International relations | September 7, 2022

The Kosiors are nursing a happiness hangover after a weekend visit from one of Kyle’s two younger brothers and his family.  As I’ve mentioned many, many (many) times before, the Kosiors are Canadian; and so, in addition to all of the normal things a person would do when they have houseguests, we also had the added activities of welcoming international travelers. 

“But The Simpsons called Canada ‘America Jr.!’” You may be thinking.  “Why would a trip to America be any different than going somewhere in Canada?”  Obviously, I’m gonna tell you.

Here are three things Canada and the U.S. have in common:

  • The continental landmass known as North America.
  • A proclivity towards “the weather” as a constant topic of conversation.
  • Democracy.

Here are three ways Canada and the U.S. are different:

  • Canada is a member of the British Commonwealth.  America is a member of America.
  • Canada’s official languages are English and French.  America does not have an official language (the unofficial language is ‘Merican).
  • The population of Canada in 2020 was 38.01 million people.  The population of California in 2020 was 39.35 million.

Those differences (well, excluding the French thing because everyone speaks the international language of social media) are pretty big distinctions.  For example, Canadians have the Queen of England and hockey players (their two monarchical governing bodies) on their money and they stick a silent letter U into words.  As another example, Canadians have their own Food & Drug Administration (called the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) and so their favorite foods and/or food-related ingredients are not the same as they are in America.  Canadian Campbell’s Tomato Soup, for instance, is sweeter than it is in the States.  In the U.S., we think of Smarties as little chalky discs.  In Canada, Smarties are hard-shelled M&Ms.

As such, when our Canadians arrived, the very first thing we did was the Ceremonial Transference of Food.  Kyle moved down to the States in 2004 and became an American citizen in 2020; and while you can take the Canadian out of Canada, you can’t make him pronounce the last letter of the alphabet as anything but “Zed.”  Same goes for food – his taste buds live physically in the U.S., but emotionally in Saskatchewan.  My sister-in-law thanked Kyle for our hospitality with a bagful of Kyle’s two favorite Canadian delicacies: Coffee Crisps and HP Sauce.  Coffee Crisps are what Kit-Kats would taste like if they were flavored with coffee and the thickness of a normal candy bar.  HP Sauce is a smoky, bitter barbecue sauce, and is to Kyle what ranch dressing is to Midwesterners in that he puts it on everything.  The pandemic hit Kyle hard in that he had to eat his food unadorned, so he was pretty excited to get not one, not two, but three bottles of HP.  As opposed to the Coffee Crisp, no one in our immediate family likes HP, so the three bottles should last him a solid year (less so if he goes on an unscheduled pork chop-eating binge).

The second thing we did was the Official Unveiling of the Cost of Alcohol.  I’m sure you’ve heard the stereotype that Canadians are unfailingly polite; but we rarely talk about their other skill: booze consumption.  If there ever was a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style drinking competition between an Irishman and a Canadian, my money is that the Canadian will still be sober enough to apologize to their opponent after they beat them handedly.

It’s pretty amazing that Canadians are able to imbibe as they do because alcohol is expensive.  As noted, the population of Canada is small but mighty, and so Canadians are taxed to their toques to pay for their healthcare and whatnot.  Alcohol is especially pricey – a 24-pack of Molson Canadian is $65 – because the provincial governments own all of the liquor stores.  So, when Canadians come to America, it is customary to take them to a liquor store so they can marvel at both the price and selection of alcohol.

Finally, the third thing we did for our Canadian brethren was the Pause for the Conversation of Information.  Canada is on the Metric System and the Centigrade Scale.  Also as noted, Americans and Canadians like to talk about weather.  Therefore, it was necessary in our chit-chat to allow time for all of the participants to convert the numbers shared into our respective languages.  Like this:

Sister-in-Law: I was driving down the road at 100 k [pause] the other day, and I looked at my temperature gauge and it was 30 [pause] degrees outside.

Me: Wow.  That reminds me of a similar day when it was 92 [pause] degrees and I was driving at 60 [pause] mph.

Our Canadians have now returned to their homeland, full of cheap beer and the memory of driving 120 k down the Interstate to Fargo.  We miss them already, especially now that we have eaten all of the Coffee Crisps.

The photo above speaks for itself.

This week’s news has Farmtokers, runners, and Watch DOGS. Read on.

Rolla’s Tim Mickelson is a popular member of Farmtok, reaching thousands with his videos about canola. (Ag Week)

After 30 years, Watford City’s Mitch Haugeberg is bringing his board game to the masses. (McKenzie County Farmer)

The first-even Fire & Iron “Take a Teacher Shopping” raised $6,500 and bought a lot of school supplies. (Devils Lake Journal)

Jamestown’s Russ Schmeichel is still inspiring runners 40 years after starting a running camp for cross-country enthusiasts. (Jamestown Sun)

The Emergency Food Pantry in Fargo is hosting a free picnic meal (with cake) today, September 7. (Fargo Forum)

Berg, Roosevelt, and Heart Elementary Schools in Dickinson are now home to Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students). (Dickinson Press)

I wrote a fun (“fun”) story about early holiday shopping. (North Dakota Nice)

Also, thank you to Area Woman for sharing my story about my inability to properly feed my children. My story about picky eating is in this month’s issue(Area Woman)

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Dad Garages | May 25, 2022

It’s graduation party season, which means that Kyle gets continuous access (and I get continuous commentary) to some of the awesome garages in Grand Forks.  Before we were married, I foolishly assumed the purpose of a home garage was to protect your car from the elements.  Now, after eighteen years with a guy who feels about grass edging the way I feel about throw pillows, I know that a garage is more than a place to store Fourth of July decorations; it’s a way of life.

Specifically, it’s a home-at-home for the type of dad who owns more than one hammer because “they do different stuff.”  For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to call these Dad Garages, even though HGTV insists they are Man Caves (or Mantuaries, which…well, is hard to believe is a common usage) and even though plenty of women and child-free men hang out there.  The thing is, women trust themselves to also sit inside the house, and child-free men don’t need to aggregate all of their possessions into a single room so as to protect it from sticky-fingered/-bodied goobers.  Related, an important part of being a dad is comparing your cool crap to the cool crap owned by other dads, and so a garage is necessary for a dad to causally display his collection of Bluetooth headlamps and combo digital skate sharpener/fish knife/engine de-greaser so that his friend dads can say, “Oh’d you get that at Scheels?  How much’d that set you back?”

The baseline requirement for a Dad Garage is a place to seat at least six adults.  Appropriate seating is crucial because you want to be able to sit in the garage but also still have full visual and physical access outside the garage so as to get your daily required fresh air and monitor all passing vehicles.  Plus, if it’s cold enough, a dad will usually supplement his in-garage heat (because this is North Dakota and a heated garage should be a right, not a privilege) by dragging a fire pit onto the driveway, meaning all of the dads need to be able to watch that the kids don’t mess around with it and also say things like, “Where’d you get the wood, a log guy?  I got a spot down by the river where you can get it for free.” 

To achieve this type of seating, in most cases the vehicles need to be removed from the garage.  One of our friendly neighborhood dads got so tired of moving his truck in and out for parties that he added on an extra bay – not for seating, but to park his truck.  His logic was that people needed direct access to the bathroom inside the house, and if he put seating in the additional bay (instead of the main) everyone would have to walk around his vehicle to go inside.  This was very thoughtful, and also made Kyle very jealous.

Speaking of the bathroom and Kyle being jealous, another one of the dads didn’t want his gentleman friends to have to take off their shoes every time they had to go.  As such, he put a little fenced-in enclosure outside of a garage side door so that the dudes could do their business under the watchful eyes of the moon and stars and nothing else.  As you know, Kyle was pretty put-out that his outdoor bathroom opportunities were taken away when we moved to town, so I hear about that privacy fence a lot.

Typically, seating is accomplished through camping and deck chairs; however, when a dad is really serious about fun he will incorporate bar seating (and, of course, a bar) into the space.  If you’re going to have a bar, you might as well get some beer taps, and if you’re going to get some beer taps you might as well get a kegerator, and if you’re going to get a kegerator you might as well add in those bottles that dispense alcohol shots, and if you’re going to have hard alcohol you probably need cabinetry for all that glassware, and if you’re going to have glassware you should probably get a sink, and really, every garage could use a sink because hoses “do different stuff.”  Our garage has a fridge and a deep freeze, which is “okay for now,” according to Kyle.

After that, the sky’s the limit for Dad Garage features.  One of our friends was recently divorced and Kyle went over to his new house “to check on him.”  Three hours later he came home and announced the friend has a TV and a surround sound system AND a couch; “So he’s fine,” Kyle said.  Another dad put in a window and bench seating along the back so that his kids could have their own warming house – which also serves to educate those boys on space layout options for their own turn as a Dad Garage owners in the future.

For my part, I support Dad Garages by saying, “Oh, really?” and “That sounds neat.”  When I am invited to sit in one, I bring bars and comment on the importance of being outside as much as we can and also, is that a new “I got lei’d in Hawaii” sign, because I really like it.  I also commiserate with Kyle that ours is filled with our post-move junk and dream about the day when Kyle can have a pee spot all his very own.

The photo above is of Kyle with his light-up bar sign – a gift from our boys who felt “he needed it” and he heartily agreed – in our own garage.

This week’s news has a license plate artist and a pack of scouts.  Read on.

This is the story of Grand Forks’ Cole Reimann‘s life-saving bone marrow donation, and also his work to create a national donor leave policy because one of the reasons donors back out is due to lack of PTO. (Grand Forks Herald)

Teachers in Divide County figured out a way to artistically engage Ransum Zaug, a 14-year-old with autism, and now the sky’s – and also, the map’s – the limit. (KFYR TV)

Two parks in Mandan now have Play Communication Boards to help kids interact with one another. (KFYR TV)

Devils Lake Scout Pack 28 gathered up more than 1,665 pounds of donated food for Hope Center. (Devils Lake Journal)

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Everything in the World, in part | February 2, 2022

It was my birthday last Saturday; I turned 42.  I like being 42.  I wish I had been 42 when I was 32, you know what I mean?  Actually, if I’m wishing for things, I’d prefer my 22-year-old body, my 32-year-old years, and my 42-year-old everything else.

You know who wouldn’t have wanted any of that?  Twelve-year-old me.  When I was twelve, I could have written a book called Everything in the World because I knew all of it – and I knew, for a fact, that I was perfection.

I knew the exact barrette I needed to wear in order to be the most popular girl in the sixth grade: two layered plastic ovals in maroon and grey.  It was obvious that the barrette would increase my coolness quotient because I had previously only worn barrettes with rainbow beads and strands of glitter – to hold up one side of my aggressively-brushed out curly hair, like an off-the-shoulder fuzzy sweater but on my head – and this plain barrette would signal to everyone that I was now much more sophisticated and serious.

I knew exactly who I would marry when I grew up (Brad Pitt), and exactly what I would do for a living (famous author and movie/Broadway actress and owner of Disney World).  I knew how to anticipate the exact length of a commercial break and then use my lightning-fast reflexes to hit Record-Play on the VCR so that my sister and I didn’t have to watch any ads on our bootlegged copy of “Star Wars.”  I knew how to ride my bike one-handed (and no-handed if I was going down a hill), and how to speak like the Micro Machines Man, and the correct opinion a person should have on any subject that ever existed.

This enthusiastic amount of – let’s call it confidence – was encouraged by my parents, grandparents, and my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Robinson.  While I don’t know as much now as I knew back when I was twelve, I am well-aware that I’m the product of a whole bunch of amazingly great teachers…and Mrs. Robinson was the absolute greatest of the great.  Somehow Mrs. Robinson managed to encourage a loud-mouthed know-it-all without keeling over from all of the eyeball rolling I know I would have done in the same situation.  In fact, there wasn’t any eyeball rolling at all; she was a fantastic at bringing out the best in all of her students.  Behold:

Mrs. Robinson put on a stage play (sans stage) in our classroom.  I was cast in the MOST IMPORTANT part in the play – which, in hindsight, was not the lead.  I knew it was the MOST IMPORTANT part, however, because Mrs. Robinson said to me, “This is the perfect role for you and I know you will really shine.”  I had so much sparkle that my grandma brought flowers to our performance and I gave an encore at home for my sister, who had “missed” the original run.

Later in the year, my classmates and I channeled our newfound drama skills into a living museum in which we each dressed up as our favorite person in history and then read a one-paragraph, first-person biography of said individuals.  Naturally, as a true sophisticate with a non-beaded barrette, I selected noted American author Edith Wharton.  I chose Edith Wharton, not because I was a fan of her work (never read it), but because I knew it was necessary that I wear a long skirt and read my bio in an affected American aristocratic accent.  My mother sewed me a teal satin skirt, and I froze (during my museum exhibition) with a quill pen in hand.  Mrs. Robinson agreed it was the exact right choice.

Having now played Edith Wharton, I put my quill pen to paper and decided to write the Great American Novel.  Called Victoria Tracy (the two most beautiful names in the world), it was 75 pages of pure brilliance.  Naturally, I gave it to Mrs. Robinson – who, God bless her, read it and made notes on every page.  I edited Victoria Tracy and gave it back to Mrs. Robinson before I left for junior high with the confidence that only an established actress/literary maven/Edith Wharton channeler could have.

Now, (ahem) many years later, as much as I liked knowing everything in the world, I’m old enough to appreciate a little mystery in life – and so I’ll keep twelve-year-old me back in 1992.  Maybe, however, I’ll dust of that ol’ sophisticated barrette.  I could use a little extra coolness.

Also, Mrs. Robinson continues to be an awesome person.  I typically don’t use real names on here, but Mrs. Robinson (better known as Laurie Robinson-Sammons) has written a book.  Called One Story: Many Voices, it is a series of first-hand accounts, both harrowing and hopeful, of sexual abuse and exploitation, victimization, survival, and healing.  It is written for educators, counselors, medical personnel, law enforcement, and youth workers to better advocate for and contribute to the healing of children and young adults who have survived abuse.  All proceeds of the book will be donated to organizations whose mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking and exploitation through education, awareness, restoration projects, and justice initiatives.  You can learn more or purchase the book here.  Additionally, here is a video of Mrs. Robinson talking about the book.

The picture above is a screenshot from the newspaper in 1992.  A Winnipeg video artist received a grant to lead our classroom of sixth graders through the movie-making process.  Our movie, which we also wrote, was called New Nerds in the School, and was about treating all people with kindness.  As the person who would obviously know the exact right way to shoot a movie in order to bring out the best in all of the talent and the script, you can guess which kid is me.

This week’s news has snowballs, hot dishes, and birthday cakes.  Read on.

I’m not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed to see that a Snowball Softball Tournament wasn’t played with actual snowballs; however, I was very happy to see that the annual tourney raised $2,000 for Brave the Shave. (KFYR TV)

Congratulations to Richland County’s KrisCinda Erickson, who recently won bronze in the Changmookwan Taekwondo World Championship! (Wahpeton Daily News)

Eighty-two people donated 78 units of blood products in Devils Lake. (Devils Lake Journal)

Last September, a team of North Dakota kids with disabilities got to go hunting in the badlands thanks to the Wish Endowment and Prairie Grit. (KFYR TV)

In North Dakota-adjacent/North Dakota-supported news, a hot dish competition cooked up ten dishes and raised money for Veterans Honor Flight of North Dakota and Minnesota. (KVRR)

In “this is a great idea” news: Litchville’s (or maybe Marion’s) Liz Fick asked for cake donation kits to be donated to food pantries in honor of her birthday. (Valley City Times-Record)

Grand Forks’ Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson will be competing in the NHL All-Star Game competitions this weekend. (Grand Forks Herald)

I recently joined a Facebook group called “Pay It Forward Grand Forks,” which is just people helping people around town.  One of my favorite posts was from Kasha Christianson, who gave me permission to share the following: (Facebook)