Surrender, Dorothy | September 9, 2021

When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was an obscure little indie film called The Wizard of Oz.  In it, a girl named Dorothy is transported out of her home state of Kansas via tornado, dropping generally into the magical country of Oz, and literally onto the head and torso of the Wicked Witch of the East.  Dorothy is eager to return to Kansas (presumably to avoid both manslaughter and theft – she walks off with her victim’s shoes – charges) and is given instructions to do so by visiting an entity named “The Wizard” located in a single-building casino-esque metropolis called The Emerald City.

Naturally, the deceased’s sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, is distraught over the loss of her sibling.  In her grief, she threatens to “get” Dorothy, as well as reclaim the stolen shoes.  As her threats carry no detail or show of power, Dorothy is unconcerned about “being gotten” and sets off towards The Emerald City – fashioning a woebegotten entourage of three needy Ozites along the way.  Their journey is uneventful with the exception of a few mild and brief (and, notably, anonymous) pranks by the W.W.W.; and so they are naturally surprised and confused when the Witch skywrites “Surrender Dorothy” in large letters over The Emerald City.

As a child, I had no idea why Dorothy would surrender.  She and the Witch were not waging a war – at least, as far as Dorothy was aware – and there was nothing to be gained or lost by turning herself over to the Witch.  So much as Dorothy was concerned, giving in to the Witch’s nonsense would only serve to stray her from her intended purpose.  Dorothy had one job: to get home; and as the W.W.W. was not the law of the land, had no reason to break stride for a time-wasting “surrender.”

I recently faced a similar situation, sort of.  And, as a disclaimer, I am not comparing myself to Dorothy.  If you choose to do so I can’t stop you.

It was a perfect late-summer evening, the kind that makes it all the more apparent that autumn is on the horizon.  The boys (and an extra kid) were itchin’ for some fishin’, and so Kyle packed up the truck for an impromptu trip to a yet-to-be-explored spot on the English Coulee.  I was, as always, trodding along a yellow brick road paved with infinite to-do’s.

“Surrender, Amanda,” Kyle wrote in unfolded laundry on the bedroom floor.

I had no business with any sunnies or bass.  I did not have a minute to spare for casting lines or hooking worms.  I was also well-aware that there wasn’t cell phone or WiFi service at this particular spot.

But then I thought, “Would it have been so terrible if Dorothy had taken a couple of days to sightsee around Oz instead of high-tailing to her destination?”

I got in the truck.

The fishing hole turned out to be relatively close to our old house; but, as is the case in North Dakota where everyone just assumes everyone knows everything, we didn’t learn about it until after we had moved to town.  It was a groomed spot, complete with a large dock and a cleared path around, tucked between three farm fields and the main road.  There was already a family at the dock and a few onesie-twosies spread out around the perimeter, so we drove to the farthest possible point from everyone else and set down our rods.

Or rather, Kyle set down the rods, bait, tackle boxes, bucket, net, fish gloves, bug spray, sweatshirts (for the big boys) and extra change of clothes (for our six-year-old, who has a knack for falling into wet or muddy things), and a camping chair (for me).  Then he baited the hooks, stuck the two big boys on some nice, big, flat rocks, filled up the bucket, rebaited the boys’ hooks, baited a hook for Six, and unfolded my chair.  I made sure Six didn’t fall into anything.

If you’ve ever been fishing, you know the number-one rule is to be as quiet as possible.  If you’ve ever been around two ten-year-old boys, you know that’s not physically possible.  Every time one of them would get a nibble on a line, they would screech as loud as possible so as to effectively scare the fish away.  Their screeches were matched by two other similarly-aged boys across the water on the dock who were having similar luck.  I waved to their mother – who, like me, was “participating” from a camping chair.

Meanwhile, Kyle had taken Six fifty or so yards down the perimeter so that Six could cast like Indiana Jones with a whip without hooking anyone (besides Kyle).  In between dodging flying hooks, Kyle would quietly toss his line out in the water, wait a moment, and reel in a fish.

In the end, the boys caught two things: a little bluegill, and a frog named Bob.  Kyle caught five fish and baited 2,000,000 lines.  Six only got slightly muddy.

And, either more or less importantly – for over an hour, I didn’t do anything.  I didn’t do work, or laundry, or put away boxes, or even check my email.  I just sat in front of a heavy-headed sunflower field under a sunset of pink perfection, listening to the sh-sh-sh-ing of grasshoppers and the gentle mooing of cows and the highest possible decibel whispers of three boys trying their best to be quiet.  All in all, it was a pretty good way to use up an evening.

The photo above is of Kyle at the fishing spot because his auntie reads this every week and she likes to see him.

This week’s news has some discounted termites, centuplicated classics, and a helpful garage sale.  Read on.

The money raised from the Bruce Spicer second-annual golf tournament will cut fees in half for termite and mite players in honor of a man who had too little money to formally play his beloved sport as a child. (Grand Forks Herald)

This is the story of Scranton’s Neil and Rosalie Krinke, who have spent the last 67 years sharing their love of classic cars…which are now for sale. (FCC)

Mandan’s Lynn Koch held a garage sale to help fill tummies of hungry Honduran children. (KX Net)

Kyle and I will be out this Sunday walking for Suicide Prevention, just like all of the supporters who will lace up their sneakers on September 18 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (Dickinson Press)

Gefilte Fish | March 18, 2021

My heart belongs to the Fourth of July because it’s the day both my son and my nephew were born; however, in terms of actual festivity-related commemoration, my favorite holiday is the Jewish celebration of Passover.  Passover, which kicks off this year at the end of March, is the remembrance of Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt and (after a forty-year desert walkabout) over to the Promised Land.

Considering the story of Moses brings with it a lot of heavy topics – slavery, devastation, mass death, pyramids – Passover is one of our top two jazziest holidays.  It’s basically Jewish Dinner Theater.  It has Singing!  Plagues!  Wine!  Participation by Kids of All Ages!  Hide-and-Go-Seek!  The whole thing centers around The Meal, which we eat while merrymaking about swarms of locusts and a wave of water wiping out the Egyptian army – Yay, Plight!

The Meal is my favorite part of Passover.  While I’m guessing there are plenty of Jews who consume Passover food year-round, I use the eight days of the holiday to stuff in so much related food that I gross myself out of it until the following year.  And speaking of gross, I’d like to tell you about the most disgusting of my favorite Passover foods: gefilte fish.

When you think of universally-beloved foods, they are almost all made up of fish that has been boiled into mush.  Gefilte fish is conglomeration of white-colored fish mush mixed with matzah (a giant cracker eaten at Passover) meal and then smooshed into an oval or loaf shape.  It’s texture can be likened to a moist kitchen sponge and it’s odor is a strong blend of tangy, fishy sweetness – all big selling points when it comes to a gill-based food product.

You can typically find gefilte fish on your grocery store pantry shelves – nothing says meat-based protein like a lack of refrigeration! – stored in its trademark jar.  Gefilte fish is packaged suspended with carrot slices in urine-colored jelly, and there’s nothing like that sluurrrppping sound when you pry out a slab.  I eat mine with red horseradish.

Kyle is not Jewish; he is, however, a real mensch about being Jew-adjacent, especially at Passover.  The Passover seder is a multi-course meal with accompanying stage props, and Kyle has spent many-a-holiday running around Grand Forks in search of boxes of egg matzah and digging through the toy boxes to gather up rubber frogs.  He has participated in every part of the Passover celebration…save for the eating of the gefilte fish.  As is the case with other piscine delicacies such as lutefisk, people who actually consume and enjoy fish on a regular basis have trouble choking down a lump of gefilte fish.  For my dear husband, who will only eat fish if it has been breaded and fried past visual or taste recognition, it ain’t ever gonna happen.

We celebrated one of our first Passovers in our country house with my parents and my aunt, who drove up from Minneapolis and Denver, respectively, for the occasion.  There are a lot of benefits to being Jewish in North Dakota but procuring a large quantity of a wide variety of Passover food isn’t one of them, and so I gave both groups a list of groceries (seriously, red horseradish is really hard to find) so as to fulfill the seder and also sate my holiday palate for the rest of the year.

Kyle and I were setting the table in anticipation for their arrival when I realized that I hadn’t bought or requested any gefilte fish.  No matter, I thought, I’d seen a few jars around town and Kyle hadn’t been out on an errand in at least twenty minutes, and so off he went…only to return an hour later empty-handed.  Every store had been shopped clean.  I called my mom.

“We’re pulling into the driveway!”  She said.  “What’s up?”

I called my aunt.

“You don’t need to buy gefilte fish,” she said.  “We can just make it.”

Before the sun set, my kitchen was covered in groceries and two giant pots of boiling fish.  Kyle sat on a stool, trying to make light conversation without breathing through his nose.

“Here, Mandy,” my aunt said (she’s one of only two people in the world to still call me Mandy, which immediately takes me back to being eight years old, sitting in my grandma’s kitchen, drinking a Coke and eating chocolate chip cookies), handing me a spoon.  “Skim off the fish foam.”

At the word “foam,” Kyle left to take our baby out for a walk.

We made two kinds of gefilte fish – one “regular” and one flavored with salmon – and both were by far the best gefilte fish I’ve ever eaten.  My mom, dad, and aunt had one piece each, and I consumed the entire rest of the loaves.  The house and I smelled like gefilte fish for weeks.  The whole thing was so traumatizing for Kyle that when I buy a jar of gefilte fish now, he hides it in the back of the refrigerator so that he doesn’t have to look at it.  Passover is a week away, which is just the right amount of time for me to test out (my marriage and) my aunt’s gefilte fish recipe once again.

I’m not going to put a picture of gefilte fish on this story because there’s never been a delectable photo taken of gefilte fish at any point in the history of Judaism or photography.  Instead, the photo above is from last year’s Passover seder, which took place right after everything locked down.  I needed a roasted lamb shank bone for the seder plate and there wasn’t one to be had in town, so Kyle drew a little picture and we made fun of it for a minute.  Boom, roasted.

This week’s news has an app for farmland hunting, online art lessons, and Miss Basketball.  Read on.

Montpelier High School has received $15,000 in technology supplies after making it to the semi-finals of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest with their student-led initiative to create an app to make it safer for hunters on area farmland.  If they make it to the finals, they receive a total of $65,000; the national winner will get $130,000. (Valley News Live)

Jamestown’s Myra Klein has held free virtual art lessons for elementary-age kids every weekday since the beginning of the pandemic, and now she has been awarded an extra $1,000 for art supplies to keep her instructions going into the future. (Jamestown Sun)

Dickinson’s Jared Shypkoski has hooked a state record-catching 33”, 16.39lb walleye. (Grand Forks Herald)

KX does a regular featured called “Someone You Should Know,” and this one is particularly nice: a fellow named Cello who is new to Minot. (KX Net)

Congratulations to Hettinger-Scranton’s Sam Oase, winner of North Dakota Miss Basketball!  A fun fact: Sam is the first player from the school to win the award. (KFYR TV)

The headline says it all: New England’s Devin Wert is the SIXTH generation to harvest wheat on his family farm. (GS Publishing)

(Like Amanda Silverman Kosior and/or North Dakota Nice?  Check out last week’s tale about mowing the lawn.)

Nice news of the day – November 27, 2019

Did you know that 14-year-old Paige McCormick of Fargo recently won the US Tennis Association’s Northern Fall Junior Open in Eden Prairie?

And did you know today’s news is about Dorothy Adams, Vanessa Lange, and John Pretzer?  Read on.

This is the story of Dorothy Adams, another North Dakota actress from the mid-1900s.  Fun fact: she was on “Gunsmoke” (and “Leave It to Beaver,” among many other things).  Another fun fact: I was sort-of named after a character on the show “Gunsmoke.”  My mom woke my dad up in the middle of the night near her due date and said, “How about Amanda?”  And my dad rolled over and said, “Sounds like ‘Gunsmoke.’” And here I am, 39 years later, named Amanda, and never having seen a single episode of “Gunsmoke.” (Fargo Forum)

I danced for my entire childhood, and I totally agree that it’s amazing for both confidence and body control. (KX Net)

Congratulations to Scranton Public School for winning a Values-Driven Award of Excellence at the 2019 Cognia Midwest Region Conference! (Adams County Record)