Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Some of you may be wondering where the heck I've been but here I am alive and kicking after a fantastic fall semester. My school obligations have kept me extremely busy so the blog had to be put on hold temporarily. That being said, here's a wrap up of how the fall semester went for me.

I began my journalism education this fall and it went as well as I could have hoped. The first half of my reporting class was devoted to learning the basics of broadcast journalism. This consisted of being sent out into the field to interview, gather audio, and compose 30 second to 2 minute radio pieces. Some of the stories I covered included: Missoula's panhandling ordinance, Montana's statewide smoking ban, and the healthcare reform debate. My professor was tough but she provided us with a wealth of information from her career as the news director for Montana Public Radio. Composing and recording my stories took a good amount of effort but I was able to turn out some good pieces.

During the second half of the semester we learned the ropes of print journalism. Again we had another great professor who shared his real world experiences with us. The workload for this half increased greatly and we were sent out to report on a wide variety of campus events. Our challenge was to turn out complete stories under very short deadlines. I tolerated the pressure pretty well and in the process produced some pretty good stories. In the next several weeks I will post some of my broadcast and print stories on the blog.

My radio production class was an enjoyable one and it taught me many digital audio editing skills. We produced some stories by ourselves but also worked in radio teams as well. Our radio teams had to put together three complete one hour live broadcasts during the semester. I had different jobs for the broadcasts and these included composing commercials & promos, doing a brief newscast, participating in a live remote, and conducting one live interview. The class was a blast but I'm glad it's over and done with.

Lastly, I had a public speaking class on Wednesday nights and this was another time intensive class. We learned how to present various types of speeches and there was a fair amount of preparation required for each speech. The class wasn't too bad and it ended with a very special final speech.

My final speech was one of tribute and I devoted it to the Chinese Pug. I had a straight forward speech planned with a Powerpoint but I was in for a huge surprise. When it was my turn to speak, I went upfront, turned around and saw Theresa standing there with our Pugs Sammy & Cari. They all came forward to join me and it was cool to have two adorable visual aids for my speech. My speech went very well and having the Pugs there was an added bonus. Thanks Theresa for helping me end the semester on a high note!

I want to wish my family, friends, and blog readers a very Merry Christmas! May you have a wonderful holiday season and best wishes in the new year ahead.

Stay tuned for an update very soon on some changes I have planned for my blog.


Thursday, September 10, 2009


I’m happy to report that I independently took my own pictures on Tuesday. It has taken weeks of planning and research to get to this point but the wait has been worth it. You may be wondering how this is possible. Well here’s my setup.

The first step I take is getting my photographic mount clamped onto my left armrest. My Nikon camera gets screwed onto my mount and I’m almost ready. I get my LCD screen in position and the bite activated shutter switch goes in my mouth. You can see the red switch in the first photo.

Whatever I’m planning to shoot gets lined up in the screen and the magic begins. I bite down slightly on the switch and the image gets brought into focus. My teeth clamp down a little further and the shutter activates. I’m able to snap pictures quickly and with hardly any effort.

There are a few people I have to thank for making this all possible. Dick at Conceptus Remote Switches for letting me demo the bite switch. Scott Sands for helping me figure out how to attach the bite switch to my camera. I must also thank my caregivers for their patience in helping me with getting this all set up. You guys are all fantastic in my book!

School has gotten off to a quick start. It’s hard to believe that two weeks are down already. The semester will be very busy but it should also be fun as well. I have some great professors and they have been very accommodating my needs.

It’s getting close to midnight here so I better drift off to sleep. Enjoy the music and have a great weekend…Mark

Monday, August 31, 2009

Gone Fishin'

On Friday I went on an adaptive fishing expedition that was held in the Bitterrroot Valley near Florence. It was a sunny & hot August day but we had a beautiful fishing spot in the shade. Montech brought along their arsenal of adaptive fishing equipment for people to try out. It was great to see so many people give fishing a try and have a blast doing it. We also had a great lunch of grilled dogs and burgers.

The sip and puff pole was in for repair so I didn't make an attempt. The good news is that Montech is working at getting in a switch operated automatic rod and reel setup. I can't wait to give it a test drive when it comes in. Thanks to the folks at Summit and Montech for their efforts at making this outing possible.

A few words about my video. This was my first attempt at shooting my own video with my new Bogen mount. The quality wasn't the greatest but I'm still pretty happy with it. I learned so much and it was a great feeling to do it independently. Next time should produce a more polished product :-)

I better wrap this up as I have school tomorrow morning. It's been 7 months since being in school full time and I couldn't be happier to get back in the saddle. I'll be back soon with how the semester has started. No music this week but I'll make up for it next time.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Adventures in photography

Living with a disability all these years has been an interesting existence. I've gone down many paths filled with several twists and turns along the way. I've met some fantastic people along my journey as well. Luckily I still count many of these folks as my friends and sadly some have gone out of my life through the passage of time. My regrets are few and my disability has given me a unique perspective on life.

The most troubling thing to me about living with a progressive disease is the lack of recreational outlets. For many the desire is there but finding creative solutions is a significant barrier. Well in the next several months, I'll be looking to turn the tables on this trend as I delve into some new adaptive recreational opportunities. My first foray will be into the world of adaptive photography.

Photography has always been something I've wanted to do but the how has always been the barrier. This changed recently when I paid the folks at MonTech a visit. MonTech is a state program that provides support in all kinds of areas relating to Assistive Technology. Chris and Whitney over there showed me this awesome camera mount which attaches right to my wheelchair. It got me excited to see that I could have a camera brought up to my eye level. I ordered the mount and now have a major piece of the puzzle solved.

A big hurdle though has been figuring out how to activate the shutter. Nikon makes remote shutter releases but they are unfortunately too hard for me to push. I've been discussing these issues with fellow DMDer Scott Sands. Scott has been a great resource and he's been doing adaptive photography for a little while now. Thanks man for your advice and willingness to listen! I'm currently working on getting this issue solved and things are looking good. Tonight may have been a breakthrough moment though. I found a company in Arizona that makes bite switches for skydiving photographers. I'll be anxious to see if this will be workable for my needs.

Well now for the biggest decision, the camera. After much research and contemplation, I've decided to purchase the Nikon D5000. The Nikon D5000 is great starter DSLR and has all the features I'll probably ever need. It also has an awesome multi angle screen that will come in very handy for me. I should get it just in time for the photography class I've signed up for.

Hopefully I'm well on my way to being successful in adaptive photography. This may be quite useful in my journalistic pursuits but my main goal is to get out there and have fun. Just because you have a disability doesn't mean you should miss out. It may require some ingenuity but that is all part of the journey.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Turning point?

Thursday was the long awaited culmination of our efforts here in Missoula to meet with Sen. Max Baucus. As I arose that morning and put on my ADAPT colors, I felt some optimism that something positive would happen for me and my fellow brothers and sisters. Maybe we would finally get the Senator to realize the need to include community long term care supports into the current healthcare reform efforts.

We arrived at the Missoula Public Library a bit before 10 a.m. and assembled our group of advocates. Senator Baucus arrived shortly before 10 a.m. with his entourage in tow and after some brief introductions we sat down to talk.

The meeting went fairly well but the Senator kept wanting to direct things toward more general healthcare reform. We got him back on track and he brought up the budget figures that the Congressional Budget Office applied towards the CCA legislation. These numbers were skewed and the CBO backed off their initial figures after research proved that home and community based services were far cheaper than nursing home care. Sen. Baucus wanted to know what states are excelling at providing home & community based services. We named the states we were aware of including Montana.

Dustin and I shared testimony of how community based services here in Montana have benefited us. I told the Senator about the sacrifice I made moving away from family and friends in ND just to have a chance at living a free life. I also told the Senator how being institutionalized tears away your freedom and wastes your life. In order to drive the point home, I told the Senator that I went from languishing in a nursing home to now being able to pursue a college degree in Journalism. Sen. Baucus did seem to be very interested in our stories and I hope that I was able impact him in a positive way.

We mentioned to Senator Baucus that failure to remove the institutional bias has civil rights implications because it may put Congress and the Obama Administration in violation of the ADA and the Olmstead decision. This got Max's attention, and he suggested we get some good attorneys to look at that point and possibly force something to be done.

Potentially a breakthrough moment came when we suggested that Medicaid law be changed to mandate Long Term Supports and Services and let states and individuals choose what kind of care they want to receive. It was like a light bulb went off in Sen. Baucus’s head and he said "You know, that might just be the way we get at this issue."

All in all the meeting was a good starting point and the Senator pledged he would keep a continued dialogue going. He put us in touch with one of his D.C. staffers and he wants to hear from us after he returns to D.C in September. I’ll admit it is tough to keep upbeat but hopefully these little steps will add up to a giant leap forwards for Americans with disabilities.

Fall semester is only two weeks away but I’m excited and ready to go. I spent last week gathering my textbooks and getting my necessary accommodations in order. It looks like a few challenging months ahead but hey this is what I’ve been waiting for. I’m looking forward to getting back into my journalism classes and making the push towards applying to the J-school.

In my next few blogs, I’ll be discussing my forays into some excited new adaptive technologies. I have some exciting new projects coming up and I look forward to sharing them with you. That’s all for now but I’ll leave you with a few favorite tunes that I’ve been listening to lately. There will be a video or two on each new post from now on and I hope you’ll enjoy some of my musical influences.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Had a ball

This past Thursday I hit the interstate and headed east to partake in the 26th annual Testicle Festival. In case you are wondering, the Testy Fest is a summertime bacchanalia paying homage to the Rocky Mountain oyster. My nurse and I had a great time and yes we took the plunge and had a plate of cowboy caviar. Despite what you may be thinking, they weren't too bad. I really can't effectively describe what they taste like but anything deep fried tastes pretty good in my book. Was a fun experience and I look forward to returning next year.

Friday night Theresa and I spent the evening at Lake Missoula Cellars catching a performance by local cellist Brandon Smith. The performance was great and it was nice to sit outside on their patio, eat burgers, and drink some fantastic local wine. I had one of their whites and I was pretty impressed. Now I confess I'm no wine expert but it's my goal in the next several months to become more acquainted. I'll have to list some of my favorites as I find them. For those of you in Missoula who love wine, head out to Lake Missoula Cellars and give them a try. You won't be sorry.

The 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was recognized on July 26th. Many positive steps have been taken but progress has been painfully slow. We as a community need to continue the struggle and keep pushing for the advancement of all people with disabilities. I'll leave you with a video of a recent event in Central Park where Nadina LaSpina (NYC ADAPT) gave a powerful speech. Her words sum up what we as a society need to achieve before we can consider the ADA truly finished.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Missoula protest

I took part yesterday in a protest/sit in held at U.S. Senator Max Baucus's Missoula office. It was organized by the Missoula Coalition for Disability Rights and was part of a nationwide 25 city protest to push forward on passage of the Community Choice Act.

It was empowering to march with my fellow brothers and sisters over to Sen. Baucus’s office. I was on the team of folks who entered Max’s office at around 11 a.m. to make our demands. The demands were very simple. We as the Montana disability community just want some opportunity to meet with the Senator to discuss the Community Choice Act. His office has blown off previous attempts to schedule a meeting with the latest instance happening just three weeks ago. This time we weren’t leaving until there was something concrete promised. I was in my first sit in as a member of Montana ADAPT and it was awesome directly challenging the system.

The afternoon negotiations were headed up by Bob Liston and Marsha Katz. They talked to several Baucus staffers and got the typical run around that the Senator was so busy and they just didn’t think an appointment could be made. Well that wasn’t flying with us and as the afternoon wore on, progress was being made. I know we’re not fat cat donors but geez we are his constituency and we should at least have our concerns addressed.

Well it wasn’t long after we started our protest that the local CBS affiliate showed up and conducted interviews and shot footage. The local Baucus folks were nervous but like it or not they were stuck with us.

The 4 o’clock hour approached and were notified that the Missoula police would be paying us a visit at office closing time. We were prepared for that but we were finally able to get an email from Max’s DC scheduler that a meeting was in the works. Well we’ll see how that unfolds but I’m ready to go back if things fall apart.

Some of you may be wondering why direct civil action is necessary. We’ll here’s why. We as a community of people with disabilities have been ignored for too long. It is too easy for seasoned politicians to consider us an invisible part of society. We’ve tried asking nicely but that has severe limitations. That’s why we need to get in their faces and shake the foundation. We need to demand our rights and accept nothing less than what is just.

I’m happy that things went well yesterday but this won’t be my last protest or sit in. As long as one of my brother’s or sister’s rots away in a nursing home, I’m there for whatever needs to be done. I lost 3 ½ years of my life in a human warehouse and nobody else should ever go through that. We must FREE OUR PEOPLE and FREE THEM NOW.

In solidarity…Mark

You can read the press release for yesterday's protest below.

Disability Rights and Aging Activists Confront Sen. Baucus on Institutional Bias

Missoula, MT.--- Demanding an end to the institutional bias in the nation’s health care policy, the Missoula Coalition for Disability Rights (MCDR), a coalition of organizations for the aging and disabled, took its fight back to the Missoula office of Senator Max Baucus, while similar protests occurred simultaneously at Democratic offices across the country, and the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C..

MCDR and disability rights and aging organizations across the country are calling for Congress to eliminate the Medicaid institutional bias in 2009 - either in health care reform or as separate legislation, specifically the Community Choice Act (CCA). CCA (S683/HR1670) allows people to choose to stay at home to receive long-term services and supports instead of being forced into nursing homes and institutions because that’s what the law will currently pay for.

The protesters are additionally demanding that the Democrats apologize for the loss of freedom suffered by countless Americans that resulted when a Democratically-controlled Congress created the institutional bias over 40 years ago; and that the DNC facilitate an immediate meeting between ADAPT and Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee; Representative Henry Waxman, Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison, to develop a plan to pass the Community Choice Act and eliminate the institutional bias in 2009. In Missoula, MCDR is also calling for a face-to-face meeting between Sen. Baucus and representatives of the Montana disability and aging communities.

“On July 2 the Montana disability and aging communities converged on all seven of Sen. Baucus’ state offices asking him to include long-term services and supports in health care reform and eliminate the institutional bias in Medicaid,” said Bob Liston. “We were promised by the Senator’s staff that we would get a call back early the next week with an appointment for a meeting. Not only did that call never come, but when we contacted them, we were brushed off like lint on an old suit. I’m beginning to think the Senator just doesn’t care about his constituents who are aging, disabled and low income.”

In an unprecedented show of unity this year, disability and aging groups across Montana and across the country have demanded that healthcare reform be the vehicle to change federal policy which favors paying for institutions over community-based services. They have repeatedly asked Sen. Baucus, Congress and the President to pass the Community Choice Act, but currently, NO proposal in the health care reform package eliminates the institutional bias in Medicaid. Sen. Baucus, as head of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, is playing a pivotal role in pushing for healthcare reform, but has also steadfastly refused to include long-term care in the health care reform effort.

"For 44 years, Medicaid's institutional bias has stolen the lives of Montanans with disabilities and older Montanans,” said Mike Mayer, Executive Director of Missoula’s Summit Independent Living Center.” It has deprived them of their most basic freedoms. The Democrats were in power when that bias was legislated. Now it's time for them to apologize, and most importantly, time for them to take action to fix it. We want to live in our own homes and communities, close to family and friends, like everyone else."

MCDR’s action comes in part as a response to a video released last week by the Democratic National Committee. The video tells Americans "It's time" for health care reform, and urges them to call their Senators. Picking up on that theme, the national grassroots disability rights organization, ADAPT, released its own video this week telling Sen. Baucus and other Democrats "It's time" to eliminate the institutional bias and pass the Community Choice Act.
"The Democrats say they want health care reform to focus on covering more people and saving money,” said Mark Boatman, a 33 year old ventilator user from Missoula, “yet they refuse to change the current law that mandates people receive long term care in the most expensive setting rather than less expensively at home where we would rather be. Two years ago Sen. Baucus used my life as an example in a statement he made at a Senate hearing on long term care. He was so willing to talk about me moving from a North Dakota nursing home so I could live in the community in Montana, but he isn’t willing to take the action necessary that would allow me to live in the community in North Dakota near my family. Right now I live in fear everyday that Montana will cut my services and I’ll be forced back into a nursing home.”

Many states have no home and community-based services, or they may provide limited services with waiting lists that keep people stuck for years in institutions and nursing facilities before they have any chance of getting services. Or there are states like North Dakota that provide some community-based services, but will not provide them to people who use ventilators. In addition, the current law forces states to go through complicated procedures just to let a few people stay at home and get assistance there, while others must go to the end of a waiting list. It is not uncommon for people to wait so long that they die before their name reaches the top of the waiting list.

"The Democrats, including our wonderful Sen. Tester, have historically supported the Community Choice Act every time it has been introduced in Congress," said Brooke Jaqueth, a member of ADAPT Montana . “Many in the disability community were optimistic that the Democrats would finally pass CCA and eliminate the institutional bias, but the Democratic leadership in Washington, including Sen. Baucus, is doing absolutely nothing. It seems as though the Democrats are so concerned with political maneuvering that they have completely forgotten about the people they represent who have no voice in Washington.”

“We are concerned about people who right now are stuck in nursing facilities and other institutions, like I am. We are concerned about people on Medicaid, like me, who will continue to be forced into those places if the law isn’t changed. And if the Democratic leadership won't speak up for them, then I will," added Jaqueth.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sad passing

As promised I've put together a slide show of pictures from my parents recent visit. They were taken around Missoula and on the trips we took to Stevensville and Flathead Lake at Polson. We had so much fun and it's cool to flip through these pictures again. I'm already looking forward to their fall visit and hopefully we'll be able to schedule it around a Griz football game. Oops how dare I mention football in July :-)

A giant in the journalism world was lost this past week when former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite passed away. I may be too young to remember Walter in his heyday but I've seen plenty of footage to recognize his superior skill as a newsman. His emotional announcement of Pres. Kennedy's death has become a permanent part of American history.

As a journalism student I'm in awe of the gold standard that Walter Cronkite personified. If I'm only 1/10 as good someday as Walter was in his career and life, I'll be damn lucky. Sure is sad that we will never see another one like him ever again. Godspeed Walter and thanks for showing us what the news is all about. Below is a clip looking back on his incredible career.


Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.

Walter Cronkite

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Long overdue

Well after a fantastic few weeks I thought it's high time I return with some sort of an update. Things have been crazy around here but I'm happy to report that Theresa, Dustin, and 3 Pugs are home safe after a 5,000 mile round trip to New York. They enjoyed themselves at the NY Pug Meetup and the Pugs travelled very well. It's sure good to have them all back home. You can read Dustin’s musings on their trip by visiting his blog at Speaking for the Dead.

While my housemates were off to New York, my mom stayed here in Missoula with me. We had an awesome time and we were able to do so many fun things. My dad joined us for the last 5 days and that was sure nice. I’ll share pictures next week of what we did but I need to sort through them first. Check out the video this week of the Missoula 4th of July fireworks we shot. Was good practice at some basic editing and it turned out pretty well I must say.

I finished up my American History class a few weeks ago and I couldn’t be happier. This class was intense but our professor was awesome which was nice. I was able to manage a strong B and that’s fine with me. Shouldn’t be any more history requirements but there is one or two classes I might still take. School starts on August 31st so at least I’ve got some summer left to enjoy.

Stay well and I’ll be back soon with some promised photos!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

New York Bound

Theresa and Dustin left for New York on Monday and are departing Rockford Illlinois as I type this. T & D took along Ugga, Daisy, and Sammy to the Pug Meetup so it is pretty quiet around here. The Pugs here with me are doing good but boy they sure miss their Mommy and Daddy.

Theresa is maintaining a blog during their entire trip and you can view it at Adventures of the MT Pug Pack

I'd like to say hello to all the FP folks who will be in Marlboro this weekend! Wish I could be there with you all. Heard a rumor though that the next one may be held over in Washington which would be a much shorter drive for us :-)

My mom has been here since last Friday and we've been having a great time. Today we are heading to Downtown Tonight and I'm taking her to the Osprey home opener tomorrow night. No shortage of things to go do that's for sure.

Summer schools ends today with the last exam for my History class. It's been a marathon course but I am so glad to get this big class out of the way. Now my two month vacation can begin and I can unwind a little.

I better go get ready so I can be at the university by 1. I'll be back with a more comprehensive update in the near future.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ready for my closeup

I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since I’ve touched my blog. That happens when summer school keeps me a bit busier than I’d like. The last few weeks have been packed but I’ve had a chance to do some awesome things aside from school.

This past Friday filming started for the Missoula group of men participating in the abuse and neglect video project. You can read more about the project in my 5/17 post. I was slated for the early session Friday and things couldn't’t have gone any better. The film crew from Portland was a fantastic group of folks to work with. They made me feel relaxed and this helped me tell my story in a detailed way. It was empowering to inform viewers about the true reality of living in an institution and how to combat mistreatment. There is no doubt in my mind that when this project is released that it will benefit so many people. The true heroes of this project are the other men I have had the chance to meet. Their stories are very compelling and the bravery they display is remarkable. I’m very humbled to be included with them. The first two pictures that I’ve included were taken at the filming session.

Three weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting an old friend of mine from Minnesota. Travis and I attended MDA summer camp together back in the 1980’s and it’s been almost 20 years since we’ve seen each other. Travis and his family went on a trip to Oregon and they stayed overnight in Missoula on their return trip back home. We had a great visit and it was nice to catch up on things over pizza. Travis has an awesome family and it was very nice of them to stop in Missoula so we could get together. Thanks guys!

Summer school keeps rolling along and in two weeks I’ll be a free man. I’m pumped to have almost completed a four credit class and it will sure make for a lighter load this fall. I had my first exam and managed a B+ which made me pretty happy. We have an exam on Wednesday and the last one is a week after that. I think I can keep sane until then or at least I hope so :-)

By this time next week Theresa, Dustin, and half of the Pug pack will be cruising through Minnesota on their way to New York. They are headed to the FPNY 2009 Pug Meetup. There will be old friends, new friends, good times and of course PUGS! I wish them safe travels and soon I’ll put up their blog they are doing along the way. Meanwhile back in Missoula my mom will be staying with me and helping out with Pugsitting duties! It will be nice to hang out with my mom and bum around Missoula.

Stay well and hopefully I’ll be back with more from the Big Sky in a week or two.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Strolling by the river

We had a gorgeous day here Thursday after a few cloudy and cool days. There wasn't a cloud in sight and it was a perfect day to enjoy the great outdoors of western Montana. My nurse and I went downtown to take a walk along the river. I was impressed by the accessibility of the trail and how easy it was to navigate. I've attached a few pictures we took along our stroll.

My long hiatus from school is coming to an end and my summer class begins on Tuesday. I'll have an American History class on Monday-Thursday from 1:30-4 p.m. and it lasts for about 5 weeks. It should be a good class and it's with a professor that I've had before. The only big downside is that we have 4 books to get through and a paper or two to write. Oh well at least it's beautiful on campus and it will give me a chance to enjoy the scenery. The trees not the girls :-)

This is a short entry but I have to brag up our little Sammy before I go. He recently graduated from his beginner's puppy class at Petsmart. Things went great and he learned walking on the leash, sitting, stay, come, lay down and even roll over. The diploma is on the fridge and rumor has it that there probably will be an advanced class in his future.

That's the latest news from my corner of the world. The next few weeks will be busy so we will have to see how much time I'll have to blog. Enjoy the rest of the Memorial Day holiday.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Video project

Abuse, neglect, and forced isolation are things that unfortunately permeate the world of disability. These are difficult issues to discuss but remaining silent will do nothing to eliminate this scourge from society. Men with disabilities are just as vulnerable to abuse, neglect as our female counterparts. It is about time that this fact is realized and I'm going to be part of a project that will aim to achieve this.

There was a recent video project that was done in Oregon. It addressed similar issues of abuse and neglect that pertained to Oregon women with disabilities. This project was a success but it maybe wasn't as user friendly and as available as it could have been. A new video project is in the works that brings to light the abuses that men with disabilities have suffered and I have been asked to be one of the contributors.

I along with other Missoula and Portland men will be sharing stories of abuse & neglect at the hands of caregivers, partners, family, and institutions where some of us have resided. The Missoula shoot will happen in June and I really enjoyed meeting the other participants at a meeting last week. We make up a panel that crosses through many different disabilities and life experiences. I'm optimistic that our finished Internet based video will be a valuable tool in assisting people in a range of unhealthy situations. Information is power and it's the only way that abuse and neglect will be brought to a halt.

I'm fortunate that my nursing home term didn't involve severe abuse or neglect but there were some incidences that I experienced & observed. They were subtle things for the most part but looking back after almost 3 years they were things that shouldn't happen to anybody. Most of my caregivers treated me well but as they say every barrel has a few bad apples. It is my sincerest hope that this retelling of things that I experienced will empower someone else out there. That is all I could ask for.


It is often easier to become outraged by injustice half a world away than by oppression and discrimination half a block from home. ~ Carl T. Rowan

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Martha Mason

The disability community lost a true pioneer on Monday when Martha Mason passed away at the age of 71. Ms. Mason of Lattimore NC survived a childhood bout with polio and went on to live a record breaking sixty years in an iron lung. The iron lung wasn't a prison for Martha but instead it allowed her to live independently, graduate from Wake Forest University with honors, and write an acclaimed memoir "Breath, Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung."

I'm a relatively young vent user compared to Martha but I owe a great debt to people like her. The vent users that came out of the polio epidemic paved the way for the generations yet to come. They showed the world what could be achieved when others thought it impossible. These people got educations, became employed, lived independently, got married, had kids and enjoyed amazing but normal lives. I couldn't be living the life I do without the contributions of these trailblazers.

My friend Bob in NYC communicated with Martha and was one of her countless friends. Bob who is blind became aware of Martha after hearing her memoir on tape. He became interested in iron lungs and vent assisted breathing which led him to join my Vent Support Network. It just shows how small a world it really is. Martha will be missed by many but it's comforting to know what a positive indelible mark she left upon this earth.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Twitter revolution

It seems like everywhere you turn these days you hear about Twitter. This craze has been building for some time and Twitter is poised to became the next killer app of the computer world. You may be asking what the heck is Twitter? Well I'll try to sum it up as briefly as I can.

Twitter is a real time messaging service that is very simple and it operates over multiple platforms. Each message or "tweet" can be up to 140 text characters and it answers the basic question of what are you doing. You can follow the message streams of others on Twitter or they can follow you. The whole application is quite intuitive and I find it much less cluttered than Facebook. I won't tell you that Twitter will change your life but I find it a fun thing to do.

I signed up last week so I could follow the ADAPT national action which just wrapped up in D.C. You can read more about ADAPT in last week's post. Anyway it was quite impressive to get updates from the front lines and get live pictures from the protests. I was able to send words of encourage to my ADAPT brothers and sisters while they fought for me and countless others. Sure would have been harder to keep up this seamlessly on Fadebook or via email.

Getting on Twitter is easy and you can be up and running in just minutes. I'd encourage you to give it a try and let me know what you think. You can follow me on Twitter @ markboatman


Saturday, April 25, 2009


If you'd like to make a donation to Montana ADAPT please email


Friday, April 24, 2009


I'm one of a multitude of people who have survived terms of imprisonment in America's nursing home system. We have had to fight very hard for our freedom and our stories are all too familiar. Worsening of a disability, loss of funding, relapse of a mental illness, pressure from doctors or family, an accident or lack of community supports are all reasons why many of my brothers and sisters have been into institutions.

The institutional system is bleak in this country but there is hope for a better day. ADAPT is a national grassroots community of advocates fighting for community based care instead of nursing home/institutional care. ADAPT is currently working for passage of the Community Choice Act in Congress. The Community Choice Act would revamp the long term care system and put the emphasis on care being provided outside the walls of an institution. An individual needing care would be given a choice of where they want to live and receive services. I'm hoping that this vital bill will be passed by Congress this session.

ADAPT is holding their Spring action from April 25-30 in Washington D.C. Our dear Missoula friends Bob & Marsha are attending and we are with them in spirit. Bob & Marsha along with many other ADAPTers are holding a Fun*Run to raise money for the important work they do. It will be held in the Upper Senate Park and I hope the weather cooperates.

I'll be making a $30 pledge and I challenge my friends and family to meet or beat my donation. You can make a pledge by visting and you can select ADAPT Montana to receive your donation. This will help Montanans like myself to attend national actions and support ADAPT's vision for community care. I thank you for your support!


Friday, April 17, 2009


Things are back to normal here in Missoula and my leg is back to 99% I'd say. I went to the university on Monday to meet the medical director and discuss my academic reinstatement. The meeting was a mere formality and I'm officially a college student again and I couldn't be happier. I'll be taking American History over the summer and it will be a big class to get out of the way.

Registration for next fall was this past week and it looks like I will have a good schedule. I'll be retaking my journalism classes along with a Biology Lab and Public Speaking. The best part of my schedule is that I will only have to be on campus Monday, Wednesday, & Friday and that is fine by me. This will leave me plenty of time to study and keep up. That is unless I procrastinate and I'd never do that :-)

The flooding of '09 in North Dakota rages on and it's been affecting my hometown. My mom sent me pictures of the water levels today and it is almost beyond belief. The reservoirs protecting Jamestown are at record depths and will be activating the emergency spillways this weekend most likely. I'm keeping positive thoughts for the people back home and know the good fight goes on. This is certainly a winter that is one for the ages.

I'll leave you with a video featuring the 88 year old mayor of Mississauga Ontario Hazel McCallion. She's a kick and boy we could use more politicians like her. Keep on truckin' Hazel!


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The War

I've been an enthusiast of Ken Burn's cinematic works ever since I saw The Civil War in high school. That film was an incredible look at a war that almost permanently divided America. I was drawn in by how Burns covered this historically important event and there's no doubt that this experience developed my passion for history.

Burns is a visionary storyteller and is a master at assembling interesting facts & stories that most people have never heard of. I purchased his latest film The War and it has not disappointed. The War chronicles the transformative Second World War and how it affected every single American in the 1940's. What has really struck me is how this entire country pulled together and sacrificed to battle the forces of evil. Could this happen in today's United States? I have doubts about that.

This film is not a glorified endorsement of war but rather a honest look at moments suspended in time. You can't do this topic justice without showing the negative events that also transpired. One of the saddest things in this film so far is how this country treated it's citizens of Japanese decent. It gives me shivers at witnessing how hysteria led to these people's rights being trampled. It is a tarnished moment in American history that hopefully won't ever be forgotten.

I'm not a person who generally thinks war is an appropriate method of conflict resolution. But in WWII, I think it was something that had to be done. The evil that was afoot back then was something that had to be stopped and unfortunately it came with a heavy price. There will always be those who will debate if any war is ethical but I believe there are rare moments like WWII where it's imperative to act. I'm sure those who survived the Holocaust would agree.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Very proud

My home state has been inundated by historic flooding the past several days and the Fargo-Moorhead area has especially been hard hit. This crisis has shown the tenacious spirit of North Dakotans & Minnesotans and I couldn't be prouder. I've been impressed by the number of people who have come forward to sandbag and fight back what the Red River has been dishing out. There aren't a heartier bunch of folks anywhere.

There has been some good fortune with a lower than expected crest but the battle is far from over. The water will remain high for a while and hopefully the man made dikes will keep the river at bay. I'm keeping everyone back home in my thoughts and prayers. You can help out by donating any amount to the Minn-Kota Red Cross @ You can get the latest news in the Fargo flood by tuning into the Mighty 790 KFGO on the web.

I've surpassed the 6 week mark since fracturing my leg and I visited my ortho last week. He said my break is well healed and I should be good from here on out. That was the news I was hoping for and now I just need to stay healthy for the foreseeable future. This winter has stunk but I look forward to spring and the warmer temperatures. It will be fun to take the Pugs for walks over at the university. Not all the Pugs at once though :-)

I came across the above video of Squeaky the Pig and got a kick out of his special talent. Squeaky is Babe the Pig come to life and who would have thought that this was even possible! If you think you've seen it all, watch this clip and be amazed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sarah the stupid

It's been a while since I've made any political observations but a recent story from the "Land of the Midnight Sun" has inspired me.

Sarah Palin the queen of the gaffe has returned to making the national headlines. Ms. Palin has made her objections to the Obama stimulus very publicly known. She may have her convictions but she has no problem accepting 69% of the funds. The important thing to look at here is what funds that she just couldn't possibly accept.

Governor Palin recently has refused 171.5 million that was slated mostly for special education services. That's right folks, Palin the self proclaimed friend & advocate of people with special needs withheld monies that would improve the educational services that they receive. She has some nerve when her son Trig will be depending on those same services during his school years. How can a person like that sleep at night?

Governor Palin has sold out her own son and others with disabilities just so she can do some political posturing. This demonstrates a perverse desire for attention and an attitude that nothing will keep her from appearing ultra conservative. She needs to face the reality that she'll never be able to lead on a larger stage. The election of 2008 showed plenty evidence of that. Alright, I'll get off the soapbox but I wanted to express my dismay over this outrageous hypocrisy :-)

I'd like to say that my prayers and thoughts are with all those in North Dakota and Minnesota who are fighting the severe flooding. This brings back memories of the disasterous flooding of 1997 and hopefully the outcome will be much better this time around. I'll be one of many who will be eagerly watching the developments this week.

I'll be back soon with an update on my leg. My final orthopedic appointment is Thursday am I am confident that the news will be good.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Quality storytelling is something that I've always been in awe of. A quality storyteller brings their reader/viewer along for the journey and you feel a part of the events transpiring before you. It is an experience that leaves you with the feeling that you witnessed something out of the ordinary. I stumbled across one of these stories last week.

I was surfing around Netflix late at night looking for something interesting to watch. When I'm in this state of mind, I usually am perusing the documentaries that are in their vast catalog. The title Bulls of Suburbia stuck out to me and I had to check it out.

Bulls of Suburbia is the story of American born Alex Lemay. Lemay spent a great deal of his childhood in Spain where he developed an affinity for bullfighting. This documentary follows Alex as he battles his alcohol addiction and pursues his dream of becoming a matador. Alex enrolled in a California bullfighting school where he began learning this complex art. The movie follows Alex through his training, participation in tientas (training sessions with young livestock), and eventually a one on one with a mature bull.

Now I realize this is a controversial subject with many people but I appreciated the art and culture surrounding bullfighting. Check out the included trailer if you have a further interest in this film.

As I type this, our little Sammy is at puppy school with Theresa. I'm sure he'll do great and will melt the hearts of all the people he encounters. I've included some pictures of our growing boy. The second picture was taken after he investigated the catnip. Never a dull moment in this house!

It's time to go dine on some corn beef, potatoes, and carrots. Happy St. Patrick's Day and I'll catch you all later...Mark

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Slow but sure

Things continue to move slow here in Missoula but I'm feeling better. My pain has leveled off considerably and that makes me quite happy. I saw the ortho last week and he had some encouraging news. I have a month left of healing and my femur is well aligned. The doctor put me into a hinged brace and this has been much more comfortable. It hurts much less to move because the brace has a bit of give to it.

I've been surprised with how much I really miss school. The structure of school is good for me because it keeps me focused. Don't get me wrong the break is nice but the itch for school remains. My plan is to take a biology lab class online and possibly a American History class on campus over the summer. We'll just have to see how the summer plans take shape. It would be great to get back to North Dakota for a visit but we'll have to wait and see.

Yesterday I ventured out and my leg did well. We're working on getting some range back in my knee so there won't be much transition when the brace comes off. I went and checked out the new Safeway store while I was out. The store is gorgeous and they have just about everything you could want. Alright I confess I'm a bit of a dork when it comes to checking out grocery stores. That was my day out and I look forward to getting out of the house more and more.

That's about it for new developments in my life. Spring feels like it's in the air and it will be nice to enjoy the outdoors again. I am looking forward to taking the Pugs on walks around the University. Take care and I'll be back next week with updated pictures of our little Sammy.


Monday, February 23, 2009

On hiatus

Life is a crazy thing. It grabs you at birth, takes you on this wild ride, and you never know what curves lie ahead. Well my life lately seems like it has been stuck in one giant curve.

I had a driving accident 11 days ago and ended up with my second fracture in two months. My driving controls malfunctioned and I slammed into the back of Dustin's chair thus causing my femur to crack. Thankfully Dustin didn't get hurt too. Of course it had to happen the night my mom and sister flew in for a weekend visit. We got to spend our quality time hanging out in the ER playing the waiting game. The break could have been much worse and thankfully no surgery will be required. I visit my ortho tomorrow and we will discuss my latest xrays. Hopefully the prognosis will be good.

School has been up in the air but I've decided to request a medical withdrawal. I'll be on hiatus until May when I will take a summer biology course. I wasn't crazy about pulling out of school at first but I just don't feel I can keep up with things during my recovery.

That's about it for this update but during the next few months my blog should return to a regular schedule. Take care and hope all of you have a great week. Peace...Mark

Life is what happens while you are making other plans.
John Lennon -- "Beautiful Boy"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Back to work

The winter break is over and it is time for me to get back to work. There isn't much new news except that I finished up my Photoshop class today. This class has been a great way to keep occupied during the past few weeks. I've posted my projects and you need to click each image to get a larger view.

Take care and I'll be back next weekend with a first week of school update.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Out of the fog

Things are finally looking up for me. This past month has felt like a dense fog had wrapped itself around me. It's a great feeling to be finally pulling out of this fog and hopefully there will be no further health issues. I'm still bummed that I lost my break to medical problems but thats just the way it goes. At least I will be ready to go for the most important semester of my college career.

I visited the ortho doc over a week ago and had updated x-rays taken. Dr. Powell took a look at my x-rays and was very pleased with what he saw. He got his scissors out and proceeded to cut my arm out of it's protective sling. He said things were extremely well set and I shouldn't have any further problems. My arm has been sore due to inactivity but I've managed to do well. I can finally start being more active and return to a normal routine.

My last kidney procedure was last week and it couldn't have gone any better. I go in Monday for an x-ray and one small procedure on Wednesday. Then I'm all done!!! I'm just a little bit excited :-) A big thanks to all the people who have kept me in their thoughts during these difficult times.

Spring semester gets underway January 26th and I'm starting to get excited. It's finally time to get into some Journalism classes and apply to the J-School in March. I'll be taking Intros into Reporting and Radio Production this semester to get me prepared. These classes will be a big test for me but I'll do my best and see what happens.

Finally I will end my blog on a very happy note. Let me be one of many to bid farewell to G.W.B., the worst president that our country has ever seen. These past 8 years have brought this country into a dark place filled with deceit and despair. Happily a new day has come, a new dawn for this great nation. President Obama will not have every answer but he will move this country back to a better place. The naysayers will continue their negativity but America has spoken their desire for a new direction. It all begins Tuesday and what a great day it will be to be an American! Peace...Mark

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Mark 1 Kidneys 0

The score is 1-0 and the next round vs. the kidneys is set to take place early Friday. I'm hanging in there but this week hasn't been any easy one. Last Friday I ended up in the doctor's office with a nice little kidney infection. This infection is most likely a parting gift from the first kidney procedure I had. Oh well enough of me moaning and groaning about my current state of affairs and onto the good news. Yes there is a light at the end of this long tunnel.

My urologist was ecstatic that the first lithotripsy blew up the biggest stone of concern. He had doubts at how effective he would be at treating me but the surgical gods were smiling on him. Seriously Dr. Graber is a talented guy and I trust his ability completely. Friday's encore will mop up the rest of my kidney stones and I'll be all done! I know kidneys aren't the sexiest of topics but thats where I stand or sit with things :-)

I had promised a few weeks ago that I had a surprise to reveal. Well meet Sammy James our new little black pug. He is devil and angel blended into one small body and his antics have kept us all in stitches. He's learned so much in his time here and its scary how smart he is! Sammy must be into everything and he especially likes irritating his siblings. They are tolerating him well and things will be better when he's a bit bigger. He can hold his own just fine though and thankfully the 6 pack is complete once again.

My winter session class starts tomorrow and I'm not sure what to expect. I've never worked with Photoshop but I guess I'll learn fast. The professor sounds good so that gives me some comfort heading into the unknown. I'll keep you posted how it goes. Spring books go on sale tomorrow so I may crawl out and head over to the bookstore. Thankfully I can order online and not have to wait too long.

I want to wish all my friends and family a very Happy New Year! Thanks for your love and support. You drive and inspire me than you'll ever know.


I've added a favorite Kid Rock song to this weeks blog. What would I do without music? I shudder to think.