Big Rapids, MI – Today, my mother Ella Konecny turns 80 in Big Rapids, MI. Together with my father Vaclav, they’ve been living in this small university town, home to Ferris State University, for more than three decades.
Their friends at the Saturday’s birthday party for mom have known both for that long.
“Your parents are great people,” I heard over and over again.
Mom was born Drabkova in former communist Czechoslovakia on Aug. 23, 1937 in Zlin to Anna and Joseph Drabek.
My mother has inspired the memoir Greenwich Meridian, where East meets west about the family immigration saga. She was the one who didn’t want to leave the communist country after the Soviet invasion on the night of August 20-21 in 1968.
Their journey from the Moravian hilly villages of Vizovice and Stipa to Big Rapids in Michigan was tumultuous with many twists and turns.
Some of the milestones included the 1973 return to hardline Czechoslovakia from Texas, and then the escape back into the New World for my dad in 1976. Mom joined him in 1980.
Dad landed the math professor job at the Ferris State University, and that finally anchored them permanently in their new home.
To this day, mom says she loved her bio lab technician job also at the university. The warm friendly welcome atmosphere proved that at the birthday party.
Their true story has also inspired my fiction in the new Shifting Sands Short Stories book. “The Temptation of Martin Duggan” was inspired by some bits and pieces from the early years of immigration.
I wrote that story shortly after my immigration to the USA in 1989. When I compare some of the elements of the short story to the memoir, I consider them Visceral in character, coming from a gut feeling.
The main character in the story is professor Martin Duggan obsessed with his own quest for perfection.
May you both enjoy many more years of love, good health and optimism. Thank you for all your love and support.
Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Lowell, MI – I was born with history in my blood in the wee hours on Victory Day, May 9th to the cracking of the fireworks and the fragrance of the blossoming lilacs.
Before the semantics & politics of the new regime, May 9th was the national holiday in my homeland of Czech Republic.
Every year, on this day, my mother Ella lovingly says this sentence:
“I thought they were bombing, but the country was celebrating your birthday. The entire earth blossoms for you.”
Now, my mom Ella is not exactly the most humble person. She loves to show off. She takes that after Grandpa Joseph of Vizovice.
Annually, the country celebrates the anniversary of its freedom from the Nazi occupation in 1945. The holiday has been moved to May 8th based on the age-old dispute, “Who was first, the chicken or the egg?” That is the dispute over which army freed former Czechoslovakia first.
Was it the Soviet or the American army?
The Soviets freed the capital Prague on May 9th, while the Americans freed Plzen in West Bohemia on May 8th. Maybe, the switch was due to the fact that Plzen is home to the famous brewery, Pilsner.
The country boasts its love for beer, and often takes first place in consumption between the top beer consuming trio of Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
However, in our immigration hearts, the holiday will always be on May 9th, even though we love Czech Pilsner.
So, by default, the love for history has been circulating in my blood from the first day of birth.
Our immigration Konecny saga started with the infamous occupation of the country by the Soviets in the Prague Spring of 1968. The era of hardline communism ensued after the invasion for decades to come under President Gustav Husak.
I am also the child of the 1989 Velvet Revolution led by my hero, late president Vaclav Havel who was part of the Prague Spring 1968 reformation movement.
I can trace the origins of my writing to that tumultuous time in our lives.
My paternal grandpa Antonin was the keeper of the “Chronicles of the Stipa JZD” which was the Stipa Agricultural Cooperative, while my late Aunt Martha secretly worked on the Konecny family genealogy. My grandma Anezka was a first grade teacher at ZDS Stipa and a poet.
“You can’t deny genes,” said Martha’s colleague Mrs. Fickova at the funeral wake on Jan. 11th held at the Stipa Senk.
After Aunt Martha’s death on January 7th, 2017, I started the Facebook page Ancestry Konecny on:
Every morning before I start writing, I check social media for inspiration and to get a feeling for the day.
I made me a cup of French Roast coffee and smelled the bouquet of lilacs from our gardens on the ranch. It took 20 years for the fragrant shrubs to come to their full beauty. Not quite like the historical ones on my beloved Mackinac Island, but they’re getting there.
Yesterday, my husband Ludek and I feared for the budding wisteria because of the early morning frost. We had to put out the fan to keep the wisteria, sprawling on the octagon pergola, warm.
Then, as always I gather my thoughts based on analyzing the previous day, and what I have learned from it, that is worth bringing into the future. I always remember the socialist propaganda, “Tomorrow is already yesterday.”
I pinned to the top, “Spring into the Past” museum tour 2017 organized by the Tri-River Historical Museum Network on the new museum page.
I also made sure that the 23rd annual Covered Bridge Bike Tour in Fallasburg is correctly dated for Sunday July 9th.
I looked in the mirror, after finishing most of this post, and I realized I am very fortunate, and that any victory comes at a price. I’ve come to that conclusion not from the image that I see, but by the person I reflect in my writings.
I have a head full of graying hair, a happy smile on my face, a caring husband and family, hundreds of fans and well-wishers from all over the world, and the determination of a Taurus.
My short story collection “Shifting Sands” is ready for June 1st publication on kindle and Amazon.
And speaking about karma or karmic energy.
My friends from the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) Tina Siciliano Cadwallader and Tracy Worthington are planning a book signing event for the “Shifting Sands” fiction short story collection at the Fallasburg one-room schoolhouse museum on June 25th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
I’ve just found out that mom Ella is going to bake a cake for the book signing. And I have received tulips and irises from Doc Em, based in Fixin, France, and a video from Josephine & Dominik Pala of Hastings.
Life is good. As Doc Em says:
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
Everyone is invited to Fallasburg on June 25. Come and enjoy the beautiful Fallasburg Park, the pioneer village, the history and mom’s cake.
With this post, I would like to thank everyone for all the support over the years, especially my neighbor Catherine. Because only Catherine knows who I really am.
“You make me who I am.”
Lowell, May 9th 2017
Copyright (c) 2017 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
May 1st traditions in Czech Republic & around the world
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI – Every year, I observe May 1st as May Day in the renaissance Czech tradition with warm memories of the socialist past. If I close my eyes, I can still see the parades, the tribunes and the socialist propaganda with the slogans and the banners on the backdrop of the blossoming lilacs. The socialist patriotic hymns were blasting from the loudspeakers.
May Day pole tied with ribbons signifies love and spring.
May Day pole with ribbons in Bannister, Michigan
Today, Czech Republic still celebrates May 1, as an official holiday with a day off to commemorate the union manifestations in Chicago in 1884. Only this time around, without the parades or the slogans.
May Day is also known as International Workers Day, and protests are scheduled in Chicago for today with displays around the country in reaction to policies proposed by President Donald Trump.
But most of all, May Day, was a great day off known for its official opening of the beer gardens, and the infamous “march of the thieves.”
The organized labor from the factories marched in the parades, while some individuals used the opportunity to steal from the gated factories because of less supervision. Therein the name “march of the thieves.”
First and foremost, May is the month of love, not just labor.
And I write about all this in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian” with a light heart and a smile on my face with a touch of nostalgia.
I admire the old Czech country for being able to keep both the old socialist holidays, take on new ones, and tamper with the most important holiday of all that is the liberation of the country from the Nazi occupation in 1945.
New politicians with new agendas changed the date of the liberation of former Czechoslovakia from May 9th to May 8th based on the controversy who really liberated the country, whether it was the Soviets or the Americans. The question at hand; who was the first and where?
Having lived in many countries around the world, our family always honored the holidays of that particular country, otherwise we would have time off all the time.
Looking at my calendar last week for a summary, I found amusing that Canada also has Easter Monday off as an official holiday, just like the Czech Republic.
However, any holiday can take root in any country as I have witnessed in my hometown of Vizovice.
I remember our neighbor bus driver Mr. Hlavenka in Vizovice, used to celebrate Fourth of July by taking the day off in the old socialist era.
I’ve always wondered, how did he know about Independence Day with all the propaganda against American capitalism.
But, May 1st has deep agricultural connotations as well. People gather wildflowers and crown a May king and queen, weave floral garlands, and set up a maypole.
They also have bonfires to encourage the fertility of the land and animals in the coming year.
It is fascinating how different traditions and believes take roots in different countries, and how they continue to evolve.
Lowell, MI – As the nature awakens, we celebrate Earth Day today. The first widely recognized Earth Day was held in 1970 when an environmental Teach-In group planned an event for April 22.
But every day is an Earth Day celebration to recognize the greatest resource of all, and that is our planet Earth.
To celebrate the Earth Week, I started my annual walk to the Franciscan Life Process Center (FLPC) on Monday. The 1.8 mile hike on a gravel road has been a staple of my mental and physical sanity since 1995 when we moved out into this northeast corner of Kent County in West Michigan.
I marveled at the untouched nature coming to life; plants vigorously emerging from the wet dirt from yesterday’s rains, robins hopping under the pine trees among the new ground cover.
Crisp morning air and dew covered the new grass and stems.
The area consists of preserved farmland thanks to late philanthropist Peter Wege, apple orchards, woods and streams. Wild flowers are now popping out in the woods, and morel mushrooms are around the corner, or should I say around the stumps.
I love the farm markets with the local produce starting soon with local asparagus.
Different trail systems like the Fred Meijer River Valley trails and Lowell Area trials meet here at the confluence of Grand River and Flat River. We’ve been blessed with an abundance of natural resources from the Bradford Dickinson White Nature Preserve in Lowell Township, Wege Wittenbach AgriScience center, Sessions Lake and Fallasburg Park. Hundreds of inland lakes dot the picturesque region.
The Midwest entices with its variety of seasons, landscapes, Great Lakes and diverse communities.
The Paschal Triduum started tonight with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and it runs through Easter Sunday on April 16.
This week is also known as the Holy Week in the catholic calendar.
The mass at Saint Pat’s included a candle vigil and procession to chapel for repose with washing of the feet. The mass with procession lasted just under two hours.
Tomorrow is Good Friday. Watch for the readings of the Christ’s passion. The Christ’s passion written by several writers has served over the centuries as an inspiration for many literary works due to its powerful message.
Mel Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ” stirred some controversy, unlike the 1973 “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Follow me for more Easter coverage through Easter Sunday including Easter traditions in Czech Republic.
Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Lowell, MI- Yes, indeed. Today is Emma’s Day, according to the Czech calendar. My mom Ella gave me the name based on a novel she read a long time ago.
The guy in the novel kept writing letters to his love, always starting with:
“Dear Emma, ”
I love you.
Many years later, I would receive letters and postcards from all over the world with that same greeting in Czech:
“How are you?” mom always wrote.
I loved the name so much that I gave it to our daughter who is now Doc Emma. Emma permanently lives in romantic Burgundy, France. The romantic name originates in France.
Today is also Emma’s birthday. Every year, she has a double celebration. Happy birthday and name day, dear Emma.
My lifelong friend Eva of Kromeriz loved the name too, and she named her daughter Emma.
When I moved to America, and started going to St. Pat’s Church in Parnell, I came across another Emma, who sings in the choir, and she also has a matching great last name Darling.
And until this year, Emma was the top name for girls around the world.
And how about poet Emma Lazarus, Emma Watson and Emma Stone?
“We’re losing the first place now,” singer Emma informed me earlier in the year.
Both my husband and son wished me a happy Emma’s Day, earlier in the day. I usually get early spring flowers. This year, I got a purple primrose.
In the Czech calendar, names are attributed to each date. And people celebrate their name days much like birthdays, with family and friends. They get gifts, and a cake.
Due to the recent influx of new names, some dates in the Czech calendar double or triple up on names.
I’ve always wondered why Hallmark never really picked up on these charming name days, other than Saint Pat’s.
Name days are often based on the names of saints. For example Saint Terese Day is on Oct. 15 and Saint Mary is on Sept. 9. The wildly popular name day Catherine falls on Nov.25. Saint Martin is on Nov. 11. Saint Joseph/Saint Josephine falls on March 19.
Mom Ella’s name day falls on Oct. 5. Her real name is Eliska. She has always hated that name, so she changed Eliska to Ella. It is pretty much the same name.
Mom Ella just called me from Venice, Florida as I was writing this post. They’re getting ready with my dad Vaclav to head back up North to Michigan.
“See I gave you inspiration with that name,” she laughed.
“Thank you, mom for the lovely name.”
In many villages in Czech Republic, the Saint Days are big parish and community feasts. People bake for these feasts, butcher a pig, go dancing, and some dress up in traditional costumes. Rides come into towns.
Follow me into Easter traditions in Czech and Slovak republics.
Which traditions do you celebrate, how and why?
Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Lowell, MI- I am not Irish by any stretch of imagination, no matter how deep I dig in the Konecny family roots in my immigration saga. But, I love St. Patrick’s Day when everybody is Irish on March 17, no matter where I am.
I totally disregard news media claims that it costs $38 to celebrate Saint Patrick with green beer, corned beef and cabbage.
Believe it or not, the Czech calendar has this saint down for February 19, by the workings of some troll in the pre-press department of the Balousek Tisk.
I have to laugh at this mistake without evil or spite.
Below is a poster for local St. Pat’s celebration in Smyrna still going strong tomorrow on March 18. Same time, same place, same Irish fare.
I was born in Czech Republic (old Czechoslovakia), and we vaguely knew of Saint Patrick, because it was completely overshadowed by the Feast of Saint Joseph on March 19.
As I permanently started adopting American traditions as part of my new life, I came across Saint Patrick more and more. I definitely cemented the Irish tradition when we moved next to the communities with Irish legacies that is Parnell and Canonsburg in northeast Kent County, Michigan.
My journalism trek through the regional media helped strengthen the tradition as well. My first official Irish story was in Plainwell for the Union Enterprise. It was a lighthearted story about a woman of Irish origin, who each year celebrated her Irish heritage with Bailey’s, and by baking soda bread and making some Irish stew. She invited me for some Bailey’s and cake in her Irish decked out house.
I wrote about the Irish tradition again for the Ionia Sentinel-Standard. I drove my jeep in a snowstorm 30 miles northeast into the Irish community of Hubbardston, and wrote about the Irish pub, Shiels Tavern and the Irish store owned by Pat Baese, The Celtic Path. Shiels used to be a “speakeasy” during the prohibition.
On several Saint Patrick’s Days we tasted the tavern’s version of stew, soda bread and green beer. The Irish Dance Troupe under Baese’s tutelage has always danced at the tavern and at the regional fine establishments.
For the Ledger in Lowell, some fun-minded individuals sent me over to the Irish Larkin’s pub next door to get a photo of the owner Mike toasting with green beer. It worked out excellent for all sides. Mike still has the pic from the Buyer’s Guide.
One of the most shocking St. Pat’s events, was the Saint Pat’s parade in Chicago in 2002. We drove to Chicago for the Czech celebration of the Feast of Saint Joseph. It was a big deal, because in Czech, every other man’s name is Joseph.
Since, we were already in Chicago, we decided to go the annual Saint Pat’s parade.
Wow, speaking about coincidences. Not only was the Chicago River dyed green, but among the green ubiquitous hats, I spotted tall metal frames and people pressing against them. Then, I noticed snipers on the rooftops. We had to go through security to get to one section of the parade.
“What’s going on?” I asked my husband.
Well, it was nothing less than the former president George W. Bush marching in the parade with firefighters. That was the only time I saw a sitting president, shortly after 911.
When I think of it today, other than the fact that the sales of green beer were limited, it was quite brave of W. to march out there, among the Chicago liberals and freethinkers.
Back to the reality of 2017, and its precipitating circumstances in view of tomorrow’s Saint Pat’s party in Parnell, hosted by Knights of Columbus.
We became members of Saint Pat’s Church of Parnell in 2014. Our son Jake got married at the church in 2014, our grandson Samuel was baptized there and granddaughter Ella went to Saint Pat’s summer school in 2016 with the hopes of going back this year.
Like many families in the area, we have become a part of the Saint Pat’s greater church family located in the tiny unincorporated village of Parnell.
And what I love even more about the Irish, and being catholic, is that we got pardoned from Friday’s Lenten abstinence from meat and drinking.
“Saint Patrick is our patron,” explained Father Mark Peacock apologetically last Sunday.
So, let the Luck of the Irish ring
And to hook my Saint Pat’s Day post to the Daily Post prompt Luck @luck.
It only occurred to me, after I had submitted my resume for the position of volunteer manager for the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park about three hours ago, that it is a sign of luck.
I first submitted the app and resume to the human resources yesterday, but it came back with, this message could not be delivered.
I worked on it some more today, and I hit the send button on my screen today around noon.
International Women’s Day theme 2017 encourages to Be Bold For Change
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Hastings, MI- The screen on all my devices says Wednesday, March 8. Today is International Women’s Day. Every year on this day, I think about the women in this world, both privileged and underprivileged.
I think about the progress we have made since the suffragist movement for the women’s right to vote in the early 1900s. I also think about the progress we have yet to make.
Yes, in modern societies we get equal education like men in any given field, at any given time. The difference is in what happens after schooling, regardless the continent we live on.
I am not a feminist by any stretch of imagination, but I do have to admit after years in the labor market, I have to say:
“It is still a man’s world.”
Years ago, the pretty blonde character Amanda from the TV series “Melrose Place,” said it the best, as she was in vain climbing the company ladder.
“The big boys will let us go only so far.”
That is not to say that I haven’t met women in top positions as editors, publishers and business owners. I am an Internet entrepreneur with a big love for the free business spirit. And I know other women who own businesses like Nancy DeBoer, owner of Station Salon in Lowell.
But, even then, there is a missing fraction of an inch, that missing gap why Hillary Clinton didn’t become the first female president of the USA last year.
The movement for women’s rights is not always just about money and equal opportunities. It’s more about a woman’s positioning in the society.
Maybe, it’s because our primary role is to take care of our families; at first children and then aging parents or grandparents.
“What do you like about being a woman?” I asked babysitter Heather before I left for a meeting on this very windy morning.
“Being a mom,” she said laughing, “a man can’t say that.”
And yes, I braved the 50-mile winds to drive 40 miles to a meeting, only to find out there was no power. There was no meeting and tree limbs blocked the roads. I ventured into the local KDL library in hometown Lowell to finish writing this International Women’s Day post because I couldn’t get home due to a fallen tree in the road.
No matter how brave we are, at any given stage in life, we will always be the primary caregivers. The society relies on us in any country around the world to take care of what really matters, at a time when it matters.
On daily basis we drive cars, buses, use public transportation, order food in restaurants, pay for it, pound the keyboards, stand in front of cameras and lead in meetings and speeches.
We are teachers, nurses, doctors, babysitters, high-lo drivers and construction workers.
But, first and foremost, we are moms, sisters, grandmothers, aunts and girlfriends looking out for each other in a fellowship.
This global fellowship is called womanhood.
As I have recently and gratefully found out, we also have to take care of each other. If we don’t do that, no one else will do that for us. We get together, whether in knitting or gardening clubs, to encourage each other.
So in essence, the 2017 theme “Be Bold For Change” has always been with us for the last 100 years since the Soviet Revolution.
A prologue quote to one novel says:
“May you live in changing times.”
In the popular winter series “Inspiring Women” on EW Emma’s Writings that leads up to the International Women’s Day, I have written about women from all walks of life. They have always stood boldly in the face of adversity, without expecting any rewards.
Hiker Babe Gail Lowe walked in memory of her daughter Becka 4,600 miles on the North Country Trail (NCT) to commemorate her life in 2014.
Since the establishment of NCT in 1980, only five men have completed a thru hike of the trail and Lowe was the sixth person, and the only woman in the USA.
NCTA executive director Bruce Matthews said Lowe’s hike elevates the awareness of the North Country Trail.
“It fires people’s imagination and makes the trail more accessible to women,” he said. “It expands the horizon. It is unusual to complete it in one season.”
Matthews said solitude is part of the trail experience.
“We hope it inspires others to hike the trail,” he said.
Fellowship with women at home and around the world is the key to overall well-being and peace.
Helping women in the Third World countries is the primary mission of the SowHope organization based in Grand Rapids.
“If you want to make a difference in this world, seriously consider helping impoverished women. Helping women is the key to unlocking poverty,” said SowHope director Mary Dailey Brown.
On this day, women are also gathering around the world to protest the status quo of inequality and the violation of women’s rights to decide about their own health.
For more info go to:
For more posts about Inspiring Women go to:
Hiker Babe walks 4,600 miles in memory of daughter