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!

Sign up for the weekly North Dakota Nice email and get a story and the news delivered to your inbox once a week (and never more than that).

Sunshine and May | May 4, 2022

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.

You’d think I wouldn’t need as much sun as the average person because I am in the top 5% of the whitest humans in existence.  “Oh haha, Amanda, you’re such an exaggerator,” you may be thinking.  Well, once in college I was wearing shorts and went to put on some suntan lotion on my legs and my friend burst out laughing and said, “I thought you were wearing socks.”  Like white knee-high sport socks, because my legs were roughly the same color.  Believe it or not, it takes a baseline amount of sun to keep me this color; without it, I’d go translucent.

This stretch of clouds has made me wonder how folks in Seattle can stand it (probably because they have Bigfoot and it’s a worthwhile trade-off) because around the fifteenth straight day of grey my brain started to go to sleep.  I know this was the same for many of my fellow North Dakotans because it snowed several times and exactly zero people mentioned it.  North Dakotans love talking about the weather because we have so much of it.  May is historically an especially atmospheric smorgasbord; in 2021, it was 86 degrees on May 1.  In 2022, it was 36.  We had a dusting of snow yesterday and not one of my coworkers said ANYTHING – not, “Time to move to Florida!” or “It’s May, for Pete’s sake!”  My desk neighbor just looked out the window, sighed, and went back to her enormous mug of coffee; and if that’s not a sign of seasonal depression, I don’t know what is.

Anyways, it’s sunny and that same coworker got a chance to comment about the glare on her computer screen this morning so all is well.  With my brain reawakened, I have come to realize two things: 1) I’ve been wearing yoga pants to work for the last three weeks which is both great and…not…great; and 2) holy crap, it’s May.  To quote the entire Midwest’s favorite meme, “Ope, this month just sneaked up on me.”  If I’m being totally honest, 2021 and 2022 really sneaked up on me – I’ve had a half-written birthday gift thank-you note to my best friend sitting on my desk since February 2020 – but those years happened in spite of my lack of participation, and May is NOW.

Since I’m making lists, May means three things: 1) Grand Forks hosts a citywide garbage cleanup; 2) my husband and youngest son both celebrate birthdays; and 3) school is coming to an end.

The citywide cleanup – the City gives everyone a day to clean out their basements and garages and stick their found bric-a-brac on the curb for pickup – is a big problem for me because my husband and kids love crap.  Normally, on April 30th, I will sit them down and definitively state to NOT TO BRING HOME ANY CURBSIDE GARBAGE.  Then, when they inevitably do BRING HOME CURBSIDE GARBAGE, I have a well-crafted speech prepared which makes them return said garbage to its appropriate resting place.  Well, I didn’t do that, and in the last 24 hours Kyle procured a torn hockey net (which he’s “going to fix up for the neighbor’s kid”) and my ten-year-old dragged home a torn and wet gaming chair for a gaming system/desk that he doesn’t own.  And now, because I didn’t say anything, I’m either going to have two sad hockey net/gaming chair owners or a non-junk-filled house, but not both.

As I said, my soon-to-be-seven-year-old will soon be seven and my husband’s birthday is Cinco de Mayo (which we call Cinco de Kyle).  In anticipation of this 31-day party, I spend the bulk of April asking, “Do you want a bug party or a Spider Man party?” and “If I knitted you a hat with a bell as your gift, would we remain married?”  Since I’m behind on my schedule, I’ll have to buy Kyle a normal tortilla chip hat and Almost-Seven is going to have to be happy with fake bugs instead of real (kidding, that was never an option).

Finally, and speaking of schedule, school ends on the third of June.  In celebration, my sons’ school has started a month-long countdown of “Spirit Days” to give Kyle a chance to run around the house looking for a chartreuse shirt or a tortilla chip hat at 8:04 am.  I’d help him, but I’m usually standing in the corner shouting, “What time is baseball practice, and does that coincide with the first Wild-Hurricanes game, and why is that half-broken bench sitting in the garage?”

But the most important thing is that the sun is shining.  Garbage chairs and hockey nets can still go back on the curb (or not), and birthday parties can have fake bugs (or no bugs at all); and so long as my brain, and legs, get their Vitamin D, all will be well.

The photo above is of Kyle with a DIFFERENT garbage net that he saved from the curb.  I’m pretty sure I’ve shown this photo on here before; and I’ll keep sharing it because HE WON’T STOP BRINGING HOME THESE NETS.

In terms of a good use of the word “garbage,” this week’s news has garbage bag sleeping mats, free hotel rooms, and duffel bags.  Read on.

For the past five years, volunteers at Trinity Lutheran Church have woven mats out of trash bags, 2,000 at a time. (KX Net)

Williston businesses got together to gift Microtel rooms – more than 80 nights’ worth of stays – to community members who were still without power due the blizzard. (KFYR TV)

In North Dakota-adjacent news, Minnesota’s Ryan Huso and Kyle Rohlfs – two strangers who met on the side of the road – saved Fargo’s Shannon Aughinbaugh after her car flipped over into a water-filled ditch. (Fargo Forum)

The Roosevelt Park Zoo now has three Amur tigers named Viktoria, Dmitri, and Luka. (Minot Daily News)

Congratulations to Team North Dakota, who took home the championship (for the second year in a row) at the CCM High School National Invitational Tournament! (Twitter)

May is National Foster Care Awareness month, and so Grand Forks teacher Ms. Abel is raising money to fill duffel bags so that kids don’t need to enter foster care with trash bags holding few to no belongings.  Kyle and I bought three duffel bags, and I’m telling you so that you’re impressed by us and so you will also donate, if you can.  The Amazon wishlist for these items can be found here. (Amazon)

Let’s Be (Official) Pals!

Sign up for the weekly North Dakota Nice email and get a story and the news delivered to your inbox once a week (and never more than that).

Happy Feet | April 6, 2022

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.

It’s also so ingrained that it’s very difficult to negate, even when specifically instructed to do so.  North Dakotans have a tough time contradicting something if they feel it may hurt another person’s feelings.  For example, the “Never take the last item in a shared food situation,” rule comes with an asterisk, which is “…unless someone specifically demands you take it, and then you must put it on your plate regardless if you actually want it or not.”  The “No Shoe Rule” probably came into play in the 1950s, when luxury was spelled C-A-R-P-E-T.  Recent interior trends have moved away from wall-to-wall in favor of “If it’s not wood, it’s vinyl” – two flooring products which can be wiped off with a wave of the Swiffer.  Regardless, we North Dakotans stand firm in our socks.

Two of our (grown-up) friends popped over the other day, stepping into our wood floor-clad entry.  Naturally, they leaned over to remove their footwear.

“You don’t need to take your shoes off,” I said, without thinking.

“Oh, okay,” the wife said – stalled, half-bent down towards her feet.

We all stood/bent there blinking for a good five-count before the husband took off his shoes and the wife took off her shoes and I silently berated myself for suggesting something so ridiculous.

The whole no-shoe thing is such an interesting behavior, as it toes the line of politeness and oversharing – because socks are pretty intimate, aren’t they?  I’d say 50% of all North Dakotans at a gathering of their closest friends and family won’t take off their coats, and yet will go down to an undergarment amongst strangers without a second thought.  The thing is, not wearing shoes dramatically reduces the formality of any situation, which is a very North Dakota thing to do.  I can almost guarantee you that at least one North Dakotan has stepped foot into the White House and had a split-second thought to take off their shoes and then considered, “You know, I’m here for a business meeting and so I guess my feet should also mean business.”  (And then went back to the car to leave their “It’s 5:00 somewhere” can koozie that they also had in their pocket.)

As a semi-shoeless culture, you’d think we’d have some general “Don’t go out without clean underwear” guidelines as a result – like, “Don’t go over to someone’s house without new patterned socks that best reflect your personality” or “Always check your socks for holes in case you happen to get invited in for a Mountain Dew.”  But we don’t.  Just as we are fine with attending a funeral memorial in bare feet (I take off my socks on the first plus-40 day and don’t put them on again until about November), we also don’t care about the state of our garments, or lack thereof.

Recently, I have seen an increase of people who bring “inside” shoes with them to a house, which is really the best of both worlds.  There’s an untapped retail market for Social Slippers just waiting to be slipped off.  In the meantime, this is my reminder that I need to get a pedicure.

My good sport of a husband agreed to be my photo model, above.  He actually put ON his shoes because he wanted it titled, “Living the East Coast Life” because my mom’s side of the family never, ever takes off their shoes.  It’s funny that he, of all people, is now on the photographic record wearing shoes on the couch – because Canadians like saying sorry more than North Dakotans like taking off their shoes, and when we finished taking the photo, he apologized to the couch.

This week’s news has a long-awaited prom, maple sugaring, and a brand-new camper.  Read on.

Watford City’s Dakota Wollan took his great-grandmother to her very first prom. (Valley News Live)

After a two-year pause due to COVID, North Dakota’s Honor Flights are ready for takeoff… (KFYR TV)

…Starting with the first-time Western North Dakota Honor Flight, which is bringing 93 veterans to Washington D.C. (Bowman County Pioneer)

You can learn all about maple syrup at this year’s sugaring event at Fort Stevenson State Park on Saturday. (Valley City Times-Record)

Congratulations to the Dickinson State Cheer Team, who took 4th place at the NAIA National Championship tournament! (Dickinson Press)

Minot’s Catori Sarmiento has published her third book, a young adult novel entitled, “Darkness in a Sky of Embers.” (Minot Daily News)

Eight-year-old Findley Dickey of South Heart is about to go on a LOT of camping (and fishing) trips. (Dickinson Press)

Bismarck’s Mary Tello-Pool – known as Mimi – and her granddaughter, Maria have co-authored a children’s book entitled, “Inside a Snowflake.” (KFYR TV)

Thank you to Area Woman magazine for including my story about jogging in the latest issue!  You can find me in the magazine every-other month in 2022…and I promise the next photo of me will be a LOT less wind-blown.  (Area Woman)

Let’s Be (Official) Pals!

Sign up for the weekly North Dakota Nice email and get a story and the news delivered to your inbox once a week (and never more than that).