Sunday Column: Goodbye old friend

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We’re quickly coming to the end of another season out here on the ranch.  School has officially started and my friends are posting “first day of school” photos of their kids, some sending their first borns off to kindergarden for the first time.

I’ve been spending time picking peas and beans, cucumbers, carrots and every red tomato I can find out of my garden, fascinated always by how time can transform dirt into food, just like that.

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Fascinated by how time has made it harder for me to bend over and pick those beans every day, made those little flutters in my belly turn to jabs and hiccups…and then, soon, an actual tiny human that breathes this air.

Life and time are twin sisters it seems, conceived at the same moment and moving through the world together hand in hand. And just as time creates and grows life in one breath, it quiets it and takes it away in another.

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And so it goes here on the ranch, the circle of life we’re made so aware of every day among the growing and withering things, reminding us that to everything there is a season.

Last week our faithful ranch dog, Pudge, gave us the gift of living until old age took her away in her sleep.

My husband came home to tell me the news, then went out to the big oak tree where we were married and dug a deep hole in the hard, dry, gumbo packed earth and buried our old friend.

“One day you will hear the sound of time rustling as it slips through your fingers like sand.” Sergei Lukyanenko

Yesterday I was just a kid shaking dirt off the carrots in the garden.

Tomorrow I turn 32.

Today I count the kicks in my belly, make plans to assemble the new crib in the box and miss that old dog…

Coming Home: Goodnight, Pudge, the sweet, tough cattle dog
by Jessie Veeder
8-23-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Lately the coyotes have been howling outside our open windows, slicing the black silence with chilling wails. Inside the garage, our domesticated dogs rise from their beds, lift up their heads and howl back to them, long and dramatic cries, an unnerving message sent between the wild and the tame.

Last weekend, while I was out on the highway heading for home after a late show, my husband opened the windows to the house to let in the night air, turned on the porch light and laid his body out on top of the covers of our bed.

Somewhere between his dozing and me cutting through the dark miles, down the road at my parents’ place the oldest cow dog on the ranch took her last breath, and quietly, one of the most familiar lights on our ranch went out.

We knew it was coming. Pudge, an Australian shepherd with thick, wooly fur, one blue eye and one brown eye, came to us on a hand-me-down after her owners moved to town. Pops, who had lost his previous cattle dog to a snakebite, needed a new animal to help him get cattle out of the brush and to accompany him on rides.

We think she was 4 years old when she came to us. Lately, the topic of her age had come up often. I was in college, or on my way there. Could it be that she was 15? Fifteen and no longer possessing the strength to go for long rides with Pops, but holding on to the spirit of her job by making the walk with him to and from the barn.

That was the last walk they took together it seems.

And now we’ll no longer find her snuggled up in the her spot under the heat lamp in the garage in the winter, in the pickup box in the summer or trying desperately to make her way through the window screen and under the covers of my little sister’s bed during a thunderstorm.

Pudge hated thunderstorms. That might have been the dog’s only flaw.

Because it turns out she was just the right combination of sweet, smart and tough enough to be one of the few cattle dogs on this 100-year-old ranch to get the chance to die of old age.

This place can be hard on the strongest, most cared-for animals who live a life more in tune with their primal instincts than the couch-dwelling suburban pet.

Pudge tried out that life with me once. I took her back to live with me for a little while in college when life was overwhelming me. I’d take her for bundled-up walks on sidewalks and she would sit in the sunshine by the door and watch the cars roll by, comfortable knowing she had a purpose in helping me find my big girl legs again before I brought her back to her ranch where she belonged.

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Before my husband came home to tell me she was gone, I was pulling carrots in my garden and singing to myself, “To everything turn, turn, turn … there is a season, turn, turn, turn … and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

If you can’t see that manifest itself out here, if it doesn’t become known to you as morning turns to night and summer turns to fall and the hair under your husband’s hat turns silver, you’re not paying attention or you don’t want to know.

It all happens so slowly and then so quickly, as if all at once the time has passed and then it’s up.

I listened to those coyotes howl last night and thought about Pudge, who would sit out at night under those stars, just on the edge of the light that flooded into the yard from the garage. When it was time for the people to lay down and pull the covers up, Pops would call to her to come in and she would pretend not to hear him, preferring a cool bed of grass under that sky to her fluffy bed.

And if Pops gave in and left her out there, she would wake him with her barks and wails to that dark sky for hours on end.

Sweet turned wild in the night.

Goodnight, old friend.

Goodnight. 

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Sunday Column: On diapers and carseats and general panic…

Last week I received this text from a friend.

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Little did she know that I already have that part down.

It’s all I’ve been doing lately. I mean between the Parenting magazine I got delivered for a cent an issue because I bought maternity leggings at a pregnant lady store, the daily reminders from Babybumb.com (notarealwebsite) or whatever that I am now at 25 weeks and should be thinking about painting a nursery or taking another picture of my growing belly or deciding what kind of nursing bra I should wear and, of course, all the time I’ve spent on Amazon.com searching for the safest/cheapest/best/most stylish diapers/cribs/blankets/socks/onsies/carseats/strollers I am fully convinced that

A. Almost everything that I buy is either going to make my baby’s head flat

and

2. There is no one product anyone can agree on when it comes to keeping a baby completely safe, unless it is a full body helmet, which I haven’t come across yet in all my time spent on Amazon, but I’m sure it’s out there being invented by some nervous mother as I type…

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III. I have no idea what I’m doing.

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See what I’m saying?! Terrifying.

Yes, I have to say that all this access to information via the world wide web, talk radio and whatever morning news show I happen to catch is getting to me. I am at information overload and the only thing that’s keeping me sane is the actual human to human connections I have with moms who have done this before.

I tell you, their advice is way less scary and confusing. Because it’s mostly this: “You can’t plan for everything because it will all hit the fan and you are going to be just fine…as long as you have diapers…”

Ok.

Ok.

Deep breath.

And so that’s where my head was when I wrote this column last week. It was swarming with product reviews and advice and a constant prayer up to the sky for a little guidance on raising a happy, healthy baby…

Because I screw a lot of things up. Most things actually. I’m impatient and I don’t pay attention because I am impatient and my mind is always wandering and I’m not like those moms who were just born knowing the right way to hold and bounce a baby or with a strong tolerance for boogers and snot.

Boogers and snot are like my one aversion and as far as I’ve learned so far babies come with an unending supply of boogers and snot…

Yes, I’m awkward and worried this won’t come so naturally…and that I will run out of diapers like I run out of toilet paper…unexpectedly and in the middle of nowhere…

So diapers. I should be focusing on diapers…

Belly

Coming Home: New baby’s happiness won’t depend on stuff.
by Jessie Veeder
8-16-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I listen to a lot of talk radio. It drones through the speakers while I sit behind the wheel of my car on my way to town or to a show or to the grocery store and back. 

If you need an opinion, you will find it out there on the airwaves. Tune your ears to the universe, to the World Wide Web, to the TV or radio and you’ve got an answer, hundreds of different answers, no matter what answer you want.

And today I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all. Because it’s making me feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.

I mean, just because we’ve been planning on having children for seven years doesn’t mean we’ve spent seven years figuring out the safest car seat, the best all-terrain stroller with built-in cooled and heated cup holders, the baby swing that won’t flatten out her head and the best and most certain ways to ensure our child’s chance at becoming a millionaire so when she has a child of her own she can afford all of the stuff that apparently we need to raise a kid these days.

I’m spending half of my time frantic to know everything and the other half annoyed that everyone’s overthinking it.

I see a baby bathtub I like, read the online reviews and find out it’s not big enough, soft enough and doesn’t come with the Jetson-style auto baby scrubber that you need, therefore it’s crap and it will make your baby’s head flat (I’ve found that’s a running theme).

Didn’t my mom just wash me in the kitchen sink next to the noodle strainer?

I’m not the president or anything, but did I not live and thrive despite having a childhood void of a surveillance security system in my nursery?

When we get down to it, all this stuff is just a means to a common end result — to raise happy, healthy babies into happy, healthy adults.

And if I’m not mistaken, happy healthy adults existed back before they invented the wipe warmer or DVR.

Which brings me back to all that talk radio I’ve been listening to, because last week the word “happiness” was being discussed at length; how we lack it, how to achieve it, how to help our kids find it.

It was interesting timing because the day before my friend and I were visiting about how different it will be for us to raise our own children in a time when everything’s so structured. Your kid wants to play hockey? He better be on skates as soon as he learns to walk. She wants to dance? Buy her jazz shoes and schedule private weekend lessons. Because if they don’t start honing their skills early, they won’t be successful, and doesn’t success equal happiness?

The lady on the radio chimed in to answer that question. She said when she thinks of childhood happiness she thinks of playing in the backyard, having parents that laughed, listened and made her feel safe, and free time to lay back on the lawn and ask questions about the clouds.

While the two of us were thousands of miles and generations apart, it was one of the first relatable and reasonable things I’d heard on the airwaves in a while.

She didn’t mention one thing about the stuff we need or the plans we must make to get us there. I could have reached through the radio to hug her.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I remember my favorite book and the day I got my first 10-speed bike. I remember those things making me happy, but only because that book meant a bedtime story from my big sister, and that bike meant I could go have adventures with my best friend up the hill.

And I liked basketball and 4-H and most of the other structured experiences that helped grow me up, but I liked them sprinkled in with spontaneous water fights and mom’s lasagna at night.

You know what I don’t remember? The color of my crib bedding or if my mom used a fancy bottle steamer sanitizer thingy.

So I think I’ll buy a couple of cotton onesies, turn off the radio, take a walk and continue on this happiness quest.

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Sunday Column: On love and rotten egg bakes…

Love is in the air this August. Husband and I will celebrate our 9th anniversary likely with brats on the grill and a drive to check the cows (because we’re romantic like that) and at the end of the month, his little brother will say “I do” to his new bride.

This weekend I attended her bridal shower, assured her that I will be able to zip up my bridesmaid’s dress and then picked up an ice cream cone for the drive home.

Because after the cake, I guess I was still hungry…

And delusional.

But being in the middle of this summer filled with vows and love celebration and right on the cusp of my life with my husband changing forever, I’ve been thinking about what it really means to make a life together.

I think every wedding brings this up for me. Because we start it all out with a party, and, well, somewhere between the champaign toast and death do us part comes the really good stuff, the really juicy stuff, the really tough stuff, and sweet stuff,

and funny stuff and gross stuff and stuff you’d rather not mention.

After nine years now I think I can confidently say that love and respect is the only common denominator that runs through our wedded veins day after day. The rest? Well the rest is a crap shoot.

And so in honor of the month I thought I might resurrect and rehash an old post for the newspaper column, the one where my husband lovingly left me a surprise three week old egg bake in the cooler in the heat of the summer…and I contemplated packing up and moving to a fort in the trees.

Because love and marriage is a weird, messy, lovely, frustrating journey…one I’m glad to be on with a man who is strong, handy, playful and forgetful with the best of intentions…one who makes mistakes and tolerates mine.

Coming Home: Love endures, even when it’s hard to like each other
by Jessie Veeder
8-9-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It all starts with the best intentions. Most housekeeping tasks around here do. Unfortunately, they generally also end with me questioning the meaning of life, love and why I don’t just live by myself in a fort by the creek like I planned when I was 10 years old.

No.

Because sometimes your husband leaves an uncooked egg bake from a camping trip he took three weeks ago floating in a cooler filled with beer and warm, mushy, cloudy, curdled water, and you get the privilege of being the first to get a whiff.

Nothing says love like pulling on your muck boots, turning on the hose and testing how long you can hold your breath.

I love my husband every day. I just don’t like him every minute.

I know for a fact that he feels the same way about me.

I’m telling this story now because in a few days we’ll celebrate our nine-year wedding anniversary. And as my belly grows and our future together teeters on the edge of uncharted territory, I can’t help but reflect on the life we’re having between those “I do’s” and the whole “death parting us” thing.

So far it looks like a combined force of mistakes and small tragedies, goofiness and bad ideas, opinions, forgetfulness and big plans in the works.

But that’s what you get when you’re in it together. You get a witness and a built-in dinner date who sometimes is really late to dinner.

You get a man who takes off his work boots and stinks up the entire house, but you also get a man who will drive around the countryside for hours every day looking for your missing dog, not because he particularly likes him but because you do. And that quiet gesture makes up tenfold for the stinky socks. And the late-to-dinner thing.

But forget the even score because from what I’ve learned, there is no even score. I work late and ruin his fishing plans. He takes out the garbage and I forget to get groceries until we’re both eating saltines and wondering when the new Chinese food restaurant will start delivering to the ranch. I unload the dishwasher, he never remembers where I put the spatulas. I am thankful I married a man who uses a spatula.

No, the chores are never equal because life might be a balancing act, but it sure as heck isn’t balanced (except when it comes to dog puke on the floor. In that instance, I keep score).

That’s why we’ve got each other.

Because life is so annoying sometimes, but I tell you what’s also annoying, that pickle jar that I can never open myself or the flat tire he’s out there fixing on the side of the road in the middle of a blizzard, proving that regardless of our shortcomings, life is easier with him around.

I hope he can say the same for me.

And then I think we’d both say that love doesn’t mean you will ever agree on the arrangement of the furniture, but love went a long way in laughing it off when he backed into my car and forgot to tell me, leaving me wondering when I had a car accident I couldn’t remember.

And initially, love sent him running when he heard me scream in the other room, but there came a time when he started to wait for a follow-up noise because love has made the man mistake a stray spider for a bloody mangled limb too many times.

And, just for the record, sometimes love is not patient. Sometimes it needs to get to town and I’m trying on my third dress of the evening.

And sometimes love is not as kind as it should be. Because love is human.

And no human is perfect. Not individually and surely not together.

Because humans leave egg bakes in coolers in basements for three weeks.

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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Pregnancy: a slow transition into becoming Homer Simpson

pregnancySo that happened this week. My sweet mother making a mockery of a situation that had my husband reaching into his pocket for his leatherman to see if he could make headway on a stuck zipper that split in half the minute it was coaxed, leaving me with no way out of a lacy, delicate, meant-for-a-more-formal-occasion bridesmaids dress and a Husband who followed me around the bedroom tugging up and yanking down with pure determination while I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe and almost peed myself, which would have added an entire new level to the amount of damage control needed to rectify the dress situation before my brother-in-law’s August 29th wedding.

When I finally caught my breath enough to stop wiggling the two of us looked at each other and decided that, well, …..RRRIIIIPPPP….

Because sometimes a pregnant lady’s zipper needs a man’s touch.

And in this case, if I didn’t want to wear it until I was wheeled into labor and delivery, it was our only option.

And that is just one lesson I have learned from five months spent watching this belly grow.

The other new discoveries? My mom has a new found knack for comedy and I have made friends with a new seamstress in the big town.

Because shit is getting real I tell you. And no one is more thrilled to see my shirts getting tighter or hear about my baby-bladder-kicking woes than my family.

Oh, your pants don’t fit? Harah!

Heartburn? Goodie!

I guess that’s what I get for keeping them all waiting for seven years.

And my handyman, dress altering Husband hasn’t found his sympathy card either, despite  my sweet reminders that it is his job as the father of this tiny, bladder squeezing human we created together.

But he has been nice about letting me wear his clothes. In fact, I’m positive he got great joy out of getting me into his overalls to go out and check the cows upon the harsh realization that there was no way in hell any of my work jeans would ever fit over my gut again.

Ever.

He even suggested that I wear his favorite purple polo shirt, the one I despise, and while I stood in the closet in my bra and underwear contemplating wearing the tent my mother suggested, he slipped it over my head, turned me around, took a picture and then made his third or fourth Homer Simpson reference…

You know, because of my ass to belly ratio.

Which is what it’s come down to now. Me, popping Tums, falling asleep in the easy chair as soon as I sit down, snoring like I’ve never snored before, putting bacon on everything,  burping, pulling over on the side of the road to pee, wearing men’s work clothes and avoiding bending over at all costs.

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Yup. Homer Simpson…

Give me four more months and I might take you up on that call to tent and awning sweet, hilarious mother.

In the meantime I’ll take another BLT please…

Peace, Love and potty breaks,

Jessie & the Bump

Belly

From Lost to Found: A Pug Story

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Search “Chug the Pug” on this blog and you will find countless entries on this little black bean of a dog that came into our lives to help us through a rough patch, and then continued on his merry way,

peeing in my husband’s shoes, losing an eye to a porcupine, snuggling up with the kittens,

chasing bulls out of the yard, showing up the bird dogs with his pheasant retrieval skills, snoring, snorting, howling and just all around creating hilarious chaos and merriment wherever he went.

He was a character in our lives out here at the ranch, one I loved to torture by dressing him up in a Santa suit and making him pose for countless photos.

A lap dog by breeding, Chug the Pug hated to miss out on an opportunity for adventure, proving time and time again that there are no limits, just mind-set.

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Chug the Pug, my search partner


My new readers may not have heard about our chubby little one-eyed pet because about a year and a half ago Chug decided to make his rounds to the nearest rigs and oil sites around our ranch to meet his neighbors, get his belly scratched and feast on table scraps and the occasional steak while he waited for us to come and find him.

It was a problem for us, all the kindness he was shown on these rigs, because it meant more wandering for an animal who could previously be trusted to stay within the safe limits of the farm yard.

And it meant that one day, when we went to retrieve him, he was nowhere to be found.

After a couple months of my husband taking daily trips up and down the highway, passing our name around to oil field workers who move in and off site by the days and hours, and checking with neighbors, I finally decided that Chug the Pug had likely hitched a ride with a lonely trucker and was sitting shot gun with a bandana around his head an his tongue hanging out the window, off to find a bigger adventure.

I liked that story better than any alternative. It helped me come to terms with the fact that I’d never see him again. 

And that’s the way that it was… that was the story I’d tell…

Until a couple weeks ago when I found out the rest of the story….

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Coming Home: Lost dog finds his way to the right home
by Jessie Veeder
7-26-15
Forum Communications

I sat behind the desk at my office and picked up the ringing phone. Young and determined, we were in our third year of marriage, had just moved back to our home state, just lost our first pregnancy and were chin deep in renovating our first home in an attempt to get our grown-up story on track. 

For two years our lives were covered in sawdust, paint and power tools. We worked during the day and in the evening we re-seeded the lawn, built a new staircase, laid carpet and lost two more pregnancies along the way.

You need to take out a wall? Get your hammer and break it down.

You want a baby? There wasn’t a doctor in the state at the time that could give us the blueprint for that.

When I picked up the phone that day, I heard my husband say, “I just saw a poster. There are pug puppies for sale. Little black ones,” he said. “I’m going to call.”

So he called. And two weeks later he brought home a little black smush of a puppy with a pink tongue and curly, wiggly tail.

Because we needed a distraction. Something else to love.

Fast-forward through six years filled with home renovations, new jobs, three more lost pregnancies, and a move out to the ranch, and that little pug became the star of our lives and the stories on my blog, his cow-chasing, raccoon-wrangling, porcupine-fighting adventures winning over the hearts of my readers across the country.

Until a year and a half ago when he decided to explore a rig over the hill from our house and didn’t come home. When my husband’s nightly searches didn’t yield any answers, I came to terms with the fact that I would never see Chug the pug again.

Until last week when I looked down at my phone and found a message from a stranger staring back at me.

“I think we have your dog Chug. Our friend found him on a rig and brought him home. It selfishly breaks my heart to message you but I just read your blog and I knew I had to … you can call me …”

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I dialed the number.

“He just loves cats,” she said.

“I know,” I said.

“And he loves to go out on the boat and swim … We bought him a life jacket … The neighbors adore him. He sleeps in our bed with us … he’s well loved …”

And then the line went quiet. Two strangers, 60 miles apart, connected by an animal, each with her own bond, not knowing where to go from here.

So we made plans to meet up the next day. I would be through Dickinson on my way home from my 20-week ultrasound, halfway through a pregnancy we never thought we’d know with the chance to see the dog that helped us through the worst of things.

I anxiously knocked on the door and was greeted by a woman about my age, a tiny little yorkie and a one-eyed, barrel-chested black pug with a little extra squish around the middle.

I reached down to scratch his chin and pull on his soft ears, and he looked up at me, as well-loved as a dog could be.

I looked at the woman with her clasped hands and nervous smile. She invited me in, introduced me to her friends who had gathered for moral support or to be witness to this uncommon story, and we all started gushing about this small world, missed opportunities and how my online documentation of Chug led her friend to help find me.

And then there was that silence again.

She spoke.

“I contacted you because if it was my dog I would want to know what happened to him. This is a tough situation, but …. we can’t have children, and these dogs are like our kids.”

I looked at Chug rolling around with the yorkie on the floor, then down at my growing belly and back at the woman whose struggle for a family was all too familiar and fresh in my mind.

“Maybe he came into your life for a reason,” I said.

Judging by the sighs in the room and the tears in my eyes, I think we all agreed.

And so the decision was made. I said my goodbyes and pointed my car toward a life we could only dream of when we first called that little dog ours.

A girl needs a dog

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.

Lake Sakakawea  

Sunday Column: Rolling out the Welcome Wagon

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This is the view around here these days.

I can still see my toes, but the opportunity is growing smaller by the minute.

It’s a strange thing to know that my shrinking pants mean a growing baby. And this week I’ve officially met the halfway point of this baby-growing process.

And while the baby’s been growing,  me and the belly have been hitting the road pretty hard, playing music and promoting the new album, celebrating weddings and 4th of July, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, making dinner plans, sitting in the sun and trying to catch a nap here and there.

With so much time spent behind my guitar, I’m thinking this baby is going to come out with a set of lungs prepared for an amplified world.

Jessie Ft. Lincoln

And I have a hunch it’s really gonna like bacon.

Because that’s been on the main menu around here these days…

In less than five months now, it will no longer be me and my belly going about our business, but me and Husband working to show this baby our world.

I am not prepared.  But I think I’ll tackle it the way I’ve tackled all of life’s unexpected promises–with a flexible plan, a willingness to take it day by day and a few moments of panic here and there for good measure.

So that’s what this week’s column is about…that flexible plan and how I am certain life is just going to be more fun…

Coming Home: Family traditions will be more fun with little one
by Jessie Veeder
7-12-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I’ve been thinking lately about traditions. I suppose it’s expected, because in less than five months we’ll welcome a tiny new member to our family and spend our time showing her (I’m just going to go with “her” for now) around this place, introducing her to the people who love her and teaching her about the things that make up our everyday lives.

As my waistline continues to grow and the little movements in my belly start becoming more present and familiar, it’s beginning to occur to me that the countdown is on. We’ve been waiting seven years for this, and now we need to get it together.

And I’m not just talking about adding to my sparse collection of baby gear (I currently have three onesies, a dresser I picked up at a flea market and a free pacifier they gave me when I broke down and bought my first pair of maternity jeans), but we have less than five months to roll out the Welcome Wagon.

I mean, we all know I love a good party, and I just can’t help but thinking about all the things that will be so much more fun with this kid around.

Like, for example, when she arrives it will be just in time for Christmas. Finally. A baby for Christmas after seven years of saying to one another, “Well, maybe next year we’ll have some little presents under this tree …”

If all goes as planned, this is the year, which reminds me, I need to start looking for a tiny Santa hat.

Because before she can even see 20 inches in front of her face, she’ll be sitting at her first Christmas Eve Pancake Supper (likely wearing that tiny Santa hat), and I just can’t really imagine it, no matter all the people warning me that my life will never be the same.

Well. No. Of course it won’t.

God willing, of course it won’t.

Last weekend, we celebrated the Fourth of July the same way we have every year since I was a kid myself by heading to my grandparents’ lake cabin in Minnesota. We met up with my aunts, uncles and cousins and ate summer sausage sandwiches, tried our hand at catching sunnies, built a campfire and watched the fireworks go off all around us.

As I was yelling “No running on the dock!” for the 47th time to my nephew and little cousins, it occurred to me that in a few years that will be my kid running on the dock.

And so I felt the need to warn my family that, based on my husband’s history and genetics, it’s very likely that this baby bump will turn into a child attempting to jump head first off the end of the dock fully clothed and without proper swimming lessons on her way to test out the neighbor’s water trampoline, invitation or no invitation.

Because I’m realistic about the way behavior traits and personalities pass on, and I am fully prepared to blame my husband for all wild and unruly conduct.

And then I looked over at my cousins, who I watched grow up on the shore of Lake Melissa, and realized that next summer the two youngest, the twins, will be making plans to head off to college.

I remember when we all found out they were going to be born and at the lake cabin my family cheered and hugged as small waves licked the rocks outside the picture window and my uncle tried not to faint at the new news.

Seventeen Fourth of Julys later and here we are, basking in the ease of a tradition, regulating squirt gun fights, reminiscing on years past, anticipating a growing family together and telling me to be careful on the rocks.

This year my car was filled with a guitar, gear and merchandise after a show I caught with the band on my way across the state.

Next year we’ll have to clear out some room for a car seat, a stroller and a tiny little swimsuit.

Which reminds me, I need to start shopping for a car seat, a stroller and a tiny little swimsuit, because, well, it’s time to start loading up that Welcome Wagon.

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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…

A speech for a season of celebration…

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We’re a week or so out of the ranch wedding weekend extravaganza and while the two newlyweds are off in Jamaica honeymooning, the rest of us are here, basking in the North Dakota’s official summer heat.

Last weekend was my hometown’s annual reunion celebration called “Homefest” and Husband and I spent last Friday on Main Street catching up with old friends and Saturday I got a chance to sing to the crowd of longtime residents, new residents and people visiting home again.

The party never stops around here in the summer when we try to cram 12 months of fun into the few summer weekends we get up here.

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And so it goes with those brides and grooms planning to get married. They generally want to do so in the summer so they don’t freeze to death on their way to the church or lose their guests in an unexpected blizzard.

So to honor the wedding and party season, I wanted to share with you the little speech I prepared for my little sister’s wedding. It’s about love and the time we share between the celebrations…

Cheers to love. Cheers to summer.

And cheers to finding the best ways to celebrate it all.

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Now, imagine me, my hormones and my emerging baby bump trying desperately not to lose it and burst into tears in front of our friends and family…
Today we celebrate love. That’s what weddings are about. The joining of two people because they met somewhere, and they clicked, so they went on a date to a movie or for drinks and they hit it off, so they went on another date and another one and then maybe she caught a cold and had to break plans and stay home and he showed up with orange juice, Champaign and chicken noodle soup—and no one had ever done anything like that for her before so she tried to find ways to keep him around, meet his parents, bring him to her family ranch, get him on a horse or two and convince him to start a new life in a wild place.

And maybe along the way there were disagreements, an old Ford Explorer might have blown up, plans might have been made and broken, wine spilled, …a cat might have been hit by a car…(and lived…don’t worry, it lived)…

But in between those weird and unexpected moments that life throws us, in the quiet times known only by the two of them, there were stolen kisses, reassurances when they were unsure, a hug stolen while she put the dishes in the sink, because at that moment he just loved her so much he had to touch her, inside jokes shared over yard work and eating lasagna on the couch together watching HGTV….

He might have bought her diamond earrings and surprised her by leaving a giant picture of a giraffe he painted in her apartment.

She might pick him up a new shirt she knows he’ll like on a shopping trip or drive a good 20 miles out of town to bring him leftovers or Taco Johns for lunch when he’s working weekends….and those are all nice things…

Really nice things.

The things you do when you have finished falling in love with each other and just are.

In. Love.

But it’s not just the love thing these exploding cars, giraffe paintings, unruly cats and stolen hugs equal out to.

No. When you get to this point, the “let’s get married” point, it is about more than just love.

I know this because a wise man once asked me to marry him by asking me to be his family.

I thought about that today as my little sister stood up in front of the people who love them and a man who brought her chicken noodle soup when he didn’t know her very well yet, but knew he wanted to take make her feel better…

With this ring, you two are family.

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But even better,

With this ring, we’re all family.

And what a wonderful thing that is! Two young and adorable people fall in love over drinks, a late night delivery of chicken noodle soup and a road trip gone ary and a few years later we find ourselves traveling from all corners of the country to gather in front of a barn that has stood for almost 100 years on a place that has existed in one family for an entire century…all because a 100 years ago two people fell in love and made plans to work together for as long as the future gave them…

The same wise man that gave me my ring once said “Love is living every day to make the other person happy.”

It’s a nice concept and not one that I can always say we remember to implement…but in love not every day is easy…and in love, not every day are we at our best.

But I bet our great grandparents and grandparents and parents will agree that love found them raising babies and careers and finding things to cook for supper together, but it’s not just love and only love that has kept them fighting and stealing kisses in the kitchen and eating lasagna on the couch watching HGTV together…

And so I’m so glad love made Alex my little sister…

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and now love has made Travis my brother…and love has made us all, under this big tent in the middle of nowhere and the middle of everything…

Family.