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!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Playing in Creston / Alice-in-Wonderland

Time to get back to posting about art and the fun times in 2016.  

With our R-Pod, Bill and I arrived in Creston, from Claresholm, on July 10th for a three night stay at Scottie's RV Park. As well, Meg and Paul rolled in from Canmore to stay at the Valley View Motel, but ultimately we all end up here ...

... on the Dinn's remarkable deck for libations, great food and one another's company

As per usual we gals hit the studio during the daytime abandoning the men, who are more than capable of entertaining themselves. We spread our play things out all over every horizontal space, then we dive into making art. Any kind of art. Here, anything goes.

Meg and Win in Win's gorgeous studio

Playing in Win's studio brings out the creative juices

Writing this post eight months after the fact, I'm not really sure what possessed me to start the painting I did. I'm going with how very inspired and dazzled I was by a piece Win had recently created, in collaboration with Bart Bjorkman, of Puffin Design - the 47" diameter Impossible ClockBut how my piece morphed into Alice in Wonderland remains a mystery.


Meg usually has several pieces on the go, this time was no exception
Win got into folding books


When we six reassemble good times are guaranteed. We enjoy having a delectable lunch on the Skimmerhorn Winery's awesome deck, our end of day happy hours, evening feasting and shenanigans. 

You can count on great food, and wine, on the Skimmerorn Winery deck
Win and John 
Paul and Meg
Bill and yours truly.  Doesn't everyone know about maple tree "keys" and how they'll stick on your nose, when they're fresh?


Back to Alice painting Alice. For the background, I splattered and blotted favoured colours, quinacridone orange gold, Indian yellow, aztec gold (how dare Daniel Smith discontinue their acrylic line which included this magnificent colour?). Some burnt umber was needed to darken the top. I went wild with gear and time piece stencils, some I applied with texture, some not. Then, I employed commercial rubber stamps until I was satisfied with all the nuances these toys created. 

As the background was so dark I had to paint Alice in a ghost-like white to be assured the colours would be clean and bright when I coloured her in.


The finished Alice in Wonderland 
24" x 12" acrylic mixed media on canvas

At home I completed the piece by painting on the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. I took great pleasure in the adding of embellishments, the small and miniature playing cards (thanks Win) the gears, the key and the clock button. Here are some close ups ...

Mixed media artist extraordinaire and our good friend, Win Dinn, has been teaching her acquired techniques in workshops for years. She conceived and facilitated a fabulous exhibition of her student's (plus her own) work. All students were invited to submit up to five pieces to Students. Teacher. Play. The show was beautifully presented by the folks at Centre 64 in Kimberley, BC, and was on display for the month of September, 2016. It was my good fortune to have Alice in Wonderland placed front and centre at the entrance to the show.

September 3rd, with Win at the exhibition's opening reception

When our granddaughter, Avery, turned eight last October I gifted Alice to as her annual birthday painting. 

Here are a  couple of other new pieces created specifically for Student. Teacher. Play.  ...

Drifting and Grounded  12" x 9" mixed media on cradled panel
Peacock Paradise 10" x 8" mixed media on cradled panel

Plus two other pieces which met the criteria of being created within the past two years ...

Flying Time 9" x 12" mixed media on board
Hip Replacement 9" x 8.25" acrylic mixed media, recycled child's board book.  The story and contents are here

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Monthly Medical Report

As we navigate our way through a constant stream of medical appointments and the task of remembering to take meds/injections we are buoyed by the generosity of our peeps. All manner of gifts keep coming our way, from handmade, soft toques and shawls, gorgeous floral bouquets, awesome meals (as invited guests and prepared meals which keep our freezer filled) to the completely unexpected, stunning quilt below ...   

The quilt made and gifted by Margaret Froese, February 9th
Susan delivered the quilt gift and spent a couple of hours with me while I was in The Chair

Almost three months out of surgery the desire to paint struck. The painting calling me was the dragon I'd started last March outside of Victoria's Mountain Equipment Co-op. In the 2.5 hours I spent standing on the cold pavement all I accomplished was a complex drawing of only the dragon using a brush and burnt umber oil. 

I took my supplies to the Art Room at Linderman Law and settled in for a short, Saturday afternoon at the easel. That same evening we attended a most enjoyable and very stimulating dinner party. The following day I returned to the studio where I painted for too long. Come Monday I was completely spent. I required a two hour nap in the morning and another hour long one in the afternoon. Clearly, right now, my ambition is not aligned with my physical capacity. This is very humbling.

February 11th in the Art Room at Linderman Law

We've brought my paints home where I may or may not paint. I'm concerned I won't have the common sense to paint for only short periods of time, but mostly the urge has left. 

By Canada Post, my order of medicinal marijuana arrived February 14th

Following the 420 Clinic's recipe, I added the 15 grams of dried marijuana to three cups of heated sunflower oil and cooked it, on low in our slow cooker, for one hour. The house smelled as if there was a wild party in progress. When the oil had cooled I strained it through cheesecloth and filled these sealer jars ... 

Those with white contents have been frozen. The oil keeps in the refrigerator for sixty days  

The 420 Clinic advised that I orally take, 1ml three times a day. After a week, without pain relief, I called my trusted provider. The fellow I spoke with asked about my preparation and was surprised at how much oil I'd used. The ratio of their prepared oils is 10 parts oil to 1 part marijuana. Problem is their oils are heavy in THC (psychoactive) with only a trace of CBC (the anti-inflammatory component). I was advised to slowly increase the dosage of the batch I'd made. At the time of this post I am swallowing a lot of sunflower oil daily, 5ml three times a day and still I have no pain relief. Through the 420 clinic I'm making application to a different provider that has prepared oils with a higher percentage of CBD. I may add some THC to the mix. We can discuss this with the prescribing doctor at my March 7th appointment.


Mid month my entire perineum caught fire. I couldn't discern whether I had a bladder or a vaginal yeast infection. I wound up at our local ER the evening of the 16th. My urine sample was analyzed on the spot but the vaginal swab had to be sent away. I definitely had a bladder infection and was prescribed Fosfomycin, a packet of crystals added to water, intended to be a one shot fix. Still in pain the following evening, and convinced I had a vaginal infection as well, I went back to the ER where I was given 150 mg of Fluconazole for a yeast infection. It was an uncomfortable, long weekend. Tuesday, I made a third trip to the ER. The vaginal swab was back. No yeast infection. Another urine sample established the bladder infection was still raging. This time I was prescribed a seven day round of antibiotics which have cleared it up.


A chemo side effect is dry skin, and then these disgusting lesions erupted on my legs. They start as small, red, itchy spots with a hard lump beneath them. Then, the lump and itch disappear and they get bigger. I'm treating them with hydrocortisone cream and I'm seeing some improvement.

Still sporting some leg hair
All vanity aside here.  March 3rd, I still have some hair, (and it appears to be growing) eyebrows and eyelashes 

February 23rd marked the halfway point in my chemo treatments. As of March 2nd I have ten down and eight more to go. I continue to have no nausea and food tastes as it should so I eat - lots. On February 27th, at my follow-up appointment at genealogy/oncology, I learned that I've gained a pound. Also my blood work is holding its own and thanks to the Neupogen injections my white blood cell count is high. Home Care nurses have administered sixteen of the forty of these prescribed injections (I still daily inject the Tinzaparin blood thinner myself). Unfortunately, a side effect of Neupogen is that it promotes bone, muscle and joint pain. Exactly what I don't need. My left hip pains so much that I can't walk much at all. Outdoors, I use a cane and in the house as well when gripping the furniture and the walls isn't enough support. 

On February 28th, at the Lethbridge Bone and Joint Clinic, a wonderful retired orthopaedic surgeon assessed me. Upon viewing my recent x-ray he told me what I already know, that I'm down to no cartilage in my left hip. I'm a candidate for a replacement, but first we must finish chemo, and then, I wish to have the colostomy reversed which means another surgery. With pain relief, of some sort, hopefully I can hold off having the hip replacement until January 2018. The hip pain is sometimes so wretched there are nights I cry myself to sleep. It's so much easier to be cheery and upbeat when I have respite from the pain.

Bill is helping in every way he can. I could never do this without him. It's taking as big a toll on him as it is on me. Please keep those prayers and good vibes coming and we promise to keep our spirits elevated. Heartfelt thanks to all of you.