Focaccia Love

Ethnic bread of the month for July travels back across the pond. When we first started this yearlong resolution, we had certain breads in mind, most of which we have accomplished by now, and so we had to go fishing on allrecipes.com for some other recipes.

We ran across this focaccia recipe, which turned out quite well. Probably the best part about it (aside from its yummyness) is that, being a pseudo-flatbread, it only rises for 25-30 minutes and is thus considerably quicker for an overall flour-to-mouth time.

We found a number of other fun recipes, and for those wondering how the selection takes places, the following facts are positive predictors:

1. Having the name of a country in the bread title, especially if outside Europe (e.g. Armenia)
2. Having an association with an ancient cultural tradition associated with it (e.g. Armenian Easter Bread)
3. Containing an ingredient that we need to go and get, because we've never heard of it, extra points if you have to go to an international market to procure said ingredient. (e.g. Mahleb in Choereg, the Armenian Easter Bread)

Tune in next month, when we might just make Armenian Easter Bread.


German Board Games

Years ago, when I first moved to Michigan, Jay Dykstra and John Cropsey were in the business of insinuating themselves into frienships with new med students via engaging them in a German board game I had never heard of, called "Settlers of Catan." It was a glorious moment as I played my first game, though John led me astray and within 10 minutes of starting, it was evident my chances of winning were shot. I intend to remind him of this all through our upcoming decades of African life.

The wives of the above gentleman et al. were not big on this game. When I was first getting to know Rachel more, she sent me an excited email, asking if I had ever played a great game called "Settlers of Catan". I knew I had found an amazing woman. (So did all of my friends.)

Spiel des Jahres (German for "Game of the Year") is a distinctive prize that bears a seal found on the front of this game, and over the years, we have learned never to underestimate this accomplishment. A few years after Catan, "Carcassonne" took the prize, which has entertained us on multiple continents. In 2004, a new game called "Ticket to Ride" won, and Clayton and Teresa introduced us to this last Christmas. We dreamed about it for six months, and then Rachel bought it for my birthday present. Hours of fun, even though the Germans are a bit off on some of the finer points of American geography (like the fact that Maine is part of the US, and that Chicago is NOT in Indiana). You can even print off other international maps online, and last night the Faders had us over to play the North Africa version.



Foolish as we were, we have no pictures of this event, but we wanted to mention that our good friend, Irene Ng, who shared 5 years of our Ann Arbor time while she was studying Social Work and Economics, but since has moved back to her home in Singapore. She was back for a few weeks doing some research, and we were among the super priveleged who got to spend time with her. We had lunch with her and Eunice on Sunday, and then she came over on Tuesday to eat some fresh veggies and learn a new German Board Game. One of my favorite things about the circle of friends in which I met Irene was that every person had such a unique perspective from their own field of study. As Irene indulged us with a layman's description of the research she's doing on youth crime patterns in Michigan, I remembered just how much I miss it. And she was the one to tell me that I peel bananas "right-side up", in other words the same way as Asians (and monkeys, for that matter) and opposite from other Westerners.


Love as a Way of Life

I've recently been reading Gary Chapman's new book, "Love as a Way of Life." If that name sounds familiar to you, he's also the author of the famous "Love Languages" concept and book, which detail the five primary ways people show love to each other (personal touch, gifts, time, word of affirmation, and service). I suppose this is a sort of follow up book to that idea...not just how we show love, but why we show love, and how to make love more a part of your every day life. He used a number of stories from his counselling experience to talk about things like kindness, courtesy, patience, forgiveness, etc. Now, these are not new and unique concepts, and he didn't write about anything particularly earth shattering, but as Eric likes the Rich Mullins quote, "the old old story bears repeating."

It got me thinking about how I express love in my own life. Every chapter Dr. Chapman writes starts out with a little quiz, basically to demonstrate how far we fall from the ideal demonstration of, for example, kindness. I've got a long way to go. And I know that, but maybe God uses these little reminders to keep nudging me in the right direction. Am I being salt and light in my workplace? Because probably the best way to do that is to really love others, and be an example of God's love. When I get impatient with my fellow staff members, how does that serve to color their view of God....if I erally profess to be a Christian? What about not showing courtesy to my patients, some of whom are really the "least of these"?

Anyway, it was all a good reminder. I did get the book for free (the lastest in our blog reviewer series). If you're interested, I have an extra copy, or you can find more info here.



We're thinking of hosting an event called "Cilantro Fest" and opening a themepark called "Zuch World". So post or send us your recipes, because we'll be needing them.

Betsy ten Boom and Delays in Auto Care

Last year, I was caring for an eldery schizophrenic gentleman in my clinic, and to make a very long story short, a very cancer-looking mass was found in his lungs, necessitating quite a bit of testing. To make an even longer story short, this was emotionally taxing on him, and then his parents planted a concern in him that his "white doctors" were only interested in using him as a medical "guinea pig". Months of letters and phone calls ensued, but he never came to see me again. Instead, the cancer has presumably just been left to keep growing. This is certainly his choice, but I've always regretted the misunderstandings under which the decision was formed.

A few months ago, as I was exiting the bus, I looked up, and there he was. I greeted him and shook his hand, and he smiled warmly back, but as the bus was waiting on me, I had to exit. I've been looking for him since, but no avail.

This month, Fridays are my day off. This isn't great for social events, but it is nice for getting things done during business hours, and so I dropped my car off to get the oil changed. A series of delays which were largely the result of inexplicably foolish moves on my part then took place, creating a 2-hr delay before I boarded the bus to go home to await the end of my auto maintenance. I sat down, regretting how I had spent the hours of my only day off, and then glanced back in the bus, and there was my friend.

I went back and sat down next to him. Since our last meeting, I've concluded that the only role I have left is to let him know that I am here to help in any way I can. His desire not to treat his underlying disease is his. Plus, I certainly wouldn't engage that topic on a public bus. So, we chatted about taking the bus and the Ann Arbor Art Fair. He asked about my family and was surprised to learn I was married. I was surprised to learn that he had 5 children and 13 grandchildren. He's worried about his twin brother, but his mother is doing fine, and he sees them at church every week.

There's a memorable part of The Hiding Place, where Betsy ten Boom tells Corrie that they must thank God for every part of their concentration camp experience. Corrie is empathetic, but draws the line when Betsy wants to thank God for the lice infestation. Later on, they discover that the reason the guards stayed out of their bunk, enabling them to minister Christ's love so openly to their fellow prisoners, was the lice. Then, the thanksgiving came easily.

Certainly I do not begin to compare the magnitudes of misfortune. Yet I was reminded today that we are small and limited in our understanding of our own life events. The New Testament teaches that God redeems suffering, that the ultimate destination is good. In daily life, this seems unlikely, but it is at the very least possible since we do not know the entire story. God may just be revealing the truth, and the foolish delays in car care may in fact be the means to a conversation I've been seeking out for almost twelve months. Just maybe, the lice can be a means of blessing and a reason for gratitude.


Munchausen's Syndrome

There was a fascinatingly awful patient care experience last month that I've been waiting to say something about. Maybe it would have been interesting to see what I would have said in the heat of the actual experience, but I'm trusting that a little emotional distance will provide some better perspective.

Late one night during my shifts last month, a woman was admitted to the hospital with trouble breathing and chest pain. (Obviously, this woman's name and any identifying info will be omitted or changed.) As I looked into her medical record, I found something that I had only heard about before, namely Munchausen's Syndrome.

This syndrome was named after the good Baron von Munchausen, pictured in a bust above, who apparently was famous for telling wild adventure stories from his travels that all turned out to be lies. The medical diagnosis that bears his name involves patients that have no underlying medical problem, but desparately desire to be a patient. Often, they will do some ill to themselves in order to be treated for something, and many times the more severe the treatment the better. They often have a medical background of some kind, travel from hospital to hospital, show up with wild problems, and always desire some very invasive treatment plan. You hear stories about this diagnosis in medical school, but obviously it should never become a label unless it is very well substantiated, since it will dramatically affect how future care is provided. Note that this is different from "I have lots of pain, doctor, and I need narcotics." Narcs can make you high and you can sell them. There is no secondary gain for a Munchausen's patient except to get to be in the "patient role".

So my patient was admitted to our hospital 6 months ago with abdominal pain and found to have air inside her abdomen, usually a very ominous sign of a perforated bowel or something equally dangerous. She was taken to the OR, where surgery found no source for this, but did evacuate out acetone-smelling fluid that, after much investigation, was concluded to be some cleaning solution that the patient had injected into her own abdomen. She got better. Then the story broke, through her husband, that she had multiple underlying psychiatric diagnoses (all of which she denies to this day and refuses treatment for) and had been to many other hospitals with bizarres stories in the past.

So for the next several nights, I would be repeatedly paged with reported problems from this patient, for all of which she desired something to be done to her. She "vomited over 200 times" (none of which were witnessed or have made her at all dehydrated by our testing), so she "really needed an NG tube (tube through the nose to the stomach) and a PICC line (super IV that goes into the vena cava)". She held her urination until we were forced to catheterize her, lest her bladder burst, and then she asked for a larger bore catheter. On and on it went. We tried to discharge her, and she petitioned Medicare to let her stay until her case was reviewed to see if there was any reason for her to stay in the hospital. They said no, and she finally went home.

The bizarre nature of this is probably evident to everyone, but the hardest part for me was a suppression of every instinct that I've garnered since starting medical training. We are trained to seek out problems as clues to some disease or malfunction of the body, and to never ignore a patient's problem. Here, these very instincts will contribute to making the patient sicker and sicker and perpetuating her problem, when what she really needed was to go home and be out of range of some medical intervention.

I don't know if this rings of a lack of compassion. I hope not. Patients most often have a quite notable instinct as to what they need for their own health, but there are unfortunately many people (not just people with impossible-to-treat psychiatric disease) who think some thing is what they need, when I am convinced that it just adds to their problem. These are always difficult times, since I must act for their best interest, whether they believe it to be or not.

Rushing in where angels fear to tread? I pray never. God, give your grace, your light, your healing.

Phrases That Now Make Sense - Part II

A few months ago, we talked about how Eric's adventures in dentistry brought the truth of the phrase "like pulling teeth" into reality. Eric was amazed the other day at how dill has overtaken our community garden. We had thought about planting some, which would have been purposeless, since we have actually just been pulling it up all year long thus far.

Eric: "Wow, this stuff is amazing. It grows like crazy."

Rachel: "Yeah. Well, it is called 'dill weed.'"

Eric: "Oh. Right."

So if you want some dill, let us know. Seriously, the stuff in the picture above got pitched in the compost. What does one do with such a quantity of dill? Even outside the garden boundaries proper, in the public park, it's erupting with all the enthusiasm due it's name.


Derek Webb et al have started a fascinating new music website where entire albums are available for download. You can email a few friends or pay what you want. I normally wouldn't just advertise here, but I did download 6 albums for free, and I figure a number of people who read this might be interested. Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Waterdeep, Matthew Perryman Jones and others... here's the link.


Tyler Blanski Rocks

Eric's cousin Tyler has put out his first disc, and we picked up a copy via iTunes a few days ago and have been enjoying it ever since. It's always hard to read one's own biases, but it is safe to venture that we would have enjoyed it quite a lot even if we weren't related to the artist.

Tyler: guitarist, singer/songwriter, painter, author, and all-around thoughtful bloke. You can follow the link to his site and see some ofo his artwork as well as order some goods, or purchase it on iTunes.

His record is teeming with catchy acoustic guitar rifts, lyrical pictures, and quite a bit of Tyler's harmonica, making the comparison to Dylan the first that pops into mind. David Gray, Waterdeep, and Paul Simon are also somewhere in the same vein. The production quality is excellent, and I don't know if it's self-produced, but if so, then all the more impressive. And his record company, Ezekial Records, apparently sends 10% of proceeds to developing clean drinking water for needy populations. Nice.

All around solid work. Somehow, I guess we blinked and he became a professional rocker. Oh well. Good work, Tyler.


Introducing Brian and Jena Beise

Last weekend was the final McLaughlin wedding. And after 4 weddings in 36 months, I'm sure there will be a couple sighs of relief, but this in no way detracted from the celebration from Jena and Brian's lovely day. Also fittingly, the ceremony and reception were held at Camp Widjiwagan in Nashville, where all 4 McLaughlin kids have put in a total of 11 summers. It's been fun to see the nuances of each ceremony capture the differences in each family member. It was a whirlwind trip in and out of town for us, but we were blessed to be there and to see (however briefly) so many of our family members.

Lettuce? Yes, Let Us.

The first of the major harvests from the garden has begun. We didn't plant lettuce last year, thinking we didn't have the room, but we envied the super-gardeners next to us who did. This year, with a plot twice as big, lettuce (mixed varieties) and spinach were high on the docket. The amazing part is how fast they grow. We probably could have done a full harvest within 5 weeks of planting, but what would we do with all that lettuce?

So we've been eating a lot of salad. Dinner tonight? How about a salad? Breakfast? Maybe a salad. Do we take milk in our tea? Not anymore, just salad. July has arrived, and we're revelling in our evenings being free, so invite us over, or we'd love to have you over. We'll provide the salad.


June: Ethnic Bread Comes Home

It is often assumed that the term "ethnic" excludes those things of one's own culture. We would like to go on record by saying that we disagree, and in fact, the good ole' USA has a rich ethnicity of its own.

In order to commemorate this, Ethnic Bread of June (which actually was started July 1, which goes to say how overly busy June was) is the New Yorker's No-Knead Bread. Lisa Stracks, baking meisteress, passed this recipe on a while ago, and man, is it tasty...

The unique thing is that no kneading is required. This was obviously also the case for the tortillas, but note the presence of a substantial fluffyness above. How does one achieve just fluff without kneading? The answer is apparently that you let time accomplish what kneading would have otherwise. This bread rose for almost 24 hrs prior to baking. So if you're lazy and won't be around for a while, the bread for you has arrived. Thanks, Lisa! The recipe and the story behind it are found here.


Poll Results

Those of you who voted for our vacation have spoken: A tie for Peru and Maine/Nova Scotia, with a couple people for Greece, and a couple people concerned about the tone of our voices. We'll see...

The Last of a Long Line

Our human condition has an amazingly innate resistance to the idea that time does, in fact, pass. Anything difficult seems that it will last forever despite repeated assurances (even from yourself and to yourself) that "this too shall pass".

So tonight is the last of my night shifts, and tomorrow I start back on days for the next several months. Rachel has been doing all she can to spur me on to endurance, but I've still felt it dragging. Now, at the end, "good riddance" is definitely the prevailing thought. However, I did find some unexpected encouragement this morning in the Psalms (#134):

"Praise the Lord, you servants of the Lord, who minister by night in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. May the Lord, who made heaven and earth, bless you from Zion."

As Eugene Peterson asserts, if worship was ever to be slovenly, it would be by the priests at 3 a.m. And maybe our hearts will be sagging, and maybe we can't help that, but we do have control of our limbs, so raise your hands and praise the Lord.