Like summer.

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A good rain cloud has settled in over the landscape this morning, giving everything a nice cool down and a much needed drink.

The frogs and tomatoes in my garden will be happy for it. My sprinkler and I have been playing the part of the rain cloud for the past couple weeks, so we’re all happy to see the real thing show up.

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I can’t believe we’re in approaching the middle of August, the month the kids go back to school. The month that turns the green grass and the wheat gold,  the month that reminds us that summer is almost over.

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I’m getting the hint, like I do every summer that seems to stretch out ahead of me like an endless dream of sun soaking, berry picking, garden growing, lake swimming heaven, until I blink and find myself in August.

So every chance I get these days, I take the dogs and my belly and we go out poking around.

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Because I want to absorb this green into my skin. I want to remember the scratch of the grass on my bare legs and the smell of hay being cut in the fields when winter comes to wrap us in a cold blanket.

In the past years of course I would do much more of this on the back of my horse, but this year I have stayed on foot, not wanting to risk a fall. The circumstances too precious.

So I’ve spent this summer on my own to feet.

And next summer two new chubby feet will join the team.

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Last night I had a dream that I was finally holding this baby.

I keep having dreams that she’s here.

Or he’s here.

And in these dreams she grows up fast, from birth to talking and walking in the course of a day and I wonder where that tiny baby went.

I think, “don’t they stay little for longer?”

And then I wake up and find myself in my bed, my belly still full with a tiny, moving, growing human that I dreamed of but haven’t met yet, a new life stretching out in front of me like an endless dream.

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A new life stretching out in front of me…like summer.

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Sunday Column: How ranch people become lake people

Lake Sakakawea Sunset

It’s been hot out there lately. I just pulled my first harvest from the ground in my garden and it got me thinking about the long, hot weekends spent on the ranch when I was a kid.

Back before we had a boat just a couple lawn chairs and a cooler full of pop and juice boxes to lug to the shores of Lake Sakakawea, on days like this my sisters and I would come up with a plan to get a chance to swim in that big lake that was so close to the house (well like 20 mile or so) we could smell them catching fish out there.

At least that ‘s what we’d tell dad in our subtle suggestion that maybe baling hay could wait for the day.

Maybe it was time to hit the lake.

A few weeks ago I met a young girl who said she reads my column in the paper every Sunday. I thanked her for being such a loyal follower and asked her what she would like to read more about.

“Oh, I like the stories about your childhood,” she said.

And so, inspired by her and a recent trip to the lake where we loaded up the coolers, sunflower seeds, summer sausage sandwiches, nephew, sisters, gramma and grampa and headed to the big water on the new pontoon only to hit the water just in time for rain, I decided to write about the simpler days, enjoying the short lived summer on the “beaches” of that big body of water…

Coming Home: When the day’s just right, ranch people become lake people
by Jessie Veeder
7-19-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

It’s hard for ranch people to be lake people.

Between trying to keep the cows in the fences, the hay baled and the lawn mowed, there’s not much time left to spend an afternoon with a fishing pole in one hand, a beer in the other and your feet up on the dash of a fancy boat.

But when you live so close to the biggest lake in the state that you swear you can see it from that hill out east if the sky is clear and you tilt your head just right, it’s pretty hard not to work a few lake days into the schedule.

When I was growing up, a chance at a lake day meant the conditions had to line up just right to make my dreams of jumping off a flat rock on the shore into the cold, deep, murky water of Lake Sakakawea.

First, it had to be Saturday or Sunday, and both my parents needed to be home with plans on doing something that was utterly miserable to accomplish in the blazing 90-degree heat.

Which means that, secondly, it had to be either the month of July or August, and said blazing 90-degree heat had to magically fall on a Saturday or Sunday.

Now, we all know how rare it is that those two circumstances converge, but when they did, we girls needed to be on it. We needed to wake up with the scent of the lake in our nostrils, ready to feel things out and set the plan in motion.

Maybe Dad would come in from working on a broken-down baler, all sweaty and fed up in the already hot midmorning sun. Maybe Mom was in her shorts pulling weeds from the walkway, stopping every so often to put her hands on her hips and shield her eyes.

Maybe the bugs were a little bad out there because the wind wasn’t blowing and it wasn’t quite noon, and so I took the opportunity to walk out and pull a few weeds myself, sure to mention what a great day it would be for a little swim in the lake.

And then maybe we caught Dad in the house splashing water on his face at the kitchen sink so I said something about how I heard that the fish were biting up at McKenzie Bay while my little sister was out digging worms in the garden, and pretty soon the seed was planted. Mom started whipping up summer sausage sandwiches, Dad started hunting for the old tackle box on the garage shelf where he left it the previous July, and my sisters and I packed up our favorite beach towels, pulled on our swimsuits, loaded the lawn chairs in the back of the old pickup, grabbed a bag of sunflower seeds and milled around in the driveway waiting impatiently in the hot sun, but not saying a word as our parents made the slow migration toward the vehicle.

Now, back in the youth of our family, there was no budget for things like boats or Jet Skis, so we didn’t have to fuss with that. No. Our biggest concern was avoiding the potholes on the worn highway, leaving the windows open so we could spit seeds and cool down, and, when that big lake appeared before us in the windshield like an oasis nestled in the hot cliffs of the Badlands, it was our mission to find an acceptable “beach” on those rocky, weedy and muddy shores.

Lake Sakakawea

And for us, “beach” meant that the legs of Mom’s lawn chair didn’t sink in to her butt when she sat down, the poky Canadian thistle didn’t reach all the way to shore and that there was at least an acceptable amount of sand and/or flat rocks where we could throw out our beach towels, make our picnic, stick a fishing pole in the ground, eat our sandwiches and watch the fancy boats and Jet Skis drive by before finding a place to wash the heat, work and worry of the summer off in the waves of a lake that belonged to us for the few sweet, relaxing, fly-bitten hours that we, too, transformed into lake people.

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What we never thought we’d know…

So yesterday, we saw our baby…BabyOr a little fuzzy silhouette of it anyway, a snapshot of what I’ve been working so hard on growing the last few months of my life. 

There is the hand that I swear pushes on my bladder every five minutes…

And there’s the foot I can feel poking and fluttering on all sides of my belly button at all hours of the day.

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I’m surprised we could get any pictures at all considering this kid never holds still.

Trouble already.

I can’t believe this is happening.

This picture, this sonogram, looks like every other sonogram I’ve every seen really. It’s a little smudge of a baby the size of a mango, but this time the little smudge of a baby the size of a mango is ours.

It was a date I’ve been looking forward to since we decided to put a family together all those years ago. I imagined what it would be like to make plans to head to the Doctor’s office together where I would lay on the table in a dark room with Husband at my side, staring at the screen where our little one would be the star of the show.

I wondered what it would feel like. I wondered what I would think. I wondered if I would cry or just hold my breath.  I wondered if Husband would hold my hand or just put them in his pockets the way he does when he’s concentrating on something. I wondered how he would act. I wondered what he would say…

I found out yesterday.

He said “Oh, look there, I think I see a mustache.”

And so that’s how that went.

And it was wonderful.

We were normal people with a normal pregnancy doing normal things that normal couples get to do when they have a baby on the way.

And then they printed off a reel of photos of little white smudges of feet and ears, a belly and bended knees a whole world and life forming under my skin and we listened to the heart beat and Husband put the number in his memory and we walked on air out of there to sit at a table at a restaurant and order anything we wanted, to sit as long as we wanted, to say whatever we wanted about this moment as we lived it…

Because we never thought we’d really live it…no matter how our friends and family willed it to be or reassured us it would all come together…that they’d been praying.

How do you ever know.

I didn’t.

And if I would have known how it might all turn out in that moment I’d been wondering about, it wouldn’t have mattered as much when we finally lived it.

And it mattered so much. That day, yesterday, with my Husband clutching the reel of our first baby’s photos, practically skipping out into that hot, humid air blazing on his pickup in the parking lot in a town that took us a three hour car ride to reach, was simply one of the most ordinary, extraordinary moments of my life, one I never thought I could give him… give us.

And there we were, eating lunch in the summer sun together talking about strollers and cribs and how much tiny camouflage he plans on purchasing in the next few months.

There we were, two planning on three. Just like that, like we’ve never had our hearts broken time after time. Like we never had a moment of thinking otherwise. Like there was never a doubt we’d ever arrive here.

What can I say about this except that sometimes when you hold out hope, hope gives in.

Some would call that faith.

I don’t know what I call it except maybe a gift, just like every other life that exists here. After all of our trouble and worry and struggle, how it happens at all is a true and utter miracle.

We spent the rest of the afternoon milling around furniture stores, trying out couches and opening drawers on bedroom sets. Husband picked up some jeans and I tried on dresses. We bought a first aid kid and bathroom supplies and wandered through the baby aisle confusing ourselves.

I had a feeling that if I would have asked for the moon that day, my Husband would have set out building a ladder tall enough to let him wrap his arms around it and bring it down.

But I don’t need the moon…no.

Just a scoop or two of ice cream for the way home at the end of a day we never thought we’d know…

With so much summer stretching out ahead…

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Smoke from fires in Canada are making our world hazy and hot. It sort of coincides with my mood this week as I mill around waiting for the 4th of July and my annual road trip to Minnesota where I’ll spend a few days with my family at my Grandparent’s lake cabin.

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I have to leave Husband behind because he’s on call…at work…to water my garden…and to all of the animals on this place.

I know we’ll all have a more relaxed vacation knowing someone’s back at the ranch, but some days it seems like we spend more weekends apart than together.

That’s actually probably true, especially in the summer when my schedule is packed with performances.

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It will all cool off and slow down in a matter of months and here we will sit, waiting for the holidays, waiting for a baby…

Summer is so fleeting that I just want to squeeze every ounce of pretty and warm and bright out of it if I can.

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Last night we joined my parents for a supper of grilled steak kabobs and vegetables on their back deck that looks out into the coulee where the crick runs, a place I used to spend every waking summer minute as a kid.

As the sun sunk and my mom and husband worked on finding the bottom of the bottle of red wine, I looked out over that familiar coulee and started counting the fireflies flickering and making their presence known to us.

Of course fireflies exist in a world this green and lovely.

Why not just make it more lovely with tiny dancing stars close enough to touch?

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If there was ever a winter I cannot remember it.

If I was ever cold, the feeling escapes me.

If I ever worried before–about money, about this unborn baby, about my parent’s getting older, my husband on the road or my goals being met–in that moment, I knew nothing of it.

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If I ever knew anything but the tall green grass reaching up over the fence line, the dogs lying lazily in the front yard, the cat catching grasshoppers in the lawn, the garden slowly growing, the wildflowers dotting the prairie, the horses grazing on the hilltop in the home pasture, the laughter coming from the lungs of my mother, the handsome man sitting next to me wearing jeans spotted in grease, a result of what he called “a good day at work,” the little kick in my tummy or those flickering fireflies, I  couldn’t recall it.

Not now. Not at the beginning of July with so much summer stretching out ahead…

Turning to the hills…


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The summer has never looked better around here. Despite the crazy months that lead up to late June, I have taken a moment or two to admire how the grass is growing and how happy the cattle look out there munching away.

It’s funny to think that, if everything turns out according to plan, after all of these years, this will be the last summer of my life spent walking these hills with the little voice of worry and wonder about what we should do to make ourselves a family.

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Since I was just a little girl, I’ve always taken to these hills to work things out, to be alone, to take a moment, to breathe. The first sixteen years of my life in these coulees were spent wandering and creating and singing and dreaming of what life would be like when I grew up and got a chance to work things out on my own.

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In between then and now I spent my time visiting these hills, riding and admiring and remembering and saying “we’ll be back someday,” and then packing the car to leave again.

And in those between years, when we were juggling new jobs and new houses, learning what it means to be an adult and losing hope for the family we were trying to make, when it didn’t work out, I found my way home to these hills to cry and ask why.

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Besides on the shoulder of my husband, these hills are the only place I’ve truly allowed myself to wail.

Because no one can hear you when you’re out here alone.

And the trees don’t have ears to wonder about those sorts of things.

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When we finally found our way here for good, five years ago this summer, a period of time that seems so long and so short all at once, I walked these hills with many moods and agendas on my shoulders…to get my butt in shape, to work out a new career plan or creative project, to train the dog, to shoot photos of wildflowers, to check the horses in the field in the winter, to get the creative juices flowing, to ward off a bad mood, to scream at the top of my lungs or to just breathe.

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Not once in the last seven years have I walked these hills without the quiet voice in the back of my mind that wondered about all those unborn babies…and the ones that might make it to this earth to be ours and grow up in these hills like we planned it.

And so I don’t really know what to do with the news that perhaps, this time, the dream might come true.

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That we found a doctor and the doctor found a problem and two little white pills fixed it and now I have a belly that makes it so I can’t button my pants and a due date that makes it so I can’t schedule shows into the winter and a house full of stuff we’ve accumulated during nine years of marriage and not one closet open or one room cleared out for another human, no matter how much we hoped to plan for this one day.

Because despite the hope, we just kept living, filling those closets and filling our lives with work and things and people we love, because that’s what you do when plans don’t work out, you just keep living the best way you know how.

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But what do you do when all of the sudden you wake up with a hunch and day by day you hope and wait and realize that maybe those plans are working out? What do you do when you realize what you’ve wanted for so long just might come to you after all,  God willing…

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How does a person handle being every bit as terrified as you are excited? What do you do when the people you love, upon hearing the news, congratulate you, tell you they’ve been praying, eyes swelling up with tears at the relief of it all?

We hug back and smile.

But honestly, we’re still in shock. In disbelief.

Because we don’t know how to be the normal people with a normal pregnancy and a normal plan.

We don’t know how not to be terrified.

But we also don’t know how not to be hopeful…obviously…or we would never have made it this far.

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Last night after an evening spent in town saying goodbye to a friend who has become part of our family over the last couple years, we pulled into the driveway and I stripped off my town clothes and pulled on a t-shirt, pants and my walking shoes. It was a beautiful evening and I needed to climb these hills, check on the way the setting sun hit the wildflowers, let the grass brush against my legs, smell the growing things and stretch my muscles.

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I think I can feel this baby move inside of my belly.

I don’t know if I’ll ever believe it.

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But walking out on that trail that leads to the fields, putting the barnyard behind me, my parents’ place to my right, my favorite pasture to the left and no particular destination ahead, it was such a familiar view, a familiar thing to do, but I don’t feel like myself.

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I haven’t felt like myself for months.

Perhaps I won’t ever feel like my old self out in these hills again…

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God willing.
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So it goes with love, land and family…

Veeder Ranch Centennial Card

Well, it’s finally here!

Wedding week at the ranch. The relatives are starting to roll in, (and helping to mow the yards), the fences are painted, the decorations are in a pile somewhere waiting for their places, we’ve got the burs out of most of our horses so they’re ready for company and we are watching the ever-changing North Dakota weather forecast to be reassured that it isn’t going to rain on our big parade.

Oh, and I vacuumed and scrubbed my floors, so things are getting serious around here.

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To say it’s been a busy spring around here would be an understatement. When we’re all working together for the common goal of beautifying this old place, every minute between work and sleep has a plan in place. And while there’s plenty of work left to do out here, it has been amazing to me how a love declared and a date set can get things in motion the way that it has. Weddings, for all of the hub bub and money spent, details agonized over and tiny bows tied, really become something special in the end for the way they bring the people we love from all corners of the country to celebrate a new family being formed.

I mean, how many times in your life do you get your aunt and uncle from Omaha in the same place as your mom’s family from the east coast and your cousins from Texas?

As the first round of relatives arrive, I can’t help but think that this wedding is extra special to our family in a lot of ways. For one, the baby of our little family has found someone weird, kind and patient enough for a forever future together.

But also because that future is set to begin on the dirt that holds our family’s history, where our great grandfather homesteaded before he went off to war, where he brought his new wife home, where they raised cattle and crops and five children. Where she planted yellow roses that still bloom in the bushes below the cabin. Where he lost her when she was only thirty-six and their youngest son, our grandpa, was only eight.

And on the very dirt where my sister will stand in a white dress waiting for her groom, our grampa  grew up to be a hardworking, dedicated cowboy who didn’t ride the rodeo or buy up thousands of acres, but carried on in his father’s footsteps and kept a steady and growing business of crops and cattle through tough times while raising kids, our dad one of them, who fell in love with the landscape and the idea of taking care of it, an important outcome for a man who dreamed of the future of his ranch with his family on it.

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And so on Saturday my little sister will stand in front of that barn as the fourth generation to chose to stick around her home. Before she walks down the isle with our dad on her arm, our ring bearer nephew and our flower girl cousin will proceed her dressed in thier best and representing another generation of kids to know and love this place.

Then my little sister will declare her love for a man who followed her west to this place and they will continue the story 100 years after our great grampa Eddie staked his claim and put up his homestead shack next to that barn.

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My big sister and I will stand next to her and I will hold her flowers as they kiss.

Then I’ll look over at my husband standing across the aisle and we will smile at the thought of the baby in my belly, due to come into this world at the end of November, at the beginning of a long winter and of a new and long-awaited chapter in the story of lives lived, families grown and dreams fought for out here on the Veeder Ranch.

And so it goes with love and land and family…it holds the past, the present and the ever evolving and unpredictable future…

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Under Pots and Pans

We have a hill that overlooks our house. It’s sort of a landmark on the Veeder Ranch. I’ve written about it before. Pots and Pans. IMG_2008 Every cousin, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or friend of a friend connected to this place has likely taken the hike to the top of this hill to check out the view and see what sorts of treasures are at the top. IMG_2012 See, it’s called Pots and Pans because at some point, somewhere in the 100 year history of this place, someone decided to drag old pots and pans, sifters, ladles, bowls and plates up to the top to sit on the rocks and wait for the occasional adventurous kid to take a hike and play house up there. IMG_2006 My memories of Pots and Pans growing up are a big plan on a hot summer afternoon to take a hike with the cousins. The plan included fanny packs, juice boxes, fruit snacks, scratchy legs, and the inevitable run in with a cactus or a potty break in the grass before maybe, eventually, making it to the top. IMG_2018 Because it was actually a long ways when I look at it now. From the farmhouse by the barn to the top of the hill there is at least almost a mile of treacherous terrain. And when you have short legs it’s quite the feat. IMG_2000 But it was also quite the memory that we all share now. Who would have thought at the time when I was picking cactus from my cousin’s legs that I would have built a house right under that place? Who would have thought that I would get to watch the sun come up in the morning and the moon come up at night every day over Pots and Pans. IMG_2038 At least once a week on my walks I take a trip up there to exercise my legs and see how things are blooming at the Veeder Ranch. IMG_2024 IMG_2022 IMG_2020 IMG_2001 There’s still a pot or two up there and every time I make it to the top I think of my cousins and orange Hi-C juice boxes and what an adventure this place was to us. Unexplored and wild. IMG_2014 I still think that way sometimes when I find myself on an old trail or discover a deer horn dropped in the trees or an elk standing on the top of a hill somewhere. IMG_2034 IMG_2002 IMG_1998 And I think, when my kids are born I’ll have to trek up there with some old pans of my own to continue the tradition and the mystery so that they might take their cousins and their fanny packs up to the top someday to acquire a cactus and a memory or two… I mean, I’ve set it up perfectly for them…the walk is much shorter from here :) IMG_2013

My new album, “Northern Lights” is now available!  Watch an interview where I talk about the process and my time in Nashville.

Get a signed copy at www.jessieveedermusic.com
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Green’s my favorite color

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It was a beautiful day. 70 something and sort of breezy, sunny. The perfect day to go out and collect some wood ticks.

And look for green and on-the-brink-of-blooming things.

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A couple more days of this and we’ll be in full blossom.

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But all the years of searching for spring I know where to look for the earliest flowers and what trees turn green first.

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The tops of hills where the sun is warmest.

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Down under the tall grass where the dirt stays damp.

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By the creek where the trees with the white trunks grow.

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That’s the thing about this place. It has its secrets, it’s little tricks just waiting to be discovered with the seasons.

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Every day looks different here. Every day the sky brings sun or clouds to cast shadows so that if you want to explore something, there’s something new to see.

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But there’s nothing like the waking up season. The door is open to the house tonight and the frogs are singing and croaking in the dam. I would bottle it up if I could and save it for the winter when there’s not much sound but the howling wind.

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Who would believe it now, that it was ever so white and cold?

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I don’t.

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I don’t believe it.

Not when we’re warming up so beautifully around here.

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Not when it’s turning green right before my eyes.

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And green’s my favorite color.

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Summer, I miss your face.

And now for a weather report.

It’s -2.

March is coming in like a cold and bitter lamb and it’s making me a cold and bitter woman.

Just freezing.

But even though landscape looks a lot like this these days…

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it’s hard to believe that in a few months it will turn from gray to green right in front of our eyes.

I can just smell the clover now. By June, we’ll be rolling in it.

By May we’ll be thawed out and warmed up.

By April we’ll spot our first wild flower.

But March? March suffers from mood swings. So I decided I’d have my own today.

I decided that while I’m freezing on the outside, at least my daydreams can be warm.

Summer!!!! I miss your face!!!!

Summer Barn

Lake Sakakawea Sunset

North Dakota Badlands

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There. Now you miss summer too.

Isn’t it nice to all be on the same page?

Getting Dressed. The hardest part about my job.

Good Morning. I’m writing to you from my hotel room bed, instead of my comfy chair with the cat sitting on my keyboard.

I’m on the road in the eastern part of the state for the rest of the week singing for my supper. And it just happens to be gearing up to be the coldest days we’ve had all winter.

Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 9.37.01 AMYup, that there says it “Feels Like -32”

And I can’t wear my snow suit on stage.

I swear. That’s the hardest part about the whole music thing some days. Deciding what to wear. I mean, the pressure is just too great.

And so I bring everything…and then that creates another problem that has to do with getting myself in and out of hotel rooms in an efficient manner.

I generally have a rule with my packing when I’m traveling alone that goes something like: Only pack as many bags and shit that I can carry up to my room on my own in one trip.

I’ve spent plenty of time in my life traveling from hotel room to hotel room alone so I know how annoying lugging stuff can be.

Especially when that stuff includes a giant guitar, computer, camera, purse, and bags of clothes and coats and makeup and seventeen different giant bottles of hair care products and another three or four pair of boots, which sucks because I like need all of those boots, but they take up so much damn room.

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But I can usually get it all: Three or four bags thrown over my shoulders, a purse in the crook of my arm, a pair or two of boots in my armpits, a wheelie suitcase behind me and my guitar in my left hand.

God forbid they put me on the far end of the hotel on seventh floor like they have today.

By the time I get up to my nook of the world, I’ve gone from freezing, to thawed out to sweating to panting to full blown aggravation with myself and society at the fact that we can’t just all agree on one uniform and go with it.

Would be so much easier.

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Anyway, I’m looking around my room this morning before I make an attempt to put myself together for a four hour drive to the next town and am wondering how I got this all up here…because I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to give in and get one of those carts from the lobby and drag my world back downstairs and across the frozen parking lot and back into my frozen car.

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Because I don’t have enough arms for this.

And then, when I get dressed tonight, I’m going to have to call my mother or my sister to reassure me that I’m not too old to wear sequins on my boots…or my skirt.

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Because I feel like I might be too old it, but at the same time, I also feel like if a girl has a chance in her life to wear sequins, she might as well just wear it.

Right?

These are the conversations I have with myself on the open road, between singing along to my iPod, getting depressed about the disappearance of the Dixie Chicks, eating an unhealthy amount of Gardettos, and coming up with elaborate and unrealistic plans for music videos or writing projects or neighborhood sledding parties…

Anyway. Tonight Husband is meeting up with me for the North Dakota Music Awards, and so is the band and my parents, so I’ll have some people to help me carry my shit, and drink vodka with and talk me out of all of my plans….

In the meantime, don’t you just wish you were here right now? Singing on the back of a horse drawn wagon in the middle of summer on your way to eat a homemade meal behind a tree row in a field.

Me too.

But this weekend’s gonna be fun. It’ll be cold outside, but we’ll be warming it up with some great music and celebration inside. If you’re in the Bismarck, ND area tonight or Fargo, ND this weekend I hope to see you out and about!

Thursday, February 19

North Dakota Music Awards
Belle Mehus Auditorium
7 PM
(I won’t be performing, but there are many great acts. Will be a fun night!)

   with Outlaw Sippin’
Side B
Bismarck, ND

Saturday, February 21

18th Annual Celebration of Women and Their Music
6 PM
Historic Fargo Theater
Downtown Fargo
www.debjenkins.com/celebrationofwomen.html

Saturday, February 21-Post Show

18th Annual Celebration of Women and their Music
Post Show Songwriting Round
9pm-11pm
Studio 222
Fargo, ND
With: Nita Velo, Jessie Veeder, Natalie Shaw (award winner), Reina del cid  (with Tony Lindgren) & Chastity Brown

For more music updates, visit:
www.jessieveedermusic.com
www.facebook.com/jessieveedermusic