When it’s colder than Antarctica…

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Happy Monday night everyone.

I had a weird dream last night that I was on a fancy ship and it was sinking, all the rooms were filling up with water and I was watching it happen like a movie. I woke up after a scene where me and a woman, who spent what I was sure to be our last breaths painting her nails, discovered we were the sole survivors.

I’m not sure what that means, except it stuck with me all day and I think the chaos I experienced in my sleep might be responsible for the chaos that ensued in my house today.

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In other words, Edie discovered the kitchen cabinets. And, even though I was prepared enough to buy those baby-proofing cabinet locks, I didn’t install them yet. And, when I went to do it today, I discovered that the baby-proofing cabinet locks I bought are stupid. And I hate them. And I need different ones. But I live 30 miles from town and apparently we’re in another two-day blizzard warning, so I have to wait for Amazon.com again, the same store that was responsible for my stupid purchase in the first place.  Because nobody’s review said they were stupid.

So basically, nothing’s safe anymore. When I go to get ready for the day, Edie thinks she needs to put on makeup and scatter my bathroom drawers across the floor into the bedroom where she then unloads my entire bottom drawer before moving on to the next one so she can try on all of my bras before heading to the closet for the scarves.

And I could stop her. But then I would never get my teeth brushed, hair combed, face washed, eyebrows plucked, etc.

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So I just let her loose. And if you can picture what our master bedroom and bathroom looks after those ten minutes, well, just apply that scenario to every room in the house.

Oh, I love her. She’s so fun right now.

Fun and exhausting.

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She’s sleeping now after a bedtime performance featuring her singing and waving her arms and swaying back and forth across the living room. There was to be no “night night” until the applause.

So now I have a moment to share this week’s column, which is basically an extension of my last post and my thoughts on the new year and how sometimes I think we don’t give the whole “who we are in the moments we’re in” enough credit.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately–the need to focus on the present instead of all of the plans I think I need to be making.

And I was doing really good at it for the first week of the new year. But you guys, yesterday it was colder here than in frickin’ Antarctica and the North Pole…

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and I had a couple glasses of wine in the evening and my sister was here to instigate and my mom was here to cheer us on and my husband was in the “whatever you want wife” mood and before I knew it I booked him and I a trip to Jamaica.

I feel like it was a bit of a cabin fever, I’m freezing my ass off and it’s our tenth year of marriage and we never had a proper honeymoon impulse purchase, but it’s done and, well, I did say we needed to have more date nights so, well, take that new years resolution!

So that’s where we’ll be at the end of May. And until then you can find me and Edie in this house at the other end of a trail of bras. I’ll be there trying my damnedest to get this book done. I’m almost there friends.

Almost there.

If I could just keep Edie out of the kitchen cabinets.

Peace, love and childproofing,

Sunday Column: A resolution for more sweet things
by Jessie Veeder
1-8-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I’m finding it hard to concentrate this morning.

After another two days of more snow, the sun is finally shining bright through my window and the arctic, frosty air is creating a big rainbow halo over the stock dam.

If I didn’t know better, I would think it might actually be a nice day out there. But I’ve lived here long enough. This is what five below zero looks like.

The baby is at daycare, and it’s the first time in a couple weeks that I’ve been home without her. It’s quiet. I can hear the furnace turn on and off, the background music to the thoughts I should be thinking about the symbol of a new year, a fresh start, another chance to make myself better.

However, I keep getting distracted by the part of the internet that features tropical vacations while last night’s dishes stay piled in the sink and Edie’s toys stay scattered on the ground alongside the crumbs from the crackers she was carrying around, one in each hand, before her noodle supper.

Welcome to 2017.

It looks about exactly like 2016 except colder, messier and, well, there’s more snow.

I’ve always sort of hated the fact that the whole new-year-new-beginnings thing falls smack in the middle of the longest season. I mean, how does anyone expect to swear off carbs and start a treadmill regime in January in North Dakota when we need the extra padding the most? It’s irresponsible.

Talk to me in July about healthy resolutions, and I’ll be the first one to schedule us a hiking trip.

Talk to me about resolutions in January and, well, here are the necessary life changes that are on my mind:

  1. More snuggles
  2. More sleep
  3. More sweaters
  4. More vacations

Oh, and I should probably shovel off my deck before it collapses under the weight of the five foot snowdrift, but that looks like the only mildly productive resolution I’ve accumulated.

Don’t get me wrong, I have career goals brewing, and some fun projects coming down the pipe for 2017, but this year I’m not sure how complicated I want to get in making personal promises to myself.

Because I’ve spent the entire duration of 2016 in the new-to-me universe of motherhood, wondering what it is I should be doing and how my limited time, limited energy and limited money is best spent, a question that seems more pressing now that I’m responsible for a little one, and she grows and changes by the second.

And you know what I just realized? It isn’t caring for this new life that’s been so tiring and challenging. No. That’s been the fun part.

The hard parts have been on me and that nagging voice in my head that I keep nurturing, the one that keeps suggesting that what I’m doing isn’t enough.

Working more or home more? Daycare or no daycare? More play dates? More real dates? Early mornings spent writing? Even earlier mornings on the treadmill?

Nobody tells you that about new motherhood. They don’t tell you that the biggest adjustment is getting to know the new version of yourself after that baby is born.

It’s been over a year and I’m not sure I’m there yet, except I’m determined to stop being so hard on her in 2017.

I’m determined to like her. Because I haven’t written a song or done a lunge in months, but I have pulled a tiny human in a sled to the top of a snowy hill all in the name of a smile, and I think that might be just as important (and more aerobic) these days.

And I simply can’t bring myself to say I’m going to eat fewer caramel rolls in 2017 because the New Year needs more sweet things, not less.

So here’s a thought I’ve never really entertained in a life spent making plans (plans that got us to this very magical and demanding moment of our lives): Maybe what we’re doing right now is exactly what we need to be doing right now.

And maybe it’s perfect timing after all. January is the best month for snuggling.

 

 

Time, memories and the magic of Christmas

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Well, it was a Christmas to remember for so many reasons.

The first was waking up on Christmas Day to a baby who decided that she’s ready to full-fledge walk.

And so we spent the weekend watching her wobble and bobble and dance and clap and experience her world on two feet.

Tomorrow she’ll be running.

Next week she’ll tell me she’s training for a marathon.

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And in between all of the present wrapping and unwrapping, eating, drinking and being merry, an epic winter blizzard of North Dakota proportions raged outside our doors, making us grateful to be together warm and cozy inside…

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only to send the boys out the spend the entire next day behind tractors and skid steers and shovels trying to open the roads and feed the cows and whittle away at the ten foot drifts that had piled against our houses, doors and pathways.

And then there was a Christmas ditch situation and a memorable the-baby-ate-too-many-blueberries-and-other-Christmas-treats bedtime projectile vomit episode that will go down in infamy.

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And now that the company has gone and the wind has died down and the sun is out, making the chest-deep snowdrift on my deck sparkle and shine, I have a moment while the baby snacks on Cheerios (and blueberries…what’s wrong with me?) to share last week’s column about the magic of Christmas, which, I’ve decided, lies in the simple and crazy precious memories we create without even realizing it.

Even when nothing goes as planned.

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Christmas reminds us of the magic of time
12-25-16
Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I was too old to believe in Santa Clause when reality finally started tugging at my sleeves.

I tried to shoo the truth away as long as I could, not so eager to grow up and exist in a world surrounded by it because the truth never seemed quite as thrilling as the dreamed up.

I suppose I’ve always been one to hang on to the coattails of magic as long as it lets me, as long as it doesn’t grow too wild and reckless, sending me spinning and whipping off its haunches.

I think that’s what keeps me telling and retelling the best parts then, the ones from a childhood spent believing that maybe my horse could understand the words I spoke, my “secret spot” 12 feet off the road was actually secret and Santa Clause would exist as long as I found a way to never grow up.

I never wanted to grow up.

Of all of the memories I’ve collected as a kid in these hills, I remember that most clearly.

I was sensitive enough to the trials of adulthood to know that children had it best. I knew because I was listening from the other side of my closed bedroom door — hushed conversations in the kitchen while we were supposed to be sleeping, the stories of lost love coming from dad’s record player, the hugs from strangers at my grandparents’ funerals.

I knew what time did to people, and I wondered how I might make it miss me.

My grandpa died when I was six years old. His death brought our family back to the ranch for good, and it gave me another five years or so living down the road from my grandmother.

Actually, it gave us all that time with her, but I don’t own my family’s memories. I only have mine.

And I remember one summer evening lying in the patch of sun that lit up the carpet through the open window in my grandmother’s living room.

The TV was on, but it wasn’t as interesting to me as watching the way the dust caught the stream of light, turning it from invisible to visible.

My grandma had fallen asleep in her easy chair with a newspaper on her lap, her head tilted back, sort of snoring. She had a habit of holding a toothpick in the corner of her mouth, and I noticed as she took those deep, noisy breaths that her toothpick was still there, in danger, I was certain, of being sucked down her throat as she slept, unaware.

That’s the kind of kid I was, so comfortable and in love with the familiarity of my good and safe life, and a little too aware of its volatility, a little worried I was too lucky.

I sat up, eyes fixated on that toothpick, watching my grandmother’s lips purse and pop with each breath in and out, suddenly becoming distinctly aware of time.

I didn’t want to live in a world without her.

And I didn’t want to live in a world where time made me think it too cold for sledding or allowed me to walk by a swimming pool or a lake or the perfect puddle and not want to, (have to) jump in.

And so Christmas has come again, and the new year is right behind, bringing with it the recognition of time passed, new promises and reminders to miss the people who’ve left us here to admire the twinkling lights without them.

Now that I’ve succumbed to adulthood, I wish I could remember what it was like to truly believe in such an impossible thing like Santa Clause. My six-year-old self would be so disappointed in me.

But if I could, I would tell her a secret I’ve learned in the growing up we were so afraid of: I would say she was doing the right thing in holding on tight to her gratitude. Then I would tell her not to worry so much about time, because time gives us memories, memories we get to go back to whenever we want, but also, memories just waiting to be made.

And that, child, is the most magic you’ll find in this life.

Hold on tight to its tails.

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A motherhood tip.

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Here’s my baby, right after she smacked her head on the floor, despite my best efforts to save her from such bumps… 

The purpose of my life has become keeping this child of mine from eating the boxelder bugs that keep coming into the house.

My floors have never been clean, but I swear, they’ve never been cleaner than now.

Still not clean though, thanks to the new game the child plays called something like “when I’m sick of eating I will mash it all up with my tiny hands and then fling it on the floor.”

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The purpose of my life has become cleaning squashed avocados out of the crevices of her high chair. And off her little pants. And then, if I see it while I’m sweeping up dead boxelder bugs, I might also get to scraping that squished avocado off the floor.

Not that it’s a matter of life or death, those avocados or those squished boxelder bugs, (they probably have some sort of nutritional value, those bugs) but they’re just added tasks on top of the main purpose of my life, which is keeping this child alive.

Seriously. Nobody tells you when you take your sweet bundle of joy home with you, the little miracle that can’t roll over on her own, or hold her head up or her eyes open very long, that in a few months they will try every day, as hard as they can, to get themselves seriously hurt, and in turn, try to kill you. You know, because of all the heart attacks.

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Here she is, trying to strangle herself with my bra

I had one the other day. A heart attack. Or something like it. It was sort of cold outside, but we needed some air. So I bundled the child up in her hat and snowsuit, strapped her in her stroller and put a blanket over her. She was pleased. She loves walks. There’s nowhere else in the world she’d rather be than outside, but damn, the wind was cold up top on the road. Too cold for her mother, so too cold for the baby.

So I wheeled her back down to the house and thought, well, while we’re all bundled up she can sit in her stroller and I can pick the rest of my tomatoes. Because I’m still holding out hope that a twenty-fifth hour will show up in a day, or better yet, an eight day in the week, and I’ll find some time to make salsa this year.

So I grabbed my garden basket and headed out back, situated Edie where she was out of the wind and could watch her momma work and looked up every few minutes to yell at Gus for licking my baby’s face.

Not that the baby minded at all. In fact, she was thrilled with it. She grabbed his ears, squealed and leaned in for more, again proving that babies get a real kick out of risky, germy, behavior.

Anyway, my garden is on a little slant of a hill, something I’ve never thought twice about until I looked up again to watch my baby, and the stroller she was in, on the tail end of a sideways tip to the grass.

And I’m not positive how it happened, I mean, I didn’t witness it, but I blame it on the dog.

I threw down the tomatoes and ran to her, certain that one of her limbs was missing, or, at the very least, broken. Positive she had a concussion or at least scarred enough for life that she’ll have flashbacks whenever she sees a dog.

Or a stroller.

Or a tomato.

Oh Lord, I’ve given her an aversion to tomatoes.

I looked at her pink cherub face as it morphed into the beginning stages of her cry– wrinkled up nose, eyes squeezed tight, mouth wide open, silent gasp to get a good breath of air and then a wail.

I unbuckled her from the sideways stroller and picked her up before her next breath, looked her over for blood or mud or a missing foot or something and waited for the next wail to release from her lungs.

But it didn’t happen.

She was up in my arms, caught sight of the dog and smiled.

She was fine.

But I wasn’t sure I was.

Seriously. I need a back up heart.

Peace, Love and Tomato Trauma,

Jessie and the Daredevil

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They’re not babies long..

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This is my view lately.

A pre-nap snuggle after the tiny monster had free reign of the living room for approximately three minutes and I’m sitting here sort of dazed at how fast they turn from helpless babies to tiny humans with minds of their own.

She’s hit the stage where she learns something new every minute, I swear. A few weeks ago it was standing against the furniture.

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Tuesday it was standing against the furniture with one hand.

Yesterday she decided to let go and see what would happen.

Because she’s pretty sure she can walk now.

She can’t.

But she’s amused anyway with falling on her butt.

 

 

Those legs need less squish and more muscle before this walking train is leaving the station, so I’m optimistic I have some time to do pad the walls of this house.

This girl. She’s funny. Like entertaining and wild and full of this spirit I just can’t get enough of and have a hard time describing.

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She laughs all day, like she’s practicing the one she likes best and then she tries it out when things get really funny. Right now it’s a cross between evil and adorable and she is so amused with herself.

And I’m so amused with her.

 

Because she’s woken up to the world and it’s so fun to watch. I didn’t know how incredible it would be to see her change every day.  She knows what it means when she hears the door open. She stops what she’s doing and waits to see him come around the corner in the hallway. She flings her arms and reaches for her dad, squealing with delight when he comes closer to pick her up.

I tried to take her from him to change her diaper on Sunday morning and her lip stuck out in the biggest pout I’d ever seen, literally showcasing on her face her little heart breaking at the thought. So I put her back in the nook of his arm and the pout morphed back into her sort of permanent working smile.

And it was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen.

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Every day of this mom thing is like that. Full of such extremes. Extreme frustration. Extreme exhaustion. Extreme happiness. Extreme hilarity. And that all bounces around in the mundane tasks and drone of the work of the ordinary days.

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The colors are changing outside our window and just as this baby started waking up in the spring I feel like she’s following another change in the season.

They’re not babies long. That’s what my friend told me a few years back.

And she was right.

They’re not babies long…

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Baby Edie rides her horses

Here’s Edie, doing what we do in the morning.

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Rolling and flipping and grabbing and smiling and screaming at her toys because they aren’t doing what she wants them to do and I have no idea what that might be but it sure pisses her off.

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But mostly she’s plain happy, as long as there’s action.

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So when she’s done rolling and flipping and screeching I put her on her horse.

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And as you can see she likes it.

So you can imagine her delight when we put her on a real horse yesterday.

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Yup.

We had a branding at the neighbor’s and Pops brought the horse around before he rode it back home.

I wish we had a video camera to record what she moved like when we put her close to the nose of that bay and then up on his back. It was one of my favorite moments with her.

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All of the sudden I had this flash-forward moment to all of the things I dreamed about doing with our daughter out here on this place someday. I saw her up there so tiny and excited, reaching for the horn of the saddle and squealing and then reaching further to grab the black mane and I saw her at five years old, blond hair and curls, riding a pony while I lead her around the pen in front of the barn. And then I saw her at ten years old, on a big horse, following behind us across the pasture in the warm glow of a sinking summer sun, her face flushed and dirty, her hair windswept.

And then she’s sixteen and I’m holding my breath, her ponytail flying and bouncing under her straw hat as she rounds the last barrel at a rodeo and I let out a sigh of relief…

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Maybe it was watching the neighbor girls that I used to babysit all grown up and beautiful, helping to ride and wrestle calves, or maybe it was the light of the evening casting long shadows and reflecting off the dust in the air, making everything soft and dreamlike, but I was nostalgic for a future with this tiny little human who could just as easily grow up to prefer video games to horses.

But for now she seems delighted by it all, by the big outdoors and the blue sky and the grass and especially the animals.

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She has a physical elated reaction to them. She sucks in air and reaches out her hands and grabs their fur. When we go to feed the calf she has a mini hyperventilation spell. When she’s crying for no apparent reason all I have to do is open the door and walk out on the deck and a smile spreads across her face.

She leans down from my arms and tries to get closer to the dogs.

She reaches out for the kitty’s fur.

The wild world is hers…

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Yes, this is Edie. Our daughter. Our baby discovering that the fun is just beginning.

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Sunday Column: The thread that ties us together

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We baptized baby Edie yesterday. We have a happy, healthy baby girl surrounded by the love of a great big family who all showed up for her.

That’s all anyone can ask for in this life, to have something so precious tied to you.

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I have known in my life that this isn’t a gift granted to everyone, but when you’re wrapped up in the challenge and goodness of it all, sometimes you’re given a moment that reminds us again to be grateful and humble and happy in the gifts we’re given.

This week’s column is on one of those moments and the thread that winds and unwinds between us….

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Coming Home: Feeling the strong yet fragile thread that ties child, parent
by Jessie Veeder
3-27-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It was one of those little scenes that would play out in the movie version of your life, one that offers comic relief to a series of tense emotions, an argument or a confession: a pile of little kids stacked up on a battery-operated toy pickup, driving back and forth in front of the stage where I played with the band last Saturday, and one little boy, dressed in boots and a Wrangler butt pointed in our direction as he rolled by, bent over the side revealing to us a tiny full-moon.

An oblivious drive-by.

In the middle of a song I was singing about being strong and holding on, I looked over at my bass player to make sure I wasn’t the only one witnessing the cutest and most hilarious thing in the world. He looked back at me with a big grin, and I finished the song through stifled giggles.

So much for keeping it together.

But it was a welcome scene. On one of the first nights I spent on a stage away from my baby, we were singing to a crowd of kids, families and bouncy houses at an event raising money to grant wishes for children with cancer.

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Up on that stage, you get a bird’s-eye view of a community coming together to help ease the burden on families who have been sentenced to watch their babies suffer. From up there, it was hard to tell which children were sick, which were healthy and who had overcome so much in their short lives.

Take a step down and it might become a bit clearer, but from where I stood they were all just kids busting out their best break-dancing moves, giving smaller kids rides on the horse on wheels, requesting that we play the chicken dance and working to break their sugar quota for the year.

Watching their enthusiasm for being let loose at an event designed for them used to remind me of what it was like to be a kid with boundless energy oblivious to the worries of the world.

Now I look out over those dancing, laughing, bouncing children and every single one of them is Edie.

Edie who loves music. Edie who, in just a few short months, might be dancing to it. Edie who would love that toy horse on wheels.

Edie, who was likely fighting off sleep in her dad’s arms. Edie, happy and healthy and so fresh to a world where anything can happen.

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Some days having a baby feels like having a tiny little anchor tied to your ankle. I say this with love and honesty as I try to put into words what all you parents out there have experienced tenfold already.

It’s similar to the “heart outside your chest” analogy I suppose, except to me that always sounded so raw and terrifying. Ever since Edie was born, I haven’t felt ripped open as much as I feel like I have been walking around with a thread spooling and unspooling, connecting me to her.

That night I was 60 miles away from my daughter, standing on that stage, and I imagined that thread stretching out along the highway, through the badlands and over the river to where she was breathing, happy and healthy and loved.

Looking out in that crowd of children dancing, I imagined a spider web of threads connecting those tiny souls to the souls sitting on folding chairs, visiting and laughing and keeping one eye out for the little heartbeat they created.

I could say here now how I can’t imagine what I would do if little Edie got sick enough to be granted her wish to ride a rollercoaster or pet a giraffe in Africa, but does it need to be said?

Until the last four months I didn’t know about the thread. And last weekend I was reminded that the thread is as fragile as it is strong.

I opened my eyes in the dark of the early hours of this morning. In the quiet I thought about the little girl in the princess costume being granted a trip to Disneyland. And then about that little boy on the tractor.

I smiled. My baby stirred. The thread pulled tight.

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Sunday Column: Raising a new generation in a familiar place

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This is a photo of my best friend (the tiny little blonde thing) and me sitting on her dad’s lap when we were just babies.

This was likely taken in my parents’ little trailer where they first lived on the ranch when they got married.

I think we still have that rocking chair.

I spent my entire childhood with that little blonde girl who lived up the hill along the highway on the place where her dad was raised. We had plenty of adventures and we were lucky to have each other out here growing up in the middle of nowhere. I guarantee having her in my life went a long ways in the ‘happy childhood memories’ department.

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We used to plan on how we would grow up, have some adventures and move back to our ranches and be neighbors forever.

Who would have thought that the best laid plans of ten year old girls would wind up coming together twenty years later.

It’s a story that doesn’t get told much out here in Western North Dakota where the focus is on Boomtown and oil and all the trouble and sacrifice and nervousness it creates.

There is that. Some of that.

And then there is the fact that I would never be here, on my family’s 100 year old ranch, living down the road from my childhood best friend who was out helping our dads work cattle last Friday just like the old days, one or two of her four kids in tow, if it wasn’t for an economy that could support us building houses and making lives and carrying on traditions out here on our family farms.

When I graduated from high school in 2001, the porch lights along the gravel roads that connected us to town, were going out one by one.

Now they are turning on by the dozens, fourth and fifth generations getting a chance to be involved in the family business, or, like many of our friends, taking advantage of the opportunity to return home to a place they were raised and raise their own children.

Take this picture for example. This is a photo of my husband and some of his closest friends at our senior prom fourteen years ago (gasp!).

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At a time when our hometown and home state were dealing with outmigration and we were told to get out of here, go get an education, move to Minneapolis or Chicago and start a life, make something of yourself, it’s interesting to note that of the six young men in this photo, all six of them have moved back to western North Dakota to raise their families.

Three of them are back on family ranches and one of them is in a beautiful house outside of our hometown raising three boys.

These guys, for all the wild shit they survived in their teenage years, grew up to own successful businesses, build houses and hold and be promoted in professional jobs. One of them is even a teacher and a coach. And between them all they are raising (or will be raising, if you count our little one coming along) fourteen kids out here in Western North Dakota…a place that seemed to once be on the verge of extinction.

Now, when I look around at events happening in town, basketball games, figure skating shows, dances on Main Street, I see about a hundred more stories of hometown kids coming back to make a life in a familiar place that is growing and busting at the seams.

A place they help make better by volunteering to coach 2nd grade football or, like my best friend up the road, help run the gymnastics program. Because their memories of this place motivate them to make sure they’re making good memories for their own children.

A few weekends ago I went up to have supper at my best friend’s beautiful house up the road. She invited some of our other friends to join us, and they all brought their kids and we ate meatballs and gravy and it occurred to me how unique of a situation we’ve found ourselves in…knowing each other’s history, loving each other from the time of fanny packs and biker shorts, and getting the opportunity to raise our own children together.

So that’s what this week’s column is about. Generations having the opportunity to build lives out here.

Who would have thought?

Coming Home: Newfound hope means we’re raising kids with our old classmates
by Jessie Veeder
10-25-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

On top of the hill across from the golf course, my hometown is busy building a brand-new, beautiful high school.

Plans have been in the works for a few years as our student population continues to grow, forcing classes to be held in portable rooms even after a recent elementary school renovation. 

Even during these times of lower oil prices.

It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true. The kindergarten class this year registered well into a hundred students, and in a matter of six or so years, we have not only exploded in population from 1,200 residents to closer to 10,000, but we’ve turned from an aging community into a young one.

Last weekend, my best friend — the neighbor girl who used to meet at the top of the hill so we could ride our bikes along the centerline of the highway — called us to come over for supper. A few years ago she and her husband, my classmate, built a beautiful house on her family’s ranch, fulfilling the plans we made when we were kids jumping from hay bale to hay bale to “grow up, get jobs and be neighbors forever.”

So I grabbed a bottle of wine (because someone should be drinking this wine) and headed up the hill to her house where she’s raising four kids, the youngest a son who will be only six months older than our baby on the way.

Lord help us all if this baby is a boy, too.

Anyway, that night we gathered for meatballs and gravy to catch up with a house full of friends. I looked around the kitchen, listened to the guys talk sports and bounce new babies and realized that every single one of those five grown men grew up together. And there were more of them, quite a few more of them, who couldn’t make it to the party.

And while it’s not a surprise (more than half of the classmates who attended our 10-year high school reunion had either moved back home or were making plans to move), it was fun to take a look around and think about the next chapter in our lives as friends in a town they told us no one could come home to.

But look how wrong we can be about predicting the future. One of my husband’s best friends — the one who lived right down the block and was in on more than a few paint ball and principal office shenanigans with him — held his newborn son at the table. That friend was my locker buddy, and his dad was locker buddies with my dad, and it just occurred to me that the baby boy he was bouncing could very likely be locker buddies with our baby, too.

(Would it be more or less trouble if our baby is a girl?)

And there are quite a few stories like this in my hometown these days, not just among our small class of 40 or so, but among other classes here as well. Best friends from childhood raising families alongside one another, taking turns driving kids to football or gymnastics, meeting up to barbecue, to sit and visit with a sort of ease and familiarity that comes with knowing one another when we wore our pants too baggy and drove too fast.

Who would have known? When I left home almost 15 years ago, the porch lights on the farmhouses were going out one by one. This landscape was so much darker without any real hope of new and younger hands to flip the switch back on.

And nothing was going to make it any different except a change in the makeup of this place that would make it so we wouldn’t have to struggle the way our parents did.

Around the supper table that evening there wasn’t a person raised here who didn’t respect and love it in their own way. But just because we’re connected by the land doesn’t necessarily mean that we would naturally remain connected to one another.

Except in this case it is enough, to find this place worthy of returning to and planting new seeds, a new generation raised in a familiar, changing and unpredictable place.

Sunday Column: Staying young and dancing…

Today I have another trip to the big town to visit the doctor, hear the baby’s heartbeat and make sure things are moving along in all the right ways.

Yesterday was the official transition into the third trimester, and I’ll tell ya, things are getting real…and so is the heartburn.

And while we wait to welcome the new arrival into the family, our family just keeps growing as both my little sister and Husband’s little brother got married this summer.

We celebrated my brother in law’s wedding a few weeks ago and after getting stuck in the bridesmaid’s dress a few weeks back in an attempt to make sure the thing fit, I found myself a seamstress and things seemed to zip up alright…with not much room to spare.

But that wasn’t the only thing we needed to do to prepare for this wedding. No. Me fitting my belly into the dang dress was the easy part. Because my nieces had an idea…a flash mob family choreographed routine to interrupt the mother-son dance, and they had been working on the steps all summer.

And so we were charged with doing the same.

So that’s what this week’s column is about. How the whole family joined in to follow these girls’ lead in the name of fun and how these nieces of mine continue to remind me of what it was like when I was young and the world was my stage.

I can only hope this little one of ours has as much spark and spirit as these three blondies…

Coming Home: Dancing nieces delight mom to be
by Jessie Veeder
9-6-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

When Pops came into the house on a hot Sunday afternoon in July, he didn’t find the typical scene of my husband and I fixing lunch, tinkering with a project in the basement, folding laundry or sweeping floors.

No.

Instead, he heard Bruno Mars blasting from the speakers, turned the corner in the hallway to find the living room furniture pushed up against the walls and three little blonde girls leading their gramma, grampa, mom, aunt and uncle in a dance they had been busy choreographing all summer.

Pops stood in the hallway and grinned watching his pregnant daughter and her husband navigate some version of a step-touch, hip shake, turn combination while the 12-year-old, my oldest niece, called out orders to her grampa to “video this so they can practice it!”

It was all part of a master plan my three nieces devised to surprise my brother-in-law, their uncle, at his upcoming wedding with a sort of “flash mob dance” that consisted of the entire family (who, by the way, don’t have any semblance of rhythm or dance gene in our bodies).

When the music stopped and we realized we had a witness to our rehearsal, my husband shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, this probably won’t be the weirdest thing you’ll walk in on over here.”

But Pops didn’t need an explanation. Having raised three daughters, it wasn’t the first surprise dance party he’s witnessed.

Because with kids in the picture, life becomes one big fun, messy idea after another.

I’ve learned that with these nieces of mine, the first one coming into our lives while we were still in college, reminding us that we weren’t ready to raise one of our own, but we were more than ready to love the heck out of this drooling, smiling, beautiful little miracle, draw pictures of princesses on demand and allow her to perform full makeovers on both of us. In return we promised to teach her how to ride horses, how to keep calm when she steps in cow poop with her new pink boots and attend as many dance recitals as our schedules will allow.

And when her younger sisters came along, the same rules applied to them.

That’s the fun part about being an aunt or uncle before you become a mom or dad yourself. You get a relationship with these tiny people from the start and the benefit of learning about what it means to raise them from the person you were raised alongside.

I’ve been an aunt for 12 years (three of them before I officially joined the family) and I can honestly say there hasn’t been a day I haven’t been proud that I belonged to these twirling, cartwheeling, funny, smart girls because they keep reminding me what it was like to be young and full of ideas, the world my stage.

And last weekend when my husband’s little brother said his vows to his new bride, we officially welcomed a new sister and new nephew to the family, and my nieces celebrated the occasion in style with hours of preparation put into hairdo research, dress shopping, shoe swapping and, of course, making sure gramma, grampa, aunt, uncle, mom and dad were all prepared for their big dance debut.

I stood in my unassuming position off of the dance floor by the DJ, clutching my sunglasses prop and watching as the girls took the floor in formation and the music began to play. After months of practice their big moment had arrived, and with all eyes (and a spotlight) on them, they moved through the steps and two by two the rest of the family joined in, taking their lead the way they had planned.

Cameras flashed, family and friends cheered, my husband and I fumbled through the step-touch, hip-shake, turn combination, the surprised groom wiped tears from his eyes, and my three little nieces soaked in every moment, taking the stage to grow up gracefully in front of an audience that simply adores them.

I can’t wait to be a mom if only to have a chance to be a witness to more big, fun, messy, glamorous ideas my nieces continue to remind me still exist in the world.

Bravo sweet girls, may we never stop dancing.

What we never thought we’d know…

So yesterday, we saw our baby…BabyOr a little fuzzy silhouette of it anyway, a snapshot of what I’ve been working so hard on growing the last few months of my life. 

There is the hand that I swear pushes on my bladder every five minutes…

And there’s the foot I can feel poking and fluttering on all sides of my belly button at all hours of the day.

Baby Foot

I’m surprised we could get any pictures at all considering this kid never holds still.

Trouble already.

I can’t believe this is happening.

This picture, this sonogram, looks like every other sonogram I’ve every seen really. It’s a little smudge of a baby the size of a mango, but this time the little smudge of a baby the size of a mango is ours.

It was a date I’ve been looking forward to since we decided to put a family together all those years ago. I imagined what it would be like to make plans to head to the Doctor’s office together where I would lay on the table in a dark room with Husband at my side, staring at the screen where our little one would be the star of the show.

I wondered what it would feel like. I wondered what I would think. I wondered if I would cry or just hold my breath.  I wondered if Husband would hold my hand or just put them in his pockets the way he does when he’s concentrating on something. I wondered how he would act. I wondered what he would say…

I found out yesterday.

He said “Oh, look there, I think I see a mustache.”

And so that’s how that went.

And it was wonderful.

We were normal people with a normal pregnancy doing normal things that normal couples get to do when they have a baby on the way.

And then they printed off a reel of photos of little white smudges of feet and ears, a belly and bended knees a whole world and life forming under my skin and we listened to the heart beat and Husband put the number in his memory and we walked on air out of there to sit at a table at a restaurant and order anything we wanted, to sit as long as we wanted, to say whatever we wanted about this moment as we lived it…

Because we never thought we’d really live it…no matter how our friends and family willed it to be or reassured us it would all come together…that they’d been praying.

How do you ever know.

I didn’t.

And if I would have known how it might all turn out in that moment I’d been wondering about, it wouldn’t have mattered as much when we finally lived it.

And it mattered so much. That day, yesterday, with my Husband clutching the reel of our first baby’s photos, practically skipping out into that hot, humid air blazing on his pickup in the parking lot in a town that took us a three hour car ride to reach, was simply one of the most ordinary, extraordinary moments of my life, one I never thought I could give him… give us.

And there we were, eating lunch in the summer sun together talking about strollers and cribs and how much tiny camouflage he plans on purchasing in the next few months.

There we were, two planning on three. Just like that, like we’ve never had our hearts broken time after time. Like we never had a moment of thinking otherwise. Like there was never a doubt we’d ever arrive here.

What can I say about this except that sometimes when you hold out hope, hope gives in.

Some would call that faith.

I don’t know what I call it except maybe a gift, just like every other life that exists here. After all of our trouble and worry and struggle, how it happens at all is a true and utter miracle.

We spent the rest of the afternoon milling around furniture stores, trying out couches and opening drawers on bedroom sets. Husband picked up some jeans and I tried on dresses. We bought a first aid kid and bathroom supplies and wandered through the baby aisle confusing ourselves.

I had a feeling that if I would have asked for the moon that day, my Husband would have set out building a ladder tall enough to let him wrap his arms around it and bring it down.

But I don’t need the moon…no.

Just a scoop or two of ice cream for the way home at the end of a day we never thought we’d know…

So it goes with love, land and family…

Veeder Ranch Centennial Card

Well, it’s finally here!

Wedding week at the ranch. The relatives are starting to roll in, (and helping to mow the yards), the fences are painted, the decorations are in a pile somewhere waiting for their places, we’ve got the burs out of most of our horses so they’re ready for company and we are watching the ever-changing North Dakota weather forecast to be reassured that it isn’t going to rain on our big parade.

Oh, and I vacuumed and scrubbed my floors, so things are getting serious around here.

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To say it’s been a busy spring around here would be an understatement. When we’re all working together for the common goal of beautifying this old place, every minute between work and sleep has a plan in place. And while there’s plenty of work left to do out here, it has been amazing to me how a love declared and a date set can get things in motion the way that it has. Weddings, for all of the hub bub and money spent, details agonized over and tiny bows tied, really become something special in the end for the way they bring the people we love from all corners of the country to celebrate a new family being formed.

I mean, how many times in your life do you get your aunt and uncle from Omaha in the same place as your mom’s family from the east coast and your cousins from Texas?

As the first round of relatives arrive, I can’t help but think that this wedding is extra special to our family in a lot of ways. For one, the baby of our little family has found someone weird, kind and patient enough for a forever future together.

But also because that future is set to begin on the dirt that holds our family’s history, where our great grandfather homesteaded before he went off to war, where he brought his new wife home, where they raised cattle and crops and five children. Where she planted yellow roses that still bloom in the bushes below the cabin. Where he lost her when she was only thirty-six and their youngest son, our grandpa, was only eight.

And on the very dirt where my sister will stand in a white dress waiting for her groom, our grampa  grew up to be a hardworking, dedicated cowboy who didn’t ride the rodeo or buy up thousands of acres, but carried on in his father’s footsteps and kept a steady and growing business of crops and cattle through tough times while raising kids, our dad one of them, who fell in love with the landscape and the idea of taking care of it, an important outcome for a man who dreamed of the future of his ranch with his family on it.

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IMG_20150524_0012IMG_20150524_0020 Kids

And so on Saturday my little sister will stand in front of that barn as the fourth generation to chose to stick around her home. Before she walks down the isle with our dad on her arm, our ring bearer nephew and our flower girl cousin will proceed her dressed in thier best and representing another generation of kids to know and love this place.

Then my little sister will declare her love for a man who followed her west to this place and they will continue the story 100 years after our great grampa Eddie staked his claim and put up his homestead shack next to that barn.

Summer Barn

My big sister and I will stand next to her and I will hold her flowers as they kiss.

Then I’ll look over at my husband standing across the aisle and we will smile at the thought of the baby in my belly, due to come into this world at the end of November, at the beginning of a long winter and of a new and long-awaited chapter in the story of lives lived, families grown and dreams fought for out here on the Veeder Ranch.

And so it goes with love and land and family…it holds the past, the present and the ever evolving and unpredictable future…

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