Some secrets should be kept secret…

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Coming Home: In marriage, some secrets should be kept secret
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

“Oh, by the way,” he said as he pulled on his pajamas pants and emerged from the closet. “There was a bat in the bedroom while you were gone.”

I sat straight up in bed, groaned a long “Noooo!” and clamped my hands to my mouth as I flashed back to the days of living in the old farmhouse and the traumatizing experience of discovering a really (like really) large family of bats hibernating in the space between the door and the screen we never used.

These things you never get over, no matter how rustic you think you are.

And, just to be certain we were both up to speed on all our bat incidents, my husband took the next moment to compare the most current bat situation to a similar episode in our past. Because there’s more than one.

“Remember when we had that bat in the bedroom in the old house?”

“Who could forget.”

“And we were laying there and it just flew in out of nowhere, through the fan blades and then all over the house.”

“Thanks for the reminder. I wasn’t planning on sleeping tonight anyway.”

“Yeah, well it was like that only it was in this closet. It flew out, right at me,” he explained as he reenacted the event, arms waving, voice rising, my stoic husband suddenly becoming animated at the memory. “So I quick got out of the room, closed the door and ran downstairs to get reinforcements.”

I don’t want to know what the reinforcements were. I don’t want to know how he got rid of it or why, for some reason, the racquetball racquet that had been tucked away in the cobweb filled corners of our storage space long enough for it to become a sports-shaped fossil was now mysteriously laying next to my husband’s boot collection. I just want to imagine the bat was a figment of some sort of sleep-walking dream so I can continue to feel civilized in the new house that my husband was supposed to promise to make bat proof.

“How did it get in here?!” I whined as I scanned every corner of the room looking for an answer. I pulled the covers up over my mouth and waited for him to reassure me that it was indeed a dream or, at the very least, an isolated incident.

But that’s not how my life tends to go out here.

“I don’t know. It could have come up through the vents from the basement or something.”

“The BASEMENT!” Do we have bats in the BASEMENT?!”

“I don’t know….”

I stared at him, wide eyed in silence from behind my cover shield, willing him to give me a better answer.

He blinked.

I didn’t.

“Yeah. It occurs to me now that maybe I shouldn’t have told you. My dad suggested I don’t tell you… but you know, I want you to be on the lookout.”

How thoughtful.

 

Life and art on the road, on the ranch, in our neighborhood

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I’ve done it to myself, and it’s all good things, but the past few weeks, and the following two weeks are full to the brim.

I kicked off my official book concert tour last weekend across the state in Fargo and Grand Forks and I could spend the morning gushing over how amazing it was (and always is) to get off the ranch and meet people who read my column in the newspapers or online, who sort through the pictures and stories and songs and find a connection, but I’ll just say this: when you grab my hands after the show and thank me what I want to say is no, thank you. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sending me messages. Thank you for coming out to meet me and tell me your own stories.

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It’s my favorite part and it’s completely overwhelming to see a room full to the brim with people who chose to spend a few precious weekend hours with a ranch kid and her dad.

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In the meantime, my mother worked her butt off setting up the merchandise table and selling books, making sure I ate something and got places on time and didn’t have lipstick on my teeth, you know, all the things that good moms do.

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And while we were away, baby Edie was home helping her dad check for baby calves…

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Traveling to see her cousin perform in a dance competition, watching her other cousin play in a softball came and directing her other Nana and Papa in her new role of starting a family band.

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Oh, and I hope that she was practicing cuddling her baby dolls as I’ve been working to get her ready for her new little cousin set to arrive in a couple short months. She’s got the kissing thing down pat, now if I could just keep her from throwing them to the ground after…

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And while the book has finally arrived, this week another one of my big projects is coming to fruition. For a couple years I’ve been working with a group of like minded individuals to put together the Long X Arts Foundation with the mission to bring quality arts programming, education and access to our rural and sometimes isolated community.

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We’ve received such outstanding support in our efforts and tomorrow we’ll be hosting our second annual Badlands Arts Showcase where area artists will showcase their work in an art show followed by a performance of area artists and musicians in the new and beautiful high school theater space that I’m so proud our community invested in.

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It’s been lots of work, but it’s been so refreshing and inspiring to discover and feature all of these wonderfully talented people right in our backyard.

Plus, there will be dessert.

And coffee.

And Mexican food.

I am nervous that all will go well, but so excited to show off what we’ve put together for the community and raise some more funds so that we can develop art classes, concert series, dance programs and beyond.

And then I’m out on the road again this weekend, heading to Bismarck for the North Dakota Music Awards on Saturday where I’ll be performing with the long lost boys of Outlaw Sippin’ and then my book release concert on Sunday at 2:00 PM at the Heritage Center. 

This time Edie gets to come along, so if you come too, I’m sure you’ll find her roaming the halls of the Heritage Center, dancing, singing and bossing around the giant dinosaur in the hallway with my niece trailing behind her.

Until then, I’m sitting with my feet up, my laptop on my lap, answering emails, making lists and watching the calves sneak through the fence to try to get a taste of the green grass on my lawn.

Oh. And I should probably do a load or two of laundry so I don’t have to resort to wearing my back of the closet outfits…

See ya out there!

Peace, Love and Harmonica Music,

Jessie

For a list of upcoming book release concerts and to order “Coming Home” online, visit: www.jessieveedermusic.com 

Jessie Veeder Book Cover copy

Unexpected Sacred Spaces

There’s a long hallway in a hospital in the big town that stretches above and across an intersection, connecting two parts of the building with plain beige carpet and tall windows that let the light in from the street.

All day, every day, nurses, doctors and employees rolling carts of covered chicken and Jello to be delivered to patients who may not want to eat but have to eat, walk these hallways as part of their minute by minute routine, wearing their shoes and the carpet a little thinner with each step. To those employees, the hallways of their hospital become a part of the fabric of their day, a relationship that may or may not be complicated. I don’t know for sure. I’ve never worked in a field where my job is to physically care for a person or to use my training to open up a body and save a life, so I can’t speak for them. I don’t know what goes on in the hallways of a hospital from their perspective.

But I do know from the perspective of a daughter who watched her dad come back slowly from the brink of death after an emergency flight and an open chest bypass surgery for a condition with devastating odds three years ago in that hallway that stretches across and above the street of the big town

And I don’t think about it often anymore, because when it turns out the way you want it to turn out, you get that luxury, but I’m thinking about it today because last week we found ourselves there again, the whole family, sitting in the very same waiting room where we would sit with dad for a change of scenery during that weeklong hospital stay.

Only this time he was the healthy one, visiting a family member who hit a little rough patch, offering to get food and magazines and trying to help me wrangle a wiggly one-year-old who found it hilarious to take off running and giggling toward patients’ rooms.

“Let me take her on a walk Jess,” he said as he grabbed her hand and headed for the hallway with the windows….

In those late nights sitting with dad I remember making plans for the barnyard and the corrals, the cows we would buy and what we would do that summer to move us forward. And a few times during our stay in the big town, I walked down the block in the freezing cold wind to talk to my doctor about infertility treatments, to do tests and try to figure out if we were ever going to have a baby.

I got up from the waiting room chair to check on the squeals coming from that long hallway where we would take turns strolling with dad as his surgery wounds healed and my breath sort of caught at the sight of it—a man we weren’t sure was going to live walking hand in hand with a baby we never thought would be born.

And, just like that, a hallway in a hospital in the big town with plain beige carpet and tall windows turned sacred.

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Daddies on their way to work

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Coming Home: Daddies on their way to work
by Jessie Veeder
3-19-17
http://www.inforum.com

I unloaded my daughter and her backpack, and we left the car with the mechanic and sat down on the chairs in the lobby. It smelled like a combination of tire rubber and grease. The sun had warmed the snow enough to make it stick to the rubber soles of the muck boots everyone wears around here, leaving squeaky, muddy footprints to and from the door that dings when it opens…

We live in oil country. It’s been this way since my husband and I moved back to our home turf nearly six years ago. We used to call it a boom. The Wild Wild West. Men arriving from all corners of the country looking for high-paying jobs, some young and single and up for anything, others with families they left in Oklahoma or Arkansas, going back to visit every other two weeks, living in close quarters with other men in trailers, hotel rooms or apartments and sending money back home.

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Watford City, 2014

Add the heavy traffic flow, long lines at the post office and extravagant news stories about crime, safety and how you couldn’t find a woman in the mix with a magnifying glass, and that was the narrative out here.
It’s funny how fast a story can morph into history in a place like this.Funny what a half hour in a Jiffy Lube with a toddler can show you about your community.
I’m married to a man who works in an industry that sends him out into the elements every day to help fuel the world. Along with raising cattle on our ranch, this is his job.
He wears fire retardant jeans, a button-up shirt, a hooded jacket and a ball cap every day, the ultimate uniform of a majority of the working men in this part of the country.
In Edie’s eyes, in Jiffy Lube that day, every man that came through the door for an oil change that day was a daddy. And she was thrilled about it.
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So she hollered “Hi!!” loudly and repeatedly to each of them.Certain that none of them wanted to spend their wait having a conversation with a toddler, I tried to distract her with crackers and a story.”How old is she?” the man across the room asked.”Oh, she’s one,” I replied, reminded then that they’re likely also husbands.”Hhiii!” Edie waved.
“I remember that stage,” he said as Edie dropped down from her seat and did a little twirl on that dirty floor, and soon we were talking about his teenage daughter and her short-lived trombone career, his tech-savvy sons and the wife that moved his family here from the south to be with him.
Because when they talk about their families, history taught me to ask if they’re here together.”Yeah, they’re here,” he said. They’d been here for four years or so. They have a nice place in a new development south of town.”We like it here,” he said. “It feels like home.”
They called his name.
“Have a great day,” I said.”Byyeee,” said Edie.
As he went out, another young guy in the uniform came in. I got up to keep Edie from running down the hall and into the shop.
“How old is she?” He asked.
“I have a 1-year-old boy.”And the same narrative followed.
Our kids will likely be in the same grade, but probably not the same classroom, because there are so many young kids here now. More than a hundred in the current kindergarten class. I’m 33 years old, and I’m older than average in our once aging town, a statistic I was recently made aware of.
And now that I’m thinking of it, it’s pretty clear you no longer need a microscope to find the women here anymore.

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Photo in my mom’s coffeeshop on Main Street. On Saturday, the PTO organized a “Princess” event in honor of the opening of Beauty and the Beast. Countless mommas and princesses attended. It was overwhelming and still surprises a woman like me who grew up in this town when it was 1,200 people with no movie theater. 

It seems we’re invested now, building the new swim team, organizing an arts council, building a new hospital, working alongside all those men they talk about, setting up businesses and young professional organizations. Building a community that will help raise our families.

Taking our toddlers to make friends in Jiffy Lube in a town that went boom and then settled itself quietly, like the dust kicked up behind pickups driven by daddies on their way to work
Main Street, Watford City

Watford City, 2016. Photo by Chad Ziemendorf 

 

The newest member of the Kitten Caboodle Club

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This is the face she makes when I ask “Should we go see the kitties?”

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This is the face the kitties make when they hear us coming downstairs.

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I think there’s panic there as they hear the high-pitched squeals and the pitter patter of a one-year-old running down the hall and flopping her body down on the floor to get a good look at them under the bed.

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And, well, this is how the rest of it goes.

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Notice dad’s hand working to contain the excitement.

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I should really video it to give you the full effect these tiny fur balls have on my tiny bundle of energy.  But I’m usually too busy working on protecting them from that same enthusiasm and I don’t want to be distracted.
Oh, there’s nothing like having a pile of fur babies around the ranch. I’ve had a few people comment, asking why we don’t get our cats fixed out here, and the answer has to do with the fact that we live on a ranch and every animal, even our pets, serves a helpful purpose. (These days Brown Dog’s happens to be to keep us company and our arms and backs strong from lifting him in and out of the pickup.)

Anyway, simply put, farms and ranches have mice and we need cats to help us remedy that situation.

The laws and truths of nature aren’t pretty sometimes.

But these kitties are.

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The other reason is that we haven’t had a stray tom cat lurking around this place for years so we haven’t had to practice cat birth control lately. These kittens were the first batch we’ve had out here for a long time, a sweet little winter surprise, and lucky too, because they got to be born in the house instead of in the barn.

Soon a few of them will be ready to go to some of our friends’ homes who are looking for pets and pest helpers and we’ll keep the rest to help us keep this place varmint free.

And there will be plenty of snuggling to go around.

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This is a story I’ve told before, but when I was growing up, my cousins and I would go to the farm to visit gramma in the spring and summer and spend our days hunting around the farmstead for the newest batch of kittens. We got good at knowing the usual locations–a stack of hay bales, in the hole of an old tire, inside the old threshing machine–and we were so serious about our efforts we named ourselves “The Kitten Caboodle Club.”

We even made uniforms (a.k.a we puffy painted gramma’s old t-shirts).

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So it looks like Edie is the newest member of the KCC and I think she might be a natural. All we need now is some puffy paint.

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Peace, Love and Whiskers,

The KCC

A country kid needs a town kid

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Door always open to home of old friend
by Jessie Veeder
2-16-17
http://www.inforum.com
Fargo Forum

I used to go to her house in the time between after school and basketball practice. I would eat graham crackers with cheese, and we would sit at the table in her family’s kitchen, her mom popping in to say hi and get the scoop on our day.

I was a country kid in junior high, and I had a few years and a few tests to pass before I got my driver’s license, so the chance to participate in after-school activities meant finding town friends who would save me from roaming the streets between the last bell and the starting practice whistle.

She was one of those friends for me. In the fragile time between elementary school and being ruled adult enough to leave home, she played a role in my adolescence that not only helped me survive it, but made me feel like my quirkiness (weirdness?) was not only accepted, but also appreciated.

I could make her laugh, and she made me feel safe in a friendship at a time in a young girl’s life when friendship is often volatile, fleeting and prone to drama.

(Except for that time in eighth grade when we got the rebellious idea to walk down to the local drug store to pick up a couple boxes of hair dye and disastrously turn her perfectly blonde hair blaze orange and mine a weird color of navy blue, our 20+ years of friendship has been pretty clear of drama.)

I can’t speak for her, but I feel so lucky and sort of surprised by it sometimes. As childhood friends go, our stories are linked in many ways, but in many more ways we are completely opposite.

As a teenager, she was focused, practical and matter-of-fact where I was uncertain about fitting in. I was messy and disheveled; my car was covered in scoria dust and full of pop bottles and dirty socks. I was creative and in my own head, tentatively tipping my toes in the wild edge of bad decisions. She made her bed every day, washed her car in the driveway on the weekends and showed confidence in who she was — solid, studious and pretty well-behaved — no matter who approved.

She was long and lean with coordinated limbs built for sports. I didn’t have an aggressive bone (or muscle) in my body. And while basketball, volleyball and track turned into her high school passions, I traded sports for music, rodeo and high school love.

So our schedules and interests didn’t allow us to easily spend every waking minute together the way many childhood friends are often defined, but I hope she looks back on those days and says I was there when she needed me.

I know I can say that for her. Because if there was a quality I’d like to steal from her (besides those long legs and lungs for long-distance running), it’s that I might be as fiercely loyal.

I’m thinking about her today because we got to spend some time together last weekend as we often do when I head to the big town where she lives with her husband raising two sports-crazed boys between the sidewalks.

Whenever I make a trip there for music or shopping I give her a call and her door— just like it’s always been — is open for her friend who usually rolls up later than planned in a dusty car, plastic bottles and spare mittens spilling out onto the driveway.

Not much has changed as we tallied the years, except we’ve gotten closer. I’m going to give her most of the credit there. My loner and introspective tendencies don’t always make for the best phone-call-maker and catcher-upper. It’s a weakness of mine that I’m humbly aware of, one that’s disconnected me from some of my favorite people. But she’s hung on to me in the ways only people who really understand one another tend to do.

And when I called last weekend to tell her we were going to swing by to say hi on our way to go furniture shopping, she offered to watch Edie to help save our sanity and ultimately feed graham crackers to the next generation of country kid waiting out her time in town.

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The new good ‘ol days are on their way

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The new good ‘ol days are on their way
by Jessie Veeder
2-191-7
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I was five years old when my little sister was born. I was at an age where only the big things stick with you as a memory moving forward, and her arrival was one of those big things.

I remember the talks my family had about what we were going to name her if she was a girl or a boy. I remember my opinions on the choices. I remember my mom and her big belly at Christmastime.

And while I don’t remember visiting her in the hospital, I do remember bringing her home and wondering why she couldn’t sleep in my bed with me. So, I wholeheartedly offered her my tattered and beloved blankie to sleep with on her first night in her crib, feeling a little relieved when my parents declined my offer.

I wasn’t so certain I could sleep without it. But I was willing to try.

For that tiny new human who would now be living in my house, I would try.

It’s funny to think that my little sister arriving in this world, chubby and with what the nurse would describe as “a critical look” was one of my first memories.

And now that I think of it, even with the space of years between us, there aren’t many big and meaningful life moments that didn’t include her tagging along, or right there beside me or on the other end of the phone line.

When she arrived, a little sister myself, I was too young to understand what she might come to mean to me.

And now the young woman who once called me to ask how to boil an egg, who wept harder than me at the arrival of our daughter and who makes it a point to see her niece at least once every week, preferably on Sunday when she can have her all to herself, well, she’s going to be a mother herself.

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I can finally tell you. I have permission. Because given all that she’s seen me go through on my long and heartbreaking journey to motherhood, my poor little sister unfortunately had to inherit the knowledge that when it comes to building a family, it doesn’t always go as planned.

And while there are perks of taking notes from the hard lessons your older siblings face, that warning wasn’t one I wanted to pass on to her.

Because some days I swear she’s still six years old and I’m eleven and I’m building her a fort on the other side of the creek with a tin can telephone strung from my post to hers so that if she needed me she could call.

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And she’s always calling. That’s what I love about her. She’s better at things like sticking close and staying in touch. When she’s in your life she’s wholeheartedly there.

And while I lament about our childhood — three girls growing up in this wild and magical place — certain that those were the good ‘ol days, I can’t help but think that I might soon find out otherwise.

Because sharing in the common crazy, magical, sleep deprived chaos that is motherhood, raising our daughters together out here on the backs of horses, listening for the sound of their voices calling to one another across that same creek where we strung that old piece of twine, might take the place of the best years of our lives.

Yes. She’s having a girl.

And when I heard the news a little pang of hope that held its breath inside my chest finally let loose its air.

Because there’s no certainty in knowing if we’ll be able to have or welcome another child into our home, but from the moment I met my daughter, I wished for her a little sister.

And now, come June, it looks like she’s going to have one.

Just don’t make any bets on Edie sharing her blankie…

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L.O.V.E – a Valentines Day Craft

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Today’s the big day for those of you who are all on board with an official holiday that celebrates LOVE!

I have to say, I’ve always liked the holiday, probably because my mom always made us her Valentines, greeting us in the morning with little gifts, candies and cards waiting at the breakfast table, making an ordinary day in February feel fun and special.

My mom is great at holidays.

Also, I was a kid who liked projects, so I took the Valentines Day box assignment very seriously, spending hours with construction paper, glue guns and whatever else I could find around the house and yard to inspire my creativity. Once I made a birdhouse Valentines box out of a milk carton and sticks from the coulee so elaborate that you couldn’t fit a valentine in the slot.

So I (happily) made a different one, bringing the birdhouse to school anyway, you know, as an art piece.

Anyway, now that I have a baby girl I have an excuse to get back into my Valentines Day projects, at least a little bit. And now that we have the good ‘ol invention called Pinterest, I don’t have to be creative…because other mommas can be creative for me.

So in case you have a little one and are looking for something fun to send or drop off to grammas, grampas, aunts and uncles for the holiday (something I meant to do yesterday, but forgot because I might have found the time to do a craft, but I don’t have the mind to follow through with its purpose) here’s a cute, fun, simple and one of the only Pinterest ideas I’ve actually executed.

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I found it on a post done by blogger HelloBee, which also includes a few more fun Valentines Day crafts for the babies. Her example looks better, but maybe her baby isn’t as wiggly.

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Click here to take a look at her post, “February Activities for Infants/Toddlers”.

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But I have to say, Edie loved it. And she’s old enough now to get the concept of things after a few repetitions, so she happily spread her little hands out while I painted them with paint and pressed them onto the paper.

But here’s a tip, make sure you have a wet rag on hand to wipe the damage immediately. I had to turn my back for a second to get one and, well…

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Our Valentines Day craft took a quick, but dark turn.

Anyway, I liked this project because I had everything on hand. Paint, brush, construction paper and baby.

And to make things easier on all of us, I put the baby in her high chair and turned on PBS while we painted her hands. And when her hands were done I threw her some Cheerios and we tackled (and tickled her feet).

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And although I had to explain to my husband that it was supposed to spell out LOVE, I like it. I think I’ll frame it up and keep it as the only Valentines Day decoration I own.

And I’m putting a note on my agenda today to take the rest of them to the mailbox.

Happy Valentines Day moms and dads and babies and grammas and grampas and aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers and friends and everyone in between.

Celebrate love in all its forms today!

And then make sure you pop open a bottle of champaign, because, well, it’s important to take advantage of any excuse to drink champaign.

I hope my husband got my hint/blatant request to bring me home some Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies.

Peace, Love and smooches,

Jessie and Edie

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Love in an ordinary life

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Because Valentines Day is approaching and because more than anything in this life of ours the little things add up to the biggest acts of love.

Tiny reminders of love in an ordinary life
by Jessie Veeder
2-12-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Last week I had a couple meetings I scheduled in the late afternoon. I do this on days I don’t have Edie in daycare, strategically overlapping the beginning of my workday with the end of my husband’s.

Because we live 30 miles and a good 45 minutes from town, the planning can be a little tricky and usually involves a quick stop and drop at Gramma’s store so Edie can destroy the place before her daddy picks her up.

Anyway, after one of my meetings ran a little late in town, I decided to stop at the grocery store. Without a toddler in the cart practicing her fast-pitch skills with a bag of oranges, I could linger a little longer and think a little bit about the week’s meal plan, or, because I haven’t made a week’s meal plan ever in my life, at least I could take a second to price compare. Which I did. And I also picked up fried chicken from the deli, so supper was covered for another day.

By the time I finally made it through the door of the house, Edie was already sleeping in her room, the lights were low in the house and remnants of the evening were scattered from living room to kitchen, giving me a detailed map of what father and daughter had been up to together.

I chatted with my husband while I made my way to the bedroom to change out of my town clothes, throwing him the usual questions like, “How was she tonight? Was her nose still stuffy? “Did she go down OK? “What did she eat?”

Then I spotted a little pink bottle of fingernail polish on the coffee table sitting next to her sippy cup and cardboard book. Because I haven’t painted my fingernails since the seventh month our child was in utero, my next question was, of course, “What’s with the nail polish?”

“Oh,” he replied, “I painted Edie’s fingernails tonight.”

He was so nonchalant about it.

“Really? You painted her nails?” I asked, my voice suddenly moving up an octave as I pictured the scene, my heart beginning the melting process inside my chest.

“Yeah, I thought she might like it,” he shrugged. “And she did.”

And that’s really the end of the story because nothing extraordinary happened next in that house that evening. The two of us ate fried chicken at the counter, talked about our day, probably turned on the TV and argued about something in the news before trudging upstairs to bed.

These are the ins and outs of our regular days, nothing so glamorous or extraordinary about our lives or our family or our love story.

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But for some reason I keep going back to that little scene, one that instantly brightened up a busy but regular week, the one that starred my stoic and scruffy husband holding that tiny polish brush in his big callused hands while balancing his baby daughter on his knee, gently coaxing her to hold still while he placed teeny dots of pink polish on her miniature fingers.

Ugh, there’s so much to say about that little moment besides the fact that it had the power to lift my spirits in such a unique way.

And it’s not that I think this is uncommon behavior for dads and daughters necessarily; it’s just that I know my husband and I know that I begged him to paint my toenails when I was pregnant with his daughter and the man refused, noting that he didn’t have a steady enough hand.

But the child can’t talk yet. She doesn’t know what fingernail polish is, so nail painting was his idea of something fun the two of them could do together.

OK.

But you know what I realized then? In all of the countless hours I’ve spent with that baby girl in the house alone, I’ve never once painted her fingernails. I don’t have the patience for it. I would much sooner choose banging two pot lids together or letting her rip up the roll of toilet paper in the bathroom.

But her dad chose the fingernail polish and, in the middle of an ordinary week in an ordinary marriage in an ordinary life, I was reminded why I chose him.

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If we listen as much as we speak

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Because isn’t this what we try to teach our children?

In these heated times, listen as much as you speak
by Jessie Veeder
2-5-17
Forum Communications

Last weekend we slowed down our typical agenda and spent some much-needed time with our good friends. Because we both live in rural North Dakota, we thought it would be fun to meet in the big town to do some shopping, eat out and take our babies swimming in the hotel pool.

My friend and her husband have a son who turns one soon and in the years prior to the arrival of our long-awaited children, we would spend hours on the phone together discussing doctors appointments, crying over losses and wondering why it was so hard for us and so easy for others.

These days, much to our delight, we talk about car seat choices and sleep schedules and how working from home and taking care of a toddler is the hardest and most wonderful gig we’ve had so far.

When we finally get a chance to get together, we hardly take a breath. Our husbands shake their heads and change the diapers and connect on what it’s like to be working daddies married to emotionally charged women.

So much of what we’re going through at this moment is the same — same demographic, same type of rural existence, same stage in motherhood, same small-business goals — but (and I think I can speak for my friend here) there are still experiences and pieces of our lives that don’t fully translate.

There are personal situations and feelings that we may never truly absorb or comprehend about one another, no matter how much we have in common or how much we adore each other.

And that’s ok.

“Be careful not to assume your experiences are the experiences of others.”

This statement appeared to me somewhere tucked inside the political back and forth that has become our lives in America these days. For some reason it really spoke to me as a line that somehow sums up what I’ve been feeling in a neat little package tucked in my pocket just waiting and ready to be disputed at any given time.

I’m not sure if I’m going to explain it properly here, but since becoming a mother it feels like every nerve I possess is exposed, every emotion so volatile. I see children in a different way now. I see them attached to mothers like me who felt them kick inside their bodies and welcomed them in the early mornings or long dark nights to worry and pain and then wails of relief.

I see those children, no matter the race, religion or distance across the ocean, and I see Edie.

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I see their mothers, by birth or by adoption, by choice or by chance, and I see myself.

And then I wonder if they walk on this earth the way I do, so aware of how each decision made holds their babies so fully in their wake.

But that’s where the shared experience begins and ends. Because I might just be naive enough to think that loving a child the way a good mother loves her child is, in so many ways, universal.

What if I couldn’t give Edie a decent meal? What if the home I planned to raise her in was invaded or destroyed? What if she woke up with a fever or fell and broke her arm and I had to calculate and sacrifice our tight budget to afford a trip to the emergency room?

What if the only chance I thought we might have at surviving this life was to load up my one-year-old on a raft and float across the sea with nothing certain but uncertainty at the shore?

What would I do?

There are mothers in this world making choices like these while I sit in a hotel room drinking wine and playing cards with my best friend, our babies sleeping safe and sound beside us.

It’s not lost on me in these trying times, in a world seemingly teetering on the edge, that our opinions can be thrown around, but dear friends, they won’t go as far as the compassion we might find in stories we hear.

If we listen as much as we speak, we just might be reminded that we are nothing but the lucky ones.

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