Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twilight twitterpation

I'm pretty perplexed lately about the excitement, particularly among adults, over the Twilight series. While working at the Peninsula Daily News and covering the small town of Forks, I was one of the first reporters to actually cover this story (back when Stephanie Meyer had still never even visited the many places in her books.)

I remember being assigned to cover her big visit to Forks where she was doing a reading of Twilight, which was nothing more than an event to create buzz for the book's sequel. Teenage girls flocked from all over the country and even Canada to meet Meyer and visit the coastal timber town of 3,000. It was the middle of summer with 80-degree weather and all of them came wearing rain jackets expecting to relive what they read in the book. Many of them were squealing with delight about visiting Forks High School and begging their parents to move to a desolate area rampant with poverty, isolation, and all the problems that come along with it.

I have to admit, I was less than impressed with Meyer and even less impressed with the portion of the book she read. Perhaps it was just the jealous writer in me feeling frustrated that a woman who never paid her dues in the world of writing got published with a book about a place and people she knew nothing about.

However, I was amused at the excitement this book created in all these teenage girls because the real Forks is pretty rough around the edges—to say the least. It's the sort of place where you go to a restaurant and, after placing and paying for your order, the waitress asks if you'd eat something else because the cook was having an off day and made the wrong item. When you kindly say no, because you want what you ordered and paid for, the waitress walks away annoyed and you end up feeling bad for being difficult in a situation that only Forks can provide. All the while, old-timers from the days of the timber boom with weathered faces and rough hands are sipping their coffee and looking at you like you're nothing but a city-slicker who can't roll with the punches.

So, when I saw all the giddiness in these girls' eyes over a small town that has seen more hard days than any town should, I felt compelled to purchase Twilight and see what all the excitement was about. The book reminded me of a candy bar. Something that you get a craving for, but then halfway through it causes a stomach ache from all the sugar. I couldn't even finish it.

I'm all for fiction and vampire romance, but it just didn't work for me.  It was desperately trying to have an air of authenticity, but it just wasn't connected enough to the reality of life on the Olympic Peninsula. The description of the area felt contrived, and as Meyer admitted—researched solely on the Internet. I also didn't feel an emotional connection to the characters, probably because I was an adult and not a teenager.

A few months later, to my complete surprise, this book and its sequel started flying off the shelves among both teenagers and adults. I was happy the attention was bringing some much-needed cash flow into the struggling town of Forks and its surrounding areas.  However, this happiness soon faded when I found out a movie was being made and it wasn't even being shot in the Forks area, much less Washington state.

If there was any part of the nation that needed revenue from a major movie production, it's the West End of the Olympic Peninsula. Hope and happy endings are scarce commodities in that area of the country. Jobs were and are hard to find, towns dying, timber mills closing, homelessness and drug rates climbing, and a slough of young people dying in horrible car and boating accidents and tragedies such as the war in Iraq.

So, I scratch my head and wonder—what's so appealing about this book and the author who produced it?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Life imitates art

Joe, the star of tonight's presidential debate, I would like you to meet Bud.

Monday, September 29, 2008

brilliant trace #9

I was sitting with my back to the door at Twilight Exit nervously fiddling between picking at the coaster underneath my pint of beer and adjusting my hair. Then I heard from behind, "Nessa!"

I turned and was immediately embraced by your friend. I looked up at you and instantly recognized your warm bearded smile and kind eyes that I'd seen in pictures on your MySpace profile. I could tell you were just as nervous as me, and I was relieved.

It had been a month since I sent you a simple message in November stating I was intrigued and amused by a man who lised an advocacy center for the homeless, a small-town newspaper, the U.S. Army, and Pizza Hut among the places he's worked. We shared a number of stories and jokes with each other over the course of that month and finally decided to meet in person.

I almost backed out of going through with meeting you because my relationship with brilliant trace #4 started in a similar fashion and I was still healing after being shattered from the inside out by brilliant trace #8. I was also wary of becoming a rebound girl given my experiences of falling into that role for not only brilliant traces #4 and #8, but also #5 and #6.

Luckily my friends convinced me I was projecting too much of my past onto something new, and that I should trust myself in knowing when to tread water and when to swim away.

Our first meeting led to a six-hour date the following day. We went to brunch, walked in circles around Cal Anderson Park for about two hours, and then had a mid-afternoon coffee. We talked so much I started losing my voice.

By the end of our second date the very next day my voice was completely gone. It was dusk and you took me to Volunteer Park to see the sunset over Seattle. I still don't know exactly what it was, but our time together felt easy and uncomplicated. It was exactly what I needed.

My friends implored me for details. Despite our great time together, I still wasn't sure what I thought of you other than I wanted to know more. That's when someone I consider to be a great voice of reason say, "Good. That means you actually have a chance at finding out if there's something real between the two of you before jumping full speed ahead."

It wasn't until New Year's weekend that we had another date planned. You were going to take me to the symphony and I was supposed to stay with my friend in Seattle. The day before I left North Dakota my friend canceled on me saying she had other house guests who were staying longer than she originally planned. You graciously opened your apartment to me and Izzy B saying it could be as "platonic as a nunnery."

Between me, my iPod, and the open road there wasn't much to think about other than the excitement of seeing of you. I said over and over to myself that I needed to take things slow and be sure before taking any major steps with you. Then, as I crossed the Washington state border with the sunset in the background, my iPod shuffled to the song "First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes.

I realized I had finally reached a time to not just tread water, but to lie back and let myself float for a bit while fully absorbing the excitement of feeling giddiness about someone for the first time in more than a year.

When I got to your apartment there were nervous butterflies frantically fluttering in my stomach. But the feeling from our first few dates instantly came back, and I felt comfortable and at home in your presence. We stayed up late taking personality tests and discussing our mutual appreciation for the serial comma and disdain for superfluous words such as utilize. The word nerd in me grew giddy as did my attraction to you.

The next day we hung out in our pajamas and rearranged your apartment. We later got all gussied up to hear Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. The next day was New Year's Eve and while we were walking back from the grocery store you gently reached down and held my hand. It was the first time, other than a hug, that we made physical contact. The butterflies in my stomach started fluttering again, and I soaked in every moment of it.

Later that evening we decided to take a short nap before heading out to meet our friends. Right before we went to sleep you asked if you could kiss me and said you were going to wait until midnight but couldn't.

Instead of napping we cuddled and talked about how strange the comfortableness was that we had with each other. There was so much intimacy built into the weekend, and yet we had only held hands and shared one kiss.

Right before we met up with our friends we promised each other that no matter how drunk we got we'd take things slow. Then you grabbed my hand, brushed a bit hair from my eyes, and said that for the first time in your life you felt you could share something real with someone.

The next weekend you came to the Olympic Peninsula to spend the weekend with me in LaPush. While sitting in a dingy pizza place in Forks, you told me a story about something earlier in the week, during which you referred to me as your girlfriend. I looked at you and teasingly asked, "So, I'm your girlfriend now?"

You were so embarrassed and stumbled over your words. Then you stopped talking, looked at me, and said, "I would very much like you to be."

When we drove back into LaPush, a full moon was casting a pale glow over First Beach. It was freezing cold, but we walked to the beach where we each made a wish on a shooting star while shivering and holding each other tight.

The next morning you rolled over and whispered, "Universe of two." I looked at you confused, then you explained it was something your uncle always says to your aunt, and that you had waited more than 20 years to find someone you could say that to.

We realized that both of us were fragile and coming from places of being completely hurt by someone in our past. Being together started melting all of the pain away and the shattered pieces of my heart slowly melded back together. It was in that moment you made me make a second promise that if the day ever came where you started pulling away and the rusty hinges on your heart started closing, I should remind of you of our universe of two.

A month later we went to Victoria, B.C. for a Valentine getaway. I brought along a mixed CD titled Universe of Two that started with the song "First Day of My Life." I had previously shared the song with you and told you about the sunset as I crossed into Washington right before driving through the night to meet you.

After I put on the CD, you took my hands and said the line in the song "I'm so glad I didn't die before I met you," rang true for you more than I realized. You then opened up to me about the darkest time in your life years before we had met.

After we got back from Victoria everything changed between us. Both of us had allowed ourselves to get closer with each other than anyone prior. Our bond continued to grow and things were absolutely beautiful for about another three months.

Then a subtle but noticeable change happened and you slowly started shutting down and pulling away. During this time I saw your intake in pot go up and your interest in me decline. I gently reminded you about the rusty hinges on your heart and that I was trying to be patient and understanding, but time was running thin. You thanked me and said you were working on keeping your heart open and wanted to make it work.

Before we had hit our rocky patch, we made plans to vacation in San Francisco with your mom and step-dad. Every fiber in my being was telling me to swim away and not go on the trip, but I listened to your pleading reassurance instead. Despite a wonderful vacation, minus a 24-hour bout of stomach flu, you called me on the phone a week later and ended things.

There are parts of me that can rationalize the connection between you shutting down and your self-medication with pot, but I still can't fully understand what happened in the course of one week to completely obliterate everything in our universe of two. You didn't even want to hear from me, much less give me a reason as to why.

I still can't listen to the "First Day of My Life" without getting teary-eyed, but I learned from you that I'm able to swim away and start anew even if I never get an answer to the simple question of "Why?"

Status of brilliant trace #9: Unknown

brilliant trace #10

Thursday, September 11, 2008

one from thousands

eight forty-five am
the morning my life began i stepped outside the gym


papers falling high and trickling in the sky
a parade today we'll see?

no. No. NO!

specs of metal glittering in the sun
i should run, i need to run--are all those people gone?

A bomb? A bomb?!

showers of ash upon my head sped with confusion and fear
my office, to my office, they'll know there

It stings to see. It stings to breathe.

she asks, are you okay
what happened?
a plane, it was a plane
you mean a bomb


my building rumbles and through the windows it's the second tower

a woman screams and a the man on the radio says it's another plane
i gasp, i tremble--are we next?

they gather us to the center of the room and our safety is assured

five minutes later--"An upgrade in your safety has been issued. Please evacuate immediately."

Fourteen flights of stairs
round and down we go--goodbyes and laters as we flee

I'm okay. I'm okay.

but at the bottom there's flying debris
and as i squint to see my breaths become shorter, my panic longer

then a hand, placed in mine

our bodies numb, we run

I wrote this poem about month after surviving the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. My mind had been running at a fervent pace trying to put all the pieces together. This was my attempt to gather them in one place.

I meant for the piece to continue as I worked through all the emotions of post-traumatic stress, but until today I hadn't been able to revisit this piece since I wrote it. It's been seven years, and I'm finally finding it easier to process the events of that day. I've written a full article about those thoughts and where our country has come since then.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Louder than words

"When it comes to men that are romantically interested in you, it’s really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do. It’s that simple. It’s that easy."

I heard this quote today while listening to The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. It couldn't have come at a better time in my life, because despite my best efforts, I've been feeling resentful and perplexed by my many romantic failings. All of which can be found here, except for one that has yet to be written.

I think the worst part of all in having these feelings over the past few months is that they were keeping me from loving myself by creating doubts of what I am worth a what I deserve.

Then I heard these four sentences today, and all of those bitter and jaded feelings melted away. I realized that I hadn't been duped in love, or even really in the presence of it.

It's sounds so silly, but being reminded of the undeniable truth that actions speak louder than words has made me realize how incredibly lucky I am. This is because I still have the opportunity to meet a man who is not only deserving, but who is able to accept all I have to offer.

It's that simple. It's that easy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

brilliant trace #8 - Part II

You were holding a pine cone and a book, and asked me through the screen door if you could come inside. I was so happy to see you I'd forgotten to open the door.

You handed me the book The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. You said my writing reminded you of hers, and you thought it only right that I should own your favorite book by her. Then you handed me the acorn. You said there was a lack of flowers to pick from in neighboring yards, and that the pine cone would last longer because it was just a seed.

There was nothing I could do but let my heart melt.

We went up to my bedroom because it was the only private space we had. You were living with your aunt and I was living with two house mates. We lay on my bed and played some of our favorite music for each other. You had just discovered Billy Bragg, so that's who we mostly listened to while lying and talking for hours.

You eventually reached over and brushed a few strands of hair away from eyes and said, "I'm scared."

The comment took me off guard.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I like you. I mean, I feel myself really falling and I'm scared I'm going to hurt you, and me, in the process."

"Then don't hurt me," I said.

You held your gaze into my eyes, smiled, and then we kissed for the first time. The knot of butterflies in my stomach completely unfurled, and I could feel myself falling too.

The next weekend you invited me to the coast to visit your mom, sister, and nephew on Olympic Peninsula. We stayed in a cabin that your mom's friend owned, and when I left the room your nephew looked at you, gave the thumbs up, and said, "Dude, good job." We both had a good laugh about it later.

The next day you took me to the ocean because I had never seen it. I'll never forget driving around the corner into LaPush. The waves were breaking against First Beach with jagged rocks coming up from the water. I gasped and reached over to your arm. You just smiled and chuckled. We spent the next hour or so walking on the beach and hunting for stones.

On the way back to Seattle you surprised me with a visit to Sol Duc Falls and we walked on the bridges overlooking the waterfall while holding hands. All the fresh mountain air made me tired, so you let me rest my head on your shoulder while you drove us home. I fell asleep before we even got out of Olympic National Park, and I when I opened my eyes about 20 minutes later I was surprised I didn't wake up from all the hills and curves in the road. You smiled and said you'd driven slower than normal so you wouldn't wake me.

The next three weeks flew by with late night chats, drinks at our favorite bar downtown called the Library, and just feeling at home with each other while reading books, watching C-Span, or listening to music in my bedroom.

About a week before you were supposed to go back to Michigan you found out you weren't getting a job offer from the firm. The bad news combined with having to finish a term paper started to wear you down. You eventually got sick during our last week together, so I started picking you up after your 10-hour days at the office. When we got back to my place I'd make hot toddies for you and rub your back while you focused on finishing your term paper.

During your last night in Seattle, I helped you edit the final draft of your paper before heading to dinner with you and your aunt. I was completely impressed with your writing and depth of knowledge, and felt so incredibly lucky to have found you.

At dinner, your aunt took our picture and despite the heaviness I felt in my heart and the stress you were under, we both looked incredibly happy sitting side-by-side holding each others' hands. After dinner, I helped you pack and then cuddled face-to-face with you on the futon in your aunt's living room. You were stroking my hair and I yours. You asked me if I was going to cry in the morning, and I told you I couldn't make any promises. You said it was going to be even harder to leave if I did. We held each other for a little while, and I went home so you could get some rest for the long day of driving ahead.

I showed up early with breakfast and helped pack the last of your things into your little red VW Golf. Your aunt said goodbye and went inside. You kissed me and I instantly started crying. We eventually ended our embrace and walked to our cars. We waved goodbye with you driving one direction and me the other. I wanted to believe it wasn't the last time I would ever see you, but it was.

By mid October your phone calls and emails had grown fewer. You kept telling me it was just because you were busy between finishing your last year of law school and searching for a job. I was hoping you would come home for Thanksgiving, but you again said you were too busy with course work. I ended up celebrating the holiday in Neah Bay with your family, and when I called that night to wish you a happy holiday you couldn't talk because you were at a party.

The next morning I finally saw the ocean at Shi Shi Beach and from the cliffs of Cape Flattery, the two places where you said you wanted to take me. While watching the waves crash against the rocks, I could feel you drifting away and knew I needed to have the talk with you I was dreading.

I called you a few days after Thanksgiving and asked if it was over. You said you still felt the same for me, and that you were just busy with coursework. I asked if you were coming home for Christmas, and you said you were planning on it. I told you I would ask for some time off and drive you from Seattle to LaPush, and hoped we could spend a few days together. You said that sounded nice, but weren't completely sure of your holiday plans because you also had to visit your dad in Los Angeles. Then your voice turned forlorn telling me you wished you didn't feel pulled in so many different emotional directions by your family.

I waited for word about your Christmas plans, but none came. Only a picture of you and a beard you had grown over the last four months.

Then Christmas Day came and went, and still no word. I tried calling, but you didn't pick up the phone. Then two days after Christmas I woke up to an email saying you had met someone, that it was only two weeks new, but it was serious and you wouldn't be coming home over your holiday break. You said you drove around L.A. all night trying to call but couldn't because you couldn't bare to hear me cry. Then you quoted a line from Billy Bragg's Must I Paint You a Picture and said, "It's bad timing and me."

I wish I could say that all I felt was a broken heart, but it wasn't. Having you write off everything we'd shared with nothing more than an email made me feel completely insignificant.

I felt as if my very insides had been ripped out of me, but I had to force myself to go to work because my publisher wanted a feel-good story for the next day's paper and my editor had scheduled me to interview a local woman who walked her duck on a leash. Even as the eccentric lady babbled on about her duck, all I could do was feel like the crazy one for having fallen head-over-heels for a guy who found me nothing more than insignificant.


I saw a woman in the park yesterday,
walking a duck on a leash.

She turned to me and said,
"Ducks never leave.

"A morsel here, and a morsel there,
and ducks are as loyal as can be."

With a quack and a pluck,
the woman and duck were on their way.

I sat to myself thinking,
such a strange thing to see.

A woman with her duck.

Then I thought of you,
and a little bit of me.

A morsel here, and a morsel there,
as loyal as can be.

Then I thought of you,
and a little bit of her.

I cried to myself thinking,
such a strange thing indeed.

Your aunt called the next day to say how horrible she felt, and asked me not to hold against her what you had done. She said our friendship meant the world to her, and that you were a complete fool to let someone like me go. It's strange how your aunt ended up being a person of great comfort to me during the next several months, but all of that ended when rumors started spreading like wild fire about me.

One of your distant relatives in Neah Bay, who was as well as married, tried to take advantage of my vulnerability and broken heart. When I told him exactly what I thought of his deplorable actions he took revenge by spreading rumors. Pretty soon I was painted as a home wrecker, and to this day I can't step into Neah Bay without a look of hate casted my way. It didn't take long for your entire family to turn against me, and the last time I ever heard from you was to confront me about one of these rumors that held not even an ounce of truth.

Sunday, July 23, 2006 - The box

It was a pine cone. A perfectly round pine cone plucked from the ground and kept in a box for almost a year. It never had a chance to grow while resting alongside several rocks, an address, and fleeting memories of a summer when I first saw the ocean. Tonight I opened that box. I said goodbye to the pine cone and the rocks with a whisper, a kiss, and a toss into the night sky. I took the box and address and threw them in the trash, but the memories - those I'll keep. They may be bittersweet, but they're mine.

It has taken me three years to fully come round from the feelings of insignificance and pain you and your family caused me. I went from being completely loved and embraced to nothing at all. I think back to the day when we first kissed and you said you were scared of hurting me. Now I know why.

From you I learned two things. A person is only as insignificant as they allow them self to be, and that letting go is easy once you dispel a mirage and realize something was never worthy of you in the first place.

Status of brilliant trace #8: Married

brilliant trace #9

Sunday, July 20, 2008

brilliant trace #8 - Part I

It was almost pitch black and I could barely see your face. I was helping your aunt breakdown the t-shirt booth outside of Daybreak Star after a long opening day of their summer pow wow.

All I could make out was your tall figure, curly hair, and dark glasses as I watched you silently stand there while your aunt excitedly fussed over the arrival of you and your little cousin.

It wasn't until we were inside your aunt's office with the smell of cedar filling the air and the moonlight bouncing off of Puget Sound that I clearly saw your face. We caught each others' eyes for a moment while you chatted with your aunt and I helped my friend pack away the t-shirts for the night. When we were done, your aunt suggested you join my friend and I for drinks because it was my first weekend in Seattle.

The three of us laughed for hours sharing our most humiliating stories while drinking pints at a small bar in old Ballard. I hadn't laughed that hard in a long time, and when my friend drove me home I couldn't help but ask about you. She told me your summer associateship with a tribal law firm downtown was ending in a month, and you'd be headed back to Michigan to finish your last year of law school. I cursed my luck, and then tried to bury my attraction to you in the knotted lump of butterflies in my stomach.

My attraction didn't stay buried for long when you came up to me the next day with a big smile outside of your aunt's t-shirt booth. You told me you were so amazed at how much you shared the night before, and that you were very impressed by me. I looked down at my feet and tried not to blush. The moment was broken a second later when your aunt came from inside the booth and handed you a fanny pack.

"Put this on. I need you to be in charge of the money today," she said.

You looked at me a bit embarrassed, and then put the fanny pack over your shoulder.

"No, no," your aunt said. "You need to put it on. We can't lose any of the money."

This time you tried not to blush while fastening the fanny pack around your waist. I giggled and told you it was OK because I already knew much more embarrassing things about you. Then, for the first time, you looked into my eyes and smiled.

At the end of a long day in the July sun, you drove me home and we ended up talking until 4 a.m. We both came from a place of feeling like outsiders in the American Indian community because of our pale skin and light eyes. After talking for hours about our fears of never fully being accepted, I shared a poem with you I had written for my college's literary journal.

And That's the Way the Story Goes

I used to stare at this funny looking monkey head made out of a coconut that hung in the window of my Grandma's sewing room. In the winter at sunset, the window looked like it was tinted blue. One time I wiped the frost off the window, and when I looked outside I could see the stillness of sub-zero weather sitting in the air and the Turtle Mountains standing silent behind my Grandpa's fields.

My Grandma makes the best bread. We always joke that our Grandma has the best set of buns a Grandma could have. But better than her buns is the fry bread she would make for us every year at Christmas. We were silly and called it Indian Bread.

When I was in the fourth grade, we learned about the first Indians and how they were very brave hunters. I could feel the pride growing inside of me, and I knew I would burst if I didn't say something. So I raised my hand and started waving it around in the air.

"Yes?" my teacher asked.

"I'm part Native American," I said.

"You don't look Indian, you're a liar," someone shouted.

I turned red and wished I hadn't raised my hand.

My mom's sister married my dad's brother and they had some kids. My sister and brother look like them. They all have dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. I look like my father's uncle Lucien. He had light hair and blue-green eyes. But my brother and sister always teased me and said that I was adopted.

When pictures were taken of the grandchildren at family reunions, I always sat next to my blond cousins, the four kids of my uncle who married a woman with Norwegian blood. I didn't look as white sitting next to them.

When one of my blond cousins was in the fourth grade, they sat at the kitchen table on Grandma's lap.

"What are you learning in school?" Grandma asked.

"About the Indians," my cousin said.

"You're part Indian you know," Grandma said.

"No I'm not, I'm blond," my cousin said.

"You're my grandchild and that makes you part Indian," my Grandmother insisted with a smile.

"No I'm not!" my cousin shouted. "Those are dirty people and I'll never be one of them."

My cousin jumped off my Grandma's lap and ran away.

My Grandma tried to laugh, but a tear came out instead.

In my Grandma's memoirs, she wrote that one of her proudest moments was when a white man wasn't ashamed to ask for her hand in marriage. That was my grandpa.

"Do we call ourselves Native American, American Indian, or French Indian?" I asked my sister.

"None of them. I'm just American," she said.

Driving down the gravel road with my mom behind the wheel, I could hear the rocks popping like ice beneath the tires. Leaving my grandparents' farm I could always see the road ahead disappear up a hill.

"Can we see the reservation today?" I asked.

"No. You don't want to." That's all she ever said while turning onto the paved highway leading into town.

There's a bar along the railroad tracks in the town where I grew up called the Trading Post. It used to have a figurine of an Indian wearing a headdress standing out front.

The neighbor boys who moved in from Montana always wanted to play cowboys and Indians.

"Bang bang, you're dead," one said as he shot me with his finger made gun.

"How come I have to die?" I asked.

"Because you're they Indian, and the Indian always dies," he said.

"I'm not just any Indian, I'm a warrior princess and I refuse to die," I replied.

We kept playing cowboys and Indians and no one ever died.

Across the street from our house used to be a bunch of Sioux burial mounds. We liked to play king of the hill on them. Now those Sioux are buried under fancy new houses with even fancier cars parked out front.

I was talking to my best friend on the telephone one time when she was still going to the University of North Dakota and I was living in New York. She kept complaining about how annoying her Native American professor was in her Indian Studies class because she kept talking about how hard it is to be Native American today.

"Well, that's just crazy. I mean, they even created fifteen extra slots just for Indians in the premed program here. How hard can it be to get drunk all the time and still get into a great program? Not to mention the government pays for their tuition," she said.

A lot of my cousins go to UND, and the government pays for their tuition.

"Oh yeah. I'm sorry. I keep forgetting you have some of that blood in you," she said.

I didn't say anything, because she was my best friend.

If a person is lucky they'll get to see the Northern Lights at least once in their life. I'm especially lucky because I grew up seeing them twice a year. One year a friend of mine who had moved to the Turtle Mountains to live with her mom came back to visit. As we stood catching up on old times the lights came alive in the sky. So we lay on our backs in the snow looking at how beautiful they were. She started singing in an even more beautiful language, one that I had never heard. She was singing in Ojibwe, and at that moment we felt closer and farther apart than before she had moved back to the reservation.

Last summer I carried myself packed with a broken spirit and a broken heart on a plane back to North Dakota. Later I brought myself back to New York carrying a letter from my father promising me everything would be all right because the stars told him it would be.

I lost the turquoise ring my Grandmother gave me as a little girl when I was working at a restaurant in New York. I told my boss about the ring hoping someone had found it.

"What? Are you Indian or something?" she asked.

"Yeah," I replied.

"Well, what tribe are you from then?"

"Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa," I said.

It felt strange to be asked what tribe I was from, but it felt empowering to answer.

"Huh. And I thought you were Jewish," was all she said.

I never did find the ring.

I stood in the doorway of my bedroom watching the reactions on your face as you read the poem. You nodded and smiled at parts you identified with, and when you were done you looked up and asked if you could keep it. I, of course, said yes.

The next day at the pow wow you informed me that our late night talk had caused quite the stir of discussion with your family that morning, and your mom was asking your aunt all kinds of questions about me. I was completely nervous the whole day until I overheard your aunt say to my friend, "I really like that Vanessa. She's so sweet."

My friend looked at me and burst into laughter, "It's a good thing you didn't say she was a complete bitch."

Your aunt had no idea I was sitting within earshot, and then we all had a good laugh.

After packing up the t-shirt booth for the last time, we all took a celebratory picture and then went out for beers and food. At the end of the night, you drove me to my car in Discovery Park. We sat in the dark and exchanged phone numbers. I didn't think you would actually call because you were leaving in four weeks.

Imagine my surprise when you showed up on my doorstep the next evening.

brilliant trace #8 - Part II

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tears of joy

I cried them tonight for the first time in my life.

Obama '08!

Monday, April 28, 2008

My new theme song

"Merry Happy" by Kate Nash
... Though you try to tell me that you never loved me
I know that you did
'Cause you said it and you wrote it down ...
... Yeah you make me merry make me very very happy
But you obviously, you didn't want to stick around ...
... So I learnt from you ...
... I can be alone, yeah
I can watch a sunset on my own ...

Dedicated to the two most brilliant of my brilliant traces, who I have yet to find words for.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Shame, Shame Mr. McCain

I have been absent from my writings because I've been busy on the campaign trail for Obama. I'm happy to report that I was elected as a Congressional Delegate for Obama and will be attending the Washington State Democratic Convention in June. I'm also eligible to become a national delegate if play my cards right.

That said, even the politico geek in me is very tired of the "he said, she said" reporting about the primaries. Enough already about the word bitter, sniper fire in Bosnia, and the incessant spin cycle of the most recent Gallup Poll.

I want real reporting, like this month's expose in Harper's Magazine about the questionable ethics of John McCain and his nonprofit organization the Reform Institute. The article (in its printed version) clearly details very questionable relationships and salaries being paid to big time lobbyists serving both for the institute and McCain's campaign - two forces supposedly dedicated to reforming the influence and power of special interest money in Washington.

I guess McCain's "Straight Talk Express" omitted the little detail that on his bus the word reform, when it comes to lobbyists and special interests in Washington, D.C., is to give them more power. All I have to say is, "Shame, shame Mr. McCain."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Survival through laugther

This is my mom Brenda Casavant. She's an amazing woman who has battled cancer three times and continues to battle diabetes and polymyalgia rheumatica.

Please read her story, and cast your vote for her in the contest "America's Favorite Mom." If you're inspired by her, which I'm sure you will be, please share it with everyone you know.

Even if she doesn't win the contest, it means the world to my family and me to be able to honor her and all she's been through.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Truth in the light of day

Even a major media outlet whose publisher leans to the right of center and is a critic of Barack Obama reported on the historic nature of Obama's speech today.

U.S. News & World Report: Obama's Race Speech Heralded as Historic

I knew this speech was coming as soon as the media feeding frenzy began last week around the sermons of Pastor Wright, and it makes me even prouder to be an elected delegate for Obama.

I reiterate the quote in my post titled "Interlude."

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I have succumbed to writer's block, migraines, and general laziness as late. However, I shall be back this week.

In the meantime, I would like to share this quote with you.

"When was the last time you talked about race with someone of a different race? If the answer is never, you're part of the problem." - Bill Bradley

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Fired up! Ready to go!"

I'm very proud of my home state of North Dakota for bringing it in for Barack Obama last night on Super Tuesday. The tiny red state may not deliver a hefty punch in delivering delegate numbers, but it does deliver a signal loud and clear that change is on its way.

With recent news of Hillary Clinton pumping $5 million of her own money into her campaign this week, I'm reminded of the saying "slow and steady wins the race" from the fable The Tortoise and the Hare.

Clinton's infusion of her own money into her campaign is an indication she has nearly tapped out her primary campaign funding fueled by a small pool of big-money donors. In contrast, Obama's campaign funding continues to grow by relying on just the opposite with trickles of money continuously coming in from a large pool of small donations made by everyday citizens like me who live paycheck to paycheck.

Sure, my $60 contribution to the Obama campaign may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of what campaigns cost today, but my donation combined with millions of others across the nation is a display of hope and people believing in the words, "Yes, we can."

This comparison of campaign funding to The Tortoise and the Hare can also be shown in the voting results of Super Tuesday. Even though Clinton is still leading in the number of delegate nominations, Obama is slowly closing the gap after winning more states and delegate nominations than Clinton yesterday.

We are in the home stretch of the first inning of a grueling race for change that started more than seven years ago in Florida. Those of my generation, including me, who were voting for the first time in a presidential election felt robbed of hope and belief in American democracy.

Despite naysayers who believed my generation was nothing more than another group of idealist youth who wouldn't wouldn't walk the walk, we have marched on in the race for change by giving our voice of dissent.

Over the last seven years our voice has only grown louder after continually being pummeled by lies about:
  • Weapons of mass destruction,
  • Torture scandals concerning prisoners of war,
  • An information leak revealing the identity of a CIA agent,
  • Help being on its way to Katrina victims,
  • The firing of Democratically appointed federal prosecutors for "poor" performance,
  • And the list continues to amount.
All of that said, I'm still fired up and ready to go to the polls this Saturday to cast my caucus vote for the only real candidate of change - Barack Obama.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The end of an error

Tonight George W. Bush, who will go down in the annals of history as one of the most disastrous presidents of the United States, gave his last State of the Union address to the nation.

Tonight Barack Obama, who will go down in the annals of history as a man (and hopefully president) who restored the hope of a nation, gave his reasons why he is truly a candidate for change.

If you want to know more about exactly how Obama will enact this change through legislation, read The Blueprint for Change: Barak Obama's Plan For America.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

brilliant trace #7

My memory of you starts with an order of nachos and soda we shared several Friday nights in a row at Skateland.

You were tall and lanky, I was short with frizzy hair, and both of us wore huge glasses that consumed our faces.

We were in fifth or sixth grade, and I can't exactly remember how we met because we went to different schools. Somehow though, we ended up talking and sharing nachos while everyone else couple skated under the dark disco lights to Firehouse's "Love of a Lifetime."

I would always ask you why you came to Skateland and never skated. You would always answer by saying you didn't know. The rest of the details about our conversations are long since forgotten, and so were you until a couple of years ago.

I was home from New York for Christmas and had just finished celebrating the holidays at my brother's house in St. Paul. During the car ride to Jamestown from the Twin Cities, Firehouse's "Love of a Lifetime" came on the radio. I sighed to myself, "Ah, Skateland. When everything was simple when it came to girls and boys."

My nephew, who was in the backseat, overheard me and asked," What's Skateland?"

I felt sad that the tin shed with the uneven blue cement floor had closed its doors for good, and that my nephew would never get to experience the excitement of Friday nights skating in circles to music. So, I told him about Skateland and about you.

My nephew continued playing his video game while I told the story, and without looking up he said, "Sounds lame."

I laughed and spent the rest of the car ride home wondering what happened to you. Somewhere between childhood and our teenage years we lost touch. I fell into the drama crowd and you the party crowd.

Later that evening after my family got into town I made my annual rounds to the local bars on Main Street. My friend and I were about to call it a night when I heard from behind me, "Vanessa? Vanessa Casavant?"

I turned around and about dropped my beer when I saw you sitting at the bar. The tall and lanky kid I remembered had grown even taller, but was now a very good looking man sporting a well-trimmed beard.

We chatted a bit, and I found out you had just returned from spending the past several years since high school in Europe working in the Air Force. You were living with your old man and working odd jobs figuring out what you wanted to do with the rest of your life. We exchanged phone numbers saying we should hang out sometime before I had to leave for New York.

I never did plan on calling you. Partly because I didn't want to mess with what was an already splendid chance meeting, but mostly because of the last experience I had with running into brilliant trace #5 the year prior while home for Christmas. I figured I had reached my limit of holiday flings with guys from my hometown who left me brokenhearted.

Then you called me a few days later, and I figured it couldn't hurt to have a beer and catch up. We ended up hanging out until 4 a.m. talking about politics, life, and our plans for the future. I was amazed at how much in common we had, and how our views of the world were so similar. I had also forgotten how funny you were, and how nice it was to laugh with you.

When we finally said goodnight I didn't know what to think, other than it was completely amazing running into you. I forgot how good of friends we had been before high school, and it didn't surprise me to find this note from you in my eighth-grade yearbook:

Thanks for being my friend this year, even if we don't talk to each other very much I'm still your friend. Have a nice summer."

While it's not exactly the kind of prose that gets a girl misty-eyed in eighth grade, it is a note that touches an adult woman's heart when she realizes how incredibly mature an eighth grade boy had to be to write it.

I was happy that we got to talk a few more times before I had to fly back to New York, and that you invited me to ring in New Years 2005 with you and your buddies at the Old Broadway in Fargo.

I was going to go to bed early on New Year's Eve because I had to catch a plane to Albany the next morning where I was going to start my internship for the Legislative Gazette. I ignored practicality because really wanted to see you one more time. Little did I know almost everyone we graduated with would be at the bar, so we didn't get too much time to talk. Instead, we danced and I counted down the hours until midnight.

I was hoping against all hope that the shy side of you would disappear and kiss me. When the time finally came and we were both counting down, I was kissed unexpectedly by a very drunk old friend. I was so shocked that I pushed him off me, and feeling like a complete jerk I looked at you - who barely seemed to notice.

My heart sank a little bit, but then you asked, "Who was that?" I couldn't explain very well, because all I really wanted to do was kiss you, but I knew the moment had passed.

Later in the night I finally got the courage to tell you I had enjoyed the time we got to spend together, and that it would be awesome if you could come to Albany and visit for a while.

That's when you told me you were offered a lucrative job in the Middle East and that you'd have to start within the next few weeks if you took it.

After an uncomfortable pause, I asked, "So are you going to take it?"

You said you didn't know, but that it was a lot of money you'd never have a chance to make again.

I wanted to say, "Money is just money. You've spent so much time overseas putting off your life. You should come live it and be with me in Albany." Instead, as best as I could, I helped you sort through the details of how much you would make, why you should go, and why you shouldn't.

After all was said, you looked straight into my eyes and asked, "Should I take it?"

I looked at you, and pushing back all of my selfish thoughts, all I could say was, "I'm too drunk to know what to say."

Then my cousin pulled up outside to take me home, and we were left with only an awkward goodbye.

A few days later you called to say you were taking the job.

Despite being halfway across the world from each other, you kept in better contact with me than any other guy I'd met at a moment of inconvenient timing. We sent weekly emails, and I even got a satellite phone call from you once and awhile. I kept asking when you were going to come home, and you kept saying you didn't know.

After almost a year of waiting for you, I couldn't anymore. I needed to live my life in the present, and not on what I hoped the future would hold. Our emails became fewer and fewer, and so did your phone calls.

I moved on with a guy who would eventually become brilliant trace #8. When he left me brokenhearted you called from a satellite phone at a ridiculously early hour in your time zone to make sure I was all right - because that's the kind of guy you are.

I eventually picked up the pieces of my heart and met brilliant trace #9, who I was in a relationship with when you came to visit Seattle last year. You called me, and I wanted to see you, but I was afraid. So I never called, and pretended I was sick. I've felt guilty about that ever since, and still think about you all the time - wondering what could be if you ever decided to come back home.

What I've learned from you is that genuine, mature men do exist, and I should never lose hope when I think otherwise.

Current status of brilliant trace #7: Married

brilliant trace #8 - Part I

Friday, January 4, 2008

Because we are the generation

I have to take this moment and depart from my sharing of brilliant traces to mark tonight's moment in history.

I think many, many, many people - pundits and political strategists alike - are going to fall on their asses in awe of how many young voters end up going the polls in this presidential election.

After winning the Democratic Iowa caucus tonight due to a large turn out of young voters, U.S. Senator Barack Obama said:
"They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose.

But on this January night, at this defining moment in history you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do."
I truly believe this wave of young voters turning out in large numbers will grow into a tsunami by November, and here is why:
  • Because we are the generation who the cost of the unjust war is falling on - both financially and emotionally.
  • Because we are the generation who is finally getting a chance to vote in an election that isn't being altered by political henchmen.

    One thing almost all people of my generation who voted in the last two presidential elections will tell you is that we feel betrayed by the electoral process.

    They were the first two presidential elections we've been able to vote in, and they were both stolen - the first in '00 due to hanging chads and political favors being played in Florida, and the second in '04 due to "faulty" electronic voting systems.
  • Because we are the generation who finally has a candidate who speaks to us, speaks like us, and we can trust to speak for us.

    That candidate is Barack Obama -and you can mark my words now that he will be the next president of the United States.

    There's a reason Obama's campaign slogan geared toward my generation is "Got hope?" He is a candidate that gives us hope after eight years of feeling powerless, betrayed, and forgotten.
  • Because we are the generation who will have to live for the next 50 to 80 years in the shambles of what the Bush presidency has left our country and Constitution in.
  • Because we are the generation who realizes that change only comes from action, and when your only action in a democracy is to vote - you better believe we're going to vote.
  • Because we are the generation who looks past race, gender, and "one-issue" voting to see the big picture - the picture of falling bridges, breaking levees, and crumbling towers.
  • Because we are the generation who can't afford not to vote.
Read more about my generation's historic turnout in Iowa:
"Obama: A 'defining moment in history'" in the Chicago Tribune

"Winners triumphed by attracting new voters" in the Boston Globe

"Young Obama voters lead record Democratic turnout" in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Obama's historic victory" in Time Magazine