Love is an untidy, unfolding story…


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

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


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

Love is an untidy, unfolding story

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

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

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

We forgot.

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

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

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

Wedding Tree

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

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

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

chad and edie

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

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

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

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

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


The space between now and the future


Coming Home: 10 years just a ‘blip on the timeline of forever’
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

We measure our lives by years. We mark them as they pass and wrap them up neat in a package to commemorate. We move on and look back

I sat down this morning to write something trivial, like “Ten reasons you shouldn’t wear shorts on the ranch,” because last week the calf tongue up and down my bare leg reminded me. And then the leaky garbage bag reminded me again. And then a frog in my garden took a flying leap and landed splat and slimy on the back of my thigh, and I thought surely it was a sign that I needed to make a public service announcement on the importance of long pants around the barnyard … but then I looked at the calendar, and I was reminded of something a little more important.

(And really, that’s all I had about the shorts thing … some weeks, the idea pool’s a little shallow).

Yes, the gears shifted a bit when I realized that on Aug. 12, I’ve been a wife for 10 years.

For 10 years, I’ve had a man living in my house, leaving his tools on the kitchen table and unclogging the hairball from the drain.

For 10 years, I’ve been mismatching that lovely man’s socks and confusing everybody and the IRS by using two last names.

And I feel like I should be more sentimental about it all. Ten years is a nice, even number. A milestone. Something to celebrate.

But then, 10 years is only a fraction of the time my husband has kept some of the T-shirts in his drawers … This isn’t getting romantic very quickly, is it?

Well, no one’s ever accused us of being overly starry-eyed. For the first few years of our marriage, I thought our anniversary was Aug. 19, so that’s how much I pay attention to things like this.


But truthfully, I don’t really measure the success of our relationship by the calendar. Lord knows I’ve known this boy who became my husband for long enough to mark our friendship and love as a victory, but time is only part of the equation.


I think the way we spend that time is what we like to lament about when we hit these big milestones together. Like, dear husband, remember when we loaded up your dad’s 1970s pickup camper on the back of his old Ford and headed across the great state of Montana to camp in Yellowstone together? And remember that it was 104 degrees? And the pickup didn’t have air-conditioning? Remember the cooler of ice we kept in the back seat and the way the grasshoppers felt slamming into the hot, bare skin of our arms resting on the open windowsill? Remember how, when we finally made it to our campsite and unloaded our supplies, the sky opened up and it started pouring? And you just laughed and cooked our hot dogs on the tiny stove in that tiny old camper?

I loved you so much for the way you could just do things like that, so effortlessly. You can’t be shaken. And that was the start of it all, really. That calm you possess has carried me through a life we try to spend making the minutes count toward a bigger picture we’ve been promising each other will emerge someday.

Although sometimes it’s been hard to see it. And I know that 10 years is just a blip on the timeline of the forever we’ve promised each other. Ten years together as part of this family has shown us that you’re not promised the plans you’ve made and you’re not promised forever. Or tomorrow.

And while the top 10 reasons not to wear shorts in the barnyard fell flat, the top 10 lessons I’ve learned from 10 years of marriage would make a nice and neatly packaged little piece. But I’ve had 10 years to craft those words, and I’ve learned plenty along the way — about myself and about the man who lies beside me every night — and the only thing I can say for certain is that I want him around because he’s good to me.

And I try to be the same for him.

And that’s all I want in the space between now and the future.


The years to come…

Dear Husband,

I opened my eyes this morning as the sun moved slowly up over the trees and through our open windows to find you still in bed next to me, your chest rising and falling as you slept beneath the bedding you helped me pick out yesterday in a whirlwind shopping spree to replace the things we lost in the fire.

As I browsed through the department stores’ collection of overpriced and overwhelming choices, you didn’t comment on the color I selected or complain about my affinity for floral patterns. You told me to find what I wanted and patiently walked with me to three different stores as I compared and discussed and asked for your opinion.

I’m sure there were a million other places you would have rather been than in the home section of a furniture store on a beautiful summer Saturday, but I would have never guessed it the way you laughed as we laid down on one on of those ridiculous, foldable, vibrating, computerized, over the top beds they had on display and watched in amazement as I slowly sunk so deep into the foam top I was sure I could never be retrieved.

You grabbed my hands and pulled me into your arms in the middle of the department store and suggested maybe we should concentrate on pillows.

You’re picky about things like pillows, enduringly patient…

And exhausted from a month that set us back on our heels and reminded us every day to keep working, keep moving, keep laughing at the things we can’t control and keep pushing, pushing, pushing through.

Husband, this morning as I watch you dream I have a list a mile long waiting for my feet to hit the floor, but all I want to do today is lay here next to you, surrounded by the walls of a house that’s unfinished but ours.  I don’t want to dig through boxes or paint a wall or make those calls or write those emails. I don’t want to send you off to work in your buttoned up shirt where the world gets you and your steady hands, even temper and unexpected wit.

I want to keep you here for the best part of the day, the part where the moon disappears in front of the big windows we planned and makes way for the splash of colors the sun brings with it.

I want to keep you here to watch it. I want to bring you coffee and make you eggs on the new stove, the one you picked out with the extra burner for the big meals you intend to create in this kitchen.

The kitchen we intend to cook meals in for the rest of our lives.

Husband, yesterday was our sixth wedding anniversary.

You know this, you wouldn’t forget, although we’re not so hooked on the celebration of another year passed,

but the idea of the years that are to come.

Because I’ll tell you Husband, I’m unbelievably blessed to have grown up with you, but even more amazed by the fact that despite the storms, the fires, the tears and the impossibly unpredictable things, each year I’ve spent by your side swinging a hammer, riding a horse,

jumping into a new career, cold lakes,

or out of the damn sky, I can honestly say I never been scared.

Well, I might have been just a little scared here…

Because I know that as long as you have a choice, you will be there in the morning moving quietly through your early routine, leaving me hot coffee waiting in the pot and dressing in the dark so that you don’t wake me.

So Husband, this morning, I don’t want to wake you.

I want you to keep your sleepy head on those pillows you picked and I want you to dream of bay horses and hunting trips to Alaska.

I don’t want you to worry about hooking up the washing machine or finishing the basement. I want to cook you eggs over easy in olive oil with pepper just the way you like them and I want to keep you here with me on the first day of our seventh year.

But more than anything husband, today I just want to bring you coffee and I want you to know that I am so happy to love you.

With all my heart,

Your Wife

For as long as the oak tree has lived…

It’s a special day at the ranch and as I shuffle around the house, picking up dishes, folding socks, sending out emails and generally getting things accomplished, I thought I would stop for a second to remember something.

Because on a day much like today, exactly four years ago, just down the road under a 100 year old oak tree, I married the man who belongs to the socks folded up on the couch. And we made plans to stay together as long as that oak tree has lived.

And this anniversary, I decided, is a little more special than the rest. I know four years is lame to most…I don’t even think there is a special traditional gift for it (like paper or plastic or mud even), but I like it. I like four years.

Because here we sit, all married and unsettled with our things and ideas and love scattered every which way around us, but we are right down the road.  We are breathing the air and scrubbing the dishes and mowing (or not mowing) the lawn right down the road from where I said “I guess so” when he proposed and we said, “Well, I guess we do!”  in our fancy clothes.  And we just went from there.

Little does anyone know the whirlwind that ensues after that blessed day, but here we are, right back where we started, in the first house we came home to as a married couple.  So I can’t help but think of that first year of marriage–when husband was working crazy shifts at the top of an oil derrick and I was on the road in my Chevy Lumina for weeks at a time, singing for my supper. Our paths crossed only to kiss one another goodbye and the two newest newlyweds lived out marital bliss hundreds of miles apart.

So I wanted to share this piece I wrote during that first year because I feel like it sums up the decision to grab our bags and make a new path. It reminds me of being so far away from him, off into my own adventure, and hearing his calm voice over the phone. I reminds me of missing him and closing my eyes and trying to recreate the man I knew—the laugh lines around his eyes, the ruffled hair, the scruffy face and faded t-shirt.

It reminds me of the separation that ebbed and flowed throughout the following couple years as our grand plans to make it to our destination continued to create physical space between us.

So yes, four is a celebration for us—a celebration of waking up to the same alarm clock and sharing a pot of coffee, of cooking meals in the same kitchen and enduring his vampire movies. It’s a celebration of blaming the empty toilet paper roll on each other and tripping over someone else’s shoes in the entry way. It’s knowing I have someone to clean out my hair ball from the drain with no complaints and a willing partner who will enthusiastically slide down a mud hill with me in the pitch black, pouring rain and then climb up again to retrieve my shoes.  It is a day of putting an extra slice of cheese on his sandwich and smiling because you have someone pretty dang great to make it for.

Today is a celebration of tangled, messy, loud, annoying, wonderful, blissful  togetherness as we stand proudly, hand in hand, back at the place where it all began ready and willing to hold on tight for 100 years under the branches of the solid oak–so we don’t have to miss one another so much anymore.

900 Miles

I can see him there.
Standing, phone pressed to his cheek,
laughing at how lonesome I’ve become on these three long weeks on the road.
I can see him.
Standing 900 miles away.

Tool belt slung low across his hip,
dust on his knees,
back arched, leaning away from his work
while assuring me it’s only five more days.

And I 
(who had this dream, this plan before it all began)
am wondering…
900 miles away…

with a man like this
how could I ever wish
to do anything but stay?

My love–better than a party hat.

It’s my birthday month. Yes, around here I give myself an entire month. Whether or not those around me comply with daily cakes, party hats and steak dinners, I take this time as occasion to celebrate and attribute every guilty pleasure (new shoes, one more margarita, leaving the dishes for tomorrow, over sleeping,…you get the idea) to the fact that I was born sometime in this month, and I deserve it, dammit.

August is kinda a big deal really, because it is also my anniversary month and the time of year, historically, when I seem to make my big life decisions. You know, like saying “I do” and committing the rest of my life to someone. Moving across the state of North Dakota. Moving across the great big state of Montana. Deciding to get a dog. Deciding to be born. Deciding to get a tattoo. Oh, and deciding to purchase our first house. Which, in case you haven’t heard, after nearly two years of complete renovation, frustration, tears, a couple pats on the back, one million trips to the hardware store and lumberyard, a bazillion sawdust particles stuck up my nose and in my hair, three dozen stubbed toes, hammered fingers, scrapes, bonks and at least one incident of a head stuck in a ladder, we have finally finished!

Holy shit.

So on this second day of August, I am feeling a bit like the freaky quiet, calm and perfect temperature after a big storm. Like, now what? I mean, we are going to sell the thing so we can build a new one out at the ranch, so that’s what’s next really. Lot’s more work.  But, this has been quite the trip. And I recognize this feeling because it resembles what our life has been like together. See, we have been on the cycle of “work your ass off, suffer a bit, make some sacrifices, cry for a second and then suck it up until we’re done. Then move on. It will be worth it. Just move on.” Because in nearly four years of marriage we have moved all of our earthly possessions and changed our lives entirely five times. And we have done this all in an attempt to find ourselves in a life we have both dreamed of since we were children.

I might add here that I have known this man who I call mine since my first trek to the town school when I was about eleven years old. I walked into the big school, full of nerves and anxiety and I am sure all decked out in an animal applique t-shirt, ready to show off my sweet saxophone skills (or at least fake it, which it turns out I often did in my band days). I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but I went to elementary school in the country, about 15 miles from town. I had three kids in my class. I was the only dork who played a horn. I was a one woman band and I sucked. This town trip was a big, scary deal.

Anyway, it turns out the love of my life was a dork too. But one of those cool dorks who happened to play the saxophone, but also kicked butt at football, beat up the bully, could do a backflip and had sweet karate skills and no one asked questions. Yes, this wonder boy sat two seats away from me and was everything, including a bit of a pain in the ass in class if I remember correctly. I think I was scared of him actually and I am pretty sure he threw spitballs and got sent to the principal’s office the first time I ever met him.  Hey, I never said he was perfect.

But neither was I, and it turns out that worked out for us. The fact that I been happily hiding out on 3,000 acres of ranch land before I met him and the fact that I hadn’t learned the filtration process of self-expression to fit in and survive in his world seemed to make him notice me. He said he actually liked my crazy hair, weird shirts and yes, the fact that I trip a lot. In fact, the first time he called me (which, now that I think of it, was in August) I had just returned from an trip to the lake with my dad and sister, which resulted in a graceful jump down a small cliff that tore my ankle to shreds. I was crying and feeling sorry for myself because it surely meant my promising basketball career was over, but I took his call. I talked to the wonder boy, who even then in the first pure, private exchanges in what we didn’t know was a blooming, lifetime love, he calmed me. He made me feel put back together, even though my foot was throbbing and I was sure moments before, it was hanging on by a thread. He made me take a deep breath and smile. And that’s where it began.

With breathing.

I distinctly remember, when we were about 17 or 18, in one of his Sunday trips to the ranch to see me (and I think my Dad too, because they were pretty good friends even back then) we sat outside and talked about our futures, very innocently, like young people do. I talked about living back at the ranch, having my family here, writing, singing and carrying on like the same girl I was that day, on into womanhood, as a wife, as a mother, as a poet and animal lover. And he listened and told me about how he used to want to be a mountain man and trapper and live out in the wilderness of Alaska alone. But, he thought that all had changed now. And the next day he brought me a sketch of his dream house and said, if I’d let him, he’d build it for me out here someday.

So, I’m not sure how to define it here. This little journey we are on. I haven’t historically written much about the two of us in my music, in my poetry or my stories. I haven’t been able to tell anyone why, but I think it’s because I literally couldn’t find the words. Because my love didn’t fall down from the sky and hit me like a ton of bricks, or flutter in and out of my stomach like butterflies, or lift me up to highest highs only to drop me. My love, the love that I’m in, hasn’t been perfect. It’s been messy and full of plans that have been cancelled, nervous breakdowns, hysterical laughter followed by complete and utter anger and drained checking accounts. It has been full of long car rides, dog shit, the 24 hour flu, doctor’s appointments, burned dinners, empty underwear drawers because no one did the laundry, and, when we were younger, an unfortunate 45 minute jail stint. All of the good stuff.

No, my love hasn’t been easy, but it has been around. It has been with me since I understood how to feel it and has never left me in the middle of the night. My love has wrapped his arms around me when I felt like I lost everything, and he felt the same. My love fills my coffee cup on Sunday morning, fixes the things I break (and I break a lot of things) and never complained when I spent all of that time on the road. My love actually folds my underwear (in perfect squares) when we finally get around to the laundry. My love has been with me through 15 birthdays (and once, he even sewed me pants), high school graduation, college graduation, three albums, thousands of miles, dozens of roadblocks and five different jobs. And all of the time I have spent searching my soul, finding my strength and learning about who I am, he has known all along, has allowed me to embrace her, and reminded me to breathe.

So I am thinking maybe this story that began with a saxophone and right now is somewhere in the middle, or back at the beginning really, with a tiny house on the ranch,  could be a love story after all. Our story.  Because this August, as I find myself in another “start over” in the calm after the storm of tools and sawdust and boxes and our stuff scattered all around this place, I am beginning to realize that I am sitting in the middle of a backyard conversation between two young kids in love, dangling our feet over the side of the deck and making plans for a life. Today we are moving on, once again, into a world we have imagined and moved towards since that day in the yard. And it isn’t picture perfect, it isn’t quite there yet and it certainly isn’t going to be easy, but we have had a pretty great ride getting here. And after the dust has settled from the storm of our plans, I look up to realize that this wonder boy I have loved since I understood how to feel it has transformed, before my eyes, into the greatest man–a man who is making good on his promise to a wild haired girl from the sticks.

And in this month, and all of those to follow, my greatest  gift is him.

And that beats margaritas, a steak dinner and a party hat every day of the year.