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Why Am I Saying “Thank You?”

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Let me explain my title.

I am totally cool with thanking people for gifts, for those who hold the door for me, for all sorts of situations.

I am not cool with thanking a store for MY purchase.

But I find it happening every day, several times a day. Because that is how I was trained.

See, my first real job was at a local convenience store gas station. And while that may sound pretty unimportant, back in 1997 they had a woman who spent three days giving me orientation, customer service training, and chain smoking. And I was taught to thank every customer as they left the store, whether they purchased something or just used the bathroom.

Use it properly & use it often. You could just make someone's day.

Use it properly & use it often. You could just make someone’s day.

I so wish more businesses trained their employees like that today.

Every time I am at a retail store and I complete my payment, the cashier just says nothing to me. There needs to be some closer to the transaction. Handing me my receipt and saying, “Here you go,” is not an appropriate send off.

This is where I usually reflexively say, “Thank you.” I actually had an employee respond with “you’re welcome.” While I give her props for manners, I am the one patronizing their establishment. That should be my line.

My name is actually in the credits of Clerks 2-true story. (Thanks MySpace!)

My name is actually in the credits of Clerks 2-true story. (Thanks MySpace!)

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I realize cashiers get paid peanuts, have to use broken-down equipment, and are asked to up-sell customers who couldn’t care less. They either are in the position of quantity with slow customers or quality with customers who are in a hurry. Trust me, I’ve been there. But as a customer, my first priority is an accurate transaction. And the second most important thing to me is that I am thanked for my patronage.

I wish businesses would realize that is more desirable and meaningful than another reward card clogging up my wallet. If the employees were trained to do that, I believe they would. When I sell a book, I might even thank someone twice. If they manage to thank me first, I will correct them and say, “No, thank you.” Sometimes it is even in my inscription.

People think if they say the words, it is the same as still having manners in this day and age.

No. The correct person needs to say “please” and then “thank you”. Don’t even get me started on “excuse me”. When you say it with an attitude and are already pushing past me, you have missed the whole point of the phrase. You might as well say “Move, bitch” because that is how you mean it and how I am going to take it. For more on this, click here.

Just me venting. But I feel like other people out there must feel the same way. Is it so bad that for my money I want my goods and a thank you? I don’t think so. I’m not asking for a free cheeseburger or something. Thank yous are free.

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!

My Current Obsessions

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I am currently totally obsessing over Night Court.

What? You expected me to say Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black?

You haven’t been hanging around here long, have you?

Yes, of course I realize that Night Court is old. I’m old too, and watched it in its original run.

A scene from Night Court.

A scene from Night Court.

If you don’t remember, Night Court is a zany comedy set during the night proceedings of a courthouse in New York City. We have Brandon Tartikoff to thank for green-lighting the show and keeping it on the air when it was still trying to find its footing. I love Brandon Tartikoff. He was the head of NBC during its golden time in the 80s and the birth of Must-See TV. He is also the one who came up with the idea of Punky Brewster, naming it after a childhood friend of his. In turn, Punky’s dog was named after him. And then when I got my Punky Brewster-inspired tattoo, a guy named Brandon did it.

Coincidence?

Tartikoff also allowed Night Court creator Reinhold Weege to hold on tight to his baby and craft the show as he felt it should be, with as little network interference as possible. When there was, Weege firmly held his ground. I think I need to take a lesson out of that for my writing.

I totally need to add Brandon Tartikoff to my list of who I would want to eat dinner with, living or dead. One of my favorite episodes of Night Court even includes Tartikoff when he comes to the rescue of a Nielsen family in court. They never go on dates because then shows get cancelled. My heart aches right along with the woman when she wails, “WE LOST PUNKY!” Of course, I also love the episode guest-starring Michael J. Fox. I can see how tall I would be compared to the other cast members (Mikey and I are roughly the same height). I also love all the episodes with hard-luck couple Bob and June Wheeler. Brent Spiner is so laugh-out-loud funny in that role. I also love the episode where the hurricane hits and they are trapped in the courthouse and must deliver a bunch of babies. Paco is in that episode, who I love. It is also where we learn that Dan’s real name is “Reinhold.” But also that is where I learned what the word “breech” meant, which would come in handy around 25 years later when my son was born.

Bob & June Wheeler & their daughter little Carol Ann. And yes, that is totally the same actor who plays Data (Brent Spiner).

Bob & June Wheeler & their daughter little Carol Ann. And yes, that is totally the same actor who plays Data (Brent Spiner).

Night Court is a show that when doled out in weekly episodes is pleasant and funny. But it is really a show that benefits from binge watching. I realized this when it first hit syndication in the late 1980s. At that time, I could watch it four times a day, five if the prime-time episode was on that night as well. Currently, we own the DVD of season one. And when I binge watch Night Court, I always fall in love with Harold T. Stone.

Or is it Harry Anderson? Hard to tell. I also own season one of Dave’s World that I watch quite frequently.

Part of it may be that the first season episodes contain more “heartwarming” scenes than later seasons. Harry gets to be the voice of reason. Anderson claims he is more of a con man than an actor, but you wouldn’t know it from those episodes.

This sent me on a search for all things Harry. I found a Showtime special featuring his magic tricks and cons from Showtime in 1986 on YouTube. This is one of those times modern technology is great. (Unless you are Harry Anderson, wondering where all your royalties for “Hello, Sucker!” have gone.)

I am eagerly awaiting getting season two, although I realize the show hit its stride and was the best when Markie Post joined on in season three.

Still no Pikachu for me :-(

Still no Pikachu for me😦

I wanted to mention that I also tried Pokemon Go. I have never ever played Pokemon in my life. But with all the news stories about how dangerous it is and people walking into traffic while playing it and such, it was like an irresistible commercial for it everywhere. (I am the girl who used to go home from drug awareness day at school and see if any of my glue would give me a high, because the school had just opened my eyes to the world of inhalants. Everything works the opposite on me.) I had to try the game. I like it a lot, even though the camera on my phone and the game don’t seem to like each other. I do think it is cool how Google Maps (I assume) is integrated into the game, customizing it to your neighborhood. It is kind of slow. My husband and I walked for up to ten minutes sometimes without a Pokemon showing up. I love that the game is incredibly simple, because I am not good with most video games.

I’m not sure how much I will continue to play it, as I have to actually leave the house. It also eats up the battery on my phone like Cookie Monster at the Keebler factory. I can’t walk my dog while playing it. But I did take two walks yesterday, that I honestly probably would not have without the game.

Here is a fun article about the phenomenon from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/gaming/2016/07/10/five-things-we-learned-pokmon-go/86928122/

And now I totally can see how people follow their Pokemon right into traffic. I might be playing it right now as I typ tis..

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!

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Utopia Ever After or There I Was, in Six Lanes of Traffic…

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This is my post reviewing my experience attending UtopiaCon2016, and not really a review at all of the actual writing conference. I approached my trip by planning to attend as many panels and events as I could to make it worth the trip. But I also squeezed in as much sightseeing as I could.

I was scared to leave on Wednesday. I had to tell myself I wasn’t some college student taking a trip to visit a friend a state away. I was a forty-year-old woman who could go or do anything.

Everything went as planned, which was a relief, but I was also a little sad that I didn’t get any extra out of it. I mean, I’m glad I didn’t get a flat tire. I am thankful I never got truly lost. And I am beyond amazed that I only got one mosquito bite the whole time. They must spray the fuck outta that campground.

NASHVILLE-Campsite

The Seven Points Campground sits on beautiful J. Percy Priest Lake. I was worried because the website instructed campers to store their food properly because “skunks frequent the campground.” I am very glad to say I never saw a skunk. I did see a deer on two occasions. And one 3-hour torrential thunderstorm  :-/

The campsite I wish I had, right on the lake. An hour after I took this picture, a deer walked right through there.

The campsite I wish I had, right on the lake. An hour after I took this picture, a deer walked right through there.

I had a mantra as I looked out the 10th floor windows of the hotel: I can’t believe I’m in Nashville.

It then evolved into: I can’t believe I am in fuckin’ Nashville.

A curse only meant as a compliment, I assure you.

I left the conference on Thursday feeling like a failure, for reasons I won’t expound on here.

By Friday at noon, it left me confused.

I did learn that husbands will get used to you being a writer, just give them time. And if that doesn’t work, give them bribes.

Everyone else seemed to go to Utopia to create friendships. (Maybe I was too distracted by the musical history of Nashville.) I desired this too. The result was I strengthened a few existing friendships, and made a handful more acquaintances.

A performance at the Bluebird Cafe

A performance at the Bluebird Cafe

But maybe that isn’t what the universe had in store for me. I have been with my husband for nineteen years. In that time I have rarely traveled long distance without him. I left this experience feeling strong and confident. Several people called me brave for attempting to travel and camp all by myself. I replied, “Brave or stupid.” But I did feel brave afterwards. I am the chick who has to have her husband show her how the unfamiliar shower works when I stay in a hotel. And I figured out the showers at the campground all by myself. And I even coped when the lights went out on me, mid-shower. Thankfully, it was not yet after sunset. I figured it was a result of a motion-detecting light (I’ve had that happen before), only to discover that the whole campground was blacked out. (I’ve also experienced that before—the result of too many RVs running their AC at the same time. I don’t want to listen to them run all night anyway. But I did, because most had generators they then ran. Oy vey.)

The gorgeous Opryland Hotel. It was unbelievable.

The gorgeous Opryland Hotel. It was unbelievable.

And I was scared to drive in big cities—big surprise, I still am. But for a few days I made Nashville freeways my bitch. I could merge in on the left side on a three-lane road only to merge over in ¾ of a mile to exit on the right. I regularly drove on a six lane highway—anything over five lanes gives me the heebie-jeebies, although my focus was so much on the road that my hands, wrists, and shoulder ached, and there was a giant dam next to me that I only managed to see one out of eight passes.

Maybe I have to improve myself before I can improve my writing and be a contributing member of a tribe. Or maybe I am just a giant dork. There is always that possibility. Or would that be a certainty?

Side view of the Opry stage.

Side view of the Opry stage.

While others were fangirling over authors, I was fangirling over the Grand Ole Opry. I got so excited that I couldn’t find it. Then I got hot weather, jerky & lemon cake, sick stomach. Then I spent all my time backstage taking pictures and not actually enjoying the experience. I stood on and touched “the circle” at the center of the stage. I did sit in the seats long enough to sort of feel as though I had really spent some time there and not just rushed through. The Ryman was known as “the mother church of country music.” The latest Opry still has pews rather than individual seats. It really felt like a religious experience being there. Last time I had that same feeling was at a Kid Rock concert (Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp, anyone?). Why do I only experience that with music? Not when writing, not ever in an actual church.

ME ON THE STAGE AT THE GRAND OLE OPRY!!!

ME ON THE STAGE AT THE GRAND OLE OPRY!!!

Saturday I spent the most time interacting with actual other people and having conversations. By Sunday morning, every time I would talk to myself (perfectly normal when you travel alone), I didn’t recognize my own voice. I had developed a southern accent. My mother had tried to call me the night before. Knowing I sounded “altered”, there was no way I could call her back until this passed.

It turned out to be only a 24 hour thing, like the flu, which made me a little sad. In a way, I liked my free souvenir.

My proof that I have been to Alabama, the setting of The Riley Sisters series.

My proof that I have been to Alabama, the setting of The Riley Sisters series.

The panels and talks I enjoyed the most were ones that were more emotional than informative. Heather Hildenbrand’s “The Audacity of Self-Love” had to be my favorite.

I’m not sure yet if I will return next year. If I do, maybe I should exhibit rather than attend panels. It is so confusing to figure out what the universe wants from you…

By coincidence, I stopped at the gas station across from this store coming and going. It amuses me.

By coincidence, I stopped at the gas station across from this store coming and going. It amuses me.

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!

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Utopia Anxiety

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How can Utopia (noun: any visionary system of political or social perfection. -Dictionary.com) ever be a cause of anxiety, you ask?

Well, I’m talking about Utopia Con, a writers conference happening THIS WEEK in Nashville, Tennessee.

Last year at this time, I was sitting at home, trying to figure out what this event was that every single author I had met in my short six months as a published author was attending. Everyone said it was life-changing.

UTOPia art 2016

So, in October of last year, when I started to see tickets selling out for this event, I purchased my ticket. Even though neither my husband nor I had a job and things looked super-bleak, I bought one because my inner voice told me to. And I am glad it did. My husband and I are both employed at the moment, things are slightly better, and my publishing is in a little bit of a funk.

I am going to Utopia, first, in search of new friendships. I need someone to message me occasionally and say “keep it up.” I could do the same for them. Fellow authors E.A. Comiskey & Patti Keno are great for that, but I am kinda high maintenance.

Second, I need to be re-inspired. I went from knowing nothing about independent publishing to educating myself on writing, editing, formatting, proofreading, swag, even the climate and crops of Alabama! But I have new books brewing, and they scream to have improved marketing and better sales. How can I do that? I hope I will find the answers.

So, I am worried, because I am taking this big huge trip by myself– From Michigan to Nashville. And I am poor, so I am camping, in a tent. But I love the tent. I don’t really love bugs or hot weather or rain, but hopefully they will not spoil the trip too much for me. Part of me is SO looking forward to having some alone time. My son is 5 1/2. I haven’t been alone, except to go to work, in 5 1/2 years it seems. But also, I will be ALONE. No one to lean on and help me.

WARNING: This may only be interesting to others attending the same conference.

So, I present to you, a list of my worries:

– The campground will lose my reservation
– Rain
– Heat
– Cold
– Skunks (the website warned that they frequent the campground!)
– Not having anyone to talk to
– Having too many people to talk to
– No one will give me a hug
– Strangers will hug me and it will feel awkward
– Not learning anything helpful
– Learning that I am not worthy to be publishing books
– My worn tire will blow out, causing me to careen into a semi trailer on the expressway and die
– There is so much road construction that I won’t arrive until I’m due to return home
– I will miss my family
– My family will miss me too much
– My family won’t miss me at all
-I will starve
– I won’t get to see any of the Nashville sights
– My front driver wheel will fall off because it has a lose control arm and needs the ball joint replaced
– My front passenger wheel will fall off because it also needs a new ball joint.
– There won’t be any Mobil gas stations down south (I want to use my Mobil credit card as much as possible on the trip. My first job was at a Mobile gas station. For a pretty thorough description of it, read Books 1 and 2 of the Riley Sisters series ;-D )

There are many more, but I have to go look at maps and try and figure out where to park to go to the Bluebird Cafe!!!

I will give you an update on my adventure in my blog and newsletter when I return. (IF I return…)

Haven’t signed up for my newsletter yet? Get to it:  http://eepurl.com/7YhHr

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!

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Ghost Trestle Letdown

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I tried to be like Scooby-Doo and his gang this weekend and solve a ghostly mystery, but no such luck.

A few years ago, courtesy of Facebook, I learned of a spot near Adrian known as the Ghost Trestle. I am all for anything related to trains, so I printed out the directions how to get there. And stuffed them in my desk. And a year or two later, I actually got around to finding the spot. It is a very creepy spot that does provide sufficient heebie-jeebies.

The Ghost Trestle on Bailey Hwy in Madison Township, just south of Gier Road.

The Ghost Trestle on Bailey Hwy in Madison Township, just south of Gier Road.

I drove my son out there recently so that he could see it. He wanted to know the ghost story. I tried to cobble it together from what I could remember. When I got home, I Googled it. Here is what I found:

Legend has it that at one time there was a farm house built near the tracks. Late one night a fire broke out in the barn. While the father ran to the barn to try to get the horses out, his wife and young son went to the tracks to wave down one of the many trains that would use that right of way. They were too close to the tracks however and both were struck by the train as it went past. The father was killed in the barn. Now if you go out there late at night, you can sometimes communicate with the Father. He will not allow you to talk to his wife or son; as if he was protecting them . There are other people living in the area now, and a large streetlight has been placed there by the people who own the neighboring land. If you stay there to long, they will call the police. However if you make your visit short enough they will usually leave you to it. This place has also been described as a good place to go to contact other spirits. The Father can be asked to help in this matter. He will not allow antagonistic spirits to talk however; once again to protect his family.

www.paranormalmichigan.com

Low and behold, all five or so results that come up are all the same story. EXACTLY THE SAME. Cut & paste in this age of technology, baby. Everyone is saying “This is the story”, when in reality, it is just one person’s story repeated over and over. The originator could have been a big, fat liar, and no one would be the wiser.

So, I decided it would be MY job to come up with the definitive truth behind this legend. I took a genealogical approach to the situation. I began how I begin every search, which I am sure is not at all how everyone else begins: with an atlas and a cemetery search. I know, it sounds weird and labor-intensive, but I have found the best stuff about my ancestors that way.

The atlas is a combined reissue from 1978 from my local historical society featuring maps from years 1874, 1893,  and 1916. Where the ghost trestle is located can be pretty easily found on the map, as it is just south of the intersection of Bailey & Gier roads, the Wabash (also DT&I and Lake Shore & Michigan Southern) railroad, and the nearby south branch of the River Raisin. I jotted down the names of the people who owned the land near there at those three times.

On the 1874 map, the railroad is just a “proposed route” which differs slightly from where it was actually built, so I use 1874 as my starting date. I found mention of an article from the Adrian Daily Telegram on August 23, 1897 where an N. Stevens talks about a haunted house. A website attributed it to the ghost trestle. I didn’t verify it, but used 1897 as my high-end cut off for dates.

Then, since it was 10:00pm at night and too late to go to the actual Madison Township cemetery, I searched on the website FindaGrave.com to look for any family members who all died on the same day or year. I came across the tombstone of “B. Carpenter and wife Eliza and Dau. Lucy.”

Tombstone from Madison Township Cemetery

Tombstone from Madison Township Cemetery

When I found the tombstone, I cried. It was really no proof of anything, but just the thought of a family all dying together upset me, the proof before me, their names carved in stone. And what if it had been under such tragic circumstances?

No dates visible in the picture or provided on the website. But that they are all on the same marker struck me as interesting. I had relatives, a husband and wife, who perished with another couple when they all fell through a frozen Devil’s Lake in 1858. All four of their names are on the same tombstone, two different sir names. Most people other than myself would have no idea why.

Michigan has an AWESOME database where you can look up actual death certificates. I found out how my great-great grandmother and infant aunt died using it. But, unfortunately, it BEGINS in 1897. No Carpenters for me.

So, I started Googling and looking at census for the Carpenter family in Madison. I watched them age every ten years, learned their family relationships. B. most likely stood for Benjamin. Eliza may have stood for Elizabeth. Very common names back then. And if he were to have married and had a child between census, it wouldn’t have caught it.

I went to the historical museum and searched their card catalog of obituaries, some dating from the 1800s. It is usually a gold mine of info. All I found was the possible listing of Benjamin’s mother’s death on December 10, 1893. It was a death notice, and not a full obituary; sometimes they are like mini-family histories. I asked all the employees at the library. The one gentleman used to go out to the Ghost Trestle with his friends as a teenager. All he could remember was that when heading south on Bailey road on the northwest side of the tracks on the right there was an old house that has since been torn down. That was cool, but didn’t really help me much.

And there are so many variables to consider, giving me roadblocks. The ghost story relies on the sweet image of a newlywed couple and their first child, an entire family perishing tragically in one night. But what if there were other children who survived? What if it had been grandparents with a grandchild?

And some seem to believe the Ghost Trestle is haunted from those who died roughly 10 miles away in Seneca in 1901 in the wreck of the Wabash. (There will be an event on September 24, 2016 at Oakwood Cemetery in Adrian to memorialize all the victims, including 75 to 100 Italian immigrants whose resting place has only recently been discovered.) But I don’t feel like the Seneca ghosts would want to trot that far to spook a bunch of drunk teenagers. And the houses? One allegedly torn down and another still standing? They could be a clue for someone else, but I am not good at researching property records.

I wanted this blog post to be the absolute history of the Ghost Trestle, with sources and shit. I didn’t set out to prove if it was haunted or not, just if it had a story that could support the possibility.

So, I was unable to find any concrete proof of anything. I still just have a tombstone with no dates. And there was Benjamin Carpenter who had a son Benjamin. Families all reused names over and over again. Who the hell knows who is really buried under that stone! I need to run out to the cemetery, see if there is maybe a family marker with more information. There is a very real chance that these people died totally uneventfully and are at peace in the afterlife. But, well, I have to abandon this search for now. In the next week I have a book to convert from longhand to electronic and a list of four books I want to have read, in addition to planning and packing for my first ever trip to Utopia con, a writers conference.

I made a fake ghost. Do not believe that this is real.

I made a fake ghost. Do not believe that this is real.

My thoughts right now are that it just happens to be a creepy bridge, and nothing of the story of the farmer and his wife and child are true. It would almost be good if that were the case, it is such a sad story.

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!

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