I know I live in Western Montana at elevation and I know every year I write about the snow. Some years (2017-18) are terrible and have led to insurance claims/woes/headaches but most years are just snowy. A bunch of snow falls, we all move it from here to there and then the sun comes out and the sky turns blue and everyone goes snowmobiling. We put that on repeat and that’s how we do it in Seeley Lake!
And everyone knows that the majority of the snow seems to fall when Alistair is in Bismarck and I’m up here at the big house with a few cheeky pets. You are all well aware that our 1996 one ton Dodge Ram, Big Red saves my ass each and every winter when he fires up and lets me clear our road.
We are the last house on a long driveway so I need to be the one behind the wheel if I’m going to have a road to the rest of the world.
The truck and blade aren’t giant, though, so I do run into limitations as to how far I can shove the snow and how high the berms along the sides of the road can get.
We do have a large tractor with a very large snow-blower and when Alistair is here he climbs in and tosses the berms way off to the side somewhere, making the roadways and paths so much wider and easier to plow again.
And every now and then I get a 2- or 3-day stretch where he isn’t here and the snow just doesn’t stop falling.
I just got through that.
Snow fell for a solid 3 days and then it blew around a teensy bit yesterday.
By that point yesterday I had hired Tim and Daniel to remove the large amount of heavy snow from our roof and they spent a few hours hacking away at it. They are due any minute this afternoon to tackle the back of the house.
Its a big house, mostly on one level so the large roof takes a bit of work.
We learned our lesson with that roof, as it was the major chunk of the change our insurance company had to shell out when we needed a whole new one.
We’d rather avoid that at all costs.
This 3-day blizzard was difficult at times during the day because life was basically one big, scary white-out. You often can’t see the side berms at all so its relatively easy to drive or slide off the road.
I made a point to set my alarm clock for zero-dark-thirty so I could get up and plow with headlights illuminating the path and I also plowed early into the darkening evenings.
The snow that fell was pretty wet (it actually rained at points at lower elevations nearby) so while its heavy, I can actually sometimes end up tossing it over the sides of the berms I’ve created if I have the balls to go at it aggressively enough.
I chose to do that on the second morning and I was successful! A little worried about ditching myself but I was successful.
(Cheering me on from the cd player, Keali’i Reichel was singing some awesome-sounding Hawaiian song that I just kept on repeat.)
And I share pictures about all of this on social medial largely to let Alistair and my friends and family know that I’m okay. Many of them are dealing with their own snow loads so I don’t think for a second that they are actually worrying about me but… you know… just in case.
I am a 5’3″ little person with a penchant for sparkly things and the color pink. I enjoy playing with makeup, dancing, and red wine and I’m probably still more comfortable in glittery spandex than I am in my snow suit and huge boots. My figure skating crowd were horrified enough when I went to veterinary school. They likely can’t fathom me behind the wheel of a truck I have to free fall a little to get out of with a stick shift on the floor and a huge beast of a blade on the front.
So, here I am once again sharing the wintery tales of life on the Fyfe Farm when Mother Nature shakes the snow globe that is our meadow in the middle of nowhere in Western Montana.
Alistair is on the road as I type today so even if we get more snow he can fire up Victor (the tractor) and the snow-blower.
And hopefully Tim and Daniel will arrive at some point to take the heavy weight off of our new, mega-thousand dollar roof.
And while I’ve been living in my plow truck and I haven’t gone anywhere and I have been getting up early and I’m also doing some shoveling outside I have also totally enjoyed this weekend because not only is it the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, which is played at Kapalua (we were just there in October!!!!), it was also the Canadian and US National figure skating championships with Olympic berths on the line!
Tanya = happy!!!!!
Watching these events we’ve recorded with a one-eyed kitten, an older red-headed Siamese and some tasty wine felt like a very special reward each night, tailored specifically for me and my hard work.
I’ll limit commentary on the skating to the fact that the US has some incredible talent coming up in the Men’s department once Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou eventually dry their blades for the last time (although Nathan’s short program… I mean, come ON! Quad lutz combo after the halfway point in a short?????) Don’t forget the name, Ilia Malinin. Quad-quad combos? He IS a Quad God!
As is generally the case in the Fyfe household, we weren’t in the market for a new pet.
We weren’t saying, “Hey, we haven’t adopted a new cat in ages” or, “You know, we need more cats in the house”, and we weren’t looking around online or in the newspaper.
I was merely at work at Clark Fork Veterinary last Monday and heard some buzz about some Good Samaritans. It was getting towards the end of the day and I knew I had snowy roads to drive in the dark so I wasn’t really listening. I didn’t even know if they were discussing a dog, a cat, a pig or a goat. Just some people found some animal off the Interstate and they brought it to us.
And then I walked past the cat kennel room making sure to say something cheeky to the spicy clinic cat, Tabasco.
That’s when someone else caught my eye.
Sitting in the crate above Tabasco was a seal-point Siamese kitty doing her best to get my attention with her mewing. She looked so much like Sport, the feline extension of my own body for the last 20 years that I had to take a step back.
And then I stepped forward and reached in to pick her up.
What the???? (Monday, seconds after seeing her)
I put 2 and 2 together and snapped a picture to text to my husband while trying to pay more attention to the discussion going on in the treatment room.
The kitty needed her right eye removed and that would cost a few hundred dollars. Some of our staff rent or they live with their folks or they have big dogs so not everyone can bring home a one-eyed waif. Many of our staff have young kids at home, too, so a few hundred bucks just days before Christmas wasn’t in the cards.
I pretty much announced right then that kitty would probably become a Fyfe (Alistair texted a few minutes later and added his own seal of approval.)
The next day, despite it being really busy, our surgical team led by Dr.Betsy got kitty prepped and ready for surgery (enucleate this!!!!) At one point we thought Dr.Chelsea would be doing the honors, then her clients showed up so then it was back on Dr.Betsy’s books. I had done the pre-surgical exam with my technician, Jessi first thing that morning.
Kitty was very active that morning. Crawling all over us, the exam room, the counters… she climbed up onto my shoulders and thrust herself off my chest towards Jessi who, thankfully, has quick reflexes. She nested in Jessi’s hair, she tried to leap up onto the counters from the floor, she wriggled and wrestled me and my stethoscope and was just a general psycho.
Her right eye was icky. Yeah, that’s a medical term.
It smelled, too and I’m sure it was a source of pain. We aren’t sure what happened to the eye because she was found in the snow next to the Interstate. The smell and the drainage told us the injury wasn’t brand new but its anyone’s guess as to what led to the damage. Thankfully, the rest of her check-up was unremarkable (once we got her to stop the loud purring so I could actually hear her heart.)
And, just like that, the eye is out.
And I drove through the snowy night later than normal to bring her to her new world at the Fyfe Farm.
And Alistair got to bond with the cutie patootie under the Christmas tree.
Alistair, himself, is still not 100% post Covid. Its mostly just stamina-issues he faces but he did get to come back to Montana post-quarantine for a week.
And he got to help a little kitty get a new lease on life, albeit with one eye.
Interestingly, since she’s been home, she hasn’t been psycho anymore. I’m wondering if she was just in that much pain that it made her agitated and crazy.
Or, maybe she somehow appreciates already that she’s found herself a couple of Siamese-loving suckers who don’t really have a lot of rules at their house.
Other than my main one: donate your reproductive organs at the door and get along.
She is also battling a lovely upper respiratory infection right now, likely brought on from stress, surgery, stress and more stress. While moving into Fyfe Life is great, its still a lot of changes. Good stress is still stress!
The reproductive organ thing will happen soon enough. And the getting along? Jockey and Martini have already slept on either side of my leg through the night. There isn’t any hissing or growling, either, so I think Jockey figures the little cyclops isn’t much of a threat.
We haven’t met the ferrets yet because once we knew Alistair tested positive for Covid we whisked them off to their other home with Joel, Jeanette, Ivan, Fallon and Panzur. I got to visit with them yesterday on Christmas Day and it was an absolute blast.
The Bee Gees will stay there for another couple of weeks while more flooring will be happening around them in early January and we need them breathing clean air through their teensy noses. It just gives Maurice more time to horde socks and intimidate the year-old German Shepard in the house.
If you’ve been following along you’ll know that I am ready to put December in the rear-view mirror. And yet we are wrapping it up with a one-eyed Siamese cat that I like to imagine was sent to us from Spirit of Sporto. One of the toughest days of my life last spring was putting him and Bebe down the same morning and it has taken me a long time to reconcile that, even though it was absolutely necessary.
And I had some tough moments as a veterinarian, a realtor and a wife, not to mention a solo gal on a snowy ranch at the end of a long driveway this month.
And I watched an almost-recovered husband head down the driveway Friday morning to begin the onslaught that is his job on the front lines again today.
He texted me “65” after 3 hours of work today.
That’s the number of patients he had seen already.
And its not sustainable and they are short staffed and the staff who are there are pissy and that’s to be expected and with the holidays most other clinics are closed and they have no windows and he isn’t fully recovered but we also haven’t dealt with how Covid has taken a toll on his mental health the past 6 months and another partner tested positive yesterday but he’s asymptomatic and Omicron is spreading like wildfire and I’m here and he’s there so I can’t force him to eat well and who has the time to eat well when you’re seeing 65 patients in just over 3 hours and your wife gets to live in the mountains with the cute new one-eyed kitten and there honestly is no end in sight and the real estate transaction is still happening but I’m not holding my breath but I’m cool even though I probably have to go and plow more snow when I finish this blog.
I probably won’t blog again until 2022.
That’s kind of neat, actually.
I’m choosing to remain the optimist I always have been (even if it borders on naivete.) I AM in the beautiful mountains with a cute new companion and I’m fortunate enough to have the kick-ass ’96 Ram with the guts and strength to move snow from here to there.
I have friends and family who have had my back through thick and thin when I’ve put myself out there this month.
I’ve shared because I sometimes feel like my life is one big teachable moment but also because its one more coping mechanism I posses.
I use words.
Here’s to Martini Uno Omni iCat Winkle Fyfe and everyone who sent in name suggestions! Here’s to Good Samaritans and to excellent veterinary team members.
Here’s to every like, e-hug, and comment everyone sent me this month.
To no one’s surprise, Alistair tested positive for covid last Monday. He’s been holed up at our house in Bismarck with a myriad of symptoms and days that are so-so interspersed with days that are better.
Not good or bad.
Just so-so and better.
He got the monoclonal antibody infusion Tuesday morning and he was fully vaccinated and he hasn’t needed supplemental oxygen or a hospital bed so there are those things to be thankful for.
Apparently up in Kalispell you get 4 injections in the muscle in one day if you’re getting the antibodies while in Bismarck its one IV infusion. I’m not sure if that means we are still just trying to figure our way through Covid or what.
I have said, from the beginning, that we’re going to know a lot more about Covid in a few more years.
So a lot of my mind has been taken up with thoughts of Alistair and the fact I’m being a shitty wife because I stayed in Montana so I could keep working both as a veterinarian and a realtor and not put my co-workers or the clinic at risk of shutting down.
I hit a bit of my own rough patch this past week when it felt like I had maybe given up a little too much of myself even though I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
I had a very, very sad euthanasia mid week in Deer Lodge. I’m talking mega-sad. Not that any farewell appointment is easy. Nor do I mean to imply that I rate appointments like that. This one had so many… layers. It involved the entire clinic and a pet’s entire family and there were family dynamics that made everything so painfully poignant. And I had just met the pet and her family that day.
I drove home through 2 phases of the game, “Am I On The Road Right Now?” that night later than normal and woke up to my big real estate transaction careening off its own course days before closing. Phone calls, texts, voicemails, more phone calls and more texts and a few more phone calls later and we currently have an extension on the closing. If it makes it to closing. I was juggling 4 men and trying to find solutions between and for my buyer, his lender, my boss and the seller’s agent. I think everyone is content right now but we’ll see how the next 4 weeks go.
It didn’t help that later that same day I had to put down a very ancient dog who I have known since his dad brought him here from Arizona many years ago. His dad had passed away unexpectedly days ago and friends reached out to me to do the necessary thing for his little old dog. There was more of myself I chose to give and it hit kind of hard that night.
I am absolutely certain that the fact Alistair has covid and he’s so-so one day and just better the next and the fact I’ve had to plow snow several times this week and its darker each day and I felt more alone than normal and I’m probably not eating right and our golf courses are closed was all part of my temporary malaise but I’m doing alright now.
I actually reached out and put my shit on social media and the world came back with love and hugs and genuine concern.
And the plowing isn’t so bad. I mean, its time consuming but I’ve actually had the time to do it. And I’m driving Big Red, which, as many of you know, is the second-most significant male relationship in my life. We’ve had that truck since 1996 and he is the reason we own a small fleet of Dodge Rams.
I also live at the very end of a long dirt road and there is nobody behind me to do the plowing. If I want the road open I need to do it.
And I’ve done it enough that I’ve learned a few truths about plowing snow in Montana.
For starters, just resign yourself to the fact you have to do it. Don’t bitch and whine about it and don’t wallow in self pity. You need a road open and if all you see is a fluffy Bernedoodle when you scour the house then you’re the one who has to do it.
Another thing? Don’t be a dick. If you have neighbors whose driveways also attach to the main road you are plowing then don’t make it so that they have to gun it in hopes they’ll get air and clear the berm you just left blocking their driveway.
Also, take pride in your work. Take the time to do a good job (the whole, “If a job’s worth doing” thing.) If you’re going to open up that road and your side berms aren’t higher than your blade then turn that thing into a runway!
Another thing: sometimes you have to go slow and sometimes you have to go fast. Going fast means you’re going to pump up snow quickly onto your windshields so your wipers are going to be flying. If its still snowing and blowing this can lead to a very snowy windshield in no time, necessitating stops to wipe the blades down as you go. Slower driving tends to avoid that (unless its really crappy out) but sometimes the sides are too wet or heavy and they suck your blade right into them. Don’t try to be a hero, man. Get your ass out of that quickly or you’ll be needing someone else’s husband to pull you out.
And I don’t know how to explain the difference between knowing when to go slow or when to crank it up into 3rd gear. After so many years and so many passes and so many near-misses and so many almost-screams you just know.
Try your best to remember where extension cords are buried under the snow. I told myself the entire first hour of plowing yesterday to “remember the cord, Tanya, remember the cord.” Over and over I repeated it inside my head in between pretending I know some of the words to the Hawaiian songs blasting through the speakers.
That’s one of those lessons that can be okay (like yesterday) or borderline disastrous. Its also a lesson that both of us forget from time to time so its kind of an acceptable husband or wife move.
Probably one of the most fundamental lessons learned is to love your plow truck.
I mean, LOVE your plow truck.
Especially if he is a bit older but you want (need) him to hang in there for awhile still. Maybe pimp out the ride inside and invest in studded tires out back. Take him into the shop annually (highly recommend doing this before the snow flies) and don’t slam him into the big snow piles at full throttle. Kick all the snow off the bottom of your boots before driving so you’re less likely to lose your footing and pop the clutch.
I talk to Big Red on snowy mornings and I maybe even flirt with him. (Granted, I’m alone a lot of the time so there’s that.) I thank him out loud when he fires up (particularly if he’s a bit sketchy about it) (which is usually when I’ve forgot to plug him in overnight.) I brush him down where I can reach as he first starts so he can warm up a little before we begin our cruise. Its kind of like foreplay. I give him a gloved pat on the hood each time we finish our routine and I have been known to hug him.
And even though it stopped snowing for a few hours today, it is coming down again right now. I’ll get the barn kitties put away and take Jazz out for a long walk and laugh at her ridiculous, dramatic antics in the snow and maybe I’ll have to resign myself to plowing again.
The Hawaiian music that fills the cab is fun in its sheer irony but it also makes me smile, which I was hard pressed to do during a 24 hour stretch a few days ago.
Alistair will hopefully get back here someday or maybe I’ll head to Bismarck for a few days.
Or maybe both.
I know he has a boat load of people pulling for him, knowing how hard he has worked on the front lines of Covid for almost 2 years now. I know people have appreciated our honesty about what we knew and what we didn’t or still don’t know as this novel virus has paraded around the globe. We don’t know if he has the Delta or Omicron variants but we do know he isn’t hospitalized and I’m thankful for that.
Alistair will be fine.
I’ll be fine.
Sometimes just putting your feelings out into the universe when you’ve used up all of your other coping mechanisms is all you can do. I appreciate everyone who has reached out publicly and privately to check on the Fyfes.
We got our festive little community, Christmas Town, back up and running again this year!
Every year we try to add something new, whether it is an actual house or storefront, more people and stand-alone pieces or one more skating rink. (Fun fact: there are 8 skating rinks now! )
We joke that this really brings out the realtor in me because I actually try to make some sense with how we zone this thing. It obviously wasn’t an issue when all we had was High Meadow Pond (shown above) but then we started getting hooked on creating this place.
We try to choose pieces that reflect who we are and what we do. The skating rinks were a natural. Not only was I a professional figure skater, but we also met at an ice rink when I was a guest skater in Creston, BC. Our wedding was on the ice as well and Alistair made an ice rink out back in Bismarck every winter when the kids were young.
Alistair surprised me this year with a cute little skate shop, too. Finally, somewhere to rent skates and get them fixed! (One presumes there is a sharpening system in the back…)
Gradually we got some places to eat, even adding a food truck and a pizzeria last year along with a wine bar this year. Most of the shops are tongue-in-cheek nods to Fyfe Life… like the jewelry store that reflects the fun Chloe & Isabel fashion jewelry I used to sell or the brand new Lowe’s that we found (in Lowe’s) where we often add to our collection.
And the zoning thing is pretty legit, to be honest. You can’t just slap up a riding stable and barn next to the water tower. There’s bacteria and things to consider! (The veterinarian in me advises the realtor from time to time.)
We also provide housing for everyone in Christmas Town. A log cabin by the riding stable, condo rentals by a skating pond, identical twin townhouses (that was an oopsy when both of us bought in MT and ND that year)- we have met our little community’s housing needs. We grow the housing as we grow the town.
As I type this, I realize I have been reading about these kinds of things in real life. My REALTOR magazine, put out by the National Association of Realtors, has had many articles detailing how cities can and should move forward now that we have dealt with Covid for close to 2 years.
So many people realized they could work from home so they stopped taking transit. The essential workers and transit workers still needed transit, though, so there is much we need to learn. People and families started valuing their open spaces because we all needed (and still need to) socially distance ourselves while still recreating outdoors.
Walkability is a catch-phrase used by city planners and thinkers and we probably need to focus on that when our communities and cities grow right now. Not only is it healthy and good for social distancing to be outdoors, its also a very real thing that in 2034, just 13 years from now, the US will have more people over 65 than under 18 for the first time (thank you, Danielle Arigoni, Director of Livable Communities at AARP for that fact.) At a certain point, many seniors don’t drive.
With less and less time being spent in our offices, neighborhoods are going to need to see changes in the spaces we create. Flexible spaces designed for multiple functions like video conferences along with a place to eat and for the kids to run around sound like a good idea for the future. Places where you can have an art class along with yoga for the grown-ups and maybe a coffee bar all while having the ability to let others plug in and connect online to do their work might be a great use of space down the road.
As Christmas Town grew we knew it was completely unrealistic if we didn’t have housing. That’s kind of where a lot of America is right now. The lack of affordable housing is almost at crisis-levels for people of color and people of modest means, according to the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia Fudge. “Even before the pandemic, nearly 11 million Americans spent more than half of their incomes on rent. COVID 19 has only made this situation worse,” she says.
What does it say that all of the little people in Christmas Town are white? Its not like there has ever been any option, either, when choosing our little additions each year. I’m pretty sure that just speaks to who is buying these pieces with enough room in a house they own in which to display them.
I’m not going to get all heavy on that because that was not the point when I started typing this afternoon. I mostly like sharing the twinkly, bright lights and the festive mood that we’ve created with everyone. I do like the fact we have ample walkability. I like to pretend we live in the cute log cabin at the north end of town and I make my way, on foot, through the village, stopping to coach a little figure or power skating or maybe skate myself at one of the rinks along the way.
I’ll grab a coffee on my way out and sit down for a glass of wine on my way back during this daily stroll through Christmas Town.
Before the wine, though, I’ll hit up the area zoned for animal-centered businesses. Each business there can use a veterinarian’s skill set and knowledge of vaccination records and I would get to play with puppies and kittens as I go. I would make sure to put in some time at the Animal Shelter, too, which is part of the feel-good-ed-ness of this little make believe community.
Obviously the animal thing is a huge part of Fyfe Life. Before “Attrition” we maxed out at 5 dogs, 8 indoor cats, 3 barn cats, 3 ferrets and 2 guinea pigs, not to mention the equine herd outside. We are down to 2 barn kitties, 1 indoor cat, 3 crazy ferrets and 7 horses in Bismarck. (We have Jazz Champion, the adorable Bernedoodle here right now, too, because her daddy, Richmond made the NFR again and even placed 2nd last night!)
So real Fyfe Life is low on animals but Christmas Town is alive with barking and purrs! (Fun fact number 2: there are 7 horses, 13 cats, 27 dogs (!!!) and one pig in Christmas Town!)
After doing vet care for the shelter pets and helping identify which owners suit which animals I would head next door to Harvey’s Hoppy Stein to meet up with Alistair (he’d been coaching hockey at one of the rinks). Granted, I would most likely ask to see the wine list but its still a super cute pub and I’m sure they have appies available, too.
Yes, I do live in a little fantasy world sometimes. There is probably some psychological label you can slap on people who like to create happy worlds and imagine living in them even when their own world is pretty great. Its kind of like when we build our fish tank worlds- well, Alistair mostly does that but I have added kitsch and color to the newer tanks. Its fun. Its magical. It makes us smile.
Christmas Town is a fun, light-hearted, musical place for us to visit after long days in Alistair’s covid clinic (he sees between 50 and 90 patients a shift still right now and the Delta variant is super transmissible and its making people really sick, or dead, and he’s weary and he’s tired and he’s shoved in a basement clinic without windows and some staff have left and they haven’t been replaced and today on the phone he sounded like ass with a terrible cough and not much appetite and he tested negative yesterday but he’ll test again tomorrow using the PCR and nobody will be shocked if he tests positive but hopefully if he does he won’t be shedding by the time he gets to come back to Montana and me and Jazz and Christmas Town.)
We don’t have golf right now thanks to the weather so we need other avenues or outlets for our busy worlds. I’m driving to Deer Lodge to vet 8 days this month and I’ve got the biggest transaction of my real estate life winding its way to a hopeful closing soon. It hit a glitch here and there but we are finding solutions and moving forward.
Christmas Town is one more area where a figure skater can be a veterinarian can be a realtor (there’s no brokerage but, remember, the realtor skills shine through in the zoning!) #beallthethings
I can also be me- goofy, light-hearted most of the time and sparkly! With a glass of wine at the end of the walk.
We both celebrated birthdays and I’m still not 50.
And we got back to our treasured Hawaiian islands again after a 2-year absence.
Covid-19 kept most doors to Hawaii closed last year and, as medical professionals, neither of us felt like it was a good or safe idea to travel around when people weren’t vaccinated. We plan these trips a year in advance with our jobs plus the house/animal care that’s required so we went and booked a double-header for the doctors Fyfe in 2020 and didn’t allow ourselves to get excited until we were on the plane.
The second plane. The one leaving Seattle for Kahului, Maui.
Just to make things interesting, I got a house under contract for clients/friends of mine immediately before we left. Its one of the largest transactions I’ve been involved in to date so that provided a slight distraction during the trip.
Thank goodness the agent representing the sellers is a local, personal friend. We follow each other on social media so he could see my evening posts of palm trees, crashing waves and mai tais.
He could also see when I posted pictures working on my tan along with our response to the home inspection I had arranged for the day we flew out of Missoula. (Home inspector is also a friend on social media.)
While I did talk with my client almost every day during our Maui stay, our calls were short and sweet and usually during the morning when Alistair was at his conference the first few days.
Our conference organizers have these things down to a tee. Even during Covid! There were some big differences from our worlds in Montana and North Dakota, though. For starters, Hawaii has never relaxed its mask mandate. They only removed the mask mandate for outdoor areas just before we arrived so everyone in every building was masked. (Most physicians and veterinarians wear masks regularly so, once again, it really isn’t a big deal for us.)
We made a point to play as much golf as we possibly could this trip. It is a reward after lugging heavy, stiff, awkward golf bags through airports (Bruises on my legs! For real!) plus we knew our home courses likely wouldn’t be open much longer so we wanted to extend the season as much as we could.
We started with a new 18 right by the resort area in Ka’anapali where we were staying. Ka’anapali Kai was a fun, well designed course that wove through some homes and also provided some killer views. It wasn’t a super expensive course and we tee it up in the afternoon when conferences are done for the day so the rates are even cheaper. Most people prefer morning tee times because its cooler but the Fyfes are there to sweat it out and get the most out of that Hawaiian sunshine. I need those memories when I’m pre-plowing snow in the morning in a couple of months just so I can plow out later in the day.
Playing a new golf course is a lot of fun. It takes a few holes to get a feel for the place and even if we get a few practice chips and putts in beforehand, it still takes a couple of holes to get how the greens are rolling.
We laughed a lot, we took pictures, we made a few pars and the bar cart girl provided us with beer (him) and Greyhounds (me). It was a far cry from the golf we had played in Montana just days prior!
We managed to hit up 2 of the courses we know and love on Maui as well. The first was in UpCountry Maui, which is a non-resort area up the slopes of Haleakala, Maui’s famous dormant volcano. Pukalani Country Club’s golfers are 80% locals with a few Howlies like us choosing to throw ourselves into the mix. Its a fun course! You get some great views on a solid, challenging, very affordable course and if you’re lucky (we weren’t this trip), you get to see some Jackson Chameleons! (I was lucky, however, in the retail department as their kick-ass sale allowed me to buy 2 cute golf tops for the price of 1.)
No bar cart at Pukalani but their on-site café had beer and water for us. We enjoy playing golf where the locals play. You can tell when you pull into the parking lot and you are the only Jeep there that the tourists don’t frequent the place.
Pukalani has one very unique par 3 where you get to choose from 2 separate layouts. We always choose the killer canyon to drive over. As per usual, the giant chasm is 3 golf balls richer than before. I managed to get my second drive onto the green, though, so all was not lost and we laughed some more.
The second Maui-repeat course was the famed Kapalua Plantation course, where the PGA tour kicks off the New Year in January. We love watching the Sentry Tournament of Champions (you have to have won on tour in order to be invited to Kapalua) on TV because the best golfers in the world are playing the same track as us folk who are thrilled (THRILLED) when we shoot 100!
We willingly took out a second mortgage on our Montana home to pay for the round (holy smokes… Kapalua… not cool, people! I get it, Covid killed tourism but you can’t expect us to keep you going!) and I stayed away from the pro shop and fun golf was had yet again!
We were teamed up with Jay, a builder from Washington state and our senses of humor and ability to allow for mulligans when needed were well matched. The views are stunning on several of the holes and we made sure to soak it all in. My A-game wasn’t on hand for some of the front 9 but I pulled my shit together and made par on 16 and 18! Can’t wait to see what Collin Morikawa does on those holes in January!
Maui wasn’t just Alistair’s conference and great golf. We spent an afternoon exploring Lahaina-town and the famous Banyan tree, too. Not much has changed in Lahaina so we’re probably good for another 10 years.
For the first time ever, we island-hopped over to the Big Island for my veterinary conference. We took our time cruising over to the airport, even contemplating stopping at the Maui Ocean Center but, thankfully, we arrived with barely enough time to navigate the enormous throng of people who were also island-hopping in the middle of the day. Holy smokes, definitely plan to arrive with a lot of time just to get through security once you’ve checked your bags in Kahului!
30 minutes after take-off we landed in Kona at my favorite little tiki-hut airport. Some dude almost accidentally took off with both of our golf bags and another suitcase went missing until it mysteriously re-appeared at the open-air entrance/exit but hey, its Hawaii and there’s Aloha everywhere so you just wing it.
My conference was at the Hilton Waikoloa (aka “Dirty Disney”) and while we loved it there were a few differences that made us change our routine. Their main breakfast place still isn’t open so we sought out other options within the local area. And the valets aren’t there but we found a perfect parking spot and entrance that made us feel like we were getting away with something each time we parked!
One thing about going to Hawaii right now- you need to plan ahead for restaurants or show up knowing you *might* get a seat in the bar for supper. We started grabbing yummy food to go from the local Island Marketplace down the road from the Hilton and brought it to our room where we had wine and vodka from Costco waiting for us.
Another thing different for us was the fact we had a couple of days of no conference.
No alarm clock.
No guilt lingering longer on the lanai at night, sipping bevvies in front of an ocean reflecting the near-full, then wondrously full moon.
No tee time restrictions (although we still played in the afternoons because we’re cheap like that.)
We hit up the Big Island version of Maui’s Pukalani when we hit the tee box at Makalei, one of our all-time favorite courses anywhere. We love that its mostly locals who are here and how totally friendly everyone is. We love that they helped us discover Kay’s Kitchen just down the road (because their café is closed) for delicious, fresh-cooked food. We love the challenge of playing straight up or down on the side of a dormant volcano and we absolutely love the peacocks.
We even love that you very likely will have a warm drizzle on holes 2 through 6. Its just enough to make my curly hair look really nuts but not enough to get your feet wet.
The golf carts, though, could use some love.
To us it was part of the charm having duct tape holding the seats together, cracked windshields and engines that didn’t turn over until you’d rolled backwards down the slope for 5 seconds.
If they upgrade the fleet they would maybe have to charge more to play there and nobody on the course could care. Pretenses are far, far away from Makalei, which is just fine with us.
Old courses, new courses- enter Makani, which used to be a private country club until it wasn’t. Its on the same Manalahoa Highway as Makalei but Makani tends to have more sunshine and some killer views. The first tee box affords you 5 different volcanoes, including Maui’s Haleakala!
Ladies’ tee, looking back towards Haleakala!
We ended up playing Makani 3 times this trip so we got to get to know the course and also some of the staff (new bestie = Jim). We took our friend, Barb there for her first time, as well and even her vet-hubby, Don joined us as a ride-along. We’ve played golf on Hawaii with Barb for years during this conference each fall and our games are evenly matched.
And before we knew it, it was tournament time for the veterinary crew! With Dr.Brock bailing on our foursome the past couple of years we never know who we’ll be paired with. This year’s newbie was an absolute blast in Jerry and his own ride-along wife, Grace. Jerry saved our bacon a few times, no question, at the posh Mauna Lani South golf course and Grace got some epic pictures taken during the round.
Pars were made, drinks were drank and I drove the snot out of the golf ball to win the ladies long drive contest!
It actually wasn’t my best round. I had a swing-and-miss and some topped shots. Not my best game but the professional athlete within me showed up when she had to, including the amazing par 3 16th hole where I nailed the green from over the ocean.
Our team once again earned the Most Honest Team award for shooting 74. We toss our pride out the window on that because we each got 20 big ones for that dubious honor (added to the $20 earned for my long drive it only made sense to buy another adorable shirt at the Waikoloa courses!)
The weather was fabulous and we were relaxed knowing Jessie, Joel and Jeanette had things under control with our home and fur-babies back on the mainland.
My real estate transaction is continuing to move forward and I’m hopeful for my friends, even though nothing is closed until its closed.
I’ll be back in the veterinary clinic on Tuesday and Friday this week on top of house calls tomorrow and potentially a couple of listing appointments this week.
Our local golf course is closed and Alistair is already back at work in North Dakota but I’m neither sad nor lonely largely in part because of the amazing, extended time we had in Hawaii.
With Alistair being on the front lines of Covid for almost 2 years now he needed this foray from reality. He’s tired of the Delta variant and stubborn people who refuse to get vaccinated but are clutching at his arm when he tells them they need to get to the ER because their O2 saturation is too low and that they should maybe tell their families all of the things that need to be said beforehand.
We both learned a lot at our conferences that we can apply to our careers and we learned to love Hawaii in a different way this trip. We wore masks as soon as we left our rooms and we didn’t make many supper reservations and we kind of winged-it when it came to eating and we found resort laundry areas and actually did laundry and we figured out the breakfast buffet when we had one and we ate the pineapple and I dragged my laptop out into the pool area in my bikini and we giggled when we heard Iz or Keali’i playing over loudspeakers knowing I’ll be listening to the same men singing the same songs when I fire up Big Red to plow myself out this winter.
Mahalo to you all for reading. I know this was a long blog but I like to bring you along on the trip with us.
I love our Hawaii pics and I visit them often when I’m by myself during the long, dark winters.
Its not just because its my birthday month, or the month when my annual Aloha veterinary conference might actually happen again.
Its because of this:
The brilliant colors surrounding our mountain home make me pause and catch my breath. I’m so fortunate to live in a part of the world where there are four distinct seasons. I grew up in British Columbia and the weather and the vibrant colors are very similar to western Montana, especially in the fall.
We have crisp evenings and frost on the ground in the mornings but lately the day has continued to open up with sunshine and warmth.
Warm enough to keep hitting the local golf course!
It was exactly 8 years ago after I closed my veterinary clinic here in town when Alistair and I got bit hard by the golf bug and we hiked around the local course lugging our clubs over our backs deciding that we wanted to really get better at the game we used to scoff at.
Its hard to imagine that is has been so long since my cute little clinic closed its doors for good. I’m not super nostalgic about it anymore, especially since so much good has come out of that life-changing decision.
Obviously, golf is one of those good things.
And my books! I never would have had the time to create my fantasy world with my fictional high school friends and the dragons who live nearby if I still had my clinic.
And now my position at Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic in Deer Lodge is another very good thing.
The drive in and out of Deer Lodge can be anywhere from an hour and ten to an hour and forty minutes given the road and weather conditions. I usually have a teensy bit of a lead foot, too, so once the snow and ice have gone its been closer to the shorter drive time.
I have paused on a couple of mornings, though. Certainly its getting darker when I leave around 6:30 each morning but the views that accompany me along the way are nothing short of breathtaking.
We had some cooler temps and precipitation a couple of weeks ago and the higher elevations got dusted with snow! Most of it is gone by now but with the rising sun that particular morning I actually stopped the truck for the photo shoot.
I did the same thing just a few mornings ago when the sky was just too pretty to ignore.
Hardly anyone else is on the road these mornings, save for a random school bus or the highway crew paving the road just after I turn off Highway 200 right now.
With it being Fall now I cruise to work with the sunrise and I drive home with the sunset.
I can’t complain.
I did said beautiful drive a lot the past few months. Its that whole “running-to-stand-still” thing I’ve referenced before (its an old U2 song that has always resonated with me.) We work hard so we can play hard.
When its play time I don’t want to be interrupted or distracted.
I want to hit the course and play 18 holes.
I want to sit in our Aloha hot tub and chillax with an adult bevvie in my hand, lit tiki torches and Hawaiian music playing softly in the background.
I want to veg out on the couch watching Supernatural, or figure skating, or Dancing With the Stars, wine in-hand, providing commentary to Jockey or the ferrets or Alistair if he’s home.
These are my coping mechanisms.
These are the things I need to help prevent compassion fatigue from veterinary work and Covid19 and the slew of unvaccinated people who deny science while waltzing into my husband’s clinic, exposing him and so many others who may or may not be vaccinated to this horrible Delta variant that is killing left, right and center, which hit home with the deaths of my cousin-in-law and my uncle within hours of each other, and my other cousin remains on a ventilator while the facts are there that nobody dies from the vaccine but you sure as shit can die from the virus and the majority of local Covid19 tests being done are coming back positive and local people ARE dying but we’re pretending they’re dying from CHF or a stroke but everyone knows they were on ventilators and I’m just tired of armchair scientists and pseudo-science right now
I need these hard-core play times when I know I have had a tough veterinary challenge. As long as I have been doing this I know myself well enough to totally let myself be present for the sad farewells and emotional appointments.
Like on Friday last week when I had to help a family’s dear old canine friend across the Rainbow Bridge.
The appointment was made days prior and the assistant who made the appointment said the owner was crying on the phone at that point, which made her cry, too. That, in turn, already had me tearing up days before the actual appointment.
I had a moment Friday morning with Cobalt, the other clinic kitty that was tender and sweet and peaceful. Almost like he knew what I had to do later that day.
And when it was time for the appointment, my super-sweet assistant (who knew the family… its how it goes down in rural small towns) told me the 3 adult children were there with the parents of the dog and that everyone was pretty busted up already.
With the beautiful fall weather we were able to sit outside on the clinic grass, in the back of the clinic, and talk about how things would go down.
How I would sedate the big dog with bone cancer eating away at his forelimb.
How it might take a bit longer than normal because a breeze had whipped up and we aren’t very far from a busy Interstate with noisy rigs and campers hauling ass to wherever they were going.
How I would let everything happen at the family’s pace and choice, that I had no hard and fast rules for euthanasias.
The owners and their adult children wept openly and shared stories of when they adopted their best friend and the other dogs he knows.
They showed me a short video of him awkwardly trying to jump and wag his tail with his buddy he saw that morning, who is one of the daughters’ dogs.
The dad fessed up, with a welcome smile, that they stopped at McDonald’s and got their old friend a Big Mac and fries on their way to the clinic.
And, eventually, I put their sedated dog to sleep when everyone was ready.
One of the things that was really profound for me for this particular farewell was that this is a family of little means. Maybe some wrong turns along the way, maybe some bad luck here and there. Regardless of choices made, this is a family without much of anything.
To them, their dog was everything.
It is poetically heartbreaking.
So that kind of broke me up kind of like its breaking me up a bit now.
Which is also how I decompress- I let it all out. (On top of the golf, the hot tub, the wine and the guilty pleasure that is Dancing With the Stars. )
The fun level of Fyfe Life is about to kick up a notch soon as Ivan and Fallon, the 2 cute ferrets we sometimes babysit are on their way here right now. They will join Barry, Andy and Maurice for a full week of goofiness and shenanigans and snuggles and that will put a smile on my face every moment I see them. More mechanisms to deal with life.
Work hard to play hard. Running to stand still. However you want to look at it I feel that I need to earn my little freedoms and moments, which allows me to enjoy them that much more.
I’m more than ready to enjoy everything October brings me and I hope to get in a few more rounds of swing therapy. Alistair is back on the front lines in North Dakota but we had a lot of great golf together and with friends when he was here and he managed to get out to our Painted Woods course yesterday and today after work.
I know winter is coming and it will bring its challenges along with it but for now I’m going to sit outside and wait for our ferret house-guests in the early evening brilliant sunshine.
Everyone who knows me knows this version of me. I have crazy, curly hair that sometimes lets me think I’m in control of our relationship.
I had poker-straight hair until I had my tonsils out as a teen and a bunch of my hair fell out. What grew back in was curly. Unruly. Goofy.
I yanked it back into tight pony-tails for years because that’s all I knew to do with it. Its not like anyone in my family had curls like that and hey, figure skaters need pony-tails, right?
I mentioned in a ‘Road Trippin’ with Tans’ Facebook post the other day that I think some people cut me some slack when my normal hair is a little unkempt. There is no rhyme or reason to why some days it looks half decent and other days it looks like I just got out of bed.
But that all changes when Straight Haired Tanya rolls into town.
A stylist I had in Saskatoon when I was in vet school in the early 2000s first flat-ironed the ringlets and it was fun walking the halls of the veterinary college and having nobody recognize me. (Granted, most vet students are in a fog first thing in the morning… likely from too much studying, too much drinking, too much information and not enough coffee… or any combination thereof…)
I had a super fun fundraiser to attend on Thursday for Youth Homes of Missoula. A very good friend is on the board and he bought a couple of tables for friends to come and share a great meal and a silent and live auction. I got to sit at the “kids” table which was an absolute blast. I can only hope they raised a boat-load of money (for the record, I did bid on the motorcycle-style golf ‘cart’ for Alistair but the bidding got way too high for my comfort zone!)
When you put an hour into straightening your hair and you don’t think its going to rain you try to milk this and keep it dry for another day or two. Straight Haired Tanya showed up at the vet clinic in Deer Lodge the next day and it was a good thing she did!
There was potential for the day to be a total shit-storm with both kennel workers out and a kennel full of parvo puppies. Sadly, we all arrived to one of those puppies not making it through the night so the general mood wasn’t necessarily upbeat. Add to that a full schedule and maybe too many dental procedures and an emergency eye removal in another puppy that my boss had to tend to. We also had a pretty full schedule of tech appointments and a team of techs who were already spread thin.
This seemingly no-nonsense version of me just made a point to grab those tech appointments (making sure my own technician, Brandie was alright with each addition) and fit everything in around my own full day while making jokes and laughing at myself or any given situation whenever I could.
It was helpful that the Angel of Darkness wasn’t needed for sure.
It was also helpful I got to play with a couple of adorable puppies, including this Malamute cross.
This little one got me thinking about our own husky, Harry, which made me smile. There was a time, during the 2 years of “Attrition” and for a while afterwards that thinking about our rag-tag gang of misfits brought a tear (or more) to my eyes even if most of my memories are wonderful. I shared our animal companion’s lives on here and I also shared when it was Time to say goodbye.
And when I said goodbye.
And I managed to get through typing those words just now with a smile on my face (full disclosure, my right eye has a tear behind it but its hanging back!)
You might think that Straight Haired Tanya doesn’t cry or that she is devoid of emotion. I don’t know why that’s the case but I have been told that that particular version of me is “intimidating.”
Here’s the thing, though… a little secret…. it doesn’t matter what my hair looks like.
I’m still just me.
I’m chuckling as I type because obviously that’s a no-brainer but I DO get treated differently sometimes with my straight hair. Not always and not by everyone. Its usually by people who don’t really know me or have just met me. Which is part of the fun of shaking it up.
That said, it was a veterinary colleague years ago who told me that I intimidated him with my hair like that.
So today I’m back to being normal me.
Which isn’t very “normal” with all that I try to fit into my world.
In the last several days I’ve been fortunate enough to play a few rounds of golf with good friends and laugh it up out on our lovely local Seeley Lake course. The course is in outstanding condition and I’m playing more so I’m sucking less. (Don’t get me wrong, I managed to swing & miss the other day in front of the ladies… thankfully I can laugh at myself.)
I worked a couple of real estate days on the floor and cruised into Deer Lodge with the sunrise a couple of days as well. And I delivered books for new buyers and met with a good friend and our shared real estate clients for supper and met with another wonderful friend and we laughed until we cried on top of attending the Youth Homes fundraiser this week.
All of these things have been happening with smoky skies and clear blue ones as well.
And I won’t whine about being whupped because these things are all wonderful things that I am privileged enough to do and I absolutely love being me.
Even when the Delta variant of the Covid 19 virus continues to run rampant in the 2 states we call home and my MD husband had to see 105 people one night and 95 the next, as they ran out of Covid tests so they only had the 24-hour PCR one to run and people were bitching about wearing masks and how the virus isn’t real and then when they test positive and ask, “what do we do now?” and he has to tell them its a little late to be asking that and he gets home at 1:30am only to have to drag himself back to the clinic to do the same thing and breathe the same air and wish that people stopped “researching” on Google and stop listening to some weird guy they went to high school with and that they would just wear masks and get the damned vaccine!
Even when my first cousin and his brother-in-law, who played a very special role in my life when I lived with them in Japan, are both on ventilators in a hospital in British Columbia where my other cousin can’t visit her own husband or her own brother, while her senior father is quarantined at his house and sick, hoping to not need to be ventilated himself.
When I consider what people I care about are going through it makes my life look pretty fresh and easy.
Regardless of which version of Tanya steps out the door.
If you are trying to figure out what the point is to today’s blog, its pretty simple.
Wear a mask.
Socially distance yourself.
And I’ll keep on keeping on trying to be the best version of myself. For me. For my husband. For my friends and my team-mates at each office I work at. For my clients. And for every animal I get to care for, whether they are our own crazy companions or they’re yours.
The first definition definitely suits the ferrets. They are always trying to get away with something (usually sneaking into a carpeted room they aren’t normally allowed in) and they’re cute and loving about it. I liken that to flattery.
But the second definition is a bit like my life right now with all careers continuing to hit on high between two large states during a global pandemic.
I managed to carve out a few days and buzzed back to Bismarck this month. Apparently I was buzzing there a little too quickly…
I think I actually passed him and another car, totally unaware it was a cop. I had the PGA tour radio on and it was the last big weekend tournament before the FedEx Cup Playoffs. This is big stuff! And the road is straight and I’m “ten-and-two” and I have a lead foot.
There. I’ve said it and I’m glad.
Thrilled to see that it was a male trooper (whew!) I thought about trying to flirt my way out of a ticket. Its been a long time since I’ve been pulled over and I knew I had to be close to 90mph but what the heck, right? Fortune favors the brave!
Turns out he clocked me at 86mph (speed limit is 70) so my chances of no ticket were slim. Still, I owned my speeding and told him it was the intensity of the PGA tour and the fact I know the road that led to me flying across MT hwy 200. We got chatting and he plays golf but he just moved here from Illinois and he doesn’t like Chicago and is more of a small-town guy, which is why he lives in Stanford, MT. I did sneak in the fact I was flying to ND to see my doctor hubby who had been on the frontlines of Covid since it began and the fact I’m a veterinarian. I may drive too quickly but I’m not stupid!
Amazingly, he let me off with just a warning! He actually said, “you’re just so nice… plus, you owned it.”
I don’t feel so much that I flirted with him or was even trying to get away with something. I think my curious life and my chit-chatty ways are more bamboozlement than anything.
I got to see Fumie, Shilo, Penner, Frankie and Zeus again at our peaceful prairie farm in Bismarck. With Jake and Maggie in Montana with me, we are down to a collective head count of seven horses. Amazing, really. Other than Jake these are all our foals from mares we loved for many years.
We had close to thirty horses when we moved out to Montana and those were busy years. Keeping a stallion healthy and separate from the herd was a chore itself, not to mention feeding enormous round bales with our big tractor. I loved anticipating what each Paint foal would look like but I don’t miss the sleepless nights and anxiety trying to catch the birth to make sure nothing went wrong.
Despite some smoky skies thanks to forest fires all over the place I still had a wonderfully relaxing week. Ridiculously hot temps (in the 100s for a couple of days) and poor air quality didn’t stop us from hitting up Painted Woods Golf Course, where we have our ND membership. Its a completely different course than our home course in Montana with its own challenges and risks. We laughed with “the boys” who work there every day and the hours spent on the road and the intensity of working on real estate and the sometimes-pressures of tending to animals who need my help melted away after the first round.
And we played well! Like any sport, more consistency leads to better performance. I’m not saying the LPGA should be watching me (wouldn’t I kick that tour up a notch in hilarity?!) but I really shot some decent golf. (I shot crappy golf here and there, too, but as each round went on I shot less and less of it.)
I re-connected with one of our former hockey players from our Hazen days (1997-98, I think) and he invited me to his course in Bismarck. I had never played Hawktree so I was a little bit nervous but Mitch was a great host and, other than the 10th hole (seriously… So. Much. Trouble….) I hit ’em straight and had some hot putts! You never know on a brand new course how its going to go. We also had a boat-load of fun and once again I’m reminded of how fun it is to know my students as adults, too.
Before, during and after my ND trip I have been working on a real estate transaction that has had its challenges. I met the buyers 3 years ago on Floor duty at the office and we have been friends ever since. They live in Arkansas, though, so that coupled with our ridiculously low inventory has made finding them a place in Seeley Lake somewhat challenging.
They planned to come & just hang out here this summer and not put any pressure on themselves to buy because there wasn’t much to see but, holy smokes, we got a cute place under contract and we are hoping to close early this coming week! I’m thankful that they have put their trust in me with this project. It minimizes the stress but it doesn’t eliminate it altogether.
I did a final walk-through for them yesterday in the afternoon sun and we texted back & forth a few times.
And veterinary medicine has me in Deer Lodge a few more times than normal right now and through September with one vet off for mat leave and another having to have been on Covid quarantine thanks to a positive exposure. I was there Friday and there the next 2 days, as well. We’ve had a few difficult, bamboozling cases that came through and ones that didn’t end in any ways the owners would have liked.
I know I’ve wrecked the entire last 2 weekends for 4 separate families. Its not my “fault” so I’m not carrying guilt or anything inappropriate. I do carry some sadness because I didn’t get into this gig to euthanize young animals. Healthy, vibrant animals with horrible fractures that leave only 3 humane options: surgery ($3500-$4000); amputation ($1500 and an eventual bad ‘other leg’ thanks to the pet’s huge size); or euthanasia.
And we veterinarians have to give permission for owners to consider/elect euthanasia. Its a horrible, terrible, very sad, very permanent option but sometimes it really is the only clear choice for some families.
And we veterinarians have to give permission for our team members to talk or cry it out because they, too, are sad and frustrated that we couldn’t save that one.
And we have to give permission to clients who have been friends for 14 years, whose little dog I’ve known since he was a puppy, to come to Deer Lodge and let me help him and hold them as we all said our tearful goodbyes.
And I gave silent permission for the family I worked with last Monday to try to save their dog and her confusing case. They drove her to a specialist in Missoula the next day to try to save her but it looked like her cancer had come back. Or maybe it had been in her spleen the whole time since we removed skin versions of the tumor in March.
It was a bamboozling case but not because the cancer was trying to be tricky. In this particular case it was perplexing. Cancer can be like that. Cancer can be a dick.
We will likely get the splenic aspirate results back in the next 2 days when I’m in Deer Lodge but it won’t matter because my patient crashed through the night on Thursday and, immediately after crying with my assistant while the broken-leg dog took his last breath thanks to me, I went outside to talk with my family.
I brought the box of Kleenex and that sometimes feels like it is a permission slip to grieve and let go.
Veterinarians aren’t there to judge. We are there to advocate for animals. We are their voice.
Its up to us to try to make sense out of the bamboozlement of word soup I lay at people’s feet trying to explain reticulocytosis with or without anemia and why both of those can be critically bad.
Sometimes words aren’t necessary. A syringe with the wrong colored fluid that came out of a pet’s distended abdomen is all that is required to make the case for a controlled transition.
There are days when its important to remind the team around you to take care of themselves. I don’t know if everyone has a support group or partner like I do, or if they have coping mechanisms. Alcohol is certainly one mechanism but it can never be the only one.
And hey, truly I’ve been smiling way more than I’ve been sad lately. WAY more.
The golf course helps, for sure.
Alistair and I got to team up with Kyle & Lee Huestis for a fundraiser here in Seeley Lake. It was a 4-person scramble which means you don’t have to be a rock star with every shot. Its a great way to keep people together so you can visit more and chill-ax.
We didn’t start the 17th hole spectacularly and then all 4 of us blew our drives on 18 so we decided liquoring-up was going to be our only hope. Thankfully, the bar cart appeared (like magic!) and the 3 Canadians and 1 wanna-be Cannuck got the bevvies going.
We didn’t get drunk or anything- can’t have it affect the game like that- but we had a fun, light, golf-supporting buzz and the round whizzed on by. Can’t wait to tee it up with this foursome again!
(The canned red wine isn’t horrible. I mean, its not what sits in our wine fridge but it wasn’t bad.)
My last self-bamboozlement is spending today as a writer.
Clearly, I’m back to the blog. Its been far too long but I’ve been far too busy being in far too many roles in houses far too far apart.
I also wrote my next newspaper column that will go out to 4 newspapers for September. I enjoy that writing but its definitely different. Its non-fiction, for starters, so I have to do some research beforehand. (I research the Hell out of my novels, too, but I can be loose with dialogue and, come on, I write about modern-day dragons in western Montana… there is a bit of leniency there!) I also have a 500-word cap on these columns and that bites. I’m verbose (no kidding, you mutter under your breath) and I like detail. But you can’t be detailed in 500 words or less.
I’m always chopping up sentences and cutting words without cutting out what I’m trying to convey. People seem to enjoy the columns and the topics have been varied. I tackled Wellness Exams today. It sits at 510 words and that’s the best I can do.
I’ll wrap up and head into the local golf course to join Alistair for a few holes. He’s played the esteemed “Salmon Bake” 2-day tournament this weekend with one of the members whose normal partner isn’t golfing this summer. Its more serious than we normally play and the course pro somehow gave him a 4 handicap yesterday which affected their scores… seriously, a 4. We’re both thrilled if we can keep a round to 100. Which most definitely is not the scratch golfer a 4-handicap would imply.
Still, he’s all smiles and we laughed a lot about it during our Aloha hot tub last night and I’m sure we will laugh a lot more today.
And we’ll laugh some more when some member today asks me why I wasn’t in the tournament. I love telling them all I’m not old enough. 🙂
Time for some cute golf clothes. My outfit, alone makes me smile. Maybe I can bamboozle the golf ball with sparkles and glitter?
The whole reason I took my real estate agent license a few years ago was because I had never really understood all of the paperwork we signed each time we have bought and sold homes.
Our real estate and title agents have always been great (except that one who blurted out, “I just have to ask you…. how old ARE you?” 20 years ago when she first met me after having already showed Alistair some homes…. for starters, you don’t “have” to ask anyone anything and next, take that horrified look off of your face). They have always explained each page of the stack of papers in front of us but I never completely understood the whole process.
Even the whole confusion around a Home Inspection versus an Appraisal is very real. I didn’t differentiate the two and a lot of my friends and clients are the same. So I thought I would walk you through the deets that go down when you decide you might want to list your house with a realtor!
These days, the real estate market is crazy. Depending where you live, inventory is low and buyers are on the hunt. Competitive offers come in on most “move-in-ready” homes for buyers who may not even see the listing in-person for a few days. Most buyers have all been burned at least once or lost out on a home because they moved too slowly or their offer wasn’t competitive enough. Sellers get burned, as well, when they accept an offer and their listing goes off the market until a home inspection digs up something unexpected that scares buyers off.
This is one reason I’m recommending pre-listing home inspections right now. This is the exact same inspection a buyer would purchase when they go under contract for your home. It is a great way to unearth any potential surprises like high radon levels or bathroom vents that don’t vent to the outside in your attic. Many inspection results can frighten buyers, especially if they are from another state and don’t understand radon in western Montana, for example. (Its there, its not a big deal, it can be mitigated, its an odorless, colorless gas, its not a difficult thing to test for.)
Wouldn’t it be great to know your house had elevated levels before you listed, though, so you can mitigate ahead of time? Boom- one less surprise on home inspection!
Fixing questionable things that come up on inspections before you list eliminates the potential for your home to disappear from the market when its under contract only to keep reappearing when buyers back out for whatever reason. When agents and buyers see this happen more than once we start to question, ‘what is wrong with that house?’
Not all home inspectors offer pre-listing inspections but talk with your real estate agent ahead of time. Most of us have about three inspectors we will recommend. We all have one we try to use the most but they might not always be available so we are happy to give our clients a few names to call on. I have had a lot of success with Ian Cooke of Pillar to Post out of Missoula.
When you do get around to actually listing your home, your agent will come over and take a bunch of photos of the inside and outside of your home as well as the surrounding area if you have some fun landscape or waterfront that we want to highlight.
Decluttering ahead of time is definitely something I recommend.
“What do you mean by decluttering?” one of my sellers asked after I mentioned it. That would be the 3 full storage units and 2 trips to goodwill plus over 20 trips to the dump they completed before we got new photos taken and their home under contract within 24 hours of re-listing.
Not everyone has that much furniture and artwork around their home but the main thing is that potential buyers want to walk around your house and imagine their furniture in the rooms and their photos on the walls. Ideally, address any staining or painting issues as well as landscaping hiccups before photos are taken.
Your realtor will have you sign some forms that I call Agency Forms. These establish everyone’s contact information, our duties in how we represent you (as a buyer or a seller or a potential dual agent) and how long we will all commit to working together. The actual Listing Agreement is a multi-page contract establishing your asking price as well as our commissions and what we offer to other agents representing any buyers. In Montana, buyers do not pay commissions to their agent. We agents all disclose on our mls member listings what we are going to pay a buyer’s agent out of our own earned commissions.
Your agent will also have you fill out and sign various disclosures as you list your home. Be honest about any known liens against your place or any knowledge of negative or adverse material facts- most of these things will show up after inspection of the home or your title anyhow and at that point you may risk losing the deal if you didn’t disclose them beforehand.
Once all of these are signed and we list your house, if its in decent shape and move-in-ready then most likely it will have showings within days, at least around Seeley Lake right now!
During showings plan for all humans and pets to be out of the house. It can be a drag to do this over and over so plan in advance where you can take your pets. Cats can often stay because, for the most part, they will likely hide someplace they feel safe but most dogs are too curious or friendly (or protective) to leave home during showings. And not all people love animals so it really is best to have everyone out of the house.
Once offers begin to come in your agent will advise you on what features of the offer make it more or less attractive than others. Buyers who are already pre-approved for the offer amount and ones who are putting a larger down payment down (or ones who are paying cash) are definitely more attractive and than ones who haven’t even begun looking for financing.
Some buyers are even waiving home inspections to be more competitive in this crazy market. I, personally, do not recommend skipping this important step to buyers I am representing.
Once you accept an offer you get to decide whether to continue showing your home for potential back up offers or if you want your listing to go Pending. Some sellers don’t want to keep packing the kids up and having a bunch of day-to-day things hidden in cupboards in case of potential showings so they go Pending. I sometimes recommend that if an offer is solid and buyers are pre-approved for the amount offered; it gives buyers some confidence that you are satisfied with their offer and won’t continue to show your home in order to get back-up offers.
The home inspection is usually scheduled soon after by the buyers. Inspectors don’t want sellers in the house for the inspection but if your pets aren’t going to attack them then they usually can stay, as long as they aren’t going to be crawling all over the inspector!
A buyer’s agent will submit any things they want fixed/replaced/removed to your agent and everyone can negotiate how they want to address this. Hopefully the buyer’s agent has educated their buyers that a home inspection is not a fix-it-list and that inspectors are hired to point out any and every adverse thing found, including light bulbs that don’t work and a lack of gutters, which may or may not be pertinent to where you live.
Assuming you all come to an agreement, the next most common thing to happen is for the buyer’s bank to schedule an appraisal (if they are financing their purchase.)
Again, this is different from the inspection and I can honestly say I have seen appraisals happen in very different ways. Some have been done completely on the outside of a home, where we were never contacted ahead of time. More commonly, though, the appraiser needs access to your house to complete a thorough appraisal. Appraisers aren’t going to care if you are home but please respect their need to get things done and don’t be chit chatty.
During this process the agreed-upon title company will work on getting all aspect’s of your property’s title put together and submitted to both parties in the transaction. Generally speaking, most titles are clean but sometimes an easement through your property or a long-lost cousin Vinny are discovered and may affect the sale moving forward. More negotiations could happen because of this but, again, this is not overly common.
Our office has successfully partnered with First American Title Company although there are others who are great to work with, too. FATCO, as we call them, has offices all over in a variety of states so we can usually handle transactions for buyers who aren’t in our immediate community.
At this point you are pretty much set to coast into your anticipated closing! While I learned right off the bat that “nothing is closed until its closed”, you tend to have a feel for transactions once you’ve got a few behind you.
Buyers can close in a different state and overnight paperwork to wherever you are closing. Your title company will be communicating with your bank and your real estate agent the entire transaction to make sure this all happens. The title company will pro-rate things like taxes, Home Owner Association dues, propane and other things and they will also handle everything you have negotiated regarding the home and title inspections. They will also arrange paying-off any outstanding mortgages or liens on the property you are selling.
When its time to close, bring a photo ID and a blank check or deposit slip for where the funds are to be deposited. Don’t plan on writing a check for a brand new truck after you leave the title company because it can take another day before funds are deposited. In fact, in most cases, the closing isn’t even complete until the title company records the deed that you just signed over.
So that’s listing and selling your home in a nutshell!
No two transactions are alike, however, and what is currently happening in your community may affect how you negotiated various things. For example, it is really challenging finding a builder right now in Seeley Lake so while you might be able to get electrical or plumbing issues sorted out post-inspection, you may have to offer funds back at closing for things a building contractor would fix.
As licensed real estate professionals, it is our job to explain these things to you and try to find the best solution for everyone. We want our sellers to be happy and we also want a buyer and their agent to be happy as well. It makes for warm fuzzies all-around and it also makes us more likely to want to work with another agent down the road if we have shared a good transaction that closed with all parties content.
I recommend using a licensed real estate agent when listing your home. Most of us won’t “just do the paperwork” on For Sale By Owner (FSBO) listings- it isn’t worth our license if something hinky goes down. We will generally steer you towards a lawyer who can handle everything for you if you want to list or purchase as a FSBO. Online sale sites do not have actual humans running some of the listings so there can be a lot of variance and not much accountability.
If you have questions about real estate, please ask! The market is hot if you’re a seller right now but make sure you have somewhere to move into ahead of time if you’re going to list a decent home in Seeley Lake!
There was snow on the ground back then and the Montreal Canadiens were just starting the run that would take them to the Stanley Cup Final. I had also just listed a cute house a couple of blocks up from the office I’m in today.
Wow, have things have changed since then….
Montreal lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Final (oh, Canada… one day we will bring the Cup home again.)
There is no snow but the summer haze of forest fires has engulfed Seeley Lake once again.
And that cute house is happily under contract!
I’m also down to one layer of clothing most days and my wardrobe is suitable to pulling off the highway on my way home to hit a few golf balls.
With a membership I don’t necessarily feel like I have to play 18 or even 9 holes. Sometimes its just 1, 2, 3 and 9 or 10, 11 and 12. The course configuration is set up to allow for me to whack the heck out of a teed-up ball with Driver and even try to make par or birdie on one par 3 hole. Sometimes that’s all I need.
We’ll see how busy the course looks when I cruise past it later today.
Another completely different aspect of my life compared to May is that we are finally getting our deck built off of our master bedroom. This is the deck that collapsed during the massive snow load of winter, 2017-2018 (the blog posts and pictures are cray cray.)
A combination of unbelievable events led to this epic reconstruction of our beautiful home.
It has been farcical to say the least but right now we are just happy to think that someday we will be able to sit on the deck and listen to the breeze shift the cottonwood branches above the creek that’s bubbling away.
I also cruised back to Bismarck for a few days since I last blogged. It was a tune-up for Tanya with a visit to my dentist as well as my stylist, Tiffany #1. (There are two Tiffanies… and, yes, they know about each other. We’re actually at the point where they ask about each other’s lives when I’m in their chairs now.)
The weather was great for my ND journey although the sunny, blue skies and 100-plus degree weather didn’t combine well with our furnace/AC that died. Thankfully Alistair was on top of it and I got to write a check for 5-digits when a crew installed a brand spanking fancy new furnace for us. It will save us coin in the end because Alistair will be able to change settings the day he leaves Montana to get the house heated or cooled for his arrival 11 hours later.
I got to hang with my pretty ponies on the Bismarck farm and finally attend to the one full-bred Arabian left. It was time to give Jessi the freedom to run in pastures in the sky without pain in her forever-foundered hooves. Jessi was given to us by a veterinary client years ago and never had a person on her back. She lived a charmed life as a Fyfe horse, munching rich prairie grass and hanging with her buddies her whole life.
It was still sad to say goodbye because she really was a loving, gentle spirit who was the first to approach me in the fields.
It must have affected me more than I thought because I’m having to wipe away at some naughty tears I wasn’t expecting, all while hoping a billionaire doesn’t waltz into the office right now.
We played fun golf out at our ND course, Painted Woods, too.
It is a sprawling course that brings challenges in the form of elevation changes, a winding creek that comes into play on a bunch of holes, and the incessant wind. It, like our course in Montana, is also seeing a surge of new members who have discovered the joy of playing a game that allows for natural social distancing. While we’re happy to see both of our courses flourish, admittedly there is a selfish longing we both feel for having our courses almost completely to ourselves again.
Ah, but those are clearly first-world problems, aren’t they?
There are a lot of other changes in my life compared to back in May.
I’m working a lot of days as a veterinarian in Deer Lodge. I’m still loving it but I have had challenging moments that forced me to do unthinkable things. It can be hard to walk to the door knowing what the path is on the other side but with a solid team around me and the skill set to open the difficult door, it is easier to walk that pathway afterwards.
Its also easier when we choose to add some humor when appropriate and that solid team is always eager to laugh with me.
And real estate… wow… I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around the lack of inventory and the insanity of the market in Western Montana. Us agents are all hopping busy right now. I wish we had more homes to offer to the folks who dream of moving to this gorgeous part of the world.
I am happy for my friends who have trusted me to list their properties or find them their new homes. Most of my current buyers and sellers have come to our office through my veterinary world and it makes my heart happy to have them entrust me as their realtor, too.
And with all of the busy changes in my life these past weeks since May one of the most profound and poignant ones is the fact my busted engagement ring is happily seated back on my ring finger just in time for a special anniversary.
It broke weeks ago and it took awhile for me to get it to a jeweler’s in Missoula. Then it took awhile for them to get a whole new setting for the solitaire marquis-cut diamond and even longer for us to get back to Missoula to pick it up again.
But its here and its happily back on my hand in a thicker, skookum-looking setting ahead of tomorrow, which just happens to be our 25th wedding anniversary.
July 12th, 1996, Alistair was allowed to take his pager off for a couple of hours after Whitney and I picked up two pretty bouquets, and Gretchen poured me a stiff amaretto and OJ and Gareth put on his 10-gallon cowboy hat and Beth left the rodeo for a few quick minutes to witness for us while Alistair’s nurse, Deb married us in a church that I’m pretty sure is legit on a summer afternoon in then-sleepy Watford City.
We eloped to get the green card process going for me sooner than our planned on-ice wedding in Grand Forks, BC that fall but our lawyer informed us the next business day that they had revamped all of the rules for that sort of thing a few months prior.
I was 23, Alistair was 37… so long ago with so much in-between and I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday.
We’ve loved, we’ve shared, we’ve moved, we’ve changed countries, we’ve flown, we’ve helicoptered, we’ve whale-watched, we’ve golfed, we’ve emceed, we’ve reunion-ated, we’ve raised kids, we’ve raised horses, we’ve raised pets, we’ve said tearful goodbyes, we’ve gardened, we’ve evacuated, we’ve played hockey together, we’ve poured each other drinks, we’ve shared knowing looks, we’ve cried, we’ve kissed, we’ve eaten many great meals, we’ve golfed, we’ve canoed, we’ve hiked, we’ve explored, we’ve bought a new furnace for 10 grand, we’ve shared music, we’ve done hospitals, we’ve been there “in sickness and in health”, we’ve skied, we’ve boated, we’ve weddinged, we’ve funeralled, we’ve celebrated, we’ve theme parked, we’ve hot tubbed, we’ve won and lost umpteen games of crib, we’ve rolled our eyes and, my goodness, we have laughed together.
We will be in different states tomorrow but that really doesn’t make the marking of 25 years of marriage any different for us. I’m glad I have my ring back.
So in the time since my last blog so very much has happened. My life is generally very busy but all aspects of my life seemed like they were in high gear for most of June. I think it should be a bit lighter once July starts to wind down but I’m going to make sure to enjoy the sunshine and the golf courses and the rush of veterinary medicine and the craziness of real estate while I can.
Thanks for reading and I hope you can find or make the time to enjoy the big and little things in your world, too.