Windows and doors and walls and where we will make a new home…

Step one. Breathe in.

Step two. Breathe out.

In a little over a week the house we are planning to live out the rest of our lives in will be rolling down the highway and turning on the pink road to find its way to the ranch…

When I see that in writing that sounds a little more redneck than magical, but hey, that’s how it’s happening.

Anyway, we’ve been preparing for this, like really preparing for this for a good year. It’s been almost exactly a year since we sold our renovation home in Dickinson and since then we have been researching, talking, planning, making calls, comparing notes and crunching numbers to see if we could make that little dream we had brewing up in our heads to come out right on paper. We had discussions about where to put the thing, what we might need to take down, how big a hole we should dig, how many windows to put in, what color our floors might be, where we need a toilet, where we need a light fixture, where we need an outlet and a door and a piece of carpet.

These are small decisions that all pile up into one big one. A big one that changes what road we drive out of in the morning and come down in the evening for as long as we are able, where we put our Christmas tree, where we sit to watch the sunrise and drink margaritas, the way the couch faces when we snuggle down to watch John Wayne movies in the evening, where we keep the silverware and coffee cups and good dishes…where we might one day tuck our children in at night.

Husband and I have been dreaming about the day we hang the “Home Sweet Home” sign on the door of our forever home since we decided we loved one another enough to talk about a future together. We knew where we wanted to be and a little of what it looked like and then lo and behold the road to get here just happened to be filled with a little less bends and bumps than expected and we are blessed.

And I am nervous.

I don’t know why.

See, this house, my grandmother’s house, has always been a safe haven for me. It is where I came with my cousins to celebrate Christmas and get stuck in the gumbo hills looking for Easter eggs in the spring. It’s where we slept in bunk beds, dreaming big dreams and learning that Santa Clause doesn’t exist.

It’s where I came with my pops to live with my gramma when we moved back to the ranch when I was seven years old. It’s where I ate my grandmother’s kettle popped popcorn on New Year’s Eve while my parents were out. It’s where we sat on the porch and slurped on popsicles from the Schwan’s man as the hot summer sun beat down on the clay hills around us.

It was where my other grandparents moved in when my grandmother died to keep it a home, to love it and fill it with the smell of cooking…to keep the lights on.

It was my first h0me as a married woman, the threshold my new husband carried me over. It’s where we had our first Christmas tree as Mr. and Mrs., cut from the pastures that surrounded us. Where we brought home our new puppy, where we hosted our first Thanksgiving together for family, where I slept as husband fumbled around in the dark of the early mornings getting ready for work, careful not to wake me.

It’s what we saw in our rear view mirror, through tears in my eyes, as we decided on a new adventure…and where we settled a few years later when we discovered our biggest adventure yet would be here, where I learned to make homemade chokecherry jelly and along the way we found ourselves.


So this evening I am sitting in husband’s big leather chair while he makes some sketches, tallies some numbers, makes some phone calls and puts together a schedule of preparation for the next few days. He needs to build some walls, he needs to call the septic guy, I need to call the bank and the insurance company and we need to unload that giant trailer loaded with 2x8s and windows and screws and house wrap.

We have so much to do to prepare. There isn’t time to think about the memories that we will be leaving in this little house that will sit forever over the hill from us as we cook our meals under a new roof…one that holds more than one bedroom and a closet bigger than a shoebox. But in all the excitement I feel for our new big deck, stair case, hardwood floors and spacious kitchen cabinets, I can’t help but feel a little twinge of loneliness for a life I found bumping into one another in the little bathroom while brushing our teeth, the negotiating skills I acquired compromising closet space, the belly laughs and snorts that came flying out of my lungs while sitting close to family and friends around this kitchen table, the way the house heats up when the oven is turned on or how I can vacuum every carpet in the house without switching outlets.

Yes, it’s a little twinge of loneliness for a good life led cradled in the arms of my grandmother’s house,  a little bit of nerves from a woman who has lived in close quarters with the people she’s loved all her life…and a little uncertainty about what will happen when I can’t lay under the covers of my bed in the bedroom and hold conversation with husband making noodles in the kitchen.

Do you drift apart when you have the option of living out your lives in separate rooms? Will we lose our connection when we no longer bump into each other while cooking casserole together in the kitchen? What will we talk about if it isn’t that we need to downsize on our boot collection or get a better place for our coveralls?

In our new house, will we still brush our teeth together in the same bathroom? Will we choose to stay in the same room and watch the other’s TV program, complaining the entire time, but glad to be close? Will we still trip over our boots? Will everyone gather in the kitchen on the holidays, no matter the option of another room and a basement?

Because I want more space, yes. I need more walls to hang photos of the people we love, more shelves to hold books, more room for my shoes. I’m not worried about filling up our new home with stuff, but what I want more than three bathrooms and a garage for husband’s tools is to be able to fill our new home with as much warmth, comfort, hugs, laughter, family, friends, love and  memories that have always surrounded me in this little house in the buttes next to the red barn.

I hope we can do it.

I hope we do.


Growing up North Dakotan

This Sunday I will be in Fargo participating in a panel discussion for the Why Radio Show.

The subject?

Growing up North Dakotan.

I will take a seat next to individuals who have a handle on their identities, who may have wandered, explored their world and asked the questions that need to be asked. And one of those questions is “What does it really mean to be North Dakotan?”

As a woman whose heart has been planted solid here, but whose feet and mind have wandered with music and education and the winding road, I have been asked this question in many forms. It’s like asking what it means to you to hold your last name, or wear your grandmother’s ring, or to lay down next to the man you love every night.

How do you answer it?

Not everyone can speak about it. Not everyone can explain.

Not everyone needs to.

I was talking to my good friend  on the phone yesterday afternoon. As I stood right in the middle of our home state she was in Oregon, a place on the map she picked with her husband. She had been there for nearly three months after years of college and graduate school they were looking for adventure, new opportunities, valuable experience before they settled into their lives. She is loving the ocean and the coffee shops and the eclectic culture. She loves the rain and the flowers and the new scenery and the people.

But you know what she said to me between breaths about her plans and her new apartment and the photography show she is putting together?

She is missing something.

“I miss that prairie. I want to lay in my grass and smell my lilacs and plant my garden and breathe in that sky. I miss my home.”


Her home.

Who are these people who hold the scent of the dirt, the push of the wind, the endless winters, the wheat fields, the small town in such regard?

Who tends their grandmother’s garden, brings in the baby calves into the basement in the dead of a blizzard? Who works the teller line and serves your morning coffee? Who has owned the Implement Dealership for years?

And who roams all over the world for years on end, traveling over seas to live and work in foreign languages, who are leaders of cities and  major corporations? Who serves in the military,  climbs mountains and rafts raging rivers only to find themselves pulled back again, to be haunted by the memories of sunsets and 4th of July Celebrations no matter how how far they have traveled or how long they’ve been gone.

Who is North Dakota?

We are rural route roads, beat-up mailboxes and dusty school bus seats. We are rides in the combine, summer sausage sandwiches, a thermos of coffee washed down with warm lemonade and  faces black with dirt after a hot August day.

Two miles to a gravel road on the edge of town and we are freedom, our father’s truck, twelve years old behind the steering wheel.

We are first loves and last loves and forever loves found on those backroads at night, on front porches, in the backseats of cars and under a blanket shared in the stands at a football game.

We are the stars that light up the endless sky at night, family farms, four generations of the same recipe on Christmas Eve.

The barnyard light.

We are white wood prairie churches, our mother’s voice quietly singing the hymns, jello with suspended vegetables and mayonnaise casseroles waiting for us in the basement when the service is through.

We are wet clay caked to cowboy boots, the black soil of the valley, the stoplight in town.

High heels and business suits, running shoes and hoping things will stay the same…knowing that they need to change.

Number crunchers, songs that must be sung, books that must be written.

Snake bitten.

We scream for sun and pray for rain and push the river from our doors. We’ve been here before.

Chokecherry jam, misquote bites, country fairs, one station on the radio, too young for our first beer, FFA and 4-H steers. Too young to leave here.

We are race car tracks and power lines, hockey rinks and barbed fence wire.

Drilling rigs and endless fields of wheat…September heat.

We are bicycle tires in the middle of Main Street, fireworks in May, popsicles and swimming pools and a stop at the Tastee Freeze please. Rodeos and American Legion, football heroes, lead singers in the band, the ferris wheel in town.

Pow wows, three legged races, familiar faces, dances in the street.

Fishing in the creek.

We are “Pete’s kid,” “Edie’s granddaughter,” and  “Your mother wants you home right away!”

We are pushed to go and pulled to stay, we are leaving this place as soon as we’re grown.

And we are the sky we can’t explain, predictably unpredictable, colorful and full of rage and gentle hope that it’s all ok.

We’re the wind, relentless.

The snow, endless.

Sharp and hard and steadfast and certain like the winter and the change in weather.

We are the dirt under our nails, our wind tangled hair, the cattails and bluebells and big white tail deer.

We are all of these things that make up a home, but home is not ours to take.

It is in us and we have been claimed.

Join me for:

“Growing Up North Dakotan”

A panel discussion featuring Joshua Boschee, Kathryn Joyce, Jessie Veeder Scofield, and others. Moderated by WHY? host Jack Russell Weinstein

Prairie Public Television Studio
5-7 pm
207 5th Street North
Fargo, ND
Facebook Event 

The event is free. Come be a part of the audience, ask questions, make comments, and engage philosophically with this most important issue.

If you can’t be in Fargo, please share with me here how North Dakota has claimed you.