The Friendship Season

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Waiting in line to cross into Canada at Sweetgrass, MT

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

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

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

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Cool old brick barn at the border crossing.

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

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

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

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Wanita, me and Lei-Anne

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

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Authors, Ramona, Ralph and me!

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

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

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Lethbridge’s Word on the Street!

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

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

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The Wrights came out on Saturday, too!

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

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

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

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

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Candice and I after supper in Lethbridge!

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

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

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

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

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

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It was a little chilly that particular day…

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

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

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

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By Scottie Brown Bridge near Ovando, MT

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

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

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

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Merielle, Tessa and me

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

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Barry striking a pose for Merielle

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

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

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

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Lee, Kyle, baby Paige and Merielle!

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

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the feast

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

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Working on the second layer….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keep on smiling and swinging the golf clubs, Wanita!

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

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

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

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

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the first layer… and a Canadian icon

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

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Kyle doing the honors with the bird

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to be Home

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Slinging real estate last weekend

Once again, I haven’t been present on here for a few weeks. I have, however, been present in all sorts of other places.

The last I wrote I had returned from 2 trips to Canada combining reunions and family celebrations. The travelling didn’t end there!

Soon after Canada trip #2, we were off to the airport to fly to Jackson, Wyoming for a medical conference for Alistair. Delta airlines had other plans, though, and our flight out was cancelled. I did a quick search, made a phone call or two and said, “Hey, Hon, its only about 6 hours, why don’t we just drive there?”

So we did!

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Fyfe Photographers of Grand Teton National Park

We spent a few fun, sunny days in Wyoming that included a beautiful day in Grand Teton National Park.

We don’t consider ourselves “National Parkers” but if we had the time, we probably would be. We’re both nature lovers who enjoy learning about different areas and we both have a healthy respect for wildlife and wild lands. Its why we live at the base of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, Montana.

Wyoming and this park have its own splendor, for sure. There are towering peaks with sleek waterfalls cascading down them. There is that old homesteader’s cabin adjacent to a field full of horses. And there is the Snake River winding its way throughout the park.

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Those towering peaks…

We had a great lunch at the Jenny Lake Lodge which reminded us both of our more local Holland Lake Lodge in Montana that our friend, Christian owns. Both are older, historic settings off the beaten path and you kind of have to know they’re both there. And both are in the midst of beautiful scenery although I have to give a few bonus points to Christian’s lodge because of the impressive lake it sits on.

Jenny Lake Lodge isn’t right on the lake but the pull-outs for photo shoots isn’t very far away.

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Jenny Lake Lodge!

We enjoyed our time in the park as well as our time in Jackson with its hip restaurants and busy tourist scene. The tourists there were younger than the ones in Whistler the month prior and they tended to have move kids. The bike scene was huge and there was a lot of Kombucha being sold (did I spell that correctly?)

(And what’s with that anyways?)

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Utilizing the “pano” feature on my phone (taught to me by my young nephew up in BC)

We didn’t play golf at any area courses (gasp!) but then we had expected to fly there so we didn’t bring our clubs.

We did haul them with us the next week when we hit the road in 2 trucks to drive back to Bismarck. I try to get back there a few times a year for a variety of things, not to mention spending more time with Alistair.

Even though we drove in separate rigs we still talk a lot during the 10-plus-hour drive using walkie-talkies.

“Oversized semi coming at you, Hon.”

“What the Hell would you use tires that size for?”

“You can pass that Subaru over the next hill.”

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At a rest stop admiring the intense color and scent of this year’s abundant sweet clover.

Likely due to the wet, late spring this year, the sweet clover was just incredible. In the 13 years Alistair has done this drive along hwy 200 every 2 weeks, he has never seen this kind of takeover.

Or smelled it! It is, indeed, sweet and quite lovely. It also attracted a bazillion little butterflies which, sadly, aren’t very adept at avoiding windshields hurtling at them at 75 miles per hour.

I got to visit my stylist, Tiffany #1 while back in North Dakota along with my dentist and our other home golf course, Painted Woods.

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Painted Woods golf course, Washburn, ND

The course came out of its winter hibernation better than our Seeley Lake home course and was in terrific condition. While a lot more people seem to be playing the course this season we still generally have all 18 holes to ourselves to lose balls, laugh our heads off, encourage each other to “take another shot, Hon,” make pars, make quadruple bogeys, three-putt and hunt for balls.

We also visited Morgan, Mike, the Hansens and the Hoggarths at Morgie’s wedding, which was one of the main reasons I went back to ND with Alistair. It was a lovely wedding at a unique new event place and Morgan looked as happy as she was gorgeous.

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Our other daughter’s beautiful smile on her very special day!

And I got to visit our horses!

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The Herd.

Our numbers are down from the years but we still have 9 of the gang running around on their lush 40 acres. Katie, the lone remaining Thoroughbred broodmare is getting up there but she is looking pretty good. She and Zeus hang out and the 2 of them are mostly in charge but they all get along well and are a gorgeous bunch to hang out with.

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Frankie and me 

And Frankie is still a kind goofball who is always one of the first to come up to me. Jessie, the sweet grey, lone Arabian on the farm is usually second.

I enjoy the smell of the horses and of the farm in general when I’m back there. I like being in our house where the memories of the kids going to high school or hanging out with their friends during the summers spent with us are ever-present. I like thinking about young Casey and young Loki playing together and picturing a worried UB perched on Daddy’s lap with Loki’s torn cornea thanks to the new cat, Jockey and Alistair’s busted pelvis and how we had 9 cats lining up for soft food every night. Oscar always ate first. Mulder second.

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Alistair and Mulder in Bismarck a few moons ago

I love soaking in our hot tub there with a martini for him and a Caesar for me. I get a kick out of our side-by-side recliners we enjoy watching old Frasier episodes or whatever we’re into on Netlflix together at night.

I also enjoying having a coffee or a glass of wine with Deb or Wendy or Linda and Leanna but it just didn’t pan out this trip.

And I had to get back to Montana so I could drive another couple of hours up to Kalispell so I could show homes to folks from California I’ve been working with for a year. We power-showed several homes around the area and I’m so happy to say we have one under contract. Now, nothing is ever closed until its closed so you don’t do the happy dance until that moment but I am happy we found a place for them to dream about moving into.

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Showing homes in Kalispell

I only spent one night there but it was still one more night I didn’t get to help Cleo up onto the bed or wake up spooning with Sport. I’m glad I was able to be there, though, and hopefully will see this transaction to the end in September.

But we weren’t done with the road trips.

Back in June my military brother booked a family flight out to Grand Forks, BC for his leave. We hadn’t seen my brother & his family since our first year in Montana when his youngest was barely walking and his oldest is going into second-year university so it was pretty important for us to get up there.

Its hard juggling our schedules with Alistair’s 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off set-up and both of us living in different states. We generally plan things a year in advance if we can (no joke!) due to these schedules as well as the pet/house-sitting that has to be planned. Our regular angel, Jessie1 wasn’t able to make it work when Alistair would be here and Danny and fam would be in BC but Jessie2 was able to step in a the last minute.

Complicating things just a tad was the fact one of Alistair’s partners dropped dead when I was back in Bismarck.

63 years old. No known health issues. He had just started working with Alistair and the 2 other doctors 8 months ago so we didn’t really know him super well but our sons played hockey together and his wife has been a fun supporter of my books.

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The grown-ups of the family

So it was touch-and-go if both of the Fyfes were joining all of the Koftinoffs but we made it happen and everyone is so glad that we did. (You can clearly see why I never hyphenated my name when we got married….)

Danny’s oldest 2 boys remembered us (and the time Casey terrorized them by slamming Cody into the ground in his enthusiasm to meet them before chasing Ryan across the lawn and into the creek he didn’t know was there….)

(That whole thing could have been avoided if Danny had paid attention to my words, “Don’t open the door to the dog kennel until I get home.”)

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Diana, Danny & me. 

I couldn’t tell you the last time the 3 siblings were in a photo together. No, really, I couldn’t. Probably when Dan and I were in high school and Diana was in elementary school.

The nieces and nephews all seemed to get along really well and it was fun taking Michelle and Alistair around Grand Forks together.

And then Alistair had to get back to Bismarck early because the 3 doctors are rotating around to keep the clinic open while they wait for a 4th doctor to join them this fall. It means our times apart will be longer and our time together will be shorter.

 

You might think after spending so much time together in the truck or in hotel rooms or on those side-by-side recliners or in our golf cart that we would be weary of one another but that isn’t the case.

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This guy and James, the cat my parents feed

We still have so many things to talk about during the day when we text or email or every night when we talk.

And it doesn’t get any easier when I watch him drive down the driveway or when I had to kiss him goodbye before I left Bismarck.

Even after 13 years of living in separate states.

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We stayed with my aunt & uncle on Fife road the last trip back!

I am busy when he isn’t with me in Montana- there are the ferrets to play with, the inside and outside kitties to take care of and cuddle, Cleo to help navigate the world as her canine cognitive dysfunction becomes very real, floor days to take at work, that transaction in Kalispell to stay on top of, the big house to maintain and my golf clubs to swing.

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Mummy and Andy a few nights ago!

It has been all I could do to get a blog written but I made the time today.

I’m glad we have had the busy adventures we’ve had this summer so far but I’m also thankful to stay home for awhile now. Alistair won’t be back for almost 2 more weeks but that’s just how it has to be right now.

I got to revisit memories and people and laugh with my family and remind myself that while everything changes… everything… much of it stays the same.

And there is that one sudden reminder from when I was back in Bismarck that you just never know when its your time.

So drive to Wyoming when your flight isn’t taking off.

Grab a hotel room in Kalispell to help people fulfil their dreams.

Laugh at the Frasier lines you’ve watched so many times you say them faster than Niles or Daphne; give Frankie, Maggie, Jake or Jessie a scritch when they come to the fence to say hi; whip out a flex pose in front of the Grand Tetons; sit a little bit longer in the hot tub together; drive to Canada to make sure the family can all be together; go to a good friend’s wedding and share their special moments; laugh with the ferrets and play with them; take a moment with the barn kitties to sit in the sun if you can spare it and, damnit, drink the wine, smell the roses and sip the coffee.

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Barry, Marice and Andy (the Bee Gees Fyfe) at the watering hole

I’m not trying to wax philosophical. I’m just suggesting you embrace time while you’re experiencing it.

As ridiculously busy as our summer has been and as much time as I’ve driven in my truck, I’m totally enjoying the ride.

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The lineup driving to the entrance of Grand Teton National Park

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Maggie, Fumie and Jake 

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Me and my favorite foursome a couple of days ago

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The Koftinoffs!

 

 

 

 

 

Reunion-ate and Celebrate!

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Pacific Rainforest

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

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

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

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

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Road trippin’ along the Columbia River in WA state.

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

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

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Three Fyfes at The Keg!

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

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

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

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Alistair and Jenny recognized each other immediately

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

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

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A dozen doctors hanging out at Nicklaus North!

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

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

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

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

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Alistair and Maria at brunch on Sunday

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

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

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Debra, Cindy and Alistair at brunch

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

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

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Golf in Pemberton with that big mountain in the background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lei and me at The Omega last weekend.

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

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

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

Maybe I’ll put it out there.

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

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Golf in Pemberton, Alistair is facing The Mountain

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The Brandywine Falls driving up to Whistler, BC

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Canadian Poutine in Whistler!

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

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Kalayna, Diana, Dad and Larissa at the Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Melancholy Moment

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Finally on our local golf course last week!

Normally, 99.999% of the time, this is me. Not the wine glass- that’s maybe 25% of the time and as much as I wish golf was 100% that isn’t the case, either. But I’m normally smiling, laughing, joking around and happy.

(As I type that I’m trying desperately to do the math to make sure I don’t sound like a flaming alcoholic… should that be 20%? 15% Will my friends laugh and think I underestimated?)

Driving home along muddy gravel roads with 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom potholes in the rain to a husband-less house on Friday, however, I had a moment of melancholy.

I had a few tears.

It wasn’t a pity party by any stretch. It actually had to do with some sadness.

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a couple of weeks ago before the golf course opened

I had done a house call that morning where I helped friends say goodbye to their special canine companion. It was necessary, it was an act of kindness and it was done for all the right reasons. It was also beautiful and peaceful if such an event can be.

It was Time.

But after having done this recently with a few other special canines I realized I have been the veterinarian in this community long enough that I have known these animals their entire lives. And now I’m saying sad goodbyes to some of them.

I was the Easy Cheese lady back when we did 3 sets of the distemper combo and handed out puppy kits.

I spayed and neutered them.

They were participants in my puppy parties.

And they came to the Dog Days of Summer every year.

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UB and Loki at one of the Dog days of Summer

While not all of the recent patients of the Angel of Darkness were puppies when I met them, they were still my patients for several years. It just felt kind of heavy and it all hit me at one specific moment yesterday.

The rainy, dark skies and the cooler temperatures after being teased with sunshine and golf games recently probably didn’t help.

I did allow myself time to think about and process each of the friends I had to help over the Rainbow Bridge and I think veterinarians just simply need to do this from time to time. Sure, I have all sorts of fabulous coping mechanisms- I keep a journal; I share my feelings here and with clients; I play golf; I laugh a LOT; I joke around a LOT; I have ferrets who I talk to in a variety of accents; I don’t take myself seriously; I have a tremendously understanding husband; I write; I have the Aloha hot tub with tiki torches; I drink wine; yadda, yadda….

But veterinarians have enough to worry about in this career that we need to be able to let ourselves emote, from time to time, about stuff that’s just plain sad.

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Fabulous Babulous

It probably also doesn’t help that I found what I believe to be an oral tumor in sweet Bebe’s mouth the other day. She’s fine, though, eating & drinking & bitching at us for her morning Greenies and everything is normal but Dr.Mummy knows its not right.

And she’s lost some weight.

And her hair coat is a bit poor.

But Mummy-me isn’t going to change a thing until Babs gives us a reason to.

Like my clients’ pets did.

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Getting ready for the Furry Scurry a few years ago

The noble Bernese Mountain Dog began limping enough that her parents knew the recently diagnosed bone cancer in her forelimb was taking over.

She walked less and less and started to eat a bit less.

I had done her puppy vaccines and spayed her and fixed her umbilical hernia. She was a puppy party participant and kind of just watched the goofy Labradors and goldens flying around the clinic (although she eventually gave in and played a bit, too.)

She attended Dog Days of Summers and did the Furry Scurry and she hiked in the mountains of Montana and played with her sister and swam in clear rivers and creeks and eventually accepted the newest little sister and she ate like a queen and she lounged outside her house and she loved the heck out of her dad and her new  mom and she was on the greatest adventure ever until it was Time.

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Another Furry Scurry getting ready to go!

Then there was the adorable, 16 year old Yorkie who made it pretty clear to his parents that it was Time. I knew him since I moved here and he and his canine siblings lived a lovely life with their parents. I got to see pictures of him in the basket of the 4-wheeler looking like he was the happiest big dog in a little dog’s body ever. His entire small community knew him and he even got to help out at the bar his folks owned a lot of the time.

I know a lot of hearts were broken when I helped him across the bridge with his mom and dad right there, holding him, rubbing him. Like his mom said, “It isn’t about us anymore, its about him.” It was Time.

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My Nan and the Princess, Cleopatra at a Dog Days of Summer many moons ago

My friends and I had known Sprocket’s time was coming because he was ancient. Most working sled dogs live a great, active life but they rarely make it to 15 years of age but this noble old athlete did and he did it was grace and style. Maybe not with the greatest hair coat in the world but he aged beautifully until he didn’t.

Sprocket was one of their competitive dogs who loved what he did. A Siberian Husky who I respected as both an athlete and a good dog, he started having trouble with his back legs recently. He would rally and we would stop checking to see if I was going to be in town and a few more weeks would pass.

Until the morning when the dog who had run his heart out and played with his yard mates and really liked his injectable anesthesia when he needed it and was one of the alligator bacteria patients years ago let his folks know they needed to come up to the farm for one final visit with Dr.Fyfe.

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Good times with good friends at a Dog Days of Summer

And Friday morning we laid the final dog of a litter of pups I was particularly close to to rest.

The beautiful litter of Great Dane puppies was in trouble from the start when their mom died within days of their birth. We knew it was a challenge to get enough groceries into such a rapid-growing breed but several members of the community were up to the task. It was daunting at best because without much immunity from not having their mom’s milk they couldn’t be exposed to many people so it was a small group who fed, cleaned, rested, and fed the puppies again. Most of the folks who were part of the feeding team became owners of these huge puppies and all but one stayed within our community.

My rep with Royal Canin happily consulted her team of nutritionists and those pups thrived on canned Recovery and wow, what a gorgeous group of dogs they turned into.

On April 22nd, 2009, my surgeon friend from Great Falls came by and he helped me spay and gastropexy the three females, which I had never done before. The three giants laid in a blanketed assembly line as they recovered and it was a pretty special day.

Until the curse of being a Great Dane took over and we lost the father and all of the other siblings over the years.

Generally they aren’t a long-lived breed but Bella made it to 10 years. Until Friday morning, when it was Time.

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Dog Show winners in the “Working Dog” class at one of our later Dog Days

Each and every family I cried with are friends. I’ve had coffees, lunch and supper dates and I’ve supported their buisnesses and I think most of them have read my books.

I counselled them about when to spay, what brand of foods to eat and I dispensed dewormers and did house calls and I sutured them up or took sutures out and I watched relationships grow and flourish even if there was some testing along the way and I shared the beginning, middle and now end of some beautiful lives with special people and their beloved companions and I know how very hard it was to make the decisions they made and I respect all of them for it while knowing how hard their hearts hurt.

Sometimes the making of the decision and acknowledging that it is Time is the hardest part of all. Or maybe its when I ask if my friends are ready… because they will truly never, ever be ready.

I am privileged to get to share the amazing human-animal bond that makes us choose to get another puppy and raise them and love them and care for and guide them through their magical lives as they become perfect middle-aged best friends until they gradually become beloved senior citizens.

My own heart gets wrung out every time we have had to make the decision to send our furry friends on their final adventure.

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Pretty little Bebe Fyfe

I hope I get to have more time to spend with Babs before its Time. Heck, Cleopatra, our Springer is at least 15 and is having her own set of issues. I’m trying not to think about it but I may have to face what Sitka, Danny, Sprocket and Bella’s parents all had to face just recently sooner rather than later.

And I’ll be okay.

Just like all of my friends will.

And every single other pet parent out there who has to face facts when you start making a list of all of the last things you’ll be doing with your buddy.

There are those coping mechanisms.

There is that magnificent hubby and many great friends.

And there is the knowledge that when the sadness is so great it means the love was that great as well.

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Local Coping Mechanism just opened the back 9 last week.

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One of the Furry Scurry’s along the highway in town!

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3 new Coping Mechanisms screwing around in Papa’s clean jeans.

 

The Learning Curve

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A beautiful December up in our meadow

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a few weeks thanks to one more island re-charge and then the fact my brain is full.

I have learned so much these past couple of months having active offers representing both a buyer and a seller in the real estate world! It has kept me guessing and it has kept me drinking red wine.

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Aloha!

But first, the island re-charge!

Its true, we were just on Kauai for my annual veterinary conference at the end of October. It might seem a bit extravagant to return to Hawaii a couple of weeks later but it was the best decision.

We flew to the Big Island for a 5-night stay at the Hilton Waikoloa (“Dirty Disney”) on an all-inclusive holiday. It was truly a holiday because it was the first time since starting to go to Hawaii that neither of us had a conference.

No agenda.

No need to be anywhere at any specific time.

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Island Al, our first morning

Except the golf courses.

The breakfast buffet was terrific, although it was teeming with families with young children. I hadn’t thought much about it being Thanksgiving week when we booked this trip a year ago but, wow. That was the most kids we’ve ever seen at one time at any resort on the islands.

They weren’t at the golf courses, at least.

We played the Kings Course, Makalei, Waikoloa, Hupana and the Beach Course.

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Makalei. Up the volcano, then down the volcano. And repeat.

The weather was perfect, the meals were terrific, the courses weren’t crowded, the evenings on our lanai with martinis and wine overlooking the dolphins and ocean were magical and we are completely full of Aloha.

Dirty Disney is a pretty cool place to go. Its such a vast resort that it actually has its own  monorail and boat system to get around between the towers.

It is also where I spent a heartbroken week during last year’s veterinary conference while Alistair stayed home so he could be with UB when he died from suddenly-diagnosed lung cancer.

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Sweet UB. I miss you so much.

We toasted our little Bostonocker Sperrier during our recharge to the Big Island and I’m a little overwhelmed by his memory right now.

Alas..

Onto the uptick in my already upticked learning curve!

One of the two transactions I was involved in was just way too easy.

No, really, it was sooooo smooth. I kept waiting for something ridiculous to happen but it didn’t.

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My first listing ever and now my first closed transaction!!!

It was that adorable house in town I listed for a friend who had been a great veterinary client. My first listing ever as well as my first Open House! I love that house and, without any issues, the buyers are in and the transaction closed on Nov.30th!

(Well, the poor buyer locked herself out on the chilly morning of closing- in her jammies- and had to make her way to our office where a colleague could give her a code to get into the lockbox and I wasn’t checking my phone where her frantic husband-in-North-Dakota had been texting me because, geez, I was going to meet my seller in Missoula for the closing where my seller told me, for the first time, that there were spare keys to the side door under the mat in front of it.)

So perhaps there was a bit of a glitch after all…

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Bye-bye, super cute house!

The second transaction, where I represented a buyer from Missoula who I had met working the floor this summer, wasn’t quite the same.

We were getting into a lake house on a private, gated lake near my own house and the home inspection came back with a few issues.

The issues led to some work that had to be done including radon mitigation and pumping of the septic tank and a few little things here & there. We were also set to close on Nov.30th but the one main thing I’ve learned since joining my realty team is that nothing is closed until its closed.

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“Mummy, are you telling them about the issues at Big Sky Lake?”

We had negotiations about electrical panels that went somewhere until they went nowhere and caused some frustration and perhaps even anger to the seller and confusion to the buyer and myself and the other realtor involved, Greg, had to step in a bit to make things right.

(Another thing I have learned is that realtors are often “stepping in” to make things right.)

So Nov.29th, when the radon mitigation was being finished up and my buyer and her two sons drove up for a walk-through, it was discovered that nobody could find the septic tank despite there being 3 septic permits associated with the property.

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At this point my brain took me back to my happy place from the week prior…

I actually drove home that night thinking that the sale was going to fall through and nothing would close.

And I was actually okay with that.

Because life is too short to wrap yourself up in shit you can’t control. And, believe me, I could not control this one. Nor could I negotiate a fix for it all.

I could, however, support Greg, who is a former veterinary client and friend, who assembled a team for the following Monday. The team included the local septic guy, his son, an excavator and a guy to work it, another septic guy with a camera to find the tank and us agents.

Party at the lake house!

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Working on the septic issue….

The camera-guy found the tank! Yippie! Okay, everyone, lets unearth it, get it cleaned and close this deal!

Oop, wait, not so much….

You see, as kind of shown above, we all realized that the tank was brilliantly buried beneath concreate.

Yeah. Concrete.

There was, perhaps, half an hour where Greg and I and everyone else had no clue what we were going to do.

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Oh, goodie… we found the tank….

Again, images of the signed papers floating off into the sky crossed my mind but Norm, the local septic guy just started digging.

And digging.

And the excavator guy got going in his machine again and half of a wood pile had to be moved and texts were flying between Greg and his seller and I watched and waited and wondered aloud if this was going to turn into one of those, “Hey, who is the littlest person here? You, there… in the hat… you’re going in” situations and we all laughed then we laughed again when someone said, “No shit! Literally!” to a comment and damn it, Norm got to the tank and was able to pump the thing!

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Not the best view but I’m behind the half-removed wood pile, standing on the treads of the excavator.

And the next day Greg and the excavator guy got some pressure-treated posts under the ground and they beefed up the support for the biffy that’s in the little out-building there and my buyer is happy.

And we closed! We closed in Missoula on the 7th and I celebrated with a hair cut and color to hide the greys that accumulated this past week at an exponential rate and life is good.

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In the car wash post closing, coloring & cutting… no “steadily depressing, low down, mind-messing” car was blues for this realtor!

I’m moving on right away to clients who are looking at listings all day with me tomorrow so they can relocate for the husband’s new job in Seeley Lake.

And I am chomping at the bit to get going on my fourth book.

And I had an all-day bling-thing yesterday at the local steakhouse with several other local small business owners.

And the cute little ice rink in town is actually coming together and people have already asked about skating lessons.

And there’s a few pets in town due for their vaccines.

And I did another Rouxbe cooking school lesson that led to me basting my first ever eggs this morning and I’m going to try a fabulous-looking new chicken and mushroom dish tonight!

And we adopted a new cat who adopted Alistair in Bismarck (Higgins!) and there could be even more Fyfe critters because, come on, who actually believed it was all going to end with Attrition?

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Ahhhhhh

And because of the potential for insanity in the weeks ahead I’ve gone ahead and already booked our next trip back to Dirty Disney in a few months although this time it is for a conference.

Neither of us cares.

We’re going to need it!

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Good times!

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Hiking around the Hilton

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Where do you want to look at the ocean and dormant volcanoes and play golf today, Honey?

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Mummy and our new, adorable, friendly, loving, purr-ball stray, Higgins!!!!

 

 

 

 

 


 

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.

 

 

Deconstructing Me

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Previewing a cute new local listing this week!

Goodness! This “real job” thing has taken over my days! I’m mostly joking but its partly true. The thing is, in a resort community, summer is when you see the tourists and if I’m the only realtor sitting at her desk on a Saturday or Sunday then I’m the one hopefully getting leads.

I’m learning the language, I’m previewing the local listings, I’m ferrying people around for showings, I’m keeping the truck clean up at the house with the spray washer and I actually can talk like I sort of know where things are using street names (instead of, “turn left where a tree is leaning at 45 degrees over the road,” or, “you know where so-and-so used to live? Yeah, him. Go about 50 feet from there and the driveway is on your right.”)

I’m still laughing a lot and having a great time. All of my colleagues have different ways of presenting things and I learn from each of them.

Its still as important as ever for me to maintain a work-life balance and I think I’m managing that pretty well!

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Hiking with Alistair & Cleo (not pictured).

When Alistair is in Bismarck, North Dakota for 2 weeks I don’t mind being at the office longer or on the weekends. When he’s here, though, I have tried to book off early and meet him at our golf course one or two days a week.

He has been a dream of a house-husband when he’s here, making me yummy breakfasts and then planning and preparing many of our meals. (The meals are preceded by a relaxing soak in the hot tub, complete with a Caesar cocktail in-hand.)

Caesars are decidedly Canadian. Clamato juice, vodka, tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a variety of seasonings including celery salt and then some form of vegetable- my current choice is pickled asparagus spears- combine to make this yummy cocktail over ice.  After I spent 2 weeks coaching figure skating in Canada last summer, where my hosts made a deliciously wicked Caesar almost daily, Alistair got to work mastering the drink I was Jonesen’ for on a nightly basis. He has nailed it and as long as he doesn’t accidentally grab soy sauce for the Worcestershire, I am in Happy Hour Heaven up at our farm.

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I’m never alone when I’m in Norman!

Surprisingly, my golf game hasn’t taken as much of a hit as I originally thought it would by not playing almost daily. When I’m alone I do try to get out there a couple of times a week if I can, avoiding the touristy Saturdays when you have to hurry up and wait while playing.

I’ve managed to maintain some decent distance with my clubs and I’ve forced myself to use my 3-wood more, which has now led me to love my 3-wood more.

I definitely have to concentrate before each swing, though, as its plenty easy to get distracted by any number of things going on in my head. Real estate leads, listings, and showings. The driving in & out of Missoula to show properties all over the map for folks flying in from Colorado. The sad but necessary canine euthanasia I was honored to do when a friend reached out for a friend. Everything that’s necessary to facilitate something like that without a brick & mortar clinic while making sure you have every. possible. thing. you might need to make that happen. Our aging, deaf springer spaniel who seems to feel great but is maybe showing some signs of canine cognitive dysfunction (doggy dementia). The absolutely asinine mortgage company we are dealing with to get more funds released from being held hostage. The funds we are personally creating and paying to the sometimes pissy restoration company. The fact we are a tad extended in that regard but we’re making it work.

Bare walls. The guest room. Open ceiling in the garage. Cooler temps here and even cooler ones on their way. The disaster of a collapsed deck.

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The remnants of the upper deck after Alistair tore it up yesterday.

With funds being held hostage (NEVER get a mortgage with Mr.Cooper!!!!) and nobody agreeing to work on anything without payment up front, we were getting concerned about the 2-tiered deck off of our master bedroom (which we haven’t used since February.) If snow piles up against the house it could affect our windows and doors in there so Alistair took the bull by the horns and did his own demolition.

The destruction of Eden got its re-start yesterday and the broken, busted wood is now piled as you see it. Its no wonder we had the collapse after seeing the “support system” beneath it. I’m frankly shocked it hadn’t collapsed when we were using the deck the 12 years we’ve lived here. Check it out yourself:

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Brilliant.

The deck on the other side of the house was just as shoddy but at least it had crumbling cement footings as well as 3 posts for support- as if they wanted it to look like someone had made an effort. This side of the raised deck is complete nonsense. Clearly the original owner who had the house built got taken on a grand ride by his builders.

We aren’t 100% if we’re going to rebuild a one-level deck here or match the other side where we had a concrete patio poured and where we can relax while enjoying the peaceful forest behind our house.

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The Relaxation Grotto where we had removed a sagging deck a couple of years ago. Note concrete patio.

We think it would look nice and be functional for relaxing next to the bubbling creek that runs on the other side of the house.

The last time I wrote about the insurance claim wasn’t long ago, “Whats In Store.” Since then my optimism about the whole mess has taken a bit of a turn. Almost daily phone calls have led to insane frustration on our part including one night, after a long, golfless day at the office where I lost my shit on the phone to the latest Mr.Cooper rep, Danette. I normally can hold it together with representatives over the phone for anything because its not their fault when they have to relay bad news or they don’t get the situation. Poor Danette, however, had to hear me drop a couple of F-bombs as I choked back tears trying to explain the insanity of the situation.

It didn’t help that immediately after our 45 min phone call I got on the computer to email Alistair (who was in ND) the news and read an email from our sometimes-pissy restoration company saying they wanted us to sign a Work Stop request because we didn’t want to commit to $71,000 to get the new roof ordered/planned. (Maybe we’re unique but we just don’t have 71 grand lying around.)

My email back to the restoration company told them I wasn’t opening or signing anything, that my head space wasn’t pretty, and that I felt alone, frustrated, confused and angry- all emotions that I am not used to feeling.

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The file for our insurance claim.

We did manage to make $46,000 of personal funds (including a credit card check/loan) available and Mr.Cooper has released a teensy amount (which is stupid in its own incorrect amount and just shows me how completely messed up Mr.Cooper is) and the roof is ordered and set to start in early October. The roof total is over $86,000 and we are short the 85% deposit a little but we should be able to get there by the cancellation date (or else we’ll be out $5500 in cancellation fees.)

You see, thinking about this, along with the other thoughts that creep into my head are detrimental to my golf swing.

And my golf swing is necessary for my sanity. My happiness. My goofy sense of humor and my smile.

So I’m not at the office for my brand new career from 8:30 until 5pm every day. I maybe cut out a bit early and you’ll see me with or without a cute hubby and our awesome red golf cart, Norman hitting colored balls down gorgeous green fairways along the highway.

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Our happy place!

I am absolutely committed to success in my new career but that won’t happen if I don’t commit to happiness and that work-life balance I mentioned earlier.

Danette is now a member of Team Fyfe and calls me almost daily with updates. I will never meet this woman but we have a shared bond in trying to get Mr.Cooper to get its head out of its ass (they have $52,044.28 of our funds) and help us get our house repaired. There will be thousands and thousands more dollars that have to go through this messed-up process as we figure out the deck, the walls, the ceiling, the tongue & groove and the kitchen…

I hit a low point that night on the phone and then the computer and I think that’s the most frustrated I have ever felt. I don’t do well when I don’t have some control over my life but, thankfully, the wine fridge was full, the cats were cuddly and Alistair helped calm me down on the phone that night.

And then I played some golf the next day after another fun, learning day at the real estate office.

My folks from Colorado were great, the canine farewell was beautiful, the snow won’t wreck our master bedroom windows, Cleo runs around with an energy out of sorts with her 14 years of age and we are getting a new roof. Like a young child in a snowsuit and helmet with their arms stuck out to the side learning to skate for the first time I’m slowly taking baby steps in the acceptance that some things are just out of my control.

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Just before meeting my Colorado peeps in Missoula a couple of weeks ago.

I’ll enjoy what I can control, and enjoy the heck out of it. Like the fact I’m meeting Alistair soon at the golf course before we head home for that Caesar and a hot tub prior to him grilling up the chicken he’s had marinating for a day now..

I shall keep you posted!

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After another day at the office… my outdoor office with Norman.

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My colleagues and I at the Community Foundation banquet that was held after I wrote my last blog!

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Alistair making his yummy chili for us the other night!