Squeegee | July 22, 2021

We are moving; and between packing up and saying goodbye to our current house, renovating and unpacking our new house, working at my job, and doing the bare minimum at parenting, I have reached my complete maximum mental bandwidth.

We had a one-hour torrential downpour in Grand Forks the other day.  Our poor dry ground was not prepared for the equivalent of the sky overturning itself and dumping a lake’s worth of water onto everything, and so the streets and parking lots were flooded in minutes.  I was stopped at a traffic light and noticed an employee – a small elderly woman – standing at the entrance to a nearby grocery store, calmly and methodically pushing water out from the entrance using a squeegee.  The rain was pounding into swimming pool-sized puddles in front of her, and yet she just kept sweeping the squeegee, sweeping the squeegee, sweeping the squeegee.

This is how I’d describe the current situation in my brain: I have a small elderly woman standing at the entrance to my ear, calmly and methodically sweeping out all information not immediately pertinent to my house, my job, or my family.

My Squeegee-er (Squeegeer?) has made for an interesting brainfellow.  For example, I made lunch for the boys and myself last weekend, eating mine while I was putting together the rest.  I gave the boys their food, went back into the kitchen, and made myself a second lunch.  I was several bites in before I thought, “Man, I’m just not hungry today, I wonder why,” and then realized the reason was because I had already consumed a full meal not ten minutes earlier.

Another time, Kyle gave me a full rundown of a true crime podcast he’d found.  I listened intently, asking questions and commenting on what he was telling me.  When he was finished, he said, “You should check it out.”

“Check what out?”  I said.

“The podcast,” Kyle said.

“What podcast?”  I asked.

However, the most distracting part of my Squeegee-er (this seems more correct) is that she whistles while she works, so to speak.  A few weeks ago, it was song lyrics; I was minding my own business when the “Dum-dum-dum, good times never seemed so good,” part of “Sweet Caroline” got jammed on repeat somewhere in my brain, playing over and over and over again from morning to night.

Lately, though, it’s been joke punchlines.  I woke up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water, and my Squeegee-er whispered, “I’d like some fish and chips.”

The rest of the joke goes like this:

A man walks into a library and up to the front desk.

“I’d like some fish and chips,” he asks.

“This is a library,” says the library.

“Oh, sorry,” says the man.  And then, in a whisper, “I’d like some fish and chips.”

Anyways, dear friends, I had a different story planned for this week but it got squeegeed out into the parking lot – so instead here are the punchlines (and the jokes that accompany them) that keep popping into my mind in lieu of other things that should be there:

***

Morty is speaking to his neighbor, a doctor, over the fence.

“I think my wife may be losing her hearing,” Morty laments.

“Well, there’s a simple test you can try,” says the doctor.  “Start out 40 feet away from her and say something in a normal tone.  If she doesn’t hear you, move up to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until she responds.”

That night, Morty’s wife is in the kitchen.  He goes into the living room and asks,

“Honey, what’s for dinner?”

She doesn’t answer, so he moves to the doorway.

“My love, what’s for dinner?”

No response.  He walks up right behind her.

“Dear, what’s for dinner?”

She turns around.

“For the third time, Morty, CHICKEN!”

***

A man goes ice fishing for the very first time.  He sets down his gear and reties his scarf.  Suddenly, from the heavens, a voice booms out,

“THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE.”

The man looks around, doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary, and figures he must be hearing things.  He cuts a hole and tosses his line in.  Again, a booming voice says,

“THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE.”

This time the man can’t ignore it.  He drops his pole and shouts,

“Is that you, Lord?”

To which the voice says,

“NO, THIS IS THE ICE RINK MANAGER.  THERE ARE NO FISH UNDER THE ICE.”

***

A pirate limps into a bar.

“Um, excuse me,” says the bartender.  “Is that a steering wheel in your pants?”

“Arrgg, it is,” said the pirate.  “It be drivin’ me nuts.”

***

And finally,

A woman goes to a beekeeper to get a dozen bees for her garden.  The beekeeper gives her thirteen.

“Oh!” she says.  “I think you gave me an extra.”

“Yes,” says the beekeeper.  “That’s a freebie.”

***

I snapped a photo of the aforementioned rainstorm, which is above.  Two hours later, it was completely evaporated/soaked in/down the storm sewers.  Wild time.

This week’s news is about BTS, young aviators, and loungewear.  Read on.


West Fargo’s Eden Smith is a finalist in a worldwide essay competition about the impact of the musical group, BTS. (Fargo Forum)

A Williston ice cream truck has started stocking up treats for puppies, as well as humans. (Williston Herald)

Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux are the 45th and 46th recipients of North Dakota’s prestigious Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award. (Grand Forks Herald)

The Bismarck Community Food Co-Op has been holding free cooking classes for people looking to learn how to do food prep. (KX Net)

Kids are flying high at the Fargo Air Museum’s Youth Aviation Camp. (KVRR)

Fargo’s Sydney Craig has created a clothing line – t-shirts, hoodies, joggers, crew necks, and loungewear – alongside local artists in order to promote mental health(Fargo Forum)

McDowell Dam celebrated its 10th Annual Fun Day, where all of the rec spot’s activities were free to try out. (KX Net)

The politics of cake | July 1, 2021

Our friends hosted a family birthday party for their ten-year-old last weekend.  The jury is still out between my sons as to the second-best part of the soiree (right now it’s a tie between the slip-and-slide covered in dish soap and “playing” in general), but they both have agreed that the number-one spot goes to the cake.

It was a homemade leopard cake.  The cake itself was green and white confetti because everything tastes better with a color; and on top was layered white frosting and gold sprinkles, followed by edible paint sketched into the leopard design.  The whole thing was surrounded by a garden’s worth of pink flowers handmade out of white chocolate.  It looked, as one might say, good enough to eat.

If you’re up on your birthday cake consumption, you’ll know that typically the most coveted pieces amongst today’s youth are those with a lot of frosting or some kind of atypical decoration.  For example, the most popular elements of my son’s birthday cake were the legs on the spider.  In the case of the leopard cake, the pieces with the most frosting did not include a chocolate flower – a fact the partygoers were well-aware, as there were numerous discussions during the aforementioned “playing” as to the superiority of chocolate or frosting.

The kids had been running around like wild animals for the entirety of the day; but the moment the cake was announced, they dropped whatever they were doing and got themselves, hands washed, to a seat at the table before the candles were fully placed.

“I call the eye!”  The first kid shouted with the confidence of someone who had scoped out the cake in advance and knew that the eye had the most paint.

“I call the ear!”  Another kid yelled.  “THIS ear, not that ear.”

“I call the other ear!”

“I call the big flower in the corner!”

I read somewhere that it’s a tradition in Brazil to give the first piece of birthday cake to the person you love the most.  In the United States and Canada we want our children to love themselves best because it’s a well-known fact that the birthday celebrant gets the prime piece.  And so, the birthday girl took in all of this information with cool silence and then, after all pieces had been called, stated,

“I want this eye and this flower.”

With her piece+ identified, the re-calling began.  “Okay, I call the other eye!”  “I call the ear!” Etc, etc.

We sang the song, the slices were distributed appropriately to the callers (with some last-minute trades) – and then, as per usual, the grownups slinked off to the kitchen to divvy up the remaining “undesirable” scraps.

As I sat eating my green and white confetti cake without any leopard paint or chocolate flower, I was struck by the fact that we adults have given up a well-earned right in birthday caking. For one, while I suppose we could just make and eat a birthday cake whenever we wanted regardless of the existence of an actual birthday (it’s a birthday somewhere), the number of actual birthday cakes to which grownups have access (outside of kids’ parties) goes down precipitously as we age due to things like birthday pie and restaurants serving a single slice of cake or people “just not wanting all that sugar,” making them all the more valuable.

For two, we are much older than children, meaning we have many, many more years of expertise in winning “Called It” battles, not just in cake, but in front car seats and other important life circumstances.  I’m definitely not suggesting we take the “good” pieces away from the kids like jerkfaces; but we don’t even make an attempt to gain superiority over our fellow grown-ups.  In fact, it’s the opposite – at this party, as is always the case, when the time came for the parents to get some cake, we didn’t take the pieces handed to us.  Instead, we kept passing them around to make sure that everyone else had a slice because “winning” in adulthood means picking the remaining crumbs and frosting bits off of the cake plate with a fork after all of the rest of the cake has been consumed.

In fact, we absolutely waste all of our “Called It” skills in general.  For instance, I have never once walked into a business meeting and proclaimed,

“I call the chocolate-covered doughnut, I call that chair with the good armrest, and I call $50,000 for a marketing campaign.”

I don’t know what my point is here, but I do think we are giving ourselves the short end of the sprinkles bottle somehow.  Maybe we need to bring back the “Called It” system.  Maybe we need more cakes with lots of frosting and decorations but also zero sugar because we don’t need all of the calories.  Someone should come up with a solution.  As I don’t really like cake, I call not it.

It’s both my son’s and my nephew’s birthday on Sunday.  The photo above is my son’s 6th birthday cake.  Obviously, he eschewed a piece of cake in lieu of eating the shark, which was made of Rice Krispies.  He had two bites and pooped out – so everyone, including the shark, won.

This week’s news is about hungry horses, family garage sales, and wheelchair baseball.  Read on.


I always love the days when there’s so little news that a horse going through a fast food drive-thru makes it to TV. (KFYR TV)

Bowman’s main street now has a new mural, which tells the story of Paul Harvey’s poem, “So God Made a Farmer.” (Bowman Extra)

A pop-up food pantry at West Fargo’s Lutheran Church of the Cross – which served 3,700 people last year – has now become the permanent West Fargo Eats, which brings together the YWCA, the Great Plains Food Bank, and Gate City Bank in order to better assist the community. (KFYR TV)

The Moms Club of Bismarck held a 20-family yard sale in order to raise money for the Dakota Children’s Advocacy Group. (KX Net)

Downtown Fargo has a new mural – a postcard featuring images that are representative of the city’s culture – courtesy of Victor Ving and Lisa Beggs’ mission to create one in all of the 50 states. (KVRR)

Twenty Grand Forks students played wheelchair baseball thanks to HOPE, Inc. (Fargo Forum)

Country Quiet | May 27, 2021

There’s Normal Quiet and then there’s Country Quiet.  Normal Quiet is where you are lulled to sleep by the rustling of the trees, the steady rhythm of tires on a nearby street, and a bird chirping in your neighbor’s yard.  Country Quiet is so silent that you’re shaken awake when that same bird farts.

I have lived in a ne’er-traversed neighborhood, alongside a non-stop Boston parkway, and everywhere in between – but even so, when we moved out to the country my brain was not prepared for the lack of noise.  I remember lying in bed that first night, straining to catch any sort of sound beyond my own heartbeat.  “I’m not going to be able to sleep like this,” I thought.  “It’s too quiet, it’s too quiet, it’s just too qu-zzzzzzzzzz.”

Now, of course, after ten years that silence is a part of our background soundtrack; and any break in it, from a house creak to a far-off coyote howl, is a tambourine crash in the middle of a lullaby.  For example, the other night I couldn’t read a book because a fly was buzzing around a completely different level from where I was located (our house has four split-levels because the 1980s were a great time for people who hated windows and loved stairs).  Kyle wasn’t home and I couldn’t remember where he kept the fly swatter, so I spent ten minutes guiding that fly to the front door and back out into the wilderness.  The whole thing reminded me of a story from the early days in our house, and here it is:

It was a cold and quiet winter night.  Kyle was traveling for work, and so I was in charge of my three-year-old son, our two cats, and one goldfish (and myself, I guess).  All of us were up on the topmost level of the house getting Three ready for bed.

Three and I had snuggled in with a book (The Monster’s Monster, if you’re in the market) and were doing our best monster voices when there was the teeniest, tiniest shuffle-shuffle – a cottonball rolling past a marshmallow, a lilac petal rubbing a blade of grass, a dewdrop rolling down a fairy wing – from down in our unfinished basement.

Three stopped his monster roaring and said, “What was that noise?”

And because I was the parent I didn’t say what I was thinking, which was, “It’s probably the boogieman, let’s jump out the window and run screaming to the neighbors.”  Instead, I said, “What noise?”

As previously noted, at the time we had a very old cat named Dakota and a very young cat named Daryl.  Dakota, who was not a fan of monster voices or really anything related to children/adults/the universe, was lying on the bed with her eyes closed pretending like we weren’t there.  Daryl, who was the exact opposite, was sitting on the book.

When the shuffle-shuffle sound occurred, Dakota languidly turned her ear in the direction of the basement.  Daryl, on the other hand, was off like a shot.

“Dat noise,” Three said, as the shuffle-shuffle happened again, followed by the twinkle-tinkle of the bell on Daryl’s collar.

I looked to Dakota, my longtime Barometer for All Mild Inconveniences.  She lifted one eyelid slightly.

“Oh, it’s just the wind,” I said too breezily.

The sound stopped.  Dakota, Guard Cat Extraordinaire, snorted with disgust.  She made a big deal of sitting up and stretching before casually hopping off the bed and ambling down the stairs.

“You know what, I forgot to do something,” I said, turning on the TV.  “I’ll be right back.”

My momma didn’t raise no dummy, and so I grabbed the first weapon I could find: a squishy foam Batman baseball bat.  Eschewing all horror movie warings, I tip-toed down to the top step of the basement.  Everyone looked up at me: Dakota, who lounged disinterestedly off the bottom step; Daryl, crouched in the corner of the room; and a mouse, sitting in the middle of the floor.

I stood there for a few minutes, assessing my options.  Option One was to pick up the mouse and put it outside, which I wasn’t going to do.  Option Two was to call my neighbor and have him pick up the mouse and put it outside – although I guessed that he and I would have a vastly different definition of what I would mean by “take care of this mouse.”  Also, Option Two required me to put on pants.  Option Three was to pick up my squishy foam Batman baseball bat and return from whence I came.

I don’t actually know what happened in the basement besides some more shuffle-shuffle-twinkle-tinkling.  When I came out of my room an hour later Dakota and Daryl were snoozing by the fireplace.  Kyle got home the next day and put so much spray foam and sealer down in the basement that we had to send in a canary to see if any oxygen remained.  We’ve never had another mouse in the house, but Kyle is now convinced that he can hear them walking around outside.

I didn’t take a picture of the mouse so the photo above is of our yard.

This week’s news has hikers, bikers, and birthdays (oh my!).  Read on.


The North Dakota Hiker Babes have challenged themselves to do 12 hikes in 12 months. (KX Net)

Berthold’s Ole Skinningrud celebrated his 90th birthday by taking a group motorcycle ride – with an escort by the sheriff – to the Harley Davidson shop for a special dinner. (KX Net)

Seventeen-year-old Seljon Akhmedli of West Fargo recently graduated with both her high school degree, as well as a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from NDSU. (Fargo Forum)

Williston Public Schools will be handing out free sack lunches to parents and students all summer. (KFYR TV)

Valley City father-daughter duo Myron and Amber VanBruggen have won the annual Dennis Kirk Sled Build for their customized snowmobile. (Valley City Times-Record)

The family of Fargo’s Joe Keller is asking everyone to carry on Joe’s passion for “multiplying joy.” (Fargo Forum)

The BisMan Eats Facebook group is dining its way around Bismarck in order to support local restaurants. (KX Net)

The Medora fire was not nice, but what IS nice is all of the kindnesses shown as the area recovers from its effects. (KFYR TV)

Fargo’s Rachel Bakken is the first person to donate birth tissue (after successfully delivering her third son) at Sanford Hospital in order to help people with burns and skin cancer. (Fargo Forum)

Fifty people stepped in to help Williston’s Amanda Wheeler celebrate her bowling alley birthday. (KX Net)

(Like Amanda Silverman Kosior and/or North Dakota Nice?  Check out last week’s story about Good Ranch.)