January blues

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A lot can be said about winters up here in North Dakota, but for anyone who has lived through one (or one hundred), whether new to the area or born and raised, we all have January in common.

January is hard. It’s cold. It’s the longest month no matter how well things are going. And I’m guessing it’s the number one reason that half of our 65 and older population lives in Arizona during those thirty days. They’ve learned their lessons…

Being a mom to young kids in North Dakota in January is no joke.  All I have done today is wipe noses, mine included. And when you live 40 minutes from civilization, the isolation can weigh heavy on the days that feel hard.

I admit, I wondered if I should publish a piece in all of those newspapers about how I cried on my basement floor surrounded by all of my first world problems and so many of the things I’ve always wished for. But then I thought, well, there is likely another mom somewhere out there crying on her basement floor, and, well, I don’t want to feel alone either.

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January’s a little too good at loneliness

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I sat on the floor in the basement and cried.

I cried while my 3-year-old’s voice bubbled and babbled a narrative for her dolls as they navigated the new house her auntie snagged for them secondhand last week.

I cried while my 1-year-old wobbled over to hand me her little karaoke microphone because it was my 150th turn, so I smiled and gave her another little “la, la, la,” because that’s what mommas do, even when they’re crying.

Even when they have nothing to cry about really, except, sometimes, I’ve come to understand, that even the best of us have our moments, or days (or weeks or months), where it all feels a little heavy on us. Not just the hard stuff, but the good stuff, too. Because even the snuggly, sweet and syrupy things we’ve always wished for come with crumbs we have to sweep up sometimes.

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And so it was the smallest disagreement as my husband walked out the door after the waffles were half-eaten and the dishes were put in the sink that made me feel like maybe I will never have the crumbs under control.

And then, when the door clicked shut, it was a moment of loneliness tacked onto a selfish feeling of maybe not being OK missing the only thing I don’t have that I want, which is a moment to walk to the top of that hill out there and get away from the crumbs I used to pray so hard for when I was just me.

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So I cried. And I let myself because sometimes, it’s possible to be grateful and frustrated.

Sometimes, it’s possible to be lonesome for ourselves. Motherhood isn’t the only thing that taught me that.

January in North Dakota is good at loneliness. And so I cried for a bit. And then I stopped and carried on through the afternoon, trying to think of ways to tend to the ache.

I read an extra book or two to the toddler and laid down to close my eyes with the baby for a few moments. And when my daughters woke up, fresh and sweet, I turned on some music and watched them both twirl, so innocent and so unaware of the cold outside.

And when my husband walked through that door after a long day of working on the outdoor chores I desperately wished I could be helping with, it occurred to me that on the other side of these walls, he might have been wishing to be dancing while I was wishing for the bite of that wind.

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I looked at his face and the lump our morning exchange left in my chest dissolved, reminding me that this is life. And I’m OK.

So I cooked us supper, my husband, my daughters and me. And we all made crumbs we left for tomorrow so we could head down to the basement, sit on the floor together and laugh.

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A chance to warm up

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Well, I’ve bitched enough about the bone chilling weather lately, it’s time I’m finally able to praise this much appreciated January thaw.

I wasn’t sure if we were going to get one this time around, but I guess I can count on it again. And boy, did we need it, for the cattle and for the kids and for low North Dakota spirits everywhere.

I drove to town the other day and it was 41 degrees. It might as well have been 70. I went by the little donut shop and the two girls were outside shoveling in their t-shirts and sunglasses like they were in California. I guess I couldn’t blame them. I felt that way too.  I didn’t bother with my coat, in fact the sun shining in the window of my car made it too warm in there, so I opened up the window and listened to my tires splashing up slush on the pavement.

It’s because of January that I’ve never minded the mud.

We took advantage of the beautiful weekend and spent Saturday continuing work on my video for my song “Northern Lights.” Turns out dad doesn’t mind a third take of him walking up a steep snow bank in his snow shoes when its 35 above zero.

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And I don’t mind standing there watching him either, thankful for things like snowshoes after watching the filmmaker sink up to his waist trying to situate the camera in a snowbank.

But after today the snow has cleared off the tops of the buttes and the 10 foot drifts have shrunk down to 8 feet drifts. And the snow on the table on my deck melted enough to remind me of the three casseroles and  two pies I set out there to chill on Thanksgiving.(So that’s where that glass bowl went!)

Ahhh, I love it. Really. I wouldn’t mind January in North Dakota if she always behaved this way. And by that I mean staying above the 0 mark on the thermometer and chilling on the whole wind thing.

But knowing that’s not in her nature, so we take what we can get. On Sunday my little sister and I took turns taking Edie on sledding runs down the icy road in our yard.

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(Don’t worry, we weren’t going as fast as the screams would have you think…)

As you can imagine, she loved it.

She loves the cold actually. It’s weird. You take her outside, the cold air hits her face and she comes alive, squealing and laughing, waving her arms and legs, squishing up her face in delight.

I plop her in a snowbank and she flings snow up in the air like she’s splashing in a swimming pool, not giving a care in the world about where the cold stuff lands on her face.

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I swear, this kid was made for this place, it’s like she just sprang out of the slick clay one day and announced her arrival. She’s reminding me about the magic this place holds and I love her for it.

It’s all just an adventure.

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Tomorrow’s Friday and we have the weekend ahead of us that we intend on filling with house construction projects and outdoor chores. Edie’s getting to the age where it’s fun to take her along. I bought her a pair of little boots and today, just as I was bundling her up to take her outside to test them out, Pops poked his head through the door and we piled in the pickup to go feed the cows.

“This is what you’ve always dreamed about,” he said as we watched Edie squeal at the cattle lining up behind the bale we rolled out for him.

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Leave it to Pops to take the ordinary trials of a Thursday and turn it into a reminder of the simple things we live for.

Thanks Pops.

And thanks January sun for giving us a chance to warm up.

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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
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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.

 

 

Unpredictable January

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The end of January is here and I think I can speak for most North Dakotans when I say, “Whew.”

It’s a tough month up north, full of unpredictable and freezing weather, long evenings and short days and lots of reasons to eat soup and heavy carbs, no matter what you said in your New Years Resolution about eating better.

We’re not meant to eat lettuce in the deep freeze of January. It’s not natural.

We’re meant to hibernate and hunker down. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

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I’ve spent more days consecutively in the house this January than ever before in my life. Except maybe when I was a newborn myself.

I’m so used to running around, playing music late at night, heading to meetings or wandering outside on a whim that this hiding out has been a big adjustment.

Never mind that I’m hanging out with a brand new tiny little person we made.

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Yes, when you live out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter, the whole getting out of the house thing takes way more effort. There’s no such thing as a quick trip anywhere, except maybe to the changing table.

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So I leave the grocery shopping to my husband, which I’ve found to be one of the major perks of hanging home with a newborn.

That and hanging in my stretchy pants all day.

What’s not so fun? Daytime television and trying to work with a baby who doesn’t nap much or for very long.

But she smiles a lot when she’s awake, so it’s worth it.

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And when we do get out of the house, we go visit the other babies on the ranch.

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Or, on the weekends, I leave Edie to rock with her daddy and I take a wander, get some fresh air in my lungs, swing my arms without a baby in them and walk the big dogs.

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Last week Edie had her two month appointment and with each of her little milestones I’m reminded that time ticks so quickly.

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Last winter I was in Nashville.

Next winter I will be chasing a one year old around in the snow.

 

Turns out the ever predictable January has proven that, in some ways, she’s not so predictable after all.

And I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

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Outside. Inside.

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January’s a good month to have an excuse to stay inside with a baby.

All the snuggling, singing and miles put on pacing and bouncing the burps out in front of the fireplace is as good of an activity as any when the thermometer registers well below zero.

And while I love it, I am also restless. Having spent every other winter of my life able to bundle up and hit the trail or the road on a whim sometimes sends me pressing my nose up against the window.

The light is already starting to linger longer, and this baby is already starting to hold her head up and make little noises, but I find myself daydreaming about smushing her leg rolls into a little swimming suit and hitting the beaches of the big lake this summer.

And that’s a rough daydream, because I already think she’s growing up too fast.

So in an attempt to beat cabin fever and to force myself to stay in the moment, last weekend Husband held down the fort and the pacifier and I made a plan to trek out and about around the barnyard, ignoring the fact that it was literally -20 with the windchill or something like that.

I would just stay in the low parts of the place, avoid the wind and try to squeeze my fat ass into my long underwear, under sweat pants, under snow pants I could barely button up.

I just needed to take a tally of all of the frost, put a flush in my cheeks and sweat a bit.

Because while I have a new role now as a mom, there are things I know about myself that help keep me balanced.

I need to go outside. It’s imperative for me to remain the best version of myself.

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So I did.

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And I froze my face off.

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And came in after only about fifteen minutes.

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Happy to know that all was as it should be in January.

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Frosty and freezing…

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Windy and white…

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And pretty in a middle-of-winter sort of way.

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And it felt good to be frozen, only to warm up…

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with a warm fire and the best stuff waiting for me inside.

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On a green January day…

Well, we are nearing the end of January and outside my window the sun is trying desperately to peek through the blanket of clouds and I feel, at 45 degrees, at any minute this brown, damp landscape is going to erupt in colors of green and orange and pink and purples.

What a weird winter it has been. And when I say weird, I also mean a little wonderful.

But I’m wonderfully freaked out.

Remember last year? Remember the countless times we were snowed in? Remember my run in with the FedEx Man in a FedEx Van who, by the grace of Martha, I was able to pull out of my yard in order avoid an awkward afternoon of coffee in this little house in the middle of nowhere with a man who delivers my boots.

Yes, last winter we snowshoed, we sledded, I made snow angles and a snow man. I let the snow man wear my hat and my scarf, because, well, I was wearing a hat and scarf.

There were drifts that reached up over my head, which made driving into our yard feel like driving in the tunnel of a snow fort. I began contemplating purchasing cross country skis to give myself another option of getting around the ranch.

It was a damn winter wonderland.

But what we have this year people is a damn phenomenon and I’m not quite sure where I am and what they’ve done with winter , but it sure is keeping me on my toes.

I mean, there we were hunkered down after a stretch of sub, sub, zero temperatures only to wake up to rain and the smell of spring in the air. In another winter in another time this type of weather would send the snow melting in the coulees and me running to creek beds to float sticks and homemade boats.

But today the ice on the creek has melted just enough for the dogs to grab a lick, the banks brown and muddy,

red bare stems poking up from the ice,

orange berries dangling from twiggy branches,

golden dried wildflowers.

These are the colors of this North Dakota winter.  And the feeling is all around poky.

And this is disarming to me, because it my mind, winter is supposed to be soft.

I am all out of sorts in this in-between, schizophrenic season. So yesterday while the boys were working on our new house, I skipped work and took a cross-country hike to momma’s on a full out search for any signs of winter. I needed to find something worth snuggling into, something that beckons me to come and lay down in it, something that sparkles.

But what I found was not what I was expecting really.

See as I followed the deer trails through the trees toward the creek, I tried to recall if I’ve ever been able to hike through these coulees so late in the winter. A walk this long through this much rise and fall in terrain last year would have induced near death huffing and puffing for sure, or at least a bloody nose. But yesterday, after leaning in to examine the thorns that stuck out from the blueberries bushes, the bare flowers, dried up and bending in the breeze without their petals, the dry grass that crackled as the wind pushed through its stems, something else caught my eye.

Under that dry grass, at the base of the oak trees, clinging to the rocks in the frozen creek was green, vivid, wonderful, lush, bright green. What is usually buried under a thick layer of white were remnants of a warmer season coated in the drizzle of this unusual January weather.

Fuzzy moss.

Silky grass.

Furry leaves.

And the more I looked, the closer I got to the ground floor of my world, the more green I found. Soon I was stripping off my wool cap, untying my neckerchief, folding back the flaps on my mittens as the uncharacteristic color of winter transported me and I was convinced I was living in a warm May day.

Oh yes, the creek was still frozen on the top, the dogs spinning out as they chased after a squirrel who too, was awoken from his deep sleep by the warming up.

But underneath their furry paws the creek was following them, running too while it can run… on a green January day.

Oh, I could have stayed at the bottom of that creek bed nestled among the birch trees and towering oaks all afternoon, holding my wood cap in my hands and shoving my mittens in my pockets. The fallen oak leaves were a warm blanket covering the cool ground,  the moss on the trees invited me to touch, the biting breeze was blocked by the deep banks the creek has cut and the trees who make those banks their home.

Oh, yes. I found soft.

I found soft on a snowless winter day where, on gifts of days like these, if you look close,  under all that brown and red and orange, and frozen gray

the earth waits patiently for it’s chance to shine again.

Oh January

Oh, January you’ve changed haven’t you?
Casting long shadows
against gold, green and blue

tempting us with light jackets
and unlined walking shoes

Oh, January…what did you do?

To your silky white snow drifts
your wind frozen and wild?
You used to be reckless,
now what are you? Mild?

You’re a hot, sultry vixen
and you’re throwing us off
with your new sexy t-shirt
and your jeans? Are they cropped?

Yes, your new look it is stunning,
your kisses so warm
still I find myself watching
for the inevitable storm…


For the snowflakes to drop
and my fingers to freeze
as I lay in the gold grass
humming with the soft breeze.

Oh, I wait to despise you
like I usually do
No, I’m not sure about this
but I like it, it’s new.

But your hair does looks different
your cheeks a bit flushed
and you greet me with sunshine!
January I’m touched!

So though the I hate to admit it
or make a big fuss
January, I tell you…


I’ve never liked you this much.