Goodbye Gallup

We have officially finished our sojourn in Gallup, NM. We are currently in Phoenix for a couple days, then will start off across the great nation of Texas, back to Tennessee. 1 1/2 weeks until African departure.

Ye faithful blog readers are likely aware that some aspects of our time in Gallup were difficult (including the departure delay that the entire time represented). We continue to think about the reason for this time. Yet, as we leave, there are some things we will miss:

-The Gallup Flea Market
-Yummy Fry Bread
-The Red Rock
-The Payson Mountains on the way down to Phoenix
-The Patience of Navajo Patients
-The Excellent Staff that Eric got to Work With and Enjoy

Thanks to those who helped us on our way. We are, indeed, now on our way...

Book Review Brings The Bacon

Now that we're moving to Kenya, our periodic blog book reviews for Multnomah publishing will likely come to an end, so we're now free agents, and boy are we in demand!

Andrew Peterson, whose books were the first and decidedly best books we reviewed, is the proprietor of a website known as the Rabbit Room, which has, among other things, discussions of some fine books, and they have invited their readers to post their own reviews.

The good news is that now we can review awesome books, and I posted my thoughts on the Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and was fortunate enough to capture their first weekly prize for most beloved review (though I'm not quite sure many other reviews were posted). Anyway, we scored a special edition of Andrew's Christmas album, which is certainly one of the best we have ever enjoyed, and plus I got props on one of my favorite websites. Behold, the props and the review!


Miniature Disasters

Sometimes people ask us if Maggie ever cries. Of course, the answer is yes. She just has her "public face" and her "private face," and tends to be happier in social situations. When nap time is approaching (or has already come and gone), the crying tends to emerge. I'd like to share one such example that happened yesterday, and centers around the discount stroller we purchased at WalMart during our first few days here (only $12!).

Yesterday Maggie and I drove up to the hospital to visit Eric during his lunch break. It was getting close to nap time, but not yet there. She charmed the staff, we visited, all was well. The plan was to take the stroller and walk back home, just over a mile, so we wouldn't have to pick Eric up at the end of his workday, and we could get some fresh air and exercise. By the time we left the hospital, it was 20 minutes past Maggie's nap time. Foreshadowing.

There is, I'm sure, a reason our stroller was so cheap. About 2-3 weeks ago, one of the back wheels fell off. There's a pin that attaches it to the frame of the stroller, and it looks like the endcap keeping the pin in place fell off and was never seen again. I was able to slide the pin back in, and usually it would stay in place for a week before the wheel would fall off again. Well, it fell off on the way home from church Sunday, so I figured we were good for another week or so once I fixed it. Just laying out the pieces of the puzzle for the background here. You know, the perfect storm.

Approximately 0.2 miles into our walk home, the back wheel fell off. Dang it. Couldn't fix it without taking Maggie out of her stroller and sitting her on the ground, so...just kept wheeling her by lifting up the handle of the stroller so the frame didn't drag on the ground. Carried wheel in right hand. Approximately 0.4 miles into our walk home, Maggie started crying. Was somewhat consolable as long as I kept singing her favorite song, "Do, a Deer." Hard to do while walking uphill at 6500 feet. Approximately 0.6 miles into our walk home, the song was no longer cutting it and Maggie was full out wailing. Got her out of the stroller, which helped. Found I could not push a 3 wheeled strolled while carrying an 18 pound infant. Collapsed the stroller. Held it in right hand while carrying Maggie in left arm. Kept walking. Maggie began intermittently wailing and arching her back, making her difficult to hold with one arm. Approximately 0.8 miles into our walk, decided to ditch the stroller in lieu of dropping screaming infant. Hung it up over a railing in the parking lot of the church we've been attending. Readjusted screaming infant, which calmed her down. Walked remaining 0.2 miles home. Calmed her down over 10-15 minutes by rocking her and singing "I Am Jesus' Little Lamb" (her favorite naptime song) approximately 20 times. She went to sleep. I had to laugh at the absurdness of it all.

Eric went to pick up the stroller on his way home and it was gone. Also checked the dumpster. Gone. At least I had removed the toys from it. We were only going to use it through Friday and then ditch in anyways. Hopefully someone puts it to good use. Or throws it away.



This last weekend, we had plans to drive up to Moab, UT and meet up with one of Rachel's good friends from med school who lives in Salt Lake. We were looking forward to the visit and the national parks. Of course, plans changed when Rachel and Maggie flew out to Michigan for the funeral. We came back on a Saturday afternoon, though, and Eric already had the weekend off, so we decided to improvise a mini-vacation in Albuquerque. Eric got us a smokin' deal on a really nice hotel called Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town off of priceline. I love that website. Old Town is a fun area built around the 1700s and 1800s. We spent Sunday morning touring around the area, attending a 300 year old mission church named San Felipe, and trying to stay warm in the 45 degree (and windy) weather.

Here's Maggie, all bundled up and enjoying the ride.
On our way out of town Sunday afternoon, we stopped at the Laguna Indian pueblo, about 30 miles west of Albuquerque, to see another old mission church, pictured below. We couldn't take pictures inside, but there was some neat Native American artwork adorning the whitewashed adobe walls. All in all, a nice weekend trip. Our last until we leave New Mexico...


Return of the Ethnic Bread!

We were down in Phoenix a couple weeks ago, and had a wonderful time hanging with the fam. While there, we decided to re-engage the baking experiments of yore, with a southwestern standard, that it, some kind of fried dough, in this case sopapilla.

Caveat: We did use a mix. In fact, we didn't think of making sopapillas until saw the mix, but later learned it was just flour, baking powder, and salt.

Anyways, it was a good time to use lots of oil, and we leaned that oils have a "smoke point", which is
the equivalent of a boiling point, since they don't boil until temperatures high enough to cause the people around to perish. They didn't turn out particularly fluffy, but they were nice and crispy and were a great excuse for eating lots of honey. We weren't hungry for a very long time afterward.

Viva la fried doughs of the Southwest!


Missing A2: #1

Some of the most faithful devotees can likely recall our list of Top 10 things We Will (Do) Miss About Ann Arbor. You also may remember the singular fact that we never never finished the last post. You may think that this is because we wanted to build suspense for a stupendous ending. You may. But you would be very wrong.

Nonetheless, Rachel and Maggie are back from our last trip to Michigan (and an unexpected one, as that), and we thought we should use this occasion to finish our list. The #1 thing on the list is...
"Specialty Grocery Stores". You probably think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

Two caveats: First, the list is not really in any important order. Second, of course what we miss the most is our many friends and our church, and believe me, several months out now, we are acutely aware of that. However, you all already knew that, so it didn't seem necessary to add it to the list.

So, on to the anticlimactic groceries. First there was Kroger and Meijer. And of course, Ann Arbor has many high-end stores like Whole Foods and Plum Market, but we're not qualified to speak on those. But we did discover Trader Joe's, the happiest food store ever. And a slew of international groceries, including Dos Hermanos, Bombay Grocers, Hua Xing Asia Market, and Aladdin's Middle Eastern Market/Sunshine Fruit Market. Each of these made our food discoveries an experience in and of themselves, and we miss them, especially in Gallup. And though, we never had the guts to purchase a durian from Hua Xing, it was still nice to know we had the option.

However, our food adventures will certainly not come to a standstill in Kenya, and we are planning some kind of food-related new year's resolution for 2010, in the style of the past Ethnic Bread experience.


Helm's Deep

For the sake of nostalgia, I'll repost this picture, which Justin Steidinger shared with me a few weeks ago. This is circa 1998, around the time when I graduated from high school, playing with my old band "Helm's Deep", which was back in the pre-LOTR movie days, when no one knew that reference. So it was cool, right?

Isaac and Arwen Meek (now Jones), Matt Sigmon, Justin Steidinger, and I played together for a couple years, at various random local venues, mostly for very small audiences, but we had a great time doing it, and I look back fondly on it all.

We knew we would make it famous as a rock band, and that we would be together forever, and we were right.

Thanks, Justin, for the picture.


Tribute to Grandpa

My grandpa, Walter Selle, died this morning at the age of 90. He died peacefully in his sleep, which is a blessing. The phone call I got from my mom this morning is one that a small part of me has been waiting to get for the last 8 years...but even things that are expected can be unexpected when they finally arrive. He has been in failing health for a number of years, but has outlived many expectations.
Maggie and I are flying out to Michigan tomorrow morning for the funeral, which is on Thursday. Another small blessing in all of this is that we leave for Kenya one month from today. It would have been much harder to have gotten this phone call in a few months, knowing we'd be unable to come home for the funeral. Why has God brought us to Gallup and delayed our departure to Kenya? We still don't know. But if this is one of the reasons, then I'm grateful for it.

Grandpa served in World War II in the Pacific, and I occasionally got to hear some of his stories. He never got to see the WW2 memorial in Washington DC, but he talked about it a lot, and I was able to show him pictures from a trip of mine several years ago. He was a long time employee of Michigan Bell. I remember times of visiting him when we'd go mini-golfing, or to church, or to the video rental store. I'm glad he got to come to my wedding. I'm glad we got to celebrate his 90th birthday and 60th anniversary of marriage to my grandma. I'm glad he got to meet his great-granddaughter, three times no less! I will always remember Grandpa as quiet but gentle, with a sweet laugh. And I'm glad that the angels are rejoicing at his arrival in heaven today.


Serendipitous Meetings

In our sundry wandering these past months, we have had a number of wonderful and sometimes amazingly spontaneous meetings, and two days ago, when we arrived in Phoenix for a brief break from work and Gallup, we had another.

A week or two ago, we heard from our cousin Alex (of Tuba Museum fame), that he had gotten a new job sequencing the DNA of Clumber Spaniel dogs, who are apparently incredibly inbred, but that's another story. His new company was flying him out to Phoenix for a few days for training, and wasn't it too bad that we weren't still there?

Well, as it turned out, we were coming back into town at approximately the same time. So we got into Phoenix and picked him up from his hotel, with enough time to grab some lunch and drop him off at the airport.

The restaurant selection process was highly scientific, befitting the behavior of our spaniel geneticist cousin, namely wandering aimlessly around the vicinity of the airport, until we found Carolina's mexican food, which turned out to be an amazing hole-in-the-wall place were latinos, white business men, and homeless guys hang out together to eat award-winning tortillas and tamales in a room of concrete floors and broken ceiling fans. At least, Alex can't find that in Grand Rapids. We were and are super thankful for the chance to meet up another time with Alex, whose company we always enjoy so much.


Home Update

Just an update on the home situation.

Secret Weakness for the Exotic

...or maybe not so secret.

Consider this a special interest story. I (Eric) have been fairly silent on the blog front while I've been working, but we're enjoying a brief break right now visiting Rachel's mom, and so I thought I'd chip in with something to say. That is, anything to say.

A couple weeks ago in Chinle, I came to an important self-revelation, a weakness for the exotic, to the point of nonsense. Case in point: We head to the grocery and need to choose a coffee creamer. "Parisian Almond Creme" one reads. Ooh, let's get that one. Never mind that it's really just almond flavored. No, no, I say. What about the Parisian? What about the exotic spelling of "creme"?

In truth, I am publicly letting you all in on an easy way to impress me. Have us over for dinner. Serve us spaghetti. Tell me it's a Maltese pasta. I mean, odds are that they have some kind of marinara pasta in Malta somewhere, right? Yet I'm enthralled. Serve me rice and beans, but make sure that you let me know that it's in the style of the Nepalese peasantry. Ooh, really? They eat it plain and without spices? How exotic! Mix together whatever random ingredients that are leftover in your kitchen, and call it Tajik potpurri. Wow, fascinating taste! Give it a name, and I am quite sure that I'll be able to taste the cultural nuances.

Even if they're not there.


Halloween Cuteness

We really weren't thinking much about Halloween this year (since we were planning on being in Kenya by now), but when Maggie and I were out in Nashville several weeks ago, Aunt Mariah came through and picked out a really cute pink leopard costume. We decided to trick or treat at the hospital since Eric was working, and skype the grandmas, but not walk around the neighborhood. It seemed a bit embarrassing to me since a six month old obviously doesn't eat candy, and thus it would all be for me, benefiting from her cuteness....but anyways, here are just a couple of pics. Couldn't help myself! There's also a little detachable tail on the backside, not featured in the photos, but just adds to ensemble.