Our Ties to North Dakota

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

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

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

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Our apple trees in Bismarck last month!

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

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

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Back at Painted Woods Golf Course in early September.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On my listed property!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me & Morgie! (not my picture)

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

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

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

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Back on our Double Arrow Golf Course in Montana!

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

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New roof! (and Jockey!)

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

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

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

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

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And now the change is upon us.

 

 

Riding the Waves

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I somehow managed to skip a few blog posts but I’m happy to report that I’m back!

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Me. Back!

I don’t usually write my blogs when Alistair is here, which is a 2 week stretch every 2 weeks. But I also didn’t write when he was back in Bismarck and I don’t really have any excuses.

Well, other than the fact our house was full of huge, noisy dehumidifiers and whirling fans that necessitated the TV volume being cranked and forced us to take up residence in the guest room. We couldn’t hear the phone and we had to shout at each other in just about every room in the house. Even the non-stop running dialogue inside my head raised its voice.

And there has been the emotional roller coaster of the Olympics and just now the World Figure Skating Championships. (I will share more about World’s another time…) And I’m working on a fairly large online project but that, too, is for another time. Not to mention my book marketing which will be ramping up in April…

And then there was the skunk.

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Hi, Boris. (Not my critter cam)

I had noticed a skunky smell in our barn one morning but it wasn’t overly intense. I had noticed it a few times in the fall as well but Jockey never indicated that any winter roomies had moved in.

Until that same afternoon, when Alistair and I were packing and preparing for a much-needed return to Aloha and we heard some rustling next to Jockey’s big litter bin. Alistair bent down and was trying to move the dog crate over and suddenly a large black & white fluffy tail appeared.

Ah, yes, life in the forest.

 

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More of Jessi’s Critter Cam footage

Jockey said his name was Boris and that he’d hibernated in our barn all winter. When he did get out to eat the little fart was noshing on our very expensive, top quality Royal Canin cat food.

Which was all well and good until Boris decided to spray the barn one morning while we were gone. We aren’t sure if Jockey had said, “That’s IT” about his yummy food or what but our wonderful house/pet sitter, Jessi is a capable Montana gal and she set up the Critter Cam in the barn and arranged for a local friend to set up a trap.

As it turned out, Boris buggered off on his own and the barn is smelling better and Jockey has the place (and his food) all to himself again.

Or at least until Boris brings any new girlfriends back.

Or Boris is a Natasha….

 

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Last week. Grey skies don’t matter when you’re on an island.

But I won’t bother thinking about that now because I still have my glow from a week spent on Kauai. Its been a rainy winter over there, which we were expecting, but that didn’t matter thanks to 70-plus-degree weather, a near-empty golf course, sandals and mai tais. We had 2 sunny days with mild trade winds and our laughter and smiles shone through the camera lens from Poipu Bay Golf course once again.

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Right before we teed it up for the first time in months!

The head pro, Chad and some of the workers like Kerry and Mike remembered us from 3 years ago (hard not to remember Alistair’s Driver head soaring through the air) and we felt like Ohana each of the 3 days we played there.

 

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Alistair on the 15th tee.

Alistair hadn’t been back to the islands in well over a year and my trip to the Big Island was shrouded in heartbreak last fall so this trip back to Kauai, our favorite of the Hawaiian islands was uplifting for our spirits and our souls.

We even tried something new in a catamaran-type of dinner cruise around to the Na Pali coastline, which is only accessible by air or water. All of the tour books and even the crew of the Blue Dolphin II were open & honest about likely high winds and seas during the winter months and they weren’t kidding.

 

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Just before shoving off from Port Allen!

The poor gal from Spokane seated next to me didn’t make it very far before she got to see breakfast and lunch again. Another gal was slumped next to her boyfriend most of the trip after doing some “reverse eating” of her own. The 2 of them were downstairs, where the food was served after we’d made it to the stunning cliffs and as the boat surged, lurched, rolled and dove, I swear Spokane looked worse than a corpse

 

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The Na Pali coastline from the water!

For a couple of kids who grew up riding BC Ferries to Vancouver Island & back, the waves and wind were actually kind of fun. Captain Roy and his crew seemed calm and capable and they were able to get us all the way around to see the famous cliffs.

 

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Cue the Jurassic Park music….

It was another way for us to discover Hawaii and all her magnificent beauty. Another way to appreciate how ancient Hawaiians existed in valleys with their taro fields and fishing villages. And another way for us to understand why so much of the state needs to be protected from massive developments and forays into commerce.

It was another way to put goofy smiles on our faces as we breathed in the humid air and all of the surrounding Aloha.

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Looking back from where we came along the coast.

We also did the “cabana-thing” for the first time in all of our trips to the islands. It was part of our Sheraton package and Alistair was in conference all morning so we figured, “why not?” Adding to the incentive of lounging by the pool all day was the fact 2 friends from Seeley Lake happened to be escaping Snowmageddon at the same time. Michelle and Missy happily joined me that morning and then Alistair stayed for most of the afternoon in our bright red, private cabana.

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Michelle and I (Missy’s photo)

It was neat sharing island time with friends who had endured the same trials and tribulations with the fire last summer and then the never-ending snow this winter.

And, as per usual, we made a couple of friends with Jeff on the golf course, the funny Alaskan couple on the Na Pali cruise (the wife was attending the same medical conference as Alistair… go figure!) and Crystal, our social media angel.

You see, our last day there was supposed to be spent on the tees, fairways and greens of Poipu Bay Golf course but the weather had other ideas. We had a night flight out of Lihue but had to check out of the Sheraton so we kicked around the island exploring a few places.

 

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Our last day, the Menehune fish ponds

What’s a trip to Kauai without a quick peek at the Menehune fishponds? Or a spin up to the very wet and rainy Wailua Falls where we joined the other tourists in snapping a quick picture?

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Wailua Falls… where Tattoo did his “Da Plane, Boss” thing… come to think of it, he might have been of Menehune descent…

And what’s a day of kicking around Kauai if you don’t whip up the Coconut coast to the kind-of deserted Coconut Marketplace? (That place used to have an awesome breakfast restaurant and several kitschy stores and local artists but its woefully quiet now).

It also had my wallet, which I had left there but didn’t realize until we made it all the way back down south through traffic to explore the Kiohana plantation.

Talk about a sinking feeling, knowing we had to get back up there, with the possibility that someone may have borrowed my wallet and its contents. With us leaving the island that night.

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the ocean in front of the Sheraton, churning like my stomach was when I realized my wallet wasn’t with me!

 

Being the modern woman that I am, I got onto Facebook, where Crystal, from Texas, had been trying to reach me. She and her new husband were also at the marketplace and a worker from one of the stores had found my wallet. They discussed options and my wallet made it to the Island Market food store.

I had already contacted the marketplace’s office and got another woman involved in the search. Meanwhile, Crystal reached out privately to a few of my Facebook friends and asked if they had a phone number for me.

My wallet made it to the office, then back to Island Market, all while Crystal, her husband, Alistair and I talked and texted on our phones. Alistair drove in the traffic and I eventually met Justin, the Island Market manager and one of their cashiers who said, “That wallet has been here twice today!”

 

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the photo I immediately sent to Crystal.

And Crystal Friended me and she will soon be receiving some lovely Chloe & Isabel bling that both Alistair and I picked out for her.

Do we know how to vacation or what?

And now we’re back to the mainland and Alistair is back in Bismarck and he’s back to work and I’m back in the guest room. Thankfully, the dehumidifiers and fans are gone and I can hear my thoughts once again.

And I feel lighter after our little holiday- emotionally and physically. The proverbial weight of winter has lifted, even though I’m still surrounded by reminders. Aloha hot tubs and my Hawaiian music in Big Red helped me keep a smile on my face this winter. It helped knowing we had Kauai to look forward to, too.

 

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Our front yard today.

The chickadees are chirping, the sun has some Montana warmth to it and the snow is melting. Granted, its revealing the damage to our beautiful home and yard but at the same time it is disappearing which will allow for the next phases of our insurance claim to occur.

 

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The deck off of our master bedroom. Or, what’s left of it.

Much is being revealed on the outside of the home while drywall will be coming down this week to reveal the extent of damage to the inside. Some of our pretty white and lavender lilacs will spring back while I know others will not have survived.

 

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Cleo helping me investigate the front yard today

Our own spirits are refreshed and recharged and I’m choosing to look at our Montana ranch the same way- it will get its own rebirth this spring.

I’m no fool to believe that there won’t be challenges ahead or that I won’t fight back an occasional tear or two, or that its going to be sunny, smooth sailing from here on in.

Challenges and change build character. I know we’re up for it. We’ll handle the waves with smiles and laughter, holding on with both hands just like we did up Kauai’s northern coastline last week.

And you know I’ll take pictures the whole way!

 

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Golfing “island style”

 

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Supper one night at Tidepool’s

 

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Ready for some waves!

 

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Happy explorer, riding the waves off Kauai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evacuate This

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Bebe’s thoughts on this whole situation

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

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

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

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

I’m lucky we had somewhere to evacuate to.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Merielle… very capable Parade Marshall!

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

 

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Getting ready for the parade!

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Evacuation party viewing that day.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Pepe, sometime mid-August.

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

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

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

And then we turned around.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Evacuation party temporary HQ at Bozeman’s Wal Mart

 

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

 

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Our backyard in Bismarck

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

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

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

 

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Our happy herd today.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Cleo & UB relaxing in Bismarck.

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

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

 

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Lutefisk Babs, able to Sunbeam here in ND!

 

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Jockey… seeming to transition just fine.

 

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Happening now at our ranch in North Dakota.

 

 

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Us, better than okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have I Been?

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Oh my goodness, I haven’t updated the blogosphere about Fyfe Life in weeks!

 

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OMG!

In my defense, I’ve been kind of busy.

The dogs and I loaded up and headed east to Bismarck where we spent almost a full week while Alistair had to work some extra days for a colleague.

It was our second trip back without little Loki riding shotgun and I missed her at the rest stops. I didn’t miss the mayhem that ensued with all 3 dogs, none of whom are very well leash trained anymore but I missed looking over at her little sleeping body curled up on its blankie on the front seat next to me.

 

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My travel companions en route to ND!

UB and Cleo adapted to their other home just fine, as always, and I got to reconnect with the horses and various friends. The downtown scene was maybe even more vibrant than our last trips there during the winter. When prairie folk get the feeling that their long, hard, frigid winter is coming to a close the energy is palpable.

We enjoyed a few fun suppers out at great new restaurants like J60 and dined with friends to celebrate their retirement at our old classic, 40 Chophouse.

And we cuddled on the recliners at night watching Netflix and begging Daddy for potato chips (I wasn’t a part of that but I did enjoy the cuddles and Netflix.)

 

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Recliner time with the Bismarck version of our “magic blanket”

And, wonder of wonders (not that it was planned or anything, no sirree), our golf course in ND, Painted Woods opened our last day and we were able to play a breezy, fun round!

 

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Painted Woods golf course in Washburn. Quite a different view from our Montana course!

The course opened on a Sunday and we were happy to see a few carts and golfers losing balls out there with us. (The wind, water hazzards, buttes and valleys here necessitate that you carry at least 30 balls in your bag, at minimum, even if you’re a stellar golfer.)

And ever since Alistair had his final surgery in February he hasn’t felt an ounce of pain when we play, which only adds to the fun and enjoyment when we get out there.

 

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Our back yard in ND

Alistair had also just opened up Fyfe’s Backyard Pitch & Putt before I got back so we made sure to use our membership regularly.

As you can see by his attire, the weather had warmed considerably and even now, back in Montana, the weather hasn’t been as nice as it was that week.

The equine Fyfes all look pretty good except for 26 year-old Susie, one of the grand dams of the herd. She’s looking a lot more weedy and hasn’t shed out her hair coat as much as the others have. Susie was a great broodmare for many years and she’s earned her keep at our ranch. She is still able to boss everyone else around with kicks and tosses of her head so we aren’t going to rush to any sad actions until she needs us to.

 

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Our older Arabian mare, Susie

The adventure to Bismarck was one of the reasons I haven’t had or made the time to blog. The other, main reason is that I’ve finished book 3 in my Missing Lake teen fiction series!

No joke!

Its done!

And then I had to wait for my team of editors to get through their edits and get them back to me.

 

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UB deciding he should “help” Daddy with the editing.

Then I go through each person’s stack of papers with red felt pen, pencil, blue and black ink markings and circles and then I’m ready for my final edit.

Which I’ve been doing today. With my own bright yellow highlighter and pen.

UB and Cleo have been very helpful with this round, as well.

 

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Ben Brick, illustrator (not my photo)

Our friend, Ben Brick, once again eagerly leapt at the chance to do my cover art for this book. His artwork was part of the success of my 2nd book in the series, The Dragons of Missing Lake and it was loads of fun working with him and his concepts.

Ben and I were able to meet over lunch when I was back in Bismarck this most recent trip and the final product is outstanding.

So now its just a matter of time before I share Luke Houser’s tale, from the middle of nowhere in Montana, with everyone once again.

 

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Social media banner by Ben Brick

This story picks up as Luke’s sophomore school year is winding down in the mountainous town of Missing Lake. I explore more of the relationships he has with his friends and develop some of the other characters more. The sled dogs take a bit of a back seat just because of the timing of the book but there are plenty of animal stories and events that shape this third book. Zagros and Tabitha have 2 eggs to hatch as well so there is no end to the fun!

I’m hoping to hit “enter” and then order copies within the next few days, after my final round of editing is done.

Which is great timing because our local golf course has also opened and it has been calling to me.

 

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A sunny round of golf this past week at the Double Arrow golf course in Montana!

I managed a sunny 9 holes on the back yesterday because the weather report predicted rain and cold today. I knew I would dedicate the day to the final editing process.

So I’ll leave it at that and get back to the final few chapters and maybe some supper. Hopefully next time you hear from me it will be with Secrets  Abound in Missing Lake officially published!

 

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Norman came out of storage and he’s already back at the course! (Jockey is telling Dad he’s an “excellent driver”…)

 

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Pretty Fumie and Jessi in ND at the beginning of the month

 

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Some of the herd watching me as I watch them from our back deck in ND

 

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Shed-hunting in Montana… the first shed we’ve found in a couple of years!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music, the World and Myself

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Heading east!

Alistair had an extended work period last month and I was missing him.

So were Loki, Cleo and UB so the 4 of us loaded up into the Jetta and we were back on the long, lonely Highway 200 heading East yet again.

I only brought the necessities.

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Dogs, golf clubs and bling. UB and Cleo were being camera shy.

When I reach pavement and toss a quick wave at Jessi’s house in Ovando, we are really on the road.

Its a pretty time of year for the drive because everything is green and baby animals are all over the place. Its as if the planet is full of hope and renewal.

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The last of the mountains.

Calves, foals, fawns, and lambs hang out in their herds and mosey towards the creeks and streams that weave their way through vast acreages. Where one dirt driveway pierces a perfect fenceline and I won’t see another for several miles.

There was hay on the ground. Lots of it!

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Big, round hay bales on the ground already.

Round hay bales dotted the landscape on both sides of the road while other farmers were in the process of cutting or baling.

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More hay along the road.

The long drive isn’t for everyone, especially with canine companions but I really don’t mind it with the weather being so nice and my buddies being so cute.

Well, at the rest stop when UB and Cleo get tangled up in their leashes, my legs and each other it isn’t so much cute as it is comedic. And silly.

But I can’t blame the dogs for their lack of leash-etiquette. I just laugh out loud and hover over blind little Loki and I giggle as they all sniff the prairie air and I encourage them to drink the water I’ve poured.

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Getting closer to North Dakota

The trip is enjoyable with satellite radio. What a change from driving in the 80s and 90s! When you had to load up your box of cassette tapes in their rectangular cases and push buttons to buzz through songs you maybe didn’t like, hopefully not going too far into the next song.

When your other option was the radio but good luck getting much more than AM or CBC Radio driving out in the empty prairies.

I lucked out in that there was some good golf happening on the PGA station and the music stations I like had some great playlists going on.

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The Pulse!

I love the Pulse. I get introduced to new music and sounds from artists I may or may not have heard of and I’m generally impressed.

And I enjoy the Blend because they play some older tunes mixed in with the new music and its usually a good mix.

I let my thoughts run wild, though, listening to the generational stations, 70s on 7, 80s on 8 and 90s on 9. The sounds of those decades were influenced by so many different things facing the world than what’s going on right now.

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Little Tanya in the 70’s.

I’m a product of the 70s and along with ballet and figure skating I also took Disco dancing lessons (“do the hustle!”) Disco tunes merged somehow with rock & roll which both blended with soul-searching ballads and songs about finding ourselves. Our parents plugged the 8-tracks into the car with a thunk and Boney M or Harry Belafonte sang about trippy night flights to Venus or meeting a little girl in Kingston town.

Those of us non-millennial types somewhere in our 40s now were weaned on Cat Stevens, Stevie Wonder and Fleetwood Mac.

And I think people were happy back then and they took responsibility for their actions and women and different ethnic groups were finding their voices and getting their feet underneath them on firm footing that hadn’t existed before.

And there was no social media or instant news access. We read newspapers and encyclopedias and we wrote letters and had pen pals in different countries and fondue was cool because people could visit while they ate instead of bending over hand-held phones that controlled their lives, offering images of irate and irrational wanna-be leaders next to advertisements for legal groups telling you who you should sue next. I liked the 70s.

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Skater Girl of the 80s

And I lived through the 80s which produced some of the most unique sounds of any musical generation. The Euro-pop scene exploded, men wore make up and full drag, all while Heavy Metal began its loud, frenzied march through many adolescent’s “ghetto blasters.”

 

I remember my own mom ripping an Iron Maiden or Quiet Riot poster off my brother’s wall but I can’t remember why.

The 80s music scene is chock full of experimentation with synthesizers and lip synching (Girl, you know its true!) and suddenly we had MTV and Much Music and stories behind songs became as important as how it all sounded.

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Closing out the 80s… grad class of ’89

The music reflected the times. HIV and AIDS were real. Hunger existed around the world.

People responded and even though a lot of songs came out of the 80s that make me shake my head it was a reflection of people asking themselves and others what could be done? How far could they push the scene? What kind of world did we want to live in?

Yay for Boy George, the Beastie Boys and Duran Duran. Yay for Bruce Springstein and Cher. And yay for heavy metal, which is a sound and a vehicle for people (and possibly their rage) that has survived to this day.

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Japanese metal in the early 90s

My life in the 90s was as busy and confusing as the musical scene which was all about asking questions and trying to keep up with the World Wide Web and what that meant. We began 1990 without the Berlin Wall and the 90s saw African Americans beginning the identification of their own culture and what they would (and wouldn’t) stand for.

The 90s is where rap music took off and while Vanilla Ice certainly had his hey dey in there it was looked at as a mostly black style of music. Rap music was another way to interpret and question life, and it provided yet another glimpse into a song’s meaning, just like the videos behind the sounds did.

Globalization began to happen on a larger scale. Home grown nutjobs became terrorists with Oklahoma City. Flannel and plaid became cool. DVDs replaced cassette tapes. Peaceful protests of the 60s and 70s were replaced by riots in LA after the Rodney King verdict. And nobody can forget where they were when they were watching that white Bronco.

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One of the things I became in the 90s!

The 90s were just as busy for me.

I lived in 3 countries. I graduated both college and university. I was a showgirl, a skating coach, an English Teacher and a waitress. I became engaged then un-engaged. Then I got engaged and married to the right guy. I was a pet parent and a step parent for the first time and I attended a bunch of awesome concerts.

As always, a musical soundtrack has played in my head through every step of every adventure and these 3 generational satellite radio stations brought it home to me during my 11 hours in the car with the dogs.

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wide open sky for wide open thoughtful reflection

I am glad I had parents who enjoyed music and that, through figure skating, I was surrounded by different sounds much of my life.

I love that Alistair shares a passion for music and that he likes playing his guitar and singing John Denver or Garnet Rogers songs to me. An ABBA record on his shelf was just the beginning for us over 20 years ago.

And I am lucky I can load up my dogs, deaf or blind as they may be, and we can travel the open road between 2 states and 2 homes in vastly different surroundings.

That I am free to listen to my life’s soundtrack and pontificate on the meaning of it all and what the generational sounds will be from 2016. What will I reflect back on listening to Ed Sheerhan, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Maroon 5 and Rixton down the road?

I’d love to hear the sounds of your own soundtracks regardless of where you live or how old you are. Until next time… sing on.

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Our happy herd in sunny Bismarck

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UB’s 2nd bath in 2 trips to ND. We aren’t sure what he’s found but it stinks!

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Round 2 for the robins. Same nest, new babies!

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Playing on our ND course, Painted Woods!

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Trying to beat the storm clouds as I drove back to Montana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Sunrise of 1993

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Happy New Year and welcome, 2016!

While 2015 was marvelous for so many reasons I am fine to shut the door behind it.

Not that the day of the week or the number on the calendar changes much.

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View of the front yard.

Its still winter.

We’ve still got over 2 feet of snow on the ground.

The snowmobilers are racing around the meadows and the yurt-ski people are filling up the parking area at the end of one of our nicely plowed driveways and Alistair is still going back & forth to Bismarck and Loki has had a few more seizures.

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Loki. Right now. Not seizing!

They aren’t very long- 10 seconds at the most.

I’m starting to notice a routine she has when they occur and maybe she seeks us out when she senses one coming on because I have been close by for the last 3.

She sits down or stands very still and then she starts bringing up a frothy bile-like foam (I’m not trying to gross you out. Its just what happens). Her medically-inclined Gampy and Step-Gammy think the pre-seizure phase is somehow making her nauseas.

Then the trembling starts.

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Loki napping under the covers. Not having a seizure.

Twice now we have held onto her, stabilizing her with our own bodies and she doesn’t fall over and hasn’t actually gone into the full-blown seizure. Other times she goes down (gently if we are around to assist… thankfully she’s only 15 lbs) and she seizes.

Then she piddles.

Then she wakes up.

And after a little while of being held, talked to and what looks like a bit of general fuzziness she is back to business- eating, drinking, barking at closed doors, barking at the other side of the closed door, and prancing through the house like a little pin ball, gently bonking against a door here or a wall there.

Or a chiddy pat.

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Boomer & Cooper back in May. When Boom was only 19.

Like Boomer.

Who, at 20 years old is pretty set in her ways.

I will say, she is still agile enough to make the effort to get out of Loki’s way now and she can still surprise the snot out of me with a rapid whack from her claws if I’m working on a hair matt.

BoomBoom gets twice a day methimazole for her over active thyroid. We’ve been at this for 2 years now. I didn’t think we’d last 2 months when we started.

But we did so we keep doing what we’re doing and another year has come and gone.

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Beautiful New Year in our back yard in Montana!

I spent New Year’s alone (well, void of human company) which isn’t all that bad. I made it to midnight and reached over to pet the dogs, wishing them a happy New Year!

I got a couple of tail thumps from UB but that was about it.

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Are you writing about me, Mummy?

Its not the first New Year’s I’ve ever spent alone.

The first one was saying goodbye to 1992 as 1993 came along.

I was living in Tokyo (Chiba, really), Japan and working as an English teacher for American Language Schools.

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Me with some of my students… and Rhonda. Who will have her own story someday.

I was overweight, pale, engaged to the wrong man back in Canada, living within 2 tiny rooms in a cement block that was partly inhabited by the Yakuza, drinking too much Kahlua and cream at night, without internet, writing lots of letters, living for my cassette tape player and I had no clear idea of what I wanted out of life.

Thankfully a cousin who lived there introduced me to one of her students, Mr.Katsumata, who took pity on this poor young Geigin who was alone for the holidays.

He began with what must have been an incredibly expensive supper on Christmas day- a day that isn’t celebrated in Japan like it is in more Christian-based countries.

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Mr. Katsumata outside of Omote-Sando Dori in Tokyo.

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I look like a white giant here but I assure you I have never been tall.

Mr.Katsumata also wanted to share a traditional Japanese New Year’s with me, which I have forever remembered and appreciated.

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Boarding the train at 2am. We had seats in the 2nd row!

We took the first train of 1993 to the coastal city of Endo-Shima to watch the first sunrise of the year.

Its a pretty big deal in the Land of the Rising Sun.

It is tradition (and good luck!) to visit many temples and snack amongst the crowds before, during and after sunrise.

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Visiting one of many temples sometime around 5am in Endo-Shima, Japan.

We made sure to get as close to the shore as we could and among hundreds of Japanese we watched the sun rise above the horizon on the first morning of 1993.

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There it is! The first sunrise!

It was beautiful to see and be a part of. Everyone cheered and hugged and I felt pretty special looking out over the waters that morning many mornings ago.

We kept going around to temples and Mr.Katsumata taught me about various statues and beliefs and we ate too much food and drank beer or tea and before long I was back in my little rectangle of a house as one very tired Geigin.

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Hundreds of people visiting all of the temples after the sunrise.

I learned a lot that special day and it still holds deep meaning for me. I wasn’t traveling to Japan as a tourist and I wasn’t there with a group of North American figure skaters sharing the experience.

I was living there, trying to figure my way around a non-touristy community, immersed in a culture very different from my own as an obvious wide-eyed, pale-skinned, chubby outsider and yet this one man invited me to share his customs and traditions in a spiritual setting with me.

It was important that he taught me these things and shared them with me and it was equally important for me to experience a mere fraction of what being Japanese was like.

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More temples on Jan.1st… excuse the crabby look on my face! I remember feeling really tired right about then but I got my game face back later on.

I’ve never seen the first sunrise on the first day of any new year ever since. I don’t think it would be quite the same.

There is much more to my adventures in Japan but I am smiling and feeling nostalgic and I need to work on our snow-shoe trail with UB and Cleopatra now.

I will leave you with the 3 ferrets and I with our latest Sing-Song saddle video we cooked up the other night.

Welcome, 2016. I still don’t know exactly what path I am on but I am enjoying the trail.

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Working on the snow shoe trail this afternoon!

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Come on, Mummy!

‘Tis The Season

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I love the seasons in Montana.

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. Conference Season!!!

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Aloha toes! You know what that means!

My annual veterinary dermatology conference was on Kauai this year which is probably our favorite of the islands.

Hawaii’s islands all have a distinct flavor or feel to them.

Maui is happening. Its hip. Its trendy. Its where tourists flock with their families and the place has a real vibe to it.

The Big Island is enormous and covered in black lava. And there’s a volcano erupting that keeps the snowbird retirees from the mainland interested. It vibrates a little slower than Maui.

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View of the southern shoreline from the Grand Hyatt.

And then there is Kauai where life moves even slower.

The trade winds had stopped blowing our first couple of days there so things heated up. It was unusual to experience that and even the locals were sweating up a storm.

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Getting toasty on the Poipu Bay golf course our first day!

You get used to 3-shower days because the mix of 100spf sunblock and sweat feels just like you imagine it does.

Anything that isn’t cotton attaches itself to your body like a second skin and driving around in circles in the golf cart as fast as you can to cool off makes total sense.

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The view from the last 3 holes at Poipu Bay were spectacular.

The Poipu Bay golf course became our home-away-from-home-course. The staff were hilarious and treated us like Ohana the second time there. The course was in great shape and we were some of the only players there each day!

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Our second round at Poipu Bay… views like this and the place all to ourselves!

Alistair became somewhat of a celebrity during an organized one-hour lesson for the 14 veterinarians who had signed up for the annual golf tournament.

It was a free lesson and we showed up on time (which most veterinarians have a hard time doing). Everyone else was an hour late so that gave us time to visit with head pro, Chad. (Chad had been stationed in Great Falls years ago and remembers being cold for 10/12 months.)

Chad asked for a volunteer to try using his directional tools that he’d set up and Alistair went for it.

The rest is history.

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Cart crew hamming it up with Alistair with his busted Driver head.

Chad: “I’ve never in my life witnessed anyone shear their Driver head off and send it flying like that.”

They leant us a Driver for the tournament the next day.

The tournament was great for Alistair and Dr.Rich and his son-in-law, Danny but it was a complete bust for me.

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Golf cart parade heading out to tee off for the tournament!

I don’t even know why I’m admitting this because I’m usually pretty competitive with myself but I totally sucked that day.

My only real saving grace was my drive on a par 3 that landed a few inches from the hole. Our only birdie.

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Our foursome, Alistair, me, Rich & Danny

Our team still laughed a lot and I played great golf every other time Alistair and I went out so I’m not worried. Embarrassed, perhaps, but not concerned.

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One-legged, healthy-looking Nene at the golf course.

We did so many more things than just play golf, though.

We got to hang out with Alistair’s daughter, Whitney and her husband, Lau and we met his fun parents, too. The kids made a great BBQ for us at their place and we all laughed and relaxed and told stories about our adventures in life.

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Me, Alistair, Whitney & Lau at Tidepool’s restaurant. This was when the trade winds weren’t blowing and we were as warm as we look here.

The kids met us for Smith’s Luau, which is a well-known place and show. Its also where the famous Fern Grotto boat tours take off from.

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At the luau!

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Lau and Whitney with us at Smith’s

The food was terrific and the stage for the show was beautiful under the starlit night. The performance was pretty good but if you’re going to jeer the crowd and tell us we need to clap more and you’re the fire thrower-guy, you maybe should practice tossing and actually catching those things a bit more.

I’m just saying.

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Ready to load up for our incredible adventure!

Our biggest adventure this trip was an afternoon jaunt over to the remote island of Ni’ihau, where non-Hawaiians are not allowed to go.

Unless you’re invited.

Or you charter the helicopter owned by the Robinsons, who own the island.

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We’re going to Ni’ihau!!!!!!

Whitney, Lau, Lau’s mom, Fredlyn and our new best friend, Tony from Ohio joined Alistair & I on a twin-engine bird that was over 30 years old.

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Lau and Fredlyn just before the flight!

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Up, up and away!

Our pilot, Dana was incredibly knowledgeable and gave us a superb aerial tour of the island before setting us down on our secluded, gorgeous, sandy beach where we spent the afternoon.

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flying towards Ni’ihau

There is so much I could say about this trip but then the words fail me. It was beautiful. It was a privilege. It was Ni’ihau.

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more of our aerial tour

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Largely untouched shoreline on Ni’ihau

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No fishermen that day. Some of the villagers ride a horse for 2 hours just to get to the shore to fish.

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shells, lava, debris…

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Our beach for the afternoon.

We snorkeled, we relaxed, we hunted for shells (which we were allowed to bring back), we pontificated, we watched a monk seal sunbathe, we beach combed and we admired the beautiful land on the traditional island that a few hundred pairs of feet get to walk on each year.

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Snorkeling off Ni’ihau! It was like living in a giant saltwater aquarium!

I’m sure it was different for each of us. Particularly Lau, whose stomach didn’t enjoy Dana’s showboating in the helicopter on our way there. ‘Nuff said.

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Trade winds came back! Southern shores off the Sheraton.

Then it was back to reality (which is unreal on Kauai) and a few more conference days for Alistair.

We dined at Dondero’s, Tidepools, Merriman’s, Keoki’s, Duke’s, Rum Fire, Red Salt, Ilima Terrace, Lava’s and the Plantation Gardens. We highly recommend a stroll through their amazing gardens even if you don’t eat there.

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“Fraggle” plants at the gardens.

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orchids at the gardens

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The Plantation Gardens

We managed golf at the former Kauai Lagoons, (now Hokuala, which means Rising Star) where the airplanes landed immediately adjacent to a couple of holes on the back 9 and the term, Jungle Golf took on a whole new meaning.

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One of our trips through the jungle at Hokuala!

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Hokuala’s signature hole with a cruise ship docked at Nawiliwili in the background. None of our balls went swimming!

We had one more round at Poipu Bay where our Ohana treated us well and before long we were dining at Duke’s and then killing time waiting for our night flight out of Lihue.

We are rejuvenated and relaxed and tanned and ready for winter. The wood stove is on and the first few inches of snow in Montana has already melted. Loki had another seizure the day after we returned so I’m keeping her close. We still walk & talk, though, and she did a once-around the entire house & yard yesterday.

We love our Aloha adventures but we love to come home, too. Mahalo for reading, and it was great to see Aimee, Richard and Bruce and of course Whitney and Lau and meet his cool parents, David and Fredlyn. Aloha. Until next time.

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One of those no-trade-wind-days on the golf course early in our trip

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Fun supper at Dondero’s with one of my veterinary classmates, Aimee and her boyfriend, Jason!

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the Sheraton luau dancers as seen from our walkway

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Our beach on Ni’ihau

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Final golf of the journey, once more at Poipu Bay, hours before we had to fly home.