Friday, December 28, 2007

Counting our blessings

Christmas 2007 is over and it was an unforgettable holiday, unfortunately not for the right reasons. It all started on Christmas Eve when we were preparing to settle in for a peaceful night at home.

Theresa and Dustin had just gotten home from shopping around dusk and the ham was put in the oven for dinner. Theresa noticed a smoky smell but she just assumed someone had their fireplace going. Soon after that our neighbor came and knocked on the door. He thought the trailer next door was on fire and when Theresa looked out there was black smoke pouring out of it. While she called 911, the neighbor went over and brought the dogs into our yard and made sure nobody was inside.

The neighborhood fire department roared onto the scene and began fighting the fire. We were told to evacuate immediately so we rounded up the Pugs and hurried out into the smoky air. Our neighbors were fantastic as they volunteered to help us into the van and made sure the dogs were safe. A person sure feels helpless as you drive away not knowing if you'll have a home to return to.

We drove around the block and found a place to park and wait things out. After being there a little while, the fire chief said it was safe to return home. Sadly our neighbor Sharon's trailer was a total loss but thankfully nobody was injured in the fire. She's trying to get back on her feet and the Red Cross has setup a fund for her. It's a harsh reminder how life can quickly change and we're thankful we still have a roof over our heads.

On Christmas day we traveled to spend the day with Dustin's family. We had a great time and it was fun to see Dustin's little cousin celebrate his 1st Christmas. He got a little yellow push vacuum that he couldn't stop playing with. It was an enjoyable way to end the holiday.

Grades were released yesterday and I made the Dean's list with a 3.91. I'm really happy with the semester but it's time to forget about that and focus on the semester in front of me. Break has been great and I'll definetely be ready to hit the ground running on January 22nd.

That's it for now but you may notice the addition of music on my blog. Each week I'll add a song that I've been listening to recently and you never know what may end up here. Hope you enjoy!

Peace,

Mark

To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone. ~ Reba McEntire

Friday, December 21, 2007

Guest Column

Yesterday I had the guest column in the Missoulian (Missoula's newspaper). If interested, you can find it at:
http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/12/21/opinion/opinion5.txt

Happy Holidays!

Mark

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The tree is up, packages & cards have been mailed and my door is covered with the cards I've received from friends & family. Christmas is almost here again and it's the 2nd one since my release from the nursing home. It still feels a little strange to be away from my family during the holiday season. I guess that's the price paid for the great things that have happened to me during the last 15 months. We are planning to spend Christmas Eve here in East Missoula and I think were traveling out to Superior for Christmas Day. By the sound of the weekend forecast, we stand a great chance of a white Christmas. That would sure be nice.

Being on break from school has been great and it's been nice to recharge the batteries. I've been renting movies, reading books, catching up on email and enjoying afternoon naps with the Pugs. Not a bad way to spend time I must say. My semester grades have been emailed to me and I was fortunate to pull A's in all my classes. School has definitely been a good fit for me and even though things will become gradually harder, it's nice to get off to a positive start.

My trach situation has improved and hopefully we've resolved this matter. My ENT thought my bleeding and discomfort was possibly from lack of sufficient humidity during this extremely dry time of year. We've added in a few more breathing treatments and they seem to have done the trick. I’m hoping this marks the end of my trach troubles.

Before I end this week’s entry, I'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Have a safe and enjoyable time next week. I’ll return soon with my 2007 wrap up.

Peace,

Mark

"A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done." -- Vince Lombardi

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I made it!


Yesterday marked the end of fall semester for me and I feel great. Finals went fantastic and I should be in pretty good shape with my grades. Now it's time to relax and enjoy the holiday season.

I couldn't have survived this semester without the help of two very special ladies. My nurse Kimbra and Theresa have been extraordinary. They've put in long hours and helped me in so many ways. Everyday of this semester has been memorable and thankfully there weren't too bumps along the way. You guys are the greatest and without you none of this would have been possible! There's one thing about the upcoming spring semester that I'll love. No morning classes :-)

I spent Tuesday afternoon running around Missoula finishing up my Christmas shopping. The stores weren't very busy and it was nice not having to fight the crowds. Today (Thurs) I'll have to run to the post office and then to campus to wrap up a few details.

There's not much else going on except catching up on some movies and audio books. It's so nice to give my brain a little time off. Take care and enjoy the pics. The second picture this week was snapped after I fell asleep one night after a long study session. My study buddies have to be as close as possible at all times!

Peace,

Mark

“The road to success is always under construction” -- Lily Tomlin

Friday, November 30, 2007

Orange week



This week several students at UM took part in the Orange campaign to bring attention to the 1 in 20 children in Africa who have been orphaned by AIDS. 700 (1/20 of UM's students) orange shirts printed with ORPHAN were sold to students as a benefit for an orphanage in Kenya. The shirts have been worn all week to demonstrate the impact of AIDS on African children. It was really cool to be a part of this project that will make a difference in the lives of orphaned kids.

I have two days of class left to attend and then it will be finals week! Looks like I will survive the semester with my sanity intact :-) During break, I plan on going to the movies, listening to some audio books, attending a couple concerts and enjoying the holidays.

A few of the Pugs remain under the weather and hopefully with their antibiotics they will be feeling better soon. My Harley has been cuddling close to me the last few days and I'm glad that's comforting for her. Always makes me happy to hear their rhythmic snoring and snorting.

Winter continues it's welcoming grasp on Missoula. The campus is beautiful and it's peaceful strolling to class with light snow falling down. Sounds like the weather will be warming to the upper thirties, so I'm sure that will make things nice and messy outside.

I have some major edits for English to get back too but I wanted to get a brief update out before the weekend. Not sure if there will be another post before finals but we'll see.

Peace,

Mark

Monday, November 19, 2007

Let it snow!


Winter roared in with a fury last night and we now have over a foot of fluffy snow on the ground. There are many powerlines down around the area and luckily the power has stayed on at our place. I've included some pictures of what we woke up to this morning.

I'm another week closser to winter break and there's so much to do. My list includes: doing the final edits for my English Comp. portfolio, a Powerpoint presentation in Study Skills, and a research paper in Anthropology. Oh yeah I need to study for finals too :-) At least this work will keep me out of trouble! School has been an awesome experience and I'm looking forward to Spring semester.

I've had a little time to relax the past couple of weeks. We went to a performance of "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You" (a Missoula Reperatory Theatre production) a week or so ago. Sister Mary was a funny, smart satire of Catholic dogma that played to a full house. The cast was amazingly talented and I'm looking foward to the next production in February.

I'd like to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to those of you who will be traveling. We'll be hitting the road Thursday and driving out to Superior to spend the day with Dustin's family. Hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate for us. Til next week....

Peace,

Mark

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Return of the Rocket Man


Elton John dazzled Missoula during homecoming weekend and unfortunately we weren’t able to get any tickets. When Elton left town, we were certain our only chance to see him had come and gone.

Recently it was announced that the Rocket Man would be playing an encore performance in Missoula this coming April. Tickets went on sale last Monday and again they quickly sold out. This time though we got lucky and managed to get tickets! We’re stoked about seeing Elton in concert and the long wait will be worth it.

School is starting to drag a bit and the pressure is definitely building. So much to do and 4 weeks to get it all accomplished. Oh well, it will make winter break that much more enjoyable. I got an A on my last exams in Study Skills and Mass Media. My Anthropology exam was last Tuesday and it was a killer. Fingers are crossed on that one.

I’ve started my research paper for English Comp. and it’s looking to be a pretty good challenge. I decided to write about the conglomeration of today’s media companies and how it’s negatively affecting Journalism. We’ll see how that works out :-)

My new trach is causing a few problems and we’re trying to get to the bottom of things. Hopefully it’s not new irritation but we’re giving it a few days before we go back to the doctor. I’m just hoping that we won’t be going back to square one.

That’s the news from the week gone by here in Big Sky country. Take care and have a great weekend!

Mark

Sunday, October 28, 2007

FEMA Flub

Just when you think the Bush administration couldn’t sink any lower, they out do themselves once again. This week FEMA held a press conference to discuss the California wildfires but a key component was missing from this briefing. The press! These clowns at FEMA thought they could stage a press conference and use their own employees as the reporters asking questions. Of course these employees lobbed nothing but softball questions to the FEMA spokesperson. The real journalists were quick to shed light on this charade and FEMA was once again caught looking foolish. This comedy of incompetence just proves how horrible this administration is and how low they are willing to stoop. Hopefully the voters won’t be asleep at the wheel in November of O8.

I went to see Dr. Gardner (my ENT) on Friday morning and he put in my new custom Shiley trach. It’s a lot shorter than my old trach and it fit perfect. He ran the scope down my new trach and everything checked out very good. Now the old ulceration on my trachea should totally heal without any problem.

It’s been another busy week here in Missoula and I survived my tests last week. The end of the semester keeps drawing closer and I’m busy getting ready for spring semester. Tomorrow I register for classes and I’m planning on taking 13 credits. I’ll be taking Intro to American Government, General Geology, Macroeconomics, and Introductory Algebra. I was hoping to take a class during winter break but it appears the class I wanted has been canceled. That’s alright with me and I’m looking forward to a nice six week break.

The week ahead doesn’t look too bad except for the fact that my English Comp Op-ed is due this week. I chose to write one on the controversy surrounding the wolf population here in Western Montana. Hopefully if all goes well it may even end up published in the Missoulian.

The picture I’ve included was taken last week when Kari was up on my lap. Kari loves sitting in my chair with me and she is so full of energy. She may be small but she definitely is the energizer bunny of this household.

It was announced a week or so ago that Tool added a Missoula show on their current tour. We got the tickets we wanted and they play Missoula on December 3rd. That’s all for now folks and I’ll be back next week.

Peace,

Mark

“There is no such thing as a little freedom. You are either free or you’re not.” -- Walter Cronkite

Monday, October 22, 2007

Feeling better

The fall chill has gripped the Missoula valley and the top of nearby Mt. Sentinel had a brief dusting of snow Sunday morning. It was a perfect weekend to be inside watching football and studying.

The past week was alright except that I battled a cold. A few days of rest and Nyquil seem to have done the trick. I'm really feeling much better now and ready for the week ahead. It's that cold & flu time or year I guess and time for the annual flu shot.

It’s past the midway point of the semester and things are starting the ramp up. This week I have tests in Mass Media and Study Skills along with an op-ed paper for English Comp. The end of the term is in sight and it feels great to be on the downside. I’ll be meeting with my advisor on Tuesday and then I should have my schedule pounded out.

Today Ugga and Kari both have birthdays and we are taking them to Petsmart for a shopping excursion. It’s always fun to take them along and they get so excited. Ugga immediately knows it’s Petsmart as soon we turn into the parking lot. She’s such a silly girl. Next week I’ll have some pictures to put up.

Well studying calls so I better wrap it up. Take care until next time.

Mark

"When I die, I want to die living." - Margaret Bourke-White

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Finally a post!



This week's post has taken awhile to get put together and my apologies for that. School sure has a way of consuming most of my week.

Last weekend Missoula had the incredible honor of hosting the APRIL (Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living) conference. It's a nationwide gathering and people came from all over the country to attend. I was able to go on Sunday and went to sessions on disability advocacy and nursing home emancipation.

I had a nice surprise while I was at the conference. I ran into some friends of mine from Freedom Resource Center back in Fargo and John who is with Options up in Grand Forks. Was very nice to see everybody and we got to catch up a little bit. It was cool to see them on my new home turf. They were all happy that things are going great for me.

School has continued to be busy and the middle of fall semester is almost here. I have a PowerPoint to work on for my study skills class and I'm also working at putting together my writing portfolio for English Composition. Enough stuff to keep me out of trouble anyways. I'll be registering for spring classes very soon and I think I may try taking a class over winter break.

On Tuesday night we went out to visit Dustin's family and pay a visit to Trent who is Dustin's second cousin. Trent is adorable and he really has developed quite the personality. Of course I had to include a picture of him this week. We all had a nice time and I always look forward to when we can all spend time together.

Not much else going on except catching up on a little homework this weekend. I'd like to wish a speedy recovery to our friend MJ out in Ohio. Hope you feel better real soon!

Peace,

Mark

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I survived...





I survived the craziness of last week and it's been so nice to relax the past few days. Even though it was a bit of madness last week, it was still a blast.

Things got underway last Tuesday night as Theresa and Dustin had their Big Sky Bonanza final get together/dinner. I was able to come along and it was a very relaxing time. Big Sky Bonanza is a new self direct waiver option here in Montana and they helped build it from the ground up. It's a great achievement and I'm very proud of the work and effort they have put forth. The evening ended with the premiere of the training video that was put together for this waiver. Dustin had a big part in the video and he did great as usual. There was a picture of me and Prince that snuck onto the video too!

On Wednesday the Montana Senior and Long-term Care Consumer Service Bureau Conference got underway. Boy that's quite a mouthful to say. Basically it's for Montana consumers of home & community based services and the related providers. It was held at the Hilton here in Missoula and the turnout was great. I had the opportunity to be on the consumer panel during one of Thursday's breakout sessions. It was great to once again tell my story of the great nursing home escape. We took some video but I haven't had time to edit it and put it up. I'll probably post it in the next week or two.

Thursday was absolutely crazy but it went great. I started out early that morning with my midterm exams. After the exams I had an interview with the UM news program on campus about what it's like for a student with a disability to attend college. I put up the clip on YouTube so everybody can check it out if they want. Then after my interview I had to get over to the conference center for lunch and my afternoon presentation. We spent the whole rest of the day there and ended it with a banquet and dance. It was so fun and normally I would sleep in the day after but on Friday my parents came in for the weekend.

Was so good to see them and show them around campus. There was a lot of energy on campus Saturday afternoon with it being homecoming. The Griz pulled off a 15-10 victory over Weber State.

My folks and I had a great visit and it was nice to spend time with them. As usual the time went by too fast but that's the way it goes. They plan on being back soon and I can't wait for their next visit.

I found out two of my midterm exam results on Monday. In mass media I got a 97% and in study skills I received 100% Anthropology results aren't in yet but I feel pretty confident about that. Hopefully things will keep going great for the rest of the semester. I can't believe it's almost time to register for spring semester. Where does the time go?

That's my wrap up for the crazy week gone by. Be back soon with another update.

Peace,

Mark

Monday, September 24, 2007

One busy week



It's been another whirlwind week here in Missoula and school sure does make the time go by fast. I'm afraid my updates might become a little less frequent but I will try to keep them on schedule.

Last Tuesday, Theresa and I went to the University Theater to catch Ladysmith Black Mambazzo in concert. They are from South Africa and have an amazing acapella sound. Not only are they multi Grammy award winners but they were prominently featured on Paul Simon's 1986 visonary album Graceland. Ladysmith has sung with recording luminaries such as Stevie Wonder, Natalie Merchant, Sarah McLachlan, Melissa Etheridge and Josh Groban. Their captivating music is very powerful and I thought I'd put a clip on this week's post.

School has been going well but this is the biggest week so far. I have my first big tests in anthropology and mass media along with turning in my first big English Comp assignment. Will be nice to get these out of the way and get a feel for how things will be for the remainder of the semester.

This week is when the Montana Senior and Long Term Care have their annual conference. Missoula is hosting the conference this year and it should be a very good time. I was asked to be on the consumer panel and talk about my experiences with leaving the nursing home. It's always great to have a chance to share my story and tell people how escaping an institution changed my life.

It's homecoming week at the University of Montana and it looks to be a wild couple of days. The rocket man Sir Elton John will be in concert on Friday night playing to a sold out Adams Center. Then on Saturday the Griz take on Weber State in their first Big Sky conference game. The sea of maroon will be in full force I'm sure. Thankfully the game will be televised as tickets are almost impossible to get.

On Friday my parents are coming into town for a few days. It will be so good to see them and spend some time together. I'm looking forward to showing them around campus and just having a good time.

I will post a few pictures from the upcoming week in my next time. Catch you then!

Peace,

Mark

Monday, September 17, 2007

A naughty Pug

A funny thing happened on the way to the lab on Friday. Theresa and I stopped by the post office on the way, to pick up a package. I stayed out in the van with Kari while Theresa went inside.

She may be our littlest Pug but boy does she have quite the independent, curious and stubborn personality. Right after Theresa went inside; Kari excitedly stood up on the driver’s seat doing her where’s momma routine. While she was looking out the window, I heard a very distinct click. Yep the little stinker bumped the lock and entrapped us both in the van.

Theresa came back to the vehicle and tried opening the door. I just smiled as she gave me her you have to be kidding look. She was in total disbelief that this innocent little canine was capable of such a feat.

Luckily there was a security guard outside the Federal building doing his rounds. He came over to see what he could do and it was decided that a locksmith would be to be called. In less than 10 minutes he came to our rescue.

It turns out that dogs do this quite often and this particular locksmith has gotten several calls exactly like ours. He was a great guy and he helped us get back on our way. The good news was that my blood work at the lab turned out excellent. No more pokes until next month!

School continues to go very well and it sure does make the weeks fly by. Mass media is my favorite class and I find the lectures to be quite interesting. The media in this country has a detailed history and I enjoy learning about it. I’m definitely convinced that I picked the right major in Journalism.

English composition has turned out to be the hardest class but I’m managing just fine with all the writing so far. We’ve had our first big assignment and it’s writing a 1000 word personal essay. It shouldn’t be too hard but starting is always my biggest hurdle.

My parents will be visiting me during homecoming weekend and I can’t wait. It will be great to show them around the university during this festive weekend. We always have a great time with Theresa and Dustin.

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back soon with yet another update. Take care until then.

Peace,

Mark

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, September 10, 2007

A year of freedom



It's been already one year since I packed up and came to Missoula. This past year has been so life changing and since words can't describe my happiness, I'll let these pictures speak for themselves.

Mark

"If you are tired, keep going; if you are scared, keep going; if you are hungry; keep going; if you want to taste freedom, keep going."
— Harriet Tubman

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A few pictures

I thought I'd post some pictures from the game yesterday and of my new chair. The game was an absolute blast and we won over Southern Utah 37 - 17! I'm really starting to get used to my new chair and the lateral tilt is awesome. The one picture shows my chair in lateral mode. Take care, happy Labor day and have a great week!

Mark

PS You can get a bigger view of each picture by clicking on it.




Saturday, September 01, 2007

Historic week


I’ve survived my first week in the world of academia and my sanity is still intact. Things got underway early Tuesday morning as I arrived on campus at the Gallagher business building. It was an extremely good feeling as I joined the mass of humanity inside. As I made my way to the lecture hall, I was filled with the anxiety and excitement that every freshmen experiences. Everything quickly went to a sense of normalcy as my Intro to Mass Media class started.

All in all, the first two days couldn’t have gone any better. My professors have been amazing and so accommodating to whatever I need for my classes. I really feel positive about the road in front of me, even though I know there will be challenges along the way.

My new routine hasn’t been too bad and it’s definitely different being somewhere by 9:30 AM. It’s nice to have a strong motivation that gets me going and out into the real world. Sure is a far cry of what my life was like in the nursing home.

I really like my Intro to Mass Media class. There’s lots of stuff I knew already but there’s also a lot of new things to be learned. What a great way to start my immersion in the field of journalism. The professor is great and he really finds ways to get us engaged in discussing the role of the media in our society.

Now English Comp is a little bit of a different story. It definitely seems to me that this class will be the most intensive of the semester. The work will be worth it and I’m sure hoping that it will make a difference in me becoming the kind of writer that I want to be.

While I suppose it’s time to reveal the surprise that I mentioned last week. Today my new wheelchair was delivered and it is quite the chair. It not only tilts backwards but it also tilts from side to side. I’ll be much more comfortable in this chair and this should make the longer days easier to handle. The new vent setup is incredible and I love the fact that my new chair is about 1 foot shorter. My old chair has been with me for nine years and it has served me well. A special thanks goes out to Mary (my PT) and Kurt at Norco for all their hard work on my new chair. You guys are awesome!

Here ends a very historic week for me and I’m grateful to have shared it with many of you. Tomorrow I’ll be attending my first Griz football game. It should be quite an experience for this university freshman!

Peace,

Mark

“Despite fakery, plagiarism, distortion, lies, government secrecy and media stupidity, there is an ongoing communal drive in the American media—print press and broadcast—to ferret out the truth. This is the single most valuable thing we can do to preserve a free society—protect the right to know what's going on in world.” —William Kennedy

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Final countdown

The college countdown is now in its waning hours and the excitement is really starting to come to a peak. I'm still in a state of shock that all this is really going to happen. I guess life is all about getting the most out of each opportunity as it comes along.

I almost attended college at Lake Region College in Devils Lake ND after graduating high school in 1993 but there was some problems in getting the needed attendant care to live on campus. That seems like such a long time ago and it is really funny how things come full circle.

My classes will all be on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which will make for a two long days, but that's the way I wanted things setup. I'll be taking Intro to Mass Media, Intro to Anthropology, English Composition and Learning Strategies for Higher Education. This all amounts to 11 credits and it puts me as a part time student. Hopefully everything will fall into a nice routine after this first week.

This past week has been busy last Tuesday we had a important meeting at Summit Independent Living Center. We met with Suzanne Payne (a staffer) from the Senate Finance Committee and discussed the upcoming hearing on the Community Choice Act. There were several of us at the meeting that have been segregated in institutions and we had the opportunity to share our experiences. I said that living on the outside of a nursing home provides a much higher quality of life and so much more dignity towards the individual. I also said that the word institution needs to be erased from society and that we can do so much better in how we take care of people with disabilities.

Our stories really seemed to make a powerful impact on the need for changing the institutional bias in Medicaid funding. Hopefully Senator Baucus will cosponsor this bill and help move it through the Senate. The hearing will be held in Washington sometime in late September and I'll make sure to post the link to the live testimony when I find out.

I'll be back this weekend with a little review of the first week of school and I also have a big surprise to share as well. Take care until then.


Peace,

Mark

Saturday, August 18, 2007

32 and going strong



On Thursday I celebrated my 32nd birthday and this one was definitely a special milestone. It not only was my first celebrated in Montana but it marks the doubling of my original life expectancy. Really feels good to have greatly outdone the predictions that were placed upon me. Was a little different being away from my family for the first time on a birthday but it was a very good one all the same.

Our nurse Kimbra surprised me with a birthday cake that she made for me. It was chocolate which is my favorite and it was so nice to be thought of on my birthday. The cake was awesome and of course I had to include a picture. Theresa and Dustin were very nice to me and they gave me a very cool birthday present. I got a David Allen Coe CD, some cool magnets (even one with a adorable black Pug) and a gift certificate to Rockin Rudy's here in Missoula. It was also great to get quite a few birthday cards in the mail. It really means a lot to me and I can't put in words how grateful I am.

The forest fires have really gotten bad and forced the evacuation of many area residents. It also has made the air conditions pretty severe here in the Missoula Valley. Yesterday a stage two air alert was issued and that is the first time since 2003. Needless to say we have been staying indoors the past several days. The prospect for rain does not look good for the near future and I really hope the fires don't get any worse. A very tough situation for everybody.

Well in a week and a half, I will be sitting in the classroom. I am excited but jeez I don't know where the summer has gone. I've received half my books on CD and it will be very nice to have my books on my laptop. There's a few other minor details that need to be taken care of this week but nothing too painful.

That's pretty much last week in a nutshell. I had to put a picture of Harley from the other day when she decided to curl up on my chest. She's such a sweet little girl and we definitely share a very special connection. I'm not just a little biased am I?

Peace,

Mark

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fair week




The Western Montana Fair got underway here in the Garden City on Tuesday. We went to the fair on Wednesday to catch the Professional Bull Riding Tour and it turned out to be quite the eventful outing.

We arrived at about 3:30 and started out by looking at some of the commercial sellers that were set up. There was the usual assortment of commercial goods that you typically see at a fair. When we got to the end we saw that they brought in a manufactured home for people to look through. To our amazement they had a nice ramp running up to an outside small deck, and we decided to go inside. It was very spacious and much better than I was expecting. They can put in some accessible features like wider doors and a roll in shower. We would definitely consider moving into one to solve our need for extra space. This company has more display models setup at their place and they have ramps on some of them as well. I look forward to checking more of them out.

The fun really started after we decided to go down the midway at the fair. As I was starting out, my chair suddenly came to an abrupt stop. Theresa came over and checked things out. It turned out that my main joystick cable was severed. We called the wheelchair place and they agreed to come out to the fair and fix my chair if they had the right part. While we were waiting, we decided it was a good time to check out some of the available culinary delights. I had an excellent huckleberry milkshake, some cheese curds, fry bread, and the legendary Viking. A Viking is similar to a corn dog but it has like a sausage and meatball stuffing instead. It was absolutely delicious with a dab of mustard!

The wheelchair guy showed up at about 6:00 with the needed part. He installed it but when my chair was put into drive, it acted very strange and wouldn't move properly. He then went to work and tried to figure out how to basically hot wire things together. After much work at it, we decided to give another try. My chair fired up and started working beautifully. I was so happy and I offered my sincerest thanks to Gary for getting things working.

We then hurried over to our seats at the grandstand for the bull riding event. The bull riders that were assembled are the best in the world and they are truly amazing at what they do. Some of the rides were totally spectacular and the bulls were very tough indeed. There was even a couple riders from western North Dakota, and it was really fun watching them.

The top 10 riders of the evening advanced on to the finals. Things were rough in the finals and only two riders even managed to get a score. Kody Lostroh from Wyoming was the last rider out of the chute and he turned in a score of 90 for the win. It was thrilling to say the least.

The evening turned out to be an excellent one after our earlier break down. Our nurse also attended with us and it was very nice to have her there. She was the designated photographer and the pictures turned out great. Hope you enjoy!

There really isn't much news besides our adventure at the fair. I had my last meeting with my disability adviser before school starts. We nailed down my plan for accommodations and they only needed to scan one of my books because they had the rest. The anticipation is starting to build and I can't wait to get started. It will be underway before I know it.

Have a great weekend and I'll be back next week.

Peace,

Mark

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Saturday at the fair



It was gorgeous and sunny yesterday as we loaded up & headed west towards Superior. We went to take in the Mineral County Fair and what a enjoyable evening it was.

When we arrived at the fairgrounds, we met up with Dustin's cousin, aunt, and grandma. The talent show was wrapping up as we found a place to sit, so we decided to get something to eat. I had a great buffalo burger, some watermelon, and some of Theresa's fry bread. There was a band doing a warm up before the rodeo and they weren't too bad. We were going to attend the rodeo but we decided to all go back to the house for a little visit. Sure was a nice and cool evening to sit out on the porch. Much better than the blazing heat we've been experiencing.

Dustin decided while we were at the fair that I needed a little further Montananization. As picture shows I got my first cowboy hat but there won't be any boots in my future ; -) At any rate, I guess I'm officially initiated now.

Ryan, our RT, was out here on Friday to set up my new LTV ventilator. There wasn't much to getting it going and the transition has been so easy. This new vent only weighs 13 pounds and it's a feather compared to the beast I've been using. I'm so excited to get this and it's going to make getting around so much nicer. I'll most likely be using it as my bedside vent until we are able to get my new chair. It's kind of like Christmas in August.

I finally have everything wrapped up for school. Thursday I went over to the bookstore and picked up all my books for fall semester. I was able to order them all online, so it was a pretty painless procedure. This Tuesday I have to visit with my disability adviser to iron out the final accommodations that I will be needing. I'll also be dropping off my books to get scanned into an electronic format. Feels great to have everything taken care of and I can enjoy the rest of August.

It will be another busy week here and the Western Montana Fair is in town this week. We're going on Wednesday night to catch the pro bull riding and of course some great fair food. Should be another great Montana experience.

On a somber note, my thoughts go out to those affected by the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. I've been across that bridge before and I have relatives in the Cities. They were all just fine and I'm grateful for that. There also are many people in Western Montana who are dealing with some awful fires. Many people have been forced from their homes and are waiting in local shelters. Hopefully there will be some relief very soon.

Peace,

Mark

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Random things


My friend Scott down in Florida has tagged me to participate in his 8 random things game. I'm going to change up the rules a little bit but I still think this will be rather interesting. Basically I'm going to list 8 random things about myself and you're invited to e-mail back with 8 random things about yourself. You can send them to me at nodakwheeler@yahoo.com Here goes:

* I'm a really big Frank Sinatra fan and I think he's one of the finest vocalists to ever grace a studio.

* My favorite movie format is definitely the documentary. I love the telling of the story and I think Ken Burns is a genius in this genre of film making. Kinda explains my interest in journalism.

* Government Mule is most definitely my favorite band and hopefully they will play around Missoula in the near future.

* the last two concerts I have been to are Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones.

* I've been to the ocean (hey I'm from North Dakota and were not famous for our bodies of water).

* I'm a die hard Chicago Cubs fan and I've been to Wrigley Field.

* Public speaking does not frighten me.

* I hate math with a passion. Isn't that what calculators are for ; -)

Hope that didn't bore you too much and I hope to hear from at least some of you.

We didn't make it up to Whitefish because Dustin wasn't feeling very well but we did make it up around the Arlee area and I got to see the Mission Mts. The Missions are absolutely beautiful as this week's picture shows but there isn't snow on them right now. After seeing them we went to the Arlee Grill for dinner before coming back home. The food was fantastic and it's definitely on the list for a return visit.

My new ventilator has arrived in Missoula and I should get transitioned to it in the next week or so. The respiratory therapist needs a little time with the machine before they can bring it out. I'm very excited and hopefully things will go just fine. I'm also hoping to hear on my new chair very soon.

We went to a wedding Saturday night for one of our former nurse's. It was a really beautiful ceremony and we all enjoyed ourselves a lot. I'd like congratulate Johanna & Ed and we wish them all the very best. Was so very nice that they asked us to share their day with them.

Here ends this week's update and I'm happy that we will get a little relief from our heat wave. July went on record as the hottest in Missoula's history. Unfortunately there are several fires in our area and there has been some evacuations. Hopefully these can get brought under control and the weather conditions will get better.

Peace,

Mark

Monday, July 23, 2007

The tour continues...


I can hardly believe that here it is Sunday and I'm at work on another update! Let's get on with it shall we.

My tour of Montana continues this week as we're going north to Whitefish on Thursday. Dustin has a MAP meeting and we will be staying overnight and coming back sometime Friday. It's absolutely gorgeous up there and I can't wait to see it. The Flathead cherries are in full season and I'm sure we will be picking some up on our way north. I'll be sure to take my camera along and hopefully next week I'll have some pictures to share.

We went downtown last night and had dinner at the Dinosaur Cafe. It's located in a neighborhood style bar and they serve up all kinds of Cajun fare. They serve everything from jambalaya to catfish and the prices were very reasonable compared to most places these days. The French fries I had were totally amazing but my sandwich didn't set well with my stomach. It was kind of on the spicy side and Theresa was teasing me saying that it's what happens when a Midwestern boy gets exotic : -)

The weather continues to be pretty hot and now some of the smoke from the forest fires has entered the Missoula valley. On the news tonight they were talking about the air quality deteriorating as fire season rolls on. When I was outside yesterday, I could really smell the smoke. I'm posting a picture off today's Missoula web cam to show how smoky it is. Hopefully this week we will get some precipitation but that's probably wishful thinking.

Tomorrow our nurse will be returning after she has been off with her broken arm. She won't be able to do any lifting but it will be so nice to see her. I'm sure the Pugs will do their crazy antics when she comes to the door in the morning.

I heard last week from our respiratory vendor and my new LTV ventilator has been ordered and should be here in a few weeks. I'm sure there will be some transition but I'm so excited for the benefits it will add to my life.

That's all for now but I'll be back sometime next weekend with more from Big Sky country.

Peace,

Mark

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

58,253



This above number may be a random one to you, but for many people it's a sad reminder of a very dark chapter in American history. It's the number of Americans that gave their lives in the Vietnam War.

To my generation, this war is almost something of an ancient history to us. I'm 31 years old and I wasn't even born when this war ended. Even though we, as a younger generation didn't experience this turbulent time, we can today still realize the magnitude of the sacrifice that was given. I had this opportunity last Sunday evening.

The Vietnam Moving Wall made a stop here in Missoula and it was set up out at Fort Missoula. When I read about the Wall in the Missoulian, I really wanted to go see it and pay my respects.

Sunday evening was gorgeous and it had cooled off after being a very hot day. There was a pretty decent crowd out at the Fort and that was very nice to see. The Moving Wall is half the size of the one in Washington, DC, but I was really surprised at how big it still was. I was reading that the Moving Wall would be about the length of a football field if it was totally stretched out.

The crowd visiting the Wall that night had folks of all ages. Some of us visiting the memorial had no direct connection to any of the names inscribed, but clearly there were many there who did. A young family found the name of a relative and took a rubbing of it from the Wall. There was another gentleman that looked like he was searching out the name of a buddy. When we left, there was an older veteran in a wheelchair that was making his way up to the Wall. I just kept thinking about all the connections that people had to this endless roster of names.

As we were leaving I commented to Theresa at how sad war really is. You would think that the human race would tire of killing each other and want to end the sorrow that all war brings. I guess the current situation in the Middle East proves otherwise.

If the Wall stops in your community, please take advantage of the opportunity and go see it. You'll be glad that you did.

There's not much else news for this week except that the heat wave continues. The first fires of the season have started but so far they have been able to be contained. We are expected to keep seeing highs around or above 100° for the next week or so.

See you soon with another update.

Peace,

Mark

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hot Hot Hot!


Summertime is in full swing here in Western Montana and the mercury is set to keep on going upward. The temperatures will be above or near the 100° mark for the next week at least. We are in a very dry time of the year and unfortunately this will accelerate the severity of fire season. It will be nice just to sit in the air conditioning.

Mary and Kurt otherwise affectionately known as my wheelchair gurus, paid me a visit on Monday. We're still working on my new orthotic and they came up with doing a kind of swing away adaptation for my chair. The exciting news is that my new wheelchair has been ordered and has left Invacare. My chair will then be destined for Motion Concepts. Motion Concepts has some very innovative designs and they can do some pretty incredible things. They are handling the lateral tilt system for my chair.

The biggest thing I'm looking forward to is having a different ventilator for my new chair. The bulky 40 pound dinosaur that's been with me since I got my trach, will be replaced by a thin 12 pound vent. This will make so many things easier and traveling with this new setup will be so much easier. Hopefully in a few weeks I'll be on my new vent and in my chair.

I've now passed the 10 month mark here in Montana and it's full speed ahead to my one year anniversary. The past 10 months has been filled with so many good things and it excites me to think about what lies ahead. Going down this road has been great for me and its empowered me to keep reaching higher than ever.

This week's snapshot is a view over where I live in East Missoula. I believe that shot was taken from the top of Mount Sentinel.

Here ends another Missoula update. Before ending I'd like to wish a speedy recovery to our nurse Kimbra. She took a tumble off her ladder and severely broke her arm. We've (Pugs included) all missed her a lot this past week and hope to have her back real soon.

Peace,

Mark

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Introducing Miss Cari


The 4th of July is here and gone. Today's weather remains hot as a firecracker and as I write this, the mercury has broken the century mark. Good old summertime in Western Montana.

Independence Day this year has a lot of special meaning as this was the first 4th since I escaped the nursing home. I'm very fortunate to be free and my heart aches for my brothers and sisters that are still incarcerated in institutions all over this country. How can a disability of any kind keep people from living life the way they want? Institutional life is no way for anybody to have to spend any significant portion of their life! Today I emailed Montana's congressional delegation in regards to passing a piece of legislation that could potentially free tens of thousands of people in nursing homes. To learn more about the Community Care Act you can visit the ADAPT web site.

We had an enjoyable and relaxing 4th of July holiday. Since it was going to be a hot afternoon, we decided to go to the movies and sit in the confines of the air conditioned theater. We saw the Transformers and I must say it was a lot better than I was expecting. The special effects were awesome and the storyline was pretty decent. After the movie, we went out to eat at a nice local restaurant. I had the pork tenderloin and it was very good. The evening was ended over at the Southgate Mall where we watched the city fireworks display. It was cool to have them go off right above us. Couldn't think of a better way to spend the day.

There is a new edition to our family that I would like to introduce you to. Her name is Cari and as the picture shows, she is the cutest little five year old fawn Pug. Last week our vet called us and said there was a Pug that was most likely going to the pound. Course we couldn't let that happen so she has come to live with us. She is an absolute sweetheart and she already has taken to cuddling with me.

I got a new laptop computer for school and it has really been working out well for me. It has a built in speech recognition program that allows me to type by voice. What a freedom it is to be able to type much faster. That will really be nice when I have a long college paper to hammer out. Today's computer technology just blows my mind.

It's time to go grab something cool to drink and kickback and watch some movies. Stay cool everybody and I'll return next week.

Peace,

Mark

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Catching my breath




I've survived orientation and after catching my breath I finally can say I'm a student at the University of Montana.

Things got underway on Wednesday with a tour of the campus. The campus is beautiful and I must say it's not quite as big as I expected. After the tour I had an afternoon of placement testing to see where I would be in the areas of math and English. I placed where I wanted for English but math was a little weaker.

Thursday I had to be on campus at 8:30 and I wasn't crazy with that but mornings were never a favorite of mine. The day was spent learning the University computer system and getting a workable class schedule before meeting my advisor. We attended a noon lunch at the University Center and it was really good.

Friday was really the highlight of the week. I had an orientation session at the School of Journalism and got to meet the Dean and some of the professors. The School of Journalism just opened a stunning new building and we are the very first class to set foot in Andersen Hall. The 2nd and 3rd picture this week was taken at the new building.

I met my advisor after the Journalism orientation and we went through my schedule. Things looked good and then I signed up for my classes. I'll be starting part-time and I will be taking Intro to Mass Media, Intro to Anthropology, and English Composition. All my classes will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays and that's what I really wanted.

All in all orientation was a great experience and I feel really prepared for fall semester. I'm excited for the adventure ahead and it should be one interesting ride.

Well that's a wrap for the busy week gone by. Happy 4th and I'll catch ya later.

Peace,

Mark

Friday, June 22, 2007

Busy week ahead



It's been another lightning fast week and hey what do know, 2 posts in one week! I thought I better get to it before the busy week ahead.

Today I went over to Missoula Orthotics to get fitted for my new side support. It went pretty well but it's a time consuming undertaking to get things just right. They made the support a bit less rigid but heating the plastic has to be done super slowly. They let me bring it home over the weekend to see how it will work out.

I had the pleasure of attending my first Missoula Osprey baseball game. The Osprey are a minor league affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was a beautiful night at the ballpark and there's no better way of spending the first evening of summer. I look forward to attending another game real soon.

Next week will definitely be the busiest since I've moved here. I have freshman orientation at the University of Montana from Wednesday through Friday afternoon. There will be many new people to meet and I look forward to officially becoming a college student. I've already met with Disability Services on campus and they will help me with stuff like test taking accommodations and putting my textbooks into an electronic format.

This weeks Pug picture is of our bratty Prince after he decided to attack his bed. We have no idea how he managed to get under his fuzzy blanket but that's a Pug for ya.

That's it for now but before I forget, I was in the International Vent Users Network - Spring 2007 newsletter. I was interviewed by fellow vent user Paul Kahn and I was asked about my liberation from the nursing home. You can see my interview by visiting
http://www.post-polio.org/ivun/ivun-news.html

Peace,

Mark

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Fastest Indian

I saw The World's Fastest Indian over the weekend and wow what a phenomenal film it turned out to be. It tells the life story of New Zealander Burt Munroe (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his desire to race his vintage Indian Scout motorcycle and set the world speed record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967.

Burt is a quirky and eccentric fellow and he's got no doubt that his home-modified relic of a bike can stun the world and set the record. Now there are plenty of doubters of Burt and they think he's a crazy old coot that will probably only kill himself in this chase of the dream.

Burt pays no mind to these negative thinkers and sets his mind on the goal at hand. In the drama filled ending Burt achieves this grand record and he teaches us the importance of never giving up.

When I decided to leave the nursing home I had this same fire in my belly. There were a fair share of people that thought I was nuts or at least slightly off my rocker. I knew freedom could be mine if I only thought positive and never gave up. My persistence paid off and I'm on the verge of a 10th month here in Montana and I'll be in college very soon.

I challenge you the readers of my blog to live your life like Burt and reach for whatever you want to accomplish in this life. Nobody can stop you if you just believe in yourself.

Here's a brief update before I finish. My knee is much better and I hopefully be pain free in a few days. Tomorrow I head over to the University and meet my Disability Services person and we'll be going through what accommodations I'll need for fall semester. Orientation follows next week and I'm sure it will be the being of a great college experience.

That's all for this go round and I promise some pictures for next week.

Peace,

Mark

Friday, June 08, 2007

Smooth Move



I've been wanting to post my latest update for a few days but I've been laid up with a knee injury.

I was sitting at my computer on Monday evening and Ugga decided that she'd come snuggle in my lap. This seemed like a great idea and I thought I'd tilt back a bit so she could stretch out better. Well my chair was in drive mode instead of tilt and this led to me smashing my right knee into my desk at full speed. This hurt really bad and it happened so quick.

I've spent all week in bed elevating my leg and doing the ice and ibuprofen thing. Well my knee wasn't getting better by this morning, so I decided to visit the emergency room and get everything checked out.

The good news is that nothing is broken but things may take awhile to fully heal. They sent me home with a knee brace and some really groovy pain meds. On Monday I have a appointment to see an orthopedic specialist and see what he wants to do. I always find a way to keep life interesting that's for sure.

Last weekend our nurse Kimbra's son graduated from high school. She invited us out to their place for the reception and we had a great time. She raises minature horses and they loved checking out our wheelchairs. In the one picture Rocky thought he'd give me a sniff but I think he wanted to see if I had something good to eat.

This weekend looks to be pretty quiet and I plan on snuggling with the Pugs and renting some movies. Oh before I forget, the other picture is of my baby in her new duds from Old Navy. She sure loves laying on my pillow.

Take care and I'll be back next week with a update on my knee.

Mark

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Monday




Memorial Day is here and it marks the unofficial start of my first summer here in Missoula. It's shaping up to be a busy summer and I'm sure I'll be sitting in class before I know it.

On Saturday night we went to the Adams Center to attend a performance of the famous Lipizzaner Stallions. It was an incredible show and the talent of these horses is truly amazing. The Lipizzaner's originated from Austria and they were mostly used as war horses during the Renaissance. They are born a brown color but at around 10 years of age they complete their transformation to white. The Stallions are trained daily for several years before they are eligible to perform.

I thought I'd start attempting to bring a bit of technology to my blog. This post has a brief YouTube video we took during the performance. I was surprised at how easy it was to put together and I look forward to putting more video of my adventures here. I have yet to experiment with shooting on our digital video camera. There's a cable I need to buy and then I can edit the video on my computer.

Last week I finally got my new custom trach. There are still problems and unfortunately I need to visit another ENT to figure out the trach mess and how we're going to treat my ulcer. Dealing with this has gotten old but hopefully this new doctor will have some new ideas.

The Pugs are all doing good and Ugga is doing great after getting spayed last Tuesday. She's back to her frisky self and on Friday she'll get her stitches out. Our old guy is getting a wheelchair from Doggon' Wheels over in Bozeman. I'm sure he'll be rolling all over the house and looking for trouble.

Happy Memorial Day and I hope everyone has a safe and fun summer season!

Peace,

Mark

Monday, May 21, 2007

To Helena and back


It's been cool & rainy the past couple days here in Missoula and it made for a quiet and laidback weekend. The weather sure took a big swing downward after we experienced the upper 80's late last week.

We were in Helena last Thursday and Friday so Dustin could attend a meeting. Traveling was pretty good but there were some difficulties that were awaiting our arrival at our hotel. The hotel had occupied our reserved room and put us in a different room that wasn't accessible. It was frustrating to say the least and the night manager was less than sympathetic to our situation.

After much argument and with the help of a dear friend, the hotel finally worked towards accommodating us. In the end things worked out but it's nothing we should have had to deal with. Oh well at least we finally were able to eat at the Brewhouse. We tried a couple times during the legislative session but there was always a line out the door.

The Brewhouse brews several different beers and they have a restaurant with outstanding food. Was nice to wind down with Theresa and Dustin after a long day.

I'm in the process of getting registered for freshman orientation and I'll most likely be attending the July session. Next week I meet with my rehabilitation counselor and hopefully we can get some details nailed down. Seems like so much to do but it will be fine.

Take care for now and I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. The picture this week is of our old fella Prince while he's snuggling with his Uncle Mark :-)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Accepted

Today I received some news that I never thought I'd hear. I received my acceptance letter and now officially I'm a student at the University of Montana! This news comes with much happiness as well as anticipation and a bit of nervousness. Where this new road will lead remains to be seen but at least I'm on the road and ready for the journey ahead. As college approachs in late August, I'll keep the updates coming.

As I was getting ready to type this latest update, I realized that I forgot to share about my visit to MonTech last month. In case I didn't mention, MonTech is based on the campus of the University of Montana and it's an assistive technology resource center for people with disabilities.

Dustin and I made this appointment so we could demo some of the cutting edge computer access technology that's available. They setup the ERICA EyeGaze system and the Brain Fingers for us to try.

I tried out ERICA first and it was quite fascinating. The ERICA system allows a person to operate a computer by looking at what they want to click on. It achieves this by a camera that focuses on the pupil of the eye. It detects what your looking at and it was pretty easy to use and configure. The ERICA also is a tablet style computer and it's fairly portable. The downside is the $7,000 pricetag but there are various funding sources available to prospective users.

The next thing I tried was the Brain Fingers. The Brain Fingers was also pretty awesome and the technology it uses is like something straight out of Star Trek. To use the Brain Fingers you put on a headband type device called a Cyberlink. The Cyberlink detects electric signals from your facial muscles, eye movements and brain activity. The Brain Fingers software converts these signals into virtual fingers that operate the keyboard and/or mouse.

Using the Brain Fingers is a strange feeling at first but with practice it does work. I was put through several games that teach you how to train your brain waves. It's kinda hard to further explain but the Brain Fingers web site has a video showing the technology.

Our visit to MonTech was a fun way to spend an afternoon. The gals at MonTech were fantastic and very helpful in showing us these devices.

That's the latest from Big Sky country for now. Below are the links if you want to check out the products we tried out.

ERICA EyeGaze System

Brain Fingers

Dasher - a freeware program that is an alternative style onscreen keyboard

Friday, April 27, 2007

Enjoyable Visit




Another Friday is here and it's hard to believe that a week ago my family was arriving in Missoula to visit me. We had such a great time with Theresa & Dustin and lots of things were packed into a few days.

Friday evening we all went out to the River City Grill in Milltown for dinner. The River City Grill is located in a old building that once housed the headquarters for a local logging company. This made for a cool atmosphere and the food was awesome.

Saturday afternoon took us on a return trip to the Bayern Brewery so my dad could check it out. Bayern makes a variety of German beers and it's just a cool place to spend a couple of hours. The pretzels and mustard at Bayern are outstanding and I can't wait until they start grilling their bratwurst over the summer. We finished out the day by visiting the art show at the University Center and going to the Southgate Mall.

On Sunday we headed to Sharon (Dustin's aunt) and Doug's place which is about 50 miles west of Missoula. They have a real nice place and the view from their deck is so scenic. We spent the afternoon visiting and we had elk stew and cornbread for supper. A highlight of the day was seeing a elk herd while we were leaving. There were over 20 of them and it was quite the sight to see.

Monday was our final day together and we started out the day by visiting Big Sky Brewery. The have a nice gift shop/tasting area and it's fun visiting the folks out there. Our next stop was to Rockin' Rudy's in downtown Missoula. Rockin' Rudy's is a huge place with a record shop and a ton of other stuff. It's a cool place to visit and browse the time away. After Rockin' Rudy's we went to the house for dinner. We grilled burgers and made potato salad. It was a relaxing way to end our time together.

Having my family visiting here means alot and makes me feel truly at home here in western Montana. I look forward to another visit late this summer unless we are able to visit North Dakota before that.

Today was a busy day with Mary (my PT) and Missoula Orthotics coming to do a molding. They did a plaster mold for a new side support for my new chair. I'm excited to have this completed and this should make me much more comfortable in my new chair. It was kinda a messy project but I thought I'd include a picture anyway. Thanks Mary for the use of your camera!

Whew, this week has been a blur! It was a blast and I'm thankful for the time I could spend with my folks and sister. Summer is around the bend and I'm looking forward to sharing my continued adventures with all of you.

Peace,

Mark

Monday, April 16, 2007

Upcoming Visit

There is a strong feeling of excitement this week as I wait for my family to arrive in town Friday for a visit. This will be the first time my whole family has come to Missoula and it will be great having them here. Hoping the weather will be nice but you never know what spring in Montana can bring. I'll post some pictures of our visit on next weeks edition.

I spent last week getting my college admissions stuff together. Applying to college was something I've dreamed about for some time but never in a million years did I think the dream would be in reach. This fall it is my intention to attend the University of Montana and start the work towards a possible major in Journalism. This whole upcoming process will be a lot of work but the experience will be worth it.

The Bivona trach saga is continuing and we are trying to find a good solution. The manufacturer doesn't think they can make my custom trach to the specs we ordered. We're continuing to work with Bivona to see if we can resolve this current hurdle and get the trach that will best fit my needs.

Tomorrow afternoon Dustin and I will be visiting MonTech to try out the Brain Fingers system. Brain Fingers are a headband you wear and supposedly it allows a person with a disability to operate a computer by thought. I'm really excited to try out this technology and see if it lives up to it's claim. Definitely more on this trial demo next week.

That's the news this week from western Montana. I'll return next week after my family's visit with the latest from Missoula.

Peace,

Mark

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Meeting Max


I was thinking while I was in town yesterday that I better get another blog update cranked out. While we were in town yesterday we had to take our old guy to the chiropractor and I had to get my blood level checked. After our business was done we stopped through the Golden Arches to soothe my nugget addiction. We ordered Prince a 4 piece too and he thought that was a good deal. Hmmm no wonder he likes going to town on a bye bye with us.

This afternoon we went to Missoula Head Start for an event sponsored by Montana People's Action. U.S. Senator Max Baucus was in attendance to read to the kids and discuss the reauthorizing of SCHIP. SCHIP is government sponsored health insurance for low-income children. We had the opportunity to meet Senator Baucus and discuss some of the issues that are important to Montanan's with disabilities. We talked about for the need for more Medicaid providers and the need for more funding of community based care. I told Max of my nursing home incarceration back in North Dakota and how I have so many new opportunities in Montana. Max really seemed to listen and care about what we all had to say. Definitely was a very worth while afternoon.

Things keep rolling on here in Missoula and here's a few other thing that I've been up to.

I met last week with my PT and a guy from Missoula Orthotics. We discussed the need for a custom support for my right side. They are going to do a plaster imprint and design a padded support for me. I'm excited that these efforts will make me very comfortable in my new chair.

Friday evening we went to Famous Dave's to celebrate the birthday of Dustin's mom. We had a really good time and the food was excellent. It was great to have an enjoyable evening with April and Welles.

I meet with my ENT this week and hopefully we can finally resolve my trach issues. We've been communicating with the Bivona representative and we're fine tuning the dimensions on a custom trach. The doctor needs to fill out a template and then Bivona can make my trach.

That's it for another wild week here in Big Sky country. Take care until next time.

Mark

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sunny Springtime



Spring has officially sprung here in Missoula and it's great to have the days getting longer. Tomorrow it's supposed to be near 70 and I plan to spend the afternoon outside. I'm sure the Pugs will be enjoying the sunshine with me.

Today my little Harley got spayed and had some nasal surgery. She did great and is at home resting comfortably. I'm very attached to her and I missed her a bunch last night.

I recently finished up the paperwork for ordering my new chair. It's a relief to have this step done and hopefully my chair will be here in 6-8 weeks. I've had some great folks helping me get every detail just right and I'm grateful for their assistance.

My trach situation is about the same but last Friday we did try my new Bivona trach. The Bivona trach is made out of flexible silicone and it will be much more comfortable for me. Changing my new trach went just fine but it leaked really bad so we had to go back to the other one. The main problem I believe was that the new trach was too small and/or curved at an awkward angle. Anywho I'm scheduled to see my ENT in early April to get the kinks worked out.

I celebrated my first St. Patrick's Day here in Missoula and it was very enjoyable. We went to the Home & Garden show which was at the University fieldhouse. There was some neat stuff but alot of it was the standard home improvement fare. The coolest thing at the show was these custom hand hammered sinks which came in a variety of styles. After the show we went out the Blue Canyon for a few drinks. Was very nice and relaxing. We then came home and had the traditional corn beef for dinner.

Before I end this weeks post I wanted to share Dustin's blog page. You can see his Speaking for the Dead blog at http://speaking4thedead.blogspot.com/

That's all for this week. Enjoy these recent Pug pictures and take care.

Mark

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

6 months and counting!



It's a beautiful sunny day in Missoula but the wind is blowing like crazy. This afternoon I had an intake meeting with my Vocational Rehabilitation counselor. Things went really good and we should be able to start putting together a vocational plan sometime in early April. I'm hoping to attend the University of Montana in the fall with a possible major in Journalism.

I have surpassed a major milestone out here in western Montana. I've been in Missoula for 6 months as of the 10th of March. It doesn't quite seem possible but it has been an awesome ride. My freedom from the nursing home has been liberating beyond words and there have been absolutely no regrets. A year is on the horizon next and I'm excited for all that is yet to come.

The Montana weather has taken a very nice turn towards spring. Last week we hit near 65 and it was so nice to sit out and catch some rays. The Pugs loved the sunshine too and we took Ugga and Daisy for a walk. Daisy wasn't sure what to think but Ugga was busy sniffing and barking at all the dogs in the neighborhood. I look forward to many more walks with the Pugs as the weather gets better.

Sometime this week I'll be switching over to my new silicone trach. This will hopefully make my changes much more comfortable and also take care of my bleeding issues.

That's about it for now but I had to put a couple pictures on this weeks post. The one is of Ugga when she decided to scale my headrest. She always has to be the center of attention. The second picture is me snuggling with our old guy and of course my sweetie Harley.

Mark