A Different World

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Pretty skies over central and western Montana last week

I had an extended drive home to Montana from Bismarck, North Dakota last week which provided an opportunity to reflect on these past ten years since we moved to Seeley Lake.

There isn’t much about our worlds that has stayed the same. Other than the fact Alistair spends half his time in Bismarck and I primarily live in Seeley Lake, most aspects of our worlds are completely different now.

While Alistair still runs an urgent care, Walk In clinic in downtown Bismarck, he now works for Sanford Health, not MedCenter One and he’s in a different building than he was in 10 years ago.

As far as careers go, I was working 3 days a week in Missoula and 2 days here in Seeley Lake and I hadn’t leapt into opening my own clinic yet.

 

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Cute little clinic I eventually opened.

Alistair and I spent Christmas apart that very first winter and we hadn’t even taken possession of our beautiful mountain home yet.

I was still skating well and able to land double jumps because I had been coaching regularly while working part time at a veterinary clinic before we came to Montana. I managed to skate in Missoula a few days a week the first year and even guest skated in the club’s year-end ice show.

 

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Missoula skating club program. I loved that dress!

 

While I had a blast returning to the ice in Canada to coach this past summer, there’s no way I’d be able to curve around the ice in a pretty spread eagle and then 3-turn into a double loop like I could in Bismarck 10 years ago.

In fact, I could barely get up after kneeling to line up a putt after the first week of high level choreography, power skating, stroking and general coaching.

Speaking of lining up putts, I would have laughed hysterically if you had told me, 10 years ago, that Alistair and I would be addicted to golf now.

 

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Seeley Swan Veterinary golf team members…. the first round of golf for us together!

 

What began as a whimsical day of laughter and drinks as we swung and missed and broke golf clubs at the local pond hockey fundraiser has turned into an obsession. One that we’re both jonesen’ for now that both of our courses have closed for the season.

We have a course in Washburn, North Dakota we enjoy playing on and one here in Seeley Lake. Both are often pretty quiet so we can play “Fyfe Golf” and shamelessly hunt for balls to keep the cheap Doukhobor and the even cheaper Scotsman happy. And both courses are beautiful, as well, each with its own unique quirks and challenges.

 

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Playing at Painted Woods in ND this summer.

We take our clubs with us everywhere, even on flights and we’ve been able to enjoy rounds in Vancouver, Saskatoon, Regina, a teensy town outside of Regina, Kenmare, Medora, Fernie, Whitefish, Missoula, Helena, and all over Kauai, the Big Island and Maui. We’ve both improved immensely and we can’t wait to get back out there!

We even made time to hit the indoor driving range when I was back in Bismarck last week. We both got the Big Bucket and hit balls until our shoulders sagged and our thighs were sore. And we loved it!

 

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At the indoor driving range last week!

And I’m reminded of another change right now as the house is full of the unmistakable smell of yummy food that’s been simmering away for hours. While I was a good cook 10 years ago its as though my culinary skills are now on steroids since I won a Rouxbe online cooking course earlier this year.

Its a win-win for everyone who visits because of the cool things I’ve learned and the things I’ve tried. Steamed chicken? Who knew? The ridiculously challenging Pasta Boscaiola full of creamy mushrooms and diced prosciutto- Wow!

 

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Steamed lemon-garlic chicken I tried for the first time a few nights ago.

I’m learning the how’s and why’s of things and creating flavors and flavor profiles that I never understood before. I could follow a recipe just fine but now I actually get the order of things and how to maybe make something better. I usually only do the online lessons when Alistair isn’t here and it has been a fun addition to my life. Right now I’m simmering my own chicken stock (I just added the Bouqet Garni) that I’m making using chicken bones & bits I normally would have thrown out from roasted chickens that I never used to make but we just love to eat now!

 

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Simmer away, my pretty! (pre bouquet garni.)

I’ve also re-invented myself in that I took the time when I closed my clinic to live the childhood dream and write a book. Then I learned all about self publishing and since I began I have created a series of 3 upbeat, light-hearted, won’t-make-you-question-life-God-or-the-world, teen fiction books that are loved by people of all ages.

Lost and Found in Missing Lake, the first book, was a dream come true, even if it was pretty frightening putting myself and my imagination out there. The covers for the 2nd and 3rd books are fabulous works of art done by our friend, Ben Brick who is a graphics artist and this winter I’m focusing on trying to get the books some more attention.

 

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My 3rd book, published this spring! 

I just love writing and creating characters and worlds and I’ve been able to combine my passion for veterinary medicine in this series and its been so well-received that this winter instead of getting going on book 4, I’ve decided to work with a media marketing group and try to grow my distribution.

I want to share more of Luke and Tabitha’s story with my fans but it would be even better if I could have way more fans to share it with.

I do get to write all year with this little blog thing I now do that I certainly didn’t do 10 years ago. Heck, I had no clue about social media 10 years ago and thought blogging was for people with nothing better to do.

 

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Me, writing last week’s blog.

No offense, Bloggers. I didn’t think much of golfers 10 years ago, either!

The blog has been great for my writing and for promoting my book and for connecting with individuals around the world. It has, most importantly for me, though, been an unexpected outlet for me to share my thoughts, fears and worries when I have to face choices and loss with our animal companions.

Sadly, 10 years ago we had 4 dogs and 11 cats (3 of them were barn kitties.) In the 10 years we grew to a family that included another dog, 2 guinea pigs and up to 3 ferrets at our peak.

 

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Cleo, Casey, UB and Harry… not all that long ago, really.

A blessing to closing my clinic was being able to spend such amazing quality time with all of these cool spirits and I’ve been sharing their stories with the blogosphere. It has been wonderful having you all get to know “the kids”

Phillipa, Calypso and Luigi were outstanding ferret ambassadors and I wish I could be singing Christmas carols on the Sing-Song Saddle with them to share with you all right now but, sadly, that’s not the case.

But I was able to write through my feelings and sort of sort them out through my fingers on this screen. 10 years ago I had my journal (which I still maintain) and now I have this platform as well.

 

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Do you know how hard it used to be to get them all facing the camera?

Our horse collection was a lot larger 10 years ago and included our gorgeous stallion, Dash, who we had to say goodbye to a couple of summers ago. The broodmares, Raven and Cocoa are now buried alongside my riding horse, Spyder, along with Flash and Brutus as these 10 years has taken its toll on the herd.

The remaining bunch are wintering again in North Dakota and their fuzzy hair coats are a sign that the cold weather is coming.

 

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Siblings, Fumie & Frankie just last week!

Its pretty mild in North Dakota so far this winter, though. I just got off the phone with Alistair and he was outside on the tractor moving hay from here to there for a large part of the day and never had to come inside or shove his toes into a heater to get warm.

I’ve strained my broth and have it cooling and its almost time to put the noodles into the crock pot. I had a brisk walk up the driveway with our one remaining pup, Cleo, who is 14 and also isn’t the same as she was 10 years ago.

She has a wicked heart murmur (not as loud as Loki’s was, mind you), she’s completely deaf and her back legs don’t do what they’re supposed to all of the time. We keep her on meds for arthritis and she’s inside most of the time and she seems content to just be with us.

 

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Miss Cleopatra last week in Bismarck

And we never used to go to Hawaii but that is a part of our world now and the Grand Prix final of figure skating happened this weekend and a good friend is there with his Canadian champ and I wear glasses to read and Alistair now makes me Caesars and he’s a martini-man instead of a scotch man and our Relaxation Grotto out back is finally coming together where 10 years ago it was a deck and I sleep better and more than I used to, give or take a random insomnia spell, and my hair is shorter than its been in years and I sling bling and I’m working on something else that is all a part of improving my marketability and I really, really want people to read my books!

A lot has happened in 10 years for the Fyfes and some of its been a wild ride and other times we’ve just coasted through the changes like pros, often not even aware changes were occurring.

Thankfully our love of big breakfasts and yummy meals with good coffee or a fine wine together hasn’t changed.

Neither has the ongoing crib match.

 

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Who ARE these people?

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My first book event in Bismarck!

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We love Aloha!

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2005 with a very young Cleopatra in Bismarck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Olympic Season Upon Us

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Savchenko & Massot of Germany en route to gold last weekend in Lake Placid. (None of these photos are mine except for the one that I am in below.)

I’m happy when I’m figure skating.

There is nothing like gliding on the ice with the cool breeze whooshing my hair from my face as I hear the edge of my blade rip into the ice or when I just know I’m going to nail a landing even when I’m rotating in the air on a jump.

I felt free and pretty when I skated well and the sport gave me confidence to address and attack all other aspects of my life.

As obvious as it seems, the sport taught me to get back up after each and every fall, no matter if it hurt my body or my dignity and no matter how many people were watching.

I learned to take responsibility for my actions through skating. It was nobody else’s fault when I singled a lutz or dropped my shoulder on a take-off.

 

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Returning to the ice as a coach this summer in Manitoba.

I so enjoy the smile on a student’s face when they try something I’ve suggested and it actually works.

Or when one of my former students shares photos of their own children now wearing ice skates. One of my main goals as a coach is to instill the love I have of the sport onto my skaters. If they love it enough to put their own kids into the sport then I’ve done something right, regardless of how many gold tests they pass or gold medals they win.

 

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Canadians Meghan and Eric at Skate Canada last month

And I absolutely love watching great skaters enjoying themselves as they perform to the best of their abilities. Its fun watching people have fun!

Which is why I was able to cap off this season’s Grand Prix last weekend with a smile on my face, a Caesar  in my hand, a cat or two in my lap and hubby on the couch next to me.

Last weekend was Skate America, held in Lake Placid, NY, home of lots of historic on-ice memories for figure skating and hockey fans. The international skaters competed over 3 days and on top of the usual drama this sport provides, there were some absolutely bizarre events that took place.

Like the last group of the men’s free program.

 

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Daniel Samohin, lopsided arms and all.

It started with a hard fall on a quad for Israel’s Daniel Samohin. The guy is a powerhouse and he’s well known for some wonky air positions and hard-ass body slams but this time his off-kilter, under rotated body came crashing down onto his shoulder. You could almost see it pop out.

He immediately threw his left arm out erratically in font of him, trying to get the clearly dislocated shoulder back into place. He called out for them to kill the music (which seemed to take forever) and for some medical assistance (which never came) and gingerly made his way off the ice.

I’ve got to say, that was a first for me as a viewer and judging from the horrified, tear-streaked faces among the audience, I’m not alone there.

 

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Adam Rippon, drama king

Next up we had American, Adam Rippon, who has a flare for drama and a penchant for full-body spandex. There was a bit of a delay as the referee had him attend to errant sequins all over the ice (not sure if they were from his own body bling or not) so he got to regroup with his coach before eventually starting his program.

Which led to a missed quad lutz and then another weird fall which caused him to get up and just stand there with a dazed look on his face. As his music continued he sort of rubbed his shoulder, the crowd groaned and then he took off to complete the rest of his program perfectly. Rightly so, he earned the silver medal behind countryman, Nathen Chen.

 

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Nathan Chen, gold medalist

But even Nathan’s routine was strange because the Quad King, who was the first man to ever land 5 quadruple jumps in one program last season, who was a dancer before a he committed full time to skating and actually has artistry to back up the jumps, and who rarely ever misses a jump, kind of bombed on a few elements. He looked as confused as everyone else but he had racked up enough points in the short and with the jumping passes he nailed to take the gold medal.

And there was a weird 15-minute delay during the final group due to a computer glitch for the judging panel.

The next day, the ladies provided some surprises as well as a sort of surprise. Sort-of. Kind of, in a way, not really, though, but I’ll explain.

 

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Bradie Tennell

Bradie Tennell was my favorite surprise of the entire event. Who is she,  you ask? (Everyone was asking that question!) Bradie happens to be the bronze medalist at Skate America who is competing for the first time as a senior lady who only got one international assignment this season. She was fabulous!

Lyrical, graceful, charming, Bradie has it all,  not to mention a full arsenal of triple jumps that are fully rotated and as strong on the landing as they are when she takes off. I was tickled watching her because the States is in a bit of a quandary without an Ice Princess right now.

The states is known for having elite female figure skaters. Jill Trenary, Caryn Kadavy, Elaine Zayak, Michelle Kwan, Nancy Kerrigan, Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Sasha Cohen…. these ladies were sparkly wonders who claimed top podium positions over the last 20 years.

 

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Ah, Sasha Cohen!

 

But this year? With the Olympics (provided Trump doesn’t piss North Korea off anymore) just a couple of months away? Nobody?

Sadly, if you are wondering about Gracie Gold, the much hyped former US champ who oozed class, talent and style a few years ago, is sitting the season out.

 

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Gracie Gold, in better times.

Gracie announced she was skipping the Grand Prix season due to treatment for depression and an eating disorder. You may be surprised that this isn’t more common in a sport where we go through puberty in spandex in front of the entire world.

It actually is common, you just don’t hear about it. The powers-that-be have always tried to hide eating disorders under the rug so that parents will continue to put their kids into skating. I’m sure gymnastics is the same way.

Tai Babalonia of the US, who skated pairs with Randy Gardener was the first popular skater to address eating disorders but many have been quiet about the subject ever since. I lost a skating colleague, Barb Phipps due to organ failure from her bulimia back in the 80’s. And Russia’s Olympic darling, the expressive, determined, bendable Julia Lipnitskia has retired just this season admittedly to seek treatment for her own eating disorder.

 

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Lipnitskia, helping Russia win the Team Event in Sochi.

Figure skating isn’t without its demons but I’ll leave that for another time because we need to get another Ice Princess for this country so that every little girl and her parents can watch the Olympics and want to be just like her!

I hope its Bradie Tennell who stands on top of our national podium in January. I think it needs to be gold for USFS to name her to the Olympic team, though, because she’s unchallenged but she’s the only one of our top ladies who has sparkled and shone this season so far.

 

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Ashley Wagner, short program, Skate America

Try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to love Ashley Wagner. Its not that I don’t like her. Heck, I don’t know her personally. But I find myself rolling my eyes whenever she talks about being the “underdog” or when she reminds everyone of her “determination.” She won bronze at Skate Canada this fall with 2 so-so programs and lot of under-rotations because the other women didn’t skate up to their standards.

She came into the long program in Lake Placid needing to be determined because her short program kind of sucked.

It fell apart in dramatic fashion, though, after a missed opening triple-triple and a landed jump combination. She did a spin and then just stopped. Not quite like her training-mate, Adam Rippon. It was different. She had a poopy-pants look on her face and she stopped and stood there before eventually going over to her coach.

 

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AshWags. Standing there (that dress, though!)

Raf, her coach, gestured at her to go & talk to the referee and just like that she withdrew.

To media she has implied that this event wasn’t important enough for her to continue to skate with an apparent skin infection on her ankle. Personally, if I hadn’t been training well and my skin was sore in my boot, I would have withdrawn ahead of time and allowed another skater to participate.

So my hopes aren’t super high for Ashley, nor are they high for our current national champ, Karen Chen, who has changed both of her programs a couple of times already this season. (She bombed at Skate America). Mirai Nagasu is a dark horse and she has landed triple axels this year but she’s a headcase with no transitions and pleasing choreography.

 

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Mirai Nagasu last season. When she’s on she can be very good!

The American team will be strong in Ice Dance, at least and I’m once again so happy to see the Shibutanis having a successful season so far.

The Shib-sibs have returned to Coldplay to weave a fabulous tale with their free dance. I enjoyed watching them skate because they looked like they were having the time of their lives at Skate America.

 

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The Shibutanis. Coldplay. Gold medals. Boom.

They’ll have to face the glorious French ice dancers as well as the Italians, all of the Russians and the beloved Canadians, Tessa and Scott at the Olympics, though, not to mention the other strong American teams and I’ll admit to hoping the Canadians come out on top.

 

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Tessa & Scott’s edgy, latin-themed short dance.

Their short dance this season combines latin themes with the set-pattern-dance, the Rhumba (all of the teams have the same short dance theme, which means many of us will be needing a smoke after the event is over.) Scott and Tessa ooze sex appeal and their chemistry on the ice is unrivaled.

Then there’s their free dance to Roxanne from Moulin Rouge (wiping more sweat from my brow.) Their knee bend is phenominal, their moves are incredible, and the choreography is outstanding. I want to be like them when I grow up!

 

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From Skate Canada earlier this season en route to another gold medal.

In pairs right now everything is up in the air (see what I did just there?)

France has the sexy Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres. Canada’s former world champs, Duhamel and Radford won Skate Canada but they are veterans whose bodies might not be able to hold those triple lutz landings. American pairs teams haven’t produced an ounce of excitement this season so far and tend to not fare well internationally anyhow.

Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova & Vladamir Morozov (the tallest figure skating red head I’ve ever seen) are a threat for the podium thanks to their consistency and what seems like a really sweet connection to one another but China has Sui and Han, the current world champs and I don’t know if anyone can beat the diminutive dynamos.

 

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Tarasova & Morozov in France last month, heading for gold.

The Chinese team has grown up and matured on the global stage and despite his stature, they really whip out the tricks. Their quad split-twist is a thing of beauty and they even go for a throw quad now and then. Its really fun watching them have fun especially now that they’ve learned to relate to one another on the ice.

 

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Wenjing Sui & Cong Han

Clearly I can talk about figure skating for hours. As I’ve said before, its my first language and I’m fluent in it.

And its sparkly and pretty and athletic and dynamic and musical and graceful and artistic all at the same time. Especially when its done right!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the state of figure skating if you have any and I’d be the first person to be thrilled if Ashley Wagner wins back her national title and skates her heart out in South Korea. Her work is cut out for her facing Russian phenom, Evgenia Medvedeva and Canadian, Katelyn Osmand but we’ll see.

You never know what will happen on the ice. Its slippery out there.

Which all adds to the drama that I love so much! And while I won’t go into the costumes this season, I’ll merely state that ombre is the new black.

 

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We miss you, Gracie. Get well!

 

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Pairs podium at Skate America last weekend.

 

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Canadian showgirl in Japan… strike a pose!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Really Want

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Hubbel and Donohue, last night in Japan (not my photo).

I’d like to tell you all my thoughts on this weekend’s Grand Prix of figure skating event that took place in Japan, the annual NHK Trophy.

I’d love to share my joy at the amazing level of ice dancing right now, and how emotional all the top skaters were in their performances, including the Americans shown above, who placed second.

I could tell you all about Tessa and Scott’s sleek, sexy outfits and how they brought tears to my eyes as I watched their free dance last night and how relieved he must have felt to nail the twizzle section that almost took him down during their short dance.

But there’s a bigger, more important elephant in the room and its the reason I’m already crying right now.

 

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UB Fyfe… last winter

I have to tell you all that UB has died.

Our amazing, cuddly, loving, sometimes-serious, protective, friendly littlest buddy crossed over the Rainbow Bridge all on his own at the very end of October and our hearts and our world haven’t been the same ever since.

 

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Inspecting the newly delivered wood for big mice just a few weeks ago.

This wasn’t something we had been expecting or planning for.

UB Pickles Napolean Jumping Jack Flash Serge Savard Spinorama Fyfe was supposed to be hiking alongside us in the forests out back for years.

He was supposed to eagerly climb into his ‘Steve Austin’ smoking-jacket right now and for the next few months as we would be stretching our legs along our long driveways.

 

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Looking dapper in his smoking jacket earlier this year.

He was supposed to be Cleo’s assistance dog as she prances into old age with deaf ears and rear legs that don’t work as well as they used to. He was supposed to be Bebe’s boyfriend as our strange grey kitty continues to find her voice and place in our world.

We fully expected him to continue to charm the snot out of everyone who visited as he made friends with all of our friends and family who came to the Fyfe Farm. Anybody’s lap was fair game if you sat on the couch and full-body contact was preferred, if not expected.

 

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UB, Cleo & Uncle Pete a couple of years ago.

UB, the king of all laps, was supposed to find a few more over the next few years. With zero concept of personal space, UB should have spent a great more deal of time firmly squared away with someone’s arm wrapped around him.

 

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Last May in Bismarck.

And UB was supposed to pack up into one of the trucks yet again with Cleo & I on our next trip to Bismarck. And the trip after that, too. And maybe another trek to Canada as well. He had a knack for keeping Cleo and Loki calm when we travelled and he made the most out of wherever he landed as long as we were all together.

 

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Travels with Mummy & Loki up to BC in 2014.

 

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Our return trip from our month-long evacuation in Bismarck just weeks ago.

UB was only 9 years old so it didn’t seem to be a big deal when he developed a tiny, dry, little cough a few weeks ago after we returned from Bismarck. It certainly didn’t slow him down and he mostly did it when we first went out for a run (always at full speed) or when he first leapt out from under the comforter each morning.

And, hey, half of Seeley Lake is still coughing and dealing with sinus issues after the months-long Rice Ridge fire brought thick, grey smoke into our world and our lungs for what seemed like an endless summer. Even though we evacuated to North Dakota for a month I still put UB’s cough down to the smoke.

Because he was still UB.

 

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“Helping” Daddy edit my 3rd book this spring.

Playing, eating, jumping, snuggling, awesome UB.

But then maybe he was sleeping a little bit longer in the mornings.

And maybe it was noticeable that he stayed pretty close to us whenever we walked outside.

And perhaps he was actually a bit clingy during evening Couch Time when Daddy was in Bismarck for his two weeks.

 

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Evacuees in Bismarck this fall.

Which was all stored up in my head and my heart as I made arrangements for our fall house-sitter to come for our planned trip to the Big Island of Hawaii on October 26th.

Because that’s what I’d like to be telling you all about right now.

Sunshine, mai tais, old friends and new ones, my golf game, the enormous resort, incredible seafood, the annual veterinary dermatology conference and some much-needed Aloha.

 

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A very different kind of Aloha.

There was Aloha, alright, but it just wasn’t right.

My husband and my heart weren’t there.

Because a couple of days before our trip, UB suddenly stopped eating.

Just like that.

We coaxed some canned food, some bacon, and some of our own breakfast and supper but he mostly just looked at it. He didn’t touch the cat food dish either, and Doctor Me told Mummy Me that its never normal for a dog like UB to repeatedly refuse food. Particularly with nothing else really wrong.

Well, there was that little cough…

 

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In Missoula, this spring. “Pay attention to the road, Mummy!”

So on October 25th, UB and I drove to Missoula while Alistair packed and we visited our internal medicine veterinary friend, Dr.Dave.

He and his assistant enjoyed getting to meet our happy little guy although he did seem a bit more subdued than normal. He was a perfect monkey for his ultrasound and for his chest x-ray and he seemed endearingly more concerned about me when I lost my shit in the truck when we left the clinic.

UB’s heart wasn’t the problem. It may have been a bit on the large size but everyone who has met him already knew that.

His lungs looked like a blizzard thanks to a ton of cancer throughout both sides.

 

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UB’s lungs. 😦

(His head is off to the left, that’s his sternal bones on the bottom and his big heart is surrounded by white patches where the lungs should just be black.)

We don’t know what type of cancer UB had but it sure came out of nowhere and took us all by complete and total surprise.

And so we started prednisone at a high enough dose to get him to eat. And we gave more bacon and canned cat food that night as we continued to hold and kiss our special little friend.

Neither of us slept that night. Thankfully, UB was all up for cuddles under and on top of the covers with both Daddy and I.

 

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October 26th after Alistair got back from the airport.

At 3 in the morning, when our alarm was set to go off, Alistair said he would stay with UB. Even though UB loved our house-sitter and knew her well, it was what needed to be done. (I had already tried cancelling flights and resort bookings but it wasn’t going to happen.)

So I somehow got ready and even as we were ready to leave I ran down the hallway for one more hug and kiss from our loverboy. Which turned out to be the last ones for him and I.

And I flew to Hawaii and I wish I could be telling you about the fun couple I met as well as the really weird guy they put next to me because he was making a scene thanks to his size and window-seat ‘needs’ but he managed to fit into Alistair’s seat and shove his body against mine for 5 1/2 hours (and he didn’t open the window shade once!)

I wish I could tell you all about the resort but, to be honest, I wasn’t really there the first few days.

 

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day 1, post golf game, with the resorts adorable UB statues!

My heart was back home with my family and I lived for every text and update from Alistair.

The wonderful news is that UB had a couple of outstanding days. Alistair tweaked his steroids enough to get him really excited about food again and UB ate like the king he was! He rode in the Ranger with Daddy and they hiked and stacked wood and cuddled together on the couch and watched old Star Treks together in bed.

 

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Sunset from my lanai.

And I cried but I smiled, too, because UB got to truly enjoy his final few days with Cleo and Daddy and the kitties, too, even if I wasn’t there. He heard my voice on the phone the last day after he’d had a huge breakfast and even some snacks before I went off to my conference, where my close friends knew the reason why Alistair wasn’t there.

And so it was, on the early evening of the 28th, with Alistair outside in the hot tub and UB and Cleo running around in the leaves, that UB laid down peacefully by our back deck and, taking control of everything like always, he died.

Just like that.

 

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Couch Time last winter with UB.

And he’s gone and I cried my eyes and heart out alone in my hotel room in Paradise. And I continued to cry whenever it was safe to do so and sometimes even when it wasn’t over the next few days on the island.

And Alistair was suddenly very alone inside our big house in Montana.

I wasn’t alone during the days, though. There’s nothing quite like a conference full of veterinarians to make you feel some sympathy and love. And the outpouring of love and compassion and people telling me they were crying when I posted the news on social media was raw, real and heart-felt and I appreciated every comment and reaction shared.

 

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Getting by with a little help from my friends. Liz, from Vancouver, and her family happened to be vacationing island-style that time, too.

I’d like to be able to tell you all that we’re doing just fine and everything is honky-dorey but that would be a lie.

I’m happily back in Montana and Alistair was able to stay a few extra days with me which helped immensely. I’m not sure how well I could have  kept it together otherwise without UB in the house. And now Alistair is working in Bismarck and Cleo and I are getting into our own new routines with the cats.

I’m thankful that UB didn’t suffer. Ever.

Thankful he found us 9 years ago and was such a perfect Fyfe family member and sibling to all the other pets (maybe not the guinea pigs, although we still aren’t sure what went down that day…)

Even more thankful that so many of you got to meet and fall in love with our Boston Terrier, Cocker Spaniel cross who flicked his feet when he trotted, ran that kissing booth with his fetching underbite, sat like a human on any chair he could as long as we were with him and slammed Subarus and their dreadlocked, hippie, ten-and-two-in-my-Subaru, patchouli smelling, bra-burning slow drivers with abandon.

 

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Well played, Uncle Gary & Aunty Dona. Well played….

I miss those soul-searching brown eyes as he would just stare at me. I miss hearing him prance around the house to find us. I miss his naughty paw-pulling he did when it was time for nail trims and I miss watching him burrow into the magic blanket.

 

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Handsome dude!

What I really want right now is UB.

I want the last 4 weeks to not have happened.

I want to pick the smoking jacket up off the freezer and watch UB joyfully hold his arms out for me to wrap it on him.

I want to take him and Cleo for walkies and for him to mix up words in a song and for us to make a funny video with him taking to everyone tonight.

But that’s not real.

 

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“Excuse me, Barkeep! Some beverages for my Mummy and me, please!”

What’s real is the hole in my heart and the lump in my throat and the tears streaming down my cheeks. What’s real is Cleo’s need for a walk today and my concern that she’s also really missing her younger brother. The silence is real. The empty dog dish is real. UB’s collar and cute new name tag lying on the counter in the laundry room are real.

What’s real is the pain… which means the love was that real in itself.

And I’m honored to have been able to share UB with you all.

RIP, UB. Oh, how you are loved.

 

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Last fall when we were at the conference UB loved taking his meals with Theresa and Brian in the kitchen! (Theresa’s photo)

 

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UB and Loki, 2 of the most famous and well-loved spirits at the Dog Days of Summer a few years ago.

 

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I believe this was post-op back surgery for Alistair… classic UB. One of my favorites of these two!

 

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UB on Aunty Merielle’s bed during her first visit to MT in 2013. Not my photo. The eyes really are the window to the soul. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture This

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I chuckled quite a bit this past week as a few orange boxes arrived with the daily mail.

And I’ll chuckle some more this coming week because a couple more are due to show up.

 

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Orange box #1.

If you’ve ever created something with your photographs with Shutterfly then you know they do a great job and they have all sorts of neat things to make. I’ve made personalized, unique calendars, playing cards, canvas collages, tote bags, stationary and more through the company over the years which has been fun for gift-giving at Christmas time.

Its especially fun to create useful items that share our memories when I want to give something to Alistair. And its even better when its something we’ll see or use on a regular basis!

 

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Fun ways to feed our cribbage habit.

But this recent round of orange box deliveries has me giggling because its an order that should have cost me about $300 but instead I only paid the shipping.

This is all because of Alistair’s former diet Coke habit, which has since become a diet Ginger Ale habit. It is also because I’m a relentless point-scorer if there are points to be tallied up on the off-chance I could win or earn something for cheap.

For years (I mean it, years), we’ve entered codes from every 12-pack of pop that Alistair brought home and apparently those points added up. You could go in and redeem points for gift cards or more pop or a mouse pad that said Coke on it but I just let our points add up.

And up.

And up some more.

 

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The 2017 wall calendar that went out to my family for Christmas last year.

Until Coca-Cola decided they were ending the program and we had to use up our points by Sept.30th. It turned out there were a lot of Shutterfly things we could get!

Like 3 14 x 10 canvas prints! (due to arrive this coming week…)

And 4 8 x 10 photo enlargements (coyote pups shown below…)

A cute tote bag and a deck of playing cards featuring the beautiful misty grey morning Alistair captured in 2011 at Holland Lake Lodge (playing cards shown above…)

A 12-month wall calendar (which won’t have actual photos from Oct, Nov or December in them from this year thanks to the deadline…) (also due to arrive this week…)

 

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Free 8 x 10 of the pups from this spring next to our beloved husky, Harry.

 

And we were also able to snag 800 4 x 6 photo prints.

Yes. That’s right. 800.

800 photos I got from memory cards, my phone, old computers, old cameras, Facebook and Instagram. Photos that took me hours to find and then download to the main PC and sort through and choose and then eventually load onto my Shutterfly account.

It was as tedious as it sounds but I’m a cheap Doukhobor who wasn’t going to let those points and something free slip away from me!

 

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Me. Cheap Doukhobor.

Most of the photos have arrived, which is what led to my chuckling last week.

You see, there’s tremendous irony in all of this in that we will now have to buy a bunch of photo albums. Albums that we’ll spend a couple of days packing into boxes and loading into the horse trailer when we get evacuated again thanks to the forest fire in our back yard 10 years from now.

 

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Where every photo album we own currently resides only the truck & trailer are now in North Dakota after our evacuation party in August. 

Which brings me to our unevacuation a couple of weeks ago.

We drove the 2 trucks with 2 dogs and 3 cats and some of our belongings back to smoky Montana after being gone for a month. The pets came through with cuddles and purrs and no tires blew!

The resident deer and bears had happily moved onto our property, which prompted a bit of a startle from Alistair as he and Yogi were just about face to face when he was checking our back yard after the long drive back.

 

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By the time I got my camera Yogi was trundling off, just outside our bedroom. 

The fires took a hit from some much-needed rain and cool weather and we finally don’t see any plumes of smoke behind us.

Seeley Lake’s homes and buildings all survived but its a huge question as to how the actual businesses are going to hang in there.

Tourism is our community’s big thing, particularly in the summer. Not only were many folks forced to evacuate, some weren’t able to work to earn the paycheck that they rely on to pay rent and put food on the table because the tourists weren’t here.

Most resort or lodge rooms were empty.

Gift shops sold coffee to fire fighters and the few locals who weren’t evacuated but locally-made jewelry, carvings, wall hangings, pottery and more didn’t move from the shelves and walls that display them.

Servers had nobody to serve so nobody made tips and the few restaurants that we have in town were down to skeleton crews who all breathed in the thick, dry, smoky air that surrounded our little world for so long.

 

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Some of our hiking areas behind our house when trails to access them still weren’t open after the burn. 

A rainy weekend and snow on the ground this morning have finally made for fresh air. Cold, crisp air, but nobody is complaining.

And you know, not many folks are complaining about the loss of revenue just yet. There will be a time for that and a time for businesses to apply for grants to help them survive the long winter ahead. There will be a time when folks will vent about the anxiety and frustrations we all shared this summer when the fire kept growing as it wrapped itself around all areas of our little town and it hurt to breathe.

And there will absolutely be more photos to take of the snow that will accumulate as Big Red and I begin the winter ritual of keeping our driveways open. More pictures for more photo albums if I can rack up more points for some other thing we discover.

Right now, though, our schools are open and the local Blackhawks are back at it on the football field. We, and others, are trying to eat out when we can to support our local cafes and the Chamber is trying to boost things with a Friday night program that brings a band to town for locals and maybe even some out-of-towners. Each time a local business will be featured during that Friday and I heard my friend’s resort on the lake, Tamarack’s, held the first Friday’s open house.

 

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Enjoying the backyard view a few days ago with blue skies above. 

Its Fall in the most beautiful part of an incredibly scenic state where the Rocky Mountains frame our world to the north and dark blue rivers swirl through the grounds in all directions around us. The season of change is upon us and we’re all ready to move forward, even as bright orange boxes keep arriving on our doorstep containing 800 photographs of our past.

I think most of us here are just so happy we made it through the smoke and fire to this most gorgeous of seasons. We made it with our families, our land, our pets, our laughter, our senses of humor, our dignity, our bling, our photo albums, our golf course, our golf cart, and our pride in this stunning piece of the world we call Home.

 

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Front yard. Happening now, with rain, hail & sunshine.

 

I hope that even if you haven’t visited western Montana that you can try to picture our beautiful world or that you look through the photos I share with you all. And I hope if you do, it makes you smile and inspires in you a dream to some day come and check it out.

Seeley Lake is once again open for business!

 

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Saying goodbye to Shilo and the gang before we unevacuated back to Montana!

 

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Just about home after a month in North Dakota. Snow was a welcome sight!

 

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Back on the 10th tee box in Seeley Lake with no smoke or raging fire to watch.

 

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Back to Fall golf in Norman. In Montana. 

 

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‘Cause we just didn’t get enough fire in our backyards this summer….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evacuate This

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Bebe’s thoughts on this whole situation

As I watch images of flying palm fronds and streets filling with water on TV while Florida braces for the full brunt of Hurricane Irma and while I read post after post from our friends who are finally allowed back into their mandatorily evacuated homes after almost 2 weeks away from them while a wild fire continues to rage outside our town, I’m actually feeling pretty lucky.

I’m lucky that Alistair made it back to Montana on August 25th.

I’m lucky that Deb answered her texts while having her hair done at a salon in Bismarck.

I’m lucky that Merielle, Brad, Gerry and Jessi all have a great sense of humor and that we were prepared for the worst and that we had a lot of boxes and a big old horse trailer with living quarters and 2 newer reliable, comfortable trucks and that Toni and  Jeff didn’t mind us moving our big equipment to their land on the flats.

I’m lucky we had somewhere to evacuate to.

 

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View of our house & the raging fire behind it a couple of weeks ago.

The Rice Ridge fire that was sparked by lightning July 24th crested that darned hill behind us and kept wanting to make runs down towards our house.

I watched it grow and change and creep as I would walk the dogs down our driveway. I would see how it tried to envelope our town on the other side of the hill from the excellent vantage point of our lovely golf course.

I talked with Alistair every night and we checked reports on Inciweb and I made a point to move our ski and snowmobile gear and a box or two of photo albums into the trailer.

 

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Smoke-filled skies at our home in Montana. This was when it was actually pretty good still.

I breathed the smoky air along with the 1 or 2 other golfers on the golf course and as I watched the helicopters fly into and out of our meadow, taking water or flame retardant to the hills right behind me.

During Alistair’s long trek from Bismarck to Seeley Lake we talked on the phone and we both realized it was ridiculous to stay in such a perilous predicament when we had a perfectly good home and ranch in a non-burning state.

So we mobilized the troops and we held our first Evacuation Party.

 

The party began with a parade. My good friend I’ve known since high school just happened to be spending a couple of nights with us and she and I got to be the parade marshalls!

 

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Merielle… very capable Parade Marshall!

We led Gerry & our boat, Alistair and the flatbed followed by Brad and Big Red in a tidy formation to the Hatten’s land where they can watch the plumes of smoke as they billow above the mountains and be safe from any flames. They are also well out of the way if any fire or structure crews need to use our driveways.

 

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Getting ready for the parade!

 

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Parade trucks devoid of streamers and candies but full of Ram Toughness!

 

We all saw trees torching behind our house that day as we drove back and talked about how smart it was to leave. Brad and Gerry, who had driven 11 hours through the night settled down for a nap, Merielle and I packed up my bling and Alistair went to the dump after spending an hour and a half reminding Zeus how to load into a trailer (it had been 10 years.)

At the dump Alistair learned that the fire was making a run for Cottonwood Lakes road behind our place and mandatory evacuation was likely.

“Okay, Everyone. Change of plans,” he announced as soon as he got home and the party picked up its pace.

 

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Evacuation party viewing that day.

Sandwiches were made, leftovers were re-heated in 2 shifts, Zeus broke the back door of our horse trailer, Brad and Alistair rigged up a solution, Zeus stopped bleeding and thankfully re-loaded, Maggie and Jake loaded into Deb’s borrowed trailer from ND, hugs were given and our horses and friends drove through falling ash to whisk our horses off to our safe farm 11 hours away.

Merielle, Alistair and I had one more night to spend before we planned to leave. As I cooked supper, we watched from our kitchen sunroom as the fire changed drastically and really seem to make a move towards the house.

The 3 of us ate our supper through a chorus of “oh my God”, “Crap, that’s getting lower,” “Did you see that one?”, “whoa!” and “holy shit.”

 

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Rice Ridge Fire a couple of days before the Evacuation Party.

We were able to keep our senses of humor intact while packing a few more things that night and while we watched my summer friend, Pepe come out at twilight like he’d been doing (sometimes with a friend) all month.

 

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Pepe, sometime mid-August.

And then, as we had planned to do when it got dark enough, us 3 happy souls who had a plan took our walk down the driveway to have one more good look at the fire to get an idea of what was happening.

We chuckled and made jokes about the situation because that’s how we roll.

“Oh, yeah, they’ve got a handle on that,” said Alistair after a preliminary turn-around halfway down the driveway. Each of us took peeks as we walked but we knew the full effect couldn’t be appreciated until we reached the turn. We all discussed how relieved we were that Zeus did load up and how I hadn’t had to make a choice to leave them if I had needed to evacuate before we had the party. It was a great feeling knowing our horses were headed to safety ahead of time.

And then we turned around.

 

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View of our house in front of the Rice Ridge Fire. This is Merielle’s photo.

Our mood became somber as we stood there, motionless, wordless.

Our beautiful dream home stood in front of an ever-growing line of fire that changed with every second. We saw an outstanding but frightening intense red glow on both sides of the hills behind our home and we actually felt some heat on the gentle breeze that fanned the fire towards us.

After half an hour we made our way back to the house. We did end up with laughter again when we met up with Pepe in the dark. Well, we laughed when we eventually made it inside, un-skunked.

I called our friend who works with Forestry in town and he assured me we would be alright through the night.

But we all left the next morning. Merielle back to Canada and us to North Dakota in our 2 trucks, the dogs with me and the 3 crated cats in the horse trailer with Alistair.

 

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Evacuation party. Do we know how to party or what?

Which wasn’t without more drama. Through our walkie-talkies I was able to let Alistair know he’d blown the first trailer tire on the Interstate by Butte. The dogs and I sat in our truck with vehicles and rigs hurtling by at 70 mph, shaking our own one-ton ride as Alistair saved the day.

The walkie-talkies were helpful when the second trailer tire blew, necessitating us to limp off the Interstate by Bozeman and onto an off ramp. Never have I been so happy to see a Wal Mart in my entire life!

 

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Evacuation party temporary HQ at Bozeman’s Wal Mart

 

Despite having a full schedule and it being only a couple of hours before closing, ‘Dave’ took pity on my frazzled-sounding evacuee voice and got us hooked up with 2 new tires. The dogs had a nice walk and the cats were all talked to and the Evacuation Party Caravan pulled up our driveway in Bismarck at 2am.

 

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Our backyard in Bismarck

Where we have woken to mostly clean air and clear skies ever since.

Where the cats are all making an effort to get along because the barn cat, Jockey, has mostly been inside.

Where the horses are all together after Brad and Gerry brought the Montana trio back.

 

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Our happy herd today.

Where I’ve washed load after load of smoky laundry and where we’ve washed the smoke off ourselves and where the dogs and cats don’t smell like bon fires anymore.

Its also where we have watched much of our community get put on mandatory evacuation as the fire made run after run towards Seeley Lake. We’ve watched our little meadow be on high alert as plumes of smoke rose high into the sky and the big converted DC-10 flew overhead yet again as fire crews struggle to take control of this beast.

We watch post after post about the horrible air quality and how people are struggling to breathe while struggling to stay positive after close to 50 days of this damned fire.

And we continue to watch as the Liberty fire that threatened other friends once again makes noise and structure protection is in full effect for both fires .

 

 

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Today’s Inciweb map. Our ranch is in Kozy Korner Zone 8.

I just read that a newer, smaller fire burning to the east has actually joined into the Rice Ridge fire and we are now over 130,000 of burned acres.

Acres where we hike, snowmobile and peace out. Acres we love to look at as our little slice of the “Last, Best Place” in our peaceful, almost hidden world. Acres that tourists and summer people usually flock to but were empty as they burned this year while our local businesses tried to stay open if their employees weren’t all evacuated. Acres our neighboring guest ranch would run a successful outfitting business in but will be devoid of strings of pack horses and guests this year.

At times tears of frustration burn the back of my eyes and threaten to leak out when I think about all the people affected by this terrible, epic fire. I know many people who feel as if the country neglected them or just hasn’t cared or maybe doesn’t care. I want to do more than watch from my air-conditioned house in the smoke-less state of North Dakota but its all I can do because we had to leave on our terms.

We had to take care of the spirits we love and who we’re responsible for. We chose to leave the stuff that’s just stuff and trust that they’ll find some money for the state to keep fighting Rice Ridge and Liberty and that our home will be standing when we choose to go back.

 

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Cleo & UB relaxing in Bismarck.

Thanks to everyone who was a part of our Evacuation Party and to Jessi for keeping our fish fed. Thanks to our friends in Montana for keeping us up to speed on everything that’s happening, particularly in our little meadow. And thanks to friends & family & bling sisters for checking in to make sure we’re okay.

Heck, we’re better than okay. And I’m so lucky to be able to say that.

 

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Lutefisk Babs, able to Sunbeam here in ND!

 

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Jockey… seeming to transition just fine.

 

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Happening now at our ranch in North Dakota.

 

 

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Us, better than okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rice Ridge Fire of 2017

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Turning onto our long gravel driveway looking towards the Horseshoe Hills last week

We had a cold, wet May which meant the grass grew tall.

Then we had a hot, dry June which meant we were in for it this summer.

Lightning struck several dry places in the western part of the state on July 24th and ever since then the Rice Ridge fire has burned and taken on a life form of its own outside our community of Seeley Lake.

 

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View from the golf course three weeks ago when things got intense.

Initially it wasn’t a big concern and for the two weeks I was chilling out in a cool Canadian ice rink nobody had much to say about this fire. The night we drove west, though, back from North Dakota, and we saw the plume rising and growing from behind our Horseshoe Hills mountain range, everything changed.

The photo above was taken the first day we were back and whacking at balls on the local golf course.

The front nine provides an excellent view of the entire fire and the mountains it has marched across immediately behind our town. It also gave us an alarming perspective as to how quickly things changed during a simple round of golf.

 

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The next day. When people were evacuating and things got real.

It became clear that the fire was out of control and much of our town was put on pre-evacuation. Several friends who live by the airport (at the far right of the angry smoke seen above) just left. They packed up their kids, pets, important papers, and photo albums and they got out of town.

The golf course closed for a day due to the pre-evacuations as well as the hazardous air quality which was worsened by the fact we had another large, pre-evacuation-causing fire burning almost as quickly to the west of town.

Alistair and I have keys to the cart barn, where we keep Norman, so we still went out to play. We saw a couple of other club members as well and we all watched the sky darken and the smoke plumes change during another simple round of golf.

 

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Yayyyy!

Traffic was a steady stream as people drove south down highway 83 past the golf course that afternoon and while our farm wasn’t immediately threatened we both felt a sadness at the lack of control one has during this type of situation.

And finally, as we stood on the long fairway of the ninth hole, the air support that was so badly needed and likely saved much of our community and our airport arrived over our heads.

Planes to spot, drop water and drop retardant buzzed overhead. Single and twin rotor helicopters whacka-whacka-ed in the skies. The Canadian super-scoopers who dove into Seeley Lake one behind the other in a choreographed routine that was witnessed by hundreds stayed for a few days and flew for hours on end to pour water on this angry beast. And a famous orange converted DC10 flew out of Helena with bright red fire retardant to dump where it could.

 

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Big Orange above the golf course.

Big Orange flies over our farm when he’s called to action so I have been able to watch him from our front yard as well as from the front nine. He lumbers along and takes well over an hour when he has to fly back to refuel and refill but its a thing of beauty to watch.

He flies behind a little guy who puffs out what looks like smoke where Big Orange is supposed to dump. The two planes fly up and down the hillside and into canyons and gullies and the red powder falls when and where its supposed to, all in an effort to block the spread of the monstrous fire.

 

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view from the driving range last week

Despite the hundreds of people who came to work this fire and the amazing work of air support the Rice Ridge fire of 2017 continued to spread. The driving range has become a viewpoint for many in town and it gives a great perspective of how much land has been consumed.

The fire today has burned over 15,000 acres, which is nothing compared to other fires within the state this year or over the course of history but those acres have pretty much been immediately around our town.

The mountaintop on the very right in the above photo has the Morrell Outlook station on top, which is the same mountain and outlook seen from our back yard, on the other side.

 

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Morrell Outlook on the left peak with smoke billowing around from the Seeley Lake side on the left and coming over the top a couple of days ago.

And while its comforting to know that’s a few miles away, and its comforting to see the bright red flame retardant covering the ground up there, all along the ridge top, its still kind of eerie knowing you have a big assed fire that close to home.

Its also somewhat comforting knowing that they are using our meadow to stage helicopter pickups for both water and retardant but even that is a little freaky, too.

Freaky but super cool at the same time, if that’s possible.

 

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The first time the big Chinook buzzed in for water last week!

My neighbors and I have had front row seats to a free air show and I am amazed at how much of an organized production its been.

 

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Right. Over. My. Head.

The Chinook and the single rotor Sykorski fly both water and retardant to the fire. Last Wednesday I got to watch them fly back and forth all morning as they came and went every 10 minutes or so.

 

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View from our front yard 4 days ago.

I waved every single time I watched them (which was several) because I want the pilots to know I appreciate them. Even if they can’t see me I want to be doing any little thing I can to make someone who is working so hard to save a town they don’t live in smile.

 

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And another run.

The fire has been only 10% contained since crews really began to attack it. The terrain is, in places, inaccessible and thanks to the high winds we had the past 2 days even back-burning has been impossible (the old, ‘fight fire with fire’ saying has its origins in truth.)

We have a road behind us in the Clearwater Lakes drainage that connects to Seeley Lake around by the airport. We snowmobile that road in the winter and pause by the lakes and another road that branches off and up to the Morrell Outlook for photos.

 

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Me, on that road by frozen Clearwater Lakes this spring.

That road has apparently been widened drastically by work crews and is a focal point for stopping this beast of a fire. Many fire workers and much equipment is up there right now digging tremendous trenches and removing dead, fallen trees that cover the ground and would act as fuel to push the fire towards our meadow.

I know that because they were all suddenly in our meadow on Friday evening as my friend who just arrived from Canada for the night and I were driving into town for supper and suddenly tankers, trucks, machinery, huge rigs and several dozen men in yellow shirts and green pants were all over the place.

They were there because winds had blown the fire up and they had no idea where it was coming from or going and they figured they only had one chance to get out of the drainage if it was going towards them.

 

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Friday afternoon… as the fire blew up behind us

It had looked frightening from town that morning on the golf course and even worse when I got home that afternoon.

Granted, it was mostly moving East, which is the goal because the Bob Marshall Wilderness is that way and that’s the only thing that way.

No towns.

No people.

 

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Friday afternoon behind our ranch.

When I took the dogs up the driveway for a better view I wasn’t surprised that a few friends had messaged me asking if I needed help getting out or a place for the pets and I to get to.

I knew my friend was visiting and could help evacuate and that most everything that is important is lined up in our foyer in boxes in case I have to make a move.

And The Dragon is hooked up to the Road Warrior and there are irreplaceable items already inside and the cat crates are by the door in the garage and sealed bags of dog and cat food are also loaded inside the rig along with leashes, dishes, my skates and a pink bag of our important documents.

 

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Ready to go if needed!

I doubt it will come to that even though I watched from our kitchen sunroom last night as the outlook became engulfed in smoke and wasn’t visible from this side well until darkness.

It was, as it turned out, a controlled back-burn that would have been nice to know about but folks on the town side of the mountain shared pictures of our beloved outlook still there.

 

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Somewhat alarming view of the Morrell Outlook from our back deck last night surrounded by flames and smoke.

The flames glowed bright as the dogs and I snuggled up under the covers and the outlook is there this morning.

I’m not at all complacent about things. I am more than ready. Its easier this year with 2 portable dogs who travel well and 3 cats I can generally lay my hands on at any time. Sure, Jockey is outside but he sticks close to the house or me if I’m outside and he usually comes when he’s called. He’s also locked in the barn every evening so if we had to move quickly I would be able to make sure he would be with me.

Of course Alistair is in North Dakota right now but he can get here if he has to. Sure, it takes a full day but one of his partners is willing to cover for him if needed.

 

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A couple of days ago in the meadow.

I doubt its going to get to that because the winds aren’t predicted to be as bad as the last few days and because the experts have been working hard to make sure this fire moves itself into the Wilderness complex.

People in town are still on pre-evacuation notice and air quality still sucks but we’re all trying to stay positive. The lake itself has re-opened for recreation so that’s a bonus.

I try to focus on things I can control even though I know nobody is out of the woods. And even though I can’t forget the fact a young firefighter lost his life on this particular fire early on I know these crews know exactly what they are getting into when they sign up for this job. And I appreciate and respect that knowledge and the risks these men and women take while they work hard to save our community.

 

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Local golf course resident.

And I’ll take pictures of the little things that make me smile and give me pleasant pause like the young fawn resting in the cool grass along the creek on the 12th hole at the golf course.

Know that we’re all staying strong, we’ve got each others backs up here and everyone is communicating as much as they can. UB, Cleo, Sport, Bebe, Jockey and I, my passport, our diplomas, marriage license and naturalization certificates will be fine. Our photo albums are boxed.

Everything else is just stuff.

 

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Last week on the 9th tee box. 

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Mr. Jockey helping me wave at and take pictures of the helicopters!

 

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Coming in to land in our meadow!

 

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Friday’s view of Mother Nature’s strength. Rice Ridge fire, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Coach Came Back

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Back on the ice! Virden, Manitoba last month.

My first language is Figure Skating.

First career language, that is.

I trained, competed, performed, and coached through the first 35 years of my life. I even skated, performed and coached off and on during vet school and after I became a veterinarian.

 

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2007, my Bismarck skaters during a video-review session

I’ve always enjoyed coaching and sharing my knowledge and love of skating with skaters of all ages and levels. The language flows fluently from my mouth when I explain the correct take-off for the flip and lutz jumps, how the skater has to mimic a pole vaulter with maintaining the momentum while vaulting themselves off of that extended toe pick behind them.

It reaches out through my arms and hands as I try to explain “Stupid Big Arms” with wide-sweeping, overly dramatic arm moves.

Its the language I used to speak without words when I could whip off killer flying camels or ridiculously consistent double toe-loops.

 

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1995, Watford City with the first Raise The Roof crew! I could still whip off the skills back then…

As I close in on turning 45 I have had to accept the changes to my body that I haven’t been in control of. Granted, the little extra around the tummy is my doing but my limbs don’t bend like they used to and my feet and thighs were inconsolable after the first few days back on the ice.

But I loved it.

I was given tasks to choreograph competitive routines and tweak ones that had already been designed earlier in the summer. Choreography has been a passion of mine ever since I was a young skater. I had my own routines but I also made new ones up to everyone else’s music at the rink. As I got older my coaches allowed me to have some creative control over my routines and I loved the task as a professional coach.

 

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Showgirl in Japan, 1992

So it was a blast to add swoopy arm moves and running turns to Caitlyn’s instrumental ‘Dog Days of Summer’ routine; I laughed as I threw sword-fight arms and dramatic lunges into both ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ routines for Cambrie and Haley; Abby got some fun footwork and funky arms for the part of her music that was heavy on the drums; I introduced more of an emotional welcome to Kiana’s Michael Buble routine; Charlotte worked on lengthening her reach and getting more dramatic as we repeatedly got down in our knees and held our poses to ‘Batman’; and Kylie’s arms, hands, elbows and feet are that much sharper with her Irish music.

And I learned some bad-ass moves myself when I got to research and then choreograph a pre-novice competitor’s long program…. to ‘Bollywood’.

Gasp!

Who knew there was so much Indian dancing on the Internet?

 

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Not Indian dancing but a fun routine the girls would sometimes do before the coaches hit the ice.

Creating and skating Lynice’s ‘Bollywood’ routine was a blast, particularly when both of us remembered what we were supposed to be doing and even more so when the moves hit the right notes of the music. If she competes well this year the routine could be seen on the national stage in Canada which is a dream for me and the routines I’ve created.

Paige and Rudy, the former Olympian Canadian pairs skaters who grew up in this very same rink with Coach Patti and some of these current skaters took one of my show routines I did for them overseas years ago. It was a Celine Dion piece (how Canadian is that?) and it was pretty fun.

 

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Rudy, me and Paige at the Salt Lake City International competition a few years ago.

As much as I missed UB and Cleo (who I left with their Daddy in Bismarck, ND) and as much as I missed the kitties, Sport, Bebe and Jockey (who Jessi took care of for us in MT), I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in long days of hard training for 2 full weeks in Virden.

I loved the routine of my morning latte at Timmy’s. Where one of the women began recognizing me and told me to “have a great day, my friend.” Just like that… my new tribe!

 

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My morning pit-stop.

Tim Horton’s is as much a Canadian institution as the Tragically Hip is our national band. And about that… my hosts had the radio playing and I got to hear Canadian Content, or Con-Can once again. The Bearnaked Ladies, Jan Arden, Sarah McLaughlan, the Hip, Bryan Adams and even Gordon Lightfoot played in the background.

I’d take my yummy latte to the rink where head coach, Patti, who I stayed with, would hand out our lesson sheets and discuss what we were doing in group lessons for the day and I’d bind my aching, blistered feet into their cement blocks for the day and off we went for 7 or 8 hours to create figure skaters!

 

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1993/94 season with my young protégé, Tyler… who was coached by Patti the following year and, years later, moved to Virden to coach for 2 years, himself! There is symmetry in everything…

Patti also had a handful of dedicated hockey players who had booked a private group all summer for power skating. Thankfully I had my hockey skates to strap on (which weren’t anywhere near as painful as the cement bricks that encased my wounded feet) and my power skating ‘bible’ to refer to and Coach Fyfe was back teaching the four phases of the forward stride, running starts, how to push down into the ice and Russian stroking passes.

Coaching power skating is, obviously, a lot different from figure skating but there are similarities.

The students were all pre-teen through teen years with their own background stories and drama happening away from their coaches’ eyes. They all wanted to be the best that they could be at their particular sport. Each of them had appropriate questions and answers during our lessons or they came armed with them the next time. And they were all high-achievers, dedicating several hours of every single day for 6 weeks to develop and hone their craft while many of their classmates were lounging by beaches or doing whatever it is that normal kids do during their summer holidays.

 

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Power Skating coach for the Jr. A Bismarck Bobcats on the lower left. Not sure this gang appreciated my drills as much as the young men in Virden this summer…

It was different from when I coached power skating to the Bismarck Bobcats in the early 2000’s. Those guys “had” to work with me twice a week thanks to their Canadian coach, John, who understood the value of having some sweet skating skills and speed. No sense being the best puck handler or goal-scorer if you can’t get to the puck first, right?

So the coach came back, as the title says, and the coach had fun.

And I got to explore golf courses in both Virden and Rivers, Manitoba thanks to Patti, Julie, Lil, Cindy and my dear friend, Karla.

 

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Fab, fearsome foursome in Virden!

I also got to play our ND golf course, Painted Woods with Alistair on weekends when I drove the 4 hours to get down to Bismarck.

 

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Painted Woods, just before I went back up to Virden for one more week!

And we’re back to smoky Montana next to the highest priority fire in the nation with hazardous air quality and a Red Flag Warning now through tomorrow night where I can’t quite see the nearby hills and mountains and half the community is on pre-evacuation orders and the horse trailer is hooked up and our foyer is full of important things hubby boxed up for me before he had to leave yet again for ND. And there was a bit of tragedy on the ND Fyfe Farm and our horse herd is one head smaller while I was in Virden but Alistair was able to handle it veterinary-style when he knew nothing more could be done. And I’m back to my online cooking course where I had the knowledge and confidence to make my own chicken stock during the day today and I’m super excited to get going on the Stir Fry course but I’m going to whip up my tasty garlic & shrimp quinoa for supper with my freshly made stock.

But more on all of that another time.

This blog is about me speaking fluent skating again. Its about making friends from other clubs and other communities and even other countries. Its about being cool inside a lovely, big ice rink on hot summer days. Its about enjoying learning about other skaters, coaches and parents and maybe making the time to hit a few golf balls with one or two of them. Or enjoy a fresh-cooked meal in an outdoor kitchen. With a Caesar expertly made by my Canadian friends.

 

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One of Coach Tanya’s specialties! 2010 here in Seeley Lake.

 

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My last day on the ice with my Bismarck girls before I moved to Montana 10 years ago.

 

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Virden skaters (Brekken and Shanna) who had my camera in the locker room my last day there.

 

 

 

 

 

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Shanna & Haley, more locker room giggles

 

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Like an Oscars selfie… how many skaters can we get in here? I love that they did this for me so I will remember their happy faces (and wild hair… it was Crazy Hair Day…)

 

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My favorite skating partner (2010).