Time, memories and the magic of Christmas


Well, it was a Christmas to remember for so many reasons.

The first was waking up on Christmas Day to a baby who decided that she’s ready to full-fledge walk.

And so we spent the weekend watching her wobble and bobble and dance and clap and experience her world on two feet.

Tomorrow she’ll be running.

Next week she’ll tell me she’s training for a marathon.


And in between all of the present wrapping and unwrapping, eating, drinking and being merry, an epic winter blizzard of North Dakota proportions raged outside our doors, making us grateful to be together warm and cozy inside…


only to send the boys out the spend the entire next day behind tractors and skid steers and shovels trying to open the roads and feed the cows and whittle away at the ten foot drifts that had piled against our houses, doors and pathways.

And then there was a Christmas ditch situation and a memorable the-baby-ate-too-many-blueberries-and-other-Christmas-treats bedtime projectile vomit episode that will go down in infamy.


And now that the company has gone and the wind has died down and the sun is out, making the chest-deep snowdrift on my deck sparkle and shine, I have a moment while the baby snacks on Cheerios (and blueberries…what’s wrong with me?) to share last week’s column about the magic of Christmas, which, I’ve decided, lies in the simple and crazy precious memories we create without even realizing it.

Even when nothing goes as planned.


Christmas reminds us of the magic of time
Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

I was too old to believe in Santa Clause when reality finally started tugging at my sleeves.

I tried to shoo the truth away as long as I could, not so eager to grow up and exist in a world surrounded by it because the truth never seemed quite as thrilling as the dreamed up.

I suppose I’ve always been one to hang on to the coattails of magic as long as it lets me, as long as it doesn’t grow too wild and reckless, sending me spinning and whipping off its haunches.

I think that’s what keeps me telling and retelling the best parts then, the ones from a childhood spent believing that maybe my horse could understand the words I spoke, my “secret spot” 12 feet off the road was actually secret and Santa Clause would exist as long as I found a way to never grow up.

I never wanted to grow up.

Of all of the memories I’ve collected as a kid in these hills, I remember that most clearly.

I was sensitive enough to the trials of adulthood to know that children had it best. I knew because I was listening from the other side of my closed bedroom door — hushed conversations in the kitchen while we were supposed to be sleeping, the stories of lost love coming from dad’s record player, the hugs from strangers at my grandparents’ funerals.

I knew what time did to people, and I wondered how I might make it miss me.

My grandpa died when I was six years old. His death brought our family back to the ranch for good, and it gave me another five years or so living down the road from my grandmother.

Actually, it gave us all that time with her, but I don’t own my family’s memories. I only have mine.

And I remember one summer evening lying in the patch of sun that lit up the carpet through the open window in my grandmother’s living room.

The TV was on, but it wasn’t as interesting to me as watching the way the dust caught the stream of light, turning it from invisible to visible.

My grandma had fallen asleep in her easy chair with a newspaper on her lap, her head tilted back, sort of snoring. She had a habit of holding a toothpick in the corner of her mouth, and I noticed as she took those deep, noisy breaths that her toothpick was still there, in danger, I was certain, of being sucked down her throat as she slept, unaware.

That’s the kind of kid I was, so comfortable and in love with the familiarity of my good and safe life, and a little too aware of its volatility, a little worried I was too lucky.

I sat up, eyes fixated on that toothpick, watching my grandmother’s lips purse and pop with each breath in and out, suddenly becoming distinctly aware of time.

I didn’t want to live in a world without her.

And I didn’t want to live in a world where time made me think it too cold for sledding or allowed me to walk by a swimming pool or a lake or the perfect puddle and not want to, (have to) jump in.

And so Christmas has come again, and the new year is right behind, bringing with it the recognition of time passed, new promises and reminders to miss the people who’ve left us here to admire the twinkling lights without them.

Now that I’ve succumbed to adulthood, I wish I could remember what it was like to truly believe in such an impossible thing like Santa Clause. My six-year-old self would be so disappointed in me.

But if I could, I would tell her a secret I’ve learned in the growing up we were so afraid of: I would say she was doing the right thing in holding on tight to her gratitude. Then I would tell her not to worry so much about time, because time gives us memories, memories we get to go back to whenever we want, but also, memories just waiting to be made.

And that, child, is the most magic you’ll find in this life.

Hold on tight to its tails.


Mother Nature. It’s a woman thing…

Good morning from the land of indecision. And by that I am referring to the weather.

And me. But we’ll get to that later.

Ok, so remember when we talked about that spring thing and the melting and the running water and the removal of the wool caps and scarves and my fantasy about wearing cut-off pants and running through the sprinkler.

Well, that’s all shot to shit now and after the last few days, I am firmly convinced that nature is a woman.

A moody one.

Out my kitchen window yesterday...you're supposed to be able to see the red barn...I can't.

Because just as she gets nice and comfortable with a bit of sunshine and blue skies, raising all of our hopes up of sun kissed skin and BBQs, she laughs like an evil queen in a Disney movie and then throws some more snow and wind and fog and freezing ice in our faces…only to come back and apologize with something like a rainbow or 70 degree weather.

Ah well, like a rocky relationship, we’re all used to it by now.

And for those you who think an all out school cancelled, no travel advised, wind whipping snow pellets in your eyeballs, no Schwanns man for the rest of your life and zero visibility day is unheard of after spring has been declared,  I’ll tell you, you haven’t met Mother Nature in North Dakota. In March.

No birds today...

Yes, Mother Nature can be a completely unpredictable, annoyingly indecisive bitch sometimes.

And I can relate, because I have had those kind of days. I am a woman too and lately I have been driving myself crazy with a little project I like to refer to as “Mission: the rest of our lives” and I have displayed all of the above qualities and more during this process. So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Mother Nature for mirroring the conflicted mood I’ve been in by slamming sleet and snow against our windows and blowing a drift across the door and blocking husband and I inside this little house together in the middle of a bathroom remodeling project, forcing us to make some damn decisions already.

Because it worked.

See, after we sold our house in Dickinson at the end of December, husband and I have been discussing and researching and making decisions and canceling plans and going through books and websites and talking out where exactly on the ranch we are going to live for the rest of our lives.

As you know, I have lived here, in the house my grandfather built, since June. And since I moved my shoes and bed and table and books and music and body between these walls almost a year ago, slowly I have found myself coming back into my own again. I have rediscovered this landscape where I grew up and began to throw myself into the things I loved to do as a kid, because I couldn’t help it, I felt 10 again. I picked wildflowers, rode my horses, explored the old barn, walked the coulees, played in the rain and rescued lost kittens.

And I wrote about it, worked through it and relaxed a bit into myself again.

But during this time I have always had it in my head that my existence in this spot, with the window that looks out to the barn and the other that faces the corrals, would be temporary. Our plan was to build a house over the hill and leave this house the way it is, with some updates and an open door to guests.

That was our plan, so we moved forward–kind of. We talked to builders and picked up pamphlets and searched the internet for custom homes and asked questions and never really did set it up and move on with it already.

What I was most excited about was fixing up this house. Putting in some new floors, siding, deck, appliances–the works. I wanted to see it glisten and shine again. But really, what about our house already? What was wrong with us? What was the hold-up on making our forever home?




Well, on Sunday we brought home some tiles to fix up the shower in the farm house. Tiling. Not my favorite by the way. And as we were taking a trip out to the shop to get the tools, on the way back husband stopped short of the door and put his hands on his hips. He leaned back. He inspected. He moved around the house making noises like “hmmm…” and “wellll…” and “huh.”

I watched him for a bit, my arms full of tools. Then I asked the inevitable “What?” “What are you doing? We have a mission here.”

He turned to look at me through the foggy air and mist that settled in on the barnyard and over the square brown house before the storm hit and out of husband’s mouth came words that, simply said, seemed to clear that fog and mist and hovering clouds that had existed in my mind as indecision…

“We could stay here. We could stay in this spot. We could make it work.”

I sat down on the deck that is in desperate need of repair and put my head in my hands.

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes,” I whimpered.

“Yes,” I wailed.

“Yes,” I sobbed.

“Yes. I want to stay here.”

And so we took the time that was reserved for tiling that Sunday afternoon and talked it over, made some drawings and gave ourselves some options on how it could work.

And I was happy.

And still am.

And think I always will be here.

At home.

Even with the storm wailing outside and painting this house and barn white.

Even while other people were hunkering down against the storm yesterday and watching bad movies we were inside tiling and tiling and making plans for more work like this.

Even when I can’t get my car out of the snowbank.

And since many of you are snowed in today I think this might be a good time to share with you a little extra reading: My winning essay and answer to the question “Who Inspires You” for the “Inspired Woman” magazine out of Bismarck, ND.

Read it and then tell me why I didn’t listen to myself and figure this whole forever-home thing out months ago when I placed the last period at the end of the story.

It must be a woman thing.

You can see the entire article in the magazine, complete with photos, here: Inspired Woman Magazine

P.S. The decision to stay in the this location doesn’t mean we won’t have space for guests. It just means we will have different space available…

And so a girl changes her mind and I am confident it will work out for the best.

Bring it on, Winter. Bring. It. On.

It’s a long way from Texas to North Dakota.

And it turns out, an entirely different world once we made it home.

See, I wanted to tell you all about my trip down south today. I wanted to give you the details about how it felt to see one of the younger members of the Kitten Caboodle Club get married to her best friend and how much we laughed and cried and how the warm Texas sun shone on our faces and life was great and warm and green.

But in true North Dakotan fashion, this urgent weather report gets precedence over any other topic of conversation. I’ll save that story for tomorrow…

and hold that memory of 80+ weather with me for a few months, because it’s a long way from 80 here.

We touched down in North Dakota yesterday afternoon and the first full on blizzard of the year greeted us with open arms.

“Welcome Home!” said the weather as it pelted ice chunks at our exposed, tender Texas kissed flesh and we ran with heads down to our car and shivered and said things like,

“Wow, it’s freezing”

“Holy shit.”

“I almost blew over.”

“This sucks.”

That’s the thing about North Dakota. The snow alone is not so bad. In fact the snow alone is pleasant and peaceful and turns the landscape into a lovely snow globe as we put our arms around one another and let the light of the fireplace (or, if you roll like us, the TV flickering one of our favorite westerns) lull us to a blissful, cozy sleep wrapped up warm in our homes.

Yes, snow is accepted and welcomed in this form.

But sometimes it brings its BFF along for the ride (Wind. You heard of him?) You know, just for theatrical effect. And then all hell breaks loose.

Hold on to your tails!

That is what’s going on outside my window today as I sent husband out on the roads to work— a few pounds heavier due to the seventeen pieces of clothing he pulled over his body.

And for the sake of drama, which I clearly know something about, let’s count the items of clothing that made up his work outfit here, just to be sure:

1. underwear
2. long underwear pants
3. long underwear turtleneck shirt
4. socks
5. work pants
6. long sleeved shirt
7. buttoned up work shirt
8. vest
9. winter coat
10. Carhart coveralls
11. scarf
12. beanie (we call winter caps beanies. Is that weird?)
13. hard hat
14. gloves
15. boots resembling those that Buzz Aldrin wore on his quest to the moon
16. face mask


17. a big, goofy smile (cause he likes the drama of the storm too…and I wanted to make it to my estimated 17 items)

Yes, this outfit may sound excessive and it may bring to mind Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story.” But I tell you what, I bet husband is still cold with a wind that is shaking this tiny house this morning and working really hard to “sting the toes and bite the nose…” I mean, sitting here I am tempted to put on my beanie and mittens just out of sympathy.

I can guarantee every farmer, every rancher, every oilfield worker and every mom with kids who actually got to stay home from school today (because this is the first storm of the season and we’re not used to it yet) every office worker and every retiree is glued to the weather report today.

And thanks to the Internet, we don’t have to wait for the noon news to get the updates. We can obsess minute by minute and watch the storm pass over us in the form of a little green blob on our computer screen.

For example:

A weather update taken from www.wunderground.com

Mostly cloudy. Snow likely in the morning…then slight chance of snow in the afternoon. Blowing and drifting snow in the morning…then areas of blowing and drifting snow in the afternoon. Visibility one quarter mile or less at times. Windy. Snow accumulation up to 1 inch. Total snow accumulation 2 to 5 inches. Highs in the mid 30s. Northwest winds 25 to 35 mph with gusts to around 55 mph. Chance of snow 60 percent

Keep it together man!

And one from www.weather.com

A Blizzard Warning has been issued.

Expect low temperatures (below 20°F) and winds of 35+ mph. Also expect sufficient falling and/or blowing snow that reduces visibility to 1/4 mile or less.

And just to add salt to the wound, they have added this cute little “Climate Comparison” application on The Weather Channel website that features the 80 degree temperature in Acapulco, Mexico today.


Anyway, I could go on and on about what it feels like here as I sip hot coffee from my favorite cup, wrap up in a blanket and blow on my hands to thaw them out, but I think you need to see this for yourself.

So I have risked my life for you lovely readers. I have braved the blizzard to give you the promised play by play of life at the ranch.

Bring it on winter. Bring. It. On.

Because I love you.

But for those of you who are looking at this and thinking:


...oh why...

...oh why?

...oh sweet kibble why?

I have to tell you there is something about the remarkable weather changes that we experience here in the north that we all secretly love. Because it is so over-the-top. Because it is so predictably unpredictable. Because we know that now we have a perfect excuse to get together and snuggle up and hunker down under one roof and eat our soups and plan for Thanksgiving and then Christmas and wait it out with the people who we have in our lives for this very purpose.

To keep us warm on cold days.

Then we can count on them to fall in right behind our fresh footprints in the snow when the wind dies and the sledding and snowman and snow angel making is perfect.

And we know they won’t be mad when we throw a snowball at their head.

In fact, we can expect to get a bigger one smashed back at ours.

And we will laugh together knowing that we’ll be warm again soon, because in North Dakota, the only thing you can count on is a change of weather.

See, I just heard the weatherman say pleasant weather tomorrow.


It will probably be 70 degrees, or at least 50, and it will take us three minutes to forget this.

Because that’s how we roll in NoDak. If it doesn’t kill ya, it’s just another story of survival to tell at coffee.

Can we go inside now?