Ohana

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Beauty all around the Grand Hyatt on Kauai

I am not bothered by Winter’s approach, even as the Montana skies around me are dark, grey and rainy. There is a chill in the breeze and snow lies on all of the mountains that surround our little ranch. It is November already and still I do not shiver and quake at the memories of non-stop snow plowing, snow paths, shoveling and home insurance claims because we just topped off our Aloha levels on the island of Kauai.

The Garden Isle welcomed us back for my annual veterinary dermatology conference. It was a much happier time at the conference versus last year when Alistair stayed in Montana with sweet UB during his surprising final days.

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Yay, Alistair was back with me! Grand Hyatt resort grounds.

With our trusted house/pet sitter, Jessie on board at the farm for Sport, Bebe, Cleo and Jockey, we got up at 3am on October 25th and just like that we were back on our favorite Hawaiian island!

Kauai feels like home for us. Perhaps because it was the first Hawaiian island we ever visited in 2009. Perhaps its because we actually have family there. It could be that the Poipu Bay Golf Course is like our Hawaiian home course. Or maybe its because we always meet special people there and these special people become our Ohana.

Family.

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Brock, Chris and I at Poipu Bay

Years ago we met Dr.Brock at the veterinary golf tournament and we have played together in almost every tournament ever since. He has visited us in ND and MT, as well. Barb joined our foursome back on Maui and has also been a fun part of the party.

This year Brock brought Christine, his new girlfriend- another new friend on Kauai! They played on another team and Barb, Alistair and I were joined by Cindy for this year’s tournament. One more friend!

Our foursome laughed and giggled as great shots were made (mostly by Alistair, Cindy and Barb but I managed a few nice ones, too) during a torrential downpour the Garden Isle is known for.

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Cindy and Barb trying to stay dry

Its wasn’t cold but it definitely was wet. The last hour was particularly nasty and as I teed it up on our 18th hole, with rain water pouring off my hat, shoulders, and arms, bare-handed so my Driver wouldn’t fly out of my hands, completely aware that I was soaked through and through, I gave it my all and somehow won the women’s long-drive contest.

It wasn’t our team’s only award- at the wet-rat looking luncheon, our team ‘won’ the highest score award. Hey, it was $50 for each of us. It pays to suck!

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Alistair’s Angels with our crisp 50s in hand!

That isn’t our first time as high-scorers. The whole pond hockey fundraiser from 5 years ago earned us our “most honest” awards as well. The high scoring teams usually are laughing their heads off and not taking their game or life too seriously. That’s what got us hooked on golf way back when with Lynn and Micki.

Alistair and I played a total of 6 rounds at Poipu Bay this trip. The clubhouse staff and pro, Chad, welcome us as their Montana Ohana with hugs and handshakes. Workers like Kerry and Danny remembered us (and my golf club head-covers) from our visits there over the last few years and we all laughed about how we play “Fyfe Golf”- driving from hole to hole to find an open spot.

“That’s exactly how we all play,” Kerry told us as he was cleaning up my clubs.

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Jinxie and Mulder club head covers… forgiving us for getting them soaked during the tournament.

He had recognized these 2 and the Loki head on my Driver the first day he came to work after we dropped the clubs off. We also all reminisced about the time we met- when Alistair’s Driver head went flying off during a group lesson from Chad years ago prior to the tournament.

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We’ve been laughing with these guys since 2015!

Other than the one rainy tournament, the weather at Poipu Bay lived up to its sunny reputation and our skin is tanned and our hearts are warmed. We played a couple more times with Barb and a fun fourth named David one day and we also played alone.

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Seriously digging my new hat at Poipu Bay last week!

And we got to connect with flesh & blood Ohana when we had supper with Whitney and Lau and then visited them for a BBQ a few nights later.

We ate at Café Portofino together in Lihue and caught up on everyone’s lives in real time, in person.

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Lau & Whitney, Café Portofino

We got to watch a Princess Cruise line ship squeeze its way out of Nawilili Harbor as evening and darkness descended and our yummy merlot was sipped.

(Alistair and I ate there again before our night flight out on Thursday and our server, Angela, grew up surfing with Lau and his siblings.)

More connections.

More Ohana.

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Our mandatory photo after supper at Café Portofino! (not my photo)

Whitney & Lau let us hang out at their place another afternoon as we caught up even more and got to play with their dogs. Whitney got a sweet new Jeep during our island stay and we got to check it out while trying to not be distracted by their back yard views towards Hanalei.

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New wheels and grand-dog, Kygo!

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The kids’ extremely distracting back yard on Kauai’s north shore.

I saw friends at the veterinary conference who are always there, like Don and Tony. I connected with the Canadian, Trevor, who remembered us and our Montana tales and how I walked away from my brick & mortar practice 5 years ago. Dick and Ann weren’t there this year. Neither was Dave from Washington or Bruce from Kansas. Dick did text me, at least, and hopefully they will be back next fall on Maui.

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More golf and that sweet new hat of mine!

More golf and more fine dining. We had been worried about the expense of eating out thanks to our home insurance woes but I committed over an hour on the phone with Mr.Cooper our first morning on Kauai and somehow I was finally able to speak to someone in “Leadership”. “Michelle” listened and made some sense of our months-long mess and we will hopefully have some of our personal funds back soon.

So we can get going on getting our walls re-built and getting out of the guest room.

Back to Kauai, our dining adventures brought things full circle yet again.

We ate at Dondero’s one night, the Italian restaurant at the Grand Hyatt. Juan was our server and we spent the night sharing pictures and stories about our beloved animals. Juan has rescued German Shepards as well as one of the ginger kittens he found at the resort. The little guy, Pumpkin, had a lot of health woes at the start and we crossed our fingers for his upcoming vet visit.

We saw Juan our second time eating there and although he wasn’t our server we got to spend a lot of time visiting and hearing that little Pumpkin got a clean bill of health! More photos, exchange of names & emails and now Juan and I are friends on Facebook!

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This isn’t Pumpkin- feral kitties are everywhere. This sweetie was at the Garden Plantation restaurant. Another new friend on Kauai!

I knew Barb and her husband, Don (who we finally met and had supper with at Merrimen’s one night- more friends,  more Ohana!) were eating at Dondero’s after we were leaving and I told them about Juan and how awesome and caring he was.

Saturday morning I got a text from Barb with this photo:

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Barb & Juan at Dondero’s!!!!! (not my photo)

Guess who was their server??? My heart was so happy to see this! My friends are your friends and if you are my friend its because you are happy, inspirational, cool, not cool, funny, unique, special, loving, caring and giving of yourself.

And you probably love animals.

We are all Ohana.

I think our lives are enriched when we surround ourselves with people and experiences that touch us. And perhaps we need to touch others as well.

And so, with our hearts full of Aloha, our pineapple levels topped up once again, and new members of our tribe to connect with and keep in touch and hope to see again soon, we flew through the night sky to land (well, in this case it was just about plummeting to our deaths… seriously… we applauded the pilot on touching down) in Missoula and we are back to reality.

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I am missing this reality.

Sport is purring on my lap, Jessie is back home, my real estate transactions are becoming more and more real with each passing hour and our clocks are set one hour back today.

We loved our Aloha as always and enjoyed so many special relationships- old ones and new ones- and we are a larger Ohana for it.

Mahalo, again, Kauai. Love, your Montana Ohana.

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When Grammy & Grampy come to visit! (not my photo)

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Photo from Keoki’s for Michelle & Missy… some of our Seeley Lake Ohana who joined us here last spring!

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Alistair goofing around on the incredible 16th tee box!

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On our way to becoming drenched during the golf tournament!

 

 

Picture This

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I chuckled quite a bit this past week as a few orange boxes arrived with the daily mail.

And I’ll chuckle some more this coming week because a couple more are due to show up.

 

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Orange box #1.

If you’ve ever created something with your photographs with Shutterfly then you know they do a great job and they have all sorts of neat things to make. I’ve made personalized, unique calendars, playing cards, canvas collages, tote bags, stationary and more through the company over the years which has been fun for gift-giving at Christmas time.

Its especially fun to create useful items that share our memories when I want to give something to Alistair. And its even better when its something we’ll see or use on a regular basis!

 

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Fun ways to feed our cribbage habit.

But this recent round of orange box deliveries has me giggling because its an order that should have cost me about $300 but instead I only paid the shipping.

This is all because of Alistair’s former diet Coke habit, which has since become a diet Ginger Ale habit. It is also because I’m a relentless point-scorer if there are points to be tallied up on the off-chance I could win or earn something for cheap.

For years (I mean it, years), we’ve entered codes from every 12-pack of pop that Alistair brought home and apparently those points added up. You could go in and redeem points for gift cards or more pop or a mouse pad that said Coke on it but I just let our points add up.

And up.

And up some more.

 

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The 2017 wall calendar that went out to my family for Christmas last year.

Until Coca-Cola decided they were ending the program and we had to use up our points by Sept.30th. It turned out there were a lot of Shutterfly things we could get!

Like 3 14 x 10 canvas prints! (due to arrive this coming week…)

And 4 8 x 10 photo enlargements (coyote pups shown below…)

A cute tote bag and a deck of playing cards featuring the beautiful misty grey morning Alistair captured in 2011 at Holland Lake Lodge (playing cards shown above…)

A 12-month wall calendar (which won’t have actual photos from Oct, Nov or December in them from this year thanks to the deadline…) (also due to arrive this week…)

 

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Free 8 x 10 of the pups from this spring next to our beloved husky, Harry.

 

And we were also able to snag 800 4 x 6 photo prints.

Yes. That’s right. 800.

800 photos I got from memory cards, my phone, old computers, old cameras, Facebook and Instagram. Photos that took me hours to find and then download to the main PC and sort through and choose and then eventually load onto my Shutterfly account.

It was as tedious as it sounds but I’m a cheap Doukhobor who wasn’t going to let those points and something free slip away from me!

 

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Me. Cheap Doukhobor.

Most of the photos have arrived, which is what led to my chuckling last week.

You see, there’s tremendous irony in all of this in that we will now have to buy a bunch of photo albums. Albums that we’ll spend a couple of days packing into boxes and loading into the horse trailer when we get evacuated again thanks to the forest fire in our back yard 10 years from now.

 

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Where every photo album we own currently resides only the truck & trailer are now in North Dakota after our evacuation party in August. 

Which brings me to our unevacuation a couple of weeks ago.

We drove the 2 trucks with 2 dogs and 3 cats and some of our belongings back to smoky Montana after being gone for a month. The pets came through with cuddles and purrs and no tires blew!

The resident deer and bears had happily moved onto our property, which prompted a bit of a startle from Alistair as he and Yogi were just about face to face when he was checking our back yard after the long drive back.

 

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By the time I got my camera Yogi was trundling off, just outside our bedroom. 

The fires took a hit from some much-needed rain and cool weather and we finally don’t see any plumes of smoke behind us.

Seeley Lake’s homes and buildings all survived but its a huge question as to how the actual businesses are going to hang in there.

Tourism is our community’s big thing, particularly in the summer. Not only were many folks forced to evacuate, some weren’t able to work to earn the paycheck that they rely on to pay rent and put food on the table because the tourists weren’t here.

Most resort or lodge rooms were empty.

Gift shops sold coffee to fire fighters and the few locals who weren’t evacuated but locally-made jewelry, carvings, wall hangings, pottery and more didn’t move from the shelves and walls that display them.

Servers had nobody to serve so nobody made tips and the few restaurants that we have in town were down to skeleton crews who all breathed in the thick, dry, smoky air that surrounded our little world for so long.

 

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Some of our hiking areas behind our house when trails to access them still weren’t open after the burn. 

A rainy weekend and snow on the ground this morning have finally made for fresh air. Cold, crisp air, but nobody is complaining.

And you know, not many folks are complaining about the loss of revenue just yet. There will be a time for that and a time for businesses to apply for grants to help them survive the long winter ahead. There will be a time when folks will vent about the anxiety and frustrations we all shared this summer when the fire kept growing as it wrapped itself around all areas of our little town and it hurt to breathe.

And there will absolutely be more photos to take of the snow that will accumulate as Big Red and I begin the winter ritual of keeping our driveways open. More pictures for more photo albums if I can rack up more points for some other thing we discover.

Right now, though, our schools are open and the local Blackhawks are back at it on the football field. We, and others, are trying to eat out when we can to support our local cafes and the Chamber is trying to boost things with a Friday night program that brings a band to town for locals and maybe even some out-of-towners. Each time a local business will be featured during that Friday and I heard my friend’s resort on the lake, Tamarack’s, held the first Friday’s open house.

 

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Enjoying the backyard view a few days ago with blue skies above. 

Its Fall in the most beautiful part of an incredibly scenic state where the Rocky Mountains frame our world to the north and dark blue rivers swirl through the grounds in all directions around us. The season of change is upon us and we’re all ready to move forward, even as bright orange boxes keep arriving on our doorstep containing 800 photographs of our past.

I think most of us here are just so happy we made it through the smoke and fire to this most gorgeous of seasons. We made it with our families, our land, our pets, our laughter, our senses of humor, our dignity, our bling, our photo albums, our golf course, our golf cart, and our pride in this stunning piece of the world we call Home.

 

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Front yard. Happening now, with rain, hail & sunshine.

 

I hope that even if you haven’t visited western Montana that you can try to picture our beautiful world or that you look through the photos I share with you all. And I hope if you do, it makes you smile and inspires in you a dream to some day come and check it out.

Seeley Lake is once again open for business!

 

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Saying goodbye to Shilo and the gang before we unevacuated back to Montana!

 

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Just about home after a month in North Dakota. Snow was a welcome sight!

 

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Back on the 10th tee box in Seeley Lake with no smoke or raging fire to watch.

 

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Back to Fall golf in Norman. In Montana. 

 

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‘Cause we just didn’t get enough fire in our backyards this summer….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country Kids Back in the City

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Lions Gate bridge & downtown Vancouver

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

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

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

For one thing, there’s the traffic.

 

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Downtown Georgia street. Cars perpendicular to one another.

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

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

 

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Rear view mirror of the line-up behind us

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Robson st.

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

 

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BC weed on display… with cops right there.

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

How even more Canadian.

 

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Loved this!

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Our hotel

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

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

 

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Hotel Vancouver on the left.

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

 

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Hello, Ocean!

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

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club in the background

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

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club

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

 

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Alistair’s childhood home

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

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

 

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Alistair getting ready to play along the Fraser River

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

 

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

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

 

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On the 2nd tee along the river at Shaunessy

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

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

 

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Jaclyn, Alistair, Gareth & Whitney, downtown Vancouver

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

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

 

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Blurry. Back at our hotel.

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

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

More friends.

 

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Lori and I enjoying lunch downtown

More familiar roads.

 

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Getting ready to cross Lions Gate Bridge

More favorites.

 

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

And more familiar stomping grounds.

 

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Jellyfish of the Vancouver Aquarium.

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

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

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

 

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Alistair and I hiking in West Vancouver

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

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

Here’s to you, Vancouver!

 

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Fun Shaunessy foursome with Liz and Danny G!

 

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More ocean time at Eagle Harbor

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Angie

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Angie Kimmel this winter. Photo by Juan de Santa Ana

Dear Angie.

Hey.

I’m writing you this letter because I can’t pick up the phone to text you or your mom to see if you guys want company. I can’t bring Cleo along for a fun walk through the neighborhood with you and Kali. And  I can’t randomly swing by, either, and hope to visit you because your bright smile and tired body left us on Oct.27th.

We celebrated your life yesterday at your folks’ resort on the lake and it was lovely. You would have approved.

I absolutely loved seeing all of your artwork throughout the house along with your amazing photographs that deservingly won awards over the years. I always loved seeing your photo entries at the Alpine Artisans auctions and still am in awe of the incredible pictures you took during the Jocko Lakes fire that nearly devastated our little community.

 

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Me, back in the day , 2007

You used to work at Lindey’s Steakhouse back then and you were building your photography business. Your eye for detail and love of nature shows in the photos hung or displayed at your old house.

I’ll never forget you coming into my little clinic with your liver & white Springer Spaniel puppy you had got from your aunt in Spokane 3 days prior. My records say it was November 29th, 2007. We bonded immediately because we had had our hearts taken over by our own Springer, Cleo a couple of years prior.

Kali was almost too smart for me and my Easy Cheese routine (Springers!) but we got her completely vaccinated and then I spayed her in March of 2008. Man, it doesn’t seem that long ago, does it?

 

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My first Furry Scurry walkathon at the inaugural Dog Days of Summer!

I’ll also never forget my very first Dog Days of Summer. I remember telling you about the party and why I created it. I was annoyed that the local medical group wouldn’t let me do microchipping and toe nail trims and a walkathon as part of their annual medical fest for humans so the Dog Days were created. You supported my craziness 100%!

 

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Angie, crazy enough to walk our young girls, Cleo & Kali in the walkathon

I was busy doing microchipping at that first event so you volunteered to take The Girls for their walk wearing their cute bandanas and all. The Furry Scurry raised money for the local pet shelter and turned into a huge part of that annual summer party.

We didn’t have a really large turnout but it was still pretty special. We had the discounted microchipping, a veterinary technician doing toe nail trims, goodie bags, bandanas and a fun BBQ for everyone who came.

And you and I and The Girls made the paper in a full spread that the local Pathfinder covered that summer!

 

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All smiles, enjoying the party with Cleo & Kali

You got your 2 kitties soon after you got Kali and I remember joking with you that you were collecting pets like I had done. You even found a black lab one day and we laughed our heads off when I said you were totally becoming a Fyfe and that I even had a single brother-in-law if you wanted to make it legit.

Your laughter radiated through the phone lines as we worked out who the Labrador belonged to and you remained exclusively a Mum for Kali and the kitties.

Your laugh is one of the most special things we all talked about yesterday. Your wonderful brother, Jeff told us all by the bonfire, through tears, as stunning lanterns were being released on the still lake behind him, how he used to try extra hard to be funny just so he could hear your laughter.

I got that. We all did.

 

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Up at the ranch today.

 

 

I’m feeling a bit melancholy today, which is unusual for me. One of the many things we had in common was our happiness and joy for life.

Even when you were diagnosed just over 2 years ago with a brain tumor your attitude remained bright, cheerful and strong.

You lit up like a lightbulb when we ran into you one day in Missoula when you & your mom were eating at The Shack. I plopped down on the bench next to you and we talked about how you were cheating a little bit on your well-researched diet. Your mom worked tirelessly to find the best foods for you as you fought back against your diagnosis. She has been your number one Champion throughout all of this.

I had fun walking with you and The Girls last year and sharing lunch and I enjoyed just visiting and hanging out at your place. I loved your garden the past 2 summers and hearing what you had planted and what the plans were.

Cleo never did go in the wading pool you had set up for Kali, did she?

 

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After our Bling for Angie online fundraiser a year ago!

You were so shocked almost exactly a year ago when I came by with our fundraiser check after my trip to Kauai. I love this picture of us because we’re both smiling (as per usual when we’re together) but also because I remember how much you liked your pretty birthstone earrings, my second book and the fact you wanted to go to Kauai.

That online fundraiser brought a lot of folks together all to support you. We sold bling in MT, FL, ID, CA, OR, AK, AZ, WA and even Alberta & British Columbia all because so many folks love you and wanted to help out. I realize now that some of those women who shopped were at the house yesterday and even though I may have met them I didn’t remember the fundraiser. I introduced myself as your vet and your friend. A lot of your family seemed to know who I was and that made my heart so happy.

I was also happy to see Kali and Bentley roaming around. Bentley is so outgoing now! They both found me countless times; what a joy to see Kali doing so well after her dog-attack this summer.

 

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Cleo (last month) was pretty worried about Kali this summer!

I loved when you, your mom and Kali came by to drop off the dog kennels this summer and you got to see the farm! It was a gorgeous, warm day and you were able to walk around and watch the dogs play in the creek. UB and Cleo showed Kali the creek and we talked about ear meds, Chambers of Commerce, barn cats and how peaceful it is up at the farm.

You and your mom both saw why Alistair and I love this place so much and we all laughed and everything was cool. Kali explored the creek but she mostly wanted to be with you.

 

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Loki, doing some sniffing this afternoon in front of the creek.

 

Randi and I talked about that dog attack yesterday and how your bond with Kali is so special and unique. Her dog, Lily was at the lake when the lanterns were being released and it feels so wonderful to know how many people and their pets you have touched with your life.

I’ll never forget our last visit, when I brought a bit of Hawaii to you because you never did get to go there. Your rolled the shell lei around in your hands and let me babble on about our upcoming trip to Maui, the golf tournament, my golf addiction, the bling, the state of the Fyfe pets, Loki pin-balling her way around the house, vaccine clinics and house calls, trips to Bismarck, our garden, your garden, your cats and even the upcoming election. I said “hi” from Lynn and from Alistair and even from Cleopatra and we talked about how everyone was doing.

I am so happy we made the trip outside that afternoon because the sun was making an uncharacteristic appearance that week. We bundled you up and the sunbeams found you and that was a lovely day & its a beautiful, special memory I will cherish forever.

 

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A couple of weeks ago with Kali and a sunbeam.

Because, as it turned out, that was our last visit.

The last shared giggles and laughter of two Springer Spaniel-loving, cat-cuddling, gardening brunettes who both came to Seeley Lake as outsiders who have a love and respect for the land and beauty that surround us.

My life is richer for having known you, Angie. My heart breaks for your folks, your brother & his family, your friends like Becky and Kathy who cried with us all yesterday and for everyone who has met you and maybe been lucky enough to have heard your incredible laughter.

And I know Kali is mourning you, too, but she has a lot of love surrounding her and she probably knows more than we think because of your amazing bond.

I love you, Angie. Thanks for playing. I miss you.

Love, Tan

 

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Me. Today. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

I Am Completely Normal (or, The Case For Step-parents)

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I have never wanted to have children of my own.

There.

I’ve said it and I’m glad.

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Luigi and me!

Not human ones, anyhow.

I remember telling the dressing room of skaters my feelings about that as a kid.

It was one of those group discussions about how many kids each of us planned to have and I announced I would be having none.

That I would have to find a man who already had his own kids because he wasn’t getting them from me.

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Apparently I had things all figured out back then…

And it isn’t because I don’t like kids. That’s not it at all.

I love kids. They’re fun, they’re goofy, they like to play make-believe, they giggle freely, they like my stories, they like Rhonda, they like to watch me skate, they are full of wonder and, generally, they trust and believe openly.

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Harry and I back in the first version of my little vet clinic with the local pre-schoolers

I am completely comfortable around groups of kids regardless of whether I’m doing veterinary education or coaching figure skaters or hockey players.

I don’t break out in a sweat, I don’t have panic attacks, and I actually quite enjoy kids of all ages.

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Slightly blurry pic of a pic of our real wedding day with Gareth

So it was quite fortuitous that I met and married a man with all of the requirements.

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Same day, with Whitney

I had no expectations because, at 21, I had no friends dating older persons with their own kids.

None of my friends or siblings had any non-infant children of their own at that point so there was nobody to turn to for questions or suggestions.

I just winged it and tried to make our family as normal as possible.

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A long-ago blonde phase with Whitney & Gareth on our trip to Disney World

The kids even moved in with us in Watford City when Gareth was in grade 4 and Whitney was in grade 2.

At that point a few friends thought I was crazy (think I was 22 by then) but it never occurred to me that it was wrong.

Its not like Divorce was unheard of in the ’90s, its just that it didn’t happen much in the close-knit Doukhobor community and family I grew up in.

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Fyfe Family time on the outdoor ice rink in Watford City

So there was no reference point other than having 2 loving parents who wanted to make the best life possible for their kids.

Even if they weren’t my kids.

It has always helped that Alistair and his first wife had a fairly amicable divorce.

There was no throwing of cutlery or evil phone messages.

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Visiting the kids in Vancouver (with Rhonda)…

It may have helped that the ex lived in Vancouver, many miles and a country away. We have a mutual respect for one another, (particularly now that the kids are grown) and appreciate that we offered very different ‘mothering’ styles to the kids.

Maybe it also helped that I was so young- there are as many years between Alistair and I as with Gareth and I.

Which was fun when they were teens and we could sometimes sort of hang out.

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Camping trips with the kids & their friends

And listen to the same music and share our friends and learn to be a different but normal type of family and shop at Abercrombie together and be a part of each other’s lives as we were all growing and changing.

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Fyfe Life classic… Old Maid with Morgie!

And I can’t tell you how many of the kids’ friends I keep in good touch with via social media.

And some we even hang out with when we can.

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Morgan and I enjoying a great meal together in Bismarck a couple of years ago

And I think I am a very lucky woman to have the relationship I have with my now-adult stepkids.

They have never called me “Mom”. I was adamant about that because they already have a mother.

I was “Tan” back then and I’m “Tan” still.

Just because a person didn’t give birth to a child doesn’t mean they can not love them.

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Gareth’s high school grad with Whitney & I in Bismarck

Or be immensely proud of them and their achievements.

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Whitney’s high school grad a couple of years later in Vancouver

I have loved helping raise these 2 cool young people and I have so enjoyed watching Alistair raise them and care for them, too.

They aren’t my own children but I am his partner and I worry about his worries and I’m excited for his excitements.

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Proud Dad with Whitney’s hockey!

The main difference, which I had to remind the kids from time to time (like after the group of AAA hockey boys made a run on the Go Karts a living Hell for the owners of the place… AGAIN or the one prom night I won’t go into), was that I didn’t have that built-in ability to love them no matter what.

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Gareth, assuring me it wasn’t going to be like the summer before when we all almost got kicked off the course… (he was very, very wrong)…

When I used to say that I didn’t want kids I would get the typical responses:

“You will change your mind when you’re all grown up.”

“Once your friends start having kids you’ll feel differently.”

“You don’t mean that.”

But I did mean it.

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Me. Not wanting to have kids.

As years went by those comments turned bitter:

“You’re being selfish.”

“What’s wrong with you not wanting kids?”

“That isn’t normal.”

You know what, though? It IS normal for me.

I have always been career-driven and I knew, as a little girl, that children might get in the way of that.

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One of my careers

I also knew that I was extremely motivated to succeed- whether it was on the ice, with my textbooks, coaching, writing, slinging bling- whatever.

I moved away from home at the age of 12 to pursue skating at the highest level.

I graduated high school at 16 to get going on an education.

I moved by myself to Tokyo at 19 to make some money teaching English.

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Training & competing at as a high a level as I could dream. I couldn’t do that in my home town.

And deep down inside where you have a core that you know is your true self I knew that there was the slightest, teensiest possibility I could have a child who wouldn’t be like that.

And that would disappoint me.

And that would be wrong.

I knew that you shouldn’t ever be disappointed in your own child but there it was and I never, ever wanted to resent a child of my own.

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4th grade boys at their track meet in Watford City

So I didn’t mind that Alistair had his own kids. Heck, they could pee and eat on their own by the time I showed up so that was a huge bonus right there!

I took an active role in their parenting and have never felt like I missed out on anything.

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Whitney and I in Saskatoon, right around my vet school graduation!

And I absolutely love the young adults they have become and the journeys they have been on and we celebrate together in person or over a phone line or Facetime or we say goodbye to a group of animal companions that each and every one of us has loved on a sunny day with pink roses and we cry and hug together and laugh at shared memories and encourage one another’s dreams and we enjoy the good old days and the great ones now and the endless possibilities ahead.

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Whitney & I show-girling with the Luau men on Kauai

And I appreciate how truly lucky I am to have the relationships I do with these two.

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Vet school grad, 2005, Saskatoon

And I look forward to the times ahead… perhaps on a golf course or two…

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We are in the process of corrupting Whitney by making her a golf addict. We had both made par on her first day playing last month!

And its still fun to look back at where we all began.

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Hallowe’en, 1995, Watford City (goodness, there’s Rhonda again!)

And I know I am normal for me and you are normal for you.

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Whitney & Mulder a couple of years ago visiting us in Montana

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Gareth and the RX-7 for prom… (no, that’s not THE prom story…)

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Much younger Gareth and much younger Boomer back in Bismarck

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Lucky stepmom, (taken a few years ago in Vancouver)