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“We are not going to Mackinaw City.”

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My mom and I took a vacation “Up North” in Michigan in June of 1990. I had completed 8th grade, and was due to change buildings to start scary high school in the fall. My 80’s perm that I had finally gotten caused my hair to become dry and frizzy, and I didn’t have the good sense yet to cut it of. My hair would never be as long again until my future wedding. I still toted my New Kids on The Block book with me, and of course my stuffed animal Barfeys.

Turning in for the night with the essentials

Turning in for the night with the essentials

We were only going for three days. My mom decided we would travel up the west side of the state. This was a change from trips we had taken Up North in the past. Usually we were gone for four days, to allow for more sight-seeing, and we usually traveled up the east side or the middle of the state.

“We are not going to Mackinaw City.”

This was my mom’s statement, over and over again, as we planned out the trip. Mackinaw City, and with it the Mackinaw Bridge, are two of my mom’s favorite things in the world. We had been there before. But I think she made the statement for two reasons.

  • I think she wanted to see something new we had not seen before, which is why we went up the west side of the state.
  • How she travels, then this took longer, and I don’t think she had enough money for us to have another night’s motel stay.
  • And she did not want to drive all the way home from Mackinaw City in one day.

Wait. That is three reasons. But they are all related to each other.

We headed off at the end of June. My mom must have thought I was old enough to pack for myself, because I went without a jacket. It is summer! It is June! Who needs a jacket!

That was the gloomiest, rainiest, coldest end of June, until 2015. Since then, I have learned that it is always colder the further north you go, and near the water. Either way, it was still colder than it should have been. My mom told me to layer my T-shirts, so I did. It did not really help to keep me any warmer.

Our first major stop was Holland, Michigan. It was really awesome to see an actual Dutch windmill. There were dancers who wore wooden shoes. They were impressive. Even with wearing layers and layers of socks, I still figured that must be the worst summer job in town.

We traveled through Muskegon that day, and spent the night in Manistee. I kept thinking how much it sounded like “manatee.” We went to sleep and dreamed of warm days and sunny skies. But the dawn brought only more clouds and rain.

In the morning, my mother reminded me, “We are not going to Mackinaw City. We need to start heading back down for home tonight, so we will not have a long drive tomorrow.”

We traveled through Frankfort and spotted a lighthouse across the water. Lighthouses are my favorite. If I recall correctly, my mom found a condo parking lot she drove through to get a better look at it. The Frankfort light may have been the first one I ever saw with a breakwater attached to it. The way the rough waters splashed up against it was impressive. I could have captured it better with a digital camera, but they did not exist yet.

Frankfort Breakwater Light, Frankfort, MI 1990

Frankfort Breakwater Light, Frankfort, MI 1990

We stopped at Sleeping Bear Dunes, another of my favorite places. Not so much when it is blowing and cold and rainy though. The first time we had ever been there, I was like eight years old. My mom wasn’t spry enough to climb the dunes with me, and I was too young to climb them by myself. Now, I was old enough to go up myself, but the weather was just too crappy. We bought me a souvenir T-shirt in the gift shop, to add to my layers of warmth. (I was wearing all the shirts I had brought for the entire vacation every day.) It was neon pink and three sizes too big, because I was not done with 80’s fashions yet.

The wind is blowing my shirt, but it looks like something else...

The wind is blowing my shirt, but it looks like something else…

If you think this is just a post about me whining about a gloomy trip, please stick with me. I am almost to the part where the cloud bank lifts and the angels sing. Actually, it was a band playing, but you get the idea…

We went to Traverse City. We drove out on Old Mission Point and found another lighthouse. We couldn’t go inside or climb this one either, but at least we could take pictures out front.

Old Mission Point Lighthouse, near Traverse City, MI 1990

Old Mission Point Lighthouse, near Traverse City, MI 1990

Then a strange thing happened.

My mom got on the road to Mackinaw City (Route 31, most likely). We passed through little towns. We passed by convenience stores selling fudge. We passed through the big cities of Charlevoix and Petoskey.

She kept driving. I kept quiet. Sure, I was the navigator with the map, but she had to know we were headed for Mackinaw City, right? After all, there were road signs that indicated we were nearing it. Billboards advertising the various ferry companies, Arnold, Sheplers, and Star Line, became more and more prominent.

Another funny thing happened. The clouds began to clear.

But she was the mother, the adult, and she had said, “We are not going to Mackinaw City.”

Had she lost her mind? Taken leave of her senses?

Either way, I was keeping my mouth shut, because I really really DID want to go to Mackinaw City. I figured if I didn’t say anything, we would just end up there and it would be too late.

And that is just what happened. We rolled into Mackinaw City. And while I wouldn’t say the sun came out, the rain stopped.

The weather improved enough that the kite store was flying a long string of colorful kites up into the sky, all tied to one another. It was like a fabric rainbow after the rain. The scent of fresh fudge hung heavy in the air. Next to the Straits of Mackinac in the park at the end of the street, a huge band started to set up. When they began to play, the music drifted down the street, where cars were parked along the center boulevard as they probably had since the 1950’s, and souvenir shops lined up next to each other. Since the 4th of July was only a few weeks away, they had many patriotic songs mixed into their selections. I guess it made sense that they were playing in the town square, since it was a Saturday evening. But I was on vacation, and had lost all track of time.

Actual program from that night's performance

Actual program from that night’s performance

I just think back on that night so fondly. It is one of the moments in my life that I will cherish forever. That may be one of the most relaxed and happy times of my life, right then. My mom and I walked the shops until the lights shined brightly inside and the sun fell below the horizon, in the shadow of the giant bridge, connecting the the two peninsulas like a neck connects a head to a body.

In the morning, the sun shone brightly in the sky (of course!). We made one last visit to my mom’s favorite park by the bridge, then started off on our long trip home.

Mackinac Bridge, Mackinaw City, MI 1990

Mackinac Bridge, Mackinaw City, MI 1990

Years later, I admitted to her that I knew where we were headed but I hadn’t said anything. “Oh, I knew where we were going. But we were that close, and I just couldn’t help but head up there.”

Still, I think she may have been in a vacation daze. If I had said anything, who knows, it may have snapped her out of it. Then we never would have gone to Mackinaw City. I wish I was there right now. With a jacket, just in case…

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books When You Least Expect It & The Wind Could Blow a Bug AVAILABLE NOW! (The Wind Could Blow a Bug is ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time.)

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

Thank You L.A. Remenicky

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LA Remenicky

Thank you so much to L.A. Remenicky for devoting her blog to little old me today. Please stop over and show her some love.

http://www.laremenicky.com/blog/glbb-tuesday-jennifer-friess

Thank you to everyone who puts up with me bumbling my way through being an author. Each new connection I make helps me to develop and improve.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books When You Least Expect It & The Wind Could Blow a Bug AVAILABLE NOW! (The Wind Could Blow a Bug is ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time.)

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

Inside the Author Interview

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INTERVIEW MRPOLISH-mic

Hey!

Today M.R. Polish, author of paranormal, fantasy, and romance, has an interview with little old me on her blog. Click on over and go check it out.

http://www.mrpolishauthor.com/#!InsideTheAuthor-Interview-Series-with-Jennifer-Friess/c1ydf/559710eb0cf2efdf74eb50fa

Now I feel all famous and junk!

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books When You Least Expect It & The Wind Could Blow a Bug AVAILABLE NOW! (The Wind Could Blow a Bug is ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time.)

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

The Riga Flood

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We are all just the sum of our stories, right? And while one person might see my stories as boring and insignificant, another might just find them relatable and moving. Certain childhood events stand out on the virtual timeline more than others.

The flood of 1981 in Riga, Michigan is one of those events in my life. The River Raisin crested in nearby Blissfield at a record 687.10 ft. (Flood stage is 683 ft.) It is actually a much cooler story from my mom’s point of view. After all, I was only five years old when all this happened. I just did as I was told, and followed my mom’s lead. [Only recently have I realized that she must have spent my entire youth faking strength. She should have been an actress.]

As my mom tells it, she was asleep on the couch in the living room. Our dog Ginger was fussing around in the middle of the night. My mom woke up and swore at the dog. She wasn’t in the mood to get up and let her out. Then my mom sniffed. The dog didn’t want to go out. She was reacting to the weird smell in the air. My mom got up and checked the basement. The weird smell was water flowing into the furnace. The rain combined with the spring thaw of snow was causing water to pour through cracks in the basement walls.

It is probably useful to mention at this point in my story, for those unaware of local history, that before Riga was settled in 1843, it was all swamp. The swamp was drained by digging deep ditches. Deep ditches remain there still, alongside country roads lined with open, flat fields. Too bad that the night the flood first hit, all those ditches were already filled with water. So was the River Raisin.

My mom did what was most logical to her at the time, and waded down into the basement in her nightgown to turn off the furnace. After all, that is an expensive piece of HVAC equipment to have to replace. A little later, as the water only continued to rise, she waded down again to turn off the electricity to the house. Only in retrospect would she realize how easily she could have been electrocuted, leaving a clueless, sleeping child to later find her floating, bloated body.

She called her mother, who lived in nearby Adrian, to come and get us. By this time, water surrounded our house and our car. This must have been when my mom woke me up, told me what was going on, and told me Gramma would be here shortly. I wondered how, in the time since I had gone to bed, our front yard had become a lake.At this point our house had no heat and no electricity. With no power, we had no well, meaning no drinking water, either. My mom opened the door so that I could look into the basement. By this time, the water had made it up to the top basement step. The basement had filled up with water to ground level. Where there used to be an entire flight of stairs, now there was just muddy, brown water.

Our flooded basement, Riga, MI, 1981

Our flooded basement, Riga, MI, 1981

Things that are silly to remember about the flood, but they are what I remember because I was a kid:

1. As a kid, I didn’t have pajamas. I usually slept in just a T-shirt (and underpants, you sickos). Many of these were shirts my gramma had brought back from vacations as souvenirs for me. Maybe that was my mom’s way of treating them as second-class clothing. We called them my “sleep shirts.” They were kept separate from my other T-shirts, due to the fact that my mom said sleeping in them stretched the necks out. I never wore them during the day to leave the house. Ever.

Except for the first day of the flood. My mom just put my jeans, socks, shoes, and coat on me, and left on my sleep shirt. That is how I knew something very major and upsetting was happening.

Our flooded house, Riga Hwy, Riga, MI, 1981

Our flooded house, Riga Hwy, Riga, MI, 1981

When my gramma arrived, she stayed in the car at the road. It was still dark outside. My mom wore her winter boots as she carried our clothes and things out to the car through our front yard that was now a lake. Too bad that the water was higher than the tops of her boots. Next, she carried me out to the car. I was at the age where I still wanted her to pick me up, and she would always be like, “No, you are too heavy.” So, it could not have been easy for her. Finally, I sat in the car and watched as she carried the dog out. Ginger was some type of poodle mix. Guessing, she had to have been at least 45lbs. When my mom tells the story, she says how the whole way she was talking to Ginger, willing her to not twist and writhe and jump out of my mom’s arms and land kersplat into the water. But Ginger did not. She made it to the car.

Our flooded neighbor's house, Riga Hwy, Riga, MI, 1981

Our flooded neighbor’s house, Riga Hwy, Riga, MI, 1981

We ended up sleeping at my gramma’s house for the next ten days: my mom on the couch, I on the loveseat. In my memory I was in kindergarten at the time, but there is no way I could have been at that age. Just one of the ways our memories play tricks on us.

US223 bridge at Blissfield, MI, 1981

US223 bridge at Blissfield, MI, 1981

My mom spent her days heading down to the house, while I stayed out of her way at my gramma’s. Instead, I was in my gramma’s way, cramping her style. My mom would come home at night with stories about how the main bridge through town was blocked by the cops because the flood waters were hitting the underside of the roadway, and how she begged them to let her through to work on her house. She had tales of the neighbors helping with sump pumps. She had to wait for the water to recede, then the furnace guy to come, then the electrician.

Flooded Park in Blissfield, MI, 1981

Flooded Park in Blissfield, MI, 1981

2. It was not lost on me, even then, that everyone had lived at my gramma’s house before, except me. I had seen the old 8mm home movies many times to prove it. My mom had grown up here. Ginger had lived her puppy years here. Even my dad who died before I was born lived there for a time when they were newlyweds. I was the odd man (girl?) out.

Flooded Riga Hwy, Riga, MI, 1981

Flooded Riga Hwy, Riga, MI, 1981

3. It was the first time I would ever get one of those big PAAS Easter poster kits that came with markers to color. My mom bought me a steady stream of new activities to try to keep me out of my gramma’s hair. I got a puzzle featuring a little girl in a blue bonnet and a baby chick. I got a new huge activity book, which I still had not completed years later. But I always remember the PAAS posters the best.

See the railing for the foot bridge?  That goes over Floodwood Creek.  Ironic, isn't it?

See the railing for the foot bridge? That goes over Floodwood Creek. Ironic, isn’t it?

4. I remember being sick and watching Fridays starring Michael Richards and Melanie Chartoff with my mom on TV as I hacked away. Fridays was like SNL, but better and didn’t last nearly as long. I am positive it was the only time that particular program was ever watched on that television.

My mom always reminds me how my gramma came out of her bedroom and said, “Don’t you know you are keeping Gramma up?” And she wasn’t talking about the TV. She was referring to my loud coughing, which couldn’t be helped.

Flooded Park in Blissfield, Michigan, 1981

Flooded Park in Blissfield, Michigan, 1981

The River Raisin has risen many times since then, but never as high. My mom sold the house in Riga when I was 8 years old. I married into a family whose ancestral home sits on the flood plain of the very same river. Sometimes my in-laws have to be evacuated, and my husband and I are happy to be able to provide them refuge.

US223 bridge closed in Blissfield, MI, at River Raisin due to flooding, December 2011. I would let that hotty stay at my house!

US223 bridge closed in Blissfield, MI, at River Raisin due to flooding, December 2011. I would let that hottie stay at my house!

Other parts of the country worry about earthquakes or lava or hurricanes. Those of us who reside on a former swamp worry about flooding.

And a little about tornadoes.

And Sharknadoes…

And there is more…

I wanted to post this entry in the spring, maybe on the anniversary of this big flood or at least during flooding season. But I was busy working on my new book, and it didn’t happen. But, well, I am not too late after all…

This is my mother-in-law’s shed behind her house yesterday, as it floats away. This yard was dry enough to mow at 1:00PM on Sunday.  24 hours later, this is what the family saw as they evacuated.

Flooding on Franklin St, Blissfield, MI, June 29, 2015

Flooding on Franklin St, Blissfield, MI, June 29, 2015

And here is video someone in Blissfield must have taken with a drone:

Looks impressive, huh? And will certainly cause lots of costly damage. But just imagine, it is still 1.2 ft lower than in 1981. I think the crest of 6/29/15 will be the second highest historical crest for the River Raisin at Blissfield since 2/20/1981.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books When You Least Expect It & The Wind Could Blow a Bug AVAILABLE NOW! (The Wind Could Blow a Bug is ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time.)

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

What I Learned This Week – 6/21/15

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This week I learned that the success of an appearance cannot necessarily be measured in sales.

My booth at the Ann Arbor Book Festival

My booth at the Ann Arbor Book Festival

I met some great people who shared their knowledge and experiences with me, saw people laugh out loud at my website name, practiced my elevator speech, got a possible lead on some work down the road, and got to meet a crazy man who sometimes appears on my television.

Me with Tom Daldin from Under the Radar Michigan (PBS)

Me with Tom Daldin from Under the Radar Michigan (PBS)

I would call that a raving success!

My husband wants to make me one of these. What do you think?

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books When You Least Expect It & The Wind Could Blow a Bug AVAILABLE NOW! (The Wind Could Blow a Bug is ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time.)

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

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