Sunday Column: ‘Tis the season

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It’s been a great, but long week here for this big bellied momma out here at the ranch. Hunting season, coupled with the fact that my doctors said I could birth this child any minute, has set this place off in a new sort of buzz.

Each year about this time my dad’s brother flies in from Texas, bringing with him a son-in-law or two to show them around this place. We look forward to having him here all year and spend the time around the supper table talking, eating venison stew and coaxing stories out of the brothers and our neighbor up the road about the shenanigans they used to get into as wild boys growing up out here.

As my belly grows by the second (like literally, I think it grows by the second) I couldn’t help but notice how our family has grown. Last night mom and dad hosted a fish fry supper for thirteen as my uncle brought with him both of his son-in-laws and his nephew to join my brother-in-law over, big sister, little sister and her new husband and the rest of the ranch gathered in the house to eat and wonder when the heck I might pop.

I looks like pretty dang soon.

Belly B&W


Husband spent a good portion of the afternoon loading up his pickup with our baby-go gear and trying to figure out how the hell to get the carseat in…and then out…of the backseat.

I heard him talking on the phone to his mom saying something like “There’s a manual fifty-seven pages long about how to install the damn thing, but not one word on how to get the thing out.”
And who knew we would have to sit together and read the directions and diagram on the diaper genie. But that’s what we’ve been doing. That and taking calls from relatives and friends on my condition, wondering if we should just go to the big town already (we have a three hour drive) and wait it out there and put everyone at ease for the love of GAWD!
I don’t know.
All I know is I should probably pack the camouflage onesie Husband asked about, because he just informed me he plans on wearing camo on the way home from the hospital and he would like it if he and the baby matched…
Priorities I tell you.
Anyway, here’s the column from last weekend I forgot to post in my struggle to stay upright in the final countdown.
Peace, Love and Baby Gear,
Jessie and the bump
Belly 2

Coming Home: Hunting holiday season means time
spent with loved ones
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

‘Tis the season.

Yes, we’re already one week into celebrating a North Dakota official holiday. The chill is settling in the air, and men and women are pulling on neon orange knit caps over their unruly hair, growing sweet beards (well, the men anyway), stocking up on whiskey and pulling out the cards for poker night.

Yes, the official deer rifle season opening day arrived, reminding me that this once was a valid reason for an excused absence from country school.

Turns out, that doesn’t carry in the working world, but I tell you, there were plenty of North Dakotans out there that day who opted to dress head to toe in camouflage and hunker down just under the skyline instead of going to work.

Meanwhile, the ranch has done its annual transition from horse and cattle operation to hunting camp. Every refrigerator on the place is stocked with Budweiser. Every cupboard is supplied with whiskey. The camouflage hats are tossed on chairs, boots piled in entryways, rifles polished and sighted in, and the calendar filled with scheduled visits from family members who make walking these hills with their sons, sons-in-law, granddaughters, nieces, nephews, wives, husbands or brothers a tradition year after year.

Because out here on this ranch, hunting season is less about the big kill and more about the time spent taking a break to appreciate this wild place with the people you most like to be around.

It’s always been that way.

Because contrary to the magazine and movie portrayal of ranch life, it’s not all riding your best horse into the sunset night after night. There are beautiful moments, yes, but they usually occur after you’ve acquired a fair amount of poop on your boots and slung a good string of cuss words into the air after racing that sun home from a job in town to catch the cows in the fields or a fence broken down.

Keeping a place like this up and running is 17 full-time jobs it seems, something that I didn’t realize growing up sitting next to my dad in the feed pickup rolling out a bale of hay for a line of black cows well after dark on a winter night.

Coming home from one full-time job to start another was likely not a rancher’s dream, but keeping the place up and running was worth every after-dark hour. I understand it a bit more now that we’re charged with the same task moving this place into its next 100 years.

I understand it now, helping my husband and dad make new plans for the corrals over supper served past dark or pushing back a trip to the lake in the summer because the cows got out or hay needs to be put up.

But then there is hunting season. The calves are shipped out, the cows are settled in, the weather is in between hot and bitter, and there’s a window, an oasis of time, to spend harvesting the land in a different way, to sit in silence on a side hill with one mission: To be still. To look. To listen. To be a part of the natural order of this landscape.

And all that time you’ve spent riding through the trees after a bull that won’t stay in, all the cows trailed along fence lines and trips to check water in the dams have you familiar with where the bucks bed down at night or where they rub the velvet off of their horns.

So you carve out the time to sit in the rising sun, watching the day break next to someone handpicked to share the experience with you.

Some of the best days of my life have been sitting in the glow of the sunset next to my dad, my husband or my uncle looking closely, blending in and holding still in a moment.

And if the opportunity presents itself to take an animal, it’s just more fodder for the memories, and more meat in our freezer for the long winter. But at the end of the day, for us, it’s about being together in a familiar place, in our own special sort of holiday.

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The wait (to love you forever…)

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I’m a big ‘ol ticking time bomb. Any day this baby could make his or her arrival and the wait will be over.

We’re in the in-between phase. The hurry up and wait. The preparing to prepare.

I never thought I’d look like this.

Jessie Maternity 2

I never thought I’d feel the kicks or the hiccups inside my belly or the panic that I HAVE to get the microwave clean or I might spontaneously combust.

Never thought the arches of my feet would ache like this.

Never thought I would understand the way a body wakes you up every two hours in preparation of what’s to come.

Never thought I get this big.

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I just watched a cow in the pasture trying to get up from a rest, with a ‘one, two, three…heave, ho…’ sort of technique and I could relate to her.

I watched another one attempt to lay down, and I nodded my head in solidarity.

It’s weird. And most of the time it’s not so pretty. Just last week I had a mental breakdown about moving the board games from one closet to another.


And my poor husband can’t find a thing in the kitchen because, according to him, some crazy pregnant lady keeps rearranging things.

I don’t believe him. I have no recollection of such acts. I tell him maybe it’s him who’s going crazy.

He doubts that theory very much.  

I don’t know who’s rearranging the kitchen, but I do know I have the strongest urge to vacuum right now. And last week I felt just as urgent about capturing a few photos of what the two of us look like in this phase of ‘pre-parenthood.’

So I forced my little sister to take some, right after I finished the donut she brought me from town. The poor thing didn’t know what was coming, but she did a great job (and she’s not even the sister of mine who’s an actual photographer).

Anyway, in a couple weeks (or tomorrow or the next day) we will be three.

But here we are, still just the two of us (sort of) and counting down the days.

I don’t think my husband has ever taken a better photo, he’s just sort of radiating, a smile as big as his wife’s belly.

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For a long time there were only your footprints & laughter in our dreams & even from such small things, we knew we could not wait to love you forever.
-Brian Andreas-Storypeople

Remembering the Veterans who built this place.

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Today, on Veteran’s Day, I want to pause to remember the two strong Veterans who founded the Veeder Ranch so we can call it home today.

Edgar Andrew Veeder, born October 5, 1894, in Stearnes County Minnesota was the first child born to Benjamin Wemple and Antoinette Marie (Volc) Veeder.

In 1907, Eddie moved to McKenzie County where he lived with his parents in the Croff community. He lived and worked at home until he was twenty-one.

In 1915, he homesteaded the Veeder Ranch in Bear Den Township before being drafted into the the Army, serving in the 77th Infantry-Machine Gun Company at Camp Custer Michigan.

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After he was discharged at Camp Dodge, Iowa in 1919, Eddie returned to farm and ranch in Bear Den Township.

Eddie married Cornelia Belle Harrison on September 4, 1917. In 1925, Eddie bought his brother, Hank Veeder’s homestead, also located in Bear Den Township and continued expanding his holdings by purchasing additional homesteads in the area. In 1928, he bought a threshing machine and for the next fifteen years he did custom threshing in addition to running cattle and raising crops on the place. Through all the years that he lived in the community, Eddie always took an active part in the building and maintenance of the area. He was a member of the township board for many years and was responsible for keeping township roads and bridges open and in good repair.

Eddie and Cornelia, who died of heart failure in 1932 at the age of thirty-six, had five children, the youngest, my grandfather, Eugene (Pete) Veeder.

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After the death of his wife, Eddie, with the help of his sisters, maintained the home until all of the children were grown. It must have been difficult, especially during the Depression, to provide for his family, but he was always cheerful. He enjoyed his children and grandchildren until his death in 1961.

After their father’s passing, Pete and his brother Lorraine each bought half of the family ranch land. Pete was inducted into the Army February 16, 1945, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, took his basic training at Camp Hood, Texas, and was then stationed for a time in Korea. He was the recipient of the Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Army of Occupation Medal (Japan). He was discharged at Fort Lewis, Washington on December 19, 1946. Pete then returned to farm with his father and brothers.

Grampa Pete

Pete married Edith Linseth on August 24, 1951 and the two of them raised crops, cattle and three children, Kerry, Wade and my father, Eugene (Gene) on the original homestead.

Today the Veeder Ranch remains in the family, operated by Gene and Beth. My husband Chad and I have built a home here, making us the fourth generation to live and work on the Veeder Homestead. 

Remembering these two great men’s lives and service to their country and grateful for the legacy and land they worked hard to keep.

Veeder Barn

Sunday Column: Dreaming of horses…

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Coming Home: Dreaming of horses, the best gift a ranch kid can get
by Jessie Veeder

A funny thing happens when you’re in the home stretch of your first-ever pregnancy. Between all of the unpleasant symptoms we’ve all heard about — the heartburn, the aches and pains, the insomnia — you suddenly find yourself with an overwhelming need to purchase a festive Christmas baby hat because the most important thing in the world is being prepared for this new baby’s first Christmas photo under the tree.

It’s all you can think about, never mind that you don’t yet have the car seat properly installed or a single diaper stocked up. If you have this hat, you will be ready.

But three days later when that handmade Rudolf hat with the red button nose arrives in your mailbox, you’ve completely forgotten that 5 a.m. panic order altogether. Because you’ve already moved on to the next obsession.


And lately, for me, three weeks away from my due date, I’ve decided I should really be thinking seriously about this kid’s first horse.

It’s not logical, I know, not in the sequence of things anyway. I mean, I have a good few years to find the right animal, one I can trust to take care of my firstborn as he sits tall in the saddle beside us, chasing cows or checking fence, honing his skills and his way around this place.

But to have a horse of your own as a kid is a unique and life-shaping privilege, one not granted to every child, and one I want to give to mine. Because I remember how I was one of the lucky ones. I inherited an old red mare from my grandma. Her name was Rindy, and she was short and squat with just the right amount of attitude and a rough trot.

I would ride her bareback in the summer, learning about balance and patience as I searched the tree lines for raspberries, leading her to big rocks or side-hills to help me swing my short legs up on her back if I happened to climb down or fall off.


I broke my arm tumbling off Rindy.

I broke my foot jumping off her in a youth rodeo.

I won “best groomed” at a sleepaway horse camp because she couldn’t find a mud hole to roll in like she did at the ranch each time I groomed her the night before a 4-H show.

I put red, white and blue yarn in her mane and rode her in the county fair parade.

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I rode double, or triple, with my best friends on her back, trotting through clover fields, seeing how fast we could go before we all tumbled off, leaving her grazing a few yards away as we rolled around on the ground laughing.

And in the fall I would saddle her up, pulling the cinch as tight as I could around her round back, and she would puff out her belly to trick me into thinking that’s as tight as it would go only to let the air out once I climbed on, her way of controlling her comfort level, I suppose.

Oh, that horse was something. But that’s the thing, anyone who had a horse of their own as a kid will tell you stories like these about an animal that helped raise them in an environment that has the potential to be intimidating for a kid.

But a horse out here gives a kid some power. I felt like I was worth something on Rindy’s back, like I could help move a cow through a gate or learn where the fence lines run. I had a partner, a big companion that gave me new abilities. I was stronger and bigger up there. I was capable.

Who wouldn’t want to give that gift to a child if they could?

And so I have that Christmas hat in the drawer, we’ve set up the crib, I’m washing onesies and putting away diapers, and late at night, when the world is dark, my husband’s chest rising in sleep next to me, I lie with my eyes open in our bed, a hand on my swollen belly, waiting on this baby and dreaming of horses.

Maternity Haze

The biggest project of my life….

Belly B&W

Ok, so I am a project focused sort of woman and if the last three weeks of pregnancy don’t count as the biggest project of my life, then nothing does.

Last weekend the beautiful women in my life threw me and this baby an unforgettable shower, complete with waffles, bacon and donuts,


diaper cakes (courtesy of my nieces),

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diaper cake

a watermelon in the shape of a baby (courtesy of my mother-in-law)


an endless supply of baby books


and and even bigger supply of love and support.

And while I sat there surrounded by these incredible women, opening these beautiful gifts, I was in disbelief that this was actually my shower I was attending (even though the bacon induced heartburn tried its damnedest to reassure me it’s true). 

But there were other forces of nature working to reassure me. Four capable and handy men, my husband, dad, grampa and uncle, spent the morning of the shower putting together the crib (at last!), installing the light fixture and even hanging the curtains in the nursery so we would be one step closer to getting this place ready for our brand new family member.

Did it really take four grown men to assemble a baby crib you ask?

Yes. Yes indeed it did.

But I was so thankful to see it there when I got home and unloaded boxes of onesies, toys, blankets, bottles, pacifiers, pajamas, a diaper genie…


and socks so tiny I just can’t get over it.


My mom came over on Sunday to help me sort and tidy up, because organizing is like her therapy (and what’s more fun than organizing adorable baby shoes or onesies rolled into the shape of cupcakes?).



And the two of us laughed, oohed and aahhed and marveled at the fact that in a few weeks an actual human will be wearing those teeny, tiny diapers she was putting in the drawers.

When Husband came home from his fireman duties serving pancakes at a local benefit, he set up the chair and gave it a good test run…


And this week I’ve been hanging out in this space every chance I get.





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Yes, in between working, writing and figuring out what we have to eat in this place, I’ve been making my way to the nursery to sort and wash baby outfits and blankets,


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pack the to go bag, order a rug and a toy box, make plans for some shelves, and channeling my inner 4th grader to create some chalk art on the wall, an idea sparked, of course, by my baby-brained obsession with Pinterest.


I’ve seriously never put as much thought (or funds?) into another room in the house.

It’s ridiculous and I’m aware of it. But it’s been fun to see how each piece I picked out, and each gift given to this baby by people who love her already, fit into this space.


To be honest here now for a minute, I’ve always wondered about my mothering instincts. Even after all of these years of working and hoping to become a mom, I have never been fully convinced that I possess the sort of confidence and know-how that seems to be born in some of the women I know. Where they effortlessly maneuver a newborn, I have been known to nervously and reluctantly cradle the tiny fragile beings while frantically searching for a chair for reinforcement.

Where they are organized with supplies and informed on the latest baby products and how to use them, I over research and panic at the saturation of information before calling it quits and heading to the fridge in search of chocolate.

Almost every new mom I’ve seen lately makes new motherhood look effortless and beautiful while in the back of my mind I try to shut off the images of me and this baby flailing and struggling in a world that I’m scrambling to domesticate in time for her arrival.


I do not have swept floors.

I do not have a meal plan.

I do not have a stocked and organized pantry or a house put together and void of sawdust.

I am most comfortable in the dirt and the wind and out from under a roof.

But I know I can love this baby, even though I haven’t been convinced I’ll instinctively know how to swaddle it, bathe it, feed it and carry it around like a fifth limb while I fold laundry, do dishes, cook a gourmet meal or feed the horses.


But my uncertainty doesn’t scare me as much anymore. Not now that I spent a day surrounded by women who I can call upon to give me advice or direction when I need it. Not now that I’ve started to create this space in my home for this new life.

Not with my mom down the road, a drawer full of tiny baby socks, a room almost ready and a plan to be myself and do my very best by this kid.

Because I might not know what I’m doing quite yet, but I like a project…and this is the biggest project of my life.

Maternity 4

Sunday Column: Haunted

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Another Halloween has come and gone and, although I this year didn’t find me traipsing around to parties dressed as my favorite farm animal, it did get me thinking, for some reason, about the origin of this all.

The art of the spook.

Mysterious things left behind.

And the definition of haunting.

Because out here we’re surrounded by a history that has left behind artifacts for us to contemplate, old abandoned farm houses, out buildings or shacks that many midwesterners have standing on their properties, out in fields or cow pastures, little snippets of stories of who used to live there hanging in the air as dinner table discussion or campfire ghost stories, leaving us to wonder who was here before.

So this week I dug back in my memory to reflect on an old homestead that used to sit up behind the house where I grew up…and all of the things we leave behind….

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ghost stories for us country kids
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

It’s a gloomy day, the rain is falling, the sky is gray and the trees are stripped from black branches. It’s Halloween season and all of the sudden I’m reminded of the old house that used to sit up in a grove of trees behind the yard where I grew up.

It’s not so uncommon around here for a family to purchase land from neighbors or inherit an old family homestead, so there aren’t many farmsteads around these parts that didn’t come with an old structure lingering on the property, providing ranch kids with plenty of bedtime ghost story material.

And so it went with the old house that stood tucked back on the other side of the barbed wire fence, against a slope of a hill, surrounded by oak trees and the remnants of Mrs. B’s famous garden. Her hearty lilac bushes, her grove of apple trees, her wild asparagus and rhubarb still thrived in the clearing she made in those trees all those mysterious years ago before the family up and left, leaving that garden untended, the root cellar full and a house seemingly frozen in time.

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“What happened to them?” I would contemplate with my cousins, one of our favorite subjects as our eyes grew heavy, tucked in bunk beds and sleeping bags scattered on the floor, together growing up, together trying to figure out what the passing of time really means and how a story could be left so undone.

Gramma took some old dresses, vintage black smocks with pearl buttons and lace collars, from the small bedroom closet of the old house. We would pull them over our heads to perform pretend wedding ceremonies or attend fancy parties like we saw on our mothers’ soap operas, the fabric smelling like mothballs, dust and old forgotten things.

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But no matter what character you were that day, you couldn’t help but think about who the real woman in those dresses once was.

And who would leave them behind?

So, as it goes with kids, our curiosity outweighed our fear and we went on a mission to collect samples of this family’s life that still existed between those walls.

And while I remember kitchen utensils hanging neatly on hooks, canned beets and potatoes lined up on shelves, the table and chairs sitting in the sunlight against the window, waiting for a neighbor to stop over for coffee, I also remember bedrooms scattered with old newspapers and magazines, the dates revealing the last years of occupancy, the fashion of the season, stories of drought and cattle prices sprawled out among diary entries and old letters, a glimpse into a world that existed long before us kids sifting through the rubble in tennis shoes with neon laces.

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And then I remember the dentures. Or maybe I just remember the story my oldest cousin told about the dentures. It doesn’t matter now who was actually there to witness it, it evolved to belong to everyone. An expedition to the old house, a creak of a cupboard door, a jar full of teeth that nobody noticed before.

“The place is haunted.” That was the consensus, especially when, at the next visit, the unwelcome house guests were greeted at the door by a flurry of bats (or, more likely, a bat or two). Yes, the spirits of that mysterious couple came back to the place. How else could you explain the thriving asparagus plants? The teeth?!

And so that was our story of the old house, a mysteriously fantastic pillar of our childhood adventures and a structure that had to eventually be burned down due to its disintegrating floor joists and general unsafe environment.

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I stood in my snowsuit and beanie and watched the flames engulf the graying wood and shoot up over the tops of the black oak trees and wondered how it all eventually came down to this … a life turned into old forgotten things, turned into ashes, turned into stories.

Maybe that’s the scariest tale of them all.

But each fall the apples in the old woman’s orchard ripen, each spring her lilacs bloom and each year their names come to our lips because of what they left behind, making me wonder if we were right about the haunting thing after all.

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News from the bump-front…

So here’s an update.

It’s October 29th. My due date is in exactly one month. November 29th. If due dates mean anything.

This is what my office looks like.

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This is what the nursery looks like.

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This is what my belly looks like.

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And my head? Well, if you could look inside it it would likely look a lot like that office…

Husband has decided that this is the month he will get a cold and start snoring like a sawmill for the first time in his life. My dogs have become possessed and have started a nightly 2 am eerie howling serenade and I’m up every two hours on the dot, thinking, each time, I’ve slept through the night, cursing whatever food I last ate that is coming back to haunt me, swearing to never eat again and enjoying all of the new nightlife noises.

At least I’ll be nice and regulated for the upcoming nightly feedings.

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Anyway, this Saturday my neighborhood friends, my sisters and my mom are throwing me a shower. My gramma and two of my favorite aunts are coming to celebrate. I heard there’s going to be waffles.

I can’t believe I’m attending a baby shower that’s actually for us.

I can’t believe there’s a crib waiting to be assembled on the floor of the room that used to be full of my guitars, computer, paperwork, CDs, notebooks…

I can’t believe I’ve grown an actual human being in my belly long enough that it’s almost ready to make a debut into this world where it can maybe try kicking and punching his father instead of my bladder…

I can’t believe we’re not even remotely ready for this.

And I can’t believe how much love and support we’ve received from my readers and the community on this next phase in our lives. I didn’t realize how much joy and wonder the sight of a pregnant lady walking down the street can bring to some people. It’s almost electrifying the way they light up in the presence of a giant baby bump.

“When’s your due date?” “Boy or Girl?” “How you feeling?” “How exciting!” “You’ll do great.”

Aside from the random man at a small town gas station poking my belly (like sorta hard) and slurring “There’s a baby in there…” I haven’t had many of those awkward ‘being pregnant in public’ encounters.

Want to touch my belly? Go right ahead. I don’t feel like it’s really a part of my actual body anyway. Really, this whole pregnancy has been like an out-of-body-experience.

Last week I was standing in line at the post office and happened to wind up next to one of my friends who asked me some questions, gave me some advice and made a guess about whether or not I’m cooking up a boy or a girl.

“Girl for sure!” said the woman standing behind me. “Look at the way you’re carrying. I’m never wrong. Girl all the way.”

“Yup. I think girl too,” said the other woman I don’t know addressing envelopes at the counter. “I am pretty spot on on these things.”

“Girl!” Chimed in the third woman, and the long line behind me perked up with their own thoughts and predictions and there we were, strangers making small talk over the mystery of this bump I’ve been carrying around for months.

“Girl. Seriously,” said the woman behind me again. “Really,” she said turning around to the next lady in line. “I am NEVER wrong.”

So I guess we’re having a girl then.


Yes, I’ve entered the time in my pregnancy that I’ve become a walking (waddling) spectacle. My husband has taken to calling me Gru from Despicable Me…you know, because as he explains, “Tiny legs. Big Belly.”



He’s also been known to make a few unwelcome comments about the new size of my underwear because, well, I guess he gets a thrill out of poking the bear.

But he’s not the only one who loses his cool around me.

My Little Sister doesn’t even look at my face anymore. Nope. She just comes straight for the belly with her hands outstretched.

And my mom just sees me, giggles and wonders out loud how I’m fitting into my clothes.

No, she hasn’t become any softer since this comment months ago…

But being a spectacle does have its perks. This week I took an impromptu trip to Menards to satisfy this whole nesting thing that I thought was a myth and the Menards guy loaded up all my lumber onto the cart and another one shrink wrapped it, loaded into the pickup in the pouring rain and sent me on my way, no questions asked.

Didn’t even have to lift a finger really…

That never happens when I bring my husband along to the lumber yard.

And so there you have it. The baby brewing news. According to the pregnancy tracking app. I downloaded I’m only going to become more of a spectacle, but in the meantime I hope this mess I’m living in will look more like progress. If you need me I’ll be doing random things like organizing my kitchen cabinets and scrubbing down the walls and wondering if I’ve gone completely insane because I am actually enjoying it.

The countdown is on! What’s your guess? Girl or boy?

Peace, love and holy shit only 30 days left,

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Sunday Column: Raising a new generation in a familiar place

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This is a photo of my best friend (the tiny little blonde thing) and me sitting on her dad’s lap when we were just babies.

This was likely taken in my parents’ little trailer where they first lived on the ranch when they got married.

I think we still have that rocking chair.

I spent my entire childhood with that little blonde girl who lived up the hill along the highway on the place where her dad was raised. We had plenty of adventures and we were lucky to have each other out here growing up in the middle of nowhere. I guarantee having her in my life went a long ways in the ‘happy childhood memories’ department.

Best Friends

We used to plan on how we would grow up, have some adventures and move back to our ranches and be neighbors forever.

Who would have thought that the best laid plans of ten year old girls would wind up coming together twenty years later.

It’s a story that doesn’t get told much out here in Western North Dakota where the focus is on Boomtown and oil and all the trouble and sacrifice and nervousness it creates.

There is that. Some of that.

And then there is the fact that I would never be here, on my family’s 100 year old ranch, living down the road from my childhood best friend who was out helping our dads work cattle last Friday just like the old days, one or two of her four kids in tow, if it wasn’t for an economy that could support us building houses and making lives and carrying on traditions out here on our family farms.

When I graduated from high school in 2001, the porch lights along the gravel roads that connected us to town, were going out one by one.

Now they are turning on by the dozens, fourth and fifth generations getting a chance to be involved in the family business, or, like many of our friends, taking advantage of the opportunity to return home to a place they were raised and raise their own children.

Take this picture for example. This is a photo of my husband and some of his closest friends at our senior prom fourteen years ago (gasp!).


At a time when our hometown and home state were dealing with outmigration and we were told to get out of here, go get an education, move to Minneapolis or Chicago and start a life, make something of yourself, it’s interesting to note that of the six young men in this photo, all six of them have moved back to western North Dakota to raise their families.

Three of them are back on family ranches and one of them is in a beautiful house outside of our hometown raising three boys.

These guys, for all the wild shit they survived in their teenage years, grew up to own successful businesses, build houses and hold and be promoted in professional jobs. One of them is even a teacher and a coach. And between them all they are raising (or will be raising, if you count our little one coming along) fourteen kids out here in Western North Dakota…a place that seemed to once be on the verge of extinction.

Now, when I look around at events happening in town, basketball games, figure skating shows, dances on Main Street, I see about a hundred more stories of hometown kids coming back to make a life in a familiar place that is growing and busting at the seams.

A place they help make better by volunteering to coach 2nd grade football or, like my best friend up the road, help run the gymnastics program. Because their memories of this place motivate them to make sure they’re making good memories for their own children.

A few weekends ago I went up to have supper at my best friend’s beautiful house up the road. She invited some of our other friends to join us, and they all brought their kids and we ate meatballs and gravy and it occurred to me how unique of a situation we’ve found ourselves in…knowing each other’s history, loving each other from the time of fanny packs and biker shorts, and getting the opportunity to raise our own children together.

So that’s what this week’s column is about. Generations having the opportunity to build lives out here.

Who would have thought?

Coming Home: Newfound hope means we’re raising kids with our old classmates
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

On top of the hill across from the golf course, my hometown is busy building a brand-new, beautiful high school.

Plans have been in the works for a few years as our student population continues to grow, forcing classes to be held in portable rooms even after a recent elementary school renovation. 

Even during these times of lower oil prices.

It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true. The kindergarten class this year registered well into a hundred students, and in a matter of six or so years, we have not only exploded in population from 1,200 residents to closer to 10,000, but we’ve turned from an aging community into a young one.

Last weekend, my best friend — the neighbor girl who used to meet at the top of the hill so we could ride our bikes along the centerline of the highway — called us to come over for supper. A few years ago she and her husband, my classmate, built a beautiful house on her family’s ranch, fulfilling the plans we made when we were kids jumping from hay bale to hay bale to “grow up, get jobs and be neighbors forever.”

So I grabbed a bottle of wine (because someone should be drinking this wine) and headed up the hill to her house where she’s raising four kids, the youngest a son who will be only six months older than our baby on the way.

Lord help us all if this baby is a boy, too.

Anyway, that night we gathered for meatballs and gravy to catch up with a house full of friends. I looked around the kitchen, listened to the guys talk sports and bounce new babies and realized that every single one of those five grown men grew up together. And there were more of them, quite a few more of them, who couldn’t make it to the party.

And while it’s not a surprise (more than half of the classmates who attended our 10-year high school reunion had either moved back home or were making plans to move), it was fun to take a look around and think about the next chapter in our lives as friends in a town they told us no one could come home to.

But look how wrong we can be about predicting the future. One of my husband’s best friends — the one who lived right down the block and was in on more than a few paint ball and principal office shenanigans with him — held his newborn son at the table. That friend was my locker buddy, and his dad was locker buddies with my dad, and it just occurred to me that the baby boy he was bouncing could very likely be locker buddies with our baby, too.

(Would it be more or less trouble if our baby is a girl?)

And there are quite a few stories like this in my hometown these days, not just among our small class of 40 or so, but among other classes here as well. Best friends from childhood raising families alongside one another, taking turns driving kids to football or gymnastics, meeting up to barbecue, to sit and visit with a sort of ease and familiarity that comes with knowing one another when we wore our pants too baggy and drove too fast.

Who would have known? When I left home almost 15 years ago, the porch lights on the farmhouses were going out one by one. This landscape was so much darker without any real hope of new and younger hands to flip the switch back on.

And nothing was going to make it any different except a change in the makeup of this place that would make it so we wouldn’t have to struggle the way our parents did.

Around the supper table that evening there wasn’t a person raised here who didn’t respect and love it in their own way. But just because we’re connected by the land doesn’t necessarily mean that we would naturally remain connected to one another.

Except in this case it is enough, to find this place worthy of returning to and planting new seeds, a new generation raised in a familiar, changing and unpredictable place.

Digital Meltdown

Yawning HorseIt’s Friday.

It’s 2:46 and I need a nap that lasts until tomorrow morning when it’s a new day.

Saturday. The day I don’t have to deal with a damn computer.

Because there’s nothing worse than a complete computer crash, except for when your backup also crashes.

And you’re pregnant.

And decide to deal with the Geek Squad at the Best Buy three hours away.

Horse frustration

It’s been a perfect storm that’s been going on for months, a nightmare of hold music and head shakes and “let me ask in the back” and talking to ten different “geeks” who tell me ten different things and wondering if I’ll ever see the last five years of work and photographs ever again.

It’s been a misery saved only in part by my band mate being a technical genius who was able to get all my data off of my computer so I could just tell the geeks to give me a new hard drive already.

And when he gets back from his Vegas vacation, I’m going to see what he can do with external drives….

Everyone needs a techie in their lives. I just wish I was one.

But I’m not.


All I know is that my computers are like my right arm. I’m self employed. Time is money and I have no “system administrator” or “tech department” or “web manager” I can call when shit hits the fan.

I am all of those things. And shit hit the fan hard.

And I am not qualified to scrape it off…

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Anyway, this digital nightmare I’ve been living in kept me up the other night after my thirteenth pee break and sent me into a panic.

I haven’t put any of the photos I’ve taken in the last ten years in an actual photo album!

Aside from our wedding, that’s it, there’s hardly an actual photograph in this house since we said “I do” that a person could hold in their hands.

And I’ve been called a frickin’ photographer!

What happens when the world’s hard drive explodes and all of the memories I’ve stored on social media or on internal and external hard drives, on email servers and photo sharing servers on the world wide web all disintegrate in a poof of digital dust?

No more photos!  No more memories!

I’ve failed as a mother before I’ve even given birth!!

So at 3 or 4 in the morning I made a promise to go old school again. Once I get my digital life somewhat squared away, I am sending our memories off to be printed. I’m putting them in books so our kid and his kids and that kids kids can page through embarrassing photos of me with terrible hair and questionable wardrobe choices.

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It’s our God given right as family members to provide ammunition in the form of embarrassing photos that trigger memories and stories we can share in a pile of pictures and books on the coffee table.

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In this digital world we’re living in we’re unconsciously robbing ourselves, and it’s ironic really, given how easy it is these days to take and view a damn photo…

But maybe that’s the problem.

We’re taking these photos for granted because we can take millions, for free, at any given moment of our lives, and we do.

So have we decreased the value so much that our personal photos and memories have become disposable?

I hope not.

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Because preserving and documenting our history is important. So important it can’t be left in the hands of the Cloud for gawd sake! I don’t even know how the Cloud works, and every time I ask someone they don’t really know either, even the experts, the “geeks” can’t be clear enough for my comfort on this one, not that I have a lot of faith in them anymore anyway.

So that’s that people. For the last few months I have been suffering a digital meltdown, a disconnect with a device that has worked hard for me for five years, storing photos, videos, writing, stories, work, music, finances, lists, spreadsheets…my entire world on one little hard drive inside a machine that plugs into a power strip that plugs into a wall…and then one day I woke up to find it sick and on the verge of dying a long and agonizing death, one that it will never fully recover from.

It’s been hard on me, that hard drive.

But probably not as hard on all of my friends and family who have had to hear me bitching about it…

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So I’ll leave you with this: Back up your back up.

And then back that up…

And start printing those photos before you drop your phone in the toilet again or spill your coffee on your laptop.

Because shit happens and I wouldn’t want you to be left without being able to share those skydiving/Yellowstone/Fishing/Great Aunt’s 80th Birthday photos with your unborn child.

If you need me I’ll be ordering photo albums…and not the digital kind.

Peace, Love and Unplug,


Sunday Column: Dad jokes

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My husband spent all weekend (and it was a beautiful weekend) in the basement with his dad, putting up sheetrock, wiring lights, sawing and cutting and nailing walls together to get the house as ready as it can be for the rapidly ticking time bomb that is the arrival of this baby.

Because apparently I’m nesting and the sawdust and unfinished nature of this house is driving me absolutely insane. So insane, that I actually found myself scrubbing the insides of the oven, racks and all.

And organizing my kitchen cabinets, which hasn’t happened since I moved all our stuff into this house three years ago.

But as much as I can do, I am still waiting on dearly beloved to get his tasks in that basement checked off so I can put together this baby’s room already. As I type I’m sitting surrounded by unopened boxes of baby gear, blankets, books and onsies hanging out in my office full of guitars, CDs, paperwork, my desk, printer, sound system and microphone.

My instincts to organize it and put it everything in its proper place is overwhelming. It’s another pregnancy symptom that I assumed was a myth.

But as I visit (battle) with my dearly beloved about the meaning of “urgency” I have been thinking and wondering about what’s going on in that handsome head of his. If his fatherly instincts aren’t based in ridding the house of saw dust, making sure we sweep under the refrigerator and vacuum the light fixtures, what are his priorities? What is going on in that head of his (because I haven’t sensed any panic so far) and where are all the web articles, books, literature and YouTube videos analyzing and giving advice on the topic of fatherly instincts?

Surly some social scientist somewhere has thought about studying what the male mind and heart is mulling around while he watches his wife or partner’s belly swell month after month.
All I have found so far are some tips on how to prepare him for this, as if he were a child. But he’s not a child. He’s going to be a dad, with lots of responsibilities he’s nervous and excited about taking on. And I’m pretty positive there’s more going on in that brain of his than being worried about keeping his regular sleep pattern.
So I’ve been studying him a little bit. Listening, learning and contemplating…
And that’s what this week’s column is about…

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Coming Home: Becoming a devoted dad is no joke for my husband
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Comunications

My husband has been practicing his dad jokes.

It’s been a long rehearsal, I’ll tell you. Six months of lame comebacks followed by a blank stare (by me) and a sort of ba-doom-chick, knee-slap, finger-gun-point routine (by him) before he officially declares it a “dad joke” and laughs his way out of the room.

Some men agonize over the best car seat/stroller/baby monitor in the world with countless hours of Internet research, testimonials and calls to their dad friends.

My husband?

Dad jokes.

Literally the first thing he said when he saw the image of our little baby floating around in his (or her) big ultrasound debut was, “Huh, look there, I think I see a mustache.”

It was such a sweet moment.

And a reminder of how embarrassing he can be sometimes.

But I appreciate that about him, and I think this kid will, too. I know I appreciated that about my dad anyway, to know that a man charged with lifting the heavy things in the lives of his family still had the energy and heart to sing “Be Bop a Lula” and dance with his daughters in the kitchen, using laughter as an exclamation point at the end of a long day.

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In our lives together, I’ve seen my husband take the same route. Lurking in his generally stoic nature will be a witty rebuttal that catches me off guard or an unexpected leap from behind a closed door so that he can relish me flailing and falling to my knees, half weeping/half laughing in terror.

It keeps things interesting.

Anyway, as we get ready for this new person to arrive, I’ve been obsessively pining over baby preparation material, because I figure if I can’t be in control of my hormones, waistline, sleep pattern or endless heartburn, I can at least learn about the things I won’t be able to control in the next phase.

And that’s where I ran across a few articles about the dad — how to help calm his nerves, prepare him, inform him, keep him involved and one of the top 25 things he should know before the kid gets here, which I read, of course, in case there was something in there that they planned on telling dads but were going to keep from me.

Needless to say, there was nothing in there about preparing for the arrival of your infant by keeping a logbook of lame jokes that will embarrass your entire family year after year, but judging by the short Rolodex my father-in-law repeats annually around the Thanksgiving table, I’m thinking the development of the skill is inherited.

It’s instinct. Which made me wonder: In all the discussion about a mother’s instincts as a couple prepares for their first addition, why does it seem like a father’s instincts go unrecognized?

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Now, I know there are good dads and bad dads out there, and the same goes with mothers, so lucky are those who have two devoted parents. And that devoted dad is who I’m talking about here. In my life, I’ve seen and have been influenced by plenty of examples of these types of men; the ones who take their kids along on cattle roundups, hunting excursions, trips to their favorite sporting event or just on a run to the hardware store.

Because in those excursions, there might be a chance to get some dad jokes in, yes, but there’s also endless opportunities to teach, to show, to answer questions and help expose a kid to a skill or a fact he can put in his pocket so that he’s better equipped to take on the world.

When my husband was asked what he was most looking forward to about becoming a dad, his response was, “To have a buddy I can show around this place.”

That seems to be a theme. A dad’s basic instinct. To teach. To prepare. To show.

Because dad was the original Google, after all. Which may make things a little tricky these days, you know, now that kids can fact-check.

But it also comes in handy when diversifying that pool of dad jokes, which apparently is the first step in the wonderful journey of fatherhood.

And, when I got done writing this column, my husband texted me his latest ‘dad jokes:’

“I went to a zoo and there were no animals except one dog. It was a Shih Tzu.”


“Without nipples, boobies would have no point.”

Lord help me.

6 weeks and counting…

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