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!

 

 

 

 

 

A Melancholy Moment

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Finally on our local golf course last week!

Normally, 99.999% of the time, this is me. Not the wine glass- that’s maybe 25% of the time and as much as I wish golf was 100% that isn’t the case, either. But I’m normally smiling, laughing, joking around and happy.

(As I type that I’m trying desperately to do the math to make sure I don’t sound like a flaming alcoholic… should that be 20%? 15% Will my friends laugh and think I underestimated?)

Driving home along muddy gravel roads with 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom potholes in the rain to a husband-less house on Friday, however, I had a moment of melancholy.

I had a few tears.

It wasn’t a pity party by any stretch. It actually had to do with some sadness.

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a couple of weeks ago before the golf course opened

I had done a house call that morning where I helped friends say goodbye to their special canine companion. It was necessary, it was an act of kindness and it was done for all the right reasons. It was also beautiful and peaceful if such an event can be.

It was Time.

But after having done this recently with a few other special canines I realized I have been the veterinarian in this community long enough that I have known these animals their entire lives. And now I’m saying sad goodbyes to some of them.

I was the Easy Cheese lady back when we did 3 sets of the distemper combo and handed out puppy kits.

I spayed and neutered them.

They were participants in my puppy parties.

And they came to the Dog Days of Summer every year.

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UB and Loki at one of the Dog days of Summer

While not all of the recent patients of the Angel of Darkness were puppies when I met them, they were still my patients for several years. It just felt kind of heavy and it all hit me at one specific moment yesterday.

The rainy, dark skies and the cooler temperatures after being teased with sunshine and golf games recently probably didn’t help.

I did allow myself time to think about and process each of the friends I had to help over the Rainbow Bridge and I think veterinarians just simply need to do this from time to time. Sure, I have all sorts of fabulous coping mechanisms- I keep a journal; I share my feelings here and with clients; I play golf; I laugh a LOT; I joke around a LOT; I have ferrets who I talk to in a variety of accents; I don’t take myself seriously; I have a tremendously understanding husband; I write; I have the Aloha hot tub with tiki torches; I drink wine; yadda, yadda….

But veterinarians have enough to worry about in this career that we need to be able to let ourselves emote, from time to time, about stuff that’s just plain sad.

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Fabulous Babulous

It probably also doesn’t help that I found what I believe to be an oral tumor in sweet Bebe’s mouth the other day. She’s fine, though, eating & drinking & bitching at us for her morning Greenies and everything is normal but Dr.Mummy knows its not right.

And she’s lost some weight.

And her hair coat is a bit poor.

But Mummy-me isn’t going to change a thing until Babs gives us a reason to.

Like my clients’ pets did.

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Getting ready for the Furry Scurry a few years ago

The noble Bernese Mountain Dog began limping enough that her parents knew the recently diagnosed bone cancer in her forelimb was taking over.

She walked less and less and started to eat a bit less.

I had done her puppy vaccines and spayed her and fixed her umbilical hernia. She was a puppy party participant and kind of just watched the goofy Labradors and goldens flying around the clinic (although she eventually gave in and played a bit, too.)

She attended Dog Days of Summers and did the Furry Scurry and she hiked in the mountains of Montana and played with her sister and swam in clear rivers and creeks and eventually accepted the newest little sister and she ate like a queen and she lounged outside her house and she loved the heck out of her dad and her new  mom and she was on the greatest adventure ever until it was Time.

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Another Furry Scurry getting ready to go!

Then there was the adorable, 16 year old Yorkie who made it pretty clear to his parents that it was Time. I knew him since I moved here and he and his canine siblings lived a lovely life with their parents. I got to see pictures of him in the basket of the 4-wheeler looking like he was the happiest big dog in a little dog’s body ever. His entire small community knew him and he even got to help out at the bar his folks owned a lot of the time.

I know a lot of hearts were broken when I helped him across the bridge with his mom and dad right there, holding him, rubbing him. Like his mom said, “It isn’t about us anymore, its about him.” It was Time.

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My Nan and the Princess, Cleopatra at a Dog Days of Summer many moons ago

My friends and I had known Sprocket’s time was coming because he was ancient. Most working sled dogs live a great, active life but they rarely make it to 15 years of age but this noble old athlete did and he did it was grace and style. Maybe not with the greatest hair coat in the world but he aged beautifully until he didn’t.

Sprocket was one of their competitive dogs who loved what he did. A Siberian Husky who I respected as both an athlete and a good dog, he started having trouble with his back legs recently. He would rally and we would stop checking to see if I was going to be in town and a few more weeks would pass.

Until the morning when the dog who had run his heart out and played with his yard mates and really liked his injectable anesthesia when he needed it and was one of the alligator bacteria patients years ago let his folks know they needed to come up to the farm for one final visit with Dr.Fyfe.

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Good times with good friends at a Dog Days of Summer

And Friday morning we laid the final dog of a litter of pups I was particularly close to to rest.

The beautiful litter of Great Dane puppies was in trouble from the start when their mom died within days of their birth. We knew it was a challenge to get enough groceries into such a rapid-growing breed but several members of the community were up to the task. It was daunting at best because without much immunity from not having their mom’s milk they couldn’t be exposed to many people so it was a small group who fed, cleaned, rested, and fed the puppies again. Most of the folks who were part of the feeding team became owners of these huge puppies and all but one stayed within our community.

My rep with Royal Canin happily consulted her team of nutritionists and those pups thrived on canned Recovery and wow, what a gorgeous group of dogs they turned into.

On April 22nd, 2009, my surgeon friend from Great Falls came by and he helped me spay and gastropexy the three females, which I had never done before. The three giants laid in a blanketed assembly line as they recovered and it was a pretty special day.

Until the curse of being a Great Dane took over and we lost the father and all of the other siblings over the years.

Generally they aren’t a long-lived breed but Bella made it to 10 years. Until Friday morning, when it was Time.

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Dog Show winners in the “Working Dog” class at one of our later Dog Days

Each and every family I cried with are friends. I’ve had coffees, lunch and supper dates and I’ve supported their buisnesses and I think most of them have read my books.

I counselled them about when to spay, what brand of foods to eat and I dispensed dewormers and did house calls and I sutured them up or took sutures out and I watched relationships grow and flourish even if there was some testing along the way and I shared the beginning, middle and now end of some beautiful lives with special people and their beloved companions and I know how very hard it was to make the decisions they made and I respect all of them for it while knowing how hard their hearts hurt.

Sometimes the making of the decision and acknowledging that it is Time is the hardest part of all. Or maybe its when I ask if my friends are ready… because they will truly never, ever be ready.

I am privileged to get to share the amazing human-animal bond that makes us choose to get another puppy and raise them and love them and care for and guide them through their magical lives as they become perfect middle-aged best friends until they gradually become beloved senior citizens.

My own heart gets wrung out every time we have had to make the decision to send our furry friends on their final adventure.

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Pretty little Bebe Fyfe

I hope I get to have more time to spend with Babs before its Time. Heck, Cleopatra, our Springer is at least 15 and is having her own set of issues. I’m trying not to think about it but I may have to face what Sitka, Danny, Sprocket and Bella’s parents all had to face just recently sooner rather than later.

And I’ll be okay.

Just like all of my friends will.

And every single other pet parent out there who has to face facts when you start making a list of all of the last things you’ll be doing with your buddy.

There are those coping mechanisms.

There is that magnificent hubby and many great friends.

And there is the knowledge that when the sadness is so great it means the love was that great as well.

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Local Coping Mechanism just opened the back 9 last week.

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One of the Furry Scurry’s along the highway in town!

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3 new Coping Mechanisms screwing around in Papa’s clean jeans.

 

Career Combos

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

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

Like today, for example.

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Me, at the office right now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My cute new listing on Hickory lane!

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

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

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Awesome fenced backyard (not my photo)

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

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

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

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

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Dressing it up last weekend!

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

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

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

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Carey & I taking the dress code to new heights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Half an hour more to go today!

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

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

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Me and my hot date in Whitefish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!”

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Ya, 2017

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Outside our front door today. More on Snowmageddon later…

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

Not that we laughed all of the time.

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

 

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UB and Loki a few years ago

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

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

 

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The pilots were our tourists this summer!

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Normal summer shenanigans in western Montana

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

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

 

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Some of the bling (not my photo)

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

He’s coming to Missoula!!!!!!

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

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Just about into 2018….

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

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

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

And it was.

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

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

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

As predicted, the snow started to fall.

And it kept falling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My first run up the driveway yesterday morning

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

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

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

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

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Tidying it up as much as I could today.

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

But I’m done shoveling for 2017.

I think I’m done with 2017 in general.

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

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

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

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

Its Fyfe Life.

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

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Cleo helping me shovel today

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture This

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I chuckled quite a bit this past week as a few orange boxes arrived with the daily mail.

And I’ll chuckle some more this coming week because a couple more are due to show up.

 

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Orange box #1.

If you’ve ever created something with your photographs with Shutterfly then you know they do a great job and they have all sorts of neat things to make. I’ve made personalized, unique calendars, playing cards, canvas collages, tote bags, stationary and more through the company over the years which has been fun for gift-giving at Christmas time.

Its especially fun to create useful items that share our memories when I want to give something to Alistair. And its even better when its something we’ll see or use on a regular basis!

 

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Fun ways to feed our cribbage habit.

But this recent round of orange box deliveries has me giggling because its an order that should have cost me about $300 but instead I only paid the shipping.

This is all because of Alistair’s former diet Coke habit, which has since become a diet Ginger Ale habit. It is also because I’m a relentless point-scorer if there are points to be tallied up on the off-chance I could win or earn something for cheap.

For years (I mean it, years), we’ve entered codes from every 12-pack of pop that Alistair brought home and apparently those points added up. You could go in and redeem points for gift cards or more pop or a mouse pad that said Coke on it but I just let our points add up.

And up.

And up some more.

 

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The 2017 wall calendar that went out to my family for Christmas last year.

Until Coca-Cola decided they were ending the program and we had to use up our points by Sept.30th. It turned out there were a lot of Shutterfly things we could get!

Like 3 14 x 10 canvas prints! (due to arrive this coming week…)

And 4 8 x 10 photo enlargements (coyote pups shown below…)

A cute tote bag and a deck of playing cards featuring the beautiful misty grey morning Alistair captured in 2011 at Holland Lake Lodge (playing cards shown above…)

A 12-month wall calendar (which won’t have actual photos from Oct, Nov or December in them from this year thanks to the deadline…) (also due to arrive this week…)

 

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Free 8 x 10 of the pups from this spring next to our beloved husky, Harry.

 

And we were also able to snag 800 4 x 6 photo prints.

Yes. That’s right. 800.

800 photos I got from memory cards, my phone, old computers, old cameras, Facebook and Instagram. Photos that took me hours to find and then download to the main PC and sort through and choose and then eventually load onto my Shutterfly account.

It was as tedious as it sounds but I’m a cheap Doukhobor who wasn’t going to let those points and something free slip away from me!

 

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Me. Cheap Doukhobor.

Most of the photos have arrived, which is what led to my chuckling last week.

You see, there’s tremendous irony in all of this in that we will now have to buy a bunch of photo albums. Albums that we’ll spend a couple of days packing into boxes and loading into the horse trailer when we get evacuated again thanks to the forest fire in our back yard 10 years from now.

 

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Where every photo album we own currently resides only the truck & trailer are now in North Dakota after our evacuation party in August. 

Which brings me to our unevacuation a couple of weeks ago.

We drove the 2 trucks with 2 dogs and 3 cats and some of our belongings back to smoky Montana after being gone for a month. The pets came through with cuddles and purrs and no tires blew!

The resident deer and bears had happily moved onto our property, which prompted a bit of a startle from Alistair as he and Yogi were just about face to face when he was checking our back yard after the long drive back.

 

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By the time I got my camera Yogi was trundling off, just outside our bedroom. 

The fires took a hit from some much-needed rain and cool weather and we finally don’t see any plumes of smoke behind us.

Seeley Lake’s homes and buildings all survived but its a huge question as to how the actual businesses are going to hang in there.

Tourism is our community’s big thing, particularly in the summer. Not only were many folks forced to evacuate, some weren’t able to work to earn the paycheck that they rely on to pay rent and put food on the table because the tourists weren’t here.

Most resort or lodge rooms were empty.

Gift shops sold coffee to fire fighters and the few locals who weren’t evacuated but locally-made jewelry, carvings, wall hangings, pottery and more didn’t move from the shelves and walls that display them.

Servers had nobody to serve so nobody made tips and the few restaurants that we have in town were down to skeleton crews who all breathed in the thick, dry, smoky air that surrounded our little world for so long.

 

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Some of our hiking areas behind our house when trails to access them still weren’t open after the burn. 

A rainy weekend and snow on the ground this morning have finally made for fresh air. Cold, crisp air, but nobody is complaining.

And you know, not many folks are complaining about the loss of revenue just yet. There will be a time for that and a time for businesses to apply for grants to help them survive the long winter ahead. There will be a time when folks will vent about the anxiety and frustrations we all shared this summer when the fire kept growing as it wrapped itself around all areas of our little town and it hurt to breathe.

And there will absolutely be more photos to take of the snow that will accumulate as Big Red and I begin the winter ritual of keeping our driveways open. More pictures for more photo albums if I can rack up more points for some other thing we discover.

Right now, though, our schools are open and the local Blackhawks are back at it on the football field. We, and others, are trying to eat out when we can to support our local cafes and the Chamber is trying to boost things with a Friday night program that brings a band to town for locals and maybe even some out-of-towners. Each time a local business will be featured during that Friday and I heard my friend’s resort on the lake, Tamarack’s, held the first Friday’s open house.

 

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Enjoying the backyard view a few days ago with blue skies above. 

Its Fall in the most beautiful part of an incredibly scenic state where the Rocky Mountains frame our world to the north and dark blue rivers swirl through the grounds in all directions around us. The season of change is upon us and we’re all ready to move forward, even as bright orange boxes keep arriving on our doorstep containing 800 photographs of our past.

I think most of us here are just so happy we made it through the smoke and fire to this most gorgeous of seasons. We made it with our families, our land, our pets, our laughter, our senses of humor, our dignity, our bling, our photo albums, our golf course, our golf cart, and our pride in this stunning piece of the world we call Home.

 

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Front yard. Happening now, with rain, hail & sunshine.

 

I hope that even if you haven’t visited western Montana that you can try to picture our beautiful world or that you look through the photos I share with you all. And I hope if you do, it makes you smile and inspires in you a dream to some day come and check it out.

Seeley Lake is once again open for business!

 

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Saying goodbye to Shilo and the gang before we unevacuated back to Montana!

 

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Just about home after a month in North Dakota. Snow was a welcome sight!

 

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Back on the 10th tee box in Seeley Lake with no smoke or raging fire to watch.

 

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Back to Fall golf in Norman. In Montana. 

 

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‘Cause we just didn’t get enough fire in our backyards this summer….