Sunday, April 25, 2010

Roadside Attraction

After yoga in Alexandria yesterday at the Pure Prana studio, I made an improptu decision to visit my brother and sister-in-law outside Richmond so I could finally give them the Christmas present I've be hauling around in the Mini for them since December.  Drove straight down, enjoyed dinner at a great little restaurant near their home, and left early this morning in time to make choir practice at church. 

On the way home I spotted a sign pointing to the site just south of Port Royal, Virginia, of the farmhouse where John Wilkes Booth was killed.  I had read about this in an interesting book called "Assasination Vacation" by Sarah Vowell.  As Ms. Vowell had reported, the site is between the north  and southbound lanes of Route 301, accessible only from the northbound side.  After parking on the side of the road, I followed a well-worn path a short distance through the woods to a small clearing.  There is no hint of the house and barn that used to be there.  What I did find was the marker stone shown above.  I Googled, but found no reference to the "Twenty First Century Confederate Legion".  I'm guessing they were not fans of the recent Health Care initiative.  Also, no clue about the significance of the pennies, other than they have Lincoln on them and were mostly facedown.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Meditation, Malas, and Related Thoughts

Most mornings I awaken at 5:00 a.m., go downstairs for 20 minutes of yoga with Rodney Yee, get a shower, then meditate for 15-20 minutes before I start my day.  The picture shows the dormer in our back bedroom that I've set up for meditation.  This is my little altar.   Yes, I use incense, and I'll explain why it really is useful some other time if you're (the collective 'you're') interested.   In the picture you can see, second from the left, what looks like a ring with a yellow blob on it.  This is a mala.  Think of a mala as a meditation rosary, but without all the "Ave Marias" and the "Pater Nosters" (how's that for a protestant boy?).  Here's some mala info I lifted from the web:

 "What is a Meditation Mala?:  A mala is a string of 108 beads with one bead as the summit bead called a 'sumeru'.  It is a tool used to keep your mind on the meditation practice. Malas are generally made from different materials such as tulsi (basil) wood, sandal wood, rudraksh seeds or crystal. 

Why use the Mala?:  Meditation can be quite a tricky practice because the mind is like a naughty child. By its very nature, the mind tends to wander off during the meditation practice. If ones energy is low at the time of meditation, falling asleep can result. If the energy is too high, fantasy and distraction become the barriers. At such times, the mala provides the much needed anchor. The mala beads are moved in rhythm with the breath and the mantra, so that both-sleep as well as excessive mental distraction-are prevented by this action upon the beads. 

So I use my mala (sandal wood, thank you very much) to anchor my oh-too-active mind during meditation.  Other than edification, why do I share this?  Back to the summit bead:  the summit bead is not only larger than the other beads, but it also has the tuft of yellow yarn you see in the picture.  You start at the summit bead and work your way arround.   When I first meditated with the mala, I was overly conscious of the summit bead, finding myself wondering where it was, how close to it I was getting.  When I would actually feel the summit coming around in my hand, I had to fight the temptation to increase my rate of breathing to "finish" faster.

Why is it I get so consumed with the finish, particularly once the finish is in sight?  Why do I lose interest in where I am as I start to focus on where I'm heading?  Why the hurry?  I'm learning to treat the summit bead like any other bead.  From that I hope to learn that while endings are inevitable (without getting too dark), placing too much importance on the ending takes me away from 'here', and 'here' is where I need to be.  This is where all the good stuff is happening.

Ending on an up note:  every month a nice lady from North Carolina calls me about my Revlimid.  She makes sure that I'm not sharing my Revlimid, that I'm not donating blood or sperm (there goes that source of beer money), and that I'm not having unprotected sex with a woman with child-bearing potential (Revlimid is a first cousin of Thalidomide).  I sure hope the nice woman works with the clinical trial, othewise she's just damn nosy.  Anyway, after the survey we talk.   This week during our monthly conversation, she started talking about some incredible success they were having with Revlimid, really getting excited about it.  Saying "You're in the right place at the right time!"  She may have dropped the word 'cure'.   She remembered she was talking to one of the guinea pigs, so she stopped, saying "I really can't say more."  I'm not going to get too excited, but I'm taking from this they are seeing some good results from this trial.  It's tempting to blow this out of proportion, but I'm determined not to look ahead to the next bead.  I'm savoring the bead I'm holding now.  My 3' 11" bicycle-riding bead.


P.S.  I have no idea why the font size on this is all over the place.  Can't fix it.  Oh well.

Bike Riding Boy!

Proud papa time:  Yesterday, just 24 hours ago or so, Robbie had never ridden a bike without training wheels.  Never.  Yesterday, about 23.5 hours ago, he decided he was going to.  So he did.  Liz helped him a little at first to stay upright, but he headed out and never looked back.  Today, he's riding like an old pro.  He starting and stopping by himself.  He's making tight turns on half the width of our narrow street, riding around barely skirting the edge of the cul de sac, really testing out the edges of the envelope to see just how far he could lean over without scraping the pedals.  He is having a blast.  I'll post a picture or two when I get the chance.  I'll also post some thoughts I had while meditating the other morning.  But this is Robbie's post--Robbie the bike riding boy.

P.S.  He's lost two baby teeth in the last four days.  Where is my little boy going?

Monday, April 12, 2010

We're on Youtube!

The Family McMichael is on Youtube: I'm there along with Liz, Robbie, and the other people watching the P-8A land at Pax the other day. Robbie is in the yellow, purple, and green striped shirt, Liz is in a brown jacket and is waving, and I'm wearing a green shirt (you see us all from the back):

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thoughts while mowing

Happy Spring to you all.  I know it's Spring, because I mowed the lawn today.  That was after I went to Ann Hunt's 7-9 a.m. Dynamic Flow yoga class and took Robbie on a two-mile walk.

What struck me while mowing was that last summer--after my June adventure--I didn't have the strength to mow the lawn, much less all the other stuff I did today.  I reflected gratefully on the body's ability to bounce back from adversity and to heal itself.

A personal note to other CLL afflictees:  if given the chance to participate in the Revlimid trial, do it.  Just do it.  One pill a day, 21 days in a row.  No needles, no IVs.  And it seems to be working.  I have all the energy I need to lead a very active lifestyle and so far I haven't had one adverse reaction that could be attributed to the treatment.  People sometimes ask me if I pray for a miracle--I tell them that I'm participating in a miracle and am already receiving the benefits of a miracle.

One other:  I got to see some no-kidding Naval Aviation history today.  The P-8A Poseidon, the Navy's newest anti-submarine warfare aircraft and one that has consumed major parts of Liz's (and Robbie and my) life for the last eight years, arrived in Pax River for the first time around 3:30 this afternoon.  We were there at the arrival end of the runway to see it land--it passed maybe 100' above our heads on the way down to the runway.  There are only so many times that a new airplane is introduced into the Navy, and only once per airplane that it comes to Patuxent River for testing for the first time.  There was quite a crowd with us to greet the airplane, including family members of folks flying on the Poseidon.  Lots of screaming and cheering as it settled down to the runway for landing.  Don't tell me that people here are blase' and that they don't care.  We were there.  We saw it land.  We cheered.  It was cool.  I'll be posting a picture soon that a nice lady there got of Liz and the airplane as it flew by.



Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mr. Gap Tooth and the End of the Well Baby Visit

As you might have guessed from the picture above, Robbie finally lost one of his front teeth.  Actually he lost it last week; we were only recently able to get a picture of it.

Picking up from my last post, we left our hero in the examination room at Georgetown.  Shortly afterward, Katherine (even more pregnant than last time!) came in, examined me, and marked me fit for continuation in the trial.  The only 'news' is that after the sixth cycle (I'm currently on the fifth), I get another bone marrow sample taken (Yawn...). 

I had to run up to the pharmacy on the 7th floor to get my Revlimid.  They would have sent it down, but it was an opportunity to visit with the ladies up there.  It also turned out to be an opportunity to get a free lunch.

I was kinda hungry as I headed to the elevators, already thinking about where I was going to get lunch.  Got on board elevator #1 and held the door for a white-coated orderly pushing a cart.  On the cart (I miss nothing) were the brown paper lunch bags I remembered so fondly from my infusion days.  After holding the door again on the 7th floor, I followed the lunches into the area, where I ran into Mercedes, Sonia, and Marta.  After appropriate greetings and the showing of the pictures of the boy, Marta invited me to grab a lunch.  Roast beef sandwich.  The pharmacy will only give the drugs out to hospital employees, so while Mercedes checked on my Revlimid, I sat in Room 11 eating my sandwich.  Life was good.