Eleven times thankful.

Edie turned 11 months old on the 24th.


Last year, on Thanksgiving, we brought her home from the hospital as the most thankful people on the planet.

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This year on Thanksgiving we will celebrate her 1 year birthday. Funny how we thought we couldn’t be more thankful than when she was tiny and fresh and new to us. Well I’m here to tell you that it just gets better. It really does.

And today I’m eleven times more thankful than I was the day she was born.

On Thanksgiving, as we celebrate one year of a life with Edie in it, I can’t get over how grateful I am to know that this adoration I have for this squirmy, funny, busy, hilarious, beautiful spirit will just keep growing.

What a gift.

An old story


Pops turned 60 on Tuesday.

A few weeks ago we had a big birthday party for him, complete with noodle salads and dessert, music on the porch, BYOB and a big board of embarrassing photos his sister drug out of the archives and presented.

My Aunt K. is the family historian. And now that she’s newly retired, she has the time to dedicated to embarrassing her brother just like in the olden days.


Anyway, this week his brother is up from Texas and they are fixing fences, riding through cows and catching up.

I love it when family comes to the ranch. I especially love it when we’re around the supper table or chatting over drinks on the deck and old stories come up about the time when they were kids and their dad had a load of bulls on the truck in a cattle rack and forgot to latch the dump chain, successfully delivering the entire load of Charolais bulls on their butts in the yard.

“It was a pile of white bovine flesh,”* said Uncle W.

“And dad got out of the truck and started swearing and kicking at the chickens,” said Pops.

“And mom probly saw the whole thing from the kitchen window, but there was a back door on that house and she probly hightailed it outside to the garden…”

And there’s a million more where that came from.

But here’s one that Aunt K. told the night of the party about my dad as a little boy. I can’t remember how old now, but I imagine him seven or so, brown hair, brown skin, chubby cheeks and husky jeans.

He was riding in the car on the highway with his dad and spotted a road kill raccoon likely on its way to resembling a furry pancake due to its high traffic position on the road.

And he made his dad pull over so that the little seven-year-old version of my dad could scoop up that poor flattened soul and put it in a plastic bag.

“I know that animals get hit out here,” he explained to his father. “But it just isn’t right to let people keep running over him like that.”

And so his dad drove the tiny savior and the poor varmint his son scraped up back to the ranch where he received a proper burial.

And if that story doesn’t sum up what type of man he is, well then, I don’t know what else to tell you about the guy.

Except happy 60th dad. We love you.


*the Bulls were fine 🙂 

Sunday Column: A Birthday

It’s birthday day today! It’s hot and muggy without even the slightest hope of a breeze and I’m eating popsicles and contemplating a birthday afternoon nap. Sounds about right for every August 25th I can remember.

And so I’m happy to report the deck was a hit, and so were the margaritas and the thirty-seven salads, the  beans, the chips and dip, the roast beef and the sweet Super Mario birthday cake my friend made.

Did you know that the first Nintendo was released in 1983?


I share a birthday with Mario.

And the moonwalk.

And Hooters.

It was a good year.

And it was a good day.

And I am grateful.

Coming Home: Whether it poured or sprinkled, birth story holds truth 
By Jessie Veeder
Fargo Forum


A birthday month moment.

Well party people, we’re officially the second day into my birthday month. Flip your calendars to the photo that features a sunflower or a golden wheat field. It’s August.

It’s August and in 23 days I will no longer be allowed to use the excuse “well, that was in my 20s…” for any and every one of my poor choices.

i.e.: The pug…

In 23 days I will seriously consider just letting my hair go gray, pour myself a glass of tequila and wave at 29 as it slips on out the back door and out into the home pasture, taking my youth with it as it goes on its merry way.

Goodbye youth. Perhaps it was always meant to be…


So, yes, it’s official, I couldn’t stay 26 forever.

26 was my ideal age. Have I told you that? I don’t even know what I was doing then, probably broke in Missoula, MT climbing a mountain or contemplating just letting my hair turn to dreadlocks on its own. I thought 26 was good because I was old enough to have finished school, found someone who would marry me and continue my quest for a respectable job, but young enough that if none of those things worked out there would still be time.

I could take that trip to Europe or cross the country in an old Winnebego. There was no rush to settle down.

I was 26. I could pierce my nose and it would be cool.  Because I was 26 and I was still young.

But turns out 26 turns to 27 and then 28 and pretty soon you’re on the back side of your twenties knee-deep in a complete home renovation project that keeps you from the buying that Winnebego and following dots on the map.

And you forgot to get your nose pierced.

I have 23 days. I could still do it.

But seriously folks. I’ve got 23 days before I’m 30 and I’m feeling a little wistful about the whole thing. I mean, I have to be honest, these last ten to twelve years of adulthood have been pretty great. I can’t complain. I’ve spent them traveling the country singing for my supper, dating and marrying my high school crush,

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testing out different towns and different jobs, buying concert tickets, planning ski trips, raising two misfits dogs, updating my resume,  tiling bathrooms, painting new bedrooms, writing my story and singing it out loud and moving all my earthly and hand-me-down possessions six times in six years.

I’ve learned what it takes to be married. I’ve learned what it feels like to be truly disappointed and truly happy. I’ve killed pretty much all of my house plants.

I’ve put on a million miles, grew a few muscles and found my way home.

And now here I am, looking out the window of our new house, our forever home, at a dirt pile that will someday be a lawn and I’m a little bit exhausted, a little bit satisfied, and little bit nervous, a little bit hungry (I’m always a little bit hungry) and a little like, oh, I don’t know what I’m doing…except I think I know exactly what I’m doing. I think…

My friends tell me my thirties will be the best years. They say you know who you are. They say you’re settled in. They say you’re more sure. More confident.


I guess I’ll find out.

Lately I’ve been staying up late, the windows open to the sounds of a stray truck rolling by on the pink road, the breeze pushing through the trees, the howl of a coyote. In that time when the house is quiet and so is the world, I allow myself the sense to feel that tightening lump in my chest, the one that makes you wonder what the hell you’re doing out here, wonder if you’re cut out for it all, wonder how long you have, what you’re missing, wonder what’s next, wishing for more time to think, to do, to sleep…

And then I close my eyes and listen to the sound of my husband’s breathing and convince myself to think about it all tomorrow in the light of day. Because the night is for sleeping and turning you one day older.

One day wiser.

But here’s the thing. I joke about turning another year older, but the truth is I’ve never been afraid of aging. I’ve always admired the women who let their hair grow long and gray, the ones who wear their clothes the way they like and how to change a tire, change a diaper and change the world.

I’ve always looked forward to becoming one of those women.

I remember being a little girl who couldn’t sleep. I would close my eyes and try to visualize what I might look like when I got older. Would my butt get big? Would I cut my hair short? Would I get my nails done on Saturday?

And then I would busy my imagination with making plans for my life, to be a veterinarian, then maybe a teacher, a wilderness woman, a horse trainer,  a writer or maybe just a singer…like I don’t have to be famous or anything, just make enough money to sing for a living…

I would marry a handsome boy with brown hair and strong arms and we would ride horses and live in a cabin.

I would have a garden and a baby and dramatic adventures that always turned out ok in the end.

I wonder what that girl would think of us now, married with no baby and no garden in a house we make dirty with sawdust on the weekends and sweep up a little on Monday.

We always hated to sweep.

And we always hated the way the frizz of our curls escaped our ponytail. I think she’d be happy to know my hair is long.

Think she’d be glad that I married this boy.

And that I’m still singing, just enough to make a little bit of a living…that’s alright…

Yes, I think she’d be glad there’s still so much I want to do. She’d understand that’s those thoughts, the thoughts of what I want to be, are the same ones that keep me up late while I plan on growing up.

I think she’d tell me it’s gonna be fun…

When the leaves blow from their branches, I will tell you…

Dear Little Man with the wispy hair, bright blue eyes and smile that sweeps wide across your face, lifting those squeezable cheeks toward the sky…

This is your crazy aunty here, you know, the one that will do anything, including crawling around on the kitchen floor and underneath coffee tables, jumping up and down frantically or singing “You are my sunshine” forty-seven million times in a row if it means that you will keep laughing.

Hello there. I have something to tell you. Something I intend to tell you every year when the leaves on the trees outside of your window start to drop from their branches and  blow away in the chilly wind. Someday your momma will ask you to rake them up into neat little piles. Someday, when you are bigger you will happily oblige and you will fling your body into the middle of the pile you created, feeling happy and free and glad to be out in the crisp fall air playing and running and jumping and kicking and all around creating havoc like little boys should.

Yes, someday you will.

And someday you will detach and drift and blow with the wind like the very leaves that dropped to the ground on the day of your birth. Someday you will fly away with them into a world filled with adventures and challenges and mountains to climb–the same world you are learning something new about every day.

But today I want to tell you that we are so glad you are here. Before you arrived we were a family, we were happy and full of life and things to do. Before we met you we dreamed you. We dreamed your hair with some curls, your eyes big and blue, your smile the way it showed up on you…always there, lighting our lives. We talked about what you might look like and when you might arrive and who you might become and how we would teach you things about why then sun shines and where the stars go at night.

But we had no idea. We didn’t understand what one little child with two tiny hands and two tiny feet and a nose that turns up just a bit could do to a family that was happy and full of life and had things to do. When we heard you were coming, when we got the call, we couldn’t wait. We drove in the dark in the earliest hours of the morning under a moon that was full and bright to get to you, to welcome you to this earth with open arms. We didn’t want to  miss it. We needed to see you first thing!

So we waited, impatiently. We paced the floor. We called our friends. We were nervous. Your momma was brave. And we were so proud as the moon disappeared and made way for that sun that would hang high and bright and shiny in the sky above you. And that earth that just moments before was preparing for a long winter sleep woke up bright and beautiful as your cries bounced off of the walls and out the door and into the morning air on the day you were born.

We were there to hear that first cry. Your momma, your daddy, your grampa and gramma and me. Your other aunty was calling, anxious to meet you, to hear about your eyes and your hands and your hair. Your grandma and grandpa hundreds of miles away were saying their prayers and holding their breath, waiting to hear the news of your arrival. Your uncle came rushing down the hall to hold you in his arms and say hello. He drove fast to get there just in time. He said you were tiny and perfectly perfect.

Your daddy couldn’t stop smiling. 

Your momma cried tears of joy.

And in that moment we couldn’t imagine a world without you.

It’s been a year Little Man and every day you amaze us. Every day you learn something new, you grow just a bit more. Every day you bring us closer to one another as we fall more in love over your busy hands, your belly laughs, the way you crawl and climb and stand and reach and taste and touch and hold on tight.

We hold tight right back. We don’t want to miss a thing. We don’t want to forget.

And all of wonders we thought we would teach you, all of the things that we thought you should learn from us? It turns out we just don’t know a thing, except the way that your hair plops over your eyes when you play and how your breath sounds when you’re fast asleep.

And so I will tell you year after year as the cold comes marching in, the leaves let go and the moon shines longer into the night, as you reach higher toward the sky, walk stronger on the earth, speak words true and knowing from your mouth, I will tell you on the anniversary of your arrival, on the day of your birth,  of all of those things we thought you would be–a wonder, a blessing, a gift of a life–

Little Man, you are so much more.

Happy Birthday! I love you…

Now can I  please have a bite of that cake?…

The Sun–Vegas Style.

I am obsessed with the evenings, especially in the summer. After a long, hot day working or playing in the sun (or just watching it bake the landscape out your open office window), the sun that you thought might hang happily in the sky forever has been slowly creeping down the other side of the world while you talked on the phone, shoveled dirt, sped happily along the highway or slept the day away.

I imagine the sun feels under appreciated during this time of year, especially in North Dakota. So when it’s finally time to hit the horizon, it goes down with drama and flair, accessories shining, hair coifed for a night on the town saying: “Hey, don’t take this for granted people…I’m going on vacation in a month and you will miss this hot mess then!”

But I don’t take it for granted. In fact, I am filled with guilt on a beautiful night in the summer if I am not out there in it, soaking it up, breathing in the calm air in the cool valleys if the ranch, and climbing to the top of the hills to watch the sun put on his Vegas style show. And each time the summer sun sets out here I quickly re-hash my day, counting all of the ways I really lived it…all of the ways I frolicked and smiled and sweat and basked in the rays. It’s almost as if I am collecting these perfect summer days in order to seal them tight in a jar on my desk so I can use them later, you know, like on one of the cold days we have around here.

So I am thinking about these days of summer, and all of the sunsets I have witnessed from the top of the buttes. Especially today. Because today is August 25th, the first day of school and my birthday (in case anyone was waiting for it), which always signals for me, really, the last day of summer. The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler, the clover and the wildflowers that were so lush are drying out, the wild berries dropping from their stems.

North Dakotans everywhere have made and lived their final vacation plans and filed away their summer photos. The kids of summer traded swimsuits and jeans with worn out knees for fresh school clothes and were forced by their loving parents at 7 am this morning to stand up against the front door (eye crusties, freshly washed hair and clean, new backpacks in tow) for a final farewell-to-summer photo that will be used against poor child in every slideshow of their life to come. The first of many organized mortifying moments to occur this year.

So since I am not of school age anymore (my 27th birthday reminding me of this today as I got out of bed, looked in the mirror and my hair still looked like a lion’s mane, but with a few grays poking through) I decided, last night, to make my own farewell-to-summer slideshow.

And the sun must have noticed my camera, because what a show it was. He pulled out all the stops as his light reflected off prairie grasses, creating a sparkle, a shine, on each stem. He cast long, dramatic, shadows along the hillsides and off the bodies of beasts. He turned the trees black, gave the clover one last shot at bright yellow and painted the sky orange, then pink, then a dark, dark, blue, then all of those colors combined.  He was in such form even the coyotes stood on the hills and the deer came out of the brush to lend their applause.

And even with all of the frills, the sun is generous at the end of the day, especially when the moon has gone to the trouble of putting on his party pants. So after the fireworks and the spectacle he created,  the sun turned the lights down low, calmed the wind, made everything dead quiet, and left with a whisper.

And all eyes were on the moon.

Happy end of summer kids and parents and people like me. Hope it has gone out with the style and fashion of the sun.

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Cheers to a new season and a new outfit!

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.