A Thanksgiving story | November 23, 2022

By the time you read this it will be Thanksgiving Eve and I will be pretending like I’m so overwhelmed with preparations while my mother “gives me a hand” by doing it all.  I am very grateful for my parents (my dad will participate by staying out of the way), and my husband and father-in-law (Kyle decided to deep-fry the turkey, which…has been a whole thing), and my children (who will spend the day fighting, as per Thanksgiving tradition), and all of you.  Thank you for being with me these past two years.

Also, thank you for the kind messages related to my grandfather’s passing.  My grandpa lived a very long (he would have been 96 in December), happy, love-filled, comfortable life, and died peacefully with all his wits about him – which, as his rabbi said, is something we should all hope to do.  Still, losing someone who adores you unconditionally feels pretty lonely, and so I appreciate the attention.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a story about my grandparents because 1) they were awesome, and 2) this particular event coincidentally occurred at Thanksgiving.

Like I said, my Grandpa Mel and Grandma Mar (her name was Marion, but we called her Grandma Mar because grandmother in French is grand-mere, which sort of sounds like Grand Mar; and if my grandmother had to be old enough to be a grandma she would at least be a glamorous French one) were fantastic.  They were on a first-name basis with half of the maître d’s in New York and New Jersey.  They vacationed with (and had a bonkers story about) Dick Cavett – and since I’m name-dropping, Judy Blume was at my engagement party because she was writer-friends with my grandma.  My grandpa performed magic tricks at all of my childhood birthday parties; and for my eighteenth birthday, they took my sister and me to Paris and London.  I lived with them for a college summer, during which we’d celebrate the end of each workday with a martini.  They were fun, and cool, and had amazing taste, and sought out unique and interesting experiences.

They were also totally normal grandparents, and that’s what I’m going to tell you about today.

It was the year 1999, and I was getting ready to take the Amtrak train from Boston to New Jersey for some quality Thanksgiving/Grandma and Grandpa time.  I called my grandparents from our apartment landline (because it was 1999) to let them know I was headed to the station and expected to get on the 2:00 pm (or whatever, it was 22 years ago) train.

“What time will you arrive?”  Grandma asked.

“I think around 5,” I told her.  “I can call you from a payphone (re: 1999) when I get there to confirm?”

“No need,” Grandma said.  “Grandpa’s already at the station.”  We both laughed, although I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not because my grandfather was always VERY EARLY to EVERYTHING.

(Here’s a side story to that: The Grand Forks International Airport is actually one of the busiest in the country for take-offs and landings because we have an aviation school in town; however, the city only has 50,000 people so the airport itself is just two gates.  Today those two gates are in a fancy airport building; but, in the 1980’s, it was one big room separated by a metal detector with a restaurant tacked onto the end.  My grandparents were flying back to New Jersey on the 7:00 am flight, and so my grandfather got to the airport at 3:00 am…and then sat in the car for two hours, because the airport itself didn’t open until 5:00.  Finally, a worker arrived; and so my grandparents went in, the worker checked their bags, took them through the metal detector, and then ripped their boarding pass on the other side.  When they sat down in the waiting room, my grandma checked her watch: 5:08.)

“I hope you do get in at 5 so we can go to the house before dinner,” Grandma said.  “We need you to help us with something very important.”

“What’s that?”  I asked.

Earlier that year, my grandparents had bought their first compact disc player; in celebration, my uncle had gifted them several CDs of their favorite jazz musicians.

“The player is broken,” Grandma said.  “We need you to fix it.”

“Well, I don’t know much about CD players,” I told her, “But I’ll do what I can.”

“You are a technology wiz,” she said (Note: I was not).  “I’ve been telling everyone about that award you won.”

“Which award?”  I asked.

“You know, the very prestigious award from BU,” she said.

I thought for a moment.  “The Dean’s List?  That’s not an award, it’s just a semester grade thing.  Lots of people are on it.”

“Maybe,” she said, brushing me off.  “But you’re the very best.”

“Obviously,” I said.

I arrived in New Jersey, and, of course, Grandpa was there waiting for me.  He gave me a big kiss and a hug and said,

“We are going to the house before dinner because we need you to help us with something very important.”

“Grandma told me,” I said.  “I’ll do what I can.”

“You are a champion of academia and science,” he said (Note: Nope).  “I have been telling everyone about how you got a job with an international company your first month at school.”

I thought for a moment.  “The Gap?  I’m not even allowed to use the cash register.”

“You’ll be running the place by the end of the year,” he said, brushing me off.  “They are going to make you the CEO.”

“Naturally,” I said.

At the house, they presented me with a little round boombox.

“We put the CD in,” Grandpa said.  “And we pressed play, but nothing happens.”

“You have to turn it on first,” I said, flipping the On/Off switch.  The CD player fired up, and a trumpet blared.

“Ahhhhh!”  Grandma sighed.  “You did it!  Such a smart girl.”

“Smart and good-looking,” Grandpa said.  “She gets both from her grandmother.”

He offered his hand to Grandma, and the two of them danced around the living room for the rest of the song.  We left for dinner a few minutes later, where we toasted the coming Thanksgiving, as well as my exceptional genius and beauty.

My parents, while very supportive, are fully aware of my intellectual abilities – and so I don’t think we’ll be celebrating my brilliance this year.  I’m sure, however, we’ll raise a glass to my (and my sister’s) children – whom my parents know, without a doubt, to be the brightest stars in the entire universe.

The photo above is of my grandma and grandpa and was taken by my Uncle Dean when they were 45 years old (and he was 19). It was the first photo Dean had taken with an SLR camera – a used Nikkormat for $175. Related/unrelated, my uncle – Dean Landew – is a rock musician with a bunch of songs on the Radio Indie Alliance Top 10. You check out his music here.

This week’s news has makeover artists, football players, and monks. Read on.

Country House and Angel 37 paired up to offer a no-catch free Thanksgiving dinner on Monday. (KX Net)

Patrons of the Heavens Helper’s Soup Café in Bismarck were treated to a limo ride and makeovers, courtesy of Glance Salon. (KFYR TV)

The North Dakota State College of Science football team – including their 49-year-old defensive lineman, Ray Ruschel – are playing for the NJCAA DIII National Championship next week. (Not The Bee)

The entire town of Hankinson is celebrating Cody Mauch as he heads to the NFL. (Fargo Forum)

Elementary, middle, and high school students in Fargo filled the Fargodome with food donations for the Great Plains Food Bank. (Valley News Live)

In “holy crap” news, a Colgate farmhand survived being trapped in a bin for an hour. (Grand Forks Herald)

Did you watch the Artemis One launch last week?  If so, you marveled at the efforts of the UND and NDSU students who helped make it happen. (KFYR TV)

El Belfour – a former UND player and one of the five winningest goaltenders in NHL history – suited up for a rec game in Grand Forks last week. (Grand Forks Herald)

Here’s a cool photo of some early ice pillars near Tioga. (Facebook)

The monks of Assumption Abbey in Richardton pulled out the sleds for a little snowy fun. (KFYR TV)

Let’s Be (Official) Pals!

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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)