Does it matter what we do? Really! How many authors get a book published and are asked right away if they have another book in the works? Or a new mother, barely getting the hang of breast-feeding, asked if there will be baby number 2? Can we be content to navigate the lives we lead…as ordinary as they are at times? Yes, there are extraordinary moments, there are.  We are capable of great things, but they only come out of hours, days, weeks, years of ordinary. Should the ordinary be overlooked, or devalued in hopes that extraordinary will ultimately define us? I don’t think so, because the biggest part of each one of us is ordinary. Just Ordinary!

Compare our ordinary lives to women living in the Congo. Wouldn’t every second of our ordinary become their extraordinary? Isn’t managing to run a household, grocery shop, fight with loved ones and make up; go to church or temple or synagogue  extraordinary? Isn’t is extraordinary that we can call a friend, lift their spirits, console and support? Isn’t it extraordinary that we have just enough money to pay MOST of our bills, put food in our mouths and still be generous with others?

If we can be content with the ordinary, then aren’t we living extraordinary lives? Because I think CONTENT is really the most significant of accomplishments.


RE-POST (“you teach what you need”…today I needed this).

My Own Private Tony Award 

July, 2011

Who among us doesn’t have a story…one we tell others and one we tell ourselves. There isn’t a person, given enough time, that can’t teach us a thing or two about overcoming adversity, fear and insurmountable challenge. It always makes me feel like a small part of something so powerful when someone confides in me what they have had to do to wake up and face yet another new and often impossible day. The experiences each of us goes through contributes to the depth and richness of our lives. It is the things we face, the heartaches we bear that do in fact make us stronger and our lives richer…eventually.  If we manage to survive what often times feels like un-survivable, we have stories to tell that prove the notion that we are each stronger than we think we are.

Then there are the secret…dirty little secret…stories we tell ourselves. The theater is dark, the stage is empty and yet we execute an entire drama inside our heads; stories of self loathing, stories of inadequacies, stories of worthlessness. I have one…over and over again I see it and hear it and it tells me that I have never been, nor will I ever be successful at anything. depending on my circumstances, levels of depression, lack of self-confidence the story can render me helpless. My story of inadequacy, as ridiculous as it may seem to others, makes perfect sense to me. I know it, I have cultivated it and shaped it for years and years…It is my story and I am sticking with it (no matter how much therapy there is).

Yet the “stories” that others live by, listen to and believe are so completely ridiculous to me. how many amazing writers among us, wake up each day and feel that today is the day they will be discovered for the fraud they know themselves to be. How many gorgeous young women spend day in and day out comparing themselves to any number of photo-shopped images and find that they are disgusting by comparison. How many young devoted mothers tell themselves every minute of every day that they are doomed to be the same kind of distant, unfeeling parent who raised them. How many men live day in and day out with feelings of inadequacy around what they can provide and how they can compete; young teens who beat themselves up on a regular basis because they are different from the norm.

What is it about the negative thoughts that claim the lion’s share of our thinking brain cells? Why does one or two or even ten disparaging remarks/thoughts carry so much more weight than the thousands of uplifting ones we are likely to hear in a life time.

I am voting that the new mantra be… I AM ENOUGH. How about that for story…how about that replacing the countless hours of self doubt; the wasted comparisons to those who look like they have it all…because I know those people. The stories they tell themselves are the same ones you tell yourself and I tell myself. The secret dark theater thoughts where the story comes alive and is real enough and vivid enough that the Tony Awards should have a category for performances such as these. Those people, the ones who must be so very confident,  are looking at you and thinking that you’re the one who must have it all together.

Each of us deserves a break from self-imposed suffering. We do.

I know you. I read your brilliant thoughts; I am humbled by your beauty; in awe of your unlimited capacity for love, creativity and stunning accomplishments. You are more than enough. And the deal is if you don’t know and live as if you are, you confirm the shameful story I tell myself. Because I watch you, am inspired by you and follow the examples I trust you to create.

You are enough, and I hope to be just like you someday.

A Pile of Stones

September 23, 2011

Molly’s daughter, Haley, writes for a blog calledDeeper Story. Today she’s written on judgement, both the way we judge others, and the smoke screen it casts as we judge ourselves. Here’s a bit of what she’s written…

A pile of stones at my feet. The accused are lined up before me.

I feel the pores of the rock against my palm. It is heavy in my hand. Weighty.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone.”

I grip the rock tighter, running through a mental checklist of the sins of the accused.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone.”

“They need to learn,” I think, words ripping through my brain as the sweat from my palms seeps into the crevices of the rock. “How else will they know they can never measure up?”

You can read the rest of this post over at Deeper Story.




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

A Piece on Peace

July 7, 2011

My husband and I have only lately taken to playing games…our choices are still fairly limited as are our patience to learn anything new. We don’t play RISK (taken too many after 60 years and looking for something simpler). Not Monopoly (too much risk, loss and competition). Not Bridge (to complicated). Not Hearts, or Crazy Eights, or Strip Poker…to easy, too crazy, too embarrassing.

We do play Backgammon almost every morning while we have our coffee. Great game. You can talk while you play…you can cheat if you have to…you can swear like a drunken sailor and it makes the game more fun. We play best two out of three. Sometimes we only have to play two because I can kick his ass twice in a row,  or he rolls nothing but doubles and kicks mine.

We were given a new game the other day. Seemed fairly easy and straight forward…no rule book or instructions. The game has 30 cards. Each card is printed with one word that states a personal belief or value…i.e. integrity, compassion, family, relationships, stability, etc. etc. etc. The object of the game is to start with a stack of these cards and discard one, two, three…well all of them, except the last ONE. The one you do not discard is the one THING that you value above all else.

It was easy for me to toss aside Financial Security, Fame, Affiliation, Service, Creativity. But choose between Family, Relationships, Friends…not so easy. We played 3 hands. Each time, my last card, the final answer was Relationships. I figured I could toss the Family and Friends cards and cover them all with Relationships.

3 hands, each time my husband chose Peace. “Really”, I said. “You chose Peace over Family, Friends, Relationships?”  He said, “Without Peace, you got nothing. I can’t think of anything better to hold on to.”

My husband is a man of few words. But sometimes the ones that come out of his mouth when I am least expecting them, speak volumes.

Peace…I wish for you and yours Peace to hold on to.

“He made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later… that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.”

by Tom Wolf.


The calls started early this morning. My beloved husband has 4 children…two of them with me…two of them I fell in love with as I did him, 32 years ago. We are a family. Not unlike every other family, we are not perfect. That being said, I know that each one of our children love and adore their father. He is a man of limitless support. He is a man who quietly but deliberately clears the way for each of them to the best of his ability. He has enough love to envelope those young ones who have wondered into our lives, not biologically his, but love them he does.

My husband doesn’t gush, yet he tells each one of them, every time he prepares to end a phone conversation, that he loves them. He inquires about the condition of their tires; their jobs, their relationships. He offers encouragement and advice, mostly about following their dreams, overcoming fear and using their voices to ask for what they need. He once treated our teenage daughter to a pedicure and ended up coming home with bright pink polish on each of his own toes. He has taught them to fly fish, raft, climb mountains, generally love the out-of-doors.

My children see in him what they believe in and what they want to be. They see a man able to laugh and play like a boy who will never stop seeing the world thru eyes of wonder. They see a man who never has to contemplate what truly matters. And they see a parent who will always love them unconditionally.

My husband does an awesome job of Being a Father.




It takes a tremendous amount of courage to protect the rights of ALL People…



Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                                     June 1, 2009

– – – – – – –

Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.

LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country’s response to the HIV pandemic.

Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration — in both the White House and the Federal agencies — openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.

The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.

My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.

These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


WASHINGTON — Jessica Smochek told members of Congress on Wednesday that, after being brutally gang-raped in Bangladesh in 2004, a Peace Corps medical officer refused to give her a proper physical examination. Instead, the medic confiscated the former English teacher’s cellphone so that she could not alert her fellow volunteers and instructed her to tell anyone who asked about her sudden departure from the program that she was returning to the U.S. to get her wisdom teeth out. When Smochek arrived in Washington, D.C., a Peace Corps official asked her to write down everything she had done to provoke the attack.

“Shortly after I left, the country director — who never attempted to contact me after I was raped — called a meeting of several women in my former volunteer group and told them, without my permission, what had happened to me,” she said. “Then, he told them that rape was a woman’s fault and that I had caused what happened to me by being out alone after 5:00 PM. As for the other women in the group, who had been very vocal about being constantly stalked and afraid, he threatened them with administrative separation.”

Smochek was one of a growing number of former Peace Corps volunteers who are speaking out about the sexual assaults they endured while serving abroad. Their stories have sparked Congressional hearings, as well as pledges for institutional reform.

Since it was founded in 1961, the Peace Corps has sent 200,000 volunteers to 139 countries. Between 2000 and 2009, an average of 22 women each year report being victims of rape or attempted rape, the agency told HuffPost Wednesday. There have been more than 1,000 sexual assaults and 221 rapes or attempted rapes in that time. Since sexual crimes often go unreported, experts note the numbers may be significantly higher.

At a meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, lawmakers heard from three former Peace Corps volunteers about their experiences as victims of violence and sexual assault while serving overseas, as well as from Lois Puzey, whose daughter, Kate Puzey, was murdered while serving in Benin in 2009. The hearing, led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), highlighted not only the perils volunteers faced while abroad, but the agency’s lack of support for victims of abuse.

“The social support that a victim receives in the hour after the assault occurs is the key factor in assuring whether the victim will have long-term mental health problems,” said Karestan Koenen, a Peace Corps rape victim who now teaches psychology at Columbia and Harvard. “We ourselves question our behavior. Blaming the victim just adds to the questioning of your own blame and it can stop you from seeking help that you need because you are afraid that other people will respond the same way.”

Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams apologized on Wednesday for the agency’s failure to respond compassionately or offer assistance to the Peace Corps’ victims of sexual assault and violence. Williams signaled that he is ready and willing to work with Congress to craft legislation aimed at institutional reform.


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.

Soldiering On

April 12, 2011

Once upon a time, not long ago, a trial of unmeasurable proportion descended upon my people. A spirit of darkness over came and defeated one of the clans most treasured. Unfathomable despair ensued. So great was the pain that it lay waste each loved one as they stood guard hoping to fight the encroaching evil.

Soon, each suffered…each felt despair that could not be overcome. As one who championed those that mattered most, i too fell into deep despair.  For I could not battle this darkness and claim victory.

From my hiding place of shame I could catch glimpses of the ones who suffered. There seemed to be moments when the darkness that had claimed them subsided. The moments were few, but each day there seemed to be more. Were my most treasured finding the strength to resist total annihilation? Was there unfamiliar magic secretly and mysteriously waging battle? Were there strategies being employed that i did not understand?

Days, months, years passed as the spirit of darkness seemed to be losing its’ destructive grip of hopelessness. Light entered through cracks and crevices. Those who mattered most slowly gathered strength and as they did, their determination to claim their own victory grew. Without fanfare  the darkness was driven out with light; bright and radiant.

According to the 18th verse of the Tao, we as guardians of those most sacred are to “let go” and  trust that they will do what is best for them.

We are to understand that guardian means; protecting each one’s natural ability  to discover their own lighted path out of the darkness.

What a Friend We Have In……….

This morning I had a revelation, a vision, an insight, an aha!  Lately I have become aware, I guess you could say acutely aware, of the amount of time I spend spinning stories about myself, to myself.  Stories about how I don’t like the me I see in the mirror.  She isn’t as cute as she once was.  Not as trim and fit as in times gone by – like oh, say, high school.  She doesn’t seem to measure up to the image of what an almost 60 something broad should be.  She should be smarter, more accomplished, funnier, happier, stronger, richer.  More articulate, more at peace, wiser, sexier, more flexible, more fashionable, more…. well…everything.  Today, as I wrote about her, I began to see that in the telling of these stories I was actually loathing and despising a precious friend.  That friend has been with me since I showed up on the scene.  She as been with me every step of the way.  When I was lonely, she was there by my side.  When I was in pain, she didn’t leave because it was too hard to watch.  When I fucked up, she hung in there with me.  She has walked a million miles in my shoes, and understands what life looks like through my eyes. I think it is time that I started treating her like the cherished, loyal, committed, loving friend that she is.  It is time to get to know her, love her, honor her, play with her, and rely on her.  I have a cherished tribe of people who I love and that love me back.  But, no matter who else is by my side at the end of this trip, the one who has always been there, through thick and thin, will be the only one left when the curtain goes down.  What a friend!

Does she sound like anyone you know?


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!


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.


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

“Day Break” poem

March 21, 2011

Day Break

April 14, 2010 by Kate Van Raden

“Day Break” poem

Steam rises off my soggy skin
And tumbles through the air
A sigh escapes from deep within
And weaves through tangled hair
The morning creeps across the earth
Song birds bathe in dew
I watch the day break’s painful birth
And all I think about is you.
The world begins again today
I sit and watch it start
Sun rays split the stony gray
And warm my frozen heart
Sleeping bumbles wake to life
They stretch their glossy wings
I’m reminded that we all have wings
And dreams and precious things…

Can’t Help But Think…We’ve Done This

by Kate Van Raden

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:


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:


March 7, 2011

Never enough is the sleeping

never enough is the sun

never enough are the kisses,

or all the small victories won.

Never enough of your body

never enough of your smell

never enough of the laughing,

I know you, but never that well…

never enough time for sitting

never enough silence to fill,

never enough lack of wanting

never enough strength of will…

If I lived to be 2,500 I would not have enough of life still…

By: Kate Van Raden