Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kewanee Park on a Foggy Day

Dear friends,

This morning my daughter brought me outside to show me the fog.  After I dropped her and her friends off at the bus stop, I decided to drive over to Kewanee Park and take some pictures before the fog lifted.  I should have gone home to get my real camera, but I think my iPod did well enough!

I texted my husband and invited him to come join me for a stroll on the boardwalk, and he was delighted at the idea.  He helped me find some of my best photo shots.  So good to get away together, even for just a little bit on a foggy morning.

Tent moths!

Do you see the little tent moth caterpillars?

Water drop on a bud

A rare red leaf of Florida "autumn"

Shelf fungus

Funky fungus! No, that's not its name...

Pretty white fungus on a log

Elephant ear leaf

Little leaves on water

A curly swirly dried leaf

Lush green vines

Red berries on a tree

Just the two of us

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

To the Hospital and Home Again (An Update)

Weird stuff happens.

Monday is usually a "home day" for me since I teach Tuesday through Thursday at a private Christian school.   I had just spent the early afternoon getting up to speed with how to use some on-line curriculum when I decided to take a break and go to the bank, a mile away.  As I was driving, I began to notice that everything any distance away from me looked blurry and double. I couldn't even read street signs that weren't right up near me! That was not only weird, but extremely unsettling!  I checked my glasses for smudges and didn't see any.  Something was wrong.  The bank teller told me to get my blood pressure checked.  Then I remembered that my feet were swollen that day, too, and I had already taken my "as needed" diuretic medicine for that.  Hmm.  And I felt anxious, tight in the chest.  So I stopped in at Walgreen's and had the pharmacist check my blood pressure.  It was much higher than usual but not in the emergency range.  He told me to go home, rest, drink water and call my doctor.

By 8:30 that evening, I was in the emergency room.  Doctor's orders.  (Daughter's orders, too. She's a nurse at the same hospital, and she's the one who brought me in, less than an hour after arriving home from the airport after a trip to Maryland.)

I spent most of the night shuttled from one area to another of the ER, getting checked for this and that: blood drawn, EKG, and CT scan to rule out a stroke.  Later they moved me to a curtained off cubicle in the CTU (Clinical Transition Unit), and after a couple hours of sleep, I had a venous Doppler scan (to check for leg clots) and an echocardiogram.  I never did get officially admitted and was released in the late afternoon, very tired, and still without a clear diagnosis for my cluster of symptoms.  They did prescribe medicine for low thyroid -- which is not surprising since I had half of my thyroid removed years ago.  That (and a bit of anxiety and stress) could account for a lot of it right there, except for the vision glitch, which they said was pretty unusual in its context.  

My mom and grandma
Not only did I come home tired, I came home sad. Yesterday was my mother's 75th birthday, but she passed away in July.  I was wearing some of her clothes in the hospital, like a warm hug.   Then my sister called to say that my dear grandmother, whose 99th birthday is next month, is dying of congestive heart failure. She doesn't even know it. She seems happy and comfortable enough now, and my family doesn't want to worry her in her few remaining days.  I fully agree.  My sister will be with her at night, watching over her and tending to her needs, as she did with my mother all those long summer weeks. As I think again about grieving, I am reminded of my recent blog post Love, Loss, and Lake Lily and my new haiku called Autumn Breeze.

So here I am.  It's Wednesday, and I've been sitting quietly.  I'm missing my second day of work, since my boss kindly encouraged me to stay home and rest for one more day.  My blood pressure and legs are back to normal.  My distance vision is still a bit blurry and I'm not sure I'm ready to drive.  This too shall pass, I hope.  I'll see my doctor soon, and also get a full vision check up. (P.S. Writing on Sunday: My vision is back to normal.  My optometrist ran every test imaginable and said most everything looks pretty usual for my age and that I don't need new glasses.  He thinks I was having blood sugar issues on Monday, which is quite probable, even though they said my level was normal.  My A1C, which measures average blood sugar of longer period of time, is up, so I really have to watch what I eat and lose some weight.  I see my regular doctor this week for a follow-up.)

As I reflect, I am thankful:
  • for my daughter Rachel, who took me to the hospital and stayed with me a few hours, even though she had to work the next morning 
  • for my husband visiting me, shuttling kids to school and back, and dealing with hospital paperwork
  • for the doctors and nurses and techs, who, even though they didn't fully figure me out, at least gave it a good try (I think I had an entourage of at least five doctors working on my case since it is a teaching hospital) and were good with their needles
  • for the fact that all of my tests came back fairly normal and nothing seems to be seriously wrong with me (no stroke, no heart attack, no clots) though I do need to lose a lot of weight!
  • for alternative non-insurance health cost sharing through Samaritan Ministries, which even though it will take a few months, will cover most of the medical bills
  • for Florida Hospital's hefty discount for the uninsured -- which is important to me since this is the third time I've been there overnight in the past year and half (once for heart symptoms - see Weekend Gratitude: A Healthy Heart  -  and once to diagnose my severe sleep apnea)
  • for the family and friends who have cared enough to pray and offer comfort and post sweet comments on Facebook
  • for my iPod, which gave me a way to connect with those family and friends, as well as to read my favorite blogs and take a few pictures
  • for Bart and Judy, who came to visit and pray, not just because he is a church elder, but because they are my friends.  They are bringing dinner tonight, too. The funny thing is, on Monday morning, I wrote a little tribute to my friend Judy to go with her favorite hymn. You can see it here: When We All Get to Heaven.
  • for Fritz and Barbie, who sent pizza over for dinner, and who are awesome with the youth at our church
  • for the hospital chaplain who came in for a brief visit, and for all the lovely Scriptures and inspirational artwork on the walls -- gotta love Florida Hospital for that!
  • for my own bed to come home to (the guy in the cubicle next to me has been homeless, I think -- hard not to overhear his visit with the chaplain through the thin curtain -- and also thankful that the folks at the Orlando Rescue Mission have helped him, even though I never met him)
  • for my children being considerate of my need to sleep in that bed for the rest of the day and for my husband not being too upset that I stole his blanket last night. Mine had apparently fallen on the floor, and I guess I swiped his in my sleep, right off his back.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  
  • for the other staff at school subbing my classes and telling me not to worry about a thing!
  • for the eyesight I do have, thanks to a good pair of progressive lenses that I've had for two years and that I wear from the moment I open my eyes in the morning until the moment I close them at night.  Whoever invented them was a genius.
  • for God being gracious to me and keeping me going step by step, even though I don't always understand what he is doing in my life.  It's been a tough year, and a rough past few years, but I'm still here in both shimmer and shadow.

Judy and Virginia

As I finish this post, I'm sitting here listening to a CD that Judy gave me in the hospital: Leave the Light on by Kellie Haddock, who has suffered a lot of loss herself.  She reminds me a lot of Sara Groves, and sure enough, Sara Groves sings with her in the song "Is It Enough."  Good stuff!

My kids will be home soon, and I need to go back to bed for a bit before then, but I just wanted to keep you updated.  When big things happen to me in life, I write.  Little things, too, but especially big ones.  

You can keep praying for me, especially for the full restoration of my distance vision!
Much love,


Monday, October 7, 2013

Autumn Breeze (Haiku)

Autumn Breeze

Dear Autumn Trees, please
Give me all your gorgeous leaves.
More will grow. Love, Breeze.

Yes, that was haiku.

Learning to let go, 
live with loss, 
embrace the seasons,
and trust that something 
fresh and new will grow...

Virginia Knowles

Same theme, almost the same day, 
must be on a roll...

Weekend Gratitude: Love, Loss, and Lake Lily

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weekend Gratitude: Love, Loss, and Lake Lily


What a beautiful day at the Maitland Art Festival which is held each year on the pathway around Lake Lily! I wanted to go yesterday with several of my kids, but had too much work to do.  This morning I had a really hard time getting up and being at all cheerful as I hadn't slept well.  My husband has been out of town for a few days, and I almost stayed home from church, which is quite rare for me unless someone is sick.  In the end, just two of my daughters - my 12 year old and my 8 year old - came with me and we decided to visit the art festival on the way home.  I confess, that was sort of my incentive for going to church. 

I'm so glad we went to church, even though it made me cry.  Pastor Mike Tilley just started a new series on the book of Ruth, and he only covered the first five verses, in which Naomi suffers a series of losses, including famine, relocation to hostile territory, and the deaths of her husband and two sons.  Fittingly, the sermon, titled "Love and Tragedy," was all about loss and our response to it.  He reminded us to give ourselves enough time and space to grieve the hard things in our lives - whether it is death or a broken relationship or losing a job or even life just not turning out the way we expected - and not let ourselves be burdened with false guilt or the feeling that God is punishing us.  As someone who has had an extremely difficult year, including the death of my mother, this was an especially poignant morning in the pew for me.  How sweet for me that my own daughter Naomi sat next to me and gave me plenty of comforting hugs and kisses.  She lives up to her name, which means pleasant and delightful. (While I was in the hospital after Naomi was born, I reflected on the book of Ruth and later wrote an article about caring for those who have suffered loss or disappointment.  You can find it here: Nurturing Naomi: How to Help Yourself or Someone Else Overcome Discouragement.)

I am also glad we went to the art festival, even though my younger daughter's patience ran out halfway around Lake Lily.  I still wasn't in my usual sociable mood, so I was a little shy about asking permission to photograph any of the art work up close.  We snapped a lot more pictures of the water birds than anything else.  Such cute, fuzzy little ducklings in that last photo with Naomi!

Beauty is so restorative and healing in my life, whether the creativity is divine or human.   After seeing all of the gorgeous photography exhibits, I am inspired to keep taking my own nature pictures, many of which end up in my Strength in Hymn series over at Watch the Shepherd. 

Here are just three of my blog posts featuring photos shot at Lake Lily, including one from the same art show in 2009.

And one from the Winter Park art festival two years ago:

My haiku on loss: Autumn Breeze (Haiku)

In case you missed it, here is the link for the Naomi article again:
Love and beauty,

Virginia Knowles

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