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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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

The Life We Choose

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Highway 200, a low-shouldered arrow across Montana has once again brought me to my other home.

Bismarck, North Dakota.

Where there is horizon as far as you can imagine and no mountains to be seen in any direction.

The trip is long but the company was perfect and the weather just right- not too hot, not too cold. The only potential glitch was the “sleeping” lady behind the wheel of her parked mini-van at the rest stop. She had her head back and her mouth gaping open, with the van still running.

Several of us rest-stoppers started to crowd around the van.

“Is she even alive?” one asked.

“I’m not sure,” my MD husband answered.

We continued to crowd. I was worried she would wake up and see us all standing around her, thinking it was a zombie apocalypse and end up dead from a heart attack.

“There- I saw her breathe,” Alistair told us and we all smiled at each other and went back to our own vehicles, to our own adventures, in our own directions.

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Some might say this is a dreary trip to make but I actually enjoy it. I like the sleepy little towns of Circle and Jordan, the section lines, the supposedly-decommissioned missile silos, the random farmhouses that appear after the next rise, and the way the prairies open up once you can no longer see the Rockies behind you.

I like this time of year- the tawney tan hues of yesteryear’s fields, the sagebrush and tumbleweeds amidst brown soil that has finally shed its winter jacket, and the odd blade or patch of green grass that is peeking through.

Grass that is reaching up to the sun for warmth, nourishment… love.

The landscape right now is dotted with¬†cow/calf pairs-¬†Angus, Charolais, Herefords, “Oreo Cookie” cows….

There are a lot of great cow vets out there but I’m not¬†one of them. I like cows. I did do some bovine calls when I first worked as a vet in Bismarck.

I don’t think the cattle farmers thought much of me showing up in the wee hours to pull a calf wearing makeup and my pink Carharts.¬†And my red rubber boots that have bumblebees on them.

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I tried to make the best of it but it wasn’t my thing.

Along the drive I got to watch antelope, sheep, horses and bison grazing in their wide open pastures. I watched farm dogs working with their farmers as we whizzed along highway 200, heading east as dark grey clouds headed north.

As always, I am spell-bound by the Badlands of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Along the Interstate is the south unit of the park where the buffalo roam and the deer & the antelope play. These rugged lands have been shaped over decades by the incredible forces of water and wind.

Lots of wind.

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Wind that blows incessantly on the prairies. Wind that almost has a personality- its like another friend when you live here. When it isn’t blowing, everyone notices it.

Your friend isn’t there.

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Its one of those friends you don’t always want to hang out with, but its still one of the constants of life out here.

Alistair lives and works here for half of every month before coming back to me and Montana to play for the other half.

We have a nice house here that we’ve lived in for about 15 years. Its not grand like our home in Montana but it has served us well.

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It is where our broodmares live and where their foals were born and raised.

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It is where Gareth came to spend his high school years with us.

Its where Whitney and Loki then joined us.

Its where I graduated with my Bachelor’s of Science and eventually recieved the news I was accepted into vet school.

Its where we climb on top of our roof to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July with whatever friends and family are here to join us.

Its where I last worked as a full time skating coach, prepping my kids for competition, choeographing fun routines and helping them prepare for their moment in the spotlight.

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Many of the furry Fyfes joined our family in our Bismarck home- Casey, Harry, Cleopatra, Mulder, Sport, Mouse, Georgia, Jockey and even Luigi.

So much is the same here- the expansive sky that we hot tub under at night sipping wine and scotch; the wooden stairs that Alistair nearly killed himself on 2 summers ago; the broodmares, with our arabians, Susie, Cocoa and petite Jessi, the former racehorse, Katie and reliable old Raven.

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But a lot has changed in the 7 years I haven’t lived here.

We’re getting new neighbors again.

Four farms, all on 40 acres were all that was here when we came to town in the late ’90s. A few of us had kids who grew up together. We all helped each other put square bales up and into our barns. I’ve doctored a few pets and even said goodbye to 2 of our neighbors’ horses.

And now new folks are coming.

And the growth in Bismarck is unbelievable. You’d have to be a fool to not get work here. Every restaurant, hotel and business is hiring, with flashy billboards and fluorescent letters advertising their $12.40/hr starting wages and excellent benefits.

And my mares, Shadow, Willow,¬†and Daisy aren’t here.

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And there are no barn cats greeting me as I swipe at cobwebs when I climb up on the hay bales in our barn.

And one of the young neighbors who grew up with my stepkids is no longer part of the neighborhood- she was one of the ones who joined us on the rooftop. And in the hot tub.

And we are all getting older and more grey and now my North Dakota dentist tells me I need 2 crowns.

Crowns! I’m only 41!

Many things have changed in my home on the prairies.

I am enjoying the new restaurants and the happy feeling of being surrounded by people who have work. I am enjoying seeing my brother-in-law and other good friends & their pets. I have enjoyed the first set of new neighbors and met the ones who will replace them just today.

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I am hopeful that many of our animal companions will journey with me back here when I need to handle these thankfully-painless dental issues. I hope that Loki and Casey will see the farm again, if only to sniff where they used to piddle and rub muzzles with the horses who like them.

I am a lucky woman who has the opportunity to know two very different lives. We choose this life because we aren’t quite ready to give either of them up- the employment and our land vs. the majestic mountains and our relaxation.

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Breathing in the scent of sweet grass and alfalfa vs the pine trees that fill the air in western Montana.

Maybe someday it won’t be like this but for now we will appreciate what we do have, where we have it, and who we share it with.

With all that changes and all that remains the same.

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