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.

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…

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 9.15.03 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 9.18.44 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 9.20.37 AM

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…

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 9.15.34 AM

The Kitchen Table

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 2.22.34 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 2.22.24 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 2.22.46 PM

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…

0b5wznj8wwj6_qwo2ten5cwotyjq

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.

img_6378
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…

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.04.06 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.04.37 AM

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…

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.05.00 AM

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.04.50 AM

It begins with our children.

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.49.09 AM

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.

IMG_9549

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!”

IMG_9522

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.

21246588_1588575531192686_6047027960169884103_o

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…

IMG_9640

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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.51.29 AM

I don’t think Montana wants us…

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 2.44.20 PM

Ok, so the very first time my boyfriend, now husband, took me on a trip to the wilds of Montana, we borrowed his dad’s Ford and loaded his 1970-something pop-up pickup camper to make the long drive across the big ‘ol state. It was 110 degrees and the air conditioning was out in the pickup and I nearly died of heat stroke by the time we made it to our campsite, where it rained just in time for us to get everything unloaded.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 2.47.07 PM

More recently, a few years back, on another trip west to Montana, our pickup broke down pulling our camper on the way home from a music festival.

The time before that, same pickup issue, same music festival.

The time before that, on a family trip to Yellowstone, we had three flat tires before we even made it to Glendive, not even a quarter of the way into our trip. And that was before we hit a deer in our new-to-us pickup and then, narrowly escaped running over a motorcyclist who had wrecked on the interstate, where we spent the next three hours working as first on the scene responders, calling 911 and working with emergency crews.

Luckily I think the man was ok.

And we haven’t been back to Montana for a while.

But my husband thought he would give it another go last weekend and, well, here’s how it turned out…

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 2.45.01 PM

Coming Home: When the best laid plans go awry
Forum Communications

“Well, I’m on my way home now anyway,” he said on the other end of the phone. I called him for something trivial, like why the lawnmower wasn’t starting, just the kind of phone call every husband likes to get when they’re off on a manly weekend getaway. (The same way he likes that I call it a manly weekend getaway).

He’d been preparing for a trip with his dad to scout for elk in Montana for a couple weeks. The plan was to pack up the pickup and pop-up camper with essential supplies like cans of Vienna sausages, a couple sleeping bags and a spotting scope and head a few hours west into the foothills to see if they could find a good place to hunt during the season.

I was excited for him to take the time away to do something he’s passionate about. He doesn’t golf, participate in fantasy football or go to the bar to shoot darts; when you work full-time and try to run a ranch, build a house and maneuver tiny ponytails in your off hours, it doesn’t leave much time for extracurriculars. But he does bow hunt. Bowhunting is his thing.

So off he went for two full days of no grooming, no vegetables, no broken down equipment and no tiny ponytails, kicking up dust, blaring the radio and howling the primal howl of his ancestors out the window of this pickup on his way to the wilderness…

Or at least that’s how I envisioned his departure that Friday evening.

But come Saturday afternoon it was apparent it didn’t end well. Actually, it sounds like it didn’t start well either.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Well, it started with the brakes,” he said, going on to explain that they were miles along a dirt road in a primitive land where cellphones are useless and bigfoot originated, when they heard the grinding noise and consequently spent the next several hours using the resourcefulness the two men honed from years of patching together old broken stuff from parts saved and scrounged off of other old broken stuff to get the brakes fixed enough to limp the pickup back to the paved roads of civilization known as the town of Ekalaka, population 343.

And while I admit I might have spoken too soon about that whole “no broken down equipment” thing, they did fix those brakes in Ekalaka, as they often do in those small town body shops.

Which was a good thing, because it turns out brakes are an imperative part of the recovery equation when you’re driving down the highway at 70 mph and the top of your camper blows completely off, sending those Vienna sausages, sleeping bags and a stray shoe or two bouncing down the highway, busted and bruised just like the broken down dreams of your manly man-cation…

“I’ve always wondered how people lose shoes on the highway,” I remarked. “See you when you get home. I’ll have the TV turned to that channel you like where they’re always fishing…”

 

Love is an untidy, unfolding story…

IMG_0520

Well, we might have forgotten about our anniversary, but this week is my birthday week and I made damn sure we celebrated early so no-one would forget by suggesting we hit up the lake with the family and the pontoon yesterday.

So that’s out of the way! And what a fun day it was.

IMG_051513DEB06B-4819-4A9E-844B-615E24810B8A4EA7896F-911C-43D0-AEF6-B5A44E4F44D1IMG_0521

Now on to a busy week and another year. Funny, the older I get the more excited I seem to be to find out what’s in store…

Love is an untidy, unfolding story

“Happy Anniversary” flashed the message on my phone as it sat on a kitchen counter smudged with waffle batter and covered with grapes and cups of coffee and orange juice.

My body was aching, my back and feet screaming at me from a week of scheduling madness, keeping me and my big belly on the road and in late at night. I had one more thing that evening, one more thing and then next week would be calmer, I promised.

My husband was in the living room watching Edie twirl and sing “Twinkle, Twinkle,” and I looked over at him, my eyebrows contorted toward the ceiling in surprise.

We forgot.

“It’s our anniversary!” I said loudly, with a hint of despair in my voice as I set down the bowl of batter for a minute to collect my thoughts. “Oh my gosh, it’s our anniversary.”

“Yup. Yup, it is,” he replied with a laugh, because clearly, the thought hadn’t crossed his mind either.

Not this morning anyway. Not today. The day we were married.

Wedding Tree

So 11 years is apparently the threshold where we need to be reminded about a relationship milestone in a text message from my maid of honor. How long would we have gone before realizing it? All day? All month? Are we beyond celebrating these kinds of things now, too wrapped up in this messy life to take a moment to commemorate how we got ourselves into this whole thing in the first place?

A proper couple should be mortified, shouldn’t they? And I don’t know if this is good or bad, but it just seemed like we were both a bit relieved, like, “look at us, we’re so in tune with one another that we forgot the same important milestone,” or something like that.

Chad picked Edie up and gave her a little tickle, and she went giggling down the hallway and I finished making waffles.

chad and edie

And that was that. We were off the hook on gifts, on a fancy dinner, on changing out of my maternity yoga pants (me, not him).

Funny though, I didn’t even feel like we needed to make up for it really, because, well, love is just…so…untidy.

I’ve known this for a long time, but sometimes I put too much pressure on it to look more like a glowing embrace under the twinkling stars than the leftover chicken supper he cooked for our daughter while I was away at a meeting last night.

But who would have thought that leftover chicken could feel like a hug under those twinkling stars, because it means you have someone, under your roof, who has you and has your back and supper and bedtime under control when you can’t.

So I went to the grocery store the next day and picked him up some crab legs anyway, a meal that has become an anniversary tradition for us. We cracked them open sitting at the counter in our sweatpants listening to Edie sing herself to sleep before turning in ourselves, hunkering down on the middle chapters of our practical, imperfect little love story.

40

Let it shine…


Edie calls my guitar my “Sunshine” and I never want to forget it.

When I get my “sunshine” out she cries until I sit her on my lap and let her play with me. And we can only sing “You are my Sunshine.”

She’s so bossy and I’m putty in her hands.

Here she is on one of her 37 renditions of our song.

​I can’t help but look at her in these sweet moments and wonder what kind of woman she’s going to grow up to be. I wonder if she will spend her life behind a guitar or the windshield of a motorcycle, the screen of a computer or the wheel of a tractor…

In hard and confusing times like these, I’m so thankful that I have her to give me hope for the future. I pray I can do right by her, to help guide her toward love and acceptance and bravery when she’s worried and wondering. I hope I can always be her rock, the way good parents and good people should be to our children…

Funny, I never expected my baby to be my rock in return.

My rock and my sunshine. ​

Let it shine, my friends, in any good and decent way you can.

We need your light.

​​
​​

Comfort found in the rain drops

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 7.18.27 AM

It’s raining this morning. The windows to my bedroom are open and I woke to the sound of it trickling from the sky in the darkness, the bathroom light on and my husband already up, downstairs, brewing coffee and getting our baby dressed for her day at daycare.

Although it took me a while to realize. That’s usually my job. I get her up and properly snuggled and dressed so he can take her down the road with him. But I blinked my eyes open to listen to the rain, and then I heard them on the baby monitor sitting on my nightstand, the clicking and swishing and chattering of our morning ritual.

“Blankie?” She said.

“Yes baby,” he said.

And I thought, “how sweet,” and that I could just lay here under these covers, under this roof, listening to the sound of the rain and their chatter as I drifted back to sleep.

But then I remembered her hair’s probably a huge mess, some standing straight up, some sticking straight out and the rest down in her eyes and she will need her ponytail, and her dad, with his big, calloused fingers, gets nervous about ponytails.

So I swung my legs over the bed and shuffled down the stairs, rubbing my eyes and sneaking up on them as they entered the hallway.

“Oh good, just in time!,” he smiled, handing me our daughter with one arm while carefully placing the tiny pink elastic hair tie in my hand. She laid her head on my shoulder and we sat together in the chair, putting on her finishing touches for the day, her shoes, her flowered jacket and, yes, her little ponytail before her dad swooped her up and down the road in the rain.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 7.21.12 AM

Eleven years married and this is what our life is now, a series of balancing and handoffs and what’s for supper? Did she eat? Did she bath? Did you see her latest trick? And some days this life feels more overwhelming and out of our control than others, with a crazy schedule and bills and bad news and bad weather and bad things happening to good people and we can’t do much about so much…

But this morning we all rose slowly together under the calm quiet of the morning, a team of a little family who has each other’s hands, and hearts and ponytails under the roof that is a our messy little sanctuary, under a sky that’s raining again…

Thank God it’s raining again.

Coming Home: The hope that lives in a rain shower
Forum Communications

Rainbow over east pasture

It rained last weekend. For the first time since spring arrived, the clouds rolled in during the early morning and they hung over the land all day like a sweet, life-giving blanket, sending waves of drenching water, turned to sprinkles, turned to mist turned back to heavy rain, on and off all day.

It rained. It really rained last weekend. And it didn’t matter if there was an outdoor event planned, or a camping trip, or a parade — we all welcomed it on our skin, remembering what it felt like to be given a promise that the dust will settle.

We’ve been waiting for this moisture for months, although the drought hasn’t affected us or hit us as hard as our neighbors to the south. Our hay crop is alright this year. We have enough grass. Our livelihoods don’t fully depend on the cattle we raise. We’ll be fine.

Others are not so lucky this time around.

And I can’t help but think of how the weather controls us as I stand with my face pressed to the screen door, letting the rain speckle my cheeks, watching it drip off of the deck railing, shiver the leaves on the trees, turn the garden dirt black and open my purple petunias up for a drink.

It’s magic really. I’ve been watering those flowers for months from the sink every day with Edie and her little green plastic watering can. And they were fine, if not a little sad and hopeless sitting there stuck in the hot sun in those pots.

And then it rained like it did and they grew new leaves, petals sprouted overnight, vines reached toward the sky and they were alive again, with one big gulp.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 7.23.00 AM

I felt like those flowers, sluggish and worried about lightning strikes and fires, stuck inside in the afternoons with Edie, eating popsicles and both of us refusing to put on pants.

I remember hot summers like this from my childhood, the sharp, dry grasses scratching our bare legs as the buzz of the hoppers cut through the heat.

The dog days of summer had its own smells of dusty hay bales and sprinklers waking up the lawn. It tasted like water from the hose and sweat and push-up pops on Grandma’s front porch. It felt like the prick of a cactus after a misplaced seat and mosquito bites itched clean off the skin and sweaty horsehair sticking to your legs after a bareback ride to pick chokecherries.

But when it rained, it changed our world from dust to mud, from popsicles to warm soup, from itchy legs to soaked jeans, from grasshoppers to chickadees, from sprinklers to puddles.

And maybe it’s just how I was raised, but even as a kid, even on the days I planned on swimming in the big lake or meeting friends at the pool or riding my horse in the parade in town, I can’t remember ever being disappointed by a summer shower, knowing full well, maybe even then, that in those tiny drops, hope lives.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 7.23.28 AM

Listen to my song, “Raining”
From the album “Nothing’s Forever”

Buy it on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby or on jessieveedermusic.com

Take the picture

shadow

I’m trying to get my photo situation under control. Or, I should say, I’ve been thinking about getting my photo situation under control.

Since I moved back to the ranch seven years ago, that’s pretty much been the mission of my life, to take photos of it all. I would tout my big camera along with me everywhere, capturing the way the sun set on the petals of a wildflower, the soak of the rain, the sparkle of a snow bank, the lines on my husband’s face.

I was obsessed. I created thousands of images and posted them here. I loaded up my computer, my phone, my camera cards. I did my best at organizing them at least by year, but even with my best effort, it became sort of a kazillion GB mess.

Now that I’ve added a child to the mix of things, it’s gotten downright ridiculous. I made an 80 page photo book just of the first two months of her life with every intention of doing another one at least by her first birthday, suddenly so aware and sort of frantic about the importance of not only taking the photo, but printing it as well.

And rightly so. About the time that my baby was born was the time that every technology in my universe seemed to fail me. My computer crashed and on its way to its death, it drug along the external drive where I had backed up everything. And because we had terrible internet at the time, the great mysterious services like the Cloud were useless to me.

Needless to say, there was a lot of cussing and despair involved in my attempt to recover my precious memories. And I wound up saving my computer in a fragmented form, thanks to a techie band mate, but I couldn’t save the backup. And the backup was what I really needed…

Waahhhhhhh…..

I was determined to be better about all these damn photographs I was going to be taking in this next phase of my life. I was going to keep on top of it. Make prints. Make books. Make use of them so that when Edie’s my age she doesn’t have to figure out how to recuperate ancient laptops to retrieve her memories the way we do with old home movies and slides.

I was going to put her memories in books I tell you! I was going to do better than my mother, who has our memories in piles in a trunk in her living room and the overflow in a drawer in the buffet and another overflow in another drawer in the kitchen.

But I’m not convinced people can change. And here I am, a year and a half later with one photo album and another thousand photos of my baby in all phases of getting there on my computer and an overwhelming feeling that our memories have the potential to be lost forever if I don’t get on the ball, especially cause here I am pregnant again, and Oh My GAWD, I’m halfway through this baby-growing business and I haven’t even taken a photo of my belly!!!

I took like seventy thousand photos of my growing belly with Edie!! This kid’s not even born yet and I have some explaining to do!!

img_8327

So anyway, I have a goal. Before this baby is born, I’m going to catch up on the album thing. It’s not that hard. I just have to do it.

In the meantime, I have signed up for a cool service called Chatbooks, where they automatically send you little square books featuring photos off of my Instagram feed. So if anything, in the end, I’ll have a nice little collection of our day to day life, because I put the responsibility in someone else’s hands.

So this was on my mind when I was putting together September’s issue of Prairie Parent. Because soon it will be school picture time, and soon moms and dads of seniors will be digging through the archives of their child’s life, pulling out the favorites, and putting them in books and on poster boards for relatives and friends to reminisce over.

Time goes too fast. I always thought it. I think it more every day. Photographs and videos are our only visual connection to a past we can’t hold on to. So I’ve decided not to apologize about it, and just keep snapping. And while I regret a few photos taken of me (Ahem…Little Sister!!!) I don’t think I’ll ever regret one taken of my growing and changing family…

Read more about “Taking the Picture” in my From the Editor column in this Month’s Prairie Parent. And check out the full issue of the magazine online at www.prairieparent.com

Counting Photos, Collecting Memories

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 8.15.51 PM

A song comes to life

Coming Home: How a song comes to life in the garden

Forum Communications

IMG_8865

She was munching on a pea pod I’d plucked from the plant in front of her, her fine blonde hair escaping from the ball cap she insists on wearing backwards, rendering it completely useless for protecting her rosy cheeks from the 80 degree day.

Before she finishes her first garden treat, she’s reaching out her hands, mouth full, mumbling “more.” I pick her two, one for each hand. Pleased, she struts across the garden in her cowboy boots and shorts, trampling over my onions on her way to see if she might get the chance to pull up an entire bean plant before her momma tells her “no!”

We’d been in the garden together for approximately 10 minutes and this is about the way it goes — a series of “come heres,” “no, no, nos” and “stop walking on my peppers!” as if a toddler understands any more about the concept of a garden than the cool touch of the dirt and the crunch of that pea pod she’s started asking for by name while she points out the window toward the yard.

garden 2

I was removing the grip of her chubby fingers from the leaves of that plant when I looked up to find my husband and dad, back from the hay field, apparently taking a moment to see how this scene was going to turn out, a pregnant momma trying to save her garden from Toddlerzilla.

I put my hand up to shield my eyes and hollered, “hello” as they made their way over to take a seat on the grass in front of us, smelling like diesel exhaust and sweat. Edie squealed “Papa” and ran toward them.

They sat there together for a bit, commenting on the cool breeze, feeding Edie more peas while I pulled up radishes and weeds and that was that, just another moment in a series of moments on the ranch.

IMG_6909

IMG_6904

IMG_8147 (1)

IMG_8296

IMG_8267

edie horsesshadow

daddy

“I went home that night and I was choked up about it,” Dad said the other night as we were driving home from a performance. “I saw you out there with her and it just reminded me of that song you wrote…”

I dreamed you high up on his shoulders, on a horse, riding along. I dreamed you digging in the garden and I wrote you in a song…

IMG_8303

And I thought, oh, of course. That song I wrote all those years ago, dreaming up that very moment, which seemed so out of reach at the time. I only sang it alone in my house and cried through multiple takes in the studio where I recorded it weeks after losing my fourth or fifth pregnancy … I lose count.

And then there we were, together in the middle of that scene, sweating in the hot sun and getting the chance to take it all for granted.

But leave it to Papa to say, “Well, look at you now! Who would have thought?”

Yes. Look at us now.

Because in this life we’re all made for something, holding tight and letting go. And some things, they are certain, and some things we’ll never know…

List to full length version of “For You Child” from my 2012 album, “Nothing’s Forever” available for purchase at www.jessieveedermusic.com 

family