When it’s colder than Antarctica…

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Happy Monday night everyone.

I had a weird dream last night that I was on a fancy ship and it was sinking, all the rooms were filling up with water and I was watching it happen like a movie. I woke up after a scene where me and a woman, who spent what I was sure to be our last breaths painting her nails, discovered we were the sole survivors.

I’m not sure what that means, except it stuck with me all day and I think the chaos I experienced in my sleep might be responsible for the chaos that ensued in my house today.

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In other words, Edie discovered the kitchen cabinets. And, even though I was prepared enough to buy those baby-proofing cabinet locks, I didn’t install them yet. And, when I went to do it today, I discovered that the baby-proofing cabinet locks I bought are stupid. And I hate them. And I need different ones. But I live 30 miles from town and apparently we’re in another two-day blizzard warning, so I have to wait for Amazon.com again, the same store that was responsible for my stupid purchase in the first place.  Because nobody’s review said they were stupid.

So basically, nothing’s safe anymore. When I go to get ready for the day, Edie thinks she needs to put on makeup and scatter my bathroom drawers across the floor into the bedroom where she then unloads my entire bottom drawer before moving on to the next one so she can try on all of my bras before heading to the closet for the scarves.

And I could stop her. But then I would never get my teeth brushed, hair combed, face washed, eyebrows plucked, etc.

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So I just let her loose. And if you can picture what our master bedroom and bathroom looks after those ten minutes, well, just apply that scenario to every room in the house.

Oh, I love her. She’s so fun right now.

Fun and exhausting.

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She’s sleeping now after a bedtime performance featuring her singing and waving her arms and swaying back and forth across the living room. There was to be no “night night” until the applause.

So now I have a moment to share this week’s column, which is basically an extension of my last post and my thoughts on the new year and how sometimes I think we don’t give the whole “who we are in the moments we’re in” enough credit.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately–the need to focus on the present instead of all of the plans I think I need to be making.

And I was doing really good at it for the first week of the new year. But you guys, yesterday it was colder here than in frickin’ Antarctica and the North Pole…

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and I had a couple glasses of wine in the evening and my sister was here to instigate and my mom was here to cheer us on and my husband was in the “whatever you want wife” mood and before I knew it I booked him and I a trip to Jamaica.

I feel like it was a bit of a cabin fever, I’m freezing my ass off and it’s our tenth year of marriage and we never had a proper honeymoon impulse purchase, but it’s done and, well, I did say we needed to have more date nights so, well, take that new years resolution!

So that’s where we’ll be at the end of May. And until then you can find me and Edie in this house at the other end of a trail of bras. I’ll be there trying my damnedest to get this book done. I’m almost there friends.

Almost there.

If I could just keep Edie out of the kitchen cabinets.

Peace, love and childproofing,

Sunday Column: A resolution for more sweet things
by Jessie Veeder
1-8-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I’m finding it hard to concentrate this morning.

After another two days of more snow, the sun is finally shining bright through my window and the arctic, frosty air is creating a big rainbow halo over the stock dam.

If I didn’t know better, I would think it might actually be a nice day out there. But I’ve lived here long enough. This is what five below zero looks like.

The baby is at daycare, and it’s the first time in a couple weeks that I’ve been home without her. It’s quiet. I can hear the furnace turn on and off, the background music to the thoughts I should be thinking about the symbol of a new year, a fresh start, another chance to make myself better.

However, I keep getting distracted by the part of the internet that features tropical vacations while last night’s dishes stay piled in the sink and Edie’s toys stay scattered on the ground alongside the crumbs from the crackers she was carrying around, one in each hand, before her noodle supper.

Welcome to 2017.

It looks about exactly like 2016 except colder, messier and, well, there’s more snow.

I’ve always sort of hated the fact that the whole new-year-new-beginnings thing falls smack in the middle of the longest season. I mean, how does anyone expect to swear off carbs and start a treadmill regime in January in North Dakota when we need the extra padding the most? It’s irresponsible.

Talk to me in July about healthy resolutions, and I’ll be the first one to schedule us a hiking trip.

Talk to me about resolutions in January and, well, here are the necessary life changes that are on my mind:

  1. More snuggles
  2. More sleep
  3. More sweaters
  4. More vacations

Oh, and I should probably shovel off my deck before it collapses under the weight of the five foot snowdrift, but that looks like the only mildly productive resolution I’ve accumulated.

Don’t get me wrong, I have career goals brewing, and some fun projects coming down the pipe for 2017, but this year I’m not sure how complicated I want to get in making personal promises to myself.

Because I’ve spent the entire duration of 2016 in the new-to-me universe of motherhood, wondering what it is I should be doing and how my limited time, limited energy and limited money is best spent, a question that seems more pressing now that I’m responsible for a little one, and she grows and changes by the second.

And you know what I just realized? It isn’t caring for this new life that’s been so tiring and challenging. No. That’s been the fun part.

The hard parts have been on me and that nagging voice in my head that I keep nurturing, the one that keeps suggesting that what I’m doing isn’t enough.

Working more or home more? Daycare or no daycare? More play dates? More real dates? Early mornings spent writing? Even earlier mornings on the treadmill?

Nobody tells you that about new motherhood. They don’t tell you that the biggest adjustment is getting to know the new version of yourself after that baby is born.

It’s been over a year and I’m not sure I’m there yet, except I’m determined to stop being so hard on her in 2017.

I’m determined to like her. Because I haven’t written a song or done a lunge in months, but I have pulled a tiny human in a sled to the top of a snowy hill all in the name of a smile, and I think that might be just as important (and more aerobic) these days.

And I simply can’t bring myself to say I’m going to eat fewer caramel rolls in 2017 because the New Year needs more sweet things, not less.

So here’s a thought I’ve never really entertained in a life spent making plans (plans that got us to this very magical and demanding moment of our lives): Maybe what we’re doing right now is exactly what we need to be doing right now.

And maybe it’s perfect timing after all. January is the best month for snuggling.

 

 

Home-Construction Role Models

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I spent the weekend across the state singing, doing my best to pay tribute to the great Johnny Cash at a concert on Saturday and then playing music in one of my favorite bars with some of my favorite musicians that evening.

It was the first time I’ve been away for the weekend without the baby and/or my husband. Usually the babe gets to come along and we leave Husband in the dust to work on the house or the ranch for the weekend. Poor guy, he never gets to have any fun.

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But this weekend I left them both home. My mother-in-law came over to hang out with Edie while my husband and his dad worked on trying to finish up the basement.

This is our life. It has been for years, trying to fit in home construction on the little 48-hour space that we call the weekend. I spent the previous weekend going as far up the ladder as my comfort zone would allow to put stain on the house and kicking the five-years-ago versions of ourselves for thinking it would be a good idea to build a 30 foot house with cedar siding that needs to be re-stained every few years.

That was dumb. Especially when half of us hate heights and the other half has no fear and leans out too far once he’s at the top of 30 foot ladders.

So, to survive, I’ve learned there are things I just can’t watch.

And so here’s this week’s column, written after a weekend spent outside on ladders and in town at the hardware store and in bed late at night realizing that my life will forever be in a constant state of construction.

So if you want good advice, don’t ask us. We had every idea of what we were getting into, and we did it anyway.

Coming Home: The height of a ladder gives couple perspective
by Jessie Veeder
11-6-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

“When you get married, marry someone with money,” he said to our 13-year-old niece, sitting innocently at the kitchen counter, holding the baby and feeding her Cheerios. “Or just be rich yourself. That would be better.”

“Yeah, she’s right,” he said. “Be rich. Or marry someone nice and rich.”

This is the advice we give when you bring your children to our home. I’m not proud of it, but it came to us after a weekend spent trying to make progress on this not-ever-going-to-be-finished house we decided to construct ourselves almost four years ago. And, because we’re hosting a Thanksgiving/first birthday party here in less than a month, we need to get that basement finished, you know, the one that was supposed to be done a year before the 1-year-old was born.

So my husband spent the weekend standing on a ladder mudding the sheetrock on the walls, my niece worked to save the baby from climbing the staircase and eating box elder bugs while I spent my weekend outside on a much taller ladder trying to put stain on the house before winter and cursing the idiots who decided to side a 30-foot house with cedar that needs to be refinished every three years.

Because I hate ladders. And heights. And my husband hates projects like this, but he also hates hiring anyone to do a job we can do ourselves, especially when we’d like to have money in that bank at the end of it all. Because I figure by the time Edie’s 18, her college tuition will likely be approximately a million dollars a year, so we better start cutting back where we can.

Ramen noodles for everyone!

“In my next life, I’m not going to be a ‘DYIer.’ I’m going to be a ‘Hire Someone Elser,’ ” he said while he stood at the top of that ladder trying to reach heights I was unwilling to attempt, maneuvering a stain sprayer while his wife suffered anxiety-induced heart palpitations looking up at him with a white-knuckle death grip on his ladder, wanting desperately to believe that the tightness of my grip was directly related to the likelihood of him falling to his death.

“I should have married you in your next life!” I hollered up to him. “Now careful! Seriously, don’t lean so far over like that, my gawd, I can’t watch this!”

And so, given the weekend’s events, you can see where we were coming from with the money advice. Because while it’s not often people like to admit that money buys happiness, I can tell you with complete certainty that I would have been a lot happier watching a paid professional work a spray gun 30 feet in the air. And I know I would have been happier with the finished product.

Because at least it would be finished.

But it’s not. Nope. We ran out of house stain, daylight and weekend, and if you come over for the party, you’ll likely come in to a half-stained house and an almost-finished-basement, which may or may not have carpet because we did what we could and called it all good enough.

But we’ll have so many people crammed into this little house you won’t be able to see the floor anyway, so in the big picture, I guess it’s a blip.

Like my niece said as she walked the aisles of Menards with me in search of more Sheetrock mud, “What would this family do together if we didn’t do work together?”

“Go fishing.” That was the first answer that came to my mind. But how much real marital bonding can you accomplish on a beautiful lake? Certainly not as much as you get when you’re praying for his life as he extends beyond his comfortable reach 30 feet from the hard, cold ground.

It sure makes you love each other more when you’re back on solid earth, realizing you’re both alive to see another day.

So, yeah, if you want to spend your weekends catching walleye in the summer sun, make sure one of you has some money. But if you want death-defying, love-igniting, budget-friendly adventure, well then, we’re your role models.

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Eleven times thankful.

Edie turned 11 months old on the 24th.

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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.

Maybe it’s the rain

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I’ve been working on a  book this fall, a compilation of some of my favorite photos, columns, blogs, poems and recipes from the past six years I’ve spent documenting what it means to come back home again.

It’s been a fun, nostalgic, enlightening and difficult project to take on during a transitional time for us as a family, a time in which we’ve gone from two to three, from couple to parents, from dreamers to sort of dream-come-truers.

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Because I typically don’t spend much time looking back on what I’ve written,  I have to focus on what to write, thinking about what’s meaningful in the moment and what could be learned, I have had to sort of force myself to sit down in my spare moments and look back. And so I’ve been seeing our lives a little differently lately, thinking about how far we’ve come and how far we haven’t, how some things have changed completely and how some things haven’t changed at all and it’s from that place that I wrote last week’s column, that limbo between past and present, a reflection brought on by the rain.

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Rainy horse ride triggers memories of couple’s beginnings
by Jessie Veeder
10-23-16
InForum
http://www.inforum.com

It was late August, and it had been hot for weeks, the kind of heat you remember as a kid, where popsicles melt on sticks in the heavy air that sends the flies gathering at horses’ bellies and driving them to bob their heads and swish their tails in the trees.

We were sweating it out in the little house in the barnyard where my grandparents used to live, three years into our marriage and three months into unpacking our lives back home at the ranch where I was raised. And it was only six years ago, but we were just kids, really, with plans big enough to keep us busy.

But that day we resigned to the weather, keeping busy with tasks in a house that was sinking and shrinking with the weight of time.

And then the clouds rolled in, dark and as ominous as the lightning on the horizon, and we found ourselves standing, noses pressed to the screen door, watching the water form new rivers and waterfalls in the corrals.

The buttes in the horse pasture turned from rock to slick mud in a matter of minutes, and soon I found myself running behind my new husband through the mud, past the new barnyard river and scrambling up to the top of those buttes where we stood side by side before launching our bodies down the steep bank of that hill, sliding on the slippery, wet gumbo, just like we used to do as kids.

I’ve told this story before. You may remember it and how it ended in bruises, bloody scrapes and a heap of laughter spilling out into that dark, rainy night. I’m thinking about it now because last weekend I found myself out in the rain again with my husband. We were riding through an unfamiliar pasture looking for a couple stray cows. The day was still, but the sky kept spitting on us, a little mist followed by small, flying drops hitting our cheeks and gathering on our horses’ manes. It was a quiet rain, the kind that seems to clean up the landscape, making the colors richer against the gray sky. And I just kept looking at my husband on the back of his bay horse, his black hat and red scarf moving along the big landscape, and I started thinking about the times in my life where the rain made the moment.

I decided this was one of them.

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And it was perfect timing, I think, following behind him on trails where he broke branches for me or hollered my name from a hilltop. We were doing work, and we were living out a plan, rain or shine.

But that day, I preferred the rain, because I was starting to wonder if it is possible to spend the rest of my life here without losing the magic of this place. A few days before, I received a note from a man telling me that my life seemed romantic in a way that few people know and that I was lucky for it. I sort of felt like a fraud, wondering if I had lead him to a false conclusion. Settling into a new life as a mother and a new partnership as parents, no matter how much we wanted it, hasn’t been an easy and seamless transition. I’ve been struggling with it in ways I hadn’t expected.

I began to wonder if I was the same woman who slid down that gumbo hill with that young man six years ago.

We pushed up the bank of a wooded coulee, and I listened to the rain hitting the leaves and the branches break against the chest of my horse, and I thought about how I was taught to lean forward as a horse takes you through the trees so that you don’t catch one to the face and get pulled off.

It’s a lesson I reach back for when I’m in the thick of it, the same way I reach back for the girl who kissed a boy under that old oak tree in the field promising him forever, no matter the weather.

So maybe it’s the memories we make that keep this place magic.

Or maybe it’s just the rain.

Rain on buttes

A North Dakota Story

I don’t know if you noticed, but North Dakota’s sort of popular right now.

In the last few weeks, it seems like every time I turn around I’m returning a call from a press source interested in this economic boom on the western edge, or I’m reading a story about how cool it is to be living on the eastern edge (and by cool, I don’t mean ear-flapper-cap cool, I mean like, actually, you know, cool).

Perhaps you’ve caught some of the blurbs in the news about our low unemployment rate and our endless job opportunities. Maybe you’ve heard about Western North Dakota’s boomtowns and eastern North Dakota’s revitalized downtown culture.

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Maybe you’ve got a gramma or a great uncle who lives here (seems like everyone has a gramma or great uncle who lives here).

Maybe you’ve just heard we’re home to the World’s Largest Holstein Cow. And the World’s Largest Statue of a Turtle. And the World’s Largest Bison. And the World’s Largest Metal Sculpture of Geese Flying Through an Enchanted Sky….

Or maybe your only impression of North Dakota is from that movie turned recent TV series Fargo, which, now that I think of it, could be responsible these days for all the recent buzz about our great state, even though it’s based in Minnesota, but hey, we’ll take it…

Anyway, I’ll tell you it’s pretty exciting for the residents of a state like North Dakota to get any attention that isn’t based solely on our accents, our sparse population and our subzero winters followed by explanations that Mt. Rushmore doesn’t live here.

And neither do mountains really…just badlands. Miles of beautiful badlands. And that’s good enough for us…

When I drove up and down the country singing for my supper, I spent much of my time on stage explaining to inquiring minds that, yes, we have running water up here and no, this is not a Canadian accent.

Talking North Dakota (in my North Dakotan accent) has always sort of been my thing, my roots running so deep and holding so strong that no matter where I traveled I couldn’t quite  shake the red scoria from my car or the pull to head back North to the buttes when the day was done.

Pink Road

A strong sense of place has been as much a part of me as breathing, and in this part of my life I can say I owe my living to this place.

Not just because it grew me, but because it inspires me, and inspiration, it seems, is how I’ve come to get and give back to this world.

Chasing cows on the back of a good horse through tall grass in a wet year; singing on a flat bed trailer in the middle of small town Main Street while a community visits and walks by, dipping corn dogs in ketchup on paper plates; walking out into the hills to places with no human footprints but my own; sledding parties and long winters spent writing music and fishing for walleye on a giant lake, a lake so big it has more coast line than the state of California. Quieter coast line I imagine. Quieter and muddier and with a  few more cows…

This is how this place made me.

These are reasons I wanted to come back.

Now there are many theories about what it means to be North Dakotan and what’s so appealing about a place once known as nothing but a sort of abyss of open plains, a place people left, a place once proposed better left back to the buffalo…

How do such warm, hospitable people spring out of such a brutal climate? How did North Dakota become so happy? Like top of the list happy?

What life is like in North Dakota, America’s New Happiest State

There are many theories, the economic boom, simple living, low crime, clean air, healthy people…

Good people.

North Dakota has always had some good people.

And I met some this week as I washed the cat prints off my car and headed east to Fargo to attend and speak at a North Dakota Bloggers and Writers Workshop as one of almost forty women (and two or three men) who came from all over to discuss writing North Dakota’s story.

There were travel writers, food writers, fashion writers, gardening writers, culture writers, writing writers,  mommy writers, photography writers, cooking writers,  farming writers, restaurant writers, poets, journalists, well dressed city girls and country girls who could relate to the whole cat print on my car thing…

We exchanged stories and tips between sips of cocktails, bites of bratwurst and convincing each other that another dessert and another beer was perfectly acceptable.

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I have to tell you it was wonderfully inspiring to gather this way. In this life out here I spend much of my time formulating ideas and writing in the quiet, miles away from these women who are working and searching and formulating and expressing their own ideas about life and love and food and work on the prairie, between the sidewalks or in the oil fields of our great state.

And what these writers reminded me of is what I’ve always known–that North Dakota is a different type of home, a different destination, for each and every one of us. We all see her and know her, discover her and love her in our own ways…

In the sink of the sun below a wheat field. In the cheers in the gym of a small town basketball game. In the taste of a dish made from the wild pheasant in the brush. In the long road that brought her back. In the eyes of a man who loved it first.

Yes, right now the world seems to be looking our way, eyes fixed to the North to see what all the fuss is about, and I’m so happy to share what I know to be true of this place.

And proud to know there are so many other beautiful stories being told…

Thank you North Dakota Tourism for presenting me with the North Dakota Ambassador Award, I’m happy and proud to sing the praises of my home and thank you for your work in promoting all this great state has to offer!