Farm And Fleet

The Twin Cities area is an odd place, as I suppose any major metropolitan area is in some sense, except perhaps the East Coast. Minneapolis and St. Paul are quite cosmopolitan, liberal and progressive, with a vibrant theatre, art, and music scene, major corporations and universities. The suburbs are the same as suburbs anywhere. Chain restaurants, McMansions, malls, parks and trails. But once you get beyond the second ring, things get all red state. And I kind of love it. Because I’m a ten minute drive from the countryside, quiet roads and farmland. Wildflowers, lakes, sunsets. I grew up in a rural area, so sometimes I crave the nothingness and open skies of the Great Plains. 

There is another magical place that I only recently discovered. A retailer called Mills Fleet Farm. I’d heard of it before, but until they built one in nearby Carver, Minnesota, and I stopped in after dropping off my son at a friend’s house, I’d never actually gone in. I was taken aback by the sheer size, and the inventory that was nothing like I’d ever seen. It’s a cross between a bait shop, Walmart and Costco, and chock full of awesomeness. Though I’m definitely a Kansas girl, my family was more or less city folk, and never into the hunting, camping, farm, and fishing scene, so some of the stuff in here was nothing I’d ever seen before. 

Full-on rain gear. For all the sword boats and lobstermen up here on the lakes. Or if anyone wants to dress up like the Gorton's Fisherman for Halloween.

Full-on rain gear. For all the sword boats and lobstermen up here on the lakes. Or if anyone wants to dress up like the Gorton’s Fisherman for Halloween.

This is only one of SIX aisles of nuts. I feel like there should be epinephrine stations at the end of each row. Has anyone ever had a craving for a chili-lime pine nut? Not only are there nuts, there are an equal number of aisles devoted to things covered in chocolate. Like you want a chocolate-covered praying mantis? No problem, do you want milk chocolate, white or dark?

This is only one of SIX aisles of nuts. I feel like there should be epinephrine stations at the end of each row. Has anyone ever had a craving for a chili-lime pine nut? Not only are there nuts, there are an equal number of aisles devoted to things covered in chocolate. Like you want a chocolate-covered praying mantis? No problem, do you want it slathered in milk chocolate, white chocolate or dark chocolate?

I very much enjoy the military surplus section. These field jackets are from the German Army. I feel better that they do have surplus German Army field jackets because no one really wants to see that band get back together.

I very much enjoy the military surplus section. These field jackets are from the German Army. I feel better that they do have surplus German Army field jackets because no one really wants to see that band get back together.

I can't lie, I was a little disappointed that only these boxes were for sale, not the actual mortars or grenades that they stored. They'd make nice flower planters in some doomsday prepper's backyard, though.

I can’t lie, I was a little disappointed that only these boxes were for sale, not the actual mortars or grenades that they stored. They’d make nice flower planters in some doomsday prepper’s backyard, though.

This Romanian Army overcoat is made out of perhaps the itchiest substance I've ever touched. Imagine sandpaper and steel wool. But rougher.

This Romanian Army overcoat is made out perhaps the itchiest substance I’ve ever touched. Imagine sandpaper and steel wool. But rougher.

You can actually buy this guy. Why? Seriously. Why?

You can actually purchase this guy. Why? Seriously. Why?

That is a lot of blaze orange. Enough to burn out your retinas.

That is a lot of blaze orange. Enough to burn out your retinas.

I can't even.

I can’t even.

Miles and miles of ammo. If the Wolverines from "Red Dawn" had been able to hit a Fleet Farm on their way out of town, maybe the Soviet troops wouldn't still be occupying post WWIII America.

Miles and miles of ammo. If the Wolverines from “Red Dawn” had been able to hit a Fleet Farm on their way out of town, maybe the Soviet troops wouldn’t still be occupying post WWIII America.

I don't even want to think about how this "medicated" product is used.

I don’t even want to think about how this “medicated” product is used.

40 pounds of bird seed. Forty. Pounds. In case you're inviting Big Bird over for dinner.

40 pounds of bird seed. Forty. Pounds. In case you’re inviting Big Bird over for dinner.

Who says farmers' wives can't be fashionable too?

Who says farmers’ wives can’t be fashionable too?

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

 

 

Leftover Arguments

8:00 in the morning. One kid wants pancakes for breakfast (leftover from yesterday when I was trying to be nice), the other wants leftover macaroni and cheese. Right fucking now. A heated argument over whether or not it’s gross to put fresh raspberries on pancakes. Another about whose turn it is to let the dog out. And yet one more to determine what TV show to watch. Then…the crime of the century. Justin ate Alex’s chips and cheese. The ones that sat out over night, getting stale, the cheese hardening into a rubberlike substance that only non-ionizing microwave radiation can regenerate as an edible substance.

“HE ATE MY LEFTOVER CHIPS AND CHEESE!!!!!!!”

Histrionics ensue. Demands of restitution. Accusations of targeted thievery with malice aforethought. A third party gets involved, telling both of them to quiet down, stepping on them and on someone’s stomach as the aggrieved parties wrestle on the floor. Godzilla on a much smaller scale. More crying, this time in pain.

The kid who already ate a pancake drenched in syrup and raspberries assembles a mountain of tortilla chips and covers it with an avalanche of shredded cheese. These will surely go largely uneaten since he had zero interest in them until his brother sniped them. Now they chirp each other for no reason other than to establish the upper hand going into the next fight.

“You’re stupid.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not. You are. You don’t even know math.”
“That’s because I don’t like to add.”
“Well, you should.”
“You don’t know anything about football.”
“I don’t care. I don’t like football.”
“Well, you should.”

Four. More. Days.

UPDATE: Next fight has already broken out. Over a softcover Scholastic book called Mice on Ice. Who is the rightful owner? I can’t even be the arbiter because I bought it, and several other books for them for Christmas, and I can’t recall who got that particular book. A book that no one has touched for the past three months. Now more valuable than a first edition Mark Twain, all because someone else wants it.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Five People You’ll Meet In A Small Town Bar

DentI spent this weekend at my friend’s lovely lake home (or “cabin” as weekend houses are quaintly called in these parts) in northern Minnesota. For her birthday we had the opportunity to go bar hopping in some nearby small towns. I grew up in a small town in Kansas, so I was not surprised that really the only difference between a bar in rural Minnesota and in rural Kansas is the latitude. Certain elements of the clientele might vary from New England to Florida to Idaho, but I’d venture that in any local watering hole, you’re going to mix and mingle with the following type of folks.

Freedom. Freedom is the townie who probably hooked you up with illegal liquor when you were in high school 25 years ago. Back then he had a pimped out Firebird with a Pioneer stereo system, but now no one knows what he drives because they’ve never seen him anywhere but on his barstool for ten years. Freedom’s wardrobe consists of t-shirts adorned with airbrushed designs of stars, stripes, and bald eagles. He is the epitome of “Murica.” He hasn’t been sober since the Reagan administration, and spends his time wandering around from table to table trying to engage in conversation. His eyes are permanently glassy, bloodshot, and half-open. When Freedom finally manages to slide his wallet back into the pocket of his Wranglers after five minutes of many unsuccessful attempts, the whole bar cheers his effort.

Divorcée. She’s a cougar on the prowl. Recently liberated and enjoying her new lifestyle, Divorcée is down to…flirt. She’s wearing low-rise dark denim with blinged out back pockets, a studded belt, and she teeters on pseudo Jimmy Choo heels. Her new boobs are pushed up high so they spill out of the top of her tight sparkly t-shirt. Big tan, big make-up, big nails, big hair. Everything about her screams high maintenance, yet the local bachelors, all of whom are wearing at least one article of blaze orange or camo clothing, flock to her while she holds court, falling all over themselves to buy her another Cosmo.

Glee. Playing Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls as a high school senior was the apex of Glee’s life, and he’s been trying to recapture the moment ever since. Once every few months the old ball and chain lets him out of diaper duty, and he gathers up his co-workers from the real estate office for happy hour on karaoke night. Everyone checks their phone or goes to the bathroom when he starts belting out show tunes and big band standards that no one under the age of 50 has ever heard. Then he sits down and smugly waits his turn while intoxicated frat boys home for summer break sing an off key rendition of Margaritaville clearly inferior to anything Glee is capable of.

Dancer. Dancer was probably once very pretty, but she’s been rode hard and put away wet. Her weathered skin makes her look like she could be anywhere between the age of 20 and 50. She’s wearing an ill-fitting short skirt, and that roses and barbed wire neck tattoo is dangerously close to her face. A month or two of clean living might add some meat on her bones and make her hair look less like a troll doll, but that just isn’t in the cards right now. Tonight she’s high or drunk or both, and is spending the evening grinding on any and every guy on the dance floor or at the bar. If she doesn’t hurry up and go home with someone, she’s going to get her face rearranged by a jealous girlfriend. 

Rudegirl. Rudegirl is the 40-something who is part of the group from the big city that actually doesn’t get out much unless it involves neighbors and a bonfire, but a milestone birthday or reunion is being celebrated, and this bunch thinks they’re pretty awesome, especially after several rounds of brightly colored shots of alcohol. Rudegirl knows the downtown club scene is way out of her league, so she’s ready to party like a rock star in the sticks where she can lord her purported sophistication over everyone for one night before she has to return to her kids, husband, and laundry back in the cookie cutter suburbs.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Is My Name Google?

People. They’re the worst. Especially helpless people. Especially helpless people who are also bossy. Especially helpless and bossy people who are demanding and ungrateful. Especially helpless, bossy, demanding, and ungrateful people who interrupt me.

I’m hanging out in the coffee shop this afternoon. I’m antsy, and just needed to chill out and not be driven insane by my children. David is probably not particularly thrilled with being home with them, but when you’re 14, you don’t always have a lot of choices. So I’m listening to my earphones and editing some photos, applying for some jobs. Just doing some stuff that is easier to do when you don’t have a kid declaring his hunger or telling on his brother every five minutes.

So I’m plugging merrily along, and a late middle-agish woman comes up to my table. I thought she was just waiting for her coffee, until she tapped on my table and waved at me. I took out my earphones, even though Jim Rome was in the middle of a pretty funny rant about some new thing called “spray cake,” you know, in case going to the trouble of baking a cake, and eating it with a fork and plate is too daunting of a task for you.

Her: “Excuse me. I don’t know anything about computers, even at the library, and I’m wondering if you could help me with something.”
Me: “Sure.” I got up, thinking she had something wrong with her computer she wanted me to troubleshoot.
Her: “Oh no, can you check something on your computer?”
Me: “Oh, ok. Yeah.”
Her: “I’m not interrupting what you’re doing, am I?”
Me: “No. It’s fine.”
Her: “Can you look up and see if the county fair is going on right now?”
Me: “Oh, the Carver County Fair is actually in August.”
Her: “But can you see if there are any other county fairs going on today?”
Me: “Oh. Yeah, I guess.” I searched “Minnesota County Fairs” and found a link for Fairs & Festivals on the Explore Minnesota website. I scrolled through, but didn’t see any fairs this weekend, but read off some festivals going on in Hastings and Fargo.
Her: “No, I mean just the metro area. Are you looking at the metro area?”
Me: “Well, yeah, this has metro area information.”
Her: “But I don’t want anything from outstate, just Dakota County, Hennepin, Scott County. The metro area.”
Me: “Right, but I don’t think there are any county fairs going on right now.”
Her: “Maybe you should let me see.”
Me: “Ok.” I turned the screen toward her and scrolled through.
Her: “But this says fairs and festivals. Isn’t there something that just has county fairs?”
Me: “Well, I think they’d be included in this.”
Her: “Can’t you type in just Minnesota county fairs?”
Me: “Sure.” I went back to my search results and found a link for “MN 2014 County and State Fair, Events and Festivals” as she now moved behind me to look directly over my shoulder.
Her: “Is this just county fairs now?”
Me: “I think so. It really looks like most of them don’t begin until the end of July. The Otter Tail County one is this weekend.”
Her: “That’s Fergus Falls.”
Me: “Yeah, I know, but it looks like that and Wabasha are the only ones really happening right now.”
Her: “There’s Kittson County. Where’s that?”
Me: “Um, I really don’t know, it says Hallock.”
Her: “I just want the METRO area.”
Me: “I know, it looks like Scott County is the closest, and it starts next week.”
Her: “Oh, there’s Jordan. Is that Scott County?”
Me: “Yes, that’s the one that starts the 23rd.”
Her: “I can’t really see the dates, where are the dates? What is today?”
Me: “The 18th.”
Her: “Are these all in date order?”
Me: “It appears so.”
Her: “There’s Washington County, but I just want the metro area.”
Me: “I know. It just doesn’t look like there is anything this weekend.”
Her: “What’s that one in Hastings? Oh, an antique show. I thought these were just county fairs?”
Me: “Um, I guess there are some other things on this list too.” I scrolled up and realized I was on a County Fairgrounds USA site.
Her: “Oh so this is fairgrounds. This must also list things that are going on at the fairgrounds. Can you type in something that JUST has COUNTY fairs?”
Me: “Well, I think they’d be included on this.” GEORGE IS GETTIN’ UPSET!
Her: “Oh. So I guess they maybe don’t have something with just county fairs.” (I feel like she really meant, “Oh, you’re just too lazy or stupid to find the correct website.”)
Me: “I think pretty much everything is right here.”
Her: *SIGH* “Well, I guess now I know that Jordan is next week.”
Me: “Yeah.”
Her: “Well, thanks.”
Me: “Sure.”

I hope she steps in manure while she’s there. Metro area manure.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Love Love

I played a lot of tennis as a kid, honing my skills by using the outdoor racquetball courts at the local community college as a backboard. Not many of my friends played tennis, especially anyone in the neighborhood, so my usual partner was my little brother. He was not an especially gracious loser. A typical match with him consisted of multiple contested line calls, abrupt rule changes, scoring arguments, and fits of pique that often resulted in him launching tennis balls over the fence. Many times I would just get disgusted with him, and stop playing, which resulted in him declaring that if I “quit,” he would be the winner.

Flash forward 25 years later, and Justin has taken an interest in tennis. I love that, because it gives me an opportunity to get back out on the court again after a very long hiatus when I had tiny kids. Unfortunately the experience is eerily reminiscent of those old days with my brother, leaving me feeling exasperated, frustrated, and angry.

Yesterday morning I took Cameron (age 11), Justin (age 8), and Alex (age 7) out to hit around. The fun began when Justin insisted on playing “a real game,” despite the fact that he can only get one of five balls back over the net. Of course that is my fault because if I hit one to his backhand side, he complains vociferously. “Stop hitting it there! I can’t do LEFTY!!!” But if I hit it to his forehand, Cameron would step over and attempt to hit it in front of him, resulting in clashes over whose ball was whose.

Justin’s biggest problem is that his expectations are way too high. He thinks that even though he’s never had a formal lesson, and has only played a handful of times this summer, that he should be playing at the level of a Roger Federer or Andy Murray. And when he misses a shot, he swings his racquet in disgust, yelling at himself like John McEnroe.

We arrived with three cans of tennis balls, nine balls. At one point I used the last ball in my pocket, and Cameron hit one that rolled to the fence by the far court. I needed another ball to start a rally, but only saw the one that had been hit over the fence, still lying in the grass. What happened to all the balls? I asked Justin how many he had in his pockets. Evidently all of them, which he refused to give up, and insisted I run over and get the one that was by the fence. Eventually we coaxed him to let us use some of the balls from his pockets, but admonished Cameron when he hit another one astray. “I’m not letting you use my balls if you keep HITTING them!”

Ages ago I got clocked in the face while playing the net. The ball hit me right in the eye, bruising my cornea. My pupil was constricted for a week. That was more enjoyable than what was happening with Justin at this moment. Another car pulled up, and out jumped a dad and his two kids, an older boy who was quite good, and a kid about the age and talent level as Cameron. “Care if we join you?”

“Sure,” I said, secretly thinking, “Do it at your own risk.”

Justin then couldn’t concentrate until we retrieved our ball that was on the side of their court. “MOM! They have our ball!”

Nothing could convince him that it wasn’t a big deal, and that I was sure they’d kick it over when they had a chance. That’s when Dad started barking orders at his kids in Russian. Or maybe it was just coaching. Kind of everything spoken in Russian sounds ominous. Chalk it up to growing up during the Cold War. But Justin was intimidated, and refused to play on the side of the court adjacent to them, but of course Cameron wouldn’t trade places with him. After hitting about ten balls onto their court, I suggested we move to the kid-sized courts on the other side of the fence.

They actually did a little better on those courts, but everyone wanted to be on my side. There isn’t enough room for three people on a junior court, but every time I moved to another side, someone would follow me, and someone would cry about being left. Finally I just told Justin and Cameron to play a set by themselves, and Alex and I would hit on our own on another court. That remained friendly for about two minutes, and then the arguments about line calls, scores, etc. began. My favorite of Justin’s arguments: “It’s not fair if you hit it good and I can’t get it! That’s MY point then.”

The day came to its inevitable conclusion when each one insisted he was the winner, and Justin threw his racquet at Cameron.

Game. Set. Match. We’re outta here.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

 

No Girls Will Want My Hair Like This

IMG_0006Justin and Alex were having a conversation at dinner last night about having kids.

Justin: “Mom, will Alex be the uncle for my daughter?” (Justin has decided a while back he’s having a baby girl.)
Me: “Yes.”
Alex: “Can uncles be girls?”
Me: “No, uncles are boys.”
Alex: “And Justin will be my uncle.”
Me: “Your kids’ uncle. And David and Cameron’s kids.”
Alex: “I KNOW! That’s what I mean. Will I be uncle for David and Cameron?”
Justin: “Yeah, Alex. And me.”
Alex: “But how do you even get babies?”
Justin: “Shhhh! You know.”
Alex: “Oh yeah, Mom, we know. Dylan, on the bus, told us.”
Jennifer: “Oh. Ok.”
Justin: “Yeah, but I’m not gonna do the thing. I’ll just adopt my kids.”
Alex: “Eeeeww, I’m not doing the thing either. I just won’t have any.”
Me: (Silent. Wondering what exactly they think “the thing” is.)
Justin: “What if you don’t find a wife?”
Me: “You’ll find one.”
Justin: “But no, what if you don’t?”
Me: “Then I guess you just stay single.”
Justin: “And that’s it?”
Me: “Don’t worry, you’re cute. And sweet. Lots of girls will like you.”
Justin: “No, I’m not cute. My eyes are weird like this.”
Me: “You have pretty eyes.”
Justin: “Well, no girls will want my hair like this. They’ll want it, like, cut, and with a style.”
Me: “Maybe.”
Justin: “And I can’t eat bad stuff because then my mouth will smell, and girls won’t like that. For kissing.”
Me: “Better keep brushing your teeth then.”
Justin: “And my eyes don’t look good.”
Me: “Why don’t you like your eyes? You have beautiful blue eyes.”
Justin: “But I’ll have to do something to my hair.”
Me: “I guess.”
Justin: “Can we go play tennis?”

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Cup Nuts

So one thing I never knew about until David was seven years old, and starting his first year of baseball was protective cups and athletic supporters, or more commonly known as jock straps. I didn’t understand how you put your feet into them, which way the cup was supposed to go, or how they should fit. My husband dealt with it initially, but since then I’ve become relatively well-schooled in the subject since it generally falls to me to get a gaggle of Little Leaguers dressed out pretty much every night May through June.

One thing I have not figured out, and would like someone of the male species, or a retailer to explain, is why the athletic supporters are only sold with a cup? Same with compression shorts. The supporters and shorts are good for one or two seasons at best, but the cups are indestructible. As they should be. So I can easily hose those things down with Lysol and Clorox wipes, and they’re ready to be handed down to the next kid, but the rest of the outfit isn’t suitable for man, child, or beast.

As a result, I’m overrun with cups. I have adult cups, youth cups, and peewee (Yes, the size is actually labeled as peewee. Har.) cups in almost any size. It’s like they multiply, and I find them lurking everywhere.

Last night we had a nut cup crisis before Justin and Alex’s game. Their compression shorts were pretty snug, the cups weren’t staying secure, and resulted in ear-piercing cries of:

“It keeps going sideways!”
“It feels weird!”
“It’s too small!”
“It’s too big!”
“It pinches!”
“It moved AGAIN!”
“It’s gonna move when I run!!!!!”

I had to call in David to give Justin a talk about how it was ok to make, ahem, adjustments, on the field, because guys in the MLB are doing that all the time. He actually had some good big brother advice.

“Justin, the only reason it’s there is to stop you from getting hit in the balls and puking. Just ignore it, and if it moves out of place, put it back. Also, I wear a jock strap.”

Alex’s protests were more vigorous. Finally I told him to just take it out. And he did in the car and now I can’t find it in there.

So that leads us back to the why can’t I just buy a supporter conundrum. I went to two places today, looking for jock straps. The first major sports retailer only had compression shorts (with cups), which were the source of the whole mess. So I bought two supporter/cups at the second location, and then got home to find that someone had taken the damn supporter out of the stupid package, leaving only THE CUP! So now I have to make another trip to return it and I’ve wasted over two hours of my life this week on CUP DRAMA!

In the words of Elaine Benes, “I don’t know how you guys walk around with those things.”