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What I Learned This Week – 3/19/17

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I am sure many of you were already aware of what I am about to tell you. But, this series of posts is called “What I Learned This Week”, not “What Everyone Else Already Knew.” So, ya.

I left work for my lunch break on Tuesday, something I don’t usually do. When I went to restart my car, it wouldn’t start. I’m a woman, so my only guess was my battery was dead, although it had started up just fine a half hour prior. And the dashboard lights were acting…unusual. They would all come on and sort of dance when I turned the key to try to start the car. Even where the “P” usually lights up to tell me it is in Park, it was cycling through and lighting up “R”, “N”, “D”, and “1” as well. It truly was the strangest thing.

I tried to jump it–nothing.

I have a cuter picture of it with a Christmas tree on top, but it would take me forever to find it.

I called in my husband, who while not a trained mechanic, totally understands engines and how to take them apart and put them back together. (I, on the other hand, believe they run on hamsters on wheels and fairy dust.) The crazy lights with the lack of success at jumping had him convinced it was an electrical problem.

During the next 24 hours, we proceeded to juggle the one remaining car and our two jobs and elementary school pick-up of M. I contemplated the hassle of having to pay a tow truck to tow my car the literally .3 miles my car died from the actual dealership. But as crappy as all that was, I have to admit the timing was actually fortunate because my husband was still home to assist me.

But while my husband was at work, I realized something…

In the old days when your battery died, it just died. Your headlights were weak, nothing would work. You could just jump it back to life and be on your way.

What I realized is that we don’t live in that time anymore. (Let me take this opportunity to reiterate that I don’t understand how a car engine totally works.) We live in a time where computers are ingrained into everything from our cars to our televisions to our electric toothbrushes. Computers are made by humans. Computers have unnecessary safety features. Computers fuck up.

I remembered that the second time my battery died in my beloved Aztek, I thought it had an electrical problem. Turned out that the battery got so low, that it tripped the anti-theft system. See what I mean about computers having unnecessary safety features?

So I hypothesized my battery had just gotten low enough that the car was like “Ya, we are done with this battery” without actually giving me a clear message that that was the case. Figuring that would be the least expensive option, I talked my husband into taking it to O’Reilly’s and getting it checked out. Sure enough, it was dead. After we spent some more time in a parking lot in a -10F degree windchill, it started right up.

The lesson this week kids is if your car is acting goofy and you have no idea how old your battery is, it may just be that you need a new battery. Your car is not your grandfather’s car. Unless, you know, it is. But if your family has children early, then chances are your grandfather’s car could be computerized as well. My family waits to have our offspring. My dad drove a Ford LTD from the 1970s. I am pretty sure it would have exhibited the standard blasé of a car with a dead battery. 🙂

From the broken mind of Jennifer Friess, the joining of hearts & souls…
NOW AVAILABLE! Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom

What I Learned This Week – 5/1/16

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This week I ran into a woman I hadn’t talked to in years. She used to work at the bank when I was a little girl. When I was young I lived in Riga. My mom would be like “we are going to run errands. We are going to go to the bank and the post office.” They were both on the same road we lived on, not a half mile away. Having never known anything else, I just assumed this was normal for everyone. For the grocery store and the laundromat, we did have to turn left and drive about two miles.

The woman, I’ll call her Mrs. B, had her husband with her.  Mr. B was like “Who’s this?”, which I found slightly amusing. Mrs. B said, “This is Lorie’s daughter.”

My first thought was “Lorie who?”  Then I remembered that my mom said that everyone used to call my dad Lorie. My mom told me this because of course she didn’t like it, so she called him by his full first name Loren, which I have never understood. It’s not like his nickname was Stinky or something. If that is what he went by, why didn’t she just call him that too? But I know why. Because she didn’t want to.

Just as a reminder, my dad died before I was born. I know it is terrible to day, but days go by where I forgot that I have a never parental figure that I never met. Another reason why I like Memorial Day so much, because he is a part of it.

That is what it is like in a tiny town. Everyone knows each other. I don’t know what my dad was like. I only have snippets of stories my mom has told me that I must then transform into memories that are not mine. Stories of him wetting down his hair before walking to his one-room school in the winter time, only to have it freeze by the time he arrived. I’ve heard that he used to get the mail off the train when it arrived and carry it over to the post office. Not a fancy job, to be sure, but for a kid who loved trains, it sure sounds interesting. And I have spent years wondering if the mail came on the old Erie and Kalamazoo line that is still there, the first railroad west of the Alleghenies, that is still there today or the Toledo & Western interurban line that has long since been removed, known to locals as the Teeter & Wobble. Did my dad ever ride the Teeter & Wobble? I would assume so. The T&W is such ancient history that they put on programs about it at the county historical museum. I guess that must mean my dad is ancient too.

Toledo & Western engine

Toledo & Western engine

“Lorie’s daughter” is something I almost never hear. Once in 1997 when I worked at the gas station which was geographically Riga adjacent, an old farmer asked me, “Who’s your father?” out of the blue, for no reason. And that was perfectly normal in my small town. Everyone was just used to knowing everyone. I told him, not expecting him to know me from Adam.  He said, “Lorie? Well I grew up with him.” The cleaning lady overheard this conversation. She had been a year or two behind my dad at the Riga school, which was so long ago it didn’t even exist anymore. (They tore it down to build the bank, which I think presently has been turned into a church building of some sort.) Her and I became good friends after that. I’m sorry to say she is in ill health these days.

And it literally has probably been twenty years since I have had the experience of someone realizing they knew my dad. And with a dad who would be 95 years old if he were still alive, how often is that going to happen again? Very possibly never. I NEVER knew my dad, and soon all the links of people who did know him will be gone.

Mrs. B left telling me that I had made her day. But after I left and kept smiling, I realized that she had really made mine. And the kicker? She saw me in the local paper and says she would like to buy my books. Maybe my dad would be proud?…

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

Have We Forgotten Our Dead?

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My mom, my son M, and I visited three cemeteries the Monday prior to Memorial Day, to decorate family members graves with flowers.  Two of the three cemeteries was very unsatisfactory.

The first one, St. Joseph’s Catholic cemetery in Adrian, Michigan, had their drive blocked with orange construction cones.  It seemed they had decided that a week before Memorial Day was the optimal time to put fresh tar in the cracks of the paved drive.

Really?  How does that make sense?  To block people out of the cemetery at the one time of year when they are guaranteed to want to visit?!

As I didn’t want to get fresh tar on my car (the hail damage is enough to give it character), my mom and I made alternate arrangements to come back on Wednesday.  Surely it would be open again by then, right?

Next we visited Pleasant View cemetery in Blissfield, Michigan, where my dad is buried.  There was no sign of the flags that they always put on the graves of veterans.  The place had not even been mowed.  There were branches and stray bits of liter everywhere.

My mom is very particular about millions of things in this world.  Most of which I DO NOT and WILL NOT ever understand.  But on one thing I do agree with her, and that is that you should place your flowers at the cemetery after they have mowed.  Otherwise, your artificial flowers get dirt and grass thrown all up in them and look terrible.  But, having no other options, we placed our flowers at that time.  Next to my dad’s tombstone is a concrete marker in the shape of a lamb for his sister, who was born and died before he was ever born.  It probably isn’t made out of very quality materials to begin with, and it has been there approaching 100 years.  But we could plainly see where the riding lawn mower clips it when it goes between the stones.

You can see where I pushed away the dirt with my foot to expose the original resting position of the lamb.

You can see where I pushed away the dirt with my foot to expose the original resting position of the lamb.

Really?

These stones are the only thing left to mark these people’s lives (in this instance, of a deceased baby who never even got to live her life), and you have to carelessly push them over on their foundations?

When my mom and I returned to the St. Joseph’s Catholic cemetery on Wednesday, we witnessed the same thing.  The place had not yet been mowed.  The tombstones on the ends had been moved on their foundations, from previous passes with the mower.  I tried to push one back into position, unsuccessfully, and almost gave myself a hernia.

Oh, and FYI, there were STILL cones blocking the entrance to St. Joseph’s.  It appeared as if they had seal-coated the drive as well.  I drove around the cones.  (It had already rained the night before.  Any of the coating that was going to come off would have already been washed off.)

Aside from the shotty groundskeeping, I also noticed that WE, as surviving family members as a whole, are not decorating.  The entire section my dad is located in was almost devoid of flowers.  Everyone in his section generally died in 1980 or before.

Now, looking across the cemetery to the newer section, it did appear to be very decorated.  I guess all the people in the ground in the new section are the ones who used to decorate the tombstones in the old section.

How sad is that?

Even sadder is that they never told their children that someone had to keep decorating the grandmas’ and grandpas’ when they themselves had moved on.

Decorating gravestones is very similar to how I feel about sending greeting cards.  I know that it is an extra expense, but we lose a little of our humanity when we decide it is not worth our time and bother anymore.  A website exists called Find-A-Grave.  It is a great resource for genealogists.  But, you can also leave “virutal flowers” for people.  I have an issue with the “social media-ization” of the dead.

Oy.

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!!!

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I want to wish everyone a happy Memorial Day!

Be thankful for the freedoms you enjoy in this great country and honor those who gave their time and lives for it!

Made in the U.S.A. (even if most of his toys were not)

Made in the U.S.A. (even if most of his toys were not)

My Pseudo Dad

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As I have mentioned here before, my dad died before I was born. I grew up watching sitcom fathers on television. I went to my best friend’s house and watched her father (I can only think of one friend whose house I regularly visited in my my teenage years who had a father in their daily life).

What did I learn from all this observation?

I learned that a dad’s job is to make sure your car gets fixed properly.

I bought my first car in 1997. Since that time I have thought of the Service Manager at my local GM dealership as my Pseudo Dad.

pseudo
adjective
1. not actually but having the appearance of; pretended; false or spurious; sham.
2. almost, approaching, or trying to be.

http://dictionary.reference.com

He is old enough to be my Dad, but he is maybe 5 years younger than my mother. That would make him about 20 years younger than my actual dead dad.

You can’t argue with my logic. He always makes sure my car gets fixed.

Me in my first car. 1989 Pontiac Grand Am

Me in my first car. 1989 Pontiac Grand Am

I present to you some semi-boring examples of car repair below.

My first car, a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am, started making very bad banging sounds when I went over bumps. I thought it might be a problem with the shock. I was partially correct. The problem was a hole had rusted right through the trunk, and now my shock was actually in my trunk. I made arrangements to get it fixed the same afternoon. My pseudo dad called me that evening to tell me about a friend of his who could fix it at a discount for me. As I had already dropped my car off somewhere else, I didn’t take him up on it. In retrospect, I probably could have saved some money if I had taken his recommendation.

On one occasion, I took in my second car, a 1994 Pontiac Grand Am, to get the oil changed. It had been making a bad sound when I drove, but as I had no money to get it fixed, I was ignoring it. Well, it turned out it was a bad wheel hub or bearing or one of those things in your wheel that is expensive and goes bad regularly on all the Pontiacs I have ever owned. My Psuedo Dad wanted to fix it right then, but he could tell from my questions that that wasn’t my plan. He asked why, so I told him. I didn’t have any money until I got my paycheck, which would be a week away. He had the mechanic do the repair on my car. All I paid for that day was the oil change. They trusted me to come back in a week and actually pay them several hundred dollars, which I did. My husband would say that it was probably some sort of critical repair that they weren’t allowed by law to let me leave without repairing it. But no one told me that at the time. So I choose to believe that my Pseudo Dad was just trying to help me out.

On another visit to the dealership (Probably for an oil change. I am pretty diligent about those. 203,000 miles on my current car proves that it is a smart strategy.) with the same 1994 Grand Am, my Pseudo Dad noticed that I had a sock tied to my drivers side mirror. Now, there was a logical reason for this. A semi had ripped my side mirror loose in a freak freeway entrance ramp merge gone bad. It was only hanging from the cords that connected it to the handle inside the car for adjustment. I tied the sock to the mirror so that it would prevent/reduce the mirror from scratching up the paint on the side of my car as it bounced around. My Pseudo Dad asked me if that is how I was drying my laundry. He found it very amusing. I did eventually get the mirror replaced, but I never got it painted. So the replaced mirror was flat black and the original one was glossy black.

A few months back, I thought my 2004 Pontiac Aztek was dead for good. I went to run an errand. I shut my car off and ran inside. When I returned to my car, it would not start at all. I had had no problem starting it 5 minutes before when I was at home. And it started to do this weird buzzing thing, where the needles on all my gauges would bounce up and down in sync with the buzzing. I left the car and walked home. I was afraid it would blow up.  (That would have been REALLY bad.  I left it in the parking lot of my insurance agent.  If my car burns down their building, do they still have to pay out the insurance for my car?) The next day we made a plan to take it up to the dealership to pronounce it dead. My husband ended up letting the tow truck company take it back to their garage, because he thought maybe it was just the battery. (Just a battery? But the thing WAS TICKING LIKE A TIME BOMB!) When I called to cancel the appointment with my Pseudo Dad, he talked to me for about 10 minutes, explaining how to check the voltage to see if it was a bad battery vs. a bad alternator. And he explained how a low battery can set off the anti-theft device. (I was not even aware that my car HAD an anti-theft device!)

When it comes to car repair, Pseudo Dads and GM Service Managers know what they are talking about. I don’t think my Pseudo Dad is still the manager. I think he has stepped back and is helping to train the new manager. Which is fine, as long as he is still there. Hopefully his retirement and my purchase of my dream car, a Jeep Wrangler, will coincide with each other.

My Pseudo Dad does not have the conventional looks of a sitcom dad. But, I am proud to call him my fake dad. Except that I don’t tell him I think of him that way. Because, you know, that would be weird…

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