Raising children in this world

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 2.28.22 PM

Coming Home: Teaching our children in the midst of a harsh world
by Jessie Veeder

It’s hard to think of anything else these days but what’s in the news. It’s tragedy and politics all wrapped into a messy ball of emotions and fierce beliefs as we try to predict and manipulate our future. It can be as paralyzing as it is polarizing.

And if I had questions — about money or friendship or God or the things that scared me — my parents had an answer to help make me feel safe again.

road 2

During baby Edie’s second week in this world, she sat sleeping in my arms as news of the San Bernardino mass shooting flashed on our television screen. Outside our house, it was cold and quiet. Not a bird to sit on the fence railing, the wind likely blowing the tips of the gray trees back and forth and I was alone with this tiny, fresh and oblivious human watching the window to the world flash terrifying images of helplessness, heartbreak and fear into my home.

My first instinct was to cry with outrage. How selfish to bring a baby into such a violent world. And then thoughts and plans on how I could possibly protect her from evil and heartbreak, worry and fear, started swirling and bouncing around in my freshly postpartum brain, without conclusion.

IMG_7533 copy

And time passed. Conversation about the wonder of her fresh face and tiny hands turned to sleep schedules and teething remedies. Conversations about the state of our country turned to oil and cattle prices and the impending election and we settled into a life on the ranch with a baby as the fear of those first few weeks settled into the cracks in the floor of this house.

But last week I woke up to a reminder. Forty-nine killed, another 53 wounded in the name of hate.

I cried again. Dozens of mothers lost their babies that day. I couldn’t shake my grief.

I put Edie in her sunhat and strolled her out to the dirt patch that’s working on becoming our garden, and I dug in the earth. There was nothing else I could do in that moment except to nurture what was in front of me.

So I planted seeds. I picked up the baby when she fussed. I bounced her and lifted her up to the sky. I nursed her to sleep. I turned on the sprinkler and watered the ground. I strapped her to my body and walked up the road and back. I let my worries and thoughts bounce off the hills.


Tragedy isn’t new to the human race. Children across the world live and suffer through much more than seeing it on their television screens with the privilege of shutting it off and returning to the swing set in their backyard.

And while parents worth the job want to protect their children from the harsh realities of this world, I know that protection from the truth is a disservice to our human race.

Because kids aren’t immediately responsible for helping to make decisions for a better world, but eventually they will be.

Letting them in on the truths of life, teaching them about respect and consequences, helping them process pain and suffering, cultivating their ability to have compassion, all of these are important lessons that can only be taught against the backdrop of reality.

Listening teaches them to listen.

Questioning teaches them to question.

Yes, I want my daughter to feel safe here in her home protected by the coulees and hills of North Dakota. Held tight in my arms. But holding her so close will inevitably hold her back from learning to understand, appreciate and respect the differences we celebrate as human beings.


As parents it’s our biggest role to create the compassionate helpers in this world.

And while these hills can’t protect us from pain and tragedy, they can hold us.

And we can hold one another.

And if I can teach my daughter anything, I hope it’s that.



A Monday report

Happy Monday everyone. I hope all of you North Dakotans made it home safe and warm after the crazy weather that hit our great state on Friday. Because as I was telling my dramatic story about the mis-adventures of a potentially one-eyed pug while safe in the walls of this little house, the wind was whipping snow across a landscape freshly coated with ice, shaking the trees and making me bite my nails thinking about husband out on the road.

I couldn’t see my barn, blinded by the wall of white in what I am sure, now that we are out of it, was the worst storm of the season. Friends and neighbors who had braved the much calmer morning weather to get to work, events, the grocery store, meetings and neighboring towns, were blindsided by how quickly the wind picked up leaving  many of them stranded in office buildings, interstates, county roads, gravel roads, churches, welcoming strangers’ homes, hotels, restaurants, gas stations and community buildings.

As the wind screamed over the prairie, over 800 people were being rescued off of the roads by the National Guard and rescue workers with big trucks and snow machines. But miraculously and thankfully, when all was said and done, according the Bismarck Tribune, there were no related deaths from cold or traffic accidents, husband and pops made it home safely and we were greeted the next morning with sunshine and a promise of warmer weather.

In true North Dakota fashion.

And while I was thinking about my stranded friends who were updating friends and family about the low-visability and utter amazement about the conditions with light-hearted Facebook postings, texts, video clips and phone calls, my thoughts were with them out there amid that adventure…

and those suffering from the devastating results of the earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan as I watched the heart wrenching events play out before me on the news.

Because it’s times like these you are slammed in the face with how little control humans have over the world. We can build our bridges and sky-scrapers, update our technology, drive the fastest car and continue the advancement of medicine, but Mother Nature, in all of her awe and glory can bring us the highest highs only to slam us with the most desperate of situations. And over everything else humans are capable of accomplishing– building, inventing, developing, progress–  in the end our most invaluable traits continue to be human kindness, generosity, resilience and our ability to heal and help and believe in times like these.

So that being said, in honor of this beautiful day given to us in the calm after the storm,  I would like to share with you some exciting news. Because this great state, with the people who brave the storm to help weary travelers and welcome strangers into their homes during a blizzard, have welcomed me and my stories into their homes as well through the radio waves. Yup, excerpts from “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…,” read by Yours Truly in all of my northern accent glory, will be featured on Prairie Public Radio a few times a month.

You can listen in your car, or on your radio at home if you are in the area. But you can also listen online at www.prairiepublic.org

My first reading, “The ghosts of winters past”, aired last week. And despite my re-recording it approximately six-thousand times to accommodate for the swearing and “uuugggghhhss and oooohhhhsss” each time I slipped up while holding on to hope that my voice would change from a thirteen-year-old with an uncontrollable northern accent to that of a sophisticated female radio commentator, I think it turned out ok…at least that is what my relatives told me.

Because that’s what relatives have to tell you about things like this.

I wouldn’t know because I can’t bring myself to listen to it even one more time.

Anyway, you can judge for yourself by listening to it here at “Hear it Now”.

And now that my voice is back, I am prepared to return to the ruthless radio voice recording ring once again and I would love your feedback and suggestions on what stories you would like to hear me read on the radio. Any favorites in the archives? Anything you would like me to talk about that I haven’t yet? Send me an email or leave a comment and let me know.

What a great little adventure, thanks Prairie Public for the opportunity. And thank you all for your support. I feel so fortunate to be from an area that encourages its people and welcomes their thoughts and art and music into their lives. And I am feeling blessed that I am here, safe and warm, surrounded by the people I love in all of this dramatic, unpredictable, beauty…

…with a voice to tell you I love you, feeling like that needs to be said today…