Shorty | November 17, 2021

I am a 5’2” full-grown human, which is a perfectly good size.  It was a perfectly good size when I lived on the east coast, where either the quantity or average height of other fully-grown humans was seemingly closer to the neck of the body woods of my own.  It’s a perfectly good size now that I’m living back in the land of the Norwegian giants, even when I find myself in a conversation in a group of lovely hockey moms and I realize I’m talking to a bunch of shoulders.

There are a lot of benefits to being shorter than the average bjørn.  I’m like a compact car; I fit in every spot.  When I was growing up, that spot was often the front middle seat of the car.  Whereas other people pay extra for airplane seats with leg room, everything to me is leg room.  Also, I can wear children’s clothing sizes, which means there is absolutely no limit to the amount of glitter and sequins available to my wardrobe.

I get my height from my paternal grandparents, and in comparison to them I’m a real size success story.  Neither of my grandparents scaled the 5’ mark; my grandfather had to sit on a phone book to see over the steering wheel of his vehicle.  “Small and mighty,” as my father – who continues to tower over all of his Silverman relatives at 5’7” – liked to say.  I think we all had a little more hope that I would be “mid-sized and mighty” when I stretched into the 5’ range in the fourth grade and became a top scorer on the basketball team…that is, until the fifth grade, when I ran smack into both my adult height and puberty and spent the rest of my school days (bleaching my mustache and) cheering on the basketball team from the bottom riser of bleachers.

My (not Norwegian, but Polish) Kyle is 6’3”; a 13” height difference.  To put that in perspective, I am 11” taller than my six-year-old.  If you are thinking Kyle and I probably look like a father and Benjamin Button daughter when we slow-dance together, you are right.  While our size differential lends a whole new meaning to dancing “cheek to cheek,” it’s usually quite convenient on a day-to-day basis.  For example:

We have a large clear plastic tray.  We bought it to carry food from the kitchen to the grill.  That tray dutifully ferried hot dogs and hamburgers for a number of years and is now ready to be retired to a place outside of our house that rhymes with “becycling benter.”  I threw away gently placed that tray in the garage, only to find it the next morning being used by the aforementioned six-year-old to eat Cheerios in the basement.

“Fine, we can keep it,” I told Kyle, “But I don’t want to see it.”

He thought about that for a second, and then slid the tray on top of the cabinetry over the refrigerator – completely out of my eyesight.

“Perfect,” I said.

Like I said, our height differential is usually quite convenient.  He doesn’t need a ladder to change a light bulb; I don’t need to bend down to tell if our kids have brushed their teeth.  Our move, however, has posed a few interesting challenges.

Kyle is VERY lucky to have a wife who is so interested in how our house is furnished.  He’s also VERY lucky to have a wife who has put together a specific checklist of projects for Kyle to (kindly) accomplish in said furnishing of said house.  And he is VERY lucky to have a wife who uses that checklist to relay instructions such as “Hang this picture at eye height.”

I was walking down the hallway near the boys’ bedrooms the other evening when I realized something was amiss.  I checked the light fixture; working fine.  I checked the carpet; carpet-y.  It was then that I realized that all the pictures on the wall were just above my forehead – right at Kyle’s eye height.

Later, we were in what can only be described as our windowless bunker (the home of a treadmill and Kyle’s law school books) standing in front of the newly-hung mirror (seriously, he’s VERY lucky) that I had marked out on the wall for installation.  I turned to admire his handiwork.

“Stand up straight,” I said to him.  He did, and the top of his head was cut off in the mirror.

“It’s okay,” he said.  “I can’t use this room anyway because of the light” – referencing the fact that the fixture I had picked out cast its light just above his nose.

Anyways, we swapped out the fixture for a nice, flat flushmount and moved all of Kyle’s books up to the top shelf of our bookcases (which I can’t reach without standing on a book, appropriately) and we left both the pictures and the mirrors in their places so that both of us are equally convenienced/inconvenienced by our relative sizes.

The photo above is of one of the pictures in my ten-year-old’s room.  You can see Kyle’s reflection (at eye height) in the reflection.

This week’s new has an Unstoppable Mission, a relocated bridge, and a Nanotyrannus.  Read on.

A Bismarck woman named Emily Lang is gathering up toys in memory of her daughter, Presley. (KFYR TV)

Hankinson’s Dr. Magan Lewis was a featured guest on CBS’s “Mission Unstoppable,” which “celebrates women who have become superstars in STEM.” (Wahpeton Daily News)

North Dakota is the fifth “most charitable and giving” state in the country – and the fourth for volunteering and service. (KX Net)

Stark County is adopting a “Waste not, want not” mentality in repurposing an historic bridge as a fairway – get it, “fair”way – through the Stark County Fairgrounds. (Dickinson Press)

Grand Forks’ James Han Mattson’s horror fiction story, “Reprieve,” has been named a Publishers Weekly Top 10 Literary Fiction Title. (Grand Forks Herald)

Five area veterans now have beautiful new quilts thanks to the Valley Quilters Club. (Valley City Times Record)

Hillsboro’s Candice Monroe has published a children’s book filled with eleven short stories about topics parents and kids can discuss together. (Hillsboro Banner)

Jamestown’s Bruce Berg has donated 50 books from his baseball book collection to Jamestown Middle School. (News Dakota)

In “when one North Dakotan shines, we all shine” news, Dot’s Pretzels has been sold to The Hershey Co in a $1.2B deal.(Fargo Forum)

Only five Nanotyrannus skulls have been found around the world – including one in North Dakota. (Bowman County Pioneer)

Pumpkin spice and everything nice | September 30, 2021

Fall has officially…fallen; and with it millions of pumpkin spiced Pinterest boards have sprung up featuring porches and front doors and lawns covered in physical celebrations of autumn.  Obviously, I, too am all aboard the trainful of haybales.  This meme (which I did not make) pretty accurately represents my feelings on the matter:

As opposed to apparently all of North Dakota, however, I have no discernible skill when it comes to seasonal decorating.  For example, I am the only person in Grand Forks incapable of keeping a pot of mums alive.  I was lamenting this to one of my (well-decorated) friends and she said, “It sounds like you’re overwatering it,” and so I bought a new pot of mums and didn’t water it and it died and she said, “Well you have to water it a little,” so I bought another pot and watered it a little and it still died and she said, “Maybe you should try dried grass.”

I partially blame my lack of an orange thumb on the fact that I am Jewish, because I just don’t think the Jews are really in the inner cinnamon circle when it comes to celebration-based porch decorating.  I’m lumping us all into a group, obviously, but I can’t think of a time when I’ve gone over to a fellow Jew’s house and thought, “Man, I sure do like that Fourth of July bunting.”  We Jews actually have a holiday that falls smack in the middle of harvest in which decorations are part of the celebration (we hang up garlands and dried fruit and whatnot around a tent-structure called a Sukkah), but it’s less “Martha Stewart’s Top 5 Sukkah Splashes” and more like, “Get the craft paper and yarn so we can move onto the eating.”

I could be projecting these assumptions based on my own family’s lack of proclivity for all things Hobby Lobby.  My dad is an expert-level gardener, and so my parents’ method of decorating consisted of my mom swapping out the front door wreaths and all of us waiting for the next series of plants and flowers to bloom in and around the yard.  This was/is all well and good for them – but, as decades of mums would tell you, I would either need to lean into a theme of “old crone witch living deep in the forest with buckets of blackened roses and cupboards of poison” or invest all of my resources (and storage) into silk flowers.

Nevertheless, I press on.

We’re in a new house with a lovely front porch that is just perfect for decorating.  It’s so perfect, in fact, that the previous homeowner was known across Grand Forks for her amazing holiday décor, which is definitely the type of pressure I thrive on hahahahahahahahahaha.  When we first moved in, I went and got five beautiful bunches of red zinnias and planted them in big white pots in the hopes that it would trick the universe into thinking the old homeowner was still there and make them bloom into bundles of amazingness.

Unsurprisingly, they died.

Fortunately, they held on just long enough for Fall; and so last Saturday, I pulled those poor formerly-zinnias out of the pots (sorry again, plants) and decided that I would focus all of my efforts on putting up the most amazing autumn tchotchkie display anyone has ever seen.  Then, after Pinteresting ideas and reading an insane number of blogs on “DIY Decorating!,” I downgraded this great plan into one that had me setting out a small amount of pumpkins in a way that didn’t look like crap.

With my ten-year-old off playing with friends, my six-year-old and I loaded up into the car and drove 1,000 feet down the road to the neighbors’ houses, who had dozens of perfect pumpkins and gourds laid out across their yard and a “Pumpkins Sold Here” sign.

The pumpkins were neatly organized into $1, $3, $4, $5, $10, and $12 rows, and my strategy for a “small amount of pumpkins” just about went out the window when Six and I realized we liked ALL of the pumpkins and started stacking a gazillion of them into my trunk.  Finally, being a responsible grownup got the better of me, and we put back all but four of them (plus two little green ones) and rolled back home.  We set the pumpkins on the front steps – one per step – and the two little greenies by the door, shook hands, and Six ran off to play.

I stepped back to admire our work – and frowned.  Something wasn’t Pinterest-y enough about it.

I moved the green pumpkins down to the steps and shifted a few of the oranges over to look a bit more random and stepped back again.  Still not right.

I moved the greenies to the columns next to the door and the oranges all lumped together.  Nope.

I put all of them by the columns.  Nope again.

I moved all of the pumpkins to the bottom step.

Across the street, two teenagers were sunning themselves on the lawn.  Around the third iteration, one of them sat up and was watching me intently.

“Put the orange and green one on the top,” one shouted.  I did that.

“Put two by those columns,” he pointed.  I did it.

“Put the rest on the steps,” he said – and, having exerted all of the necessary effort, returned to lounging.

It looked great.

It still looks great.  It looks so great that I’m thinking about adding a front door wreath.  Obviously, I’ll be taking my neighbor to the store with me.

The photo above is Kyle’s artistic take on the green pumpkins.

This week’s news has an Opening Act, Oktoberfest, and a bad word.  Read on.

Mandan’s Brianna Helbling has been writing songs since she was seven years old, and is now gearing up for the quarter finals of “The Opening Act” competition. (KX Net)

Dickinson’s Out of the Darkness Community Walk raised over $30,000 in support of suicide prevention. [A side note on this: I participated in the Fargo walk – they happen all over the country – at the same time.  What struck me is how.many.sad.people. were there walking for each person lost to suicide.  If you are considering suicide, remember that there are so many people who will miss you and reach out to one of them for help.] (Dickinson Press)

For the next month, Medora will be home to Johnny Cash. (Dickinson Press)

A Williston mom got a letter from her Guard son, courtesy of a clerk at the post office. (KX Net)

Four Grand Forks teenagers were given a Saved by the Belt Award for wearing their seatbelts when their car rolled, saving all of their lives. (Grand Forks Herald)

Bismarck’s Madeline Erickson has been named the Youth Advocate of the Year by the national Tobacco-Free Kids organization for her work to eliminate vaping. (KX Net)

Last Saturday was Hankinson’s 19th annual Oktoberfest celebration, which starts with the traditional tapping of the keg. (Wahpeton Daily News)

Belfield’s Ruth Johnson was honored with the fourth-annual Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award, given to “spotlight positive actions done by local people with the purpose to build morale throughout the county.”  Bonus, the story includes a compliment from a former student, who wrote, “My teach is a b**ch and her name is Mrs. Johnson.” 🙂 (Dickinson Press)

Congratulations to North Dakota’s Teacher of the Year, Bret Dockter of Harvey! (KVRR)

Moving Day | July 29, 2021

I wasn’t planning on writing anything else about our move because, honestly, who wants to read that – but the whole thing was such a wild ride that Kyle basically insisted I record it here for posterity.  So, here we go:

I’m sure that most people are highly organized and methodical when it comes to moving, but Kyle and I are not those people.  We made the foolhardy decision to both sell our old house and buy our new house on the same Friday – meaning we had until 10:00am on Friday to get everything out of our old house, because after that it would belong to someone else.  Fortunately, the homeowners of our new house had kindly given us permission to put our stuff in their garage a week before the move; and you’d assume that I would have taken advantage of that generosity by packing up early, but I didn’t.  Instead, I booked our movers for Thursday.  In my head, the movers would have our stuff out by 5:00pm, which would give me several hours to clean up and weep over memories before getting a good night’s sleep at our rental house* and then stopping at Starbucks before heading to the title company for the closings.

It was a balmy 82 degrees when we awoke on Thursday.  The movers arrived at 8:45am, just as I had started to sweat through my underwear.  By the time lunch had rolled around, the temperature had risen to something roughly akin to the surface of the sun – proving too much for one of our movers, who had to leave due to heatstroke.  Our other mover worked his butt off, but by 5:00 there was still about 10% left to be packed up first thing in the morning.

“We’re supposed to close tomorrow morning,” I told the owner of the moving company over the phone.

There was a pause.  “It’ll be fine,” he said.

For the next several hours, Kyle and I packed and cleaned, cleaned and packed, and drove a million miles back and forth from our old house to the new one.  We finally threw in the (disgusting) towel at 1:00am.  Kyle was up and out with the sun to meet the movers.  I got our boys fed and deposited with the babysitter, and attempted to shower off the top layer of slime before driving to the title company to close.

My phone buzzed twice as I pulled into the parking lot.

“The new homeowners want you to know that they are fine with you taking the time you need after the closing to finish up at the house,” read my realtor’s text.

“The moving company sent extra guys and we’re almost done,” read Kyle’s text.

I breathed a tiny sigh of relief, and the phone rang.  It was the bank.

“The underwriter isn’t quite ready,” our banker told me.  “So we’ll have to push back your closing to later…probably this afternoon.”

“Both closings?”  I asked.

“No,” said the banker.  “Just the new house.”

“What if we don’t get underwriter approval?” I asked.

There was a pause.  “It’ll be fine,” he said.

Kyle showed up to the closing looking like he had just emerged from an active volcano.  After we finished selling our house (to the sweetest little family), I told him about the conversation with the bank.

“But I can’t sign this afternoon,” he told the title processor, our realtor, and me.  “I have baseball.”

Oh, right.  Kyle was the head coach of our son’s baseball team, I told everyone, and that particular weekend (specifically, that very moment) was the state tournament.  I’m guessing the dates for the state tournaments are set years in advance; but even if they weren’t, they were in place when we nonchalantly blindfolded our eyes and played pin-the-closing-date-on-the-calendar back when we wrote up the offer on our new house.  Nevertheless, Kyle couldn’t just sub in a replacement coach to attend another closing; there were all sorts of background checks and sign-offs and rules for state.

There was a pause.  “It’ll be fine,” our realtor said.

We left the title company with two hours to spare before Kyle (and our son) had to be at the diamond.  Kyle went back to the rental house to shower and change, and I headed out to the old house to make sure everything was squared away.  I was pulling into the driveway when my phone rang again.  It was Kyle.

“I accidentally packed my sneakers,” he said.

“Can you wear your flip-flops?” I asked.

“Nope,” he said.  “I’m going to run to the store.”

I met Kyle walking back into the rental.  He was still filthy, but notably slightly less stressed, and carrying a shopping bag.

“They told me that I had been a good customer, so they gave me the shoes for free,” he said.

“Holy cow,” I said.  My phone buzzed.

“The underwriter gave final approval, and so we’re going to come to the baseball field and finalize your sale,” our realtor texted.

“Holy cow,” I said.

Thirty minutes later, Kyle, our title processor, our realtor, and I sat in the parking lot of Apollo Field and signed for our new home; just four cool dudes hanging out in a sedan at the baseball park.  Kyle had to leave at one point to turn in his lineup.  To the dozens of people who walked by while this was happening, it probably looked like a very thorough (I mean, we had a notary stamp and a ream of paper) drug deal.  Our realtor gave us both a set of cloth napkins (re: my story two weeks ago) and a set of house keys.  After it was done, I celebrated with a Popsicle from the concession stand.

Thank you to our realtor and the title processor for coming to the baseball field.  Thank you to the moving company for getting our stuff all squared away at the new house while we signed away the old one.  Thank you to our babysitter for changing her schedule, and to our friends for watching our youngest son while we did our parking lot purchase.  Thank you to my parents who arrived later that day, took the boys for a hotel sleepover, and set up our new kitchen.  Thank you to the old house’s new homeowners who gave us a lot of grace, and the new house’s old homeowners for letting us move in early.  Thank you to the store who gave my husband shoes.  Thank you to our awesome old neighbors who offered to stay up late and help us move, and our awesome new neighbors for coming over and introducing themselves.  Thank you to our amazing friends who invited us to stay at their houses when they found out we were in a rental, and to our other amazing friends who brought over dinner and threw us a “welcome to the rental neighborhood” barbecue.

And finally, thank you to my great-grandfather for setting down his peddler’s cart in Grand Forks, North Dakota so that we could be lucky enough to know all of these nice people.

The photo above is my backseat view of our house closing.

This week’s news has a pile of pancakes, a pack of pantries, and a high-flying engagement.  Read on.

The community of Hankinson helped 14-year-old Logan Falk celebrate being cancer-free. (Wahpeton Daily News)

The Jamestown Fire Department flipped pancakes for 1,000 people as a part of Jamestown’s Buffalo Days. (News Dakota)

“I dare you to look up at the stars, not down at the mud, and set your sights on one of them that, up to now, you thought was unattainable.” – Grand Forks’ Cliff Cushman in a letter to area youth (which has been reprinted for 57 years) after tripping over a hurdle at the 1964 Olympics (Grand Forks Herald)

Lidgerwood’s Cooper Hinrichs saved a teenager who had gotten in trouble in Otter Tail Lake. (Fargo Forum)

BIO Girls – a group of 2nd through 6th graders in Bismarck – are restocking Little Free Pantries throughout the city. (KX Net)

NDSU’s Connor Wendel and Macy Denzer got engaged at the top of the Ferris wheel at the North Dakota State Fair. (KX Net)

The North Dakota Highway Patrol is in the running to win “Best Looking Cruiser” in the country – with winner becoming a January calendar model. (KX Net)