The chance to be ungrateful…


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
Forum Communications

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?!


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.


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.


They’re not babies long..


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.


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.


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.


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.


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…





In the thick of it.


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

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

I mean, we only had two bags between us.

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

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


And talked about the baby.

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

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

I doubt we’ve been happier.

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


Life in your 30s means knowing who you are
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

• A girl needs a dog.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Click here to see the entire list.


The space between now and the future


Coming Home: 10 years just a ‘blip on the timeline of forever’
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

We measure our lives by years. We mark them as they pass and wrap them up neat in a package to commemorate. We move on and look back

I sat down this morning to write something trivial, like “Ten reasons you shouldn’t wear shorts on the ranch,” because last week the calf tongue up and down my bare leg reminded me. And then the leaky garbage bag reminded me again. And then a frog in my garden took a flying leap and landed splat and slimy on the back of my thigh, and I thought surely it was a sign that I needed to make a public service announcement on the importance of long pants around the barnyard … but then I looked at the calendar, and I was reminded of something a little more important.

(And really, that’s all I had about the shorts thing … some weeks, the idea pool’s a little shallow).

Yes, the gears shifted a bit when I realized that on Aug. 12, I’ve been a wife for 10 years.

For 10 years, I’ve had a man living in my house, leaving his tools on the kitchen table and unclogging the hairball from the drain.

For 10 years, I’ve been mismatching that lovely man’s socks and confusing everybody and the IRS by using two last names.

And I feel like I should be more sentimental about it all. Ten years is a nice, even number. A milestone. Something to celebrate.

But then, 10 years is only a fraction of the time my husband has kept some of the T-shirts in his drawers … This isn’t getting romantic very quickly, is it?

Well, no one’s ever accused us of being overly starry-eyed. For the first few years of our marriage, I thought our anniversary was Aug. 19, so that’s how much I pay attention to things like this.


But truthfully, I don’t really measure the success of our relationship by the calendar. Lord knows I’ve known this boy who became my husband for long enough to mark our friendship and love as a victory, but time is only part of the equation.


I think the way we spend that time is what we like to lament about when we hit these big milestones together. Like, dear husband, remember when we loaded up your dad’s 1970s pickup camper on the back of his old Ford and headed across the great state of Montana to camp in Yellowstone together? And remember that it was 104 degrees? And the pickup didn’t have air-conditioning? Remember the cooler of ice we kept in the back seat and the way the grasshoppers felt slamming into the hot, bare skin of our arms resting on the open windowsill? Remember how, when we finally made it to our campsite and unloaded our supplies, the sky opened up and it started pouring? And you just laughed and cooked our hot dogs on the tiny stove in that tiny old camper?

I loved you so much for the way you could just do things like that, so effortlessly. You can’t be shaken. And that was the start of it all, really. That calm you possess has carried me through a life we try to spend making the minutes count toward a bigger picture we’ve been promising each other will emerge someday.

Although sometimes it’s been hard to see it. And I know that 10 years is just a blip on the timeline of the forever we’ve promised each other. Ten years together as part of this family has shown us that you’re not promised the plans you’ve made and you’re not promised forever. Or tomorrow.

And while the top 10 reasons not to wear shorts in the barnyard fell flat, the top 10 lessons I’ve learned from 10 years of marriage would make a nice and neatly packaged little piece. But I’ve had 10 years to craft those words, and I’ve learned plenty along the way — about myself and about the man who lies beside me every night — and the only thing I can say for certain is that I want him around because he’s good to me.

And I try to be the same for him.

And that’s all I want in the space between now and the future.


A Friday update…

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Here’s a quick update from the ranch while the baby is sleeping.

  • Edie’s getting sassier every day and I’m declaring now that I’m in big trouble. Good Lord she has me wrapped around her finger and also who knew 8 month-olds had agendas for the day.


    Here she is chilling’ with her post bath mohawk, drinking from her sippy cup and eating puffs. She only really likes to feed herself. Unless she sees me attempting to eat a plate full of food, then she wants what I’m having, and spoon-feeding is allowed.


  • Also, the girl will crawl. But only to get to the cereal puff I put just out of her reach. And I think I can relate. Like, I will run, but only if means a burger when it’s all over.


  • The guys have been trying to get the hay crop in for weeks. It’s not going well. Between the rain and equipment that breaks I think we’ll have to feed the cows lettuce from the grocery store this winter. In the meantime, they are getting their fill in Pops’ garden. Yesterday would mark the third trip they’ve made to the Veeder Backyard buffet in the last two weeks. At first I laughed an evil laugh about it all, but then I took a look for myself and realized that even with cow sabotage, dad currently still has more vegetables growing in his garden than me. But I’m not worried. I found enough spinach to make a couple salads. And some radishes. And look! Tomatoes. It’s only a matter of time he’ll be knocking on my door asking for some samples.


  • Seems like even when things are going shitty, Pops still sees the beauty in this life we’re leading. Here’s a photo he sent me earlier this week from hayfield probably like five minutes before he broke down. Looks like heaven.


  • And here’s a rare photo of all of my dogs in the same frame. Dolly is a sweet thing but the girl can’t sit still. It’s in her genes. Seems like her and Edie have that in common, but out of all three dogs Gus is Edie’s I would say. When I bring her out in the yard he doesn’t get too far from her. It’s sweet and unexpected from the high energy beast.


  • We got my parent’s hand-me-down hot tub and now I feel really fancy when I put the baby to bed and head down there with my plastic cup full of wine, my raggedy swim suit and flippy floppies. Hot tub trips have replaced date night for Husband and I, because we haven’t had an official one since the baby’s first month on earth. I just realized that last night and it made me one part disappointed in us and one part amazed that time has gone that fast. Maybe we’ll have a date next month when we celebrate our ten-year anniversary.

Wedding Tree

  • Ten years already?!!! Didn’t we just get home from our Junior prom?


  • We went over to the neighbors’ last week. I opened the cooler and found this scene.
    Yesterday Husband was sitting at the counter eating, looked up from his plate and informed me that “there’s a nipple under the dishwasher.” A phrase and a scene that wouldn’t have existed in our old life
  • I started writing this yesterday afternoon and now it is morning today. The baby woke up from her nap and the rest is history. The whole baby thing combined with the fact that we haven’t had good Internet out here since we moved and haven’t had Internet at all since Edie was born has made this website and work from home thing nearly impossible. Husband and I are looking forward to doing things the real world gets to do, like streaming cat videos on YouTube and checking out what all the hype is about this whole Netflix thing. Someday. Someday…For now we’re just using the shit out of our cell phone hotspot and depleting Edie’s college fund.
  • Here’s a photo of Edie on our walk the other day, as a storm rolled in all around us.

    I don’t think they’ll ever make a stroller meant for the trails I roll the poor girl across. A few trip sup the prairie road to the fields and back and the thing’s sort of worse for the wear. But all that bouncing can be worth something…


    and also the reason I almost always put the baby in the pack.

  • But oh shit, my back is killing me.
  • We’ve made up for our lack of snow this winter with an abundance of rain this summer. It’s almost August and it’s green as can be. Here are a couple photos of wildflowers to prove it.


  • I forgot to water my garden last night. But maybe that’s the key to success. Just do what I did last year, like hardly pay attention to the thing at all, and maybe I’ll reap giant carrots and buckets of beans again. That math seems to add up.
  • Have a great weekend. I plan on hanging at the ranch, gearing up for an August that will find me away from the ranch more than at home. Because if I thought things would slow down with the birth of this wild child, well, it’s safe to say it’s kicked back in high gear again.
    North Dakota readers, click here to see if I’ll be performing in your area in August
  • The baby’s awake…if you’re reading this, I’ve kept her busy long enough to hit “publish.”

Peace, Love and Huggies,

Jessie and her sidekick



Building good days.

Coming Home: Building good days a gift in this unpredictable life
by Jessie Veeder

Bad days.

Horse frustration

Good days.

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Out here on the ranch, for some reason, I like to define them.

And there are about a million criteria for the qualifications of both, which, I guess, is a good thing and a bad thing, respectively.

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Except for the time I got my finger smashed between a metal bar and a post by a 2,000-pound bull. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad day, I mean, things were going pretty good up until the emergency room visit that resulted in a cast on my middle finger that sent me out of the hospital flipping off the world.

But it could have been worse.

It could always be worse.


Funny, we say that a lot around here.

Get bucked off your horse and land in a cactus patch? Well, at least it wasn’t your head smashed on that big rock over there.

Couldn’t get the swather running after six hours of tinkering in the field under the hot sun? Well, at least you didn’t have to be in a conference room meeting all day.

Get your four-wheeler stuck up to its belly in the creek again because you tend to think you’re magic when you’re on that thing (Dad)? Perfect. Now I have some material.

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When I think about it now, maybe that’s why I found my way back here. Because of the optimism that was somehow always generated even after the day had gone completely haywire. It’s a trait that could only occur in people who truly love what they’re doing. Who wouldn’t be drawn back to that?

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Through the years, we’ve had plenty of opportunity for bad days, for long walks home after the pickup quit, for lessons learned about polyester shirts and welding torches, for doctoring a herd of cattle with pinkeye well after the sun went down, saying to one another, “Well, at least the nail you stepped on didn’t go all the way through your big toe,” or “Would have been so much harder without all your help.”

But now that I think about it, it’s sort of telling that we continue to say, “Well, it could be worse,” and skip over the entire concept that in times of tractor breakdowns, man-chasing momma cows and an incident with an exploding motor that almost started the entire barnyard on fire, it could always be better, too.

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But just yesterday as I strapped the baby to my chest and took off hiking across the home pasture with my niece chatting happily beside me on a quest to fill my cap with enough wild raspberries to make some sort of dessert, I couldn’t help but label that moment “one that could not be better.”

Even with the flies and the thorns.


We woke up that Sunday morning to a smiling baby and a hankering for blueberry muffins. So we made them. Because, what luck! Blueberries were on sale and I had some in the fridge. So we cooked them up, along with eggs and bacon, and had ourselves a regular, fancy brunch.


And that evening, after stripping the baby down and watching her play and splash in the baby pool on the deck while the sun shone gold on the hilltops outside, after feeding her bananas as she sat in her robe and tiny socks, we tucked her sleepily into bed and ate a supper of grilled brats and beans together around the table outside. My husband put his feet up after a day of fixing equipment, and my niece and I saddled up the two lazy horses in the barnyard and took off together, walking slowly across those hills dotted with wildflowers and berries and we just kept saying, “Well, it’s so beautiful out here isn’t it?”

So peaceful.


It just couldn’t be better.

And while I know there are plenty of ways to define the bad days, the days that are out of your control, I couldn’t help but think in that moment how wonderful it is to know that you can build your own good ones.


The perspective from a distance

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We’re spending the week in vacation mode.

Vacation mode meaning heading east to the lake in Minnesota to spend time with family at my grandparent’s lake cabin, per tradition.

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And then coming home to cut some hay and meet some deadlines before heading back out the big lake tomorrow to spend time on the pontoon or roasting s’mores with the other side of the family.

When we’re at the lake in Minnesota we do this thing where we load up the crew on the pontoon, drinks and snacks and towels and caps and everything else we could have forgotten, and we drive that boat around the shore, slowly, so we can take a look at the beautiful houses that have been built in place of the small cabins that once stood there back when my grandparents first bought their place.

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We comment on the lawns and the landscaping, the docks and the red shutters. We like the cedar siding on that one, and the cottage feeling of the other. We wonder where the NFL football player’s house is. We wonder how much the inflatable trampoline costs. We like that patio set and the adorable kids playing catch in the front yard.

We wonder who lives there. And secretly, I think we all wonder, what that would be like.

It sounds sort of strange, a literal boatload of family tooling by people’s houses on the lake. But we’re not the only ones who do it. It’s like a parade of homes, only we’re the parade.

We wave.

They wave back.

We’re at a safe distance that way. We can imagine and talk and wonder while we make our rounds and come up, always sooner than expected, as the sun starts to sink, on the blue house with the sailboat in the water out front, the familiar trees where the hammock used to swing, grandma’s flowers, the American flags stuck in the grass by the rocky shore, and feel the warm flood of familiarity fill us up with the good memories we’ve had there year after year together.

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It happens to me every time we leave on that pontoon, sitting shoulder to shoulder, talking and laughing with my aunts and uncles, sisters, parents, grandparents, looking briefly into other people’s lives, wondering, wishing perhaps that we could afford that big boat or that beautiful deck, contemplating who we would be there before pulling slowly into the dock on that one house out of a hundred that we know so well.

The one that holds so much.

The best one on the lake for people like us.

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Coming Home: Searching for perspective on life from a distance
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications


When I lived between the sidewalks of town, one of my favorite things to do was go out for a walk in the evening as the sun was going down on the neighborhood. It didn’t matter what time of year—the crisp, still air of winter or the thick heat of the summer—I liked to follow the path of the sidewalks that stretched past the neat rows of houses, the warm glow of the kitchen lights shining brighter than the setting sun outside, projecting a slice of each family’s life out onto the street.

For a few short years of my young life, when times were tough and my parents had to move to eastern North Dakota for work, I was one of those sidewalk kids, riding my bike a few houses down the block to the neighbor girl’s house so we could pretend we were riding horses in her front yard.

But mostly I was a kid who played in the coulees in the evenings after school, one who got to ride horses in real life, who never learned to rollerblade for severe lack of pavement, whose new neighbor girl was a mile away up the hill and who pushed a lawnmower over cocklebur plants and Canadian thistle that couldn’t be tamed no matter how my mother willed it.

Those were my memories.


So it was surprising to me how much console I found in walking those neighborhood streets in my adult years spent away from the ranch.

I was thinking about this last night as I walked out in the pasture as the sun dipped below the horizon, turning the grassy pastures and the sky behind me dark green and navy blue. I climbed the hill where the two teepee rings still sit and I looked back at our house, noticing how it somehow looks nestled and perched at the same time in that small opening of oak trees.

The lights were glowing small squares of gold to the outside, while inside the baby slept in her crib, holding the satin edges of her blanket, breathing in and out behind drawn curtains.

I couldn’t see her, of course, but I knew she was there, just as I knew my husband was in the new easy chair, reclined with his arms above his head and his stocking feet kicked back, a small glass of whiskey beside him.

This has always been my favorite way to look at our house. From this distance it seems like it doesn’t contain my life at all, but a life of another woman entirely, and I’m just a passerby who can make up her story.


Because I can’t see the things undone from here—the fence that needs stain, the pile of unsorted laundry, the conversations we need to have about selling the car or cleaning the garage or juggling the bills.

From this distance I can imagine our life instead of live it, and it’s a strange but wonderful thing.

And I think that’s what I was doing all those years walking those sidewalks in my 20s, trying to imagine my life and how I was going to get to whatever came next.

I would put myself in those houses with the manicured lawns, the dad on the grill out back, the kids jumping on the trampoline. I could put myself in the kitchen that opened up to the deck and invite my neighbors over for burgers.

I could fall in love with the little boy fishing in the gutter of the street, I could name him and his siblings and make up what kind of mother I might be to him.

Because I wasn’t prepared for any of it, even when I found myself living in it, in a real job, renovating a real house, working on my own manicured lawn along those sidewalks. So I walked. For perspective.

And I still do.

Because everything’s a little easier, a little more perfect, at a safe distance.




A storm built up over us last night just as I was settling in to bed. The radar screamed red and flashed tornado warnings above our town while we sat in the house at the ranch, pressing our noses against the windows to watch the dark clouds skim past us, leaving nothing but some wind that bent the trees down pretty good, a little hail that poked some holes in my petunias and a headache from all my worrying.


It seemed the town, despite the tornado warning, fared ok. A few backyard trampolines were displaced, cars were dented, lawn chairs rearranged and what not, but that’s small potatoes compared to what could have been. After the tornado that ripped through an RV park in my hometown a few summers back, I think people are a little punchy about the summer weather.

And I have to admit so am I. I have seen too many close calls in my life.


Tonight though.


Tonight was the definition of the calm after the storm. 60 degrees and still, the smell of cattle hanging in the air. The wildflowers poking up out of the cool ground. The sun setting golden on the grass, kissing it just the way I like.


I was feeling a little emotionally drained and frazzled after a long couple days of trying to comfort a baby who just wants to be happy, but dammit, she’s sprouted five teeth in a matter of a couple weeks. So I’ve been coping by snuggles and distracting her with walks outside to watch the dogs, and this morning, to chase a cow who had somehow mysteriously got into the yard. Edie thought it was funny how the old bag made a point of pooping during her entire walk to the exit, leaving a smelly string of lawn ornaments for me to pick up.

I know what her chore will be some day.

And if holding a baby on your hip while chasing a cow out of the yard isn’t multi-tasking enough, I’ve also found myself setting up an office in my car to get some work done, taking advantage of the fact that the baby fell asleep during the three minute drive to the other place to feed the calf.

This afternoon I was busted twice working in my car by my brother-in-law. Once behind my mom’s shop after a meeting in town and once on the hill before home. Because the baby’s gonna wake up once I open that door…and well, she’s got teeth to sprout and I’ve got shit to do.

But that reasoning is sort of hard to explain to a man who maybe thinks I’m a little kooky already…

Anyway, the time was right to take a walk. To see a little of my world from out behind the computer screen and bald baby head (bless her heart.)

This is my favorite time of year and it was my favorite time of day and it’s all so fleeting isn’t it?

That’s what makes it so especially beautiful I think…


I feel like making time to really see it is as important to me as breathing these days.


I think the same can be said with this baby and me.

Those stormy patches are rough, but oh so momentary too.


And the rest of it is a whirlwind of pretty damn special.

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Where everybody knows your name (or the name of someone you might be related to)

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For those of you who grew up or continue to grow up in a small town…

Coming Home: In a state that’s a big small town, there’s always a seat at the table
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communication

The white noise of conversation and laughter filled the bar like the scent of the burgers frying on the grill in the back. The three of us stepped inside from the sunny early evening, our eyes adjusting to the dim light, scanning the room for an open table to grab a drink and a bite to eat.

When my quick scan revealed there wasn’t an empty table in the place, I figured we would just turn around, head out the door and find a restaurant without a wait.

But we were there with Merrill, a radio personality, musician and host of the event that evening, and it appeared that he saw the room a bit differently than we did. Like, there may not have been an empty table, but there certainly were empty chairs. And as Dad and I started heading for the door, we noticed Merrill talking and shaking hands with a couple at a table with three empty seats.

“They said we could join them,” he declared as he waved us over and started adjusting chairs. And then he informed the waitress of his plan.

“Well, if it’s OK with them,” she said, a little concerned.

Which I thought was weird. Because Merrill, being the friendly, recognizable personality he is, well, I just figured he knew this couple. It’s North Dakota after all.

We’re like one big small town, a statement that doesn’t make sense at all unless, well, you live in North Dakota.

By my not-scientific-at-all-estimation, if you’ve lived in this state for longer than 10 years, the chance of running into someone you know at a restaurant in any given community from east to west is a good 60 percent.

And if you don’t know anybody in that restaurant, strike up a conversation and the likelihood of the two of you finding a friend or relative in common is like 90 percent.

Which was the case with this couple, who had never seen Merrill before in their lives but were friendly enough to let three strangers infringe on their date. We didn’t have to go too far past our initial introductions to find places and people in common.

Small talk revealed that they were both retired and living in Bowman. (My old boss is from Bowman. Do you know the family? Yes. Yes.)

And the woman, who had seen me perform in Hettinger a few years back, had ties to the Killdeer area. (Oh, we’re just north of there. Yes, we know so and so. Relatives of ours.)

And from there we fell into an easy banter of stories that somehow always seems to have me recounting the tale of the raccoon that snuck into Mom and Dad’s house through the screen door every evening to rearrange the rocks on the decorative bird bath and the more recent revelation about another raccoon that climbs up on my deck every night to poop on my rug.

Then over burgers and fries we learned that they like to go to the car show in Medora every year, which revealed that he’s spent his life tinkering and repairing old cars. Which reminded me of my brother-in-law, who had just recently given up on an old Volkswagen Bus that was just never going to run right. Which reminded him of a story about the time he bought an old VW Beatle that once broke down and left him stranded on such a windy North Dakota day that he just opened both doors to that little car and let the wind push him home.

Which reminded Merrill about the road trip he took with his friends, all crammed in a VW Bug to Mexico and back years ago.

“I had a girlfriend when we started the trip. She wasn’t my girlfriend when we got home,” he said. “Never talked to any of them again actually.”

And our laughter and conversation became part of the buzz of strangers and friends telling stories in the dim light of a bar on Saturday evening in small town North Dakota.

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This not-so-glamourous life…


A photographer came to visit the ranch and I’ll tell you right now, it wasn’t pretty people. We spent the day before working an art event in town that I had been planning for months and didn’t get home until after eleven. It was the last event in a week with a full schedule. I was tired. I had to gather the troops. I sorta forgot to take a shower and fix my hair.  I didn’t make even a remotely healthy lunch for my niece and I (because when you’re tired you much prefer Doritos to salad). I didn’t put pants on the baby. I didn’t get the horses in ahead of time to prepare them and de-bur them so that they were photo ready. And I didn’t mention in the newspaper column below the part where the baby stuck her finger up my horses’s snotty nose, which was bleeding a bit because of a fresh little cut.

That was horrifying. And there was a man from Minneapolis with a big camera to witness my disgust.

So this is my confession published in newspapers across the state, in case you might get the wrong idea when you see the photos and article in the magazine that we have our shit together out here.

Because we don’t.

But I think you all knew that already…


Coming Home: Glossy pages don’t reflect our not-so-glamourous life
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

This morning a big yellow screwdriver sits next to a half-eaten pan of cinnamon rolls (the kind out of the freezer section, not out of my KitchenAid mixer) and that sits next to a couple baby books about farm life that feature a perfect red barn against green rolling hills dotted with smiling black and white cows.

Today as I reflect on the last couple weeks, I’m wondering if I should even read those little farm books to poor Edie. Maybe I should just toss them in the trash and keep her from asking some hard-hitting questions about this place.

Like, why don’t the horses in the books have cockleburs in their manes? Aren’t horses born with them?


And momma, why don’t you wear an apron like the mommas in the books? And where is that fresh-baked pie that’s supposed to be sitting on the windowsill to cool?

Yes, follow us around for a day and you would see that clearly the authors of these children’s farm books didn’t base them off of our life.



And while Edie’s not old enough to start asking questions (sigh of relief) I did have a reporter call me a few weeks ago with some questions of her own. Like, what’s life like on the family ranch for two people who got to move back to it? What does a typical day look like?


I couldn’t think of an interesting or straightforward way to answer that. When she called my husband just got home from work and he was rocking the baby, trying to keep her happy so I could have an uninterrupted conversation. When that was over, he was going to go to his next job of taking care of this place. And when he returned we would have leftover lasagna for the third night in a row because I got distracted by a writing deadline when I should have been doing laundry because I’m out of clean underwear, for crying out loud.

And so they sent out a photographer to see for himself. A photographer who likely had a hope of capturing what I’m sure he envisioned as some picturesque scenes of a family of three working side by side and meeting up for a picnic meal with the grandparents who live down the road.

But this was an agricultural magazine so I hope they knew better. And while I was raised in an environment where both my parents worked, ran a ranching operation and managed to keep three kids alive, I’m learning what that really means as an adult. And I’m not sure we’re exactly killing it.


I mean, when a photographer shows up, completely announced and expected, a balanced and together woman would have had pants on the baby. Or combed her hair.

Or at least cleared the evidence of her recent Dorito and Oreo lunch from the counter.

And when the request for a photo of my husband and I riding side by side through a herd of calm cattle sent me down to the barnyard attempting to lure uninterested horses in with a bucket of grain before resorting to leading one with the shirt I was planning on wearing tied around his neck so that I could spend the next half hour before my husband arrived home currying the tangle of burs out of their manes and tails so I wouldn’t embarrass the long line of Veeders who once called this place home, I began to question if we were really worthy of the press.

But at least he got authentic. Authentic sweat. And authentic cussing as my husband and I attempted the impossible task of moving a herd of cattle toward a man with a camera standing in an open pasture.

Needless to say, none of it was picture perfect.

Because around here burs stick to horses while they fill up on green grass that makes them fat and sassy on the hilltop behind the barn that needs painting. And inside, where the books might write in the apple pie, we have a screwdriver instead. Or a calf tagger. Or a hammer.

And it might not be glamorous, and it might not be easy, but that’s why they make frozen cinnamon rolls.