Career Combos

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I don’t do it every day but this week I have had 2 such days.

Days where some of my careers combine and I have to pull various drawers out of the back of my mind to access the stored data that’s in them.

Like today, for example.

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Me, at the office right now

I’m on the floor at our real estate office today, which means I man the storefront. We are always open on Saturdays and soon, during the busier tourist season, we will also have someone on the floor on Sundays, too.

But today it was just me and a colleague who was catching up on some paperwork. Then our boss came in and soon after that a client I met up with a few days ago for his dog’s rabies vaccines came in. He was thanking me and then 2 friends from the local animal shelter stopped by knowing I still had vaccines in our fridge here. I vaccinated Betty, the cute little Schipperke and also ended up selling a couple of books to them. (Smart author, keeping books available at all times!)

I brought it back full circle by showing some vacant property this afternoon to a fun couple who happened to call in yesterday when I was also on the floor.

I guess I could have sold a necklace or a pair of earrings and given figure skating advice to someone. That would have made it a full meal deal of careers in one day.

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Our local golf course a couple of evenings ago… flags aren’t up yet

Playing golf is out of my hands at the moment but I have never been paid to play so golf isn’t exactly a career.

More like a hobby. Or a passion. Or a disease…

The media had predicted the bottom falling out of the housing/real estate market before the New Year and even into January but we are all enjoying a bit of an up-tick in interest and transactions right now.

I listed a super cute house right in Seeley Lake that is just wonderful, especially when you get inside. It is owned by friends who live out of state and I am proud to represent it. While it looks like it could be 5 bedrooms I can only list it as 3 because of the septic permit (you learn so many things when you become a realtor!) The fully finished basement is huge. Like, pool-table huge and the 26′ x 48′ detached garage kicks ass.

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My cute new listing on Hickory lane!

It is at the end of a cul-de-sac with a vacant lot next to it and the tall fenced backyard adds to the privacy.  It has a bright, open kitchen-dining-living room with new granite counter tops and lots of room for storage.

I’m super excited about hosting my second-ever Open House here on May 3rd. I’m excited because I enjoy planning social gatherings and they are fun to put together but I’m mostly excited because I am eager to show off this terrific home. Most of our snow has melted and the rains we have been having will hopefully get everything looking bright, fresh and green in the next couple of weeks.

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Awesome fenced backyard (not my photo)

It is a super investment property, too, as the community of Seeley Lake (and the surrounding area) is really low on rental inventory. We are low on sales inventory but decent rentals are close to impossible to find. My animal shelter people said its the same in the community of Potomac where they live- they have a long list of people looking for somewhere to rent right now.

I’m still spending a lot of time laughing in this real estate gig so that’s a bonus. I laughed for 3 days straight a couple of weekends ago helping my rock star couple from Texas (the Olympic figure skater and the Champion cowboy) (see what I did just there?) find their dream home in the Bitterroot Valley.

I laughed with the couple I met just today as we hiked around in the soft drizzle looking at 2.78 acres here in town. He’s a builder and there are a few parameters we have to consider when thinking about septics and wells.

They, like my rock stars out of Texas, are getting married soon and I’m honored to be a part of each couple’s future dreams.

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Dressing it up last weekend!

The real estate career path also took us to Whitefish, Montana last weekend for Clearwater Montana Property’s annual “Revival”. (When everyone last year was talking about Revival I honestly thought it was some religious event they all attended, which was odd given the parties involved but hey, I don’t judge.)

Even the name “Revival” implies we need reviving… like we need life support… and maybe after 15 or 20 years of long, quiet winters trying to sling real estate I might feel that way this time of year but I am definitely still feeling ramped up from when I started close to a year ago in this biz.

We had some continuing education and some great tips on apps for photography not to mention the team launch of our new website (www.cmpmontana.com) (its hot! check it out!), but the best part of my time in Whitefish was the networking and being able to put faces to the names I have worked with in this fun company.

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Carey & I taking the dress code to new heights

The ladies of our office all agreed to spice it up for the final awards banquet, too, which the figure skater in me loves doing. (Who am I kidding? You all knew I was going to dress up regardless but how fun to have a band of beauties to hand out with!) My friend and colleague, Carey Kanavel even wore brand new Chloe & Isabel sparkly earrings with her incredible gown (she did earn a top 10 sales achievement award, after all!)

And then this week I was able to combine Dr.Tanya Fyfe with Tanya Fyfe, REALTOR yet again when we hosted our annual gift-giving reception at the local Double Arrow Lodge. With each transaction we close, we all donate a certain percentage to the local non-profit of our choice.

I closed 2 transactions in 2018 and the donation proceeds went to Paws Up Safe Home, our local animal shelter (which is how Hazel came to know that I would be on the floor today and able to do Betty’s vaccines.) I know, I know, its confusing, but if you stick with each story long enough it all wraps around and into itself and makes sense!

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Jo and Hazel with me after receiving their check this past week at our reception

While my brain had felt a little bit full over a year ago when I officially started in real estate I think I have finally fit the various aspects of the various careers into their particular drawers and I almost always know which ones to go to when asked questions.

I am also going to make time to write and hopefully get closer to finishing book 4 in my Missing Lake series. I’m only 4 chapters in but they are solid and fun and I have enjoyed hanging out with Luke and his friends again. The silver dragon has made an appearance (and a big announcement!) so far as well and I need to get back to ‘the middle of nowhere’ with them soon.

For now, though, I have another 30 minutes of floor detail and then I’m back on the floor on Monday. If you’re around town on May 3rd from 1-4pm, stop by 155, Hickory lane- I will have snacks and refreshments and even if you’re not in the market I would still love to hear your feedback. And maybe you know someone who might know someone. In all of my careers, from figure skating to the veterinary world, to bling slinging, writing and now real estate, everything is all about connections and I’m so glad you have connected with me again here!

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Half an hour more to go today!

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Getting that sign jammed in there a couple of weeks ago!

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view from the backyard of my cute listing on Hickory! (not my photo)

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Me and my hot date in Whitefish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Learning Curve

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A beautiful December up in our meadow

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

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

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Aloha!

But first, the island re-charge!

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

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

No agenda.

No need to be anywhere at any specific time.

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Island Al, our first morning

Except the golf courses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweet UB. I miss you so much.

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

Alas..

Onto the uptick in my already upticked learning curve!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bye-bye, super cute house!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I was actually okay with that.

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

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

Party at the lake house!

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Working on the septic issue….

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

Oop, wait, not so much….

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

Yeah. Concrete.

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

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Oh, goodie… we found the tank….

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

And digging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ahhhhhh

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

Neither of us cares.

We’re going to need it!

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Good times!

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Hiking around the Hilton

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

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

 

 

 

 

 


 

See Ya, 2017

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Outside our front door today. More on Snowmageddon later…

There were times this past year when it seemed that 2018 would never arrive. Moments or days or situations that will forever be associated with 2017 could have weighed so heavily at times but, thankfully, Alistair likes to laugh at life as much as I do.

Not that we laughed all of the time.

The spirit world grew rich this year in January and November when Loki and then UB crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I have cried rivers of tears over both of those losses and our entire way of living changed each time.

 

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UB and Loki a few years ago

March had a lot of snow and I developed a pesky little pneumonia but it forced me to stay home, plow snow and finish my third novel. A silver lining to everything, right?

Of course 2017 will always be the summer of the Rice Ridge Fire that threatened our entire community on both sides of the mountains. It was a day-to-day experience for so many people and families and the business district took a huge hit from the loss of tourism, which is what Seeley Lake relies on to stay alive during our long winters.

 

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The pilots were our tourists this summer!

Bitterness and anger remain for a lot of folks for a fire that just wasn’t managed correctly from the beginning.

We were lucky in that we have a farm and acreage and big trucks and great friends and we were able to take our pets with us to Bismarck for a full month during the fire.

While a lot of things were bad about the fire, I think, perhaps, the worst part was the fact we all put our trust in our hired forest officials to do their job and save our town. Why did such a little fire have to turn into a public health and economic behemoth of a monster that raged over 160,000 acres and lasted over 3 months?

 

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the night we decided to get out… MMK’s photo

Thankfully no homes or businesses burned but that doesn’t mean businesses weren’t lost. I hope beyond hope that each restaurant, salon, and service can stay open this winter and thrive into 2018’s tourist season. Our little Chamber is re-focusing with new members and if everyone sticks together and supports one another we will see hundreds of out-of-state license plates clogging up our highway by Rovero’s and the Ice Cream Place yet again!

 

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Normal summer shenanigans in western Montana

My bling thing continued to provide a sparkly distraction to my world. I actually hit $60,000 in personal sales and I’m just 2 months shy of my 3-year anniversary with the company.

The company is going through some growing pains and major changes right now, though, and I’m not sure where I will fit in the new plan. I still love the jewelry but the company is focused on growing the number of merchandisers and recruiting and that’s just not my thing.

 

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Some of the bling (not my photo)

Doing direct sales for the first time ever has taught me some business skills and things I never learned on the ice or in the vet clinic and I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and make women feel absolutely beautiful when they wear the jewelry. (There are one or two men out there rocking our men’s leather wraps, too… I’m just saying…)

 

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I earned these this month! Super cute, not even on sale yet!

 

2018 will begin the blogger and media outreach we are planning with the Jenkins group we have hired for my 3rd book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

If you’ve read any of my Missing Lake series, you know that the teens are tasked with making sense out of songs that their hippie English teacher assigns them. Its a sub-plot in the book but its a fun one as I explore songs and artists that I like and try to think how my various characters would analyze things.

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My books (Photo from Dr.Alison, who got the books for her daughter!)

For the 3rd book I went out on a limb and chose a lesser-known artist with an even lesser-known song to challenge both myself and my characters. The artist is Matisyahu and the song is Hard Way.

The really cool thing about this is that Matisyahu and his peeps are coming to a small theatre in Missoula, which is an hour from here, at the end of February.

He’s coming to Missoula!!!!!!

Tickets are already purchased for the small show (the only one in the state) and I’ve reached out hoping to meet him. Maybe he can sign my book!

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Just about into 2018….

And just when I thought we would skip through the last few days of 2017 without any drama, Mother Nature happened. And she happened, like she often does in the middle of nowhere, Big Time.

We have learned living in both Montana and North Dakota to take warnings about thunder storms and snowfall very, very seriously. The people in charge of those things usually are on top of it, knowing that either situation could mean life or death out here. (Tornado warnings are pretty spot-on in North Dakota, too.)

So when we looked ahead at weather reports, Alistair decided to head back to North Dakota a day early, leaving me to fend for myself during what was supposed to be quite the epic storm.

And it was.

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this was after the 1st day. My walk path the UPS guy must have used the night before!

I’ve never minded being up here alone because Alistair has me well set up with machinery to move snow from here to there, particularly Big Red, our ’96 one ton Dodge Ram. And we stocked up on wine and food in Missoula a day before he left and pet food supplies are full and we had brought 2 tractor buckets full of wood over to the house as well.

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Yesterday  morning… after I had “cleaned off” Big Red…

As predicted, the snow started to fall.

And it kept falling.

And sometimes it picked up in intensity and other times it just fell.

Most of our community has been without power for some length of time. There is a young couple in Seeley Lake who have been without for 3 days now and a friend north of town with an electrical line down on her driveway so not only can she not plow, she can’t leave her house.

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The snow piled up along our kitchen windows. This isn’t the ground floor.

Our power has been on and off but, for the most part, I have been extremely lucky.

There has been 1 avalanche already along the highway that Alistair travels through Lincoln, MT on his way back to ND. Nobody was injured but it closed the highway for half of a day as crews worked in the falling snow to clear it up.

And while this is life in the mountains of Montana, I have never seen such a snow event in my life. I’ve seen it accumulate but not in one 3-day event.

I plowed twice daily with my newest Hawaiian singer, Keali’i Reichel singing and chanting about sunshine, love, and Aloha in the warmth of Big Red’s rumbling cab. I got good and stuck at one point and contemplated melting down but I managed to channel that energy into getting myself unstuck.

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My first run up the driveway yesterday morning

I was able to create a path out to the main road yesterday, at least, which was my main goal despite all the plowing I had done the days prior. We are the last house on a long driveway and if I want to connect with the outside world I have to be on top of things. I don’t like the idea that I can’t get out if there’s an emergency or an ambulance can’t get in.

So I pushed the road open and then it snowed through the night and this morning I cleaned it up as best I could.

Its not my finest plow work but there is a road.

The problem is that I’ve run out of room to put the snow so it feels a bit like a narrow tunnel in places but, hey, its a road.

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Tidying it up as much as I could today.

I’ve also been shoveling to get the other trucks out and that has re-awoken some muscles in my arms and back that I had forgotten about. Either that or I had just kept them in check by playing golf all summer & fall. Regardless, they are talking to me and I’m glad to have Ibuprofen around.

But I’m done shoveling for 2017.

I think I’m done with 2017 in general.

As much laughter and silliness and as many wonderful friends & family we got to see this year, I’m totally cool with moving forward and letting any issues with 2017 disappear along with the calendars.

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Today’s handiwork. Not going to be using “Big Silver” anytime soon….

For now I’m going to bundle up in my warm, purple ski suit and take Cleopatra down the flat driveway for a walk and later I’ll make a yummy shrimp pasta and curl up on the couch with my ancient bestie, Sport purring away in my lap and maybe we’ll make it to see the ball drop and maybe I’ll even try making myself a Caesar before I switch to wine and maybe my family will call or I’ll call them. Alistair will call but he has to work all day tomorrow after working a very long day today, so we won’t talk late.

I shall sip wine and whole-heartedly welcome a new year with new dreams, new goals, new friends, new challenges, and a surprise or two up my sleeve.

Its Fyfe Life.

May you close 2017 with joy and embrace the New Year with a welcoming heart.

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Cleo helping me shovel today

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Sport, 17 1/2 years young… my new Couch Time partner at nights.

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I was fine with the amount of snow we had before this storm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different World

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Pretty skies over central and western Montana last week

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

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

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

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

 

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Cute little clinic I eventually opened.

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

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

 

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Missoula skating club program. I loved that dress!

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Playing at Painted Woods in ND this summer.

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

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

 

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At the indoor driving range last week!

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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My 3rd book, published this spring! 

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

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

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

 

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Me, writing last week’s blog.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Siblings, Fumie & Frankie just last week!

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

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

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

 

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Miss Cleopatra last week in Bismarck

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

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

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

Neither has the ongoing crib match.

 

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Who ARE these people?

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My first book event in Bismarck!

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We love Aloha!

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2005 with a very young Cleopatra in Bismarck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 sautéing 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… 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of an Imperfect Housewife

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Housewife duties…

Perfectionist. Competitive. Type A….

I’m completely fine with these terms when used to describe me and my quirky ways.

And I’m okay with the fact that not everyone obsessively organizes her cd collection alphabetically.

CDs in alphabetical order. Just dare to remove Spirit of the West and try to place it up by One Republic

CDs in alphabetical order. Just dare to remove Spirit of the West and try to place it up by One Republic

Or color-coordinates her closet.

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Golf shirts… in rainbow order

While this behavior has made me a difficult room-mate, its just the way I am and you either accept it or you don’t.

But I will admit, there are some areas in my life where I am not perfect.

Where I don’t even try to be remotely successful.

Areas I don’t even make an attempt because I am too far from even being adequate that perfection would take up an enormous chunk of time and energy which I prefer to put towards other areas I’m busy trying to perfect.

Making par on a challenging par 5... it takes a bit of effort!

Making par on a challenging par 5… it takes a bit of effort!

Like golf.

I love practicing in our backyard or chipping balls in the front yard or watching the pros play or hitting the driving range or watching videos or reading about different parts of the game or talking with Alistair about that last shot or discovering a new golf course or just playing 9 or 18 holes somewhere!

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Exploring golf courses on Hawaii’s Big Island (Mauna Lani resort golf course)

My book is the same thing.

I love creating characters and their friends and families and hanging out with them at school or on the back of a dog sled as they grow and share and learn and discover.

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Sharing my book with friends in Bismarck, ND

I am totally motivated to finish my sequel and share the latest creation and adventures of Luke and Tabitha. I want to succeed. I am driven and focused.

Completely motivated by the beautiful jewelry to be the best bling-slinger I can be!

Completely motivated by the beautiful jewelry to be the best bling-slinger I can be!

And my adventure with Chloe + Isabel fashion jewelry has my perfectionist nature pushed into overdrive.

I am loving the monthly incentives and learning new things about social media and business marketing and jewels-in-general and the support from the company and my bling-siblings is fabulous!

But there are those other areas in my life where I just don’t bother to thrive.

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Good housewife does certain dishes by hand daily. Granted, its self-serving with the wine glasses but still, if you want nice things you have to take care of them!

In general, I am a pretty decent housewife.

A difficult roommate with my OCD-ness, as we’ve covered, but Alistair has his closet and I have mine.

And he knows the spices are also alphabetically arranged and where the white pepper should go.

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One platoon in my army of Dyssons

I don’t eschew housework- that’s not my problem at all. We have a beautiful house and I take great care in keeping it looking lovely. Its my little deal with the house.

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Maybe one area I don’t strive for perfection…

I will admit I’m not super close with the ironing board.

It might have something to do with the one time my mom took me aside when I was a little girl on a rainy weekend, probably right after skating, to “teach” me how to iron.

“You’re going to need to know how to iron your husband’s shirts some day, Tanya.”

Wrong thing to say to me, even as a kid.

Feminist over-achiever from the beginning... in a tutu

Feminist over-achiever from the beginning… in a tutu

I remember wondering why I had to have a husband or why he couldn’t iron his own damned shirts or who would iron my shirts if I was the one bringing home the bacon?

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Doggie toys on the ironing board… at least its not dust!

I’m a clever person.

I figured ironing out just fine.

I don’t do it much (hence the dog toys) but when I do, its typical Tanya OCD fashion and I iron for a few hours  with the Hawaiian music station blaring through the speakers.

Don’t get me wrong- I do make mistakes.

The road to perfection is littered with potholes and low shoulders and poorly marked detours, which makes the journey that much more enjoyable.

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Working on being a perfect Step Gammy and veterinarian for Loki last fall when she injured her eye… while working on promoting my book!

Like the time there was “that smell” in our kitchen in Hazen for a couple of days late in the summer.

I discovered the source in front of the high school hockey coach we were assistant-coaching with when he was over for supper.

I opened the microwave to ‘bake’ some potatoes and found the pound of raw ground beef I had taken out to thaw a couple of days prior.

In our non-air-conditioned house during a warm North Dakota autumn.

Not so perfect.

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I sorry!

But the most glaring area of housewife imperfection involves needles and thread.

I don’t sew.

I CAN sew.

I just don’t.

Oh, I sewed up my husband, a friend, your cat, a neighbor’s horses, our dogs… wounds, cuts, spays, neuters, intestines, stomachs, paws, shins, fingers… tumors, lipomas, shin gashes, gastropexies, foreign bodies, dog fights and Grizzly Bear slashes.

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A certain kind of seamstress…

But I sent my physician-husband to work in slacks that were hemmed with a stapler one time.

And I am faced with a dilemma over my favorite pair of jeans that I have only worn once because the zipper broke.

Its busted in some weird way and it has nothing to do with the size of my ass.

Busted. The zipper, that is.

Busted. The zipper, that is.

I am at a loss as to what to do.

I don’t even know where one goes to buy a zipper, let alone how to remove and then replace one.

Are there zipper stores?

And so, my lack of an effort to master sewing means these uber cute jeans with very sparkly back pockets and cute boot cut hemlines sit in my color-coordinated closet (in the Jeans Section, not to be confused with the Tank Top Section or the Yoga Pants Section) not being worn.

I am appealing to my blog-reading friends for help and direction.

Bling-wearing, golf practicing, over-achiever who can't sew

Bling-wearing, golf practicing, over-achiever who can’t sew

What is a girl to do?

In the meantime, I’m off to watch the Preakness with hubby and enjoy a hike in the forest with UB and Cleo.

Because life is too short to spend time stressing about my imperfections.

I’m okay with them and Alistair is okay with them.

Even when I’m striving for perfection I know I can get annoying if I comment on the pots and pans being misplaced or a Michael Jackson cd is next to The Script. So it makes me more imperfect.

I know that.

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OCD-Spice-Girl

Just know that I will know if you’ve been screwing around in my spice cupboard!

Highs & Lows

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Headed East

My highs have been pretty high lately.

The entire month of March was one big tidal wave of laughter, adventure, hugs, joy and success and I’m still beaming from the experience.

Alistair and I got to spend 3 whole weeks together where we were both healthy and hospital beds weren’t involved.

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My cool traveling buddies en route to Bismarck!

Loki, UB and I traveled back to Bismarck with him for my North Dakota book signing tour. Loki navigated the house there as if she had full vision- our little blind grand-dog is a trooper!

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My view, #2

Once you leave the sky-high mountains of western Montana the terrain changes.

The road becomes straighter, the sky becomes larger,  the mountains become buttes and the fenceposts get further and further apart.

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My view, #3

And then suddenly you realize you’re driving on the horizon in a straight line through the prairies.

There are few houses and few driveways.

There are miles and miles of fenceline.

There are cows, calves, horses, foals, sheep, lambs and antelope (didn’t see any antelope-lings).

There isn’t much shoulder and there’s nowhere to pull over but that doesn’t really matter because we were practically the only vehicles on the road.

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Cocoa, Fumie, Penner, Shilo and Flash… some of my ND gang

I enjoy going back to our home in Bismarck.

I love seeing our horses and chipping golf balls at Fyfe’s Backyard Driving Range and watching prairie thunderstorms roll in.

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Fyfe’s Backyard Driving Range. Pants optional.

I love how New Neighbor doesn’t disappoint me when I have to roll my eyes at least once at their trying-to-fit-into-the-hood-ness. This time NN came by to apologize for his dog going into our garage and tossing our garbage all over the place.

“I don’t know if he’s done that before…”

“Yes. Yes, he has, but Alistair never mentioned it.”

“Oh. Say, are you guys getting ready to go somewhere?”

(In my head I wanted to say, ‘no, I always wear sparkly jewelry and have my hair all styled with gobs of makeup on a Saturday on the farm…) Out loud I told him about my book signing.

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We got the BIG table 🙂 at Dunn Bros. coffee in Bismarck, ND! (photo by Rebecca B)

Selling and signing books I climbed that tall wave of happiness as I got to see so many people who have meant the world to me for many years.

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Skating world and book world combined!

My top figure skaters and their moms came down and joined in the fun. We talked skating, book-writing, jewelry, coaching, college, how mothers-always-know, and high school graduation.

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Leanna, me, Alicia & Andrea… 3 of my top figure skaters when I coached in Bismarck

Friends from the hockey world stopped by. Parents of players we had coached in both Watford City and Hazen.

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Hockey friends, Sonny, Wendy and Sherry!

Friends we have known for the 15 or more years hubby has worked at his hospital, like Geneva, who was one of his first nurses.

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Geneva, who had already read the book, sharing with me how she just started taking piano lessons!

And friends whose parents we’ve known who have grown into pretty cool adults now!

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Rebecca and Ben Brick (wedding photos in a blog from last August…)

The very next day I was off to Watford City, where Alistair and I first played house back in 1994.

It was a lovely day for a 3-hour drive on roads I haven’t traveled for awhile.

Roads that have weathered many windy winters through the “Badlands” (aka North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park).

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by The Park

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more of the jagged, craggy landscape that has been created by forces of water and wind and boat loads of time

Although the highway was the same there are things new to the area that are almost unbelievable.

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Sunday morning truck traffic in North Dakota

This is the heart of oil country now and while the jobs and money and people are there, it is a far cry from the Wild West we used to live in. Its progress, alright, but its a bit unsightly.

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The landscape dotted with ‘progress’…

And even though I have read about this growth and people told me about the development I still wasn’t ready to see the “Man Camps”… where people from all over the US have settled in row after row of RVs or box-car-like homes on fields that once housed cattle.

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Man-Camp just outside of Watford City

Once I got to Main Street, things looked more familiar and I made my way to our old house.

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Our first home together, Watford City

The house we moved to after having just met a few months prior.

The house I got my first cat in.

Where we got our first ferret.

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Gareth with Koshka and Marshal & Alistair in Watford City, 1995-ish

The house we got dressed up to go elope in when Alistair got 2 hours away from the pager.

The house where the kids came to live with us… where rugby lessons were given, hockey was played on the driveway, school was skipped for skating sessions, cookies were baked, tennis balls were thrown, dogs were walked, field trips were taken, homework was done, garter snakes and Larry the Lizard were kept and Hallowe’en Parties were held.

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The Rugby Lesson, with Scottie, coach Alistair, Whitney, um… Troy? Sean, Gareth and Mychael (whose folks, Sonny and Wendy came to Bismarck’s book signing!)

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Hallowe’en Party, 1995, Watford City

Its the house where our beloved Golden, Mitch, laid down by the back deck and died peacefully in his sleep one sunny afternoon.

Where I held him and cried my eyes out knowing I had to tell the kids and Alistair that our faithful companion was running free.

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Whitney & Mitch in Watford City

But its just a house, right?

I wiped my eyes and made it to the Civic Center for my book signing combined with a fundraiser.

The local paper had done an article beforehand and I got to see just about everyone from the good old days.

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Kira, who was one of my youngest figure skating students back in “Tiny Tots” in the then-brand-new ice rink… she has since toured with Disney on Ice, graduated college and become engaged!

It was fantastic to see everyone and share my stories with them all. Some didn’t even know I’ve become a veterinarian since living in Watford City.

How everything changes while staying the same.

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Back in shiny jewelry and makeup in Watford City! (Signing Kayla Hansen’s book while mom, Lynette took the picture)

Driving home I made a point to stop at our old farm which, happily, isn’t made into an oil field or a Man-Camp.

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View of our old quarter-section just outside of Watford City… happily undeveloped

I smiled, with tears in my eyes when I saw Mitch’s hill and the pole that marks his final resting place.

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We love you, Mitchie!

And then I smiled some more looking towards the taller hill by the driveway, where I rigged up a Happy Party one drizzly spring for Whitney and her girlfriends, complete with a watermelon-shaped cake and horseback rides on old Sonny.

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The first ever Happy Party more than served its purpose 🙂

The highs of March continued with tremendous online sales of my Chloe + Isabel jewelry, where I made my goals and earned myself some incredible bling.

I’ve been riding that enormous wave of happiness and its been a good ride.

Its been much needed and Alistair has enjoyed sharing it with me.

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Whitney & Gareth playing on one of the old cars on our ND farm back in the day

And I made the trek back to Montana with UB and Loki after they shared a fun week on the prairies, too.

Back to a home where the word, ‘attrition’ has been used too often these past few months… where it may be used again soon.

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Casey (with Cleo) this morning

Casey’s laryngeal paralysis is finally doing what I’ve feared it would do.

How can I be surprised by something I’ve been expecting for close to 2 years?

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Casey this winter

He isn’t able to go for our short walks without turning blue and gasping.

That’s not cool for him.

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My old friend, Casey this winter, “helping” me shovel the decks

If he isn’t worked up he still wags his tail, leaps and devours his food; he isn’t suffering or in pain.

But he isn’t allowed to be Casey, either.

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Casey and Dad a summer or two ago

So, unless I have to step in beforehand, I will wait for Alistair’s return this week and I will do what must be done.

Again.

Until that point you can bet Casey will be loved up the ying-yang, even if he bonks into me.

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Several years ago, air-dancing with Casey!

And I will keep on keeping-on, enjoying my high-level highs and making more adventures possible. I’m setting up an online jewelry party for the Fyfes in Scotland… talk about a high!

Mitch is going to get a kick out of Casey.

I just hope they have tennis balls in Heaven.

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High times in Bismarck with hubby

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View from the deck in ND

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Casey Fyfe, a good old boy, noshing on his kibs this morning