Where Was I . . . Keeping It Real!

Janice Palko

By Janice Lane Palko

I lie. Let me clarify that. I try not to in my daily life or when I write articles for this magazine, but in my spare time, as you may know, I like to write novels. Fiction is not true. It may seem that way. In fact, novels may seem “realer” than real life sometimes because they usually have an ending that ties up all the loose ends of a story and makes sense of all that preceded it. Life often doesn’t make sense or doesn’t end with all things tied up in a nice bow.

However, these days, it’s becoming harder to separate fact from fiction, especially when it comes to reality. In our recent issue of Pittsburgh Fifty-Five Plus magazine, I had the pleasure of interviewing two women who are reading their way through some of the best novels ever written. One of the things they noticed is how novels written in the centuries before now went into explicit detail when describing places and objects. That was because in those days, they didn’t have access to Instagram, Google Images, YouTube or the Internet, so a writer had to paint those pictures in their readers’ minds by using lots of words. [Read more…]

Where Was I . . . The Code of the Universe 

By Janice Lane Palko 

If I get up at night to visit the bathroom, I pass three windows on my way. My house sits high on a hill, and when I glance out those windows, I can see across a small valley to the next street over where the light from a gas lamp pierces the darkness and sends out rays of light, shining like a star. For some reason, that small light always makes me feel better.   [Read more…]

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!

[Read more…]

Where Was I . . .

Janice Palko

 . . . Keeping It Real!

By Janice Lane Palko

I lie. Let me clarify that. I try not to in my daily life or when I write articles for this magazine, but in my spare time, as you may know, I like to write novels. Fiction is not true. It may seem that way. In fact, novels may seem “realer” than real life sometimes because they usually have an ending that ties up all the loose ends of a story and makes sense of all that preceded it. Life often doesn’t make sense or doesn’t end with all things tied up in a nice bow.

However, these days, it’s becoming harder to separate fact from fiction, especially when it comes to reality. In our recent issue of Pittsburgh Fifty-Five Plus magazine, I had the pleasure of interviewing two women who are reading their way through some of the best novels ever written. One of the things they noticed is how novels written in the centuries before now went into explicit detail when describing places and objects. That was because in those days, they didn’t have access to Instagram, Google Images, YouTube or the Internet, so a writer had to paint those pictures in their readers’ minds by using lots of words.

One of our advertisers is using Virtual Reality to help their Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, and I think that is fantastic and very exciting. But in other ways, it seems we’re trending to other extremes and allowing virtual reality to substitute for real life. We hear news stories of virtual sex robots or the first Virtual Reality Roller Coaster Ride in LEGOLAND Malaysia, which sends riders wearing Virtual Reality glasses into a world completely composed of LEGO bricks. When I asked an un-named twentysomething family member if she wanted to go to a concert with me, she replied, “Why would I pay money to see them in concert when I can watch them on YouTube?”

Why? Because Virtual Reality or a video is not the next best thing to being there. Actually, being there or experiencing something personally is the best thing. Case in point. In my Christmas novel, A Shepherd’s Song, I have my two main characters attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah at Heinz Hall. I have never seen Messiah, so I made the whole scene up, including the part where my characters kiss during the Hallelujah Chorus. This year, however, I thought it would a nice way to celebrate the holidays by actually taking in this year’s performance at Heinz Hall. And I’m glad I did because it illustrated how much more interesting, provocative, spontaneous and beautiful real life can be.

When it came time for the Hallelujah Chorus, the audience traditionally rises. As we stood, and the voices of the chorus filled Heinz Hall, the elderly black man two seats over on the aisle raised his hands in praise to God and sang along in such a lovely baritone, that it brought a lump to the throat. Midway through the piece in the row before me, a young man covered in tattoos and piercings, suddenly removed his baseball cap out of respect. Their unscripted, unexpected real actions surpassed any virtual reality anyone could have dreamed up and will be something I will never forget.

Virtual reality has its place, and even though real life can sometime be messy, harsh, confusing, depressing or sad, it’s those real moments of grace and beauty that break through into our lives that make it all worthwhile. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


. . .Being ThemMay 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.  

 


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!

[Read more…]