Comfort found in the rain drops

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 7.18.27 AM

It’s raining this morning. The windows to my bedroom are open and I woke to the sound of it trickling from the sky in the darkness, the bathroom light on and my husband already up, downstairs, brewing coffee and getting our baby dressed for her day at daycare.

Although it took me a while to realize. That’s usually my job. I get her up and properly snuggled and dressed so he can take her down the road with him. But I blinked my eyes open to listen to the rain, and then I heard them on the baby monitor sitting on my nightstand, the clicking and swishing and chattering of our morning ritual.

“Blankie?” She said.

“Yes baby,” he said.

And I thought, “how sweet,” and that I could just lay here under these covers, under this roof, listening to the sound of the rain and their chatter as I drifted back to sleep.

But then I remembered her hair’s probably a huge mess, some standing straight up, some sticking straight out and the rest down in her eyes and she will need her ponytail, and her dad, with his big, calloused fingers, gets nervous about ponytails.

So I swung my legs over the bed and shuffled down the stairs, rubbing my eyes and sneaking up on them as they entered the hallway.

“Oh good, just in time!,” he smiled, handing me our daughter with one arm while carefully placing the tiny pink elastic hair tie in my hand. She laid her head on my shoulder and we sat together in the chair, putting on her finishing touches for the day, her shoes, her flowered jacket and, yes, her little ponytail before her dad swooped her up and down the road in the rain.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 7.21.12 AM

Eleven years married and this is what our life is now, a series of balancing and handoffs and what’s for supper? Did she eat? Did she bath? Did you see her latest trick? And some days this life feels more overwhelming and out of our control than others, with a crazy schedule and bills and bad news and bad weather and bad things happening to good people and we can’t do much about so much…

But this morning we all rose slowly together under the calm quiet of the morning, a team of a little family who has each other’s hands, and hearts and ponytails under the roof that is a our messy little sanctuary, under a sky that’s raining again…

Thank God it’s raining again.

Coming Home: The hope that lives in a rain shower
Forum Communications

Rainbow over east pasture

It rained last weekend. For the first time since spring arrived, the clouds rolled in during the early morning and they hung over the land all day like a sweet, life-giving blanket, sending waves of drenching water, turned to sprinkles, turned to mist turned back to heavy rain, on and off all day.

It rained. It really rained last weekend. And it didn’t matter if there was an outdoor event planned, or a camping trip, or a parade — we all welcomed it on our skin, remembering what it felt like to be given a promise that the dust will settle.

We’ve been waiting for this moisture for months, although the drought hasn’t affected us or hit us as hard as our neighbors to the south. Our hay crop is alright this year. We have enough grass. Our livelihoods don’t fully depend on the cattle we raise. We’ll be fine.

Others are not so lucky this time around.

And I can’t help but think of how the weather controls us as I stand with my face pressed to the screen door, letting the rain speckle my cheeks, watching it drip off of the deck railing, shiver the leaves on the trees, turn the garden dirt black and open my purple petunias up for a drink.

It’s magic really. I’ve been watering those flowers for months from the sink every day with Edie and her little green plastic watering can. And they were fine, if not a little sad and hopeless sitting there stuck in the hot sun in those pots.

And then it rained like it did and they grew new leaves, petals sprouted overnight, vines reached toward the sky and they were alive again, with one big gulp.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 7.23.00 AM

I felt like those flowers, sluggish and worried about lightning strikes and fires, stuck inside in the afternoons with Edie, eating popsicles and both of us refusing to put on pants.

I remember hot summers like this from my childhood, the sharp, dry grasses scratching our bare legs as the buzz of the hoppers cut through the heat.

The dog days of summer had its own smells of dusty hay bales and sprinklers waking up the lawn. It tasted like water from the hose and sweat and push-up pops on Grandma’s front porch. It felt like the prick of a cactus after a misplaced seat and mosquito bites itched clean off the skin and sweaty horsehair sticking to your legs after a bareback ride to pick chokecherries.

But when it rained, it changed our world from dust to mud, from popsicles to warm soup, from itchy legs to soaked jeans, from grasshoppers to chickadees, from sprinklers to puddles.

And maybe it’s just how I was raised, but even as a kid, even on the days I planned on swimming in the big lake or meeting friends at the pool or riding my horse in the parade in town, I can’t remember ever being disappointed by a summer shower, knowing full well, maybe even then, that in those tiny drops, hope lives.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 7.23.28 AM

Listen to my song, “Raining”
From the album “Nothing’s Forever”

Buy it on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby or on jessieveedermusic.com

Rain or shine, this is the life we chose

IMG_8060

We’ve been in the middle of a heat wave out here for the last couple weeks, and it’s not looking to cool off or rain anytime soon. After a long, really snowy winter, I thought we might continue the moisture trend throughout the rest of the year, but it turns out that was just a hope.

We haven’t had a good rain for months and months and we’re better off than most of the state. Fire danger is high, and there’s one raging in the badlands as I type. It worries me. It worries everyone. That’s one thing we all have in common up here in the north. We all know worrying about the weather.

Last weekend we took a quick trip to the other side of the big lake to meet up with my inlaws who were camping there. While we were leaving a little storm cell blew through, darkening the sky and soaking the ground. We never drove in the rain, but we were in its aftermath on the way home. I rolled my windows down and breathed it in.

There’s nothing like the smell of rain on a hot summer day.

It’s heaven.

IMG_8055

It’s hard to believe when I’m sitting here in as little clothes as a pregnant woman can get away with in the summertime, that it was ever thirty below zero and completely white out here. We live in such extremes.

And that’s what this week’s column is about. It’s a little different take on the summer and the weather and just how crazy we really are when it comes to packing as much fun and work as we can in our three months of what we envision as being a California-esque summer.

Which it never is. No matter how we grit our teeth and bare it.

IMG_8023

Rain or Shine, this is the life we chose

“Well, I guess this is the life I chose,” he said as he pulled on his boots and headed out the door. “Work all day in 100 degrees so I can come home and work all night in it.”

Yup. That’s the story out here on the ranch where we can’t quit our day jobs. And on evenings when the wind settles down and the sun sets just right on cows grazing on green grass in their proper places, it feels pretty dang good.

But then there are days like today where you wonder if you might be able to fry an egg on the back of those black cows and the tractor won’t start and you just roll up your sleeves, wipe the sweat, crawl back under the tractor and hope to hell in those 10 minutes of scratching your head that you’ve magically developed the necessary mechanic skills and do what you gotta do.

IMG_8147 (1)

Rain or shine. That’s what they say. Whoever coined that phrase obviously didn’t live in North Dakota. If they did they would’ve likely added a few more elements – like hail – or 50 mile-per-hour winds – or blinding, sub-zero blizzards. I get that about this place. And I get that about the work.

But what’s been amusing me lately is the fact that up here we seem to apply the same motto to the idea of fun. Because it’s summer here, and dang it, we’re gonna stand in the street with a beer and listen to this band regardless of the fact that it’s 40 degrees and sleeting. It’s JUNE! We only have three months to fit in all of our outdoor activities, people!

Just a few weeks ago, I went to my niece’s softball game where we all wore gloves and beanies and sat in lawn chairs under blankets while we watched the cold wind whip these poor children to a misery, and I couldn’t help but wonder at what point we stop referring to this as a fun and games.

IMG_7410

Don’t even get me started on the memories I have of monsoon rain turning high school rodeo arenas into soup while our mothers sat steadfast, writing scores on soggy programs shielded from the brutal weather only by visors and the slicker that’s been sitting at the bottom of the horse trailer since last year’s rodeo in Elgin.

Oh, I come by this observation honestly. As a musician who’s spends her summers singing on flatbed trailers in my home state in the name of a festival, I’ve feel I’ve been with you through it all. But nothing sums up the insanity of our people better than the view I had from the stage on the capitol grounds on the 125th birthday of our great state a few years back. As the rain shot sideways into my eyeballs, I sang Red River Valley to a crowd of diehard North Dakota neighbors as they swayed back and forth under umbrellas and makeshift newspaper hats and I wondered if this is how I might go out, electrocuted by my soaking microphone – because 100 degrees or pouring rain, this is the life we chose.

IMG_8021

Moo.

We’re thawing out a bit out here after a string of frozen days. Looks like the foreseeable future will be quite a few degrees above zero and that lifts our spirits a bit.

I’m ready for spring (and lets, be honest, that Jamaican vacation) and this baby’s ready to get outside and try out her new running skills without the cumbersome giant marshmallow snowsuit I made her wear last week when we went out feeding cows.

img_6934

But the kid doesn’t seem to mind. As long as we’re out doing stuff and seeing stuff and chatting about it, she’s happy.

img_6941img_6937

Feeding cows is a chore she likes to help with. And since the snow has melted a little and we can feed with the pickup instead of the tractor, we can go along again.

img_6945

I’ve always loved the way the cows look coming in for feed, in a black (and now some brown) line in the white snow. It’s like moving, breathing art (and hungry) to me.

img_6949img_6950img_6952img_4535

Art that says “Moo!”

Hot Dish and Ice Slabs and how to stay warm in the winter

img_6917

Coming Home: Hot dish and ice slabs key to staying warm in the winter
by Jessie Veeder
1-22-16
http://www.inforum.com

Northerners. We like to boast that we’re hardy and resilient and can stand up against the biting, sub-zero, blizzardy cold without much consequence besides a bad case of hat head.

We can handle our feet and our pickup tires on icy paths, and we know how to hunker down and make it through on hot dish and hot soup.

We like to say this place isn’t for the faint of heart.

I say these things too, but sometimes while using up a good 40 minutes and all of my back muscles shoveling 200 of the 15,000 pounds of snow off our deck, I start making a list of all of the reasons people live closer to the equator.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now having lived up here for the majority of my life, but the truth is these North Dakota winters have always been hard on me.

The inevitable bitter cold and lack of sunshine starts to convince me that I’m doing all the wrong things in the wrong place and that life is harder and sadder and more desperate than it really is, sending me into a bit of a depression I’m always aware of but have never been successful at curing without help from the weather.

It’s a lonely feeling, but I know I’m not alone in it.

img_4386

No matter what we like to say to make ourselves sound tough and resilient I think we all struggle a bit with the deep freeze and endless white of this season. This is what I tell the new residents in my community with southern accents, trudging through the grocery store line in brand new muck boots and knit beanies pulled down over their ears wondering out loud how much colder and how much longer.

I’m not sure it’s hopeful or particularly helpful, but I try to stay as honest as the place that raised me. “It’s cold. It sucks. But we’re all in it together,” I say.

Maybe that’s the key to surviving it, but I think it’s something our ancestors might have been better at, perhaps because they didn’t have a choice between human contact and three billion television shows piped into our living rooms where you can watch other people live their lives in warmer places, like Antarctica or the moon.

But nothing warms your body and lifts your spirits better than living, breathing bodies eating, talking and laughing in a house together.

And lately I’ve been noticing more boots in the entryway and more dishes in the sink, a result of the invites, phone calls and drop-bys that have piled up as family and friends work to beat these winter blues by simply finding ways to be in closer proximity.

Because no matter the plot line, it turns out actually living your life is more interesting than watching pretend people live theirs.

img_4363

I suppose that’s what I was thinking when I agreed to be in a weekly curling league, a brand new endeavor organized in my hometown to give the community another cold weather weapon.

Curling is a winter sport that’s been explained as golf on ice, so I have no business being there really, considering it’s a combination of descriptors (ice/golf/sports in general) that have been known to torture me in the past.

img_4328-1

My team consists of my husband, little sister and brother-in-law, and between the four of us, we have about a solid 10 days of actual curling experience, eight of which reside with my husband. But it doesn’t matter, because knowing what we’re doing isn’t the point (although my husband suggested I consider working less on visiting and more on technique).

The point, I think, is the very reason a weird sport that sends you slipping and sliding across the ice yelling “sweep” at your teammates was invented in the first place — because they didn’t have Netflix in the icy tundras of medieval Scotland.

img_4329

But, just like us, they had plenty of ice and we might as well use it to get some laughs out of this long, cold season.

Because this place may or may not be for the faint of heart, but maybe by spring I can add curling to the list of reasons people chose North Dakota over Texas.

img_4333

The last day of 2016: Just a few things.

img_4062

Welcome to the last day of 2016.

Out here it arrived in the form of high winds, blowing snow, icy roads and a no travel advisory, much like Christmas. So we did what I’ve been getting used to doing, we stayed home and did home things, like eating and playing toys, working on my book three minutes at a time, doing laundry and destroying every room in the house before cleaning it up and moving on to the next room.

Here how my daughter helps me put clothes away…

img_4089

Husband spends most of his free time in the tractor pushing snow around, which promptly just blows back in its place. On Thursday I planned on busting out of this joint to go to a movie with my niece and sister, but first Husband had to come home from work and clear the way. Seriously. So I found myself staring out the window in my coat watching for the tractor to come down the road like a little kid waiting for Santa. Because I hadn’t been out of the yard since the day after Christmas.

img_4087

But it’s been sorta nice. My niece was here for a few day visit so I had 13-year-old company and 13-month-old company and we all get along swimmingly.

img_4118

I should have spent some of this time in the black hole between Christmas and New Years to make a plan for the next year, to write it all down nice and neat, set some goals with intentions to see them through, but I didn’t. And I like goals. I like declaring them. It’s the only way I move forward with my work, make any new music or stories and  continue to justify doing what I love for a living. So there are some new career goals that have been brewing.

But this year, this 2017, I’m not sure how complicated I want to get in making personal promises to myself. I’ve spent the entire duration of 2016 in the new-to-me universe of motherhood and if there’s anything I’ve learned in the process it’s that the best thing I can do for myself is to work on being fine with what I’m doing and who I am in the here and now.

I feel like I’ve spent so much of this year wondering what it is I should be doing. Seriously. Most of my conversations have fallen into that category. Should I be working more? Should I be home more? Daycare? No Daycare? More play dates? More time with my friends? I should wake up early to write. I should wake up earlier to get on the treadmill. We need more date nights. Definitely more date nights.

Basically, I spent the year trying to figure out where and how my limited time and limited energy and limited money is best spent, a question that seemed more pressing now that I am responsible for a little one, and she grows and changes by the second.

img_4120

And it’s not that I wasn’t confident in my role as a wife and mother, it’s just that I wondered where the rest of me fit into my life now. Nobody tells you that about new motherhood. They don’t tell you that one of the biggest adjustments is finding and getting to know the new version of yourself after that baby is born.

It’s been a year and I’m not sure I’m there yet. But I’m getting closer. Like, I know that nurturing my creative energy and keeping that as the focus of my work continues to be important to me, but now it looks a little more like planning and work to find it (like, “gasp!” scheduling some alone time!)

And I know I’m a happier person when I get to spend actual quality time with my husband and daughter. And by quality time I just mean time spent being a family, feeding cows together, having supper or just playing on the living room rug, so I’m going to try to do more of that. It sounds simple, but between ranch work and work work and house building it hasn’t been. And neither has calling someone sometimes to watch her so the two of us can do some things on our own. I have to do more of that in 2017.

But I think that’s it. I think I’m not going to worry so much about the stuff in between. If I get to the treadmill, great! But I’d rather pull my daughter up the hill in her sled (if the damn  wind quits blowing) and get my huffing and puffing in that way.

img_4066

And I don’t want to say I’m going to eat less caramel rolls in 2017 because that’s just asking for disappointment.  And the new year needs more sweet things, not less.

And when I’m feeling a little scattered or lonesome, I’m going to call a friend. Because that’s what friends are for and I need to remember that, for me and for my friends as well.

Cheers to a New Year. Thanks for following along and sticking with this story of ours. And thanks for sharing yours along the way.

Here’s to collecting memories and making new ones. If you need us we’ll be out sledding with the neighbors.

Peace, champaign toasts and sippy cups,

Jessie

img_4145

 

 

 

Time, memories and the magic of Christmas

img_6826

Well, it was a Christmas to remember for so many reasons.

The first was waking up on Christmas Day to a baby who decided that she’s ready to full-fledge walk.

And so we spent the weekend watching her wobble and bobble and dance and clap and experience her world on two feet.

Tomorrow she’ll be running.

Next week she’ll tell me she’s training for a marathon.

img_6722

And in between all of the present wrapping and unwrapping, eating, drinking and being merry, an epic winter blizzard of North Dakota proportions raged outside our doors, making us grateful to be together warm and cozy inside…

img_6753

only to send the boys out the spend the entire next day behind tractors and skid steers and shovels trying to open the roads and feed the cows and whittle away at the ten foot drifts that had piled against our houses, doors and pathways.

And then there was a Christmas ditch situation and a memorable the-baby-ate-too-many-blueberries-and-other-Christmas-treats bedtime projectile vomit episode that will go down in infamy.

img_6771

And now that the company has gone and the wind has died down and the sun is out, making the chest-deep snowdrift on my deck sparkle and shine, I have a moment while the baby snacks on Cheerios (and blueberries…what’s wrong with me?) to share last week’s column about the magic of Christmas, which, I’ve decided, lies in the simple and crazy precious memories we create without even realizing it.

Even when nothing goes as planned.

img_6799

Christmas reminds us of the magic of time
12-25-16
Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I was too old to believe in Santa Clause when reality finally started tugging at my sleeves.

I tried to shoo the truth away as long as I could, not so eager to grow up and exist in a world surrounded by it because the truth never seemed quite as thrilling as the dreamed up.

I suppose I’ve always been one to hang on to the coattails of magic as long as it lets me, as long as it doesn’t grow too wild and reckless, sending me spinning and whipping off its haunches.

I think that’s what keeps me telling and retelling the best parts then, the ones from a childhood spent believing that maybe my horse could understand the words I spoke, my “secret spot” 12 feet off the road was actually secret and Santa Clause would exist as long as I found a way to never grow up.

I never wanted to grow up.

Of all of the memories I’ve collected as a kid in these hills, I remember that most clearly.

I was sensitive enough to the trials of adulthood to know that children had it best. I knew because I was listening from the other side of my closed bedroom door — hushed conversations in the kitchen while we were supposed to be sleeping, the stories of lost love coming from dad’s record player, the hugs from strangers at my grandparents’ funerals.

I knew what time did to people, and I wondered how I might make it miss me.

My grandpa died when I was six years old. His death brought our family back to the ranch for good, and it gave me another five years or so living down the road from my grandmother.

Actually, it gave us all that time with her, but I don’t own my family’s memories. I only have mine.

And I remember one summer evening lying in the patch of sun that lit up the carpet through the open window in my grandmother’s living room.

The TV was on, but it wasn’t as interesting to me as watching the way the dust caught the stream of light, turning it from invisible to visible.

My grandma had fallen asleep in her easy chair with a newspaper on her lap, her head tilted back, sort of snoring. She had a habit of holding a toothpick in the corner of her mouth, and I noticed as she took those deep, noisy breaths that her toothpick was still there, in danger, I was certain, of being sucked down her throat as she slept, unaware.

That’s the kind of kid I was, so comfortable and in love with the familiarity of my good and safe life, and a little too aware of its volatility, a little worried I was too lucky.

I sat up, eyes fixated on that toothpick, watching my grandmother’s lips purse and pop with each breath in and out, suddenly becoming distinctly aware of time.

I didn’t want to live in a world without her.

And I didn’t want to live in a world where time made me think it too cold for sledding or allowed me to walk by a swimming pool or a lake or the perfect puddle and not want to, (have to) jump in.

And so Christmas has come again, and the new year is right behind, bringing with it the recognition of time passed, new promises and reminders to miss the people who’ve left us here to admire the twinkling lights without them.

Now that I’ve succumbed to adulthood, I wish I could remember what it was like to truly believe in such an impossible thing like Santa Clause. My six-year-old self would be so disappointed in me.

But if I could, I would tell her a secret I’ve learned in the growing up we were so afraid of: I would say she was doing the right thing in holding on tight to her gratitude. Then I would tell her not to worry so much about time, because time gives us memories, memories we get to go back to whenever we want, but also, memories just waiting to be made.

And that, child, is the most magic you’ll find in this life.

Hold on tight to its tails.

screen-shot-2016-04-01-at-1-25-07-pm

Winter and why we’re never doing anything ever again…

img_6578-copy

It’s winter. It’s almost Christmas. December 21st. It’s official.

As if the weeks of sub-zero temperatures, snow piling up and blowing across the road and last nights freezing rain didn’t give us enough of a clue, we needed the calendar to confirm it.

Well, Happy Winter.

We’re going a little nutty around here, doing whatever it takes to find amusement while we’re socked in the house dealing with teeth problems and head colds, both mom and baby included.

There’s nothing more fun than a teething baby who can’t breathe out of her nose hanging out with her mom with a toothache who can’t breathe out of her nose.

Good thing we have the same sense of humor. Like, only a mother would find her child’s grapes-on-her-head-instead-of-in-her-mouth-trick funny.

What a weirdo.

img_3657

In a few days we’ll be celebrating Christmas with all the relatives we can get our hands on, so I’m hoping we can get our shit together. Husband’s been in on that goal. He’s actually helped me wrap presents this year, a task I find so amusing to watch, him hanging out on the floor with me hunched over little boxes, his big hands trying to maneuver little folds and pieces of tape, trying to get things just right and pretty in an adorable juxtaposition of masculine energy performing a task that requires some daintiness.

I’d post a photo of it, but he’d never help me again, soooooo…..

In other news, Husband and I finally took my little sister up on the offer of watching Edie for a few hours while we had an impromptu date night. I came to town with the baby to visit the nursing home on behalf of the Cattlewomen and afterwards I didn’t feel much like pushing my runny-nosed child through the aisles of the store trying to remember what I needed cream cheese for,

img_3894

so I called Little Sister and all was arranged. I would meet Husband after he was off work and our first night out together since the baby was born  (besides our anniversary vacation) would include grocery shopping and a burger.

Seriously. What’s wrong with us? Why don’t we go out together? We need to make a resolution. Did you get a haircut? Is that a new shirt? Are your eyes still brown? I forgot what you look like. Aren’t we having a good time? These are the things we talked about while I tried hard to remember that I didn’t need to hurry in the store or scarf my burger because we were frrreeeeee…….

And then I got a text message. A video. From Little Sister.

Edie was walking! Ever since she took her first little steps in the hallway weeks ago, I’ve been begging her to do it again. I’ve tried all my tricks and the kid would dance. She would bounce. She would clap and play peek-a-boo, but she wouldn’t walk.

She was never going to walk.

Unless we went out for the first time in months and months and months and left her with her aunt for thirty minutes. Then she’d walk.

“This is why we don’t do anything ever,” said my husband.

And it appears we might have to go for a burger and leave her with Aunty A. if we ever want to see her walk again…

Why am I in such a hurry to get her to walk. I’m going to regret this…

img_6632

Ah, anyway. Merry Christmas friends. I hope you find yourself in a season void of the sniffles and full of tiny little every day miracles.

Peace, Love and some pictures of my baby in a sled.

 

 

 

A little Christmas reality

I’ve been a mom now for over a year, so needless to say, I’ve learned plenty of lessons. Like, every day is a lesson on how much sleep you actually need to live. I’m still alive (I think) so apparently you don’t need much.

Last week was one of those weeks at the ranch that I think all parents look back on with fondness and then relief that it’s over.

img_3788

img_6695

It started on Sunday when, after the church Christmas program, 2015’s Baby Jesus #4 turned 2016 Angel #6, leaned in for a snuggle and puked the puke of the mighty all over her mother, down my shirt and into the deepest unclean-able crevasses of the easy chair, and it just sort of went on from there….

and into a week that started with a sick baby and ended with a trip to the big town sixty miles away on the coldest day of the year (like -50 windchill) to pick up Husband’s broken brand new pickup from the shop only to find what we all already new…diesel pickups don’t start in sub-zero temperatures when unplugged and outside.

And in between (after rescheduling for the third time due to that damn month-long blizzard thing we’ve been dealing with) I finally got a chance to get Edie to her one-year photos and one-year shots only to discover upon arrival (and the arrival of her general foul mood) that the poor child was in the process of cutting all four molars and both of her eye teeth at once, just in time to smile for the camera.

Which she managed to do in true Edie fashion, in between fits of sorrow.

edie

Little did she know that the torture I was putting her through in the name of memories and photo books and embarrassing her at her high school graduation wasn’t going to compare to the torture coming to her next in the form of four big needles.

And that’s when I learned my biggest lessons since the birthday glitter catastrophe of November 24th:

#1: Don’t schedule shots and photos on the same day, even if it will save you a trip. Save your sanity instead.

#2: Planning a child’s photo session is a good way to invite disease or disfunction to your family.

But we made it through like we always do and everything is fine in the whole big picture. Last night I got home late from singing at a Christmas concert just in time to fall asleep and wake up again to rock my poor crying baby with a runny nose and a mouth full of teeth back to sleep in months between 3 and 4 am, which sets me up nice and exhausted for the week of Christmas.

But at least we finally got our tree. The week before the deep freeze, sub-zero temperatures, snow drifts up to my armpits and general good naturedness of an ongoing North Dakota blizzard finally had me persuaded to give up on the whole cutting-our-own-Christmas-Tree tradition and just get one in town for crying out loud. And so that’s what this week’s column is about.

It’s about the expectations. And then it’s about the reality.

And the truth is, the reality, in all its mess and mayhem, just can’t compete with the fantasy because, well, it’s real. It’s our life. And I wouldn’t trade it.

Puke and all…

img_3750

Coming Home: Christmas in my mind different than reality
by Jessie Veeder
12-18-16
Forum Communications

When I was dreaming of having a baby of our own for all those years, I ran through how it might look in our house at Christmas: cozy and warm tucked in the trees, hot cider on the stove, a fire crackling in the fireplace, our baby crawling playfully around the fresh-cut cedar we found together on the ranch under a blue sky and after a little impromptu snowball fight.

I held onto that dream through all those childless holidays, come hell or 75-below zero windchills. Even when daylight and landscape were against us, we rallied, we bundled up and took the time to find a tree and make a memory.

But that was back when we took our time for granted.

That was before we had a one-year-old, a house to finish, cows to feed, a broken pickup in a snow bank and a series of days spent getting stuck and unstuck, stuck and unstuck in 50-mile-per-hour winds and miles and miles of snow banks in our way.

img_3715

Yeah, this December all it took was one look out the window, the sub-zero temperature gauge and the calendar boxes quickly counting down to the big day and suddenly I became a little more flexible on that whole Christmas Tree Tradition thing. Not that I couldn’t count on my husband to try plowing through the snow banks to make it happen if that’s what I wanted.

But what I wanted was not to freeze my nose off having to pull him out.

And also, I wanted a Christmas tree before New Year’s.

So we went to town.

You heard me.

We had to get some things anyway, like light bulbs and doors for the rooms in the basement, so we might as well pick up one of the last sorry trees they had left in the back, all wrapped up tight and snug and out of the whipping winds.

And the baby loves to go shopping.

You should see her in a store, smiling and waving at everyone, babbling like she’s in a parade. So maybe we made the right choice, swapping a sled for shopping cart…

img_2968

Anyway, we picked out our rugs and our Lysol and our spindly, $35 Christmas tree and while I strapped Edie in her car seat, my husband strapped that sorry-looking tree to the roof of my SUV.

And it was a sight somehow reminiscent of both the Griswolds and Charley Brown’s Christmas as we drove an hour home, through the badlands and into a dark, 30-below zero, regular North Dakota blizzard, the heat blaring as we sipped the fancy grocery store coffee we grabbed on the way out of town.

tree

When I was rocking Edie by our tree last year, her tiny wrinkly body pressed against my chest, peaceful and innocent, I imagined what the next year’s Christmas would look like — a different kind of chaos, ornaments hung on the tree just above her reach, her squeals of delight at the pretty lights, an evening spent watching Christmas movies while we wrangled her up and decorated the tree together as a family.

Well, that’s sort of what happened … just replace the whole “squeals of delight” thing with my sick baby projectile vomiting down the inside of my shirt, all over her favorite blankie and in the deepest cracks of the easy chair.

Change “ornaments hung on the tree” to “the house strewn from wall to wall with partially unpacked boxes of frozen decorations and a tree losing about a thousand needles by the minute.”

Then finish it off by swapping “together as a family” with “my husband in the barnyard pulling Dad and his pickup out of another snow bank while my glass of wine and I found the least breakable ornaments to put on the tree at 10 p.m.”

No, it wasn’t the magical Christmas tree tradition I imagined, but it was real, and you know what? I’ll take it. For so many reasons, I’ll take it.

edie-eating

 

Stuck in Winter

Every since the sky dumped a couple feet of snow on our ranch after Thanksgiving, bringing with it days on end of sub-zero temperatures, all we’ve done is get stuck and pull each other out.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, except yesterday I got puked on all down my shirt and into the crevasses of the recliner in the living room by baby Edie who apparently doesn’t chew her strawberry pieces, if you know what I mean.

So here’s how it’s been going so far this winter…not great really.

Not that great.

img_6632

Winter has arrived at the ranch
by Jessie Veeder
12-11-16
http://www.inforum.com

So … winter has arrived. Look out your window.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-1-13-21-pm

I know you see it in the giant drift you had to dig through to get out your front door making a perfect pile for the kids to build tunnels in after school. Some of you might even have a snowman or two looking back at you.

And some of you have cleared your driveways and sidewalks down to the dry concrete already. I know because I went to the big town and saw for myself a winter phenomenon so far removed from the drifty, snow-packed, ice-crusted gravel road that is my life. I made my husband slow down so he could take a good long look.

“What, did they take a hair dryer to it or something?” he exclaimed, horrified at the site of such domestication and clearly not getting the hint.

That’s OK. He didn’t get my first hint either, the one where I tried to move the four-wheeler from our driveway up the road and to the shop where it belongs at least five times, spinning my wheels, using my best cuss words and nearly squashing the old lab in the process before declaring the hill un-climbable and returning to the un-shoveled driveway.

“You should have put it in four-wheel drive,” said my husband when he got in from finishing the job.

I thought it was in four-wheel drive.

And so that’s how we do winter here at the ranch. We (literally) rev the engine and plow through.

img_3704

But that cowboy-in-coveralls mentality didn’t quite pan out on our way to feed the cows a couple bales the other day. I had been whining to my husband, telling him that since the baby came I haven’t been able to go outside as much, that I miss going along and being useful and getting my hands dirty. I said I’m not cut out for the constant inside chores like laundry and dishes and figuring out what to make for supper.

That I’d much prefer to be doing chores outside.

So the next evening he got home before dark, I bundled up the baby and we went along in the feed pickup. It was decent weather, enough to melt the top of those big snowdrifts — the ones that make us forget where the big rocks and deep ravines hide. Not that a big rock or deep ravine has ever stopped the men on this place from hitting the gas harder in an attempt to get the job done.

But do you know what almost always stops them? Three feet of heavy wet snow strung out over a quarter of a mile on the trail.

I know because these are always the times I get to go along.

And so there we were, sunk to the floorboards with a bale on the loader, a baby in a snowsuit, a sun dipping below the horizon and a good half-mile walk to the shop for the tractor I suggested we take instead.

I know those words came out of my mouth.

“You stay here, I’ll be right back,” were the words that came out of his mouth.

Ten minutes into trying to keep the baby from licking the dirty window I started my own half-mile trek to the house, not thinking he’d actually need my help, forgetting that someone needs to be behind the wheel of the pickup when the tractor pulls you out.

I made it 100 yards from the house, trudging through knee-deep snow in my winter gear with a squealing one-year old dangling off my hip only to be loaded up and taken back to the scene of the crime.

I was charged with keeping the pickup in gear, my foot on the gas and the baby content while my husband yanked us out of the hole he dug us in, only to watch him get us stuck again and then listen as he directed me to drive it back home on our tracks while he followed.

“If you get stuck, I’ll just nudge you with the tractor,” he said.

Which he only had to do once on the steep hill coming out of the driveway where I got the four-wheeler stuck.

Because this is winter at the ranch, and there aren’t enough snowplows (or hairdryers) in the world.

img_3718

When life reminds you

Here is a little video (probably one that falls in the category of one of those things that only my family and I will find so adorable) of Edie walking to the pool with her daddy.

We went to the big town sort of spontaneously to visit one of our friends who just had a new baby and get some Christmas shopping done. And we stayed in a hotel so that the baby could go in the pool. She loves the pool. These are the thing we do for our children that I never thought I would do for my children. Like squeeze my pasty winter body into a bathing suit right smack in the middle of the holidays and then go out in public (in bad lighting) like that in the name of watching a baby splash and squeal with her dad for twenty minutes.

It was a quick trip, we didn’t sleep at all in that hotel, and we didn’t really get much Christmas shopping done, but it was fun. It’s fun to be out and about with this little family thinking about and picking out gifts for the people we love.

These are the little things I often take for granted.

shopping

These are the things that run through my head in those brief reminders life gives us about how it could all be taken away…

Coming Home: A reminder to slow down, be thankful
by Jessie Veeder
12-4-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I was downstairs trying my best to finish up a deadline I’d been working on submitting all day. It was the Monday after a long Thanksgiving break spent with family and food scattered around the house for days.

The baby was so worn out from the excitement of it all that she decided to stop sleeping and pop her first molar, and I was ready to get back into the swing of things.

Things like getting this very important grant sent off before the deadline, a simple wrap-up made entirely more complex when done in the moments before and after the baby decided she needed to be held, fed, rocked, read to, sung to or saved from the stairs.

It was 5:30 or so, the weatherman was telling me about the snow that had been accumulating by the inches since I woke up that morning, blowing, drifting and piling up, and it wasn’t expected to quit.

And just as fast as Edie went from across the room to by my side helping me type on my laptop keyboard, it went from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

“No, no, no,” I said to her.

“No, no, no,” she said back to me, shaking her head and laughing.

“Seriously, kid. Give me five minutes,” I whined.

She whined back and threw her cup to the ground.

img_3632

“Ugh, where’s your dad?!” I asked in frustration before I really thought about it.

And then I thought about it.

It was getting dark. I called him over an hour ago to find out when to expect him for supper.

“I have some leftover cream we need to use up,” I said as I saved the baby’s life for the 50th time that day. “I’m gonna make knoephla.”

“Ok,” he said. “I’m on my way home.”

And he should have been home by now. Like a long time ago.

“Seriously though baby, where’s your dad?” I sighed as I put her in her high chair. A little wave of panic overcame me. I picked up my cell phone and called him for the answer.

Only he didn’t answer.

He always answers.

My heart started pounding as I quickly ran through all the circumstances in my head, looking out the window at a darkening sky against a road totally void of headlights.

The wind splattered snow against the side of the house, and I spooned some stuffing in my baby’s mouth, wondering if her dad was in a ditch somewhere. Wondering if I should load her up to go out looking for him, flashing forward, in a matter of minutes, to that worst case scenario we all think won’t happen to us until it happens to us.

Is it happening to us?

I paced the floor and searched my mind for a different explanation for his absence. This wasn’t the first time I’ve found myself a bit panicked. Plans run late, tires go flat, neighbors need help, pickups go in ditches, but out here alone in the night with miles of snow-covered county road between me and the answer, the whole not-knowing thing can escalate into something more daunting and lonesome in a hurry if you let it.

And each minute you’ve convinced yourself there’s a chance he’s not safe is helpless anguish, and suddenly the last words you spoke to one another come to you in waves and it’s all very dramatic in the very likely case that he’s just fine, probably at the barn or pulling someone out of the ditch.

I grabbed the baby and started the car and walked back inside for my gloves.

And then the phone rang.

I try to take vows to be grateful. I’m not always grateful. I try to live in the moment, but I’m often distracted. Many days the person I love the most gets the worst of me.

But every once in a while, if we listen, we might get little reminders to slow down and be thankful — for the deadlines, for the whining, for the leftover stuffing, for the whole mess.

I stirred cream in the soup and listened to my husband talk to our baby as she splashed in the bath while the wind whipped the snow up our dark country road.

“I’ve been reminded,” I whispered.

OK. I’ve been reminded.