Seeing the garden in spite of the weeds

We’re coming off of one of those long stretches of week that sometimes happens for us in the summer when work and fun sort of collide to create this chaotic swarm of action and stress and fun.

We had a birthday party, cousins visiting from Texas, a children’s theater production, a visit from a PBS film crew, a swing set building project that likely won’t be done until Rosie gets married and it was awesome to have so much to do and so many people around us to love…

But in the middle of it all was this big Art in the Park event I’ve been planning for months as part of my work running an arts foundation in the community.

I put a lot of effort into this event. We had generous sponsors that put hard earned money into it as well. I enlisted the help of all of the family I could round up, plus my husband and board members and volunteers. In my mind, if we could pull it off, it was going to be a fun gathering of local music, artists and hands-on activities.

And after the stress of setting up and making everyone fit in a limited space, for a good three hours or so the sun-shined and the people milled and the music played and the kids got their faces painted and did projects and played in the park and the artists talked with shoppers and it was exactly as I envisioned. And I was thrilled for us all…

And then the thunder clapped and the sky opened up and it rained and rained and rained….

And a part of me wanted to cry, but a bigger part of me said instead, at least the sun shone on us for a while.

Because I was born with something in me that seems to beg me not to be let down…

And that’s what this week’s column is about…seeing the garden in spite of the weeds.

Coming Home: Never mind the weeds

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Last night, I put the girls to bed before the sun set and headed out to the garden.

It had been an entire week since I had a chance to dig in that dirt in an attempt manage my little crop of vegetables, and I could see from my window all the rain gave the weeds permission to set up shop.

But I didn’t mind. When I first moved back to the ranch, I made myself a list of the things I wanted back in my life after spending a few years thinking I didn’t know who I was. At the top of that list was a simple little promise to keep a garden. And because it was quiet last night as I kicked up the smell of damp dirt, I had a moment to remember why.

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When I was a kid, probably close to 10 or 11, I entered my garden into the county fair. Because of the timing of our growing season, I didn’t have any vegetables to present, so I decided I would document the process. I can’t remember every detail of the exhibit or what we grew that summer, but I do remember I put together a picture book with some progress photos.

I recall one photo I was particularly proud of that featured 10-year-old me in a T-shirt, ponytail and jeans standing confidently next to our little corn crop. The idea was to show the height of our stalks to the judge in a book that, between the shiny Kodak photos pasted on construction paper and the sentences spelled out in wavering Sharpie lines, told less of a story of a master gardener and more of a kid who liked a project.

I was pretty certain the judge would be impressed, which made it that much harder to process the sinking feeling when he pointed to that picture and asked, “What’s that there?”

I moved my eyes from my beautiful corn stocks down to the border of the garden where the judge placed his finger.

“Weeds,” I said as my face flushed.

Weeds that the judge suddenly made me notice for the first time in all of the hours I spent digging in that dirt and documenting my progress.

Weeds my dad never pointed out to me. Weeds my mom never mentioned. Weeds that earned me a red ribbon instead of the coveted blue.

Weeds that today remind me of the vulnerability of my optimistic nature. That I could look right past that snarl of crabgrass and creeping Jenny and only see the promise of grilled corn on the cob or the snap of a fresh pea says something about the innocence and wonder of childhood, a person I become again when I’m standing in a garden I made grow.

And I’m thankful for that judge. He did his job and I was better for it. And on days the burdens in my life grow in too close, threatening to steal my rain and choke out the sun, I know I can chop them down if I need to.

But sometimes I like that it’s in me to say never mind the weeds. Better things are coming with a little sunshine and rain.

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To the kids

It’s 11 pm on Tuesday and tomorrow I am traveling 65 miles to teach a class at an event for youth called  Marketplace for Kids held in a neighboring college town.

Marketplace for Kids is something I may or may not have attended in my youth as an ambitious 8 or 9 or 10 year old– an educational program offered to students from around the state to help encourage young entrepreneurs and give them a chance to present and explain their projects–which are no doubt brilliant and creative and inspiring.

I will be a part of their opening ceremony. I will be singing a song. I will be teaching five, twenty-five minute classes about how I got from ranch kid, to singer/songwriter, to college student, to career woman and, then back to the ranch–this time as a grown woman.

I will be up all night.

Yes, I have known about this gig since January, but three months later and nine hours until the event itself, I still have no idea why they want me there. I spent all day today going over my class notes, trying to find the best way to explain myself.  Trying to figure out how to communicate my goals and ambitions and minor successes to a room full of 7 or 8 0r 9 or 10 year olds.

Trying to figure out really, how I got here.

I don’t know if I’m the right woman for the job…I just don’t know if I have what it takes. The thing that gives me hope is my one redeeming quality: I can still remember, vaguely, what it was like to be their age–so full of creativity and life and love for the things around me.

I can still remember, vaguely…

And you know, since I have been doing all this thinking, here’s what I think–I think that’s what has saved me and got me here today, doing something I love in a place I love the most in the world.

So now it’s 11:10 pm and having been at this quest, this journey about what to say to a crowd of children who are no doubt smarter than I am, unofficially since I was asked to do the gig in January and officially since 8 am this morning. And I think I might have finally got it.

I’m still nervous. But I think I got it. Or something that resembles it.

I guess I’ll find out tomorrow…

To the kids

Hello! I was so excited to talk to you all today. I’ve been thinking about what to say to you for months. I worry about things like this.  It’s such a fun opportunity to talk to you about what I’ve learned in my 27 short years….I didn’t want to mess it up!

I wanted to tell you a little about myself, about how I have been playing guitar and writing poetry and music about the ranch I grew up on since I was 12 years old and how I recorded a couple CDs and how I traveled the country for years singing songs, like the one I just sang for you today.


I wanted to tell you about how, after all of the miles I traveled and all of the songs I sang along the way, I have moved back to the ranch and am now working on opening it up to guests so they can come and visit, take photos, hike and bike and ride horses and learn about ranching and cattle.

I wanted to tell you all about how I got to where I am and how, with enough drive and ambition, you can grow up to be anything you want to be…


But the thing is, as I look out at you I remember myself at your age. And I remember that you already know that. Someone has already told you this a time or two haven’t they?

Because when I was your age I knew it. I knew what I loved—horses and music and wildflowers and lizards and my friends and family and pet dogs—I knew I loved all of the space around me and the adventure and freedom of growing up and living in the country.  I knew who I was.

Jessie Veeder. Brown Hair. Brown Eyes. Tomboy. Nature Lover. Animal Lover. Singer. Cowgirl.


And I look at you out here and I see blond hair and black hair and boys and girls, big sisters, little brothers, inventors and authors and movie stars and firefighters and business owners. You all have your interests and your hobbies and your talents. They are being developed right in front of my eyes. I can see it happening as I speak.

So instead of telling you that you can be anything you want to be, what I really want to tell you is to just, please…

Be You.


Do the things you love. Explore and make friends and travel and learn about what makes you happy and what you do best. And go out and do it. Every day.

And as you grow up you will find it will be hard sometimes, and sometimes you will be pulled in unexpected directions, sometimes you will be lonely and sometimes you will fail…


But when that happens, remember yourself here, at 7 or 10 or 13 years old. It will be easy to do if you stay true to yourself, the one who is sitting in these chairs with all of your plans and talents and goals and spirit.…

Remember you.

Be You. The very best version.

And I promise you will succeed.

Well, it should go something like this, depending on my level of panic or the fact that I realize when I get to the event that this isn’t what they had in mind when they called me at all.

I’ll let you know how it goes…and if they Slushie me Glee Style.