As I type this, THE SUN IS SHINING. We’ve had roughly 100000000 grey days in a row this spring and I tell you what, it starts to wear on a person – like a hat with bells which seemed like a whimsical idea in the store but turns out is the equivalent of self-induced tinnitus. I like rainy days and cozy darkness just like all women on Instagram, but I was one more set of clouds away from getting a Vitamin D lightbulb to sit under it while I shopped for a plane ticket to Yuma, Arizona – the sunniest place on Earth. These big, beautiful blue skies have completely cleansed my soul, like the feeling you get when you throw out a hat with bells on it. — click to read on.
It’s springtime; and naturally, every passageway into our home is littered with the muddy shoes of our children and their friends. Of course, even if they were clean as a whistle those shoes would still be there – because every single North Dakotan is taught from birth to 1) never take the last item in a shared food situation; 2) have a “Well, that’s the way she goes” attitude towards the Minnesota Vikings; and 3) always remove their shoes when entering someone’s house.
The “No Shoe Rule” is so ingrained in our culture that our oldest son recently accepted his North Dakota birthright of keeping his sneakers permanently tied to the loosest state so that he can just step on the back of his heel and pull them off (and then back on) quickly – as has generations of his fellow statesmen have done before him.
The Academy Awards are my annual reminder that my eighteen-year-old self would be incredibly disappointed with my job choices. Twenty years ago, I made the decision to pivot from the entertainment industry to the hotsy-totsy world of architecture and construction. Prior to that, I had one career goal: to plan The Oscars.
This wasn’t one of those dreams that began and ended with a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio on my wall (although I did have that); I went to college for Public Relations – the degree-of-choice for the discerning event planner – and interned throughout college with movie and television studios and their related partners. It was those internships that made me realize that I was more cut out for popcorn and Leonardo DiCaprio posters and less Paramount paychecks and Disney business decisions because, when it came to working in the entertainment industry, I was two thumbs down.
We have reached the point in winter in which North Dakotans adopt the age-old adage, “Dance like no one is watching, sing like no one is listening, and park like you’re the only car in the lot.” From the months of April through December, a driver will identify an empty gap between two uniformly-striped parallel lines and maneuver their vehicle so it is placed between those two lines. From January to March, however, it’s less “neat and orderly lines of cars” and more “uffda, whatever.”
There’s a mathematical equation for when this occurs, which is [Amount and Color of Snow + Number of Previous Days Below-Zero] x [Everyone’s Feelings of Doneness in Regard to Winter]. When that result is greater than the number of North Dakotans traveling to Arizona, Florida, or Mexico, society’s laws of parking no longer apply.
This is typically the time of year when I take up running. I am right type of person for running as I own a pair of sneakers, belong to a class of bipedal organisms, and say things like, “I can’t do a chin-up because I prefer cardio.” Also, my natural state of movement is akin to a speedwalking 1980’s businesswoman – elbows up, emphatic stride, power skirt and sports socks – so it’s only a hop-step more to turning that into a light jog.
I have a habit of becoming a February runner because I look at a calendar and have an unproven surge of hope that I will soon look unbelievable in a bathing suit. By July,
Our six-year-old recently announced that he is a vegetarian. As a self-professed vegetarian, he has determined that his diet will be thus:
Hot dogs, bun optional
White carbs (all)
Every kind of candy ever invented
Fruits and vegetables
To protect his vegetarianism, Six has taken to stating that he is allergic to anything not on the aforementioned list – which is often a surprise to people who will watch him eat a hard-boiled egg, only to be “allergic” to scrambled. Also, he is only a vegetarian on weekends and evenings because he likes his school’s pizza and walking tacos.
I’m really impressed by people who use January 1 to dive headfirst into “New Year, New You” lifestyle improvements, because I’m more of a “whoops, there goes the starting pistol and here’s me without my bathing cap” kind of girl. It’s not that I don’t have good intentions; it’s just that there’s a weird phenomenon that occurs where every calendar I’ve ever owned flips from December 31 to February 1 faster than I can say, “Time to put together a vision board and dust off my favorite legwarmers.” Therefore, I’d like to put out a request to the universe (or the state government) for a few additional holidays in January in order to slow things down a bit:
Kyle and I are those kind of people who take a funny (“funny”) Christmas/Hanukkah card photo every year. This year, our ten-year-old took one look at the final result and said with a level of exasperation expected from a child forced to dress up in a suit and sit in a Jacuzzi tub full of bubbles holding a lacrosse stick (“funny,” as you may recall), “Can’t we just do a normal picture at a farm or whatever?”
I have kind of an unusual relationship with Santa. Probably the weirdest part about it is the fact that we have any relationship at all – because, you know, I’m Jewish. For Jewish kids, Santa is like your workplace hosting a doughnut party when you’re on vacation: it’s nice, but it doesn’t really affect you at all. In the winter of 1990, however, I wanted a sewing machine; and I went to Santa to get it.
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.”
My family just got back from a trip to New Jersey to celebrate my grandpa’s 95th birthday. (Here’s an interesting fact about my grandfather: he was a practicing dentist for 63 years – even after a stint in WWII and initially being denied entry into dental school because he was Jewish.)
My husband, Kyle, is a hockey agent. My little sister, Erica, is a movie/television casting director. Both of their jobs are about finding talented people and putting them in the right place(s) to maximize that talent. As everyone in the world has talent in some shape or form (not just related to acting or men’s hockey), I am going to share the one piece of advice that they both regularly give because it basically works across the board. And as my talent is stretching a story long beyond its necessity, I shall do that, as well.
I bumped into one of my old teachers at a concert the other evening. I say “old” in that she was previously my teacher, and also because she retired shortly after I was in her class (I have that effect on people) and when I saw her she said, “Give me a hand here, I’m old.”
She also said, “Amanda, you can call me Mary.”*
To which I responded, “Why?”
I love Halloween because its continued non-religious success is due entirely to human kindness (and costumes). It’s a holiday in which almost everyone over the age of 16 annually agrees to invest time and money in order to show kids a good time, and that’s it. I am especially beloved of Halloween in North Dakota because it’s usually cold outside – it was briefly snowing as we were cajoling our six-year-old into a second sweatshirt under his costume this year – and that didn’t/doesn’t deter anyone or anything.
The boys were off from school last week – and after deciding that we were definitely, definitely going to stay home and just chill, come Friday Kyle got antsy in his pantsy and quickly planned an overnight excursion to what was supposed to be Medora. If you have read North Dakota Nice for a while you’ll know that “planning” a trip for Kyle consists of packing a suitcase and maybe having a hotel room and/or destination in advance of departing the house; while I, on the other hand, require every single second of the day scheduled and reserved from start to finish. We met in the middle for this particular trip in that I got a handshake agreement that we would drive to Bismarck via Jamestown, sleep in Bismarck so the kids could get a swim in the (reserved) hotel pool, and then wake up early and head to Medora for a day in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
My ten-year-old and his buddy spent thirty minutes raking leaves a few weeks ago and henceforth decided to turn their newfound skill into a leaf-raking business. This was the conversation we had on the ride to school the next morning:
October 11 is Canadian Thanksgiving. Or, as they call it in Canada, Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving is the exact same thing as American Thanksgiving except that it’s in Canada and on an October Monday and everyone says “Eh” a lot. Also, Canadians watch Canadian Football on Thanksgiving, not American Football. (Come to think of it, I don’t know if Canadians ever watch American Football because, as the name suggests, they have their own football league – which, like American Thanksgiving, is the same but also slightly different.)
Kyle and I are tour people. We love tours. We will attend basically any tour that is offered to us. You could say, “Hey, listen, I’m giving a tour of my living room. To participate, you’ll need this painter’s tape and this roller and this can of ‘Marshmallow Heaven’ and the tour will consist of you painting my walls,” and so long as you also give us a storyguide headset and one of those little metal buttons with the folding flap, we’re in.
Anyways, today I’m going to tell you about my all-time favorite tour.
A huge part of my job is understanding social behaviors; and if I had to use one word to describe all grownups right now, that word would be TIRED. It’s like being at a party where you were ready to leave 45 minutes ago but your ride is debating whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich with a large group of people, and so you sit there with your empty wine glass, avoiding a refill or a trip to the bathroom or anything, really, that would delay your exit, responding to all attempted conversations with, “Oh, yeah? Oh, okay.”
I recently read an unattributed Internet fact that the percentage of men with at least six close friends has fallen by half since 1990; and that men today are five times more likely to state that they don’t have a single close friend compared to similarly-aged men thirty years ago. As the mother of two boys, I’ve been noodling on this (quite possibly completely made up*) information and I have a theory about it.