Ohana

Standard
P1020571

Beauty all around the Grand Hyatt on Kauai

I am not bothered by Winter’s approach, even as the Montana skies around me are dark, grey and rainy. There is a chill in the breeze and snow lies on all of the mountains that surround our little ranch. It is November already and still I do not shiver and quake at the memories of non-stop snow plowing, snow paths, shoveling and home insurance claims because we just topped off our Aloha levels on the island of Kauai.

The Garden Isle welcomed us back for my annual veterinary dermatology conference. It was a much happier time at the conference versus last year when Alistair stayed in Montana with sweet UB during his surprising final days.

P1020572

Yay, Alistair was back with me! Grand Hyatt resort grounds.

With our trusted house/pet sitter, Jessie on board at the farm for Sport, Bebe, Cleo and Jockey, we got up at 3am on October 25th and just like that we were back on our favorite Hawaiian island!

Kauai feels like home for us. Perhaps because it was the first Hawaiian island we ever visited in 2009. Perhaps its because we actually have family there. It could be that the Poipu Bay Golf Course is like our Hawaiian home course. Or maybe its because we always meet special people there and these special people become our Ohana.

Family.

P1020582

Brock, Chris and I at Poipu Bay

Years ago we met Dr.Brock at the veterinary golf tournament and we have played together in almost every tournament ever since. He has visited us in ND and MT, as well. Barb joined our foursome back on Maui and has also been a fun part of the party.

This year Brock brought Christine, his new girlfriend- another new friend on Kauai! They played on another team and Barb, Alistair and I were joined by Cindy for this year’s tournament. One more friend!

Our foursome laughed and giggled as great shots were made (mostly by Alistair, Cindy and Barb but I managed a few nice ones, too) during a torrential downpour the Garden Isle is known for.

P1020593

Cindy and Barb trying to stay dry

Its wasn’t cold but it definitely was wet. The last hour was particularly nasty and as I teed it up on our 18th hole, with rain water pouring off my hat, shoulders, and arms, bare-handed so my Driver wouldn’t fly out of my hands, completely aware that I was soaked through and through, I gave it my all and somehow won the women’s long-drive contest.

It wasn’t our team’s only award- at the wet-rat looking luncheon, our team ‘won’ the highest score award. Hey, it was $50 for each of us. It pays to suck!

P1020598

Alistair’s Angels with our crisp 50s in hand!

That isn’t our first time as high-scorers. The whole pond hockey fundraiser from 5 years ago earned us our “most honest” awards as well. The high scoring teams usually are laughing their heads off and not taking their game or life too seriously. That’s what got us hooked on golf way back when with Lynn and Micki.

Alistair and I played a total of 6 rounds at Poipu Bay this trip. The clubhouse staff and pro, Chad, welcome us as their Montana Ohana with hugs and handshakes. Workers like Kerry and Danny remembered us (and my golf club head-covers) from our visits there over the last few years and we all laughed about how we play “Fyfe Golf”- driving from hole to hole to find an open spot.

“That’s exactly how we all play,” Kerry told us as he was cleaning up my clubs.

P1020599

Jinxie and Mulder club head covers… forgiving us for getting them soaked during the tournament.

He had recognized these 2 and the Loki head on my Driver the first day he came to work after we dropped the clubs off. We also all reminisced about the time we met- when Alistair’s Driver head went flying off during a group lesson from Chad years ago prior to the tournament.

989

We’ve been laughing with these guys since 2015!

Other than the one rainy tournament, the weather at Poipu Bay lived up to its sunny reputation and our skin is tanned and our hearts are warmed. We played a couple more times with Barb and a fun fourth named David one day and we also played alone.

1101181320

Seriously digging my new hat at Poipu Bay last week!

And we got to connect with flesh & blood Ohana when we had supper with Whitney and Lau and then visited them for a BBQ a few nights later.

We ate at Café Portofino together in Lihue and caught up on everyone’s lives in real time, in person.

44894290_10156395204885528_6263704704472055808_o

Lau & Whitney, Café Portofino

We got to watch a Princess Cruise line ship squeeze its way out of Nawilili Harbor as evening and darkness descended and our yummy merlot was sipped.

(Alistair and I ate there again before our night flight out on Thursday and our server, Angela, grew up surfing with Lau and his siblings.)

More connections.

More Ohana.

Facetune95

Our mandatory photo after supper at Café Portofino! (not my photo)

Whitney & Lau let us hang out at their place another afternoon as we caught up even more and got to play with their dogs. Whitney got a sweet new Jeep during our island stay and we got to check it out while trying to not be distracted by their back yard views towards Hanalei.

45198376_10156406282580528_6012592646873153536_o

New wheels and grand-dog, Kygo!

45148061_10156406283955528_3914776249792200704_o

The kids’ extremely distracting back yard on Kauai’s north shore.

I saw friends at the veterinary conference who are always there, like Don and Tony. I connected with the Canadian, Trevor, who remembered us and our Montana tales and how I walked away from my brick & mortar practice 5 years ago. Dick and Ann weren’t there this year. Neither was Dave from Washington or Bruce from Kansas. Dick did text me, at least, and hopefully they will be back next fall on Maui.

P1020584

More golf and that sweet new hat of mine!

More golf and more fine dining. We had been worried about the expense of eating out thanks to our home insurance woes but I committed over an hour on the phone with Mr.Cooper our first morning on Kauai and somehow I was finally able to speak to someone in “Leadership”. “Michelle” listened and made some sense of our months-long mess and we will hopefully have some of our personal funds back soon.

So we can get going on getting our walls re-built and getting out of the guest room.

Back to Kauai, our dining adventures brought things full circle yet again.

We ate at Dondero’s one night, the Italian restaurant at the Grand Hyatt. Juan was our server and we spent the night sharing pictures and stories about our beloved animals. Juan has rescued German Shepards as well as one of the ginger kittens he found at the resort. The little guy, Pumpkin, had a lot of health woes at the start and we crossed our fingers for his upcoming vet visit.

We saw Juan our second time eating there and although he wasn’t our server we got to spend a lot of time visiting and hearing that little Pumpkin got a clean bill of health! More photos, exchange of names & emails and now Juan and I are friends on Facebook!

1029181756

This isn’t Pumpkin- feral kitties are everywhere. This sweetie was at the Garden Plantation restaurant. Another new friend on Kauai!

I knew Barb and her husband, Don (who we finally met and had supper with at Merrimen’s one night- more friends,  more Ohana!) were eating at Dondero’s after we were leaving and I told them about Juan and how awesome and caring he was.

Saturday morning I got a text from Barb with this photo:

IMG953681_2

Barb & Juan at Dondero’s!!!!! (not my photo)

Guess who was their server??? My heart was so happy to see this! My friends are your friends and if you are my friend its because you are happy, inspirational, cool, not cool, funny, unique, special, loving, caring and giving of yourself.

And you probably love animals.

We are all Ohana.

I think our lives are enriched when we surround ourselves with people and experiences that touch us. And perhaps we need to touch others as well.

And so, with our hearts full of Aloha, our pineapple levels topped up once again, and new members of our tribe to connect with and keep in touch and hope to see again soon, we flew through the night sky to land (well, in this case it was just about plummeting to our deaths… seriously… we applauded the pilot on touching down) in Missoula and we are back to reality.

P1020577

I am missing this reality.

Sport is purring on my lap, Jessie is back home, my real estate transactions are becoming more and more real with each passing hour and our clocks are set one hour back today.

We loved our Aloha as always and enjoyed so many special relationships- old ones and new ones- and we are a larger Ohana for it.

Mahalo, again, Kauai. Love, your Montana Ohana.

45219407_10156406308430528_7455773160944697344_n

When Grammy & Grampy come to visit! (not my photo)

1030181331

Photo from Keoki’s for Michelle & Missy… some of our Seeley Lake Ohana who joined us here last spring!

P1020603

Alistair goofing around on the incredible 16th tee box!

P1020594

On our way to becoming drenched during the golf tournament!

 

 

Our Ties to North Dakota

Standard

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.

P1020539

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.

P1020535

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!

5-13-2007-16

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.

P1020541

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.

Leanna and me

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.

MEMO0050

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!

MEMO0014

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.

MEMO0018

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!

IMG_8342

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.

42653798_10156323867180528_8133130082374909952_o

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.

hockey coaches

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.

Morgie and me

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.

42972032_10156331940380528_7957184410632060928_o

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!

new roof

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!

ND5

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

036

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)

42572722_10156323867915528_3368374822542245888_o

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

fall in MT

And now the change is upon us.

 

 

And Then There’s That

Standard

 

p1060749

Loki Fyfe, a few weeks ago

 

Three years ago when I started writing this blog I was worried back then about little Loki, our blind grand-dog. At that point she had advanced cataracts and a left eye that had been nailed by cat claws a few too many times. She had her pronounced heart murmur, reverse sneezing, her knobby dew-claw, advancing arthritis, a thinning hair coat and a general dislike for winter.

It was only my fifth blog (As Good As We Can, by Step Gammy) and it was April of 2014 and it was about our deal with the animals who join our family and how I always promise to provide a life as good as we can for as long as we can.

I had to make good on that promise on January 30th.

p1060853

Earlier in January, with Cleo snoozing on Loki and Gampy snoozing nearby.

In my blog three years ago I wrote that I couldn’t imagine life without Loki and in other blogs I’ve shared how important she was in our lives. I’ve included multiple pictures of her exploring her worlds in Montana and North Dakota where she navigated around both homes in her pin-ball fashion, always knowing where she needed to go and somehow always able to find me.

Her need to be with Step-Gammy increased dramatically over the past year & a half and the two of us have been pretty inseparable. To the point where I felt guilty playing more than 9 holes of golf by myself or lingering longer at a lunch date.

p1060854

Earlier this year… snoring….

We couldn’t go on overnight trips without months of planning ahead of time unless the dogs came with us.

Which made for several fun drives across the state with my three companions and several funny glances from other rest-stop-users as I handled a blind dog and two rambunctious dogs who have no clue how to behave on a leash.

 

002

“Let’s get the show on the road, Gammy!”

 

349

Thankfully we had Gampy along on this trip!

Evening time with Loki, whether her Gampy was home or not was a pretty special thing for her, particularly once supper was cleaned up and it became Couch Time.

Couch Time involved snuggling and snoring into some area of my feet or legs. We’d watch golf or CNN or whatever Netflix series her Gampy and I were hooked on and she’d snore and fart and those snuggly evenings leading up to another favorite, Bed Time are a magical rear-view memory.

lokicouchtime

Couch Time with Step-Gammy watching PGA golf from Kapalua, Maui

While UB was always pretty tight with Loki, Cleo had begun making it a very tight threesome over the past year. I’d get them to bed and go off to feed the cats and stoke the woodstove only to return to a snuggle fest when I got back. They would eventually move through the night (UB and Loki under the covers, tight against us) but I loved seeing the three of them as their own little canine gang.

p1060772

Earlier in January

I joked that “we four move as one” for the past year or two because that has truly been the case. UB is fit as a fiddle but Cleo had her own Vestibular Disease and balance issue last April and she is almost completely deaf (more fun at rest stops….) UB liked having both of his sisters close by, as though he felt responsible for them. I love his caring nature and the way he can be so serious about some things.

And I loved seeing him and Loki cuddled up in cat beds or on the carpet together by the woodstove. I didn’t know how I would be able to walk through the house without knowing he would be doing his best to take care of little Loki.

454

A couple of years ago… Loki and UB.

Alistair and I hadn’t planned on putting our little train wreck through another winter but she was doing so well and the weather was so mild that neither of us could fathom ending things.

She met a new friend and enjoyed our house sitters in November when we went to Maui (a trip that was planned a year in advance, of course.) The snow didn’t fall in November so she enjoyed walks & talks with me several times a day around the farm outside. She played in the leaves, listened to the burbling creek and sniffed the air as the season changed.

 

p1010492

Getting in some good sniffing in November

 

p1010495

more sniffing

Her squished-in nose was, by far, her most important navigational tool outdoors and indoors. She was a whiz at figuring her way to the back of the house in Bismarck and a whiz at finding me in the kitchen cooking up the ground beef we added to her diet last September.

 

010

Loki and her navigational tools last fall

The snow came down hard and fast in December, though, and things began to change. She was far more sensitive to the cold temps. She started “chibbering” as we put her jackets on her before we even went outside. She always did go out (unlike UB who usually requires assistance out the door on cold, snowy mornings) and did her business but often she would be three-legged and seemingly frozen in place immediately afterwards.

Even if she did let us get the jackets on she was never a fan of them. We had a variety of sweaters or cover-ups and each one induced a Pavlovian type of trembling response from within the warm house.

470

A couple of  years ago… this one didn’t work despite the fashion-forward scarf.

So a few days, unless it was so cold it hurt to breathe, we just skipped the jackets and stood over her so we would be right there when she was finished because it was minus whatever and it was frigging cold even for us in our coats and toques.

 

p1060773

Another fail.

But things started to change and we started to talk about them. Normally Alistair and Tanya try to avoid talking about our ailing pets but the Doctors Fyfe intervened.

Despite the ground beef and high-calorie prescription canned food, Loki lost weight. She lost hair and the margins of her ears became tattered. Her GI tract was making unusual sounds and despite the meds I provided her stools got more & more loose. Her appetite, particularly for chicken mozzarella with Gampy, generally stayed strong, though, so we kept on keeping on.

img_0743

Couch Time earlier this year

And every night we would cuddle and I would hold her tight and we’d be up in the morning and out into the cold and she’d get her Rimadyl and ground beef and follow me into the computer room or the bedroom where she would wait for me outside the shower on the bath mat and she would snuggle into clothes left on the floor and follow me to the computer where she would sit on my feet or behind the chair as I told stories of teenagers and dragons and a Boston Terrier named Baxter.

She helped me finish chapter fifteen and even though I told her how the story would end, she won’t be here when this book gets published.

081

Helping me edit book 2 in 2015

Loki won’t be here to enjoy one more springtime and she won’t feel another hot sunbeam on her adorable face.

She wasn’t there to join UB, Cleo and I as we drove across the state to help Gampy with one more surgery earlier this month.

She won’t cuddle on the couch to watch another PGA event and she won’t be spooned into my chest or neck ever again.

She won’t do “Geronimo”, “Boba-Fett” or her impersonation of a T-Rex off the bed in Gampy’s arms one more time.

 

img_7511

One of her last T-Rex impersonations on one of her last mornings with Gampy.

And I won’t cook up her ground beef or give her a post-seizure bath and I won’t have her riding shot-gun in the front seat of the truck and I don’t hear her snore at night in the too-quiet bedroom and I don’t feel her thrust her face into my chest when I pick her up and I don’t have her at my feet, on my lap or by my side anywhere in the house. I don’t see ferrets toying with the blind dog, I’m not carrying anyone outside, I’m not standing her on the freezer to trim her toe nails and I’m not smiling as I watch her lay with UB and Cleo.

Because Loki had two pretty tough nights after Gampy went back to Bismarck in January. The first day after the first night was a day for me to come to grips with what had to be done and for her and I to spend time together. Walks and talks in some winter sunshine. Chapter fifteen. Couch Time and all.

 

p1060862

Immediately behind my chair on the final morning, helping me edit some more

Our last night wasn’t much fun for Loki and she didn’t eat her breakfast. Alistair and I had decided what needed to be done and we talked beforehand. Well, he talked. I sobbed.

And I cried to the blue skies outside, “How can I DO this?” through my tears.

Loki was especially clingy that final morning and I didn’t leave her side. I laid with her in front of the woodstove and said goodbye from the hundreds of people who were lucky enough to meet and love her, like Theresa, Brian & Roxy, like Jessi & Carson, like Melody, Carolyn & Wanita, like Uncle Pete and Auntie Wendy and their resort and home, like all my clinic staff and friends at the Dog Days of summer, like the Bossorts, like all of Whitney’s friends & roomies over the years and like our neighbors in Bismarck and Montana.

I asked her to say hi to our band of merry misfits who would all be waiting for her and somehow I was able to sedate her without her really knowing.

p1060864

Just before it all went down…

She felt the tiny needle, though, and she sat up. She didn’t bark or pull away. She just sat and leaned into me. As the cocktail of meds kicked in and as more tears fell from my burning eyes, little Loki slid down my side next to my leg and hit one of her classic Cute Positions.

And she snored.

With trembling hands I managed to hit a vein. I smiled, somehow, at the fact her hair never re-grew after an IV injection site was shaved in one of our attempts to save the bad eye a few years ago.

And I told her one last time, as I listened to her murmury, washing-machine of a heartbeat slow and eventually stop, how lucky I am to be her Step-Gammy.

 

p1060716

In December, waiting for me on the bath mat

Loki lived an incredible life (sixteen years of it!) with incredible spirts of all species and she probably wouldn’t have been around for the last three if it weren’t for the fact she was firmly wrapped up in Fyfe Life.

Where everyone lives as good as they can. For as long as they can.

And we’re all slowly adapting and its weird and I miss her every single day and night and UB and Cleo are even closer than before and I had a moment opening up a package of ground beef the other night for the first time since January 30th and I’m okay with that. Her spirit lives on and will likely have as much to say as ever during our golf games.

 

p1060886

This was unexpected… but I guess when you’re running out of friends…

RIP little Loki Fyfe. You will never be forgotten. xo

 

002

Another favorite snooze spot for Loki.

 

122

Clothes on the ground made for excellent bedding.

 

159

“Step-Gammy… the girl ferret is in my bed again!”

 

img_7510

Mornings with Loki in January. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Completely Normal (or, The Case For Step-parents)

Standard

I have never wanted to have children of my own.

There.

I’ve said it and I’m glad.

156

Luigi and me!

Not human ones, anyhow.

I remember telling the dressing room of skaters my feelings about that as a kid.

It was one of those group discussions about how many kids each of us planned to have and I announced I would be having none.

That I would have to find a man who already had his own kids because he wasn’t getting them from me.

014

Apparently I had things all figured out back then…

And it isn’t because I don’t like kids. That’s not it at all.

I love kids. They’re fun, they’re goofy, they like to play make-believe, they giggle freely, they like my stories, they like Rhonda, they like to watch me skate, they are full of wonder and, generally, they trust and believe openly.

26808_119301048086784_6357537_n

Harry and I back in the first version of my little vet clinic with the local pre-schoolers

I am completely comfortable around groups of kids regardless of whether I’m doing veterinary education or coaching figure skaters or hockey players.

I don’t break out in a sweat, I don’t have panic attacks, and I actually quite enjoy kids of all ages.

014

Slightly blurry pic of a pic of our real wedding day with Gareth

So it was quite fortuitous that I met and married a man with all of the requirements.

015

Same day, with Whitney

I had no expectations because, at 21, I had no friends dating older persons with their own kids.

None of my friends or siblings had any non-infant children of their own at that point so there was nobody to turn to for questions or suggestions.

I just winged it and tried to make our family as normal as possible.

026

A long-ago blonde phase with Whitney & Gareth on our trip to Disney World

The kids even moved in with us in Watford City when Gareth was in grade 4 and Whitney was in grade 2.

At that point a few friends thought I was crazy (think I was 22 by then) but it never occurred to me that it was wrong.

Its not like Divorce was unheard of in the ’90s, its just that it didn’t happen much in the close-knit Doukhobor community and family I grew up in.

247851_10150193668225528_2825177_n

Fyfe Family time on the outdoor ice rink in Watford City

So there was no reference point other than having 2 loving parents who wanted to make the best life possible for their kids.

Even if they weren’t my kids.

It has always helped that Alistair and his first wife had a fairly amicable divorce.

There was no throwing of cutlery or evil phone messages.

387444_10150447317410528_1325683366_n

Visiting the kids in Vancouver (with Rhonda)…

It may have helped that the ex lived in Vancouver, many miles and a country away. We have a mutual respect for one another, (particularly now that the kids are grown) and appreciate that we offered very different ‘mothering’ styles to the kids.

Maybe it also helped that I was so young- there are as many years between Alistair and I as with Gareth and I.

Which was fun when they were teens and we could sometimes sort of hang out.

252096_10150194476915528_4611767_n

Camping trips with the kids & their friends

And listen to the same music and share our friends and learn to be a different but normal type of family and shop at Abercrombie together and be a part of each other’s lives as we were all growing and changing.

253494_10150194456425528_886588_n

Fyfe Life classic… Old Maid with Morgie!

And I can’t tell you how many of the kids’ friends I keep in good touch with via social media.

And some we even hang out with when we can.

Morgie&me

Morgan and I enjoying a great meal together in Bismarck a couple of years ago

And I think I am a very lucky woman to have the relationship I have with my now-adult stepkids.

They have never called me “Mom”. I was adamant about that because they already have a mother.

I was “Tan” back then and I’m “Tan” still.

Just because a person didn’t give birth to a child doesn’t mean they can not love them.

327

Gareth’s high school grad with Whitney & I in Bismarck

Or be immensely proud of them and their achievements.

10400260_58042210527_4498632_n

Whitney’s high school grad a couple of years later in Vancouver

I have loved helping raise these 2 cool young people and I have so enjoyed watching Alistair raise them and care for them, too.

They aren’t my own children but I am his partner and I worry about his worries and I’m excited for his excitements.

322

Proud Dad with Whitney’s hockey!

The main difference, which I had to remind the kids from time to time (like after the group of AAA hockey boys made a run on the Go Karts a living Hell for the owners of the place… AGAIN or the one prom night I won’t go into), was that I didn’t have that built-in ability to love them no matter what.

008

Gareth, assuring me it wasn’t going to be like the summer before when we all almost got kicked off the course… (he was very, very wrong)…

When I used to say that I didn’t want kids I would get the typical responses:

“You will change your mind when you’re all grown up.”

“Once your friends start having kids you’ll feel differently.”

“You don’t mean that.”

But I did mean it.

023

Me. Not wanting to have kids.

As years went by those comments turned bitter:

“You’re being selfish.”

“What’s wrong with you not wanting kids?”

“That isn’t normal.”

You know what, though? It IS normal for me.

I have always been career-driven and I knew, as a little girl, that children might get in the way of that.

vetpic7

One of my careers

I also knew that I was extremely motivated to succeed- whether it was on the ice, with my textbooks, coaching, writing, slinging bling- whatever.

I moved away from home at the age of 12 to pursue skating at the highest level.

I graduated high school at 16 to get going on an education.

I moved by myself to Tokyo at 19 to make some money teaching English.

015

Training & competing at as a high a level as I could dream. I couldn’t do that in my home town.

And deep down inside where you have a core that you know is your true self I knew that there was the slightest, teensiest possibility I could have a child who wouldn’t be like that.

And that would disappoint me.

And that would be wrong.

I knew that you shouldn’t ever be disappointed in your own child but there it was and I never, ever wanted to resent a child of my own.

025

4th grade boys at their track meet in Watford City

So I didn’t mind that Alistair had his own kids. Heck, they could pee and eat on their own by the time I showed up so that was a huge bonus right there!

I took an active role in their parenting and have never felt like I missed out on anything.

276

Whitney and I in Saskatoon, right around my vet school graduation!

And I absolutely love the young adults they have become and the journeys they have been on and we celebrate together in person or over a phone line or Facetime or we say goodbye to a group of animal companions that each and every one of us has loved on a sunny day with pink roses and we cry and hug together and laugh at shared memories and encourage one another’s dreams and we enjoy the good old days and the great ones now and the endless possibilities ahead.

060

Whitney & I show-girling with the Luau men on Kauai

And I appreciate how truly lucky I am to have the relationships I do with these two.

011

Vet school grad, 2005, Saskatoon

And I look forward to the times ahead… perhaps on a golf course or two…

10928194_607720194753_978925055991540343_n

We are in the process of corrupting Whitney by making her a golf addict. We had both made par on her first day playing last month!

And its still fun to look back at where we all began.

011

Hallowe’en, 1995, Watford City (goodness, there’s Rhonda again!)

And I know I am normal for me and you are normal for you.

Mulder3

Whitney & Mulder a couple of years ago visiting us in Montana

205

Gareth and the RX-7 for prom… (no, that’s not THE prom story…)

020

Much younger Gareth and much younger Boomer back in Bismarck

63085_430231100527_408608_n

Lucky stepmom, (taken a few years ago in Vancouver)