Dear Husband on our 13th Anniversary

Next week we will be celebrating our 13th year of marriage. Thirteen doesn’t seem so lucky, but I’m only really superstitious about those sorts of things when things go wrong.

And what I’ve learned from 13 years of marriage is that the only thing you can count on, really, is things going wrong. And then, right again.

And what’s life but a series of triumphs, roadblocks, joy and heartache? But my favorite times with you, well, they’ve always been the millions and billions of heartbeats in between.

And so here were are, you and me and the kids and the dogs and the cows and the plans that seem to be going in a reasonable direction, until they aren’t. If we were sea people, we would say we’re good at readjusting our sails.

But we’re not sailors. We’re just two kids hell-bent on being landlocked in this rugged and unpredictable place, trying to belong here in our own way, in our own generation, knowing that even without the waves to take count, the wind can wear you down.

wedding 1

Dear husband, last night I left you with the kids at suppertime so I could drive into a rainstorm and sing about our lives on a stage somewhere a few hours away. When I pulled out of the drive, my guitar and stories loaded up in the back seat, our daughters were standing naked in the mud puddles, dancing and splashing in the aftermath of a glorious late summer rain and you were laughing and waving and loving them. And I was loving you there with them.


I love you. I always have.

A few days ago, our 3-year-old daughter asked me about my wedding. She wanted to know what I wore and if we danced and if I married her daddy. So I pulled out our wedding album and showed her photos and talked about that day in the cow pasture when you married me underneath the 100-year-old oak tree while our oldest daughter squealed and smiled and instructed her little sister to stop turning the pages so fast.

Wedding TreeThere was a simple quote in that wedding album that I pulled as inspiration for the special day, when I was just turning 23 and thought I knew what I was up for. It read: “Love is enough.”

And it struck me at that moment in the living room surrounded by Barbies and baby doll strollers, half-drunk milk cups and things that cost money spread out on the floor that’s never properly vacuumed in this sweet and maddening little mess we’ve made, that I was wrong there. Love is not enough. I’m sorry, all you romantics out there, but it’s true.

In order for love to be enough to survive this life together, the affection can’t stand on its own. You have to expand it, to stretch and define it more broadly so that it also means kindness, especially when you don’t feel kind, which will morph itself into patience.

And then patience lends itself to selflessness and turns the other person’s joy into yours if you let it. And if you look at love as less of a feeling and more like a doing for the other, that’s how love turns to freedom, which is one of my favorite parts about love.

And my favorite part about loving you. Because you let me be me, even in the times that makes our love a bit lonely. But I don’t have to tell you that, dear husband, because you’re the one who showed me.

And I didn’t marry you because I simply loved you. I could have loved other men, I know. Although I never really tried. I found you and here we are, more tired than we’ve ever been and more human, too. Adding years and payments and lawn care and cattle and children who spill things and who will always need us and make us worry and wonder if we’re screwing it all up will do that to the definition of love. Make it more human.

Because the stakes are higher, the days are longer and the floor is stickier and the ground is muddier, but we’re still standing on it, which comes in handy when this prairie wind blows.



Low expectations=happy marriage?

Last night over dinner Husband and I got to talking about marriage expectations. I’m sure I brought it up, because I’m always contemplating things out loud with no real direction. I think it stemmed from my idea for steaks, lobster and champaign on Valentines day and his luke warm reaction to my brilliant and sweet idea that I felt deserved something of an enthusiastic reaction.

But really, Husband’s never been known for over-enthusiasm. I know better, but you know, sometimes I fish.

“Well, there are certain expectations aren’t there, about Valentines day?” I asked.

And then somewhere between his reaction to that statement and my rebuttal, I said something like, “There’s expectations in a marriage too. I mean, you have expectations for me don’t you?”

And he said, “No. Not really. I mean, I expect you not to leave me.”

“Well that’s an easy one,” I laughed.

“And, I guess I expect you not be be a stripper.”

“Good Lord.”

“Yeah, so if you get down to it,” he finished. “I guess I expect you not to leave me to become a stripper.”

So I added: “And I expect that you will fix the things I break.”.

“And I expect that you will break things.”

We’re romantic.

And perfect for each other.I mean, because I would make the world’s most awkward stripper…

Happy Valentines Day weekend lovers!

And for those girls in love with their dogs, check out the newly released “A Girl Needs a Dog” Video starring YOU and your pooches!

Sunday Column: My husband, the seamstress…

So I found this photo in the archives last week and I realized I never told you all about the red velvet pants.

Yes. These red velvet pants.

IMG_20141020_0001So here we are. Husband and I, celebrating our birthdays in the beginning of our senior year. I just turned 17. Him, the big 1-8.

Now there is about a million things to say about this photo. Like, there was once a time when it was cool for an entire football team to take bleach to their hair in honor of some sort of brotherhood camaraderie.

So there’s that.

But I think that the pants are really the star distraction of the show.

The pants, my eyebrows and the unbelievably proud expression on my high school boyfriend’s face as he squeezes me tight…

Why is he so proud you ask?

Because my friends, the young man just spent his hard earned cash from working on the county road crew in the summer on the perfect fabric and a week behind his mother’s sewing machine, whipping up these beauties for the girl he loved…

Yup. And I had just opened the homemade gift in front of about a dozen of our best friends. And now I am modeling them, crooked butt seam and all.

It’s a beautiful thing, young love.

And the pants? Well, I realize now they were just a little foreshadowing into my life spent with this man, if I chose to stick around to see what sort of project came next with him.

Turns out there were plenty…

And I have a hunch there’s plenty more to come.

Coming Home: Some gifts just can’t be bought
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications


Happy Birthday! Love, Your Biggest Fan…

Today this guy here celebrates another year of living.

I just spent part of my morning writing about him, my husband, the man I’ve celebrated sixteen or so birthdays with in our lives together.

Christmas Card Photo 4

I included photos and everything. I said something about the awesome birthday gift I got him that he picked out and purchased.

Kinda like the boots I told him he bought me a month before my birthday.

It was a good post. Real heartwarming.

Funny even.

Then my internet crashed and all that I wrote is lost in the abyss…

And I yelled, COME ON!

But it doesn’t matter now. What I really wanted to say is today we are celebrating the birth of a good man.

A patient man. Master of the grill. Master of the kitchen.

Folder of my underwear.  Fixer of broken things.

Troubleshooter of our lives together.



Terrible singer.

Yeller at stupid TV shows.

Wearer of a great collection of snapshirts.

Watcher of westerns.

A good shot.

Lifter of heavy things. My roadie.

Handyman, fisherman,


Huntingthe most handsome man in my camera lens.

I said all those things, eloquently. Was just about to send them out into the world…

And then…


But it doesn’t matter.

He knows who he is.

And what day it is…

Happy Birthday Husband,


Your biggest fan.

So many gifts.

Last Christmas Husband and I were planning the arrival of our new home. Husband worked during the coldest weeks of the year alongside his dad, Pops and our neighbor hammering nails with gloved hands, storing the air-compressor inside the heated truck so it wouldn’t freeze, climbing ladders and creating the walls to a foundation that our house was scheduled to sit on as soon as it arrived from Wisconsin.

I remember wondering what it would look like, having only seen what was to be our forever home in my head or on a blue print. I remember worrying that we wouldn’t meet our deadline, wondering how a house can possibly travel all of those miles and wind up in a place along a gravel road where a house has never been before and offering the guys a couple shots of Peppermint Schnapps as a celebration that the first step was done.

It was cold and frosty and the deadline was approaching with each passing moment, but right on schedule our house came rolling slowly down the freshly laid road and we could do nothing more but stand out of the way and watch as the crane lifted it and placed it on the concrete and wooden walls that were so carefully constructed during the depth of winter and into some long nights.

I will never forget what it felt like witnessing our home arrive out of thin air. Husband and I watched in silence with our hands in our pockets before admitting we were chilled to the bones and moving into the heated pickup where we did more of the silence thing, more of the watching. And although we knew when the roof was on and the men were gone there would be more work to be done, we were choked up at the sight of the start of it all.

That was one year ago. It was our sixth Christmas together as husband and wife and we were watching our dreams come true.

One year and I’ll have to say, nail by nail, scary ladder project by scary ladder project, and day by day it has been a test of our skills and our patience and a wonderful hand-made spectacle to watch it all slowly come together.

Two weeks ago they came to pour concrete in that basement.

Last week Husband built us some stairs.

This week we will put rock on our fireplace…

and last weekend we brought our Christmas tree home.

I have to tell you when we made plans for this house we thought out our specific needs. We wanted a lofted bedroom, an open floor plan, a giant mud room and a hardwood floor.

And we wanted to create a perfect space for a big and beautiful Christmas tree.

Oh, we still have so much to do, and realistically we should have been doing it. We should have been wiring that basement, putting doors on the closets or picking out carpet for our master bedroom. I should have been wiping saw dust off of things or washing our socks, but after our breakfast was cleaned up and all our coffee was gone on Saturday morning, my husband and I looked at each other, pulled on our Carharts and went out to find the tree we’ve had in mind since the beginning of it all.

I don’t know how to explain the magic I feel every winter I’m lucky enough to trudge behind that man in the snow on a hunt for our tree. It’s like the world goes calm and quiet, the wind stops blowing and my toes and fingers warm up.

It’s my favorite moment of the season, finding myself alone out here on the snowy acres my family has kept for almost a hundred years alongside a man I have known since we were children, searching for a little piece of our world we can bring inside and give a new life.

I remember every Christmas tree we’ve had together. I remember the first year’s drive out into the east pasture with a pickup and a small puppy. I remember how my new husband drug it up the hill with a rope. I remember the sun going down and the tires spinning as we backed up off the hill and got stuck.

I remember the puppy puke and the laughter and thinking about the long, dark walk home.

I remember getting unstuck and falling in love again as we pulled that oversized tree through the door of our tiny house and found a spot for it. I remember how it smelled.

Fast forward to the second Christmas spent tucked between mountains in eastern Montana, so far away from the familiar but together in a small apartment on the edge of town. There was no extra money that year and no Christmas tree, just a pretty centerpiece sitting on our table as a reminder of the season before we packed up and headed toward home for the holiday.

The third tree was purchased in the dark in a parking lot in a town a little closer to home and brought back to a house we were tearing apart and putting back together, the first house we purchased together. The tree had long pine needles and it didn’t smell like cedar or anything really. There was a fight about candy canes and tinsel and I cried while I put up the lights. I was unhappy, I think…or lonesome or out of place and something about that tree reminded me. There was no tree in that house the next year and after that I vowed I would never cry over Christmas again.

And I never did. We pointed our car north toward the ranch and moved back into that little house where we brought our first cedar tree in from the cold and promised one another that each Christmas we would do the same, no matter what.

We put lights on one more cedar in that little house while we planned for our future. We bundled up against the elements and fulfilled our promise to one another, speaking quietly into the hills that hold us all so close together.

I want to stand on top of those hills and scream that I take none of this for granted.

I want to open my arms and praise this life and the family who helped build it.

I want to say it out loud as if saying it will protect me from all there is that could lift this feeling of peace from my heart and set it adrift.

But for today, for this Christmas season, I will hold that feeling close. I will sit beneathe the cedar tree standing ten feet tall under the roof of our new forever home, its branches heavy with bulbs and lights and Christmas spirit, and I will breathe in its scent be grateful for today, for this life while I’m here.

Because we are not promised anything on this earth but a chance.

And I have been given so many gifts.

Happy Hunting

Well, as promised, it’s looking pretty white and chilly out there this morning. But I have a feeling there’s no amount of snow and cold that can keep some burly men and brave women from celebrating North Dakota’s unofficial holiday–Deer Hunting Season.

The kids are off school, the coffee has been on since before the crack of dawn, the poker chips have been located, there’s Busch Light in the fridge and some women are preparing to be left behind for camo caps, jerky lunches and long, lonely walks in the wilderness.

Now some of you ladies are probably ok with fourteen or so days of watching what you want to watch, cooking (or not cooking) what you want to cook and a break from discussions about your online shopping addiction.

But for those of you who are curious about those long walks in the wilderness, I would like to invite you to revisit a little public service announcement I compiled a few seasons back (under the guidance of some of the most serious sportsmen in the county) to help make your first hunting attempt with your man a success.

The Ten Commandments for the Hunting Widow

And if you’re skeptical, here’s a little evidence that I’m qualified to deliver this advice.

Yup, that’s me, that’s my deer, that’s my man, that’s my denim jacket and that’s my neckerchief.

Read up and thank me when you bring home the big one!

Peace, love and venison!


Riding Horses

There’s something about the view between a horse’s ears that makes a woman forget that she can’t stay up there forever.

It’s the same way she feels watching a man catch a horse. It’s the quiet and gentle approach, the soft way he whispers and coaxes…

And she remembers the good ones.

And it’s how he wears his hat, how his shirt’s tucked in and the way he sits so sure up there next to her riding along.

The way the breeze moves through that horse’s mane before brushing her cheek.

The way the sinking sunlight hits him just right.

How the grass sparkles under that sky.

And all of those things that make her happy to be alive out here…

riding horses.

The long way home.

Sometimes in the middle of an ordinary weekday, one filled with spilled coffee, peanut butter toast on the run, meetings, missed phone calls and long-lost plans for supper, the world gives you a chance to throw it all out the window and just get lost.

Yesterday afternoon on my way out the office, heavy-overstuffed briefcase on my shoulder, water cup in my left hand, my list under my arm and a trail of papers flailing behind me,  I dialed Husband to remind him it was voting day and asked him if he wanted me to meet him at home so we could make the trek together.

Husband works a good thirty-plus miles away from the ranch. I work another good thirty miles away too…in the other direction.  And when you live in the middle of winding gravel roads, you do not vote in the town that you travel 30 miles to work in each day. No, you take the gravel to a smaller town sitting nice and neat  alongside the county road and cast your vote in a quaint community building as your neighbors from over the hill, across the creek and down the road filter in and ask you about your family, how the house is coming and what you think of the weather.

I thought about taking the fifteen mile detour to cast my vote on my own, but the idea of a little car ride with my husband and the opportunity to actually show up in public together sounded like a nice one. He agreed.

And so we met at home, dropped our piles of work at the door, and husband drove me north on the scoria road, past the substation, and our friends mailbox where the gravel turns to pavement,  right on the county road and into Keene, ND where we would greet the ladies who have been working the polls all day and follow their instructions to fill in the circles dark and complete, and for goodness sakes, don’t vote in more than one party column or you’ve gotta do it again.

I took their directions and my packet and followed Husband into the little gym where we played volleyball this winter and where I attended craft club last week. I waited for my neighbor to cast her vote and I took her place at the round table against the wall.

I read the directions thoroughly, wondered if Husband, who was at the table on the other side of the room, was canceling out my votes, finished my civic duty, closed the folder and fed my sheets through the fancy machine.

Husband followed close behind. I waited while he cracked a few jokes, said goodbye to the neighbors and then followed him to the door and back out into a beautiful summer evening in the hub of our little township: Keene, ND-Population 266?

We contemplated heading back home to grill some brats and finish up the laundry. We talked about how the lawn needed to be mowed and that fence that needed a good inspection. We thought we could maybe get some work done on the new house before it got too late.

We said we probably should go home…we really should…

But it was such a nice evening, the sun was shining through the fluffy clouds, the grass was green and fresh from the recent rain, the farmers were out and it smelled so sweet. We rolled down the windows and pointed our car north toward the lake where we heard the restaurant at the marina had just been renovated and is open for business. What’s another 30 miles when the lake is calling and you heard they might have walleye on the menu?

What’s another thirty miles along new green fields, under big prairie skies, next to a handsome man with lots of things to tell you with the windows open and your favorite songs in the speakers?

It’s nothing.

It’s everything.

And the food was good, the water was crystal clear and the sun was hitting the horizon with a promise of a show as colorful as the rainbow that had just appeared in the clouds to south.

Husband pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the county road. He headed toward that rainbow, toward the ranch and our chores…but then, without a word between us, he ignored the turn that would take us there and chose the long way home instead.

I didn’t object. I didn’t ask why. I didn’t say a thing unless it was to ask him to stop so I could take a photo of the clouds reflecting off the glass-like pond in a rancher’s pasture.

The country church reaching up toward the sky.

A family of ducks swimming in reeds.

The sun sinking below the horizon.

We drove this way for hours, tourists exploring the landscape we knew so well, seeing it again with eyes wider.

Hearts more open.

I was exploring our homeland and my husband was my guide, a man who just wanted a little more time to move through the world he loves…

patient with the clicking of the camera and my need to let the cooling air blow through the crack of the window in the passenger seat…

humored by my theory on coming back after my death as a duck…

happy to hear his tires hum along familiar roads…

content to sit next to me and hum along with the songs we love.

And relieved to forget about the things we should do…

and just live in the moments, under the sky, moving quietly and slowly along the landscape that made us…

Dear Husband…

Dear Husband,

Good morning.

As I write this I imagine you on your way to work in your red pickup, your warm cap pulled down over your ears, a little of your scruffy hair escaping out the sides. Or maybe you’re there already, digging into the jobs you’re good at. I lost track of how long it’s been since you found me buried under a pile of covers and pillows to kiss me good morning before the sun peeked over the buttes. I turned over and pulled those covers back up over my head, waiting for a more reasonable hour to rise from my dreams.

Husband, I have known you since you were a 12-year-old boy with hair just as unruly as it was this morning as you ran your callused hands through it. I knew you when your locker was six down from mine and you would walk with me to class. I knew you when your yellow lab, Rebel, was alive and young and he would pull you on your roller blades down the street. I was there when you heard your parents had to put him down.

I knew you when you wore your football jersey on our hometown field on Friday nights. I sat in the stands to watch you play and then waited for you at the gate after the game. I was there when you broke your ribs on the wrestling mat, I heard the stories about wrecking you bike, dislocating your shoulder in a three-wheeler accident, and the one about the fish-hook that somehow got lodged in your finger. I was there when you got that shiner senior year.

I lay next to you at night and trace your scars. I know where they came from, and I am thankful for that.

I am thankful that you picked up the phone to call me one summer evening only to find me crying on the other end of the line, catching my breath between whimpers to tell you about how I jumped off a small cliff at the lake and wrecked my ankle and my chance at making the A-squad basketball team. How was I to know that would be the first of a lifetime of comforting and level-headed conversations spent with you? How was I to know that hurting my ankle wasn’t the end of the world, but that conversation with you was the beginning of a life spent with a man who never hangs up?

A man who called again and then, when he learned to drive, drove thirty miles and way too fast every Sunday to the middle of nowhere to catch a girl with equally unruly hair mowing the lawn, painting the barn, riding a horse, digging in the garden or laying out in the summer sunshine.

Yes, husband, I knew you then. I knew you when your plans didn’t extend past Saturday night, but your future was blindingly bright. I knew you when your pants were too baggy, your music too loud and you thought you were invincible, bulletproof and incapable of breaking hearts. I was there when you learned it wasn’t true.

And, thankfully, you knew me. You knew that if you showed up, played chess with my little sister, talked guns with my dad and made my mother laugh that you would be able to take that trip every Sunday. You knew to tell me true things, because an honest man might not always win, but in the end, at least he is an honest man.

And so husband, here’s what I have to tell you today.

Each time I see you walking through that door after work or catch you cooking in our tiny kitchen, the smell of your soup filling my nostrils, each time I find you in your easy chair, feet kicked up after a day filled with work, I remember for a moment that boy I used to know and my heart starts beating the same way it did  when you would meet me at my locker, when I would pick up your evening phone calls or see your old Thunderbird pull into my parent’s driveway.

But there you are, a man. A good man who cooks and fixes things and doesn’t make a damn fuss when I cry over things there’s no use crying about. A man whose heart is planted here right next to mine in a place that grew me, that grew us, up and together and away and back again. Husband, I might not always run to the door when you swing it open, my hands might be busy, my head might be somewhere else. Love, I might not always take a moment to curl up on your lap when you are in your favorite chair, I might not bring us a blanket because there might not be time that evening to sit. My Man, I might not wrap my arms around you when you are stirring a soup or making a mess in our kitchen, but I should.

My 16 year-old head over heals self would.

Because all that 16 year-old-head-over-heals-self wanted in the whole world, all of the wishes she used up on stars that fell and clocks that turned to 11:11 were wishes for a lifetime spent with you–waking up to your kisses, falling asleep in your arms, eating your cooking and building our home.

Yes, that 16-year-old-self had some things right, but she mostly knew nothing at all.

She mostly took a huge risk with her wishes spent on a teenage boy with unruly hair and pants that didn’t fit right. She knew nothing about life really. Nothing about the things that happen between those morning kisses and evening meals.

So here’s what your 28-year-old-head-over-heals-wife has to say to you today.

Thank you. Thank you for the every day good-morning kisses, yes, but mostly thank you for fighting with me without ever raising your voice or your fist, pushing me to stand up for myself and never hanging up on me no matter how many times I’ve done it to you. Thanks for staying true to yourself no matter how I push and for understanding that there are some things that you can’t change about me (like my addiction to shoes) and for not giving up on the things that are worth changing (like my lack of self-confidence and tendency to leave the back hatch of my car open over night). Thank you for never walking away in an argument, never sleeping on the couch and for always calling before you leave town to see if I need anything from the grocery store.

Thank you for fixing the things I break.

I break a lot of things.

And thank you for making me pick out and purchase my own car and schedule my own oil changes but always coming to my rescue when my tire is flat or the thing doesn’t start.

Thank you for coming with me to ride horses and for patiently teaching me, every day, how to properly use our complicated T.V. remote.

At 16 when I wished for you forever, I didn’t know that these things were important. I didn’t think about who would do the taxes or build our house, unclog the hair from the drain or clean up the puppy poop on the floor. I thought all you needed was love and affection. Those things you gave me, so I thought the other stuff came easy and fell into place like the things that happen in the “happily ever after” section no one ever bothers writing into Disney Movies.

I was wrong. It can be hard. All of the love and affection in the world can’t pay the heating bill,  help you decide who unloads the dishwasher at night, make the house remodel itself or cure a sickness while you’re out basking in the glow of one another.

No, it can’t.

But I am so grateful this Valentines Day, husband, that I was wise enough at 16 to make those wishes for a boy who would become a young man with a ring who asked me to be his family.

I’m glad I took the risk.

I am happy I said yes.

And I am happy I have you, on Sunday, and every day in between.