Blades and Clubs

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Fernie, BC!

I’m back!

I unintentionally took a blog-break and Alistair and I took our own break but I’m back in the blogosphere.

With fabulous house-sitters (Whitney & her husband, Lau visiting from Kauai), we decided to disappear for a few days. We cruised up north to the homeland and hung out in the ski town of Fernie, BC for 2 nights.

Fernie is surrounded by majestic mountains but the town itself pretty much shuts down when the ski hill closes.

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Checking out the closed ski hill on a beautiful sunny day.

Restaurants were short on staff but we still had some wonderful Indian food at Tandoori Grill. And our Park Place Lodge was a bit dated and the view from the teensy balcony was overlooking a somewhat tough-looking neighborhood where a beer & BBQ bash thankfully wrapped up before bedtime but they had something we have rarely seen in hotel or resort rooms…

Wine glasses!

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Wine glasses in the room just classed-up the Park Place Lodge!

Its fun going back to Canada but we have definitely become a bit Americanized. Watching people in Canadian Tire or on the streets or golf course the song, Far Too Canadian by Spirit of the West rang through my head. I can’t put my finger on it but we have definitely changed in some ways.

While the golf course was fun and beautiful there were some super disrespectful golfers out there. Is this a Canadian thing?

I’m all for having a drink or two on the golf cart but being loud and rude and dropping F-bombs on almost every shot and playing music behind us while we’re on the tee box just isn’t cool.

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Fernie golf… amazing views!

Nor is slow play, which the groups ahead of us didn’t seem to care about.

Its common practice to let faster players go by but the group of nine people who were all together ahead of us spread out over three groups didn’t bother. And they visited and they took practice swings and they drank (“There’s no bar car today, boys, but I’ve got a mickey!”) and they smoked and they laughed and they talked with each other some more while noisy rude-man and his girlfriend and their music kept riding up our asses.

And yet, it was fun. Its golf. Its Alistair and I enjoying new terrain in our old homeland on a sunny day.

We also got to witness two separate incidents of young children having complete meltdowns in Fernie. Usually a parent gets the kid out of the public place when this goes on but not these cases. These were quite the tantrums- I have never seen anything like them- with the final one culminating in a little girl screaming through her tears to everyone at Canadian Tire, “I HATE MY LIFE.”

Maybe she is far too Canadian.

We also got to enjoy a night in Whitefish, Montana at the The Lodge at Whitefish. They had a wonderful spring rate for early season golfers and a beautiful room in the Viking Lodge.

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Making friends in the lobby of the lodge

Fancy schmancy supper at a golf course and our 18 holes with a cart the next day after Eggs Benedict by the lake made for a perfect experience.

Whitefish is also a ski town but they have much more to offer their permanent residents and the town maintains its activity during the off seasons. Hiking around downtown we were amazed by all of the restaurants and shops and variety.

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The Lodge at Whitefish (on Whitefish Lake)

The town’s population of only 6500 seems much larger when you consider the size of the downtown core as well as the fact they are one of the only towns in Montana to maintain a year-round ice rink!

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Random show-girl outside of the Glacier ice rink in sunny Whitefish, MT

Successful competitive skaters train year-round, which is why I moved to Vancouver and lived with other families for the spring and summer sessions beginning at the age of 12. So I was excited to see an active Montana club in the making.

The golf course we played at was in terrific shape and had some beautiful scenery as well.

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Somewhere around the 8th hole, ski hill in the background.

We caught up to a funny guy whose golf game was well-suited to ours and we played the back 9 together.

And we played not badly!

Which is unusual for me.

As we have learned this game I have always become overly self-conscious if others are watching. Good friends are one thing (sometimes) but having to drive in front of a stranger usually is the kiss of death for my ball flight not to mention my confidence.

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You got this one, Honey!

I’ve often wondered how pro golfers do it.

How they can handle the crowds and the volunteers and the markers and the other players and the caddies and then the incredible silence of all of these people when a volunteer puts their arms in the air so they can tee up their little white ball and try to make a decent swing.

Especially when they might be under unreasonable pressure!

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The golf world puts a lot of pressure on this young man.

Like this guy, Jordan Spieth.

So young, so talented, so well-spoken and so honest about his game. He was player of the year on the PGA tour last year and won a boat load of titles, including the Masters.

As this year’s Masters began he was one of the guys expected to run off with the title and after the first three days he was leading! The hype, the predictions, the background stories, the interviews, the short clips… everything was all about Jordan but then he didn’t win.

In fact, he lost in colossal fashion on one fateful hole towards the end of the round on Sunday.

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Rory McIlroy & Jordan at the Masters this year (not my picture).

You could see him beginning to falter after the turn and then things went sliding downhill fast. I can’t imagine what went through his mind but I’ll bet anyone he wanted to take a few of those shots again.

Start over.

At least the back nine. Where, maybe he held back a little because he had a substantial lead and didn’t think he had to attack the course. Who knows why the best trained athletes in the world falter at crucial moments? For Pete’s sake, I used to fall apart just because someone on the next hole might be looking in my general direction.

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Jordan last year (not my picture).

When the pressure and expectations are so high the fall back down to earth seems even more horrible than if someone who isn’t well known fires a ball into a water feature. Twice.

Just like at this year’s World Championships in Boston, Gracie Gold, our American ladies champion led the young Russians and her American colleague after a brilliant short program. She was radiant! She put on a jumping clinic the way she confidently nailed everything and she dazzled us all.

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Frank, Gracie and Scott after her short program marks went up.

So what went through her mind when she faltered in the long program? It wasn’t a bad skate, really, but it wasn’t good enough given the amazing performances by the Russians, the Japanese and country-woman, Ashley Wagner. In fact, everyone but Gracie had a great night and when all was said and done she was off the podium after being on top of the world.

A crash down to earth that had her apologizing to the media, saying she had to re-think her goals, sounding so confused that she didn’t put it all together when it was right there in front of her.

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Iconic moment at US Nationals earlier this year when Michelle Kwan, the Kween joined the American ladies’ medalists. Gracie Gold living up to her name. (not my photo)

Maybe this is why I love both golf and figure skating so much. Individual sports where I can be my greatest ally or my biggest threat. I can get too much inside of myself and over think things and that’s where you slip entering a flying camel or your golf ball pops ahead two feet on a drive.

And you have no one to blame but yourself because these aren’t team sports.

But when you hit amazing shots or you reach the top step on the podium it feels great to know that you did it. I’m sure having been a competitive figure skater explains a lot of the things I do in real life.

What does all of this have to do with our little mini-vacay in Fernie and Whitefish?

Nothing, really.

Its just where my head is and what I’m thinking about and where I’m thinking these thoughts and I’ll try to be more organized about it all next time.

Until then, its good to be back.

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Just arrived in Fernie. First stop- a selfie!

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More new friends in Whitefish, MT

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Golf team extraordinaire back on our home course with the kids.

The National Championships!

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Skater-Me… about 20 years ago

Many of you know the early part of my life.

Long before I was a wife, a stepmother, a pet-Mummy, a veterinarian, a writer, a blogger, a bling-slinger and a wanna-be golfer I was a competitive and then professional figure skater.

What a fun world it was.

And what fun for me this weekend with both the US and Canadian national championships being contested at the same time!

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My former coach/mentor, the late Dr.Hellmut May.

Full disclosure on my part: I never made it to the Canadian National Championships. Hell, I never made it to Western Canadians.

But I competed at a national level and I tried my best and that was back in the 6.0 judging system and I was fairly well-known and respected.

And I passed every Gold test I tried and I guest-skated and I traveled twice to Japan with the Beautiful People to perform in professional ice shows.

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My first tour in southern Japan… can you spot one of Gracie Gold’s main people in this picture?

And I stay connected through friends I trained & competed with, my former students, former coaches of my own and colleagues and its wonderful when the National Championships roll around!

I am thrilled that Gracie Gold reclaimed her US National Title.

The girl is amazing. She oozes talent, finesse, class and style. She is young and bright and cheery and yet can fight through the fact she singled her opening triple lutz in the short program putting her in 2nd place to skate lights-out in her long program and win the gold.

Firebird, indeed.

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Canada’s former national champion, Kaetlyn Osmond (not my photo)

And I’m bummed that the lovely young Kaetlyn Osmond once again is not Canada’s national champion. She is a maritime girl who trains in Alberta under one of my dearest skating friends growing up, Ravi Walia. She has sass and spunk and fabulous technique and is a presence on the ice.

But it wasn’t her year.

She did place 3rd, however…good enough for a trip to Four Continents and the back-up spot on the World’s team.

While I haven’t watched the Canadian programs yet, I am intrigued by the situation in the pairs discipline.

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Duhamel & Radford on their way to another National title and hopefully another World one, too! (not my photo)

Meghan (the vegan) Duhamel and Eric Radford are Canada’s national champs once again. They are both veterans of the sport. Definitely “getting up there.”

Particularly when you consider that he is a giant and she is a midget and he tosses her on incredible throw quads and they can still somehow manage side by side triple lutzes. Their arsenal is amazing.

Part of their secret is the fact they have been together for so long.

Too may pair and ice dance teams break up without fighting through difficult or non-gold-medal times. Longevity yields trust, unison and greatness.

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Ilyushechkina & Moscovitch, bronze medalists for Canada this year! (I LOVE that dress!) (not my picture)

Part of the drama on the Canadian pairs scene involves the 3rd place team of Dylan Moscovitch and Lubov Ilyushechkina.

Dylan and Kristin Moore-Towers were national champs and placed 4th in the World two years running. They were fabulous and had such fun programs and obviously some world level cred.

Following the last Olympic year, though, Kristin called it quits, saying she wanted someone committed to 2 more Olympic cycles. Dylan, himself is no spring chicken and was only up for 1 more cycle. Kristin found a new partner in a high ranking Canuck (whose current partner was too tall) and Dylan went on the hunt. He was considered the sad sack in this case, being older and dumped but there are always 2 sides to every story and more than one reason Kristin moved on.

Regardless, Dylan teamed up with Lubov, who loves Canada but hadn’t competed for Russia since her parter, Nodari dumped her a couple of years prior. Russia released her to represent Canada and damned if they aren’t beating Kristin and her partner now! They are off to the World Championships, even!

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My hob-nobbing brunch with a bunch of Olympians from the US and Canada in Salt Lake City, including Paige Lawrence & Rudi Sweigers and Dylan Moscovitch and Kristin Moore-Towers on my right. Special nod to Liam Firus on my left because….

The men’s event provided much less drama in Canada. Patrick Chan is back after 2 years of not-competing. Dude still has his quads and finesse but he’s an even more passionate performer, if you can believe it.

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P-Chiddy, mid air at Canadian Nationals this weekend. He’s baaaaaaaack! (not my picture)

With young guns like Javier Fernandez and Yuzuru Hanyu taking charge of the world a lot of people wondered about Chan coming back. Chan, who trains with a lesser known coach (who was the mom of his girlfriend, not sure if that’s the status these days) after dumping one of the top technicians in the US as a coach a few years ago most definitely can keep up on the ice and his maturity may take him back to the top of the World podium yet again.

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North Vancouver’s Lium Firus, 2nd in Canada!

I am so proud to see Liam Firus heading back to World’s as Canada’s #2 man. The fact he grew up in North Vancouver (where I lived when I trained there) is pretty special but its also neat that he was part of our SLC brunch crew a couple of years ago.

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Weaver & Poje… beautiful dancers! (not my picture)

No surprise when Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje took the National ice dance title in Canada again. They are just Beautiful. And Beautiful People. His mom is Beautiful. They dance Beautifully, wear Beautiful costumes and make you feel Beautiful watching them. No real drama there (they are a couple if you were wondering).

American ice dance, however was something different.

The Shibutanis are back on top! Its fabulous!

The once World bronze-medalists had been overshadowed by teammates Chock & Bates but they crushed it yesterday with their jaw-droppingly incredible Coldplay free dance. I had tears! I replayed it! I love it!

Maia and Alex Shibutani are siblings, which can get weird in the often love-inspired world of ice dance.

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My brother & I with our own ice dance finesse. Our red & black duds were perfect for the Fiesta Tango and, hey, we did actually win the bronze medal at the BC championships at the pre-novice level!

I love how the Shibs skate and how true they are to themselves. They have grown up in front of the figure skating world’s eyes and they looked so mature last night.

I’m not a huge Chock & Bates fan, though. She is way too over-dramatic (even for ice dance! Reminds me of Bestemianova in the 80s!) and he bugs me because he dumped Emily Samuelson after she waited a year for his broken ankle to heal. Break-ups and drama. It never seems to end in figure skating.

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Getting ready before a guest-skating appearance somewhere in the 90’s.

As for the US pairs teams, it was exciting to see the young Florida team nail everything in their program to take their first national title. They were fearless, landing a huge throw triple-flip near the end of the program and I see big things for Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea.

They beat the former champs, Scimeca and Knierem, who are real-life couple. Alexa needs to eat, though. She looks way thinner this year and while it may be why they can do that huge quadruple split-twist (skate backwards, reach back and tap your toepick between his legs, he throws you up in the air, you split your legs then rotate horizontally and spin 4 times in the air and he catches you, preferably with both hands and not his head or chest and you smile all pretty) it still isn’t right.

Figure skating hasn’t come very far in the skinny-girl department.

Going through puberty in spandex doesn’t help.

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My first ice show in Japan!

I do think that Gracie, Polina Edmunds, Kaetlyn, Ashley Wagner and Meghan all have fabulous looks, though, and maybe they will be role models for younger girls who want to be skaters.

Like Katarina Witt and Midori Ito were for me.

The American men are competing today so I have nothing on that. I have my thoughts, though… Max Aaron has finally listened to his critics and worked on his artistry. I wish he would work on a new look as far as his skinny pants go but lets work on one thing at a time. Jason Brown isn’t in the mix due to injury. He brings an exuberant breath of fresh air to the scene but he will need a quad to remain competitive with the global boys. I’m not a huge fan of Adam Rippon’s hair style but he is a beautiful skater and I want him to live up to his potential.

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Synchro has come a long way since the Grand Forks Figure Skating Club’s precision team competed in the 80’s. (Me, front row, 2nd from the right)

The weekend of sparkle and drama and glitter and grit and cameras and triple axels and pair combination spins and Shibutani brilliance and seeing friends on TV was a lovely distraction from the fact we started little Loki on phenobarbital for her increasingly frequent and severe seizure activity.

Basically, she’s stoned.

And still blind.

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Loki & I this summer in Bismarck

The buzz will disappear over the next week but there is just something hilariously endearing about her licking Gampy’s foot intensely, slowly, lovingly for over 15 minutes and jonesen’ for the piece of sausage she knew was on my plate.

And sometime while I was writing this she took a shit in the hallway by the kitchen.

That part wasn’t so much hilarious as accepted.

I wish nothing but the best of luck to the Canadian and American teams heading to Boston in March for the World Championships! Stay tuned for more info, musings, results and glitz! (Is it any wonder I sling bling now?)

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Skating has always been a huge part of my life!

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The cast of my first ice show in Japan.

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The on-ice characters of the very first Raise The Roof in North Dakota!

Ten Years a Vet

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Drs. Teresa and Tan… what could be seen as Trouble Brewing…

In 2005, up in Saskatoon, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine hurled 70-odd young, (well, mostly young), unsuspecting newbie veterinary graduates out into the real world to do what we were born to do.

To heal.

To care.

To be the voice of the innocent animals who can’t speak for themselves.

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Drs. Tan & Lina… mere babies back then! (2005)

In those 10 years the family of 70-odd moved around, worked, married, worked some more, built clinics. bought into practices, kept working, had kids, traveled, worked to pay for the travel, had more kids, took up golf, got a few grey hairs, closed or changed practices, worked some more and yet somehow managed to stay in touch.

Or stayed in touch with enough people that we were able to put together a 10 -year reunion back up in Saskatoon last weekend that was really well-attended.

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The Class of 2005 who made the banquet! We clean up rather nicely!

Alistair and I made a vacation out of it.

We always liked the city of Saskatoon but never got to relax and truly experience both the journey up there and the city in the summer.

So we took our time and had an adventure.

It was fun being back in Canada together.

Where everything is SO Canadian.

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Oh, Canada!

The first Canadianism was at a cute café in Estevan, Saskatchewan where we stopped for a fabulous lunch.

Alistair ordered fries with his clubhouse and out they came smothered in gravy.

Canada, eh?

If you have never chewed a slightly damp and yet still-crisp French Fry that is coated in thick, beefy, warm, cling-to-your-fork-and-GI-tract gravy then you have missed out on one of life’s greatest guilty pleasures.

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No photo of the fries & gravy. So, a pic of the new rest area between Montana & North Dakota! This is a big deal for a guy who drives this route every 2 weeks!

The next Canadianism occurred when I turned the radio on to see if we could get some CBC.

The first thing we heard was the unmistakable sound of The Tragically Hip which made me burst out laughing.

You either get that or you don’t.

Canadians are fiercely protective of our particular brand of hip sounds, whether they are traditionally, Maritime-influenced, sung in French, socially or environmentally charged or just really witty.

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Can-Con

And then there is the politeness about everything.

I hadn’t realized that I’ve missed that but I did.

Although, it can border along the lines of downright silly…

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Downtown Saskatoon hotel parking lot

And, boy, when those Canadians really want to make their point they don’t hold back on the harsh language and stern warnings…

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Whoa, Canadian people, back off with the harsh language- I get it!

(It would have been more Canadian if the sign had actually read: “We’re sorry, but there’s positively, absolutely no parking.”)

Enjoying the Canadian in Canada was part of our plan for this adventure.

We ate out at some of our favorite old restaurants that Canadian cities really know how to run.

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Flanagan’s steakhouse in the historic Hotel Senator in downtown Saskatoon

Its the combination of beautiful surroundings, a tableside prepared Caesar salad pour deux, Canadian wines on the wine list (the Velvet Devil is NOT Canadian, our Canadian choice was out of stock… how Canadian…), impeccable (polite) service, and wonderfully presented food.

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I’ve got to work on my vegetable presentation at home; this was as delicious as it looked!

The Hotel Senator was one of those places Alistair and I or Fritzie and I would go to get away from the never ending cold and snow during our winters in Saskatoon 10 years ago.

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The historic Hotel Senator, as beautiful as ever with classic décor and killer chandeliers. Cheers!

I’m so glad we went back.

For kicks I organized my first ever golf tournament for the reunion-ers and we had a blast.

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Getting ready to start the tournament… a parade of unsuspecting golf carts and somewhat wary golfer-veterinarians, spouses & family members

4 foursomes made their way through Holiday Park’s 9-hole Executive course with laughs, a refreshing beverage thanks to the bar cart and varying versions on how to hit a golf ball.

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The Pinels… taking this golf thing SO seriously 😉

We had a few first-timers and none of them gave up!

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The all-female foursome! Drs. Carla, Lina, Jenny & Carol

Our foursome led the troupe onto the fairway… or way over the greens… into the hedges… onto the neighboring fairway… and, SPLOOSH… into the ponds.

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Fab foursome of the Pinels & the Fyfes.

We encouraged playing golf Fyfe Style, which, if you have followed my blog for long, is typically a stress-free way to play the game.

You can keep score if you want but you don’t always have to count the shot.

Even if you swing and miss!

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Drs. Boyd & Kubik… the partnering of a lifetime

Especially if you swing and miss.

The Wrights made it a family affair with their niece and oldest son on board and Ken and Natalie are still married after the 9 holes!

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Kenny, think long and hard about what you’re going to suggest to Nat…

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Kolbee, Jackson, Ken & Nat after their round

We had a great collection of prizes thanks to Royal Canin and the veterinary college. Prizes went out for “putting up with Ken” or “best team name.”

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Best team names went to both pairings in this bunch with Drs. Leanne, Pat, Sandy & Andrew.. Muffin and Stryker, I believe???

It was just another chance for a group of us to smile and laugh and catch up on one another’s lives while enjoying fresh air and a fun ride in a golf cart.

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WCVM Class of 2005 Golf Tournament players (minus the Pinels… baby to feed at the hotel!)

That night was our banquet, which I helped organize this winter with Allison. There were challenges with me living in Montana & her up in Saskatchewan and the fact we couldn’t find a few people until we got really intrusive online.

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Head honchos of the reunion at the end of the night, still smiling! We did it!

But it went off mostly without a hitch (sorry about the vegetarian meals, Jenny & Becky!) and I saw smiles on my classmates’ faces most of the weekend.

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There was lots of this…

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plenty of this…

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and this…

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and tons of this.

So we reunion-ated all night and I learned I’m not the only one not practicing but I am one of the only ones without small children hovering at my ankles or being pushed in a stroller.

And everyone looks basically the same, give or take one of those grey hairs I mentioned earlier.

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The Times Of Our Lives newspaper crew… reunited and it feels so good! Drs.Cory, me, Pat & Nathan… my boys… all growed up!

And while some special friends couldn’t make it I loved seeing everyone who did, even if I didn’t get to visit with each person as long as I had wanted.

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Lots more of this…

I booked the gazebo at the zoo for Sunday for more socializing but on a low-key, family level. It was a time for the kids to get out and run around, even though it was raining.

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What the Sunday visit was all about at the rainy zoo

What a change for me, one of the oldest people in our class, who was helping raise teenagers when we were in vet school, to see my exceptional classmates as parents.

It was a warm and fuzzy few days in that regard.

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Dr.Candace and 2 of her Lowe-boys. Brilliant idea, whoever brought the soccer ball, even in the rain!

Like all good things, the reunion and our adventure with Canadianisms had to end but I was happy to return to Bismarck and now Montana.

Its my home and my world now, which is a far cry from 10 years ago.

And I got to help former clients and their old companion who had to make a journey across the Rainbow Bridge my first day home- in a way reminding me of my skills and training that I just celebrated last weekend.

I am also reminded (and humbled) by what I told my classmates at our grad ceremony 10 years ago when I once again had the microphone- that I was so honored to call all of them my colleagues but that I was more lucky to call them my friends.

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Nothing had changed in 10 years- Drs.Candace, Leanne, me and Becky (who flew in all the way from Nova Scotia to join us!)

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It was great that Alain & several of the Back-Row-Boys were able to join us (with his partner, Jenny and Carolyn)

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Golfers by day, vixens by night! Carol, Lina & Jenny

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Jess and I at the drizzly gazebo

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Carol got a kick out of my golf “buddies” (getting a smooch from Muldy-cat) and my national pride skort!

(Thanks to Alistair for taking our pics, trying his best to remember everyone’s names, being a voice of reason when I planned all of this, getting us there & back and for golfing our way back home… more on that next time…) xo

Going Home

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I often wonder what to say when asked where I am from.

The temptation to say “outer space” passes and I drift to the many places I have called Home.

I have lived in 2 prefectures, 2 states and 2 provinces within 3 countries. If you’ve known me awhile, you know you should always write my address in pencil.

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Beautiful Grand Forks, BC

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to the peaceful Canadian town most people would consider my Hometown-Grand Forks, BC.

Its a charming town with clean streets, tidy yards and clotheslines in backyards.

There’s not a lot to the half-Kootenay, half-Okanagan town and what is there hasn’t changed much in the 15 years since I’ve spent any real time there.

My old high school is right where I left it.

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Grand Forks Secondary School

I never took notice of the gradually swooping hillsides that formed the backdrop to GFSS when I went to school there. Even when we had PE outside or we were sitting on the grass beneath the big trees out front I just didn’t pay attention.

I was too busy being a teenager.

Too busy talking about what mixed tapes we had made, what we were wearing to the next dance, who was seeing who and how impossibly good looking George Michael was.

The corner store by our old house is still there, too.

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West End was a quick bike ride away, where Mom would send us to get lemon lime pop, Big Turk chocolate bars and salt & vinegar chips. They had a freezer full of Freezies which were cherished during the hot, dry summers.

You could drop your bike on the ground or prop it up on its kickstand and not worry about it being stolen.

The ice rink where I spent countless hours learning to spin, trace, check, jump, fall and get back up again with a smile is still on the Trans-Canada that cuts through town.

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The Grand Forks ice arena, home of the Border Bruins junior hockey team!

As I buzzed by I saw it was renamed after someone I didn’t recognize. That normally happens if someone from town makes the NHL but Dad said this guy was a former mayor. Who knew?

I probably spent more time in that building than in my own house. I knew that place inside-out. I could flip the breakers so we could skate in the dark (it sounds crazy but it was pretty cool), I knew where the arena guys kept the keys to get into the precariously suspended music box and I knew how to rig the Pac Man video game so you could play for free.

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The house my folks built is still there on the corner but it has a different family living in it now.

So many memories of porch swings and snow forts and milkshakes and “meet you at the tracks” came back to me. They didn’t overwhelm me in a flood of emotions and tears. They were just there and the corners of my mouth turned upwards as I sighed to my traveling companions, telling them Mummy grew up here.

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Loki and UB came along on our little adventure to Canada and were excellent travel buddies.

It is a fascinating thing, traveling with dogs. I never before experienced the kind of camaraderie you get at rest stops when you have friends attached to you by a leash.

Everyone wants to talk and visit and share stories about their dogs. Everyone wants to pet them and ask questions about silver eyes and what possible breed he could be and gosh, he’s a happy fella and point out their 5 Pomeranians on the dash board of their RV.

Loki and UB soaked it up.

They also soaked up the attention from my Nan, who was one of the main people I came to see.

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Nan and Loki

It occurred to me that Nan and Loki have some things in common- they are both adorable, stylish little old ladies who still have a fair bit of spunk in them despite bodies that might not work quite the way they want them to.

They are both a bit on the stubborn side, which is part of their charm.

And they are both reliant on the people they live with.

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UB and Nan

Nan lives with my parents now and Loki lives with us. Neither of them can stay on their own for very long, which is probably frustrating for Nan.

Yet she keeps her chin up, plays solitaire (or, patience, as she calls it), likes to dress up and wear her hats and go out and tell stories in her lovely British accent.

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Mom, Nan and I outside the Borscht Bowl, downtown Grand Forks

I didn’t spend much time downtown but we did get some good Russian food.

Grand Forks and several towns in the Kootenays were partly settled by the Doukhobors who are a peace-loving, communally-minded, garden-growing group that got booted out of Russia for refusing to bear arms.

My dad’s family were Doukhobors. You can imagine how thrilled the aunties were when my brother chose the Canadian military for his career… “It says Koftinoff on a military uniform. Oh, hospity, hospity…”

Nobody thought anything of roll call with names like Perehudoff, Kazakoff, Podovinikoff, Horkoff, Pereverezoff, Dovedoff, Chursinoff, Semenoff, Strukoff, Popoff, Kalmakov,and Malloff. Throw in a few Lloyds, Wiebes and Gustafsons and there you have GFSS back in the day.

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Dad and I enjoying some borscht and voreniki at the Borscht Bowl

Some of my closest friends are back in Grand Forks. I had wonderful visits with 2 of them and was thrilled to see them doing so well and being so happy with their lives, their homes and their partners.

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Tan and Anna

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Merielle and Tan

They embraced and loved UB and Loki. Porter, the pug shared her toys with them. The 3 dogs became instant BFFs and settled into fun little routines with each other.

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UB, Porter and Loki and the ever-popular squeaky squirrel

Friendships are meaning more and more to me as I hurtle through middle age. Even if 40 is the new 30, its important to cultivate and nourish these friendships and relationships that are special and fun. As we have all changed and grown, our friendships have remained.

Driving through town another part of my past came to the forefront of my mind as we passed teachers out on picket lines.

My dad honked his horn in support of their cause.

You don’t see this kind of thing in the US.

I’m not completely familiar with all of the details surrounding the current strike but I know the students are going to be the ones who lose out if the teachers don’t get some backing.

I saw 2 of my former high school teachers (who eventually became parents of talented skaters I coached) on the picket lines and sat with them, catching up on our lives. Even though this wasn’t my battle, I didn’t mind sitting there, watching cars and trucks go by, people waving and honking their support.

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Canada is a land of the socially and environmentally aware. You aren’t persecuted for your beliefs or your differences, which is why the Doukhobors came here decades ago.

I’m not saying its perfect or that everyone is as accepted as they’d like but people and politicians seem more willing to have discussions that aren’t all about blaming each other or living in the past; not every argument boils down to the constitution, bibles and guns.

In Canada, when you lock your keys in the truck and you call BCAA via AAA, the guy comes and unlocks your door and then you all sit down and share a beer and you make a new friend.

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With my OCD on vacation I locked my keys in the truck. No worries, a new friend to the rescue!

You talk about hockey and golf and recycling and you learn that Quebec is still trying to separate. Who knew?

But you can be Far Too Canadian, as the band, Spirit of the West sings.

Which is why I keep returning Home. To this home, in Montana, which just happens to be my Home du jour.

John Denver’s lovely voice rang through my head as I thought about it- Going home to a place (s)he’d never been before. All of the homes I have lived in will feel like that to me if and when I return to them.

Its because with each year and each new address I become a slightly different person with changing realities and new perspectives.

The 16 year-old who moved to Chilliwack for college is different from the brave 19 year-old who flew to Tokyo to teach English. She’s a heck of a lot different from the 21 year-old who moved to then-sleepy Watford City with her boyfriend of just a few months.

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Alistair, Mitch and I, 1994

And the 28 year-old who moved to Saskatchewan for vet school is different from the one who tries to keep her farm in Montana going when Alistair isn’t there despite never-ending snowstorms, hot-water tank woes, and being in the middle of nowhere.

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Seeley Lake sunset

Even if Grand Forks stays the same, I see it differently each time I return.

I still don’t know what to say when asked where my Home is. Maybe its where I happen to cuddle up to Loki, UB, Sport, Mulder and Cooper and where my husband comes back to every 2 weeks.

Maybe its just where I am.

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