The perspective from a distance

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We’re spending the week in vacation mode.

Vacation mode meaning heading east to the lake in Minnesota to spend time with family at my grandparent’s lake cabin, per tradition.

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And then coming home to cut some hay and meet some deadlines before heading back out the big lake tomorrow to spend time on the pontoon or roasting s’mores with the other side of the family.

When we’re at the lake in Minnesota we do this thing where we load up the crew on the pontoon, drinks and snacks and towels and caps and everything else we could have forgotten, and we drive that boat around the shore, slowly, so we can take a look at the beautiful houses that have been built in place of the small cabins that once stood there back when my grandparents first bought their place.

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We comment on the lawns and the landscaping, the docks and the red shutters. We like the cedar siding on that one, and the cottage feeling of the other. We wonder where the NFL football player’s house is. We wonder how much the inflatable trampoline costs. We like that patio set and the adorable kids playing catch in the front yard.

We wonder who lives there. And secretly, I think we all wonder, what that would be like.

It sounds sort of strange, a literal boatload of family tooling by people’s houses on the lake. But we’re not the only ones who do it. It’s like a parade of homes, only we’re the parade.

We wave.

They wave back.

We’re at a safe distance that way. We can imagine and talk and wonder while we make our rounds and come up, always sooner than expected, as the sun starts to sink, on the blue house with the sailboat in the water out front, the familiar trees where the hammock used to swing, grandma’s flowers, the American flags stuck in the grass by the rocky shore, and feel the warm flood of familiarity fill us up with the good memories we’ve had there year after year together.

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It happens to me every time we leave on that pontoon, sitting shoulder to shoulder, talking and laughing with my aunts and uncles, sisters, parents, grandparents, looking briefly into other people’s lives, wondering, wishing perhaps that we could afford that big boat or that beautiful deck, contemplating who we would be there before pulling slowly into the dock on that one house out of a hundred that we know so well.

The one that holds so much.

The best one on the lake for people like us.

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Coming Home: Searching for perspective on life from a distance
by Jessie Veeder
7-3-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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When I lived between the sidewalks of town, one of my favorite things to do was go out for a walk in the evening as the sun was going down on the neighborhood. It didn’t matter what time of year—the crisp, still air of winter or the thick heat of the summer—I liked to follow the path of the sidewalks that stretched past the neat rows of houses, the warm glow of the kitchen lights shining brighter than the setting sun outside, projecting a slice of each family’s life out onto the street.

For a few short years of my young life, when times were tough and my parents had to move to eastern North Dakota for work, I was one of those sidewalk kids, riding my bike a few houses down the block to the neighbor girl’s house so we could pretend we were riding horses in her front yard.

But mostly I was a kid who played in the coulees in the evenings after school, one who got to ride horses in real life, who never learned to rollerblade for severe lack of pavement, whose new neighbor girl was a mile away up the hill and who pushed a lawnmower over cocklebur plants and Canadian thistle that couldn’t be tamed no matter how my mother willed it.

Those were my memories.

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So it was surprising to me how much console I found in walking those neighborhood streets in my adult years spent away from the ranch.

I was thinking about this last night as I walked out in the pasture as the sun dipped below the horizon, turning the grassy pastures and the sky behind me dark green and navy blue. I climbed the hill where the two teepee rings still sit and I looked back at our house, noticing how it somehow looks nestled and perched at the same time in that small opening of oak trees.

The lights were glowing small squares of gold to the outside, while inside the baby slept in her crib, holding the satin edges of her blanket, breathing in and out behind drawn curtains.

I couldn’t see her, of course, but I knew she was there, just as I knew my husband was in the new easy chair, reclined with his arms above his head and his stocking feet kicked back, a small glass of whiskey beside him.

This has always been my favorite way to look at our house. From this distance it seems like it doesn’t contain my life at all, but a life of another woman entirely, and I’m just a passerby who can make up her story.

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Because I can’t see the things undone from here—the fence that needs stain, the pile of unsorted laundry, the conversations we need to have about selling the car or cleaning the garage or juggling the bills.

From this distance I can imagine our life instead of live it, and it’s a strange but wonderful thing.

And I think that’s what I was doing all those years walking those sidewalks in my 20s, trying to imagine my life and how I was going to get to whatever came next.

I would put myself in those houses with the manicured lawns, the dad on the grill out back, the kids jumping on the trampoline. I could put myself in the kitchen that opened up to the deck and invite my neighbors over for burgers.

I could fall in love with the little boy fishing in the gutter of the street, I could name him and his siblings and make up what kind of mother I might be to him.

Because I wasn’t prepared for any of it, even when I found myself living in it, in a real job, renovating a real house, working on my own manicured lawn along those sidewalks. So I walked. For perspective.

And I still do.

Because everything’s a little easier, a little more perfect, at a safe distance.

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Wild berries, worms and cuss words…

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Last night I went on a walk to close some gates in our home pasture and check a couple juneberry patches.

Juneberries are a special treat around here. Like wild mini-blueberries, if they show up, they show up around this time to much fan fare for those of us who know people who make pies.

Juneberries make the best pies in the world.

Probably because getting to them before the frost kills them or the birds eat them up is so rare, and the entire task of picking enough of the little purple berries sends you to the most mosquito and tick infested, hot, thorny, itchiest places in the free world, so finally making and tasting a Juneberry pie is like completing some prairie, culinary, ironman marathon.

Only better and more gratifying, because, well, pie.

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Anyway, my little stroll before sunset was only mildly successful. The gates on this place were made to be shut only by Thor himself. Or the Hulk. Or some hybrid of a bear-man. By the time I grunted and groaned, used my entire body weight trying to push the two posts together to maybe, possibly, for the love of Dolly Parton, stretch the three wires tight enough to get the little wire loop over the top of the scrawny post, I was sweating, cussing, bleeding and wondering how I missed the yeti that we apparently hired to fix the gates on this place.

I called Husband on my cell phone (who was inside the house with the baby, like twenty yards away) and told him there’s no way in hell I’m ever getting that damn gate shut and that shutting the damn gates was his job from now on who the hell do you think I am what the hell is this all about who in their right mind makes gates that tight good gawd sweet mercy Martha Stewart.

And, if you’re wondering, the gate on the other side of that pasture went about the same way…

Anyway, on my way I did in fact locate a big ‘ol juneberry patch. But the best berries, of course, were hanging out about fifteen feet above my head at the very tops of the bushes. And to get to them I had to wade through thorny bushes up to my armpits. But some of those thorny bushes had raspberries growing on them, so that was a win.

I proceeded to eat every ripe red berry I could find.

Even the one with the worm on it…which I discovered after I put it in my mouth and crunched.

So that was a loss.

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Yes, the raspberries, worms and all, were within my reach. The juneberries, not so much. But tonight I’m going to use my best convincing skills to see if Husband might want to come with me to back our old pickup up to that bush, stand in the box, brave the mosquitos and pick us some berries.

Because, well…pie.

Anyway, when I got home I discovered that apparently wading up to my armpits in thorny brush to pick raspberries was not only a good way to accidentally eat a worm, but, even better, it’s a great way to acquire 500 wood ticks.

I came home and picked off a good fifteen or so. Stripped down to my undies, checked myself out in the mirror, sat down on the chair and proceeded to pick off at least five more.

When I crawled into bed I wondered out loud to Husband what time of night I would wake up to a tick crawling across my face. He made a guess. I made a guess.

But we were both wrong.

At about 12:30 or so, just as I had drifted into a really nice slumber, I was indeed awoken by a tick…but it wasn’t crawling across my face. No.

It was crawling toward my butt crack.

Thank good gawd sweet mercy Martha Stewart, I cut him off at the pass…

Ugh, all I wanted to do was close some freakin’ gates…

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This not-so-glamourous life…

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A photographer came to visit the ranch and I’ll tell you right now, it wasn’t pretty people. We spent the day before working an art event in town that I had been planning for months and didn’t get home until after eleven. It was the last event in a week with a full schedule. I was tired. I had to gather the troops. I sorta forgot to take a shower and fix my hair.  I didn’t make even a remotely healthy lunch for my niece and I (because when you’re tired you much prefer Doritos to salad). I didn’t put pants on the baby. I didn’t get the horses in ahead of time to prepare them and de-bur them so that they were photo ready. And I didn’t mention in the newspaper column below the part where the baby stuck her finger up my horses’s snotty nose, which was bleeding a bit because of a fresh little cut.

That was horrifying. And there was a man from Minneapolis with a big camera to witness my disgust.

So this is my confession published in newspapers across the state, in case you might get the wrong idea when you see the photos and article in the magazine that we have our shit together out here.

Because we don’t.

But I think you all knew that already…

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Coming Home: Glossy pages don’t reflect our not-so-glamourous life
by Jessie Veeder
6-5-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inform.com

This morning a big yellow screwdriver sits next to a half-eaten pan of cinnamon rolls (the kind out of the freezer section, not out of my KitchenAid mixer) and that sits next to a couple baby books about farm life that feature a perfect red barn against green rolling hills dotted with smiling black and white cows.

Today as I reflect on the last couple weeks, I’m wondering if I should even read those little farm books to poor Edie. Maybe I should just toss them in the trash and keep her from asking some hard-hitting questions about this place.

Like, why don’t the horses in the books have cockleburs in their manes? Aren’t horses born with them?

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And momma, why don’t you wear an apron like the mommas in the books? And where is that fresh-baked pie that’s supposed to be sitting on the windowsill to cool?

Yes, follow us around for a day and you would see that clearly the authors of these children’s farm books didn’t base them off of our life.

No.

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And while Edie’s not old enough to start asking questions (sigh of relief) I did have a reporter call me a few weeks ago with some questions of her own. Like, what’s life like on the family ranch for two people who got to move back to it? What does a typical day look like?

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I couldn’t think of an interesting or straightforward way to answer that. When she called my husband just got home from work and he was rocking the baby, trying to keep her happy so I could have an uninterrupted conversation. When that was over, he was going to go to his next job of taking care of this place. And when he returned we would have leftover lasagna for the third night in a row because I got distracted by a writing deadline when I should have been doing laundry because I’m out of clean underwear, for crying out loud.

And so they sent out a photographer to see for himself. A photographer who likely had a hope of capturing what I’m sure he envisioned as some picturesque scenes of a family of three working side by side and meeting up for a picnic meal with the grandparents who live down the road.

But this was an agricultural magazine so I hope they knew better. And while I was raised in an environment where both my parents worked, ran a ranching operation and managed to keep three kids alive, I’m learning what that really means as an adult. And I’m not sure we’re exactly killing it.

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I mean, when a photographer shows up, completely announced and expected, a balanced and together woman would have had pants on the baby. Or combed her hair.

Or at least cleared the evidence of her recent Dorito and Oreo lunch from the counter.

And when the request for a photo of my husband and I riding side by side through a herd of calm cattle sent me down to the barnyard attempting to lure uninterested horses in with a bucket of grain before resorting to leading one with the shirt I was planning on wearing tied around his neck so that I could spend the next half hour before my husband arrived home currying the tangle of burs out of their manes and tails so I wouldn’t embarrass the long line of Veeders who once called this place home, I began to question if we were really worthy of the press.

But at least he got authentic. Authentic sweat. And authentic cussing as my husband and I attempted the impossible task of moving a herd of cattle toward a man with a camera standing in an open pasture.

Needless to say, none of it was picture perfect.

Because around here burs stick to horses while they fill up on green grass that makes them fat and sassy on the hilltop behind the barn that needs painting. And inside, where the books might write in the apple pie, we have a screwdriver instead. Or a calf tagger. Or a hammer.

And it might not be glamorous, and it might not be easy, but that’s why they make frozen cinnamon rolls.

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Baby Edie rides her horses

Here’s Edie, doing what we do in the morning.

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Rolling and flipping and grabbing and smiling and screaming at her toys because they aren’t doing what she wants them to do and I have no idea what that might be but it sure pisses her off.

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But mostly she’s plain happy, as long as there’s action.

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So when she’s done rolling and flipping and screeching I put her on her horse.

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And as you can see she likes it.

So you can imagine her delight when we put her on a real horse yesterday.

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Yup.

We had a branding at the neighbor’s and Pops brought the horse around before he rode it back home.

I wish we had a video camera to record what she moved like when we put her close to the nose of that bay and then up on his back. It was one of my favorite moments with her.

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All of the sudden I had this flash-forward moment to all of the things I dreamed about doing with our daughter out here on this place someday. I saw her up there so tiny and excited, reaching for the horn of the saddle and squealing and then reaching further to grab the black mane and I saw her at five years old, blond hair and curls, riding a pony while I lead her around the pen in front of the barn. And then I saw her at ten years old, on a big horse, following behind us across the pasture in the warm glow of a sinking summer sun, her face flushed and dirty, her hair windswept.

And then she’s sixteen and I’m holding my breath, her ponytail flying and bouncing under her straw hat as she rounds the last barrel at a rodeo and I let out a sigh of relief…

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Maybe it was watching the neighbor girls that I used to babysit all grown up and beautiful, helping to ride and wrestle calves, or maybe it was the light of the evening casting long shadows and reflecting off the dust in the air, making everything soft and dreamlike, but I was nostalgic for a future with this tiny little human who could just as easily grow up to prefer video games to horses.

But for now she seems delighted by it all, by the big outdoors and the blue sky and the grass and especially the animals.

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She has a physical elated reaction to them. She sucks in air and reaches out her hands and grabs their fur. When we go to feed the calf she has a mini hyperventilation spell. When she’s crying for no apparent reason all I have to do is open the door and walk out on the deck and a smile spreads across her face.

She leans down from my arms and tries to get closer to the dogs.

She reaches out for the kitty’s fur.

The wild world is hers…

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Yes, this is Edie. Our daughter. Our baby discovering that the fun is just beginning.

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A Spring Dinosaur Hunt

As the weather’s warmed up a bit, we finally get to spend some time outside. And it seems I was given the right baby because Edie loves it as much as I do.

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And as much as the dogs it seems. Every time I put her in the carrier, eyes facing the world in front of her, she calms. She looks. She kicks her legs. She laughs at the dogs running in front of her. She looks up at the sky and smiles.

I wish it were spring and 70 here forever, and maybe that she would stay little, so that I could take her out like this every day.

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A few weeks back on a pretty nice day (yeah, these photos are from a few weeks back…I’m not as quick on the updates as I used to be) Little Man came over to visit and we all went out on a walk, Little Man, Little Sister, Pops, Edie and I.

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Little Man wore Husband’s cap to keep the sun from his eyes and Little Sister wore Edie because when she’s here the two are stuck together like glue.

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Edie wore her hat and and sunglasses and other hat and snowsuit of course. Because it was  warm but not that warm. And windy. And sunny. A typical North Dakota spring day and a girl’s gotta dress the part.

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Pops grabbed a walking stick.

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I grabbed a camera and we were off on a hike up the hill and past the dam and through the trees.
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A hike that soon turned into an imaginary dinosaur hunt where we all got assignments and duties from the Pre-schooler.

Pops was the hunter, Little Man was the scientist, I was the photographer and Little Sister and Edie needed to be on the lookout.

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Maybe when Little Man grows up he’ll be an actual scientist, but he’d also make a pretty good movie director.

And while we were hunting for bones we looked for spring.

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The weeks that passed since taking this walk and taking these pictures has greened things up considerably. Edie has even gotten to go on a walk without her second hat and snowsuit, so summer’s just around the corner.

And I have so many things to say about spring out here. You know me.  I want to tell you how I got back in the saddle for the first time since finding out I was pregnant over a year ago and it was the best therapy in the world. And how I saw and heard a rattlesnake outside our fence the other day while I was on a walk and it scared the shit out of me. And then how we watched two elk come down to water in the dam outside our house and no matter how many times we see them it’s still pretty magical.

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And how the blossoms smell and how, when I call Gus back, Dolly crouches down beside me and waits to tackle him when he arrives. Every. Singe. Time. And it’s hilarious and Gus deserves all the pestering he’s receiving.

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I want to tell you how I love this little boy, who just graduated from Pre-school and is on to Kindergarten in the fall, who wants to be a cop and a scientist and a cowboy and everything, he can’t pick just one.

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And there’s more I have to say, you know there is, but the baby is waking in her crib an it’s time for our morning snuggle. So I’ll just leave you with this…

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And this.

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Happy Thursday and Happy Spring. May you find time to get out and enjoy it with your nephew and Little Sister and your Pops and your baby and your dogs…or whoever you love who you can convince to go dinosaur hunting with you…

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Sunday Column: Small Houses/Big Love

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Since baby Edie arrived, it seems we have a house full of company more often. She sure draws a crowd, and it’s taking me back…

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Sunday Column: Small houses feel big to kids who fill them with love
by Jessie Veeder
5-1-16
Forum Communications

 The first few years my husband and I were married, we lived in the house where my dad was raised. Gramma’s house stood modestly next to the red barn on the end of a scoria road.

 

That was just one string of memories I had attached to the house, but they all sort of looked like that, a piece of the good life attached to a pile of cousins gathered at Gramma’s.

 

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My sister Lindsay, me and my cousin in the Veeder house on Easter morning.

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The Veeder cousins with Grandma Edie during Easter at the Veeder House. I’m directly next to my grandma in the adorable striped jumpsuit, always a good choice in the early 90s.

It was my favorite thing in the whole world to meet up with these people who sorta looked like me. They were the only ones in my life who understood that the hay bales covered in snow stacked by the barn were really Frosted Mini Wheats and we were shrunken kids trying to escape the giant spoon. The short, bald gumbo hills in the pasture actually formed a mansion, and we were the fabulous people who lived there. The scoria road that wound up the hill to the grain bins was actually the Yellow Brick Road and, after a long discussion about who was who, we would link arms, sing at the top of our lungs and dance our way to the Emerald City.

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That was the thing about Gramma’s house. We could be anything we wanted because we were at the perfect age to imagine it all to be so. The red carpet in the basement was hot lava. The hallway was a wedding aisle. The closets were secret passageways, and the deep freeze was full of ice cream sandwiches.

When I moved to that little brown house with my new husband all of those years later, I couldn’t believe we fit that much possibility and so many big suppers into 1,200 square feet. I was having a hard time finding enough space for my shoes.

Every time I walked through that door and took my boots off on the hot-lava carpet, I was transported back to standing in bare feet next to my cousins while Gramma handed us each an orange Schwan’s push-up pop.

The plan was never to stay living in that little house. Time and weather took its toll on the structure, and we needed more space. So here we are, over the hill in a new house of our own.

Last weekend, the cousins came to visit with their mom and Gramma and Grampa. The kids spent the day changing Edie’s clothes, baking banana bread, feeding the bottle calf, tracking in mud and indulging the littlest ones in make-believe games.

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There was a point when I was crammed into our modest bathroom giving Edie a bath with four of her cousins as assistants. I was sweating, she was splashing, the three sisters were bossing and laughing, and my nephew was tossing bath toys in the little basketball hoop suction-cupped to the shower wall.

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This house that we built is not huge by design, and the basement isn’t finished, so we all bumped into one another plenty of times as we squeezed in on chairs, couches and floors eating hamburgers and helping put batteries into the remote-controlled toys.

At one point, my nephew came down to the basement with me, a construction zone filled with tools and dust, and he asked about plans for the space. When I told him where the walls will go, he threw his hands out and declared this is “the biggest house in the world!”

I laughed and thought of the little brown house and hoped that this one was at least small enough to hold as many good memories for Edie and her cousins.

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Sunday Column: The plans we make…

In this week’s column I was trying to convey my appreciation for the things in life that go as planned. I’m not sure I successfully got to the meat of the point I was trying to make in the morning fog I was in after a sleepless night with the baby trying to meet my deadline while she took her typical 20 minute morning nap.

Re-reading it now it’s funny that the little baby that was our plan has finally made her way into our life, throwing every other plan we’ve ever had upside down or out the window.

Like sleep. Or ever getting work done. Or having a conversation that doesn’t involve her ever again. Or getting anywhere on time (like I was ever good at that in the first place, but now I can blame her…)

Today I’m thankful for the rain and this baby and the husband who helps me raise her and the work I will get to later and this body that stays healthy enough to make it all so…because sometimes those things don’t go as planned.

And then, sometimes they do.

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Sunday Column: Noticing the everyday moments of life, routine and frustrating
by Jessie Veeder
4-24-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Outside my window a mist has settled in heavy and has been busy soaking this thirsty landscape for days, turning the grass green. We’re all breathing a sigh of relief before going back to holding our breath, because we needed the moisture but we’re worried about calves being born in this weather.

Inside this house, I’m pressing my nose to the glass. The wiggly baby in my arms does the same, her eyes transfixed on something she finds interesting out there in the big wide world.

When I’m done writing this, I will fill up a big bottle with warm water and powder milk, put a little beanie and snowsuit on my daughter, and we will go feed the baby calf in the barn. I will set Edie in her seat on the floor and she will watch the calf suck the milk from that big bottle, listen to the squishy noises it makes and smell the must of the straw and the breath of the animal.

She won’t look back on her life and remember these daily rituals we kept when she was so young, but I know she’s learning something here. And already she knows what she likes and what she wants.

As it turns out, she likes to be in that big wide world we see outside the glass.

So I take her out there. Because I want to and because some days I have no choice. She sits beside us when we feed the cows and check for babies, the bumpy trails combined with the way we bundle her up and the heat and the closeness lulls her to sleep. 

Someday soon she’ll be telling us that the cows say “moo” and the sky is blue and that no, she doesn’t want to wear her snow boots and it will be another ceremony entirely getting this girl out the door.

But these days, when my husband gets home from work in the late afternoon he’ll find me sitting in the chair feeding his daughter. I’ll say hello and he’ll set his thermos on the counter along with the mail he picked up on his way home and we’ll say something about supper and I’ll fill him in on his daughter’s state of affairs that day (she was fussy or she rolled around everywhere or she took a full hour nap), and then I’ll lift her up to him and she’ll smile, eyes bright and wide at the face of the familiar man she knows.

And he’ll scoop her up and say, “Hey, baby girl,” and I’ll say, “Let’s go check on the cows.”

There are dozens of other moments in every 24 hours together as a family that are difficult or frustrating or go so incredibly awry and off the rails, the kinds of moments that you don’t see in the musical montage of the life you’re planning when you’re young and in love and certain it will all turn out like a romantic comedy. By now, you all know us well enough to understand that nothing about the horse poop in the yard, the four-year unfinished home construction project or the middle-of-the-night meltdowns willing this baby we waited seven years to meet to please, for the love of blankies, fall asleep, indicate that it all went as planned.

But we also didn’t plan for my husband to come into the bathroom with a towel ready to wrap up his daughter every night after her bath. We couldn’t have, because we didn’t know how great that little ordinary and predictable part would be.

And we didn’t plan on her light hair or blue eyes or feisty little attitude sprouting as early as her first two teeth.

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But watching my husband bundle up his smiley baby girl, getting her ready to ride down a bumpy trail, all three of us together and close and out looking at our world at the end of a long day, I can’t help but take a breath and take notice.

Because we might not have planned on waiting so long, but this, we planned on this.

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While I rock the baby: Confessions of a new mom

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These days I don’t know where the weeks go. They fly by me as I sit rocking this teething baby who just started to notice when I enter and exit the room, making sure to voice her distaste at the whole exiting part.

I’m trying to work from home and take care of her at the same time, so I spend a lot of time thinking I should be doing another thing while I’m doing what I’m doing.

Like, I’m rocking this baby, but I have a pile of emails I need to respond to.

Or, I’m working on this column, but I should be rocking the baby.

Or, maybe when the emails are answered and the baby’s fed and napped we can take the dogs for a walk.

But I should really do the dishes.

Or return that phone call…oh, look, she just pooped up her back. Guess I’ll change her outfit for the third time today. Oh, is it 4:00 already? I should probably think about supper…

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I knew it was going to look a lot like this as I tried my hand mixing what I was doing before I was a mom into my life as a mom. I knew my days would look a lot like a juggling act and that I would have to bust out my best multi-tasking skills. I knew it was going to be a challenge, so I’m trying to cut myself a little slack as I work on figuring it out.

And by cutting myself some slack I mean letting some things slip. Like my own personal hygiene for one, which was pretty predictable considering the amount of days I sometimes went without a shower before an infant arrived. I mean, if I didn’t have to go to town and see people, what was the point?

Anyway, turns out Edie’s morning nap is a good time to squeeze some work in, so I’ve learned I can sacrifice the shower…my husband can see me with my hair fixed when I get home from a meeting or something.

I haven’t shaved my legs for days.

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And so this is my Friday night confession. It’s 10 o’clock and the baby’s in her crib at the foot of our bed. The lights are off and I’m tired as hell. Last night was one of the first times I left Edie with Husband to go out and do something that wasn’t work. I went to a movie with Little Sister and ate too much popcorn and worried the whole time that I didn’t leave enough milk for her.

They were fine.

When I got home she was sleeping and Husband shushed me when I started asking questions in a whisper.

I fell asleep just in time for the baby to wake up at midnight and then again at 4 and then again at 6 and I’m sorta holding my breath right now wondering if she’s really down for the night or if she’s just playing me like usual.

And so this is what it’s like now to be me. It’s me + 1. Me + the worry. Me + that little thread that ties me to that tiny person that is learning something new every day.

Me, half wishing time to slow down because she’s growing so fast while the other half is so excited to see what she’s going to become.

Me, a little lonesome for the great outdoors, cursing the cool spring wind that keeps me from taking this baby on a walk.

Me, a little lonesome for a husband I haven’t really been alone with in months.

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Me, who used to have a lot more time for the slow pace of nature. Me who can’t remember what I used to do all day before her.

Me, who, even after 5 months, can’t believe this baby is mine forever, God willing.

Me, so grateful and humbled by what it actually means to be a mother while wondering at the same time if I’m really cut out for this.

Me, who meant to write something here on Wednesday about the cows or the budding trees or how thankful I am for the rain, but those thoughts were thoughts I thought I should be thinking while I was rocking the baby.

So thankful to be rocking the baby.

Jessie and Edie 2

Sunday Column: On a memory named Pooper

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It’s raining, the grass is getting greener and the calves are being born. I love this time of year where things are fresh and new and there’s nothing ahead of us but the promise of warmer weather (after a couple spring snow storms that leave us holding our breath of course).

The bottle calf in the barn has made me a little nostalgic and I’m having a flashback of a bottle calf my little sister and I took care of back when I was the boss and she didn’t care…

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Coming Home: Everything is better with some cows around
by Jessie Veeder
4-17-16
InForum
http://www.inforum.com 

Calving season is in full force here at the ranch, and this year it’s extra special for my husband and I because part of the new herd we’re building is our own.

And by better, by no stretch of the word does he mean easier. If I learned anything in my life it’s that better doesn’t always mean easier. (I’ve found this to be true in ranching and in motherhood.)

Anyway, it could be the green grass sprouting up on the hilltops or a little hope of warm rain in the forecast that sends us outside with the enthusiasm of a kindergartner with a new backpack on her first day of school, but I know it’s those cows grazing on the hilltop and the babies trying out their new legs beside them.

Last week, one of our best new cows gave birth to twins. I was in Bismarck with Mom and Edie at a singing job when I got a text with a photo from Dad telling me the news. My little sister, my mom and my husband all got the same message and I smiled at the realization that we’re living in an age where my dad sends group texts to his family about cows.

This morning one of those twin babies is waiting for me in the barn because, as it goes sometimes with animals, the cow didn’t recognize the second twin as hers.

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So I’m her momma now, a job I happily volunteered for because feeding babies is something I know how to do, and it’s not just due to my new role as a mom.

I have pretty vivid memories of all of the bottle calves we had when I was a kid growing up out here. One in particular left a big mark on my sister and I, mainly for the role that little calf played in our epic, sisterly fights.

I was 12 and so I pretty much knew everything, and my little sister was 7 and not as eager as she should have been at being bossed by me.

The calf, lovingly named Pooper, became our responsibility and part of our daily chores, which we eagerly took on in the beginning. Because, in the beginning, calves are adorable and have yet to grow into a 150-pound puppy on legs who has figured out two little girls are his only food source, and coincidentally has also figured out how to escape his pen in order to chase them down the road after the empty bottle, tongue out, bellering, head down in feeding position in case he caught up to one.

And he always caught up to one; it just was never this one. Because I employed the age-old advice: Want to survive a bear attack? Just be faster than the guy you brought with you.

Turns out my little sister never forgave me for it. Last weekend I took her down to the barn to have a look at the new baby, and she started getting the cold sweats. Instead of seeing an innocent newborn creature, Alex was having flashbacks of snowpants full of slobber, swift head butts to her rear and unanswered cries for help directed at a big sister sprinting to the house half a mile away, leaving her to suffer a terrifying death by the tongue of a baby calf.

Apparently, the times we spent together feeding Pooper were the first times she heard me cuss like a sailor, knocking me off my very low pedestal. I know because she brings it up at family dinners, holidays and probably the toast she made at my wedding.

Needless to say, my little sister will find different ways to help with the cattle business. Like babysitting Edie.

And I don’t blame her. It’s not easy playing momma to a baby with a giant head and four wobbly legs, especially when you’re feeding her with one hand and trying to put the pacifier back into your human baby’s mouth with the other.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Because everything is better with some cows around.

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Sunday Column: The Red Guitar

A couple weeks ago at a show, I met a man who suggested that I write a few columns about my guitars. He is in a band himself and had seen me play a few times, and had taken notice of my different guitars, and being a musician he knew there was likely a story behind them.

So this week I took him up on that suggestion (it was a good suggestion) and wrote about one of the most important guitars in my life.

Coming Home: From first memory to now, guitars hold an elusive sway
by Jessie Veeder
4-10-16
Forum Communications

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I love guitars. I love the way they look sitting in the corner of a house. I love how they feel in my hands; the new ones shiny with promise of the music that is to come, the old ones worn from years of picking.

Because you know how everyone has a first memory? That moment you look back on where you were the youngest version of yourself you knew. Maybe it’s only a few moments in time, but it was so powerful that you hang onto it hard and forever, whether you want to or not.

That memory is a guitar to me, dancing in the basement of our old house while my dad played his red Guild and sang a song I don’t remember. But I do remember the brown shag carpet and how he wore his hair a little too long and how his wide, leathery fingers eclipsed the strings at the neck as he swayed back and forth and tapped his foot, just a little bit off of the rhythm of the song he was singing and picking — the same way he does today. And I remember wanting him to let me pluck the strings on my own, so I could make the music come from that mysterious instrument.

That red guitar.

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The guitar still remains a mystery to me, how six strings touched the right way can produce sounds that make you laugh and cry and tap your toes or sing words you didn’t even know you had in you.

It’s amazing that the sounds coming out of a body made of wood can be so different depending on who’s touching it. I’m in awe that a guitar can transform a campfire, a living room or a makeshift stage into a world where love is lost and found, real cowboys still exist, summer always stays.

Yes, the guitar remains elusive to me even though every person in my family, as a sort of right of passage, owns their own version of the instrument, tucked away in basements or propped up next to the piano or the living room couch. It’s a necessity. Whether or not you ever learn to play it, you need it there next to you in case you or a guest are ever so inclined.

I’ve had in my possession a number of guitars in my life, all given to me by my dad based on his judgment on what would be the best fit for me. From the old Taylor I play today to the green Takamine I got when I convinced my parents that the guitar was more my instrument than the saxophone I played in band class, so we traded it in, as my dad does with guitars and horses.

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I found out later that’s what happened with the red Guild. I showed interest in taking up an instrument for band class in fourth grade and so dad traded it for a saxophone.

Oh, if guitars could talk! I suppose I could say that for instruments of all kind, but I’m partial to the guitar. I think they’d have the best stories.

That red Guild found its way back to the ranch eventually, another of dad’s trades of an amp or a banjo, so that he could pass that guitar along to my little sister when she went to college. I liked to imagine her sitting behind it, so far away from the buttes of the ranch, closing her eyes, plucking the strings and hearing the sounds of home.

That Guild sits in its case propped up in the corner of the house she now shares with her husband, holding in it stories about her dad playing in bar bands and coffeehouses before she was born and memories of three little girls twirling, laughing and singing along in the basement of a little old house.

Yes, all of the guitars I’ve possessed have given me something — confidence, my first song, a stronger voice. But it’s the one I never owned, the one that gave me my first chord and let loose the music inside of me, that has been my greatest gift.

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