North Dakota Today | May 24, 2023

On Monday, I went on North Dakota Today to talk about North Dakota Nice.  I work in marketing, so prepping people for media appearances is a standard part of my job; without exaggeration, I bet I have coached over 1,000 interviews.  There are a few baseline rules for television: sit up or stand up straight with your shoulders back; avoid noisy jewelry or garments that will interfere with the microphones; wear fitted and/or structured clothing to look thinner; don’t fart.  I didn’t have “don’t fart” on my list until I was privy to the worst interview I have ever seen with my own eyes during a press junket for the show Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  Melissa Joan Hart was in her early 20s and VERY MUCH over child stardom.  She slouched in her chair, one arm thrown over the back, and began every answer by smacking her gum and saying, “My best friend, Britney Spears…” or “My best friend, Soliel Moon Frye…”  After ten or so uncomfortable minutes someone on the stage let out what we were all feeling – a nervous fart, and every reporter immediately bent down over their cameras and notepads.

“That fart is going to be anything anyone talks about, thank goodness,” the intern next to me whispered.

“No farts; got it,” I whispered to myself.

(I feel compelled to note that Melissa Joan Hart is now a grown-up and seems to be living a lovely, non-slouchy life.)

Here’s the thing: while I have prepped a million people for interviews, I haven’t actually been on television.  Sure, I was in the background of the commercials for my family’s clothing store when I was a kid – but in terms of saying things into a microphone with a camera pointed at my face, nope.

There’s a reason for my lack of television prowess.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “She has a face for radio?”  Well, I have a situation for a blog.  In compliment of my nasally, Jewishy voice, my normal speaking speed is faster than the Micro Machines Man.  I am so pale – but not like “Nicole Kidman porcelain,” like “Guarding the Ark of the Covenant in a tomb in anticipation of the arrival of Indiana Jones” colorless – that one of my friends mistook me for wearing sweat socks instead of my own bare legs after a sunny college summer.  Also, I’d describe my body firmness as one of international appeal, in that I look like a French croissant.

Knowing these things, when I scheduled my North Dakota Today appearance I did what any person in my position would do: I bought a pair of shoes.  If you watch North Dakota Today you know that you never see the hosts’ or guests’ feet, so this was the right choice of action.

We have a bunch of great women’s clothing boutiques in Grand Forks, and so for the next two weeks I popped in to find a fitted outfit to go with my new shoes.  I bought sweats, a baggy short-sleeved denim shirt, a pile of floppy summer dresses, a novelty greeting card, and zero TV outfits. 

“No problem,” I told myself.  “I have lots of clothes; I’ll wear something I already own.”

I needed to be in Fargo – a one-hour-and-change drive from Grand Forks – at 9:00 am Monday morning.  At 6:30 pm Sunday night, as dinner was baking in the oven, I went upstairs to try on my plethora of outfits to find the best fit for television.  At 6:45 pm, Kyle came up to see what I chose and found me surrounded by the WORST CLOTHES in the WORLD.

“I look horrible in all of these,” I said, on the vergiest-verge of tears.

“What about this one?” Kyle asked, picking up one of my usual favorites.

“Too tight,” I said.

“Or this?” Kyle asked of another favorite.

“Too short,” I said.

Kyle patted my shoulder gently.  “Maybe you should run out and get something.”

“Everywhere is closed,” I said.  “And dinner is ready.”

“Target and TJ Maxx are open,” he said.  “Eat quickly, and then go.”

At TJ Maxx, I half-heartedly flipped through the racks.  Next to me, a lady sighed. I sighed, too.  Then, suddenly, the clouds parted, and a green dress appeared.  It was $19.99, and I bought it without trying it on (and there were about fifty left in every size if you want to get one so we can be a team).

The next morning, I woke up bright and early and realized I had meant to book a makeup appointment – and, like turning down that extra croissant, didn’t.  So, while the boys slept and Kyle made me coffee and breakfast because he is the BEST, I YouTubed “How to put on makeup for TV” and then slathered on foundation because that was basically the bulk of it.  I buttoned up my new favorite green dress, drove to Fargo without spilling any coffee or food on me, and was interviewed on North Dakota Today.  I don’t remember any of the interview because I left my body briefly somewhere in the middle, but I do know that both of the hosts and the secretary were incredibly nice and I had a wonderful time.  I didn’t fart.  Oh, and I didn’t wear my new shoes because they are five-inch heels and I honestly don’t know what I, the Queen of Converse Chucks, was thinking.

You can watch my interview here:

I welcome all comments, but only if they are positive because my croissant heart doesn’t do well with criticism.

AND GUESS WHAT.  I (and Kyle) get to do this rigmarole again because North Dakota Today is giving me a weekly segment to tell nice stories about people and happenings in North Dakota.  You can find me on North Dakota Today on Monday mornings starting June 19.  However, they are going to kick me off if I don’t have anything to say, so you can help me by telling me all about your nice friends and neighbors and flowering trees.  Please, please send me your stories at Amanda at (and if my friend, Scott, is reading this, I was serious about the duckling thing).

The photo above is a screenshot from the show.  There are only so many $20 green dresses in the world, so maybe I’ll put my normal outfits on Instagram on Sunday, June 18 for anyone who wants to help me decide what to wear.

 A group of Mandan High School seniors went back to elementary school for some cookies and memories. (KX Net)

Speaking of seniors, 28 of the 34 graduates of Nueta Hidasta Sahnish College graduated with honors, making it the highest (and largest) GPA class in college history. (KX Net)

This is my friend Dave, and I can guarantee that there is few more deserving of all of life’s blessings. (Grand Forks Herald)

Batter up!  It’s almost time for the 3rd annual Liam G Medd Memorial Baseball Tournament, held in Fargo in memory and honor of our friends’ son with the goal of reducing stigma around mental health, building hope, and ending suicide. (Facebook)

I love this!  Williston High School held a signing ceremony for students going right into the workforce. (KFYR TV)

Sixteen-year-old singer/songwriter Annabelle Maher has released her first album, two years after appearing on Today with Hoda & Jenna. (Fargo Forum)

As the mother of a child who used to make us stop what we were doing to watch the garbage men drive by, I can appreciate a good Touch-a-Truck event. (KFYR TV)

This one is a bit self-serving, but Number 17 is my godsister (i.e. the daughter of my godparents) – Grand Forks’ Leonora Pitts! (KX Net)

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Walking Tacos | May 17, 2023

My friend, Lori, is in treatment for breast cancer; and her close girlfriends hosted a fundraiser to help offset her expenses and surround her with love.  As I’ve noted before, North Dakotans aren’t big on overt displays of affection, and so events like fundraisers are popular around here because, as my mother says, “North Dakotans would rather starve than spend $10 on eggs for themselves, but will drop $50 on six cupcakes to show someone they care.”

This particular fundraiser took the (cup)cake because the organizing ladies managed to solicit a bonkers number (that’s the official count) of silent auction and raffle items from area businesses.  In addition to the auction and raffle, Lori’s friends sold 50/50 tickets, made available Miss North Dakota to take pictures with attendees in exchange for free-will donations, and offered up an extensive table filled with food, also available for a non-specific monetary amount.  If you’ve ever been to North Dakota I don’t need to tell you that the most popular item was the Walking Tacos; the ladies had to stop an hour into the event and stuff Lori’s son’s backpack with Walking Taco $20 bills to make room for more.

For those of you who have never had the delicious fortune of consuming a Walking Taco – otherwise known as Taco in a Bag – allow me to give you a small taste of its majesty.

A Walking Taco starts with an individual bag of chips.  When I was younger, those chips were Fritos; now that we have developed as a society and invented things like THE INTERNET and BUMPITS, Walking Tacos can also be made with Doritos.

“What about tortilla chips?”  You may be thinking.  Walking Tacos are never made with tortilla chips for reasons I don’t have time to explain.

Each individual bag of Doritos/Fritos/Not Tortillas is smushed by hand until the chips are crunched but not crumbled; then the bag is turned on its side, sliced the long way, and opened into a little pouch.  That pouch is filled with taco meat (always ground beef), shredded cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, and, if you’re feeling spicy, sliced jalapenos.  The ingredients are then mixed together – held in place by the handy-dandy walls of the chip bag – and eaten with a fork.

It’s called a Walking Taco because, unlike a regular taco, it comes with a wrap-like object to allow a person to enjoy it on the go. 

Everyone loves Walking Tacos.  Everyone.  What’s not to like?  Salt?  Portability?  Walking Tacos are so universally beloved that they are served around here as a school lunch.  Even my EIGHT-year-old (birthday was Monday!), a self-proclaimed “vegetarian” who only consumes chicken nuggets, will eat Walking Tacos.

The best thing about Walking Tacos is that you can customize its ingredients to your fancy and no one will know you have a disgusting palate.  I, for example, like to cover my Walking Tacos in ranch dressing, just as one would at a taqueria in Oaxaca.  Eight picks out the chips and then pretends to be full until someone produces a dish of ice cream.  My husband eschews the chips entirely and encases his Walking Taco in fry bread, which is called an Uffda Taco around here and a Fry Bread Taco in Saskatchewan and isn’t technically a Taco in a Bag but whatever.

For his part, my Eleven-year-old is a Walking Taco purist and wants only chips, taco meat, and cheese.  Chips.  Taco Meat.  Cheese.  He once had a Walking Taco where a single whisper of lettuce had inadvertently drifted into the bag from lettuce fields unknown and IT RUINED HIS WHOLE DAY.  It should be noted that he will eat lettuce if served on a plate.

For Eleven’s eighth birthday, I decided to become the most popular mom in the world and serve Walking Tacos.  I bought a box of individual bags of Doritos, filled two giant bowls with shredded cheddar cheese, and then cooked taco meat according to my tried-and-true taco recipe, which I had made one hundred times prior for one hundred taco dinners that had been devoured by Eleven (then Seven/Eight) all one hundred times.  However, none of those one hundred taco dinners included the word “Walking” since we were sitting at a dinner table.

It turns out the word “Walking” is pretty important to the Walking Taco process because only one kid ate my Walking Tacos and that kid wasn’t my own.  I had made a few back-up cheese pizzas and those went like they were covered in literal and dairy-based gold.  When I asked Eleven/Eight why he didn’t have a Walking Taco, he said it was the wrong taco meat.  It’s now almost four years later and I still don’t know what that means but I certainly learned a lesson that day.

At Lori’s fundraiser, Eleven got himself a Walking Taco.

“Do you want a bite?”  Eleven asked, holding out his fork.

“Does it have ranch on it?”  I joked/not joked.

“No,” he said.  “But guess what?  I put taco sauce on it.”  He nodded knowingly.  I peeked in the bag.  A one-quarter teaspoon taco sauce was drizzled over a single chunk of taco meat.

“Wow,” I said.

“Yep,” he said, proudly.  “I guess I’m growing up.”

“I guess so,” I said.  “Next up, lettuce.”

He shook his head.  “No, lettuce is for old people.”

“Sage words,” I said, as Kyle walked up with a fistful of 50/50 tickets in one hand and a plate of egg rolls in another.

The photo above is of me. Completely unrelated (minus the fact that this is about my own child), I have to tell you something Eight said after school one day.

Eight: [Kid in my class] said he has ADHD, but I don’t believe him because he’s never gone to war.

Me: …

Kyle: …

Eight: …

Kyle: …you’re thinking of PTSD. PTSD is what you get when you go to war. ADHD is different.

Eight: Oh, okay. Then I guess he has ADHD.

Kyle: Sounds good.

Five high school seniors – Jaylen Anderson, McKenna Barnick, Kaylee Kemp, Casia Steinhaus, and Piper Suhr – will graduate from both high school and Lake Region State College in May. (Grand Forks Herald)

Speaking of young graduates, six Bismarck State students are set to graduate from college before graduating high school in a few weeks. (KFYR TV)

Have some extra seeds laying around this spring?  Minot’s Amee Mitchell is looking to propagate a community seed library. (KX Net)

Anamoose students got a taste of a Farm to Table lunch made with area beef and the school’s garden via a farm-to-table program – and fun fact from the article: North Dakota has more cows than people. (KFYR TV)

Speaking of tables, Elgin’s Kirby and JoAnn Schatz have taken to hosting “farmboy breakfasts” for their agrarian neighbors. (Fargo Forum)

Hatton’s Carl Ben Eielson will soon be memorialized in film. (Fargo Forum)

The headline of this article says it all: Williston’s Band Day Parade marches on. (KFYR TV)

Linton’s Dan Carr is serving up his last year of caramel rolls and coffee to graduating seniors. (KFYR TV)

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The Flood of 1997 | April 19, 2023

On April 18, 1997, the Red River of the North broke through walls upon walls of sandbags and swept over Grand Forks, North Dakota.  As the city was evacuated, firefighters waded through chest-high waters to quench a fire that would ultimately claim eleven buildings over three blocks in the historic downtown district.  When the water receded, 82% of the city’s homes, 70% of the schools, and 62% of the businesses had been damaged.  Through it all – from flooding to cleanup to transformative rebirth – the people of Grand Forks remained steadfast and strong, embodying the word “community” in its every meaning of the word.  Much has been written about the resiliency of Grand Forks, from the newspaper that never stopped running (receiving a Pulitzer Prize for public service as a result) to the high school prom hosted in an airplane hangar at the Air Force base.

However, there is one voice that has yet to be heard: that of a 17-year-old idiot.  Here is her story.

First, though, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page regarding the Red River.  There are 250 rivers that flow North – one is the Nile, another is the Red River.  The Red River starts in Breckenridge, Minnesota and runs up through North Dakota to Lake Winnipeg.  What is something Minnesota, North Dakota, and Manitoba have in common?  Snow.  What happens when snow melts?  It turns into water.  What happens when there is suddenly a lot more water in a river?  It floods.  A river is considered “flooded” when it leaves its banks, and I’m not going to fact-check this but I’m 99% certain the Red River floods every single year.  It’s flooded right this second and there’s still ice on it.  It floods so often that back in 1997 we had a series of earthen dikes to keep the water under control (today we have a much fancier flood protection system, including much fancier dikes).  So, when people started tossing around the word “flood” back in February and March of 1997 no one got too hotsy-totsy because, like I said, it wasn’t normally a big deal.

I was a 17-year-old high school junior in 1997.  I was a member of the school dance team, boasted a bedroom of full vinyl blow-up furniture and pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio, and spent my free time cruising the neighborhoods of Grand Forks in my Ford Tempo.  I had a boyfriend who was a year older than me and lived on the Grand Force Air Force Base, which were two things I considered to be very exotic.  I was one of those straight-A students that got to leave class, ponytail bow a-waggin’, to paint signs for pep rallies because “the boys really need our support.”  Also, I was an idiot.

As an idiot, I didn’t notice that Grand Forks had been subjected to a greater number of blizzards that year as compared to the past and that none of that snow had yet melted.  When the final blizzard, Hannah, hit on April 4, I had two friends – a girl from down the street and a boy from the base – over to hang out on my blow-up furniture and the only thing I cared about was that the boy couldn’t get back home for three days and so WE HAD A SLEEPOVER!  AND WE PAINTED HIS TOES WITH GREEN POLISH!  Did it matter that 300,000 people didn’t have power for three days?  No, we had a fireplace!  Did it matter that the blizzard was followed by freezing rain which pushed the river into flood stage?  No, didn’t you hear the toe painting thing?!

All of this did matter to much smarter other people, who took a look at the mountains of snow and ice and began to question the accuracy of the flood predictions put forth by the Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service.  You’re fine, the National Weather Service said; the river would crest at 49 feet, which was the height of the dikes.  However, since folks were feeling nervous, they would temporarily build up the dikes to 52 feet.  “Okay,” everyone else said.  “They are making a movie about the Titanic. It comes out in December,”  I said.

We were rewarded the following week with gloriously warm weather.   North Dakota’s governor activated the National Guard to begin sandbag preparations.  For my part, I turned a pair of jeans into super-duper cute cut-off shorts.

On April 15, the river rose 45 feet, necessitating the shut-down of the Point Bridge, the lower of two bridges connecting Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, Minnesota.  Our house backed up onto Central Park dike, and that evening my family walked up onto the dike to check out the river.

“I think we should take a few things out of the basement,” my dad, a lifelong Grand Forks resident, said.

“Oh, that bridge shuts down all the time,” my mom, formerly of New Jersey, said.

So as not to disobey my dad, I went down to the basement before bed and brought up “a few things” – singularly, a box of old Barbie clothes (no Barbies).

On April 16, I came home from school to find my mother moving a stack of basement items to the dining room table.  In the park behind the dike, the water had covered the top of the metal playground slide.

“Go and pack an overnight bag,” she told me.  “The mayor thinks those of us by the river should move out temporarily.  We may need to spend a couple of days at a hotel.”

I went upstairs to my bedroom and tossed some old sweats into a backpack.  I didn’t pack any of my favorite clothes, especially my rad new cut-offs, because when my mother said, “May need to” I heard “No chance in the world” and I didn’t want my awesome outfits in backpack purgatory.  Fun fact: at this point the river was higher than the National Weather Service had predicted and so they had to update their guesstimate.  My memory is that they updated to 50 feet.  On April 17, the river rose to 50.96 feet.

Here’s another fun fact: when a neighborhood is evacuated due to flooding, they sound the area tornado siren.  I awakened April 18 to the tornado siren going off in a neighborhood a few miles a day.

To this day, I have no idea why I went to school on April 18.  My dad was up before morning light with our neighbors to sandbag the dike behind our houses.  The water was rising at a rate of one inch per hour, and the National Weather Service couldn’t update their predictions fast enough – so, for the entire day, radio hosts would say things like, “The National Weather Service states the river will crest at 51 feet.  Current river levels are 51.8.”  (Another fact!  It ultimately crested at 54.35 feet.)  I actually don’t think my sister went to school so as to help my parents sandbag our house.  My sister, however, was not an idiot.

This idiot was at school for a total of two minutes before the principal came over the P.A. system and told all students to report to sandbag stations.  I got on a bus to Lincoln Drive, located two blocks away from my own street.  Lincoln Drive was this darling neighborhood that curved around hundred-year-old oak trees.  It was lower than the neighborhoods around it, and my sister and I loved to turn our bikes down the lane, let go of the handlebars, and let the momentum of the hill carry us as far as we could go without pedaling.  There were two teeny-tiny houses – one pink and one green – set alongside the other post-war homes on Lincoln Drive, and my sister and I had decided that when we grew up we would buy those houses and live next to each other forever.

I was stationed for sandbagging directly in front of those two little houses, and I looked at them lovingly as my fellow students passed bags of sand down the line.  I was thinking about how I was going to put in hot pink window boxes – maybe in blow-up vinyl –when the Lincoln Drive tornado siren began to sound.

“Off the dike, off the dike, off the dike!”  One of the members of the National Guard yelled.  Down the row, water began to pour from the top of the sandbags.  I jogged down the dike as another member of the Guard stepped out the door of the little green house holding both a suitcase and the hand of the elderly resident.

“What do you want to do now?” I said to one of my friends, thinking that maybe we could go get a bagel and ranch dressing or something.  Someone pushed a group of us down the street to a house in the Reeves Drive neighborhood, one block from my house.  I sandbagged there for a few hours and thought about Leonardo DiCaprio.

Finally, I took a break and went to get a can of water from the Guard (bottled water hadn’t been invented yet and if you want to know what 1997 canned water tasted like, the answer is dust).  I was standing at the truck when river water started to flow down the middle of the street and the Central Park siren – MY siren – went off.

“Do you live around here?” a Guardsman said to me.

“Yes,” I said.

“You should go home,” he said.

I was rounding the corner to my street when my mom pulled up beside me.

“Where have you been?”  She asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

An incredibly kind and wonderful family living outside of town had called and offered to take us in.  My sister, mom, and I pulled into their driveway as the sun was beginning to set; my dad came late that evening when it was clear that nothing more could be done.  There I was – homeless, in possession of some old sweats and nothing else, and in the arms of amazingly generous people who took us in without question; and so I did what any idiot would do: I tied up the singular phone line (again, ‘90s) to call my boyfriend.

“Why are you calling me?”  He asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

Two days later, my parents shipped my sister and me off to my grandparents’ house in New Jersey.  Somewhere on the airplane it dawned on me that mayyyybe I could have made some better choices.  I became so aware of my idiocrasy that when I found myself in New Jersey, awash in Broadway tickets and new non-old-sweats clothes and my beloved grandparents and a constant stream of people who had followed the flooding on their own news networks and wanted to help us in any way they could, I did what any dumb-dumb would do: I left all of it behind and flew back to the apartment my parents had rented in Fargo and sat on the floor and watched the Hanson Brothers’ “MMMBop” music video on repeat on MTV (this was back when MTV showed music videos and those music videos were mostly “MMMBop”) until we were given the all-clear to return to a city covered in multiple inches of mud and mold.

I could honestly write another 50,000 words on the Flood of 1997, and every paragraph would end with the phrase, “Because I was an idiot.”  Fortunately, there were thousands of non-idiots in Grand Forks who worked hard to get the city to where it is today.  For my part, I went and saw Titanic in the movie theater twice and now whenever it snows in April I take one thing out of the basement.  The end.

The school year was obviously cancelled, but when we went back the community wanted to make sure students had both a prom and a graduation.  As I mentioned earlier, our prom was held at the base and Soul Asylum came and played (VERY exciting).  I, the Vinyl Queen, had purchased a hologram vinyl dress earlier that year and wore it to prom – which turned out to be the only intelligent choice I made in 1997 because it was 9,000 degrees in that hangar and I just kept squeegeeing the sweat off my dress and never stopped dancing.  Also, it was dark and my hologram vinyl dress reflected a lot of light, and so if you come across any pictures from that prom (it was heavily covered by the national media) you can most likely see me in it.  The photo above was printed in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.  I look particularly idiotic.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Flood of 1997, I’d recommend this or this.  Someone also digitized all of the 9-1-1 calls from the evacuation days, and if you find yourself at the University of North Dakota (where they are archived) they are an good listen if you want to hear a bunch of North Dakotans say things like, “Sorry to bother you, but the water is over the berm in my neighborhood.  Just thought you should know.”

Dr. Denise Lajimodiere is North Dakota’s newest Poet Laureate. (KX Net)

A couple living in Evergreen Senior Living in Dickinson were gifted a trip to Las Vegas and tickets to a Wild game after sharing their New Years resolutions. (Valley News Live)

Hankinson’s Cody Mauch is sharing his gap-toothed grin on football fields across the NFL. (ESPN)

Fargo’s Dr. Steve M. Agnes wrote his own obituary.  Give it a read. (Fargo Forum)

Bismarck’s Diane and Bruce Magidson left their jobs in New York and moved to North Dakota to start a clothing business. (KFYR TV)

You may have noticed a familiar face at the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship: Williston’s Tyler Liffrig, one of the officials. (KX Net) (KFYR TV)

Three Minoters – Kendra and Andrew Eerdmans and Kellie Meyer – represented North Dakota at the 127th Boston Marathon. (KFYR TV)

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