Three Years Later

...and still going strong.



A discussion on the Rabbit Room led me to this site, a fascinating collection of one-sentence stories. Enjoy. (Disclaimer: a few are indeed off-color.)


Christmas Letter 2008

As the year winds to a close and Eric and I prepare to celebrate three years of marriage together, we pause and look back to yet another whirlwind year in our lives. Instead of going chronologically this year, I think we’ll start with biggest news first.

In case you haven’t heard, we’re expecting the birth of our first child—a girl—on April 29, 2009 (or thereabouts)! Despite all of my worries and paranoia (no doubt due to the fact that I’m an obstetrics/gynecology resident) it has been an uneventful pregnancy thus far. The timing is really just about perfect—I can take the month of May off and then finish up with a few weeks of residency in June before finally graduating from residency! Eric, too, graduates from his family practice residency in June.

That leads us to our next biggest news: what we’re doing after residency. Most of you already know that we have planned on working internationally for some time, and those plans haven’t changed (even with a new baby). In fact, we have been accepted to a program through an organization called World Medical Mission/Samaritan’s Purse. They will place us with mentoring physicians in our specialties and help fund us for the first two years of medical work. Then it’s up to us to find a long term agency or job in which to work. We will be heading to Tenwek Hospital in western Kenya (east Africa) sometime around October 2009 for a two year commitment. Going with us are two other couples from our church, Jason & Heather Fader (a general surgeon) and John & Jessica Cropsey (ophthalmology/eyes). We hope to develop a long term partnership with them and work together for years to come. Just FYI, the hospital is located in some beautiful mountains, not far from many fantastic game parks, for whoever wants to visit. J

The rest of the year has been full of fun family meetings and vacations. Eric’s youngest sister Jena got married in June in Nashville and we were able to be a part of that wedding. Rachel’s grandparents celebrated 60 years of marriage this fall and had a nice family dinner in honor of all those years! We also traveled to Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, Louisville, and Chattanooga (for a multi-day canoe trip). Our big vacation, and last as a childless couple, was to Montreal and Quebec for a few days of “European” Canada, and then to Maine and Acadia National Park, where we enjoyed lots of camping, biking, and cheap lobster! All that interspersed with months of working primarily night shifts left us pretty busy, but grateful of all the opportunities to see friends and family.

We look back on the year, and in fact our five years together, with joy at all of the blessings we’ve received. And we look to the future, and all the promises it holds of God’s continued leading and faithfulness. Truly we can say again, as we have in the past, “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” –Psalm 126:3. May you also know the joy of the Lord’s faithfulness in your lives. Much love,

Rachel, Eric, and B.G. (baby girl) McLaughlin



40% of poll respondents were correct. This, our lovely baby girl, is in fact, our baby girl. Wow. All is well.

Sara Groves

A few months ago, Andrew Peterson posted a song by Sara Groves on his Rabbit Room site, that I keep coming back to and listening to, getting more out of it each time I listen. So I figured I'd spread the love. "How It Matters"


Holiday Brot

There now, doesn't that look seasonal? The first of our two new year's resolutions was officially accomplished last weekend, as we made a nice cinnamon raisin walnut bread. Very nice, not really ethnic, but quite seasonal, and quite tasty. The recipe is in Betty Crocker, and so I don't have the link, but we do recommend it. The bow is optional.


Vote for Baby!

Our 20-week ultrasound in next Tuesday 12/16. We thought it would be fun to wait until delivery to find out gender, but Rachel being the ultrasound-fiend that she is, we decided to find out on purpose, instead of accidentally. So cast your vote above. Eric dreamed the baby was a girl. Rachel dreamed the baby was a boy. (Yes, we realize the blog poll on this issue is a copy of Clayton and Teresa. So be it.)

n.b. Eric's parents do NOT want to know the gender. Use gender-non-specific pronouns in their presence. Do NOT show them the blue or pink items you think would go well with etc...


Over The Rhine

One of our favorite bands has one of our favorite Christmas albums up on line for a complete listen, and we highly recommend it. Click on the link, click on the "record player", listen to your hearts content, and maybe think about buying it for a friends Christmas present. A friend named Eric or Rachel.


Bulldozers in the Yard

Most people think of November and December as the holiday season. But as anyone in residency, or their last year of medical school, will tell you, it's actually interview season. Every Thursday night and Friday another dozen bright-eyed medical students interested in delivering babies for the rest of their lives converge upon my residency program and they try to impress us, while we try to impress them. Part of the impressing comes in the form of a different resident hosting a nice catered dinner in their home every Thursday night before the interviews officially start. This Thursday night was my turn.

Eric and I spent much time preparing the house on Wednesday. We put up the tree, cleaned, decorated, made sure the Indian food (yummy naan and tikka masala) was properly ordered, bought the apple cider, etc etc. I rushed home from work on Thursday to put the apple cider to heat in the crock pot. Three blocks before I arrived, Eric called to tell me he would be rather late, as he had gotten stuck at work. Anything he said after that was lost as I stared in amazement at my front yard as I drove past. There was a large truck w/ a flatbed trailer taking up all the parking space in front of the house, and . . . what?! A bulldozer in my front yard! Eek!

Apparently three separate neighbors had called the gas company earlier in the afternoon because they could smell a gas leak outside our house. Fortunately, the leak was entirely outside. UNfortunately, the leak was located underneath our front lawn. This may not mean much, but for the last 2 1/2 years, Eric and I have waged a battle to magically get grass to grow in our (very shady) front yard. We have reseeded 3-4times. I kid you not, it has been maybe four weeks since we were raking leaves and I commented how it finally looked like we were getting a modest amount of grass to grow, and how this was a major improvement from when we bought the house, AND how nice it would look when we put our house on the market in a few months. Sigh. I guess we should just be grateful that our house didn't blow up.

To make matters worse, the gas to our house was turned off for about four hours. We have a gas-powered boiler. Translation: it was very cold inside our house. But, all's well that ends well. The heat turned on 15 minutes before people arrived, and most people could just keep their coats on for the first hour until the house warmed up a bit. The bulldozer and trailer left before people arrived. The Indian food was tasty. The cider was....lukewarm, but still tasty. The gas line is fixed. And our lawn, well, WE bought the house when there was no grass in the front yard, so maybe someone else will do the same. :)


Trimming the Tannenbaum

This week we continued our tradition of the Scotch Pine decorating. We poured a couple glasses of egg nog, turned up the Bing Crosby, pulled the Christmas box (singular) out of storage, and set to work. Apparently, egg nog and Bing are a combination for a wild time, as seen below.

Yet the tree found it's way to full decoration, where it has been enjoyed by all.

Stories From Thanksgiving #3

Getting to see lots of family meant that our baby got lots of presents. Thank you all so much. Here's the gender-neutral baby quilt my mom made (note: no boxer shorts were used in the making of this quilt).

By the way, the baby is officially kicking.

Stories from Thanksgiving #2

Thanksgiving Day was a balmy 60 degrees or so in Tennessee, and the women-folk decided to go for a stroll in the neighborhood. Brian, my dad, and I decided to stay back and test our relative masculinities in the form of foose-ball. But this was swiftly interrupted by a call from the women.

A snake (a good 4' long probably) was hanging out in the neighboring grass. Having recently been certified as an official "MacGyver Medicine" practitioner, I was ready to tell the populace whether this one looked toxic. Basically, if the head looks mean, stay away from it. The problem, I discovered, is that it's hard to really study the head well from a safe distance. So, better safe than sorry, and my dad threw down a shovel a few times, ending the snake's life prematurely. Everyone looked at him with awe, and we walked home...with much thanksgiving.

And thus, no matter how many times I beat him at foose-ball, his snake-killing trumped my masculinity.


Stories From Thanksgiving #1

My mom, Rachel, and I are sitting on the front porch. It goes that, several weeks ago, my sister Sami and her husband Jonathan were home.

Jonathan: "Sharon, I was wondering if you could make a guitar strap for me."

Mom: "Sure, I guess."

Sami: "Jonathan, tell her what you want her to make it from."

Jonathan: "Umm," (pregnant pause) "from my boxer shorts."

And she did, and apparently all parties were quite impressed with the result. I have to wonder where this idea came from in the first place? I might feel strange telling the world about this, but Jonathan apparently announced it from the stage a couple weeks ago, whilst trying to kill time with his (and Brian's) band Concerning Lions.

My mom offered to make me a quilt out of my boxers, but I passed. Good to be home.



Our running list has been somewhat updated.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy 60th, Dad. Wish we could have been there. See you soon.
(I wonder what Jon D was so happy about?)


Cross-blogging News

We have found a hospital. Amazing...

Missing A2 #4: Eunice

Last night, we went to a U of M concert band performance with our good friend Eunice. As a rule, our list of Missing A2 items does not include people (which is obviously the thing we'll miss the most), but we make an exception here, since Eunice is a wonderful friend, but also an Ann Arbor institution.
Eunice was a missionary linguist to Papua New Guinea for 26 years, and has been back in Ann Arbor for over 20 years now. For years, she hosted boarders in her spare bedroom, including the both of us at various times. For years, she also hosted a lunch group of largely UM grad students from around the world, now disbanded, but resurrected as a Facebook group titled "Eunice's Lunch Bunch".
Eric first met Eunice the very first time he visited Ann Arbor, when he flew in to interview for medical school in 2001. Having ended up next to her sister on the plane from Nashville, Eunice drove him into town the first time he ever came. She has been a friend and mentor, and dinners at her house or a nights out to a music performance will be incredibly missed.



Forgive the grainy quality of these images, but such is the way of ultrasound images, that sometimes you have to use a little imagination. Nevertheless, people ask us how our baby is doing. Well, our most recent look shows that s/he has 5 fingers, on at least one hand. Can you see it? And we included a less detailed, but easier to appreciate image, below. Things are well..



The snow is on the ground. It's not much, but it's enough for Tennessee schools to be out, and for the grocery stores of Nashville to be stripped bare. Here in Michigan, it just signals a change of season.

November is our English Muffin month. Yes, these common breads from across the pond do count as Ethnic Bread of the Month. They turned out well, and are interestingly cooked on a griddle instead of in the oven. Hmm...


All Dressed Up

This past weekend, a few days past Halloween because of scheduling issues, our small group from church hosted a potluck costume party. The rules were set as follows: Your food contribution had to contain a double letter (e.g. jeLLo or souFFle). Your costume had to utilize only items found around your house.
Rachel had great success with a New Guinea spear from Eunice, chopsticks from Cambodia and various Swazi trinkets.

Eric utilized Rachel's MD graduation gown, a shawl from Afghanistan, a couple dress sashes, and some souvenir daggers for a dandy Sikh get-up.

The surplus of weapons did get a bit out of hand.

And here our wonderful small group. Note that some were not as excited about the costume element of our party, though Kelly gets full props for dressing her baby boy up as a pumpkin even before he is born.

For some interesting thoughts on Christians celebrating Halloween, I suggest Thomas' thoughts.

Missing A2 #5: The Arb

When talking to people who are considering moving to A2, I often mention the extensive parks system, since I assume this will be more broadly appreciated, compared to the bus system or the free birthday stuff. The Huron River snakes its way through the city, and all along the way, parks fill the city. Two honorable mentions include the canoe route from Argo to Gallup and Gallup Park itself.

However, first place in our opinion is most definitely the Nichols Arboretum, or "The Arb" for short. This park is an extensive botanical garden/park near the medical center, that is tucked away in such a way that you could go right by it for years without realizing it exists. But when you enter, you find layer upon layer of varied nooks and crannies, and adjoining praries and hills. It reminds me of an garden version of some of the best of the world's cities, where each neighborhood has its distinct features, and years of development have given it a legacy of it's own. One our all-time favorite Ann Arbor activities has been stopping by Bubble Island to get a couple bubble teas, then walking over for a stroll through the Arb.



Congrats to brother-in-law Brian, for getting his short story "Together at Last" published on the online literary magazine Monkey Bicycle. Here's the link. I read it a while back, and it's delightfully quirky. Most of you who check this site would enjoy it, though if any of you understand what he's talking about, let us know. Brian, you can comment if you which, or keep your mystique all to yourself. Congratulations.


Missing A2 #6: Plethora of Restaurants

When Rachel first moved to Ann Arbor, we made a list. We like to make lists. Seeing the bounty of culinary options in our fair small town, we wanted to make sure we were diligent and gave ourselves ample time to sample them all. And we have made good on that, with the notable exceptions of Bella Ciao and West End Grill, which are too expensive, and don't offer anything free on your birthday. Good food, and of almost any variety. So, here we submit some of our favorites. Fellow Ann Arborites, feel free to chime in. (n.b. we are also including venues outside Ann Arbor proper.)

Fine dining: Real Seafood Company, Chop House (overpriced, but fantastic if someone else is paying), Common Grill (in Chelsea, and Rachel has never gotten to go, but we'll amend that), Pacific Rim

Indian: Temptations, Madras Masala

Middle Eastern: Charlie's Mediterranean Cuisine (formerly La Shish, in a blunder of PCness), Ali Baba's, Jerusalem Garden

Ethiopian: Red Sea in Ypsi

Vietnamese: Dalat in Ypsi

Microbrews: Both Grizzly Peak and Arbor Brewing Co.

Cheap Eats: Nothing beats 2 for 1 on Sundays at Moe's, the hot bar at Aladdin's Market, Pea Pod Inn in Ypsi

Thai: Tuptim, and formely Banh Na (R.I.P.)

Pubfare: Ashley's, Sidetrack's in Depot Town


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.


1000 Days

When we were first married, we celebrated anniversaries often. I imagine this is a normal phenomenon. Since we were married on a Saturday, every Saturday was our week X anniversary. Always a reason to celebrate. Since we were married on December 31st, the end of every month was also an anniversary. Every month of the year commemorates some occasion or another.

We don't blog about these, because we'd like to keep at least a few people visiting. However, as of yesterday, we have crossed the 1000 day mark, and we feel that this is worth publicly noting. We initially had big plans (i.e. walking to our restaurant of the month) to celebrate, but these had to take a back seat for some other obligations. However, we have only postponed, and on the 1st of October, we will not only celebrate 1000 days of marriage, but also the final nail in the coffin of Rachel's night float experience in residency. We also calculated last night that we have spent an average of 3 minutes per day watching The Lord of The Rings. Good things are happening, and we are thankful.


30 Years

This past week, my (Eric's) parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. They are currently celebrating with a trip for two up in the Canadian Rockies. We love them very much and are very thankful for the inheritance of such a committed marriage. In honor of this event, I am here posting my favorite family picture to come down the wire for a very long time. It's worth clicking on it to get the enlarged view.


Trailer Medicine

Every summer and fall, my (Eric's) residency program staffs a migrant clinic. Every Thursday night, a few people drive out ~50 minutes or so from Ann Arbor, down a dirt road on the DuRussell Potato Farm, to a couple of trailers, one of which houses the clinic. There the Latino migrant farm workers have a chance to get some convenient health care during the time they're here in Michigan instead of Texas or Florida. Some speak English, some don't. Some have insurance, some don't. Last night was my turn to make the voyage, and I loved it (again). Here's why:

1. It's in a trailer on a potato farm. Anyone who wants to open a clinic in a trailer on a potato farm, please let me know.

2. It's casual. My goal is to practice medicine in a t-shirt. I don't know if I'll accomplish this, since Africa maintains a professional decorum with its traditionalism.

3. HIPPA is... elastic. The faux-wood panel walls between the two exam rooms don't really offer any sound-proofing anyways. The casual nature of the clinic means that the conversation about birth control or your kids' ear infection may continue out into the hallway and all the way to the door of the trailer. And no one (seems to) mind. It reminds me of Africa. Confidentiality can be a boon, and at times, is essential. The flip side, seen here, is that there is a collegiality in a shared experience that is also valuable.

4. The staff is excellent, and are incredibly well-versed in the logistics of what is and is not possible to accomplish for their patients.

Viva la clinica en la trailer en la potato farm!


Road of Lost Innocence

Last month I received an invitation to review a very special book, “The Road of Lost Innocence,” by Somaly Mam. It’s a memoir from an amazing woman who was sold into the sex industry around the age of 12. I jumped at the chance to read it, for several reasons. Many of you may know I spent six weeks in Cambodia in the summer of 2002 after my first year of medical school. I stayed at a guesthouse in Phnom Penh, the capitol city, and traveled down the Mekong River every week with a group of doctors, providing medical care at different clinics by the riverside. My last few weeks in the country, I was able to work at an organization called the White Lotus, a Christian house set up for girls who had left lives of prostitution. At this home the girls were fed and clothed and taught basic skills: literacy, cooking, sewing. Ways to earn a living. I gave a series of talks on health care, topics like hygiene and nutrition and basic diseases. Working, even briefly, with those girls was an experience that I have not forgotten. Human trafficking has gained more awareness in the media in recent years, and for good reason. It is a multi-billion dollar industry second only to drug trafficking in terms of global profits. Over a million children under the age of 18 are sold into sexual slavery every year.
Somaly Mam is able to write a powerful book on this subject because she has lived it. She was abandoned by her parents and grandmother at a young age, and was eventually adopted by a man claiming to be her grandfather, who beat her, enslaved her, and eventually sold her into prostitution. The sad thing about prostitution in Southeast Asia is that it is never a choice of the woman/girl. Families will sell their daughters to a brothel or a pimp for as little as $20. Some claim they think it will provide a better life for their daughter; some just need the money. But as girls as viewed as little more than property, they have no say in their own “sale.”

In “The Road of Lost Innocence,” Somaly relates how she was chained, beaten, raped, and abused for many years. She was thrown into cellars with snakes, or tied to a bed while maggots were poured over her body and into her mouth. After several years of this she eventually met a Frenchman who bought her out of prostitution and married her. She describes her transformation into a more confident young woman, one who eventually found the courage to come back to Phnom Penh and begin buying other girls out of sexual slavery. She founded an organization called AFESIP, which over the years has set up a number of homes and centers throughout Southeast Asia for young girls to come and find healing, and to stay until they can support themselves by some means other than prostitution. The organization recently started a nonprofit foundation, the Somaly Mam Foundation, part of which the profits of this book go towards.

The book is sad and eye opening and powerful, all at the same time. I would highly recommend it as a way to learn about the depravity of humankind, but also the possibility of transformation, and difference that one person can make in changing a seemingly insurmountable problem.

One thing the book does not address…I noticed early on that the book’s title is the Road of Lost Innocence, not the Road to Lost Innocence. For me, it’s an important distinction. She chronicles how she lost her innocence, how many young girls in such a situation lose their innocence, in so many ways. But is there a way back to that innocence? Is there healing, true healing, or just an experience that causes rage and anger and a desire to change things for future generations? I want to say, however naïve it may seem, that there can be a return to lost innocence. There is hope for healing, for newness. “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Rev 21:5) “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17)


The Road Rally

Every year, some nurses from Rachel's hospital, St. Joe's, organize a road rally scavenger hunt. This sounds like a small deal, but trust us, it's not.

Well over 100 people participate, and rivalries persist from year to year. Our first year (3 years ago), we casually joined up with some of Rachel's friends to form "Team X", a team renowned for scavenger hunt prowess (and cheating, but that's a vicious lie). Our ability to solve word problems and answer trivia on a range of topics from the Bible to beer distinguished us, and the leader of the team now reminds us of our obligation to be on his team all the year long.

We always have a great time, and last Saturday was perhaps our last road rally. All 8 of us piled into a giant Excursion and subsequently sped all over the county performing ridiculous tasks (any time Eric has to bowl, it's always ridiculous), visiting graveyards, and making the occassional U-turn. We all ended up at this pub where we picked up a couple door prizes, and headed home, absolutely soaked to the bone. Vive Team X!

The Traditional September Kalacs

We remain faithful to our New Year's Resolution, and wandered just east of the Iron Curtain this month to make Kalacs, which is a Hungarian Cinnamon Roll. It's been quite autumny and rainy here in Michigan for the last week (after not raining at all for 6 weeks), and so we pulled out the space heater to help the bread rise.
Overall, this ranks up there with the naan as one of our most successful breadmakings. Very, very yummy. The recipe makes 2 good sized loaves, and we are still enjoying them. This will definitely be made again, likely when we are back on the same side of the Atlantic as the bread's home country. No, Eric never had bread like this when he sojourned in the land of paprika and Liszt, but if he had, he would have remembered it.


Kid Swapping Conspiracy

This past weekend, we went over to Grand Rapids to see Peter and Sarah Bast, and together we went into Holland, MI, for our med school classmate Matt Nehs' wedding to his new bride Christa. Certainly a good time was had by all.

Peter and Sarah have lived in Temple, TX, for over a year now, and we visited them in January of this year, and got to meet their baby girl Greta. She is cute, well-behaved, and has some very nice pigtails. There's only one problem: She is now not the same baby we saw in January.

I know what you're thinking, that a baby girl can change a lot from 3 months to 1 year old. Of course, they can. We learned all about developmental pediatrics in medical school (regarding the raisin, etc...). Nevertheless, the Greta Bast that we encountered (above), upon closer scrutiny is not the Greta Bast that we met in Texas last January (right). Both Gretas resemble their parents distinctively, but in different ways. Therefore, one must conclude the following: That the Basts had 2 fraternal twin girls, didn't tell anyone, and have been swapping them back and forth. Thus, an extra set of congratulations are in order.

Medical Literacy Research

Funny how some things can take large parts of your time, but you never deem them interesting enough to share with friends.

But in order to give our "real" friends a chance to "really" know what's going on in our lives, I (Eric) will mention my research planning. I'm not by nature or desire a researcher, but every resident in our program has to do a senior project of some kind, and a couple years ago I got fascinated in one particular question in the field of medical literacy. "Do patient's understand medical jargon?" Even more interestingly, "Do physicians know what medical words the general public understands?" My theory is that docs are so far within their realm of work that they don't even know what they knew before they entered medicine, and thus simply telling them "You should avoid medical jargon in talking to patients" is a lost cause, since they don't know what that is.

So I've developed a survey (i.e. quiz) that will be distributed to patients and to physicians, with a goal of then comparing the actual patient responses to physician estimates of how they would do. All of this, of course, if I can get my project approved by the IRB. I don't really feel that I'm posing much risk to my patients with this survey, but we can never be too sure...

Click here for the questions, and test your own jargon knowledge!


Mayoral News

Kwame Kilpatrick has plea bargained and agreed to step down. It even made the front page of BBC news. There's still a lot of injury to the city to answer for, but may better days come for the city of Detroit.



Both of us are back on nights. This will be Rachel's last month (!) and Eric's last extended stint. He's only on for the first half of the month, and gets to take most call from home, when possible.

What Detroit Doesn't Need

For a while now, I've thought of putting up a post regarding an ongoing story in southeast Michigan, for all those of you who are outside the state, and thus most likely blissfully unaware of this saga, though it is the front newspaper story for Detroit more days than not.

Our favorite exclamation for Detroit (recently one of Forbes' Top 10 Fastest Dying US Cities) comes from Michigander Sufjan Stevens: "O Detroit! Lift Up Your Weary Head!" The city has an incredible amount of need. It would seem that almost any willing hand would be a net asset to this city. Instead, they have Kwame Kilpatrick.

Once a rising star and apparently fairly impressive politician, he was elected at the age of 31 to be mayor of Detroit. His first term was scandalized with $210,000 worth of inappropriate charges on the city's dime, including a luxury car for his wife, very expensive champagne, and day spa visits. After this being brought to light, he has paid back $9000 of the charges. Then, he was re-elected for a second term. (Shock and awe.)

The first term now seems like the good ole' days when Kwame was just spending the money needed for schools and healthcare on Moet et Chandon. Since then, the allegations have been marital infidelity, perjury, conspiracy, and murder. The explicit text messages he sent to his staffwoman and "mistress" were the basis for the court case against him. He is the only current mayor of a major US city to be charged with a felony while in office. During this whole circus, he appeared on TV and gave Rachel's personal favorite Kwame-ism: "I won't quit on you, Detroit." Please, Kwame, quit on us.

Last month, he violated the terms of his bond and went to Canada without approval, and thus got landed in jail. Tomorrow, the governor of the state will hold a hearing regarding whether or not to remove him from office. There's more of the story here. The murder allegations are particularly and unsurprisingly disturbing. So, pray for the people of Detroit, and have a little grace for the other political circles that aren't as bad as they could be.


Hitting The Big Time

It was brought to our attention that googling "Eric and Rachel McLaughlin" actually gets someone to us! The first six entries are us. Number Seven is about Rachel McLaughlin, member of "The No Cavity Club", which Rachel may or may not be a part of, but that particular reference is, in fact, not her.

This is quite significant, since we've never been google-ranked so high before. If Rachel is googled separately, the first reference to her is number 6, whereas Eric is buried several pages under other references, especially a UCLA professor of the same name.

An interesting techno-object lesson for being stronger together than apart...


Eric and Rachel Taste of the Wood Ear

Last night we had dinner with our good friend Eunice. Eunice has many friends, and many of these friends are Chinese, who were concerned about the health of her blood. Thus they introduced her to Wood Ear or 木耳, which is apparently healthful for the blood in the Chinese tradition. Without going into detail, it seems to be working out for Eunice in a rather impressive manner.

Though our blood has no issues (that we know of), Eunice decided to make us some of her healthy Wood Ear Soup last night. This is some kind of fungus, sold in a dehydrated form, that blooms out with rehydration, and is then added to whatever dish, and apparently can be eaten with sugar as a dessert (which kind of freaks me out). We had it in a soup with a beef base, tofu, and celery. We have joined the ranks of the Wood Ear Eaters, and boy, do we feel energized!

What does it taste like? Not much, really. It tasted like beef broth. It's more of a texture issue. Imagine a shitake mushroom, but surprisingly sort of crunchy, like not-quite-cooked celery.


Autumn Evelyn Ingalls

born Sunday morning to proud parents, Clayton and Teresa. All is well. See here.

Pain (French for "bread")

In order to commemorate our trip to French Canada (pictured above), we decided to dedicate August's Ethnic Bread of the Month to the frogs. We had wanted to learn some standard Euro breads in addition to our more exotic choices, and we found a pretty easy recipe called "French Bread Rolls To Die For". We weren't particularly interested in dying for bread, but you must admit it sounded attractive. The result: quite tasty, though not as crusty as they look in the picture on the recipe site. We took them over to the Faders and snacked while playing Carcassonne. A good evening by any standard.

When You Go On Vacation For A Week And Were Growing Zucchini

Don't let this happen to you.
(Though Heather Fader gave us a great recipe for just such an oversized squash.)

Book Review with Give-Away

Mark Batterson, a D.C. pastor, has written his second book, entitled "Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God". I was initially reticent to review this, because I thought it was going to be some revision of "Wild at Heart", a book I was thankful for, since it seemed to positively influence many people, but did nothing for me, presumably because I never really felt as though my faith had been emasculated.

Having finished the book, I'm glad I didn't work on that assumption, since the truth is otherwise. This is a book about following God. That's right, big and broad, just like that. I realize that's about as specific as saying 'This is about life,' but I think it's accurate. And healthy, as well, since all of us need times to step back from details and look at the big picture, the broad strokes of where we are and where we're going in our lives. The title takes it's name from a Celtic name of the Holy Spirit, which means "the wild goose", and so Batterson's bent is to constantly remind us that God is not tame, nor is the life he calls his followers to. His style is incredibly conversational and easy to follow, and each chapter ends with thoughtful discussion questions.

Two things he does particularly well:

1. Obscure bible stories. Even after years of reading the bible, Batterson can reference a story that seems completely unfamiliar. Case in point, the title story from his first book "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" (yes, that's in the bible). I also got the privilege of learning about Hezekiah's steward and the key of David, as well as the time when only Saul and Jonathan had swords amongst all the Israelites.

2. Getting inside the biblical story. I wouldn't go as far as putting him in the Buechner/Rich Mullins category on this one, but in that same direction, at least. One example: He discusses how the Israelites were constantly building altars in various places, to remind them of God's work in that point in space. He then takes it further and wonders whether Paul ever returned to the Damascus Road, or David revisited the battleground of his fight with Goliath, or Peter ever rowed out silently on the Sea of Galilee where he briefly walked on water. This kind of creative thinking brings a refreshing light to often told truths.

A word of caution: This guy loves aphorisms. He even finishes the book with about twenty straight bumper-sticker phrases. Good phrases, but ultra-condensed nonetheless. If you want a long, sequential line of thought, don't look for it here. Rather, Batterson is constantly coining phrases, which is not everyone's style, but does make it easy to remember his points.

Overall, a fine book for personal reading, and likely quite useful for a group setting as well.
By the way, I have an extra copy that I can mail to the first one that requests it.


A Child’s View of Heaven

Thus marks the return of the book reviewing blogs. We try not to do it too often for our faithful readers :), but I was approached about some fun books and ideas lately, so here goes one of them. This week is Children’s Book Extravaganza. I received three kids’ books in the mail. Now, I don’t have kids, and I haven’t read kids’ books in many years, but I do have fond memories of many books from my children. Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, The Cat in the Hat, The Hungry Caterpillar, etc etc. I think the key to a good children’s book really lies in the illustrations as much as the words. When you can’t read, it’s all about the pictures, right? Maybe even when you can read…

So my favorite book of the three is called “God Gave Us Heaven,” by Lisa Tawn Bergren. It’s about a little polar bear cub and his father talking about what heaven will be like. Maybe I liked it so much because several months ago, my cousin lost her husband to lung failure and is now in the process of raising their three year old son by herself. And I wonder how in the world you even start to talk about something as abstract and mind blowing as heaven and eternal life. How do you tell you child where his father has gone, in a way that would make any sense at all? Even as an adult I only have vague ideas and concepts about it. I remember when I was little, imagining heaven as a gigantic slab of rock floating in space. It was dark all around, except for the stars. And there were people just milling around, some dangling their feet over the edge. And in the middle of the rock slab was a big building that you could go in to play Nintendo. Quite a view, hm? My new favorite description of heaven is found in C.S. Lewis’s final Narnia book, “The Last Battle.” I cry every time I get to the end because it’s so beautiful. Here’s Lewis’s description of heaven:

"Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among the mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the glass there may have been a looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different — deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked like it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean. It was the unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried: "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia so much is because it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!"(ch. 15)

Anyway, back to the book review, it’s at least a good start in the right direction. And really, relevant for both adults and kids. The other two books are both by Dandi Daley Mackall, entitled “God Loves Me More Than That” and “When God Created My Toes.” They’re both kind of goofy rhyme books about the love that God has for us, on a level that’s probably pretty accessible to kids.