Sam the Wonder Dog

I expect to see her at the door
tail wagging
on our walks
nostrils quivering
one paw raised mid-stride
nose covered in dirt
from her latest hole
unaware of her own beauty
sleek and shiny as a black panther,
but goofy as a Disney character
exhausting
exuberant
extraordinary
friendlly, fetching frisbees and finding –
like magic! –
every tennis ball that ever landed off a trail.
It was a gift she had.
Her first night with us she ate a chunk
out of our ottoman – which we will now call
“The Samantha Terrell Memorial Ottoman.”
Then she went through an “electronics”phase –
the cellphone (chomp),
the remote control (crunch).

Sam loved her neighbors –
the dogs and their humans –
and her walks
around the neighborhood
included frisky, friendly greetings –
dog greetings and human greetings.
And now the neighbors
send us flowers and notes:
“She was a good girl.”
Our neighbors were good friends
to Samantha and their notes
make me smile – seeing the love.
I miss our Samantha
the Wonder Dog.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Judging a Person Who No Longer Exists

Thoughts upon a reading a dialogue between two of my friends:

Jeepers. Let’s give each other grace
and space
and the opportunity to grow
at our own pace
None of us is stuck in one place
mentally
We’re all evolving, changing,
re-arranging
moment by moment by moment.
No need to judge here.
No need to preach
all sanctimonious to each
other.
The person I was yesterday is gone
and so is the person you were
and so is the person next to you –
and what’s the point
of judging a person who
no longer exists?
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

Bellingham, WA

A Walking Piece of History

(Excerpt from Are You Taking Me Home Now? Adventures with Dad)

Dad (Dee Molenaar, 99) is still in bed at noon.
Karen: Do you just want to stay in bed and rest today?
Dad: (looking up at me, hopefully) Unless somebody wants to go for a drive.
Karen: Do you want to go for a drive?
Dad: Yeah.

A half an hour later Gwen has Dad dressed and fed, and we load him into my car. I head south on I-5.

Dad: When you and Scott retire are you going to travel the world?
Karen: That sounds fun!
Dad: I’ve seen a lot of the world. (This is an understatement.) I can tell you where NOT to go.
Karen: Where should we not go?
Dad: New York City.
(I’ve been to New York City and enjoyed it – but I’m wondering when Dad went and what he experienced there.)
Karen: Where else should we not go?
Dad: Well, you’re on the freeway. Any place from the freeway is fine. It’s easy to go anywhere from here.

Dad: Where are you taking me?
Karen: I thought we’d go south and see if we can see Rainier. It might be kind of hazy today, though. There’s a forest fire in Canada.
Dad: Rainier’s too far. Baker will be all clouded in today. (We pass a sign for LaConner.) Let’s go to the old waterfront part of LaConner.
Karen: You want to go to LaConner?
Dad: Yeah.

(As we’re driving through the countryside towards LaConner, Dad is taking note of what he sees.)
Dad: This area looks a lot like the midwest, except for the hills in the background.
(We pass a sign with a Dutch name on it and I point to it.)
Dad: Roozengarde – there’s a Dutch name. We could be driving through the Netherlands – except for the mountains in the background.

(We get to LaConner and Dad decides he wants to go to a museum. I’ve wanted to take Dad to the Skagit Historical Museum since he moved up here a year ago. Maybe today is the day this will happen. I drive to the museum and park maybe 30 yards from it. I don’t realize there are a lot of parking spaces closer to the museum, but, when I park where I park, 30 yards doesn’t seem like much of a walk. I am wrong. We unload Dad and his walker, and begin the walk to the museum. After about ten yards Dad says he needs to sit down, and we find a place for him to sit on a little wall.)

Karen: Let me go see if they have wheelchairs in there. Stay here. Are you alright?
Dad: (nodding) Okay.
(I go into the museum to see if they have wheelchairs. They don’t.  A rolling chair seems promising, though. I ask if I can use it to get Dad around, and Ann, the woman tending the counter, says sure. I bring the chair down to where Dad is sitting, and help Dad get into the rolling chair. A nice couple about to go into the museum approaches us to help. Steve says he can push Dad from the back, and Danielle guards Dad from the side, and I pick up Dad’s feet so they don’t drag on the concrete. When we get Dad inside he decides he wants to use his walker in there. He heads into the room that displays a history of technology.)
Dad: That looks just like my first car!
Karen: Your first car was a Model-T Ford?
Dad: Yeah. Model-T Ford. 1925.
(I am grinning now. I love that I’m walking through an historical museum with a walking piece of history. Dad is starting to get tired again, and we bring back the rolling chair for him to sit in. We head into the World War II exhibit. Dad served in the Coast Guard in World War II and he seems fascinated by what he sees in there. He notes that the Coast Guard doesn’t seem to be represented in there, but says that’s okay – the Coast Guard was more in the South Pacific, and this exhibit is more about the campaign in Europe.)

(Danielle, the woman who helped Dad earlier, approaches Dad to tell him she looked him up in Wikipedia and wants to thank him for his service during the war.  Dad thanks her and asks her if she was in the Coast Guard. Danielle says no, but her brother was. Dad likes that. I get a picture of Dad with Steve and Danielle. Dad asks me their names, and I introduce them. He shakes their hands. He has just met two new friends.)

(Dad is tired now. He’s ready to go home. With colossal effort he manages to use his walker to get himself back to the car – which I have now parked right next to the door.  He asks where we’re going now, and I tell him I’m going to get him a root beer float and then take him home. He nods his head in agreement. I stop for his root beer float.)
Karen: You really earned this one.
(Dad nods his head in complete agreement, and then we head to his home. Dad looks completely exhausted. He has sucked down his root beer float by the time we get to his place. I open the passenger door for him, and inch by inch he turns himself around in his seat.)

Dad: Every little movement takes so much energy now. And I need to rest after every movement. (He closes his eyes and sighs and leans back to rest for a few moments, before making another movement to get out of the car.) You have a doddering old Dad.
Karen:  No. I have a mountain-climbing Dad.
Dad: That was a long time ago. (He looks up at the house.) I think I’m going to take a little nap when I get in there.
Karen: I love you, Daddy. I’m proud to be your daughter.
Dad: I love you, too, and I’m proud to have you for a daughter.

Dad first car
Dad and WW2 2
Dad and WW2 3
Dad in the WW2 exhibit
Dad Steve Danielle

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

Who Can I Talk to About This Ache in My Heart?

I saw a terrible thing yesterday –
Involving a mama duck and her baby ducklings
and a freeway and a car next to me
rolling through feathers.
I saw a dead body, and downy feathers on little
webbed feet scurrying into the woods
without their mama. I pulled over
and moved the mama’s still-warm body off the road,
tried to call to the babies to come out,
wanting to gather them in my arms
and bring them home, and keep them safe.
And who can I talk to about this ache in my heart?
Who would understand?

There was a misunderstanding months ago
in the supermarket, involving a woman
in a Seahawks mask – I thought she could be
a new friend. I tried to connect to her in the aisle
between bulk foods and olive oil – “Go Seahawks!”
I said, muffled behind my mask. She looked at me
above her mask, and frowned, and I knew
the Seahawks fan didn’t understand what I’d said –
– she couldn’t read my lips or see my smile,
and I’d scared her – she was Black and I am White
and we live in a time of distrust and fear.
The Seahawks fan left quickly, before I could explain.
And who can I talk to about this ache in my heart?
Who would understand?

I drove by a big rhododendron bush with fat red
flowers and thought of Mom and the rhododendron
bush she’d planted by the front door of our old home
and felt a sudden yearning for her warm hugs
and her words of comfort and reassurance.
If she were still here I could talk to her about
the orphaned ducklings and the woman
in the Seahawks mask and my fears and worries
and insecurities and she would love me.
And who do I talk to now about this ache in my heart?

And the answer came in an instant –
a joyous Presence enfolded me in peace and love,
without question or judgment or condition or hesitation,
affirming the power of Good: Love’s communication
of never-ending Life and never-ending care for Her creation –
care for ducklings, and a woman in a Seahawks mask,
and Mom and me. Love knows what’s in my heart.
She knows my intent. And I know I can let it all go –
She’s got this. Love gives all Her children exactly
what we need, exactly when we need it,
and in the exactly right way – including Her
ducks and Her child in a Seahawks mask
and Her child who is my Mom, and Her child who is me.

Who can I talk to about the ache in my heart?
My Father-Mother Love. Always and forever.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man.”
-Mary Baker Eddy








Mother’s Day at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship

I’ll be speaking to the Skagit Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship on Mother’s Day via Zoom at 10:30. This will be the third time I’ve had the opportunity to be the speaker there – and it’s always such a joy for me! It’s like being in a comedy club. The SUUF folks know how to laugh.

Here’s the announcement in their newsletter:
A Love Story for Mother’s Day
Karen Molenaar Terrell returns to SUUF to share some of the memories and stories from a love-filled life with her mother, Colleen “Mozzy” Molenaar, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 89. As a visitor to SUUF that year, Colleen was so impressed with our church that she immediately declared that it was where she wanted her final memorial to be held… and it was, just months later. Her grandson, Casey, described her as “… a giving and goofy woman.” Today we’ll hear from Karen about this, her “great taste in shoes” and much more.

Moz and Einstein.

Today’s Unexpected Gift

Today’s unexpected gift came by way of a recalcitrant ATM machine which spit out a message that I needed to contact my “financial institution.” The ATM happened to be attached to my “financial institution” – so I walked around the corner and got in line behind a truck at the drive-through.

Pretty soon a car pulled up in the drive-through lane next to me and I saw my friends, Phil and Courtney. I yelled across to them and pulled down my mask so that they could recognize the crazy lady standing in the lane next to them, waving at them. They smiled and waved back and we had a delightful conversation involving the opening of my son and his partner’s new scone shop, and the haircut and pink highlights their daughter is going to give me next week, and the food we were smelling from the restaurant across the street.

Then the truck ahead of me pulled away and I walked up to the teller. I explained what had happened with the ATM and she said, “You know, our lobby has been open since Easter. You don’t need to stand out there. Why don’t you come around into the bank and we’ll help you?”

I’d had no idea the lobby was open! It has been, like, a year since I’ve been in my bank! This was HUGE news! HUGE! I thanked the teller and turned around and waved good bye to Phil and Courtney, and to the people in the car behind me, too, while I was at it – and everyone waved back – then I walked around the corner and into the bank! Just like that!

And this is where I met my new friend, Kati. Like magic, she appeared from a side office, smiled at me through her mask, and asked me if I was the person who needed help with the ATM. Then she ushered me back to her office and invited me to take a seat while she sorted through the ATM confusion. While she was tapping on her keyboard I glanced around her office and saw a picture of Mount Baker. I made comment on it – it was a really beautiful photo – and she told me where the photo had been taken and said she really loved that picture, too. And then – because… every opportunity, right? – I told her I’d climbed to the top of that mountain with my dad. She thought that was pretty cool.

As Kati was working on her computer, music was playing in the background. A song came on that reminded her of “Caddyshack” and that led to a fun conversation about Chevy Chase movies.

She said she’d go out to the ATM with me now to see if the problem had been fixed. I said, “I feel like I’m on a mission from God – like The Blues Brothers.” And Kati laughed and agreed that “The Blues Brothers” was another great movie!

The ATM wasn’t fixed.

So we went back inside. Kati clicked away some more on another computer, and found a way to fix the problem – it turned out to be an error within the ATM. We went back out to test the ATM and this time it worked! Whoo hoot!

I’m so grateful that the ATM was recalcitrant this morning – look at all the fun it brought me!

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

Sons swinging over Lake Padden.

“An Angel Entertained Unawares”

The more I think about that delightful phone conversation with the IRS lady yesterday, the more I appreciate the magic of it. (See yesterday’s blog post.) I mean… here’s this thing I’m dreading – one more task I have to take care of. One last thing I need to do to take care of Dad’s business – and I thought I’d already done the last thing when I’d had his 2020 tax return sent it. I’d heaved a huge sigh of relief that I was finally done with my duties. After four years of paperwork, of forms, calls to hospice and doctors, Veterans Administration people and financial institutions – that last tax return felt, to me, like I’d finally crossed the finish line and finished the marathon. And then to get that letter from the IRS, telling me that now I had to verify his identity for that 2020 tax return… it felt like it was just too much, you know?

But it ended up being this incredible gift to me! A gift from Dad. A gift from Love, God. I’d needed this. This was the EXACT thing I’d needed yesterday. But it was the LAST thing I thought I needed. I was feeling sick from the vaccine, frustrated by life-stuff, and cranky. And Love gave me this gift that forced me to go a different direction – that forced me to draw close to Love and allowed me to meet a new friend.

“The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

I Need to Remind Myself…

Excerpt from Scrapbook of a Year and a Day: January 19, 2020 to January 20, 2021:September 17, 2020 :
Here’s what I need tonight – I need to remind myself that we can’t always see how things will work themselves out – and sometimes salvation comes in completely unexpected ways. I need to remind myself of the amazing things that I’ve witnessed and experienced in the last several years during times when I saw no solution and things looked pretty bleak.

Back in February 2017 I found myself in a position that seemed impossible. Mom was in the hospital with congestive heart failure and Dad soon followed her there with a UTI. They were on two different floors, both struggling to stay alive. I’d visit one and then the other – and then go home, on high alert, waiting for the phone to ring and for someone to drop some new crisis onto me.

Just two days before Mom was going to be released from the hospital into hospice care, a hospital social worker told me that it looked like the assisted living care facility wasn’t going to accept Mom back into her and Dad’s home because of her medical issues. I told the social worker that the assisted living place hadn’t told me anything about this, and surely they would have let me know, right? But she seemed pretty sure about this. So I called the assisted living place on Saturday and was told that Mom was going to be evaluated on Monday morning to determine if she could be brought back to her home. Which. Hospice needed to set things up for her – and they needed to know right then where they should send the equipment. I needed answers immediately. Finally, the assisted living lady told me (under her breath) that if she was me she’d be looking for another place for my mother and father.

I had two days to find a new home for my parents.

In a panic, I started calling other assisted living places and soon realized that the cost of the care my parents were going to need in the facilities would clean out their savings in a couple months. I thought maybe I could use my retirement savings to help them – but that wouldn’t last too long, either. And – honestly, I didn’t want to send my parents to some strange, unfamiliar place that looked like an institution. The thought came to me, then, that I should bring Mom and Dad into my home when they were released from the hospital, and provide the care myself. Scotty agreed to this plan and agreed to help. (I married an incredible man.)

I was still teaching full-time then – so this was going to be tricky.But I told the social workers at the hospital that I wanted Mom brought to my home when she was released on Monday. She asked me if I was sure – I think she was concerned about me – but I told her yes. It felt right. Hospice got in touch with me – bless them! – and, when Mom was brought by ambulance to our home, a hospice nurse came over and showed Scott and I how to care for her.

I’m so very glad Love guided me to make this decision for Moz. I’m so glad she was brought to our home, surrounded by our love. We spent the whole day telling each other how much we loved each other – and in the wee hours of the morning, while I dozed on the couch next to her hospital bed, she passed. I felt myself brushed by joy and peace and love, and woke to find she was gone.

So now I had to find a home for Dad – I’d promised Moz that she didn’t need to worry about him – that we’d make sure he was alright. Originally the plan had been to bring Dad into our home where he could be with Mom – but, now that she was gone, our home wouldn’t be the right place for him. He needed the kind of care that someone with skills greater than my own could give him. The social worker asked us if we’d ever looked into adult family homes, and gave us a booklet with names and phone numbers.

When I got home from the hospital after my visit with Dad and the social worker, I went for a walk – at this point I was completely emotionally and mentally stretched – feeling out of my depth and scared about the future – and I needed to find some peace for myself. And suddenly a rainbow arched across the sky – and it felt like a promise! – like Moz was there with me, reassuring me, telling me everything was going to be alright. I began making phone calls to adult family homes – and on the second call I felt I’d found the right place. My brother and I went over to check it out – there were bird feeders in the front yard, and cats and dogs – and I knew the woman who answered the door would have been someone Moz would have felt an instant kinship with. AND the cost of care for Dad would fit his budget!

I felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. We had found Dad’s new home – a place I didn’t even know existed a day before!

We just never know.

NOTHING is impossible to Love. NOTHING.