US Magistrate judge: You are America

More than 70 immigrants naturalized at Gerald R. Ford Museum

“Write the next great chapter in the history of this country.”

Hon. Ray Kent, US Magistrate Judge

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Grand Rapids, MI – On a beautiful chilly October morning people lined up in front of the Gerald R. Ford Museum on the banks of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids.

But, most of them weren’t there to see the newest “In Step with Betty Ford, 100 Years” exhibit.

The future American citizens waiting for the naturalization ceremony came from all parts of the world from Burma, Bahrain, Singapore to Canada and everything in between.

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New American citizen Ludek Pala. In the background US Magistrate Judge Hon. Ray Kent.

After registering and relinquishing their green cards, they took seats along with their guests and filled the auditorium. The tension of excitement was hanging in the air. The Color Guard practiced their routine to the clicking of their shiny black shoes marching around the auditorium.

Dressed up to the nines, the East Oakview 4th Grade Choristers sang “The Star-Spangled Banner. Then, the Magistrate Judge Hon. Ray Kent entered with other officials and stepped up on the sun lit stage.

“I do these ceremonies three to four times a year, and it is my favorite job,” Kent said. “This is my first time doing two ceremonies back to back.”

It was also the second day that the number of naturalized citizens from Burma beat Mexico.

“There must be upsets by Burma. Go Burma, the judge joked. “We have 73 candidates from 31 countries.”

As the judge named the countries, the candidates stood up. When Kent said Czech Republic, Ludek Pala of Lowell stood up. They took the oath for new citizens and all recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

Seventy-three people equaled 73 stories reflected in their languages, color of their skin and attire.

“You are America,” said Kent. “Ninety-nine percent of Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants.”

Among other famous naturalized Americans, Kent mentioned Henry Kissinger, the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was born in Germany.

Kent also spoke about Albert Einstein as the smartest man who ever walked the earth and emigrated to the USA.

“You made the same decision like Einstein, you must be smart like him,” he said.

The numbers of naturalized Americans who made their imprint in science, technology and business were stunning. Among them are the owners of Google, AT&T and Yahoo.

The increase in population over the last 15 years can be attributed to naturalized Americans, according to Kent.

One out of four scientists are an immigrant, 31,000 have their own businesses, 76 percent of patents issued resulted from immigrants.

“You make America great,” Kent said. “We want you here.”

Kent spoke about a human chain formed by 80 strangers who saved Noah and Stephen from a rip current off the beach in Panama City.

“In that moment of need, they worked together to save other lives in the spirit of America,” he said. But, not everything is good.”

Kent also mentioned hatred in connection with the Charlottesville riots in Virginia in 1917.

“Do not hate, life is too short for that,” he said. “As Americans we’re all in this together, and when your turn comes to save Noah, join those hands. Each one of you has traveled your own road. You have different backgrounds. Hold onto your traditions.”

Kent encouraged the new citizens to practice their citizenship.

“Exercise those freedoms, they come with responsibilities,” he said. “You have the power to change this country. You exercise that power by going into that voting booth.

“If you see something wrong, say something.”

Since it was too late to register for the upcoming Nov.6 election, Pala plans on voting in future elections.

Each new citizen received a certificate of citizenship and a flag. There also was a photo opportunity with Kent, who joked that he will forego the $20 fee.

The ceremonies closed with “God Bless America” by the Choristers.

The judge’s last words to the new American citizens kept ringing in my ears:

“Write the next great chapter in the history of this country.”

In an era of detention of illegal immigrants and conversion of correctional facilities into detention facilities, the importance of citizenship cannot be understated.

 

 

Copyright ©2018 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Discoveries at Mackinac Island & Straits

Up North Straits of Mackinac Area attracts crowds,  inspires a creative mind

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Mackinac Island, MI- It was a steady stream of cars heading Up North for the weekend last Friday. The traffic was a mix of hunters, fishermen, tourists, golfers and  other adventurers.

Some braved the chill both in the air and in the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron hauling  kayaks, canoes, bicycles , seadoos and  ATVs.

The ferries to  Mackinac Island were packed full with people bringing their bikes with them.  The waters in the straits were so wild  that the catamaran rocked from side to side as the waves splashed over the panoramic windows.

In spite of the Friday rain, the Main Street  on the island was lined with bikes.  Some porters on bicycles carried the luggage in the baskets in front of them. I wondered how they could see.

Where horse is King

I discovered that on this island, where no motorized traffic is allowed except for snowmobiles, the horse has the right of way. And in peak season, there are 600 horses on the island. They are a way of life.

We did the one-hour buggy ride with horse Shorty inside the island.

“He was on a team, so he has a tendency to veer off to the left, just pull on the right reign,” said the friendly guy at Jack’s Livery & Stable located  on Mahoney Ave.

After a while we found out, that Shorty was quite a character. Not only  did he veer to the left, but he slowed downhill and went faster uphill. All the other carriage drivers knew him.

“Hi, Shorty,” they greeted him all around the route.

En route as we tried to make Shorty  go left to the Arch Rock, Shorty wouldn’t do it and he showed it by whinnying.  Having taken the long loop around the lake last year, it dawned on me that certain horses are trained to do certain routes. They won’t go any other way.

The horse handler back at the livery confirmed  my insight.

“Yes, they are trained to go at walking speed and they will go only on their  route.

Where lilacs take over

The staple event of the Mackinac Island is the annual Lilac Festival  that takes place  during the first two Sundays in June.

In search for the annual Lilac Festival poster, we stopped  at the Island Bookstore inside the Lilac Tree Inn on Main Street.

“Some of our lilacs are 300 hundred years old,” said the clerk. “They come from Eastern Europe.”

“Yes, we had them in Czech Republic,” I said. “Now, we have them in our garden.”

Where projects abound

As a true newspaper woman, I buy local papers wherever I go.  So, we bought the Town Crier and  The St. Ignace News at the Doud’s Market. The oldest family owned  grocery store in America, founded in 1884, serves as a lifeline for the 200-some permanent island residents.

Other than regular groceries, it has everything from kombuchas to a seafood case with octopus. This is where I rediscovered kombucha,  a fermented tea made with cane sugar and yeast.  The first time I heard of a kombucha was at the Calvin Festival of Faith & Writing in April.

When we got back to Murray Hotel, two buildings down the street,  a headline  in the advertising section of  The Mackinac  Island Town Crier struck me:

“Mackinac Island Harbor Beach Boardwalk Project.”

A full back page  screamed: “Save our Island.”

Apparently,  one of the freight operation owners, is proposing a boardwalk  with access to  the beach for all. The project would  consolidate the freight operations into the two most historic docks, including the coal dock.

Mission Point Resort on the sunrise side

A short stroll from downtown took us through the alley to the beautifully restored Mission Point Resort. The last time I saw it, it was a dull greyish structure built in the early 1820s by a Protestant missionary Rev. William Ferry.

A couple from Texas bought the sprawling historic property and poured millions into it.  Standing in the middle of the main lobby, I stared into the 51-foot tall teepee. Attached to it was a big library.

We watched weddings on the front lawn from the panoramic windows of the Round Island Bar & Grill. I took in the breathtaking views of Lake Huron with  Bois Blanc Island.

Back in Mackinaw City, mainland

As the  ferry  smoothly navigated the waters of Lake Huron, I watched the  Big Mac Bridge swing in the wind. The night before, we watched a documentary on the history channel about the building of the Mackinac Bridge, dubbed as a swinging water masterpiece.

The pretty “candy city” with fudge and candy shops was busy on a Sunday morning.  My last goal was to buy fresh fish caught locally.  Other than fudge and candy, there were a few shops with smoked fish.

A clerk at a smoked fish shop recommended Big Stone Bay Fishery. located on US 23.  I’ve never heard of it even though we’ve been coming up to the Straits area for the last 25 years.

As we entered the fishery, I could smell smoked fish. But, the fishery  dealt mainly in fresh fish: whitefish, walleye, coho salmon and trout. It was a fish lover’s paradise.

The paradise Up North always brings new discoveries and inspires a creative mind. The Mackinac Island attracted Hollywood twice. In 1947 Hollywood filmed “This Time For Keeps” and in 1979 “Somewhere in Time.”

The “Somewhere in Time” weekend is always on the last weekend in October, and it officially closes down the island for the season. A few properties, shops and restaurants stay open for the winter.

Winter is a magic time on the island.

Go to my  E Travel and Food blog:

https://etravelandfood.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/mackinac-island-winter/

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Happiness comes from creating new things

“True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Lowell, MI- I love this quote because it is so true. Yesterday, I completed a brand new mobile app on Swiftic for a client. It took me a long time as the app development companies kept changing.

Once I figured out the last feature, I was ecstatic. It’s a top notch app with eye-catching push notifications and more than 20 features such as loyalty and scratch cards, and catalogs.

I had that same feeling of joy when I uploaded my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories ” to the publisher last year.

I feel happiness today as Ludek and I are about to head out to Mackinac Island to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.

Yes, it’s the same place where Universal Pictures filmed “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour.

It was also the home for the famous fur trade entrepreneur Madame Framboise.

The island will be all dressed up for Halloween. We plan on going to the Haunted Theatre and take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Cars are not allowed on the island, only bicycles and horses.

Even this late into the season, the hotels were sold out. We will take the ferry Star Line across the Straits of Mackinac.

It is also my writer’s retreat, because Mackinac Island inspires me with its history and character. I will include in my new book three historical fiction short stories; one from the island and two from Fallasburg.

Stay tuned for more posts from the island.

 

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

40th Wedding Anniversary

As Ludek and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on Oct. 7th, I  think about all those years spent with one man. We were both born in former Czechoslovakia.

us

In 1978,  that seemed unimaginable to an 18-year-old girl still in the Zlin Gymnasium Prep School with university years of studying ahead of me.

“You’re going to spend  the rest of your life with one man?” classmate Zdenek asked me. “I can’t even fathom that.”

Yes, indeed. I spent all those years with one man.

“Boring,” said an acquaintance jokingly some time ago. She herself had been married to one man for a long time.

Just like in everything, there were some great times and some rough times over the four decades. Some of them, I consider historical moments.

Following are some highlights that really stand out:

The birth of our daughter Emma in April of 1979, my graduation from the University of Brno in 1986, the birth of our son Jake in 1987 and  the move to the United States of America in 1989. My book Shifting Sands Short Stories came out in 2017. I became an American citizen in 1999. Ludek will have his naturalization ceremony this year.

In between were big, medium and little things; all those elements that make up marriage.

“For better or for worse,” as we said our wows.

Among the big things were:  Weddings of our kids. Emma got married in Montrachet, Burgundy, France and Jake in Parnell, MI.

Another big shebang , I consider our celebration of the millennium at Stafford’s Perry Hotel, where Hemingway  once stayed. Since, I love history, I love to stay on historical properties.

To celebrate our 40th anniversary, we will be staying in the historical Murray Hotel on Mackinac Island.  I find inspiration in history, because it has  a tendency to repeat itself. You can predict things based on the past.

We were surfing rough waters when the  recession hit in 2007 through 2009, and Ludek lost his job. Ludek had to leave the state of Michigan to work in Prarie-du-Chien, Wisconsin. I stayed in Lowell because we didn’t want to lose the house. Our friends have lost theirs.

He commuted 500 miles to work and  he came home for the weekends. When I wrote about it back at the peak of  the depression in 2008, I got a response from a publication:

“That’s normal, that’s not a story.”

Yes, maybe for them it wasn’t. But for us it was a big story, as well as for millions of other Americans. I compensated the horror of separation and living by myself with a dog in the country by writing a screenplay. I bought Final Draft software and wrote about the assassination on liberal candidates.

We got through it with scars and hurts. Sometimes, it still hurts.

We still adhere to Czech traditions and customs, but we also have taken on new American traditions. It makes life interesting sharing two different cultures.

People ask me what do I miss the most about the old country?

“Definitely friends, since most of the family members have passed,” I answer.

But, always having a positive outlook, writing and  innovation helped us through the  good and the bad. Of course there was more good than the bad. It depends on the perspective and interpretation.

The good prevailed in love, passion and belief in each other.

And like  talk show host Ripa said on TV, “It  always boils down to respect of each other.”

The values we have established have carried us through; first comes  our family, then passion for our work and innovation. This philosophy has always worked well throughout the years.

With well wishes for many more years.

Love always, Emma.

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Fallasburg bazaar vendor line-up

Visit with us today at the Fallasburg village from 10 am to 5 pm. Just cross the Covered Bridge at a speed of no more than walking, and you will be transformed in time.

Find your treasure among unique vendors. Visit the one-room Fallasburg schoolhouse for a step back in time.

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Fallasburg one-room schoolhouse.

via Fallasburg bazaar vendor line-up & app, set-up info

Copyright (c) 2018 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Fall for Michigan

Plan your fall touring of Pure Michigan.  Visit the 1850s Fallasburg Pioneer Village which is on the National Register of Historic Places in MIchigan. The village nestles in the northeast corner of Kent County.

Just cross the Covered Bridge into the village and step back in time.

One of the best times to visit this area is  in its autumn glory with all the harvest festivals , farmers’  markets and local produce abundance.

Explore local history, sample local food and craft beers and breweries, chat with local authors.  Learn  how to can pickles or how to make salsa.

Step out of the ordinary.

 

via September message from FHS president

50th anniversary of Soviet Occupation of Czechoslovakia, 1968

It is with certain trepidation that I approach the 50th anniversary of Soviet occupation of former Czechoslovakia on the night of Aug. 20 to Aug. 21, 1968.

The milestone seems unbelievable to me. It was such a pivotal moment that influenced the rest of my life. What followed the occupation changed two generations; a massive exodus fleeing from the occupied country to its Western neighbors.

Soviet occupation of Prague in 1968
Soviet occupation of Prague in 1968

There is an old cliché saying that time heals everything. Decades of other events in history may have put layers of dust over this one. But those whose lives have been touched by the invasion, will never forget.

I’ve only heard other people’s accounts of the invasion; recently a video posted on Facebook stirred my memory.

People reacted to the event in two basic ways: either they stayed in the country or they emigrated to the West. The majority stayed in the country.

My father professor Vaclav Konecny decided for the latter of the two. That is to leave the country rather than endure the regime. Fifty years later, both of my parents have certain regrets. My mother Ella more so than my father.

“I left behind my sick parents against my beliefs,” she said. “That haunted me until the day they died. All those years, I felt guilty.”

The invasion suppressed the Prague Spring liberalization movement led by Alexander Dubcek, and substituted it with hardline communism or dark era of totality.

Those who stayed paid the price. No one could leave the country without exit visa.

Those who left illegally could not return without persecution.

Freedom truly isn’t free. It never has been.

“I think our modern history shows us that freedom isn’t a gift, which the powerful fight for to giveaway; it can be obtained and defended only by those who work to obtain or defend it.” late president Vaclav Havel in his speech on Victory Day May 8, 1994.

 A half-a-century of Czech expatriates living outside the old country well beyond the Velvet Revolution in 1989, has shown their adaptability and assimilation into other cultures.

Our own immigration story has been molded by the 1968 Soviet invasion. At the time, my parents left from Sudan, Africa for Canada, and eventually to Hawkins, Texas where dad taught math at Jarvis Christian College.

The story got more complex, when mom Ella decided to return to Czechoslovakia in 1973 followed by dad. The return was both a nightmare and a mistake, as my dad later recollected it many years later. He left Czechoslovakia again in 1976, and after a battle for emigration visa mom joined him in 1980.

It wasn’t until December of 1989 that I was able to leave the country for the USA for good. I became an American citizen in August of 1999 at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids.

Looking back at this chronology of now historical events, I have to ask myself if I would do it again, much like I have asked my parents.

“Yes. I would do it again. I have no regrets; my entire family is here and I consider this country to be my home.”

The other question that people either ask me or I ask myself, “What is it that I miss about the old country?”

I do miss my friends from school and the university. Whenever, I miss the food, I just cook it myself. My son Jake was naturalized earlier this year, and my husband Ludek will become an American citizen on Aug. 22, 2018 in Detroit.

However, life is not just a chronological sequence of events or it shouldn’t be.

“How would our lives be different if we stayed in the old country?”

Those questions remain hanging in the air unanswered. I don’t expect any answers to them anytime soon or ever.

When I published my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories” last summer, I realized I would not have been able to do that in Czech Republic. If for nothing else, I wouldn’t have been able to do it because of language barriers. There are no English language publishers. Either way, it would have to be translated.

We adhere to Czech traditions and customs, mainly during Christmas and Easter. Our adult children Emma & Jake are fully bilingual. Jake is teaching his kids Czech.

I laugh when I say, “I am 99 percent American and one percent Czech.”

That one percent means; Vaclav Havel remains my hero and we speak Czech at home.

Copyright © 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Case: Freedom

Exercising voting and speaking rights

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI – I feel privileged that I can vote for any party or candidate that I want to. It wasn’t like that before the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989. There was one party ticket only: The Communist Party.

I realized that earlier this morning as I voted in Vergennes Township Precinct 1. I cast the 82nd ballot, soon after dropping off Ella at St. Pat’s summer care program around 9 a.m. I got the sticker, “I voted.”

I convinced my parents to vote only a few years ago. My husband Ludek and our son Jake will be voting in the November general election for the first time. By then, they will be naturalized American citizens.

As the church bells rang, I knew they were also the bells of freedom: the freedom to vote and the freedom of speech.

I exercised that freedom last night at the “Emerging Artists” event organized by the new LowellWrites group. Back in my Czech homeland before the fall of the regime, we could never ever give any speeches about anything. Unlike the “right to work”, freedom of speech wasn’t one of the rights we had.

That’s why late president Vaclav Havel was jailed so many times, because he spoke openly against the regime. I talked about him being my role model and my personal hero during the event.

“He was also a playwright,” I told my friends last night. “He spent a lot of time in jail.”

I am always amazed at how much one man or woman can accomplish in a lifetime.

“And then, they go out and do more,” states one commercial.

So, true. People who do great things go out and do more great things. I’ve learned that in meditations; to detach from the outcome. You can’t influence the result of anything, but you can be an integral part of it.

Havel knew he would go back to jail, but he never ceased to fight for freedom. As I watch the Facebook news feed, I do not understand why a lot of Czech people do not like Havel.

Once, I posted: “He was in prison also for your freedom.”

You should have seen the outpour of anger.

“He had it better in prison, than you have it in your living room,” was one comment that I will never forget.

The person missed the whole point that Havel fought for freedom for all Czechs and Slovaks, and ended up in prison for that like Nelson Mandela. But the comment went further to qualify that Havel maybe had a TV to watch and a typewriter to write, plus implying that I might not have either one of these tools.

Since I do have a laptop and the freedom of expression, I am sharing my Aug. 6th the speech during the “Emerging Artists” event at the LowellArts Gallery.

 

Good evening,

Thank you for having me, Lowell Arts and Deb.

Most of you probably know me as the roving reporter for the Lowell Ledger running around and chasing after stories, day or night, sweating during the Kent County Youth Fair, that is going on right now.

Tonight, I am here on a different venture presenting my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories,” which is a collection of 13 short stories based on my immigration, retail and journalistic experiences spanning more than two decades. Based on this, I divide the stories into three circles.

Although, I’ve always wanted to hold my own book in my hands and see it on the shelves of local bookstores, it wasn’t until 2017 that I made it happen. I realized if I didn’t put the short stories together, into a published collection, they would get lost.

That’s why I call it also a historic preservation project. I wrote the first story “The Temptation of Martin Duggan” in 1990 on a Smith-Corona Word Processor and the last one “Orange Nights” in 2017, partly on my tablet in my favorite hair salon.

My entire writing and publishing journey has been inspired by our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia. My father professor Vaclav Konecny has been my role model all along. I based the character Martin Duggan on him.

I fictionalized the character, the university town of Rocky Rapids and the crazy “actions” of the professor. This one could be easily billed as the wildly popular “historical fiction” category.

The professor was perfect except for one incident……….

That brings me to the circle of stories based on my journalistic experience. These too could fit the “historical fiction” category. In “Iron Horse,” while covering hometown politics, I was inspired by a story of a township supervisor who got recalled in a special election by his own people. And the reason for recall: a pig farmer with the stench from the operation reaching the supervisor’s resort.

A herdsman’s wife Deb organized the revolt.

I captured the recall process in a series of articles.

These were the back up questions, we never got around to, because the audience was actively participating in the discussion moderated by poet Ian Haight of Germany.

People often ask me, why do I write and what are my goals?

Purpose of an artist; why do I write?

  • For me writing is a passion that I cannot get rid of. I tried unsuccessfully several times. It never worked. I’ve always returned to writing in some shape or form.
  • Goals

To continue writing to provide a respite from the real world that is to entertain people.

Growing as an author

  • With the publication of my book, I have grown a lot as a writer. People look up to me for writing and publishing advise; how to get their writing projects done. Being an author means sharing information.
  • The process of art:

Why did I create it?

So, the stories don’t get lost.

Where did the inspiration or motivation come from?

From our immigration saga; that my father had to overcome many obstacles to get where he is now. By that, I mean both physically and emotionally. One of the obstacles was my own mother who did not want to emigrate, leave Czechoslovakia. My other role model is the late president Vaclav Havel.

I even find inspiration in politics. That’s where the historical fiction category kicks in.

Was it hard to create this piece of art from start to finish?

Yes, it was. In the beginning I did not know where I was going with it. I had no idea that the stories would end up in a book.

Why share this piece?

Because they are part of the human experience, with struggles, obstacles and victories along the way.

And as I was quoted in the Grand Rapids Magazine:

“I know that it might sound cheesy, but even though not all the stories have happy endings, that doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us is either good or bad. It isn’t always that clear.”

 That’s why the sequel.

What does it mean to me?

To me it is the product of many years of hard work; kind of like when you get a degree after years of work. But, I think it goes deeper than that.

It’s more like a solo creation for others to enjoy.

What do you hope people will take away from it?

Definitely, a deeper understanding of human character, and why people do what they do.

 

 

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Author’s Events & Creative Endeavor

Join me this afternoon at@LowellArts gallery from 1 to 3 pm. I will be signing copies of my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories” during the Captured photo exhibit. Come and chat about your writing projects. We are experiencing renaissance in literature. It’s a great time to be a part of this movement.

While touring with my book around West Michigan, we have discovered the “Creative Endeavor”project at the Michigan News Agency (MNA)in Kalamazoo. In order to keep authors writing, MNA does not keep any profit from the local author book sales.

I will be writing more about this initiative. My son discovered this while looking for the Grand Rapids Magazine.

“To encourage our Creative Endeavor Project Writers, we will sell your books as a pass through and return all of the money to you, the authors. The News hopes this will encourage our writing communities to strive to do your work.”

For more info about this Creative Endeavor project go to:

http://www.michigannews.biz

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