Monthly Archives: September 2010

Number 81 – Taylor Mali

I think I should watch this every. single. day. If every teacher in America felt as strongly about how to teach as Taylor Mali, our future would be so bright.  That’s all I can say.


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Number 80 – Nina Comiskey


Nina is (for all intents and purposes) my sister-in-law.  She is my brother Dan’s girlfriend, but they have been together for 5 years and have lived on three continents together, so I think she deserves a better description than just my brother’s girlfriend.

Nina and Dan in Malaysia

I think Granny summed it up when she said, “Nina doesn’t really let the grass grow under her feet.”  In the 5 years I’ve know her she has either lived (Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Portland) or travelled (SE Asia, Africa, Europe, South America) in all the continents (I don’t count Antarctica since it’s hard to get to and bad for the ecosystem to go there).  She and Dan met during culinary school and after she graduated (a year before Dan), she moved to Scotland for some time (successfully missing my wedding…).


She came back, lived in Portland and went on a trip to Argentina then to Africa and Italy (missing my sister Heather’s wedding…hmmm).  Then after a while in Portland, she and Dan decided that it was time to move away again.  The Fall after Jesse and I left for Azerbaijan, Dan and Nina moved to New Zealand.

New Zealand

After a year in New Zealand, it was time for Australia where they also spent a year (successfully missing my brother Ben’s wedding… notice a trend?).


But really, I love Nina.  She’s a wonderful addition to our family and I have really enjoyed all the time I’ve spent with her.  She’s artistic and creative.  She’s witty and smart.  She’s clever and funny.  I’m so glad that she is in my brother’s life and their love for each other is so apparent and strong.  I love that she and Dan have had so many wonderfully amazing adventures in their 5 years together.  It’s really quite astonishing.  And now, she’s back in Oregon, so she shouldn’t be able to miss anymore weddings… especially now that we’re all mostly married off…

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Number 79 – Chet Olcott

Chet, Dad and Me in Newport

If you were to ask who my hero is I would answer, My Uncle Chet.  What can I say about Chet?  Where do I start?  Chet was my Granny’s cousin.  They grew up together in Northwest Portland about 2 blocks from each other.

I remember vague stories of the neighborhood gang playing together in the olden days.  Chet always is the mischievous bad influence in those stories.

Chet was always a huge sports fan.  Chet played football for Stanford and even played in the Rose Bowl.  When I was little I would love when he and Aunt Helen would come over from the beach to go to an Oregon football game or track meet.  I have very strong, clear memories of Chet sitting in the stands at Hayward Field with a huge grin on his face, eating potato chips.

Chet (3rd from left)

Before World War II Chet went to officer’s training school for the Navy and was sent to Wake Island.  On Christmas Eve, 1941, Japanese troops took over the island and took Chet as a Prisoner of War.  He spent the remainder of the war in various POW camps in Japan.  Just think about that… he was a prisoner from December 1981 until September 1945.  Chet never really spoke of his experiences in the camps, but after he died we found journals, letters, artwork and other remembrances of his time as a prisoner.  I had always looked up to Chet, but reading his journal solidified his place as my hero.

After the war, he met and married my Granny’s sister-in-law, Helen McHugh (Granny married my grandfather, Frank McHugh during the war).  They lived together with an unbelievable view of the ocean for the rest of their lives.  Helen and Chet were a third set of grandparents to me.  I learned so much from them:  never to trust a guarantee, to enjoy and celebrate nature, The Lord’s Prayer, how to have a sense of humor, how to fly a kite and so much more.

I loved my Uncle Chet dearly and still think of him often and miss him at track meets, when I see a fishing net and whenever I see the ocean.

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Number 78 – Kal Barteski & LoveLife

Kal Barteski’s blog was one of the very first I followed.  I found it by way of Katrina while I was still in Peace Corps.  Kal is an artist, a creative spirit and an amazingly positive person.  Her mantra of having a bullet-proof positive attitude has gotten me through a lot of tough times.  I often forget the notion, but am always happy to be reminded when her blog comes up on my Google Reader.

Reading Kal’s blog reminds me of my love of creating and all things artistic.  Her art projects are beautiful and beautifully inspiring.  She writes with a quick sense of humor and humility.

I have to admit that reading a blog written by someone I have never met (and probably never will) seems sort of odd at times.  Sometimes Katrina and I will say things like, “Did you see Kal’s pregnant?  So exciting!”  or “Did you see Kal’s new project?” as though she is a close friend of ours.  I suppose that’s the age that we’re in… and I should celebrate the fact that I get to have some sort of relationship with people like Kal.

Kal’s doing a new project starting this week called ‘Nurture Your Creativity + Be Bulletproof.’ It’s an online class that teaches how to be both creative and bulletproof.  I would love to do this, but haven’t signed up yet.  I need to ask Jesse if it can be an early Anniversary or Christmas present…

We need more people like Kal on our little Earth and I’m so glad she’s reaching out to teach others how to live life with a greater amount of creativity and positivity!

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Number 77 – Heather Gibson Daron

Heather is my sister who lives far far away (only Houston, but it might at well be Sumqayıt, which is oddly enough Houston’s sister city).  She’s a great woman whom I love dearly.  She loves the outdoors, hiking, camping, her children, the outdoors, her dog, riding her bike, the outdoors, her family, Portland, the outdoors, hiking and the outdoors.  I’m sure I’m forgetting something… oh yeah… the outdoors.  The above photo is on a hike we did about 10 years ago (!) that ended in a parking lot… Thanks, Heather. 😉

Heather and me gazing into the distance... thanks for the photo bomb, Ben

She hiked the entire Pyrenees mountain range from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean with her friend Erica during one summer.  I don’t remember how long it took her or how far it was, but it is quite amazing if you ask me.  I see it as one of those things that can change a person’s life.

She met her husband Erik around the same time I met Jesse.  I’ve always liked that.  We also got married within 5 months of each other.

We’ve had lots of fun together over the years.  She taught me a few things about growing up and was always a wonderfully fun role model.

Sisters in Venezuela (is Heather eating a tequeno?!?)

I love Heather very much and can’t wait to see her again!  Heather recently gave birth to my first niece, so I’m really looking forward to the Darons visiting in a couple months for the holidays!


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Number 76 – Marc Chagall

I don’t really know why I love Chagall’s paintings.  There’s a feeling to them that is sort of indescribable.  I love the calm cool colors contrasting with the vibrant warm colors.  I am so interested in Chagall’s personal history and how is life is reflected in his art.  I love magical realism in literature and in art.  I love the confusion and inspiration of seeing his paintings.

I saw a huge Chagall exhibit at SFMOMA a few years back.  I was amazed at the skill and the stories in Chagall’s paintings.  It blew me away to be quite honest.

When I was last in Paris, I missed his famous Opera ceilings (I will rectify this gross error next summer), but I did get to see his incredible stained glass at the UN building in New York.  It’s amazing how he made glass look like paint.


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Number 75 – Beatriz Loper

Beatriz was one of my instructors at Pacific.  In addition to getting my Masters of Arts in Teaching and endorsements in Language Arts and Social Studies, I decided to jump in with both feet and also get my ESL endorsement and a Cultural Competency Certificate.  Most people don’t do this.  This caused problems.  I ended up taking classes that basically repeated other classes I had taken.  This angered me because it was my time and money and energy and all that.

My last class for ESL was a cultural competency class with Beatriz.  It was on Saturdays.  All day on Saturdays.  After the first class, I was so frustrated when I heard what all the projects and assignments would be.  I had literally done them all before.  Literally.  I talked to everyone at Pacific to see if I could be excused or ‘test out’ of the class.  The response was that no, I couldn’t and it wasn’t their intention for anyone to do all three endorsements at once, so they weren’t prepared for my situation.  I didn’t think this was fair because no one really mentioned that to me as I was filling out the forms (and sending in the tuition checks).  After some grumbling and decisions, I decided to just stay in the class and finish it all up.

And I am so glad that I did.  Beatriz was one of the best instructors I had, and one of the most lovely people I have met.  She is such a wonderfully caring woman.  She was warm and patient with our discussions.  It was very clear that she cared for us as students and as future teachers.  It was also clear that she cared for our future students.  In the end, I think I almost enjoyed spending my Autumn Saturdays in class with Beatriz.  She even came to our graduation ceremony in December, and seeing her there meant so much to me.

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