Where Was I . . .

Janice Palko

  . . .Being Them – May 2018

By Janice Lane Palko

“What is that on your foot?” I was around seven years old when I asked my mother that question. “It’s a callus,” she said. “You’ll have them when you’re older.” No way, I thought. My feet are never going to look like that.

“What’s that thing?” I was around eight years old when I asked my grandmother that question. “It’s a needle threader,” she said. “I can’t see the eye of the needle anymore. You slip this little metal loop through the needle’s eye, and then put the thread though the loop. Then you pull the loop through the eye, and it threads the needle. When you get older and can’t see as well, you’ll need one.” No way, I thought to myself. My eyes are never going to get that bad.

“Oh, my leg,” moaned my great-grandmother as she came down the steps. “What’s wrong with your leg?” I was about 10 when I asked that. “Things wear out when you get older,” she said. “I hope you don’t get knees like mine.” No chance, of that I thought. I’m never getting old.

Never say never.

Flash forward to today where I regularly remove calluses from my heels, and I now use a needle threader. By the time, you read this, I will be home recovering from knee surgery. I tore a meniscus in my left knee seven years ago, and after babying it and enduring pain off and on, an MRI recently revealed that I now have an acute meniscus tear and insufficiency fractures, for which the surgeon plans to perform a subchondroplasty. The procedure entails drilling into my leg bones (yikes!) and injecting them with calcium phosphate, which will then harden and repair my bones.

As I was limping down the stairs the other day after receiving that diagnosis, I felt a stab of pain in my knee. “Oh, my leg,” I reflexively yelled, and then stopped in my tracks as I flashed backward four and half decades and realized that I have now become my great-grandmother. And not only her but my grandmother and my mother.

But then it occurred to me that maybe that is not so bad. My vows to never to turn into them was a revulsion to aging, which I don’t think anyone embraces, and not the people they are and were. My mom, grandmothers, and great-grandmother were all loving, kind and giving–women who would sacrifice anything for their loved ones.

So yeah, even though I don’t like getting older, I’m okay with turning into them because being them is a pretty admirable way to be. Happy Mother’s Day!


 . . . Ah, The Perfect Wedding! 

By Janice Lane Palko 

Television shows, magazines and the wedding industry all tout the dream of “The Perfect Wedding.” While there is nothing wrong with desiring to have a perfect wedding, the reality is that just like life, often weddings, no matter how we may try, often fall short of perfection. But that’s OK. Sometimes the things that go wrong become the things we remember most about a wedding. I’m not talking about those sensational wedding bloopers like finding the groom in the bathroom making out with a bridesmaid. I’m talking about the garden variety goof-ups that thrown a monkey wrench into the best laid plans for perfection.  

I remember attending one wedding where the bride mere days before her nuptials had her appendix removed. I’ll never forget how she hobbled down the aisle and endured the reception. Or how about the wedding party that got food poisoning from the meal served the night before at the rehearsal and were downing Pepto-Bismol in hopes of staving off the trips to the bathroom to get through the ceremony.  

Many years ago, I attended a wedding where the band failed to show, and the desperate bride and groom ended up going home and getting their record player and records to provide some music. I’ve seen a 6’4” usher pass out in church and go down like a might oak creating quite a stir. My sister-in-law had a friend who worked for a car dealership and offered Lincoln Continentals to take the bridal party to church. In the days before cell phones, half the bridal party got into one Lincoln and pulled away with the keys to the other one. My sister-in-law ended up coming to church in the photographer’s van.  

The wedding of my good friends Donna and Bill stands out in my mind for a mishap. During Catholic marriage ceremonies, it is often the custom for couples to represent the uniting of their lives by having the bride and groom each take a lighted taper and then jointly light a “unity candle.” When Donna and Bill lit theirs, a spark fell onto the altar cloth setting it afire. I can’t forget the image of Bill and Donna beating the flames out. 

My own wedding was not without a flaw. The ceremony and reception went off without a hitch. Near the end of the evening after taking a staged photo of my husband and me waving goodbye like we were leaving for our honeymoon, we actually said goodbye to our families and headed out the door. Outside the reception was a stairwell in which several of my little cousins and a few of the other kids in attendance were playing. As we told them we were leaving, the little girls, chanted, “Pick Jan up.” They wanted my husband to carry me out of the hall.  

“Want me to?” asked my husband. 

“Oh, all right,” I said.  

As they cheered, my husband moved toward me, bent and scooped me up at the same time that he stepped on the hem of dress. As he lifted me, he put his foot through the lace band on the bottom of my dress. He stumbled, and we fell up the stairs, landing in a pile of yards of taffeta.  

Horrified, the little girls cried, “Are you OK?” 

As I straightened my headpiece and my husband extracted his foot from my dress, we burst into laughter. We picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and headed out the door to our new life together. More than 35 years later, that mishap stands out because it was probably the best metaphor for married life. Just as the perfect wedding is an illusion so is the perfect life. Things go wrong, you stumble and fall. The key is to keep laughing, keep picking yourself up and always keep looking to your future together.  


March 2018 issue:Where Was I . . . Irish and More 

If you’ve been reading this column, you know that last August I visited Ireland. It was everything I had hoped it to be and more. Since we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this month, I thought I’d share some of the “more” that I discovered during my trip.  

In Ireland, they don’t speak Gaelic; they speak Irish. Gaelic is a language with branches, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx, which is spoken on the Isle of Man, the small island in the Irish sea between Ireland and Great Britain. 

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, spent his boyhood in Macroom, Ireland at Macroom Castle. It was also in Macroom where Penn converted to become a Quaker, which was against English law, and landed Penn a stint in jail. King Charles II was indebted to the Penns and to settle the debt, the king gave William Penn land in the new world where the Quaker would be free to practice his religion.  

The Irish have one of the highest incidences of Celiac disease, an intolerance for gluten, in the world. The Ireland Coeliac Society (they spell differently in the Emerald Isle) estimates 1 out of every 100 Irish citizens is gluten intolerant. They are not sure why the disease is so common among the Irish, but if you have Irish ancestry and have digestive disorders, you may want to check to see if you have Celiac disease.  

If you are Irish, you also may have Viking blood coursing through your veins. The first Viking raiders attacked the east coast of Ireland around 795 and created the settlements of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford The Vikings were defeated in 1014 at the Battle of Clontarf, but when they weren’t pillaging, the Vikings did marry into Irish families. Today, in Dublin you can visit Dublinia, a museum devoted to the Viking history in Ireland. You can also take a Viking Splash tour, the city’s version of Just Ducky Tours, where passengers wear horned Viking helmets and roar at pedestrians. 

The west of Ireland is mostly unspoiled. The Viking penetration there was very limited, and the Romans never invaded. As such, there are archeological sites all over. It is estimated that there are more than 30,000 castles and castle ruins alone. There are prehistoric sites that are over 6,000 years old and predate the Pyramids in Egypt. On our way to Slea Head, the western most part of Ireland and Europe, our tour guide asked if we wanted to stop at the house of his friend, Gerry, to see a ring fort. Gerry met us on a sloped hill side near his farm house and lead us to a prehistoric site in his backyard. He told us that the stone fort had a souterrain, a passage into the hillside where these early inhabitants of the island would retreat when attacked. Gerry also told us humans were also sacrificed on the site. 

The Irish take leprechauns and fairies seriously. We may scoff at that, but Gerry said something that made me think. He told us to imagine it’s the year 300 A.D., and you’re living in Ireland. Your crops fail, the cattle are ailing and your baby dies. There is no medicine or science to explain it, so it doesn’t seem that far fetched to blame your misfortune on “little people.” Especially when you have a stone settlement in your back yard that no one knows how it got there and which has a small doorway leading into the earth.  

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 


Ah, Romance!

Since February is the month in which we celebrate love with a holiday—St. Valentine’s Day—that got me to thinking about romance. As many of you know, in my spare time I write romantic comedy and romantic suspense novels. According to the Romance Writers of America’s statistics, romance fiction sells more than other fiction genre, amassing more the $1 billion in sales annually. The next genre, Crime and Thriller, garners approximately $782 million in sales.


Clearly, we have an appetite for romance, and though I write them, even I when I asked myself what is romance? I wasn’t quite sure. Romance is one of those enigmatic you know it when you see it” type of thing. One dictionary definition defined romance as a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement and remoteness from everyday life.”
My great-grandmother, Cornelia Ledergerber, whom we called Grandma Leder, died in 1975. I was only a 15 then, but I helped my mom and grandmother to clean out grandma’s belongings. Among her things, we found a stack of postcards tied with a ribbon. They were the correspondence sent from my great-grandfather to grandma before they married. In the early 1900s when they were dating, there was no phone, no email, no text messaging, no Instagram or Snapchat. They both lived in what was Allegheny City, and they sent each other messages through the mail. The gist of the post cards was what you would expect from two people dating, but what wasn’t expected was a little note at the end of the card that said: P.S. Look under the stamp.
When you peeled up the stamp, which was easy to do because grandma had done it nearly 60 years before us, was a message which either said something like: I love you! Miss you, darling. Two days more until I see you. Or simply the whole squares were covered in X’s and O’s. A far cry from today’s sexting!
Grandma Leder died at the age of 78; she married grandpap when she was 20. That she kept those post cards all those years—nearly 20 years after his death—indicated how much their romance meant to them. An ordinary postcard carried the mystery and excitement of love and made their everyday life special. This Valentine’s Day, I hope you know that type of romance and love.