Arlene Powers Bird Art and Discussion Site

BuglingGot the word today, Friday’s CEA count was 92.1, about doubled from last month.  Scheduling chemo the end of this month, so we are trying to get the trip to Hawaii for my daughter’s wedding in before chemo, if the pain levels stay down. Also, if they stay down, will get to Texas to visit family for a few days after we get back. Next blood work scheduled for Aug 21, then Oncologist Appointment scheduled Aug 31.

At least I did get in one kayak trip down the Salt River. We usually kayak a couple of times during the summer. This was one of the most amazing trips. We saw 4 herds of wild horses. One group had babies and were on both sides of the river. It was just awesome to hear them calling each other back and forth across the river. We saw a bobcat, raven nest, beaver lodge and many bird species, including cardinals, vermillion flycatchers, peregrine falcon, great blue herons, green herons, egrets, red winged blackbirds and others I am forgetting to name. This trip was just balm to the soul getting ready to go back into chemo. I will hold those memories close until we can get back out to the river again.

No art to post this week, arthritis has restricted the use of my right thumb and forefinger, so will get back to it, as soon as the pain and swelling recede. In the meantime, have tons of photos to work on in photoshop and will get more ready to post as I have energy. SO enjoy a couple of my favorites taken in Rocky Mountain Park, Co.

Everything seemed to be going fine after the surgery. I was preparing for the six week appointment with the surgeon in a few days, and I started having abdominal pain. At first just thought I had slept wrong or hurt a muscle or something, but the pain kept getting worse. Hubby took me to the Emergency Room at the hospital, where we discovered that I had a blockage. It turned out to be an inflammation at the surgery site. These usually happen close to surgery, it is rare to have them happen this far out after surgery. They gave me relief from the pain, and lots of fluids. The inflammation cleared and I went home after a  four day stay in the hospital. For those of you who have never experienced a bollus(a large amount of fluids pumped into the system rapidly) Let me just say Fred Flintstone fingers and toes. The poor little fluid machine is buzzing away pumping fluids as fast as it can, sounding like it may explode at any moment. In the meantime, your body starts swelling. You watch your ring disappear under swollen flesh, and you are amazed that you do not explode. A call to the nurse gets the reaction, “You are just fine dear, your skin is not dimpling yet”. Another fun experience to chalk up into the archives.

The next week, abdominal pain appears again. We do another emergency room run, only to find out they cannot find a cause. After a week, the pain starts to subside.

The long awaited visit to the oncologist finally arrives. We are expecting to hear that the CEA count has remained stable or is still dropping. So it was a shock for us to hear that the count has gone up to 42 and that I will be starting another round of chemo in September. The good news is that the cancer in the colon is gone, and the remaining tumors are half the size they were and are flat, not swollen. So we will be starting this round of chemo a lot better off than last time. However, this news is still hard to hear. Hubby goes back to work with his eyes tearing up, and I go home holding mine back. Friends commiserate with me, and I indulge in a whole day of self pity. By the end of a day of this pity party, I have enough and decide to pull my head out of my butt and look around.

It is time to put on my warrior face and kick some cancer around again!

THE BAT ADVENTURE

Bat Adventure

Bat Adventure

So we were just sitting at the bookstore, reading on our IPADs, and hubby comes up with a local article about the Phoenix Bat Caves. Ok, so they are not really caves, but a drainage pipe that goes from 24th St to 40th Street.

Bat Tunnel

Bat Tunnel

We are not talking small pipe, here, it is a tunnel big enough to have a two lane road in. Apparently, the Mexican Free Tail Bats have found it, and make their homes here  during their yearly migration for the summer. We decide at the drop of a hat to go on a bat adventure. We make the trek to 40th St and Camelback, park in a shopping center and start walking along the canal. It is sunset and the canal is beautiful, ducks are swimming in the water reflecting the sunset.

Trying to get a cell phone pic.

Taking a cell phone pic.

We walk about a quarter of a mile along the canal and come to the “Bat Caves”. At first just a few bats exit, fly around and go back into the tunnel. Apparently these are the scouts checking it out to make sure it is safe to come out. We are very excited to see them, along with four or five night hawks who are flying around feeding on the insects. We watch for a while as the bats make their way out of the cave and then leave, thinking that his has been a great adventure. As we are leaving we enjoy all of the bats flying around swooping over our heads, then come to the fence at the end of the drainage area. Bats are pouring out and it is absolutely amazing. Because it was dark at the end of the tunnel, we had not seen how many bats were really coming out of the tunnel. We stand here for a long time, just being amazed at the number of bats coming out and swooping around us. Talk about Nature Therapy!

Yummmmm!

Yummmmm!

Hummingbird Talk

Hummingbird Talk

MORE NATURE THERAPY

The next morning we get up at 4:30 AM to make sure all of the parrots and kitties have their morning meal. We hit the local Starbucks and get to the Phoenix Botanical Gardens at 6:00 AM. Those of you who know me well, KNOW that only a chance at getting a good bird photo will roust me out of bed this early, LOL. Members are allowed into the Gardens an hour early on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which allows you time in the gardens with very few people around and the wildlife is all out and about their morning business, making for some excellent photo opps. Here are some of the photos, hope you enjoy! Don’t forget to click to see a larger file!

Sleepy Young Great Horned Owl

Sleepy Young Great Horned Owl

Ouch!

Ouch!

Verdin

Verdin

Quail Chick

Quail Chick

Short and sweet, the count was 25.6 which is still going down. Good and bad news. Good that it is going down, bad in that the oncologist wanted it under 10. We will see how it is next month! But down from original count of 2000 – way good news.

Buffalo Dream Catcher

Buffalo Dream Catcher

Four weeks on Tuesday from the surgery date and I am almost recovered. Energy levels are up and only a little bit of soreness. So almost to the “New Normal”! Monday will be the first blood work since March, so we are waiting very un-patiently for that test result. This will pretty much define the “New Normal” and give a baseline for the chemo markers after surgery. I will post as soon as we get the results. It is usually two to three days after the blood is taken, since they have to send it out to a lab.

To the left is a photo of the Buffalo Dream Catcher. It is leather with the watercolor ground, then watercolor and colored pencil. Na ner na ner na ner to the guy at the store where I bought the leather, LOL. Watercolor and colored pencil do work pretty well on leather with a little help from the watercolor ground.

We got up at 4:30 AM today to get to the Botanical Gardens at 6:00 AM to get some photos before it was too HOT. Left there at 8:00AM sweating. It is supposed to get up to 107 degrees today. Pretty soon it will be too hot to even get up early to go anywhere (except maybe the mall which has fabulous a/c). This too shall pass! When we are crying about the heat, remind us about the wonderful winters without snow and ice, LOL! We may hibernate for the summer. At least will be staying in the A/C as much as possible.

That is it for now, stay tuned for next weeks blood work results………. it is time for a siesta,……….. it is WAY too hot to type……….Even the parrots are quiet…….the cats are asleep as usual…….. Too hot to draw…….definitely time for a nap.

The recovery from surgery is progressing. Each day is a little better. The three week check up is scheduled for Wednesday and everything is looking good. There is still some soreness and fatigue, but that is part of the “New, New Normal”.Wolf Dream Catcher

My yard is full of birds. We have been putting out seed blocks, suet , thistle and of course the hummingbird feeders. The fountain is attracting a few birds, but not the hummingbirds everyone else seems to have. Because of the massive seed consumption, we have learned how to make our own seed blocks. Hubby gets the large bag of seed at Costco, and we make and put out two blocks a day. I think those guys would eat more if we put it out! SO far we have seen house finches, sparrows, Abert’s Towhees, Curve bill thrashers, Gila Woodpeckers, cowbirds, White Wing doves, Mourning doves, Inca doves, grackles, verdins, Anna’s Hummingbirds, and Black Chinned Hummingbirds. They are really fun to watch, there are always little dramas going on. I am very surprised at the White Wing doves, they are very aggressive and chase the other doves away from the seed. I had always heard how peaceful doves are. Owl Dream Catcher

Here are photos of the latest Dreamcatcher projects. The third of three “black and whites” is a wolf.  Then I bought a couple of pieces of leather to try it out. Here is the first of two, the baby Great Horned Owl depicted in “Whooo R U?”. Had to learn a lot about leather to do this project. I used a ground first, then did the owl in watercolor and colored pencil. You should have seen the guys face at the leather store when I told him I would be using colored pencil. He looked at me like I am mentally challenged…..he said acrylic or leather dyes will work best. If you are a normal person, that would be true! But he had no idea that I wanted to try the new Daniel Smith Watercolor ground to see if it would really work on leather. As you can see it works really well! So what if one person in the world thinks I am crazy, Ok, well more than one…..but we won’t go there!  I am going to check to see if there is a product to stiffen it a little more, otherwise, I am very happy with the project and am trying to decide what to put on the second one! If you saw the Raven Dream Catcher, the very first project, you will notice that I have improved and refined. There is definitely more feathers and beadwork along with the placement getting better. Of course, I could not drive yet while working on the raven, and had not thought of getting beads before the surgery. But they can always be added later!

The Parrots and cats have been VERY quiet lately. I wonder what they are up to? Hmmmmmm……….if I find out, you will be the first to know! Stay tuned!

Happy mothers day to all of you Mom’s! Especially to my own Mother, who has been so loving and supportive. It is a beautiful day here in AZ. EagleDCfI think spring is hiding here for an extended period. It has been in the high 70’s all weekend, and we are loving it here in the Phoenix metro area. Hope you are having a beautiful weekend! I have heard some people have pulled their jackets out, but I have been sitting outside watching the birds – just enjoying it. Hubby got me a red fountain for Mother’s Day, so we are just waiting for the first hummingbird to check it out.

The second of the Dream Catcher series is done, the Eagle Dream Catcher. I felt better, so got to the store and got beads for it. Am loving it so far.

Post surgery healing is speeding along. One more week to drive, and four more weeks of no heavy lifting. The pain has gone down to sore muscles and little or no pain meds are needed. Loki is offended because I am not picking her up. The instructions were, “Do not pick up anything larger than a quart of milk for six weeks.” Loki is a little larger than a quart of milk, LOL. I was thinking of taking the chance, then heard about friends who have had hernias because they did not follow the Dr’s instructions, so have decided to try to take it easy, and make up with Loki when I can pick her up consistently. If you hear macaw screaming out your way, it is just a spoiled bird waiting to be picked up. No worries. You might want to get some ear plugs though.

Catching Dreams

What a ride the last week has been! Very glad to be out of the hospital and home! “There is no place like home. Tap, tap, there’s no place like home!” The colon surgery went well, they got the original site out and there were signs that tumors had been there, but no tumors! It looks like they had to take the whole right side of the colon out, feels like it too. Whoooo Hoooo! The chemo did it’s job. I still feel like I got “runned over by the damned old train”, but feel a little better each day. Thursday, is the appointment to take the staples out, we will see what is next. Right now just taking it one step at a time.

Raven Dreamcatcher

Raven Dreamcatcher

Before I went into the hospital, I started a new project. I want to do three large dreamcatchers, each with one of my favorite artworks redone on Black Velvet Paper. I am using white charcoal pencil again and am using a fixative to try to help make the drawings more permanent. Of course the first one requires the biggest learning curve. I decided to fix cloth on the back of the drawing, to stabilize and keep it from tearing when applied to the 19″ metal hoop. After several botches, I finally accomplished this task before going into the hospital. I learned…..attach the fabric before you do the drawing, otherwise you have to redraw most of it, LOL. My friend, Noelle, took a photo and posted it on Facebook. But I was really too involved in the whole surgery prep to blog about it, and haven’t felt well enough to follow up.

Now you get the follow up! A trip to the craft store was in order while I still felt like it, so I grabbed the stuff I thought I would need. Found an awesome little hole punch tool by Martha Smith, even though pricey, it works great. Found leather cording and sueded cording. Feathers are in plenty around here, but no black, so I ordered some on the internet. 19″ metal hoops…..check. 23″ wooden hoops…….check. Well, wish I would have gotten beads, but will get them for the next one! Found some really cool little spring coils that crimp on to the ends of the feathers, so they will hang on the leather. Of course that means buying a little tool to crimp them, LOL. Dang it if I didn’t get sucked into the jewelry making aisle and drop a small fortune there. Just in case you are wondering what the final result looks like, here is the first of three – Raven Dreamcatcher! Hopefully Eagle and Wolf to follow.

The Finch in Watercolor on Arches Cold Pressed Paper

The Finch in Watercolor on Arches Cold Pressed Paper

One week until surgery! This week is going to be a busy one, finishing all the testing to get ready for surgery, and then having a colonoscopy on Friday. The surgeon will do the colonoscopy, remove any polyps, and shoot dye into the surgery site, so that it can be easily identified. By the time I get through with all of the tests, I am not knowing if there will be any blood left in me, LOL. I would stay up nights studying for the tests, but so far it has not helped, so guess I will wing it and see if that works better!

Speaking of winging it, the finch is back! He was so cute, I had to try him in watercolor. Since I started driving again, I spent the last two Tuesdays painting with Candy. She reminded me about “punching the darks” and “stepping away from the painting!” It was so nice to be painting with her again. Soon I will be recovered from surgery and we will be able to paint together again! I stopped into Liberty Wildlife to visit my “Thursday Peeps”. Once again, it was awesome seeing them all, and can’t wait to feel well enough to return to volunteering!

Hubby and I made a couple of weekend trips. The first was to Flagstaff, where we took a side trip to Bearizona and another to Walnut Canyon. The weather was fabulous and we enjoyed the scenery and wildlife immensely. Last weekend, we drove to Sierra Vista spending every hour of daylight chasing down birds to photograph. We were tired little campers when we got home, but very happy as we saw many birds for the first time and got quite a few good photos. I have enough ref photos of native birds to keep me busy for a few lifetimes! Stay tuned for photos. If you can’t wait, check out my Facebook Page for the first installments.

When we returned home Sunday evening, it sounded like a ZOO here. The parrots were all screaming, “You are home, you are home, we missed you, you have been gone forever, we missed you”. And the kitties were meowing, the guy you left to take care of us did not feed us enough, time for food, time for seconds, time for thirds, time for petting and scratching. The parrots started screaming, “No, scratch us first, we are louder and love you more. We love you more than food, but give us treats and let us sit on your shoulder, we have been stuck in these cages and on the stands all weekend!” Well, you can imagine all of the petting, scratching and feeding that took place. Scuze me while I take a nap……..ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Pastel Pencil on Ingres

Pastel Pencil on Ingres

The finch pastel drawing is done de done done! And he is spoken for. Will be winging his way to his new owner soon! He is so cute, I decided to paint him too, so stay tuned!

No blog last week because I was too busy getting pre-op tests done. Everything back so far is looking good. The tumor markers in the blood work are down to 28, and should take a good drop again after surgery, leaving them in the range we are looking for….under 10! The tumors have all shrink and some have disappeared. The chest x-ray was normal-like anything in my life is normal, LOL! So next week should be the new normal, then the following week, medical appointments almost every day, then the following week…..surgery. Hopefully I will be able to make some progress or finish the painting before surgery since I will be in the hospital for 2-4 days and the recovery is expected to take about four weeks. Most of the chemo side effects are disappearing. The chemo tan is fading, my mouth is burning less, the nasty taste is gone, energy is back and my hair is GROWING back. Woot Woot!

In the meantime we will get to see my daughter, Melissa, in “Barefoot In The Park”. Since she is playing the lead, we are looking forward to a great laugh! A group of friends will be attending, so we will probably hurt from laughing and will be in great company!! We will be spending a weekend in Flagstaff, with a side trip to Bearizona. Then will spend a weekend in Sierra Vista photographing any bird that will hold still long enough. So stay tuned for photos! Until we tweet again!

Finch - Pastel Pencil

Finch – Pastel Pencil

We met with the surgeon Friday and the surgery is scheduled for April 28th – with lots of testing until then. Colonoscopy, pet-scan, blood-work, lung x-ray and several other appointments. Fun, fun, fun! At least I will be feeling better for all of this. It gets better each day as the side effects from chemo slowly disappear.

The weather is so gorgeous now, we spent a lot of time today on the patio with the parrots and kitties. We only let Dante out when we are out, so he slinks around the yard acting like we can’t see him. He hides in the bushes, but one loud sound and he is back inside where it is safe. Loki ran around on her branch and flapped her wings and had a great time. The little guys just preen and enjoy the sun.

This week, a little finch is the subject of my pastel pencil WIP. He was so cute standing on the bird bath, he was hard to resist. Everything is pretty quiet now, so he should go pretty quickly! Stay tuned!

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