Seasons of Change

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playing golf in North Dakota earlier this month

Its hard to believe, but the snow is actually almost all gone.

There is still a few feet remaining up high in the mountains surrounding us in Montana but the incredible piles that were stacked around our home to make their own makeshift mountain range have melted.

 

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stacked snow in March

We left Montana with 3 feet of snow for a reprieve and time together in Bismarck. Alistair and the 3 cats took off early one morning and I followed with Cleo that afternoon after giving a fun interview with Indie Review (search Tanya Fyfe on YouTube) to promote my book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

I chose to promote last year’s publication instead of writing this past winter because I wanted to learn the process and see what some marketing could do. I’m glad I didn’t try writing because the amount of plowing and snow removal didn’t allow for much creativity and I think my writing would have been frustrating.

 

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This wouldn’t have made for a very relaxing writer’s corner.

With huge fans and dehumidifiers whizzing 24/7 and strangers and their machines traipsing through the house and us living in the guest room since February, I haven’t felt much like creating this spring. So it was a good call to choose to market.

And through the marketing I have learned a lot and I got my book out to a lot of different people and I’m getting close to wrapping up my first Book Blog tour! Blog sites like Rockin’ Book Reviews, Community bookstop, Ashley’s Bookshelf, My Reading Journeys and Bound 2 Escape signed on to “host” a stop on the tour.

Its a lot like a band going on tour, making stops in a variety of cities and performing. Only on this tour the cities are virtual and the bloggers review my book. Some also provided excerpts and its been great fun seeing what people think about my book and my writing style!

 

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Wendy & I in Watford City

While in North Dakota, I spent a day with my good friend, Wendy Ruud and we had a book event in Watford City, where we had first met in 1994. Book sales were decent, especially since I sold to some people who had no idea who either of us were.

And then I got notice that my book actually won an award! My first book award! Secrets Abound won Distinguished Favorite for teen fiction in the Independent Press Awards! It didn’t come with prize money but it did come with stickers for my books, which is the next-best thing.

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North Dakota didn’t have any snow at all when I arrived towards the end of April. Our horses got to enjoy the first bits of grass peeking through and they had mostly shed their winter coats.

As always, they remembered their ‘Mum’ and came right up to greet me whenever I would be out with them. Especially the few who have spent most of the past 10 years in Montana full time with me, like Zeus and Frankie.

 

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Zeus & Frankie! My boys!

The herd dynamics had changed, though, which Alistair had warned me about over the winter. Our oldest Arabian broodmare, Susie (RJA Misty Bey), who had been Boss Mare for over a decade had begun to lose weight along with her position at the top.

Horses are herd animals and they have unique dynamics within each herd. Our group has been together for all of their lives, save for Katie and Jake, and their established rankings never changed.

Until Susie started to lag behind and be “told off” by the younger horses who are allowed to the  best grass or the best hay whenever they choose.

 

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More of the herd: Penner, Fumie and Cassie up front.

I watched Shilo and Zeus both toss their heads at thin Susie and knew she had become the lowest horse on the Fyfe totem pole. When older horses begin to lose weight it can pick up speed like a freight train and that was also happening with our 28 year-old matriarch.

It was, sadly, Time.

And just like that, we are down to 10 horses.

Along with 3 cats.

And 1 dog.

 

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Back in the day. (Susie’s daughter, Cocoa & her foal, Spyder are on the far left!)

Its a far cry from our heyday as Pair O’Docs Paints when this time of year had us up through the night waiting for foals to be born.

Its a far cry from hikes in the forest with 4 rambunctious canine companions and one hilarious blind little train wreck with a hare lip and a heart murmur waiting for us at home.

 

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Our own little dog pack.

And its an unrecognizably far cry from having a pride of cats line up for soft food in the kitchen every night.

 

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Back in Bismarck a long, long time ago. Sport and Cooper aren’t even shown here!

We’ve been so lucky to have met and shared the journey with so many interesting spirits of so many species and its helped shape us even if the changes that occur when these spirits leave us are sad.

But that’s life, right?

While the seasons are changing before our eyes right now it makes me think about the seasons within our own lives. And how they change, whether we’re in charge of it or not.

 

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Hoo boy.

After 3 weeks in North Dakota we returned to a snow-less yard around our Montana home. We could finally see the extent of the damage to the deck out back. Our insurance adjuster and the head guy from the restoration company joined us on a walk-about as we chatted about the roof, the lawn, the deck and the interior walls that need to get rebuilt.

More changes ahead, apparently.

Thankfully our creek behaved itself during the incredible melt but the community of Seeley Lake had some flooding thanks to high, fast-moving waters.

 

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Our creek next to our house a couple of weeks ago.

My home town of Grand Forks, BC, where I’ve taken you through this blog in the past, has not fared so well with the melt this year.

Sadly, heart-wrenchingly, the town has flooded like never before and dozens of homes will have to be destroyed. I’ve watched posts and news clips over the past couple of weeks as people wade, thigh-deep, in brown, murky waters to recover items from their homes.

People float along the streets in kayaks and row boats.

People have spent hours filling and distributing sandbags in a very Canadian effort to try to protect homes and businesses from the force of the swollen rivers that converge there.

The Canadian military got there yesterday to help with the disaster.

 

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My old high school in Grand Forks… closed last week because of the community’s disaster.

Things are going to change in Grand Forks, and it will take a long time for things to be considered normal again. My family is high and dry where they live but I have friends who are living in makeshift accommodations and my heart goes out to them.

I’ll share only a couple of photos that aren’t mine… I find they tell the story just as well without words.

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Spring is here, complete with her massive snow melt, her green grass, her hundreds of calves along lonely highway 200, her golf courses opening up and her friend, Winter’s insurance claim on our house.

I’m approaching a new season in my own life as well and, just like every change, it can be frightening. Change does build character (I must have it in droves!) and as nervous as I am I’m also excited. I’m not sure if this will be a full seasonal change for me or not. I’m really not sure how we’ll make this particular change work but I’m eager to try.

I didn’t just plow and shovel snow and market my book this winter. I made a point to do some personal growth and I took a course and learned a lot. I have a job to begin but the details are fuzzy so I’ll leave them blank.

For now.

 

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Along highway 200 2 weeks ago.

I’m not quite like the seasons, though. Winter shed its snowy coat and becomes something new altogether.

I’m not changing that much. I’m still me.

The Alistair-loving, figure skating, veterinarian, author (award winning!), golf-loving, bling-slinging, blogging, wine-drinking, crazy cat lady who is as Canadian as she is American.

Stay tuned, though, to find out just what else I can be!

 

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hubby-loving golfer

 

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I doubt this will change much

 

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Play it as it lies! (ND earlier this month)

 

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Someone got rid of her own winter coat this week and wanted me to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Coach Came Back

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Back on the ice! Virden, Manitoba last month.

My first language is Figure Skating.

First career language, that is.

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

 

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2007, my Bismarck skaters during a video-review session

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

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

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

 

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

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

But I loved it.

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

 

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Showgirl in Japan, 1992

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

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

Gasp!

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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My morning pit-stop.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Fab, fearsome foursome in Virden!

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

 

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

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

But more on all of that another time.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Shanna & Haley, more locker room giggles

 

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

 

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My favorite skating partner (2010).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Girls

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Beautiful Montana

I have been absent from the blogosphere for a few weeks.

It wasn’t my intention. Its just that its Summer in western Montana and we try to pack as much as we can into our window of warmth.

Spring can be wet and Fall can be cold. And if you’ve followed my blog or you also live here then you know what Winter can be.

But Summer…

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Juicy mountain goodness in a bowl.

Montana huckleberries are famous for their vibrant hues and sweet juiciness. Most folks around here have their own secret stash they like to pick from. Our stash last year never fully ripened, at least not enough to spend the time to go out and pick.

The stash more than made up for it this year.

We never like to overdo it- the thought that I’m taking food from the local bears keeps us grounded in that regard. But we spent a couple of hours in the sun and got enough for our huckleberry pancakes Alistair enjoys so much.

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This year’s bounty, measured in baggies for pancakes this year.

We also made time to get the canoe out, which we didn’t do once last year.

There is a quiet little lake near our home. There isn’t really any beach to speak of and the campsite is very small, not to mention its a ways off the beaten path so there’s usually only a few folks out there which makes for a peaceful, enjoyable paddle.

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Best view for miles around.

We paddled and floated on Lake Upsata and enjoyed the beauty around us.

We listened to the light waves lap and bump up against our Kevlar sides.

We heard the loons call out in between their full-body dives as they searched for the fish that continue to elude us.

And we laughed and reminisced about our last time canoeing with our good friend, Paul on the local canoe trail, where we bottomed out a few times thanks to late season low water and 3 adults on board.

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Peaceful Lake Upsata.

Alistair didn’t end up catching anything as the skies towards us were darkening and clouds formed into threatening shapes and colors. The kinds of shapes you shouldn’t be beneath on a body of water.

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Hmmmm… maybe we should think about heading in?

But Alistair is back to work in North Dakota and I’m back to my routine at home.

I have realized that my relationship with some of my non-human roommates has become something like the old TV show, the Golden Girls. Me, Loki, Cleo and Phillipa.

Loki is Bea Arthur’s character, Dorothy. While sometimes grumpy and bossy she is still a lovable, sweet, reliable friend with a gravelly voice and a sense of humor.

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Loki loves making nests out of clothes to snuggle up in.

Cleopatra is Blanche, who was played by Rue McLanahan. They are both stunning mature women with charming southern accents and an uncanny way of flirting with and attracting men.

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Cleopatra Cassiopia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe… charmed, I’m sure.

Phillipa is Sophia, Dorothy’s mother, who was played by Estelle Getty. The littlest member of the gang with a feisty attitude and a penchant for teasing others, she is one of our resident thieves with a passion for footwear.

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Bonjour, mes ami!

Which leaves me as Betty White’s somewhat naïve, honest animal lover, Rose. I’m not from the Midwest but I sometimes ramble on about days gone by and quirky stories from my past.

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Me… the Betty White of our group.

I’ve been noticing changes. Subtle changes, in some cases, and more noticeable in others.

Phillipa and Loki are both losing weight.

Its more rapid in Phillipa’s case but then everything is more rapid when you’re a ferret. If you consider the fact that one month is akin to one year for a ferret in terms of how their bodies age and change then things are going to happen faster.

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Phillipa & I post-bath a couple of years ago.

She’s also become quite picky about her chewy treats, only eating the raisin or peanut butter ones while younger Luigi gobbles up the chicken, banana and bacon ones. And she’s eating them slower. Antibiotics didn’t change anything but I am continuing with a daily anti-inflammatory. At the age of 7 I’m certain there is some arthritis in her teensy body.

Loki’s weight loss is happening despite a ravenous appetite. I love seeing her eat or watch her bash the empty food dish around the kitchen to get my attention.

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“Snoooooooore”

Both girls seem to feel great, though, continuing to romp around in Phillipa’s case and enjoying long walk & talk sessions outside when it comes to Loki. They are both getting more grey and they’re both sleeping longer but they are eating, drinking, peeing, pooping and playing normally so I’m content with that.

And Cleo gave us a scare in April.

Our Southern Belle developed a head tilt, body leaning, stumbling, falling-over-when-she-sneezed condition that included a vertical nystagmus for 2 days. That’s where your eyes flicker non-stop left and right. Go figure she was wobbly.

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During her tilt-to-the-left phase en route to Bismarck.

The nystagmus ended but the leaning to the left remained, which was why I brought them all to Bismarck with me. It was right on the heels of losing Calypso and it came out of nowhere so I figured a brain tumor was the only answer.

So Cleo leaned against the walls in Bismarck and toppled over to the left if she tried to stand up and she fell getting off the bed and we got Jessi, Lynn, Cindy and Debbie crying when I told them and I didn’t tell everyone because I honestly wasn’t prepared for it and it was so sad seeing her fall over as she shook herself and I held her and she laid a lot more than normal with me and I told her all of the things I could think of that needed to be said.

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Also during the time of the tilt, in Bismarck

That we loved her. That she was a wonderful big sister and companion. That UPS-Matt and Fireman Frank loved her. That it was a magical day when she came home from the clinic I worked at, having been brought in to be put to sleep for being aggressive back in 2005.

That I wouldn’t let her suffer and if she showed me any indication of that I would do what had to be done.

But I didn’t have to.

Not yet.

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Cleo’s classic “Square Face” look at one of our Dog Days of Summer years ago

After twice daily anti-inflammatories (which she is still on) she recovered completely. Running, jumping, leaping, standing, walking on her back legs, playing, swimming, loving, cuddling- Cleo is back.

And each day is a gift.

So maybe my tears right now are for my feelings back in April and May and they’ve moved from Cleopatra onto Phillipa and Loki.

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Alistair with Loki, UB and Cleo last summer in Bismarck.

I wonder if this is what its like to be a resident in a senior’s home.

Where you make friendships and develop strong bonds to people who are all at a point in life where the number of days ahead are far fewer than those in the rear-view mirror.

Where anything can happen and, really, can it be much of a surprise?

I’m the only Golden Girl who hasn’t met or surpassed her expiration date. Loki is 16. Phillipa is 7. Cleo is at least 12.

The 4 of us have a bunch more grey hair (Cleo has the least) and we’re pretty set in our ways of routines and schedules.

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Luigi, Phillipa and I this spring. Clever hats to disguise the grey!

Maybe Cleo has what we call Old Dog Vestibular Disease. There is no test for that but it can come and go. We’ll enjoy it while its gone.

And we’ll enjoy the seasons as they change and remark on the similarities to our own lives. To every thing, indeed.

We’ll just continue to love and live our routines and enjoy each day with one another. With Phillipa sneaking up on blind Loki to nibble at her feet. With Cleo and Loki and UB snuggling up together in bed at night. With Loki pin-balling her way through the house. With soft food, chicken mozzarella, accents and berets and with cute voices talking to us while we play golf and shoes and insoles that go missing on a nightly basis and with nail trims, Rimadyl and Metacam and Walk & Talks with Step Gammy, Fyfe Life will continue as always.

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Alistair, Calypso, Phillipa & Luigi this past winter.

 

It is a good Summer.

As good as we can for as long as we can.

I’ll keep you posted. xo

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Several years ago when Phillipa (mistakenly known as Phillipe back then, oops) joined our family!

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Cleo, the summer she came home, bonded immediately to her Daddy.

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Very young Loki with very young Casey many moons ago.

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3 out of 4 Golden Fyfe Girls with UB this spring.

Eigo Kyoshi… Tan in Tokyo

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A student named Mayu, January 1993

Someone once told me if you went traveling the world and you came home with money you did it wrong.

He clearly didn’t know me.

Or the Me of back then.

An independent, confidant, somewhat-naïve and uptight young woman who didn’t want to worry about money during the rest of her well-planned future.

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Summer of 1992… okay, some of Me is still here now. You can’t take the Crazy out of someone.

I grew up hearing about money my entire life. I knew the value of a dollar and waitressed and coached figure skating so I could cover rent, tuition, car expenses and food.

I shared a one-bedroom apartment with a girl and we lived as cheaply as we could but I knew I wanted more out of life.

My fiancé was 20 thousand dollars in debt and I wasn’t about to marry into that. I knew we needed to make some money if we were going to have any type of chance in the world.

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My castmates & I going out one night during my first show in southern Japan.

So I stopped school. I always knew I would return but it would be when I could afford it without having to work at the same time.

I took advantage of a good friend’s offer and packed up and joined the cast of American Ice Show at Mitsui Greenland in southern Japan.

At the time, 2 of my first cousins were living and working in Tokyo as English teachers and were doing financially quite well.

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Embracing all that Japan has to offer! Showgirls and the owner of the bar… likely doing some John Denver or Neil Diamond…

I liked Japan from what I learned during the ice show and my cousin offered a room until I could get on my own feet so I went for it.

I flew to Tokyo on my 19th birthday in 1992 and began perusing the English newspapers and pounding the pavement looking for work.

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My beautiful cousins, Jeff & Joanne and I at a train station in Tokyo soon after I first arrived.

My cousins helped immensely, especially without having to worry about a place to stay right off the bat and they helped guide me as to how I should portray myself.

Namely, as a 26 year old with a full teaching degree from the University of Vancouver (which doesn’t exist). I’m sure nowadays you can’t get away with that sort of thing but the Internet wasn’t available and I was keen enough to make sure I was convincing.

I phoned, I faxed resumes, I went for interviews with my briefcase, I carried maps, I got lost, I bumped into people, I got somewhat used to cramming onto a train with my body touching other bodies, I learned Shinjuku and Shibuya stations, I got lost some more but I just kept at it.

Within a couple of weeks I was working at Harmony Schools, 2 train rides from my cousin’s condo in Kami-Kitazawa.

It was a new start-up by a young man named Randy who was born in the states but had Japanese heritage. I liked Randy and I liked his ambition and I enjoyed the school.

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Randy, myself and his girlfriend celebrating Halowe’en with Harmony Schools!

I liked the kids and I liked them covering my train pass but it wasn’t a full time gig. I wasn’t making enough yen to move out on my own.

I continued to pound the pavement and finally nailed a head teaching position with American Language Schools in Chiba (the “country”), which was 2 hours by train south of Tokyo.

The job was perfect! They had their own curriculum and textbooks, regular training with colleagues, several schools throughout the country and my own apartment within walking distance of my school!

Conpai!

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My apartment as seen from the kitchen/bathroom/entrance/hallway area.

Now, don’t get too excited. We aren’t talking fancy schmancy or anything. I was lucky enough to have a Western toilet, at least, and a TV.

Not that there were any English channels.

And not that I could follow any of the bizarre Japanese reality-type of game shows.

But I had a kotatsu table and a single futon and eventually got a wardrobe to hang my clothes in.

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Runa (perhaps it was Luna… to this day I don’t know) and Akiko!

And I had my school! My very own school!

And I worked 6 days a week and I dressed like a business-woman and I carried that briefcase and I wrote a letter every single day to my fiancé and I met coworkers and we had a lovely receptionist and I liked my boss so much and I learned a lot about what kids went through living in the highly competitive Japanese world of the early 90s.

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Very stressed young women trying their hardest to get into the top universities in order to be successful in life. After a few months they began to smile but they always had dark circles under their eyes. Rena, in stripes, sometimes talked about suicide.

I had a class of 3 very intelligent young women whose families paid top yen to have them be conversational in English so they could get into the best universities.

Image was everything and your family was seen as successful if your kid got into the best school. Even if she was just a girl.

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A more relaxed class of youngsters with their geigin teacher, Tan’iya-san.

I had 2 2-year olds I played with for an hour once a week just so the children heard spoken English at that age. Even my boss, Jun thought that was a bit much but she understood it.

Jun, herself was an incredible woman. A business owner! A woman! She owned 3 ALS schools and although she didn’t speak English very well she appreciated how that limited her in life. Jun was married but I never met her husband and she didn’t talk about him unless asked.

They all knew I was engaged because I talked about it frequently and everyone knew I wrote letters home to him every day.

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My colleague, Will, visiting our school one afternoon.

Jun encouraged her teachers to hang out so Will and Charles became very good friends of mine.

Charles was there to see the world and make some money. He visited Thailand when we were there, drank wine and was a fun influence on me.

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Enjoying supper with the boys… I think it was Chuck’s place and his Kotatsu. There is a heater under the table. Brilliant!

Will was pretty uptight and had some anti-American angst and was extremely sarcastic. He is probably still teaching with ALS.

But they were my friends and the 3 of us had some good times together.

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Charles & I. The boys actually got me out to do some sight seeing one rare afternoon.

And I taught and I wrote letters home and I wrote in my journal and I read all about teaching and I memorized my REM and James Taylor cassette tapes and I tried not to think about the fact I had no idea what I was buying at the grocery store and I ate a lot of donuts and drank a lot of coffee and I tried to get used to the earthquakes and I avoided eyes with my Yakuza neighbors (who were probably more scared of the little independent white girl with big round eyes than I was of them, pinkies missing and all) and I lived like that for months.

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Jun, in the navy blazer often took her teachers out. Charles and I were the lucky ones this night.

I look back at my chubby cheeks smiling away and I know that I was happy. I was doing what I wanted to be doing and I was making the money I was there to make.

But I missed a lot, too.

I could have gone to Thailand with Chuck, it was a cheap enough flight for the weekend.

I could have gone to more events with young, male students who wanted to practice conversational English in a public setting.

And I could have tried to find parks to walk around in instead of dreary train stations or paid for cable so I could listen to someone speak English now and then (Top Gun in Japanese was hysterical, though!)

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looking out towards Chiba city from the Tsudanuma JR train platform by my apartment

But the Me back then isn’t the Me of now.

I’m probably less confidant now. I know that things can go wrong.

That fiancés become ex’s and you maybe don’t come home with tens of thousands of dollars.

That sometimes your entire life that you have mapped out for yourself at 19 changes. The train jumps the tracks and that briefcase spills your life out on the tarmac and you’re back in Canada without a clue of what to do.

A foreigner in your own country feeling lost even though you’re surrounded by people speaking the same language.

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Akiko, our school secretary, Jun and the cutest assistant whose name I didn’t write on the pictures seeing me off at Narita international airport.

I am who am now because of who I was back then.

I don’t necessarily miss that young version of myself. I admire her courage and her ambition.

But I wished her well when the wheels touched down in Vancouver.

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A fun afternoon with the boys. I love Chuck’s tie!

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Students who were in college. We were all likely the same age but remember, Tan’iya San was 26!

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A young-looking 26!

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Walking around Harajuku one afternoon…. Gwen Stefani nailed that place on the head!

 

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Selfies of 1993.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Week

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While my blog title may bring to mind the catchy tune by the Barenaked Ladies, this isn’t about them.

Even though I am Canadian by birth and therefore can lay some sort of claim to the band.

I even saw them once and have the T-shirt to prove it!

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Some of the gang in Bismarck- Shilo, his mom, Raven and Susie

No, this blog is about the week I have had and how everything can change in such a short amount of time.

One week ago I was back in Bismarck, North Dakota, home of the hubby and most of our horses and fields of hay that needed to be cut.

Its that time of year.

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fields of hay during baling

New Neighbor has been a nuisance this year, pestering Alistair about getting his field cut and baled even though the man knows nothing about farming.

(If you recall last summer’s blog about the baling event he also knows nothing about hard work and sweat and how to get a job done.)

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The neighborhood hay bine that cuts the fields of grass and alfalfa and lays it out in rows. Its also a nice, shady spot for Howard’s dogs, Chili and Ginger.

Putting up hay isn’t something you can teach in a 15-minute discussion.

Running our expensive tractor and using Howard’s hay bine and figuring out what to do when & if things go wrong while listening to weather reports and checking weather websites and watching the skies to know when to cut and how long to leave the grass on the ground before baling is something of an art form.

It takes years to learn and try to perfect the skills so you have working equipment and dry (but not hot) hay bales to load into your barn for winter.

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Good hay!

In the end, we didn’t cut our hay. The weather timing wasn’t right with Alistair’s work schedule and New Neighbor still had no clue how to do anything.

Howard also wouldn’t let NN use the hay bine.

But Howard, an exceptional neighbor, cut his field and we stayed in Bismarck an extra day and helped him and his wife and a friend haul bales in the hot summer sun.

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Howard, baling his field while we loaded them up.

Many hands make for light work.

Even little girl hands like my own are useful.

I got to be the stacker.

Meaning I got to ride on the flatbed trailer like a surfer on a giant surfboard along the bumps and corners and sudden brakes, stacking the bales in neat, tidy, tight rows while the men tossed them up at me.

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One of my masterpieces.

The men get to do the heaving of the bales and the negotiating of the nice trucks into and out of the barns.

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Totally NOT my job!

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And he makes it! Go, Alistair!

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This is just a bit too tight of a parking spot for me to negotiate…

Howard has a bale elevator which makes for a better day for your back. We all stacked the trailer loads of hay and then drank water or nibbled popsicles and wondered where New Neighbor was while we debated the merits of a Toyota pickup in terms of guts and glory and talked about their daughter and her baby in Texas and didn’t talk about the daughter they lost and we watched Howard get the baler going again & again after dropping a bale.

And then we would go get another load.

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Just dropped another bale but Howard got it all going again.

Its the kind of work that you sort of enjoy because you are really earning a glass or two of wine later and you know you’re helping out and your neighbors really appreciate it and you are using just about every muscle you have in the blazing hot sun.

Its the kind of sweat that you would get if you sat in a sauna fully clothed for a few hours.

Its the kind of tradition that you don’t celebrate or plan ahead for because you really don’t know what the weather will do or if you will be in Montana or North Dakota or how many people will show up to help and its just something that needs to be done.

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Little girl, after yet another load was stacked into the barn.

I’m so glad we were there to help.

Even if I could feel every muscle in my body for days afterwards.

Its not Pretty Girl work.

Its not sparkly.

Its not something you look forward to.

You just do it because its the right thing to do (which NN obviously didn’t get… he was tinkering around in his garden when we drove up our driveway after 3 hours of hauling bales.)

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Bale moving along on handy-dandy bale elevator with Alistair working the upper levels of stacking inside the barn.

But then we played in our garden, which has been fantastic this year given the amount of moisture Bismarck has had.

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Our ND garden

It has been trampled and crushed by torrential rains and incredible winds twice this year and has withstood frost at least once.

Not everything survived but Alistair replanted when he could and shrugged his shoulders when he couldn’t.

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basil-basil-basil!!!!!

We enjoyed some yummy meals and continue to do so with the produce we brought back to Montana.

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Lovelies for my spaghetti sauce last night!

With all of the animal changes going on at the Fyfe Farm we didn’t need someone to stay overnight because I brought all 3 dogs with me.

Even blind, little Loki.

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Loki snooooooooze in Bismarck. (Insert snoring sounds….)

She lived in and visited our home there throughout all of her life and it always amazes me how she remembers how to navigate inside and outside of the house.

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Loki, UB and Cleo enjoying a Bismarck cuddle with Daddy

They travelled well with me and even though Cleo is mostly deaf she would look up at me from the passenger seat if my singing became too… well… I don’t what it was but it was “too” something given the square-face look she gave me.

But what is a woman of the 80s & 90s supposed to do when Four Non Blondes are belting out What’s Going On?

(Poor Cleo…)

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Non-singing portion of the road trip at our favorite doggy rest stop between Lewistown and Jordan, MT.

And we’re back to Montana and more changes occurred.

Or, had to be made.

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Cooper xoxo

Cooper wasn’t having any fun anymore and it was time to say goodbye.

How did we know?

She didn’t vocalize or try to get into the office anymore. Her weight loss was profound.

She got out of the cat bed when Boomer joined her and laid off by herself in a corner of the kitchen.

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Last month, Cooper enjoying the morning sun on our back deck

She wasn’t going out on the deck with the others in the mornings and that was maybe what clinched it for me.

I laid our 20-something year old companion in her Daddy’s lap and sedated her as she softly purred.

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Cooper Fyfe, back in the day, with one of her many garter snakes

And we remembered all of the special things about our short-haired, all-black, clawless wonder who found us in 1997.

How she would wrap both arms around your neck when you picked her up.

How she smacked the bejeezus out of me when I joined Alistair in ND after the 2 of them had bonded for a month.

How she groomed a terrible open wound on his hand he earned from trying to hold a crazy mare back with a rope.

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Oscar and Cooper, lovers for many years (Bismarck, many years ago)

And how she truly, deeply loved Oscar and wailed for 3 months after we said goodbye to him.

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more Oscar & Cooper shenanigans in Bismarck

Her peaceful presence is missed and our numbers are dwindling.

Its not easy.

Its not sparkly.

Its not something we wanted to do.

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More Oscar & Cooper moments

But its our deal with the animals- donate your reproductive organs at the door and get along and we will give you the best life we know how, with ample food, special treatments, voices, accents, dances, cuddles and kisses.

As good as we can for as long as we can.

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Oh, Coopie!

And more things change around the farm on a daily basis and we know we have some more sadness to handle up ahead.

But not just yet.

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Boomer, Cooper and Oscar a couple of years ago

I have visited the Everything Changes theme before and I think more and more it is why we live our lives in Fyfe Style.

We make the most of every morning together and enjoy the heck out of our days, our animal companions, our golf game, our friendships, our garden and each other.

We work hard so that we can play hard.

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Little Chorney with big sister Cooper… together again.

Because you don’t always know what’s up ahead and we want to be able to look back and remember the wonderful times together- not the things we didn’t do, or the words that were never said.

We want to help our neighbors and love our homes and land and be good people who do good things.

Even if it isn’t pretty.

Or it isn’t sparkly.

Or maybe its challenging and difficult and sometimes it makes us cry.

RIP, Cooper. We’re glad you’re back with Oscar.

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Cleo & UB in Bismarck

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Fun indigo tomatoes in Bismarck!

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How I will remember Cooper-and-Mummy time… RIP, dear Coopie. We miss you.