Our Friends Live in a Barn

Last weekend, we got the pleasure of spending a few days with Eric's good college friends Jonathan and Debby Richards, and their very cute little boy Josiah. They live north of Chicago in a barn. It's a nice barn, calling the old addage "Were you raised in a barn?" into great suspicion. Here's a picture of their barn. Note the ultra cool reading nook above the kitchen table, accessible only by ladder. How cool is that!

We had a lovely relaxed time listening to Josiah's infectious laugh. We also visited the Oriental Institute at the U of Chicago, which was recommended to us by our other friends, the Basteseses. Despite the name, it doesn't really have any artifacts from the orient, but has a bunch of stuff from Ur (like the city Abraham was from), Assyria, the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, and the early Hebrew kingdoms. Very cool.
Oh yeah, and Jonathan took us to the super organic coffee shop where he makes masterpieces of art out of froth, espresso, and chocolate syrup. The straws are made of corn starch, and Rachel decided that she would make a bold attempt to chew the thing until it dissolved into its constituent parts. She chewed for a very long time, but it kind of just looked like a straw chewed for a very long time.

New Ambulators Beware

We had the pleasure of hosting 33 people in our house last night for dinner, a chance for candidates for Rachel's residency program to get to know existing residents. 6 of those people were children, 5 of whom were old enough to walk, but not old enough to hang out in our very non-childproof home without close supervision. Briefly, I submit to you the ways in which our house is not childproof:

1. A cozy woodfire in a hot wood stove protruding from the wall.
2. Drums et al. that are actually somewhat valuable, yet sit on the floor and appear to be fun to bang on.
3. Radiators in operation.
4. Mousetraps (currently not loaded, but sometimes...), and lastly...
5. Daggers, swords, and arrows at the eye level and reach level of someone who is 2' tall.

No one hurt and a great time had by all. Please don't let this hinder you coming to visit with or without your little loved ones. =)


Into the (Minnesotan) Woods

I love my family. Last August, I was chatting with my cousin Josiah when he off-handedly mentioned that he would soon be trying out for one of my all time favorite musicals, Into the Woods. His college was hosting the production in November. Excited, I promised him that if he would get a role, however small, I would travel all the way over to St. Paul, MN, to watch him. Fast forward three months. Josiah not only had a role, he had the MALE LEAD. Yes, my friends, it was quite an accomplishment. And I also discovered that my mom, his mom, my brother, his brother, and a smattering of other cousins and their families would be making the journey as well!

Eric and I decided to make this our big family Thanksgiving this year, which we are really glad we did. I drove out to MN a few days early and got to see my best friend from college, as well as spend time with my goddaughter Jaina (and her 4 siblings) at the Childrens Museum. The whole family had a big Thanksgiving brunch together, played plenty of games, and generally just had a blast spending time together. The highlight, of course, was watching Josiah the star wow the audience with his stellar performance (he was the Baker, for those who know the fun fractured fairy tale of a story)--see picture. We also threw in a picture of my family hanging out at Perkins after the show.

Sometimes we find it really hard to be living so far away from our families, who are spread out all across the US. It's weekends like this, though, that make us thank God for the blessings of the time and the family that we do have. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


"Let these Falling Leaves Cover Me..."

"...as I sink into the ground." Ten super cool points to anyone who knows this lyrical quote.

Not so pastoral and peaceful is the job of raking our leaves. Any of you who have visited our old abode know that the predominate feature of our yard is the huge trees, lovely for keeping it cool in the summer, but the bane of September onwards. In fact, the two lines of trees bordering either side of our backyard are slowing growing together to form a complete canopy. Currently, there is only a thin stretched line of direct sunshine that slowly eases from one end of our yard to the other as the sun courses above, like the most natural of sundials.

Anyways, back to the "bane" part. We have successfully conquered the problem of the shade prohibiting vegetable growth by our community garden (see previous blogs), but when the leaves come to fall, work begins for Eric and Rachel. Bags upon bags filled with copious leaves. Beads of sweat, callouses from rakes, and our only comfort is that our neighborhood promises us that, once a year, giant heavy machinery angels will sweep down our streets and remove any leaves we can get onto the asphalt. Note the picture. Very nice. But note even closer all the leaves still remaining on the trees.


Louisville Conference

Last weekend, we had the pleasure of attending the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, KY. Some of you may recall that this conference changed our lives four years ago in 2003, since it is the site where we first met each other while Eric was in med school in Michigan and Rachel in California. Here's a picture of us in the very room where we first met each other, after a breakout session entitled "The Myths of Biomedicine and the Wisdom of Middle Earth". I'm not kidding. What a beginning!

Well, this time around, this conference may have been only slightly less life-changing. For the last couple months, a couple of our physician family friends and ourselves have been wondering whether we are called to pursue some kind of joint community activity within the world of developing world medical missions. We are all finishing residency training the same year in different specialities and coming from the same church in the Ann Arbor area. We decided to all meet in Louisville to spend some concentrated time praying and talking with each other as well as a number of agencies that work in mission hospitals. Long story short, we are now in the early stages of perhaps working long-term in southern Sudan after a couple years of extra training, likely in Kenya. It's quite a whirlwind just to be considering all this, but extremely exciting at the same time. Here's a picture of all of us (our good friend Carlan, in the center crouched down, also joined us for the conference).


Pyrrhic Victory

Many of you may already be aware of the US Airways debacle surrounding our vacation last February. I would recount details, but the stress of such a tale-telling would, to this day, leave me relatively incapacitated for the remainder of the afternoon, and thus I will resist. Safe to say, it was the stuff of epics, and also the stuff to make us avidly anti-US Airways for the rest of our lives. And we are not anti-anything. But our experience was enough to demonstrate that this company has a system-wide problem with customer service, efficiency, luggage handling, and in some cases, very basic common sense. Enough, lest I become incapacitated...

At any rate, after much much to-do, we were sent a pair of vouchers, which after careful inspection of the terms and conditions, we decided to use them in January to visit friends and family. The result was not surprising, given our past experiences, but still deflating. Due to hidden stipulations included nowhere in the fine print, our flight plan was apparently not allowed with a voucher. Two trips to Detroit Metro Airport and close to 2 hours on the phone with Customer Relations (again), we have made our final victory, though it be only a Pyrrhic one. The tickets are in our hands, and seriously, it feels like a huge burden has been lifted. Maybe we shouldn't let this stress us so much, but the fact of really bad business practices just really bothers us. Oh well, there's still a bunch of other fine choices in the airline business.


Old Zambian Stories

Some wonderful profs from my days at Belmont University contacted me about maybe using some of my travel stories in a literary conference they are holding in Nashville. Since we will be in Louisville for another conference (blog to follow), I wouldn't be able to actually come and read, but I've sent them the stories and they may try and find someone else to read them for me. How fun! So while I was putting the stories together, I though I'd post them here, so anyone else could read them if they wanted.