Saint Patrick Festival 2014

Saint Patrick establishes traditions

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Parnell, MI- I love this Irish unincorporated settlement in the middle of nowhere. I got hooked on it almost 20 years ago, when we were looking for a place to build a house. We found it right here in northeast Kent County, Michigan, some 6,000 miles away from home in former Czechoslovakia.

“I am going to like it here,” I said to my husband Ludek as we drove past the white country church and the old general store.

I can easily list all the establishments in Parnell. There are the Saint Patrick’s Church and school, the cemetery and the Parnell Grocery store.

The parish with its parishioners cement Parnell as they have for the last 170 years. The annual Saint Patrick Festival is the biggest event of the year in the community. It always takes place at the end of June far from the actual feast of Saint Patrick on March 17. But, the weather is better, although unpredictable.

Maranda Lynn with Josephine Marie Palova
Maranda Lynn with Josephine Marie Palova

Over the years, the festival weather has been from jacket cold to bikini hot.

We found out about the Irish festival early on through channels in Lowell. We’re not Irish by any means, but we lived in Montreal which has a big Irish heritage. We went to the Saint Patrick’s parade there which was complete with bagpipers in skirts.

Saint Patrick festival has become a family tradition, a homecoming when we all get together. My daughter Emma Palova-Chavent usually flies in for Saint Patrick Festival from France.

Dave Simmonds’ bluegrass band Easy Idle that played on Friday festival nights inspired her wedding music and dance back in 2009.

This year, the Conklin Ceili Band played on Friday night. Even without closing my eyes, I could see Michael Flatley and his troop dancing to the Irish band.

I can’t dance the jig, but I can certainly appreciate it.

The Las Vegas night, preceded by the auction, takes place on Saturday nights. I tried my luck a few times and I’ve always lost.

The big get together day is Sunday. After the mass, it’s time for the popular chicken dinners. My parents Ella and Vaclav Konecny always come from Big Rapids to share this special time.

I am not a chicken lover, but the grilled chicken with mashed potatoes, corn, cole slaw and apple sauce is delicious. And the desserts baked by the parishioner women are awesome.

“I don’t have to cook,” mom said victoriously.

Moreover, Saint Patrick parish festivals started popping up around Michigan, according to mom.

“We had one last week in Big Rapids and it raised $18,000,” Ella said.

Much like back in 1850 when the chicken dinners started, I introduced my future daughter-in-law Maranda Lynn Ruegsegger to the tradition.

“I always had to work,” she said. “I am excited.”

Longtime parishioner Ed Donahue said the chicken dinners evolved into the three-day festival. Donahue has been in charge of the dinners.

“It’s a lot more than a fundraiser,” Donahue said.

It is more than a fundraiser. Freelance writer Maryalene LaPonsie received the Dorothy Award after the 5K run Friday for enduring hardship. LaPonsie has been raising five children as a single parent after her husband Tom passed away last year.

Maryalene LaPonsie receives the Dorothy Award.
Maryalene LaPonsie receives the Dorothy Award.

“I think the festival weekend may have breathed some new life into me,” LaPonsie wrote on Facebook. “I feel better than I have in a while. Hopefully that will carry over to tomorrow when the alarm goes off.”

LaPonsie wrote that she was honored to get the award.

“The only reason I can persevere is because of you my friends,” LaPonsie wrote. “You who pick me up when I fall, you who cheer me on when I despair, you who rush in when I falter.”

Saint Patrick parish festival is definitely more than a fundraiser for the church and the school. It is bonding time for families like ours and Irish descendants far away from home.

 

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

Happiness engineering

Happiness engineer resolves computer drama

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI-Happiness comes in many forms. What brings a smile to your face?

A WordPress happiness engineer brought a smile back to my face.

I panicked after I lost two-thirds of followers of EW Emma’s Writings on Monday. The photo below depicts exactly what I felt like. The caricature is by Olin Pink

Emma Palova deals with a technical hiccup.
Emma Palova deals with a technical hiccup.

 

“Losing followers, including shares and subscriptions, is like losing gold or accounts,” I wrote in the original story that I have decided to completely rewrite.

The help I received was efficient, fast, analytical and comforting. Each email ended with “Cheers.”

I got links that  narrowed down the problem and finally resolved it with a best wishes farewell.

Happiness engineering is like Russian nesting dolls
Happiness engineering is like Russian nesting dolls

Happiness engineering reminds me of Russian nesting dolls. Happiness engineers work to narrow down the problem and what caused it.

The happiness engineers around the world work as a team until the problem is solved.

The WordPress support distributed team works in a similar environment like the users, according to a presentation by happiness engineer Andrew Spittle. Here is an excerpt from Spittle’s talk at a 2013 conference in San Francisco.

The sec­ond prin­ci­ple I hold to be true is that happy peo­ple are most inclined to share and spread that happiness.

We’re Hap­pi­ness Engi­neers, right? We don’t want to cre­ate a cul­ture of sad­ness. That’s not going to help our users. If we can ori­ent deci­sions toward increas­ing our hap­pi­ness then it will also inevitably increase our users’ happiness.

We can step back from the pres­sure, trends, and iso­la­tion of any par­tic­u­lar geo­graphic area. There isn’t a cen­tral, geo­graphic ide­ol­ogy that’s pre­dom­i­nant. The lan­guages, val­ues, ideas, and lifestyles of our team are dis­trib­uted around the world, just like our users.

That built-in geo­graphic dis­tri­b­u­tion, what I ear­lier called being location-agnostic, means we can say No to a lot of things. A lot of things peo­ple assume to be required of a cus­tomer sup­port gig we don’t need to worry about. In our day-to-day work we have:

We have no set shifts. We pre­scribe no par­tic­u­lar sched­ule. And we ensure that no one pulls a grave­yard shift.

Thanks to the entire support team and especially to the angel happiness engineer somewhere out there in that vast Internet space.

Copyright © 2014 story and photo by Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

EW blog enters new phase on the daily Ionia Sentinel-Standard site

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- I am very excited today because my blog EW Emma’s Writings is now also live on the Ionia Sentinel-Standard daily newspaper site at http://www.sentinel-standard.com/section/blogs01?taxid=2414

“It will increase traffic to the blog a lot,” said editor Lori Kilchermann. “I will do some promos in the coming days and weeks.”

This has been my goal for a long time. I finally feel like I have stepped into the future. I worked for the Sentinel from 1998 to 2003, and I received several awards for community and mental health reporting. Internet was still a baby at the time and so were RSS feeds, content writing and social media.

EW blog on the Ionia Sentinel-Standard daily newspaper
EW blog on the Ionia Sentinel-Standard daily newspaper

The EW Emma’s Writings blog on the WordPress platform features a mix of local and international stories in support of the publication of my memoir Greenwich Meridian where East meets west. The memoir is about our family immigration saga now spanning three generations. I will dedicate the memoir to my mother Ella Konecny who suffered the most with immigration.

I established the blog in January of 2013 to increase exposure on the Internet. It has been steadily growing both in audience and content. The page About People is just like its title suggests about interesting people from the area such as Connie Elsasser with her carriage rides, the Ionia Community Mental Health director Bob Lathers or the Kropf apple legend.

EW blog on WordPress
EW blog on WordPress

I update the blog twice a week and use my photography. Other users of WordPress include CNN, Bangor Daily, TechCrunch, Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart.

I use WordPress themes 2014, Skylark, Hemingway re-written, Splendio and more.

I also started to write and design blogs for other people. Blogs are dynamic, fast and versatile. Search engines like them and they drive traffic to sites. If you want me to design and write your blog e-mail me at emmapalova@yahoo.com for a quote. I can also teach you how to blog to drive traffic to your business and websites.

I love blogging because of the great feedback I get my readers.

I hope you will enjoy my writings and photography also on http://emmapalova.com and editionemma.wordpress.com

Watch for my stories from the Mississippi River. I now accomplished 127 posts on WordPress. I am looking forward to the next 100.

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

Old Man River Mississippi

Old Man River attracts fur traders

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

On this longest day of the year, I am writing about my Mississippi River adventures. I could use more than one long day that the summer solstice gives us.

Like Pere Marquette, Joliette and McGregor we landed in Prairie du Chien on a hot Friday afternoon to discover the Old Man River. The last time we were here was five years ago.

Annually the city hosts the largest fur trade re-enactment in the Midwest. The river was high after recent rains but did not flood the St. Feriole Island.

On our way to Prairie we bet that nothing has changed in the area for the last 100 years.

Rediscovering treasures on the Mississippi River
Rediscovering treasures on the Mississippi River

Well, we were right except for road construction in the downtown area. And a local businessman completed the remodel of a furniture store.

We crossed the Mississippi to Iowa’s McGregor to stay at Uncle Sam’s Saloon built in 1857 on the landing. The building has been remodeled and updated, but it does have this formidable steep staircase like into a chicken coop.

The view of the town from the porch was marvelous. McGregor is known as “Pocket City” reminiscent of a pocket in the bluffs surrounding the river.

Ludek lived in this Pocket City from 2007 to 2009 and changed living quarters three times as the owner kept selling the houses. The last month he even lived in the nearby Marquette.

Coming back to this place felt like we never left.

The big river is wide here as the Wisconsin River flows into it. Houseboats and boatels were floating on the water, and crews were putting more in. The river gives livelihood to many just like hundreds of years ago.

The 39th annual Rendezvous set-up on St. Feriole Island featured teepees and tents of all sorts. The tents line up the streets on the island. Vendors offered food such as fresh Mississippi fried catfish and turtle soup, Indian fry bread and tacos, fried pickles, frog legs and chips.

Curiosities included steins made from wood and tusks, hundreds of furs and fur hats, rocks and minerals, necklaces and peace pipes.

Competitions featured a black powder rifle shoot, hawk and knife throw, cooking and games for children and adults.

Demonstrations such as blacksmithing, pottery, storytelling took place at individual camps.

Most campers were dressed up in period attire that was also for sale at many outfits.

 

To be continued

 

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

Old Man River

Watch for my stories from the Old Man River Mississippi on http://emmapalova.com

Pictured in the selfie are Ludek and Emma in McGregor, Iowa on the banks of the big river.

It was a trip into the past at its best. I rediscovered treasures like Paper Moon for my cover photo and the magnificent river.

A selfie from the Old Man River Mississipi
A selfie from the Old Man River Mississipi

Happy Father’s Day

Father, the founder of immigration

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- As we ready to head out west for the Rendezvous in Prairie du Chien, I can’t help but think about my father Vaclav Konecny. Mom Ella calls him the founder of immigration.

“Without him we’d be back home,” she said.

I never know if mom is sarcastic when she says this.

Once my father sets his mind on something, he goes and pursues it until he gets it. It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be a math problem, a new shower or toilet.

“He’s a perfectionist,” mom says about dad.

Dad explains triple integrals to FSU students
Dad explains triple integrals to FSU students

Dad, former math professor at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, still calculates math problems for journals. He will be 80 this July. He has always been fascinated by Fermat’s Last Theorem and sought to solve it. Originally, a physicist, dad loves Einstein’s relativity theory and makes endless jokes about it.

He has proposed many math problems himself.

“That can sometimes be harder than solving them,” dad says.

Math is still the anchor of his life to which he turns when times are good or bad.

“In my mind, I can travel anywhere,” he said.

His co-anchors are languages. At 60, he learned Spanish motivated by a trip to Mexico and Spain. At 75, dad started studying French motivated by my daughter Emma’s wedding in France.

Dad now reads novels in Spanish and French.

He relentlessly pursues perfection in all its forms, whether intellectual or physical. Dad has always been on a strict diet, never gaining an extra pound.

“He gets his discipline from the seminary,” Ella says.

Both dad and his brother Tony went to the seminary in Kromeriz.

But, paternal grandpa and grandma too requested 100 percent obedience. I found that out the hard way when we went back to Czechoslovakia in 1973 from the USA. We lived in their house under strict rules.

The ruling nature of grandparents has never transferred on my dad.

“He never yells,” says mom, “he’s forever patient.”

Dad can patiently wait for hours at the airport for a delayed plane. His quest for perfection has rubbed off to a certain point on me; that is in my creative work. But, I lack both his discipline and obedience.

Only once, dad yelled at mom, when he was teaching her how to drive in Africa.

Dad taught me how to drive in 1990 in Big Rapids.

“The car is a weapon,” he said, “be careful with it.”

Unlike my mom, dad has always been encouraging and positive about everything.

“You have to pursue things,” he says.

A great educator and a lifelong student, dad continues to pursue things with the same energy he had, when he emigrated some 50 years ago.

Happy Father’s Day, dad

Emma

Copyright (c) 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

Rendezvous in Prairie II

Rendezvous in Prairie II

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- I still have souvenirs from those 19 months of life from 2007 to 2009 when I lived alone in our house, while husband Ludek was working in Prairie.

These include trapper’s fur sacs, collector metal signs and the transporter bag for food and snacks.

But, what I find precious about the time on the Mississippi is that we made good friends. Brian and Sheryl Groen took us for a ride on the river that I will never forget.

Rendezvous treasures
Rendezvous treasures

We discovered a sunken ship that we called the Mississippi Titanic, and went under a bridge that was fixed with clamps.

Even though Prairie is isolated, the area around the river is hauntingly beautiful especially at night. It’s a wildlife paradise with eagles nesting and turtles in the river.

Ludek changed his lodgings quite a bit as he moved across the river to McGregor in Iowa.

I like McGregor a lot as it reminds me of European spa towns. There were some great finds in McGregor as well. I discovered a store with costumes owned by a gentleman who makes costumes for Hollywood.

He also built a Bed & Bath complete with a salon downstairs.

The Rendezvous, one of its kind in North America, takes place on the Feriole Island in Prairie on Father’s Day weekend.

I find it very authentic with trappers in teepees and real Indian food. There are plenty of treasures to purchase.

“It was a consolation for what happened to us,” I always say.

To be continued

 

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

Rendezvous in Prairie

Rendezvous in Prairie du Chien

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – One of the most difficult times in my life came in the summer of 2007.

My husband Ludek lost his mold making job in the nearby Grand Rapids. After months of searching, he couldn’t find a job in our area.

He finally landed a job at Zeman’s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The firm was opening a new mold making shop in Prairie du Chien located on the Mississippi River right on the border with Iowa.

The town is approximately eight hours away from where we live.

Ludek left on Aug.19 of 2007 before the last concert of the season got rained out. I have great photos of the storm moving in with scary funnel dark clouds.

Summer of 2007
Summer of 2007

I had to stay back in Michigan because of my reporting job and our house. I would be alone for the next two winters.

Looking back I don’t know what was the hardest whether the loneliness, the harsh winters or a combination of everything.

The dog got sick, I got sick, the car broke down and the snow kept falling.

At first Ludek was driving every weekend home, but it got to be too much.

I dreaded every Sunday afternoon when he left for the eight hour drive through Chicago. I got him a transporter bag for snacks and food.

Sometimes he took the boat from Muskegon across Lake Michigan. I joined him a few times for a wild ride on rough waters.

I’ve never liked Sundays, but I started hating them. Even today seven years later, I still can recall the desperation of those moments.

Twice I took the Amtrak train to LaCrosse to visit with Ludek. I wrote on the train.

I was even more desperate when I arrived in Prairie because of its isolation from the world.

We stayed in an apartment in downtown on Main Street near an Irish pub Mulligan’s. They had awesome pork right from Iowa. Ludek liked going to Sawmill bar after he arrived at night in Prairie.

We tried to find good things about the whole situation, and one of them is the Rendezvous, a trapper re-enactment one of a kind in the USA.

The Rendezvous is always held on Father’s Day weekend.

…..to be continued

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

Looking for contributors

Search for contributors

Based on a suggestion from glassware development services, I would love to include other people’s work on my blog for diversity and increased exposure.

If you are interested e-mail Emma Palova at emmapalova@yahoo.com

I am looking for various content that can range from fun slice-of-life pieces to bigger issues, but basically sky is the limit.

Thank you

Emma

Columbine in my garden
Columbine in my garden

Literacy reduces stigma

Literacy against mental illness stigma

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- “Where are my men?”

Screams a war veteran with a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as he storms into a Battle Creek restaurant thinking it’s a battlefield somewhere in Afghanistan.

The guests call police on him rather than perform CPR. The guy ends up in jail.

Fiction?

No, true.

Annie's Ghosts, a journey into mental illness
Annie’s Ghosts, a journey into mental illness

But what is CPR for mental illnesses?

“Literacy and awareness,” says Robert Lathers, director of Ionia County Community Mental Health. “Mental health literacy.”

Lathers extensively spoke about an important societal issue, which is reducing the stigma of mental illness. He also compared the issue to the fight against racism.

“Let’s understand mental illness first,” he said.

Lathers teaches classes on cultural competency or diversity for mental health workers.

“Nobody else wants to do it or come to them,” he said. “Now, I have a full classroom.”

Diversity and cultural competency including acceptance is a mindset based on personal beliefs. That can be changed, according to Lathers.

ICCMH director Bob Lathers
ICCMH director Bob Lathers

“We need to experience humanity,” he said, “and understand the culture of how we grew up.”

We can experience humanity by talking about what we had for dinner on Sundays as well, laughed Lathers.

Lathers along with the Michigan Humanities Council suggest educating oneself about mental illness by reading a book by Steve Luxenberg “Annie’s Ghosts.”

Luxenberg is an editor and writer for Washington Post who grew up in Detroit.

The reviews include the following statement by Deborah Tannen:

“…a riveting detective story, a moving family saga, an enlightening if heartbreaking chapter in the history of America’s treatment of people born with what we now call special needs.”

Copyright © 2014 story and photo by Emma Palova

EW This WordPress.com site is about Emma's Writings.

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