‘Tis The Season

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I love the seasons in Montana.

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. Conference Season!!!

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Aloha toes! You know what that means!

My annual veterinary dermatology conference was on Kauai this year which is probably our favorite of the islands.

Hawaii’s islands all have a distinct flavor or feel to them.

Maui is happening. Its hip. Its trendy. Its where tourists flock with their families and the place has a real vibe to it.

The Big Island is enormous and covered in black lava. And there’s a volcano erupting that keeps the snowbird retirees from the mainland interested. It vibrates a little slower than Maui.

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View of the southern shoreline from the Grand Hyatt.

And then there is Kauai where life moves even slower.

The trade winds had stopped blowing our first couple of days there so things heated up. It was unusual to experience that and even the locals were sweating up a storm.

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Getting toasty on the Poipu Bay golf course our first day!

You get used to 3-shower days because the mix of 100spf sunblock and sweat feels just like you imagine it does.

Anything that isn’t cotton attaches itself to your body like a second skin and driving around in circles in the golf cart as fast as you can to cool off makes total sense.

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The view from the last 3 holes at Poipu Bay were spectacular.

The Poipu Bay golf course became our home-away-from-home-course. The staff were hilarious and treated us like Ohana the second time there. The course was in great shape and we were some of the only players there each day!

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Our second round at Poipu Bay… views like this and the place all to ourselves!

Alistair became somewhat of a celebrity during an organized one-hour lesson for the 14 veterinarians who had signed up for the annual golf tournament.

It was a free lesson and we showed up on time (which most veterinarians have a hard time doing). Everyone else was an hour late so that gave us time to visit with head pro, Chad. (Chad had been stationed in Great Falls years ago and remembers being cold for 10/12 months.)

Chad asked for a volunteer to try using his directional tools that he’d set up and Alistair went for it.

The rest is history.

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Cart crew hamming it up with Alistair with his busted Driver head.

Chad: “I’ve never in my life witnessed anyone shear their Driver head off and send it flying like that.”

They leant us a Driver for the tournament the next day.

The tournament was great for Alistair and Dr.Rich and his son-in-law, Danny but it was a complete bust for me.

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Golf cart parade heading out to tee off for the tournament!

I don’t even know why I’m admitting this because I’m usually pretty competitive with myself but I totally sucked that day.

My only real saving grace was my drive on a par 3 that landed a few inches from the hole. Our only birdie.

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Our foursome, Alistair, me, Rich & Danny

Our team still laughed a lot and I played great golf every other time Alistair and I went out so I’m not worried. Embarrassed, perhaps, but not concerned.

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One-legged, healthy-looking Nene at the golf course.

We did so many more things than just play golf, though.

We got to hang out with Alistair’s daughter, Whitney and her husband, Lau and we met his fun parents, too. The kids made a great BBQ for us at their place and we all laughed and relaxed and told stories about our adventures in life.

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Me, Alistair, Whitney & Lau at Tidepool’s restaurant. This was when the trade winds weren’t blowing and we were as warm as we look here.

The kids met us for Smith’s Luau, which is a well-known place and show. Its also where the famous Fern Grotto boat tours take off from.

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At the luau!

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Lau and Whitney with us at Smith’s

The food was terrific and the stage for the show was beautiful under the starlit night. The performance was pretty good but if you’re going to jeer the crowd and tell us we need to clap more and you’re the fire thrower-guy, you maybe should practice tossing and actually catching those things a bit more.

I’m just saying.

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Ready to load up for our incredible adventure!

Our biggest adventure this trip was an afternoon jaunt over to the remote island of Ni’ihau, where non-Hawaiians are not allowed to go.

Unless you’re invited.

Or you charter the helicopter owned by the Robinsons, who own the island.

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We’re going to Ni’ihau!!!!!!

Whitney, Lau, Lau’s mom, Fredlyn and our new best friend, Tony from Ohio joined Alistair & I on a twin-engine bird that was over 30 years old.

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Lau and Fredlyn just before the flight!

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Up, up and away!

Our pilot, Dana was incredibly knowledgeable and gave us a superb aerial tour of the island before setting us down on our secluded, gorgeous, sandy beach where we spent the afternoon.

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flying towards Ni’ihau

There is so much I could say about this trip but then the words fail me. It was beautiful. It was a privilege. It was Ni’ihau.

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more of our aerial tour

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Largely untouched shoreline on Ni’ihau

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No fishermen that day. Some of the villagers ride a horse for 2 hours just to get to the shore to fish.

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shells, lava, debris…

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Our beach for the afternoon.

We snorkeled, we relaxed, we hunted for shells (which we were allowed to bring back), we pontificated, we watched a monk seal sunbathe, we beach combed and we admired the beautiful land on the traditional island that a few hundred pairs of feet get to walk on each year.

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Snorkeling off Ni’ihau! It was like living in a giant saltwater aquarium!

I’m sure it was different for each of us. Particularly Lau, whose stomach didn’t enjoy Dana’s showboating in the helicopter on our way there. ‘Nuff said.

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Trade winds came back! Southern shores off the Sheraton.

Then it was back to reality (which is unreal on Kauai) and a few more conference days for Alistair.

We dined at Dondero’s, Tidepools, Merriman’s, Keoki’s, Duke’s, Rum Fire, Red Salt, Ilima Terrace, Lava’s and the Plantation Gardens. We highly recommend a stroll through their amazing gardens even if you don’t eat there.

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“Fraggle” plants at the gardens.

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orchids at the gardens

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The Plantation Gardens

We managed golf at the former Kauai Lagoons, (now Hokuala, which means Rising Star) where the airplanes landed immediately adjacent to a couple of holes on the back 9 and the term, Jungle Golf took on a whole new meaning.

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One of our trips through the jungle at Hokuala!

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Hokuala’s signature hole with a cruise ship docked at Nawiliwili in the background. None of our balls went swimming!

We had one more round at Poipu Bay where our Ohana treated us well and before long we were dining at Duke’s and then killing time waiting for our night flight out of Lihue.

We are rejuvenated and relaxed and tanned and ready for winter. The wood stove is on and the first few inches of snow in Montana has already melted. Loki had another seizure the day after we returned so I’m keeping her close. We still walk & talk, though, and she did a once-around the entire house & yard yesterday.

We love our Aloha adventures but we love to come home, too. Mahalo for reading, and it was great to see Aimee, Richard and Bruce and of course Whitney and Lau and meet his cool parents, David and Fredlyn. Aloha. Until next time.

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One of those no-trade-wind-days on the golf course early in our trip

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Fun supper at Dondero’s with one of my veterinary classmates, Aimee and her boyfriend, Jason!

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the Sheraton luau dancers as seen from our walkway

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Our beach on Ni’ihau

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Final golf of the journey, once more at Poipu Bay, hours before we had to fly home.

Maui Magic and Mai Tais

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Hibiscus flowers at our resort

Aloha!

Again!

As unbelievable as it may seem, we just returned from Maui.

This most recent trip to the Hawaiian islands was for continuing medical education for Alistair.

For me it was a much-needed break from my rough start to the new year.

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Enjoying the mandatory relaxation on our lanai a week ago

I was able to leave 4 feet of snow, ice-covered decks and roads, my scarf-glove-toque-jacket-leggings-snow pants-boots outfit, wood piles, wood stoves, a limping barn kitty and a house without Harry behind as I smelled the Hawaiian air and felt the sun on my bare skin.

It didn’t matter that our plane was 2 hours late.

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Somewhere between 1 and 2am finally getting our ‘aloha’ on

It didn’t matter that I lost Alistair at the airport after picking up our rental car because I was watching a feral airport kitty cross the road.

I lost him for over 20 minutes and finally texted him, “Where are you?”

I mean, where can a guy with 2 huge suitcases and 2 full golf club travel cases and a knapsack go at Kahului airport at close to midnight????

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Sights and colors of Maui

(It turned out he was sitting right by where a cute feral cat had just crossed the road…) (Ooooops…)

Apparently I brought some other baggage along on the trip only it wasn’t something I had packed.

It was all neatly tucked away in my over-active subconscious just teasing me with mild distraction, waiting for the opportunity to leap to the forefront of my life.

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Leaping Humpbacks!

Like the leaping Humpback whales we got to see up close and personal on a whale-watching tour with Captain Steve and 20 of our closest new friends.

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Amazing!

The whale tour was magnificent.

Awe inspiring.

Incredible.

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Mama whale and her calf off the shores of Lahaina

We were right on the water in a zodiac watching a mother whale teach her calf how to breach.

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Mama, doing some teaching

The whales return to the warm, shallow waters between Maui and her neighboring islands of Lanai and Molokai every winter to calve and mate before journeying back up to Alaska.

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Whale dive

It is something to behold, particularly when the whales were putting on a show like they did for us.

After Mama and her calf left we had a pod of males chasing a female, hurling their massive bodies out of the water all around us.

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Just… Wow…

That was our second morning there.

The morning after my subconscious did its thing.

I had slept really well that night, after a day in the sun and on the Bay Course playing a round with Alistair.

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Teeing off on the first hole on the Bay Course in Kapalua, Maui

It had been a bit weird when we found out we were playing with strangers.

More so when ‘Denise’ was kicking all of our asses with her long drives, pars and birdies.

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View towards our Ritz-Carlton Kapalua from just off the 4th green on the Bay Course

After 7 strokes I picked up my ball on the 1st hole.

The 2nd didn’t go much better.

But I breathed and I relaxed and I laughed and we all got lost in our parade of golf carts (following Denise!!!) and I felt some Aloha wash over me and nothing mattered because we were on a sunny island in the middle of the Pacific.

And then I played golf.

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View towards our 3rd floor room from the green on the 3rd hole… where I remembered how to play golf

Denise later fessed up to being the Kansas state ladies golf champ 7 years running after learning to play from her professional golfer father at the age of 3.

I didn’t feel so bad after that.

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Signature hole on the Bay Course, a par 3 that plays along the ocean. A bit distracting but beautiful nonetheless

We played 2 more rounds, including one on the famed Plantation Course where the PGA had just wrapped up the Tournament of Champions.

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All smiles as we were about to get our butts spanked on the Plantation Course!

We played alone on the enormous, undulating, grueling course.

Which was great when we found a ton of golf balls embedded in the ground on the 5th fairway!

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Absolutely stunning views from the Plantation Course

How to make a Scotsman and a Doukhobor happy!

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Happy Scotsman posing after his drive cleared the ravine and landed just off the green

Rejuvenated, relaxed, expecting to play with others and humbled by the Plantation Course a few days prior, we hit the Bay Course in our fancy new duds one more time the day before we left.

We played with ‘Matt’ from Chicago and the 3 of us were very well matched in golf play and colorful language.

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Fancy Schmancy duo on the 17th tee at the Bay Course just before sunset

And all of this was maybe more enjoyable because I had got rid of my mental baggage that 2nd night in our hotel room when I thought I had slept so well.

When we woke up before going on the whale watching tour Alistair asked me, “Do you remember anything from last night?”

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The tee box view from the Bay Course’s signature 5th hole

That’s not a question a sleepwalker wants to hear.

A sleepwalker whose most recent wanderings led to the closing of her clinic and a new approach to her mental, physical and emotional health 2 years ago.

Alistair had woken up around 2am to a steady knocking at the door.

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The Ritz Carlton Kapalua… apparently I needed this!

And I wasn’t in bed.

Or in the bathroom.

He cautiously answered the door to find me blankly staring at him from the resort hallway.

Did I mention I was naked?

At 2am.

In the hallway of the Ritz.

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the power of Maui…

There is such a feeling of loss (of time, memory) and of being cheated (by myself!) after I learn I’ve slept walked.

And of course the wondering… where did I go? Did I meet people? I’m sure they were nice to me because I was naked but seriously, how long was I gone and what did I do?

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Kapalua Coastline in front of our resort…. good thing I didn’t wander far that night!

But that is all a part of who I am and the journey I’m on and how I learn about myself and how I handle things like stress.

So we laughed.

What else can you do?

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Calming tidepools off the shores of Kapalua

One of the reasons we enjoy the Hawaiian islands and the spirit of Aloha so much is because our lives on ranches with animals in 2 different states is challenging at times.

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Saying farewell to the day, Hawaiian-style

 

Hawaii is a real escape where we can play golf in January and watch whales and wear shorts and sandals and have bare skin and eat incredible seafood and hike coastal paths and play with sea urchins and look up at a dormant volcano on a clear day.

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Hawaiian flora and fauna

Its also where I can get a mean mai tai just about anywhere and that also is a key to my affection for Hawaii.

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Maui Mai Tai

Now its back to the snow and Casey’s floppy laryngeal fold and a barn kitty who isn’t limping and blind Loki pin-balling her way around the house and frost in the mornings and a second book to write and frozen mahi mahi to cook.

I love this adventure I’m on.

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Watching 2 feral kittens play in the bushes by the ocean

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Alistair at the Dragon’s Teeth formations of wind- and water-whipped lava

 

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Even managed a book event and a few sales at Sandy Pages in Kihei (with Rod, the owner)

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Our Ritz-Carlton Kapalua pool area in the morning

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Loving the journey I’m on and the guy who chose to go on it with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running to Stand Still

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Gee, I wonder what I’ll be doing today?

The title is a line from an old U2 song.

Its an obscure song with a bit of a dark, haunted sound to it but I absolutely love it. Not that I really know what they’re talking about with some of the imagery but I get the point of running to stand still.

I’ve done this so many times in my life its not even funny. In fact, I kind of live that way.

I work my ass off doing a million-billion things (all with a perfectionist’s attitude, of course) all day or all week or all month long so that I can have that ‘ahhhh’ moment somewhere down the road.

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Enjoying that ‘ahhhh’ moment at our wintery ranch

I sometimes find it difficult to completely relax when there are things that need to be done.

When you live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of animals there are a lot of things that aren’t negotiable.

It doesn’t matter that the snow is up to my mid-thigh this afternoon and that they are calling for another foot or 2 through tomorrow.

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Winter is here!

It doesn’t matter that I shoveled the deck yesterday and that my shoulders are a bit sore because the snow that’s laying on our already-bowed decks is heavy and it needs to come off.

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I swear, I shoveled this baby bare yesterday.

It doesn’t matter that Big Red is buried and that the controls for the blade are getting a bit finicky and that the wipers keep getting iced up and I have to stop to de-ice them and the door isn’t shutting very well and I’m only plowing today to make plowing easier for ltomorrow.

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Big Red. My 1996 companion who saves my ass every winter.

I love that truck.

He got all pimped out a few years ago with a cd-player, stereo and seat covers, the blade and a fix to the power steering.

Sometimes I tune in to Jack Johnson while I plow using Big Red… just for the irony of it all.

Lately, though, its Coldplay and Mylo Xyloto.

Para… para… paradise…

Because this is Paradise.

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One of the peaks of the Swan range just north of us.

And if I want to stand still and take some time to enjoy it, I have to work my ass off now.

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Our annual friend, The Icicle as he is forming. He goes through many adaptations each winter and he’s got a good start already this year.

There is wood to split, wood to haul, fires to keep lit, roads to plow, decks to shovel, roof tops to rake, snow from the roof to shovel, paths to carve out for little blind dogs, paths to carve out to feed horses, and ice to break open so the horses can drink fresh water.

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The path to re-make through the stallion pen to open up the water

Horses don’t get enough water from licking snow. Yes, there are old ranchers who think that’s acceptable but our stallion, Dash is getting older and he gave us a colic scare this year already so I’d like to make sure he has ample access to water.

Or even just a little bit.

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Dash, surveying my work as I take a selfie break from hacking away at the ice and snow.

I’m sure Dash appreciates my effort.

Trudging through the thigh-deep snow with a shovel and a huge mallet in my hands.

Heaving that damned mallet up in the air only to slam it back down again over and over, hoping the entire time that the ice I’m standing on doesn’t give way.

Shoveling an area for him and taking it down bit by bit so that he can actually reach the bubbling, gurgling, fresh open water.

And then feeding him about 20 shovels full of water because he still didn’t want to go to the creek.

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“I think you can take some more of this snow down….”

Its just stuff that needs to be done.

Like the hay in the summer.

All these things must be done and nobody else is going to do it if I don’t.

Unless Alistair is here- he gets a LOT done around this place.

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Alistair likes using the big boy toys!

But he is in Bismarck treating the 100s of sick folks who flock to the Walk-In clinic sneezing and coughing in his face for 14 days straight.

His own version of running to stand still.

He works his own butt off so we can continue to have the wonderful life we have.

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Its the good life!

So we can enjoy the Paradise we call home as well as our other favorite Paradise half-way across the Pacific Ocean now and then.

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November on Hawaii Island

I even feel a teensy bit guilty right now taking time to write this blog when I could be splitting wood.

I have worked on that guilt. I’m sure many writers have it.

I’ve worked on believing that what I write has meaning and that its my contribution to things right now.

Along with plowing, shoveling and clearing piddle zones for blind companions.

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Loki, checking out today’s freshly cleared paths

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not complaining one bit. I love the exercise and being outdoors and the fact that I truly am contributing to our greater good.

And we laugh and joke when we work outside together and I let the big dogs out and they romp and play in the snow and everything gets done and my meal tastes better and my sleep is often deeper because of the hard work.

Because I’ve been running.

Or shoveling, as it were.

To stand still.

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Cleo and Harry helping me shovel.

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“You missed a spot over in the corner, Mummy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Thankful For…

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Front door sunny day view

This post has absolutely nothing to do with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up.

And then, it has everything to do with it.

That wasn’t my intent this afternoon.

Its not really my style and we sometimes don’t even celebrate because Canadian Thanksgiving was last month and often we aren’t even together for the holiday.

Its because I’m thankful that Steve started.

There’s more to the story.

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HRH Sport Fyfe… “sorry about that!”

You see, I woke up at 5:38am to the sound of Sport, our Siamese cat, puking on our bedroom carpet.

I have always said I’d make a million bucks if I knew how to design an alarm clock that sounded like a cat barfing. Nothing gets me out of bed faster than that.

So it was a bit of an early, bleary start but the sun was out.

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Ahhhhh… its not Hawaii but it can be quite pretty here

My freshly tanned-in-Hawaii body got a shock last week when we suddenly got a frigid blast of winter. It was expected and all but, damn, it has been cold.

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Our creek is still open under the ice

Continuing on with my stellar morning, the big tractor’s battery was completely dead (surprise!) and I had to feed horses who are in separate pastures because 2 of them won’t cross the creek and its not like I can force them because they are kind of big so its obviously going to require me to bond with those damned square bales again.

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“I don’t want to get my hooves wet.”

If Steve starts.

Steve is our Ranger.

He is, at times, my savior.

If he starts.

Steve

STEVE!

You see, the shit usually hits the fan when Alistair is on his 2 weeks of working in North Dakota.

Its at those times I need something like Steve to rely on.

That’s when I get tractors or trucks stuck or the hot water tank dies or horses founder or animals get sick or guinea pigs lose eyeballs or ferrets break their pelvises or Loki’s cornea gets ulcerated or there’s angry wasps getting caught in my hair stinging the bejeezus out of me.

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Me vs.. the wasps nest after the bastards got caught in my curly hair and stung me. A lot. Something had to be done and it had to be done with a big can of wasp spray.

Times like now when I know that disgusting deer leg is still on the driveway.

I’m not sure who dragged it home but every day its a battle to see which dog is going to get it.

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Cleo, today’s victor with the limb, getting away from the other dogs

Its gross but I’ve thrown it out twice now and both times garbage cans have been knocked over to retrieve it so I’m just letting them go with it.

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Casey usually wins the leg…

I’m especially allowing old Casey to have his fun.

He’s had a couple of weird episodes this past week where I’m not sure what was going on.

It seemed like none of his limbs would work.

He never lost consciousness but he did seem confused both times it happened and he either fell or slowly laid down for close to a minute.

Then he gets up and he’s good to go.

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Casey, 11 or 12 years ago

As a veterinarian, I’m thinking it could be little strokes or little seizure events, neither of which are good when they come on in a 13 year old Labrador.

As a Mummy, I’m totally freaking out.

But he has been fine the past few days so I’m trying to be fine.

And then Mulder’s sometimes-wheeze has really picked up the past week.

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Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe

To the point where it wakes me up and it sounds like he’s coughing up a wet lung.

The veterinarian in me thinks its a nasty return of his herpesvirus complicated by bacteria or it could really be something in his lungs because maybe he is sleeping a bit more lately.

The Mummy in me is panicking and feeling completely helpless that I can’t fix what is wrong.

But maybe the clindamycin I started is helping and maybe I can get to town where a friend can xray him for me.

And then Steve starts.

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clear crisp days to be thankful for

On a clear crisp morning when I simply must get hay to the horses in their various fields Steve fired right up.

Which I was so thankful for.

And then I came inside to put jeans on (square bales require leg contact for little girls and yoga pants just don’t cut it) and I got rummaging around in my old “farm jeans” pile and found a pair from about 10 years ago.

And they fit!

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Freaking happy about these old jeans!

The world can be falling apart around me but if an old pair of jeans fits and I didn’t have to lay on the bed to get them on and I can breathe comfortably wearing them, its a good day.

I’m not quite as vain as that but it did make me smile.

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Cleopatra “helping” with the hay bales this morning

And I got thinking of all the things I am truly thankful for while driving Steve and the hay bales out to the horses.

I’m so thankful we have all these merry misfit animal companions and that we have shared many wonderful years together.

Thankful that they seem to love us and want to be with us whenever they can, even if that means getting a king sized bed for everyone.

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Just a few years ago with Casey, Cleo and UB at the Dog Days of Summer (photo by Gary Kyrouac)

I’m thankful to even have sun-kissed skin from a wonderful recent vacation to the Hawaiian islands.

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Just over a week ago… how fortunate we are!

I’m thankful to have my education and brain to fall back on and keep me grounded when Casey, Mulder, Boomer and Loki might need it.

They need my sensibility more than I need to freak out so I have to be calm for them and try to figure out what they need.

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Doctor Mummy and Mulder

I’m very thankful that I had the patience and knowledge to work with little Loki’s seriously damaged cornea over the past few months.

Thankful for connections with talented veterinary friends who were able and willing to help when I wasn’t sure we would be keeping her eye.

Thankful that Loki lets me continue to put drops in and that finally, I do believe we are keeping the eye.

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Hope this doesn’t gross anyone out. This was a couple of weeks ago and it looks even better now. Not great, not pretty, but better.

I’m thankful for the support and encouragement from friends and family for my fun book that has been such a unique journey! Thankful for small bookstores who support first-time novelists and those of us who self publish.

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Dropping books off for consignment at Kona Stories on the Big Island of Hawai’i.

And I’m thankful for my amazing husband, Alistair, who somehow trusts me on this big farm with big machines and big responsibilities.

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Thankful for Alistair and Loki (a few years ago)

The fact he somehow believes the house will still be standing and we will hopefully all be alive when he returns every 2 weeks amazes me.

And fills me with love.

And happiness.

And gratitude.

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Just before our Blue Hawaiian experience on the Big Island, complete with extra frizzy hair thanks to the island air

So even if winter comes on suddenly or the tractor won’t start or the horses won’t cross the creek or that deer limb is still there or Sport barfs on the carpet or its so cold my face hurts or my boots leak or Alistair is in Bismarck, I’m still okay.

My jeans fit. I still have a bit of a tan.

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Aloha!

I’m alive and able to toss hay bales.

Amazon shows one more book sale over the weekend and I’ve started the sequel.

Alistair is only an email or a facetime away.

Casey, Loki, Mulder and the gang are all pain free and pretty happy.

And Steve.

Steve started.

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Its all good, right, Casey?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aloha, Baby

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Beautiful plumeria trees with their subtle sweet fragrance

As I’m listening to the rain come crashing down outside knowing it will turn to snow overnight, I’m not all that concerned.

I don’t mind the mud and the puddles and the cold and the wood splitting and the need to dress in layers because I’m buoyed by our most recent trip to the islands.

Hawaii Island, specifically.

Aloha.

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Waikoloa Beach Marriott, where we stayed

We have been in love with the Hawaiian islands since our first trip there in 2009. We both try to arrange conferences there on an annual basis.

The veterinary dermatology conference I’ve attended 5 times now rotates between Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. That’s what took us over there last week.

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Sunset on the island of Maui at last fall’s veterinary conference

The flight from Seattle to Kona wasn’t without some excitement. Not turbulence or anything frightening like that.

No, this was excitement on the human front.

Our plane was being held for some passengers who were in the airport but couldn’t be located.

Eventually they  came thundering down the aisle with two little kids, enormous bags of diapers, every use of the F-word imaginable, all while slurring their words and swirling their take-out cups.

Guess they had been in the bar.

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Bird sanctuary on the east coast of Kauai, January 2014

Wife sat behind Alistair and proceeded to grab onto the back of his chair for balance (because you are so off balance when seated, right?)

She was extremely vocal about her dismay over the lack of cup holders.

As if we were on a flying minivan.

Their 2-year old kicked my chair most of the flight and wailed non-stop when both parents eventually passed out.

When Wife woke up (more F-words) she spilled 3 drinks in succession. With even more F-words.

At first it was orange juice but a couple of hours into the flight over the Pacific they somehow allowed them to have a Mai Tai. (Sploosh) (F-word). And another. (Sploosh, again….)

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Finally playing golf in Hawaii! We loved it.

We eventually landed in Kona where it was dark but beautiful.

The airport there is open-air and made up of tiki-type huts.

Its pretty awesome.

We have a system where I run to rent the car and Alistair retrieves our luggage. Worked like a charm.

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The Ali’i Lavender Farm on the slopes of Maui’s dormant volcano, Haleakala

While our room wasn’t what we’d requested and the view of the pools, lounge and enormous tree out front meant for less time on the lanai at night, we began to embrace the Hawaiian way and got into our island groove in no time.

Hawaiians are adaptable, friendly people.

They adapt slowly because everything and everyone moves slowly in Hawaii.

The sun takes its time descending into the ocean in the evening.

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Sunset from the fishponds by our Marriott last week

Why rush it?

The well-managed feral cat colonies are in no hurry to go anywhere.

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Feral cat colony by the Marriott on the Big Island- I counted 20 kitties at one time.

If food and water are provided, and your furry companions are there, and your ears are notched because you are altered and there is funky lava all around you to lounge on, why not hang out and chill with your buddies?

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Very photogenic Big Island feral cat

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In the islands, these kitties do it ‘island style’

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More feline aloha.

Most of the restaurants move a bit slower but that’s cool.

Who needs to be in a hurry when you’re looking out towards the palm trees listening to the ocean waves come upon shore?

The famous Mai Tai adult bevvie is almost designed to help you move a bit slower as well.

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Big Island Mai Tai last week- guaranteed to help anyone chill

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Maui Mai Tai from last year’s conference

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Island Barbie with her Mai Tai on Maui in 2010

Now that we consider ourselves sort of, kind of, in a way, not really golfers, we booked tee times and went for it!

We laughed, we made par, we got lost (my fault on that one!), we learned that rocky lava does a number on golf balls, we stared at the beauty around us, we laughed some more, we drove balls into lakes, we observed golf course goats, we got rained on and we got sun tans even while wearing SPF 70.

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Alistair at the Waikoloa Kings golf course with a dormant volcano in the background

We played in the golf tournament hosted annually at this conference. We had never signed up before but I know we will do it again.

A bunch of eager, happy vets headed out bright and early on the Waikoloa Beach par 70 course in a parade of golf carts.

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Golf cart parade! We were the merry leaders!

We were teamed up with Dr.Brock and Ron, who was 83 years young and knew how to hit the heck out of a golf ball.

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Coolest team in the tournament on the signature hole at the Waikoloa Beach golf course

Granted, around the 15th hole he looked pasty and white and Brock was kind of helping him stand up.

It was a hot day for anyone, let alone an 83 year old who hadn’t played 18 holes in a few years.

And yet he rallied to finish and enjoyed the humungous hamburgers and beer with everyone else during the luncheon.

Our team shot 70.

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Waikoloa’s Beach course signature hole…. jaw droppingly beautiful with crashing ocean waves all around.

The conference was great- we got to reconnect with friends we have met over the years (Dave, Cathy, Alan, Amanda, Erica, Pam) and make new friends as well (Brock, Ron, Bruce and Quinn).

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Dr.Brock, from Indiana, joined us for more golf… even when the electrical system went haywire and nobody could control the sprinklers we approached it Island Style and played on through. Aloha! Fore!

The only time things sped up for us last week was when we boarded the Blue Hawaiian Eco-Star helicopter for the Big Island Spectacular 2 hour tour.

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AWESOME trip yet again with Blue Hawaiian!

It totally lived up to its name and I don’t mind shamelessly promoting this company for their exceptional pilots and tours.

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Up close and personal with the current eruption on Kilauea via Blue Hawaiian helicopter tours

The only way to see some amazing parts of the Hawaiian islands is by air and we’ve got every penny’s worth each time we’ve flown with Blue.

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Watching the planet being created as fresh lava marched towards the ocean destroying everything in its path

Our pilot, Shane was enjoying the trip as much as the rest of us and added on an extra 30 minutes to the tour. We had incredible timing with the lava flow, the weather and the clouds.

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Cascade waterfalls along the eastern coast of the Big Island

I can never get enough of the waterfalls and rugged coastlines and I want time to move even more slowly.

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Wind-whipped eastern coast of the Big Island seen from the air in our front seats of the helicopter

Its even more cool when you get to sit up front, which we did. I was the co-pilot.

I clapped my hands and grinned like the village idiot when Shane asked me if I wanted to shut the helicopter off.

Something about the islands brings out the little kid in me.

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Lanai views from the Marriott… not our room, though. We got to Linger Longer here for 12 hours which was long enough to enjoy the palms and the ocean.

And I am once again filled to the brim with aloha and love and sunshine and a spiritual type of re-awakening.

A true appreciation of what it means to be alive in a land that is still forming in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

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Alistair and I on our last day on the Big Island

The weather report says we’re heading for 14 degrees Fahrenheit in 2 days and we got the wood stove going when we landed back in Montana 2 days ago.

And I’m totally cool with this because I know the islands are still there… waiting for us to return someday.

With outstanding seafood, refreshing Mai Tais, romantic sunsets, spectacular helicopter rides, tropical flowers and morons on airplanes who get wasted without thinking of anyone but themselves and who spill their drink and swear like sailors but even that doesn’t matter because of the adventures ahead and the ones behind.

Mahalo, Hawaii.

Until next time.

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Saying goodbye with the hula statue at Kona International airport a few nights ago

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Ahhhhh…..

 

 

 

 

My Latest Addiction

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I’ve been bitten by the golf bug.

Hard.

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Its nothing like a simple mosquito bite, either. One of those irritating, inflamed bumps that annoy you for a few days and then disappears until your next one.

No, this bug bite is entirely different.

Its addicting.

Its all-consuming.

I’ve even had dreams about it and I’ve only been playing since the very end of September last year.

I blame Tom, Mike, Lynn, Miki, and the beautiful local golf course. These 4 individuals encouraged us to put together a team for a fun fund-raiser for the local pond hockey tournament.

Alistair and I didn’t play golf.

Well….

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There was this one time, back in 1995.

“It will be fun,” they said. “Its just to raise money,” they added. “It’ll be a great send-off for the vet girls,” I heard. “We’ll wear our Dog Days shirts,” was suggested.

So, the Diamonds in the Ruff team was formed and golf (or, something like it) was played.

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Alistair broke 2 golf clubs, I did a cartwheel at the “Happy Gilmore” hole and some bevvies were consumed. Lynn and I did so poorly on one hole that we gave up and just drove. The carts, that is.

We won an award for the “most honest” team.

The sad truth is that I fudged a couple of numbers and we still got last.

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The strangest thing happened, though- we had a blast.

I blame Alistair, Lynn, Miki and Tim for reinforcing our newfound passion last fall.  I, like any addict, sought out their encouragement, knowing they would continue to enable me. Often by joining me.

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Without the clinic keeping me busy I would head out on the nearly empty, picturesque, tree-lined course and bang balls around.

Some even went into their holes in less than 10 shots.

Then 9. Then 8.

When people used to ask us if we played golf I would jokingly say that I was going to take it up when I was too old to do anything else.

I secretly rolled my eyes, wondering how anyone could play the game, let alone watch it on TV. (This from a woman who watches curling but I’m Canadian and nobody questions that up there).

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We started making par occasionally but then the snow came down and we actually got booted off the course in November… apparently they had anti-fungal treatments on the ground. Who knew?

So we did the unthinkable and watched golf on TV.

We bought videos.

We practiced putting with a golf game my sister-in-law found for us. Christmas was a great haul at the Fyfe house.

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I confess that I might have taken this up earlier had I known there was so much shopping involved!

Cute shoes, pink balls, socks with rhinestones, golf clubs with lots of purple, fancy skorts, matching shirts, a spiffy towel, funky gloves…. and a golf cart.

A blinged-out masterpiece with fenders and headlights.

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His name is Norman.

The golf pro tells us, “you 3 have fun out there.”

It makes sense that a couple of Fyfes are playing golf. Alistair’s own parents were raised in Scotland, even going to St.Andrew’s. Not that either of them played and we just never bothered.

A lot of hockey players golf but I’m not sure if many figure skaters do. Yet, there are some similarities.

You are often alone inside your head when practicing golf and skating. This leads to discussions with oneself.

On the ice it was ‘I didn’t trace that bracket very well’; ‘Liz has the cutest outfit today’; ‘Point the toe, point the toe, point the toe’; ‘I wonder what’s for supper’; ‘How many calories did I eat at lunch; and, ‘Left arm checked going into the double lutz.’

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With golf you can run an entire conversation with yourself much the same way.

‘Thumbs aligned’; ‘I totally love this skort!’; ‘Rotate shoulders and ribcage together’; ‘I wonder if Alistair wants to eat at Lindey’s tonight’ and ‘Eye on the ball, Tanya. Eye on the ball.’

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Both sports can get terribly expensive.

Both sports require patience.

You can’t do either sport well wearing a lot of bulky clothing.

I enjoy the similarities and the work ethic involved with both sports. I love that I can improve every single day for every year for the rest of my life. I love being outside in the fresh air with Alistair as we both strive for continual improvement.

I love Norman, Loudmouth skorts, my wine glass covered glove, Michelle Wie, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson’s unorthodox style, Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson (who looks more like Juaquin Phoenix than Juaquin Phoenix) and the fact I can share this game with friends and family when they come to visit.

I love that our trips to Hawaii have a whole new dimension now with the enjoyment of the outstanding, ocean-view golf courses that are usually located at our resorts.

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I have even started taking lessons.

I don’t include the group lesson I took on Kauai, where I basically had a shit-eating grin on my face the whole time. I was just so thrilled to have some guidance and drive a cart around a lush, fancy-shmancy, tropical island golf course.

My first real lesson was yesterday.

I’ll admit it. I kind of suck right now.

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And yet I still love it! Amazing.

I went and drove balls this afternoon but there were no tee times available with the long weekend. It was wonderful to see so many other people enjoying the course.

Alistair has 4 large round hay bales stacked in Bismarck. He drives golf balls right into them or he works on pitching them overtop. You have to admire his tenacity.

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I love that golf is a game for one person or a bunch of people. Skating isn’t like that unless you’re into synchro. In fact, we used to get in trouble if we were standing around talking at the boards.

I also love that golf is a warm-weather game. I spent more than 25 years in a refrigeration system. It got cold.

Don’t get me wrong- I love skating. And skiing. And snow-shoeing. And snowmobiling.

Its just that, given the choice, I’d rather be warm.

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An extra bonus is the fact that I get to wear all of the polo shirts I bought for my clinic over the years as well as the fancy slacks I used to wear at the larger clinic I worked at in Bismarck. Who knew my sense of style leaned towards “golf” back then?

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I’d like to see more women on the golf course. I know its easier for me to enjoy the game with my partner because we are both at a similar level. We’re also both competitive and athletically driven, which makes us well-matched.

We also can laugh at ourselves and crack jokes as we’re out there.

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And Spirit of UB will make a comment or Spirit of Cleo almost always has something to say in her southern drawl, like, “Nice shot, Daddy.”

Its how we roll.

With fenders.

In Norman.

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So if you’re driving along the highway & you see us whacking at balls or digging in the tall grasses to find one, go ahead and honk.

Better yet, get out and enjoy the game.

You’re never too old to start something new. Hell, you might even become addicted. As long as you have friends eager to enable you, you’ll do just fine.

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We’ve come a long way, Baby!