Leotards, fuzzy ponytails and long-winded stories…

Ok, there was a time in my life when I wore nothing but leotards.

There, I said it.

I needed to make this confession today.

Purple leotards with pink tights. Pink leotards with purple tights. Short sleeves, polyester, spandex blends stretched tight over my belly, squishing the baby fat desperate to escape the confines of the fabric out  the seams and topping the whole thing off with leg warmers, velcro shoes and a fuzzy ponytail.

I was a sight to behold, a wild-child, a weird kid who had no explanation really for her choice in every day attire except, I can imagine, simply that today, I wanted to wear my leotard.

And tomorrow, I want to wear it again.

Leotard

Maybe it was because my mom was a dancer and an aerobics instructor and I had seen the woman, long and lean and graceful, rocking her own Jane Fonda attire while she lead a class to the tune of the Flash Dance soundtrack.

Or maybe it was because my big sister was a ballerina. A tiny, delicate ballerina who wore beautiful sparkly tutus and toe shoes and twirled and jumped and leapt elegantly across the stage under the lights.

Or maybe I just liked the free movement spandex provided while I drug my blankie through the grass on my way to the sandbox in my grandmother’s back yard.

I’m not sure, because I was too young at the time of my leotard obsession to hold on to the reasoning so that I might go back in adulthood and analyze it. But I’ll tell you this, even though I was only three or four years old, it was pretty clear I was inheriting none of that grace and elegance thing. But it didn’t matter to me. In my mind I was something. In my mind I was leaping and twirling right alongside my big sister on that big stage. In my mind I was Jane Fonda.

Of course I was also digging in the dirt, popping heads off of dandelions, peddling my trike towards gramma’s, making mud soup, bossing around the neighborhood boys, singing Sunday school songs at the top of my lungs, making up the words as I went along and hunting and tracking ladybugs in the short grass.

All in my trusty leotard.

Can you imagine the looks on my grandparents’ faces when my parents brought their girls over for Easter dinner, their oldest in perfect pastels and frills and the youngest traipsing around the egg hunt looking like Jazzercise personified? That was a cute family picture.

Country CousinsCan you imagine what my parents thought when their three or four year old woke up one day and declared it was time to put on her leotard, obliging, I’m sure, because I put up a fight, or maybe, because they were always free thinking supervisors and probably didn’t see the harm in a day in a spandex. But that day turned into another day and on to the next, and, well, you know the rest…

Anyway, eventually I moved on. Probably to my Wonder Woman costume, but that’s another story. I bring this phase of my life up today only because I was reminded of it by my Texas cousin last week via a Facebook post about her daughter.

It looked like this.

“A insists on wearing her leotard every day now. You went thru this too, right?:)”

A 2

To which I replied something like: “Yes, and I hope this similarity doesn’t worry you…”

Now, my cousin M and I were born a month apart and spent our childhood dressing alike (after my leotard phase) and trying to convince the world we were twins. It made sense to me, I wanted to be just like her, and still do.  She’s beautiful and sweet and funny and always pulled together.

She was a perfect long french braid. I was a fuzzy ponytail with plastic barrettes keeping the flyways at bay.

She was a Christmas dress. I was an oversized holiday themed puffy paint sweatshirt with stirrup pants.

She was flute playing pretty notes. I was a guitar playing some weird song I just made up…

She is a math teacher. I’m a long winded-story…

And we get along perfectly.

Then along came baby A…

Baby A, who’s not really a baby anymore because she insists on riding her pony Pearl all by herself, and yes, Uncle G, she can let the cats out of the barn whenever she wants.

Baby A who sprays herself in the face with a garden hose and thinks it’s a riot so she does it again and again.

Baby A who has her own guitar and uses it to accompany herself as she sings long songs at the top of her lungs about girls riding horses through the trees.

Baby A who’s hair escapes that golden brown ponytail and fuzzes just right.

Baby A who is just stubborn enough to convince her mother every day that she should wear a leotard.

A

I looked at the photo, me here between the buttes of our North Dakota home and my Cousin M under the warm sun of Texas, and I wondered if the miles don’t matter as much as we think they do.

That there are pieces of us in our family that surface and resurface throughout our lives, showing up in our children and their children’s children in a familiar laugh, a crooked smile, a skin tone or a shape of a nose.

Cousins

Looking at Baby A standing so confidently in her plastic high heels and pink leotard miles and miles away but so close to my heart, I can’t help but think that maybe an affinity for leotards just runs purple and pink somewhere in our blood, alongside the place where we keep fuzzy ponytails and long-winded stories…

And to that I say, oh, Baby A, I’m so happy there’s someone else out there who understands…

Sunday Column: On the little yellow boat…

April did us a favor and, after bringing us a little spring storm, it warmed up nicely this weekend. 50 degrees uncovered all sorts of treasures for us, mostly mud and things stuck in mud…like dog poop, leftover construction materials and the Christmas tree that made it out the door, but not quite to the garbage pit.

We set out then in that spring air to do some tidying. When the weather warms up I get crazy. I want to do everything that I haven’t been able to do (because of the seven months of snow and subzero temperatures) all in one day.

I want to till up the garden spot. I want to plant grass seeds. I want to finish the garage. I want to ride all eight horses. I want to buy baby chicks from Tractor Supply. I want to roll up my pants and wade in the creek. I want to fix the barn. I want to start our landscaping project. I want to work on my tan. I want to go swimming. I want to make margaritas and grill burgers and have a deck party.

I want to buy a boat…

I think brown dog has the same idea…

Yes, a few days of warm weather will get the plans rolling. And the smell of the thaw, the sound of the water, the blue sky and sun and things uncovered by melting snow had me poking around the place, in search of projects, things I could accomplish.

And in my search I stumbled upon one of the ranch’s most unique relics. Sitting next to the shop covered loosely by a blue tarp and snow turned to ice water is Husband’s yellow boat, the one he brought with us to the ranch when we were first married. The one he built with his dad during the long winter nights when we were all just trying to make it out of high school alive.

The one he took me out in, to go fishing down in Bear Den, a little unknown nook of Lake Sakakawea a few miles from the ranch. The tiny hand-made boat where we sat back to back and trolled the shore, with nothing but sun-seeds, a couple beers and worms in our cooler.

And when the sun started sinking down below those buttes that surrounded the lake, it was that boat that got us stuck. Stuck in mud up to the floorboards of Husband’s little Dodge.

And there we sat. The little pickup connected to the little boat, stuck in the bottom of a badlands canyon, a new husband scratching his head and a wife in flip-flops clawing her way up the steep, cactus ridden banks that held them on a prayer that maybe her cell phone might find enough signal to call Pops to come and rescue them.

Pops, who had no idea where they went in the first place.

Pops, who wasn’t home, but got the message an hour or so later..

“Dad…*scratch scratch*…stuck….*static static*….Bear Den…*crackle crackle*…”

When I think spring I think of that fishing trip with my husband. When I think of that fishing trip, I think of that boat. When I think of that boat I think about mud and dads and how they have so many ways of saving us…

So I wrote this.

Coming Home: Little yellow boat never meant for fishing
(I’m having trouble with my hyperlinks,
please click URL below to read the column)
http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/431239/
by Jessie Veeder
4-6-14
http://www.inforum.com

Happy thaw out. May this season bring mud and good memories….

Sunday Column: Another Superhero

Snow storm

We’re in the middle of one of those nasty spring storms that blows through North Dakota expectedly, unexpected. After a weekend spent celebrating the marriage of one of our best friends, Husband and I crawled back to the ranch with blood shot eyes and sore muscles from dancing  just in time to flop on the bed and watch the wind blow the snow around.

The roads turned to ice and the brown grass turned white and the geese wondered why the hell they ever came back.

That’s sort of what I was thinking really. Like, maybe I should have just kept drinking and dancing and singing 80′s rock songs at the top of my lungs until this March turns to July and we’re out of the winter woods.

IMG_6198If I were a superhero, that’s what I’d do. I’d just turn up the music and pour some margaritas for the world until there was enough crazy dancing, laughing and ridiculous stories to warm us all up and forget about our winter blues (and all those other worries this place has) forever.

IMG_6275Turns out I’m pretty good at this whole superhero invention thing.

Anyway, I know it’s snowing in other parts of the country and maybe some of you even got to stay home from work or school to wait it out. If you did, I hope there was dancing.

IMG_6135

Me? I got to stand in my muck boots in the basement with the shop vac sucking up what I like to refer to as just another little “septic issue.”

I tell you what, I could sure use that other superhero right about now,  fart gun and all.

Coming Home: Adventures of Sock Boy, Crazy Aunt
by Jessie Veeder
3-30-14
Fargo Forum
http://www.inforum.com

Fart Gun

Fart Gun

IMG_5562

I spent the weekend with Darth.

And he spent the weekend with his fart gun.

I thought it was an imaginary thing when he made me lean over so he could “Tell me a secret.”

“Ok,” I said. “What’s your secret?”

“Fart Gun,” he said.

Fart. Gun.

And then he laughed and laughed and said.

“Find it!”

And then I laughed and said, “Okay, yeah…go find it you crazy kid.”

Go find that weird imaginary and apparently “top secret” flatulence weapon…

And then we played Darth Vader some more…

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and pirates…

and a little superhero game I invented while finishing up the chores called “Sock Boy,” the world’s most helpful and domestic hero.

photo-30

Have a laundry situation? He’ll sort it out!

Need someone to hold your dustpan? He’s there in a jiffy!

IMG_5557

Big home construction project? He’ll help you prioritize!

photo-25 Making french toast? He can beat eggs with the best of them.

photo-5

Yes, it was a busy day for for a little man, and after a story or two about barnyard animals and wild things romping about, he was tuckered out, tucked in and snoring…

And when he woke the next morning you know what came toddling out with him?

A Fart Gun!

photo-26

Yes.

The Fart Gun is a real thing…

It was in his bag.

His mother packed it for him.

“Well look at that!” I declared.

“PFFFTTTT….. BLLLURRTTCHHH….FLLLRRRRPPPTTT…HAAA HAAAA”, said the Fart Gun and the kid.

photo-26

And that’s pretty much all the both of them said for the next two days.

Forget Darth Vader, let’s shoot this Fart Gun at my aunt while she’s working on her taxes.

photo-26

Forget the Pirate thing, let’s point it at the dog’s butt, pull the trigger and laugh hysterically.

photo-28

Forget the whole “Sock Boy” routine, it’s just me and my Fart Gun now.

Forever.

And ever.

Amen.

photo-29

“PFFFTTTT….. BLLLURRTTCHHH….FLLLRRRRPPPTTT…HAAA HAAAA.”

“PFFFTTTT….. BLLLURRTTCHHH….FLLLRRRRPPPTTT…HAAA HAAAA.”

“PFFFTTTT….. BLLLURRTTCHHH….FLLLRRRRPPPTTT…HAAA HAAAA.”

photo-26

Well played big sister

Well played.

Spring is…

Sometimes the day is so lovely, you just have to go out in it.

Sometimes the moon shows up before the sun goes down and lines up just right in the blue sky hovering peacefully over golden grass.

Grass that was hiding under all that snow, snow that’s melting because it’s 50 degrees ABOVE zero now, so you decide to pull on your muck boots and splash around in it a little, feeling so good you don’t even mind the little hole in the right one that lets the water in to soak your socks.

It doesn’t matter. It’s summer now.

Your feet don’t get cold in the summer.

And you took your camera, because you need to document what a beautiful mess it all is when the thaw comes.

You need to photograph those tiny bubbles.

You need to capture those trees standing nice and tall and straight.

You must preserve the memory of that rushing water cutting its way through the stubborn ice in the shade of the valley.

You have to show everyone, shout it so they can hear you above the babbling streams…

“Spring is springing!”

“Spring is springing!”

“Spring is…”

pooping

Dammit dog!

If it’s peace and tranquility I’m looking for out there…well…

Happy thaw out everyone!

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.


Back when I (thought I) was an artist

Last time my Aunt K came to visit she brought this with her.

My aunt K is the kind of aunt who saves and archives things like old photographs, art projects and inspiring drawings from her children and artistically delusional niece, puts them in file folders and dates the back.

That’s how I know this was from 1992-1993. Because Aunt K wrote it in pencil on the back right corner to remind me how brilliant I was when I was 8 years old.

Brilliant.

Like this shirt.

Now, I feel like I should comment here, let you know that the ukelele hanging out by that hat is actually supposed to be a guitar, but the size of that hat and lack of horse feet probably indicates I had a little to learn about proportions and gravity.

But this drawing reminds me of a time in my life when I really believed that I could be anything, and a gifted artist was one of these things.

An olympic figure skater, a talk show host, a rodeo queen/Miss America, a veterinarian horse whisperer, novelist and famous singer like Reba McEntire were some of the other things.

Turns out I may have hit my artistic peak at 8 years old.

Turns out I was never really “gifted” in this area, no matter my hopes and dreams…
New Drawing

Same goes with the figure skating thing.

But I hung that picture on my fridge anyway, because it reminds me of my Aunt K and that little girl who believed she would cherish this magnificent piece of art forever and ever.

And it turns out I was right about some things.

Peace, Love and Precious Childhood Delusions,

Jessie

 

 

 

An accent, an accident and a coffee related incident…

And now, I humbly present to you:

Yesterday’s Revelations:

Ahem..

I accidentally slept in too late and then proceeded to have a fight with my coffee Keurig. I’ve never had a coffee Keurig until I opened one for Christmas. Generally in this house it’s old fashioned Folgers Black through the pot. Yesterday morning I put in one of those little pods and proceeded to frantically flail my arms and dish towel around as I watched water spew from all corners of the foreign little machine, proving that sometimes you need coffee before you can even make coffee. 

Revelation #1. We can’t have nice things. I can’t handle nice things.

Yesterday while I was checking out at a convenience store in town, the clerk told me she liked my accent. Then she asked me where I was from.

“Here,” I said.

That was my fourth word to her.

Revelation #2: My Northern accent is so strong that Northerners themselves think I’m from a different country. I’m not sure what to do with this…except maybe hang out with more southerners…

Texas

On my way home from town I pulled into our approach, hit an icy patch on the road, spun out, fish-tailed and went in the ditch. In my own yard. 

Revelation #3: I’m the type of person who hits an icy patch on the road, spins out, fish tails and goes in the ditch. In my own yard.

On a trip to check on the place I spent a good three to five minutes trying to convince Big Brown Dog to make the jump up into the back of the pickup before resorting to lifting his feet up on the tailgate then hoisting his rear-end as he flailed his back legs and I grunted, scooched and reassured the 105 pound animal that we could do this.

Revelation #4: Even the best dogs get old (and I need to start lifting weights).

When I let the pug sleep in my room he inevitably winds up in my closet sleeping on a sweater. Or a pair of my good pants. Or inside my packed suitcase. 

Revelation #5: I should really start putting my clothes away.

Pug on Ugg

And then last night I dreamed about mustaches, like there was a chart on the wall of my doctor’s office with photos and descriptions of the top ten acceptable upper lip hair formations and I was studying this carefully and taking it seriously and I don’t know what all this means–my inability to press “brew” on a new-fangled coffee machine without disastrous results, my thick northern drawl, tendency to get into weird driving predicaments and, you know, the dog situation–except that I just thought I should take notes…especially about that mustache thing…

photo-51

You’re welcome friends.

You. Are. Welcome.

Computer

 

Winter’s a s**thead and then I had a flashback…

Somewhere in Montana…

Well we made it back from our road trip, dropped our bags at the bottom of the stairs in our cozy and messy house and proceeded to be welcomed by a slap across the face we have come to know as reality.

Work piled up in our inboxes.

Bills in the mail.

Closet unfurled from last week’s haphazard packing debacle.

Garbage strewn across yard from an unwelcome raccoon (or pug or lab) shaped scavenger.

And winter. Winter being a shithead. 

Pug in snow

“Septic tank’s frozen again.”

These are the messages I get when I’m in town trying to be civilized.

Great.

“Heading to the big town to pick up a snake and a pressure washer and (something else that I didn’t catch because I was thinking about where I might shower that night) because if you want something done you’ve got to do it yourself around here…”

You know I know this better than anyone.

Great, now I’m having a flashback…

Phew, that was exhausting…

Anyway…last month when the arctic air whipped the trees around this place it shot the temperature down to -60 and apparently that’s too cold for a successful potty drain, so we called someone to come out and save us, and, well, I guess Husband learned something. Because last night I arrived home in the dark and he was out there in sub-zero temperatures unplugging whatever was plugged.

And he was successful. Thank God he was successful. I had to pee.

Husband is my hero.

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My wall-building, chandelier-hanging, power-tool-toting, tile-placing, ladder-climing,  potty pumping hero.

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God I miss summer.

The Pug: A Christmas Montage

Well, it’s official.

Chug the Pug has outgrown his Santa Suit.

He’s full grown now after all.

An old man.

Five years old.

As you can see it hasn’t stopped me from forcing him to wear it.

No.

For all of the times I’ve chased his ass out into Prairie Dog Town, down the road to a rig, over to Mom and Pops where he’s visiting his girlfriend, for all the barf I’ve cleaned up and farts I’ve endured, and for that unmentionable time, you know, with the cat… this is his yearly penance.

Oh, take it like a man…

That and the Halloween Pirate Hat.

So I suppose it’s no wonder his chest got a little too broad, his belly a solid barrel of meaty muscle pushing the hem of that funny little suit I bought when he was much younger, cuter, had two whole eyeballs and was less defiant.

It’s all that damn running around. Those hills and coulees.  All that death defying has created quite a physique.

So stand still pug. Don’t look at me like that. This is the least you can do for me for all the trouble you’ve caused.

For all the leftover bacon I fed you.

For pug sized muddy footprints you leave on my newly mopped floor, miraculously in the middle of winter where there’s no mud in sight.

For that weird, unidentifiable animal you drug to my doorstep just in time for the UPS man’s delivery.

So smile.

Because this is your Christmas suit montage.

Christmas Pug

Pug in glasses

You’re welcome world.

Peace, Love and Christmas Pugs!

Jessie