TEDx: Making a living out of a life

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Happy Friday. It’s a beautiful fall day in Western North Dakota, the perfect weather for a Homecoming Celebration in my home town.

I spent this morning giving a talk to the 8th grade students. My focus was on my career path, ultimately hoping to convince them to follow the gut feeling they have about who they are and what they love at this point in their lives because it could likely guide them in their future career endeavors.

I’m not sure how they processed it. They were a little wiggly dressed in our school’s maroon and white gear, anxious to take on the rest of the day’s fun events, like coronation, the parade the homecoming football game.

But I always jump on the opportunity to share my story with the kids in the hope that it might give a kid like me a little nudge and inspiration.

As I headed towards the door after my presentation,  I was cut off by the marching band playing the school song in the hallway and I couldn’t help but feel glad to be there, suddenly struck by the memory of the feeling I had when I was a teenager dressed in my boyfriend’s jersey feeling sorta free and sorta nervous and sorta awkward and sorta invincible in my youth, not realizing the way the years fly like the yellow leaves  blowing from tree branches today.

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I don’t know if I would have thought I would be back here if you would have asked me then, married to that boy, having his second baby.

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In the time capsule letter I wrote to myself when I was a senior, and dug up at my ten year reunion, I confessed that I hoped I’d be doing something creative as the adult version of me. I hoped I was with someone I loved. I mentioned a family.

I didn’t quite know what I really wanted though, or how it might all play out. But I was willing to just jump into things that seemed like an opportunity or an adventure. Things that sorta scared me enough to put a little wrench in my gut until I found I was comfortable in it. I figured I’d eventually be comfortable in it all.

But I was wrong. Turns out being an adult means you feel that little gut wrench so much of the time, that being an adult does not, in fact, equal having it all together and figured out.

And thank goodness for that really. I’m not ready to give up the gut wrench. Hence, perhaps, the impending second baby. That one’s giving me a hellofa wrenching these days (not to mention indigestion, heartburn, back ache and insomnia).

Speaking of indigestion, heartburn, and insomnia, a few months back I was asked to take part in Bismarck’s TEDx conference as a speaker. I was honored to be considered, but hesitant to participate, knowing how tediously planned and executed these events and talks needed to be and knowing I would have to wrangle my off the cuff performance style.

And I wasn’t sure I had an idea worth sharing really. I would have to think on that one, really reflect. But I said yes anyway, because, you know, my guts.

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Anyway, I’m glad I did. I had a lovely experience and it helped me push myself to really think about what it is that I’m doing here.

They sent me the link to the video today. In true Jessie fashion I’m not going to watch it right now, because I will criticize my accent, my stumbles and the way I carry my pregnancy in my cheeks. Because when I left the stage I felt good about it and so I want to continue feeling good about it.

And I hope it provides you a little insight, a little inspiration and makes you think differently about how and why and where we choose to live our story.

Happy Homecoming Watford City and happy weekend friends. May it find you in your happiest places.

Peace, love and guts,

Jessie

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Let it shine…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My rock and my sunshine. ​

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

We need your light.

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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
Forum Communications

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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

Forum Communications

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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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Life and art on the road, on the ranch, in our neighborhood

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I’ve done it to myself, and it’s all good things, but the past few weeks, and the following two weeks are full to the brim.

I kicked off my official book concert tour last weekend across the state in Fargo and Grand Forks and I could spend the morning gushing over how amazing it was (and always is) to get off the ranch and meet people who read my column in the newspapers or online, who sort through the pictures and stories and songs and find a connection, but I’ll just say this: when you grab my hands after the show and thank me what I want to say is no, thank you. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sending me messages. Thank you for coming out to meet me and tell me your own stories.

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It’s my favorite part and it’s completely overwhelming to see a room full to the brim with people who chose to spend a few precious weekend hours with a ranch kid and her dad.

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In the meantime, my mother worked her butt off setting up the merchandise table and selling books, making sure I ate something and got places on time and didn’t have lipstick on my teeth, you know, all the things that good moms do.

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And while we were away, baby Edie was home helping her dad check for baby calves…

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Traveling to see her cousin perform in a dance competition, watching her other cousin play in a softball came and directing her other Nana and Papa in her new role of starting a family band.

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Oh, and I hope that she was practicing cuddling her baby dolls as I’ve been working to get her ready for her new little cousin set to arrive in a couple short months. She’s got the kissing thing down pat, now if I could just keep her from throwing them to the ground after…

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And while the book has finally arrived, this week another one of my big projects is coming to fruition. For a couple years I’ve been working with a group of like minded individuals to put together the Long X Arts Foundation with the mission to bring quality arts programming, education and access to our rural and sometimes isolated community.

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We’ve received such outstanding support in our efforts and tomorrow we’ll be hosting our second annual Badlands Arts Showcase where area artists will showcase their work in an art show followed by a performance of area artists and musicians in the new and beautiful high school theater space that I’m so proud our community invested in.

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It’s been lots of work, but it’s been so refreshing and inspiring to discover and feature all of these wonderfully talented people right in our backyard.

Plus, there will be dessert.

And coffee.

And Mexican food.

I am nervous that all will go well, but so excited to show off what we’ve put together for the community and raise some more funds so that we can develop art classes, concert series, dance programs and beyond.

And then I’m out on the road again this weekend, heading to Bismarck for the North Dakota Music Awards on Saturday where I’ll be performing with the long lost boys of Outlaw Sippin’ and then my book release concert on Sunday at 2:00 PM at the Heritage Center. 

This time Edie gets to come along, so if you come too, I’m sure you’ll find her roaming the halls of the Heritage Center, dancing, singing and bossing around the giant dinosaur in the hallway with my niece trailing behind her.

Until then, I’m sitting with my feet up, my laptop on my lap, answering emails, making lists and watching the calves sneak through the fence to try to get a taste of the green grass on my lawn.

Oh. And I should probably do a load or two of laundry so I don’t have to resort to wearing my back of the closet outfits…

See ya out there!

Peace, Love and Harmonica Music,

Jessie

For a list of upcoming book release concerts and to order “Coming Home” online, visit: www.jessieveedermusic.com 

Jessie Veeder Book Cover copy

The Coming Home Tour

Jessie Veeder Book Cover copy

Happy Friday everyone!

Today I’m sitting in a cute little coffeeshop on Main Street Bismarck where they serve, among many other delicious things, homemade scones, fresh fruit granola and yogurt cups and lattes with a heart on top.

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I tell you, I don’t get that kind of fancy at home at the ranch working from the kitchen counter while the baby throws grapes from her high chair to floor.

But I’m here because things are starting to heat up regarding this book release. This morning my friend John and I played on the local morning show and I got to talk a bit about Coming Home, which is a collection of some of my favorite stories, recipes, poetry and photography, coming out on April 6th.

So I’ve been a little quiet here lately because I’ve been working out the details on how I can get out and about and visit with you all (in North Dakota at least) on behalf this book, one my favorite things to do.

So I think I have a good start to the lineup for book readings and concerts. Hopefully I’ll see you out there. I guarantee a nice time filled with, conversation, music, laughs and just being together, in a common space, for the sole purpose of sharing stories.  That’s my favorite part about this whole crazy ride.

And if you can’t make it to one of the shows in your area, you can still pre-order the book here or on dakotabooknet.com I’ll even sign it for you because I love you.

Thank you for reading all these years. I hope you find this book is a nice way to relive the memories of the places and people you love out here on the prairie and beyond!

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Friday, April 21

Coming Home Concert-Fargo
Book reading, stories, concert and signing
6:30 PM-Meet and Greet and Signing
7:00 PM-Concert
8:30 PM-Meet and Greet and Signing
The Stage at Island Park
333 4th St. South
Fargo, ND
$7
All Ages
Cash Bar
Buy Tickets Online or at The Stage At Island Park

Saturday, April 22

Coming Home Concert-Grand Forks
1:00 PM
Book reading, stories, concert and signing
The Back Stage Project, Empire Arts Center
215 Demers Ave
Grand Forks, ND
$5
All Ages

Sunday, April 30

Coming Home Concert-Bismarck
2 PM
Book reading, stories, concert and signing
North Dakota Heritage Center
612 East Boulevard Ave
Bismarck, ND
Free Will Offering
All Ages

Friday, May 5

Coming Home Concert-New Rockford
Time TBA
Book reading, stories, concert and signing
Dakota Prairie Regional Center for the Arts
New Rockford, ND
More Information TBA
All Ages

Saturday, May 6

Coming Home Concert-Minot
Book reading, stories, concert and signing
6:30 Meet and Greet and Signing
7:00 Concert
Taube Museum of Art
2 North Main Street
Minot, ND
All Ages

Visit www.jessieveedermusic.com
for additions to the tour and my full performance schedule.

A special thank you to Forum Communications for making this project possible and for allowing me space every week in your newspapers to tell the story of my life in Western North Dakota. And thank you Kathy Leingang for ushering me so sweetly through the process of writing this thing!

Making Memories. Making Pies.

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

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

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

And maybe a giraffe suit for Little Sister?

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

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Mini Merch Slinger

So we’re tired.

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

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Sound check…

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the from-scratch buns she served with supper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Mom remembered the recipe box.

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

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

And most certainly so did our dad.

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

Wondering how she might have done it.

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

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

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

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

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

And we closed the lid.

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On Music and Motherhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2: We didn’t have room in the car.

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

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

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

Yup, we bring the class.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Listen here…thanks dad for the recording…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

To nurture the world…

My heart is heavy today. I’m looking for a reason not to be afraid of the world I’ve brought my daughter into.

50 souls. 50 brothers, sisters, wives, best friends, grandchildren, aunts, uncles. Mothers. Fathers.

Sons. Daughters.

5o more with physical and emotional wounds.

A country torn and aching and seemingly at a loss of what to do next.

I spent the day yesterday in little spurts of tears, going back and forth from the garden to my baby, because there was nothing I could do personally to change things and I just felt an overwhelming need to nurture the world at my fingertips.

IMG_9934IMG_9947IMG_9950IMG_9954That night, while rocking my daughter to sleep I decided I must hold on to the truth that I know. There is violence and hate in this world, yes, but I have to believe there is so much more love…

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”-Fred Rogers

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For the love of music

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In an old small theater in a small western North Dakota town, a retired professional bull rider stood up on the stage behind his guitar, next to his band, and strummed the first few notes that kicked off the culmination of an idea that had been in the works for months.

The lights were flashing, the sound was big, and the recently reupholstered seats were filled with a crowd of people who made plans to attend a party in the name of turning a Saturday night into something bigger.

And that something bigger was to save that old theater standing among a collection of brick buildings on Main Street in Belfield, a town of 1,000 off the off the interstate west of Dickinson.

It’s a big project. Everything needed a facelift, a tinkering, a fresh coat of paint. Work was being done up to the moment guests started arriving, buying drinks, filling up small paper plates with food and finding their seats.

I was there that night to perform and to watch some of the guys from the band I play with debut their new project, a tribute band honoring the late Chris Ledoux, a bull rider musician made famous by a line in a Garth Brooks song.

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And that’s where this story started, with a song that kicked off a show where that singing cowboy left his guitar and microphone to step off the stage and ride a bucking machine under the spotlight in front of a crowd of a couple hundred of his community members and peers while I held my breath hoping that the man could pull it off.

The music kept playing, the crowd cheered, the bucking machine stopped and he jumped back on the stage. The show went on.

He pulled it off.

I let out a sigh of relief and a big cheer, then sat back and looked around, wondering what possesses us to do such things.

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I mean, it would have been easier to skip the bull-riding section of the performance all together and eliminate the risk of embarrassment or injury. If it were me, I probably would have. The show would have been good without that surprise element. But with it, well, it was pretty awesome.

And the musicians in that band also work full-time jobs, some have families, and they dedicated months to prepare for this night, to prepare for a crowd that wasn’t necessarily guaranteed to show up.

The woman who made a dedication to save the theater and the handful of volunteers who scrubbed and scraped the walls, re-upholstered those seats, sent out press releases and made the food for the night probably had other ways to spend their time.

And the crowd who showed up probably had work to do, fields to till, cattle to brand, yards to clean, windows to wash.

But it was Saturday night …

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For the past year I’ve been working with a group of volunteers in my town to put together a council on the arts in our remote area. To raise money for the new organization, we decided to organize a big fundraiser featuring western North Dakota artists and performers. It’s been a labor of love and, with a baby at home, not the most convenient time to take on such a big commitment.

I spend a lot of my time crossing my fingers, hoping that people will show up, that we will get a crowd and that celebrating our artists and performers is something this community might want to invest in, something that they might find valuable.

It could be a total flop, yet we’re still gambling our time and energy on the belief that committing our time and talent to this will help make our community better.

I think of those men last weekend and, you know, it could have been Chris Ledoux or Garth Brooks himself up there, but I doubt it would have had the same effect on me.

Because Garth Brooks has owned stages all over the world, but that night in that small town in western North Dakota, the theater, the stage, the music and that crazy cowboy riding that bucking machine in the spotlight, all of it was all ours.

Jessie Gene MikeP1010595

If you’re in the Watford City area, please join us for the
Long X Arts Council’s Badlands Arts Showcase and Fundraising Gala
Thursday, May 26th
at the new Performing Arts Center in the Watford City High School.

Doors open to the Art Show at 5:30
Performance starts at 7
More information at http://www.longxarts.com 

Arts Showcase Poster