Time to be Home

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Slinging real estate last weekend

Once again, I haven’t been present on here for a few weeks. I have, however, been present in all sorts of other places.

The last I wrote I had returned from 2 trips to Canada combining reunions and family celebrations. The travelling didn’t end there!

Soon after Canada trip #2, we were off to the airport to fly to Jackson, Wyoming for a medical conference for Alistair. Delta airlines had other plans, though, and our flight out was cancelled. I did a quick search, made a phone call or two and said, “Hey, Hon, its only about 6 hours, why don’t we just drive there?”

So we did!

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Fyfe Photographers of Grand Teton National Park

We spent a few fun, sunny days in Wyoming that included a beautiful day in Grand Teton National Park.

We don’t consider ourselves “National Parkers” but if we had the time, we probably would be. We’re both nature lovers who enjoy learning about different areas and we both have a healthy respect for wildlife and wild lands. Its why we live at the base of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, Montana.

Wyoming and this park have its own splendor, for sure. There are towering peaks with sleek waterfalls cascading down them. There is that old homesteader’s cabin adjacent to a field full of horses. And there is the Snake River winding its way throughout the park.

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Those towering peaks…

We had a great lunch at the Jenny Lake Lodge which reminded us both of our more local Holland Lake Lodge in Montana that our friend, Christian owns. Both are older, historic settings off the beaten path and you kind of have to know they’re both there. And both are in the midst of beautiful scenery although I have to give a few bonus points to Christian’s lodge because of the impressive lake it sits on.

Jenny Lake Lodge isn’t right on the lake but the pull-outs for photo shoots isn’t very far away.

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Jenny Lake Lodge!

We enjoyed our time in the park as well as our time in Jackson with its hip restaurants and busy tourist scene. The tourists there were younger than the ones in Whistler the month prior and they tended to have move kids. The bike scene was huge and there was a lot of Kombucha being sold (did I spell that correctly?)

(And what’s with that anyways?)

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Utilizing the “pano” feature on my phone (taught to me by my young nephew up in BC)

We didn’t play golf at any area courses (gasp!) but then we had expected to fly there so we didn’t bring our clubs.

We did haul them with us the next week when we hit the road in 2 trucks to drive back to Bismarck. I try to get back there a few times a year for a variety of things, not to mention spending more time with Alistair.

Even though we drove in separate rigs we still talk a lot during the 10-plus-hour drive using walkie-talkies.

“Oversized semi coming at you, Hon.”

“What the Hell would you use tires that size for?”

“You can pass that Subaru over the next hill.”

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At a rest stop admiring the intense color and scent of this year’s abundant sweet clover.

Likely due to the wet, late spring this year, the sweet clover was just incredible. In the 13 years Alistair has done this drive along hwy 200 every 2 weeks, he has never seen this kind of takeover.

Or smelled it! It is, indeed, sweet and quite lovely. It also attracted a bazillion little butterflies which, sadly, aren’t very adept at avoiding windshields hurtling at them at 75 miles per hour.

I got to visit my stylist, Tiffany #1 while back in North Dakota along with my dentist and our other home golf course, Painted Woods.

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Painted Woods golf course, Washburn, ND

The course came out of its winter hibernation better than our Seeley Lake home course and was in terrific condition. While a lot more people seem to be playing the course this season we still generally have all 18 holes to ourselves to lose balls, laugh our heads off, encourage each other to “take another shot, Hon,” make pars, make quadruple bogeys, three-putt and hunt for balls.

We also visited Morgan, Mike, the Hansens and the Hoggarths at Morgie’s wedding, which was one of the main reasons I went back to ND with Alistair. It was a lovely wedding at a unique new event place and Morgan looked as happy as she was gorgeous.

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Our other daughter’s beautiful smile on her very special day!

And I got to visit our horses!

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The Herd.

Our numbers are down from the years but we still have 9 of the gang running around on their lush 40 acres. Katie, the lone remaining Thoroughbred broodmare is getting up there but she is looking pretty good. She and Zeus hang out and the 2 of them are mostly in charge but they all get along well and are a gorgeous bunch to hang out with.

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Frankie and me 

And Frankie is still a kind goofball who is always one of the first to come up to me. Jessie, the sweet grey, lone Arabian on the farm is usually second.

I enjoy the smell of the horses and of the farm in general when I’m back there. I like being in our house where the memories of the kids going to high school or hanging out with their friends during the summers spent with us are ever-present. I like thinking about young Casey and young Loki playing together and picturing a worried UB perched on Daddy’s lap with Loki’s torn cornea thanks to the new cat, Jockey and Alistair’s busted pelvis and how we had 9 cats lining up for soft food every night. Oscar always ate first. Mulder second.

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Alistair and Mulder in Bismarck a few moons ago

I love soaking in our hot tub there with a martini for him and a Caesar for me. I get a kick out of our side-by-side recliners we enjoy watching old Frasier episodes or whatever we’re into on Netlflix together at night.

I also enjoying having a coffee or a glass of wine with Deb or Wendy or Linda and Leanna but it just didn’t pan out this trip.

And I had to get back to Montana so I could drive another couple of hours up to Kalispell so I could show homes to folks from California I’ve been working with for a year. We power-showed several homes around the area and I’m so happy to say we have one under contract. Now, nothing is ever closed until its closed so you don’t do the happy dance until that moment but I am happy we found a place for them to dream about moving into.

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Showing homes in Kalispell

I only spent one night there but it was still one more night I didn’t get to help Cleo up onto the bed or wake up spooning with Sport. I’m glad I was able to be there, though, and hopefully will see this transaction to the end in September.

But we weren’t done with the road trips.

Back in June my military brother booked a family flight out to Grand Forks, BC for his leave. We hadn’t seen my brother & his family since our first year in Montana when his youngest was barely walking and his oldest is going into second-year university so it was pretty important for us to get up there.

Its hard juggling our schedules with Alistair’s 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off set-up and both of us living in different states. We generally plan things a year in advance if we can (no joke!) due to these schedules as well as the pet/house-sitting that has to be planned. Our regular angel, Jessie1 wasn’t able to make it work when Alistair would be here and Danny and fam would be in BC but Jessie2 was able to step in a the last minute.

Complicating things just a tad was the fact one of Alistair’s partners dropped dead when I was back in Bismarck.

63 years old. No known health issues. He had just started working with Alistair and the 2 other doctors 8 months ago so we didn’t really know him super well but our sons played hockey together and his wife has been a fun supporter of my books.

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The grown-ups of the family

So it was touch-and-go if both of the Fyfes were joining all of the Koftinoffs but we made it happen and everyone is so glad that we did. (You can clearly see why I never hyphenated my name when we got married….)

Danny’s oldest 2 boys remembered us (and the time Casey terrorized them by slamming Cody into the ground in his enthusiasm to meet them before chasing Ryan across the lawn and into the creek he didn’t know was there….)

(That whole thing could have been avoided if Danny had paid attention to my words, “Don’t open the door to the dog kennel until I get home.”)

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Diana, Danny & me. 

I couldn’t tell you the last time the 3 siblings were in a photo together. No, really, I couldn’t. Probably when Dan and I were in high school and Diana was in elementary school.

The nieces and nephews all seemed to get along really well and it was fun taking Michelle and Alistair around Grand Forks together.

And then Alistair had to get back to Bismarck early because the 3 doctors are rotating around to keep the clinic open while they wait for a 4th doctor to join them this fall. It means our times apart will be longer and our time together will be shorter.

 

You might think after spending so much time together in the truck or in hotel rooms or on those side-by-side recliners or in our golf cart that we would be weary of one another but that isn’t the case.

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This guy and James, the cat my parents feed

We still have so many things to talk about during the day when we text or email or every night when we talk.

And it doesn’t get any easier when I watch him drive down the driveway or when I had to kiss him goodbye before I left Bismarck.

Even after 13 years of living in separate states.

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We stayed with my aunt & uncle on Fife road the last trip back!

I am busy when he isn’t with me in Montana- there are the ferrets to play with, the inside and outside kitties to take care of and cuddle, Cleo to help navigate the world as her canine cognitive dysfunction becomes very real, floor days to take at work, that transaction in Kalispell to stay on top of, the big house to maintain and my golf clubs to swing.

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Mummy and Andy a few nights ago!

It has been all I could do to get a blog written but I made the time today.

I’m glad we have had the busy adventures we’ve had this summer so far but I’m also thankful to stay home for awhile now. Alistair won’t be back for almost 2 more weeks but that’s just how it has to be right now.

I got to revisit memories and people and laugh with my family and remind myself that while everything changes… everything… much of it stays the same.

And there is that one sudden reminder from when I was back in Bismarck that you just never know when its your time.

So drive to Wyoming when your flight isn’t taking off.

Grab a hotel room in Kalispell to help people fulfil their dreams.

Laugh at the Frasier lines you’ve watched so many times you say them faster than Niles or Daphne; give Frankie, Maggie, Jake or Jessie a scritch when they come to the fence to say hi; whip out a flex pose in front of the Grand Tetons; sit a little bit longer in the hot tub together; drive to Canada to make sure the family can all be together; go to a good friend’s wedding and share their special moments; laugh with the ferrets and play with them; take a moment with the barn kitties to sit in the sun if you can spare it and, damnit, drink the wine, smell the roses and sip the coffee.

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Barry, Marice and Andy (the Bee Gees Fyfe) at the watering hole

I’m not trying to wax philosophical. I’m just suggesting you embrace time while you’re experiencing it.

As ridiculously busy as our summer has been and as much time as I’ve driven in my truck, I’m totally enjoying the ride.

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The lineup driving to the entrance of Grand Teton National Park

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Maggie, Fumie and Jake 

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Me and my favorite foursome a couple of days ago

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The Koftinoffs!

 

 

 

 

 

Reunion-ate and Celebrate!

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Pacific Rainforest

I have traveled many miles already this month and we aren’t done yet. I have met several wonderful new friends and have been so fortunate to reconnect with special people as well.

The Internet and social media have made staying in touch relatively easy but it doesn’t replace a real handshake or a hug.

You can’t smell the ocean air and the lush green rainforest from a photo and you certainly can’t taste a proper Canadian Caesar through an Instagram post.

You also can’t catch the glint in your little sister’s eyes as her oldest child goes and graduates from high school…

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Road trippin’ along the Columbia River in WA state.

Not everyone is comfortable driving across western Montana, the Idaho Panhandle and all of Washington state in one day. (Alistair had just driven from the middle of North Dakota and through most of Montana a couple of days prior!) We are pretty comfortable with it, though, and we made sure to stop and stretch our legs along the way. Especially where the scenery was spectacular!

We crossed the border into Canada and made our stop in our old stomping grounds, Vancouver, BC. Alistair’s son, Gareth met up with us at a Canadian classic, The Keg restaurant and we caught up and shared stories for a couple of steak- and wine-filled hours.

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Three Fyfes at The Keg!

The next day it was onto Whistler, BC, the site for Alistair’s UBC medical school class of ’83 36th-year reunion. Alistair had gone to his 10-year reunion before I met him. That was the last time he had seen most of these people who had gone through the trenches with him for 4 challenging years. I know what those years are like and I hope my veterinary class will have such high attendance at our 36th class reunion!

I admired Alistair’s prep work beforehand- getting his old yearbook out, re-reading everyone’s future plans, seeing what boyfriend or girlfriend names were and trying to envision what they would all look like after so much time had passed.

For a man who admits to not being very good at names he correctly rolled them off when we started bumping into classmates in the elevator and the lobby of our hotel. I was seriously impressed!

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Alistair and Jenny recognized each other immediately

I finally got to meet Drs. Jenny, Alison, Brenda, Maria, Doug, Nan, Debra, Nick, Cindy, the other Brenda, and so many more. I had already met Drs Ed (he came to Creston every now & then where Alistair worked in the early 90’s) and Irma (she was at our wedding!)

We had a fun initial meet & greet, breakfast with lots of people giving interesting talks and then a golf tournament before the big banquet!

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A dozen doctors hanging out at Nicklaus North!

It was a cool afternoon but the rain held off and we were able to laugh our way around 18 holes with a few balls getting lost and one ball-for-the-wall. We were paired with Dr.Debra and Dr.Wally who were well matched to our games. Debra and Alistair got to catch up on their lives after med school and somehow I managed to shoot 100 for the very first time in my life!

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Wally, Debra, me and Alistair having fun at Nicklaus North in Whistler, BC!

The banquet afterwards was fun and gave everyone a bit more time to visit (which became challenging when the very loud dance music started… it was like the 80s on 8 station on Syrius radio, which I love at least…)

Only one classmate asked me how old I was, which makes us chuckle. Alistair proudly told them I was a veterinarian (which many MDs wanted to be) and then the realtor thing and the book thing would come up in conversations. Even if you ask us the basic, “Where did you two meet?” question it leads to the professional figure skater thing.

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Alistair and Maria at brunch on Sunday

And then it was time for the final get-together at brunch on Sunday. I love that so many people stayed around for that and they got to visit without shouting at one another for another couple of hours.

Business cards were exchanged, waffles and honey butter were eaten, hugs were given and received and farewells were said. They are hoping to do this again in 4 years, maybe up in the Okanagan this time. Every single person made me feel totally welcome and I could see how much Alistair was adored and respected. Heart = happy!

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Debra, Cindy and Alistair at brunch

On a whim (and based on Wally’s recommendation), we drove up north to Pemberton and managed to hop onto the Big Sky golf course for a great round on one of our new favorite courses!

It wasn’t crowded, the course was challenging and yet not ridiculous, they made a mean Caesar, and the entire course was beneath a towering mountain that made for some excellent photo shoots.

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Golf in Pemberton with that big mountain in the background

It tried to drizzle but the fates were on our side and we mostly stayed dry. Alistair got one ball-for-the-wall and we made it back down to Whistler in time for a fancy schmancy ($$$) meal at the Fairmont, where we had all been staying. While it was the only non-Mcmeal of the trip together and the only really romantic restaurant we ate at, we had to agree that the actual meal at the Keg with Gareth was, by far, the best food of the trip.

And then it was 13 hours in the car to get back to Seeley Lake. Then Alistair had 10 hours to get back to Bismarck and within four days I was driving 6 hours back up to our home and native land to cheer my niece on for her high school graduation.

I grabbed incredible borscht, pyrahi and voreniki at The Borscht Bowl which is owned and run by my friend, Beki and brought it to my sister’s for a relaxed supper with the nieces and nephews. (Well, Diana had to pick it up because I was only in Colville, WA when I saw Beki’s text saying they closed at 4… it was 3:50 and I had pre-ordered a boat load of food!) (I paid Diana back, though. My treat.) (You would be amazed at how quickly we got through 3 liters of borscht!)

The next day it was showtime for Kalayna and her classmates as they celebrated their senior year at Grand Forks Secondary School.

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Kalayna, her bf, my little sis and her youngest, Larissa before the ceremony

Kalayna had the most beautiful gown and she looked so lovely (and happy!) Last names of many of her classmates sounded far too familiar and I know a few of my classmates were there but nobody was expecting me (I’m Fyfe now, no longer Koftinoff, not that it matters because Kalayna’s last name is Tubrett.)

Kalayna’s brothers and sister were great companions in the ‘pov’ seats and I learned more about my phone from 6th-grade Nikolai than I have learned since buying it.

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Auntie Tanya & her posse- Larissa, Alexei and Nik pre-ceremony

I ran into my friends, Lei-Anne and Nicole but I didn’t see Zena, Paul or my former skating coach, Amy, who were all at the ceremony. Again, why would Tanya Koftinoff be back in town? That’s fine, though, because the weekend was about Kalayna and we were able to keep it that way.

We made a point of all visiting my Nan, who is in a home now for folks with memory-related issues. I wished we had more time to spend but I’m sure it was confusing enough for all of the residents as we all swept in, with my parents, and soon after, swept away.

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Us women-folk who wouldn’t be here if not for the cute gal in the pink shawl.

Then it was a family supper at the Station (the Borscht Bowl was better but the steak sammie and my Caesar were pretty good), a morning coffee with my folks, goodbyes to the family and then a short but much-needed catch up with one of my besties from school over brunch at The Omega.

Lei-Anne and I have been in touch through Facebook for years. A lot of our conversations have centered around our goofy Boston Terriers but real life sneaks in there as well. Still, nothing could compare to just sitting together (with her mom at times and also with her youngest, Jon) laughing about getting kicked out of typing class and how we giggled throughout one of our sex ed classes.

And we shared our concern about our friend who is battling breast cancer (and kicking its ass, I might add) and another who is raising her sister’s children because said sister is a mess in Vancouver. Real life.

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Lei and me at The Omega last weekend.

Maybe Kalayna will have these kinds of brief, unplanned reunions when she comes back to Grand Forks 30 years from now even if she lives in another country that sometimes feels like its another planet.

Or she will have planned reunions many more moons from now with people she hasn’t been in contact with and yet the friendships will easily exist just like they did 36 years ago. (It took over a year to organize the doctors for their 35th, which is why it was a 36th reunion in case you were wondering why those whacky Canadians celebrated 36 years…)

And then it was another 6 hours back to Seeley Lake. Long enough in the truck to think about seeing if the veterinary gang from WCVM’s Class of ’05 would entertain a smaller 15-year reunion at our farm next year. Something low-key-ish that we could organize as more of a camping/Bon fire spectacular. We do have gobs of room and a guest ranch/outfitter is our neighbor…

Maybe I’ll put it out there.

The road trips to BC and back to reunion-ate and celebrate got my mind going in all sorts of fun directions. I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride!

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Golf in Pemberton, Alistair is facing The Mountain

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The Brandywine Falls driving up to Whistler, BC

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Canadian Poutine in Whistler!

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mom, Alexei, me and Nick at The Station Pub in Grand Forks

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Kalayna, Diana, Dad and Larissa at the Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#HumboldtStrong

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The above photo is the only one on this post that belongs to me. I’m not going to identify the rest, though, because this blog isn’t about individuals. Its about a team and a country and a country full of teams and dreams.

I haven’t known what to say since the horrific bus crash on April 6th between a hockey team of Junior players heading up to Nipawin, Saskatchewan and a semi-trailer truck. It has touched me on an incredible number of levels, for so many reasons. 16 people died in the crash, 6 are still hospitalized with 2 remaining in critical condition.

I’ve asked my social media world to share a photo of their tributes to the crash. Photos came in from across Canada and the US. Friends. Family. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Hospital staff. Our goalie from our vet med team. Former students of mine and the children of former students of mine. The rest of the photos are theirs, used with permission.

I didn’t know what else to do but I can hopefully use words to express my feelings.

 

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This post is for the little kids who get up early on Saturday mornings or even before school to lace up their skates (or have their moms and dads lace them up for them.) The kids who don’t want to practice drills or skating. The kids who just want to shoot pucks and learn a slapshot. The kids who often got Timmie’s on the way to the rink and then got to enjoy McDonald’s on the way home.

The kids who look up to their coaches as their heros. The same kids who watch hockey games at night and want to grow up to be just like Crosby. They dutifully don their mouth guards and helmets and they learn to play and respect and love the game of hockey.

They are boys and they are girls and they are every color and every ethnicity you can imagine. They dream of professional hockey and while very few reach that level, many become coaches, parents of players, referees, minor hockey board members and host families.

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This is for the parents of those little and not-so-little kids. The parents sitting on the bench sipping coffee and hot chocolate during those early-morning practices and games. The parents logging countless miles driving for hours on winter roads to play games and tournaments. The parents who sometimes have to be apart because one kid has to go to Fernie and the other kid has to be in Nelson.

The same parents who listen to their kids complain about the amount of ice time, or about the center who’s a puck-hog and never passes. The parents who try to keep their mouths shut on questionable calls and line changes by the coaching staff.

The parents who work hard to pay for that new pair of skates, the private power skating sessions or summer camps halfway across the country.

They are the same parents who watch their kids load into the bus. Or they’re the house-parents billeting a player who loads onto the bus. The parents who all expect to see their hockey player again.

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This post is for the bus drivers of these teams who all love their jobs. Like my maid of honor’s dad, who drove for the Nelson Junior Leafs for years. Over mountain passes covered in snow with noise and adrenaline charging in the seats before the games and peaceful slumber in the wee hours of the morning on the way home.

Bus drivers who all have real lives and families and other jobs but they love being the man behind the wheel for these teams. Every player and coaching member knows the bus driver. Every host family knows them. They are as much a part of the team as anyone else and it breaks my heart  knowing the Humboldt Broncos lost their dedicated bus driver in the crash.

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I write today for the small towns who have Junior A or B hockey teams. I grew up in one of those towns and my friends who are still in Grand Forks continue to root for and believe in our Grand Forks Bruins.

It was just what many Canadians do on home game nights. At school on Fridays we’d say, “you going to the game?” Players from other provinces and even countries play on small town junior hockey teams. Every year we’d get new players at the high school and we’d all sort of try to help them fit in, even if they stuck mostly together and even if they might be traded the following week.

This is for Grand Forks, BC. Nelson. Creston. Fernie. Kimberley. Trail (even though I’m from Grand Forks and we’re not supposed to be nice to Trail.) In this case its okay because we are all the same.

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This is for the coaches of hockey players, who help the little kids when they hurt themselves and have tears streaming down their cheeks. The coaches who try desperately to decipher what their little Atom player is trying to convey with his mouth guard in.

Its for the high school hockey coaches who have to hold back the comments when their players are held hostage by their own hormones.

The coaches who listen to the parents with gripes about ice time, some other kid, or how the ref screwed up a call. The same coaches who hope the team starts to get along better, or that the girl’s team can put the drama aside for just one game let alone a season.

The coaches who have to teach the importance of skating, fast starts and sharp stops, stick handling, checking, respecting the refs and passing all while their charges just want to take slap shots on net.

The coaches who want every kid, regardless of their skill level to get a goal this season and really feel like they are a part of something bigger. Something special. Something they will pass onto their own children in the future.

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This is also for Saskatchewan, the province I called sort-of home for my 4 years of veterinary school. While the players of the Humboldt Broncos came from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, they all called Saskatchewan home this season, too.

If you have never been there you might picture it as a vast open space with incessant winds and bitter cold. You’re not incorrect but there is so much more. There is the scent of the prairies on that wind- of grains and prairie grass and hope.

There is the ice arena and curling rink in every single town along with one or two great cafes that all serve poutine with home-made gravy.

Saskatchewan is full of hard-working people who learn they have to drive to get anywhere. Its nothing for a team of players to travel for hours for playoff hockey because most of them and their host families have been doing that all of their lives just to hit the big grocery stores.

Saskatchewan was good to me and it has become a part of my mosaic.

Saskatchewan has had to bear the weight of this terrible tragedy but I am given strength from the fact every other province has stepped in to help hold their Canadian teammate up.

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Its for the figure skaters who share the same small town ice rinks with the hockey clubs. They often share one sheet of ice with minor hockey, junior hockey and adult hockey and everyone has to get along.

The hockey players at school would bitch about the holes our toe picks created with flips and lutzes. They’d complain when our home club would host a competition or test session and monopolize the whole rink for 2 to 3 days. And they’d blame their early morning or late night ice times on the fact the skating club got a lot of prime time hours.

But they would also sit in the stands before a game taping their sticks while watching the sparkly skaters practice in front of them. In private, as we got older, they would admit having respect for our mastery of the blade and the fact we wiped out without padding. And then we’d get back up and try again.

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This is for the fans out there who have never put on a pair of skates in their life. There are millions of you world-wide and there is nothing like a die-hard hockey fan. Some are fans of a particular player or a certain team. Others just love hockey and change allegiances each season, or even within a season.

Most just love the game with its fast paced action, the blistering flight of the puck, the plays, the camaraderie on the bench, the potential for fisticuffs and the unexpected results when a young team, a rookie or an old veteran in his final season step up and create a great story.

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This is for everyone, everywhere who put a hockey stick outside their door or a jersey on their back in honor and remembrance of a bus carrying hockey players, coaches, a radio play-by-play announcer, a physical trainer, and a statistician to Nipawin for a must-win playoff game.

Its for all of you who shed tears even if you can’t spell Humboldt correctly. Its for the NHL players and the Stanley Cup itself who visited the injured in Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital.

Its for the outpouring of love and connection all wrapped around watching players race around an icy surface chasing a little black orb while following rules and respecting other players. Its for our collective love of the game. Its for hockey.

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Most importantly, this is for the players and team members on the bus that crashed on a sunny early evening highway along the flat prairie roads by Tisdale, Saskatchewan. For the survivors, their families, their host families and for the souls who were lost. For the emergency crews on the scene and the hospital staff who had to watch team players struggle to figure out what had happened. And who had been lost.

Thank-you to my friends & family for their touching tribute photos. May we all forever stay “HumboldtStrong.

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45 Years

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A lot can happen in 45 years.

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Me, last fall (this is the only picture today that is mine.)

Like me! I’ve been happening for 45 years and I’ve happened to pack a fair bit into that time frame.

World views have changed, the climate has changed, musical, social and clothing styles have changed- I’ll note that I remain a huge fan of the music from the 70’s but not so much the clothing- and the world just keeps spinning around on its axis knocking another year off its list.

In 45 years the world went from rotary dial phones and party lines to instant messaging and real-time video chats!

While its remarkable all of things that can happen within 45 years, its equally remarkable for the things that didn’t happen in all that time.

It took 45 years for Canada to proudly put a woman figure skater back on the top step of the World podium.

 

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Kaetlyn Osmond, en route to World gold!

I watched with tears streaming down my cheeks as the talented, powerful yet graceful Kaetlyn Osmond of Marysville, Newfoundland soared through her Black Swan routine nailing each element with her trademark flow and speed and landed herself on the top of the podium.

It hadn’t been done since Karen Magnussen won World’s in 1973.

Josee Choinard tried but always succumbed to her nerves. Jennifer Robinson wore the Canadian crown for almost a decade when it seemed like Canada couldn’t produce a serious ladies competitor. Jennifer never, ever threatened the podium. And Joannie Rochette came close with the silver medal but not the elusive gold.

 

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Canada’s Joannie Rochette at the Vancouver Olympics

Joannie had the goods. She was fast, daring, talented and beautiful. She was strong-willed and dedicated and she finally showed she also had the mental fortitude when she competed in Vancouver days after her mother had flown in from Montreal and then died from a heart attack.

Her coaches kept her in a private, secluded bubble and the press gave her some respectful breathing room as everyone wondered if she would compete in her home country or not.

She was the current World silver medalist from 2009, though, and Canada was really hoping to get another lady on an Olympic podium since Liz Manley stood there, in second place back in 1988. Joannie’s short program was wonderful and clean and I’ll never forget the image of her collapsing onto her knees, sobbing when she finished.

She earned Olympic bronze that year, which Kaetlyn was able to repeat in South Korea this year.

 

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Kaetlyn’s sassy Olympic short program in February (in Chloe & Isabel earrings from me!)

She leapt up 10 placings from her appearance in the Sochi games 4 years ago and was amidst a bit of a skating controversy despite the media’s lack of attention to it.

It wasn’t Kaetlyn’s fault. It wasn’t the judges’ fault, nor was it the fault of the 2 Russian skaters who won gold and silver. Its sort of the fault of the new International Judging System (IJS) that was implemented after the Salt Lake City Games where a judging scandal in the pairs event (Russians and Canadians again, go figure!) necessitated a change from the old 6.0 scoring.

The Russian champion, Alina Zagitova had all of her jumps in the second half of her program- everything done in the second half gets bonus points because if you’re a normal skater, it gets kind of hard to leap into the air the correct way, spin 3 times, maybe reach back, pick, and leap up again for 2 or 3 more rotations and land on your toe-pick and look pretty after 2 or 3 minutes.

 

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Zagitova after her long program to win the Olympic gold last month.

If you’re a pre-pubescent 15 year-old, though, you don’t know what exhaustion feels like and your body can jump-jump-jump to its heart’s content. Its a completely unpleasant routine to watch because of the layout and also because she throws her arms in the air above her head on every single jump (another point-getter in the IJS.) (Suggestion- limit it to 2 hands-above-head jumps, please!)

These IJS bonus points are there to create an objectified way of scoring skaters. Like goals scored in hockey or a time stamp for a runner, its figure skating’s way of making things fair and keeping personal preference or nationality away from the judge’s bench.

However, for the first time that I’ve really noticed, it made for ugly routines and unappealing skating for the two Russians, unlike the stylishly-crafted routines (done by Lance Vipond) of Kaetlyn’s.

 

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More of Kaetlyn’s Olympic short program

Zagitova landed everything. Her training-mate, Evgenia Medvedeva landed just about everything but she also had a strategically created routine with arms up and big tricks near the end but it was a more pleasing routine. Kaetlyn skated with tremendous height to her jumps, flow going in & coming out of them with strength and style.

I would have put Zagitova in third.

And in an Olympic year, not everyone continues on to the World championships held just weeks later. Joannie Rochette understandably did not in 2010. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir didn’t compete in Milan this month at world’s after their Olympic glory and neither did the Olympic men’s champ, Yuzuru Hanyu.

Even Evgenia Medvedeva skipped a chance to reclaim her World title this year but young Zagitova joined Kaetlyn, Carolina Kostner, Gabby Daleman, and the 3 American Olympians, Tennel, Nagasu and Chan in Italy for the final event of the figure skating season.

 

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Carolina Kostner after her amazing short program in Milan

Imagine the skating world’s surprise as home-country Carolina Kostner skated to 1st place after the short! Carolina, herself looked shocked and the incredible 32 year-old got to take home a shiny gold medal (they do a “small medal” ceremony for the short program podium).

Also with a small medal was Zagitova in 2nd, less than a full point behind Kostner. Kaetlyn, fighting back the post-Olympic blues, was 4th.

The post-Olympic blues exist. Not that I speak from experience but I sure would have loved a shot at that kind of depression. Highly decorated Michael Phelps is speaking out about the crash after such a high, especially when a medal or 2 is involved and I read in one of Kaetlyn’s interviews that she really had to rally to get her mind in the game for World’s.

 

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Kaetlyn & Ravi realizing she had won bronze in South Korea. What a high! (Michael Slipchuk from Canada is off on the left.)

Rally she did, though, and after several skaters, including the surprising Wakaba Higuchi from Japan who leapt to the top of the scoreboard an hour earlier, the sad and uninspired performance of Carolina Kostner who made several mistakes in front of the supportive Italian crowd,  and the shock of all shocks when Zagitova tumbled to the ice (and off the podium), Kaetlyn had the skate of her life and leapt into first place on World ice.

Two deserving Japanese skaters joined her on the podium, Higuchi in 2nd and Satoyo Miyahara in 3rd.

 

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Miyahara and her teensy, tiny jumps heading for the bronze.

Zagitova and her coaches were speechless. They’ve commented since that they will review everything and try to figure out why their 15 year-old skated so terribly that day. Carolina has shrugged her shoulders and is happy with her small world medal but hasn’t announced if she’s retiring or not.

The medals were placed around the ladies’ necks and the flags were raised. All 3 took to the ice, Kaetlyn wrapped in a Canadian flag and they did their victory lap, waving to the crowd. Nobody told Kaetlyn that they’d laid a carpet down and there is ample footage out in cyberspace of her nailing it and crashing to the ice.

Everyone is giggling and smiling, including the 2 Japanese skaters who helped Ms.Osmond back to her feet. Typical Canadian, she just laughed it off.

 

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2018 World’s podium (before the wipe out)

And Canada once again has a ladies world champion.

She hasn’t been back to Canada yet to receive a hero’s welcome in either of her “home towns” of Marysville or Edmonton, Alberta. She jetted off to Japan for a 2-week stint of Stars on Ice. She’ll be back in the land of the maple leaf for the Canadian 2-week Stars on Ice tour soon and I’m sure she will be adored.

I wonder if they’ll make a Kaetlyn Osmond doll like they did with Karen Magnussen (I had one! I have no clue where it is….)

 

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The K-Mag doll of the 70s!

 

At this point Kaetlyn says she is committed to continuing to compete and even wants to feel an Olympic rush yet again.

I’m so glad I’ve been here these 45 years to be a part of this. I’m so proud of my friend, Ravi, who has coached Kaetlyn since she was 10 years old. How lucky we all are to hopefully see more of this talented athlete and hey, I’m looking forward to seeing if Zagitova survives puberty (many Russian ladies are dumped at that point) and to see what she brings to the table. Will Carolina continue? How about Miriah Nagasu and the other American ladies? We need to get American ladies back on top, too.

Until next season’s B events roll around (check out Salt Lake city in the fall for the International classic- these skaters on a test run! I’ve been twice and its super cheap and super cool!), its all speculation. Regardless, GR8 SK8, Kaetlyn Osmond!

 

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Canada’s Josee Choinard, so pretty, so talented, so stylish. Just could never get the mental hang of it.

 

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Zagitova at World’s, still hoping to hold it together at this point.

 

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Oh, Canada!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Coach Came Back

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Back on the ice! Virden, Manitoba last month.

My first language is Figure Skating.

First career language, that is.

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

 

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2007, my Bismarck skaters during a video-review session

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

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

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

 

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

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

But I loved it.

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

 

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Showgirl in Japan, 1992

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

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

Gasp!

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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My morning pit-stop.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Fab, fearsome foursome in Virden!

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

 

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

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

But more on all of that another time.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Shanna & Haley, more locker room giggles

 

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

 

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My favorite skating partner (2010).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country Kids Back in the City

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Lions Gate bridge & downtown Vancouver

It had been 7 years since we had been in Vancouver and, thanks to an appropriate conference, good timing, and easier mobility with fewer pets, Alistair and I flew back to the sprawling city we have both called Home.

Alistair was born there and grew up in West Vancouver. He attended UBC for both his undergrad and medical school training. I was born there and lived in the suburb of Port Coquitlam until my family moved to Grand Forks, a much smaller town. I returned for 6 months of every year after I turned 12, though, for my skating and I spent a lot of time in the city during my Chilliwack-college years in the early 90s.

And while we know our way around and we have many, many friends and family members still there, Vancouver definitely isn’t our Home now.

For one thing, there’s the traffic.

 

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Downtown Georgia street. Cars perpendicular to one another.

It wasn’t surprising because Vancouver has had 3 million people and 3 bridges to the downtown core for many years but it still takes some adjustment to get used to after a long time away. We drive lonely gravel roads to get to our ranch in Montana and Alistair spends hours on highway 200 that darts across this enormous state where he won’t see another vehicle for 2 or more hours.

We both remembered the frustration of real traffic when it took 30 minutes to travel 5 plugged city blocks. On a Sunday!

 

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Rear view mirror of the line-up behind us

While the streets are all where we left them 7 years ago, they have been re-routed to allow for an incredible network of bike lanes. And these cyclists are hard core! They share the streets with cars, trucks, buses and taxis with a confidence that would seem to better fit a suit of armor versus just their little helmets. Which is another reason we could never come Home to Vancouver to stay.

 

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This was after the taxi cab decided he was going to cut through everyone.

I took advantage of a sunny morning while Alistair was learning all about Pediatric emergency updates and opted for a trip down Robson street… on foot. Vancouver is easily explored that way and there is no road rage.

Robson street is a classic for Vancouverites. Its where we used to drive up and down the road, bumper to bumper on Friday and Saturday nights, looking at everyone who was looking back at us. Cruising Robson street.

This time around, though, I was cruising somewhat as a tourist. Or, better yet, a spectator. The street and the city didn’t disappoint.

 

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Robson st.

I got to share in the festivities associated with Falun Dafa Day! (I had no clue at the time but its a traditional form of Chinese meditation that is persecuted in its homeland). There were drums, a band and dancing, all performed in brilliant colors with smiles on the performers’ faces. This all happened on the front steps of City Hall. How Canadian.

 

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BC weed on display… with cops right there.

Then there were the open displays of the various types of weed you can buy and what different things they were good for. Right in front of the street police. I overheard the big guy telling British tourists that marijuana wasn’t going to be a criminal prospect in the near future so they weren’t busting anybody anymore. Not for sharing information or selling T-shirts with the beloved plant leaf boldly celebrated.

How even more Canadian.

 

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Loved this!

I loved seeing the bikes you can rent around town. I mean, why not use those bike lanes, right? Its a Green concept and a healthy concept and its SO Canadian and it made me smile as I continued down Robson street on one of the first sunny days the city had seen in weeks.

 

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Oh, Robson st., you haven’t changed a bit.

I chuckled to myself when I saw the stores that had been there when we cruised the street close to 30 years ago.

And I smiled when I craned my neck upwards to gawk at skyscrapers on other streets during my little jaunt down memory lane.

 

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A little higher than the capitol building in Bismarck (tallest building in ND).

The city is full of construction and concrete and the skyline has grown. There appears to be no end to the impressive towers and while it was kind of neat to see it was just as nice to see the older, historic buildings of downtown Vancouver.

 

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Our hotel

Like the ancient Hotel Georgia, where we stayed up on the 11th floor. The bar there used to be known as somewhat of a dive but the entire place has been revamped and it was as beautiful as it was luxurious. (And pricey but we have that handy exchange rate on our side right now.)

Our hotel was across the street from the famed Hotel Vancouver, which is now a Fairmont. Everyone knew it from its copper peaks and it probably still is a feature to the skyline even if it sits in the shadow of an array of skyscrapers.

 

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Hotel Vancouver on the left.

With conferences and concrete and sirens and throngs of people downtown at all hours, it was a welcome relief to eventually cross the Lions Gate Bridge and head to West Vancouver. We couldn’t find parking at Lighthouse Park (Alistair’s neighborhood stomping grounds back in the day, where he would hike, swim and fish for hours without seeing a single soul) so we made our way to nearby Eagle Harbor for a walk along the ocean.

 

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Hello, Ocean!

It was a gorgeous day with hardly any wind and I remembered how it was so easy to fall in love with Vancouver during good weather. You can find peace and serenity if you look hard enough or you know the secret places.

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club in the background

The briny smell of the ocean was a wonderful sensory memory. It took me back to my parents taking our boat under the old Port Mann bridge in the 70s when we lived there. It transported me to walking in the sand at White Rock and eating the most incredible fish & chips wrapped in newspaper. And it delivered me to Kits Beach where we would meet with other skating friends for pic-nics in the early evenings after a full summer day at the ice rink.

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club

It took Alistair on his own journey as we revisited the house he grew up in. Its re-painted and has had a change or two done to it and there are roads and subdivisions with many houses behind it where there used to be train tracks and a forest but its still the house his dad designed many years ago.

 

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Alistair’s childhood home

And what’s a trip for us without the golf clubs?

We were excited enough just to see my dear friend, Liz and meet her hubby and even more pumped when they invited us to a round at their private golf club out towards UBC, Shaunessy.

 

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Alistair getting ready to play along the Fraser River

Some of the holes had temporary greens but most did not and our merry foursome shared old stories, updates on mutual friends and our families, a drink or two and much laughter.

 

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Tan and Liz, together again… with bottled Caesars! So Canadian!

The course has a lot of history, which Danny was able to share having grown up playing golf there. He is the best golfer we have had the opportunity to play with in our short golf lives and it was an idyllic, flower-adorned little place to lose yourself within the big city.

 

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On the 2nd tee along the river at Shaunessy

It was a great way to end a trip that brought our little family back together again. Yes, we finally got to enjoy time with both Gareth and Whitney this trip and it was as laughter-filled as ever.

Whitney’s bestie, Jaclyn joined us, too, which was also fitting as she has been an honorary Fyfe for as long as I’ve known the kids.

 

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Jaclyn, Alistair, Gareth & Whitney, downtown Vancouver

The 5 of us had a wonderful meal of incredible seafood at Yew restaurant in the Four Seasons right across from our Hotel Georgia.

And we picked up right where we had left off, which filled both Alistair and I with warm fuzzies.

 

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Blurry. Back at our hotel.

The kids joined us back at our hotel for more stories and for me to get my 3rd book into Whitney’s and Gareth’s hands. Jaclyn has to start from scratch so I gave her the 1st book, Lost and Found in Missing Lake.

Our trip back to our home land was an exciting journey and although we didn’t get across to Vancouver Island where more friends & family live, and we didn’t eat at a White Spot or Keg (so Canadian) and we had to pay a toll to cross the new Port Mann Bridge and it was a few days until I knew who was eliminated on Dancing With the Stars, there was so much that we did do and see.

More friends.

 

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Lori and I enjoying lunch downtown

More familiar roads.

 

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Getting ready to cross Lions Gate Bridge

More favorites.

 

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Alistair hand selected a tray of Purdy’s chocolates (Canadian classic!) for his staff in ND

And more familiar stomping grounds.

 

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Jellyfish of the Vancouver Aquarium.

And now we’re back home, together in Montana for a few more days before Alistair heads back to our ranch in North Dakota. Rainy cool weather has prevented many people from enjoying our Montana golf course but we’ve tried to get out there every day since we’ve been back.

It was fun visiting the big city again. Even if every Vancouverite wears black. How “city chic.” I guess. Like I would know.

I’m happy to have already lived such a diverse life in diverse places and I’m happy with where we are now. Sure, I’d like it better if Alistair and I were together full time but that’s not how it is at the moment.

 

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Alistair and I hiking in West Vancouver

Its good to be Home with the pets and my upcoming book events. Its good to be together. And while the politics of Canada are a little less frightening and volatile at the moment I’m okay to be where we are. We are both dual citizens, proud of certain aspects of each country that we call Home.

Because Home is where you feel connected, even if its not where you started out. As Toad the Wet Sprocket says, and as I’ve quoted before, Home is “not the place where you live, but the place where you belong.”

Here’s to you, Vancouver!

 

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Fun Shaunessy foursome with Liz and Danny G!

 

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More ocean time at Eagle Harbor

 

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Oh, Ocean, it was lovely to see you again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Week of Watching Worlds

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World’s ladies podium from Helsinki, Finland (not my photo)

Its the time of year when the figure skating world culminates in one spot to crown its new champions and I sit on my ass with coffee in-hand and watch, mesmerized.

I’m mesmerized by the incredibly beautiful costumes, the intricate, challenging choreography, the focus and intensity of the athletes and their coaches and most definitely the level of skill required to compete at the senior level nowadays.

When I grew up, my idol, Katarina Witt won World and Olympic championships with a triple loop as the top jump in her arsenal.

 

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Katarina Witt, 1980s (not my photo)

Now women absolutely must have a triple-triple combination and everything up to and including a triple lutz. And that’s just the women. The men’s and pairs disciplines have upped the ante making for tremendous challenges for the skaters and coaches.

This season the quad-fest that is the men’s event started to evolve early on. I thought I was finally watching creative routines that included one or two quadruple jumps (usually a toe and salchow) as well as beautiful movements and step sequences that tried to tell a story.

Until Nathen Chen blew everything out of the water at US Nationals back in January.

 

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Nathen Chen at Nationals (not my photo)

With two quads in the short and four in the long, including a quad flip in combination, Mr.Chen took the sport in an even more aggressive direction. And yet, he is quite balletic. Critics used to nail men like Elvis Stoijko for including too many quads because it took away from the artistry of figure skating but you can’t say that about Nathan. He was already an accomplished ballet dancer before he chose to pursue skating as his sole focus and it shows in his arms.

 

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Nathan Chen, this week in his short program at World’s

He arrived in Helsinki for this week’s World Championships with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. Not only was there buzz that he would quad his way to the top of the podium, he was also expected to earn back three births for the US men into next year’s Olympics.

Pre-Olympic years force more pressure onto skaters from countries with more than one who can rightfully earn a trip to the biggest event of them all. If a country has one skater placing in the top 10 at World’s the year prior to the Olympics, that country gets to send one to the big show.

If you have two skaters whose placement numbers total thirteen or less, that country can send three skaters to the Olympics.

So not only do you have to skate lights-out, you also have to place high enough that everyone in your home country doesn’t hate your guts for losing a spot.

 

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Chen during his ambitions long program yesterday at World’s (not my photo)

Chen’s coach brazenly told reporters and fans that his pupil was going to go for six quads in his long program. He nailed the two in his short but sadly fell on the triple axel so he needed something ambitious to beat the men ahead of him and get that podium finish.

And he tried.

But it didn’t quite work out. He landed four out of six quads and ended up in sixth.

He did, however, help the US earn a third spot on the Olympic team because team-mate, Jason Brown (who fell on his inconsistent quad but dazzled everyone with his brilliant moves and effortless footwork) placed seventh. Six plus seven equals thirteen. Whew!

 

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Hanyu’s electrifying short program at World’s this past week (not my photo)

Japan made skating history by having two of their men take the top two spots on the podium with Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno. While it was no surprise to see Hanyu on top again (he is the current Olympic champion, after all), he got there in a round-about way.

I love his short program to Purple Rain, by Prince, including the wicked knee slide thing he does to the high-pitched electric guitar part of the song but it hasn’t been received the same way by all of the judges.

And if you don’t land all of your jumps it isn’t going to receive top scores, either. His wonky landing on his first quad combination landed him in fifth place, which he admits was pretty depressing.

 

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A different, incredibly focused story for Hanyu’s long (not my photo)

Thankfully his team helped him keep his head together and his confidence high and he went out and performed one of the most incredible long program’s in men’s history. His focus was intense (see above photo), his choreography exquisite and his jumps were so solid and of such high quality they looked like doubles. He landed… no, he nailed four gorgeous quads and two triple axels and deservedly won back his championship title.

 

 

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Celebrating with Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson his unprecedented 223.4 point score for his outstanding long program yesterday (not my photo)

It is worth trying to find a video online if you’re a skating fan because the routine is sublime. I love when everything can come together for an athlete- the planning, the preparation, the training, the practice, the coaching, the hard work and finally the fulfilment. Way to go, Yuzuru Hanyu!

And good for Shoma Uno, who sometimes can be a bit pissy and petulant when things don’t go his way. He also is a wonderful skater and artist on the ice with probably the softest knees of the current leading men.

 

 

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Boyang Jin of China during his Spider-Man short program at World’s (not my photo)

 

And great work Boyang Jin of China who wrapped up the men’s podium for the second time in a row. It was the first time ever that men from all Asian countries placed in the top three.

 

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The Men’s medalists at Worlds! (not my photo)

While I enjoy seeing things work out wonderfully for an athlete like Yuzuru, its heartbreaking to see things completely fall apart. Such was the case of Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya, last year’s bronze medalist.

A good skate in the short had her in 4th place, within one point of the podium. She had been known, up until last season, as one of those skaters who could have a complete and total meltdown on the ice. Sadly, THAT Anna showed up to skate her long program.

 

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Pogorilaya, looking good during her short which landed her in 4th (not my photo)

Oh, dearie, me, it was awful. I mean, after the third fall I was kind of thinking (wishfully, sort of) that she would just get off the ice. It wasn’t just wipe-outs, either. There were stumbles on other landings, triples popped into singles and slow, off-centered spins. After the grim-faced performance she dropped to her knees and sobbed. To the point where it became uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.

The crowd rallied to show their support and she eventually got up and made her way to the boards but she once again dramatically fell to her knees to bawl some more. Hey, I get it, it sucks, we’ve all had a bad skate, its embarrassing and demoralizing but please, for the love of all things holy, get your ass off the ice. Thankfully her coaches dragged her off.

 

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Elegant Carolina Kostner in her long program (not my photo)

While nobody else had quite the mess of a routine, many of the ladies were off during their long programs. The ethereal Carolina Kostner of Italy, back in action after an international ban, placed sixth with a few boo boos. She doesn’t have a triple lutz in her current arsenal so if you’re going to compete with the big girls you had better land everything else solidly.

She didn’t.

 

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Karen Chen of the US during her short program this week (not my photo)

Neither did the spunky new US Ladies Champion, Karen Chen competing at her first World Championships. She bore a lot of pressure because she bombed at the Four Continents championship last month, causing many to question her selection to the World’s team. See, the ladies, like the men, had the challenge of earning back a third spot for the Olympics.

Everyone figured Ashley Wagner would pull off a top spot. She won the silver medal last year and she likes a good fight for her long program but nobody knew what to expect with the newbie, Chen.

 

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Wagner during her funky short program, which placed her in 7th

Ashley sat in seventh after a sub-par short and then completely underwhelmed everyone in her long. It was actually a somewhat boring routine where her pesky under-rotation demons returned and she didn’t land all of her jumps.

Her coach looked more annoyed than anything as she awaited her marks.

Chen looked up at the scores before her warm-up and saw that Ashley placed lower than expected. So not only did she have to prove she deserved to be there, she also had to place well for all of America.

Thankfully, the diminutive skater did, earning a well respected fourth place behind the Russian and two Canadians.

 

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Yeah, you read that correctly. Two Canadians. Women. On the podium. At World’s.

Its simply never happened before. While Canada is known for creating amazing skaters and hockey players, we just haven’t been able to do it with the women. Its been discussed for decades why we could only produce a Liz Manley and a Joannie Rochette every now and then but not alongside another top tiered woman.

Until now. When Gabrielle Daleman and Kaetyln Osmond put their skills, training and mental preparation all together at the right time and the maple leaf flew high two nights ago.

 

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Gabrielle Dalemen, 3rd after the short, en route to the bronze medal here during her long (not my photo)

Gabby was in third and held that spot even after following the champion, Evgenia Medvedeva, and hearing the roaring crowd after her record-breaking scores had been announced. That can be a bit rattling when you step out onto the slippery surface but Daleman held it together and put on a fun, sassy show to that old warhorse, Rhapsody in Blue.

Skating immediately after her team-mate, miss Osmond, who trains in Edmonton with my dear friend, Ravi Walia, put on her own jumping clinic with a mature, silky, elegant long program featuring a soaring triple-flip, triple toe and blurringly fast, centered, gorgeous spins.

 

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Kaetlyn Osmond from Canada, ready for that silver medal at World’s (not my photo)

Both girls gave intelligent, sweet and friendly interviews together (you can look them up at cbc.ca) and proudly wrapped themselves in the same Canadian flag after the medal ceremony.

On a side note, watching as the camera zoomed in I noticed Kaetlyn’s earrings… Through my friendship with Ravi, I had offered to sponsor some jewelry to the Canadian champion back in January. She and I spent a morning online in my Chloe & Isabel boutique (www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe… you have to check it out now, right?) and she chose the sophisticated Bianca collection. Which includes lovely, on-trend ear climbers.

 

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Which she appears to have worn during her short program…

 

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And in her silver-medal winning long program!

Who would have known?

My beaming smile was more for the ladies’ placement than the bling, though, but it still made me chuckle.

 

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Ladies medalists, live, at World’s

So Canada gets to send three women to the Olympics! Huzzah!

And we get three ice dance teams as well thanks to Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir returning to competitive skating this season and winning everything they entered, including World’s. It wasn’t simple, though. In first place after their awe-inspiring short dance (to Prince songs), Scott stumbled during their free dance and the two-time former World champs from France actually won the free dance.

 

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France’s Papadakis and Cizeron after their emotional, strong, high-scoring free dance (not my photo)

The French had to settle for silver behind their training-mates, Virtue & Moir. American cutie pies, the Shibutanis finished in third. Sadly, the US team, Hubbell & Donohue, who were in third after the short dance, tumbled and missed the entire twizzle element which sadly sent them tumbling down to ninth place.

 

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I thought Hubbell & Donohue were finally going to claim some glory this year but it wasn’t to be. (not my photo)

Ice Dance is art on ice, with athleticism thrown in for fun. The skaters are all beautiful (I think its a requirement nowadays), they all fly around the ice (especially the Shib-sibs) and they perform dangerous, acrobatic moves that leave the audience breathless as they watch. The Olympic showdown will be fabulous.

The Pairs event wasn’t so hot for Canada or the US this year, particularly since the Americans only had one team finish in the top ten… meaning the United flight to South Korea next February won’t be as full with only one team getting to go to the Olympics.

The former two-time World Champs from Canada, Duhamel & Radford, fell off the podium thanks to a pesky hip injury that flared up for Eric. They are always exciting to watch and they finished in seventh, which isn’t that terrible. (Maybe I should have sent Meghan some earrings?)

 

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Skating their free program at World’s, Meghan Duhamel & Eric Radford (not my photo)

They’re right behind their team-mates, meaning Canada gets to send three teams.

The brand new World Champions are from China and hardly competed at all this year. Sui & Han sat out while she had both feet operated on several times to repair shattered ligaments that are the result of years of Chinese level throw jumps.

 

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Han throwing Sui into orbit (not my photo)

I’m happy for them that they won. The world has watched them grow up together on the skating stage and this is perfect after all that they have endured.

Behind them is the somewhat newer team of Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot. They represent Germany, where neither of them is from but you just have to let that go. In third were the Russians, Tarasova & Morozov, arguably the tallest male red-head to ever grace the ice.

 

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World pairs podium (not my photo)

So, while nothing got done around the house, I was relaxed and able to fully enjoy watching World’s this year. Our Siamese cat, Sport, watched much of it with me from my lap, my shoulders or the back of my chair.

I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on the state of figure skating, the point system, the outfits, the lack of scandals, the Russian drama, the choreography or whatever. Figure skating is my first language and I still speak it fluently.

 

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Virtue & Moir, golden again! (not my photo)

 

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Evgenia Medvedeva, gold medalist again during her weird, 9-11 themed long program (not my photo).

 

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Former two-time World champ and global heart-throb (sorry, ladies, Miki Ando has him) Javi Fernandez of Spain won the short but (as you can see) wiped out in the long, falling off the podium and into fourth place.

 

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The Beautiful People of ice dance (not my photo)