Sunday Column: Staying young and dancing…

Today I have another trip to the big town to visit the doctor, hear the baby’s heartbeat and make sure things are moving along in all the right ways.

Yesterday was the official transition into the third trimester, and I’ll tell ya, things are getting real…and so is the heartburn.

And while we wait to welcome the new arrival into the family, our family just keeps growing as both my little sister and Husband’s little brother got married this summer.

We celebrated my brother in law’s wedding a few weeks ago and after getting stuck in the bridesmaid’s dress a few weeks back in an attempt to make sure the thing fit, I found myself a seamstress and things seemed to zip up alright…with not much room to spare.

But that wasn’t the only thing we needed to do to prepare for this wedding. No. Me fitting my belly into the dang dress was the easy part. Because my nieces had an idea…a flash mob family choreographed routine to interrupt the mother-son dance, and they had been working on the steps all summer.

And so we were charged with doing the same.

So that’s what this week’s column is about. How the whole family joined in to follow these girls’ lead in the name of fun and how these nieces of mine continue to remind me of what it was like when I was young and the world was my stage.

I can only hope this little one of ours has as much spark and spirit as these three blondies…

Coming Home: Dancing nieces delight mom to be
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

When Pops came into the house on a hot Sunday afternoon in July, he didn’t find the typical scene of my husband and I fixing lunch, tinkering with a project in the basement, folding laundry or sweeping floors.


Instead, he heard Bruno Mars blasting from the speakers, turned the corner in the hallway to find the living room furniture pushed up against the walls and three little blonde girls leading their gramma, grampa, mom, aunt and uncle in a dance they had been busy choreographing all summer.

Pops stood in the hallway and grinned watching his pregnant daughter and her husband navigate some version of a step-touch, hip shake, turn combination while the 12-year-old, my oldest niece, called out orders to her grampa to “video this so they can practice it!”

It was all part of a master plan my three nieces devised to surprise my brother-in-law, their uncle, at his upcoming wedding with a sort of “flash mob dance” that consisted of the entire family (who, by the way, don’t have any semblance of rhythm or dance gene in our bodies).

When the music stopped and we realized we had a witness to our rehearsal, my husband shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, this probably won’t be the weirdest thing you’ll walk in on over here.”

But Pops didn’t need an explanation. Having raised three daughters, it wasn’t the first surprise dance party he’s witnessed.

Because with kids in the picture, life becomes one big fun, messy idea after another.

I’ve learned that with these nieces of mine, the first one coming into our lives while we were still in college, reminding us that we weren’t ready to raise one of our own, but we were more than ready to love the heck out of this drooling, smiling, beautiful little miracle, draw pictures of princesses on demand and allow her to perform full makeovers on both of us. In return we promised to teach her how to ride horses, how to keep calm when she steps in cow poop with her new pink boots and attend as many dance recitals as our schedules will allow.

And when her younger sisters came along, the same rules applied to them.

That’s the fun part about being an aunt or uncle before you become a mom or dad yourself. You get a relationship with these tiny people from the start and the benefit of learning about what it means to raise them from the person you were raised alongside.

I’ve been an aunt for 12 years (three of them before I officially joined the family) and I can honestly say there hasn’t been a day I haven’t been proud that I belonged to these twirling, cartwheeling, funny, smart girls because they keep reminding me what it was like to be young and full of ideas, the world my stage.

And last weekend when my husband’s little brother said his vows to his new bride, we officially welcomed a new sister and new nephew to the family, and my nieces celebrated the occasion in style with hours of preparation put into hairdo research, dress shopping, shoe swapping and, of course, making sure gramma, grampa, aunt, uncle, mom and dad were all prepared for their big dance debut.

I stood in my unassuming position off of the dance floor by the DJ, clutching my sunglasses prop and watching as the girls took the floor in formation and the music began to play. After months of practice their big moment had arrived, and with all eyes (and a spotlight) on them, they moved through the steps and two by two the rest of the family joined in, taking their lead the way they had planned.

Cameras flashed, family and friends cheered, my husband and I fumbled through the step-touch, hip-shake, turn combination, the surprised groom wiped tears from his eyes, and my three little nieces soaked in every moment, taking the stage to grow up gracefully in front of an audience that simply adores them.

I can’t wait to be a mom if only to have a chance to be a witness to more big, fun, messy, glamorous ideas my nieces continue to remind me still exist in the world.

Bravo sweet girls, may we never stop dancing.

A speech for a season of celebration…


We’re a week or so out of the ranch wedding weekend extravaganza and while the two newlyweds are off in Jamaica honeymooning, the rest of us are here, basking in the North Dakota’s official summer heat.

Last weekend was my hometown’s annual reunion celebration called “Homefest” and Husband and I spent last Friday on Main Street catching up with old friends and Saturday I got a chance to sing to the crowd of longtime residents, new residents and people visiting home again.

The party never stops around here in the summer when we try to cram 12 months of fun into the few summer weekends we get up here.


And so it goes with those brides and grooms planning to get married. They generally want to do so in the summer so they don’t freeze to death on their way to the church or lose their guests in an unexpected blizzard.

So to honor the wedding and party season, I wanted to share with you the little speech I prepared for my little sister’s wedding. It’s about love and the time we share between the celebrations…

Cheers to love. Cheers to summer.

And cheers to finding the best ways to celebrate it all.


Now, imagine me, my hormones and my emerging baby bump trying desperately not to lose it and burst into tears in front of our friends and family…
Today we celebrate love. That’s what weddings are about. The joining of two people because they met somewhere, and they clicked, so they went on a date to a movie or for drinks and they hit it off, so they went on another date and another one and then maybe she caught a cold and had to break plans and stay home and he showed up with orange juice, Champaign and chicken noodle soup—and no one had ever done anything like that for her before so she tried to find ways to keep him around, meet his parents, bring him to her family ranch, get him on a horse or two and convince him to start a new life in a wild place.

And maybe along the way there were disagreements, an old Ford Explorer might have blown up, plans might have been made and broken, wine spilled, …a cat might have been hit by a car…(and lived…don’t worry, it lived)…

But in between those weird and unexpected moments that life throws us, in the quiet times known only by the two of them, there were stolen kisses, reassurances when they were unsure, a hug stolen while she put the dishes in the sink, because at that moment he just loved her so much he had to touch her, inside jokes shared over yard work and eating lasagna on the couch together watching HGTV….

He might have bought her diamond earrings and surprised her by leaving a giant picture of a giraffe he painted in her apartment.

She might pick him up a new shirt she knows he’ll like on a shopping trip or drive a good 20 miles out of town to bring him leftovers or Taco Johns for lunch when he’s working weekends….and those are all nice things…

Really nice things.

The things you do when you have finished falling in love with each other and just are.

In. Love.

But it’s not just the love thing these exploding cars, giraffe paintings, unruly cats and stolen hugs equal out to.

No. When you get to this point, the “let’s get married” point, it is about more than just love.

I know this because a wise man once asked me to marry him by asking me to be his family.

I thought about that today as my little sister stood up in front of the people who love them and a man who brought her chicken noodle soup when he didn’t know her very well yet, but knew he wanted to take make her feel better…

With this ring, you two are family.


But even better,

With this ring, we’re all family.

And what a wonderful thing that is! Two young and adorable people fall in love over drinks, a late night delivery of chicken noodle soup and a road trip gone ary and a few years later we find ourselves traveling from all corners of the country to gather in front of a barn that has stood for almost 100 years on a place that has existed in one family for an entire century…all because a 100 years ago two people fell in love and made plans to work together for as long as the future gave them…

The same wise man that gave me my ring once said “Love is living every day to make the other person happy.”

It’s a nice concept and not one that I can always say we remember to implement…but in love not every day is easy…and in love, not every day are we at our best.

But I bet our great grandparents and grandparents and parents will agree that love found them raising babies and careers and finding things to cook for supper together, but it’s not just love and only love that has kept them fighting and stealing kisses in the kitchen and eating lasagna on the couch watching HGTV together…

And so I’m so glad love made Alex my little sister…


and now love has made Travis my brother…and love has made us all, under this big tent in the middle of nowhere and the middle of everything…


Sunday Column: Marriage, beyond the celebration

IMG_5620Well, I survived planning and executing Little Sister’s Bachelorette party.

As you can see, I made sure it was epically ridiculous by suggesting we all raid our mom’s and grandma’s closets, the thrift store or the costume shops to find the ugliest bridesmaids dresses possible.

FYI, Little Sister is now the proud owner of this gem of a bridal gown right here, in case she changes her mind about her real wedding dress…


As for my bridesmaid’s dress? Well it was so beautiful I was only allowed to rent, you know, to give others a chance at such beauty…


Anyway, Little Sister has cool and fun friends who are game for anything, so they obliged in full force, I made some tacos and margaritas, called the party bus and we were off for a night on the town.


We danced, we drank a few cocktails, we twirled around in our pretty gowns and we confused a lot of people.

And of course, it would be just my luck to be recognized by a loyal reader of my column at the Lonesome Dove while I was dressed as an 80’s prom queen.

But what’s life without a little good, clean, ridiculous fun…and a ridiculous outfit worn in public every once in a while.

And now I’m home this Monday rested up,  getting ready for a round of CD release parties across the state and thinking about love and marriage beyond the celebration…

So that’s what this week’s column is about.

Coming Home: Fruits of marriage easy seen amid wedding preparations
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

Peace, Love and Wedding Season,


Part of my heart is in Texas

Part of my heart is in Texas.

So I went there this weekend. To gather with family, to get lost in Dallas (a few times), to eat real, delicious, southern cooking, to laugh so hard I peed a little, to hug, to sweat in the humidity and curse the weather as my hair grew to twice its size, to sing, to enjoy wine surrounded by people who share the same bone structure, skin tone and fuzzy hair and most importantly to witness one of my younger cousins get married to her best friend.

And it was fantastic.

And bananas.

Because after an early morning wake up call letting us know the grandson/nephew was on his way and a 12 hour wait for his arrival, he entered this world just in time for us to get a quick snuggle, some photos and to pack and catch our plane.

250 miles away.

Because it’s a long wagon train outa here.

So as we were saying goodbye to our newest member, we were getting ready to welcome the next.

And, in case you were wondering, you can’t die of sleep deprivation or not bathing for three days in a row.

I know. I’ve tried.

(ahh, travel by plane).

But it was so worth it.

Because Texas, sweet Texas, North Dakota’s tanner, bigger breasted sister, was as sparkly and shiny as ever. With its big blue sky and rolling thunderheads, simply sophisticated stone houses, sexy drawl and cowboys with starched pants.

And as what appeared to be the North’s version of the Clampetts rolled into the Dallas airport, we were greeted by family from South Dakota and a cousin who flew the coop to Miami (and believe me, you could tell who came from where) and we all crammed into a baby blue mini-van with high hopes of making it into the city with help from the GPS systems loaded on our fancy cell phones (which turned out to be no help at all actually), the sweet Texas hospitality kicked in.

Upon hearing phrases like “you know,” “yah, sure” and my classic and irreplaceable “uff da” (yes, that actually comes out of my mouth despite my better judgment), the self-assured, tan Texans asked, “Where ya’ll from?”

And I responded more proudly than ever.

See I haven’t tried to hide my less sexy, less mysterious, less cool and less sultry and “Northern Drawl” for years. Because I learned my lesson about what happens when I try to fake it—it just creeps back in there in full force when I get excited…and I am a passionate woman, so it’s no use.

It’s all a part of growing up.

Anyway, as the lovely, accent free voice on the GPS took us just past the hotel, but not quite to the door about five times, sending us floundering back onto the jam packed interstate, multiple opinions flying, we finally decided to abandon technology and use the instincts we were born with to find the front door of the hotel.

And as we filed in, one by one, in all of our disheveled, sleep deprived, shell-shocked glory, there stood our beautiful southerly relatives with smiles as big as their Lone Star State waiting with open arms.

And yes, they were tan and clean cut and polished and starched and just a bit more fancy than what came out of that mini-van….

Yes, they looked like Texas. And they were representing well.

I’m afraid to say what we looked like.

But it didn’t matter, because right there in that hotel lobby, hugging the new babies, meeting the spouses for the second or third time, talking about the trip and making plans for the weekend, it was like we had never left one another.

It was like just yesterday we were all sleeping side by side in the basement of our grandparent’s house, searching for Easter eggs in the gumbo hills, falling in the black mud of the crick below the house, making snow men from our gramma’s bread dough, putting on productions of the Wizard of Oz and forcing all of the adults to watch as we did interpretive dances to “The Wind Beneath My Wings”….wait maybe that was just me.

And the truth is, it has been years. It has been years and miles and roads and states and plans and haircuts and schools and jobs and marriages and funerals and plans that have made us.

Plans that have broken us.

It has been years.

But we relive memories of our time at the ranch whenever we get together to make new ones. Because those memories we created as young as four and five and six have bound us together, all of us, the Kitten Caboodle Club, for life.

And as I watched my baby cousin, the one who used to run around the kiddie pool in her “wimming woot” with the hole cut out of the tummy, the one with dark brown ringlets and bright blue eyes, the girl who peed her pants and stepped in cactus every time we made our trek up to pots and pans, the girl who would stuff peas up her nose and put olives on her fingers at the dinner table every holiday, who was always laughing, always smiling, always had room for more love and life, walk down the aisle to join her man, the man she will start a whole new life with, all I could do is wish for her….

….to keep home, our home, in her heart and make a life for her children that is as wonderfully full of love and adventure and passion and imagination as our young lives were.

Because as much as this place, this landscape means to me, it means just as much to the people that surrounded me in that church that day. They were all seeing our little cousin in her white gown the way they remembered her–running wild at the ranch…ribbons and curls and cactus and excited laughter echoing off of the buttes and down the pink road.

And we may never be able to cram in on the couch at Christmastime in this little house like we did when we were munchkins.

We won’t ever all be able to all sleep together on gramma’s bed. We haven’t been that small for years. We may never even all be in the room together again…even this time we were missing one of the clan. And as time keeps ticking, we will utter each other’s names in phone calls and family updates and catch up with birthday cards and emails and an occasional call.

But it won’t matter.

It won’t matter at all.

Because we were lucky enough to spend our childhood in a magical place that has given us somewhere to pick up where we left off. No matter the time. No matter the distance.

It will always be here for you cousins.

I will do the best I can.

Because part of my heart is in Texas, another part in Miami, and Fargo, at South Dakota State University and just down the road and wherever my family may make their lives.

And the rest is here, waiting for you anytime you need it.

For as long as the oak tree has lived…

It’s a special day at the ranch and as I shuffle around the house, picking up dishes, folding socks, sending out emails and generally getting things accomplished, I thought I would stop for a second to remember something.

Because on a day much like today, exactly four years ago, just down the road under a 100 year old oak tree, I married the man who belongs to the socks folded up on the couch. And we made plans to stay together as long as that oak tree has lived.

And this anniversary, I decided, is a little more special than the rest. I know four years is lame to most…I don’t even think there is a special traditional gift for it (like paper or plastic or mud even), but I like it. I like four years.

Because here we sit, all married and unsettled with our things and ideas and love scattered every which way around us, but we are right down the road.  We are breathing the air and scrubbing the dishes and mowing (or not mowing) the lawn right down the road from where I said “I guess so” when he proposed and we said, “Well, I guess we do!”  in our fancy clothes.  And we just went from there.

Little does anyone know the whirlwind that ensues after that blessed day, but here we are, right back where we started, in the first house we came home to as a married couple.  So I can’t help but think of that first year of marriage–when husband was working crazy shifts at the top of an oil derrick and I was on the road in my Chevy Lumina for weeks at a time, singing for my supper. Our paths crossed only to kiss one another goodbye and the two newest newlyweds lived out marital bliss hundreds of miles apart.

So I wanted to share this piece I wrote during that first year because I feel like it sums up the decision to grab our bags and make a new path. It reminds me of being so far away from him, off into my own adventure, and hearing his calm voice over the phone. I reminds me of missing him and closing my eyes and trying to recreate the man I knew—the laugh lines around his eyes, the ruffled hair, the scruffy face and faded t-shirt.

It reminds me of the separation that ebbed and flowed throughout the following couple years as our grand plans to make it to our destination continued to create physical space between us.

So yes, four is a celebration for us—a celebration of waking up to the same alarm clock and sharing a pot of coffee, of cooking meals in the same kitchen and enduring his vampire movies. It’s a celebration of blaming the empty toilet paper roll on each other and tripping over someone else’s shoes in the entry way. It’s knowing I have someone to clean out my hair ball from the drain with no complaints and a willing partner who will enthusiastically slide down a mud hill with me in the pitch black, pouring rain and then climb up again to retrieve my shoes.  It is a day of putting an extra slice of cheese on his sandwich and smiling because you have someone pretty dang great to make it for.

Today is a celebration of tangled, messy, loud, annoying, wonderful, blissful  togetherness as we stand proudly, hand in hand, back at the place where it all began ready and willing to hold on tight for 100 years under the branches of the solid oak–so we don’t have to miss one another so much anymore.

900 Miles

I can see him there.
Standing, phone pressed to his cheek,
laughing at how lonesome I’ve become on these three long weeks on the road.
I can see him.
Standing 900 miles away.

Tool belt slung low across his hip,
dust on his knees,
back arched, leaning away from his work
while assuring me it’s only five more days.

And I 
(who had this dream, this plan before it all began)
am wondering…
900 miles away…

with a man like this
how could I ever wish
to do anything but stay?