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.



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?



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.



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.