Who are we without our memories?

Happy summer everyone. We took as much of a hiatus from real life as we could over the 4th of July week to head to my grandparent’s lake cabin in Minnesota like we do every year over the holiday.

This year was pretty special as more family joined us from across the midwest and my two-year old had a blast following the big kids around the lake.

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Great Grandpa and Grandma with all ten of their great grandchildren

I’m not going to lie, traveling with two young kids and staying in a hotel for night upon night is no joke.

Kids like schedules. But there are so many reasons it’s worth it to spend a week having donut holes for breakfast, skipping naps for more swim time, serving popsicles before supper and wiping the sand and grass off of their little feet before zipping up their jammies and flopping down for bed sunkissed, dirty and exhausted from fun at 10 pm.

My only wish is that my girls could remember every minute of the weekend spent with this family, especially these special moments…

Last week, Edie caught her first fish off of her great-grandparents’ dock on a little lake in Minnesota.

After her daddy helped her pull that bluegill out of the water using the little orange fishing pole with the button reel that has likely caught many grandkids’ first fishes, she inspected its puckered mouth, ran her fingers over its scales, looked toward the shore and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Gramma Ginny, look! I caught a fish!”

Gramma Ginny is Edie’s 80-something great-grandmother who is known to her family as a woman who loves to play bridge, has read thousands of books, is probably magic because she can float in the water for hours without paddling and refuses to look on anything but the bright side in life. This is a quality that is seeing her and her family through the difficult and inevitable process of time that has taken her quick wit and memory, but has not broken her spirit.

Edie calls gramma Ginny her best friend and like any best friend, she was thrilled by her little granddaughter’s first catch. I watched them celebrate with a lump in my throat wishing time would stop for a moment.

Edie, don’t get bigger just yet. Gramma, don’t get older. Warm sun, don’t go down on Lake Melissa today; just hang in the sky a little longer and shine on my mom in her swimsuit as she floats out to the sailboat with her sisters. Don’t set on these cousins getting to know one another and growing up too fast. Don’t stop our laughing and start our worries. Not yet. Hold still now, time.

“It’s a beautiful day. A good day,” said Gramma Ginny over and over as all 10 of her great-grandchildren, from 7 months to 14 years old, navigated their relationships to one another over games of beanbag toss, squirt gun fights and kayak trips to the lily pads.

“Yes, yes it is Gramma,” we would reply, all of us reliving old memories of swim lessons from aunties, rainy day card games and mosquito slapping by the campfire, wishing we didn’t know that our matriarch’s memories slip in and out like waves as she holds on tight to her husband’s hand and wades into the familiar feel of the cool lake water towards her grown daughters with children and grandchildren of their own.

I looked at my grandparents and thought about the 60-some years of a life they’ve lived hand in hand like that and I wondered how it is that I want to stop the very thing that has given them so much adventure and fulfillment and love.

What do we know if we can’t remember it all?

Who are we without our recollections, our stories? Our memories?

We are my 2-year-old daughter, fresh and eager to discover a mysterious new world, and her great-grandmother, two best friends celebrating a catch in a special moment on a good and beautiful day.

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Taking time before time takes us away…

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It’s been over a week since we got back to the real world after the vacation Husband and I took just the two of us, and boy did we get back to reality. Since then we’ve had a family reunion event, work catch-up, Little Sister’s baby shower,

baby shower

my in-law’s anniversary party, branding…

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and zero time to unpack.

You should see my room.

No. You shouldn’t. I don’t even want to see my room.

Yes, summer’s arrived in full swing in our neck of the woods and so has begun the mad rush to fit in as much work and fun as we can in the 90 days we get of summer.

I love this time of year. Already the heat has sent Edie, Sylas my niece and me to the pool in town on opening day to take a dip,

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running through the sprinkler, filling the baby pool, planting flowers, riding horses 8480C446-7BEA-43BF-BB3E-85162447DB0Dand all of the summer things I envisioned for us this year. It’s going to be a good one.

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Now if we could just get some rain while we anxiously await the birth of the new addition to the clan. Little Sister is due in about two weeks, but just to freak her out I like to tell her she is for sure going early.

Any minute now…

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She protests. But as she’ll soon find out, in motherhood, it’s best to just surrender the whole illusion of control thing.

It’s one of the reasons parents need vacations most of all.

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I wish my parents had time for more of them when we were growing up. I’m sure we gave them plenty of reasons to want to leave us with the grandparents.

We’re just lucky we got the chance before this happens…

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Edie’s only child status expires December 8th…

Coming Home: Time away together is an investment in each other

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We said we would take a honeymoon later. I was on the verge of turning 23, out of college a couple years and on the road with my music. He was on the verge of 24 and climbing oil derricks, seven days on, seven days off and more if he could.

We were on a mission, on a roll, in love but on our own schedules.

Wedding

We’d go when we had a bit more money.

We’d go in the winter when we craved the heat.

We’d go before the first baby.

We’d go. We promised we’d go.

But when you’re almost 23 and almost 24 you know nothing about time and how it sneaks up on you like the white streaks of hair around your temples or that old shoulder injury that grabs you when you’ve been fencing all day, and then suddenly you’re 10 years older and wiser, perhaps only because that’s what time forces on you.

And so we finally went. Last week, to honor those 10 years, we dug out our swimming suits, sent the toddler to her cousins’ and hopped a plane for a resort by the ocean, just the two of us, for the first time.

Oh, we’ve done plenty of traveling — work trips across the globe, family trips to the mountains, road trips and camping trips and trips to warm places with friends — but it was time to designate one of those tropical post-car trips for ourselves.

And I’m not saying you need to take vacations to places with sandy beaches and palm trees to stay in love, but I am saying it helps.

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To see your man out of his element with the sole mission to relax, have fun and drink rum is like being reintroduced to the person you fell in love with before you had a toddler and cattle and a mortgage on a partially-finished house.

But if you hate long airplane rides or prefer, like one of my cowboy friends, that the air doesn’t get the chance to touch your legs outside your Wranglers, I’ve decided now that we’re back, sunburned and broke, that all you really need is a few days away somewhere.

Because if you don’t invest in each other, who will?

And part of the investment is remembering why you chose one another for this business of life in the first place. Funny how uprooting, for even a short amount of time, can help put it all in its place. I think it’s the daydream moments you get when you’re doing unfamiliar things, like swimming side-by-side in the ocean, watching the boats come in and out of the bay, wishing time would stand still so you never have to vacuum again …

And then a stingray swims between your legs and you jump up on your complimentary floaty faster than Michael Phelps wins gold medals and you’re reminded of the first of many reasons you’ve chosen life together on the prairie.

Reason number two?

I got seasick sitting on the floaty.

Life and love: just one reality check after another.

Go get yours, friends.

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When it’s colder than Antarctica…

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Happy Monday night everyone.

I had a weird dream last night that I was on a fancy ship and it was sinking, all the rooms were filling up with water and I was watching it happen like a movie. I woke up after a scene where me and a woman, who spent what I was sure to be our last breaths painting her nails, discovered we were the sole survivors.

I’m not sure what that means, except it stuck with me all day and I think the chaos I experienced in my sleep might be responsible for the chaos that ensued in my house today.

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In other words, Edie discovered the kitchen cabinets. And, even though I was prepared enough to buy those baby-proofing cabinet locks, I didn’t install them yet. And, when I went to do it today, I discovered that the baby-proofing cabinet locks I bought are stupid. And I hate them. And I need different ones. But I live 30 miles from town and apparently we’re in another two-day blizzard warning, so I have to wait for Amazon.com again, the same store that was responsible for my stupid purchase in the first place.  Because nobody’s review said they were stupid.

So basically, nothing’s safe anymore. When I go to get ready for the day, Edie thinks she needs to put on makeup and scatter my bathroom drawers across the floor into the bedroom where she then unloads my entire bottom drawer before moving on to the next one so she can try on all of my bras before heading to the closet for the scarves.

And I could stop her. But then I would never get my teeth brushed, hair combed, face washed, eyebrows plucked, etc.

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So I just let her loose. And if you can picture what our master bedroom and bathroom looks after those ten minutes, well, just apply that scenario to every room in the house.

Oh, I love her. She’s so fun right now.

Fun and exhausting.

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She’s sleeping now after a bedtime performance featuring her singing and waving her arms and swaying back and forth across the living room. There was to be no “night night” until the applause.

So now I have a moment to share this week’s column, which is basically an extension of my last post and my thoughts on the new year and how sometimes I think we don’t give the whole “who we are in the moments we’re in” enough credit.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately–the need to focus on the present instead of all of the plans I think I need to be making.

And I was doing really good at it for the first week of the new year. But you guys, yesterday it was colder here than in frickin’ Antarctica and the North Pole…

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and I had a couple glasses of wine in the evening and my sister was here to instigate and my mom was here to cheer us on and my husband was in the “whatever you want wife” mood and before I knew it I booked him and I a trip to Jamaica.

I feel like it was a bit of a cabin fever, I’m freezing my ass off and it’s our tenth year of marriage and we never had a proper honeymoon impulse purchase, but it’s done and, well, I did say we needed to have more date nights so, well, take that new years resolution!

So that’s where we’ll be at the end of May. And until then you can find me and Edie in this house at the other end of a trail of bras. I’ll be there trying my damnedest to get this book done. I’m almost there friends.

Almost there.

If I could just keep Edie out of the kitchen cabinets.

Peace, love and childproofing,

Sunday Column: A resolution for more sweet things
by Jessie Veeder
1-8-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I’m finding it hard to concentrate this morning.

After another two days of more snow, the sun is finally shining bright through my window and the arctic, frosty air is creating a big rainbow halo over the stock dam.

If I didn’t know better, I would think it might actually be a nice day out there. But I’ve lived here long enough. This is what five below zero looks like.

The baby is at daycare, and it’s the first time in a couple weeks that I’ve been home without her. It’s quiet. I can hear the furnace turn on and off, the background music to the thoughts I should be thinking about the symbol of a new year, a fresh start, another chance to make myself better.

However, I keep getting distracted by the part of the internet that features tropical vacations while last night’s dishes stay piled in the sink and Edie’s toys stay scattered on the ground alongside the crumbs from the crackers she was carrying around, one in each hand, before her noodle supper.

Welcome to 2017.

It looks about exactly like 2016 except colder, messier and, well, there’s more snow.

I’ve always sort of hated the fact that the whole new-year-new-beginnings thing falls smack in the middle of the longest season. I mean, how does anyone expect to swear off carbs and start a treadmill regime in January in North Dakota when we need the extra padding the most? It’s irresponsible.

Talk to me in July about healthy resolutions, and I’ll be the first one to schedule us a hiking trip.

Talk to me about resolutions in January and, well, here are the necessary life changes that are on my mind:

  1. More snuggles
  2. More sleep
  3. More sweaters
  4. More vacations

Oh, and I should probably shovel off my deck before it collapses under the weight of the five foot snowdrift, but that looks like the only mildly productive resolution I’ve accumulated.

Don’t get me wrong, I have career goals brewing, and some fun projects coming down the pipe for 2017, but this year I’m not sure how complicated I want to get in making personal promises to myself.

Because I’ve spent the entire duration of 2016 in the new-to-me universe of motherhood, wondering what it is I should be doing and how my limited time, limited energy and limited money is best spent, a question that seems more pressing now that I’m responsible for a little one, and she grows and changes by the second.

And you know what I just realized? It isn’t caring for this new life that’s been so tiring and challenging. No. That’s been the fun part.

The hard parts have been on me and that nagging voice in my head that I keep nurturing, the one that keeps suggesting that what I’m doing isn’t enough.

Working more or home more? Daycare or no daycare? More play dates? More real dates? Early mornings spent writing? Even earlier mornings on the treadmill?

Nobody tells you that about new motherhood. They don’t tell you that the biggest adjustment is getting to know the new version of yourself after that baby is born.

It’s been over a year and I’m not sure I’m there yet, except I’m determined to stop being so hard on her in 2017.

I’m determined to like her. Because I haven’t written a song or done a lunge in months, but I have pulled a tiny human in a sled to the top of a snowy hill all in the name of a smile, and I think that might be just as important (and more aerobic) these days.

And I simply can’t bring myself to say I’m going to eat fewer caramel rolls in 2017 because the New Year needs more sweet things, not less.

So here’s a thought I’ve never really entertained in a life spent making plans (plans that got us to this very magical and demanding moment of our lives): Maybe what we’re doing right now is exactly what we need to be doing right now.

And maybe it’s perfect timing after all. January is the best month for snuggling.

 

 

Sunday Column: Thousands of miles away…


January is a tough month for us here in North Dakota. It’s smack in the middle of winter. It’s generally the coldest, the days are the shortest and the holidays are behind us…ahead of us? More winter.

To combat the January blues this year we decided to to break free before the New Year and ring it in somewhere warmer, somewhere that didn’t look anything like the rolling, white and brown ice colored hills and bare trees of the winter landscape at home.

So we packed up our swimming suits and our vacation hats, gathered our friends and headed to Mexico.

On a real vacation. One that wasn’t attached to some sort of work I had to do. (Which is typically the types of vacations Husband and I do).

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I told you about it a bit, I showed you the juxtaposition of it all in a slideshow of contrasting photos of bare skin and snowsuits.

But there was more to say about it I think. More to say about a chance to break free for a moment…

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It’s funny how a few days in a world so different, so far away from our own, sort of pulls you out of place, your own place, sweeps you off your feet, widens your eyes and lets down your hair.

But it wasn’t long before I started wondering what it might be like to really live there, on a place that touches the ocean. A place where cactuses stretch their arms to the sky and the wind blows sea salt and sand up on the shore, a place with sea fisherman instead of oil men.

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Who would I be here in this sand, under this sun? What would I love?

What would I do?

Coming Home: Finding yourself thousands of miles from home
Jessie Veeder
1-18-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

This week I’m back in Nashville, working on finishing up the new album. I’ll spend my days listening to instruments–dobros and guitars, fiddles and harmonies, fill up the spaces in my songs, songs about work and worry and love and landscape.

Songs about horses and home.

And I will sing and sing and sing to get every word right.

That’s the work I’ll do this week, hundreds and hundreds of miles from the buttes and the place that raised me…and I am so grateful for it.

We’re not in Cabo anymore…

We’re not in Cabo anymore.

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Nope.

photo 2We’re home.

Home to the great white and frickin’ frozen north.

You know what that weather report up there doesn’t say? It doesn’t say that the wind is blowing 50 MPH, making the air feel like it’s actually -30.

Which would mean when I got on the plane in Cabo on Tuesday morning and landed in Bismarck, North Dakota on Tuesday night, my body was asked to deal with a nearly 100 degree temperature difference.

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CABO!

NOT Cabo.

I can’t help but feel the shock of the juxtaposition that was the result of a couple plane rides …

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CABO!

NOT Cabo.

But oh, we had a nice trip. We wore vacation hats.

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We got some sun our our pasty white skin. We played beach volleyball and drank ridiculous drinks,

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we swam in the ocean,

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and rang in the new year in a blur of tequila and club music.

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And while we were doing those things, the wind was whipping in a cold front up north, as it tends to do in January.

But you know what they do in January in Cabo? They ride horses in shorts and bare feet on the beach.

Yup.

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CABO HORSES.

NOT Cabo horses.

Dammit, it’s cold here. No more vacation hats for us.

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Beach Couple

Arctic Tundra Couple

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White Sandy Shoreline  

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Just a white line

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Cabo Husband.

Freezing Husband.

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Cabo couple

Umm,  no…
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Cabo Cactus

Not a Cabo Cactus 

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30 below zero and windy sisters

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Vacation feet.  

Not on vacation anymore feet

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Warm weather pet

Jessie and Dogs

A more snuggly version

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A beachy drink

coffee

A blizzard-y drink

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A walk on the beach

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Ah, son of a beettchh…

And that’s it. No, we’re not in Cabo anymore boys and girls…

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But we’re not beach people really.

We’re pale and pasty northerners with a large collection of wool socks. And we’re home.

And no matter what the sky is doing in Mexico, or Jamaica, or Sunny California,  it’s always good to be here.

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Falling out of the sky…


So you might have noticed there hasn’t been much news from the ranch lately and I have some explaining to do. See, in the last week the world has kept turning out here, the steers have been grazing, the trees have been budding, the crocuses have been blooming and the dogs have been running away…and so have we. All the way to South Padre Island to meet up with some of my favorite people on the planet.

Sometimes after months of dangling from ladders, chasing the damn dogs, climbing around in the hills, cooking casseroles, trudging through the mud in muck boots and  waiting for spring you just have to throw your hands in the air and go find a place where summer never leaves.

So we closed up the house and pointed our car toward the plane that would take us to South Padre Island, TX. A place where the ocean crashes on white sand,  the air is just the right type of damp, leaving my hair in that scary place between chia pet and Bride of Frankenstein, and our friends were waiting for us with open arms and giant glasses full of tequila.

I have been planning this trip for months, looking forward to the warm sunshine and an ocean swim, but mostly anxious to wrap my arms around this group of friends who squeezed their way into my heart six years ago with their crazy sense of humor, open-minds, open arms, and just the right amount of grace and intelligence mixed in with a willingness to look and act absolutely ridiculous for the sake of a good belly laugh.

The truth is, I could go anywhere with these people, we could do anything, from scaling the tallest mountains to grinding out paperwork in a cubicle, and we have always have fun…as long as someone has the sense to provide appropriate hats.

And on this agenda we would need them because our days were filled with things like ocean swimming,


cocktail sipping,


pool floating, hot tub soaking, fishing for our supper,

sunset sailing, beach walking…


lawn chair lounging,

 and skydiving.


Yup. You heard me.

Sky. Dive. Ing.

This landlocked woman from the prairie who gets woozy from looking over the edge of an anthill, who just a week ago was hyperventilating about her husband’s location on the top of a ladder signed up for an activity that sent me flinging my body out of a questionable airplane and plummeting to my inevitable death at 150 miles per hour strapped to a laid back man with bad-ass tattoos and even more bad-ass dreadlocks.

I don’t know what was going through my mind when I responded “Yes, Yes, Yes!” to my friend’s email request for company as he attempted this death-defying activity. I am not sure what compelled me to make the decision to be his companion on this adventure except I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather jump out of an airplane with. This friend, he’s always made me feel like I could do anything. And I believe him.

So we greeted one another with hugs and tequila and made our plan to face death.

Friday at noon.

It only took a nod of my head to get husband on board with the idea. Skydiving? Why the hell not?

And so we were off. I contemplated my outfit carefully that morning, wondering what would look best on me as a flattened corpse on the beaches of the island. Wondering what would be less appetizing to the sharks if I were to land in the ocean. I chose a pair of blue shorts and an unassuming black tank top. A classic and easy look for someone looking death in the face, and all of the paperwork that goes with it.

It turns out though, that when you are harnessed up and huddled at the back of an airplane that reminds you of a really loud VW bus, the last thing you are thinking about is your wardrobe.

No. As you stare into the face of the adventurous friend who got you into this predicament just moments before he launches his body out of the buzzing and bouncing aircraft, you wonder if maybe you should have peed first.

And as the VW plane reaches the inevitable 11,000 feet, you think about your husband who just moments before you was sent spirling through the air. You think how pissed you will be if he became a sand pancake…you wonder who will unclog the drain and finish fixing the deck…

then you think of how pissed his momma will be when you explain to her whose idea this was…

Your mind snaps back to your immediate situation when your instructor pulls you toward his lap, the plane bouncing well above the fluffy clouds. You notice that you can see the curvature of the earth. You think you might be able to see the ranch from here. You wonder if you’ve gone crazy. You remember that you belong down there, on the prairie, with the animals that graze the grass, the ones who don’t swim or fly or launch themselves out of the sky.

As your traveling companion latches up and secures your body to his own, connecting the two of you together by only a few, in your opinion, inadequate straps and hooks, the thought enters your mind that this man’s instructions to arch your back and lift your arms could be the last voice you will ever hear. Then you ask him if maybe you should have had dinner or coffee first…you know, to get to know one another…

But it’s too late, he laughs as the door of the plane flies open and a rush of air hits you like a slap across the face. He feels your body tense up and tremble as you watch your most adventurous and lovely friend swing his legs over the side of the plane and then drop out of sight.

You wonder if you’ll ever see him again.

You wonder if you ever told him that you liked his new haircut.

You hope he peed before he got in the plane.

You wish again, that you would have done the same…

Then suddenly the man who strapped himself to you is moving toward that very same door and you discover you are moving too. You think, “Wait, I don’t even know your last name!” but before you can ask what it is, or what his tattoos mean, or what his father does for a living, where he’s from, what is his favorite food, animal, plant, color, he is sitting in the doorway of the plane at 11,000 fricking feet above the tiny strip of island surrounded by ocean and really tall, sharp buildings and he is telling you to put your left leg out there on the ledge. And because you’re strapped to this man and your life is literally in his hands dangling out of an airplane you are compelled to listen. The air coming into the open door of the plane is so strong that you have to help your leg move with your hand.

You think about this for a second, about how the universe might be telling you something, that maybe, maybe…may…

And then…

I supposed you guessed the outcome, that I survived and so did my two companions. I have never been so happy to feel the sand between my toes, to hear the cheers of my best friends in the world screaming my name, to see the sparkling ocean and finally catch my damn breath already.

And I’ve never been in love with another man, but I think I might now be in love with this guy, the dreadlocked, tattooed, hero from South Padre Island that nearly killed me and saved my life all in the matter of ten minutes.

When they asked me about my favorite part of jumping out of a plane, I am pretty sure I said “when it was over.”

And then I breathed “I’m alive!” and ran into the arms of my friends, the friends who make me feel more alive in their presence, more capable, more free and loved and hilarious and beautiful than I will ever feel jumping from a plane.

But  I wouldn’t have anyone else there waiting for my crazy ass to touch down. And for them I would jump out of a plane, climb a cactus, sing in an opera, climb Mt. Everest, run a marathon, swim with the sharks, dance like Lady Gaga, backflip off a cliff, and grow wings and fly…because they make me believe it’s possible.

Peace and love from the solid ground of the ranch!

*All photos from Skydive South Padre Island. Thanks for the adventure guys! And thanks for bringing us safely to earth!

The Yellowstone I remember…

Today I am packing up everything practical I can grab in preparation for a trip to Yellowstone National Park. The plan is to wagon train with the immediate family and meet the rest of the hooligans there for a family reunion.

And although the number one place I like to spend time in the fleeting summer is right here in the cozy little nook of the ranch,  I am so looking forward to gathering with relatives I haven’t seen for years.

I am also excited to go back to a place that holds some of the best memories for me.

See, Yellowstone was the first vacation husband and I took together, before the ring, before the wedding under the big oak tree, before we knew exactly what we were doing and where we were going, knowing somewhere int there that it didn’t matter, we just wanted to go together.

So I am writing this in a hurry as that man I would go anywhere with has just walked in the door from work and is ready to pack up and head out. That same man who, eight years ago, loaded up his dad’s old pickup and pickup camper in 110 degree temperatures and drove his girlfriend across the state of North Dakota and on into Montana with no air conditioning, watching affectionately as grasshoppers from the open window flew into her hair and sweat dripped down her back. He drove the entire way, up mountain passes, stopping in tiny towns for her to pee and cool off to show her a place he loved, and knew she would love too.

This trip will be different, we will be more prepared, we will not have the oldest camper in the tri-state area, we will have air conditioning and we will be surrounded by people who we both call family now.

But, taken from the archives, this is the Yellowstone I remember, and I know it will not disappoint. Because some things have stayed the same since then–and sitting next to him with miles and miles of road and adventure stretched out ahead of us, our favorite song in our ears and an affection and trust that just keeps growing between us are some of them.

That and my fear of grizzly bears.

Don’t worry, I’ve been practicing dropping quickly into a fetal position…

See you back at the ranch!

 

 

Play like a man.

Husband folds my underwear in perfectly neat little squares. Husband cooks me bacon on Sunday morning while I wait impatiently in the adjoining room because he knows that I cannot be trusted alone with bacon. Husband ventures out in the cold spring air to push the snow away from the house.

Husband makes me drink Theraflu when I have a cold, even though it makes me gag and whine the entire duration of the illness. Husband unclogs my hair-ball from the shower drain and has never said a word about it really.

Husband reminds me to put the lid on the toilet when I’m done because he is genuinely concerned there is a possibility I will drop something, like my toothbrush or a bath towel in there…

Husband’s most usually right.

Husband doesn’t get mad when I forget to check the pockets of his jeans before I send them through the washer and dryer…along with his pocketknife, dollar bills, lists, pens, wrenches and other super important work things I didn’t notice.

Husband thinks I look pathetic in the morning with my head buried under the pillows and no matter how much I tell him he NEEDS to wake me up when he leaves for work at 5:30 am he claims he just can’t do it. I’m too pathetic and he’s too sweet so he puts his socks on in the dark and leaves me a cup of coffee in the pot for when I actually do rise (not quite shining).

Husband fixes drippy faucets…by ripping the entire shower apart and putting it back together with beautiful new tile.

Husband lets the cats sit on the desk to look out the window at the birds…breaking every rule he has about cats.

Husband folds my underwear in neat little squares…did I mention this already?

Did I mention husband needs a break?

Yes. Husband needs a break.

Not just any break. A real break. A break complete with a big pickup hitched up to a horse trailer pulling big boy toys off into the wild blue yonder as the speakers howl out Johnny Cash and his little brother hits the gas and hands him a big bag of Cheetos and a candy bar and promises him a glass or two of whiskey on the rocks when they get to that yonder he’s been talking about for weeks.

And so it was yesterday evening as I pulled into the drive and witnessed the Redneck Extravaganza that appeared as two grown men morphed into excited and giddy young boys pushing and craning and squeezing two fancy snowmobiles into our horsetrailer. A horsetrailer  that has hauled livestock and horses and home renovation supplies and all of our earthly possessions all over the country and still, no matter what, continues to boast a nice, unmovable layer of poop residue on the floor.

I will tell you, I had to take photos, because this piece of ranch equipment wasn’t meant to haul anything this shiny. Nothing this expensive.

I also had to take photos in case this was the last time I ever saw husband again–with so many reasons for him to never return home and so many ways he could be lethally injured riding this machine as fast as it can go up and down mountains without a voice of reason nearby to tell him to watch out for: avalanches, huge hidden rocks, man-eating raptors, grizzly bears, fences that could decapitate him, mountain caves covered in snow that could swallow him up, poisonous berries, aliens, and most dangerous of all, himself.

No. There would be nobody there to save him from the reckless teenager I know exists in that man-sized body of his–the one who used to drive 115 miles per hour down country roads in his Thunderbird during a blizzard to see a girl he might have liked a little, the kid who has been known to climb to the top of the highest cliff and do a backflip on his way down to the un-navigated water below, the boy who used to ride all over the badlands on the back of his three-wheeler, jumping cliffs and climbing buttes and more than occasionally landing on, crushing and dislocating countless bones along the way, the kid who…oh forget it…I can’t talk about this anymore…I need to take a break to check our insurance policy…

O.K. Anyway, husband has been working really hard these last few months. And although it doesn’t look like it at the ranch, Western North Dakota is a happening place right now due to the booming oil industry and husband works right in the thick of it. And he’s really good at his job.

So good and dedicated that lately he’s been working nearly 12 hour days only to come home to a wife who has an issue with a drippy faucet, burned the Hamburger Helper to his favorite pan, forgot that we don’t have a garbage disposal and left the lights on in his pickup, draining the battery while galavanting around the ranch…again.

Sssooorrryyyaaa...

Yes, with a wife like this it’s a good thing God granted men the unfaltering ability to play. Like really play. Have you ever noticed this about the species? When men get together they DO things. They hunt. They fish. They play basketball, cards or football. They ride things like 4-wheelers, motorcycles, snowmobiles or boats around. They ski or snowboard or grab a hockey puck and stick and practice their slap-shot. And if they can’t do these things in real life, they do it in the form of video games, watch other guys do it on TV or talk about all the times they have done the above activities together…and who got hurt along the way.

I admire this about men. I admire the play. I admire how they can just let it all go, the faucet, the clogged drain, the one-eyed pug that cost him a fortune, and go to a place to let loose in friendship and brotherhood and good old fashioned fun. And they don’t make excuses. They don’t justify. They don’t prioritize or time themselves or feel guilty about it. They just play.

So anyway, this weekend it’s just me, the cats, the lab and the one-eyed pug in a cone holding down the fort while husband is out inventing new ways to hurt himself and mom and pops are headed to visit my grandparents in Arizona.

The definition of pathetic...

And I don’t mind, as long as there are no more blizzards, power outages, porcupine encounters, coyote incidents or alien invasions while the troops are gone everything will be fine.

Anyway, I have a list a mile long that I have been meaning to get to that requires me to get up at the crack of dawn to check pockets, fold my underwear, unclog the sink, take out the garbage,  caulk the newly tiled shower, close the lid on the toilet seat and spend some time with bacon…

Bacon+Me=lack of self control, guilty, fat-laden, salty, happiness

But when I’m finished not doing all of the above (except, of course, the bacon part…) I think I might take husband’s lead and start on the other list–you know, the one that requires me to paint my toenails, watch movies that feature a man named Matthew McConaughey, play my guitar and sing really loud, venture into town to listen to other people do the same thing while kicking back a cocktail, eat cereal and popcorn for supper, catch up on all of my Glamour and People magazines, practice my sweet dance moves without scrutiny from onlookers and critics, eat cereal and popcorn for lunch, watch movies that feature a woman named Julia Roberts, tie up the phone-line chatting up my girlfriends, let the pug and the cats sleep in my bed, avoid the laundry at all costs…

…and not feel the least big guilty about it.

I hope you will all make like a man and do the same…

or at least your version of it…

…and for the love of Martha, watch out for avalanches.

Friends like this…

I am coming off of the best vacation high this Monday morning. There was cooking and wine, friends and games and outdoor adventures and wildlife sightings, singing, baby snuggling, great conversation, laughter, celebration and sitting under the stars in a hot tub with a Champaign toast.

The best part? I didn’t have to get out of my stretchy pants or put on a stitch of makeup.

Not once.

The other best part? I didn’t have to leave home.

Because these really wonderfully beautiful (inside and out) friends of ours chose to celebrate a huge accomplishment and an exciting step in their funky and exciting lives by braving the winter chill to load up their own stretchy pants and scarves to take the three-hour trip through oil country to visit us at the ranch in the middle of nowhere–despite an awkward phone call from yours truly the morning before their departure explaining that they may or may not have power or water or lights when they got here, but please, we would love to have you anyway.

Without batting an eye, they loaded up a few extra pairs of wool socks and another bottle of booze and headed for the hills, unfazed by the potential of an authentic roughing it old-school style experience.

These are my kind of people.

Heading out on our snow-shoe trip to work off all the wine and food we had the night before.

So once the power returned, my vacuum and I got reacquainted. Then I introduced myself to the Windex bottle and that went so well that I thought it would be a perfect time to meet my mop and just like that my cleaning supplies and I we were set for their arrival.

The arrival of two people who deserved a great getaway after years of higher education and a final exam that added a second Master’s degree to the couple’s accomplishments and a great adventure ahead. And I am so proud of them, even though it means they are going to pack up their little car and move further away from me.

But I guess it’s not always about me is it?

Damn.

Anyway normally when we have company at the ranch I try to come up with some activities we can do to show them around the place and help them fall in love and relax and have a little adventure. I schedule in meals and music and a little trip somewhere down the road to the lake or the river or the badlands. And we take photos and take it easy because I want them to remember it fondly. I want them to come back for crying out loud.

Crunching through the hard packed snow, with a sprinkle of fresh stuff floating in the air...

But these guests of mine have been here before. The have ridden our horses, zipped off to the lake to take a boat ride, hiked and barbecued with us in the summer sunshine and chatted under the stars at the campfire. And I think they genuinely love the place and its open skies and rolling buttes and coyotes howling at sunrise and sunset. I think they’re already sold.

Heading into the trees and the deep snow...

cutting a trail...

They love it so much that they can overlook the work that needs to be done here when the snow melts–the building that needs a new roof, the deck that will be replaced, the old equipment that is scheduled to be moved, the fencing that needs to be done. They don’t think twice about it because they understand, that this is what a working ranch looks like. And it isn’t always perfect. The fences don’t always align and the paint on the buildings don’t always match.

Husband telling a story of how elk live here in the summer...

But that’s not why they come.

Playing fetch with some enthusiastic participants...

They come to see us, to eat husband’s homemade noodles and the steak he cooked on the grill in sub-zero temperatures. They come to tell us their stories and hear ours. They come to laugh and teach us a card game and make a toast to friendship and accomplishments. They come to meet my sister and nephew. They come to tease me for my quirks and be the punch line for my jokes. They come to talk about marriage and life’s inconveniences and their adventures and worries and fears and to hear they’re not alone.

And to make sure we know that we aren’t either.

They come to walk the hills and take with them a new experience–to breathe in the wild, fresh air I tell them I love so much.

They come to love it too.

Climbing the hill...

taking in the view...

getting out the binoculars...

to spot...

...buffalo on the horizon

And as our friends packed up their car to head down the road and back to their home I realized I am not sure when I will see them again as they head off into a new adventure that will take them across the country and miles and miles from us. But I am not worried, because this friendship that we’ve found is worth traveling for. And we will make plans to see them in their world, just as they have done for us. We will make plans to walk their hills and eat at their favorite restaurants and drink their coffee and meet their family and hear their stories.

Because that’s what friends do. The come and see you.

And they don’t care if you don’t vacuum, or if your microwave is the first model ever invented, or if your dog got in the garbage while you weren’t paying attention, or if they didn’t see you in real pants or makeup the entire duration of the visit. Because they are right there with you, stretchy pants and all, whipping up a perfect batch of guacamole and helping with the dishes and laughing in the little old house behind the snowbanks in the middle of nowhere, together while the coyotes howl at the stars.

Here’s hoping you have friends like that.

A warm vacation in a cold place…

So I made it home alive. I know some of you were worried seeing as the last time you heard from me I  was putting chili in a Tupperwear container and requesting your prayers on my way out the door to hit the slopes of Minnesota on the shore of Lake Superior–headed toward music, mayhem and dangerous winter sports.

Yes. I am all about the danger.

So I left the cozy little snow pile that is my corner of the world for another cozy, bigger snow pile across a couple states.

Because sometimes all a girl needs to make it through the winter is a beanie and a much steeper, icy slope to slide down.

…and one of her BFFs…

…a BFF who will sport a union suit and pose with you by the fire just because it’s funny…

And a little sister who will do the same….

…a little sister who I just realized looks a lot like Burt Reynolds…

…oh, and some tinsel…

…and a couple bands who play the fire out of every stringed instrument I’ve ever loved…and then throw in a clogging percussionist just to make sure my heart is nice and melty…

…and of course, some beautiful scenery….

So yes, I made it back to the ranch alive and I would like to tell you that the only time I fell during the entire ski trip was down the steps going out of our condo.

And up the steps at the bar.

And down the hill to the hot tub.

Hmmm, having put that in print, I’m now thinking that’s not such a good thing….

Anyway, other than that, and a couple bruises on my butt from where the lift smacked me multiple times (that damn thing catches me off guard) I am doing pretty good…

…which is more than I can say for my fearless, snowboarding, determined sister…

So I am working on the back to real life thing as we speak. But I have to tell you, the chili was delicious, the company hilarious, the drive treacherous, but we made it across the great state of North Dakota and on up to northern Minnesota, stopping through the most adorable towns where the local men still drink coffee at the Cenex and talk about the weather and the ice fishing and wonder out loud where the road-weary, frizzy haired, bundled up North Dakotans were headed, besides the restroom.

Oh Minnesota, town after town, just like the real life Lake Wobegon.

I love it.

And I love a good road trip that takes me down highways and dirt roads and through towns that remind me of why we need to get out and see and touch and breathe and live in this world.

Because I love where I live and all its familiarity, but I love to leave too, you know, every once in a while.  I love the art of packing up my favorite sweaters and socks and jeans and shoes and then realizing that three bags is a ridiculous amount of luggage to bring for three days, so I learn to love the art of unpacking some sweaters and shoes and adding in some leg warmers and six hats and nineteen graphic tees and a banjo…

I love planning our meals and closing up the house tight and singing at the top of my lungs to the music coming out of dashboard speakers. I like sitting close in the cab of a warm vehicle while the trees and farmsteads and snow fly by outside our window as we anticipate our destination and eat handfuls of Cheetos and Skittles and Snickers bars.

 

Don't judge me, I'm on vacation...

I love that sitting in a car for hours on end is a valid excuse to eat handfuls of Cheetos and Skittles and Snickers bars.

And I love to arrive in a place I have never been and make it my home for a few days. I like to reside in a schedule that includes decisions like: “Should I take a nap?” “When should we eat?” “What kind of cocktail should I invent?” “Should we sit in the hottub tonight?” “What games should we play?” “When should we hit the slopes?” and “Do I really need to shower?”

I like the feeling of making plans with traveling partners hand picked as the cream of the crop who have the same intentions of a casual adventure laced with chips and cheese and fresh air and not picking up after ourselves…

…you know, the people who applaud and laugh until they pee a little when you slide on your ass all the way down a slippery flight of stairs in your first attempt to enter the mountain air to hit the slopes. Yes, they laugh hysterically at you and your fresh bruise, but only after they make sure you are not bleeding profusely.

And as much as I like to be surrounded by the people I adore who I can count on to peel my sorry ass off of the frozen ground and carry my stuff as I limp it off, I like the idea of going somewhere on a mission, somewhere I am surrounded by strangers on the same mission to see, to listen, to take pictures and conquer mountains and have a cocktail or two and laugh until they pee.

Which got me thinking a bit about time well spent as we were making the twelve hour drive back to the ranch on Sunday through a few blizzards and the darkness. Because when most people around here visualize a vacation, especially in the dead of winter, they think of going somewhere with sandy beaches and warm sunshine and Cabana boys with bottles of sunscreen waiting for them. I don’t think many consider driving themselves and a bowl full of chili to someplace slightly colder with a bit more snow and then actually choosing to hang out and frolic in the weather.

But you know, I couldn’t have been warmer by that fireplace sharing stories and dealing cards. I couldn’t have laughed harder as husband tapped his toes to the beat of a bluegrass band and smiled for the camera as all of the worries about a new house, a business plan and work on Monday melted away under his blue snowsuit.

I couldn’t have been more at ease dangling my legs, attached to skis, on a lift moving me up a mountain…

…well, I take that back, I could have been more at ease, but for a girl who doesn’t like heights, I think stifling my screaming was as good as it gets…

This is my "I'm not scared" face...

And I couldn’t have been happier knowing that there are places, wonderful places in this world with snow covered trees and lakes that lick miles and miles of rugged shores dotted with small towns full of great, simple people who don’t ask for much but a little time to play. I couldn’t feel better knowing that there are people who have music inside them who choose to share it with joy and foot stomping gladness out of their mouths or a banjo or tapping feet and into an evening filled with listening ears. I couldn’t be more intrigued by the idea that the big wide world is mine to see, mine to hear, mine to fall down and lift up and get lost in…

And I can load up my car with my chili and my sweatpants and my shoes and my union suit and my best friends and be there if I want to…

…and come home again to a paradise of my own.