Christmas Card Rejects.

It’s that time of year again.

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Time to roll out the holly, fill your cup up with egg nog, bake something and send out the Christmas Cards!

Now, we’ve talked about our card already here, about how, regardless of our small little family, I chose a photo of Husband and I sitting on a cooler at a music festival after a few drinks and a few hours in the sun and dust.

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I think it’s festive in its own way, you know, minus the roaring fire, twinkling tree and coordinating Christmas sweaters.

It will do just fine I think. It has to.

Because it was our only choice.

I’ve mentioned this before, a few years back, that each time the holidays roll around I’m faced with the dilemma of finding a suitable photo of my Husband and I that doesn’t make our friends and family concerned for 1) Our Relationship and 2) Our Mental Health.

It’s a tough task.

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And after spending the last few years traipsing around the countryside photographing beautiful families and beautiful couples and sending them off into the holidays armed with at least one or two catalog worthy shots, I have yet to coordinate my own JCrew photo shoot for me and my man.

We are not photogenic.

We are awkward.

And this is our catalog…

IMG_2733Merry Christmas (and no, our house still isn’t done)

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Happy Holidays from my nose and his beard

DSCN6339Warm wishes from Florida. We’re not tourists. And no, this isn’t Husband’s first time to Disney World, no matter what the button on his polo says. 

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Celebrate! The Dweebs have been released from the ranch!

IMG_2434 Happy Festivus…IMG_2510 No,no, we haven’t been drinking.  

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Aww, cute, we should cuddle up in front of the tree…take off your cap and act like you like me…
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Nevermind, put it back on…
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Uhhh, Happy New Year?

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Good tidings from the Scofields…and the creepy guy behind us…

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Sweet dance moves…
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Sweet dance moves…
  IMG_6143An attempt before…IMG_6258  It all went horribly wrong…(and I’m not just talking about my hair)

IMG_9481Do we love each other? Yes. Are we having fun? Of course. 
Does it look like it? No. No it does not.

IMG_8243Aww anyway…IMG_8244 Here’s to good cheer. 

Happy Happy Christmas Card Season One and All!
Hope the catalog of your beautiful life has more options than ours.

Peace, Love and awkward family photos,
Jessie & Chad

(Oh, and the dogs too)

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Holidays: How they hold us and haunt us

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Last weekend marked the end of deer rifle season here in North Dakota. My uncle from Texas arrived in the middle of the week with his son-in-law and nephew, Pops took some time off, Husband willed Saturday to come quicker and the entire Veeder Ranch turned into a hunting camp, just like it does every year at this time.

Boots dripping with melted snow were strewn in my parent’s entryway, a combination of camouflage, hunter-orange, fleece, wool and leather piled up on the chairs. Men were up and out with the sun sitting on hilltops and sneaking through draws.

When our Texas Uncle comes to the ranch it’s like an extended holiday around here. We all sort of hang up our evening plans and get together around mom’s table while Pops fries up fish or beef or, if there was some success that day, venison.

Ever since I was a little girl, and as long as I’ve lived in this place, this is the way it’s been.

Most years I go out with them on the hunt at least once. Because there’s something about being out with the boys who grew up here, my dad and his brother, together walking the draws they know so well, sitting quietly on the hilltops taking in the familiar view of their childhood, doing what they’ve always done, that’s always been comforting to me.

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Since we almost lost dad early this year, each tradition spent since his recovery has been regarded as a gift and a little more precious than it was before.

I seem to be seeing the world more that way lately.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches I imagine it’s timely to be so grateful for second chances, for family, for walking behind my husband on a warm early winter evening, keeping quiet while he carries his bow, turns around and smiles, waving me along.

It’s never been difficult for me to be grateful for these things.

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But never in my life have I seen the world and the people in it as fragile as I see them these days.

Never have I been more aware of time and what it means for us.

And as much as I’m grateful for all of the things that fill this life of ours, during the holidays especially, I become the most aware of what we don’t have.

And who or what others are mourning.

Because what we don’t have, who we are missing, sits like a silent ache in the quiet corners of our houses.

IMG_9778Yesterday I sat down to make a Christmas Card and for the first time in my life I felt sort of silly about the whole thing.

“Who the hell wants a picture of just the two of us?” I said out loud to my husband looking over my shoulder. “Christmas Cards are for people with kids, and grandkids, so their families can see how cute they are. How much they’ve grown. We just keep getting older. This feels pathetic.”

It wasn’t sadness coming out of my mouth, but frustration. Frustration that the life I was in was perfectly good and that I should be perfectly grateful, but I couldn’t will myself to be those things at the moment, not even in the name of the holiday spirit.

All I could muster up was annoyance and a sort of anger that other people have family photos taken for the occasion, snuggling into one another on a blanket or in front of a fireplace, birth announcements for Christmas cards, big extended family shots with grandkids on Santa’s lap, and all I could scrounge up from our archives was a photo of us sitting on a cooler at a music festival drinking beer.

It was a moment of pure envy. Pure poor me. It was ugly. (Others have lost more. Others have less to lose. Others suffer more than we can comprehend.)

And it sort of scared me.

Because I love that photo of us sitting on a cooler at a music festival drinking beer.

I love that we have a life full of those sorts of photo opportunities. I am proud that despite all of our losses we are still trying, but most of all, we’re still living a fun life, striving for fulfillment. Holding on to one another. Laughing.

We have other dreams, dreams that don’t fill the empty void of a family we feel as incomplete, but dreams nonetheless.

We’re ok really. Most days we’re just fine.

But how do you portray this when picking out a Christmas card? The templates available to us are smattered with children frolicking in the snow, “Joy to the World” in big bold letters across their footprints.

Staring at the photo of my husband and me, in our early 30s, sun kissed and smiling despite seven years of trying and failing at creating one of those Christmas Card Template families, all I could see were our friends and family, the ones who know of our struggles, opening the card and shaking their heads.

“Poor Jessie and Chad,” they would think to themselves.

“Joy to the World” didn’t feel appropriate then.

And neither did anything with the words “Merry” or “Bright.”

But it was all bullshit. Justified bullshit, but bullshit still, and I knew it.

So did my husband.

He said, “You’re sending these to people who love us. My grandma. Your grandparents. Aunts and uncles. Our friends. They love to get mail. They will love to have a photo of us and I like this one.”

“I like this one too,” I said and carried on.

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If I learned anything this year it’s that we don’t know what the hell is going to happen. I’ve been walking through 2014 with that sucked so close to my chest that some days I can’t breathe.

But as the year progressed, as summer came shining down on our shoulders, when my little sister got engaged, as I watched my nephew turn 4, working on growing up into a cool little person, I watched my dad get better, stronger, more himself, the worry release from my mom’s face, I realized that not knowing how this is all going to turn isn’t all scary.

But sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s sad. And always it makes the holidays a little bit shaky for us. Because being so damn grateful and so damn frustrated and so damn happy and so damn worried at the same time is confusing and emotional, especially when it comes to cutting down and decorating Christmas trees and making sugar cookies alone together in this house.

Yes, traditions can hold us together as much as they can haunt us.

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I guess that’s what I’m trying to say here. That some of us celebrate as much as we mourn during this time of year. I say some of us. But maybe it’s all of us. And that’s ok.

I imagine my dad and his brother walking across these pastures where they were raised, and I doubt they take many steps before they think about their father and how he taught them to shoot their first rifle, how he was with them when they got their first big buck, two grown men, two grandfathers, just missing their dad.

I look at my husband looking back at me, waving me along the trail out there on our own hunt, I feel him standing behind me in the kitchen, I watch him cutting down another tree to stand in our house for the season and I know we can do it. We can be sad and we can be happy. Scared and hopeful as hell.

And we can sit together on that cooler under the hot summer sun, a little tipsy from one too many, smiling eyes under sunglasses in the face of a good and unpredictable life and we can be so frustrated and so thankful and so much of all of the heartache and happiness that sits in our bones under that skin that makes up the arms we have around each other and we can put it on our Christmas card, and despite all that we think we don’t have that we should, we can write “Joy to the World” if we want to.

But I don’t think I want to.

This year, I think I’ll just pick “Peace.”

Winter

Sunday Column: Winter and heavy whipping cream…

IMG_9739Out here, in this season, snow comes and goes quickly. We froze our butts off early last week, only to be welcomed by a thaw at the end of it, followed by 30 mph winds that blew the snow sideways on Sunday.

Coincidently this is also the day we chose to clean out the shop and our basement, sending me winging boxes of unusable crap into the garbage pit only to have it all fly back into my face…like three of four times…before I decided to approach the whole chore from the opposite direction. You know, wind at my back…always the right choice.

A choice made after almost the entire contents in the back of the pickup blew out across the prairie on my way to the dump, sending me flailing after it.

A choice made after the old pickup without a parking brake nearly rolled into said garbage pit while my back was turned, you know, flinging things.

Winter. Some days you’re such a bitch.

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Oh, but we have ways of coping around here.

Because when the season of snow-pelting-you-so-hard-in-the-eyeballs-they-threaten-to- freeze-shut is upon us, we strip off our forty-seven layers and head to the kitchen to whip up something warm, preferably with noodles and heavy whipping cream.

Yes, if we have to have winter, at least we have heavy whipping cream to get us through.

IMG_9779So that’s what this week’s column is about. It’s about the recipes Husband and I concoct in our little kitchen to pass the time on long winter nights.

Coming Home: Bring on the heavy cream, butter and winter weather
by Jessie Veeder
11-23-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

IMG_2906And I realize that the holiday season is just starting, and we have a trip to Cabo in the works to help ring in the new year, so really, I should just take it easy and have a salad for gawd sake, but for some reason the thought of squeezing my pasty white squishy body in a bathing suit in a month or so is not scary enough to keep me from a second helping of Husband’s famous cream noodles.

Yes. You read it up there. Homemade noodles fried and smothered in cream.

There’s that. And then there’s the two giant pots of knoephla soup mom and I cooked up for the crew of hunters/family this weekend. And yes, it was me who convinced her to add another pot.

Because you can’t have enough creamy soup. You can’t have too much! You can always save it and have it for lunch every day until Christmas!

Want to see how it’s done? I show ya here:
Cowboy Cooks Knoephla

And don’t even get me started on the traditional holiday cheese ball I’ll be concocting on Thursday…

Or the fact that all I want for breakfast for the rest of my life is a caramel roll followed by a donut washed down with seven cups of coffee.

Because it’s winter and I’m ssstttaarrrvvinnnggg.

It’s winter and my primal instincts are kicking in.

“Stock up, stock up, stock up…” they whisper. “You don’t know where your next meal is coming from.”

And I believe the voices. Even though I do.

I do know where my next meal is coming from.

It’s coming from my refrigerator and from the imagination of the man with deep German immigrant roots who can make anything with enough butter, flour, cream, potatoes and a side of pork.

Ugh, I’m so hungry. I can’t wait until 6:00.

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Sunday Column: My husband, the seamstress…

So I found this photo in the archives last week and I realized I never told you all about the red velvet pants.

Yes. These red velvet pants.

IMG_20141020_0001So here we are. Husband and I, celebrating our birthdays in the beginning of our senior year. I just turned 17. Him, the big 1-8.

Now there is about a million things to say about this photo. Like, there was once a time when it was cool for an entire football team to take bleach to their hair in honor of some sort of brotherhood camaraderie.

So there’s that.

But I think that the pants are really the star distraction of the show.

The pants, my eyebrows and the unbelievably proud expression on my high school boyfriend’s face as he squeezes me tight…

Why is he so proud you ask?

Because my friends, the young man just spent his hard earned cash from working on the county road crew in the summer on the perfect fabric and a week behind his mother’s sewing machine, whipping up these beauties for the girl he loved…

Yup. And I had just opened the homemade gift in front of about a dozen of our best friends. And now I am modeling them, crooked butt seam and all.

It’s a beautiful thing, young love.

And the pants? Well, I realize now they were just a little foreshadowing into my life spent with this man, if I chose to stick around to see what sort of project came next with him.

Turns out there were plenty…

And I have a hunch there’s plenty more to come.

Coming Home: Some gifts just can’t be bought
by Jessie Veeder
10-19-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

 

Sunday Column: The kids and the quiet

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Yesterday Husband and I spent the last hours of daylight out here on the ranch putting up a fence to contain our yard and keep the cows out of our attempt to grow some grass for crying out loud.

We plotted and pointed, making plans for how big we wanted the space, how much we wanted to attempt to mow and contain.

It was just the two of us out there of course, but just like the other plans we’ve made for this colossal house project we embarked upon a few years ago, I couldn’t help but visualize the kids who might roll around in that grass someday, staining the knees of their jeans.

Husband, to make a point, stepped in the middle of the yard, grabbed an imaginary football and threw it across the imaginary grass.

“We want to make sure that there’s enough room here to throw a football,” he said.

I smiled and said “you’re right,” and then we were quiet for a beat or so, just long enough to let hope in before our hearts broke for the thirteen-millionth time in our lives.

We have a good life. We’re building one out here with passion and optimism for a nice little future, one that we always thought would include children.

And on a ranch, kept together solely because of and for the sake of the generations, my husband and I walk with the silent urgency of creating the next.

I will tell you there is no quiet like the quiet of hopes not yet realized.

Coming Home: Sharing home with the next generation
by Jessie Veeder
10-12-14
Forum Communications

I write a weekly column for North Dakota newspapers. Look for “Coming Home” Sundays in the Fargo Forum, and weekly in the Dickinson Press, Grand Forks Herald and Bismarck Tribune. Want my column in your newspaper? Let me know and I’ll help you make it happen!

Sunday Column: My sister, the coach…

And now I give you one of the most embarrassing photos of myself on file.

IMG_20141006_0001Here I am. Twelve years old. Fresh into my seventh grade year, first year out of country school. First year in a real sport. Trying my hand at volleyball, but apparently not trying my hand at ironing my wrinkled shorts that are pulled up way beyond my bellybutton, barely able to contain the size Large shirt I was given.

Where are my arms?

I don’t know.

Where are my braces?

Coming next year.

Where was my talent for sending a ball over the net, at least once or twice a game?

Non existent.

But you can’t blame me for trying. Growing up is all about finding out what you like and what you’re good at, and unfortunately, sometimes, they don’t go hand in hand.

For example, I liked wearing leotards…

Why? Wwwwhhhhhyyyyy?

Why? Wwwwhhhhhyyyyy?

But I was no good at dancing.

You know who was?

That little California Raisin doing jazz hands to the left of me.

Yup, Big Sister was made to dance, as you can tell….

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Thirty-some years later and she looks exactly the same…think she even still has those pants… could probably fit into them…

My spandex leotards, as you can see from the photographic evidence provided, didn’t stand a chance on me the first go ’round.

Yeah, the right sister is the dancer.

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Because it turns out me, my long, gangly, noodle arms, lack of coordination or control over those limbs, my fear of floor-burning my entire body and my nonexistent competitive nature didn’t magically combine to create a phenomenal athlete.

But rest assured the athleticism in our family didn’t start and end with those jazz shoes. Because along came Little Sister.

There she is down there on my right, strangling our momma dog in a mischievous love embrace, hair wild, planning her next move…

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And her next move was to get straight A’s, make sure everyone is being nice to everyone else, practice dribbling and shooting the basketball on the only slab of concrete on the entire ranch, make varsity and head to state basketball…then do it all over again during volleyball season.

IMG_20141006_0004Always working, always making plans that one.

Anyway, this year Little Sister, all grown up now, is at the beginning of her first year as a guidance counselor in our hometown’s elementary school and at the end of her first season as a junior high volleyball coach.

So last week Big Sister, Mom and I headed to the school, bought some popcorn at the concessions and went to watch her work and cheer on her team of Wolves.

And then I had a flashback…

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*cringe*

Anyway, it was quite a proud moment for us and one we hadn’t seen on that woman since her days of hitting free throws and playing mean defense in high school.

We watch Big Sister put on dance recitals and my family comes to my concerts, but we haven’t had a chance to be spectators in Little Sister’s work life for years.

And she was good at it. So positive and encouraging. So adorable and official with her clipboard under her arm. I couldn’t help but think, watching those skinny seventh grade girls hit the ball back and forth over the net, that if I were them, I would have loved her as my coach…

We were so proud.

So that’s what I said here in my column this week. I wrote about why it matters in our town now, the town that’s bursting at the seams…why it matters that someone like Little Sister would find her calling here, chose to come back home with a big wide world out there ripe for the picking. The same big wide world that seems to be making their way here too, with their hopes and their plans and their volleyball playing children…

Coming Home: Little sis shaping kids’ future one volleyball game at a time
by Jessie Veeder
10-5 -14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Coming Home, my weekly columns, appear in newspapers across the state, including the Fargo Forum, Bismarck Tribune, Dickinson Press and Grand Forks Herald.

“Cow Dog,” defined

Pudge

You all know this about me, but I grew up with dogs who slept in barns and garages, on hay bales and under heat lamps. They were the first to go into the brush after a wayward, ornery bull and the first to be there to lick your face and give you a nudge when you fell of your bike and skinned your knee.

They were cow dogs. Working dogs. Partners.

They chased field mice, got in fights with raccoons, rolled in cow poop, howled with the coyotes and rode in the back of pickups.

Dogs

In various stages of my life out here we had a border collie, a blue heeler, a kelpie, an Australian shepherd and mix of a few.

This place is hard on dogs it’s wild and dangerous and full of just the kind of trouble that makes life worth living of dogs like these, so, unfortunately, some of our beloved canines, due to snake bite or bull fight, didn’t make it to old age. 

But regardless, I am almost certain they had the best lives for them out here. They were made for this place, as tough as the ground they run across.

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As a kid I knew inside dogs existed, I just didn’t know anyone who had one. I knew there were dogs who wore sweaters and had their own place on couches, but, it was like how I knew a million dollars existed somewhere, it knew it was true, I’d just never seen it.

In a few weeks, Husband and I are going to bring home our first real cow dog. I am so excited I’m counting down the days.

Here he is on the bottom, left side of the pile.

I’d tell you his name, but, well, last night we had a lengthy discussion on that topic that I won’t get into, but it got pretty heated. Good thing we have a some time to get this all worked out.

Anyway, I was thinking about this little guy and how he’s going to change the make-up of this place. And how his makeup: border collie, heeler, kelpie, Australian shepherd and Catahoula, is the make-up of all of the best cow dogs a girl could ever ask for…

And how he’s the same animal as that big brown dog laying out in the garage, snoring away a rainy October day, but how they might as well be a different species.

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The biggest difference? With a cow dog in the family standing guard in the yard, a herd of cattle will find it pretty hard to stand and chew cud on my new concrete patio.

Because labs, frankly, don’t give a shit.

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And I need something out here to give a shit.

I need my little cow dog.

I can’t wait!

So in honor of Throwback Thursday I found this little gem: a declaration I made when I was 8 or so that used to hang on my grandmother’s fridge, ready to tug at the heart strings of all of the ranchers stopping by for coffee with a blue heeler-cross waiting for him in the bed of his feed pickup…and, well, to put the wayward city slicker in his place…

Country dog:city dogAs you can see, I was pretty passionate…

I promise to never put you in a sweater little guy.

But you might have a place on the couch…just for a little while…

 

A full life, a full freezer…

Heeeyyyyaaaa!!! It’s FRRIIIDDDAAYYY!

IMG_5109It’s been an exciting week at the ranch, beginning with this:

IMG_5538No, that’s not Ted Nugent, that there is my handsome, bearded husband with the bull elk he called in and shot with his bow in our favorite pasture.

Drawing an elk tag in North Dakota is a once in a lifetime experience, and being able to successfully harvest one in your own backyard with a bow and arrow is really a rare event.

To say I am proud is not quite enough. What I am is so completely thrilled for this guy, because in the past few months I have watched him immerse himself in a passion he has pushed aside for work and family and building us a house out here. And while all of those things are the responsible choices  people like him make, to see him take a breath and just be the man he is is just, well, better and more important than that fencing-the-yard-in-so-we-can-have-grass project…

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Because he’s been scouting the animals for months, watching bulls like this chase each other around the hills, vying for the attention of the cows, getting themselves all worked up and crazy and quite the sight to see.

IMG_5458He’s sat and watched patiently. He has gathered the right equipment and practiced shooting his bow every night.

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He knows what it means to take the life of a majestic beast that we admire so much off of our place. He understands the responsibility of it and he takes it seriously. And he took his shot quietly and alone and then called in reinforcements to get this animal home to be properly butchered, removing the hide to be tanned for leather, the horns for mounting on our wall and the meat to fill our deep freeze and our bellies for many months to come.

So that’s what we’ve been doing this week, ending our days by cutting and wrapping meat and answering phone calls from our excited sportsman friends and relatives looking for Husband to re-hash the story from the big hunt…because that’s part of it, the sharing of stories…

Oh, but we did take a break to take a drive to meet the newest member of our family who was born a week or so ago.

Be still my heart, I cannot wait to get this smooshy little creature home! And apparently I couldn’t shut up about it so Husband loaded me up in the pickup and took me for a drive to have a snuggle with him.

Four more weeks and counting. Hondo, get ready…you’re gonna love him I’m sure.

With all these distractions it goes without saying that there is enough dirt on my floor to plant carrots and laundry piled up in places where underwear shouldn’t be. Right now I am procrastinating working on making a dent in the dust an dirty shirts and then I’ll sit down and work on new music, getting ready to record a new album, sorting through songs like sorting through socks, matching up melodies and stories and rhymes.

There’s so much to do and the weather is hot, tricking us all into thinking that summer might linger like this good week we’ve had out here in our little piece of paradise.

Here’s to a beautiful weekend, full freezers and full bellies!

Peace, puppies and elk steak,

Jessie

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Sunday Column: My village…

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A few weeks ago one of our neighbor girls got married at a church in our hometown.

I remember when she was born, when she was wobbly, and chubby and learning to walk in that little farm house up the road. A little toe-headed spit fire of a girl I was certain would never grow up.

My sister and I photographed the wedding, behind the camera doing our best to capture personalities and memories and people just loving each other, laughing and having fun.

Here we are, demonstrating...

Here we are, demonstrating…

When you’re behind the camera you get to be a sort of quiet observer, sometimes chiming in to direct a look one way or the other, but mostly you’re just there to see what happens.

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What happened for me was a rush of gratitude for the people who raised us, my blonde neighbor girls and brunette Veeder girls down the road. Gratitude that after all these years we still come together to celebrate.

Gratitude that it takes a village…and grateful that our village just keeps growing…


Coming Home: Our village grows with us
by Jessie Veeder
9-21-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com IMG_9017

Jessie Veeder LIVE Webcast Concert Tonight!

Pops and I have been singing together for a long time…

Like, since my forever….

Like, since these pants, and that scrunchie, were in style…

Tonight I have been given a cool opportunity to webcast a concert LIVE from my living room at the ranch, and I’d love for you to be there.

Pops will be. He’ll be playing harmonica.

And it’ll just be like every other evening we get together to sing, except you’ll be watching us, sending in requests and I will probably fix my hair and change out of the horse slobbery sweater I’ve been wearing every night this week.

Jessie Veeder at Riverbound FarmsI hope you’ll tune in. It’s easy and it’s free and it will be fun (providing my internet holds up:).

Jessie Veeder LIVE webcast via Concert Window
10 PM CST
Visit the link below to watch and chat with us!
https://www.concertwindow.com/shows/8829-jessie-veeder

See ya on the Interweb! 

Jessie-Tim Frenz