Last One of the Year

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Getting books ready to ship!

This will most likely be the last blog by me for 2020.

I’m okay with that, even though it wasn’t the worst year for us. Which is the main reason why we didn’t do a funny Fyfe Holiday letter this year. It seems insensitive to talk about my exciting new book or the fact we both kept working amidst a global pandemic when so many lost their jobs, not to mention their lives.

We also sort of enjoyed lockdown when it happened because we live in a beautiful house in an incredibly scenic area and the hot tub, tanning bed and sauna are wonderful treats in our Montana home.

Jake & Maggie in Montana

We also have a variety of animal companions who keep us smiling.

They keep us busy, too. We have to get out of bed (eventually) to get hay and grain (and, okay, maybe an apple or two) to the horses and let the barn kitties out. We have litter boxes to clean and food and water bowls to fill. And there’s that ferret cage that requires cleaning and the 3 terrorists within to play with on a daily basis. Our gang reminds us daily that the company of animals is healthy for humans.

Jockey, helping me write right now!

They are healthy for my mental health, for sure, especially when Alistair is working on the front lines in Bismarck. He left me 2 days early last week so that he could get his first dose of the Moderna covid19 vaccine (which we are SO excited about!) He started this 2-week stint on Christmas day and he continued to work all weekend long.

It wasn’t so bad, even though it was Christmas. And it won’t be so bad when he’s gone for New Year’s, too. He does important work and he provides for our incredible life when he’s gone. We also don’t have young children in the house anymore so we can rationalize that Christmas is just another Friday. Same with New Year’s.

We didn’t put a tree up this year so that I wasn’t constantly reminded of the festive holiday, as well. Believe me, its not some, ‘Bah, humbug’ attitude at all! I mean… we did get Christmas-town going again…

Skating rinks and the tavern at the west end of town… newlyweds are a nod to our on-ice wedding 24 years ago!

Alistair even brought some super cute (and necessary) additions for our festive little village, like the bride & groom smooching on the original ice rink, High Meadow Pond.

Its hard to imagine that we got married on the ice rink where I grew up in Grand Forks, BC 24 years ago! I wasn’t even 24 years old back then! While that seems like a boat load of time it also feels like it is just in the rear-view mirror when I think about it. I smile thinking of my brave, spandex-wearing bridesmaids, Jennifer, Wendy, Diana & Merielle. My smile widens remembering Art driving the Zamboni in his tuxedo and the kids getting to join in on the action.

We gave the men, Tim, Brad, Ian and Glenn each a bottle of scotch the night before just to cement the fact that, yes, indeed, we were going to be doing this thing on the ice in front of an audience. I giggle remembering my brother-in-law repeatedly asking Tim & Wendy if they really knew how to skate.

The skating party after the ceremony and the sort-of organized reception are fresh in my mind. The karaoke machine (not my idea) is pushed off to the sidelines of my memory, though.

24 years ago….
Pizzeria and Jewelry stores were added this year!

Next to the tavern is one of the much-needed eateries that Alistair found for us this year! Pizza and beer, right? (According to their sign they also make pastas and subs.) We both found the Jewelry store together and agreed it was a lovely, sparkly tribute to my former days selling Chloe & Isabel bling.

Food truck!

In front of the blingery there is the brand-new food truck Alistair brought for Christmas. I mean, not everyone wants to dine-in and with covid19 right now, this is a great way to get a bite to eat and still maintain social distancing!

Shops for every price point and a new fire hall!

Carrying on through Christmas town, we have options for shopping and a brand new fire house. The fire truck peeks in and out and the Dalmatian standing with the fireman is a cute touch. (I wonder if he poses for those calendars?…) (Do firemen still do those anymore?)

Some of the bigger buildings play music and almost everything lights up in one way, shape or form.

Pet-Palooza!

Alistair commented how the realtor in me really came out this year with the zoning I applied to the community. This area is all about the animals. You can adopt from the shelter on the right, get him or her all spiffed up at the pet salon, then capture the moment with photos at the pet photographer’s and then drop your new buddy off for doggy daycare before you hit up the shops, ice rinks or tavern!

Don’t forget the hot dog or slice of pizza…

The carousel!

One of my favorite pieces of all time is the animal carousel. The detail and imagination is outstanding and it is a real highlight of the village. You can choose to ride on a horse or a tortoise or even a lion! Conveniently located in front of the animal area of town, of course.

Continuing north…

Moving along through town we see more options for ice skating and more shopping. You might notice a more residential feel to the area, too, with the area zoned for both housing and commerce.

You also might recognize the plethora of animals throughout Christmas town. Dogs, cats, bunnies, horses, a cow, a squirrel, birds, deer, and even reindeer… its definitely a Fyfe creation!

Our log cabin is on the right.

Another great addition from Alistair is the new café on the left, next to the older B&B and the log cabin we both agree is where we would choose to live.

Now I can grab a coffee when I begin my daily stroll through town, en route to check on the shelter pets and do some figure skating coaching on the side. All of this is before we grab a pizza at night and hit up the jewelry shop to see what’s new (and secretly compare pieces to my Chloe & Isabel arsenal.)

North end of town

And finally we have the north end of town, which may have to be expanded next year if we continue doing things Fyfe-style. We already have a new addition that isn’t out of its box yet (thanks, Carey!)

I love the clock tower and the windmill that actually turns. The cozy couple on the park bench reading together (probably reading that kick-ass Missing Lake series) and sipping hot chocolate (with a splash of Bailey’s perhaps?) while Buddy loads Christmas trees up into his partner’s horse-drawn carriage in front of the barns makes this all pretty perfect.

My imagination takes care of me when Alistair isn’t here, even when its Christmas and people are supposed to be visiting each other.

But we aren’t supposed to be visiting because of covid19 right now.

I am fearful that our actions at Thanksgiving and Christmas will come back to bite this country in the ass but I’m just going to leave that thought there and encourage you/us all to get the vaccines when we can, wear masks (even after the vaccine!) and keep your distance.

New award!

I am glad Alistair was with me a couple of weeks ago when I got the email announcing that The Runaways of Missing Lake won its first award for Best in Teen Fiction.

I am humbled by this and by all of the wonderful comments and reviews the book has already received. I absolutely love hearing people’s thoughts about the book while they read it and after they’ve finished. I enjoy the questions about why I chose particular songs or if a certain character is based on somebody in my real life.

And I look forward to talking about the marketing and what I’ve learned and what I still feel like I need to learn but that’s for another blog.

In another year.

Until then, I’m fairly certain most of you are ready to put 2020 on the back burner and look towards 2021. A new year. New dreams to create. New adventures and paths to embark upon. New spirits to meet. And more homes to sell and pets to vaccinate and book events to participate in.

And vaccines to be taken and masks to be worn. Be safe. Be smart. Be well.

I didn’t win any prize money but I did win gold stickers!
One of the new spirits I met at Clark Fork Veterinary this year in Deer Lodge- Walter Price! I will be committing to more dates there through June!
Alistair’s staff helped him spiff up his cell phone for Christmas with a photo from the magical night we met in 1994 up in Creston. Me, the guest skater and him in the audience.

Head Above Water

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Early morning drive down from our meadow

I’ve had a few early mornings lately.

You know the ones. Where your alarm clock actually startles you when it goes off and every animal in bed stays there after you get up to hit the shower.

Where your eyes are sore enough that you actually contemplate wearing mascara.

(Who am I kidding? This showgirl loves her make up!)

Me & my makeup & my bling… and one of my new pairs of specs!

I am not complaining, though. I know I am lucky to still be working my careers during these unusual and frightening times right now.

I was fortunate to get up early to be at a client/friend’s closing on her house as a first-time home owner! We’ve spent many months trying to find something for her here in Seeley Lake, where she grew up, but every home we found went under contract within days of it being listed.

We became a hunting duo, like many realtors and their clients in this area right now. We, like the others, were glued to the mls and real estate websites and we pounced on the new listings when they appeared. As weeks & months passed we made sure to get her pre-approved and all of our connecting paperwork signed so when the right house at the right price came on the market we were ready.

POUNCE!

Andy: “I’m absolutely unable to pounce right now, Mum.”

My friend is moving into her house today and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

I was up with the moon and the stars when I got asked to do a bit more relief work at Clark Fork Veterinary in Deer Lodge, which is a solid hour & a half away.

The sky was lit up and twinkling when I left our dark mountain home but I got to watch it lighten as I drove west through what can only be described as a Flemish painting. The peaceful countryside in Western Montana has rolling hills and gentle curves to the highway and I was pretty much one of the only vehicles on the road at that time.

My favorite satellite radio music stations (Hits1 and The Pulse) didn’t let me down. For whatever reason many of the top ten/twenty songs and bands that are out there are seriously resonating with me right now. Dua Lipa. Bastille. The Weekend. Shawn Mendes. Even Biebs!

Maybe I’m self consciously pretending I’m not as old as I am and I’m young and hip and cool. And maybe I’m associating these things with being relevant or something like that but I don’t care because the next thing I know I’m belting out, “Why… do all the monsters come out at night?” along to the stereo in my truck as we’re flying across the beautiful, slowly illuminated countryside.

And then, the next thing I know, I’m Dr.Tanya Fyfe for the day in a fun, team-oriented clinic!

A fun day in Deer Lodge last week!

It was an interesting day in that I really had to stretch my brain muscles! I had a bunch of medical cases that weren’t easy fixes. Not that your average vaccine visit is easy… there are all sorts of questions and things to check for, all with the pet parents diligently sitting outside in their vehicles wondering what on Earth we’re doing ‘back there’ with their pets.

As fine tuned as the clinic’s curbside experience is, I really miss having the pet parents in the exam room with me. Not only for obvious reasons, like being able to ask a question that comes up during the exam (“Has the lump always been this size?”) I truly miss sharing the human-animal bond that is part of the magic of being a veterinarian. Its not just caring for and treating your pets that I enjoy; I like seeing how you love your pet. How you hold them. How you talk to him or her. How you look at them and try to reassure them that the stainless steel exam table isn’t so bad. And how you gush about his shed hunting skills or the way your Great Dane cuddles with the new kitten you just brought home.

I make sure to go out to every vehicle after the appointments so the owners know a real veterinarian is on top of the situation ‘back there.’

I had several hellos and one tearful goodbye last week and I’m looking forward to my next day there on the 14th.

2 cords. One little woman. One day. One long soak in the hot tub.

On top of work-work, there is also farm-work to be done. This time of year almost everyone in Montana is hauling or stacking or splitting wood. We had our third load dropped off and I intentionally ignored it, thinking hubby would enjoy stacking it with me when he returned from Bismarck but then the weather report said a big old blizzard was coming.

We pay good coin for good wood and we all know you have to get it under cover so it doesn’t get rained or snowed on so I spent a Sunday stacking wood. Moving logs from here to there. I had my music on so there were some stellar dance moves happening and hopefully D’embe and Professor Higgins enjoyed my antics but, man, was I sore for a couple of days afterwards.

I’d like to think its not just because I’m getting old (and less relevant? Lordy, there’s that doubt again!) but the lower back pain that I sometimes feel even after just sitting for a couple of hours, let alone stacking 2 cords of wood by myself was never there in my 20s.

Or my 30s.

Or even my early 40s if truth be told. Because I’m not IN my early 40s anymore.

The blizzard arrived, as expected.

Like always, though, there isn’t a whole ton of time to dwell on any one thing up here because the blizzard did arrive and I got to bond with Big Red once again.

Plowing snow with this beast requires an entirely different play list. For whatever reason, a few years ago I started playing Iz or Keali’i Reichel cd’s when plowing snow. These are 2 Hawaiian greats whose music is soothing and fun and very, very Hawaiian. The irony makes me smile.

Thankfully the temps warmed up so what was on the ground (about a foot and a half a couple of weeks ago) is now just a white dusting with brown-green grass patches peeking out here and there.

Jazz Champion!

Forcing me yet again to not worry about my place in the world is this young majestic, hilarious new friend. My friends, Paige & Richie had to get to Texas for this little thing called the National Finals Rodeo (Richmond Champion… he’s the real thing!) and their dog sitter fell through so last Sunday around this time Paige and Jazz showed up. A dog in the house again!

I probably should have cleared it with the cats first but last night Jockey & Sport actually laid in bed with me and Jazz when I wrote in my journal and sipped some wine before cranking up the playlist again. (Not necessarily a “new” song but Hozier’s Better Love is fricking awesome for winding down the day.)

Jazz has been a sweetheart. The fact she chased barn kitty, D’embe up a tree notwithstanding, she has been very gentle with everyone. Bebe seems fine with her. She sniffs the curious ferrets through their cage and they sniff her back.

She goes to our outdoor kennel, which hasn’t had a canine inhabitant since last December when Cleopatra last laid by the wood stove, when the ferrets are out and that also gives Sport and me some Couch-time together as well.

I don’t even know what to say about this one.

Jazz might be a bit of a bed hog but she’s a cute bed hog. Alistair gets home on Friday and is looking forward to meeting her. I’m sending and sharing pictures of Jazz on social media so Paige & Richie can see her. He’s riding well already this week, too. Something to be said for the peace of mind that comes with knowing your fur kids are in good hands.

Peace of mind is something many of us are without right now thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Too many people are out of work. Too many people are standing in long lines at food banks. Too many people can’t pay their rent. And too many people can’t send their kids to school. Or visit their elderly parents. Or plan for the future because in the here and now too many people are denying this beast of a virus and too many people aren’t wearing a mask.

I can promise you that I will remain relevant in my posts and comments about mask wearing and social distancing. We have a duty to protect the medical community and each other.

And I’ll try to keep keeping my head above water with 2 more real estate transactions and another vet day and a dog in the house and possible winter weather that could be before me. You can be sure there will be music in the background.

And, for the record, I tried to sleep in but Jazz was having nothing to do with that!

Be safe. Be well. And please be kind.

Getting older. Still with the makeup.
Also getting older, Sport and Jockey. These boys will always be relevant.
The Fyfe Bee Gees… Andy, Barry & Maurice.
Jazz got to have a fun play day this afternoon with Mowgli!

Clee Clee

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Clee Clee

Well.

I knew it was coming. Hell, I told you all it was coming.

And yet, part of me still wasn’t ready for what went down on the Fyfe Farm yesterday morning.

But it wasn’t about me at that point.

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Cleopatra (last year)

I helped our sweet, fuzzy Springer Spaniel, Cleo across the Rainbow Bridge.

It was Time.

And there really was no question about it, even though I would have loved for Alistair to have enjoyed the world with her in it one more time. For that matter, I would have much preferred if he was here with me as I laid in the living room by the wood stove with her.

Sometimes the question of ‘when’ is more challenging and it certainly has been over the years with a couple of the pets but yesterday when Cleo cried out when I helped her to her feet for her morning piddles and then kept crying when I tried to help her walk using a towel under her belly I knew things had changed dramatically.

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In bed a few weeks ago

She had run up to the house when I brought her in the evening before and she pranced around grabbing up the cat food dishes like always. She went outside before bed and everything was as normal as it had been for our aging canine companion.

I mean, normal has changed a lot the last several months if not years.

Cleo was almost 17 years old, as far as we know. That was her first problem.

She was also completely deaf, was beginning to lose her eyesight, had arthritis and back legs that just didn’t do what they were supposed to, and had a heart murmur that almost rivalled Loki’s.

Well, no… you could hear Loki’s murmur from across the bed.

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the Queen of heart murmurs, Loki (2017) with Cleo

I think Cleo’s murmur is what kept her from wanting to go on our long walks, or even the first-length-of-the-driveway walks the past couple of weeks.

My attitude had remained, though, that if she was eating & drinking, peeing & pooping, and wagging her bushy tail at us then who was I to step in? We had her on anti-inflammatories for her old body and we helped her onto the couch or our bed and things seemed to be going along just fine.

Until Friday morning.

She did eventually go out and managed to piddle in the snow but once she came back in she didn’t bother with her kitchen routine or anything she usually did.

She laid/fell down and remained there for what turned out to be the rest of her life.

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“I think I’m done with this body now, Mummy. I’ve used it all up.”

I called her Daddy in North Dakota and we talked and I gave her her Rimadyl and she ate it right up. I laid down next to her and spooned her like we’ve done for so many years together with my left arm draped over her side.

And I got up and cleaned the cat litter and put the cat food dish down and emailed Lynnie and lost my shit completely and got dressed and looked out at the blizzard and got a pillow and laid back down with Cleo again.

She slept a little bit but she never, ever tried to get up again.

She never thumped her tail.

She was basically done with her ancient canine body and definitely gave me a “look” the one time she lifted her head and sort of sat in a semi-sternal position when I was sitting in front of her.

Okee dokee, then.

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Helping stack the wood the last time her Daddy was here.

Cleopatra Cassiopeia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe was as stubborn as she was beautiful and charming. Once her mind was made up, that was it.

I called Alistair one more time to let him know I was going ahead and he heard me blubber a little bit as I signed off. I had already brought my little bag of tricks into the living room and after some more cuddling Doctor Mummy gave Cleo her sedative.

I swear it took less than a minute for her to be completely out. She was ready for a much deserved long rest.

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Cleo’s “square face” look at one of the Dog Days of Summer. Classic.

Cleo had many great adventures in her however many years on the planet as a Fyfe. For starters, she lived most of those years in Montana, which is a dog’s dreamland.

We hiked and roamed the US Forest Service behind our house for miles and miles with her buddies. Casey would usually stick with Harry. Harry would sometimes take off after UB. Cleo generally did her own thing, digging holes, burying things, occasionally finding her own deer shed or two.

She Furry Scurried and entered Agility trials and the Dog Show at the annual Dog Days of Summer and she was a regular guest at the veterinary clinic because she loved her Lynnie and she was a very good dog when she was there.

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Lynnie and Cleo at the clinic

She also got to see Fireman Frank and her favorite delivery man, Matt sometimes when she came to the clinic. She even surprised all of us when she leapt up into the big brown UPS truck when Matt left the door open one time.

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“C’mon, Matt, just let me drive around town for a few blocks, okay?”

Cleo generally roamed the clinic freely during the day- a clinic dog as opposed to a clinic cat. When a client brought her squirming, squeaking, teensy box full of Schipperke puppies and put them on the examining table Cleo stood up on her back legs and had a look of wonderment on her face. Maternal instinct? Perhaps. She did lick our guinea pig, Cadbury until she was soaking wet when she got into their room one time. (The alternate theory is that she was trying to taste her.)

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Earlier this year, our snow spaniel

Cleo travelled well and eagerly jumped into our vehicles when it was time for a road trip. She seemed quite content for the 10 or 11 hours it took us to drive to Bismarck with UB and Loki on board, too.

If I was alone with all 3 of them it was probably hilarious watching me handle them on leashes when we stopped for piddle breaks. Fyfe dogs generally don’t know how to walk on leashes (although Cleo turned it on during the Furry Scurry walkathons. Casey… not so much.) (Don’t ask my dad about that.)

Before long Cleo would be wrapped around UB while UB was wrapped around my legs. It was an effort to keep them from banging into blind Loki during those rest stops but we always survived and off we would go back onto the road again.

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Back in Bismarck in 2017

All of these memories and so many more were in my mind as I spooned her again as she sedated.

I told her all of the things that needed to be said.

I told her that she was loved.

That we were the lucky ones when she showed off all her tricks at my first veterinary clinic right out of vet school in 2005 when she was brought in to be put down by Animal Control after they found her because she was aggressive. (Brilliant, yes. Aggressive? No.)

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“Wanna run around in the leaves with me, Mummy?”

I told her Uncle Gary and Aunty Dona were hoping to see her again and that she would happy to know I got those unsightly matts off of Bebe’s back leg. I told her how happy she made all of our house guests from Uncle Danny’s kids to Aunty Merielle and that she was a most excellent hiking companion.

And a flood of memories of us berry picking or riding with UB in Steve or digging for Easter Bunnies filled my hearts and a flood of tears that came from my very soul gushed out of my eyes and onto the carpet and pillow behind her head.

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Our dog kennel was very full 

And I pictured her gang greeting her again across the Rainbow Bridge with youthful bodies that matched their fabulous spirits.

UB would be first, most likely. He would race up to her and they would leap and jump in their spaniel way and he wouldn’t cough at all because his lungs are clear now and her legs are strong again.

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UB Fyfe (not my picture)

Then Loki would come crashing in but not because she was blind anymore. Cleo would most likely comment on Loki’s nice eyes and the 3 members of my little “black and white gang” who followed me around for 2 full years together would have a moment of their own.

Until Casey would literally crash in because he did everything at 150 mph and his laryngeal folds would be totally fine so there would be no raspy breathing or hacking. Harry, of course, would be spinning Louies in his extreme excitement at seeing the beautiful Princess once again. I wondered if he would pee on her head again but you know, he still is Harry.

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Oh, Harry

These thoughts make me happy despite feeling empty inside. Even though it was the absolute necessary and correct thing to do for miss Cleo. Even though her body was done.

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Ranger Riding in Steve for an Easter picnic several years ago

The routine is different.

I didn’t go and get her after the ferrets had been put back to bed last night. I didn’t make a point to get up and let her out this morning.

And right now, as the daylight is darkening, I’m not thinking, “Gee, I need to get Cleo out for a walk and get her and the barn kitties fed.”

Well, no, actually. I did think that as I was typing a few minutes ago. I keep thinking there is something I have to do.

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Back in Bismarck with Daddy in 2015

No.

I already did what had to be done.

And Cleopatra is at peace. And you know what? So are we.

I’m glad it was on my shift at  home and not Alistair’s by himself or one of our Jessica or Lynn house-sitters.

I’m glad we didn’t have company.

And as glad as I am to have the skill set that I have that allowed me to neuter D’embe last week, I’m glad Cleo could continue to lay where her body told her to.

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“What do you think we should do now, Jockey?”

Her lilting southern accent and slight lisp will still talk to us just as much as Spirit of Loki and Spirit of UB do and I’m already able to laugh at some of the goofy stuff she would do.

Like the bloody “mouse” she had in her mouth that turned out to NOT be a mouse or when she, Harry and Casey were getting to know each other (“There will be NO GANG BANGS on the FYFE FARM!”) or the time she kept trying to shove my head under water in the hot tub. Walks with Angie and Kali make me smile and seeing her snuggle up with Alistair when she first came onto our farm or watching her love up on all of the barn kitties are precious memories.

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Before we moved to Montana

Indeed, we were the lucky ones when she chose to stick around and join our motley crew of misfits.

You are in our hearts forever, miss Cleo. Clee Clee. Cleopatra-siz.

RIP, old friend. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

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the hot tub incident a few years ago

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Dog Days of Summer 2012, I think

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Getting ready for our first 4th of July parade!

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Cleo & her Daddy loved Ranger Riding in Steve (2008)

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Family Photo at Dog Days (Harry found these events a tad stressful so he stayed home) (Gary Kyrouac’s photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Timing

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Working “the floor” at the realty office the other day

I know I’ve talked about timing and the various stages of our lives we find ourselves in. I’ve talked about beginnings and endings and I have shared my thoughts on every step in-between.

And I’ve shared many endings and how I have the ability to be a part of choosing the when’s and how’s of these events. I have had the chance to say a couple more goodbyes for clients and their families recently and while it is never an easy thing to do, I always try to make sure it is absolutely the right thing to do.

I’ve been lucky to share some fun and wonderful and maybe even silly beginnings- like the 3 Bee Gee Fyfe ferrets who brought mayhem and shenanigans back to the Fyfe house just about one year ago. Barry, Maurice and Andy make us laugh on a daily basis and I’m so happy to make you a part of the sunrise of their lives with us!

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The boys… if only there was some way they could tell me where Alistair was…

(Because goofing off with ferrets is absolutely the right thing to do!)

A few friends have had the opportunity to visit and play with this current trio-of-trouble. They were fascinated with baby Paige’s clothing, car seat and other baby acoutrements when we let them out during our celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving. Auntie Merielle’s recent photo shoots with them and their girlfriend, Fallon captured their unique and mischievous personalities one and all. And Barry clearly forgets the No Bite rule when houseguests like Joel and Jeanette stop by.

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Professor Higgins hanging out by the campfire pit with Jockey

It has been great sharing Professor Higgins and his journey onto the Fyfe Farms in ND and eventually here in Montana. He continues to be a delightful, squeaky little friend who leaps into the air for a scritch on his forehead whenever he sees you.

And now we have yet another potential new beginning in the works.

An intact, very friendly black tomcat has been hanging around and it doesn’t look like he has any plans on leaving.

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Out front a couple of evenings ago

We have both been able to pick him up and cuddle with him and last night we allowed him a little bit of living room time with us (we blocked off the rest of the house so he wouldn’t terrorize Sport, Bebe or the ferrets.)

He is extremely affectionate with his purrs and kneading of his paws and seems to really appreciate the cat food we provide for him.

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Lava on the coffee table last night

We’ve named him Lava and so far he is getting along with Jockey and Higgins. We aren’t sure if Lava has made it to the open barn during the day but we haven’t locked him up inside at night with the boys yet. I’d like to get him neutered before we do that.

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Lava doesn’t have any trouble cuddling with us

Its funny to think that we were contemplating a time without any pets a couple of years ago. I’m fairly certain most people who know us shook their heads and rolled their eyes when I suggested a pet-less Fyfe Farm but we had a rough couple of years during Attrition and our hearts were sore.

While I doubt we’ll ever be back up to 5 dogs, 3 ferrets, 2 guinea pigs and 8+ cats again it is fun getting to know the new fur babies as their suns rise on our world bringing brightness and warmth to our lives.

But that’s where the thoughts of Timing come back into play.

Because I fear it is twilight for a couple of our special friends.

Or maybe its even getting close to sunset for one of them.

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Bebe, getting in a few zzz’s right now.

This is where our sweetie, Bebe is right now as I type.

Its not unusual for any Fyfe kitty to be curled up in one of their cat beds on the warm heated floors but she is doing it more in different places.

Like in UB’s old dog kennel in the garage where there are towels and a soft blankie and the concrete floors are heated there, too. It is almost as if she is choosing to be away from the hustle & bustle of our daily routines.

Bebe was never an interactive cat (most of our houseguests of old have never even met her… she had the distinction of being seen scrambling to get away from strangers as they cried out, “there she is!”) but that changed after we lost Boomer a few years ago.

Bebe became a chatty, personable, quirky little companion with a penchant for Greenies who liked cuddling on the couch and sunbeaming whenever she could.

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Babs, Sport and I during Couch Time this fall

But she isn’t as into Couch Time the last few nights and she has lost more weight and both of us think twilight is upon her. She also isn’t as into her canned food that we dutifully provide every night.

She did, however, jump up on the bed the last 2 mornings to visit and cuddle and she still wants her Greenies. Just not the chicken flavored ones. I’m giving those ones to Lava, Jockey and Higgins right now.

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Exactly how are those Greenies getting down here?

Bebe. Babs. Fabulous Babulous. Lutefisk Babs.

She is going on 17 years and I did find what I thought was a cancerous growth in her mouth a few months ago so none of this is surprising.

Upsetting and sad but not surprising.

And she is not suffering at all. Everyone reading this knows my rules on that. As long as we’re eating, drinking, peeing & pooping and enjoying our lives pain free then we are good to go.

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Cleopatra… also still good to go.

Like Cleo, who is also in the twilight of her life.

Cleopatra is at least 15 years old, which is her first problem.

The spaniel who ran throughout the mountains of Montana for most of her life with her Lab, Husky and Bostonocker Sperrier buddies has rear legs that don’t do what they’re supposed to do some of the time now.

Well, maybe much of the time.

She also has canine cognitive dysfunction which basically means she’s losing her marbles.

It is endearing but there might come a time this winter when life is too confusing for her or those back legs just decide to give out altogether.

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Snoozing in bed a couple of weeks ago

Right now I can get her onto and off of the bed and she generally sleeps all night long (being completely deaf helps with that.) She still loves her kibbles and sliced cheese and the “Rimmies” are gobbled up for their taste as well as their anti-inflammatory benefits. And her tail wags in big circles when she prances down the hallway with her Daddy in the morning.

Our Southern Belle will hopefully be able to get through to her Mummy if Doctor Mummy isn’t able to. I guess I’ve always been able to talk myself to it and through it but I’m not looking forward to any goodbyes at this point.

The tears in my eyes and on my cheeks are what we were trying to avoid when we talked about a pet-less world.

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the Bee Gees, fluffed and buffed post-shower a few weeks ago

But there is less happiness and laughter in a pet-less world, at least on the Fyfe Farm.

(Or, Fyfe Farm for Wayward Pets… as Lava’s presence is reminding us.)

And who am I to prioritize less crying and heartache over cuddling with a purring warm kitty cat on a cold night or spooning with Cleo or Sport in bed or trying to bathe wiggling, seemingly spine-less creatures with pointy noses and sharp canine teeth?

I have shared with many clients over the years the importance of realizing that you will probably outlive your pet when you enter into a new relationship. And that’s okay. Its part of the deal.

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My Nan and Miss Cleo several years ago at my Dog Days of Summer

So hopefully we can provide a prolonged twilight for our girls right now and continue to enjoy the sunrise of Lava (with a little snip-snip in the near future!)

And we’ll continue to make sure to provide everything we can for our furry little buddies.

As good as we can for as long as we can, right?

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Oh, Fabulous Babulous! I love this picture of her!

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“Dude, is this leather or ‘pleather’?”

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Professor Higgins coming in for head butts with Daddy this past spring

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I’m not even going to go here. He’s purring on my lap as I type…. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!