Between “I do” and “death parts us”

It all starts with the best of intentions. Most clean-up, housekeeping, get-some-shit-done-around-here tasks do. Unfortunately, most of my clean-up, housekeeping tasks also end with me questioning the meaning of life, love and why I don’t just live by myself in a tiny fort made of logs by the creek like I planned when I was ten years old.

Because inside our houses, the ones we share with the people we promised to have and hold ’till death do us part, there lies unexpected secrets, secrets just waiting to jump out at us when our guard is down, when we’re comfortable and on task and thinking that this time we might have it under control.

Our poop in a group.

Our shit together.

But no. Those secrets remind us that marriage is not always the blissed-out, romantic, snuggle, love fest those ridiculous bridal magazines told us it would be.

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, melty, mushy, cloudy, curdled water and you, in your attempt at the whole “getting our shit together” thing,  has the privilege of being the one to get the first whiff.

And because it’s wedding season and the two of us had just returned from a lovely one in Minnesota, complete with mason jars and lilacs, heirloom dresses and lights strung across the beams of an old barn, I was feeling sort of romantic about the whole idea of the two of us living out our lives here in the country, quietly and easily, just like we had planned.

Perfectly planned weddings will do that to you…you know, create delusions.

But nothing says love like pulling on your muck boots, turning on the hose and testing how long you can hold your breath as you dispose of your dearly-beloved’s moldy concoction and spray down the inside of a rotten cooler, gagging and gasping when you inevitably have to take in air.

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.

Anyway, after I returned from the dump, I trudged inside to grab a beer from the fridge and sit on the back deck to contemplate the meaning of life and the consequences of actually living by myself in that little fort by the creek.

I took a sip and listened as the birds chirped and frogs croaked at the dam below the house and thought that some days, on hot days like these, I think I would be ok with being a frog–cool water, an abundance of flies, no worries about what outfit to wear to a quaint Minnesota wedding and definitely no three-week-old egg bake clean up surprise.

There isn’t mention of three-week-old egg bake cooler clean up surprises in any marriage vows I’ve ever heard.

Which got me thinking, when it comes to starting a life together, no one really talks about stuff like that. I’m not just talking about the annoying and surprising things, but the things that come with sharing a house, and plans, and dinner and dogs and babies and landscaping/housebuilding projects together.

The real things.

Because hopefully here is a lot of life in between those “I do’s” and the whole “death parting us” thing. That’s what I was thinking when the bride took the groom’s hand last weekend and made promises to him. I thought of all of the things that couple has been through together to get to this point.

And then I thought of what almost 8 years of marriage has looked like for us and I realized that not too often has it looked as lovely as that day we were in with the beautiful couple before us. Not even on our own wedding day, you know, the one out in the middle of the cow pasture complete with cow herd crashing, a random drunk guy trying his damnedest to spill booze on the pastor and the groomsman nearly plummeting to his death out the door of a moving RV…

Wedding Tree

Let’s just say there have been more “tragic egg bake style incidents” than I planned on. But I should have known. Just because I got married doesn’t mean the two of us (or our luck) changed. No. We just became a combined force of mistakes and small tragedies, goofiness and bad ideas, opinions and forgetfulness and big plans in the works.

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

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 and take a detour every day before and after work looking for your missing dog, not because he particularly likes him, but because you do. And that sort of quiet gesture makes up ten-fold for the stinky socks. And the late to dinner thing.

But forget the even score, because from what I’ve learned in eight years of marriage, there is no even score.  He will work late. You will drink too much with your girlfriends the night before and ruin the plans he made for leaving early on a fishing trip. He will take out the garbage and you will forget to get groceries until you’re both eating saltines and wondering  when the new Chinese food restaurant will start delivering to the ranch. You will unload the dishwasher, he will never remember where you put the spatulas. You will be thankful you married a man who uses a spatula.

No, the chores will never be equal because life might be a balancing act, but it sure as shit is never balanced (except when it comes to dog puke on the floor. In that instance, you will keep score). But that’s ok. That’s why you’ve got each other.

Because life is so annoying sometimes, and sometimes it’s his fault. Sometimes it’s mine. But I tell you what’s also annoying, that damn 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 winter blizzard, proving that regardless of our shortcomings, life is easier with him around.

I hope he could say the same for me, regardless of the inevitable mess I make in the kitchen when I actually attempt to make a meal or the hundreds of bobby pins I leave laying around the house, driving him crazy. I think at the end of the day that’s what we really want out of this crazy love/union that we all enter into blindly knowing that it just has to work out.

It just has to work out. That’s something isn’t it? As if the whole working out thing happens on its own because we love will make it so.

Now I’m no expert here (if you want experts, ask my grandparents. They will be married for 60 years this September) but here is what I know. Love will never make you agree on the arrangement of the furniture, but love goes a long way in laughing it off when he backs into your car in the morning and forgets to tell you, leaving you to wonder all day when you might have had a car accident you can’t remember.

Love will not make him throw away that ratty State Wrestling t-shirt, but it will make you change out of your favorite sweatpants, the ones he loathes, every once in a while, you know, on special nights.

And initially, love will send him running when he hears you scream in the other room, but there will come a time when he won’t immediately come running. No. He will wait for a followup noise to help him make the decision, because love has made the man mistake a stray spider for a bloody mangled limb too many times.

And love will laugh her ass off when he gets clotheslined by the dog on a leash, leaving him laying flat on his back on the sidewalk, the dog licking his face along a busy intersection in a mountain town while drivers yell out their windows “Hey Rollerblades!”  And love will let her tell that story at every party because, judging by her hysteric laughter, it brings her great joy.

And, just for the record, sometimes love is not patient. Sometimes it needs to get to town and she’s trying on her 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.

The same kind of human that is my husband, the husband who once told me that love, to him, means doing all that you can to make the other person happy.

“Like going to that Dixie Chicks concert with you, or running to town to get you popsicles when you don’t feel well, or hemming your choir dress in college because you failed Home Ec…”

There’s so many fancy ways to say it, but if I were to do it over again, I would put things like this in my vows. I would vow to be a combined force of mistakes and small tragedies, goofiness and bad ideas, opinions and forgetfulness and big plans in the works.

And then I would promise, no matter the mess we got ourselves into, to never run away to that log fort by the creek like I planned when I was ten years old, unless I take him with me, you know, to help build a fire…

With that boy…

It’s Saturday and the wind is howling like 50 miles per hour out there. I just spent a good five hours out in it doing the one thing that makes the most sense in 50 mile an hour wind–cleaning up and hauling construction materials out of the yard.

Half of the earth is in my ear…

The other half? In my eyeballs.

Husband and I are on the down hill slope of this home construction project. Which means, when I look around I only see about another year or seven of work left…which isn’t too bad considering we started this project three years ago with a a pretty clear idea that we will be working on this house for the rest of our lives.

But here I am on a Saturday and I can tell you this: there’s trim in the living room.

And base boards. And outlet covers.

So pretty much we’re fancy now.

Except for the air compressor in the master bedroom.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I’ve started hanging things on the walls. This is a huge step for me.

I haven’t committed to the whole wall-hanging/decorating ritual since I moved into my first apartment in college, so this is a big deal.

For those of you who are new here, I’ll refresh you. Husband and I have been married for seven years.

Six out of those seven years have involved some sort of major home/rental construction renovation project, and saw dust and tools on pretty much every surface of the house for months on end. (Oh, and scary ladder projects…)

So you see where I’m coming from.

Anyway, I don’t know why I felt compelled to sit down at the computer on a perfectly, unbearably windy Saturday at the ranch to tell you this, except that I felt like I wanted to say that, yes, the wind is blowing 50 miles per hour out there and I just stood in it for five hours next to my husband throwing boards and boxes, bent nails and shingle cuttings and pieces of plywood and house wrap and leftover pieces of our work into the back of the old green pickup that guy bought in college when we were broke as hell.

I bent down and stood up seven million times. I hauled pallets and filled buckets with tiny little squares of wood and screws. I told him I’m glad we kept this pickup. I told him that this job sucks as he threw a giant piece of plywood over a pile in the pickup box that was dangerously close to toppling over and then I got in the passenger seat as we drove to unload that dangerous pile, chasing after stray particle boards and escaped pieces of plastic flying in the tornado like winds before we went back to do another load.

And another.

And another.

He told me he wished it was summer so that when he lifted these boards he might find a salamander or two.

Salamanders are like tiny water dragons he said.

You’re a dork, I said.

And then I said I wished it was summer too.

We always wish it was summer around here.

And the job, the chore itself, it sucked. And here I am now inside the house on a Saturday night with a homemade pizza waiting to be put in the oven and a husband worn out and sorta snoring on the easy chair…

The evening is mine now.

I can do anything with it.

And I’m sorta wishing we were still out there throwing boards into the back of that green pickup.

And I don’t know why that is except that I would do anything with that boy.

I have just always wanted to do anything with that boy…

 

Sunday Column: One, two, cha cha cha…

What do you do when the longest, coldest, most bone chilling, miserable winter you can remember on the North Dakota prairie finally turns into March–a month you previously considered to contain some sort of promise of a thaw –only instead of that whole lamb thing, it slaps you in the frozen face with the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy behavior of twenty below zero?

You put on that leotard,

and you dance.

Coming Home: These North Dakota hips don’t lie
by Jessie Veeder
3-2-14
Fargo Forum
http://www.inforum.com

One. Two. Cha. Cha. Cha.


The day he lived.

10 days ago my dad lived.

My dad, with his beautifully raspy voice, his strong, callused hands, his passion for this landscape and the creatures that exist here. My dad who loves unconditionally and laughs with a promise that things will be ok.  My dad who’s given the shirt off his back, the boots from his feet and all his heart to those he loves or those who need him.

Our dad who knows things. Takes care of things.

Takes care of us.

The weather report warned us that the early January thaw was about to turn treacherous, sending snow blowing across slushy roads, turning them to ice and dropping the temperatures to dangerous lows. But it was warm that early Friday morning when Pops struggled to find the phone to make a call that would save his life.

That evening as Husband drove us home in that mild winter air I was uneasy. There was no reason for it really. We had just finished a nice dinner with my family, celebrating my mom and little sister’s birthday. We laughed. We ordered steak. We watched Little Man move from lap to lap around the table. And then we all said goodnight and happy birthday.

But on the road that night as the tires hummed along the highway I looked up at the stars with a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach and asked my husband if he ever feels lonesome for something. Something he can’t describe.

He said he thought so. He said he understood.  Then we pulled into the drive, trudged up the steps and tucked ourselves in safe and unaware that in a few short hours, at 2 a.m. the phone would ring in the darkness, threatening to change the comfortable and blessed life we take for granted.

The hours that followed are indescribable, a nightmare that threatened to paralyze me and send me gasping for air at the sound of my father’s voice asking for help and the sight of him lying helpless on the floor. But deep down under the fear that percolated and boiled up in my throat was an untried and reassuring belief that this was only an obstacle and not the end.

The stars spun in the warm January night and under those stars our neighbors responded to the call, loading up in the fire-trucks and an ambulance, asking their God for strength to make the miles in time to help a suffering friend laying too far from town, too far from help.

And so how do you thank that God for second chances? My dad looked up at me from the floor of the home where he raised three girls and loved one woman, the walls that absorbed the sound of a family’s laughter and arguments, the notes of his guitar, the smells of supper warming on the stove and a life well lived and he told me he was dying.

I held his hand, looked him in the eye and without a waver, without a tear, I said no. No, you are not.

But he was. I didn’t believe it then. I didn’t know it then, but he was.

That big strong heart of his, the one that taught us – showed us – compassion and patience, bravery and tenderness, was torn and leaking and poisoning his body.

And with each passing minute, each hour it took to load him in the ambulance, to get him to town, to test, to poke and prod and diagnose and medicate, to plead with the nurses and doctor, to fight to make him comfortable, to hold his hand and ask him where it hurt, where is it…what is it…what can we do…do something…help him…the odds fell quickly and silently away from his favor.

“Dissection of the Aorta,” the doctor said. “We’re calling an airplane. There’s no time to talk now…”

My mother’s hand went to her mouth. My sisters gasped. The temperature dropped outside where the wind blew chilled rain across the plains and I ran out there to stand in it, to come to grips with the idea that we might go on living in this world without my dad.

But I could not accept it. This wasn’t our story.

I pushed down the fear and walked back inside where we hugged him goodbye for now.

“See you in the big town,” I said.

“Are you sure you want to drive those roads? The weather’s getting bad,” he told us. “I’ll be ok, really. You don’t have to come all that way.”

Just like dad to worry about us.

Silent and shaken we crawled in the pickup, 180 miles of daunting highway stretching before us under the darkening and freezing winter skies.

And up in those skies they flew him, my dad, on the wings of the plane and some merciful angels, to get to where he was going in time to be saved.

Who am I to give words to the feeling of moving through those miles in the dark, uncertain and silent, mind wandering to a future you can only will and pray for. Who am I to tell you how my stomach knotted with each ring of the phone, what it was like to watch my mother and sisters suffer with worry? Who am I to describe the relief we felt when we got word he made it to the hospital where staff and surgeon were waiting to perform one of the most difficult procedures of their careers?

How can I tell you what those hours were like, waiting with my family while my father was in another room with his chest cut open, his big, strong heart exposed and open to the uncertain world?

How can I describe what it meant to us that you drove all those miles behind us in the storm, neighbor, to sit with us and ease the silence while we waited hours for news of his life as the earth froze over?

What words do I use to thank the doctor who walked into that waiting room with news that he saved him? The nurses who cared for him? The family and friends who sent prayers and positive thoughts into the universe, begging for mercy for a man we still need with us here, while all around the world people with much better odds of living were being taken up into those spinning stars.

Ten days ago my dad lived. The earth froze solid while he slept. 60 below zero the weatherman said and we were frozen too with fear of the unknown. We touched his hand while he slept and told him we loved him.

Two days after that he breathed on his own and the air warmed up enough to let the snow fall. In the dark of the night we took turns sitting with him in that room in that city full of lights and unfamiliar noises as he healed, passing one another’s footprints in the snow on our way back and forth from the hotel to his bedside.

Twelve hours later he was walking down the hall of that hospital aware of his mortality, grateful for his saviors, both unseen and on this earth, and planning his escape back to the ranch where there is so much more work to be done, more people to love and more life to be lived.

“I almost died,” he said as the drugs wore off and he came back to us.

“But you didn’t dad. I told you you wouldn’t,” I said.

“You know why I didn’t?”

“Why?”

“Because I’m a son-of-a-bitch.”

Maybe not a son-of-a-bitch, but the strongest man I know.  How comforting that his sense of humor was so quick to reappear.

And with each passing day that laughter eased our worries, the temperature warmed and the earth thawed out as we all learned to breathe again.

Our dad is a miracle. Doctors and nurses got word of his survival and recovery and stopped by to see him, to tell him he’s an anomaly.

I could tell you the odds. I knew them all along, but it doesn’t matter now. He was meant to stay with us.

Because ten days ago, in a world that worked to freeze up, crush us and break our hearts, my dad’s heart, big and strong and open, against all odds in a world that can be cruel and forgiving all at the same time, kept beating.

Ten days ago he lived.

 

As simple as a plum.

Western North Dakota grows wild plums. In the patches of brush where the poison ivy sneaks and the cows go to get away from the flies, they start as blossoms on the thorny branches and, under the hot sun, turn from green in early July to red to a dark purple bite-sized berry just waiting to be picked in the beginning of autumn.

Wild plums mean summer is almost over. They mean roundup is on its way. They mean sucking on pits and spitting them at your little sister. They mean scratches from branches on a detour for a snack on the way to get the bull out of the trees.

They mean Pops’ stories of grampa sitting at the table in the winter dipping into a jar of canned wild plums , drenching them in cream and stacking the pits neatly on the table.

They mean memories of grandma’s jelly on peanut butter toast.

They mean reassurance that sweet things can grow in brutal places.

They mean a passing surprize on our way through a pasture and coming back later with the farm pickup to fill up a bucket, me squished in the middle seat between my husband and my dad, the Twins playing on the radio as we bump along on prairie trails that haven’t been under a tire in months looking for that magical patch of fruit, wondering out loud if we could of dreamed it.

Laughing at the thought.

Wild plums mean listening to the two men banter as they pick and reach and gather like little boys, making plans for the best way to fill our bucket.

“Shake the tree, we can get the ones on top.”

“Keep ‘em out of the cow poop…poop plums are no good.”

“Are you eating them Jess. Hey, no eating!”

“I’ve never seen a patch like this. Jessie, you can make so much jelly!”

Yes. I could. With the 6 gallons of plums we picked last night standing in the bed of the pickup, ducked down in the clearing where the cows lay, scaling along the edges of the trees, I could make jars of jelly, pies, pastries and syrups to last until next plum picking season.

But even if I didn’t. Even if we did nothing more than feed those wild plums to the birds, it wouldn’t matter. The magic of wild and pure things is in their discovery and the sweet reminder that happiness can be as simple as a wild plum patch.

The prayer shawl.

I stood in line at the Post Office in Boomtown yesterday morning. I had been avoiding the chore for a few days, having received a note in my mailbox out here in the country letting me know that I had a package to pick up in town.

I thought it was the print cartridges I ordered or maybe some photographs. I thought it could wait.

Because standing in line at the Post Office in Boomtown is an errand that ranks right up there with attending your root cannel appointment or using that little plastic baggie to pick up the poop your dog just deposited on the walking path near the park while people drive by, watching…judging.

Anyway, welcome an extra 7,000 people into what was once a town of 1,500 three or four years ago and some services are bound to suffer.

At least we’re all in it together.

At least I get to hear some great southern accents while I chat with my fellow postal service patrons about the weather, the roads and the damn long line.

I was expecting much of the same as I pulled into the parking lot yesterday, grabbed my purse and my packages and prepared myself to wait. I was pleasantly surprised to find just a few friendly neighbors standing in line and happy at the thought that the timing for my visit just might have saved me an extra forty-five minutes.

So I stood patiently by the envelopes and boxes, checked email on my phone and ran the list of things I needed to get done today through my head:

Write column, pick up milk, hang posters, plan lunch meeting, call Little Sister back, think about dinner, update websites, I should take a walk, try to get home before dark so I can take a walk, get paint for the entryway, send in my time sheet, return emails, edit photos, craft club, oh yeah, I have craft club this week, make snack for craft club, cat food, do we need cat food?

Oh, ok, I’m up.

I handed the postal worker my envelopes and the little pink slip that told her a package had arrived for me. She disappeared in the back while I fumbled through my purse for some cash. I looked up and she handed me a large, rectangle box. Too big to be my print cartridges, not the right shape for photos.

“What did I order?” I wondered out loud as I took the package from her hands and glanced at the return address.

Arizona.

My grandparents are in Arizona. Huh. The package is from my gramma. My gram sent me something from Arizona on an ordinary Tuesday in March.

I shook it a bit, my curiosity peaked as I hurried past the line of people who had quickly congregated in a neat row behind me. I flung open the door and trudged through the melting snow to get to my car, sat down behind the wheel, threw my purse in the seat next to me and anxiously ripped open the box, pulling out a soft object wrapped in tissue paper.

Carefully I peeled back the paper to reveal soft purple yarn knitted in tight weaves and a note that read…

Dearest Jessie, 

All winter long I have pictured you sitting at home in your chair writing your column and journal and composing music. So enclosed you will find a purple shawl (a good color for you). It’s a prayer shawl. It is to keep you warm and comfortable–to make you feel good deep inside as well as on the outside. 

It is made with love and some mistakes! As I did the knitting my thoughts were about you, Jessie, our wonderful, talented granddaughter.

All my love, 

Gramma G

Tears sprung to my eyes right there in that busy, slushy parking lot in Boomtown as cars pulled in and out, people rushed to appointments, to the grocery store, to meetings, to school and to pick up their children from daycare on time. My grandmother’s handwriting expressing her thoughts about me on a  note card embellished with golden butterflies made me think of her sitting by the window, her knitting needles on her lap and the warm Arizona sun shining on her face.

gram

I buried my face in the shawl, breathing in her smell, thinking of her thinking of me and the worry that had been lodged in the center of my guts for weeks was replaced by a very palpable feeling of calm and an overwhelming appreciation and love for my Gramma who once taught me to knit and who always, always makes sure her grandchildren know she’s proud of them.

To know that you are in someone’s thoughts, to know that you are loved this much, is a blessing I wish upon everyone.

My Gramma G. has always been one of the brightest and most positive lights in my world. If I would have known her hug was waiting for me in that post office at the moment I needed it the most I would have dropped everything and run there to receive it.

I would wait in line for hours for a gift like this.

Thank you Gramma. I love it. I absolutely love it.

And I love you too.

Jessie

The years to come…

Dear Husband,

I opened my eyes this morning as the sun moved slowly up over the trees and through our open windows to find you still in bed next to me, your chest rising and falling as you slept beneath the bedding you helped me pick out yesterday in a whirlwind shopping spree to replace the things we lost in the fire.

As I browsed through the department stores’ collection of overpriced and overwhelming choices, you didn’t comment on the color I selected or complain about my affinity for floral patterns. You told me to find what I wanted and patiently walked with me to three different stores as I compared and discussed and asked for your opinion.

I’m sure there were a million other places you would have rather been than in the home section of a furniture store on a beautiful summer Saturday, but I would have never guessed it the way you laughed as we laid down on one on of those ridiculous, foldable, vibrating, computerized, over the top beds they had on display and watched in amazement as I slowly sunk so deep into the foam top I was sure I could never be retrieved.

You grabbed my hands and pulled me into your arms in the middle of the department store and suggested maybe we should concentrate on pillows.

You’re picky about things like pillows, enduringly patient…

And exhausted from a month that set us back on our heels and reminded us every day to keep working, keep moving, keep laughing at the things we can’t control and keep pushing, pushing, pushing through.

Husband, this morning as I watch you dream I have a list a mile long waiting for my feet to hit the floor, but all I want to do today is lay here next to you, surrounded by the walls of a house that’s unfinished but ours.  I don’t want to dig through boxes or paint a wall or make those calls or write those emails. I don’t want to send you off to work in your buttoned up shirt where the world gets you and your steady hands, even temper and unexpected wit.

I want to keep you here for the best part of the day, the part where the moon disappears in front of the big windows we planned and makes way for the splash of colors the sun brings with it.

I want to keep you here to watch it. I want to bring you coffee and make you eggs on the new stove, the one you picked out with the extra burner for the big meals you intend to create in this kitchen.

The kitchen we intend to cook meals in for the rest of our lives.

Husband, yesterday was our sixth wedding anniversary.

You know this, you wouldn’t forget, although we’re not so hooked on the celebration of another year passed,

but the idea of the years that are to come.

Because I’ll tell you Husband, I’m unbelievably blessed to have grown up with you, but even more amazed by the fact that despite the storms, the fires, the tears and the impossibly unpredictable things, each year I’ve spent by your side swinging a hammer, riding a horse,

jumping into a new career, cold lakes,

or out of the damn sky, I can honestly say I never been scared.

Well, I might have been just a little scared here…

Because I know that as long as you have a choice, you will be there in the morning moving quietly through your early routine, leaving me hot coffee waiting in the pot and dressing in the dark so that you don’t wake me.

So Husband, this morning, I don’t want to wake you.

I want you to keep your sleepy head on those pillows you picked and I want you to dream of bay horses and hunting trips to Alaska.

I don’t want you to worry about hooking up the washing machine or finishing the basement. I want to cook you eggs over easy in olive oil with pepper just the way you like them and I want to keep you here with me on the first day of our seventh year.

But more than anything husband, today I just want to bring you coffee and I want you to know that I am so happy to love you.

With all my heart,

Your Wife

A picture comes to life…

Well, we moved some furniture into the new house this weekend and it is looking like my birthday month will be the month we move into our new home, whether or not the staircase and/or master bedroom, trim work or basement is complete.

I’ve lived in construction zone before, and I’m prepared to do it again. Just imagining us sipping coffee on our deck (which does not exist yet either) and watching the sun come up over the hills we’re nestled in together reminds me that life is a work in progress that is worth the wait.

Sometimes I get a little anxious about it all. I catch myself thinking that other people have it figured out..that other people have houses complete with carpet and painted walls and tiles, a beautiful, finished staircase and money left over to go on a Mediterranean Cruise.

The reality is, some people do. Some people have the vision and the cash to make what they want appear before them without a smudge of tile mortar crusted to their unshaven legs.

We are not those people. We are the people with the vision and the muscle to watch it come to fruition before us slowly, with a little sweat, a lot of muscle and a few tears mixed in.

But despite the hard work, saw dust on my clothes and paint in my hair, I have to say, at this moment where we’re able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I wouldn’t trade the experience of doing it ourselves for all of the contractors in California.

Because there is something about working alongside your family as they hammer and nail and paint and move heavy things in an effort to see your dream realized. There’s something about hearing thier encouraging comments and seeing their excitement as things come together that makes me grateful to get my hands dirty with them.

And it means everything to be able to stand next to a husband who so desperately wants to make our dreams come true that he works long days and comes home to climb ladders, string wires and nail flooring only to put his hands on his hips and look at me all frazzled, sweaty and cranky and say “dream house, dream girl.”

It means everything to believe him.

It means the most to feel the same way.

So this week my mind’s in a thousand different places–in my music, in my writing, in my work, in the clothes and paperwork I can’t find and the budget we need to stretch to get this done. But I’m going to work hard to stay in the moment and notice the smile on my husband’s face as he checks off his list and gets us one step closer to having coffee together in our new home.

Our view from the kitchen…

Because I want to remember this, as hard as it’s been. I want to remember that when I was sixteen I drew him a picture.

And when I turned twenty-nine he made that picture come to life.

We’ll get the goat and the pigs next year…

A poem for the hot summer sun…

Summer if I could put you in the pocket of my jeans

I would take the way the sun shines through my dad’s fresh garden peas.

Then I’d grab the smell of green grass and the sky a vivid blue

I’d leave behind misquotes and I’d forget my shoes.

And oh, if I could catch you under an old mason jar lid

I’d be sure grab a baseball and the sprinklers for the kids.

Then I’d saddle up the horses and put the cattle out to graze

because I need my ponies ready at the end of long, hot days.

We’ve talked about this summer, how you come and go too fast

and I’d like to find a way to hold on tight and make it last.

So summer, I have warned you that I might just catch your light

and keep you by my bedside for those long December nights.

What makes you happy…

He’s playing the guitar, though he’s not so good
and you’re dancing in the kitchen when you know you should
be scrubbing up the dishes, putting them away
checking off the list you made for the day.

But you’re hair’s looking good and your jeans fit right
and the sun came up this morning shining big and bright
and you aren’t about to waste another minute sad
life’s too short, so take what you have.

You have sprinkles on your cookies and it’s no holiday
a man who makes you dinner and swears he’ll stay
through broken plans and messes, unexpected things
so who needs fancy dresses and diamond rings?

When you have too many boots and you can’t decide
a big brown dog waiting for you outside
blue sky above and all those trees
flushed rosy cheeks and grass stained knees

So open up the door and let the morning in
smile as warm breezes kiss your skin
run wild like the girl you want to be
what keeps you going, keeps you feeling free?

What makes you wrap your arms around him unexpectedly
slip on your favorite shoes and grab the keys
forget about it girl, take one more bite
and while you’re at it, stay out all night

And shake it pretty momma like you just don’t care
jump in the lake in your underwear
let them see you laughing, see you come undone
yes, life’s too short, girl, have some fun.

What makes you happy? Tell me please, I must know!