Blades and Clubs

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Fernie, BC!

I’m back!

I unintentionally took a blog-break and Alistair and I took our own break but I’m back in the blogosphere.

With fabulous house-sitters (Whitney & her husband, Lau visiting from Kauai), we decided to disappear for a few days. We cruised up north to the homeland and hung out in the ski town of Fernie, BC for 2 nights.

Fernie is surrounded by majestic mountains but the town itself pretty much shuts down when the ski hill closes.

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Checking out the closed ski hill on a beautiful sunny day.

Restaurants were short on staff but we still had some wonderful Indian food at Tandoori Grill. And our Park Place Lodge was a bit dated and the view from the teensy balcony was overlooking a somewhat tough-looking neighborhood where a beer & BBQ bash thankfully wrapped up before bedtime but they had something we have rarely seen in hotel or resort rooms…

Wine glasses!

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Wine glasses in the room just classed-up the Park Place Lodge!

Its fun going back to Canada but we have definitely become a bit Americanized. Watching people in Canadian Tire or on the streets or golf course the song, Far Too Canadian by Spirit of the West rang through my head. I can’t put my finger on it but we have definitely changed in some ways.

While the golf course was fun and beautiful there were some super disrespectful golfers out there. Is this a Canadian thing?

I’m all for having a drink or two on the golf cart but being loud and rude and dropping F-bombs on almost every shot and playing music behind us while we’re on the tee box just isn’t cool.

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Fernie golf… amazing views!

Nor is slow play, which the groups ahead of us didn’t seem to care about.

Its common practice to let faster players go by but the group of nine people who were all together ahead of us spread out over three groups didn’t bother. And they visited and they took practice swings and they drank (“There’s no bar car today, boys, but I’ve got a mickey!”) and they smoked and they laughed and they talked with each other some more while noisy rude-man and his girlfriend and their music kept riding up our asses.

And yet, it was fun. Its golf. Its Alistair and I enjoying new terrain in our old homeland on a sunny day.

We also got to witness two separate incidents of young children having complete meltdowns in Fernie. Usually a parent gets the kid out of the public place when this goes on but not these cases. These were quite the tantrums- I have never seen anything like them- with the final one culminating in a little girl screaming through her tears to everyone at Canadian Tire, “I HATE MY LIFE.”

Maybe she is far too Canadian.

We also got to enjoy a night in Whitefish, Montana at the The Lodge at Whitefish. They had a wonderful spring rate for early season golfers and a beautiful room in the Viking Lodge.

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Making friends in the lobby of the lodge

Fancy schmancy supper at a golf course and our 18 holes with a cart the next day after Eggs Benedict by the lake made for a perfect experience.

Whitefish is also a ski town but they have much more to offer their permanent residents and the town maintains its activity during the off seasons. Hiking around downtown we were amazed by all of the restaurants and shops and variety.

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The Lodge at Whitefish (on Whitefish Lake)

The town’s population of only 6500 seems much larger when you consider the size of the downtown core as well as the fact they are one of the only towns in Montana to maintain a year-round ice rink!

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Random show-girl outside of the Glacier ice rink in sunny Whitefish, MT

Successful competitive skaters train year-round, which is why I moved to Vancouver and lived with other families for the spring and summer sessions beginning at the age of 12. So I was excited to see an active Montana club in the making.

The golf course we played at was in terrific shape and had some beautiful scenery as well.

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Somewhere around the 8th hole, ski hill in the background.

We caught up to a funny guy whose golf game was well-suited to ours and we played the back 9 together.

And we played not badly!

Which is unusual for me.

As we have learned this game I have always become overly self-conscious if others are watching. Good friends are one thing (sometimes) but having to drive in front of a stranger usually is the kiss of death for my ball flight not to mention my confidence.

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You got this one, Honey!

I’ve often wondered how pro golfers do it.

How they can handle the crowds and the volunteers and the markers and the other players and the caddies and then the incredible silence of all of these people when a volunteer puts their arms in the air so they can tee up their little white ball and try to make a decent swing.

Especially when they might be under unreasonable pressure!

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The golf world puts a lot of pressure on this young man.

Like this guy, Jordan Spieth.

So young, so talented, so well-spoken and so honest about his game. He was player of the year on the PGA tour last year and won a boat load of titles, including the Masters.

As this year’s Masters began he was one of the guys expected to run off with the title and after the first three days he was leading! The hype, the predictions, the background stories, the interviews, the short clips… everything was all about Jordan but then he didn’t win.

In fact, he lost in colossal fashion on one fateful hole towards the end of the round on Sunday.

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Rory McIlroy & Jordan at the Masters this year (not my picture).

You could see him beginning to falter after the turn and then things went sliding downhill fast. I can’t imagine what went through his mind but I’ll bet anyone he wanted to take a few of those shots again.

Start over.

At least the back nine. Where, maybe he held back a little because he had a substantial lead and didn’t think he had to attack the course. Who knows why the best trained athletes in the world falter at crucial moments? For Pete’s sake, I used to fall apart just because someone on the next hole might be looking in my general direction.

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Jordan last year (not my picture).

When the pressure and expectations are so high the fall back down to earth seems even more horrible than if someone who isn’t well known fires a ball into a water feature. Twice.

Just like at this year’s World Championships in Boston, Gracie Gold, our American ladies champion led the young Russians and her American colleague after a brilliant short program. She was radiant! She put on a jumping clinic the way she confidently nailed everything and she dazzled us all.

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Frank, Gracie and Scott after her short program marks went up.

So what went through her mind when she faltered in the long program? It wasn’t a bad skate, really, but it wasn’t good enough given the amazing performances by the Russians, the Japanese and country-woman, Ashley Wagner. In fact, everyone but Gracie had a great night and when all was said and done she was off the podium after being on top of the world.

A crash down to earth that had her apologizing to the media, saying she had to re-think her goals, sounding so confused that she didn’t put it all together when it was right there in front of her.

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Iconic moment at US Nationals earlier this year when Michelle Kwan, the Kween joined the American ladies’ medalists. Gracie Gold living up to her name. (not my photo)

Maybe this is why I love both golf and figure skating so much. Individual sports where I can be my greatest ally or my biggest threat. I can get too much inside of myself and over think things and that’s where you slip entering a flying camel or your golf ball pops ahead two feet on a drive.

And you have no one to blame but yourself because these aren’t team sports.

But when you hit amazing shots or you reach the top step on the podium it feels great to know that you did it. I’m sure having been a competitive figure skater explains a lot of the things I do in real life.

What does all of this have to do with our little mini-vacay in Fernie and Whitefish?

Nothing, really.

Its just where my head is and what I’m thinking about and where I’m thinking these thoughts and I’ll try to be more organized about it all next time.

Until then, its good to be back.

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Just arrived in Fernie. First stop- a selfie!

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More new friends in Whitefish, MT

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Golf team extraordinaire back on our home course with the kids.

Going Home

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I often wonder what to say when asked where I am from.

The temptation to say “outer space” passes and I drift to the many places I have called Home.

I have lived in 2 prefectures, 2 states and 2 provinces within 3 countries. If you’ve known me awhile, you know you should always write my address in pencil.

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Beautiful Grand Forks, BC

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to the peaceful Canadian town most people would consider my Hometown-Grand Forks, BC.

Its a charming town with clean streets, tidy yards and clotheslines in backyards.

There’s not a lot to the half-Kootenay, half-Okanagan town and what is there hasn’t changed much in the 15 years since I’ve spent any real time there.

My old high school is right where I left it.

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Grand Forks Secondary School

I never took notice of the gradually swooping hillsides that formed the backdrop to GFSS when I went to school there. Even when we had PE outside or we were sitting on the grass beneath the big trees out front I just didn’t pay attention.

I was too busy being a teenager.

Too busy talking about what mixed tapes we had made, what we were wearing to the next dance, who was seeing who and how impossibly good looking George Michael was.

The corner store by our old house is still there, too.

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West End was a quick bike ride away, where Mom would send us to get lemon lime pop, Big Turk chocolate bars and salt & vinegar chips. They had a freezer full of Freezies which were cherished during the hot, dry summers.

You could drop your bike on the ground or prop it up on its kickstand and not worry about it being stolen.

The ice rink where I spent countless hours learning to spin, trace, check, jump, fall and get back up again with a smile is still on the Trans-Canada that cuts through town.

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The Grand Forks ice arena, home of the Border Bruins junior hockey team!

As I buzzed by I saw it was renamed after someone I didn’t recognize. That normally happens if someone from town makes the NHL but Dad said this guy was a former mayor. Who knew?

I probably spent more time in that building than in my own house. I knew that place inside-out. I could flip the breakers so we could skate in the dark (it sounds crazy but it was pretty cool), I knew where the arena guys kept the keys to get into the precariously suspended music box and I knew how to rig the Pac Man video game so you could play for free.

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The house my folks built is still there on the corner but it has a different family living in it now.

So many memories of porch swings and snow forts and milkshakes and “meet you at the tracks” came back to me. They didn’t overwhelm me in a flood of emotions and tears. They were just there and the corners of my mouth turned upwards as I sighed to my traveling companions, telling them Mummy grew up here.

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Loki and UB came along on our little adventure to Canada and were excellent travel buddies.

It is a fascinating thing, traveling with dogs. I never before experienced the kind of camaraderie you get at rest stops when you have friends attached to you by a leash.

Everyone wants to talk and visit and share stories about their dogs. Everyone wants to pet them and ask questions about silver eyes and what possible breed he could be and gosh, he’s a happy fella and point out their 5 Pomeranians on the dash board of their RV.

Loki and UB soaked it up.

They also soaked up the attention from my Nan, who was one of the main people I came to see.

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Nan and Loki

It occurred to me that Nan and Loki have some things in common- they are both adorable, stylish little old ladies who still have a fair bit of spunk in them despite bodies that might not work quite the way they want them to.

They are both a bit on the stubborn side, which is part of their charm.

And they are both reliant on the people they live with.

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UB and Nan

Nan lives with my parents now and Loki lives with us. Neither of them can stay on their own for very long, which is probably frustrating for Nan.

Yet she keeps her chin up, plays solitaire (or, patience, as she calls it), likes to dress up and wear her hats and go out and tell stories in her lovely British accent.

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Mom, Nan and I outside the Borscht Bowl, downtown Grand Forks

I didn’t spend much time downtown but we did get some good Russian food.

Grand Forks and several towns in the Kootenays were partly settled by the Doukhobors who are a peace-loving, communally-minded, garden-growing group that got booted out of Russia for refusing to bear arms.

My dad’s family were Doukhobors. You can imagine how thrilled the aunties were when my brother chose the Canadian military for his career… “It says Koftinoff on a military uniform. Oh, hospity, hospity…”

Nobody thought anything of roll call with names like Perehudoff, Kazakoff, Podovinikoff, Horkoff, Pereverezoff, Dovedoff, Chursinoff, Semenoff, Strukoff, Popoff, Kalmakov,and Malloff. Throw in a few Lloyds, Wiebes and Gustafsons and there you have GFSS back in the day.

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Dad and I enjoying some borscht and voreniki at the Borscht Bowl

Some of my closest friends are back in Grand Forks. I had wonderful visits with 2 of them and was thrilled to see them doing so well and being so happy with their lives, their homes and their partners.

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Tan and Anna

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Merielle and Tan

They embraced and loved UB and Loki. Porter, the pug shared her toys with them. The 3 dogs became instant BFFs and settled into fun little routines with each other.

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UB, Porter and Loki and the ever-popular squeaky squirrel

Friendships are meaning more and more to me as I hurtle through middle age. Even if 40 is the new 30, its important to cultivate and nourish these friendships and relationships that are special and fun. As we have all changed and grown, our friendships have remained.

Driving through town another part of my past came to the forefront of my mind as we passed teachers out on picket lines.

My dad honked his horn in support of their cause.

You don’t see this kind of thing in the US.

I’m not completely familiar with all of the details surrounding the current strike but I know the students are going to be the ones who lose out if the teachers don’t get some backing.

I saw 2 of my former high school teachers (who eventually became parents of talented skaters I coached) on the picket lines and sat with them, catching up on our lives. Even though this wasn’t my battle, I didn’t mind sitting there, watching cars and trucks go by, people waving and honking their support.

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Canada is a land of the socially and environmentally aware. You aren’t persecuted for your beliefs or your differences, which is why the Doukhobors came here decades ago.

I’m not saying its perfect or that everyone is as accepted as they’d like but people and politicians seem more willing to have discussions that aren’t all about blaming each other or living in the past; not every argument boils down to the constitution, bibles and guns.

In Canada, when you lock your keys in the truck and you call BCAA via AAA, the guy comes and unlocks your door and then you all sit down and share a beer and you make a new friend.

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With my OCD on vacation I locked my keys in the truck. No worries, a new friend to the rescue!

You talk about hockey and golf and recycling and you learn that Quebec is still trying to separate. Who knew?

But you can be Far Too Canadian, as the band, Spirit of the West sings.

Which is why I keep returning Home. To this home, in Montana, which just happens to be my Home du jour.

John Denver’s lovely voice rang through my head as I thought about it- Going home to a place (s)he’d never been before. All of the homes I have lived in will feel like that to me if and when I return to them.

Its because with each year and each new address I become a slightly different person with changing realities and new perspectives.

The 16 year-old who moved to Chilliwack for college is different from the brave 19 year-old who flew to Tokyo to teach English. She’s a heck of a lot different from the 21 year-old who moved to then-sleepy Watford City with her boyfriend of just a few months.

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Alistair, Mitch and I, 1994

And the 28 year-old who moved to Saskatchewan for vet school is different from the one who tries to keep her farm in Montana going when Alistair isn’t there despite never-ending snowstorms, hot-water tank woes, and being in the middle of nowhere.

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Seeley Lake sunset

Even if Grand Forks stays the same, I see it differently each time I return.

I still don’t know what to say when asked where my Home is. Maybe its where I happen to cuddle up to Loki, UB, Sport, Mulder and Cooper and where my husband comes back to every 2 weeks.

Maybe its just where I am.

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