Sunday Column: Balancing act.

I hope you all had a patriotic and festive Independence Day Weekend. Husband and I extended ours into this Tuesday and I’m writing from the porch of my grandparent’s lake cabin in Minnesota while dearly beloved packs up our things and we get ready to head back west.

Back at the ranch Little Sister’s fiance has been keeping things in line, watered and fed while we were here pretending to be lake people and forgetting we have any responsibilities besides eating donuts for breakfast and applying sunscreen while we move from the shade to the sun and back again.

Besides the ranch, life at my grandparent’s lake cabin is my favorite kind of living.

Because sometimes, as you know, the living out there isn’t so easy for me…

Coming Home: Life on the ranch isn’t always precisely balanced
http://www.inforum.com/content/coming-home-life-ranch-isnt-always-precisely-balanced
by Jessie Veeder
7-7-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

See you at home!

Among the clover.

I wish you could smell the sweet clover out here this time of year. I step outside and I’m flooded with a wave of memories of all that I used to be, summer after summer growing up out here. It smells like work and evenings spent sliding down hills on cardboard boxes with my cousins. It smells like ingredients for mud pie and playing house in the lilac bushes by the red barn. It smells like bringing lunch to dad in the field above our house, horseflies and heat biting our skin.

It smells like my first car and the windows rolled down, taking back roads with my best friends as passengers, kicking up dust as we tested the limits of teenage-dom.

It smells like my leaving, bittersweet. My last summer as a kid here before it was time to go and grow up already. Be on my own.

And it smells like coming home, take a right on the pink road, stop at the top of the hill and look at it all before heading down and turning into mom and dad’s for a glass of wine and a steak on the deck that looks out toward the garden and up the crick bed where I used to play everyday.

Pink Road

Last week we had family here from Texas, a couple of those cousins who used to help me make mud pies, a couple of aunts and an uncle I adore and then, of course the grandkids. The ranch was buzzing, laughing, full of life like I remembered it when I was growing up and our grandparents were alive and serving us push-up pops from the small from porch of their small brown house.

Funny how the world changes when suddenly there are kids running through the grass, pulling up dandelions, blowing bubbles and making memories on this place like the ones I hold so close to me.

After the Centennial celebration was over we did nothing but sit on the deck and visit, catch up, eat and then run inside to watch the rain pour. We laughed at the kids as they played and fought over toys and I looked at my cousin, the one closest to my age, the girl I used to wish was my twin sister, a mother now, and I thought, well, weren’t we just the same size as her baby A? Weren’t we just five years old running through the clover, itching our mosquito bites, begging for popsicles and just one more hour to play outside.

Now look at us, all grown up and still here on this place.

I was so thankful to be here with them on this place.

Because I know it didn’t come without a cost for our family, keeping it here for us, so future generations can smell the clover and be young and wild out here…

Country Cousins

I know that we did nothing but be born to good people who know the value of the land, not in dollars, but in something that is hard for me to find words for right now.

Pride?

Work?

Home?

A place to belong?

On Monday when the rest of his family loaded up and hit the road, Uncle W, stayed home one more evening. Little Sister came out and we saddled up our horses and headed out east, riding along and listening to the two brothers remember what it was like to be young out here.

Little Uncle W always found hanging back on a roundup, eating on a Juneberry bush.

Young Pops getting bucked off on the road when his little brother popped over the hill on his tricycle.

Milking cows and riding broncs and chasing girls and growing up together, out here on this place.

How many gloves and hats and scarves have been left dangling in these trees, scooped off heads and hands of little cowboys and cowgirls rushing on the backs of horses running through the trees?

How many wild plum pits have been spit at one another?

How many mud pies have been made in this barnyard, topped off with little pieces of sweet clover.

It’s so quiet here this morning as I get ready to head to a show tonight and then on to Minnesota to celebrate the 4th of July. If I had my way we’d all live out here together, my cousins and us, and those kids would be over the hill forever being raised by kids like us, and we would rehash memories and then create new ones.

Every day, out here on this place the way it used to be.

But that wouldn’t work. There’s space out here, but not that much…not enough…

So I’ll take the clover. I’ll breathe it in and I will remember when it itched our bare little legs in the summer while we searched for kittens in the nooks of the red barn.

Then I’ll remember the weekends, weekends like these, when they came to visit us out here along the gravel roads, and how small the kids were and how they were so little, because they’ll grow up too fast you know. Just like we did, out here among the clover.

Sunday Column: 100 years!

IMG_1995The party of the century took place in my hometown this weekend. I sit here this morning at the ranch, my cousins and aunt and uncle visiting from Texas likely milling around the cabin in the barnyard over the hill, getting ready for another day in North Dakota, just one of the many family’s who made the trip back home to celebrate.

It’s fitting then that they would be spending their nights in the very spot that raised my grandfather and then raised my aunt and dad and uncle, right above where the old shack used to sit, right next door to the old red barn, family feet still making tracks in this mud.

Summer Barn

I can’t tell you what it means to me to have them here and I’m sure they can’t explain that the miles and time don’t make a difference, that this is always home.

I am certain that among the thousand plus people who celebrated with us, most would say the same.

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There’s coffee at my desk and I’m nursing a sunburn and tired feet. I have the whole summer ahead of me now, packed with more stages, more cows to chase, more events to plan and more sun to catch, but what I’m thinking now is “phew, we pulled it off.”

And that I’m proud to have been a part of it.

Because for two years we’ve been planning the bands and the art show, the kids games and the sidewalk sales, the film festival and the magicians, the clowns and the books and the auction and the big free feed under the tent.

We didn’t plan on rain, but we knew it was inevitable. We didn’t plan for a party in the mud, but we had one and it was great.

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We’re a young establishment, this booming small town in America. Things have changed since the railroad made promises and the first little wooden store took shape on the desolate landscape. Every day time passes and residents make decisions to build, to come, to leave, to stay.

Within those 100 years there have been booms and busts and years spent standing still waiting for and making our own opportunity that might help keep the streets alive with young people and babies again…

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Within those 100 years land has been bought and sold and split and kept. Businesses have changed hands, closed doors or stayed right there in the family.

Kids have learned between the walls of schools and out in the streets, riding bikes to the pool or driving their first cars out to help with a branding at a ranch in the badlands.

I am one of those kids. This weekend I was surrounded by them, tapping their toes to the music on the big stage, dancing and laughing, buying each other a beer, swinging around grandchildren, sitting down with a roast beef sandwich and catching up, just like they’ve done for decades.

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And isn’t it refreshing to know that no matter how things have changed us, no matter how fast the cars can go now, how we can fly across oceans, no matter that we can see each other on computer screens though we’re thousands of miles apart, still after all of these years there’s nothing like celebrating shoulder to shoulder, embrace to embrace, laughter to terrible joke.

There’s nothing that beats a good old fashioned party together.

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Congratulations hometown. Here’s to another 100 years and more!

Coming Home: We call it a century. 100 years. The Centennial
by Jessie Veeder
7-29-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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The golden hour…

IMG_9124Summers don’t last long enough here. But the days are long and so we make up for it by squeezing every last inch of sunlight out of our waking hours.

We have supper at 11 pm. Quick. Whip something up. We need to sleep so we can wake and do it again.

I like every inch of this time of year, but I like the witching hour best, the time right before sunset when everything on earth is bathed in a golden light and the creek bottoms cool and the clover smells fresh and crisp and like every childhood ride I’ve ever taken.

IMG_9099Last night I rushed home from meetings in town to meet up with Husband to push some bulls and a few cows through the gate to the west. I ran inside and switched from my sandals and fancy shirt to boots and jeans and jumped in the old green pickup and on down to the barn. I rearranged the tack room and swept away dust while I waited for him and the horses to come down.

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It would be a quick and easy ride, the cattle right by the gate. We saddled up and admired our animal’s sleek backs. They’re summering well, we said. Fat and sassy, full of gas.

We swung on and out of the barnyard and pushed those cows with their new boyfriends toward the creek. And they went well and so did our two bays and when they were through that gate we decided to keep going ourselves, to check the dam on the other side of the pasture. To just ride a bit and be out in it.

To make sure all the other cows were in between the fence lines.

I wish you could have seen it, the way the green looked neon and the purple flowers popped from the earth in the bask of the 9:30 sun sink. On a different Wednesday evening I might have brought my camera, but I left the house on a deadline and, sometimes it’s nice to just be there without the burden of trying to capture it the way I see it, because sometimes it just isn’t possible.

And sometimes it’s nice to just talk about nothing really and ride along.

IMG_9112Sometimes it’s nice to just say, “What a night! What a night!” and believe it between the two of you.

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We made our way to the dam, spotting a hawk and a coyote and a couple deer along the way. Oh, and some cows. There were cows too.

Good thing there were cows.

And then the sun that was kissing the top of my husband’s hat, filtering through his too-long hair, making him look like a western movie poster, sunk down over the horizon, chilled my skin and turned our stroll into a trot, back across the new spring on the hill, down through the valley where the plums grow in the fall, up along the deep trails, across the flat, to the creek and through the gate we left open.

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Feeling proud of our accomplishments and hungry for our 10 pm supper, we popped up over the hill that would take us to the pink road, past the grain bins and down to the barnyard.

But not before we came upon the cows and their boyfriends, the same ones we just pushed through that gate, munching and strolling exactly where we found them an hour or so before.

“Cows” I exclaimed as if my husband didn’t have eyes.

“Yup,” he replied in typical Husband fashion. And then, “Shoulda probably shut that gate…”

But if there ever was a night to do a chore like that twice, it was that night. Because in the golden hour or in the dark, we would rather be out there than anywhere…

And anyway, tacos taste best at 11 pm.

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Rain and how I imagined it.

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It’s been raining around here the last few days.

I’m listening to it patter outside my open windows now, taming down the dust on the gravel roads and watering my flowers. I could just lay down beside that open door to the deck and close my eyes and breathe, imagining that heaven is a good rain.

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On Monday Pops and I got stuck in a downpour on a little highway a couple hours south of us in the middle of the night. We were coming home from a music gig and we watched the big thunderheads in front of us as they lit up from the inside with lightning. I never heard the thunder, but we could see the electricity. It was a fireworks show and then suddenly we were under it, engulfed and waiting, watching hundreds of little white hailstones ping off the road and the hood of my red car where inside we talked about insurance and hoped that it didn’t get worse… for the farmers whose crop has just recently popped up.

But it did get worse, it covered the ground with white in fact. An ice storm in June for a about a mile or so and whatever little growing thing in its wake was likely injured.

Turns out for us, that storm just meant a good story and an extra half-hour in the car together talking about all the worst weather we’ve seen in our life, turning the radio down so we could hear ourselves hollering over the power of those clouds.

Rain make me feel nostalgic and sort of peacefully lonely. It makes me feel glad that I’m home. It makes me feel quiet and grateful and unfoundedly worried about things getting wet…and glad for the dams that are rising and the creek that is rushing and the horses getting relief from the flies.

And then, just a little bit, just for a moment or two, rain makes me feel like stripping down and flinging my arms up and running out in it, following the streams and rivets the water cuts, splashing and screeching and tilting my face up to the heavens raining down.

Just a little bit, just for a moment or two.

Yesterday I went to town to meet my sisters and take Little Man to a movie about dragons. The sky was churning up a good rain so I figured it would be a good night to sit in the dark theater and watch my nephew’s imagination ignite.

After the popcorn was eaten and the credits rolled, we chased Little Man around the lobby for a bit, indulging his fascination with Spider Man, pretending to be bad guys, injured at the sight of his little hands flinging invisible webs our way.

We made our ruckus and then made our way to the door, squinting at the sight of the rain pouring down well enough and then we said our goodbyes, three sisters who used to live under the same roof and a tiny little Spiderman preparing to scamper off in separate directions under a weeping cloud, three trying not to ruin their shoes, the littlest one very likely intending to do the opposite.

I stood under eaves of the building for a minute with Little Sister to say one last thing and then I told her to look.

Look there at our Big Little Sister, so petite and fashionable…elegant.. holding the hand of her tiny spirited son, running just fast enough so as not to splash and so the little one could keep up. “Look at that,” I said.

Like a photo, those two were so small under that sky, but it wasn’t the smallness that made me pause. It wasn’t that innocence that made my little sister look and hold her breath.

It’s just that they looked so much like one there, gracefully, innocently running away from us, running to get out of the rain, not knowing we were watching, with a mission to get home safe. Hand in hand they created a perfect picture I had no camera for.

My big sister has been a mother for almost four years, this we know, but I didn’t know until yesterday as the two of them ran down the street in the June rain, in our town, that this is the sort of life I imagined for them…

This is the way I always pictured them, hand in hand and trusting, sort of laughing at the simplicity of it all.

Last weekend that big sister and I learned that the youngest of us is getting married to a good man. Next June they will take vows.

Between now and then we will be making plans together, the three of us sisters. The family.

Then she will take his hand and be his.

We are all so happy.

And so I guess that’s what I’m trying to say, about the rain. It’s like a deep breath. It’s like relief and good news and plans for the future..a reflection of how I’ve been feeling lately…

Like throwing my arms up, turning my face to the sky and thanking God for it all…and then it’s unfounded worries that it all might be too good to be true, that we’re all ok. We’re all just fine here under these clouds…

Then it’s glad for the plans, glad for the future and to be able to see the creeks fill up…

But mostly it’s that peaceful nostalgia that makes me want to lay down on the floor next to the open windows and let the rain fall while I breathe a sigh of relief and feel glad we’re all home.

 

 

Sunday Column: From a real cup.

This month marks the fourth year we’ve been back at the ranch and fourth birthday of “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…”

And while I don’t remember the exact day that we officially declared that we were never again leaving this place, I do remember the first day I decided to write about it.

It was a warm June day and the windows were open on the old ranch house. I sat at the kitchen table, my hair in disarray (because I just woke up and I had no intentions of setting foot in civilization), my laptop was open and my coffee was steaming in a real cup from the cupboard.

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And when I say real cup, I mean one without a lid. Ceramic with a handle only made for taking trips across the kitchen or out on the deck…not across the country or to town for work or groceries.

Small Spaces

That day I decided to share what it was like coming home to a place that raised me. The day I decided to try and explain how everything seemed so much smaller now that I was grown, that I didn’t have a place for my shoes in this house where my grandmother raised three kids, several foster children and hosted massive family holidays, the day I tried to make chokecherry syrup in a tiny, 105 degree kitchen, the day I slid down the gumbo hill in my pajamas in the pouring rain and warned you not to do the same, were days that were gifts to me only because you were out there reading and sharing your own stories about how you botched plenty of chokecherry recipes and how you might have a solution for my shoe issue….

And the stories and observations, the photos I took, the memories that percolated, might have started out in the cow pasture chasing a bull through a thorn patch or rushing to my husband’s side after he slid off the roof of the garage in the middle of winter, but they finished and found you because I have learned to sit with these stories long enough to bring them to life again somehow.

What a thing to sit.

It seems such a simple concept, but one we don’t indulge in much. But to sit for an hour or so in the morning, sipping coffee in my big chair, clicking away at the keys of the computer, and, if it’s nice out, maybe opening the sliding glass doors to hear the cows moo or the birds chirp, is the reason I have continued to keep writing and showing you things.

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Because it connects me to this place in so many ways. It makes me an observer, a storyteller. It brings me back to moments that might otherwise have slipped away.

And I find myself then, not rushing out the door, because I have something that needs to get done, something I’ve got to tell you. And while I’m at it, I’m sipping my coffee from a real cup…

Coming Home: Take time to sip from a real cup and chat
by Jessie Veeder
6-8-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Thanks for reading all these years. Thanks for sharing this place with me.

Peace, Love and many more coffee dates,

Jessie

Moving Cows

 

To be creative.

Today I’m getting ready to head to the badlands and talk to a group of health educators about creativity, what it means and how we achieve it.

Jessie Packaged Up!

To be creative is somewhat of an abstract idea and for me, a title I was dubbed with at a young age when my parents noticed my affinity for costumes, weird hats, singing made up songs and spending time writing stories about a cowboy clan or a turtle that found himself up on a fence post…

And while I think some of us are born with a louder or larger gene that compels us to create, to express and to feel and wear those things on our brightly colored puffy sleeves,  I believe that every one of us has it in us a tendency, a need, to express.

And I believe that the tendency comes from the need to help the world understand us.

And then, maybe, the other way around.

Because there’s so much going on here. There’s so many of us humans out working on the earth and some days we all just feel like we’re walking in a herd, or following one another in a line on that ribbon of highway that takes us to and from a destination.

But sometimes that destination is one worth talking about–what the sunset looked like reflecting off his face, how the rustic taste of red wine on your lips made you want to quit your job in the mid-west and move to a vineyard in the mountain.

How you fell in love with her because her brown eyes, tan skin and warm voice reminded you of the dessert where you were raised.

And how the ocean waves look like wheat fields when the wind blows back home and though you could never live on the sand, that water is somehow a part of you now.

When I first moved back to the ranch four summers ago there were pieces of me I had dropped along the way to being gone and back again.

I was focused on getting somewhere and I forgot to roll the windows down and let the wind mess up my unruly hair.

Then the summer sun turned my skin brown again and I found my notebook and I started poking around the place to see if I could find those missing pieces.

And so I picked them up, one by one: my curiosity, my small but determined muscles, my dirty bare feet and windblown face, my determination to get the gates closed on my own, the smell of the plum blossoms, my well-intentioned helpfulness and unwavering clumsiness and tendency to break farm equipment, and my affinity for hats…

And something in me woke up again. That little girl who followed the creek every day after school building forts and singing at the top of her lungs emerged slowly in an enthusiasm for the discovery of the first sweet pea of summer, or the rush of the snow melt in the spring and then the sound of the frogs. And that girl wasn’t scared then of falling off horses the way she was yesterday, because she felt a little braver out here among the trees and rocks and grass that knew her so well…and they said welcome home.

And so today I’ve been thinking about all this, this creativity. This thing we call inspiration. And I think, never in my life have I been as inspired as I was when I was eight or ten or twelve or fourteen years old and the world was small but open and I wasn’t out in it yet so it didn’t have a chance to hurt me and show me that there are a million people out there with ideas that are better than mine.

When you learn that sort of thing it’s hard to keep wondering about words you are sure have yet to be said or songs that just need to be sung.

And so we might wake up one day to find that we haven’t sung for months, and then one day it will be years and that is it then…

But I never wanted to stop singing and so when I came home I looked for my voice.

And I found it in all of those missing pieces I picked up…

So this is what I think now, that when I was eight or ten or twelve or fourteen I was creating because I was looking to understand myself and how I fit in this world. I was creating because I found it all so fascinating, the way those frogs croaked, the way the crocuses came every year after the cold. The way I could keep growing and changing but this place stayed the same and loved me anyway…

I’m a grown woman now. Twenty-one years after my tenth birthday and I know some things about myself that I didn’t know then.

I know that I grew up and kept my hair long. I know that I never stopped riding horses, something I worried would happen to me.

I know that I will live the rest of my life in this place, a place that keeps me climbing to the tops of hills to see what’s growing and how the sun will look when it hits the horizon tonight.

I know now that it is this place where I am most curious, most inspired, most lost then found, most frustrated, most relieved and most myself.

And I know now that there are a million reasons to keep quiet and stay in line, but there are also a million pieces of you out there waiting to be picked up, put back, rearranged, set out on your sleeve, screamed from the hilltops, explored and written somewhere in a book for curious eyes.

So you see, I think it’s the gathering that is creative. It is that gathering of those pieces that make us beautiful humans in this strange and beautiful world.

Brian Andreas-Story People

 

Sunday Column: Holding on under the sky

Well, what a party! I spent all day yesterday sort of propped up, sipping coffee and eating as much sugar as I could to keep me alive until dinnertime. We couldn’t have asked for a better celebration to honor the good life and the people we share it with.

A yard full of friends and family, good food, good conversation and music ringing into a quiet country night is about as close to heaven as you can come.

Especially when the sky is sunny and full of those nice fluffy clouds just rolling in over a horizon of green trees.

I’m going to get back to that party thing later, because there’s so much to be said about why we need to be hosting more backyard parties in the world, but  today I want to share with you this week’s column.

Because last week North Dakota was all over the news, particularly my home town of Watford City where a Memorial Day tornado touched down and wiped out fifteen campers where families were living while working in this busy and booming town.

9 Injured as Tornado hits Camp near Watford City

It was a scary situation, one that thankfully ended with only one serious injury of which a full recovery is expected. It’s a true miracle considering the size and force of that funnel and the vulnerability of the residents’  housing where the tornado touched down.

So much of what we do out here is entangled with the unpredictability of the sky and when that sky opens up, when the clouds rain and hail and swirl around, we are truly at our most vulnerable as a species who sometimes has a hard time accepting the fact that we can’t control everything in this world.

Last week my hometown was reminded of this hard reality, and then they rolled up their sleeves and got to work doing the things they could do, making change in the ways they know how by helping clean up, raising money for the family’s affected, donating clothes and pots and pans, hosting a spaghetti feed and moving on with life holding one another up.

Sometimes we lose sight of the human experience and what it means to be under this unpredictable sky together. Until that sky falls down around us.

Last week my community was reminded, the same way we were reminded this winter that when it comes to the sky and our beating hearts, there is no rhyme or reason, all we can do is hold on to one another.

Coming Home: Weather challenges us with its predicable unpredictability
by Jessie Veeder
6-1-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

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…

Sunday Column: Being us

IMG_7473One of us here is an actual dancer.

I’m sure it’s really hard for you to tell, so I’ll give you a hint. It not the one on the left and it sure and hell isn’t the nerdy, clumsy, pasty-skinned one on the right.

No. It’s my Little Big Sister, the pretty, well dressed one in the middle and here we are at her dance recital a couple Saturdays ago. My Big Little Sister is the teacher and founder of Meadowlark Dance Studio in our hometown, a teacher who failed at teaching her little sisters anything about being graceful or elegant, mostly because her little sisters were spending time bouncing basketballs or getting bucked off of horses…

Anyway, here we are together, three women who couldn’t be more different in lots of ways, but who were raised between the same buttes and somehow, after moving out and onwards, found ourselves together, all grown up and living between the buttes again.

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I never would have guessed it when we were fighting over whose turn it was to unload the dishwasher or when we were chasing each other around the house screaming something about bathroom hogging or staying out of my room that we would be back in this place just a few miles apart, living and working, a mom and some aunties, adults in the same community.

And I never knew how nice it would be, to be available to push “play” on the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” while my Little Big Sister guided a group of three-year-olds in frilly tutus to their places on stage.

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I didn’t know how proud I would feel to be connected to someone who is fulfilling a dream, no matter all the obstacles that stood in her way.

Because some days, out here in the middle of Boomtown, in the middle of nowhere, it’s not the easiest place to be, but I imagine that’s the case anywhere you plant yourself and look for a place to belong among a community of people out trying to do the same.

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That’s when family comes in handy. Family you can call when you need someone to feed the dog or watch the baby or help you move the heavy things that need to be moved when you’re dealing with the unexpected or making plans to move forward.

That’s what my little big sister did out here, back home. She started over and moved forward and so last weekend Pops watched Little Man and set up the sound system,  mom handed out programs, Little Sister shushed and organized the dancers back stage, I pushed play on the music and my Little Big Sister presented her dancers to the families sitting in folding chairs, eating sugar cookies on colorful napkins, snapping photos and laughing and clapping for their own little ones they were so proud to see twirling and jumping up there on that dance floor.

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And when the last dance was danced we got up on ladders to take down the lights and put the decorations in boxes and hugged and said congratulations and then we headed down the block to move racks of clothes and shelves and piles of jeans and shoes to get mom’s store ready for new carpet.

This week we’re making plans for a big party to celebrate Pops’ birthday. Mom’s putting plants in pots, Big Little Sister will bring some chairs, Little Sister will make some calls and bring some beer, I’ve got the tent thing under control and we’re all going to be there, celebrating with friends and family and music and food.

And that’s what this week’s column is about, celebrating being us in this place.

Coming Home: There’s always a way for dreams to come true
By Jessie Veeder
5-25-14
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