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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Axolotl | April 27, 2022

My ten-year-old has been campaigning pretty hard for an axolotl.  An axolotl, for those of you who aren’t up on your Minecraft animals and/or exotic amphibians, is a carnivorous salamander that lives under water, has frilly external gills, and looks like it’s always smiling.  My ten-year-old is not getting an axolotl.

Ten wants an axolotl because he actually wants a dog – and if not a dog, a cat; and if not a cat, a guinea pig; and if not a guinea pig, a bunny; and if not a bunny, an axolotl.  The thing is, Ten is allergic to pet dander.  Really allergic.  Think, “Oh, just take a Claritin and you’ll be fine sniff sniff,” and multiply that by an at-home nebulizer and a punch card’s-worth of asthma-related trips to the ER.  If you’re up on your dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and bunnies, you’ll know that all of those have fur (and therefore dander)…meaning his chances of getting an axolotl are about 4,000-times more likely than one of those other animals, even if those chances are still zero.

His request for an axolotl also isn’t completely lost in the deep end of the pool because his dad and I have a habit of getting him guilt pets – and nothing makes us feel more guilty than having a kid with a health thing.  Ten’s first pet, for example, was the by-product of his needing tubes in his ears.  If you, an adult, got tubes in your ears it would be achieved in your doctor’s office with some numbing.  When Ten got it done he was three years old, and three-year-olds need to be put under so they don’t wiggle their way into some extra head holes.

If you’ve ever been under anesthesia, you’ll know that you need to sign all sorts of waivers about the dangers of said anesthesia.  As three-year-olds aren’t great at writing their names, it was up to me to fill out forms that read something like, “I understand that this surgery is completely elective and anything that happens as a result is because I suck at parenting.”  Then my little buddy was wheeled back for tubing, gripping tight to his favorite hockey card, which he opted to bring with him instead of a stuffed animal.  He waved that hockey card as he disappeared out of view.

Naturally, I burst into tears.  Kyle got the lucky job of guiding his weeping wife out to the waiting room, where he deposited me in a chair just in time for the nurse to pop her head in and say, “All done!”

Those eight minutes (five minutes for forms + three for the rest) were so traumatizing to me that we left the hospital and went right to the pet store, where we got three guilt goldfish.  We named the fish Randy, Ralphie, and Flick after the movie, A Christmas Story.  Our son, who was completely unphased about his earlier surgery, was equally as disinterested in the fish by Day 2.

Ralphie and Flick made it four months (which is three months and thirty days longer than any other fish in Silverman fishstory).  Randy, on the other hand, was a valued member of our family for seven years.  He lived in Ten’s bedroom, first in a small bowl, then in a mid-sized tank, and then in an aquarium roughly the size of a bathtub.  Despite the fact that Randy and Ten shared nearly equal square footage in that bedroom, they only interacted with each other once – when Randy decided to jump out of his tank, and Ten’s (who was four at the time) gut instinct was to cover him with a pillow.  Everyone, including the pillow, made it through unscathed.

The rest of the time, Randy was Kyle’s fish.  Kyle fed him, cleaned his giant tank, bought him toys, and acquired additional fish friends – all but one of whom met their watery graves at the fins of Randy, who turned out to be a bully.  Kyle also had to find babysitters to care for Randy when we went out of town because fish are a lot of work – like, you know, axolotls.

As much as Ten has promised to take care of any new pets, salamander or otherwise, Kyle and I are unconvinced that we won’t be tweezer-feeding worms to Little Cutie the Axolotl (Ten’s choice for a name) long after the boys have left for college.  We are also considering allergy shots for Ten, so as long as those work we should be able to make it through his adulthood without any guilt animals…but a guilt bike – I mean, the kid does have to get a series of shots – may be in his future.

The photo above is of Kyle with an artist’s representation of an axolotl.

This week’s news has a baby eating a pickle and a special birthday party.  Read on.

(Also, today is my mom’s birthday.  Happy birthday, Mom!)


West Fargo’s Ellis Bonn is now Internet Famous after trying her first pickle. (KVRR)

Or the 31st time, the Dickinson State University Agriculture Club spent a day showing pre-schoolers through third-graders all about ag. (Dickinson Press)

Bismarck’s Marcus Ell had a “one hundred” (on a scale from 1-10) birthday after his mom put out a request on Facebook. (KX Net)

Mersiha Arapovic is Mandan’s first female firefighter. (KFYR TV)

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Heavily Meditated | April 20, 2022

I don’t want to brag, but I am exceptionally good at worrying.  If there is a real (or assumed) situation, issue, non-issue, or potential future scenario in need of a place to settle in, my brain is always open for business.  It’s fortunate to be riddled with anxiety because it means that I get to wake up in the middle of the night and re-evaluate every word I’ve ever said to another human being, which is an efficient use of time that would normally be wasted by sleeping.

There is an interesting social phenomena called “prevalence-induced concept change,” which states that – in its simplest “I’m-not-a-scientist-don’t-take-my-exact-word-for-it” form – when a person’s actual problems are reduced, they will redefine other non-problems as problems so as to keep the quantity the same.  Or, in other words: if you don’t have anything to worry about, you’ll give you something to worry about.

Which is what happened to me.  I’d finally reached the point (knock on wood, knock knock) where my kids, husband, job, home, hobbies, and nighttime skincare routine were all in a good place.  With nothing to stress over, my brain went on the hunt for something new.  It all came to a head – pun intended – when I found myself having full-blown panic attacks every time my six-year-old told me a kid was no longer his friend (if you’ve never been around a first grader, you should know this happens 1000x times a day).

I decided to take my crazy down a couple of notches through the practice of meditation.  And by “decided,” I mean my best friend told me I needed “Xanax, meditation, or both.”  I opted to start with meditation.

There are many, many forms of meditation.  There’s Guided Meditation, in which a whispery voice tells you what you should be thinking.  There’s Mindful Meditation, in which you are fully present with your own thoughts (yikes).  There’s Metta Meditation, for sending good thoughts to other people; Focused Meditation, for going all in on one of your five senses by staring at a candle or rubbing a rock or whatever; and Mantra Meditation, for those who like to repeat a word (presumably not a swear word) or sound over and over again.  There’s Yoga Meditation, which is what it sounds like; and Movement Meditation, which is Yoga Meditation for people who stink at yoga.  There’s Visualized Meditation, and Zen Meditation, and Chakra Meditation, and Sound Bath Meditation, and Transcendental Meditation, and meditations for basically every type of spirituality under the sun.

The reason why there are so many types of meditation is that the goal is to control your mind instead of it controlling you…and your mind isn’t always a good sport about it.  For example, I fell asleep during my first three tries at Guided Meditation, and I spent the entire session of Yoga Meditation thinking about how I was going to do laundry when it was over. 

What finally worked for me was Breathing Meditation (what it sounds like: breathe in, count one; breathe out, count two; breathe in, count one; etc).  I was physically at my son’s hockey practice but mentally in a work situation that had happened hours before – I figured I could either breathe for three minutes or just leave the building, since I wasn’t there anyway.  Wouldn’t you know it, I calmed down.

While I still do Breathing Meditation, I’ve also started Mantra Meditation because…well, I like it (I use the phrase “Release” because my husband and I like to shout it at one another when we’re overthinking things).  Some people meditate for like an hour at a time; I think I’ve maxed out at thirty seconds.

Anyways, I feel better.  I haven’t entered a new state of conscious being, but at least I’ve stopped wallowing in a sea of anxiety every time I get an unimportant text message.  One day, I’ll realize that none of it is important; or I’ll get a prescription for Xanax.  Maybe both.

The photo above is of what I think I should probably look like when I’m meditating.  Truth be told, I’ve never meditated like this in my life (usually I’m just walking around or living my life; I’m not exactly a crackerjack meditator).  It took me five minutes to get my feet like that.  Those house plants usually live in the kitchen.  Also, I was sitting on a slippery blanket and kept sliding forward.

This week’s news has an amateur meteorologist, a one-day mayor, and a snowmobile taxi service.  Read on.


Mandan’s Ronda Gustafson turned her hairbrush into a microphone and became part of North Dakota’s newest storm team. (KFYR TV)

Watford City third grader Brocktyn Devlin has been elected as the city’s Mayor for a Day. (McKenzie County Farmer)

You may have heard that we got a lot of snow last week.  In Dickinson, Kari and Jeff Maas helped over a dozen essential workers get around town, courtesy of their trust snowmobiles. (KFYR TV)

It’s the anniversary of the Flood of ’97, and in honor of the dramatic rebuilding and revitalization that has occurred over the years, here is a series of photos from when it all happened. (Grand Forks Herald)

Thank you to Voyage Minnesota for featuring North Dakota Nice on their site! (Voyage Minnesota)

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