New Beginnings

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A long December and there’s reason to believe

maybe this year will be better than the last.

 

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Dec.31st, 2016.

It was a long December.

It was also filled with great memories, smiles and laughter but there were times when reality overwhelmed me.

Like when Alistair was gone and the snow kept coming down and it was so cold Loki chose to piddle inside and Steve, the Ranger wouldn’t start so I was hauling wood to the house through the snow in a wheelbarrow and I was down an extension cord so the 3/4 ton wouldn’t start and I couldn’t get a round bale in for Zeus so I was carting square bales in that damned wheelbarrow to the 6 foot fence and heaving flakes of hay over at him sending shards of spiky hay all over me and into my hay boots which have holes in them so they’re cold and then UB took off to the forest for a few hours and I knew we would be losing sweet Luigi.

Hell, I didn’t even know about Georgia at that point.

 

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Georgia Woo Fang Fyfe

She had been helping me split wood and would leap into my arms daily when I would lock her and Jockey into the barn every night, sweetening the deal with a can of soft food. She ate ravenously every time but we had been noticing her head tilt was more pronounced and she was more off-balance this fall.

Georgia had a chronic sinus infection that used to clear up with antibiotics over the years but this past year it became resistant to everything we tried.

 

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A few years ago, cuddling on the front porch.

Alistair got home on a Friday, and he commented that she had raspy breathing and wasn’t in her usual place in the barn. I had split wood the day before and she had been cuddly, purring and seemingly normal.

She passed away in her sleep on Saturday, curled up on some blankets in a box.

 

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Georgia loved her brother, Mouse so much and truly mourned his loss a year ago. They are together again.

And poor Alistair had to tell me, his wife who normally kept her shit together but had admitted to being overwhelmed on the phone to him a few days prior.

Doctor Tanya suspects pneumonia but I really don’t know. How brilliant is that, that I didn’t even know she was ill? She looked peaceful and comfy, thankfully, when I went to the barn that morning, where Mummy Tanya had a good cry.

I’m glad I told her and Jockey that I loved them every night when I would close the barn door behind me.

 

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Georgia, Mae Mae and Mouse a few years ago.

And I’m glad Mamma Cat had her furry babies in our barn in Bismarck the summer of 2005 and that we got to love this special litter and their funny ways for so long.

 

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The first sign of spring… Georgia in her tree.

I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leaving

Oh how the days go by so fast.

So my heart was a little frayed 2 days later when Alistair and I knew it was time for little Luigi to cross the Rainbow Bridge, too. I had carried the weight of knowing he had GI lymphoma for a couple of months and had only shared it with a few friends. Telling people about it only made it more real, which I was trying to avoid. I also don’t like messing with people’s Thanksgiving and Christmas happiness- the ferrets have quite the fan following!

 

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Luigi earlier this year making a move on my merlot!

I wasn’t even sure Luigi was going to be around to see his Papa again but he kept eating and wanting to come out and play and sneak into the sub-woofer and nibble cat kibble in the garage. And Alistair got to play a little more with the silver boy he raised in Bismarck for 2 weeks before bringing him to Montana as a Christmas present 3 years ago.

 

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The best Christmas present, Luigi Fyfe, the Italian Stallion!

Oh, man, he was a cute little thing but he was so tiny back then! Alistair’s brother, Ian visited in Bismarck and got to play with Luigi, who seemed entranced by his uncle.

 

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Our silver kit loving his uncle’s big arms in ND.

Phillipa and Calypso loved their new little brother and we got to enjoy watching them romp and play and snuggle and hide and play the “Chase” game for hours every night.

Their multi-tiered cage, “Quebec” is in the laundry room which is a central part of the house. I walk past it countless times every day, starting with letting the dogs out first thing in the morning and getting cat food to the indoor kitties once the dogs are in bed, the last thing every night.

One or more ferrets would watch me in the kitchen or visit with me as I did laundry for the past 7 or 8 years.

 

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Good times in Quebec in the Pirate Ship!

We went through 3 Pirate Ships because they loved the thing so much and come on, what’s cuter than seeing 3 feisty little pirates peeking through peep holes?

Do I even have to mention the Sing-Song Saddle and the Luigi Song?

Doctor Tanya and Doctor Alistair noticed Luigi losing a bit of weight this fall and then his stools got softer and softer. I whipped out every trick I had and even some new ones I learned from text books and an online Veterinarian network I am a member of.

 

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My boys… Luigi, Alistair & Calypso last year

The smell of hospitals in winter

and the feeling that its all a lot of oysters, but no pearls.

Some meds seemed to help and others were just annoying. Like the pink KaoPectate droplets scattered throughout the tiled floors where Luigi would try to spit it out. I have always tried to keep the memories happy during our companions’ final months, weeks or days so seeing him resist the syringe like that didn’t seem worth it. Luigi lived life as the happiest guy on Earth so why change that? Especially since it didn’t seem to help.

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Phillipa & Luigi in the ball bin this year

But then he stopped eating his kibble, which is usually a sign that Doctor Tanya watches for during palliative care. He still came out daily and played, though, eating lots of chewy treats and cat food.

And he came out one final night but moved much slower than normal. We both watched him in the living room and even the subwoofer didn’t seem to hold its usual appeal.

 

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“I’m a-just playing in the sub-woofer, Mama!”

He did lay on my chest and let me hold him for a long time, at least, and only a couple of tears fell onto him as I kissed his forehead and rubbed his little body that night next to Alistair.

I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,

makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her.

And the next morning there wasn’t any sparkle in his eyes so together we sedated Luigi, the Italian Stallion and I sang him the Luigi song and he fell asleep in my lap. Doctor Tanya and Mummy Tanya became one and tears fell onto him when I administered the final injection and just like that, Luigi was gone.

 

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enjoying some water with Mama just a couple of weeks ago.

And just like that, December was a bit more difficult this time around.

But there were good times, too, many of them shared with the pets and also friends so I was able to sort of coast along busying myself with wood splitting or plowing snow. Having Alistair here during the 2 sad goodbyes helped tremendously. I really felt his absence when he left a few days ago.

When, for the first time in 7 years I didn’t have a ferret or 2 to play with or care for in the evenings. The house is pretty quiet.

 

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Taking pics of these 4 was always hilarious!

Amazing how much of this enormous house those little spirits filled.

Through all of this is Loki’s struggle to handle the cold temps and snow this winter. In all honesty, we didn’t expect her to be enduring another winter but November had incredibly mild weather and she really had the best Autumn of her senior years.

 

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Couch Time with Step-Gammy every night.

She enjoys her food and Couch Time every single night with us and she gets around the house just the same as always but going outside is a nightmare for her. She even began “chibbering” when I would put her little jacket on inside, seemingly in anticipation of the horrible cold snowy weather.

I’ve pleaded with her to keep doing her business outside because Step Gammy might lose her shit if she doesn’t.

Nobody wants to see that.

Because that isn’t me.

I’m always able to find something to laugh or smile about and I always will, even when my heart is sad. Loki is snoozing under my desk as I type and occasionally she toots and that just makes me chuckle.

 

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UB and Cleo helping me split wood yesterday.

I have plenty of things to be happy about and look forward to.

We are a family with 3 cats and 3 dogs. Why, that’s almost normal, right?

And the PGA kicks off 2017 in Kapalua, where Alistair & I spent a week playing golf in November. We totally enjoy watching the pros play the exact same course we were on, remembering how things looked from the tee and how we chose to approach the green (as if my ball ever goes where I’ve chosen it to go!)

And the skating world is in its 2nd half, meaning US Nationals and Canadians and then Worlds are on the horizon.

Will my friend’s 3 students skate well at Canadians? Will Gracie Gold hold her own shit together for the first time this season? Will Tessa & Scott re-claim top spot on the World podium after not competing for 2 years?

 

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Zeus. Yesterday. Handsome fella!

And Zeus has a round bale and Jockey is ever-so loving as my companion when I split wood or work outside and Steve has been firing up and we have a new battery charger and Big Red got new battery connectors and the bling company is launching a capsule this month and I found my pink Carhartts and  we have African cichlids in our kitschy tank and book 3 is coming together and the days are longer and my heart is full from having a house full of spirits and I’m going to be okay.

And its been a long December and there’s reason to believe

maybe this year will be better than the last.

I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself

to hold on to these moments as they pass.

(Thanks to the Counting Crows for the assistance on this one.)

Here’s to a New Year.

 

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Luigi & Phillipa this year.

 

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Georgia out front a few summers ago.

 

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Loki, snoozing on the bath mat last month.

 

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Pink Carhartts make me happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Slowing Down

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The first real snow of the season

You would think that several inches of good snow would cause me to pause and reflect a little bit.

Particularly after the year we’ve had.

We are all getting used to a world without Mouse but it hasn’t been easy.

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Mouse… just a couple of weeks before he became ill

If there is a light out of the dark, however, it is that his barn-mates, Jockey and Georgia have begun to have an actual relationship.

Where she head-butts him (with her head tilt… another story for some other time…) and he leans in and licks her forehead while they both purr.

This is unprecedented behavior between enormous, part-Siamese Jockey and petite, squeaky-sounding Georgia. They each loved Mouse beyond belief and I’m pretty sure they were jealous of each other. Like a room-mate or bestie of some poor, unsuspecting guy whose girlfriend moves in.

But now all they have is each other.

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Little Georgia, before the head tilt

And they have their Mummy, of course! And Daddy part-time, too.

The day the snow came down I was busy.

Splitting and stacking wood is just part of life in western Montana unless you don’t use wood to heat your home.

Before you start picturing all 5’3″ of me heaving an axe behind my head like Paul Bunyun its not that bad. Alistair bought me an electric woodsplitter our first Christmas here.

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The woodpile a few years ago.

I always have a good, long laugh at myself when I remember a big load of wood that arrived when Alistair was in Bismarck a few years ago.

I was working full time but I had to stack it all that weekend because another load would be coming.

It was a hot weekend, too. I remember the dogs laying in the grass watching me move each piece. One by one. From the pile to the side of the house and back to the pile.

The logs weren’t stacking as easily as I would have liked, with some of them rolling around but with a touch of OCD and a need for an aesthetically pleasing wood pile I got most of the job done.

And I posted pictures on Facebook.

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Anyone see the problem?

And I felt pretty pleased with myself.

Until Alistair saw the picture the next morning and called me from work. There was something in his voice. Trepidation, perhaps?

“Hon…. you’ve got the wood facing the wrong way.”

I looked out the kitchen window. He was right.

My day of finishing off the rest of the stacking turned into unstacking and then re-stacking and the dogs just laid there on the even hotter day watching me take improperly-stacked wood off the pile over to the pile on the driveway just to take it all back and stack it properly.

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Finally I got it right!

My knuckles were dragging on the ground and my pride was bruised but it wasn’t the first time and it surely wasn’t the last time I had to eat some humble pie.

It wasn’t funny coming home to this the next night, though.

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The second load! Oh, boy!

You know what? It actually was pretty funny and I’m chuckling right now remembering all of that.

That’s just how life is on a farm at the end of a long road in the middle of nowhere.

You have to keep up on things when winter hits because there are so many other things you have to do.

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This is Bull-Chit, Step Gammy. I’m not enjoying this!

Like shovel walk- and piddle-paths for our 14-pound grand-dog, Loki, who is not a fan of winter.

I watched her almost high-center herself as she squatted which led to some giggling on my part but she didn’t hear me.

We’re pretty sure Loki and Cleo are both going deaf.

Granted, Cleo has always had selective Springer Spaniel hearing but its definitely worse this year.

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What?

On top of shoveling there is also plowing to be done. It takes two hours to do the two driveways. I like keeping both of them open in case wind blows snow across the one up to the mailboxes.

We’re the last house on the road so if I want a road out its up to me when Alistair isn’t here.

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the main driveway after plowing a couple of years ago (note Casey & Harry running to me)

We like it nice and wide so its 3 runs up and 3 runs down in Big Red.

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Big Red. Last winter.

Big Red is a 1996 model and he has fired up for me every single year. He’s probably one of the most significant relationships I have had in my life. I love that truck!

On top of moving snow from here to there I am also trying to promote my 2nd book, The Dragons of Missing Lake. I have had 2 book events that have gone very well and I’ve got one up in Condon tomorrow!

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First book event in Ovando, signing for my friend, Eloise!

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Marilyn getting her book signed at our second book event!

People are enjoying getting back in touch with my characters and seeing what Luke is getting into. I miss my characters and can’t wait to start the next book but I really need to promote right now.

And I’m still slinging bling because I’m just not busy enough.

Men… did you know that 30% of women practice saying, “Thank-you” in a mirror so that if they open a gift they don’t really like they will still look convincing?

Reason enough right there to head over to http://www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe

So the snow falls and I’m a happy little wood-splitting, snow-plowing, shovel-wielding, Mouse-missing, book promoting, Boom-grooming, gift-wrapping bling-slinger.

It keeps me busy.

It keeps me from thinking about things.

Like how this is the first part of the first winter without 5 dogs and Jockey and Georgia are starting to bond but neither of them sleeps in their beds together and Loki’s eye looks gross and I really want her to enjoy another springtime and Calypso lost a bit of weight thanks to dietary indiscretion but he’s still having a ball and I can always do more Boomer-grooming and, Jeez, she’s 20 years old which makes me miss Oscar this time of year, camped out by the woodstove and there’s no deer legs to complain about because there is no Casey.

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Casey a year ago

Well, wait…

I guess I did make the time to sit down and reflect, didn’t I?

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UB and Cleo goofing around in the snow a couple of days ago

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Our winter wonderland when it snowed this week

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Gary & Dona, my mushing experts at the 2nd book event at the Double Arrow Lodge!

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Mummy & Mouse a couple of winters ago. xo

Running to Stand Still

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Gee, I wonder what I’ll be doing today?

The title is a line from an old U2 song.

Its an obscure song with a bit of a dark, haunted sound to it but I absolutely love it. Not that I really know what they’re talking about with some of the imagery but I get the point of running to stand still.

I’ve done this so many times in my life its not even funny. In fact, I kind of live that way.

I work my ass off doing a million-billion things (all with a perfectionist’s attitude, of course) all day or all week or all month long so that I can have that ‘ahhhh’ moment somewhere down the road.

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Enjoying that ‘ahhhh’ moment at our wintery ranch

I sometimes find it difficult to completely relax when there are things that need to be done.

When you live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of animals there are a lot of things that aren’t negotiable.

It doesn’t matter that the snow is up to my mid-thigh this afternoon and that they are calling for another foot or 2 through tomorrow.

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Winter is here!

It doesn’t matter that I shoveled the deck yesterday and that my shoulders are a bit sore because the snow that’s laying on our already-bowed decks is heavy and it needs to come off.

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I swear, I shoveled this baby bare yesterday.

It doesn’t matter that Big Red is buried and that the controls for the blade are getting a bit finicky and that the wipers keep getting iced up and I have to stop to de-ice them and the door isn’t shutting very well and I’m only plowing today to make plowing easier for ltomorrow.

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Big Red. My 1996 companion who saves my ass every winter.

I love that truck.

He got all pimped out a few years ago with a cd-player, stereo and seat covers, the blade and a fix to the power steering.

Sometimes I tune in to Jack Johnson while I plow using Big Red… just for the irony of it all.

Lately, though, its Coldplay and Mylo Xyloto.

Para… para… paradise…

Because this is Paradise.

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One of the peaks of the Swan range just north of us.

And if I want to stand still and take some time to enjoy it, I have to work my ass off now.

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Our annual friend, The Icicle as he is forming. He goes through many adaptations each winter and he’s got a good start already this year.

There is wood to split, wood to haul, fires to keep lit, roads to plow, decks to shovel, roof tops to rake, snow from the roof to shovel, paths to carve out for little blind dogs, paths to carve out to feed horses, and ice to break open so the horses can drink fresh water.

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The path to re-make through the stallion pen to open up the water

Horses don’t get enough water from licking snow. Yes, there are old ranchers who think that’s acceptable but our stallion, Dash is getting older and he gave us a colic scare this year already so I’d like to make sure he has ample access to water.

Or even just a little bit.

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Dash, surveying my work as I take a selfie break from hacking away at the ice and snow.

I’m sure Dash appreciates my effort.

Trudging through the thigh-deep snow with a shovel and a huge mallet in my hands.

Heaving that damned mallet up in the air only to slam it back down again over and over, hoping the entire time that the ice I’m standing on doesn’t give way.

Shoveling an area for him and taking it down bit by bit so that he can actually reach the bubbling, gurgling, fresh open water.

And then feeding him about 20 shovels full of water because he still didn’t want to go to the creek.

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“I think you can take some more of this snow down….”

Its just stuff that needs to be done.

Like the hay in the summer.

All these things must be done and nobody else is going to do it if I don’t.

Unless Alistair is here- he gets a LOT done around this place.

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Alistair likes using the big boy toys!

But he is in Bismarck treating the 100s of sick folks who flock to the Walk-In clinic sneezing and coughing in his face for 14 days straight.

His own version of running to stand still.

He works his own butt off so we can continue to have the wonderful life we have.

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Its the good life!

So we can enjoy the Paradise we call home as well as our other favorite Paradise half-way across the Pacific Ocean now and then.

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November on Hawaii Island

I even feel a teensy bit guilty right now taking time to write this blog when I could be splitting wood.

I have worked on that guilt. I’m sure many writers have it.

I’ve worked on believing that what I write has meaning and that its my contribution to things right now.

Along with plowing, shoveling and clearing piddle zones for blind companions.

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Loki, checking out today’s freshly cleared paths

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not complaining one bit. I love the exercise and being outdoors and the fact that I truly am contributing to our greater good.

And we laugh and joke when we work outside together and I let the big dogs out and they romp and play in the snow and everything gets done and my meal tastes better and my sleep is often deeper because of the hard work.

Because I’ve been running.

Or shoveling, as it were.

To stand still.

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Cleo and Harry helping me shovel.

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“You missed a spot over in the corner, Mummy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Thankful For…

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Front door sunny day view

This post has absolutely nothing to do with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up.

And then, it has everything to do with it.

That wasn’t my intent this afternoon.

Its not really my style and we sometimes don’t even celebrate because Canadian Thanksgiving was last month and often we aren’t even together for the holiday.

Its because I’m thankful that Steve started.

There’s more to the story.

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HRH Sport Fyfe… “sorry about that!”

You see, I woke up at 5:38am to the sound of Sport, our Siamese cat, puking on our bedroom carpet.

I have always said I’d make a million bucks if I knew how to design an alarm clock that sounded like a cat barfing. Nothing gets me out of bed faster than that.

So it was a bit of an early, bleary start but the sun was out.

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Ahhhhh… its not Hawaii but it can be quite pretty here

My freshly tanned-in-Hawaii body got a shock last week when we suddenly got a frigid blast of winter. It was expected and all but, damn, it has been cold.

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Our creek is still open under the ice

Continuing on with my stellar morning, the big tractor’s battery was completely dead (surprise!) and I had to feed horses who are in separate pastures because 2 of them won’t cross the creek and its not like I can force them because they are kind of big so its obviously going to require me to bond with those damned square bales again.

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“I don’t want to get my hooves wet.”

If Steve starts.

Steve is our Ranger.

He is, at times, my savior.

If he starts.

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STEVE!

You see, the shit usually hits the fan when Alistair is on his 2 weeks of working in North Dakota.

Its at those times I need something like Steve to rely on.

That’s when I get tractors or trucks stuck or the hot water tank dies or horses founder or animals get sick or guinea pigs lose eyeballs or ferrets break their pelvises or Loki’s cornea gets ulcerated or there’s angry wasps getting caught in my hair stinging the bejeezus out of me.

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Me vs.. the wasps nest after the bastards got caught in my curly hair and stung me. A lot. Something had to be done and it had to be done with a big can of wasp spray.

Times like now when I know that disgusting deer leg is still on the driveway.

I’m not sure who dragged it home but every day its a battle to see which dog is going to get it.

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Cleo, today’s victor with the limb, getting away from the other dogs

Its gross but I’ve thrown it out twice now and both times garbage cans have been knocked over to retrieve it so I’m just letting them go with it.

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Casey usually wins the leg…

I’m especially allowing old Casey to have his fun.

He’s had a couple of weird episodes this past week where I’m not sure what was going on.

It seemed like none of his limbs would work.

He never lost consciousness but he did seem confused both times it happened and he either fell or slowly laid down for close to a minute.

Then he gets up and he’s good to go.

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Casey, 11 or 12 years ago

As a veterinarian, I’m thinking it could be little strokes or little seizure events, neither of which are good when they come on in a 13 year old Labrador.

As a Mummy, I’m totally freaking out.

But he has been fine the past few days so I’m trying to be fine.

And then Mulder’s sometimes-wheeze has really picked up the past week.

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Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe

To the point where it wakes me up and it sounds like he’s coughing up a wet lung.

The veterinarian in me thinks its a nasty return of his herpesvirus complicated by bacteria or it could really be something in his lungs because maybe he is sleeping a bit more lately.

The Mummy in me is panicking and feeling completely helpless that I can’t fix what is wrong.

But maybe the clindamycin I started is helping and maybe I can get to town where a friend can xray him for me.

And then Steve starts.

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clear crisp days to be thankful for

On a clear crisp morning when I simply must get hay to the horses in their various fields Steve fired right up.

Which I was so thankful for.

And then I came inside to put jeans on (square bales require leg contact for little girls and yoga pants just don’t cut it) and I got rummaging around in my old “farm jeans” pile and found a pair from about 10 years ago.

And they fit!

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Freaking happy about these old jeans!

The world can be falling apart around me but if an old pair of jeans fits and I didn’t have to lay on the bed to get them on and I can breathe comfortably wearing them, its a good day.

I’m not quite as vain as that but it did make me smile.

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Cleopatra “helping” with the hay bales this morning

And I got thinking of all the things I am truly thankful for while driving Steve and the hay bales out to the horses.

I’m so thankful we have all these merry misfit animal companions and that we have shared many wonderful years together.

Thankful that they seem to love us and want to be with us whenever they can, even if that means getting a king sized bed for everyone.

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Just a few years ago with Casey, Cleo and UB at the Dog Days of Summer (photo by Gary Kyrouac)

I’m thankful to even have sun-kissed skin from a wonderful recent vacation to the Hawaiian islands.

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Just over a week ago… how fortunate we are!

I’m thankful to have my education and brain to fall back on and keep me grounded when Casey, Mulder, Boomer and Loki might need it.

They need my sensibility more than I need to freak out so I have to be calm for them and try to figure out what they need.

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Doctor Mummy and Mulder

I’m very thankful that I had the patience and knowledge to work with little Loki’s seriously damaged cornea over the past few months.

Thankful for connections with talented veterinary friends who were able and willing to help when I wasn’t sure we would be keeping her eye.

Thankful that Loki lets me continue to put drops in and that finally, I do believe we are keeping the eye.

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Hope this doesn’t gross anyone out. This was a couple of weeks ago and it looks even better now. Not great, not pretty, but better.

I’m thankful for the support and encouragement from friends and family for my fun book that has been such a unique journey! Thankful for small bookstores who support first-time novelists and those of us who self publish.

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Dropping books off for consignment at Kona Stories on the Big Island of Hawai’i.

And I’m thankful for my amazing husband, Alistair, who somehow trusts me on this big farm with big machines and big responsibilities.

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Thankful for Alistair and Loki (a few years ago)

The fact he somehow believes the house will still be standing and we will hopefully all be alive when he returns every 2 weeks amazes me.

And fills me with love.

And happiness.

And gratitude.

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Just before our Blue Hawaiian experience on the Big Island, complete with extra frizzy hair thanks to the island air

So even if winter comes on suddenly or the tractor won’t start or the horses won’t cross the creek or that deer limb is still there or Sport barfs on the carpet or its so cold my face hurts or my boots leak or Alistair is in Bismarck, I’m still okay.

My jeans fit. I still have a bit of a tan.

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Aloha!

I’m alive and able to toss hay bales.

Amazon shows one more book sale over the weekend and I’ve started the sequel.

Alistair is only an email or a facetime away.

Casey, Loki, Mulder and the gang are all pain free and pretty happy.

And Steve.

Steve started.

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Its all good, right, Casey?