Deconstructing Me

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Previewing a cute new local listing this week!

Goodness! This “real job” thing has taken over my days! I’m mostly joking but its partly true. The thing is, in a resort community, summer is when you see the tourists and if I’m the only realtor sitting at her desk on a Saturday or Sunday then I’m the one hopefully getting leads.

I’m learning the language, I’m previewing the local listings, I’m ferrying people around for showings, I’m keeping the truck clean up at the house with the spray washer and I actually can talk like I sort of know where things are using street names (instead of, “turn left where a tree is leaning at 45 degrees over the road,” or, “you know where so-and-so used to live? Yeah, him. Go about 50 feet from there and the driveway is on your right.”)

I’m still laughing a lot and having a great time. All of my colleagues have different ways of presenting things and I learn from each of them.

Its still as important as ever for me to maintain a work-life balance and I think I’m managing that pretty well!

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Hiking with Alistair & Cleo (not pictured).

When Alistair is in Bismarck, North Dakota for 2 weeks I don’t mind being at the office longer or on the weekends. When he’s here, though, I have tried to book off early and meet him at our golf course one or two days a week.

He has been a dream of a house-husband when he’s here, making me yummy breakfasts and then planning and preparing many of our meals. (The meals are preceded by a relaxing soak in the hot tub, complete with a Caesar cocktail in-hand.)

Caesars are decidedly Canadian. Clamato juice, vodka, tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a variety of seasonings including celery salt and then some form of vegetable- my current choice is pickled asparagus spears- combine to make this yummy cocktail over ice.  After I spent 2 weeks coaching figure skating in Canada last summer, where my hosts made a deliciously wicked Caesar almost daily, Alistair got to work mastering the drink I was Jonesen’ for on a nightly basis. He has nailed it and as long as he doesn’t accidentally grab soy sauce for the Worcestershire, I am in Happy Hour Heaven up at our farm.

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I’m never alone when I’m in Norman!

Surprisingly, my golf game hasn’t taken as much of a hit as I originally thought it would by not playing almost daily. When I’m alone I do try to get out there a couple of times a week if I can, avoiding the touristy Saturdays when you have to hurry up and wait while playing.

I’ve managed to maintain some decent distance with my clubs and I’ve forced myself to use my 3-wood more, which has now led me to love my 3-wood more.

I definitely have to concentrate before each swing, though, as its plenty easy to get distracted by any number of things going on in my head. Real estate leads, listings, and showings. The driving in & out of Missoula to show properties all over the map for folks flying in from Colorado. The sad but necessary canine euthanasia I was honored to do when a friend reached out for a friend. Everything that’s necessary to facilitate something like that without a brick & mortar clinic while making sure you have every. possible. thing. you might need to make that happen. Our aging, deaf springer spaniel who seems to feel great but is maybe showing some signs of canine cognitive dysfunction (doggy dementia). The absolutely asinine mortgage company we are dealing with to get more funds released from being held hostage. The funds we are personally creating and paying to the sometimes pissy restoration company. The fact we are a tad extended in that regard but we’re making it work.

Bare walls. The guest room. Open ceiling in the garage. Cooler temps here and even cooler ones on their way. The disaster of a collapsed deck.

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The remnants of the upper deck after Alistair tore it up yesterday.

With funds being held hostage (NEVER get a mortgage with Mr.Cooper!!!!) and nobody agreeing to work on anything without payment up front, we were getting concerned about the 2-tiered deck off of our master bedroom (which we haven’t used since February.) If snow piles up against the house it could affect our windows and doors in there so Alistair took the bull by the horns and did his own demolition.

The destruction of Eden got its re-start yesterday and the broken, busted wood is now piled as you see it. Its no wonder we had the collapse after seeing the “support system” beneath it. I’m frankly shocked it hadn’t collapsed when we were using the deck the 12 years we’ve lived here. Check it out yourself:

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Brilliant.

The deck on the other side of the house was just as shoddy but at least it had crumbling cement footings as well as 3 posts for support- as if they wanted it to look like someone had made an effort. This side of the raised deck is complete nonsense. Clearly the original owner who had the house built got taken on a grand ride by his builders.

We aren’t 100% if we’re going to rebuild a one-level deck here or match the other side where we had a concrete patio poured and where we can relax while enjoying the peaceful forest behind our house.

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The Relaxation Grotto where we had removed a sagging deck a couple of years ago. Note concrete patio.

We think it would look nice and be functional for relaxing next to the bubbling creek that runs on the other side of the house.

The last time I wrote about the insurance claim wasn’t long ago, “Whats In Store.” Since then my optimism about the whole mess has taken a bit of a turn. Almost daily phone calls have led to insane frustration on our part including one night, after a long, golfless day at the office where I lost my shit on the phone to the latest Mr.Cooper rep, Danette. I normally can hold it together with representatives over the phone for anything because its not their fault when they have to relay bad news or they don’t get the situation. Poor Danette, however, had to hear me drop a couple of F-bombs as I choked back tears trying to explain the insanity of the situation.

It didn’t help that immediately after our 45 min phone call I got on the computer to email Alistair (who was in ND) the news and read an email from our sometimes-pissy restoration company saying they wanted us to sign a Work Stop request because we didn’t want to commit to $71,000 to get the new roof ordered/planned. (Maybe we’re unique but we just don’t have 71 grand lying around.)

My email back to the restoration company told them I wasn’t opening or signing anything, that my head space wasn’t pretty, and that I felt alone, frustrated, confused and angry- all emotions that I am not used to feeling.

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The file for our insurance claim.

We did manage to make $46,000 of personal funds (including a credit card check/loan) available and Mr.Cooper has released a teensy amount (which is stupid in its own incorrect amount and just shows me how completely messed up Mr.Cooper is) and the roof is ordered and set to start in early October. The roof total is over $86,000 and we are short the 85% deposit a little but we should be able to get there by the cancellation date (or else we’ll be out $5500 in cancellation fees.)

You see, thinking about this, along with the other thoughts that creep into my head are detrimental to my golf swing.

And my golf swing is necessary for my sanity. My happiness. My goofy sense of humor and my smile.

So I’m not at the office for my brand new career from 8:30 until 5pm every day. I maybe cut out a bit early and you’ll see me with or without a cute hubby and our awesome red golf cart, Norman hitting colored balls down gorgeous green fairways along the highway.

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Our happy place!

I am absolutely committed to success in my new career but that won’t happen if I don’t commit to happiness and that work-life balance I mentioned earlier.

Danette is now a member of Team Fyfe and calls me almost daily with updates. I will never meet this woman but we have a shared bond in trying to get Mr.Cooper to get its head out of its ass (they have $52,044.28 of our funds) and help us get our house repaired. There will be thousands and thousands more dollars that have to go through this messed-up process as we figure out the deck, the walls, the ceiling, the tongue & groove and the kitchen…

I hit a low point that night on the phone and then the computer and I think that’s the most frustrated I have ever felt. I don’t do well when I don’t have some control over my life but, thankfully, the wine fridge was full, the cats were cuddly and Alistair helped calm me down on the phone that night.

And then I played some golf the next day after another fun, learning day at the real estate office.

My folks from Colorado were great, the canine farewell was beautiful, the snow won’t wreck our master bedroom windows, Cleo runs around with an energy out of sorts with her 14 years of age and we are getting a new roof. Like a young child in a snowsuit and helmet with their arms stuck out to the side learning to skate for the first time I’m slowly taking baby steps in the acceptance that some things are just out of my control.

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Just before meeting my Colorado peeps in Missoula a couple of weeks ago.

I’ll enjoy what I can control, and enjoy the heck out of it. Like the fact I’m meeting Alistair soon at the golf course before we head home for that Caesar and a hot tub prior to him grilling up the chicken he’s had marinating for a day now..

I shall keep you posted!

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After another day at the office… my outdoor office with Norman.

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My colleagues and I at the Community Foundation banquet that was held after I wrote my last blog!

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Alistair making his yummy chili for us the other night!

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in Store

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The title of this blog is as much a statement as a question in regards to our house insurance claim thanks to the incredible amount of snow & ice we fought against this past winter.

 

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One of many photos of one of many adventures on the driveway with Big Red last winter

For a quick recap, we got buried a couple of times after days and days of heavy snowfall. It rained hard for almost 24 hours each time and then it froze. Our roof eaves took a beating and I chronicled it all with photos, social media posts and this blog.

I sent our insurance agent some pictures in early February, which was when I realized water was leaking down inside our walls and beneath the wood stove in our living room. (For the record, I’m not going to mention people’s or company names. Not yet, anyhow. I’m trying my best to protect them but if they don’t do the right thing I am willing to use my voice & platforms to drag them through the mud. Its not my style but it may end up being all that I can do.)

 

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One of the pics sent in early Feb of the water coming down our living room wall

Our agent is a friend who lives a couple of hours north of us. They didn’t get the amount of snow that we did but he could appreciate our situation, knowing that our community is fairly well-known for high snow volume. He initiated a claim the next day and the adjuster showed up a day or two later.

Since then I’ve shared the sheer joys of having heavy duty fans and enormous dehumidifiers running around the clock in our large house. I’ve shared my excitement at having strangers rumble through our world removing walls, ceilings and privacy. We laughed as we moved part-way into the guest bedroom and I’ve even started an entry in our guest journal.

 

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Some of the mitigation happening on that very same wall.

I wrote to our insurance agent and the adjuster expressing concern that the snow removal that was occurring as I typed was likely destroying some of our professional landscaping and plant life around the house and was told that we’d address it when the snow melted.

That made sense.

Which is why I okayed the offer of a second snow-removal effort with heavy machinery and large, beeping pieces of equipment after another dump of snow.

 

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Cleo inspecting the remains of our front lawn & plant life after the melt. Damage is from heavy equipment used to move snow/ice off of the roof and away from the house.

Since then the drama has evolved over payments and one of our two mortgage companies. Our primary mortgage holder has required form after form after form to be submitted by ourselves, our adjuster, and/or the restoration/construction company our adjuster chose out of Missoula.

The snow removal and mitigation that was done back in February totaled over 21 thousand dollars and the insurance check to cover that is stuck somewhere in limbo thanks to said mortgage holder. The main delay with it all has been the fact the mortgage company has never let us know, after each submission, when something else is required. (If I could bill for my time spent on the phone during all of this I would have the 21 K right now!)

With every call to the mortgage holder I then emailed or called the adjuster as well as the restoration company to let them know I was doing everything I could to get them their money. With all that I went through as a business owner I can certainly appreciate when you aren’t getting paid for work that was done!

 

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The lawn beneath the mountain ranges of snow has actually collapsed!

While leaping into a brand new job with a sparkling new career I’m trying to learn, and with Alistair back in Bismarck, the mortgage holder required even more paperwork and signatures and formal letters on actual insurance company letterhead 3 weeks ago. They also needed paperwork from the county stating why our ‘street’ name changed in 2007.) Each and every step, form or signature takes a minimum of 3 days as I  have to email or call whoever is involved and then they have to find or sign or complete whatever it is that’s been requested and then they send it to me and I figure out which department of the mortgage company to send it to. Throw in a mid-week national holiday to complicate the movement of things.

 

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Me, helping out at Clearwater Montana Property’s 4th of July celebration as our trailer passed by in the local parade!

After 2 weeks of the latest round of craziness our restoration company threatened to slap a lien on our house, which didn’t sit particularly well with me.

Alistair and I dealt with this in our long-distance style and without going into detail we got a personal check sent the next day to the restoration company and the lien will never be mentioned again.

Our funds are still held hostage but I’m really hoping that this week the mortgage company will have everything they could possibly want and they will release our funds.

This is what I mean by the title of this blog being a statement and a question. I’m sharing what’s in store and I’m also wondering about it at the same time.

The money isn’t the main issue right now, though, because I know its there and I know, eventually, they will run out of things to require (if they ask for my first born I’m hooped!) and the money willarrive.

 

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I could seriously use some of this right now!

Last week, my Knight in Shining Armor got home and I greeted him with one of those “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news” statements. After 10+ hours on the road he chose the good news.

I cheerfully shared with him the fact I had learned, 30 minutes prior, that our adjuster had finally approved a full new roof. This is significant for every reason we can all come up with and has been in discussion for months. Every quote came in really high because of the size and scope of the project and our adjuster seemed to struggle with an answer.

They also approved the deck, which wasn’t really in question because, lets face it, the deck is a wreck!

 

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Top part of the deck is lower than the bottom… 

The bad news?

Apparently there is an exclusion clause in our insurance that states there will be no coverage for lawns, landscaping, and trees.

The quote our adjuster got for that (20 grand) is included with everything but then its crossed out because, obviously, our adjuster had thought it would all be covered until he found that clause.

I’ve since emailed our adjuster and shared our concerns. I get it that insurance companies have the right to mitigate further damage but they don’t have the right to destroy our landscaping. And I never, ever would have approved the second round of snow removal months ago (because as you all know, I can handle a bit of snow!) if I knew nobody was going to take responsibility for wrecking our lawn and shrubs.

 

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Water dripping through the T&G this winter

Nevermind that nobody seems to know what we’re going to do with the ceiling tongue & groove damage or the beams in the kitchen sunroom.

Now that I’m in the realty world (notice I didn’t write, ‘reality’ because, in all honestly, life has felt pretty surreal for 12 months now), I know that if we ever go to sell this home we will have to disclose this large insurance claim. That makes it harder for a buyer to secure great rates on insurance which effectively lowers our home’s overall value.

Add to that the fact that our lawn and landscaping looks like ass unless we fork out 20 grand to fix the stuff that was destroyed by people we didn’t choose who were hired by a restoration company chosen by our adjuster thanks to a claim we never requested.

 

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What our gorgeous landscaping looked like in June of 2017.

I’m hoping our friend, the insurance agent north of us, can help us make sense of what’s in store. He was out of the office all this past week so hasn’t had a chance to respond to any of this. He would only be finding out about the lawn & landscape issue and our subsequent displeasure now. He’s a heck of a good guy and we talk Labrador retrievers often and I hope he can go to bat for us on this.

And I’m not complaining. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge deal. I’m just putting some stuff out there and sharing Fyfe Life for the insanity that it is at times. I’m enjoying my new office and colleagues and I’ve got a lot of support from everyone on this real estate adventure.

 

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Practicing for when my new desk would arrive.  It eventually did & I’m typing at it right now.

I’m on “floor” duty today because summer tourists could actually walk in and want to learn about or even see properties and local homes. Tomorrow we will talk with our agent and hopefully move forward into what’s ahead. And hopefully I’ll never have to disclose company names and slag them to my readers and my homeowners who ask for my advice because that just isn’t my style.

An ambulance just went roaring past our office with its sirens blaring.

It reminds me that someone and their family are having a way worse time today than I could even imagine.

The sun is out and summer has arrived. Alistair is already on the golf course and I’m hoping I can meet him there again after work to play a few holes.

And our guest room is really quite nice so with the distractions of a new career, the optimism that our friend will help guide us in a way we can all agree on over the next few days, the beautiful properties I hopefully get to show people, a cuddly dog and 3 cats who provide comfort and peace just by letting us pet them and our shared wacky sense of humor, we are going to be just fine.

 

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One of our agency’s incredible view properties I get to share!

To paraphrase the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, though, we, as Canadians, are very polite. That doesn’t mean we will allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. We will stand up for ourselves when it is appropriate to do so.

So, again, grab the railings and hang on.

You never know what’s in store in Fyfe Life!

 

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“The Look.” Cleo’s thoughts on the whole insurance claim. (Photo by Merielle Kazakoff, one of our evacuation party attendees of last summer when she visited 2 weeks ago!)

 

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How we’ll get through all of this!

 

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Alistair’s favorite ‘float’ during the parade. 

 

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Another stunning, private property I got to preview last week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cook’s Winter

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My first-ever attempt at Risotto the other night!

It has already been one of “those” winters and its not even February yet.

I’m certainly not complaining, though. Alistair was here for his 2 weeks and he widened our long driveway and opened up the back so we can easily bring wood to the back deck for the wood stove. And he cleared the top of the driveway so Cleo, Jockey and I don’t have to walk in carved-out paths to get anywhere.

 

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Opening up the path to the garage!

The chain on the big snowblower broke so his efforts to move snow from here to there slowed for a couple of days but he was back in business once it was repaired.

We got the vent for the dryer dug out from under a small iceberg and I don’t have to air-dry everything anymore! Within the iceberg was the shovel he forgot he’d placed there to remind us exactly where the vent was in case we got “a bit of snow.”

 

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He found the vent! And the shovel we forgot about!

And even though I’ve had to plow with Big Red twice since he left just days ago (including this morning, thank you, Mother Nature), I really don’t mind because its not coming down like it did a month ago and I have my Hawaiian tunes to enjoy while I shove snow off to the side of the road.

I’m not minding being somewhat home-bound this winter because I have an online course I’m playing with, there has been a lot of figure skating and PGA golf on TV, I’m pretending to hit the treadmill again and there is that awesome cooking course that has lessons and classes available at all times!

 

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Right outside our front door…

Just last night I did a short lesson on how to store and cook with herbs. I’ve used herbs all my cooking life and we have had great success in our ND garden with them but I still learned a few things last night and I’m inspired to try a few recipes.

Just like I was inspired to finally try my hand at risotto a few nights ago. I had done 2 lessons on risotto but I wasn’t able to get the right rice in our little, local grocery store. After our monthly trek to Missoula, however, I came home with Arborio rice and was ready to go for it.

I never like to make brand-new dishes when Alistair is here, though, because our time together is limited and we make so many great dishes that we love- no point trying something on the off chance it doesn’t turn out.

 

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My first risotto!

And you know, it was good but it wasn’t great. I was patient and got the creamy texture that is desired but there were still a few grains that had too much bite to them. And the dried mushrooms were shiitake, not cremini like the recipe called for and I think they were a bit overpowering. It wasn’t bad, though, and it made for an alright meal.

Its not just me getting on the Rouxbe bandwagon. When Alistair was delayed in getting here thanks to the weather, he watched the lesson on making your own Hollandaise. With nice-looking salmon brought home from Missoula last week he turned on his cooking skills (with the lesson pulled up on the laptop, of course.)

He clarified his butter, I made a shallot-white-wine-vinegar-white-wine-tarragon reduction and he created the creamiest, most yummy Béarnaise I’ve ever had!

 

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Alistair… clarifying the butter. Reduction in the bottom right dish.

Sure, it takes a lot longer than opening up a packet of Béarnaise mix and adding milk and butter and you’re glued to the stove while making it but, wow, what a difference!

And we “had” to buy the double boiler in the photo in order to clarify the butter. I’ve upgraded both of our kitchens with stainless steel pans, a new steamer, soup pots, and gobs of utensils. Not unlike when we took up golf and I  need a new wardrobe only in the case of cooking, our kitchens got the new duds. It has been worth it.

My cream of mushroom soup made from scratch was delightful and maybe even better than the cream of asparagus soup I’ve made a couple of times. The stir fry sauce with velvetted chicken had just the perfect salty kick and crunch to the veggies (oyster sauce- who knew?) The steamed salmon with lemon & dill was simple and yet something I had never tried. And the Mexican Red Rice, which I made using a real rice pilaf method (rice is cooked in a blended mixture of tomatoes, garlic, onion and broth) has been a repeat a few times already!

 

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Mexican Red Rice

Not everything has been a success. The short ribs were just ‘meh’. I’ve smoked myself out with olive oil when I ran out of grapeseed. I’ve had a couple of pan sauces that went down the drain vs down the hatch. And there was one seriously undercooked chicken breast that just didn’t pan out.

But more than not, things work out and I’ve gained confidence to actually create things myself.

Like the amazing “Chicken Tanya” I created just before Alistair got back.

 

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Chicken Tanya on its maiden voyage to my tummy!

I pan seared the chicken breasts and created lovely sucs. I sautéed shallots and then deglazed with white wine. I added a bit of garlic with sun-dried tomatoes & fresh thyme and reduced it all (patience is key with reductions, I have learned.) Then I added chicken broth and reduced it all before adding a touch of cream. Served over a good quality pasta, this dish was incredible. And it was all from my own head which is probably why it tasted as good as it did.

 

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Driveway work a couple of weeks ago.

So while our house is buried in snow I’m not wallowing in lonliness out here in the middle of nowhere. I’m keeping my brain busy as well as my body even though my heart aches because we’re closing in on the one-year anniversary of losing Loki and I still can’t believe that UB is gone and 14-year old Cleo has been stumbling a bit lately and I’ve noticed more grey hairs beneath her eyes and 17 year-old Sport is thin but ever the lover.

And the Olympics are on the horizon but I’ll save my pre-Olympic skating buzz for next time.

I have chicken out for supper tonight that I’ll steam with lemon and thyme. I’ve made that one before and its quite tasty.

I’m not giving up on the risotto, either. I think I need to go to a more basic one, though, and skip the mushrooms & onions. Just work on the rice to create the creaminess all the great risottos have. Maybe with shrimp and peas.

 

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A fun scallop & tomato concoction I created before Christmas. 

There is much to look forward to in the world of Rouxbe. Home made pasta is up there. I’m holding out but almost ready for the long course on living a plant-based lifestyle. I think I need the Olympics out of the way before I begin that because it, like the course I won last year that got this whole thing going, will take me a few months to get through.

I’m keen and interested, though, so it will be great. Here’s to old dogs learning new tricks and being open to a lifetime of learning! And a never ending winter that is tailor made to cooks and chefs!

 

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When life hands you lemons….

 

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A neighborhood and historical tragedy. An old school house buckled under the weight of the snow this winter and finally gave way.

 

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Plowing in a blizzardy white out a couple of days ago. Huzzah!

 

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The risotto might not have been perfect but my mise en place was top notch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Really Want

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

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

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

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

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

 

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UB Fyfe… last winter

I have to tell you all that UB has died.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Looking dapper in his smoking jacket earlier this year.

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Last May in Bismarck.

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

 

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Travels with Mummy & Loki up to BC in 2014.

 

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

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

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

Because he was still UB.

 

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

Playing, eating, jumping, snuggling, awesome UB.

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

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

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

 

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Evacuees in Bismarck this fall.

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

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

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

 

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A very different kind of Aloha.

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

My husband and my heart weren’t there.

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

Just like that.

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

Well, there was that little cough…

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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UB’s lungs. 😦

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

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

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

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

 

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October 26th after Alistair got back from the airport.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Sunset from my lanai.

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

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

Just like that.

 

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Couch Time last winter with UB.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Handsome dude!

What I really want right now is UB.

I want the last 4 weeks to not have happened.

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

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

But that’s not real.

 

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

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

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

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

RIP, UB. Oh, how you are loved.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons of Change

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Today at the Fyfe Farm- can’t wait for the lilacs!

While the seasons change throughout the year I am always most amazed at the transformations that occur when winter turns to spring.

It is probably more profound for those of us who live where there are four dramatically different seasons. That’s not to say I wouldn’t relish life if someone offered me a home on Kauai but I do think I would miss the changes.

The transition of spring to summer feels sleepy and easy. And the change from summer to fall sometimes sort-of sneaks up on you but it usually has no drama. And then fall turns to winter but by then we’ve probably had a bit of snow and cold and the wood stove has already been running for weeks.

Its not the case this time of year.

 

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Spring in western Montana

After a long winter that had more than 3 feet of snow on the ground with days and days of plowing the roads and splitting wood and realizing I had to plow snow again, the changing season is a welcome relief.

Its beautiful, really.

There is actual warmth radiating from the giant, glowing yellow orb in the sky which has brought all of the snow off our heavily-burdened roof tops and is taking its toll with the subsequent melt. The creeks are high.

 

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The creek that runs past our house.

 

Dark, murky water bubbles and churns next to our house, breaching the creek walls and spilling out onto our still-snowy pasture at the far end of the field. I can hear it churning along even when I’m walking the dogs down our gravel driveway that is finally drying up.

The driveway that I plowed endlessly this winter.

 

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The back driveway this winter. We try to keep this one open, too.

We are the last home on the road so if I want to have access to the world its up to me to keep things open. I don’t mind the plowing at all. I have my trusty old friend, Big Red and his kick-ass blade to shove snow from here to there. The Dodge Ram we designed as our wedding gift to each other in 1996 has served us well over the years and even if he had to be plugged in every night during the winter it was worth it to feel him shimmy and rumble and hear him fire up in the frigid mornings after another 7 or 8 inches of snow had fallen.

 

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I love you, Big Red!

It isn’t just a visual awakening that occurs when winter takes off her snowy coat and welcomes the spring. The smell of the pine trees when we snowshoe and now hike out back is magnificent! Its profound how sudden the scent seems to appear although the trees have obviously been there all winter.

The dogs seemed fascinated by the scents they were detecting on one of our first treks after a lot of snow had rapidly disappeared. UB, in particular, was almost clingy with us. Had the melt uncovered mountain lion and bear scents? Had the neighborhood wolves left markings that had been hidden all winter only to be revealed on one sunny afternoon?

 

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Snowshoe trek with UB… (not the day he was so worried)

Not all of the scents are lovely, however. Like the overpowering smell that takes over when we drive up to our mailbox, which is located next to the neighbor who is calving in a small, wet, condensed area.

Or the unmistakable smell of skunk that wafted through the truck as I passed yet another neighbor’s often-targeted house. These are definite scents of spring.

A smell I miss is that of our woodstove. We’ve let the stove go out for the season.

 

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All done for the winter.

The reliable and steady source of incredible, comforting warmth is cool and quiet now and there are no animals congregating at its hearth. When we first moved here 10 years ago, Oscar, Chorney, Boomer, Sport, Cooper and Mulder could be found alongside Cleo throughout the winter on the carpeted stairs next to the stove.

I’ve laid there myself on cold evenings when I was chilled to the bone and Alistair was in Bismarck, wrapped up in any combination of cats and dogs.

Its the stove Loki laid in front of when I joined her and we spooned one last time before she eventually took her final breaths there.

It will sit silently, unobtrusively for the next several months until it is called to duty once more and I won’t smell the smoke from the burning wood which provides a heat like no other.

 

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Just last week.

With the changing seasons comes a change in our activities. The snow shoes and snowmobiles both got some love last week when Alistair was here. If you are an outdoors enthusiast, this is the perfect place to live (once you’ve got the wood split and the driveway plowed). We try to make the most of our incredible landscape.

 

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Our “back yard” forest a couple of weeks ago.

We didn’t make it to the ski hills around us, though, because the transformation into spring was happening even more rapidly in Helena, where the golf courses began to open. Our season has begun!

 

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Also last week!

With the change in our activities we noticed more changes in our own lives. This was the first spring we could drive the hour and half there and play a full, guilt-free 18 holes and then enjoy a lovely supper out before heading home. The previous 2 years, when Helena’s courses opened before any others nearby, we could only do the driving range. Or a rapid 9 holes with a cart.

Loki’s needs, which were never, ever resented, precluded us from being gone from home for so long. I initially felt sad that I didn’t feel any guilt but then I chose to enjoy both our memories and our new ability to spend the full afternoon there.

And I even made par on the par 3 16th hole. Another ball for the wall!

 

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New pink ball-for-the-wall!

Another aspect that makes the turning of winter into spring profound for us is how we manage the farm and day-to-day chores or activities. Something so simple as footwear or outer wear becomes completely different and takes up significantly less time.

There’s the long pants and possibly long johns. The turtleneck. The vest. Maybe the CarHartts. The big heavy coat or the double-layered jacket (depends on whether or not I’m splitting wood). The scarf. The toque. The gloves (the choice again depends on the wood thing… or maybe the hay thing).

Then there’s time you need to start the trucks (if they start) and let them run so that they will be warm and the engine will run smoothly. And don’t forget to unplug them before driving off!

 

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Big Red needed plenty of time to rumble in the driveway before we would get going.

Now, though, as spring has made her entrance into our world, none of the rigs are plugged in and going outside is a matter of slipping some shoes on and maybe a light jacket. If the wind is blowing I’ll grab the toque but only so my hair doesn’t fly around.

Our lives are dramatically different when spring comes around.

And this year, some of the changes are of our own design but they’ve added to the profound feeling that things are really, really different now.

Klaus is gone.

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Klaus… our Jetta… enjoying his final winter on the Fyfe Farm.

 

Our 2009 VW Jetta was part of the emissions lawsuit that was settled late last year. After Klaus made the annual Christmas letter 2 years in a row we were more than happy to send our little car back to VW.

It took a bit of time to organize it all but early last week Alistair fired his old friend up one more time and off we went to Missoula.

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He didn’t seem overly upset about it, either.

And for the last time I followed the little grey hatchback in a different vehicle and although I didn’t feel melancholy I definitely flashed back to several of our treks between Montana and North Dakota over the years. Some changes can definitely make me smile.

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Following Klaus through the middle of Montana in 2015.

One more change putting a smile on my face most of the time is Jockey’s transition to being an indoors kitty. It wasn’t right keeping him by himself in the barn after we had lost Georgia before Christmas so the slow process of making sure everyone got along began and he’s camped out at my feet right now as I type.

 

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He found the bed pretty quickly!

 

 

He’s an enormous cat with big sharp claws but he had kept them sheathed until Sport must have pissed him off. I haven’t witnessed any altercations but Sport showed up with what looked like a bad attempt at a pierced ear the other morning.

Oh, Jockey.

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Sport, today, after several days of antibiotics, doing quite well.

Jockey is making the most out of being a “domesticated indoor cat” and everyone is adapting to the changes.

The changes in the season and the changes in Fyfe Life.

The sun and the ground are warm, the horses are shedding their long winter coats, the color green is peeking out from where the snow has melted and spring is upon us. I’m wearing less layers, the heavy boots aren’t being worn as much, the trucks aren’t plugged in and the wood stove is silent.

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Outdoor reminders of other seasons.

While its still cool enough to have a chicken noodle soup cooking in my crock pot right now I can finally see the bon fire pit and imagine sitting around a smoky, starry night with a wine glass in my hand and UB and Cleo playing in the creek.

And I think of when we had 4 dogs by the bonfire and 3 barn kitties to lock in at night and 5 dogs at the Dog Days of Summer and so many cats to line up every day for soft food and the ferret cage sits there, empty, and the freezer is ridiculously full and I miss couch time with Loki and I feel bad about not feeling guilty when I visit a good friend in the hospital and another good friend for lunch before finalizing the VW buy-back yesterday.

As much as my life has always changed, this current changing season has brought me to a totally new phase in my life. Where many things are the same but I feel quite different. I don’t know why. More mature? Perhaps. Wiser, in some ways, less knowledgeable in others. More prone to tearing up at a commercial that features animals, that’s for sure.

I welcome spring and all the rebirth and growth and challenges in front of me.

Now, lets get those golf courses open!

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Clearly not struggling with the transition.

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Yesterday, finalizing the buy-back of Klaus.

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I’m envisioning it but its still going to take a few days…

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Bye-bye, winter! We’re ready for spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There’s That

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Loki Fyfe, a few weeks ago

 

Three years ago when I started writing this blog I was worried back then about little Loki, our blind grand-dog. At that point she had advanced cataracts and a left eye that had been nailed by cat claws a few too many times. She had her pronounced heart murmur, reverse sneezing, her knobby dew-claw, advancing arthritis, a thinning hair coat and a general dislike for winter.

It was only my fifth blog (As Good As We Can, by Step Gammy) and it was April of 2014 and it was about our deal with the animals who join our family and how I always promise to provide a life as good as we can for as long as we can.

I had to make good on that promise on January 30th.

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Earlier in January, with Cleo snoozing on Loki and Gampy snoozing nearby.

In my blog three years ago I wrote that I couldn’t imagine life without Loki and in other blogs I’ve shared how important she was in our lives. I’ve included multiple pictures of her exploring her worlds in Montana and North Dakota where she navigated around both homes in her pin-ball fashion, always knowing where she needed to go and somehow always able to find me.

Her need to be with Step-Gammy increased dramatically over the past year & a half and the two of us have been pretty inseparable. To the point where I felt guilty playing more than 9 holes of golf by myself or lingering longer at a lunch date.

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Earlier this year… snoring….

We couldn’t go on overnight trips without months of planning ahead of time unless the dogs came with us.

Which made for several fun drives across the state with my three companions and several funny glances from other rest-stop-users as I handled a blind dog and two rambunctious dogs who have no clue how to behave on a leash.

 

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“Let’s get the show on the road, Gammy!”

 

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Thankfully we had Gampy along on this trip!

Evening time with Loki, whether her Gampy was home or not was a pretty special thing for her, particularly once supper was cleaned up and it became Couch Time.

Couch Time involved snuggling and snoring into some area of my feet or legs. We’d watch golf or CNN or whatever Netflix series her Gampy and I were hooked on and she’d snore and fart and those snuggly evenings leading up to another favorite, Bed Time are a magical rear-view memory.

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Couch Time with Step-Gammy watching PGA golf from Kapalua, Maui

While UB was always pretty tight with Loki, Cleo had begun making it a very tight threesome over the past year. I’d get them to bed and go off to feed the cats and stoke the woodstove only to return to a snuggle fest when I got back. They would eventually move through the night (UB and Loki under the covers, tight against us) but I loved seeing the three of them as their own little canine gang.

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Earlier in January

I joked that “we four move as one” for the past year or two because that has truly been the case. UB is fit as a fiddle but Cleo had her own Vestibular Disease and balance issue last April and she is almost completely deaf (more fun at rest stops….) UB liked having both of his sisters close by, as though he felt responsible for them. I love his caring nature and the way he can be so serious about some things.

And I loved seeing him and Loki cuddled up in cat beds or on the carpet together by the woodstove. I didn’t know how I would be able to walk through the house without knowing he would be doing his best to take care of little Loki.

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A couple of years ago… Loki and UB.

Alistair and I hadn’t planned on putting our little train wreck through another winter but she was doing so well and the weather was so mild that neither of us could fathom ending things.

She met a new friend and enjoyed our house sitters in November when we went to Maui (a trip that was planned a year in advance, of course.) The snow didn’t fall in November so she enjoyed walks & talks with me several times a day around the farm outside. She played in the leaves, listened to the burbling creek and sniffed the air as the season changed.

 

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Getting in some good sniffing in November

 

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more sniffing

Her squished-in nose was, by far, her most important navigational tool outdoors and indoors. She was a whiz at figuring her way to the back of the house in Bismarck and a whiz at finding me in the kitchen cooking up the ground beef we added to her diet last September.

 

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Loki and her navigational tools last fall

The snow came down hard and fast in December, though, and things began to change. She was far more sensitive to the cold temps. She started “chibbering” as we put her jackets on her before we even went outside. She always did go out (unlike UB who usually requires assistance out the door on cold, snowy mornings) and did her business but often she would be three-legged and seemingly frozen in place immediately afterwards.

Even if she did let us get the jackets on she was never a fan of them. We had a variety of sweaters or cover-ups and each one induced a Pavlovian type of trembling response from within the warm house.

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A couple of  years ago… this one didn’t work despite the fashion-forward scarf.

So a few days, unless it was so cold it hurt to breathe, we just skipped the jackets and stood over her so we would be right there when she was finished because it was minus whatever and it was frigging cold even for us in our coats and toques.

 

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Another fail.

But things started to change and we started to talk about them. Normally Alistair and Tanya try to avoid talking about our ailing pets but the Doctors Fyfe intervened.

Despite the ground beef and high-calorie prescription canned food, Loki lost weight. She lost hair and the margins of her ears became tattered. Her GI tract was making unusual sounds and despite the meds I provided her stools got more & more loose. Her appetite, particularly for chicken mozzarella with Gampy, generally stayed strong, though, so we kept on keeping on.

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Couch Time earlier this year

And every night we would cuddle and I would hold her tight and we’d be up in the morning and out into the cold and she’d get her Rimadyl and ground beef and follow me into the computer room or the bedroom where she would wait for me outside the shower on the bath mat and she would snuggle into clothes left on the floor and follow me to the computer where she would sit on my feet or behind the chair as I told stories of teenagers and dragons and a Boston Terrier named Baxter.

She helped me finish chapter fifteen and even though I told her how the story would end, she won’t be here when this book gets published.

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Helping me edit book 2 in 2015

Loki won’t be here to enjoy one more springtime and she won’t feel another hot sunbeam on her adorable face.

She wasn’t there to join UB, Cleo and I as we drove across the state to help Gampy with one more surgery earlier this month.

She won’t cuddle on the couch to watch another PGA event and she won’t be spooned into my chest or neck ever again.

She won’t do “Geronimo”, “Boba-Fett” or her impersonation of a T-Rex off the bed in Gampy’s arms one more time.

 

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One of her last T-Rex impersonations on one of her last mornings with Gampy.

And I won’t cook up her ground beef or give her a post-seizure bath and I won’t have her riding shot-gun in the front seat of the truck and I don’t hear her snore at night in the too-quiet bedroom and I don’t feel her thrust her face into my chest when I pick her up and I don’t have her at my feet, on my lap or by my side anywhere in the house. I don’t see ferrets toying with the blind dog, I’m not carrying anyone outside, I’m not standing her on the freezer to trim her toe nails and I’m not smiling as I watch her lay with UB and Cleo.

Because Loki had two pretty tough nights after Gampy went back to Bismarck in January. The first day after the first night was a day for me to come to grips with what had to be done and for her and I to spend time together. Walks and talks in some winter sunshine. Chapter fifteen. Couch Time and all.

 

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Immediately behind my chair on the final morning, helping me edit some more

Our last night wasn’t much fun for Loki and she didn’t eat her breakfast. Alistair and I had decided what needed to be done and we talked beforehand. Well, he talked. I sobbed.

And I cried to the blue skies outside, “How can I DO this?” through my tears.

Loki was especially clingy that final morning and I didn’t leave her side. I laid with her in front of the woodstove and said goodbye from the hundreds of people who were lucky enough to meet and love her, like Theresa, Brian & Roxy, like Jessi & Carson, like Melody, Carolyn & Wanita, like Uncle Pete and Auntie Wendy and their resort and home, like all my clinic staff and friends at the Dog Days of summer, like the Bossorts, like all of Whitney’s friends & roomies over the years and like our neighbors in Bismarck and Montana.

I asked her to say hi to our band of merry misfits who would all be waiting for her and somehow I was able to sedate her without her really knowing.

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Just before it all went down…

She felt the tiny needle, though, and she sat up. She didn’t bark or pull away. She just sat and leaned into me. As the cocktail of meds kicked in and as more tears fell from my burning eyes, little Loki slid down my side next to my leg and hit one of her classic Cute Positions.

And she snored.

With trembling hands I managed to hit a vein. I smiled, somehow, at the fact her hair never re-grew after an IV injection site was shaved in one of our attempts to save the bad eye a few years ago.

And I told her one last time, as I listened to her murmury, washing-machine of a heartbeat slow and eventually stop, how lucky I am to be her Step-Gammy.

 

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In December, waiting for me on the bath mat

Loki lived an incredible life (sixteen years of it!) with incredible spirts of all species and she probably wouldn’t have been around for the last three if it weren’t for the fact she was firmly wrapped up in Fyfe Life.

Where everyone lives as good as they can. For as long as they can.

And we’re all slowly adapting and its weird and I miss her every single day and night and UB and Cleo are even closer than before and I had a moment opening up a package of ground beef the other night for the first time since January 30th and I’m okay with that. Her spirit lives on and will likely have as much to say as ever during our golf games.

 

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This was unexpected… but I guess when you’re running out of friends…

RIP little Loki Fyfe. You will never be forgotten. xo

 

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Another favorite snooze spot for Loki.

 

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Clothes on the ground made for excellent bedding.

 

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“Step-Gammy… the girl ferret is in my bed again!”

 

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Mornings with Loki in January. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of “Those” Winters

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How to survive winter in western Montana.

I’ve certainly posted pictures of enormous snow drifts and buried hot tubs over the years. And I’ve shared many before & after pictures of our deck in Montana that would be buried overnight and require my little body to shovel as if there were no tomorrow.

I’ve also told winter tales of woe from our ranch in North Dakota, where the winds blow in unimaginably cold temperatures for days and you pray that you don’t get stuck and that your diesel doesn’t gel.

But this winter… this is one for the ages.

 

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Our barn in ND before Alistair could really do some work.

Its been particularly harsh in Bismarck because they have had two extended periods of extreme cold weather and a tremendous amount of snowfall. Usually the snow comes down and blows around. The drifts make travel and movement a challenge but the volume doesn’t often stack up.

Its stacking up this year.

Like it did in 1996/97 where everyone in North Dakota remembers trying to beat the swollen Red River with sandbags. They were unsuccessful and downtown Grand Forks, ND flooded.

 

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Image from 1997 Red River flood (not my picture)

 

Everyone in the state watched the largest city get buried in raging, muddy waters that were formed when the snow never seemed to stop that winter. Snow that was shoved to the sides of the road higher than our one-ton pickup, Big Red when we were at a hockey game in Grand Forks months before the flood.

 

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All that snow melted and it had to go somewhere (not my picture).

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, fire broke out downtown but nobody could get to it because of the floodwaters. North Dakotans are remembering this springtime disaster because the snow this year is much like the snow that winter.

 

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haunting aftermath of the flood and fire (not my photo)

Because nobody wants to see this again.

But we know that many precautions have been made and banks were reinforced so we are all hopeful to avoid that kind of nightmare.

Or the nightmare of 2011 when Bismarck flooded after heavy snowfall in Montana had to go somewhere.

It chose the mighty Missouri.

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Flooded roads and residential areas in Bismarck, 2011 (not my picture).

Families were evacuated, homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and an army of people and pets moved into our home with Alistair for most of the summer.

The Army Corps of Engineers will hopefully be more on top of things this spring so we won’t see a repeat this year.

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snow load and drifts on our ranch in Bismarck right now.

Because there’s a boat-load of snow and its only the middle of January.

Many Montanans say that the snow used to come down like it has all of the time in the “old days”. That people were shoveling and roof-raking all winter long. It was the price you paid to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and I guess we’re paying for it now ourselves.

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My view for much of this winter already.

I have it a lot easier than poor Alistair, though.

For starters, I can plow in the warm comfort of Big Red with Jack Johnson, Iz or Coldplay blaring out of the speakers.

I have the big tractor with the covered cab and more heaters and a radio for company.

I also only have one horse to care for here versus the dozen he must feed and protect in Bismarck.

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from our snow-blown deck in North Dakota last week

Which is a challenge when he’s not there for 2 weeks. Its a challenge when New Neighbor is clueless about our tractor (which does not have a cab, heat or music) and damn near destroys a rim as he tries to clean up the snow. And its a challenge when it feels like 60 degrees below zero and the wind has blown for 3 days while snow kept coming down but he still needs a road to get to the horses and to get to work.

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a challenge to get into the barn where the tractor is kept!

I got to post cute videos of me listening to a warming Hawaiian ukulele with the incredibly beautiful Horseshoe Hills just beyond our Montana dream home while poor Alistair froze himself for hours trying to make sense out of the mess in front of him.

A mess New Neighbor truly hadn’t helped with. A mess our postman refused to enter so we didn’t receive mail for a few days. A mess that was very, very cold.

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You have to have a path, right?

He had to stop 5 times during the massive snow upheaval to shiver and shudder in our heated tack room. He traded socks, toques and gloves and stuck his bare toes directly into the slots on the baseboard heater and hoped beyond hope that when the tractor sounded like it wanted to seize up thanks to gelled diesel that it was just messing with him.

Its not as if he has the splendor of the Rockies to look at while he’s trying to move snow from here to there.

He has the flat, white horizon. Its a treeless, dreary, almost depressing landscape when its like this and you recognize how Seasonal Affected Disorder can creep in.

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My stunning backdrop in Montana.

But this is why we do what we do.

Because he gets to call this place home as well and we can enjoy our time together with our pets, heated tractor and vehicles that hopefully all start.

Today Alistair has been back in the big, warm tractor snowblowing out our driveways that are now too tall for Big Red’s blade to push aside. He has the roads wide enough to land a plane on so I’m ready for the next dump of snow.

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Taking a break on the hay bales yesterday with UB, Cleo & Jockey

And we laughed a lot yesterday splitting wood with our electric wood splitter, playing with our remaining band of merry misfits, hot tubbing with toques on our heads and fires lit in the tiki torches he had to dig out.

We watched PGA golf on Oahu and smiled at the vast difference in landscapes while sipping martinis and wine, and we talked about the antibiotics Cleo is on for a dental infection and the meds I started for Sport for a likely overactive thyroid and we shared a sad glance or two at the empty, cleaned-out ferret cage, Quebec and we make each other smile when spirt of Luigi or spirit of Calypso has something to say and we take Loki outside and beg her to do her business out there and we wonder how long we have with her but we can’t get enough of her snuggling into us and onto us during couch time or through the night and the cribbage game continues and we are hopeful that surgery might be soon to remove a pesky pelvic pin for hubby and that eventually, some day, maybe when the snow melts and hopefully doesn’t flood riverbanks onto the prairies, the sun will shine and we will be able to get back to our golf game.

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Another break in the wood splitting yesterday.

We plug the rigs and the tractors in. We only use diesel 1 which southerners don’t know even exists. We keep a steady supply of wine and vodka and frozen food and pet food on hand. We split more wood. And we move more snow.

And Alistair took the keys away from New Neighbor, saying it was time for them to get their own tractor.

Its just one of those winters and we’re doing everything we can to get through it.

Smiling.

With our version of winter Aloha, booze and hot tubs.

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Bismarck hot tub buried after the 2nd blizzard before Alistair dug a path.

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Our Jetta, Klaus in Montana… probably not going anywhere soon.

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Blasting out a “piddle path” for the dogs last month.