Monday, November 30, 2015

Black Lives Matter!

Now that I have your attention, I want to tell you about one black man who has had a tremendous influence on my life. Shortly after I moved to this apartment in mid August 2012 I was coming down the sidewalk after running a few errands to get little things we could not find in our packing.

Ahead of me was a thin, small black man who was using his phone. He did not hear me when I asked him if I could get by. I kind of snuck up on him and scared him. I apologized for scaring him and went on my way. I went around the building and came in the front door as Robert was coming in the backdoor. We did not know each other lived in the building. We laughed and introduced ourselves. That was the first time I met Robert Foster and we became fast friends at that moment.

Robert lived in the building with his brother, Rodney and was his primary Personal Care Attendant (PCA) and shortly came to work for me as well.

He had an infectious smile and loud, booming voice. From behind my apartment walls, I could hear if Robert was in the lobby.

He became part of my extended family and we did a number of things together including making a trip to the annual Smith pheasant hunt in South Dakota. Here is a photograph taken in 2013 during that trip:
 As always, click on the image to make it larger:

We were in the barn on the farm my uncle is renovating and Robert was teasing me about something trying to get me to smile and I was not going to give him the satisfaction!

He read my book, enjoyed it and we had many discussions which came from points he found interesting. He told me he learned a lot from me and that meant a great deal. I try to mentor and teach just about everyone I come in contact with. We had a great connection and love of all things sports especially basketball. We meshed from the very beginning and the race difference went away from the very beginning.

He loved to play basketball and often shared stories of when he played at North High School in Minneapolis. We would often watch football and basketball games together and SportsCenter was always on when he would get me up in the morning.

Robert loved life and despite overcoming many tragedies with losing his daughter because a kidney transplant did not take, a mother suffering from Alzheimer's disease, his brother being paralyzed and struggling, a brother with AIDS, just to name a few of the tragedies he is overcome in these little more than three years I knew him. He had a strong faith and inner drive we all can aspire to have!

He also liked his Nikes! He had around two hundred pair many of which have never been taken out of the box! He even had a storage shed full of his shoes and a few other assorted items.

A couple years ago, he was struggling with a car and needed $1200 to get a used car to get him through the winter. I put my old financial planning hat on to try and see if we could straighten out his financial situation. The first thing he did was open a checking account at the bank just up the street. Then, he got a credit card which he used sparingly just to establish his credit.

Shortly after that, he went up the road a ways to an Acura dealer and bought a very nice car for around $6,000. He loved that car and it was always in immaculate condition. They gave him a good deal and treated them very well all because he was in the system now and not living from paycheck to paycheck. He was also building up a small investment.

I am very proud to say he learned how to use the system to his advantage from me.

The other great thing he had going for him was the love of his life, Lisa. They were always together and shared many experiences that helped him get through all of the tragedy he was dealing with. They were soul mates and found each other and had a great time together.

He was like a member of our family and even called my mother, Moms! They also got along great together. We teased each other we were brothers from different mothers. We also referred to ourselves as ebony and ivory, chocolate and vanilla, salt-and-pepper. You get the idea about the young man growing up in the inner-city and connecting with another man who grew up living in small towns across the Midwest. We came from very different backgrounds; however, that did not matter. We overcame those differences from the very beginning.

I am not positive about Robert's exact cause of death, I just know he went very quickly these last few months and had something to do with renal and liver failure. I have a hard time believing he is gone. It will hit me at his service on December seventh.

I know I need to go through the grieving process and it will take some time as I am still in denial. I wish you well in your next world, Robert. Peace be with you and we must take solace in the fact your pain is gone. I will miss you my friend.

I look forward to your comments.



Monday, November 16, 2015

Do Not Ever Break Your Neck!

I usually follow that statement with, "because it's not worth the good parking spots."

In this case, I am referring to relying on Metro Mobility to get me from my apartment to Williams Arena on time so I could watch the new version of Richard Pitino's Golden Gophers play the University of Louisiana, Monroe.

I was supposed to be picked up at 2 PM and arrive at 2:30 PM to meet my ticket holder sharer, Phil Echert. On the way, we had to make a stop at the Mall of America to drop off another rider. We did not leave the Mall of America until 2:30! I had this sinking feeling we were not going to make it on time!

We arrived just in time to see the opening tip! After the game, my ride was a half hour late and it took me little more than an hour to get home. I understand the need for multiple riders on these dial-a-ride services; however, I wish they had a better way of letting us know they were going to be late or at least know we were not going to be the only riders.

I enjoy the freedom of getting in my van, driving to where I want to go and coming home when I want to. My van has not been driven for several months because of my bedridden status and I was forced to use the dial-a-ride service. I hope to get my van in working order by the next game.

By the way, the Gophers won 67-56. It was not a pretty game, but a win is a win. At one point late in the second half the Gophers were 2 for 20 from the three-point line! The Gophers had gone on a poor shooting streak and let ULM back in the game. At one point,ULM led 51-50. Then the Gophers went on a 17 to 5 run to win the game. It would not have looked good on their tournament resume to have fallen to a team like them.

I finally arrived home after dropping off another rider who was fortunately fairly close to my destination. Amed was following his GPS religiously and I told him to turn it off so I could better get him back home.

It turns out the service had me going to a different address than my beginning address and after a couple wrong turns, he listened to me and got me back home. He thanked me for  telling to him how to get home the shortest way possible. We had a nice conversation and I appreciated his willingness to listen to my directions. He had an interesting story about his country of origin from Syria seventeen years ago! He was glad he was not there now!
Since I had recorded the Vikings – Raiders game, Mom and I watched the game in its entirety; skipping through the commercials was fun to watch a game! 

The Vikings are now 7-3 and sit atop the National Conference Central Division since Green Bay missed a last second field goal to lose to the Lions. It has been a long time since the Vikings were in this position and we will find out how good they are Sunday when Green Bay comes to TCF Bank Stadium to see which team will sit atop the division at least temporarily. It will make it interesting to see who wins in the regular-season finale at Green Bay!

Adrian Peterson had a tremendous day yesterday and the Vikings need him to run like that again this weekend. Both teams have their own set of injuries and we will see how that plays out on Sunday.

As always, I tend to stray away from my original intent of this post. If you are frequent reader of my blog you know that is something I do often!

I will close now by saying, "Go Gophers, and Go Vikings!"

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Friday, November 6, 2015

Another Gopher Basketball Season Is Underway!

Once again I am excited about the upcoming Gopher basketball season, as I have been going to watch since my first one in 1973 when I saw my first game with a good friend, Mike Johnson. After a brief stint of going to games in Berkeley when the conference was the Pac-8, I returned to Minneapolis and have had season tickets for almost forty years including season tickets when I was a student and tickets were six dollars!

The Barn will not be rocking tomorrow afternoon and not all the seats will be filled, but I still enjoy being in that old place and watching my favorite college basketball team! I have great seats sitting at almost midcourt in the front row right behind the broadcasters. Oftentimes people can see me while they interview the broadcasters at halftime.

Here is a great picture of the scoreboard several years ago my sister took from her seat about twenty rows up. Notice the balance scoring. You do not see that every day. In fact, I have never seen it again:
 As always, click on the image to make it larger:

The Barn was rocking that night as the Gophers were playing Michigan State. I do not know what year it was, but I do know it was during the Monson years.

Williams Arena has undergone a few changes since then. The most noticeable change is the lowering of the floor several inches. Other than that, I believe Williams is the second or third oldest college basketball arenas in the country! 

If you have ever been in The Barn during a close game or a major run by the home team you can attest to the excitement, energy and noise in that place. I love those nights in The Barn! It is those nights that get me through these frigid Minnesota winters!

During the 1996-'97 season which was officially wiped out because of all the NCAA rules violations of then coach Clem Haskins The Barn was especially loud as the Gophers had their finest season in history. They went to the Final 4 that year and lost the first game to Tubby Smith's Kentucky team which won the National Championship two days later.

Longtime Gopher fans will remember Coach Smith and his own downfall when he came and coached the Gophers.

Richard Pitino is entering his third year at the helm of the Gophers amidst his own allegations when he was an assistant for his father at Louisville. We will follow his situation and see what happens.

I wrote earlier how I had taken a break while I attended school at the University of California, Berkeley. When I arrived on campus in late 1973, I started researching the campus to find out where I could go to watch the Golden Bears basketball team play the likes of UCLA, USC and Stanford.

When I got to Harmon Gym, I was shocked it had thirteen steps into the front door. This was Berkeley, how could that be?

I went up to the Physically Disabled Student Program (PDSP) and asked my good friend, Ed Roberts why Harmon was not accessible? He told me it was on their list of trying to get all the old buildings on campus made accessible to students with disabilities. Ed told me if I wanted to get a ramp in the building with automatic door openers I should go to the Dean's office and ask how we can get it done. That was the beginning of my student activism on campus!

To make a long story short, that summer the University began construction of this ramp into the building. This picture is my father and me checking out the construction when my mom and dad made a road trip with me to get back for the upcoming school year. My uncle, Terry was stationed in McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento and he rode with us for the trip until we dropped him off at the base.

I like the look on my dad's face as he carefully inspected the work going on:

Again, click on the image to make it larger:

The ramp was finished by basketball season and I was able to see some of my classmates play ball for the Golden Bears that year.

Basketball has always and always will be my favorite sport. I am not only a fan, but a coach and student of the game. I often do coaching from my seat and amaze people who come to the game with me not knowing much about the intricacies of a trapping midcourt defense or beating a 2-3 zone defense.

After playing and watching basketball pretty much my entire life I find myself teaching my friends things I learned from my dad and Flip Saunders in my time at Golden Valley Lutheran College.

Here is a photograph of Flip and me at one of our games. It is still hard to believe he is gone!
Click on the image to make it larger:

I also used some of those techniques when I coached my nephew for three years playing Park and Rec ball in St. Paul when he was just learning the game. One of my players told me he really appreciated the game much more because of everything I taught him about playing and watching basketball.

Back to Williams Arena and the upcoming season. Last year was a disappointing year after winning the NIT in Pitino's first year. After going 17-15 last year, I am looking forward to the new recruits and watching the development of last year's players.

Go Gophers!

I look forward to your comments.



Monday, October 26, 2015

Flip Saunders Had Everything But Time!

I met Flip at an event on the University of Minnesota campus called Campus Carni shortly after he had been named the head coach at tiny Golden Valley Lutheran College. Of course, he was with his then girlfriend, Debbie Hoeft, his constant companion until yesterday.

For those of you who were around the University in the 60's, 70's and into the 80's, you probably remember Campus Carni. It was a big Greek fundraising event with lots of loud music; scantily clad dancers and an eight-minute skit between the loud music and dancing. It was a fun time for all and Debbie was dancing with the University's Dance Line.

I worked up the courage to go up to Flip and congratulate him on his new position. I also volunteered to be an assistant coach if he liked the idea. He told me he was interested in learning more about me as we had a great conversation.

The next three years during my assistant coaching position at GVLC were a lot of fun. I made some lifelong friends and learned to play backgammon and chess from Flip and his roommates, Dave Winey, Mike "Bones" Cervony, Brad Cosgriff and Kevin McHale.

I am attaching our first team picture when we had the youngest college coaching staff in the country! Flip, Bones and I were only twenty-two, and Dan Kosmoski was only twenty-one! One of our players, Doug Moore was twenty-three and fresh out of military service. All of the coaching staff were still in college ourselves!

As always, click on the image to make it larger:

Bones is in the back row right behind Flip and Kos is immediately to the left of Bones. Several of those players went on to become very successful businessman in their own right and Dan Kosmoski has been the head basketball coach at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota starting his twenty-second year. Last year he took his Oles to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Basketball Tournament for the first time in school's history!

I am proud to say we never lost a game in that tiny gymnasium that was overflowing an hour before each game to watch our pregame, synchronized warm-up program inspired by Bill Musselman in Flip when he played at the University of Minnesota.

Flip told me once, that he believed outside of the University of Minnesota's college basketball team, we were the greatest draw in the area for college basketball! I think he was right! It was fun being in that tiny gym for the three years I helped develop some fine young men. Two of them became All-American Junior College players and number 11; Hurdis Burns led the nation in scoring most of his sophomore year! He ended up in second or third averaging just less than thirty points a game. That was before the three-point shot!

Later that year, we won one game 144-68! Our last five players scored 44 points in 10 minutes because we were already at 100 and let them play for an extended period of time.

It was a fun time for me because I knew I was learning from a good coach who was on his way to the NBA one way or another. He took a long way in getting there, but Flip finally was putting the pieces in place to make the Minnesota Timberwolves a contending team.  He was putting together a winner he just needed a little more time.

He took a chance on me and I loved every minute of it. Flip's favorite story about me he has told many times was in one game he was arguing at an official's call and the referee told him to sit down and not argue anymore calls. If he stood up one more time the referee was going to throw him out of the game!

Flip turned to me and said, "If I get upset again, you go out and argue with the ref because you can't stand up!" He laughed every time he told me that story. 

I never thought I would be writing this blog because Flip was one of those coaches who was going to retire late in his life after the fire in his belly was gone. I do not think that fire would have ever left him. I know he was excited about his new draft choices, returning veterans and trades he had made.

I know Sam Mitchell will be a very good replacement. It will just not be the same.

I believe this picture Kevin Garnet posted says it all when he stated, "Forever in my heart."

As always, click on the image to make it larger:

My best wishes go out to Debbie and their four children. It is still hard to believe he is gone!

I look forward to your comments.



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I Love October!

If you like sports like I do, you may be in seventh heaven like I am! With the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs in full swing, the NFL nearing its halfway point and college football on every Saturday I am able to watch football or baseball every day.

College basketball will be starting soon as will the big guys in the NBA. I start my thirty-sixth straight season as a season ticket holder for Minnesota Gophers basketball team next month and I am excited to see what happens this year after a frustrating season last year. I just heard there is new information about the growing scandal at the U and hope it does not interfere with new allegations regarding the basketball program.

It is fun to be in The Barn those nineteen or twenty nights every winter when the place gets rocking! It is what keeps me in Minnesota!

Back to October: as you well know I tend to get sidelined when I start writing! With the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets dueling it out in the Eastern League Championship Series I am torn between which team I want to see win. Of the two New York teams I like to see the Mets do well; however, it has been over 100 years since the Cubs won the World Series and I am rooting for them to play the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.

On one hand, I would like to see the Royals win after coming so close last year. I also like the fact they are the champions of the American League North Division, which is where the Minnesota Twins play. That is a whole another story about how well the Twins improved from last year. I believe they are setting the groundwork for an exciting future with the hiring of Paul Moliter as their manager and the rookie players stepping up to play a great part of this season's success. I believe next year they will be very fun to watch. The fact they were in the Wild Card race until the second to last day of the season was a good indication of what is to come.

Meanwhile, the NFL has provided many exciting games already with a record number of overtime games already this season. Parity is definitely back in the NFL, which is the way it should be. Right now I can watch one, two and sometimes even three games in one day! 

Since I cannot play anymore, I have a lot of fun following and even coaching from bed while I watch a game. You may know I have been bedridden since June and have only recently been allowed to sit up for two hours at a time. That forces me to watch television while lying down. I use these prism glasses to watch the games. If you have never seen a pair of these classes, they allow me to watch at a 90° angle. I look straight up and can see the television at my feet. Here is what they look like:

As always, click on the image to make it larger.

I need to end this, as my two hours are almost up. I will lie down, take a nap and wait for tonight's baseball game. Have I mentioned yet how much I like October?

I look forward to your comments.



Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Remember Me?

I used to write a blog post about once a week until mid-June. I abruptly stopped when I was stranded in my chair on two different nights by the company called Custom Care who failed to send an attendant by to put me in bed, which resulted in me being bedridden since my pressure sores were opened to a degree I could not sit up in my chair!

I ended up in an emergency room on June 19th and spent the next eight days in the hospital until I was able to find another home healthcare agency who would be more reliable in getting me personal-care attendants (PCA's). My doctor would not allow me to be released from the hospital until I had a care company who could supply my needs.

Little did I know when my social worker arranged for this company to do my cares that she was going to retire as soon as she closed out all of her cases! The new company president showed up making all kinds of promises that I knew he could not keep. My doctor released me that Saturday and I have been in bed ever since! My only trips out of my room were a once a month visit to the wound clinic to have my doctor check on the progress, order new supplies and send me home for another month of R&R in my bed!

On my last visit, the wounds are getting good enough so he allowed me to start sitting up a couple hours a day. The first few days I was experiencing a dramatic loss in strength and stamina. I am still weak and frustrated to not be able to be up in my chair for very long periods of time.

I have good people helping me now who are going the extra mile to take care of my increased needs.

I thoroughly enjoy watching the Minnesota Twins and their run for a playoff position! It has kept me going along with countless hours of watching television. My summer and now early fall is gone and I am hoping to be ready to start going to my Gopher basketball games in a few short weeks.

I am attaching a photograph taken on June 20th with my brothers, Rick and Chad when they came to visit me in the hospital in a break from our niece's wedding that day. I regret not being able to be there very much.

Click on the image to make it larger:

The bottom line is I am back to a degree! I am excited to get back to a degree of ability I had before this latest setback. I have much more to write on this subject of my summer vacation which lasted well into autumn; however, I need to lie down as my time is about up!
As always, I look forward to your comments.


Thursday, June 18, 2015


Everyone has milestones at some point in their life. We all have our first one when we are born. We all have only one birthday. It is only one birthday yet we celebrate it every year. Some of us get to celebrate it more often than others.

Many of you have had milestones like graduating from high school, college, graduate school, marriages, and some of you know what it is like to have milestones from your starter marriages! You may also know what it was like when your first child was born, and some of you may also add that second, third or even more children's births. It is those kinds of milestones that mark our lives.

I had a milestone last week that in the grand scheme of things is no big deal; however, I celebrated reaching 1,000 Friends on Facebook! I have not posted it until now because I spent a significant amount of time between then and now lying down trying to let my bedsores get some time to heal. By the way, I see that number is now up to 1002.
I know there are many people on Facebook who have many more than 1,000 Friends; but it was the first chance I got to put a comma in my number of Friends. That made it a milestone for me on Facebook The significance of that is I have Facebook friends literally all over the world from New Zealand to Scotland to Greece to Canada to pretty much every state in the union from Alaska to Florida to Maine to California and almost every state in between.

I list all of these, not because I am bragging, but rather I am trying to demonstrate how significantly small our world has become through social media! A few weeks ago, I put up a post about my discussion with my friend in New Zealand, Di Niven. I commented on how I would probably never hear her voice and wondered what her accent is like. Whereupon, she promptly through a voice recognition program spoke and I heard her voice and accent. I have also given my website with my voice on a television interview and video of the speech I gave several years ago; so, several people all over the world know what kind of an accent I have including another Mike Patrick in Scotland.

It is absolutely amazing to me how Facebook has brought the world together in a way that I do not think Mark Zuckerberg and his pals had any idea the scope of what they were doing!

I would like to add an interesting side note about the number of people on Facebook worldwide. According to statistics I've read there are 1.2 billion people on Facebook. If you were to take those numbers and make them a country it would make the second largest country in the world only behind China's 1.3 billion people! That is amazing to me!

I have had this cartoon for quite a while and want to share it with you:

Click on the image to make it larger:

I find some dark humor in this image and just how wide a scope Facebook extends!

It reminds me of the quote, "If you don't come to my funeral, I won't go to yours."

I did a little experiment several years ago after one Mike Patrick asked to friend me on Facebook. Of course, I did and decided to see how many Mike Patricks I could find who would friend me. I had thirty-five Mike or Michael Patricks from five countries and three continents aged from eighteen to seventy! Several of them have since unfriended me, but there are still at least a dozen from all over the world who often Comment or Like something I post. It will be interesting to see if any of them like this post.

I have doctors, lawyers, engineers, school administrators, teachers, retired folks and students who have heard me speak and wanted to be my friend after my presentation listed as Friends on my Friends List!

I have friends listed from many of the the towns we lived in growing up to the three colleges I attended and everywhere I have lived since graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1980. I have several friends listed from my short time in Berkeley in 1974 and '75. At least one of them from Berkeley is listed on my blog list. She knows who she is and Karen often will make comments from my blog posts.

One of my doctor Facebook friends will often comment on Facebook. He is a cardiac surgeon; and when I spoke at his twenty-five year high school class reunion several years ago, he had a hard time believing I had a pacemaker. I invited him up to feel the pacemaker in my chest and he finally believed I have one. In fact, he gave me some advice about the surgeon who installed my last one and gave his approval when I told him the name of the surgeon who installed my pacemaker. Thank you for that endorsement Dr. Tom!

I have known Dr. Tom Johnson since he was in high school and am good friends with his two older brothers Mike and Steve! Another one of my doctor friends, David Bisbee was a track teammate in high school and was my live-in attendant for a short time when we were both at the University of Minnesota. He now runs a very successful practice in New Hampshire.

It is fun to watch where my Facebook friends have gone with their careers, families and lives since I knew them when they were as young as first and second grades living on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 1960 to 1963! Yes, I have a Facebook friend who I have known since I was five years old!

I could go on about several of my virtual relationships, but I think you get my point about how I believe social media is keeping our world a small place and connecting lives over an extended period of time.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Forty Years And Counting!

Forty years ago I was a student at the University of California in Berkeley. I received a letter from Nancy Crewe, PhD at the University of Minnesota asking me if I would be interested in being interviewed for a longitudinal study she was starting on life after spinal cord injury (SCI)?

She asked me to call her with my response and if I was interested, she would come along with one of her students and interview me in my dorm room. I called her and agreed to meet with the two of them in our study room down the hall from my room. As I remember, we talked for several hours and she had many questions regarding my life to that point, expectations, and an inordinate amount of form questions.

Shortly after our discussion, I moved back to Minneapolis to a job I had created selling modified vans for a company that had sold me my first van. I was also supposed to meet people who had recently suffered spinal cord injuries and needed equipment like wheelchairs, shower chairs and various other equipment prescribed by their doctors as they left rehabilitation.

I ran into Dr. Crewe one day in the old Rehab 7 Unit at the University. We chatted for a while when she told me she was happy to know I was now at the University and if I wanted to continue to be a part of her study?

Obviously, I did and did my first few interviews in their offices at the hospital. It was during that time I met Jim Krause who was one of Nancy's PhD candidates. Several years later Nancy moved to Michigan State University but continued to remain an integral part of the program. Jim remained at the U and once he received his PhD moved to Shepherd Center in Atlanta. After spending some time there he moved to the current location at the Medical University of South Carolina. That is where the program is run out of today and Jim is the director working with a fine staff of people who were instrumental in putting on our event this last weekend.

Saturday I took part in a small roundtable discussion group with eighteen people, many of them I have known from being long time Minnesota Gopher basketball fans. It was fun seeing people outside of Williams Arena.

At one point, Jim asked if there were any new topics we would like to address as the study moves on and in to different areas.

I mentioned studying Eastern medicine and how alternative, preventative medicine is working its way into the Western model as East meets West. In the twelve years I have been receiving acupuncture, healing touch, guided imagery, herbal therapy, hypnosis and others the traditional Western medical community has begun to integrate Eastern ideas. I believe it is a good thing as Western philosophy begins to practice a more holistic approach as they do in the East.

The second day was a celebration of forty years since the program has started. Jim told me of the one hundred initial participants, fifty-five are still involved! I believe those are extraordinary numbers when we were all told our life expectancies were extremely short. "9-3-71" is often the answer I give when someone asks me my date of onset. In my case, in the fall of 1971 the doctors asked my family to come down to the waiting room so they could speak with them. One doctor told my family my life expectancy was nine years! I guess I beat those numbers! Others had even more horror stories then I did. 

I'm attaching a photograph of the people at the event at the Nicolet Island Pavilion with the forty-year survivors and the fifty plus behind us: 

As always, click on the image to enlarge it: 

That is Jim and me in the middle of the group. I had to wear my Minnesota shirt since I graduated from there in 1980. It still seems hard to believe it has been thirty-five years since I graduated from college!

The next picture has all of the people who were at the event as more and more people are being added to their studies:

Again, click on the image to enlarge it:

Between an ongoing slide show behind the very accessible stage, slides were shown of statistics from the study, several slides of participants (one of mine included), speeches were given, awards were given, I had a great piece of Minnesota Walleye and much reminiscing, meeting new people, mentioning people who have left us, and I believe everyone would tell you they had an enjoyable afternoon and evening. 

As I understand it, this blog post will be in some way linked on the MUSC website so it will be available to everyone in attendance.

I would like to share one particularly interesting fact I got out of all of the storytelling that took place over the two days. The longest person I knew before this weekend who has survived severe spinal cord injury was fifty-two years. I found out Saturday the longest anyone knows of right now who has survived a spinal cord injury is fifty-eight years! That gives me a new goal to shoot for! Who knows what the next ten years will bring to survivors of spinal cord injury?

As always, I look forward to your comments.

Later, and I do mean later,


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Is Intelligent Conversation Dead?

I put a post up on my Facebook page the other day and I received several comments telling me they love to engage in intelligent conversation! One friend, Deborah Roberts posted, "I totally rock on a stimulating convo. I find it completely absorbing to find a conversationalist who keeps my interest piqued and my brain engaged. Talk with me about my favorite things and we could go for days. …"

Another person Shared my post and wrote, "But its so rare. We have gotten to the point that if we dont agree then we cant be friends. Its BS"

To which the person who Shared it, replied, "True Buck, plus it is harder all the time to find an intelligent conversationist."

I replied, "It's too bad you guys feel that way because I get into intelligent conversations all the time and they can last for hours! I met a friend on Facebook and one day we talked on FaceTime for six hours and the time flew by. The very next day we talked for four hours! We talk on FaceTime all the time. Whenever I talk to a friend from the past we can talk for hours and the time flies by! I'm convinced you get out of anything what you put into it. It's all about your attitude. I run into people all the time who want to talk to me and we can talk for 15, 20 minutes or longer before they have to go. I had this conversation with my acupuncturist last week, and he didn't want to leave. He had patients to go to, but he said, "It's you Mike, people are interested in what you have to say and they want to share what they have to say. You're willing to listen and its conversations like this that makes you fun to be around." It was spontaneous and I'll see him again on Monday and we won't want to end our conversation again. Just sayin'!"

The interesting thing about these two who were putting down my post was their grammar and spelling was terrible. I am sure they did not think of thing about what they were writing!

Here is my post:

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My contention is that anyone will get back what he or she puts in to something. I can tell you story after story after story about how I get into live, telephone, Facebook, FaceTime and Skype conversations that can last for hours.

My first FaceTime intelligent conversation was with a woman I had never met, Laurie Thiboutot and I chatted for six hours the first day and had another intelligent conversation for four hours the second day. Her husband, Peter came by several times and introduced himself and got so enticed by all the time Laurie was having fun on FaceTime and all of the other activities she was doing with Facebook, he decided to join himself. Now, they are both on Facebook and I FaceTime with him as well! I have never met either one of them and we carry on great, intelligent conversations!

If you read my last post when I talked about my Uncle Bob and how he liked to tell stories you know whenever he would tell stories, I got a few of mine in as well.

I believe I got my storytelling abilities from both sides of my family. The Smith side came from Bob, his uncles and father, and I would have loved to have heard my maternal great-grandfather, William Young tell stories. Unfortunately, he died three years after I was born. There are some incredible stories from him my uncles have told me about how he used to tell living through and after the Great Depression.

Here is a photograph of him in his liquor store that was adjacent to his barbershop which had a back room and high-stakes poker games took place after hours and the windows were covered with black sheets so no one could see the games that involved high stakes as deeds to farms. Grandpa Young took home several of those deeds and gave one to each of his children. That is how my maternal grandmother, Erma got the farm Uncle Bob owns now!
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My Patrick side of the family had great uncle Stanley. He used to tell me incredibly detailed stories about how he accumulated farms during the Great Depression and never admitted to it, but he was also a great beneficiary of the Great Depression because he knew how to play the system.

Here is a wonderful photograph of my paternal grandfather, Benjamin (far right) going from right to left in the lower row were my great-grandmother, Mabel, then my great-grandfather Thomas and lastly, Stanley. The back row from right to left are Hazel, Mabel, then Florence and Alice. The children are all in birth order.

This is a very large photograph. If you decide to enlarge it, be prepared to wait a while because of its size:

My grandfather, Ben was killed by lightning in 1942. He was only thirty-seven years old! My great Uncle Stanley used to tell me incredibly detailed stories. His goal was to live to be one hundred. He reached that goal and three weeks later passed away. He had reached his goal and it was if it was time for him to join the rest of his family.

I can only guess he got his storytelling abilities from his father, Charles! I wish I could have listened to stories my grandfather Ben would have had. I'm sure great-grandfather Tom would have been quite a storyteller in his day as well.

Like I said earlier, I get my storytelling abilities from both sides of my family. I have tried to carry on a tradition I love to tell. As many of you know, I tell stories that can last for quite some time; just like this blog post!

I look forward to your comments.



Monday, May 25, 2015

My Uncle Bob

By the time many of you will read this the Memorial Day parades will be over, the speeches will have been given, the memorials at the cemeteries will have been concluded including the twenty-one gun salutes, President Obama will have visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and all that will be left is the fireworks tonight.

However, I want to write my own special tribute which will be different than all the ones people are writing about their tributes to veterans and current military personnel and tell you about one special veteran to me.

My mom is the oldest of ten children. Her seven brothers all served in the military and deserve our thanks for their service. Between the seven of them, they have served a total of eighty-three years, which I think is extraordinary for one family!

Uncle Bob has served the most with twenty-six years of Naval experience. He retired as a Lieutenant Commander from the Civil Engineering Corporation (CEC) United States Navy, which if I understood him correctly is an E8 which is one step short of an E9 and that is as high as a noncommissioned officer can get in the Navy. After he reads this, he will probably call me and correct me on that point!

I spoke with his wife, Linda, who is in their home in Gulfport, Mississippi, and a good friend and fellow Navy veteran, Joe Ruffino and Bob yesterday for over three hours to get a few stories correct about his assignments. I enjoyed our conversations and learned a lot from different perspectives from all three individuals.

I want to start off by showing you this picture of Bob painting the barn he is restoring at the family farm. He promised his father, Joe Smith, he would restore the barn one day and for the last several years he is turning the barn into a hunting lodge for the annual pilgrimage of many family members to his own private game preserve. He has turned the one hundred sixty acre quarter section of land into his own private pheasant hunting paradise. It is also home to deer, wild turkeys, and who knows what other wildlife occupies his little corner of the world? This picture was taken in 2007.

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When I talked to him yesterday, he was in a store buying supplies for the project he is working on this summer. He has planted several apple trees and had taken the protective barrier fence from around the trees to keep them from the deer eating the apples and branches. He had trimmed around the bases of the trees, sprayed some Roundup to kill the thistles and was in the process of replacing the fencing with new, higher fencing.

He also told me about a wealthy, retired professor from Brookings who had been driving by his farm and was interested in buying it. He liked what Bob had done in making it a small, private game reserve. He wanted to know what Bob wanted to sell the farm.

Bob told him the farm was not for sale. The gentleman then pulled his checkbook out, laid it down on the hood of the truck and said, "Everything is for sale for the right price."

Bob said in so many words, "I told my father I would never sell this farm as long as I'm alive. So, you can put your checkbook back in your pocket and leave my property."

The farm is not for sale!

He has also rented the house, which he had my second cousin from my other side of the family do some renovations preparing for new tenants who will be moving in to the farmhouse July first. He told me Jeremy had the house looking better than it has in many years! It made me feel good to know Jeremy Patrick has learned well from his father, Dale who taught him how to do construction and remodeling work. Working with your hands to build or repair something is a skill I really miss. 

He gave me some details I only had sketchy memories of his involvement in the 6.2 earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua on December 23, 1972. At the time of the quake, he was stationed in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic working with three other men and four bulldozers. Within 24 hours of the quake, they got a call to take the bulldozers to Managua to make mass graves and move earth around to help in the massive cleanup after the complete devastation.

They did not have visas to travel to Nicaragua. The State Department rushed their visas through and later that day they made their first mass grave with roughly six thousand Nicaraguan citizens as night fell. Bob told me to a the hardest things about making the graves were keeping the grieving people out of the graves who wanted to identify their loved ones before they were covered up and dodging his own people who were spreading fifty pound bags of lime over layers of bodies to help them decompose faster and keep the stench down.

I will never forget on Christmas 1973 as my dad and I were preparing to go to Berkeley in a few days, we had Christmas dinner for my grandpa and a couple of my mom's brothers. Bob and I were talking in the kitchen and he talked about what he was doing a year ago on Christmas day. I will never forget him telling about being in Managua and the tasks they were assigned to do when he started to cry just a little bit.

I remember thinking how horrible it must have been for my big, strong uncle Bob and how that must have affected him to the point where he shed a tear over what he was doing the year before. It could not have been easy to have spent the time they did in Nicaragua.

I asked him about when he was born and where. He told me Grandma and Grandpa moved to the farm in November 1943. He was born in the hospital in Hendricks, Minnesota, which was less than twenty miles away on January 24, 1944. Although, he likes to tell the story how he was born in the farmhouse and dropped on his head before he hit the ground! He had a nice chuckle after he told that story!

Bob served two tours of duty in Vietnam. The first tour he was in country for nine months. Home for three months, and back for six more when he got a call from the State Department that his mother had died and he was able to go home for the funeral.

There is one more a story I want tell you about his experience in Vietnam. They had reports of a tiger that had attacked and dragged off into the jungle a Marine. Without thinking about their own safety and well-being, they want to look for this tiger. They found him in a cave and shot him. Inside the cave where remains of several smaller people and two larger ones complete with fatigues and boots, as well as two sets of dog tags!

I can only assume the tiger had gone mad with the effects of napalm and Agent Orange  and losing his habitat to the constant shelling of his hunting area, which drove him to seek human prey. That tiger was not only going crazy, but hungry as well!

I want to end this very long post with a picture of why I love to go to the farm when Bob is there. This was taken several years ago one summer when he was up there planting trees. My mom and I were at the annual Pioneer Days celebration in White and we went out to the farm to spend some time with Bob and listen to a few stories.

As always, click on the image to make it larger:

I know I have made this a long post. However, I believe my uncle Bob at 71 deserves for me to tell some of his story. After my conversations yesterday, I could have written a lot more. However, I will stop now and let you enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day!

God bless America and all the people who have fought and died for our rights to live in the greatest democracy the world is never known. Remember people, our country and the principles it was built on has never been tried and worked before. The United States of America is an experiment and we the people are making it work! That is exciting to think about!

I look forward to your comments.



Friday, May 15, 2015

On Monday I Chatted With Tuesday

I had an interesting experience on Monday with my Facebook friend, Di Niven who lives in Invercargill, New Zealand. Invercargill is a small city of about fifty thousand people and is one of the southernmost communities in the world.

We chatted back and forth over a period of a couple hours and at one point I asked her if she was getting tired because it was 6:50 PM here and it must be getting late there.

She replied, it was not late at night there, but rather 10:50 AM Tuesday morning. That struck me as rather peculiar that I was indeed chatting with someone halfway around the world and at the same time we were communicating it was two different days!

I understand how the world turns and time zones are different everywhere. However, I had never had the actual experience of communicating with someone on a different day. It seemed odd for me and has taken me all week to figure out exactly what I was going to write about my experience with my friend Di who I will never meet, probably never hear because there is a large fee to use Skype for her and International phone calls of any length get to be expensive even with free minutes.

I gave her my website so she could listen to my accent on the videos I have plus the television interview from several years ago; however, even though we communicated for several hours off and on, I will probably never know what her accent is like.

Here is a picture from her Facebook page and after our conversation she went around and Liked several entries on my Facebook page. It was if our conversation gave her permission to browse my site.

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I thought that was a stunning image of someone with a very beautiful heart and well-nourished soul.

We had carried on a brief friendship with short chats here and there and comments over posts and pictures we liked over the last year and a half; however, I believe our long distance conversation took our friendship to a new level.

She asked questions about my accident and wondered how I dealt with all of the issues I need to deal with on a daily basis. Our conversation took us to many different subjects and spiritual levels. When she commented one time about my spiritual strength in dealing with the issues I have to deal with, I replied, "It takes one to know one."

As a grandmother living in an incredibly remote part of the world with grandchildren literally everywhere, she deals with issues of the heart and spirit I could never imagine. She occasionally comes to the United States and visits Virginia where her son-in-law is in the military. She told me her daughter gave birth to her grandson not long ago and soon she plans to travel to Virginia.

Maybe we will get an opportunity to Skype then and I can hear her accent, which is very curious to me.

Here is another photograph of grandma Di:

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Technology is always changing and allowing people to communicate instantly from around the world as evidenced by my conversation with my friend, Di. The change that goes with that constantly amazes me.

I am never short of meeting new people. In fact, for those of you that know me, you know I am a fairly outgoing person. (That is the understatement of the year!) The interesting thing about meeting new people is learning about them and their stories. As a professional speaker, I meet new people all the time. I am often the last person to leave a conference, office or school at the end of my day.

I find it happening all the time when people will delay going someplace even when they are in a hurry because they are comfortable talking to me. I had that happen yesterday with my acupuncturist, Bob Decker. I made that comment to him, as he was getting ready to leave to see other patients in another clinic. Bob said, "It's you Mike. You draw that out in people. You make people want to talk to you because you have something to say, and people enjoy listening to you as much as you enjoy listening to them."

Bob and I have great conversations before he needles me up because after I get an acupuncture treatment, I am pretty useless and can barely carry on a conversation! However, I did yesterday! By the time I got home yesterday, I was pretty calm and relaxed so I leaned back in my chair and took another twenty-minute nap after he had just given me one during my acupuncture treatment. I swear sometimes he never leaves the room when I get my treatments because I fall asleep so quickly after he leaves the room and have conditioned myself to wake up about two minutes before he walks in the room and twenty minutes just flew by.

I am convinced we all get back what we give out. Maybe that is why my conversation with my new friend was so meaningful to me? I am sure I will find out someday soon.

I look forward to your comments.



Saturday, May 9, 2015

How I Learned Racism

I learned about racism at an early age in a Red and White World living on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in north-central South Dakota when I was five, six, seven and shortly after my eighth birthday, we moved to Edgerton, Minnesota.

I have been a gym rat since I was old enough to dribble a basketball because my father coached high school basketball until I was ten years old living in Edgerton.

Here is a photograph when I was five with my Dad's A Squad and I was the mascot for the McLaughlin Mighty Midgets:

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When Dad found out he was not going to be returning to coach and teach in his hometown of White, South Dakota, he took the job as a high school teacher and assistant football coach, track and cross country and A Squad basketball coach. We were moving to town number five and I was five years old! We packed up the trailer house and moved three hundred miles to the reservation.

Since we knew we were moving and McLaughlin did not have kindergarten, I went to kindergarten in White when I was four. Since I was too young to go to first grade, I had to wait a year before I started school. Living on the reservation taught me many lessons about how the Sioux Indians were being systematically discriminated against.

Dad was building an athletic program and many Indians were excellent athletes and thrived under his tutelage. Art Taken Alive (number 30 in this picture) was probably the best of the group that came along in the next two years following this year.

I learned tolerance, acceptance, understanding and bigotry from the white population in McLaughlin.

Our family was growing and halfway through our second year in McLaughlin we bought a new trailer house that had an extension to double the space of our living room and faced the street where we watched in fear one night as a drunken Indian murder his wife with a bottle! I will never forget the fear we experienced that night.

My dad had to be hospitalized in the middle of a basketball season for several days with pneumonia. One of his players, Willard Male Bear ran home several miles after school one day, got a quarter and ran back. He went to the local pharmacy, bought a get-well card for his coach, brought it up to the hospital and the nurse in charge would not let him into the hospital to give Dad the card.

However, she did come to the high school basketball game that night, cheer on the Midgets and Willard had a great game! That was simply the way it was done on the Res'!

The last year we lived in McLaughlin, one Saturday morning after a basketball game the night before, he held my hand and we walked up to the corner, took a right and walked to the Post Office on the other end of the block. Partway down the street was the City Hall, and Police Station. As we neared the building several of the "Good Old Boys" were standing outside with an effigy of my father hanging in front of them! Dad told me not to look at it and we walked right on by. Needless to say, we took a different route home!

The Chief of Police was one of them, and he had a racket going! Our trailers were on the back half of the main highway and Main Street along with a small hotel, large warehouse and large brick church at the other end of the block. He owned everything but the church land.

He would make wine in the basement of his warehouse, sell it to the Indians on Friday to get them drunk and disorderly, throw them in jail on a Friday night and have them sweep Main Street on Saturday morning and then release them. It was probably the only night of the week many of the Indians had a dry bed to sleep on and a roof over their head. 

My dad's contract was not renewed for the fourth year because he asked for a $500 raise to make his salary commensurate with his contemporaries in the area, to bring it to $6,000. Remember, he was building a program and beginning to see some success as his mile relay team won the state championship for the first time a state championship had been won by a McLaughlin team in any sport!

Here is a picture of his cross-country team. Notice the number of Indian kids on his squad:

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I think you get my point about how my understanding started to develop about racism and the exploitation I saw at an early age. 

As we grew as a family, and Dad continued to get better jobs, in Edgerton, Minnesota, Sibley, Iowa and eventually Worthington I continued to learn about the benefits of diversity within our own household and school.

When we moved to Worthington, we had an apartment in the front half of our basement with full egress windows, large bedroom, and a large kitchen and living room area. Dad always had his athletes living in that apartment with the mistaken assumption he could keep an eye on them! He was only thirty-four when he took that job and should have remembered you cannot keep an eye on teenagers and their testosterone!

We had Willard Male Bear's younger brother, Duane Thundershield staying with us. We also had four young men from the Bahamas one year. One of them competed in the 100-yard dash and a relay for the Bahamas in the 1976 Olympics.

We had a young, black boxer from Iowa, Johnny Boutchee who took care of my little sisters after my accident. In 2002, I ran into him in a school in Mankato, Minnesota where he was a janitor. Of course he remembered Tammy and Mom sent him a copy of my "Lead Now" which I wrote a chapter in and Tammy's, "The White Album" which he enjoyed immensely after helping raise her for a good part of first three months after my accident!

We also had a Vietnam vet and two of my uncles, Ed Smith stayed with us for one year and his younger brother, Terry stayed with us for two years while he attended the junior college. Shortly after finishing his AA degree and my accident, Terry enlisted in the Air Force.

Now, for the real capper on my experience of living with diversity, I moved to Berkeley and learned all kinds of things I never would have learned had I stayed in Worthington or gone to Marshall for their program that specialized in helping students with disabilities transition into college life. I visited the school one day, talked to a counselor and asked her for "fair weather schools" and she gave me four schools in Arizona and three schools in California. That was how I got to Berkeley.

I tell people the second best experience in my life was moving to Berkeley. They ultimately ask, "What was the first?"

My reply is always, "Coming home!" I needed Berkeley at the time. However, I needed to go home more so I could watch my little brother, Chad grow up! I could not do that from that distance.

I am a strong believer in lifetime learning and try to practice it every day. With the diverse group of personal care attendants (PCA's) constantly coming through my apartment and helping me, I see a very wide variety of people. The diversity is incredible, and it is not always in a good way!

As always, I look forward to your comments.