Unexpected free time…

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It’s Monday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I spent an unexpected dose of free time 

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

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

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

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

I’m tired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How the progression of time and technology collide and converge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Kitchen Table

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

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

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

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

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

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Coming Home: If kitchen tables could talk

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

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

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

If only these kitchen tables could talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I don’t want to forget…

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

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

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

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

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It begins with our children.

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Coming Home: What I don’t want to forget

Yesterday I asked Edie if she pooped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it was everything.

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I don’t think Montana wants us…

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

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

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

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

Luckily I think the man was ok.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What happened?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

 

Love is an untidy, unfolding story…

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

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

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

Love is an untidy, unfolding story

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

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

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

We forgot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Comfort found in the rain drops

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

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

“Blankie?” She said.

“Yes baby,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank God it’s raining again.

Coming Home: The hope that lives in a rain shower
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Rainbow over east pasture

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

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

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

Others are not so lucky this time around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A song comes to life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Look at us now.

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

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

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Paying the good stuff forward

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We had our 20 week ultrasound scan last week. My husband and I got up really early to drop Edie off at daycare and take the three hour drive to the doctors to make sure everything was going and growing healthy and normal in there. So I wrote this column in the passenger seat of our pickup, driving into the sun on Highway 94, thinking I would write about that week’s “pay-it-forward” moment and how sometimes the smallest gestures of kindness can help brighten worried hearts.

I didn’t really realize that was the diagnosis of my attitude lately until I started writing this. That’s the thing about having he chance to reflect on my life in writing very week, often I discover a few things about myself along the way…

Because they all tell you the second pregnancy is different, but I didn’t know how much. When I was pregnant with Edie, it was all so new and exciting and terrifying. I documented every milestone, took weekly photos of my growing belly, made (and executed) nursery plans, even took naps sometimes and counted down the minutes until her arrival.

Baby #2? Well, despite a tiny little scare early in the very early stages of my pregnancy, and now that I’m through the icky first trimester sickness and hanging out in the sweet spot, I have to admit, if it weren’t for this little one’s jabs and kicks to remind me, I might forget I was pregnant.

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Four months pregnant and this is the first real photo documenting it…

And it makes me feel sorta weird, a little bit guilty maybe? But pre-Edie I had no one to think about but me and that mysterious growing human inside of me (and my husband too, but he pretty much takes care of himself you know?)

After Edie? Well, I have Edie. And she’s a lot of kid you know. One-and-a-half going on thirteen, a spitfire who strips off all her clothes as soon as she hits the back yard, a baby who already has opinions on what dress she wants to wear and what she wants for “supper” (which is breakfast, lunch and supper in her language.)

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At my last checkup they asked me if I’d felt this baby move yet and I had to take a minute to try to remember. And it made me feel bad. And then sorta worried, like am I already screwing this second child up?

But mostly I’m nervous. I’m not sure I’m the mega-mom I see my friends being, the ones with three or four kids, carting them around to church and hockey and picnics in the park and playdates and just nailing it really.  I work from home thirty miles away from civilization, the park and the pool and most of said mom friends. Lots of days are a combination of frantic and lonesome. I can’t imagine how the hard stuff might multiply with a newborn in the house.

And while this was the plan (albeit a bit earlier than I expected) I’m not certain I’m cut out for being a mom of two. And I know it sounds ungrateful, given all we’ve been through to get here, but it’s honest. And I was honest before when I said I didn’t know if I was cut out for the first one, despite and because of all the heartache

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A few weeks before Edie was born…

These were the thoughts that were going through my head when I sat in the drive through after a long day one evening last week and realized, after I ordered, that I had forgotten my wallet…and well, surprisingly, it all worked out nicely actually.

Which, when I really slap myself back into reality and out of my hormonal worries, I know is going to be the case with me and my husband and these two babies. Because we’ve gone through so much to get to this chaotic point in our lives, I do believe we deserve all the crazy/wonderful/beautiful/weird/unexpected that’s ahead of us.

And honestly, worry couldn’t have changed or predicted anything it turned out to be so far, and what it’s turned out to be is a hilarious, vivacious, smart, hot little mess of a human that’s turned every moment into something more special. And it’s hard sometimes and awesome lots of the time.

So, after I submitted the column with the worry tucked in the back of my throat, we opened and shut the door on a great doctor’s visit where our new little person barely sat still long enough to get all the photos they needed. And I breathed a sigh of relief, smiled at my husband and passed the gratitude along…

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Coming Home: In a world of worry, pay the good stuff forward

Last night, the person in front of me paid for my meal at the drive through.

It had been a long Monday, and I got to the end of it only to realize I hadn’t really eaten anything all day. So I went to one of the only drive-throughs in town, sacrificing nutritional value and inevitable heartburn to make sure that I didn’t pass out on my drive home.

And really, there’s nothing like a fast food taco when you’re pregnant and starving. Next time I’ll remember to pack an apple or something, I decided as I reached in my purse to dig out my money only to realize I didn’t have my wallet. Combine mom brain with pregnancy brain and things like this happen I guess — wallets get left in diaper bags in baby rooms 30 miles away.

Crap.

Does any place take checks anymore? Remember when we used to write checks for things like tacos?

“Do you take checks?” I asked awkwardly while trying to explain that I left my wallet at home, and I’m so sorry this sort of thing never happens it’s just been a crazy day…

“Well you don’t have to worry about it, doesn’t matter,” she stopped me. “The car ahead of you paid for you. They left a note. Have a great night.”

She might as well have handed me a squirmy new puppy because that’s how surprised and happy the simple gesture made me, especially given the timing and my overall grumpy attitude with the world lately.

I blame it on hormones and lack of sleep, but some days it’s something more.

It’s bad news on my television screen. It’s the lack of rain and the heat. It’s too much on my list and too little daylight.

It’s missing my husband who gets up early for work and comes home late from the hay field. It’s my puny tomato plants.

It’s nothing really, in the grand scheme of it all.

Funny how we let ourselves get this way when things are going pretty dang good really. It’s the blessing of a good life, to have the time to complain.

This morning, as I type, we’re on our way to our mid-pregnancy sonogram. My husband is driving into a hot sun, and I’m squinting into the computer screen because I forgot my sunglasses and I have a deadline. Our daughter is safe and sound, playing with her friends at daycare. Her gramma will pick her up this evening, giving us more time in the big town to maybe have a long lunch without picking hot dogs up off the floor.

In an hour we’ll see the little fuzz of our new family member, the length of a banana, inside my belly and hold our breath until they tell us that all is well.

Now that we’re down to it, maybe my mood’s been a little less about the puny tomato plants and a little more about the quiet worries sitting in my gut with the banana baby, tickling my nerves.

Maybe we’ll buy someone lunch today, pick their baby’s hot dogs off the floor and pay the good stuff forward.

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Rain or shine, this is the life we chose

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We’ve been in the middle of a heat wave out here for the last couple weeks, and it’s not looking to cool off or rain anytime soon. After a long, really snowy winter, I thought we might continue the moisture trend throughout the rest of the year, but it turns out that was just a hope.

We haven’t had a good rain for months and months and we’re better off than most of the state. Fire danger is high, and there’s one raging in the badlands as I type. It worries me. It worries everyone. That’s one thing we all have in common up here in the north. We all know worrying about the weather.

Last weekend we took a quick trip to the other side of the big lake to meet up with my inlaws who were camping there. While we were leaving a little storm cell blew through, darkening the sky and soaking the ground. We never drove in the rain, but we were in its aftermath on the way home. I rolled my windows down and breathed it in.

There’s nothing like the smell of rain on a hot summer day.

It’s heaven.

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It’s hard to believe when I’m sitting here in as little clothes as a pregnant woman can get away with in the summertime, that it was ever thirty below zero and completely white out here. We live in such extremes.

And that’s what this week’s column is about. It’s a little different take on the summer and the weather and just how crazy we really are when it comes to packing as much fun and work as we can in our three months of what we envision as being a California-esque summer.

Which it never is. No matter how we grit our teeth and bare it.

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Rain or Shine, this is the life we chose

“Well, I guess this is the life I chose,” he said as he pulled on his boots and headed out the door. “Work all day in 100 degrees so I can come home and work all night in it.”

Yup. That’s the story out here on the ranch where we can’t quit our day jobs. And on evenings when the wind settles down and the sun sets just right on cows grazing on green grass in their proper places, it feels pretty dang good.

But then there are days like today where you wonder if you might be able to fry an egg on the back of those black cows and the tractor won’t start and you just roll up your sleeves, wipe the sweat, crawl back under the tractor and hope to hell in those 10 minutes of scratching your head that you’ve magically developed the necessary mechanic skills and do what you gotta do.

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Rain or shine. That’s what they say. Whoever coined that phrase obviously didn’t live in North Dakota. If they did they would’ve likely added a few more elements – like hail – or 50 mile-per-hour winds – or blinding, sub-zero blizzards. I get that about this place. And I get that about the work.

But what’s been amusing me lately is the fact that up here we seem to apply the same motto to the idea of fun. Because it’s summer here, and dang it, we’re gonna stand in the street with a beer and listen to this band regardless of the fact that it’s 40 degrees and sleeting. It’s JUNE! We only have three months to fit in all of our outdoor activities, people!

Just a few weeks ago, I went to my niece’s softball game where we all wore gloves and beanies and sat in lawn chairs under blankets while we watched the cold wind whip these poor children to a misery, and I couldn’t help but wonder at what point we stop referring to this as a fun and games.

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Don’t even get me started on the memories I have of monsoon rain turning high school rodeo arenas into soup while our mothers sat steadfast, writing scores on soggy programs shielded from the brutal weather only by visors and the slicker that’s been sitting at the bottom of the horse trailer since last year’s rodeo in Elgin.

Oh, I come by this observation honestly. As a musician who’s spends her summers singing on flatbed trailers in my home state in the name of a festival, I’ve feel I’ve been with you through it all. But nothing sums up the insanity of our people better than the view I had from the stage on the capitol grounds on the 125th birthday of our great state a few years back. As the rain shot sideways into my eyeballs, I sang Red River Valley to a crowd of diehard North Dakota neighbors as they swayed back and forth under umbrellas and makeshift newspaper hats and I wondered if this is how I might go out, electrocuted by my soaking microphone – because 100 degrees or pouring rain, this is the life we chose.

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