I like to think that I have been active in the community as it relates to supporting the numerous causes that are out there. I have cleaned parks, signed petitions, bought my fair share of Girl Scout Cookies, donated to the food pantry, raised money to help prevent child abuse and the list goes on and on.
It seems that everyone is supporting something these days and everyone wants your help to find the cure, end the violence, send a message or wear a bracelet. It seems at times that there are so many fundraising campaigns, donation drives, recall efforts and other events that it can make your head spin and wallet or purse much, much lighter.
Of course we can’t possibly be expected to donate or support every cause. But it always good to be active because at some point, something that others support or raise money for will affect you in some way, shape or form.
Just over a month ago I heard that my cousin, Kathie Rohrer, had formed a team for Relay for Life. I have donated to Relay events in the past, so I was going to of course support her in her event.
Then I started thinking about it. Cancer has touched my life in a number of ways, and it started at a very early age. My mother, Judy, lost her battle with cervical cancer at the age of 39. I was just four years old at the time. Since that time, great strides have been made in relation to battling this form of cancer and many women have been able to become survivors of this disease and not just statistics. That is because of events like the Relay for Life.
My father, Ray, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in January 2011, just two months after he was diagnosed. There were few warning signs and by the time the cancer was discovered, he was already in stage three of the disease and there was nothing that could be done for him. What we were able to do is keep him home and comfortable until the grip of the disease finally took him from us. This is why events like Relay for Life are so important. Cancer is sneaky. Cancer is unpredictable. Cancer does not care who you are, how rich or poor you are, or how old you are. Cancer sucks!
I have also lost two brothers, a grandfather, two uncles and many other family members and friends to this awful disease.
I decided to do more. I decided to walk in this year’s Relay for Life in Three Rivers. Why do I walk? Because I want to win the war on cancer once and for all. I am tired of seeing my loved ones lose their life to this disease. It is unfair to see children fall prey to this disease when their life is just beginning. In fact, a friend of mine was dealt a huge blow upon learning that her 10-year-old son was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone disease. He is now undergoing aggressive chemotherapy. I think of my own daughters and hope they never have to go through either the disease or losing a loved one too it. I walk to help others live.
The good news is that there are more and more success stories of those who have survived. We want more of those stories, don’t we? That is why Relay for Life is so important to me.
I am so invested in this cause that is almost consumes me. I am constantly checking my personal Relay website to see if I have received a donation and I am sending out emails and messages on Facebook, to my friends asking for their help. I hope when all is said and done, everyone realizes that my somewhat overt obsession with this whole event is rooted in my own personal experience with the disease and they forgive me.
I have a greater appreciation for people who are supporting a cause they believe in. Everyone should find something they are passionate about and work toward creating awareness for it. Whether it is this particular event or one that means something to you because it has touched you, go for it. Nothing changes unless people are involved and invested.
Mother’s Day is one of those days where I spend a lot of time reflecting. As you may recall from previous columns, my mother, Judith (Wellington) McGlothlen, passed away at the age of 39 following a battle with cancer. Being just four years old when she died, my memories of her are few and far between.
In fact, the memories I do have of my mother, I cannot say with any certainty if I truly remember those events or if I just remember the stories I have heard from people and turned those stories into memories.
Either way, I do not recall very much when it comes to my mom. I do know for a fact that she loved to drink Pepsi. So do I!
It isn’t just Mother’s Day when I think about the fact that I have no memory of her voice, laugh or smile. Or that she was not there to see me off to my first day of kindergarten, watch me graduate, walk with me down the aisle at my wedding or enjoy my children, as I imagine she would with great delight.
That bothers me. Even after 33 years, I still feel the loss of the woman who gave me life, yet I really do not remember much at all.
On the flip side, I have been blessed with many mother figures in my lifetime. I am not sure if I looked like I needed that in my life or if people just felt bad for me because I lost my mother at an early age, but in any event, I have been grateful for each and every one of them.
My Grandma Wellington filled the void in my life immediately following my mother’s death. We shared an incredible bond, which I cherish very much.
My step-mother Marcy, to whom I dedicated a column a few years ago, probably knows me better than I know myself at times, has been in my life for well over 25 years. We have had our ups and downs as well as our share of laughs and tears over the years, but at the end of the day we respect each other even if we do not always agree. That is a typical mother/son dynamic.
I have been fortunate to call Barb Stutesman my “mom” for the past 20 years. Back in 1992, Barb and I were both cast in the Three Rivers Community Players production of Brighton Beach Memoirs. She played my mother in the play. Ever since, we have called each other mom and son. But one thing that Barb does, and I am not sure if I ever thank her enough, is that she never forgets to acknowledge my birthday and holidays with a Hallmark greeting card. In fact, my wife received a Mother’s Day card from her this week in the mail. She is one classy lady whom I am grateful to call “mom.”
While they seem to get a bad rap, I have been very lucky with my mother-in-law, Vicki. I have trusted many of my decisions based on her thoughts or advice about different things over the years. I cannot think of a time where I ever regretted going to her for anything. She went from being “Heather’s mom” to my mother-in-law, but in the end, she is a valued and respected part of my life.
I am truly a lucky man.
But there is one woman in my life who has made all things possible for me: my wife Heather. Not only has she always been there for me, encouraging me, acting as my sounding board and yes, my better half, she is a world class mother to our beautiful daughters. I am sure I do not recognize enough what a terrific mother she is, but to put it simply, she blows me away with the love, care and compassion that she gives to our girls. The job of a mother is not an easy one. But Heather makes it look easy. There is nothing in this world that she would rather accomplish than being a good mother, and it shows. She is a great mother. And that is something my girls will always remember and benefit from as they continue on life’s journey.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Several years ago a couple of friends told me that I should seriously considering getting on “MySpace.” Social networking was the way of the future and I was going to be left behind if I did not create an account and join the fun! I had heard about the site, but at the time, I did not really see a need for it. It would just end up being another waste of time. But, to be fair, I thought about it.
Then I forgot about it. Considered it again and finally decided: maybe.
My curiosity eventually won out and I somewhat reluctantly, created an account and started connecting with friends and family in a way that was new and interesting. Obviously, our methods of communication have evolved greatly over our lifetimes, but never more rapidly than over the last few decades.
I remember when the thought of being able to physically see someone that you are talking to on the phone, regardless of where they were in the world, seemed so space age. But here we are with camera phones and programs like Skype, which enable us to do just that.
As my Grandpa Wellington always said, “what will they think of next?” Good question. It seems our abilities are endless and technology is changing all the time.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, social networking. Whether we like it or not, it has taken over our lives in a big way. Well, most of our lives anyway. My wife has so far refused to join the craze. She never logged on to MySpace, she doesn’t use Twitter, has never texted and only uses Facebook when she looks at something on my account.
I juggled both Facebook and MySpace for a while because some of my friends were on one and not the other and I just couldn’t leave half of them hanging. I finally cut MySpace loose as Facebook took off in a way that MySpace didn’t.
For me, Facebook is a way to keep in touch with people that I do not get to see on a regular basis. See how they are doing, view pictures of their family and communicate with those on my “friends list” in a quick and easy manner. Facebook is also a great way to announce events such as the birth of a child or the fact that you joined Relay for Life and ask your friends to support you. Yes, that was a hint to all my friends and family out there, all the information can be found on my page!
There is a downside of Facebook, however. Some people like to use it as a way to get back at others, complain about their lives and tell vivid, almost disturbing parts of their lives that are better left unsaid. You sometimes have to take the good with the bad, as we do with everything in life.
While I use Facebook often, I vowed never to become addicted to the many games that it offers. I never understood the fascination with “Farmville” and all the others. In fact, I would often get annoyed when I would receive a request to help build a barn or plant the crops.
Sadly I broke my own vow about two months ago. As a lifelong fan of The Price is Right, when I saw that I could play it on Facebook, I jumped at the chance to give it a try. That led to Press Your Luck, Wheel of Fortune, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
I became addicted, much to my own personal disappointment. I let myself down.
But the games are so fun!
Words With Friends is my new obsession and that is more addictive than all the others. I welcome a challenge from anyone, so bring it on.
What have I done to myself? Facebook … what have you done to me?
I am not one to play the lottery very often. I buy scratch-off tickets now and then, and usually I am not very lucky. I think the most I have won on one ticket is $50. I remember where I was when I bought that ticket and what kind of ticket it was.
My wife and I were shopping at the K-Mart on Westnedge in Portage, back in the good old days when we still had K-Mart stores in the area, that is. The ticket was a Detroit Tigers-themed game, and I turned to my wife and said, “I feel like winning today.” And sure enough, I did.
With that small victory came a sense of invincibility. I kept thinking that maybe if I bought another ticket now and then, maybe one of them would be the BIG winner. After a few wasted dollars (okay, more than a few), I lost interest in buying tickets.
I will admit that, once in a while, I get that urge and purchase a ticket or two, but I have never achieved that low level of success from a few years ago. And the wife does not think it is a good way to spend money; believe it or not, I agree with her!
So when the Mega Millions jackpot was a bazillion dollars last week, I debated about getting a few tickets. I knew the chances of actually winning were not in my favor, but you never know until you try. My chances were the same as the three people who won and well, they are millionaires now.
My wife and I spent a few minutes doing the “what if” routine. You know, just in case we did win, we wanted to have a plan. Bills and student loans would be paid, the girls would obviously have a hefty amount in their accounts, our families would have their houses paid for, etc.
The good side about not becoming the next “lottery winner” is that you will not see me on those TLC shows such as “How the lottery changed my life” or in some cases “How the lottery ruined my life.”
Since we did not leave the great State of Michigan for spring break, my wife and I made sure that we planned events centered around our girls so that they had a fun time anyway.
On Monday we made the trek to Chuck E. Cheese because the girls LOVE it. Of course, Dad doesn’t mind playing a few games now and then, either. I will be honest; I am just like a kid when I go in that place. Thankfully, it was not overly busy, because that place can get pretty warm and ugly when it is too crowded. Another bright spot about the visit was that I ran into an old high school friend who, along with her family, had the same idea.
We also visited the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, which I recommend to everyone. Surprisingly, we spent five hours there and the girls were still not ready to leave. Mom and Dad were, however; we were worn out!
The girls were not into the planes and exhibits as much as they were the rides. There is one ride there that I am not a fan of, but I rode it anyway to make my oldest daughter happy. I am not a fan of heights or rides that go around and around … and around.
For my wife, the best part of the day was watching yours truly squeeze into the back seat of “Flying Circus Bi-Plane” ride. Alexis, my youngest daughter, wanted to be the pilot and sit in the front of the plane, in the much bigger seat. Not wanting to upset her, I twisted my legs and found a way to ride, rather uncomfortably, while she had the time of her life.
Isn’t that what a dad is supposed to do?
When it was announced that Sir Elton John was going to play at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo it set off a shock wave of excitement around this area that has not been seen in quite a while.
But with all the enthusiasm for the big show, there were those who questioned “why.”
Why Kalamazoo and Wings Stadium when the much bigger and prettier Van Andel Arena is just up the road. Why Wings Stadium when there are much bigger facilities like Ford Field and the Palace of Auburn Hills that seat well into the double digits. What would make Sir Elton John come to little ol’ Kalamazoo and the 38-year-old Wings Stadium that seats just 8,000 people for concerts?
Simple. Elton John cares about his fans and decided it was time to bring his music to them in smaller, more intimate venues. We all know John would have no problem selling out the big arenas and making a boatload of cash in the process. But a man of John’s stature knows that it isn’t just about the money or selling out the big name stadiums. It is about the fans, regardless of where they live. The world-renowned artist brought his music and magic to Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo area fans thank him for that.
For three straight hours, John pounded his piano for a packed house at Wings Stadium Wednesday night starting off with “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “Bennie and the Jets” and ending the show with “Your Song.” In between John reeled off favorites such as “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Crocodile Rock,” “Rocket Man,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and many, many others. John has over 56 Top 40 hits to his credit.
To say Kalamazoo was abuzz with excitement was an understatement. I have lived here for 16 years and I have never witnessed anything that had people talking and so excited like this before. Well, except for when we have had Presidential visits of course.
But I think that this even topped that!
Wings Stadium has hosted everyone from Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Aerosmith and even a President during its storied history. But the days of huge musical acts coming to our area like this have not been seen in almost 20 years.
One of my good friends, Marilyn Pyne of Kalamazoo, attended the show and she could not stop gushing about it.
When John took the stage, Pyne said the crowd went ballistic and she thought to herself, “That is Elton John, this is Kalamazoo, and me and 8,000 of my closest friends are looking at him right now.”
That is why a show in a place like Wings Stadium brings it all home. Sure it was crowded and hot and people were sweating, but no one is complaining about that. They were this close to Elton John. And that is something that is missing from those big stage shows. And that is why John chose to perform this round of shows in venues like Wings Stadium.
Another friend of mine, Kathy West of Richland, attended as well and said “The feel was great -— everyone was having a blast and you could see that he was enjoying himself, too. He got up after every song and thanked everyone in each direction — which was pretty cool.”
For me, Wings Stadium is a second home and has been for the past 15 years, mainly because of K-Wings hockey. I have friends that work there, including Andrea Pluta, Events Coordinator, who when contacted by John’s promoter, put together the winning proposal to bring him to town. To see my friends achieve this kind of success and notoriety is just awesome.
To those who asked “Why?” I say, why not? There are plenty of shows in those big arenas if that suits your needs. I am hopeful that more big name acts follow John’s lead and give their fans in towns like Kalamazoo a night like those who attended his concert last night had. A night to remember. A night where they felt he was truly singing to them.
Pyne noted that as John came out for his encore he took his time to thank the fans. “He walked all the way around his stage, acknowledging the crowd in each little section behind the stage and on the side and then he signed autographs, shook hands and high-fived people all along the front of the stage.”
At one point during the show, John said “Good evening Kalamazoo. I’ve never said that before.” I am sure there are many fans who hope that was not the last time he says it either.
As I was signing in to check my email the other day, a story caught my eye. The headline read, “Emails from dead man’s account helping family and friends find closure.”
That headline drew me in. I have always wondered about the afterlife. Is there an afterlife? Is there such a thing as ghosts and spirits? Can we see or hear them? Can they communicate with us?
From time to time, I will watch a special on TV, read a story or have a conversation with someone about this topic and my mind starts to wander. I don’t have an answer as to whether I think it is all real, our imagination or what, but my feeling is, why not?
The story tells about a man, Jack Froese, who died from a heart arrhythmia at the age of 32 last June. This past November, his best friend, Tim Hart, was checking his email on his phone when a new one popped up from his recently- deceased friend Jack.
According to Hart, the message was short and to the point, something that he says would be typical of Froese. The email referenced a conversation the two friends were having shortly before his death while the two were alone in Hart’s attic.
The subject line of the message was “I’m watching” and the email said “Did you hear me? I am in your house. Clean your attic.” Creepy, right?
Was it a hacker? Is someone playing a joke on the family and friends who have received messages from Froese?
Hart says they have thought about that but in the end, they are taking it for what it is worth, a message from beyond.
The only way I can relate to that story is that I did receive an email from someone after he passed away. My friend James sent an email to my work address late one Friday afternoon, but I was already gone for the weekend. Sadly, James passed away in a car accident the next day and I read his email on Monday. That was eerie.
After hearing Hart’s story, I thought of several things that happened recently to me, which made me wonder if it was my dad trying to send me a message.
Dad was a big stickler on making sure that you had your oil changed in your car every 3,000 miles and not a mile more. Earlier this year while talking to my step-mom, I mentioned that I better get the oil changed in dad’s truck because it was a little past due. The next day I was heading to the store and the oil light came on.
Sure, probably just a coincidence, but still freaked me out a little, to be honest.
And this past weekend I was the unlucky victim of a hit and run accident on my way home from the K-Wings game. I was at a stoplight waiting to turn left when a truck slammed into the back of me. By the time I put the truck in park and turned my four-ways on, the truck was speeding away.
After taking care of the police report, I headed home. As I was driving down my street I saw a bunch of lights flashing behind me. No, it was not the police again, but rather a toy that my girls left in the back seat. Mind you, this is one of those toys that you have to hit or throw on the ground to make it light up and it was going off with no assistance. Again I thought, this is dad telling me he saw what happened to his truck.
Yes, I know I am probably a little crazy for thinking that, but again I say, why not? Besides, I know I would never get an email from my dad. He could never figure out how to set the time on the VCR, nor had an email account, so I know that will never happen. Or could it?