This is the first post in a series about family relationships that have inspired me to write the memoir “Greenwich Meridian where East meets West” (c)
Some time ago, I wrote the post “Two sisters still at war” about the friction between my mother Ella and her sister Anna aka Anyna. The derogatory version of the beautiful name refers to the relationship between the two aging sisters. Notice that the word Anyna is missing on the greeting card for Anna’s Day.
Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” and Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” kindled my inquisitive mind to further explore relationships and psychology.
Watch as I pick up on the tension between the two sisters. Check out the post at the following link:
Lowell, MI- I have just found out that small things matter, that destiny exists and that life is frail.
Three times in life I had close calls when death was reaching for me with her long arms.
Once, I almost drowned even though I am an apt swimmer, not like Michael Phelps but close. Just joking. I feel lucky when I can swim a 50-meter pool once and not the butterfly style.
The second time I almost got killed in a car driving on a rural route from one small town to another small town in northern Michigan.
The third time I fell down straight on my face due to low blood pressure, heat and dizziness from medication at the height of summer on July 14th.
A one-night stay at the Metro Hospital on M-6 cost us $10,000. My husband Ludek also spent one night at what we call “Hotel 6” with heart problems. That also cost us $10,000.
We came out of there alive unlike our neighbor Ted aka “Teddy Bear” who never made it out of “Hotel 6” after a 2-year struggle with leukemia.
“At least he lived it up,” said my daughter-in-law Maranda Palova.
No matter what you call it whether living it up, bucket list or living your way because you think you’re going to die soon, you can’t escape destiny.
And yes life is frail at all its stages.
I am breathing again freely with new wisdom. I found out why I didn’t die in any of those close calls.
It’s my French granddaughter Ella Chavent, 5. She will turn six in September. Ella is staying with us for the summer. At first I had butterflies in my stomach. I worried about this international experiment not knowing where it will take us. We didn’t know Ella that well because we’ve seen her in six years only six times.
Ella’s parents left for France last Friday taking along her two-year old brother Sam.
“Did Sam leave?” she asked me.
“No, he’s living under the roof in the attic,” I said seriously but laughing out loud afterwards.
And we’ve played that joke ever since. Ella keeps telling everyone that her brother lives in the attic. That simple joke broke the ice when Ella started crying for her mami after coming home from St. Pat’s summer school.
Normally, I hate Mondays but this time I didn’t. I took Ella to school in the morning. She carried her tart cherry pie for her friends. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have made that cherry pie. I would normally not go to St. Pat’s Church. I would just lounge around all Sunday morning.
But, with Ella going to a catholic school, I felt compelled to go to church. Ella wouldn’t go either, but she wanted to see her friends from school.
After dropping her off this morning, I felt an urge to drive to Smyrna to see if the work on Whites Bridge replica has started.
Instead, there was a stronger pull to go home. I kept looking around over all my stuff; things that I used to think mattered so much.
At first I wanted to do the laundry, so I went upstairs to pick up Ella’s clothes. Picking up stuff off the floor in what was my daughter’s room in the nineties, I realized there’s a greater cause than just dirty laundry.
Without taking down Emma’s posters from the white walls, I started re-doing the room Ella style. I cleared the shelves for her souvenirs from the Ionia Free Fair and from Picnic Pops fireworks and concert, that she enjoyed so much over the weekend.
In the corner of the room, I created a work station for her. Our neighbor Catherine Haefner gave Ella a “computer” with books and a tape. Ella tested it out at the open house for Katie Haefner.
Then I went to the balcony to water the flower boxes. I looked at Ella’s little garden made inside a cut off milk jar. Her chicks and hens started already growing.
Next to Ella’s miniature garden is a bigger black square pot with mums. I forgot to water them during the June heat. So, the flowers died. I wanted to pull out the plant and throw it out. Something wouldn’t let me.
I looked closer at the plant after watering it thoroughly for the last three weeks. With all the rain we had, I found new buds coming out on the leafy stems.
To me, the new buds symbolize new blood and a fresh new outlook on life.
There was a reason why I didn’t die in one of those close calls.
Thank you universe.
Note: This story ties into the earlier post “Immersion English” or “International Experiment” found at https://emmapalova.com/2016/07/14/international-experiment/
Lowell, MI- I am putting back together the pieces of my life like in a shining kaleidoscope. Some call it a comeback.
I am back on the final stretch of the “Greenwich Meridian” (c) memoir. I took a break to establish my Internet blog design company Emma Blogs, LLC. Now that I feel well grounded, I am returning back to the life of a daily writer. I missed it anyway.
The blogging journey took me from a rookie to a lifelong learner. Internet is much like water & wind; it never stands still or like Wall Street; it never sleeps. You can’t abandon it, because it’s like the writing life. It doesn’t let go of you.
Abstract art by Kathleen Mooney inspired by quilting.
Lsvender is good for anxiety and insomnia.
Along that three-year long journey, I’ve met some of the best people in the industry by trial and error, as well as by targeted searching. After spending endless hours on learning the ropes of the blogging business, I sought help. I found Learn to Blog. This group of people is golden. Their support is pivotal in my blogging life.
And I’ve made friends. How can you make friends working all day alone in your writing studio staring at the flashing cursor with an occasional glance at my orchids on the window sill?
Well, you join private and public Facebook groups. I have done that. I am a member of the private Learn to Blog (LTB) and WordPress Support facebook groups. I’ve done both LTB and WordPress challenges. I’ve commented and I got comments back. I’ve gained the most followers on the 30 Day Content Writing Challenge . I established my own writing group “Writers Loop” on facebook based on advise from Soulpreneurs founder Leigh Ann Dickey.
“Facebook pages are old school, groups are the way to go,” she said in a Skype interview.
One of the best things that has ever happened to me on a blogging challenge was making a lifelong friend and a business partner.
During the 30 Day Content Challenge, a link to a healing site Beautiful Body, Mind and Spirit caught my eye. We were supposed to like and comment five blogs. I liked it and commented on it.
“I’ve always been interested in alternative healing,” I commented.
I e-mailed the owner Nan Raden asking for an interview to feature her as the blogger of the month on EW Emma’s Writings. During the first Skype call, we immediately clicked.
Nan is a natural healer and I suffer by nature. We compliment each other. She healed my inability to take action. She healed me emotionally and physically to a distance of 1,884.90 miles between Grand Rapids, MI and Tucson, AZ.
Now, we’re getting ready to webcast our show on Google hangouts on air. I will announce the name shortly. Stay tuned for a story and a video.
Other than the blogging challenges, the most productive in gaining followers were posts relevant to the current events. These included: “Alpenhorns at the Octoberfest in Grand Rapids,” ” Thoughts on Fear in the Wake of Paris Attacks” posted during the 30 Day Content Challenge, “Evil Choices” after a SuperTuesday primary ,”Happy Mother’s Day” and most recently “Cannes Film Festival 2016.”
Speaking about timing. My former editor and friend Jeanne Boss used to say, “Timing is everything.” The 30 Day Content Challenge started before Thanksgiving. I scrambled to get through it around the holidays. Sometimes I had to play catch up writing up to five posts one day.
I’ve learned a lot and I’ve diversified in the blogosphere. I’ve joined SheKnows and BlogHer platforms that have merged since. I am still carving out my own path. I am contemplating Blogspot, but I want to stay focused on the memoir.
Posts about relationships like the “Two Sisters” about the animosity between my mother Ella and her sister Anna attracted more followers. The relationship that went raw over immigration is a big part of the memoir.
“They never mended not even now standing at the gate to heaven or hell,” I write in the book.
I would also like to highlight the mini-series “Eyeology with Dr. Verdier” about my cataract ordeal two years ago. The IW Inspiring Women was a joy to write because I met all these interesting women who continue to inspire and motivate me to this day. It is a living ongoing series with new encounters every day.
I found out that the best writing comes from the heart and without a narrow purpose. Big tears rolled down my cheeks penning the most emotional posts like “It took a lifetime to get to this moment,” based on a prompt from the 30 Day Challenge.
It took me a lifetime to get this moment to write this post and to complete the memoir.
Mother’s Day ties to Greenwich Meridian (c) memoir
By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI- Every year on Mother’s Day, I think about my mom Ella Konecny. That is why I dedicated “Greenwich Meridian” memoir to her. I hope to finish the book within the next few months.
Actually people have been already asking me about the memoir that covers our three-generation immigration saga. I had to put it on hold while I was establishing my Internet presence and my business Emma Blogs, LLC.
Now, that I feel well grounded I am picking back up both fiction and memoir writing.
My mother Ella is both funny and sad. She likes being the center of attention at anyone’s birthday party even at my own. I have a birthday tomorrow, one day before the official Mother’s Day. May 9th was also a national holiday in Czech Republic.
Whenever we gather around the dining table, she stands up and starts telling a joke or whatever she can think of. Ella takes that after my grandpa Joseph Drabek. Her maiden name is Drabkova. The -ova ending to Drabek, is the female linguistic twist to the male version of the name.
Mom, a former pharmacist, is witty, progressive and quickly understands new things like working on blogging projects.
“Do you have to work until you finish it?” she asked on Friday when she brought over birthday gifts early.
“Yes, mom. You have to finish a task otherwise you won’t know where you stopped and you might lose it,” I answered.
“Sure. That’s what I thought,” she nodded.
Other than just mentioning info technology, Ella hates it. Both mom and dad are refusing to get a smart phone. That drives my son Jake nuts.
“I want to send them photos of the kids,” he said. “This is crazy, they are fighting it so hard.”
“You can’t force them,” I told him. “They will resist it even more.”
Ella is an awesome cook. Ever since she retired from Ferris State University, biology department, Ella improved her chef skills by 100 percent. Not, that she was a bad cook before, but mom just didn’t have the time.
“What do you want me to make?” she always asks before we come to their home in Big Rapids.
“What do you want me to bring over?” she asks before they come for a visit to our house in Lowell.
So, I have the privilege of picking from a wide menu of choices; anything from Moroccan beef, Stroganoff beef, Chinese to Czech dill sauce with dumplings.
I like to pick kebabs any style.
Mom Ella is a very sensitive person. She cries over both man-made and natural disasters. Mom cried over the oil spill in the gulf that destroyed a lot of marine life. She cries over the situation in Syria. She cries over our lives.
When I see her cry, I cry too. It’s somewhat of an emotional synergy.
She is generous all around; in church, with the family, close and distant and in the developing countries.
She’s getting fragile. Ella will turn 80 next year.
I can’t believe it. My beautiful and kind mother is aging. Last year, she had skin cancer removed from her face. Before that, she underwent countless surgeries, both successful and unsuccessful.
“Everybody lies to me, because it’s easy, I am old,” she said the other day. “Old people get lied to.”
As years go by, Ella is getting more stubborn. She does not want to reconciliate the discord with her only sister Anna, who lives in Czech Republic.
“Mom you should make up with your sister,” I said.
“She doesn’t want to make up with me,” she snapped at me.
Ella and dad have always strove for perfection and to fit in with the most. That may have been hard on them. Ella has a perfectly clean house where everything has its own spot.
She gets upset with me because not everything in my house has its own spot. I like to move things around. I sometimes leave dishes behind.
Ella is very vocal about my life; that I could have done a lot more with it.
“We were at this concert where Ferris students played,” she said Friday. “Can you imagine how those parents felt when they have such successful and serious kids?”
We each have things that bother us. We cover it up, hold it inside or we talk about it.
At a certain point, we have to come to terms with anything that’s depriving us of living a life to its fullest extent.
Mom has given me life and all the tools to live it.
Thank you, Mom.
Cover photo of tulips by Emma White Darling of Parnell, MI.
Copyright (c) 2016. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Lowell, MI-In my memoir “Greenwich Meridian,” I write about Czech and Slovak traditions that I have witnessed while living in Czechoslovakia with a touch of nostalgia. Some of them disappeared along with the old regimes, but most have survived mainly in villages and small towns preserved by enthusiastic small groups of people. The traditions are reflected in festive costumes for the holidays and special events, in music, dance, food, and customs specific to each village and town.
We lived in Zlin, Moravia, which is the central part of former Czechoslovakia embedded in traditions. Both as a child and an adult, I lived and visited with my grandparents in Vizovice, a treasure trove of traditions.
Easter celebrations in Czech and some other European countries are longer by one day, and that is Monday.
We have always indulged in lavish preparations for the long Easter weekend. That meant having enough meat, desserts, eggs, and beverages for three days. There were long lines just like before any major holiday. I spent a lot of time standing in lines and listening to what the old broads had to say.
“I am not going to tell him how much I spent,” a woman wearing a scarf and a fluffy skirt shook her head defiantly.
The other one with an apron over her dress smelled of burnt dough.
I thought, she must have burnt her kolache, a traditional festive pastry with plum butter.
The broad leaned closer to the first one and whispered something into her ear. Then they both laughed, until their bellies and chests were heaving up and down. I learned a lot standing in lines. The longer the line, the more I learned.
So, the culmination of it all is Easter Monday known for its “schmigrust,” an old whipping custom.
On that day, early in the morning ,large groups of boys and young men head out into the streets with their braided knot-grass whips or oversized wooden spoons decorated with ribbons. The day before, they spent many hours skillfully braiding their whips out of willow twigs or scouring the house for the biggest wooden spoon.
The boys go door to door, reciting traditional Easter carols like “Hody, hody doprovody,” asking the lady of the house for painted eggs. Then, they whip all the present females in exchange for decorated eggs and ribbons. Single women, and girls tied ribbons on top of the whip. I always wondered about the whipping custom, long before I ever set my foot out into the world. One day, grandma Anna finally explained it to me.
“It is supposed to resemble the whipping of Christ before he died,” she said.
“But, grandma that’s evil,” I cried.
Grandma just shrugged, and turned away. Later in life, I knew better than to question a tradition.
The elders in the group were offered shots of plum brandy, usually home made or acquired through bartering. Even family members took part in this ritual. Uncles and cousins were invited inside for coffee, festive desserts such as kolache, shots and meaningful conversation.
On a good year, and especially when I was a teenager, we got anywhere around 100 passionate revelers. Sometimes, I ran out of ribbons. The boys and young men, competing against each other, took pride in the number of ribbons they got. The craft stores had to stock up with meters and meters of ribbons, plain or embroidered. The hens, of course, felt obligated to produce more eggs.
St. Petersburg, FL- I’ve made many new discoveries this year during my annual writer’s break on the Gulf Coast. I spend some time in St. Pete’s with the family in a big blue house close to the beach on Tierra Verde.
The 5,600 square feet house had no furniture except for an old couch. The five bedrooms did have beds, most of them were queen or king size. And there were smart TVs. Big smart TVs. You sat on the floor to watch the TV.
The house had two flights of stairs, one of them was spiral, probably inspired by Salvador Dali. Sitting on the couch, you could watch from the top all those who were coming up a long bridge-like walkway. It took people forever to come to the only sitting area in the entire house.
I was especially fond of the huge empty living room downstairs. It was more like a ballroom. I could easily imagine couples dancing down there deep below much like in the Disneyland haunted house. The professional wrestler Undertaker lived in the house at one time. So, goes the legend.
The reason we ended up in that upscale quarter without street lights instead of Daytona Beach were last-minute arrangements. The big houses that didn’t fill with reservations were cheaper and went fast like hot potatoes.
The renter hunk Rob didn’t realize that he advertised the wrong house.
“It’s not ready,” he said. “We’re fixing it up.”
“Don’t beat yourself up for that,” my daughter Emma said.
“The question is how much furniture will there be in the house,” Rob stated honestly.
Obviously, my daughter was looking for an adventure in St. Pete.
We had a backup plan if Rob didn’t come up with any furniture. We would split up our party and do necessary tasks. Emma and I planned to hit the local Goodwill to buy some beds. The other half would go and buy groceries.
We flew into Orlando already an hour late. On board the plane we demanded a free beer to make up for the lost hour. It was dark in an unknown city with yet a rental car to pick up.
Somehow, we made it St. Pete and knocked on Rob’s door around 11 p.m. But, first a couple of dogs came charging at us.
Rob was a fun character who made money on supplements before big box stores took over. Some really funky supplements remained in the kitchen cabinets. They looked very home-made with scribbling on them.
The kitchen even had plenty of utensils, and again it was very big more like a cafeteria. All seven of us could dance in there if we wanted to.
I like big things but everything in that blue house was enormous, even the Tupperware containers.
I don’t know if Rob was feeling guilty for our lodging or if he was just a nice guy.
“Hey, you can spend tomorrow at my other house,” he said. “It’s closer to the beach and the guests are not coming until later in the week.”
So, the search for the other house ensued after a breakfast standing up. The last time I ate my food standing up was as a student at cheap buffets in Brno, Czech Republic.
St. Pete, a city full of surprises, has a Gulf Blvd. and a W. Gulf Blvd.
Finally, we found it. It was much smaller, but it did have furniture. Moreover, it had a leftover box of low carb Ultra Michelob with only 95 calories per bottle.
“We earned it, we deserve it,” were shouts of joy.
We devoured the beer shooting pool outside. Then we grilled Johnsonville brats in the outdoors kitchen.
“You call that beer?” Rob laughed when we apologized. “I am from Wisconsin, that’s water.”
Lowell, MI- On this day three years ago, I boarded the WordPress flight 101 to destination unknown.
I came across WordPress just by pure coincidence as I was doing research for my memoir “Greenwich Meridian” about the family immigration saga.
The Hawkins Chamber site had a WP like box. In order to like it, I had to get on the platform. So, I did because I needed Internet presence anyways according to the agents whom I approached about the book.
It was an easy pick compared to the other complex blog/web building sites. Plus it was free.
Looking back at those three years, there were definite milestones when I wanted to just plain quit without explaining anything to anyone. There was this strange voice that kept whispering into my ear, “Give it up, you can’t do it. Go back to the store.”
I actually even attempted going back to the store where I worked in the nineties, but the manager discouraged me.
“You can do better,” he said. “Keep trying what you’re doing. You will master it.”
Initially, there is a steep learning curve on WordPress, just like with anything new. I compare to a child learning to walk. All those bumps and falls and getting up, crawling along the walls for support, and then suddenly a bang. The child stands up and takes his or her first steps.
I spent hours behind the computer with tutorials and the support team as my wall. I was dealing with an avalanche of information trying to sort through it all.
“Why don’t you let someone else do it for you?” asked my husband Ludek shaking his head when he saw me crunching my teeth and pulling my hair out.
“Like who,” I said. “And mainly where am I going to get the money to pay a person for a decent job?”
My persistence prevailed. I finally had the first post ready “About” on Jan. 14th with a Jan. 15th date.
The WP team welcomed me along with other newcomers into the community graciously with the slogan, “Thanks for flying with Word Press.” I still didn’t know what to expect just like when you take off on a plane for a long journey across the ocean.
As time ticked away, more things became clear. Having a traditional publishing background with knowledge of QuarkXPress and InDesign, the real design on word press became easier.
I have to say that I never had serious trouble coming up with copy. And as serious, I mean not being able to pound out a story or a post every day. Traditional newspaper journalism was a lot like an army boot camp.
“A story and a photo a day will keep the editor away,” we used to say at the Ionia Sentinel-Standard newsroom.
Easier said than done and that goes for both worlds; ink and the grid.
I find it helpful to have the right mindset even before I get out of bed. The right mindset was, is and always will be that, “Content is the king.”
I always think about that before I sit behind the screen and as I look at the Stephen King calendars filed in my library, year after year, until they finally stopped publishing them in 2014.
“The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that things can only get better,” wrote King.
I agree. Whenever I have trouble coming up with ideas or writing, I start procrastinating. To avoid procrastinating further, I go for a ride, take a walk, and swim a few laps if I am lucky enough to find a pool or dip myself in a hot tub.
Once I physically exert the inner frustration, the writer in me is reborn. I shake everything off and step into a new world of creation. The destination remains unknown.
To be continued with “Milestones” and “If I could turn back time.”
I am going to work on this daily prompt by Daily Post because it is so close to my heart especially at a time when I am starting the second half of my memoir “Greenwich Meridian” about the family immigration saga.
Stay tuned for the full story as I develop it to fruition.
If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of you life would you return to? Why?
I would like to wish a happy New Year 2016 to all from Emma Blogs, LLC. May all your wishes come true.
On this last day of the year I always look back at the previous one. Year 2015 was very good and productive on both professional & personal fronts.
With this post and thanks to the 30 Day Content Challenge, I have reached 346 posts.
I sought out new clients, the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) and created the Fallasburg Today campaign. I continue to work with CJ Aunt Jarmilka’s Desserts and with new prospects and that is Lynn Mason 2016 campaign, Tri River Historical Museum Network, Americas Voices and more.
The 30 Content Writing challenge by Learn to Blog was inspiring and it transformed me in many ways. The challenge taught me the discipline of everyday writing.
The challenge encouraged me to explore new avenues such as writing for children, writing about fear and persistence. It was a powerful force in a sense that 400 people were writing and posting on that same day.
During the challenge I made many new friends such as Pittsburgh Grammy, Peter Safe, Annie Conboy, Jan Booth, Deanna Burton, Nan Raden and Nicole Varge, Lisette Jenkins, Kathy Thompson just to name a few.
Then I participated in a heated political debate in the group Czechoslovaks on Facebook. It warrants a separate post. Watch for it soon.
Another surprise came just last week. Bene Hofmann, a German architecture student contacted me via FHS Facebook page. Hofmann will be building a model of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge for a school project. So, I wrote about that as well.
Peggy Topolski contacted me that her husband wen to the one room school in Fallasburg. I will be doing a story on that.
Twenty people came to look at the historical buildings in the pioneer village during the first annual Fallasburg village bazaar.
So, to wrap it up as the clock keeps ticking, I found out that social media marketing really does work. It has its own bizarre ways, but it works.
Lowell, MI- Ah, the holidays at our household. Even though I was born in former Czechoslovakia, I have a feeling we must have had Italian ancestors. I should check our family tree that’s more like a shrub.
Whether celebrated in the old country or in the USA, holidays are rough. The preparations are endless and exuberant. By the time you are prepared, you are exhausted.
It’s kind of like with security. You can never have enough preparations because something always goes wrong. And the good old saying “the more the merrier” works its magic.
For any gathering my parents arrive with my brother. They get out of the car already fighting.
Mom brings food and we make food. The food is a combo of Czech and American dishes. We eat with a fork and a knife. Mom likes to be the center of attention at any gathering. The focus must be on her.
Beware if not or don’t dare to invite other guests because she wouldn’t be able to show off. I made that mistake last summer that I invited other people than family to a birthday party.
We eat and drink. We eat more and drink more. Mom stands up from the table and gives a speech. Usually, it’s something self-centered.
“I was the most beautiful one at the party,” she said, “and she talked too much. She wouldn’t allow me to say a word.”
That was directed at a guest whom she invited to her home.
“She told me her entire life story and I couldn’t speak,” mom said.
My brother is getting increasingly drunk sneaking in an extra drink downstairs when nobody is watching. Dad doesn’t say much. He likes it that way.
Mom either hits on my brother or on me. Most often on both of us. And then comes the pinnacle in front of all:
“I should not have had either one of you.”
And we fight and we fight more. We raise our voices and mom cries.
Depending on the occasion of the gathering my husband joins in. He laughs out loud. Our son is the peacemaker. He should have been a diplomat.
If it’s Christmas, our son plays Czech carols on the saxophone, I play the piano. My daughter-in-law is also low key. She’s not a Czech.
On top of all of this we’re supposed to have a super moon as if family and alcohol were not crazy enough.
We depart in peace, only to do it all over again.
Happy holidays and a great new year 2016 from Emma Blogs, LLC, Fallasburg Today and CJ Aunt Jarmilka’s Desserts.