Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Cats (and Unwed Mothers)

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Professor Higgins

I have visited this theme before over the past few years of writing this blog.

In our 25 years together, Alistair and I have shared our homes with, cared for, and loved 22 cats.

22. Cats.

I would have fallen over in laughter if you would have told me, as a kid, that I would someday be a Crazy Cat Lady but there you  have it.

I can’t blame being a veterinarian for how we ended up with so many feline Fyfe companions. Oh, sure, our cross-eyed, lilac-point Siamese senior, Mae Mae was a euthanasia-turned-hyperthyroid surrender but the majority of our cat buddies have settled into Fyfe Life through a variety of other means.

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Pretty little Mae Mae

Koshka, our first cat, was placed on my lap by a very young Gareth and Whitney back in 1995 and thus began my new life as a cat lover. Malchek joined her by just showing up at our house in Watford City and suddenly we were a “multiple cat household.”

Friends would have litters and we’d take one or two (or the entire litter) because we always had farmland and with farmland you always have mice. Besides, when you’re feeding 3 or 4 cats, what’s one more?

Back to Canada with Koshka, Malchek, Oscar, Boomer & Garter in 1996, then back to North Dakota with Oscar, Boomer, Chorney & Cooper in 1997.

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Cooper, Boom-Boom and Oscar a few years ago

We always suspected that our farm in Bismarck was/is a great place for drop-off kitties. Scruffy and sassy young Mulder arrived there out of the blue, just like our little Tuxedo cat, Jinxie did.

Mamma Cat showed up complete with a belly full of kitties but she actually hung around for a year and produced a second belly full of kitties. We had kept the first ones but managed to re-home all but one of the second litter.

Sport was actually given to us by one of Alistair’s nurses as her new husband was allergic. HRH Sporto even got to move to Saskatoon with Cooper and me for my four years of vet school!

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Drs Cory, Pat, Nate and Tan with our co-editor, Sport working on an edition of the TOOL newsletter in Saskatoon in 2004

So it was that Oscar, Boomer, Chorney, Cooper, Mulder, Sport, Jinx, Bebe, Hissy Phitt Georgia and Mouse made the move to our house in Montana at the very beginning of 2007. Of those, Sport, at 19, and Bebe, at 16 remain. (2015 and 2016 were two tough years we renamed Attrition… it was hard on the canine, ferret and guinea pig populations on the Fyfe Farm, too. Grab a box of Kleenex and go through some old blogs from back then if you have a hankering for a good cry.)

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Mulder in Bismarck back in the day

While we were moving from one sad departure to another during Attrition, we both had the silly notion that we were going to be animal-less for a few years.

We would be free to travel at a moment’s notice!

Imagine the money we’d save!

No more heartache!

Until Alistair was in the hot tub in Bismarck one night talking with me on the phone when a fairly well-fed tabby cat waltzed up to the tub and proceeded to mew at him. He continued mewing post-hot tub and then sauntered on into the house without much coaxing soon afterwards.

We called veterinary clinics, shelters and neighbors but nobody knew whose friendly cat this was so a couple of weeks later, Professor Higgins joined us here in Montana.

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Professor Higgins and I in the barn this winter.

Higgins stays outside with Jockey for now. Seasoned Crazy Cat Ladies know that its unwise to introduce new cats who have all of their claws to the senior cats who are minus their foreclaws.

And Santa Alistair re-introduced ferrets into Fyfe Life but if you’ve followed along here or on Facebook you already know that.

What got me going on this today is the new stray that has been hanging around our farm in Bismarck this spring and summer.

We’ve caught magical glimpses of him/her that are becoming more and more prolonged as time goes on because we’ve been providing dry and moist cat food for him/her since the spring.

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Last week- lingering longer and longer.

Basically, we don’t see the cat. I say “we” because I was back there this summer and I did see her through the window of our front door but it was fleeting at best. Primarily its Alistair doing the ground work to try to tame this little lion.

So he tries to keep a bowl of Science Diet dry food topped up in the barn where the kitty lives and a smaller bowl up by the front steps here plus he adds a tin of soft food daily which is how he’s trying to coax the stranger up to him.

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Someone really wants this fresh tin of soft food but someone knows Alistair is immediately behind the door….

Weeks ago the cat would never have come up this close knowing full well that the biped who provides the food (and dings the plate every single time hoping beyond hope for the eventual Pavlovian response that all of the Fyfe cats develop thanks to said dinging) is right behind the door.

Sometimes Alistair sits out on the step with the fresh tin of food and kitty (he calls him, Whitey…. I was hoping for Billy, or Billie if its female… you know, The Stranger… anyone? anyone?) is down by the barn watching him. He/she used to just run off at the sight of anyone but he is lingering more and more in hopes the biped will buzz off and let him eat his yummy tinned food alone.

This one night, though, Whitey decided the food was more important than fear or mistrust so Alistair got the best picture we have of our new friend yet!

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Whitey Fyfe?

As much of a big step as this was, it was nothing compared to what Whitey did only a couple of mornings later. Alistair went outside after a rainy night and found a present from our little red & white friend.

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A present from Whitey

Hey. This means they’re in a relationship, Alistair and Whitey.

I mean it. Cats don’t give presents to just anybody.

Kind of like that line in Dances With Wolves….  “Good. Trade.”

So it is that we remain Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Cats and Unwed Mothers. Hopefully Whitey will try to trust Alistair more and more and hopefully he will keep working on limiting the rodent population that grew ever since all the other Fyfe felines moved to Montana.

It would be great if he is already altered, like Jinx and Professor Higgins were, but maybe he’s a scruffy tough guy like Mulder who hasn’t had much human care.

Regardless, he has a warm, dry barn to hang out in as long as he would like and we’ll keep making sure he has food.

And we’ll keep you all posted on the felines of the Fyfe farms along the way.

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Sporto a couple of nights ago

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Bebe, our resident Sunbeamer

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Jockey enjoying the winter sun… possibly a relative of Whitey’s?

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Babs and Sport on my lap a few nights ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to be Home

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Slinging real estate last weekend

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

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

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

So we did!

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Fyfe Photographers of Grand Teton National Park

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

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

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

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Those towering peaks…

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

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

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Jenny Lake Lodge!

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

(And what’s with that anyways?)

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

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

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

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

“Oversized semi coming at you, Hon.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Painted Woods golf course, Washburn, ND

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

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

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

And I got to visit our horses!

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The Herd.

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

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Frankie and me 

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

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

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Alistair and Mulder in Bismarck a few moons ago

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

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

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

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Showing homes in Kalispell

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

But we weren’t done with the road trips.

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

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

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

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

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The grown-ups of the family

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

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

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

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Diana, Danny & me. 

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

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

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

 

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

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This guy and James, the cat my parents feed

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

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

Even after 13 years of living in separate states.

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

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

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Mummy and Andy a few nights ago!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The lineup driving to the entrance of Grand Teton National Park

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Maggie, Fumie and Jake 

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Me and my favorite foursome a couple of days ago

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The Koftinoffs!

 

 

 

 

 

Our Ties to North Dakota

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If you have followed my blog for any stretch of time you may have remembered NN, or, New Neighbor from our home in Bismarck.

Well, we have great news in that they have moved on and we have NNNs. Or, New, New Neighbors!

The fun surprise is that the New New Neighbor actually owns and operates his own heavy equipment. Lets just say, if he can’t move snow, nobody is going anywhere. And, to top it off, they are friends of Brad, (who has featured in my blogs several times and is one of Alistair’s best friends,) which automatically makes them friends of ours. Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

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Our apple trees in Bismarck last month!

I mention this because I went back to our North Dakota prairie home twice last month. It was a special month although I really didn’t sleep much at all.

I drove back to ND with Alistair a couple of days before he normally would have (2 weeks here, 2 weeks there, going on 12 years now!) and we got to enjoy our Painted Woods Golf Course together again. That course eats golf balls like no other, which makes for great ball-hunting.

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Back at Painted Woods Golf Course in early September.

The main purpose for my going back, though, was to attend one of my former figure skating student’s wedding! Another student was the maid of honor and another was the bride’s attendant. And more skaters and parents attended the wedding, too!

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My last day coaching these ladies before moving to MT. Andrea (bride), me, Alicia (attendant) and Jenna (maid of honor)

I can’t tell you how happy I am to see these young adults, who were pretty cool young people, reach these tremendous milestones in life. I am honored that they want to share these adventures with their old coach and that it meant a lot to the beautiful bride and her parents that I made the journey to be there.

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Alicia (skater), me (coach), Berdina (mom), Linda (mom) and Leanna (skater)

The bride was beautiful, the wedding was lovely and the reception was great fun catching up with everyone.

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Me and Leanna catching up at the reception- she and her mom sat with us so it was perfect!

 

While there I also shared a quick coffee date with my friend, Wendy and before you knew it, I was flying back to Missoula, Montana to get back to work the next day. The kitties and Cleo forgave me because they got to snuggle and cuddle with our dear friend, Jessie, who took over pet/house-sitting again.

And then I got to be a real realtor! I listed my very first home and the learning curve ticked upward yet again.

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Going to put my first lock box on my first listing!!!

The house is absolutely fabulous and its unique in that hardly anyone in town knows about it. I am one of the only realtors in town who has seen the place because it has never been listed since it was finished 10 years ago.

The owners created all sorts of outdoor living space to enjoy the scenery and you really don’t feel like you’re as in-town as you are up there. The house is immaculate with three large bedrooms and a main-floor master suite. There are even views of the majestic Mission Mountains!

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My cute-as-a-button first-ever listing!

It was fun coming up with valuation and a suggested listing price. I had to consider location (ok), quality of construction (high!), square footage (1332), lot size (about half an acre), no covenants or HOAs (lots of places have those around here), available and true comps (listen to me!), and what we have in the area for inventory (not much!)

I’ve got an Open House planned for this coming Thursday even though several realtors have said they don’t bother with hosting them- that they don’t bring many folks or they don’t lead to sales.

I’ve got a different perspective, though, because nobody has seen or shown this house before. Even today, a local retired realtor who lives a couple of blocks from this listing called me to ask where it was. She had been driving around trying to find it. When I took here there she couldn’t believe how almost-hidden, and how beautiful it was.

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Outdoor living space. Come see for yourself from 2-6pm on Thursday the 11th!

I also got a vacant lot on the Double Arrow Ranch listed in September! Its a cute 3-acre parcel that has desirable, burbling  Drew creek running along the back of it. Alistair and I hiked around there one sunny afternoon taking pictures, imagining building sites and trying to figure out which plants were actually huckleberries.

The owners of that one were set on their asking price but in doing my own little calculations I think we will need to come down a bit if we really want to sell it. There are a lot of lots on the Ranch for sale right now and while the creek definitely is a bonus there isn’t a well or septic field yet. So many things to consider!

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On my listed property!

On the heels of all this, I flew back to Bismarck for more adventures. And, after a bit of rain, a couple more rounds of golf at Painted Woods. Both days were wide open with hardly anybody there. We could drive balls into the creek, watch them bounce off into thick prairie grasses, laugh our asses off, make excellent shots and look for more golf balls to our hearts’ content.

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Our last round of the year at Painted Woods- they have already closed for the season.

After our final round we hit the road to Watford City, where we first moved to in the US back in 1994. The reason? Another wedding!

Full-circle time- this was the son of one of the head hockey coaches we hung out with back then. I wasn’t a veterinarian (or a published author or a realtor) when I was fresh out of the ice shows, eager to teach power skating to the local hockey club. Dave, the father of the groom, was one of the pioneers there who recognized the value of being the first guy to get to the puck and he supported me completely.

Alistair & I eventually coached as well and in a town of less than 2000 (at that time- its different now, thank-you, oil fields) everyone knew everyone. They all knew my Raise the Roof ice show projects that we hosted there and it was pretty amazing for us to be back.

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Coaches, Arden, me, Doug and Dave (father of the groom) with the Samuelson boys in the background.

How great, again, to see young people we coached or knew as they celebrate with one another such a special occasion. Extra bonus was seeing our “other daughter”, Morgan, who was one of the bridesmaids. The look of surprise on her face was priceless when she first saw us. We got to catch up and talk about work (she’s a RN now), her upcoming marriage (she’s engaged to one of my stepson’s former hockey team-mates), and our lives in general.

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Me & Morgie! (not my picture)

While it was a lot of driving and a bit hectic last month (all the while dealing with our house insurance claim nightmare, the moving of tens of thousands of dollars, Mr.Frigging Cooper, and getting a new roof that’s worth over 80 grand), it made perfect sense to go to both weddings and visit with friends.

Most of these friends have supported me in all of my crazy careers and adventures and they have all played important roles in our lives. We have all stayed in touch while we’ve all grown a little older and gained a few more grey hairs.

Social media is terrific for keeping us all informed of each others’ lives but it doesn’t hold a candle to a real-life hug and shared, in-person laughter.

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Back on our Double Arrow Golf Course in Montana!

We drove back to Montana where I got back to work and Alistair got 4 cords of wood stacked while watching the roofers finally get to start doing their thing. The brand-new roof is industrial strength and top of the line. It also looks awesome but I won’t go into that right now. I’ve got to get groceries for an Open house I’m planning this week!

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New roof! (and Jockey!)

September was exhausting and yet fabulous at the same time. We are truly lucky to have so many wonderful friends in our lives, even if we’re miles and miles apart. And what a privilege to watch fun young people grow up to be physical therapists, nurses, adventurers, skating or hockey coaches, spouses, and parents. What memorable reunions!

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My skaters and their moms supporting me at my first book signing! Leanna, Alicia, Berdina, Andrea and her mom, Elaine in 2015

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the Watford City Oilers supported and helped out with my 2 Raise the Roof ice shows… there’s Doug’s son and one of those Samuelson boys! (1996, I believe)

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Alistair and I got a tour of the incredible Rough Rider center with the 2 ice rinks named after Arden and Dave!

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And now the change is upon us.

 

 

Deconstructing Me

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Previewing a cute new local listing this week!

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

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

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

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

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Hiking with Alistair & Cleo (not pictured).

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

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

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

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I’m never alone when I’m in Norman!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brilliant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The file for our insurance claim.

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

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

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

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

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Our happy place!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shall keep you posted!

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

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

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Alistair making his yummy chili for us the other night!

 

 

 

 

 

Suddenly August

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The remains of a particularly hot zone from last year’s Rice Ridge Fire… more on this later

July whizzed on by with bug bites, the return of the grasshoppers, golf games, blistering sunshine, realtor reality, insurance claim insanity, the tourist take-over of our community and hazy skies once again.

Throwing myself into a brand-new career has taken over my brain a lot of the time (and its been murder on my plan to play in the LPGA someday!) which has led to a brief absence from the blogosphere. No worries, though- clearly, I’m back!

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Previewing a particularly lovely home

I am really enjoying all of the learning happening even if my brain feels full much of the time. The learning that occurs on sunny days over clear-blue lakes surrounded by pristine forests when previewing and taking pictures of magical listings is some of my favorite.

I have amazed my directionally-challenged self (and Alistair) in my ability to kind of, sort of be able to navigate around the Double Arrow Ranch. I surprised myself when I was able to confidently reach for the correct flyers for our current waterfront listings the other day. And I somehow set up my shiny new wireless printer all by myself and was able to print off MLS listings for “Jim”, from Arizona yesterday when I was on floor duty.

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One of the most adorable (and affordable!) homes on the market right now- I want to sell this house!

I’ve managed to squeeze in some golf, which I prioritize when Alistair is here. I think I’m doing alright in the work-life balance department, which has always been important to me and one reason the real estate world seemed attractive.

We made sure to make the most out of our time together when Alistair was here last. A day-ride in our trusty, dusty Ranger, “Steve” took us up to the famed Morrell outlook that I watched become seemingly consumed by roaring flames last summer. Exactly one year ago I wrote the blog, “The Coach Came Back”, which was mostly about my 2 weeks spent coaching high-level figure skating up in Manitoba but I touched on the then-young Rice Ridge Fire.

The next blog is “The Rice Ridge Fire” and going over it right now really took me back. It really slammed home the devastation of that out-of-control monster which we soberly got a first-hand look at last week.

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Looking through the hazy burn site towards our meadow.

We have the doors off of Steve right now and we could actually still smell the smoke in the charred forest surrounding us. It was humbling being within the blackened beast that raged towards our home and surrounded our community for weeks last year.

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Up at Morrell Outlook last week, looking back towards Rice Ridge, where the fire began last year.

At least it was fun getting out and spending time together on back-country gravel roads again. We used to do that a lot more before we became addicted to golf.

We also made time to get out on the canoe last week and have a truly Montana-type of day. After local June-berry pancakes (we had picked the berries the week prior) and Kona coffee for breakfast we loaded up our canoe for the first time this season and headed out to close-by Upsata Lake.

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Peaceful Upsata lake.

No fishing rods this time, just the sound of our paddles and the gentle waves rippling up against the canoe. A loon gave us quite a performance after a dog started barking on another small boat. I’ll try to load the video at the end if you have never heard a loon’s cry. Its a bit alarming, almost haunting-sounding and pretty unique.

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Our lounging spot.

We wedged ourselves up into some tall grasses and I leaned back and sipped wine while listening to Alistair read from his Rocky Mountain of Natural History book. Its a great book- you learn about one thing and then you just have to read more about something you just learned. Loons, elk, deer populations- you name it, they’re in there.

The skies started to cloud over and since being on a large body of open water during an electrical storm is a bad idea, we headed for shore.

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Views as we headed for shore.

We even managed to squeeze in 9 holes together after our canoeing adventure and it wrapped up a lovely Montana day.

I would be heading in to play golf myself now because the tourists generally get off of our course at this time of day on a Sunday but I’m attending a local function tonight.

Its the annual Seeley Lake Community Foundation banquet and seeing as how I’m a more prominent member of the community once again, its important to go. I’ve also donated a set of Chloe & Isabel jewelry as well as some fun Canadian-inspired goodies for an auction item involving a trip up to Fernie, BC. My good friend, Merielle, who has featured in this blog several times, happily shopped for kitschy-type things featuring the mighty maple leaf and shipped them down here to us last week.

Usually I over-dress for these types of functions because I love the opportunity to glam up a bit but this year’s theme is “Fire and Ice” (think: Rice Ridge fire and the Snowmageddon of this past winter) so I’ll actually be wearing this:

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vet school hockey jersey!

I’m whipping out my hockey jersey from vet school. Thankfully it doesn’t say that our team was called the Bitches In Heat but I giggled when I got it out today and remembered our team name.

I’ve been told by organizers that this is the perfect thing to wear (with a skirt, sparkly heels and over the top bling, of course!) because of some big announcement coming tonight. I’m pretty sure I know what it is and I think its a great thing. I worry, though, because I barely have time to be Me as it is- this big announcement might require me to get speaking my first language again while there are golf balls to hit, homes to preview, mortgage companies to call, lakes to canoe upon, bling to be sold, cooking courses to take, books to write, wine to sip, books to market, conferences to attend and a hubby, 3 cats and a dog to cuddle-up to.

I’m not going to worry about it right now, though.

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Jockey, chillaxin’ under a tree out back.

I know I’ll be able to find time to fit everything in. As long as I’m having fun I’m motivated to do these things and make it all work. It helps that Alistair and all of my friends are so supportive of all my endeavors right now.

I tell you, though, if someone would pay me to just write my stories or play golf, that’s about all I would be doing.

Here’s to August.

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Hazy Morrell Outlook that survived the fire last summer.

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Steve and I, up at the outlook

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“Someone” being funny when I’m all, “Hey, hon, lean for a cute couple shot!”

 

 

What’s in Store

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The title of this blog is as much a statement as a question in regards to our house insurance claim thanks to the incredible amount of snow & ice we fought against this past winter.

 

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One of many photos of one of many adventures on the driveway with Big Red last winter

For a quick recap, we got buried a couple of times after days and days of heavy snowfall. It rained hard for almost 24 hours each time and then it froze. Our roof eaves took a beating and I chronicled it all with photos, social media posts and this blog.

I sent our insurance agent some pictures in early February, which was when I realized water was leaking down inside our walls and beneath the wood stove in our living room. (For the record, I’m not going to mention people’s or company names. Not yet, anyhow. I’m trying my best to protect them but if they don’t do the right thing I am willing to use my voice & platforms to drag them through the mud. Its not my style but it may end up being all that I can do.)

 

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One of the pics sent in early Feb of the water coming down our living room wall

Our agent is a friend who lives a couple of hours north of us. They didn’t get the amount of snow that we did but he could appreciate our situation, knowing that our community is fairly well-known for high snow volume. He initiated a claim the next day and the adjuster showed up a day or two later.

Since then I’ve shared the sheer joys of having heavy duty fans and enormous dehumidifiers running around the clock in our large house. I’ve shared my excitement at having strangers rumble through our world removing walls, ceilings and privacy. We laughed as we moved part-way into the guest bedroom and I’ve even started an entry in our guest journal.

 

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Some of the mitigation happening on that very same wall.

I wrote to our insurance agent and the adjuster expressing concern that the snow removal that was occurring as I typed was likely destroying some of our professional landscaping and plant life around the house and was told that we’d address it when the snow melted.

That made sense.

Which is why I okayed the offer of a second snow-removal effort with heavy machinery and large, beeping pieces of equipment after another dump of snow.

 

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Cleo inspecting the remains of our front lawn & plant life after the melt. Damage is from heavy equipment used to move snow/ice off of the roof and away from the house.

Since then the drama has evolved over payments and one of our two mortgage companies. Our primary mortgage holder has required form after form after form to be submitted by ourselves, our adjuster, and/or the restoration/construction company our adjuster chose out of Missoula.

The snow removal and mitigation that was done back in February totaled over 21 thousand dollars and the insurance check to cover that is stuck somewhere in limbo thanks to said mortgage holder. The main delay with it all has been the fact the mortgage company has never let us know, after each submission, when something else is required. (If I could bill for my time spent on the phone during all of this I would have the 21 K right now!)

With every call to the mortgage holder I then emailed or called the adjuster as well as the restoration company to let them know I was doing everything I could to get them their money. With all that I went through as a business owner I can certainly appreciate when you aren’t getting paid for work that was done!

 

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The lawn beneath the mountain ranges of snow has actually collapsed!

While leaping into a brand new job with a sparkling new career I’m trying to learn, and with Alistair back in Bismarck, the mortgage holder required even more paperwork and signatures and formal letters on actual insurance company letterhead 3 weeks ago. They also needed paperwork from the county stating why our ‘street’ name changed in 2007.) Each and every step, form or signature takes a minimum of 3 days as I  have to email or call whoever is involved and then they have to find or sign or complete whatever it is that’s been requested and then they send it to me and I figure out which department of the mortgage company to send it to. Throw in a mid-week national holiday to complicate the movement of things.

 

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Me, helping out at Clearwater Montana Property’s 4th of July celebration as our trailer passed by in the local parade!

After 2 weeks of the latest round of craziness our restoration company threatened to slap a lien on our house, which didn’t sit particularly well with me.

Alistair and I dealt with this in our long-distance style and without going into detail we got a personal check sent the next day to the restoration company and the lien will never be mentioned again.

Our funds are still held hostage but I’m really hoping that this week the mortgage company will have everything they could possibly want and they will release our funds.

This is what I mean by the title of this blog being a statement and a question. I’m sharing what’s in store and I’m also wondering about it at the same time.

The money isn’t the main issue right now, though, because I know its there and I know, eventually, they will run out of things to require (if they ask for my first born I’m hooped!) and the money willarrive.

 

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I could seriously use some of this right now!

Last week, my Knight in Shining Armor got home and I greeted him with one of those “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news” statements. After 10+ hours on the road he chose the good news.

I cheerfully shared with him the fact I had learned, 30 minutes prior, that our adjuster had finally approved a full new roof. This is significant for every reason we can all come up with and has been in discussion for months. Every quote came in really high because of the size and scope of the project and our adjuster seemed to struggle with an answer.

They also approved the deck, which wasn’t really in question because, lets face it, the deck is a wreck!

 

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Top part of the deck is lower than the bottom… 

The bad news?

Apparently there is an exclusion clause in our insurance that states there will be no coverage for lawns, landscaping, and trees.

The quote our adjuster got for that (20 grand) is included with everything but then its crossed out because, obviously, our adjuster had thought it would all be covered until he found that clause.

I’ve since emailed our adjuster and shared our concerns. I get it that insurance companies have the right to mitigate further damage but they don’t have the right to destroy our landscaping. And I never, ever would have approved the second round of snow removal months ago (because as you all know, I can handle a bit of snow!) if I knew nobody was going to take responsibility for wrecking our lawn and shrubs.

 

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Water dripping through the T&G this winter

Nevermind that nobody seems to know what we’re going to do with the ceiling tongue & groove damage or the beams in the kitchen sunroom.

Now that I’m in the realty world (notice I didn’t write, ‘reality’ because, in all honestly, life has felt pretty surreal for 12 months now), I know that if we ever go to sell this home we will have to disclose this large insurance claim. That makes it harder for a buyer to secure great rates on insurance which effectively lowers our home’s overall value.

Add to that the fact that our lawn and landscaping looks like ass unless we fork out 20 grand to fix the stuff that was destroyed by people we didn’t choose who were hired by a restoration company chosen by our adjuster thanks to a claim we never requested.

 

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What our gorgeous landscaping looked like in June of 2017.

I’m hoping our friend, the insurance agent north of us, can help us make sense of what’s in store. He was out of the office all this past week so hasn’t had a chance to respond to any of this. He would only be finding out about the lawn & landscape issue and our subsequent displeasure now. He’s a heck of a good guy and we talk Labrador retrievers often and I hope he can go to bat for us on this.

And I’m not complaining. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge deal. I’m just putting some stuff out there and sharing Fyfe Life for the insanity that it is at times. I’m enjoying my new office and colleagues and I’ve got a lot of support from everyone on this real estate adventure.

 

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Practicing for when my new desk would arrive.  It eventually did & I’m typing at it right now.

I’m on “floor” duty today because summer tourists could actually walk in and want to learn about or even see properties and local homes. Tomorrow we will talk with our agent and hopefully move forward into what’s ahead. And hopefully I’ll never have to disclose company names and slag them to my readers and my homeowners who ask for my advice because that just isn’t my style.

An ambulance just went roaring past our office with its sirens blaring.

It reminds me that someone and their family are having a way worse time today than I could even imagine.

The sun is out and summer has arrived. Alistair is already on the golf course and I’m hoping I can meet him there again after work to play a few holes.

And our guest room is really quite nice so with the distractions of a new career, the optimism that our friend will help guide us in a way we can all agree on over the next few days, the beautiful properties I hopefully get to show people, a cuddly dog and 3 cats who provide comfort and peace just by letting us pet them and our shared wacky sense of humor, we are going to be just fine.

 

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One of our agency’s incredible view properties I get to share!

To paraphrase the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, though, we, as Canadians, are very polite. That doesn’t mean we will allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. We will stand up for ourselves when it is appropriate to do so.

So, again, grab the railings and hang on.

You never know what’s in store in Fyfe Life!

 

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“The Look.” Cleo’s thoughts on the whole insurance claim. (Photo by Merielle Kazakoff, one of our evacuation party attendees of last summer when she visited 2 weeks ago!)

 

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How we’ll get through all of this!

 

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Alistair’s favorite ‘float’ during the parade. 

 

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Another stunning, private property I got to preview last week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Update to my Resume

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My resume has evolved over my 45 years on this planet.

Initially it read that I had been a babysitter and church janitor. I added convenience store clerk (with a ticket in propane!), certified amateur figure skating coach and high school graduate within a couple of years.

It changed to professional figure skater, coach and choreographer, with the term, waitress, thrown in for good measure and it stayed that way for a few years until I could add my Bachelors of Science under the Education heading in 2001.

 

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Figure skating coach last summer in Manitoba!

My resume diversified with the title of Veterinarian in 2005 and I eventually added published, and now award-winning author just this year. In between those additions I branched out into the world of Direct Sales with the Chloe & Isabel brand of jewelry in 2015.

I love being all of these things and I enjoy developing many aspects of each role.

Under Interests or Hobbies on my resume I have added golf and even watercolor painting, which I started playing with again this weekend. Its relaxing and peaceful, particularly with the Hawaiian music channel playing in the background and cold, wet  skies outside preventing a round of golf.

 

 

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Inspiration and creation!

 

And now I’m ready to share my latest addition to my Job Titles that I eluded to in my last blog. I had hoped, when I wrote Seasons of Change a month ago, that I would be able to share the news sooner but I only just received a particular piece of paper making the whole endeavor legit on Friday.

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Ta-da! My Montana real estate salesperson license!

You see, this winter was a lot more than just shoving or shoveling snow. And other than my supportive husband and one or two friends I kept my studies to myself because I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. (Well, our Siamese cat, Sport draped himself across my lap as I took my online course, just as he’s doing right now and Cleopatra, our spaniel would snooze on the floor next to me… just like she’s doing now.)

 

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Happening now.

Thinking about and then choosing to become a realtor isn’t quite as random as it might seem for this figure skating, sparkle-loving, bling slinging, cat spaying, dog vaccinating author.

Somewhere along the way I was taught that little girls could grow up and be anything. The choices weren’t quite so broad when my Mom graduated from high school. Back then there was nursing, teaching or flight attendant school. Or marriage and a family, which are noble options themselves.

When I graduated high school in 1989 I may not have pictured myself in scrubs with cute matching caps, elbow-deep inside a Saint Bernard’s abdomen or getting excited to head to one of our local real estate offices to begin moving forward as a realtor. I couldn’t possibly have envisioned being able to swing a golf club and actually hit the ball to where I intended it to go back then.

 

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Making par at Old Works last week, one of America’s Top 100 courses!

But I knew myself and I knew that I could complete and be fairly decent at anything I believed in and anything I set my mind to.

Which is partly why I struggled, a few years ago, to finally admit that my cute little veterinary clinic  wasn’t thriving in our tiny community anymore. My husband and our accountant told me for 2 years that was the case and eventually I had to agree. It took some time to wrap my brain around the fact that it didn’t mean I wasn’t a successful veterinarian- it was the clinic and the economics of the time that didn’t pan out.

Which leads me to my real estate career!

 

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Cute scrub tops and caps for Cleopatra and I a few years ago!

You see, I didn’t want to abandon my community and leave them vet-less. I actually tried selling my practice.

There are national realty groups who are made up of veterinarians with real estate licenses who market practices and clinics throughout the country. Unfortunately, none of them wanted to list Seeley Swan Veterinary. Nobody even wanted to have a discussion about what potential there was for a part-time clinic run by a woman veterinarian who wanted to spend more time with her family. Or how perfect it could be for a semi-retired veterinarian wanting to work mornings only as they transitioned to their next stage in life.

I tried a couple of these veterinary realty groups and it seemed that, other than not wanting to take my practice on, they all had one other thing in common.

 

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They’re generally a bunch of older, white guys.

It got me thinking that theirs is a world I could shake up a little bit!

Granted, it took me 4 years to start the process of learning to become a realtor but the seed was planted. Last fall I got online and signed up with Real Estate Express and when I wasn’t moving snow from here to there last winter I completed my required 60-hour course with my cat on my lap and then passed my state licensing exam this spring.

I’ll fully admit that I really learned a lot! Just like every profession there is a whole new language to learn and I need to be immersed into that world to learn to speak it fluently.

 

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My real estate career thus far

I learned about types of leases and ownership, real estate brokerage, marketing properties, closing disclosure forms, primary & secondary mortgage markets, and that one acre equals 43,560 square feet.

I studied, I took tests, I read and re-read and then read some more and I’ve found some continuing education webinars that are enthusiastic and encouraging.

And I’m excited! I’ve joined the Clearwater  Montana Properties team and I start training tomorrow. I’ve made my first announcements on Facebook and Instagram and will share on Twitter as well.

 

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Cleo helping me write today’s blog… the same as she helped me study my online course this winter and how she helps me write my books.

Clearwater Montana Properties is a participant with Sports Afield Trophy Properties which offers worldwide listing exposure and is the only brokerage in Montana able to offer this partnership so its a terrific group to join and learn from. They are enthusiastic about me coming on board and I plan to give them the best I have to offer.

I know many of the people I’ll be working for because of my time spent in my veterinary clinic. I hope I can instill trust and confidence in my real estate abilities as much as I was able to as Dr.Fyfe.

And I still am Dr.Fyfe. Who writes books and slings bling when she’s  not playing golf. Book 4 is planned for this winter but that’s the only thing that’s planned. And the veterinary derm conference in Hawaii this fall.

I look forward to sharing this crazy ride with you all just as I’ve shared our loves & losses with our pets, my foray into self-publishing as well as marketing my book and our zany appreciation for the game of golf.

 

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Dr.Brock from Indiana, who is part of our Hawaiian derm conference golf foursome joined us out on the golf course here in Montana a couple of weeks ago!

I’m looking forward to meeting new people and broadening my relationships that already exist with friends from the skating, veterinary, bling, books and golf worlds. I’ve always said that my life changes with every phone call. I mean it!

I may never join one of those big groups that sell veterinary practices but they were the inspiration for me to take this path at this time. My resume, like my character continues to evolve and I’m so happy to add Realtor under the heading Job Titles.

Its fun being me. Choose happy every chance you get and remember that anything is possible if you believe in it and you put your mind to it.

 

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Still Dr.Fyfe (after a recent vaccine clinic in a nearby community)

 

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Chillaxin’ with some watercolors yesterday.

 

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My number 1 supporter in every crazy thing I do!