About Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I am working on living and writing my story. I grew up singing and writing music and spent five years of my young adult life touring colleges and coffeehouses across the country. I have had a life long love affair with Western North Dakota and the 3,000 acre cattle ranch on the edge of the badlands where I grew up Now, at 26, after a couple albums, a couple of moves, a couple of dogs, a couple of jobs, one large home renovation and some heartache, I am back at the ranch to sing and write and ride my ponies and hang out with my husband and work to help share my passion with others by opening up the 3,000 acre ranch that provided me with the space to create and breathe and be wild to visitors from around the world. I am in the beginning of this journey, but I want to tell you how it's going :) Oh, and just in case you want to know a bit more about the woman behind the words...I have big hair. I trip a lot. I say stupid things. I snort when I laugh. I'm a home renovator and a damn good cabinet refinisher. I married the right man. I hate car shopping. I would adopt all of the dogs in the world if I had a big enough yard (and support system). I am addicted to coffee and candy and peanut butter.

Valentines Day Outfit

I think they put Valentines Day in the middle of February to warm us northerners up and help us come up with creative ways to celebrate the people we love.

Husband and I have never been big Valentines Day celebrators. If I’m going to be truthful, out of the two of us I’m the worst gift giver. I used to be better, but frankly, I’ve run out of ideas that aren’t practical kitchen gadgets.

Seriously. For Christmas this year I got him a knife sharpener and a deep fat fryer (which went against my 9+ year rule that we would never have a deep fat fryer in this house, indicating just how desperate I was for an idea).

Anyway, here we are a few days ahead of the holiday and I chose to celebrate by having my husband help me take pictures of our baby in a tutu that he helped me pick out in town last week.

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Yup. The man showed up at mom’s store after work and walked with his girls down the block to pick out a tutu and a headband just so we could dress up our baby for a five minute photoshoot before he had to go outside to do man things.

He’s gone soft I tell you. He turned into the best possible form of mush.

And you should hear how he gets these smiles out of her…

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He’s good at it.

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It’s hard to get too much done around here with this kid waiting to show us her new tricks.

And how gravity works on those cheeks in the most perfect way.

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They didn’t tell me that having a girl would mean that I would be spending double extra time picking out outfits. As if it wasn’t hard enough to get myself dressed to go out in public, now I have a new little smushy human to obsess over.

I didn’t know I would be that way. I thought I would keep it simple, dressing her in nothing but white onesies while we hung around the house.

But as soon as she came out it seemed the closet full of neutral/beige basics waiting for her just wasn’t going to fulfill her tiny wardrobe needs.

Oh, I’m not the only one. The day she was born, Husband had to take a run to the store for supplies and he came back with a purple outfit.

Let’s not even mention the grammas, aunts, cousins and friends that have supplied us with plenty of pink and frills…and, of course, the right amount of jeans, flannels and shirts with horses on them, to keep her balanced.

And I hate to admit it, but I think the girl might have more shoes than me…and she can’t even walk yet.

I’m not sure how it happened, but another pair arrived via Amazon earlier this week.

Ah well, we’re having fun before she grows up and she finds it all has become thoroughly annoying.

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Turns out I’m better at shopping for my offspring than I am for my poor husband.

Happy Valentines Day friends. If you need me, well, you know where to find me…

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Sunday Column: What dreams really look like

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We branded our new cattle this weekend with the family’s brand.

It was a momentous occasion for my husband and I, owning a portion of this small herd of bred cattle fulfilled a dream for us.

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My instinct and general nature made me want to be in the middle of it all, but I have a baby to feed.

So we rolled up to the action, met up with gramma and took some notes.

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I gotta keep track of these ladies. Need to know who’s who and what’s what.

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And it was a great afternoon really. Watching the boys in the family work together, sitting and chatting in the pickup with my mom holding my baby.

Bossing my little sister around.

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It was everything we dreamed it would be really.

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Funny how some dreams look like mud and slush and smell like burnt hair and feel like achy muscles and long days and work and work and work…

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Coming Home: The most fulfilling dreams require work and worry
by Jessie Veeder
2-7-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Let’s talk about dreams. Not the kind you find yourself lost in while you sleep, but the kind that you aspire to achieve. The kind that may have ignited in you when you were just a kid watching the world play out before you and discovering that perhaps there was a place for you in it. A place where you might exceed expectations by developing an idea or exercising a talent or just putting yourself in the right place so that you might live a life completely true to yourself.

Other dreams are personal and close to the chest, like becoming a mother or honing a talent so that you might be recognized as being the best someday — the best football player, the best photographer, the best-selling author.

I’d guess most of us have a mix of those lofty dreams and the ones that feel more attainable, so that if that football scholarship doesn’t come through, you have other things to live for.

I think that’s what separates us from the animals, the ability to be more than a living, breathing, eating, sleeping and reproducing human. The ability to maneuver our fate a bit.

When my husband was a kid, he used to dream about being a mountain man. He wanted to ride out into the woods somewhere and live off of the land, trapping and hunting and fishing and growing a long, impressive beard far away from civilization and anyone wielding a razor telling him what to do.

I imagine in another time, when mountain men were more of a thing, he would have made a good one, considering his appetite for wild game, his frugal instincts and his overall scrappiness.

I had similar aspirations, only mine looked a little more like a Disney movie, where I would train a wild wolf pup to be my companion and we would spend our days frolicking in waterfalls and making wreaths out of wildflowers.

Anyway, perhaps that’s why we worked out in the long run, my husband and I. If we can’t agree on paint colors or carpet swatches, at least we can agree that that paint color and carpet swatch should go in a house out on the ranch. And I’ve learned that sometimes, deciding where you want to be together is a good solid foundation for a marriage, literally and figuratively.

Because living out here, raising a family where I grew up, is one of those close-to-the-chest dreams.

Last weekend my husband pulled up to the barn with a trailer full of cattle, the start of our own little herd we’ve been dreaming about since we unloaded our hand-me-down furniture in this familiar place.

I couldn’t help but smile as I watched him walk through the small herd with my dad, counting and making plans for calving, corrals, fencing and water.

And it occurred to me then that a dream was coming true, in the shape of thousands of pounds of flesh and bone and a whole pile of work and commitment, sacrifice and responsibility that we both could not wait to tackle.

That’s the thing about dreams that they don’t tell you when they tell you that you can be anything. They don’t tell you that most dreams worth anything look more like work and worry and muscle put in than anything shiny that comes as a result.

And they don’t tell you that perhaps the work is the best part anyway.

That the part where you become something is much sweeter than the part where you get something.

I’m not sure if I’ve always known this. Maybe I have. But somewhere among the thankless task of new motherhood and the moment those cattle set hoof on our place, I was reminded that some dreams are less glamorous than they are fulfilling.

And maybe that’s the point of all that dreaming anyway.

It’s Friday. Here are some puppy pictures.

It’s Friday. To get you through, here’s a shot of the puppies in their box five seconds before they all dispersed into a wiggly, frantic swarm of fluff anticipating their supper.

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They’re getting so big, and there are so many of them that we moved them into the big barn last weekend, which meant we put them all in a box for their first little road trip.

A pile of puppies in a box is probably the most adorable thing in the world.

It’s a good thing these pups are at mom and dad’s or Edie and I wouldn’t get anything done all day except cuddling.

I mean, that’s sorta all I do at home these days anyway…

IMG_8057But ugh. The fluff.

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In a few weeks all of these babies will go to their forever homes and Dolly and Pops’ pup will stay here with us.

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The timing of having a newborn and a newborn puppy sounds just about right for keeping the crazy and chaos at the normal level around here. I’d hate to be bored you know.

Here’s the best and most recent photo (out of dozens) of the two of them. The level of wiggle and squeaks are uncountable. Maybe I should try video next time to get the full effect.

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And the way these two girls are growing, you can bet the both of them are eating well.

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No, the ranch isn’t as quiet as it has been in past winters. To add to the excitement and work load, last weekend Pops and Husband went to pick up a small herd of cattle to add to the place.

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My husband and I have dreamed of owning our own cattle someday and last weekend that dream came true.

Funny how some dreams come on four legs, bearing promises of a whole lotta blood, sweat and tears.

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These cows will have their babies in early spring when the weather is a bit warmer. Until then we’ll feed them up and watch them close and make plans for the next season, which will look like a whole lot of fence fixing and corral maneuvering and some good excuses to get on a horse and take a ride.

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I can’t wait.

And to gear me up for the season change, it looks like this weekend the weather’s going to be nice and warm, a nice break in the winter to remind us that the cold isn’t forever.

Not that I’ve minded the weather so much this winter, you know, being my job title has been changed to Jessie Veeder, writer/singer/mother/rancher/professional snuggler…

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and baby feeder and putter-to-sleeper….

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Happy weekend everyone. We only watch the Super Bowl for the snacks, but we hope your team wins!

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Sunday Column: What they didn’t tell me

IMG_6853They didn’t tell me that I would have the appetite of a teenage boy or that I would be more hungry feeding a baby than growing one. And so they didn’t tell me that I would have to acquire a new set of skills, like eating cereal with my left hand while feeding the baby on my right.

They didn’t tell me how horrified I would be the first time I dribbled a little of that cereal milk on her head or that I would get over it by the third or fourth time…or that spilling my food on the baby’s outfit would actually be a thing.

And they didn’t tell me that my baby might not look like me. Or my husband really. And that, despite our certainty that the tiny human would show up with brown eyes like ours, it might just happen that hers will turn blue. And that it’s weird and sort of wonderful how she is so incredibly and uniquely herself.

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And they told me my body would never be the same afterwards, but they didn’t tell me that would be the last thing on my mind, because the first thing on my mind would be getting it to do what it needed to do.

And they told me that it might not work out, that feeding her would be painful and mind-numbing and the hardest and most time consuming commitment, but they didn’t tell me how proud I would feel when it did work. They didn’t tell me that putting her on the scale at the pediatrician’s office to find that she’s gained pound after pound and inch after inch would have me puffing out a chest that no longer fits into any of the shirts or jackets in my closet, beaming with pride to have one of those babies with rolls and squish.

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No, they didn’t tell me how relieved I would feel about all that eating and pooping. And they certainly didn’t tell me how loud babies can fart.

Or how far they can shoot their puke…and that it sometimes comes out of their noses…

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Yes, they told me that we would never sleep again, but they didn’t tell me what it’s like to be awake, just her and I, in the peace of the early morning when even the wild things are quiet.

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And they didn’t tell me that I could be simultaneously lonesome and fulfilled. How I could cry tears of joy and frustration at the same time. How my favorite time of the day would be the first smile at 5 am.

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And they should have told me not to panic if things don’t go right, because next week I would have a new set of worries and wonder. And they should have told me that so I might be prepared for how that phenomenon sends you wishing for time to speed up and stand still at the same time.

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And that I would be crazy in so many different wonderful and worrisome ways.

They should have told me about the crazy. And then they should have told me that the most important thing to have on hand is not diaper cream or nasal aspirators or yoga pants, but a good dose of patience.

And then they should have told me that it wasn’t all going to be wonderful, but that it was all going to be ok…

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Coming Home: A new mom can’t be told everything
by Jessie Veeder
1-31-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Before Edie was born, I was the queen of reading up on what was to come, from the “Top 50 Baby Must Haves” to “Tips to Make Your Baby Smarter.” I talked to other moms, too, about what to expect when I brought my baby home. All were so willing to share tips for gas (because her baby was gassy) or information on the best diaper cream (because her baby got rashes).

But sprinkled among the overwhelming advice was the resounding declaration that “every baby is different.” Which is helpful to remember when you hear about a baby who only falls asleep after an hour drive in the car and, two years later, still wakes up every two hours. It gives you a little sliver of hope.

Yes, there are so many things they tell you, so much to learn, and while the whirlwind of Edie’s birth left me awestruck, in pain and completely in love, when my husband and I stepped foot into our house, our 8-plus-pound baby in tow, I soon realized that I could have spent a lifetime collecting advice, but in the end, just like every baby is different, so is every couple, every mother and every household.

Because I didn’t come across one article that discussed what it was like taking care of a newborn in the middle of a North Dakota winter, 30 miles away from the nearest grocery store or doctor’s office, married to a husband who had to go back to work after the first week of his new baby’s life.

Tip No. 1 should have been: With a nursing baby in one hand and your cellphone in the other, you can magically make almost anything arrive at your doorstep. Just don’t be surprised that by the time the new shelves/special diaper cream/adorable baby cardigan arrive, you likely won’t remember you bought it.

Because that whole pregnancy brain thing has nothing on the brain you receive with a newborn. Nobody talked much about that.

Perhaps they forgot. Just like I forget where I put all five of Edie’s pacifiers.

And there are plenty other things they forgot to tell me. Like, when changing a diaper, have another one ready. Which seems like a no-brainer now, except at 5 a.m. when your baby has literally pooped in your hand and you realize you don’t have a brain anyway.

That’s the other thing no one tells you — that poop-in-your hand story will suddenly become a go-to conversation starter with your mom/sister/random stranger in the grocery store.

That is, until you see your baby’s smile for the first time. I suppose no one can tell you what that’s like.

Or how you will put on a thousand miles bouncing and walking your baby around the house, and how after she finally falls asleep, you will miss her.

And everyone likes to wish you good luck with the sleepless nights, but no one told me that getting up to feed my baby at 3 a.m., in the dark and still of the early morning, would be my favorite time with her and the best moments of my life so far. Because the days are long, but the months, the years are short. That’s something everybody told me, but I wouldn’t comprehend until I packed away the newborn clothes just a few short weeks after she arrived in this world.

And until now I couldn’t possibly understand the new kind of trust I would place in my husband, or the physical toll motherhood would take on my body, or how hard but so incredibly important it is to hold on to the parts of me that are not solely mother so that I can be the best version of myself for my family.

Or how, at the end of the day, your body may be drained and your wits may be frayed, but you’ll lay down in the dark and hear your baby breathing in her crib next to you, safe and calm, and, well, that’s all I can say, because there’s no list or conversation in the world that would have prepared me for that.

And I can’t help but hope that in that way all of us could be the same.

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Unpredictable January

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The end of January is here and I think I can speak for most North Dakotans when I say, “Whew.”

It’s a tough month up north, full of unpredictable and freezing weather, long evenings and short days and lots of reasons to eat soup and heavy carbs, no matter what you said in your New Years Resolution about eating better.

We’re not meant to eat lettuce in the deep freeze of January. It’s not natural.

We’re meant to hibernate and hunker down. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

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I’ve spent more days consecutively in the house this January than ever before in my life. Except maybe when I was a newborn myself.

I’m so used to running around, playing music late at night, heading to meetings or wandering outside on a whim that this hiding out has been a big adjustment.

Never mind that I’m hanging out with a brand new tiny little person we made.

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Yes, when you live out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter, the whole getting out of the house thing takes way more effort. There’s no such thing as a quick trip anywhere, except maybe to the changing table.

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So I leave the grocery shopping to my husband, which I’ve found to be one of the major perks of hanging home with a newborn.

That and hanging in my stretchy pants all day.

What’s not so fun? Daytime television and trying to work with a baby who doesn’t nap much or for very long.

But she smiles a lot when she’s awake, so it’s worth it.

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And when we do get out of the house, we go visit the other babies on the ranch.

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Or, on the weekends, I leave Edie to rock with her daddy and I take a wander, get some fresh air in my lungs, swing my arms without a baby in them and walk the big dogs.

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Last week Edie had her two month appointment and with each of her little milestones I’m reminded that time ticks so quickly.

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Last winter I was in Nashville.

Next winter I will be chasing a one year old around in the snow.

 

Turns out the ever predictable January has proven that, in some ways, she’s not so predictable after all.

And I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

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Sunday Column: My mom’s coffeeshop

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My mom owns a clothing store in town. She has for a few years now. And while I don’t work there, I reap the benefits of popping in to get my hands on what’s new and accompanying her to market in boring places like Las Vegas where there is an entire event center dedicated to only shoes.

It’s a tough job. But I’m happy to do what I can to assist.

Growing up in a house with two sisters and a fashonista mother, clothes and “what we’re going to wear today?” is a regularly addressed topic.

So we’re all right at home weighing in on her business.

But now I’ve gotta tell you, as happy I am about having a 24/7 solution to my wardrobe issues, I’m even more excited about my crazy mother’s new endeavor.

Because it involves the #3 love of my life (behind Edie and my Husband).

Her name is coffee.

And my mom has opened a shop dedicated to it.

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Yup. Right next door to her boutique. So you can find an outfit for your big date and then head next door to grab a latte and talk all about it.

Or a chai tea.

Or a smoothie.

Or a mocha.

Or a cappuccino.

Or a caramel macchiato. That’s a thing too.

Turns out coffee is more complicated than finding the right jean size, but I’m willing to try. Because trying means sampling and all those long drives to and from town has helped me develop a high caffeine tolerance, and for that, I am grateful.

Congratulations crazy Momma.

And if you’re ever in good ‘ol Watford City, stop by Door 204 for a cup!

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Coming Home: Mom’s entrepreneurial drive inspiring
by Jessie Veeder
1-25-16
http://www.inforum.com

My mom turned 60 at the beginning of this month.

We couldn’t celebrate on Saturday because she was in town, working on plans for the building she bought on Main Street that she’s turning into a coffee shop.

So now she’s trying to find him a girlfriend.

Because when my mom believes in something, she doesn’t give up.

Lord help you if you’re the someone or something she believes in. She’ll give you the shirt off her back, a job when there’s no openings or the last brownie in the pile on her kitchen counter.

And so here she is learning about the coffee business when most women her age are thinking about retiring and moving to Florida.

When I ask my mom about this elusive retirement, she says, “Well what would I do? I can’t just hang around here making brownies all day. I don’t have any hobbies.”

So she’s going to hang around Main Street Watford City to make coffee and help keep this small town dressing well. If you added a dance studio and a wine bar in the back, you would have all of my mom’s favorite things in one place.

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And while she might not crochet baby beanies or take photos of wildflowers, the “no hobby” thing isn’t true at all. She just seems to have turned her love for people and shopping into a business. Come to think of it, after witnessing her energy and enthusiasm for new challenges, I wouldn’t be surprised if on her 61st birthday she added that wine bar after all.

As it turns out, the woman’s always had an entrepreneurial and creative mind, one that she’s been honing since opening a day care/dance class business in her backyard when she was in fifth grade.

I doubt that fifth-grade ballerina would have guessed she would grow up to marry a cowboy and wind up raising kids on a ranch 30 miles from the nearest grocery store. I mean, when she moved out here she didn’t even know how to drive on a hill.

But she did it. And while ranching wasn’t in her wheelhouse, she brought her wheelhouse to town teaching aerobics and dance class. And then, when she took a full-time job, she taught those classes in the evenings.

Because at that time, there wasn’t a plethora of jobs to choose from in small-town Watford City, so my mom made her way, eventually landing a career she held for years working from a home office and traveling across the state, until about three years ago when a change in the company inspired her to look for a change in herself.

And the clothing store on Main Street was up for sale, so she took the leap and put her entrepreneurial spirit to use again, finding her way back to her creative place after years of putting it second to the needs of her family.

And so it seems with one idea comes another, and she’s got her momentum now.

And I’m proud of her. Proud that she’s finding success, yes, but more so breaking through the walls of a notion that there’s a time limit on potential or passion or dreams.

It’s something I’ve wondered about in my unconventional career as a musician and writer. I wondered how it might fit in later in my life, especially in my new role as a mother.

But I look at my mom bringing home samples of coffee beans, reading up on latte technique and ordering coffee house furniture as she celebrates a new decade of her life with a new challenge, and she motivates me. Not just to work hard and do what I need to do for my family, but also with her example that, whether you’re 10 or 60, if you fuel the flame, life can continue to inspire you.

 

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Puppy Boom

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Well, it seems to be a baby boom at the Veeder Ranch, and I tell you, I can’t get enough.

On December 29th, just in time for the weather to get good and cold, dad’s dog Juno gave birth to a big ‘ol batch of puppies.

I got a text from dad early that morning telling me that there were “4 pups so far.” Later that morning, when mom stopped over to snuggle our baby, she said she thought there were five. But it was hard to tell, because she had them in the dog igloo and it was dark in there.

Five pups was my guess. That’s what I thought she would have and that was a nice manageable number.

I called my little sister to report the news and then headed over to mom and dad’s when Husband got home to take a look for myself.

We pulled into the yard just as Pops was pulling in from work and Juno ran up to welcome her favorite human, giving him the opportunity to shine a flashlight in the igloo to see what she made.

“They’re so loud in there,” he said.

And then he found out why.

“Holy Cow!” he hollered.

“What?!!” I asked nervously “What’s in there? Are they ok?”

“There’s a whole pile of them!”

And indeed there was….

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A little more than five I guess. I tried to get a good count on them while they were wiggling and squirming all over each other.

I thought I counted nine.

I was confident. But I counted again.

Yup. Nine.

Nine’s a lot. That’s a lot of pups there.

The mat they were laying on was a little damp. These pups were brand new, so I decided to get a couple towels to put underneath them and help absorb some of the moisture.

So we took the pups out one by one.

And we all counted out loud, Pops, Husband, my niece and I.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9!!!”

“9,” I declared. “Perfect!”

“Oh, we’re not done yet,” said Pops.

“WHAT?!”

“10, 11!”

E.LE.VEN.

Eleven.

ELEVEN PUPPIES!

That’s a lot of pups.

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“Good idea we had here huh dad?” I said to him.

Because it was our idea, to breed our Gus with his Juno the best cow dog ever.

Because cute + cute = so damn cute…

But also, because they will be really good dogs.

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Baby Gus 

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Baby Juno

After Pudge died this fall we thought we needed to get another young pup to start learning the ropes.

And we thought maybe someone in the neighborhood might be interested in a good cow pup too.

But eleven? ELEVEN?! What were we going to do with eleven puppies?

Well, first things first I had to pick one out for Edie.

The Litter

Which wasn’t an easy task, except I liked the brown border collie. She was the only one like that in the batch. And I haven’t seen many brown border collies in my life.

So she was my favorite.

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It seems like Edie liked her too..

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But this one is also my favorite because she’s so little and she has brown eyebrows that match her brown feet and I just can’t take that sweet face I want to smush her and put her in my pocket…

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And this one is my favorite too because of his speckled little feet and speckled nose and he seems like he’s going to be really smart and I just can’t take it I want to scoop him up and put him in my cereal bowl.

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And this one breaks my heart because, well look at him! Those ears! That look! He’s so beefy and rolly-polly. He’s also my favorite. I really like him. I like his white face. I can’t even take it, I want to wrap him up in a blanket and snuggle and watch re-runs of Seinfeld together. He seems like he’d like Seinfeld. He seems like he has a good sense of humor that way.

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And be still my heart. This one is my favorite. Look at her! Look at the brown on her. She looks like she’s going to be SO FLUFFY I COULD DIE!!!! Look at her feet, with the little speckles on her toes. And I just can’t take it I want to buy a pink purse and put her in there and walk around the mall with her peeking out, smiling while everyone declares “What an adorable pup!” and I would say “I know right?!”

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And this one is my favorite because of his brown legs and white face. He looks smart. And snuggly. And I just can’t take it I want to tuck him in bed and read him bedtime stories.

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And this one is Husband’s favorite, but I think he’s also my favorite because he looks like his dad Gus and Gus is my favorite. I like that he’s solely black and white and he has a cool big black spot on his side and he’s going to be beautiful. And I just can’t take it I want to teach him the best tricks and enter him in one of those frisbee catching contests that you see on TV. We would win, because, well, just look at him.

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And this one. This one’s my favorite because he’s going to be fluffy and I love him and I just can’t take it I want to comb his hair and put a bandana around his neck and name him Scout.

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And this one is my favorite because of his white legs and spotted nose and I just can’t take it I want him riding shotgun in the pickup with me anytime we go somewhere so he can stick his head out the window and really get his ears flapping.

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And we’ve established why this one is my favorite…But it looks like she’s going to have curly brown hair so I think we’ll be able to relate…

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And this one. Look at this guy! He’s going to be smart I can just tell. He’s got the look of a perfect ranch dog and he’s my favorite because he reminds me of the old dog we had growing up named P.V. and she was the best. I just can’t stand it I want to bring him inside and let him lay on the rug in front of the fireplace.

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And this one is my favorite because he’s classic and he knows it. He looks like he could be in a movie where he herds up lost sheep that got out on the highway and headed to town so he grabbed his brother and saved the sheep and the day. And I just can’t stand it I want to give him an extra bowl of milk because he looks like he’s going to do such a good job someday.

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Oh Lord. It’s been hard on me. All this cuteness. It’s giving me cavities.

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But it turns out it hasn’t been hard to find these babies homes. No. One little social media advertisement and they were homed in a matter of hours to some really wonderful families who will probably not put their puppy in a pink purse and cart it around the mall, but might let them ride shotgun in the pickup. Or sleep on the rug in front of the fireplace. Or, most importantly, give them a life where they can do what they were meant to do…chase cows and roll in poop and drag bones from gawd-knows-where all over the yard.

And be unconditionally loyal.

And fluffy.

So fluffy. Just like their mom.

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And so annoyingly smart, just their dad.

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Because that’s what’s running through their blood.

And I can’t take it.

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Now, does anyone have any name suggestions for our new little girl? I would ask Edie, but I don’t think she’s old enough to make these sort of decisions.

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Ugh, life must being going good when too cute becomes a problem…

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This seems like a good time to share my music video “A Girl Needs a Dog” again, featuring baby Gus and the photos you all submitted of you loving on your favorite dog. Enjoy!

If you need me I’ll be snuggling something.

Peace, Love and Puppy Breath,

Jessie

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Sunday Column: The “what if’s” in Boomtown

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My husband and I moved back to the ranch more than five years ago. If you’ve been following along here, you’ve likely seen how much has changed, and how much hasn’t, at the ranch, in our family and in our community.

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We moved back for a few reasons. Number one was because it is where we wanted to settle down and raise a family, but the number two reason made it possible–the economy was booming due to the oil and gas industry and seemingly overnight there were more jobs and more opportunity than our small town could keep a tally on.
The results have been unprecedented growth for our small town that was once only 1,200 people and now boasts a population that is seemingly uncountable due to fluctuations and many people living in temporary housing situations. My guess is we’re likely close to 8,000 people today.

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Our small town that never had a stop light, now has many. We have a sort of suburban sprawl happening with new apartment buildings and housing units going up. We have Main Street bars and a sushi restaurant. We have little strip malls. A big grocery store. A nice daycare, a brand new high school and multi-million dollar community and event center going up, with two indoor ice slabs and a couple pools. We’re working on a new hospital and clinic.
Everything that once was is now updated, expanded and improved upon, including our roads.
When oil prices were at $100 a barrel we worked on playing catch up because the entire country was moving in.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.16.56 PMAnd now we’re planning for the future in a time we knew could come, a slow down due to lower oil prices.  We’re in a sort of eerie place where we can catch up, not realizing how we’ve gotten used to such a fast pace until there’s a shift.
In the new year I think we all wish we could see into the future, knowing that all we can do is believe in and trust in today. And today it seems like despite what looks sort of grim, my community is showing it’s a little beacon of light and hope on this cold prairie.
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by Jessie Veeder
1-17-16
Forum Communications

It’s been more than five years since my husband and I unloaded our hand-me-down furniture into the little brown ranch house in the barnyard where my dad grew up, fulfilling our dream of moving home, because unlike the economy the two of us grew up in during the ’80s and ’90s, there were jobs.

Everyone talks about how the oil boom seemed to happen overnight, but when you’re living among it, that sense of immediacy is only partially true.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of “what-if” that sits alongside “could it be true?” in your mind as you wonder about the alleged oil well that promises to pop up on the hill behind the house.

It seems like it could never happen, until one day you wake up and there it is.

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That’s how it’s been for the past five years around here in western North Dakota. Not believing and then believing — that there would be a stoplight in town, a four-lane highway to Williston, a fast-food restaurant, a brand new high school, dozens of new apartment buildings and so on and so on until you find yourself used to the stoplights, sushi and Southern accents surrounding you.

The “if you build it they will come” mentality wasn’t as much the case here in this once 1,200-person town. No, it was more of the “they have come so let’s do what we can to make it work better.”

And so we made time for the extra traffic, the long lines and construction detours, and have come to expect events and restaurants filled to capacity with people of all ages, races and backgrounds, our new little melting pot on the western edge of the state.

We knew it would slow down eventually, that the four new hotels that were built wouldn’t be filled to the brim every week with working residents, and instead we would have to find a way to fill them with guests.

We knew that we wouldn’t always have to make reservations for supper.

We knew that oil wouldn’t stay at $100 a barrel, and that we might get a chance to take a breath someday and catch up, even though the thought was both terrifying and relieving.

Because we knew what it was like to have our quiet and slow life interrupted, but maybe we didn’t realize how quickly we could get used to a new normal, a fast pace of planning hectic moment to hectic moment.

But that hectic moment has slowed for a bit now and, as oil prices have slid, adjustments have been made.

Is the boom over?

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That’s a question every news source and coffee conversation wants answered.

I’m not sure if anyone knows. Just like nobody seemed to know exactly what was coming five years ago. I read a different dramatic report, opinion and prediction every day.

But here’s what I know to be true for us: Oil prices have changed, but the sense of “what-if” coupled with “could it be true?” has not.

We have never settled into a sense of security in such fast-paced growth. Instead, we have remained committed to keep steady in our own plan to figure out how to stay here at the family’s ranch for the long run.

And I’ll tell you, it’s been much easier with better jobs and more opportunity at our fingertips. But along with that, for whatever challenges we continue to face, what our community has become in the wake of the boom has made this an easier and exciting place to live in many ways.

And for that we have been grateful.

I think that realization might be the case for most people who, after coming here for the work, have decided to make this place their permanent home now. Because of the jobs, yes, but also because, like us, they see a future here.

And it’s because of those people it seems our new population is remaining more steady than predicted. Yes, people are losing jobs and families are moving away, but businesses are also still hiring and new residents still seem to see the value in a community that has moved from building to keep up with the present into building for a future we want for our families.

For more information on Watford City and McKenzie County, and for other perspectives on Boomtown Living visit: 
www.mckenziecounty.net
www.voicesofwatford.com
www.oilgoesboom.com
www.boomtowndiaries.com 
www.beautifulbakken.com 

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Outside. Inside.

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January’s a good month to have an excuse to stay inside with a baby.

All the snuggling, singing and miles put on pacing and bouncing the burps out in front of the fireplace is as good of an activity as any when the thermometer registers well below zero.

And while I love it, I am also restless. Having spent every other winter of my life able to bundle up and hit the trail or the road on a whim sometimes sends me pressing my nose up against the window.

The light is already starting to linger longer, and this baby is already starting to hold her head up and make little noises, but I find myself daydreaming about smushing her leg rolls into a little swimming suit and hitting the beaches of the big lake this summer.

And that’s a rough daydream, because I already think she’s growing up too fast.

So in an attempt to beat cabin fever and to force myself to stay in the moment, last weekend Husband held down the fort and the pacifier and I made a plan to trek out and about around the barnyard, ignoring the fact that it was literally -20 with the windchill or something like that.

I would just stay in the low parts of the place, avoid the wind and try to squeeze my fat ass into my long underwear, under sweat pants, under snow pants I could barely button up.

I just needed to take a tally of all of the frost, put a flush in my cheeks and sweat a bit.

Because while I have a new role now as a mom, there are things I know about myself that help keep me balanced.

I need to go outside. It’s imperative for me to remain the best version of myself.

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So I did.

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And I froze my face off.

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And came in after only about fifteen minutes.

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Happy to know that all was as it should be in January.

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Frosty and freezing…

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Windy and white…

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And pretty in a middle-of-winter sort of way.

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And it felt good to be frozen, only to warm up…

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with a warm fire and the best stuff waiting for me inside.

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Sunday Column: Press that red button

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This weekend, between feeding, burping and rocking the baby, I worked on collecting photos on my computer to put into photo albums, a sort of New Years resolution (besides trying to cut back on the caramel rolls and donuts I’ve grown accustomed to during my pregnancy) I’ve set aside for myself after suffering a major computer and external drive meltdown a few months back.

I don’t want Edie’s memories to be stuck on some broken hard drive somewhere.

And this Christmas the importance of that resolution became even clearer when we dug out a couple old VHS tapes from the back room and spent the afternoon waiting on the prime rib and watching ourselves, scratchy and sorta blurry, on mom and dad’s big screen t.v.

I was five or so with my big sister, inside a cardboard box we made out to be a t.v., doing a Jergens lotion television commercial bit.

Then carving pumpkins in the little kitchen, our mom pregnant with our little sister giving our dad the very classic and signature (still used to this day) evil eye when he put the camera on her and her big belly.

And then there we were, when she was born, my big sister holding her arms out like a ballerina waiting for her turn to hold the baby, the same way she does today waiting to hold Edie.

But this week’s column is about what was most precious about those moving pictures my family captured in the year of the first camcorder, 1989 or so I suppose, purchased together by the family to help us remember on cold winter afternoons like these.

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Because to hear the voice of my grandmother again, to see the way she climbed up on a horse, the way her husband teased her and she teased back, to see them interact right there before our eyes twenty-some years later, not only reinforces a memory, but may help create one, on just an ordinary day, that might have been lost.

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Because some people leave us too soon and all we’re left with is what we remember and what we’ve done to help us do so.

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And just those few minutes we got to spend in the past that day stuck in my guts and so I spent the Christmas celebration trying to remember to put my phone on record, to capture Edie smiling, to capture a gift exchange or a conversation between aunts and uncles gathered in the same room, little moments that might seem mundane at the time but could mean the world to us some day far away.

Coming Home: Give yourself the gift of recording family moments
by Jessie Veeder
1-10-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com
 

We watched her from the couch, her silver hair tucked up under her flat-brimmed feed store cap, her husband on the other side of the camcorder lightheartedly poking fun at the way she climbed up on her horse, laughing with the reins in her hand as she set out for the gate.

The VHS tape with our family memories found its way into my dad’s hand while he was searching for something else in the back closet. It’s funny how we seem to stumble upon such important things.

The label read something like “Feeding cattle, Alex’s Birth, Dance, 1989,” the year my little sister was born.

The year my dad’s father was battling his second bout of cancer and the outcome looked grim. And until I saw him again, dressed in coveralls and a wool cap emerging from that little brown house in the farmyard, blurry, shaky and worn like the old tape itself, it hadn’t occurred to me the reason the new camcorder existed in my family that year.

 Because Polaroids wouldn’t capture his voice or her laugh or the joke she told about her first husband filming her backside.

So they bought a camcorder. Bulky and not the least bit user-friendly, they read the manual, pushed the red button at the wrong times and carted it around so that they might remember how he dressed when he fed cattle, what he looked like opening a gate and the expression on his face when he cradled his tiny and brand new grandchild just months before he said goodbye to this world.

But of course they didn’t know how little time they had then, not just with Grandpa Pete, but with Grandma Edie as well. Because that’s the trouble with things like time, we always think we have more of it.

It’s been a couple weeks since we all sat down as a family on Christmas unprepared for the emotions that would stick in our guts after seeing and hearing them in living, breathing, moving color, and still I’m stirred.

Because there I was, standing on the stoop outside the little brown house, barely 5 years old, in my snowsuit and stocking cap watching my grandma wrap my scarf around my neck and I remembered what that was like. I remembered that scarf and how she didn’t tie it like my mother did. How she wrapped it tighter and up over my nose.

And there was her voice saying my name, saying “Jessica, why don’t you go stand by your grandpa so your dad can take a picture.” And I turned the other way, acting shy, not knowing much of time or about how some goodbyes are forever.

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Frame by frame we went, the little snippets of our ordinary lives—unwrapping presents at Christmas, playing dress-up with my cousins in the farmhouse, listening to the grownups talk and sip coffee around the table—somehow made extraordinary after all of these years.

And I can’t shake it. As we spent our holiday carting our newborn to holiday celebrations here and across the state to meet relatives, I thought about the way my mother looked at my tiny little sister from across the hospital room, just minutes after she gave birth to that 9-pound baby on her 33rd birthday, smiling and fresh and caught on camera putting on mascara in her hospital bed, just a year older than I was when I had baby Edie. It was a simple moment captured, but it said so much about a woman.

And there were my grandparents, facing an illness that could end a life and welcoming a new one with big smiles, bundled up and fresh in the chill and uncertainty of a new year.

Time has ticked on like it promises to, making televisions bigger, communication easier and access to video more affordable and at our fingertips.

In this new year, even in what seems like the most ordinary times, give yourself a gift and press that red button.

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