Thursday, April 27, 2017

Painters & Hikers at Mount Assiniboine

Staying at Mount Assiniboine was a professional photographer who wants no credit for this wonderful photo!

Friend and fellow artist, Patti Dyment, is masterful at organizing hiking/painting expeditions. On other occasions, Bill and I have stayed at the Naiset Huts but, this was the first time we joined her Assiniboine group - August 7th to 10th, 2016. 

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain UNESCO World Heritage Site. At 11,870 feet (3,618 meters) the Matterhorn-like peak is the highest in the Canadian Rockies. I've had the pleasure of painting there a time or two before. Once, along with with Liz Wiltzen and Gaye Adams, I was fortunate to have a decadent stay in one of the lodge's cabins as guests of Sarah Kidner 

On this trip, two of our four days were mostly absorbed by flights. We really had only two full days there. One was exceptionally fine and all of us made the most of it. Sharon Van Essen was brand new to the experience of painting and staying in the back country. For the most part she slipped seamlessly into the program. On August 9th, she and I painted side by side ...  

Sharon and I painted at the lookout nearest the lodge
My finished Mount Assiniboine oil on panel 14" x 11" is available at Webster Galleries 

All back country expeditions are exhilarating and inspirational. Add painting to the mix and they become gloriously enriching.

Accessing Mount Assiniboine by helicopter will always be a huge rush, plus it's a great deal faster. Eight minutes versus eight hours on foot. On the morning of August 7th, at the Mount Shark staging area, we were forced to wait for the clouds to lift before flying could commence. Multiple fights and incredible precision are required to fly gear and visitors out, economically timed with flying visitors and gear in. Lodge guests fly first. Our gang flew last. 

You can walk into and out of Mount Assiniboine, and we have. It's 28kms one way
Enjoying the flight

Flying around the end of the rock wall of Mount Caultley your heart skips a beat while your breath simultaneously catches in your throat because, suddenly, now you can see what we've all come here for - the Queen of the Rockies ...

There she is!

We were a party of eight, which is the capacity of the largest of the Naiset Huts. The huts are self catered, dorm style accommodations. The five cabins were built in 1925 by Alpine Club of Canada founder, A.O. Wheeler. Although some huts have been upgraded the Aster's interior has not. It's especially rustic. Its two sets of double bunks are pretty narrow. Can you believe eight adults can squeeze in here? Let's just say it was a tight fit ... 

Patti, Sharon and Laura at the Aster Hut
 Yours truly painting the towers, August 8th
This is as far as I got with the Towers before it rained. The painting still waits for me to come back to it.

Our group consisted of four painters and four hikers and, for Bill and me, some new faces. It's a good thing Grant Waddell's warm, easy demeanour stole my heart because he paints altogether too well - if I didn't already love him, I'd hate him. 

August, 8th, Bill and I found Grant painting the shoreline of Lake Magog
Here is Grant with a couple of his precious, little jewels on the porch of the Aster Hut, August 8th

Bill and I hadn't been to Assiniboine since the deluxe Wonder Lodge Cooking Shelter had been built. Prior to it, you had to bring your own stove and cooking gear. Cooking is not permitted inside the huts. Many of the hut porches don't have a roof, so you'd be at the mercy of the elements.

The Wonder Lodge Cooking Shelter make staying in the Naiset Huts much easier. Aster hut is seen in the background
Sharon, yours truly, Bill, Grant, Patti, Laura, Megan and Anne in the Wonder Lodge Cooking Shelter. August 8th

It was a surprise to find John Harvie, and his wife Zel, at the helicopter staging area. I was even more thrilled that he remembered me from the late 1980s when we met at a Sunshine Village Art awards banquet. He's a delightful fellow and a consummate watercolourist. It was awesome to visit with them ... 

John and Zel Harvie

August 8th, after a day of mixed weather the sky cleared to present us with amazing evening light.

The Towers
Yours truly, Anne Walton, Laura Coderre, Megan Morgan and Patti Dyment watching the sundown, August 8th
The Queen at Sunset 

As I am wont to do, in the back country, I slipped out of bed before dawn to see if we might expect a glorious, alpenglow morning. The potential was there and the sky had the right amount of clouds so I went up to the high lookout, in front of the lodge, where I waited for my reward ...

Mount Assiniboine at dawn, August 9th
The day promised to and turned out to be an excellent one 

Soon I spied some of my bunkmates, including Bill, gradually appearing along the lower trail, so I wandered down to greet them.

Thanks for this photo Grant
Morning mist on Lake Magog
Happy painter at work, August 9th

When Sharon and I had finished painting we dropped our gear back at our hut and, with Bill, wandered toward The Towers. We were on the right side of the creek and waved to Patti painting on the left.  

The Towers
While Bill rock hopped, Sharon and I took off our boots and socks to cross the outlet of Gog Lake

We could see Grant painting the waterfalls, but by the time we reached him he was finished and had packed up.

It felt so good to have the earth beneath our bare feet

The lure of happy hour came upon us and we all went tripping back down the trail. We passed Patti still hard at work ...  

Patti painting The Towers

Patti is quick on her feet and hustled to the lodge right behind us. During afternoon tea (between 4 and 5pm) non lodge guests can purchase beer, wine, tea or coffee and cake at the lodge. Every day most of us made our way to the beckoning happy hour. It was grand to warm up in the dining room on the wet, cold days and wonderful to sit out front on the sunny day ...

Yours truly, Sharon and Patti, August 9th

And suddenly, just like that, the party was over and it was time to depart on the morning of August 10th. It was cloudy and drizzling but there was enough visibility to fly...

The staff work like the dickens to load gear and hustle passengers onto the helicopter 
It's somewhat of a rush to fly this close to the rock wall of Mount Caultley 
Spray Lakes en route to back to the Mount Shark heliport

I have such gratitude for times spent in places like this. The memories of these experiences fill my soul and will stay in my heart, forever.  Thank you, Patti, for making this trip a reality. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

March Chemo Changes

Demo and painting session my buddy's granddaughters, Bryton and Madison, March 5th. 

March was a roller coaster ride, some joy, another complication, more joy. On the first Sunday, I spent a pleasant afternoon painting the young ladies above. 

The following Sunday, Bill and I drove to Waterton Lakes National Park. It's only an hour and forty-five minutes away making it an easy afternoon drive. Just being in the mountains lifted my spirit and filled my soul. I miss living in them terribly, plus it had been six months since I was last in their embrace.

Just outside of Waterton Lakes National Park 
At Cameron Falls, on the edge of the Waterton townsite, March 12th

Perhaps I hadn't cooked it correctly, but the Bedrocan cannabis oil was of no use. Over a three week period I gradually increased the dose from 1ml, three times a day, to 5ml three times a day. I was sick of ingesting so much sunflower oil with absolutely no pain relief. I quit their oil the day of my appointment with Dr. Abounaja (March 7th) who prescribes the medicinal marijuana. He wrote a another prescription, which I needed for Cannimed, the new provider. They have the ready made oil, with a 20 to 1 ratio of CBD to THC. It arrived March 24th. It took over two weeks to cancel one provider and get registered with another. While waiting, I caved in and filled a prescription for Celebrex. I was desperate. I've since quit it. Starting low and going slow, I'm experimenting with the cannabis oil looking for the dosage that will work for me. 


Some colourful joy arrived March 14th. What are the odds that these two gorgeous bouquets would arrive, on the same day, from Ontario friends we have known for as long as they have known one another? Our best man, Bob, and his wife, Christine, live in Grimsby and Lori lives in London. They assured me they did not confer prior to wiring the flowers. 

The day after receiving the flowers, a care package arrived in the mail from Erica Neumann. It was filled with wonderful products from the Chinook Honey Company. I'd never heard of them or Propolis. The Black Ointment Propolis has worked very well in settling down the lesions on my legs.

Mid month I contracted Chemotheraphy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy. Simply put it's damaged peripheral nervesNot everyone undergoing treatment gets it. The soles of my feet always feel numb, there is often a pins and needles sensation but worst of all is the intense burning pain which, thankfully, isn't constant. However it rages at night. CIPN can advance to not knowing where your feet are. Peripheral nerves do have the ability to regenerate if they are not too badly damaged.  Often CIPN goes away over time, unless you happen to be one of a subset of patients who are affected by it for life. I was prescribed Gabpentin, used for both preventing epileptic seizures and in calming nerve pain. I took 200mg twice a day for five days before increasing it to 400mg twice a day as prescribed. The morning after the increase I woke up dizzy and light headed. I had difficulty thinking and was so very sleepy.  I had two, two hour naps, one in the morning, one in the afternoon and still I slept well that night. Thinking it was a reaction to something, I quit everything that day, March 27th. It was later confirmed as a reaction to Gabapentin.  

There are some frightening images on the Internet but I give you this one
CIPN often necessitates reducing or even discontinuing chemo treatments. I phoned the Tom Baker Cancer Centre about it on Friday, they gave me and appointment the very next Monday, March 20th with Dr. Babaier. He recommended two more treatments, three weeks apart as opposed to the six weekly dose dense treatments I had remaining. Paclitaxel is increased for these treatments to compensate for the dropped treatments. This gives my body a rest, yet still completes the full six cycles of treatments. As well, my white blood cells have an opportunity to replenish themselves which meant that I could discontinue the Neupogen injections. Home care nurses had administered 24 of the proposed 40. This is a blessing since Neuopen promotes joint pain. Also, with this new regime, I'm not having blood drawn every week which is done at the Claresholm lab three days prior to every chemo treatment.

Other things seemed to come in twos this month. One week I had two care packages arrive on the same day! Many thanks to Meg and the Smiths for their thoughtfulness. 

On March 23rd, my second to last day in The Chair, two couples visited, Bill is always with me. Jackie and Ed, from Canmore, arrived first. We four talked non-stop for two hours until Calgarians, Joe and Carol, arrived. After treatment we enjoyed lunch with the latter two, plus we attended the People's Portrait Prize exhibition at cSPACE consisting of over 450 works. Such fabulous art. So stimulating.

With Erica Neumann's exquisite portrait of Brook MacDonald
Carol with a colourful portrait, that reminded me of Win. Sadly I didn't catch Joe in a photo.
Love this portrait drawn on a painted panel - see the brush marks that contribute to the texture? 

On March 25th, Bill and I had fun at an antique auction in Vulcan, a forty minute drive away. As I'd being taking Celebrex I was experiencing a reduction in hip pain. I was able to walk well and without a cane that day. It's a real treat to get out, going anywhere other than attending medical appointments.

We arrived at Vulcan in time to view the lots on offer at the antique auction, March 25th 

The grand finale of the month was a visit from John and Win Dinn. Knowing that I have limited energy and that a sleep over would be too taxing, they stopped in for a few hours on their way to Calgary for a couple of nights, to visit with family. Like many of our other friends have done, they arrived bearing lunch, and gifts and much appreciated food for the freezer. And then there was the energy healing Win did on both of us - many thanks.   

With the Dinns March 31st.  Behind me you can see the half moon table we bought at the auction 

Win and I knew we wouldn't get to making art but she did leave me her Inktense Pencils to play with. I enjoyed working a journal page layout with them. Their colours are more intense than watercolour pencils. Win collected her pencils when they were homeward bound. This afforded us a second visit over a Sunday brunch. 

Pretending to play with the Inktense pencils

My last chemotherapy treatment will be April 13th, not the 27th, which was the originally scheduled finish date. I'll be done two weeks early and that, let me tell you, is a reason to celebrate! 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Our Family Last Summer

This grandmother likes little more than gathering her family all together. On July 19th, 2016 our kids, who live in the Philippines, arrived in Calgary. The entire Alberta contingent was on hand to greet them. It was here that Denise, Larry and Avery met Everett (who was ten months old) for the first time. Bill and I hadn't seen him since he was a just few weeks old. He was born while they were living in Columbia, Maryland on September 18th, 2015, just six weeks before Adam was transferred and the little family moved to Manila.

Avery, Amira, Bill, Adam, Larry, Denise with Everett and Laura

July 26th, both our daughters and their kids came to spend the better part of a week at our place. 

For years, the doll house has been a prized play thing for Avery and Amira. Neither of them have ever thought to climb it. We brought it into the living room and in less than two minutes the grandson was scaling it. I suspect we're on a very different learning curve by having a boy child in the family! 

It wasn't easy keeping him off of this
Grandkids in the bathtub

We've got a pretty fine Spray Park here in Claresholm, Alberta. The weather could have been more favourable, but being as it was cloudy and cool, it kept these cousins on the move ... 

This was the best I could do to catch Amira and Avery at the Spray Park

Back in our yard they were less likely to turn blue as we would fill the pool with warm water.

Denise and the grandkids.  This pool isn't big enough! 

Amira got sick during this visit which precluded Gran spending a night in the playhouse with the little girls as we had done in 2014. Maybe this year?  

Me on our back deck with all our grand babies

Playgrounds are always popular and we've got a few good ones here in town. This one, by the tennis courts, where Bill and the big girls played, has the fanciest and largest selection of equipment ...

Amira and Avery rocking it
Amira and Avery getting along 
Amira and Avery sort of getting along

The girl cousins are often at odds with one another. It gets pretty testy at times. Someone suggested it's because they don't see much of one another. Thoughts on that anyone?

The girls and I made cupcakes

I didn't think I could manage both granddaughters together in the tiny Anne Frank Room for a painting session. As Avery has often been in there with me, we waited until after she and Denise had returned home so that Amira could have some one on one time with Gran. Amira embraced mixed media and had definite ideas about how and what she was painting.

In the Anne Frank Room
Paint or cupcake on her face?
Her first creation
Second painting
... and her third

On July 31st we drove Laura and kids to Canmore. Adam had returned to Manila, to work for a couple of weeks. He did come back to Canada, but oh the jet lag he must have suffered. In Canmore we all sought out time with family and friends ...

At Bill's sister's place - Linda (to the right of Bill) and Ron

At the time, Denise and Larry were managing operations at the Canmore Hotel (now closed and under renovations). They too were in Canmore but as it was the busy, August long weekend they were pretty tied up with working the place, so only some of us took in the Canmore Folk Music Festival - Alberta's finest and longest running folk music festival.

Gramps and Everett

... where we met all sorts of folks we don't see very often ...

With Hope Moffat, Laura's amazing kindergarten teacher from 32 years ago

I found my protege at her festival booth. It does not surprise me that she keeps up her art practise (and there is great satisfaction in that for me) for she so very keen to learn when we worked together. I participated in the art mentoring program with the Canmore Elementary School. Opal absorbed like a sponge. She would often ask to stay on after our session had ended and I aways said "Yes".  

With Opal Retzer.  After 13 years we still maintain (always will) our mutual admiration society 
Flashback to June 6th, 2002, in my Canmore studio - Opal, age 11 with her copy (coloured pencil) of one of my watercolours 

All good things must come to an end. It was time for Bill and I to head home from Canmore, but first a lunch with Laura and kids ...

Amira and Laura

August 15th, the family assembled for our grand finale when we camped at Mount Kidd RV Park in Kananaskis Country ...

Morning light on The Wedge at Mount Kidd RV Park
Avery with Laura, Amira, Adam and Everett at the grandparents camp
Larry and Denise at their adjacent site.  They have a super deluxe outdoor kitchen set up
Amira and Avery in the wadding pool at Mount Kidd RV Park
All of us together, August 16th, 2016

Looking forward to the Koebels return to Canada this summer!