This Old Dog

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Backyard lilacs a couple of weeks ago

You know the old saying about not being able to teach an old dog a new trick.

And yet, you can.

Or an old dog can choose to learn something new if properly motivated.

With her hearing disappearing over the last year, Cleopatra has learned to watch our hands as we gesticulate at her. (This is usually done after calling repeatedly with raised voices that only the neighbors and horses can hear.) But she now follows the direction of where we point, which is usually towards the house to come inside for cuddles, love and play or bedtime, or towards her outdoor kennel for breakfast or supper.

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“What?”

Which is something new for a dog who is at least 13 years old.

And not that I’m calling myself “old” or anything but I’m certainly not a youngster. As I traipse through middle age I realize there are certain things I do that may make me seem “set in my ways.” Much of those behaviors are more to do with liking being organized and perhaps having a slight over-achiever tendency and Type A personality.

Like my color-coordinated closets and alphabetized CDs and spices.

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Its just easier this way, trust me!

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But I can also learn new tricks…

You see, I won an online cooking course through a local grocery chain’s “Monopoly” contest they ran this spring. I get carried away each year collecting game pieces, and choosing items and brands to purchase based on whether or not they could earn me one more chance to win big.

Each game piece can also be an instant-winner, which is why we have a plethora of table salt right now.

 

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There’s even more on the shelf above…

A little bag of flour, several small tubs of sour cream, bagels, a $5 coupon, photo prints and a canvas bag from Shutterfly… these are all the goodies this cheap Doukhobor and the cheap Scotsman she married coveted even though we didn’t win the million bucks or the dream home.

When I peeled back a game piece and saw that I’d won an online cooking class I honestly had no idea I would learning some new tricks this spring.

I looked the school up (Rouxbe.com) and it seemed reputable and professional enough but I still figured I would be watching a 15-minute segment on scrambling eggs. I had to claim the course before the end of May so last month, when Alistair was in Bismarck, I grabbed a pen and small notepad (you never knew, maybe there was an integral part of egg-scrambling that I had missed my entire life) and chose “The Cook’s Roadmap” to watch before whatever golf I had DVR’d was going to start.

 

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My course…

I’ll just say, we aren’t scrambling eggs.

What we are doing is learning! 10 Units, 173 tasks and 224 videos comprise this particular course and I am absolutely loving it! Its not even like I sucked as a cook- I kind of thought I was pretty decent, actually. Nor was I in a rut as I have always experimented with new recipes when Alistair isn’t here, sharing them with him when I figured I had nailed it or it was something I knew he would enjoy.

I had my classic chicken mozzarella, my alfredo, the onion-olive dish, artichoke chicken, spaghetti, honey mustard chicken, stir fries and big Montana breakfasts and generally all the food got eaten when company was here.

But now I’m learning how to create dishes on my own. I’m learning the why’s, the how’s and the not’s about cooking and I’m learning the basic science behind it all.

 

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Tools of the trade.

I’ve learned to embrace stainless steel and how to cook so that food doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. I’m learning about so many different oils, acids and salts and how to combine things to make my own vinaigrettes in used glass jars that I can use for mixing. I’m learning to use my steamer for a variety of different things and that rice can be so much more than a backdrop for other dishes. I spent last night learning a lot about grains, which I had always avoided because I had no clue what to do with them.

For a whopping $6 I roasted a chicken for Alistair and I the last time he was home that was as ridiculously easy as it was flavorful and simple.

The course focuses on health and balance and they offer non-course video segments on plant-based diets for general information.

More learning!

Its the perfect time for this right now because the weather hasn’t been very friendly for my golf habit.

 

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Happening right now.

Its grey, cool, dark and drizzly and while I enjoy suiting up with Alistair when he’s here and pulling the sides down with the heater on in Norman, it isn’t anywhere near as much fun by myself.

I haven’t minded the new Couch Time in the evenings with Sport and Bebe purring away while the instructor’s voice describes how to sweat the veggies (or, mirepoix) versus saut√©ing them. Or how to mix up the rice you’re going to Pilaf and which rice to use along with which aromatics to throw in there. And let the stuff rest for Pete’s sake! (Who knew?) I used to have a fear of rice. Just ask Alistair. Rice has always been his domain but now I’m ready to fight for that honor with a bounty of grains and techniques I’ve yet to perfect.

 

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I love learning. I also love island golf…

Which is another fun part of all of this- the practice. Like anything worthwhile I’ve attempted and tried to learn in life, I have had to practice. I couldn’t heat the pan to the right temp the first few tries any more than I could land the first axel I tried. Or the first suture knots I threw. Certainly not the first golf ball I tried to hit!

My vinaigrettes have been too oily, my steamed potatoes took way too long and my garlic got browned and sour the first time or two I’ve tried new methods so far. Even chopping with the Chef’s knife is an art form to be continually worked on.

I’m even loving the fact that I’m humbled by what I am learning. Not unlike the golf game or surgical techniques, there is always much more out there and my brain wants to grasp it and my body wants to master it.

 

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I didn’t learn how to be this overnight!

So I will happily, eagerly let my perfectionist, Type A self work her butt off to become a damned good chef! Just like I worked to be the skater, the veterinarian, the writer and the golfer. I continue to work at these things because I will never be an expert at any of them. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, especially if its something enjoyable. If its fun, then practicing doesn’t seem like work.

I do believe I’ll sign up to be a Rouxbe student after this free course is over. As long as I’m smiling and having fun and as long as I’m not poisoning Alistair, that is.

And who knows… if the LPGA plans don’t pan out in my future maybe one more hat to wear will be a fluffy white chef’s one. Maybe this old dog has a few more tricks up her sleeves!

 

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More things that took work, perseverance, patience and time…

 

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Celebrating my 3rd book this month with good friends in Seeley Lake!

 

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Another of my skill sets… stay tuned for a summer return to the coaching side of things for me!

 

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Practice, practice, practice back in vet school… ūüôā

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have I Been?

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Oh my goodness, I haven’t updated the blogosphere about Fyfe Life in weeks!

 

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OMG!

In my defense, I’ve been kind of busy.

The dogs and I loaded up and headed east to Bismarck where we spent almost a full week while Alistair had to work some extra days for a colleague.

It was our second trip back without little Loki riding shotgun and I missed her at the rest stops. I didn’t miss the mayhem that ensued with all 3 dogs, none of whom are very well leash trained anymore but I missed looking over at her¬†little sleeping¬†body curled up on its blankie on the front seat next to me.

 

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My travel companions en route to ND!

UB and Cleo adapted to their other home just fine, as always, and I got to reconnect with the horses and various friends. The downtown scene was maybe even more vibrant than our last trips there during the winter. When prairie folk get the feeling that their long, hard, frigid winter is coming to a close the energy is palpable.

We enjoyed a few fun suppers out at great new restaurants like J60 and dined with friends to celebrate their retirement at our old classic, 40 Chophouse.

And we cuddled on the recliners at night watching Netflix and begging Daddy for potato chips (I wasn’t a part of that but I did enjoy the cuddles and Netflix.)

 

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Recliner time with the Bismarck version of our “magic blanket”

And, wonder of wonders (not that it was planned or anything, no sirree), our golf course in ND, Painted Woods opened our last day and we were able to play a breezy, fun round!

 

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Painted Woods golf course in Washburn. Quite a different view from our Montana course!

The course opened on a Sunday and we were happy to see a few carts and golfers losing balls out there with us. (The wind, water hazzards, buttes and valleys here necessitate that you carry at least 30 balls in your bag, at minimum, even if you’re a stellar golfer.)

And ever since Alistair had his final surgery in February he hasn’t felt an ounce of pain when we play, which only adds to the fun and enjoyment when we get out there.

 

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Our back yard in ND

Alistair had also just opened up Fyfe’s Backyard Pitch & Putt before I got back so we made sure to use our membership regularly.

As you can see by his attire, the weather had warmed considerably and even now, back in Montana, the weather hasn’t been as nice as it was that week.

The equine Fyfes all look pretty good except for 26 year-old Susie, one of the grand dams of the herd. She’s looking a lot more weedy and hasn’t shed out her hair coat as much as the others have. Susie was a great broodmare for many years and she’s earned her keep at our ranch. She is still able to boss everyone else around with kicks and tosses of her head so we aren’t going to rush to any sad actions until she needs us to.

 

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Our older Arabian mare, Susie

The adventure to Bismarck was one of the reasons I haven’t had or made the time to blog. The other, main reason is that I’ve finished book 3 in my Missing Lake teen fiction series!

No joke!

Its done!

And then I had to wait for my team of editors to get through their edits and get them back to me.

 

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UB deciding he should “help” Daddy with the editing.

Then I go through each person’s stack of papers with red felt pen, pencil, blue and black ink markings and circles and then I’m ready for my final edit.

Which I’ve been doing today. With my own bright yellow highlighter and pen.

UB and Cleo have been very helpful with this round, as well.

 

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Ben Brick, illustrator (not my photo)

Our friend, Ben Brick, once again eagerly leapt at the chance to do my cover art for this book. His artwork was part of the success of my 2nd book in the series, The Dragons of Missing Lake and it was loads of fun working with him and his concepts.

Ben and I were able to meet over lunch when I was back in Bismarck this most recent trip and the final product is outstanding.

So now its just a matter of time before I share Luke Houser’s tale, from the middle of nowhere in Montana, with everyone once again.

 

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Social media banner by Ben Brick

This story picks up as Luke’s sophomore school year is winding down in the mountainous town of Missing Lake. I explore more of the relationships he has with his friends and develop some of the other characters more. The sled dogs take a bit of a back seat just because of the timing of the book but there are plenty of animal stories and events that shape this third book. Zagros and Tabitha have 2 eggs to hatch as well so there is no end to the fun!

I’m hoping to hit “enter” and then order copies within the next few days, after my final round of editing is done.

Which is great timing because our local golf course has also opened and it has been calling to me.

 

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A sunny round of golf this past week at the Double Arrow golf course in Montana!

I managed a sunny 9 holes on the back yesterday because the weather report predicted rain and cold today. I knew I would dedicate the day to the final editing process.

So I’ll leave it at that and get back to the final few chapters and maybe some supper. Hopefully next time you hear from me it will be with Secrets¬† Abound in Missing Lake officially published!

 

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Norman came out of storage and he’s already back at the course! (Jockey is telling Dad he’s an “excellent driver”…)

 

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Pretty Fumie and Jessi in ND at the beginning of the month

 

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Some of the herd watching me as I watch them from our back deck in ND

 

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Shed-hunting in Montana… the first shed we’ve found in a couple of years!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mahalo, Maui

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Swaying palms at our resort in Kapalua

Hawaii just happened.

I am filled to the brim with Aloha, sunshine, warmth, mai tais, ukulele music, crashing waves, golf balls, mahi mahi, starry skies, pineapple, veterinary dermatology and relaxing evenings on our lanai.

The islands have always done wonderful things for my soul and the past week spent on Maui was no exception.

 

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My Aloha toes done by the talented Tessa Stevens of Seeley Lake! View from our lanai.

We were trying to make it across the Pacific twice a year as both of us have conferences we can choose from. To be honest, the vets only have one or two but the human doctors have several that are offered.

We stumbled upon this particular veterinary conference on our first trip to Hawaii back in 2009, wandering around Kauai finding things to do before our night flight back home. We were exploring the Marriot for lunch and I saw Royal Canin and Virbac posters down a hallway. We found a happy veterinarian who told us about what was then called the George Muller Dermatology conference.

I have attended every single year since.

The conference brings together some of the top minds in dermatology from around the world. Most people don’t believe me but I actually love going for the seminars themselves.

 

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Playing the Plantation course at Kapalua on our first day.

I also love going for the ocean views, the golf, the mai tais….

We haven’t been back since last fall’s veterinary conference, though, because its just so hard to leave our special needs animal companions behind. Not just anyone can or will take care of a blind dog with a host of issues and a deaf dog, let alone a ferret! And that’s just a few of who remain now. We had 3 ferrets for much of¬†last winter and even Boomer was still around until February.

 

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Alistair and our ‘trio of trouble’… I miss those days

With Loki’s needs and limitations we have to have someone staying at the house overnight. It is a lot to ask of someone and I don’t like to over-utilize the amazing pet sitters we have had.

Luckily this time good friends from Bismarck were in need of a peaceful break from their hectic jobs. They eagerly leapt at the chance to come to our ranch and camp out for a week.

Theresa, Brian and their Dachshund, Roxy arrived last Wednesday and quickly learned the ropes of Fyfe Life. We left our mountain Paradise for island Paradise the next morning and everybody thrived.

 

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Roxy, enjoying some cuddle time on our farm in Montana (not my photo)

Loki even liked Roxy, which was amazing. For much of her life Loki hasn’t liked other little dogs. Big dogs were fine, especially ‘her’ big dogs, Casey and Harry but she used to bark her head off at dogs her own size.

Thankfully she has mellowed in her old age. I wonder if she just decided that making friends was more fun than being a bitch. Theresa told me that the 2 little gals would cuddle up together for afternoon naps. That makes my heart smile! Loki… making new friends!

 

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Aloha from the Plantation golf course in Kapalua!

And so, we golfed. In fact, we golfed every day!

Our first day we hit the famed Plantation course near the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua where we stayed (and where my conference was… veterinarians don’t have the money or any business staying at the Ritz but that was the deal this year.)

We were joined by Dr.Brock, from Indiana, who had first attended the conference on the Big Island 2 years ago. He was a part of our golf foursome back then and we have kept in touch ever since.

 

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Dr.Brock, me and Alistair the first day.

He had never played golf on Maui so we invited him to join us for a round after our morning conferences the next day at the Bay course in Kapalua.

 

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Waiting on the 16th tee on the Bay course… a doozy of a hole where you take the words, “Cart Path Only” very seriously… that’s if your drive makes it over the ravine immediately in front of you. Note the rainbows…

Both courses weave through the luxury resort area of Kapalua offering breathtaking views of the ocean from several of the holes. The Plantation course is where the PGA kicks off the calendar year each January with their Tournament of Champions. It is a more challenging course with daunting distances, curving fairways and a sentry of bunkers guarding the greens. It is also the course we had our annual veterinary golf tournament on, which was a sold-out event this year.

 

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And Barb makes it a foursome for the tournament!

We finally met our 4th for our tournament foursome just before the round began. Barb (the wife of a veterinarian who doesn’t play golf) was the perfect fit in her skill set, wit and sharp humor.

Our giggling team played at 2-under par for the day and Alistair won one of the longest putt prizes (on the only hole our team birdied that day)! How to make Wifey proud!

 

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Mr. Long Putt won $60 for his 29-foot, 10 inch putt on the 18th!

The lunch was amazing after the tournament and will be tough to follow next year. We were so full we skipped a night of fine dining and just had drinks and sandwiches at our resort lounge with Brock later that evening (in Kapalua that sort of thing still sets you back $140.) Yikes!

Barb enjoyed herself so much that she joined us the next day for our post-conference afternoon round at the Bay course. She hauled her clubs all the way from Colorado, why not use them a few times?

 

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Barb and I having some fun on the back 9 of the Bay course.

 

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Brock & Alistair on the 3rd hole of the Bay course, looking right towards our block of rooms!

Golf has been such a fun opportunity to explore different places in a new way for us. We also get to meet new friends who enjoy working on an activity while being outside. It doesn’t lend itself to much wine-drinking but the boys liked having a beer or 2 during each round.

Its fun getting to meet people from different walks of life and different parts of the world. Barb is an avid reader and Brock told her about my books so I gave her a signed copy of my first book, Lost and Found in Missing Lake. She has already read it and texted me how much she enjoyed it. Heart smiling again.

 

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Pretty water feature on the Bay course with my new avian buddies.

Our final day of derm came and went and Alistair and I tried to get onto the Plantation course again but it was booked up. Luckily the Bay course was wide open.

Non-golfers out there might be shaking their heads at us. What about snorkeling? Hiking? Maui Ocean Center-ing? Volcano-ing? Shopping?

Yes, all of those things appeal to us but we have spent previous trips to Maui doing them. Our golf courses in both Seeley Lake and Bismarck have closed and we knew this was the end of our season so we wanted to make the most of it.

 

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Enjoying the Bay course together one final time.

We weren’t paired with anyone else so we made sure to stop for photos when we could. When the snow is blowing in Montana this winter I’m going to need to go back to these to maintain my sanity (and my Aloha).

 

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Jinx and Muldy enjoying the view of the Bay course

 

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Between the 4th and 5th holes. Ahhhhh….

We spent one more night and were able to sleep in as my conference was over. We loaded up at the resort’s breakfast buffet that was stocked with Eggs Benedict, Kahlua pork hashbrowns, mahi mahi, amazingly fresh fruit and tantalizing pastries with pineapple & cinnamon jam, packed up, checked-out and drove across the lovely island to spend some time Upcountry.

Normally we hit the beautiful Lavender Farm and then the Kula lodge for supper before our night flight home but this time we figured we’d try one more round of golf at a more local course in Pukalani.

 

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Pukalani golf course, looking out towards Kahului and the ocean down below.

Upcountry Maui is on the slopes of the sort-of dormant volcano, Haleakala and is much less touristy than the rest of Maui. Everything is more reasonably priced (round of golf was $45.50 each, cart included!) and the people are even more laid-back.

The course wove through local homes that were less luxurious than those in Kapalua and it provided a more homey feel. Alistair made par 3 times (balls for the wall!) and we enjoyed our final day with temps 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the island.

Cooler temps have led to the survival of a non-native species, the Jackson chameleon. We’d never seen one of these guys before but there she was on our cart path! Apparently a group of 13 young ones were released from a pet store because they weren’t thriving many years ago. I guess they have since thrived…

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Our new friend in Pukalani

We enjoyed one of our best meals at the unassuming clubhouse that day- appetizer, platefuls of fresh seafood and a couple of drinks each came to less than $100. Unbelievable for anywhere on the islands!

 

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Towards the end of our final round of golf this trip.

And now I’m back in Montana and Alistair is back in North Dakota and we’re back to normal Fyfe Life. Which is anything but normal.

Loki didn’t have a single seizure when we were gone but she woke up seizing our first morning back. It was mild, as they almost always have been and it was likely from being so jacked up and excited when we got back the day before.

I really wasn’t so sure Loki would be here to return home to a year ago. And I’m still not sure how long we have ahead of us with our little train wreck but she’s laying on my feet as I type and I’m not about to change a damned thing.

 

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“helping” Step Gammy write her blogs.

We have added ground beef to her kibble morning and night and she hasn’t lost any more weight. We stick to our routines and we enjoy cuddle time on the couch with the Magic Blanket at night and then cuddles in bed. We Walk & Talk when we’re exploring outside and we enjoy the heck out of every minute together that we can.

 

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“Over this way, Step Gammy.”

 

We were so fortunate to once again have friends stay at our house and love on our pets just like we do. They kept the routine going so that the blind dog, the deaf dog and everyone else could keep on keeping on.

And we could fly to Maui and recharge. Refresh. Learn. Play. Explore.

We could hit golf balls and lose golf balls and find golf balls (!) and eat at new restaurants with pompous waiters and so-so calamari and enjoy old restaurants and restaurants that surprised us because they were in a trailer on a local golf course but it was the best meal of the adventure and we got new golf hats and shirts and I wore lots of bling and we laughed and joked and made a new friend and caught up with an old one and we were completely relaxed because we knew our home and our animal companions in Montana were going to be just fine.

 

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the island of Molokai off in the distance as seen from the Bay course.

 

If you have the opportunity to visit Hawaii I highly recommend it. Certain things aren’t for everyone but everyone can find something magical to be a part of while they’re there. And here’s to coming home to everyone as happy as they were when we left. Here’s to Loki. Here’s to Roxy. Here’s to mai tais, golf and Maui magic.

Here’s to Aloha.

 

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First mai tai of the trip was at the Sea House restaurant in Napili Bay!

 

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Snazzy golf duo at the Plantation course 10th tees! (Brock is cruising up in the background)

 

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Making new avian friends on the Bay course

 

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Love this photo from the Pukalani course!

 

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She was super friendly!

 

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Aloha from Pukalani, friends! Mahalo for the vacay, Maui. Until next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Slowing Down

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The first real snow of the season

You would think that several inches of good snow would cause me to pause and reflect a little bit.

Particularly after the year we’ve had.

We are all getting used to a world without Mouse but it hasn’t been easy.

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Mouse… just a couple of weeks before he became ill

If there is a light out of the dark, however, it is that his barn-mates, Jockey and Georgia have begun to have an actual relationship.

Where she head-butts him (with her head tilt… another story for some other time…) and he leans in and licks her forehead while they both purr.

This is unprecedented behavior between enormous, part-Siamese Jockey and petite, squeaky-sounding Georgia. They each loved Mouse beyond belief and I’m pretty sure they were jealous of each other. Like a room-mate or bestie¬†of some poor, unsuspecting guy whose girlfriend moves in.

But now all they have is each other.

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Little Georgia, before the head tilt

And they have their Mummy, of course! And Daddy part-time, too.

The day the snow came down I was busy.

Splitting and stacking wood is just part of life in western Montana unless you don’t use wood to heat your home.

Before you start picturing all 5’3″ of me heaving an axe behind my head like Paul Bunyun its not that bad. Alistair bought me an electric woodsplitter our first Christmas here.

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The woodpile a few years ago.

I always have a good, long laugh at myself when I remember a big load of wood that arrived when Alistair was in Bismarck a few years ago.

I was working full time but I had to stack it all that weekend because another load would be coming.

It was a hot weekend, too. I remember the dogs laying in the grass watching me move each piece. One by one. From the pile to the side of the house and back to the pile.

The logs weren’t stacking as easily as I would have liked, with some¬†of them rolling around but with a touch of OCD and a need for an aesthetically pleasing wood pile I got most of¬†the job done.

And I posted pictures on Facebook.

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Anyone see the problem?

And I felt pretty pleased with myself.

Until Alistair saw the picture the next morning and called me from work. There was something in his voice. Trepidation, perhaps?

“Hon…. you’ve got the wood facing the wrong way.”

I looked out the kitchen window. He was right.

My day of finishing off the rest of the stacking turned into unstacking and then re-stacking and the dogs just laid there on the even hotter day watching me take improperly-stacked wood off the pile over to the pile on the driveway just to take it all back and stack it properly.

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Finally I got it right!

My knuckles were dragging on the ground and my pride was bruised but it wasn’t the first time and it surely wasn’t the last time I had to eat some humble pie.

It wasn’t funny coming home to this the next night, though.

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The second load! Oh, boy!

You know what? It actually was pretty funny and I’m chuckling right now remembering all of that.

That’s just how life is on a farm at the end of a long road in the middle of nowhere.

You have to keep up on things when winter hits because there are so many other things you have to do.

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This is Bull-Chit, Step Gammy. I’m not enjoying this!

Like shovel walk- and piddle-paths for our 14-pound grand-dog, Loki, who is not a fan of winter.

I watched her almost high-center herself as she squatted which led to some giggling on my part but she didn’t hear me.

We’re pretty sure Loki and Cleo are both going deaf.

Granted, Cleo has always had selective Springer Spaniel hearing but its definitely worse this year.

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What?

On top of shoveling there is also plowing to be done. It takes two hours to do the two driveways. I like keeping both of them open in case wind blows snow across the one up to the mailboxes.

We’re the last house on the road so if I want a road out its up to me when Alistair isn’t here.

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the main driveway after plowing a couple of years ago (note Casey & Harry running to me)

We like it nice and wide so its 3 runs up and 3 runs down in Big Red.

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Big Red. Last winter.

Big Red is a 1996 model and he¬†has fired¬†up for me every single year. He’s probably one of the most significant relationships I have had in my life. I love that truck!

On top of moving snow from here to there I am also trying to promote my 2nd book, The Dragons of Missing Lake. I have had 2 book events that have gone very well and I’ve got one up in Condon tomorrow!

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First book event in Ovando, signing for my friend, Eloise!

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Marilyn getting her book signed at our second book event!

People are¬†enjoying getting back in touch with my characters and seeing what Luke is getting into. I miss my characters and can’t wait to start the next book but I really need to promote right now.

And I’m still slinging bling because I’m just not busy enough.

Men… did you know that 30% of women practice saying, “Thank-you” in a mirror so that if they open a gift they don’t really like they will still look convincing?

Reason enough right there to head over to http://www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe

So the snow falls and I’m a happy little wood-splitting, snow-plowing, shovel-wielding, Mouse-missing, book promoting, Boom-grooming, gift-wrapping¬†bling-slinger.

It keeps me busy.

It keeps me from thinking about things.

Like how this is the first part of the first winter without 5 dogs and Jockey and Georgia are starting to bond but neither of them sleeps in their beds together and Loki’s eye looks gross and I really want her to enjoy another springtime and Calypso lost a bit of weight thanks to dietary indiscretion but he’s still having a ball and I can always do more Boomer-grooming and, Jeez, she’s 20 years old which makes me miss Oscar this time of year, camped out by the woodstove and there’s no deer legs to complain about because there is no Casey.

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Casey a year ago

Well, wait…

I guess I did make the time to sit down and reflect, didn’t I?

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UB and Cleo goofing around in the snow a couple of days ago

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Our winter wonderland when it snowed this week

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Gary & Dona, my mushing experts at the 2nd book event at the Double Arrow Lodge!

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Mummy & Mouse a couple of winters ago. xo

Going Home

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I often wonder what to say when asked where I am from.

The temptation to say “outer space” passes and I drift to the many places I have called Home.

I have lived in 2 prefectures, 2 states and 2 provinces within 3 countries. If you’ve known me awhile, you know you should¬†always¬†write my address in pencil.

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Beautiful Grand Forks, BC

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to the peaceful Canadian town most people would consider my Hometown-Grand Forks, BC.

Its a charming town with clean streets, tidy yards and clotheslines in backyards.

There’s not a lot to the half-Kootenay, half-Okanagan town and what is there hasn’t changed much in the 15 years since I’ve spent any real time there.

My old high school is right where I left it.

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Grand Forks Secondary School

I never took notice of the gradually swooping hillsides that formed the backdrop to GFSS when I went to school there. Even when we had PE outside or we were sitting on the grass beneath the big trees out front I just didn’t pay attention.

I was too busy being a teenager.

Too busy talking about what mixed tapes we had made, what we were wearing to the next dance, who was seeing who and how impossibly good looking George Michael was.

The corner store by our old house is still there, too.

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West End was a quick bike ride away, where Mom would send us to get lemon lime pop, Big Turk chocolate bars and salt & vinegar chips. They had a freezer full of Freezies which were cherished during the hot, dry summers.

You could drop your bike on the ground or prop it up on its kickstand and not worry about it being stolen.

The ice rink where I spent countless hours learning to spin, trace, check, jump, fall and get back up again with a smile is still on the Trans-Canada that cuts through town.

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The Grand Forks ice arena, home of the Border Bruins junior hockey team!

As I buzzed by I saw it was renamed after someone I didn’t recognize. That normally happens if someone from town makes the NHL but Dad said this guy was a former mayor. Who knew?

I probably spent more time in that building than in my own house. I knew that place inside-out. I could flip the breakers so we could skate in the dark (it sounds crazy but it was pretty cool), I knew where the arena guys kept the keys to get into the precariously suspended music box and I knew how to rig the Pac Man video game so you could play for free.

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The house my folks built is still there on the corner but it has a different family living in it now.

So many memories of porch swings and snow forts and milkshakes and “meet you at the tracks” came back to me. They didn’t overwhelm me in a flood of emotions and tears. They were just there and the corners of my mouth turned upwards as I sighed to my traveling companions, telling them Mummy grew up here.

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Loki and UB came along on our little adventure to Canada and were excellent travel buddies.

It is a fascinating thing, traveling with dogs. I never before experienced the kind of camaraderie you get at rest stops when you have friends attached to you by a leash.

Everyone wants to talk and visit and share stories about their dogs. Everyone wants to pet them and ask questions about silver eyes and what possible breed he could be and gosh, he’s a happy fella and point out their 5 Pomeranians on the dash board of their RV.

Loki and UB soaked it up.

They also soaked up the attention from my Nan, who was one of the main people I came to see.

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Nan and Loki

It occurred to me that Nan and Loki have some things in common- they are both adorable, stylish little old ladies who still have a fair bit of spunk in them despite bodies that might not work quite the way they want them to.

They are both a bit on the stubborn side, which is part of their charm.

And they are both reliant on the people they live with.

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UB and Nan

Nan lives with my parents now and Loki lives with us. Neither of them can stay on their own for very long, which is probably frustrating for Nan.

Yet she keeps her chin up, plays solitaire (or, patience, as she calls it), likes to dress up and wear her hats and go out and tell stories in her lovely British accent.

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Mom, Nan and I outside the Borscht Bowl, downtown Grand Forks

I didn’t spend much time downtown but we did get some good Russian food.

Grand Forks and several towns in the Kootenays were partly settled by the Doukhobors who are a peace-loving, communally-minded, garden-growing group that got booted out of Russia for refusing to bear arms.

My dad’s family were Doukhobors. You can imagine how thrilled the aunties were when my brother chose the Canadian military for his career… “It says Koftinoff on a military uniform. Oh, hospity, hospity…”

Nobody thought anything of roll call with names like Perehudoff, Kazakoff, Podovinikoff, Horkoff, Pereverezoff, Dovedoff, Chursinoff, Semenoff, Strukoff, Popoff, Kalmakov,and Malloff. Throw in a few Lloyds, Wiebes and Gustafsons and there you have GFSS back in the day.

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Dad and I enjoying some borscht and voreniki at the Borscht Bowl

Some of my closest friends are back in Grand Forks. I had wonderful visits with 2 of them and was thrilled to see them doing so well and being so happy with their lives, their homes and their partners.

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Tan and Anna

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Merielle and Tan

They embraced and loved UB and Loki. Porter, the pug shared her toys with them. The 3 dogs became instant BFFs and settled into fun little routines with each other.

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UB, Porter and Loki and the ever-popular squeaky squirrel

Friendships are meaning more and more to me as I hurtle through middle age. Even if 40 is the new 30, its important to cultivate and nourish these friendships and relationships that are special and fun. As we have all changed and grown, our friendships have remained.

Driving through town another part of my past came to the forefront of my mind as we passed teachers out on picket lines.

My dad honked his horn in support of their cause.

You don’t see this kind of thing in the US.

I’m not completely familiar with all of the details surrounding the current strike but I know the¬†students are going to be the ones who lose out if the teachers don’t get some backing.

I saw 2 of my former high school teachers (who eventually became parents of talented skaters I coached) on the picket lines and sat with them, catching up on our lives. Even though this wasn’t my battle, I didn’t mind sitting there, watching cars and trucks go by, people waving and honking their support.

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Canada is a land of the socially and environmentally aware. You aren’t persecuted for your beliefs or your differences, which is why the Doukhobors came here decades ago.

I’m not saying its perfect or that everyone is as accepted as they’d like but people and politicians seem more willing to have discussions that aren’t all about blaming¬†each other or living in the past; not every argument boils down to¬†the constitution, bibles and guns.

In Canada, when you lock your keys in the truck and you call BCAA via AAA, the guy comes and unlocks your door and then you all sit down and share a beer and you make a new friend.

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With my OCD on vacation I locked my keys in the truck. No worries, a new friend to the rescue!

You talk about hockey and golf and recycling and you learn that Quebec is still trying to separate. Who knew?

But you can be Far Too Canadian, as the band, Spirit of the West sings.

Which is why I keep returning Home. To this home, in Montana, which just happens to be my Home du jour.

John Denver’s lovely voice rang through my head as I thought about it- Going home to a place (s)he’d never been before. All of the homes I have lived in will feel like that to me if and when I return to them.

Its because with each year and each new address I become a slightly different person with changing realities and new perspectives.

The 16 year-old who moved to Chilliwack for college is different from the brave 19 year-old who flew to Tokyo to teach English. She’s a heck of a lot different from the 21 year-old who moved to then-sleepy Watford City with her boyfriend of just a few months.

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Alistair, Mitch and I, 1994

And the 28 year-old who moved to Saskatchewan for vet school is different from the one who tries to keep her farm in Montana going when Alistair isn’t there despite never-ending snowstorms, hot-water tank woes, and being in the middle of nowhere.

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Seeley Lake sunset

Even if Grand Forks stays the same, I see it differently each time I return.

I still don’t know what to say when asked where my Home is. Maybe its where I happen to cuddle up to Loki, UB, Sport, Mulder and Cooper and where my husband comes back to every 2 weeks.

Maybe its just where I am.

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