Monday, September 18, 2017

Birthday Paintings for the Manila Kids 2016

Everett's 1st birthday painting, Super Grandson and his Jeepney acrylic 12" x 16"

My grandkid birthday paintings are decidedly labours of love. Often I'll invite our daughters to have input regarding the subject matter. When Laura requested a Jeepney for Everett I had absolutely no idea what a Jeepney was. She sent images and I went into heart failure. What a complicated subject. 

I had to give myself the pep talk. The same one I give myself whenever I'm asked to paint something outrageous. In this talk I repeat things like "You can paint anything, you just have to want to paint this." "It's simply another challenge, now go and convince yourself that you want to paint it."

A painting that definitely required the pep talk is here.

A line of Jeepneys (Internet image)

Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded bench seating and kitsch decorations. Jeepneys were originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from WWII.

The sketch 
Day one of adding colour

With little boys and their attraction to super heroes I decided Everett ought to be portrayed as Superman. Originally I thought I wanted the body of the Jeepney to be metallic silver, but paintings like this one morph of their own volition. The vehicle asked to be turquoise. The rural background didn't feel right so I let it become urban. I had fun texturing the wall.

With a rural background 
More colour and the urban background

As is often the case this painting was late, but his sister's painting was almost on time. This is because their birthday and Christmas gifts get lumped together into one shipping box going to Manila (in October to arrive in December). Everett's birthday is September 18th and Amira's is December 9th.

Amira is old enough to have and express her opinions. When I asked her what she'd like for her 5th birthday painting she said "I like owls and bats." That had me heave a massive sigh of relief. With the shipping deadline looming, I rolled straight from the jeepney to the owl. After the intensity of working on the mechanical it was a pleasure to paint the organic and natural form of the owl. It flowed off my brush with ease.

The iridescent fusible fibres add a mystical quality to the full moon background
Oh wait, it needs bats!
Amira's 5th birthday painting is acrylic/mixed media 12" x 12" with the owl painted in oil 

It's not to say that Amira has only had easy paintings. For her 2nd birthday I gifted her with Mermaid Two. For her 3rd birthday I gave her Shoe Dreams. Both of these paintings were incredibly complex and in spite of the time they took, they were decidedly gratifying.

Everett and Amira checking out his Jeepney painting
Amira with her owl

I haven't created a single painting this year, which isn't much of a surprise given the year I've had. All three of our grandchildren have fall/winter birthdays, Avery's is October 16th. I may be even later than usual with their 2017 paintings, but I know everyone will understand. 


Before I sign off ... there is medical good news. On September 6th, at my appointment with orthopaedic surgeon Dr. MacKenzie, he deemed me an urgent case. He will give me a total left hip replacement on October 17th.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Life Beyond Cancer and Chemo

After my May 31st surgery, where the attempt to reconnect my colon to my rectum failed, I was discharged from hospital June 3rd. As I'd only been out of hospital for two days I didn't accompany Bill to Canmore for the house inspection on June 5th. Built in 1990, Mountain Shadows is a quiet, complex of 35 townhouses, with an awesome clubhouse, for the over 50 set. It's a spacious oasis of serenity in the now exceptionally busy Canmore. 

Our end unit is the one with the garage door open. 


Home Care nurse removed the catheter on June 7th. I had been discharged from Foothills with it, June 2nd. It was an amazing relief to find that my bladder worked well on her own. 

On June 8th, we met with Dr. Chang, the Lethbridge surgeon who gave me the total right hip replacement in January 2014. He was very negative about replacing my left hip before a colostomy reversal. Although I hope not, I may have the colostomy for life. I asked him if he would deny me a new hip, should a reversal not be possible? It was with reluctance that he agreed to do it. I signed the consent form. It's painfully obvious that he doesn't want to do it and with his fear around it all, I honestly would rather he isn't the doctor to do the surgery.  

Our physician, Dr. Yonemori, used some pretty strong language about Dr. Chang's reluctance and has referred me to another orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. MacKenzie, in Calgary. I have a consult with him on September 6th.

Much of June was spent experimenting with narcotics for relief of the hip pain. In addition to Celebrex, I took both the immediate and the extended release Hydromorphone capsules which promoted a tiredness that had me taking two to three hour naps every day. The Hyrdromorphone was replaced by Oxycodone. I'm no longer sleeping my life away. Nothing improves my mobility and the pain is still there although it is somewhat reduced.

Home Care returned to remove the staples from my incision June 14th. On June 20th I had the port, through which I received the chemotherapy drugs, removed.


The Manila family arrived in Canada on June 22nd. It was heartwarming to have our girls and their children with us for a short visit at the end of June. This was the last time we all sat together around this table - in our Claresholm house ...

Amira with Everett, Laura, Bill, Denise, Avery and me.  (Take note of the painting on the right.)

Denise and Avery could only stay one night. Laura and kids were with us for two. We drove them to Canmore, June 30th, so that we could wake up there on July 1st, for Canada's 150th birthday.

Laura with Avery and Everett
Everett with Denise
Gramps and Amira
Making cupcakes with Avery and Amira
The first (and last) time I painted with both granddaughters in the Anne Frank Room
I couldn't resist buying the girls dresses for Canada Day - it's what grandmothers do!
Our American born grandson dons Canada Day pyjamas!
With all our grandchildren, June 30th, at the Scammell's pub/restaurant, Bridges on First. 


The Koebel Clan at the Canada Day Parade
Denise, Evan (Adam's brother) with Laura and Jan (Adam's and Evan's mother)
Larry, Uncle Ronnie, Avery, yours truly and Amira
Bill and his sister, Linda

With a great deal of purging and packing yet to do we stayed in Canmore only the one night (June 30th). Before heading home, we joined Susan and Jim, at their place, for a Canada Day BBQ. Dale and Janice are missing from the photo because we weren't on the ball about taking the group shot before they departed to join family visiting them for the holiday.

Jim's son, Brian, Nadine, Brenda & Tom, Georgie, Susan & Jim, yours truly and Bill

Below is the unorthodox, clandestine, parking lot delivery of payment to our realtor (and friend of many years) who was thrilled to accept a painting as his commission for selling our Claresholm house. I also gave him a vintage Saltiel oil of Mount Rundle, from 1974, for his assistance in handling the necessary paperwork for our private purchase of the Canmore townhouse.

July 4th, the deal is sealed with our realtor Gary Lock
Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak installed in Gary's and Michelle's home
Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak 2007 oil 36x48 

The lunch and payment to Gary preceded my July 4th follow up appointment (for the May 31st surgery) with my surgeon, Dr.Glaze. I'd been having foul smelling discharge from both my vagina and my rectum so a CT scan was arranged and happened in Lethbridge on July 6th. Nothing untoward was found and yet the discharge continues although it is gradually diminishing.  

On July 8th, we were back in Canmore, for another single, overnight stay, this one to attend a surprise 40th birthday, which Adam had arranged before they left the Philippines. Again, we stayed in town just one night because we still had a great deal of work ahead of us before the moving truck's inevitable arrival.

A perfect day for a backyard party.  Denise and Laura in the foreground, the seniors scooped the shade!
Laura was surprised - who wouldn't be with a party thrown in your honour six months early?
Much to the delight of all the children, second cousin, Todd (referred to as Uncle Todd) arrived on his Harley!


July 25th

After the truck pulled away, we stayed on in the Claresholm house, utilizing the Murphy bed for two more nights, to facilitate cleaning the place, packing up our trailer, and our two vehicles, for the adventure of getting to Canmore. Here you'll find a photo essay of our five day journey to make the 2.5 hour drive from Claresholm to Canmore!

Our Claresholm physician was able to squeeze me in early on the morning of July 27th to give me a cortisone shot in the left hip. Unlike the injection I took last September, which I hiked off in a few days at Lake O'Hara, I babied this one so that it lasted nine days. It wasn't a cure but it was a wonderful gift of mobility and pain relief which got me through the move.

Our possession date in Canmore was August 1st. Thrilled to be back we've already enjoyed much of what this community has to offer. Sure it's a struggle to go from 1700 to 1100 square feet but our new home is precisely where we need to be. The moves final stamp of approval was when Telus phoned us to offer us our former phone number! I had requested it and even though it was not in service Telus originally said it was unavailable. The serendipity of it all can't be denied.

Photos of the new place will have to wait for another post because suddenly, on August 19th, the pain in my hip escalated beyond anything I've ever known and I became completely lame because my left leg will not tolerate any weight bearing. I spent the night of August 20th in the ER at the Canmore Hospital. The following day I was admitted. I'm here until the correct dosage of morphine is established to manage this pain.

August 22nd, 2017, outside the entrance to the Canmore Hospital

Our new mailing address and phone number ...
#15 - 216 Three Sisters Drive
Canmore, Alberta
T1W 2M2
403 678-2843
Our email addresses remain the same ... 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

May Medical Update

Janice, Dale, Bill, Jim, Susan and I make up most of 'The Tribe'.  We met for lunch, May 15th, at Bridges on First

With chemo treatments concluding on April 13th, May seemed like a nearly normal month. As my strength returned we got out more.  

May 3rd took on a life of it's own. We'd made prior arrangements to meet friends for lunch at Bridges on First, after my neuropathy physio assessment. Nothing effective was recommended, what is working is the cannabis oil! There, I was loaned a TENS machine to help manage the pain in my hip, but I didn't find it made any difference so, after 2.5 weeks of use, I bailed. During this appointment I had a phone message from nurse practitioner, Pam, advising me that an ultrasound was booked at 2pm that day (to investigate the spot on my liver) but she hadn't said where? We'd discussed having it done, closer to home, in Lethbridge or High River. As luck would have it, Pam was at the Holy Cross Centre, Calgary, where I was. We tracked her down to learn the ultra sound was scheduled at the Foothills, Calgary. It meant I could make the procedure, but that I couldn't eat lunch. I watched as Bill, Brian and Alice did. 

Before leaving the Foothills, I was adamant about seeing the radiologist regarding results of the ultrasound. It was inconclusive. I would need an MRI, which he informed me could take up to two months. Immediately and frantically, I called Pam and demanded an MRI, ASAP. It was arranged for six days later (May 9th). Two days after the MRI, my surgeon herself, phoned to announce most welcome news. There is nothing at all wrong my liver. Hallelujah.

Less than a month after listing our Claresholm house, the fourth showing yielded an offer on May 18th. On the 27th, the deal was sealed. We are dazzled and thrilled. Our realtor, Gary Lock, is the best. He's out of Airdrie and has amazing results selling properties all over the province. It's exciting to report we're in the process of buying a Canmore townhouse, in the complex of our wishes, Mountain Shadows.

Meg, Paul, me and Bil, May 21st 

On May 21st and 22nd, Meg and Paul visited from Canmore. They made it incredibly easy for us by staying at the nearby Bluebird Motel and bringing a ton of food. While the boys went off to scour the antique shops in Nanton, Meg and I made wonderful art messes on the back deck ...

Meg experimented with alcohol inks, I painted a journal page of our blooming Canada 150 tulips
May 28th.  I shall miss these mature bushes which flank both sides of our home here

May 26th I had a pre-op consultation where I met with an internal medicine doctor and an anesthesiologist. Surgery was May 31st ... 

All smiles just before the operation

It was a bitter disappointment to learn that the operation was unsuccessful in terms of reconnecting my colon to my rectum. As I understand it, there isn't enough colon to stretch out. There were a lot of adhesions, which were removed. There is a concern of incontinence because of a fissure between my vagina and my rectum which Dr. Glaze explained would allow stool to pass into my vagina. Later, I'll have a consultation with a colorectal surgeon regarding attempting reconnection but right now I can't bear the thought of having the incision sliced open a third time. For now, I continue to live with the colostomy bag. 

The news we cling to is Dr. Glaze telling us she could find no indication of cancer when she was inside of me.

With Maggie.  Boy do I ever look like my Father, especially with the new hair growth looking, for all the world, like a brush cut

All my visitors came on June 2nd. The stars aligned so that Maggie's week, in Calgary (visiting from Toronto) overlapped my short hospital stay at the Foothills. I am so grateful that she was able to spread her healing energy work on me, in person. 

Precious friends, Debie and Dean, made a special trip into the city just to visit. 

Again, Bill was able to stay at Denise's and Larry's Air B&B suite for three nights. They came bringing awesome food from Bridges on First which usurped the wretched hospital meals.  

Denise and Avery

During surgery, adding insult to injury, my bladder was adversely affected. I came home with the catheter still installed. It's to remain in place for seven days so that my bladder can heal. A Home Care nurse will come tomorrow, June 7th, to remove it. I'm to continue daily injections of blood thinner, for a month post surgery. 

On June 3rd, I begged to be and was discharged.

All the while, Bill was tearing around tending to the things which need attention when you are buying a property. The conditions on our future home are to be lifted June 12th. Possession date is August 1st. In many ways moving is a wonderful distraction from the medical issues and a perfect impetus to heal in preparation of going home ...

The Three Sisters, Canmore   

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Painters and Hikers at Lake O'Hara

Classic Lake O'Hara from Sargent's Point

Anyone who has ever been to Lake O'Hara will share my sentiment that, magically, one never tires of it. In the Canadian Rockies it's the biggest bang for your buck with numerous, satellite, alpine lakes, all equally gorgeous and close enough to easily hike to many of them in a single day. 

From September 5th to 8th, 2016, Bill and I joined another back country excursion arranged by Patti Dyment. Ten of us spent three nights in the Alpine Club of Canada's Elizabeth Parker Hut. Most of us bunked in the smaller cabin, the Wiwaxy Hut.

Elizabeth Parker Hut, left, Wiwaxy Hut is on the right (internet image)

Hut accommodations are self catering and rustic, although the kitchen is outfitted with all you need, including propane hotplates and a full sized stove and oven. If you aren't into outdoor toilets and sleeping on a continuous bunk, next to people you don't know, this is not for you.

Sharon, Patti, Grant, Gwen, Jan, Dave, Alice, Bill, Sharon and Meg in the common area of the Elizabeth Parker

For many, Lake O'Hara Lodge is cost prohibitive, plus securing reservations isn't easy. They have their own stylish bus to transport you to and from the region whereas hut and campground guests travel via old school buses. The Alpine Club of Canada's Elizabeth Parker Hut holds a maximum of 24 people and booking a stay is done, months in advance, by lottery. The third accommodation option is a 30 site campground which is usually booked out by 10am every summer morning. You can, and many do, just travel into the area as day trippers. Parks Canada recognizes the fragility of the landscape and limits access to the region via buses which have to be booked in advance. Numbers are restricted by the capacity of two school buses going in four times a day. Anyone wishing to trek the 11km access road (no private vehicles are permitted) before hitting Lake O'Hara itself and the sublime scenery beyond, is welcome to walk in.

In our group the keeners, who arrived on the 8:30am bus, were already hard at work when we arrived on the 10:30am bus ...

Jan and Patti 

When I'm at Lake O'Hara hiking is every bit as important as painting. My left hip needs replacing. Just prior to this trip, I had a cortisone shot that enabled me do two hikes which I wouldn't have been able to negotiate otherwise. The weather forecast was not favourable so, that first afternoon, while there were some blue sky patches, a few of us hit the trail to Lake McArthur ...

Meg, with the dramatic Wiwaxy Peaks beyond.  To the right you can just see the shore of Schaffer Lake  
Schaffer Lake
McArthur and Mount Biddle when we first arrived
Thanks to Meg for this image. We barely had enough time to take a few photos before ...
... those threatening clouds spilled over the mountain with ominous threats 

While we had hoped to be able to stay longer, Mother Nature had another idea letting us know, once again, how she rules and that weather in the mountains can change in a heartbeat.

Dave and Meg hustling away from Lake McArthur, which you can just barely see in the background 
Descending the tricky bit from Lake McArthur in a full on squall

Janet and Tom Novotny, of Chicago, are so in love with the Canadian Rockies they've been vacationing here every year since 1983. I'm sure stranger things have happened but even so what are the odds that they would be back at Lake O'Hara at precisely the same time, in both 2015 and 2016 as us? More O'Hara magic. You can't help but embrace their enthusiasm, plus they robustly join in on our hootenannies!    

With Janet and Tom

As already mentioned the hut holds 24 people and we were only 10, yet we hope the others will join in on our fun when we burst into song. Yes, we inflict our singing on whoever else is in residence and we aren't deterred if they're not inclined to sing along, but we are mindful of lights out/quiet time.  

Sharon, Dave, Patti, Grant, Janet and Meg

September 6th, I'm all smiles at the start of painting at Sargent's Point

I'm grateful for the many times I've spent at O'Hara under glorious, sunny skies, but on this particular trip the weather was quite ghastly. As the sky got darker it became more and more difficult for me to see what I was doing under my umbrella, which is intended to block the sun. I was cold, wet and generally cranky with how my painting was going, so I wiped off what you see here ...   

Now you see it and then no, it was gone!

Of course Grant just painted on and created another absolute jewel ...

Grant working on his Sargent's Point painting
Gwen Day also stuck out painting in the raw elements

September 7th brought more unsettled weather. Hiking seemed preferable to standing still painting so, Meg, Bill and I chose the latter and wandered up onto the Opabin Plateau ...

Bill on the Lodge's boat dock before heading up the West Opabin Trail
On the West Opabin Trail looking down on Mary Lake with Lake O'Hara beyond
Bill and the pools of Opabin Plateau with the WiWaxy Peaks in the background 
Meg and Alice on Opabin Plateau where the larches had begun to turn  
This is the sheer, raw beauty of Opabin Lake and Opabin Pass where one feels awfully small
I was thrilled to have made it to Opabin Lake

Our last morning, September 8th, dawned dismal with no prospect of the weather improving. Most everyone was weary of being soggy and cold. Several of us opted to take the first bus out at 9:30am. This is the transportation up and down the access road to Lake O'Hara ...

Tom, Sharon, Janet, Patti, Alice, Meg and Bill

On the ride down, we laughed as we recounted another incredible time together despite the weather because even in bad weather it's a most wonderful place to be. At the parking lot we bid one another farewell and happy trails, until we meet again.