Category Archives: writing

DAY 18: Good Friday in the COVID-19 qarantine

Easter Triduum

By Emma Palova

“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

                                                                                -Vaclav Havel

Lowell, MI – In early March before the official outbreak of the coronavirus in Michigan, we had a discussion with Ludek about the kissing of the cross on Good Friday. We we were wondering how are we going to handle that, since COVID-19 was already in the U.S.

During the catholic liturgies, there is a lot to come into contact whether it’s during a Paschal service or a regular mass. What seems to be like ages ago, we decided we will not go to Good Friday services protect our health .

Well, now we know that we’re not going, because all masses have been cancelled due to the stay-at-home order in Michigan. We will wath the service on WMXI Fox https://www.fox17online.com/ at 3 p.m. today.

From the Easter Triduum, the Good Friday liturgy is my favorite one because of the reading of “The Passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ, according to John.

The passion reading has inspired Mel Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ” and countless other works of art. Rightfully so, following is an excerpt from the Passion:

EXCERPT: The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ, according to John.

Narrator: Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them,

Christ: “Whom are you looking for?”

Narrator: They answered him,

Crowd: ” Jesus, the Nazorean.”

The above passage is very close to how you write a screenplay.

The reading of the Passion from the empty St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Grand Rapids gave a very powerful message of suffering of the Christ.

Earlier in the day I worked on the intro to my upcoming book “Greenwich Meridian Memoir.”

Introduction to the Greenwich Meridian Memoir

Here is what I have so far:

I am writing this introduction during the unprecedented time of the coronavirus shutdown, as we celebrate the Easter Triduum in front of televised services in empty churches across the nation without audiences.

Greenwich Meridian Memoir cover designed by Jeanne Boss.

 In Michigan, we are on our 18th day of the COVID-19 quarantine that has been extended through April 30, 2020. Coronavirus is now the leading cause of death in the U.S. It has caused 1,970 deaths across the country per day. As of early Friday, the U.S. had more than 465,750 coronavirus cases, according to data from John Hopkins University. More than 1.4 million cases have been reported globally.

More than half a billion people around the globe are under a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the deadly virus. This includes my homeland, the Czech Republic. The coronavirus does not discriminate or recognize borders between the states, the countries or the continents. Some are calling it an apocalypse.

Our immigration story from former socialist Czechoslovakia to the U.S. has come full circle; from one history milestone to another one.

The milestone that offset our journey across three continents was the reformist movement known as the Prague Spring 1968 under the leadership of Alexander Dubcek.

The epic story of love and desire for freedom spans 52 years on the date of publishing of this memoir. The major characters, Ella and Vaclav Konecny, are my parents, to whom I have dedicated this memoir. Mom Ella was a happy pharmacist in former Czechoslovakia, while Dad Vaclav was an unhappy mathematician in the old country.

Dad’s quest for his career fulfillment has been a constant source of inspiration for me in good and in bad times.

Stay tuned for day by day coverage of the COVID-19 quarantine in Michigan.

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.




 

Day 17: COVID-19 quarantine extended until April 30

Stay-at-home order tightens restrictions on stores, no exceptions for golf courses, construction and landscaping

By Emma Palova

Food and medicine will be the only commodities for box stores left to sell, according to the extended stay-at-home order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Only four customers per 1,000 square feet are allowed with social distancing markings. Only one person from the household should be running the errands.

“We have to double down to save lives, “ Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

All private and public gatherings are prohibited, although recreational activities are permitted within the social distancing limitations.

As of today, Michigan has had 1,076 positive Coronavirus cases and 117 deaths.

Michigan is expected to reach peak in the Coronavirus cases this weak, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard turned the Suburban Collection showplace into a field hospital in Detroit. The USDA will provide snack benefits for kids who were taking reduced cost lunches at school when it was session. This aid translates into $193 per child per month.

Whitmer said the state is now fighting two crisis: health and economic.

“We are in control of our fate,” Whitmer said. “The numbers represent people’s lives. If we all take this crisis seriously, we will come out of it robustly.

“This has been a hard month. This virus is holding a mirror to our society and its inequities.”

Whitmer referred to the fact that people of color have been hit the hardest with 40 percent of Afro-American deaths.

“We will come out of this having learned something, as we recover from COVID-19,” she said. “We will be working on long term solutions. It is time to intensify our efforts.”

According to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, it is necessary to double down to slow the spread of the disease, while building up the hospital capacity. However more medical professions are needed mainly respiratory therapists and registered nurses.

“This disease is incredibly deadly,” Whitmer said. “Any exceptions would make it porous. Landscaping and golf courses are not critical infrastructure.”

The Easter Triduum starts today with Holy Thursday.

Stay tuned for day by day coverage of the Coronavirus crisis.

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Day 11: COVID-19 quarantine gives time to enjoy nature’s gifts

First walk to the Franciscans

The nature oblivious to the Coronavirus horrors is waking up from its winter’s sleep.

I enjoyed nature’s gifts during my first walk to the The Franciscan Life Process Center: daffodils getting ready to burst open, birds singing and frogs croaking in the swamp off the gravel road.

Just under two miles, the walk covers a variety of terrain and vegetation enhanced by the beautiful landscape at the Franciscan campus outside of Lowell.

The ornamental grasses were neatly trimmed and the colors of the meadow were changing from yellowish to green. I walked past the vacant parking lot to the St. Mary’s Rosary Walk.

On normal days, the center is busy with arts and music programming. People from far and near enjoy the Franciscans’ offerings: everything from painting au plain air, music instruction, community gardening, trails to retreats in the yurts or the San Pietro house.

The gardening team is usually busy with their landscaping tasks.

But today it was quiet as the silence pierced my ears and only an occasional robin broke the spell.

I spent some quiet time on St. Mary’s Plazza as one of the sisters, who was walking her mutt Pico, greeted me.

“What a beautiful day,” she said.

“Yes, it’s gorgeous.”

At that moment I realized how fortunate we were to enjoy the beautiful Friday afternoon far away from the nation’s Coronavirus hot spots.

“What is your name?” the sister asked.

“I am Emma,” I answered. “And yours?”

“I am sister Mary Paula,” she said.

There has never been a need for social distancing outside the buildings at the center surrounded by open space. I walked the way of the cross several times and I have never encountered a single soul. The same goes for the trails on the 230-acre campus, where you immerse yourself in serenity.

When I got home, my husband Ludek was cleaning up around the outdoors furnace after a long winter.

“Let’s go somewhere, it’s Friday afternoon,” I said.

“There’s nowhere to go,” he said.

There is still nature left and its bountiful gifts for us to enjoy in the times of the Coronavirus.

Tips: Consider the COVID-19 quarantine as your personal retreat away from the society’s hustle and bustle. Let it transform you.

Featured photo: the retreat yurts at the Franciscan Life Process Center.

Stay tuned for continued day by day coverage of the Coronavirus crisis.

Visit the Franciscans at: https://lifeprocesscenter.org/

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Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Nanowrimo Day 5

Mom’s sacrifice

By Emma Palova

It’s a chilly November day as I look outside from my writing studio window at my garden with the ornamental grass bed. The grass is still green and the remaining leaves are rusty red and yellow. Only the Royal Purple Smoke tree with a dedication plaque to Ella has bright burgundy leaves clinging onto the branches.

I don’t walk to the pond anymore in the back of the garden, because my beautiful koi fish are gone. An heron devoured them in September. I didn’t want to put new fish in the pond before the winter.

Mom's diary
Mom’s diary

I logged in 10,019 words earlier in the National Novel Writing Month 50K word challenge with the Greenwich Meridian memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S. It was an interesting writing day as I could compare mom’s and dad’s statements about their biggest accomplishments in the USA.

My dad published more than 150 solved problems in different math journals and in the Canadian Crux Mathematicorum. But, he states that he is most proud of his lecturing style that was well understood among the students and that he was well liked.

I was surprised reading mom’s answer that for her America was a sacrifice to her husband’s teaching career. I found it on the last page of the pretty diary with yellow roses.

“I fullfilled my husband’s dream of teaching at an American university without being afraid of losing his job because of religion and going to church,” she wrote. “He was well-liked and with his diligence, at one point, he was making more money than his American colleagues. I ensured freedom for my children and my grandchildren, who have great careers and appreciate it. They thanked me for that.”

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Let #nanowrimo 2019 begin

NaNoWriMo 2019 kicks off today with excerpt

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – On the opening day of this year’s National Novel Writing Month 50K word challenge, I logged in 1,663 words in spite of the fact that I had to have a painful dental procedure done in Grand Rapids. I still have a numb jaw and I have trouble swallowing, kind of like those people in America’s Funniest Videos.

So, I broke up my daily writing session into two parts: morning and afternoon. My NaNoWriMo project is the completion of the Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir about our family immigration saga from Czechoslovakia to the U.S.

What helped me immensely to move this forward, was that mom Ella penned her memories in a pretty cursive in Czech in a hard cover diary with yellow roses. It has a dateline: Big Rapids-Florida, 2019-2020. Wow , and it’s dedicated to me: “To my daughter Emma.”

Mom even included a complete timeline titled “Life in a Nutshell” from 1959 to present.

Mom's diary
Mom’s diary

Here; enjoy an excerpt from chapter “In her own words.”

I was a pharmacist, and it wasn’t that the profession was narrow and had nothing to offer, but I didn’t want to nurture vain ideas of travelling. So, Sunday afternoon trips to the dam in Luhacovice or Bystricka were the only means of breaking up the gray of ordinary days. 

The first bigger trip was our honeymoon to the Krkonose mountains in the old Tatra and mother’s departing comments: “I hope the poor car will make it.” 

When we arrived in Harachov, we sent a message to my parents: “We’ve arrived under Mount Blanc.” At that moment, it never occured to me that one day I would indeed be looking at the majestic highest mountain in the Alps. 

After five years of marriage, we had two children: Emma and Vasek. I was working part-time in a pharmacy in my hometown Vizovice and my husband Vaclav was teaching physics in Brno. He would come for the weekend to Vizovice, because I couldn’t find a job in Brno and we had no place to stay there. We were on the waiting list for an apartment, that we got in 1965. We didn’t have a car or money to furnish the apartment. My husband found out that the president of the university in Khartoum, Sudan was hiring English-speaking professors to teach different subjects. Vaclav’s English was excellent and he got the job.

Copyright (c) 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Happy Halloween

Ready for #NaNoWriMo 2019

I am as ready as I can be for the National Novel Writing Month 50K word challenge starting tomorrow Nov. 1 with my Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir project.

However, Halloween is not only followed by the NaNoWriMo blast off , but also by All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day in the catholic calendar on Saturday. I always go to the mass at St. Pat’s for one or the other to reflect and for inspiration.

Usually, the Book of the Dead is on display. An evening candlelight procession goes to the cemetery.

The feature photo is an optical illussion “All is Vanity” from Belrockton in Belding. It is hanging next to the “Face of Gossip,” which is on the cover of my new book “Secrets” from the Shifting Sands Short Stories collections.

Follow me on my NaNoWriMo journey to the completion of the memoir about our family immigration saga to the U.S.

I will be signing my new book at the Lowell Area Historical Museum (LAHM) on Nov. 15, 16 & 17 during Christmas through Lowell.

For more info on NaNoWriMo go to: https://www.nanowrimo.org/

For more info on Christmas through Lowell go to: www.christmasthroughlowell.org

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

NaNO prep

Proud to report that I am in the prep phase for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2019 at full speed. During the month of October , I logged in 12,195 words. My goal is to complete the Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West in November and follow up with revisions.

It is a memoir about our family immigration saga from former communist Czechoslovakia to the US.

NaNoWriMo is a great tool for any writing project that you may have. First of all, it gives you daily accountability of writing by logging in daily word count. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

I had to do a lot of prep work, because I also have author events in November with my new book “Secrets” from the Shifting Sands Short Stories series.

I will be at the Lowell Area Historical Museum during the Christmas through Lowell tour on Nov. 15, 16 & 17 signing my books. So stop by to pick up an autographed book. I will be offering writing and publishing tips, as well.

Locally, my book is available at Springrove Variety in downtown Lowell.

I am extremely excited about this Christmas event. I’ve done it before with my first book “Shifting Sands: Short Stories.” I was at the Red Barn Market with other vendors including my daughter-in-law Maranda, who has “Little Dreamers Sleepovers” party business.

I would still like to get in one more author’s event before the end of this year. And what a year it has been. Watch for my post “Year in Review 2019.”

For info on NaNo go to: https://www.nanowrimo.org/

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Day 4 Camp NaNOWRIMO

The Camp NaNoWriMo in April is an extension of the National Novel Writing Month in November. We’ve entered the fourth day of the camp already.

I penned the core of “Secrets,” which is a sequel to Shifting Sands: Short Stories, during the November NaNoWriMo project.

From my camp cabin log:

Since, I have two goals for my camp 2019, I am moving ahead to
finish the last story in the collection “Secrets.” I will be done with that
shortly. Then comes formatting.
No.2 goal is to recast the familly immigration saga “Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West. Instead of discarding 11 chapters, I will just
shuffle content around. I have to get the memoir going in the right
direction. I don’t want it to be a list of facts.
I hope for all us campers that we can get done what we have set out to
do; the camaraderie and support help. I have
family here from Europe, so it’s hard to get in my actual “butt in chair”
time.

Copyright (c)2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Writing Away 2019

Florida retreat brings inspirations with excerpts

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI – I am getting ready for my annual writer’s retreat in Florida. Each year in February, I head down south to the Gulf coast to get some sunny inspirations for my writings.

It has become a tradition since the late 2000s to visit with my parents, who winterize in Venice. Each year brings different insights; from dolphin sightings, chats with fishermen to encounters with beach painters and sand castle builders.

Two of my favorite memories are of course from the beach. I was walking on the beach, when French-speaking tourists asked me where is the west. The sun was just setting on the horizon to our right. So, I pointed in that direction.

“Oui, merci,” they shook their heads laughing.

The other one is from Sharky’s Pier. I walked on the pier boardwalk to watch the sunset.

It was getting increasingly dark in the orange glow on the Gulf side, but the shore was glistening in silver with the rising moon in the east. The contrast between night and day was striking much like the characters in my stories. Some are dark and shady from the very beginning like chief Will in the story “Chief” from my new book “Shifting Sands: Secrets.” Copyright (2019) Emma Palova. Other characters like manager Ricky go awry with time. Some characters shine bright throughout the story like the Belrockton matron Doris in the story “Silk Nora.”

Nature with its changing faces has always inspired me, as long as I can remember.

A heart and a cross made from sea shells overgrown by beach grasses is a close third runner up in the circle of inspirations.

“Start asking yourself questions,” one of my former editors said.

Many years later, I ask myself: “Who made that statement in the sand and for whom? How come it lasted?”

Then, there are golden nuggets from the Floridians who have never left sunny Florida.

“You mean to tell us there is snow on the ground in Michigan?” guys asked me in disbelief.

“Plenty of it. We have to stake the driveway for the snow plowing,” I said.

I am looking forward to chatting with my parents about out immigration saga, now spanning three generations.

I love yoga on the beach with Elin Larsen and hundreds of her followers. Her DVDs help me get through Michigan winters.

“Just move,” Elin encourages.

Excerpts from the “Chief”

And now this mess just before the holidays. In earlier years, he would light up to fight off the anxiety. He couldn’t even do that anymore. Nervously, he tapped his fingers against his thigh. He noticed he needed new pants.

Ricky in the meantime was staring blankly into the Monday rain on Main Street. The rain mixed with a few snowflakes, and his short drive to work was awful. And he wasn’t a good driver either. His strategy was as always to wait out until the other side spills out all the information putting him at the advantage. But this time it was taking longer than usual. Ricky was afraid of eating the whole pencil. Plus, he had a long day ahead of him with a meeting in the evening.

“I got a letter,” said the mayor pulling out a folded sheet of paper.

Ricky looked directly at the mayor fidgeting.

“Did you want to read it to me, Carl?” asked Ricky, “or you just want to tell me?”

The mayor too knew how slick Ricky ​was from previous dealings​ with him. He decided to be careful this time.

“It’s about the chief,” he said softly.

Of course, Ricky should have known right from the get go that it was about the police chief. The other day when he was getting a haircut at Salon 111, he overheard a conversation from the neighboring chair.

That was another bad habit in his portfolio: eavesdropping coupled with gossip.[EP1] 

“The chief was trying to change something in a file and he got caught,” said the cute redhead hairdresser leaning over the head of the lady in the chair fluffing her blonde hair.

“What was he trying to change?” the blonde raised her eyebrows looking at herself and at the redhead in the mirror.

Both of them stared into the mirror, as if the answer was inside that piece of glass.

Ricky rubbed his forehead, as he tried to chase away that scene from the salon from his mind. He knew it was going to be a long day and a long week in Riddleyville when the salons and the bars start buzzing with tidbits from the city hall.

“What about him?” Ricky looked up at the mayor. “He called in sick or what? I know it’s Monday and he worked the Ladies Night Out and the weekend. I don’t have a problem with him calling in.”

As always Ricky was trying to steer the conversation in his preferred direction.

“Somebody else can fill in for him tonight at the meeting,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”

Copyright © 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.


Super Bowl LIII Inspirations

January ice blown away by February victory of Patriots; Wind never felt better

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- After the “unforgiving freeze” in the last week of January, the heated sixth victory of the New England Patriots in this year’s Super Bowl felt like a warm balsam on the rattled nerves. It melted away the ice with the wind, and ushered in inspiration.

As an author, people ask me a lot of questions. My favorite one is: “What inspires you?”

As a freelance journalist, I’ve asked local artists and authors that same question more than a hundred times. I like being on both sides of that question; you never know what answer you’re going to get or give.

Sometimes, inspiration comes in the form of an open space that needs to be filled, as a gap in time while waiting for snow or spring or from a masterpiece game.

I always eagerly expect the answer, but I have to think about my own response. There’s a certain tension in the question itself, plus it’s very timely as I have just found out. The artists most often say that nature inspires them and they have their specific spots they love to paint. For artist Kathleen Mooney, it’s the Yellow Dog River in Upper Peninsula, for others it’s the pretty garden by Ball’s Ice Cream or the dogwood by the Franciscan Sisters.

Authors say that family, parish stories, crime and history have inspired them.

However, I’ve never heard anyone in the artist/author tribes say, “The Super Bowl inspires me.”

On the contrary, I saw posts on writing groups on social media, that they’re not going to watch the biggest American game.

“Superbowl Sunday? No thanks. I’ll write. For the first time in about a month,” Jade states.

“Need to correct American writers tonight; it’s Super Bowl (two words, not one),” Warren responds.

“Proof that I don’t care about the game,” Jade professes his deepest beliefs.

“Superb owl,” Hugo responds. “I mean you’re wasting time on Facebook…”

Regardless, the correct spelling, the big game spurred a dialogue wherever you went; from general stores in the country, churches, main streets to living rooms. Anytime you have a heated discussion, you have a story: real and fiction.

After watching the spectacle on CBS from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, I beg to differ from reports of a boring game. The opening NFL commercial with John Malkowich from the Roman Colosseum in Rome talking on the phone with Peyton Manning in the USA rocked the boat.

It was a game hard to watch, according to the commentators. Some would call it a nail-biting old-fashioned football game.

“Wind never felt better,” Budweiser touted their use of wind energy in an ad.

And foreign car ads dominated the automobile scene, along with robots like The Transformer.

After 266 games, the New England Patriots won for the sixth time the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night just around 10 p.m.

“It was a physical game for a physical team,” a commentator said. “Any way you slice it, it was a defensive masterpiece.”

That’s the story twist: a victory in a defensive game. Wind never felt better.

“It’s sweet, we’re still in,” said Patriots owner CEO Bob Kraft. “We’re all patriots.”

Quarterback Tom Brady, 41, is expected to play the top role for the Patriots until 45. In response to the question what motivates and inspires him, Brady, looked around the stadium, and said.

“You, my fans, it feels like at home.”

Ditto, Tom.

Copyright © 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.