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

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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.

Maybe.

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

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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.

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Wanita & Byron in September

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

Ugh.

Wanita was only 48.

That’s just way too frigging young.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Everywhere.

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.

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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.

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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

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September, 2019

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Bigfork, MT, 2014

 

 

 

Come Together by Staying Apart

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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D’embe. Socially distancing himself from Jockey.

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Jockey. Returning the favor.

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

 

 

Isolation Nation

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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. (www.rouxbe.com) 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?”

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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.

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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.

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

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Professor Higgins is loving Isolation Nation!

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

 

 

 

 

My Sunday

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Its Winter up in the meadow!

Good grief, its been ages since I’ve blogged!

It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to, its just that I have been so flipping busy with just about every aspect of my life.

Figure Skater Me thoroughly enjoyed the annual National championships in Canada and the US in January. I didn’t get to see much televised broadcast from Canada but I was glued to the big screen a few weeks ago when the Americans vied for their crowns.

Teensy Alysa Liu repeated as a jumping phenom and the Ladies national champ yet again. She has a pretty cool story and a very dedicated father, not to mention her own high level of commitment. She also has a triple axel that makes her one of a handful of little women who can seriously challenge the pre-pubescent Russian ‘ladies’ right now.

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Getting ready to repeat as this year’s national champ! (not my photo)

Alysa seems like a fun person, and I hope she will inspire other young girls to pursue high level figure skating.

Nathan Chen…. just wow. I SO love his long program this season with the nod to Elton John. When he completes all of his jumps and finishes a spin as Benny and the Jets starts up he breaks down into the most fun-looking cool dance moves that only Nathan can pull off. I love that he lets us see a bit of who he is as a person at this point (trust me, not everyone can bust a move like this!) and it shows us he is more than just a quad-jumping master. Its worth a quick look on You Tube, for sure.

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Nathan’s long program (not my photo)

He truly is an amazing young adult what with full time studies at Yale (seriously…. Yale!) while his coach is a few states away. He trains with Raf via video and in person before the big events but even then he still has to get back to school soon afterwards. We didn’t see him at Four Continents but we will see him up in Montreal at World’s in March.

American pairs are the strongest they have been in years and our ice dancers are riding a fun wave. Chock and Bates won US Nationals and I still can’t forgive him for dumping Emily Samuelson a few years ago for Chock and I honestly don’t care for their look but the judges are loving them right now. Personally, I don’t think the judges “got” Hubbell and Donohue’s free dance which is very sexy and emotional.  Canadian ice dancers will challenge the top European dancers in Montreal as well.

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Me & my writing assistant

I am excited to announce that Writer Me has been hard at it for book 4 in my Missing Lake series. Luke and his friends are Juniors this time around (with a new classmate!) and I hope I’m catching their vibe appropriately. We have already finished the first song for their Sharing Sessions in English class and it ends on a bang, no question. Chapter 6 where the song discussion culminates was actually very draining to write but I’m very happy with how it turned out.

I’m over half-way done the book and have finished 11 chapters at 56,000 words so far. I need to chat with Ben, my talented artist and talk about what I’m thinking of for the book art this time around. The baby dragons are growing up and the entire dragon world will be facing a shake-down of their own sort as the book goes on….

But that’s all I’m going to say right now! The first 3 books are on Kindle if you haven’t had the opportunity to read them and my Amazon reviews are pretty awesome (thanks, to everyone who has reviewed them!!!)

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I think I had just finished Chapter 10 a couple of weeks ago

Realtor Me is making Writing Me a tad frustrated because I’m actually sort of busy in the world of real estate. I listed a house that I got under contract in under a week and I’m helping out of town folks finalize the purchase of a nice chunk of land for them to come and hang out on for recreational purposes.

I showed homes last weekend to a couple who are looking at retiring here in Seeley Lake and they are crunching numbers on one of them right now. I’m also getting ready to list another house here in town that will be priced to sell… to the extent I’m pretty sure it won’t last long out there.

Realtor Me is panicking about Fyfe Farm Me not being able to get into town tomorrow to get all of the listing documents signed with the seller. Its snowing and blowing like mad again and even with hubby here we aren’t sure we will be able to keep our long driveway open.

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Happening now… not sure you can see the horizontal snow…

Fyfe Farm Me has spent a fair amount of time in Big Red already this winter moving snow from here to there. Keali’i Riechel’s Hawaiian songs never get old as the big blade shoves the snow off to the sides. I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment every time I plow and open the road up because I am a little girl who grew up in sparkles and spandex, whose job as a professional figure skater involved being applauded 4 times a day, 7 days a week, who never envisioned herself being capable of surviving mountain or prairie storms by herself using big machinery to save the day.

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Post-plow a few days ago.

Pet Mummy Me is loving up on the aging indoor kitties, Sport and Bebe. Sport is my #1 writing assistant and full time snuggle bug. He would be thrilled if we laid in bed or on the couch watching figure skating together or if we wrote all afternoon instead of me going to work or even just going out to plow the snow.

The barn trio is great; D’embe and Jockey seem to have come to some sort of truce. Its fun seeing Professor Higgins and D’embe snuggle up in the cat beds on the hay bales in the barn because Higgins always seemed to want to cuddle. The 2 of them are playful little brats with each other. The other day Alistair watched Higgins hide behind a pile of snow and then leap out at and onto the unsuspecting D’embe before the 2 of them ran off towards their barn. Kids!

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Professor Higgins would much rather move to indoor status this time of year.

We can’t forget that Veterinary Me remains busy, too. Almost every week I have been doing house calls for vaccines or I’ve trimmed toe nails for clients. The Angel of Darkness was set to do a sad house call for a special Retriever I had vetted since he was a puppy and I had my clinic but he sadly passed away on his own last week.

The other versions of myself keep the sad parts at bay even though I know enough to let my feelings out. Writing helps, like it did with my blog about losing Cleo.

Maybe that’s a large part about why I took such a long break between blogs.

Maybe I wanted to give Mummy Me and Veterinary Me some space from each other.

Maybe I needed to throw myself into other areas of my life and give it some time.

Maybe the ferret video on New Year’s on the Sing-song saddle was also just what I needed.

We miss Cleopatra every day.

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Some of my handiwork the other day

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Up here in the meadow….

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The sunny days are stunning up here! Right, Professor Higgins?

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Roses from the hubby for Valentine’s! Hope your day was special!

 

Clee Clee

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Clee Clee

Well.

I knew it was coming. Hell, I told you all it was coming.

And yet, part of me still wasn’t ready for what went down on the Fyfe Farm yesterday morning.

But it wasn’t about me at that point.

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Cleopatra (last year)

I helped our sweet, fuzzy Springer Spaniel, Cleo across the Rainbow Bridge.

It was Time.

And there really was no question about it, even though I would have loved for Alistair to have enjoyed the world with her in it one more time. For that matter, I would have much preferred if he was here with me as I laid in the living room by the wood stove with her.

Sometimes the question of ‘when’ is more challenging and it certainly has been over the years with a couple of the pets but yesterday when Cleo cried out when I helped her to her feet for her morning piddles and then kept crying when I tried to help her walk using a towel under her belly I knew things had changed dramatically.

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In bed a few weeks ago

She had run up to the house when I brought her in the evening before and she pranced around grabbing up the cat food dishes like always. She went outside before bed and everything was as normal as it had been for our aging canine companion.

I mean, normal has changed a lot the last several months if not years.

Cleo was almost 17 years old, as far as we know. That was her first problem.

She was also completely deaf, was beginning to lose her eyesight, had arthritis and back legs that just didn’t do what they were supposed to, and had a heart murmur that almost rivalled Loki’s.

Well, no… you could hear Loki’s murmur from across the bed.

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the Queen of heart murmurs, Loki (2017) with Cleo

I think Cleo’s murmur is what kept her from wanting to go on our long walks, or even the first-length-of-the-driveway walks the past couple of weeks.

My attitude had remained, though, that if she was eating & drinking, peeing & pooping, and wagging her bushy tail at us then who was I to step in? We had her on anti-inflammatories for her old body and we helped her onto the couch or our bed and things seemed to be going along just fine.

Until Friday morning.

She did eventually go out and managed to piddle in the snow but once she came back in she didn’t bother with her kitchen routine or anything she usually did.

She laid/fell down and remained there for what turned out to be the rest of her life.

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“I think I’m done with this body now, Mummy. I’ve used it all up.”

I called her Daddy in North Dakota and we talked and I gave her her Rimadyl and she ate it right up. I laid down next to her and spooned her like we’ve done for so many years together with my left arm draped over her side.

And I got up and cleaned the cat litter and put the cat food dish down and emailed Lynnie and lost my shit completely and got dressed and looked out at the blizzard and got a pillow and laid back down with Cleo again.

She slept a little bit but she never, ever tried to get up again.

She never thumped her tail.

She was basically done with her ancient canine body and definitely gave me a “look” the one time she lifted her head and sort of sat in a semi-sternal position when I was sitting in front of her.

Okee dokee, then.

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Helping stack the wood the last time her Daddy was here.

Cleopatra Cassiopeia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe was as stubborn as she was beautiful and charming. Once her mind was made up, that was it.

I called Alistair one more time to let him know I was going ahead and he heard me blubber a little bit as I signed off. I had already brought my little bag of tricks into the living room and after some more cuddling Doctor Mummy gave Cleo her sedative.

I swear it took less than a minute for her to be completely out. She was ready for a much deserved long rest.

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Cleo’s “square face” look at one of the Dog Days of Summer. Classic.

Cleo had many great adventures in her however many years on the planet as a Fyfe. For starters, she lived most of those years in Montana, which is a dog’s dreamland.

We hiked and roamed the US Forest Service behind our house for miles and miles with her buddies. Casey would usually stick with Harry. Harry would sometimes take off after UB. Cleo generally did her own thing, digging holes, burying things, occasionally finding her own deer shed or two.

She Furry Scurried and entered Agility trials and the Dog Show at the annual Dog Days of Summer and she was a regular guest at the veterinary clinic because she loved her Lynnie and she was a very good dog when she was there.

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Lynnie and Cleo at the clinic

She also got to see Fireman Frank and her favorite delivery man, Matt sometimes when she came to the clinic. She even surprised all of us when she leapt up into the big brown UPS truck when Matt left the door open one time.

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“C’mon, Matt, just let me drive around town for a few blocks, okay?”

Cleo generally roamed the clinic freely during the day- a clinic dog as opposed to a clinic cat. When a client brought her squirming, squeaking, teensy box full of Schipperke puppies and put them on the examining table Cleo stood up on her back legs and had a look of wonderment on her face. Maternal instinct? Perhaps. She did lick our guinea pig, Cadbury until she was soaking wet when she got into their room one time. (The alternate theory is that she was trying to taste her.)

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Earlier this year, our snow spaniel

Cleo travelled well and eagerly jumped into our vehicles when it was time for a road trip. She seemed quite content for the 10 or 11 hours it took us to drive to Bismarck with UB and Loki on board, too.

If I was alone with all 3 of them it was probably hilarious watching me handle them on leashes when we stopped for piddle breaks. Fyfe dogs generally don’t know how to walk on leashes (although Cleo turned it on during the Furry Scurry walkathons. Casey… not so much.) (Don’t ask my dad about that.)

Before long Cleo would be wrapped around UB while UB was wrapped around my legs. It was an effort to keep them from banging into blind Loki during those rest stops but we always survived and off we would go back onto the road again.

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Back in Bismarck in 2017

All of these memories and so many more were in my mind as I spooned her again as she sedated.

I told her all of the things that needed to be said.

I told her that she was loved.

That we were the lucky ones when she showed off all her tricks at my first veterinary clinic right out of vet school in 2005 when she was brought in to be put down by Animal Control after they found her because she was aggressive. (Brilliant, yes. Aggressive? No.)

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“Wanna run around in the leaves with me, Mummy?”

I told her Uncle Gary and Aunty Dona were hoping to see her again and that she would happy to know I got those unsightly matts off of Bebe’s back leg. I told her how happy she made all of our house guests from Uncle Danny’s kids to Aunty Merielle and that she was a most excellent hiking companion.

And a flood of memories of us berry picking or riding with UB in Steve or digging for Easter Bunnies filled my hearts and a flood of tears that came from my very soul gushed out of my eyes and onto the carpet and pillow behind her head.

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Our dog kennel was very full 

And I pictured her gang greeting her again across the Rainbow Bridge with youthful bodies that matched their fabulous spirits.

UB would be first, most likely. He would race up to her and they would leap and jump in their spaniel way and he wouldn’t cough at all because his lungs are clear now and her legs are strong again.

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UB Fyfe (not my picture)

Then Loki would come crashing in but not because she was blind anymore. Cleo would most likely comment on Loki’s nice eyes and the 3 members of my little “black and white gang” who followed me around for 2 full years together would have a moment of their own.

Until Casey would literally crash in because he did everything at 150 mph and his laryngeal folds would be totally fine so there would be no raspy breathing or hacking. Harry, of course, would be spinning Louies in his extreme excitement at seeing the beautiful Princess once again. I wondered if he would pee on her head again but you know, he still is Harry.

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Oh, Harry

These thoughts make me happy despite feeling empty inside. Even though it was the absolute necessary and correct thing to do for miss Cleo. Even though her body was done.

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Ranger Riding in Steve for an Easter picnic several years ago

The routine is different.

I didn’t go and get her after the ferrets had been put back to bed last night. I didn’t make a point to get up and let her out this morning.

And right now, as the daylight is darkening, I’m not thinking, “Gee, I need to get Cleo out for a walk and get her and the barn kitties fed.”

Well, no, actually. I did think that as I was typing a few minutes ago. I keep thinking there is something I have to do.

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Back in Bismarck with Daddy in 2015

No.

I already did what had to be done.

And Cleopatra is at peace. And you know what? So are we.

I’m glad it was on my shift at  home and not Alistair’s by himself or one of our Jessica or Lynn house-sitters.

I’m glad we didn’t have company.

And as glad as I am to have the skill set that I have that allowed me to neuter D’embe last week, I’m glad Cleo could continue to lay where her body told her to.

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“What do you think we should do now, Jockey?”

Her lilting southern accent and slight lisp will still talk to us just as much as Spirit of Loki and Spirit of UB do and I’m already able to laugh at some of the goofy stuff she would do.

Like the bloody “mouse” she had in her mouth that turned out to NOT be a mouse or when she, Harry and Casey were getting to know each other (“There will be NO GANG BANGS on the FYFE FARM!”) or the time she kept trying to shove my head under water in the hot tub. Walks with Angie and Kali make me smile and seeing her snuggle up with Alistair when she first came onto our farm or watching her love up on all of the barn kitties are precious memories.

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Before we moved to Montana

Indeed, we were the lucky ones when she chose to stick around and join our motley crew of misfits.

You are in our hearts forever, miss Cleo. Clee Clee. Cleopatra-siz.

RIP, old friend. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

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the hot tub incident a few years ago

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Dog Days of Summer 2012, I think

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Getting ready for our first 4th of July parade!

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Cleo & her Daddy loved Ranger Riding in Steve (2008)

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Family Photo at Dog Days (Harry found these events a tad stressful so he stayed home) (Gary Kyrouac’s photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tall Tails in Fyfe Life

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the Fyfe Bee Gees, (aka the trio of trouble!)

I’ve been working on that whole ‘few versions of myself’ lately although the one I miss the most is the golfer.

Our local course closed in October and today’s little snow squall is just another reminder of what season it is. While it hasn’t been as cold as it could be for December we have had some cold snaps where it takes way longer to get dressed to go outside than it does in August. Heck, in the summer we just slide our feet into our sandals and away we go. This time of year you have to choose which jacket or coat to wear, and layer on a scarf with a toque and don’t forget the gloves!

And then its a question of which gloves to wear based on the activity you’re heading outside to do. Are we stacking or splitting wood? Are we driving into town? Are we getting more cat food out for the barn kitties? When you live on a ranch like we do you have to consider all of these things!

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Professor Higgins, asking Maurice and Andy to open the door.

I’ve been the pet Mummy- a role I absolutely cherish. Of course this time of year the outside cats submit their resumes for indoor status. Professor Higgins leaps up to the kitchen door (there are no stairs there yet) and sits there, pathetically meowing for us to let him in.

He has never been loose in the house with the ferrets but he has such a kind, sweet soul- I think they would all be fine.

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Higgy-in-the-house today

Higgins is no dummy. He worked me over easily enough and right now he is enjoying his second day of walk-about inside the house. So far so good. Babs and him made some noise the first time he was in and Sport had to pull the Siamese noise-making thing but hopefully his very large self will be a very large presence within the house at some point.

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Christmastown, 2019!

I’ve been a whimsical home owner lately- Alistair and I got Christmastown set up around Thanksgiving and it brings a huge smile to my face when I get it all going at night. Its the perfect little fantasy town for me- we have several ice rinks, an animal shelter, a pet portrait studio, grooming and boarding facilities, a brew pub and fun shopping places.

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All things animal-related in Christmastown!

Dogs and cats are all over the place as this is a very pet-friendly little community. The doggy daycare and portrait studio are brand new this year, along with a charming clock tower and barn house. The barn is next to the cozy little log cabin where I like to think Fyfe Life, Fantasy-version takes place.

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Fyfe Life in Christmastown?

The Me in this community gets to be a vet at the barn just like the Me in real life got to be a veterinarian again today, too. Well, veterinary surgeon to be more specific.

My good friend, Jessie, who was my veterinary assistant when I still had the clinic, stopped by this morning and Operation NutsBeGone commenced with the new stray cat, D’embe (formerly known as Lava), starring in the lead role.

(We are huge fans of The Blacklist and the character, D’embe on the show…. the name just seemed to better suit our little kitty who has hung around for a few weeks now.)

I had the drugs to knock him out although, admittedly, expiration dates were long past for one of them. I figured if he didn’t sedate appropriately then we’d just try again another day with new drugs. But he sedated beautifully and D’embe is neutered and vaccinated and currently in a crate in our heated garage as the drugs wear off. Special thanks to Dr.Kelly in Nevada for the excellent drug dosages for our cute little guy.

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Immediately post-op. He’s sitting up now.

I’m hopeful D’embe and Jockey can come to terms where they don’t whack at each other. Jockey was neutered as a kitten but he has always had a bit of toughness to him. While he can be sweet and adoring purring away in my arms I have heard him and D’embe get into it. D’embe started at least one of the altercations that I witnessed but I think Jockey came out on top of that one. Neither kitty has needed Clavamox yet but its here if we do.

I’m hoping the neutering will calm the little fella down. He isn’t aggressive towards Jockey or Higgins most of the time and they all eat and sleep together in the barn where I lock them up each night.

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“Look, Sport, just go tell Mum to open the door, okay?”

I have also been a writer again lately, which is where the ‘tall tales’ of the title comes from. (Well, I wrote ‘tail’, didn’t I? See what I did just there?)

My main goal for this winter is to complete the 4th book in my Missing Lake series. I am 42,000 words and 8 1/2 chapters in. I worry that I might have too much I want to include but then sometimes the characters take the book on a different journey than what I have planned in my head.

So many readers what the character, Josh to come back. But Josh can’t come back. He was never supposed to come back. His mom is in witness protection and they take that stuff seriously. When they left Missing Lake in book 2 that was supposed to be it and Luke had to learn that life sucks sometimes.

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Maurice helped me celebrate hitting 41,000 words the other day! Bonjour!

I have been thoroughly enjoying the writing again. Last winter I was learning all about life as a realtor and I had 3 transactions that kept me on my toes from September through January and then some more after that. I didn’t get into a writing rhythm, and, in the end, I’m glad I stopped the process. When I took the book up again this fall I re-wrote a few things and I’m really happy about the direction I’m going this time around.

It wasn’t that what I had written was wrong or that it wasn’t good. Its that the version of life in Missing Lake right now is that much better.

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My lap right now as I’m writing and also how I write my novels.

I’m certainly less distracted this time around and I feel more confidant not being at the real estate office from 9-5 almost every day. Those were my very first transactions last year, though, and I’m so glad I gave everything I could to get things to closing.

I don’t have any specific transactions on the go right now so that allows more time to socialize pets, set up sparkly, musical little fantasy holiday towns and invite my friends over to help me neuter a new cat on our freezer during a snow storm.

I’m also watching a friend at the NFR get bucked around on a bronc in Vegas and the figure skating Grand Prix Final. All these parts of being Me are fun but my reporting on the skating world will have to wait for another time. Professor Higgins wants to go back outside and D’embe won’t be too far behind. Now that he’s donated his reproductive organs at the door I will live up to my promise to keep him warm, loved and well-fed.

Now, which gloves and jacket are required for carrying a kitty down to the barn?

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Post-op. He’s up and chatting now.

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“Do you think I’m a bit cross-eyed, Mummy?”

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In honor of our old black lab companion, Casey. Always makes us smile!

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The ice rink where it all began and a gift shop (with its own Christmastown in the window) and the brew pub, complete with Santa flying around a Christmas tree. What’s not to love?

 

Timing

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Working “the floor” at the realty office the other day

I know I’ve talked about timing and the various stages of our lives we find ourselves in. I’ve talked about beginnings and endings and I have shared my thoughts on every step in-between.

And I’ve shared many endings and how I have the ability to be a part of choosing the when’s and how’s of these events. I have had the chance to say a couple more goodbyes for clients and their families recently and while it is never an easy thing to do, I always try to make sure it is absolutely the right thing to do.

I’ve been lucky to share some fun and wonderful and maybe even silly beginnings- like the 3 Bee Gee Fyfe ferrets who brought mayhem and shenanigans back to the Fyfe house just about one year ago. Barry, Maurice and Andy make us laugh on a daily basis and I’m so happy to make you a part of the sunrise of their lives with us!

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The boys… if only there was some way they could tell me where Alistair was…

(Because goofing off with ferrets is absolutely the right thing to do!)

A few friends have had the opportunity to visit and play with this current trio-of-trouble. They were fascinated with baby Paige’s clothing, car seat and other baby acoutrements when we let them out during our celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving. Auntie Merielle’s recent photo shoots with them and their girlfriend, Fallon captured their unique and mischievous personalities one and all. And Barry clearly forgets the No Bite rule when houseguests like Joel and Jeanette stop by.

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Professor Higgins hanging out by the campfire pit with Jockey

It has been great sharing Professor Higgins and his journey onto the Fyfe Farms in ND and eventually here in Montana. He continues to be a delightful, squeaky little friend who leaps into the air for a scritch on his forehead whenever he sees you.

And now we have yet another potential new beginning in the works.

An intact, very friendly black tomcat has been hanging around and it doesn’t look like he has any plans on leaving.

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Out front a couple of evenings ago

We have both been able to pick him up and cuddle with him and last night we allowed him a little bit of living room time with us (we blocked off the rest of the house so he wouldn’t terrorize Sport, Bebe or the ferrets.)

He is extremely affectionate with his purrs and kneading of his paws and seems to really appreciate the cat food we provide for him.

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Lava on the coffee table last night

We’ve named him Lava and so far he is getting along with Jockey and Higgins. We aren’t sure if Lava has made it to the open barn during the day but we haven’t locked him up inside at night with the boys yet. I’d like to get him neutered before we do that.

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Lava doesn’t have any trouble cuddling with us

Its funny to think that we were contemplating a time without any pets a couple of years ago. I’m fairly certain most people who know us shook their heads and rolled their eyes when I suggested a pet-less Fyfe Farm but we had a rough couple of years during Attrition and our hearts were sore.

While I doubt we’ll ever be back up to 5 dogs, 3 ferrets, 2 guinea pigs and 8+ cats again it is fun getting to know the new fur babies as their suns rise on our world bringing brightness and warmth to our lives.

But that’s where the thoughts of Timing come back into play.

Because I fear it is twilight for a couple of our special friends.

Or maybe its even getting close to sunset for one of them.

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Bebe, getting in a few zzz’s right now.

This is where our sweetie, Bebe is right now as I type.

Its not unusual for any Fyfe kitty to be curled up in one of their cat beds on the warm heated floors but she is doing it more in different places.

Like in UB’s old dog kennel in the garage where there are towels and a soft blankie and the concrete floors are heated there, too. It is almost as if she is choosing to be away from the hustle & bustle of our daily routines.

Bebe was never an interactive cat (most of our houseguests of old have never even met her… she had the distinction of being seen scrambling to get away from strangers as they cried out, “there she is!”) but that changed after we lost Boomer a few years ago.

Bebe became a chatty, personable, quirky little companion with a penchant for Greenies who liked cuddling on the couch and sunbeaming whenever she could.

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Babs, Sport and I during Couch Time this fall

But she isn’t as into Couch Time the last few nights and she has lost more weight and both of us think twilight is upon her. She also isn’t as into her canned food that we dutifully provide every night.

She did, however, jump up on the bed the last 2 mornings to visit and cuddle and she still wants her Greenies. Just not the chicken flavored ones. I’m giving those ones to Lava, Jockey and Higgins right now.

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Exactly how are those Greenies getting down here?

Bebe. Babs. Fabulous Babulous. Lutefisk Babs.

She is going on 17 years and I did find what I thought was a cancerous growth in her mouth a few months ago so none of this is surprising.

Upsetting and sad but not surprising.

And she is not suffering at all. Everyone reading this knows my rules on that. As long as we’re eating, drinking, peeing & pooping and enjoying our lives pain free then we are good to go.

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Cleopatra… also still good to go.

Like Cleo, who is also in the twilight of her life.

Cleopatra is at least 15 years old, which is her first problem.

The spaniel who ran throughout the mountains of Montana for most of her life with her Lab, Husky and Bostonocker Sperrier buddies has rear legs that don’t do what they’re supposed to do some of the time now.

Well, maybe much of the time.

She also has canine cognitive dysfunction which basically means she’s losing her marbles.

It is endearing but there might come a time this winter when life is too confusing for her or those back legs just decide to give out altogether.

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Snoozing in bed a couple of weeks ago

Right now I can get her onto and off of the bed and she generally sleeps all night long (being completely deaf helps with that.) She still loves her kibbles and sliced cheese and the “Rimmies” are gobbled up for their taste as well as their anti-inflammatory benefits. And her tail wags in big circles when she prances down the hallway with her Daddy in the morning.

Our Southern Belle will hopefully be able to get through to her Mummy if Doctor Mummy isn’t able to. I guess I’ve always been able to talk myself to it and through it but I’m not looking forward to any goodbyes at this point.

The tears in my eyes and on my cheeks are what we were trying to avoid when we talked about a pet-less world.

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the Bee Gees, fluffed and buffed post-shower a few weeks ago

But there is less happiness and laughter in a pet-less world, at least on the Fyfe Farm.

(Or, Fyfe Farm for Wayward Pets… as Lava’s presence is reminding us.)

And who am I to prioritize less crying and heartache over cuddling with a purring warm kitty cat on a cold night or spooning with Cleo or Sport in bed or trying to bathe wiggling, seemingly spine-less creatures with pointy noses and sharp canine teeth?

I have shared with many clients over the years the importance of realizing that you will probably outlive your pet when you enter into a new relationship. And that’s okay. Its part of the deal.

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My Nan and Miss Cleo several years ago at my Dog Days of Summer

So hopefully we can provide a prolonged twilight for our girls right now and continue to enjoy the sunrise of Lava (with a little snip-snip in the near future!)

And we’ll continue to make sure to provide everything we can for our furry little buddies.

As good as we can for as long as we can, right?

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Oh, Fabulous Babulous! I love this picture of her!

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“Dude, is this leather or ‘pleather’?”

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Professor Higgins coming in for head butts with Daddy this past spring

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I’m not even going to go here. He’s purring on my lap as I type…. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 5th Season

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Summer this year sort of blended into Fall.

There was a brief flirtation with warm temperatures well into September but then Fall didn’t really arrive. Or she arrived, took a quick look around and then left faster than a woman who realizes she has walked into a boutique where she can’t afford a single thing.

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Montana’s attempt at Fall this year

And even Summer felt jilted because we spent much of it driving from one place to another, all while Alistair continued to travel to North Dakota and back on an unscheduled schedule that was the result of them losing one of the partners at his clinic in July.

Thankfully our wild Montana skies weren’t full of smoke this year so we do have that to be grateful for.

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Jockey, soaking up some sunny Fall warmth

And maybe it wasn’t Fall who wanted to leave but, rather, Winter who wanted to come over early. It is only the first week in November and we have had three distinct snow events. Granted, the snow didn’t stick around the first two times and there isn’t much more than a couple of inches on the ground but it still feels a little early.

I read that Montana had one of its coldest Octobers on record last month.

I felt it on the golf course, for sure, but it didn’t stop me from getting out to whack at golf balls.

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Tall grasses on our local Double Arrow golf course mid October

But then the golf course closed earlier than the past few years because it was too cold for everyone who didn’t have Norman with a heater inside to ride around in. Our North Dakota course had already closed down a couple of weeks beforehand.

We weren’t too bummed about our loss of ‘swing therapy’, though, because we knew we had another Hawaiian adventure to look forward to and now that we have returned to the mainland and Alistair is en route to Bismarck yet again, I can honestly say that Maui did not disappoint.

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My Aloha toes!

It had been a year since our Big Island getaway last November but once we checked in at the Grand Wailea we immediately relaxed and let the islands do their thing.

We played golf five hot afternoons in a row and enjoyed every round even if the “real feel” temp was in the mid-90s! We played with our friend, Barb, who is from Colorado and who is as addicted to the game as we both are.

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Round 1 at Wailea’s Emerald Course

It was fun to play on the 3 courses affiliated with our resort because we had never played on any of them until now. The annual veterinary conference I was attending held its tournament on the Emerald course so that’s the one we played the most.

Barb and I had even planned ahead and bought matching shorts for the tournament. While our team didn’t have low scores, everyone agreed we nailed it in the looks department!

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Rob, Barb, me and Alistair on the 1st hole

With swaying palm trees, tasty mai tais, ocean views, birdies, pars and bogeys and amazing meals each day our minds were refreshed and our hearts got topped-off yet again with Aloha.

The conference was excellent and I learned a few things and reaffirmed a few others. I enjoy dermatology and find it a bit like being a super-sleuth… the skin only has a few ways to respond or react to things so you have to consider all sorts of differentials when presented with a red, scaly plaque on a non-itchy young dog.

I especially enjoyed Dr.Rankin’s talks in her lilting Scots accent. She rode us hard about using topical therapy versus oral antibiotics and shared some frightening information on new, resistant bugs hitting the veterinary world as well as the human world.

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Golf course Plumeria

Practitioners in all fields have to think more creatively when it comes to prescribing antibiotics to animals and humans. Alistair gets crap a  lot of the time when he doesn’t give someone the antibiotics they want for their viral cold. People write nasty letters telling his company that they saw a different doctor the next day after seeing Alistair and that new doc gave them their Z-pak. (By the way, Azithromycin concentrates in the pulmonary macrophages… those are in your lungs… your Z-pak isn’t indicated for your kid’s ear infection.) (I did a report on Azithromycin in vet school and its one of my pet peeves when I hear it being used willy nilly for things.)

(And, yes, Z-pak can be used for all sorts of things but my main point here is that you don’t need antibiotics all of the time.)

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Orchids at the Grand Wailea

But now we are back to a snow-covered reality with the wood stove fired up once again for the winter season that feels like it is already here.

Its not actually super cold outside today but it was while we were on Maui.

I have our aging Springer, Cleopatra inside with me as I type. Her back legs aren’t getting the messages she is sending them a lot of the time and her vision is questionable. She can’t hear a single thing and she has Canine Cognitive Dysfunction but her tail wags every morning when her Daddy lets her out for piddles and her appetite is just fine.

Our house-sitter, Jessie, took excellent care of Cleo and our other furry companions and she shared in the silly laughter that ensues when one drags the ferrets around on a towel.

Cleo and I will go for a late afternoon walk soon before I start to think about focusing on my 5th Season.

The Writing Season.

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Maui Mai Tai at the Kula Lodge

Winter is primarily when I try to write. It began 6 years ago and I have my 3 books to show for it.

Last winter I had great plans for completing the 4th book in my Missing Lake series but it just didn’t pan out.

I came back from our 2018 Hawaiian trips with 2 real estate transactions on the go and another that began in December. I was still pretty new to the world of real estate and when I wasn’t moving snow from here to there or putting out potential transaction fires I found that I wasn’t able to relax and give my writing the focus and full attention it needed.

I managed to get into Chapter 8 in my currently untitled book but that’s as far as I got and before I knew it the golf course opened back up and our driving adventures and trips up to Canada began (along with a couple more real estate transactions.)

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Our round of golf at Wailea’s Blue Course.

Today, though, I plan to get back into the Writing Season just as quickly as Summer, Fall and Winter have jockeyed for positions this year.

I intend to review the chapters I have written and hopefully this week I will actually continue to progress. My main character, Luke has a lot on his plate and he and his friends are having to grow up rather quickly thanks to an in-classroom event they all shared. And that’s just the stuff Luke can talk about with his friends. None of them can know about the dragons. The dragons have their own stuff going on as well, not to mention the two young ones to raise.

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Round 5 with Barb, back at the Emerald Course

I found myself drifting over possibilities for my characters while I was staring at the crashing waves rolling in over one another on Maui. As busy as we were with golf and my conference I still managed to carve out some time for contemplation here and there and I’m ready to write.

And we didn’t just play golf on Maui.

We returned to the Ali’i Kula Lavender farm part-way up the dormant volcano, Haleakala not only to purchase some of their amazing lavender honey but also to spend an afternoon surrounded by colorful, unique flora & fauna that we don’t get to see in our Montana and North Dakota landscapes.

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The beginning of our afternoon at the lavender farm!

I’m so glad we got to refresh and recharge together on a remarkably sunny island with great seafood in our bellies, golf clubs in our hands and martinis and wine glasses on our lanai at night.

I’m excited to take my readers on their own break from reality soon, too, as I let myself get going on that 4th book. Stay tuned. Its time for the season to change…

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Ali’i Kula Lavender farm. More than just lavender.

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No clue what these are but I love their color.

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Doctors Fyfe selfie at the lavender farm a few afternoons ago

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Aloha, Baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Friendship Season

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Waiting in line to cross into Canada at Sweetgrass, MT

I have been lucky to have been able to spend quality time with a bevy of friends this past month. Old friends, new friends, family-who-are-friends, animal friends… it has been wonderful.

It began with a road trip up to Lethbridge, Alberta last month to promote my book series highlighted by my award-winning third novel, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake. Maple Leaf Publications has been working with me for months to get me into the annual Word on the Street book festival and I was eager to go to this one.

Alistair was supposed to join me but his schedule has been nuts with the doctors all covering shifts until they could hire someone new.

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Cool old brick barn at the border crossing.

So me and 100 books headed north on a puffy-cloud-dotted blue sky morning and just like that I was in Lethbridge.

After checking into my  hotel I was picked up by the Wright family. Dr.Ken Wright was my co-pilot for almost all of veterinary school and his very cool family has been a fun part of our lives ever since.

I got to watch their eldest (who was born during vet school) play football in his senior year in high school and we had a great supper together minus Zak and Easton. We never skip a beat when we get together and hopefully they will get down to Montana to meet the new Fyfe Ferrets soon.

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Wanita, me and Lei-Anne

At the hotel that night my long-time friend, Lei-Anne was checking in as I got back from supper. She had made the decision to fly to Lethbridge last minute to support me at the book festival and to support our other dear friend, Wanita in her charge against breast cancer. The 3 of us spent much of the next day at the festival together and the laughs were plenty.

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Authors, Ramona, Ralph and me!

This was my first book festival and I was pleased with the attendance and the support from Maple Leaf Publications. Granted, they are not Random House or Penguin books but they did get me a seat at the table all day, a hotel room, a comped breakfast and some branded goodies.

I met Ramona & Ralph who  were promoting their books and, as always, it was interesting talking with other authors who are making their way through this biz.

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Lethbridge’s Word on the Street!

I met a lot of interesting hopeful new fans of the series and I sold and gave away plenty of books. (Wanita and Lei-Anne are excellent managers who told me I need to sell more than give and they are correct….)

We had a video sit-down session that I hope will be available someday for me to share as well and with my plan to finish book #4 in my Missing Lake series this winter, maybe I’ll be ready for next year’s Lethbridge event with fans clamoring to read more!

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The Wrights came out on Saturday, too!

I was so excited to see the Wrights again at the book festival when Natalie, Nate (broken leg and all) and Zak joined me. (Natalie also has the managerial bent that giving books away won’t get me anywhere.)

And then more support arrived in the form of Cousin Kim, who drove 5+ hours to get to Lethbridge. Kim and I haven’t seen each other probably since my brother’s wedding more than 20 years ago and we had been planning this book event/reunion for weeks on social media.

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me and Kim, picking up right where we left off 20-odd years ago! 🙂

Kim fit right in with all of my friends, which also included one of my longest school friends, Candice and her husband, Matt (who I finally got to meet in person!) They also drove a few hours to join me and then Candice, Kim, Lei, Wanita & her hubby, Byron and I all went out for a fun supper in downtown Lethbridge that evening.

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Candice and I after supper in Lethbridge!

It seriously felt like I had my own classy entourage during the book festival and I can’t thank each of them enough for being a part of my adventure.

Lei-Anne had to fly back to BC on Sunday which is when I joined Wanita and Byron to finally play a round of golf together at their home course, Picture Butte. This has been a few years in the making since Alistair and I took up golf and became obsessed with the game. Despite Wanita’s summer of 16 rounds of chemo she was still able to play her weekly ladies league at Picture Butte. It was cool having so many of their own golf crowd wave and visit with them, too.

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Wanita & Byron on a sunny day in their awesome golf duds!

Wanita started the round with an eagle and Byron finished with a terrific par and I put a ball or two into the water and we had plenty of laughs. I spent the night with them and their ridiculously cool trio of feline kids and my heart was full from the love and support of so many friends.

Back home for a few days with my best friend, Alistair, we managed to get out onto our own golf course a few times despite some cold weather but before long I was putting him back on another plane to get back to Bismarck. This prolonged alteration to our schedule has been frustrating but hopefully we will be back to 2 weeks here, 2 weeks there soon.

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It was a little chilly that particular day…

Thankfully the Friendship Season wasn’t over as my good friend, Merielle once again jumped in her Ford and drove down from Christina Lake, BC to join us in her Montana happy place.

Merielle chronicles all of this through her incredible photography which she  highlights at MMK Photography.

I finally took her to nearby Upsata lake and the charming community of Ovando where we braved the chilly air for a quick photo shoot.

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By Scottie Brown Bridge near Ovando, MT

The snow eventually melted during her stay and we enjoyed a girl’s night with one of my real estate colleagues, Carey. A long soak in the Aloha hot tub, my yummy seafood alfredo and a sip of port at Fyfe’s Brew Pub bar capped off a fun Fall evening.

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Carey & Merielle at Fyfe’s Brew Pub bar (thanks for the port, Carey!)

Merielle planned her visit to include my 47th birthday seeing as how hubby couldn’t be here. She got to meet my real estate family for a pre-supper bevvie on Friday where another good friend, Tessa swung by to say hi (Tessa & Merielle met during one her prior trips to Montana.) A quick catch-up including some laughter ensued and before long we were dining at one of our favorite local places, Lindey’s Steakhouse.

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Merielle, Tessa and me

Merielle got to meet our 3 new ferrets (the Fyfe Bee Gees) as well as Fallon, the one female we were ferret-sitting for more friends who are dealing with some medical issues that necessitated them being in Missoula for almost a week. Merielle set up a little ferret photo shoot that I am excited to see once she does her editing back home. Our boys played and cuddled well with Fallon and it was fun for them to have their own new friend to play with.

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Barry striking a pose for Merielle

After that the Friendship Season evolved even more as we got busy with prep for Canadian Thanksgiving. When I’ve been alone I haven’t always celebrated in October when, apparently, the Pilgrims chose Canadian shores to land on but Alistair and I have done a turkey for this big day from time to time.

We had been planning this even before Merielle came when another real estate colleague and his wife (who is also Canadian) asked if we were doing anything on Oct.12th.

And so it was that a spread that included grilled balsamic & rosemary lamb chops, a 21 lb roasted turkey, artichoke-sourdough stuffing and all the fixings was laid before 3 1/4 Canadian-American women and Kyle. (We signed Kyle up for carving details as we three women discussed the pros and cons of our dual lives.)

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Lee, Kyle, baby Paige and Merielle!

Lee & Kyle’s adorable 6-month old, Paige got to experience her first Thanksgiving in style. She also got to experience her first ferret encounters and the evening was filled with laughter, “ehs” and then that awesome Canadian classic, Nanaimo Bars.

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the feast

Merielle and I had tasked ourselves with the dessert classic the day before and we used the Laura Secord recipe book for instruction. The bars are a 3-layer concoction that cannot be compared to anything else. They are also not all that difficult to make and now that we’ve done it I can see it happening again.

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Working on the second layer….

It is fitting that the Friendship Season wraps up (at least, in this blog) with an evening centered on giving thanks.

I know I live a very special life and I am always so thankful for it.

I’m thankful to have a loving, hilarious, supportive cutie of a husband who keeps coming back to Montana despite the travel time every (hopefully) 2 weeks.

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thankful for this guy (on a warmer day his last trip here)

I’m thankful to have incredible friends and family who plan time on their calendars to drive to visit me on their turf or mine.

I’m thankful for the animal companions we have shared our lives with for so many years and that Cleo and I are going to go & enjoy a nice stroll out back together after I finish this today.

I’m thankful for my new friends in real estate who have embraced my insanity (well, I think they have…) and who are eager to meet friends of mine from another walk of life.

I’m thankful to be able to call both Canada and the United States my home for so many reasons on both sides of the coins.

And I’m thankful that Wanita has had a successful surgery and that Byron is right by her side every step of the way.

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Keep on smiling and swinging the golf clubs, Wanita!

I’m hoping for a few more sunny days to hit up our local golf course and even more hopeful that Alistair will get to join me out there when he gets back. Its possible I’ll still be eating turkey by then (can you freeze it? No, really, I’m asking. Did I mention it was 21 lbs?)

I have so enjoyed the Friendship Season with Lei-Anne, Kim, Candice, Matt, Wanita, Byron, Morrigan, Freya, Odin, Kenny, Nat, Jackson, Nate, Zak, Fallon, Joel, Jeanette, Merielle, Carey, Tessa, Kyle, Lee and baby Paige and I’ve enjoyed sharing it here, too.

I’ll probably enjoy American Thanksgiving next month, too but we’ll see about the size of the turkey. I guess it depends on how many friends sit at the table.

Oh, and by the way, its Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Go ahead and kick its ass, Wanita!

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the first layer… and a Canadian icon

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Merielle got to visit Sport and other Fyfe friends like Bebe and Cleo

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Kyle doing the honors with the bird

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A neighborhood friend I’m actually thankful for not getting to meet in person (although they are more than welcome on the Fyfe Farm)