100,000 Miles on Rosalita

Back on New Year’s Eve 2015 I bought my little Ford Fiesta, Rosalita Ipswich O’Molenovich. Today she reached 100,000 miles on the odometer. I found myself tearing up – thinking back to all the adventures Rosalita and I have shared in the last five years, and all the memories that are packed inside my little car. Rosalita still has the red scrapes from the times we shoved Mom’s red walker into her hatch. I can still picture my centenarian father (Dee Molenaar) sitting in the passenger seat, his head turning as he took in the scenes on our drives together. I remember taking Dad up to Mount Rainier in Rosalita, and the adventure Dad and I had going to the Big Four Inn (see the story below).

Thank you, Rosalita, for helping me care for my parents. Thank you for helping me get Mom and Dad to doctor’s appointments, and epic celebrations. You’ve done well, little one.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Here’s an excerpt from Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad:

August 27, 2018

I stop by to see Dad while I’m in town on an errand. My plan is to take him for a quick drive to get him a root beer float, if he’s up for it. He says that sounds like a good idea. Meagan puts his alpine hat on his head, gets him in his sweater, and puts shoes on his feet. He is still wearing his pajama bottoms. That puts a smile on my face. I tell him he is a fashion plate. Meagan points out that Dad can actually pull this look off, and I have to agree.

When we get in the car Dad asks, again, where we are going. 

Karen: I thought we’d take a quick drive and I’d get you a root beer float. 

Dad: That sounds good. But what I’d really like to do is go to the Big Four Inn.

The Big Four Inn would be a major trip. I hadn’t planned on this today. But… Dad has been mentioning the Big Four Inn for a year now. Maybe two. I’ve always managed to brush this idea off, and suggest we do it another time. But… this might be our last drive before I start another school year. And I don’t really have anything else planned for today – and there’s nothing else I really want to do with my day. So. Maybe. Maybe today we’ll drive to the Big Four Inn – or to where the Big Four Inn used to be before it burned down. I’m going to think about this on my way to Big Sisters Espresso for Dad’s root beer float.

As we’re driving through town…

Dad: We used to dance in that building on the left. On the second floor. We’d come down from the Big Four Inn and dance there. 

Karen: Do you like to dance?

Dad: I’m not very good at it. I started too late. All my friends used to go dancing every Saturday in Los Angeles. I didn’t. (Thinking.) Do you like to dance?

Karen: Yes! You used to dance with me when I was a little girl.

Dad: (Smiling.) Did I?

Karen: (Remembering.) Yes. You’d pick me up and dance with me. I loved dancing with you.

Dad: I love doing everything with you.

As we head out of town…

Dad: This isn’t heading towards the mountains.

Karen: I’m going to get you a root beer float first and figure out how to get there.

When we get to the Sisters Espresso, I order Dad his root beer float. As I’m waiting for the float, my neighbor and friend, Denice, shows up. Denice is a mountain woman, too. It occurs to me that she might know how to get to The Mountain Loop Highway.

Karen: Hey Denice, the sons and I used to go hiking along The Mountain Loop Highway all the time when they were growing up – but I can’t remember how to get there anymore. Do you know how to get on The Mountain Loop Highway?

(And sure enough, Denice knows exactly how to get there! She quickly gets out her phone, taps in some words, and reads me the directions.)

Root beer float in Dad’s hand, Dad and I head out for The Mountain Loop Highway.

Dad: Are we going to the Big Four Inn now?

Karen: Yup!

I head east up the South Skagit Highway. I am feeling a happy, blissful freedom as we travel along the Skagit River, through maple trees and cedars. I am on another adventure with Dad.

Dad is observing our route…

Dad: The old route was on the other side of the river. (He’s right.)

A little later…

Dad: Now we’re going to cross over the river and get on the other side of it. (He’s still right.)

At one point I stop to take a picture of the river and I snap a quick photo of the sedimentary layers in the cliff next to the road. Dad has noticed the layers, too…

Dad: You see that white layer there? I think that’s ash from a volcanic eruption…

When we get to the Darrington Ranger Station I stop to take a little break. I ask Dad if he wants to get out of the car and he says yes – he wants to go into the Ranger Station and look at maps.

Dad: (As he struggles to get out of the car, laughing…) I wonder if the rangers can see me trying to get out of the car. This doesn’t look very good.

Karen: (Laughing.) Don’t worry about it!

We manage to get into the ranger station and I help Dad over to the big 3D map in the corner. I position a chair for him if he needs to sit down while I use the restroom. When I come out he’s sitting in the chair next to the map, talking with the ranger ladies. He’s already asked them about the Big Four Inn, and Erika is looking at Big Four Inn postcards with him. I buy the cards for Dad (25 cents apiece) and ask the rangers how to get to the Big four Inn. I’ll need to go straight through Darrington, they tell me, and follow The Mountain Loop Highway – at some point it’ll turn into a gravel road – and somewhere on the other side of the gravel road we’ll pass the field where the Big Four Inn used to be.

Erika has been enjoying Dad and his stories. She confides in me that her great-aunt lived to be 106 – she passed on just last spring. I let Dad know that Erika’s great-aunt was 106. Dad nods and says he’s just a kid. Erika says that her great-aunt just started using a walker in the last year or two before she died. I tell her Dad doesn’t like to use his walker. He can be pretty stubborn about not using it. Erika smiles and says her aunt could be stubborn, too. I observe that’s probably why she lived so long, and why my Dad is still alive at 100. Erika laughs and agrees.

I turn to help Dad out to the car, and he wants none of it. The ranger ladies are watching.

Dad: No. Don’t help me! I’m not a cripple. I can walk on my own!

Karen: Okay, Daddy. (I keep my arms ready to catch him if he falls, but he manages to get himself to the car on his own. He is a stubborn Dutchman. He is also my hero.) 

We drive into Darrington and I stop for gas.

Dad: Where are we? 

Karen: Darrington.

Dad: (Looking around him in wonder.) Darrington. I’ll be damned. Darrington.

Karen: (Pointing to the Mountain Loop Road sign.) The Mountain Loop Road.

Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah. The Mountain Loop Road.

The road becomes narrow at spots – but every time there’s a car coming from the opposite direction there always happens to be a place for me to pull over.

Dad: You’re a good mountain driver. (Thinking.) It’s nice to come up here when there are roads to travel on. This used to just be a trail. (A little further…) It’s nice to finally be back here. I never dreamed that one day I’d be back here as an old man with my daughter driving me in her own car. (Thinking.) All the rangers at that ranger station were women. Women are fighting for their rights. I don’t blame them. (More thinking.) It’s hard to drive with all the shadows on the road – hard to see the ruts.

The road becomes more primitive now – in places there are ruts and pot holes in gravel – in some places the gravel disappears and the road becomes a little slippery and muddy. 

Dad: I never dreamed that someday I’d be up here – an old man gripping the door handle.

We pass the trailhead for Mount Pugh and I stop to let Dad see the sign. I’m wondering if he’ll recognize it. I am not disappointed.

Dad: Mount Pugh. I climbed that one.

Eventually we roll onto asphalt again. We pass the trail to the Ice Caves, and I remind Dad that we hiked up there once with Pete Schoening. Dad nods his head, remembering. Not far beyond that is a sign that says “Big Four Picnic Area.” On a hunch I turn to follow the road to the picnic area and sure enough…

Dad: This is where it was!

(I park in front of the site of the old inn. I’m blocking the road, but there haven’t been many cars today, and I want Dad to be able to get out here and not have to walk too far.)

Dad: (Getting out of the car.) Ohhh… this is where it was… (There are tears in his eyes. His voice is choked up.)

Dad makes his way to the display that shows pictures from the Big Four Inn. He spends time there, looking at each picture, remembering his days in the Coast Guard in World War II, when he was stationed here for a time. This was a good time in his life.

Dad: What’s that…? Oh… the old fireplace. And the chimney. Yeah. I wish I’d brought my camera…

Karen: I brought my camera. I’ve been taking pictures.

Dad: Good. 

(A car pulls up behind my car and I scurry back to drive my car out of the way so the other car can get past. I want to explain to them that my dad is 100 years old and I just parked there so he could walk to the site of the old inn. But I know they don’t care about any of that – the straight-lipped looks on their faces tells me that. So I pull out of their way and then loop back to where I was so I can load Dad back up in the car.)

Dad: What’s your hurry?

Karen: We’ve been gone a long time, Daddy. I need to get you back. (I’d told Dad’s caregivers we were going for a short drive, and I haven’t been able to call them because we’ve been out of cellular phone range.)

Dad: (Looking at his watch…) Oh yeah. 3:30. Okay.

As we’re driving away from the Big Four Inn…

Dad: Thanks for finding The Big Four Inn for me.

A little further…

Dad: Mom won’t be worried about us this time.

As we’re getting near his home…

Dad: We saw some pretty country today. 

Karen: Did you enjoy our drive?

Dad: (Nodding.) Yes.

We pull into his driveway and I come around to help Dad out of the car. Dad shifts his body around, trying to get in position to get out of the car. This is not easy for him. He looks up at me and I look down at him, and we both start laughing. Then Dad manages to get his feet on the concrete and I heave and he’s up.

Dad: Thank you for the drive today.

Karen: I love you, Daddy.

Dad: I love you, too. We blow each other kisses and I leave him on the lounge chair in front of the television.

Loss Brings Love

Loss
teaches me there is no separation
in Love
there is no space between
Good and me
Loss shakes old beliefs
shakes off what is untrue
and makes me look at everything new
What’s left is real
what’s left is true

Love brings loss
Loss brings Love
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

O make me glad for every scalding tear,
For hope deferred, ingratitude, disdain!
Wait, and love more for every hate, and fear
No ill, — since God is good, and loss is gain.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

April: Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn, MT



During These Strange and Really Surreal Times

Pep talk to myself during these strange and really surreal times –

The Awakening

Fear not. Feel the movement of the universe
endlessly adjusting, unfolding, winging like
a great murmuration of birds in flight – moving
as one body in waves of Love on winds of Truth,
winking and twinkling in the joy of the Cosmos.
Unwinding, untangling, unfettered and free-flowing-
always moving towards Love, towards Truth,
towards Life – irrepressible, unstoppable, the mighty
inexhaustible, relentless power of justice, of wisdom,
of kindness and peace. All of creation pulled together
and pulling together – The Awakening.

Amen.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell. Skagit County, Washington.)

May: Sunrise over Skagit County, WA


Taking Down the Tree

Taking down the Christmas tree
seemed especially hard for me
this year.
Every ornament brought back
memories – sweet and dear –
as I wrapped them up (both
the ornaments and the memories)
and packed them in the Christmas sack.

Ornaments Mom left me after she passed.
Ornaments from former students in my class.
Ornaments our sons made of pop-sickle sticks
and glitter, macaroni and beads.

I felt the loss.

And I know. I know. I know.
I know all the things you want to say:
I know that Good is never really gone-
It’s here to stay
It lives on –
in our memories. I know Love never ends –
and I should be grateful for all the family,
all the friends,
all the love I’ve known in my life.

But as I take down the tree
I’m missing you especially.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Christmas Lights




What Will Matter in Fifty Years

Last night as I was falling asleep I thought again of that one-star rating someone gave me for my audio book (that rating appears at the top of the page any time I google myself) and I came to terms with it. Sort of. I figured it was going to be there as long as I needed it to be there. I decided to be grateful for whatever lesson I need to learn from it. And then I thought bigger than that. When I die, I realized, none of any of that is going to matter – not the five stars, not the one star, not my name or my reputation or my popularity – that stuff – all of it – will soon be forgotten and in 50 years nobody will even remember “Karen Molenaar Terrell” was here. The one star and the five stars have nothing to do with who I really am – with my real identity as a child of the Cosmos. What WILL matter in 50 years is that I was kind while I was here, and honest. Even though my name won’t be remembered, I figure any kindness I leave behind me will leave an impression – a ripple maybe – that will join all the other ripples of kindness and help bring our little boat of mankind to the shore in a wave of Love. (I know. I am so deep, right?)

So anyway – this morning – the first morning of 2021 – I googled me again (I cannot help myself – remember that scene in “Schitt’s Creek” where Johnny asks a freaked-out Moira if she “googled” herself again?) and some kind someone had added a 5-star rating to my audio book! Bless their heart. That brings my audiobook up to three stars now. And – to be honest (and because I’m still human) – that feels a lot better than one star.

Thank you, kind person.

Why Would I Choose…?

Why would I choose bitterness
and deny myself the peace
of forgiveness?
Why would I choose anger
and deny myself the joy
of kindness?
Why would I choose hate
and deny myself
the healing presence of Love?
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

May the peace, joy, and presence of Love fill your hearts and home this Christmas!

Love and a Sunrise

I went for a drive as the sun was rising this morning and pondered the concept of Love. I put in a CD of Alison Krauss’s music, listened to her sing the Beatle’s “I Will” – and let the music lift me up into that magical place where there’s no anger or fear, enemies or hate – where all of creation knows nothing but joy and good will. This poem and these pictures are what I brought back…

If I open myself up to Love
I avail myself of all the power of Love –
the warm, healing presence of Love.

Love isn’t some fragile thing.
It’s not destructible.
It’s not pretty in a Christmas tree
glass ornament way.
It’s enduring, dependable;
as solid as a mother’s lap;
as strong as a father’s rescuing arms;
as beautiful as the sound of Beethoven’s
“Joy”-  indestructible, and perfect.

Love fills all space –
every corner, hole, and crevice –
the collective consciousness
of universal compassion and kindness
nurturing and reaching out to
the love in all of us.
And the love in all of us can’t help
but respond.

And that’s how we heal.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Click here for a link to a video I filmed of the sunrise.

Photos of the sunrise over Skagit County, Washington, this morning. Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell.



Solstice Rain Patter-Tapping

Wrapped up cozy in a downpour
on this winter solstice day
Rain patter-tapping on my
bumbershoot as I slosh along the way

I feel Love reaching out –
ever-here, ever-there, everywhere –
embracing me in Her gentle calm.
What choice do I have but to share?

Home to dry clothes and a fire
in the wood stove. Soon a pie
in the oven – filling our home
with baked blueberry smells – my
contribution to the solstice feast
of peace.
.-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Intrusions in a Holy Space

There may come a time – a sacred and holy time –
when Malice and Jealousy will holler and yell
and make efforts to get our attention. We will be
living through a rare opportunity, full of challenge
and uplift – transition and transformation, birth
and rebirth – and as the angels of Love gather
around to support us – Envy may demand
to be the focus, center, and star of the story.
Ego may stamp its foot, and spread rumors
and lies, and play the victim. Thoughtless
and oblivious to the challenges we’re facing,
Envy may push you or me aside
to stand in the spotlight, or expect us
to entertain it and invite it for dinner.
And if this should happen – let’s keep thought
focused on what is true and holy and important –
honor what is worthy of our time and heart.
Don’t let’s be distracted by Hate or Greed
or Envy – these things are not deserving of our energy.
Love will lead us through the wilderness – will help
us address the lies that need to be addressed,
quickly, without fanfare and waste, and lead us
upward to meet angel-thoughts. Hope, Peace, Joy.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist

I’m thinking I’m not the only one to experience the craziness that seems to foist itself on us just when we’re going through the most intense and powerful experiences of life.  I’m guessing a lot of you have experienced this, too – people choosing to intrude on your time and space just when your whole being is focused on something life-changing and powerful . And – thinking back on the times when this has happened to me – it occurs to me that the craziness couldn’t have come at a better time for me, actually – when would I have been better fit to deal with it? The birth of my sons and the passing of my mother put everything else in clear perspective: This matters; That doesn’t.

If you’ve ever seen The Waitress (that wonderful movie about the abused and pregnant waitress who discovers her strength in the birth…

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Christmas Right in Front of Me

Tenaciously trying to tug tattered
traditions into my December –
there WILL be jangling jarring carols
on my CD player!
there WILL be cheesy Christmas movies!
And then it suddenly hits me –
my real life is so much better than these
ridiculous stories of make-believe!

I’m missing out on the Christmassy
magic going on right now, in this moment,
when I’m spending my energies
and focusing what I see
on what came before instead
of what’s right in front of me.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Christmas Lights