Life in Texas — July 1 to September 30, 2010

Visit from Bill and Kenya: We had a great pleasure of a brief visit by Bill Jurma and Kenya Taylor on July 4.  Bill is Dean of Arts and Humanities and Kenya is Dean of Graduate Programs and Research at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.  They were on their way to Cancun for a vacation and they were able to visit for an evening.  It was wonderful to see them and catch up on everyone at UNK!  The evening was too short, but we were happy and thankful they shared the evening with us!

Kenya and Bill

Kathy’s and Micheal’s Wedding: As soon as we de-planed on July 1st, we were immersed in last minute wedding arrangements.  While the wedding itself was a small outdoor ceremony, followed by a reception at Backwoods where Micheal works, there were many details to address.

The weekend before the wedding, Kathy’s friend, Julia, hosted a bridal shower party.  Kathy’s friends were invited to a special dinner at a very nice restaurant.

The Bride, Kathy, at the Bridal Shower

Kathy and Friends at the Shower

Several events took place during the wedding weekend.  We started out with a pool-side barbeque the evening before the wedding day.   It was a very relaxed time designed for everyone to get to know each other better.  Unfortunately, it was so relaxed, that we don’t have many pictures of the event!  However here is a picture of the venue

View from the balcony where the dinner occurred

Conversation at the rehearsal dinner

Fortuantely, Izehi, the professional photographer, took hundreds of pictures at the wedding day events and we are using several of them for this blog.  Izehi’s artistry and professionalism are evident in her pictures and we are very happy that Micheal and Kathy asked Izehi to be the wedding photographer.

The morning of the wedding day the women in the wedding party were invited to our house for a brunch.  The brunch was fun and the food was incredibly delicious! (Thank you, Janice!!)   After brunch, Kathy, the women attendants and myself, went to the hairdressers for a hairstyling and makeup session.

Mrs. Marut, who catered the brunch and who also made Kathy's wedding Dress and Kathy's Friend, Julia

Ladies enjoying the brunch

Granddaughters, Bergen and Athena, opened gifts we brought from China at the Brunch

Pictures from the hair styling

The bride getting a new hairdo

Laura Murray, our daughter-in-law, having her hair dressed

The men in the wedding party met for lunch and then went to the Omni to play pool and enjoy a drink together.  It was a cool retreat for a great male bonding experience of the some of the men in the family!

John Preble, Finnie, Miceal Preble (groom), Matthew and Michael Murray ready to play pool!

Micheal takes a shot

The wedding party stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn in Fort Worth just next door to the wedding venue and two blocks from the reception venue.  As everyone was getting ready for the wedding, my mother’s room turned into the dressing room for Kathy and her attendants.  My mom got the unexpected pleasure of watching the girls get dressed, giggle, have pictures taken by Izehi, and be an integral part of the wedding preparations.

Velna, the Bride's grandmother helps adjust the gown

Kathy in her wedding gown

Kathy loves dark reds, oranges, purples, etc and she looks smashing in dark red – so that seemed the only choice for wedding colors.  However, her attendants found it a challenge to find red dresses in the middle of the summer!  Kathy’s dress was handmade by an accomplished Fort Worth seamstress.  (Thank you, Janice!) The dress was both elegant and cool enough for the 100 degree heat.  Micheal and several of the men in the wedding party wore guayaberas, a Mexican wedding shirt.  Other men wore “Charlie” shirts. Micheal’s mother and sisters made gorgeous flower bouquets and corsages, and elegant floral displays for the ceremony and table decorations.  The wedding ceremony itself was at 6PM in 100 degree heat at a city pavilion along the Trinity River, one of the places that Kathy and Micheal visited early in their relationship.   It was a gorgeous setting, and it was such a fun, relaxed wedding ceremony perfectly suited to Kathy and Micheal’s lifestyle.

Wedding party Awaiting the bride

Giving away my daughter!

Some of the wedding party

The Couple and wedding attendants

Wedding Vows


The Bride's Family

The Groom's Family

The Bird-seed (instead of rice) shower!

Velna, Kathy, and Deb

Mr. and Mrs. Preble

The reception was lots of fun.  Fort Worth is a mecca for musicians: classical, jazz, and blues.  Micheal and Kathy asked  Jazz man James Hinkle to play at their reception and the music was so much fun to listen to and to dance to.  Many people came to wish Kathy and Micheal their best.  The Backwoods staff worked hard to create a festive atmosphere!  We thank everyone at Backwoods for their enthusiastic support!  Kathy’s maid of honor, Sarah, and her parents helped with the reception catering at the last minute to cover a last minute communication breakdown.   Their energetic support made the reception appear to be flawless.  We thank the Lawsons very much!

Father-daughter dance -- to "I Loved Her First"

Groom and his Mom dancing

Athena and Granddad Dancing

Everyone Dance!

John, Vel, Zelma at the reception

Mike, Matt, and Laura and the James Hinkle Band

The next morning the wedding party said their goodbyes to each other and to Micheal and Kathy at one of Fort Worth’s Sunday morning hang-outs, Nick’s Jazz Café.  We listened to Nick play jazz music on his saxophone while waiting patiently for our Greek breakfasts.  It was fun to visit over coffee and great food.

Bergen and Athena at the Jazz Cafe

Newly Weds at the Jazz Cafe

Kathy and Micheal are looking forward to a honeymoon vacation in October to western Turkey and a few of the eastern Greek Islands.  Kathy’s friend and her new husband live in Turkey and the two couples will be visiting and traveling together.  Our job is to cat-sit our “grand-cat”, Salchichon, while they are away.

Grandcat, Sal

Visits by Relatives: the wedding brought several family members from North Carolina to visit us for several days.  Both sons, Michael and Matthew, and their families and Finnie’s two sisters, Helen and Zelma, were able to stay in Fort Worth for several days.  Although Micheal, Natale, and the girls had to return right after breakfast at Nick’s, Matthew, Laura and Finnie spent a couple of days visiting the Fort Worth Stockyards and other Fort Worth high points.

Matt and Laura hanging out at the Ft. Worth Stockyards

Matt and Laura at Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Restaurant at the Stockyards

Micheal explaining the features of his cool cell phone. Matthew says, "Mine has a 'send' button"

We also spend an afternoon together with Matt, Laura, Helen, Zelma, and Rachel Arthur at the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth.

Helen and Zelma stayed on with us for a couple of weeks so, we explored more local places.  We spent a day exploring the Dinosaur State Park at Glen Rose, Texas near Stephenville.  At the park one can see huge footprints of several species of dinosaurs in the rock of the river bed.

Explorers at Dinosaur State Park

A dinosaur footprint under the water in the river bed

Two dinosaur footprints in the river bed

We spent a Saturday evening at the Rodeo in the Stockyards also. The action is fast, so it’s a little difficult to get a photo that us in focus with a small digital camera, but here are two shots.

Calf Roping

Bull riding -- at this point, just a bull bucking!

Of course, we also dined out several times!

Zelma and Helen at an Italian restaurant

And we cooked out in our backyard.

Deb cooking salmon

Finnie cooking steaks

After Zelma and Helen returned to North Carolina, we began preparing for Deb’s surgery.

Surgery: After the wedding we geared ourselves up for my hip replacement surgery.  The surgery was August 11 and ever since then I have quickly been getting back on my feet.  What a joy it is to walk without hurting at every step and without having to walk like a duck to relieve the pain.  Finnie has done a spectacular job caring for me!  As I write this, it has been about 6 weeks since the surgery and while I am not walking a mile yet, I am off the walker and using a cane.  The best part of this whole deal is that the arthritis pain is gone. I suspect I will be walking without any discomfort from muscle soreness before too long.   I did not realize until after the surgery just how debilitating that pain was for me.  My task these days is learning how to walk properly again – I had been “walking” with my hip rolling gait for so long that my brain does not remember how to walk right.  This requires many visits to the physical therapist a week.  But the doctor and PT people feel that with practice I will be walking properly in a couple of months.  And I am looking forward to going back to Weihai fully able to walk the several blocks to wherever I want to go, or to go shopping in the many interesting little shops, or to walk around the thousands of cultural artifacts in China and be able to fully appreciate them.

Deb on the day after surgery

Family Dinners: Since we have been home, we have had many occasions to have family meals together.  My mother enjoys cooking and has made several meals at our house while I was recovering.  It was not only a huge help, but also a pleasant way to reconnect as a family.  We have entertained some of our newly extended family as well.

Wedding anniversary dinner at Red Lobster: On September 1st, we enjoyed, or rather marveled at, our 37th wedding anniversary this year!  A lot has happened to us over the years, besides aging, and it is always significant that we can celebrate another year together.  We enjoyed a dinner at a favorite restaurant, Red lobster,  and remembered what our wedding day was like.  As I recall it was the first time I had met some of Finnie’s relatives!  We also had an outdoor wedding at my mother’s house followed by a barbequed chicken dinner with very close family – actually if it had not been for my mother we would not have had a wedding cake – that completely slipped my mind!

Other activities we have enjoyed since we have been in Texas have included going to special events, exercising more, and completing “honey-do” lists.  Some of the specific things we have done follow:

Labor Day – Since Labor Day is a holiday for government employees, but not a holiday for people in retail sales like Micheal, Kathy had the day to herself to clean her house.  About 10 am she called her dad and suggested that we spend the day at her house and maybe he could help her with a small fix-it project.  Finnie has experienced these “daddy-do” requests enough to know that he needs to supply himself with an adequate arsenal of tools prior to leaving the house.  This day was no different.  Unfortunately, he forgot to bring a level knowing that Kathy owned a level at some point in the near past.  However, as she was searching for it, she decided it had found itself a new home.  Being the resourceful person she is, she downloaded a level “app” into her cell phone and “voila” provided her dad with a level!  The small project took most of the afternoon, but now the dryer is vented to the outside of the house, not venting into the house and the shelf above the washer and dryer is hanging evenly on the wall.  Meanwhile, I relaxed on the sofa watching Kathy and her dad have a fun day fixing things.  They do enjoy those times together!

After Micheal finished working, we met him and decided to have dinner together at a nearby restaurant.  We sat outside enjoying a perfectly lovely 80 degree evening.  There were no mosquitoes, flies, or other annoying flying creatures.  The restaurant setting was quiet and the evening turned into a delightful family dinner talking about all kinds of interesting things from the expanding universe to great business ideas!  We look forward to more evenings like that one!

Remodeling the porch: Our house sports a small back porch that was screened in.  It is big enough for two people to comfortably sit and enjoy the night air or a morning cup of coffee.  Last winter while we were living here, Finnie realized as he and Micheal were shivering out there one evening, that it would be much more pleasant if the porch were  more enclosed with screened windows and storm door, an electrical receptacle for plugging in a small heater, and a ceiling fan to move the air on the porch.  We hired a contractor early in the summer and after the weather turned slightly cooler, he completed the renovation in three days.  We enjoy our remodeled porch very much because it still allows a breeze to move through the windows, while providing the capability of warmth in the winter, and it gives Finnie and Micheal a pleasant, protected place to discuss world issues – or me to write this blog on my computer!

The porch before glassing it in

New porch, with windows

Speaking of fix-it jobs around the house, Finnie has been busy making large and small repairs to our house this summer.  Here’s Finnie to describe some of those projects:

(Finnie) Finnie’s fix-it jobs around house:

Replacing bathroom faucets. Our bathrooms have  faucets for the sinks that over the years had become corroded due to the chlorine in the water, so they looked unsightly and valves were beginning to seize up.  So, I decided to replace the three faucets and drains.  Generally, this is a 30 minute to 1 hour job for me.  But as Deb loves to point out, she always multiplies my repair time estimates by a factor of 20 – 30.  (It grieves me to admit, but her  adjustments of my time estimates are often much closer than mine… ) It proved to be the case this time, too.  The shut-off valves beneath the sinks were so corroded that I couldn’t turn 2 of the 3 off, so, I had to go buy new valves and then shut off the water supply to the whole house, then remove the valves and replace with new ones.  Then, I could attack the faucets.  So, in about 48 hours, we now have new faucets and drains for the three sinks.

While I enjoy doing these little maintenance projects, inserting my double-wide body into the small spaces under sinks is one part of the job that isn’t too much fun as it is painful to lie on the base-unit floor and there is not enough room inside to maneuver my arms to easily get to all joints that have to be tightened.  Anyway, we got the job done, so all is well.

The space under the sink

Finnie Under the sink

The new faucet

Renewing the planter beds around the house. When we bought this house, the front planter beds were monopolized by a large tree, and smaller shrubs and flowers had been crowded out, and the tree blocked the view of the house from the street.  So, we planned a renewal project that involved digging up the tree (turned out to be a bigger job that I thought — remember Deb’s time estimates?)  The root system was both very larger and very thick.  We replaced the big tree with a small, slow-growing holly tree.  Then we replaced the shrubs with a different kind, which would both provide some color and remain at a height beneath our windows.  Finally, we planted perennial flowering plants that attract butterflies.  This project began as soon as we arrived in Texas and continued until Kathy and Micheal’s wedding.  By that time, we had the front planter area replanted, and we replaced a decorative fountain by the front door.

Front of House with renewed planter

After the wedding, I began working on the back planter area, which had been damaged by ice last winter while I was in Weihai.  Mainly, this project simply involved cleaning up and adding the perennial flowering plants like those we put in the front.  This kept me busy for a couple of weeks before Deb’s surgery!

Back yard work

Back yard garden left

Backyard garden area right

During parts of the days that were too hot to work in the garden, I worked on improving our tool storage in the garage and pantry — nice simple, and easy jobs that could be done in the relative comfort of shade — or air conditioning.

Fixing the basketball goal

Finnie and Kathy date to Kimbell Museum. My lovely daughter, Mrs. Kathy Preble, invited me for a date to the Kimbell Art Museum for the Mayan exhibit.  We had a great day together attending lectures and viewing the exhibits — and enjoying great Mexican food at a restaurant nearby.   It was a wonderful date, and one of the great reasons to live near Ft. Worth.

Ft. Worth has an outstanding arts district with three major art galleries, botanical gardens, zoological gardens, hundreds of live music venues with a wide range of music styles from the Jazz Cafe (where we often enjoy breakfast) to the Bass Music Hall for major music events, old west culture — including rodeo and cowboy outfitters at the Stockyards, and great restaurants everywhere.  So, there is never a time when there is “nothing to do.”

Finnie and John to TCU game. One of the things to do is to go to football games!  High School, college, and professional.  On September 11, John, Kathy’s father-in-law, and I went to watch the Texas Christian University football game. Last year, and certainly again this year, TCU has a very strong football team.  John is a long-time fan of TCU, so he was much better informed about the team than I was, but we had a great time together at the game, which TCU won, 62-7!  John and I stopped at the Dixie Cafe after the game for pancakes, which where great.  (Next time, I think I’ll try the “toad fries!”  (OK, the TCU mascot is the Texas Horned Toad, and so “toad fries” are french fries, covered with melted cheese and chili.  uh!uh! good!)

Riding bicycles in park: Shortly after arriving home, Finnie found a bicycle repair shop nearby and took our bicycles that we have owned for several years to the shop for tune-ups.  We wanted to ride our bicycles here in the states because we had enjoyed riding our bicycles in Weihai so much.  Coincidentally, we have discovered that we live in a city with many parks, all with paved bike paths that extend for several miles throughout the Fort Worth area.  When we bought our current house we did not realize just how extensive the bike trail infrastructure is in Fort Worth – what a pleasant surprise!  My surgeon has given me permission to ride my bicycle again, so  we will be spending some pleasant cool evenings on our bikes now.

Going to the Movies: Since we have been home, we have enjoyed going to the movie theatre to see a couple of movies.  There are Movie Taverns here in the metroplex.  These businesses are a combination of a nice movie theatre with very comfortable seats with small attached tables and a very nice sandwich restaurant.  Patrons order their popcorn, drinks, sandwiches, glasses of wine, beer, or soft drinks and a waiter delivers your order to you at your seat.  You can enjoy your sandwich and drink while watching the movie.  This is a wonderful, non-sticky, way to enjoy a great movie.  We have seen Avatar and The Inception at a Movie Tavern.  Just recently we puzzled our way through The American.

Banff Movie Festival: Last weekend Micheal invited us to attend an event that he organized.  Backwoods sponsored the Banff Movie Festival in Fort Worth.  The Banff Movie Festival is a 3 hour event featuring several very short movies to 45 minute movies of extreme sport enthusiasts skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, rock climbing, and ski gliding, going down, up and around mountains all over the world. Held at the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum, the movie theatre was full of people from the metroplex who love to participate in and watch people doing these sports.  We loved the evening – another reason why we enjoy living in Fort Worth! Here’s a clip from one of the movies that we saw that evening:

Dream River Trailer

Individual projects: My own projects during the last two months, besides recovering from surgery, have been reading (The Man Who Loved China, China’s Megatrends, Pillars of the Earth, and The Lost Code), writing parts of this blog, practicing Chinese writing and vocabulary, and re-newing an old interest in learning how to draw.

Finnie’s are digitizing all family photos (so far 50,500 digitized and about 30,000 to go!); reading China’s Megatrends, When China Rules the World, Pillars of the Earth, Pearl in China, Pearl of China; hanging pictures and other house jobs, and yard work (but we have a tiny yard!)

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3 Responses to Life in Texas — July 1 to September 30, 2010

  1. Helen says:

    Enjoyed very much and it brought back many wonderful moments.

  2. Lulu says:

    It’s so exciting to see Kathy’s wedding photos! What a wonderful and touching wedding ceremony you had! I still remember the song “I loved her first” you played for us before you left. And Kathy looks so charming in her wedding gown!
    It seems that many events have taken place since you were back. I hope Deb is recovering very quickly after the surgeory.
    By the way, I like Salchichon, the cat, very much! He (or she?) looks like the cat I had when I was a kid.
    Please give my best wishes to everyone in your family!
    Miss you a lot!

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