In the thick of it.


I spent Labor Day weekend on a little getaway with my husband to celebrate ten years married and our two birthdays. It was the first time we’ve done anything together since the baby was born. It was the first time I was away from the baby overnight.

We left her in good hands, at home with my mother and father-in-law and two of our nieces who Edie’s attached to and we headed south to the Black Hills of South Dakota, so extremely aware of how we used to take these sort of outings together for granted.

I mean, we only had two bags between us.

There was a moment when I stepped out of the hotel that morning and into the pickup where I felt like I was missing a limb without that baby attached to my hip.

We didn’t do much in particular. We just drove and ate and drank and walked around and visited and made plans for the future like we like to do. Gave each other advice. Laughed at things probably only we would find funny.


And talked about the baby.

We came home on Sunday in time to tuck her in and the next morning my husband turned 34 so I made him breakfast in our kitchen with the cool rain soaking the oak trees outside our windows and our baby crawling around on floor.

We are in this thing now, the both of us. Deep into adulthood and marriage. On the brand new edge of parenting. In the thick of it, as they say.

I doubt we’ve been happier.

And it’s terrifying and surprising and lovely and a wonderful thing to say out loud.


Life in your 30s means knowing who you are
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

When I turned the more momentous 30 a few years back, I was discouraged at all the advice I was reading in women’s magazines about what it meant to get older. I wondered how many times I could be told what jeans I should wear and what face cream to use.

Coming from a woman who had recently won an Elvis-impersonating contest in front of thousands of people, I really couldn’t argue.

But it wasn’t until lately that I started to believe she might be right about this phase of life. I mean, gone are the days of ramen noodle suppers, paying rent on questionable apartments and wondering who I should be when I grow up.

Because I am grown up. This is me, give or take a few hundred lessons coming down the pipe. Not that I no longer have aspirations and goals, I’m simply saying I’ve lived long enough to know which direction I should steer this truck and what prairie trails to avoid to keep me sane and happy.


The day I turned 30 I sat down and wrote a list titled “30 things I know at 30.” Having found no inspiration from those women’s magazines for what’s ahead besides more face cream, I needed to be reassured that I had acquired some tools for this adulthood thing.

I’m glad I saved it. Because among a few reflections on cleaning, clothing choices and eating carrots straight out of the garden were some good reminders:

• When you’re younger you expect your community to take care of you. I know now that it’s our responsibility to take care of our community.

• Art is a chance to see life through one another’s eyes. If we don’t encourage it, we’re ignoring the part that reassures us that it can be beautiful. Because even the sad parts have colors that move you or a melody that sweeps you up.

• I used to think that love was enough. It turns out love goes a lot better mixed with kindness, respect, laughter, humility and a nice meal together once in awhile. So maybe loving is just the easiest part.

• A girl needs a dog.


• My mom was right. My sister did become my best friend. Just like she said she would when I was slamming my bedroom door.

• There will always be more work, more things to build and more stories to write. When there isn’t we will make it so, because as much as anything, living’s in the work.

• Some people struggle to have what may come easy to you. Think of this when you say your hellos. Compassion is a quality we could use more of.

• Learning to cook does not make you a housewife, a stereotype, or some sort of overly domesticated version of yourself. It makes you capable. Same goes with laundry, lawn mowing and hanging a dang shelf by yourself.

• On Christmas, feed the animals first … and a little extra.

• Always wear proper footwear. And by proper, I mean practical, and sometimes practical means cute. You know what I’m saying.

• You can tell yourself there’s a reason for everything. It helps to ease the heartbreak and suffering. Believe it. It’s likely true. But know that sometimes it’s OK to think that life’s not fair, because sometimes it isn’t.

And here is where I’d like to add perhaps the only profound thing I’ve learned since writing this list, which is you just don’t know what’s really in store for you. All you can do is use the strength of your will, your community, your family and your coffee and try to believe that maybe the best work is yet to be done.


Click here to see the entire list.


Happy Birthday! Love, Your Biggest Fan…

Today this guy here celebrates another year of living.

I just spent part of my morning writing about him, my husband, the man I’ve celebrated sixteen or so birthdays with in our lives together.

Christmas Card Photo 4

I included photos and everything. I said something about the awesome birthday gift I got him that he picked out and purchased.

Kinda like the boots I told him he bought me a month before my birthday.

It was a good post. Real heartwarming.

Funny even.

Then my internet crashed and all that I wrote is lost in the abyss…

And I yelled, COME ON!

But it doesn’t matter now. What I really wanted to say is today we are celebrating the birth of a good man.

A patient man. Master of the grill. Master of the kitchen.

Folder of my underwear.  Fixer of broken things.

Troubleshooter of our lives together.



Terrible singer.

Yeller at stupid TV shows.

Wearer of a great collection of snapshirts.

Watcher of westerns.

A good shot.

Lifter of heavy things. My roadie.

Handyman, fisherman,


Huntingthe most handsome man in my camera lens.

I said all those things, eloquently. Was just about to send them out into the world…

And then…


But it doesn’t matter.

He knows who he is.

And what day it is…

Happy Birthday Husband,


Your biggest fan.

Happy Birthday Pops!

We’re celebrating Pops’ birthday today.

We’re putting up a tent and tapping a keg and setting up the instruments. His brother is coming, his cousins and our cousins and his sister too. My grandparents and my mom’s sister from Arizona. Our neighbors and friends and buddies from the band and we’re going to celebrate and we’re not going to give a shit if it rains.

Pops hasn’t cursed the rain a day in his life.

And what a life to celebrate.

Every day is a gift under this sky. Don’t we know it.

Every day is a gift.

And today is a beautiful one.

Dierks Bentley-Beautiful World (Featuring Patty Griffin)


30 things I know at 30

In two days this little weirdo right here will turn 30 years old…

Yes, who would have thought that little potbellied girl squished in a leotard would ever officially lean over into full grown adulthood with no excuse now for any immature mistake that involves a bad tattoo, too much tequila or a snap judgment purchase on a shirt with sequins.

Goodbye 20s. I bid you a fond farewell.

Lately I’ve been picking up the magazines that come to me coated in dust from the big truck traffic streaming down our pink road, taking note on how Glamour, Redbook and Better Homes and Gardens somehow lose the glossy hope of good advice and female inspiration when I have to smear the dirt off to reveal Jennifer Aniston’s perfect face next to the promise to “look and feel younger.”

Perhaps I’m a bit more skeptical now that I’m older. Because come on now, I’m only 30, but how many times can I be told what jeans I should wear for my body type, what cream I should use on my face, what it takes to have it all and what makeup will cover up the zits that were supposed to go away after I hit my 20s.

I picked up one such magazine this week and flipped to an article that seemed relevant to me. A beautiful actress had some advice for me about turning 30.  Her “Top 10 dos and don’ts” were fine. I get it. Don’t freak out if you’re not as accomplished as your friends, do be a good person, don’t get plastic surgery, do travel as much as you can, don’t just marry anyone, don’t just have kids with anyone, do learn something new, don’t live in the past and do have lots of sex.


But I wasn’t enlightened.

My cousin, sitting pretty well in the middle of her 30s, told me to shut it when I was whining to her about getting older. (She’s one of my favorites so she gets to tell me to shut it. It’s a lot of the reason why she’s one of my favorites.) Anyway, she said her thirties have been her best years. She said she finally knows what she wants to do with her time, who she loves, what she likes, and pretty much the type of person she is.

She’s comfortable in her skin and confident enough with her own weirdness to enter an Elvis impersonating contest and perform her best hip gyrations in front of thousands of people at her company’s major national corporate gathering. She’s an entertainer.  She’s funny. And she won.

See why I love her?

So I’ve been thinking as I creep up into a new chapter, what it is that I’ve learned about life and love during the past twelve years of adulthood, seven years of marriage and seven moves, two major home improvement projects, one long and unforgiving music career, a few entrepreneurial endeavors and countless glasses of wine along the way?

What do I really want to see when I open the pages of that women’s magazine?

I want honesty. Weird cousin honesty and a picture of a woman who even remotely looks like the kind of women I know and admire.

My gramma doing one of her favorite things.

I want to know what they know, and I’m not talking about how to make your momma’s jello salad or how to stay wrinkle free.  I’m talking how we move forward in keeping a life that’s balanced without losing ourselves in expectations and worry and work.

So I decided, for my own benefit, and maybe for yours, to write down what I know now while I make a promise to myself to keep listening and watching.

Here it is, on the eve  – eve of my 30th birthday, I give you:

30 Things I’ve learned in 30 years of living: 

1.  When you’re younger you expect your community to take care of you. I know now that it’s our responsibility to take care of the community. It is our home and it should be treated that way. Organize it, sweep it up, clean the windows, bake some cookies and invite people to come over, sit down, have a visit and play with the kids.

2. Art is as chance to see what life looks like and sounds like and feels like through one another’s eyes. If we don’t encourage music to be played, singing at the top of our lungs, dancing with abandon, painting with all the colors, we are ignoring the most magical and interesting part of ourselves, a part that I like very much, the part that reassures us that life beautiful and encourages us to tell our stories. Because even the sad parts have colors that move you or a melody that sweeps you up.

3. I used to think that love was enough. It turns out love goes a lot better mixed with kindness, respect, laughter, humility and a nice warm meal together once in a while. So maybe loving is just the easiest part…

4. Coffee. Never. Run. Out. Of. Coffee.

5. A girl needs a dog.

Dog lick

6. My mom was right. My sisters did become my best friends. Just like she told me they would when I was slamming my bedroom door. My mom’s been pretty much right about most things.

7. There will always be more work, more things to build, more fences to fix, more stories to write and more deadlines to butt our heads against. When there isn’t we will make it so, because as much as anything,  living’s in the work.

8. Carrots taste best with a little garden dirt stuck in the cracks. Same goes for all vegetables actually.

9. Some people struggle to have what may have come easy to you. Think of this when you say your hellos and work up your small talk. Sensitivity and compassion are qualities every human could use more of.

10. Learning to cook does not make you a housewife, a stereotype, or some sort of overly domesticated version of yourself. It makes you capable. Same goes with laundry, lawn mowing and hanging a damn shelf on your own.

11. I always thought I would grow up and somehow doing the dishes would be an automatic, unassuming chore that I won’t mind anymore. Turns out that’s not true. No one likes doing the dishes.

12. When you’re lost, look for the ten year old version of yourself. She’s in there. When you find her do what she would do. It will make all the difference.

13. On Christmas, feed the animals first…and a little extra.

14. Always wear proper footwear. And by proper, I mean practical and, yes, most of the time practical means cute.  You know what I’m saying.

15. Gray hair will happen. When it does, think “Someday I’ll let it grow out Emmylou Harris” and you will feel better, even if you don’t have the slightest intention.

16. John Prine, Johnny Cash, Johny Walker, John Wayne and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.  Five men that can get you through most anything.

17. There will always be something growing mold in my fridge because I just can’t seem to prioritize enough to pay attention to that sort of thing.

18. If you don’t know what to do next, just do something.

19. You can tell yourself there’s a reason for everything. It helps to ease the heartbreak and loss and suffering. Tell yourself. Believe it. It’s likely true. But know that sometimes it’s ok to think that life’s not fair, because sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it sucks.

20. I’m capable of carrying much heavier loads, I just have to remember to ask myself to try.

21. My best songs are not yet written, and that’s the thing that keeps me writing.

22. Summer will always be too short. Winter will always be too long. We will always wonder where the time went.

23. I. Can. Say. No. (Just give me a moment).

24. Wear what you like. You’re going to regret it in ten years regardless. Same goes with your hair cut.

(note: I didn’t necessarily want to wear this, but I have no explanation for the hair.)

25. Home is where you say it is. It’s not more complicated than that.

26. Spending time apart is as important as spending time together.

27. Momentum is everything. We are never stuck and there is always something we can change about our circumstance.

28. I’ll take a wildflower over a rose. Every time.

29. It’s better to admit you’re wrong than to talk louder in an attempt to convince everyone you’re right.

30. There’s never going to be enough time, but I won’t be angry. It’s not time’s fault. He never promised us anything.

Cheers to 30 years and working every day to be a better human being.

See ya tomorrow for margaritas on the deck….

Oh, and one more. Never, ever squeeze the cat. Or put a hamster in a purse. I learned those things early and I think they might be worth mentioning…

Ok then.

Peace, Love and Happy Birthday to Me,





This is 29…

This man got older yesterday. Yes. This is what 29 looks like after a day of waffles, neighbor visiting, gun shooting, chokecherry boiling, horse saddling, campfire cooking, exploring with a 3 year old and riding home at dark.

I think he pulls it off, don’t you?

Yes, this is what 29 looks like. The one on the right…the one on the left has a few years to go to catch up …

And if you were looking for husband yesterday you might have rolled into the yard to see him milling around the farmstead tinkering with his new gun, the one he has been dreaming of for three years, the one from “Quigley Down Under.”  Or you might have caught him helping to hold my pot of boiling hot chokecherries as I worked at straining the juice only to accidentally dump half of my work down the sink.

Then you would have seen me stomp to my room and lay face down on the bed and whimper while he slowly and patiently walked in behind me to laugh (not too hard) and tell me that we had plenty of juice, don’t worry…we didn’t need the stuff that went down the drain anyway…

Yeah, if you came at the right time you would have witnessed this act of cool collectedness from the strong and stoic half of the relationship. Or maybe you would have tried to call only to get the answering machine as he was out making plans at the new house site, driving his pickup down the road to see what pops was up to, saddling his favorite bay horse and taking a long ride to the badlands to have dinner with the neighbors, catching a frog so our three year old friend could get a closer look and then pointing out an ant pile and racing her back to camp.

It was my husband’s 29th birthday yesterday and all day long I followed this man around as he carved out his day. I listened as he talked hunting with my cousin who came knocking on the door, watched as he graciously thanked the neighbors for supper, rode beside him as he rode proud and strong on that horse he has been working on for years and sat snuggled in close as we watched “The Man from Snowy River” as the day came to a close. And the entire day I kept thinking…29. 29. 29. I’ve known this kid, this man, for nearly twenty years, he has been holding my hand for nearly fifteen, we have been married for five and we have a lifetime ahead of us…but still, I wish I could have known him from the beginning of it all.

Does that make sense?

Maybe not. I mean, what more could I want than to have grown up with a boy only to watch him change into a man I am so proud to call my family. Maybe it’s selfish, but look at him here. Where was I when he tried to carry this fish away?

Where was I? I wanted to be there to hear his small voice and the excitement as the fish flopped and he struggled and learned to be a sportsman, a hunter.

I was probably riding shotgun in my father’s pickup on the way to the ranch. Or sledding down the hills outside this very door oblivious to the young boy in town learning how to hold a bow and arrow. Unaware that the kid in the Batman pajamas sword- fighting with his little brother would one day become my whole world.

I just didn’t want to miss that. I didn’t want to miss the look on his face when he got his first puppy for his eleventh birthday or the cake his father made for him…I wanted to be there to taste it with him.

But I was busy making my own way, my own memories, my own experiences which somehow prepared me for catching this boy’s attention. This boy who wanted to be a mountain man, a cowboy, a trapper, a ninja, a wrestler and football player. I wonder while he was reaching for those dreams if he imagined himself out here with a girl like me? I girl who was so nervous when he first came to visit her on the ranch that while attempting to get on her sorrel horse she jumped right on over the horse’s bare back and landed in a heap on the other side. A girl who showed him all of her favorite places in the coulees, hoping he was the right one to show them to. 

A girl who wrote songs about him, got her heart broke by him only to live through it and start again…

a girl who never planned on being married at all…who was content, really, with being alone out here, thank you very much…but who is so grateful now that she isn’t.

So yes, this man has been on this earth 29 years and although I may have missed some of the best memories he holds, I am content knowing that I was there for some of them and will be there for more to come.  29 years and in his lifetime he may not have climbed the biggest mountains like he planned, shot the biggest deer, learned to ride eight seconds on a bucking bull, won the nation on the wrestling mat…

But he has changed the world. Because simply by living an authentic life he has helped me tackle mine with more confidence and conquerable force, by loving this land with passion and a capable energy  he has provided my family with trust and support, and by holding true to that spirit that he has been filling up with experiences, good things, difficult things, true things, he becomes more capable, more himself, more of the man he wanted to be every day.

And I am just so damn happy that he grabbed my hand when he did so I could be there to watch him become the man I’ve loved all along…

Happy Birthday Cowboy…to the moon and back…

A letter from me.

So here I am, 27 years ago on my first birthday getting ready to dig into some cake.

Last night I found myself in this same spot, in a house on the end of the same road, on the same day of the year, doing the same thing.

Yup. I turned 28 yesterday. And somewhere between digging into the angel food cake my momma bakes me each year, opening presents in my parent’s living room and reflecting on the past while thinking seriously (like I do on August 25th each year) about what I want to be when I grow up, I realized that really, in 28 years of life in this body, not much has changed about me, except for maybe the length of my limbs…

Please, allow me to reflect for a moment:

See, despite being thrust into a world with a big sister who liked frilly, pink, sparkly things…and ballet slippers…it was quite evident at a young age that being stuffed into a tutu was not where my pudgy body felt the most comfortable.

Oh, I will admit, I tested it a bit, having gone through a stage at about 2 or 3 where all I wore was leotards, tights, leg-warmers and velcro shoes. I am not sure whether or not to be thankful to my wonderful parents who obliged this trend, allowing me the freedom of expression, even though that freedom included spandex and a sweaty toddler.  Thank Martha that phase only stuck long enough for a few choice photos to exist.

Yes, soon I realized I was much more comfortable in outfits made out of denim and plaid.

That worked for me. Dance lessons be damned, I was going to be a gardener.

A gardener and a vet.

Oh, there was a moment, I think in the leotard phase, that I wanted to be a beauty shop.

Yes. A beauty shop. 

But I think that was tossed out of the equation as soon as I got on the back of my first horse.

Then I was for sure going to be a rodeo star. A singing professional horse trainer and barrel racer. That would make my life complete. That and living in a hollowed out tree like the kid in my favorite book “My Side of the Mountain.”

Yes, I would be a gardening vet and professional singing horse trainer who lived in a hollowed out tree and on Fridays I would attend county fairs and jump my amazing horses off of one-hundred foot towers and into tiny pools of water like the woman in the movie “Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken.” Only, I wouldn’t go blind.

I would need my eyesight to attend to the animals.

I remember it that way anyway, being young and full of magnificent ideas about the world I would create for myself once I was an adult. And then you hit about 15 and you start questioning everything that you had laid out so nice and neat in your imagination. And then you go to college and you experience mass confusion. And then you get your first job, ditch your first job, fall in love or out of love, get your own dog or goldfish and continue searching for a spot in this world…the spot you were pretty sure existed when you were four or five or six.

Where the hell did it go?

When I moved back here, to the ranch, a little over a year ago, I made a small promise to myself to do the things I remember loving so much as a kid. That explains the gumbo hill fiasco, you know? And I have. But now that the newness of this back at the ranch experience is wearing off, I have found myself losing sight of that promise, pushing it away to make more room for paperwork and plans.

Yes, paperwork and plans, they exist in an adult’s life. But they don’t have to move everything else–time spent watching the sunset, picking wildflower, exploring the coulees, or trying to catch a frog–out of the way. It’s hard to remind myself of that sometimes.

So when I received an email from one of my long-lost friends last month, a friend who really only knew Jessie Blain Veeder as a young kid in elementary school, I was excited to hear that she had found one of the letters I had written to her as a best friend forever who was left behind at the country school as she moved to the big town.

I think I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. And my long-lost best friend–who used to be as wild as I was, dirty knees, swinging from the branches of the small oaks, falling in creeks and exploring the barn– felt compelled to share that letter with me.

Word for word. Spelling error for spelling error.

As a gift for you all, dear readers, in the week of my birthday, I am going to share it with you now:

Dear Caroline (CBO):

I am writing to you from my school room. I heard that you invited me to your house this summer and I think that would be wonderful. I Miss you a whole bunch and I wish you still were at this school. I haven’t written or talked to you for a very long time. I have this friend and her name is Gwen she reminds Me of you. Thats why I like her. We are going to the Theodore Rosevelt National Park tomorrow for our field trip and it is supposed to be 80 outside. I herd that you are going to a horse camp. I am too. Are you in 4-H? I am. I am going to 4-H horse camp. I am going to Bible Camp and Youth Camp for 4-H. I have been riding horse alot this year. I am sooooooo glad winter is over. Rondee is substitute teaching today because my teacher is sick. She has been gone for four days. Friday Monday and Tuesday and Wednseday. We get out of school on the 20th of May. We have play day on the 20th too. I am doing the three legged race with Gwen. We have been practicing for a long time and we are going to Kick Mike and Dan’s Butt. For sure. They never practice and we are getting pretty good at it. Do you remember when we won the three legged race together? What are you going to be when you grow up. Ever since my runt Dog named Tiny died I have been thinking that there was something I could do to save her. So I have decided I want to be a vet. I love animals and I want to help them. I have been playing vet at recess alot and I have discovered that I know alot about animals. We are bottle feeding a calf his name is A.J. We had twin calves too. I named them Rockey and Bowinkle. We have many kittens but most of them are wild. The calico cat has had 9 or 10 batches of kittens ever since you left from your last visit. Well It is time for class better go. 

Your friend forever



Thanks Caroline. Thanks for the reminder that the person who wrote you this letter is still in me–wild hair, wild ideas, wild kittens and all.

Happy birthday little girl. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Because of you,  I think we’re gonna be ok.