lately I’d found myself feeling some negative bias towards people who used my name as a synonym for a white supremacist anti-mask Trump supporter. I’d come to believe that those who use “Karen” as a pejorative were not original thinkers, tended towards bigotry, were prone to labeling and stereotypes, enjoyed deriding and laughing at others, were bullies, and were unkind. BUT…

NONE OF THAT is the truth about ANY of us! If I accept that lie about even ONE of God’s children, I am allowing myself to get pulled into a whole tangled rat’s nest of nonsense – that, in the end, is going to bring me nothing good.

“When we identify ourselves with the sense of personhood, we are much like a wave on the surface of the ocean. Rather than resting in the vast space of pure Being, we become identified with some kind of passing event, thought, or emotion – perhaps a wave of anger, a particular role in our life, or even our entire sense of personhood.”
Mooji, Vaster Than Sky, Greater Than Space

“Grown-ups love figures… When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?’ Instead they demand ‘How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?’ Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

Quotes on “identity” from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy:
“The divine Mind maintains all identities, from a blade of grass to a star, as distinct and eternal.” (70)
“The one Spirit includes all identities.” (333)
“The universe reflects God. There is but one creator and one creation. This creation consists of the unfolding of spiritual ideas and their identities, which are embraced in the infinite Mind and forever reflected.” (503)
“The divine Mind, not matter, creates all identities, and they are forms of Mind, the ideas of Spirit apparent only as Mind, never as mindless matter nor the so-called material senses.” (505)
“This scientific sense of being, forsaking matter for Spirit, by no means suggests man’s absorption into Deity and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace.” (265)
“The loss of man’s identity through the understanding which Science confers is impossible; and the notion of such a possibility is more absurd than to conclude that individual musical tones are lost in the origin of harmony.” (217)
“Error supposes man to be both mental and material. Divine Science contradicts this postulate and maintains man’s spiritual identity.” (287)
“Breaking away from the mutations of time and sense, you will neither lose the solid objects and ends of life nor your own identity.” (261)
“The material body and mind are temporal, but the real man is spiritual and eternal. The identity of the real man is not lost, but found through this explanation; for the conscious infinitude of existence and of all identity is thereby discerned and remains unchanged.” (302)
“Identity is the reflection of Spirit, the reflection in multifarious forms of the living Principle, Love.” (477)

An alpine butterfly flits among the flowers on Table Mountain. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Karens for Justice (Trust Me, You Want These Karens on Your Side)

Without going into detail about what was going on here, my eldest son just witnessed me talking to a customer service rep on the phone. During the course of the conversation the customer rep asked me my full name. I told her I was really embarrassed to give her my first name now because of the meme, but I promised her I wasn’t going to want to talk to her manager. The son could hear her laughing through the phone. We had a delightful conversation and she helped me solve my problem and wished me a good day.

The son said he really enjoyed listening to how I talked to the rep. He said he witnessed me “dispelling myths and solving problems at the same time.”

That felt good. 🙂

Honestly, though? Lately I’ve been struggling with the Karen meme a little.  For years my Karen friends and I have marched, gone to rallies, written letters against bigotry and injustice, fought our own personal battles for equality – and now it feels like all that we’ve invested  in equality – all our words and efforts – are being brushed aside like they never mattered to anyone or made any difference.  The Karens – or maybe middle-aged women in general – are being lumped into one monolithic group and stereotyped – told by others what we believe – our own personal narratives taken from us and discounted.  

And that really stinks.  

Yesterday morning I read an article about a man who wrote “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on his own property and was chastised for doing that by a woman NAMED LISA who didn’t believe him when he said it was his property. I was immediately indignant on this man’s behalf – ready to share his story in my Facebook progressives group. And then I saw it. The news writer covering the story – a mainstream media writer named Madison Vanderberg – wrote: “The world is still protesting, marching, calling DA offices, signing petitions, and overhauling their social media presence in the name of civil rights and yet, despite all of this, Karens of the world are still calling the cops on people of color.” And a little further on the man himself – the very man who had been a victim of bigotry – referred to the woman NAMED LISA as a “Karen.” (It is interesting to note that no label was attached to the woman’s husband – who was also present.)

And seriously?

I found myself shutting down – just staring at the screen and trying to process what the hell I’d just read there.

And here’s the thing: Exchanging one target of bigotry for another is not progress, you know?

Let me share some of the stories of the Karens who are my friends –
Karen Blair Troinello was a gifted runner, born at a time when females did not have equal opportunity to participate in school sports. She changed that: “Troianello is more than a passionate advocate of sports for girls. She is a pioneer who left her name — her maiden name — forever etched in state history. She is the former Karen Blair, the named plaintiff in the landmark Blair v. Washington State University lawsuit in 1979 that forced greater gender equity in college athletics.” (The Seattle Times, June 16, 2012.)

Because of Karen Blair Troinello equity was legislated for females in school sports. Let’s show her some appreciation.

My friend Karen Beckner has long fought for equality – here’s a photo of her in The Skagit Valley Herald, marching for the rights of migrant children.

And my friend Karen Rippberger ran for public office as a progressive in a conservative district in Oregon, and – although she didn’t win the election – she’s played a huge part in helping her local LGBTQ community’s battle for equal rights. Laura Camacho wrote in her voter’s guide: ” Karen Rippberger has a servant’s heart approach to leadership that is palpable on her website.”

Trust me – you want the Karens who are my friends  fighting on your side. The Karens who are my friends don’t put up with bigotry, inequity, stereotypes, ageism, racism, sexism, discrimination, or lazy labels.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

I might have been named Cretaceous.

From a side conversation with another “Karen”:
I was actually named “Nancy Jo” for three days. Then my dad took an office poll and “Karen” won. Yeah. I was named by Dad’s colleagues. Considering that they were a bunch of geologists, I guess I could have done worse than be named “Karen.” I might have been named “Sedimentary” or “Igneous” or “Schist” or “Cretaceous.” I never actually felt like a “Karen” until it became a comic meme. Now I love to tell people my name. With a straight face. My name is a great one-liner.  🙂