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.
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Hiker Babe walks 4,600 miles in memory of daughter
Longtime artist inspires generations embedded in Lowell area
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Note: The IW winter series, which leads up to the International Women’s Day on March 8, features women from all walks of life who continue to inspire others in our communities.
Their positions in the society are not measured by money or the accolades they receive, but by contributions to progress and well-being of all.
Nominate a woman who has inspired you for the series.
Lowell, MI – Artist Janet Y. Johnson, 86, is an icon. Together with artists late David Davis and current Kathleen Mooney, they have created an artistic legacy for generations embedded in the greater Lowell area.
Johnson has been a staple at the Flat River Gallery & Framing in downtown Lowell with countless exhibits of watercolor and acrylic paintings.
The gallery will celebrate its fourth anniversary with the “Let’s celebrate” event with champagne and chocolates on Feb. 11 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Johnson recalls all the great years of exhibiting and painting in the Lowell area.
“They’re all realistic paintings,” said Johnson about her work.
Some of them go as far back as to the heydays of another icon, the Lowell Showboat on the Flat River in the 1950s.
“I used to sing on it, and then I painted it,” Johnson said during a recent interview at her home.
As we looked at the dark blue watercolor painting of the Showboat with strings of lights floating on the Flat River hanging in the detached studio, one could imagine the lively atmosphere on the deck.
You could almost hear the voices singing:
“Here comes the Showboat.”
Johnson sold two paintings of the Showboat and bought one back when the owner stated, that the painting should stay in the Lowell area.
Johnson has lived in the Lowell area for 57 years.
Growing up on a farm in Alto, Johnson acquired a natural affinity to all animals.
Johnson studied animal drawing at the Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, FL and graduated in 1951.
Prior to that, she studied at the Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids, and worked as a publication designer for Amway in the 70s.
“It was a wonderful place to work,” she said.
Among her favorites are vivid paintings of exotic animals in circus settings.
Johnson’s most recent watercolor painting is of the Miller Circus which performed in Lowell last August after the fair. She will hang the painting of the circus at the gallery for the new February show.
According to Johnson, the circus ringmaster at the Miller Circus was connected to the Ringlings.
Johnson spent most of 2016 illustrating the children’s book “Gertie Goose.”
“It’s a story about bullying,” said Johnson.
Pat Markle, former teacher of Hastings Schools, wrote the book. This was the third project for the author illustrator duo during the last decade.
The book is available at the Lowell Arts and at the Flat River galleries for $15.
“Gertie Goose” was published by J-Ad Graphics of Hastings in 2016.
Note: This IW winter series features inspiring women from all walks of life who strive to make a difference in other people’s lives.
The difference in the society these women make is not measured by money or accolades they receive. It is measured by the progress in the society, because we as a nation cannot go backwards.
The IW series which leads up to the International Women’s Day on March 8th was also inspired by a dedication note on “365 ways to Relax mind, body & soul” from my son Jake:
“I dedicate this to my inspiring and motivational mother.” -Kuba
Nominate a woman who has made a difference in your life for this series.
Lowell woman shows passion for human rights, marches in Washington
Name: Sharon Ellison
Residence: Lowell, MI
Occupation: retired from Lowell Area Schools
Family: husband Tony, sons Steve and Tony
Interests: travelling, art
Education: bachelor’s from Central Michigan University
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI – It was a solid wall to wall crowd between the main route on Independence Avenue and 14th Street, where Lowell resident Sharon Ellison and team ended up last Saturday during the Women’s March in Washington D.C.
“We could not reach the main parade on Independence and Third Street, because it was a solid wall of people,” Ellison said. “There was no break in the crowd.”
So, instead the team made their way to 14th Street were the parade was headed.
“I felt fenced in,” she said. “There were solid walls of people all around us.”
However, in spite of the crowds, the march was peaceful, according to Ellison.
“Everyone was respectful and polite,” she said. “There were only three police cars. We were looking out for each other. I did not feel vulnerable.”
There was a woman who went into labor and an ambulance had to make its way through the crowds.
But there were also some embarrassing moments like when someone questioned why women from Michigan were at the march.
“I felt sad for Michigan, whose electoral votes were for Trump,” Ellison said.
The crowds in Washington D.C. were estimated at 250,000, while worldwide around three million protestors gathered in major cities.
Ellison and other women carried signs bearing the name of those who couldn’t come: whether live or in memory of. Ellison gathered 74 signatures including memorial signatures of late family members.
“I felt those women were with me that day,” she said. “The atmosphere was peaceful, everyone wanted to be present.”
Ellison is no stranger to the Lowell community located at the confluence of Flat and Grand Rivers in northeast Kent County known as “The next place to be.”
Ellison, who is now retired, worked for the Lowell Middle School for 16 years, and she served on the Lowell City Council for eight years.
In the 1990s, Ellison with husband Tony had a video store in different locations around town.
Ellison enjoys travelling around the world and getting to know other cultures.
However, due to the events of the previous 19 months of the presidential campaign, Ellison felt she needed to do more than just complain.
“I went to D.C. for the Women’s March out of fear of what might happen,” she said.
Fountain Street Church of Grand Rapids organized last Saturday’s trip to Washington D.C. However, the charter buses were sold out early on, so the church also organized a local Women’s March in Grand Rapids.
“By sharing our experiences, writing to our representatives and making phone calls, we’re going to keep the movement going,” said Ellison on the future of the movement.
Ellison said there is no way of going back in protecting human rights.
“If any group is marginalized, we all lose,” she said. “We can’t go back.”
Unlike at the inauguration on Jan. 20, the metro trains were packed, according to Ellison.
“We rode the metro, but we had trouble getting in,” she said. “We were met by walls of people. The best we could do was to march on 14th Street to Constitution Avenue. It was amazing, you could hear the wave of people moving.”
Ellison said she went to the Women’s March in Washington for the same reason, she ran for a seat on the Lowell city council in 2015.
“I did stand up to make a difference,” she said. “I don’t want to be just politically correct. You get tired of banging your head against the wall.”
Ellison’s biggest pet peeve are bullies in any environment.
“I couldn’t tolerate it at work, as a child, or as a politician,” she said. “We wanted to send a definite message that this is not okay.”
And it’s time for action.
“We’ve gone past words,” she said. “We have to do something. This is the upside of the downside.”
Other women present in D.C. from the Grand Rapids area along with Ellison were: Nancy Misner, Alice Harwood, Kathy Sainz, Maria Lara, Nancy Misner, Shelli Otten.
I am bringing back the popular IW Inspiring Women series for the winter. The series carries the logo of the enigmatic orchids which come in a thousand of varieties, each bringing joy with her own beauty. Much like the women in this world.
In this series I bring to you the stories of women who inspire others with their character, actions and the love for what they do. As daughters, mothers, grandmothers and wives, they all make a difference in their own way.
All of them juggle different responsibilities; to themselves, to the families and to the society at large.
Their value is not listed in dollars they bring to the economy, but in their contribution to bettering the lives of other people.
Meet artist turned hunter Linda Kropf Phillips
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI- I first met artist Linda Kropf Phillips, owner of Natures Serenity, at a little known bazaar in the historic village of Fallasburg two years ago.
She was manning the booth with her brother Jerry Kropf. Most people in the area know the name Kropf, as the well- established owners of the Kropf apple orchards.
“Are you related to the Kropfs?” was one of my questions during a recent interview with Linda.
“Which ones?” she asked.
“The apple farmers?”
“My father was the carpenter in the family,” Linda said.
It was her father Bob Kropf ,who not only inspired Linda, but who also taught her perfection in glass etching of gun cabinets and everything else in business, like reasonable pricing.
“My dad challenged me,” she said. “I worked in his wood shop for 20 years at Murray Lake. He taught me a lot of woodwork. I taught myself glass etching on china and glass cabinets.”
Yes, there was no challenge too big for Linda to handle, whether it was the etching of a standing bear and a partridge flying over his head, or other intrinsic scenes from nature.
“I found a picture of a standing bear in a magazine,” Linda said.
One of her first drawings was a sketch of the GI Joe doll. Some four decades later, Linda easily found the pencil drawing at the house. And it was not just the doll, but also some sketches of the Beatles.
Linda started drawing when she was 11 years old. Growing up as a 4-H girl and doing rodeo, she loved to draw horses.
She went to the Alton country school from 1964 to 1968 prior to going to the Lowell public schools.
“I rode my horse to school,” she laughed.
But, sometimes it was mom Jan Kropf who played the bus driver loading up the kids in a car and hauling them to school.
Linda graduated from the Lowell High School in 1976, and she received the perfect graduation gift.
It was tuition for one year at the Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids. She had already taken advanced ceramics and design classes in high school. In sixth grade, Linda also took art classes from local artist Jan Johnson.
Four years ago, Linda started her Natures Serenity line of artwork on slab and drift wood.
“I love being outside, hunting, taking pictures of nature and kayaking,” she said.
While kayaking on the Flat River on the morning the Whites Bridge in Smyrna burnt, Linda found pieces of driftwood and metal from the bridge down the river.
She painted the covered Whites Bridge on a piece of driftwood and hung it on the metal from the bridge. First the driftwood had to dry out and Linda coated it with three to four coats of polyurethane to preserve them.
The two pieces sold at the Danish Festival in 2014 in Greenville with half of the proceeds going to the “Rebuild Whites Bridge” organization.
Artist Linda is also an avid hunter, who annually heads out into the woods in the Upper Peninsula with her husband Scott. Naturally, she would not reveal their “sacred hunting grounds” somewhere northwest of Marquette.
Scott has been hunting for the last 45 years, while Linda started hunting 11 years ago. Before that Linda rabbit hunted with her brother. She took her first deer with a gun, when she was three months pregnant in 1986.
For Linda, family always comes first.
“I started going with Scott with my camera and took my artwork with me,” she said. “We go during the gun season hunting for bear, and I bow hunt for deer.”
Naturally, Linda who took up bow hunting three years ago, is inspired by the great outdoors and what it has to offer. Her booth at the Dec. 3 Rogue River Arts Show was an amazing display of nature’s scenes on wood. Everything from deer, fowl, fish, Queen Anne’s lace to footprints captured on a wooden slab. Some of the artwork boasted 3D imagery in detailed foliage and branches during different seasons.
“I like the fall, so bow and arrow wins,” she said. “I feel safer.”
One of her scariest experiences was while hunting on the ground.
“I had a wolf behind sniffing at me,” she said. “I was nervous. I thought it was just a squirrel crinkling again.”
Well that “crinkling squirrel” turned out to be a 157 pound black bear. But, these adventures do not prevent Linda from going “Up North” to hunt in the “sacred land.”
“We stay in a camper, 10 days at a time depending on the weather,” she said. “Sometimes it’s two hours to the closest processor.”
And back home in Lowell, the dinner always features some wild game, whether deer, bear, fish or fowl in the form of burger, roast or steaks.
“We have deer all the time,” Linda said.
Most recently, based on popular demand from the less macho side of the population, Linda added to her wildlife art portfolio paintings of chickadees and cardinals.
“It runs the gamut from deer, moose, bass and I added flowers, “she said.
Natures Serenity artwork is available at Bodacious in Rockford and at Pinky’s Place Antique & Artisan Market in Grand Rapids.
Her busy art show season starts in July with the Fourth of July Artist Show in the UP, Lake Odessa Arts in the Park on Aug. 5th, Danish Festival on Aug. 19th & Aug. 20th and Rockford on Sept. 10th
The last show of the season is always the Rogue River Arts & Artisan Show on the first Saturday in December at the Lowell High School.
Nominate a woman who has in any way inspired you this year or in the past. In the IW women’s series, I have featured artists like Kathleen Mooney, entrepreneur Station Salon’s owner Nancy DeBoer, hiker Gail “Chosen” Lowe who has hiked all five national trails in the USA, Lowell Area Chamber director Liz Baker, former Lowell city clerk Betty Morlock, trail developer Carolyn Kane, founder of SowHope Mary Dailey Brown and many others.
E-mail Emma via the contact page or on Facebook at emmapalova@Facebook.com
Hunting season 2015 opens strong, artist inspired by hunting
By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI- Today is the opening day of the firearm hunting season in the Midwest. It will last until the end of November.
It may or may not mean anything to big city folks, but out here in the country it is a big deal.
Some school districts like Portland schools in Ionia County close for the opening day, so kids can go out and hunt with their dads.
Although I am not a hunter, I have so many friends, both female and male, who are hunters that I had to post this to honor their passion.
The first who comes to my mind is my artist hunter friend Linda Kropf Phillips of Lowell. Inspired by nature and hunting, Phillips has created a line of slab wood paintings “Natures Serenity.”
The second hunter is a long-time friend from former Czechoslovakia, Miroslav Hlavenka. He now resides in Montreal, Canada. Hlavenka is an awesome chef a la naturelle.
Both are hunting now, as I write this post that could also be called “Living in harmony with nature.”
Annually, the sports hunting industry fuels the economy in many ways from direct hunting permits, & gear to indirect sports hunting tourism.
And the experts predict a good hunting season due to unseasonably mild weather.
“The deer had a lot to feed on,” said TV sports commentator.
This morning opened strong with clear skies and 50 degree temperatures. Hundreds of hunters in camouflage headed out into the woods.
As I drove to an appointment through the country, I could see cars parked by public hunting lands.
One opening day, I actually headed out into the Lowell State Game Area and joined a local hunter for a great experience, and a great story.
We always took photos of proud hunters who brought their deer in at the various newspapers that I have worked for.
Phillips of Lowell is already in Upper Peninsula with four guys determined to get their deer.
We postponed our interview for IW Inspiring Women series until Phillips returns in December.
Phillips fascinates me that she is both an avid hunter and a very apt nature artist and she shows that off in “Natures Serenity.”
She was one of the first artists at the Fallasburg Village Bazaar last year.
Hlavenka used to hunt already back in former Czechoslovakia. He picked back up his passion in Quebec, as he heads out into the woods.
Back in Czech Republic, hunters and public at large celebrated the hunting season with the annual Hunter’s Ball in the winter months.
The hunters wore their green uniforms and made hunter’s goulash for the occasion. It was either venison, boar and rabbit stew or steaks with potato dumplings and red cabbage.
There is something about hunting that’s inherent to human kind. That’s how we survived in the first place all the earth’s elements, agriculture came later.
Whenever I see deer in my garden feasting on apples or turkeys running in the cornfields, there’s joy in my heart, that peace will prevail.
With the upcoming Thanksgiving next week, there is a lot to be thankful for.
Driving through the woods and the fields on a beautiful sunny November morning, crossing the Thornapple, Grand and Flat rivers, I realized how grateful I am for the surrounding nature, for the harmony, for the fall abundance and the co-existence of it all.
Send me a picture of you and your deer and I will post it on my Emma Blogs, LLC portfolio of sites.
Watch for a recipe for Hunter’s Stew coming up.
Also in the works are stories in the IW Inspiring Women winter series. They have the logo of the orchids.
Lowell, MI- As our time together with Ella winds down, I write this with deep sadness in my heart.
Today is Ella’s last day at the Early Fives summer program at St. Patrick’s School in Parnell. I went into my husband Ludek’s experiment with butterflies in my stomach.
“Ella will stay with us this summer and you will fly back with her to France,” Ludek said back in May.
Chaos in my mind
Ella Chavent with Ludek Pala on the Showboat during the Sizzlin’ Summer concert series in Lowell.
“Wow, slow down I got to work,” I said surprised.
Ella will be going to the first grade in the wine village of Fixin in Burgundy, France after the summer break in the USA. In six years, we’ve seen her six times, when she came for brief visits with her mother Emma.
“That’s the price you pay for immigration,” I said to Ludek and my friends.
And that’s when Ludek came up with the idea of having Ella here to capture the time gone by over the years, as she was growing up.
It wasn’t just the ocean of time that separated us. It was all the little things that we missed. All the firsts that had gone by: the first steps, first words, first hugs, first laughs and first tears.
I’ve never imagined that I could miss someone else’s tears or laughs.
But, the reality is different.
“I will miss your laugh,” said former publisher Val at the Ionia Sentinel-Standard when I left the paper for good in 1993.
Ella Chavent in front of St. Pat’s school in Parnell.
“How about her work,” snapped the editor also Val.
Ella has grown from the toddler that we took with us to the beach in South Haven back in 2011 to a smart and sassy girl with an artsy flair.
“Why do you get angry,” I asked her the other day in the car on the way back from school as the Queen rocked & rolled to full blast.
“Because sometimes you annoy me,” Ella said pouting.
“Really, so no more crepes or ice cream for you,” I said.
We missed all the sorries, too.
“Sorry, grandpa,” Ella apologized after refusing to follow another one of Ludek’s orders.
However, time apart brings along appreciation, deeper love and understanding.
“I miss my mommy,” Ella cried one afternoon after school as she hugged Emma’s graduation picture hanging in the living room next to Mona Lisa.
Ella’s time in America.
Ella Chavent with one of the teachers at St. Pat’s.
“I am sure she misses you too,” I said.
“I want to be with her,” Ella continued.
“You will eventually,” I said trying to comfort her.
But, Ella was inconsolable. The persistent little girls cried hours into the night.
“Alright, you’re flying back with her to France tomorrow,” I said to Ludek.
The next day was a brand new day.
“Will I see my friends today?” Ella asked on our way to school with Queen blasting in the background. “Tell me one of your stories.”
And I started telling her the story of Scheherazade and the mean king, and the story of the guy with the expensive McLaren automobile who ran a red stop sign.
“Tell me the story about the bracelet and Jake’s wedding ring,” Ella demanded more storytelling.
Ella loves the music of Queen after a Picnic Pops concert at Cannonsburg in July.
“I am like Freddie Mercury, I want it all,” she laughs as we go back home.
Throughout these six weeks, I’ve learned several big lessons. I learned that stories are soothing and healing. I learned that food which reminds you of home is comforting. I learned that the jittery music of Queen can bring on the atmosphere of home. And that the school environment is good for kids.
So, whenever Ella got homesick, I made French crepes and opened a jar of “cornichons.” We call them dills, here in America.
And I spent a perfect day with Ella doing the “Back to School Shopping” rut that was so new to me. Finally, Ella got her ears pierced at the Piercing Pagoda at the mall.
And I told her my endless stories on demand.
I will keep telling them, until I can’t speak or write anymore.
Goodbye, my friend. It was brief, but it was. It really did happen that you were here in America.
I need to assure myself.
Note: Most of my relationship stories appear in the “Greenwich Meridian” (c) memoir, as well as ethnic and travel stories. I hope to finish the memoir for publication my Mother’s Day 2017.