I have just glanced at my Jan. 19 Taurus Horoscope to see if I am on track. Without the Blink of an eye this is what I found out.
I have enrolled in Spanish classes together with Ludek. I will be teaching ESL English as a Second Language and writing classes in the Grand Rapids area. My new column about Czech heritage is coming up in the Western Fraternal Life Herald, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
My next book signing of Shifting Sands Short Stories will take place at the LowellArts downtown gallery on Main Street on Feb. 3 from 1 to 4 pm. I will be offering tips on how to start and finish your book in 2018. Sign up on Facebook @emmapalova to win a free book.
For more info on the Western Fraternal Life Association and the Fraternal Herald monthly magazine go to:
You may be intrigued by the prospects of enrolling in a course of study today, but you’re determined to specifically learn something that can contribute to your material success. Although your practical …
Note: This is the third and final part of the mini-series “Year in Review” that looks back at 2017 with all its joys and tribulations. It was a year of big changes and adjustments both professional and personal. It rolled in like a monster truck and flew away like a balloon.
Lowell, MI – I physically bid farewell to 2017 on New Year’s Eve in Belding, and welcomed the new year looking out at the frozen Candlestone golf course with a pine forest in the background. I was trying to imagine why someone left their underwear in the woods, as the comedian Billy Ray Bauer cracked a joke before we toasted to the new year.
However, it is only today, that I can give a final closure to last year finishing the series, as I start the new year with hope, gratitude and love. I will highlight some of the biggest events in the second part of the year.
The Czech Heritage
On the first Sunday in August, we always attend the Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister with dances, songs and food. It has become a tradition that annually connects us with the old country, now Czech Republic. It is the only place that I know, that plays three anthems before the beginning of the festival: American, Czech and Slovak.
Czech folk dances during the Harvest Festival in Bannister.
Book signing in downtown Lowell.
My mom Ella turned 80 on Aug. 23 and she had a great celebration at Naval’s Mediterranean Eatery in Big Rapids.
Mom Ella turns 80 in Big Rapids, MI.
I had no idea my parents Ella & Vaclav had that many friends that could fill up the entire restaurant. I write often about them, since they are the major characters in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian, where East meets West” about our immigration saga. Owner Naval even made her a big wedding cake that could feed 80. I found out that you don’t lose friends as you get older, you make more.
September, October & November
Emma’s book signings & local scene
I continued my book signings of Shifting Sands Short Stories into the fall tying them to many local events at different venues. This was very efficient. In September, the Fallasburg Historical Society held their third annual Fallasburg Village Bazaar. I had my second book signing at the one-room schoolhouse which was very well attended. I was at the Girls Night Out at the Sweet Seasons Bakery & Cafe, and then at the Lowell Arts Gallery in downtown Lowell. In November, I was at the Red Barn Market during Christmas through Lowell.
Pictured below are people from the local Lowell scene: former mayor Jim Hodges in the story series “Inspiring Communities, Loyal public servant. Fallasburg Historical Society vice-president Tina Siciliano Cadwallader with Tracy Worthington, Patricia and Annelyse Dlouhy from Sweet Seasons Bakery & Cafe and book signing at the one-room schoolhouse.
Former mayor Jim Hodges retires from the Lowell City Council after 23 years.
The disaster months
Unfortunately, this was also the time for most disasters both in nature and in the society.
Over the years, I have been able to track many catastrophes, natural and man-made, to the last months in the year. The end of August started the stretch of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria bringing devastation to millions.
I was impressed how fast the famous on the US entertainment scene came together to raise $44 million in a telethon for the victims of the catastrophes.
Sadly enough proliferating nature’s anger was also men’s anger.
That was the Las Vegas shooting on Oct.1, followed by 8 killed in terror violence by a man in a pickup truck who plowed into people on a bike path in New York City and a man detonating a pipe bomb in the New York City subway.
The famous who left us in 2017
As the year rocked to its final days, we accounted for all who have impacted our lives.
I was deeply touched by the death of teenage idol David Cassidy, rock superstar Tom Petty, Mary Tyler Moore, Jerry Lewis and countless others.
On the Czech scene, it was mainly late actor Jan Triska who emigrated to the US during Czechoslovakia’s communist era. He died after falling from the Charles Bridge in Prague. He was best known for his appearances in The Karate Kid Part III, Quantum Leap and The People vs Larry Flynt directed by fellow countryman Czech American director Milos Forman.
I am pretty sure most of us can Relate to these losses and events.
I would like to thank the many followers, fans, and the hosts of my book signings and wish everyone a great 2018.
The links to the first two parts of the series “Year in Review” are:
Note: This article is part of a new series “Inspiring Communities.” This is the second installment following the article about Arctic Heating & Cooling owner Evert Bek “Installing water filters in Haiti.”
Nominate a person who has inspired you.
Former Lowell mayor Jim Hodges retires
By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI – After 23 years of public service, former Lowell mayor Jim Hodges has decided it is time to move on. He officially retired from the Lowell City Council on Nov. 6, 2017.
He started his successful career in public service in 1982 as the director of YMCA, which at the time functioned as the city recreational department.
“A connection with the city was established,” he said, “I attended meetings.”
In 1991, Hodges became the chairperson for the Lowell Area Schools millage campaign. He helped pass two millage proposals.
He applied for the city council seat in 1988, and he was elected to two four-year terms. In 1997, he was defeated in an election by 20 votes. Hodges took a break from the Lowell City Council for six years.
In 2004, he became a city council member all over again after being asked to run by Jeanne Shores, who became the mayor twice through 2009. Shores was the only female mayor the city of Lowell has ever had.
“Because of my loyalty and friendship, I encouraged Jeanne to run,” Hodges said.
“I have always encouraged women to run. It’s crazy not to. Everybody needs to be involved in politics to get a better balance and diversity in the society. Otherwise you’re cutting your assets in half.”
Due to Shores’ sickness, Hodges became the acting mayor in 2008.
All throughout his public service, Hodges believed in respecting others opinions and diversity.
“I have three big takeaways from my public service,” he said.
The first takeaway was to pay tribute to Shores; Hodges arranged for her to run her last meeting on Dec. 21 in 2009 from a wheelchair and named her mayor emeritus.
The second takeaway was negotiating for Dave Pasquale, manager of 23 years, to take retirement.
The third takeaway was putting a traffic light at the intersection of Bowes Road and Alden Nash.
“As the mayor, you have to be less bold and more proper than as a council member,” he said.
In an era of corrupt politics and improper behavior of various officials, Hodges was one of a kind. He was always diplomatic and smiling his impeccable smile.
Public service came with the good and the bad: the deaths of mayor emeritus Shores and council member Jim Hall, as well as the clash between the personalities on the city council.
There were some controversies during the more than two decades of service in a relatively quiet community on the banks of the Flat and Grand rivers.
Some pertained to the firing of the previous city manager Mark Howe. Other controversies involved the police chiefs; one had resigned, the other chief Steve Bukala was put on first paid administrative leave in April, and on unpaid leave in June as investigation into misusing police database and subsequent charges took place.
Since, then Bukala has been reinstated.
“It will make him a better police chief,” said Hodges. “It adds another dimension of being a better professional. We have a solid team of people working together. Steve brings leadership to them as we move forward.”
Hodges had the vision to locate the chamber building on the current Riverwalk in downtown Lowell.
And would Mr. Hodges do it all over again?
“Absolutely,” he said smiling. “I would like to think that I have helped. I like a variety of people and this has given me the chance to meet many different people.”
Hodges also takes pride in being able to balance his third shift work at Amway with his public service which included meetings in the evening or in the morning.
“You have to be disciplined,” he said.
He plans on traveling with his wife Chris and enjoying their grandson.
“I hope I have added some humor and entertainment,” he said.
Following are some moments in time from Hodges’ tenure with the city of Lowell. Hodges participated in countless city parades and in the Riverwalk flushing of the city manager.
Note: The Inspiring Communities series features men and women who inspire us in our communities to serve others and to help people achieve well-being in an increasingly complex world. Nominate a person who has inspired you.
Councilmember Jim Hodges bid farewell to the Lowell City Council at his last meeting on Monday Nov. 6.
Watch for full story with Loyal citizen Jim Hodges.
Following is an excerpt taken with permission from Lowell’s First Look on Nov. 6
“Tonight marks the end of an era. After 23 years of service, Jim Hodges will attend his very last meeting as a Lowell City Council member.
Hodges’s retirement means the city not only loses a trusted public servant but also will see the bulk its institutional memory disappear. That means the departure of Hodges will leave a significant gap when it comes to understanding the history of city policies and evolution of various initiatives.
Note: Tthe Inspiring Communities series features men and women who inspire us in our communities to help other people achieve well-being in an increasingly complex world. Nominate a person who has inspired you.
Local businessman helps install water filters on Haiti, where water is the Elixir of life
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI- At the best, a running water system on the forgotten island of La Gonave off Haiti consists of a cistern tipped upside down with a hose that leads through the window inside a hut.
However, most often you will see a container full of dirty rain water known as the municipal well. The villagers haul water in buckets on donkeys or on their heads.
Usually when tested, the water is full of coliform bacteria, which causes cholera, according to Lowell resident and business owner Evert Bek.
Bek was part of a team that installed water filters in Haiti at the beginning of March. The project was spearheaded by the Lowell Rotary Club.
“There is no running water on the island,” said Evert. “There is no electricity, no bathrooms, people live in huts. They use rainwater collected in cisterns.”
The team installed 80 water filters which are cones filled with sand and stones from the local sources. Each dwelling paid 35 cents per water filter.
It takes 10 gallons of water to get the filters started before using as safe water supply, according to Bek.
Bek was astonished at the living conditions on Haiti, located only 709 miles from Miami. Most recently, Haiti was hit by hurricane Matthew on Oct. 4, 2016, and the country still suffers in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in 2010.
A typical dwelling is made of cement, it has a dirt floor, one room. And it accommodates anywhere from two to 10 people.
During the week-long stay, Evert said, he only saw meals cooking outside twice.
“One day we had beans and rice, the next day we had rice and beans,” he said. “The laundry is done outside by hand.”
Usually, the huts are scattered all around with a church as the center point. The team stayed in the village of Pikmi.
“We had to have a translator,” said Bek.
The island, which has no industry, was conquered by the French in the 1600s. The official language is Creole, which is a French African dialect.Their guide and translator was a self-taught man, who called himself Day Day. People use small motorcycles as transportation, but they mainly walk. It is not uncommon to see three to four people riding a motorcycle.Old pick-up trucks are left wherever, when they stop working.
The land is just clay and rock, because the top soil eroded as the forests were harvested unlike in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
“The island sits on a bare rock,” said Evert.
Approximately 100,000 people live on 287 square miles.
Weekly, there is a village market, where animals are traded. Charcoal on the island is used as a cooking fuel. However, there are no tools to fix anything.
In contrast to the overall living conditions, the population wears discarded t-shirts bearing losing sports teams’ logos, peddled by different organizations from the USA.
Kids and adults walk around with non-working phones.
“It’s a status symbol,” said Evert. “There is a lot of corruption in the country, you got to be ready to get your valet out to get anything done.”
Churches have done a lot of work on the island in schools and education. Kids go to schools in uniforms, and there are orphanages in good condition.
According to Evert, the big unknown remains the economy on the island even once the water problem is solved.
“You have water and then what?” he said.
There are a lot of unfinished houses on the island due to lack of materials and finances, and corruption.
A typical banker sits outside with a duffle bag of money on the corner of gravel streets. He holds dollars in one hand and Haitian Gourdes in the other hand.
If you go into a “store,” you will not get any change back.
“I learned the hard way,” laughed Bek.
The team stayed in a guest house with water and kitchen, leased through an organization based in Saranac.
“I like to help out,” he said. “Be grateful for what you have.”
Featured photo is of a Wednesday market on the Haitian island of La Gonave.
If you want to help contact your local organizations. This water filter installing project was through the Lowell Rotary club at http://www.lowellrotary.og
This post was also written as a response to the Daily Post prompt @elixir Elixir