A rainbow baby in a pumpkin patch

This morning I’m sitting at my table, hair unwashed and disheveled from a weekend spent on the ranch, wearing sweatpants and the stretched out cami I slept in. The baby is still in her jammies and I can see her out of the corner of my eye, throwing one Cheerio  at a time on the floor and watching it drop.

In one month she’ll be a year. And we’ve hit so many milestones in these short months, I can’t imagine what measuring her life in years is going to bring. She blows kisses and claps her hands. She turns her waterworks and emotions on and off like a champion baby manipulator. She’s standing (for two or three seconds anyway) on her own. Give her a few more weeks and she’ll probably be walking, rendering me completely helpless to get anything done around here. We started daycare once a week, and, because among her adorable tricks, she also bites people, I’m a little nervous about her social skills.

She can reach the top of my table, so nothing is safe.

img_2833

She’d rather play with my Tupperware collection than her toys. She shakes her little body to the sound of music and since suffering recently through her first little cold, has discovered that the worst thing in her entire world is her mother wiping her nose.

These are the little things that make up the big picture of parenthood we used to dream and plan about. It’s nothing and everything like I imagined it when we were trying to get here for all those years, a journey that I have not swept under the rug in the name of compassion and understanding for the families who haven’t had their chance at these little milestones…

Coming Home: A simple photo is a moment mom waited for
by Jessie Veeder
10-16-16
Fargo forum
http://www.inforum.com

img_2740

There are things I always envisioned doing once I had a child of my own in tow. One of them was sitting my baby on a hay bale at a pumpkin patch and taking a photo.

I wasn’t naïve enough to think that the real-life scenario looked like the pages of the Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I knew it was likely more in line with mini-meltdowns and arguments about not wearing shorts in October and bribes to smile for the camera, but I didn’t care. I was happy to pay my mommy dues if it meant I got to be a member.

Last week I finally got to sit my baby on a hay bale and take that photo. A group of moms in town got together to create our own community pumpkin patch in the park, and I made plans to go, despite the snow covering the ground that morning and the chill in the air that afternoon.

I picked up my little sister and we drove down to the park. I forgot Edie’s mittens and her stroller and cash for admission, so one of the moms supplied the mittens and, after my little sister paid, the two of us took turns shifting the bundled up, rosy-cheeked baby from hip to hip as we walked around in the chill, visiting with friends and watching the neighborhood kids jump in bounce houses, paint pumpkins and run wild like kids do.

img_2694

Jessie Veeder’s daughter, Edie, smiles for a photo at the pumpkin patch. Jessie Veeder / Special to The Forum

And then I set my own baby down on the ground next to a formation of square hay bales, cornstalks and gourds, and we clapped and squealed and coaxed her to smile that smile I’ve been waiting so long to capture.

She didn’t let me down.

img_2750

And while that pumpkin patch photo wasn’t a huge milestone for my rosy-cheeked daughter, watching her bobble around in her knit beanie and new winter jacket, trying to take a bite out of the little pumpkins propped beside her, it was a huge milestone for me, who finally gets to be her obnoxious, obsessive, photo-taking mother in the pumpkin patch after so many uncertain Octobers.

img_2775

I’m thinking of this now because this month has been designated as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. And I admit in the past, after nine years, six miscarriages and the loss of any hope of carrying a pregnancy to full term, I wasn’t much for being reminded of those heartbreaking moments in my life. I didn’t want a day to feel obligated to shout it from the rooftops.

No. You were more likely to hear me telling my story in the everyday quiet exchanges between strangers, the ones where I found myself answering the question, “Do you have any children?”

It’s that question that sits like a rock at the bottom of many hearts. It’s that question that gives us a reason to dedicate some time to remember, to understand and to find compassion.

And while I can answer it more easily now, while I can say, “Yes, I have a baby daughter,” and then I can whip out my phone and show you the photo of her, while I’m now part of the pumpkin-patch club, I won’t ever forget the other club in which I also belong.

And for the sake of the families who have suffered such loss, the ones counting the years and wondering what she might have been for Halloween, the ones who felt him kick but never heard him cry, the ones quietly hoping for their chance to forget the mittens and the money and the stroller at the pumpkin patch, I don’t ever want to forget.

So I won’t shout it from the rooftops, that’s not my way, but I will send up a quiet prayer that some way, somewhere, I hope they get their picture.

img_2705

Sunday Column: The “what if’s” in Boomtown

IMG_6233

My husband and I moved back to the ranch more than five years ago. If you’ve been following along here, you’ve likely seen how much has changed, and how much hasn’t, at the ranch, in our family and in our community.

 Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.15.33 PM
We moved back for a few reasons. Number one was because it is where we wanted to settle down and raise a family, but the number two reason made it possible–the economy was booming due to the oil and gas industry and seemingly overnight there were more jobs and more opportunity than our small town could keep a tally on.
The results have been unprecedented growth for our small town that was once only 1,200 people and now boasts a population that is seemingly uncountable due to fluctuations and many people living in temporary housing situations. My guess is we’re likely close to 8,000 people today.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.16.44 PM
Our small town that never had a stop light, now has many. We have a sort of suburban sprawl happening with new apartment buildings and housing units going up. We have Main Street bars and a sushi restaurant. We have little strip malls. A big grocery store. A nice daycare, a brand new high school and multi-million dollar community and event center going up, with two indoor ice slabs and a couple pools. We’re working on a new hospital and clinic.
Everything that once was is now updated, expanded and improved upon, including our roads.
When oil prices were at $100 a barrel we worked on playing catch up because the entire country was moving in.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.16.56 PMAnd now we’re planning for the future in a time we knew could come, a slow down due to lower oil prices.  We’re in a sort of eerie place where we can catch up, not realizing how we’ve gotten used to such a fast pace until there’s a shift.
In the new year I think we all wish we could see into the future, knowing that all we can do is believe in and trust in today. And today it seems like despite what looks sort of grim, my community is showing it’s a little beacon of light and hope on this cold prairie.
Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.17.10 PM
by Jessie Veeder
1-17-16
Forum Communications

It’s been more than five years since my husband and I unloaded our hand-me-down furniture into the little brown ranch house in the barnyard where my dad grew up, fulfilling our dream of moving home, because unlike the economy the two of us grew up in during the ’80s and ’90s, there were jobs.

Everyone talks about how the oil boom seemed to happen overnight, but when you’re living among it, that sense of immediacy is only partially true.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of “what-if” that sits alongside “could it be true?” in your mind as you wonder about the alleged oil well that promises to pop up on the hill behind the house.

It seems like it could never happen, until one day you wake up and there it is.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.14.27 PM

That’s how it’s been for the past five years around here in western North Dakota. Not believing and then believing — that there would be a stoplight in town, a four-lane highway to Williston, a fast-food restaurant, a brand new high school, dozens of new apartment buildings and so on and so on until you find yourself used to the stoplights, sushi and Southern accents surrounding you.

The “if you build it they will come” mentality wasn’t as much the case here in this once 1,200-person town. No, it was more of the “they have come so let’s do what we can to make it work better.”

And so we made time for the extra traffic, the long lines and construction detours, and have come to expect events and restaurants filled to capacity with people of all ages, races and backgrounds, our new little melting pot on the western edge of the state.

We knew it would slow down eventually, that the four new hotels that were built wouldn’t be filled to the brim every week with working residents, and instead we would have to find a way to fill them with guests.

We knew that we wouldn’t always have to make reservations for supper.

We knew that oil wouldn’t stay at $100 a barrel, and that we might get a chance to take a breath someday and catch up, even though the thought was both terrifying and relieving.

Because we knew what it was like to have our quiet and slow life interrupted, but maybe we didn’t realize how quickly we could get used to a new normal, a fast pace of planning hectic moment to hectic moment.

But that hectic moment has slowed for a bit now and, as oil prices have slid, adjustments have been made.

Is the boom over?

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.14.37 PM

That’s a question every news source and coffee conversation wants answered.

I’m not sure if anyone knows. Just like nobody seemed to know exactly what was coming five years ago. I read a different dramatic report, opinion and prediction every day.

But here’s what I know to be true for us: Oil prices have changed, but the sense of “what-if” coupled with “could it be true?” has not.

We have never settled into a sense of security in such fast-paced growth. Instead, we have remained committed to keep steady in our own plan to figure out how to stay here at the family’s ranch for the long run.

And I’ll tell you, it’s been much easier with better jobs and more opportunity at our fingertips. But along with that, for whatever challenges we continue to face, what our community has become in the wake of the boom has made this an easier and exciting place to live in many ways.

And for that we have been grateful.

I think that realization might be the case for most people who, after coming here for the work, have decided to make this place their permanent home now. Because of the jobs, yes, but also because, like us, they see a future here.

And it’s because of those people it seems our new population is remaining more steady than predicted. Yes, people are losing jobs and families are moving away, but businesses are also still hiring and new residents still seem to see the value in a community that has moved from building to keep up with the present into building for a future we want for our families.

For more information on Watford City and McKenzie County, and for other perspectives on Boomtown Living visit: 
www.mckenziecounty.net
www.voicesofwatford.com
www.oilgoesboom.com
www.boomtowndiaries.com 
www.beautifulbakken.com 

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.25.43 PM

 

Sunday Column: The good ‘ol fashioned coffee break…

coffee

In this time of texting, messaging, emailing, Instagramming, Tweeting, Facebooking, Pinteresting, Parascoping and all of the other digital ways I haven’t learned about yet that allow us to communicate with the entire world with a click of a button, sometimes it just really nice to have a friend that will drive 30 miles out of her way (with soup) for a good ‘ol fashioned visit.
Because of all of the things we might invent to bring us closer, nothing compares to the original–sitting close and hearing each other laugh out loud.

Coming Home: Impromptu visits still important in modern, hectic life

by Jessie Veeder
10-12-15


Forum Communication

www.inforum.com

Last week, a friend drove from town with her young son and a pot of soup to our house in the middle of nowhere on a mission to have a lunch date.

It was a regular Monday afternoon, and I was working from home. When I work from home, I don’t get things like “lunch dates.”

Because I can’t just pop out to my favorite sandwich place to meet a friend.

No.

Out here, my lunch date is watching the cows walk by the yard on their way to the dam to water as I sit down in front of my computer with a summer sausage sandwich I threw together in haste.

So needless to say, it was nice to have company, a cheerful face with a red-headed toddler in tow to liven up this empty midday house a bit.

It was a simple gesture, one that had us chatting about mommyhood and our growing town, the nice fall weather and the story about how my husband and I got the pickup stuck smack in the middle of a muddy road the night before and had to be pulled out. Because it’s been raining, and this is still a wild and inconveniently unpredictable place sometimes, despite and because of oil industry action.

And this wild place doesn’t typically lend itself to town friends making the long trip out just for a quick visit and a bowl of soup. Usually it’s the other way around, and then when we get to town, we make sure to stop at the bank, get some groceries, grab a piece for the broken water tank at Tractor Supply and generally try to fit in what we can before heading back home.

But my friend’s visit got me thinking about lunch dates and coffee breaks and how we’re spending our suppertime and our downtime. If you look at it all together, those little in-between moments, the pauses in the work and the regular routine, add up to some of the really good (and dare I say best) parts of our lives.

What are we doing with those little moments? Who are we spending them with?

Now, I remember a lot of things about growing up out here — the freedom to roam about and play in the hills, riding horses and chasing cows, big birthday parties and family gatherings — but what holds unexpectedly warm memories for me are the coffee visits.

As a kid, of course, I wasn’t there for the coffee. I would tag along with my parents up the hill to the neighbors’ for a chance to play with my friends on their tire swing before coming in for a glass of Kool-Aid and catching pieces of conversation and laughter coming from the adults sitting around the counter.

From them we learned about humor and gossip and what it sounds like to offer up help, concern and well-intended advice. We learned how to weave a story and get to the punch line, we learned what trust looked like, and we learned that you should keep cookies or bars around, especially on the weekends, in case someone stops by.

And in all of those lessons learned over Kool-Aid and coffee, I can’t help but wonder now, in this fast-paced world I’ve found myself in, did I hold on tight enough to the lesson of simple time spent together? Messy house or clean. Work done or work looming. Who cares if you’re caught in your ugly cleaning sweatpants on a Saturday morning?

I feel like in the hectic schedule we’ve made for ourselves, riddled with deadlines and ranch work and housework, I might have slowly lost the art and importance of the impromptu visit.

With a baby on the way, somehow my friend’s visit, with her toddler and his backpack full of toy cars in tow, reminded me of the importance of doors open, coffee on and simply swinging by, no matter how far down that highway a neighbor is.

Because this busy life we’ve created isn’t just about tasks and goals, but about feeding our souls with a homemade cookie and a little conversation to remind us we’re in it together.

So keep the coffee on, friends, we’re coming over.

road 2

Sunday Column: 100 years!

IMG_1995The party of the century took place in my hometown this weekend. I sit here this morning at the ranch, my cousins and aunt and uncle visiting from Texas likely milling around the cabin in the barnyard over the hill, getting ready for another day in North Dakota, just one of the many family’s who made the trip back home to celebrate.

It’s fitting then that they would be spending their nights in the very spot that raised my grandfather and then raised my aunt and dad and uncle, right above where the old shack used to sit, right next door to the old red barn, family feet still making tracks in this mud.

Summer Barn

I can’t tell you what it means to me to have them here and I’m sure they can’t explain that the miles and time don’t make a difference, that this is always home.

I am certain that among the thousand plus people who celebrated with us, most would say the same.

IMG_9180

There’s coffee at my desk and I’m nursing a sunburn and tired feet. I have the whole summer ahead of me now, packed with more stages, more cows to chase, more events to plan and more sun to catch, but what I’m thinking now is “phew, we pulled it off.”

And that I’m proud to have been a part of it.

Because for two years we’ve been planning the bands and the art show, the kids games and the sidewalk sales, the film festival and the magicians, the clowns and the books and the auction and the big free feed under the tent.

We didn’t plan on rain, but we knew it was inevitable. We didn’t plan for a party in the mud, but we had one and it was great.

IMG_2012

We’re a young establishment, this booming small town in America. Things have changed since the railroad made promises and the first little wooden store took shape on the desolate landscape. Every day time passes and residents make decisions to build, to come, to leave, to stay.

Within those 100 years there have been booms and busts and years spent standing still waiting for and making our own opportunity that might help keep the streets alive with young people and babies again…

IMG_1928

Within those 100 years land has been bought and sold and split and kept. Businesses have changed hands, closed doors or stayed right there in the family.

Kids have learned between the walls of schools and out in the streets, riding bikes to the pool or driving their first cars out to help with a branding at a ranch in the badlands.

I am one of those kids. This weekend I was surrounded by them, tapping their toes to the music on the big stage, dancing and laughing, buying each other a beer, swinging around grandchildren, sitting down with a roast beef sandwich and catching up, just like they’ve done for decades.

IMG_9233

And isn’t it refreshing to know that no matter how things have changed us, no matter how fast the cars can go now, how we can fly across oceans, no matter that we can see each other on computer screens though we’re thousands of miles apart, still after all of these years there’s nothing like celebrating shoulder to shoulder, embrace to embrace, laughter to terrible joke.

There’s nothing that beats a good old fashioned party together.

IMG_9295

IMG_1974

IMG_2007IMG_2009

Congratulations hometown. Here’s to another 100 years and more!

Coming Home: We call it a century. 100 years. The Centennial
by Jessie Veeder
7-29-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

IMG_1799

Sunday Column: What it means to be my sister…

 

There are many best parts of living back at the ranch.

The familiarity of it all, the nostalgia of the things that surrounded me as a kid growing up wild.

Watching the sunrise out the big windows in the morning and the deer come out from the trees to water in the dam.

Endless trails, endless unexpected adventures.

Endless expected adventures.

And endless ways to test my patience, my capabilities, my creativity and my muscles.

But the best is simple.

The best is that I’m surrounded by all of these things…the big blue sky, the old oak trees, the bullberries, the tall grass, the big red barn, the cattle and the horses in the hills.

I’m surrounded by these things that I love, but I love them even more because I’m also surrounded by family.

And family, above all of it, is our greatest gift.

Coming Home: “Miss Veeder” once more with sister back in town
by Jessie Veeder
11/17/13
Fargo Forum
http://www.inforum.com

Sunday Column: Hometown/Boomtown

Last Friday I helped play host to one of the biggest community events in Boomtown, the  Best of the West Ribfest Street Fair and Car show.

We had been planning the event for months and were relieved to wake up under sunny skies and a forecast that was perfect for strolling the sidewalks, listening to music, shopping, and tasting the ribs seasoned and cooked to perfection by local  organizations and businesses.

For almost twenty hours the committee and I ran up and down Main Street organizing teams, taking photographs, making announcements, moving chairs, washing tables, talking to guests and generally making sure everyone was having a good time.

My feet are still recovering, but the blisters were worth it. It was a great event, the kind that makes you proud to be from a small town, even though that small town is growing and changing right before our eyes.

Yes, every year this event gets bigger and bigger because every year our town gets bigger and bigger, growing and bursting at the seams to accommodate and welcome the evolving oil industry barreling down our gravel roads.

Last month we celebrated the grand opening of a giant new grocery store.

This fall we’ll have a Chinese Restaurant.

We have two stoplights.

We are planning a new hospital, a new daycare, a new school and a new way of thinking about change and what it means to us.

It hasn’t been easy on everyone and that’s a truth I can speak without hesitation.

It hasn’t been easy.

But it has been interesting. And exciting. And overwhelming and at times and in many ways really wonderful.

Like Friday, when families, both new to town and natives to the area, strolled down a street smoking with the smell of summer cooking, stopping to listen to their hometown band or to grab some free ice cream or take a shot at dunking their favorite teacher in the dunk tank.

We were having fun. We were slowing down. We were spending time with one another and continuing a tradition.

And we were all neighbors eating ribs on a summer afternoon in our town.

In Boomtown.


Coming Home: No standing still in Boomtown
By Jessie Veeder
8/11/13
Fargo Forum
www.inforum.com