Please join us…

October 30, 2014

We are beginning to engage more in our Matters That Matter work including a couple of writing projects that have us inspired and energized, speaking and scheduling workshops… and we also are beginning to post regularly on our blog (about once a week). Our intent is simply to offer encouragement and support for readers to connect more closely with what and who they care about, and live more closely in synch with their most genuine selves.

If you are like us, there is so much “incoming” – information, blogs, emails, videos, social networking etc etc… so we are working to provide content that will support and encourage, not burden. We would love for you to subscribe to our blog and add to the conversation as you feel led. Together we are better. Share it with others if you find that it will benefit them as well. And if this sounds like one more thing to add to your to-do list… then hit delete asap with our blessings!

Thank you for letting us even ask.

With gratitude and blessings.

Molly & Kristine

RZ7A9761

 

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Margins

September 13, 2014

The Need For Space by Molly Davis

Imagine a book in which the pages have no margins, or a photo where the image fills the frame with no space in which to sit.  The empty space is as important as the rest.  For it is the emptiness in which the words fill the page, the art the canvas, the photo the wall.  Without it the power of the words and beauty of the image is lost. Or at best, diminished. In order to be fully there, they have need of some  space.  So do we. Read the rest of this entry »

The Practice of Practice

September 12, 2014

Practice what you practice. 

Whatever you practice, you become good at.

Glenwood - Jan - March 2008 & RLP 070

​K​now that you are practicing something in every moment.

You may be practicing ​self loathing​, kindness, anger​, acceptance, love, fear or  grace. If you are not practicing something consciously, you will be doing so unconsciously.

So, be conscious of what you are practi​c​ing now.  Kno​w that whatever you are nurturing​ ​will encourage or discourage you.

(thank you, Ann-Marie Ahye)

She Said…

December 19, 2011

She said she couldn’t do it. She said that she would rather die than leave her home. She said that she was so lonely she just couldn’t imagine facing another day. She said that if we took her car away she would just buy a new one. She said that, that dent in the front of her car was not her fault because she didn’t remember hitting anything. She said that she was not as old as all the old people in the dining room. She said that she was afraid she couldn’t keep up. She said she didn’t want to live like this. She said she wanted to see my father one last time. She said she hadn’t slept in nights. She said she slept like a baby. She said she still couldn’t find the bathroom. She said she learned to Wii bowl. She said she missed her own kitchen. She said the food was really good. She said the Girl Scouts who came to carol were adorable. She said she couldn’t wait for baby Eloise to come visit. She said she made a new friend. She said she thought this might turn out all right. She said thank you.

Night Vision

October 6, 2011

There are times, when darkness is all there is. When I hold my weary hand up in front of my face, there is nothing there…no light, no hope, no relief. I panic. I want there to be light. I want an answer, a reprieve, a savior. I hate the feeling of being immobilized and stopped. I have stuff to do, things to get accomplished, people to serve and lives to save. I cannot afford to waste my time in the dark, accomplishing nothing. And yet…there it is. It wraps around me like thick fog on a San Francisco morning. No matter how hard I strain to see through it, nothing changes….

So I have no choice but to give in, surrender to the stillness of it all. Waiting for light, knowing I cannot hurry it. Do I feel helpless? Yes! Then I start to feel acceptance; really what else is there when you cannot change what is.  I cannot force the sun to come up it does what it does of it’s own accord. I must wait. While I am waiting, can I rest? Can I rest enough to gather energy for what is ahead? Certain animals hypernate…maybe that’s what this is. Maybe allowing for this time of inactivity I am insuring my strength for what surely is to come. My willingness to sit in the dark is my offering to the light that is inevitable.

 

 

 

 

 

Love Is All That Matters

September 29, 2011

We are living in insane times. It is every where: record numbers of people living on the streets, going hungry. Our financial foundation compromised to it’s core: lost jobs, lost homes, lost dreams. AND YET…in-spite of what is hard, and painful and devastatingly real, if we are loved and truly love someone else, there is light at the end of any dark tunnel. After all, love is the one thing that at the end of each of our lives, we won’t regret, and wish there had been more of. My treasured friend, Hollye Dexter says it all…”love is all that matters”.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2011

Lessons Learned At A Funeral

     I’ve been to more funerals in my life than I care to count. And I have sat bedside with critically ill friends at the ends of their lives. Although it has been painful, I consider this a privilege, for they have taught me valuable life lessons.
My dear friend of 25 years, Phyllis, was like a second mother to me. I loved her with all my heart, but she was a difficult woman. She was tall, strong, a force to be reckoned with, but she spent a lot of her life being offended by people. She was prickly and cantankerous. I’d had a few run-ins with her over the years, and she’d made me cry more than once, but always we came back to a place of love. The last time I saw Phyllis on her deathbed, all her hard edges had softened as she began to wither away. She looked so vulnerable, like a tiny baby bird in a nest of hospital blankets. She was peaceful, finally. Soon she would join her husband and son in the afterlife. The last thing this tough woman said to me before she died- “Love is all that matters.”
     A year later, I would watch my friend John die from a brain tumor. At the end, I sat holding his hand while Troy played John’s beloved baby grand piano. The tumor had robbed him of his ability to speak in sentences, but there was no need for words. What mattered was clearly present in that room. John looked into my eyes, took my hand and squeezed it tight. With his other hand patting his heart, he said “So much…so much…”
     This Sunday I attended yet another funeral; a sad, tragic funeral of a woman who died much too young. Andrea was Dani’s little sister. I can still see her sitting cross-legged on her bed at thirteen years old, talking about her boyfriend, as Dani and I were putting on make-up, getting ready to go out to some party or High School football game. Andrea, just a little girl in my memory, with her long wavy hair, and a whole life ahead of her.
Now she is ashes.
     There had been hurt and misunderstanding between Dani and her sister over the years, and some of Andrea’s life decisions caused her to distance herself from those who loved her. Yet, on the last day of her life as she lied comatose in her hospital bed, Andrea opened her eyes and smiled at Dani. Nothing needed to be said. What was left at the end, above all the broken hearts and hurt feelings, was love.
     At the funeral on Sunday, Andrea’s two teenage daughters, now orphaned, stood up and spoke about their love for their mother. Her oldest, Megan, lamented about all the time they spent fighting over petty things. That time could never be regained, time which could have been spent loving each other. I heard that message loud and clear.
Since Sunday, I have witnessed a lot of anger amongst my friends and family, some of it at each other, some at me, over small things, which will one day be long forgotten.  But Sunday put things in perspective for me. I don’t intend to waste a second of my precious life, which I am so lucky to have, quibbling over small things. I want to spend the hours of my life loving my family and friends, and helping others to do the same. I won’t be swayed from this.
     People often comment on my relationship with Troy, how much in love we are after so many years. The reason our love has lasted is not because we don’t fight. We do. It doesn’t happen much anymore but in the early years, we almost didn’t make it. What saved us, time and again, is that we always come back to a place of love. Always. The love we have for each other is larger than either of our needs to be right or to be vindicated. The love outweighs our egos.
My friendship with Erin is that way. We are a couple of strong-willed broads and we’ve collided spectacularly at times, but again, what I love so much about Erin is her great heart, which prevails over everything else, as does mine. As does Dani’s.
     Life is rattling my cage pretty hard right now, testing me, challenging me to walk my talk. I ask myself, if I were lying on my deathbed, would these issues matter?
My life’s mission is to live a life of integrity, love and honesty, and to help others do the same. No matter what is thrown at me, I will stand strong in that mission, unshakable. For I know what will matter on my own deathbed is the love and kindness I shared with people.
     Phyllis said it, John said it, and an eighteen year-old girl who’s had to grow up way too fast said it best. Love is all that matters.
(truth and consequences blog by hollye dexter)

Love is all That Matters

September 29, 2011

We are living in insane times. It is every where: record numbers of people living on the streets, going hungry. Our financial foundation compromised to it’s core: lost jobs, lost homes, lost dreams. AND YET…in-spite of what is hard, and painful and devastatingly real, if we are loved and truly love someone else, there is light at the end of any dark tunnel. After all, love is the one thing that at the end of each of our lives, we won’t regret, and wish there had been more of. My treasured friend, Hollye Dexter says it all…”love is all that matters”.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2011

Lessons Learned At A Funeral

     I’ve been to more funerals in my life than I care to count. And I have sat bedside with critically ill friends at the ends of their lives. Although it has been painful, I consider this a privilege, for they have taught me valuable life lessons.
My dear friend of 25 years, Phyllis, was like a second mother to me. I loved her with all my heart, but she was a difficult woman. She was tall, strong, a force to be reckoned with, but she spent a lot of her life being offended by people. She was prickly and cantankerous. I’d had a few run-ins with her over the years, and she’d made me cry more than once, but always we came back to a place of love. The last time I saw Phyllis on her deathbed, all her hard edges had softened as she began to wither away. She looked so vulnerable, like a tiny baby bird in a nest of hospital blankets. She was peaceful, finally. Soon she would join her husband and son in the afterlife. The last thing this tough woman said to me before she died- “Love is all that matters.”
     A year later, I would watch my friend John die from a brain tumor. At the end, I sat holding his hand while Troy played John’s beloved baby grand piano. The tumor had robbed him of his ability to speak in sentences, but there was no need for words. What mattered was clearly present in that room. John looked into my eyes, took my hand and squeezed it tight. With his other hand patting his heart, he said “So much…so much…”
     This Sunday I attended yet another funeral; a sad, tragic funeral of a woman who died much too young. Andrea was Dani’s little sister. I can still see her sitting cross-legged on her bed at thirteen years old, talking about her boyfriend, as Dani and I were putting on make-up, getting ready to go out to some party or High School football game. Andrea, just a little girl in my memory, with her long wavy hair, and a whole life ahead of her.
Now she is ashes.
     There had been hurt and misunderstanding between Dani and her sister over the years, and some of Andrea’s life decisions caused her to distance herself from those who loved her. Yet, on the last day of her life as she lied comatose in her hospital bed, Andrea opened her eyes and smiled at Dani. Nothing needed to be said. What was left at the end, above all the broken hearts and hurt feelings, was love.
     At the funeral on Sunday, Andrea’s two teenage daughters, now orphaned, stood up and spoke about their love for their mother. Her oldest, Megan, lamented about all the time they spent fighting over petty things. That time could never be regained, time which could have been spent loving each other. I heard that message loud and clear.
Since Sunday, I have witnessed a lot of anger amongst my friends and family, some of it at each other, some at me, over small things, which will one day be long forgotten.  But Sunday put things in perspective for me. I don’t intend to waste a second of my precious life, which I am so lucky to have, quibbling over small things. I want to spend the hours of my life loving my family and friends, and helping others to do the same. I won’t be swayed from this.
     People often comment on my relationship with Troy, how much in love we are after so many years. The reason our love has lasted is not because we don’t fight. We do. It doesn’t happen much anymore but in the early years, we almost didn’t make it. What saved us, time and again, is that we always come back to a place of love. Always. The love we have for each other is larger than either of our needs to be right or to be vindicated. The love outweighs our egos.
My friendship with Erin is that way. We are a couple of strong-willed broads and we’ve collided spectacularly at times, but again, what I love so much about Erin is her great heart, which prevails over everything else, as does mine. As does Dani’s.
     Life is rattling my cage pretty hard right now, testing me, challenging me to walk my talk. I ask myself, if I were lying on my deathbed, would these issues matter?
My life’s mission is to live a life of integrity, love and honesty, and to help others do the same. No matter what is thrown at me, I will stand strong in that mission, unshakable. For I know what will matter on my own deathbed is the love and kindness I shared with people.
     Phyllis said it, John said it, and an eighteen year-old girl who’s had to grow up way too fast said it best. Love is all that matters.
(truth and consequences blog by hollye dexter)

Tempest

September 6, 2011

Your breath flows through me

breaking every bone,

ending every sentence…

I’m falling up now, as through water.

Head, then shoulders

collar bones filled with sand;

Tiny stones splitting my skin.

and I’m sinking

sinking, sinking upward.

What a perfect manner in which to stow away an epic;

deep into a dusty corner on your lowest shelf,

along with all your classics.

The sea echoes in my chest

slow, undulating waves wash away the land.

Somewhere in the lazy, hazy days of summer

my ‘self’ slipped from me.

It was replaced with the callouses on your hands

with your humming in the shower,

your furrowed brow reading the morning news;

your favorite ice cream, your fears, your sleep talking

you, you, you.

and gone, myself, whom I’ve traded to have you

http://katevanraden.wordpress.com/


GOOD WILL

May 9, 2011

“Freaking Out” comes in waves. Big, nasty, sweep you out to sea, waves. For the most part I am calm and collected as I choose to toss yet another memory place holder on to the Goodwill pile. I hold it, smell it, sometimes shed a tear or two. But the promise of less stuff, a new beginning, a sense of surrender to the matters that truly matter now keeps me focused.

Every now and then I must admit I lose control. My seasoned composure doesn’t even make the donation pile. It flies all around the room, bouncing off every wall and coming back to smack me upside the head. What the fuck am I doing? I hate change…Change in my life has often represented really bad stuff…someone dies, or tries to. Families fall apart, people leave and don’t come back…footings fail, roofs cave in, foul and destructive human beings run for public office and WIN.

When the wave subsides, I catch my breath and return to the business at hand. Slipping from one major chapter into another isn’t easy. Leaving behind ghosts of a family growing up under one roof, grandparents who were independent and had life force enough to spare; trees planted that have now come to be giants in all seasons; roots of all kinds that made me feel like I belonged here…all pieces of the previous chapter.

AND YET…standing at cross roads a choice eventually has to be made. I am confident that forward is the only option. Holding still never really gets you where you want to go. Indeed, it is less work, by far. Less dangerous, less challenging, less emotional…less, less, less.

I want more.

I want to have the time to do more for others. I want to be present for a granddaughter in the making. I want to create good will in a new community. I want to live with less and experience more.

It seems that lately, I just can’t stop crying.  Pain is everywhere.  Sadness abounds, and grief is abundant. It just seems to be a very, very, very real part of life.  In fact there are days, weeks, months where it seems to be the central character in my story.  It isn’t that I have a sad life, or even that I have experienced an abundance of personal tragedy.  But there is, no doubt about it, a very deep well filled with heartache.

The funny thing is, I don’t think that this is a bad thing.  Not that I love to cry until I can’t see or breathe, nor do I look forward to the days that pain and sorrow fill my heart till I think I might actually die.  But I have come to believe that pain has a purpose.  It can, if I let it, become the doorway to compassion and kindness, love and tenderness.  As I sit with the hurt, and just let it wash over me, I am able to understand that this is part of what makes each of us human, and, that it is part of the richness of life. It makes it possible for me to see, understand and connect to the hurt in those around me.  And hopefully it helps me to sit with them in the midst of their pain.

There have been times when I have done everything I could to avoid the hurt.  I have tried to buy my way out of it, redecorate it, medicate it, sleep it way, sweat it out, and just plain pretend that it wasn’t there.  But it is.  The truth is, I live with a hole in my heart. I think we all do.  It comes from past regrets, choices that we would give anything to take back, unexpected loss, wounds inflicted by others, and the shadowy glimpses of what is no longer possible.  Some days the other part of my heart, that part that is whole, and strong beats louder.  And other days,the sound gets sucked into that hole, and I follow it right down into the depths.  I’ve quit trying to hide from it, because it is all part of the heart that is mine.  Trying to have one without the other is like trying to separate the waves from the ocean.

I am absolutely not a poet.  Never have been, and most likely never will be.  But years ago, sitting in my college dorm room, lonely, homesick and heartbroken, the one and only poem I have ever written came spilling out.  It seems that even back then, at some level far, far below my consciousness, I understood that pain was important.  Here is what I wrote;

Pain and love go hand in hand

One often leading the other

But the led need not struggle against the leader

For they both travel to the same place

They go to the clear, bittersweet pool of human experience

Where each may drink freely from one cup

Having once looked into such waters

one will never again settle for the cloudy, shallow pools of comfort,

which do not reflect, but simply swallow the reflection

When you seek love

look also for pain

and welcome it

that you too may drink deeply.

 

I live at the base of a mountain.  Not just any mountain either.  This is a glorious, grand, majestic, dramatic mountain. It is perfectly framed in my living room windows.  You can’t miss it.  It is a show stopper. Their first time here, people often say, “It’s almost as if you planned the house so that the mountain would sit dead-center in those windows.”  The fact is, we did.  Of course we planned it that way.  We wanted the killer view, the picture perfect view.  The kind of view that you only see in magazines.

But you see, the thing is, while some days she is out in all of her glory, other days, often days on end, she is shrouded in clouds and fog.  Other days, the only thing visible is the very top, or the sloping base.  There are days when the clouds come and go, and of course therefore, so does the mountain.  The truth of the matter is that whether we can see the mountain or not, it is always, Always, ALWAYS there.

I think there is a deeper, more subtle reason that we look out at this breathtaking peak.  It serves as a reminder, and as a great teacher of things far more important and moving than a great view.

So just what are those things?  Faith!  Purpose!

Faith~

I believe in God.  I can’t explain exactly what that means, or exactly how he or she operates in the world.  I just know that there is something far bigger than me, than humanity, than this planet at work in the world.  I find life too full of miracles, creativity, joy, pain, devastation and mystery to be able to be explained away with  reason, a big bang and eons of interactions between energy and matter.  Somehow, I believe that God is involved with us and with our world, and we are meant to be the human face, hands, heart, mind and soul of our Creator.  However, there are many days that I forget that bigger picture and get caught up in my little life.  On those days, I find it hard to put one foot in front of the other for myself, much less even think about how I might serve a greater good to the world that is within my grasp.  And so, my mountain serves to remind me of that greater presence.  When I look out and the sun is shining on the brilliant, snow covered peak, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that something bigger is here, there and everywhere.  But on those days when all I can see is dark, grey clouds, I have the chance to practice living with faith, by reminding myself that just because my life is socked in, that sacred presence is there just the same.

Purpose~

Each one of us adds to the world what no one else can.  Which means, we all have a purpose and a calling, and in the finding and in the following, our gifts can bring good to the world.  When my daughters were small, my purpose was clear. Those were days of clear blue skies and not a cloud in sight. My purpose… to love, nurture, guide and protect.  Everyday, not always perfectly, but always with intention, a huge part of my purpose was to help those precious girls grow up and become strong, wise women in their own rights.  As they grew and changed, so did my purpose.  And to be honest, the skies were less clear, and more often than not, the clouds rolled in, and it was hard to see very far down the road. My role too, became cloudy.  It seemed to be one of being available, but not intrusive, offering counsel but not direction, and opening my ears, and shutting my mouth.  Frankly, sometimes I did this with spectacular success, and other times I failed miserably.  Now I am at a new place.  My daughters are grown and living their lives, managing their choices and navigating their successes and failures on their own.  Not that we aren’t still connected.  We are, and I am grateful.  But is isn’t what it was, and it won’t ever be that again.  I know that.  I appreciate that.  I respect that.  In the midst of it all, I also have good work, meaningful work.  All that said, there are days that I totally and completely lose sight of my purpose.  Somehow it was so much easier to know what that was when that meant making sure that my daughters were safely strapped into their car seats, and we ended every night under the covers with a book.

These days, what often reconnects me to my purpose is the mountain.  It looms large out my window, whether I can see it or not. So does my purpose, and so does yours and yours and yours.  If my experience with the mountain offers any lessons in the matter it is this, even when you can’t see it, it is there.  My hero, Annie Lamott claims that we are all here in Earth School.  Perhaps our greatest lesson is to find our purpose.  To find the work and contribution that is ours, and ours alone to give.  And then, to offer that to the world with all of our might, and all of our mind, and all of our soul.

The mountain out my window helps me keep that in mind.

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: From whence shall my help come?”

~Psalm 121

“Climb every mountain….” Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music

written by Molly Davis

www.katevanraden.wordpress.com

Jack, our perfectly fine black dog, lives in the country. He knows no fences so therefore knows all the neighbors, their goats, chickens and various other farm creatures. He is free to roam and yet stays pretty close to home. He has lived this lifestyle his entire life. We are now considering leaving our rural digs for those conveniently located in the heart of Portland. We are ready to trade our endless view, spacious silence and  herds of grazing elk for fuel economy, less yard work and a walk to the local library.

Jack is going to have to get used to Dog Parks and off-leash sites around the city…We visited such a playground today.  As I watched him romp with a dozen strange pooches I felt like I was at the Canine United Nations. I swear that Moammar Gadhafi of the dog world was there, growling and snapping until his owners leashed him and pulled him out of the fray. Once he was removed the tension in the group subsided. There was Sweden, in the body of an old beagle; curious, but ready to give any other dog, who felt so inclined, the lead. Mexico was represented by a couple of happy chihuhuas…France was bounding about trying to get all the guys to play together. Iran and Iraq kept to themselves somewhat, sticking close to the boarders.

There were different personalities, with different values, beliefs and needs, yet the group got along. There was a bit of struggling for position, some fear to overcome…but all in all there was respect, tolerance and a bit of grace.

I think Jack is going to do just fine. All he wants is to be friends with anybody who will have him. He doesn’t know how to discriminate.

Not a bad way to go through life.

Can’t Help But Think…We’ve Done This

by Kate Van Raden

http://scriptical.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/cant-help-but-think-weve-done-this/

As I spend the last 17 hours watching reports of the earthquake in Japan and the subsequent tsunamis all over the globe, I can’t help but ask myself…have we done this?!

My immediate response to any emotion-filled situation, comes out best in verse:

3.11.11

We dance the way we’d like to think the world will turn,

Our shoulders sway above our hips, convictions burn

Our soles pound out the earth and shake the plates

Our spirits light bonfires underneath our fates

The mountains quiver, grasping tightly to their roots

The rabbits shudder coldly in their boots

Serpents coil down beneath the cracks

We nomads lash our legacies upon our backs

Grizzlies cower sheepish in their caves

The earth is weeping now in hurricanes and waves

The ocean tucks its skirts and heads for land

So the darkness now descends upon the son of man



(i just read in a newspaper that a woman adopted a baby – a beautiful little girl – and then a few months later, decided that she wanted to ‘return’ the child. i wrote this blog many, many, many months ago, but felt it appropriate to share it again. ken would rather i didn’t ’share’ it again, so we flipped a coin. HEADS, i won, TAIL between his legs. Welcome to Amy-land!)


It was sort of like an impulse buy. There was a two-week period when I was feeling this overwhelming need to fill a huge void in my life. I wasn’t quite sure what the void in fact was, I just knew that something – something – had to fill it. I remember that morning as if it were yesterday. Ken was reading the newspaper, drinking his hot and steamy cup of coffee, I was deciding on whether to wear the black short sleeve tee-shirt with slacks, or the white short sleeve tee-shirt with slacks. I chose the white. I walked out onto our porch, where Ken seemed so calm and peaceful and I stood there with my hands ever so firmly planted on my hips and said – or rather announced with great determination – yes, I’ve decided, I want to foster a child. Ken nodded, continued reading the Sports page and as he sipped his coffee, caught a glimpse of me over the rim of the cup. “Seriously, Ken, I want to be a mother.” This, a conversation, continuing from the night before.

Let me back track for just a moment. When Ken and I met there were two things that Ken never, ever wanted to do again: one, was get married, and two, was have a child. He had done both, and that was quite enough for him. I too felt when I first met Ken that marriage was a very iffy commitment. I mean, why? So that when you divorce, all the shit that was yours to begin with now has to get tossed into a legal heap and maybe you won’t get the CD’s and the few pieces of furniture you brought to the party to begin with. But a few months after our first date, along with the “I’m never getting married again,” lecture, we found ourselves picking out wedding rings and meeting with Unitarian ministers. We chose both within a week. Okay back to the foster children…

I had this urge, not necessarily to give birth, but to fill what felt like a unyielding emptiness. I am not, I repeat not, a nurturing kind of woman. But there was this need, this urge, this flu like symptom that didn’t seem to go away. I thought maybe instead of adopting a child, we could, for lack of better words, rent one. See if it works. I had heard both very good and very awful stories about foster care, and fostering children. I knew a couple who had brought a foster child into their home and two weeks later felt they were being tortured emotionally. I have friends who had huge success at fostering a child, ending up adopting the little girl, and another one whose child turned out to be the devil doll. But I understood that these children needed to be loved. They needed to be cared for, their place in the world was so fragile, so tentative, so scary.

And I, obviously, had an urge.

I stood there and waited for Ken to give me his blessing. “Sure, fine, you wanna do this, go check it out.” “Wanna come with me?” “Nah. I’m gonna watch football.” Ken thought, right or wrong, that it was like going to the Bide-a-wee, or the Humane Society. This isn’t something Ken cares to do, even though he is a very altruistic kind loving man. I was going to go the Children’s Aid Center and discuss the possibility of he and I becoming Foster Parents and while highly unlikely maybe come home with a happy loving child who Ken could garden with. Or at the very least, watch football with. I am such an optimistic fool.

I go to the Children’s Aid office in our very small town. I am greeted with both a lack of enthusiasm, and much paperwork. Reams and reams of paperwork. I fill out most, call Ken twice (for his social security number which I couldn’t for the life of me remember, along with some financial information) and then I’m Ied to a small empty room with a scattering of very old magazines. I for one believe any and all public spaces should keep up to date magazines. This is a cause I will champion in the future. Nothing worse than old, old news.

A young woman comes into the office. She reminds me of an Amish woman, or a Mormon, wearing a long floral schmata and a very, very bad haircut. It looked like a very, very bad helmet. She says nothing, but gestures for me to follow her. As I walk out of the room with her, I casually mention that they oughta get some up to date magazines.

As an aside, in one of our continual (I am pushy) conversations both that morning, and the night before, Ken tells me that – if in fact I actually go through with this – he would prefer a boy, if in fact there’s a choice, and a boy who can garden, weed, since it’s summertime and if in fact we are going to foster a child for two, three, four weeks than I should take into consideration that it would be great for Ken to have a weeding partner slash buddy. I, of course, would love a girl to go shopping with and go to nail salons with and someone to talk to about Ken’s – her foster father – weeding issues.

I am now led to another room where the Mormon slash Amish woman has a desk. I sit across from her and I look around the room for signs, clues of a life, her life. I see not a photo, or a calendar, or any sign of life, period. In the corner on the radiator what appears to be a dead plant. But, I convince myself, that could happen to anyone. Not everyone has a green thumb.

She pulls out what appears to be a thick binder. She slides it across the desk and motions for me to open it. I am now beginning to think that maybe she is mute, since not a word was spoken. Perhaps I should move my lips very slowly when talking to her so she can read my lips, I think, as I open the binder. There in vivid color are snapshots, photos, 8 x 10 glossies of babies, young adults, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, mentally disabled, physically challenged, older, taller, toddlers, and teenagers. Thirty, forty photos. Some take your breath away. A sparkle in the eyes, a dimple in the cheek, a turned up nose, freckles, thick curly hair, missing teeth, a lazy eye, the gorgeous skin-tone. The sadness is palpable. The joy diminished. The desperation is obvious.

Then she speaks: she tells me it’s a fairly long complicated process, could take weeks and weeks, maybe even a month or two. Yes, yes — bureaucratic bullshit paperwork – my words, not hers. She doesn’t like that I use the word bullshit, I can tell. She continues, a lot of these kids are in homes and are soon to be removed, or have to leave. I ask why. She says well it didn’t work out, there was a clash, the kids, you know, have issues. Major, major issues. The foster parents have issues. Major, major issues. Sometimes there’s no patience or tolerance. Sometimes there are altercations. But they’re getting full up and pretty soon these kids are gonna be back to square one. Her words.

I stare out the window, and think of Ken. He’s probably soaking in a tub, bubble bath and all, watching his beloved Giants, screaming at the TV set, drinking a beer, or glass of Pinot Noir, and enjoying his life completely. Not a care the world. He likes it that way.

I woke up a few days earlier wanting to have a kid, I was hormonal and lonely. Hormonal, lonely and cranky and older than the day before. Not a great combo, I want a kid!!!! Stamping my feet, I’m sure, or the equivalent. Instead of going to the Woodbury Common Outlet stores, I went to Child Services. Instead of trying on a pair of shoes, I looked through a binder of children who needed love, and a home, and a place that was safe and kind and probably, more than likely, never owned a pair of new shoes, because chances are they were all hand-me-downs. And that’s when it all came together. The words: hand-me-downs. I wasn’t making a commitment to giving them a life or a future, I was teetering on making a decision to give them a place to live for a month or two, or maybe even less. In other words, they were returnable. I felt so profoundly sad – my heart breaking. I didn’t want a child for the rest of their life, I wanted a child to take away my loneliness, my crankiness, my hormonal imbalance for a month or two. And it dawned on me in this empty lifeless office with a woman who desperately needed a good haircut and a make-over, that I was being completely and utterly selfish.

I told the Amish slash Mormon woman that I needed some time to think about all of this. I couldn’t be completely truthful with her, and tell her that I had in fact wasted her time, because that would seem even more selfish. She asked me if I wanted to bring the binder home for my husband to look at the photos. I told her, no, and she asked, “Does he like catalogues, because this is just like flipping though a catalogue.”

I stopped feeling selfish in that moment. I looked at her and said: “These kids… in this catalogue, they need love, they need care. They need shoes. They’re not pieces of clothing you pick out, thinking, well if they don’t fit, I can return them, these children on these pages in this binder were not wanted when they came into the world, they’re not returnable. You’re job is to find them a home. A loving home.”

She looked at me, her eyes already filled with sadness, fill up with tears. “I don’t like my job, it’s just I feel so empty.” she said.

We were the same woman in that moment, except I had the better haircut.

“Hey listen,” I say, “I don’t really want a kid, I want to fill a void, and I know what it’s like to feel empty. I do, but while you’re working here, at the very least, please, oh, please … when you hand the person or the couple the binder, please, tell them that the pages are filled with huge potential and an amazing opportunity to love better, love more, and if you don’t wanna do that, maybe you should quit your job and find something you love to do.”

I hit a nerve, I could tell. I hugged her good-bye, a good strong hug. I told her that she should live her life out-loud, that everyone – EVERYONE – is scared, including me, that I was very, very scared; for her to find the thing she loves to do and do it, and … although I thought it, I did not say it: please, I’m begging, go out and get a good haircut, but what I did say was please, please, get rid of the dead plant, it’s not inspiring.

And then the moment of clarity as I drove home. Absolute perfect clarity. I didn’t go there to foster a child, I went there to foster my very own spirit. To awaken to my very own life, to live more fully, to love myself better, to love better period, to stop being so selfish, and to stop thinking I have to — in this moment, right now, this very second – fill a void.

Amy Ferris:http://marryinggeorgeclooney.com/blog/