About Joyce Holmes

Joyce Holmes lives with her husband and two small dogs in the beautiful Okanagan region of British Columbia, Canada. The greatest of pleasures can be found in the simplest of things. Playing with puppies, reading, and spending time with family, especially the grandkids. Joyce enjoys photography and blogging about her travels, and when she’s not planning her next adventure, she’s off enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

My Puppies Are Growing Up – Or Are They?

My little girls are no longer puppies. Georgie, my Chihuahua, is now nineteen months old, and Bella, my Papillon/terrier, is sixteen months, which technically makes them dogs. But they haven’t yet outgrown their mischievous and enthusiastic puppy personalities. We tried leaving them uncrated once while we went shopping and came home to a stuffy massacre.

They love playing in the yard. We supervise them closely outside, to shush them if they bark, and because they put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t, like rocks, twigs and bird feathers.

For several months, we had to pen them while owls lived in the tree next door. I still use the pen after dark, for their safety, and so I can round them up easily when it’s time to go in.

Bella usually has the advantage when they play.

A snoozing Georgie is too cute to resist.

In the morning, they enjoy snuggling together on my lap.

Bella sometimes lays beside me.

Hubby’s lap also works.

If our little granddog visits, we make room for her, too.

When the big granddogs visit, we have sleeping dogs everywhere – except on my lap!

Bella, my little shadow, is busier than Georgie. She likes to perch where she can keep an eye on the happenings outside.

Georgie will often join Bella to look (and bark) out the window.

Bella taught my son’s foster puppy the joys of looking outside.

Georgie loves playing fetch (Bella plays take-away). She’ll bring me one toy after another to entice me.

She’s also partial to squeak toys and will squeak them nonstop until she’s tuckered out.

Bella turned one in April, and she’s such a pretty girl. I wasn’t sure what she’d look like before she grew into those big ears, but her lovely long hair complements them perfectly.

I gave her a birthday chew stick, which she happily gobbled down. She’s definitely more food motivated than Georgie.

Georgie enjoys her walks. Bella’s getting better, but she doesn’t have Georgie’s love for it.

Georgie often coughed while walking, so we got them new harnesses, and the coughing’s stopped.

They’re terrified of my son’s cat when she visits. Tentatively giving her a sniff while she’s not looking.

Keeping a curious eye on her from a safe distance.

Carefully watching her from the security of my lap.

Uh-oh, she’s looking.

Georgie’s petrified expression is hilarious.

They adore my little granddaughter. Wherever the toddler is, the pups aren’t far away.

Reading to Georgie.

It remains a struggle to capture good shots of both pups together. Separately isn’t so bad.

And I occasionally get okayish candids.

But trying to pose them together is an exercise in patience. Usually I get several of these.

And if I’m lucky I’ll get a couple of these.

It’s all part of the fun, and I wouldn’t trade my precious little girls for anything.


Visual Effects is Available in Audio!!

3 VE_meme1 copy

I’m excited and pleased to announce my second audio book, Visual Effects, is now listed on Amazon and Audible. I’ve updated my bookshelf with the new links, (as well as the links to Dare To Risk All’s audio book) but to make it easy for you to find them, I’ll include Visual Effect’s links right here.





If you’re not yet a member of Audible, your first book is free.

If you’re interested in receiving a free copy of Visual Effects in exchange for an honest review, please email me at joycemholmes@yahoo.ca or leave a comment below. Thanks.



Our Great Horned Owl Nestlings Become Fledglings!

As I discussed in my last post, (click here for nestling pics) we were privileged to have a Great Horned owl family nest in our neighbourhood, giving us the incredible experience of watching three owlets grow from wee nestlings to sturdy fledglings. From mid-March to mid-April, we’d only caught glimpses of the owlets in the big crow’s nest next door. So imagine our excitement when we spotted this little one sitting out on a branch. Mama owl is to its right, and another owlet is in the nest, on the lower right.

This stage of development is known as branching, and the young fledglings, about six weeks old, hadn’t learned to fly yet. Hubby named this brave little one, Wanda.

Later that same day, Wanda’s sibling joined her for a super cute photo-op. Hubby named the second one, Heather.

Meanwhile, the youngest sibling who Hubby named Yon, remained safely in the nest. The names were Hubby’s play on “wander, hither and yon.”

The older two siblings began venturing out on a daily basis, and Hubby set up a chair, so he could watch the antics in comfort, using a camera and tripod to catch some excellent shots.

Although Mama no longer sat in the nest, we could usually spot her close by.

Sometimes she’d sit in the sun.

The baby yawns were too adorable.

From the start, the owlets were alert and very cognizant of their surroundings. They did a comical head bob if they spotted us watching them. They also intently tracked the movements of our little dogs, which was both amusing and disconcerting.

Look up, way up, and you’ll see the youngest owlet, Yon.

It started branching a full week later than the other two.

At about seven weeks old, Wanda and Heather began to practice flapping their wings, fly-hopping from branch to branch.

Sleeping baby. (Check out those talons!)

A sixth sense would somehow warn it of our presence.

Very aware.

Wanda and Heather were often together.

I’d hoped to capture a shot of all three owlets, but poor little Yon was always alone. It looked so lonely.

Some great close-ups. Such captivating eyes.

Owlets can fly short distances at nine-ten weeks, and are already as big as their parents. We didn’t get to see any of the babies actually fly. We knew the older two were leaving though, during the last week of April, because we often couldn’t find them in the tree. These photos, taken on April 30th, were the last time we saw Wanda and Heather (and mama).

Yon made one final, lone appearance the next day, then it too was gone.

It’s rather funny how emotionally invested we’d become in those three little lives, and how much we missed them when they left. For days, maybe weeks, we’d glance at the tree whenever we went outside, hoping against hope that one might come back for a visit. But nope, all we have left are our memories, a couple hundred photos, several comical videos, and a few feathers that our pup, Bella, had collected in the yard.

We’ve started letting our little dogs venture outside alone again, now that the owls are gone. But I still pen them and stay with them after dark, and I always will, now that I know what danger might be lurking in the shadows. Despite the worry and inconvenience, we’d gladly welcome the mating owls back next January, but it’s my understanding that the nest deteriorates so much during one season of use by a Great Horned owl that it can rarely be used again. The owls don’t build their own nests, preferring to take over an established one, so they’ll likely choose another location next year. Therefore, we’ll be thankful for, and lucky to have had, our one season of owls.


The 2019 Season of Owls

My first indication that we had newcomers to the neighbourhood came by text from our next-door-neighbour, late in January. He wanted me to know there was an owl in his big, old pine tree, so we should keep a close eye on Georgie and Bella, our four-pound dogs. It soon became apparent a pair of Great Horned Owls had appropriated an old crow’s nest in that tree.

From our carport, using binoculars, we could catch glimpses of the female on the nest.

Needless to say, the crows were very unhappy about the situation. Although they weren’t nesting yet, themselves, they didn’t want the owls around, and they tried mightily to drive them off. They’d swarm the tree en masse, over and over, cawing and screeching, (triggering my Hitchcock’s “The Birds” ptsd) but their efforts went for naught, and the owls stayed put.

A part of me was super excited to have the owls nearby. I hoped to see them fly, and to watch their owlets grow. Another part of me was nervous about having these predatory creatures around my tiny dogs. Friends and family began warning me of the dangers, and my concern grew daily, so I put in a call to conservation. The conservation officer confirmed there was potential danger, albeit not huge. He suggested never leaving the pups outside by themselves. Going out with them was inconvenient, but being winter, they were in and out quickly, so it wasn’t that bad. We set up a covered pen to keep the pups corralled.

The tarp terrified Georgie, so it didn’t stay on long. Because we were always right beside them, we figured an open pen would be safe enough.

Often while out with the dogs late at night, I’d hear the owls hooting back and forth; the female in the neighbour’s tree, the male from other nearby yards. It got so I could recognize their calls. The male had a deeper hoot, and the female’s was higher and faster. They were loud too, sometimes waking me up very early in the morning.

Great Horned owls typically lay one to three eggs in late January, a single egg every two-three days, although there can be as much as a week between laying. Incubation takes about a month, with the owlets arriving at the beginning of March. Their eyes stay closed for up to eleven days.

From our carport, we kept a steady watch on the nest using binoculars, and the female was always setting. Sometimes she’d be snoozing, but often she’d look right back at us, very aware of her surroundings.

Mid-March, our neighbour texted to say he’d spotted a baby. Unable to see into the nest from our carport, I visited our neighbour’s yard about ten days later. Usually the male owl didn’t roost in the same tree, but because the crows were being so persistently aggressive, he must’ve decided to hang around that day, much to my delight. It was my only opportunity to see the handsome guy.

There were two owlets visible, and I almost melted when I saw the wee balls of fluff. At this stage, they’re called nestlings.

And already so fierce looking, despite the downy plumage.

I had yet to see the mama leave the nest, although both parents would be out hunting throughout the night to feed the growing owlets. The adults’ resounding hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo became a routine occurrence, from ten pm to five am.

Two days after I’d photographed the owlets, I was in our backyard with Hubby and the pups. I didn’t usually let them run loose, but that day they were. Suddenly my neighbour yelled a heads-up to me, and I turned to see the female owl flying toward me. I mean – right toward me. My first thought was, she’s after one of my dogs. Before I could react, she’d flown by, her wings mere feet from my head.

Turns out, she wasn’t interested in me or my pups. To divert the pesky crows from the nesting tree, she’d flown to another big tree two doors down. I just happened to be in her flightpath. The crows made a hasty and noisy pursuit. More and more gathered as they swarmed the tree.

These were taken April 4th, so the owlet was likely about four weeks old. What incredible changes in less than two weeks. And just like its mama, it was very aware of me.

Its tiny ear tuffs were already starting to appear.

A few days later, we spotted Mama perched on a branch, enjoying a snooze in the sun.

She soon realized we were watching her, even though we were in our own yard.

Great shots of her ear tuffs.

Over the next week, I tried photographing the owlets from my carport, but it was difficult through the branches.

Their plumage began to change, taking on more mature colours.

Around this time we discovered there were actually three owlets. The youngest one must’ve hatched much later than the other two.

Meanwhile, Mama began to enjoy daily alone-time away from the nest.

An owlet can be seen in this one, to the lower right.

At six weeks old, the nestlings were about to become fledglings, and that’s when things really got cute. Click here for fledgling pics and stories.

Living With Impaired Vision – No Wallowing Allowed

This is the final post about my eye health issues. I haven’t written these articles to garner sympathy. Rather, I hope to educate people to the symptoms and dangers of torn and detached retinas. And to let people who are going through a similar situation know that they aren’t alone. This is what happened, this is what was done about it, and this is what I’m left with. Maybe it’ll help.

My journey started in December 2016, with a natural occurrence that happens to most middle-aged people. As our eyes age, the vitreous gel that fills the central eye cavity liquefies and separates from the retina. When this happens, a person often sees floaters—dots, spots or curly lines, which follow eye movement. Usually this quickly settles down and vision returns to normal. Sometimes, the retina will tear or detach when the gel separates.

If you experience the above symptoms, seek medical care immediately. Call your optometrist without delay; there’s usually one on-call after hours. They’ll check for a break (tear) or detachment and refer you for any necessary procedures. A retinal detachment is an ophthalmologic emergency. The longer the wait for surgery, the lower the chances of a positive outcome. This can not only lead to irreversible vision loss, the health of the entire eye is endangered.

In my case, multiple breaks developed in my left eye’s retina, which I’ve had repaired twice with laser surgery. I now have large, mostly opaque, floaters in my eye that sometimes impede my vision. Rapid blinking usually improves things.

When the same episode happened to my right eye, in April 2017, it resulted in a vitreous hemorrhage. Blood vessels ruptured when the vitreous gel separated from the retina. This hemorrhage caused massive damage to my retina, completely detaching it.

I underwent a complicated surgery to repair my retina, involving a vitrectomy, scleral buckling, and injecting silicon oil into the eye cavity. I gave a detailed explanation of the procedures here.

Although my eye eventually healed, my vision was impaired, and I developed intraocular hypertension – high pressure in my eye. I’d hoped this would improve after the silicon oil was surgically removed in August 2017, but it didn’t.

Not only did the intraocular hypertension continue, I developed a cataract, and what little vision I had began to degrade. I had cataract surgery in July 2018, and while the surgery was successful, it didn’t improve my vision. This was when I first heard the words glaucoma and optic nerve damage in reference to my situation.

Like intraocular hypertension, glaucoma is too much pressure inside the eye cavity. It’s most common in older adults. Fluid in the eye cavity can’t drain properly, and over time the resulting high pressure damages the optic nerve. Early stage glaucoma has no symptoms because damage occurs gradually. In the later stages, symptoms include loss of peripheral vision, eye pain, and blurred vision. Vision damage is permanent and, if untreated, leads to blindness. There’s no cure for optic nerve damage, and various treatments may only prevent further vision loss.

Because vision loss can’t be recovered, it’s important to have regular eye exams that include eye pressure measurements. Seek immediate medical care if you experience sudden vision loss, halos around lights, any vision distortion or severe eye pain. These symptoms could result in optic nerve damage and permanent vision impairment.

In September 2018, I underwent a procedure called laser trabeculoplasty, which sometimes helps reduce intraocular pressure. It didn’t improve my situation.

In December 2018, I had an Ahmed valve implanted in my eye. Although the valve is functioning properly, my intraocular pressure remains unstable. I won’t know for several months whether the surgery will lower the pressure. Meanwhile, I continue to take Latanoprost with Timolol and Brimonidine eye drops.

So after two and a half years, and all those procedures, this is what I’m left with:

I have no functional vision in my right eye, and this is permanent. It’s like I’m looking through a lovely hoar-frost coated window, which is heavily frosted on the nasal side and less on the outer periphery, with the occasional clear spot where I have fleeting slivers of vision. With both eyes open, I see a general blurriness overlaid with an intricate pattern of lines. I often see a fainter version of this when just looking through my good eye.

When I close my eyes, or am in complete darkness, a lightshow starts up. Like looking through a black and white kaleidoscope. It’s elaborate and pretty.

I often have double vision through both eyes. The secondary image always cants to the upper left. It’s particularly bad while using the computer, and brings on tension headaches.

My right pupil is non-reactive and I’m extremely light sensitive, not only to sunlight, but also to bright overhead lights. I wear my pirate glasses, with a dark right lens, when shopping.

I lack depth-perception, so I bump into things, trip over things, and spill things. Everything requires greater concentration.

I’m no longer safe to drive, and I really miss this. So I’ve started using transit. It’s tediously slow, but oh well, it gives me independence.

My right eye aligns slightly to the right instead of looking straight ahead, and my eyelid sometimes droops – usually in bright light or if my eye is strained. This wide-eyed photo shows my dilated pupil, the Ahmed valve, the crooked eye and droopy eyelid.

Usually the valve is a barely discernible bump.

Recently, my right eye becomes increasingly red and irritated throughout each day. My ophthalmologist believes it’s extreme dry eye, made worse by computer-time. Hopefully using a lubricating gel, and patching my eye when on the computer for long durations will help. I swear my eye has a grudge against me, lol.

Despite all this, I don’t ask, ‘why me?’ Naturally, I wish this had never happened, but I don’t dwell on it. I absolutely know I’m lucky compared to the struggles of so many others. Of course I have bad days, but I never feel sorry for myself. It’s more frustration, impatience. I’ve always been a fairly competent person with high standards. I still have those high standards, I’m just not as competent, hence the frustration.

I also won’t play the ‘if only’ game. And I refuse to engage with anyone who wants to focus on the negative. Yes, this happened. Yes, perhaps the outcome should’ve been better. But, this is the outcome I’ve been dealt. Being negative won’t change anything, except make me miserable and bitter. I prefer being positive. I need to be happy, so I choose to accept my situation, and adjust to it the best I can, with no pity-parties.

To anyone dealing with eye problems, I wish you good luck. If you care to read through my articles, I’ve tried to give as much detail and information as possible. Click here to start.

Recovering From Ahmed Valve Implant Surgery

I’ve been talking recently about the ongoing complications from a vitreous hemorrhage in my right eye, in April 2017. Catch up with current posts here, or start at the beginning of my journey here. These earlier articles contain pertinent information about retinal detachments and the serious problems that can arise.

Last week I described my Ahmed valve implant surgery. It takes eight full weeks to recover from this surgery, although the first two-three weeks are certainly the toughest. And rushing the process could put its success in peril, so don’t risk it.

For two weeks after surgery, do nothing that might exert pressure on the eye. No lifting of any type, gentle walking only, no housework, and no sexual activity. It’s even suggested to avoid getting constipated. So, seriously, no exertion.

It’s also important not to lean forward or tilt your head down. I had to sleep on my back or non-surgical side, propped up by several pillows for four weeks. I wore my eye shield to bed for a month, as well, as it’s crucial not to rub the eye.

Immediately after surgery, there was minimal swelling and redness. My eyelid drooped quite a bit, which is a protective response.

Day two:

Day four, redness quite apparent around the surgery site:

I saw my ophthalmologist one week after surgery. My ocular pressure was down to 9, which is low. He instructed me to cut back my eye drops to Latanoprost with Timolol, once a day.

Day nine, not much had changed.

The valve (a white rectangle) is barely visible under the inflamation:

I couldn’t bake goodies or decorate my house for Christmas—I didn’t even have a tree. I made the best of it, but my Christmas spirit was definitely lacking.

A pressure check, seventeen days post-op, came out a perfect 15 in both eyes. My eyelid was still droopy and swollen, and my eye continued to be quite uncomfortable. It sometimes felt itchy, sometimes gritty. The constant sharp pain was diminishing, but it still woke me up at night and throbbed badly if I leaned forward.

At four weeks post-op, it’s okay to start activities requiring light exertion. No heavy lifting or doing anything strenuous. If it affects your breathing, don’t do it.

At my four-week follow-up, my ocular pressure had elevated to 24. My ophthalmologist put me back on Brimonidine eye drops, twice a day. He thought the valve looked good:

My eyelid was still droopy. He explained that it’s protecting the eye, and as the eye heals, the eyelid position should improve. However, sometimes it remains lower than the other eye, especially if there’s been numerous surgeries, such as in my case.

With permission from the surgeon, we spent a week in Mexico one month after surgery. As a concession to my recovery, we slowed the pace of our long daily walks. Only once, climbing Mirador de La Cruz, did I feel serious eye pain and realized I was pushing it. A few minutes of rest and a gentler pace allowed me to carry on, pain-free.

At my six-week follow-up, my ocular pressure was 23, so hadn’t dropped despite increasing the eye drops. My ophthalmologist was concerned whether the valve was working properly, so faxed a letter to the surgeon in Vancouver. Sometimes a valve has to be readjusted surgically in the weeks following implant.

I flew to Vancouver two weeks later. Thankfully, my son came to my rescue again, chauffeuring me around and giving me his bedroom. At the appointment, the surgeon said my implant looked good and had healed well. My pressure was still 23, and he explained it might be unstable for up to a year, and I might always have to use eye drops. I told him the eye pain had started to fade around seven weeks post-op. He said that’s approximately when the stitches are completely dissolved.

A week later (two months post-op), the pressure reading was 24. I could now resume all activities, no matter how strenuous.

Three months post-op, the pressure reading was 25.

Four months post-op, the pressure reading was 17. Totally normal. It’s too soon to say if it’s stabilized, but I’m hopeful. I want to believe, after going through the ordeal of that surgery, that there’ll be one positive outcome in this long journey.

Click here for my final article, where I conclude my thoughts on my progress and go over some important information about eye health.

An Ahmed Valve Implant To Treat Glaucoma

I’ve been talking recently about the ongoing complications from a vitreous hemorrhage in my right eye, in April 2017. You can catch up with current posts here, or start at the beginning of my journey here. These earlier articles contain pertinent information about retinal detachments and the serious problems that can arise.

Last week I discussed stopping treatment for ocular hypertension and allowing my eye to go blind. After careful contemplation, I agreed to consult with a surgeon in Vancouver about having a shunt implanted. The consultation appointment was set for three weeks later, at the end of October 2018.

A friend agreed to stay with our puppies – the first time we’d ever left them. And our son kindly put us up at his apartment in Vancouver. The drive over the mountains was unexpectedly snowy.

We strolled around my son’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.

And enjoyed visiting him and his girlfriend.

A field vision test was performed at the appointment to confirm how much vision I still had. I looked into a dark tube and clicked a clicker every time I saw a light flash. First using my right eye, and then my left. I expected the surgeon to say I didn’t have enough vision to warrant doing the surgery. Instead, he strongly recommended it. He didn’t go into detail about the surgery, other than to say a tube would be placed in my eye cavity to help with fluid drainage. When I read the information sheets describing the surgery and recovery period, I realized how complex the entire procedure would be. Consequently, I left Vancouver still unsure whether to proceed or not.

At least the drive home was better. Clouds, but no snow.

I spoke with my ophthalmologist and family doctor, and they both felt I should have the surgery to preserve what little sight I still had in my right eye (which is important because my left eye is also visually and structurally compromised), as well as for the overall health of my eye. After considering this advice, I decided it’d be in my best interest to go forward with it.

Surgery was booked for December 11th, and I was told I’d have to stay in Vancouver for a week. We had to take the puppies with us, which meant we couldn’t stay at my son’s apartment. His girlfriend generously offered us her place, while she and her cat moved in with my son. I blogged about our stay, including photos, here.

The actual surgery was probably the most pain-free I’ve had so far. I asked not to be given a sedative, so the anesthesiologist didn’t even insert an IV. Instead of freezing my eye with needles (big ouch), a substance was instilled directly onto the eye (teeny, tiny ouch). This was reapplied several times during the procedure. The device implanted is called an Ahmed Valve. A tube goes from the eye cavity to a plate attached to the exterior white sclera of my eye, which then disperses the drained fluid. Pain was minimal throughout the surgery. Arrival to departure took two hours, surgery about forty-five minutes.

Throughout the day, my eye grew progressively more painful, and it leaked bloody tears nonstop, which, apparently, is not uncommon. By evening, the tears had turned clear, but were still profuse, also running inside my nose.

At my follow-up appointment the next morning, everything looked good and my ocular pressure was down (I don’t know the number). Fluid continued to leak, mostly into my nasal canal, and the eye was quite sore. If I accidentally tilted my head down (big no-no), the pain really ratcheted up.

The eye pain continued to worsen on the third day, although the leaking was diminishing. The following morning, I got the good news I could go home the next day. The bad news was that my ocular pressure had climbed to 28, which is high. The surgeon told me to expect fluctuations. As previously directed, I had stopped using the hypertension eye drops before surgery, and was now told to resume them.

The recovery period for this type of surgery is not easy. The slow, painful process took many long weeks, and I’ve detailed this in my next post here.