The 5th Season

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Summer this year sort of blended into Fall.

There was a brief flirtation with warm temperatures well into September but then Fall didn’t really arrive. Or she arrived, took a quick look around and then left faster than a woman who realizes she has walked into a boutique where she can’t afford a single thing.

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Montana’s attempt at Fall this year

And even Summer felt jilted because we spent much of it driving from one place to another, all while Alistair continued to travel to North Dakota and back on an unscheduled schedule that was the result of them losing one of the partners at his clinic in July.

Thankfully our wild Montana skies weren’t full of smoke this year so we do have that to be grateful for.

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Jockey, soaking up some sunny Fall warmth

And maybe it wasn’t Fall who wanted to leave but, rather, Winter who wanted to come over early. It is only the first week in November and we have had three distinct snow events. Granted, the snow didn’t stick around the first two times and there isn’t much more than a couple of inches on the ground but it still feels a little early.

I read that Montana had one of its coldest Octobers on record last month.

I felt it on the golf course, for sure, but it didn’t stop me from getting out to whack at golf balls.

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Tall grasses on our local Double Arrow golf course mid October

But then the golf course closed earlier than the past few years because it was too cold for everyone who didn’t have Norman with a heater inside to ride around in. Our North Dakota course had already closed down a couple of weeks beforehand.

We weren’t too bummed about our loss of ‘swing therapy’, though, because we knew we had another Hawaiian adventure to look forward to and now that we have returned to the mainland and Alistair is en route to Bismarck yet again, I can honestly say that Maui did not disappoint.

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My Aloha toes!

It had been a year since our Big Island getaway last November but once we checked in at the Grand Wailea we immediately relaxed and let the islands do their thing.

We played golf five hot afternoons in a row and enjoyed every round even if the “real feel” temp was in the mid-90s! We played with our friend, Barb, who is from Colorado and who is as addicted to the game as we both are.

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Round 1 at Wailea’s Emerald Course

It was fun to play on the 3 courses affiliated with our resort because we had never played on any of them until now. The annual veterinary conference I was attending held its tournament on the Emerald course so that’s the one we played the most.

Barb and I had even planned ahead and bought matching shorts for the tournament. While our team didn’t have low scores, everyone agreed we nailed it in the looks department!

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Rob, Barb, me and Alistair on the 1st hole

With swaying palm trees, tasty mai tais, ocean views, birdies, pars and bogeys and amazing meals each day our minds were refreshed and our hearts got topped-off yet again with Aloha.

The conference was excellent and I learned a few things and reaffirmed a few others. I enjoy dermatology and find it a bit like being a super-sleuth… the skin only has a few ways to respond or react to things so you have to consider all sorts of differentials when presented with a red, scaly plaque on a non-itchy young dog.

I especially enjoyed Dr.Rankin’s talks in her lilting Scots accent. She rode us hard about using topical therapy versus oral antibiotics and shared some frightening information on new, resistant bugs hitting the veterinary world as well as the human world.

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Golf course Plumeria

Practitioners in all fields have to think more creatively when it comes to prescribing antibiotics to animals and humans. Alistair gets crap a  lot of the time when he doesn’t give someone the antibiotics they want for their viral cold. People write nasty letters telling his company that they saw a different doctor the next day after seeing Alistair and that new doc gave them their Z-pak. (By the way, Azithromycin concentrates in the pulmonary macrophages… those are in your lungs… your Z-pak isn’t indicated for your kid’s ear infection.) (I did a report on Azithromycin in vet school and its one of my pet peeves when I hear it being used willy nilly for things.)

(And, yes, Z-pak can be used for all sorts of things but my main point here is that you don’t need antibiotics all of the time.)

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Orchids at the Grand Wailea

But now we are back to a snow-covered reality with the wood stove fired up once again for the winter season that feels like it is already here.

Its not actually super cold outside today but it was while we were on Maui.

I have our aging Springer, Cleopatra inside with me as I type. Her back legs aren’t getting the messages she is sending them a lot of the time and her vision is questionable. She can’t hear a single thing and she has Canine Cognitive Dysfunction but her tail wags every morning when her Daddy lets her out for piddles and her appetite is just fine.

Our house-sitter, Jessie, took excellent care of Cleo and our other furry companions and she shared in the silly laughter that ensues when one drags the ferrets around on a towel.

Cleo and I will go for a late afternoon walk soon before I start to think about focusing on my 5th Season.

The Writing Season.

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Maui Mai Tai at the Kula Lodge

Winter is primarily when I try to write. It began 6 years ago and I have my 3 books to show for it.

Last winter I had great plans for completing the 4th book in my Missing Lake series but it just didn’t pan out.

I came back from our 2018 Hawaiian trips with 2 real estate transactions on the go and another that began in December. I was still pretty new to the world of real estate and when I wasn’t moving snow from here to there or putting out potential transaction fires I found that I wasn’t able to relax and give my writing the focus and full attention it needed.

I managed to get into Chapter 8 in my currently untitled book but that’s as far as I got and before I knew it the golf course opened back up and our driving adventures and trips up to Canada began (along with a couple more real estate transactions.)

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Our round of golf at Wailea’s Blue Course.

Today, though, I plan to get back into the Writing Season just as quickly as Summer, Fall and Winter have jockeyed for positions this year.

I intend to review the chapters I have written and hopefully this week I will actually continue to progress. My main character, Luke has a lot on his plate and he and his friends are having to grow up rather quickly thanks to an in-classroom event they all shared. And that’s just the stuff Luke can talk about with his friends. None of them can know about the dragons. The dragons have their own stuff going on as well, not to mention the two young ones to raise.

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Round 5 with Barb, back at the Emerald Course

I found myself drifting over possibilities for my characters while I was staring at the crashing waves rolling in over one another on Maui. As busy as we were with golf and my conference I still managed to carve out some time for contemplation here and there and I’m ready to write.

And we didn’t just play golf on Maui.

We returned to the Ali’i Kula Lavender farm part-way up the dormant volcano, Haleakala not only to purchase some of their amazing lavender honey but also to spend an afternoon surrounded by colorful, unique flora & fauna that we don’t get to see in our Montana and North Dakota landscapes.

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The beginning of our afternoon at the lavender farm!

I’m so glad we got to refresh and recharge together on a remarkably sunny island with great seafood in our bellies, golf clubs in our hands and martinis and wine glasses on our lanai at night.

I’m excited to take my readers on their own break from reality soon, too, as I let myself get going on that 4th book. Stay tuned. Its time for the season to change…

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Ali’i Kula Lavender farm. More than just lavender.

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No clue what these are but I love their color.

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Doctors Fyfe selfie at the lavender farm a few afternoons ago

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Aloha, Baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Cats (and Unwed Mothers)

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Professor Higgins

I have visited this theme before over the past few years of writing this blog.

In our 25 years together, Alistair and I have shared our homes with, cared for, and loved 22 cats.

22. Cats.

I would have fallen over in laughter if you would have told me, as a kid, that I would someday be a Crazy Cat Lady but there you  have it.

I can’t blame being a veterinarian for how we ended up with so many feline Fyfe companions. Oh, sure, our cross-eyed, lilac-point Siamese senior, Mae Mae was a euthanasia-turned-hyperthyroid surrender but the majority of our cat buddies have settled into Fyfe Life through a variety of other means.

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Pretty little Mae Mae

Koshka, our first cat, was placed on my lap by a very young Gareth and Whitney back in 1995 and thus began my new life as a cat lover. Malchek joined her by just showing up at our house in Watford City and suddenly we were a “multiple cat household.”

Friends would have litters and we’d take one or two (or the entire litter) because we always had farmland and with farmland you always have mice. Besides, when you’re feeding 3 or 4 cats, what’s one more?

Back to Canada with Koshka, Malchek, Oscar, Boomer & Garter in 1996, then back to North Dakota with Oscar, Boomer, Chorney & Cooper in 1997.

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Cooper, Boom-Boom and Oscar a few years ago

We always suspected that our farm in Bismarck was/is a great place for drop-off kitties. Scruffy and sassy young Mulder arrived there out of the blue, just like our little Tuxedo cat, Jinxie did.

Mamma Cat showed up complete with a belly full of kitties but she actually hung around for a year and produced a second belly full of kitties. We had kept the first ones but managed to re-home all but one of the second litter.

Sport was actually given to us by one of Alistair’s nurses as her new husband was allergic. HRH Sporto even got to move to Saskatoon with Cooper and me for my four years of vet school!

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Drs Cory, Pat, Nate and Tan with our co-editor, Sport working on an edition of the TOOL newsletter in Saskatoon in 2004

So it was that Oscar, Boomer, Chorney, Cooper, Mulder, Sport, Jinx, Bebe, Hissy Phitt Georgia and Mouse made the move to our house in Montana at the very beginning of 2007. Of those, Sport, at 19, and Bebe, at 16 remain. (2015 and 2016 were two tough years we renamed Attrition… it was hard on the canine, ferret and guinea pig populations on the Fyfe Farm, too. Grab a box of Kleenex and go through some old blogs from back then if you have a hankering for a good cry.)

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Mulder in Bismarck back in the day

While we were moving from one sad departure to another during Attrition, we both had the silly notion that we were going to be animal-less for a few years.

We would be free to travel at a moment’s notice!

Imagine the money we’d save!

No more heartache!

Until Alistair was in the hot tub in Bismarck one night talking with me on the phone when a fairly well-fed tabby cat waltzed up to the tub and proceeded to mew at him. He continued mewing post-hot tub and then sauntered on into the house without much coaxing soon afterwards.

We called veterinary clinics, shelters and neighbors but nobody knew whose friendly cat this was so a couple of weeks later, Professor Higgins joined us here in Montana.

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Professor Higgins and I in the barn this winter.

Higgins stays outside with Jockey for now. Seasoned Crazy Cat Ladies know that its unwise to introduce new cats who have all of their claws to the senior cats who are minus their foreclaws.

And Santa Alistair re-introduced ferrets into Fyfe Life but if you’ve followed along here or on Facebook you already know that.

What got me going on this today is the new stray that has been hanging around our farm in Bismarck this spring and summer.

We’ve caught magical glimpses of him/her that are becoming more and more prolonged as time goes on because we’ve been providing dry and moist cat food for him/her since the spring.

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Last week- lingering longer and longer.

Basically, we don’t see the cat. I say “we” because I was back there this summer and I did see her through the window of our front door but it was fleeting at best. Primarily its Alistair doing the ground work to try to tame this little lion.

So he tries to keep a bowl of Science Diet dry food topped up in the barn where the kitty lives and a smaller bowl up by the front steps here plus he adds a tin of soft food daily which is how he’s trying to coax the stranger up to him.

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Someone really wants this fresh tin of soft food but someone knows Alistair is immediately behind the door….

Weeks ago the cat would never have come up this close knowing full well that the biped who provides the food (and dings the plate every single time hoping beyond hope for the eventual Pavlovian response that all of the Fyfe cats develop thanks to said dinging) is right behind the door.

Sometimes Alistair sits out on the step with the fresh tin of food and kitty (he calls him, Whitey…. I was hoping for Billy, or Billie if its female… you know, The Stranger… anyone? anyone?) is down by the barn watching him. He/she used to just run off at the sight of anyone but he is lingering more and more in hopes the biped will buzz off and let him eat his yummy tinned food alone.

This one night, though, Whitey decided the food was more important than fear or mistrust so Alistair got the best picture we have of our new friend yet!

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Whitey Fyfe?

As much of a big step as this was, it was nothing compared to what Whitey did only a couple of mornings later. Alistair went outside after a rainy night and found a present from our little red & white friend.

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A present from Whitey

Hey. This means they’re in a relationship, Alistair and Whitey.

I mean it. Cats don’t give presents to just anybody.

Kind of like that line in Dances With Wolves….  “Good. Trade.”

So it is that we remain Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Cats and Unwed Mothers. Hopefully Whitey will try to trust Alistair more and more and hopefully he will keep working on limiting the rodent population that grew ever since all the other Fyfe felines moved to Montana.

It would be great if he is already altered, like Jinx and Professor Higgins were, but maybe he’s a scruffy tough guy like Mulder who hasn’t had much human care.

Regardless, he has a warm, dry barn to hang out in as long as he would like and we’ll keep making sure he has food.

And we’ll keep you all posted on the felines of the Fyfe farms along the way.

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Sporto a couple of nights ago

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Bebe, our resident Sunbeamer

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Jockey enjoying the winter sun… possibly a relative of Whitey’s?

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Babs and Sport on my lap a few nights ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quebec is Full of Life Again!

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Post real estate transaction!

I’m back! I’m back!

I’m trying to make all of my worlds fit into one again. Its challenging with such vast worlds but thankfully I have currently been able to ignore the fact we have 2 cute ice rinks nearby for the first time since we moved here.

I’m juggling the real estate world with starting to write book #4, all while continuing to market book #3 and fitting in veterinary appointments if I can. I also just completed our huge Semi-Annual sale campaign for the Chloe & Isabel jewelry I sell and so far I’m having the best sales month I’ve had in awhile. I’ve also enhanced my role as a pet Mummy with the 3 new characters who arrived before Christmas.

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Bebe: “What the…?”

Ferrets are part of Fyfe Life once again and we are enjoying every minute of it.

Well, not the minutes where one of them still thinks they should sink their sharp canine teeth into our hands or ankles but we are thankfully getting further & further away from that.

Alistair had been planning on bringing ferrets back into our world for a couple of months. We lost our last big boy, Luigi, the Italian Stallion a couple of years ago and still never took the big yellow cage, “Quebec” out of the laundry room. It was a daily reminder of the hilarity and hijinks that ferrets provide and he knew it would break my heart to remove Quebec.

So instead of removing the empty French province, why not bring in les habitants instead?

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Barry, Andy and Maurice with Papa in Montana!

Alistair worked with them in Bismarck for a week and then drove them to Montana. Quebec is full of life once again!

The brothers are only about 3 months old now. We’ve never had 3 of them at the same age and certainly not all young kits like this but its working. We have worked it out so that I can spend time cleaning Quebec in the morning while they romp around the secured laundry room and then in the evenings they romp throughout the kitchen and hallways as well.

We are able to keep them out of the garage right now which is probably best for Snowball, our 1994 RX-7. Phillipa used to appear under the hood so who knows what she was up to for years under there?

They are into everything! Footwear once again is a ferret favorite and the Octopus play house is great fun for all.

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Barry peeking out from one arm of the Octopus!

They have grown and gained weight and are adapting to life well. I have even successfully bathed all of them (there’s nothing like a fresh, cucumber-melon scented ferret!!!)

They run, they leap, they wrestle, they tumble and its all done at break-neck speed with wild abandon. If you are in the vicinity you are expected to participate in the mayhem as well.

I was initially concerned about little Andy (he has a Scot’s accent if you’ve followed the Fyfe Ferrets before.) He wasn’t treat motivated and he didn’t seem to be gaining the same amount of weight as Barry & Maurice. Granted, Barry is enormous so you honestly can not compare but little Andy was just that… little Andy.

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Barry in his first few days. He’s larger now…

Barry is so large I’m worried he’s going to look like a beaver when he’s full grown.

I finally was able to scruff Andy and get some Ferret-Vite into his mouth. After that, he was hooked. In fact he’s a bit of a junkie already and its only been a week. Finger tips are at risk when offering it to him. (Its a sticky gel). It is good to have something special to entice ferrets anytime and the Ferret-Vite does have extra calories. These guys are calorie burning dynamos, even when they sleep at least 15 hours a day. Barry & Maurice love the chewy treats we have as well as the Ferret-Vite so no worries there.

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Mummy and Andy!

The cats aren’t overly impressed with the situation but there have been no altercations. The ferrets seem mostly curious and they follow the cats around. Sport, our almost-19 year old Siamese expresses his concern in true vocal Siamese fashion and Bebe just whacks at the ferrets. She’s declawed up front so no harm done but she does pack a bit of a wallop into her hook!

All this and book #4 is started. I’m already through chapter one and can’t wait to delve into some situations I have in mind. I never have a full plan written out but I have events that I want to hit. As I go through the events with my characters the details emerge. Their dialogue guides me. Luke’s junior year isn’t going to be a cake-walk! I am hoping to get to their first real sled dog race by the end of the book but we will see how everything develops. We do have a new classmate, which is always great fun in a teensy, tiny, rural school where everyone knows everyone else.

And real estate transaction #3 went down on Friday and I couldn’t be more excited for my buyers. Its a beautiful house and they deserve it!

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Maurice. In footwear. If you visit, hide your shoes!

I had some vet visits this weekend and last weekend so I’ve been all sorts of versions of myself and it has been fun.

But I have missed writing a blog so here it is. Perhaps a bit shorter than normal but lots of silly ferret photos. Andy did his first video the other day on Facebook and it was pretty well-received. (Maurice is French, which is great… Barry is supposedly Australian (Bee Gees, right?) but we are both having a hard time remembering that.) Partly because he looks a lot like our former Frenchman, Calypso but also because neither of us does a particularly good Aussie accent. We will work on it!

So stay tuned for all-things-ferret from all-places-Fyfe. I’m so happy to be a ferret Mummy again… as long as I have my leather slippers on while “the boys” are out!

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Our first day out of Quebec with Maurice

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Andy in the ball thingy… Barry is on the other side but you can just barely see him

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Barry and the Octopus. Andy was inside the thing. Its challenging to get a picture with 2 of them, let alone 3 in the same frame!

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Bonjour! Excuse moi, but I might need some assistances!

 

Ohana

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Beauty all around the Grand Hyatt on Kauai

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

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

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

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

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

Family.

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Brock, Chris and I at Poipu Bay

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

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

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

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Cindy and Barb trying to stay dry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We’ve been laughing with these guys since 2015!

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

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Seriously digging my new hat at Poipu Bay last week!

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

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

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Lau & Whitney, Café Portofino

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

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

More connections.

More Ohana.

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

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

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New wheels and grand-dog, Kygo!

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

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

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More golf and that sweet new hat of mine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you probably love animals.

We are all Ohana.

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

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

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I am missing this reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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Alistair goofing around on the incredible 16th tee box!

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On our way to becoming drenched during the golf tournament!

 

 

Our Ties to North Dakota

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If you have followed my blog for any stretch of time you may have remembered NN, or, New Neighbor from our home in Bismarck.

Well, we have great news in that they have moved on and we have NNNs. Or, New, New Neighbors!

The fun surprise is that the New New Neighbor actually owns and operates his own heavy equipment. Lets just say, if he can’t move snow, nobody is going anywhere. And, to top it off, they are friends of Brad, (who has featured in my blogs several times and is one of Alistair’s best friends,) which automatically makes them friends of ours. Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

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Our apple trees in Bismarck last month!

I mention this because I went back to our North Dakota prairie home twice last month. It was a special month although I really didn’t sleep much at all.

I drove back to ND with Alistair a couple of days before he normally would have (2 weeks here, 2 weeks there, going on 12 years now!) and we got to enjoy our Painted Woods Golf Course together again. That course eats golf balls like no other, which makes for great ball-hunting.

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Back at Painted Woods Golf Course in early September.

The main purpose for my going back, though, was to attend one of my former figure skating student’s wedding! Another student was the maid of honor and another was the bride’s attendant. And more skaters and parents attended the wedding, too!

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My last day coaching these ladies before moving to MT. Andrea (bride), me, Alicia (attendant) and Jenna (maid of honor)

I can’t tell you how happy I am to see these young adults, who were pretty cool young people, reach these tremendous milestones in life. I am honored that they want to share these adventures with their old coach and that it meant a lot to the beautiful bride and her parents that I made the journey to be there.

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Alicia (skater), me (coach), Berdina (mom), Linda (mom) and Leanna (skater)

The bride was beautiful, the wedding was lovely and the reception was great fun catching up with everyone.

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Me and Leanna catching up at the reception- she and her mom sat with us so it was perfect!

 

While there I also shared a quick coffee date with my friend, Wendy and before you knew it, I was flying back to Missoula, Montana to get back to work the next day. The kitties and Cleo forgave me because they got to snuggle and cuddle with our dear friend, Jessie, who took over pet/house-sitting again.

And then I got to be a real realtor! I listed my very first home and the learning curve ticked upward yet again.

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Going to put my first lock box on my first listing!!!

The house is absolutely fabulous and its unique in that hardly anyone in town knows about it. I am one of the only realtors in town who has seen the place because it has never been listed since it was finished 10 years ago.

The owners created all sorts of outdoor living space to enjoy the scenery and you really don’t feel like you’re as in-town as you are up there. The house is immaculate with three large bedrooms and a main-floor master suite. There are even views of the majestic Mission Mountains!

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My cute-as-a-button first-ever listing!

It was fun coming up with valuation and a suggested listing price. I had to consider location (ok), quality of construction (high!), square footage (1332), lot size (about half an acre), no covenants or HOAs (lots of places have those around here), available and true comps (listen to me!), and what we have in the area for inventory (not much!)

I’ve got an Open House planned for this coming Thursday even though several realtors have said they don’t bother with hosting them- that they don’t bring many folks or they don’t lead to sales.

I’ve got a different perspective, though, because nobody has seen or shown this house before. Even today, a local retired realtor who lives a couple of blocks from this listing called me to ask where it was. She had been driving around trying to find it. When I took here there she couldn’t believe how almost-hidden, and how beautiful it was.

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Outdoor living space. Come see for yourself from 2-6pm on Thursday the 11th!

I also got a vacant lot on the Double Arrow Ranch listed in September! Its a cute 3-acre parcel that has desirable, burbling  Drew creek running along the back of it. Alistair and I hiked around there one sunny afternoon taking pictures, imagining building sites and trying to figure out which plants were actually huckleberries.

The owners of that one were set on their asking price but in doing my own little calculations I think we will need to come down a bit if we really want to sell it. There are a lot of lots on the Ranch for sale right now and while the creek definitely is a bonus there isn’t a well or septic field yet. So many things to consider!

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On my listed property!

On the heels of all this, I flew back to Bismarck for more adventures. And, after a bit of rain, a couple more rounds of golf at Painted Woods. Both days were wide open with hardly anybody there. We could drive balls into the creek, watch them bounce off into thick prairie grasses, laugh our asses off, make excellent shots and look for more golf balls to our hearts’ content.

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Our last round of the year at Painted Woods- they have already closed for the season.

After our final round we hit the road to Watford City, where we first moved to in the US back in 1994. The reason? Another wedding!

Full-circle time- this was the son of one of the head hockey coaches we hung out with back then. I wasn’t a veterinarian (or a published author or a realtor) when I was fresh out of the ice shows, eager to teach power skating to the local hockey club. Dave, the father of the groom, was one of the pioneers there who recognized the value of being the first guy to get to the puck and he supported me completely.

Alistair & I eventually coached as well and in a town of less than 2000 (at that time- its different now, thank-you, oil fields) everyone knew everyone. They all knew my Raise the Roof ice show projects that we hosted there and it was pretty amazing for us to be back.

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Coaches, Arden, me, Doug and Dave (father of the groom) with the Samuelson boys in the background.

How great, again, to see young people we coached or knew as they celebrate with one another such a special occasion. Extra bonus was seeing our “other daughter”, Morgan, who was one of the bridesmaids. The look of surprise on her face was priceless when she first saw us. We got to catch up and talk about work (she’s a RN now), her upcoming marriage (she’s engaged to one of my stepson’s former hockey team-mates), and our lives in general.

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Me & Morgie! (not my picture)

While it was a lot of driving and a bit hectic last month (all the while dealing with our house insurance claim nightmare, the moving of tens of thousands of dollars, Mr.Frigging Cooper, and getting a new roof that’s worth over 80 grand), it made perfect sense to go to both weddings and visit with friends.

Most of these friends have supported me in all of my crazy careers and adventures and they have all played important roles in our lives. We have all stayed in touch while we’ve all grown a little older and gained a few more grey hairs.

Social media is terrific for keeping us all informed of each others’ lives but it doesn’t hold a candle to a real-life hug and shared, in-person laughter.

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Back on our Double Arrow Golf Course in Montana!

We drove back to Montana where I got back to work and Alistair got 4 cords of wood stacked while watching the roofers finally get to start doing their thing. The brand-new roof is industrial strength and top of the line. It also looks awesome but I won’t go into that right now. I’ve got to get groceries for an Open house I’m planning this week!

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New roof! (and Jockey!)

September was exhausting and yet fabulous at the same time. We are truly lucky to have so many wonderful friends in our lives, even if we’re miles and miles apart. And what a privilege to watch fun young people grow up to be physical therapists, nurses, adventurers, skating or hockey coaches, spouses, and parents. What memorable reunions!

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My skaters and their moms supporting me at my first book signing! Leanna, Alicia, Berdina, Andrea and her mom, Elaine in 2015

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the Watford City Oilers supported and helped out with my 2 Raise the Roof ice shows… there’s Doug’s son and one of those Samuelson boys! (1996, I believe)

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Alistair and I got a tour of the incredible Rough Rider center with the 2 ice rinks named after Arden and Dave!

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And now the change is upon us.

 

 

What’s in Store

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Some of the mitigation happening on that very same wall.

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

That made sense.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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I could seriously use some of this right now!

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

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

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

 

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Top part of the deck is lower than the bottom… 

The bad news?

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

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

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

 

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Water dripping through the T&G this winter

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

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

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

 

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What our gorgeous landscaping looked like in June of 2017.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

So, again, grab the railings and hang on.

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

 

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

 

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How we’ll get through all of this!

 

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Alistair’s favorite ‘float’ during the parade. 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Ya, 2017

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Outside our front door today. More on Snowmageddon later…

There were times this past year when it seemed that 2018 would never arrive. Moments or days or situations that will forever be associated with 2017 could have weighed so heavily at times but, thankfully, Alistair likes to laugh at life as much as I do.

Not that we laughed all of the time.

The spirit world grew rich this year in January and November when Loki and then UB crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I have cried rivers of tears over both of those losses and our entire way of living changed each time.

 

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UB and Loki a few years ago

March had a lot of snow and I developed a pesky little pneumonia but it forced me to stay home, plow snow and finish my third novel. A silver lining to everything, right?

Of course 2017 will always be the summer of the Rice Ridge Fire that threatened our entire community on both sides of the mountains. It was a day-to-day experience for so many people and families and the business district took a huge hit from the loss of tourism, which is what Seeley Lake relies on to stay alive during our long winters.

 

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The pilots were our tourists this summer!

Bitterness and anger remain for a lot of folks for a fire that just wasn’t managed correctly from the beginning.

We were lucky in that we have a farm and acreage and big trucks and great friends and we were able to take our pets with us to Bismarck for a full month during the fire.

While a lot of things were bad about the fire, I think, perhaps, the worst part was the fact we all put our trust in our hired forest officials to do their job and save our town. Why did such a little fire have to turn into a public health and economic behemoth of a monster that raged over 160,000 acres and lasted over 3 months?

 

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the night we decided to get out… MMK’s photo

Thankfully no homes or businesses burned but that doesn’t mean businesses weren’t lost. I hope beyond hope that each restaurant, salon, and service can stay open this winter and thrive into 2018’s tourist season. Our little Chamber is re-focusing with new members and if everyone sticks together and supports one another we will see hundreds of out-of-state license plates clogging up our highway by Rovero’s and the Ice Cream Place yet again!

 

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Normal summer shenanigans in western Montana

My bling thing continued to provide a sparkly distraction to my world. I actually hit $60,000 in personal sales and I’m just 2 months shy of my 3-year anniversary with the company.

The company is going through some growing pains and major changes right now, though, and I’m not sure where I will fit in the new plan. I still love the jewelry but the company is focused on growing the number of merchandisers and recruiting and that’s just not my thing.

 

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Some of the bling (not my photo)

Doing direct sales for the first time ever has taught me some business skills and things I never learned on the ice or in the vet clinic and I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and make women feel absolutely beautiful when they wear the jewelry. (There are one or two men out there rocking our men’s leather wraps, too… I’m just saying…)

 

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I earned these this month! Super cute, not even on sale yet!

 

2018 will begin the blogger and media outreach we are planning with the Jenkins group we have hired for my 3rd book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

If you’ve read any of my Missing Lake series, you know that the teens are tasked with making sense out of songs that their hippie English teacher assigns them. Its a sub-plot in the book but its a fun one as I explore songs and artists that I like and try to think how my various characters would analyze things.

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My books (Photo from Dr.Alison, who got the books for her daughter!)

For the 3rd book I went out on a limb and chose a lesser-known artist with an even lesser-known song to challenge both myself and my characters. The artist is Matisyahu and the song is Hard Way.

The really cool thing about this is that Matisyahu and his peeps are coming to a small theatre in Missoula, which is an hour from here, at the end of February.

He’s coming to Missoula!!!!!!

Tickets are already purchased for the small show (the only one in the state) and I’ve reached out hoping to meet him. Maybe he can sign my book!

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Just about into 2018….

And just when I thought we would skip through the last few days of 2017 without any drama, Mother Nature happened. And she happened, like she often does in the middle of nowhere, Big Time.

We have learned living in both Montana and North Dakota to take warnings about thunder storms and snowfall very, very seriously. The people in charge of those things usually are on top of it, knowing that either situation could mean life or death out here. (Tornado warnings are pretty spot-on in North Dakota, too.)

So when we looked ahead at weather reports, Alistair decided to head back to North Dakota a day early, leaving me to fend for myself during what was supposed to be quite the epic storm.

And it was.

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this was after the 1st day. My walk path the UPS guy must have used the night before!

I’ve never minded being up here alone because Alistair has me well set up with machinery to move snow from here to there, particularly Big Red, our ’96 one ton Dodge Ram. And we stocked up on wine and food in Missoula a day before he left and pet food supplies are full and we had brought 2 tractor buckets full of wood over to the house as well.

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Yesterday  morning… after I had “cleaned off” Big Red…

As predicted, the snow started to fall.

And it kept falling.

And sometimes it picked up in intensity and other times it just fell.

Most of our community has been without power for some length of time. There is a young couple in Seeley Lake who have been without for 3 days now and a friend north of town with an electrical line down on her driveway so not only can she not plow, she can’t leave her house.

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The snow piled up along our kitchen windows. This isn’t the ground floor.

Our power has been on and off but, for the most part, I have been extremely lucky.

There has been 1 avalanche already along the highway that Alistair travels through Lincoln, MT on his way back to ND. Nobody was injured but it closed the highway for half of a day as crews worked in the falling snow to clear it up.

And while this is life in the mountains of Montana, I have never seen such a snow event in my life. I’ve seen it accumulate but not in one 3-day event.

I plowed twice daily with my newest Hawaiian singer, Keali’i Reichel singing and chanting about sunshine, love, and Aloha in the warmth of Big Red’s rumbling cab. I got good and stuck at one point and contemplated melting down but I managed to channel that energy into getting myself unstuck.

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My first run up the driveway yesterday morning

I was able to create a path out to the main road yesterday, at least, which was my main goal despite all the plowing I had done the days prior. We are the last house on a long driveway and if I want to connect with the outside world I have to be on top of things. I don’t like the idea that I can’t get out if there’s an emergency or an ambulance can’t get in.

So I pushed the road open and then it snowed through the night and this morning I cleaned it up as best I could.

Its not my finest plow work but there is a road.

The problem is that I’ve run out of room to put the snow so it feels a bit like a narrow tunnel in places but, hey, its a road.

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Tidying it up as much as I could today.

I’ve also been shoveling to get the other trucks out and that has re-awoken some muscles in my arms and back that I had forgotten about. Either that or I had just kept them in check by playing golf all summer & fall. Regardless, they are talking to me and I’m glad to have Ibuprofen around.

But I’m done shoveling for 2017.

I think I’m done with 2017 in general.

As much laughter and silliness and as many wonderful friends & family we got to see this year, I’m totally cool with moving forward and letting any issues with 2017 disappear along with the calendars.

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Today’s handiwork. Not going to be using “Big Silver” anytime soon….

For now I’m going to bundle up in my warm, purple ski suit and take Cleopatra down the flat driveway for a walk and later I’ll make a yummy shrimp pasta and curl up on the couch with my ancient bestie, Sport purring away in my lap and maybe we’ll make it to see the ball drop and maybe I’ll even try making myself a Caesar before I switch to wine and maybe my family will call or I’ll call them. Alistair will call but he has to work all day tomorrow after working a very long day today, so we won’t talk late.

I shall sip wine and whole-heartedly welcome a new year with new dreams, new goals, new friends, new challenges, and a surprise or two up my sleeve.

Its Fyfe Life.

May you close 2017 with joy and embrace the New Year with a welcoming heart.

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Cleo helping me shovel today

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Sport, 17 1/2 years young… my new Couch Time partner at nights.

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I was fine with the amount of snow we had before this storm!