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.

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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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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Sunday Column: On instincts

Whew.

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We made it through the holiday!

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I hope you’re all feeling the same way we are here–a little bigger in the waistline, a little haggard from all the merriment and happy for time spent with family and friends.

In Edie’s short little life, in a matter of a couple weeks, she has managed to meet nearly all of her more immediate relatives, on both sides of the family, whose locations range from Arizona to Minneapolis and back again.

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Yes, it was all about family, and one long road trip with the infant across the state that, thankfully, my little sister and I survived.

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I was never worried about Edie, just how we might handle a giant barf explosion that pooled up in the carseat halfway there…

And we did. We both cried (my little sister and I), but we made it.

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Speaking of family, Edie’s not the only baby at the ranch anymore!

Nope. Actually, she has eleven, yes, you heard that right, ELEVEN! new baby puppies to add to her crew that are part sweet Juno and part crazy Gus.

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You should have seen the look on Pops’ face when we finally got a count on them, thinking maybe there were only four of five, only to discover, when momma dog moved out of the way, a whole pile of wiggly, squeaky little things.

We took them out of her bed to get a good count and put dry towel down after I pretty confidently declared I counted nine in that pile, but when we got to nine, we weren’t done yet.

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Eleven.

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That’s a pile of cow pups there to have in the coldest part of winter.

And while we planned for pups, we didn’t plan for this sort of timing.

But, well, I know all about how timing goes.

Anyway, I was sure glad we were around to help her count them and make sure they were nice and warm, but Juno didn’t really need us.

We knew she would be a good mom judging by the time a neighbor brought over their new puppy and Juno picked it up by the neck skin and tried to take it back to her bed and claim it as her own.

Those instincts are strong.

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And that’s what this week’s column is about. Motherly instincts and the security of a village.

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We’re getting better at this whole mother/daughter routine here, so I am hoping to be posting more on our trials and tribulations, and of course, keeping tabs on these babies’ growth and adventures.

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Thanks for being such loyal and supportive followers year after year. It has been so fulfilling to share with you and hear your stories too.

Cheers to a healthy, happy 2016.

Coming Home: Trusting my motherly instincts
by Jessie Veeder
1-3-15
Forum Communications

Early this morning I got a text from my dad. A picture of his cow dog Juno came through with the caption, “4 puppies so far!”

And there they were, all squishy, slimy and black and white, poor timing to be born in the coldest part of winter, but tucked in snug in a bed my dad made up for her.

Downstairs, my oldest niece was sleeping on an air mattress in my makeshift office. After all of the Christmas festivities, she made plans to come home with us for a few days to help with the baby.

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As I write this, the little girl I used to rock, burp and snuggle who suddenly grew up to become a 12-year-old with superb baby-sitting skills is upstairs burping and snuggling my baby.

And so I’m plotting how I can keep her around.

Because she likes changing diapers. And the projectile vomit Edie gifted me, the one that coated my shirt and hair last night, didn’t even faze her.

I got up out of the chair to head for a towel, and that 12-year old (who was just a baby yesterday) looked at me and said, “That’s not a cleanup situation there … that’s a shower and find new clothes situation.”

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Husband’s first instinct in this situation was to grab the camera, not the baby…you know, for the photo album…

And she was right. There was no saving me.

Yes, I’m in the trenches of motherhood now, the period where the guests carting meals stop knocking on your door, the burp rags pile up in the hamper and reality sets in.

This is not a drill. This is the part that I was nervous about.

Because unlike the motherly, animal instincts that kicked in for my parents’ dog early this winter morning, the one that will keep her licking on those pups and keeping them snug throughout the winter, I was worried I didn’t have the natural, know-what-to-do caretaking instinct in me.

I love children, but hand me an infant before Edie was born and the “I’m gonna break this thing” panic set in, complete with stiff arms and cold sweats.

But it’s been a month now and besides checking her breathing in her car seat every five minutes on the way home from the hospital, and a few middle of the night soft pokes to the tummy just to make sure, much to my surprise, I haven’t panicked yet.

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Little by little I’m finding out that all of the tips, tricks and preparation articles I’ve read don’t compare to the instincts nature equipped me with.

It’s a welcome relief because the observation of instinct is where growing up as a ranch kid can either calm you or terrify you. I’ve seen plenty of animals being born. I’ve seen motherhood and babyhood in its most raw and natural form. I’ve seen a momma cow take after my dad, knocking him to the ground while he was on his way to check on her baby—a dangerous, protective motherly instinct that nearly sent him to the hospital.

I’ve seen mother cats move their kittens from secret spot to secret spot in an attempt to keep pesky farm kids at bay.

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I’ve seen it go well and I’ve seen it go terribly wrong—a momma cow rejecting her needy, wet calf in the middle of a blizzard; a confused pregnant dog dropping her puppies, helpless and alone all over the barnyard; a baby calf born and unable to feed.

And in these situations, as animal caretakers, we step in to find an orphan calf a new momma cow to take her, pick up the puppies and introduce them to their mother, and find a bottle or a tube to feed the calf.

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Every day my baby stays healthy, eating and pooping and burping away, I say that I am lucky and whisper a quiet prayer of thanks.

Every day that my mind is clear and my body cooperates, I am grateful knowing that motherhood doesn’t always come easy.

But watching my mother change her granddaughter’s diaper, hearing my friend on the other end of the line offering advice and trusting my young niece to rock my baby safely and expertly in the other room, I am assured in knowing that if and when I falter, like Juno has her rancher to make her a warm bed, I have my village.

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The beauty in not knowing…

The thing about chronicling my life the way I have over the last several years, is that it gives me the opportunity to look back and recognize how things have changed.

Or haven’t changed.

And how far we’ve come.

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Last year at this time I was working on putting together a Christmas card and was struck by overwhelming feelings of being grateful and sad at the same time as I searched for a photo of my husband and I to send to relatives and friends, feeling a little sorry for us and a little pathetic.

Read the full post here: The Holidays, how they hold us and haunt us. 

I couldn’t help but realize that most couples our age were setting up photo shoots with their little ones, decorating Christmas trees and Christmas cookies together in a house filled with toys and bouncy seats and stuffed animals and putting elves on shelves or dressing the kids up for photos with Santa.

The holidays have always been a little rough for the two of us, as they are for anyone who has lost someone they love or has yet to start the family they’ve been dreaming about. With each passing year you wonder if it’s ever going to get easier…

I couldn’t have known last year at that time, when I picked out a photo of the two of us sitting on a cooler under the hot Montana summer sun, a little tipsy from a few beers, laughing and holding on to one another, that just a few months later I would call my husband into the bathroom to confirm that I wasn’t seeing things.

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That there were indeed, two pink lines.

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And you couldn’t have told us then, seeing those lines for the seventh time, that it would all work out this time. That on December 9th I would be picking out little bows and hats for our daughter’s first Christmas photo.

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I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me then, in the middle of my musings about being thankful but wanting, that if we just wait patiently, in one year we would be bundling up our almost two-week old, strapping her in her car seat in the back of the pickup for a drive around the ranch to pick out her first Christmas tree.

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Everything has changed, yet it feels so familiar to have this baby laying next to me in her bassinette as I write this. It feels just fine me holding my breath hoping she’ll give me just a few more minutes to finish up before she wakes up and is ready to eat.

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It feels like we were never without her…although we waited so long.

How could we have known?

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We could not.

To live with uncertainty is to live knowing that it could be tragic, but then, it could all turn out after all.

Sometimes it all works out after all.

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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…
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Priorities I tell you.
Priorities.
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
11-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

‘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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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….

Screen shot 2015-11-02 at 12.49.51 PMComing Home: Items left behind in abandoned houses create
ghost stories for us country kids
by Jessie Veeder
11-1-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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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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.

Computer

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,

Jessie