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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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:

Screenshot_20220526-211539_Facebook


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