Thursday, December 31, 2009

Git 'er Done!

A friend sent me these pictures and their story a while back, and I have been wondering how I could use this inspirational story of giving and helping a camp for kids. I think the story is truly quite amazing! In this season of giving, I want to share a story about how a group of Canadian farmers set a world record for harvesting a 160-acre field in just ten minutes and fifteen seconds!

They used one hundred combines, and took just one swath through the field. Notice all the grain trucks ready to take the harvest once they finished.

Click on the images to make them larger:


You can learn more of the specifics on this 2006 harvest by clicking here. The link will also take you to the YouTube videos of the harvest.

I believe there are two reasons I found this story compelling:

1. I love stories of cooperation and communities coming together to accomplish extraordinary things because there were so many stories like this
when I got hurt of people in Worthington and the small towns in the surrounding area. People came together and raised a good deal of money which helped pay to put air conditioning in our house, built a ramp into the house, paid for two vans and helped pay for several other items our insurance did not cover.

2. My dad and I helped harvest the small grain at both my grandmother and uncle's farms for several years before my accident, so I have a special affinity for farmers and harvesting. I miss those special times!

To quote John, Paul, George and Ringo, "We get by with a little help from our friends!"


Have a great 2010 everyone!


I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holidays, Teenagers And Pain

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, " ... suicide is the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicide, of people aged 15 to 24. Even more disturbing is the fact that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14." You can read the report by clicking here.

Another wonderful website full of great information on the causes, warning signs, prevention and statistics of the teen suicide situation in the United States is Teen Suicide Statistics. You can get there by clicking here.

According to the CDC report, as much as seventy-five percent of young people who attempt and/or successfully commit suicide are suffering from depression.

Regarding gender differences, teensuicidestatistics.com states, "Teen suicide statistics show differences in the ways boys and girls handle suicide. While girls think about attempted suicide about twice as much as boys, boys are actually four times more likely than girls to actually die by killing themselves."

I was in a high school that had a rash of suicides and suicide attempts, so one of the issues the principal wanted me to address was teenage suicide.

When I got home, there was an email from a student that day, who wrote in part, " ... I'm in the eighth grade and I thought that I was on earth for the wrong reasons so yes I was going to try and kill myself tonight. Your speech helped me and I just wanted to let you know that you saved at least one life today if not many more."

I understand their pain because I was there for a time after my accident. Fortunately, I was in no position to act on my feelings. I was bed-ridden with a pressure sore, and in the middle of three surgeries over a six-month period. I saw no future in my current condition and thought the best way out was to just end my life. All these years later, I am so thankful I was not able to act on my emotions at the time.

When young people today make it through their own tough times, they tell me they feel the same way.

In this holiday season of giving thanks, emotional highs and lows, and appreciating everything we have, be aware of the people around you who may be having trouble. Please take a little time, reach out and offer a friendly hand or words of encouragement. You never know how they may be accepted by the recipient.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season filled with much love, joyful times and fellowship with family and friends.

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

Saturday, December 12, 2009

'Tis The Season ...

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkuh, Happy Kwanza, and Happy, Happy to everyone else who does not celebrate any of the above! In this season of giving, I want to give you yet two more options for doing your holiday shopping. That's right, if you have not finished your shopping yet, consider Twice the Gift and Elpis Enterprises.


Twice the Gift is a great little shop located on the street level of the Crystal Court in the IDS Center in Downtown Minneapolis. If you cannot get downtown, and you want to learn about this unique seasonal store and all of the charities and products, check out their website by clicking here.

Their website states, "The 67 organizations participating in Twice the Gift represent an incredible diversity of size, mission, and area of focus. We encourage you to browse through the organizations and learn more about them. You will be sure to find an organization that supports a mission that speaks to you and to those you want to honor."


If you cannot get downtown, you can purchase a gift card online and give it to a friend or family member to help benefit your specified charity with a money gift.


And, Elpis Enterprises just happens to be one of the charities you can help by buying our products and/or a share card. I say "our products" because as many of you know, I am on the board of directors. You can learn more about Elpis and purchase our products by clicking here.

In this season of giving, let us all consider keeping at least some of our gift giving dollars right here and "Buy American!"

Let me know if you have any questions and/or comments.

Happy Holidays!

Later,

Mike

Monday, December 7, 2009

Geoffrey Canada Is Making It Happen!

Once again, 60 Minutes has run a piece I just have to share. Last night they showed us what Geoffrey Canada is doing at the Harlem Children's Zone's Promise Academy in the middle of Harlem. If you missed the show, watch what is happening:


Watch CBS News Videos Online

According to the video, the achievement gap has closed for primary school students many adults had already given up on. It is always inspiring to watch what young people can do when given the opportunity to succeed.

Now, skeptics might say, "Everybody doesn't want or need to go to college." Others say things like, "This is nothing more than a private school for black children." To see some interesting viewpoints, read the comments by clicking here. In reading the comments, it amazes me how some people can see a positive story and turn it into a negative.

I think they miss the point. As I see it, the point is about taking a negative situation and helping young people turn their lives around by giving them an opportunity to get an education to work their way out of poverty. How can that be bad?

That being said, I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lost Generation

I received this video from a friend and knew right away I had to post it. We have all heard how the current generation is lost with no hope for the future; and how they are apathetic, shiftless, misguided and lack motivation.

In previous posts, I have given examples of young people who do not fit that stereotype like Dalton Sherman, Severn Suzuki, Quinn Sullivan, Oscar Pistorius and others. Now, I want to share a very creative video that was created by another young person from this so-called Lost Generation. Jonathan Reed created this for AARP's U@50 Video Challenge in 2007. Recently, it has gone viral on YouTube and yesterday it went over seven million views!

Check out this creative prose:



It won second place; and after watching the winner When I'm 50, I have to ask, "Who was judging this contest?" I think they got it backwards!

Personally, I have friends like Eric Chester and Earl Hipp who are working with adults and youth in their own way to help transition this generation into adulthood. I also serve on the board of directors of a small non-profit organization entitled Elpis Enterprises. We are doing our own tiny bit of mentoring a few inner-city youth as they struggle to find their way in this ever-challenging world.

If you are an adult, are you doing anything to help the youth in your community? If you are, that's great! Good for you. If you are a teenager or young twenty-something, are you doing anything to procure and work with a mentor(s)?
If you are, what are you up to?

I would like to hear what you are doing. Please feel free to share.

Thank you in advance!

Later,

Mike

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's Up Time America!

Once again, my post just fell in my lap. A friend sent me this video the other day of keynote speaker Kimberly Alyn. It is a three-minute, high-energy flurry of her ideas of what we ought to be doing to make a difference in the world today. She makes a great point about personal responsibility and we are the ones in charge of our own destiny.

I find her energy contagious! If you like the video, you can learn more about her at her two websites by clicking here and here. Her other videos are full of good material as well. But, in my mind, they do not compare to this:



What do you think? Is she right? I think she hits it out of the park! Do you find yourself in any one of her "Up Time" situations? I certainly do. I believe we can all learn from her quick, little lesson.

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jack Rushton Rocks!

I often do a considerable amount of research to find material for a post, and other times, friends simply send me things from which I get ideas to expand upon that I think you will appreciate and hopefully even learn something. This is one from the latter category.

Five years ago, I met a young man at the Virginia Youth Leadership Forum by the name of Matthew Deans. He has an incomplete spinal cord injury and functions at a very high level. I saw him every year when I went to speak at YLF and we have developed a great friendship.

So, as one of my Facebook friends, he sent me this video several days ago with a note that simply read, "Saw this and thought of you." I want to share this video with you, and see if anyone thinks of me while watching it:



I love Jack's self-depricating humor! I appreciate his attitude and his outlook on life. I found this great article on Jack and how twenty years of living as a ventilator-dependant quadriplegic has affected his life and the lives of the people around him. I cannot relate to the ventilator part, but I certainly relate to the rest! You can read it by clicking here.

From what I can find, his health has not been very good recently. If you would like to read some of his interesting and often humorous observations, go to his blog by clicking here.

Jack certainly is correct when he says, "It's good to be alive."

My dad always used to add to that statement by saying, "It beats the alternative."

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Hate The Word "Hate"

One word I have come to despise these last several years is HATE! It seems to be used more and more all the time. It bothers me to the point where I am very conscious about how I use it. I do not use it much any more, and when I do, I stop to check myself and ask, "Do I really hate that?"

It gets thrown around everywhere and I wonder if we really think about just what it means?

According to dictionary.com, hate is defined as:

–verb (used with object)
1. to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest: to hate the enemy; to hate bigotry.
2. to be unwilling; dislike: I hate to do it.
–verb (used without object)
3. to feel intense dislike, or extreme aversion or hostility.
–noun
4. intense dislike; extreme aversion or hostility.
5. the object of extreme aversion or hostility.

It is the hostility part that bothers me. We saw it demonstrated again in Fort Hood just last Thursday. Almost immediately, the hate mongers came out and started in on how they hate all Muslims. Did we hear the same screams of hatred towards all Christians when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995? If we did, I don't remember it. (On a side note: he wrote a letter telling why he did it. You can read it by clicking here. I found it interesting he sent the letter to Fox News which was published almost six years to the day he bombed the building.)

If you ever have an opportunity to stand on a school playground for any length of time, just listen to the children tell each other how they hate another child because of something they may or may not have said or done. Have you ever had your sweet, little seven-year-old daughter say, "I hate vegetables!" Where did she learn to hate anything?

Is hate a learned emotion? Are we born to hate, or do we learn to hate from the people around us?

Have you ever heard yourself say, "I hate this traffic," or "I hate rainy days," or "I hate the Packers and the Yankees"? Do you really hate or are you just frustrated because you are inconvenienced or disappointed your team lost? Even former President George H.W. Bush said he hated broccoli.

Personally, there are things I hate. I hate war, violence, cancer, poverty, homelessness and racism — to name just a few. I have a much longer list of things I dislike. (He said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

Confucius said, "Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny."

Are we becoming, or are we already a country of hate? If we are, what can we do to turn it around, or is it a lost cause?

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Love Basketball!

If you know me very well, you know I am a big sports fan. I especially love basketball. In fact, a few years after my accident, a Division II coach told my dad he had a scholarship waiting for me. I had been at his camp for a week the summer between my eighth and ninth grade years. And, as they say now, "He liked my game." Basketball would have given me a free college education.

I follow Tubby Smith and the Golden Gophers religiously, and have had season tickets for more than three decades. A cold Saturday afternoon in February in Williams Arena, or as it's affectionately known around here as The Barn, gets really hot when it starts rockin' during a close Big Ten game. My courtside seats don't hurt either! It's great fun and those nineteen games every year get me through these Minnesota winters! It ranks right up there just a couple of steps behind my passion for speaking.

In fact, my tickets came last week and the Gophers first game is Thursday night. Bring on another season of college basketball!

In 1986, one of my all-time favorite movies came out. Hoosiers was a great basketball story about tiny Hickory, Indiana winning the state high school basketball championship in classic David versus Goliath fashion.

Dennis Hopper was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of "Shooter." If you have seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about. If you have not seen it, and like sports movies with a great story line, and many life lessons, you should go rent it. You will not be disappointed.

CNN is reporting that Dennis Hopper has prostate cancer. You can read the article by clicking here. He has made a lot of great movies like, Easy Rider, Apolcalype Now and Speed, to name just three. He often plays the bad guy, but my favorite Dennis Hopper movie will always be Hoosiers. I hope he has a speedy recovery, and can return to his passion once again.

I believe the reason I have such an affinity for this movie is because my dad coached in Minnesota's own version of Hickory: Edgerton, from 1963-1966. Edgerton had won the Minnesota State Championship in 1960 by beating Chisholm, Richfield and Austin in The Barn. All three of those schools had more students in their high schools than Edgerton had people.

Edgerton's population was about 1,000, and there were only 96 students in the high school! And, the community was very passionate about their high school basketball team! I was only in the third through fifth grades when we lived there, but being the basketball coach's son had it's perks! I definitely got the basketball fever of this tiny, tightly-knit, farming community in Southwest Minnesota.

When I am speaking and mention we lived in Edgerton, I will often have an older adult come up afterward and want to talk about their memories of that magical year. Many times, these longtime, avid fans can still name the starting five players!

Last year, the book Edgerton - A Basketball Legend was released and they devoted a chapter to the years following the Championship in which they talk about my dad and his tenure coaching the Flying Dutchmen. By the way, Edgerton has a very Dutch influence! You can visit the book's website by clicking here.

They are going to honor the team this year at the Minnesota State High School Basketball Tournaments as it is the 50th Anniversary of their championship. I'm looking forward to that!

As always, I welcome your comments.

Later,

Mike


Monday, October 26, 2009

Joe Paterno Is Amazing!

If you follow college football at all, you know the name Joe Paterno. He's been coaching at Penn State for sixty years! He's been the head coach since 1966. I started getting Sports Illustrated as a bonus gift for selling a certain number of subscriptions to the Des Moines Register when I delivered it in 1968. I have been a subscriber ever since.

In this week's edition, Joe Posnanski wrote a great article on Joe Pa. People have been calling Coach Paterno Joe Pa for many years. They could just as well be calling him Joe Grandpa since he is now 82! He is 82, has his Nittany Lions at 7-1 and still going strong. He is the winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 history and has something in common with my coach, Milt Osterberg.

They both coached players who broke their necks trying to make a tackle. In 2000, Penn State was not having a good year, and in the fifth game, freshman cornerback Adam Taliaferro dove in to tackle an Ohio State player. He was paralyzed and doctors told them the young man would never walk again. Fortunately, for Taliaferro, his spinal cord was only bruised and eventually he walked again, even leading his team onto the field before a game two years later.

Both coaches shared something else. They changed. Paterno's son, Jay, who is also one of Paterno's assistant coaches, was quoted in the article as saying there were only two times he ever saw his father cry. Jay Paterno stated, "The first time I ever saw my father cry was when his mother died. Then there was the time Adam got hurt."

I didn't write this post to talk about this accident. I posted it so you can read this excellent article about a coach who has committed his life to turning his players into college graduates and fine young men. He has one of the best graduation rates in the country. He has been offered other jobs for more money and has always turned them down. Whatever you feel about him, he has done a great deal of good for Penn State.

Everyone might not agree with me as far as respecting Joe Pa and what he has, and is continuing to do at Penn State, but I have a deeper appreciation for Coach Paterno and what he does for his student/athletes and PSU. You can read the article by clicking here.

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Here's A Quiz For You

What do you know about our world today? I have always said this blog was about teaching and lifelong learning. If you are a longtime subscriber, you know my subject matter is all over the board. I like it that way. But, I try to teach something with every post.

My life and my speeches are like that. I have often been told I don't have a focus. Well, I respectfully disagree. I believe my focus is on creative problem-solving and critical thinking. If you have ever seen my website or heard me speak, you know I base my speeches on the premise, "The problem isn't the issue, the issue is how you deal with the problem."

That is also the way I approach my life. Somewhere along the way since that night they drilled those two holes in my head, I have developed a problem-solving process to deal with a myriad of other problems. The philosophy I developed a long time ago was if I could lie on that Stryker frame for six weeks and get turned every two hours to avoid any pressure sores, I could handle just about any problem I need to address. People tell me it's about my attitude!

Here is a picture of Nurse Ratched turning me shortly after my accident:


Notice the forty pounds of sand hanging at the head of the bed. The bags were hyperextending my neck so the Crutchfield tongs in my skull were putting traction on my cervical spine, thus immobilizing it and aligning the vertebrae. I grew three inches in those six weeks! See there: I lost my focus again! This post is about a global quiz and I go and make it about me. Shame on me!

Back to the quiz:

I don't claim to know it all, and never will. When I only answered six out of ten questions correctly, I realized I am not as aware of urgent global issues as I would like to think I am.

Take this Global Quiz from the Clinton Foundation by clicking here, and if you are willing to share your results, please do. Who knows, you may learn something? I know I did.

If you are a teacher and want to use this quiz in your classroom, please do. I am sure President Clinton would approve. Also, feel free to share it with your friends. I think that is the whole purpose.

Later,

Mike

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dude Perfect Shooting Stars

I have never posted two days in a row; but I saw this story last night on the CBS Evening News and want to share this humorous video with you. Basketball is my favorite sport, especially college basketball. So, when Steve Hartman did this piece last night on the Dude Perfect college students from Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, I just had to share it.

By the way, he is one of my favorite journalists, and has what I believe can only be described as one of the most fun jobs a journalist could have. If you have ever seen any of his ASSIGNMENT: America pieces, you know what I mean.

This story combines basketball, creative problem-solving and critical thinking to show some amazing results. Enjoy!


Watch CBS News Videos Online

I like their creative thinking in coming up with new trick shots; and the fact they are another example of how
creative young people can be.

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

Monday, October 12, 2009

Autism Is Worse Than We Thought

Until the last few years, it was thought autism spectrum disorders, including autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder or more commonly referred to as PDD-NOS were fairly rare. In the the 1990's, it was thought to affect only about 1 child in every 2,000 children.

Until a recent study by the National Institutes of Health, those numbers had increased to about 1 in every 150 youth. Now, NIH, believes those numbers to be more like 1 out of every 100 children has some sort of an autism spectrum disorder.

According to an Op-Ed piece by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, "Almost every American I talk to about this issue knows at least one family that is affected by autism."

You can read her entire editorial by clicking here. There are several links in her editorial that will take you to other interesting sources of information tregarding these alarming numbers.

Ms. Sebelius ends her piece with this statement, "Like public health challenges such as polio in the 1950s and HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, we must address the rising prevalence and complex needs of people with autism. We still have more questions than answers. But with additional funding and a new coordinated national strategy, we are working harder and more closely together to find those answers than ever before."

Do you know someone with an autism spectrum disorder? If you do, and are willing to share how that has affected both the individual's and his/her family's lives, please do.

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TWINS WIN!

That was fun! If you're not a Minnesota Twins, or even a baseball fan, this post will still have a fun picture I hope you will enjoy.

As a lifelong Twins fan, I got to go to the 1991 World Series games at the Metrodome, but I had to give my Game 7 tickets to a friend because I had a speaking engagement in Eveleth the next day. So, I had to watch Jack Morris pitch the best pitched game in World Series history from my hotel room in Eveleth. At least I got to see Kirby Puckett win Game 6.
That was fun too!

But tonight, the Dome just was not done! It was magical! It was like the '87 and '91 World Series were back! It does not want to give up the Twins! I thought it was fun! Baseball is fun. I am constantly amazed at what Abner Doubleday invented more than one hundred years ago!

The fact he put the bases ninety feet apart, the pitching rubber sixty feet-six inches from home plate, and put it on a mound, four balls, three strikes,
three outs, all the rules that dictate the game were foreseen in the nineteenth century! I find that amazing! Think how different the game would be if he would have made the game last ten innings, or had allowed for free substitution, or made the rule a batter gets four strikes? As it is, he invented a perfect game! At least, that is my opinion.

Watching the managers make their changes tonight was fun to see. If you are a student of the game, would you have made some of Ron Gardenhire or Jim Leyland's decisions?

Anyway, the Twins now get to play the dreaded Yankees. And, most importantly, the Metrodome gets at least one more game!

Now, here's the photo I have been saving to share. A friend sent me this a few weeks ago and I was hoping to find a way to use it. As Forest Gump would say, "Stupid is as stupid does."


I wonder what old Abner would say about the current style of wearing baseball caps with the built-in sun visor on the back of the head?

GO TWINS!

Any comments?

Later,

Mike

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blue Food Dye And Spinal Cord Injuries

There is an old joke that asks, "What color does a Smurf turn if it is choking?" Now, what happens to a lab rat whose spinal cord is damaged, when you infuse the same blue food dye they use in M&Ms and Gatorade into that rat's blood system? The answer: it turns Smurf blue!


The rats get some functional return, but they turn blue. However, this is a good news/good news story. The first good news is the rats' spinal cords get healed to varying degrees. The second good news is the blue color eventually goes away.

In a recent interview,
lead researcher Maikn Nedergaard, from the University of Rochester Medical Center, told ScienceNews' Rachel Ehrenberg. "It could be [as simple as] you drink blue Gatorade on the way to the hospital."

You can read the entire article from gizmag.com by clicking here.

The article ends with this paragraph which I really like: "Here's hoping that this simple technology shows similar results in humans, and that it makes it through into clinical use around the world as soon as possible. Any treatment that can reduce the severity of spinal cord injuries stands to vastly improve the quality of life for victims, and for such little expense this seems like an enormous breakthrough."

I have always said science is amazing; and eventually they will find a way to cure spinal cord injury. I never would have guessed drinking blue Gatorade in the ambulance on the way to the hospital would be part of the equation!

Any comments?

Later,

Mike

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another Young Protegee

In my last post, I introduced you to young Severn Suzuki. Now, I want to share another youngster who has found his talent at an early age. His name is Quinn Sullivan and is now ten years old.

My friend, speaker, author and fellow blogger, Earl Hipp, has an excellent blog on man-making and is focusing on helping men to mentor young boys on their journey to manhood. You can learn more about Earl, and read his blog by clicking here.

Today, he posted this two-year-old video of Quinn Sullivan playing blues guitar with the legendary Buddy Guy. I want to share this video with you to show how another young person has found his amazing talent at an early age. Watch the passion Buddy Guy puts into mentoring this young boy. After watching this, see if you don't agree with me that Quinn has real talent:



I wonder if he will be the next Johnny Lang?

As always, I welcome your comments.


Later,

Mike

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years Ago Today

Eight years ago today everyone in the United States claimed everything changed and it will never be the same. I don't believe it anymore. We have all heard the phrase, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

A
friend posted this video a few days ago, and I saw it on my Facebook Home Page. Twelve-year-old Severn Suzuki gave this speech at a United Nations Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992. What I find amazing about it is, it could be given today and nothing has changed in seventeen years!

Check it out:



Young people can often put things in such a simple perspective you cannot argue with them. I believe Severn did just that! How can one argue with her points?

She has grown up to be an environmental activist, speaker, television host and author. According to Wikipedia, " ...
she has spoken around the world about environmental issues, urging listeners to define their values, act with the future in mind, and take individual responsibility." You can read more about her by clicking here.

Listening to her reminded me of young, Dalton Sherman, whom I wrote about in my October 1, 2008 post. You can read that post and watch his speech by clicking here.

Like Dalton, Severn found her passion at an early age. Now, she's almost thirty and is making her passion her career. I can certainly relate! It is great fun to watch young people develop into adults. I love it!

There are two things going on here:

1. The content of Severn's speech
2. Finding your passion

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I Still Believe In Tomorrow

As my regular readers know, I got hurt September 3, 1971, thirty-eight years ago tonight. I talk about that night in every speech. When someone asks how long I have been disabled, I tell them it was the night my life changed forever, my first life ended and my second life began. When nurses, lab technicians, therapists and doctors' receptionists ask me, "Date of injury onset?"

I reply, "9 - 3 - 71." I know it was an instant in time that has affected many peoples' lives besides mine. If you are reading this, chances are pretty good you are one of them.

It is always a melancholy day, and today is no different. I decided to write about my feelings in hope it will be a therapeutic session to share them. Forgive me if I don't lie on the couch, because then I could not type.

Shortly after my accident, a friend gave me the poster pictured here:

Click on the image to enlarge:


That quote, "I still believe in tomorrow." became my slogan, my mantra, and one of my goals. It was part of the lyrics to a song that went, "I still believe in tomorrow, though my life means nothing today." I felt that way many days, and especially in the middle of countless nights when I couldn't sleep.

There were many of those feelings of, "Why me?" "When will I wake up from this bad dream?" "What's going to happen next?" "What did I do to deserve this?" and many more thoughts like those.
I had many, many questions, and still do. It's just today, the questions are different. I have found answers to many of my questions, and there are others that remain unanswered. I am guessing many of you can empathize with those thoughts.

One day in Sioux Falls, a doctor took my family to the waiting room and told them my life expectancy was nine years. I guess he was wrong. I believe I am still here because I'm not done yet. I believe we all have a reason for being, and I also believe we need to find that reason. Some of us do, and some do not. I feel fortunate to know I have found mine.

I have a friend whom I have known for close to thirty years and she told me once she was glad she didn't know me then because she would not have wanted to go through that time. She said it would have been too painful to witness knowing me before my accident, to adjusting to everything I had to address from seeing me with the Crutchfield thongs in my skull like in this picture, to watching me lose sixty-eight pounds, to witnessing me struggle through my rehabilitation in the months after my accident.

Some of you were at the game, some of you have only known me since I became disabled, some of you only know me from hearing me speak and/or reading this blog, and some of you have never met me.

I welcome your comments, especially if you were at the game or knew me in 1971. Please let me know your memories and thoughts. Who knows, it may end up in the book? After all, that is the purpose of this whole blog.

There, I feel better. Thanks for reading.

Later,

Mike

Monday, August 24, 2009

Farmall Promenade

Like most things from small town America these days, the Farmall Promenade has gone the way of the horse and buggy. My aunt just sent me this great video of the Farmall Promenade, a group of people square dancing with tractors. They were only in existence from 1998 to 2008. But, after watching this video, you can't help but believe they had a lot of fun whenever they performed in those few years.

They are from tiny Nemaha, Iowa, population 120. If you're not sure where Nemaha is, it's located about 16 miles Southeast of Storm Lake in Northwest Iowa. Now do you know where it is? If you're still not sure, Google it. That's what I did. You can learn more about the Farmall Promenade by clicking here.

Check out their video and see if you can get through it without smiling. I'll bet you can't! I couldn't, and I have watched it three times already!



Whenever you start to think, "How can people live in small towns when there is nothing to do?" Just remember the human mind is an amazing organ and it's ability to think of things to do is endless!


"Why did I put up this post?" you ask. Two reasons: 1. I drove my Grandma's Farmall tractor just like the ones in the video whenever I helped her and my uncle on the farm. 2. Because I grew up in small towns, and I'm sure there were times I was bored; but I don't remember them. I lived in sixteen different locations in eight small towns before I was 14! Whether it was living in McLaughlin, South Dakota on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and playing on the WWII canon in the park, or shooting baskets in our driveway in every town we lived in, I had a great childhood growing up in small towns. We always found something to do. I could go on, but that's a chapter in the book.

If you have any memories of your childhood, life on a farm or in a small town you would like to share, please do so in the Comments section.

I look forward to reading them.

Later,

Mike

Monday, August 17, 2009

McDonald's New Sandwiches

I am going to get back on my food and obesity soapbox today for a few minutes. I saw the commercial yesterday for McDonald's new Angus Third Pounder sandwiches and it sickened me. With the obesity issue we have in the country today, the largest chain of restaurants in the world has introduced three sandwiches which have some amazing calorie and fat content numbers. Look at how many more calories they have than their already gaudy numbers from their old standbys Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. You can see a comparison of their sandwiches and other items by clicking here. Go to the right side of the page to the Nutrition Comparison, and click on a Menu Category.


I just spent some time on McDonald's website reading about what great quality ingredients they put in all their sandwiches. They talked about how they use 100% beef, (it doesn't get any higher than that, they wrote), all of the fresh vegetables, high quality cheese, but no mention of all the sauces and empty calories some of their ingredients contribute.

Throw in a large fries and a large soda, or a malt and you're set!

Enough of my rant. I'm hungry and have to go eat dinner. No, I'm not going to McDonald's.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Later,

Mike

Monday, August 10, 2009

As Easy As Riding A Bike

The CBS Evening News ended tonight with a great story about a fantastic program that is teaching young people with special needs how to do just that ... ride a bike.

Watch CBS Videos Online

According to the University of Michigan, the numbers are staggering about how many children with Down Syndrome or autism who cannot ride a bike. The accompanying article to this video links us to two exceptional programs to help children with disabilities learn to do something most people take for granted ... riding a bike. You can read the article and learn about what is happening at losethetrainingwheels.org and the University of Michigan's Center for Motor Behavior & Pediatric Disabilities by clicking here.

If you want to see some HUGE smiles and learn what is going on in Kansas and Michigan, I encourage you to check it out.

As always, please feel free to comment.

Later,

Mike

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

US Finally Signs

The United States has finally signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on Thursday, July 30, 2009 at United Nations headquarters in New York City. Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations signed the treaty making us the 141st country to do so. It is the first significant piece of human rights legislation of the 21st Century.

This paragraph comes directly from an Associated Press article published on the Los Angeles Times.com website last week.

"We all still have a great deal more to do at home and abroad," Rice said. "As president Obama has noted, people with disabilities far too often lack the choice to live in communities of their own choosing; their unemployment rate is much higher than those without disabilities; they are much more likely to live in poverty; health care is out of reach for far too many; and too many children with disabilities are denied a world class education."

That quote addresses all of the hot button topics of the day; housing, employment, poverty, health care and education. Isn't that interesting? And you thought people with disabilities were so much different than you, he said with tongue planted firmly in cheek.


This picture is from the article and you can read it by clicking here. It's an informative article. I encourage you to read it.

People with disabilities make up the largest minority in the country. As a friend of mine in Berkeley, Michael Pachovas, used to say, "We are the equal opportunity minority. We'll let anybody in."

As always, I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike


Monday, July 27, 2009

I saw something yesterday ...

that has left a profound impact on me. I want to share a quick encounter I had with a man who broke his neck at C2, which is the second cervical vertebra; and is actually located in the skull. C1 and C2 are the vertebrae which your head swivels on, and the first bump out of your skull, is C3. You can feel C3 by touching the first bump, or spinous process on your spine, just outside your skull. C1, or the Atlas (the first cervical vertebra, which supports the head) and C2, or the Axis, are just above that.

That was my quick Anatomy lesson for this post.

Back to my story: Sunday afternoon, I went up my alley about 1:30 to pick-up a few prescriptions at my pharmacy. On the way home, I turned down the alley and dropped the bag carrying my precious cargo. So, I looked around to see if there was anyone who could help me get my bag of drugs.

That was when I saw a man going through my neighbor's trash dumpster looking for food. The thing was — he was wearing a halo, which for those of you who don't know, is the devise they use to stabilize the cervical spine when someone breaks his or her neck by drilling four screws into your skull to hold it in place. It looks like this:

As I approached him, I didn't think he was capable of bending down to the ground to pick up my prescriptions, so as I passed behind him, I said, "Hi," and came in the house to get Tim, my attendant, to come and help me.

When I called Tim, I told him he wasn't going to believe what was going on outside! After picking up my goodies, we came up the alley and got to where Jim was, when the shy, quiet, wallflower that I am, politely asked him, "What happened to you?"

Without breaking stride in his quest for food by looking up, he said, "I broke my neck!"

Guess what I said? Yup, "So did I!"

That
got his attention and brought his head out of the dumpster. So, we shared our accident stories for a few minutes and I asked him, "How are you getting your medical care?"

That was when Jim chuckled a bit and said, "Right now, my General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) is taking care of me, but at the end of the year, Pawlenty (Minnesota's Governor) is cutting my benefits and I don't know what I'll do."

Now, mind you, Jim wasn't very clean, the lamb's wool on his halo was filthy, he didn't look like he had bathed or gotten clean clothes for a significant amount of time, and he told me he was having a good day because he had found some food and a half bottle of wine in my neighbor's dumpster! He said, "I found a half bottle of wine, and I'm drinking that."

Then Tim asked him if he was sure it was wine. Jim assured him it was. He was quite confident about it, and was obviously looking forward to drinking it! I can only imagine where he was when he drank his half bottle of wine!

That was when Tim left. When I got inside, Tim asked, "What the hell is going on? Why is this guy in a halo going through dumpsters digging for food, when he should be adequately taken care of considering his medical condition? I wonder if he's a vet?" (Tim served in the Army for six years, so he's sensitive to the plight of veterans.) He told me later he couldn't watch Jim; he had a hard time being there.

I know this is a much longer post than I usually put up, but I just had to write about it. There is so much more I want to tell you about my encounter with Jim, the state of health care, budget cuts in the government, homelessness, the lucky ones who break their neck or back and walk away, how Jim broke his neck, and so on ... but, I think I may turn it into a chapter for the book. After all, that's the whole purpose of this blog! Remember, I'm not done yet!

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jim Brandenburg's Photography

September 3, 1971 was the night I got hurt. There was a young photographer standing in the end zone taking pictures for the Worthington Daily Globe, the local, daily newspaper. His name was Jim Brandenburg.

He took these pictures, along with several others, you can see on my website by clicking here:

Click on the images to enlarge:

Jim has come a long way in his career since that night. Many of you may know of his phenomenal body of work. He is an award-winning nature photographer, filmmaker and environmentalist, and has become one of the most respected nature photographers in the world. I came across Jim's website, blog and Facebook page, and spent the last couple of hours checking them out.

A friend gave me this framed, autographed print several years ago and it is one of my most prized possessions. Jim signed it, "With great admiration!" Jim Brandenburg

WOW! Here's this world-famous photographer, and he's admiring me. That was pretty cool!

You can visit Jim's websites by clicking on these three words: Website, Blog, Facebook.

Take some time to peruse his work and see if you agree with me.

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

P.S. Jim's office gave me permission to use this copyrighted
image entitled Gray Wolf.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"And that's the way it is."

Many of us grew up hearing those six words at the end of the CBS Evening News every night as Walter Cronkite signed off from his report from 1962 to 1981. Mr. Cronkite was laid to rest yesterday after passing away at the age of 92 late Friday night.

I remember him coming on every night during the height of the Vietnam War and giving us the body count for the day. He would tell us how many North Vietnamese we killed and how many American soldiers were killed that day. It gave us a sense we were winning because we were killing more of them than they were killing Americans.

He was a journalist and television anchor for close to fifty years who became, (according to many polls) "the most trusted man in America." He reported many events including bombings during World War II, the Nuremberg Trials, combat in the Vietnam War, JFK's assassination, the moon landing, Watergate and the Iran Hostage Crisis, to name just a few. He was in our living rooms talking to us. We trusted him.

The one event I will always remember was watching him come close to breaking down as he put his glasses back on while he reported the death of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. This is a very short snippet of that report.

Here it is:



Do you remember where you were when you heard him utter those words? If you are old enough, I'm guessing you do. I remember him being a rock as he covered the next several days. Now, he's gone too. Rest in Peace, Mister Cronkite.

I welcome your comments.

Later,

Mike

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Carl Sagan — Pale Blue Dot

In doing research for this blog, I often come across fascinating articles, amazing videos and compelling information. When I found this video, I knew right away I wanted to share it with you. Please view and listen to Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot.

He puts the earth and everything on this third rock into a perspective I find more compelling each time I listen to it.

Besides getting mesmerized by his great voice, he has given me a fresh viewpoint I find absolutely amazing because he has made me look at myself in a way I had never done before. Listen and think and see if it affects you:




Any comments?

Later,

Mike

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Canadians Make Stem Cell Breakthrough

Several weeks ago, I told you I did a lot of research for blog posts while I was in the hospital. Here's one of the articles I came across from our friends north of the border. I believe you will find it very interesting.

Originally published Sunday, March 1, 2009, it was updated on April 10th in Toronto's The Globe And Mail. You can read the entire article by clicking here.

I find it fascinating how quickly researchers are finding breakthroughs with the science of stem cells and all of their qualities. This paragraph comes directly from the article:

“We hope these stem cells will form the basis for treatment of many diseases and conditions that are currently considered incurable,” says Andras Nagy, of Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital. He is the lead author of a groundbreaking paper published online Sunday by the journal Nature.

I have always said it's just a matter of time! What an amazing time we live in!

As always, feel free to comment.

Later,

Mike

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Lied!

I lied about making my last post for the first half of the year! I was interviewed for this article on spinal cord injuries and it's now online. I just received the article from She Knows.com magazine and they quoted me accurately, twice! I had to share it with you.

You've heard the phrase, "Any pub is good pub." Well, I'll take it. You can read the entire article in She Knows.com by clicking here. Don't worry, it's short.


I welcome your comments.

Later,

Mike

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Longevity Game

I thought I would end the first half of 2009 with a fun, little post.

I came across this game the other day and decided to put it up so everyone can try it. It's done by an insurance company, so take it for what it's worth. You know what they say about getting what you pay for. Some of you may like the results, and, obviously, some of you may not.

Personally, I liked the results. But, I know my results are going to be a bit skewed since I don't think they have made any allowance for spinal cord injuries and all of the health issues I've had to deal with. However, they do have a disclaimer on pre-existing conditions before you play the game.


You can take The Longevity Game by clicking here.

Remember, if you don't like the results, don't get mad at me. I didn't live your life and answer the test for you. I'm just the messenger!

As always, I welcome your comments.

Later,

Mike

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The "Invisible Workforce"

I have been disabled for almost thirty-eight years and have been dependent on someone to help with my daily needs every one of those days. I could not survive without my personal care attendants (PCA's). Recently, our governor has decided to cut funds to the state-run program that pays for the roughly 40,000 PCA's in Minnesota.

Those people take care of approximately 14,000 Minnesotans who are in need of daily assistance much like I do. There is a tremendous difference in age and what these people need. But, the point is, we all need help of some sort or another.

It seems to me a very short-sighted solution to a problem that will get much worse if we cut back on this program and the people with disabilities who benefit from them end up in hospitals and long-term care facilities because their needs are not being met which leads to more problems that don't allow those individuals to live in their own homes.

Gail Rosenblum wrote a great piece in the Minneapolis StarTribune last month outlining the issue. You can read the article by clicking here. There are also some good comments following her column.

One of the things I especially liked about the column was the fact Bridget Siljander was quoted. I'm proud to say Bridget was one of my PCA's when she first started in this field twelve years ago. It's very rewarding to see how she has grown into a responsible and tireless advocate for her peers and people with disabilities.

She has even gotten very involved in the leadership of a national organization for direct service professionals called the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. You can learn more about their organization by clicking here.

I welcome your comments.

Later,

Mike


Saturday, June 13, 2009

I'm Not A Green Bay Packer Fan, But ...

This story takes place in Green Bay, Wisconsin and has nothing to do with the Packers. I've just always wanted to write those seven words.

I was talking to my mother tonight and she told me about young Kennedy Corpus who skipped school on the last day of fourth grade to go to an event with her father, John.

I hadn't heard of the story, so I decided to see just what happened. It turns out, she got a note for her teacher that was a once-in-a-lifetime event for ten-year-old Kennedy.

Since I rarely watch the main stream media any more, I get most of my news from the Internet and discussions with friends and family. Yes, Google is my friend. This is a precious video and story from the Green Bay Press-Gazette on June 11th. To read the story and watch the video,
click here.

I'm guessing young Kennedy had a hard time sleeping that night.

I welcome your comments.

Later,

Mike


Friday, June 5, 2009

National Sports Center For The Disabled

In 1980, I had the opportunity to go downhill skiing in Winter Park, Colorado at an organization called the National Sports Center for the Disabled. Little did I know just how large and successful it would become. Now, almost thirty years later, they are an incredible organization with year-round activities in Winter Park. They also have offices in Denver and Kansas City.

You can learn all about their summer and winter programs by going to their website. Just click here.

Their website reads, "The NSCD offers a variety of exciting winter adventures, including alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, Nordic hut trips, snowshoeing, and ski racing ... The NSCD offers a variety of exciting summer adventures, including NSCD Sports Camps, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, special camps, horse pack trips, therapeutic horseback riding, mountain biking, overnight river trips, fishing, camping, and rock climbing."

I love to see how programs and organizations for people with disabilities that were started around the time I had my accident, are prospering and helping people with many different issues. It's great to see people with disabilities being offered new and exciting opportunities.

I think this is a FANTASTIC picture:

If you have a disability, check out their website, see what's available, what activity may interest you and take advantage of their programs. Or, if you are able-bodied and you know someone with a disability, send him or her the NSCD's website.

There is another similar organization right here in Minneapolis doing many of the same activities and then some. They have trips that go all over the world! Check out Wilderness Inquiry and see what they are doing. Just click here.

I welcome your comments. Especially, if you have experience with either organization.

Later,

Mike



Sunday, May 31, 2009

Walk On D.J.

We all have challenges, some seem greater than others. For D.J. Gregory, walking is very difficult. So, what did he decide to do? Why not walk every hole, every day of every PGA golf tournament in 2008?

A friend sent me this video and I did a little research about his quest. I just Googled "D.J. Gregory golf" and there was a ton of information about his walk that left a trail. It's an incredibly inspiring story about someone with a disability who set a goal for himself and then went out and accomplished it!

D.J. was thirty last summer and walked in 44 tournaments in 45 weeks. That's 180 rounds, 3256 holes and more than 900 miles on the eleven-month tour! None of the professional golfers did what D.J. did! None of them golfed in every tournament. It's a great video. I encourage you to watch it and see if you agree with me. You can view it by clicking here.

I look forward to your comments.

Later,

Mike

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Friends Are Important

According to an article in the NYTimes.com on April 20, 2009, our friendships are incredibly important in our overall health. This quote comes directly from the article you can read in its entirety by clicking here.

“In general, the role of friendship in our lives isn’t terribly well appreciated,” said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. “There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage, but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.”

Personally, I have friends from nearly every stage of my life, from as far back as elementary school, junior and senior high school, to college in Worthington, UC Berkeley and the University of Minnesota. I don't always keep in touch with some of them as much as I'd like, but from past experience, I know I can reach out to many of them with a phone call or an email, and we can pick up like we have never been apart.

With living in eight towns and going to school in five different districts before I was fourteen, I made a lot of friends at an early age. They come from many different backgrounds and I can count many people as friends, some going back more than forty-five years!


I have also made many friends with people from all areas of my adult life. I'm happy to say each one of those relationships has helped me to shape who I am. To site a quick example of that, in my recent hospitalization, I had visitors, emails and phone calls from friends from many stages of my life.
Please feel free to comment on how your friends have affected your life. I look forward to reading them.

Later,

Mike

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kidney Stones And Children

In the many sleepless hours I spent in the hospital, I spent a lot of time doing research for this blog. One of the sites I spent perusing was the New York Times online. I know it's a credible source and a tremendous wealth of information.

I came across this article and want to share it with you. According to this article by Laurie Tarkan from October 28, 2008, there is a tremendous rise in kidney stones in children as young as five and six years old! You can read the entire article by clicking here.


She gives some incredible numbers and reasons for this dramatic rise in a disorder once considered a problem for middle-aged adults.

One of the most disturbing reasons she sites for this problem is what is causing these kidney stones. She writes, it's food and drinks with high salt content. Drinks like Gatorade, and salty foods like sandwich meats, chips, canned soups, packaged meals and french fries.

One of the major reasons is the fact children are not drinking enough water. These two paragraphs came directly from the article:

Children also tend not to drink enough water. “They don’t want to go to the bathroom at school; they don’t have time, so they drink less,” said Dr. Alicia Neu, medical director of pediatric nephrology and the pediatric stone clinic at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.
Instead, they are likely to drink only once they’re thirsty — but that may be too little, too late, especially for children who play sports or are just active.

“Drinking more water is the most important step in the prevention of kidney stones,” Dr. Neu said.

I seem to have written a few posts on food lately. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe I'll go have a sandwich and a Gatorade and think about it. (He said sarcastically.)

Your comments are always welcome.

Later,

Mike

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Morton Cure Paralysis Fund

I have been asked to give the closing speech at the Third Annual Research Symposium for the Morton Cure Paralysis Fund this Sunday afternoon. The keynote speaker is Dr. Anthony Windebank of the Mayo Clinic. He is the director of the Neural Regeneration Program where his research group is focusing on restoring function to damaged spinal cords.

I am excited to hear his message. It promises to be very informative. Who knows, it may lead to another post. You can read all about MCPF and their upcoming symposium by clicking here.

I introduced you to MCPF in my May 3, 2008 post when I quoted them regarding asking questions about spinal cord injuries
(SCI). The entire MCPF website is full of good information touching on everything from the basic physiological facts of a spinal cord injury to the latest articles on SCI research.

Last year's symposium was very informative when Dr. Wise Young from Rutgers University told us about his spinal cord research in New Jersey and China where he is working with humans in clinical trials. You can watch the entire symposium including Dr. Young's presentation by clicking here.

Check out the links above and feel free to comment.

Later,

Mike