About Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I am working on living and writing my story. I grew up singing and writing music and spent my young adult life touring colleges and coffeehouses across the country. I have had a life long love affair with Western North Dakota and the 3,000 acre cattle ranch on the edge of the badlands where I grew up Now, after a couple albums, a couple of moves, a couple of dogs, a couple of jobs, one large home renovation and a long, heartbreaking road to motherhood, I am back at the ranch to sing, write and raise cattle and my baby daughter alongside my family as we take this ranch into the next 100 years. Oh, and just in case you want to know a bit more about the woman behind the words...I'm a statewide columnist, the editor of Prairie Parent, a new Western North Dakota parenting magazine, a recording artist and touring musician, a new momma and nature enthusiast. I have big hair. I trip a lot. I say stupid things. I snort when I laugh. I'm a home renovator and a damn good cabinet refinisher. I married the right man. I hate car shopping. I would adopt all of the dogs in the world if I had a big enough yard. I am addicted to coffee and candy and peanut butter. I am working on writing my story. I am home.

Where our stories begin…

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Well, we’re officially deep into fall, which means roundup season around here where we work on getting the cattle doctored and the calves weaned and ready for the sales barn. Because we calved late, we won’t be heading to the sales barn until a few more weeks, but we worked cattle on Sunday and got a good look at things.

Because I’m a giant pregnant lady with a toddler in tow, I’m not a lot of help. But Edie and I went out to the corrals after roundup anyway to to see what kind of damage the two of us could do. After explaining every detail of the situation to her (why her dad was in the chute, why the cows were “stuck” in there too, where the horses were and on and on) I stupidly decided to teach her all about the sorting stick. Needless to say there were a lot of close call shots to the head, groin, belly, body in general, both accidental and intentional. She was delighted.

And, because I packed enough fruit snacks and granola bars, and the girl just loves dirt and grass and wind and all things outside, she hung in there pretty well while I did the things giant pregnant women with protective dads and husbands can do to help–like run part of the chute and count cattle.

Edie kept track of it all, threw some dirt around, helped me maneuver the chute, bossed me around, cried a little for her dad who had too much cow poop on his hands to pick her up, ate some fruit snacks, climbed some fences, got cow poop on her own hands and eventually laid down on the ground to watch a YouTube video on my phone for a few minutes while we wrapped it up.

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Ah, technology. Who would have thought it would come in so handy out in these pastures raising the next generation.

This is one of my favorite times of year. Working cattle is this unexplainable sort of satisfying, getting in the rhythm, neighbors helping out, the smell of the crisp fall air, the sound of cows bellering as they make their way toward the neighbor’s field via a newly discovered hole in the fence…

It’s always something around here I tell ya…

Anyway, I grew up hanging on those corrals the way Edie’s was hanging on the corrals, trying to get in on the action by finding myself a job. Being useful made me feel important, like I was truly a valued part of the operation. I want that for my daughter too, and I’m not sure you can start them on it all too early.

This morning while I was in the bathroom and Edie was brushing her teeth (this is her thing…every time I go to the bathroom, she follows me in there to brush her teeth. It’s annoying and funny and, well, these days she’s been brushing her teeth a lot…anyway) she informed me that Papa was out working, riding his horse. And so was Dada and she had fun with the cows.

I still can’t believe she’s stringing all these thoughts together, but this is where it starts, right here when they’re little minds are forming.

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And so that’s why I found it so pressing to get this kid a pony this fall, to get her used to horses by having one around that doesn’t loom so large. And apparently, because I have such good friends and followers around me, all I had to do was say the word and a friend offered us the opportunity to be the next home for their children’s pony, Mascot.

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I was so excited to bring him home to the ranch a few weeks back, and ever since she got warmed up to him (took all of ten minutes) she’s been acting like the two of them have known each other their whole lives. She brushes him, feeds him “cereal” (grain) and rides him without holding on because the kid doesn’t posses in her much fear (except when it comes to the hair dryer).

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And so this is how her story with horses and cattle begins and I can only hope that one day she looks back on it, no matter where she winds up or who she becomes, and is thankful that it instilled something special in her…

And this is what this week’s column is all about, how our stories start.

Stories that begin  on the backs of horses
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Pops and Me on a horse

Ever since I decided I wanted to be a mom years ago, I have been dreaming of my babies sitting on the backs of horses.

I don’t know why really, except so many of my memories as a kid growing up out here are connected to horses.

And while I keep the long rides bareback through the pastures in the summer in the same pocket I keep my best thoughts, not every memory I’ve made on the back of a horse is a good one.

See, I was raised by a sort of horse whisperer. My dad was breaking horses while he was still in elementary school and his connection and talent for working with the animals prove that there are things some people are simply born to do. He’s never met a horse he doesn’t get along with. And because of that, while he was raising us kids, he spent a lot of his time working with what I like to call “second chance horses.”

Or, to be more blunt, horses that other people couldn’t get along with.

And when he was near the point of trusting a horse as much as you can trust any animal, my summer job was to put some miles on them. Which I did, but let’s be honest, those horses also put some miles on me.

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Because I wasn’t born with Dad’s fearlessness, confidence and horse training instincts.

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So it was on the back of a horse I learned the virtue of remaining calm and patient as well as the hard lessons about suppressing fear to solve a problem. And the countless times I was thrown to the ground for one reason or another taught me nothing if it didn’t teach the power of getting back up again.

Yes, some of my biggest blowouts and arguments with my dad occurred out there in those pastures, tears streaked with the dirt on my face after my foot stomped or my eyes rolled in his direction. I wanted so much to understand these animals the way he understood them, probably as much as he wanted to teach me.

Maah Daah Hey-Something spooking the horses

But from those moments sprung some of the best times in my life, not just with my dad, but with my little sister, my husband and maybe, most importantly, alone. I suppose it makes sense that I want to pass so much of what shaped me along to my children. The same way my dad wanted it for us.

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A few weeks ago I called him up. “I have a line on a pony for Edie,” I said, thinking there was a good possibility he might think I was crazy for it. “Do you need me to go pick it up?” he responded, the spark in his voice cutting me off before I had a chance to take a second breath.

And so that was that. Off we went the next morning, my dad and my daughter and me, to load up a scruffy, adorable little pony named Mascot.

And judging by her obsession with brushing his mane and feeding him treats, I can only hope that this is the beginning of my daughter’s story, one that starts on the back of horses…

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Worry like a mother…

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What it means to worry like a mother
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My mom hasn’t been sleeping well. She says she wakes up in the middle of the night and lies there in the dark and breathes her fears and worries in and out — about her kids and grandkids and the unpredictable and uncontrollable things that happen to us in the circle of community.

My mom is known for worrying. She’s got her mind on the big things, like car crashes on icy roads, resulting in an obsession with weather forecasts and road reports, which she relentlessly relays to her children. She’s already telling me not to drive to Fargo next month, because it will be November and it’s likely to snow.

And she worries about the little things too, like Edie having the right outfit for family photos or Papa playing too wild with the grandkids in the living room pillow fort, interjecting playtime with warnings to “Be careful!! Careful!”

Her worrying used to make me crazy when I was young and invincible and had the sense that the world wouldn’t let me down. I didn’t wish the worry of the world on my mother’s shoulders, I simply didn’t understand what worry was.

Because she carried it for us.

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“I haven’t slept well in three years,” I tell her now, sympathetic to how loud and daunting the dark nights can become when a heart is being stretched by one child snoring face-down on her blankie in her bedroom and the other kicking and rolling and hopefully growing strong and healthy, heart flickering at 140 beats-per-long-and-agonizing-minute in my womb.

These days I can’t close my eyes without thinking of the mothers who have seen their most unreasonable midnight worries come true. No matter how many times we reassure them, “Mom, I’ll be safe.” “It’s just a concert.” “I’ll call you we get home.” The harsh and heart-wrenching reality that’s blaring on computer and television screens is that sometimes, sometimes, the fear that keeps you up at night is the very fear you wake to in the morning.

And that’s what they don’t tell you about becoming a parent when your belly is round and heavy on your body. They don’t tell you about the weight you carry with you long after your children learn to stand on their own two legs, drive their own four wheels or fly with their own set of wings.

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Today, despite my aching back, I want to keep my baby safe in my womb and my daughter close within the familiar embrace of this landscape. I want to shut out the world and stay here, just us, forever, to protect them. And it makes me feel silly and selfish and then it makes me angry that in this big world I keep telling them is so beautiful that such ugly and evil can make me want to keep them from the freedom and perils of growing up healthy and strong in it.

But right now I don’t know what else to do. So I vow to love them fiercely, to model compassion and to try my damndest to raise them to be the good humans.

And worry like a mother.

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TEDx: Making a living out of a life

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Happy Friday. It’s a beautiful fall day in Western North Dakota, the perfect weather for a Homecoming Celebration in my home town.

I spent this morning giving a talk to the 8th grade students. My focus was on my career path, ultimately hoping to convince them to follow the gut feeling they have about who they are and what they love at this point in their lives because it could likely guide them in their future career endeavors.

I’m not sure how they processed it. They were a little wiggly dressed in our school’s maroon and white gear, anxious to take on the rest of the day’s fun events, like coronation, the parade the homecoming football game.

But I always jump on the opportunity to share my story with the kids in the hope that it might give a kid like me a little nudge and inspiration.

As I headed towards the door after my presentation,  I was cut off by the marching band playing the school song in the hallway and I couldn’t help but feel glad to be there, suddenly struck by the memory of the feeling I had when I was a teenager dressed in my boyfriend’s jersey feeling sorta free and sorta nervous and sorta awkward and sorta invincible in my youth, not realizing the way the years fly like the yellow leaves  blowing from tree branches today.

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I don’t know if I would have thought I would be back here if you would have asked me then, married to that boy, having his second baby.

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In the time capsule letter I wrote to myself when I was a senior, and dug up at my ten year reunion, I confessed that I hoped I’d be doing something creative as the adult version of me. I hoped I was with someone I loved. I mentioned a family.

I didn’t quite know what I really wanted though, or how it might all play out. But I was willing to just jump into things that seemed like an opportunity or an adventure. Things that sorta scared me enough to put a little wrench in my gut until I found I was comfortable in it. I figured I’d eventually be comfortable in it all.

But I was wrong. Turns out being an adult means you feel that little gut wrench so much of the time, that being an adult does not, in fact, equal having it all together and figured out.

And thank goodness for that really. I’m not ready to give up the gut wrench. Hence, perhaps, the impending second baby. That one’s giving me a hellofa wrenching these days (not to mention indigestion, heartburn, back ache and insomnia).

Speaking of indigestion, heartburn, and insomnia, a few months back I was asked to take part in Bismarck’s TEDx conference as a speaker. I was honored to be considered, but hesitant to participate, knowing how tediously planned and executed these events and talks needed to be and knowing I would have to wrangle my off the cuff performance style.

And I wasn’t sure I had an idea worth sharing really. I would have to think on that one, really reflect. But I said yes anyway, because, you know, my guts.

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Anyway, I’m glad I did. I had a lovely experience and it helped me push myself to really think about what it is that I’m doing here.

They sent me the link to the video today. In true Jessie fashion I’m not going to watch it right now, because I will criticize my accent, my stumbles and the way I carry my pregnancy in my cheeks. Because when I left the stage I felt good about it and so I want to continue feeling good about it.

And I hope it provides you a little insight, a little inspiration and makes you think differently about how and why and where we choose to live our story.

Happy Homecoming Watford City and happy weekend friends. May it find you in your happiest places.

Peace, love and guts,

Jessie

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It takes a village to raise a mom

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It takes a village to raise a mom 

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This morning I drove Edie to town to daycare so I could get some work done. My husband has been gone hunting in Montana over the past few weekends and into this week, and so I’ve been on my own a bit more, managing a schedule of deadlines, performances, doctors appointments and fun, calling on my mom and dad, sister, mother in law and daycare provider to fill in the blanks of caretaking along the way so that my husband can have time to do the things that make him feel like himself, obliging, of course, because he does the same for me.

I’m sitting in my mom’s coffee shop to work, the occasional shrill of the latte machine cutting through the background hum of conversation and music coming from the speakers. If you sit in a place like this long enough you get a good glimpse of the characters that make up a community, or at least the characters who prefer to get through their day with a proper dose of caffeine and conversation.

When I was a kid my grandma would take my little sister and I into town to run errands. After a stop at the pharmacy and post office we would inevitably wind up at the Chuck Wagon Café on the corner for a hamburger or ice cream. If Dixie, my favorite waitress was working, she would serve us chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup and chocolate M&Ms, a sweet indulgence and a simple gesture that seemed to stick with me throughout my life the same way I’ve kept the memory of a teenage neighbor giving me words of wisdom about an unruly horse at a 4-H show when I was eleven.

And there are dozens others—my third grade teacher who would let me write plays for our class to perform for the school during lesson time, our hired man who drove an El Camino and saved our puppy when he got his head stuck in the Christmas tree stand and caught my sister and I a grass snake to keep as a pet one summer, the older neighbor boy who taught us girls how to play football by running plays on his knees and letting us tackle him, my aunt uncle who would have me at their ranch for a few weeks in the summer to eat popsicles and help my cousins groom and show their sheep and steers and pitcher of KoolAid that was always waiting for us in the plastic pitcher on the kitchen counter in the house.

These are the moments embedded in that old saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” I’ve been thinking about it lately as I’ve been relying on my extended family and friends more than ever to help me balance mom life and work life and making sure the laundry is done once in a while. And a parent could start to feel guilty about leaning on others in the hectic times, especially someone like me who is under confident about asking for help and thinks she can handle it all on her own.

Except the older Edie gets, and as my big belly grows along with our plans, I have slowly come to realize that not only can we not do this parenting thing alone; I don’t know if we were meant to.

Because that little village of 4-H leaders, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, nice waitresses, neighbors, baby sitters and teenagers I looked up to are characters woven into the story of my life who not only taught me lessons, but sweetened my life experience beyond the borders of our barnyard

And you know, now that I think of it, the influence of that village didn’t stop when I found myself all grown up, it’s just that I think I took them for granted until now when I feel I need them the most. Because it turns out it takes a village to raise a mom too, and I am thankful for mine.

Friday Confessions…

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Happy Friday. It’s a beautiful fall day here at the ranch, the leaves have really started to turn, some have even started to fall from the branches, much to my dismay. It’s warmed up enough to awaken the boxelder bugs and hornets, two really annoying bugs that have no purpose in this world. I particularly like it when a hornet flies directly into my hair for no reason and gets stuck there. Waving my arms frantically, screeching and running in circles in my favorite fall activity.

I also like it when I randomly find a boxelder bug climbing up my bare arm. I have to say, the lack of bugs is a really huge perk to the season fully changing into winter. I’m not moving to the Amazon anytime soon.

Anyway,  Edie’s sitting in her chair eating popcorn and watching Bubble Guppies and my back hurts like a bitch so since I’ve decided to parent from my recliner for a second before we load up and head to the rodeo in town, I thought I’d gather some random thoughts to take us all into the weekend.

I promise to be inspirational..

#1. Ok, so my pregnancy app informed me today that I am 30 weeks pregnant, which apparently means the baby that is sitting low enough to send me to the bathroom every five minutes and high enough to give me instant heartburn after eating a cracker is the size of a large cabbage. And if this is the cabbage they’re referring to, then I believe it.

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Seriously, that cabbage, grown by one of our local farmers, is holding a lot of coleslaw waiting to happen there….or sauerkraut, depending on your picnic.

Yeah, I’m feeling like I’m cartin’ around a lot of baby these days. This second pregnancy thing in my mid-thirties is no joke. Especially when you combine it with toting around a 30-pound princess who can walk just fine on her own until she decides she can’t.

Which brings me to

#2. This. Damn. Dress. 

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It’s all she will wear. When we wake her up in the morning for daycare I can trick her into a proper outfit because she’s not fully awake, but as soon as she gets home she runs to her closet saying “dresssss, dressss!” and no other dress will do. Nothing twirls the same. Nothing else will do for dancing.

Or flossing.

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Or hiking.

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Or relaxing.

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Or hauling rocks.

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Or playing the drums.

The only thing that makes her happier is when I’m in a dress too.

And even though I’ve spent plenty on a variety of adorable outfits that I will be wrestling her into each time we go in public, I think it’s so amazing to see how tiny humans develop their preferences so early in their lives. Because it’s not like we’re watching lots of princess shows or getting dressed up for parties very often around here, but this girl knows what makes her feel pretty and powerful, and this hand-me-down-dress just happens to be the thing for now.

I’m hoping she’ll bend a bit on the wardrobe thing soon, but let’s be honest, I wore strictly leotards, tights and leg warmers my entire second year of life, so I deserve this.

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#3. The Pony situation. 

IMG_1753Gramma took Edie to ride a pony last weekend at Applefest while I was singing. I’ve been in the market for a pony for her, since, well, let’s be honest, since before she was born, and it looks like my little wish is going to come true tomorrow thanks to a generous friend. We’re going to pick us up a pony named Mascot tomorrow morning and I’m so excited!!!

#4. October’s coming up and like the true nerd I am, I’ve already got our costumes figured out. But if you’re looking for an idea, I think this is a home run.

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You’re welcome.

#5. Here’s a picture of my sweet niece, baby Ada.

IMG_1709 (there, now I’ve cleansed your pallet). We’re heading in to see her in a bit and I know you’re jealous, of the snuggles and her hair. She’s the tiniest, sweetest, most snuggly baby ever and in so many ways the opposite of her cousin Edie (who wasn’t snuggly or tiny and was bald) but who can’t get enough of her. It’s been so fun watching my little sister figure out this motherhood thing. She’s great at it. Tomorrow the two of us are going to stroll our baby daughters in a 5K “fun” run/walk. I put “fun” in quotes given that I can barely walk, or even waddle these days. It was her idea and I’m going to blame her for every ache and pain I endure as the aftermath of such “fun.”

#6. My garden wasn’t great this year, but I’m blaming the hot weather. This is the last of the harvest, besides the carrots I’ll be digging up for a while. I used it to make Husband’s Garden Tomato Soup and you should too if you get a chance. Here’s the recipe if you need it again. It’s heaven.

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#7. Speaking of recipes, there are a few more in the book. I just placed my third re-order and it seems like they’re going fast. So if you want to stock up on a great Christmas gift for the storytellers/ranch dwellers/prairie lovers/nature appreciators in your life, you can order it here (www.jessieveedermusic.com). I’ll sign it and send it along. Get it before it’s gone again!

Jessie Veeder Book Cover copy

#8. My sweet tooth game is strong. This is different from my last pregnancy. I’m taking guesses on boy or girl. My hunch is a boy, and so was the hunch of the random lady in the post office, who was right about the girl thing last time, so we’ll see.

Wow, it won’t be too long before we see! Time goes fast, except the last two months of pregnancy. These months are lasting seven years.

Anyway, I better go. I wanna grab a scoop of ice cream from the freezer before we head to town.

Thanks for reading. Much love to you all and much hope that you can take a lesson from the beloved Pooh this weekend.

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See, told ya I’d be inspirational.

Peace, Love and Chip ‘n Mint,

Jessie and Edie

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Unexpected free time…

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It’s Monday.

Another busy enough week looms and both Edie and I have been battling a cold for a good week now, because apparently we don’t waste time in getting in on cold and flu season.

We spent the weekend in Bismarck where I had a singing engagement and my mom chased my daughter around the event grounds while dad and I sang, trying to keep her hat on and her little hands occupied.

They had fun, Edie rode a little pony, jumped in the jumpy castles and ate popcorn. I had a meeting there the day before, so we stayed in a hotel and Edie got to go swimming, which is pretty much her favorite thing to do in the world besides singing and twirling around in her dress.

And apparently she’s ready for the belly flop olympics as well…

Oh my gawd, this girl did this like thirty seven thousand times before I finally had to wrestle her out of the pool and calm her down so she could take a breath.

She’s got a lot of get-up-and-go that one. But she comes by it honestly. And lately, as we’ve been exploring this world together, trying to fit in a good amount of work and play into each day, I’ve also been thinking that my other big hope is that I can teach her how to find peace and inspiration in the quiet times. I hope she seeks it out. I hope I can teach her how to properly work, properly play and properly take a breath and relax and enjoy the moment.

I need to stop and remind myself of this important part of this life as well sometimes.

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So that’s what this week’s column is about. It’s about an unexpected unscheduled Saturday and how I chose to use it…

How I spent an unexpected dose of free time 

Apparently when I’m pregnant I can’t help but feel like I’m a ticking time bomb, waddling around counting the days until my world explodes into unmanageable chaos.

So I have a tendency, I’ve learned, to try to manage the heck out of everything in my path in the meantime.

I overbook my work schedule, I annoy my husband with reminders about unfinished house projects, I organize places like bathroom cabinets, I plan house additions and I deep clean the oven, (because apparently deep cleaning the oven is strictly a hormonal thing…)

Yes, my mentality as a pregnant woman is a weird sort of frantic, but after months of running around trying to fit it all in, I think I’m gonna have to call it.

I’m tired.

But I still have a good two and a half months to grow this baby, which, in my brain, should be enough time to finish that entryway addition and get a good start on my novel.

Last weekend my husband left to go hunting in Montana, Edie went to spend a couple nights with my mother-in-law and my Saturday event got cancelled, which left me with an unexpected window of time that I planned to use to clean out my office to make way for the crib and the tiny baby socks.

Blame it on the late night spent singing, or the rainy day, or just plain laziness, but that Saturday I didn’t step foot in that office. Nope.

I was alone in my house in the middle of nowhere for over 24 hours and nobody called and I called nobody.

I didn’t use my voice, I didn’t go outside, I didn’t cook or get dressed and moved only to do a couple loads of laundry and take out some stinky garbage. I read. I ate. I seriously took binge-watching Netflix to the proper level. I took a nap.

And I had to keep reminding myself that it was OK.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I finally had some quiet moments to myself, and I couldn’t help but use it to wonder why the luxury of free, unscheduled time made me feel so anxious. Maybe I’ll just blame it on my workaholic parents who I’ve rarely seen spend an entire Saturday relaxing…

Which I sort of get now. Before becoming a parent, I would have likely spent that Saturday being productive in leisurely and creative ways, like taking a hike in the rain to come up with new ideas, inspiration and motivation.

But that was before I understood how fast you become accustomed to taking care of the constant needs of young children, and how it becomes embedded so deep into the muscles of your body you forget how to be alone with both your hands free and a mind with a quiet space to wander again.

Which I probably should have done. I should have let my mind wander. But I was too busy having zero inspiration, feet up, hair up, counting baby kicks between bites of popcorn and reminding myself to enjoy it because it’s all gonna hit the fan again soon enough…

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Work and play, a confession

Ok, so Edie and I got our butts out the door this morning in time to take in a Mommy and Me gymnastics class in town.

One of my best friends teaches the class in this beautiful new facility: an entire room made of mats and bars and trampolines and hula hoops and balls and balance beams and oh my gosh it’s a toddler’s dream come true. So I had to sign her up, despite my aching back and giant belly.

To say Edie had fun would be an understatement. I think you could say that of all the toddlers there for 45 full minutes of games and music and jumping and running off steam. I was sweating before we even got on the mat, because squeezing an almost two-year-old who insists on wearing a dress every day into spandex isn’t the easiest feat, especially when you can’t breathe when you bend over.

Anyway, this is my life now, my fun is watching her have fun, even if it means a little suffering on my part.

These days I’ve been working hard on trying to find a good balance between that fun thing and that work thing, so once-a-week gymnastics seemed like a good addition to the fun category. And now I’m sitting with my feet up counting kicks in my belly and trying to avoid the realization that in about two months I’ll be a mommy to an infant and a two-year-old. (insert “oh shit” emoji here).

After all it took to bring Edie into the world, I can honestly say I hadn’t even really given myself a chance to picture what life with two might look like. But let’s be honest, I had no idea what life with one was going to look like either, my tactic was just to lean into it and let it play out. And here we are, almost two years in and I finally feel settled enough as a mom to go ahead and flip it all topsy-turvy again.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned about motherhood in these twenty two months? Learn to expect the unexpected and know that each hard thing is a likely a phase.

For example, my child is currently in the “embarrass you in front of your unexpected company” phase by walking up to said company, looking them in the eyes, grunting and declaring “I pooping!” before waddling over to the nearest puddle, splashing in it and then bending down to drink from that puddle like a dog.

And all I could do was laugh and say “well at least she has clothes on…she’s usually naked when she’s outside.”

Between taking antacids for the pregnancy heartburn and helping her change in and out of her three favorite dresses, that’s pretty much my life these days.

And when I’m not doing that, I’m trying to get some work done, because I am one of the crazy ones who decided that being a “work from home” mom was the way to go.

And while it has it’s genuine perks (flexibility being the top and all-out choice making dominator) I’m convinced only crazy people try to have professional phone conversations with a toddler in the house.

So with this on my mind, this month’s issue of Prairie Parent discusses kids and work. For my editor’s contribution I explore what being a work from home mom really looks like and share some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. You can read it here:

Confessions of a work-from-home mom

If you’re an expecting or new mom or dad trying to decide if you should take your baby to work or work from home around your baby, this issue is worth a read, because we explore both options.

And if you just want to shake your head and be glad it’s not you sacrificing your house to the Play Dough gods in the name of getting through a conference call, then read it and shake away…

And with that I’ll leave you to it. I’ve got to go lay on a heating pad and, you guessed it, pop an antacid.

Peace, Love and a blurry photo of my kid on a trampoline because she wouldn’t stop moving for one second so I could get a damn picture…

Jessie and Edie

Long ago and just down the road in a land without Internet…

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How the progression of time and technology collide and converge

Long ago, before the invention of the Internet, I would spend winter evenings sitting on the worn-out pink carpet on my bedroom floor, pressing record on a cassette player/radio trying to catch my favorite song so I could play it back, over and over again, and commit it to memory.

Before that most of the music I learned by standing on the stage in the lunchroom/gym/music room of our little country school as our music teacher plunked out the tune to “The Old Gray Mare” on his piano.

And then, at home, my dad would play his guitar at the end of the day and I would sing along to Harry Chapin or Nancy Griffith songs. Sometimes he would teach me a special part and, as I got older, I would bring him new songs I found on the radio.

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A few years later I started learning them on my own guitar, pressing pause and play and pause and play so I could write down the lyrics, going through the entire process again and again as I worked to figure out the chord progression, writing it all down on lined notebook paper.

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I’m thinking about this today because I’m in the process of moving things out of my office to make room for the new baby. I’ve saved these old lined notebooks, the ones with the handwritten words and chords to my favorite songs in the nooks and crannies of my shelving units, closets and drawers.

And it’s not like it’s at all organized, these archives of my musical history, but if you pull it all out you can see the progression of the time and technology that occurred during my youth, the words and chords from ’90s country songs transforming from an 11-year-old’s handwriting into neatly typed, transcribed and printed transcripts. And it reminds me how I was there, on the edge of adulthood when the world started opening up wider, connecting us to one another from the other side of a computer screen.

I remember back in college, I was driving across the state with my boyfriend (now husband) reading out loud from a book to pass the time, and he said to me, “Jessie, one day you’ll be able to drive down the highway and surf the Internet.”

“No way!” said the young woman who just purchased her first cell phone, the smaller kind with the antenna that you pulled up instead of the kind with the magnet stuck to the roof of your car. I just couldn’t see a way …

And now I’m going to have to tell that story to my children, and they are going to say “They had cars when you were a kid?!” the same way I did to my dad.

“Yes, children, we had cars,” I’ll reply. “But we didn’t have the Internet! Those were the days!”

And then they’ll probably Google it just in case, just like they’ll Google “cassette tape” before they roll their eyes and show me for “like the 50th time!” how to use the smart TV that will always be far smarter than me…

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The Kitchen Table

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A new kitchen table arrived at our house last week. We ordered it custom made and waited a long time for its arrival, not taking lightly the weight such a furnishing decision has on the landscape of our lives, having spent our time in this house gathering around an antique piece that has been in our family for generations, and sitting in broken kitchen chairs handed down to us from my parents, which I have no doubt is a punishment in disguise when my arm gets pinched in the one my friend broke at that party I threw once as a teenager…a little run-down reminder of the bad decisions of my youth…

Anyway, we’ve lived most of our adult lives up until this point on the receiving end of hand-me-down furniture. It wasn’t until Edie arrived and I found myself spending considerably more of my time inside our little house that I decided to finally make an investment in such things. And so we bought a new couch and recliner and a custom made rocking chair that is too big and too bulky and not not at all what I expected or wanted, but there it sits because, dammit, it was expensive.

And then this table, this big heavy investment made of hickory with three leaves tucked inside that can expand it across the entire house. They delivered it and I held my breath, hoping it would fit knowing that everything these days seems to be built for mansions. And we don’t have a mansion, no, but this kitchen table was set to be the centerpiece of our house really. In our little cabin style, open flooring plan it’s where everything gets sorta dumped. Mail and pretzels, my camera bag and books. Husband’s game cameras and broad heads and hats. Edie’s markers and Play Dough and naked baby doll.

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Since becoming a work at home mom, that old kitchen table has become my desk. And since Edie’s become a pint-sized office assistant, it’s become her desk too.

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When friends come over it turns from appetizer table to supper table to game table. We walk around it, move it out of the way, abuse it, spill on it, don’t wipe it, clean it, shine it enough and if it could talk it would tell us that we don’t have it together. Not a bit. That we laugh loud, that we argue too much. That we shouldn’t leave the door open when we go in and out because the flies get in. And we should serve more vegetables maybe, but boy does that baby like strawberries, and maybe we should try cleaning them up before the fossilize on its surface.  It would say there’s lots of music here, and lots of plans being made and maybe we should have more company and make more pies and play more cards like they used to back when it was new…

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Coming Home: If kitchen tables could talk

It sits low, lower than the kitchen tables they make these days, its claw shaped feet at the bottom of the wooden pedestal look like they’re clutching the hardwood floor. Without its three leaves it’s perfectly round and could seat four for a card game. With its three leaves it seats six quite comfortably for a meal.

Years ago, in that little brown farmhouse over the hill, one of those six people was my dad as a curly haired kid, stabbing a pancake under the neon glow of the kitchen light serving its purpose before the sun rose, before heading out to milk the cows, before the bus rolled in down the red scoria road under the dark sky and crisp morning air that only farm kids know.

I pull all three of those leaves out now, cradling them in my arms as I head to the basement to lean them against the wall and out of the way to make room for our new kitchen table arriving that day, custom made and ready to serve us.

If only these kitchen tables could talk.

This old claw-foot table had a short life with us, but a long life under the elbows of generations of my family out here, belonging first, I think, to my great-grandmother Gudrun who arrived in America when she was only 17 and went on to raise 12 children just down the gravel road.

I doubt she brought many possessions with her. I doubt she had many to bring. And I’m not certain at what stage that claw-foot table entered her life, if it was brand new or refinished, but I imagine it was a big deal.

How many plans were made there, passing the bread, the top worn slowly by cups of coffee finding their way up to worried or laughing mouths and down again. How many dishes were passed between the hands of relatives and neighbors? How many prayers sent up of gratefulness or despair? God is great … God is good …

I’ve said those prayers there too, feeling the roughness of my uncle’s working hand in mine, the other hand squeezing my cousin’s, too hard the way kids do, anxious to move on to the Jello salad dessert my grandma always forgot in the fridge in the bustle of preparing a big holiday meal.

Years later my oldest cousin had it in her home for some time, after our grandparents died and the people left behind have to make decisions about how important these things are to us. My aunt counted that table at the top of the list and kept it useful and in the family, holding on in resourcefulness and nostalgia, the way we were all raised here it seems.

I wipe off the sticky, fifth generation fingerprints one last time and take notice of it again. Worn and beautiful it sits, now free of all the papers and place settings, quaint and clutching the ground the way it does, hanging onto the memories and the beauty of the generations the way only old and precious things can.

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And now a poem shared with me from Thelma after she read this column in the paper

PERHAPS THE WORLD ENDS HERE
by Joy Harjo from her book The Woman Who Fell from the Sky
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. it has been since creation, and it will go on.
 
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
 
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
 
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
 
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
 
The table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
 
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
 
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
 
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
 
Perhaps the world will end here at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
Work from home mom

What I don’t want to forget…

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Greetings from Minnesota. We spent the Labor Day weekend here with my grandparents and aunt at the lake cabin and in true family vacation fashion, we get to stay a bit longer because my car crapped out on us.

So send a little prayer up for my radiator so we can get on the road and head back west with the babies at a decent hour today.

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But we’ve had a nice time. Edie and Ada have the relatives wrapped around their tiny little fingers and it’s so wonderful to see Edie at this fun age developing relationships with our family.

It seems like there’s so much turmoil and unease in the news and in our world right now, some days it’s hard for me to stay grounded and optimistic about it all. But spending a stretch of days focused on extended family, creating memories, keeping it close to home, teaching and showing love and affection and feeling it in return reminds me that it begins here…

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It begins with our children.

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Coming Home: What I don’t want to forget

Yesterday I asked Edie if she pooped.

“Pew Eee,” I said, waving my hand in front of my nose, scrunching up my face.

“Pew Eee Hondo,” she replied, mimicking my actions and successfully blaming the dog for the first time.

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I guess it doesn’t take long for them to start figuring out how this world works. Like, I thought I had more time before she started declaring opinions about my wardrobe, but I was wrong. She demands I take my shoes off when they’re on in the house and when I have my hair up, she makes it clear that she prefers it down until I oblige and she can move on with her little life.

And she’s got even stronger ideas about what she should be wearing. Like absolutely nothing when she’s outside in the backyard, bending over to moon the world while drinking out of the kiddie pool like her BFF Hondo. And when she’s inside? Well, she must be in a dress.

A dress and a winter beanie — I’m sure she’s right in style and I’m just her old pregnant mom walking behind her making sure she doesn’t make poor decisions, like running wide open down the scoria road toward the bulls screaming “MOOOO!”

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These are the types of things I report to her dad at the end of the day when he walks through the door. Because not only do I never want to forget, it feels a little unfair that her only audience is a hormonal woman three months away from giving birth to another one of these mysterious, messy and magical tiny humans.

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Last week my family hit up the local farmer’s market to buy some peaches and listen to my dad and his band play. I stepped up behind the microphone to sing a few songs and Edie cried the cry of heartbreak until I plopped her on my hip to sing with me. It took a couple rounds of the chorus, but before long she leaned in and sang the words to “You Are My Sunshine,” as clear and as confident as a 1-year-old can be, right into that mic. And then she grabbed it out of my hand for another round.

I’ve spent the past few days hearing from my friends who have been sending their kids off to another year of school. So many talks of firsts and nerves and “where does the time go?” and big hopes and worries about tenderness, toughness and compassion as they navigate the time out from under their parents’ wings. It’s exciting and heart-wrenching to know it won’t be long before the little world Edie’s so intent on figuring out gets bigger and more complicated.

I mean, one stage performance has already secured her a bigger audience…

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And there are a thousand things to reflect upon and have opinions on in the tumultuous times we’re living in, but today I just want to tell you how on Saturday, when we came inside from looking at the stars, Edie waved, blew a kiss and said goodbye to the moon.

And it was everything.

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