Halloween, costumes, and hugs | November 2, 2022

I’ve written about Halloween costumes every single year I’ve had North Dakota Nice because I love costumes.  Lerve them.  Looove them.  One of my favorite costumes was a Rainbow Brite get-up that I wore for Halloween in 1985 AND 1986 because it had striped tights and a plastic smock and was rad.  Nowadays, if you were to dress up as Rainbow Brite you’d get a blonde wig and a giant hairbow, but the 80s were pretty literal so my costume instead came with a full-head mask where the eyes were punched, not in the face, but in the hair – because nothing says “Gonna take you for a ride” like four eyeballs:

Another favorite costume was in college.  Two of my roommates were English majors and I was an English minor, and we dressed up as a Prepositional Phrase.  Specifically, we were the phrase, “Against the wall,” with each of us wearing a t-shirt with one of the words (I was the “The”).  Exactly zero of our fellow Halloween partygoers got it; and when we educated them on our cleverness, most people nodded slowly and said, “Huh.” before wandering off.  (The following year I was a Sexy Pirate and everyone seemed to have a handle on that.)

The only thing I like more than costumes are hugs.  My dream job would be to be a Disney Princess, because dressing up like Sleeping Beauty and hugging kids all day sounds like a 1985 Rainbow Brite costume (i.e. rad).  However, it turns out you need to be “tall” and “beautiful” and not “short” and “Jewish-y-looking” to be a Disney Sleeping Beauty, so I guess I’ll just have to bide my time until Feivel Mousekewitz from An American Tail really takes off (what kid DOESN’T see themselves in a depressing story about escaping Russian pogroms?!).

Women (and maybe men, too, what do I know) love to talk about our Love Languages – Compliments, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Buying Candles And Then Never Burning Them.  My language is, obviously, Physical Touch.  I love hugs.  Lerve them.  I love strong hugs, wimpy hugs, one-arm side hugs, whatever.  If I had my way, I’d hug every one of my coworkers before and after work (and then I’d hug H.R. after they inevitably brought me in for a “Keep your hands to yourself” chat).  My little sister is my gold standard for hugging.  Her hugs are warm and smushy and smell great.  She could give me a birthday coupon for a ten-minute hug AND I WOULD USE IT, I REALLY WOULD.

Kyle’s family’s Love Language is No Touching – so much so that when we first got engaged and I was in the process of meeting his extended family my sister-in-law would go in ahead of me and warn them, “Hey, everyone, Amanda’s a hugger,” so they could steel themselves for what was to come.  However, for a family that doesn’t like touching they are incredibly good huggers, and I know because after seventeen years together they will initiate my hugs just to get them out of the way.

North Dakota is also not big on touching.  North Dakotans don’t even really like touching themselves (gross, not like that).  For example, I have been to many, many movies in the theater (humble brag).  In every non-North Dakota U.S. state where I’ve seen a movie, someone has applauded at some point during the film.  I have never, ever been to a movie in North Dakota where someone in the audience has felt compelled to clap.  This does not mean that North Dakotans don’t like the movies.  Au contraire.  It means they show their affection in other respectfully-distanced ways, such as wearing a humorous t-shirt with the movie’s tagline on it or telling their friends of their partiality towards the cinema.

Like my sister, North Dakotans are warm (and smell great); and, of course, they WILL hug; it’s just not their first instinct when engaging with someone.  “Well, everyone is like that, Amanda,” you may be thinking.  Listen, I lived in Boston for six years, my sister lived in Los Angeles for a decade, and our mom’s entire side of the family is on the East Coast – and I can tell you with confidence that East and West Coasters not only hug, but kiss one another like they are trying to win a numbers competition.  In more than one instance I have been introduced to an East or West Coaster who kissed me on the LIPS, and I honestly and truly can’t imagine what would happen if I did that to a North Dakotan (wait, yes I can – they would kiss me back and then avoid me for the rest of my life).

While the Kosiors are family and can’t avoid my hugs, I try not to put my fellow North Dakotans in a similarly awkward position.  However, I still need my daily touches, so I’ve taken to patting people on their back and/or arm as a consolation: “I’m so happy to see you [pat pat].”  “How have you been [pat pat]?”  “You look great [pat pat pat]!”  I’ve also found that if I pat people enough, over time they will hug me when they see me…so, double win.

Last night was the most beautiful Halloween in memory: sixty degrees, nary a whisper of wind, and a sun that shone all the way to sunset.  Kyle and I took our seven-year-old trick-or-treating (Eleven went with his friends); and Seven, who normally likes hugs about as much as his father, was so taken in by the weather, the candy, the decorations, and the spookiness that he actually stopped other children for a hug (or a pat) at various intervals throughout the evening.  I sneaked a couple from him since he was handing them out so willingly, and for a few brief seconds I was fulfilling my dream of being a Disney Princess – wearing my high school letterman jacket, but close enough.

The photo above is of me and my little anti-hugger.

I say this every year, but I am so touched by the fact that the entire Grand Forks comes together to make sure Halloween is a great time for all of our children.  Some of the neighborhoods must have received 2,000+ kids per house (I saw one news report that said 5,000 for a particular street), and they leaned into it with big-time decorations, food trucks, and teenagers tapped to play crossing guards on the busier streets.

Here is my favorite story from last night: We were walking through a sea, A SEA, of people when Seven screeched, “LOOK, IT’S PATRICK STAR!”  Lumbering straight at us was a 7’ tall blow-up costume of Patrick Star from the TV show Spongebob Squarepants.  “HI, PATRICK!” Seven shouted through the crowd.  “Patrick” walked a few steps past us, turned around, and from somewhere around his navel the voice of an elementary-aged boy yelled, “S’UP!”  He then turned around and disappeared into the throngs.  (Unrelated: from this point forward, I shall only respond to greetings with “S’UP!”)

This week’s news has Meatloaf and potato salad.  Read on.


That’s it, I’m calling it – this is the Nice Story of the Year: two kids in Minot realized a candy bucket was empty, so they refilled it from their own stash. (KFYR TV)

Twins Eddie and Vinny Opp are Halloween-famous around Hillsboro for their amazing costumes. (Hillsboro Banner)

Dickinson’s Eric Sticka is on the road to recovery with the support of the Sticka Strong community. (KFYR TV)

Fargo’s Big Boy, Meatloaf, Cinnamon, and Buggy are Internet celebrities. (Fargo Forum)

Speaking of famous, Eva Schlepp’s potato salad is the talk of the town in Ashley. (KFYR TV)

Bismarck teacher Robert Fuller competed – and took Silver! – at the International Powerlifting Federation’s World Masters Men’s Classic Championships. (KFYR TV)

Dickinson artist Linda Little has sculpted a bronze statue of Medora de Vallombrosa – the namesake of Medora – and has installed it at the Von Hoffman house in Medora. (Dickinson Press)

A two-hundred-year-old tree needed to come down due to Dutch Elm Disease, and so Bismarck carpenter Michael Knodel has spent over 1,000 hours creating “something special for the city of Lisbon.” (KFYR TV)


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The Haunted House | October 19, 2022

As you’ll see in the news, the Williston Herald is running a kid’s ghost story contest.  When I read it, I thought, “I want to write a ghost story.”  The last time I wrote a short fiction piece so many of you lovely people sent me the nicest notes and I’m like a gremlin when it comes compliments (and food) – feed me and I won’t leave you alone.  So, in the spirit of Halloween and contests that I’m too old to do, here you go.


The Haunted House

by Amanda Kosior

“Don’t go over to that house, Coop, you hear me?”  Natalie Schanz’s sunshine smile had darkened to a thin grey line.  Around her feet, the autumn leaves swirled.  “Pretend like it’s not even there.”

Coop looked at his mother, who had only moments before been laughing with her childhood friend.  Her mother gave him the look that said that he shouldn’t even think about it.

“Don’t even think about it,” Laura Rooney said.

Natalie’s son, Sawyer, shifted his weight to the other side of his bicycle, and stared at the ground.

Coop was pretty sure he was going to like his new house.  He was pretty sure he was going to like his new school, and his new neighborhood, and his new town, and North Dakota in general, because they were all like his house, school, neighborhood, and town in Wisconsin – only now they were closer to his grandma and grandpa.  He was pretty sure he was going to like living across the street from Sawyer, because Sawyer was also eleven, played hockey, and rode a bike.  But he wasn’t sure what to think about that old, rundown house at the end of the block.

“Sawyer will show you all the good places you can go; won’t you, buddy?”  Natalie’s smile returned.

Sawyer nodded, his eyes still downward.

“I see they still haven’t done anything about The Olson’s,” Laura had said to Natalie five minutes earlier when she had brought over a meat tray and Sawyer to welcome the Rooneys to the neighborhood.  Laura had tilted her head to the house – which had probably been bright purple once, although now the few flecks of remaining paint were more of a dusty violet – and, as she did, the rickety screen door flapped open and closed a few times.

“They put up a ‘No Trespassing’ sign a couple of times, but you know how it is,” Natalie had said.  “Ardie Jean set up that trust to pay the taxes and keep the lawn and sidewalk clear, so it just goes on and on.”

“Still?”  Laura had scoffed.  “She died, what, fifty years ago?”

“At least.  My dad said it was haunted when he was a kid.”

That’s when Laura and Natalie had remembered that their boys were standing there.

“Don’t go over to that house, Coop, you hear me?”  Natalie said.

Later that afternoon, after the moving van left and the pizza man called, Cooper took his dog, Gunner, for a walk.  He thought about going left, towards the park, because that’s where his mom told him to go; but instead he casually strolled to the right, in the direction of The Olson’s.

Earlier, the street had been busier with cars and neighbors but now it was just Coop, Gunner, and the wind – which pushed him along until he found himself in front of the place he had been warned not to think about.  He studied it.

Cooper had assumed all haunted houses would look like something a person would find at Disney World, with a big spire and a gargoyle or two.  This was just a regular old falling-down house.  The porch tilted so low forward that the weeds had started to wind up the siding and most of the boards covering the windows were long gone.  But still, slap a coat of paint on it and it wouldn’t be too far off from their old home in Wisconsin.  In fact, he was pretty sure his mom had that exact same planter by the door, except this one had pieces of broken glass where the flowers should have been.

Gunner pulled on the leash, bored with the normalcy of this forbidden abode.

“Bye, house,” Cooper said.

The front porch light came on.

Cooper stared at the light.

“Must be a prank,” he said to Gunner, trying not to be scared.  He also tried not to be frozen in place.  Neither seemed to work.

“Stay away from this place, buddy,” a voice called out behind him, and Cooper jumped out of his skin.  He flipped around, grateful that he was at least able to move again.

The voice belonged to a mom pushing a baby in a stroller.  The baby chewed on the ear of a stuffed elephant, holding it out to Cooper as they approached.

“It’s probably about suppertime, isn’t it?”  She asked, patting him gently on the shoulder.  “You’d better get home.”

He nodded, and flipped Gunner’s leash.  She stood in front of The Olson’s until he turned into his driveway.

Cooper didn’t sleep a wink all night.  He got up twice to peek out the window.  In the darkness, The Olson’s front porch light burned brightly.

The light was still on the next morning when Sawyer rode up on his bike.  Together, the boys turned away, towards the park.

They rode until they ran out of runway at the baseball field, where they joined a game of 500 already in progress.  They played until lunchtime, when they, with a few new friends in tow, rode back to Sawyer’s for hot dogs.  For the rest of the day, they rode and played and played and rode until one of the kids – a boy named Jack – said, “I’m hungry,” and, without discussion, all of the boys turned down the road one block behind Cooper’s street.

They parked their bikes behind some tall bushes, and army-crawled to the back door of The Olson’s House.  The back porch light was also on.

“What are we doing?”  Coop whispered.  His voice shook, and he played it off with a cough.

“Shh,” Sawyer said.

A moment passed, and then the back door to the house creaked open.

“C’mon,” Jack whispered, and Sawyer grabbed Cooper’s arm, dragging him forward.  The boys ran up the stairs, through the door, and into the kitchen.

The condition of the kitchen mirrored the outside of the house.  Cobwebs hung off of every surface, from the dented ice box to the shredded polka-dotted window curtains.  Inside the doorless oven, a squirrel chirped.

“Hello, Mrs. Olson,” Jack called.

Once again, Cooper found himself unable to move.  He wished he had listened to Natalie.  He wished he had listened to that lady with the baby.  He wished they hadn’t moved out of Wisconsin.  He wished and wished, but those wishes still didn’t stop the fact that a real-life ghost was floating right up to him.

Except, Cooper realized, his legs loosening up a bit – like the house, this ghost wasn’t very…ghosty.  She was see-through, to be sure; but more of a pinky see-through.  She wore an apron embroidered with hearts and had tied a little bow on the top of her fluffy hair.  Cooper sniffed, and realized the air smelled like chocolate chip cookies, which were his favorite.

“Hello, boys!”  The ghost said in a twinkly, twittery voice.  “Sit down, sit down, I baked too many cookies!”

The boys sat down at the table, which Cooper noticed was not only completely devoid of dust, but polished clean and covered in a lace tablecloth.  Mrs. Olson puttered about the countertop, and when she turned around she was holding a platter of actual, non-transparent chocolate chip cookies. 

She held the platter out to Cooper.  He took one and bit into it.  It was warm and gooey and perfect.

“Now who are you?”  She said, as she pushed the platter to Cooper to make him take a second.

He told her his name the best he could with a mouthful of cookie.

“Cooper Rooney,” she said, tapping her finger on her lips to indicate she was thinking.  “Cooper Rooney.  I don’t know any Rooneys.  Are you from around here?”

“No,” Cooper said.  “But my mom’s family is.  My grandma’s name is Ginny Thompson.”

“Ginny Thompson!”  Mrs. Cooper threw her head back and laughed.  “So you’re Laura’s boy?”

Cooper nodded.

“She loved chocolate chip cookies, too,” Mrs. Olson said, handing him another one before giving the other boys three cookies of their own.

“You can’t tell your mom about this,” Jack said, shoveling two cookies in simultaneously.  And then, in his best mom voice, “Too much sugar.”

Sawyer nodded.  “Always ruinin’ supper,” he sang, and the boys laughed.


Okay, in all honesty, I don’t know where the photo above came from. I didn’t take it. I had it on my phone picture roll with all sorts of other photos that I downloaded that I thought were funny, like this one:

I was going to get a stock photo of a spooky house and saw these skeletons and thought they were much better. If it’s your photo or your skeletons and you want me to take it down, please message me (and I’m sorry).

Obviously, this week’s news has a writing contest. It also has sauerkraut and a perfect game. Read on.


Know a middle schooler or high schooler who loves to write ghost stories?  The Williston Herald is hosting a spooky writing contest! (Williston Herald)

Medora and Garrison have been named two of the coziest towns in America by MyDatingAdviser.com. (KX Net)

Once again, Wishek’s Sauerkraut Days are a stinky, delicious success. (KFYR TV)

Speaking of Wishek, here is a story of two random acts of kindness by teenagers Dominic Sayler and Gavin Wolf. (KFYR TV)

This is the non-obituary obituary for Arthur’s Joanne Iwen. (Fargo Forum)

Congratulations to eleven-year-old Tatum Lee of Bismarck, who bowled a perfect 300 game! (KFYR TV)

For the 42nd year, Williston is Tree City USA. (Williston Herald)


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Hey girl! Let’s go buy Halloween decorations.

Hey girl!

Well, we’ve had our “Back to School” front porch apple-shaped chalkboard welcome signs and oversized door ruler graphics up for like, what, a week already?!  You know what that means: we’d better hustle over to Target tomorrow and check out the Halloween decorations.  Although Megan told me they’re already pretty picked over since they’ve been on display since mid-August.  I knew we shouldn’t have spent that extra weekend at the lake; you snooze on the pontoon, you lose, right?!  Haha.

While we’re out, let’s run over to Starbucks and drop off our refillable commemorative “Happy Fall Y’all” cups.  Pumpkin Spice Latte season is starting early this year – woot woot!  Megan heard we can line our cups up at the counter and the baristas will just go down the row filling them at 12:01am on Wednesday.  We can wear our leg warmers when we pick them up!  Although it’s gonna be 95 degrees on Wednesday so maybe we’ll wear ‘em with shorts.  Haha.  We should also try out the sneak peek of their top-secret Gobble Gobble Grande that they’ll be launching in mid-September.  They are going to put little chocolate turkeys sprinkles on it – for cute, right?!

Oh, that reminds me: both Martha Stewart and Joanna Gaines have declared this Christmas the Year of the Sweater, and suggest covering your Christmas tree ornaments, wrapped and unwrapped presents, ceramic Santas and reindeers, door and window wreaths, and welcome mats in Scandinavian-patterned wool sweaters.  I’m so glad we anticipated this back in 2008 and started our Tuesday night Knit and Wine Club.  Although once you get a couple of pints of Merlot into Megan it’s more like a WHINE Club, right?!  Haha.  But seriously, if we are going to buy those miniature flocked Christmas trees that we saw at the Dollar Store we should get on it so we can get their sweaters knitted in time.

Speaking of Knit and Wine, were you sitting next to Megan last week when Hobby Lobby texted her that it was only 587 days to Easter 2024?  I’m thinking I’m gonna do wooden bunnies.  I’m pretty sure they’ll still be bunnies in 2024.  I don’t want another repeat of 2011, when I thought it’s be fun to do a whole theme of paper mache Western Black Rhinos for World Rhino Day and it turned out they had just gone extinct.  Blarg.  I found out right after I had stayed up all night writing funny jokes onto napkins for the kids’ lunchboxes – How do you keep a rhino from charging?  Plug it in! – and then had to quickly pivot to something else because Jack’s so sensitive about that kind of thing, you know?  The last time we went to the zoo, he came home and did a lemonade stand for the Spix’s macaw because he learned that they were endangered.  I’m happy he was so concerned about their plight, but I had to take a half-day off of work in order to design and construct a lemonade hut, stamp pictures of smiling lemons onto paper cups, paint a sign (macaws have a lot of feathers, whew), and decorate a cash box.  It was so much work that I forgot to make the lemonade and he was just selling empty cups for a bit.  That’s what happens when I do things last-minute.  People were nice and donated anyways.

What did I pivot to?  National Love Notes Day!  It was June, so naturally Walmart had all of their Valentine’s Day stuff.  I got a package of strawberry Funfetti and a miniature heart cake maker, and piped Candy Heart messages on all of them.  They were so cute and I (and the boys) loved them.  And that’s the whole point, right?

Hey, speaking of Walmart, are we doing Ginuary or Dry January in 2025?  Because I need to know if I should etch our last name into those cocktail glasses we got right after we graduated from high school.  I think we stored them in your old bedroom; good thing your mom never redecorated.  Okay, I gotta run the kids to hockey practice.  Man, where does the time go?

By Amanda Silverman Kosior



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