i ❤️ democracy

election 2022

On November 8, 2022, I set my gps for a recycling center in my town that is a polling place for a community near the zoo.

As I approached at 5:55 a.m., the streets were dark. “Road Closed” signs blocked the way ahead while an ambiguous, “Your destination is on the right” led me to a parking lot that was actually not my destination.

For the next half hour, I wandered the vicinity on foot, gingerly making my way across sandy sections of what had been the road, removed for repair. The gps seemed more accurate with its walking directions. So I finally was able to piece together that my destination was beyond the closed road and to the right. I returned to my car and navigated to my true destination, verified by the “Vote Here” signs.

I arrived 30 minutes late to fulfill my role as an election poll worker.

For the next 15 hours, I was assigned to greet voters, ensuring that they had an application to vote (even if they had registered to vote) and a pen (many of which disappeared throughout the day).

The entrance was located next to the tabulator. This meant, that actually, my most important role was to instruct people on how to insert their ballot into the tabulator. Without catching the cardboard secrecy sleeve. All from 10 feet away. As specified by law.

The trick is to feed the paper ballot through the cutout on the left of the secrecy sleeve. Meanwhile, gently pulling back on the sleeve. You need a light touch on the sleeve so just the paper can be fed into the tabulator. The sleeve does not need to go into the tabulator. The tabulator does not like cardboard. Just paper.

When the ballot is officially hoovered up into the tabulator, a brief moment of suspense follows. Cheers are reserved for when the tabulator returns the message, “Ballot successfully cast.”

If you have checked the bubbles, rather than darkening them completely, your ballot will be returned. If you have over voted, you ballot will be returned. If the machine is being grumpy, your ballot may inexplicably be returned and you can try to insert it with the backside up, because the tabulator will take the ballot from any direction.

Ch-chunk. Plink. Success! The sound of a paper edge being deposited into a chamber.

“Yay!” Now, forearms can be raised in joyful fists.

Finally, the reward! Not only the satisfaction of being an engaged citizen, but of peeling the back off an “I voted” sticker!

People who voted by mail, sheepishly came in to claim a sticker. Some people would leave with 4 stickers, explaining they were for friends who had voted by mail.

Children riding in strollers left with “I voted” stickers on their foreheads.

A child who was stopped from jamming his parent’s ballot into the tabulator because his mother explained, “It is literally against the law,” left with an “I voted” sticker.

A one-day old baby whose parents stopped to vote on their way home from the hospital, left with an “I voted” sticker.

Several shiny new first time voters left with “I voted” stickers.

An adult wearing a Winnie-the-Pooh backpack,
A person in a “Welcome to the sh*t show” tshirt,
Someone sporting “Mondays are okay, it’s my job that sucks” who appeared to come in with his boss and coworkers on a break,
Nuns in full habit,
People who had lost their absentee ballots but stayed to find out how they could have it spoiled and vote in person,
A senior using a walker,
A voter in a t-shirt that read, “Voting: It’s better than complaining on the internet,”
A mother with 2 children who sat under the polling booth while she filled in her ballot,
Two women who high-fived after casting their vote . . .

These and many others left with an “I voted” sticker proudly displayed on their person.

People who did not leave with an “I voted” sticker included several men in suits and a woman in a dress. But they had, in fact, voted.

At the end of the day, shoulders a bit achy and my watch indicating 30,000 steps (equivalent to a half marathon), we applauded our chairperson, Barb. She had taken the day off of a cleaning job for the sixth election in a row. As we signed the printout from the tabulator and assisted in performing other election worker duties, someone shared that a voter told her that everybody at this polling station had been so cheerful this voter felt like the experience was like being on a tv show.

One woman had used my name all day beyond the point when I could politely ask hers. So when she had gone on break, I asked another worker what her name was. Walking to our cars, as she wished me well, I confidently said, “It was great working with you, Janna!”

She said, “Did you call me Janna? My name is Amber.”

“Uh, sorry! It was nice to meet you!”

Amber graciously replied, “I’ll definitely be back next year. Hope to see you then!”

Being an election poll worker is certainly an opportunity to get to know the people in your community better.

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  • Dame’s rocket (invasive plant species in Michigan)
  • colonizers
  • exotic pets


  • native or born in the place where you currently live
  • authentic
  • belongs?

Yesterday, I and some other teachers at my school met with Ron Yob, the Chairman of Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians. We were expecting to discuss how we can make connections with the tribes to help our students better understand the history of the land on which our school exists today.

This is complicated.

We spent 1 hour, that unraveled very quickly, listening to stories from Chairman Yob’s experience as a middle and high school teacher during the 1970s. He was the only teacher in our city assigned to teach the children belonging to the tribes.

He prefaced his stories with the frightening memories of having to hide as a young boy, much like the children of the holocaust, whenever a member of the majority culture would knock on their family’s door. Why? Because his mother had survived being forced from her home as a young girl to attend boarding school. She was terrified this would happen to her children.

The PTSD prompted him to accept a job as teacher, even though he considered himself a rebel, not fitting into the role of a traditional teacher. He shared the vivid memories of the kinds of lessons that informed his teaching style. His aunt assigned him to hunt specific fish species, pheasant and squirrels (which he asserted are easy to catch because they are not afraid of humans). Also his aunt would quickly rub plants between her palms and smash the mulched remains in his nose; then demand he use the scent to find more.


Considered to be part of the land–to be cleared, used, discarded, and objectified in sentimentality. Survivors hide in plain sight. Their stories rich in what has been lost.

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Rain Makes Leaves Glow

when emptiness appears
it fills the space behind the left ribs
its ironically heavy suitcase lands with a thud



this question
a measuring cup
in a stream

asking why
is pulling a string
until you reach
a single word:

the ache like stray bruises
sharp words and stray feelings

  • a friendship feels forced inexplicably
  • a family member challenges a perception
  • a celebration of an early hometown raises questions about the authenticity of the connection

during an autumn walk
the chill and damp
feel empathetic
the fallen leaves
abandoned by or abandoning
dulled by the waning day and the t-shirt gray clouds

in this faint light
under a camera
the yellow square tapped
the rain coated leaves

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election worker training

City Hall in my mid-sized town is a labyrinth. Starting with the fact that it has the exact same address as the building directly adjacent to it.

The parking garage that services several of the facilities has doors that open onto a narrow landing with stairs leading up or down, but not onto an actual floor. If you can find the service elevator, there are only 2 button options (a star and a 1) on the elevator that goes to the service garage. Whereas, City Hall is 9 stories high. You must exit the elevator, proceed around the corner in order to locate the main elevators.

Today was the third time I had been to City Hall in the past 4 months. Ever. I was there for election worker training. (The other two times were to meet the new chief of police and to dispute a parking ticket from a faulty meter.)

With air conditioning blasting through the vents near the floor to ceiling windows on the 9th floor at dusk, I asked the trainer, “Is the air conditioning on?” He verified that it was indeed on and that he felt comfortable. I proceeded to button my denim jacket for the first time, only to validate my suspicion that denim is absolutely NOT cozy, and certainly less stylish buttoned to the collarbone.

However, despite the $9 parking charge–which I later learned was a mistake since I was on the premises for training purposes–the baffling entrances and elevators, and the frigid forced air–there was unspoken “Breakfast Club” energy among the 5 others anticipating our role in democracy. We did not speak to each other and appeared to come from a variety of backgrounds: a white man with a fluffy white beard, a fit 30-something year old young person who was returning to work the polls for a 6th time, a woman of color in a “Voters Not Politicians” t-shirt, a young white woman wearing a yellow hospital face mask, a white woman who had the vibe of being a progressive from a gentrifying part of the city, and myself–an Asian woman living in a predominantly white part of town with lots of new condos being built.

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who gets to say who we really are

When I am found lacking, I brace myself for the landing . . .

Gathering the shards:

  • schedule time with people who have entrusted their hearts to you
  • remember that others’ loss have been a source of companionship
  • lean into the ironically heavy emptiness
  • embrace tedious tasks that steady yourself to the plodding reality of time ticking onward
  • analyze the meaning of “not enough”
  • shift the narrative from rejection to protection (by a greater power who better understood that your dreams were based on faulty information)
  • write in silence
Label Whore
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everything fall

Little House on the Prairie and Miracles on Maple Hill childhood book vibes:
the earth cycles and leaves crisp
the drop in temperatures signaling the onset of a cold that has the potential to blossom into the flu 

The abundance of harvest:
under insulated layers of flannel or knit, deep into comfort food and holidays with feasts. 
the scarcity animals endure.

Filling the heart and tables of the ones you love
the pursuit of the gift that won’t drain the account 

Reading and binging by a warm fire next to mugs filled with overly steeped tea
the weariness of expectations reflected in packed schedules that were once wide open to summer.

The damp autumn rain slicking fallen leaves with liquid crystals.
Crisp apples that soften when slow cooked: an aroma infused into candles and air fresheners.

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random encounters

The ingredients of a random encounter include:

  • unexpected variables that alter a course
  • a public or commercial space open to anyone
  • recognition
  • knowing people only in a specific context
  • freedom and means to choose the course of our day

Lately, I have encountered people out of context after ending up in spaces for reasons I was not anticipating:

  • a restaurant did not offer dessert, so we sought out another place
  • a 75% discount lured me to one place before I realized I had gone to the wrong place
  • a location of a new supermarket near my parent’s home made shopping for a return from an international safari easier

The delight and significance of these encounters are rooted in a reminder that we are not in control of our days. The chance encounters of public spaces cannot be oversold in a suburban life where most interactions are curated.

  • college friends had a reunion on a day in which other relationships appeared to be falling apart
  • a former student introduced her 4th baby who was excited to show the nail polish she had selected for a spa day
  • a father with his 4 year old son and I shared a love of poppadom as I was about to enter the Indian restaurant which was next door to the barbershop, before they continued down the sidewalk with a comb prominently stuck in the boy’s new cut
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when is 2 irrational?

When your judgment is questioned, there is

  • a sudden slight bracing of the shoulders
  • a heaviness in the stomach
  • a heat that burns beneath the cheekbones
  • a sensation that every hair follicle is alert
  • a disgust

Judgments based on deeply held beliefs rooted in an understanding of religious texts are especially terrifying. Unless . . .

You shift the paradigm.

You see the question as an opportunity to address fears: the fear of becoming corrupt and also being silenced.

Fear is divisive, stoked by a belief that only 2 sides are possible. The existence of a differing viewpoint is like a piece of rotting meat spoiling an entire case of meat.

Rather, by placing a square root sign over the 2–which asks the question, “What number times itself equals 2?”–you transform a simple concept into one that is much more complex–intriguing, worth exploration, ongoing.

Accepting that two can be more than a dichotomy points to the extraordinary hiding in plain sight.

The best of all possible outcomes is a shared wonder at what two has to offer.

Where can the square of 2 be found most famously? In a hypotenuse (the longest side of a right triangle). Don’t even get me started on the Pythagorean Theorem. 😆

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Unboxing Artist-Made Collection by BTS: Suga
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You will also dream of everything in my dreams.

A friend who is a therapist recently provided as evidence of a less than healthy grip on reality: a sense of being in close personal relationship with a celebrity. My friend was speaking in the context of surviving extreme trauma.

As I contemplated this, my own counselor endorsed as a counter point, the joy a synthetic relationship with artists can offer. Bearing in mind, that devotion does not hijack authentic relationships with family, friends and finances.

Telepathy is all you have when manufacturing a connection with people you will never meet. Telepathy rings true for adopted people without access to original family. In this way, celebrity connection replicates the opposite meanings of “cleave” (split or sever / stick tightly to).

Some of the most significant connections are the ones we notice because of the delight they offer. Telepathy takes coincidence to the next level by searching for validation of soulmate status.

Give me strength

When a connection with a specific person is indirect, “coded messages” take on epic status: deciphering instagram posts, identifying personal nods in mass audience vlogs, and even recognizing “twin” wardrobe choices. On the flip side, anything that invalidates telepathy is rejected: mass appeal, space and time. In fact, distance only solidifies “underneath the same big sky” mystique.

Spelled out, this longing for proof of a bond does tip into the ethereal. And the ethereal prompts skepticism or an accusation of desperation when in contact with reality.

Calling out to people you may never meet is experienced on both ends of a celebrity connection. When an artist is transparent about the tyranny and liberation of creativity, the relatability is magnetic.

The effect?

Slice of Life
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