Bittersweet

Bittersweet
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I woke up this morning to a dull haze that settled into the valleys of this place. A thick kind of air that’s veiling the changing trees and golden grasses, a mysterious way to showcase a changing season

I ventured out in it to clear my head, put a flush in my cheeks, to remind these lungs and these legs that I belong here under this September sky.

At least that is what I hold on tight to, especially in the hardest times, the times when the unanswerable questions scream at us until we fall to our knees.

These questions seem louder today as our community is scouring the banks and current of the Yellowstone River for a 13-year-old boy who was swept away without warning.

Why? With the inhale of a breath, just like that, it all changes.

I march across a landscape that was, just months ago, soft and lush and full of new life. The limbs of trees bursting with new leaves, the creek beds flowing with the heartbeat of the creatures that drink from it, the colors of the wildflowers flashy and fertile, the green grasses bending and swaying with the rhythm of a warm wind.

Bountiful, beautiful, enchanting new life.

But today, the same sun that helped spring life from the earth is working on stripping the landscape of its softness, turning it sharp and dry and brown under my feet. With that sort of change, we could easily be convinced that all hope is lost. That this is it. The green will never return.

But we’ve come to understand that it’s just the spinning of the planet, the change of a season. And we know that from the deep depths of winter, eventually a crocus will push through the mud, reaching its pedals to the sky.

This is fair to us. This is nature, the circle, the seasons defined. We accept that we must harvest the wheat, pick the last berries and bundle up for winter. We only mourn the loss of a season briefly, because certainly it will come back around again.

But how do we accept it when a human heart stops beating?

When faced with insurmountable loss and grief, there’s no grip tight enough, no kiss warm enough, no clock that moves fast enough.

“Why? How will we go on? What happens to us now?”

In my life I’ve asked these questions inside of church buildings, in the lines of books, in doctor’s offices and while holding on tightly to family. But it’s when I’ve walked the silent trails of tangled brush and bugs buzzing, abandoned nests and broken branches and when I’ve screamed to the sky to hold us together, to remain predictable and steady, that I’ve come to be the most comforted. Feet in the mud, face to the sun, hands touching the grasses and lungs sucking in the air.

Because out under this, down from the hills and off the trails, I’ve found that there is suffering out here that looks just like ours. The tiny mouse doesn’t always outrun the hawk; thorns and burs tangle and take over the land. Even the mighty oak can’t run from the storm.

But then, among the bare, black, snarl of the brush in the dead of the fall, a vibrant, hearty vine wraps its way toward the sky, holding out for the season, shining bright against the gloom. Bittersweet.

And that mighty oak, despite the eminent snowstorm, releases its acorns with the hope that one of her seeds might take root and reach for the sky someday.

She seems to be whispering, “Those we must let go, will come back to us…”

On the scent of a rose, the glisten of dew on the grass, in the breath of a horse, the sigh of a newborn child or the sunrise through a bedroom window each morning — a quiet sign that those heartbeats still surround us.

And that crocus? A lesson to live this brief life with vulnerability and color — and be the first to welcome the light.

Keep Ira and his family in your hearts. May they find peace among the pain. Since I filed this column that have found his body and today they are holding a funeral in celebration of his life.

Take care of one another.

Summer Sunset

The songs that we know

The Songs that We Know
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There are songs that we know, tucked away in the back of our memories that come to in the form of a hum or a whistle while we’re doing dishes or laundry, pulling weeds or fixing on the tractor.

Maybe it was a song we learned in elementary music class, standing next to your best friend on the risers, singing at the top of our lungs without a care, the way only a 7-year-old can.

Or it might be our favorite church hymn, or the one you first learned to play on the guitar or the piano, or the verse your mother used to sing quietly while she helped you wash your hair in the bath.

These songs become a part of our DNA, just like the color of your eyes or the swirl of cowlicked hair on the back of your head, you seem to have always known the words to the first verse of “You Are My Sunshine” or “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” or that song that your dad used to sing loud and silly in the kitchen while he spun you around next to the refrigerator… “Be-bop-a-lula, she’s my baby… Be-bop-a-lula, I don’t mean maybe…”

You hear that now and you’re instantly 10 years old again in stocking feet on the linoleum floor…

I became a singer because my dad was a singer. People ask me why or how it came to be that I carried music with me my entire life, and that’s the answer. I always felt compelled to sing along.

As far back as the memories I can reach, my dad had a guitar or a song, picking or strumming or singing along, a comfort to him that became a comfort to me. A Harry Chapin song about an immigrant grandfather, a Guy Clark tune that sounded like a hot summer day, Lyle Lovett’s “Waltzing Fool,” Emmylou’s heartbreak and the stories and characters I fell in love with in three-minute vignettes made me want to do it too, to make music like that, and to keep them close, like old friends.

Now that I have young children of my own spinning and leaping in the living room while I play my guitar, I wonder which songs might stick in their lungs and emerge while they’re packing their bags or curling their hair. It’s been 30 years since I first stood next to my dad behind a microphone, probably at an Art in the Park in my hometown, singing Nanci Griffith’s “Love at the Five and Dime.” I didn’t know then that I would recount Rita and Eddy’s love story for years to come, around campfires, on flatbed trailers, at county fairs and coffee shops and colleges throughout the country — I would take them with me. A little piece of my childhood.

And while music can be timeless, our lives are not. Last fall as I was staring down my 36th year, with little wisps of gray in my hair, I suddenly felt a real urgency to somehow capture the music I grew up playing. I wanted to always be able to turn a dial and hear my dad’s voice on John Prine’s “Paradise,” to bottle up neighbor Kelly’s yodel on Night Rider’s “Lament” and capture Mike’s doboro, steele and guitar-picking the way he’s played for me on my favorite songs since I was a kid trying to be a singer.

And so a new album was born. I called it “Playing Favorites,” because that’s what we would be doing — playing our favorites, and maybe some of yours, too.

Little did I know that during the process of making the album that I would find myself struggling to breathe, finishing up the recording process while beginning an unpredictable cancer battle.

Little did I know how important this collection of songs would become to me.

And so while I’m happy to announce that, nearly a year since I knew something just wasn’t right, I am cancer-free, I’m also excited that the news coincided with the release of this album, our gift to you, available online at jessieveedermusic.com, some select local stores and anywhere you download music.

We hope you find a few familiar tunes to hum along to.

7 billion hours until chokecherry jelly time

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7 billion hours until chokecherry jelly time
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Do you know how many chokecherries it takes to make six jars of jelly? Seven billion.

Do you know how many hours it takes to accomplish this task? About the same, give or take.

Depending on whether you decide to bring most of the small children on the ranch with you when you pick them. Which I did.

And a grandpa, too.

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And when you take small children with you to pick chokecherries on a warm (OK, hot) August afternoon up in the fields where the cows haven’t had a chance to graze yet, you lose those small children in the tall grass.

That’s an actual thing.

You think they’re following you to the low hanging branches, but then you turn around and they’re gone. Don’t worry — you can still hear them, which is helpful for the rescue.

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I have so many memories of chokecherry-picking throughout the years growing up out here in western North Dakota, monitoring the blossoms in the spring, hoping a late frost didn’t kill our chances at jelly.

We would stand in the bed of the pickup backed up to the tall bushes to reach the clusters of ripe berries on the top, or I would scour the scoria road ditches with my best friend, trying to meet our goal of a full feed bucket. I can feel the horseflies biting my arms, the grass itching my legs and the sun scorching my shoulders just thinking about it.

Last week was my first time making those sort of rustic memories with my daughters and niece in tow. And given the amount of time they spent lost and tripped up in the tall grass, I think I accomplished making them appropriately itchy.

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The oldest two bounced back up pretty well, though, and with a lot of praise and Papa Gene basically bending entire bushes down to meet them, they kept to the task.

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My 2-year-old? Well, it was over for her as soon as that grass touched her armpits, and so she spent the next 45 minutes in the side-by-side yelling various versions of “Are you done yet!?” into the sky and bushes during breaks between singing at the top of her lungs and trying to figure out how to get the thing started.

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We called it quits when both my girls were whining enough to scare the horseflies away, but I think my little niece and Papa Gene would have stayed out there until every branch was bare.

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Did I tell you about the time we thought we lost my dad entirely picking chokecherries a couple years back? Sent out a search party and found him basically in the next county, because apparently the berries keep getting better one bush over…

Anyway, so that’s the first step. The next? Put the 2-year-old down for a nap while I try to convince the 4-year-old that sorting the sticks, leaves and bugs out of the berry stash is a fun game. And she believed me, but only for like 15 minutes.

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Then she needed to go put on some lipstick or change her princess ball gown or something, leaving me alone with the task of sorting, washing, boiling, straining and juicing these berries — all while breaking up sister fights, finding snacks — and, oh shoot, it’s suppertime.

Do you know what you shouldn’t do? Work on a chokecherry jelly project while also trying to make pork loin and rice. To my credit, I thought I started this project with plenty of time in between. But it’s been years since I tried to be this domestic. Like, before I had children.

And it turns out time moves a bit differently when you have small children in the house and I didn’t recall that it takes 7 billion hours and about the same amount of kitchen utensils to make six small jars of jelly.

And so this is your reminder, in case you were thinking about taking on the chore, to make sure you clear your schedule. And all of the surfaces in your kitchen. And when you spread it on your toast or pancakes, you better not spill a drop…

Maybe next time I’ll try making wine.

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New Album Out!

You’ve heard rumblings here and there in the midst of the crazy that has become 2020, but I want to officially announce it here. The new album, Playing Favorites, is officially OUT!

I’ve been working on this compilation that features some of the songs that influenced me and songs I grew up singing, for almost a year. It felt timely and urgent to me for some reason to put these songs down, with my dad and neighbor Kelly and guitar player Mike who has played with me since I was a teenager and with other musicians who have been there for me along the way. Little did I know I was recording the album with a cancerous tumor in my airway that was working to threaten my life.

Little did I know I would wrap it up in the middle of the COVID lockdown.

Little did I know about the detour my life would take.

But now its release it feels so much sweeter. Because we’re in the middle of a time when we all want to be reminded of something familiar and comforting, and these songs are just that for me, and hopefully to you too. I am so happy to be able to send them out into the world.

Purchase your signed copy today

or Download it or listen wherever you listen or buy music. 
Spotify or iTunes

Playing Favorites Album Art

This album is dedicated to my dad and his red guitar. It’s for the characters in the songs we sing and for the characters we’ve played for on flatbed trailers at county fairs, in Legion Clubs and churches, at backyard barbecues, barn dances and potluck picnics in small towns across the mid-west. When we pick up our guitars at a campfire or in the living rooms of family and friends after a good meal with good company, these are the first songs we reach for because they are familiar, safe and forgiving of our imperfections, just like old friends. On this album you will hear the voices and instruments of my dad and I, of course, but also of our friends who have so often, when we needed them most, pulled up a chair to play along. This album is for them. And it’s for my daughters, my nieces and my nephews, for my cousins and their kids and you and yours, so that you might find a familiar tune and a place to sing along.
With much love,
Jessie ❤️

The heartbeats in between

The heartbeats in between 
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My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary in my surgeon’s office on the fourth floor of Mayo Clinic, almost 700 miles from the oak tree on the ranch in western North Dakota where we were married 14 years ago when I was on the edge of turning 23. We vowed for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as if we really knew what that meant at all.

But we never know what’s coming, do we? We’ve sure learned that lesson in these 14 years, watching our plans try their hardest to fly out the window while we hang on for dear life. Turns out, even when you think you might never come up for air, there’s always the surface, the other side of the hard things. We just have to wait for it.

And so we treated our latest visit to Rochester as if we already knew the news. Eight weeks out of a sternotomy to remove a cancerous tumor attached to my airway, I was feeling a bit more like myself, a bit more like laughing, a bit lighter from the weight of pain easing. After dropping the kids with the in-laws we took to the road like we were going on vacation. Because why not? We were together. We were OK. We were driving along Interstate and highway surrounded by sunflower fields reaching toward the sky and corn taller than two of us stacked up.

We spent the five days between doctors and tests eating as much as we could and finding shelter from the rain and sun under Minnesota trees and patio umbrellas. Once, as we were indulging in a 2 p.m. cocktail and late lunch, the woman a table over stood up to tell us that we really know how to live. We didn’t know if it was the calamari, the drinks or the loud laughter, but we decided it was the best compliment we could have received.

To know how to live.

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I’ll tell you now that the doctor, on our 14th wedding anniversary, told us I am going to be OK. He said he couldn’t have done a better job repairing my airway. And that the cancer? Well, he got it all.

Life will now look like a big scar down the middle of my chest and a CT scan every six months for the foreseeable future to make sure the cancer stays gone, moving it to the back of my mind, instead of the center of our worries.

And for that we are the lucky ones.

Fourteen years ago I carried sunflowers in my bouquet as I walked down the “aisle” in that cow pasture, toward the man who would become my husband that day. Little did I know that it takes so much more than a wedding to make a marriage. Little did I know that the only thing you can really count on is that things go wrong.

And then, right again.

As we headed west out of Rochester and toward the rolling buttes of home, I imagined those fields of sunflowers waving us on into a new year, a new season, spectators with encouraging smiles, reminding me of the love and support we’ve received from our family, friends and community during these past several months.\

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Reminding me that life is just a series of triumphs, roadblocks, joy and heartache. But my favorite times have always been the millions and billions of heartbeats in between.

A man needs a haircut

A man needs a haircut

My Grandma Edie used to give the neighborhood men haircuts. In the middle of her tiny kitchen at the end of a scoria road in the most rural of North Dakota places, she became a sort of pop-up barbershop to her brothers, cousins, neighbors and, in the old days, her husband and sons.

The phone on the wall would ring and she would pull a kitchen chair out to the middle of the linoleum floor and set her clippers and scissors out on her old kitchen table, the one she just cleared of supper.

Or maybe, if it was a summer evening, she would pull that chair out on the deck or the stoop and wait for the pickup to kick up dust on the road to unload a scruffy-looking man who was just on the other end of the telephone line.

Gramma giving Grampa Pete a haircut in her kitchen

I wasn’t there for all those haircuts, of course, but I was there when I was 7 or 8 or 9 and she was still alive and laughing, and I remember.

I remember the way she draped and fastened an old peach bath towel around the wide shoulders and snapshirt of our neighbor, Dean. His hair was thick and sprinkled with salt and pepper, and maybe, this was the only time I saw him with his hat off. And so I noticed that his forehead was white and smooth, just like his teeth, pushing up his tan and weathered cheeks in a story with a punchline and his big, deep laugh.

Summer days spent on the back of a horse or in the hayfield turn a man like that into a sort of windswept patchwork quilt. I noticed that then, at 7 or 8 or 9, and then I noticed that man, without his hat, half a head of hair on the kitchen floor, defenseless under my grandmother’s clipper and peach towel, the way I’d never seen a man out here before.

But a man needs a haircut, even when there’s calves to check or fences to fix. And maybe they didn’t want to make the long trip to town, maybe they didn’t have time, or the money, or they had a wedding the next day and time got away from them, and so they called my grandma down the road. She did a fine job. They had coffee or sun tea and a good visit.

I gave my first haircut at the ranch the summer we first moved back. I took the dog clipper to my husband’s mane in that very same kitchen where my grandma set up shop. I clipped a towel around his shoulders and watched his hair fall to the same linoleum floor, freeing his neck up of the curls that formed in the sweat of the August heat.

I did a terrible job, but my husband stood up, put his hat back on and thanked me as he headed out the door to fix a broken tractor.null

This spring, my dad came in from checking the cows and was desperate to tame the scruff of his wild white hair. It had been years, but I dug out those dog clippers again and shaved it all off in the kitchen, just as my little sister walked in to gasp loud enough to cause concern. “It’s just hair,” he said, and he was glad it was gone, grateful for his hat to fit right again as he headed back out to fix a fence.

The next day, I sat my husband down on the deck, poured myself a drink and spent the next hour trimming, shaving, clipping and obsessing over the shape of his hair with his beard trimmer and my daughters’ safety scissors.

The white of his forehead and salt and pepper in his hair reminded me of Dean, and I decided that if I was going to provide this service, I might as well learn how to be good at it. Because not only did it make the men in my life feel a bit lighter, it made me feel glad for another way to take care of them.

So I ordered myself some professional scissors and my sister’s sending her husband over here next week. If you need me, I guess it’s official: I give the neighborhood men haircuts.

The adventures of tiny ranch girls…

Kids and ponies
The adventures of tiny ranch girls
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My little sister has been living in a new house on the ranch over the hill with her family for a year now. In the fall, her family welcomed a new little girl, Emma, who is now 8 months old. Her oldest daughter, Ada, is 3.

 

This means at any given moment, you could drive into the Veeder ranch and likely see a swarm of wild blond hair, glitter, flowing dresses, skinned knees, pretty chaos running down the scoria road squealing, with my sister and me trailing behind, occasionally hollering things like “Be careful!” or “Don’t push!” or “OK, OK, let the frog go now…”

Yeah. Right now, there are four girls between us — aged 4, 3, 2 and 8 months — roaming the barnyard. Which means in addition to six cats, four dogs and 10 horses, we also now have two little ponies.

Two ponies, named (you could probably guess it) Sparkles and Tootsie.

Of course.

Along with the kittens, the backyard sprinkler and endless Popsicles, these ponies have been the center of our life at the ranch this summer. Every morning my little sister puts her roly-poly baby in her pack, grabs her 3-year-old and goes down to the barn to brush, pet, pamper and, of course, feed the ponies who could care less if there’s a little girl hanging on their necks, pulling on their tails or brushing their bellies, as long as they get treats.

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And after supper, if the weather is right and they’re all behaving well enough to brave it, I call my sister and we meet them at the barn to saddle up the ponies and teach the girls to ride.

I could weave you a magical tale right now about the bonds between little girls and horses. I have plenty of firsthand experience falling in love with horses out here myself. And yes, there have been dozens of sweet moments captured between these little girls and these mini equines — but mostly it’s a firestorm of lesson upon lesson packed into a pink, noisy, explosion at the barn.

And it sounds a lot like: “OK, don’t scream around the horses remember? No, no running behind them… calm, remember? You’ve gotta stay calm… OK, OK, that’s enough grain. Woah, enough I said!”

“Edie, don’t drop the reigns. You have to hold onto them when you get off.”

“Oh, you’re trotting! Good job, good… woah, woah, woah, you’ve gotta hang on!”

“Where’s Rosie? Rosie!? Oh Lord, is your head stuck in the gate? Wait there, what the heck girl? How in the world… Daddy! Rosie’s head’s stuck in the gate!”

“OK, it’s Ada’s turn! OK, it’s Rosie’s turn. OK, it’s Edie’s turn. Yeah, you have to take turns. Yeah, you can lead her… no she doesn’t want to run… girls, no screaming around the ponies.”

“OK, no crying either. It’s OK…”

“Rosie! Rosie, don’t climb so high on the fence. Where’s Ada? Ada, enough splashing in the water tank… Edie, Edie, slow down now. Pull back and say ‘woah!'”

And on and on like this until someone gets an owie or the adults and the ponies in the pen wear out. But the adventure doesn’t end there — anything can happen in that quarter of a mile back to our houses.

Last night? Well, it was a detour to inspect a grass snake…

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followed by heroically freeing our dog, Remi, from my little sister’s sticky fly trap…

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Yesterday, it was a ladybug and a handful of sunflowers…

And today? Well, in this magical place, with these girls running wild, anything is possible.

And my sister and I, well, we’ll be right behind them, yelling “Be careful!” and saving the frogs and salamanders from their tiny dress pockets and purses.

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On the road to recovery

I had an interview this morning with a local news station about my health this week. It’s still weird to be talking as a cancer patient, especially when I thought I would be using this time to perform and promote on behalf of the new album. But as we all know, plans change, you’re not promised tomorrow and I’m nothing if I’m not resilient. I’m happy to share my story if it inspires someone to fight for their health and for the life that they want.

You can watch the piece at the link below:

Watford City recording artist on the road to recovery after cancer diagnosis

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Pre-order a signed copy of the new album, Playing Favorites at jessieveedermusic.com 

Playing Favorites Album Art

Peace, love and good vibes only,

Jessie ❤️

On the other side of this…

On the other side of this…
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Water park visits, youth rodeos, T-ball games, street festivals and fairs, performing music almost every week in a different community, a state fair visit, backyard gatherings with friends and camping trips and work on the ranch, work on the house, work on planning community events…

That’s what summer looked like last year, and the year before, and the year before… a calendar full, the weekends penciled-in, not enough time to get to the lazing around part, the slow parts, the parts we stay home, bring Dad lunch in the hayfield and fight boredom with a homemade slip-‘n-slide — the summers I remember as a kid growing up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere.

Those summers looked more like mowing, barn painting, bareback horse rides to pick Juneberries, running through the lawn sprinklers with my best friend, bike rides, the county fair and an occasional trip to the outdoor pool.

Yesterday I made the girls homemade bubbles, the same way my grandma used to make them for us, and just like my daughters, we would go dancing across the lawn in the heat of the day with a string of sparkling orbs trailing behind us.

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Watching them brought me back to that little brown house next to the barnyard and eating Schwan’s push-up pops on the front steps.

I haven’t spent so many summer days (or any days) consecutively at home at the ranch since then, it seems. But with COVID canceling every singing and speaking job for months and a cancer diagnosis derailing and bypassing every other plan we made for ranch, business and housework, here I am shuffling around the house and yard, tossing feed to the animals and placing my lawn chair next to the sprinkler as the kids run, squeal and jump through this unexpected summer, seemingly (and thank goodness) no worse for the wear.

If you would have told me last year this is where we’d be, no one would have believed it. But I see now in so many ways that I was yearning for it. Not the cancer part. Not the terrifying, life-threatening, business-ending pandemic part. No. Not that.

But a chance to take it down a notch, to step back and remember why we live here. Why we built this family on this piece of land and what it really means to exist here.

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And I’m going to preface this by saying we are the lucky ones here. We are still working. We have land in which to social distance while we raise animals to help feed the nation. We have family close and we take care of one another. We are not on the front lines. We are keeping healthy, so far, and it’s because of that perhaps that I have the luxury of looking for lessons here.

But each day that passes in my recovery as a cancer patient (and a rancher, and a musician, an event planner and a mom and a daughter and a wife) in the time of COVID — each day that keeps us watching the news, arguing and discussing, staying close to home and riding the ponies and taking long walks to the grain bins — I’m looking and listening for how it’s speaking to me, how it’s changing me and my family, how it might affect our communities, our country and our world.

Because the greatest tragedy of it all, to me, would be that all this suffering, uncertainty, loss and worry at this moment in history and in my personal trials, would be in vain.

And that could send me into a panic, because there’s so much that needs to change…

But then I watch my girls run across the yard, bare feet, wild hair and bubbles flying against a blue sky, and I think — even if all we learn from this is how to sit still long enough to make homemade bubbles and eat push-up pops on the front porch, and turn the backyard sprinkler on in the heat and take good and better care — maybe, on the other side of this, we could be on our way to being OK…

 

It takes a village to heal

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It takes a village to heal
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It’s been over four weeks since surgeons at Mayo Clinic cut open my sternum, moved my ribs and lungs and heart valves (and whatever else was in the way) so they could remove the cancerous tumor attached to my airway.

And so they cut my airway, reattached it, then put my lungs back where they belonged and pulled and stapled my ribs back together.

They stitched my chin to my neck to make sure I didn’t move my head too far back, and then, day by day, during my stay in the hospital, a new tube or IV came out. And then the chin stitches were removed, and then three X-rays, one bronchoscopy and five days later, I was released back into the world that keeps on turning even while we hold our breath.

They think they got all the cancer. They think, but we’re still waiting to hear for sure.

I’m back at the ranch now with what I hope is the worst part behind me, slowly feeling a bit better and stronger each day.

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Time will do that for you if you let it. It will get you to where you need to be. I’ve learned this lesson in my life before, but I’m still humbled by how helpless I feel in my own home, surrounded by the mess and the laundry and the projects we’ve made for ourselves.

All of that has to wait now the same way I have to wait to be able to grab my young daughters, lift them up, hug them tight or push them on the swing. Every morning, little Rosie asks me if my “owie” is better, which is code for, “Can you hold me yet?” And when I tell her I can’t, she sits beside me and we hold hands.

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I wish I could tell you I’ve taken time to read the books I haven’t had a chance to read, or written some profound music or poetry, or had some major revelation, but mostly, when you’re healing from something as traumatic as this, it seems like it takes about all the energy you have to mend. And lots of terrible shows on Netflix.

I can tell you I have never been more physically vulnerable. And when you find yourself so helpless, your family, friends and community, they are illuminated. All of a sudden you see them, and the way their hearts open, because you can no longer afford to say, “Oh no, that’s OK, we got this.”

Because in times like these, without your village, you don’t have it. To survive it you have to be gone, displaced, completely distracted, and it takes all you have in you to get through days of pain and healing, let alone continue under any kind of normal. At least for now.

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First family photo, halfway home after surgery…

And so you can’t do it alone. You need someone you trust to take care of the kids. You need your sister to feed the pets and plants. You need all the prayers and the well wishes and meals sent to your door. And while you don’t need that Juneberry pie, or gift cards and cash for gas and hotel stays and hospital bills, it sure helps ease one part of the burden of worry.

And you need your husband or your partner to get you dressed and open your pills and wash your hair and shave your legs and try his best at a ponytail and give up all his pillows in the hotel bed to make sure that you are comfortable. You need him to sit next to you in the hospital for five days wearing a mask and not complain once.

And so here I sit, feet up, a little worse for the wear, but on the other side of the scariest thing I’ve done since parachuting out of a plane over the ocean.

I am a lucky woman, so even if they call tomorrow and tell me I need to undergo radiation to become cancer-free, I know I can do it. Because this world we live in, while so genuinely heartbreaking, gives us miracles every day.

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And to me, those miracles look a lot like my children laughing, or the purr of a kitten, the smell of the ranch after a storm or the crunch of a garden pea. To me, those miracles wear scrubs and masks, take my kids for a tea party, come to live with us while I recover, send cards and raise money and call to check in, pick up my medicine and teach me what it means to truly take care of one another.

And now that I know how it feels to be on this side of things, I understand better the ways to take care, too.

But for now, if you need me, I’ll be here, holding my daughters’ hands, eating casserole, walking slowly to the mailbox and healing up…

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