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One Hundred Things To Do Before I Die



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96. Write a letter to someone who impacted me in my life

First off, I’m not going to show the letter or response due to the personal nature of both. As a result, there is no photograph to accompany this post.  

In May, I hit an unexpected career milestone.  I was named the elementary teacher of the year for the district in which I taught.  It was a huge honor, but also strange because teaching is not something someone does to be recognized. Plus, I don’t like a lot of attention on me, especially for something I felt many people I work with deserved.  

This experience was unique and I felt like it caused people to look at me differently, I thought of ways to deflect the attention off of myself and still positively impact others.  Mr. Eckleman came to mind immediately.  He was a talented, positive teacher that taught me 7th and 8th grade mathematics focused in algebra.  Not only did he teach well, but he built connections and relationships and made learning personal.  Now an administrator at a high school, I chose to write him and really express the impact he made on me and how I strive to emulate the culture and climate of the classroom he created.  So, one morning I got to work early and hammered out an email stating my thanks and that he continues to influence my teaching practices.  

I’m not too proud to say that his response brought me to tears.  Acknowledging gratitude is a proven strategy for a happy life and a simple task I will try to incorporate into more facets of my life.  Based on his response and my experience, you never know how far your actions can travel with a person.  

27. Photograph a wedding

Albert Einstein stated, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”.  As an educator, I value, model and promote lifelong learning.  I love photography, but I often do not push myself past my own comfort level.  So, when I accepted a job as a wedding photographer, I knew I had some learning to do.  

A friend and former colleague, recommended me to photograph her sister’s wedding, in May.  After hesitating and then ensuring a friend would join me in the process, I said “Yes!”.  I spent the subsequent months investing time and money into preparation for Karri and Kala’s special day.  
When the day finally came, I felt prepared and confident with my good friend Fik by my side.  We photographed the set up, the wedding party getting ready, formal family portraits, bride and groom portraits, ceremony and reception.  
I had a blast shooting until my shutter release finger and feet hurt.  The bride and groom, family and friends were welcoming and warm as we shot for 10 hours.  I went through over 2000 images and narrowed it down to 200 that exemplified the progression and beauty of the day. 
My favorite moment of the wedding was when a 10 year old girl asked for the microphone after the best man and maid of honor were done with their toasts. She articulated and improvised a beautiful speech for the couple.
This experience reinforced why I love photographing people, but challenged me in new ways. For example, I had to understand the timeline of the day and plan everything around when and where things were happening, then plan locations and lenses for both my partner and I. The pressure of knowing I had one shot at some of the events was stressful. However, overplanning helped compensate for the fact we hadn’t done this before! Here are a few of my favorites. 

83. Live in a rural area

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For the past eight years, I have lived in Tacoma with my wife and son. A densely populated, lively, interesting city,   A place where it was easy to value the convenience of being able to walk to get a locally roasted cup of coffee, a hair cut, fresh produce or a fine urban pak.   

We made the decision to move to the Vancouver, WA area a year ago and fully committed to the idea.  My wife found a new job in the field of orthodontics and I will be teaching first grade.  

We have moved from a city with a population density of 3,900 people per square mile to a rural outskirt of Vancouver with a population density of 670 people per square mile.  It’s rural.  We said goodbye to the modern amenities of an 800 square foot condo and said hello to a 1960s hand-built home on five acres.  So rural, that during my first week, I was approached by a republican candidate for congress on his bike, while working in the yard. That’s in addition to driving tractors, riding motorcycles and fly fishing. 

It’s taken some time for my body and mind to adjust to a calmer, quieter place of residence.  What’s harder than having to drive five more minutes to local businesses, is being 2 hours from my friends and family in the Puget Sound.  This experience is an opportunity for me to apply what I’ve learned in my life to a completely new area.  Apply my social, teaching and leadership skills to a new geographical area.  I am looking forward to making new friends and knowing where all the beautiful nature spots are in addition to the best breweries.  But until then, I will continue to explore on my bike and do yard work. Here’s dreaming of September and working with great teachers at a new school.  

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71. Fix something myself on a car

Bob Dylan sang in Temporary Like Achilles, “I’m helpless like a rich man’s child”.  While I’m no rich man in terms of currency, the salary I earn has provided a means of living comfortably.  As result, I haven’t had to learn how to do certain things for myself.  Car/Truck repairs have been a long and miserable experience in my past.  More often than not I’ve felt taken advantage thinking, “If only I knew how to do it myself!”

When deciding what I wanted to repair, I went strictly needs-based and landed on the rear brake pads and rotors on my Subaru Forester.  Next, I needed an educator that would be willing and able to teach and hold me accountable for doing it myself: my cousin-in-law Zach.  

I arrived at Zach’s family shop late Friday night with beer, brake pads and rotors. Ever since I began teaching in 2007, I have had the hands of a new bride. Now it was time to get this money-makers dirty. Once we lifted the rear and removed the wheel, I learned about calipers.  The brake system made a lot more sense explained through the words of Zach.  Replacing the rotors were straight forward.  Removing the brake pads required a systematic approach to keep parts in the correct assembly order.  We assembled the anti-squeal plates, retaining clips, and snapped the new pads into place. 

This experience taught me that taking parts off of a vehicle isn’t a scary thing and with the right tools and know-how it can be stress-free and satisfying. 

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33. Win a contest  
I crossed this item off of my list unintentionally.  The Tacoma Skate Co. posted a contest on Instagram asking people to submit ideas for a Tacoma Aroma themed shirt.  While the old paper pulp mill smell has mostly dissipated, a warm moist day can have Tacoma smelling like a wet rag/stank diaper.  
I submitted two ideas, one with the phrase, “Smell You Later” and another with a depiction of the mill with the caption “Stankonia”…and it was Stankonia for the win!
I was pleasantly surprised to find out I had won upon checking my Instagram feed.  As a reward for my intellectual property, I am being sent a shirt with my design on it! 
I feel like more often than not I do not submit to contests for with the thinking “It’ll never be me”.  It’s time to cut that thinking out of my patterns of thought.

33. Win a contest 

I crossed this item off of my list unintentionally.  The Tacoma Skate Co. posted a contest on Instagram asking people to submit ideas for a Tacoma Aroma themed shirt.  While the old paper pulp mill smell has mostly dissipated, a warm moist day can have Tacoma smelling like a wet rag/stank diaper. 

I submitted two ideas, one with the phrase, “Smell You Later” and another with a depiction of the mill with the caption “Stankonia”…and it was Stankonia for the win!

I was pleasantly surprised to find out I had won upon checking my Instagram feed.  As a reward for my intellectual property, I am being sent a shirt with my design on it!

I feel like more often than not I do not submit to contests for with the thinking “It’ll never be me”.  It’s time to cut that thinking out of my patterns of thought.

31. Master’s Degree

Over the past 19 months I have been a father, husband, full time teacher AND grad student.  This week concluded the time and energy that I put toward earning a higher degree in elementary education.

Part of earning a master’s degree in education correlates with higher pay, but there is so much more.  To me, it signifies the ultimate commitment and passion for my profession.  I am a life-long learner and I strive to model this in my actions to my students and my son.  

However, part of earning a master’s degree was the ultimate test of my ability to manage every thing I love; the ultimate test of self-actualization.  This experience helped me to focus on specific aspects of my career in addition to pushing me to appreciate the time I have for family, friends and hobbies. 

8. Publicly show my photographs

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Over the past ten years I have invested countless hours, money and love into photography.  From learning how to develop film and how a camera works, to logging locations to shoot at in a journal and driving miles to find a place I swore I saw something at a few years ago, to working to set my work apart from everything else I was seeing in the art community through subject/medium relationships.  And, I am still not done learning, exploring and trying to capture my world the way I see it.

Recently the opportunity was awarded to me to have my first showing at Bluebeard Coffee Roasters.   I put a collection together of nine great pieces; many symbolizing my love for Tacoma.  If you are in the area, please stop in to this great location and view my work. 

1. Roast my own coffee

It is common for me to feel disjointed that I don’t know how to do something or don’t where something comes from.  As a true pacific northwesterner  and a first grade teacher, I value, savor and hold my coffee habits dear to my heart.  It’s that same disjointedness that motivated me to discover for myself the roasting process for coffee beans.


I was given a bag of Sweet Maria’s Kenya Nyeri Kagumo-ini AB for the purpose of crossing this off my list of things to do (thanks sister!).  I researched at-home methods of coffee roasting and decided upon a air popcorn popper. 


The green coffee beans were poured into the popper to the fill line for popping corn kernels.  I started the popper and listened for the first crack which sounds similar to popcorn popping.  Chaff was spraying about as I listened for the second crack, which indicates it is medium roasted.  At that point I unplugged the popper and poured the roasted beans into a metal colander to cool.  I repeated this six times until the pound bag of beans were all roasted. 

As a result, my home smells wonderful and I have a pound of coffee beans waiting to be consumed.  It is recommended that one waits a few days to let the beans degas, but I will be brewing a cup every day to see how the beans mature and peak. 

 

 

44. Eat foie gras
As an adult, I had to train myself to enjoy many foods.  I did so by learning to cook properly with fresh ingredients and pushing past my childish fears of texture.  So, as I learned more about peasant foods and offal, I was intrigued and anxious to sample some foods many Americans turn away from.  Additionally, I was inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s retelling of the first time he ate a fresh oyster in France, in Kitchen Confidential. 
I looked into restaurants that still continue to offer foie gras, as it has become less and less available due to the controversial production methods.  My wife and I journeyed to Seattle to Quinn’s.  I ordered the Foie Gras Frites and a cold beer.  I did not know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results.  
I received a plate of hand-cut fries with shaved foie gras and foie sauce.  The plate was decadent beyond belief or comparison.  The foie gras melts in your mouth, which sets off the gravy-like foie sauce.  Lesson well learned.

44. Eat foie gras

As an adult, I had to train myself to enjoy many foods.  I did so by learning to cook properly with fresh ingredients and pushing past my childish fears of texture.  So, as I learned more about peasant foods and offal, I was intrigued and anxious to sample some foods many Americans turn away from.  Additionally, I was inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s retelling of the first time he ate a fresh oyster in France, in Kitchen Confidential. 

I looked into restaurants that still continue to offer foie gras, as it has become less and less available due to the controversial production methods.  My wife and I journeyed to Seattle to Quinn’s.  I ordered the Foie Gras Frites and a cold beer.  I did not know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results. 

I received a plate of hand-cut fries with shaved foie gras and foie sauce.  The plate was decadent beyond belief or comparison.  The foie gras melts in your mouth, which sets off the gravy-like foie sauce.  Lesson well learned.

88.  Buy x-mas presents for kids in need every year for the rest of my life
I started teaching first grade in the fall of 2007.  Every Christmas since, I have purchased gifts for students in need at my school.  After six years of teaching in a school in a community of poverty, I have seen too many children come from homes of neglect, abuse, drugs and a lack of love. Regardless of what the parents situation may be, the children are the true victims.
I often take for granted the ease of access I have to the things I need and want.  This year, more presents are for kids that are not my own, than for my wife, child or myself.  This year some child will have a Christmas to remember. I purchased 25 books, skinny jeans, thermal long sleeve shirts, an authentic NFL football, and a slinky for boy in my class. 
Recently, with the passing of my grandfather, I was reminded of his generous spirit and kind heart.  He communicated in all of his actions that in order to get the most out of life you must give. This is a tradition that will remain in our house permanently.

88.  Buy x-mas presents for kids in need every year for the rest of my life

I started teaching first grade in the fall of 2007.  Every Christmas since, I have purchased gifts for students in need at my school.  After six years of teaching in a school in a community of poverty, I have seen too many children come from homes of neglect, abuse, drugs and a lack of love. Regardless of what the parents situation may be, the children are the true victims.

I often take for granted the ease of access I have to the things I need and want.  This year, more presents are for kids that are not my own, than for my wife, child or myself.  This year some child will have a Christmas to remember. I purchased 25 books, skinny jeans, thermal long sleeve shirts, an authentic NFL football, and a slinky for boy in my class. 

Recently, with the passing of my grandfather, I was reminded of his generous spirit and kind heart.  He communicated in all of his actions that in order to get the most out of life you must give. This is a tradition that will remain in our house permanently.