About Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I am working on living and writing my story. I grew up singing and writing music and spent five years of 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, at 26, after a couple albums, a couple of moves, a couple of dogs, a couple of jobs, one large home renovation and some heartache, I am back at the ranch to sing and write and ride my ponies and hang out with my husband and work to help share my passion with others by opening up the 3,000 acre ranch that provided me with the space to create and breathe and be wild to visitors from around the world. I am in the beginning of this journey, but I want to tell you how it's going :) Oh, and just in case you want to know a bit more about the woman behind the words...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 (and support system). I am addicted to coffee and candy and peanut butter.

Making Memories. Making Pies.

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It’s a beautiful morning at the ranch, the wind is calm and the golden trees are sparkling in the sun, the baby is napping, the windows are open and I’m so happy to be home after six days on the music road.

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I’ve designated this day to unpacking and putting away all that was drug out in the name of traveling across the state with a ten-month old and my mother…which means we most definitely brought home way more than we left home with…

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Like maybe a few more outfits. And at least one new pair of shoes for each of us.

And maybe a giraffe suit for Little Sister?

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We sure have a fun and exhausting time when we’re out traipsing around the countryside. But we don’t get much napping in. And we don’t stick to a bedtime. And we try to cram as much fun as we can in between the gigs.

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Mini Merch Slinger

So we’re tired.

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I predict Edie will take the rest of the week to catch up on all of the extra time she spent kicking and clapping and singing along with her eyes wide open until the bitter end of the day when we plopped down together on the hotel bed, or the bed in my grandparent’s house, or the bed of our gracious hosts, and finally gave into the night.

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Sound check…

I’m contemplating crawling into her crib with her right now and the two of us could stay there all day. If only we both fit.

But not until I share this week’s column with you, a little story about the best part of this season change, which is most certainly more time in the kitchen with family reminiscing and making new, sweet flavored memories.

And I may be no Martha Stewart, as you all know, but this was my biggest attempt yet, getting as close as this non-pastry-making-family can get to pie perfection, thanks to the notes left behind from our grandma Edie…and maybe a little encouraging from above.

Happy season change. May the cooler weather inspire you to cuddle up and settle down a bit. I know that’s my goal this upcoming October anyway.

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Coming Home: Connecting with gramma’s memory over a slice of apple pie
by Jessie Veeder
9-25-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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My mom keeps a small wooden box in her kitchen, tucked up in the cupboard next to her collection of cookbooks. On the front it reads “RECIPES” in the shaky, wood-burning technique of a young boy trying his hand at carpentry.

And the from-scratch buns she served with supper.

And the familiar casseroles that you could smell cooking as you walked up toward the tiny brown house from the barnyard after a ride on a cool fall evening.

Every once in awhile my mom will open that box on a search for a memory tied to our taste buds. She’ll sort through the small file of faded handwriting and index cards until she finds it, setting it on the counter while she gathers ingredients, measures stirs and puts the dish together the best way she remembers.

I’m thinking about it now because it’s sitting on my kitchen table, the one that used to sit in my grandmother’s kitchen all those years ago acting as a surface to roll out dough and pie crusts or a place to serve countless birthday cakes or her famous April Fool’s day coffee filter pancakes.

And so they’ve met again, that table and that box, which is currently sitting next to a pie pan covered in tinfoil.

Because last week we pulled the box out on a mission for guidance on what to do with the 50,000 pounds of apples my little sister inherited from the tree in the backyard of the house she bought a few years back.

“Maybe we should make applesauce or apple crisp,” we said as Little Sister plopped the fourth bag full of fruit on my kitchen counter, my mom sipping coffee and my big sister entertaining my nephew beside her.

I reached up in the cupboards to dust off a couple recipe books because we all agreed then that apples this nice deserve to be in a pie, and Googling “pie making” seemed too impersonal for such an heirloom-type task.

Then Mom remembered the recipe box.

And that Gramma Edie used to make the best apple pies.

It was a memory that was intimately hers and vaguely her daughters’. We were too young to remember the cinnamon spice or the sweetness of the apples or the way she would make extra crust to bake into pieces and sprinkle with sugar when the pies were done, but our mother did.

And most certainly so did our dad.

So we dove into the recipe with the unreasonable confidence of amateurs and spent the afternoon in my kitchen, peeling apples, bouncing the baby and rolling and re-rolling out gramma’s paradoxically named “No Fail Pie Crust,” laughing and cheering a victory cheer as we finally successfully transferred it to the top of the pie using four hands and three spatulas, certain this wasn’t our grandmother’s technique.

Wondering how she might have done it.

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Little Sister carved a heart in the top to make it look more presentable. We put the pie in the oven, set the timer and hoped for the best.

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We fed the baby and gave her a bath. We watched my nephew demonstrate his ninja moves. We talked and poured a drink. We cleared the counter for supper. We put the baby to bed.

And then we pulled the pie from the oven. We marveled at our work. We decided it looked beautiful, that we might declare it a huge success, but first we should see what Dad thinks.

So we dished him up a piece. It crumbled into a pile on his plate, not pie shaped at all. But he closed his eyes and took a bite and declared it just the right amount of cinnamon, the apples not too hard, the crust like he remembered, not pretty but good.

We served ourselves and ate up around that old table. We thought of our grandma, wondered if she might have given us a little help and put the recipe back in the box right next to her memory and the new one we made.

And we closed the lid.

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The chance to be ungrateful…

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It was truly a “take your daughter to work day” today as I hauled Edie to town and used her as a model for a little photoshoot I did for this new publication I’m working on for Western North Dakota called “Prairie Parent.”

When work means taking photos of cute kids in cute clothes with your friends and their kids and your baby on a beautiful fall day, it really can’t get any better.

Even if poor little Edie is coming down with something…and I think so am I.

And we have a big weekend of music coming up which means another trip across the state and a little prayer up to stay healthy. And a lot of packing. And a lot of catching up to do on work and laundry between now and Thursday.

Somedays I’m a little overwhelmed, but today I focused on the positives. I thought I was handling it thanks to my mom and the sunshine.

I don’t always think I’m handling it. Sometimes it’s harder to keep it all level and balanced. Sometimes it all comes boiling out my mouth because I can’t stop and think because I’m tired of thinking and I need to say things out loud so that it might all come together in some semblance of perspective.

And that’s what I got last week…

Lucky to have the chance to be ungrateful
by Jessie Veeder
9-19-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Last weekend on the way to meet my husband’s family to celebrate his grandmother’s 87th birthday, I had one of those moments where I broke everything down that wasn’t working in my life. Something my husband said set me off and I took it as an opportunity to let the steam out of the frustration kettle that had been boiling for a couple weeks.

Then I worried about making enough money to make it worth it and moved that into my frustration about unfinished projects.

And by the way, the house is never clean and how am I going to keep cockleburs out of the baby’s mouth if they keep coming in on the bottoms of our jeans?

Seriously? Is there anyone else in the world who has to worry about their baby eating cockleburs in the house?!

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And it just went on from there while the baby slept in the car seat behind me and my patient, but probably pretty annoyed, husband tried to offer solutions I wasn’t in the mood to hear like men tend to do with women during meltdowns like these.

Please tell me other women have meltdowns like these.

I threw those words at the windshield and we rolled down Highway 85 on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning, the leaves turning gold on the trees, sparkling against a blue sky. By the time we got to where we were going the radio was a bit louder and conversation had turned to the new funny laugh that Edie was trying out lately and what we needed to pick up while we were in the big town.

We spent the day watching Edie get passed around from cousin to aunt to gramma to uncle. We strolled through the zoo and heard her use her new scruffy laugh while watching the otters swim. We swatted away hornets and took some family pictures and ate three different types of cake, gave hugs and drove home toward the setting sun, not a trace of residue on the windows from my morning words.

Earlier that week I stood over our kitchen counter. It was scattered with Tupperware containers, unopened mail, sunglasses and probably a spare tool or two. I had a knife in one hand and a fork in the other and as I sliced into the big juicy steak we pulled from a freezer packed with meat we just picked up from the butcher, I was overcome with this unexpected wave of complete gratefulness, so much so that I had to stop and say it out loud.

“We are so lucky that this is our meal. On a regular Tuesday night,” I said to my husband sitting in front of his plate full of vegetables from the garden and his steak grilled to perfection. “There are people in this world who’ve never tasted a fresh garden tomato.”

He agreed.

Lucky.

Thing is, I didn’t think about that Tuesday night steak on my Saturday morning rant. It was long dissolved into my uncertainties of the week, crumpled into wondering if we were doing anything right.

And I’m sitting here this morning sort of worried about how quickly the taste left my mouth.

Just over a year ago I was holding my breath for a baby to come in and throw my schedule into chaos, just like she’s doing, just like I was complaining about on Saturday morning.

And now here she is, staring up at me from the living room rug while she’s pooping her pants. And I am grateful.

I’m lucky to be grateful. But maybe sometimes, and I’ve never thought of this before, we’re even more lucky to have the chance to be ungrateful.

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They’re not babies long..

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This is my view lately.

A pre-nap snuggle after the tiny monster had free reign of the living room for approximately three minutes and I’m sitting here sort of dazed at how fast they turn from helpless babies to tiny humans with minds of their own.

She’s hit the stage where she learns something new every minute, I swear. A few weeks ago it was standing against the furniture.

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Tuesday it was standing against the furniture with one hand.

Yesterday she decided to let go and see what would happen.

Because she’s pretty sure she can walk now.

She can’t.

But she’s amused anyway with falling on her butt.

 

 

Those legs need less squish and more muscle before this walking train is leaving the station, so I’m optimistic I have some time to do pad the walls of this house.

This girl. She’s funny. Like entertaining and wild and full of this spirit I just can’t get enough of and have a hard time describing.

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She laughs all day, like she’s practicing the one she likes best and then she tries it out when things get really funny. Right now it’s a cross between evil and adorable and she is so amused with herself.

And I’m so amused with her.

 

Because she’s woken up to the world and it’s so fun to watch. I didn’t know how incredible it would be to see her change every day.  She knows what it means when she hears the door open. She stops what she’s doing and waits to see him come around the corner in the hallway. She flings her arms and reaches for her dad, squealing with delight when he comes closer to pick her up.

I tried to take her from him to change her diaper on Sunday morning and her lip stuck out in the biggest pout I’d ever seen, literally showcasing on her face her little heart breaking at the thought. So I put her back in the nook of his arm and the pout morphed back into her sort of permanent working smile.

And it was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen.

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Every day of this mom thing is like that. Full of such extremes. Extreme frustration. Extreme exhaustion. Extreme happiness. Extreme hilarity. And that all bounces around in the mundane tasks and drone of the work of the ordinary days.

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The colors are changing outside our window and just as this baby started waking up in the spring I feel like she’s following another change in the season.

They’re not babies long. That’s what my friend told me a few years back.

And she was right.

They’re not babies long…

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Celebrity sightings…

Ok, here’s this week’s column on celebrity sightings…

And just for the record, mom swears it was Kenny G because he was carrying a horn…

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Here’s to celebrities. May we all be at our coolest when we run into them in a hotel lobby.

Or on the trail…

Celebrity story the right fit for Western ND woman
by Jessie Veeder
9-11-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

My mom claims she saw Kenny G once in a hotel lobby in Fargo. It’s probably true. I mean, I think he was playing somewhere in the area that weekend, but then, it could have also just been a woman with long hair and a perm. It was the ’90s after all, and I think she only saw the back of his head.

Mom’s not much of a football fan, but she does appreciate a brush with fame as much as anybody, even if she can’t remember what team the guy played for.

Or his name.

Yes, it seems like we all have our signature celebrity-spotting story that we bust out at parties or for the 300th time at the family supper table, as if a run-in with a person of international credibility makes us a little more impressive ourselves.

Being a local musician, I’ve had my faIr share of meet and greets with famous performers throughout the years, most involving a backstage handshake, an obligatory photo and a hurry-up-and-get-your-stuff-off-the-stage nod because you’re the opening act.

But last weekend, my husband reminded me of the celebrity story I only tell if I’ve had one or two extra glasses of wine, rendering me ready for things like embarrassing confessions about an awkward college sophomore’s wardrobe malfunction in the wilderness with two professional cowboys as witness.

After a re-evaluation, I think enough time has passed now to revisit it here. I feel like it’s my duty, in the name of entertainment.

Anyway, out here in western North Dakota, we regard successful horse trainers and rodeo cowboys as celebrities. And during the summer of my sophomore year of college, I was invited to participate in a unique event where locals saddled up to ride and camp the Maah Daah Hey Trail through the Badlands with the famous Texas horse trainer Craig Cameron.

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Now, for those of you who don’t know, Craig is like the Kenny G of horse training, the NFL star quarterback of equine expertise, and I was invited along as an amateur journalist to document the experience for an equine magazine because, by some luck, the professional reporter scheduled for the gig was sick or giving birth or something.

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And so that’s how I found myself in the Badlands atop one of our more spirited horses, riding alongside a handsome Texas gentleman with a thick southern drawl and a skinny Texas cowboy butt and his professional bull rider friend with a thicker drawl and an even skinnier rear.

Now, the butt detail is a little morsel I would normally reserve for cocktails with my girlfriends. But it’s an important visual here because, while it was a minor detail I took note of as those cowboys unloaded their gear at the trailhead, it became extremely relevant when, on Day Two of the ride, I was face to face with those two skinny cowboys discussing pants sizes and wishing I would have packed cuter underwear.

Because the entire crew could see them, plaid and ratty and poking through the giant rip I tore in the rear of my jeans as I swung on my horse that morning.

Which would be embarrassing enough if I left it at that, except that I had already done the same thing the day before and, well, now I was out of jeans.

And so there I was, standing before two professional southern celebrity gentlemen as they so generously offered a solution to my wardrobe crisis, prairie wind blowing through my britches, wishing I wouldn’t have indulged in late-night Alfredo noodles every evening for supper my freshman year because, unless I wanted a weird case of saddle rash, I was going to have to squeeze my carb-loving badunkadunk into the famous Craig Cameron’s size 28 Wranglers and face the rest of the trail.

So that’s what I did.

And while it’s no Kenny G sighting in the hotel lobby, it seems my mortifying celebrity story, er, fits me just right.

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A heavy dose of escape…

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Yesterday afternoon, when Husband came home from work I escaped.

Yeah. I said it. Escaped. That’s the right word.  Some days around here are easier than others, and I think this baby is getting more teeth God help me, so I left her, and the man who helped make her, to it.

And I headed to the badlands.

Because I hadn’t been there in a while. Because  I was feeling overwhelmed in this house that’s never going to be baby proof enough. Because being a mom is hard sometimes.

Being a work from home mom to a baby who just learned to crawl is nearly impossible.

Because I needed some inspiration. A good breath. A minute.

Because it was a beautiful night and I didn’t want to miss out on it.

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The badlands are right in our backyard and the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is about a 45 mile drive from the ranch, but if I were a bird it wouldn’t take me nearly as long to fly there along the river.

I wished I was a bird yesterday evening as I drove through the park slowly with the windows open watching the rain clouds build up on the horizon, wondering how long it might pour on me and this landscape that has nothing to do but soak up the sky.

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Then I was feeling sort of bummed about it, about the rain. Like, finally I get out here and I won’t get the light bouncing off the buttes. I won’t get a sunset. I won’t get the great shadows the sun creates in the canyons. I won’t get to see it in all its late summer glory.

I won’t get what I want out of this little trip.

And I was right. I didn’t get what I wanted.

I got more.

Because just before the sky let loose a smattering of rain on a girl standing in the long grass, hair whipping across my face, a rainbow appeared like they tend to do out of nowhere and it stayed long enough for me get to know it a bit.

And to shake the boulder that unexplainably had been sitting heavy on my shoulders for the last few days.

img_3193img_3200img_3264img_3282img_3296img_3380img_3346img_3364img_3324img_3328Sometimes you don’t know what you need. And that’s ok.

But sometimes you do and you don’t take it. And that’s not ok.

I was reminded of that last night. Because I almost didn’t take the drive out there. I felt a little guilty about it. Like I should stay home and cook supper. Like it was going to be too late and the house was a mess. Like I had lots of work I could get done after the baby went down for the night. Like I was so tired.

But I went. I went because I wanted to. I went because it wasn’t asking much.

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Taking moments to exist in this wild space has always my best therapy. My best drug. And I got a heavy dose last night.

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And I’ve learned a heavy dose of escape makes the return so much sweeter…

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In the thick of it.

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I spent Labor Day weekend on a little getaway with my husband to celebrate ten years married and our two birthdays. It was the first time we’ve done anything together since the baby was born. It was the first time I was away from the baby overnight.

We left her in good hands, at home with my mother and father-in-law and two of our nieces who Edie’s attached to and we headed south to the Black Hills of South Dakota, so extremely aware of how we used to take these sort of outings together for granted.

I mean, we only had two bags between us.

There was a moment when I stepped out of the hotel that morning and into the pickup where I felt like I was missing a limb without that baby attached to my hip.

We didn’t do much in particular. We just drove and ate and drank and walked around and visited and made plans for the future like we like to do. Gave each other advice. Laughed at things probably only we would find funny.

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And talked about the baby.

We came home on Sunday in time to tuck her in and the next morning my husband turned 34 so I made him breakfast in our kitchen with the cool rain soaking the oak trees outside our windows and our baby crawling around on floor.

We are in this thing now, the both of us. Deep into adulthood and marriage. On the brand new edge of parenting. In the thick of it, as they say.

I doubt we’ve been happier.

And it’s terrifying and surprising and lovely and a wonderful thing to say out loud.

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Life in your 30s means knowing who you are
by Jessie Veeder
9-4-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

When I turned the more momentous 30 a few years back, I was discouraged at all the advice I was reading in women’s magazines about what it meant to get older. I wondered how many times I could be told what jeans I should wear and what face cream to use.

Coming from a woman who had recently won an Elvis-impersonating contest in front of thousands of people, I really couldn’t argue.

But it wasn’t until lately that I started to believe she might be right about this phase of life. I mean, gone are the days of ramen noodle suppers, paying rent on questionable apartments and wondering who I should be when I grow up.

Because I am grown up. This is me, give or take a few hundred lessons coming down the pipe. Not that I no longer have aspirations and goals, I’m simply saying I’ve lived long enough to know which direction I should steer this truck and what prairie trails to avoid to keep me sane and happy.

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The day I turned 30 I sat down and wrote a list titled “30 things I know at 30.” Having found no inspiration from those women’s magazines for what’s ahead besides more face cream, I needed to be reassured that I had acquired some tools for this adulthood thing.

I’m glad I saved it. Because among a few reflections on cleaning, clothing choices and eating carrots straight out of the garden were some good reminders:

• When you’re younger you expect your community to take care of you. I know now that it’s our responsibility to take care of our community.

• Art is a chance to see life through one another’s eyes. If we don’t encourage it, we’re ignoring the part that reassures us that it can be beautiful. Because even the sad parts have colors that move you or a melody that sweeps you up.

• I used to think that love was enough. It turns out love goes a lot better mixed with kindness, respect, laughter, humility and a nice meal together once in awhile. So maybe loving is just the easiest part.

• A girl needs a dog.

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• My mom was right. My sister did become my best friend. Just like she said she would when I was slamming my bedroom door.

• There will always be more work, more things to build and more stories to write. When there isn’t we will make it so, because as much as anything, living’s in the work.

• Some people struggle to have what may come easy to you. Think of this when you say your hellos. Compassion is a quality we could use more of.

• Learning to cook does not make you a housewife, a stereotype, or some sort of overly domesticated version of yourself. It makes you capable. Same goes with laundry, lawn mowing and hanging a dang shelf by yourself.

• On Christmas, feed the animals first … and a little extra.

• Always wear proper footwear. And by proper, I mean practical, and sometimes practical means cute. You know what I’m saying.

• You can tell yourself there’s a reason for everything. It helps to ease the heartbreak and suffering. Believe it. It’s likely true. But know that sometimes it’s OK to think that life’s not fair, because sometimes it isn’t.

And here is where I’d like to add perhaps the only profound thing I’ve learned since writing this list, which is you just don’t know what’s really in store for you. All you can do is use the strength of your will, your community, your family and your coffee and try to believe that maybe the best work is yet to be done.

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Click here to see the entire list.

 

Small challenges. Small reminders.

Here’s a video of Edie in the lake last weekend. It was hot as hell and it was my birthday month so I decided we needed to take the pontoon out on the lake for the first time all summer to celebrate, you know, now that summer is over.

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Edie loves the water, as you can see, and I’m pretty sure she would have floated like this all day. IMG_1997

I’m watching it now because the girl just finished fighting me for a good three hours about the whole nap thing. She finally gave in after having won two previous battles, but I’ve won the third and final and, I’ve come to find out,  that’s what really counts in this parenting game.

Who knew ‘strong willed’ came into play so early. Last night while she was standing up in her crib screaming at the top of her lungs, her post-bath mohawk illuminated by the night vision on the baby monitor, I ran across this:

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I showed my husband. He said, “Yeah, I think she’s as strong as you, but she might have you beat on the whole stubborn thing.”

Arghhh. And then Awwweee.  That’s personality and I love her for it. And it turns out it’s just like they said, for all the hard shit there’s the moments where you discover that your nine-month-old likes to watch the morning news like this.

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And it’s really funny.

And then there are the moments you’ve imagined for years and years that come to life right before your eyes and you have to sort of stop to catch your breath and tell yourself that this is what a dream come true feels like.

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Sometimes life gives you what you wanted and then it’s up to you to do what you should with it all.

Like squeeze her into a purple lifejacket and set her on her aunt’s lap on a boat floating across a beautiful lake so that you can help her put her tiny toes in the water.

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And point out the bald eagle soaring above us…

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And the horses who came from their pasture to take a long drink next to our beach blankets…

These things she won’t remember, but I want to.

I will….

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Because right now she’s sleeping but tomorrow she’ll likely be scaling that cliff to catch that eagle and I’ll be running after her saying things like “Honey, you forgot your jacket!” or  “Did you eat breakfast today?” or “Stop! Let me take your picture!!!”

or “Call me when you get to the top so I know that you’ve made it there safely.”

Oh my, they’re only babies for such a short amount of time.

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*sniff* *sniff*

Forget the drink, I need (a couple) donut(s).

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Peace, Love and good Lord take a nap,

Jessie

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The law of the land and other gruesome truths…

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I grow vegetables. Vegetables attract bugs. Bugs attract frogs. Frogs eat bugs. I like bug-less vegetables so I like these frogs. So I don’t mind when I wear my shortyshorts to the garden and they jump splat on to my bare legs. Nope. Love them.

And because we live right by a stock dam we have the slimy creatures hanging out all over our lawn. Dozens of them jump up and make their presence known when I wander out there. I don’t mind protecting them from my stupid dogs. We help each other out.

Or at least I try…

But I still can’t get over that unfortunate incident with the lawn mower last summer. It haunts me. I was so careful. I was giving them time.

But that particular frog needed more.

And that’s nature.

The law of the land.

And that’s what this week’s column is about…

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At the ranch, circle of life can be tough to witness
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

When I was a little girl my big sister and her friend rescued a baby robin from a knocked-down nest. I was so young at the time that the memory doesn’t have any details, except for the way that creature’s eyes looked before they were open, all blue and puffy, and how naked and impossibly fragile it was.

Tonight I’m out on my deck listening to the coyotes howl and watching a couple does come down the hill to take a drink in the dam. They’ve been creeping slowly toward their spot, shaken but not deterred by what sounds like a muskrat slapping and splashing in their water hole, and I’m wishing he would cool it. I mean, all those girls want is a little drink.

The way we do this circle of life thing seems so painstaking sometimes.

Deer on horizon

A few weeks ago all of the ranch dogs turned up with porcupine quills in their noses (well, all but our big old Lab who learned his lesson years ago when he came home full of sorrow and one tiny quill barely dangling from his nostril).

So my husband and dad had the task of pulling a few quills from snouts after work that day. It wasn’t the first time.

And if those dogs don’t learn their lesson, it won’t be the last.

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These are the things that happen out here. Sometimes between the beautiful sunrise and sunset we’re reminded that nature is not the Disney movie we’d like to imagine it to be.

For example, earlier this summer, Dad was driving his side-by-side down the road with his brother and his two dogs. They were taking it slow, noticing the scenery and catching up when he noticed a baby killdeer running and flitting beside them. So he slowed down and remarked on the tiny bird, pointed it out to his brother, marveled at the little creature. And just as he finished saying some tender thing about being a witness to new life, his pup jumped out and snatched it up, bit it right out of the air like a scene out of an old Loony Tunes cartoon, feathers flying, tiny bird leg dangling out the dog’s mouth.

And that was that.

I have dozens of similar stories that I could pull out of the archives to help illustrate my point, like the time Mom’s cat drug a not-quite-dead-chipmunk into the house, or the one where my husband smashed a mouse with his boot in the middle of our living room in the middle of Easter dessert while his big sister stood shrieking on our couch.

And I have one about bats that I don’t want to get into right now, but why I’m bringing this all up in the first place is because just the other day, in the middle of a visit about the baby, my grandparents and my nephew going to kindergarten, Mom pulled out the latest.

“Oh, did I tell you about the bird in the sink?”

No. No, she hadn’t.

“Oh, I was standing at the sink and a bird flew up out of it.”

“Wait. A bird flew out of your sink!?”

“Yeah. Yeah. Well anyway, it flew up at me and then started banging against the window and so I screamed.”

“Yeah, I bet you screamed.”

“And Dad came huffing in, wondering what was going on, you know …”

“Because you’re easily startled.”

“Yeah. And so he was able to grab the bird against the window and bring it out to the door to set it free.”

“Oh, that’s good.”

“But, well, then I heard him holler, ‘Don’t look, don’t look!”

“Oh, no …”

“Cause the cat was out on the deck …”

“Oh. No.”

“And as soon as that bird left his hands, well, she got up off her chair and snatched it up, and that was that.”

If this were a Disney movie, I think that would have turned out differently.

Yes, the law of the land is hard to buck sometimes.

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On Music and Motherhood

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Last week I packed up my guitar and my baby and the entire contents of both of our closets and headed out to the eastern part of the state to perform a couple really cool and completely different shows.

It was a memorable week of music for so many reasons. First, I’m still getting used to how fun and chaotic and hard it is to cart around a baby on these jobs that become adventures when you add tasks like changing diapers in parking lots and late night delirious giggle fests because the girl won’t sleep when there’s action.

But taking my mom with (or Granny Nanny, as we so lovingly refer to her) is the key to making any of it work at all. And after we met up with dad mid-week, leaving Husband at home to make sure the cows don’t get into my garden, the four of us navigated a schedule that included rehearsals and concerts and finding our way through the construction zone that becomes North Dakota in the summertime.

And in between those things we spent a beautiful day at the lake cabin with my grandparents, took Edie swimming,

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shopped for what the heck I was going to wear because I hadn’t decided yet and none of the five dresses I packed were going to work, ate pizza, got our hair done, met up with cousins and spent mom’s retirement on clothes for the baby. Seriously I had to physically take things out of her hands and put them back on the shelves because

#1: I don’t have room in Edie’s closet for all of this and more importantly

#2: We didn’t have room in the car.

Nope. After dad met us with the sound system, his guitar and his tiny little duffle bag, it took everything I know about construction and geometry (which is pretty much nothing) to get us all to fit with the doors closed.

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So naturally, at our last stop at the beautiful Dakota Sun Gardens Winery where we sang, mom bought two big baskets. One for my garden, because, you know, my birthday’s coming up, and one for her sister because it was yellow and gold and she works at NDSU.

Only the Veeder clan would have to unload the entire contents of a big SUV (shopping bags, three pairs of boots, a box of diapers, a collection of hand-me-down toys from my cousins, four suitcases, a stroller, two bags of caramel corn and the kitchen sink) on the lawn outside a beautiful venue in order to retrieve the guitars and sound system so we could get the party started.

Yup, we bring the class.

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There was a point right before I went up to sing that evening after helping mom wrestle the wiggling, screaming, overtired baby so that we could deal with her poop explosion (in the front seat of the car parked at the entrance of that beautiful place so that each guest could be greeted by a stench and baby crying just like they planned) that I looked at my friend and said something like, “I’m not sure this is all worth the hassle.”

I was sweating and disheveled and hadn’t even really thought about a set list.

But then, I was looking at one of my best friends who I don’t get to see very often. I was playing music on her home turf and she brought her family, baby boy included, who I adore (and spent a good part of my two hour gig staring at). And Edie chilled out as soon as she was up and about again, smiling her big smile at everyone. And she got to hang with her other gramma and aunt who made the trip all the way to the middle of the state to be with her, experience a unique place and listen to the music.

And I got to sing next to my dad and drink wine and tell stories to a captive crowd who were just so lovely.

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And the night before I stood on a big, beautiful stage while a song I wrote on the back of a horse came to life as a symphony of strings and horns and everything in between swept in behind me as I sang to a packed crowd in my boots and new dress under a setting sun.

It was an experience of a lifetime to have that many musicians, so much talent sitting in each of those chairs, take my notes and make them soar like that.

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In my wildest songwriter dreams, the ones I’ve been concocting out on in the hills singing at the top of my lungs since I was a little girl, I couldn’t have imagined it the way it was that night.

(Listen here…thanks dad for the recording…)

And I know it sounds like it’s all about me and the music, and maybe that week it was.

But I remember having a conversation with my husband about whether or not, after this baby was born, I would be able to continue working like this. Living out here in the middle of nowhere not many of my singing or speaking jobs are close to home.

But he told me he would help in whatever way he could. He said he couldn’t see any reason why not. And my family has taken the same plan of support and I couldn’t be more grateful. Because I think they see the value in it, not because it’s something that I want to do (and certainly not because it’s going to make me rich and famous) but in my history of performing I can say it’s made us some really funny and special memories, ones that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

And last week it proved to be true once again, sending us to see my grandparents one more time that summer, knowing they were in that big crowd listening, giving my cousin and her kids the chance to spend an entire evening with baby Edie, allowing my parents quality time with their granddaughter and sending me to meet and perform with some of the most talented musicians in the region.

 (With Blind Joe, a North Dakota singer and recent contestant on NBC’s The Voice, who also performed with the Symphony that night)

And the music gave my friend and I a chance to see each other again, my mother-in-law an excuse to take a road trip to see her sister and my aunt-in-law and excuse to do a girl’s night with friends.

And last week it reminded me that it never goes perfectly smooth when you have a kid in tow, but it is so worth it to hang on to the part of yourself that drives you.

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Even though it’s hard, as parents, I think remembering to feed our passions makes us a better family at the end of the day.

Even if the day doesn’t end until you roll into the driveway at 2 am on a Friday night in a car packed to the brim.

Yup, we’re still having fun so we’re off to do it again this week…

 

Moving cattle: A Script

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Coming Home: Sister on the ranch is friend for me, un-hired help for dad
by Jessie Veeder
8-21-16
http://www.inforum.com

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my favorite parts about living back at the ranch is that my sisters have decided to re-plant roots in our hometown. Having a sister nearby as an adult is like having a best friend who doesn’t care if your floor is swept and will call you out on your questionable attitude without worrying about offending you.

Anyway, when it comes to ranch life and work, I’ve rarely seen my petite almost-5-feet tall big sister without heels on almost as many times as I’ve seen her on the back of a horse, so you can guess which sister and I get in the most ranch-related shenanigans.

And how much help the two of us have been for our dad throughout the years.

Jessie and Little Sister

So this is a confession: My little sister and I can be pretty worthless when we get together. And contrary to our parents’ prayers and our husbands’ hopes, it hasn’t gotten any better as we’ve, ahem, matured.

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Nothing exemplifies our incapabilities more than when we so generously volunteer to help our father move cows in the early morning and then linger in the house just long enough over a cup of coffee, a piece of toast, Little Sister’s missing boot and the hairdo I can’t fit under my hat so that Dad can get out the door, up the road and into the barnyard to catch our horses and assume the position of waiting patiently while he listens to our jabbering as we finally make it up on those horses.

The man is patient. He’s had to be out here in the wild buttes of Western North Dakota surrounded by girls. Sometimes I wonder if his life on the ranch as a father would have been a little easier if he would have had a boy tossed in the mix.

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But he’s never once complained, and you gotta love him for it. He’s just grateful for the help, even when his help is riding a half a mile behind him talking over how weird it would be if we rode cows instead of horses as he works to keep the herd from brush patches in the morning that’s turned hot in the time he waited for us to join him.

Because we really are a lot of help, with one of us swatting and screaming at anything that resembles a bee and the other tripping over anything that resembles the ground.

To really paint you a picture, I would like to present to you an actual roundup script.

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Pops: Just stay there, I’ll head up over the hill to look for more cows then we’ll move them nice and easy.

Jessie: I think we missed one. Should I go and get it?

Little Sister: Should I come with you? I should probably come with you … eeeek! A bee, eeeeeeeek!

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Pops (racing through the brush and up a hill): Just stay there!!! Stay there! I’ve got it!

Jessie: Oooh, raspberries.

An undocumented amount of time passes.

An undocumented amount of raspberries are eaten.

Little Sister: Maybe we should go find Dad.

Daughters catch up with father who is behind 25 head of cows. The women are trailing four cattle and currently heading toward the wrong gate on the wrong side of the creek.

Jessie (hollering across the pasture): We’ve got these here… thought we were going to the other gate.

Pops (hollering from behind the cattle he’s just moved through a half-mile brush patch on his own): Actually you’re going to have to turn them or leave them because they’ll never make it across the creek.

Little Sister: Whaatt did he saaayy?!! Should I leave them???

Jessie: DAAAADDD, SHOULD SHE LEAVE THEM?

Pops: Yess, ssheeee sshhoullld leeaave them!!

Jessie: HEEE SAAAYSS LEEAAVE THEM!

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“Slap,” a branch hits Jessie across the face.

Little Sister stops to double over from hysterical laughter.

Father rides up over the hill alone to finish collecting the cattle before all parties return to the barn where father thanks daughters for their help.

(Yeah, really.)

End scene.

Don’t tell my husband about my hopes for another girl …

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