Peter and John

"In the morning of the resurrection the disciples Peter and Johannes on the way to the grave"
-Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)

I was given a post card with this picture on it, from my brother-in-law's father (Jim Beise), and I've been quite taken with it, using it as a bookmark. I'm amazed at how much expression can be captured in a still shot. It also freezes a moment of the gospel story that I often brush over. So, I thought I'd share it with you.



I started a post today, and it ended a bit longer. Since I don't want the baby news too far down on the blog roll, I'll just put a brief excerpt here and you read the rest:

A 35 year old lady with 3 kids at home and no dad anywhere around comes in because she has terrible headaches. She's also overwhelmingly anxious and doesn't sleep well. She has plenty of reason to be anxious, since her oldest son just ran away, she fears her 13 year old daughter may be pregnant, her boyfriend gets abusive sometimes... (read the rest)

Grateful to the Pinch Hitters

In the wake of announcing the first McLaughlin and Selle grandchild (and great-grandchild), we must do homage to the Workman Family, good friends of Eric's parents that have 2 adorable boys, on which my parents have been able to pour all of their pent-up grandparental love for the last several years. I'm sure this has made the up-til-now absence of another McLaughlin generation easier on parents and children alike. Thank you, Workmans. =)



When I was young, I remember coming to that question that every child asks at some point or another. I walked over to my mom, tugged on her pant leg. She looked down inquiringly, and I asked "Mom, what kind of bread do Armenians eat to celebrate Easter?" She smiled with that matronly glance, and fixed her eyes on some far off thought. "One day you'll know for sure," she said, and I swear there was the shadow of a tear in her eye.

A few months ago, the long culmination began, when we came across a recipe for Choereg, or Armenian Easter Bread. The next step was to head to Aladdin's Market in search of mahleb, which we learned is somewhere in the cinnamon/nutmeg genre. Then all that remained was to find a block of time at home, and a ton of butter, and we pulled the above loaves out of our oven. One of our pastors, Bob Lynn, who has visited Armenia a number of times (which, by the way, is an actual country, adjacent to Turkey, with a fascinating history) tells us that their bread is made is meter-long loaves baked in holes in the ground and then stored up in their rafters. Hmm... maybe. But not apparently on Easter.

The above baking experiment had two immediate effects. First, it heated up our kitchen nicely, whilst we wait for a new heater installation starting tomorrow. Second, it gave me the irresistible compulsion to speak about my imaginary childhood on Santorini, except I used a faux-Italian accent to do it. In turn, this had the effect of causing Rachel to reluctantly smile and shake her head woefully.



We'd like to introduce you to our baby. (S)he is approximately 13 weeks old and will be joining us outside the womb on approximately April 29th. (S)he is about the size of a ripe plum currently. We are super excited, and the only reason we haven't told everyone until now is that we're super paranoid doctors. To answer a few of your questions:

1. Rachel is feeling pretty well, better lately but never too bad. She is craving Macaroni & Cheese.
2. We will probably find out gender in December. We thought we might want to let it be a surprise, but Rachel's ultrasound skills are a bit too savvy to make that possible.
3. The baby will likely be about 6 months old when (s)he first travels to Africa.
4. We have already had 4 ultrasounds, 3 of which Rachel has done on herself. If you currently look our baby straight on, you can tell (s)he is in the "I look at a lot like a Roswell alien" phase.

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy" - Ps 126


More Free Music

I just downloaded JJ Heller's newest album for free. She made a plea that, in exchange for her album for free, that we help spread the word, which seemed like a reasonable request. Fun guitar and vocals, back by friends from the Square Peg Alliance (i.e. Ben Shive, Andrew Osenga, Jeremy Casella, etc...)


Missing A2 #7: Washtenaw Dairy

Though the culinary blessings of our fair town are many, this one bears a special mention. I mean, just look at how tranquil that cow appears. In just such a tranquility are we, after partaking of the final perfection of that's cow's milk.

Ann Arbor has a number of fine ice cream institutions, and a few of them local. What sets apart this place?

1. It's in the middle of a neighborhood, and by ice-creaming there, you get much more of a sense of partaking in the community.
2. It's about 1/2 as expensive as Ben & Jerry's, Stucchi's, Kilwin's, ColdStone, etc.
3. The portion sizes are... expansive. While Eric has continues to indulge his low BMI in a traditional "single" serving (at least a double anywhere else), Rachel has admitted that only a glutton like her husband can really justify that, and has recently been opting for the junior size. We did actually witness a friend order the double once (he thought that's what everyone else was getting, though they were only getting singles). It was ridiculous, and a bowl had to be obtained, since one can balance that on a cone, if skillful enough, but you'll never get it into your mouth.

The local debate as to the premium ice cream venue in Ann Arbor will likely rage on foolishly into posterity, but our choice has been made.



Here's a scenario oft repeated in our daily lives, which I'm writing about now for an emotional outlet as much as anything:

A 35 year old lady with 3 kids at home and no dad anywhere around comes in because she has terrible headaches. She's also overwhelmingly anxious and doesn't sleep well. She has plenty of reason to be anxious, since her oldest son just ran away, she fears her 13 year old daughter may be pregnant, her boyfriend gets abusive sometimes, and she is inches away from not being able to cover her heating bill next month. She wants to sleep. She wants to have her head feel better. She wants her life to be much different than it is, in a myriad of ways.

I think I saw variations on this theme at least 3 times just this morning. After asking some questions and examining her to ensure that these headaches aren't from something more dangerous than painful, we're down to figuring out how to control her symptoms. There are a number of medications that can aid in control of head pain, back pain, any kind of pain, but sometimes patients say they don't get any or enough benefit. Sometimes insurance doesn't cover them either. For anxiety, there are some pretty good, cheap medicines, but they don't act right away, and many patients want to feel better now. (n.b. I totally agree with those who want to utilize non-medicine solutions to the above problems, but that's another discussion.) So often it comes down to narcotics for pain and benzodiazepines (valium, ativan, etc) for anxiety.

She's tried lots of things in the past, she says, and feels that these last options are all that works for her. I pause. True, I think, for some people, they are useful. However, these medicines are in the control of a prescriber like myself for some reason, and I can only assume it's because of my experience. Because I've seen what she hasn't, which is people ten years down the road, taking truckloads of narcotics and still not feeling better. In the meantime, the side effects pile up and they get sicker. I've seen women beaten up by the boyfriends in order to take their anxiety medicine and sell it or share it at their next party.

And so I've come to conclude that our desire to get benefit now sometimes results in harm later. This is driven by docs and patients alike, because neither of us, unless totally empty of empathy, want these terrible experiences to persist any longer. So we look for the quickest relief. And often the quick-relief medicines don't continue to work as well as they once did, so we use more and more. I've been trying to explain to people that our eyes ought first to be on long-term function and success rather than on short term fixes and patch jobs. This isn't received well.

Why isn't it received well? Is it just our human weakness? We don't want to put up with anything? Maybe. In fact, that's my first thought and maybe still my primary thought. But then the other day, these issues washed over me again... 5 years from now? 10 years? How does one focus on those goals when you feel you'll never make it into next month? Maybe I'll be a wreck in 10 years, but at least then my kids will be out of the house, and not depending on a mom who's a nervous wreck and incapacitated by headaches... This line of thinking isn't human weakness. Maybe it's wisdom, wisdom to spend your health today, since the future isn't guaranteed regardless.

And I don't have an answer. I don't have an answer, and it matters terribly to lots of people, and lots of families. God, help me. I'm convinced you alone have the answer, and without your guidance, we will continue to walk in darkness.


Missing A2 #8: AATA

AATA, a.k.a. The Ride, a.k.a. the local bus system, continues to be a boon, even though gas is amazingly dipping below $3 this past week. Last night, fellow McCropder Jason Fader, recently returned from Liberia, called and asked about staying with our family in Nashville while he takes his surgery boards. "Sure, but they live about 20 minutes outside of downtown." "Hmm... is there a bus line close by I could take into the city?" "Uh....no. Definitely no."

Having such an extension option for mass transit in a city of 100,000 people is a rarity, and a very distinguishing feature of our fair town. Within walking distance of our house, we can reach 3 buslines easily, which will take us to almost anywhere in Ann Arbor.

It is also worth mentioning that this bus-riding has affording very interesting sociological observations, which have been chronicled previously (e.g. here). I'm sure that we will end up riding some buses in the future in Africa, and we will likely look back at the current spaciousness, convenience, and lack of heavily scented livestock with fond memories.


Book Review: Churched

I was excited at the chance to review this new memoir (of sorts) from Matthew Paul Turner for two reasons: first, it sounded funny, and secondly, he lives in Nashville. My twelve years during especially formative years were spent in the buckle of the bible belt, and I've heard little in the way of organized social commentary on it.

Turner winds through his childhood memories of being a part of a very fundamentalist church, from his first time visiting the church, when he enjoyed the smell of the floors, to his graduation where he is given the uneasy distinction of "most Christ-like". It's a very enjoyable read, and will cause most kids who grew up in the church to recall memories that might have lain buried for many years. In particular, his stories of burning a barbie in Sunday School to simulate hell and of his friend's mom's heroic attempts to block the dirty parts of Ben Hur, are particularly enjoyable.

It does give you pause as to the nature of your own upbringing and inevitably asks how one should bring up kids within Christian families. It's an important question, and the manner in which Turner exposes the blunders of his own childhood magnifies this. He does occassionally peel back the fundamentalist veneer to expose some of the true hopes and motivations behind those people in his life who were the most well-meaning. However, there is no conclusion that lends to a useful solution, and the reader is left to their own in order to find the suitable alternative. A brief epilogue gives some concluding reflections, but Turner gives the overall impression that he is still wrestling with synthesizing all these experiences. It's possible that the writing experience was cathartic for the author, and it will be entertaining and somewhat thought-provoking for the reader, but a few more years of deliberation and growth might bring about some conclusion and application that would bring the optimal response to this story.

Here's the link.

Missing A2 #9: Birthday Deals

For those who have followed this blog (or even talked with us with any regularity) over the last several years, there is not too much more to say regarding the glory of Ann Arbor Birthday Deals.

I'm sure that many cities have a manifold of various ways to get local businesses to celebrate your birthday with you, but how many of them have a website dedicated to such deals? We usually try to celebrate our birthdays with the company of at least 6 local venues. And the spirit of celebration unsurprisingly increases in proportion. So, before your next birthday (at least 3 weeks before, see website link above), make sure you avail yourself.


Missing A2: #10 The Dollar Theater

What do "King Kong" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" have in common? Well, lots of things, actually. But foremost among them is that we would have been very sad to pay full price for either movie, but instead we saw them at our local dollar theater, and we were satisfied.

In Ann Arbor's only shopping mall, there is a small and very ghetto theater where there is no stadium seating, broken chairs, and the stickiest floors you can imagine. In short, it is straight out of 1989.

And so are the prices. Even better, in fact. $1 for matinees, $1.75 in the evenings, and all day Tuesdays $0.50, which makes Tuesdays "Movie Night". Ne'er a summer blockbuster has been missed by us since the discovery of this gem (though we have ne'er seen a summer blockbuster during the actual summer, either). And even the terrible ones have been worth $0.50, with the exception of Borat, which we probably shouldn't have seen at all. If you live in the area, you need to bookmark this website. If you don't, you need to mourn the absence of such a venue in your area, as we will surely do in another nine months.

What We Will Miss in Ann Arbor

Amazingly, what will be a total of 7 years for Eric and 4 years for Rachel in the city of Ann Arbor, is only about 9 months from ending. This has given us pause to consider what are the things we'll miss the most, and what are the things we want to take advantage of before leaving.

Of course, all of our friends here will be what we miss the most. But, the city itself has been a great time, and so in the spirit of Clayton and Teresa re: Nashville and Pittsburgh, we're going to have a series of post on the Top Ten Things We'll Miss About Ann Arbor. Stay tuned.


Eric Joins The Free Music Revolution

Just FYI, I think I figured out how to let people download my songs. This is, of course, free. Enjoy. I've added the link permanently just below the player on the left sidebar.


Music Downloads

Andrew Osenga (formerly of The Normals and now of Caedmon's Call) has done two short albums of songs written based on suggestions from his fans. The best part is that you can download them for free or pay what you want. There are some great tunes in there. Click here.

Fall Apples

A couple photos from our annual apple-picking foray. Will this be our last time to pick apples for quite a while? Probably. And it good time it was. We continue to discover new varieties every year. We're not going for all of the Big Five of Michigan fruit picking this year. (see last year) However, we did get strawberries, blueberries, and apples. Thanks to the Rockes for joining us.

It must be said that apple picking is really secondary to the real activity, which is the post-picking consumption of fresh cider and apple cinnamon donuts. So good. I think the expression on Rachel's face really says it all.