Superfan | June 1, 2022

If you’ve been watching the NHL Playoffs, you know that the Edmonton Oilers and the Colorado Avalanche are now competing in the Conference Finals; the winner of their series will play for the Stanley Cup.  If you’ve been reading North Dakota Nice for a while, you know that Kyle has loved (/hated) the Oilers for 42 years.  With that, I’m going to interrupt my regularly-scheduled programming (next week will be a story about the long weekend, so you’ll need to pretend like that’s still fresh in your mind) to tell you what it’s like to be married to a hockey – and specifically an Oilers – superfan.

Even if you don’t know anything about hockey, you probably know Wayne Gretzky.  Wayne Gretzky played for the Edmonton Oilers from 1979 to 1988; during that time the team won four Stanley Cups.  The call of the Wayne was so strong that little Kyle Kosior broke ranks from his family’s long-time Montreal Canadiens legacy to don the navy blue and orange.  This switch was a CHOICE because the Kosiors had collectively been Canadiens fans since the 50’s, when his grandmother’s cousin played for the team.

Little Kyle immersed himself in everything Oilers.  By the time he was ten, he knew the stats and minute-by-minute gameplay of every player on both the Oilers and their farm team.  Also when he was ten, the Oilers – the defending Stanley Cup Champs – had advanced to Game 7 against the Calgary Flames in an early Playoff series.  In the third period, the game tied, an Oilers player named Steve Smith went to pass the puck back to a teammate, missed his target, and hit the leg of his own goalie (Grant Fuhr) to score on his own net.  Little Kyle flung himself on his bed, sobbing in despair.  He cried all through the night and through school the next day.

Twenty years later, Kyle found himself in an elevator with Steve Smith.  Kyle was carrying a case of beer (a gift to a friend), and Steve asked him for one – and Kyle, the guy who has literally given people the coat off his back, channeled that inner ten-year-old and did about the meanest thing he’d ever done in his life.  He looked Steve dead in the eyes and said, “No.”

(As a hockey mom, I’d like to say that Steve Smith is not the reason the Oilers didn’t advance in the playoffs.  Hockey is a team sport, and if the Oilers were so great they would have won that game/series regardless.  As someone who loves Kyle, however, I will continue to keep my mouth shut.)

The Oilers won their last Stanley Cup in 1990.  Since then, they have…what’s a gentle way to put this?…sucked.  While some of the Oilers fans drifted away to less-craptastic teams, Kyle remained steadfast.  Also, miserable.  When we met in 2004, his M.O. would be to watch a game, stomp around the apartment swearing for fifteen minutes (social media wasn’t a thing back then; now he does his grumping on Twitter), and then toss and turn all night.  I found these tantrums so enticing that I decided to marry him.

The Oilers managed to enter the Playoffs in 2006, the same year we were wed.  As much as he tried to play it cool, Kyle was hopping with excitement.  That is not an exaggeration; we were living in an apartment on the south end of Grand Forks at the time, and Kyle would bounce between the living room and bedroom to shake off his nerves before every puck drop.  Despite decades of losses, ten-year-old (but now thirty) Kyle was so convinced of their success that he decided to host a watch party with a large group of his law school friends.  Unsurprisingly, the Oilers lost – and Kyle stood up from his Oilers easy chair (which was set below his Oilers wall clock, Oilers wall decals, and Oilers framed autographed pictures) and left.  Not out of the room; out of the apartment.  He came back a few hours later, long after all of our guests had left.

“Where did you go?”  I asked him the next morning.

“For a walk,” he said.

“Where did you walk?”  I asked.

“To East Grand Forks,” he said. (note: About 14 miles roundtrip)

I’ve now been Oilers fan-adjacent for nearly twenty years.  In that time:

  • Kyle tried (unsuccessfully) to name our first-born Ryan Smyth Pisani Kosior after two of his favorite players.
  • In 2017, Kyle didn’t watch two games out of disgust, and has since spent the last five years telling me about the time he didn’t watch those two games.
  • He has followed, and unfollowed, and refollowed every single Oilers blog and fan on Twitter. He has also cancelled multiple dinner dates because the Oilers lost earlier in the evening and “He just didn’t feel up to it.”
  • He has taken our sons to see an Oilers game every year of their lives (excluding 2020), and I finally had to lay down the law on gifts of Oilers merch because I have enough t-shirts and jerseys to outfit the entire team.
  • When I suggested that maybe he find a back-up team to follow to help balance out the Oilers suckiness, he didn’t talk to me for an hour.

Now the Oilers are in the Playoffs, and poor Kyle has had a permanent stomachache since about November.  I told one of our friends that he’s so tensed up that I’m not sure he’s gone to the bathroom.  The ten-year-old in him is still hopping with excitement; the grown man is so afraid to watch that he’ll turn off the TV in the middle of the game and I’ll have to refresh Twitter (or go into another room with a TV, because the Playoff games this year have been pretty fun) until I see that they are winning.

By the time I post this story the Oilers and Avs will have played their first game, and I wanted to get this on record before the series advances – because…well, because twenty years of because.  I asked Kyle the other day if he was happy about the Oilers, and he thought about it for a long time and then said, “I don’t know.”

And that’s what it’s like being married to a superfan.

The photo above is of Kyle watching an Oilers game.  Look at how much he’s enjoying it.

This week’s news has lemonade, fish, and 13,850 miles.  Read on.

A group of Hunter second-graders raised $2,016 via a one-day lemonade stand to help one of their classmates purchase a new vehicle.(Facebook)

Time to borrow a fishing rod, because North Dakota residents 16 and older can fish for free on June 4 and 5. (KX Net)

A little (or even a lot) of rain didn’t deter the annual North Dakota Memorial Day ceremony.  As Maj. Gen Al Dohrmann, North Dakota National Guard adjutant general, said, “It’s a beautiful day.  Any day we can gather and honor our veterans and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice is beautiful.” (Bismarck Tribune)

Jamestown’s Helene Neville has spent the last 12 years running across every state in the country – totally 13,850 miles – and is the “fifth and oldest person to ever run the perimeter of the continental U.S.” (Jamestown Sun)

Congratulations to the newly-crowned Mrs. North Dakota America, Mrs. North Dakota American, Miss North Dakota for America Strong, Teen Miss for North Dakota, Junior Teen for North Dakota, Junior Miss for Grand Forks, Little Miss for Grand Forks, Junior Miss for Grand Forks 2023, Miss Red River Valley for America Strong, and Mrs. Downtown Grand Forks America! (Grand Forks Herald)

I know this isn’t a typical North Dakota Nice story, but I happen to know the Vanderpans and they are the nicest family and I think it’s awesome that Matt is sharing his story to raise awareness of stroke symptoms. (Grand Forks Herald)

And finally, a little North Dakota Nice from Facebook, courtesy of a a North Dakota Associate Poet Laureate:


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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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Sunshine and May | May 4, 2022

As I type this, THE SUN IS SHINING.  We’ve had roughly 100000000 grey days in a row this spring and I tell you what, it starts to wear on a person – like a hat with bells which seemed like a whimsical idea in the store but turns out is the equivalent of self-induced tinnitus.  I like rainy days and cozy darkness just like all women on Instagram, but I was one more set of clouds away from getting a Vitamin D lightbulb to sit under it while I shopped for a plane ticket to Yuma, Arizona – the sunniest place on Earth.  These big, beautiful blue skies have completely cleansed my soul, like the feeling you get when you throw out a hat with bells on it.

You’d think I wouldn’t need as much sun as the average person because I am in the top 5% of the whitest humans in existence.  “Oh haha, Amanda, you’re such an exaggerator,” you may be thinking.  Well, once in college I was wearing shorts and went to put on some suntan lotion on my legs and my friend burst out laughing and said, “I thought you were wearing socks.”  Like white knee-high sport socks, because my legs were roughly the same color.  Believe it or not, it takes a baseline amount of sun to keep me this color; without it, I’d go translucent.

This stretch of clouds has made me wonder how folks in Seattle can stand it (probably because they have Bigfoot and it’s a worthwhile trade-off) because around the fifteenth straight day of grey my brain started to go to sleep.  I know this was the same for many of my fellow North Dakotans because it snowed several times and exactly zero people mentioned it.  North Dakotans love talking about the weather because we have so much of it.  May is historically an especially atmospheric smorgasbord; in 2021, it was 86 degrees on May 1.  In 2022, it was 36.  We had a dusting of snow yesterday and not one of my coworkers said ANYTHING – not, “Time to move to Florida!” or “It’s May, for Pete’s sake!”  My desk neighbor just looked out the window, sighed, and went back to her enormous mug of coffee; and if that’s not a sign of seasonal depression, I don’t know what is.

Anyways, it’s sunny and that same coworker got a chance to comment about the glare on her computer screen this morning so all is well.  With my brain reawakened, I have come to realize two things: 1) I’ve been wearing yoga pants to work for the last three weeks which is both great and…not…great; and 2) holy crap, it’s May.  To quote the entire Midwest’s favorite meme, “Ope, this month just sneaked up on me.”  If I’m being totally honest, 2021 and 2022 really sneaked up on me – I’ve had a half-written birthday gift thank-you note to my best friend sitting on my desk since February 2020 – but those years happened in spite of my lack of participation, and May is NOW.

Since I’m making lists, May means three things: 1) Grand Forks hosts a citywide garbage cleanup; 2) my husband and youngest son both celebrate birthdays; and 3) school is coming to an end.

The citywide cleanup – the City gives everyone a day to clean out their basements and garages and stick their found bric-a-brac on the curb for pickup – is a big problem for me because my husband and kids love crap.  Normally, on April 30th, I will sit them down and definitively state to NOT TO BRING HOME ANY CURBSIDE GARBAGE.  Then, when they inevitably do BRING HOME CURBSIDE GARBAGE, I have a well-crafted speech prepared which makes them return said garbage to its appropriate resting place.  Well, I didn’t do that, and in the last 24 hours Kyle procured a torn hockey net (which he’s “going to fix up for the neighbor’s kid”) and my ten-year-old dragged home a torn and wet gaming chair for a gaming system/desk that he doesn’t own.  And now, because I didn’t say anything, I’m either going to have two sad hockey net/gaming chair owners or a non-junk-filled house, but not both.

As I said, my soon-to-be-seven-year-old will soon be seven and my husband’s birthday is Cinco de Mayo (which we call Cinco de Kyle).  In anticipation of this 31-day party, I spend the bulk of April asking, “Do you want a bug party or a Spider Man party?” and “If I knitted you a hat with a bell as your gift, would we remain married?”  Since I’m behind on my schedule, I’ll have to buy Kyle a normal tortilla chip hat and Almost-Seven is going to have to be happy with fake bugs instead of real (kidding, that was never an option).

Finally, and speaking of schedule, school ends on the third of June.  In celebration, my sons’ school has started a month-long countdown of “Spirit Days” to give Kyle a chance to run around the house looking for a chartreuse shirt or a tortilla chip hat at 8:04 am.  I’d help him, but I’m usually standing in the corner shouting, “What time is baseball practice, and does that coincide with the first Wild-Hurricanes game, and why is that half-broken bench sitting in the garage?”

But the most important thing is that the sun is shining.  Garbage chairs and hockey nets can still go back on the curb (or not), and birthday parties can have fake bugs (or no bugs at all); and so long as my brain, and legs, get their Vitamin D, all will be well.

The photo above is of Kyle with a DIFFERENT garbage net that he saved from the curb.  I’m pretty sure I’ve shown this photo on here before; and I’ll keep sharing it because HE WON’T STOP BRINGING HOME THESE NETS.

In terms of a good use of the word “garbage,” this week’s news has garbage bag sleeping mats, free hotel rooms, and duffel bags.  Read on.

For the past five years, volunteers at Trinity Lutheran Church have woven mats out of trash bags, 2,000 at a time. (KX Net)

Williston businesses got together to gift Microtel rooms – more than 80 nights’ worth of stays – to community members who were still without power due the blizzard. (KFYR TV)

In North Dakota-adjacent news, Minnesota’s Ryan Huso and Kyle Rohlfs – two strangers who met on the side of the road – saved Fargo’s Shannon Aughinbaugh after her car flipped over into a water-filled ditch. (Fargo Forum)

The Roosevelt Park Zoo now has three Amur tigers named Viktoria, Dmitri, and Luka. (Minot Daily News)

Congratulations to Team North Dakota, who took home the championship (for the second year in a row) at the CCM High School National Invitational Tournament! (Twitter)

May is National Foster Care Awareness month, and so Grand Forks teacher Ms. Abel is raising money to fill duffel bags so that kids don’t need to enter foster care with trash bags holding few to no belongings.  Kyle and I bought three duffel bags, and I’m telling you so that you’re impressed by us and so you will also donate, if you can.  The Amazon wishlist for these items can be found here. (Amazon)

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