Monday, June 15, 2015

Visit from a childhood friend

Kim and I have been friends since 5th grade, and she came to visit me in Houston. Her daughter (pictured above right) also lives in Houston. 
Kim and I drove down to Galveston for lunch on the beach one day. It was really hot that day and we weren't much in the mood to take photos. So this bad one is all we've got.

A visit from my oldest brother and his wife

My oldest brother C and his wife P came through Houston a few days ago. We spent the evening together and I cooked dinner for them. Unfortunately, my all-electric kitchen lost electrical power while I was cooking. It was a minor disaster and we were still able to eat.

Memorial Day flood

It was my great misfortune to have been in Houston on the evening of Memorial Day 2015 when the great flood hit. Hundreds of motorists were stranded overnight on the highways, thousands had their homes destroyed, and my car was a minor victim.

The rains and thunder were unlike any I have heard in my life thus far. And I consider myself to have endured quite a few storms (mostly overseas, some in east Texas). The lightning and thunder were relentless for seven hours straight in my part of town. I knew my car was at risk, but it was too dangerous to go outside and move it. The rain POURED out of the sky without stopping, hour after hour after hour. I was thankful to be on the second floor of a garage apartment. I was also glad Mimi wasn't there. She might have died of fear.

I went outside several hours after the rain stopped. I didn't see the worst of the flooding, as I'm sure it had subsided somewhat in those few hours. This is what I saw.

 You can see that the water had been at least a foot higher before I took this picture.
The insurance adjuster says it still works. The interior is being replaced. Hopefully I can pick up the car sometime soon.

Insurance takes away some of the pain, but it is still an extremely unpleasant experience to go through. I hope I never have to go through it again.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Thirty-seven years later

During the last week of February, I was in the hospital due to a severe infection. I posted something on Facebook with the initials of the hospital where I was staying. Next thing you know, I hear a knock on the hospital room door, and in walks the pretty lady above. I didn't know she was coming and she doesn't live near me. Yet, without a moment of hesitation, I gasped and said, "Jana!"

I last saw her in 1978, when I graduated from high school and she was probably 16 or 17 years old. I immediately recognized her. And she is just as sweet as she ever was, with the love of Christ oozing from her as it always had.

Jana, along with a few other of her classmates (most specifically Angie and Dalene), have helped me tremendously, jumping in to raise funds for my expenses, to contact the American Cancer Society on my behalf, and seek housing for me during medical travels. 

It is no accident as to whom God puts in your life. Who would ever guess that after 37 years of having no contact whatsoever, Jana (pictured here with her husband who I met that day), God would bless me with her presence once again?

Many of those reading this blog have the same kind of heart as Jana, and it is no accident that you are in my life either.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

My lovely little Pekingese

It sure is nice to have Mimi with me in the U.S. She keeps me laughing, smiling and happy all over.

Mimi has been an "only-dog" for ten years, so she's had a hard time adjusting to sharing a house with a poodle. Mimi is aggressive, even hostile towards the other dog, thinking it might steal her food. My parents have really big hearts though, and they love Mimi despite her personality flaws, knowing she's been through a lot lately.

Right now I'm in Houston for six weeks, so my parents have kindly taken on the responsibility for keeping the dogs alive and happy during my absence. I kind of miss my cuddly little sidekick. I know she's in good hands though. Hang in there little baby!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pretty little liar

On my trips to Houston, sometimes I stay overnight with a family consisting of two parents and a 8-year-old boy named Cole. I just met this fine Christian family in recent months. My brother J has known them for years.

Last week when I was in Houston, the adorable boy Cole took down the collage of his baby photos that was in the guest area where we were staying. He was embarrassed by one of the baby photos in which he was taking a bath and his private parts were showing. His mom made him put the framed glass collage back on the wall before he broke it. But we gave him an idea that he might put a post-it note over the one offending part of the collage. He ran in the kitchen, got a yellow post-it note, and covered the photo.

The cute little fella was relieved. He laughed along with the rest of us and said, "Sometimes I am forced to lie and say that the photo is of my cousin instead of me!" 

Monday, April 13, 2015

College friends and health updates

Sorry I haven't been updating the blog lately. I took a hit from chemo, but chemo is over now.

My brother J and I got a visit from some college friends yesterday. Wes S. and Steve P. came to visit for the day. We actually needed some help with some things, and they volunteered to come pitch in and help us out. We loved the fellowship time with them. Not only had we all gone to college together in Brownwood, but after college we all ended up in Fort Worth and attended the same church. I hadn't seen them in about 30 years, but we kind of picked up where we left off.

L to R: Wes, Steve, Elizabeth, J
We took 17 photos, and my brother J made goofy faces in all 17 of them. Someday I'm going to make a collage of his goofy face photos. Every goofy face is different.

In other news:

I defied the odds for months, but as you can guess from the photos, I finally lost all my hair. Well, not ALL my hair. I think I had about 137 strands of hair still intact at its lowest point. It started growing back a day or two ago, so I decided to own up to it. I never shaved my head through the entire ordeal, because I wanted to see what happened if you didn't shave it. Now I know. I'll tell you more about it some other time.

I'm having surgery this Wednesday in Houston. The surgeon will remove all the lymph nodes on the right side of my neck. Please pray for me. I don't know how much I can post during recovery, but when I am able, I"ll try to do a better job about updating this blog. It just feels a little strange to talk about life in Texas on a blog called "Stories of the Middle Kingdom." But I will. Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015


A backroad on Hong Kong Island, June 2014.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


During June 2014 I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and went to a diner for a late breakfast. Then I saw the cat. Perched upon a table. Pretty cute. Not very sanitary, but very cute.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Looking back

Well, here in Texas things have been a little rough during February with chemo, hospitalization, blah, blah, blah. So I began looking back at some of my old photos and realized there are quite a few stories I never told you about from the Middle Kingdom. I'll try to post some as I can.

Last summer, the dean of one of the top music conservatories in the country asked me if I would teach English to his music professors. The very talented musicians could participate in more international music exchanges and competitions if they could speak English. He wanted me to give them a test at the beginning of our class to determine their level. The poor lady in the navy dress above hardly knows a word of English, and she felt humiliated. I even gave her an easier test with pictures on it. I felt sorry for her. She's a musician, not a linguist, and she's not used to being bad at anything. She grew up when English was not a part of the school curriculum. The younger teachers had all studied English before.

I asked the teachers not to look at each other's papers, and you can see from looking at the photos above that they conscientiously followed my instructions. "Exam" and "not cheating" just don't seem to go together well in some places around the world. Fortunately, this was not intended to be a serious accredited English class.

While they were cheating, I figured I might as well look out the window and take some photos. The university is on the outskirts of town in older buildings near the elegant green mountains. It was beautiful to me.

The teachers were all very kind and warm-hearted. I knew it was going to be a great experience and that I was going to establish some excellent new friendships.

Their placement exam took place right before summer break. I was supposed to actually start teaching them in September in two different classes (one for beginners). But life changed around September and I never got a chance to teach these classes. I put the conservatory in touch with someone else who might be able to help them. It was all I could do. I hope I get to visit those teachers again some day.