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!!!!

 

 

 

 

 


 

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!

 

 

Riding the Waves

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I somehow managed to skip a few blog posts but I’m happy to report that I’m back!

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Me. Back!

I don’t usually write my blogs when Alistair is here, which is a 2 week stretch every 2 weeks. But I also didn’t write when he was back in Bismarck and I don’t really have any excuses.

Well, other than the fact our house was full of huge, noisy dehumidifiers and whirling fans that necessitated the TV volume being cranked and forced us to take up residence in the guest room. We couldn’t hear the phone and we had to shout at each other in just about every room in the house. Even the non-stop running dialogue inside my head raised its voice.

And there has been the emotional roller coaster of the Olympics and just now the World Figure Skating Championships. (I will share more about World’s another time…) And I’m working on a fairly large online project but that, too, is for another time. Not to mention my book marketing which will be ramping up in April…

And then there was the skunk.

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Hi, Boris. (Not my critter cam)

I had noticed a skunky smell in our barn one morning but it wasn’t overly intense. I had noticed it a few times in the fall as well but Jockey never indicated that any winter roomies had moved in.

Until that same afternoon, when Alistair and I were packing and preparing for a much-needed return to Aloha and we heard some rustling next to Jockey’s big litter bin. Alistair bent down and was trying to move the dog crate over and suddenly a large black & white fluffy tail appeared.

Ah, yes, life in the forest.

 

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More of Jessi’s Critter Cam footage

Jockey said his name was Boris and that he’d hibernated in our barn all winter. When he did get out to eat the little fart was noshing on our very expensive, top quality Royal Canin cat food.

Which was all well and good until Boris decided to spray the barn one morning while we were gone. We aren’t sure if Jockey had said, “That’s IT” about his yummy food or what but our wonderful house/pet sitter, Jessi is a capable Montana gal and she set up the Critter Cam in the barn and arranged for a local friend to set up a trap.

As it turned out, Boris buggered off on his own and the barn is smelling better and Jockey has the place (and his food) all to himself again.

Or at least until Boris brings any new girlfriends back.

Or Boris is a Natasha….

 

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Last week. Grey skies don’t matter when you’re on an island.

But I won’t bother thinking about that now because I still have my glow from a week spent on Kauai. Its been a rainy winter over there, which we were expecting, but that didn’t matter thanks to 70-plus-degree weather, a near-empty golf course, sandals and mai tais. We had 2 sunny days with mild trade winds and our laughter and smiles shone through the camera lens from Poipu Bay Golf course once again.

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Right before we teed it up for the first time in months!

The head pro, Chad and some of the workers like Kerry and Mike remembered us from 3 years ago (hard not to remember Alistair’s Driver head soaring through the air) and we felt like Ohana each of the 3 days we played there.

 

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Alistair on the 15th tee.

Alistair hadn’t been back to the islands in well over a year and my trip to the Big Island was shrouded in heartbreak last fall so this trip back to Kauai, our favorite of the Hawaiian islands was uplifting for our spirits and our souls.

We even tried something new in a catamaran-type of dinner cruise around to the Na Pali coastline, which is only accessible by air or water. All of the tour books and even the crew of the Blue Dolphin II were open & honest about likely high winds and seas during the winter months and they weren’t kidding.

 

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Just before shoving off from Port Allen!

The poor gal from Spokane seated next to me didn’t make it very far before she got to see breakfast and lunch again. Another gal was slumped next to her boyfriend most of the trip after doing some “reverse eating” of her own. The 2 of them were downstairs, where the food was served after we’d made it to the stunning cliffs and as the boat surged, lurched, rolled and dove, I swear Spokane looked worse than a corpse

 

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The Na Pali coastline from the water!

For a couple of kids who grew up riding BC Ferries to Vancouver Island & back, the waves and wind were actually kind of fun. Captain Roy and his crew seemed calm and capable and they were able to get us all the way around to see the famous cliffs.

 

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Cue the Jurassic Park music….

It was another way for us to discover Hawaii and all her magnificent beauty. Another way to appreciate how ancient Hawaiians existed in valleys with their taro fields and fishing villages. And another way for us to understand why so much of the state needs to be protected from massive developments and forays into commerce.

It was another way to put goofy smiles on our faces as we breathed in the humid air and all of the surrounding Aloha.

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Looking back from where we came along the coast.

We also did the “cabana-thing” for the first time in all of our trips to the islands. It was part of our Sheraton package and Alistair was in conference all morning so we figured, “why not?” Adding to the incentive of lounging by the pool all day was the fact 2 friends from Seeley Lake happened to be escaping Snowmageddon at the same time. Michelle and Missy happily joined me that morning and then Alistair stayed for most of the afternoon in our bright red, private cabana.

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Michelle and I (Missy’s photo)

It was neat sharing island time with friends who had endured the same trials and tribulations with the fire last summer and then the never-ending snow this winter.

And, as per usual, we made a couple of friends with Jeff on the golf course, the funny Alaskan couple on the Na Pali cruise (the wife was attending the same medical conference as Alistair… go figure!) and Crystal, our social media angel.

You see, our last day there was supposed to be spent on the tees, fairways and greens of Poipu Bay Golf course but the weather had other ideas. We had a night flight out of Lihue but had to check out of the Sheraton so we kicked around the island exploring a few places.

 

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Our last day, the Menehune fish ponds

What’s a trip to Kauai without a quick peek at the Menehune fishponds? Or a spin up to the very wet and rainy Wailua Falls where we joined the other tourists in snapping a quick picture?

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Wailua Falls… where Tattoo did his “Da Plane, Boss” thing… come to think of it, he might have been of Menehune descent…

And what’s a day of kicking around Kauai if you don’t whip up the Coconut coast to the kind-of deserted Coconut Marketplace? (That place used to have an awesome breakfast restaurant and several kitschy stores and local artists but its woefully quiet now).

It also had my wallet, which I had left there but didn’t realize until we made it all the way back down south through traffic to explore the Kiohana plantation.

Talk about a sinking feeling, knowing we had to get back up there, with the possibility that someone may have borrowed my wallet and its contents. With us leaving the island that night.

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the ocean in front of the Sheraton, churning like my stomach was when I realized my wallet wasn’t with me!

 

Being the modern woman that I am, I got onto Facebook, where Crystal, from Texas, had been trying to reach me. She and her new husband were also at the marketplace and a worker from one of the stores had found my wallet. They discussed options and my wallet made it to the Island Market food store.

I had already contacted the marketplace’s office and got another woman involved in the search. Meanwhile, Crystal reached out privately to a few of my Facebook friends and asked if they had a phone number for me.

My wallet made it to the office, then back to Island Market, all while Crystal, her husband, Alistair and I talked and texted on our phones. Alistair drove in the traffic and I eventually met Justin, the Island Market manager and one of their cashiers who said, “That wallet has been here twice today!”

 

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the photo I immediately sent to Crystal.

And Crystal Friended me and she will soon be receiving some lovely Chloe & Isabel bling that both Alistair and I picked out for her.

Do we know how to vacation or what?

And now we’re back to the mainland and Alistair is back in Bismarck and he’s back to work and I’m back in the guest room. Thankfully, the dehumidifiers and fans are gone and I can hear my thoughts once again.

And I feel lighter after our little holiday- emotionally and physically. The proverbial weight of winter has lifted, even though I’m still surrounded by reminders. Aloha hot tubs and my Hawaiian music in Big Red helped me keep a smile on my face this winter. It helped knowing we had Kauai to look forward to, too.

 

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Our front yard today.

The chickadees are chirping, the sun has some Montana warmth to it and the snow is melting. Granted, its revealing the damage to our beautiful home and yard but at the same time it is disappearing which will allow for the next phases of our insurance claim to occur.

 

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The deck off of our master bedroom. Or, what’s left of it.

Much is being revealed on the outside of the home while drywall will be coming down this week to reveal the extent of damage to the inside. Some of our pretty white and lavender lilacs will spring back while I know others will not have survived.

 

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Cleo helping me investigate the front yard today

Our own spirits are refreshed and recharged and I’m choosing to look at our Montana ranch the same way- it will get its own rebirth this spring.

I’m no fool to believe that there won’t be challenges ahead or that I won’t fight back an occasional tear or two, or that its going to be sunny, smooth sailing from here on in.

Challenges and change build character. I know we’re up for it. We’ll handle the waves with smiles and laughter, holding on with both hands just like we did up Kauai’s northern coastline last week.

And you know I’ll take pictures the whole way!

 

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Golfing “island style”

 

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Supper one night at Tidepool’s

 

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Ready for some waves!

 

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Happy explorer, riding the waves off Kauai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow, Ice and Sun

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Front door views a few days ago

With the snow storm we had last week I still haven’t made much of a dent in the snow removal even though my shoulders and back beg to differ.

I did manage to shovel out one of the rigs and also made it into town one day after a week of being snow-bound up here at the farm. The shoveling took place over 3 days and provided a profound sense of relief that I could get a reliable vehicle out if I needed to.

It also gave me a little “I am woman, hear me roar” shot in the arm, too, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

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Things are even wider now after I got the truck out of there.

We are still dealing with continual power failures throughout the county as snow-laden trees eventually give out under the heavy weight and topple onto electrical lines. Yesterday was particularly bad as we’d had a tiny bit of drizzle and wind and I had no juice for over 4 hours.

I was just starting to get the candles out when the house surged back to life and I could turn the propane fireplaces off and the computer back on.

The drizzle also got the snow on our roof moving…

 

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Right outside the garage door this morning. Surprise!!!

And once again I’m faced with the dilemma of having nowhere left to put the snow!

 

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the path to the garage…

I managed to shovel out an area to access the pathway and Cleo and I did just fine. My shoulders and back aren’t talking to me like they did when I first picked up the shovel last week so I’m feeling pretty Mighty Mouse right about now.

And the sun has been out today which makes this ridiculous amount of snow actually appear pretty. I love seeing sparkles where I walk with the blue sky reflecting on the brilliant white snow that crunches beneath my feet.

 

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Look- blue sky!!!

My reward for moving snow from here to there or for coming up with heating and cooking options when I was without power for hours is the television viewing on-hand this weekend.

First up is the PGA Tournament of Champions held annually in Kapalua, Maui. Not only do I get to see palm trees, leaping whales, a brilliant ocean and some great golfers, I get to re-live the actual course on the phone at night with Alistair as its a course we have played a few times and both really enjoy.

 

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Our first time playing the Plantation Course in 2015.

Its cool knowing the way a hole slopes or how huge that ravine on the 8th is when watching some of the top players on Tour battle it out. Dustin Johnson has a great lead right now and I’m DVR-ing today’s final round so I can buzz through commercials later on while I’m eating my supper.

 

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The Plantation Course at Kapalua. (not my picture)

I can almost feel the trade winds flutter my skort and the warm, humid air that coats my skin when we’re on the islands and I can smell sunblock and the ocean and I can almost taste a mai tai and hear the cubes of ice jingle against the glass and I feel the Aloha that exists around and within me and the golf station plays our much-loved Hawaiian tunes as they fade in and out of the tournament.

Its a lovely break from the grey, white and blue world I’ve been buried in for over a week.

 

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Ahhhh… golf at Kapalua (2016)

 

During my visual return to paradise I’ll pause the ukulele music and swaying palms while I watch my other DVR-ed weekend highlight: the US figure skating national championships happening in San Jose right now!

While there haven’t been any dislocated shoulders the American skating world has still provided its share of drama.

Sadly, Ashley Wagner once again wore her poopy-pants face as her troubled season continued. To put it simply, she just didn’t land the jumps. 5th after the short, 3rd in the long and 4th overall, the US former national champion and one-time World silver medalist came up short when it was time to choose the Olympic team.

 

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Ashley, Ashley, Ashley. (not my picture).

Ashley likes to call herself “assertive” and “outspoken” but I have found her to be just a tad annoying. She has claimed that the judges gave her low scores to intentionally hold her down, which is likely untrue but maybe they have found her to be annoying as well.

She’s a good skater but she’s had a rough season. I don’t know what or who is to blame but she doesn’t light up the rink like she has in the past. She has a top coach, lots of sponsorship this year, gorgeous dresses… but you still have to rotate and land the jumps.

And don’t get pissy when the 3 women who earned medals get named to the Olympics. Ashley was 4th four years ago at Nationals and they gave her an Olympic berth instead of Mirai Nagasu, who that year won bronze. Ashley was “outspoken” then about her right to be named to the team so shut up this time.

 

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Mirai, Bradie and Karen (not my picture).

Who’s going to South Korea in 33 days, then? Boom, Mirai Nagasu earned her way with her silver medal-winning, triple-axel attempting, confidant, mature program. I’m so happy she redeemed herself after a couple of low years after they selected Ashley to go to Sochi over her.

And fresh, charming, Cinderella-esque Bradie Tennel gets to go after she won our hearts and the national title! She skated with tremendous consistency, flow and style and her huge jumps are something to watch.

Rounding out the group is last year’s national champ, Karen Chen. She hasn’t had a stellar season but the fact she placed 4th at the world championships last year is why we get to send 3 women to the Olympics and her bronze-medal performance this weekend is worthy of the 5 rings.

 

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Adam Rippon earlier this season (not my photo).

Not to be outdone by the women, the men’s Olympic selection had some drama only this time it came from the selection committee.

No surprise that quad-tastic Nathan Chen swept the competition. He finally had a great look thanks to Vera Wang costumes and deserved top spot on the podium and a ticket to South Korea.

And while I’m not surprised Adam Rippon is going despite a poor long program and 4th place finish last night- he did have a super Grand Prix season and is one of our top men in all aspects of skating- I’m shocked that the committee left Ross Miner off the team.

 

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Ross, 2nd, Nathan, 1st, Vincent, 3rd and Adam, 4th (pewter medal) (not my picture).

 

Ross has been a steady men’s competitor for years, seems like a super nice guy and was Olympic-inspired enough to bring the house down last night with his Queen-medly-quest and he won the silver medal. Why on Earth is he not going to the Olympics?

Isn’t the whole thing about having that one amazing moment in time? I agree that the national podium shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all for Olympic and World team members but why did they jump over 3rd place Vincent Zhou, who is young but has an arsenal of quads, and give Miner the boot?

Maybe I just answered my own question there. Quads. Medal tallies.

 

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Hubby-wife duo, the Knierems are the lone pairs reps for the US heading to the Olympics. (not my picture.)

Figure skating has tried changing their judging system around after the scandal in Salt Lake City to prove that its a legitimate sport and that nothing political happens in the background but not sending Ross Miner to the Olympics just put a political rubber stamp on the whole thing.

And yet, I continue to love the sport.

Next weekend will be similar but different.

I’m sure I’ll have buckets of snow to look at and move from one place to another.

Golf will still be played with Aloha as the tour moves to Oahu.

And my friends in Canada will be working their sequined butts off at their own national championship in Vancouver.

 

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Go, Tessa & Scott! (not my picture)

The best part about next weekend, though, is the fact that Alistair will be here to share it all with me.

We have never been to Oahu so we won’t have the same feelings watching the golf but the palms, the water, the whales and the Aloha will still be there. And maybe Rickie Fowler will debut another decidedly non-uptight, untucked Hawaiian shirt on the golf course!

And Alistair can use the big manly-man tractor and snow blower to make more sense out of our landscape.

 

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Our “patio” area this afternoon

Because I’m not making much sense out of what’s out there right now by myself! Now… its time to watch the Free Dance. Go, Shibutanis!

 

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Ah, Kapalua… the famed par 3 8th and that pesky ravine!

 

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I’m so happy for Mirai! (Clearly not my photo)

 

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The 2-tiered deck behind our bedroom today after “the slide.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different World

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Pretty skies over central and western Montana last week

I had an extended drive home to Montana from Bismarck, North Dakota last week which provided an opportunity to reflect on these past ten years since we moved to Seeley Lake.

There isn’t much about our worlds that has stayed the same. Other than the fact Alistair spends half his time in Bismarck and I primarily live in Seeley Lake, most aspects of our worlds are completely different now.

While Alistair still runs an urgent care, Walk In clinic in downtown Bismarck, he now works for Sanford Health, not MedCenter One and he’s in a different building than he was in 10 years ago.

As far as careers go, I was working 3 days a week in Missoula and 2 days here in Seeley Lake and I hadn’t leapt into opening my own clinic yet.

 

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Cute little clinic I eventually opened.

Alistair and I spent Christmas apart that very first winter and we hadn’t even taken possession of our beautiful mountain home yet.

I was still skating well and able to land double jumps because I had been coaching regularly while working part time at a veterinary clinic before we came to Montana. I managed to skate in Missoula a few days a week the first year and even guest skated in the club’s year-end ice show.

 

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Missoula skating club program. I loved that dress!

 

While I had a blast returning to the ice in Canada to coach this past summer, there’s no way I’d be able to curve around the ice in a pretty spread eagle and then 3-turn into a double loop like I could in Bismarck 10 years ago.

In fact, I could barely get up after kneeling to line up a putt after the first week of high level choreography, power skating, stroking and general coaching.

Speaking of lining up putts, I would have laughed hysterically if you had told me, 10 years ago, that Alistair and I would be addicted to golf now.

 

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Seeley Swan Veterinary golf team members…. the first round of golf for us together!

 

What began as a whimsical day of laughter and drinks as we swung and missed and broke golf clubs at the local pond hockey fundraiser has turned into an obsession. One that we’re both jonesen’ for now that both of our courses have closed for the season.

We have a course in Washburn, North Dakota we enjoy playing on and one here in Seeley Lake. Both are often pretty quiet so we can play “Fyfe Golf” and shamelessly hunt for balls to keep the cheap Doukhobor and the even cheaper Scotsman happy. And both courses are beautiful, as well, each with its own unique quirks and challenges.

 

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Playing at Painted Woods in ND this summer.

We take our clubs with us everywhere, even on flights and we’ve been able to enjoy rounds in Vancouver, Saskatoon, Regina, a teensy town outside of Regina, Kenmare, Medora, Fernie, Whitefish, Missoula, Helena, and all over Kauai, the Big Island and Maui. We’ve both improved immensely and we can’t wait to get back out there!

We even made time to hit the indoor driving range when I was back in Bismarck last week. We both got the Big Bucket and hit balls until our shoulders sagged and our thighs were sore. And we loved it!

 

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At the indoor driving range last week!

And I’m reminded of another change right now as the house is full of the unmistakable smell of yummy food that’s been simmering away for hours. While I was a good cook 10 years ago its as though my culinary skills are now on steroids since I won a Rouxbe online cooking course earlier this year.

Its a win-win for everyone who visits because of the cool things I’ve learned and the things I’ve tried. Steamed chicken? Who knew? The ridiculously challenging Pasta Boscaiola full of creamy mushrooms and diced prosciutto- Wow!

 

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Steamed lemon-garlic chicken I tried for the first time a few nights ago.

I’m learning the how’s and why’s of things and creating flavors and flavor profiles that I never understood before. I could follow a recipe just fine but now I actually get the order of things and how to maybe make something better. I usually only do the online lessons when Alistair isn’t here and it has been a fun addition to my life. Right now I’m simmering my own chicken stock (I just added the Bouqet Garni) that I’m making using chicken bones & bits I normally would have thrown out from roasted chickens that I never used to make but we just love to eat now!

 

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Simmer away, my pretty! (pre bouquet garni.)

I’ve also re-invented myself in that I took the time when I closed my clinic to live the childhood dream and write a book. Then I learned all about self publishing and since I began I have created a series of 3 upbeat, light-hearted, won’t-make-you-question-life-God-or-the-world, teen fiction books that are loved by people of all ages.

Lost and Found in Missing Lake, the first book, was a dream come true, even if it was pretty frightening putting myself and my imagination out there. The covers for the 2nd and 3rd books are fabulous works of art done by our friend, Ben Brick who is a graphics artist and this winter I’m focusing on trying to get the books some more attention.

 

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My 3rd book, published this spring! 

I just love writing and creating characters and worlds and I’ve been able to combine my passion for veterinary medicine in this series and its been so well-received that this winter instead of getting going on book 4, I’ve decided to work with a media marketing group and try to grow my distribution.

I want to share more of Luke and Tabitha’s story with my fans but it would be even better if I could have way more fans to share it with.

I do get to write all year with this little blog thing I now do that I certainly didn’t do 10 years ago. Heck, I had no clue about social media 10 years ago and thought blogging was for people with nothing better to do.

 

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Me, writing last week’s blog.

No offense, Bloggers. I didn’t think much of golfers 10 years ago, either!

The blog has been great for my writing and for promoting my book and for connecting with individuals around the world. It has, most importantly for me, though, been an unexpected outlet for me to share my thoughts, fears and worries when I have to face choices and loss with our animal companions.

Sadly, 10 years ago we had 4 dogs and 11 cats (3 of them were barn kitties.) In the 10 years we grew to a family that included another dog, 2 guinea pigs and up to 3 ferrets at our peak.

 

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Cleo, Casey, UB and Harry… not all that long ago, really.

A blessing to closing my clinic was being able to spend such amazing quality time with all of these cool spirits and I’ve been sharing their stories with the blogosphere. It has been wonderful having you all get to know “the kids”

Phillipa, Calypso and Luigi were outstanding ferret ambassadors and I wish I could be singing Christmas carols on the Sing-Song Saddle with them to share with you all right now but, sadly, that’s not the case.

But I was able to write through my feelings and sort of sort them out through my fingers on this screen. 10 years ago I had my journal (which I still maintain) and now I have this platform as well.

 

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Do you know how hard it used to be to get them all facing the camera?

Our horse collection was a lot larger 10 years ago and included our gorgeous stallion, Dash, who we had to say goodbye to a couple of summers ago. The broodmares, Raven and Cocoa are now buried alongside my riding horse, Spyder, along with Flash and Brutus as these 10 years has taken its toll on the herd.

The remaining bunch are wintering again in North Dakota and their fuzzy hair coats are a sign that the cold weather is coming.

 

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Siblings, Fumie & Frankie just last week!

Its pretty mild in North Dakota so far this winter, though. I just got off the phone with Alistair and he was outside on the tractor moving hay from here to there for a large part of the day and never had to come inside or shove his toes into a heater to get warm.

I’ve strained my broth and have it cooling and its almost time to put the noodles into the crock pot. I had a brisk walk up the driveway with our one remaining pup, Cleo, who is 14 and also isn’t the same as she was 10 years ago.

She has a wicked heart murmur (not as loud as Loki’s was, mind you), she’s completely deaf and her back legs don’t do what they’re supposed to all of the time. We keep her on meds for arthritis and she’s inside most of the time and she seems content to just be with us.

 

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Miss Cleopatra last week in Bismarck

And we never used to go to Hawaii but that is a part of our world now and the Grand Prix final of figure skating happened this weekend and a good friend is there with his Canadian champ and I wear glasses to read and Alistair now makes me Caesars and he’s a martini-man instead of a scotch man and our Relaxation Grotto out back is finally coming together where 10 years ago it was a deck and I sleep better and more than I used to, give or take a random insomnia spell, and my hair is shorter than its been in years and I sling bling and I’m working on something else that is all a part of improving my marketability and I really, really want people to read my books!

A lot has happened in 10 years for the Fyfes and some of its been a wild ride and other times we’ve just coasted through the changes like pros, often not even aware changes were occurring.

Thankfully our love of big breakfasts and yummy meals with good coffee or a fine wine together hasn’t changed.

Neither has the ongoing crib match.

 

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Who ARE these people?

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My first book event in Bismarck!

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We love Aloha!

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2005 with a very young Cleopatra in Bismarck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Really Want

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Hubbel and Donohue, last night in Japan (not my photo).

I’d like to tell you all my thoughts on this weekend’s Grand Prix of figure skating event that took place in Japan, the annual NHK Trophy.

I’d love to share my joy at the amazing level of ice dancing right now, and how emotional all the top skaters were in their performances, including the Americans shown above, who placed second.

I could tell you all about Tessa and Scott’s sleek, sexy outfits and how they brought tears to my eyes as I watched their free dance last night and how relieved he must have felt to nail the twizzle section that almost took him down during their short dance.

But there’s a bigger, more important elephant in the room and its the reason I’m already crying right now.

 

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UB Fyfe… last winter

I have to tell you all that UB has died.

Our amazing, cuddly, loving, sometimes-serious, protective, friendly littlest buddy crossed over the Rainbow Bridge all on his own at the very end of October and our hearts and our world haven’t been the same ever since.

 

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Inspecting the newly delivered wood for big mice just a few weeks ago.

This wasn’t something we had been expecting or planning for.

UB Pickles Napolean Jumping Jack Flash Serge Savard Spinorama Fyfe was supposed to be hiking alongside us in the forests out back for years.

He was supposed to eagerly climb into his ‘Steve Austin’ smoking-jacket right now and for the next few months as we would be stretching our legs along our long driveways.

 

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Looking dapper in his smoking jacket earlier this year.

He was supposed to be Cleo’s assistance dog as she prances into old age with deaf ears and rear legs that don’t work as well as they used to. He was supposed to be Bebe’s boyfriend as our strange grey kitty continues to find her voice and place in our world.

We fully expected him to continue to charm the snot out of everyone who visited as he made friends with all of our friends and family who came to the Fyfe Farm. Anybody’s lap was fair game if you sat on the couch and full-body contact was preferred, if not expected.

 

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UB, Cleo & Uncle Pete a couple of years ago.

UB, the king of all laps, was supposed to find a few more over the next few years. With zero concept of personal space, UB should have spent a great more deal of time firmly squared away with someone’s arm wrapped around him.

 

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Last May in Bismarck.

And UB was supposed to pack up into one of the trucks yet again with Cleo & I on our next trip to Bismarck. And the trip after that, too. And maybe another trek to Canada as well. He had a knack for keeping Cleo and Loki calm when we travelled and he made the most out of wherever he landed as long as we were all together.

 

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Travels with Mummy & Loki up to BC in 2014.

 

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Our return trip from our month-long evacuation in Bismarck just weeks ago.

UB was only 9 years old so it didn’t seem to be a big deal when he developed a tiny, dry, little cough a few weeks ago after we returned from Bismarck. It certainly didn’t slow him down and he mostly did it when we first went out for a run (always at full speed) or when he first leapt out from under the comforter each morning.

And, hey, half of Seeley Lake is still coughing and dealing with sinus issues after the months-long Rice Ridge fire brought thick, grey smoke into our world and our lungs for what seemed like an endless summer. Even though we evacuated to North Dakota for a month I still put UB’s cough down to the smoke.

Because he was still UB.

 

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“Helping” Daddy edit my 3rd book this spring.

Playing, eating, jumping, snuggling, awesome UB.

But then maybe he was sleeping a little bit longer in the mornings.

And maybe it was noticeable that he stayed pretty close to us whenever we walked outside.

And perhaps he was actually a bit clingy during evening Couch Time when Daddy was in Bismarck for his two weeks.

 

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Evacuees in Bismarck this fall.

Which was all stored up in my head and my heart as I made arrangements for our fall house-sitter to come for our planned trip to the Big Island of Hawaii on October 26th.

Because that’s what I’d like to be telling you all about right now.

Sunshine, mai tais, old friends and new ones, my golf game, the enormous resort, incredible seafood, the annual veterinary dermatology conference and some much-needed Aloha.

 

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A very different kind of Aloha.

There was Aloha, alright, but it just wasn’t right.

My husband and my heart weren’t there.

Because a couple of days before our trip, UB suddenly stopped eating.

Just like that.

We coaxed some canned food, some bacon, and some of our own breakfast and supper but he mostly just looked at it. He didn’t touch the cat food dish either, and Doctor Me told Mummy Me that its never normal for a dog like UB to repeatedly refuse food. Particularly with nothing else really wrong.

Well, there was that little cough…

 

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In Missoula, this spring. “Pay attention to the road, Mummy!”

So on October 25th, UB and I drove to Missoula while Alistair packed and we visited our internal medicine veterinary friend, Dr.Dave.

He and his assistant enjoyed getting to meet our happy little guy although he did seem a bit more subdued than normal. He was a perfect monkey for his ultrasound and for his chest x-ray and he seemed endearingly more concerned about me when I lost my shit in the truck when we left the clinic.

UB’s heart wasn’t the problem. It may have been a bit on the large size but everyone who has met him already knew that.

His lungs looked like a blizzard thanks to a ton of cancer throughout both sides.

 

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UB’s lungs. 😦

(His head is off to the left, that’s his sternal bones on the bottom and his big heart is surrounded by white patches where the lungs should just be black.)

We don’t know what type of cancer UB had but it sure came out of nowhere and took us all by complete and total surprise.

And so we started prednisone at a high enough dose to get him to eat. And we gave more bacon and canned cat food that night as we continued to hold and kiss our special little friend.

Neither of us slept that night. Thankfully, UB was all up for cuddles under and on top of the covers with both Daddy and I.

 

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October 26th after Alistair got back from the airport.

At 3 in the morning, when our alarm was set to go off, Alistair said he would stay with UB. Even though UB loved our house-sitter and knew her well, it was what needed to be done. (I had already tried cancelling flights and resort bookings but it wasn’t going to happen.)

So I somehow got ready and even as we were ready to leave I ran down the hallway for one more hug and kiss from our loverboy. Which turned out to be the last ones for him and I.

And I flew to Hawaii and I wish I could be telling you about the fun couple I met as well as the really weird guy they put next to me because he was making a scene thanks to his size and window-seat ‘needs’ but he managed to fit into Alistair’s seat and shove his body against mine for 5 1/2 hours (and he didn’t open the window shade once!)

I wish I could tell you all about the resort but, to be honest, I wasn’t really there the first few days.

 

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day 1, post golf game, with the resorts adorable UB statues!

My heart was back home with my family and I lived for every text and update from Alistair.

The wonderful news is that UB had a couple of outstanding days. Alistair tweaked his steroids enough to get him really excited about food again and UB ate like the king he was! He rode in the Ranger with Daddy and they hiked and stacked wood and cuddled together on the couch and watched old Star Treks together in bed.

 

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Sunset from my lanai.

And I cried but I smiled, too, because UB got to truly enjoy his final few days with Cleo and Daddy and the kitties, too, even if I wasn’t there. He heard my voice on the phone the last day after he’d had a huge breakfast and even some snacks before I went off to my conference, where my close friends knew the reason why Alistair wasn’t there.

And so it was, on the early evening of the 28th, with Alistair outside in the hot tub and UB and Cleo running around in the leaves, that UB laid down peacefully by our back deck and, taking control of everything like always, he died.

Just like that.

 

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Couch Time last winter with UB.

And he’s gone and I cried my eyes and heart out alone in my hotel room in Paradise. And I continued to cry whenever it was safe to do so and sometimes even when it wasn’t over the next few days on the island.

And Alistair was suddenly very alone inside our big house in Montana.

I wasn’t alone during the days, though. There’s nothing quite like a conference full of veterinarians to make you feel some sympathy and love. And the outpouring of love and compassion and people telling me they were crying when I posted the news on social media was raw, real and heart-felt and I appreciated every comment and reaction shared.

 

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Getting by with a little help from my friends. Liz, from Vancouver, and her family happened to be vacationing island-style that time, too.

I’d like to be able to tell you all that we’re doing just fine and everything is honky-dorey but that would be a lie.

I’m happily back in Montana and Alistair was able to stay a few extra days with me which helped immensely. I’m not sure how well I could have  kept it together otherwise without UB in the house. And now Alistair is working in Bismarck and Cleo and I are getting into our own new routines with the cats.

I’m thankful that UB didn’t suffer. Ever.

Thankful he found us 9 years ago and was such a perfect Fyfe family member and sibling to all the other pets (maybe not the guinea pigs, although we still aren’t sure what went down that day…)

Even more thankful that so many of you got to meet and fall in love with our Boston Terrier, Cocker Spaniel cross who flicked his feet when he trotted, ran that kissing booth with his fetching underbite, sat like a human on any chair he could as long as we were with him and slammed Subarus and their dreadlocked, hippie, ten-and-two-in-my-Subaru, patchouli smelling, bra-burning slow drivers with abandon.

 

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Well played, Uncle Gary & Aunty Dona. Well played….

I miss those soul-searching brown eyes as he would just stare at me. I miss hearing him prance around the house to find us. I miss his naughty paw-pulling he did when it was time for nail trims and I miss watching him burrow into the magic blanket.

 

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Handsome dude!

What I really want right now is UB.

I want the last 4 weeks to not have happened.

I want to pick the smoking jacket up off the freezer and watch UB joyfully hold his arms out for me to wrap it on him.

I want to take him and Cleo for walkies and for him to mix up words in a song and for us to make a funny video with him taking to everyone tonight.

But that’s not real.

 

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“Excuse me, Barkeep! Some beverages for my Mummy and me, please!”

What’s real is the hole in my heart and the lump in my throat and the tears streaming down my cheeks. What’s real is Cleo’s need for a walk today and my concern that she’s also really missing her younger brother. The silence is real. The empty dog dish is real. UB’s collar and cute new name tag lying on the counter in the laundry room are real.

What’s real is the pain… which means the love was that real in itself.

And I’m honored to have been able to share UB with you all.

RIP, UB. Oh, how you are loved.

 

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Last fall when we were at the conference UB loved taking his meals with Theresa and Brian in the kitchen! (Theresa’s photo)

 

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UB and Loki, 2 of the most famous and well-loved spirits at the Dog Days of Summer a few years ago.

 

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I believe this was post-op back surgery for Alistair… classic UB. One of my favorites of these two!

 

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UB on Aunty Merielle’s bed during her first visit to MT in 2013. Not my photo. The eyes really are the window to the soul. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Angie

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Angie Kimmel this winter. Photo by Juan de Santa Ana

Dear Angie.

Hey.

I’m writing you this letter because I can’t pick up the phone to text you or your mom to see if you guys want company. I can’t bring Cleo along for a fun walk through the neighborhood with you and Kali. And  I can’t randomly swing by, either, and hope to visit you because your bright smile and tired body left us on Oct.27th.

We celebrated your life yesterday at your folks’ resort on the lake and it was lovely. You would have approved.

I absolutely loved seeing all of your artwork throughout the house along with your amazing photographs that deservingly won awards over the years. I always loved seeing your photo entries at the Alpine Artisans auctions and still am in awe of the incredible pictures you took during the Jocko Lakes fire that nearly devastated our little community.

 

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Me, back in the day , 2007

You used to work at Lindey’s Steakhouse back then and you were building your photography business. Your eye for detail and love of nature shows in the photos hung or displayed at your old house.

I’ll never forget you coming into my little clinic with your liver & white Springer Spaniel puppy you had got from your aunt in Spokane 3 days prior. My records say it was November 29th, 2007. We bonded immediately because we had had our hearts taken over by our own Springer, Cleo a couple of years prior.

Kali was almost too smart for me and my Easy Cheese routine (Springers!) but we got her completely vaccinated and then I spayed her in March of 2008. Man, it doesn’t seem that long ago, does it?

 

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My first Furry Scurry walkathon at the inaugural Dog Days of Summer!

I’ll also never forget my very first Dog Days of Summer. I remember telling you about the party and why I created it. I was annoyed that the local medical group wouldn’t let me do microchipping and toe nail trims and a walkathon as part of their annual medical fest for humans so the Dog Days were created. You supported my craziness 100%!

 

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Angie, crazy enough to walk our young girls, Cleo & Kali in the walkathon

I was busy doing microchipping at that first event so you volunteered to take The Girls for their walk wearing their cute bandanas and all. The Furry Scurry raised money for the local pet shelter and turned into a huge part of that annual summer party.

We didn’t have a really large turnout but it was still pretty special. We had the discounted microchipping, a veterinary technician doing toe nail trims, goodie bags, bandanas and a fun BBQ for everyone who came.

And you and I and The Girls made the paper in a full spread that the local Pathfinder covered that summer!

 

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All smiles, enjoying the party with Cleo & Kali

You got your 2 kitties soon after you got Kali and I remember joking with you that you were collecting pets like I had done. You even found a black lab one day and we laughed our heads off when I said you were totally becoming a Fyfe and that I even had a single brother-in-law if you wanted to make it legit.

Your laughter radiated through the phone lines as we worked out who the Labrador belonged to and you remained exclusively a Mum for Kali and the kitties.

Your laugh is one of the most special things we all talked about yesterday. Your wonderful brother, Jeff told us all by the bonfire, through tears, as stunning lanterns were being released on the still lake behind him, how he used to try extra hard to be funny just so he could hear your laughter.

I got that. We all did.

 

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Up at the ranch today.

 

 

I’m feeling a bit melancholy today, which is unusual for me. One of the many things we had in common was our happiness and joy for life.

Even when you were diagnosed just over 2 years ago with a brain tumor your attitude remained bright, cheerful and strong.

You lit up like a lightbulb when we ran into you one day in Missoula when you & your mom were eating at The Shack. I plopped down on the bench next to you and we talked about how you were cheating a little bit on your well-researched diet. Your mom worked tirelessly to find the best foods for you as you fought back against your diagnosis. She has been your number one Champion throughout all of this.

I had fun walking with you and The Girls last year and sharing lunch and I enjoyed just visiting and hanging out at your place. I loved your garden the past 2 summers and hearing what you had planted and what the plans were.

Cleo never did go in the wading pool you had set up for Kali, did she?

 

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After our Bling for Angie online fundraiser a year ago!

You were so shocked almost exactly a year ago when I came by with our fundraiser check after my trip to Kauai. I love this picture of us because we’re both smiling (as per usual when we’re together) but also because I remember how much you liked your pretty birthstone earrings, my second book and the fact you wanted to go to Kauai.

That online fundraiser brought a lot of folks together all to support you. We sold bling in MT, FL, ID, CA, OR, AK, AZ, WA and even Alberta & British Columbia all because so many folks love you and wanted to help out. I realize now that some of those women who shopped were at the house yesterday and even though I may have met them I didn’t remember the fundraiser. I introduced myself as your vet and your friend. A lot of your family seemed to know who I was and that made my heart so happy.

I was also happy to see Kali and Bentley roaming around. Bentley is so outgoing now! They both found me countless times; what a joy to see Kali doing so well after her dog-attack this summer.

 

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Cleo (last month) was pretty worried about Kali this summer!

I loved when you, your mom and Kali came by to drop off the dog kennels this summer and you got to see the farm! It was a gorgeous, warm day and you were able to walk around and watch the dogs play in the creek. UB and Cleo showed Kali the creek and we talked about ear meds, Chambers of Commerce, barn cats and how peaceful it is up at the farm.

You and your mom both saw why Alistair and I love this place so much and we all laughed and everything was cool. Kali explored the creek but she mostly wanted to be with you.

 

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Loki, doing some sniffing this afternoon in front of the creek.

 

Randi and I talked about that dog attack yesterday and how your bond with Kali is so special and unique. Her dog, Lily was at the lake when the lanterns were being released and it feels so wonderful to know how many people and their pets you have touched with your life.

I’ll never forget our last visit, when I brought a bit of Hawaii to you because you never did get to go there. Your rolled the shell lei around in your hands and let me babble on about our upcoming trip to Maui, the golf tournament, my golf addiction, the bling, the state of the Fyfe pets, Loki pin-balling her way around the house, vaccine clinics and house calls, trips to Bismarck, our garden, your garden, your cats and even the upcoming election. I said “hi” from Lynn and from Alistair and even from Cleopatra and we talked about how everyone was doing.

I am so happy we made the trip outside that afternoon because the sun was making an uncharacteristic appearance that week. We bundled you up and the sunbeams found you and that was a lovely day & its a beautiful, special memory I will cherish forever.

 

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A couple of weeks ago with Kali and a sunbeam.

Because, as it turned out, that was our last visit.

The last shared giggles and laughter of two Springer Spaniel-loving, cat-cuddling, gardening brunettes who both came to Seeley Lake as outsiders who have a love and respect for the land and beauty that surround us.

My life is richer for having known you, Angie. My heart breaks for your folks, your brother & his family, your friends like Becky and Kathy who cried with us all yesterday and for everyone who has met you and maybe been lucky enough to have heard your incredible laughter.

And I know Kali is mourning you, too, but she has a lot of love surrounding her and she probably knows more than we think because of your amazing bond.

I love you, Angie. Thanks for playing. I miss you.

Love, Tan

 

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Me. Today. xo