A thing of beauty | May 18, 2022

I am writing this from a massage (which is aggressively vibrating like the engine room in a submarine) chair at the nail salon, where I am getting a pedicure.  Since you didn’t ask, my polish color is a coral-ish named “I Eat Mainely Lobster” – which is purely aspirational since the last time I had lobster was 2021 and it was a part of a bisque so its statehood was unknown.  I am getting a pedicure because society has generally agreed that painted toenails are a basic expectation of summertime grooming, like wearing a bathing suit under your clothes – or, in the case of my husband, as clothes – just in case.

I am very aware of society’s base-level expectations of beauty because I am the dictionary definition of doing the absolute bare minimum.  The other day I styled my hair after a lobster bisque-esque period of time of braids and ponytails, and three of my coworkers asked, “Whoa, why are you all dressed up?”  The week prior, I was complaining to my friend that I am starting to look old and she said, “Well…do you use…some…thing?”  Not, “Do you use this serum?” or “Have you tried this treatment?”  Just, “Do you put absolutely anything on your face besides the Earth’s oxygen?”

I wasn’t always like this.  Back in THE OLD DAYS, I would spend hours plucking and feathering and masking and filing, and squeezing things in and pushing things up, and saying “If I ever got a tattoo, it would be a permanent wing eyeliner” and “Ugh, no, I can’t wear that to Saturday brunch; that’s a Sunday brunch outfit.”  But then I became the mother of two boys, and it’s hard to put in a lot of effort when my target audience thinks the perfect look is a baseball cap, cut-off sweatpants, and a box of farts.

My sweet, darling, muddy, oblivious personal universe has very low expectations of my appearance because, as Kyle says, “They like me for me” (and for my ability to make macaroni and cheese).  For example, my ten-year-old tells me I look beautiful when I wear a pair of pajama bottoms with a satin waist-tie.  When I ask my seven-year-old to pick out earrings for me, he always goes to a fist-sized pair of sparkly jack-o-lanterns that I got for a Halloween costume because “They are the prettiest.”  That same seven-year-old went through a period where he would wipe things on my clothes (usually boogers) so that his own didn’t get dirty.

As my boys are perfectly satisfied with my appearance, it’s hard for me to justify (to myself) breaking away from all the mac-and-cheese compliments for spa treatments and shopping trips.  While I used to spend hours upon luxurious hours combing through clothing racks and testing out makeup samples, now my mantra is “Get in, get out, get back into those booger-wipers.”  A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to shop for a bit with another mom, and it had been so long since I’d browsed that I’d almost forgotten how to do it – as evidenced by the fact that I bought a crop-top see-through army green tank-top that I’m apparently going to wear on my leg because that’s the only place it will look good.

I know for a fact that my sons would go with me to get a pedicure if I asked.  They would sit there and hum along with the chair vibration and drink their little bottle of water and have a grand time – and then never willingly go back.  I know this because my seven-year-old recently pulled out my box of nail stuff and demanded a manicure, and I got halfway through one hand when he said, “That’s good,” and then spent the next week with one-half of one-hand haphazardly painted until he figured out he could pick off the remaining polish with a wooden sword.

Even though pedicures pull me away from my pajamas and fart boxes, and even though I have a nail salon’s worth of polish under my sink, I will do them forever because if my last bastion of beauty is lobster coral nails, you can bet your bippy that I’m tipping my sword to the professionals.

I’m not alone in this sentiment because I’m currently sitting next to a lovely woman who told me that she gets pedicures because she recently had knee surgery and it’s good for the scars when the pedicurist massages her legs.  “I suppose I could do it myself,” she said with North Dakota pragmatism.  “Why on Earth would you do that?”  I said.

At some point in the near future my children will no longer want to hang out with me, and then (possibly) I’ll get back to the glamorous life.  Or, maybe I’ll create a club for situationally-similar moms where we organize day-long fishing-and-bonding trips for our children and their fathers at resorts that are conveniently located near spas and mini-malls.  In the meantime, I will admire my perfectly-painted toes from the driver’s seat of a go-kart while my seven-year-old eloquently shouts, “We’re going so fast that my spit is coming out of my mouth!  VROOM VROOM VROOM!”

The photo above is of Kyle at said go-kart track in Fargo.   You’ll be happy to know that he is tall enough to ride the bumper cars.

This week’s news is about a marathoner, a makeover, and a mayor.  Read on.

Edmore’s Holden Mack is looking for the group of people who rescued him from his burning truck so that he can thank them in person. (Grand Forks Herald)

Alivia Lowery was Williston’s Mayor for a Day thanks to her award-winning essay. (Williston Herald)

After running his first marathon in Fargo in 2015, Grand Forks’ Nate Lizakowski is set to complete 50 marathons in 50 states. (Grand Forks Herald)

Children’s Park in Medora got a sweet new makeover thanks to a volunteer crew of 80, who power washed and re-stained all of the wooden equipment and replaced the rubber mulch. (Dickinson Press)

The Minot Girl Scouts Troop 10028 earned a badge for kindness by planting flowers, bagging and carrying groceries, and handing out cookies. (KX Net)

Let’s Be (Official) Pals!

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Everything in the World, in part | February 2, 2022

It was my birthday last Saturday; I turned 42.  I like being 42.  I wish I had been 42 when I was 32, you know what I mean?  Actually, if I’m wishing for things, I’d prefer my 22-year-old body, my 32-year-old years, and my 42-year-old everything else.

You know who wouldn’t have wanted any of that?  Twelve-year-old me.  When I was twelve, I could have written a book called Everything in the World because I knew all of it – and I knew, for a fact, that I was perfection.

I knew the exact barrette I needed to wear in order to be the most popular girl in the sixth grade: two layered plastic ovals in maroon and grey.  It was obvious that the barrette would increase my coolness quotient because I had previously only worn barrettes with rainbow beads and strands of glitter – to hold up one side of my aggressively-brushed out curly hair, like an off-the-shoulder fuzzy sweater but on my head – and this plain barrette would signal to everyone that I was now much more sophisticated and serious.

I knew exactly who I would marry when I grew up (Brad Pitt), and exactly what I would do for a living (famous author and movie/Broadway actress and owner of Disney World).  I knew how to anticipate the exact length of a commercial break and then use my lightning-fast reflexes to hit Record-Play on the VCR so that my sister and I didn’t have to watch any ads on our bootlegged copy of “Star Wars.”  I knew how to ride my bike one-handed (and no-handed if I was going down a hill), and how to speak like the Micro Machines Man, and the correct opinion a person should have on any subject that ever existed.

This enthusiastic amount of – let’s call it confidence – was encouraged by my parents, grandparents, and my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Robinson.  While I don’t know as much now as I knew back when I was twelve, I am well-aware that I’m the product of a whole bunch of amazingly great teachers…and Mrs. Robinson was the absolute greatest of the great.  Somehow Mrs. Robinson managed to encourage a loud-mouthed know-it-all without keeling over from all of the eyeball rolling I know I would have done in the same situation.  In fact, there wasn’t any eyeball rolling at all; she was a fantastic at bringing out the best in all of her students.  Behold:

Mrs. Robinson put on a stage play (sans stage) in our classroom.  I was cast in the MOST IMPORTANT part in the play – which, in hindsight, was not the lead.  I knew it was the MOST IMPORTANT part, however, because Mrs. Robinson said to me, “This is the perfect role for you and I know you will really shine.”  I had so much sparkle that my grandma brought flowers to our performance and I gave an encore at home for my sister, who had “missed” the original run.

Later in the year, my classmates and I channeled our newfound drama skills into a living museum in which we each dressed up as our favorite person in history and then read a one-paragraph, first-person biography of said individuals.  Naturally, as a true sophisticate with a non-beaded barrette, I selected noted American author Edith Wharton.  I chose Edith Wharton, not because I was a fan of her work (never read it), but because I knew it was necessary that I wear a long skirt and read my bio in an affected American aristocratic accent.  My mother sewed me a teal satin skirt, and I froze (during my museum exhibition) with a quill pen in hand.  Mrs. Robinson agreed it was the exact right choice.

Having now played Edith Wharton, I put my quill pen to paper and decided to write the Great American Novel.  Called Victoria Tracy (the two most beautiful names in the world), it was 75 pages of pure brilliance.  Naturally, I gave it to Mrs. Robinson – who, God bless her, read it and made notes on every page.  I edited Victoria Tracy and gave it back to Mrs. Robinson before I left for junior high with the confidence that only an established actress/literary maven/Edith Wharton channeler could have.

Now, (ahem) many years later, as much as I liked knowing everything in the world, I’m old enough to appreciate a little mystery in life – and so I’ll keep twelve-year-old me back in 1992.  Maybe, however, I’ll dust of that ol’ sophisticated barrette.  I could use a little extra coolness.

Also, Mrs. Robinson continues to be an awesome person.  I typically don’t use real names on here, but Mrs. Robinson (better known as Laurie Robinson-Sammons) has written a book.  Called One Story: Many Voices, it is a series of first-hand accounts, both harrowing and hopeful, of sexual abuse and exploitation, victimization, survival, and healing.  It is written for educators, counselors, medical personnel, law enforcement, and youth workers to better advocate for and contribute to the healing of children and young adults who have survived abuse.  All proceeds of the book will be donated to organizations whose mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking and exploitation through education, awareness, restoration projects, and justice initiatives.  You can learn more or purchase the book here.  Additionally, here is a video of Mrs. Robinson talking about the book.

The picture above is a screenshot from the newspaper in 1992.  A Winnipeg video artist received a grant to lead our classroom of sixth graders through the movie-making process.  Our movie, which we also wrote, was called New Nerds in the School, and was about treating all people with kindness.  As the person who would obviously know the exact right way to shoot a movie in order to bring out the best in all of the talent and the script, you can guess which kid is me.

This week’s news has snowballs, hot dishes, and birthday cakes.  Read on.

I’m not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed to see that a Snowball Softball Tournament wasn’t played with actual snowballs; however, I was very happy to see that the annual tourney raised $2,000 for Brave the Shave. (KFYR TV)

Congratulations to Richland County’s KrisCinda Erickson, who recently won bronze in the Changmookwan Taekwondo World Championship! (Wahpeton Daily News)

Eighty-two people donated 78 units of blood products in Devils Lake. (Devils Lake Journal)

Last September, a team of North Dakota kids with disabilities got to go hunting in the badlands thanks to the Wish Endowment and Prairie Grit. (KFYR TV)

In North Dakota-adjacent/North Dakota-supported news, a hot dish competition cooked up ten dishes and raised money for Veterans Honor Flight of North Dakota and Minnesota. (KVRR)

In “this is a great idea” news: Litchville’s (or maybe Marion’s) Liz Fick asked for cake donation kits to be donated to food pantries in honor of her birthday. (Valley City Times-Record)

Grand Forks’ Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson will be competing in the NHL All-Star Game competitions this weekend. (Grand Forks Herald)

I recently joined a Facebook group called “Pay It Forward Grand Forks,” which is just people helping people around town.  One of my favorite posts was from Kasha Christianson, who gave me permission to share the following: (Facebook)

You Betcha: a guided meditation | December 15, 2021

You’re sitting in your favorite armchair, which was initially pretty expensive but purchased for 75% off thanks to a coupon book you bought from your co-worker’s fifteen-year-old so his class could go on a field trip to Minneapolis to see the Johnny Holm Band.  You’re wearing a brand-new sweatshirt that is still amazingly soft because it hasn’t been washed yet.  Speaking of that, you’re all caught up with the laundry.  Also, the house is clean, your email inbox is cleared out, and there’s taco hot dish bubbling in the oven and a bowl of puppy chow on the counter.

“You betcha,” you think.  “Yep, you betcha.”

Through the window, you see it has begun to snow.  Big, spun-sugar flakes drift gently down to the earth, immediately evaporating the moment they touch any surface requiring shoveling, but somehow blanketing everything else in sparkling fluff.  Your thermometer – shaped like a buffalo wearing a beanie and just about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, to be sure – reads forty degrees.

“You betcha,” you think.  “You betcha.”

You light the fireplace for a bit more coziness, and the crackling warmth mixes with the sound of Lori Line’s latest Christmas CD.  Your mom got that CD autographed at Dayton’s, you know.

“You betcha,” you think.  “You betcha.”

While the air temperature outside is delightful, the ground is a miraculously-steady ten-below – convenient for the neighborhood children as they ice skate on backyard rinks and build snowmen on every berm.  On the nearby river, puffs of smoke rise from the chimneys of a makeshift community of cheery ice houses, swirling around the hoarfrost-covered trees lining the riverbank.  One of the fishermen steps out to pee – wait, I mean get something from the truck – and you can see the bell on his line ring-a-linging with a catch.  He slips a bit on his way back inside.

“Ope,” you think – and then, when you see that he’s fine, “You betcha.”

It’s 4:00; the sun is beginning to set.  The world is covered in a golden glow, made even more magical as families (and solar pads) turn on their Christmas decorations.  Soon you’ll fire up the ol’ Suburban and go for a twinkle tour around town, possibly popping into one of the Turkey Bingos happening somewhere.  If you win, you can merrily ding-dong-ditch the bird on the porch of the families in town for a little secret ho-ho-holiday giving.

“You betcha,” you think.  “You betcha.”

Later you’ll watch the UND game, where the Hawks will undoubtedly beat the University of Minnesota.  Maybe you’ll invite a small group of friends over; you know everyone will leave contented, with spinach dip in their bellies and Grandma’s latest batch of red eye in their hearts.

“You betcha,” you think.  “Yep, you betcha.”

The photo above is of my good sport of a husband, who didn’t ask a single question when I said, “Hey, hold this snowman for a second.”

Speaking of photos, look at this one:

Did you know this photo represents the fact that Kenzie Dorsher and I are raising money for the St. Joseph’s Food Bank? Read more here.

Also, did you know this week’s news has Shock and Claus, a bundle of toys (and coats), and a trio called Raynes?  Read on.

Medora’s Laynie Simons now has a pretty sweet playhouse thanks to Make-A-Wish North Dakota. (KFYR TV)

Seven West Fargo small business owners did a “Shock and Claus” when they gave their 19-year-old waitress – who had recently taken in her younger sister after the death of their mother – a $700 tip. (Valley News Live)

Bismarck’s Hope Manor held a coat drive – and received 75 coats – in honor of a friend who recovered from addiction. (KX Net)

The West River Lodge #5 Fraternal Order of Police took 40 Dickinson-area children to Walmart for their annual “Shop with a Cop” event. (Dickinson Press)

If you live in or around Minot, the Minot Wreaths Across America is looking for volunteers to hang wreaths on 1,080 graves of veterans in the Rosehill Memorial Cemetery on December 18. (KFYR TV)

Bismarck’s first responders hosted a toy drive and received 280 donations thanks to the generosity of the community. (KX Net)

Two North Dakotans – Matt Charley and Joe Berger – are a part of the musical trio Raynes, and will soon be competing on a British game show called Walk the Line. (KX Net)

Good luck to Miss North Dakota Reyna Bergstrom, who will be competing on Thursday for the title of Miss America! (Fargo Forum)