Monday, April 30, 2012

Autism Awareness Month

Francis '99
Liz Francis '99

So, here it is, almost the end of April. 

April, if you are my Facebook friend know by now, is Autism Awareness Month! 

This year, I thought I would try something new and I dedicated my Facebook page to Autism Awareness Month. Every day, I posted a new fact or thought about autism and pictures which encourage awareness and education on the subject of autism. And, I got tremendous responses! 

So many people have thanked me for doing this because a lot of them don't know much about autism. I love the feeling I get when I am able to help educate others on autism and how it is such a major part of my life. My son, Allen is almost seven now and is just thriving in first grade! He is still in the Structured Routine Center program at Sexton Mountain Elementary school which is a specialized classroom for children with autism taught by an amazing staff, including Ashlee Yokom. 

He has been showing tremendous improvement in academics, speech, and social skills. He is much more active socially and is not as tentative about initiating language. I also know this is due to his private speech therapist, Megan Snow, who has been amazing in Allen's language development. So much has been happening in our household over the last year, including the arrival of a baby cousin for Allen, who he absolutely adores! 

Overall, this April has been a good chance for me to spread the word about autism and help others understand that although April is Autism Awareness Month, autism is a daily thing for me and my family and I want others to know and appreciate both the challenges and the joys of raising a son with autism.  

For those who want to help, I am sponsoring a team in the Autism Speaks walk this August and I would love it if people would join our team and walk with us, or if you can't make it, you are welcome to make a donation towards our team. All funds go to Autism Speaks, an organization that helps educate on the topic of autism, and also researches the causes and treatments of autism so that people may benefit from new techniques. I am attaching a link to my walk page. Thanks to all who have read my Facebook page and have asked me questions about autism.  

Francis '99 was an art major with an emphasis in photography at Pacific. She is the Office Manager at Degenkolb Engineers in downtown Portland and has been with my company for a little over three years. She is about to celebrate her 13th wedding anniversary with her husband, Jason. Along with autism awareness, Francis also enjoys photography and wine tasting. She still hangs out with a lot of her friends from Pacific and they continue to hang at their old college hang-out, the Dublin Pub.  But her son, Allen, is the highlight of her life since college. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Four Boxers, the Big Easy, and the Final Four

Chester Duke Carson '04

“Where you living these days?” I asked Pete Boyle '03. He and I were the first and second to arrive at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport ahead of our guys afternoon in, G-A-I, a gai. Not… not… that’s a… not gay.
Carson during his epic trip to New Orleans
(Michael Scott references are still in, right?)
More than an afternoon, too. We were in Nola for the Final Four, or at least that was the original premise that allowed me to explain the merits of such a trip to my wife. Pete, who graduated a year ahead of me at Pacific, told me he was living in South Jersey. “Why?” I asked. For work, he said. “Oh, cool, and what do you do?”
See, I hadn’t seen Pete for a couple years – when we were both in Denver for another Boxer alumni's wedding. “I’m an orthopedic surgeon,” said Pete.
Wow.  That’s all I could think. WOW. Pete’s a surgeon. Me?  I toiled away in the radio industry for a couple years before switching over to the world of government last year, a move I should have made long before. Still, “Republican Staff Assistant” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “orthopedic surgeon.” 

Eric Olbekson '04 and Bryce Yamamoto '03, the other two former Boxers that soon joined us at the airport and for the weekend, are also both success stories in my eyes. Bryce is an accountant in Oregon and owns his house. Eric pretty much runs a mid-size health care company in the Bay Area. And he’s a dad.
Whatever. Being the least impressive dude on the trip didn’t bother me THAT much. Besides, I can take out my jealousy on Bryce and Eric in our fantasy football league. So there!
Our weekend in New Orleans was one that was long talked about, and like any Hollywood film in development, at various times had all kinds of former Boxers “attached” to attend. In the end, it was us four in a rental house that was reserved late in the game.
That is to say that we wound up in a “hip and trendy” part of New Orleans (Bywater neighborhood).  THAT is to say we wound up, according to our Friday night cabbie, “2 blocks” away from a part of town he wouldn’t drive into. Let alone vacation in.
But hey, we each spent four years in Forest Grove! We’re cool with the “hip and trendy”!
Left to Right: Jimmy Buffett, Eric & Bryce
Alright, our Final Four Nola weekend in words-but-not-complete-sentences: Cowboy hats, Drago’s charbroiled oysters, hurricanes (a Nola must, but don’t overdo it, or else!), Bourbon Street (including a Rob Riggle sighting), hand grenades (see: hurricanes), Harrah’s casino and some lost money, me being VIOLENTLY ill, slow Friday morning recovery, see the Mississippi, Frenchman Street, live music, Washboard Chaz, The Iguanas, Jimmy freaking Buffett, last minute decision to get tickets to the basketball games, flirting with a scalper before going legit, sneak into VIP lounge of the Superdome and hang out long enough to eat and drink our fill, lose bets on both games (unless you’re Bryce, jerk), try and fail to find cab back to “hip and trendy” neighborhood, give limo driver $40 for the 2 mile ride, sleep, airport, home.  (NOTE: All four of us are closer to 30 than 21.  Just sayin’.  Or, as Pete says, “J.S., J.S.”.)
In other words: the Big Easy was spectacular.  And you better believe there was a lot – a LOT! – of reminiscing about our days in Forest Grove.
Now, if I can just figure out how to become a doctor by the next go around…
Carson '04 worked in radio broadcasting after majoring in Film and Video Production, spending time in both Juneau, Alaska and Southern California.  He left the radio world for government in 2011, moving to D.C. to work for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  He and his wife are now eyeballing an eventual move to the Big Island, where Carson fantasizes about being a Kona Coffee Farmer.  Any spare time is spent obsessively following the Miami Dolphins, writing, and preparing for the next fantasy football season.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dancing to the Rhythm of Home

Caitlin Valhuerdi '13

For many students, the coming of April means spring is here, finals will soon be upon us, and the bright light that is summer can be seen at the end of the academic tunnel.  However, for me, and many students at Pacific, April means one thing: lū’au season is upon us.

For 52 years, Pacific’s Hawai’i club, Na Haumana O Hawaiʻi (NHOH), has put on its annual lū’au.  Held on the second Saturday of April, this event pulls together months and months of preparation starting with planning done by the lū’au board early in the year and ending with late nights in the gym during the week preceding the much anticipated event, reorganizing dancers and folding programs for the guests.  While it gives the students participating in lū’au to share the Hawaiian culture (as well as other Polynesian and Asian cultures) with those on the “mainland,” for me, it has become a way to feel like home isn’t so far away.

I moved to Kaua’i with my family when I was four years old.  It’s the only home I’ve ever really known and the differences between Oregon and the Garden Isle become more and more pronounced the more homesick I get.  I won’t claim that hula has been integral to my upbringing— I took a few hula classes when I was a kid and was a May Day princess in the eighth grade, but beyond that… not so much. 

When I came up to Pacific, I didn’t anticipate making lū’au a part of my spring semester.  My first year, I was (wrongfully) informed that all freshman had to participate in the Freshman dance, so I signed up.  It was almost unnerving, how quickly dancing brought a smile to my face.  The instruments playing through the music, the language I can’t even begin to understand but still find so familiar─ feelings of home came rushing back in.  By the second week of practice, I found myself slipping into pidgin, laughing, and being genuinely happy despite the gray skies and cold puddles that would have otherwise made me day dream of the Kauaian sun.  It was a highlight of my freshman year and the memories I made up on stage, dancing in front of the audience, are ones that I won’t soon let go of.

Valhuerdi (far right) backstage at her freshman dance
Since that first freshman dance, I have participated in at least two numbers (poi balls (both traditional and modern styles) and ‘auana) every year.  Regardless of how tired it makes me or how packed my schedule becomes, Lū’au season is one that simultaneously drives me insane and brings me immense joy.  While I’m glad it offers up a cultural experience for those mainlanders that may never have the chance to be submerged in the melting pot of cultures found in Hawai’i, I am genuinely thankful that lū’au has given me the chance to connect with the life I’ve left back in the islands.

Valhuerdi  '13 grew up on Kaua'i and entered Pacific University in the fall of 2009. She is majoring in Psychology and has worked in the Office of Alumni Relations since the spring semester of her freshman year. She enjoys photography, starting (and completing) DIY projects, going on surf safaris and mastering new nail art designs. Caitlin is third from the right in the photo above and is pictured after her freshman dance on the left.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Be Present, and Nothing More

Kim Mathie '95 

Before I left my last job, I wrote my signature in cement in the parking lot. I wasn’t expecting to find wet cement that day nor did I anticipate the pull to do something so typically rebellious to be so strong. I just grabbed my pencil (encouraged by my co-worker) and dug in. 

In hindsight, I can see now I wasn’t necessarily trying to be rebellious—it would be a small rebellion to be sure, but to make my mark, one that would stick around a while. Because the truth is, once you turn around and walk away from something—a job, a hometown, an old lover—they immediately do the same. We all leave holes that need to be filled in or covered over or hidden under dirty clothes. It’s just a fact, an ugly one, but a fact just the same.

That’s why when we return to that job, the hometown or the old lover, we inspect it, turn it over in our hands (or hearts), dig for the stories left behind, look under dressers and beds for scraps of paper, stray socks, or any hint that we were once there. Because if the past doesn’t exist in some tangible form, did it--and by consequence, me--ever exist?

Of course! Don’t be ridiculous.

It’s easy to get lost philosophizing over the past, asking existential questions that don’t provide much comfort no matter what conclusions you come to. So we can’t visit the past, touch it, smother it with kisses or slap it around for hurting you but it’s still there like a light (or a stone) in our hearts and memories.

Knowing this, however, I have to something to confess. For the past few weeks, I’ve been Facebook stalking my old employer. I’ve been poking around their website and peeking in on their conversations, maybe even contributing to one. I was trying to find out if you could tell. I was looking for clues. But I had to tell myself to get a grip. That the answers I was looking for weren’t there but in the emails from friends who missed me, Facebook posts on my own page that provided love and encouragement and actual letters I received in the mail. 

At my job, I created things and those things will change, for better, for worse, or for no reason at all, they will change. But the people I met are the true champions because they kept me with them in the right here, right now, in the present and they let me know about it.

So, that’s it. I’m done with it. The past is the past. It’s the present that really matters, what you do with it, how you care for it, and who lives in it. Eventually, all that will be past, too, anyway. It’s the cycle of life, right? It’s a ruthless bastard, to be sure, but something you can count on.

Mathie '95 describes herself as a "sassy, self-directed arts administrator." She is a writer, a blogger, a marketing developer and graphic designer in her spare time while she is the Marketing Coordinator for Sam Houston State University in Texas. Follow her blog:

Friday, April 06, 2012

A New Perspective on Education

Mychaela Olson '09

As I sit at my desk in my classroom, I can’t help looking at the sign hanging above my desk that says, “The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” and laugh. 

Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured myself where I am today; living and teaching in South Korea. 

When I graduated in 2009 with my Bachelor’s in Education and my teaching license, I did what any other newly graduated teacher did, search and apply for jobs around the clock and hope that in the current stagnant job market an opportunity would arise. 

After working for two years, I found myself unhappy in my job and was starting to doubt my decision to go into teaching. I knew I needed to make a change, I just didn’t know at the time the change that was going to occur would be so drastic. 

Now, here it is 13 months later and I have just started my second year teaching in Korea. I have loved every minute of it. I have had the opportunity to put all those skills I learned during my time at Pacific to good use, work alongside some amazing Korean teachers, teach some amazingly talented students from the young grade of Kindergarten all the way up to 6th grade and I have learned a lot about myself along the way. 

It is widely known among teachers that we don’t go into teaching because we are going to make a copious amount of money. No, we go into teaching because we love working with students. This opportunity that I have taken has rejuvenated my love for teaching and working with children. 

I’ve also been extremely lucky to ignite another passion, traveling. I have been able to travel around Korea, adventured through Thailand for 17 days this past August and island hop my way through Indonesia this past January. 

Considering before all this I had never left the United States or Canada; if someone had told me this would be my life at 24 years old, I would have called them crazy. What started out as a whim of an idea has turned into an amazing experience. To be able to do what I love everyday and get to travel the world, as cheesy as it sounds, sometimes it seems to good to be true.

Olson '09 is a Native English Teacher for Geyonggi English Program in Korea (GEPIK). Her major at Pacific was Education and Learning. She is currently working on her Master in Curriculum and Instruction: Reading with an Emphasis in Elementary Education through Grand Canyon University in Arizona. 

Monday, April 02, 2012

Football, Fútbol, Soccer

Brian Pan '09

Every day on my way to work, I think to myself “I actually get paid to do this!” It may sound a bit cliché, but it is true.

I played every sport possible growing up and dreamt of becoming a professional athlete. Realistically, I knew I likely I would do something else with my life. The next best thing to playing sports would be to work in sports, but even that appeared to be a long shot. And to think my first job out of college would be in sports, let alone with the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders FC, was unimaginable.

More than likely, you know the Seahawks, but odds are I lost you at Sounders FC. You either have no idea who or what the Sounders are or you are a Portland Timbers fan. To be honest, three years ago I had no idea who the Sounders FC were either. Major League Soccer may not be on the minds of many Americans, but “The World's Game” is quickly gaining favor of many sports fans in the northwest with the rivalry among the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps.Working with the Sounders FC has opened my eyes not only to “The World's Game,” but to the world itself. In just three years, I've traveled all over North and Central America all for the game of soccer.

Not long after obtaining my passport, I went with the team to their first international competition in El Salvador. I knew I was in for culture shock, since I had never been outside of the United States or Canada. I didn't realize just how much of a shock it would be. 

From the moment I stepped off the plane and I had to pay the ten dollar “tourism” charge, it was an adventure I'd never forget. We were greeted outside of the airport by three El Salvadorian military personnel with semi-automatic rifles! I initially thought they were normally stationed at the airport, but I later learned they were our escort to the hotel. Driving around San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, was another surprise. The fact that there were virtually no traffic laws seemed mundane compared to the shotgun welding “guards” that appeared to be in nearly every store front.

Then there was the game. the Sounders played in El Salvador's national team stadium. It was built in the 1990's, but because of the lack of maintenance it was run down and archaic. As we exited the bus, police in full riot gear created a path for us that lead directly to the locker room. There weren't many fans around at that point, so the protection seemed unwarranted. 

After the game, however, I was glad we had police protection to separate us from the mass of fans. To get from the locker room to the field we had to walk down a long flight of stairs and then up another set of stairs to emerge from beneath the field right in front of the team's bench. Once we got onto the field we were met again by the police in riot gear, as they were stationed around the outside of the field. I couldn't believe a sporting event would require so much protection for the participants. My first international trip with the Sounders was certainly an eye-opening experience.  It made me appreciate the freedom and safety we take for granted here in the U.S.

Pan '09 was a Media Arts & Film major at Pacific and was on the golf team. He works as the Digital Media Video Producer for the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders Football Club.