The Friendship Season

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Waiting in line to cross into Canada at Sweetgrass, MT

I have been lucky to have been able to spend quality time with a bevy of friends this past month. Old friends, new friends, family-who-are-friends, animal friends… it has been wonderful.

It began with a road trip up to Lethbridge, Alberta last month to promote my book series highlighted by my award-winning third novel, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake. Maple Leaf Publications has been working with me for months to get me into the annual Word on the Street book festival and I was eager to go to this one.

Alistair was supposed to join me but his schedule has been nuts with the doctors all covering shifts until they could hire someone new.

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Cool old brick barn at the border crossing.

So me and 100 books headed north on a puffy-cloud-dotted blue sky morning and just like that I was in Lethbridge.

After checking into my  hotel I was picked up by the Wright family. Dr.Ken Wright was my co-pilot for almost all of veterinary school and his very cool family has been a fun part of our lives ever since.

I got to watch their eldest (who was born during vet school) play football in his senior year in high school and we had a great supper together minus Zak and Easton. We never skip a beat when we get together and hopefully they will get down to Montana to meet the new Fyfe Ferrets soon.

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Wanita, me and Lei-Anne

At the hotel that night my long-time friend, Lei-Anne was checking in as I got back from supper. She had made the decision to fly to Lethbridge last minute to support me at the book festival and to support our other dear friend, Wanita in her charge against breast cancer. The 3 of us spent much of the next day at the festival together and the laughs were plenty.

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Authors, Ramona, Ralph and me!

This was my first book festival and I was pleased with the attendance and the support from Maple Leaf Publications. Granted, they are not Random House or Penguin books but they did get me a seat at the table all day, a hotel room, a comped breakfast and some branded goodies.

I met Ramona & Ralph who  were promoting their books and, as always, it was interesting talking with other authors who are making their way through this biz.

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Lethbridge’s Word on the Street!

I met a lot of interesting hopeful new fans of the series and I sold and gave away plenty of books. (Wanita and Lei-Anne are excellent managers who told me I need to sell more than give and they are correct….)

We had a video sit-down session that I hope will be available someday for me to share as well and with my plan to finish book #4 in my Missing Lake series this winter, maybe I’ll be ready for next year’s Lethbridge event with fans clamoring to read more!

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The Wrights came out on Saturday, too!

I was so excited to see the Wrights again at the book festival when Natalie, Nate (broken leg and all) and Zak joined me. (Natalie also has the managerial bent that giving books away won’t get me anywhere.)

And then more support arrived in the form of Cousin Kim, who drove 5+ hours to get to Lethbridge. Kim and I haven’t seen each other probably since my brother’s wedding more than 20 years ago and we had been planning this book event/reunion for weeks on social media.

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me and Kim, picking up right where we left off 20-odd years ago! 🙂

Kim fit right in with all of my friends, which also included one of my longest school friends, Candice and her husband, Matt (who I finally got to meet in person!) They also drove a few hours to join me and then Candice, Kim, Lei, Wanita & her hubby, Byron and I all went out for a fun supper in downtown Lethbridge that evening.

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Candice and I after supper in Lethbridge!

It seriously felt like I had my own classy entourage during the book festival and I can’t thank each of them enough for being a part of my adventure.

Lei-Anne had to fly back to BC on Sunday which is when I joined Wanita and Byron to finally play a round of golf together at their home course, Picture Butte. This has been a few years in the making since Alistair and I took up golf and became obsessed with the game. Despite Wanita’s summer of 16 rounds of chemo she was still able to play her weekly ladies league at Picture Butte. It was cool having so many of their own golf crowd wave and visit with them, too.

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Wanita & Byron on a sunny day in their awesome golf duds!

Wanita started the round with an eagle and Byron finished with a terrific par and I put a ball or two into the water and we had plenty of laughs. I spent the night with them and their ridiculously cool trio of feline kids and my heart was full from the love and support of so many friends.

Back home for a few days with my best friend, Alistair, we managed to get out onto our own golf course a few times despite some cold weather but before long I was putting him back on another plane to get back to Bismarck. This prolonged alteration to our schedule has been frustrating but hopefully we will be back to 2 weeks here, 2 weeks there soon.

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It was a little chilly that particular day…

Thankfully the Friendship Season wasn’t over as my good friend, Merielle once again jumped in her Ford and drove down from Christina Lake, BC to join us in her Montana happy place.

Merielle chronicles all of this through her incredible photography which she  highlights at MMK Photography.

I finally took her to nearby Upsata lake and the charming community of Ovando where we braved the chilly air for a quick photo shoot.

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By Scottie Brown Bridge near Ovando, MT

The snow eventually melted during her stay and we enjoyed a girl’s night with one of my real estate colleagues, Carey. A long soak in the Aloha hot tub, my yummy seafood alfredo and a sip of port at Fyfe’s Brew Pub bar capped off a fun Fall evening.

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Carey & Merielle at Fyfe’s Brew Pub bar (thanks for the port, Carey!)

Merielle planned her visit to include my 47th birthday seeing as how hubby couldn’t be here. She got to meet my real estate family for a pre-supper bevvie on Friday where another good friend, Tessa swung by to say hi (Tessa & Merielle met during one her prior trips to Montana.) A quick catch-up including some laughter ensued and before long we were dining at one of our favorite local places, Lindey’s Steakhouse.

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Merielle, Tessa and me

Merielle got to meet our 3 new ferrets (the Fyfe Bee Gees) as well as Fallon, the one female we were ferret-sitting for more friends who are dealing with some medical issues that necessitated them being in Missoula for almost a week. Merielle set up a little ferret photo shoot that I am excited to see once she does her editing back home. Our boys played and cuddled well with Fallon and it was fun for them to have their own new friend to play with.

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Barry striking a pose for Merielle

After that the Friendship Season evolved even more as we got busy with prep for Canadian Thanksgiving. When I’ve been alone I haven’t always celebrated in October when, apparently, the Pilgrims chose Canadian shores to land on but Alistair and I have done a turkey for this big day from time to time.

We had been planning this even before Merielle came when another real estate colleague and his wife (who is also Canadian) asked if we were doing anything on Oct.12th.

And so it was that a spread that included grilled balsamic & rosemary lamb chops, a 21 lb roasted turkey, artichoke-sourdough stuffing and all the fixings was laid before 3 1/4 Canadian-American women and Kyle. (We signed Kyle up for carving details as we three women discussed the pros and cons of our dual lives.)

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Lee, Kyle, baby Paige and Merielle!

Lee & Kyle’s adorable 6-month old, Paige got to experience her first Thanksgiving in style. She also got to experience her first ferret encounters and the evening was filled with laughter, “ehs” and then that awesome Canadian classic, Nanaimo Bars.

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the feast

Merielle and I had tasked ourselves with the dessert classic the day before and we used the Laura Secord recipe book for instruction. The bars are a 3-layer concoction that cannot be compared to anything else. They are also not all that difficult to make and now that we’ve done it I can see it happening again.

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Working on the second layer….

It is fitting that the Friendship Season wraps up (at least, in this blog) with an evening centered on giving thanks.

I know I live a very special life and I am always so thankful for it.

I’m thankful to have a loving, hilarious, supportive cutie of a husband who keeps coming back to Montana despite the travel time every (hopefully) 2 weeks.

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thankful for this guy (on a warmer day his last trip here)

I’m thankful to have incredible friends and family who plan time on their calendars to drive to visit me on their turf or mine.

I’m thankful for the animal companions we have shared our lives with for so many years and that Cleo and I are going to go & enjoy a nice stroll out back together after I finish this today.

I’m thankful for my new friends in real estate who have embraced my insanity (well, I think they have…) and who are eager to meet friends of mine from another walk of life.

I’m thankful to be able to call both Canada and the United States my home for so many reasons on both sides of the coins.

And I’m thankful that Wanita has had a successful surgery and that Byron is right by her side every step of the way.

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Keep on smiling and swinging the golf clubs, Wanita!

I’m hoping for a few more sunny days to hit up our local golf course and even more hopeful that Alistair will get to join me out there when he gets back. Its possible I’ll still be eating turkey by then (can you freeze it? No, really, I’m asking. Did I mention it was 21 lbs?)

I have so enjoyed the Friendship Season with Lei-Anne, Kim, Candice, Matt, Wanita, Byron, Morrigan, Freya, Odin, Kenny, Nat, Jackson, Nate, Zak, Fallon, Joel, Jeanette, Merielle, Carey, Tessa, Kyle, Lee and baby Paige and I’ve enjoyed sharing it here, too.

I’ll probably enjoy American Thanksgiving next month, too but we’ll see about the size of the turkey. I guess it depends on how many friends sit at the table.

Oh, and by the way, its Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Go ahead and kick its ass, Wanita!

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the first layer… and a Canadian icon

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Merielle got to visit Sport and other Fyfe friends like Bebe and Cleo

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Kyle doing the honors with the bird

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A neighborhood friend I’m actually thankful for not getting to meet in person (although they are more than welcome on the Fyfe Farm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reunion-ate and Celebrate!

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

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

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

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

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Road trippin’ along the Columbia River in WA state.

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

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

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Three Fyfes at The Keg!

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

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

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

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Alistair and Jenny recognized each other immediately

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

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

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A dozen doctors hanging out at Nicklaus North!

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

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

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

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

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Alistair and Maria at brunch on Sunday

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

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

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Debra, Cindy and Alistair at brunch

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

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

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Golf in Pemberton with that big mountain in the background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lei and me at The Omega last weekend.

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

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

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

Maybe I’ll put it out there.

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

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Golf in Pemberton, Alistair is facing The Mountain

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The Brandywine Falls driving up to Whistler, BC

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Canadian Poutine in Whistler!

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

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Kalayna, Diana, Dad and Larissa at the Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.