Opening up the cabin 2015

It’s time.
It’s time to open the cabin for the year. All winter the cabin sits in a frozen valley 200km from the door of my city house. It’s still chilly up there, but the promise of spring is in the air.
I took a lot of photos, and it’s probably going to be quite boring for all of you who’ve seen the cabin before, but, you know what, mostly I write these posts with Robbie in my heart, (because right now we’re apart.)

So here we go, for Robbie, but also, most definitely, for you! 😀

Driving in, there was a small, dead birch across the access road. I moved it off to the side.

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Outside the cabin Clover’s and Kers’ bespoke wind chime is still hanging up. They built it from the scrap iron they found along the railroad tracks, which are only about 100 ft behind the cabin.


The lake, (which is actually a pond, but the previous owner and all the neighbours always referred to it as “The Lake”) has filled up already.

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And the cabin is still standing after the winter!

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I lit a fire to warm the cabin up and invite in the new year.

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Then, a quick check: Kitchen’s fine.

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No mouse droppings on the stoves or counters! A year ago Robbie and I went all over the place sealing up any little hole that a mouse might pop thru, and guess what Robbie, we did a great job!

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Dining area, living room all fine too. I didn’t take the shutters off the bottom windows.

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Fireplace working brilliantly, we’ll need to chop some more wood this year though.
Up the stairs to the sleeping loft…


…everything’s just fine. No mice, clean linens, fluffy, warm duvets.

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The games are all waiting to be played with.

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It’s lovely to look thru the contents of the vintage medicine cabinet. A photo of my grandfather camping, my aunt’s silly doll from her studio, silver ore, a dried bat, a hummingbird skeleton, dragonfly wings, hand painted Easter eggs, C’s silver baby rattle, love all these treasures.

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Nothing is the worse for winter, nothing got knocked down by the vibrations of the passing trains.

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Everyone is fine…if a little cobwebby.

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On the property, the tool shed is fine. I think some mice snuck in under the door, but, since it’s such a mess there anyway, nothing bad going on.

Odds and Ends, the heritage train workers trailer guest cabin, will need a new roof and the metal chimney toppled off. Must do that this year before something happens to the interior.

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A beaver’s been thru and there are about 10 small trees…

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…and one rather big tree down. There’s our firewood, right there!

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And I think you’re right Robbie, some of the trees need to come down. Perhaps I’ll talk it over with Jon, Kers and Clove and talk to Billy Jr and ask him to harvest that great big cedar right behind the cabin…maybe the one by the side door too. And the blue spruces in the meadow need to be trimmed up, and maybe some of the alders need thinning out too so we can see the meadow and the river from the cabin.

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Apart form that, the porches need rebuilding and the broken window need replacing. (Darn Canada goose)

So that’s on the project list this year: Thinned trees, one small roof, one wrap around porch, and a window.

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But guess what happened as I was locking up and leaving? I got the feeling that I was being watched!

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From up high by the window of the loft. Who’s that? Could it be a great horned owl?

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It is!

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Who is the luckiest girl in the world! That would be me. Who else do you know who has a great horned owl as the guardian of their cabin? 😀 I need to paint him, don’t I?

Who’s a spoiled princess?

That would be me! And it’s not even Christmas any more. 😀

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The other day I spied the first snowdrop in my garden. So I ran out, picked it, and put it on my bedside table inside the little ink bottle where I’ve forced some forsythia, pussy willows and poplar twigs. Waking up to this little bit of captured spring makes me feel so very pampered.

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But then, you’ll never believe what happened next!

A gift arrived from Norway, from my wonderful friend Vibeke. In it was this beautiful hat, the rosebud hat, which she knitted herself. Isn’t she so clever to be able to knit such a beautiful thing? But I didn’t just get the hat. V also included a lovely notebook and some tea. I absolutely love notebooks and absolutely love tea.

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I’ve already worn rosebud on a walk at the beach and it’s so soft and warm that I can tell it’ll be a treasure for years to come. The notebook will be filled with daily positive thoughts, and, in that way, will also become a treasure for years. Thank you so much dearest V. If you all have a chance, go visit Vibeke’s beautiful blog “a butterfly in my hair”. Guaranteed you’ll love it…and her…as much as I do. Oh, and I have a big secret to tell you. She will be hosting a humongous giveaway in the month of March as part of her birthday celebration, and some of my stacking rings will be involved.

So I was just feeling spoiled to the max, when a lovely lady came to the door. Her name is Rosemarie and she reads my blog. She came to my Art in the Garden weekend, and has been keeping in touch ever since. She is so sweet. She brought me a beautiful little book and some Ms Grey tea.

She had to send away for this sweet little book to Castleton, New York!!! It’s called “If You’re Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbows”. It’s written and illustrated by Cooper Edens.

I love each and every page, like this one; which says:
If tomorrow morning the sky falls, have clouds for breakfast.

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And this one:
If you have butterflies in your stomach, ask them into your heart.

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Butterflies in the heart. I love that. Much better than asking them into my brain…which I must be doing because it’s where they usually end up…butterfly brain…that’s me. 😀 Thank you so much for your thoughtful gift Rosemarie.

I also have to show you two other little gifts from two more thoughtful friends. My neighbour to my East snapped this photo of Morgan sitting on the old window box supports outside my bedroom window. My neighbour loved it so much that she made some cards from it and gave one to me. And, the last time I visited Dalyce, at my most favourite used book shop, she threw this little booklet into my selection of books for free. She’s incredibly generous and always saves me old books, photos, pictures, old magazines, anything she thinks I would love or can use in my art.


Love this little booklet. It’s written in that strong salesmanship style which promises financial freedom, untold riches and fame if only the customer buys the course. The 4 page, hand signed letter was written to a Mr. R. T. Williams P.O. Box Drawer 687, in Victoria BC on May 3 1921. I wonder if Mr. R. T. ever took the school up on it’s SPECIAL OFFER FOR TWENTY DAYS ONLY SO ACT TODAY splashed in red all over the newsletter, and, especially since the cost is “a trifle” at $65, and 15 yr old Rob Brennan is already selling cartoons to a newspaper just days after beginning the course.

Somehow, I suspect not, because the stamped return envelope is still there in the pocket on the first page.

What fun for me to have this pristine little piece of history.

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What ever shall I do with it now. I think I want to paint on it. Hey, do you know about my FB friend Mark Powell? He’s the most incredible artist, and, like me, loves to draw on old documents. Except he uses black pens. He’s amazingly talented. Bet he’d fill the pages with some wonderful portraits.

Off now to gather my thoughts and maybe do some painting.

Oh, Drawing challenge, if anyone would like to join, is hosted by our friend Joke right over here, and the the words are: The Unexpected. Pop over and tell her you’re in and she’ll link you up for the weekend. What fun we’re having. 😀

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Hello from Sunday night

Oh what full days we’re having! 😀

Robert and I even managed to fit in a day in Seattle.

We went to visit a friend, to pick up some specialty car parts R had sent to our friend, and to visit the Museum of Flight and our favourite plane, The Blackbird.

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I’m in awe of this beautiful piece of aviation sculpture, and each time we come visit, I just stand transfixed staring at it for as long as I can.


And I love to sit in the pilot’s seat and pretend I can fly it. Wouldn’t that be fantastic to actually fly it?

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Not sure what’s with that photo. R probably said something rude just as he snapped it. 😀

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Anyway, I love this plane so much I even wrote a long ode to it a few years ago. Each time I stand there I say the poem to myself. Here it is: Blackbird

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There are plenty of other beautiful planes at the museum. Here is R’s favourite. It’s practically silent.

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I also love this reproduction of Amelia Earhart’s plane. It once completed her famous flight, the one where she was lost.

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One of our favourite area is the WWII exhibition. It always takes our breath away to stand there and listen. So very humbling.


Of course, we had to stop for lunch and supper. Oh my. I love American diners! And Olive Garden! I came back two pounds heavier! (I know it’s so bad for me, but once a year or so I can’t resist the chicken fried steak!)


On the weekend we got out to the country. I love mooching around the vintage shops.

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I found this lovely book called “Counting one’s Blessings; The Selected Letter of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother” I really wanted it but the $29 price tag put me off. Thank goodness for iPhones. It costs $5 on Amazon!!! I’m getting it. 😀


We also popped into C’s favourite boutique The White House, where she spied a lovely necklace a couple weeks ago and wanted to go back to get it.

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I’ll leave you with this silly thing: My two at lunch exploring their inner teen angst. 😀

Sharing with Judith and the mosaic bunch.

Cancer. We’ll talk about it once and never mention it again.

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It’s amazing how long one can stare at the screen. The words and stoicism for this post didn’t come till now and the terror still hasn’t stopped, and, mainly, coming to the decision to publish this at all, AT ALL, has been a long and tortuous route.

Today I read a post from a lovely girl whose blog I enjoy, who had a nasty experience with a customer accusing her of making silly crafts with her children and buying over-priced Christmas trees instead of tending to her shop. Behind the scenes, behind the two lovely post of crafting with her children and buying their Christmas tree, this mother of four young boys, (one of them a newborn), dealt with sick babies, volunteer hours at her son’s school, answering emails, running a business, preparing for her eldest’s birthday party, nursing round the clock, staying up till 2am fulfilling orders, and a million other things not reflected in those two blog posts, and I thought, yeah, that’s it right there, mostly what I show here is the lovely side of my life, and I do that purposefully, because it is also MY refuge from the occasional trauma of my day to day. But there are some things that take us out of our lovely, bucolic romanticism and plonk us squarely on the cold, cement floor of life…on our face…naked and exposed.

One such thing happened mid September.

Remember way back when I checked myself into surgical daycare to have a tumour in a saliva gland removed? Remember how these things are 99.9% benign? Well, this one turned out to be the .1% malignant! And thereby ensued months of terror, reflection, a new relationship with my malfunctioning body, with therapy, with specialists, with the conveyor belt which is the BC Cancer Agency, with my family, with the people I trust.

As soon as I received the diagnosis, I told my children and Robert and my mother. My children understandably panicked with fear for my life, but Robert and my mother stayed level headed. My mother then said something to me. She said, “we have to take it as it comes.”

Later that week, C and I were at the grocery store, and a lovely blond woman said hello to C. They exchanged a few sentences and then she turned to me and said, “Oh, are you out and about? How are you feeling?” with an incredibly concerned voice. I must say that my first initial reaction was to grab C’s hand and back away slowly from this “mad” woman, but then it dawned on me that she was a relative of my son-in-law’s and by virtue of my telling Kers, his family knew. And then I knew I didn’t want to tell anyone. I wanted to control the dissemination of this info. I didn’t want the sympathy, the platitudes, the awkward gestures from people who just didn’t know what to say…how to cope, and mainly, I didn’t want to be seen as different, as “not me”. Does that make sense? I does in my own mind.

But now that I’ve coped, now that I’ve come thru this and out the other end of the conveyor belt, I can talk about this. So I invite you to use my vast bank of experience and knowledge if you need to. Ask me anything. We’ll talk about this once, right here, and then we’ll forget all about it and get back to our lovely lives, but you’re welcome to ask me again, whenever and if ever you need to.

The word “cancer” is a horrible word. I have trouble saying it. Robert suggested that I call it wonky cells…because, after all, that’s all they are, just a bunch of wonky cells…and that’s what we’ll call it. It’s not a battle, it’s not a dragon to be slayed, it’s just a bunch of wonky cells who have no thought, no emotion, no purpose except to replicate. As a matter of fact, they don’t want to kill this organism which is my body, because then they would also die. They just need to be delicately and forcefully removed and persuaded never to come back.

This type of wonky cellness is called Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, and it’s exceedingly rare. It makes up 1% of the rarest 5% of all wonky cellnosity. Now don’t go looking it up on Wiki, you’ll only upset yourself. The main thing to remember is that it is highly responsive to radiation therapy, it hides and travels thru nerves, and this tumour had only a 30% breach of its lining, so probably not a lot of cells managed to travel thru the nerves and to my brain.

The several tests, CT scans, MRIs, didn’t show any metastasis or any other clusters in lymph nodes or other glands, so a course of largely preventative radiation therapy was undertaken with daily one minute doses for 37 treatments.

As usual, I found my solace in art. Robert, again being my saviour, strongly suggested I keep one of my art journals throughout the treatment, and at the very last minute, I ran down to my friend Dalyce’s second hand book store, and bought a book. The book I chose I chose for the name, “sense and nonsense”. I liked the small pocket size, I liked the calm blue cover, I liked holding a random book (which I knew nothing about), I liked how it felt, I liked the randomness of it all, the having to take it as it comes. I counted the pages and worked out that gluing every four pages together would give me enough pages to complete my course of treatment plus a couple pages to spare. The book was written by Eric Patrick Nicol; a Canadian writer of some 40 books (none of which I read or knew anything about). I’m ever so grateful to Mr Nicol for his work and for this book. I do believe it saved my sanity, and my knowledge and sharing of it may possibly go a long way towards helping others trying to cope thru the devastating fear of a wonky cell diagnosis.

So, what follows are the pages of my journal. I’ll try to describe the days briefly, but feel free to ask me any questions you like. Feel free to have these images for whatever purpose, but please remember that this original book is the intellectual property of the estate of Mr Nicol…to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude.

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As you probably already know, I’m luckier than most people. Both my parents are/were doctors, all their friends are doctors, and I’m an only child. Than means that every course of treatment, every test, every decision was shopped around a consortium of doctors before it was agreed on.

One of the best things I ever did was join a wellness centre called Inspire Health and upped my yoga, my meditation, my creative visualisation, and researched all supporting natural remedies.

So for anyone who must undertake a course of radiation therapy, let me very strongly advise you to take daily doses of 3000 iu of vitamin D, super critically extracted turmeric, a very good probiotic well ahead of time and all the way thru to boost white blood cell production, and form a relationship with miso soup, which is shown to dissipate radiation toxins out of the body.

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And keep a journal. For you that might look very different from mine. But sitting around in waiting rooms, feeling scared, looking at the devastatingly sick and suffering people around, their grey faces, their panicked but stoic expressions, it’s very helpful to shut the world out and concentrate on your journal.

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Working thru the days in my book I found words which said something about the way I was feeling each day. I circled the words, sketched a drawing which felt right, and outlined everything in a sepia ink pen.

These were simple tasks to do while sitting in waiting rooms.

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I took my supplies with me in a pencil case in my purse, switching out the coloured Faber-Castell markers to suit each day.

Some days were optimistic, some days less so. I drew my feelings around Mr Nicol’s words.

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I think one of the hardest times was seeing children coming in from Children’s Hospital for radiation treatment since Children’s doesn’t have radiation chambers. Another difficult thing was waiting for radiation symptoms to come on and dreading each twinge.

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It took to me the first week before I felt I could open my eyes in that radiation mask and actually watch the machine sweep past me. The mask is tight, locked down to the table one lies on and breathing is somewhat restricted. The feeling of stuckedness, of vulnerability, of claustrophobia are acute and real. Meditating thru the few minutes of one’s confinement is very helpful. I tended to visualise myself walking thru a semipermeable membrane, which allowed my body thru it but not the dark, smoking wonky cells, which fell down to the ground behind me.

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The days leading up to Remembrance Day were difficult. Most of you know my father was the doctor for the BC war vets and he took them to places such as Vimy Ridge and to meet the Queen, and most of you probably know that he died before his “old boys” of a terrible terminal cancer. Actually, the only two episodes of wonky cellness in my family, my father and my aunt, were both discovered too late and terminal within two years.

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The days post R.D. I felt a sadness which was hard to shake. But I went for an acupuncture treatment at the wellness centre and that helped me flip back to a more positive outlook.

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The second week into treatment, as with most people who have radiation in the region of their head, my taste buds started to shut off and die. The first taste which went was salt, then sugar, then, gradually, everything began to taste like a mix of alkaline water, (that sulphuric kind you get at hot springs and certain spas) and flour mixed to different degrees of texture.

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It’s funny, you know. You can blindfold yourself and experience what it’s like to be blind to some degree. You can stuff cotton in your ears and feel a little deaf, but you can’t possibly understand what it’s like to lose your sense of taste because there just is no reference point. No way to test it out before hand.

I can still acutely feel sitting at the sushi bar with Clover and dipping a piece of California roll into some soy sauce. The character of the soy sauce turned to the most horrible bitterness in my mouth. Very unexpected.

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By the 21st on November everything tasted foul and the only thing palatable was my Earl Grey tea with a heaping spoon of super sweet Stevia and another of Manuka honey, miso soup, toast without butter and, for some bizzare reason, tempura prawns.

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Midway point and a private little celebration. I bought myself a few beautiful coffee table books. I was also offered the radiation mask to take home after treatment. My initial reaction was, “not a hope in hell!!!”, but I had a think about it. I didn’t change my mind because taking the mask home would have put the onus on me to dispose of it. The material is not recyclable, it would take too much effort and (by now my rapidly diminishing) strength to cut it up, and it would have to hang around till the spring time till I got to the cabin to burn it safely, (still releasing toxic plastics into the atmosphere). No thank you. I captured the mask on these pages instead. It can stay here too.

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Into the final half of treatment I began to think about how “normal” my new life was feeling. Daily drives across town for radiation, lack of taste, losing weight, avoidance of meals, while still trying to run the household and my business, while keeping my children, my family, my relationship with Robbie a priority, while trying to distract myself with TV or the computer to try to eat revoltingly tasting foods, which often trigger a gag reflex, in an effort to nourish myself. Robert helped again by telling me to focus on foods as necessary medicine.

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I remembered my father and my aunt going thru chemo, barely strength enough to walk, how quickly we adopt a situation to a new normal. Some chronic fatigue hit at about this time. But sleep is restorative, so I happily gave in.

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November came to a close and December took its place and with that a new focus. Christmas lights went up in the hood, trees in windows, carols on the radio…a much happier state of affairs. I also focused on my art more. My precious gift of creativity which saves me time and time again.

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I counted down the treatment days. Nine, then eight more to go. Life seemed a bit more uplifted even with worsening symptoms. I also focused on and counted my blessings when I got too down.

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And poured my feelings into my book. Each day Mr Nicol came thru with brilliant words that felt just right, and on the pages which fell on the book’s illustrations, I created myself little collages.

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All thru this treatment I was under that care of an oncologist, as is expected, and a psychologist. The very rare and not understood nature of this wonky cellness made it difficult for me to relate to any other person. As far as I know, there is one man, who is ten years post treatment and doing exceptionally well, here in BC and 20 more across Canada. It left me feeling very alone and, I must admit to having stupid thoughts like, “why couldn’t I have had breast wonkynossity and be part of a better understood crowd?” How stupid am I? I did slap myself out of that!

The skin on the left side of my neck gradually changed, became frail, wrinkly, red, flaky, but thanks to the heavy doses of turmeric and the miso soup, and, I suppose, thanks to my oily Mediterranean skin, these symptoms were not as bad as some of the people’s going thru similar.

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But with only four treatments left, things were beginning to look more positive, more survivable. Robert arrived, and it isn’t only me having to hold down the fort. He held my hand on the evening of Friday Dec 12th and said, “just think, this is the worst you’ll ever feel. Things will never be this bad again.” Two days to recover over the weekend, and three treatments to go. By now the nerves leading from my jaw to my brain have been so affected that yawning, sneezing, blowing my nose are various degrees of excruciatingly painful. But pain or no pain, how lucky am I to live in this time, in this city, with access to government funded medical help, with a treatment which has been modernised, a treatment, which as early as ten years ago, would have scattered a dangerous 66 grays of radiation over my entire head, neck and chest, which is now confined to and pinpointed to complete accuracy within one computer controlled channel thru the brain. And above all, how lucky am I for my mother, for her medical knowledge and council, for Robert for holding me up day or night, for his positive loving guidance, for my precious Chloe, who never left my side, insisted on accompanying me to every treatment, with the exception of three which she couldn’t manage, joked with and befriended the team of technicians, helped to decorate the radiation ward Christmas tree, and for Jonathan and Kerstin who checked in on me and showed loving concern despite their own busy lives. They have been the bright shining stars in my life for these past months.

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Finally, the last two days, the last day, and my normal was about to be restructured into a newer normal.

And now, the normal is that of recovery, of regeneration, of health, of life, of happiness, of reduced stress, of fulfilling dreams, hopes, of love, of love for my strong, healthy, wonky cell free body, for my children, for Robert, for my mother, for friends, a new normal of living a long and happy life.

We have to take it as it comes.

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Why is a woman like a hollyhock?

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I write this blog.

A friend once said that it’s all nonsense. That my life…no-one’s life is like the pages of this blog, all sunshine and lovely images and happy outcomes. I think the words he used were, “get real.”

Real? Real is where I have to be and real hurts. Real is life and all the messes and sadness and miscommunications and spelling mistakes and loud, angry run-on sentences.

But translate that to this space, to these few thoughts per post and suddenly there’s spellcheck and censoring and run-on sentences become poetry and this whole massive unstructured expanse of problems in front of me becomes a myopic view into a small but lovely part of that massive unstructured expanse; a place to focus, a sanctuary.

These past few days I’ve printed some lovely prints and got the hang of printing. But I’ve also had two nuclear meltdowns, cried myself to sleep, spent several sleepless nights listening for the slightest noise and generally waited for something to happen, had arguments with my love and been completely emotionally unstable, headachy and probably hell to live with.

Lately, each day dawns as this massive expanse of problems.

The Oxfordshire saga:
– Some of you know that my beautifully restored mini, which has been stolen almost a year ago, will most likely never be returned. Robert’s work of love to me. A £500 shell we restored to a £5000 thing of beauty. And nothing can be done.
– Robbie says let’s build a new mini, a new cherished car, but to me it’s like trying to replace one’s beloved pet, I know that doesn’t translate quite as well as I’d like it to, and I know, I KNOW, it’s just a thing/possession/meaningless in the big – I’m healthy, Robbie, my children, mother, loved ones are healthy – scheme of things, but, no matter how hard I try to adjust, to wrap my brain around the concept of a beautiful new mini, I just can’t seem to go there right now and I can’t seem to let it go either. I am trying.
– There are very few external forces here. The phone isn’t ringing, workmen aren’t coming and going, there are no meetings; it’s a very quiet country life. The quiet becomes wildly uncontrollable in my mind.

Vancouver saga:
– The house is still in restoration mode, way behind the time line restoration mode, and, as much as I’m the client and make all the decisions, Chloe is there, on site, living with the mess and displacement and temporary loss of our serene space, and having to handle it.
– Most early mornings British time, C calls needing a talk and support. It’s evening in Vancouver, C’s had to deal with a multitude of uncomfortable things, and things are not easy for my girl, and, as much as I want to talk to her and offer as much support as I can, I’m concerned that she’s not wanting to wake us up so waits till 6:30am-ish to call, which means it’s already 10:30pm-ish in Van, which means that before she feels better and manages to get to sleep it’s practically midnight, which means her tomorrow is going to be twice as hard for lack of a proper night’s sleep.
– Then, when C finally gets to sleep, I’m grateful that we could help her calm down but it’s my morning and she stays on my mind all day till 5pm-ish British time/morning Vancouver time, when she wakes up and I hear from her again.
– Switching from Vancouver to Oxfordshire and back again in my thoughts and worries is exhausting.
– I’ve been out of touch with Kerstie and Jonathan and I miss them so much it hurts.

My shrink tells me to focus on what makes me happy. At the time she said it, I wasn’t doing much art and nothing I could think of made me happy. She advise I do something creative every day…it’s almost impossible for me to make myself do something creative if I want to be in a dark place. It’s very hard to climb back into the sunshine if I let myself fall down the hole of depression and it takes days and days. So I force myself to pick up the camera and at least take some photos every day and sometimes specifically for a blog post. As time goes on and I start to feel better, I can pick up the pencils and brushes and do more.

A couple days ago I sketched a hollyhock flower on a page of the old dictionary while I was talking to Chloe, who was feeling poorly with some 24 hour bug and was worried about her health and going to work and workmen and students and her last year of uni…etc. I talked to her off and on for over two hours and I completely overworked the hollyhock.

Overworked it to mud.

And then I hated myself for doing that, because I should be able to draw a hollyhock in my sleep, and I felt useless as an artist.
I showed Robbie and he said, “maybe deepen the colours?” And I made a motion like I was ready to rip it into two pieces, and he said, “No, don’t do that. How are you going to realise what you label the good without having a reference to what you label the bad?” He had a good point. He always does. And so I put the drawing on the dresser to look at it afresh in the morning.

The thing is I wanted to draw it on the page of the dictionary that had the word hollyhock on it, but I didn’t remember I sketched Theo on the other side of that page, making that page unusable, and so I drew it on the page which had the word woman. The one precious page of the dictionary that had the word woman. (No I don’t know why I think this is the last ever old dictionary I’ll ever find to sketch in.)

I chose that page specifically. To me, the hollyhock has always been a strong representation of a woman more than any other flower. I know all the romantic notions of fragile flowers such as roses or lilies for women, but what good are they? What good is vulnerability or fragility even in the most beautiful package? No, give me a hollyhock any day. Hollyhocks are not susceptible to too many diseases, they bend in the strongest gale without breaking, and, drop something on them, suppress them with a ton of weight, they will seed and carry on in a new location as shiny and as beautiful and as tall as before.

So I’m looking at my overworked sketch on the page which says woman and thinking how absolutely accurately I portrayed myself right now. It hasn’t gotten any better over night, or even over three days, even with the wind blowing it off the dresser and onto the floor several times, but I have grown to love my little flower. No matter how many times this week the wind has blown me over, I’m still standing just like the hollyhock, trying to bloom with all that pressure on me, and, with time, the tears will stop, the weight will slide off and life will be sunny again.

Round here on a Monday morning

Everything is gray and it’s a bit chilly in the house. I didn’t sleep very well last night and I think the barometric pressure has dropped because I’m feeling a bit headachy. Everyone is out except for the cats and me and I’m just hanging around today.

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Hanging around like a little kimono-bear and I’m all snuggled up in my father’s old sweater, which I’m wearing to death.

Everybody is snuggled up. Morgan is with me in a basket under the kitchen table and Milo has wiggled his way under a blanket on the sofa where he’s likely to stay till late afternoon.

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I made myself a second cup of tea in one of the bowls I brought from France. It’s a clever thing to drink your tea from French bowls. You need to use both hands at the start and this makes you lovely and warm, and by the time the bowl is light enough to hold with one hand, you’re feeling rather French and chic. Look at you French girl with that French bowl in your hand. Très sexy.

I’m contemplating planting the last of the paper whites today but also have that “I can’t be bothered” feeling. I’m looking at some paper whites already sprouting happily in a pot and just now I had this thought: “Who will live and who will die?” Oh god, I can’t believe I’m thinking of a series of paintings of bulbs. But first I want to finish the map I started before Christmas.

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Yesterday I got the loveliest email from Japan from the parents of a charming girl staying with us for ten weeks. Bless their hearts. It made me get all teary reading it. I’ll post it for you. Today the mail came and in it the water rates bill, (groan). That reminds me: time for some good mail. I think I’ll finish my tea writing to some friends and before I know it good mail will be coming my way.

Oh and good mail can come your way from me if you like. Steps you have to take include: emailing me your addy so I can send you something and entering my giveaway so I can send you lots of somethings.

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Much love to you my friends and thank you so much for the lovely comments you’ve been leaving for me on Saturday’s post. I want to reply to each and every one of you but can’t because of this random generator thing. (Actually will have to delete my comments first) I’m the luckiest girl to have you in my life, my warm and supportive friends.

A little email from Japan:

Hello. This time there is a relationship in the situation called the host family and has you keep it, and thank you for daughter.
As a matter of course, it is the first time that she lives apart from a family for a long term, and there is the problem of words (the linguistic ability is low, too), and the daughter feels it when she will live a life in strain and the uneasiness.
I want to entrust all it to Veronika (as for the period of the homestay) during this short-term studying abroad period.

I think that I learn most including the importance of the family, the splendor of the relation with the person and the warmth of the person by living I am separated from a family life.
The eldest daughter stays in the same way in Canada (Vancouver) three years ago, too and feels it when I grow up in a good meaning and came home.

Is a daughter naive by all means, but is a glance same as a family; if have spend it, is happy. I believe that I think that it was very lucky that Veronika became the host family of the daughter heartily.
Remaining period, daughter, thanking you in advance.

*p.s : We live in the place called Uji of Kyoto, Japan. It is enrolled in a world heritage, and, on the immediate side of the house, there is “Byodo-in Temple” which is drawn on the Japanese currency coin, and it is in a sightseeing spot.

When I come to Japan by sightseeing by all means, I feel very glad if I have you drop in.
I am sorry that dispatch of mail was late deeply.

If anything happens, please transmit an email to this e-mail address willingly anytime.

Excuse me.

A’s family

(couldn’t you just die? so sweet!)

A fourth journal entry for Folk Magazine with love and understanding.

The Folk Magazine Journal entry for this week asks for influence. To write my American story as part of a giant American story, the tapestry of our lives, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

I’m Czech by birth, German by heritage, Canadian by chance, British by choice. My Austrian grandfather was in love with Vancouver, the land, the ocean, the mountains and, when it was evident that our family would not be safe in Russian occupied Prague, my grandfather decided we would immigrate to Canada and here I am. I have a dual citizenship and speak several languages. I’ve lived in Europe, (Paris, Geneva, Austria, Prague and now Oxfordshire UK) for very long stretches of time so I can say that while Canada is my country, Europe is generally my home town.

I must say that I don’t know a lot about American history. I know of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but only understand his basic premises and I hope that’s enough for me to talk about what I would like to talk about in this post.

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I have a story, a beautiful American story to tell.

Over twenty years ago, my then husband and I drove down the American Pacific coast on holiday. I was pregnant with my last child and so over the top emotional…you know how that goes. We were at Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco and I just stepped out of the car when a man ran past me shoving me violently into the side of the car and another man ran past me directly after him chasing him with a knife. I was shaking and completely inconsolable and we got back into the car and drove to Oakland to the hotel we were staying in.

I gathered my strength after several hours, and after much persuasion, and seeing the lights at the Oakland Coliseum, we decided to go to the baseball game.

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Now please know and understand that I was never, NEVER, EVER going to set foot in San Francisco ever again. But then we found our seats and beside us were the most wonderful, loveliest, most loving people I had ever met in my life. Some of them invited us to stay with them, all of them sympathised and many told us of the wonderful and beautiful San Francisco I had given up and abandoned forever without ever giving it a chance.

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So this brings me to my MLK Jr. story. It’s so important to know and understand your whole community, everyone, whoever they are. Look thru understanding and loving eyes. Having been a political refugee, an immigrant and living as I do in different parts of the world, I come across prejudice sometimes but I truly think that, by knowing and accepting without judgement people of all nationalities, races, sexual orientation, religious/or not persuasion and welcoming them into my life, these prejudices can be dispelled and the vitriol neutralised.

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What would I do without my writing group Wordsmith Studio, (mostly made up of American members) who support me and love me and accept my quirky ways? Where would I be without my Seattle friends and closest American neighbours who I impose on each year? Who would I be without those generous Oakland A’s fans who held my hand and helped make San Francisco one of my most favorite and romantic places to visit?

So, on this third Monday in January, I would like to wish a Happy MLK Jr. Day to my lovely and loved American friends, I’m so happy you are all in my life. I hope to keep learning your stories and continue to be a part of the tapestry of America in my own Canadian way.

Journal 1 entry here, journal 2 here, journal 3 here.

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Where she goes on and on about beaches and children and red roses.

My birth certificate says I was born in Prague. Inland. Not beside the sea. Sometimes I think this must be a mistake.

I feel my best at the sea. I do my best thinking at the sea.

This Friday I had lunch with all of my children. It’s very rare these days that I can get them all together apart from Christmas. Kerstin, Adam, Chloe and I drove downtown to met Jonathan on his lunch break.

We walked to Gyoza King on Robson. It seemed like a good idea.

At any rate, any one of the thousands of restaurants downtown would have been just fine. No one paid much attention to the food. Everyone was grateful to be together.

I’ll tell you why.

Sept 1st I got a 2am phone call from Kerstie. She was hysterical. Her father had just died.

I can’t describe the feeling of helplessness that came over me trying to comfort my daughter across 5000 miles. The next phone call to Jonathan was even worse. Then a quick check on Chloe to see she was ok. Though not her father, her heart was breaking in sympathy, feeling the pain her brother and sister were feeling.

But my children are strong, they are brave, they are resilient, they rallied. They organised that part of their family, the memorial, the funeral, and began closing down their father’s life step by step.

Talking to them separately, seeing them separately something didn’t dawn on me.
It wasn’t till lunch on Friday that I noticed that they both had that deer-caught-in-the-headlights haunted look in their beautiful brown eyes.

Today I went to the beach to think.

I sat at the beach and did my usual thing…built a fantasy sand castle with the found objects around me.

Built and thought.

I thought about my children, their father, how changed their life is, how changed their life is about to be.

I thought about my feelings…you know…as their mother. I tried to come up with any way that I could take some of the pain from them. How can I protect them from it all? I can’t. They have to live thru the pain and come out the other end…eventually…in time.

And, I walked on the beach.

As I walked I found red roses wrapped up in seaweed. Lying there on the rocks.
I wondered who lost the roses in the sea and, I wondered why, except for the concern and love I feel for my children, I wondered why I don’t feel anything.


Nothing at all.

Everyday life…What? Fit into a form? Me? Tough, tough WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

I’ve fought and fought with this challenge. What I wanted to do is express my everyday life with images and then I realised that, being a true Bohemian, well everyday life just has to fall into place as it can.

So here is a small idea of my everyday:

My everyday is exotic. Yes…terrifically exotic. Unusual, extraordinary, one of a kind exotic.

It’s beautiful and fragile. Very fragile. Cut down with the tiniest cold draft fragile. Handle with extreme care, be careful what you say fragile.

(Just ask R, he’ll tell you)

It’s strong and resilient. Weather any storm, stay in the flow, circulatory system, Dunkirk spirit strong.

There’s art. There’s always art. There’s a sliding scale of traditional to way out there art. It’s ever changing, ever evolving, ever opportunistic will-make-art-of-anything art.

And there’s magic and whimsy…there’s always and most importantly magic and whimsy.

That’s everyday life round me.

Not easy being around me…or being me for that matter. Just hang on for the ride. :)

What comes from listening to a CBC discussion about happiness while painting

Sometimes I feel like finding happiness is hard. As hard as smashing into the granite rocks. I feel like I need to summon a force inside somewhere to find the happiness and that force is equal to the force it took to pile this driftwood up on this beach.

My heart is soft, like fragile spring growth, and it doesn’t take much to crush it.

Sometimes happy thoughts are ephemeral and fleeting. Like each rose blossom. They only last the day and are gone.

Someone I love and admire occasionally reads a post like this and gives me a talking to.

“You have such a negative view of yourself. The things you say about your life will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.” He’ll say.


“And what about the good things in your life? Why don’t you focus on them?

More silence. And then: “Maybe you’re right.”

Podcast on CBC Tapestry. (Warning, do not paint paintings while listening to it.)