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)

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I’d like to thank the Academy | March 30, 2022

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 entertainment, I was two thumbs down.

For example, I was hung up on by not one, but two, Oscar-winning producers.  In the first instance, I had been calling around to update my internship company’s database. 

“Do you know who I am?” He had asked me. 

“Oh, yes,” I lied.  “Are you still a producer at [famous production company which it turns out he founded]?” 

“Call me back when you know who you’re speaking to,” he huffed.  Click. 

These days his name shows up all the time on streaming services and I have to fight the urge to give him a ring and say, “I now know who you are.  Would you like to update your address for future mailings?”

In another instance, I worked at a media event for the launch of a TV show starring an established young actress.  It turned out she had a vague connection to the Midwest and thought it was amusing that I was from North Dakota – and so she offered to introduce me to the head of a different TV show (even now on the air, by the way) who was looking for a PR Assistant.  “No thanks,” I told her.  “I want to work for the Academy, not in television.”  She blinked twice and walked off.

One of my top-five uff das happened when I was in charge of running screeners for a publicity company.  A screener was an advance showing of a movie to gauge audience reactions.  The publicity company would rent a screen at a movie theater and fill the seats with members of the target viewership.  After the movie was over, the audience would rate various aspects of the movie on little notecards, and the moviemakers would use that information to…do…something, I’m not sure what.  My job was to hand out and collect the notecards.

I was put in charge of running the screeners for the Leonardo DiCaprio flick, The BeachThe Beach was an adapted novel about a guy who finds a hidden island in Thailand inhabited by a bunch of hipsters and he thinks it’s paradise BUT IT’S NOT.  The audience for The Beach was made up of married couples and single hipsters.  The first two screeners went as expected, with all of the married women pretending like they were there for The Story and not the shirtless love scenes with Leo, and all of the married men pretending like they were there for The Story and not shirtless love scenes with Virginie Ledoyen, and all of the hipsters pretending like they were there for the irony and not The Story.

The third screener, however, had a bit of a hitch.  Specifically, the movie didn’t start.  Everyone had gotten into seats (they packed the theater for screeners, so part of my job was also some light ushering) and opened their candy and switched to different seats and ran to the bathroom, and the lights went down…and nothing happened.  We sat for a five-count until I realized that I and my notecards were in charge, and so I walked out into the lobby to find a real usher.

“Um, our movie isn’t playing?”  I said.

“Oh, really?” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Okay,” he said, and walked off.

I went back into the theater.  The lights were back on, so I jogged to the front.

“Hey, everyone,” I said.  “There’s a slight technical difficulty, but they are working on it now.”  I gave two thumbs up.  No one responded.

Another five minutes passed, and nothing had changed.  I went back out to the lobby and found the usher once again.

“Hey, so our movie still isn’t playing?”  I said.

“Oh, really?” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Okay,” he said, and walked off.

I jogged back down to the front of the theater and gave my little speech and two thumbs up.  Once again, no response.

The usher and I repeated this song and dance two more times before I sighed and walked to my spot in front of the audience.

“I’m sorry, everyone,” I said.  “I don’t think this movie is going to show tonight.”

This time, everyone responded.  It took fifteen minutes for all of those hipsters and married couples to finish yelling at me and exit the theater.  When the last person left, I sat down in one of the seats and sighed again.  With that, the lights went down, and The Beach started up on the screen.

Believe it or not, even with 1,000 screw-ups, the entertainment industry was still willing to give me a shot (except for one company which told me, “We can’t hire you because we already have an Amanda Silverman who works here.”).  The teeny part of my brain that managed humiliation, however, told me to pack up my chocolate Academy Award and find a career path with less Leonardo DiCaprio.  Fortunately, my company hosts an Oscars-type award show (100% fewer slaps than the real version!) so I can live out my eighteen-year-old dreams once a year; and the rest of the time I can rest easy, knowing my forty-two-year-old self (probably) won’t need to host a screener ever again.

The photo above is from the premiere of Me, Myself & Irene in 2000.  I stuck a few more (crappy, sorry) pictures from the event on Instagram.

Speaking of Oscars, this week’s news has the “Oscars of teaching,” as well as a fuel-efficient snowmobile and an Artist in Residency.  Read on.

Happy 106th birthday to Dickinson’s Helm Lein! (Dickinson Press)

Bismarck’s Erica Quale is one of only 60 teachers nationwide, and North Dakota’s single representative, to earn an “Oscar of Teaching.” (KX Net)

Are you an artist?  North Dakota Parks and Rec and the North Dakota Council on the Arts want you to apply for an Artist in Residency Program. (Devils Lake Journal)

A team of NDSU engineering students received awards for diesel engine efficiency, best handling, and best fuel efficiency for designing a quieter, more fuel-efficient snowmobile. (Prairie Public)

Zoya the Amur tiger is now mama to three tiger cubs. (KX Net)

Watford City’s Chloe Fredericks will be representing North Dakota on NBC’s “American Song Contest.” (McKenzie County Farmer)

Friends, family, coworkers, and students have are coming together for a memorial run for Jody Olheiser, a fan-favorite teacher. (KFYR TV)

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Picky Eating | February 9, 2022

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:

  1. Chicken nuggets
  2. Hot dogs, bun optional
  3. Hard-boiled eggs
  4. White carbs (all)
  5. Babybel cheese
  6. Ice cream
  7. Every kind of candy ever invented
  8. 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.

Our ten-year-old, on the other hand, will eat (or at least try) whatever is served to him; but if given the opportunity will choose one of the following three items:

  1. Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos (five words no mother has ever willingly strung together)
  2. Maruchan 5-for-$1 Ramen Noodle Soup
  3. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

As you can imagine, I – their loving mother and the primary cook in our household – have been a bit dismayed over their food choices.  Having unofficially/officially determined that all parenting challenges are the karmic return of whatever was inflicted on one’s own parents, I was lamenting to Kyle that we should have two of the greatest eaters in history because I – their loving mother and the recipient of a million “This food is GROSS” reviews – have always eaten basically everything in the world.  I’ll even eat food I don’t like; for example, I’m not a fan of coconut, but will still manage to put down all of my sons’ unwanted Almond Joys from their Halloween baskets.

Anyways, I was right in the middle of lecturing Kyle with a Forrest Gump-style list of all the meals I consumed as a child, when it dawned on me that Ten’s garbage palate IS actually my karmic fault.  Here’s why:

Back in the days when a breakfast of Lucky Charms qualified as “eating the rainbow” of the food pyramid, my mother was magically-deliciously into tofu dinners and sliced cucumber snacks.  On more than one occasion, she tried to convince my little sister and me that carob was the same as chocolate*.  Not only was processed food not in her vocabulary, we were one of the last families to get a microwave because she read during the Red #40 scandal (Red #40 and the ozone layer caused cancer in the 1980s) that microwaves sucked all of the nutrients out of vegetables.  The only time we got anything remotely close to junk food was when my dad would order takeout ribs and fries when my mom was out of town for work.

“Your mom is a genius,” you may be thinking.  “You and your sister must have been the healthiest children on the planet.”  Well, just like my son and his Doritos Locos Tacos – you can lead the horse to water, but you can’t keep her from getting her Kool-Aid somewhere else.

Which is what we did.  My sister and I strategically chose our friends based on their access to processed food.  If you were a kid in Grand Forks between 1987 and 1992 and your parents served Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, chances are we finagled a lunch or dinner invite at your house.  We knew the exact amount of time it would take to walk down to Valley Dairy, get two Freezee Pop (Now flavored with Red #40!), and eat them before our mother came looking for us.  Also, I played soccer just for the McDonald’s orange drink.

Obviously, at some point, I became my mother.  Specifically, when my oldest was born and I unexpectedly/expectedly found myself blending up avocados and apples with my Baby Bullet because “I wasn’t sure what was in that store-bought baby food.” (PS, store-bought baby food is great.  Also, that same kid once licked both a car tire and a lid from a can of turpentine so the avocado was more of a nice thought.)

At the same time I started going all-in on becoming my mother’s next-generation health nut, my mom went full grandma and started buying food flavored “Blue.”  By the time my second child bounced into the picture (and I was too tired to make any more baby food), my mom and I met somewhere in the middle and came to an unspoken understanding that so long as the majority of food is made by nature, the rest of it can come from Taco Bell.

However, while this “a lot of good, a bit of crap” plan has worked well with my older son, it hasn’t been a recipe for success for my little vegetarian.  After trying basically every method in the parenting book – bribes, letting him help cook, sitting him at the table until time and space have no meaning – I’m now onto hoping and praying that he’ll realize one day that variety is the spice of life.  Until then, I’m going to keep aggressively Googling “Is it bad to eat only peanut butter sandwiches and nothing else.”

The photo above is of Kyle, who loves all kinds of food but is also sort of a picky eater, at a restaurant.  The menu was back-lit, which was pretty nifty.

This week’s news has a request for birthday cards, (at least) three famous North Dakotans, and a battle of the books.  Read on.

Minot’s Ray Curtis is turning 105 on Friday, and his friends want you to send him a birthday card. (KX Net)

Belfield’s Bill Palanuk has donated his mother’s book, Ukrainians in North Dakota: In Their Voices to every school in the state in order to help preserve the story of Ukrainian immigrants in North Dakota. (Dickinson Press)

If you’re a Super Bowl watcher, you should know that Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow lived in Fargo in first and second grades… (Fargo Forum)

…And the Los Angeles Rams’ Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jamel Cooper, is from Grand Forks! (Grand Forks Herald)

Also, Bismarck’s Britta Curl is on her way to China as a part of the Team USA’s Women’s Hockey competition. (KFYR TV)

Near the Pioneer Museum in Watford City this weekend?  Come on down for a Celebration of Hygge. (McKenzie County Farmer)

Bismarck’s Great Plains Food Bank served 121,000 meals last year. (KFYR TV)

This event should be called, “This is something Amanda would have FER SURE WON if it existed back when she was a fourth grader.” (Minot Daily News)

*Carob is not a food.  It’s a punishment.