Daddies on their way to work

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Coming Home: Daddies on their way to work
by Jessie Veeder
3-19-17
http://www.inforum.com

I unloaded my daughter and her backpack, and we left the car with the mechanic and sat down on the chairs in the lobby. It smelled like a combination of tire rubber and grease. The sun had warmed the snow enough to make it stick to the rubber soles of the muck boots everyone wears around here, leaving squeaky, muddy footprints to and from the door that dings when it opens…

We live in oil country. It’s been this way since my husband and I moved back to our home turf nearly six years ago. We used to call it a boom. The Wild Wild West. Men arriving from all corners of the country looking for high-paying jobs, some young and single and up for anything, others with families they left in Oklahoma or Arkansas, going back to visit every other two weeks, living in close quarters with other men in trailers, hotel rooms or apartments and sending money back home.

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Watford City, 2014

Add the heavy traffic flow, long lines at the post office and extravagant news stories about crime, safety and how you couldn’t find a woman in the mix with a magnifying glass, and that was the narrative out here.
It’s funny how fast a story can morph into history in a place like this.Funny what a half hour in a Jiffy Lube with a toddler can show you about your community.
I’m married to a man who works in an industry that sends him out into the elements every day to help fuel the world. Along with raising cattle on our ranch, this is his job.
He wears fire retardant jeans, a button-up shirt, a hooded jacket and a ball cap every day, the ultimate uniform of a majority of the working men in this part of the country.
In Edie’s eyes, in Jiffy Lube that day, every man that came through the door for an oil change that day was a daddy. And she was thrilled about it.
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So she hollered “Hi!!” loudly and repeatedly to each of them.Certain that none of them wanted to spend their wait having a conversation with a toddler, I tried to distract her with crackers and a story.”How old is she?” the man across the room asked.”Oh, she’s one,” I replied, reminded then that they’re likely also husbands.”Hhiii!” Edie waved.
“I remember that stage,” he said as Edie dropped down from her seat and did a little twirl on that dirty floor, and soon we were talking about his teenage daughter and her short-lived trombone career, his tech-savvy sons and the wife that moved his family here from the south to be with him.
Because when they talk about their families, history taught me to ask if they’re here together.”Yeah, they’re here,” he said. They’d been here for four years or so. They have a nice place in a new development south of town.”We like it here,” he said. “It feels like home.”
They called his name.
“Have a great day,” I said.”Byyeee,” said Edie.
As he went out, another young guy in the uniform came in. I got up to keep Edie from running down the hall and into the shop.
“How old is she?” He asked.
“I have a 1-year-old boy.”And the same narrative followed.
Our kids will likely be in the same grade, but probably not the same classroom, because there are so many young kids here now. More than a hundred in the current kindergarten class. I’m 33 years old, and I’m older than average in our once aging town, a statistic I was recently made aware of.
And now that I’m thinking of it, it’s pretty clear you no longer need a microscope to find the women here anymore.

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Photo in my mom’s coffeeshop on Main Street. On Saturday, the PTO organized a “Princess” event in honor of the opening of Beauty and the Beast. Countless mommas and princesses attended. It was overwhelming and still surprises a woman like me who grew up in this town when it was 1,200 people with no movie theater. 

It seems we’re invested now, building the new swim team, organizing an arts council, building a new hospital, working alongside all those men they talk about, setting up businesses and young professional organizations. Building a community that will help raise our families.

Taking our toddlers to make friends in Jiffy Lube in a town that went boom and then settled itself quietly, like the dust kicked up behind pickups driven by daddies on their way to work
Main Street, Watford City

Watford City, 2016. Photo by Chad Ziemendorf 

 

A goat and a Lincoln

A Goat and a Lincoln: When Childhood Memories Turn Whimsical
3-12-17
by Jessie Veeder
http://www.inforum.com

Some days, when I feel like life hasn’t thrown me an adventure worthy enough of reflection, I like to dig back in the archives for a memory to recount, the way you do when you find yourself sitting around the table having a beer with old friends.

We all have our favorite go-to stories in times like these, the kind that work in mixed company, just off-kilter enough to reveal something about you to new friends while reminding old ones you were a younger girl and you once drove 30 miles in the car you borrowed from your best friend’s dad, to pick up a goat.

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That’s the story I’m thinking of today.

It’s funny how far your own memories can detach from you, making you a character in the plot line of a life you once led. Everyone seems to remind me of the “hold on tight to these memories” refrain now that I’m a mom, but I should have been warned more when I was kid to hold on to the part of my life where I was 14 and reckless and my best friend was beside me in her dad’s nineteen-seventy-something Lincoln. We were driving on the highway alone for the first time in our lives, feeling grown up and capable, with a late spring rain hitting the windshield, turning the scoria roads bright pink against a neon-green landscape …

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We used to listen to our dads swap stories around the kitchen table when we were children playing make believe in the other room. We would hear them talk about old times — cars with no seat belts, dirt bike ramps and no helmets, horses that bucked too hard — and I wondered if one day my childhood stories might sound as whimsical to my kids.

I didn’t have much real experience driving outside the prairie trails and back roads of the ranch. But my friend and I were getting ready for our first year in high school rodeo, and we thought we needed to get ourselves a goat to practice tying.

Now, I’m not sure what our parents were busy with that day, or why on earth they at least didn’t send us with one of the ranch pickups to take the 30-mile drive in the rain alone to buy a goat from the neighbor’s farm, but that’s the way it happened.

We were an innocent enough pair as far as young teenagers go, and I was born with enough old woman running through my veins that my parents were pretty confident I wouldn’t dare hit any speed higher than 55 … and anyway, the Lincoln couldn’t go much faster.

But, oh how quickly that old lady was driven out of my 14-year-old veins when the open road was before me and my best friend was beside me, and there was hardly another car on the road. My confidence was building with every mile and every mile-per-hour I got closer to the speed limit, until I turned off the highway and onto the church road and decided to really gas it to get a good splash out of that puddle.

That Lincoln jerked hard to the right, fishtailing on the gravel before ramping off the shoulder of the road then sliding down the slope of the ditch and coming to rest at the front of the deep mud trench it buried itself in next to a freshly planted field.

The world outside that old car evaporated as my friend and I stared silently and straight ahead for the moment we needed to evaluate if we were still alive.

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Once we found our breath, we found each other, sucked back a few tears, and then, eventually, found the spare tire in the trunk, just in time for one of the neighborhood grandpas to find us.

What a sight we must have been there — two soggy, pathetic kids standing in the rain and in the agonizing moments between freedom and a lesson.

But maybe not as much of a spectacle we must have been when we finally headed back home, slow and steady down the highway, wild and young and free, just two best friends and our goat standing on the backseat, popping his head up between us.

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A day in the life of Chief Executive

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Life’s getting interesting around here. We’re all feeling a little cooped up and ready for spring. And by all, I mean probably in particular, me.

I can’t wait for the grass to show up from under the snow pile so that we can run off some steam and energy and blow the stink off this winter season.

But it looks like I’m going to have to wait a bit longer, seeing as we’re under  another winter storm warning.

Some days, even in the midst of being extremely grateful for it all, I think being a work-from-home mom might be the most impossible gig there is. I feel that way mostly when I’m staring a deadline in the face and staring up at me is a crying one-year-old in desperate need of a nose wipe and a banana and a cuddle and a nap.

And so that’s the deal with this week’s column. A little play by play, a day in the life if you will, on the struggle, and the joy, of sharing a house with the Chief Executive One Year Old.

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Coming Home: A day in the life of  a chief executive baby
by Jessie Veeder
3-6-17

“She’s not a baby anymore,” I said to my husband as we were driving home from the big town; Edie was strapped in her car seat behind me, singing her own original refrain on repeat at the top of her lungs.

“No, she’s not,” he replied. “She’s the CEO of a household now.”

Well isn’t that the truth, I thought as I laughed, her little song turning into mimicking giggles behind me.

And she takes her role seriously as boss. I didn’t know a person could find her calling so early in life, but as I watch her read the house cat its rights, standing with legs spread wide, leaned forward, brow furrowed, finger pointing, it’s pretty clear she’s aware of the injustices in this world — like a cat taking her chair — and she’s bent on correcting them.

I’d say I don’t know where she gets it, but yesterday my husband informed me that the little Executive Director heard the dogs barking outside and promptly reacted from her highchair throne with a throaty “Nnnnoooo!”

“Wonder where she learned that?” he smirked.

Apparently we’ve entered the phase where no one can get away with anything, not even mom.

Ah, toddlerhood at the ranch, the phase where you get smothered in kisses complete with sound effects one minute and the next you’re being screamed at because you won’t let her sit inside the refrigerator or dip her toothbrush in the toilet.

But most of the time it’s more entertaining than it is frustrating.

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The other day we were digging through a box of her dad’s old toys, and she began a sorting game where she examined each action figure, loudly declaring every muscle-clad superhero — Marshal Bravestar, He-Man and even Lego Superman — “DaDa.”

How does she know all this stuff? Seriously? I didn’t teach her that.

And while I’d really like to take credit, I also didn’t teach her to bust a move at even the slightest hint of music coming from the speakers in our house. Hear a commercial jingle? She’s shakin’ it. The intro to “Wheel of Fortune?” Perfect for twirling and clapping. The ding of the microwave? Might as well use it as an opportunity to bounce.

Liked Lady Gaga’s halftime show? I doubt she was as committed to her Super Bowl performance as my one-year-old was that night.

I have to admit, I admire her spirit, even though it comes in a variety of packages and mood swings hell bent on keeping me from ever fixing my hair again, unless I’m OK with allowing her to completely unravel the entire roll of toilet paper before tearing each square up into a thousand pieces bit by bit so she can roll around in it.

I’m not gonna lie, some days, when I’m running late and Edie’s desperate need to apply eyeliner is making it look like the only way I’m leaving the house again is if she comes with me looking like Gene Simmons, spending a half-hour picking toilet paper confetti off the bathroom floor doesn’t seem like such a bad compromise.

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And anyway, it only took two months into motherhood to figure out that 98 percent of the job is just bending over and picking things up anyway. The other 2 percent is practicing animal noises.

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But I have to tell you, hearing my daughter holler “MOOO” and “COME BOSS” out the pickup window while we’re feeding cows is on the top five list of the best things in the world ever, so it’s all worth it.

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And it’s also the reason that this is it, this is all the news from the ranch. I woke up this morning thinking I would write something a little more enlightening, but then my husband got sick and couldn’t fulfill his marital vow of driving our child to daycare on Tuesday mornings so I can get this column in on time, and here I am doing my best to find anything other than her to write about while trying my best to keep her tiny fingers from pressing my keyjklj’jkldejlncn…

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A country kid needs a town kid

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Door always open to home of old friend
by Jessie Veeder
2-16-17
http://www.inforum.com
Fargo Forum

I used to go to her house in the time between after school and basketball practice. I would eat graham crackers with cheese, and we would sit at the table in her family’s kitchen, her mom popping in to say hi and get the scoop on our day.

I was a country kid in junior high, and I had a few years and a few tests to pass before I got my driver’s license, so the chance to participate in after-school activities meant finding town friends who would save me from roaming the streets between the last bell and the starting practice whistle.

She was one of those friends for me. In the fragile time between elementary school and being ruled adult enough to leave home, she played a role in my adolescence that not only helped me survive it, but made me feel like my quirkiness (weirdness?) was not only accepted, but also appreciated.

I could make her laugh, and she made me feel safe in a friendship at a time in a young girl’s life when friendship is often volatile, fleeting and prone to drama.

(Except for that time in eighth grade when we got the rebellious idea to walk down to the local drug store to pick up a couple boxes of hair dye and disastrously turn her perfectly blonde hair blaze orange and mine a weird color of navy blue, our 20+ years of friendship has been pretty clear of drama.)

I can’t speak for her, but I feel so lucky and sort of surprised by it sometimes. As childhood friends go, our stories are linked in many ways, but in many more ways we are completely opposite.

As a teenager, she was focused, practical and matter-of-fact where I was uncertain about fitting in. I was messy and disheveled; my car was covered in scoria dust and full of pop bottles and dirty socks. I was creative and in my own head, tentatively tipping my toes in the wild edge of bad decisions. She made her bed every day, washed her car in the driveway on the weekends and showed confidence in who she was — solid, studious and pretty well-behaved — no matter who approved.

She was long and lean with coordinated limbs built for sports. I didn’t have an aggressive bone (or muscle) in my body. And while basketball, volleyball and track turned into her high school passions, I traded sports for music, rodeo and high school love.

So our schedules and interests didn’t allow us to easily spend every waking minute together the way many childhood friends are often defined, but I hope she looks back on those days and says I was there when she needed me.

I know I can say that for her. Because if there was a quality I’d like to steal from her (besides those long legs and lungs for long-distance running), it’s that I might be as fiercely loyal.

I’m thinking about her today because we got to spend some time together last weekend as we often do when I head to the big town where she lives with her husband raising two sports-crazed boys between the sidewalks.

Whenever I make a trip there for music or shopping I give her a call and her door— just like it’s always been — is open for her friend who usually rolls up later than planned in a dusty car, plastic bottles and spare mittens spilling out onto the driveway.

Not much has changed as we tallied the years, except we’ve gotten closer. I’m going to give her most of the credit there. My loner and introspective tendencies don’t always make for the best phone-call-maker and catcher-upper. It’s a weakness of mine that I’m humbly aware of, one that’s disconnected me from some of my favorite people. But she’s hung on to me in the ways only people who really understand one another tend to do.

And when I called last weekend to tell her we were going to swing by to say hi on our way to go furniture shopping, she offered to watch Edie to help save our sanity and ultimately feed graham crackers to the next generation of country kid waiting out her time in town.

jessie-and-ashley

Love in an ordinary life

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Because Valentines Day is approaching and because more than anything in this life of ours the little things add up to the biggest acts of love.

Tiny reminders of love in an ordinary life
by Jessie Veeder
2-12-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Last week I had a couple meetings I scheduled in the late afternoon. I do this on days I don’t have Edie in daycare, strategically overlapping the beginning of my workday with the end of my husband’s.

Because we live 30 miles and a good 45 minutes from town, the planning can be a little tricky and usually involves a quick stop and drop at Gramma’s store so Edie can destroy the place before her daddy picks her up.

Anyway, after one of my meetings ran a little late in town, I decided to stop at the grocery store. Without a toddler in the cart practicing her fast-pitch skills with a bag of oranges, I could linger a little longer and think a little bit about the week’s meal plan, or, because I haven’t made a week’s meal plan ever in my life, at least I could take a second to price compare. Which I did. And I also picked up fried chicken from the deli, so supper was covered for another day.

By the time I finally made it through the door of the house, Edie was already sleeping in her room, the lights were low in the house and remnants of the evening were scattered from living room to kitchen, giving me a detailed map of what father and daughter had been up to together.

I chatted with my husband while I made my way to the bedroom to change out of my town clothes, throwing him the usual questions like, “How was she tonight? Was her nose still stuffy? “Did she go down OK? “What did she eat?”

Then I spotted a little pink bottle of fingernail polish on the coffee table sitting next to her sippy cup and cardboard book. Because I haven’t painted my fingernails since the seventh month our child was in utero, my next question was, of course, “What’s with the nail polish?”

“Oh,” he replied, “I painted Edie’s fingernails tonight.”

He was so nonchalant about it.

“Really? You painted her nails?” I asked, my voice suddenly moving up an octave as I pictured the scene, my heart beginning the melting process inside my chest.

“Yeah, I thought she might like it,” he shrugged. “And she did.”

And that’s really the end of the story because nothing extraordinary happened next in that house that evening. The two of us ate fried chicken at the counter, talked about our day, probably turned on the TV and argued about something in the news before trudging upstairs to bed.

These are the ins and outs of our regular days, nothing so glamorous or extraordinary about our lives or our family or our love story.

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But for some reason I keep going back to that little scene, one that instantly brightened up a busy but regular week, the one that starred my stoic and scruffy husband holding that tiny polish brush in his big callused hands while balancing his baby daughter on his knee, gently coaxing her to hold still while he placed teeny dots of pink polish on her miniature fingers.

Ugh, there’s so much to say about that little moment besides the fact that it had the power to lift my spirits in such a unique way.

And it’s not that I think this is uncommon behavior for dads and daughters necessarily; it’s just that I know my husband and I know that I begged him to paint my toenails when I was pregnant with his daughter and the man refused, noting that he didn’t have a steady enough hand.

But the child can’t talk yet. She doesn’t know what fingernail polish is, so nail painting was his idea of something fun the two of them could do together.

OK.

But you know what I realized then? In all of the countless hours I’ve spent with that baby girl in the house alone, I’ve never once painted her fingernails. I don’t have the patience for it. I would much sooner choose banging two pot lids together or letting her rip up the roll of toilet paper in the bathroom.

But her dad chose the fingernail polish and, in the middle of an ordinary week in an ordinary marriage in an ordinary life, I was reminded why I chose him.

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If we listen as much as we speak

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Because isn’t this what we try to teach our children?

In these heated times, listen as much as you speak
by Jessie Veeder
2-5-17
Forum Communications

Last weekend we slowed down our typical agenda and spent some much-needed time with our good friends. Because we both live in rural North Dakota, we thought it would be fun to meet in the big town to do some shopping, eat out and take our babies swimming in the hotel pool.

My friend and her husband have a son who turns one soon and in the years prior to the arrival of our long-awaited children, we would spend hours on the phone together discussing doctors appointments, crying over losses and wondering why it was so hard for us and so easy for others.

These days, much to our delight, we talk about car seat choices and sleep schedules and how working from home and taking care of a toddler is the hardest and most wonderful gig we’ve had so far.

When we finally get a chance to get together, we hardly take a breath. Our husbands shake their heads and change the diapers and connect on what it’s like to be working daddies married to emotionally charged women.

So much of what we’re going through at this moment is the same — same demographic, same type of rural existence, same stage in motherhood, same small-business goals — but (and I think I can speak for my friend here) there are still experiences and pieces of our lives that don’t fully translate.

There are personal situations and feelings that we may never truly absorb or comprehend about one another, no matter how much we have in common or how much we adore each other.

And that’s ok.

“Be careful not to assume your experiences are the experiences of others.”

This statement appeared to me somewhere tucked inside the political back and forth that has become our lives in America these days. For some reason it really spoke to me as a line that somehow sums up what I’ve been feeling in a neat little package tucked in my pocket just waiting and ready to be disputed at any given time.

I’m not sure if I’m going to explain it properly here, but since becoming a mother it feels like every nerve I possess is exposed, every emotion so volatile. I see children in a different way now. I see them attached to mothers like me who felt them kick inside their bodies and welcomed them in the early mornings or long dark nights to worry and pain and then wails of relief.

I see those children, no matter the race, religion or distance across the ocean, and I see Edie.

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I see their mothers, by birth or by adoption, by choice or by chance, and I see myself.

And then I wonder if they walk on this earth the way I do, so aware of how each decision made holds their babies so fully in their wake.

But that’s where the shared experience begins and ends. Because I might just be naive enough to think that loving a child the way a good mother loves her child is, in so many ways, universal.

What if I couldn’t give Edie a decent meal? What if the home I planned to raise her in was invaded or destroyed? What if she woke up with a fever or fell and broke her arm and I had to calculate and sacrifice our tight budget to afford a trip to the emergency room?

What if the only chance I thought we might have at surviving this life was to load up my one-year-old on a raft and float across the sea with nothing certain but uncertainty at the shore?

What would I do?

There are mothers in this world making choices like these while I sit in a hotel room drinking wine and playing cards with my best friend, our babies sleeping safe and sound beside us.

It’s not lost on me in these trying times, in a world seemingly teetering on the edge, that our opinions can be thrown around, but dear friends, they won’t go as far as the compassion we might find in stories we hear.

If we listen as much as we speak, we just might be reminded that we are nothing but the lucky ones.

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The moral of the old friendship story

Some old friendship keep you young. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up witnessing that phenomenon, one  adventure and mishap after another.

Here’s this week’s column.

The moral of the old friendship story
1-29-17
by Jessie Veeder
http://www.InForum.com

We were all sitting around in the living room visiting about weather, politics and how Edie managed to get her second bloody nose in two days in church that morning when Dad came sneaking sort of quietly through the door, slipping off his snow boots and wool cap before shuffling down the hall and sliding into the chair.

The last time we saw him he was at the top of the neighbors’ sledding hill, brushing the snow off of his Carharts after a lightning speed solo trip on the orange toboggan.

His best friend just came back from the shop with his chainsaw to cut down a dead tree that he thought was in the way of the epic run they were building.

All the kids had already gone in the house due to frozen cheeks and my little sister and I, exhausted from a half hour of trying to save Edie from the ideas she had about running, unassisted and unafraid, down the sledding hill, decided we would all be safer and happier in my living room.

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And so that’s where we left him — grampa Gene with his best friend, neighbor and grampa himself, Kelly — alone with two other dads, a slick sledding hill, a stack of sleds and no supervision.

“I bet if Gene and I took that orange sled down this hill together we could get going ’bout 150,” I heard Kelly say as he walked up the hill behind me.

And so I called Dad. I knew he wouldn’t want to miss out on a chance to go 150.

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I should have known better, but neighbor Kelly is notorious for building epic escapades in the middle of an ordinary Sunday afternoon.

And in the winter, the go-to adventure is always their sledding hill, which is as meticulously cared for as an Olympic rated luge track.

“So, did you and Kelly go 150?” I asked Dad, thinking his unusual silence was a little suspicious.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “It was plenty fast.”

He sort of half-laughed the way a kid does when he’s holding on to something funny but knows giving in will undoubtedly mean having to explain himself.

Which is exactly what happened as he entered the living room scene, with my mom, little sister and husband all staring at him, knowing there was more to the story.

“What,” I said.

He scratched his head where his hat had been, making his silver, scruffy hair stand up straight and gave it up.

“Oh, it … it was bad,” he puffed. “Kelly got hurt. I don’t know …”

“What? How? Where?”

“Well, his arm I think. Think he tore a tendon. I don’t know … We tried snowboarding.”

“Dad!”

“Yeah, well it’s not a challenge for those young guys; they just fly right down there. It’s more fun for us. To see how far we can go. Anyway. I hurt my shoulder … ”

“Your shoulder?!”

“Yeah, but he wiped out pretty bad at the bottom, don’t know how much hand shaking he’ll be doing these days … ”

“Might be the end of his curling career … ”

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And the conversation spun on from there about past near misses, heroic injuries and the epic 2-mile toboggan run from the hay field to the barnyard. One story blended into the next the way they do when you get an old guy rolling in memories with a friend who’s lived up the hill from him his entire life and can always be counted on to help with things like roundup, keys locked in cars, or kittens stuck behind refrigerators.

My favorite is the time he spent the evening at our house in the dark sitting on the floor in the living room while Dad sat in his easy chair, both holding BB guns pointed at the open cabinet under the sink waiting for the unwelcome pack rat they were hunting to make his next and final appearance, a really great scene in the wonderfully ordinary story of their long friendship.

“Well, if there’s a chance to go sledding I’m taking it,” Dad said when someone swung back around to ask how his shoulder was feeling.

And I think that might be the moral of the story, and maybe of friendship in general, no matter how old and reckless you get.

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Hot Dish and Ice Slabs and how to stay warm in the winter

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Coming Home: Hot dish and ice slabs key to staying warm in the winter
by Jessie Veeder
1-22-16
http://www.inforum.com

Northerners. We like to boast that we’re hardy and resilient and can stand up against the biting, sub-zero, blizzardy cold without much consequence besides a bad case of hat head.

We can handle our feet and our pickup tires on icy paths, and we know how to hunker down and make it through on hot dish and hot soup.

We like to say this place isn’t for the faint of heart.

I say these things too, but sometimes while using up a good 40 minutes and all of my back muscles shoveling 200 of the 15,000 pounds of snow off our deck, I start making a list of all of the reasons people live closer to the equator.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now having lived up here for the majority of my life, but the truth is these North Dakota winters have always been hard on me.

The inevitable bitter cold and lack of sunshine starts to convince me that I’m doing all the wrong things in the wrong place and that life is harder and sadder and more desperate than it really is, sending me into a bit of a depression I’m always aware of but have never been successful at curing without help from the weather.

It’s a lonely feeling, but I know I’m not alone in it.

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No matter what we like to say to make ourselves sound tough and resilient I think we all struggle a bit with the deep freeze and endless white of this season. This is what I tell the new residents in my community with southern accents, trudging through the grocery store line in brand new muck boots and knit beanies pulled down over their ears wondering out loud how much colder and how much longer.

I’m not sure it’s hopeful or particularly helpful, but I try to stay as honest as the place that raised me. “It’s cold. It sucks. But we’re all in it together,” I say.

Maybe that’s the key to surviving it, but I think it’s something our ancestors might have been better at, perhaps because they didn’t have a choice between human contact and three billion television shows piped into our living rooms where you can watch other people live their lives in warmer places, like Antarctica or the moon.

But nothing warms your body and lifts your spirits better than living, breathing bodies eating, talking and laughing in a house together.

And lately I’ve been noticing more boots in the entryway and more dishes in the sink, a result of the invites, phone calls and drop-bys that have piled up as family and friends work to beat these winter blues by simply finding ways to be in closer proximity.

Because no matter the plot line, it turns out actually living your life is more interesting than watching pretend people live theirs.

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I suppose that’s what I was thinking when I agreed to be in a weekly curling league, a brand new endeavor organized in my hometown to give the community another cold weather weapon.

Curling is a winter sport that’s been explained as golf on ice, so I have no business being there really, considering it’s a combination of descriptors (ice/golf/sports in general) that have been known to torture me in the past.

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My team consists of my husband, little sister and brother-in-law, and between the four of us, we have about a solid 10 days of actual curling experience, eight of which reside with my husband. But it doesn’t matter, because knowing what we’re doing isn’t the point (although my husband suggested I consider working less on visiting and more on technique).

The point, I think, is the very reason a weird sport that sends you slipping and sliding across the ice yelling “sweep” at your teammates was invented in the first place — because they didn’t have Netflix in the icy tundras of medieval Scotland.

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But, just like us, they had plenty of ice and we might as well use it to get some laughs out of this long, cold season.

Because this place may or may not be for the faint of heart, but maybe by spring I can add curling to the list of reasons people chose North Dakota over Texas.

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On the backs of old horses

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Somewhere in time’s own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go,
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again.
~Stanley Harrison

Life lessons learned on the backs of old horses
by Jessie Veeder
1-15-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

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Every farm or ranch needs an old horse, an animal with a long story of seeing it all so that he can be trusted with the smallest rider or the most inexperienced visitor who wants to see the place on horseback, a request that can be sort of nerve-wracking if you don’t have a trustworthy grandpa or gramma in the pen.

Because an old horse can make up in experience what your rider lacks. He won’t shy from that weird-shaped rock on the hill because he’s seen it a thousand times.

He won’t be spooked by a pheasant flying out of the brush because he’s too focused on stealing snips of sweet clover while he walks.

He won’t buck because he’s learned it doesn’t pay, and he won’t run off because he knows better and, frankly, he’s too tired for running.

Never been on the back of a horse?

An old horse will make you feel comfortable, anticipating the trail, avoiding the holes, calmly swishing the flies with his tail and generally ignoring the fact that your nerves are making you squeeze your legs too tight around him, your reins are too loose and dragging and you’re leaning a little too far to the left. There’s really nothing stopping him from walking back to the barn if he wanted.

But he won’t.

Because old horses know the right times to get away with bad behavior (tip: always lean forward when he takes you through the trees.)

I learned to ride on the back of an old red mare named Rindy. She was perfect for me in all the ways she was imperfect; her lack of withers and round belly made me pay attention to the cinch, her rough gait made me focus on my seat and her cowiness taught me to be cowy too.

And just when I thought things were going along smoothly, that old mare would throw in a little surprise, teaching me that paying attention is the first rule of horsemanship.

Anyway, Rindy has been gone for years, replaced by an old rodeo horse named Annie before Dad traded one of his colts for an old mule and a speckled trail horse named Stormy a few years before I moved back to the ranch.

Stormy became the grampa out here, deserving of every extra nibble of grain he ever received.

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He was the first horse I put all my nieces and nephews on when their legs were barely long enough to straddle the saddle.

Stormy was responsible for the truest faces of pure joy I’ve seen on any kids and that’s just one of the reasons I will forever be grateful for him.

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But that’s the thing about old horses: just when they’ve become so completely priceless and precious and irreplaceable, we start to notice the creak in their joints and the hair on their muzzle turning gray, a reminder that time doesn’t go easy on even the best things.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Stormy gave his last ride to my oldest niece this summer. We took off after supper just the two of us riding the home pasture, taking it slow, Stormy trailing a couple horse lengths behind me, the way he always has.

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It’s fitting really, because Stormy was the first horse my niece ever rode. I remember what she said before I hoisted her up on his back, her little straw hat with the pink piping sitting proudly on her head. “My tummy feels funny, like there’s flutters in there,” she declared.

Stormy taught her what nervous felt like, holding the power to turn a little girl into the cowgirl she dreamed she could be.

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And he was ready and waiting in the pasture when she was old enough and brave enough to go trotting over the hill alone, a story we revisit together often and one my niece will no doubt carry with her for her lifetime.

Because that’s what old horses give us and in return we carry their spirit in memories, stories, lessons learned and on the back of every horse we’ll ever ride again.

Rest easy, old friend. You were loved.

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When it’s colder than Antarctica…

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Happy Monday night everyone.

I had a weird dream last night that I was on a fancy ship and it was sinking, all the rooms were filling up with water and I was watching it happen like a movie. I woke up after a scene where me and a woman, who spent what I was sure to be our last breaths painting her nails, discovered we were the sole survivors.

I’m not sure what that means, except it stuck with me all day and I think the chaos I experienced in my sleep might be responsible for the chaos that ensued in my house today.

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In other words, Edie discovered the kitchen cabinets. And, even though I was prepared enough to buy those baby-proofing cabinet locks, I didn’t install them yet. And, when I went to do it today, I discovered that the baby-proofing cabinet locks I bought are stupid. And I hate them. And I need different ones. But I live 30 miles from town and apparently we’re in another two-day blizzard warning, so I have to wait for Amazon.com again, the same store that was responsible for my stupid purchase in the first place.  Because nobody’s review said they were stupid.

So basically, nothing’s safe anymore. When I go to get ready for the day, Edie thinks she needs to put on makeup and scatter my bathroom drawers across the floor into the bedroom where she then unloads my entire bottom drawer before moving on to the next one so she can try on all of my bras before heading to the closet for the scarves.

And I could stop her. But then I would never get my teeth brushed, hair combed, face washed, eyebrows plucked, etc.

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So I just let her loose. And if you can picture what our master bedroom and bathroom looks after those ten minutes, well, just apply that scenario to every room in the house.

Oh, I love her. She’s so fun right now.

Fun and exhausting.

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She’s sleeping now after a bedtime performance featuring her singing and waving her arms and swaying back and forth across the living room. There was to be no “night night” until the applause.

So now I have a moment to share this week’s column, which is basically an extension of my last post and my thoughts on the new year and how sometimes I think we don’t give the whole “who we are in the moments we’re in” enough credit.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately–the need to focus on the present instead of all of the plans I think I need to be making.

And I was doing really good at it for the first week of the new year. But you guys, yesterday it was colder here than in frickin’ Antarctica and the North Pole…

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and I had a couple glasses of wine in the evening and my sister was here to instigate and my mom was here to cheer us on and my husband was in the “whatever you want wife” mood and before I knew it I booked him and I a trip to Jamaica.

I feel like it was a bit of a cabin fever, I’m freezing my ass off and it’s our tenth year of marriage and we never had a proper honeymoon impulse purchase, but it’s done and, well, I did say we needed to have more date nights so, well, take that new years resolution!

So that’s where we’ll be at the end of May. And until then you can find me and Edie in this house at the other end of a trail of bras. I’ll be there trying my damnedest to get this book done. I’m almost there friends.

Almost there.

If I could just keep Edie out of the kitchen cabinets.

Peace, love and childproofing,

Sunday Column: A resolution for more sweet things
by Jessie Veeder
1-8-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I’m finding it hard to concentrate this morning.

After another two days of more snow, the sun is finally shining bright through my window and the arctic, frosty air is creating a big rainbow halo over the stock dam.

If I didn’t know better, I would think it might actually be a nice day out there. But I’ve lived here long enough. This is what five below zero looks like.

The baby is at daycare, and it’s the first time in a couple weeks that I’ve been home without her. It’s quiet. I can hear the furnace turn on and off, the background music to the thoughts I should be thinking about the symbol of a new year, a fresh start, another chance to make myself better.

However, I keep getting distracted by the part of the internet that features tropical vacations while last night’s dishes stay piled in the sink and Edie’s toys stay scattered on the ground alongside the crumbs from the crackers she was carrying around, one in each hand, before her noodle supper.

Welcome to 2017.

It looks about exactly like 2016 except colder, messier and, well, there’s more snow.

I’ve always sort of hated the fact that the whole new-year-new-beginnings thing falls smack in the middle of the longest season. I mean, how does anyone expect to swear off carbs and start a treadmill regime in January in North Dakota when we need the extra padding the most? It’s irresponsible.

Talk to me in July about healthy resolutions, and I’ll be the first one to schedule us a hiking trip.

Talk to me about resolutions in January and, well, here are the necessary life changes that are on my mind:

  1. More snuggles
  2. More sleep
  3. More sweaters
  4. More vacations

Oh, and I should probably shovel off my deck before it collapses under the weight of the five foot snowdrift, but that looks like the only mildly productive resolution I’ve accumulated.

Don’t get me wrong, I have career goals brewing, and some fun projects coming down the pipe for 2017, but this year I’m not sure how complicated I want to get in making personal promises to myself.

Because I’ve spent the entire duration of 2016 in the new-to-me universe of motherhood, wondering what it is I should be doing and how my limited time, limited energy and limited money is best spent, a question that seems more pressing now that I’m responsible for a little one, and she grows and changes by the second.

And you know what I just realized? It isn’t caring for this new life that’s been so tiring and challenging. No. That’s been the fun part.

The hard parts have been on me and that nagging voice in my head that I keep nurturing, the one that keeps suggesting that what I’m doing isn’t enough.

Working more or home more? Daycare or no daycare? More play dates? More real dates? Early mornings spent writing? Even earlier mornings on the treadmill?

Nobody tells you that about new motherhood. They don’t tell you that the biggest adjustment is getting to know the new version of yourself after that baby is born.

It’s been over a year and I’m not sure I’m there yet, except I’m determined to stop being so hard on her in 2017.

I’m determined to like her. Because I haven’t written a song or done a lunge in months, but I have pulled a tiny human in a sled to the top of a snowy hill all in the name of a smile, and I think that might be just as important (and more aerobic) these days.

And I simply can’t bring myself to say I’m going to eat fewer caramel rolls in 2017 because the New Year needs more sweet things, not less.

So here’s a thought I’ve never really entertained in a life spent making plans (plans that got us to this very magical and demanding moment of our lives): Maybe what we’re doing right now is exactly what we need to be doing right now.

And maybe it’s perfect timing after all. January is the best month for snuggling.