Tuesday, December 31, 2013

a cup of kindness

I can't help but look back at 2013 with large amounts of peace, and nostaliga: This year has been a brimming cup of kindness, despite my shortcomings, misguided expectations, usual quirks. How many times have I stopped, steadied myself on the railing, breathed deep the beauty of the moment? Plenty. For this, many prayers of thanks have been sent heavenward, many glasses raised in honor.

Sure, there's been a few bumps in the high road, a few blasted interruptions to the peace; but even those have been short lived, temporary distractions. The tantrumers and their tantrums, though they've shown, have passed (not dead, just gone). Believe me, for this I've raised another glass.

When I think of the year gone by, I think of the whirlwind of love and parenthood, the work that comes with dreaming, and the hardship that proves our spot is well picked. I think of mad dashes through the airport, long road trips into the night, supper and tea around tables; laughs that build on sighs that build on smiles. Then come the boxes, the breaking of those boxes, the gratitude for clean lines and messy middles. I think of my frantic attempts to meet the clock halfway, my hands-up approach to failing that end, and the ensuing embrace of reality (I can not keep up).

There is so much yet to do, and so much more I haven't seen. Laundry piles won't end, this I've learned is true. Struggle won't end either, but thankfully, Grace will stay, too. The dizzying moments, the late-night-bedside existential conversations with my fiercely alive little one, the early morning jaunts to work and the matching of life with my other - these things are all accompanied by, preceded by, enveloped by, grace. I'm humbled by how much of my life has very little to do with me. I'm grateful I've got things beyond myself to pay attention to.

My to-do list for the year sat largely untouched. Those projects I loudly vowed to complete are still on my desk, in the same stack as before. I've got them on the top, ready to go when January hits. Accomplishment would be so nice, so I keep the goals in my reach. But I know that if the rest of life is anything like what's shown up so far, I've got to loosen my grip on pre-planning, and work on my ability to take the moment captive. I've got to figure out how to work, one paragraph at a time, instead of holding on to novel-length expectations.

This is the case with all of life, isn't it? We expect a masterpiece without picking up a brush. I grow frustrated with my need for tiny moments, little actions, mundane tasks and insignificance. But we do need these things, don't we? The sentence and the pause are foundational.

To this year I owe a debt of gratitude for the lessons picked. Rightness makes me feel good for a little while, but Grace makes everyone better, permanently. Anger might motivate, but it should never speak. Living life is more important than keeping time.

Though acquaintances are made, forgot, and rest is hard to find; though peace does come and go a lot, remember to be kind. Stay with the ones who keep you, leave the meaner ones behind. Let love break your heart and then rebuild you over time. This is life, it's hard and fast, and we can not rewind.  The moment's gift is what it is, so hold it close and let it in, for your sake and for your kin, for auld lang syne.

love, a.                                   

photo credits
1. Stefan Buetler  2. Anthropologie  3. Photographer unknown

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

To you, to yours, to the things you hold in place of the people you can't,
Merry Christmas.



Friday, November 29, 2013


Happiness. Perhaps it's so elusive beause we ask too much of it. After all, Happy is less of a destination and more of a discovery; more of an ingredient than the entire product. All day long, my hands and soul reach out into the universe, grab at life and stars. I have a collection now, of relationships, ideas, nostalgia, scars, stories. I've gathered them up, and these elements make me who I am. They're each a thread, and somewhere in the tangle sits the Happy.

Happy doesn't get us from place to place, day to night; happy is a breath, a bit of light.

It's the threads that take us along; those loose bits of identity, the rough edges, the solace, the full range of our heart's motion. Stop asking the world for Happy. You've already got it in the mix.

photo: still from Isadora. Vanessa Redgrave. Source.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

it's a 3 laptop kind of night

Anita's on one, I'm on two. Indicative, perhaps, of my inability to focus wholly on a single task, while friends merge ahead of me on their own projects.  I opened my notebook full of ideas and it took me a few minutes, leafing through multiple brainstorm sessions, to find the notes I was looking for. I have so many stories on the go. None are finished. None are in the same 'genre.' Do authors all need a focus? Maybe not. Maybe you can write a futuristic drama, a women's coming of age story, a poetry collection, and a children's book (or two), all at the same time. Will this work? I suppose we'll find out once these things are actually finished.

I worry I won't finish.

Perhaps I should get back to using these two laptops with intention, so we can all find out what happens.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I didn't go to the door.

Some time ago, I was accused of shutting the door in someone's face. "I just couldn't believe it," they said, with much disdain and lipcurling. Neither could I believe what was being said. Not only is this action outside my realm of possibility -- I wouldn't do it --  the thing is, I wasn't even at the door. In fact, I wasn't even in that part of the house. How then, could the story be believed as such?

I've learned some people will judge and belittle no matter what the actions are. Some people have constructed a worldview so specific, so self-focused, that truth is what they make it, and not the truth at all. It is easier, perhaps, to believe someone else is wicked, to make up a story, than to question and re-evaluate ourselves.

My initial response to the accusation was anger. Next I was confused, then I battled resignation, and then, I laughed. I laughed a lot. You guys, I didn't even go to the door. And yet, this person Believes I shut the door on them, believes it so fully they told me I did it, even though I am the person they're lying about. There is absolutely, wholly, totally, undeniably nothing I can do about that.

By engaging in relationship, we are essentially opening our doors. What I do when I open my door is my decision; opening my door invites response. I can not control how other people respond to me, I can not control what they say when they're coming up the walk, I can not control who comes to my door, or when. So if someone stands on my front porch, uninvited, builds a mirage wherein I open the door and shut it in their face -- and all the while I'm in my living room, having tea...I can not control this. I can find it sad, wildly pathetic, heartbreaking, insurmountable, unreasonable, and stupid. But I can not change it.

Judgement often comes as a response to our own uncertainty or hurt (clearly, I am responding, here, to my own). We often judge most those we know the least. If someone decides to make a judgement before they know me, I remind myself of the time that I didn't even go to the door. If a person decides to operate in such a dishonest manner, I, and my household, will be unaffected. The door opens to relationship, and closes with mistrust.
photo source: laporterouge

Friday, November 15, 2013

grace, eventually

As it turns out, I don't know how to be gracious. Trust me, I know how to fake the concept; I know how to arrive at grace eventually. But in the moment...ah, that bastardly moment. Outwardly I appear serene, but inwardly I am a bitter stew, standing as a harbinger of defeat. If you happen upon me at the right time, I might even share my words with you, my upheaving words; my disaster of an opinion. Disasterous in this truth: to opine while the wounds are fresh is to perpetuate the wounds. And so I go, boldly, into my secret world of gnashing teeth and rickety high roads, dragging my Reputation Merits in the sand, or in some cases, hucking them aside, to be washed away forever in a giant ocean of THIS IS SOMETHING I MUST DEFEND.

I digress. Humanity is a sandbox and some people choose to shit in it. I keep marking out my lines because this is MY CORNER but there it comes anyway, that giant, line-blurring foot; completely disregarding my crouch, my seething need to be thought of correctly, my lines. It comes along and puts a pedestal right up-on-top of my shoulders and stamps around with clumsy, perfectly pedicured toes. Those standing by are in awe, and reprimand me for getting in the way of such a dance.

As it is, I can not defend myself. So I, and what remains of my merits, move out from underneath that preposterous headache. Another spot is chosen, and I make more lines built of something like concrete, or glass shards, or holy scriptures, or whatever I can reach. My ocean follows me, I make a little fire, and warm my hands. Just a few more minutes 'til I have to build again. Faking grace is hard work.

photo credit: faxed on tumblr

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Flanders' flowers are not white.

I wear red. Not to glorify the fight, but those who fought it,
so my only fight
is this long lineup
in a busy

I wear red. Not to come against peace, but to show gratitude,
in the tiniest morsel.
A pin-prick on my finger
for the millions who have died
(on all sides)
so my peace,
in mind and body,
can be full.

I wear red. Not to support war or its purposes,
but to remind myself
no argument
is worth that kind of battle.

I wear red because I am ashamed
to be part of a generation
who forgets
who denies
who placates
who whines

who does not know what it means
to wear red.

writing ©afterthoughtcomposer

Sunday, November 3, 2013

a list of all the people I don't like very much

tailgaters, wet road speeders,
blinded wide-eyed trouble seekers,
trust-break-thriving secret leakers,
pompous angry heavy breathers,

those who lust on blood and bleeders,
left-brained hard-lined people eaters,
manic-sweet manipulators,
unabash-ed bottom feeders,

gossip mongrels, gnashing teeth,
those who pray before they cheat,
when they stomp it's as they please;
the hands that carve me will be these.


photo: unknown artist. found via pinterest.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

why forgiveness is necessary

Every pain,
every hurt:
a tie from limb
to earth.
Where the heart is,
there the roots
quick plant.
I am stuck until
the gardener's gracious hand

What's this?
My choice?
Oh, use those scissors wisely,
snip now the things that
tie me
limb to earth.

photo credit:
emyah (via pinterestall rights reserved

Friday, October 25, 2013

why forgiveness hurts

If I'm not listening to music, I feel like my heart won't beat. Not now, at least. There's too much muddling the signal - I'm afraid the organ will fail. Forgiveness hurts because to do it, to do it well, you have to unplug the stereo, hope you'll survive without the aid of another rhythm.

Forgiveness is not addition, it's removal. You take that shaking thing out of your chest, that heaving pile of hurt, and you leave it out on the cutting block. You can have this. You might cut me again and again, but I can't hold on to this any more. Forgiveness hurts because some will relish in the opportunity to cut you every time you sew the wound.

If I'm not rushing around with my hands full, I feel like I'll drop everything. It's too much to carry, but I try anyway. Targets hold still, so I run. Forgiveness hurts, because if I'm not running, I can't breathe.

I do stop, place hands upon the counter, and unplug the music from time to time. I wonder when good will win. Pause to consider how long it will take for the bad to be called to account. Set off again, knowing the Lord hates pride and loves to break it; he'd probably call my account first. Forgiveness hurts, because the boundaryless refuse to give it (but oh, how they take it for themselves).

Forgiveness hurts, because it isn't justice.

photo source: unknown. Found on pinterest.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

work and results

When I get lost in my search for the fruits of my labour, and get depressed as a result,
I stop and focus instead on the labour – because if I love what I do, the results won’t matter.
And if I don’t know myself before my work I will know myself a little better because of it.


when the night comes, be afraid of me
Manuel Rebollo

Thursday, October 17, 2013

every bad day has a little bit of sunshine

I've made a huge mistake. In my attempt to surprise boyfriend with my super awesome ability to get things that are otherwise unavailable (it happens, sometimes), I scoured craigslist and picked what I thought was the best ad: Pearl Jam Tickets - FLOOR! It's a sold out show, and boyfriend really wants to go, so I write my email with urgency. He was asking face value, mentioned family issues as his reason for missing the show, and his love of the band...so of course he's legit, right? I sent him money via the interwebs and have watched him wisp away into oblivion as the money left my account and I realized, hey, I'm not actually getting any tickets out of this, am I. I am angry, at myself. I am upset that some people choose to live off of stolen money, while honest people work for it.

I am being very, very diplomatic in that paragraph (one day you can ask Jesus about all the thoughts I've had today and what happened to me as a result, and he will shake his head in disappointment and point to the fiery depths of hell).

The day has to get better, right?

Maybe I'll walk across the street and buy a big ol' box of halloween candy. "For the kids." I tell myself, knowing full well I don't mean it. I look both ways before I cross. Seeing only one vehicle -- a van that needed to drive half a block, come to a stop sign, stop, and then drive another half block to reach me, on a street with a speed limit of 50 k -- I had plenty of time. I step off the curb. I hear an engine revving. I see the van has blown right through the stop sign and is speeding up toward me. I run, they slow. They smile. Like threatening death is funny.

I made it to the candy, and back to work, rattled by all the bad. Sad that the highlight of today is a packet (ahem...multiple packets) of sugary treats.

And then, about 6 mini treats in (that's an estimated number), I get a message from my mom: "Here are the illustrations I've been working on!" For my silly little children's book. My mom is drawing the pictures for me. I get a little teary, and I bend a thankful knee: the illustrations are beautiful. They're exactly what I've imagined since I was a tiny human. When we finish, and we print it, I'll let you see them. Until then, I'm keeping them to myself. Today's no-good-very-bad-day-remedy, a childhood dream complete. My mom is drawing for me. You can take my money, but you can't take that.

mama and me

Friday, October 11, 2013

the third side

I hope when heaven comes,
if it does,
that our answers
(if heaven lowers itself as such)
are explanations
of that great mystery,
for every situation in which I've been,
of what they say there is to every story:

the third side

darling photo credit: unknown

Thursday, October 10, 2013

fta: letting go

What life takes: patience though the nerves are shaking, hope when the horizon's breaking, and calm eyes to see that all the quakes are merely acts of Creation. Though it might be easier to cling to the edge of a world you've known until yesterday, this morning requires something New, something braver, so let your fingers loose. Better holds are coming for your hands.

i'm letting go
another dream; all dreamed up big and planned
all wrapped up, another plan
one more wind through minding my own
and then
the letting go.

one more plan; full planned up and now gone
all gone now; one more dream
one more stumbling trip through mud thick
and then
the letting go.

dreaming still; this mind ceases to reprieve
all wrapped up; another dream
one more ache to peace to freedom journey
and then
the letting go.


photo credits: elpanteranera

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Early in the morning, my thoughts remind me: I'm not cut out for this. Elastics fall into the sink, you reach for them, and hand them to the woman Who Woke You. "I know it's early, sweetie," I say, with one eye on the clock. Mornings are hard enough, impatient hands don't help, and I force my body to match your pace for a moment; you, who have a hard time waking up, who took fifteen minutes to put on pants, four minutes to put on socks, and eight minutes to pick a sweater. After awhile the clock shows new numbers. I don't want to be late, and I want you to be on time, so I ask your feet to move a little faster. They move a little faster.

It's been a hard few days for you and I. These challenging ones are what I've come to call my "Vow Days." I vow to be up early and ready first in the morning, so you can have all of my attention when you get out of bed; whether or not I've had coffee or time to think. I vow to give up my much-to-do list so we can play. I promise I will keep my buttons on full display, even though your current need is to push them. And I'll bury it when you tell me you wish I did this-or-that more like your mommy.

I'll learn you, and we'll learn this thing we have; this thing that's not quite mother-daughter, not quite peer or friend. I'm an authority who's job it is to come alongside...but I'm still figuring out who you are; I don't know how this works, or when it won't. We don't have blood ties, but I love you like we do, and you say that sometimes, too, so I tell myself we don't need blood to be a family.

I'm not cut out for the hard days, but I take them anyway, with gratitude. I know what they produce and who they're for (you). You deserve someone who'll figure out this step-thing.

photo credit

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What it means to turn thirty

Thirty. The number became me recently, or perhaps I became the number (I like to think it's both). It's a year mark I'd been waiting for since I was seventeen. Thirty is hip, thirty is cool, or swag, or whatever it is the kids are calling 'it' these days. Thirty is calling twenty-somethings 'kids.'

Good is as follows: I am exactly where I'm meant to be. Whether its because I'm thirty, or life's events just happen to coincide, is anyone's guess. But I'm happy, and self assured, and in a good spot, and there's not much more I could ask for at the beginning of a decade.

At current, I sit surrounded, by boxes half-unpacked. I moved, and it's been all encompassing in every good way. There's much to be done here, so much work to do. Plans upon plans sit heavy, on eldest intentions. Thirty is giving up the right to perfection and getting shit done anyway. Thirty is saying 'shit' even though I know some will be disappointed to learn I'm part sailor.

I've looked back a lot. I still intend, and don't think I could escape my need, to process life in afterthoughts. But I'm feeling less hesitant, less afraid of going forward heart open. I am meant to write about the grit, am feeling pushed toward the un-diplomatic. Life is not fair and tidy, or neat and holiness-seen. Work isn't always fun, energizing, or safe to complete. I am ok with this, which is very un-me, though perhaps this is thirty.

Maybe it all started when I ate celery for the kid. I hate celery, but had to prove eating a vegetable I hated wouldn't kill me. I chewed that stringy taste-of-bad-breath and swallowed it bravely. See? No death, though it wasn't pleasant. Work is like this, life is too. Pleasantries are lovely, but pleasantries don't put food on the table. Things only grow when we get in the soil and dig around, dirty our hands, bruise our fists, and scrape our knuckles on the seed. There are a million ways I've gotten past my blood's need for perfect conditions.  Only one of them was celery. Only one of them was thirty.

I am afraid of writing terribly and putting it out there for others to read. I am afraid of what people will think when they see me, peeking out the front or back end of an attempt. I am afraid I won't survive the criticism. But, though these insecurities dangle loosely, clang around my rib cage, poke my heart's holes on occasion, they are withered by the biggest fear of all, and the reason I'll never stop working: my life will not be wasted. I am meant to say things on a page. I'm going to live life, and write about it.

photo credits

Friday, September 6, 2013

as you make your way to school

Dear Darling,

I wonder if you'll remember this week: who dropped you off, what your first steps through that door felt like, who tied your shoes. I did your hair the other morning; two french braids running along each side of your cute head, accenting the curve of your buttony nose, rose-petal lips, no-more-baby-fat jawline. I'll remember those braids for awhile, you know. They were my first successful attempt.

As we struggle to help you pick the right outfit each morning (how much running will you do?) I remember our first conversation on the topic, the night before school started. "What do you want to wear for your first day, sweetie?" ...."A HOT DOG COSTUME!" came your quick, bounding reply. We laughed and wished we had a hot dog costume to give you. I remember this as we look through your clothes each day; I remember your penchant for matching pink with pink; I remember it is good for you to make these choices on your own.

I wonder if you'll see how hard it is for us to watch you go. We peeked through the window that first day, your dad and I. We watched you hang your backpack for the first time, on a hook in a cubby by the door; you were a perfect mix of bravery and hesitance. We couldn't hold yours so we squeezed our hands together, instead. As we walked away, our eyes met and counted years, marvelled at time, sighed with the difficult beauty of it all.

Though it is good for you, letting you walk through that door isn't easy, by any stretch. This is parenting. We get to hold on sometimes, with snuggles, lessons, and bedtime stories. Between us we have, or have made, family trait or title, house rules and inside jokes. We share so much. But so much of what we're doing now is letting you go: out our door to the ones that open for you elsewhere.

Sometimes those doors look funny to us. We don't like or recognize their shape or what seems to lie beyond the threshold. But you are brave and growing, and those doors, for you, are musts. So we let you walk, decide, and learn things, peeking through the glass when we can. Maybe you'll remember this week: who picked you up, fixed your laces, brushed your hair, sighed on the window, brought you home.


Greece, 1952, by Ernst Haas

today's encouragement

Sometimes it's the little things: the sentences that catch it. It's what friends are for.

"You are a specimen of dignity in a petri dish of bacterial spores."

Thanks, Anita.

photo credit

Sunday, August 18, 2013

fall already

photo source
What is it about this week -- muggy, hot, rushed -- that makes me feel as though summer is over, and fall is already here. Maybe I know this could be the last hot week. Most likely, as often happens, I feel like summer just started, so there's a bit of shock when I look at the date. Dear Calendar: why must you insist on surprising me with your quickness? I would love you even more if you slowed.

Anticipation rises, though, because crisp air, soft scarves and tall boots are about to make their yearly comeback. I soon get to make apple pie and butternut squash soup and wrap myself in blankets while I eat them. Fireplaces stand at the ready, waiting to lose the dust of a busy summer. Mittens wait to placed on hands held by other hands. Our furniture is hopeful: we might actually sit down.

In a way, fall always brings some sort of resolution, doesn't it?  Leaves are lost to the ground as old growth gives way to the clean slate. The trees become our echo as we look forward to our own turning.

So gather your love around you, rake it up; get cozy with the hurts you put on hold, too. Let each falling leaf remind you of your own, varied, colored bits of life. Make a pile, and be sure to get every last one in there (every bit of pain, every bit of joy, every hope, every dream deferred). And then, as we did when we were children: fall into it. Find your soft landing and spend time there. It's what this season is for.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

somewhere in the jumble


Something's eating me. I can tell, because I've spent the majority of my day trying to un-fidget my hands.

I have started another book. It's a children's book, or could be, but it's hard to tell. Mostly, the story has become my therapy. I'm writing about this girl because in many ways, this girl is me. The Big Questions she has asked so far are analogous versions of the questions I'm asking. I make the girl do it because it's so much easier that way, and maybe God will show up on the pages and talk to the character for me. Or maybe She won't. I haven't quite seen the ending.

I keep coming across writers who have finished their books, posted smiling profile-pictures-of-success, and handed out newly minted copies. My fingers line themselves up along the keys, hold the pen, turn the page, and don't get there (newly minted, full-paged, success). Next move: I hold my hand overtop of the beating organ in my chest, and make a vow: that, one day, will be me.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

of ceilings, not stars

 Lately, I've been thinking about space: what it takes to make a good one. What is a room, what are walls? Can we moralize a building? And, does it matter where I put my desk? Time will tell, I suppose. Re-do the floors and paint the tired ceiling, but this is still home. Or is it? Here, on this matter, I am split.

If two roads diverge in a shadowed heart, home can not be, if the heart is not in one place. So maybe home is the spot where our roads meet; all those tumbling hills and murky ditches, steep valleys, mountains, and persistently gracious resting places. Any path we walk (or tumbling hill or windy plain) becomes our own. We always belong where we are now, and where we will be tomorrow.

Ah, but what of these walls? What of these windows? The sky looks in, taunting bigger rooms, better views and quieter neighbors. The breeze believes me when I say I might be finished, but my heart....ah, my heart is a shadowed wood, full of confusing faces, telling me to stay and go. Though I know which road will win (and happily so), I still walk with hesitation; I know the other road lingers, full of the well-meaning anti-gracious.

I have been thinking lately about space, and what it takes to make a good one. The more I look, the more I find the best spaces are the ones we carve out for ourselves. If we can both work, and unwind, then the walls are rightly placed. They may not fit the onlookers, but they fit the innards, and are home.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

by thirty

In a certain number of weeks, I will be thirty. Years old, that is (though wouldn't it be nice if the end of that sentence was "grand richer"). The deadline, as I've begun to think of it, is fast approaching. At 17, I expected to feel the LOOM OF 30 by some sort of obvious and typical sign post -- jewellery or uterus inhabitants -- but as it turns out, those areas of my life are happily happy and I am completely unconcerned. My stress has come in odd ways; little ways. Most notably by my hair; it's too short. I've always pictured myself having long hair on my 30th birthday. Too bad I forgot about that and cut it off.

As I look into extensions, I've been looking also at the decade mark and all it represents: past and present and future, dreams and failures and ideas; all wrapped into one (or, thirty). In one of today's slow moments, I let the reality of 30 sink in. I dwelled wholeheartedly on my teens and 20's, made mental notes, laughed cynically, hoped for change, and then in a rush of panic thought ohmygoshIamalmostforty. To squash the feeling, I ate a handful of mini eggs. It helped.

(this week's emotions taste like: chocolate)

In a way, we are always between two decades, and we could choose to live anew at any moment. But something about the mark, that zero after the number, makes these kinds of decades feel Official. If much is expected of 29, so much more is expected of 30. And 40, my god, I can't even think about it. I haven't published any books yet. I only have ten more years to write and publish all of the books.

Where are my mini eggs.

If my 20's were all talk,  my 30's should be action. When it comes right down to my recent work, it turns out I may not be a novelist after all. As of late, my characters have all been throwing tantrums and hiding in their rooms; I simply can't find them. And my plot? Yah, wow. Old molasses. But I press on, as we who feel we are artistic continue to do, and hope that someday my reclusive personality shows it's purpose. Perhaps this decade, or me in the midst, will do it.

I've spent much of my life either staring at or avoiding pieces of paper, and on occasion wrote a poem or two.
Dear 30-year-old-self: be so much cooler than that.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

love as it relates to chocolate

"I was really proud of myself because I was doing so well with you gone and then I realized I was
eating spoonfuls of Nutella right out of the jar."

little munchkin eating nutella found here: lafujimama

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

overpass; setting sun.

henrik bulow

when water drops
far enough
it falls in slowest motion;
the pause in air,
the depth of where
it lands and never stops.
drip drip, drip,
the bridge can't hold it all.
I am like the bridge;
threatening drops, water, falls.

© afterthoughtcomposer

Friday, June 21, 2013

as I watch you growing up

Perhaps there should be less stress on kids to become what they (will be told to) want
and more on hoping them to stay who they already are.

Not as much Forced Grown Up in your mix
and what the Bigs think you should be when you're six,
sixteen, or twenty six,
but more of the littles, the joys,
un self conscious slips, absent body image.

You're all bravery and spit, sweet eyes and innocence,
teetering on the edge of the haunt;
words that will creep into you,
changing mind and mirror.

I wish I could freeze you like this,
but I am much too curious to see if you will become what you are:
open hearted and unafraid, wholly confident and born-with-it social grace,
imagination and fire;

flames that burn me because I will love you
past six, sixteen, twenty six.

So it lands here, I make my vow
and ask you not become what I want,
but stay who you already are.


allthebeautifulthings by loreta

Monday, June 17, 2013

the thing about storms

Here is the thing about storms:
they devastate,
they come on uninvited,
they break our rooves and our foundations;
they make wasteland of harvest.

But the thing is
they are
and they end
(so don't be too afraid of yours).

Volume up, HD, Fullscreen.
A supercell near Booker, Texas from

Friday, June 14, 2013

holy in the quiet

Early morning, sleeping child; her head upon my shoulder, her arm around my arm and her other arm around my neck. The dog warms my feet. In the trees outside, the birds sing, marking their aired territory with notes like candy: sweet, tiny, varied. The sun's rays remind me I have work to do, show me another day's arrival, warm my soul.

Days later life starts out as rain and washes t'ward grace. Suprise comes in; music made to heal. Quiet kisses, those lyrics, that melody. Funny how a song can be anxiety's undoing.

Dinner at home, evening with my other; sighs in arms as the records play on.

Sometimes the holy moments are the quiet ones.

found on weheartit


go to: grooveshark, Matt Corby, Resolution.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

the Egos of men: a confession. (unfiltered)

A few years ago, I wrote this poem:

I admit it.
I enjoy dissuading
the egos of men
who think
I should be so happy

to do otherwise.

...and it's true. Combine that with my quick defense mechanisms and my absolute inability to tolerate being sexualized without my consent and you get a very non-Christian me. So men who leer, or lean out car windows or grab my ass because we're in a crowd and think it's somehow ok, or take liberties when they should keep quiet - mouths and hands to themselves! - get my worst (or perhaps, to some feminist-types, my best). I'm not proud of what Jesus might call my lower moments. Even when I do what the situation begs for, the guttoral response evokes shame in me.

So, I tell you this story with that shame and self loathing attached to it; in full force, softened only by Boyfriend's healthful love and reasoning.

Pre IGA: I am feeling rested. It's been a wonderfully lazy morning, the sun is out, the day is calendarically clear. I decide I need groceries. I drive though I would normally walk, because the list has grown and I'd rather steer than carry. I am moving slow because the fog in my brain is still heavy, still lovely. I arrive, turn off the car, get out and close my car door and I get that feeling, a little creeping in the pit of my stomach; a twisted breeze that moves the clouds away. Then I see the man driving less than 2k through the lot, elbow out the window, staring, staring, staring -- at my hips, my torso, my head to my feet and I think MY GOD, AM I STILL WEARING CLOTHES?? It doesn't feel like it. Every curve has been analyzed, smurked at, assessed with pleasure. This lasts for maybe 60 seconds but feels like a year and the vomit comes out, in the form of my middle finger, aimed at his side mirror as he drives away.

Immediately, I am ashamed and I feel it heavily. I have been made to believe, if I believe my culture, that leering is complimentary. Thoughts bombard me as I cross the doors into a rush of much needed cold air. I'm not even pretty. Okay I'm sort of pretty, should I have done that? Wasn't that nice? It's terrible to be stared at, to be taken in so brazenly and without my consent. I'm overreacting. I'm a product of the overly-feminist movement. He was just looking.

Post IGA: I've settled, somewhat. It's been at least a half hour since I lost my cool and I've let the fog return, sure that the day's interruptions have presented themselves in full. I make it to my car and juggle the groceries in to my passenger seat. As I put down the last bag I am aware of something, it sounds like yelling, it's leaning over the car beside me; it's the man I gave my last angered thought to. I turn and tune in at about this point:

What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you stupid? You are a terrible person. You may be pretty on the outside but your insides are horrible. Your insides need work. You ugly bitch. What the fuck? You're so...

...and on it goes, ad nauseum. Like a record badly broken, pointing loudly at every insecurity I hold; like he knew exactly what to say to get me. For minutes.  I, baffled and sideswept, can only say things like "um, uhm. Sorry. uhm..." in a voice so quiet it doesn't register and it muffles; lost in the freight train of the man one car over. I make it home through tears and the absolute loss of my footing. I can't even pretend I don't want to cry. I can only think: My god, is he right? He is right. He must be right. I forget what I am.

I remember only as time passes (time is good for that).
I remember when my love reminds me (my love is good for that, too).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

nothing's really worth 500

I have been trying to post this one for awhile now, but keep coming up short. This is, after all, post 500. I tried to be cavalier and post something just for the sake of it, like a picture or silly story, just to get myself past the milestone, but couldn't do it. The crabby editor in my brain kept telling me (through mouth-fulls of cotton candy and angst) that anything I attempted to write would be disappointing enough, and I shouldn't try to make it moreso by not trying at all.

But here I am anyway. It took me awhile, but I've realized that nothing really is worth 500. Either it's too big a post or it's not big enough - and that's pressure I just can't take. While my editor's down for a nap, I'm posting something. Anything. Without her input. This is my version of a risky life (condolences may be left in the comment section).

Just after I had penned the notes for what was going to be post 500, something wonderful happened. The context here is that this post was going to be introspective and dull, full of my typical self-fulfilled prophecies and turned-leaf-attempts. While I was mulling it all over, I felt called to look online through the estate sales in my area. I came across one such estate sale and nearly peed my pants. There it was: my pink typewriter. I had been daydreaming about owning such a thing for so long now I've gone 12 times through the 12-step process of grief at the fact that I don't have it. You can imagine my surprise to see it sitting there, unsold, mere blocks away from me. Prompt phone call, and a jump up from my desk; I own it.

It turns out, that pink was just the spark I needed. It makes me want to write so much that I've actually been writing. There is no barrier here; just the keys and me, no waiting for something to load or ensuring I've pressed save before my computer freezes. The writing is what it is and there's no editing. There's something very freeing about that.

Typewriter Lesson #1: wash your hands after changing the ribbon.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

on a train overlooking the city

we are quite proud to balance our lives on fragility,
fast cars and bigger buildings, paper bills and ticking clocks;
we watch our stocks and hope they won't crash or we will,
knowing the best of who we are is caught up in that cool
tempestuous windmill: money, time, money, time.
the air blows out from that machine and mixes sand into our fingers.
we watch it slip right through, but we live like it's not going to,
love like we know what to, use time like we'll have enough.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


What a feeling. I've very much been holding my breath. In fact, I don't think I've breathed in since my new nephew did; first and fragile, then growing. I'd rather hear his heartbeat than my own at this point. That's the thing about children. They reach out with their little hands and don't let go; they may be small, but their grip is strong. So we focus in, then distract ourselves to cope with our own exhaustion; we watch his growth and admire his lips and toes (oh my goodness....his toes!). The update: Though he came early he is doing well; though he struggles, he wins, and that makes us breath easier.

The breath-hold has been collective, I think. Surely, I can't be the only one with limits on my lungs. It's been multi-faceted, too. When will baby and mom go home? has been mixed with Will I get the job? and Will that man see justice? Different realms, all, from personal to global in their reach, big and small alike, but occupying my mind all the same. On the personal front, I'm up for a permanent spot in a job I love. Hope, in the words of Anne Lamott, tiptoed in to peer around, and much of it lingers as I wait for results. I choose to let it linger. Even though I wore the wrong shirt to my interview.

And though Hope has shown up to trial, it's been given a seat in the jury box of Reality's court room. What harsh reality brings the news; what hearbreak brings harsh reality. There is too much pain in the world and I don't know what to do with it. After researching the trial of Kermit Gosnell I know more than I'd like to, but probably as much as I should, so I research even though it hurts; I read, though it scars. And then darling Rehtaeh, and the many cases like hers, merge into the forefront. Through each story, we wait for the gavel to fall: justice or not, peace or not, redemption or not. We'd begun to collect ourselves, and then someone bombed the family area at the Boston Marathon. After Boston, I saw Hope get up quietly from his seat and place a flower on the bench. Like we're supposed to remember he's still in the room. Like it helps.

Maybe it helps.

Life is made up of anticipation and transition and if the rights fall our way, we get to celebrate sometimes too. So we watch the trials come and go and sit with our hands tied, or at least it feels like it. We breath, in and out, we bide our time, and wait for the answers to reveal themselves. We shift our gaze to the jury box. What of faith, what of justice? What of accountability, community, grace, and retribution? What will become of us? Our final plea can be heard in that question, so we ask again: what will become of us?

Hope, hearing his name, stands up to answer.

artwork by juri ueda

Sunday, April 14, 2013

the air that moves us: hope

Manuela S. Fotographie

hope is an open window
which gratifies the soul
and leads us through the musty rooms
we dwell in, though we know:
the window's on the wall
and all we've got to do is go.

hope is a thing we crack open,
when life steals the air from our homes,
and holds us to strengths we've not tried yet;
hope is the place where we go.

to give our worries room to leave
we must make room for hope.

© afterthoughtcomposer

Thursday, April 11, 2013

as we ignore the trial of kermit gosnell

I know we will all be brought to justice. The time will come when our actions will no longer be tied to the false pride of our own explanations, but will be laid bare for what they are: inexcusable, bad, morally corrupt. Who defines our morals? Who leads the charge? Who do we follow for answers?

How do we research that which has no proper documentation? Do we write the reports ourselves, or wait for the wheel to churn out our daily pablum; ignoring food, passing by the meat and bones of what's really going on.

What's really going on? Let's not look only at the changing geography of the worth of a life (here: not life, there: life), but at the changing geography of our hearts (here: I care, there: I don't care). Do we act only on the things we see? Or do we pursue the unanswerable, invisible, unmentioned? Where are the hard questions that need to be asked? Where are the voices we've silenced? What of grace, and what of retribution?

The lines have developed a cancer. They deteriorate and leave us groundless, playing in the sand like children, scooping up the earth with plastic shovels; paying no mind to the weight we hold in our hands. We make castles when we should be begging for mercy. We are not children, though, and because of us, neither are they.

We've made needless animals of our offspring by turning our eyes away, removed their value from our hearts by choosing not to speak up, and closed our eyes to the sounds they make as we shoot them. We fear politics, we make arguments, we do not progress in conversation. Our fingertips have calloused, so we can not feel the pulse of our own lifeblood. We do not regard the future, beyond our skin or within it. We do not regard the past, before our bodies got here, or what lies in wait because of them.

Our hearts beat and we beat them down. Our mouths speak and we cut off our tongues for fear of rocking the boat. Fear not, boat rockers; we are not on water, but on sand. Like children, playing.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


After this, there'll only be five more posts before 500. Five hundred. I've seen the number climbing for awhile now, ever closer to that mark, and slowing my pace as I wonder what my five-hundredth-post will be about. Such pressure.

My thoughts of late have been traveling with my head: in a gravitational pull toward my pillow. That rest I was craving did arrive, eventually, though it was not as I expected, or when, and not near often enough. Much the same as I expect God to yell loudly, and he whispers instead. Or that feeling when you think you're about to drink water, but take a swig of milk. Somewhere on the edges of and between those two analogies lies the definition of my week.

Nights needed me awake, and mornings were spent grasping at sleep. Afternoons filled up with urgent diversions, feelings of guilt, feelings of elation, tedium, routine, and routine breakers. Evenings stretched themselves out and knocked me sideways into bed at odd hours.

There were interruptions, sour in smell and taste. Like bad milk unexpected, I found dark corners of my heart where I was sure good light had been. My innards boiled in helpless defensiveness and I carved words on to the sign post, so I remember next time: grace is for those who need it. I wonder if I will remember next time.

The week was redeemed with enough beauty to pause the heart and start it up again forever; wild joy and quiet thanks abound. Humbly, I remark on the privelege of being present. In the middle of an operating room, nurses rustling, doctors attending, machines filled with beeps and whirs, came a baby's cry; soft but unmistakable; quiet, but here. He arrived early but with care and attention, and though my sister had a feeling it was a boy she was still delighted at the announcement. I viewed his arrival through my camera lense and tears. A kiss on her relieved forehead, and a quiet reprimanding of the clock: my brother-in-law is on his way! A few more hours and he'd be the one kissing her; the one standing here instead. When his flight lands, I show him pictures, and give them space, and think how little I care of sleep, so long as my new little nephew is okay.

There were moments I was too busy, and too over my head. There were rare hours of quiet, still, peace. I got to watch the eyes I love look at me as though I were beautiful, as I sat disheveled, hair in tatters, back curved from lack of sleep. I saw that life is fast paced and I am too hazy to keep up, though it continues to show me beauty so I might try.

 Afterthought #495: I am happy life has me happy to try.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

guest post: Naomi

An introduction to Naomi.

I could have called this: "guest post: poetry from a version of my future self." You've read, more than once, about my struggle with balance. I often cite the things that keep me from what I should be doing, or the things that keep me drawn because I should be doing them. Sometimes I can't tell which is which; these days, life is made up of
all good things, so even my distractions have purpose and value. As I examine my life, dreams, and expectations, and then factor in the worlds I now love to call my own, I worry that I won't get anything done. What of art, if the schedule beckons? What of solitude and study, if relationship is also joy?

In response to the questions, which have come through in both specific sentences and unspoken threads in the fabric of all I write about, I received a wonderful email from a cherished friend of mine. Naomi had taken the time to reflect on these things, had been reflecting on them already, and wrote a stunning poem.
Here is a woman - an artist - who has managed to find the balance; in her home, in her artistic endeavors, in her relationships. Here is a woman who gets things done, while remaining honest about the journey it takes to do so. Her words are for her children (who are all, by the way, exact replica cutouts of wide-eyed dimpled fairytale creatures), and I found comfort in the things she said. As I look toward a future filled with all-good-things, I am less nervous, knowing that it is okay to love a craft and a diversion at the same time.

Poem by Naomi Pahl.

You look at me and whimpers shake you
Even though
    right now
I am trying to unburden my soul
by trying to express everything within it

You need
    (more than my need)

And even though I feel stifled-
   in that moment
that world
      that revolves in your eyes
           that revolves around you
Pulls me into its orbit

I don't make you wait any longer
I make my will bow
     to your will

I bring you your bread and your milk
no thanks
no words
     just hungry satisfaction

I return to my resolve to CREATE
Trying to steal time

You appear under my arm
       and smile
Crumbs falling on my lap
    create a mess I choose to ignore

Lift me
Hold me

Your blanket appears
in a pile on my leg
You clutch my knee
trying to climb the mountain
onto the soft oracle
    The one who
makes everything feel safe

I put my art aside
relegating it for another moment in time

I bring your face close
and smell your sweet milky breath
          Your eyes nod into mine

And I stare
And I marvel
And I stare
because you're the one perfect SOUL EXPRESSION
       I made
     without even trying.

Watermelon Juice. Photo by Naomi Pahl.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

overtired introvert manifesto

Nom Kinnear King

Why is there always something
standing in the way of rest?
I'm sick I'm overscheduled;
with the time I've got, I do my best.
Be it memories' with holding,
or future planned distress,
it  seems I can't get away from
this feeling in my chest.

I look at the things that are breaking me,
and think, "what luck is this!"
I've got more good than the world has,
I live in situational bliss.
There is plenty of food on the table,
and love; more than I could wish.
Yet I find myself looking at crevices,
small pauses,
and wondering if, here, are the things I miss.

I want an evening for me,
with aloneness and pages and less;
so my thoughts can remind me,
my heartbeat re-steady,
and I and my soul decompress.

I want to be selfish,
I want to rest.

© afterthoughtcomposer

Saturday, March 2, 2013

friends who define the word

Sometimes the house gets too messy to clean, with every unkempt project-in-waiting feeling like a weight on the chest. So I pick away at things like a bird in a feeder, moving seeds here and there, never making significant progress in the pile. In theory I consider myself an organized person, but theory doesn't leave much room for my real-life inabilities; inabilities such as: keep organized in real life. I know, it seems more than contradictory to first say I consider myself strong in an area, and then to admit weakness in the same. C'est my vie.

My friend Anita and I send emails between desks all day, passing those inevitable slow moments with a quip or thought, an update or a how's your day. In the busyness we send words to calm or, when necessary, distract. It's a good system.

Yesterday's thread:

Me, to Anita: Do you know anyone who wants to be paid to come and clean my whole house? By that I mean, fold and organize my laundry (which has taken over my whole house). I pay in cookies.

Anita, to me: I'm really good at folding and organizing laundry!!!!!!  Can I come over tomorrow?  afternoon?  Cookies not necessary.

I don’t think you realize the degree to which my house has turned itself inside out. My clothes are everywhere. Everywhere. I want to burn them, but then I’d have to buy a new wardrobe, and I don’t quite have the energy for that either. Predicament.

Remarkably, she kept insisting she wanted to come over. Truth be told, I thought she was joking. Surely, the offer was a hoax. So yah, okay let's have you come to my office tomorrow to get my house key so you can go tidy my apartment while I'm at work, that's fantastic! When she showed up on my lunch break today, I had readied myself for a coffee date. Instead, she held out her hand for the key. And went to my house while I was at work. And folded all the laundry on my couch.

So now, I am home and my house feels better. All because of Anita, who I dubbed in yesterday's email reply as 
'MOTHER THERESA INCARNATE, a blessing to all, a burden to none, and the cutest tush this side of the River Thames.'

My feeble thanks came in the form of a pin with Wonder Woman on the front. 
A silly gift indeed, for a friend who defines the word.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

wrong place, right place.

Direction. What is life, and where am I going? Occasionally we find ourselves stripped of the very things we use to stabilize our purpose. Our hopes are pinned on nothing less than our inability to see the future. There are too many decisions to make. At the end of the day, I wonder what I'm doing here.

I've never volunteered at a soup kitchen, though I've wanted to. Not that soup kitchens hold the key to the world, but there in the outstretched hands, grateful mouths, pots-a-stirring for all the right reasons, we find something obvious: a purpose for being. I am here because I am helping. I am here because I am needed. I am here because I am good at this something I've been tasked to do. Maybe my heart returns to the practicality of soup in an effort to quantify my existence: if I did that, helped like that, served like that, I could tell myself the reasons. I could tell myself the results.

For many of us, and certainly for me, meaning is more elusive than that. Why do I work in this office, why do I commute, why do I file these papers, plan these events, sign these documents? "For the paycheque," comes my immediate response. This answer leaves me feeling cheated, though I need the paycheque. "Because you like the job," comes the secondary reply. This feels insufficient, though I like my job.

Perhaps the meaning in my work comes not from the work itself, but how I handle myself while learning it. Maybe I am here to be gracious, hard working, and patient. Maybe I am here to learn how to stay, or steady the boat, or set up boundaries against those who'll never like me. Maybe I'm here to let those boundaries come crashing down.

Whatever the reason, I am here. It is the right place because I am in it, can choose how to be in the midst of it, can learn to love when the unforgiving gossip hits. I can learn to be better than I am, here. My soup may not be served in bowls, but in pleasant conversations, absolute bends toward restoration, and hope. I can find my reason there, in that last sentence.

Friday, February 8, 2013


In highschool, right at the end, I became obsessed with a very cheesy pop song. We've all been there, I'm sure; our old favorites are just slightly embarrassing (another song I found on the old burnt CD is Freaky Girl by Shaggy, case in point...).

The song I loved was California, by the ever-cool duo, Wave. If you're curious as to how many people liked the song: the official music video on youtube has a whopping 4,161 views (well... 4,162. I just watched it). I should point out, my visions of California were much cooler than the ones in the video. Also, please pay no attention to the subject matter of the lyrics of both those songs. Tequila? Players? No no. Youth group and Bible Study. I digress.

I listened to California and talked so much about it that a friend of mine, in our parting goodbyes at grad, wished me good luck on my trip to California. Having spent my life tied to a reputation I wasn't sure how to get rid of, something about the idea of leaving appealed to me. I wanted to drive somewhere and be anonymous, all the while learning self-sufficiency, social skills, and the ever elusive art of being flirtatious. As life would have it, my California never arrived. I went to college, worked summer jobs, accumulated student loans, and didn't leave the country.

And yet, I am happier for staying. My California dreams were fulfilled by things unexpected: Saskatchewan winters, dingy basement suites and rusted cars. I traded a bikini body I'd never have for experience in the arts, I let go of beach side parties for quiet nights at home. My social skills developed slowly, and I still can't flirt for the life of me (though thankfully, my boyfriend thinks I'm cute), but in the end and through it all, I learned who I was. In hindsight, California, or the idea I had of it, would not have been for me. Oh what grace is it that I didn't get what I wanted.

This is the tricky part of dreaming: it is vital, but we must remain open handed in the dream's revelation. How can we let go of our imagination's forming, and still progress? Good question. While I haven't totally figured out the balance, I do know one thing. What causes us to dream will be satisfied, if only with time, work, and patience. What I wanted out of my imagined life, I got, but not by living the life I imagined.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

better for it

amazing grace, that fence around
the edge of every imperfection
found inside my heart.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

there is nothing cute about poison

the Gossip sits aloft and falsely mighty,
jeering through narrowed eyes,
freshly wetted lips, pleasure wrung hands.
the Life sits unaware, battered without prior knowledge,
learning the difference all too painfully
(if they ever learn of it) between Truth and belief.
that sick slick sickening sound you hear
is the communal voice of those who celebrate
only when others have fallen; those who strive
not to know, but to know first. Weakness
is anything shown to the wrong person;
Justified is the twisting of anything found.
even love can be ruined here, if seen
through the narrow hole of a windbag,
if echoed off the walls of empty caverns we once knew as people.

found on pinterest. origin unknown.

Monday, February 4, 2013

the bright side

source: pinterest

There's hope yet. I got more done on my book yesterday with a near-5 year old in my midst than I've done all year. Something about having to squeeze the minutes makes you do so. Productivity becomes the sweet nectar of time well spent, instead of the excessive laze of time well wasted. Between play time, dinner time, snack time, game time, and bed time, I wrote 4 pages of details, revisions, and ideas.

My editor, by way of her noted comments, ran around my brain and switched on lightbulbs, gleefully and sweetly showing me the glaring holes in my manuscript. All the while, for that entire half hour of effort, the near-5 entertained herself, and I sat stunned; my muse, or my heart, showed up. I wrote.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

all over the place

I'm worried.

What if this job - this linear, logic based, puzzle solving rationale requiring awesome job - what if it's the death of me? Not me. My creativity. After he'd finished lovingly installing a wicked stereo and sound system into my wee-one-room apartment, Boyfriend was treated to one of the best things in life: the sound of my voice. Sarcasm aside, I did play him a song I wrote and recorded a couple years ago. I'd been hesitating to show him, and now seemed like the time. My shaky singing was heard with remarkable clarity on such brilliant sounding speakers, and his response was as follows: Ashley, you are in the wrong job, you need to be creating.

In a way, or many ways, it's true. I daydream about staying home all day not so I can stay home all day but so I can finally map out, analyze, and extensively scribble onto paper all the ideas in my head. Character building takes time and silence and a few good years of solitude. Doesn't it?

The thoughts are always tumbling. The books in my head are being formed, albeit slowly, albeit intangibly, and the writing swirls in my brain all day. What's missing is the pen to paper, the long-thought-out written word, the spontaneously crafted sentences and the unmistakeable sound of clicking keys. They're all missing because I forget them, because I don't bother, because I am too busy sorting out the boxes and start times, or because I am at home, organizing (for the hundredth time) that pile of clothes.

Perhaps this is what Steven Pressfield was addressing in his book, "The War of Art." Resistance, that sneaky overshadow, is distracting me with housework, bill payments and overtime. My Muse, patiently intriguing, has forgiven the dust on her skirt hems (how long since I last swept my kitchen?) and only waits for me to sit down and take note of all she wants to give me. Plot lines and story arcs, forwards and chapter endings, edits and ideas. I bring her tea and she sips it, and I run around like a person who's never wanted to write.

I'm worried my intentions are all I've got.


Monday, January 28, 2013

when will we learn?

photo by Vladimir Zotov

"The world is too big for us. Too much going on, too many crimes, too much violence & excitement. Try as you will,  you get behind in the race, in spite of yourself. It's an incessant strain to keep pace...and still, you lose ground. Science empties it's discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly you're out of breath trying to keep pace with who's in and who's out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can't endure much more!"

~The Atlantic Journal, June 16, 1833.