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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

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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!

Mr. Winkle

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I used to work at the corporate office of a now defunct book retailer. I saw lots of interesting stuff pass through that building. Some of it I even got to take home. In that building, I was introduced to Jason Mraz (awesome), Domo (so cool), and Robin Thicke (I thought he would totally bomb. Boy, was I wrong.). I fell in love with Kid Rock, Good Charlotte, Fearless, and Twilight because of that place.

But one of the strangest things I probably fell in love with was Mr. Winkle.

What is a Mr. Winkle, you ask?

Little do you now, Mr. Winkle has built a retail empire based on the hypothesis of the answer to that question.

Cat in a Dog Suit? Photo: Lara Jo Regan

Cat in a Dog Suit?
Photo: Lara Jo Regan

The first time I heard of Mr. Winkle, he was a magazine article hanging outside of the cubicle of someone in the calendar buying group. It had a picture of Mr. Winkle with a zipper on his chest, with the headline “Is It A Dog In A Cat Suit or A Cat In A Dog Suit.” (Those calendar folks always were a little off their rockers. I believe it was all the November allocation stress. But that is what made it so much fun to become a part of that department a few years later.) Next, pictures appeared of Mr. Winkle dressed as a bee, a space alien, and his impression of a nasty, mean-old squirrel were hung up on the cubicle as well.

I fell in love with that stupid dog!

A squirrel? Photo: Lara Jo Regan

A squirrel?
Photo: Lara Jo Regan

When the kind calendar folks learned of my love of all things Winkle, they made sure to save me one of his calendars every year. I sent him an email…

AND HE ANSWERED ME BACK! How great is that for a celebrity whose species is not even equipped with opposable thumbs!

Soon Mr. Winkle was also releasing children’s books. I bought the first one, then the second. I bought his four minute video. (I don’t like to do any obsession part way! See also The Wienermobile.) My peeps at work gave me the hook-up on some Mr. Winkle plush (not available in stores).

Mr. Winkle swag

Mr. Winkle swag

Mr. Winkle even appeared on an episode of Sex & The City! (By the way, that is the only episode of that show that I have ever watched.)

But in 2003, a great dream of mine would come true. Mr. Winkle’s handler and photographer, Lara Jo Regan, kept him on a short leash (pun intended). He traveled and did media appearances, but very few. So when I found out that he would be coming to Michigan, it was as if my [stalker] dreams had come true!

What is Mr. Winkle 2001 calendar Photo: Lara Jo Regan

What is Mr. Winkle 2001 calendar
Photo: Lara Jo Regan

Mr. Winkle was going to appear at the Birmingham Borders book store. Now, I am afraid to drive in big cities. I tend to lump all of downtown and the surrounding suburbs into one scary-ass mess known as Detroit. But as my husband went with me, I probably made him drive. My crazy friend went with us too, because her Winkle love also ran deep.

We were some of the first people there. The line became SO LONG behind us. Finally Lara Jo arrived. Mr. Winkle had a little leopard-print dog bed to chill in while he met his fans. He was giving out pawtographs and was available for photos with fans. No one was allowed to hold him or touch him.

It turns out, Mr. Winkle, who looks like a cross between a shaved Pomeranian and a Chihuahua on uranium has the nasty personality of both! By the time it was my turn, I was kind of scared to stoop next to him. He had snarled at quite a few folks. Lara Jo just chastised him. She was obviously used to his breed nastiness. It was still a really awesome day. I have his pawtograph hanging upstairs. I had our picture together displayed in my cubicle, alongside his annual calendars.

Mr. Winkle & Me, taken by award-winning photographer Lara Jo Regan

Mr. Winkle & Me, taken by award-winning photographer Lara Jo Regan

I am sad to say that I do not have a complete collection of Mr. Winkle calendars. But I do have his 2014 calendar hanging in my kitchen right now. It features pics from his “Nudes” collection. I am bothered that his website never gets updated. That was acceptable in 2003, not so much in 2014. Everything on the Internet says that he is still alive. He would be like 20 years old by now. I loved him, but I blame continued merchandising on his longevity.

Other weirdly adorable animals have tried to steal Mr. Winkle’s spotlight. [I will most definitely not name their names here.] But I sincerely wanted to write a post about what Mr. Winkle has meant to me, and how he will always be a “Top Dog” in my book, right behind my own dogs.

Mr. Winkle pawtograph

Mr. Winkle pawtograph

R.I.P. Data Betta (2012-2013)

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Data Betta looking at his reflection.  There is also an African Dwarf Frog in there too, but he is tiny.

Data Betta, June 2012

 

I didn’t realize we had had  him for a year.  That is the longest we have ever kept a fish alive.  I cured him of ich last June.  His number could have been up then.  Betta was a good fish.  And the handsomest Betta I have ever seen.

He will be missed.

What I Learned This Week – 1/20/2013

This week I learned that I can still write fiction.

I pulled out an old short story and have been working on it. I hope to debut it on my blog in the coming weeks.

I declared the story “finished” probably 18 years ago. But something kept nagging me about it–a scene here or there that I knew needed a rewrite, facts that were just a little bit off.

I thought this story just kept nagging me because I consider it the “best” story I have written (more for its length than anything else). But, in retyping and revising it, I realized that it speaks to a deeper part of me than I ever realized before. That this story was going to give me an opportunity that life will never give me.

Although I thought it was finished, it has a few more story lines that need to play out;)

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