Passing the Halloween torch

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It’s Halloween. And true to my nature I stayed up late last night gluing Edie’s gumball  machine costume together and cursing myself for waiting until the last minute, because, EEEK! I ran out of little pom-poms and I live a good hour and a half from the nearest 24 hour Walmart.

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Why couldn’t I just order her a costume from Amazon.com for crying out loud?

Why? Because it looked like an adorable and easy idea a month ago when I found it.

And I think I like to make stuff. Even if I procrastinate the shit out of the process.

Halloween has been one of my favorite holidays because of those two things, because I rarely make plan until the last minute and apparently I like the thrill of creativity under pressure.

Some of my best work has come a good hour or two before our last minute plan to attend a Halloween party.

White Trash.

Bacon and Eggs/Before and After

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But it’s been a few years since we’ve hit up a bender of a Halloween party. Last year I could have gone as a blimp and I wouldn’t have needed a costume.

This year I spent the weekend obsessing over staining the house. And in case you’re wondering, it didn’t go well. I mean, #1:  Who in their right minds designs a house that needs to be re-stained every few years? And #2: Who makes that house so tall even their tallest ladder can’t reach the top?

It’s a Halloween worthy nightmare that will last our entire lives. (Or at least until we make enough money to buy ourselves out of DIYing…)

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This is the short side of the house, so who needs a ladder?  I call it Redneck Renovation (Innovation?)

Anyway, I’ve never spent a Halloween with our baby, so I’m planning on doing what we can do for the holiday with an almost-one-year-old. I’ll find mom’s witch hat and we’ll head to town this afternoon to hang in her store and hand out candy. Then I’ll make the rounds, say hi to some neighbors, show her off and likely, spend most of my time putting the bubble gum hat back on her head.

Don’t worry, they’ll be pictures tomorrow, you know you can count on it:)

Oh, and if you don’t yet, follow me on Instagram for photos on life out here.

And because this baby and my Halloween crafting project makes me nostalgic, here’s this week’s column on the memories I have of trick-or-treating along the country roads.

Coming Home: Princess of the frozen tundra passes the Halloween torch
by Jessie Veeder
10-30-16
Forum Communications

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I was a princess once.

It was a long time ago in a faraway, mysterious frozen tundra called North Dakota. I was beautiful. My crown was made of glittery pipe cleaner, my dress a hand-me-down from my fair mother, shoulder pads for dramatic effect, taken in at the waist with 37 safety pins, and it swept (drug) on the ground ever-so elegantly, collecting fallen leaves, dirty snow and candy wrappers the way every magnificent princess ballgown should.

I addressed my kingdom in a short, 1990s camcorder clip featuring a stunning and dramatic speech littered with impediments because I was a princess who couldn’t quite say my “R’s” correctly. And before I headed out the door to survey my territory, I pulled on my baby blue, puffy winter coat and well-worn snow boots, even though I fully intended on a mink shawl and glass slippers, because it was Halloween in North Dakota, and when it comes to parents, there are some arguments even a princess can’t win.

Yes, I was a princess once.

And then I was a clown in a hand-me-down, red and white, homemade zip-up suit and hat, complete with rosy cheeks.

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And once I was Pippi Longstocking, and I made my braids stick straight out and wore my dad’s lace-up work boots. And long ago, I was a ghost with spiders in my hair, then an old woman in a lace dress taken from my great-grandmother,

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and an alien with neon-green hair and a tinsel dress that my mom wore in a 1970s production of “The Wizard of Oz” in which she played the Tin Man.

Yes, ’tis the season for goblins and mermaids and 7,000 Ninja Turtles and “Frozen” characters to start gearing up for an evening of a make-believe parade down city sidewalks and doing the things that children do on a holiday that was invented to keep us young and full of imagination.

But my Halloween memories don’t include those sidewalks, because we didn’t have many on the miles of gravel roads connecting us to our “next-door neighbors.” Our trick-or-treating rituals looked more like dressing up in homemade costumes my best friend and I had been planning and perfecting for weeks, standing in front of dad’s deer horns hanging on the wall to pose for a photo next to my little sister who was dressed as a pumpkin and then piling into the minivan with the neighbor girls while our dads drove us through the 10-mile loop so we could unload and load up again at all seven houses.

One year my best friend went as a picnic table, to-scale and complete with at least two table settings, so you can about imagine how that car ride went.

But we didn’t care; you could have piled six more kids in that minivan, and we would have never wished for a sidewalk or streetlights. We were convinced us country kids had the best Halloweens. Because at that time, we were some of the few, we were special, and our neighbors were expecting us. So at each of those seven or so houses, we loaded up on handfuls of candy, treat bags complete with pencils or pinwheels, full-sized candy bars, bags of popcorn and a chance to take our time, show off some tricks and model our costumes, strutting and showing off what we worked so hard to put together.

And at the end of it all, we all we unloaded at the final house, dragging pieces of our costumes behind us, disheveled and tired and ready to dump our pillowcases full of treats on the carpet to sort through while our parents visited in the kitchen.

Today, in my kitchen, the supplies for Edie’s Halloween costume sit in a box on my countertop, and I just realized the torch has been officially passed as I turn from back-seat princess to minivan driver. But my friend up the road has four kids, so if we want to ride together like we did in the old days, we might need to see where we can get a small bus … especially if anyone plans on going as a picnic table this year.

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Maybe it’s the rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I decided this was one of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or maybe it’s just the rain.

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Parenthood: Adjusting the sails

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Baby Edie turned 10 months old when we were on the road last week.
She celebrated by hanging out with gramma at a beerfest fundraiser for cops in downtown Bismarck and then at a fundraiser for the area cancer center after that, clapping and singing and climbing all over the seats in the front row while I sang.
And after that was done we hit up one more party for a family friend and headed back to the hotel room to make the trip across the state for another show.
I tell you, the right kid was sent to me. She’s resilient, she doesn’t need much sleep, likes a crowd, likes to stay up late, likes to visit and likes a good party…all skills needed to survive being the daughter of a musician who tends to travel a bit.
While we were making plans all those years to start a family, I always wondered how I might really do this job with a kid in the mix.
Now I know.
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You bring gramma along. And you forget the schedule. You go with the flow and hope for the best and spend all the money you make at the job on adorable baby outfits.
And then you come home and sleep train all over again, snuggle on the couch, play on the floor and makes plans for the next trip or party or job.
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I’m looking out the window at the wind blowing leaves off the trees and I’m thinking about where I was a year ago. In this house, with my big round belly, worrying about the crib getting set up on time, worrying that she might come early, wondering if it’s a boy or a girl, pretty certain it was a boy and watching this baby kick and squirm and roll in my body, perhaps just as anxious to enter the world as I was to welcome her.
I was totally oblivious as to just how many things would change and, maybe more surprising now, how many things would stay the same.
I can’t believe she’s almost one.

I can barely remember what we did before her, other than totally take time for granted.
As I’ve said since she was born, it goes so slow and so fast, all at the same time.
by Jessie Veeder
10-2-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I woke up this morning in Minnesota, holding on to a baby who is only 10 months old but appears to be getting her one-year molars already.

And Edie smiled through the entire checkup, our doc looking in her ears, her eyes, her mouth and, holy smokes, she wasn’t expecting it, this child is getting four more teeth.

So that explained it.

And I was relieved, like any parent would be, that it wasn’t an ear infection or something icky like that. Because No. 1: Poor baby. And No. 2: We had a big weekend ahead of us. Five days on the road and in hotel rooms for meetings and music, and I was taking her along.

But first I had to hit a deadline. Because I’ve recently taken on a fun project as the editor of a free little monthly parenting publication, so lately I’ve been spending time taking notes, brainstorming and putting together ideas for stories and tips that might be useful to parents raising babies between the sidewalks and scoria roads of Western North Dakota. And while I’m not in any position to give tips myself, as a new mom, I’m in every position to seek them out.

And this week I could have used some tips myself on how to conduct a phone interview and take notes with one hand, while trying to keep the teething baby in my other from biting a hole through my shirt.

Or maybe a column from a mom who mothers all day, works all night and still finds the time to binge-watch “Downton Abbey” and is alive and happy about it all.

Or how to convince a baby to sleep through the night in a strange hotel room.

But what I really needed was a step-by-step list of how to pack for five days for a baby and myself in autumn in North Dakota when the forecast warns cool temps and rain but the actual weather finds you sweating in a cardigan in 80-degree hurricane winds.

What should I wear? Really.

Sometimes, I swear, in this whole mom-singer gig, that’s the hardest part.

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But here I am this morning, at the end of a trip that gave me the chance to visit my grandparents in Minnesota. They’re sitting in the kitchen having breakfast with my parents, who came along, my mom to watch the baby and my dad to sing along and carry all our stuff.

The two of them still helping their daughter out, still parenting after all these years.

Watching my mom try to keep her granddaughter from eating the grass under the tent where I’m singing “You Are My Sunshine” with my dad is a little slice of sweetness that cuts through the rough, sleepless nights.

Tonight I play music in a small-town Lutheran church, and tomorrow we head back west. But before I got started, I sent a photo to my husband back home of Edie sleeping in my arms while I scheduled the day out in my head, worrying about how to fit it all in.

He texted back.

“You’re so lucky.”

He wished he were here.

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And so did Edie, I think, who thought the sound guy at our last gig looked enough like daddy to reach her arms out and snuggle into his shoulder.

I’m not sure what her dad thinks of that story, but I think it made the sound guy feel pretty warm and fuzzy.

Oh, this parenting thing has so many angles, doesn’t it? So many different ways to live it and get through it and love it. That’s what I’m finding as I get a chance to bring this baby along in my work, to write and share stories that I hope can be useful, or at least entertaining, to the moms and dads who are in the same sort of boat, on the same prairie, trying, as I type, to diagnose a fever or figure out how to fit a princess dress over a snowsuit for Halloween.

And I’m pretty pleased to be navigating these waves and adjusting these sails with them.

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Making Memories. Making Pies.

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It’s a beautiful morning at the ranch, the wind is calm and the golden trees are sparkling in the sun, the baby is napping, the windows are open and I’m so happy to be home after six days on the music road.

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I’ve designated this day to unpacking and putting away all that was drug out in the name of traveling across the state with a ten-month old and my mother…which means we most definitely brought home way more than we left home with…

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Like maybe a few more outfits. And at least one new pair of shoes for each of us.

And maybe a giraffe suit for Little Sister?

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We sure have a fun and exhausting time when we’re out traipsing around the countryside. But we don’t get much napping in. And we don’t stick to a bedtime. And we try to cram as much fun as we can in between the gigs.

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Mini Merch Slinger

So we’re tired.

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I predict Edie will take the rest of the week to catch up on all of the extra time she spent kicking and clapping and singing along with her eyes wide open until the bitter end of the day when we plopped down together on the hotel bed, or the bed in my grandparent’s house, or the bed of our gracious hosts, and finally gave into the night.

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Sound check…

I’m contemplating crawling into her crib with her right now and the two of us could stay there all day. If only we both fit.

But not until I share this week’s column with you, a little story about the best part of this season change, which is most certainly more time in the kitchen with family reminiscing and making new, sweet flavored memories.

And I may be no Martha Stewart, as you all know, but this was my biggest attempt yet, getting as close as this non-pastry-making-family can get to pie perfection, thanks to the notes left behind from our grandma Edie…and maybe a little encouraging from above.

Happy season change. May the cooler weather inspire you to cuddle up and settle down a bit. I know that’s my goal this upcoming October anyway.

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Coming Home: Connecting with gramma’s memory over a slice of apple pie
by Jessie Veeder
9-25-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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My mom keeps a small wooden box in her kitchen, tucked up in the cupboard next to her collection of cookbooks. On the front it reads “RECIPES” in the shaky, wood-burning technique of a young boy trying his hand at carpentry.

And the from-scratch buns she served with supper.

And the familiar casseroles that you could smell cooking as you walked up toward the tiny brown house from the barnyard after a ride on a cool fall evening.

Every once in awhile my mom will open that box on a search for a memory tied to our taste buds. She’ll sort through the small file of faded handwriting and index cards until she finds it, setting it on the counter while she gathers ingredients, measures stirs and puts the dish together the best way she remembers.

I’m thinking about it now because it’s sitting on my kitchen table, the one that used to sit in my grandmother’s kitchen all those years ago acting as a surface to roll out dough and pie crusts or a place to serve countless birthday cakes or her famous April Fool’s day coffee filter pancakes.

And so they’ve met again, that table and that box, which is currently sitting next to a pie pan covered in tinfoil.

Because last week we pulled the box out on a mission for guidance on what to do with the 50,000 pounds of apples my little sister inherited from the tree in the backyard of the house she bought a few years back.

“Maybe we should make applesauce or apple crisp,” we said as Little Sister plopped the fourth bag full of fruit on my kitchen counter, my mom sipping coffee and my big sister entertaining my nephew beside her.

I reached up in the cupboards to dust off a couple recipe books because we all agreed then that apples this nice deserve to be in a pie, and Googling “pie making” seemed too impersonal for such an heirloom-type task.

Then Mom remembered the recipe box.

And that Gramma Edie used to make the best apple pies.

It was a memory that was intimately hers and vaguely her daughters’. We were too young to remember the cinnamon spice or the sweetness of the apples or the way she would make extra crust to bake into pieces and sprinkle with sugar when the pies were done, but our mother did.

And most certainly so did our dad.

So we dove into the recipe with the unreasonable confidence of amateurs and spent the afternoon in my kitchen, peeling apples, bouncing the baby and rolling and re-rolling out gramma’s paradoxically named “No Fail Pie Crust,” laughing and cheering a victory cheer as we finally successfully transferred it to the top of the pie using four hands and three spatulas, certain this wasn’t our grandmother’s technique.

Wondering how she might have done it.

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Little Sister carved a heart in the top to make it look more presentable. We put the pie in the oven, set the timer and hoped for the best.

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We fed the baby and gave her a bath. We watched my nephew demonstrate his ninja moves. We talked and poured a drink. We cleared the counter for supper. We put the baby to bed.

And then we pulled the pie from the oven. We marveled at our work. We decided it looked beautiful, that we might declare it a huge success, but first we should see what Dad thinks.

So we dished him up a piece. It crumbled into a pile on his plate, not pie shaped at all. But he closed his eyes and took a bite and declared it just the right amount of cinnamon, the apples not too hard, the crust like he remembered, not pretty but good.

We served ourselves and ate up around that old table. We thought of our grandma, wondered if she might have given us a little help and put the recipe back in the box right next to her memory and the new one we made.

And we closed the lid.

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In the thick of it.

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I spent Labor Day weekend on a little getaway with my husband to celebrate ten years married and our two birthdays. It was the first time we’ve done anything together since the baby was born. It was the first time I was away from the baby overnight.

We left her in good hands, at home with my mother and father-in-law and two of our nieces who Edie’s attached to and we headed south to the Black Hills of South Dakota, so extremely aware of how we used to take these sort of outings together for granted.

I mean, we only had two bags between us.

There was a moment when I stepped out of the hotel that morning and into the pickup where I felt like I was missing a limb without that baby attached to my hip.

We didn’t do much in particular. We just drove and ate and drank and walked around and visited and made plans for the future like we like to do. Gave each other advice. Laughed at things probably only we would find funny.

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And talked about the baby.

We came home on Sunday in time to tuck her in and the next morning my husband turned 34 so I made him breakfast in our kitchen with the cool rain soaking the oak trees outside our windows and our baby crawling around on floor.

We are in this thing now, the both of us. Deep into adulthood and marriage. On the brand new edge of parenting. In the thick of it, as they say.

I doubt we’ve been happier.

And it’s terrifying and surprising and lovely and a wonderful thing to say out loud.

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Life in your 30s means knowing who you are
by Jessie Veeder
9-4-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

When I turned the more momentous 30 a few years back, I was discouraged at all the advice I was reading in women’s magazines about what it meant to get older. I wondered how many times I could be told what jeans I should wear and what face cream to use.

Coming from a woman who had recently won an Elvis-impersonating contest in front of thousands of people, I really couldn’t argue.

But it wasn’t until lately that I started to believe she might be right about this phase of life. I mean, gone are the days of ramen noodle suppers, paying rent on questionable apartments and wondering who I should be when I grow up.

Because I am grown up. This is me, give or take a few hundred lessons coming down the pipe. Not that I no longer have aspirations and goals, I’m simply saying I’ve lived long enough to know which direction I should steer this truck and what prairie trails to avoid to keep me sane and happy.

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The day I turned 30 I sat down and wrote a list titled “30 things I know at 30.” Having found no inspiration from those women’s magazines for what’s ahead besides more face cream, I needed to be reassured that I had acquired some tools for this adulthood thing.

I’m glad I saved it. Because among a few reflections on cleaning, clothing choices and eating carrots straight out of the garden were some good reminders:

• When you’re younger you expect your community to take care of you. I know now that it’s our responsibility to take care of our community.

• Art is a chance to see life through one another’s eyes. If we don’t encourage it, we’re ignoring the part that reassures us that it can be beautiful. Because even the sad parts have colors that move you or a melody that sweeps you up.

• I used to think that love was enough. It turns out love goes a lot better mixed with kindness, respect, laughter, humility and a nice meal together once in awhile. So maybe loving is just the easiest part.

• A girl needs a dog.

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• My mom was right. My sister did become my best friend. Just like she said she would when I was slamming my bedroom door.

• There will always be more work, more things to build and more stories to write. When there isn’t we will make it so, because as much as anything, living’s in the work.

• Some people struggle to have what may come easy to you. Think of this when you say your hellos. Compassion is a quality we could use more of.

• Learning to cook does not make you a housewife, a stereotype, or some sort of overly domesticated version of yourself. It makes you capable. Same goes with laundry, lawn mowing and hanging a dang shelf by yourself.

• On Christmas, feed the animals first … and a little extra.

• Always wear proper footwear. And by proper, I mean practical, and sometimes practical means cute. You know what I’m saying.

• You can tell yourself there’s a reason for everything. It helps to ease the heartbreak and suffering. Believe it. It’s likely true. But know that sometimes it’s OK to think that life’s not fair, because sometimes it isn’t.

And here is where I’d like to add perhaps the only profound thing I’ve learned since writing this list, which is you just don’t know what’s really in store for you. All you can do is use the strength of your will, your community, your family and your coffee and try to believe that maybe the best work is yet to be done.

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Click here to see the entire list.

 

Small challenges. Small reminders.

Here’s a video of Edie in the lake last weekend. It was hot as hell and it was my birthday month so I decided we needed to take the pontoon out on the lake for the first time all summer to celebrate, you know, now that summer is over.

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Edie loves the water, as you can see, and I’m pretty sure she would have floated like this all day. IMG_1997

I’m watching it now because the girl just finished fighting me for a good three hours about the whole nap thing. She finally gave in after having won two previous battles, but I’ve won the third and final and, I’ve come to find out,  that’s what really counts in this parenting game.

Who knew ‘strong willed’ came into play so early. Last night while she was standing up in her crib screaming at the top of her lungs, her post-bath mohawk illuminated by the night vision on the baby monitor, I ran across this:

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I showed my husband. He said, “Yeah, I think she’s as strong as you, but she might have you beat on the whole stubborn thing.”

Arghhh. And then Awwweee.  That’s personality and I love her for it. And it turns out it’s just like they said, for all the hard shit there’s the moments where you discover that your nine-month-old likes to watch the morning news like this.

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And it’s really funny.

And then there are the moments you’ve imagined for years and years that come to life right before your eyes and you have to sort of stop to catch your breath and tell yourself that this is what a dream come true feels like.

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Sometimes life gives you what you wanted and then it’s up to you to do what you should with it all.

Like squeeze her into a purple lifejacket and set her on her aunt’s lap on a boat floating across a beautiful lake so that you can help her put her tiny toes in the water.

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And point out the bald eagle soaring above us…

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And the horses who came from their pasture to take a long drink next to our beach blankets…

These things she won’t remember, but I want to.

I will….

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Because right now she’s sleeping but tomorrow she’ll likely be scaling that cliff to catch that eagle and I’ll be running after her saying things like “Honey, you forgot your jacket!” or  “Did you eat breakfast today?” or “Stop! Let me take your picture!!!”

or “Call me when you get to the top so I know that you’ve made it there safely.”

Oh my, they’re only babies for such a short amount of time.

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*sniff* *sniff*

Forget the drink, I need (a couple) donut(s).

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Peace, Love and good Lord take a nap,

Jessie

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Moving cattle: A Script

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Coming Home: Sister on the ranch is friend for me, un-hired help for dad
by Jessie Veeder
8-21-16
http://www.inforum.com

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my favorite parts about living back at the ranch is that my sisters have decided to re-plant roots in our hometown. Having a sister nearby as an adult is like having a best friend who doesn’t care if your floor is swept and will call you out on your questionable attitude without worrying about offending you.

Anyway, when it comes to ranch life and work, I’ve rarely seen my petite almost-5-feet tall big sister without heels on almost as many times as I’ve seen her on the back of a horse, so you can guess which sister and I get in the most ranch-related shenanigans.

And how much help the two of us have been for our dad throughout the years.

Jessie and Little Sister

So this is a confession: My little sister and I can be pretty worthless when we get together. And contrary to our parents’ prayers and our husbands’ hopes, it hasn’t gotten any better as we’ve, ahem, matured.

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Nothing exemplifies our incapabilities more than when we so generously volunteer to help our father move cows in the early morning and then linger in the house just long enough over a cup of coffee, a piece of toast, Little Sister’s missing boot and the hairdo I can’t fit under my hat so that Dad can get out the door, up the road and into the barnyard to catch our horses and assume the position of waiting patiently while he listens to our jabbering as we finally make it up on those horses.

The man is patient. He’s had to be out here in the wild buttes of Western North Dakota surrounded by girls. Sometimes I wonder if his life on the ranch as a father would have been a little easier if he would have had a boy tossed in the mix.

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But he’s never once complained, and you gotta love him for it. He’s just grateful for the help, even when his help is riding a half a mile behind him talking over how weird it would be if we rode cows instead of horses as he works to keep the herd from brush patches in the morning that’s turned hot in the time he waited for us to join him.

Because we really are a lot of help, with one of us swatting and screaming at anything that resembles a bee and the other tripping over anything that resembles the ground.

To really paint you a picture, I would like to present to you an actual roundup script.

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Pops: Just stay there, I’ll head up over the hill to look for more cows then we’ll move them nice and easy.

Jessie: I think we missed one. Should I go and get it?

Little Sister: Should I come with you? I should probably come with you … eeeek! A bee, eeeeeeeek!

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Pops (racing through the brush and up a hill): Just stay there!!! Stay there! I’ve got it!

Jessie: Oooh, raspberries.

An undocumented amount of time passes.

An undocumented amount of raspberries are eaten.

Little Sister: Maybe we should go find Dad.

Daughters catch up with father who is behind 25 head of cows. The women are trailing four cattle and currently heading toward the wrong gate on the wrong side of the creek.

Jessie (hollering across the pasture): We’ve got these here… thought we were going to the other gate.

Pops (hollering from behind the cattle he’s just moved through a half-mile brush patch on his own): Actually you’re going to have to turn them or leave them because they’ll never make it across the creek.

Little Sister: Whaatt did he saaayy?!! Should I leave them???

Jessie: DAAAADDD, SHOULD SHE LEAVE THEM?

Pops: Yess, ssheeee sshhoullld leeaave them!!

Jessie: HEEE SAAAYSS LEEAAVE THEM!

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“Slap,” a branch hits Jessie across the face.

Little Sister stops to double over from hysterical laughter.

Father rides up over the hill alone to finish collecting the cattle before all parties return to the barn where father thanks daughters for their help.

(Yeah, really.)

End scene.

Don’t tell my husband about my hopes for another girl …

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When the mist lifts off the doubt of motherhood

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Coming Home: Mist lifts off the doubt new mom feels
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s morning. The mist has settled in the valleys of this countryside like a heavy, cool blanket that promises to dissolve in the sun. Dad just sent me a photo from the hayfield, a canvas of pink, gold and green poking up from the fog as he bales up the grass and alfalfa nice and tight for the winter.

I didn’t know that about motherhood. I didn’t realize how fragmented and scattered a day can become, a little paradoxical considering 100 percent of that day is dedicated to keeping a tiny person content and alive.

The other 90 percent is spent bending over to pick stuff up.

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Which leaves no time left for math and just a few slivers here and there to get work done. Or wash a dish. Or take care of the gray roots coming from my 3-month-old dye job.

And this is where I am now. Looking for the balance in being a work-from-home mom, quickly realizing that the word “balance” should not have been invented, because it does not exist, not in the way we all dream it anyway.

Last week I had a performance in a small town in the middle of the week. My husband has been arriving home from his full-time job in the evening to help Dad get the hay crop put up between rain storms and broken down equipment, so I loaded up the baby, my niece and my guitar in the big pickup, leaving his evening free for work, because turns out dads are searching for that balance-myth, too.

I stood up there behind that microphone and in front of a small crowd that gathered for hamburgers and music on a Wednesday night, telling stories and singing songs while my niece tried to shush our baby who was babbling and screeching happily in her arms. I looked over at her while I sang words written long before she was born and was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that this is my life now.

And then, in between songs, I found myself explaining the fear I had about it all.

Because, if you remember, I had a lot of time—time to convince myself I was ready, and time, when it didn’t work out, to talk myself out of the whole motherhood thing entirely.

Because I was worried about that balance thing. I was worried I couldn’t be me and be a mom, too. I was worried I wouldn’t have the energy for music or writing or bigger aspirations should I feel so motivated.

And in a way I was right. I am not who I was before this child became mine. Because before her I didn’t know what it meant to be frazzled and content at the same time.

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Like in the two hours I’ve been working on this piece I’ve changed her diaper, gotten her dressed, fed her milk, snuggled her, kissed her, watched her play, fed her avocados, snuggled her again, changed her again and put her down to play while working sentence by sentence and wishing I would have woken up at 5 a.m. like I planned last night.

I likely won’t finish this until she goes down for her mid-morning nap.

Before the baby, leaving something undone would have driven me crazy. These days most things are left to be finished later. I didn’t know I could be fine with that.

And there are about a million more examples like that, most of them involving the common denominator named time. Because I’m no longer carefree with it, not in the way that I was before Edie.

To be away from her better be worth it.

Sometimes it is.

And sometimes the best part is taking her along, looking out into the crowd and seeing her there, fitting snug and happy in the life that I built, arms outstretched, head turned up and laughing, the mist lifting off the doubt, revealing more colors than I could have dreamed.

 

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How to make wild raspberry dessert

How to make wild raspberry dessert

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Step 1:
Wake up in the morning to a happy husband, a well-rested niece and a smiling baby. Snuggle the baby. Play and roll around with her on the floor. Put her in her high chair so she can feed herself blueberry puffs. Hear your husband say, “Man, it would be nice to have a blueberry muffin right now.” Remember you have blueberries in the fridge.

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Step 2:
Locate a blueberry muffin recipe with the help of your niece. Preheat the oven and read the directions while your niece mixes up the ingredients. Think that maybe bacon and eggs would go good with fresh blueberry muffins. Because you always have bacon in the house.

Step 3:
Proceed with the bacon cooking while blueberry muffins bake.

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Step 4:
Crack and fry some perfectly over easy eggs. Find a double yolker. Declare it good luck.

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Step 5:
Pour some orange juice, put the baby in her high chair, make a plate and gather around the table. Declare that Martha Stewart has nothing on you.

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Step 7:
Hear Pops say something about all the raspberries out in the pasture. Decide that they can’t all go to the birds.

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Step 6:
Put the dishes in the sink pull on your jeans and boots. Strap the baby to your chest, douse skin in bug spray and sunscreen and head out the door with your niece and the dogs. Declare it a beautiful morning. Declare that it’s sort of hot though.

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Step 7:
Peel your eyes for raspberries. Locate raspberries in the thorny brush below where the juneberries, bullberries and chokecherries grow. Watch the dogs disappear in and out of the brush patches chasing phantom rabbits and birds and taking a break from the heat. Find it funny.

(Chicken dinner for you if you can spot Dolly down there…)

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Step 8:
Send the niece in to the deep brush to get the fat berries.

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Check your back pocket for the baggie you brought along. Realize you dropped it somewhere. Take off your hat. Decide that will do.

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Step 9:
Pick a berry. Eat a berry. Put a berry in the hat. Swat a fly. Pull a thorn. Pick a berry. Eat a Berry. Put a berry in the hat.

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Step 10:
Repeat Step 9 like a hundred or so times.

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Step 11:
Check to make sure the baby strapped to your chest isn’t eating the berries too. Pick up the toy she dropped in the thick brush for the third time.

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Step 12:
Wipe the sweat. Pick a thorn out of the niece’s hand. Eat a berry. Check your stash. Wonder if that’s enough to make anything. Declare it officially hot out now. Eat a berry. Climb the hill to the teepee rings to catch some breeze.

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Step 13:
Realize the baby dropped the toy again and now it’s out in the wild pasture to be found 100 years from now, along with all Pops’ missing gloves and tools.

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Step 14:
Head back to the house, noticing the beautiful wildflowers along the way.

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Step 15:
Strip off your clothes and check for ticks. Strip off the baby’s clothes and check for ticks. Put her on the floor to play.

Step 16:
Rinse the berries.

Step 17:
Eat a few more

Step 18:
Look up some recipes online for raspberry dessert, trying for the perfect concoction that doesn’t interfere with the integrity of the raspberry.

Step 19:
Eat a couple more raspberries.

Step 20:
Deny every suggested recipe found…

Step 20:
Decide that there is no dessert you can make that tastes as good as a wild raspberry itself.

Step 21:
Eat more raspberries

Step 22:
Have lunch. Put the baby down for a nap. Putz around the house. Wait for Husband to get home..

Step 23:
Give the baby a bath. Put her in her robe. Decide she looks like an adorable old man. Feed her something yummy. Rock her to sleep.

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Step 24:
Grill brats. Eat on the deck.

Step 25:
Leave the dishes for the husband.

Step 26:
Go Riding

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Step 27:
Declare it a beautiful night.

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Step 28:
Listen to your niece tell you stories and wonder where the time went and when she grew up so quickly.

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Step 29:
Head back to the barn. Let the horses out. Walk to the house. Strip down. Check for ticks.

Step 26:
Eat some raspberries.

Step 27:
Declare it a good day.

Step 28:
Sleep tight. Good night.

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For the love of music

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In an old small theater in a small western North Dakota town, a retired professional bull rider stood up on the stage behind his guitar, next to his band, and strummed the first few notes that kicked off the culmination of an idea that had been in the works for months.

The lights were flashing, the sound was big, and the recently reupholstered seats were filled with a crowd of people who made plans to attend a party in the name of turning a Saturday night into something bigger.

And that something bigger was to save that old theater standing among a collection of brick buildings on Main Street in Belfield, a town of 1,000 off the off the interstate west of Dickinson.

It’s a big project. Everything needed a facelift, a tinkering, a fresh coat of paint. Work was being done up to the moment guests started arriving, buying drinks, filling up small paper plates with food and finding their seats.

I was there that night to perform and to watch some of the guys from the band I play with debut their new project, a tribute band honoring the late Chris Ledoux, a bull rider musician made famous by a line in a Garth Brooks song.

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And that’s where this story started, with a song that kicked off a show where that singing cowboy left his guitar and microphone to step off the stage and ride a bucking machine under the spotlight in front of a crowd of a couple hundred of his community members and peers while I held my breath hoping that the man could pull it off.

The music kept playing, the crowd cheered, the bucking machine stopped and he jumped back on the stage. The show went on.

He pulled it off.

I let out a sigh of relief and a big cheer, then sat back and looked around, wondering what possesses us to do such things.

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I mean, it would have been easier to skip the bull-riding section of the performance all together and eliminate the risk of embarrassment or injury. If it were me, I probably would have. The show would have been good without that surprise element. But with it, well, it was pretty awesome.

And the musicians in that band also work full-time jobs, some have families, and they dedicated months to prepare for this night, to prepare for a crowd that wasn’t necessarily guaranteed to show up.

The woman who made a dedication to save the theater and the handful of volunteers who scrubbed and scraped the walls, re-upholstered those seats, sent out press releases and made the food for the night probably had other ways to spend their time.

And the crowd who showed up probably had work to do, fields to till, cattle to brand, yards to clean, windows to wash.

But it was Saturday night …

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For the past year I’ve been working with a group of volunteers in my town to put together a council on the arts in our remote area. To raise money for the new organization, we decided to organize a big fundraiser featuring western North Dakota artists and performers. It’s been a labor of love and, with a baby at home, not the most convenient time to take on such a big commitment.

I spend a lot of my time crossing my fingers, hoping that people will show up, that we will get a crowd and that celebrating our artists and performers is something this community might want to invest in, something that they might find valuable.

It could be a total flop, yet we’re still gambling our time and energy on the belief that committing our time and talent to this will help make our community better.

I think of those men last weekend and, you know, it could have been Chris Ledoux or Garth Brooks himself up there, but I doubt it would have had the same effect on me.

Because Garth Brooks has owned stages all over the world, but that night in that small town in western North Dakota, the theater, the stage, the music and that crazy cowboy riding that bucking machine in the spotlight, all of it was all ours.

Jessie Gene MikeP1010595

If you’re in the Watford City area, please join us for the
Long X Arts Council’s Badlands Arts Showcase and Fundraising Gala
Thursday, May 26th
at the new Performing Arts Center in the Watford City High School.

Doors open to the Art Show at 5:30
Performance starts at 7
More information at http://www.longxarts.com 

Arts Showcase Poster