How I met your father | August 3, 2022

This Friday, August 5, is our 16th wedding anniversary.  While it’s never explicitly stated, I can tell the undercurrent question in every one of my conversations with friends and strangers is this: How do I find myself a Canadian who is both a master of World War II facts and accidentally leaving the remote control in the refrigerator?  Well, I’ll tell you.

The year was 2005.  Okay, wait – technically the year was 2004, but it was December 27 so we can round up.  I had recently moved back to Grand Forks, North Dakota from Boston (Massachusetts, in case you were thinking, “Boston, Georgia?”).  As I was packing up my maroon Honda Civic and my “Internet Explorer 4EVA” t-shirt, one of my high school friends called me on my brand-new flip-phone and said,

“Listen, Amanda, tell me the truth: are you coming back to find a husband?”

Obviously, I was incredibly offended.  I was minorly offended because I had very good eyesight at the time and I was certainly capable at locating another human being in New England as effectively as the Upper Midwest.  I was majorly offended because “Sex and the City” was all the rage and I had decided that I was, obviously, a Samantha.

“I’m a Samantha,” I told her.

If you haven’t seen “Sex and the City,” here are the things that I imagined the character Samantha and I had in common:

  1. We both were very glamorous.
  2. We both were known for witty and fabulous repartee.
  3. We both loved to drink cosmopolitans.
  4. We both looked great in plunging necklines (see: glamorousness).

Here are the things that the character Samantha and I actually had in common:

  1. We both worked in public relations.
  2. We both didn’t need no man.

I hadn’t realized our commonality in not needing no man until my conversation with my friend, after which I decided that I would not be finding a husband (not the reason I moved back to North Dakota regardless) until all of my Samantha glamorousness and plunging necklines had worn out.

Our chat happened in September.  In December, another girlfriend called to see if I wanted to go to a World Juniors hockey game, hosted that year in Grand Forks at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.  I was pretty busy with my very glamorous lifestyle of going to work, playing The Sims on my computer, and drinking Natty Light with my high school friends, but I decided to make time in my schedule to see and be seen on the international hockey circuit.

My girlfriend and I were standing in the beer line in an absolutely PACKED arena when I pointed to a different mass of people not far off from our own mass of beer line people and said,

“What’s that?”

Instead of my friend – who, unbeknownst to me, had wandered off – a tall drink of Canadian water (beer) answered back,

“They are taping a TV show for TSN.”

“Oh, neat,” I said, which was the #1 wittiest and most fabulous reply of all time.

We stood together in the beer line for a few moments.

“So…” the dude said, “Do you like stuff?”

I did, in fact, like stuff.  I tried to think of some of the cooler things I enjoyed doing and seeing and came up with the following list: architecture (I worked for an architecture firm), archaeology (I took a bunch of classes at college), and my birthday (I am one of the few people in the world to have one of these).  He was so impressed that he asked for my phone number.

As a reminder, this was 2005.  Facebook was only available to college students, MySpace was still going strong, and text messaging had just recently become a method of communication.  For those of us who remember the olden days, early text messaging required a person to press the numerical keys to represent letters – so if you wanted to write the word “Hey,” you would hit 4-4-3-3-9-9-9-9.  Also, you paid per message whether you wanted to receive them or not.

I wasn’t about to give this random guy access to my precious text messages, so I did what any Samantha would do and wrote down my email address.  As was also the case in “Sex and the City”, Kyle was intrigued (and not, as one would expect, turned off) by this response, and emailed me almost immediately.  We wrote back and forth over Christmas and New Years – Kyle was on winter break from law school at UND – until he invited me over to his apartment to watch the movie, “Slapshot.”

I said yes.  The next day I told my coworker,

“This guy invited me to his apartment for a first date, so he’s either a weirdo or a murderer.  Would you check in with me midway through to see which one it is?”

It turned out he was neither a weirdo nor a murderer, just a dude who rented “Slapshot” from Blockbuster because he thought I might like it.  It also turned out to be a good thing that I didn’t give him my number, because he only had a landline and my cell phone was still a Boston number and so he would have had to pay for long distance.  I knew I was going to marry him after our fourth date, but we waited three whole months to get engaged.  When I was putting together our wedding invitations, I stuck a note on the back of the one going to my coming-back-to-find-a-husband friend that read, “This was just a coincidence.”   I still don’t think she believes me.

The photo above is, as one would probably guess, from our wedding.  It was 900,000 degrees, there was a tornado in Fargo, and we got married in the middle of an area with a nesting hawk.  We were undeterred.

This week’s news has two different nice stories about mail carriers, and also dinosaurs.  Read on.

The Copper Ridge community showed their appreciation for their favorite mailman in the sweetest way possible. (KFYR TV)

This is a short-but-mighty message from a restaurateur in Grand Forks. (Facebook)

This isn’t technically North Dakota Nice but it is North Dakota-adjacent, so here it is: Ozzie Tollefson of Underwood stepped in to help deliver 102 miles’-worth of mail after the mail carrier’s car broke down.  Best line: “I found it was six hours on the road.  I was glad I didn’t take my prune juice, if you know what I mean.” (Fargo Forum)

Grand Forks’ David Snyder was one of the talent on this week’s “America’s Got Talent.” (Grand Forks Herald)

It’s that time of the year: Dinosaur dig time! (KFYR TV)

Good luck to Jessica Rerick, who will compete for the title of Mrs. America next month! (Grand Forks Herald)

The headline for this says (almost) it all: “When illness sidelined a lead actor in Grand Forks SPA production, backup steps in with only hours to prepare.”  What the headline doesn’t say is that the Abbey Kinneberg wasn’t the understudy; she just wanted to be of service. (Grand Forks Herald)

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Last is Best | July 27, 2022

Kyle and I took the boys out to dinner at a popular family restaurant in Grand Forks.  The small waiting area was packed with mostly grandmas and grandpas; and so when I realized one of the two benches had an open tush spot, I pointed it out to a woman who looked roughly the same age as the dawn of time.

“Oh, no,” she said, leaning hard onto her cane.  “That’s for someone who needs it.”

We stood there for another twenty minutes before our table was ready.  Despite a lot of glances towards the benches by several members of the crowd, one seat always remained empty.  At one point, both of the benches cleared off as parties were brought to their tables, and so a few of our fellow waiting room patrons did the “Well, I guess…” thing and sat down – always leaving one spot open.

North Dakotans have a real aversion to taking the last of something.  This goes back to our statehood: North Dakota and South Dakota were admitted at the same time, North Dakota being the 39th and South Dakota the 40th – probably because the government was like, “Hey, we have a spot opening in the United States; you in?”  And North Dakota was like, “Well, we should leave that for a territory that really needs it.”  And then the gov said, “Well, we have a second spot opening up right after this first one.”  And so North Dakota did the, “Well, I guess…”

I work for an architecture firm; and if you know anything about architects, it’s that they put white paint on everything love them some doughnuts.  Architects design buildings and construction managers build them, and if you know anything about construction managers, it’s that don’t care what color paint is used so long as its available they also love doughnuts.  Architects and construction managers find middle ground on things like paint colors through the consumption of doughnuts – and since the person-to-doughnut ratio at construction meetings is usually in the range of a 10-to-1, we end up with a lot of extra doughnuts in my office’s kitchenette.

A couple of weeks ago I went down to the kitchenette and found a box of eight doughnuts: seven flavors that I didn’t want, and one that I did.  Chocolate glaze.  As this was the last chocolate glaze doughnut, I did what any North Dakotan (and especially any woman over 35, as required by Women-Over-35 law) would have done in this situation, which was get a knife out of the drawer and cut it in half.  My half was delicious.

It was so delicious, in fact, that I was still thinking about that chocolate glaze doughnut after my morning meetings.  I decided to pop into the kitchenette for a completely unrelated matter and, lo and behold, the chocolate glaze doughnut half was still there.  Except that it was no longer a half; it was a chocolate glazed doughnut quarter because someone had cut the half in half.  Also, the seven grosser other doughnuts had reduced to two (a sprinkles and a German chocolate).  I cut the quarter in half, and it was delicious.

My office hosted a social hour in the kitchenette at the end of the day.  There were all sorts of awesome appetizers, as well as the box of what remained of the doughnuts.  I bet you can guess what was left: one whole German chocolate and one-eighth of the chocolate glaze.  As I tried to will myself to take the last of that chocolate glaze, one of my coworkers said, “Well, I guess…” and cut the German chocolate in half.

Here’s a math problem: an office is supplied a box of seven doughnuts.  How many doughnuts will remain twenty-four hours later?  If you guessed one-half of a German chocolate and one-eighth of a chocolate glaze, you are right.

Kyle and I have a box of tissues in our bathroom.  There is currently one left.  There has been one left for approximately two weeks; it’s a nose-blowing miracle.  Here’s another math problem: If two parents are playing “Whomever takes the last tissue has to replace the box,” who will win?  The answer is, of course, that one of our children will take the tissue, probably not use it, and the box will sit empty until Kyle or I realize it and change it out.

Children, of course, are smarter than grown-ups.  Kids not only can’t be bothered to uphold the politeness of “lasts,” they actively work to get the best.  We served a hockey-themed sheet cake at my eleven-year-old’s birthday party.  In the seconds it took me to light the candles, the boys completely worked out the food split.  

“First!  I call puck!”  One kid yelled, pointing at a spot with a fist-sized mountain of frosting.

“No, that’s Eleven’s!”  Another kid hollered, pointing at my son who smirked in the way that only a birthday boy who doesn’t need to call his own cake can.  “He gets that part!  I call second and I call this corner!”

“Fine!” the first kid yelled.  “Then I call the net!”

The boys divvied out the cake – without it yet being cut, mind you – so accurately that there was only one piece left at the end.  The kid who called “Eighth” wolfed down his cake before the others.

“Ahbawlbwlasht!”  He shouted, which was mouth-full speak for “I call last.”

“How was it?”  I asked him as I served him the last slice.

He cut off a huge hunk, leaving only about one-eighth on his plate.  “Delicious,” he said.

I didn’t have any pictures of half-eaten doughnuts or people not sitting in seats, so the photo above is of me and Kyle.

This week’s news has five football players, four teachers, and one neighborhood.  Read on.

Five NDSU football players – Logan Kopp, Ryan Jones, Chris Harris, Brayden Weber, and Alex Oechsner – rescued a passed-out woman and her two small children (one of whom was trapped) from a burning car after an accident. (Fargo Forum)

WalletHub has ranked North Dakota School as being the 8th-best in the country. (KX Net)

A neighborhood in Bismarck is now on the National Register of Historic Places. (Bismarck Tribune)

The third annual Dickinson Lemonade Day – for kids to learn about owning a business – saw double the participation of its inaugural year in 2019. (Dickinson Press)

Congratulations to Abby DuBord of Bismarck, Megan Wald of Kintyre, Megan Margerum of Hunter, and Ivona Todorovic of Grand Forks – the finalists for North Dakota Teacher of the Year! (Bismarck Tribune)

Thank you to the North Dakota Professional Communicators for honoring North Dakota Nice the First Place award in Personal Blogging, and to the National Federation of Press Women for the Third Place award in Writing – Humorous. (NDPC, NFPW)

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Potlucking | July 13, 2022

A lovely reader named Barbara (thanks, Barbara!) messaged me last week inquiring as to my go-to potluck dish, and I’m very glad she did because there are few social gatherings I love more than a potluck.  Actually, I can’t think of anything I like more than a potluck so let’s put that at #1.  The perfect potluck would be outside on a warm and sunny (and mosquito/wasp-free) summer day, with a stack of picnic tables set out under a grove of trees (and all of the benches would have backs and the seats would be padded – you know what, let’s just say a bunch of groupings of first-class airplane seats).  Also, there would be Igloo coolers full of that McDonalds orange drink that they used to serve at soccer games and the whole thing would end with a scheduled nap.

To answer the question, my go-to potluck dish is a fruit salad.  This is not my favorite potluck food, but you never have to take home fruit salad at the end of a potluck because everyone has eaten it.  Potlucks are a low-key competition to see who can bring the best stuff.  You know you won if someone comes over to what was once your dish of mint chocolate chip cookie bars and says, “Are those gone already?  Dang, they were good.”  You accept your award by replying, “Oh, I just tossed those together.  They are so easy.”

When we were visiting Michigan, one of the neighbors mentioned that she was going to a potluck hosted by a dentist, and I said that she should bring a big bowl of miniature toothpaste tubes and say that four of her other dentist friends recommended it.  Not only did that joke not really land, I was sorry for even mentioning it because there’s nothing funny about being the person at the end packing up a big bowl of uneaten tuna Jello salad (or toothpaste salad) that’s been sitting out on a countertop for three hours.

I don’t think it’s any big secret that North Dakotans play fast and loose with the definition of salad; while the Oxford Dictionary defines “salad” as “A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients,” Midwesterners define it as “Anything in a bowl.”  Or, if you don’t want to use a bowl, “Anything.”

I once potlucked with another woman who also brought a fruit salad, except that mine had strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, kiwi, mandarin oranges, and grapes, and hers had watermelon balls and a spoon.  And you know what?  Her salad was eaten first.  That sucked.

My favorite potluck dish is Italian pasta salad.  It has my two favorite food groups: carbohydrates and dressing.  I don’t potluck pasta salad, though, because I can’t make a pasta salad to save my life.  It doesn’t make any sense.  I know how to cook spiral noodles.  I know how to cut up vegetables and open a can of kidney beans.  I know how to pour Italian dressing.  Yet, somehow the way I do it combines into something completely bland and disappointing.

I was complaining to one of my friends about my inability to make pasta salad and she said, “I have my great-great-great-grandmother’s pasta salad recipe; it was the only thing she saved from her village before fleeing on a weather-beaten log to North Dakota.  She landed on the shores of the Red River penniless with only that recipe and her wits about her, and made her fortune selling pasta salad on the streets.  I’ll give you that recipe; there’s no way it can fail.”

I tell you what, I followed that pasta salad to the river-stained letter.  Then I took that pasta salad to a potluck where, lo and behold, my friend was also there with her own bowl of pasta salad – which, of course, tasted far superior to mine.

“Oh, I didn’t realize you were making the salad for this potluck,” she said.  If there are any True Crime podcasts out there looking for a topic you should tell that frickin’ pasta salad story because both of our abilities’ to trust were murdered that night.

Here are some of my other favorite potluck foods:

  • Oreo cookie salad
  • Those little ham sandwiches made with butter
  • Sweet and sour meatballs
  • Anything in bar form
  • Anything in dip form
  • Anything

Of course, not everyone can serve up potluck salads.  First of all, someone needs to bring like fifty bags of potato chips or else the potluck is declared invalid.  Second, unless you plan on scooping everything into your rolled-up t-shirt like a trough, at least three people need to bring plates, silverware, and napkins.  All of those could be accomplished by one person, of course, but that would defeat the purpose of the ‘luck.

You know you’ve really won potlucking when people ask you to bring a dish you are specifically known for making.  One of my friends makes a spinach dip that is so good that I’m thinking about inviting her for a one-person potluck.  I’ll bring the fruit salad.

I don’t have any photos of myself at a potluck because I’m clearly stuffing my face, so instead the photo above is of clouds because if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I recently became very deep.

This week’s news has a mom looking for a helpful passenger, as well as balloons and power-full women.  Read on.

A mom of three is looking to track down a Fargo “girl named Ashlyn (Ashlan?)” who helped her family through a long flight. (Facebook)

Grand Forks’ Misti Kauffman has been selected to join a team of international balloon professionals to build a 300,000-balloon wonderland for the non-profit resort designed for children with critical illnesses, “Gives Kids the World Village.” (Grand Forks Herald)

Mantador’s Gary Puetz, along with his brothers Douglas Puetz and Bill Puetz, received Quilts of Valor for their service to our country. (Wahpeton Daily News)

After Dickinson’s food pantry put out a call on Facebook asking for donations due to understocked shelves, the community responded with 1,000 pounds of food within a day. (Dickinson Press)

The Power of 100 Women’s Dickinson chapter is donating $20,000 – a $400,000 milestone made possible by 250 members over six years – to the Domestic Violence Rape Crisis Center and the Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center. (Dickinson Press)

Last year the Fargo YMCA served 115,000 free lunch meals to kids over the summer months, and are expected to serve the same number again. (Fargo Forum)

The definition of the sweetest kid: Valley City’s Wade Sornsen is selling lemonade to help his mom pay for his stitches. (Valley City Times-Record)

Dickinson’s Ellisyn Ahmann is the top Girl Scout cookie salesperson in both North Dakota AND South Dakota. (Dickinson Press)

North Dakota’s Michelle Duppong is a candidate to becoming America’s 12th saint. (Grand Forks Herald)

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