Unfinished Projects

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Coming Home: Not alone living amid the unfinished projects
by Jessie Veeder
8-7-16
http://www.inforum.com

If I were more of a linguist, I would have the term for it. But you know what I’m talking about. It’s that crack in the Sheetrock in the living room, right in the corner above the TV that really peeved you off when you first noticed it.

Why didn’t we get that fixed months ago?

OK. So I’m a woman who has been living in a house under construction for most of my married life. Because I wed a man who has just the right amount of knowhow and crazy to take on complete house remodeling projects and then, when that didn’t kill us, a near complete build from scratch.

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Right now, as I type, I’m sitting on a deck that, for two and a half years, has been partially completed. It’s really nice and will probably be even nicer when he finally gets around to building us a staircase so we can get down to the lawn without going through the house.

I’m looking forward to that even if it means I’ll feel less like Rapunzel, sort of trapped up here, looking down on my little lawn kingdom complete with an incomplete retaining wall and barbed wire temporarily stretched across where those nice garden gates will hang someday.

Someone needs to get married out here again or something so we can get the rock siding finished, for crying out loud.

Yes, I’ve learned to be patient. Because what choice do I have? I don’t have a clue how to build a staircase and I’m not crazy enough to attempt it under the “if you want something done you gotta do it yourself” motto. Carpentry was never one of those skills I really cared to acquire. I’ve acquired enough skills I didn’t want, thankyouverymuch.

Oh, I know I’m not the only one who suffers this way. I mean, I have a few friends who live behind manicured lawns along city streets who spend their weekends checking off lists at the Home Depot and even they have a missing tile somewhere. Right?

Right???

Anyway, while I’m becoming alarmingly immune to unfinished projects, I was reminded that I’m not alone by none other than my own flesh and blood last weekend when I enjoyed a few family suppers on my parents’ deck, gathering together because my uncle was home from Texas for a few days. My parents have a backyard that has a sweet view up a beautiful, tree-filled coulee. Their deck is right off their dining room and kitchen, making it easy to enjoy meals outdoors on summer nights.

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If it wasn’t for that dang screen door.

Seriously, that screen door. I swear. It’s been years, YEARS, of needing to have the right touch to get it to slide open, of guests struggling with a plate of food in one hand and a desperate look of awkward panic on their faces as they attempt to find that right maneuver before being rescued and let outside by my dad, who eventually always just sort of kicks it off its tracks and says something like, “I swear I just fixed that.” Mom makes this aggressive sigh of resignation before we can all sit down and relax until, heaven forbid, someone forgot there was noodle salad inside.

And I only mention this because it makes me feel better.

About all our unfinished trim. And the crack in the Sheetrock.

And this island of a deck.

If I were a linguist, I’d have a word for it.

If I were a carpenter … well … I’d probably have more unfinished projects.

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When the mist lifts off the doubt of motherhood

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Coming Home: Mist lifts off the doubt new mom feels
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s morning. The mist has settled in the valleys of this countryside like a heavy, cool blanket that promises to dissolve in the sun. Dad just sent me a photo from the hayfield, a canvas of pink, gold and green poking up from the fog as he bales up the grass and alfalfa nice and tight for the winter.

I didn’t know that about motherhood. I didn’t realize how fragmented and scattered a day can become, a little paradoxical considering 100 percent of that day is dedicated to keeping a tiny person content and alive.

The other 90 percent is spent bending over to pick stuff up.

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Which leaves no time left for math and just a few slivers here and there to get work done. Or wash a dish. Or take care of the gray roots coming from my 3-month-old dye job.

And this is where I am now. Looking for the balance in being a work-from-home mom, quickly realizing that the word “balance” should not have been invented, because it does not exist, not in the way we all dream it anyway.

Last week I had a performance in a small town in the middle of the week. My husband has been arriving home from his full-time job in the evening to help Dad get the hay crop put up between rain storms and broken down equipment, so I loaded up the baby, my niece and my guitar in the big pickup, leaving his evening free for work, because turns out dads are searching for that balance-myth, too.

I stood up there behind that microphone and in front of a small crowd that gathered for hamburgers and music on a Wednesday night, telling stories and singing songs while my niece tried to shush our baby who was babbling and screeching happily in her arms. I looked over at her while I sang words written long before she was born and was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that this is my life now.

And then, in between songs, I found myself explaining the fear I had about it all.

Because, if you remember, I had a lot of time—time to convince myself I was ready, and time, when it didn’t work out, to talk myself out of the whole motherhood thing entirely.

Because I was worried about that balance thing. I was worried I couldn’t be me and be a mom, too. I was worried I wouldn’t have the energy for music or writing or bigger aspirations should I feel so motivated.

And in a way I was right. I am not who I was before this child became mine. Because before her I didn’t know what it meant to be frazzled and content at the same time.

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Like in the two hours I’ve been working on this piece I’ve changed her diaper, gotten her dressed, fed her milk, snuggled her, kissed her, watched her play, fed her avocados, snuggled her again, changed her again and put her down to play while working sentence by sentence and wishing I would have woken up at 5 a.m. like I planned last night.

I likely won’t finish this until she goes down for her mid-morning nap.

Before the baby, leaving something undone would have driven me crazy. These days most things are left to be finished later. I didn’t know I could be fine with that.

And there are about a million more examples like that, most of them involving the common denominator named time. Because I’m no longer carefree with it, not in the way that I was before Edie.

To be away from her better be worth it.

Sometimes it is.

And sometimes the best part is taking her along, looking out into the crowd and seeing her there, fitting snug and happy in the life that I built, arms outstretched, head turned up and laughing, the mist lifting off the doubt, revealing more colors than I could have dreamed.

 

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A Friday update…

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Here’s a quick update from the ranch while the baby is sleeping.

  • Edie’s getting sassier every day and I’m declaring now that I’m in big trouble. Good Lord she has me wrapped around her finger and also who knew 8 month-olds had agendas for the day.

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    Here she is chilling’ with her post bath mohawk, drinking from her sippy cup and eating puffs. She only really likes to feed herself. Unless she sees me attempting to eat a plate full of food, then she wants what I’m having, and spoon-feeding is allowed.

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  • Also, the girl will crawl. But only to get to the cereal puff I put just out of her reach. And I think I can relate. Like, I will run, but only if means a burger when it’s all over.

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  • The guys have been trying to get the hay crop in for weeks. It’s not going well. Between the rain and equipment that breaks I think we’ll have to feed the cows lettuce from the grocery store this winter. In the meantime, they are getting their fill in Pops’ garden. Yesterday would mark the third trip they’ve made to the Veeder Backyard buffet in the last two weeks. At first I laughed an evil laugh about it all, but then I took a look for myself and realized that even with cow sabotage, dad currently still has more vegetables growing in his garden than me. But I’m not worried. I found enough spinach to make a couple salads. And some radishes. And look! Tomatoes. It’s only a matter of time he’ll be knocking on my door asking for some samples.

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  • Seems like even when things are going shitty, Pops still sees the beauty in this life we’re leading. Here’s a photo he sent me earlier this week from hayfield probably like five minutes before he broke down. Looks like heaven.

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  • And here’s a rare photo of all of my dogs in the same frame. Dolly is a sweet thing but the girl can’t sit still. It’s in her genes. Seems like her and Edie have that in common, but out of all three dogs Gus is Edie’s I would say. When I bring her out in the yard he doesn’t get too far from her. It’s sweet and unexpected from the high energy beast.

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  • We got my parent’s hand-me-down hot tub and now I feel really fancy when I put the baby to bed and head down there with my plastic cup full of wine, my raggedy swim suit and flippy floppies. Hot tub trips have replaced date night for Husband and I, because we haven’t had an official one since the baby’s first month on earth. I just realized that last night and it made me one part disappointed in us and one part amazed that time has gone that fast. Maybe we’ll have a date next month when we celebrate our ten-year anniversary.

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  • Ten years already?!!! Didn’t we just get home from our Junior prom?

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  • We went over to the neighbors’ last week. I opened the cooler and found this scene.
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    Yesterday Husband was sitting at the counter eating, looked up from his plate and informed me that “there’s a nipple under the dishwasher.” A phrase and a scene that wouldn’t have existed in our old life
  • I started writing this yesterday afternoon and now it is morning today. The baby woke up from her nap and the rest is history. The whole baby thing combined with the fact that we haven’t had good Internet out here since we moved and haven’t had Internet at all since Edie was born has made this website and work from home thing nearly impossible. Husband and I are looking forward to doing things the real world gets to do, like streaming cat videos on YouTube and checking out what all the hype is about this whole Netflix thing. Someday. Someday…For now we’re just using the shit out of our cell phone hotspot and depleting Edie’s college fund.
  • Here’s a photo of Edie on our walk the other day, as a storm rolled in all around us.
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    I don’t think they’ll ever make a stroller meant for the trails I roll the poor girl across. A few trip sup the prairie road to the fields and back and the thing’s sort of worse for the wear. But all that bouncing can be worth something…

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    and also the reason I almost always put the baby in the pack.

  • But oh shit, my back is killing me.
  • We’ve made up for our lack of snow this winter with an abundance of rain this summer. It’s almost August and it’s green as can be. Here are a couple photos of wildflowers to prove it.

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  • I forgot to water my garden last night. But maybe that’s the key to success. Just do what I did last year, like hardly pay attention to the thing at all, and maybe I’ll reap giant carrots and buckets of beans again. That math seems to add up.
  • Have a great weekend. I plan on hanging at the ranch, gearing up for an August that will find me away from the ranch more than at home. Because if I thought things would slow down with the birth of this wild child, well, it’s safe to say it’s kicked back in high gear again.
    North Dakota readers, click here to see if I’ll be performing in your area in August
  • The baby’s awake…if you’re reading this, I’ve kept her busy long enough to hit “publish.”

Peace, Love and Huggies,

Jessie and her sidekick

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Building good days.

Coming Home: Building good days a gift in this unpredictable life
by Jessie Veeder
7-24-16
InForum
http://www.inforum.com

Bad days.

Horse frustration

Good days.

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Out here on the ranch, for some reason, I like to define them.

And there are about a million criteria for the qualifications of both, which, I guess, is a good thing and a bad thing, respectively.

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Except for the time I got my finger smashed between a metal bar and a post by a 2,000-pound bull. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad day, I mean, things were going pretty good up until the emergency room visit that resulted in a cast on my middle finger that sent me out of the hospital flipping off the world.

But it could have been worse.

It could always be worse.

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Funny, we say that a lot around here.

Get bucked off your horse and land in a cactus patch? Well, at least it wasn’t your head smashed on that big rock over there.

Couldn’t get the swather running after six hours of tinkering in the field under the hot sun? Well, at least you didn’t have to be in a conference room meeting all day.

Get your four-wheeler stuck up to its belly in the creek again because you tend to think you’re magic when you’re on that thing (Dad)? Perfect. Now I have some material.

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When I think about it now, maybe that’s why I found my way back here. Because of the optimism that was somehow always generated even after the day had gone completely haywire. It’s a trait that could only occur in people who truly love what they’re doing. Who wouldn’t be drawn back to that?

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Through the years, we’ve had plenty of opportunity for bad days, for long walks home after the pickup quit, for lessons learned about polyester shirts and welding torches, for doctoring a herd of cattle with pinkeye well after the sun went down, saying to one another, “Well, at least the nail you stepped on didn’t go all the way through your big toe,” or “Would have been so much harder without all your help.”

But now that I think about it, it’s sort of telling that we continue to say, “Well, it could be worse,” and skip over the entire concept that in times of tractor breakdowns, man-chasing momma cows and an incident with an exploding motor that almost started the entire barnyard on fire, it could always be better, too.

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But just yesterday as I strapped the baby to my chest and took off hiking across the home pasture with my niece chatting happily beside me on a quest to fill my cap with enough wild raspberries to make some sort of dessert, I couldn’t help but label that moment “one that could not be better.”

Even with the flies and the thorns.

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We woke up that Sunday morning to a smiling baby and a hankering for blueberry muffins. So we made them. Because, what luck! Blueberries were on sale and I had some in the fridge. So we cooked them up, along with eggs and bacon, and had ourselves a regular, fancy brunch.

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And that evening, after stripping the baby down and watching her play and splash in the baby pool on the deck while the sun shone gold on the hilltops outside, after feeding her bananas as she sat in her robe and tiny socks, we tucked her sleepily into bed and ate a supper of grilled brats and beans together around the table outside. My husband put his feet up after a day of fixing equipment, and my niece and I saddled up the two lazy horses in the barnyard and took off together, walking slowly across those hills dotted with wildflowers and berries and we just kept saying, “Well, it’s so beautiful out here isn’t it?”

So peaceful.

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It just couldn’t be better.

And while I know there are plenty of ways to define the bad days, the days that are out of your control, I couldn’t help but think in that moment how wonderful it is to know that you can build your own good ones.

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How to make wild raspberry dessert

How to make wild raspberry dessert

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Step 1:
Wake up in the morning to a happy husband, a well-rested niece and a smiling baby. Snuggle the baby. Play and roll around with her on the floor. Put her in her high chair so she can feed herself blueberry puffs. Hear your husband say, “Man, it would be nice to have a blueberry muffin right now.” Remember you have blueberries in the fridge.

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Step 2:
Locate a blueberry muffin recipe with the help of your niece. Preheat the oven and read the directions while your niece mixes up the ingredients. Think that maybe bacon and eggs would go good with fresh blueberry muffins. Because you always have bacon in the house.

Step 3:
Proceed with the bacon cooking while blueberry muffins bake.

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Step 4:
Crack and fry some perfectly over easy eggs. Find a double yolker. Declare it good luck.

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Step 5:
Pour some orange juice, put the baby in her high chair, make a plate and gather around the table. Declare that Martha Stewart has nothing on you.

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Step 7:
Hear Pops say something about all the raspberries out in the pasture. Decide that they can’t all go to the birds.

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Step 6:
Put the dishes in the sink pull on your jeans and boots. Strap the baby to your chest, douse skin in bug spray and sunscreen and head out the door with your niece and the dogs. Declare it a beautiful morning. Declare that it’s sort of hot though.

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Step 7:
Peel your eyes for raspberries. Locate raspberries in the thorny brush below where the juneberries, bullberries and chokecherries grow. Watch the dogs disappear in and out of the brush patches chasing phantom rabbits and birds and taking a break from the heat. Find it funny.

(Chicken dinner for you if you can spot Dolly down there…)

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Step 8:
Send the niece in to the deep brush to get the fat berries.

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Check your back pocket for the baggie you brought along. Realize you dropped it somewhere. Take off your hat. Decide that will do.

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Step 9:
Pick a berry. Eat a berry. Put a berry in the hat. Swat a fly. Pull a thorn. Pick a berry. Eat a Berry. Put a berry in the hat.

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Step 10:
Repeat Step 9 like a hundred or so times.

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Step 11:
Check to make sure the baby strapped to your chest isn’t eating the berries too. Pick up the toy she dropped in the thick brush for the third time.

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Step 12:
Wipe the sweat. Pick a thorn out of the niece’s hand. Eat a berry. Check your stash. Wonder if that’s enough to make anything. Declare it officially hot out now. Eat a berry. Climb the hill to the teepee rings to catch some breeze.

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Step 13:
Realize the baby dropped the toy again and now it’s out in the wild pasture to be found 100 years from now, along with all Pops’ missing gloves and tools.

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Step 14:
Head back to the house, noticing the beautiful wildflowers along the way.

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Step 15:
Strip off your clothes and check for ticks. Strip off the baby’s clothes and check for ticks. Put her on the floor to play.

Step 16:
Rinse the berries.

Step 17:
Eat a few more

Step 18:
Look up some recipes online for raspberry dessert, trying for the perfect concoction that doesn’t interfere with the integrity of the raspberry.

Step 19:
Eat a couple more raspberries.

Step 20:
Deny every suggested recipe found…

Step 20:
Decide that there is no dessert you can make that tastes as good as a wild raspberry itself.

Step 21:
Eat more raspberries

Step 22:
Have lunch. Put the baby down for a nap. Putz around the house. Wait for Husband to get home..

Step 23:
Give the baby a bath. Put her in her robe. Decide she looks like an adorable old man. Feed her something yummy. Rock her to sleep.

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Step 24:
Grill brats. Eat on the deck.

Step 25:
Leave the dishes for the husband.

Step 26:
Go Riding

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Step 27:
Declare it a beautiful night.

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Step 28:
Listen to your niece tell you stories and wonder where the time went and when she grew up so quickly.

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Step 29:
Head back to the barn. Let the horses out. Walk to the house. Strip down. Check for ticks.

Step 26:
Eat some raspberries.

Step 27:
Declare it a good day.

Step 28:
Sleep tight. Good night.

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The fabric of a family.

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Coming Home: Lake traditions become more precious with plus-one
by Jessie Veeder
7-17-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I spent last week in vacation mode, which to some might bring to mind palm trees and tropical drinks by the pool, but to me it meant packing up for a weekend of tradition.

And the husband and baby, of course, with a bottle and a plastic baggie full of toys for the six-hour drive.

And along the way a stop at the store to get the things we don’t currently own, but need. Like deodorant and blue nail polish and tonic water for our vodka drinks. And a baby lifejacket.

Because we were heading to my grandparents’ lake cabin in Minnesota just like we have done every year for the Fourth of July since the beginning of time, except this time, of course, we had a small and chubby plus-one, who apparently comes with a lot of baggage.

Like a one-ton, long box, pickup full.

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Seriously.

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But to carry out the holiday properly in my family, there are things you need to carry with you. Like at least one patriotic outfit to wear while sitting on the dock sipping bloody marys, waving an American flag at the pontoons decked out for the Fourth of July, tooling by the shore in the boat parade.

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Oh, the lengths we go to hold on to our traditions.

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That’s what I was thinking at 2 a.m. as I bounced the baby back and forth in the small backroom of the cabin, the one where my parents likely sat up with my little sister summer after summer, sweating, swatting mosquitoes and willing her to sleep while my other sister and I snuggled under thin blankets in tiny beds in the screened-in porch.

In a few hours my little family would emerge from that room and shuffle to the kitchen, say good morning to my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, grab a couple doughnut holes to go with the coffee we sip on the deck together and catch up while the family of ducks swims on the calm lake.

I can predict it all, the summer sausage sandwiches, the pontoon rides around the lake to look at the houses, the trip to the flea market where Dad stocks up on homemade jelly and Mom finds the best old furniture, the campfires and the fireworks lighting up the dark lake. All of those expected moments are more important to me than ever before now that I have a baby to raise.

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Because our rituals might remain the same year after year, but they can’t stop time from chipping away at us.

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I watched Grampa flip his famous pancakes on the stove in the little kitchen while Gramma fussed over us all crammed around the table, the same sort of breakfasts we’ve shared since I was 7 years old and suddenly, 25 years later, it all seemed a little less predictable and so much more precious.

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So I suppose it’s more than a vacation—this tradition has become the fabric of what it means to be a part of this family.

I walked out into the shallow lake with my baby as the hot sun beat down on Minnesota. In front of me I watched my grandmother, 80-some years old in her floral swimsuit dip her body in the water and swim out past the sailboat just as I have watched her do for years and years. Baby Edie kicked and splashed and I willed her to see it.

I wished she would remember this.

I hoped for forever right there in that clear lake with the blue house behind us and the future pressing cool and heavy on our hot skin.

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The case of the mystery peas…

 

Last night Husband came home from mom and dad’s with an armful of mail and a ziplock baggie on the counter full of fresh garden peas.

I was standing in the kitchen feeding the baby and he plopped that ziplock down on the counter next to me.

“Your dad thought you might want these,” he said. “They’re from his garden.”

I held the spoon full of smushed plums in a hover position in front of my wiggling baby and with my other hand I examined that bag of peas in disbelief and envy.

“He does NOT have peas yet!” I declared to my husband who had moved on with his life, and pulled the hover spoon from my hand and into the baby’s mouth.

“No wayyyy!!!” I declared again.

“Yup,” said the man I married.

In my head I visualized the plants I examined in his garden just week before. In my head I thought there was no way they could have flowered and grown a plethora of vegetables while I was away on a camping trip for the love of Martha Stewart.

But my head was foggy. I was tired. Turns out the baby doesn’t sleep much on camping trips.

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And neither does her mom.

The dad?

The dad could sleep on the back of a cheetah chasing after a gazelle in the jungle. Wait, do cheetahs even live in the jungle?

Probably  not.

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I don’t even know things anymore. Earlier that morning I sneezed and immediately said “Pew.” Instead of “excuse me.” And then, realizing my error, I corrected it by saying “Thank you.” In front of all the family. They are very likely concerned. But what the hell? This baby took all of my brains.

Anyway, back to the peas. I left them sitting on the counter without further discussion while I went about making supper, cleaning up the baby, throwing a load of camping blankets in the washing machine and generally biding my time before the child went down for the night so I could too.

But I couldn’t get past the peas. He couldn’t possibly have peas already. Didn’t they just sprout a few weeks ago? Mine are barely visible leaves in a sea of black dirt out front. And while he planted them on Memorial Weekend like he was supposed to, and used a pile of sheep manure, and watered and weeded and basically pulled out his A+ horticulturalist game, there is no way that little vegetable plot could be that far along and that far ahead of mine…

Unless…

Husband came out from putting the baby down and sat in his chair. I plopped down the ottoman and stared blankly out the window while I mulled over my conclusion before turning Husband and declaring…

“I’m pretty sure dad transplanted his garden from a greenhouse. I mean, think about it. One day his garden is dirt and the next he has full fledged plants. I never saw the in-between! That has to be it. Those pea plants were started already when he put them in the ground. It makes sense. Makes total sense!!”

“Those peas were from the Farmer’s Market.”

“Wait. What?”

“Your dad. He got them from the Farmer’s Market.”

“Wait. What Farmers Market?”

“The one in Minnesota. He thought it would be funny to give them to you and tell you they were his. I didn’t know how long to let it go. He thought it would be funny to mess with you. And it was.”

Well that explains it.

If you need me I’ll be out in my garden…

Because this. This is what I’m dealing with.

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The perspective from a distance

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We’re spending the week in vacation mode.

Vacation mode meaning heading east to the lake in Minnesota to spend time with family at my grandparent’s lake cabin, per tradition.

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And then coming home to cut some hay and meet some deadlines before heading back out the big lake tomorrow to spend time on the pontoon or roasting s’mores with the other side of the family.

When we’re at the lake in Minnesota we do this thing where we load up the crew on the pontoon, drinks and snacks and towels and caps and everything else we could have forgotten, and we drive that boat around the shore, slowly, so we can take a look at the beautiful houses that have been built in place of the small cabins that once stood there back when my grandparents first bought their place.

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We comment on the lawns and the landscaping, the docks and the red shutters. We like the cedar siding on that one, and the cottage feeling of the other. We wonder where the NFL football player’s house is. We wonder how much the inflatable trampoline costs. We like that patio set and the adorable kids playing catch in the front yard.

We wonder who lives there. And secretly, I think we all wonder, what that would be like.

It sounds sort of strange, a literal boatload of family tooling by people’s houses on the lake. But we’re not the only ones who do it. It’s like a parade of homes, only we’re the parade.

We wave.

They wave back.

We’re at a safe distance that way. We can imagine and talk and wonder while we make our rounds and come up, always sooner than expected, as the sun starts to sink, on the blue house with the sailboat in the water out front, the familiar trees where the hammock used to swing, grandma’s flowers, the American flags stuck in the grass by the rocky shore, and feel the warm flood of familiarity fill us up with the good memories we’ve had there year after year together.

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It happens to me every time we leave on that pontoon, sitting shoulder to shoulder, talking and laughing with my aunts and uncles, sisters, parents, grandparents, looking briefly into other people’s lives, wondering, wishing perhaps that we could afford that big boat or that beautiful deck, contemplating who we would be there before pulling slowly into the dock on that one house out of a hundred that we know so well.

The one that holds so much.

The best one on the lake for people like us.

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Coming Home: Searching for perspective on life from a distance
by Jessie Veeder
7-3-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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When I lived between the sidewalks of town, one of my favorite things to do was go out for a walk in the evening as the sun was going down on the neighborhood. It didn’t matter what time of year—the crisp, still air of winter or the thick heat of the summer—I liked to follow the path of the sidewalks that stretched past the neat rows of houses, the warm glow of the kitchen lights shining brighter than the setting sun outside, projecting a slice of each family’s life out onto the street.

For a few short years of my young life, when times were tough and my parents had to move to eastern North Dakota for work, I was one of those sidewalk kids, riding my bike a few houses down the block to the neighbor girl’s house so we could pretend we were riding horses in her front yard.

But mostly I was a kid who played in the coulees in the evenings after school, one who got to ride horses in real life, who never learned to rollerblade for severe lack of pavement, whose new neighbor girl was a mile away up the hill and who pushed a lawnmower over cocklebur plants and Canadian thistle that couldn’t be tamed no matter how my mother willed it.

Those were my memories.

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So it was surprising to me how much console I found in walking those neighborhood streets in my adult years spent away from the ranch.

I was thinking about this last night as I walked out in the pasture as the sun dipped below the horizon, turning the grassy pastures and the sky behind me dark green and navy blue. I climbed the hill where the two teepee rings still sit and I looked back at our house, noticing how it somehow looks nestled and perched at the same time in that small opening of oak trees.

The lights were glowing small squares of gold to the outside, while inside the baby slept in her crib, holding the satin edges of her blanket, breathing in and out behind drawn curtains.

I couldn’t see her, of course, but I knew she was there, just as I knew my husband was in the new easy chair, reclined with his arms above his head and his stocking feet kicked back, a small glass of whiskey beside him.

This has always been my favorite way to look at our house. From this distance it seems like it doesn’t contain my life at all, but a life of another woman entirely, and I’m just a passerby who can make up her story.

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Because I can’t see the things undone from here—the fence that needs stain, the pile of unsorted laundry, the conversations we need to have about selling the car or cleaning the garage or juggling the bills.

From this distance I can imagine our life instead of live it, and it’s a strange but wonderful thing.

And I think that’s what I was doing all those years walking those sidewalks in my 20s, trying to imagine my life and how I was going to get to whatever came next.

I would put myself in those houses with the manicured lawns, the dad on the grill out back, the kids jumping on the trampoline. I could put myself in the kitchen that opened up to the deck and invite my neighbors over for burgers.

I could fall in love with the little boy fishing in the gutter of the street, I could name him and his siblings and make up what kind of mother I might be to him.

Because I wasn’t prepared for any of it, even when I found myself living in it, in a real job, renovating a real house, working on my own manicured lawn along those sidewalks. So I walked. For perspective.

And I still do.

Because everything’s a little easier, a little more perfect, at a safe distance.

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