Parking Like You’re the Only Car on the Lot | March 2, 2022

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 Midwesterners traveling to Arizona, Florida, or Mexico, society’s laws of parking no longer apply.  Many people think it only has to do with the amount of snow on the ground – I mean, how can you park in a spot when it’s under an unmolded snowman? – but in actuality, a North Dakotan will actually attempt to remain within the (invisible) lines until it gets so cold that their car auto-start becomes self-aware and just keeps itself running 24 hours a day.  After that, it’s Jeez, Louise to any semblance of order.

This is perfectly fine.  In my opinion, once your car is covered in a semi-permanent layer of snunk (snow and funk) and you’re worried about breaking a hip every time you set a foot on the ground, parking is the least of your concerns.  I mean, technically, if you put your vehicle into Park, your car is parked.

Plus, if we really think about it, we North Dakotans are cool with parking like we’re the only ones on the road because we are comfortable with everyone driving in a similar fashion.

When Kyle and I first moved out to the country, all of our neighbors welcomed us with both open arms and a warning: “Don’t speed through Thompson.”  What they meant was that we shouldn’t go more than one mile an hour over the posted speed limit anywhere on Main Street – because (back then) Thompson had one policeman, and he didn’t have a whole lot to do.

If you don’t count the millions of “Drive carefully”s and “Watch out for deer”s we hand out like tatertots to one another, that Thompson speed trap warning was probably the first and only rule I’ve ever received about driving from a fellow North Dakotan (who wasn’t employed by the DMV or one of my parents).  This is because North Dakotans are generally good with whatever is happening around them at any given time – driving or not – so if someone wants to go 10 MPH in a 40…well, they are probably early for a luncheon or uncomfortable on ice and should take their time.  You betcha.

(If you’re like, “Ha ha, that Amanda, always exaggerating” – well, here’s an exact instance of that happening:

I used to live in Boston.  Boston drivers are the exact opposite of North Dakota drivers, and so when I moved back to Grand Forks I brought with my Nokia flip phone, my framed poster of the Patriots winning the Super Bowl, and my burning desire to go Mad Max on anyone in my vehicular way.  I was driving downtown to see my grandfather, and I found myself in an unusually long line of cars going 10 MPH on a major thoroughfare.  I swung my car out into the other lane – it was a two-lane road – and zoomed past a whole bunch of completely unaffected drivers who were totally fine with this unexpected slowdown.  Finally, I reached the first vehicle, putt-putting along without a care in the world.  I got my hand ready for the honkin’ of a lifetime – and realized it was piloted by my own grandfather.  He waved.  I waved back, and slowed down so that I could resume my spot in the back of his line.)

We North Dakotans are also fine with driving like we are the only car on the road because sometimes we ARE the only car on the road.  Our former house in the country was off of a long, straight gravel way that was used more as a way to split sections of farmland than as an actual vehicle bypass.  Kyle and I were holding down our driveway with two lawn chairs one Sunday afternoon when a truck passed by on the gravel.  Ten minutes later, another truck drove by, followed closely (or like another ten minutes) by a car.  “We have to move to town,” I told Kyle.  “The traffic out here is getting ridiculous.”

Anyways, springtime is in the air.  Soon the snunk will melt and we won’t have to think (or not think) about parking anymore – because everyone will be stuck in road construction on the way to the lake.

I was going to take a picture of the grocery store parking lot, but I didn’t want someone to see their car and think I was teasing them.  So, instead, the photo above is of a Fighting Hawk (not THE Fighting Hawk) at a recent UND hockey game.  He felt appropriate for this story somehow.

This week’s news has Consequences of the Soul and Youthful Yetis.  Read on.

Valley City students earned 371 feet of duct tape, which they used to adhere their principal to the wall. (Valley City Times-Record)

A dozen quilters in Bowman created their own fabric expression of the book, “The Book of Lost Names,” and those quilts are now on display at the Bowman Regional Public Library. (Bowman County Pioneer)

Bismarck’s Abigail Meier is representing North Dakota in the National Art Honor Society’s Consequences of the Soul virtual art gallery. (KX Net)

Austin Covert and Ryan Nitschke, two chefs in Fargo, are semifinalists for prestigious James Beard Awards. (KVRR)

Minot (/Scandia) artist Andrew Knudson will be painting live at a joint event by the Minot Symphony Orchestra and the Taube Museum of Art. (Minot Daily News)

Congratulations to Norma Nosek, Wahpeton Daily News’ Citizen of the Year! (Wahpeton Daily News)

And congratulations to Samantha Vosberg, the Richland County’s New Monitor’s Citizen of the Year! (Wahpeton Daily News)

Dickinson’s Youthful Yetis rode 200 miles in a month in order to raise $4,300 for St. Jude’s. (Dickinson Press)

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)