Friday, July 19, 2019

Where Was I . . . Over the Moon

By Janice Lane Palko

When Paula Green, our Trivia writer, handed in this month’s trivia on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. putting the first men on the moon, I couldn’t help thinking about where I was that night. I was nine when astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, so my memories of that big event are a bit foggy and self-centered; all my recollections focus on what was important to me at that time.

I am a child of the space age; the first generation to grow up with space exploration. President Kennedy launched the space program the year after I was born, and all throughout my childhood outer space played a part. I watched The Jetsons, My Favorite Martian and Lost in Space and listened to Dark Side of the Moon, Rocket Man and Space Oddity

When I was in elementary school at St. Athanasius in West View during a space launch or splashdown, for lack of an auditorium, the teachers would move all the students out into the center hall where we would sit on the floor in front of a black and white TV mounted high on a tall stand. On a fuzzy black and white screen, we’d watch rockets blast off or see returning space capsules plunge into the ocean—all in the name of science education. Most of the time, the kids just goofed off, pulling hair, girls whispering to one another or the boys wrestling. I don’t remember much about the other space voyages.

However, the moon landing was different. Like many families on July 20, 1969, my family was gathered in our living room in front of our black and white TV. I remember being sleepy and bored waiting for what seemed like forever, for the hatch to open on the lunar module. I remember my dad pointing at the screen and telling us to pay attention, that this was historic, that someday we’d all be glad that he’d made us stay up to watch this. I also remember my little sister, Joanne, who was four, crying and wanting to go to bed, but my dad insisted that she remain awake. I remember everyone holding their breath as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon and thinking, “So, it’s not made out of green cheese after all.” My dad’s admonition worked; I still remember the moon landing, and yes, I’m glad he made us watch it.

As I grew older and space exploration became more commonplace, most of us only paid attention to it if something tragic happened like Apollo 13 or the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. I can’t remember who said it or where I read it, but someone once commented that humans quickly get bored with things of their own creation but never tire of God’s, how once we landed on the moon, most people lost interest in space, yet after all these millennia, people still gaze in wonder and awe at the moon, God’s creation.

I think that is a fair assessment. I was never a space enthusiast, and I think the importance of the moon landing was lost on my nine-year old mind, but I still marvel at the moon on a cold winter night or love to gaze up at it on a warm summer’s evening from my deck. However, fifty years later, I have a greater appreciation for the moon landing than I did back in 1969, and I wish I remembered more. What were the adults were thinking back then? Did people pop champagne in celebration or set off fireworks? What was conversation around the water coolers in America afterward?

This month when I look up at the moon on July 20, 2019, the adult thoughts that I didn’t have back then will be streaking through my brain: What a dream! What a challenge! What a risk! What an accomplishment! 

Our astronauts, our nation—we were on top of the world when we were on the moon.  

This originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of Northern Connection magazine. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Mr. Rogers' Legacy

Below is the article I wrote for the July issue of St. Anthony Messenger magazine.

Friday, June 7, 2019

My Commencement Address

Where Was I . . .

My Commencement Address

By Janice Lane Palko 

We are in graduation season. And although no one has asked me to give a commencement address, that is not stopping me! Here are some things I learned after finishing school and beginning my career that might help all you recent graduates.  

Is That all There Is?  – Several weeks into working at my first job, I remember thinking: I worked hard all through school and landed a good job and this is all there is? Why was I in such a hurry to get here? I don’t care if you are pursuing your dream career and love your new position, entering the full-time workforce is a huge transition for a young person. You will have to deal with an alarm clock, traffic and minutiae that will test your patience. But take heart; you will adjust. I did, and eventually came to like and enjoy my job. Getting a paycheck helps with that (if you overlook the amount of taxes deducted from your pay). 

Talk About Diversity –  The buzzword at colleges these days is diversity, but when you enter the workforce, diversity slaps you upside the head. I’m not talking about adjusting to working with people who look different from you or come from different backgrounds, I’m talking about learning how to get along with the boss who removes his shoes and clips his toenails in the office (I witnessed this) , or the slacker who never puts paper in the printer when it runs out, or the petty thief who steals your lunch from the office refrigerator even though your lunch bag is clearly marked with your name. In truth, not one of us is the same, and you will have to learn to deal with some people who are annoying, inconsiderate, or downright nasty. But the flipside of diversity is tolerance. Working in the real world will help you to develop your tolerance muscles and make you grow. 

Just Because I’m an Adult Doesn’t Mean I Act Like One –  When I went to work, I assumed childishness was left at the schoolhouse door. Wrong. I’ve seen grown men throw tantrums because they didn’t get the office with the window. Or grown women shun other women “Mean Girls” style. You will encounter backstabbers, cheats, and liars, but you will also meet kind people, friends, and maybe even a spouse. I became friends with people who were older than my grandparents and found mentors who looked out for me and promoted me. Like you did in school, avoid the jerks and be the kind of person you’d like others to be.  

Finally, Nothing is Etched in Stone –  I began my adult life employed as a corporate secretary. I never dreamed that someday I’d be working as a writer. Most people’s lives, including their careers, are not linear. You will venture off your intended path, sometimes willingly and sometimes not. But whatever happens, there is one thing to keep in mind that will not fail: Always be the best you can be wherever you may find yourself. It will be rewarded in the long run, if not by others, but in the satisfaction that you will feel from representing yourself well. 

This originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Northern Connection magazine.