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.

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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

With a little help from the best…

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Edie’s getting a new perspective on the world these days.

The weather has been warmer and I’ve scheduled a few appearances out of town, so that means road time, restaurant time, hotel time, shopping time and the best part, auntie and gramma time.

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They are the only reasons there is even a prayer for me to continue to travel and sing with a baby in tow.

And last weekend they earned their keep as they endured loading all four of us and our suitcases, a guitar, a giant stroller, a car seat and thirty-seven changes of clothes for the baby into Husband’s giant pickup because the tire was low on my car. They held their pee without complaint for the three hour drive because the baby was sleeping and we didn’t want to disrupt a good thing only to have to pull off the interstate to feed her twenty miles from our destination just like I predicted.

Because a screaming baby can test even the most loving aunt, gramma and mother…

It’s a small price to pay to have the little cherub along though. Because 90% of the time she’s a drooly dream who makes everything harder and more fun. We got the hotel and just stared at her on the bed, hanging out in her diaper practicing rolling over.

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And leave it to Edie to wait until I’m gone to bust out her big tricks. While I was waiting to go on air at the North Dakota Today show the next morning, my little sister was texting me video from the hotel room of the little turkey rolling all over the bed.

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Apparently she needs a bigger audience.

And after one live TV appearance, one terrifying trip through the carwash with the giant pickup, one equally terrifying trip through the narrow Starbucks drive through, lunch, a nursing/puking/outfit changing session in the parking lot of the liquor store while my mom and sister shopped the buy one/get one sale…

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and a meltdown in the car seat from one end of town to another, we finally made it to the mall where we promised ourselves a quick trip.

Mom just needed to exchange some things. Little Sister just needed to look at some boots. I just needed a couple new shirts and ingredients to make some bars for the Fireman’s fundraiser the next day…

But also I needed makeup. And mom needed a giant pack of paper towels for the store and an equally giant box of toilet paper. And speaking of boxes, she might as well pick up that plastic box for the deck so Pops can store his grilling tools out of the weather. He just leaves them outside you know…

Oh, and I guess she also needed a bucket and a mop. Apparently it’s spring cleaning at the store…

And while she was trying to fit that all in the cart I figured I should pick up some more socks for Edie. And then pick up Edie out of the stroller. Because the stroller is a little too much like the carseat and, well, she has a short tolerance for such confinement.

So you can about picture it. Three women, one pushing an overflowing cart full of cleaning supplies, one pulling a stroller full of purses and coats instead of a baby like God intended and the other one wandering around aimlessly, a burp rag over her shoulder, holding the baby in one hand and a cell phone in the other, texting to locate the other two women she arrived with.

I swear, we passed two moms strolling tiny twin babies in the mall that day who both looked like they just arrived from a spa vacation compared to the hot mess we had going on.

And that was before we attempted to sort all our treasures in the checkout line and fit them into the pickup.

Really. Only the Veeder women could fill a one-ton, long box pickup to the brim after one overnight stay in the big town.

It’s like we never get off the ranch.

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So that was Friday.

Saturday mom came with me to take care of Edie while I sang at an event that evening, and Edie only screamed once for no apparent reason and didn’t require an outfit change, so that was good.

I however, emerged from a back room feeding to sign CDs with my dress hiked up past my hips, puke on my shoulder and my bra unlatched.

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I got distracted.

I’m sure no one noticed.

But then this was Sunday.

70-degree Sunday.

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Or as Little Sister declared as she walked the gravel road with my baby strapped like a little kangaroo to her body…”What Sundays are made for…”

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I couldn’t agree more.

And now it’s Monday. Time to rest up for the weekend.

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Because I’m raising a singing, kicking, screaming, wiggly, drooly, road warrior…with a little help from the best…

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Tutus, cousins and pipe cleaner glasses…

IMG_9107Remember my three blonde nieces?

Well, it turns out we’re pretty popular with them these days, you know because we managed to produce the girl cousin they hoped and shopped for.

And it turns out, that little girl cousin sorta looks like them, especially when you add the pink tutu and headband.

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Anyway, they came for an impromptu visit last weekend and it was just as much the explosion of fun as they always bring, only we got to add an infant and a new puppy to the mix, so yeah, this is the place to be man…

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The first thing on their agenda was picking out Edie’s outfit,

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then on to pancakes,

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then it was time to play with the puppy

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and then, well, Edie needed to be dressed again, because the last outfit wasn’t pink or frilly enough apparently…

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And then the highlight of my weekend, when The Middle Niece whipped up a pair of pipe cleaner glasses, you know, so Edie fits in with her semi-blind cousins.

Oh. My. Gawd. I can’t stop laughing.

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Seriously. I think I peed a little (and not because I recently gave birth).

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No, there’s no shortage of cute and chaos around these parts.

Having family around at the ranch with this new little human is a big blur of love and kisses and weekend afternoons spent cuddling and fussing over her. Add to that the a couple puppies and, well, this is life these days…

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I still don’t know exactly how I’m going to handle a baby and a baby puppy, but we’re full-on bringing Dolly over to the house this weekend after I get back from a road trip with Mom, Little Sister and Edie to the big town. I’m starting to get back into playing some music now and will be on the North Dakota Today show on Friday morning, so at night I’ve been playing the guitar and practicing a bit while Edie kicks her legs and flings her arms and coos and works out some good gas bubbles for me.

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So while life is completely different it is also so much the same. Three months into parenthood and we’re not sure what we did before her, except it’s been established that road trips were a little easier.

Probably everything was easier, but who’s to say really when it doesn’t really matter.

If I know anything it’s that the best part of life happens in moments that look a lot like chaos.

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And now, in case you didn’t laugh hard enough the first time…

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Sunday Column: How the music sounds up here

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Photo by Out Here Visuals

I have been in love with folk music my entire life, ever since first hearing my dad sing a Harry Chapin song, or listening to John Prine on his record player, I have been fascinated by the people in these songs, fascinated by how the music paints a picture and how you can fall in love with the characters, and how they can break your heart.

Folk and Americana music is the reason I write. It’s the reason I continue to make music and perform it in whatever way I find the opportunity. It’s the reason I’m still doing what I’m doing. Because I’m in love with the stories.

A few weeks ago I was honored with the Favorite North Dakota Folk Artist Award at the 2nd Annual North Dakota Music awards. I picked out a couple dresses (one for me and one for Edie), packed up my little family and met the band in the big town to celebrate at the awards ceremony with a theater full of North Dakota talent.

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It was a huge honor to be granted this awards by the fans who have followed me as a singer and writer since I was just a little girl singing an Emmylou Harris song dressed in a western shirt buttoned up to the very top.

I’ve been singing for a long time and have had the privilege of being backed by and working with some of the best and most supportive musicians in this little landlocked state. I could have moved to L.A.. I probably should have moved to Nashville. But I wanted to stay landlocked in the place that I love, singing about the place that I love.

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That night surrounded by the music of North Dakota and the people that support it I was reminded why it’s great, and why I’m so glad I chose to make music in this little state.

Thank you to everyone who listens, shares, votes and sits in the audience. Thanks to the bands for learning all those damn Jessie Veeder folk songs so willingly and wonderfully.

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Thanks  URL Radio for working hard to put this together!

Coming Home: Celebrating all the music makers under our big North Dakota sky
by Jessie Veeder
2-22-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s a great time to be a musician in North Dakota.

This thought crossed my mind as I sat in the back of the Belle Mehus Auditorium in Bismarck last weekend, dressed up to celebrate the second annual North Dakota Music Awards.

The awards ceremony is a concept put together last year by the owners of URL Radio, a local online radio station that often dedicates air time to hosting interviews and playing North Dakota music out of their offices in downtown Bismarck.
Their enthusiasm for their work inspired them to put a call out to the fans to nominate and vote for their favorite musical acts, teachers, writers and venues and then celebrate them in a ceremony in the following months.

The concept is in its infancy, but after the first year’s efforts wrapped, it became clear this sort of recognition of the music makers, spread from Ellendale to Williston, was a refreshing and well-received concept, one that fans and musicians alike wanted in on.

“Who do you dance to on a Friday night at your favorite bar after a long week?”

“Who helped your child to fall in love with playing the trumpet in school?”

“What locally written songs move you?”

When these questions are finally posed, the importance of the answers ring a little clearer and suddenly we realize we want to spread the word about those talented kids who play bluegrass gospel music in church every Sunday.

Because while North Dakota isn’t known for its proximity to big stages and big connections, it’s always amazing to me to find myself surrounded by such big talent, big ambition and big passion for the craft.

And inside that beautiful theater last weekend, an equally beautiful crowd gathered to celebrate folk, rock, rap, classical and bluegrass, piano players, teachers and marching bands, each of us likely to be categorized by our shoes or our hair style.

Yes, it turns out North Dakota musicians are an eclectic group, and I’ll tell you it’s been a nice discovery for me to hear the different ways this harsh and beautiful place sounds to other music makers.

And it makes sense that a place like this would cultivate such diverse and inspired sounds. There’s likely no place in this country that needs or appreciates music more than us Northerners looking to endure our long, cold winters or celebrate under the big summer sky.

It’s been the case through the generations and I can’t help but think about the sounds these prairies have heard — the sharp echo of a fiddle against the wooden walls of a barn, the sound of the drums thumping like a heartbeat to the step of moccasins, the big voice of a girl practicing her school solo outside, the neighbor kid’s garage band, your cousin singing James Taylor songs around the campfire, the Nashville band at the county fair.

This big sky has room to hear it all and endless ways to inspire a song. The music makers have always known this to be true. But as I watched a woman who has played bluegrass music for years accept an award on behalf of her band that participates in a festival along the shores of the Missouri River in the summer, I couldn’t help but appreciate all of the new ways this community is creating to hear and celebrate their artists.

In a time where access to popular music is available at the click of a button, it seems, little by little, North Dakotans are putting stages and sound systems in breweries and restaurants and hiring local bands instead of relying on jukeboxes. They’re envisioning local music festivals, hosting open mic nights and sharing YouTube videos of the neighbor kid playing Mozart on his keyboard.

Last week, my community cut the ribbon on a new multimillion-dollar high school. Part of the blueprint includes a state-of-the-art performing arts theater to be used by the students and the community.

That’s a huge vote of confidence for the students and rural arts, and it’s so refreshing to me.

Because you might not be a poet, a rapper or a singer of country songs, but you’re inspiring the music we make. You’re helping us tell your story.

And I thank you for celebrating and encouraging the sound.

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Photo by Out Here Visuals

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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?

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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 

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