Sloan and Beau Experience Missoula

As a parent, there is something profound about providing your children the chance to experience something that was special to you. Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to share with Sloan and Beau a place that played an incredible role in shaping the person I am today. Although it was for only about 36 hours, I was overjoyed to take my kids to the town where my educational, social, and professional development was built and shaped. Hello, Missoula.

It was special to take Sloan and Beau to Missoula for the first time.

Sidney, Sloan, Beau, and I were on the road by 5 a.m. on Saturday morning of Labor Day Weekend 2023. After a ride filled with Jonas Brothers music thanks to DJ Sid, we pulled into Missoula at 9 a.m. and parked at our hotel. From there it was a quick walk across the footbridge and onto the campus of the University of Montana. We had watched a bunch of Monte videos the day before so Sloan and Beau were starstruck when we lined the route of the Griz Walk and saw the famous bear himself leading the procession. Seeing the Spirit Squad and football team up close was also pretty cool. It was then off to the GSA Tailgate before entering Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

Sid and Sloan watch as the University of Montana Spirit Squad leads the Griz Walk.

On a hot early September day, we watched the Griz host Butler. We had the pleasure of taking in the entire pregame performance followed by some football! Sloan stayed in her seat the entire game despite the sun beating down on us. Her goal was to make Griz Vision and with about two minutes left in the game she accomplished her goal along with the two new friends she had made in the stands. Beau was a little less engaged than Sloan but he sure took an interest in running up and down those Washington-Grizzly Stadium stairs 😂.

Our family inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium prior to the University of Montana vs. Butler football game on September 2, 2023.

After the game I let the kids run on the stadium turf and then we walked through the Adams Center. As we did the latter I showed them the Hall of Champions, a section of the facility that I played a major role in updating during my time with Grizzly Athletics. We snagged posters and then made the short walk back to the hotel.

Sloan on the Washington-Grizzly Stadium turf after the game.

Okay, football is cool and all, but we all know what trumps watching a storied program host its home opener on a gorgeous day…swimming in the hotel pool! When we got to our hotel room, Sloan and Beau couldn’t get their suits on fast enough as we splashed in the outdoor pool and hot tub for a couple hours.

Sloan (in the pool) and Beau (wrapped in towel outside of pool) had a fun swim session after the game.

The swimming helped us work up our appetites and it was off to dinner. We ate at Old Chicago and for some reason, family dinners enjoyed out of town always seem to be more special. After we ate the four of us drove around downtown Missoula a bit before ordering Blizzards at Dairy Queen. We took the ice cream back to the hotel and watched TV before calling it a night.

Sid and Sloan making some tough decisions at Dairy Queen on Higgins St. in Missoula.

We started our Sunday at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church for 10 a.m. mass. Our own pastor, Fr. Jeff Lewis, describes the beauty of this Missoula gem by remarking, “It is almost like it dropped upon Montana from Rome herself.” After mass we went to Cracker Barrel for brunch. The Missoula location was the first “Crack Shack” I ever ate at and Sidney misses the Southern chain greatly as there is not a location in Spokane. The food was excellent as usual.

Beau kneels in a pew at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Missoula prior to the 10 a.m. mass on Sept. 3, 2023.

It was now time to play! We headed off to Dragon Hollow, a spectacular and creative playground that was designed according to the suggestions of children. It definitely ranks as one of the top five playgrounds our kids have ever had the pleasure of playing on! We then hit up the adjacent carousel. Called “A Carousel For Missoula,” it was inspired by the Loof Carousel here in Spokane and is one of the fastest carousels in the country.

Beau plays on a portion of the Dragon Hollow playground in Missoula.

My daughter then proceeded to impress me. After we were finished in downtown Missoula we headed back to campus where Sloan was adamant that we hike “The M” trail. I was a little skeptical about whether she could do it but after we changed clothes in the University Center and headed to the base of Mt. Sentinel, I knew she was dialed in. Sloan did awesome as we ascended the mountain and made it to the top of The M. What a memorable moment with my little girl!

That’s Sloan on The M overlooking the University of Montana campus and the city of Missoula. I was so proud that she hiked all the way to the top!

On that high note, it was time to head back to Spokane. We made a stop at the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar and then drove the rest of the way to our home. It was about 8 p.m. by the time we walked inside the house.

Sloan holds a stuffed animal she bought at the $50,000 Silver Dollar Bar.

There are certain “firsts” that you don’t forget. I believe Sid and I will always remember taking the kids to Missoula for this initial time. I am also convinced that Sloan will always remember the trip as well, especially the adrenaline of seeing herself up on Griz Vision and the accomplishment of hiking The M. What a perfect Montana getaway it was. Don’t Blink.

Returning to Missoula for a Griz Weekend

For the second consecutive year, Sid and I returned to where I attended college and where I started my professional career. Like we did in October 2021, we visited for a Griz football weekend. And, just like last year, it was a blast.

It was another awesome trip to Missoula for Griz football and other fun.

On Saturday, we hit the road at 5:30 a.m. We made it to Missoula by 10 a.m. and Ubered from our hotel parking lot to the Press Box (aka the most famous bar in town). After a quick round we walked across the footbridge to campus as we admired the most beautiful view of any college campus in the country.

I took this photo as we walked across the footbridge. With the mountains, the M, the Clark Fork River, and the beaming sunshine can you really ask for anything more?!

We scored free Chick-fil-A sandwiches and took them over to the Adams Center where we watched the Griz Walk. Just with many other college football programs, the University of Montana football team marches through a portion of campus lined with supporters before going to their locker room to dress. After we participated in that tradition, we enjoyed the one-of-a-kind tailgating that Griz football boasts. I also had the opportunity to visit with Seth Bodnar, the president of the University of Montana.

The coaches participate in the Griz Walk too. This is head coach Bobby Hauck kissing his wife before entering the Adams Center.

Sid and I entered Washington-Grizzly Stadium in time to watch the entire pregame show. From there we basked in the glorious October sun to watch the Griz battle the University of Idaho Vandals. Unfortunately, UM would come up a little short but we sure enjoyed being part of the crowd and cheering hard for four quarters.

Sidney and I from our seats in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. The Griz would ultimately fall to the University of Idaho, 30-23.

After the game we jumped on a shuttle that took us to downtown Missoula. We barhopped as I watched other college football games and Sid tried her luck at the gaming machines. Once that luck ran dry, we hopped an Uber to our hotel.

Sid and I had great seats! This was our view.

Once we checked in, we walked across the street to the Montana Club for dinner. We had the best date as we enjoyed quality food and watched the epic 18-inning marathon between the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros. After we paid the tab we made a quick visit to Dairy Queen and brought back a couple Blizzards to our room. We spent the rest of the night eating ice cream and watching TV.

Our entrees and the TV that we were watching the Mariners game on.

On Sunday morning it was mass at St. Francis Xavier, a parish that turned 130 years old in 2022! Fr. Steve Lantry presided and preached about what God’s justice looks like. It is always a gift to return to the parish that I was a parishioner at back in my early-to-mid-20s.

I snapped this photo outside of St. Francis Xavier in Missoula on Sunday morning before entering for mass.

After mass, it was time for brunch. Sid and I went to the Oxford, a business that is even older than St. Francis Xavier—it was established in 1883. We sat at the kitchen bar that overlooks the grill and watched the chef make meal after meal. Think of it like American hibachi!

A few of the images from our visit to the Oxford. The cook was a complete rock star and my sausage + cheddar cheese omelette was delicious.

We then picked up treats at Mary’s Mountain Cookies. We did the same thing last year too as I think a new tradition is brewing.

Mary’s Mountain Cookies is a fun shop with creative and fun treats.

To cap off the trip, we returned to campus and explored my old stomping grounds. To see all the new buildings mixed in with many of the timeless landmarks was a thrill. When we finished, we drove down the gorgeous university district streets lined with trees in different stages of autumn-colored leaves and then headed for the freeway where we made the drive home to Spokane.

Sidney and I on the University of Montana campus. It was good to be back.

The next time we do this trip, we hope to bring a couple of Griz cubs with us. We think that Sloan and Beau might be ready for a Missoula trip once the 2023 football season comes around. With that said, thanks so much to my mom and dad for watching them this past weekend (we brought them home some of those cookies for their troubles)—Sid and I sure enjoyed ourselves! Don’t Blink.

A Montana Homecoming

Although the University of Montana held its Homecoming back in September, it was my personal Homecoming this past weekend. My birthday wish was to go to Missoula and my wife and parents made it happen. Sidney was my travel companion and my mom and dad watched the kids so we could enjoy an adult weekend in the Garden City.

It was a sweet homecoming as Sidney and I visited Missoula to watch University of Montana football and to enjoy other experiences too.

On Saturday at 5 a.m., we hit the road. I was a tad bit excited to visit Montana and have the opportunity to watch the Grizzlies play football. Consider this…

It had been more than four years since I last visited the city where I went to college and started my professional career. It had been EIGHT years since I last watched a Griz football game. And it had literally been FOREVER since I was an actual paying fan at Washington-Grizzly Stadium sitting in a seat with a chair back (I attended football games as a student for three years, worked on the sideline as a student intern my senior year, and then worked in the press box for five seasons as a professional).

What a thrill it was to watch a game as a fan inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium. This is a photo I took from our seats.

The conditions could not have been more perfect. On a brilliant, sunny fall day in Missoula, Sid and I got to experience Grizzly gameday in all its glory. We walked across the footbridge, tailgated, ate stadium food, cheered on the Griz, and relished a victory. No stress, no expectations, no pressure to please 26,000 people.

Missoula is a special (and gorgeous) place. I took this photo from the top of the M on Mt. Sentinel.

But speaking of people, that was the other cool thing. I got to see so many folks who I had not seen in eight years. And these weren’t just “ordinary” people…many of them were individuals who had great influence on me and helped me get to where I am at today. To be able to introduce them to Sidney was truly an honor.

I had the pleasure of seeing many people from my time in Missoula, including my first ever professional boss, Christie.

Besides the Grizzly gameday experience, I also had the pleasure of doing a couple of other special Missoula things with Sid. On Sunday we attended mass at St. Francis Xavier, the parish I belonged to for most of my tenure in Montana. I knew Sid was going to be impressed with the beauty of the church and it surely didn’t disappoint. Neither did the music, preaching, and sense of holiness within that 120-year-old building.

I took these photos of Missoula’s St. Francis Xavier on Sunday.

Shortly after mass, we ventured over to Mt. Sentinel to hike the M. Sidney had set a goal to make it up the mountain and she smashed it out of the park. We ascended to the top and admired Missoula during its peak beauty in the early fall. What an amazing moment to share with my wife.

Sidney and I triumphant on the top of the M.

I am very thankful I had the opportunity to go back to Missoula and support the University of Montana. To make the journey with my wife and see so many outstanding individuals and partake in so many signature Montana experiences is something I won’t soon forget. Don’t Blink.

My Final Sunday in Missoula

The “lasts” keep coming as I prepare to move out of Missoula and the final Sunday that I will ever spend in the Garden City provided me with a lot of them. I enjoyed a packed day driving around town and taking in experiences that are unique to this western Montana town. Let me share with you my Sunday adventure.

I woke up early and attended the 8 a.m. Palm Sunday mass at St. Francis Xavier. I have thoroughly enjoyed attending services in this absolutely beautiful and historic church. I have benefited from the excellent preaching and ministering by the priests and deacons that have presided over the St. Francis altar. I have taken great refuge in the peace and tranquility I have gained while attending mass during stressful and crazy times. This morning I tried to pay a little more attention to the stained glass masterpieces that enclose the church and cemented a mental picture in my mind. I walked out of St. Francis Xavier today hoping that I will find a great Catholic church in Myrtle Beach as well.

Driving out of the parking lot this morning I took one final picture of St. Francis Xavier. What a great church!

Driving out of the parking lot this morning I took one final picture of St. Francis Xavier. What a great church!

After mass I headed over to the Adams Center to watch University of Montana Cheer Squad tryouts. Even though I worked my last football event last night I still wanted to see who would be performing on the sidelines during the games this fall. Most importantly though I wanted to show up and support the returners on the squad who have enriched my life so much. I got to see the tumbling portion of the tryout, talk to a couple of the girls, and meet the mom of one of my favorites on the squad.

I made it a priority to catch some of the UM Cheer Squad tryouts today.

I made it a priority to catch some of the UM Cheer Squad tryouts today.

I stayed too long at the tryouts and had to dash from the University of Montana to the other side of town where I paid my last visit to the hospice family that I volunteer for. Over the past few months I have become very close to this strong couple. Last week when I served my volunteer hours with them I didn’t know if I would be making today’s final visit because of the woman’s deteriorating health. However she was still her kind and thoughtful self this afternoon. Leaving their house today was hard. The husband had a tough time keeping his composure when telling me thank you and I had to do all I could to keep mine when I went inside the room of the wife. Confined to a bed now she used all her strength to reach her arms out and give me the biggest hug while saying “Thank you and God Bless you, honey.”

Needing a little time to just take it easy for a little bit I went back to my apartment and packed a few things while watching the final round of the Masters. I am satisfied with Bubba Watson’s victory and find his achievement of winning two out of the last three green jackets pretty darn good. Once again I was very impressed with the broadcast.

Before I could even see Bubba put his green jacket on though I zipped back over to the University of Montana for a little bit of Sunday exercise. For the final time I hiked “The M.” On an absolutely gorgeous and sunny early evening I trekked up that mountain and sat up at the top for longer than usual, admiring the breathtaking view of the Missoula valley. As I started to go back down I saw everyone beneath me looking over to their right. I of course looked in that direction as well and spotted four elk grazing about 300 feet off the trail. Perhaps they showed up to say goodbye to me?

Myself at the top of The M and also a grainy photo of the elk I saw.

Myself at the top of The M and also a grainy photo of the elk I saw.

I drove down Stadium Way and into the Adams Center parking lot where I went to my office and continued that process of packing up. As I put things away I realized that even though I am 100% ready to leave the state of Montana I am still going to miss Missoula. Don’t Blink.

A Big Change at St. Francis Xavier

A couple times over the course of this blog I have mentioned that I attend mass at St. Francis Xavier in downtown Missoula. It is one of the all-star parishes in the Helena Diocese as the church itself is over 100 years old and breathtakingly beautiful. It is also one of the largest in the diocese. With the tradition, location, and demographics of the parish it definitely takes a special person to be in charge.

Ever since I started attending St. Francis Xavier over five years ago the pastor has not changed. Father Richard Perry, a man distinguished by his deep voice and impactful preaching style, has served as the top priest at the church. But where even five years is a long time for a priest to stay in one spot, Fr. Perry’s tenure goes back much longer. Currently in his 13th year at St. Francis you can definitely say that Father Rich has enjoyed an unusually long but very blessed stint at Missoula’s oldest parish.

Fr. Perry has served as the pastor at St. Francis Xavier for 13 years (photo courtesy of

Fr. Perry has served as the pastor at St. Francis Xavier for 13 years (photo courtesy of

So you can imagine the gasps of shock that escaped us parishioners in attendance at last night’s Saturday vigil mass when pastoral associate Fr. Kunkle announced that Fr. Perry would leave his current post as pastor of St. Francis in August. The vocal expressions of surprise quickly turned to joy and applause when Fr. Kunkle then announced the new pastor… (drumroll please)….Fr. Joseph Carver. Just very recently at St. Francis as associate pastor, Fr. Carver will make a very quick full circle and return from Seattle to take over as the head guy at the end of the summer.


Fr. Carver will take over as pastor at St. Francis Xavier.

Fr. Carver will take over as pastor at St. Francis Xavier.

To add just a bit of mystery to the reshuffling it was revealed that Fr. Perry would go on sabbatical at the conclusion of his pastoral assignment, a very normal thing for Catholic priests. But what caught me off guard was the announcement of where he would land after his sabbatical concluded. Ready for this? Fr. Perry will return to St. Francis Xavier as the assistant pastor! Never in my 27 years as a Catholic follower have I ever seen a priest leave a pastor post, go on sabbatical, and then return to that same parish in an assistant position (keep in mind all assignments are handed down by the diocese, priests have very little to no say in the matter).

I am thinking (although speculating) that this is something that Fr. Perry wants. Leading such a large parish for so long definitely has to take its toll on someone. The lesser role that an assistant pastor plays in day-to-day operations of a parish is probably exactly what he needs after serving so admirably over the past 13 years. The fact that he will be serving this assignment at St. Francis Xavier? Although I find it a little unusual I think it speaks to his love of the parish and the devotion he has from the parishioners here.

To say that Fr. Perry went through his 13 years as pastor at St. Francis without a hitch would not be entirely accurate. Last year he was put on leave for allegations that turned out to be completely untrue. When he returned to the church by way of a standing ovation my already top notch respect for the guy blossomed even more. To have his solid career of serving God and others almost ruined by lies and to see him return stronger than ever made me realize how amazing this man is.

I will make sure to take in every homily Fr. Perry gives for the next five months before he goes on his sabbatical. I will also look forward to the return of Fr. Carver. Change is something you can count on at any Catholic church in America, although very rarely does it take 13 years to happen. Good luck to both Fr. Perry and Fr. Carver. Don’t Blink.

Crying Babies in Church

With this post I am not trying to act sarcastic, condescending, or holier than thou so please don’t think I am writing this in that type of tone. I am basically just asking for insight and feedback.

I attend mass at historical St. Francis Xavier in the outskirts of downtown Missoula. It is the biggest Catholic parish in the city and offers a beautiful setting, solid preaching, and great singing. It also offers many options as the mass schedule includes four different times over the weekend (5 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and 6 p.m. on Sunday). About 90% of the time I attend the 6 p.m. Sunday evening contemplative mass. For someone like me who works many weekends throughout the year, a later mass on Sunday is very welcome. It allows me to obviously make it to church and on many weeks it really gives me my first time to relax and reflect over the week in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

St. Francis Xavier in Missoula is a great parish and Fr. Rich Perry does a great job.

St. Francis Xavier in Missoula is a great parish and Fr. Rich Perry does a great job.

Notice how I said “quiet and peaceful”. The setting at the 6 p.m. mass is special. The lights are turned down low, there are fifteen minutes of singing leading up to the opening prayer, it is never crowded, you aren’t tempted by the smells of a pancake breakfast swirling through the church, and, like I said, it is quiet. On a personal faith level I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I feel like I get the most out of the Sunday evening mass. If possible, I would attend it every single weekend. However, that is not always possible.

Every now and then, like today, I attend a different mass. When choosing an alternative I mostly try to hit the 5 p.m. Saturday vigil (because it most resembles the 6 p.m. Sunday mass) but that doesn’t always work out. Next in line for me is the 8 a.m. one but sometimes after pretty much not sleeping the whole week, I do elect to cash in on a couple extra hours of shut eye, thus leaving me with the 10 a.m. mass. On days like today where I do attend the later morning session I do prepare myself before walking through the church doors and then say a little prayer for increased patience when I find my pew because I know I am going to need it.

St. Francis Xavier clearly identifies the 10 a.m. mass as the “Family Mass”. In order to make the other masses (such as the 6 p.m. Sunday one) so peaceful and reflective they advise people with babies and toddlers to attend the 10 a.m. session. Before I say as much as one negative thing about how I get distracted, let me say thank you to St. Francis for making this distinction and to the families for observing it.

So while I attend 10 a.m. mass knowing full well that it will most likely be noisy and understanding that all the parents in there are not only following the wishes of the parish but also acting as great moms and dads by raising their kids in the church, sometimes I think the noise level gets a little out of hand.

My basic question is this: At what point do you leave your spot in the pew and take a crying or misbehaving child to the back of the church, out to the lobby, or outside?

I understand quick crying fits and the occasional random outbursts but if a baby has cried for the past three minutes of the priest’s homily or if a four year old is yelling at his sister during the blessing of the Eucharist isn’t that the cue to remove the child? I understand it is a family mass and certain noises are expected and accepted but am I off base to say that when a child becomes a legitimate distraction to others it is time to take him/her to the back? Maybe I am totally off on this. Like I said, I do my best to avoid this type of situation entirely but sometimes I do find myself at the family mass and at the mercy of the parents’ decision to either take their child out or keep him/her in place.

I would love it if parents told me what their standards and rules are when it comes to making the call on keeping or removing their children from mass. What goes through your mind when your baby happens to just naturally act like a baby and begins to cry? Are there standards you have in place with how you are going to act in the situation? Have fellow church-goers ever given you an annoyed or hostile glance before because of your kids?

Again to all parents, do not take what I am saying too personally. I know I play a big role in how much I want to deal with this. I recognize the good parenting and baptism promise fulfilling work that you are doing. Please also take to heart that if you do keep your crying baby in mass for way longer than warranted I still don’t hold as much scorn for you as I do for the disrespectful mass attendees who let their cell phones go off in church. As long as you don’t get to that point, you and I will be just fine. Don’t Blink.

Church, Monte, Work, Gangsters, Typhoon

Good evening, everyone. Usually I end my posts by saying this but let me start one off with it for once: Thanks for reading my blog! I appreciate your loyal dedication to reading what I have to say and I always enjoy the feedback you give me via text messaging and in face-to-face passing. You guys are awesome.

Tonight I want to go through five topics to give you the typical rundown of what is going on in my mind and in my life.

Complete Transparency: I go to church at St. Francis Xavier, an absolutely gorgeous place of worship here in Missoula. Part of the reason why I choose to go here is because of the traditional, pre-Vatican II type feel I get when I walk inside. However, a very small part of what gives this church that feel will disappear this week. During the announcements during this past Sunday evening’s mass, Father notified us that windows would be installed inside the confessionals. Because of some terrible and vicious false allegations against members of the St. Francis clergy in the past year and with just the overall state of abuse allegations worldwide in the church, this move is being made to offer protection to both the parish staff and to parishioners. To me I find this very sad yet I understand why St. Francis is doing it.

Do-or-Die for Monte: The regular season of the 2013 Mascot Challenge is winding down and Monte is going to have to finish strong to make the playoffs. With two weeks left, he most likely will have to win out. Currently he is part of a group of three mascots who hold identical records of 6-4 and occupy the 6th-8th places of the standings. The competition takes eight mascots to the playoffs. However, there are three other mascots right under that 6-4 group who hold 5-5 records. If Monte loses, one of those mascots will surely take the playoff spot he now occupies. This week Monte is up against Wilbur T. Wildcat from Arizona. Next week he tangles with the Hokiebird from Virginia Tech. Monte should win this week. That would set up a battle for his playoff life against the 7-3 bird next week. Please vote for Monte at .

Five Events in Five Days: This is the busiest time during the calendar year to work in intercollegiate athletics with the overlapping of fall and winter sports. Case in point this past week. Wednesday through Sunday I worked five straight Griz Athletics events. Our Griz basketball team played Wednesday evening, our women’s basketball team played on Thursday, our volleyball team played Friday and Saturday evenings, and our women’s basketball team concluded the madness with a matinee game on Sunday afternoon. Wednesday through Saturday were 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. days for me. By the time the Lady Griz disposed of MSU Northern at around 4 p.m. on Sunday I was ready for a break. Although fatigued I had a great time watching our teams go 4-1 during that span and I got to enjoy a nice day off on Monday.

Dang It Feels Good to be a Gangsta: I am on a bit of a gangster kick. Last Tuesday I watched “American Gangster” with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe for the first time from start to finish. Great movie! Last night I picked up where I left off on Tuesday and I stayed up until 2 a.m. watching the “Gangsters: America’s Most Evil” series on A&E. Starting at 11 p.m. I watched three of the hour long episodes chronicling some of the baddest and most violent people to ever roam the streets of this country. Learning about how these people rose to the top and then how they came crashing down is fascinating. Even though it is a show on cable TV, you get exposed to some very grisly images and some ear covering descriptions so if you do end up watching based off of my recommendation, please know that you have been warned.

Typhoon Haiyan: Can we all pause for one second and say a prayer that we live in a part of this world where we are free from unfathomable natural disasters? I have a tough time comprehending the damage that these outbursts of rage inflicted by Mother Nature do. Besides the shots of pure destruction we see on television, how can anyone see past that 10,000 number? Yeah, as in 10,000 people wiped out. How does a region deal with that? How can you go about your day after seeing the streets littered with bodies? I complain about the snow we get in Montana but something like what happened in the Philippines always makes me feel like a little baby.
That’s my rundown for this week. Can you believe it will already be Wednesday tomorrow? Thanks again for reading and love life. Don’t Blink.