Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hey, an update on US!

OK, the blog title says you can keep up with the Joneses but I haven't said much about us recently. Well, not much at all since my dad died in January. Here's a nutshell catch-up post. It's probably gonna be a bit rambly.

Cathy and I are both in decent health, and the kitties are doing good. Oliver is his usual self, and Cathy's mom, Rhonda, still lives with us.

We're rather settled in our church now and I really love our neighbors who also go to church with us; their son is great and I love watching their family grow. We have seen our own family rather more this year and I have appreciated that a great deal. I think they will be OK on housing, so I'm not worried about them.

My mother is still somewhat depressed, which is understandable. She still lives in Taiwan as we cannot afford to bring her here due to the medical and living expenses. *sigh* But, at least calling her is pretty cheap. I am still working on getting some survivor benefits for her, but an Army Colonel that attends our church tells me I will never hear from the military retirement and benefits people because they tend to get very backlogged in wartime. He's going to try to get me some face time with someone local, though.

Having to kick out one of the tenants sucked. I learned a lot, mostly about how I really am a sucker at heart; that is good, I suppose, for a pastor-wannabe, but not good thing for a guy who wants to work with people who are coming off substance addictions (or is it?....).

Cathy is working as a temp and currently assigned to Yamaha, but we're reasonably certain that job will end September 30th. In fact, we're certain of it.

The short sale of the apartments is so uncertain! We're still not in escrow, and our 2nd (CitiMortgage) promised to block the sale as they won't get much of the settlement. *sigh* Oh well. The other uncertain part of the short sale is whether the forgiven amount will show up as "income" for tax purposes. If that is the case, we might as well just sit through foreclosure!

I'll be looking for a way to get transferred to Georgia so Cathy can be near her dad. It's been over a week since that big scare and Al is still in physical therapy. Thank God for that. But, I want Cathy to be near him (she wants this, of course) so I'm going to move to Georgia, one way or another, but hopefully with my employer.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cathy's dad, Al, is recovering

OK, here's the latest (and probably last mass email) on Cathy's dad. The short version is that he is recovering very well and will not have any surgeries done. He does have problems with his leg that will take some physical therapy, though.

The longer version is that they did managed to get a CT scan and determined a few things: dad's bleeding was healing and he would be OK, the bleeding was caused by blood pressure rather than a blow to the head, and dad's left leg is numb because of the bleeding instead of his head.

Dad's much more himself now. He's still quite frustrated with being in the hospital and just speaking takes effort, but Cathy and I got to speak with him on Sunday.

It turns out that it was his left leg (somehow I got the impression of right leg). Al has difficulty moving it but feeling has returned fully. The physical therapy started today.

I've had time to think and wonder, and I asked many times my medically-inclined friends if we overreacted when dad was whisked to the hospital. The answer has consistently been, "no." Given what we know now about his condition, dad's recovery is remarkably unlikely. And, given the expectation of the hospital staff (that he would die any second) it is not only amazing he is alive but that he is able to converse with those who love him. They are now quite certain of his full recovery; quite a reversal. Like I said, I would like medical charts as proof for future reference.

I would appreciate your prayers for Al in the coming days. Also, please pray for us as we decide what to do next and when to do it. We have set tentative firm dates for going out to Georgia... the dates are flexible to a degree, but we'll be there before Winter if I have my way. Please pray for guidance and provision. Thank you.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

My Cousin Pey's short visit

So, my cousin Pey was only here overnight. I picked her up at the airport at 2PM on Wednesday and she was gone on Thursday. But, we had a nice night, considering that we hadn't seen each other in about 20 years and Cathy's Chinese is non-existent.

After picking her up, I had to go back to the office and finish the work day. Pey got on the Internet and Skyped her friends and IM'ed her sister. At 5PM, we headed out.

Pey had a difficult time understanding English, unless I was the one speaking to her. Perhaps it is a matter of accent? I am not sure, but I thought that was interesting. So, for the most part, I translated for Cathy and Pey as we went about town.

It was strange being reminded of what California looks like to new eyes. "The pace of live is so slow here," she said at one point. Cathy and I thought she would find South Carolina absolutely glacial if California was slow for her!

We had dinner together at Outback. Pey wanted to experience something new, so she had a 8-oz prime rib, medium rare, and she loved it. Out waitress was great, and when I complimented her to the owner of Outback Steakhouse (his name is Joe) he gave us a giant dessert as a "thank you!" That was awesome.

We dropped off the cake and ice cream at home and got Pey a pre-paid mobile phone. Just about everybody has by-the-minute and $1-per-day phones, so we got her a new SIM card and she went happily on her way with a new U.S. phone number.

The flight was really early so we went to bed early, just after dessert. :-)

We got up at 4:40 AM and got there one hour before the flight. There was no traffic to speak of and we found parking right away. It seems every elevator and escalator save one was broken at terminal 6, so we had to carry Pey's bags down to ground level (I wasn't climbing with it!) and tried three elevators and escalators before finding a functional one to go to ticketing.

It was a crowded terminal. Some United flights got canceled and were re-routed to Continental, overflowing the queue to the ticket counter for Pey's flight. By the time we were halfway through the line a Continental agent told us we'd have to be re-routed, too.

Pey had to fly standby from LAX, but her Houston flight was confirmed. She would have four chances to get on the plane to make her connection. The ticketing agent (Chris, I believe) was very nice; she gave me a security pass to accompany Pey to the gate so I could help translate. It turns out that was an excellent thing.

After 20 minutes getting to the front of the security checkpoint (where they took my Leatherman Micra -- darn), Pey was randomly selected for a pat-down and carry-on check. Hm... large Asian male with folding knife or little Asian girl with a cell phone... let's screen the girl!

Anyway, we were at security for about another 20 minutes as they patted Pey down, swabbed her sandals, her purse, computer bag, and checked every little thing she had on her. The guy took Pey's water bottle (?) and wouldn't let her drink from it (?!?), saying it was TSA property once it entered the checkpoint. There's a guy that takes the "power" his job gives him way too seriously. I told him, "Your job must suck," and he asked why. "Because," I said, "I know you don't make the policies, but everybody you check must think you're an idiot for insist on taking people's water and not letting them drink from it." Oddly, he refused to speak to me after that.

Pey had a chance at four flights and she was #12 on standby according to the ticketing agent. She could take the 8:00, 09:00, 11:40, or 12:40 and still make her connection. We got in line as I did not see Pey's name on the standby list, and we stood there for about 40 minutes. The terminal was swarming with people, and apparently every flight was overbooked and there was a need to accommodate re-routed passengers.

The agent at the counter was named Doug. For 40 minutes, Pey and I chatted and I watched Doug slog through the wave of humanity pressing up to his gate counter. I watched as he turned away standby passengers, including a woman was kept cutting the line and complaining to Doug (and whomever would listen) that she had been on standby for five hours already. My hope dwindled, but I maintained a cheery attitude for Pey.

We got to the front of the line about 10 minutes after boarding had begun -- I knew Pey would be trying for the 09:00 flight next, and she suggested that we get in line now, but I figured I would confirm her standby status, and maybe even get her name bumped up a little with some diplomatic pleading. Doug asked us to hold on as he hustled peopled onto the awaiting plane, so we did so, patiently.

Surprisingly, four or five (I'm not sure) people did not show up even though they were checked in, and the first three standbys were whisked onto the plane in a hurry. Doug asked what I needed and I explained I am Pey's translator and need to confirm her name on the list. He told me to hang on and shoved someone else through the gate.

Pey was confused, so I explained that each standby who got on the plane increased her chances, and the more people that missed this flight, the better it was for her chances to get on the next flight. Finally, Doug got an old Indian couple on the plane and came back to the desk. He looked around, then said to use, "Follow me." I grabbed Pey and we headed to the gate, and just like that, she was suddenly on the flight! Doug grabbed one more person and dragged him through the gate, shouting over his shoulder, "Stay here in case she doesn't make it onto the plane!" and I hurriedly responded in the affirmative.

As I waited, I watched the plane detach and taxi down the runway and Doug confirmed Pey got on the flight. I thanked him heartily; both ticketing agents had the patience of saints. I made my merry way back to the car, not even caring about my Leatherman. I had to climb some stairs back to the car and got to help an old lady with her bag down the stairs. It turns out it didn't just seem like the elevators were broken -- everybody I passed complained about it. I was just glad to be leaving.

Pey called me about noon and told me she was in Houston, and she called again tonight to tell me she was in SC safely. Thank God. :-)

In October, when she comes back this way, we're going to take a few days to hit Disneyland and other attractions. That will be fun!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Update on Cathy's dad - stable and needs MRI

So here's the latest news: not much has changed since 36 hours ago.

The docs say that the bleeding was due to a blow to the head, so perhaps a fall? We're not sure, and he doesn't remember.

Dad was blind, unable to speak, and unable to move on Sunday. When they revived him he was rather combative, but that's normal when you wake up and are restrained and have tubes and needles in you.

Dad needs a second MRI to see if the bleeding is stopped, slowing, or getting worse. They can't sedate him as that could mask neurological damage, and the pain and pressure on his brain is making dad drift in and out of consciousness. He can see, move, and converse, but the pain and drugs are making him rather confused.

The nurses tell us that, given his initial 12 hours, this is nothing short of miraculous.

The next step is to get a second MRI, but as dad is drifting in and out of consciousness, they can't get him to lay still for 45 minutes. They may sedate him after all... that's what I heard as of yesterday.

Dad's right leg is still numb; while he can feel it, he can't move it. They think this is an aggravation of an old back injury, so there's not much worry about this (OK...).

So far, is no news good news? My sis-in-law, Tracy, teaches nursing and suggested that dad just needs rest and his wife at his side so they can finally do a MRI; everybody might as well rest at home.

We're still praying regularly and expectantly. God has been merciful again. Please keep praying. :-)

Got my cousin in town for the night

My cousin, Py Yen (or 'Pey' for short) is in town from Taiwan (!). I picked her up at 14:30 (or there abouts) from LAX, but she leaves tomorrow at 6:30 AM! So we'll be back at LAX at 4:30 AM (argh)!

We'll get dinner, maybe a pre-paid phone, and grab some shut-eye.

But, in October, we'll have a week or so to hang out. She'll want to go to Disneyland, I'm sure. We're looking forward to that!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Some random thoughts

They said Al had lost vision in one eye and couldn't speak and could only hear, that's why they thought he would die soon. They didn't think he would make it through the flight, let alone through the night.

Now he is recovering in the hospital. I've got to get some documentation on his condition at both hospitals. Wow.

Going to bed...

Update - Al's stable?!?

I was writing an email to friends, family and fellow believers. I had said this:
Al is a godly man that has served as a pastor for some 18 years. He asked me to come be his successor. I was working on the idea of getting a transfer to Georgia. It seems we ran out of time. Cathy and I just spoke with him on Thursday for, I don't know, one hour? Al was quit convinced that he was recovering from his lung problem from before and then this...
Then WOAH! It is 12:55 AM and I was writing this when I got a call from Sandra, Al's wife. Al's in intensive care observation, but he woke up and started arguing with the orderlies! and responded to their tests and commands (lift your left hand, etc). He was fighting too much so they sedated him again.

They had turned down the sedatives to bring his blood pressure up to prepare for surgery, but he woke up instead and started fighting. The medical staff says he is strong, and, well, nobody expected this. Surgery looked like the only way to save his life, yet suddenly he is stablizing!

Sandra is on her way home as the doctor told her he was (amazingly) out of danger and no surgery was planned, though they would watch for 24 hours before moving him into a regular room. He still has bleeding but they don't think surgery will be necessary. It doesn't make sense, people are amazed, and we are thankful!

Please give thanks to God, and keep praying for his recovery. We still need to make plans on making our way to Georgia as this is the second time that Cathy thought her dad was going to die and God has spared him. We want Cathy to have time with her dad, so she's going to take a leave of absence and go East. I'll go with her initially and fly back.

Thank God! And please keep praying!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cathy's dad is in the hospital

At about 6:30 we heard from Cathy's sister that her dad, Al, is in the hospital. He has two hemorrhages applying pressure on his brain. At first they were just holding him there while waiting for a surgeon to relieve the pressure. From the first call we were told that it does not look good.

Cathy's dad is on a ventilator and they are trying to control his blood pressure.

Each passing minute makes his recovery less likely. He might lose some sight, movement, or worse, although it is possible that most if not all complications would be mitigated by relieving pressure on his brain.

About 8:30 PM we heard he was being airlifted as a surgeon became available. There will be an examination and possibly surgery.

About 10:45 PM our time they were at the destination, but I don't know how long they were there before we heard. I haven't heard anything since. We've been praying and praying, and I hope no news is a good thing at this point, since it probably means they are treating dad right now.

Please pray. I'll be twittering updates as we go and blogging / emailing after a major update.

At this point, we're thinking we'll pack the RV and head out to Georgia, either to help during Al's recovery or to attend his funeral. The doctors are very pessimistic, but this is the same guy that God healed last year. God is good; we'll see how things turn out.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Song: Open Up the Sky

I have no idea if this is a well-known song or an obscure tune, but I just became acquainted with "Open Up the Sky" by Jonathan Stockstill of the band Deluge, coming out of the Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I love the chorus...
Open up the sky, fall down like rain,
we don't want blessings, we want You
Open up the sky, fall down like fire,
we don't want anything but You
We won't be satisfied with anything ordinary,
we won't be satisfied at all
It is a beautiful idea that resonated within me. I told Cathy I wanted to preach on the impermanence of this world and the realness of the life to come (cf. The Great Divorce). I would want this song in the music leading up to the sermon.

Integrity has made the song and chord chart available. It is well worth listening.