Sunday Column: Dad jokes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My husband has been practicing his dad jokes.

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

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

My husband?

Dad jokes.

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

It was such a sweet moment.

And a reminder of how embarrassing he can be sometimes.

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

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

It keeps things interesting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“Without nipples, boobies would have no point.”

Lord help me.

6 weeks and counting…

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A permanent scar: The beauty and tragedy of loss

Oak tree evening

I have a tattoo on my back. It’s a rendering of the old oak tree in the middle of the ranch where my husband and I got married. And out from its branches three little blue birds are tattooed on my skin, flying away, in different directions, caught mid air in the most unsure stage of flight.

My husband has a similar tattoo covering his shoulder, only his oak tree features three red and orange oak leaves.

His leaves, my blue birds, they represent three pregnancies we lost.

The oak just represents us, the place where he asked me to become his family.

Oak Tree

I was 27 or 28 when we made the decision to put a permanent reminder on our bodies of our love and our loss. Since then we went on to lose three more pregnancies.

When I list it like that, in a sort of chronological order, it makes it seem like an occurrence, a medical issue that we’ve since figured out and moved on from.

I suppose that’s the reason for the tattoos, although we couldn’t really say at the time except that we both felt the need to mark our bodies in some way, a physical representation of major emotional events, painful losses that leave invisible, emotional scars that we can’t sort out or figure out what to do with.

So we made our own physical scar. We went through the process of the needle dragging across our skin and oddly, the burning pain of it, the seven-plus hours of sitting still and gritting my teeth was cathartic and meditative in a way the actual process of losing those babies wasn’t. Because I was in control. I had the power and I made the decision to do this to myself.

And when it was over and I saw what would forever be inked on my skin until I’m a 100 year old woman sitting in my rocking chair on the front porch, it was a relief to know that story would not get buried in the deepest pit of my chest.

We didn’t know at the time what would become of us becoming parents. We didn’t know, but sort of sadly assumed, there would be more birds, more leaves, to add to the picture, but it didn’t matter. We put ointment on our new scar and moved on.

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It comes every year as a way to bring people together to recognize an often-silent pain that affects 1 in 4 women. 1 in 4 families.

As one of those families, this is the first time I have really paid attention, or set out to recognize this official day.

I’m not sure why.

I haven’t been silent in talking about our experience, so why not embrace an event that encourages us to support one another and tell our story?

I don’t have an answer except that I have not coped with these six losses by looking back. I have chosen not to remember loss dates or would-be due dates. I’ve kept the couple of ultrasounds pictures we were able to see tucked away in our safety deposit box, cried the sort of cries that come up from the pit of your guts and make you feel like throwing up, climbed to the top of the hills out here on this ranch and wailed some more, and then came home.

I’ve sought out doctors. Avoided doctors. Embraced the pain and then put it away.

I was determined to not let this struggle be at the forefront of the definition of me as a person, or let the heartbreak tear us apart as a couple. I didn’t want to be looked at as the poor people who might never have a family. I didn’t want pity. I just wanted answers.

And then I found myself scared of the answers. And I’m not just talking about the “you will never have children of your own” answer.

I was also scared of finding the solution.

I found myself asking, “What happens if it all works out after all? Who will I be without this pain that I’ve kept messily crumpled inside my bones, until, in the strangest moments, the wind catches it and sets me off?”

“If I get what I want, and I cry sometimes anyway, what will it be for?”

I woke up this morning to kicks in my belly, my back and hips aching under the weight of a swollen, almost eight month pregnant belly I’d never thought I’d see.

Almost two years ago, after eight years of losses, we got one of those answers I was so scared of. Nine month’s later we got a positive pregnancy test. Three agonizing, hand wringing, breath-holding months after that we saw our baby’s forming profile in an ultrasound.


In a little over a month we will meet him or her.

And we’re elated and terrified and in utter disbelief.

And every day I think about those women who are crying those gut wrenching cries at the top of a hill or in the quiet of their rooms.

Some of them reach out to me and want to know what doctor I saw or how they figured it all out, how we got to where we are. I will talk with them for hours about it if they want to, in grocery store lines or around a table at a wedding reception or in the bathroom at a restaurant. Because I have suddenly turned from a hopeless case to a story of hope and how refreshing and frustrating our story sounds to a woman who’s suffered loss and spent thousands of dollars, traveled hundreds of miles, taken dozens of pills to get to where we are right now…placing our hands on my big belly and worrying about trivial things like setting up the crib or replacing the carpet in the nursery.

But truthfully, we were just damn lucky.

I had a condition that was finally recognized and one that could be remedied. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that, if there was another word for guilt that wasn’t defined as doing something wrong, I feel it. I wonder why it worked out for us but not for others. I am aware at how my growing belly makes women who struggle with infertility or loss feel. It’s not an easy sight to lay eyes on.

Sometimes, in the midst of celebrating or telling a story about my pregnancy, or making a complaint about my heartburn or my lack of sleep, I hesitate, I look around the room and wonder who might be wishing and praying for morning sickness that turns into swollen feet that turns into a prayer finally answered.

I was that woman. I am that woman.

And I don’t want to leave her behind or forget her in my impending date with motherhood. I want to tell her everything will work out, but I know that’s not what she wants to hear. She knows it might not be true.

I want her to know that I know how she feels, to call me anytime, but it’s different now, now that we’re getting what she wants.

I want to tell her to keep trying, to keep hope, but I know how impossible it is.

Women like us, from what we’ve seen, in the case of infertility or loss, we’ve come to realize that you might rely more on God, or magic, than on finding a remedy for the pain or the missing piece of the equation you need for your body to work.

And so on this day moms and dads who have suffered loss will light a candle in memory of lives that they hoped to nurture longer.

The flames will flicker in living rooms, on nightstands, in would-be-nurseries all over the world, bright with hope yet terrifyingly fragile like the young lives they represent.

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And tonight, for the first time, I will light candles in this house too–six for the babies of ours who were never born, and one for the women and couples out there searching for answers or a way to help acknowledge the pain of loss.

Because there is healing in acknowledgement. I didn’t understand that until that needle hit my skin five years ago, leaving a permanent mark on my body, a physical manifestation that screams “this happened to us, and we survived.”

One day I might add the last three blue birds to my body. Maybe one day my husband will fill in those last three leaves.

If we feel compelled to commemorate that chapter, that loss, maybe we will.

And maybe you’ll light a candle tonight. And maybe you won’t.

Maybe you’ll sit in your room and cry, or maybe you’ll go out to a movie or sit side by side and be quiet. Or maybe you will just make spaghetti and watch T.V. and find peace with the fact that because you’ve suffered in this way you have found a level of compassion for others you didn’t know existed before.

Because there’s nothing you have to do when there’s nothing you can do and that’s the beauty and the tragedy of the whole damn thing.

For support or information on perinatal or neonatal loss, visit:

Oak Branch

Sunday Column: The good ‘ol fashioned coffee break…


In this time of texting, messaging, emailing, Instagramming, Tweeting, Facebooking, Pinteresting, Parascoping and all of the other digital ways I haven’t learned about yet that allow us to communicate with the entire world with a click of a button, sometimes it just really nice to have a friend that will drive 30 miles out of her way (with soup) for a good ‘ol fashioned visit.
Because of all of the things we might invent to bring us closer, nothing compares to the original–sitting close and hearing each other laugh out loud.

Coming Home: Impromptu visits still important in modern, hectic life

by Jessie Veeder

Forum Communication

Last week, a friend drove from town with her young son and a pot of soup to our house in the middle of nowhere on a mission to have a lunch date.

It was a regular Monday afternoon, and I was working from home. When I work from home, I don’t get things like “lunch dates.”

Because I can’t just pop out to my favorite sandwich place to meet a friend.


Out here, my lunch date is watching the cows walk by the yard on their way to the dam to water as I sit down in front of my computer with a summer sausage sandwich I threw together in haste.

So needless to say, it was nice to have company, a cheerful face with a red-headed toddler in tow to liven up this empty midday house a bit.

It was a simple gesture, one that had us chatting about mommyhood and our growing town, the nice fall weather and the story about how my husband and I got the pickup stuck smack in the middle of a muddy road the night before and had to be pulled out. Because it’s been raining, and this is still a wild and inconveniently unpredictable place sometimes, despite and because of oil industry action.

And this wild place doesn’t typically lend itself to town friends making the long trip out just for a quick visit and a bowl of soup. Usually it’s the other way around, and then when we get to town, we make sure to stop at the bank, get some groceries, grab a piece for the broken water tank at Tractor Supply and generally try to fit in what we can before heading back home.

But my friend’s visit got me thinking about lunch dates and coffee breaks and how we’re spending our suppertime and our downtime. If you look at it all together, those little in-between moments, the pauses in the work and the regular routine, add up to some of the really good (and dare I say best) parts of our lives.

What are we doing with those little moments? Who are we spending them with?

Now, I remember a lot of things about growing up out here — the freedom to roam about and play in the hills, riding horses and chasing cows, big birthday parties and family gatherings — but what holds unexpectedly warm memories for me are the coffee visits.

As a kid, of course, I wasn’t there for the coffee. I would tag along with my parents up the hill to the neighbors’ for a chance to play with my friends on their tire swing before coming in for a glass of Kool-Aid and catching pieces of conversation and laughter coming from the adults sitting around the counter.

From them we learned about humor and gossip and what it sounds like to offer up help, concern and well-intended advice. We learned how to weave a story and get to the punch line, we learned what trust looked like, and we learned that you should keep cookies or bars around, especially on the weekends, in case someone stops by.

And in all of those lessons learned over Kool-Aid and coffee, I can’t help but wonder now, in this fast-paced world I’ve found myself in, did I hold on tight enough to the lesson of simple time spent together? Messy house or clean. Work done or work looming. Who cares if you’re caught in your ugly cleaning sweatpants on a Saturday morning?

I feel like in the hectic schedule we’ve made for ourselves, riddled with deadlines and ranch work and housework, I might have slowly lost the art and importance of the impromptu visit.

With a baby on the way, somehow my friend’s visit, with her toddler and his backpack full of toy cars in tow, reminded me of the importance of doors open, coffee on and simply swinging by, no matter how far down that highway a neighbor is.

Because this busy life we’ve created isn’t just about tasks and goals, but about feeding our souls with a homemade cookie and a little conversation to remind us we’re in it together.

So keep the coffee on, friends, we’re coming over.

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Red road coming cutting through the ranch.

It’s been over five years since Husband and I unpacked our things to live forever on this ranch and over five years since I’ve been writing about what it means to come home here in this space.

With each passing year the story of the seasons has become familiar, repeating its chorus of changing leaves,

Fall in the Horse Pasture

September 21, 2010. Horse Pasture.

falling snow,

Barnyard Fall snow

frozen earth,

October 29, 2010. Late October Snow Drift

October 29, 2010. Late October Snow Drift

warmer sky,


lush new grass, buds on the trees

Daisies and Sky

and heat on my skin.

Laying in the grass

And as the earth goes about its regularly scheduled changes, life happens to us humans and changes us as well. Only we’re not like the seasons. We don’t come back around to start over again each year. No. When a leaf falls off, we don’t grow a new one next year.

When our grass turns brown, we don’t get another chance to water and green up in the spring.

Our whole lives are measured in one spring, one summer, one autumn and one winter.

And then we go back to the earth.

Tiger Lilies

I’m looking out the window now at leaves partially blown off of the oak trees. Gold and brown. Those are the colors left now. We’ve had a long autumn. It is supposed to be 80 degrees tomorrow.

We haven’t seen a fleck of snow yet.

It hasn’t truly cooled down.

I guess each year is different. Like each life is different.


And I can’t help but notice now, with this theory in play, that I’m on the cusp of entering a new season of this life of mine.

I’ve had a long spring. A long sort of youth unattached to the responsibilities of fully caring for another human being. Responsible only for my own vision, my own love, my own outlook on life, my own plans and my own story. I’ve been in much of this season with my husband, together, in spring, cleaning up, building space, making plans, basking in the promise of warmer days ahead, being torn down by the set back of the big, unpredictable rains that made us change directions.

Rain on the Buttes

This baby kicks my side and reminds me that spring is running its course.

It’s coming to a rapid end.

And that the summer we’ve looked forward to, the warmth, the calmer weather that makes way for everyday adventure, is within view.


Five years ago I had no idea what I was going to do with my life out here. I knew that I would love it and appreciate it for all the reasons I loved and appreciated it in my youth.

But what would I do for work? What would our forever home look like? How would I ever figure out how to keep my pantry stocked perfectly living as an adult 30 miles from the grocery store the way my mom always did?

Now that we decided to settle down out here, who would I ultimately become?

And I suppose that’s why I started writing it all down. Because after asking a question like that the only logical next step is to try to find the answer.

Except for that “ultimately” part.

I don’t think we find that in the spring or the summer of our lives. I think those are the last chapters waiting to be written in the fall when we harvest what we’ve set out to produce and in the winter when we rest to reflect.


I look back now on the things I’ve written down along the way and I know it’s helped me discover that I’m a little stronger than I thought I was, with a hint of brave, but not too much that my knees don’t shake at the thought of a big idea. And I think I figured out what it means to me to have fun along the way.

But discovering my ideas, cultivating them, that’s what the safe haven of this home always gave me growing up and I’m so glad I let my guard down enough so that it could continue to work its magic in that way even after the freedom of childhood wore off.

I think the 8 year old version of me would be pleased to know that we’re still writing and singing and riding horses in the home we love so much.

I take a lot of stock in imagining what that little girl would think of us now.

So I can’t help but wonder what she would say to me now that I’m about to become a mother…


Lately I’ve found myself reflecting on this question, trying to tap into the memory of what it was like to be so young, trying to remember and understand what was done by my parents to help cultivate my imagination, to give me protection and freedom at the same time.

Now that I finally feel I have a grip on what kind of woman I am, I have an entirely new uncharted landscape of motherhood ahead of me, and I can only imagine, a whole new set of stories to write and reasons to be inspired to see what I’m made of.

And I’m thrilled for the chance to add “Motherhood” to the list of categories.

And a little bit scared.

And a little bit brave.

On the cusp of a new season…

Badlands Sunset

Sunday Column: A letter to this baby…

Last weekend Husband finally got a chance to get off the ranch and out of the basement building project to load up the pickup and head to the big town so that he could participate in the very exciting/horrifying/intense process of learning all about the birthing process in a class we took through our hospital.

Now I’m not going to be what you might call a young mother, and lately I’ve started to realize my extra years of experience in this world has made me increasingly aware of reality…i.e. the older you get the more you realize that shit can go wrong and shit does go wrong and if it doesn’t go wrong it isn’t always easy so it’s best to be prepared.

In my younger days my ignorance was my bliss. But I guess those days are gone. Because I know just enough to worry, and not enough to feel prepared, I decided it was a good idea to take this class and take some notes.

And so off we went. My husband and me and this baby bump of ours on what will likely be one of the last overnight outings we take together before this baby makes his or her arrival.

Seven hours of lessons and questions and video examples and breathing and I am holding on to my initial idea that it’s nothing short of a miracle that anyone survives the process of being born.

We walked down the street to grab lunch and said “I can’t believe we’ve arrived here. I can’t believe we’re at a frickin’ birthing class. I don’t even feel like us.”

“I know,” was all he could say back.

We felt like normal people there. Like a normal couple having a normal baby and having the normal questions and normal worries.

We weren’t the couple with the infertility problems. The couple who have been fighting to be parents for almost 8 years. The couple who lost six pregnancies before this.

No. Now we’re the couple preparing for the birth of our first born. And my back hurts. Oh shit my back hurts. And after walking around Menards for three hours yesterday before we heading home with supplies for the basement and the nursery, my ankle bones are stiff and creaky. I take a bite of a granola bar and my heart burns up to my throat. I’m having crazy dreams. I get up to pee about every fifteen minutes…you know, all the things that happen to a woman when she’s busy growing a healthy baby. All the miserable things I’m happy to be experiencing.

Because at the end of all that pushing and breathing and contracting we learned about last weekend, at the end of my waddling stage, my nesting stage, my stretchy pants stage, we will get the greatest gift of all. And if I learned anything in the years that I’ve settled into adulthood it’s that sometimes the fighting and the suffering and the worry and the wait make the best things better.

We can’t wait to find out.


Coming Home: Dreaming of baby and all she could be…
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

Dear Baby,

Last night I dreamed you were born. A girl with a thick head of dark hair, tiny and perfect. As I held you, the hospital room filled with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors, all the people who love you already.

I opened my eyes to the dim light streaming through the tops of the autumn trees, stretched my arms above my head and felt you move inside my belly.

You’re not born yet, Baby.

You have two more months to grow.

We have two more months to wait before we get to know you.

Baby, you’re making my back ache and my ankles creak with the physical weight of your impending arrival. I walk around the house in your dad’s flannel shirts, and he laughs at the sight of his wife groaning as I bend over to pick out a pan for supper or put my hands on my no-longer-existent hips to ask him what’s so funny.


But he’s not laughing because anything’s funny. He’s beaming. He can’t help it. The thought of you growing healthy and strong out in this world seems to put actual light in his eyes.

I guess that’s the twinkle they talk about.

Because you’re such a beautiful mystery, a journey we only dreamed to travel. A wish we hold our breath for.

And now, after seven years of hoping, in two months when you draw your first breath in this world, we will finally be able to let ours go.

And still we’re not ready. This house on the ranch we’ll bring you home to is still only half finished. The basement is covered in sawdust as your dad scrambles to put up walls and wrap up loose ends for your arrival.


I have your crib and a chair to rock you still sitting in unopened boxes next to the tools in the garage.

Your nursery is still my office, with papers and guitars sharing the space with a box of your bottles and a dresser full of outfits and blankets your grammas and aunties already bought for you.


You’ll learn that about us, Baby. That we we’re not the most organized people, but we have big plans, and our big plans make messes. You’ll find as you grow up in this house with us that the dishes will wait in the sink if the day is too beautiful to spend behind closed doors.

You’ll find that some days we track in more dirt than we sweep away, and that our work and commitment out here on this ranch will keep us from long vacations and big fancy toys because we want to take care of this land so that you can grow up with mud on your boots and fresh air on your face while you learn all you’re capable of.

But in the midst of all the challenge and heartbreak that you’ll find in this life with us, I hope you’ll find that I play more than I vacuum, sing more than I holler, hug more than I scold and through it all we can laugh, even on the messiest days.

And I hope you grow to like our cooking and that there might be some things we can teach you, because believe me, Baby, we know you have endless lessons to teach us.

And, Baby, I want you to know that I’ve loved your dad since I was much too young for things like that. And so you can imagine the fun we have picturing you and how our qualities might combine to make up the person you’ll become. For all the time spent in my belly behind my guitar, he wonders if you’ll come out singing.

I worry you’ll be wild like him, turning my hair gray with your affinity to drive too fast or climb too high.


Boy or girl? Blond hair? Brown eyes? For years we have dreamed you a thousand times, a thousand different ways, but none of it matters. You’ll be perfectly flawed, perfectly imperfect, like us and unlike us in so many ways, the only person in this world we love before we’ve even been introduced.

And we can’t wait to be introduced.


In between seasons


“You should have seen it out in the east pasture,” Husband told me when he got in from searching for stray bulls last week. “It was so colorful, like God dropped a bag of Skittles from the sky.”


It was an adorable statement coming from the scruffy, sorta smelly man sitting next to me.

And I was immediately jealous.

Although I can see it from outside my windows and on my slow strolls on the trails there’s nothing like experiencing fall on the back of a horse.


So Monday I did the next best thing and convinced Husband to take a little 4-wheeler drive with me to our favorite pasture so I could take photos from the tops of the hills and feel like I got my fix of it.


He never says no to ideas like this. It means that he doesn’t have to be cooped up in the basement putting up walls and wiring and things like that. It means that he can spend a little more time behind those binoculars looking for elk or deer or coyotes or mountain lions or whatever a man hopes to find on the other side of the glass.


I never hope to find a mountain lion.

That’s one difference between the two of us I guess.


Now a 4-wheeler these days isn’t my preferred mode of transportation. Every bump and wiggle sort of bounces me and this baby I’m cooking the wrong way, although she doesn’t seem to mind, because when we’re moving is the only time she’s sitting still.

And that’s terrifying and reassuring all at the same time.


IMG_6247 IMG_6262

But all that bumping around sends me popping a squat behind a bullberry bush at least once before I make it back to our front door.

If I need help initiating labor, I tell you, I know every stubble field and bumpy trail we can ride across to move it along. Let’ s hope that it doesn’t come to that.


But oh, it was worth it to take the trip back there. Everything is so gold it’s almost unreal. I kept checking my camera to make sure it was on the right setting, as if my eyes were lying to me.

IMG_6320 IMG_6287 IMG_6311 IMG_6286 IMG_6281

But they weren’t. It’s just plain beautiful out here in this prolonged fall we’ve been given. Usually by now we might have already had a dusting of snow or a couple pretty chilly days, but not this year. This year my garden’s still growing, the sun is still shining a nice and comfortable 70+ degrees and the flies are still somehow finding their annoying way in to this house through some mysterious crack somewhere so they can die on the tallest and hardest to clean window ledge in the entire place.

Ah, it’s country living at its finest. IMG_6299

When the sun started to cast long shadows and darken the valleys we headed toward home in the rapidly dropping temperature. That’s the thing about fall, it goes from 39 degrees, to 70 and back to 39 in a short 12 hour period. I was starting to wish for my mittens when Husband stopped his 4-wheeler by the place we cut our first Christmas tree as a married couple.

And got the pickup stuck to the floorboards in the snow.

And rocked and pushed and spun so much that our poor new puppy Hondo got sick and shit all over the pickup.


“Remember this spot?” he asked.

“I sure do,” I said.

“There’s a tree right there,” he said as he pointed to a 20 foot cedar, big enough to bring to Times Square.

“There will be no Charley Brown, spindly Christmas tree this year. Not for this kid’s first Christmas,” he said.


I shook my head and we bounced along our merry way, in between seasons, in the weather and in our lives.

In the calm before the storm, the warm before the cool down,


The wait before everything changes…


Watch my “Work (Girl)” Music Video
off my new Nashville album “Northern Lights” 

Sunday Column: Husband’s Homemade Garden Tomato Soup


The weather’s getting cooler, the leaves are changing and the tomato crop is ripening. Fall is in the air and that means sweaters and boots and soups for supper.

It’s perfect timing for the last few months of this pregnancy. I might as well load up on cream based broth and hearty ingredients accompanied by thick slices of bread or cheese sandwiches while it’s perfectly acceptable for my waistline to be thickening and my wardrobe consists of plenty of stretchy pants.

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So we’ve kicked soup season off right around here by visiting the garden and revisiting the homemade tomato soup recipe Husband concocted during the first fall  back home.

After a few years I think this September soup is a tradition now. I’ve shared the step by step, photographic journey documented in the tiny kitchen of the old ranch house on my blog every year, but this year I thought it was time I put it in the papers so the whole state would get a chance to do something really great with their tomato crop.

And last night we made it again, just shifting the ingredients a bit (celery salt instead of celery seed and skipping the dill weed because I couldn’t find it in the mess of my spice cabinet) and it turned out just lovely, just like it does every year. Little Sister was over to help me with a project, we called up mom and Pops and Husband started making up some sort of spectacular ham and cheese sandwich with like four different cheeses and we had ourselves a little Sunday feast.

And now I’m going to have to have him make those sandwiches again so I can follow him around and write that shit down, because well, we all need more versions of the grilled cheese in our lives…

So cheers to growing babies, waistlines and tomatoes. I hope you give yourself a chance to stir up this soup and sit down and enjoy it with the people (and a sandwich) you love.

Coming Home: Husband’s kitchen skills and
heavy cream make most of tomato crop
by Jessie Veeder

Forum Communications 

There are many things I like about our new season — more cool days, changing colors and cozy sweaters, and less bugs, lawn mowing and sweat.

Also, recently, fall means cool air coming in from the open windows at night and more reasons to steal my husband’s big flannels from his closet on my way out the door to take photographs before the sun sets on this quickly changing season.

Yes, these longer nights have their benefits. Like, my husband and I will be seeing a little more of each other across the supper table these days because supper time isn’t being ignored while we’re out in the barnyard or in the pasture somewhere squeezing every minute of sunlight from the day.

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And more time at the supper table means more time spent in the kitchen with the man I married who happens to be really good at cooking things like homemade noodles and casseroles and German heritage dishes and other things that require a large dollop of butter and an even bigger swig of heavy whipping cream — a requirement, I guess, if we want to pad up our rear ends in preparation for a long cold winter.

And it’s no coincidence that soup season comes rolling at the same time the tomato crop starts turning red, which only means that the man has been forced to come up with a delicious way to celebrate them.

And when I say forced, I mean “gently” persuaded by a growing pile of ripening tomatoes on the kitchen counter and a pregnant wife declaring that she’s starving over here.

So to honor it all, the changing season, my tomato crop, unwavering appetite, affinity for heavy whipping cream and my husband’s kitchen skills, I would like to share a recipe he concocted during our first autumn spent back at the ranch.

After finding me in the kitchen stomping, whining and nearly losing an eye to a jalapeño pepper after my first attempt at the age-old-tradition of salsa making, only to clean it all up, put my hands on my hips, reach for my goggles and declare that I was now going to attempt tomato soup — 8 p.m. — I think he felt the need to run interference.

And so I ditched the goggles, picked up a pen and followed him around the kitchen as he whipped up a little piece of heaven right there on the very same table where I was nearly murdered by that jalapeño pepper.

And I’m so glad that I did, because the thing with my husband’s cooking is that it’s all in his head, like a story or a song. If it’s not written down, the melody might change a bit or the plot might thicken sooner the next time around.

But I captured it in its original perfection and now we make it a tradition year after year.

‘Tis the season! May your tomatoes never be stranded again. Enjoy!

Cowboy’s Garden Tomato Soup


  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup (about 3 medium carrots) diced
  • ¼ of a large purple onion, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 12-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1½ cups heavy whipping cream (room temperature)


In a large soup pot add the diced tomatoes, carrots, onion and garlic to ¼ cup water and simmer on low for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the tomatoes start to gently boil. Stir in the tomato sauce, butter, seasonings and bouillon cubes and simmer the soup on low, allowing the onions and carrots to cook, about 30 minutes.

Once the vegetables are cooked through, slowly stir in the heavy whipping cream and say “M’m! M’m! Good!” while Campbell sobs silently to himself.

Heat (don’t boil) for a few minutes, serve it up and have yourself a happy and well-fed fall.

“Work (Girl)” Official Music Video Release

The first video off of my Nashville Album “Northern Lights” is one of my favorite songs on the album.

Northern Lights Album Cover

It’s an anthem to working women, written while I was shoveling scoria in the driveway, determined to get a job done while thinking, with the rhythm of the shovel, about the women who raised me and what life must have been like out here at a time without running water, or a deep freeze.

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A woman’s work, across all parts of the country, is a complicated balance of finding the best way to provide time and resources to her family, flexing her muscles in all corners of her world, whether in the office, the kitchen, the boardroom, on the back of a horse or behind a book during her children’s bedtime.


There are plenty of songs written for the working man, the backbone of America, but I felt women needed an anthem. Because their backs are in the game too. So I made one.

During my live shows I invite the little girls to come up on stage to dance and show me their muscles. Their enthusiasm and eagerness to show their spirit inspires me.

I hope this song and video inspires you too.

A special thanks to all the real working Western North Dakota women featured in the video. And to the Pioneer Museum of McKenzie County for providing access to the old photos that represent our working women heritage.

 “Work” is available on
CD Baby

 Work Girl 2

Sunday Column: A new season…

Screen shot 2015-09-21 at 12.02.21 PMYesterday was cow gathering day on the ranch. I helped pull burs from the horses’ manes and sprayed flies and waved as my sister, husband and dad loaded up the trailer and headed for the hills.
It’s roundup season and I’m in my stretchy pants working on the finishing touches of growing this baby (and online shopping and eating everything I can touch).
It’s been a beautiful fall with temperatures in the mid 70s and the colors changing nice and slow. And while the best way to experience it is on the back of the horse, I’m happy staying on foot, wandering the hills and looking forward to the day we can get this baby up on his own horse.
So that’s what this week’s column is about. A little reflection on roundup season and spitting wild plums at my little sister as we followed behind our dad. She used to have a white pony named Jerry who would, every once in a while, decide he needed a break and spontaneously lay down and try to roll her and the saddle off his back.
He was a shit.
But so was she sometimes…so they were a good pair.

Ah, I love this time of year.

If you need me I’ll be out taking pictures…

And if you have a reliable pony to sell, well, we’re in the market…

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Coming Home: Ever-changing seasons make me feel alive
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications 

This season change is so predictably unpredictable, sneaking up on us slowly in the middle of a hot summer day and leaving with a strong gust of wind.

This year it seems to be settling in despite the heat. The trees that were first to display their leaves are the first to change their colors this September. I’m reminded it’s nearing roundup season, and I have a flashback of spitting plums at my little sister on her pony, Jerry, as we ride side by side toward the reservation.

I’m bundled up in my wool cap and my dad’s old leather chaps braving the cool morning and a long ride through coulees, up hills, along fence lines and under a sky that warmed the earth a little more with each passing hour.

I would strip off my cap first, then went my gloves and coat, piled on a rock or next to a fence post for easy retrieval when the work was done.

Moving cattle, even then, never felt like work to me. Perhaps because I was never the one responsible for anything but following directions and watching the gate — a task with the perfect amount of adventure, freedom and accountability.

It was during that long wait from when the crew gathered all the cattle in the pasture and moved them toward my post that I would make up my best songs or find the perfect feather for my hat.

And while this year my growing belly and precious cargo have kept me from the back of a horse, my adult role working cattle hasn’t changed much.

I’m the eternal watcher, the girl who makes sure the cattle don’t turn back or find their way into the brush or through the wrong gate, left to my own devices while the guys head for the hills.

And even if it all goes awry, even if the cows head for the thick trees or go running the wrong way past the gate and down a hill and the plan morphs depending on the attitude of a herd of bovines, around here I’ve always found it a pleasantly hectic adventure.

And I’m feeling compelled to live it in my head today, knowing it’s a ritual I’ll miss this season, pulling on our boots to sit on the backs of horses swatting at the sticky flies with their tails on a calm and sunny morning that promises to turn into a hot afternoon.

Each month the pastures change — a new fence wire breaks, the creek floods and flows then dries up, the ground erodes and the cows cut new trails, reminding me that the landscape is a moving, breathing creature.

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And I’m the most alive when I’m out here. I follow behind the guys making plans for the day and look around to notice the way the light bounces off of cowboy hats and trees slowly turning golden.

I find my direction while my husband cuts a path through the trees and Pops lopes up to the hilltop to scan the countryside.

I move a small herd toward the gate and wake a bull from the tall grass at the edge of the pasture.

Pops comes up off the hill to join me, the cattle he’s found moving briskly in front of him. We meet up, finding my husband waiting at the gate with the rest of the herd.

And that’s how it goes, the three of us pushing the cows along: Pops at the back of the trail counting and taking mental notes, my husband on the hillside making sure they turn the right way, and me watching the brush.

The sun warms our backs and sweat beads on our foreheads as we head toward home, talking about lunch and the fencing that needs to get done that day.

And the deer population.

And a pony for my nephew.

And the weather and the changing leaves and all of the things that need discussing when you’re on the back of a horse, on the edge of a season, on a piece of earth that’s constantly changing, even though, year after year, out here, I always feel the same.

And the weather and the changing leaves and all of the things that need discussing when you’re on the back of a horse, on the edge of a season, on a piece of earth that’s constantly changing, even though, year after year, out here, I always feel the same.

 Screen shot 2015-09-21 at 12.05.30 PM

Inside this body. Outside this house.


Fall is creeping up on us, slowly changing the leaves on the trees from green to gold and bouncing the weather back and forth from 90 degrees to 60 in a matter of 24 hours.

Last night we had a nice, loud thunderstorm that dumped a good soak on us. It tamed the dust and softened the crispiness of this season.

But before it rained I went out wandering in the hills to take some photos. The wind was so still, the temperature was perfect and I liked the way the overcast sky looked like a blue blanket above us.

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I’ve been moving a little slower lately and the bending over to capture the small details of the landscape leaves me huffing.

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Give me a month and this slow walk will have turned into a full on waddle, but I just can’t stand to stay inside, especially on these beautiful days.

In the moments I have to myself in these last months of pregnancy, I can’t comprehend how our lives are going to change and I can’t help but visualize taking this same walk next year with a baby in tow, or waiting back at the house with Husband while I take a moment…

Because it’s always been the moving, the walking, the riding, the driving, that’s kept me motivated and inspired.

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Soon I know our lives are going to slow down and speed up all at the same time and adventure will take on a whole new meaning.

For now I’ve charged myself with trying to enjoy what’s left of carrying this kid along inside of me… the kicks, the heartburn, the plans for the nursery and this body of mine that finally got a chance to show me what it can do.

It can climb up the buttes and grow a human at the same time. That’s pretty miraculous.

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It’s nature at its finest and that’s just the sort of thing I marvel at outside the doors of this house every day.

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