Website Notalgia

Clayton and Teresa told me a while back that they wanted to put this link on a post on their blog, and I thought it was a great idea, but they had priority since I didn't think of it. That was 5 months ago, and even if you're pregnant, that's long enough to lose priority. Some I'm just putting up a wee link to the very first website we were a part of, in 2001, when "Stupid Eric" and 5 other undergrads drove 5000 miles in 12 days to hike the Grand Canyon for a total expense of $200 each.

My thoughts as I look back at this website:
1. This was the penultimate undergrad experience.
2. Wow, this site has a lot of pop-ups.
3. Apparently, things on the web never die or go away.
4. I still love the journal entries and their rampant lies.
5. I can't believe James came on that trip, and I'm glad he didn't die.
6. I'm glad we didn't get stuck in Juarez, and that James wasn't arrested by border patrol for taking pictures of the narcotics dogs.


Tonna and Hoby Save The Day (and the garden)

Yesterday, when I showed up to work for my next night shift, I was feeling quite... bedraggled. Yes, definitely bedraggled. The night before had been a really tough one, and in addition to being thus tired and dispirited, I learned on the bus on the way there, that it was supposed to frost tonight, and our lovely little germinating garden was quite unprotected. (frost after Memorial Day ?!) But, what were we to do? We were both at work, and there was no way to get back to the house to water the garden and throw some old sheets over them to protect them from the frost.
On my way in, (the bus being a little early) I stopped by to visit Hoby Lee, fellow family medicine resident, recently returned from Uganda where he operated like a fiend, to say Hi and welcome him back. He inquired after my apparent bedraggledness, and I told him of the garden. "Oh," he said, "Tonna can help you out. She's pretty close by right now." He quickly called Tonna, and with profuse (I hope) gratitude, I gave her like 20 minutes of instructions about how she could get into our house, find sheets, go to the garden, find the water key, spray the plants, and place and tether the appropriate sheets. "No problem" she said. So modest.
In the a.m., Rachel visited the garden, and found that the frost had been forced to flee from our plants in the face of such generous friendship as we have experienced. In return, a full tithe (10%) of the plants saved will go to Hoby and Tonna. In all seriousness, I was quite impressed at how such an act of friendship was just the right kind of heart healing I needed to keep going in a tough time, and we do hope we can be the same.


The Family That Bakes Together

We were treated to a lovely Memorial Day gift of having Eric's parents in town visiting (along with dog Josiah). It was a nice a relaxing time together Friday night and Saturday. We did a little gardening and a little work around the house. They learned how to play Carcassonne, and let Eric win both times because his birthday is coming up next week. In fact, Sharon made a yummy jello-pudding cake, enjoyed by all, and still being enjoyed by us now that they're back in Tennessee.

My mom thought that my dad would enjoy some warm fresh pita and hummous from La Shish (that is, "Charlie's Meditteranean Cuisine", since the parent restaurants have had some PR issues), since he still reminisces fondly about fresh pita baked in clay ovens in the old town of Jerusalem during his visit there. I don't know if we could top that (in fact, I'm quite certain we couldn't), but if any place in the USA could try, it's southeast Michigan, and the La Shish was good as always.

We continued on that theme, by taking them to Aladdin's Middle East Market and the adjacent Sunshine Fruit Market, for a tour, a yummy date bar, and a perusal of a very large selection of olives. Mom is going home to try some hummous of her own. Then, we went home and baked a couple loaves of Turkish Black Olive and Olive Oil Bread for May's Ethnic Bread of the Month. Have you ever wondered what black olives, onions, and mint taste like together? Neither had we. But now we know, and the answer is that you can't really taste the mint.


Night of the Living Dead

As we have no doubt told all of you who will listen, Eric and I are on night float this month. It is the most dreaded of all residency rotations, probably for good reason. I also did a month in February, and meant to post a blog about it then but I was too tired. Basically, for the entire month I go in to work at 5pm, cover Labor and Delivery, the ER, the GYN patients, and the Oncology patients, and finish up at 7am. This happens Sunday through Thursday, 14 hour shifts. I bike home, crash onto my bed, sleep fast, wake up, bike back to work, repeat story. Eric's shifts are similar: 7pm to 7am, covering all family medicine patients admitted to the U of MI. We are actually glad to have lined up our schedules so that, for the last two weeks of May, we are both on night float at the same time. Maybe we don't see each other all that much more, but at least we can sleep in the same bed at the same time. Yeah, night float is hard. By the grace of God, we're getting through it. There's even some laughter involved. We were talking about some of the more weird, surreal parts to night float today.

1. The day becomes a new day while you're still at work. We have to sign tons of stuff in the medical world. The hardest part for me is knowing what date to sign. I go in to work on, say, May 21. While I'm still working that same shift, suddenly it's the 22nd. I go home, sleep, come back to work. Should be a new day...but still, the 22nd.

2. Breakfast all the time. So, I wake up at 3:30pm to "start my day." What meal starts the day? Breakfast, of course. Then I get to work, and it's especially busy until after midnight, usually. Take a break at 2am, go down to the cafeteria. Now, let me tell you, if you think hospital cafeteria food is bad, you really have no idea how bad it can get until you go down for the night shift. The food is leftover from earlier that day and has been heated up who knows how many times. Suddenly the prepackaged bowls of cereal are starting to look good. Then, end of the shift, early morning, seems like breakfast time. A little yogurt, a little cereal, there you have it.

3. Marching bands. I kid you not, I woke up this afternoon and said to Eric, "I had this really weird dream that I could hear a marching band coming down our street while I was lying in bed." And he replied, "that wasn't a dream. They were playing 'From the Halls of Montezuma.'" And they had been! What the heck? Why was a marching band walking through our neighborhood on a Thursday afternoon in May? Who knows, but I'll bet most people, who sleep at night, don't get woken up from a deep sleep by marching bands.

4. Answering Service calls. It never ceases to amaze me what people will call a doctor for at 2:00 in the morning. Eric is writing a blog on this currently, so see our other post here. But in short, I am astounded by people who not only call, but come in to our emergency labor and delivery unit for something like, I've had a sore throat for 2 weeks and it's not getting better, so I thought I'd come in. It's THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING! The sleep that you're missing by coming in right now is probably what will help you recover the best. Amazing.
5. Emails. Really, a big downside to night float is that you're cut off from the rest of the world. It's difficult to call people when you get a break, because you know that they'll be asleep...and when they're awake, you're asleep. So I've resorted to primarily using email for communications. Of course, the funny thing about email is that I will send one out early on in my shift, and then check my email 8 hrs later and there's no response. Why? Oh, because most people aren't checking their email at 4am.
But in the end, we're making it through, and the end of May is in sight. Eric has two more weeks in May and then two in September, and I have four weeks in September, so more than halfway there overall. Hopefully we'll see more of you when we emerge back into the Land of the Living.

Late Night Phone Medicine

During my present night shifts, I field calls from the answering service for our clinic. Last night I had a series of phone calls that make for a retelling that is, at least to other physicians, humorous. I recognized the name from a couple nights previously. It's a schizophrenic patient who (like many schizophrenics) smokes a lot and has some early emphysema as a result. Some of my favorite patients (not that I have favorites) are schizophrenics, and thus I have a special place in my heart for those who have to live with this mental illness. Anyways, last night 1:30 a.m:

"Hi, it's Dr. McLaughlin from the University of Michigan. What can I do for you?"

"Oh, Dr. McLaughlin, I know you from a couple days ago."

"That's right."

"Well, I ran out of my albuterol inhaler, and I need a refill. I usually use it once every 2 days or so. It's not really any worse, but I ran out."

(Thinking: Why does he need this at 1:30 in the morning? He doesn't seem short of breath) "Sure, I can call that in. To the Kroger pharmacy in Milan?"

-our phone call gets cut off. So I call in the prescription to his pharmacy and call him back.-

"I called in the Albuterol. Is that a 24-hour pharmacy?"

"No. Can they Fed-Ex it to me?"

"Uh... no. You'll have to wait until the morning."

"They can't Fed-Ex it to me?"

"No, no one is there at the pharmacy."

"Oh, could you find a 24-hour pharmacy for me and then call me back?"

(Thinking: This is getting ridiculous.) "Uh... sure. I'll do that." I hang up and search google for awhile until I find a 24-hr pharmacy about 20 minutes away and call in the prescription.

"Hi, sir, I found a 24-hour pharmacy and called in the prescription."

"Will they Fed-Ex it to me?"

"Um....no, you'll have to go and pick it up."

"Oh! I have transportation issues. I don't have a car."

"Oh! (Thinking: why did he think this plan was going to work, then?) Well then, I really can't think of any way to get this to you before the pharmacy opens."

"Oh. OK."

I hang up and shake my head and smile. Strange that people would try and deal so ineffectively with these issues at 2 in the morning. I lie back down only to get another page within 10 minutes from the same patient:

"Hi again. What can I do for you?"

"Hi Dr. McLaughlin. I've got 3 cigarettes left, and I'd like to quit smoking. Can you call in a prescription for me for a nicotine patch?"

"Um... no."

He called back again tonight, asking for prescriptions for his albuterol and nicotine patches. I'm not sure why he didn't call during the regular office hours. I called them in again, though the pharmacy closed 20 minutes before he called. The thing is, I'm quite confident nothing medically dangerous is going on. I suppose I can relate to someone with an atypical sleep-wake cycle, being on nights myself right now. And I suppose it's good that he feels he has someone that he can go to with his concerns, though I'm not sure how much I helped. My guess is that it's hard for him to establish those kind of connections. And then, there's the issue that, at some point, you have to stop and inform him of the boundaries for appropriate usage of this phone service. Or maybe it's just one of those quirky, humorous life stories.


Gas Prices

It was humorous in a sad way, as I was bussing into work tonight, that I noted that all of the Ypsilanti gas stations were at 3.999 per gallon. Normally, there's a good spread in the pricing, with the cheapest being this really ghetto BP near our house that does great car repair.

But now they're all the same. Teetering at less than $4 by only a 1/10 of a cent. Truth be told, gas for 4.009 is not really much more expensive, but we've been going up and up, and it's like all the gas stations stopped at the edge of this cliff, peering over, then looking back doubtfully at each other saying, "No, you go first." One station didn't even put any numbers up, which I'm assuming means they've breached the $4 barrier but would rather just not advertise at all.

I thought this would maybe be a good thing, even if irrational, for putting a pseudo-cap on petrol pricing. Then, the bus passed into Ann Arbor, and they apparently have no problem going over 4. Man, I'm thankful for this bus.


Return of the Garden

All winter long, as we huddled under our down comforter, watching the snow fall and wondering if it would ever be warm again, we dreamed of our garden. In fact, we would even take walks to the community garden to look at the bedraggled ghosts of tomato plants, covered in snow, and reminisce. For fun, we would plot out where we were going to plant next year's veggies, what new additions we should make, what to do differently. Then the weather turned, and the sun came out, and the snow melted. Finally, May in Michigan. And, I am excited to announce, the 2008 planting of the McLaughlin garden has now occured.

We had a great time at a little community farm market and nursery picking out plants--we got 3 varieties of peppers, 3 varieties of tomatos, tons of seeds and even some flowers for decoration. Everything is in the ground and we go by every day to visit our children (some people say that a pet is a good substitution for a child....we substitute vegetables). My only fear is that after all the bounty of last year's harvest, we won't be so lucky. I scan the horizon for clouds of locusts daily. Fortunately, none yet. We'll keep looking.


Stuff Christians Like

Nato passed this link on to us several weeks ago, and we have laughed and laughed. Colorful thoughts on everything from Leaving a Tract Instead of a Tip, Clapping, Promise Rings, Precious Moments, and Not Knowing How to Baptize Tall People. If you read long enough, you'll probably have to poke fun at yourself, which is probably a good thing now and then.


What the World Eats

This was sent to us a while back by our friends Matt and Joan, and it's absolutely fascinating. It's a comparison of the cost and variety of weekly food intake for families all around the world.


Lessons from Teeth Pulling

Tomorrow is my last day of my 2-week dentistry elective. It's been quite instructive, and I'm thankful to the patient dentists and the dentists' patients. This morning, I extracted maybe 8 teeth from two different individuals. An excerpt from a conversation between Eric and Rachel earlier today:

"Wow, pulling teeth takes a lot of grip strength. I mean, it's tough. It's like... like..."

"Pulling teeth?"

"Right. Like pulling teeth."

This led to an interesting discussion about how life experiences shed light on the truth (or lack thereof) of various cultural expressions. We are thus categorizing them into 3 castes: true, false, and true with a caveat.

The True: as dead as the dodo (though it live in our hearts); as scarce as hen's teeth; as alike as two peas in a pod; as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party; easy as cherry picking.

The False: as dead as a doornail (since when did 'inanimate' mean 'dead'?); sick as a dog (explanation?); clear as mud; as quick as silver.

The True with Caveats: Easy as apple pie (only with the apple peeler/corer/slicer); solid as a rock (except the rock of Cappadocia, Turkey, see photo across top of blog); gentle as a lamb (ask me to tell you my PTSD lamb story from Scotland some time); as large as life (quite depends on a lot of things, don't you think?).

There are some other idioms we are looking into investigating. Perhaps we can invest in a menagerie for our backyard now that it is growing grass. We could try "proud as a peacock, " "busy as a beaver" or even "brave as a lion." It could be an interesting experiment with those three animals in the backyard. The neighbor's dogs no longer stand a fighting chance if they invade our yard again...


Geocachobiking 101

For awhile now, you may have noticed the reference on our links at the sidebar to "geocaching". You may have wondered what this secret world is. You may know exactly what this is, because you know all about us already, and thus about this avocation of ours. Or you may know about it already because you are very cool.

The time has come to level the playing field. Basically, all over the world, people have hidden little items (as big as a shoebox or even smaller than a film canister), then posted the GPS coordinates at a centralized website. Thus, the world's largest scavenger hunt has been created. Right now, there are likely dozens of geocaches within 5 miles of you. Maybe there is even one in your neighborhood. Maybe you are sitting on one right now. Don't look. The shock might be too much.

Anyways, we have the honor of having placed the only geocache in the country of Bangladesh, which, against all odds, (considering that apparently Bangladesh is the only country without geocachers) has actually been found by another visitor to the hospital. At home, we enjoy making little afternoon or evening trips to some nearby caches as a means to get some exercise, get some fresh air, and discover all sorts of fun nooks and crannies in our town that we would have never found otherwise.

Last night, I (Eric) went out with friends Kyle and Carlan, for a bike journey into a nearby town, where we picked up a number of fun caches, including one under a bridge in the form of a troll doll (one of those scary things from the early '90s) which, upon removal of its head, a log book was found where you can sign your name. We discovered lots of new places in the nearby picturesque and poorly named town of Saline, and all in all had a great time, even when Carlan and I took a wrong turn and had to wait for Kyle to come and rescue us.

Psychology of Free, Part II: REI Grand Opening

A momentous occassion has come to Ann Arbor, and with it a curious event in our psyches. REI, outfitters extraordinaire, has opened a new store. A lively college town like ours has had this coming for quite some time.

The deal: For the first three days it was open, if you were one of the first 200 people through the door, an REI water bottle and a gift card (valued $5-100) was yours for the taking. Certain friends of ours, who will remain nameless but linkable (and who are expecting a baby girl in August) had a similar situation in another city, and collected 6 water bottles altogether.

We're not that hardcore. But we wish we were. Rachel came two mornings, the first when she had been up all night at work. Eric came the second morning, when he had been up all night at work. We stood in line, enjoyed yummy free breakfast, met up with our friends Kyle and Carlan, and enjoyed the fresh air the way that REI patrons are meant to. Later, our friends Josh and Lisa also came by (all these friends having been present to celebrate Pi Day, and thus very "cool" people). In the end, we were 3 water bottles and 3 gift cards (valued in total $35) for the good, and have a pretty good story to go with it. Was this a waste of our time? Of course not. Didn't you just read all the stuff we got for free?