Friday, December 18, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day + 1761

For Better and For Worse

I suppose we all think the years will be better when we marry, and don't really consider the worse side of the equation. When I married my best friend December 18, 1971, I knew there would be bad days—everyone gets ill, everyone gets angry, everyone gets tired and cranky and sad—for a day or two.

Married life was no picnic for Marian because of my short sojourns aside for a vascular migraine, for cataract surgeries, for various and sundry cases of pneumonia, for skin cancer surgery, for breast cancer surgery (benign), and for removal of a malfunctioning gall bladder. However, her biggest test came in May, 2010 as a suspected problem with my blood sugar levels suddenly blossomed into leukemia.

I was in good shape when we married. We had four healthy and intelligent children and things were good, despite the usual problems with jobs and moving and life in general. So we were looking forward to our retirement, making plans and setting dates, when my 17+ year job at Michigan Tech suddenly ended without warning in 2004. For six more years, as I struggled to rebuild both career and retirement funds, Marian was supportive and encouraging, especially as the flood of rejection letters continued to accumulate.

Then blood cancer changed everything. Through it all, my best friend weathered every test with me, even the ones that left me screaming in hospital beds until morphine stopped the pain. For over five years, she has spent countless hours in waiting rooms, hospital rooms, and emergency rooms. I've lost count of how many crossword puzzle books she has filled while waiting for me. She watched while my medical expenses devoured our retirement plans. She learned sterile procedures to change bandages. She stood quietly by when massive doses of steroids made me mean and chemotherapy made me sick. She held me close as I lay in bed, shaking and shivering, wondering if I would wake in the morning.

Now, as my lungs are failing, she does the heavy lifting and snow shoveling. Marian knows exactly when I need a helping hand and exactly when to tell me to shut up and shut down the pity party. After 44 years, she is still the love of my life and the best part of us. 

I am a lucky man.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1698

October 16, 2015—A Fruitful Journey

First, we are home—and I drove the entire way! Woohoo! We saw only a few flakes out by Winona, onM26—otherwise we had sunshine with clouds and dry roads all the way home. Even our 2009 Focus cooperated and achieved 37.5 mpg average mileage for the trip as a whole. This was remarkable considering we were buffeted by a substantial headwind from Red Wing, MN, to around Hayward, WI.

Second, I had a good checkup at Mayo Clinic. When we arrived on Wednesday, we walked from Founder’s House to Canadian Honker Restaurant (a good half-mile) and back. On Thursday, we walked to and from the Charlton Building and Gonda Building for my tests and consults. I also went shopping with Marian—now that’s a marathon!

The blood tests all fell within normal ranges for healthy folk, which was very encouraging. Most of my pulmonary function study scores were actually higher than last visit, which likely means that my lung function has stayed stable. I already know it cannot improve because bronchiolitis obliterans causes lung tissue to become fibroid and non-functional (a one-way, irreversible process) so, no change is the best I could expect. 

However, during the oxygen stress test (climb a stair, up and down for three minutes), I did manage to set off their low oxygen alert. Usually, get tested on a single height stair, this time it was a double height stair and the extra stress caused a sudden drop in my oxygen (below 85%) after 2.5 minutes. This means that I qualify for medically-necessary supplemental oxygen. However, once again, I declined. I refuse to use that crutch, though it might make me a bit more comfortable. I manage quite nicely by walking slowly and resting when my internal censors tell my oxygen level is low. I guess something good came from being an asthmatic child -- I know what it feels like when my oxygen level drops.

Goodbye Cellcept!

He said it! Marian heard it, and it’s true! My doctor said, “You can stop the Cellcept now. Don’t take another pill.” Cellcept is my anti-rejection medication and is the pill that supports my immune suppression. As this wears off, my own immune system should kick in. Also, as soon as my supply runs out, I can stop my Fluconazole -- an anti-fungal medication. In three months, I can also stop my Atovaquone (Mepron) -- the evil yellow suspension that protects me from a particular form of pneumonia to which some transplantees are susceptible. I am so looking forward to stopping my daily dose of yellow road paint. Yuck.

We celebrated by going to an early dinner at Olive Garden, Marian’s favorite restaurant. Then I took Marian shopping. We looked at everything. We bought nothing...except a couple of bags of Halloween candy. If she can spend endless hours in waiting rooms, I can endure a few hours of window shopping.

Back to the Hermitage

Very soon now, I will resume my hermit persona, and stop attending gatherings where more than a very few people come together. This self-withdrawal from gatherings has served me well in preventing exposure to flu and colds and other infections.

It was an encouraging and successful trip. We don’t have to return until next May, when they will once again sample my bone marrow. If things look really good in May, they might stop my anti-cancer medication! THAT would be truly marvelous!

Thanks for all the prayers and good thoughts. It really matters and helps immensely! Good evening and God bless!


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1662

Michael & Stefanie
Remembering Moments
As I think back, reflecting on my life, I remember moments. Moments of joy elevated my enjoyment of just being alive. Moments of sadness seasoned my existence with the bitter herbs of loss and the salty taste of tears. Moments of fear tingled my spine with the electric shock of adrenaline, and moments of anger scorched my fingers with sudden fire and intense heat. The cool, quiet moments of peace and harmony filled all my senses as cold spring water fills dark caverns and sunny valleys, eased my frantic brow as an icy stream freshens a mountain ravine, and stole away the fiery anger in my heart as twilight steals the heat of the day.

Most of what I remember are the moments, and I forget the years in which they were born, they lived, and they passed into my history. Hence, the telescoping effect of passing time seems to make it move faster than it truly moves, and I have forgotten my youthful ability to live in each moment as it passes, experiencing the fullness of time as it flows forward, and letting it carry me along.

As I age, my tendency is to stand firm and resist the flow, fearing I will come to the mouth of time’s river, slowly settling into its infinite delta and merging with the great sea of all things past. Resisting the flow causes the moments to flow by me so quickly, I only get to sample them instead of flowing with them and taking in their full measure. And so, I am learning to once again live in the moment and “go with the flow.”

Rafting Time’s River
Our recent trip to the state of Washington for the wedding of Michael and Stefanie caused a ripple in my experience of time’s flow because of the shifting time zones and different environment. Jet lag, even a simple three-hour shift, reset my time clock. Spending two weeks outside my normal environs shifted my view -- in much the same way our four-month stay in Rochester, MN altered my perceptions and granted me an opportunity to jump on a raft and ride the river of time.

Staying with Heather, Chris, Eli, and Rose allowed me to let go of at least some of my daily reminders of chores needing to be done and projects unfinished, of messes needing organizing and even those pesky bills that must be paid. Of course, their ghosts trailed me about, but I became a moving target for a time, and immersed myself in the joy of just being with my family and sharing in the happiness of a newly minted family -- just starting out.
At Snoqualmie Falls

We did a little sightseeing, visiting the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium with Eli and Rose and spending a day with Heather when we visited Snoqualmie Falls. However, I wasn’t there as a tourist. I came to enjoy family and share in their lives for a time. The wedding was wonderful. It was simple, elegant, and tasteful. There were few of the party trappings of some receptions (a band, dancing, hours of sitting on metal folding chairs), but there were the things that really count -- including some terrific food. It was a happy celebration with family and friends.

Perhaps the greatest gift I received from my recent raft ride on time’s river was the happiness I felt having all my children around me again. All of my grandchildren were within hugging distance -- at least for a day. Sharing a small part of their vibrant lives for this extended moment remains a cherished gift that will be with me always.

Good evening and God bless!


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1654

Travel Agency

A business that attends to the details of transportation, itinerary, and accommodations for travelers. Also called travel bureau.

Michael & Stefanie

I suggested we book our trip to Seattle/Tacoma for the wedding of Michael and Stefanie, and a visit with our children and grandchildren, through a local travel agency. Fear of mistakes and bad bookings forced my hand, and I ponied up additional dollars to guarantee no circus of horrors or the absurd on this special trip. Oops

Stage One: Get to SeaTac

Our route to SeaTac was a bit circuitous, connecting via Chicago and San Francisco. Dressed for Summer, we loaded into the Skywest plane at Houghton County Airport and literally chilled for about 55 minutes to Chicago O’Hare. It was cold on the plane, but one can be stoic, I thought. Why not tough it out?

We scurried to make our connection to a United Airlines flight to San Francisco, making it just in time for boarding, and leaving me wheezing and honking enough to frighten folks into offering aid. As we clambered aboard, I noted with dismay a small pillow and blanket upon each seat. I never used an airline blanket, so I gave mine to Amanda -- a decision I later came to question. We waited to be pushed from the terminal, and waited, and waited. The captain’s disembodied voice came through the loudspeakers to announce a slight delay, to repair a broken arm rest. In about 15 minutes the plane began to move until a “crunch” was heard and it stopped. The tug driver cut the wheel too sharp and bent the push/tow connection to the plane. It would have to be would have to be replaced...more time was lost to mechanical delays.

As the refrigeration units came online, our chariot of the skies leapt into the morning sun. I shivered mightily for more than four hours, until we landed in San Francisco -- just as our connecting flight to SeaTac was taking off. The captain’s reassuring voice floated over our heads as he mentioned connections missed (ours included) and quickly rattled off a phone number for UA customer service. I fretted about having no pen or paper handy and a good samaritan handed me a PostIt note with the number. Thank you anonymous nice person! I called UA CS while afloat in the chaos of deplaning humanity and they booked us on another flight, leaving in about two hours. Great! I asked about our luggage. “Oh, you have to call Baggage -- Click!” Panicked, I cornered a hapless target -- the Customer Service agent at the gate through which we deplaned. He kindly followed up on my questions, and an hour and a half later, we journeyed on, with our luggage, to SeaTac Airport. Once again, our boxcar in the sky was a refrigerator car. Flash frozen, I shivered my way to join our luggage and Michael en route to the home of my daughter and her family.

Stage Two: Get Home

Despite the criticisms of my use of a travel agent, I considered the foibles of our flights as accidents and coincidences that could happen to any traveler, whether booked by agent or online. Enter the Trip from Hell.

We arrived two hours early at SeaTac for our red eye flight home to Hancock and points North. The line at the American Airlines counter (American Airlines? Yup, that’s what the itinerary says!) was longish, but not frightening. What was frightening was the look on the ticket agent’s face when I presented our receipts, all of which said: United Airlines. First she looked at the receipts. Then she looked again, quizzically. Then she mumbled, “I cannot accept these, they are from United.” Fear touched my spine (and other things) and my Scottish eyebrows went into scowl mode. I glared at her from under their canopies. She called her supervisor over, and both listened to my explanation.

More than an hour and four frustrated agents later, they had survived professional phone tag with United and reissued our tickets and our boarding passes. They also waived our baggage fees ($75) and marked our passes TSA Pre-checked, which saved us precious time. Once again, we arrived at our boarding gate just in time -- with me wheezing and wobbling about.

The plane felt cool, but not cold as we settled in our assigned seats for our midnight ride in a meat locker. Once the air started, triggering my goosebumps and shivering -- I asked for a blanket. The attendant replied: “We don’t provide blankets on this flight. I’ll ask the pilot to warm things up a bit” (He did warm it slightly. Note: as we later deplaned, we noted blankets scattered about in Business Class.) I quaked and quailed, shivered and shook, for nearly four hours in a dark aluminum tube. I could not sleep and read until my eyes were sore from reading in a dark place. No sleep was found in my vicinity. We arrived in Chicago just before 6:00 AM, perfectly chilled.

Our layover in Chicago was 4 hours and 41 minutes -- almost long enough to establish residency. At 10:00 AM, we started boarding our Skywest flight to Hancock. I was cheerfully optimistic because I finally had my window seat for a daytime flight. Then the cockpit door opened and the captain said, “I have bad news. Hancock has thunderstorms and heavy fog. Visibility is below our minimums. We can’t fly there now.” He said it would take some time for the weather to clear, so we deplaned and went back to warm our seats in the terminal. Eventually, things improved, and we arrived in Hancock at 1:58 PM instead of 12:50 PM. Safe and sound.

Oh, and did I mention that the wedding was wonderful, the visit was a total joy, and I would do it all again to see everyone I haven’t seen in so long...and thought I might never see again.

Good night, and God bless!


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1612

Our Bandaids were too small...
Seriously Unfunny

This might be funny, were it not so sad. I did something incredibly clumsy this afternoon. I was working at my computer when Dante began a barking frenzy, probably at some noise outside. I didn't hear anything. As requested by his owner, I jumped up to grab the spray bottle and dissuade him from his noisy alarm. My sudden move frightened him, and he ran under my feet, tripping me. My stability is poor, even on a good day, and he felled me on the spot.

I must have been an amazing sight, toppling north-by-west from my desk -- hands extended, leg caught up with my headphone cable, and bellowing in fear. When I hit the floor, the carpeting removed a sizable chunk of my skin just below my left knee and the corner of a nearby wall didn’t move out of the way of my left shoulder. My head and my right leg conspired to yank on the headphone hard enough to break the plug and nearly pull my PC off my desk.

My leg suffered rug burn and removal of flesh, my shoulder received bruising and scraping, and my headphones are ruined. Overall, it was an unpleasant experience.

I hobbled out to Marian, who was mowing the lawn, and showed her my knee. She was less than receptive and somewhat short on empathy. We covered the cut -- after treating it with hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin. What an afternoon!

I would like to report that there is a lesson to be learned here, but outside of trying not to be clumsy, there is little to share. Maybe I should consider NOT wearing shorts and relying on my jeans as portable armor for the hopelessly maladroit. As you can see from the photo, my knee will be uncomfortable for awhile.

My career with Riverdance is in great jeopardy, and I may have to withdraw from the competition on: "So You Think You Can Walk!"

Good night, and God bless.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1600

Another Mildstone Reached

No, it’s not a typographical error! I’ve started calling my small achievements “mildstones” because, although they are truly not Earth-shattering, they quake my life -- just a little. Every day, when I wake up, it is a minor miracle to me -- a precious gift of life. However, I have a special place in my heart for those days ending in two or more zeros.

For some reason, 1,600 sounds so much grander than 1,599…

Future Imperfect

What pleased me most during my last visit to Mayo Clinic, was talking to the doctors and nurses about my future. Until the last couple of visits, references to a future beyond my next scheduled visit in Rochester were few and far between, spoken of mostly in general terms. During the last visit, we talked about potential dates for stopping my anti-rejection medication and even my anti-leukemia medication. This is exciting stuff for someone who spent more than a year learning to live one-day-at-a-time, giving little or no attentions beyond getting out of bed tomorrow morning.

At various time Google has attributed to Cary Grant, Mickey Mantle, and George Burns this little quip: “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”  Ditto!

“Selfie” is the Right Word

For more than five years, my focus has been on me. It is necessary when battling leukemia, graft-versus-host disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, pancreatitis, a gallbladder attack, COPD, pneumonia, and more to look in toward God and myself for the strength to fight. I have been monumentally self-involved, posting my own “selfies” and talking about my experiences. During that time, I learned a simple, obvious lesson -- the kind I don’t like to think about, because it makes me seem greedy and needy.

While I am thinking only about me, I don’t have time to think about, or worry about, you. It is nothing less than the complete demise of humility.

As I read through the news, the postings on Facebook and other social media, and listen to the pundits punting on television and radio, I hear me -- thinking only about me. I see and hear politicians striving for office, not to serve the public, but to get hired for a job. Last I heard, elected public service was not a career, not a way to gain, but a way to give. Last I heard, getting a job was a privilege to be earned, not a right to be granted. Last I heard, greed was a deadly sin and the chief attribute of villains, not the primary job skill to get ahead in the world. Last I heard, spending hours taking pictures of yourself was a negative character trait, not a hobby practiced world wide. Last I heard, taking offense involved violations, trespass, or insults, not a way to justify personal prejudice.

Maybe we need to take our eyes away from our smartphones, tablets, and screens, take a look around and realize that other folks inhabit this planet, and maybe need some help. Maybe we need to try a little humility -- i.e., think about ourselves just a little less. It might help clarify what needs to be done, and who needs to do it.

Thanks for listening. Good night and God bless!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1555

The Blessed Dream

I will be retiring for a few hours of much-needed rest in a few moments. However, before I seek the far, fair shore of Dreamland, I have a pleasant milestone to note. On May 26, 2010, around 9:30 AM, I received a phone call from Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital while working at Keweenaw National Historical Park. I’d undergone a blood test because I was concerned about Type II diabetes, an illness well-known among members of my family.

I was unprepared for the message I received. An ambulance was waiting for me at the hospital to take me to Marquette General because I had leukemia! Not only that, but my white blood cell count was dangerously high. Thus began a journey that has not ended; a blessing wrapped in a curse stuffed in an emergency.

Today is the five-year anniversary of the diagnosis of Philadelphia Chromosome-Positive, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). I am officially a five-year cancer survivor!

I will not belabor the point, nor revisit the stories again tonight. The blessings of friendship, support, and prayer have carried me forward and upheld both me and my long-suffering caretaker, Marian. Most of all, I thank my brother Kevin for his selfless donation of stem cells and T-cells transplanted into this old curmudgeon on February 21, 2011. Without his gift of life, our journey would likely have ended rather abruptly.

I thank you all, and I thank God that our journey continues!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1548

A Visit to Mayo Clinic

It has been five days since my day filled with tests and talking at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Slowly, the days have accumulated, now 1,548 since my transplant, and I’ve made a glacial shift from “each day may be my last,” to “make the most of each day AND maybe there will be more to come.” It seems that the light at the end of my tunnel may not be a freight train after all.

Thursday, Bloody Thursday

Our day started, as usual, with an early walk to Lab A of the Charlton Building. It was threatening to rain heavily, but only misted -- almost an attempt to dampen our spirits -- yet, we remained upbeat. My phlebotomist discovered that I was not joking about my stealth veins. Despite several careful efforts, the weary, wary, and scarred veins in my left arm refused to let a needle penetrate and simply rolled away. Finally, she had to puncture a vein on the back of my right hand to draw vampirical quantities of blood. Covered in bandages and feeling as though I was leaking blood from both arms, we progressed to the nuclear medicine lab in the Gonda Building.

Bones and Breath

After a quick stop at the cafeteria for decaf and a bran muffin, my bones were scanned to find out if either my Graft vs Host Disease (GvHD) or my medications were leaching minerals from my bones and weakening them. Later, I would find out that although I lost a little in one hip, all my bones are well within normal bone density range. Good news.

Next came the always-present Pulmonary Function Study. Breathe through a tube, breathe in a box, breathe on the stair stepper. No improvement, but no further loss of lung capacity. I did note, however, that after three minutes on the stair stepper, my oxygen level never dropped below 93%. No gold medals were given, but I was pleased.

The Art of Conversation

The next four hours were spent waiting and talking and waiting and talking. We reviewed all the medications I dutifully dragged with me to the BMT Unit. Then I talked to a transplant coordinator and my doctor. It seems I am doing very well.

My CellCept (anti-rejection medicine) dosage has been halved to only one pill per day. Two years ago that was four pills per day. If in the near future they can stop the CellCept, which suppresses my immune system, I should be able to stop the antivirus, antifungal, and antibiotic medicines because my immune system should step up and do its job. This was great news, but only part of what I learned.

Next year will mark five years on Sprycel (Dasatinib) during which time, not one trace of the telltale fusion protein has been detected. They well might stop the Sprycel as well. It is unlikely I will be free of medications, as all the chemicals and treatments have profoundly altered my body chemistry and treated my system rather rudely. Still, who at my age, doesn’t take a pill for blood pressure control or an aspirin to help prevent heart attacks?

I’ll still have only 25% lung capacity and have to be careful about exposure to viruses, dust, and allergens. I can never swim again and will still walk slowly. But, I will be smiling…

Note: One week from today (May 26th) will mark my anniversary as a 5-year survivor! Thanks for all the prayers and good thoughts, positive energy and best wishes! I treasure each day and try to live every minute. Life is precious to me and I have hope for the future!

Good night, and God bless!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1500

April Fool!—Not!

Waking up is such a simple thing. Most mornings, I slowly become aware of some slight change in my surroundings or a twinge when I roll over on my left arm—something small that cracks the shell of dreams and hatches me into another day. Since my last brush with the big sleep, my first thought is nearly always: “Thanks, God! I get another one!”

My favorite awakenings are on sunny mornings, when the newly risen, eastern sun-rays beam through my front window, illuminating all the tiny dust particles in the air, and promising welcome warmth on a chilly morning. My least favorite awakenings involve an irritating sound designed to pierce the bubble of my reverie and yank me awake—if not the dread clanging of my alarm clock, then other, more insidious sounds. Last week, I woke at 6:30 AM to the roar of my neighbor’s school bus engine and the whine of tires spinning on ice. Yup! His bus was stuck in front of his house (and mine) and he was rocking it. I still said, “Thank God!” But this time it was half for the new day and half that it wasn’t me out there fighting with the snow and ice.

Today’s awakening was special to me, because today is the 1,500th day since my Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplant (BMT). I started marking the days on my Google Calendar with Day Zero (February 21, 2011) and have tracked every day since. 1,500 days with friends and family. 1,500 days to dance my complicated minuet with T-Cells, tests, and toxic medications. 1,500 wickedly wonderful blessings and gifts…

Time is a strange and limited resource. It cannot be saved for future use; it can only be spent. It has become my full-time occupation to spend the time I have been granted as wisely and fully as possible.

My precious present is the Precious Present. Funny thing about living so much in the present -- it makes you happier. I’m not wallowing in regrets for opportunities lost or living among the shadows of the past. I’m not paying interest on debts that may never come due. The future will be, regardless of my fretting. Anticipation remains, but always tempered with the fine edge of uncertainty.

Life is good, and I am so happy to be here!

God bless and thanks to all who send their prayers and good thoughts!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1475

“A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend.”
― Emily Dickinson

Call Me Mr. Nibs...

Yesterday, I stumbled across my old journals. Literally, I stumbled across them, as they had fallen from a bookshelf. Once again, the decluttering bug has bitten, and I’ve been throwing out considerable amounts of old paperwork and the detritus that accumulates around massive numbers of medical and insurance files and communications.

As I opened the journals, I stepped back to a time when I hand wrote all entries, or typed them out and pasted them to pages in sketch books. My journals were originally written on either lined paper in binders or wire-bound notebooks. The last few of them, however, were book-bound sketchbooks. I preferred writing on unlined pages, especially with a fountain pen or (more often) with a dip pen. I would paste in pictures that I printed or cut from newspapers or magazines. Sometimes, I’d paste a photograph on a page. I even drew images -- anything to break up pages with monolithic blocks of hand-written text.

Anyone who knows me well enough to have received a handwritten note or letter, will attest to my awful handwriting. My hands were damaged as a small child, and my writing  was so bad in school that my parents let me use an ancient Underwood typewriter until they bought me a portable typewriter. I used that portable machine until, when a freshman at Michigan Tech, I could no longer get ribbons for it. So, writing pages of my thoughts in an even semi-readable script was a big deal for me.

Jump to 2015

Now, my handwriting has morphed into a hodgepodge of cursive and printing, spiced with exotic aspects generated by finger numbness brought on by neuropathy and the magic of tremors. Writing with a dip pen now requires about the same level of concentration I would need to write with my right foot. Yesterday, I was holding the nib so tightly, I think I broke a blood vessel under the nail of my right index finger. Now that’s focus!

Needless to say, I don’t do all my scratching with a dip pen. After an appropriate time struggling with Mr. Nib, I switch to an appropriately thick ballpoint pen. The writing is easier and the text is more legible.

Why Write on Paper?

There is something magical about scratching letters on a blank sheet of paper, an empty page, with what essentially amounts to a sharpened stick and dirty water (ink). It transports me back to distant memories of correspondence -- writing actual letters and sending them physically to another person simply for the pleasure of sharing my thoughts and the hope of receiving a reply. There were no spell checkers, and usually corrections involved crossing out the mistake and writing the word correctly -- or trying to morph the letters on the page into something that looked like the right spelling. Note: If your handwriting is bad enough, it is much easier to get away with the morphing correction method.

However, there is another magic found in the effort to scratch my thoughts on pages in a blank book. The discipline and concentration help me control my tremors. The shakes come and go. For the moment, they are back and have become quite a nuisance. I have hopes that my efforts will tame the shakes, jerks, and spasms enough to prevent spilling hot tea in my lap.

Finally, pen and ink bypass the issue of keeping my electronic journal entries accessible and readable. I’ve used a variety of formats over the many years (22 since I started recording on the computer), and I still worry that future software will not be able to read my notes.

It's late, but I had one final thought before turning out the light. Many years ago, I would sit up in bed and write on a tablet with pen or pencil. Tonight, I'm sitting up in bed writing this on a different kind of tablet -- with stylus and fingertip.

Good night, and God bless,


“To write is human, to receive a letter: Devine!”
― Susan Lendroth

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mick McKellar Update — Day +1464

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere. — Carl Sagan

Orson Scott Card wrote a passage in Ender's Game which uplifted me and frightened me half to death. Ender Wiggin said: “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them.... I destroy them.

Enter Facebook

Not just Facebook, but all social media touch us, in unrelenting floods, nearly every waking minute of every day. No, I don't spend all day with my face buried in Facebook. I quit using Twitter two weeks after I first tried it, and have basically left other recent entries alone — or barely sampled them. I still use email, but my friends who use email, use it in much the same fashion as I used traditional post when email was the social media of choice.

Television remains an active feature of my every day, but in proportionally smaller amounts with each passing year. I watch the evening news (local and national) and scan our local newspaper. I like the comics.

In this daily laboratory, I examined my personal experience of social media, and truly began to sense the true genius behind two of Card's characters: Peter and Valentine Wiggin — Ender's brother and sister. Peter is brilliant and violent. Valentine is brilliant and loving, but they become media personalities in direct contradiction to their own characteristics. Valentine becomes Demosthenes, a war-mongering hawk, who urges war between cultures and countries to resolve differences. Peter becomes Locke, who promotes diplomacy and compromise to settle differences. They are brilliant and gather followers, becoming media superstars.

The tragic power of their public contest, is that the dominant Peter is directing the whole morality play, leading people by their hates and prejudices to make him a leader and do exactly what he wants. His manipulations lead to terrible consequences. Both are children, but on the Internet...

Written in 1985, Card's vision brings to light some uncomfortable truths about today's social media and the willingness of loyal readers to follow, almost without thought, the lead of their favorite media celebrities. All of this happens without healthy skepticism, rational consideration of consequences, or ever questioning facts and sources.

Testing, Testing...

When this thought touched my mind, I began to delve deeper into the comments attached to some of the more virulent memes that populate my Facebook feed and ancillary feeds to which those connect. It seems most folks have their privacy settings set to "Public." My preliminary findings so shocked me, that I began responding — usually by posting corrections of some of the most inaccurate quotations I have ever seen, and by exercising my editing skills (just a tad) and posting corrections to basic grammar and language mistakes. I even experimented with asking a few pointed questions about the logic and facts in posted comments and arguments.

The backlash was immediate, and occasionally rude and personal. Violence was indirectly suggested a few times. So I retreated to silent observation and the occasional grammar Nazi exercise. Just can't help myself, I guess.

It did give me pause to consider the sources of these postings, usually leading to online publications dedicated to some political or ideological cause, complete with scandalous and shocking headlines that strained the truth of the facts nearly to the breaking point. It seemed that no aspect of human concerns was immune to such treatment.

There is a war underway, a war for our minds and our hearts. It is not a war of two armies, or three armies, or five armies. It is a war of many armies and it seems our safety has been preserved only because there are so many combatants, none can gain complete traction. This however, appears to be changing. Consolidations occurs, some groups are meeting with success, and recruitment is underway.

It haunts my dreams.

In the book, Ender's Game, Ender Wiggin is fighting an implacable foe who has superior numbers and a technological edge. However, because he understands his enemy, he defeats them. He also comes to understand and to love them, spending the rest of his life (and several more books) trying to make amends.

His enemy become his loved ones. His loved ones become his enemy.

Larger Than Life

Why write all of this now? Partially, I wanted to put my fears and concerns into words. However, the trigger for me was the fall of TV anchor, Brian Williams. Why would a competent, talented reporter seek to embellish his backstory?

Perhaps we all feel we can get away with such blatant falsification of facts because, in all the dust stirred up by muckrakers and blowhards, no one will ever see the reality of the gratuitous, grand image, the lack of threads in the emperor's new clothes. Perhaps there is simply a need to grab a greater share of the limelight and garner a bigger stage for one's soliloquy. Whatever the reason, it saddens me to lose faith in yet another human who bartered truth for celebrity. We call them anchors for a reason, and now another ship is drifting free.

Oh, Yeah! The Update.

Today is day 1,464 since my transplant, and I am doing well. I grow tired of the cold weather, the snow, and the constant fear of close proximity to living petri dishes. I pray every day for better weather, and an early end to our endless winter.

Good day, and God bless,


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1450

Why Every Curmudgeon Should Have a Dog

Today is the 1,450th day since my blood and marrow transplant. There is nothing particularly splendid about the number 1,450 except, perhaps, that it is a nice round number and rather close to 1,500 — still 50 days away. I was expounding upon this pedestrian mile marker to my hapless companion for the evening. Dante is four years old and seems rather unimpressed by most of my ramblings — normal for any canine, I guess.

Digression: I was painfully shy as a child, and decided at the tender age of 5 or 6 years to climb out of my shell and insert myself into the world of the adults around me. At first, they found my efforts humorous, even precocious. Soon, the novelty wore off, and I began to notice phrases like “shut up” and “smart ass” peppering conversation around me. My brothers and sister avoided the near occasion of my presence and my few friends found reasons to be elsewhere whenever I began to expound my juvenile wisdom. Little wonder, I joined the high school debate team as a freshman.

OK, I’m Back: One tends to retain such habits, and I still like to hear myself talk. This may explain many of Marian’s sudden naps. I thought my solution had arrived two years ago with Dante, a cheerful and sometimes noisy American Eskimo dog. He and I hit it off immediately, especially since I like to walk (when my condition allows it) and he just adores walking — even at the snail’s pace I maintain. I liked the time spent walking, because I was also talking — about every topic that has ever interested me. I figured it did not matter, as he understood only certain words, such as Dante, food, treat, walk, and “NO!”

Winter necessitates time spent indoors, so my soliloquies often take place when I’m cooking or washing dishes, etc. He likes his rug near the back door (also near the sink) and patiently lays there watching me as I prattle on.

Fast forward to tonight, and I am once again at the sink, talking up a storm. The blustering was reaching maximum intensity when my fuzzy, white companion stood up, gave me what can only be described as an exasperated grimace (not easy with a face full of fur), and stalked from the kitchen. Annoyed at losing my audience, I followed him into the living room, where I found him quietly contemplating his favorite tennis ball.

"Dante! What's this all about? What'd I say to cheese you off?" I quietly inquired. He stood up, shambled over to me, and sat on my left foot. He stared at me until I petted him. Then he shambled on back to his tennis ball and settled back down with a sigh.

I'd been placated and dismissed, so I finished my chores in silence...until I heard the tennis ball bounce on the floor behind me. Dante was back, ready to listen to more droning or just quietly watch.

It's good to have someone who just listens without judging... Well, mostly...


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1429

The Importance of Insignificance

Tonight, I saw a portion of a super-high resolution image of the Andromeda galaxy. Just published January 6, 2015, the presentation: Gigapixels of Andromeda [4K] focuses on a small portion of the image and zooms in closer to show uncountable tiny glowing dots, each of which is likely a sun, which may have at least one planet, on which a life form might be staring upwards in wonder at our galaxy, the Milky Way. As the video zooms outward from the close up, the sheer immensity of our little corner of the Universe becomes more apparent than in any photo I've seen before.

I won't try to download the image, it requires 4.3 GB storage, and represents 1.5 billion pixels. Maybe I could view it at IMAX, but on my desktop? Forget it.

Viewing the video of the image was good for me. I often view beautiful images of immense places (or very small places at extremely high magnification) because it offers perspective. My daily mental commutes, from email to Facebook to the occasional venture into the arctic temps of Florida Location (a misnomer of gigantic proportions), involve sampling my world and measuring its affects on my life. My myopic measurements often lead me to believe that my problems have significance outside the reach of my arms, or perhaps the sound of my voice. When that happens, I sometimes share more information than friends and acquaintances really want to know. At the time, I find it significant, if not profound, and there always seems to be a soapbox handy.

I also take to heart the ramblings of other souls who broadcast their opinions to the the rest of the world, whether or not supported by facts or solid arguments. Occasionally, you will find me, waving my digital arms and asking pointed questions or pointing to fallacies in logic or facts. Over time, however, I've found that my contentious clamor does little good or only incites charged arguments based on opinion and emotion, rather than free and open discussion. I have even managed to spend less time commenting on bad grammar in Memes and rants.

I still post poems and updates like this one, because I hope someone will see what I see, or hear what I hear, and gain something from it. The Andromeda image reminds me that I am, after all, just a spark in a great conflagration -- and yet I am part of it all.

1429 -- So What?

Today is 1,429 days since my blood and marrow stem cell transplant on February 21, 2011. That gift from my brother, Kevin, has allowed me to still be here on January 20, 2015 -- the 65th anniversary of my birth. Is that cool, or what? I was reminded twice tonight (before midnight) that I actually turned 65 24 hours ago on the other side of the world. Friends in Japan and India sent birthday greetings because it was already January 20th there. It's like old age is chasing me around the globe!

My health has been generally quite good, though I grow tired of hiding inside my home so the nasty little germs don't find me so easily.


I am working on a small piece about White World -- the place my mind first went when, at 18 months old, I suffered severe burns to my hands and my feet. It's my go to place when I need to separate mind and body, usually to endure pain or escape emotional storms. I've even used it as a sensory deprivation tank, only portable and invisible. White World helped me endure, even survive some challenges in my life.

Recently, I had a dream. In my dream, I began to slip into the fringes of White World without intending to do so. Thoughts became hazy, lost in a thickening, white fog. I could find them, but it took time and extreme effort to locate and hang on to them. The white fog turned to snow, and began to settle on everything, obscuring files, images, and even recent thoughts. The books I read were covered with snow and the print was beginning to blur, even to run and become unreadable, leaving only black and blue stains on the snow-covered pages.

In the end, I was trapped in White World, as though it was a snow globe. Faces of people would hover outside the globe, their voices dull and distant, and then the snow would fall even faster, obscuring everything.

Scary, huh? I've had the dream only once, and once is enough.


I have a question: When did the f-bomb become an adjective, an adverb, a gerund, and the sole basis for much of the "humor" in social media? Is your photo or cartoon lame or boring? Add an f-bomb and lots of folks share it and like it. Is your Facebook page being ignored? Add an f-bomb to the title and folks will flock to your funky f-bombed page. Is your movie dialog stilted and unbelievable? Add ten minutes of f-bombs, and the critics will call it gritty and streetwise. Eventually, it will no longer be funny, because overuse will cause people to no longer feel nervous about reading or hearing it. It will become mainstream, and a new shock word will be found. I shudder to think what it might be, but I take solace from the thought I will be either gone from this mortal coil or so old I won't really notice.

Thanks to all to still read my updates and especially to those who send prayers and good thoughts our way.

God bless and good night,