Postcards from the middle | October 13, 2021

Kyle recently came back from a work trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“How did it go?” I asked.

“Great!”  He said – and then, forlornly, “But I couldn’t find any postcards.”

Every single time Kyle travels, he sends a postcard.  By “a postcard,” I mean upwards of a dozen of them.  And by “travels,” I mean if his head hits a pillow that is not his own, it counts as a trip – including once in Grand Forks when we booked a hotel room because we were having some work done at the house.

His recipient list varies; it’s usually a handful of family members plus whatever addresses he has in his head at the moment.  He decides how many postcards he’s going to send by how many he buys, and he typically buys eight or so wherever he sees them being sold.  The last time we were in Arizona, for example, he ended up with approximately forty postcards because we went to a park that had as many gift shops as tourist attractions.

He doesn’t write much – “We are in Arizona, and it’s 95 degrees.  This postcard has a cactus on the front because you’re pretty fly for a cacti.” – and he never expects a card in return.  Every once in a while someone will send one back on their own travels, and he will read it several times before hanging it in a place of prominence either by his bedside or in his office.

Kyle’s two biggest postcard fans are named Harrison and Louis, and both are under the age of five.  Kyle once sent Harrison a postcard with a frontiersman on the front, and that little fella was absolutely convinced that said frontiersman was Kyle and carried the card around for a week.  Louis, on the other hand, wants to immediately travel to whatever place the postcard is promoting.

I fell in love with Kyle, in part, because of postcards.  I had just started my current job (I’m a marketing director) and was asked to host a booth at an aviation conference and trade show in Minot.  Instead of the usual promotional items, I decided that I would print up a bunch of postcards with my firm’s logo and pithy taglines (“Making Magic in the Magic City!”) and let people “mail” them via a (very cute) mailbox (that I spent a very long time building).  At the end of the show, I would stamp all of the postcards and send them off to their lucky recipients.

What I failed to consider was that a bunch of North Dakota aviators would have had career opportunity to send postcards from all sorts of exotic and amazing places, and would henceforth be less inclined to communicate their positioning from a town in which they either A) lived or B) could travel to without needing to stop to go to the bathroom.  I mailed one postcard from that conference – to myself, with a note that read, “Amanda: next year, bring sunglasses clips.”

Kyle and I met two months later.  Our first weekend away was up to (exotic and amazing) Winnipeg, where we attended the Festival du Voyageur, ate Thai food, and stopped at a store so Kyle could get some postcards.

“Do you like postcards?” I asked him, wary that he had been secretly one of the attendees at the aviation conference and was low-key teasing me.

“Oh, yes,” he said.  “I always send a postcard to Uncle Buddy.”

Kyle’s paternal great-uncle was a gentleman named Dominic, who everyone called Uncle Buddy.  Uncle Buddy contracted polio as a boy and lived in a care home most of his life.  After she married my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, Jean, took to mailing Uncle Buddy a postcard whenever the family went on a vacation.  Uncle Buddy was pretty much non-verbal, but he liked the postcards so much that he called Jean “Postcard.”  When Kyle moved to the United States, he also started sending Uncle Buddy postcards – tossing a few extra in the mail for his grandpa, parents, and brothers at the same time.

So, I married him.

Fast-forward to now, it turns out you can order postcards on the Internet.  A few days after his return from Pittsburgh, Kyle received a pack of Pennsylvania postcards and immediately turned around and sent them to their intended recipients – putting a little memory of Uncle Buddy and Jean out into the universe once again, too.

If you would like to receive a Kyle postcard, send him a message on Twitter.  His handle is @ICKyleK.  The photo above is of Kyle with some of the postcards he’s received.

This week’s news has whooping cranes, “manure on the court,” and the Northern Lights.  Read on.

Wabek’s – or rather, the town formerly known as Wabek – Hunter Andes is raising money to preserve the ghost town’s school building. (KX Net)

Keep your eyes on the skies this week as migrating whooping cranes make their way across North Dakota. (AP News)

The Prairie Village Museum now has a new Germans from Russia Heritage Center to celebrate North Dakota’s “largest ethic immigrant group.” (KX Net)

The Rotary Club of Wahpeton Breckenridge filled a bus with 8,249 pounds of food for the food pantry (plus over $1,000 in cash) with a whopping 7,000 of those pounds coming from Econofoods. (Wahpeton Daily News)

Grand Forks got quite the light show on Monday night courtesy of a once-in-360-days aurora display. (Grand Forks Herald)

This is a sweet little anecdote – entitled “A little manure on the court won’t stop the farm athlete” – about what it’s like to grow up a farm kid. (Fargo Forum)

North Dakota has seen an 8% increase in racial diversity over the past decade. (Grand Forks Herald)

Sofa, So Good | September 2, 2021

We just passed the one-month mark of living in our new house.  At least, I *think* it’s our new house.  Considering there are stacks of stuff everywhere, we may be living in a box fort.

This is the exact text conversation I had with a friend right after we moved in:

Friend: How’s the unpacking going?

Me: Slow.  But my parents are taking the boys this week so we’ll have it all done by Saturday.

Friend: Ha ha!

Me: Ha ha!

When my friend typed “ha ha,” she meant, “Oh, Amanda, aren’t you funny.”  When I typed “ha ha,” I meant, “I’m not sure why we’re laughing but I’m having a good time anyways” – because I was 10000000% fully convinced that I would have us totally box-free in seven calendar days.  Ha ha.

It took us a month-and-a-half to move out of our old house.  By the end, we had taken to using a backhoe to just shovel our stuff into any square-shaped object that could be taped shut.  I did not see any reason to take this timeline into account when estimating our move-in.  My logic was this: God had created a whole universe in seven days; I could stick my sweatshirts in a drawer much, much faster than that.

Here is what Kyle and I actually got accomplished that week:

  1. Put away the kids’ toys. This was an absolute necessity to do while the boys were away because we relocated the vast majority of it into the garbage can and the donation box.
  2. Put away the kids’ clothes. This was also an absolute necessity because I deemed it so.
  3. Went on three-hour dinner-and-Target dates because we had free babysitting happening.
  4. Moved boxes from one room to another so as to “organize” them. Most of these boxes had descriptive labels like, “Amanda Stuff” (to separate it from all of the other items in the house with alternative ownership) and “Extra Art” (not to be confused with “Required Art”).

The rest of the time was used like this:

  1. Open box labeled “Kitchen Stuff.”
  2. Unwrap toaster, two drinking glasses, and package of bedsheets.
  3. Abandon kitchen box in order to take sheets upstairs to box labeled, “Bedding Stuff.”
  4. Open and unpack “Bedding” box to its entirety. Break down box, put box in recycling pile, tell spouse, “I got the bedding done!”
  5. Wait for spouse to say, “Actually, I saw some pillowcases in the ‘Garage Stuff’ box, so I moved it to the bathroom.”
  6. Open “Garage Stuff” box, find a popped beach ball, the rest of the drinking glasses, a set of sheets for a bed size we don’t have, and the neighbor’s dog, Pepperoni.

Now, a month later, we have found enough toasters and returned enough Pepperonis that we have reached the stage where everything we NEED-need is in place and everything else has a certain “Why do we have all of these popped beach balls, do we really REQUIRE them” feel to it.  The most significant of these “popped beach balls” being, of course, our couch.

We don’t have a couch. We HAD a couch, which we used so enthusiastically for ten years that it was more a couch-like substitute, like margarine. We gave that sofa-ish to an acquaintance when we moved, knowing that we had a brand-new seating situation coming thanks to the magic of the Internet.

Unsurprisingly, the Internet turned on us. That new couch arrived in the wrong color (the humanity!), and so we sent it back, and called to inquire about the correct hue.

“Yes, I’d be happy to order you that item in ‘Sandy Sandy’s Sandy Sand,'” the operator said. “And you’re in luck, because we are expecting a shipment of that color in only 8-10 weeks.”

As you may know, everyone in the universe is in the market for a couch – causing a bit of a backlog in the furniture supply chain. My neighbor, for example, recently received her own new sofa EIGHTEEN months after she ordered it.

I don’t have that kind of patience. I also don’t have that kind of memory, because if I had ordered a couch eighteen months ago and it showed up today I’d have to stack it on top of whatever other couch I had picked up in the meantime after forgetting that I had one in the mail.

Right now we don’t have a couch. Instead, we have a rug and four camping chairs. Add a burn barrel and some s’mores and the living room would really get pulled together.  

Anyways, in being sofa-less for a month, we’ve discovered that we don’t really NEED-need a couch.  Technically, we don’t really NEED-need a seating system at all; before we had the camping chairs, we had the rug and a few pillows and everyone was fine – in fact, we only brought in the camping chairs because I wanted a place to put a drink.  We’re still in the market for a couch, but by the time we find one that will arrive in a week or so, I’m guessing we’ll have decided that we could better put our money into some pretty sweet camping chairs and call it good.

The photo above is of Kyle shopping for a couch.

This week’s news has a Table of Contents, Living History, and a Grandma who always has a dollar.  Read on.

Bismarck’s Grandma Cindy Bastien has been handing out one-dollar bills to kids at the grocery store since 2016 because “Grandma always has a dollar.” (KFYR TV)

The Bagg Bonanza Farm, located near Wahpeton, has sparked up the ovens for its annual Labor Day dinner, ice cream social, and celebration. (Wahpeton Daily News)

The 46th annual Sam McQuade Softball Tournament raised over $180,000 to be donated to Bismarck non-profits. (KFYR TV)

The Williston Community Library is pulling out all of the stops placemats for their annual Tables of Contents, at which the community dines on story-themed tables. (Williston Herald)

Live in Grand Forks?  The Northlands Rescue Mission is fundraising to pack weekend meal packs to ensure students have full bellies seven days of the week. (Grand Forks Herald)

The Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity in Fargo is knocking on the door of its 68th home build. (KVRR)

Four Williston Firefighters are headed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to assist with hurricane recovery efforts. (KFYR TV)

This Sunday, head on over to Fort Union for a Living History Weekend with blacksmithing, barrel making, a candle-lit tours. (Williston Herald)

Good Advice | August 26, 2021

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.”

Unless you’re battling over-caffeinated insomnia, it sucks to be tired.  Your brain becomes irrational and unpredictable, you lose interest in normally-awesome things, your breath smells – and, of course, you become a total grouch.  My six-year-old was so far beyond exhausted the other night that his head had started to swivel around his body like The Exorcist.  I finally wrestled this screaming, wriggling wild animal into bed, and he looked at me with his sweet baby face and said, “I hate you, Mommy,” and then immediately fell to sleep.  The next morning, after the power of rest compelled him, he climbed onto my lap and said, “I love you so so so much to the universe infinity and back.”  Then he licked me on the cheek because kids are gross.

I have a bunch of theories and reasons as to why everyone is tired; however, as my boss likes to say, that would just be admiring the problem.  Instead, I’d like to sidle up next to you on this party couch, hand you a bottle of water, and offer up three completely unsolicited (and incredibly over-simplified and unscientific) ways to get a little mental rest:

#1: S.L.E.E.P.

You know, Stop Listening to Every Endemic Problem.  There’s a lot going on in the world.  A. Lot.  I know there’s a lot because Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and my cousin are constantly mad about all of it.  My brain and heart can no longer process the quantity of ire I am meant to feel, and so I have decided to save my good listening for my individual friends (or myself) who are struggling with actual crises – like deciding if a hot dog is a sandwich – and use my casual listening to stay informed of issues of which I have little to no control.

Related, I try to limit myself to one ordeal a day.  On the best of days, that ordeal is small and fixable in an hour or less, like a burned-out lightbulb or global conflict.  Here is my structure for selecting my daily issue – I ask:

  • Is this a problem?
  • If yes, do I understand it on a basic level?
  • If yes, am I able to exact change by getting to know it on a deeper level?
  • If yes, am I able to exact change in the next 30 days?
  • If no, is there another problem to which I am able to exact change in the next 30 days?

Does this make me blissfully unaware?  Probably.  Are you reading this thinking, “Man, this woman is a psychopath who does not care about humanity and would be horrible at bar trivia”?  Definitely.  Does it make me much less tired?  Fo sho.

Also, we should all really get eight hours of sleep a night.

#2: D.R.U.G.S.

Do Remember the Uniquely Good Stuff (D.R.U.G.S.).  Also, the Totally Average Good Stuff (T.A.G.S.).  Before you get out of bed in the morning, make a one-item list of something that makes you happy, and then make a point to do that thing during the day.

For example, go for a walk.  If you it doubles your happiness, pick up a piece of garbage on your walk.  Don’t pick up a piece of garbage and turn it into an hour of mental commentary on the climate or the oceans or the government or trashy people.  Do pick up a piece of garbage and put it in a garbage can and then go about your life.  Or don’t pick up a piece of garbage and instead just look at the sunshine and the universe and then go about your life.

My former boss kept a one-page list of best practices.  My favorite is, “Take charge of your attitude.  Don’t let anyone else choose it for you.”  I’ve had days with all sorts of good stuff but a bad attitude, and days with a lot of crud and a great attitude – and when if I look back on them, the ones that went down in my memory as a win were those where I made the decision to feel good.

And, finally,

#3: G.O.P.B.D.

Give one person the benefit of the doubt.  Obviously, not that psychopath who writes blog posts, someone else.  Assume that 99.99999% of the people in this world don’t put on their pants every morning with the one-agenda plan to drive you crazy.

Kyle suggested I give an example for this one and I know exactly what he subconsciously wanted me to say; but I’m not going to write it, because it’s a FACT that every other person on the road is actually trying to be a jerk (and not just living their lives) when I’m rushing to a meeting or slow-rolling along, lost.

I couldn’t think of a picture to illustrate this, so instead the photo above is of Kyle and me at a party back in 2018.

This week’s news has packs of pooches, some pint-sized princesses, and Flutter Fest.  Read on.

Hillsboro’s Andrew Nathan biked across North Dakota – from Beach to Fargo – in two days in order to raise money for PAD (Patriotic Assistant Dogs). (Hillsboro Banner)

A pile of pups paddled through the pool thanks to Dickinson’s Annual Pooch Party. (KFYR TV)

The Grand Forks School District will be providing free breakfast and lunch for all students this year. (Grand Forks Herald)

This is not a typical North Dakota Nice story because it starts out with a young man dying; however, I was so touched by the fact that 1) the family donated the GoFundMe money raised to the recovery dive team, and 2) the dive team turned around and used the money to purchase two memorial flags to remember “what we are doing and why we are doing it.” (Fargo Forum)

Grand Forks’ Kathleen Adams has published a book about a dog named Sugar who moved from the country to the city. (Amazon)

Bismarck’s Kiara Harper is donning the purple and gold for her dream job as a Vikings cheerleader. (KFYR TV)

The Roosevelt Park Pool in Minot now has 20 new puddlejumper lifejackets thanks to donations from area businesses. (KX Net)

For the fifth time, a Bismarck church handed out 175 backpacks filled with school supplies – and also hot dogs and popsicles – to families in need. (KX Net)

Congratulations to Wilkin County’s newest princesses! (Wahpeton Daily News)

Head on over to the Roosevelt Park Zoo on Saturday for Flutter Fest – when 150 monarch butterflies are released into the wild. (Minot Daily News)