Truth, worries and what to write…

I just laid Edie down for a nap after her second projectile vomit of the day. We walked in the door, home from a trip to town to check out a weird rash she acquired and, well, I guess she has the pukes now too….

And I guess this is how I start my blog entries these days, the ones that used to begin with a vivid description of the weather, the beauty of the changing leaves, the chill in the air and the crip smell of the season’s first snow have now transformed into potty training sagas, pregnancy heartburn and puke.

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Yesterday I opened my inbox to find one of the meanest emails I’ve ever received. It was about my writing, prompted, apparently, after she read this week’s column and decided someone like me was annoying enough to warrant a sit down at the computer and tell me, most pointedly, how I was a joke.

And boring.

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And my own family probably doesn’t even read what I write because I’m a whiny woman who stays pregnant just so I don’t have to get a real job.

Those were the highlights anyway. I particularly liked the part where she accused me of staying pregnant so I don’t have to keep a real job, considering the years I battled with that very thing, as if staying pregnant was an easy task for me to accomplish.

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I had just come off of three days of travel that sent me into schools talking to kids about my career path as a writer and musician before I headed back to the hospital to check on my dad, where I left him three days before, in agony and waiting for his pancreas to heal.

My column was late that week because my dad had to take an ambulance three hours from our small town to the big town to be treated for pancreatitis and now, finally, gall bladder surgery. He drove himself to the hospital at 3 am on Tuesday morning because my mom was gone to Minneapolis. At five in the morning I gathered my things, made childcare arrangements for my daughter with my husband, kissed them goodbye and my little sister and I took the three hour drive to be with him while my mom made her way home.

In all the rush, I forgot my computer, so I was late on the deadline for the parenting magazine I edit too. Because I thought I would be able to work on it in the hospital while I waited with dad, even though that would have been impossible. And then, because I didn’t know if dad was going to be OK, I agonized on whether I should make those three school visits that week. Because I didn’t want to let the schools down, and I didn’t want to leave my mom alone and I was worried and I didn’t know what to do or where I should be or if I was doing the right thing by everyone, including this little babe I’m growing in my belly.

I cried. Dad was in severe pain. Agony. I was worried it was going to spiral out of control as we all too recently witnessed with a close family friend.

After a long day of unsuccessful pain management and doctor questions and calls about my publications and travel plans, I trudged across the street to the hotel and put the finishing touches on my publication and tried to write a column.

It was at least 11 pm when I submitted it.

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And I’m not giving you the play-by-play so that you feel sorry for me. I don’t write from that place. But what I want to say here is that this is life. And shit happens. Unpredictable shit happens and it happens to all of us and then there we are trying to figure out what we expect of ourselves in those weird, unpredictable moments.  And what the world expects of us.

And for me, in my profession, if I want to get paid, the show must go on.

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But here’s the thing. We’re all alright here. At the end of this dad will come home. He’ll heal up, I’ll get the work done and the bills paid and tuck us all in at night, thankful for another day and another chance to be alive together in this tricky and sometimes mean old world.

I’m lucky. I have great readers. As a musician and a writer I’ve never really experienced commentary this cruel. But on that particular morning I was feeling vulnerable. I was tired and hormonal, yes, but her words stung because they sounded like the voices sound in my head sometimes.

Do I deserve a writing job when all I can think about right now is how to get my toddler to eat, how I’m going to manage two kids and how am I going to get the bills paid?

Who gives a shit about that? Everyone’s dealing with shit like that. There are, as that very email pointed out, people who are dealing with real problems in this world.

I’m aware of that. Yes. Too aware sometimes. So aware and emotionally affected that I can’t bring myself watch the news most days.

And yes, some days call for me to be more profound.

But not all days. Like most people, some days you just find you got nothin’.

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So I sat down that night filled with worry and decided that it would work better if I wrote about the everyday weirdness, thinking at least it might amuse and, maybe, at the very least, make people feel better about themselves and the fact that they don’t have an unidentified rodent in their ceiling. Or maybe they have and they could email me with advice.

This isn’t hard hitting news we’re dealing with folks. But it is real life.

And sometimes real life falls a bit flat.

 

 

And because I’ve been sharing my story publicly for years now, I’m really asking for it. For dialogue and engagement. Which I got with this column.

Mostly, it was, “What?”

As in: “What? I don’t get it.”

Or “What are you doing writing in a newspaper?”

But mostly, “What was in your wall?”

In the frantic phase my mind was in that evening, I was trying to capture the calm, cool and collected nature of my husband by depicting a scene that played out before me that very morning. While we laid there in the dark of the early morning making hospital travel and daycare plans, weighing whether or not my dad’s health was in big trouble, we were reminded of the less intense, more annoying, and more trivial worries that occur of life…

Like the strange rodent that somehow got itself stuck inside our wall…

At least that’s what husband thinks is the truth.

The lie? Well, of course, it’s nothing to be worried about Jessie.

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Husband’s response makes me question life decisions
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I’ve known my husband since I was 11 years old. He’s been my best friend starting sometime around when I was 15 when he was old enough to drive out to the ranch to talk horses with my dad, and teach my little sister to play chess. We went to college together, we got married and we’ve moved six times. We’re about to bring a second child into this world together.

He’s been the person in my life that unclogs the shower drain, keeps my wardrobe in check (whether I appreciate it or not) and the sole reason I’m not watching television on my dorm room-sized TV, movies on VHS and talking on a Zach Morris-era cell phone.

And I make sure to keep his snap-shirt collection stocked.

We’re a good team, he and I, opposites in the ways that are useful — like I’m good at breaking things and he’s good at fixing them.

I didn’t really know it about myself at the time, but I think I stuck with him all those years because, as a musician with unconventional career aspirations and a weird travel schedule, I appreciated a man who was fine with not knowing what state I was in some days. A marriage to someone a little more uptight would have never worked out.

He would have had to endure too many poorly-planned trips to Kansas to stay at a Super 8 and listen to me play music to a crowd of 10 people. And a man who requires a thorough plan to make sure he packed the right loafers would have never made it past South Dakota with me.

Yes, he’s always been the king of handling it, talking it through or at least giving me a logical explanation so I can make my own decision on whether or not to panic.

But this morning I woke to the disturbing sound of something scratching at the outside of our house. Like claws running up and down the siding on the exterior of our bedroom, which I thought was weird, because our bedroom is on the top floor. And what could climb up there?

And then I just thought it was the cat, except it couldn’t be because cats don’t generally climb straight up the side of a house.

Or find themselves inside of a wall. Because, holy s*&% I think there’s something crawling inside our walls!

Which is what I screeched to my sleeping husband in the dark, the sweet sound of morning at the ranch rousing him from his dreams…

“What the hell is that?” I asked, sprawling my round, pregnant body on top of his as if smothering him was going to save me from whatever decided to take up residence in our insulation.

To which my laid-back, no-big-deal, Mr. Fix It, drain-unclogging husband calmly replied,

“Do you want me to tell you the truth or do you want me to lie?”

And just like that the man I’ve known and loved since we were children made me question every choice I’ve made in my life up to this very unsettling point.

I should have married a man with a loafer collection …

 

Sunday Column: Good days in a season change

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Ever had one of those perfect days? Where the sun is not too hot, and the clouds come at the right time and all of the things you want to do you do because somehow that voice in your head that is usually there nagging you about vacuuming and paying bills is just silent, quieted down enough for you to just live in the moment?

That seemed to be Sunday at the ranch. After a late Friday night and a busy Saturday of running around town filming a music video (yeah, I can’t wait to show you!)…

I woke up Sunday with plans on my sisters coming out to the ranch and then we would take it from there…hopefully on a horses’ back and then to the plum patch to fill our buckets.

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Husband said something about bow hunting as we squished together with our morning coffee on the big chair with the caramel rolls I decided to make.

 

Then Little Sister showed up and so did the sun and we went down to the barn to catch the horses, listening for Pops’ 4-wheeler coming down the road to join us.

And the three of us, Pops, Little Sister and I rode, through the east pasture and up to the fields to check out the plum crop before heading to the other house to meet up with Big Sister and Little Man to see if he wanted to take a ride too.

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And from there we ate lunch and made plans to pick plums from the patch we found up by the grain bins just loaded with branches of fruit. The plums this year are like nothing we’ve seen.

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So they met us up there, my friend and her two daughters, her dad and her gramma. They came driving up the trail and backed that pickup right up into the brush patch so the little ones could reach and we talked and swatted bugs and filled our buckets to the top in no time.

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Back at the house Husbands’ buddy pulled into the yard and they were shooting at targets, practicing their aim with the bow, warming up for the hunt that evening, dressing up in camouflage.

I came home with buckets of plums. They were off into the trees.

A rain storm blew through, leaving behind a rainbow and then a bright beautiful sunset. I played guitar and sang on that big chair as it passed.

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Then I pulled on my muck boots to walk under that sky because there’s nothing like the air after a summer rain.

This was back in the last day of August, the last day of the summer months and it was a good one.

One of the best.

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This week in my column I talk about seasons, in weather and in this life. I turned 31 last week. My high school friends have kids who are in first or second grade. I am not feeling as restless as I am planted here.

Coming Home: Life measured by seasons–even if we’re not ready for change
by Jessie Veeder
8-31-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Sunday Column: Singing on stages

Whew, hello there.

We’re alive and well out here in Western North Dakota after a five day trip with the whole fam and the band to White Sulphur Springs, MT for the Red Ants Pants Music Festival where me and my boots got to stand on the same stage as Charley Pride, Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile, Corb Lund, Josh Ritter, James McMurtry and so many more.

In the lifetime I’ve spent behind this guitar I doubt I’ve had as much fun with my music as I’ve had since recording and promoting “Nothing’s Forever.” Maybe it’s because I’m older now and take the elusive promise of fame less seriously. Maybe it’s because I’m home and  being home allows me to be myself in my music, and I’m aware that I’m becoming more myself every day…

Or maybe it’s because I’ve found that there are people out there who understand what I’m doing here and they let me know that songs about coming home to the front porch light always on reminds them of their family in their home, wherever that may be. However it may have impacted them.

But there are some days I wonder what I’m doing way out here writing songs, papers spread across the bed, late into the night while my husband falls asleep on the couch.

Being a small town musician doesn’t make you a rich woman. Being a small town musician sends you out the door in the evening to towns hours away and finds you behind headlights in the quietest hours of the early morning, the hours still considered part of the night. The hours that, even in oil country, find you to be the only headlights on the road.

And the more successful you become, the more time you spend behind those headlights.

I’ve known this about my career since I recorded my first album at age 16. You want to sing on stages? Then you won’t be home for dinner some nights.

You want to pay back those album costs? Then your weekends are planned girl.

You want a husband? Then he has to be the kind of man who doesn’t need you to make him those dinners every night. He has to be the kind of man who’s ok with you leaving the house at 7 pm to practice music with a room full of talented men behind instruments. He has to be ok with you coming home at 2 am on a Tuesday night.

And, you know, dragging you and your family for hours across a giant state pulling a camper, then waking up to make you all breakfast in the morning…

You want to make some money? Then you better find another job flexible enough to get you through from gig to gig. You better get creative girl.

Because, like most jobs, it isn’t all glamorous. But for me, if it was about the glamour, I would have stopped after my first nerve-filled meltdown on the bathroom floor as a young teenager.

I would have stopped before I made the decision on my college circuit to leave after a show at 9 PM from Fargo and drive through the night to get to Chicago to play on a stage before noon.

I would have called it quits after the first time I had to get dressed in my car and do my makeup/”shower” in a public restroom.

I would have quit before I got lost in Green Bay and Minneapolis, slept on the side of the road in a blizzard, or in the cheapest, sketchest motels I could afford.

I would have quit before we got a flat tire on the most lonesome stretch of highway on our way to White Sulphur Springs…

(Brandi Carlile) 

And then I would have missed the best parts, the parts that keep me doing this, the characters in my songs and the characters who come when I call with their guitars and harmonies and ideas, putting life in the music.

Making the songs worth it. Making me forget that it’s midnight and I have a deadline in the morning. Making me forget that once I considered pursuing a career as a landscape architect…for like three minutes, when I was seventeen and didn’t know better.

That’s the thing about music. If you keep singing it will keep giving–new experiences, new people to love, new places to travel and new things to say you’ll never do again…

(Charley Pride)

It transforms us. The audience. The singers. The players.

I saw it happen this weekend. It cuts us loose. It turns ranchers into rock stars. Strangers into friends. It makes kids hopeful and inspired.

It makes stoic cowboys tap their toes, maybe dance a little.

It makes my little sister cry.

It connects us to each other through a shared emotion. And I don’t care if it’s one ear or thousands, music is made to tell our story, to find a memory, to understand the human condition. And there are ears out there in every corner of these wild places, the quiet and unassuming places, streets full of people or pastures once filled with cows.

When we’re together, shoulder to shoulder, facing a stage or behind a guitar, I’d like to think we’re better at listening to one another. To ourselves.

And that’s why I sing.

Coming Home: Size of stage not a measure of singer’s success
by Jessie Veeder
7-27-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Sunday Column: Spontaneous Fishing

When you live on a ranch, your free time is pretty much mapped out for you. Meaning, you don’t really have it. There’s always something to be done, especially in the summer–fences to be fixed, cows to be checked, weeds to be sprayed, yard work to procrastinate, gardens to weed…you get the idea…

And it’s ok really, because if you choose to live on a ranch, most of the time most of us prefer to be out working the place than anything else.

Especially in the summer. Summer is why we stand strong through the winters here.

But when you live on this ranch there is a bit of a distraction, one thats swimming in the river about ten miles to the south, or the big lake that surrounds us.

And when your work in the yard or digging fence posts unearths dozens and dozens of worms just waiting to be collected for bait on a Sunday evening after you’ve tired of tinkering on the tractor or you’re on your seventeenth load to the dump grounds, a farmer or a rancher might take it as a sign to head to the river before dark and see if the catfish are biting.

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes you just need to throw those homegrown worms in a coffee can, grab whatever tackle is leftover from last summer and maybe the new stuff you got for Christmas, trade your boots for your old tennies, grab some seeds and bug spray and head to the river.

Because it’s summer dammit. And sometimes you just need to go fishing.

Coming Home: Quick, hold on to summer traditions
by Jessie Veeder
6-15-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

You can find my columns weekly in the Fargo Forum (Sundays), Dickinson Press and the Grand Forks Herald. All columns are reposted on this blog.

Sunday Column: Being us

IMG_7473One of us here is an actual dancer.

I’m sure it’s really hard for you to tell, so I’ll give you a hint. It not the one on the left and it sure and hell isn’t the nerdy, clumsy, pasty-skinned one on the right.

No. It’s my Little Big Sister, the pretty, well dressed one in the middle and here we are at her dance recital a couple Saturdays ago. My Big Little Sister is the teacher and founder of Meadowlark Dance Studio in our hometown, a teacher who failed at teaching her little sisters anything about being graceful or elegant, mostly because her little sisters were spending time bouncing basketballs or getting bucked off of horses…

Anyway, here we are together, three women who couldn’t be more different in lots of ways, but who were raised between the same buttes and somehow, after moving out and onwards, found ourselves together, all grown up and living between the buttes again.

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I never would have guessed it when we were fighting over whose turn it was to unload the dishwasher or when we were chasing each other around the house screaming something about bathroom hogging or staying out of my room that we would be back in this place just a few miles apart, living and working, a mom and some aunties, adults in the same community.

And I never knew how nice it would be, to be available to push “play” on the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” while my Little Big Sister guided a group of three-year-olds in frilly tutus to their places on stage.

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I didn’t know how proud I would feel to be connected to someone who is fulfilling a dream, no matter all the obstacles that stood in her way.

Because some days, out here in the middle of Boomtown, in the middle of nowhere, it’s not the easiest place to be, but I imagine that’s the case anywhere you plant yourself and look for a place to belong among a community of people out trying to do the same.

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That’s when family comes in handy. Family you can call when you need someone to feed the dog or watch the baby or help you move the heavy things that need to be moved when you’re dealing with the unexpected or making plans to move forward.

That’s what my little big sister did out here, back home. She started over and moved forward and so last weekend Pops watched Little Man and set up the sound system,  mom handed out programs, Little Sister shushed and organized the dancers back stage, I pushed play on the music and my Little Big Sister presented her dancers to the families sitting in folding chairs, eating sugar cookies on colorful napkins, snapping photos and laughing and clapping for their own little ones they were so proud to see twirling and jumping up there on that dance floor.

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And when the last dance was danced we got up on ladders to take down the lights and put the decorations in boxes and hugged and said congratulations and then we headed down the block to move racks of clothes and shelves and piles of jeans and shoes to get mom’s store ready for new carpet.

This week we’re making plans for a big party to celebrate Pops’ birthday. Mom’s putting plants in pots, Big Little Sister will bring some chairs, Little Sister will make some calls and bring some beer, I’ve got the tent thing under control and we’re all going to be there, celebrating with friends and family and music and food.

And that’s what this week’s column is about, celebrating being us in this place.

Coming Home: There’s always a way for dreams to come true
By Jessie Veeder
5-25-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Sunday Column: On slowing down

photo-79Well, I found a bluebell yesterday.

I was out cleaning the ditches between the two places, doing my part in a community weekend designated to “Picking up the Patch.”

There has been a lot of traffic on that pink road stretching from highway to highway the last few months. Behind our house at night, over the hill and across from the grain bins men and women from all walks of life are traveling to and from that highway to do their part to get the oil out of the ground below this ranch and the ranches beside us.

It’s noisy work, that oil drilling. At night we can hear the creaks and groans of pipe being pulled out of the ground, the blow of a horn, the hum of the trucks driving by, and if the wind is right I might hear those men hollering to one another.

And this traffic leaves residue. Pieces of these men’s lives thrown from the windows of their pickups on purpose or blown from the backs of their pickups on accident.  Everyone is going somewhere. To and from. Some care about this place.

Some don’t.

Some days it’s exhausting.

Some days I don’t notice much.

This noise won’t last forever, but the landscape is forever changed.

And in the spring, it needs cleaning.

So I went out in it, leaving my husband at home building new steps into our house inside our new garage with the fancy new concrete floor.

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We are building out here too. We’re noisy too. We’re making impacts, moving dirt and changing things that can’t be unchanged.

Some days we’re not so quiet ourselves.

Some days we need to remember to clean it all up too. So that’s what I did yesterday. I tried to beautify. I sorted my closets, gloves from neckerchiefs,

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I hauled construction material out of my yard, I swept the dirt from the floors and I used my legs to walk those ditches and pick up cans, watching the trucks slow down as they passed a girl and a dog cleaning up after anonymous faces.

And I was feeling good under that blue sky. It was a warm day. Hardly any wind. I was thinking we could be fishing or riding. Those were my two top choices.

But there were things to be done. The earth is greening up and working on showing us her best side. I wanted to help her along.

So I was feeling good. And then I was feeling bad. Each bottle, each leftover cup from Taco Johns, every wrapper and Copenhagen can a slap of carelessness for this place. I wanted to put my hands on my hips and stomp my foot and scream, “Don’t you care?!”

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But there was no one to scream at. They couldn’t hear me in the cabs of their pickups or behind the wheels of their big rigs. And they likely weren’t the culprits anyway. Most, like my husband at home building us new steps, are probably from here. Some might have places like this of their own. Some might have been out cleaning up their own section of ditches in the last few days. Most of them are doing good enough. Well enough. Just doing their jobs.

And screaming generally doesn’t help a thing.

But doing something about it does. So I filled the bags and step by step I felt a little better about it anyway. That I could at least clean up. That it was a nice day. That there were others out there doing the same thing.

And then I found the bluebell. A sweet, fragile little flower poking out brightly from the greening up grass, all hopeful and brave and beautiful like it knows something that I don’t.

Like thank you.

Like summer comes no matter what.

Like you should work hard like all of these people around you, and then you should look up and look down and look closely here. Slow down and look at me.

Coming Home: Summer a time to honor our childhood
http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/434977/
by Jessie Veeder
5-18-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Sunday Column: On Easter

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In the little Lutheran Church, along a gravel road out in the middle of a cow pasture families filled the pews, back to front, to celebrate Easter. Children were dressed in new outfits, bonnets and vests, ties and frills. They sat next to grandmothers shushing their excited squeals and helped put money in the offering plate.

I stood next to Pops at the front of the church as he played guitar and I sang a song I’ve been singing since I was a little girl. My best friend was baptizing her new baby that day and she asked for a special song.

I hadn’t sung in this little church since I was ten years old.

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The girl who grew up down the road from me, who went to a country school with me,  who traveled to High School Rodeos and could relate to what it meant to be the middle sister, the blonde girl who grew up and moved away, came home for the holiday and she was sitting in the front row with her two little girls.

Behind them, wrangling three young boys in matching flannel shirts, was one of Husband’s best friends.

And then there were the little neighbor girls, all tall and grown up and beautiful. There was their dad, a little more gray in his hair.

There they all were, really, my community gathered on a spring morning that felt like spring. A spring morning that had the birds singing and the baby calves bucking and kicking, the horses basking in the warmth of it all.

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Easter, the pastor said, is a time to start again. The promise of a new season. A second chance.

A resurrection.

It made sense to me then that we would celebrate a baptism on that day, a baptism of a child that is hope and prayers answered personified.

It made sense that we passed two new baby calves, still wet out of the womb, on the road on the way to the church.

It made sense then that we were granted some sunshine and a place to gather with family and friends we’ve known all of our lives. So many they had to bring out the folding chairs.

So many familiar faces, growing up and growing old and still sticking with this place.

Still coming back to the broken up fields and this old church.

And I remember when I was the girl in the Easter hat, a little girl standing up before the congregation with my hands behind my back and singing out.

I remember what it was like when my legs didn’t touch the floor, but dangled there off of the hard pew, kicking and wiggling with excitement about the fun waiting for me and my cousins when the sermon wrapped up and the clusters of adults lost in conversation and laughter and church basement coffee had broken up and disassembled to their respective homesteads where they would conduct their own Easter traditions.

Ours was the annual Easter Egg Hunt, one that took us across dangerous barbed wire fences, in the dark depths of the old barn and the grain bins, to the top of muddy gumbo hills where the crocuses were working on blooming, and then down again to get stuck in that mud, tear our Easter dresses and count and sort our candy on carpet of our gramma’s tiny living room.

These were our traditions out here, out here by the red barn when we were all together and young, without a care in the world, no worries about time and what we could lose, who we could lose between all the Easter sunrises and sunsets.

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It’s been almost 20 years since our last Veeder Ranch egg hunt, almost 20 years since we continued the tradition a little further south to my aunt and uncle’s farmstead with the white barn and the neat corrals.

And then there was a space there where we found we were, all at the same time, too old and too young for egg hunts.

But time is a funny and magical thing. If you wait long enough it will turn those kids in Easter bonnets into mothers and fathers of children whose legs dangle off church pews in anticipation…and we are the ones who go “shush, child. Shhhh now…”

We turn into the Easter Bunny…

And all old things are new again…

On Easter.

Coming Home: Childhood Easter egg hunts helped us find more than candy
by Jessie Veeder
4-20-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Sunday Column: Learning about love from my grandparents

Because it’s freezing and in a few days it will be Valentines Day and we need a holiday like this to warm us all up, this week’s column is about two people who have lived a lifetime together and taught me what it looks like when you truly and completely love one another.

This Valentines Day they will celebrate at their Arizona home. There will likely be breakfast in bed and flowers, a day spent golfing or swimming and dinner plans.

They’ve been married nearly 60 years so they’ve had some practice at celebrating things like love.

They’re the greatest couple I know.

They’re my grandparents.

Coming Home: Learning love from grandparents is a gift
by Jessie Veeder
2-9-13
Fargo Forum
http://www.inforum.com

Sunday Column: Oh Christmas Tree, spindly Christmas Tree

Husband and I don’t have many traditions. Unless you count paddlefishing in May, sending him off to pheasant hunt in October and sometimes remembering our own anniversary enough in advance to buy a bottle of Champaign, I would call us sort of go with the flow type people.

Unless it comes to Christmas. We have traditions at Christmas. We eat pancakes and prime rib. I dip pretzels in chocolate and make a holiday shaped cheese ball.  I dress the pug in a Santa suit.  And we cut our own Christmas tree.

That Christmas tree thing, that’s my favorite one.

And since we moved back to the ranch we have held true to it being a magical sort of process, one that starts with a dreamy vision of the perfect cedar waiting lonely in the coulees of our favorite pasture in the sparkling snow and ends with us laughing and smiling under its boughs covered in twinkling glitter and lights.

And that’s how we remember it no matter the snow drifts, the chill or the one time when we got stuck miles from home and big brown dog puked in the pickup.

We remember it that way because our hunts usually end with a great tree. A tree that spoke to us under a beam of light. One that whispered “pick me, pick me” as we slowly walked toward its light shining down from the prairie sky. One that reached out its arms and asked to be ours, filled our house with the scent of holiday and became the backdrop to many nearly perfect Christmases spent on the ranch.

That didn’t happen this year.

No.

This year we had one day. One hour on one frickin’ freezing Sunday before the sun went down to head out into the -25 degree sunset and find our Christmas centerpiece.

Because in the middle of a life that we seem to insist on overbooking, Christmas seemed to have snuck up and bit us in the ass.

So we had no plan. We had no direction. We just had our coveralls, a saw, each other and one mission.

To fulfill our Christmas tradition.

And what we brought home isn’t pretty.

No, not really.

It’s sort of twisted and it leans and turns to the left. The branches are spindly, they gap and sag and have grown so accustomed to the relentless prairie wind that they have yet to relax so that while it is perfectly calm in the little house we’ve built, that tree, safe and sound under our roof, seems to make us believe that the wind is still blowing.

But you know what else it makes me believe? That Charley Brown, Grinchy little cedar covered in bulb and lights?

That it doesn’t matter.

That it’s sort of perfect for us, really.  Perfect for us and this year we’ve spent muddling through plans that just don’t quite turn out right.  Perfect for a man who falls of ladders and a woman who falls of ledges into snow banks in the middle of Main Street.

Perfect for a couple that doesn’t make time to keep up with the laundry or the dishes and spends way to much time eating noodles and not enough time doing sit-ups.

So when I reached for the 175th Christmas bulb, that carbohydrate loving, overly ambitious carpenter husband of mine told me to stop.

No more bulbs.

The tree is good.

The tree is his favorite.

Because it’s like us.

Just happy to be here and trying its best.

Coming Home: A perfect Christmas includes plenty of imperfections
12/20/13
By Jessie Veeder
Fargo Forum
http://www.inforum.com

Sunday Column: The Happiest Place on Earth

Well, Christmas is coming and I’m coming down from a fabulous weekend spent performing winter songs across the state.

Turns out I’m also coming down with the Christmas plague and it’s currently compromising the voice I so desperately need to work during this holiday season.

Because asking me not to talk is like asking me not to breathe.

Anyway, that’s a story for tomorrow. Today, I want to catch you up on what I learned on another trip I took with the nieces and the in-laws to a tropical, magical land known as Disney World a few weeks back.

There were princesses and Mickey shaped ice-cream bars,

castles and spinning tea cups, roller coasters and stuffed animals, a big ‘ol tree house,

a few even bigger whales,

giant strollers running into my ankles, It’s a Small World After All and maybe not enough tequila.

And those are just some of the highlights. Because we did it all.

Since these three little princesses came into this world, this auntie has always imagined what it would be like to watch their eyes light up in the Happiest Place on Earth. Judging from the plethora of pink and purple paraphernalia and the never-ending collection of Disney DVDs I had a hunch the place might kinda be their thing.

And anyway, I have memories from a trip my family took to Disney Land in an RV, picking up relatives along the way. I was five years old and the magic of it all had yet to wear thin, and so there is still magic in the memories.

I wanted that magic for my nieces.

So we talked about it last Christmas, my mother and sister-in-law made plans and eleven months later we were all on a plane leaving the great white north for sunny Florida.

And it was fabulous and frantic and exhausting and unexpected and just great fun for lots of reasons.

Turns out though, that the best parts are never expected, and I think that’s the same in Disney as it is in life.

Coming Home:
Happiest Place on Earth doesn’t always mean Disney
by Jessie Veeder
12/15/13
Fargo Forum

Peace, Love and cough syrup.

Jessie