Battle of the Sexes

I can be rather aloof at my kids’ sporting events, dance recitals, theater rehearsals, school functions…actually pretty much everywhere, that’s just how us shyfolk operate. So I’m always surprised when someone new talks to me. Most of the time it’s quite pleasant, and has even resulted in some cherished friendships I wouldn’t have if I’d kept to myself.

Although I’m quiet, I’m not a pushover or easily offended, and that’s why, in retrospect, I was so frustrated by my passive reaction to an encounter a few seasons ago with a cargo shorts-wearing Neanderthal baseball dad.

I had talked to him briefly at past games, and although I questioned his judgment when he suggested that the team eat a barbecue restaurant between tournament games on a hot, gusty, Saharan summer afternoon, he seemed harmless enough.

My teenage son’s team was in the field, and an opposing player came to the plate. The name SEXTON was emblazoned in bold letters on the back of his jersey. My grade schooler, watching with me from the bleachers, being a typical grade school boy, read it and started giggling. I told him it wasn’t funny, it was just the kid’s name. Since our own name is ripe for mocking I’m always taken aback when my kids want to make fun of someone else’s.

Neanderthal Dad chimed in and started mansplaining that a “sexton” is a tool that surveyors use to measure land distances, chuckling and telling my kid that, “it doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re thinking about.”

I’m a reader of sea exploration tales of all kinds, and I recalled that a “sextant” is the instrument used to measure angles to aid in celestial navigation. So he was kind of right, but totally wrong on the name.

SEXTANT-4-INCH“I think that’s called a sextant,” I said.

“No. It’s a sexton. Land surveyors use it to scope out the acreages of a piece of land.”

“Right. I’m pretty sure it’s a sex-TANT.”

“No, it’s a sexton. A sextant is probably something you’d get at Sex World that comes with a swing.”

Cue my uncomfortable laughter. This conversation took place within earshot of my two grade school boys. I really just wanted it to end. I was about 95% sure it was, in fact, a sextant, but he got into my head and I questioned my own knowledge. This wasn’t the hill I was willing to die on if I was wrong.

Between innings I looked up “sexton” on my phone. said a sexton is “an official of a church charged with taking care of the edifice and its contents, ringing the bell, etc., and sometimes with burying the dead.”

That didn’t sound like it had anything to do with navigation or calculation of distance. Second entry: “an official who maintains a synagogue and its religious articles, chants the designated portion of the Torah on prescribed days, and assists the cantor in conducting services on festivals.”


So I looked up “sextant.” A sextant is, of course, exactly what I thought it was. But now there was really no way to re-open the conversation, so he walked away thinking he was right, the girl was wrong, and got away with bringing up a sex swing in front of my children. I was so mad at myself for not invoking the “I was on Jeopardy” clause (I was) or simply saying, “Look it up and get back to me.” Or telling him that talking about Sex World in front of a pair of young kids was not cool. I think he’d been drinking, so he probably wouldn’t even remember it, but I will.

And this is why I don’t talk to the general public.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz  2019


Just Another Night

A freelance assignment required me to log into WordPress, and in doing so I went poking around my long neglected blog. Found this unpublished gem from October 28, 2008. So for those of you playing along, that means David was 8, Cameron was 6, Justin was 3, and Alex was 1. Looking back I’m honestly not sure how I survived those days, four boys elementary school and younger, working full-time, sprinkled with some travel, I’m just amazed. This illustrates the frantic pace of those days, but mixed in are glimpses of the sweetness that sustained me.

Just another night.

5:00 p.m.                  The troops pile into the house, fresh from daycare. I’m in the middle of getting dinner together – chicken fried steak (that my mom pre-prepared and froze while she was here), salad, bread, macaroni and cheese, strawberries, and corn.  Something for everyone, I hope.

5:08 p.m.                  Cameron has broken his brand new Harry Potter glasses and insists that I fix them with scotch tape. He’s oblivious to the fact that I am in the middle of dealing with dinner. I tell him he needs to be patient, and will have to wait until I have time. Barry asks what I’m making. I tell him, and get, “Eehhw.  OLD steak? I don’t know about that.” I let out an audible sigh, and passive-aggressively slam the freezer door.

5:15 p.m.                  Alex is hanging on my leg, apparently ready to eat. I drain the macaronis, and since Alex is stuck on me like Velcro, I don’t want to walk the several steps to where the measuring cup is located, and just guess how much milk I need for the macaroni and cheese.

5:17 p.m.                    It dawns on me that Cameron and David are both in the house and accounted for, which means Justin is outside by himself. That’s not good. Barry goes out to get him.

5:18 p.m.                  “JEN!!!!  Justin was in the car screwing around. Why didn’t you LOCK the door? Barry looks at the stove. What HAPPENED HERE???!!!” I tell him that some of the water from the mac and cheese had spilled over, and it’s not the end of the world. I slam some more doors. He tries to be funny and joke about something to disarm me as I am clearly irritated by his micro-management, and it’s not working. I get a glass of ice water for myself and serve everyone else.

5:20 p.m.                  “Jen, did you use too much milk in the macaroni and cheese? It’s kind of runny.” The door slamming is not having its intended effect. Maybe I should slam something harder, like his head.

5:21 p.m.                  Shockingly, Barry’s previous comment has consequences. “MOM!!! This macaroni and cheese is GROSS! I’m not eating this,” David announces.

5:25 p.m.                  Cameron finally disengages from the television and comes to dinner. He is informed that there is no more French dressing because he uses half a bottle of it every time he eats salad. There is much crying. After some sharp exchanges, he agrees to use ranch dressing. As soon as he sees it, he decides he doesn’t want it. Justin pipes up that he wants it, and starts eating Cameron’s salad more with his hands than his fork, and is troubled that they are all dirty. “I like this kind,” he says after I clean him off, “I dip carrots in it!” Barry manages to unearth a bottle of Catalina dressing from the depths of the fridge, which Cameron is convinced will not be as good. He takes a bite and it meets his approval. “Cameron likes it!!” Justin announces.

5:27 p.m.                  “Where’s MY water?” Barry asks. My slow burn continues.

5:28 p.m.                  “I want some strawberries.” “Cameron, the strawberries are all gone, you were busy throwing your fit about the salad.” “But Justin has strawberries.” “Justin, can Cameron have one of your strawberries?” “NO!” “I have grapes, Cameron, how about that?” “NO, it’s no FAIR, I wanted strawberries and Justin isn’t even eating his.” “Justin, if I give you grapes, can Cameron have your last strawberry?” “Yeah.”

5:30 p.m.                    “Here, A-wex, you wanna have some corn? MOM, move A-wex by ME!!!”

5:45 p.m.                  “We gonna make the Krespies?” “We will later.” “NO! I wanna do it NOW!!!” “No, we have to wait until we clean up. Why don’t you help clear off the table?” “Okay.” “No, that’s okay, Justin, you don’t have to help,” Barry says quickly to dismiss Justin’s gracious offer to help. “Justin, leave the chair alone. NO, we’re not doing the Rice Krispies now, just WAIT.” THUD! SCREAM! “Justin, breathe, just breathe.   “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!” “You’re okay.”

5:47 p.m.                  “I want my BEAR!!!!” “Cameron, go get Justin’s bear, it’s on his bed.”

5:48 p.m.                  “Mom, it’s not on there, I looked.” “Yes it is, I made his bed this morning and put his bear and his blanket on there.” “It’s not there.”

5:49 p.m.                  I exasperatedly go to look for Justin’s bear and find the bed torn apart. Justin’s blanket is there, but no bear. A minor search is initiated, after some questioning it’s assumed that Justin took his bear off the bed when he came home.

5:52 p.m.                  “Cameron, these glasses are completely broken, there is no way I can fix them. That’s what you get for not taking care of them.” “Yes you CAN fix them, just use the TAPE!!!” “No, it’s not going to work, they are completely unfixable.” “Just tape the side together! PLEEEASE!!!” “I can’t, you’ve completely ruined them.” There is much crying.

5:53 p.m.                  I spot two library books that are way overdue. One has a page that needs to be taped up. Cameron also has a library book from school that needs taping. Since I already have the tape out, I complete these tasks. There is also a National Geographic Kids magazine that is AWOL and I’m worried I won’t find it. David has a field trip to the library this week, and because I used David’s library card to check out Justin and Cameron’s overdue materials, he will be MORTIFIED if he goes to the library with his class and finds out that he can’t use it. I would never hear the end of it. So in a last ditch effort to find the magazine, I look through all the coloring books scattered about on the kids’ table and miraculously find it in a magazine rack underneath the table. “Justin, do you want to go return books to the library?” “Yeah!”

5:58 p.m.                  I have a sneaking suspicion there is one more book missing. I think it might be Curious George, but I’m not certain. I look under the bed. Amazingly I find it in the toy box. Not Curious George, but something about chocolate. I don’t remember reading that one.

6:01 p.m.                  Justin and I are off to the library. Justin is in the back “reading” the books to himself. “Once upon a time, there was a Chrissmas tree…hey guys…what are you doing? Come over here.” It’s so cute I can hardly stand it. I feel at peace for this five minute car ride. “There’s the pizza man!” “Black slug bug, I got it!” “No got it!!” “Ok, you got it.” “You got da blue one.”

6:06 p.m.                  At the library I sign Justin up for his own library card and pay the $13.45 fine for McDuff’s New Home, Spicy Colors, National Geographic Kids, and whatever that chocolate book was. $13.45??? For the love of GOD! What happened to a nickel per day?

6:10 p.m.                  Justin heads to play with the trains and I poke around the kids books. Justin wants ME to play trains with him, but I’m bored with the trains and say, “Hey, do want to do the computer?” Bad idea. Now he’s messing with the computers but can’t find the Clifford game and just shuts it off. He keeps falling off the rolling desk chair and now the application won’t come back on without a password. We try a different computer, no luck. The library lady comes over and types in the password and I get him set up on Clifford. His headphones keep falling off, he doesn’t know how to click on the Clifford letters and keeps yelling out “MOOOMM!!” every two minutes while the library lady is trying to do storytime with all of the non-terrorist toddlers.

6:30 p.m.                  I ask Justin if he’d like to go home and make the Rice Krispie treats. That gets him out of the seat, but then he suddenly wants to go over and listen to stories with the other kids. We go over and he won’t sit by himself, I have to sit with him. He listens for awhile and when they finish a story I decide we can make a break for it. We almost get out and they start playing music, which piques his interest. So we stand there listening to “shake, shake, shake your sillies out” (which is still in my head today) and then finally go. I check out the books, but Justin would rather put his through the conveyor belt to return them. He has his head half stuck in there watching his book go down and wants to feed it more.

6:49 p.m.                    I drag Justin out of the library screaming and crying because he wants to put more books into the book drop.

6:58 p.m.                  Barely walk in the door. “Mom, didn’t you buy me my own Batman costume?” “No, David already has the Batman costume for Halloween, I said you could play with it after Halloween.” “But MOM, can’t I just try it on???” “Cameron, I’m busy right now, just hang on.”

7:02 p.m.                  Alex is in bed. He knows we are home. “JUSS-AN!  JUSS-AN!!”

7:05 p.m.                  Justin insists on helping with Rice Krispie treats. I could never be a stay-at-home mom because one of the qualifications, I’m quite certain, is that you have to be able to effortlessly make a batch of Rice Krispie treats. Mine almost never turn out. This time is no different. I make a mistake on the recipe because instead of using a 10oz bag of marshmallows, Justin and I have melted a 16oz bag and don’t realize it until I start mixing in the Rice Krispies and it seems there is an unusually high marshmallow to Rice Krispie ratio. (Honestly, I was more attuned to making sure Justin didn’t sear his hand on the hot burner while stirring the marshmallows, than paying attention to the net weight of the bag.) I pour in some more Rice Krispies. Now I’ve made a colossal mess and am trying to mash them into the pan. When I run water into the sticky bowl Justin sees an opportunity and pushes his chair to the sink to “wash” his hands. When I see that he’s putting soggy paper towels into the sink, I officially end his Rice Krispie detail.

7:12 p.m.                  David has graciously agreed to allow Cameron to try on his Batman costume, provided David gets to try it first. Justin wants a Rice Krispie treat. Cameron is pestering me to get the costume down. I get Justin his treat and try to clean up my mess. Cameron is still nagging me.

7:15 p.m.                  I get the costume out. David tries it on, and he looks pretty cool. Cameron tries it on and it’s humongous on him. Justin gets in on it too and puts on the mask and goes downstairs to show Barry.

7:22 p.m.                  “Jen, get Justin out of here, Cameron wants the mask back and Justin won’t give it to him. I’m trying to call my mom.”

7:24 p.m.                  Justin finds my cell phone, and decides he wants to call Grandma and Papa. He talks for awhile. I talk. He wants the phone back, and I have no idea how the call transpired after that because now Cameron is crying, curled up in a ball on my bed.

7:35 p.m.                  “It’s no fair. Everyone else has their whole costume and I don’t have my whole costume!!!!” Huge tears. “Cameron, what don’t you have? You have your Indy hat and jacket. You have the whip and the bag.” “Yeah, but I don’t have any brown pants, a shirt, the gun pocket, or the belt.” “I didn’t even see a gun pocket at the store.” “That’s why I wanted you to go to Party City EARLY to get it!!” SAD, sad tears. “Cameron, we have a pair of David’s old pants you can wear, and a belt.” “But that won’t be like the costume. Indy’s pants are DARK brown.” “David’s pants ARE dark brown. Here, come with me and I’ll show you how cool your costume will look. We’ll even make your moustache and beard.”

7:45 p.m.                  I fish Cameron’s Indiana Jones messenger bag out of the toy box. Cameron helps dig his Indy hat out of the coat closet. We go down to his room and I show him his belt options. He picks a dark brown one. I look for the white shirt he was using this weekend to play Harry Potter, and find it in the laundry room under some dirty clothes. “Mom, Indy’s shirt is yellow, not white!!!” “No, Indy’s shirt is really white. It’s just looks yellow because it’s so sweaty and dirty. This one will look fine, you’ll see.” I go through a box of David’s old clothes and find the pair of dark brown cargo pants we need. Cameron puts on the pants and shirt. I hook up his belt, throw on his messenger bag, and tie his whip around his belt. He puts on the jacket and hat and totally looks like Indiana Jones. (Insert Indiana Jones theme music here.) We go upstairs and I brush some brown eye shadow on his face to create Indy’s 5 o’clock shadow. “Make sure you put it all the way up to my ears.” We’re all set. He shows Dad, who is playing a game with Justin, and gets a little TOO into the Indy spirit, and whips Barry across the face.

8:05 p.m.                  Cameron’s crisis is now successfully averted, and it’s past Justin’s bedtime. Justin’s bear is still missing and this is a major problem. By problem I mean Code Blue, Category 5, Government Bailout, F-10, Tie Game Bases Loaded Bottom of the Ninth with Two Outs, All Hands on Deck, Emergency. Barry and I initiate a hard target search of every bedroom, living room, bathroom, dining room, coat room, and laundry room, and come up with nothing. Five dollars in reward money is put up in hopes of enlisting David and Cameron to join the search party, which works. They both scatter and are on the prowl. David announces, “I get $5.00!!!” “You FOUND it? GOOD!” “No, just joking.” I’m not even slightly amused. The search perimeter is widened on a tip that the bear may have been taken out of the house. “I had it on the swings.” Barry, who is thrilled, is assigned responsibility for the outdoor sector. I continue investigating. “Justin, when you came home from Karen’s did you take your bear off of your bed?” “My bear’s scared.” “I know, your poor bear, he is scared, that’s why we need to find him. Justin, when you came home from Karen’s did you take your bear off your bed?” “My bear’s scared.” “Yes, I know, but listen, when you came home from Karen’s did you take your bear off of your bed?” “My bear’s scared.” “I’m getting nowhere with this line of questioning,” I say aloud, which David thinks is hilarious. Barry comes in and says he can’t find it and we’ll have to look tomorrow when it’s light. Justin is sad.

8:25 p.m.                  Justin wants to “stay up a little while,” but that just isn’t an option and I get ready to haul him into bed. I have a last minute inspiration, “Did you look in the car?”  “I looked in the van, it wasn’t in there. The car was locked.” “But it wasn’t locked before when he was playing in it. Did you check in there?” “No…I’ll go look.”

8:27 p.m.            The living room is littered with Cameron’s multiple outfit changes. “Cameron! Pick all of this stuff up and put it some place where you’ll be able to FIND it!!!”

8:28 p.m.                  I carry Justin to bed. He’s crying. I tell him that Daddy is still looking for his bear. He’s fighting me to get out of the bed.

8:29 p.m.                  There IS a God! “HERE’S your bear, Justin!!!” “Daddy FOUND it!” There is much rejoicing.

8:30 p.m.                  Reunited with his poor, scared, lost bear, Justin and I talk about its harrowing ordeal. Justin loves it up and then goes to sleep with his arms wrapped securely around it.

8:46 p.m.                  I go help David with the portion of his science worksheet that he has decreed to be too difficult for Barry. What do fossil fuels and food have in common? “They make you poop!” Not in the mood, I give the longest, evilest eye I can muster.  “Sorry!”

8:49 p.m.                  Something secretive is happening in my room. I knock on the locked door. Barry is letting Cameron put on David’s Batman costume. I warn him against it.

8:54 p.m.                  I go downstairs to upload a picture of Cameron’s Indy costume. A primal scream instantly alerts me to the fact that David has seen Cameron wearing his Batman costume and is, as I predicted, freaking out about it. There is much yelling between the three of them upstairs. David comes downstairs and is WHINING incessantly about how Cameron is going to ruin it. Barry can’t take his whining any more and tells him to stop it. David is now crying more and whining to the point where I could think of a thousand things that would be LESS annoying, including fingernails on a chalkboard AND Gilbert Gottfried. I tell him that if I hear another peep, HE won’t wear the costume for Halloween either.

9:01 p.m.                  Barry comes downstairs and tells David that Cameron has taken off the costume. David is appeased (for now). “Jen, no offense, but how long are you going to be down here?” “Are you kidding me? This is the first time I’ve had three seconds to myself and you’re hassling me about it? I’m sorry for being in MY house.” “Unbelievable, all I want to do is watch the game in peace.” Barry storms out.

9:12 p.m.                  I go upstairs to get Cameron ready for bed. He has an entire stack of books he wants to read for his Kindergarten reading list. We make it through three, and halfway through the fourth his eyes are half shut. “Cameron, are you sleeping?” Small nod. “Should we finish this tomorrow?” Tiny nod. I move him over, “Ow, ow, ow! My elbow!!!” I’m not touching his elbow. “Mom! My elbow has a headache!” Ok, yeah, sleep-talking.

9:28 p.m.                  OMG. Quiet. Finally I can relax. I decide I’m too tired to even bother turning on the TV to see the score of the game. I read about four pages of my book and have to put it down because I’m falling asleep

© Jennifer Alys Windholz 2019

Love Actually. Actually?

People are always talking about Love Actually at Christmastime. Love Actually came out in the early 2000s, which is kind of a black hole for me moviewise because I was in the midst of parenting very young children. So I never got around to seeing it, even though it looked possibly enjoyable. Keira Knightley is adorable. I like Hugh Grant.

This weekend it was on cable so I finally watched it.

We need to talk about this movie.

Full disclosure, I am not a fan of chick flicks. Back when I blogged on the regular, I wrote about getting dragged to P.S. I Love You, which was 90 minutes I’m still mad about losing. Though I am a hater, there are still romantic comedies that I like, some that I will even stop everything to watch when they come up during a routine channel surf.

In no particular order, some of these include:

  • The Sure Thing, Say Anything, Serendipity (um, John Cusack)
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Bridesmaids
  • Titanic & Selena & Dirty Dancing (not rom-coms per se, but definitely of the chick flick oeuvre)
  • The Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan Holy Trinity of Joe Versus the Volcano, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral
  • The Big Sick
  • Splash

But back to Love Actually. What the fuck was that?

Love-Actually.jpgSemi-intertwined stories, one more implausible than the next. No one especially likable at all. Why do people get all sentimental and in a lather over this movie? What am I missing? Someone PLEASE explain it to me.

First of all, the Colin Firth storyline is completely stolen from Old School. Sweet chap comes home, catches his girlfriend cheating on him in their own home. Luke Wilson starts a fraternity with his bros, Colin runs off to the south of France where he meets a Portuguese maid, never exchanges more than an “obrigado” with her, but goes back to England, hits up Berlitz, and returns on Christmas Eve to propose to her in front of her entire extended family. Frankly I find the Old School storyline 100 percent more believable. Give me Mitch-A-Palooza any day.

Meanwhile in some kind of Bizarro World #metoo workplace drama, Snape is compelled to buy really fugly jewelry for his flirty underling, doing a ridiculously pathetic job of hiding it from his wife, a dowdy Emma Thompson.

Hugh Grant is a bachelor UK Prime Minister who goes from stuttering around the 10 Downing staff to not being able to stop thinking about a working class servant after she just brings him TEA. Dude, you are the PRIME MINISTER. I get it’s Christmas, and you’re lonely or whatever, but go attend some diplomatic events or state dinners and I guarantee you can do a HELL of a lot better than her. Come ON.

In a creepy foreshadowing of real life events, Liam Neeson’s wife dies and his step-son is pretty much cool with his mom being dead, but obsessing about some American bird in his music class who isn’t paying any attention to him. So in addition to believing that you can learn conversational Portuguese in a matter of weeks, we are to also buy that an 11-year-old can learn to be a musician in that amount of time in order to impress her. And then chase her onto a plane in the post 9/11 era without Heathrow security shutting down the whole operation, which would make a lot of Christmas Eve travelers demand the little bastard receives nothing but coal in his stocking for all of his foreseeable Christmas futures.

Oh. Keira Knightley is basically stalked by her husband’s best friend who took really creepy videos of her at their wedding. Nothing wrong with that at all. No reason to be alarmed when someone stands outside your door with cue cards that might as well say, “DON’T MIND ME, I’LL JUST COMPLICATE YOUR LIFE AND BE HAVING AN UNREQUITED UNHEALTHY ATTRACTION TO YOU OVER HERE, NO BOTHER, TO ME, YOU ARE PERFECT”

There’s a rock star who records a really awful holiday song. Like worse than Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas,” which is the WORST Christmas song. And in-between a cocaine-fueled party at Elton John’s or some shit he decides he should be spending Christmas with his manager. But I don’t know their deal. Are they friends who are going to watch porn and drink Jack Daniels together, which seems weird, or are they gay, but it was 2003 so the filmmakers were afraid to come out and say it directly. I’m so confused by this whole bit.

There’s too much to keep track of. Laura Linney goes home with her co-worker (this office needs to ramp up its sexual harassment training), but her brother is in a mental hospital. I didn’t get that at all. Another guy is too ugly to get laid in Britain, but rationalizes that if he goes to Wisconsin all the girls there will throw themselves at him because of his accent. So he meets a threesome in a bar and, wait, it’s Wisconsin, that checks out.

Mr. Bean is in it.

What am I missing here? Why am I supposed to like this movie?

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2018



I Hope I Get It

My 9-year-old, Alex, has been bitten hard by the theater bug. He recently auditioned for what will hopefully be his fourth show, a community theater production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. In talking with a friend who offered Alex some advice for his audition, I realized how similar the audition process is to a job interview. One of the more salient points was that a director isn’t likely going to know if you’re right for a role as soon as you walk through the door, but he or she will definitely know if you’re wrong for it, regardless of your talent, experience, appearance, or work ethic.

This directly mirrors my experience in hiring and interviewing in the corporate world. No matter how pleasant, well-dressed, or personable an individual is upon first glance, I’m not going to know if he is right for the position until some questions are asked and conversations are had. Conversely there have been times where a candidate looks perfect for the role on paper, but after a minute in a room with her, I’m ready to run away screaming. Because the first and foremost rule of interviewing is…screen out the freaks. That’s not PC, but there is nothing more important – unless you want your life and your employees’ lives to immediately descend into madness and chaos.

I began to reflect on past interview experiences when I was in management with two large healthcare corporations. For the most part I think I was a successful interviewer and hirer. Most of the individuals I brought on board stuck around, did a good job, many eventually moving onto bigger and better things. I don’t recall having to fire anyone who I hired, that was usually the result of cleaning up someone else’s screening failure.

One of my first experiences interviewing was when I was a young team lead on a customer service team. My manager was a thirty-something gay man who didn’t think anyone knew he was gay. Everyone knew he was gay. No one cared. It was the “don’t ask don’t tell” era of the late 90s, but we worked for a very progressive company that had an active LGBT group on site who had meetings at lunch with a little rainbow flag on their table in the break room. Even so, he didn’t speak of it, and I respected that. “Tell us about an obstacle you’ve faced and how you overcame it,” he read from one of the corporate-mandated “behavioral” interview questions.

Our interviewee proceeded to go into great detail about how the greatest obstacle she’d faced was being sexually assaulted, and how she’d worked to overcome it. She wasn’t ungraphic about it. You know the wide-eyed embarrassed face emoji? That was my manager and me. Only his face had turned four thousand shades of red in about ten seconds. We were both repressed, Midwestern, Germanic introverts, and completely unequipped to deal with that revelation. You can’t just come at us with that kind of information. Have you ever seen the Saturday Night Live trap door commercial parody? If you haven’t, here it is. Brilliant. If either of us had access to a trap door button at that moment, we would have both lunged for it like a fumbled football. I believe we both nodded and offered some words of sympathy, and made feverish mental notes to add “WORKPLACE” as a modifier to the word obstacle for the next go-round. 

The best co-manager of all time, Linda, and I were on a continuous hiring spree one summer. Occasionally our micromanaging VP would insist on sitting in, which was always a disaster. The position required a mix of medical and physiology knowledge as well as financial and business acumen. It was tricky to get the right candidate, and we were always excited to find an RN who might fit the bill. VP always asked idiotic questions such as, “What’s your experience with the Microsoft Office suite of products?” One day it paid off, when the dense nurse we were questioning, paused, and said, “I can toggle.” O. M. G. Linda and I knew this would never work after that and a host of other red flags, but at the post-mortem discussion, VP thought we shouldn’t discount her nursing background. We found a way to discount her nursing background and moved on.

Linda and I were usually in perfect sync. Often we knew within the first five minutes that we never wanted to see this person again. A tug-of-war began during those interviews, with me, feeling guilty for bringing the candidate in, cursing the recruiter under my breath for not nipping this in the bud, trying to stretch it into at least a half hour, drawing out information. And Linda, wanting to wrap it up as soon as possible, rushing through our list of topics, skipping half of the questions. “Uh…I think we already covered questions 6, 7, and 8. Do you have any questions for us?”

There was the gentleman I interviewed who spent 15 minutes trying to convince me that our medical underwriting methodology (of which he’d been given the briefest of overviews) was wrong, and continued to badger me about it after I’d made it clear that I wasn’t going to get into an argument with him about it. Thank you for playing. I’ll walk you out now.

Another man came in, had excellent credentials, financial underwriting experience with a major capital firm, a management background. But he asked where all the exits were, asked if the windows were shatterproof, and told us that he didn’t feel the building was “secure.” And kept darting his eyes all over the place. And was very mysterious about why he left his previous job. Nope. No. No.

Passed on the girl who wore low-rise leggings that showed her tramp stamp.

Ditto for the one who smelled like one-part Captain Morgan and two-parts Joe Camel.

Oh, and the woman who said she wouldn’t be able to work most Mondays because her son was in jail and that was the only visiting day. Yeahhhhhh…no.

I really should have kept a journal. These are only a few of the episodes I recall off the top of my head. The firing stories are even better. And the day-to-day stories when my underwriters were intermingled with a large team of the entry-est of entry-level employees. Like people who had to be told to cover their stomach rolls at work. Or were caught doing…things…in the restroom.

My point, I guess, is for anyone interviewing for anything. Don’t get yourself disqualified in the first minute. Don’t scare the interviewer. Don’t be late. Don’t be way early. Take a shower. Don’t answer questions with 50% “likes” and “uhs.” And not to be cold, but no one cares if your cat has pancreatitis, if your husband has a gambling addiction, or if your last boss was a psychopath.

That’s all.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2017


Sleep experts say you shouldn’t have a smartphone in your bedroom. That research was validated last night when I fell down the kaleidoscopic rabbit hole held within the confines of an iPhone. The problem is compounded if you have a pair of earbuds within reach, which I did. Here’s all the flotsam that rattled around in my brain when I awakened at 3:30 in the morning, but couldn’t immediately fall back asleep.

“I heard Dancing in the Dark today. That’s a totally underrated Springsteen song. If I were a celebrity of any renown, I’d go on that show Lip Sync Battle with The Rock and Chrissy Teigen, and do that song. Wait, is it The Rock or LL Cool J? I think it’s LL Cool J. But The Rock has been on there, right? I think so. So I’d go on there and dress like a sexy girl version of The Boss in a tight white tee shirt and Levi’s and the big belt buckle and rock the shit out of that song. Then pull up my own guy version of a Courteney Cox at the end to dance with me on stage. Like who would that be? Maybe Jonathan Groff or that guy who played Danny Zuko in Grease Live! But what was he actually wearing in that video? Was it a white tee shirt, or was that just on the Born in the U.S.A. album cover? Let’s find it.”

Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark

Definitely worth two watches. “Barry said he was at the concert where that video was made, and that everyone knew some girl was going to be pulled from the audience to dance. I think he’s making that up. Where was this video made?”

Googling “where was dancing in the dark video made.”

“Sure enough. St. Paul Civic Center. Not surprising, he’s been to every concert. Yeah so it’s not a tee shirt he’s wearing, but like a collared white shirt. Superstar me could definitely make that work. I can’t believe no one has done this before. It’s SUCH a great idea. Maybe it’s because it’s so old. And I’m so old. I’m old enough to remember when Bruce Springsteen blew the roof off the place on David Letterman’s last NBC show. What was that? Like 1992? 1993? College for sure. Remember that summer when you used to hang out with that guy Jeff and go over to the Beta house and watch Letterman at 11:30 and then go drink beer on the roof? That was awesome.”

David Letterman Last Show on NBC Part 7

“This is incredible. Paul is tearing up that organ. I should rephrase that. I completely forgot about the drummer. What was his name? Anton Fig! And the dude playing the sax, who is he? I remember him from some old bits. The guitar player too. Remember when Dave would call the office worker he could see in the window across the street? What was her name? Meg? God, was Letterman good. I miss him. Except I saw that picture of him on the beach in Barbados, and now he looks like goddamn angry Santa Claus. We are all old. I haven’t watched the real Glory Days video since probably it was on MTV. I think he was wearing a purple shirt.”

Bruce Springsteen – Glory Days

“How did I remember he was wearing a purple shirt? I don’t remember this baseball intro though. Maybe I do. This is a good song. Hey, there’s Max Weinberg. I always liked him. Dude, those 80’s progression lenses, though. [Shudder]

“Letterman always had fantastic musical guests. Paul Shaffer knew every good band. He got me into the Spin Doctors before the Spin Doctors recorded that horrific song, Two Princes, that played on the radio every ten minutes, and ruined them for me for life. But before that they were really good. I should watch that.”

Spin Doctors – Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong (Late Night with David Letterman – 1992)

“There’s Anton again. I wonder if it’s weird with two guys playing drums at the same time? How did they decide if the World’s Most Dangerous Band was going to play along with the musical act? They’re all so damn talented. How cool of a job would that be to go do every night? I wonder what other great performances were on Letterman? I should Google that.

“This EW article has some good ones, but goddammit scroll. Why is it reloading every time I try to get down farther? Warren Zevon number one? Not bloody likely. Ooh, Foo Fighters’ Everlong. I remember that was right after his heart surgery. I watched that live. I think my mom was staying with me after David was born. Sonny and Cher? Seriously? Why won’t this stupid Sonic Youth video pull up? This article is annoying. Fix your website, EW. Idiots. Paste Magazine: 25 Great Musical Performances on David Letterman. What the hell is Paste Magazine anyway? When did that become a thing? Pixies. Never was into them. Counting Crows, Round Here…God I HATE that effing song. No. Hey Pulp, Common People. That’s a good song. That’s on The Mixtape playlist on Apple Music all the time. How good is The Mixtape on Apple Music? That gets me through everything tedious.”

“This. Is. The. Shit. 1995, wow. I never knew what that singer looked like. He’s brooding and cute. He’s smoldering. Yum. And tall. They are killing this. Fabulous lighting too. Paul’s band isn’t sitting in, they’re just owning it themselves. The girl plays the two finger keyboard. I could do that. Blown. Away. What else is on this list? Janelle Monáe. Huh. Let’s give that a whirl.”

“That girl can sing. You can’t just be a good singer, you have to work it, and she does. But I thought the article said she danced on Dave’s desk. I don’t see that. Why isn’t she dancing on the desk? Lying article. Bob Dylan. Meh. Johnny Cash. Always good. Beastie Boys. Fuck yeah. Green Day, Basket Case. Which Green Day song even is that? They all sound the same. Paul McCartney. Well of course he’s on the list. First time he’d performed in the Ed Sullivan Theater since 1964? Well that’s intriguing.”

Paul McCartney – Get Back (Late Show with David Letterman – 2009)

“Oh I remember this. Holy crap. That’s Broadway and 54th. How many people are out there watching this? How many streets are blocked off? That must have been a complete cluster fuck. I’ve been there, there just isn’t that much room. Wow, this is seriously great. How adorable is Sir Paul? He never ages. I wish I could see him when he comes to town. Wonder how I can win tickets? I want like the front row experience without paying $700. Impossible. This is from 2009. You know what’s great? There are maybe a handful of people out there recording it with their stupid phones. Everyone’s just soaking up the performance and the energy of the crowd instead of trying to capture the moment. Leave the video to the professionals. Take pictures with your mind. All you’re gonna get is shitty sound quality and grainy video of the back of people’s heads and THEIR phones. Or even worse iPads. People who shoot video on iPads are the worst of all mankind. Ok that was fun. Who else is on this list? They’re raving about this Future Islands. Who is Future Islands? That’s not the same as The Lonely Island, right? I don’t entirely get them. David enjoys them a lot. Though Andy Samberg has grown on me since Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And the SNL Digital Short they did with Natalie Portman is maybe one of the most brilliant things ever on TV. Let’s see what the Future Islands are.”

Future Islands – Seasons (Late Show with David Letterman – 2014)

“Ok one chord in and I’m hooked. These guys are phenomenal. Is that a guy playing bass or a girl? Who is this singer? He looks old, but acts like a 20-year-old. Who is this fucking guy? How have I not heard this band? This synth stuff is totally my jam. How do they sound this good with just drums, a synthesizer, and a bass? No guitar. Amazing. Dave went absolutely ape shit for them. And this is toward the end of his tenure, when he’s basically just phoning it in. This band, though. The bass player looks like Marla Hooch, and you’ve got disco legs lead singer guy who looks like a gym teacher, and a keyboard player who looks like your company’s IT guy. Yet they hit it out of the park. What now? Mutemath. What’s Mutemath? Wasn’t Cake on Craig Ferguson once and really good?”

Mutemath – Typical (Late Show with David Letterman – 2007)

“Hey, these guys dressed up for the show. I wonder how rock bands decide which crappy old tee shirts to wear to their shows? Huh, you don’t see keytars often, but it works for them. This is a good song. I need to go add this stuff to my Apple Music playlists. But it’s 5:11. I should probably reset my alarm for 6:45 to buy an extra half hour of sleep. If I can sleep. How the hell am I going to go back to sleep?”

© Jennifer Alys Windholz  2016

Bloomin’ Onions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeople who eat aggressively fragrant food (think fish, burnt popcorn, fried monkey) in a closed area (think office, airplane, jail cell, or anywhere with limited ventilation) are the absolute worst. Like I put them up there with war criminals, Carrot Top, and people who drive under the speed limit in the left lane. Subjecting your officemates to this kind of  brutality is inconsiderate at best, grounds for immediate dismissal at worst.

Several times this month someone has brought something infested with raw onions from the building cafeteria into our shared workspace. Its invisible and odiferous cloud instantaneously suffocates all of the breathable air in the suite. It spreads faster than a prairie fire, and before you can take cover or react, the noxious fog kicks in the door to your sinuses, bitch slaps them into submission, and threatens to take over your very soul.

And like a tree-hugging dreadlocked second cousin (or confederate-flag wearing step-brother – choose a metaphor based on your political persuasion) at a wedding reception with an open bar, not only is it offensive, but it lingers for hours. Short of a full-on biohazard suit, there is no escaping it. Today I tried to ward off the smell by liberally spraying Static-Guard (a necessary evil here in the Sahara-dry northern winter) over the wall and around my desk, hoping the onion-eater would take note. It masked the smell for about a minute, and then it was back, again relentlessly assaulting my senses.

Thankfully I had to leave early to work from home for the rest of the afternoon so I could give David a ride to his job at Papa Murphy’s, where onions are a given. I’m not sure how to go about preventing this from happening again. I could take the classic Minnesota passive-aggressive route, which would entail posting a sign in the break room or leaving an anonymous note on the reprobate’s desk (i.e. “Your onions are hurting everyone around you.”) Or start a petition to ban onions from the cafeteria, which would negatively affect those who eat onions responsibly.

What I fantasized about today was walking over, taking the plate from the person’s hand, dramatically stuffing it into the trash can, and emptying an entire fire extinguisher on top of it.

Would that be wrong?

© Jennifer Alys Windholz  2016

Nowhere To Go But Up

What with all the year-end compilations, best ofs, and tributes scattered about the web on this, the last day of 2015, I thought I’d put a twist on things, and for your reading pleasure, share what was probably the low point of my year. If you have a weak stomach, I implore you to look away now, for those of you who choose to soldier on, don’t judge.

My husband’s mother passed away in July. Losing a parent is never easy, but they were very close, and the preceding weeks had been incredibly stressful. She died on a Wednesday, was buried on Friday, and our first day back to work was the following Monday.

My commute to the office is pretty easy, no more than 20 minutes on an average day, and I set out on this bright summer morning, feeling pretty good given the circumstances. As I drove though, I started to feel a little shaky. I hadn’t eaten much over the weekend, was fairly run down, and thought maybe some breakfast to settle my stomach wouldn’t be a bad idea.

After a brief McDonald’s drive-through detour I was back on the road. After a few bites of a Sausage McMuffin it became clear that food wasn’t helping. I put the rest of the sandwich back in the bag, and continued onto the freeway. I really didn’t feel well, began to sweat, and tried to will the queasiness away in a futile mind over matter exercise. At once the entire construct of my digestive system rose up in fierce opposition to my attempts to stomp it into submission. I could almost hear the chorus of Do You Hear the People Sing as the contents of my gastrointestinal tract overturned horse carts, furniture, and cannons, and rushed onward wielding torches, demanding to be liberated from the restrictive confines of my body.

My brain, in a race to counteract this massive internal revolution was racing to find a solution to the impending and unstoppable upheaval while driving at 65 miles per hour in rush hour traffic. The McDonald’s bag! I grabbed it, and smartly threw up into it, without a second to spare. Crisis averted. I’ve always been a graceful puker. Ask my friends about Wiederholt’s Supper Club. But I didn’t count on the aftershock. No worries, right into the bag. It’s all good, I figured I’d make it into the office, splash some water on my face, and carry on.

One thing I didn’t consider was the structural integrity of a McDonald’s bag. You don’t need to be a physicist to realize that the thin paper construction of said bag is not sturdy enough to withstand a sudden influx of heavy moisture, but my mind wasn’t focused on the mechanics of the situation. Next thing I knew the contents, still on their radical journey for freedom, broke through the bottom of the bag, and were deposited all over my leg.

At this point the scene shifted into a Kafkaesque nightmare that should have been musically overlaid with Adagio in Strings. Covered in puke, with only one or two meager napkins available to mitigate the damage, I began to retch violently, and pulled off onto an exit, threw open the door, leaned over, and began to vomit somewhat outside the car, while circling around the ramp like a carnival ride from hell until I got to the point where I could come to a complete stop and properly weigh my options.

Cars were lined up behind me, and it didn’t take long for me to deem the situation a Grade A Cluster Fuck. Continuing on to work was out of the question, finding a gas station would only prolong the agony, so I decided to return home. I got back on the freeway, in the opposite direction, and for good measure christened the westbound onramp as well, my head feeling like it was being whirled around at zero gravity. Battered and spent, I pushed the button to call home. Thank God for Bluetooth in the new mini-van I was driving, purchased not more than two months ago. So much for that new car smell.

My 12-year-old son, Cameron, answered. I explained to him in a tone that commanded blind obedience, that I needed him to meet me in the driveway with a roll of dry paper towels, a roll of wet paper towels, a young priest and an old priest, a rag, garbage bags, Febreze, carpet cleaner, and whatever kitchen, all-purpose, or bathroom cleaner he could round up. Thankfully he didn’t question it, and when I mercifully arrived at home, Cameron, Justin, and Alex were all waiting outside with puzzled looks on their faces. Once they saw the horror that had transpired, they quickly backed off, and didn’t ask questions.

While my dog howled at the door, super excited at her great fortune because I came back home, I set out to clean up what probably should have been handled by a team of professionals who disinfect murder scenes, occasionally loudly demanding more wet paper towels. When finished, I turned the garden hose on myself, threw my clothes in the washer, took a decontamination shower, and fell into bed, texting my very patient boss that I was probably just going to call it a day.

I woke up a few hours later, battle-scarred, but ok, a victim of stress and exhaustion that had manifested into one wild ride. And that, my friends, is not how I want to remember 2015, which was otherwise a fairly good year.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz 2015


Raging Dull

By all reasonable accounts I should be on Cloud Nine* today. The Kansas City Royals, my lifelong team, bereft of a championship for 30 years, won the World Series on Sunday. All I have to do is think of Eric Hosmer’s mad dash home to tie Game 5 in the ninth inning, and I get a huge smile on my face or start to tear up. Instant happiness. Last night I went to see Jim Gaffigan in concert with my husband, oldest son, and BFF. We had a great time. He was fantastic. Quote from one of our favorite bits, “Is this worth it?”

But someone today served me up a full-on slice of rage with a side of loathing and an indignation chaser. Literally everything is pissing me off. Granted, even when I’m even-keeled I don’t easily suffer fools, but that’s not usually something that turns my day upside down.

Alex had some questions about the show this morning. “What did he talk about?”

Me: “Hot Pockets.”

Alex (eyeroll): “Did he talk about airline food?”

Me: “No.”

Alex: “Good. Because that is getting REALLY old.”

Eight years old, going on…me. I think that sort of sums up what’s wrong with me today. I don’t have any patience for anyone who is rehashing the same old shit. What set me off started before I’d even left my house this morning – a fairly innocuous comment on a post about the Gaffigan show my friend tagged us in on Facebook.

“…looks like youre hanging out with a bunch of Weiners!”


For the record, my name is Jennifer Weiner. Pronounced “WINE-er.” When I write I use my maiden name for my byline so I’m not confused with the relatively prolific author of the same name. Jennifer Weiner has done rather well for herself, so it wouldn’t be terrible, but no need to create undue confusion. Receptionists at medical offices often ask me if I’m her. Note to Jennifer’s publisher – receptionists at medical offices must be very into “chick lit.” I sense a marketing opportunity. You’re welcome for that free bit of insight about a key demographic. I read Jennifer Weiner’s first book, Good in Bed, a title for which I suffered a fair amount of grief. It was okay, and that’s not a knock against her, but it’s a genre that’s just not really my thing.

I digress. The “weener/weiner” comment is just so ridiculously unfunny. I mean, could you pick any lower hanging fruit than making an obvious joke out of someone’s name? It’s not my name. I wasn’t born with it. My kids get mocked for it constantly. My oldest son, now a sophomore in high school, used to be terribly bothered by it. A baseball pitcher, he intentionally hit a kid once as a 12-year-old when he heard the kid call him “weener” before a game. When I found out why he hit the kid I wasn’t even mad. I was impressed with his control and situational awareness. He’d cleanly retired the first two batters, then plunked the kid with precision on the first pitch with two outs. Now he embraces the taunts, lets his friends call him “penis,” which has taken away all the power of the chirp. You can do that as a 15-year-old who lifts weights and is unafraid of anyone. It’s a little different for younger kids who haven’t developed any coping mechanisms.

I don’t know this person. She’s probably perfectly nice, but her comment annoyed the hell out of me. Not because I was offended, but because of how fucking immature and stupid and preposterously unclever it was. If it were a good joke, I probably wouldn’t have cared. I respect a well-timed and funny insult at my expense. But I have no tolerance for the trite and cliché. I later replied to her comment with a single word. “Hilarious.” She “liked” it. That angered me even more. Because that remark was dripping with sarcasm. And it went completely unrecognized.

The check-out lines at Target over my lunch hour were long. And things went from bad to worse because when it was my turn, the slow cashier handling my lane was replaced by the chatty cashier. I always purposely avoid this woman’s lane. She’s worked there for eons, and she insists on commenting on every item you purchase. I plastered a smile on my face, and prepared for her shtick. As she slid the pizza crusts, pizza sauce, and mozzarella cheese across the scanner, I assumed the crash position, bracing for impact.

“Makin’ some pizzas?”

Oh. My. God. Are you some kind of fucking psychic? How the amazing Kreskin did you know that? No. Way. That was. FAN-Tastic. Seriously, chills.

“You know, there’s a recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust. I haven’t tried it, but I need to. I need to stay away from the carbs. The cauliflower is low-carb. I’m supposed to be on a low-carb diet, but everything is made outta carbs! I’m a diabetic. My sugars are just way out of control. Crazy high. I see you got that 25% off apparel coupon on Cartwheel. Lady in line earlier didn’t know about it and I told her all about it. She didn’t have the app and went over to customer service and set it up. I used mine the other day.”

This is a test, God. Right?

Mercifully that exchange ended. In the parking lot a cute two-year-old boy was not being controlled by his mother, and slowly walked right in front of my car as I was trying to leave. Move out of my goddamn motherfuckin way, you little bastard. (My God I’m watching too much Veep. I have Selina Meyer mouth.) Before going back to the office, I decided I needed a little pick-me-up, so I stopped at Starbucks for some iced tea. Ran straight into a brick wall of upselling purgatory. 

Barista: “So are you having anything for lunch? A hot sandwich? Fruit parfait?”

Me: “No, just tea.”

Barista: “That comes sweetened, but we can make it unsweetened by special request.” 

Me: (Special request? That sounds overly complicated. Do I have to fill out a goddamn form or something? We’ll leave the sugar out of your tea, but only after you complete Schedule 2530-IT in triplicate.) “Unsweetened, please.”

Barista: “For only 50 cents more you can upgrade your Grande to a Venti.” At this point she’s waving cups at me.

Me: “Fine.” (If that will end this transaction. Please.)

Barista: “Anything else for you? We have fresh gingerbread cookies out of the oven!”

Me: “No thanks, I’m good.”

Barista: “Do you like music? We have the new Andrea Bocelli CD.”

Me: “That’s ok.” (I haven’t listened to a CD since 2006. Do they still make CD players? You don’t grind the coffee with a mortar and pestle, why are you selling CDs?)

Probably I should not be allowed around anyone for the rest of the day, for the safety and well-being of everyone involved. Unfortunately I have a meeting tonight, and I have to deal with my own children, which is always interesting. Thank goodness it was dark when I drove home at 5:00 in traffic. That’s always a mood booster.


*What is Cloud Nine anyway? What right does Cloud Nine have to be so damned haughty? I bet it just kissed ass all the time, and probably backstabbed the hell out of Clouds Five and Seven to attain its exalted position. Cloud Six is all, “That was my idea, bitch. Thanks for sharing the credit.”

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015

Forever Royal

2015WorldSeriesTonight is the first game of the World Series. Let me clarify. Tonight is the first game of the World Series, which for the second consecutive year, includes the Kansas City Royals. To the untrained eye that may not be of significance, but to a lifelong baseball and Royals fanatic, it’s a scenario that has been, for many years, beyond comprehension. Last year’s trip to the World Series was like a dream. Now it just feels like a long, soothing drink of cool water after an exhausting drought. In short, amazing.

Despite years of measured optimism by some sports media, it was impossible to bank on the Royals’ unparalleled farm system eventually paying dividends. We watched too many homegrown prospects turn into elite players, even superstars, only to be traded or outright released when keeping them around became too expensive for the Royals meager pocketbook. Carlos Beltrán. David Cone. Danny Tartabull. Johnny Damon. Jermaine Dye. Zack Greinke. Bitterness and cynicism smothered hope.

For someone who grew up listening to the perpetually contending Royals as a kid on a transistor radio before going to bed on many a summer night, culminating in a glorious World Series win in 1985, the long slide into oblivion has been a decades-long exercise in frustration. So many Royals moments are lovingly stored in the scrapbook of my mind, and were taken out periodically to review lustfully when watching an endless string of losing records and mediocre talent. Anyone remember Sal Fasano? Gil Meche? Pat Tabler? Wally Joyner? Bob Hamelin? Jimmy Gobble?
Those snapshots are what sustained me as a Royals fan. My brother and I were watching the game on TV on the hot July afternoon when George Brett came tearing out of the dugout like a freight train when his seemingly game-winning home run was recalled after Billy Martin and the evil Yankees complained about a little known rule about pine tar on a bat.

I worked at my small hometown radio station in high school, a Royals broadcast affiliate, and loved game days when I’d put the game on the air from pre-game through the scoreboard show, recording promos and post-game wrap-ups. Sometimes when listening to announcers pause for a station identification, I reflexively recite, “You’re listening to Royals baseball on KRSL/KCAY, Russell, Kansas.” Admittedly though, there were more than a few Saturday night shifts during the regular season when a long-running or extra innings tilt pushed past my normal 10pm sign-off, cutting into the time I’d be able spend with friends until my midnight curfew, and I’d root for just someone to win in the name of finishing the damn game so I could leave.

George Brett has been my baseball hero for as long as I can remember – the day he retired was essentially the day my childhood ended – but Bo Jackson was simply the greatest physical specimen of an athlete I’ve ever seen. When he announced he was undergoing treatment for a hip injury I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if I knew it marked the beginning of the end. In college I worked at a hospital where the orthopaedic surgeons who handled sports medicine for the Kansas State University athletic teams were always doing rounds after a full caseload of routine hip replacements and knee scopes. That evening I was working in the admissions office, and stopped one of them on his way back from the surgical floor. I asked him if he’d explain Bo’s injury to me. From what he’d seen in news reports, he said even with the best possible surgical outcomes, that a return to the MLB as the same unstoppable force he’d been seemed unlikely. It didn’t matter. The organization wasn’t going to wait around for him and pay his salary to rehab. Bo Jackson did return to baseball, but the doctor was right. He wasn’t the same player during two partial seasons with the White Sox.

There were some high points during the long wait for the return to the post-season. I was at Kauffman Stadium for the Major League debut of Brian McRae, son of 1980’s great, Hal McRae. He hit a double. My friend, Terri, and I waited around like groupies after a game watching ESPN interview Mr. Brett after an exceptional day at the yard, and swore he was looking right at us the whole time. And when Johnny Damon was called up in 1995 at age 19, I knew he’d be a superstar when I first saw him go from first to third with the graceful speed of a greyhound. That 1995 season they played pretty well. I spent a lot of time at the stadium, heading there after work, buying a ticket for a crappy seat and scampering down lower after the first few innings when it was evident that there would be plenty of empty space. By that time Kansas City had bailed on the Royals, which for me was sad. This is when I grew to despise the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City had been taken over by a sea of obnoxious red and yellow. Royal blue was nowhere to be found. I enjoyed watching former Minnesota Twins Greg Gagne and Gary Gaetti play outstanding baseball for KC, to the chagrin of my Minnesota friend and die-hard Twins fan, who later became my husband.

When I moved to the Twin Cities it was before video on demand or satellite radio. I missed the familiar voices of Denny Matthews and Fred White, and struggled to adjust to baseball in a new market. We returned to Kansas City for games periodically, and I’ve remained true blue, but have raised four boys who have grown up in Twins Territory. I can’t fault them for being Twins fans. They’ve had Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, and Johan Santana. Not to mention some winning seasons. All I had was fond memories of Willie Wilson, George Brett, Mark Gubicza, and Dan Quisenberry. Ironically the Twins have had their own struggles with losing players who’ve gone on to tremendous success. And now when my 15-year-old cheers for the Royals, he’s accused of being a “bandwagon jumper.” To silence his detractors, he proudly posts photos of himself at the K as a five-year-old.

There was a point in time, maybe during a brief Twins play-off run, perhaps after Joe Mauer personally answered letters that two of my kids wrote him, which I thought was an incredibly kind gesture, that I almost picked up a Twins t-shirt for myself. It was right there in my Target cart. And I walked maybe an aisle or two with it in there when I stopped, and thought, this is not who I am. And I returned it to the display. My kids can wear their Twins gear, and I’ll support them, but I couldn’t turn my back on the Royals after all this time.

It’s odd to be invested in October. I’m not used to the butterflies. But whatever the outcome, this team is just so much fun to watch. All year. Not that I wasn’t proud to be a Royals fan before, but when someone notices the signed Eric Hosmer card on my desk at work, or comments about the blue KC visor that I wear when I walk my dog, or shouts out to my sister and me while we were wearing Royals gear in New York during the ALCS, I smile a little bit bigger these days, not sheepishly, and say, yeah, that’s my team. Always has been, always will be.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz  2015

Helping The Community

Certain social media sites are so lame with their overreaching analytics. A suggestion popped up on my feed last week, noting I had checked in at the Indiana State Line on December 26, 2014. I did. Mostly just to let interested friends and family members know of our progress as we traveled home from Pennsylvania on a Christmas road trip. Facebook wants me to “Help the Community by Writing a Review.”

A review of my trip to (it was more like over) the Indiana State Line? Seriously. I noticed there are no current reviews of the Indiana State Line, and actually only 6 other people have even checked in. What would that review even look like? I wonder…

Rhoda T.

Sad to say that the Indiana State Line just doesn’t measure up to the other State Lines in the area. The trees were way less scenic than in Pennsylvania. The roads barely felt paved.

Zena H.
Ended up here because the queue at the Michigan State Line was ridiculously long. Indiana has the same rating yet there was no queue. We were sceptical at first but it was not bad. Pleasant overpasses. Signage there when needed but not overwhelming. You pay about 10 dollars more in tolls for Ohio, so this was overall a decent place with pleasant experience.

Vincent L.
If you have a predilection for Midwestern State Lines like me, look no further than the Indiana State Line. I come here weekly on business and only really ever stay on the Interstate – comprised of a fine gray Valero asphalt, sometimes topped with a delicate dusting of snowfall, four lanes for just the right amount of comoditá (comfort). So wonderful! There’s nothing quite like rolling into the Petro in Richmond after you’ve finished your amazing crossing. I haven’t been stopped yet, but the speed limit will be the death of me.

My only gripe would be that it is an expensive State Line. Current tolls are over $12.

Kalee J.
Where do I begin? Shall I start with the bumper to bumper traffic because of a trooper pulling over a pick-up on the side of the road? Or maybe the painfully awkward billboards advertising Tom Raper RV? Um, hello? Trigger warnings please. There are a lot of people that that could effect them very much seeing that. There is no craft or thought put into this State Line. Extremely mediocre for the prices, they don’t even have a median, just a slab of cement so youd be better off going to the gross county line a few miles away.

My main issue here is that they’re sign out front is extremely misleading. It led my party to believe that Indiana was the “Crossroads of America,” which was the main reason we decided to go here in the first place. Turns out when we got into Indiana there were no other American states at all, just Indiana. Not what we expected. UMMMMM… try again.

The manager at the visitor center was extremely rude and uncooperative when we raised our concern. It was clearly a miscommunication on both of our parts. The advertisement/sign was so unclear, but we could have asked more questions to clarify. However, she wasn’t about to budge on the toll. Until we made it perfectly clear that we weren’t about to pay for something we didn’t sign up for, at which point she gave us some coupons for free coffee. Atta girl. She didn’t want us getting ratchet up in her state. And believe me, we were on the verge. Her sarcastic and condesending mannerisms were completely off-putting.


Kevin L.

so disappointed as a resident of evansville. two bad state lines on both sides, and i dont know which is worse, kentucky or indiana. at least indiana has good gas stations but theyre not very close to the interstate! thats THE ONLY good thing about indiana.. is the gas stations… lets move on from there…

the scenery was some of the worst I have ever seen… the place was DIRTY…I.E. your first clue… you dont want to know whats going on back off the road. the litter, roadkill, piled up snow, fencing… all dirty …

went for a “road trip” i suppose… they give you this idea that its some kind of destination.. oh my god, one look and we all turned around.. and went back.. didn’t even want to be in the state.. raining the whole time … wow.. this was beyond BAD…

a friend got the map which was DROWNING in red stateness, couldn’t even finish looking at it.

and the whole time all we wanted was to look around, and we couldn’t even see anything until we were almost done and ready to leave… the visibility was INCREDIBLY bad…

NEVER go here. save your time and money.

it’s awful, there’s no good state lines to go to around evansville 😦 if someone can prove me wrong, please do. but in the mean time, someone needs to save evansville from bad trips.

Jessalyn R.
My boyfriend took me here for my birthday, and I was very impressed. I rode in the passenger side, and it was soooo good! I got to see the viaduct and the welcome signs! Their “visitor information center” is wonderful as well!

Ada K.
This place was recommended to me by 2 of my friends from Baltimore, where we are from.

I haven’t been to Indiana in awhile, so it was nice to have a place that was given the thumbs up in advance, as well as all of the wonderful reviews on social media.

I have now been twice to the Indiana State Line, and each time was fantastic. The first trip, for a Black Crowes concert. Perfection! The second trip, to see a specialist in Indianapolis for my strabismus. Awesome! My husband drove both times as I couldn’t resist seeing everything again. It wasn’t too crowded, so you could probably end up driving in at 7pm on a Saturday night with no problem, but we always check the GPS just in case. We will be back!

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015