My husband and his stuff

For those of you who’ve been following our story since we first moved back here in 2010, you’ve heard the following complaint. Since this column appeared in newspapers a few days ago, I’ve had plenty of feedback assuring me I’m not alone, which makes me feel better and worse at the same time…

But that doesn’t get me any closer to finding the floor of my garage, although he might be getting there. After three weekends of clearing and cleaning and organizing things like plumbing parts and electrical wire and coolers and tree stand chairs, I think we’re getting there.

But seriously, it’s time we declare it’s gone to new levels.  That’s all I’m saying.

That’s all I’m saying…

A Wife’s Dilemma: M Husband and His Stuff

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My husband and I have this ongoing fight in our house. It goes something like this:

Him: Have you seen the charger to the phone I had back in 2001 during our first year of college?

Me: I think I put it in a bin somewhere in the basement with the rest of the unidentifiable cords from various electronic devices that no one’s used for 15 years.

Him: Don’t touch my stuff.

You think I’m exaggerating. I wish I were. The man’s a saver. He comes from a long line of savers, the kind that cut their paper plates in half and hoard washing machine motors in their backyards. In high school he spent his weekends restoring an old, leaky, 11-foot wooden boat his dad found in some stranger’s backyard, just because they thought that they could.

As a gift his grandma gave him an ice cream bucket full of every kind of nut and bolt she’d collected throughout the last 50 years, and never once has he gone to that bucket and not found what he needed.

These are the things he brags about.

So he comes by it honestly. And if I didn’t spend so much of my time wading through bins packed with old electrical wire, if I was his neighbor in need of a particular fitting for a pipe on my stock tank or a friend who suddenly found himself without AC in his pickup on a 90-degree day, I would call my husband, because he’s the guy who has five bins full of random plumbing supplies and an air-conditioning recharging kit, and I would respect the heck out of him for it.

But I married him. I’ve been married to him for almost 11 years now, and I’m beginning to realize that the whole “’till death do us part” line seems to also apply to the drill battery that’s been hanging out in our garage for a solid five years, even though it’s clearly marked “bad” in black Sharpie across a strip of duct tape.

Why? I ask him, my hands stretched out in defeat as I jam my toe on the wheel of the broken down lawn mower that’s been sitting in my garage for three years. But I know the answer. It’s a trait both learned and deeply rooted in his blood. And it’s not derived out of the need to have and to hold material things, but rather the opposite. It stems from part of his DNA that tells him he doesn’t need to waste money on anything new, because when the wheelbarrow tire goes flat, he has a perfectly good one waiting in the wings.

When there’s no Farm and Fleet in range that makes the sort of barbed wire spool he’s envisioned for the back of his 4-wheeler, he has the stuff to build his own.

And when he suddenly finds himself in need of a 2001 Nokia cell phone charger, he would know just where to find it, if only his wife would just stop touching his stuff.

No summer will ever be the same…

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We’re sitting right in the middle of summer here in Western North Dakota. The leaves on the oak trees have finished creating the canopy in the thick coulees, so much so that it seems that’s where you would stay dry in a heavy rain, under those oaks.

And oh, we could use the rain around here to keep the dust down at least. It seems a little late now for the crops, although the hay in the fields up top is going to be decent we think. The guys will start cutting it soon.

Probably should have started already, but isn’t that the story of our lives? Each summer is the same. Not enough of it.

This afternoon I’m heading across the state to play music with my dad and Mike under the summer sky. I’ll get home late, like 1 am, and I’m already tired thinking about it, but looking forward to it. Summer always means a few late nights of music.

Last night on our way home from work in town we noticed our young bulls got out with a few cows. We weren’t ready to let them out just yet, but they had their own plan. So Edie and I got in the pickup with Husband and watched him saddle up his horse while Edie picked at some sweet clover, declared it a flower, sniffed it, tasted it and pulled at its petals before grabbing for another one.

Husband swung the saddle and then his leg over his horse and took off over the hills to see if he could round those creatures up, and we followed in the pickup to open some gates to the corrals.

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We didn’t need to go along necessarily, I just like to go along. In my other life, the one before our daughter, this would have been a perfect night to go along for a ride. And we might have had more success as a pair of horses. I would have probably packed my camera because it looked like a storm was about to blow in, and evening storms here can produce the best afterglow on this landscape, but that’s not an option now.

I have different responsibilities. My belly is starting to swell with a new tiny and growing family member taking up residency inside. Edie reachers her arms up towards me. “Up! Up!”she says, because she can tell me what she wants now. And she seems to be a kid that always knows what she wants. My back is already tightening and stiffening and acting up, the result of the weight of two babies I carry every day, one in my arms and one inside me. I’m nervous about what the next months will bring, how I will physically do it.

How I will mentally do it.

This stage in my life is so different. Somehow I feel so outside myself and so much myself at the same time and I don’t even know how it’s possible. I had so much time becoming a woman and a wife without children. I had time to gradually grow into who she was, through trial and error and loss, I accepted that I might just always be her.

And now here I am on summer evenings when the light is just right, my camera tucked away and my horse out grazing on Edie’s clover, fixing my 1-year-old steamed broccoli and blueberries and a purple popsicle for dessert, listening to her sing and boss and test out her lungs in her chair, her little bare feet dirty, her face smeared and her hair wild, just the way she’s supposed to be at the end of a long summer day of play.

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She says “Done,” I wipe her face and run the bath and watch her blow bubbles and pretend to swim and point to her nose and her toes and her tummy and sing Twinkle Twinkle and wonder how she’s learned so much in such a short time on this earth.

Then she says “Done!” because she’s done and I scoop her up out of the tub as Husband walks through the door. She squeals for her daddy and it’s everything.

He didn’t get the bulls back, he said. They ran into the canopy of trees and disappeared.

It’s thick in there, he said. I didn’t rain, it’s not going to rain, but if it did, you wouldn’t feel a drop in those trees.

He stands over me and Edie as I wrestle her into her pajamas. She’s wiggly. I smell her toes and say “Peww!” and she laughs like I’m the most hilarious thing on the planet.

I pick her up, swing her to my right hip and find a comb for her hair, her toothbrush, her blankie, her cup…Husband takes a phone call and as I’m walking back down the hallway, I shift Edie to the front of my body to give her kisses and talk about sleep and, “ping” the baby inside me makes a swift and sharp kick to announce itself, to say hello, to make it feel real.

I squeal a little and look back at my husband. “The baby just kicked me, oh my gosh, big time!” He hears it and smiles that genuine smile I’ve come to know so well and turns to talk on the deck, because he’s on the phone and in two worlds at once…

The sun won’t go down for another couple hours, but Edie’s curtains are drawn and we rock a bit. When I hum, she hums and it’s my favorite time of day. Because I’m tired. Because she’s calm. Because it’s our constant.

But life with a child changes every day, so I know it won’t be our constant for long and that’s what makes everything sweeter and more terrifying. I can’t imagine exactly the shift that will occur with a new addition to this family, but I can predict some things…

More diapers, more messes, more long nights and teething pain, more aches and more blueberries crusted to the floor.

And less sleep.

And time that just pushes it all along too slow and too fast all at once.

This is this summer.

And no summer will ever be the same…

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As wide as the sky…

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I took Edie on a horse with me for the first time last weekend. We just got back from what I’m now calling my annual Mother’s Day Ride, because we’ve done it two years in a row now and it’s pretty much the only time since giving birth that I insist that today I’m going riding, so who wants to watch the baby?

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The day before we took Edie to her first horse sale in one of those spontaneous last minute decisions to do the thing we probably shouldn’t do instead of the million other things we should be doing, and so, because it was going to be 80 degrees, too hot for productivity, we loaded up and headed to the big town to sit at the sale barn and see if we couldn’t find a horse or two to replace our good buddy Stormy.

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I submitted next week’s column on how much I love the sale barn, an affection solely tied to the memories I gathered when I was a kid tagging along with dad, because I found, even at 80 degrees with a wiggly, sweaty toddler, I still loved it. And I think Edie did too. She really got into the whole yelling thing. I think she might have even bid on a few herself 🙂

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Anyway, a have a little more to say about that for next week, but I will tell you this, if you think we sat through an entire horse sale without winning a bid or two, well then, you don’t know us very well.

If you figured we’d come home with more than one, well then you’ve hung around here a fare bit. Because we headed home with two nice geldings and my Sunday Mother’s Day Ride was a perfect time for the guys to try them out while I plodded along beside them safe on my trusty steed, Rocky, not willing to be the one who discovers the kinks.

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It was a beautiful, windy, spring day and we didn’t even really do any work or chasing cows. The cows were spread, hiding in the trees, munching on the long grass and weeds that grow on the creek bottom and so we just looked around at the scenery, commented on how things are greening up and caught whiffs of the blossom scent blowing up and on in our nostrils.

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Chad’s new dun rode out nice and calm and the paint we got for the purpose of an amateur/kid horse seemed to do his lazy job just fine. So we were pleased we could say so far so good.

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My little sister (and her big baby belly) was inside the house with Edie and I thought it would be fun to ride down and see if she wanted to get on a horse (the toddler, not the belly). I came in to get her just as Alex was getting ready to bend over and try to squeeze Edie’s boots on, so she was grateful for the relief.

And Edie was pretty excited to be up on that horse. As soon as she decided this was one of those things she loved, she basically did what she does, and became obsessed with it.

Couldn’t take her down.

When her cousin showed up to take a turn, she lost her shit when he disappeared with Papa over the hill, reminding me yet again that 1 1/2 year olds are the worst at sharing.

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Turns out she had the same sentiment toward sharing her harmonica, bouncy horse, toy tractors and Papa too.

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Good thing the 6-year-old is tolerant.

IMG_6509Anyway, having her up on that horse with me was one of those moments when I realized that a dream I used dream was coming true. I’m not deep enough into this motherhood thing to forget how much we wanted and waited for little things like this.

And I didn’t realize how wide my smile was until I watched the video back. It seemed it almost matched hers.

It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time because of this. I remember how hard Mother’s Days used to be for me. It’s getting easier to forget, but I will never forget. For all those mommas-to-be out there waiting for their babies, I promise I will never forget.

And I hope with all my heart that you get a moment in your life like I had on Sunday, a moment where you hold your child and the two of you smile as wide as the sky you’ve been given a chance to raise her under…

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In the first place…

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Well we had a fun weekend last weekend. I’ve been so busy thinking about next weekend’s plans,  I haven’t had much time to reflect. All I know is now that we have Edie in our lives, time seems to go so much faster, even on the weeks I feel like I barely see her, which was the case last week as I spent my days getting ready for our Arts Council Showcase and a weekend full of music.

And it all went as good as can be. Thanks to my wonderful community and board members we enjoyed a flawless evening of music and art and I got to accompany Native American Hoop Dancer Kevin Locke as he performed and visited the kids at all our local schools. He was inspiring and the kids’ energy invigorated me.

Saturday morning our arts council hosted a writing workshop with an award winning author for people over 50 to help encourage them to share their stories and pass on their legacy.  I attended for most of it, but had to cut out early to hit the road for Bismarck for the North Dakota Music Awards. But I was so glad I popped in and to participate for a few hours and see my community members engaging in the creative process. So much of my life is focused on writing and creating, and lately I admit I’ve been feeling less than inspired as I try to balance this brief, but chaotic time in my schedule. Just a few hours of focusing on the process in a room with all minds on the same goal was just what I needed.

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Then down the road I went to meet up with the band and sound check a performance. My grandparents and aunt from Arizona were passing through on their way back home to Minnesota, so it was a special treat to have my aunt in the audience when I found out you all voted me (along with the very cool Bismarck band Kids with Beards) as your favorite folk artist for 2017.

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Thank you so much for that honor, I don’t take your support for granted for a day. And you showed up then, the way you always do, on Sunday afternoon for my book release concert at the Heritage Center where you (and my grandparents too!) were able to be in the audience to see Edie’s stage debut.

Turns out my girl and I missed each other that week, so she couldn’t watch the concert without making a fuss about wanting me to hold her so she could play guitar, so at the end of the show my mom brought her up and, well, it was a sweet moment.

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Next time I imagine she’ll bring her harmonica and demand a solo.

The crowd was so wonderful to come inside on one of the nicest days of the year and hear my stories. I truly enjoy being out and about meeting you all. I like it best when Edie can come along too (thanks to my niece and my mom), even if it’s a little more sweaty and stinky and covered in cracker crumbs.

Click here to see a TV interview with me discussing that day’s concert.

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And so here we are, in the middle of a new week and I’m so glad it’s spring now. The grass is greening up, the forecast is in the 70s for the foreseeable future and I just want to sprawl out and let the sun soak in my skin.

So when Edie came home we went out to frolic a bit, to feed the bulls and tinker with fences and pick her dad some flowers.

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It was only for an hour or so before we had to head in and get supper ready, clean up and get Edie to bed, but it was a nice reminder for me about the importance of doing the non-urgent things together, the just sitting outside and watching her run.

And while I haven’t been much for recaps in this space, usually more compelled to reflect on individual moments, I felt like recounting the past few days tonight. Because some days, especially these days, I’m too focused on what comes tomorrow. And I realize as she’s one moment away from being able to open the door to the outside by herself, that her wings are coming in much quicker than I expected.

Because last night I opened her baby book and couldn’t remember how old she was when she first rolled over, or her first trip to the pool or when she decided peas were her favorite vegetable.  For a woman who makes a living off of memories, sometimes the short term ones, the dates, the logistics, they don’t stick. So I panicked a bit, realizing just how little time there is for reflecting in the middle of this parenting gig and just how many more reasons there are to give ourselves that time.

Like the way she runs to get her boots when we tell her it’s time to go outside. How she puts her cap on backwards every time.

The big swell of pride that filled my chest as I watched my husband patiently teach her how to scootch down the stairs on her butt, because he doesn’t want her to get hurt and she’s always trying to do it herself when we’re not looking.

I want to remember the way she says “puppy” and I know I’m going to forget. I want to close my eyes on the hard days and smile at the way she insists on sitting behind the wheel of the pickup every time we go outside.

Because she’s such an unexpected gift indeed and the stuff good songs and stories are made of.

And I think maybe she’s the reason, long before I believed I might ever meet her, that I starting singing them in the first place.

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Me and my shadow

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The snow melted into big rivers today, shrinking and sinking the drifts in the draws and creating a glorious slop of mud along our prairie trails and I’m hoping we’ve seen the last of the white stuff for the season.

History has taught me better though.

But we’re honing in on another spring season and I’ll take the warm up where I can get it.

I take to the hilltops like I do every year to check out the thaw.

In my other life the only thing that indicated the passage of another winter was a collection of fresh gray strands in my hair and new lines on my face.

These days it’s chronicled by my shadow…

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It’s my honor to carry this child across this prairie and through the quick tick of the clock, sun up and sun down, spring, summer, fall, winter and then again and again until she can climb these hills herself, without my hand to hold, and find for herself a dry place to lay in the sun the same way my dad taught me to do on the first warm day of spring.

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I hope this place is forever her refuge.

 

The new good ‘ol days are on their way

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The new good ‘ol days are on their way
by Jessie Veeder
2-191-7
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I was five years old when my little sister was born. I was at an age where only the big things stick with you as a memory moving forward, and her arrival was one of those big things.

I remember the talks my family had about what we were going to name her if she was a girl or a boy. I remember my opinions on the choices. I remember my mom and her big belly at Christmastime.

And while I don’t remember visiting her in the hospital, I do remember bringing her home and wondering why she couldn’t sleep in my bed with me. So, I wholeheartedly offered her my tattered and beloved blankie to sleep with on her first night in her crib, feeling a little relieved when my parents declined my offer.

I wasn’t so certain I could sleep without it. But I was willing to try.

For that tiny new human who would now be living in my house, I would try.

It’s funny to think that my little sister arriving in this world, chubby and with what the nurse would describe as “a critical look” was one of my first memories.

And now that I think of it, even with the space of years between us, there aren’t many big and meaningful life moments that didn’t include her tagging along, or right there beside me or on the other end of the phone line.

When she arrived, a little sister myself, I was too young to understand what she might come to mean to me.

And now the young woman who once called me to ask how to boil an egg, who wept harder than me at the arrival of our daughter and who makes it a point to see her niece at least once every week, preferably on Sunday when she can have her all to herself, well, she’s going to be a mother herself.

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I can finally tell you. I have permission. Because given all that she’s seen me go through on my long and heartbreaking journey to motherhood, my poor little sister unfortunately had to inherit the knowledge that when it comes to building a family, it doesn’t always go as planned.

And while there are perks of taking notes from the hard lessons your older siblings face, that warning wasn’t one I wanted to pass on to her.

Because some days I swear she’s still six years old and I’m eleven and I’m building her a fort on the other side of the creek with a tin can telephone strung from my post to hers so that if she needed me she could call.

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And she’s always calling. That’s what I love about her. She’s better at things like sticking close and staying in touch. When she’s in your life she’s wholeheartedly there.

And while I lament about our childhood — three girls growing up in this wild and magical place — certain that those were the good ‘ol days, I can’t help but think that I might soon find out otherwise.

Because sharing in the common crazy, magical, sleep deprived chaos that is motherhood, raising our daughters together out here on the backs of horses, listening for the sound of their voices calling to one another across that same creek where we strung that old piece of twine, might take the place of the best years of our lives.

Yes. She’s having a girl.

And when I heard the news a little pang of hope that held its breath inside my chest finally let loose its air.

Because there’s no certainty in knowing if we’ll be able to have or welcome another child into our home, but from the moment I met my daughter, I wished for her a little sister.

And now, come June, it looks like she’s going to have one.

Just don’t make any bets on Edie sharing her blankie…

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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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When life reminds you

Here is a little video (probably one that falls in the category of one of those things that only my family and I will find so adorable) of Edie walking to the pool with her daddy.

We went to the big town sort of spontaneously to visit one of our friends who just had a new baby and get some Christmas shopping done. And we stayed in a hotel so that the baby could go in the pool. She loves the pool. These are the thing we do for our children that I never thought I would do for my children. Like squeeze my pasty winter body into a bathing suit right smack in the middle of the holidays and then go out in public (in bad lighting) like that in the name of watching a baby splash and squeal with her dad for twenty minutes.

It was a quick trip, we didn’t sleep at all in that hotel, and we didn’t really get much Christmas shopping done, but it was fun. It’s fun to be out and about with this little family thinking about and picking out gifts for the people we love.

These are the little things I often take for granted.

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These are the things that run through my head in those brief reminders life gives us about how it could all be taken away…

Coming Home: A reminder to slow down, be thankful
by Jessie Veeder
12-4-16
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I was downstairs trying my best to finish up a deadline I’d been working on submitting all day. It was the Monday after a long Thanksgiving break spent with family and food scattered around the house for days.

The baby was so worn out from the excitement of it all that she decided to stop sleeping and pop her first molar, and I was ready to get back into the swing of things.

Things like getting this very important grant sent off before the deadline, a simple wrap-up made entirely more complex when done in the moments before and after the baby decided she needed to be held, fed, rocked, read to, sung to or saved from the stairs.

It was 5:30 or so, the weatherman was telling me about the snow that had been accumulating by the inches since I woke up that morning, blowing, drifting and piling up, and it wasn’t expected to quit.

And just as fast as Edie went from across the room to by my side helping me type on my laptop keyboard, it went from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

“No, no, no,” I said to her.

“No, no, no,” she said back to me, shaking her head and laughing.

“Seriously, kid. Give me five minutes,” I whined.

She whined back and threw her cup to the ground.

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“Ugh, where’s your dad?!” I asked in frustration before I really thought about it.

And then I thought about it.

It was getting dark. I called him over an hour ago to find out when to expect him for supper.

“I have some leftover cream we need to use up,” I said as I saved the baby’s life for the 50th time that day. “I’m gonna make knoephla.”

“Ok,” he said. “I’m on my way home.”

And he should have been home by now. Like a long time ago.

“Seriously though baby, where’s your dad?” I sighed as I put her in her high chair. A little wave of panic overcame me. I picked up my cell phone and called him for the answer.

Only he didn’t answer.

He always answers.

My heart started pounding as I quickly ran through all the circumstances in my head, looking out the window at a darkening sky against a road totally void of headlights.

The wind splattered snow against the side of the house, and I spooned some stuffing in my baby’s mouth, wondering if her dad was in a ditch somewhere. Wondering if I should load her up to go out looking for him, flashing forward, in a matter of minutes, to that worst case scenario we all think won’t happen to us until it happens to us.

Is it happening to us?

I paced the floor and searched my mind for a different explanation for his absence. This wasn’t the first time I’ve found myself a bit panicked. Plans run late, tires go flat, neighbors need help, pickups go in ditches, but out here alone in the night with miles of snow-covered county road between me and the answer, the whole not-knowing thing can escalate into something more daunting and lonesome in a hurry if you let it.

And each minute you’ve convinced yourself there’s a chance he’s not safe is helpless anguish, and suddenly the last words you spoke to one another come to you in waves and it’s all very dramatic in the very likely case that he’s just fine, probably at the barn or pulling someone out of the ditch.

I grabbed the baby and started the car and walked back inside for my gloves.

And then the phone rang.

I try to take vows to be grateful. I’m not always grateful. I try to live in the moment, but I’m often distracted. Many days the person I love the most gets the worst of me.

But every once in a while, if we listen, we might get little reminders to slow down and be thankful — for the deadlines, for the whining, for the leftover stuffing, for the whole mess.

I stirred cream in the soup and listened to my husband talk to our baby as she splashed in the bath while the wind whipped the snow up our dark country road.

“I’ve been reminded,” I whispered.

OK. I’ve been reminded.

 

To my baby girl on her first birthday…

Dear Baby Girl,

Last night I rocked you to sleep in your room, the lights were low and I hummed the tune it seems I’ve been instinctively humming in your ear since you arrived a year ago.

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If you asked me to recreate the melody without you in my arms I don’t think I could, but with your cheek resting on my shoulder and my cheek resting on the soft fluff of the hair on your head, the song comes to me easily, like a breath or a blink or a sigh.

Baby, the way you’ve taken to this world has surprised and delighted me.

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Yesterday evening I fed you blueberries for the first time, and you couldn’t pick those sweet treats up fast enough, eager for the new taste, pushing all other food aside, squealing and kicking those chunky little legs until I gave you more.

I fed you so many blueberries I’m surprised you didn’t turn blue, and it’s likely your next diaper will have me paying for that choice, but man, little one, were you having fun.

And I guess, so was I.

Because your fun is my fun.

Your happy is my happy.

I get that now. And it’s beautiful and terrifying all at once, but when I close my eyes to find my own sleep at night, when the worries of mommies and daddies start creaking and pushing to fill the quiet space left for sleep, those are the kind of moments and memories I summon up to fight them.

Before you, I didn’t have that kind of weapon.

Because, baby, a year ago those legs that you were kicking so eagerly in that highchair were stretching and kicking the inside my belly.

I leaned back in chairs or in bed and watched. I grabbed your daddy’s hand so you could kick him, too, and we wondered who you might look like, when you might arrive and how our lives will change.

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What I didn’t know is that once everything changed, it would continue to change, every moment and every day.

And I wasn’t prepared for the ache that gets tucked in with the joys of the milestones. I didn’t know what a month does to a child, bringing you new teeth, new words and new hair, longer legs, bigger smiles, tighter hugs and a louder voice.

And the thread that connected us so tightly in the beginning unravels a little bit more.

Nine months felt like years when my body grew you, baby.

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Twelve months feels like a blink and you’re standing on those little legs, with one hand on the couch and the other reaching toward your daddy in the hallway. You hadn’t seen him all day, you wanted him to pick you up so you could take his cap off and try to put it on your head, so you stretched for him, his words encouraging you to let go of the couch and walk.

“You can do it, you can do it!”

And so you did.

Three little steps, just like that. He lifted you up, and we all clapped together in the kitchen.

Baby, on Thanksgiving Day, we celebrated your first birthday complete with decorations, cake and the entire family.

Last year on Thanksgiving we brought you home from the hospital, just the three of us. We were nervous and raw, uncertain and the most thankful we’ve ever been.

I didn’t think I could be more thankful than that.

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But you’ve proven me wrong.

A year later and every day it’s something new. You say “momma” and “dada”, “hi” and “bye” and “uh, oh,” your favorite of all. You wave, blow kisses and truly think you can read books by yourself and all of these are things that one-year-olds do, nothing’s so out of the ordinary for a baby your age, except every new discovery, every new challenge you master shows us how you are so uniquely, simply and innocently you in this world.

And as easy as a breath or a blink, a sigh or that song I hum to you at night, we love you baby. Happy Birthday.

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