Branching Out

We branched out into the world of ferrets many years ago! Andy and me.

I certainly don’t need to be any busier in life right now but I have committed to branching out in a couple of areas that involve my writing. I know these commitments will not take up a large amount of time so I don’t feel pressured or panicked in any way.

I also tend not to feel pressured or panicked about anything because that’s just how I roll. Maybe had I chosen to become a commercial pilot or a sky diving instructor I would feel differently every day but there is an inherent amount of safety in putting words to paper for others to read.

That isn’t to say there is no fear in writing. Hitting the “enter” key the final time when I self published my first book, Lost and Found in Missing Lake, my stomach flip flopped. I was sharing a story and characters that I made up. There is an element of fantasy to my fiction and I am deeply connected to my story. If nobody read it or nobody liked it then that would mean nobody liked what was in my head or that I wasn’t any good at what I was passionate about.

The collection

At least I have the books behind me as I leap into the new challenges.

I have already started the first one and it went well. I am writing non-fictional, educational, veterinary-based articles for 4 newspapers around western Montana. I still need a title (is that called a by-line?) and a photo that will look alright in newsprint but the first one is written and ready to submit to my editors.

The Pet Vet? Dr.Fyfe’s Take? Vet Chat?

I’ll put it out on social media and see what people think.

I like this pic but for my wonky tooth… is the lighting weird, though?

I found the writing to be a healthy challenge. Challenging to keep it under 500 words, for starters! When I write my books I let my fingers and feelings fly and I don’t choose to restrain myself until I re-read or do some editing. I also get to deal with dialogue between characters with my books but veterinary educational topics don’t lend themselves to that. Dialogue in my books is a lot of fun for me. It allows me to explore and get to know my characters more plus it moves the story along in a way that just telling the story doesn’t do.

I also want my non-fictional newspaper pieces to be interesting while perhaps a little bit entertaining because, come on, its Me we are talking about here and I like to make people smile. At least I didn’t have to come up with the topics. At Kickoff for Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic we, as a group, decided topics to focus on based on the seasons and generally accepted veterinary themes (ie February is Pet Dental Health month in most of the country.)

Clark Fork Veterinarian last week with Rosie, a super cute red Boston!

I’m excited to get the articles out there this year and see what people think. I love the fact I already have 4 newspapers eager to have the content, including our local Seeley Swan Pathfinder whose local readership knows me well. It is far less daunting to write articles like these versus putting my imagination out there for all to see (and judge!)

Remember, though, I grew up being judged going through puberty in spandex so there’s that confidence that I carry that probably is ill suited at times. I stay in my lane, at least, so hopefully that keeps me out of most trouble.

I think branching out within our careers is a good thing. As a figure skating coach many years ago I branched out and learned about power skating for hockey players and that became an exciting niche for me in Canada and the US. It helped me establish myself when we moved to Watford City, ND and opened a lot of doors and led to the creation of some terrific friendships in that community.

3 of the WC hockey coaches with me in 2018- lifetime friendships thanks to branching out!

I have always said that figure skating has been good to me and the fact our great friendships with other coaches and most of our players have remained strong after 25 years is reason enough for me to keep believing in expanding ourselves and our careers. I am still amazed they all put their trust in a 21 year old with a long curly pony tail who was shacked-up with the new doctor in town but Dave and then Doug and the others did and there we were at Dave’s son’s wedding a few years ago.

One of our ‘kids’, Maggie and me!

I am excited to share my writing story when I branch out on a Zoom call this coming week with interested authors-to-be. My good friend who is an editor has been teaching a class on publishing and she has asked me to share what I know. There are definitely things I have learned through trial and error (and more trial and error) and things I have spent money on that got me nowhere.

But then things like the book blog tours that Teddy Rose hosted for me were a boat-load of fun and garnered my last 2 books some awesome reviews on Amazon and Goodreads (and on private blogs as well.) I believe some of the students I will be talking with are planning on going the traditional publishing route but some are keen to learn about self-publishing so I have a bit to offer there, too.

Clark Fork Veterinarian a few weeks ago…. should I Zoom in my glasses? Do I look smarter?

I’m not quite sure how to measure if things are a success or not when branching out into the world of writing. Okay, when books sell and I receive awesome reviews then that feels successful. It feels like the hard work and time and commitment to sit down and write and then edit was well worth it.

As a realtor, its clearly a success when I can help clients find their dream home within their budget or I can help people list and sell the home or land they have. While that is a challenge right now due to ridiculously low inventory I still work every day to look at listings and communicate with clients and help the 1 transaction on the go right now make it to closing. Without the success at closing it wouldn’t be any fun to do the work.

As a coach it can be pretty clear when things are a success. Skaters land jumps, they pass tests, they compete well and maybe earn medals. Hockey teams learn to work together, their skating skills improve, various players score goals or make wicked saves and sometimes your team wins.

Fun gig as power skating coach for the Jr. A Bismarck Bobcats for a couple of seasons!

While the term, ‘success’ usually has a positive connotation, there are times when that just isn’t so.

Like as a veterinarian…. sure, hitting that teensy tiny vein with zero blood pressure behind it on the 15 year old cat in the back seat of a pickup might seem like a success until you learn that the vet is helping a family say goodbye to their feline companion.

Even in coaching, success might not be success, even if it takes years to find that out.

Like the elite figure skater I coached to several medals and high level testing achievements who has gone on to higher education and travelled the world…. I read a post from her on social media yesterday about the eating disorder demons she continues to fight that appeared as she, too, went through puberty in spandex many years ago.

I didn’t see the self loathing and distorted body image because she hid it well and also because I left to go to veterinary school and she eventually graduated high school and moved on. And maybe I never thought to ask.

American Ice Show skater in Japan! 1992

I’m not saying any of us who train and compete and then perform at elite levels (in spandex) come out of it “normal”. I’m the first to admit that I was one of the bigger girls on tour in Japan and that the twice-daily weigh-ins were NOT cool but I have lots of coping mechanisms and I don’t believe I ever experienced self loathing like my former student described.

I know I did counsel a few of my skaters who had obvious weight-based issues but how many of them weren’t so obvious to me or their parents?

A little more of Tanya back then.

There is some success in reading how my skater also shared that she is embracing her body and her life and trying to take the time to take care of herself and I whole heartedly support her and hope she is successful. Not sure how to gauge that success, either, but having all the answers has never been the point to this blog.

I’m here to share my journeys and my discoveries and lots of times I share the shit-shows and disasters because that’s all part of being me.

Who I was (under construction, goofy, skater-girl, possibly brave.)

Who I am (veterinarian, writer, realtor, wife, friend, coach, still goofy, animal addict.)

Who I will be (still goofy, more animals, all of the above plus apparently a writer for newspapers and a Zoom personality for aspiring writers!)

I have, I do and I will probably always be driving down challenging paths

Here’s to change while staying within your lane.

Branching out doesn’t have to be frightening or anxiety-causing.

I’ll keep you all posted, however things turn out.

Enjoying winter in Montana now that its here!
Honestly, I was giving a thumbs-up here!
Professor Higgins is not too sure about those icicles!
More fun with ferrets. Barry and me!

2021… So far…

Maggie, Jake and me a couple of early evenings ago during my walk

Okay, 2021. I’m only kind of impressed so far.

I mean, that’s really just sort of true because I do feel a sense of peace about most things in my life.

While I’m sad that Larry King died, I am content that news stations were able to give him the credit he deserved because there wasn’t some sort of angry, crazy chaos happening in the country.

And I’m glad my careers are at a fun, manageable stage right now even though I feel like real estate might be picking up a bit and I’m committing to a veterinary writing project with my Clark Fork Veterinary gang that I don’t think I’ll regret.

The Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic gang in Deer Lodge last week!

I am enjoying defining my place within the practice even though I’m only there 3 or 4 days each month. The drive time one way is 90 minutes, which is the only barrier to me working there more hours/days. You wouldn’t know the gang is so heavy on the estrogen because of how well everyone supports one another and gets along.

I’m not sure why groups of women often don’t get along but I don’t feel like that’s an issue in Deer Lodge. Maybe its our age and background differences? (I think I’m probably one of, if not the oldest person there, which makes me smile… and then I feel old… and then I laugh.) Or maybe its just their culture of acceptance and support and the leadership that exists there that prevents any petty BS from creeping into the workplace.

Regardless, its a lot of fun and I get to wear all of my colorful DVM shirts and lab coats again!

And I am slowly getting them all hooked on Sparkle Pens!

Celebrating… watch out for that mask, Hon!

Personally there is some satisfaction to 2021 in that we finally closed on our most recent attempt to refinance. This has been an arduous process with countless phone call hours over the last 3 years and I’m not someone who enjoys spending time on the phone.

The last time I spent hours of my life working to refinance the lenders pulled Jumbo loans because of covid early in 2020 and we lost our deal one week out from closing. That sucked.

We re-applied this fall, though, and after numerous faxes and uploads and print-outs and voicemails and emails and “are you kidding me’s” and rollings-of-my-eyes we actually closed. (The realtor term that has become my mantra, ‘nothing is closed until its closed’ was in my head the entire week prior to closing up until the last signatures were signed.

After closing. Celebrate!

And then we went out to lunch, which we haven’t done for months, to one of our favorite places to eat here in Seeley Lake (Double Arrow Lodge) and we were the only guests there and Karla wore her mask so we felt safe on top of feeling relieved about the closing. And the Caesar salad (anchovies!) and French Dip were fabulous, too.

(And despite the unplanned matchy-match of our shirts I enjoyed my look because of the stellar bling I had chosen from the Bling Emporium to wear that day!)

Alistair’s covid record card!

The fact Alistair received his 2nd dose of the Moderna covid vaccine is something that makes me smile right now, too. I won’t lie, though. While he felt mostly fine other than a slightly sore arm after the first vaccine, he pretty much felt like ass after the second one and was actually kind of out of it the next day.

I haven’t posted that on social media (other than right here, right now) (kudos to any of you who get the Jesus Jones reference) because I don’t want to discourage people from getting the vaccine! It is imperative that we get vaccinated to slow the spread and decrease the chances of the virus mutating again & again.

While I don’t specifically identify as having covid fatigue, I know many friends who do and we all really would love to get back to our lives and maybe even back to hugging clients whose pet I just had to help transition over the Rainbow Bridge (while wearing a mask of course.)

Jockey Bo Bockey

Speaking of that…

Another thing I haven’t put out there is the fact something seems to be up with our farm-boy-turned-indoor-love-bug, Jockey.

He is almost 13 years old and, no, that isn’t very old but it is considered ‘senior’ for cats.

We had started finding really bizarre clumps of his hair in places he had been and it wasn’t normal. Sure, cats shed and sure, I vacuum too much but these were large tufts seemingly falling out at the roots. This has been going on for a couple of months and then Alistair commented that he thought Jockey looked a bit thinner during his last time back in Montana. Probably easier for him to notice because I’m with Jockey every day.

He thrives now that he has Indoor Status

Then last week I noticed the red, inflamed skin and the scabs where the hair had been falling out along his spine. I fear he has some version of feline skin cancer – lymphoma, mast cell, whatever- and none of the options or outcomes are any good.

He wasn’t wild about our recent stint as dog-sitters for sweet Jazz (who totally gave the cats the respect they deserved!) so he seemed kind of ‘off’ personality-wise last month but he is still the ridiculous lover and snuggler that he has always been.

And he eats. And drinks. And runs around.

Today. Fascinated with the fish.

And he remains fascinated with the super cool fish tank here in my office even though you can see a little of the redness along his spine. He doesn’t seem tender or itchy when I examine him so his quality of life doesn’t appear affected right now.

And he’s still the shit-disturber that he’s always been. Don’t get me wrong- we love our giant boy a ton but he always had a bit of an asshole in him, even when he lived mostly in the barn. His tender grooming licks often turn into chomps with a sense that he actually means it even when he would looks away all innocent-like when you say, “HEY” and pull away from him. (That remains consistent right now, too.)

The asshole in him last night identified something Alistair and I had no clue was going on. And no clue how long it has been going on.

Last night’s little discovery…

I saw him jump up onto the bar and reminded him that cats aren’t allowed on the bar, knowing he was probably flipping me ‘the paw’ from the other side. When I’m on the couch I can’t actually see him because of the height of the bar and the 4 bar stools but for whatever reason I stood up and my mouth fell open.

The jug of water he’s drinking from is the water we use to pour into the black ice maker there to make ice cubes.

OUR ice cubes.

The same cubes in Alistair’s martinis and sometimes my Caesars.

Every. Single. Night.

And the way he waltzed right up to it told me he’s been doing this quite comfortably for weeks. Probably months. I sincerely hope we haven’t made you a cocktail from the bar with those cubes if you were here. or you made one yourself if you were pet sitting for us. Alistair did comment a couple of times that the cubes seemed to have ‘something’ in them, like random air debris.

It was probably clumps of Pastuerella multocida or something from Jockey recently licking himself post litter-box.

I shit you not. (See what I did just there?)

(I promise to only use my special Cat Woman powers for good if anything develops!)

Sporto…. the old cat!

So I try not to think about the possible inevitable short-term future for our big boy because he’s keeping on keeping on and I didn’t bother getting him off the bar last night but I did text the picture to Alistair who agrees that we need a new water jug and I work on not letting my brain go to the fact that Sport, aka my appendage, is going to be 21 soon or that Bebe with her hair matts she reluctantly lets me work on every day is going to be 18 and I treasure each day like today that I get to spend at home working on real estate and my blog with a cat in my lap and one smacking at the fish tank and the third by the wood stove because I know I won’t have these days at some point and I won’t know what to do with myself and my heart will hurt when most likely Alistair won’t be here when its Time and Doctor Mummy will have to have a talk with real life Mummy and it is going to supremely suck and I’m kind of dreading it already.

And I’ve got a few tears slipping down my cheeks, which hasn’t happened for a long time when I’ve written a blog.

Jockey & Sport earlier this winter.


But I’m going to continue to choose Happy and I’m going to bring the barn kitties in for soft food for the night and then I’m going to walk down the back driveway while Maggie & Jake follow me as far as they can hoping I don’t forget to give them grain and some hay on my way back.

I’m going to keep trying to embrace 2021 because, like Bastille sings in ‘Survivin’…“I’m going to be fine, I’m gonna be fine, I think I’ll be fine.”

There aren’t any other options if I want to continue to be Me in a whirlwind of veterinary medicine, real estate listings & contracts, books to ship and market and a farm to run, all while trying to be a good wife and Mummy. Our mortgage rates are down so, hey, there’s that! And Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic just feels like the right place at the right time.

Carry on, 2021!

Professor Higgins: “Would you mind opening the door, Andy?”
Maybe he’s checking into some Zen here?
Fabulous Babulous noshing on her Greenies
I’m going to be fine because I know little kids today will never know of a time when a woman can’t be an American Vice President.

Last One of the Year

Getting books ready to ship!

This will most likely be the last blog by me for 2020.

I’m okay with that, even though it wasn’t the worst year for us. Which is the main reason why we didn’t do a funny Fyfe Holiday letter this year. It seems insensitive to talk about my exciting new book or the fact we both kept working amidst a global pandemic when so many lost their jobs, not to mention their lives.

We also sort of enjoyed lockdown when it happened because we live in a beautiful house in an incredibly scenic area and the hot tub, tanning bed and sauna are wonderful treats in our Montana home.

Jake & Maggie in Montana

We also have a variety of animal companions who keep us smiling.

They keep us busy, too. We have to get out of bed (eventually) to get hay and grain (and, okay, maybe an apple or two) to the horses and let the barn kitties out. We have litter boxes to clean and food and water bowls to fill. And there’s that ferret cage that requires cleaning and the 3 terrorists within to play with on a daily basis. Our gang reminds us daily that the company of animals is healthy for humans.

Jockey, helping me write right now!

They are healthy for my mental health, for sure, especially when Alistair is working on the front lines in Bismarck. He left me 2 days early last week so that he could get his first dose of the Moderna covid19 vaccine (which we are SO excited about!) He started this 2-week stint on Christmas day and he continued to work all weekend long.

It wasn’t so bad, even though it was Christmas. And it won’t be so bad when he’s gone for New Year’s, too. He does important work and he provides for our incredible life when he’s gone. We also don’t have young children in the house anymore so we can rationalize that Christmas is just another Friday. Same with New Year’s.

We didn’t put a tree up this year so that I wasn’t constantly reminded of the festive holiday, as well. Believe me, its not some, ‘Bah, humbug’ attitude at all! I mean… we did get Christmas-town going again…

Skating rinks and the tavern at the west end of town… newlyweds are a nod to our on-ice wedding 24 years ago!

Alistair even brought some super cute (and necessary) additions for our festive little village, like the bride & groom smooching on the original ice rink, High Meadow Pond.

Its hard to imagine that we got married on the ice rink where I grew up in Grand Forks, BC 24 years ago! I wasn’t even 24 years old back then! While that seems like a boat load of time it also feels like it is just in the rear-view mirror when I think about it. I smile thinking of my brave, spandex-wearing bridesmaids, Jennifer, Wendy, Diana & Merielle. My smile widens remembering Art driving the Zamboni in his tuxedo and the kids getting to join in on the action.

We gave the men, Tim, Brad, Ian and Glenn each a bottle of scotch the night before just to cement the fact that, yes, indeed, we were going to be doing this thing on the ice in front of an audience. I giggle remembering my brother-in-law repeatedly asking Tim & Wendy if they really knew how to skate.

The skating party after the ceremony and the sort-of organized reception are fresh in my mind. The karaoke machine (not my idea) is pushed off to the sidelines of my memory, though.

24 years ago….
Pizzeria and Jewelry stores were added this year!

Next to the tavern is one of the much-needed eateries that Alistair found for us this year! Pizza and beer, right? (According to their sign they also make pastas and subs.) We both found the Jewelry store together and agreed it was a lovely, sparkly tribute to my former days selling Chloe & Isabel bling.

Food truck!

In front of the blingery there is the brand-new food truck Alistair brought for Christmas. I mean, not everyone wants to dine-in and with covid19 right now, this is a great way to get a bite to eat and still maintain social distancing!

Shops for every price point and a new fire hall!

Carrying on through Christmas town, we have options for shopping and a brand new fire house. The fire truck peeks in and out and the Dalmatian standing with the fireman is a cute touch. (I wonder if he poses for those calendars?…) (Do firemen still do those anymore?)

Some of the bigger buildings play music and almost everything lights up in one way, shape or form.


Alistair commented how the realtor in me really came out this year with the zoning I applied to the community. This area is all about the animals. You can adopt from the shelter on the right, get him or her all spiffed up at the pet salon, then capture the moment with photos at the pet photographer’s and then drop your new buddy off for doggy daycare before you hit up the shops, ice rinks or tavern!

Don’t forget the hot dog or slice of pizza…

The carousel!

One of my favorite pieces of all time is the animal carousel. The detail and imagination is outstanding and it is a real highlight of the village. You can choose to ride on a horse or a tortoise or even a lion! Conveniently located in front of the animal area of town, of course.

Continuing north…

Moving along through town we see more options for ice skating and more shopping. You might notice a more residential feel to the area, too, with the area zoned for both housing and commerce.

You also might recognize the plethora of animals throughout Christmas town. Dogs, cats, bunnies, horses, a cow, a squirrel, birds, deer, and even reindeer… its definitely a Fyfe creation!

Our log cabin is on the right.

Another great addition from Alistair is the new café on the left, next to the older B&B and the log cabin we both agree is where we would choose to live.

Now I can grab a coffee when I begin my daily stroll through town, en route to check on the shelter pets and do some figure skating coaching on the side. All of this is before we grab a pizza at night and hit up the jewelry shop to see what’s new (and secretly compare pieces to my Chloe & Isabel arsenal.)

North end of town

And finally we have the north end of town, which may have to be expanded next year if we continue doing things Fyfe-style. We already have a new addition that isn’t out of its box yet (thanks, Carey!)

I love the clock tower and the windmill that actually turns. The cozy couple on the park bench reading together (probably reading that kick-ass Missing Lake series) and sipping hot chocolate (with a splash of Bailey’s perhaps?) while Buddy loads Christmas trees up into his partner’s horse-drawn carriage in front of the barns makes this all pretty perfect.

My imagination takes care of me when Alistair isn’t here, even when its Christmas and people are supposed to be visiting each other.

But we aren’t supposed to be visiting because of covid19 right now.

I am fearful that our actions at Thanksgiving and Christmas will come back to bite this country in the ass but I’m just going to leave that thought there and encourage you/us all to get the vaccines when we can, wear masks (even after the vaccine!) and keep your distance.

New award!

I am glad Alistair was with me a couple of weeks ago when I got the email announcing that The Runaways of Missing Lake won its first award for Best in Teen Fiction.

I am humbled by this and by all of the wonderful comments and reviews the book has already received. I absolutely love hearing people’s thoughts about the book while they read it and after they’ve finished. I enjoy the questions about why I chose particular songs or if a certain character is based on somebody in my real life.

And I look forward to talking about the marketing and what I’ve learned and what I still feel like I need to learn but that’s for another blog.

In another year.

Until then, I’m fairly certain most of you are ready to put 2020 on the back burner and look towards 2021. A new year. New dreams to create. New adventures and paths to embark upon. New spirits to meet. And more homes to sell and pets to vaccinate and book events to participate in.

And vaccines to be taken and masks to be worn. Be safe. Be smart. Be well.

I didn’t win any prize money but I did win gold stickers!
One of the new spirits I met at Clark Fork Veterinary this year in Deer Lodge- Walter Price! I will be committing to more dates there through June!
Alistair’s staff helped him spiff up his cell phone for Christmas with a photo from the magical night we met in 1994 up in Creston. Me, the guest skater and him in the audience.

Head Above Water

Early morning drive down from our meadow

I’ve had a few early mornings lately.

You know the ones. Where your alarm clock actually startles you when it goes off and every animal in bed stays there after you get up to hit the shower.

Where your eyes are sore enough that you actually contemplate wearing mascara.

(Who am I kidding? This showgirl loves her make up!)

Me & my makeup & my bling… and one of my new pairs of specs!

I am not complaining, though. I know I am lucky to still be working my careers during these unusual and frightening times right now.

I was fortunate to get up early to be at a client/friend’s closing on her house as a first-time home owner! We’ve spent many months trying to find something for her here in Seeley Lake, where she grew up, but every home we found went under contract within days of it being listed.

We became a hunting duo, like many realtors and their clients in this area right now. We, like the others, were glued to the mls and real estate websites and we pounced on the new listings when they appeared. As weeks & months passed we made sure to get her pre-approved and all of our connecting paperwork signed so when the right house at the right price came on the market we were ready.


Andy: “I’m absolutely unable to pounce right now, Mum.”

My friend is moving into her house today and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

I was up with the moon and the stars when I got asked to do a bit more relief work at Clark Fork Veterinary in Deer Lodge, which is a solid hour & a half away.

The sky was lit up and twinkling when I left our dark mountain home but I got to watch it lighten as I drove west through what can only be described as a Flemish painting. The peaceful countryside in Western Montana has rolling hills and gentle curves to the highway and I was pretty much one of the only vehicles on the road at that time.

My favorite satellite radio music stations (Hits1 and The Pulse) didn’t let me down. For whatever reason many of the top ten/twenty songs and bands that are out there are seriously resonating with me right now. Dua Lipa. Bastille. The Weekend. Shawn Mendes. Even Biebs!

Maybe I’m self consciously pretending I’m not as old as I am and I’m young and hip and cool. And maybe I’m associating these things with being relevant or something like that but I don’t care because the next thing I know I’m belting out, “Why… do all the monsters come out at night?” along to the stereo in my truck as we’re flying across the beautiful, slowly illuminated countryside.

And then, the next thing I know, I’m Dr.Tanya Fyfe for the day in a fun, team-oriented clinic!

A fun day in Deer Lodge last week!

It was an interesting day in that I really had to stretch my brain muscles! I had a bunch of medical cases that weren’t easy fixes. Not that your average vaccine visit is easy… there are all sorts of questions and things to check for, all with the pet parents diligently sitting outside in their vehicles wondering what on Earth we’re doing ‘back there’ with their pets.

As fine tuned as the clinic’s curbside experience is, I really miss having the pet parents in the exam room with me. Not only for obvious reasons, like being able to ask a question that comes up during the exam (“Has the lump always been this size?”) I truly miss sharing the human-animal bond that is part of the magic of being a veterinarian. Its not just caring for and treating your pets that I enjoy; I like seeing how you love your pet. How you hold them. How you talk to him or her. How you look at them and try to reassure them that the stainless steel exam table isn’t so bad. And how you gush about his shed hunting skills or the way your Great Dane cuddles with the new kitten you just brought home.

I make sure to go out to every vehicle after the appointments so the owners know a real veterinarian is on top of the situation ‘back there.’

I had several hellos and one tearful goodbye last week and I’m looking forward to my next day there on the 14th.

2 cords. One little woman. One day. One long soak in the hot tub.

On top of work-work, there is also farm-work to be done. This time of year almost everyone in Montana is hauling or stacking or splitting wood. We had our third load dropped off and I intentionally ignored it, thinking hubby would enjoy stacking it with me when he returned from Bismarck but then the weather report said a big old blizzard was coming.

We pay good coin for good wood and we all know you have to get it under cover so it doesn’t get rained or snowed on so I spent a Sunday stacking wood. Moving logs from here to there. I had my music on so there were some stellar dance moves happening and hopefully D’embe and Professor Higgins enjoyed my antics but, man, was I sore for a couple of days afterwards.

I’d like to think its not just because I’m getting old (and less relevant? Lordy, there’s that doubt again!) but the lower back pain that I sometimes feel even after just sitting for a couple of hours, let alone stacking 2 cords of wood by myself was never there in my 20s.

Or my 30s.

Or even my early 40s if truth be told. Because I’m not IN my early 40s anymore.

The blizzard arrived, as expected.

Like always, though, there isn’t a whole ton of time to dwell on any one thing up here because the blizzard did arrive and I got to bond with Big Red once again.

Plowing snow with this beast requires an entirely different play list. For whatever reason, a few years ago I started playing Iz or Keali’i Reichel cd’s when plowing snow. These are 2 Hawaiian greats whose music is soothing and fun and very, very Hawaiian. The irony makes me smile.

Thankfully the temps warmed up so what was on the ground (about a foot and a half a couple of weeks ago) is now just a white dusting with brown-green grass patches peeking out here and there.

Jazz Champion!

Forcing me yet again to not worry about my place in the world is this young majestic, hilarious new friend. My friends, Paige & Richie had to get to Texas for this little thing called the National Finals Rodeo (Richmond Champion… he’s the real thing!) and their dog sitter fell through so last Sunday around this time Paige and Jazz showed up. A dog in the house again!

I probably should have cleared it with the cats first but last night Jockey & Sport actually laid in bed with me and Jazz when I wrote in my journal and sipped some wine before cranking up the playlist again. (Not necessarily a “new” song but Hozier’s Better Love is fricking awesome for winding down the day.)

Jazz has been a sweetheart. The fact she chased barn kitty, D’embe up a tree notwithstanding, she has been very gentle with everyone. Bebe seems fine with her. She sniffs the curious ferrets through their cage and they sniff her back.

She goes to our outdoor kennel, which hasn’t had a canine inhabitant since last December when Cleopatra last laid by the wood stove, when the ferrets are out and that also gives Sport and me some Couch-time together as well.

I don’t even know what to say about this one.

Jazz might be a bit of a bed hog but she’s a cute bed hog. Alistair gets home on Friday and is looking forward to meeting her. I’m sending and sharing pictures of Jazz on social media so Paige & Richie can see her. He’s riding well already this week, too. Something to be said for the peace of mind that comes with knowing your fur kids are in good hands.

Peace of mind is something many of us are without right now thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Too many people are out of work. Too many people are standing in long lines at food banks. Too many people can’t pay their rent. And too many people can’t send their kids to school. Or visit their elderly parents. Or plan for the future because in the here and now too many people are denying this beast of a virus and too many people aren’t wearing a mask.

I can promise you that I will remain relevant in my posts and comments about mask wearing and social distancing. We have a duty to protect the medical community and each other.

And I’ll try to keep keeping my head above water with 2 more real estate transactions and another vet day and a dog in the house and possible winter weather that could be before me. You can be sure there will be music in the background.

And, for the record, I tried to sleep in but Jazz was having nothing to do with that!

Be safe. Be well. And please be kind.

Getting older. Still with the makeup.
Also getting older, Sport and Jockey. These boys will always be relevant.
The Fyfe Bee Gees… Andy, Barry & Maurice.
Jazz got to have a fun play day this afternoon with Mowgli!

Career Collision

Changing seasons at our farm in Montana

The past couple of weeks and several upcoming ones have been and will be a crash course for me in managing my very different career choices. I’m having to ramp up my super powers of balancing and planning right now if I’m going to come out of it all with any semblance of sanity.

A couple of weeks ago I happily drove to Deer Lodge to once again join a veterinary clinic for 3 days of busy relief work. One of my former veterinary assistants-turned-veterinarian, Dr.Betsy (Malecha) Price has been asking me to come and hang out there over the past couple of years and the stars finally aligned and we made it happen!

Dr.Fyfe, back in the clinics!

The team of veterinarians and the entire staff at Clark Fork Veterinary were fun, energetic, positive and professional. I had forgot how good it feels to discuss a case and its possibilities with another veterinarian and bounce ideas back and forth.

I had forgot the rush of emergency visits and shelter dog C-sections and how you need a full team of helpers for puppy resuscitation, especially when those two white & black ones looked like they weren’t coming back! (They did! I was one of their final-effort rubbers!)

6/7 of the litter survived. They are, like many stray dog pregnancies, a total mixed bag of tricks. The mama was only 37lbs when she recovered but 47lbs pre-op…. that’s 10lbs of puppy! No kidding they weren’t coming out on their own.

2nd from the left looked like a little golden Cocker!

It was wonderful having every tool and product at my finger tips and even though it took me the first full day to sort-of figure out the Avimark software, I eventually did (I think) and all my notes for every day were completed.

Its definitely a different world with Covid19 and curbside appointments but it didn’t take long to get into the routine of going back out to the red truck or the grey Jeep to discuss my findings with pet parents.

The first big career collision for me happened on the third day of being a clinical veterinarian which is when my Virtual Tour of my new book, The Runaways of Missing lake launched.

I had no idea these types of tours existed until a tour host approached me after my last book came out. Think of it like a band going on tour, with stops in various cities. In this case, my book is going on tour with stops on various review sites and blog pages. I already have 6 5-star (!!) reviews up on with more due there and on Amazon. I also have excerpts from the book and interviews and guest posts on various websites. So far all of the tour stops have been absolutely fabulous, which makes my heart so happy (and maybe makes my eyes a little moist…)

Check it out!

The idea is that my fans (like fans of the band) will follow my tour and read the reviews and buy the book and tell other people to read the reviews and buy the book. And so on. You tell two friends and they tell two friends…

While I’m not actually physically on tour I do have to play a part in promoting the tour and checking out the reviews and commenting on them and thanking reviewers. Some of the tour stops got pdf versions of the book while others got hard copies. Like anything, you have to pay-to-play but there’s no money in self publishing your books when you don’t help to promote them.

off-grid listing in Helmville

The tour runs through Nov.24th so I’ll be posting a lot over the next few weeks while also balancing the real estate gig. Real estate in Montana is NUTS right now. Everyone is bugging out of wherever to come to Montana. Covid19 has a role in this mass migration to big sky country. Its fairly easy to socially distance yourself when your front yard looks like the photo taken from one of my listings.

I am completely amazed by how much attention this particular listing has received the last couple of months. Its 40 acres but its at least an hour from anywhere. By “anywhere” I mean teensy communities that have one cafe/bar and one gas pump. But it has been showing HOT and we are actually under contract!

The road in isn’t maintained and it takes over an hour to drive 9 miles. Up a mountain. After 20 inches of snow that surprisingly fell and then began melting before my scheduled home inspection at said secluded listing.

We made it!

Thanks to good tires we made it last week and the home inspection is complete. Nothing is closed until its closed, though, so we’ll see where this transaction leads.

And the collisions keep coming! Friday I had a sad but tender house call to say goodbye to a dear furry companion, then I was hiking around and taking photos of a local lot listing to send to a client in California before I sat down to preview a blog tour stop on a website for the day:(

post Pathfinder interview yesterday

Yesterday I started the day with our local newspaper interview over yummy lattes in town and then went out to take more pictures of more lots for the same California Peeps before calling them to discuss options about wells and acreage and whether or not they can get flights to Montana sooner or later.

The languages and emotions tied to each career are ridiculously different and sometimes my brain feels full while other times it feels completely empty.

And today.

Well, today I woke up knowing that later in the day, after emailing another realtor about another transaction and calling other realtors about their listing somewhere in Trout Creek for a client I’ve worked with for 2 years now and after completing a typed interview for another tour stop that took me an hour and a half to do and after hopefully getting a blog published myself that I would be changing a kind, gentle man’s life in poignant, permanent ways when I see him this afternoon.

Its mornings like this when my heart feels full and sort of, maybe, also a bit empty.

heart full, heart empty….

I usually cry during or after euthanasia appointments and this one could potentially be a blubber fest. I’ve known this dog since she was a puppy when her single-dad brought her to me. He has been a mess in planning and discussing today’s appointment and I’m not going to lie about my own choked-up voice on the phone.

I still have a couple of hours before this goes down and I will walk outside in the sunshine with the barn kitties, D’embe and Professor Higgins and I will look at the fall colors and the disappearing snow and I will breathe slowly and deeply.

I won’t think about real estate and I won’t think about my book and I won’t think about my aging feline companions who are 20 and 17 or the “young” one who is actually 13 and I won’t think about not having any dogs right now because Cleo left us almost a year ago and I won’t miss her, UB, Loki, Casey or Harry and I won’t think about all the assholes in North Dakota not wearing masks and bringing Covid19 to my husband’s clinic because he’s “of a certain age” and I won’t think about how empty my client/friend’s life is going to feel after I see him this afternoon and the Angel of Darkness does her deed.

Very important responsibility requires a very special pen!

I will also try very hard to not think about the upcoming election and how either candidate’s choice will vastly affect our lives. Our country. Our planet. Our international relations.

And whether or not Alistair and I will consider moving back north to our home and native land.

Because I need my brain empty but focused in a couple of hours and I need my heart to be as full as it possibly can so it can leak out the love and compassion my client/friend, who is a kind, gentle man, will need.

Back to my front yard….

Maybe the colliding careers are a healthy form of distraction.

I don’t know.

I could choose to feel overwhelmed or I can choose to delegate some tasks, like taking on new clients. I am comfortable with the words, ‘No thanks’ when strangers want me to help them find their Montana Dream right now.

I hope you all vote or have voted.

I hope my California Peeps find what they’re looking for.

I hope I can work more shifts in Deer Lodge because that was a super fun time.

I hope you can jump on a couple of tour stops and read reviews and check out my book.

And I hope for peace later today so that I can, indeed, maintain that semblance of sanity that I was hoping for when I started this blog.

A lovely January day… in late October!
The Bee Gees always put a smile on my face! Andy was whupped after their bath last night!
Jockey (13, top) and Sport (20) last night

My Two Spaces

Penner, Frankie, Fumie & Zeus in ND

I initially titled this blog, My Two Lives but then I got thinking about it and I realized I have more than two lives. I mean, we live one life, right, but I often feel like I have chosen to live several lives in one lifespan. The figure skater, the veterinarian, the writer, the real estate agent on top of being the wife, the daughter, the sister, the step-mom, the pet-mum and the friend. But that’s not what I wanted to write about today.

I more want to share the two places where I live out all of the lives in one lifetime: my two spaces.

We are fortunate to have found a second, amazing house/pet sitter in young Katelyn. Her family is local in Seeley Lake and I’ve known them for many years. Katelyn eagerly moved onto the Montana Fyfe Farm so that I could join Alistair at our North Dakota Fyfe Farm for some body and home tune-ups.

Influenza vaccine received!

Where to start?

Medically, I got my Influenza vaccine (GET YOURS!) and a mammogram (GET IT DONE!) (Normal results, all good.) If you haven’t had a mammogram before, they aren’t the most delicate of procedures. And check your pride at the door because those babies are getting handled and squeezed every which way you can imagine.

I also had another eye exam and found that, yes, my vision has deteriorated a teensy bit more so I have a new prescription. I had kind of figured that was the case. It seemed like I had to take a second longer to focus, even with my glasses on, during my last book edit. Staring at a computer screen for hours and days on end isn’t something my eyeballs have evolved to combat yet.

Yay! First hair cut & color since February!

I also got to visit Tiffany #1 for a much-needed cut & color. She was awesome enough to straighten my hair for me, which is a challenge on my own given my Ronald McDonald curls that often just do their own thing. It was a bit of an extended salon visit because my long, covid19 roots “came in hot” but we always enjoy catching up and laughing together.

(It turned out that Tiffany #2 had her first baby in Montana that very same day so that was fun for Tiffany #1 and me to share.) (Yes, the 2 Tiffanys are aware of each other.)

I felt like I had a full-body tune-up that was long overdue. Not just because of covid19 but also because I hadn’t been able to get back to my space in North Dakota for a long time.

Big happenings in ND!

We were excited that our home in Bismarck got a bit of its own much-needed tune-up, as well. A new roof is finally on top of things so Alistair is happy he doesn’t have to see old green shingles on the lawn coming home from work after supremely windy days.

When Katelyn was able to stay at our house in MT a little bit longer than we had thought, we decided to go for it with painting the front of the house, which also has taken a beating from the wind over the years.

Happy painters

We actually had fun in the sun with our paint brushes and the iPad streaming CNN or music in the background. It is as if we gave the place a bit of a face lift and it looks terrific.

Some of the gang- Penner, Zeus and Katie behind him

The herd had an adjustment that had to be made before winter, as well. We laid our last remaining broodmare to rest on a sunny morning. Katie, a tall chestnut Thoroughbred, had been on the race track in Canada before we bought her from a veterinary classmate in 2003.

She was only bred one time on our farm- the rest of the time she ran with her herd mates and bossed everyone around.

Until she stopped bossing them around this summer. She still hung out with mighty Zeus, who has always been one of the top dogs of the herd but she also hung back more and more from everyone else and started the dramatic weight loss that happens with many senior horses. She was in her mid twenties and she deserved a good, long rest.

Katie & a much larger herd back in 2016.

It wasn’t necessarily sad or upsetting to say goodbye to Katie. She sedated well and she passed uneventfully after I finished giving her the injection. We had over 20 horses at the height of “Pair O’Docs Paints” and now we have 8. They are still so beautiful to watch running around the fields both in Bismarck and in Seeley Lake.

Jake & Maggie in Seeley Lake, MT right now

I am so happy I got to see Deb, Whitey, Painted Woods golf course, some of Alistair’s staff and the brand new Costco in Bismarck on this last trip and it was fun driving back to Montana together with Alistair.

They aren’t kidding!

I followed Alistair’s Ram in my own Ram along a road we both know very well. Parts of it around Circle and Jordan have deteriorated over the years to the point where they are downright dangerous so a 6-year improvement project has begun.

Alistair does this 10 to 11-hour road trip every 2 weeks so he knows where to stop and where to eat (and also where the cops won’t pull him over for speeding because there is no cellular service.)

We marveled at the green grass coming back after a grass fire outside of Jordan had threatened the community just weeks ago. Alistair drove through that fire on his way back to Bismarck a month prior and we were both amazed at the cycles of nature and how fires are, indeed, part of life. They just aren’t supposed to be as intense or frequent as they are and they aren’t supposed to screw up California, Oregon or Montana like they have done the past few years.

The grass coming back after the fire by Jordan, MT

But this isn’t a political or environmental blog. It is a story about where I get to live my various lifestyles in two very separate but wonderful spaces.

And now the seasons are changing and the cooler temperatures are starting to arrive. I still had the windows open here in Montana yesterday and I’m still hoping to get out there to hit some golf balls after I click ‘publish’ today. And I’m getting ready for a book blog tour to kick off on Oct.21st while sending my newest book around North America to friends, family, reviewers and contests.

There they go!

The Runaways of Missing Lake is available on all Amazon outlets and while it is the 4th book in my Missing Lake series I believe it also stands on its own. If you read it I would love to hear your thoughts.

For now, its time to find a cute golf outfit to change into, check to see if my working hubby had an opportunity to email me (unlikely on their crazy Sundays) and kiss the snoozing kitties on their foreheads.

Enjoying our ND golf course last month
Painted Woods golf course (spot the ball-hunter!)
Backyard friends in ND enjoying the apple trees
Bully Pulpit golf course in Medora, ND!
And back at our Montana golf course last week.

The Runaways…. or, What To Do During Your Next Pandemic


So I did this thing.

I went and finished and published my fourth book, The Runaways of Missing Lake! It took me two years to get to this point, which is longer than normal but my life has become busier than normal these past two years.

I was grateful, in that regard, to have a full blown shutdown early this year. (I am grateful about that because we actually did slow the spread and lessened the stress on our medical communities when Covid19 started to take over our country but I am so sad we opened up parts of the country too damned early and now its going to keep this virus in our mask-covered faces for even longer. But I digress….)

I truly, truly loved the early months of this year where I could let my body wake itself up when it wanted, sip my coffee in the hot tub, shower, and then write.

I did a lot of this during the winter, too

There was still the business of running the farm and I was continuing to do Floor days at the real estate office in February but with Alistair running the Covid19 testing clinic in Bismarck and being in contact with positives (albeit not many in the beginning), it became clear to both of us that I was running the risk of becoming Typhoid Tanya. My boss and the rest of the staff didn’t complain when I did not take another Floor day until June.

(Floor days are when you are the designated realtor who handles incoming calls and walk-ins with interest in local real estate.)

While I didn’t thank the Corona Virus in my book’s back page acknowledgements (it seems heartless when, at this point, almost 190,000 Americans have died) it really is one of the means by which I was able to finish my book.

Finished the manuscript on June 13th, 2020!

(I usually wear my various Dog Days of Summer T-shirts when I’m writing or doing big things like finishing the writing or finishing the final edits in case any of you noticed Loki on my shirt… they are all still muses…)

Finishing the writing is a weird thing. I mean, are you really finished? Are you absolutely sure there is nothing more to say? Nothing more Luke has to say to Gwen or Zagros has to say to Luke?

I was actually sure that my story was finished, just like I have been with the other three books. I may not know the exact details until I type them out but I generally have an idea how things are going to wrap up.

This time, I wanted an Epilogue.

It has been on my mind since I finished the third book and even though the other three books don’t have an epilogue, I went for it.

And I love it.

And re-reading the epilogue makes me cry a little bit and it also made Alistair cry a little bit or maybe he just teared-up ’cause he’s a man but I actually think he cried and maybe you will, too, especially if you’ve followed me or us or our crazy antics for awhile now.

Cruising through the writing process back in May.

The editing process is time-consuming. You have to read without getting too invested in the characters because you can very easily skip a typo. Each of my books has one or two of those but they have become much tighter each time I publish.

One super-fun part of putting the books together is working with my talented illustrator, Ben Brick. We tend to laugh a lot during our visits, which were all over the telephone instead of in-person this time and I appreciate his ability to take my thoughts and run with them.

Initially the cover art had Luke looking almost confident, which is not a trait or feeling he would say he holds (if fictional Luke were here to talk with.) (I wish he was. I miss him and his friends and the dragons and his folks and the teachers!)

This is Ben. He totally gets it.

With a bit of tweaking Ben made magic happen once again and I am in absolute love of the cover. A friend of mine in Colorado told me she totally judges books (and wine) by their covers and she said my covers absolutely attract her to my books.

When the final edit comes around (after initial editing and illustrations are taken care of) that is when there is potential for me to lose my brain. Its just intense and I really, really, really want people to enjoy the story and long for a book five when they are done. (The epilogue might cause you to yearn for a book one in a different direction….)

What complicated my final edit was the fact I had taken Floor days in July so I actually had some transactions to work on and eventually wrap up. (With the case load in Bismarck increasing at a crazy rate and Covid19 busting loose through the country, Potentially Typhoid Tanya has not been on the floor ever since.)

I’m not going to lie- I have been making time for this all summer, too.

So it was that last week I closed three real estate transactions while fitting in a few vaccine visits for puppies while fitting in a full day in Missoula that involved two oil changes, hot tub salts, 24 bottles of wine, groceries, grain, salt blocks and lawn care stuff and socially-distant Whoppers-with-cheese-no-onions, while meeting a cool client I have talked to for two years and spending a day and a half showing him local listings because he flew in from California just for this, while remembering that I didn’t remember to correctly format my book for Kindle Direct Press yet again and remembering that it takes a couple of days for me to figure that shit out, while finally publishing my book so we can all buy it online.

If you spoke with me last week and I seemed distracted, trust me, I was.

Sept.1st, 2020… Published!

There is just something about clicking the ‘Publish’ button for the final time.

And now I await my first order of fifty books.

And you can order on all Amazon outlets and any other online bookstore as well. Its also available on Kindle but that took me another couple of days to figure out because of that paragraph above and all of the other stuff I had to do last week.

I can’t wait for my first non-editor review. Alistair thinks its my best book yet but he could be biased. If you get it, I would love a picture of you with the book and I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts.

While my brain is now free to read other books I haven’t started yet. A golf magazine article here, a Covid19 online article there… baby steps for now. But maybe tonight I will start one of the cool-looking books hubby bought me for Christmas last year.


Or maybe I’ll sip wine and listen to the creek outside our bedroom door with a couple of lap kitties and just let myself sleep.

Ben’s awesome artwork for the inside cover!

Until We Meet Again



Me & Wanita in September

With a global pandemic going on and race-based protests happening coast-to-coast, it has been challenging to remember that real life is still going on out there.

Emotions are frayed, people are uppity, and confusion is the new norm. The fact so many people are complaining about the violation of their personal rights when they are asked to wear a mask is ridiculous on its own but it has led to in-person and social media arguments that have ended friendships and led to more anger and tension right now.

The global economy is suffering and there are many, many questions about the viability of restaurants and other small businesses. Hell, large chains are suffering, too with closures thrown in our faces every single day.

But real life is still going on.

Families have other things to deal with on top of covid19 and protests and riots.


Wanita & Byron in September

Like the fact my friend, Byron, lost his wife to stage 4 metastatic breast cancer almost 2 weeks ago.


Wanita was only 48.

That’s just way too frigging young.


Me, Melody, Cair and Wanita at our house a few years ago

This post is about Wanita and how she fought hard, bravely, until a recent Monday afternoon up in a hospital in southern Alberta, with her husband finally allowed to be by her side. It is about a really cool, unique woman with an independent streak and a mind of her own with the balls to say “fuck cancer” whenever she could.

Wanita and I have known each other since our school days in Grand Forks, BC.

She was among a group of friends who stayed close through marriages, college, moves, career changes, new aspirations (golf!) and our kids/pet-kids. I ran off on a sunny afternoon to stand by her side when she and Byron exchanged their vows and she introduced me to Greyhounds that very day.


Wanita in the upper L, Melody upper R and Jim and Adrian below… grad class of 1989

Wanita had a smart brain although she didn’t really enjoy high school. She excelled in the real world.

She wasn’t really into sleep overs or the student council or shopping at the mall in Kelowna. Her time to shine was with Byron by her side as a bright adult geared towards making herself better. She educated herself on everything she did, whether it was learning the game of golf or what her particular disease was going to do to her.

Like us, Byron and Wanita never had any children. They have an extended, well-loved family who was a huge part of their support system when Wanita first started to fight cancer. They also have 3 absolutely amazing exotic felines who enjoy camping trips and evening walks.


Spartan Race in Bigfork, MT in 2014!

She was gutsy and ballsy enough to really get into her fitness and all-around health a few years ago and even started doing those intense Spartan races. We were able to connect with her and Byron that year even though we never saw her compete. (Who knew we wouldn’t be able to find parking? The attendees at those things are cray-cray!)

I couldn’t believe the things she told us were a part of the obstacle course when we eventually met up in downtown Bigfork that afternoon. I knew, though, if anyone could set their mind to something and work their ass off to accomplish it, it was Wanita.


I can’t remember what on Earth we were laughing about here…

Just like she went about trying to beat cancer.

She researched the disease and a multitude of treatments and went to chemo and took the pills and gave herself injections and continued playing ladies’ league golf and learning yoga all while being a devoted wife and pet-parent and blogging about her experience fighting this monster.

Her disease was a ‘triple negative’ version of breast cancer. I wish she was here so she could explain it all a little more one more time. She fought her oncologist, the Canadian system and any nay-sayer who stood in her way. She wasn’t going to accept an end-stage diagnosis and that is just Wanita.


Cair, Wanita and Melody with us at Lindey’s steakhouse!

Wanita loved a good meal and we got to share a few over the years. She and Byron enjoyed dining in Vegas as well so it was a lot of fun to share two of our local restaurants with the girls when they visited a few years ago. Lindey’s steakhouse is always a hit (as long as you’re not vegan…!) and we also managed a fun night at the Double Arrow lodge’s restaurant, Seasons.


All of us at Season’s!

While Lei-Anne didn’t get to join us that particular trip, and the weather was cold and wet and not at all conducive to hiking our magnificent forest behind us, it was a great time for us to all catch up with our lives without jobs or kids or anything else to distract us from one another.

Wanita supported all of my zany ideas and career choices as my own live evolved over the many years we have been friends. She didn’t bat an eye when I went off to veterinary school and she was a steadfast supporter of my books.

When the opportunity to attend a large book event in her home town of Lethbridge was made available I checked the dates with her and booked it, without hesitation. We knew of her diagnosis at that point last year but she was doing well, was playing golf and working out and they were excited to share their kitties and new home with me. And we even got Lei-Anne there, too!


Wanita, me and Lei. My support team during Word on the Street last September.

We spent awesome quality time together before, during and after the book fair but these ladies were by my side most of that entire day (including during the video session off in the library where Wanita had to guide us where to go.) We laughed, we hugged, they told me not to give my books away, and then we were joined by a few more friends and a dear cousin and we all had supper out at one of Wanita and Byron’s favorite restaurants. More great food, more laughter with friends.

And as much fun as the book event had been, my favorite part of the trip was spending a day on Wanita and Byron’s golf course, Picture Butte, before spending the night with them and the kitties in their new home.

Wanita and I shared a late-blooming love of the game. We both became golf addicts not that long ago who mostly love playing with our husbands while wearing Loudmouth golf skorts.


Loudmouth golf skorts at Picture Butte… me in Hello Kitty and she in skulls… that’s how each of us rolls and it worked for us for years!

It was the first and only time we ever got to play a round together and it was full of sunshine, laughter, music, yummy snacks and great shots (especially when she holed-out from way back on the fairway early on!)

We had a great meal at their condo that night (butter chicken & rice!!!) and we pulled out the old yearbooks from GFSS and laughed and talked and shared for hours (while playing with Odin, Freya and Morrigan, too!)

We talked cat-talk and allergies and meds and we reminisced about the time she saved one of my American friends traveling through Alberta whose truck died at the border and the Americans wouldn’t let them back in. Wanita selflessly brought food for them and their dogs and helped Marjorie off the ledge.


Wanita and their fabulous feline kids in September!

We hugged and said our goodbyes after coffee and cat-cuddles the next morning and that was the last time I saw my friend in person.

The girls and I had been planning a visit earlier this spring until covid19 got in the way. Provincial and Federal borders closed, preventing any of us from getting to Alberta to see her. Thankfully Cair set up a Zoom session just a few weeks ago and we got to all laugh together and talk about our worlds. Wanita told us how her breathing was an issue whenever she would exert herself thanks to the new, intense chemo regimen she was on.

They had begun a very aggressive trial of chemicals because they discovered earlier this year that the cancer had spread.


It was in her spine, her pelvis, her scapulae, her femurs, and her ribcage.

It wasn’t in her heart or her brain, though, so she continued to research and battle her disease.


Taking aim a few years ago.

She had one blood transfusion to give her strength and another one was planned for sometime after our Zoom call.

But her breathing got worse and she could barely make it up 5 or 6 stairs and she couldn’t stay oxygenated and her lungs were damaged and Byron took her to the hospital during a global pandemic. He and her mother weren’t permitted to see her until the last few days where doctors told her it was only a matter of time.

Wanita and I messaged throughout it all and Byron and I did as well. He was scared because the love of his life was leaving him and there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it.

Wanita shared a final farewell to everyone on social media 3 days before she took her last breath with Byron by her side. It was so hard for him but so important for him to be right there when there was nothing more he could do for the most important person in his life.


Wanita and Sport- she definitely had a thing for the exotic kitties of the world.

Thanks to covid19 they had a drive-by celebration of life in the park I got to see that is right in front of their cute new home. Byron is planning on bringing her ashes to our home town in August for many more of us to share in celebrating one tough woman we all knew and loved.

I hope Canada will allow me to cross the border by then.

Until that time we will all continue to check in on each other and share our thoughts.

Because that’s all we can do, really.

And I can give my friend and her husband and their tremendous love for one another this tribute of my own that tells our story as well as their story.

And Wanita’s story.

Because she was one Helluva spirit that we were so fortunate to know and I wish you could have known her, too.

RIP, Wanita. Much love, Byron. xo


September, 2019


Bigfork, MT, 2014




Come Together by Staying Apart



My buddies in Isolation Nation

I didn’t make the title up. I got it from watching a video some guy  named Sheldon Watson made that is circulating the web via social media right now. Its a 2 minute video of Vancouver, BC, sort of one of my home towns, and its showing the stark reality that is Isolation Nation.

Canada seems to be getting it, at least. I’m proud of Canada and my Canadian friends and family who are going as equally stir-crazy as those of us Americans right now. No different than my friend and her family in Israel and my cousins-in-law in Scotland.

The video starts with an empty Lions Gate Bridge (!!!) and includes images of downtown Vancouver as well as the Burrard Street Bridge with nothing and nobody on it. The visual of the lone jogger on the sea wall was pretty intense, to be honest. It ends with the nightly clanging of pots and pans and cheers and whistles as Vancouverites support one another through this really difficult time.


Long walks with the barn cats. No more dogs means you take your cats for a walk.

I am so proud of so many people right now. We have come together by staying apart to keep the most vulnerable among us alive and keep our medical systems from being overwhelmed. You can’t say this virus isn’t real. By the time I finish this blog, more than 40,000 people will have died in 8 weeks in the United States alone. And that’s WITH social distancing and gutting our economy.

I am sad, though, when I see the protesters and how close they are to one another with stupid signs and ridiculous chants about our rights & freedoms. It isn’t your right to congregate and pass along a very infectious, potentially lethal, unseen virus and then go and see my husband at his Walk-in clinic and get him sick.

He is over 60. Healthcare workers get bombarded by this virus, often while not even knowing it.


Helena, MT rally today protesting Covid19 restrictions. Photo from MTN news.

But here they are, even in Montana, protesting without wearing masks or gloves and thumbing their noses at our state’s restrictions. Governor Bullock will decide this week what he’s going to do about “re-opening” the state (restrictions are set to end on the 24th of April.) We have 433 confirmed cases as of this morning and 10 deaths.

Our hospitals have not been overwhelmed because people have adhered to the stay-at-home policies. Curves have not flown off the charts and many have leveled a little, even in places like New York City.

Flattened curves, however, don’t mean the end of Covid19 spread. Not at all! We just slowed things down so that we don’t have to see the visuals of doctors and nurses wearing garbage bags flying around, patients in hospital beds lining hospital hallways and refrigerated trucks backing up to load the overwhelming number of bodies before the morgues and funeral homes can take them.

I have tremendous empathy for the folks in New York City and I take some comfort in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s briefings. He doesn’t sugar-coat anything and he shares his own empathy. I am so sorry for what their health care system continues to go through and I am so thankful we hopefully will see nothing like that.


More from today’s protest in Helena, MT. Photo from MTN news.

These rally/protest photos show people maybe sort of making a distancing effort but they aren’t all 6 feet apart. No frigging way. No gloves. No masks. Hey, Buddy with the cell phone… you going to wipe down that screen and then touch your face and breathe your possibly diseased air onto T-shirt there while shouting out the violation of your rights & freedoms?

How about my husband’s rights & freedoms?

Or my friends who are getting aggressive chemo right now for their cancers?


One of those very good friends… (xo, you guys)

I won’t be supporting anyone who wants to gather right now but I will support you in your struggle to maintain your sanity.

I get it.

I really do.

We are, as a nation and as a planet, scared.

And yet the planet is breathing a sigh right now because of the lack of airplane and vehicular traffic. Perhaps we will all realize we maybe don’t need to travel by car or truck as much as we have been.

Perhaps we can take this time to stop and really, truly think about how beautiful it is that we have made the effort to stop the rapid spread of the virus. Many of us are reaching out to our friends and loved ones more regularly than before. I have got to  know some people way more than I did before during screen time and because we are all reaching out.


More friends at the farm during Isolation Nation

One friend today simply asked us all how we are doing and how we are coping. She got a lot of heartfelt responses (along with one, “this virus is BS” post.)

It is not BS.

It is real. It is deadly. And I worry the fuck out of my husband being on the front lines in this country.

And he worries about bringing it home to me, too. While we are lucky we aren’t caring for elderly parents and we don’t have children in the house and we live at the end of a very long road that borders forest service, he still worries about me.

I will admit that I had a fever and chills when he was here the last time and I was up all night freaking out about it (like Chris Cuomo has talked about during the virus’s rampage through his own body… the anxiety likely leads to even more sweats and more chills and despite the need for sleep it continues to elude you.) (Perhaps the Sandman, himself, is self isolating!)


We did socially isolate together on a quiet golf course a couple of weeks ago… masks were on whenever people were nearby and the carts were heavily sanitized.

A day or 2 after my night of (I’ll admit it) fear (and sweat), Alistair got the call that one of his patients from his last time back had tested positive. They are trying to keep him from the testing side of the clinic but it IS the same clinic and the same parking lot and the same waiting room.

So did I have it? Maybe. I am asymptomatic and feel great. I never had a cough and my temperature was normal the next morning. I am 47 and don’t have any underlying conditions and I eat well.

Can I get it again if I had it? Nobody knows. Its a NOVEL virus. We’re all figuring this out as we go here.

Rest assured, if you see me out in public I will be wearing a mask and gloves. And I will stay the fuck away from you.


More “friends” in Isolation Nation here in my office.

I shall continue to try to post things that I learn and things that do not create hysteria. I will continue to be a real life voice from someone living this and from what my husband sees. His hospital’s models predict Bismarck will peak in mid-May. That’s still several weeks away so you will continue to not see me if I can help it.

I can do it. We have a lovely house and there’s that forest service and long driveway to hike. There’s the barn kitties, the indoor kitties, the Bee Gees and Fyfe’s Ornithological Society. I have my journal (I encourage you all to journal! Its healing, you can write whatever you want, nobody is going to check your spelling/grammar and it won’t be judged), I have my fourth book to finish, and I have recipes to play with.

I also have my sense of humor and my loving husband to talk with on a daily basis as we both give each other strength despite missing one another terribly.


I tried ground beef stroganoff last week and it was really, really good!

If you don’t have coping mechanisms then please reach out. Find someone to talk to or just send a private message.

Try to keep your head up and know you are not alone. Be like the Vancouverites who have turned the vibrant, beautiful city I know and love into a ghost town. My stepson, Gareth, lives there and he has shared how proud he is of the city for closing itself down.

Be #vancouverstrong, be #montanastrong, be #whereveryouwantobestrong.

But do it wearing a mask and gloves and from 6 feet away from me, please. Better yet, just stay home.


D’embe. Socially distancing himself from Jockey.


Jockey. Returning the favor.


Poor Professor Higgins, though, is a hugger. “Can you pick me up, please, Mummy. Lift with the knees…”



Isolation Nation



Not overly worried about TP but we do have other concerns!

These are trying times.

Unfortunately, things aren’t going to get any better.

Its mind boggling that people in leadership haven’t been paying attention to what was happening around the world and its also mind boggling how many people in the general public are not treating the Coronavirus seriously.

But this blog isn’t about placing blame or looking in the rear view mirror. Its about looking forward and learning how to survive living in Isolation Nation right now!


Dr.Hubby getting called back to work in ND early last week

You see, the medical community is ramping up in ways most of us have never seen in our lifetimes before. They are individuals who can’t choose to live in Isolation Nation outside of their jobs. Doctors, nurses, rad techs, CNAs, receptionists, janitors… they, along with restaurant workers, truck drivers, the police force and many others have to go to work to keep society running right now.

Retired medical workers have been asked to consider coming out of retirement because we all know the providers working the front lines (like Alistair at his Walk-in clinic in downtown Bismarck) are going to go down at some point.

The province of Alberta sent out emails asking for veterinarians to go onto lists for back-up medical coverage for when/if that happens. Alberta borders Montana to the north and even with the borders closed to non-essential travel its not like the virus knows its a different country.


the other Dr.Fyfe in Bismarck 2 days ago

This is a front-line physician’s reality right now.

Alistair does not have to wear that mask but its a mask that might save him from catching this thing. The smaller surgical masks are nowhere near as protective as this bad boy!

He also wears it so that when your grandpa with COPD who had hip surgery a couple of months ago comes to see him for a sore shoulder, he doesn’t give it to him on the very high chance he does contract Coronavirus.

Here’s the thing- we need to just stay home.


This is not staying home (not my picture) (thanks, Amy)

The doctors don’t want you all sitting in waiting rooms spreading disease around because this bug is going to ramp up this coming week like nobody’s business. If we all get sick at the same time we most certainly do not have enough hospital/ICU beds to care for us all. By staying home and avoiding one another we can hopefully prolong the spread of this disease over time and not overwhelm the medical system and drain all of the resources.

Not that everyone gets ill enough to require care in the ICU. I appreciate that and I feel well enough, myself, and I’m under 50 so hopefully I would be fine, if not even asymptomatic. But that’s another reason to stay home- you might have the damned virus and not know it. You could be spreading it to every cashier or nurse you come into contact with!


Costco last week (not my picture) This is NOT social distancing

Call it self-isolation, call it social distancing, come up with another cute term, whatever you want. Just. Stay. Home.

“But how?” you might ask.

For starters, just do it.

“But how do I survive?” you then inquire.

Okay, well, here’s where I might have some things to suggest. If you have kids you will have your hands full and I get that. I can’t relate but I get it. Home schooling is something most of you are probably doing right now and there are all sorts of on-line things available to help you with that. Online museums and concerts are also out there to enjoy with kids, too. You don’t have to sit at a tablet all day, either. Kids in school don’t sit in one spot all day so allow some movement and breaks.

Maybe introduce some home economics type of learning right now!


Home Ec class in the Wright home in Alberta! (not my picture) (Thanks, Nat!)

Crafty moms can work on cooking or sewing classes (seriously, these masks!) Handy dads could take the time to teach oil changes or basic carpentry right now. Kids are resourceful and often eager to learn new skills, especially ones that they can utilize as adults later on.

Just keep the family together and don’t do play dates or shared learning right now. Remember- stay home!


Andy… one of my roommates while in Isolation Nation

Pets also make terrific room-mates and maybe now is a time you can do some more close bonding with them. The Bee Gees got a full cleaning of Quebec after their own baths today and then they stayed out a bit longer than normal because, why not?

I spend more time outside in the mornings when I let the barn kitties out and I take longer to play/visit with them when I put them in at night. On a beautiful day like today I sit outside with them looking at the blue sky and melting snow.


This afternoon’s front door view

Maybe take some time during this self imposed break from reality to practice meditation or yoga and/or develop a real appreciation for nature. If you live in Seeley Lake like I do then there is plenty of nature to fall in love with again. You can even hike and explore nature with your family and dogs but please, please, please don’t do it in groups!

Its hard to be away from people, especially if you are a true extrovert. I am not sure if I’m an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert but I can honestly say that I love my time at home with the beautiful forest outside our back door.

While all indoor gyms and sports should be halted right now, there is one outdoor activity that is almost geared at avoiding people- golf!


Socially distancing ourselves on opening day at Canyon River last week!

If you stick with your roommates and drive in the same vehicle and share the same golf cart and practice some basic rules, golf can be an okay activity at this time (and its great to be outdoors!)

New rules, though: 6 feet away from people; wipe down your cart; don’t share clubs or borrow anything from another golfer (tees, balls, ball markers); don’t remove the flag; don’t toss your partners their ball (don’t touch their ball!); give & take gimmies; try not to let your ball drop; don’t sign credit card slips; no clubhouse visiting; wash your hands. And, when you’re done, go home and stay home.


Scott’s yummy salmon steaming away!

How about doing some learning of your own while you’re in Isolation Nation? My online Rouxbe cooking courses are awesome and I’ve missed doing them. Hopefully I can catch up on a few of them again. ( I never steamed salmon before Rouxbe and last week I got some filets out of the freezer and they were delightful!

There are all sorts of companies online and even on Facebook that offer cooking courses as well as online education where you can learn all sorts of new things. We are never too old to learn something. Remember to take breaks from the screen, too, to refresh your eyes and think about the things you’ve learned.

Learn about wines! Learn about history! Learn about architecture! When everyone eventually gets back to work you won’t have the time and you don’t want to be looking back thinking, “Gee, why didn’t I do something like that?”


Another roomie snuggling up with me last night

Something everyone in the family can  do while exploring Isolation Nation is to start a journal. I’ve kept a journal since I was 8 and I have recently started to be far more consistent for awhile now. (Some of that has to do with my new pens… good grief, a new addition- check out The Sparkle Trail- Sparkle Pens on Facebook and tell Katherine that Tanya sent you!)

Keeping a journal right now is a great idea for all sorts of reasons. It allows you a safe space to share your absolute true feelings. It lets you get those feelings out of your head which can be quite freeing and therapeutic. It also creates a place to return to when you face challenges in the future- something to remind yourself how badass you had to be when Coronavirus began its crusade around our planet.

It is also a piece of history for when your children and their children hear of COVID-19 and the stock market crash and how so many countries faced frightening times.


My current journal (from Whitney!) and one of my sparkle pens by Katherine!

Definitely don’t let your self-care go by the wayside right now.

Our physical and mental health are important during these trying, often frightening times. Walk with family (away from people) or take an afternoon drive with your partner. Have a family dance party in the living room. Cuddle all of the pets and give each one individual time- I’m sure most pets are loving having their humans home right now!

Please check on any seniors living nearby or friends who have a bunch of kids at home and even single friends who might be away from family. A phone call, a text or a private message may be the one contact they have on a day and we need to protect each other from the loneliness that can creep in during an unprecedented time like this.

And if you do have to go out… please, please, please stay 6 feet away, don’t shake hands, don’t hug, wear gloves, wear a mask, cough into your elbow and then get home and wash your hands and maybe your clothes and stay home.

Keep the ICU beds available for the young woman who needs a C-section or the folks who were in a car accident. Those things are still going on right now and they have to share the care with Corona-virus victims.

Thank-you, everyone on the front lines and in those jobs where you have to work.

Be well. Be safe.

And stay home.


I had to get in for a vet appt yesterday but I made sure to try to protect myself and my clients!


Professor Higgins is loving Isolation Nation!


I love you, Hon! Be safe and thank you for working on the front lines for us all! xo