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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

Blow the Fence Down

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We have had high winds this week. We never lost power. I considered that a win.

Until I let my dog out last night, and she didn’t return.

That is when I discovered we had a fence down.

What the wooden privacy fence used to look like.

After. Where, oh where, has my little dog gone? Oh where, oh where can she be?

Still, I am going to count us as pretty fortunate considering the damage others have sustained.

And I recovered my escaped dog within an hour, unharmed.

If you want to read more about how we had a (previously) fully-fenced backyard, but still cannot keep our dogs contained within it, you should check out this post: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2013/06/25/a-determined-dog-cannot-be-fenced/

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

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Excerpt: Winter Holiday Scene of Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom

Normally I would start by sharing the first chapter of the book with ya’ll, but since I know we are all in the Christmas spirit right now, I have decided to share this chapter with you first. This is about halfway through the book. Ginny has moved into the castle with the prince, who has ascended to the throne of king by this point in time. The curse is ravaging the land. They are celebrating Winter Holiday, which is pretty much a solstice celebration.

Enjoy!

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Ginny tried to ignore what Jeremie had said about the holiday approaching. They had never done much to celebrate at the orphanage. The girls had usually given each other gifts that they had handmade from whatever had been lying around. Knitted scarves or socks were popular. Ginny never received anything, subsequently it wasn’t a big deal to her. Sure, she felt a pang of emptiness in her heart as the other girls exchanged presents and hugged each other, excluding her. But she was actually grateful; it was the one day annually that they never were outright cruel to her. If that was their gift to her, she would take it in a heartbeat. Would’ve been nice if it could last two days, or three, or a week though.

But apparently Winter Holiday was a much bigger affair at the castle. Jeremie kept assuring her that this year would be a small celebration, nothing like when he was a boy and his father had still been alive. He told her of how there had been visitors from foreign lands, including singers and dancers. They would perform at the great dances that were held in the castle’s main ballroom. Ginny had accidentally walked into the empty space once when she had gotten lost upon first arriving at the castle. The room was ginormous. It was bigger than Miss Peters’s cottage, the bed house, and the barn—combined. Jeremie assured her that it used to be filled to the brim with tables jam-packed with every delectable food you could think of (which Ginny could only think of two) and guests suited in their most elegant attire. She could not imagine it. And being an avid reader, she was usually good at utilizing her imagination.

Ginny was in awe of all the decorations that adorned the castle. Green boughs hung in the main hallways, the ones to and from the dining hall and the royal chambers. She had lost count of the number of pine trees that had been chopped down, brought inside, and decorated. The baubles and tinsel were so plentiful as to conceal any branch imperfections brought about by the plague. One ornament on any given tree looked like it was worth more than the orphanage had taken in in any single year. Ginny couldn’t help but imagine if the girls from the orphanage ever got in here. They would be picking the trees bare of all their trinkets, not really caring about them, only what value they would have for resale.

On the last night of the Winter Holiday celebration, local musicians were brought into the castle to perform. There was a modest buffet of food for the intimate collection of guests. Ginny was curious, but she knew her place, knew that she did not fit in with that crowd. But she desperately wanted to listen to the music, and maybe a little of the voices of everyone else’s merry-making. Accordingly, she hid in the library, with the door slightly ajar. She had a book in her lap, but found that her attention was not in it. She had been on the same page for over an hour, her eyes trailing over the same words but not comprehending them. Her concentration was with all the festivities nearby.

She jumped when the heavy wooden door groaned with movement.

“So this is where you are hiding yourself. You know, I almost had to send Luke out in the snow to search for you.”

“You know I get cold easily. It is unlikely I would run off out in the weather.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“That’s true,” she bowed her head, pretending to study her book.

“Why aren’t you attending the party?”

“It would make me uncomfortable.” It was the truth, and with a nod of his head Jeremie seemed to accept her answer. “I am enjoying the music though. I have heard so little in my lifetime. This is a rare pleasure.”

“Well, we will have to see about getting more of it into your life.”

They were both quiet for a moment. Jeremie moved to take a seat in the chair next to the settee Ginny was stretched out on. He leaned his head way back and exhaled, as if entertaining guests was an effort for him. Then he sat back up and met her eyes.

“I was hoping I could catch up with you before you turned in for the night.”

“Why?”

“I have a present for you.”

“Why? No, I don’t need it. Your taking me into the castle is gift enough.”

“You make it sound like the castle is another orphanage. From the few stories you have told me, I think I am insulted by that.”

“Well, I didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

“You are not free-loading. You are here because you are contributing to the Curse Task Force. And you are doing an excellent job. And—and that is why I want to give you this,” he stuttered thoughtfully.

He reached into an inner pocket of his coat and pulled out a small leather sheath. When he held it out to her, the light from the fireplace caught the silver in the handle and she had a loud intake of breath. She found herself reaching for it even as she said, “But I couldn’t…”

“My father gave this to me when I was a boy. I mostly used it to whittle wood and stab scarecrows. But I’ve had it cleaned and sharpened, therefore it should be in excellent condition for you to take with you on the road.”

“You mean I will be traveling with the company?” Ginny was dumbfounded. She had never expected this.

“Of course. I need my number one girl with me.”

Her heart fluttered, although she knew he didn’t mean it. Not in the way she wanted. Even then, even if someday he grew to like her as she did him, it was all for naught. Ginny knew she could never even allow herself to dream of one day marrying a king. The people of the kingdom would never allow it. Not that there was likely to be any kingdom left whatsoever.

“But you will need it for protection,” she argued.

“I will have my sword, and several knights protecting me. But on the occasion you may get separated, it would be wise for you to have your own weapon.”

Ginny relented and slid the knife from the sheath to examine it. She tried it out, stabbing the air in front of her. It was the perfect size for her chubby, female hands. “Alright. But when the mission is done, you must let me return it.”

“I would never think of letting you do any such thing,” he snickered.

Ginny smiled wide in spite of herself. But her head was bowed, so he couldn’t tell, she didn’t think.

She reached into a fold of her dress and pulled out a small book, handing it to Jeremie.

“What is this?” he asked, studying the plain brown leather cover.

“A gift. I uncovered it in the library.”

“If it came from the library, then it is already sort of mine, isn’t it?” he chuckled, looking at her sideways.

“But you would never think to go in there and poke around yourself. You needed me to find it for you,” she smirked, knowing she had him. “Plus, what do you get the king who already has everything?”

“OK, I give. What is this?”

“It appears to be a history of the kingdom that Merrick kept on his own. I found it in a bureau drawer, almost as if someone was trying to hide it.”

“Weird. So, it mentions my father a lot?”

“I only peeked, but it has your grandfather too.”

He shifted it from one palm to the other, as if weighing the information contained within.

“Thank you for this. And for your friendship.”

“Thank you. Blessed solstice to you.”

“The same to you.”

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 – 2/22/15

This week I learned that I can’t run the space heater downstairs at the same time that I run the space heater upstairs. At least not in using the outlets I tried with the other day. I tripped my circuit breaker.

Not my actual heater

Not my actual heater

This week I also learned that it might not be wise to burn candles directly underneath my thermostat. It turns out, the radiant heat that it produces is enough to throw off the thermometer just enough that the furnace will not come on as often as it should.

Yes, it was damn cold this week in Michigan.

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

PURCHASE as a Paperback or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

I Hate Nancy Kerrigan

Since the Winter Olympics are happening now, I thought this might be a good time to write this post. Otherwise, well, I will have to wait another four years for it to be semi-relevant.

In 1994, you all probably remember that Tonya Harding’s husband at the time paid a hit man to club Nancy Kerrigan in the knee, so that Nancy would not be able to make the Olympic team and Tonya would. The result was that they both made the Olympic team anyway.  Tonya qualified at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and would go on to finish 8th at the Olympics that year.  Nancy went to the Olympics on a special “we-were-all-planning-for-her-to-go-anyway” pass. She only got silver and blamed it on her knee injury. In reality, she probably wouldn’t have done better than silver, injury-free. And I am not sure she deserved silver anyway.

That is the controversy everyone remembers.

Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan

Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan

Let me give you a little background on how figure skating got to be so popular in the mid-90’s. CBS had lost their contract with the NFL. They needed programming, specifically sports, to fill in their Saturday and Sunday afternoon programming blocks. They chose to put on figure skating, both amateur and professional, competitions and shows. So skaters and performances that had previously not been aired on TV were suddenly in my living room every weekend. My mom and I watched them all. The Olympics of 1992 came and went, putting the faces of the champions front and center on our cereal boxes and in our commercials.

The decision was made to stagger the Summer and Winter Olympics, so that they would no longer occur in the same year. In order to start this staggered cycle, the next Winter Olympics was moved up to 1994. So, the cycle of competitions that led up to the Olympics started again right away (Nationals, Worlds). Many of the competitors were the same, because it was only two years later. It was exciting to watch their skills develop and grow. To make matters more familiar, at the 1994 games there was a rule change that let professionals compete at the Olympics again. Many big names competed again, such as Brian Boitano, Victor Petrenko, and Katerina Witt, although none reclaimed their previous glory.

Now, while I love to talk smack about Nancy Kerrigan, I feel a little guilty doing it, because she was good friends with Paul Wylie. Wylie surprised many by winning the silver medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. I had a huge crush on Paul Wylie. I even painted a picture of him skating in art class. (That is how obsessed I was with him and skating.)

Paul Wylie

Paul Wylie (The first celebrity I [did not] stalk on the Internet)

My mom and I even went to see Stars on Ice at the Toledo Sports Arena around 1992. I was so happy to see Debbie Thomas perform in person. She was always my favorite. I be she remembers that performance too. She sprained her ankle right in front of me. A few weeks later, she officially retired from skating to become a doctor.

And, this is all more figure skating history from a TV viewer than you probably want to know.

The fact that we are still talking about the rivalry between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding 20 years later is crazy. ESPN just did an interview with Tonya Harding about it. Neither of them would still be household names if it wasn’t for the incident. Tonya was very athletic and completed powerful jumps, but she lacked artistry. Kerrigan could skate around artistically, but often had trouble completing her jumps.  But that damn tape kept making the rounds, of Nancy whining “Why? Why me? WHY!” Man, that gets annoying quick. I realize it should not have happened. It gave both women an unwanted legacy.

Nancy Kerrigan on the cover of Newsweek

Nancy Kerrigan on the cover of Newsweek

The real reason I don’t like Nancy Kerrigan is because I believe her nicey-nice routine is all an act. I have never met her, of course, but I just believe that in uncensored moments she gets caught for the bitch that she is. I started this post with the event that the world still remembers. The following is the event that sticks in my mind the most.

My mom and I watched live the 1994 Winter Olympic Women’s Skating Finals in Lilehammer. We saw with our own eyes that while poor little Oksana Baiul found out she had won the gold and was falling apart, Nancy Kerrigan was waiting on the ice and making nasty comments, in a very unsportsmanlike way. Oksana was virtually an orphan, her coach having guardianship of her. She was only 16, from a poor country where she had nothing, and just found out she had a gold medal. Oksana was freaking out, rightfully so. All Nancy could do was make snotty comments about Oksana taking forever to fix her makeup.

#1 – Why would you ever say such a thing?

#2 – Why would you ever say such a thing with a TV camera in your face documenting it?

It only leads me to one conclusion–that that is her true personality, that she didn’t even realize how rude that sounded to shield it from others’ ears. It was like the whole country thought she was this sweet little princess with the blind mother. But I could see that she wasn’t. She felt she was entitled to a gold medal, and she was pissed that cute little Oksana had gotten in her way.

As this incident never gets mentions, I assumed the rest of the world had forgotten about it, except my mom and I. I was pleased to see it was mentioned in Nancy’s Wikipedia entry. It also mentions when she rode a float in the Disney parade and, with an open mic she didn’t realize was on, she made comments like “I hate this. This is so corny.” to none other than Mickey Mouse himself.

Oh, yes. It is sooo “corny” to get to be the guest of honor in a Disney parade and ride on a float wearing your Olympic silver medal.

Talk about not being thankful for the things you have.

I pity you.

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