Archive for November, 2008

Last week I gave Hannah some paperwhite or narcissus bulbs to force. She carefully followed my instructions and filled the container half-way with pebbles, positioned the bulbs with the flat-end down, checked that they were close but not touching, and added pebbles to the top of the container. Then she watered them just to the base of the bulbs.

Dad observed Hannah throughout the planting. When she was finished he commented that he remembered his mother forcing bulbs in 1936 when they lived in Gordonville. He even recalled the green, transparent, shallow bowl that she used; it was shaped like a flower. “I was six-years-old,” Dad said, “and I have such a clear memory of Mother forcing those bulbs.”

In the past, the paperwhites that I have coaxed to bloom in-doors have tended to be on the leggy side and required staking. Today I read about an interesting way to keep the stems shorter without affecting the size of the flower. When the stems are about two-inches tall, the water must be drained out of the container and replaced with a solution of isopropyl alcohol and water. The ratio is one part alcohol to ten parts water. The bulbs should be watered with this solution as they continue to grow and bloom. William B. Miller, Professor of Horticulture and Director of the Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University, recommends this method to stunt the stems to 1/2 to 2/3 their average height. We are giving it a try since he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.

Grandmother was always on the lookout for ways to enhance a plant’s beauty, and I know she would have appreciated this tip. Our narcissus bulbs are the foolproof ‘Ziva’ variety, and should be putting forth their fragrant blooms right before Christmas.

paperwhite blubs


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1. He awakens me every morning!

2. His lovingkindnesses never cease.

3. His compassions never fail.

4. He inclines to hear my voice in the morning.

5. He is the reason that I begin each day with rejoicing and praise.

6. He keeps me in his love and care throughout the day.

7. He shows lovingkindness toward me even at times when I may not be aware of His provision and protection.

8. He grants me restful sleep.

9. He is ever watchful over me, even in the deepest part of the night.

10. He never slumbers or sleeps!

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1. Laura Ingalls Wilder- I’ve read the “Little House” series at least fifteen times, maybe more. I enjoy learning about the “olden days,” like how adding a small amount of grated carrot toward the end of a churning of butter will give it a lovely, yellow-orange color.

2. King Leo Peppermint Sticks- These confections are my favorite peppermints.

3. Garbage Collectors- These guys must have great cardiovascular health; they run and lift all day long while providing a much-needed community service.

4.On-Line Dictionaries They provide the definition, the etymology, and pronounce it for you!

5. Strubley- This is such a useful, Pennsylvania Dutch word that is not in the dictionary. It describes something that’s tousled or standing up on end, like a bird’s feathers. Hannah tells me on occasion, “Mom, your hair is strubley.”

6. LibaryThing.com- Cataloging my books on-line is a work in progress, and delights me no end.

7. People Who Cook- It’s such fun trading recipes with someone who knows that baking a cake from scratch does not mean adding oil and eggs to a box mix.

8. Madelaine- She is my first grandniece and is absolutely adorable! She’s gifted, of course, and will be an early reader due to all the books her mother reads to her.

9. Rollling Pins- I couldn’t find my rolling pin shortly after we had moved, and so I rolled out a pie crust with a glass. I had read that in the “olden days” a glass would suffice. It doesn’t.

10. Cherrye and Robert- Hannah and I are the recipients of their gracious hospitality when we are in Austin for the weekend. They house us, feed us, run us around, and dog-sit/train/indulge Toby.

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1. Pine trees- My new house has its very own pine tree! Everytime I look at it I’m reminded of Hosea 14:8 in which God describes Himself like a pine tree. “I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me.

Ivory Creek Pine

2. Anniversaries- It’s been seven years this month since I completed my treatment for breast cancer, and Mark and I celebrated 24 years of marriage in July.

3. Mark- He faithfully maintains my computer, my vehicle, and he never gets lost in parking garages.

4. Church Directory Family Photographs- It is so convenient to have them taken at church.

5. My Ipod- Music, Richard’s sermons, teaching series . . . I could go on an on.

6. My New Church Home- Ok, so it’s not small and cozy like my previous church. Although last week’s worship attendance totaled 20,745, I know that I will find my niche in this urban-mega church.

7. MapQuest- MapQuest directions give me semi-confidence to find my way around Katy and some parts of Houston (with additional tips from Mark, of course).

8. Goodwill- Shopping at Goodwill is like going on a treasure hunt.

9. Mechanical Pencils- No dull lead ever!

10.Susan’s Potholders I am very fond of the potholders woven by my beloved sister more than 24 years ago on a potholder loom. They definitely have a worn quality to them but I always reach for them first.

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Walking With Dad

Dad and I have been walking around the neighborhood for exercise. He uses a Rollator, a snazzy, wheeled walker with a built-in seat, so that he can rest occasionally. We enjoy soaking up the mild sunshine and looking for signs of nature in an urban setting.

This morning we heard the honking of geese. It took awhile to spot the group of white geese flying in a wedge formation high overhead. We couldn’t determine what kind of geese they were but we very much enjoyed their resonant honking as they called to each other. Dad reflected that their voices had a mournful quality that caused his chest to ache whenever he heard them. “Yeah,” I said, “me too.”

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Last year I read the thankful lists of a young woman who had accepted a challenge to list ten blessings on each of the seven days preceding Thanksgiving.  I enjoyed her lists so much that I’ve been mentally composing Thanksgiving blessing lists for weeks and now it’s time to share!  Listed in no particular order . . .

“Give thanks to Him and praise — ” Psalm 100:4

1. Dad- It’s an incredible blessing to have Dad living with our family. 

2. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center- An extraordinary place staffed with friendly, compassionate people whose goal is to make cancer history.

3. Tobias William McNiel-Hannah’s miniature, piebald dachshund called Toby for short. Tobias means “God is love” and Toby’s personality is ALL love.  He is, of course, gifted since he learns tricks speedily and is fluent in English.

4. Sternbergia lutea- Also known as fall crocus. The blooms pictured in the header were blooming the first week of November at my old residence. Grandmother Rachel planted them around oak trees in her back yard, and over the decades they naturalized to a breathtaking five feet in circumference from the trunks! I was determined to have my own shining crocus greet me on an autumn morning, and after much searching I found a source for the bulbs.

5. Flannel blankets- Just right for cool nights.

6. Public libraries- Stacks of treasures for bibliophiles like me.

7. My Swiffer Sweeper- It’s show-and-tell time when I see what the Swiffer picked up after having swept with a broom.

8. Dried plums- Also known as prunes. Bite-sized energizers that are packed with antioxidants, potassium, and fiber.

9. Electricity- Recently, we were without electricity for three days, and I promise that I’ll never take it for granted again for the rest of my life.

10. Voice mail greetings- The ones that say, “Please leave a detailed message.” A cordial invitation to leave details about what I’m calling about makes me smile.

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Dad arrived a week ago today, and it’s been a busy seven days. He had one day to rest from his all-day-trip from Oklahoma before we headed to MD Anderson for his initial appointment last Friday. It was a long day of consultations, interviews, lab work, and scans.

Today Dad met with his M. D. Anderson oncologist to learn the results of the tests and scans. It was satisfying to hear that the brain scan revealed not one bit of cancer, and that his leg ultrasound showed no clots. Chemotherapy was deemed “too toxic” for Dad at this time. Therefore, the next best plan is to proceed with a course of radiation therapy to shrink the tumor in his left lung.

The good news is that the radiation can be administered at the MD Anderson branch in Katy, a mere five minutes from my house. Radiation treatment plus travel time will only be about 45 minutes per session. Dad and I are both feeling blessed with this arrangement. The I-10 traffic can keep moving right along without us, thank you.

Upon completing three weeks of radiation therapy, Dad will be evaluated again to determine how the tumor responded to the radiation. He will then meet with an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor to determine if additional intervention will restore some of his voice.

Dad has a great medical team of committed caretakers: Dr. Ignacio G., Linda, Dr. Frank F., Gayle, Lisa Ann, Edna, Jeffery, Dr.Michael O., Melanie, Susan, Rick, Alfreda, and Dr. Gregory C., and many more that we don’t know about. Each one plays an important part in administering the plan for Dad, and he’s grateful for every one of them.

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