The magic of childhood

On the podcast Chad and I reminisce about some of the most magical times of our childhoods after Edie’s birthday reminded us of how exciting the little things can be when we’re young. Then I confesses some of my most embarrassing moments in the recent weeks while Chad cringes in the corner and questions his life decisions. Then stay tuned for a sweet little interview with the birthday girl!

When’s the last time you’ve been so completely excited about something that you couldn’t sleep? Like, not nerves, but the kind of happy anticipation that makes it impossible to switch your mind off. Body wiggling, so completely pumped that you wanted to close your eyes and skip days to get the thing that you could not wait for?

It’s been a while for me. I didn’t think so. If you were to ask me this question a couple months ago I’m sure I would have been able to come up with an answer to an event or activity or vacation or something that had me energized in recent years, but then last week happened and now I’m convinced that adult excited can’t hold a candle to almost-7-year-old on the night before her first sleep-over birthday party ever excited.

That kind of kid energy, it’s palpable, and for the last couple weeks we have been in a countdown to the big birthday party. With each passing day, my daughter, she leveled up, until the last two nights before the party we were left with the kind of emotion that the little darling could hardly manage. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and she certainly wasn’t going to fall asleep without checking and double checking her mother’s work, popping up out of what I thought was a dead sleep multiple times to ask me things like “Did you get the cupcakes?” “Did you call the other mommies and tell them to tell the teachers we’re picking my friends up after school?” “Do you think we should go to the pool first or just come home to play?” And then, “I’m so excited I might cry.” And then she did a little and so did I, wondering if either one of us was going to get any sleep and suddenly nervous that I was going to somehow screw something up (I mean, she has such little faith!)

So now I’ve concluded that probably the last time I’ve ever been that excited was when I was eight or nine and I was decorating our kitchen with homemade construction paper cutouts of fish and seaweed and blue and yellow streamers and planning the water balloon fight my friends and I were going to have when they came over to celebrate. And then I got a brand new bike to boot and I was over the moon.

Or the Christmas Eve night when I was right in the sweet spot of childhood and also my neighbor asked me to babysit a tiny baby goat for the holiday weekend named Filipe. And I had that goat in a box by my bed and a lit up cedar branch of a Christmas tree in my room that kept falling over with the weight of all the ornaments and lights because the little coffee can stuffed with wet newspaper didn’t stand a chance and I was anticipating the beanbag chair I’d asked for and Santa delivered…that was something. That was a memory.

And it was simple as that. A tiny baby goat in diapers and a beanbag chair on Christmas morning.

And then there was our wedding, of course. I was absolutely excited about that one, but big days like that as an adult get complicated a bit with grown-up expectations and responsibility. So much of it is in our hands then. But kids? Kids keep it simple. It’s all about the play. It’s all in their heart.

And so I hosted my first ever 7-year-old birthday party sleepover as a mom. And, to Edie’s relief, I remembered the school pickup protocol and I remembered the cupcakes. We got her the toy on her wish-list and we had tacos and did all of the things—dress-up, nail painting, charades, dance party, played house, Barbies, crafts, movie, popcorn and staying up too late. (I even let them use glitter because I’m wild and crazy and one of the girls called me fun and so it is worth sweeping it off the floor for the rest of my life.)

When we finally had to bring her friends back to their parents, I apologized to the mommies for the sugar rush and late bedtime and the glitter ornament I packed up in their bags. One of the moms even thanked me for the purple and green hair chalk in her daughter’s blonde hair. She said it was perfect for their family pictures that afternoon, but I’m not sure she meant it. I told her she’s just lucky I didn’t send a kitten home as a party favor. That was a real option…

Anyway, I asked Edie if her birthday party was everything she hoped it would be and she said she wished it lasted longer and so I took that as a yes. And I’m taking her as my inspiration going into this holiday season to strip off a few layers of adulthood-induced stress and channel that good old-fashioned childhood energy.

Anyone have a baby goat that needs babysitting?

The perks of being a ranch kid…

Happy Day After Thanksgiving! This week’s column is an update on shipping day and on the podcast Chad and I catch up after a really busy couple weeks and talk about all things, including the significance this time of the year has for our family. We talk a bit about our rocky road to parenthood as well as how scary it can be to face taking over a ranch operation before you feel fully ready. Also, call us if you need a kitten or some tips on how to survive a 7 year old birthday sleepover party!

Listen to the podcast here, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google.


The perks of being a ranch kid

“Aren’t you glad you kept them home from school?” My dad said to me, standing in his work boots and Carhart jacket, looking a little out of place in the middle of the blinking lights and pings of the pizza place arcade.

He had just bought us all supper and he was sort of beaming watching all four of his small granddaughters take their best shot at skee ball and whack- a-mole and I just couldn’t help but declare, out loud to him and my aunt, that this had been a great day. And they whole-heartedly agreed, our bellies full of carbs and cheese and ice cream, all of us smelling, and looking, a bit like sale barn.

We started the day in the chill of a barely above zero morning watching the guys sort the calves from the cows in the pen. I’d been gone for two days before, across the state singing for my supper and was feeling the repercussions of messing with the weekday schedule and questioning my career path. The evening prior I was still sixty miles from home and my friend called to let me know my six-year-old was at gymnastics in town and was wondering why I didn’t pack her leotard. And then I had to explain that I didn’t pack her leotard because my darling dear daughter was supposed to be on the bus heading home where her dad was in the tractor moving corrals and watching for her. It’s moments like these when the thirty-mile drive to civilization to retrieve a confused kid seems vast and crazy. And it’s moments like these I thank God for friends who have made the same mistakes and help without judgment, and a sister in town for groceries who can pick up the confused kid on her way home.

I bring this up because it sent me reeling a bit. I have a crazy schedule and a set of unconventional jobs, so when something slips with the kids, I find it fair game to beat myself up about it. I wonder if I chose a more 9 to 5 route if it would make me better at schedule keeping. Or if I could have found a way to stay home with them full time if the laundry wouldn’t pile up so high and our meals would be planned out and I would be a better, less distracted mom. I was putting Edie to bed that night trying to sort out how I was going to get the girls to school and be back in time to help get the calves on the truck and make sure the soup was set up and ready for lunch when I was reminded, out of the darkness, that I was in charge here.

And the kids could stay home from school on shipping day.

Of course they could! It’s, as my aunt pointed out, “the perk of a ranch kid’s job.” And to prioritize our children’s involvement in the process of what puts groceries in our cupboards is arguably one of the most important jobs of a rancher. They’re never too young. That’s why we’re here.

Not that it’s easier. Because a six and four year old were no help at all in the snow and the chill of the morning sort, but they felt a bit a part of it anyway, even if that part was throwing snow in the air and kicking frost off the fence rails. But if you thought they weren’t helpful there, they really weren’t in the sale barn, strutting in with their purple boots and pink backpack full of coloring projects and plastic ponies, my little sister and her two young daughters right behind us.

But the moment we stepped into that sale barn, the scent hit our nostrils and we were transported back to when we were the kids, getting to pick out an orange pop and a candy bar from the café before finding our place on the sale barn bench. So, first things first, the only place in the world a can of pop still costs $1 and we were all sorts of nostalgic.

And also? We were a spectacle, the four little girls and my sister and me. Add to the crew my dad, husband, my aunt and uncle and our calves had a regular cheering committee in Dickinson that day. When those calves hit the ring and the auctioneer pointed us out, I turned around to my daughters and squealed with nervous excitement “our calves! There’s our calves! Then I hit my sister’s leg and turned around to face the music with a weird and nervous smile while taking pictures.

In case you are wondering, this is not sale-barn protocol.

You’re just supposed to nod. That’s it.

But you know what is sale-barn-protocol? Rounding up the kids and their plastic ponies from the far corner of the bench seats where they were using up a little too much of a stranger’s personal space for their make-shift-pasture and heading out for pizza and ice cream to celebrate, smelling like sales barn and smiling, reveling in the perks of the job.

A horse ride down memory lane

We couldn’t have crammed more into this week if we added another day. I’m writing this under the covers after spending an hour and a half trying to convince my almost 7 year old to calm down and try to sleep, which is an impossible plea, because her very first sleepover birthday party is tomorrow. We’ve been planning it for a month. We’ve been counting down. We decorated. She’s checked my plans twice and then again, and, just when I thought she might have finally drifted off, one more time, just to be sure. I finally escaped when she stopped wiggling for good, tip-toes upstairs to wrap her presents and then collapsed.

Early this week I took a quick trip across the state to talk and sing and share my children’s book with some adorable elementary school kids. I got home just in time to gather a plan and get lunch ready for shipping day on Tuesday. I decided to keep the girls home and take them to the sale barn and I will tell you more about that later but it was a great day, despite the snow and the cold.

The next day we preg-checked and it either snowed or blowed or snowed and blowed the entire time, which brought us into today. Today I was supposed to visit a couple more towns on behalf of Prairie Princess, but because winter decided to show up early and never leave I had to reschedule it for the second time in a week! And somewhere in there my husband is supposed to be working on a deck.

Tonight at supper between hanging streamers and reheating leftovers we wondered why we have to fit all our life into one week. But then we realized it’s like this pretty much every week. It’s the season of our lives. We’re lucky. And exhausted.

Here’s this week’s column, late, nostalgic and a bit awkward, just like me.

Love you all!

A horse ride down memory lane

I would like to take a trip down memory lane because I stumbled upon a little gem of a piece of writing I crafted when I was a kid. I did plenty of writing as a kid. I have books of embarrassing poetry and stories, most never to see the light of day, but sometimes we were given writing assignments in school … and, well … I guess I just couldn’t hold back the emotion and theatrics housed in my little mind and I saw it as my time to expose my soul to the world.

In third grade.

So my gift to you, straight out of the archives, an early piece on the subject of friendship and love and animal whispering, all lessons learned from a beautiful, overweight and elderly mare who I loved dearly.

Get your tissues and be prepared to be moved beyond words.

What happens when the family tries to fit an entire life into one week? Jessie finds herself alone in her basement talking to you about memories of an old horse because despite her attempts, she couldn’t bring herself to wake up her exhausted husband to visit. Listen here or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts

Rindey and Me

By third grade Jessie Veeder (complete with spelling errors, including Rindy)

It all started when we moved out to the farm to help my grandma because my grandpa died and we had to keep the farm going. My dad was talking about a horse for me. He thought about Dell, my grandma’s horse but I said that I didn’t want that horse because it was grandma’s. Then my only choise was my grandpa’s horse because I had been riding her for a while and I liked her

That was a while ago and now I know everything about her. She knows how I’m feeling and I know how she’s feeling. If we are out working the cattle and I am scared I can see her eyes and feel her shaking beneath me. When I am happy we play games out in the pasture, or I just sit and talk to her. When she feels love she likes to hug and nudge. She always hates it when I leave. 

We have had so many experiences together. Like the day she first ran poles. She did great. I never dreamed she could do that good, and to top it all it was her first time ever. I know why she did so good now, I had been talking to her about it for a while and she new what I was talking about. 

When I am bored or have had a bad day, all I have to do is go and catch her, find a rock to boost me on and we run like the wind. She loves to run. I cling to her like a burr until she slows down to a trot. Then I put her back and I just talk to her about what’s going to happen and when our next event is going to be and how we have to get ready for it. I write about her all the time, but just in phrases. This is the first time I have ever wrote about all my feelings towards her, and when she dies I know I will see her in heaven. And if we sell her I will go to my room and cry and cry. She is a part of me. She compleats me.  

Before I go any further I would like to point out that apparently it was me who coined the phrase “you complete me.” Take that Jerry Maguire. Moving on. Oh, the drama!

Reading this again as a grown woman with young daughters, I see where some of the extravagance of this story was likely taken from the horse movies and books I loved back then (“Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken” anyone?).

I can guarantee that old mare didn’t necessarily love to run like the wind, unless she was certain we were on our way back to the barn for grain. And we had a bond, but my nervousness out working cattle was based on whether or not I was going to accidentally let the wrong ones through the gate I was watching. Her nervousness was more likely a fit she was pitching because she was separated from the other horses. But that sounds less dramatic than “I can feel her shaking beneath me.”

Oh Martha.

Also, it appears that third grade is where I developed the art of preparing for the worst case scenario as in my love letter to my horse I was also anticipating her imminent death. And I might have been the first horse whisperer to write about my successful experiences training the four legged beast to perform on command at such great speeds by, you know, talking it over with her.

What a sweet reminder of who we are before the world tells us to hold back a bit as I’m watching my daughters try to make sense of the world and their feelings and the people and things that they love.

In the times I find that I, too, am still searching, I’ve found it comforting to remember the 10-year-old version of me in her purple pants, fuzzy ponytail and trusty mare. And then sometimes, when I’m not paying attention I might see my reflection, my hair a wreck, my jeans dirty, my skin kissed by the weather with my hands and mind busy with work or play and it makes me realize that she’s still in there. And I’m glad.

Because I sorta liked her.

Late Night Worries

Back after a week off, Jessie and her husband Chad catch up when they can, which is in the middle of the night. The family’s Halloween costumes remind them of Jessie’s lack of sewing skills and Chad’s ability to do everything (annoying, right?) And they dig in to what keeps us up and wakes us up at night. While the episode’s lighthearted, the column, “Edie’s worried” digs into how we deal with our children’s fear, and how difficult it can be to balance the truth with the comfort. Listen here or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts

“Are witches real?” she asked me, her mother, the one who is supposed to know all the things and also because she’s too young to Google it. And, of course, I said no. I made a good argument about it too, making sure to tell her that I’ve been alive for a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen a witch. They are make believe for the fun of a story and take it from me you’re safe and sound in this house surrounded by mysterious trees that have just shed all of their leaves, under a moonlit sky with the coyotes howling in the distance.

She listened intently with a concerned look and then nodded her head and quietly said “ok.” And then she decided that she’d better make a “No witches allowed” sign to hang on all of our doors, you know, just in case.

My daughter Edie is a soul who feels everything a little bit deeper than most. She cries out of excitement and sentiment and also, just today when I picked her up from school, she cried as she reported that a kid in school said no one should like pineapple on their pizza but she does like pineapple on her pizza and kids shouldn’t call out other kids that way. She’s cried over injustices like that, and out of the sheer cuteness about the new baby kittens or the bottle calves and just yesterday over the fact that her birthday is only 23 days away, but so far in her short life, except for her brief stint truly fearing hot lava, I’ve rarely seen her cry out of fear.

And while I haven’t heard much about the witches lately, Edie’s become worried about something else, something I’m having a hard time explaining away with my magic motherly logic.

Edie’s worried about war.

It comes up between the bedtime book and the snuggle, when I turn the lights out and it becomes quiet and no math problem she’s working out in her head, or spelling word she’s visualizing or song that I can sing can help quiet it. She saw it on TV somewhere, probably just in passing, likely images of what’s happening in Ukraine mixed with the little she knows about history and the way humans move through this world, sometimes hurting one another beyond comprehension. And so she’s trying to comprehend.

And, honestly, aren’t we all.

I answer her worries the best I can in those quiet moments with something like,  “Kids don’t have to worry about things like this. That’s why you have parents and grownups. You’re safe here, with us, at the ranch. We’re here to keep you safe.”

I wish I could tell her that war is like witches and dragons and ogres, dark fiction made up to give us the spooks. But I can’t. And if I’m being honest, I’m scared too when I look out at the world and see its darkness, understanding there are so many things out of our control, wondering too, what would I do, if I no longer felt safe in my own home?

“But is everyone in the world safe tonight?” she asks me as and she snuggles into the crook in my arm.

How do I answer that one? Even if war were nothing but a made up dark chapter in a fairytale, the answer to this question is most certainly no. No, not everyone has a warm bed to sleep in. Not every kid is loved and snuggled and read three books and fed a warm supper. Not everyone knows where they are going to sleep tonight or if they’re safe in their home.

There’s no manual for this and I’m searching for a 6-year-old version of the truth, one that helps my child understand gratitude and compassion, but doesn’t scare her or make her feel helpless.

I tell her we can help where we can. We can write down our worries. We can say a quiet prayer. We can love one another. We can plan her birthday party and be kind and cook each others supper and when it’s dark and it’s past our bedtime and we’ve had a couple popsicles and the world is feeling a little off kilter we need to remember that we have each other and for now that has to be enough…

Bow hunting, Barbie dolls and tuning tiny guitars

So the snow has melted, and Halloween has come and gone and I am behind on everything. We’re trying out some real equipment to make the podcast sound better, so we’ll be recording an update tonight. In the meantime, here’s what we did last weekend for Halloween. . And don’t think for a second Chad put his costume together any sooner than 15 minutes before Trunk or Treat. We had some beautiful weather, no snowsuits necessary. I love Halloween

Next up is planning the girls’ birthday parties and selling calves. It’s a busy time of year around here, one that marks milestones and lots of reason for celebration. And now, this week’s column, which is sorta old news by now. We’ll catch up tomorrow on the podcast!

Bow hunting, Barbie dolls and tuning tiny guitars

As October winds down and November comes in like a yeti, so we welcome bow hunting season at the ranch. My husband has been into archery since he was a little kid and has had our daughters practicing shooting their little recurve bows at a target set against the backdrop of the trees surrounding our house for the past year or so. He takes them out there, their arrows packed in the small, homemade leather quivers their grandpa Scofield made them, and I watch my husband patiently go through the process of safety and form and encouragement. Each arrow that actually manages to stick in the target they declare a “Bullseye!” and he never corrects them. I imagine every arrow counts to him as much as it counts to them, a real-time demonstration of skill and passion passed down to a new generation.

Last weekend a couple of our good friends from college headed west with their bows and camo and coolers and groceries to the ranch. It’s become one of our favorite times of the year, having this kind of company, the kind that has known us for years, at our best and at our worst. The kind who are smack dab in the middle of the same parenting phase we are in, and so maybe I don’t have to vacuum every corner of the house or worry about a meal plan because they always have it covered with homemade lasagna and soups, wild game and donuts, drinks and the occasional can of sauerkraut, plum jelly or jerky left behind. They even do the dishes. And let me tell you, three big, burly, camo-clad men making short work of the after-supper clean-up is quite the stereotype blasting site to behold in my kitchen. Glass of wine while they finish up here? Don’t mind if I do.

And while I’m completely aware weekends of hunting house guests could go the way of the dogs, for me their visits have come to feel like a little vacation in my own home and a nice reminder of the true gift we have here at the ranch. Because these men are so grateful for the opportunity it’s fun to see our place through their eyes, even more so now that our kids are getting older, because they’ve started to include them in the action and take them along. It’s a dream these dads have had for years watching their little bald burrito babies turn slowly into tiny people curious and vocal and wanting to learn, to be like dad.

So they spent a lot of time out at that target against the trees, everyone practicing patience and celebrating each shot, bullseye or not. And I know that we don’t always consciously do this, but I imagine when we’re teaching our children about the things that we know and love, it’s with the hope that it might enrich their lives in some way, or at least give them an option to be intrigued or infatuated, or completely disinterested, if that’s the case.

When the dust settled on the hunting weekend and our guests had packed up and left us with a couple jars of sauerkraut and a plan to be back, our daughters settled into what I thought might be a lazy Sunday afternoon after a few days of fresh air and late bedtimes. But it wasn’t long before my oldest was pulling out every craft supply in the house with a mission of creating Barbie dresses out of socks and no matter how many times I suggested that I could just grab my hot glue gun, the girl insisted this was a project that required sewing.

Now, weren’t we just speaking of skills that have been passed down from generation to generation? Yeah. Sewing wasn’t one of those skills for me, (just ask my Home Ec teacher). But before I could come up with an alternative project I walked into the kitchen to find her camo-clad dad at the counter with the sewing kit making Edie’s Barbie Christmas Sock Dress Vision a reality.

The man’s versatile, you have to give him that, and holds pretty true to that ‘ol Jack of All Trades adage. We’re lucky girls. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go tune some tiny guitars. Because if winter is coming this early, they may be interested in learning a couple indoor activities to get

Unplugging like it’s 1998

This week on the podcast I sit down with my husband to talk about why it’s become so important to me to finish reading an actual book, and then he tells me why he thinks one of the characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the worst villain of all time. We talk libraries and old cell phones, bow hunting and the new wild animal that has made its appearance at the ranch. Listen here or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

I’m doing a mental health check. As the sun sinks in the sky earlier each evening and the frost settles into the mornings to glisten with the sunrise and show us our breath as we hurry through chores or out to start cars or to grab the morning paper (do any of you still get the morning paper?), it’s time to realize that I can’t lean on the sun as much anymore.

Winter is creeping in and I’ve decided to be proactive about how I’m going to handle it. And how I’m going to handle it is to pretend like it’s 20 years ago.

And I’m not trying to come across with major “good ol’ days” energy exactly, but I feel like 20 years ago there was a lot more space in my head for me.

Think about it for a minute. When was the last time you stood in line for something, maybe the grocery store aisle or the post office and just stood there? No digging your phone out of your pocket to scroll the latest updates on social media or the news feed custom made for your specific brand of dread and drama? `When did we stop making small talk? When did we make the switch from the urge to notice what’s happening around us to absolutely needing to watch a stranger make a chicken dish, or a fool of herself, or put on a full face of makeup or be absolutely outraged about something on Instagram?

In the middle of a Thursday evening errand, I would be much less stressed if I just read the covers of tabloids and Women’s Health magazines in the rack to pass those three to four minutes instead of checking work email or engaging in an endless scroll of cute outfits I can’t afford and triggering headlines of world news I absolutely cannot change, all while waiting to pay for the avocados I need for that Instagram chicken dish.

There was a time when we didn’t fill each empty, slow-moving minute with information and entertainment, wasn’t there? I mean, at least I remember it as a child of the 80s and 90s. We might be the last generation to have lived through a time when you couldn’t just Google it, and had to rely on resources like the evening news to get the scoop, your friends for fashion advice, your grandma’s recipe box for a dish and your parents to reassure you that it’s all going to be OK. By today’s standards of drowning in information and trying to sort fact from fiction, we were living in the dark ages. And if anything, that explains the questionable hair choices.

Anyway, I’m not trying to make a big case for what is better or worse here. Time ticks on and we all tick with it. It’s just that right now I’m feeling overwhelmed and, along with my young daughters’ constant refrains of “mom, mom, mom,” I think one of the culprits is the continuous dinging and flashing of my phone.

Here’s where my husband would say, “just ignore it,” and then I would roll my eyes because I have made it my job to not ignore it. I’m a communicator. I run a business and a non-profit. All the work that I do is tied to making sure I’m getting the message out and connecting people with the stories I tell. And the paradoxical thing is that I’m doing it in all the ways that are currently making me crazy. I have to stay connected. This is how we communicate now, and honestly it has created for me a certain type of freedom, opportunity and audience that I could have only dreamed up when I was on the road 20 years ago, driving from town to town to sing songs about North Dakota in a half-filled room of strangers in Kansas.

But I think there’s a fine line a lot of us cross back and forth between constant connection and being present. And right now I’m starving for presence, if not for my mental health, but more importantly to model it for my children. Because I want these daughters of mine to know how to listen to the voices in their heads as they grow in the quiet moments of their youth, the ones that whisper to them, “This is who you could be, darling. This is who you are.” I want to help them to be comfortable in the silence, because that’s when the music is made.

So as fall gives over to the cold blanket of a long winter, I’m not making any big declarations really, except to notice what’s happening here. And then maybe I’ll read more books before bed, take more walks and cook more recipes in my grandmother’s handwriting. And when we’re all together or maybe more importantly, when I’m alone, I’m turning off the WiFi and Bluetooth connections to all the information and stories in the world to free up some space to make our own.

The Layers of Fall

We don’t give this time of the year much recognition because we’re all scrambling to get work done before winter comes, so on the podcast I sit down to recognize it and talk it out with my husband. The conversation turns to fall work and food, naturally, because we’re up north and we’re getting cold and we’re starving for carbs and cream. Hear why I thinks Chad would be a good contestant on reality game shows and learn why my all time favorite meal was after I jumped out of a plane over the beach

There’s a moment between summer and late fall at the ranch that’s so good at being glorious that it actually makes us all believe we could last forever under a sky that’s bright blue and crisp and warm and just the right amount of breezy all at the same time.

Up here we’re easily swayed to forget about the drama that is our seasons. I imagine it’s a coping mechanism we develop that gets us crazy stoic people through -20 degree temperature snaps.

It’s forgetting that gets us through, but it’s remembering too. The combination is an art form.

Because at -20 degrees we remember that one-day it will be sunny and 75.

And when it’s sunny, 100 degrees and 100% humidity and there’s not a lake in sight, we remember the -20 degrees and somehow find a way to be grateful for it all.

Yes we keep taking off layers and putting them on again until we make ourselves the perfect temperature.

Funny then how we’re not really good at giving the in-between moments the credit they’re due around here. We usually grab them up and soak them in just enough to get some work done on a horse, paint the house, wash the car or get the yard cleaned up for winter.

Because we’re taught up here to use those perfect moments to prepare us for the not so perfect ones that are coming.

That’s why fall, though a romantic season for some, gives me a little lump in my throat that tastes a lot like mild panic.

Because while the pumpkins are nice and the apple cider tastes good enough, I can’t help but think that autumn is like the nice friend who slowly walks over to your lunch table with the news that your boyfriend doesn’t want to go out with you anymore.

And my boyfriend is summer. And when he’s gone, I’m stuck with the long and drawn out void that is winter promising Christmas, a hint of a sledding party and a couple shots of schnapps to get me through the break-up.

Hear what I’m saying?

But the change is beautiful. I can’t help but marvel at it no matter its underlying plot to dry up the leaves and strip them from their branches and jump start my craving for carbohydrates and heavy whipping cream in everything.

So I always decide to give it the credit it’s due when it starts to show off in full form, taking a break for the office and house work to marvel at the leaves, collect some acorns and walk the trails the cattle and deer cut through the trees during the heat of summer.

I will never call this moment a season, it’s too fleeting and foreboding for that, but I will reach out and touch those golden leaves and call it a sort of magic.

The kind that only nature can perform, not only on those leaves, but also on the hair on a horse’s back, the fat on the calf, the trickling creek bed, the tall dry grasses, used up flowers and a woman like me.

Yes, I’m turning too. My skin is lightening. My hunger unsuppressed. My eyelids heavy when the sun sinks below the hill much earlier than my bedtime.

My pants a little tighter with the promise of colder weather.

Ok. I’ve been reminded. Summer–a month of electric thunderstorms and endless days, sunshine that heats up my skin and makes me feel young and in love with a world that can be so colorful– is over.

And so I’m thankful for the moment in these trees to be reminded that I have a little time yet, but I best be gathering those acorns.

And pulling on my layers.

The parenthood juggle is real

In this week’s podcast, Chad and I sit down to pontificate on what we’re feeling here. Is it stress, the season change, or just trying to get the kids out the door on time for school? Plus, my current book choice and my fear of heights prompts Chad to give a bit of insight on what it was like working as derrick hand at the height of the oil boom, which then gets us talking about how far our community’s come. If you want a linear and precise hour of conversation, this isn’t it, but then, isn’t that life. Maybe you can relate. Listen here or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts

We have to wake up early to make it to town before 8:20 am when they lock the doors of the elementary school, forcing you and your child to make the walk of shame to the front office and sign in as a tardy kid. We have to wake up early because, after pulling them out from under the covers, it takes my children at least an hour of coaxing and back rubbing and sweet talking turned to hollaring “open your eyeballs!” for my dear darling daughters to be convinced that it’s time to start another day.

Before kids, mornings were my slow roll into creativity, the time I would take to myself to sip coffee, reflect and come up with something to ponder for publication. I never missed a deadline.

These days I’m sweating before 7 am, and it’s not because I got myself into a morning workout routine. By the time we’re all up, dressed, fed, brushed, clothed, snacked, packed and buckled into the car, I’ve played the part of lawyer, cook, zookeeper, stylist, housekeeper, secretary, barista, chauffer and, depending on what kind of morning the 4-year-old is having, therapist, all in an hour and a half’s time.

I’m sitting down now, in the calm after the storm, and I desperately want to be profound, but honestly I’m just happy I remembered I had a deadline in the first place. After ten years of submitting a weekly column, it’s only now begun to surprise me.

The juggle is real people and the only thing I’ve mastered in this working parent game is the art of doing my makeup in the visor mirror of my car between preschool drop off and my impending appearance in public. And no, I have not figured out where that weird smell is coming from in the backseat.  

Speaking of cars, here’s a thing I’ve actually done and I’m not too proud to confess. Because maybe that’s why I showed up here today, not with anything deep, but to make you feel better about yourself. I have actually driven myself home from work, the kids safe inside with my husband, turned off the ignition and fell plumb asleep at the wheel. I don’t know how long I was there, but no one knew I was there, so no one came looking.  

Last weekend my husband and I decided to paint the old shop, a project that has been on my list all year. In the time it took to coach my daughters through the difference between painting-the-shop-clothes, school clothes and cowgirl clothes my husband could have had half of it done already. I made a wager that it would take Rosie, our four-year-old, exactly two seconds before she had herself covered in red paint and wondered if we should see if grandma wanted to babysit for this part.  And while I was right about the timing of the red paint, what I didn’t account for was the amount that would end up on the dog.

But the girls were happy to help. They dug in and painted every inch of the shop they could reach before Rosie started presenting all of the reasons she should be allowed to run the spray paint gun and Edie asked to use the 24-foot ladder. My dear sister showed up with the cousins to offer up a jump on their trampoline and they were off, leaving a trail of red paint in their wake and me alone to supervise my husband on that 24 foot-ladder.

So many things are harder with kids around. I am just going to say it plain as can be here. But then I’m going to say: of course they are. They’re supposed to be. I have to remind myself of that every once in a while.

It. Is. Supposed. To. Be. Harder.

If the goal is to raise capable, compassionate people then the lessons have to be taught in the day to day. In the encouragements and the apologies and the patience shown in letting them do things like pouring their own cereal in the morning when the very adult version of you is screaming inside for all the Cocoa Pebbles now scattered across the kitchen floor. And the time it’s going to take for her to go get a broom and sweep it up and on and on because have you ever read, “If you give a moose a muffin?”

Yes, if I want to raise a kid that understands how to make an old building look like new again, I guess it’s up to us to show them that it’s work. And it’s fun. And it’s a mess. But we can do it. And there will be some fighting. And early mornings. And sometimes you will pop right out of bed and get there early and other times you’ll be the tardy kid and no one’s perfect, you just have to try your best and sometimes your best is catching a power nap in the car alone. And that’s just fine too.

Just always use your manners. Please.

Ok, how’s that for profound on a deadline?

Taking a back seat to the dogs

If you like dogs this is the podcast episode for you. I recently realized my true place on the ranch and, well, this is my way of working it all out. I sit down with my husband, Chad to reminisce about the good dogs, the bad dogs and all the reasons we love them. Which got us thinking about the best dog movies of our childhood, our infamous pug and that time Chad found himself butt-naked on the deck with a shotgun in the middle of the night…Listen at the link or on Spotify, Anchor or Apple Podcasts


I have a little beef with the hierarchy of things around here and I guess it’s time to complain publicly because, well, maybe someone out there can sympathize.

Recently, I was getting a ride from my dad in the side-by-side from my house to the farmyard to pick up another vehicle. This sort of exchange is common here during this season because of the tractor moving and stock trailer moving and cow moving that come with the change of weather. Dad hopped in the driver’s seat while me, his dear middle daughter who, at a certain dramatic time in our lives together, could be credited with saving his ever-loving life, had to balance on the end of the bench seat with half a butt cheek and one leg out the door while we tooled down the road.

Why? Because heaven absolutely forbid, we ask the dog to move.

Nope. No one say a thing about it.

Well I’m saying a thing about it.  See my dad has three dogs. They’re working dogs, cattle dogs, they have a job and they have a place and their place is inside the cab of the side-by-side waiting for Dad to come out of the house and get to ranching so they can come along.

The cast of characters is lovely really. Juno is a fluffy Aussie and Border Collie mix with the sweetest temperament who is nearing the end of her days here.

Juno in a flower pot

About seven years ago she had puppies with our dog, Gus, and dad kept one and named him Waylon. And Waylon is not a pup anymore, but a giant Hanging Tree mix with one blue eye and a real aversion to drama.

Waylon

Then, last winter, around Christmas time, anticipating Juno’s last few years here, enter Oakley, a pup he added to the mix with the idea that the old dog would help her get wise to the rules of chasing cattle through the trees before that old dog is too old to come along.

Rosie and Oakley as a pup

Not like you can really stop her though, remember. They’re all waiting for him. And they. Are. Not. Moving.

Nope. Not even for a grown woman who politely asks if maybe they can scooch over just a smidge, ugh, just a little, just need to get the door closed, ah, nevermind, this is fine, I’m fine, I’ll just sit on the floor here and let my leg dangle out the door…

As it turns out, along with teaching these dogs to ‘sick ‘em’ and ‘sit’ and ‘go back’ and ‘stay,’ they’ve all mastered my dad’s art of selective hearing in times like these. Did you know that dogs have that skill?

I’ll note here, that during this recent incident, the other dogs were not along. So it was just Waylon and me and Dad and there was plenty of room for scootching. But there was not scootching.  Not even a nudge. And there certainly wasn’t any suggestion that maybe the dog could get out and run over the hill with us.

Waylon was visibly making the move to ignore that I exist, suddenly forgetting his name, turning his back to me and focusing his gaze intently on the smudge on the glass of the driver’s side door. I think he even raised his left paw and put it on my dad’s shoulder, just to prove his point.

We got to the barnyard and I swear Waylon would have kicked me out before we came to a full stop if he could. “Good riddance, where we going now Boss?” And both dog and human left me to get my own ride, carrying on with their day together like this was normal.

Which apparently it is now. Just last weekend we were loading up horses and help in the pickup to roundup cows a ways down the road. I thought I might sit up front with Dad and my little sister, maybe be in charge of the radio dial, take in the autumn foliage out the window. But Dad cut me off at the pass to open the tiny back door for me to slide on in. With Waylon. But Waylon wouldn’t move of course. Apparently, he couldn’t see me. He wanted the window seat. So I said “excuse me” and slipped on past to take my place the middle tiny back seat of the old pickup with the missing fencing gloves, miscellaneous tools, half-empty water bottles, extra feed store caps, sandwiching my body between two dogs who had just taken a dip in the stinky black mud at the crick in the barnyard while my little sister and the new puppy sat up front, the fall breeze blowing through their hair/fur on our way to get work done.

I mean, I’m a grown woman! I’m dang-near middle aged! I have aches and pains! I survived cancer! I saved my dad’s life once (or maybe more, probably but who’s counting?)

And this is my beef. I have taken a literal back seat to the dogs.

Thank you for listening.

Peace be with you.

A piece I wrote when I was 8 or so. I guess I have always known…

What they left behind

This week’s column is a revisited story from my book, “Coming Home.” Get your copy at www.veederranch.com.

On the Podcast this week I sit down with my husband to talk about homestead houses and how history can haunt us, just like the Goat Man Chad encountered near the Lost Bridge in the badlands. Find out what word I just made up out of thin air last week, hear a story about Lutheran kids dressing up as nuns and get the scoop on the spooky relic from the old house behind my childhood home that chills me still. 
Listen here, or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts

What they left behind

It’s a gloomy day, the rain is falling, the sky is gray and the trees are stripped from black branches. It’s Halloween season and all of the sudden I’m reminded of the old house that used to sit up in a grove of trees behind the yard where I grew up.

It’s not so uncommon around here for a family to purchase land from neighbors or inherit an old family homestead, so there aren’t many farmsteads around these parts that didn’t come with an old structure lingering on the property, providing ranch kids with plenty of bedtime ghost story material.

And so it went with the old house that stood tucked back on the other side of the barbed wire fence, against a slope of a hill, surrounded by oak trees and the remnants of Mrs. B’s famous garden. Her hearty lilac bushes, her grove of apple trees, her wild asparagus and rhubarb still thrive in the clearing she made in those trees all those mysterious years ago, before the family up and left, leaving that garden untended, the root cellar full and a house seemingly frozen in time.

“What happened to them?” I would contemplate with my cousins, one of our favorite subjects as our eyes grew heavy, tucked in bunk beds and sleeping bags scattered on the floor, together growing up, together trying to figure out what the passing of time really means and how a story could be left so undone.

Gramma took some old dresses, vintage black smocks with pearl buttons and lace collars from the small bedroom closet of the old house. We would pull them over our heads to perform pretend wedding ceremonies or attend fancy parties like we saw on our mothers’ soap operas, the fabric smelling like mothballs, dust and old forgotten things.

But no matter what character you were that day, you couldn’t help but think about who the real woman in those dresses once was. And who would leave them behind?

So, as it goes with kids, our curiosity outweighed our fear and we went on a mission to collect samples of this family’s life that still existed between those walls.

And while I remember kitchen utensils hanging neatly on hooks, canned beets and potatoes lined up on shelves, the table and chairs sitting in the sunlight against the window, waiting for a neighbor to stop over for coffee, I also remember bedrooms scattered with old newspapers and magazines, the dates revealing the last years of occupancy, the fashion of the season, stories of drought and cattle prices sprawled out among diary entries and old letters, a glimpse into a world that existed long before us kids sifting through the rubble in tennis shoes with neon laces.

And then I remember the dentures. Or maybe I just remember the story my oldest cousin told about the dentures. It doesn’t matter now who was actually there to witness it, it evolved to belong to everyone. An expedition to the old house, a creak of a cupboard door and the discovery of a jar full of teeth that nobody noticed before.

“The place is haunted.” That was the consensus, especially when, at the next visit, the unwelcome house guests were greeted at the door by a flurry of bats (or, more likely, a bat or two). Yes, the spirits of that mysterious couple came back to the place. How else could you explain the thriving asparagus plants? The teeth?!

And so that was our story of the old house, a strangely fantastic pillar of our childhood adventures and a structure that had to eventually be burned down due to its disintegrating floor joists and general unsafe environment.

I stood in my snowsuit and beanie and watched the flames engulf the graying wood and shoot up over the tops of the black oak trees and wondered how it all eventually came down to this; a life turned into old forgotten things, turned into ashes, turned into stories.

Maybe that’s the scariest tale of them all.

But each fall the apples in the old woman’s orchard ripen, each spring her lilacs bloom and each year their names come to our lips because of what they left behind, making me wonder if we were right about the haunting thing after all.