Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September 2010 Knowles Family Letter

Dear friends,

Welcome to our September 2010 letter! For those who aren't inclined to read much right now, I'll quickly summarize this letter in several brief bullet points:  
  • time travel
  • a student in public school
  • Japanese
  • a side business for Thad
  • a wedding
  • a baby in the house
  • looking for a new church
  • a valuable insight about my personal wiring
So that raised even more questions than it answered? OK, I guess you'll have to read on to find out more! It's really not that long anyway!

OK, we'll start with the time travel. Most of you know we traveled a lot in July, visiting relatives and historical/educational sites. Not everybody went to every place, but various ones of us toured Monticello (where Micah is hugging the status of Thomas Jefferson), the National Zoo (where Naomi and Ben climb on a bear statue), historic Philadelphia (where Melody seems a little uninterested in the Free Quaker Meeting House), Valley Forge, Amish country in Lancaster, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Security Agency's cryptology museum, too.  I bought matching red flag t-shirts for the everyone except the older girls to make it easier to round everyone up when we were in crowded public places.   After all of our sight seeing, we took two days to drive straight home! We left Andrew behind in Maryland for an extra few days, so he got to go to Luray Caverns, Hershey Park, and Ft. McHenry before Grandma and Grandpa brought him back to Florida when they came down here to see my grandson, Jacob. We're not quite done with the historical time travel.  We are planning a field trip to St. Augustine for tomorrow since we are studying the early American colonies in our home school. I could go on and on about all of this, but for those who are interested, here are some on-line photo albums with more commentary. Most of the photos are of the historical sites, flowers and animals, so it is pretty educational. 
<< Andrew at Luray Caverns

Rachel, cousin Carrie, Joanna, and Lydia in Maryland
Probably the phrase from my first paragraph that most startled some of you was the "student in public school." No, that is not a typo. Lydia, who is 15, started at Lake Howell High School last week. We had planned to have her home this semester doing independent and on-line courses, but after giving it several weeks, she wanted more structure and accountability, as well as the opportunity to take "real" geometry, chemistry, art, and French classes -- all areas where I can't help her much anymore and don't have the money for private tutoring. Plus, Seminole State is less flexible with dual enrollment students than Valencia, which no longer accepts new dual enrollment students from our county. Thad mentioned the possibility of public school as an option for next year, so we just sped things up a bit and jumped in this year. The guidance counselor was more than helpful about getting her into classes with great teachers, who have, for their part, been quite accommodating with her starting the school year two weeks late. We did have to make one class adjustment, but otherwise things are going just fine so far! Since Lydia started this sophomore year with 10 credits and she's taking some AP courses, she should be graduating at the end of her junior year with some college credits. I'm really excited for her and quite confident that she will really shine in her new educational setting.  You can read more here: Making the Transition into Public High School or College   (Note: Lydia made her solo stage debut singing "Not for the Life of Me" for Lake Howell High School's Broadway Night on September 17.  Watch her astounding performance here: This Girl's Got Gusto!)  

The younger five kids are all still home with me learning American history and human anatomy along with math and English.

Rachel and Joanna have both started their new semester at Valencia College. Rachel is finishing up her associate's degree this semester and hoping to start at UCF's nursing school in the fall. She's planning to take this next spring semester off to work and travel. Before school started, Joanna spent another week in Daytona Beach with a bunch of Japanese home-stay students, which she always loves. She will graduate from high school in the spring with a bunch of college credits. She is also working part-time trying to save up for a car.

My husband Thad decided to join the academic action and take an accounting class at Valencia. He's already done a bunch of bookkeeping for many years, so he's starting a side business in it, which is much needed extra income for us. So if you know of any small businesses looking for someone with integrity and careful attention to detail, let me know!

Julia looked absoutely gorgeous as a bridesmaid in her friend Sarah Grace's wedding on Saturday! (See pictures here.) She's still working full-time, but her office moved so she has to drive a really long way to get there.

Mary has returned to work as a writer at Wycliffe Bible Translators after her maternity leave. Wycliffe is a family-friendly organization, so she can work from home three days a week, and bring Jacob to work the other two days if she wants. Or, if she needs to leave him home, one of us can watch him after Ryan leaves for work in the afternoon. Sometimes Joanna and/or Rachel goes over there after their Valencia classes, and sometimes Jacob comes here so the rest of us can love up on him for a few hours! So occasionally we have a baby in the house! On those days, Mary stays for dinner since Ryan is at work. We sure do love them! Jacob is adorable at 11 weeks old.

OK, so what's left of the teaser phrases from my introduction paragraph? Ah yes, looking for a new church. Transitions aren't exactly easy, but it is time to move on from the congregation we've been at for 8 years. We miss our seeing our dear friends there each Sunday, but hope to keep in touch with as many as possible! I am grateful that the pastors have always been very kind to our family and that we had a very pleasant meeting with our senior pastor last week. In the past five weeks, we have visited three different churches, all of them quite nice. I particularly enjoyed the most recent, Lake Baldwin Church, a PCA congregation where some of our friends are members.

Next, a valuable insight into the way I'm wired! My sister Barb (pictured at left with our parents and brother John and me) called me a few weeks ago with the news that she had been diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). What's more, my mother immediately replied, "Oh, you mean you didn't know that already? Virginia has it, too!" Oh my. I haven't been officially analyzed on this yet, but the symptoms sure do match up according to this very informative site: ADHD/ADD Adult Signs, Symptoms, Effects and Treatment

Hmmm! So that's what's been going on all these years! There are many things (such as distractibility, forgetfulness, difficulty with space organization, and time management) that I struggle with on a day to day basis, and this gives me fresh motivation to find practical solutions. An iPod Touch, an unexpected gift from someone who wanted to bless me, has been a huge Godsend in helping me stay on task with To Do list, alarms that beep when I need to do something, a calendar, and a notepad. I keep it with me all the time so I can make notes when I first think of something and then followup on it later.  I also have a Bible on it and my weekly prayer lists, too. One thing I did early on is to encourage myself by writing four lists: ways I already compensate for my ADDled brain, things I still need to work on, my personal strengths, and my personal weaknesses. You can find more information about all of this, including some of my lists, here: ADD and Me? We'll Manage!

Here are some other recent posts on my other blogs: 

Let me leave you with a few last inspirational thoughts.  When we were in Maryland, I asked my Grandma Hess, a recent widow at age 95, what her favorite hymn is.  She was a church organist for decades, so I figure she knows a whole bunch of them!  She thought for a moment, and replied, "Love Lifted Me."  I was able to immediately pull up a video of someone singing it on-line and handed her my iPod to watch and listen.  It was sort of fun seeing her with it -- such a new fangled device in old-fashioned hands!  I'm sorry I can't find the same music video, but here are the sweet lyrics:

"Love Lifted Me"
by James Rowe

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore.

Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.

    Love lifted me! (even me)
    Love lifted me! (even me)
    When nothing else could help,
    Love lifted me!

All my heart to Him I'll give, ever to Him I'll cling,
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing.
Love so mighty and so true merits my soul's best songs;
Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.

Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves;
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves.
He's the Master of the sea, billows His will obey;
He your Saviour wants to be -

I'd still like to give you something to listen to, so for those of you who like more vintage-contemporary Christian music, here's Phil Keaggy's 1981's adaptation of the old hymn "Rise Up O Men of God."  Keaggy has been considered one of the best guitarists in the world.  I used to listen to this when I was in college!  Even with the modern music, it's still an ageless anthem and call to action.

Rise up O men of God
Have done with lesser things
Give heart and soul and mind and strength,
To serve the King of Kings,
To serve the King of Kings.

Grace to all of you,

Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ADD and Me? We'll Manage!

Dear friends,

My sister called me a few weeks ago with the news that she had been diagnosed with ADD  (Attention Deficit Disorder). What's more, my mother immediately replied, "Oh, you mean you didn't know that already? Virginia has it, too!" Oh my. I haven't been officially analyzed on this yet, but the symptoms sure do match up according to this very informative site: ADHD/ADD Adult Symptoms.

Hmmm! So that's what's been going on all these years! Perpetually forgetful. Generally messy. Hard to follow instructions or information that isn't written down. Difficulty with administrative details. Easily bored or distracted. Impatient with interruptions. Tending toward procrastination. Struggling with daily self-discipline. Not even noticing small things that need to be done. No wonder I drive my family nuts sometimes! Yep. That would be me.

No, it's not just laziness, though I'm sure I'm guilty of that sometimes, too. No, I'm not dumb. I graduated from college with honors. I've taught home school classes for years, and developed my own curriculum.  I've written three books and hundreds of blog posts. Like many people with ADD, I can also "hyper focus" for periods of time in an effort to tune out distractions and compensate for my quirky mental wiring. When I started to think about it, I could count dozens of ways (lots of lists -- and more) that I've already compensated for ADD (or the assorted symptoms thereof if I don't have a full blown clinical case of it).

I am amused that one of the most recent helps with this was a very unexpected gift. Even before I heard about the possible ADD, someone who loves me and wanted to bless me gave me an iPod Touch, which I never would have bought for myself since it is out of my price range. It not only has music (which I love!), but web & e-mail (when I'm within wi-fi range), clock alarms, calendar, note pads. My favorite app on it is a wonderful running To Do list that keeps tasks in date and priority order, beeps at me when I need to remember something, and is easy to edit when I don't actually get to something when originally planned. Ah, relief! What a Godsend! (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!) That has been a huge help to keeping me on track.   I take it with me wherever I go, so I can type something on the touch pad whenever I think of something I shouldn't forget!  (Update in 2015: I now have an iPhone 6 with a camera, which means I can easily take pictures of things I want to remember for later reference, such as products in stores. I used the gTask app for my to do list since it also displays anything on Google Calendar (app and web site) for the day. I previously used the ToodleDo app which syncs with the web site.  I also now take meds for ADD, but I'm not totally sure whether that helps or not.)

One other thing I did early on is to encourage myself by writing four lists: ways I already compensate for my ADD brain, things I still need to work on, my personal strengths, and my personal weaknesses. I've posted my "compensations" and "strengths" below, such as my creativity and sense of adventure. So I don't regard ADD with a sense of dismay or doom. It's just a difference that we need to work around.

OK, here are the lists of my compensations and strengths.  These aren't "functional lists" but they sure are uplifting ones!  I also have lists for things I need to work on, but I'll just keep those to myself for now!

Existing Compensations for Symptoms of ADD 
  • reading things to remember or understand (visual learner, not auditory)
  • master grocery list (organized by aisle) on computer to print each week
  • chore charts for kids
  • To Do list on iPod
  • very detailed sermon notes
  • write down names of people I meet
  • address lists on computer
  • e-mails and documents kept on computer for information -- able to do quick search to find what I need without needing to remember exactly where I put it!
  • weekly prayer list
  • vacation packing lists on computer, plus vacation organizer notebook and car bins
  • detailed lesson plans for school -- unit studies plus some structured curriculum keeps things "together"
  • journals and notebooks
  • bins & bags for school supplies, games and puzzles
  • school bins for kids' books, notebook, supplies
  • teacher bin ready for morning school time
  • labeled storage clothes bins
  • bookcases and video shelves organized by topic
  • clocks in most rooms of house
  • blogs to record memories and thoughts that I might otherwise forget
  • photography to help me remember
  • dish cupboards have standard places for most items
  • seasonal and holiday decorations in bins
  • detailed outlines and even scripts for public speaking, though I also ad lib
My God-Given Personality Strengths
  • creative, poetic, deep thinking
  • love beauty, art, nature
  • well-read, with a pretty good memory for what I read
  • out-of-the-box thinking
  • people say I am gifted at writing and public speaking
  • soft heart: able to sympathize and empathize with others
  • flexible and spontaneous
  • adventurous -- like to break out of ruts
  • eclectic interests: learn about a lot of different things and appreciate people who are different from me
  • sociable and conversational
  • value relationships over tasks
  • once I really get going on an organizing task that needs doing, I get a lot of stuff done (if I'm not interrupted too much!)
OK, your turn!  Think about what challenges you face in life!  How do you handle them?  What are your strengths?  How is your personality unique, not necessarily "flawed"?  Get out your paper and pencil now.   Ready, set, go!

Virginia Knowles
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