Knowing what’s important in the moment

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Coming Home: Knowing what’s important in the moment

My phone dinged on the counter while I was digging in the pantry for the broom. I looked at the screen to find a message from my sister-in-law with a photo of my daughter in her life jacket and sunhat sitting on the banks of the Little Muddy River looking up at her daddy looking down at her in his Superman shirt and cowboy hat.

A smile spread across my face. It was a sweet moment captured on a kayaking trip my in-laws take each June with their friends and family. I’m usually there, but this year I opted to send my husband out the door with our toddler, her swimsuit and vats of sunscreen and bug spray so I could work on tackling the fossilized blueberries on the floor. It’s been a busy spring made more exhausting by the first trimester of pregnancy and I couldn’t stand looking at the mountain of clothes that had piled up in our bedroom one moment longer. Like seriously, they were touching the ceiling. The thought of an entire, uninterrupted weekend to tackle house and yard chores was appealing in a way that sort of scared me. Like, does this mean I’m a grown woman now? The 23-year-old version of me would have thrown a bucket of water in my face if I told her that in ten y ears we would trade an 80-degree day on the river for staining the fence and sucking dead flies out of the windowsills.

Turns out, at that moment, the 33-year-old version of me wasn’t too happy with our decision either. One look at that photo and I proceeded to cuss myself and the dirt on these floors, the unplanted garden, the unwashed sheets and North Dakota and its fifteen minutes of summer.

“I should be on that riverbank with them,” I whined, alone in the house in a raggedy tank and cutoff shorts with the top button undone. And then I posted the adorable photo on social media as a warning to other moms to not make the same poor choices.

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But as the day played out, as I folded and stored away our winter clothes, mowed our scraggly lawn, stained our weathered fence and excavated the dried fruit fossils from between the cracks in our hardwood floor, I started shedding the jealousy and guilt I felt about missing a fun moment and replacing it with a dose of vindication.

We hear it all the time as parents. “The dishes can wait, go play with your kids!” “No one ever died wishing they’d worked more!” “Chores will always be there, but the kids are one sleep away from moving out and only calling on the holidays.”

Ok, yes. Time goes fast. My 1 ½ year old daughter has already started making meal requests, so I’m well aware. And I get that these statements are well intended and meant to help take the pressure off of parents, but sometimes I feel like they put more pressure on.

Maybe my tight shorts and baby growing hormones are making me a little cranky, but do you know what else is true about those dishes? They can only wait forever if you’re willing to off paper plates until the kids are 18 or are anticipating a call from one of those TLC shows asking you to be on their next episode of “Dish Pileup” or whatever.

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And yes. The chores and work will always be there, especially if my family spends every day at the lake like we really want. But then who’s gonna make sure the cows aren’t eating at the neighbors’ and pay for those groceries I carefully selected while my two loves were kayaking care free down the river together?

I don’t know. I appreciate the encouragement to blow off my responsibilities. Lord knows I need to be reminded to relax. But here’s my amateur parenting advice for the day: You know what’s important in this moment.

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Sometimes it’s taking your baby down a waterslide on a Friday afternoon, sometimes it’s letting her watch Elmo while you pay the bills and sometimes it’s sending her off for the weekend with a sunhat and her Superman dad so that pile of laundry can get done and leave you all to play in peace.

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Squish. A short story.

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So this morning I followed dad and Edie out the door of our house to go feed the bulls and found a squished mouse head laying in my entryway, a gift my cat regularly leaves for me on the  deck rug, drug into the house on the bottom of my dad’s shoe.

And I’m just going to leave that here in case you were feeling in any way bad about your housekeeping skills, unruly pets or the fact that we don’t have control over the universe.

Oh, and then I had to pick it up with a pair of  fencing gloves and fling it out the door and I swear it’s beady little eye was looking up at me wondering how we got to this place in our lives…

Happy Thursday. We got a little rain yesterday and have a little more coming this weekend I heard. Better get those tomato plants in.

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Peace, Love and Un-welcome houseguests.

Now I’m gonna leave you with this cute photo to help cleanse your mind…

Edie and Papa

Jessie

Plans and un-plans: How the best days are made

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So, Husband and I took a belated (by 10 1/2 years) honeymoon last week and now we’re back to the real world and I feel like I’m already tired tomorrow.

But it was a great trip. I’d tell you all about it, but besides a night snorkel, a really cool swim with the dolphins and hanging out with this stingray (OMGEEE)…

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I mostly I slept and read and ate and soaked up the sun while Husband did adventurous things like scuba diving and cliff jumping and Edie hung out around campfires and in campers with her cousins without really noticing we were gone.

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I’ll bore you with more travel adventures later, but my vacation brain just switched off in time for me to realize that tomorrow is Tuesday and I have to travel to the big town all day tomorrow, so I have to get cracking on next week’s column to meet the deadline.

So here’s last week’s column on another one of those great weekends.

Coming Home: A Trip the Sale Barn Proves the Best Days Can’t Be Planned

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In all the years my husband and I have spent growing up together, there’s one quality we continue to share and that’s our affinity for last minute, spontaneous plans.

Especially if those plans mean blowing off yard work and fencing projects in favor of spending an 80-degree day at the sale barn watching horses come through the ring while we try to convince ourselves of all the reasons not to bid.

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I’ve always loved the sale barn.

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I’m not sure why a little girl would grow up loving a place like that, but it’s likely the same reason anyone loves any place, because of the memories that hang in the air.

As a kid I spent time in the fall sitting shotgun in dad’s pickup as we drove a load of calves up through the badlands to Dickinson where I would wait in the pickup, feeling the calves shake the trailer and pickup as they unloaded into the bright autumn sun or the wind of a chilly overcast day. I would watch the men in ear-flap caps push the animals to their pens and then lean against sorting sticks or the railing of the fence and visit a bit about prices and weather and grown up things.

And then we would head inside to the smell of black coffee and dirt and manure and the sound of the auctioneer spitting out numbers and weights and colors and “Hey!,” “Ho!” “Yup!” and I would sit with it all swirling around me, watching white papers go up and down, terrified to scratch my nose in case they might mistake me for a bidder. And then, after hours of collecting sale barn dust in my nostrils, it was time for my favorite part of all — a cheeseburger at the counter in the café downstairs.

I sat with Edie at that counter last weekend trying to will her to eat some chicken nuggets while her dad was upstairs bidding on gentle horses to replace Stormy. It was a different vibe than those fall cattle sales — hot, muggy and of course, full of horses.

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Cowboys would whip out rope tricks and tales of how the animal drags calves to the branding fire. Little kids would stand up on a pony’s saddle, flip off their backs and duck under their bellies, demonstrating the animal’s tolerance, reminding me of the few times I rode horses dad trained through the ring as a kid, showing how they handled, backed up and tolerated the swinging of my reigns.

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Was I really ever that kid? I wondered to myself as I watched my daughter lean against her dad’s lap the same way I used to, yelling “Hey!” at the auctioneer while I held my breath as my husband took a pretty dun gelding up to our budget.

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How old stories help us hold on

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Coming Home: How old stories help us hold on

One of the best parts about sharing stories every week is that sometimes it compels others to share their stories, too, reminding me how closely strangers can be connected.

For the past few months I’ve been traveling on behalf of my new book, telling stories about crocus picking, old pickup driving and growing up on the back of my old mare.

Inevitably then, after the show, I get to hear a few of your own memories, the ones sparked by my recollection of sliding down the gumbo hill in the pouring rain in my pajamas, because—aw, you have a gumbo story of your own? One that started out with a pretty pink jacket bought to impress his family and ended with you and that pink jacket planted in the sticky mud after a too-close-for-comfort call with a rattlesnake den.

Yes, your boyfriend might have saved you from a nasty bite, but you never got over the ruined jacket.

I’ve never really thought about it before, but this is how I acquired a reverence for storytelling. It was all those afternoon coffee breaks I’d sit in as a kid, the ones where the neighbors would take their hats off after branding or a day spent fixing a stubborn part on the tractor again, and the recount of the things that went wrong during the day would spark a story about another time, a few years back, when a new spring opened up on the flat over the winter and he was loping along across that stretch and the ground just disappeared beneath that horse …

And that would remind my neighbor of a time they ran the outfitting business, and they were taking some guests on a ride through a narrow trail of the badlands and down slid their best horse with a dude on his back. It’s a story we all might have heard before, the ground becoming a little steeper with each re-telling, all the could-have-beens recounted over and over as they rehashed their gratitude that it all turned out OK in the end.

Good grief.

Thank God.

Can you imagine?

Last week I got a letter in the mail from a woman who used to help out a family friend who ran trail rides in the badlands for years. This is the ranch where our old Stormy spent years working as a trail horse, and after reading about how we recently lost him to the years, this woman felt compelled to write me to share with me her own memories of that spotted gelding. Included among her recollections was a photo of Stormy in his younger days, taking that cowboy through the sagebrush badlands. I put my hand to my mouth, surprised by the tears that caught in my throat as I folded up that letter, remembering that Stormy was someone else’s coffee-break story once.

Reminded, in a world that spins too quickly, stories are the only way we can really hold on.

Keep telling them.

Some secrets should be kept secret…

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who could forget.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know….”

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

He blinked.

I didn’t.

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

How thoughtful.

 

Easter and the Target Syndrome.

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Yesterday my mom, Edie and I took a road trip to the big town to pick up my books. It was so exciting to meet up with the woman who has been helping me through the project, to see her big smile walk into McDonalds where I was winning Mother of the Year and feeding my child chicken nuggets for a 4:00 lunch, and page through all those months of hard work, and years of stories and photos.

I can’t wait to get them in the mail to you all and see you in the next few weeks on my book tour. Next week I’ll be heading to Fargo and Grand Forks and leaving Edie at home to handling calving with her dad, but the fact that we’ll be back to the big town in a few days didn’t stop the three of us ranch girls from performing our favorite big town ritual.

A trip to Target.

It’s mandatory.

If we don’t do anything else, we at least have to see what they have there that we didn’t know we needed but desperately needed. Like a third pair of brown strappy sandals, a beach bag for the one time a year we go to the lake, a pack of pretty stationary, a bottle of red nail polish we can add to our collection of red nail polish or, in Edie’s case, this pineapple hat that’s a size or two too small…

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Turns out the Target syndrome must be something that’s passed on down through the generations.

It runs strong in the Veeder women blood.

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I mean, she’s like five months into walking and already she’d prefer her own cart, thankyouverymuch.

There’s just so much she needs.

So many pretty and delicious things…

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Sorry about the banana, Target. (don’t worry, we paid for it)

It couldn’t be stopped.

The same way we weren’t leaving the store without the pineapple hat.

See you out there everyone.

Or at least, I’l maybe see ya in Target.

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For more information on the tour, or to order a signed copy of the book, visit www.jessieveedermusic.com

Peace, Love and Happy Happy Easter,

Jessie, Chad and Edie

 

 

Spring: From the experts

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Signs of spring come earlier for the experts
by Jessie Veeder
4-9-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

The first calf of the year was born on the Veeder Ranch last week. That afternoon I went out on a walk to clear my head and to climb to the top of a hill to see if there were any mommas off alone on a hillside or in the trees, a pretty sure sign of some birth action.

But I didn’t see a thing.

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But I struck out again.

Yes, to me the world was still brown with a few splashes of white snow in the deep coulees and, except for the dang hornets that have magically come to life to bang against the windows of my house, no sign of new life quite yet.

I strolled home with the dogs sniffing out the path in front of me, on their own mission for signs of spring, kicked off my shoes and went inside.

That evening my husband and I loaded Edie up in the pickup to go feed the cows, and just as we were pulling out of driveway, I got a text from dad.

“Got our first calf today,” it said.

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“Of course we did,” I said out loud to myself, wondering when the heck I will develop the sixth sense and laser beam eyes Dad has for things like this. We met him down the road a ways and Edie helped him unroll a bale by pulling out handfuls of hay and picking a nice strand to chew on herself.

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We drove over to take a look at the new baby who was standing on wobbly legs, fresh, slick and black as a bean. When my husband came back with the tagger (because we never have what we need when we need it), all four of us lingered out there in the warm spring air, leaning against the pickup doors and letting Edie work the windshield wipers, radio knob, steering wheel and headlights of the parked pickup, certain she was accomplishing the most important task on the place that day.

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After a half hour of solving life’s problems, we all went home for supper.

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The next day while I was in town for a meeting, I got another text from Dad.

“Found them first!” it said, with a blurry photo of a bunch of crocuses attached.

Apparently he also knew we were in an unspoken contest.

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I put my hands on my hips and huffed.

“Of course you did,” I texted back, thinking if it couldn’t be me, at least someone found the first promises of spring.

Thinking how different the world can look behind another set of eyes.

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And so with the first calf, the first crocus, the frogs croaking in the dam and the birds flying home and the appearance of Edie’s garden hat, I think it’s safe to say spring is here.

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Oh, thank goodness, spring is here.

Why God made wheels…

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If she had wings, she’d never come down from the sky.

That’s why God made wheels for this girl of mine.

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And once I thought He made her so we could show her things.

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But it goes the other way.

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Because she reminds us of a better, wilder world, every single day.

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Stick Shift…Shit

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Why I blame my dad for my stick shift struggles
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I have a confession to make.

In the years I spent growing up out here on the ranch as well as those being all grown up here on the ranch, I have never properly learned to drive a stick shift.

Oh, I can make it work. I can get from Point A to Point B if Point A is the house and Point B is the barnyard over the hill, the hay yard, or my parent’s house a mile down the gravel road, but that’s where my gear-finding, clutch-pushing confidence ends.

I know, I know. It’s embarrassing. Some things are just expected of you living out here among cows and barbed-wire fences. But I have a handicap.

And I could say I have no one to blame but myself, because I’m ultimately responsible for taking the initiative to master something I need to know, but forget it.

I blame my dad.

I blame my dad and all the old, impossible, gear sticky, seat-stuck-too-far-back, ancient and impossible pickups he enlisted to teach me to drive back in the day.

I mean, how’s a girl to grab a chance at finding the right gear when the gear indicator knob long ago popped off and rolled around on the floorboards before meeting its ultimate fate in some brush patch Dad was fencing one day in 1995?

Am I in reverse? The only way to find out is to release the clutch and hope I don’t kill it before rolling backwards while simultaneously hoping I’m not in first because there’s not much room for error in the 10 inches between the front of the pickup and the shop.

And that wasn’t the worst of it. There was one pickup he tried to teach me on that you literally had to push down a hill like a Flinstones car to get started. And once it turned over, well, you had to keep it gassed for fear of starting the whole ritual over again.

God forbid it quit at the bottom of a coulee somewhere.

Some of the biggest fights I had with my dad happened behind the wheel of his old pickups where he more than one chose the “just leave her to sort it out” method, and frankly, my pubescent tears of frustration just didn’t allow for that sort of sorting it out.

That’s the flashback I had yesterday when I suggested my husband run me through the workings of the hydraulic bale spear so I can feed cows on my own. I had left chicken baking in the oven, and we brought along the wiggly toddler who wants nothing more than for me to just scooch on out of there and let her take over.

Needless to say, I had a few distractions to blame for me killing it 37 times between my attempts at picking up and rolling the bales out.

But we were in Dad’s pickup, the one with the sticky gears, missing gear knob and seat that doesn’t move forward, so I blame him.

I will always blame him.

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The beasts, in their final resting place. RIP…RIP…

Motherhood: Hold on tight while you let go

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“One. Two. Threeee!!!” She yelled before she launched herself from the top of one big round hay bale and over the mud filled gap to the next, landing safely on her knees before scrambling up to her feet to continue her race down the rest of the row of hay.

I stood holding Edie on my hip, both of us laughing as we watched her three cousins run and leap, making an obstacle course out of the hay yard, their blonde hair escaping from ponytails and flying up toward the blue sky in the wind.

I lifted Edie up over my head to sit her next to her cousin and take in the view, my hands held tight around her little waist to hold her steady for a few short moments before my baby girl promptly reached down, grabbed my fingers with a little whine and pushed me away from her, trying to convince me to let her go.

Apparently sixteen months of growing on this earth is long enough to be ready to leap across the tops of five-foot tall hay bales on her own. Now if only she could convince her momma.

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The stomp of six rubber boots kicked up the scent of summer dust trapped inside that feed pile combined with the squeals and chatter transported me to a time when I was as fearless and free, racing my cousin to the third tier of bales in the stack, declaring myself Queen of the World on top of her pyramid 20 feet in the air, with no regard for the scary consequences that could result from a slip.

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I couldn’t help but notice then the little twinges of worry that shot through my body as I watched those girls reach the top of their own pyramid. And then there was the push and pull I felt in my gut, the tug-of-war of wanting them to go higher, to see what the cows look like from up there, but willing them to be careful.

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Oh child, don’t you know what could happen!?

I guess that’s what motherhood is. Holding on tight as you’re letting go…

Edie reached her arms out towards me, and I helped her off the top of that bale and then walked her over to where her grandparents and daddy were watching by the road.

“C’mon,” I said to him as I ran back toward the hay yard, stripping off my jacket as I hoisted myself up to enter the race to see who could be the first to leap across 25.

“One. Two. Threeeee!!….”