Things I used to be…

Things I used to be
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There are things I used to be.

I used to be more careless. I used to be flexible. I used to be able to say “yes” loud and clear without worrying what “yes” would cost me.

I used to be OK in a bikini, stretched out across the front lawn with a magazine and an endless afternoon in front of me. Because I used to be younger.

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I used to be younger, and thinner and less affected by the one margarita I ordered with supper. I used to order two and then sing into a long night without worrying about the morning and the thin thread attaching me to the little bodies breathing in and out, eyes closed tight in their beds without me.

I used to have spare time that I didn’t spend on searching for sippy cup lids or calculating the coupon cost per diaper.

In my other life, I never once uttered the words, “Don’t lick the doorknob!” and I certainly never made 37 negotiations a day that involved two more bites or five more minutes and no, you can’t put the puppy in your purse.

And I certainly didn’t use the phrase “be careful” as often.

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There are things that are buried in me now under these new layers of motherhood. I think about peeling them back only when I’m looking through old photographs of myself toasting to the sky or in the rare quiet moments that last long enough that I’m almost convinced I could be her again, before the creak of the door or the cry out of the lungs of the fresh soul in her crib in the dark calling for her momma.

I am momma.

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Last week, I was driving the ribbon of Interstate 94 that stretched out west for home. My babies were tucked in the back as the landscape zoomed by their windows and my eyes were heavy with the weight of exhaustion my new body holds. It overwhelmed me.

I signaled, parked in a rest stop and found a shady spot to take a break. I used to be unprepared, but this new version of me had blankets to spread out under our bodies and so we all laid down in a big pile under clouds rolling slowly, slowly, slowly across a blue sky.

And I want to say it before it absorbs into my skin and gets lost in the bigger, more urgent stories of a life…

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If I died tomorrow, this 20 minutes at a rest stop along I-94 with the baby navigating the lines of my tired face, my husband lifting the toddler to the sky, her squeals, our laughter, all four of our bodies touching one another, touching the earth, looking up at the trees and the fact that we simply couldn’t be anywhere else in the world if we wanted to, will make the highlight reel when I close my eyes at the end of my life.

Because I used to be so many things, but now I have these layers attached to this wonderfully agonizing winding and unwinding thread, and I will never be who I used to be because now I am a mother.

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On honesty and motherhood…

So yes, you heard right. Big sister status is due to set in for Edie on December 8th. And just like her mother, she’s having some mixed emotions about the whole thing.

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Like, I’m simultaneously excited and terrified. I mean, I haven’t forgotten some things, if you know what I mean. They say you forget, but I haven’t.

I remember. I remember the first three or four months of pain and no sleep and major adjustments, although some kind people have told me that it’s all easier with the second child, because you know what to expect, what you’re doing, you’ve made your mistakes, etc.

Then the people sitting next to those people tell me they’re lying, sooooo….

But, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t think we’d ever have one kid, so the idea of two, well, I think it’s going to be great.

But man, I’m tired.

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Edie’s hit 18 months and she’s too smart for me already. We spend most days reciting animal noises and body parts and singing Twinkle Twinkle but mostly she just follows me around and repeats everything I say.

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When she farts, she says “Toot!” and it’s hilarious.

When she gets up on the horse with me she says “Yee Haw, Yee Haw” and it’s everything.

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When my mom says “Dammit” there’s an echo.

When she wakes up she yells for Daddy, and that’s just typical.

When daddy’s not there she asks “What happened?”

Because daddy’s her favorite.

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The girl’s the most jealous little thing I’ve ever met. Just yesterday I went to lay with my husband on the couch and she promptly came over to execute her removal proceedings.

She pushed me. She cried. She tried Kung Fu. He lifted her up so we could all be on the couch together and she made it clear that was not good enough and I was not welcome  by repeating all previous moves.

She’s very dramatic about the whole sharing thing.

She’s none too thrilled when I touch another baby either, which will prove to be a bit of a challenge in a couple weeks when our niece arrives. The little turd’s gonna have to get over it, or I’m gonna have to just snuggle that baby behind locked doors.

I can’t wait.

It’s crazy how fast a family can grow. My parents will go from two to four grandkids in a matter of a year. And my little sister and I have gone from cocktails on the porch and plans for music festivals to late night emergency calls about what bottles to order on Amazon.

I can’t wait to see her as a mom in action. I’m just a little sorry I told her about everything…if you know what I mean.

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Because sometimes, it’s nice when people lie to you.

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In the first place…

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Well we had a fun weekend last weekend. I’ve been so busy thinking about next weekend’s plans,  I haven’t had much time to reflect. All I know is now that we have Edie in our lives, time seems to go so much faster, even on the weeks I feel like I barely see her, which was the case last week as I spent my days getting ready for our Arts Council Showcase and a weekend full of music.

And it all went as good as can be. Thanks to my wonderful community and board members we enjoyed a flawless evening of music and art and I got to accompany Native American Hoop Dancer Kevin Locke as he performed and visited the kids at all our local schools. He was inspiring and the kids’ energy invigorated me.

Saturday morning our arts council hosted a writing workshop with an award winning author for people over 50 to help encourage them to share their stories and pass on their legacy.  I attended for most of it, but had to cut out early to hit the road for Bismarck for the North Dakota Music Awards. But I was so glad I popped in and to participate for a few hours and see my community members engaging in the creative process. So much of my life is focused on writing and creating, and lately I admit I’ve been feeling less than inspired as I try to balance this brief, but chaotic time in my schedule. Just a few hours of focusing on the process in a room with all minds on the same goal was just what I needed.

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Then down the road I went to meet up with the band and sound check a performance. My grandparents and aunt from Arizona were passing through on their way back home to Minnesota, so it was a special treat to have my aunt in the audience when I found out you all voted me (along with the very cool Bismarck band Kids with Beards) as your favorite folk artist for 2017.

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Thank you so much for that honor, I don’t take your support for granted for a day. And you showed up then, the way you always do, on Sunday afternoon for my book release concert at the Heritage Center where you (and my grandparents too!) were able to be in the audience to see Edie’s stage debut.

Turns out my girl and I missed each other that week, so she couldn’t watch the concert without making a fuss about wanting me to hold her so she could play guitar, so at the end of the show my mom brought her up and, well, it was a sweet moment.

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Next time I imagine she’ll bring her harmonica and demand a solo.

The crowd was so wonderful to come inside on one of the nicest days of the year and hear my stories. I truly enjoy being out and about meeting you all. I like it best when Edie can come along too (thanks to my niece and my mom), even if it’s a little more sweaty and stinky and covered in cracker crumbs.

Click here to see a TV interview with me discussing that day’s concert.

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And so here we are, in the middle of a new week and I’m so glad it’s spring now. The grass is greening up, the forecast is in the 70s for the foreseeable future and I just want to sprawl out and let the sun soak in my skin.

So when Edie came home we went out to frolic a bit, to feed the bulls and tinker with fences and pick her dad some flowers.

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It was only for an hour or so before we had to head in and get supper ready, clean up and get Edie to bed, but it was a nice reminder for me about the importance of doing the non-urgent things together, the just sitting outside and watching her run.

And while I haven’t been much for recaps in this space, usually more compelled to reflect on individual moments, I felt like recounting the past few days tonight. Because some days, especially these days, I’m too focused on what comes tomorrow. And I realize as she’s one moment away from being able to open the door to the outside by herself, that her wings are coming in much quicker than I expected.

Because last night I opened her baby book and couldn’t remember how old she was when she first rolled over, or her first trip to the pool or when she decided peas were her favorite vegetable.  For a woman who makes a living off of memories, sometimes the short term ones, the dates, the logistics, they don’t stick. So I panicked a bit, realizing just how little time there is for reflecting in the middle of this parenting gig and just how many more reasons there are to give ourselves that time.

Like the way she runs to get her boots when we tell her it’s time to go outside. How she puts her cap on backwards every time.

The big swell of pride that filled my chest as I watched my husband patiently teach her how to scootch down the stairs on her butt, because he doesn’t want her to get hurt and she’s always trying to do it herself when we’re not looking.

I want to remember the way she says “puppy” and I know I’m going to forget. I want to close my eyes on the hard days and smile at the way she insists on sitting behind the wheel of the pickup every time we go outside.

Because she’s such an unexpected gift indeed and the stuff good songs and stories are made of.

And I think maybe she’s the reason, long before I believed I might ever meet her, that I starting singing them in the first place.

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Baby gumball on the town.

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So as promised, here is the result of my last minute Halloween costume crafting debacle.

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I think we pulled it off, even if I had to explain it to a few people, and even if she was mistaken for a little boy wearing a colorful helmet while we were trick-or-treating.

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But I personally see a strong resemblance to the real thing, don’t you?

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It was, as I planned, a fashionable as well as functional costume, given the chilly weather that evening. And she owned that costume, really committed to it by keeping her gumball hat on all night.

She surprised me.

And, in true Edie fashion, she loved the chaos of the evening. We visited grampa at his office, made a stop at a friend’s work, walked with cousin S around to area businesses as part of our town’s Trail of Treats and then hung out at mom’s store so we could see all the cute costumes as they came in for candy, which has become one of my favorite traditions.

There are so many young kids in this town it blows my mind every year. My husband remembers trick-0r-treating on Main Street with about a handful of other kids when he was growing up, now there are hundreds and hundreds of cupcakes and Ninja Turtles, inflatable dinosaurs, princesses, zombies and witches. The girls at mom’s store had to go down the street for more candy multiple times to keep up. It really is incredible to see, especially when you remember a time when we were closing down country schools and worried about enrollment. It wasn’t so long ago.

Anyway, this is how a gumball machine hits the town.

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And this is how she looks on donuts and sugar…

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After we had supper in town, where Edie spent her time staring at the cute server and trying to steal the pens out of her apron,  I had good intentions of stopping by neighbors’ on the way home, but it was over. We were tired.

But it was pretty clear that our definition of fun has completely changed since she came along, and although we were ready for it, I didn’t realize just how great something as simple as spending Halloween with my baby could be.

We got home and watched her wind down and play on the floor a bit, stripped her out of her sparkly pants, washed her up and put her down in her crip to sing herself to sleep as another little milestone, another 1st, was put in the books.

I can’t help thinking, especially after good days like those, that it has all been so worth the wait.

So very worth the wait.

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“How to make a phone call”-a step by step guide for mothers

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Oh, the things I took for granted before I became a mom hell bent on working from home. I could make a list now that includes showering, going to the bathroom, finishing a meal, uninterrupted sleep and an undisturbed laundry pile, but really I want to talk about phone calls.

Yes. Phone calls.

I knew this was a thing. A child could be sleeping a sleep of a sweet fluffy angel from heaven, or completely enthralled in the drama of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or distracted by the love and adoration received by her father who just arrived home from work, but as soon as you make the commitment and pick up the phone to place that important call, the one you’ve been waiting to complete for probably a week because, if you’re like me you procrastinate stuff like that, and shit hits the fan.

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It’s like dialing the number sets off alarm bells of panic in young children, like they fear the little white box is going to take control of all their mother’s attention until the end of time so they must act to make sure they’re not abandoned. I think it’s some sort of born-in instinct.

Anyway, the phone hasn’t always been my best friend, but now it’s become a sort of nemesis of mine, especially when I finally have to give in and make those annoying calls to  a credit card company or “customer service line,” the kind that sends you through forty-seven options, where you can press “1” for English, “6” for French, enter your card number, speak clearly your reason for calling, and then again because the robot didn’t understand you, and then try to magically recall and type in the mysterious access code you were never given so you can state your hair color, shoe size, reason for living, bank account number, your father’s mother’s grandmother’s maiden name and your thoughts on Donald Trump all the while frantically pressing “0” for the operator hoping that the message will get through the vortex of space and time you’ve been living in since dialing the damn number 45 minutes ago and you might get a shot at talking to an actual human being who will promptly put you on hold thirteen times before they tell you that your name’s not on the account and your husband needs to call to make the changes.

 

 

The Lord’s on my side if Edie’s first word is “momma” or “puppy” and not
“*%&$*(#@&!”

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Because I don’t have time for this shit. I have a window of five minutes at a time where the baby might have found something other than a magazine or a crusted piece of spaghetti on the floor from last night’s supper to chew on to keep her busy and then it’s over. Surely some of the managers of these customer service centers have children of their own?!

Or maybe I just have more annoying problems than most. Because after my failed half-hour credit card phone call I decided to tackle my UPS situation. See I ordered my husband a custom pocket knife for our anniversary two months ago (hey, that’s as close to on-time as I can get) and I wanted to make sure that they didn’t deliver it to my mom and dad’s place.

Because that’s what UPS has been doing with our other packages. They set it, with the best intentions, on a bench in their garage where it enjoys a safe existence for approximately 5 seconds before dad’s pup Waylon shreds into it, spreading shards of cardboard, plastic and the entire contents of the package across the front lawn and driveway, sending my poor parents on a scavenger hunt for our belongings.

It’s not a pretty sight, especially if I order diapers.

Seriously. Sometimes I feel so alone in my redneck situations.

So long story (sorta) short, I made the dreaded phone call, if only to save me from having to dig through Waylon’s future poop pile for the expensive pocket knife.

It didn’t go well.

It started out with the baby safely in her high chair enjoying strawberry pieces and, by the time I got through the above process, dialing zero while declaring my religion, counting backwards from 100 by fives and offering cash to the robot lady if I could just please, for the love of George Clooney, talk to an actual person, the baby was on my hip trying her damnedest to get that phone in her hands so that maybe she could give them piece of her baby mind, or, more likely, take a bite out of it.

By the time I got to the first operator I found out that she didn’t care about the dog problem. She just wanted a tracking number.

But I didn’t have a tracking number. What I had was a baby who had just pooped her pants.

I was put on hold.

I changed the diaper.

I was put on hold again.

I made a bottle.

I was put on hold again only to be told to call the company and give them the right address.

They had the right address. It took me thirty minutes to get her to misunderstand me.

I hung up.

I called for a tracking number.

I called UPS again. I put the baby down to crawl around and picked up a broom to try to multi-task.

UPS call. House Cleaning. Keeping the baby alive. That’s what my life has come to.

But I nearly failed at it all. While I swept dirt and half-alive boxelder bugs in little piles I tried to explain the dog situation to the UPS lady, pleaded with her to just tell me how to get the message to my local UPS driver, who, according to her, doesn’t have a phone, or a boss, turned around to find the baby playing in the dirt piles and hung up with no delivery solution just in time to watch my baby put a boxelder bug in her mouth and chomp down.

I screeched.

She crawled toward me, her hands slower than her knees, and banged her head on the floor.

She cried.

I picked her up.

I cried.

And that is why I hate the phone.

 

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Parenthood: Adjusting the sails

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

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

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

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

So that explained it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should I wear? Really.

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

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

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

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

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

He texted back.

“You’re so lucky.”

He wished he were here.

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

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

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

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

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The chance to be ungrateful…

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It was truly a “take your daughter to work day” today as I hauled Edie to town and used her as a model for a little photoshoot I did for this new publication I’m working on for Western North Dakota called “Prairie Parent.”

When work means taking photos of cute kids in cute clothes with your friends and their kids and your baby on a beautiful fall day, it really can’t get any better.

Even if poor little Edie is coming down with something…and I think so am I.

And we have a big weekend of music coming up which means another trip across the state and a little prayer up to stay healthy. And a lot of packing. And a lot of catching up to do on work and laundry between now and Thursday.

Somedays I’m a little overwhelmed, but today I focused on the positives. I thought I was handling it thanks to my mom and the sunshine.

I don’t always think I’m handling it. Sometimes it’s harder to keep it all level and balanced. Sometimes it all comes boiling out my mouth because I can’t stop and think because I’m tired of thinking and I need to say things out loud so that it might all come together in some semblance of perspective.

And that’s what I got last week…

Lucky to have the chance to be ungrateful
by Jessie Veeder
9-19-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Last weekend on the way to meet my husband’s family to celebrate his grandmother’s 87th birthday, I had one of those moments where I broke everything down that wasn’t working in my life. Something my husband said set me off and I took it as an opportunity to let the steam out of the frustration kettle that had been boiling for a couple weeks.

Then I worried about making enough money to make it worth it and moved that into my frustration about unfinished projects.

And by the way, the house is never clean and how am I going to keep cockleburs out of the baby’s mouth if they keep coming in on the bottoms of our jeans?

Seriously? Is there anyone else in the world who has to worry about their baby eating cockleburs in the house?!

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And it just went on from there while the baby slept in the car seat behind me and my patient, but probably pretty annoyed, husband tried to offer solutions I wasn’t in the mood to hear like men tend to do with women during meltdowns like these.

Please tell me other women have meltdowns like these.

I threw those words at the windshield and we rolled down Highway 85 on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning, the leaves turning gold on the trees, sparkling against a blue sky. By the time we got to where we were going the radio was a bit louder and conversation had turned to the new funny laugh that Edie was trying out lately and what we needed to pick up while we were in the big town.

We spent the day watching Edie get passed around from cousin to aunt to gramma to uncle. We strolled through the zoo and heard her use her new scruffy laugh while watching the otters swim. We swatted away hornets and took some family pictures and ate three different types of cake, gave hugs and drove home toward the setting sun, not a trace of residue on the windows from my morning words.

Earlier that week I stood over our kitchen counter. It was scattered with Tupperware containers, unopened mail, sunglasses and probably a spare tool or two. I had a knife in one hand and a fork in the other and as I sliced into the big juicy steak we pulled from a freezer packed with meat we just picked up from the butcher, I was overcome with this unexpected wave of complete gratefulness, so much so that I had to stop and say it out loud.

“We are so lucky that this is our meal. On a regular Tuesday night,” I said to my husband sitting in front of his plate full of vegetables from the garden and his steak grilled to perfection. “There are people in this world who’ve never tasted a fresh garden tomato.”

He agreed.

Lucky.

Thing is, I didn’t think about that Tuesday night steak on my Saturday morning rant. It was long dissolved into my uncertainties of the week, crumpled into wondering if we were doing anything right.

And I’m sitting here this morning sort of worried about how quickly the taste left my mouth.

Just over a year ago I was holding my breath for a baby to come in and throw my schedule into chaos, just like she’s doing, just like I was complaining about on Saturday morning.

And now here she is, staring up at me from the living room rug while she’s pooping her pants. And I am grateful.

I’m lucky to be grateful. But maybe sometimes, and I’ve never thought of this before, we’re even more lucky to have the chance to be ungrateful.

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