Sunday Column: ‘Tis the season

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It’s been a great, but long week here for this big bellied momma out here at the ranch. Hunting season, coupled with the fact that my doctors said I could birth this child any minute, has set this place off in a new sort of buzz.

Each year about this time my dad’s brother flies in from Texas, bringing with him a son-in-law or two to show them around this place. We look forward to having him here all year and spend the time around the supper table talking, eating venison stew and coaxing stories out of the brothers and our neighbor up the road about the shenanigans they used to get into as wild boys growing up out here.

As my belly grows by the second (like literally, I think it grows by the second) I couldn’t help but notice how our family has grown. Last night mom and dad hosted a fish fry supper for thirteen as my uncle brought with him both of his son-in-laws and his nephew to join my brother-in-law over, big sister, little sister and her new husband and the rest of the ranch gathered in the house to eat and wonder when the heck I might pop.

I looks like pretty dang soon.

Belly B&W


Husband spent a good portion of the afternoon loading up his pickup with our baby-go gear and trying to figure out how the hell to get the carseat in…and then out…of the backseat.

I heard him talking on the phone to his mom saying something like “There’s a manual fifty-seven pages long about how to install the damn thing, but not one word on how to get the thing out.”
And who knew we would have to sit together and read the directions and diagram on the diaper genie. But that’s what we’ve been doing. That and taking calls from relatives and friends on my condition, wondering if we should just go to the big town already (we have a three hour drive) and wait it out there and put everyone at ease for the love of GAWD!
I don’t know.
All I know is I should probably pack the camouflage onesie Husband asked about, because he just informed me he plans on wearing camo on the way home from the hospital and he would like it if he and the baby matched…
Priorities I tell you.
Anyway, here’s the column from last weekend I forgot to post in my struggle to stay upright in the final countdown.
Peace, Love and Baby Gear,
Jessie and the bump
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Coming Home: Hunting holiday season means time
spent with loved ones
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

‘Tis the season.

Yes, we’re already one week into celebrating a North Dakota official holiday. The chill is settling in the air, and men and women are pulling on neon orange knit caps over their unruly hair, growing sweet beards (well, the men anyway), stocking up on whiskey and pulling out the cards for poker night.

Yes, the official deer rifle season opening day arrived, reminding me that this once was a valid reason for an excused absence from country school.

Turns out, that doesn’t carry in the working world, but I tell you, there were plenty of North Dakotans out there that day who opted to dress head to toe in camouflage and hunker down just under the skyline instead of going to work.

Meanwhile, the ranch has done its annual transition from horse and cattle operation to hunting camp. Every refrigerator on the place is stocked with Budweiser. Every cupboard is supplied with whiskey. The camouflage hats are tossed on chairs, boots piled in entryways, rifles polished and sighted in, and the calendar filled with scheduled visits from family members who make walking these hills with their sons, sons-in-law, granddaughters, nieces, nephews, wives, husbands or brothers a tradition year after year.

Because out here on this ranch, hunting season is less about the big kill and more about the time spent taking a break to appreciate this wild place with the people you most like to be around.

It’s always been that way.

Because contrary to the magazine and movie portrayal of ranch life, it’s not all riding your best horse into the sunset night after night. There are beautiful moments, yes, but they usually occur after you’ve acquired a fair amount of poop on your boots and slung a good string of cuss words into the air after racing that sun home from a job in town to catch the cows in the fields or a fence broken down.

Keeping a place like this up and running is 17 full-time jobs it seems, something that I didn’t realize growing up sitting next to my dad in the feed pickup rolling out a bale of hay for a line of black cows well after dark on a winter night.

Coming home from one full-time job to start another was likely not a rancher’s dream, but keeping the place up and running was worth every after-dark hour. I understand it a bit more now that we’re charged with the same task moving this place into its next 100 years.

I understand it now, helping my husband and dad make new plans for the corrals over supper served past dark or pushing back a trip to the lake in the summer because the cows got out or hay needs to be put up.

But then there is hunting season. The calves are shipped out, the cows are settled in, the weather is in between hot and bitter, and there’s a window, an oasis of time, to spend harvesting the land in a different way, to sit in silence on a side hill with one mission: To be still. To look. To listen. To be a part of the natural order of this landscape.

And all that time you’ve spent riding through the trees after a bull that won’t stay in, all the cows trailed along fence lines and trips to check water in the dams have you familiar with where the bucks bed down at night or where they rub the velvet off of their horns.

So you carve out the time to sit in the rising sun, watching the day break next to someone handpicked to share the experience with you.

Some of the best days of my life have been sitting in the glow of the sunset next to my dad, my husband or my uncle looking closely, blending in and holding still in a moment.

And if the opportunity presents itself to take an animal, it’s just more fodder for the memories, and more meat in our freezer for the long winter. But at the end of the day, for us, it’s about being together in a familiar place, in our own special sort of holiday.

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The wait (to love you forever…)

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I’m a big ‘ol ticking time bomb. Any day this baby could make his or her arrival and the wait will be over.

We’re in the in-between phase. The hurry up and wait. The preparing to prepare.

I never thought I’d look like this.

Jessie Maternity 2

I never thought I’d feel the kicks or the hiccups inside my belly or the panic that I HAVE to get the microwave clean or I might spontaneously combust.

Never thought the arches of my feet would ache like this.

Never thought I would understand the way a body wakes you up every two hours in preparation of what’s to come.

Never thought I get this big.

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I just watched a cow in the pasture trying to get up from a rest, with a ‘one, two, three…heave, ho…’ sort of technique and I could relate to her.

I watched another one attempt to lay down, and I nodded my head in solidarity.

It’s weird. And most of the time it’s not so pretty. Just last week I had a mental breakdown about moving the board games from one closet to another.


And my poor husband can’t find a thing in the kitchen because, according to him, some crazy pregnant lady keeps rearranging things.

I don’t believe him. I have no recollection of such acts. I tell him maybe it’s him who’s going crazy.

He doubts that theory very much.  

I don’t know who’s rearranging the kitchen, but I do know I have the strongest urge to vacuum right now. And last week I felt just as urgent about capturing a few photos of what the two of us look like in this phase of ‘pre-parenthood.’

So I forced my little sister to take some, right after I finished the donut she brought me from town. The poor thing didn’t know what was coming, but she did a great job (and she’s not even the sister of mine who’s an actual photographer).

Anyway, in a couple weeks (or tomorrow or the next day) we will be three.

But here we are, still just the two of us (sort of) and counting down the days.

I don’t think my husband has ever taken a better photo, he’s just sort of radiating, a smile as big as his wife’s belly.

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For a long time there were only your footprints & laughter in our dreams & even from such small things, we knew we could not wait to love you forever.
-Brian Andreas-Storypeople

The biggest project of my life….

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Ok, so I am a project focused sort of woman and if the last three weeks of pregnancy don’t count as the biggest project of my life, then nothing does.

Last weekend the beautiful women in my life threw me and this baby an unforgettable shower, complete with waffles, bacon and donuts,


diaper cakes (courtesy of my nieces),

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diaper cake

a watermelon in the shape of a baby (courtesy of my mother-in-law)


an endless supply of baby books


and and even bigger supply of love and support.

And while I sat there surrounded by these incredible women, opening these beautiful gifts, I was in disbelief that this was actually my shower I was attending (even though the bacon induced heartburn tried its damnedest to reassure me it’s true). 

But there were other forces of nature working to reassure me. Four capable and handy men, my husband, dad, grampa and uncle, spent the morning of the shower putting together the crib (at last!), installing the light fixture and even hanging the curtains in the nursery so we would be one step closer to getting this place ready for our brand new family member.

Did it really take four grown men to assemble a baby crib you ask?

Yes. Yes indeed it did.

But I was so thankful to see it there when I got home and unloaded boxes of onesies, toys, blankets, bottles, pacifiers, pajamas, a diaper genie…


and socks so tiny I just can’t get over it.


My mom came over on Sunday to help me sort and tidy up, because organizing is like her therapy (and what’s more fun than organizing adorable baby shoes or onesies rolled into the shape of cupcakes?).



And the two of us laughed, oohed and aahhed and marveled at the fact that in a few weeks an actual human will be wearing those teeny, tiny diapers she was putting in the drawers.

When Husband came home from his fireman duties serving pancakes at a local benefit, he set up the chair and gave it a good test run…


And this week I’ve been hanging out in this space every chance I get.





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Yes, in between working, writing and figuring out what we have to eat in this place, I’ve been making my way to the nursery to sort and wash baby outfits and blankets,


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pack the to go bag, order a rug and a toy box, make plans for some shelves, and channeling my inner 4th grader to create some chalk art on the wall, an idea sparked, of course, by my baby-brained obsession with Pinterest.


I’ve seriously never put as much thought (or funds?) into another room in the house.

It’s ridiculous and I’m aware of it. But it’s been fun to see how each piece I picked out, and each gift given to this baby by people who love her already, fit into this space.


To be honest here now for a minute, I’ve always wondered about my mothering instincts. Even after all of these years of working and hoping to become a mom, I have never been fully convinced that I possess the sort of confidence and know-how that seems to be born in some of the women I know. Where they effortlessly maneuver a newborn, I have been known to nervously and reluctantly cradle the tiny fragile beings while frantically searching for a chair for reinforcement.

Where they are organized with supplies and informed on the latest baby products and how to use them, I over research and panic at the saturation of information before calling it quits and heading to the fridge in search of chocolate.

Almost every new mom I’ve seen lately makes new motherhood look effortless and beautiful while in the back of my mind I try to shut off the images of me and this baby flailing and struggling in a world that I’m scrambling to domesticate in time for her arrival.


I do not have swept floors.

I do not have a meal plan.

I do not have a stocked and organized pantry or a house put together and void of sawdust.

I am most comfortable in the dirt and the wind and out from under a roof.

But I know I can love this baby, even though I haven’t been convinced I’ll instinctively know how to swaddle it, bathe it, feed it and carry it around like a fifth limb while I fold laundry, do dishes, cook a gourmet meal or feed the horses.


But my uncertainty doesn’t scare me as much anymore. Not now that I spent a day surrounded by women who I can call upon to give me advice or direction when I need it. Not now that I’ve started to create this space in my home for this new life.

Not with my mom down the road, a drawer full of tiny baby socks, a room almost ready and a plan to be myself and do my very best by this kid.

Because I might not know what I’m doing quite yet, but I like a project…and this is the biggest project of my life.

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News from the bump-front…

So here’s an update.

It’s October 29th. My due date is in exactly one month. November 29th. If due dates mean anything.

This is what my office looks like.

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This is what the nursery looks like.

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This is what my belly looks like.

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And my head? Well, if you could look inside it it would likely look a lot like that office…

Husband has decided that this is the month he will get a cold and start snoring like a sawmill for the first time in his life. My dogs have become possessed and have started a nightly 2 am eerie howling serenade and I’m up every two hours on the dot, thinking, each time, I’ve slept through the night, cursing whatever food I last ate that is coming back to haunt me, swearing to never eat again and enjoying all of the new nightlife noises.

At least I’ll be nice and regulated for the upcoming nightly feedings.

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Anyway, this Saturday my neighborhood friends, my sisters and my mom are throwing me a shower. My gramma and two of my favorite aunts are coming to celebrate. I heard there’s going to be waffles.

I can’t believe I’m attending a baby shower that’s actually for us.

I can’t believe there’s a crib waiting to be assembled on the floor of the room that used to be full of my guitars, computer, paperwork, CDs, notebooks…

I can’t believe I’ve grown an actual human being in my belly long enough that it’s almost ready to make a debut into this world where it can maybe try kicking and punching his father instead of my bladder…

I can’t believe we’re not even remotely ready for this.

And I can’t believe how much love and support we’ve received from my readers and the community on this next phase in our lives. I didn’t realize how much joy and wonder the sight of a pregnant lady walking down the street can bring to some people. It’s almost electrifying the way they light up in the presence of a giant baby bump.

“When’s your due date?” “Boy or Girl?” “How you feeling?” “How exciting!” “You’ll do great.”

Aside from the random man at a small town gas station poking my belly (like sorta hard) and slurring “There’s a baby in there…” I haven’t had many of those awkward ‘being pregnant in public’ encounters.

Want to touch my belly? Go right ahead. I don’t feel like it’s really a part of my actual body anyway. Really, this whole pregnancy has been like an out-of-body-experience.

Last week I was standing in line at the post office and happened to wind up next to one of my friends who asked me some questions, gave me some advice and made a guess about whether or not I’m cooking up a boy or a girl.

“Girl for sure!” said the woman standing behind me. “Look at the way you’re carrying. I’m never wrong. Girl all the way.”

“Yup. I think girl too,” said the other woman I don’t know addressing envelopes at the counter. “I am pretty spot on on these things.”

“Girl!” Chimed in the third woman, and the long line behind me perked up with their own thoughts and predictions and there we were, strangers making small talk over the mystery of this bump I’ve been carrying around for months.

“Girl. Seriously,” said the woman behind me again. “Really,” she said turning around to the next lady in line. “I am NEVER wrong.”

So I guess we’re having a girl then.


Yes, I’ve entered the time in my pregnancy that I’ve become a walking (waddling) spectacle. My husband has taken to calling me Gru from Despicable Me…you know, because as he explains, “Tiny legs. Big Belly.”



He’s also been known to make a few unwelcome comments about the new size of my underwear because, well, I guess he gets a thrill out of poking the bear.

But he’s not the only one who loses his cool around me.

My Little Sister doesn’t even look at my face anymore. Nope. She just comes straight for the belly with her hands outstretched.

And my mom just sees me, giggles and wonders out loud how I’m fitting into my clothes.

No, she hasn’t become any softer since this comment months ago…

But being a spectacle does have its perks. This week I took an impromptu trip to Menards to satisfy this whole nesting thing that I thought was a myth and the Menards guy loaded up all my lumber onto the cart and another one shrink wrapped it, loaded into the pickup in the pouring rain and sent me on my way, no questions asked.

Didn’t even have to lift a finger really…

That never happens when I bring my husband along to the lumber yard.

And so there you have it. The baby brewing news. According to the pregnancy tracking app. I downloaded I’m only going to become more of a spectacle, but in the meantime I hope this mess I’m living in will look more like progress. If you need me I’ll be doing random things like organizing my kitchen cabinets and scrubbing down the walls and wondering if I’ve gone completely insane because I am actually enjoying it.

The countdown is on! What’s your guess? Girl or boy?

Peace, love and holy shit only 30 days left,

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Sunday Column: Raising a new generation in a familiar place

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This is a photo of my best friend (the tiny little blonde thing) and me sitting on her dad’s lap when we were just babies.

This was likely taken in my parents’ little trailer where they first lived on the ranch when they got married.

I think we still have that rocking chair.

I spent my entire childhood with that little blonde girl who lived up the hill along the highway on the place where her dad was raised. We had plenty of adventures and we were lucky to have each other out here growing up in the middle of nowhere. I guarantee having her in my life went a long ways in the ‘happy childhood memories’ department.

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We used to plan on how we would grow up, have some adventures and move back to our ranches and be neighbors forever.

Who would have thought that the best laid plans of ten year old girls would wind up coming together twenty years later.

It’s a story that doesn’t get told much out here in Western North Dakota where the focus is on Boomtown and oil and all the trouble and sacrifice and nervousness it creates.

There is that. Some of that.

And then there is the fact that I would never be here, on my family’s 100 year old ranch, living down the road from my childhood best friend who was out helping our dads work cattle last Friday just like the old days, one or two of her four kids in tow, if it wasn’t for an economy that could support us building houses and making lives and carrying on traditions out here on our family farms.

When I graduated from high school in 2001, the porch lights along the gravel roads that connected us to town, were going out one by one.

Now they are turning on by the dozens, fourth and fifth generations getting a chance to be involved in the family business, or, like many of our friends, taking advantage of the opportunity to return home to a place they were raised and raise their own children.

Take this picture for example. This is a photo of my husband and some of his closest friends at our senior prom fourteen years ago (gasp!).


At a time when our hometown and home state were dealing with outmigration and we were told to get out of here, go get an education, move to Minneapolis or Chicago and start a life, make something of yourself, it’s interesting to note that of the six young men in this photo, all six of them have moved back to western North Dakota to raise their families.

Three of them are back on family ranches and one of them is in a beautiful house outside of our hometown raising three boys.

These guys, for all the wild shit they survived in their teenage years, grew up to own successful businesses, build houses and hold and be promoted in professional jobs. One of them is even a teacher and a coach. And between them all they are raising (or will be raising, if you count our little one coming along) fourteen kids out here in Western North Dakota…a place that seemed to once be on the verge of extinction.

Now, when I look around at events happening in town, basketball games, figure skating shows, dances on Main Street, I see about a hundred more stories of hometown kids coming back to make a life in a familiar place that is growing and busting at the seams.

A place they help make better by volunteering to coach 2nd grade football or, like my best friend up the road, help run the gymnastics program. Because their memories of this place motivate them to make sure they’re making good memories for their own children.

A few weekends ago I went up to have supper at my best friend’s beautiful house up the road. She invited some of our other friends to join us, and they all brought their kids and we ate meatballs and gravy and it occurred to me how unique of a situation we’ve found ourselves in…knowing each other’s history, loving each other from the time of fanny packs and biker shorts, and getting the opportunity to raise our own children together.

So that’s what this week’s column is about. Generations having the opportunity to build lives out here.

Who would have thought?

Coming Home: Newfound hope means we’re raising kids with our old classmates
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

On top of the hill across from the golf course, my hometown is busy building a brand-new, beautiful high school.

Plans have been in the works for a few years as our student population continues to grow, forcing classes to be held in portable rooms even after a recent elementary school renovation. 

Even during these times of lower oil prices.

It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true. The kindergarten class this year registered well into a hundred students, and in a matter of six or so years, we have not only exploded in population from 1,200 residents to closer to 10,000, but we’ve turned from an aging community into a young one.

Last weekend, my best friend — the neighbor girl who used to meet at the top of the hill so we could ride our bikes along the centerline of the highway — called us to come over for supper. A few years ago she and her husband, my classmate, built a beautiful house on her family’s ranch, fulfilling the plans we made when we were kids jumping from hay bale to hay bale to “grow up, get jobs and be neighbors forever.”

So I grabbed a bottle of wine (because someone should be drinking this wine) and headed up the hill to her house where she’s raising four kids, the youngest a son who will be only six months older than our baby on the way.

Lord help us all if this baby is a boy, too.

Anyway, that night we gathered for meatballs and gravy to catch up with a house full of friends. I looked around the kitchen, listened to the guys talk sports and bounce new babies and realized that every single one of those five grown men grew up together. And there were more of them, quite a few more of them, who couldn’t make it to the party.

And while it’s not a surprise (more than half of the classmates who attended our 10-year high school reunion had either moved back home or were making plans to move), it was fun to take a look around and think about the next chapter in our lives as friends in a town they told us no one could come home to.

But look how wrong we can be about predicting the future. One of my husband’s best friends — the one who lived right down the block and was in on more than a few paint ball and principal office shenanigans with him — held his newborn son at the table. That friend was my locker buddy, and his dad was locker buddies with my dad, and it just occurred to me that the baby boy he was bouncing could very likely be locker buddies with our baby, too.

(Would it be more or less trouble if our baby is a girl?)

And there are quite a few stories like this in my hometown these days, not just among our small class of 40 or so, but among other classes here as well. Best friends from childhood raising families alongside one another, taking turns driving kids to football or gymnastics, meeting up to barbecue, to sit and visit with a sort of ease and familiarity that comes with knowing one another when we wore our pants too baggy and drove too fast.

Who would have known? When I left home almost 15 years ago, the porch lights on the farmhouses were going out one by one. This landscape was so much darker without any real hope of new and younger hands to flip the switch back on.

And nothing was going to make it any different except a change in the makeup of this place that would make it so we wouldn’t have to struggle the way our parents did.

Around the supper table that evening there wasn’t a person raised here who didn’t respect and love it in their own way. But just because we’re connected by the land doesn’t necessarily mean that we would naturally remain connected to one another.

Except in this case it is enough, to find this place worthy of returning to and planting new seeds, a new generation raised in a familiar, changing and unpredictable place.

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.

photo from

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: 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.


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.

photo (2)

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.

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.

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