Ohana

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Beauty all around the Grand Hyatt on Kauai

I am not bothered by Winter’s approach, even as the Montana skies around me are dark, grey and rainy. There is a chill in the breeze and snow lies on all of the mountains that surround our little ranch. It is November already and still I do not shiver and quake at the memories of non-stop snow plowing, snow paths, shoveling and home insurance claims because we just topped off our Aloha levels on the island of Kauai.

The Garden Isle welcomed us back for my annual veterinary dermatology conference. It was a much happier time at the conference versus last year when Alistair stayed in Montana with sweet UB during his surprising final days.

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Yay, Alistair was back with me! Grand Hyatt resort grounds.

With our trusted house/pet sitter, Jessie on board at the farm for Sport, Bebe, Cleo and Jockey, we got up at 3am on October 25th and just like that we were back on our favorite Hawaiian island!

Kauai feels like home for us. Perhaps because it was the first Hawaiian island we ever visited in 2009. Perhaps its because we actually have family there. It could be that the Poipu Bay Golf Course is like our Hawaiian home course. Or maybe its because we always meet special people there and these special people become our Ohana.

Family.

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Brock, Chris and I at Poipu Bay

Years ago we met Dr.Brock at the veterinary golf tournament and we have played together in almost every tournament ever since. He has visited us in ND and MT, as well. Barb joined our foursome back on Maui and has also been a fun part of the party.

This year Brock brought Christine, his new girlfriend- another new friend on Kauai! They played on another team and Barb, Alistair and I were joined by Cindy for this year’s tournament. One more friend!

Our foursome laughed and giggled as great shots were made (mostly by Alistair, Cindy and Barb but I managed a few nice ones, too) during a torrential downpour the Garden Isle is known for.

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Cindy and Barb trying to stay dry

Its wasn’t cold but it definitely was wet. The last hour was particularly nasty and as I teed it up on our 18th hole, with rain water pouring off my hat, shoulders, and arms, bare-handed so my Driver wouldn’t fly out of my hands, completely aware that I was soaked through and through, I gave it my all and somehow won the women’s long-drive contest.

It wasn’t our team’s only award- at the wet-rat looking luncheon, our team ‘won’ the highest score award. Hey, it was $50 for each of us. It pays to suck!

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Alistair’s Angels with our crisp 50s in hand!

That isn’t our first time as high-scorers. The whole pond hockey fundraiser from 5 years ago earned us our “most honest” awards as well. The high scoring teams usually are laughing their heads off and not taking their game or life too seriously. That’s what got us hooked on golf way back when with Lynn and Micki.

Alistair and I played a total of 6 rounds at Poipu Bay this trip. The clubhouse staff and pro, Chad, welcome us as their Montana Ohana with hugs and handshakes. Workers like Kerry and Danny remembered us (and my golf club head-covers) from our visits there over the last few years and we all laughed about how we play “Fyfe Golf”- driving from hole to hole to find an open spot.

“That’s exactly how we all play,” Kerry told us as he was cleaning up my clubs.

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Jinxie and Mulder club head covers… forgiving us for getting them soaked during the tournament.

He had recognized these 2 and the Loki head on my Driver the first day he came to work after we dropped the clubs off. We also all reminisced about the time we met- when Alistair’s Driver head went flying off during a group lesson from Chad years ago prior to the tournament.

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We’ve been laughing with these guys since 2015!

Other than the one rainy tournament, the weather at Poipu Bay lived up to its sunny reputation and our skin is tanned and our hearts are warmed. We played a couple more times with Barb and a fun fourth named David one day and we also played alone.

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Seriously digging my new hat at Poipu Bay last week!

And we got to connect with flesh & blood Ohana when we had supper with Whitney and Lau and then visited them for a BBQ a few nights later.

We ate at Café Portofino together in Lihue and caught up on everyone’s lives in real time, in person.

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Lau & Whitney, Café Portofino

We got to watch a Princess Cruise line ship squeeze its way out of Nawilili Harbor as evening and darkness descended and our yummy merlot was sipped.

(Alistair and I ate there again before our night flight out on Thursday and our server, Angela, grew up surfing with Lau and his siblings.)

More connections.

More Ohana.

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Our mandatory photo after supper at Café Portofino! (not my photo)

Whitney & Lau let us hang out at their place another afternoon as we caught up even more and got to play with their dogs. Whitney got a sweet new Jeep during our island stay and we got to check it out while trying to not be distracted by their back yard views towards Hanalei.

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New wheels and grand-dog, Kygo!

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The kids’ extremely distracting back yard on Kauai’s north shore.

I saw friends at the veterinary conference who are always there, like Don and Tony. I connected with the Canadian, Trevor, who remembered us and our Montana tales and how I walked away from my brick & mortar practice 5 years ago. Dick and Ann weren’t there this year. Neither was Dave from Washington or Bruce from Kansas. Dick did text me, at least, and hopefully they will be back next fall on Maui.

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More golf and that sweet new hat of mine!

More golf and more fine dining. We had been worried about the expense of eating out thanks to our home insurance woes but I committed over an hour on the phone with Mr.Cooper our first morning on Kauai and somehow I was finally able to speak to someone in “Leadership”. “Michelle” listened and made some sense of our months-long mess and we will hopefully have some of our personal funds back soon.

So we can get going on getting our walls re-built and getting out of the guest room.

Back to Kauai, our dining adventures brought things full circle yet again.

We ate at Dondero’s one night, the Italian restaurant at the Grand Hyatt. Juan was our server and we spent the night sharing pictures and stories about our beloved animals. Juan has rescued German Shepards as well as one of the ginger kittens he found at the resort. The little guy, Pumpkin, had a lot of health woes at the start and we crossed our fingers for his upcoming vet visit.

We saw Juan our second time eating there and although he wasn’t our server we got to spend a lot of time visiting and hearing that little Pumpkin got a clean bill of health! More photos, exchange of names & emails and now Juan and I are friends on Facebook!

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This isn’t Pumpkin- feral kitties are everywhere. This sweetie was at the Garden Plantation restaurant. Another new friend on Kauai!

I knew Barb and her husband, Don (who we finally met and had supper with at Merrimen’s one night- more friends,  more Ohana!) were eating at Dondero’s after we were leaving and I told them about Juan and how awesome and caring he was.

Saturday morning I got a text from Barb with this photo:

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Barb & Juan at Dondero’s!!!!! (not my photo)

Guess who was their server??? My heart was so happy to see this! My friends are your friends and if you are my friend its because you are happy, inspirational, cool, not cool, funny, unique, special, loving, caring and giving of yourself.

And you probably love animals.

We are all Ohana.

I think our lives are enriched when we surround ourselves with people and experiences that touch us. And perhaps we need to touch others as well.

And so, with our hearts full of Aloha, our pineapple levels topped up once again, and new members of our tribe to connect with and keep in touch and hope to see again soon, we flew through the night sky to land (well, in this case it was just about plummeting to our deaths… seriously… we applauded the pilot on touching down) in Missoula and we are back to reality.

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I am missing this reality.

Sport is purring on my lap, Jessie is back home, my real estate transactions are becoming more and more real with each passing hour and our clocks are set one hour back today.

We loved our Aloha as always and enjoyed so many special relationships- old ones and new ones- and we are a larger Ohana for it.

Mahalo, again, Kauai. Love, your Montana Ohana.

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When Grammy & Grampy come to visit! (not my photo)

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Photo from Keoki’s for Michelle & Missy… some of our Seeley Lake Ohana who joined us here last spring!

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Alistair goofing around on the incredible 16th tee box!

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On our way to becoming drenched during the golf tournament!

 

 

Our Ties to North Dakota

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If you have followed my blog for any stretch of time you may have remembered NN, or, New Neighbor from our home in Bismarck.

Well, we have great news in that they have moved on and we have NNNs. Or, New, New Neighbors!

The fun surprise is that the New New Neighbor actually owns and operates his own heavy equipment. Lets just say, if he can’t move snow, nobody is going anywhere. And, to top it off, they are friends of Brad, (who has featured in my blogs several times and is one of Alistair’s best friends,) which automatically makes them friends of ours. Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

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Our apple trees in Bismarck last month!

I mention this because I went back to our North Dakota prairie home twice last month. It was a special month although I really didn’t sleep much at all.

I drove back to ND with Alistair a couple of days before he normally would have (2 weeks here, 2 weeks there, going on 12 years now!) and we got to enjoy our Painted Woods Golf Course together again. That course eats golf balls like no other, which makes for great ball-hunting.

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Back at Painted Woods Golf Course in early September.

The main purpose for my going back, though, was to attend one of my former figure skating student’s wedding! Another student was the maid of honor and another was the bride’s attendant. And more skaters and parents attended the wedding, too!

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My last day coaching these ladies before moving to MT. Andrea (bride), me, Alicia (attendant) and Jenna (maid of honor)

I can’t tell you how happy I am to see these young adults, who were pretty cool young people, reach these tremendous milestones in life. I am honored that they want to share these adventures with their old coach and that it meant a lot to the beautiful bride and her parents that I made the journey to be there.

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Alicia (skater), me (coach), Berdina (mom), Linda (mom) and Leanna (skater)

The bride was beautiful, the wedding was lovely and the reception was great fun catching up with everyone.

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Me and Leanna catching up at the reception- she and her mom sat with us so it was perfect!

 

While there I also shared a quick coffee date with my friend, Wendy and before you knew it, I was flying back to Missoula, Montana to get back to work the next day. The kitties and Cleo forgave me because they got to snuggle and cuddle with our dear friend, Jessie, who took over pet/house-sitting again.

And then I got to be a real realtor! I listed my very first home and the learning curve ticked upward yet again.

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Going to put my first lock box on my first listing!!!

The house is absolutely fabulous and its unique in that hardly anyone in town knows about it. I am one of the only realtors in town who has seen the place because it has never been listed since it was finished 10 years ago.

The owners created all sorts of outdoor living space to enjoy the scenery and you really don’t feel like you’re as in-town as you are up there. The house is immaculate with three large bedrooms and a main-floor master suite. There are even views of the majestic Mission Mountains!

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My cute-as-a-button first-ever listing!

It was fun coming up with valuation and a suggested listing price. I had to consider location (ok), quality of construction (high!), square footage (1332), lot size (about half an acre), no covenants or HOAs (lots of places have those around here), available and true comps (listen to me!), and what we have in the area for inventory (not much!)

I’ve got an Open House planned for this coming Thursday even though several realtors have said they don’t bother with hosting them- that they don’t bring many folks or they don’t lead to sales.

I’ve got a different perspective, though, because nobody has seen or shown this house before. Even today, a local retired realtor who lives a couple of blocks from this listing called me to ask where it was. She had been driving around trying to find it. When I took here there she couldn’t believe how almost-hidden, and how beautiful it was.

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Outdoor living space. Come see for yourself from 2-6pm on Thursday the 11th!

I also got a vacant lot on the Double Arrow Ranch listed in September! Its a cute 3-acre parcel that has desirable, burbling  Drew creek running along the back of it. Alistair and I hiked around there one sunny afternoon taking pictures, imagining building sites and trying to figure out which plants were actually huckleberries.

The owners of that one were set on their asking price but in doing my own little calculations I think we will need to come down a bit if we really want to sell it. There are a lot of lots on the Ranch for sale right now and while the creek definitely is a bonus there isn’t a well or septic field yet. So many things to consider!

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On my listed property!

On the heels of all this, I flew back to Bismarck for more adventures. And, after a bit of rain, a couple more rounds of golf at Painted Woods. Both days were wide open with hardly anybody there. We could drive balls into the creek, watch them bounce off into thick prairie grasses, laugh our asses off, make excellent shots and look for more golf balls to our hearts’ content.

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Our last round of the year at Painted Woods- they have already closed for the season.

After our final round we hit the road to Watford City, where we first moved to in the US back in 1994. The reason? Another wedding!

Full-circle time- this was the son of one of the head hockey coaches we hung out with back then. I wasn’t a veterinarian (or a published author or a realtor) when I was fresh out of the ice shows, eager to teach power skating to the local hockey club. Dave, the father of the groom, was one of the pioneers there who recognized the value of being the first guy to get to the puck and he supported me completely.

Alistair & I eventually coached as well and in a town of less than 2000 (at that time- its different now, thank-you, oil fields) everyone knew everyone. They all knew my Raise the Roof ice show projects that we hosted there and it was pretty amazing for us to be back.

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Coaches, Arden, me, Doug and Dave (father of the groom) with the Samuelson boys in the background.

How great, again, to see young people we coached or knew as they celebrate with one another such a special occasion. Extra bonus was seeing our “other daughter”, Morgan, who was one of the bridesmaids. The look of surprise on her face was priceless when she first saw us. We got to catch up and talk about work (she’s a RN now), her upcoming marriage (she’s engaged to one of my stepson’s former hockey team-mates), and our lives in general.

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Me & Morgie! (not my picture)

While it was a lot of driving and a bit hectic last month (all the while dealing with our house insurance claim nightmare, the moving of tens of thousands of dollars, Mr.Frigging Cooper, and getting a new roof that’s worth over 80 grand), it made perfect sense to go to both weddings and visit with friends.

Most of these friends have supported me in all of my crazy careers and adventures and they have all played important roles in our lives. We have all stayed in touch while we’ve all grown a little older and gained a few more grey hairs.

Social media is terrific for keeping us all informed of each others’ lives but it doesn’t hold a candle to a real-life hug and shared, in-person laughter.

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Back on our Double Arrow Golf Course in Montana!

We drove back to Montana where I got back to work and Alistair got 4 cords of wood stacked while watching the roofers finally get to start doing their thing. The brand-new roof is industrial strength and top of the line. It also looks awesome but I won’t go into that right now. I’ve got to get groceries for an Open house I’m planning this week!

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New roof! (and Jockey!)

September was exhausting and yet fabulous at the same time. We are truly lucky to have so many wonderful friends in our lives, even if we’re miles and miles apart. And what a privilege to watch fun young people grow up to be physical therapists, nurses, adventurers, skating or hockey coaches, spouses, and parents. What memorable reunions!

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My skaters and their moms supporting me at my first book signing! Leanna, Alicia, Berdina, Andrea and her mom, Elaine in 2015

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the Watford City Oilers supported and helped out with my 2 Raise the Roof ice shows… there’s Doug’s son and one of those Samuelson boys! (1996, I believe)

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Alistair and I got a tour of the incredible Rough Rider center with the 2 ice rinks named after Arden and Dave!

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And now the change is upon us.

 

 

Deconstructing Me

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Previewing a cute new local listing this week!

Goodness! This “real job” thing has taken over my days! I’m mostly joking but its partly true. The thing is, in a resort community, summer is when you see the tourists and if I’m the only realtor sitting at her desk on a Saturday or Sunday then I’m the one hopefully getting leads.

I’m learning the language, I’m previewing the local listings, I’m ferrying people around for showings, I’m keeping the truck clean up at the house with the spray washer and I actually can talk like I sort of know where things are using street names (instead of, “turn left where a tree is leaning at 45 degrees over the road,” or, “you know where so-and-so used to live? Yeah, him. Go about 50 feet from there and the driveway is on your right.”)

I’m still laughing a lot and having a great time. All of my colleagues have different ways of presenting things and I learn from each of them.

Its still as important as ever for me to maintain a work-life balance and I think I’m managing that pretty well!

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Hiking with Alistair & Cleo (not pictured).

When Alistair is in Bismarck, North Dakota for 2 weeks I don’t mind being at the office longer or on the weekends. When he’s here, though, I have tried to book off early and meet him at our golf course one or two days a week.

He has been a dream of a house-husband when he’s here, making me yummy breakfasts and then planning and preparing many of our meals. (The meals are preceded by a relaxing soak in the hot tub, complete with a Caesar cocktail in-hand.)

Caesars are decidedly Canadian. Clamato juice, vodka, tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a variety of seasonings including celery salt and then some form of vegetable- my current choice is pickled asparagus spears- combine to make this yummy cocktail over ice.  After I spent 2 weeks coaching figure skating in Canada last summer, where my hosts made a deliciously wicked Caesar almost daily, Alistair got to work mastering the drink I was Jonesen’ for on a nightly basis. He has nailed it and as long as he doesn’t accidentally grab soy sauce for the Worcestershire, I am in Happy Hour Heaven up at our farm.

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I’m never alone when I’m in Norman!

Surprisingly, my golf game hasn’t taken as much of a hit as I originally thought it would by not playing almost daily. When I’m alone I do try to get out there a couple of times a week if I can, avoiding the touristy Saturdays when you have to hurry up and wait while playing.

I’ve managed to maintain some decent distance with my clubs and I’ve forced myself to use my 3-wood more, which has now led me to love my 3-wood more.

I definitely have to concentrate before each swing, though, as its plenty easy to get distracted by any number of things going on in my head. Real estate leads, listings, and showings. The driving in & out of Missoula to show properties all over the map for folks flying in from Colorado. The sad but necessary canine euthanasia I was honored to do when a friend reached out for a friend. Everything that’s necessary to facilitate something like that without a brick & mortar clinic while making sure you have every. possible. thing. you might need to make that happen. Our aging, deaf springer spaniel who seems to feel great but is maybe showing some signs of canine cognitive dysfunction (doggy dementia). The absolutely asinine mortgage company we are dealing with to get more funds released from being held hostage. The funds we are personally creating and paying to the sometimes pissy restoration company. The fact we are a tad extended in that regard but we’re making it work.

Bare walls. The guest room. Open ceiling in the garage. Cooler temps here and even cooler ones on their way. The disaster of a collapsed deck.

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The remnants of the upper deck after Alistair tore it up yesterday.

With funds being held hostage (NEVER get a mortgage with Mr.Cooper!!!!) and nobody agreeing to work on anything without payment up front, we were getting concerned about the 2-tiered deck off of our master bedroom (which we haven’t used since February.) If snow piles up against the house it could affect our windows and doors in there so Alistair took the bull by the horns and did his own demolition.

The destruction of Eden got its re-start yesterday and the broken, busted wood is now piled as you see it. Its no wonder we had the collapse after seeing the “support system” beneath it. I’m frankly shocked it hadn’t collapsed when we were using the deck the 12 years we’ve lived here. Check it out yourself:

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Brilliant.

The deck on the other side of the house was just as shoddy but at least it had crumbling cement footings as well as 3 posts for support- as if they wanted it to look like someone had made an effort. This side of the raised deck is complete nonsense. Clearly the original owner who had the house built got taken on a grand ride by his builders.

We aren’t 100% if we’re going to rebuild a one-level deck here or match the other side where we had a concrete patio poured and where we can relax while enjoying the peaceful forest behind our house.

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The Relaxation Grotto where we had removed a sagging deck a couple of years ago. Note concrete patio.

We think it would look nice and be functional for relaxing next to the bubbling creek that runs on the other side of the house.

The last time I wrote about the insurance claim wasn’t long ago, “Whats In Store.” Since then my optimism about the whole mess has taken a bit of a turn. Almost daily phone calls have led to insane frustration on our part including one night, after a long, golfless day at the office where I lost my shit on the phone to the latest Mr.Cooper rep, Danette. I normally can hold it together with representatives over the phone for anything because its not their fault when they have to relay bad news or they don’t get the situation. Poor Danette, however, had to hear me drop a couple of F-bombs as I choked back tears trying to explain the insanity of the situation.

It didn’t help that immediately after our 45 min phone call I got on the computer to email Alistair (who was in ND) the news and read an email from our sometimes-pissy restoration company saying they wanted us to sign a Work Stop request because we didn’t want to commit to $71,000 to get the new roof ordered/planned. (Maybe we’re unique but we just don’t have 71 grand lying around.)

My email back to the restoration company told them I wasn’t opening or signing anything, that my head space wasn’t pretty, and that I felt alone, frustrated, confused and angry- all emotions that I am not used to feeling.

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The file for our insurance claim.

We did manage to make $46,000 of personal funds (including a credit card check/loan) available and Mr.Cooper has released a teensy amount (which is stupid in its own incorrect amount and just shows me how completely messed up Mr.Cooper is) and the roof is ordered and set to start in early October. The roof total is over $86,000 and we are short the 85% deposit a little but we should be able to get there by the cancellation date (or else we’ll be out $5500 in cancellation fees.)

You see, thinking about this, along with the other thoughts that creep into my head are detrimental to my golf swing.

And my golf swing is necessary for my sanity. My happiness. My goofy sense of humor and my smile.

So I’m not at the office for my brand new career from 8:30 until 5pm every day. I maybe cut out a bit early and you’ll see me with or without a cute hubby and our awesome red golf cart, Norman hitting colored balls down gorgeous green fairways along the highway.

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Our happy place!

I am absolutely committed to success in my new career but that won’t happen if I don’t commit to happiness and that work-life balance I mentioned earlier.

Danette is now a member of Team Fyfe and calls me almost daily with updates. I will never meet this woman but we have a shared bond in trying to get Mr.Cooper to get its head out of its ass (they have $52,044.28 of our funds) and help us get our house repaired. There will be thousands and thousands more dollars that have to go through this messed-up process as we figure out the deck, the walls, the ceiling, the tongue & groove and the kitchen…

I hit a low point that night on the phone and then the computer and I think that’s the most frustrated I have ever felt. I don’t do well when I don’t have some control over my life but, thankfully, the wine fridge was full, the cats were cuddly and Alistair helped calm me down on the phone that night.

And then I played some golf the next day after another fun, learning day at the real estate office.

My folks from Colorado were great, the canine farewell was beautiful, the snow won’t wreck our master bedroom windows, Cleo runs around with an energy out of sorts with her 14 years of age and we are getting a new roof. Like a young child in a snowsuit and helmet with their arms stuck out to the side learning to skate for the first time I’m slowly taking baby steps in the acceptance that some things are just out of my control.

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Just before meeting my Colorado peeps in Missoula a couple of weeks ago.

I’ll enjoy what I can control, and enjoy the heck out of it. Like the fact I’m meeting Alistair soon at the golf course before we head home for that Caesar and a hot tub prior to him grilling up the chicken he’s had marinating for a day now..

I shall keep you posted!

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After another day at the office… my outdoor office with Norman.

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My colleagues and I at the Community Foundation banquet that was held after I wrote my last blog!

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Alistair making his yummy chili for us the other night!

 

 

 

 

 

Suddenly August

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The remains of a particularly hot zone from last year’s Rice Ridge Fire… more on this later

July whizzed on by with bug bites, the return of the grasshoppers, golf games, blistering sunshine, realtor reality, insurance claim insanity, the tourist take-over of our community and hazy skies once again.

Throwing myself into a brand-new career has taken over my brain a lot of the time (and its been murder on my plan to play in the LPGA someday!) which has led to a brief absence from the blogosphere. No worries, though- clearly, I’m back!

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Previewing a particularly lovely home

I am really enjoying all of the learning happening even if my brain feels full much of the time. The learning that occurs on sunny days over clear-blue lakes surrounded by pristine forests when previewing and taking pictures of magical listings is some of my favorite.

I have amazed my directionally-challenged self (and Alistair) in my ability to kind of, sort of be able to navigate around the Double Arrow Ranch. I surprised myself when I was able to confidently reach for the correct flyers for our current waterfront listings the other day. And I somehow set up my shiny new wireless printer all by myself and was able to print off MLS listings for “Jim”, from Arizona yesterday when I was on floor duty.

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One of the most adorable (and affordable!) homes on the market right now- I want to sell this house!

I’ve managed to squeeze in some golf, which I prioritize when Alistair is here. I think I’m doing alright in the work-life balance department, which has always been important to me and one reason the real estate world seemed attractive.

We made sure to make the most out of our time together when Alistair was here last. A day-ride in our trusty, dusty Ranger, “Steve” took us up to the famed Morrell outlook that I watched become seemingly consumed by roaring flames last summer. Exactly one year ago I wrote the blog, “The Coach Came Back”, which was mostly about my 2 weeks spent coaching high-level figure skating up in Manitoba but I touched on the then-young Rice Ridge Fire.

The next blog is “The Rice Ridge Fire” and going over it right now really took me back. It really slammed home the devastation of that out-of-control monster which we soberly got a first-hand look at last week.

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Looking through the hazy burn site towards our meadow.

We have the doors off of Steve right now and we could actually still smell the smoke in the charred forest surrounding us. It was humbling being within the blackened beast that raged towards our home and surrounded our community for weeks last year.

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Up at Morrell Outlook last week, looking back towards Rice Ridge, where the fire began last year.

At least it was fun getting out and spending time together on back-country gravel roads again. We used to do that a lot more before we became addicted to golf.

We also made time to get out on the canoe last week and have a truly Montana-type of day. After local June-berry pancakes (we had picked the berries the week prior) and Kona coffee for breakfast we loaded up our canoe for the first time this season and headed out to close-by Upsata Lake.

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Peaceful Upsata lake.

No fishing rods this time, just the sound of our paddles and the gentle waves rippling up against the canoe. A loon gave us quite a performance after a dog started barking on another small boat. I’ll try to load the video at the end if you have never heard a loon’s cry. Its a bit alarming, almost haunting-sounding and pretty unique.

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Our lounging spot.

We wedged ourselves up into some tall grasses and I leaned back and sipped wine while listening to Alistair read from his Rocky Mountain of Natural History book. Its a great book- you learn about one thing and then you just have to read more about something you just learned. Loons, elk, deer populations- you name it, they’re in there.

The skies started to cloud over and since being on a large body of open water during an electrical storm is a bad idea, we headed for shore.

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Views as we headed for shore.

We even managed to squeeze in 9 holes together after our canoeing adventure and it wrapped up a lovely Montana day.

I would be heading in to play golf myself now because the tourists generally get off of our course at this time of day on a Sunday but I’m attending a local function tonight.

Its the annual Seeley Lake Community Foundation banquet and seeing as how I’m a more prominent member of the community once again, its important to go. I’ve also donated a set of Chloe & Isabel jewelry as well as some fun Canadian-inspired goodies for an auction item involving a trip up to Fernie, BC. My good friend, Merielle, who has featured in this blog several times, happily shopped for kitschy-type things featuring the mighty maple leaf and shipped them down here to us last week.

Usually I over-dress for these types of functions because I love the opportunity to glam up a bit but this year’s theme is “Fire and Ice” (think: Rice Ridge fire and the Snowmageddon of this past winter) so I’ll actually be wearing this:

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vet school hockey jersey!

I’m whipping out my hockey jersey from vet school. Thankfully it doesn’t say that our team was called the Bitches In Heat but I giggled when I got it out today and remembered our team name.

I’ve been told by organizers that this is the perfect thing to wear (with a skirt, sparkly heels and over the top bling, of course!) because of some big announcement coming tonight. I’m pretty sure I know what it is and I think its a great thing. I worry, though, because I barely have time to be Me as it is- this big announcement might require me to get speaking my first language again while there are golf balls to hit, homes to preview, mortgage companies to call, lakes to canoe upon, bling to be sold, cooking courses to take, books to write, wine to sip, books to market, conferences to attend and a hubby, 3 cats and a dog to cuddle-up to.

I’m not going to worry about it right now, though.

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Jockey, chillaxin’ under a tree out back.

I know I’ll be able to find time to fit everything in. As long as I’m having fun I’m motivated to do these things and make it all work. It helps that Alistair and all of my friends are so supportive of all my endeavors right now.

I tell you, though, if someone would pay me to just write my stories or play golf, that’s about all I would be doing.

Here’s to August.

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Hazy Morrell Outlook that survived the fire last summer.

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Steve and I, up at the outlook

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“Someone” being funny when I’m all, “Hey, hon, lean for a cute couple shot!”

 

 

What’s in Store

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The title of this blog is as much a statement as a question in regards to our house insurance claim thanks to the incredible amount of snow & ice we fought against this past winter.

 

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One of many photos of one of many adventures on the driveway with Big Red last winter

For a quick recap, we got buried a couple of times after days and days of heavy snowfall. It rained hard for almost 24 hours each time and then it froze. Our roof eaves took a beating and I chronicled it all with photos, social media posts and this blog.

I sent our insurance agent some pictures in early February, which was when I realized water was leaking down inside our walls and beneath the wood stove in our living room. (For the record, I’m not going to mention people’s or company names. Not yet, anyhow. I’m trying my best to protect them but if they don’t do the right thing I am willing to use my voice & platforms to drag them through the mud. Its not my style but it may end up being all that I can do.)

 

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One of the pics sent in early Feb of the water coming down our living room wall

Our agent is a friend who lives a couple of hours north of us. They didn’t get the amount of snow that we did but he could appreciate our situation, knowing that our community is fairly well-known for high snow volume. He initiated a claim the next day and the adjuster showed up a day or two later.

Since then I’ve shared the sheer joys of having heavy duty fans and enormous dehumidifiers running around the clock in our large house. I’ve shared my excitement at having strangers rumble through our world removing walls, ceilings and privacy. We laughed as we moved part-way into the guest bedroom and I’ve even started an entry in our guest journal.

 

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Some of the mitigation happening on that very same wall.

I wrote to our insurance agent and the adjuster expressing concern that the snow removal that was occurring as I typed was likely destroying some of our professional landscaping and plant life around the house and was told that we’d address it when the snow melted.

That made sense.

Which is why I okayed the offer of a second snow-removal effort with heavy machinery and large, beeping pieces of equipment after another dump of snow.

 

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Cleo inspecting the remains of our front lawn & plant life after the melt. Damage is from heavy equipment used to move snow/ice off of the roof and away from the house.

Since then the drama has evolved over payments and one of our two mortgage companies. Our primary mortgage holder has required form after form after form to be submitted by ourselves, our adjuster, and/or the restoration/construction company our adjuster chose out of Missoula.

The snow removal and mitigation that was done back in February totaled over 21 thousand dollars and the insurance check to cover that is stuck somewhere in limbo thanks to said mortgage holder. The main delay with it all has been the fact the mortgage company has never let us know, after each submission, when something else is required. (If I could bill for my time spent on the phone during all of this I would have the 21 K right now!)

With every call to the mortgage holder I then emailed or called the adjuster as well as the restoration company to let them know I was doing everything I could to get them their money. With all that I went through as a business owner I can certainly appreciate when you aren’t getting paid for work that was done!

 

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The lawn beneath the mountain ranges of snow has actually collapsed!

While leaping into a brand new job with a sparkling new career I’m trying to learn, and with Alistair back in Bismarck, the mortgage holder required even more paperwork and signatures and formal letters on actual insurance company letterhead 3 weeks ago. They also needed paperwork from the county stating why our ‘street’ name changed in 2007.) Each and every step, form or signature takes a minimum of 3 days as I  have to email or call whoever is involved and then they have to find or sign or complete whatever it is that’s been requested and then they send it to me and I figure out which department of the mortgage company to send it to. Throw in a mid-week national holiday to complicate the movement of things.

 

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Me, helping out at Clearwater Montana Property’s 4th of July celebration as our trailer passed by in the local parade!

After 2 weeks of the latest round of craziness our restoration company threatened to slap a lien on our house, which didn’t sit particularly well with me.

Alistair and I dealt with this in our long-distance style and without going into detail we got a personal check sent the next day to the restoration company and the lien will never be mentioned again.

Our funds are still held hostage but I’m really hoping that this week the mortgage company will have everything they could possibly want and they will release our funds.

This is what I mean by the title of this blog being a statement and a question. I’m sharing what’s in store and I’m also wondering about it at the same time.

The money isn’t the main issue right now, though, because I know its there and I know, eventually, they will run out of things to require (if they ask for my first born I’m hooped!) and the money willarrive.

 

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I could seriously use some of this right now!

Last week, my Knight in Shining Armor got home and I greeted him with one of those “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news” statements. After 10+ hours on the road he chose the good news.

I cheerfully shared with him the fact I had learned, 30 minutes prior, that our adjuster had finally approved a full new roof. This is significant for every reason we can all come up with and has been in discussion for months. Every quote came in really high because of the size and scope of the project and our adjuster seemed to struggle with an answer.

They also approved the deck, which wasn’t really in question because, lets face it, the deck is a wreck!

 

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Top part of the deck is lower than the bottom… 

The bad news?

Apparently there is an exclusion clause in our insurance that states there will be no coverage for lawns, landscaping, and trees.

The quote our adjuster got for that (20 grand) is included with everything but then its crossed out because, obviously, our adjuster had thought it would all be covered until he found that clause.

I’ve since emailed our adjuster and shared our concerns. I get it that insurance companies have the right to mitigate further damage but they don’t have the right to destroy our landscaping. And I never, ever would have approved the second round of snow removal months ago (because as you all know, I can handle a bit of snow!) if I knew nobody was going to take responsibility for wrecking our lawn and shrubs.

 

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Water dripping through the T&G this winter

Nevermind that nobody seems to know what we’re going to do with the ceiling tongue & groove damage or the beams in the kitchen sunroom.

Now that I’m in the realty world (notice I didn’t write, ‘reality’ because, in all honestly, life has felt pretty surreal for 12 months now), I know that if we ever go to sell this home we will have to disclose this large insurance claim. That makes it harder for a buyer to secure great rates on insurance which effectively lowers our home’s overall value.

Add to that the fact that our lawn and landscaping looks like ass unless we fork out 20 grand to fix the stuff that was destroyed by people we didn’t choose who were hired by a restoration company chosen by our adjuster thanks to a claim we never requested.

 

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What our gorgeous landscaping looked like in June of 2017.

I’m hoping our friend, the insurance agent north of us, can help us make sense of what’s in store. He was out of the office all this past week so hasn’t had a chance to respond to any of this. He would only be finding out about the lawn & landscape issue and our subsequent displeasure now. He’s a heck of a good guy and we talk Labrador retrievers often and I hope he can go to bat for us on this.

And I’m not complaining. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge deal. I’m just putting some stuff out there and sharing Fyfe Life for the insanity that it is at times. I’m enjoying my new office and colleagues and I’ve got a lot of support from everyone on this real estate adventure.

 

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Practicing for when my new desk would arrive.  It eventually did & I’m typing at it right now.

I’m on “floor” duty today because summer tourists could actually walk in and want to learn about or even see properties and local homes. Tomorrow we will talk with our agent and hopefully move forward into what’s ahead. And hopefully I’ll never have to disclose company names and slag them to my readers and my homeowners who ask for my advice because that just isn’t my style.

An ambulance just went roaring past our office with its sirens blaring.

It reminds me that someone and their family are having a way worse time today than I could even imagine.

The sun is out and summer has arrived. Alistair is already on the golf course and I’m hoping I can meet him there again after work to play a few holes.

And our guest room is really quite nice so with the distractions of a new career, the optimism that our friend will help guide us in a way we can all agree on over the next few days, the beautiful properties I hopefully get to show people, a cuddly dog and 3 cats who provide comfort and peace just by letting us pet them and our shared wacky sense of humor, we are going to be just fine.

 

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One of our agency’s incredible view properties I get to share!

To paraphrase the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, though, we, as Canadians, are very polite. That doesn’t mean we will allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. We will stand up for ourselves when it is appropriate to do so.

So, again, grab the railings and hang on.

You never know what’s in store in Fyfe Life!

 

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“The Look.” Cleo’s thoughts on the whole insurance claim. (Photo by Merielle Kazakoff, one of our evacuation party attendees of last summer when she visited 2 weeks ago!)

 

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How we’ll get through all of this!

 

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Alistair’s favorite ‘float’ during the parade. 

 

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Another stunning, private property I got to preview last week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Update to my Resume

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My resume has evolved over my 45 years on this planet.

Initially it read that I had been a babysitter and church janitor. I added convenience store clerk (with a ticket in propane!), certified amateur figure skating coach and high school graduate within a couple of years.

It changed to professional figure skater, coach and choreographer, with the term, waitress, thrown in for good measure and it stayed that way for a few years until I could add my Bachelors of Science under the Education heading in 2001.

 

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Figure skating coach last summer in Manitoba!

My resume diversified with the title of Veterinarian in 2005 and I eventually added published, and now award-winning author just this year. In between those additions I branched out into the world of Direct Sales with the Chloe & Isabel brand of jewelry in 2015.

I love being all of these things and I enjoy developing many aspects of each role.

Under Interests or Hobbies on my resume I have added golf and even watercolor painting, which I started playing with again this weekend. Its relaxing and peaceful, particularly with the Hawaiian music channel playing in the background and cold, wet  skies outside preventing a round of golf.

 

 

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Inspiration and creation!

 

And now I’m ready to share my latest addition to my Job Titles that I eluded to in my last blog. I had hoped, when I wrote Seasons of Change a month ago, that I would be able to share the news sooner but I only just received a particular piece of paper making the whole endeavor legit on Friday.

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Ta-da! My Montana real estate salesperson license!

You see, this winter was a lot more than just shoving or shoveling snow. And other than my supportive husband and one or two friends I kept my studies to myself because I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. (Well, our Siamese cat, Sport draped himself across my lap as I took my online course, just as he’s doing right now and Cleopatra, our spaniel would snooze on the floor next to me… just like she’s doing now.)

 

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Happening now.

Thinking about and then choosing to become a realtor isn’t quite as random as it might seem for this figure skating, sparkle-loving, bling slinging, cat spaying, dog vaccinating author.

Somewhere along the way I was taught that little girls could grow up and be anything. The choices weren’t quite so broad when my Mom graduated from high school. Back then there was nursing, teaching or flight attendant school. Or marriage and a family, which are noble options themselves.

When I graduated high school in 1989 I may not have pictured myself in scrubs with cute matching caps, elbow-deep inside a Saint Bernard’s abdomen or getting excited to head to one of our local real estate offices to begin moving forward as a realtor. I couldn’t possibly have envisioned being able to swing a golf club and actually hit the ball to where I intended it to go back then.

 

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Making par at Old Works last week, one of America’s Top 100 courses!

But I knew myself and I knew that I could complete and be fairly decent at anything I believed in and anything I set my mind to.

Which is partly why I struggled, a few years ago, to finally admit that my cute little veterinary clinic  wasn’t thriving in our tiny community anymore. My husband and our accountant told me for 2 years that was the case and eventually I had to agree. It took some time to wrap my brain around the fact that it didn’t mean I wasn’t a successful veterinarian- it was the clinic and the economics of the time that didn’t pan out.

Which leads me to my real estate career!

 

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Cute scrub tops and caps for Cleopatra and I a few years ago!

You see, I didn’t want to abandon my community and leave them vet-less. I actually tried selling my practice.

There are national realty groups who are made up of veterinarians with real estate licenses who market practices and clinics throughout the country. Unfortunately, none of them wanted to list Seeley Swan Veterinary. Nobody even wanted to have a discussion about what potential there was for a part-time clinic run by a woman veterinarian who wanted to spend more time with her family. Or how perfect it could be for a semi-retired veterinarian wanting to work mornings only as they transitioned to their next stage in life.

I tried a couple of these veterinary realty groups and it seemed that, other than not wanting to take my practice on, they all had one other thing in common.

 

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They’re generally a bunch of older, white guys.

It got me thinking that theirs is a world I could shake up a little bit!

Granted, it took me 4 years to start the process of learning to become a realtor but the seed was planted. Last fall I got online and signed up with Real Estate Express and when I wasn’t moving snow from here to there last winter I completed my required 60-hour course with my cat on my lap and then passed my state licensing exam this spring.

I’ll fully admit that I really learned a lot! Just like every profession there is a whole new language to learn and I need to be immersed into that world to learn to speak it fluently.

 

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My real estate career thus far

I learned about types of leases and ownership, real estate brokerage, marketing properties, closing disclosure forms, primary & secondary mortgage markets, and that one acre equals 43,560 square feet.

I studied, I took tests, I read and re-read and then read some more and I’ve found some continuing education webinars that are enthusiastic and encouraging.

And I’m excited! I’ve joined the Clearwater  Montana Properties team and I start training tomorrow. I’ve made my first announcements on Facebook and Instagram and will share on Twitter as well.

 

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Cleo helping me write today’s blog… the same as she helped me study my online course this winter and how she helps me write my books.

Clearwater Montana Properties is a participant with Sports Afield Trophy Properties which offers worldwide listing exposure and is the only brokerage in Montana able to offer this partnership so its a terrific group to join and learn from. They are enthusiastic about me coming on board and I plan to give them the best I have to offer.

I know many of the people I’ll be working for because of my time spent in my veterinary clinic. I hope I can instill trust and confidence in my real estate abilities as much as I was able to as Dr.Fyfe.

And I still am Dr.Fyfe. Who writes books and slings bling when she’s  not playing golf. Book 4 is planned for this winter but that’s the only thing that’s planned. And the veterinary derm conference in Hawaii this fall.

I look forward to sharing this crazy ride with you all just as I’ve shared our loves & losses with our pets, my foray into self-publishing as well as marketing my book and our zany appreciation for the game of golf.

 

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Dr.Brock from Indiana, who is part of our Hawaiian derm conference golf foursome joined us out on the golf course here in Montana a couple of weeks ago!

I’m looking forward to meeting new people and broadening my relationships that already exist with friends from the skating, veterinary, bling, books and golf worlds. I’ve always said that my life changes with every phone call. I mean it!

I may never join one of those big groups that sell veterinary practices but they were the inspiration for me to take this path at this time. My resume, like my character continues to evolve and I’m so happy to add Realtor under the heading Job Titles.

Its fun being me. Choose happy every chance you get and remember that anything is possible if you believe in it and you put your mind to it.

 

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Still Dr.Fyfe (after a recent vaccine clinic in a nearby community)

 

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Chillaxin’ with some watercolors yesterday.

 

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My number 1 supporter in every crazy thing I do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons of Change

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playing golf in North Dakota earlier this month

Its hard to believe, but the snow is actually almost all gone.

There is still a few feet remaining up high in the mountains surrounding us in Montana but the incredible piles that were stacked around our home to make their own makeshift mountain range have melted.

 

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stacked snow in March

We left Montana with 3 feet of snow for a reprieve and time together in Bismarck. Alistair and the 3 cats took off early one morning and I followed with Cleo that afternoon after giving a fun interview with Indie Review (search Tanya Fyfe on YouTube) to promote my book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

I chose to promote last year’s publication instead of writing this past winter because I wanted to learn the process and see what some marketing could do. I’m glad I didn’t try writing because the amount of plowing and snow removal didn’t allow for much creativity and I think my writing would have been frustrating.

 

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This wouldn’t have made for a very relaxing writer’s corner.

With huge fans and dehumidifiers whizzing 24/7 and strangers and their machines traipsing through the house and us living in the guest room since February, I haven’t felt much like creating this spring. So it was a good call to choose to market.

And through the marketing I have learned a lot and I got my book out to a lot of different people and I’m getting close to wrapping up my first Book Blog tour! Blog sites like Rockin’ Book Reviews, Community bookstop, Ashley’s Bookshelf, My Reading Journeys and Bound 2 Escape signed on to “host” a stop on the tour.

Its a lot like a band going on tour, making stops in a variety of cities and performing. Only on this tour the cities are virtual and the bloggers review my book. Some also provided excerpts and its been great fun seeing what people think about my book and my writing style!

 

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Wendy & I in Watford City

While in North Dakota, I spent a day with my good friend, Wendy Ruud and we had a book event in Watford City, where we had first met in 1994. Book sales were decent, especially since I sold to some people who had no idea who either of us were.

And then I got notice that my book actually won an award! My first book award! Secrets Abound won Distinguished Favorite for teen fiction in the Independent Press Awards! It didn’t come with prize money but it did come with stickers for my books, which is the next-best thing.

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North Dakota didn’t have any snow at all when I arrived towards the end of April. Our horses got to enjoy the first bits of grass peeking through and they had mostly shed their winter coats.

As always, they remembered their ‘Mum’ and came right up to greet me whenever I would be out with them. Especially the few who have spent most of the past 10 years in Montana full time with me, like Zeus and Frankie.

 

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Zeus & Frankie! My boys!

The herd dynamics had changed, though, which Alistair had warned me about over the winter. Our oldest Arabian broodmare, Susie (RJA Misty Bey), who had been Boss Mare for over a decade had begun to lose weight along with her position at the top.

Horses are herd animals and they have unique dynamics within each herd. Our group has been together for all of their lives, save for Katie and Jake, and their established rankings never changed.

Until Susie started to lag behind and be “told off” by the younger horses who are allowed to the  best grass or the best hay whenever they choose.

 

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More of the herd: Penner, Fumie and Cassie up front.

I watched Shilo and Zeus both toss their heads at thin Susie and knew she had become the lowest horse on the Fyfe totem pole. When older horses begin to lose weight it can pick up speed like a freight train and that was also happening with our 28 year-old matriarch.

It was, sadly, Time.

And just like that, we are down to 10 horses.

Along with 3 cats.

And 1 dog.

 

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Back in the day. (Susie’s daughter, Cocoa & her foal, Spyder are on the far left!)

Its a far cry from our heyday as Pair O’Docs Paints when this time of year had us up through the night waiting for foals to be born.

Its a far cry from hikes in the forest with 4 rambunctious canine companions and one hilarious blind little train wreck with a hare lip and a heart murmur waiting for us at home.

 

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Our own little dog pack.

And its an unrecognizably far cry from having a pride of cats line up for soft food in the kitchen every night.

 

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Back in Bismarck a long, long time ago. Sport and Cooper aren’t even shown here!

We’ve been so lucky to have met and shared the journey with so many interesting spirits of so many species and its helped shape us even if the changes that occur when these spirits leave us are sad.

But that’s life, right?

While the seasons are changing before our eyes right now it makes me think about the seasons within our own lives. And how they change, whether we’re in charge of it or not.

 

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Hoo boy.

After 3 weeks in North Dakota we returned to a snow-less yard around our Montana home. We could finally see the extent of the damage to the deck out back. Our insurance adjuster and the head guy from the restoration company joined us on a walk-about as we chatted about the roof, the lawn, the deck and the interior walls that need to get rebuilt.

More changes ahead, apparently.

Thankfully our creek behaved itself during the incredible melt but the community of Seeley Lake had some flooding thanks to high, fast-moving waters.

 

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Our creek next to our house a couple of weeks ago.

My home town of Grand Forks, BC, where I’ve taken you through this blog in the past, has not fared so well with the melt this year.

Sadly, heart-wrenchingly, the town has flooded like never before and dozens of homes will have to be destroyed. I’ve watched posts and news clips over the past couple of weeks as people wade, thigh-deep, in brown, murky waters to recover items from their homes.

People float along the streets in kayaks and row boats.

People have spent hours filling and distributing sandbags in a very Canadian effort to try to protect homes and businesses from the force of the swollen rivers that converge there.

The Canadian military got there yesterday to help with the disaster.

 

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My old high school in Grand Forks… closed last week because of the community’s disaster.

Things are going to change in Grand Forks, and it will take a long time for things to be considered normal again. My family is high and dry where they live but I have friends who are living in makeshift accommodations and my heart goes out to them.

I’ll share only a couple of photos that aren’t mine… I find they tell the story just as well without words.

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Spring is here, complete with her massive snow melt, her green grass, her hundreds of calves along lonely highway 200, her golf courses opening up and her friend, Winter’s insurance claim on our house.

I’m approaching a new season in my own life as well and, just like every change, it can be frightening. Change does build character (I must have it in droves!) and as nervous as I am I’m also excited. I’m not sure if this will be a full seasonal change for me or not. I’m really not sure how we’ll make this particular change work but I’m eager to try.

I didn’t just plow and shovel snow and market my book this winter. I made a point to do some personal growth and I took a course and learned a lot. I have a job to begin but the details are fuzzy so I’ll leave them blank.

For now.

 

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Along highway 200 2 weeks ago.

I’m not quite like the seasons, though. Winter shed its snowy coat and becomes something new altogether.

I’m not changing that much. I’m still me.

The Alistair-loving, figure skating, veterinarian, author (award winning!), golf-loving, bling-slinging, blogging, wine-drinking, crazy cat lady who is as Canadian as she is American.

Stay tuned, though, to find out just what else I can be!

 

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hubby-loving golfer

 

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I doubt this will change much

 

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Play it as it lies! (ND earlier this month)

 

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Someone got rid of her own winter coat this week and wanted me to share!