Don’t Blink! It Will be Over too Soon!

Professional3I announced a couple weeks ago that I had a surprise and here it is! This is the first guest post from someone in the Czech community, Miss Michaela Steger. She is the reigning Miss Czech-Slovak Nebraska and has an exciting story for you as she reflects back on her reign. Hope you like it!

Week after week I sit in the Doane KDNE Radio studio on Saturday mornings, listening to absolutely incredible and heartwarming music. Nothing of Adele, or other current pop stars, but something that is far more meaningful to my life, my past, and my future. Saturday mornings I work as the Producer for the Česka Muzika Polka show, where I get to reflect on my beautiful Czech-Slovak heritage through music. The hosts get on the microphones, introduce themselves and add, “here with us, being our producer is Miss Michaela Steager, the 2015-2016 Nebraska Czech-Slovak Queen.”

That’s me! It is always so surreal to hear, even almost a year after my coronation. Ever since I was a little girl, all I have wanted to do is dance around in kroj, be a princess, and someday be a queen like all the older girls. I remember going to Clarkson year after year to watch the Prague Chapter Queens compete, and then at Wilber to watch them embrace and share their heritage with the entire community. Of course back then it was about the ‘pretty dresses,’ talents, and crowns. Just as I grew from a three year old running around saying, “Yuck say Mash!” my understanding of the Czech-Slovak heritage and pageants has evolved as well.

When I decided to run for the Nebraska Czechs of Prague Queen, I was running for my Grandparents. Most specifically, for my Grandpa Adolph Nemec who passed in 2013. He was one of the main reasons that my mother, aunts, and a cousin were Queens. Grandpa would always throw Czech words into our daily conversations, and you were guaranteed a “Spanem Bohem” when you left the farm house. Naturally, when I decided to run I was doing it in his memory and his legacy. My reign would be one that would focus on the history of my family, the history of the countries, and all the incredible stories that come along with it. I was no longer the little girl who asked queens if I could try on their tiara, or asked if they lived in a castle. I wasn’t worried about the title, the sash, or the crown. I set out to travel and learn as much as I possibly could, I wanted to tell my stories, learn different takes on Czech-Slovak customs across our country, and touch as many lives as possible.

Clarkson was coming up and I was nervous. Not for talking on stage in front of hundreds of people, or falling during my talent, I was nervous for making my family proud of me. I knew that regardless of the results I would continue to do what I had been doing, that a title did not decide how I would live and help promote my heritage. This is what got me through the pageant, or as I like to call it, our heritage preservation program. Every chance I had to be around my family, I took it. Whether it was for a hug, a bottle of water, a laugh, or a polka, I wanted to be as close to my family as I could that day. That’s why we do what we do, for family. This program, and these events would not have been a glimmer in anyone’s imagination without the history of our families. We owe it to our ancestors and those still with us to carry on the traditions they laid before us. That is the foundation of my reign, not a title, or for parade candy, but family.

As I sit here with a little more than two months of my reign remaining, I have no regrets. I accomplished everything I set out to do. I am so happy and proud to say that I have made friends all across the country to help with my future adventures From Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Chicago, and even Washington D.C. I know I have gained so much support and love. There are no words for this community. To be able to walk into a room and have someone ask if they can take your picture, only to have a conversation and find out your ancestors lived five miles away from each other 100 years ago, gives me the most heartwarming pride.

That night in Clarkson, I was told to not blink, because this adventure would pass quicker than my heart could handle. I laughed and reassured everyone that I would soak in every second, which I did, but I also blinked. I am so very happy and envious of these new chapter queens who will be contending for this title at the end of June. I’m excited to pass on my knowledge and passion to not only the next Nebraska Queen, but all the queens after her; I just wish I had more time! Of course, once a Nebraska Queen always a Nebraska Queen, and my journey is far from being over.

With a job offer in the Czech Republic, a Study Abroad planned, and of course the Miss Czech-Slovak U. S. Pageant, I am continuing to submerge myself into this beautiful history. Every single one of us has a different story for why we do what we do, and I can’t wait to hear the stories of the other state queens in Wilber in August. Keeping in touch with some of the other girls, and watching their journeys over Facebook, I have complete faith that the future of our heritage is in good hands.

If you liked what you read, you can get to know Michaela a little better here! Or Czech her out on the Facebook page!

**Images by Dana Meduna

A Call to Action

megaphoneAhoj Pratele! As promised, this post is a preview for my article in the Czech Slavnosti which goes to print this Thursday May 5th. I don’t want to give too much away, but I would like to elaborate on a part of what I wrote. In the article I gave the Czech community a call to action. I asked that everyone get involved, not only to participate, but also to promote and preserve the culture for future generations. This is so important to me because becoming a part of the Czech community and the opportunities that I’ve had because of it changed my life!

When I started college, I thought I was going to get my teaching degree and then teach music until I retired. I had other goals, but the plan was to teach. I had no idea that I would study abroad, be a Czech queen, play in a Dudy band, or be writing this blog. None of these defining moments in my life would’ve happened if I wasn’t involved in the Czech community.

I want you to have some of the same experiences I did. I want you to know what a Czech brass band sounds like and what it feels like to dance a polka versus a waltz. I want you to taste Czech food and know that there is more than just kolache, dumplings, and pork. I want you to see the beautiful sights, whether that be the landscape of the Czech Republic or the queens in their kroje. I want you to know where you came from, who your ancestors were, and what that means to you. But even more than all that, I want you to share it.

The following is a quote from my article in the Slavnosti: “A vital part of preservation is making sure every generation is involved, that there are relevant activities for all ages, and that we learn why being Czech is important.” Part of what makes going to festivals and being a part of the Czech community is the people that are there with you. For me, those people are my grandparents, aunt and uncle, cousins, mom, and all the friends I’ve met.

My cousin Caroline was at every event with me throughout my three years as reigning queen. For the first part, she was queen assistant, an honorary role I gave her since I didn’t have a princess. She rode with me in parades, helped tote my things around, and was my partner in crime. The second half, she got to be Lincoln princess and had to share her role with the Lincoln queen. We grew even closer by sharing those experiences and it will always be something we share, especially when she is old enough to be queen and I have to tote her things around 😉

As I’m writing this I’m looking forward to Sunday May 1st, the Lincoln Czech Festival. This will be the first time this season that my family will be there. I love going and talking to people, performing, being an ambassador, but most of all sharing the experience with my family. We will get to sit and talk over Czech food and dance too! These experiences add another level to our relationship, we are not just family, we share a culture and community. There are few people who get to experience their heritage this way. I hope you will share your Czech heritage with your friends and family and see how it can widen your experience and strengthen your relationships.
To read my article in the Slavnosti, please go to www.czechslavnosti.com and click subscription. There is a wealth of knowledge on everything Czech including an extensive list of all the upcoming festivals and events. If you have questions or want to know more, I would love to hear from you below in the comments or on Facebook.

Lena and I

imageThis will be the last week for Friday Follies. Starting next week and for the remainder of May, I have guest posts from people in the Czech community for you! I thought it might be fun to get different insights from others like me who are a part of the Czech community through the queen pageants, festivals, music, and more! I hope you will like it!

For this last post, I wanted to show Lena and I together! I figured that you’ve seen her with grandpa, Jordan, her furry friends, and in all her favorite places, so it was about time that I show off our unique relationship. As you may have read in my first Friday follies post, Lena has been part of our family since she was four weeks old and she is a huge part of the family (that may have been a smal pun on her weight, sorry Lena).

Miss Lenka Lou and I do basically everything together, even if I don’t want her help 😉 She likes to help me write my posts or participate in my art projects. If there has been too much time between the last time I pet her or gave her attention, she will tell me. Often when I get home late and am starving, I will make food at sit at the kitchen table to eat. If she cannot sit next to me on the chair, Lena will rub against my legs and yell at me. She is a little needy.

If Lena is not laying on daddy’s feet and annoying him while he sleeps, she is lying on top of me. She will literally lie in any nook or cranny she can find, the more uncomfortable it makes me, the better. Just last night, she crawled up and laid on my chest like a ton of bricks. When I moved her after I couldn’t fall asleep, she transferred herself to my hips. What a thoughtful cat!

Lena has this thing where she sleeps on or around my face too. When she was a baby, she would sleep on the back of my neck, under my hair, to keep warm. She is not a small kitten anymore and playing scarf is not my favorite activity. She also used to spend a lot of time in the sleeves of my shirts, my dad’s cargo pockets, and in my hoodies (like the photo above). I do love the snuggles, but sometimes it’s too much!

Where are some of the interesting places your animals sleep? Drop me a line below or on Facebook! Let me know what you thought of Friday Follies! I hope you’ve gotten to know me and Lena a little more 😉

Future Blog Goals

logo copyLast week I gave you a preview of a few of the exciting things happening with MyCzechList! This week, as we are transitioning, I want to update you on what’s currently going on with the blog, all the crazy changes, and where I see it going in the future.

Back in February, I did a major overhaul of the blog. I renamed it, gave it a new look and logo, and refocused the content. In a nutshell, I wanted to make it more about you, the reader! I’ve been writing more about the Czech community and my experiences as a Czech queen. I’ve asked for your input and tried to let you get to know me through my Friday Follies posts. I’ve also been promoting the blog more on Facebook.

Since then I have moved to self hosting on Blue Host and started to get MyCzechList out there by educating myself on SEO, emails, and plugins. Basically, that means that I am learning about the technical aspects of blogging and how to get my knowledge out to as many people as possible. I am diligently working toward becoming known in the Czech community by promoting people in the community and publishing in the Czech Slavnosti newspaper. And finally, be on the lookout this next month for a new menu and easier navigation.

Two big goals for the future include a monthly newsletter and opt in freebie. I want to reward you for believing in me and this blog! I also want to make sure there are better photos and content. I want to start using Pinterest and other social media to get my content to have a larger reach and more involvement.

If you have something you are curious about, please let me know! I want to write posts that will inform you and you can learn from. My main goal is to help you gain the knowledge you need to delve deeper into your cultural identity and participate in the Czech community

Why I Think Czechia was the Wrong Choice

flagI am interrupting normal posting to bring you news. I’m not sure yet if it’s great news or not, but I thought you needed to know why I think Czechia was the wrong choice. I bet by now you have heard this name. As of Monday April 18th, Czechia is the new official shortened name for the Czech Republic. This is similar to Slovakia for the Slovak Republic. They haven’t changed the name, just offered an easier alternative for English speakers, or so they say. From everything I have gathered, Czechia is not a popular choice. Here is a Czech list of some issues:

1. How to shorten Czech Republic? Czech politicians have been debating names for awhile now and couldn’t justify Česko, the shortened version they use in the Czech Republic, because the English language lacks the same sounds and it is reminiscent of Československo or Czechoslovakia.

2. Which shortened version should be used? Some other options that were discussed were Bohemia, Cechy, Czech, and Czechlands. The latter would be my choice. I feel that Czechlands best encompasses the authenticity of the territory that has changed so frequently. I think Czechlands is also more accurate and includes Bohemia or the Czechs, Moravia, and Silesia, the unifying factor of language, and does not leave out the areas that make up the current Czech Republic. I’m afraid Czechia will cause confusion with non European countries and frankly, it sounds lame.

3. Will it be confused? Some people are not happy with the new name because it sounds too much like Chechnya, the semi autonomous country located next to Russia. This is a problem because of the terrorist threat last year with the perpetrators being from Chechnya and the mix up with the Czech Republic.

4. Does anyone know its location? Now, part of our problem here in the states is that most people know absolutely nothing about European geography, let alone history, and even fewer know of our close relationship with the Czech Republic since 1918. We have not always been very good friends to the Czechs, especially during WWII, but our countries hold the bonds of democracy and they want to help us out with their name. Will shortening the name really change its popularity or the likelihood that we will know its location? Probably not.

5. Why the re-branding? The Czech Republic has had a rough history. A re-branding would allow for a change of opinion and distance from its past. Many people still call it Czechoslovakia, but that country hasn’t existed since 1993. Before that, the Czech lands were a part of the Austria-Hungarian empire; subject to humiliation and degradation during WWII in the eyes of a man who thought it should still belong to the German people. He used the land and people to further his goals. Following a brief moment of freedom, the Czech lands were again occupied. This time by the Soviet Union who stole its wealth and exploited its people. Though I understand the desire to remove the bad associations, it’s still a part of who they are, and what made the Czech Republic into the country they are today.

6. How will the change effect the economy? Rumors is Czechia will be more favorable to China who largely imports Czech cars and beer. There has been bad blood between the two countries because of Czech distaste with China’s treatment of its people and continued socialism. In order to mend this relationship, as well as that of Russia, President Zeman has worked toward solidifying itself with the worlds largest countries.

7. What about all the companies who have Czech or the Czech Republic in their name? This could end up being a huge problem with tourism and commerce. Not everyone will be able to benefit and many will be at a loss because of this name push. No one can be sure how the change will effect the country as a whole.

8. What about the Olympics? The Czech Republic has already been printed on everything for the Olympics, making it even harder for Czechia to become more widely used.

9. What do the people think? Since the Czech population did not have a say in this decision, many are rebelling against the change. From my knowledge the Czech people don’t use Czechia. Why would they need to?

10. Will Czechia really catch on? I’m not so sure. There have been quite a few countries that have tried to re-brand themselves and it didn’t stick.

Czechia is officially in the United Nations geographical names database, but I will not be calling it that anytime soon. I feel that there are just too many issues to ignore. I only listed ten possible problems and I’m sure more will come up. Even though I am a fan of Czechlands, it’s still long for a shortened version. I like the idea of using what the Czechs use with Česko but spelled Czesko since cz is already recognizable from Czech Republic. Most people will at least have heard the name, even if they don’t know where it’s located.

I think if the country really does want to re-brand to move away from past negative associations, it will need to come up with a name that doesn’t include Czech. I don’t necessarily think that is right though. I think there would be more success if the name would be voted for and the population were happy to promote it. Either way, I think Czechia was the wrong choice. I guess we will find out.

 

Tell me what you think of Czechia below or on facebook!

Lena and the Sun

image

When it is sunny out there are two modes Lena could be in: slain by the sun and napping or crazy ninja cat. There will be just a sliver of light coming in through the blinds and the Lena will be down for the count. Unless, of course, she is hiding behind things, jumping out and attacking you when you walk by, or trying to sneak up and surprise you. At that point she will promptly scurry off to plot her next ninja job.

Obviously, since she is a cat, the sun is a vital aspect of her day. Most of the time you will find her on the floor in front of the window or on the bed soaking up the vitamin D. I have found that she will try to fit into places too small for her in order to reach the sun or to knock things our of her way to achieve that goal.

Lena is often waiting by the porch door when it’s nice asking to go out. She then will investigate the current climate and porch situation. This may include being tortured by the birds who laugh at her from a safe distance or laying over the side of the porch through the slats to see what’s going on below. It’s entertaining when I go downstairs and Lena is on the porch. If I call up to her she will talk to me in her cute little cat voice. I can only imagine what she is telling me, maybe to come back up stairs, or to remind me to get the cat food she likes while I’m out, or she’s just telling me off… I don’t know.

Finally, in that rare moment where she isn’t sleeping when it is sunny, you better be ready! I never know what sort of shenanigans she has gotten into when the sun is out… Unfortunately, I did not get proper documentation of these moments here, probably because I was fleeing for my life. Beware of the ninja kitten!

Does this happen with your fur baby? Let me know below or on facebook!

Exciting News

slav1I have some exciting news for you! Coming in May there will be a series of guest posts from people in the Czech community. I am so happy to have them share their experiences with you and it will be fun to see another’s perspective! I will give you two hints: one is the current Nebraska Queen and the other is the current National Queen! You will just have to wait to see who else will be showing up!

Another exciting thing is that you will soon get to see more work outside of the blog. A couple weeks ago, right after I published the post about the struggles I faced as a Czech Queen I received a message from Steve Ouřecký. He wanted to know if he could print some of my posts in the Czech Slavnosti, and of course, I said yes! I even offered to start a new column for him.

If you don’t know, the Czech Slavnosti is a print newspaper for the Czech-American Communities. It started in Wilber, Nebraska as a supplement to the Wilber Republican in 2008and is now under the ownership of Mr. Ouřecký. He does an incredible job of making sure that everyone is up to date on upcoming events and important things happening both here in the states, but also in the Czech Republic.

My article for the Slavnosti will be published in the May/June edition, so be on the lookout for it! I might have to give you a little sneak peek here soon! In the meantime, Czech out some of these recent posts on the Czech community:

What are some topics that you would like to see me write about in the Slavnosti? Or even here on the blog? Let me know below or on the Facebook page!

Lena and Friends

imageGrowing up, I’ve had a lot of pets including goldfish, cat, dogs, hamsters, and a bird. I thought it might be fun this week to introduce you to a few of Lenka’s friends.image

Little Bear is the family dachshund and Tigger is my sister’ cat. While Bear wanted nothing more than to love all over Lena, Tigger was content to ignore her. There was one exception: when there was a box they would fight over who got to lay in it. In this picture, I tried to make a truce between the cats by making a box fort, so they could both have their own area. I’m not so sure it worked.

Lenka and Little Bear Spooning

Lenka and Little Bear Spooning

Lena is very curious about Rocco, my dad’s African Grey.

Lena is very curious about Rocco, my dad’s African Grey.

Do your pets get along? Or not so much? I would love to hear about them below or on Facebook!

Minnesota Jealousy

minnesotaIt tears at me to write this. Though it’s something I have thought about a lot, there is something more final and real about putting the thoughts into words on a page. So here it is: I wish I was living in Minnesota.

Don’t get me wrong, at any given time that sentence has said: I wish I was living in the Czech Republic. The destination changes from Texas to Oklahoma, Illinois to DC, anywhere there is a thriving Czech community.

Nebraska is supposed to house the Czech capital of the US. It sounds like such a glorious title, but it can be just that, a title. Wilber is a place filled with people of Czech decent. But, there is the problem, we are the descendants. Many of the people who live here have not been to the homeland, and of those that have, many have only seen it as a tourist.

Nebraska has many wonderful Czech traditions, but because our families have been here so long, those traditions have become very Americanized. We are a community that is split up, modern, and idealistic. We want the Nebraska Czech traditions to continue, but they have become stagnant and are not very welcoming to the new generations who will become the keepers of the heritage.

That is why I said I wish I was living in Minnesota. Just a few days ago the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic came to the US, to Minnesota. The people who live in and around Montgomery, MN participate in many Czech traditions including Masopust, Sváty Mikulaš, and traditional dances and music. I just watched a video on Facebook of the male dancers doing a traditional number called the Furiant and it reminded me of the hody or festivals I had been to in the Czech Republic

The video made me happy to see the traditions, but also sad and angry that we don’t have that here. I want to participate in the dance groups and attend the special events. These experiences give more options to my generation and those that will follow. Unfortunately, I cannot do it all alone, I need help.

If you agree, let me know! Maybe we can work together to make that our heritage will continue to live on.

Jordan and Lena

imageJordan and I started dating around the time that Lenka came home with me, so he has always been in her life. I love seeing them together. Jordan will pick her up like a baby, walk around the house, and she is completely relaxed and content. Whenever we are home she needs to be lying at his feet or on his lap. Whenever he is not home she is laying in his chair, waiting for him to come back.

Jordan is also the person she plays rough with. Maybe, too rough. My favorite is when they are playing and running around the house and Jordan stops. Lena still wants to play, so she will follow him around and attack his feet. Sometimes she gets so excited that she pulls herself across the carpet.

Here are just a few precious moments: