The Friendship Season

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Waiting in line to cross into Canada at Sweetgrass, MT

I have been lucky to have been able to spend quality time with a bevy of friends this past month. Old friends, new friends, family-who-are-friends, animal friends… it has been wonderful.

It began with a road trip up to Lethbridge, Alberta last month to promote my book series highlighted by my award-winning third novel, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake. Maple Leaf Publications has been working with me for months to get me into the annual Word on the Street book festival and I was eager to go to this one.

Alistair was supposed to join me but his schedule has been nuts with the doctors all covering shifts until they could hire someone new.

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Cool old brick barn at the border crossing.

So me and 100 books headed north on a puffy-cloud-dotted blue sky morning and just like that I was in Lethbridge.

After checking into my  hotel I was picked up by the Wright family. Dr.Ken Wright was my co-pilot for almost all of veterinary school and his very cool family has been a fun part of our lives ever since.

I got to watch their eldest (who was born during vet school) play football in his senior year in high school and we had a great supper together minus Zak and Easton. We never skip a beat when we get together and hopefully they will get down to Montana to meet the new Fyfe Ferrets soon.

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Wanita, me and Lei-Anne

At the hotel that night my long-time friend, Lei-Anne was checking in as I got back from supper. She had made the decision to fly to Lethbridge last minute to support me at the book festival and to support our other dear friend, Wanita in her charge against breast cancer. The 3 of us spent much of the next day at the festival together and the laughs were plenty.

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Authors, Ramona, Ralph and me!

This was my first book festival and I was pleased with the attendance and the support from Maple Leaf Publications. Granted, they are not Random House or Penguin books but they did get me a seat at the table all day, a hotel room, a comped breakfast and some branded goodies.

I met Ramona & Ralph who  were promoting their books and, as always, it was interesting talking with other authors who are making their way through this biz.

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Lethbridge’s Word on the Street!

I met a lot of interesting hopeful new fans of the series and I sold and gave away plenty of books. (Wanita and Lei-Anne are excellent managers who told me I need to sell more than give and they are correct….)

We had a video sit-down session that I hope will be available someday for me to share as well and with my plan to finish book #4 in my Missing Lake series this winter, maybe I’ll be ready for next year’s Lethbridge event with fans clamoring to read more!

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The Wrights came out on Saturday, too!

I was so excited to see the Wrights again at the book festival when Natalie, Nate (broken leg and all) and Zak joined me. (Natalie also has the managerial bent that giving books away won’t get me anywhere.)

And then more support arrived in the form of Cousin Kim, who drove 5+ hours to get to Lethbridge. Kim and I haven’t seen each other probably since my brother’s wedding more than 20 years ago and we had been planning this book event/reunion for weeks on social media.

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me and Kim, picking up right where we left off 20-odd years ago! 🙂

Kim fit right in with all of my friends, which also included one of my longest school friends, Candice and her husband, Matt (who I finally got to meet in person!) They also drove a few hours to join me and then Candice, Kim, Lei, Wanita & her hubby, Byron and I all went out for a fun supper in downtown Lethbridge that evening.

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Candice and I after supper in Lethbridge!

It seriously felt like I had my own classy entourage during the book festival and I can’t thank each of them enough for being a part of my adventure.

Lei-Anne had to fly back to BC on Sunday which is when I joined Wanita and Byron to finally play a round of golf together at their home course, Picture Butte. This has been a few years in the making since Alistair and I took up golf and became obsessed with the game. Despite Wanita’s summer of 16 rounds of chemo she was still able to play her weekly ladies league at Picture Butte. It was cool having so many of their own golf crowd wave and visit with them, too.

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Wanita & Byron on a sunny day in their awesome golf duds!

Wanita started the round with an eagle and Byron finished with a terrific par and I put a ball or two into the water and we had plenty of laughs. I spent the night with them and their ridiculously cool trio of feline kids and my heart was full from the love and support of so many friends.

Back home for a few days with my best friend, Alistair, we managed to get out onto our own golf course a few times despite some cold weather but before long I was putting him back on another plane to get back to Bismarck. This prolonged alteration to our schedule has been frustrating but hopefully we will be back to 2 weeks here, 2 weeks there soon.

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It was a little chilly that particular day…

Thankfully the Friendship Season wasn’t over as my good friend, Merielle once again jumped in her Ford and drove down from Christina Lake, BC to join us in her Montana happy place.

Merielle chronicles all of this through her incredible photography which she  highlights at MMK Photography.

I finally took her to nearby Upsata lake and the charming community of Ovando where we braved the chilly air for a quick photo shoot.

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By Scottie Brown Bridge near Ovando, MT

The snow eventually melted during her stay and we enjoyed a girl’s night with one of my real estate colleagues, Carey. A long soak in the Aloha hot tub, my yummy seafood alfredo and a sip of port at Fyfe’s Brew Pub bar capped off a fun Fall evening.

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Carey & Merielle at Fyfe’s Brew Pub bar (thanks for the port, Carey!)

Merielle planned her visit to include my 47th birthday seeing as how hubby couldn’t be here. She got to meet my real estate family for a pre-supper bevvie on Friday where another good friend, Tessa swung by to say hi (Tessa & Merielle met during one her prior trips to Montana.) A quick catch-up including some laughter ensued and before long we were dining at one of our favorite local places, Lindey’s Steakhouse.

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Merielle, Tessa and me

Merielle got to meet our 3 new ferrets (the Fyfe Bee Gees) as well as Fallon, the one female we were ferret-sitting for more friends who are dealing with some medical issues that necessitated them being in Missoula for almost a week. Merielle set up a little ferret photo shoot that I am excited to see once she does her editing back home. Our boys played and cuddled well with Fallon and it was fun for them to have their own new friend to play with.

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Barry striking a pose for Merielle

After that the Friendship Season evolved even more as we got busy with prep for Canadian Thanksgiving. When I’ve been alone I haven’t always celebrated in October when, apparently, the Pilgrims chose Canadian shores to land on but Alistair and I have done a turkey for this big day from time to time.

We had been planning this even before Merielle came when another real estate colleague and his wife (who is also Canadian) asked if we were doing anything on Oct.12th.

And so it was that a spread that included grilled balsamic & rosemary lamb chops, a 21 lb roasted turkey, artichoke-sourdough stuffing and all the fixings was laid before 3 1/4 Canadian-American women and Kyle. (We signed Kyle up for carving details as we three women discussed the pros and cons of our dual lives.)

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Lee, Kyle, baby Paige and Merielle!

Lee & Kyle’s adorable 6-month old, Paige got to experience her first Thanksgiving in style. She also got to experience her first ferret encounters and the evening was filled with laughter, “ehs” and then that awesome Canadian classic, Nanaimo Bars.

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the feast

Merielle and I had tasked ourselves with the dessert classic the day before and we used the Laura Secord recipe book for instruction. The bars are a 3-layer concoction that cannot be compared to anything else. They are also not all that difficult to make and now that we’ve done it I can see it happening again.

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Working on the second layer….

It is fitting that the Friendship Season wraps up (at least, in this blog) with an evening centered on giving thanks.

I know I live a very special life and I am always so thankful for it.

I’m thankful to have a loving, hilarious, supportive cutie of a husband who keeps coming back to Montana despite the travel time every (hopefully) 2 weeks.

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thankful for this guy (on a warmer day his last trip here)

I’m thankful to have incredible friends and family who plan time on their calendars to drive to visit me on their turf or mine.

I’m thankful for the animal companions we have shared our lives with for so many years and that Cleo and I are going to go & enjoy a nice stroll out back together after I finish this today.

I’m thankful for my new friends in real estate who have embraced my insanity (well, I think they have…) and who are eager to meet friends of mine from another walk of life.

I’m thankful to be able to call both Canada and the United States my home for so many reasons on both sides of the coins.

And I’m thankful that Wanita has had a successful surgery and that Byron is right by her side every step of the way.

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Keep on smiling and swinging the golf clubs, Wanita!

I’m hoping for a few more sunny days to hit up our local golf course and even more hopeful that Alistair will get to join me out there when he gets back. Its possible I’ll still be eating turkey by then (can you freeze it? No, really, I’m asking. Did I mention it was 21 lbs?)

I have so enjoyed the Friendship Season with Lei-Anne, Kim, Candice, Matt, Wanita, Byron, Morrigan, Freya, Odin, Kenny, Nat, Jackson, Nate, Zak, Fallon, Joel, Jeanette, Merielle, Carey, Tessa, Kyle, Lee and baby Paige and I’ve enjoyed sharing it here, too.

I’ll probably enjoy American Thanksgiving next month, too but we’ll see about the size of the turkey. I guess it depends on how many friends sit at the table.

Oh, and by the way, its Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Go ahead and kick its ass, Wanita!

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the first layer… and a Canadian icon

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Merielle got to visit Sport and other Fyfe friends like Bebe and Cleo

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Kyle doing the honors with the bird

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A neighborhood friend I’m actually thankful for not getting to meet in person (although they are more than welcome on the Fyfe Farm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Years a Vet

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Drs. Teresa and Tan… what could be seen as Trouble Brewing…

In 2005, up in Saskatoon, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine hurled 70-odd young, (well, mostly young), unsuspecting newbie veterinary graduates out into the real world to do what we were born to do.

To heal.

To care.

To be the voice of the innocent animals who can’t speak for themselves.

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Drs. Tan & Lina… mere babies back then! (2005)

In those 10 years the family of 70-odd moved around, worked, married, worked some more, built clinics. bought into practices, kept working, had kids, traveled, worked to pay for the travel, had more kids, took up golf, got a few grey hairs, closed or changed practices, worked some more and yet somehow managed to stay in touch.

Or stayed in touch with enough people that we were able to put together a 10 -year reunion back up in Saskatoon last weekend that was really well-attended.

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The Class of 2005 who made the banquet! We clean up rather nicely!

Alistair and I made a vacation out of it.

We always liked the city of Saskatoon but never got to relax and truly experience both the journey up there and the city in the summer.

So we took our time and had an adventure.

It was fun being back in Canada together.

Where everything is SO Canadian.

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Oh, Canada!

The first Canadianism was at a cute café in Estevan, Saskatchewan where we stopped for a fabulous lunch.

Alistair ordered fries with his clubhouse and out they came smothered in gravy.

Canada, eh?

If you have never chewed a slightly damp and yet still-crisp French Fry that is coated in thick, beefy, warm, cling-to-your-fork-and-GI-tract gravy then you have missed out on one of life’s greatest guilty pleasures.

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No photo of the fries & gravy. So, a pic of the new rest area between Montana & North Dakota! This is a big deal for a guy who drives this route every 2 weeks!

The next Canadianism occurred when I turned the radio on to see if we could get some CBC.

The first thing we heard was the unmistakable sound of The Tragically Hip which made me burst out laughing.

You either get that or you don’t.

Canadians are fiercely protective of our particular brand of hip sounds, whether they are traditionally, Maritime-influenced, sung in French, socially or environmentally charged or just really witty.

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Can-Con

And then there is the politeness about everything.

I hadn’t realized that I’ve missed that but I did.

Although, it can border along the lines of downright silly…

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Downtown Saskatoon hotel parking lot

And, boy, when those Canadians really want to make their point they don’t hold back on the harsh language and stern warnings…

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Whoa, Canadian people, back off with the harsh language- I get it!

(It would have been more Canadian if the sign had actually read: “We’re sorry, but there’s positively, absolutely no parking.”)

Enjoying the Canadian in Canada was part of our plan for this adventure.

We ate out at some of our favorite old restaurants that Canadian cities really know how to run.

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Flanagan’s steakhouse in the historic Hotel Senator in downtown Saskatoon

Its the combination of beautiful surroundings, a tableside prepared Caesar salad pour deux, Canadian wines on the wine list (the Velvet Devil is NOT Canadian, our Canadian choice was out of stock… how Canadian…), impeccable (polite) service, and wonderfully presented food.

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I’ve got to work on my vegetable presentation at home; this was as delicious as it looked!

The Hotel Senator was one of those places Alistair and I or Fritzie and I would go to get away from the never ending cold and snow during our winters in Saskatoon 10 years ago.

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The historic Hotel Senator, as beautiful as ever with classic décor and killer chandeliers. Cheers!

I’m so glad we went back.

For kicks I organized my first ever golf tournament for the reunion-ers and we had a blast.

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Getting ready to start the tournament… a parade of unsuspecting golf carts and somewhat wary golfer-veterinarians, spouses & family members

4 foursomes made their way through Holiday Park’s 9-hole Executive course with laughs, a refreshing beverage thanks to the bar cart and varying versions on how to hit a golf ball.

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The Pinels… taking this golf thing SO seriously 😉

We had a few first-timers and none of them gave up!

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The all-female foursome! Drs. Carla, Lina, Jenny & Carol

Our foursome led the troupe onto the fairway… or way over the greens… into the hedges… onto the neighboring fairway… and, SPLOOSH… into the ponds.

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Fab foursome of the Pinels & the Fyfes.

We encouraged playing golf Fyfe Style, which, if you have followed my blog for long, is typically a stress-free way to play the game.

You can keep score if you want but you don’t always have to count the shot.

Even if you swing and miss!

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Drs. Boyd & Kubik… the partnering of a lifetime

Especially if you swing and miss.

The Wrights made it a family affair with their niece and oldest son on board and Ken and Natalie are still married after the 9 holes!

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Kenny, think long and hard about what you’re going to suggest to Nat…

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Kolbee, Jackson, Ken & Nat after their round

We had a great collection of prizes thanks to Royal Canin and the veterinary college. Prizes went out for “putting up with Ken” or “best team name.”

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Best team names went to both pairings in this bunch with Drs. Leanne, Pat, Sandy & Andrew.. Muffin and Stryker, I believe???

It was just another chance for a group of us to smile and laugh and catch up on one another’s lives while enjoying fresh air and a fun ride in a golf cart.

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WCVM Class of 2005 Golf Tournament players (minus the Pinels… baby to feed at the hotel!)

That night was our banquet, which I helped organize this winter with Allison. There were challenges with me living in Montana & her up in Saskatchewan and the fact we couldn’t find a few people until we got really intrusive online.

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Head honchos of the reunion at the end of the night, still smiling! We did it!

But it went off mostly without a hitch (sorry about the vegetarian meals, Jenny & Becky!) and I saw smiles on my classmates’ faces most of the weekend.

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There was lots of this…

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plenty of this…

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and this…

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and tons of this.

So we reunion-ated all night and I learned I’m not the only one not practicing but I am one of the only ones without small children hovering at my ankles or being pushed in a stroller.

And everyone looks basically the same, give or take one of those grey hairs I mentioned earlier.

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The Times Of Our Lives newspaper crew… reunited and it feels so good! Drs.Cory, me, Pat & Nathan… my boys… all growed up!

And while some special friends couldn’t make it I loved seeing everyone who did, even if I didn’t get to visit with each person as long as I had wanted.

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Lots more of this…

I booked the gazebo at the zoo for Sunday for more socializing but on a low-key, family level. It was a time for the kids to get out and run around, even though it was raining.

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What the Sunday visit was all about at the rainy zoo

What a change for me, one of the oldest people in our class, who was helping raise teenagers when we were in vet school, to see my exceptional classmates as parents.

It was a warm and fuzzy few days in that regard.

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Dr.Candace and 2 of her Lowe-boys. Brilliant idea, whoever brought the soccer ball, even in the rain!

Like all good things, the reunion and our adventure with Canadianisms had to end but I was happy to return to Bismarck and now Montana.

Its my home and my world now, which is a far cry from 10 years ago.

And I got to help former clients and their old companion who had to make a journey across the Rainbow Bridge my first day home- in a way reminding me of my skills and training that I just celebrated last weekend.

I am also reminded (and humbled) by what I told my classmates at our grad ceremony 10 years ago when I once again had the microphone- that I was so honored to call all of them my colleagues but that I was more lucky to call them my friends.

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Nothing had changed in 10 years- Drs.Candace, Leanne, me and Becky (who flew in all the way from Nova Scotia to join us!)

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It was great that Alain & several of the Back-Row-Boys were able to join us (with his partner, Jenny and Carolyn)

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Golfers by day, vixens by night! Carol, Lina & Jenny

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Jess and I at the drizzly gazebo

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Carol got a kick out of my golf “buddies” (getting a smooch from Muldy-cat) and my national pride skort!

(Thanks to Alistair for taking our pics, trying his best to remember everyone’s names, being a voice of reason when I planned all of this, getting us there & back and for golfing our way back home… more on that next time…) xo