Funny how things work out sometimes

September 18, 2012 by Mark McGlothlen · Leave a Comment 

When National City Bank was purchased by PNC Bank back in October of 2008, that left many workers wondering what would happen to their jobs. I had been through the whole “merger” act before. I was hired by First of America Bank in January of 1996 and in November of the following year, National City bought FOA.

It doesn’t matter how many times you have been through it, you still got that uneasy feeling, even if you were told that things were going to be just fine. For a few years after the PNC purchase, things were just that. But then word began to trickle out that the Bank wanted out of the area of business that I happened to be employed in.

Long story short, they sold our division back to the man who owned it previously. You see, he and his partners sold the business to FOA back in the day. Isn’t it funny how things work out sometime?

That set off a chain reaction of change, uncertainty and new beginnings. But for five of us, it also cost us our jobs. When I officially found out I was going to be let go (I kind of knew for a few months beforehand), it was not a shock and I actually felt excited about the future.

Sure, I was jobless in one of the worst economic disasters of all time, but I still had faith. After much thought and discussion with my wife, I decided to go back to school. Being without a job, the first thing you want to do is add to your debt to the Department of Education!

Without having a job to go to, I also had the opportunity to spend quality time with my father, who as you know, battled pancreatic cancer. If I was working, the time I spent with him would not have happened to the degree it did. And it was time I cherish. So I guess it is safe to say that losing my job was a little blessing in disguise for the reasons I listed above.

Even with all of things that I consider as positives after losing my job, I still felt a sense of loss and frustration. I missed my co-workers, the family atmosphere and even the clients and carriers I worked with on a daily basis. I swore that when I walked out of the building that final day on June 2, 2010, that I would not go back in again, unless of course I was an employee.

If I met my former co-workers for lunch, we would meet outside the building. I don’t know what it was that made me feel that way, but I think it had to do with the respect I had for the job and the people, that by going back inside and NOT being a part of the team, would be difficult for me.

I kept to that pledge and did not enter that building again until Aug. 6, 2012 when I walked back through those doors as an new “old” employee! Again I say, funny how things work out sometimes!

It was a perfect storm that led to me going back. One of my former co-workers sold her house and was moving out of state. Instead of hiring someone new and having to retrain that person, I was available and knew the job already, a win-win for us both. The only bad part of it all was saying goodbye to a great friend.

A few people asked me if it was weird or strange to go back to a place that clearly “did not want me.” I did not see it that way. I was not let go because of my performance or my attitude. It was just one of those things. I may not have agreed with all that was done, but in the end, things worked out for me just fine. And that is all that matters anyway, right?

Stop the name calling! Bring on the ideas!

September 6, 2012 by Mark McGlothlen · Leave a Comment 

One thing I said I would not do this year is write a politically charged column giving my reasons as to whom I am voting for and the reasons why.

I did that in 2008.

My candidate lost.

That, coupled with the fact that when, a few years ago in my preview column, I predicted the Kalamazoo Wings would sweep the Reading Royals in three games of their Round One Kelly Cup playoff series only to see them lose, made me rethink giving my predictions or endorsements.

Honestly, I did stop making predictions, in print anyway.

I have not given up throwing my weight (for all that it is worth, and that is not much) behind a candidate or cause that I support. But I have decided not to do that in print anymore, either, or even in my daily life, and not because of my track record. My views belong to me. They are not better or worse than anyone else’s. They are mine.

I feel that when I wrote about why I supported John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008 that I did so in a manner that was respectful of not only both candidates, but the process as well. I was concerned about the lack of experience, plain and simple. And when McCain lost and Obama was inaugurated, I wrote a nice piece on that as well and expressed my hope and desire that the President have success. I might not have agreed with his policies, but I care about our country more.

It is hard to do that anymore. Yes, I said it. It is hard to be honest. I have a semi-thick skin. I can take insults, especially when they are justified, but these days, people turn to hate and ridicule instead of really talking about the problems in a constructive and mature way.

I consider myself a tolerant person. I wasn’t always that way, however, but I feel I have matured enough to be able to accept that other people have their reasons for believing what they do, even if it does not go along with my own personal beliefs. Tolerance is a funny thing. So many of us like to believe or profess we are tolerant of others and their feelings, ideas, religion, political leanings, etc.

Too many of us are tolerant … as long as you agree with me and my point of view. I gave up on that thinking long ago; because I was told that it was hard having a discussion with me because I felt too strongly about my views. That and I felt that I was the only one who was right.

There is nothing wrong with being passionate about something, which is a good quality to have. But we yell and scream as Americans for our political leaders to get along, work together and compromise, yet we do not always live that way in our daily lives. We like to protest, tease and taunt people who disagree with us instead of working to build a better understanding. How is that productive?

Someone told me this past week that they were tolerant of others and what really makes them mad is someone who isn’t. In almost the same breath, they berated political candidates for whom they disagree with and the people who support them for their views. And not in a friendly, tolerable tone, I might add, all because they have different values. The parties like to demonize the other side in order to scare people. Come on. We are smarter than that as Americans, aren’t we?

I don’t know what is wrong with our country and our world these days. I do not even know where to place blame, because there is enough of that to go around.

I was unemployed for nearly a year and a half (nearly 23 million are still unemployed), my home value has declined, gas prices are out of control, and I am now working for just under half of what I was making just two years ago.

We have problems in this country.

We need solutions.

Tell me what you are going to do, not what the other person can’t.

Stop the name calling and scare tactics and bring on the ideas.

We’re in this together

September 1, 2012 by Mark McGlothlen · Leave a Comment 

When my wife and I became engaged and eventually got married, many of our family and friends said it came as no surprise as they always knew we would end up together. I guess we just had that “they are going to get married and live happily ever after” appeal to us.

For the past nine years, we have done just that. For the most part, anyway. We have had our share of bumps along the way. We have fought about finances, watched TV in separate rooms because we don’t always want to watch the same shows, disagreed on paint colors for the living room, pointed out each other’s faults and don’t always see eye to eye on parenting issues, among others.

I guess that is what married life is all about. We do not agree on every issue, we get mad at each other now and then (maybe more, depending on the situation) but at the end of the day, we are in this together, for the long haul.

Some of our favorite television shows over the years have been ones that focus on married couples, like Everybody Loves Raymond and King of Queens. Both shows are no longer on the air, except for reruns over course! Thank goodness for syndication! Some episodes we can watch over and over and still laugh like it is the first time we are seeing it.

Whereas our lives do not parallel those of the Barones or Heffernans, we find so many things on both of those shows that we can relate to, especially the fights, disagreements, and situations the couples find themselves in or the things they do or say.

Flipping through the channels the other night, my wife came across an episode of Raymond titled “The Suitcase.” We knew which one it was immediately and had to watch it.

In the episode, Ray and his wife Debra come back from a little getaway and are exhausted. After sending the “gruesome twosome” home (that is what Ray called his parents, who were there to watch the children), the pair goes to bed, leaving the suitcase on the landing of the staircase.

The next morning, neither Ray nor Debra puts the suitcase away. Days go by and the suitcase just sits there. Ray thinks Debra should take care of it because he works every day and Debra is a housewife and Debra thinks Ray should man up and take care of it himself.

My wife and I laugh at this episode because it reminds us of us and our marriage. We do that to each other all the time. It does not matter if it is a book, the laundry or replacing the toothpaste; we like to see who will hold out the longest before finally caving in. Unlike Ray and Debra, it is more of a challenge for us and not a fight, but both of us have a point to prove.

The best occurs when Ray is leaving for a two-day trip for work and packs his clothes in a plastic bag from the grocery store, just so he does not have to move the suitcase to repack it. After a hunk of smelly cheese was added to the suitcase by Ray, Debra empties the suitcase of the clothes, but leaves it on the staircase. While we would not do that, it just adds to the fun insanity of the episode.

The show ends with the two of them actually fighting over the very thing they were fighting over in the first place with both of them trying to put the suitcase away!

Marriage is not always fun or easy. It takes work, dedication, communication and honesty. When we can sit back and watch a show like this and basically laugh at ourselves for the things we say and do in our real lives, it makes us think that maybe our lives are not so bad after all!

“Daddy, can we get a zebra?”

August 28, 2012 by Mark McGlothlen · Leave a Comment 

Like most children, our daughters are always asking if we can have more pets. We currently have two cats, Dreyfus and Calum. Dreyfus is the old man of the two as he just had his 15th birthday and Calum is right behind him at 13. Although my wife loves our cats — she picked them out — her biggest fear is that they will live forever.

Let me put that comment into a little more context. My wife grew up in a dog family whereas I always had a cat. We had dogs, but for the majority of my childhood, we had cats. She would love to have a dog again, and while I am not against it in the future, I would rather wait until our cats have found their way to “kitty heaven.” I would also like to wait until we move because that would be one less hassle when showing the house.

A few years ago, when my oldest daughter was four, she started asking about getting a new pet. I was blunt and said that we would not be getting any new animals until the cats have died. She surprised me with her next question.

“Daddy, when the cats die, can we get a zebra?”

I of course, was floored by her question and politely told her that we cannot have a zebra as a pet. Of course she asked why, so I did my best to explain why a zebra would not be a good pet for a family such as ours. Whatever I said must have worked because she no longer wanted a zebra.

Time went on and every once in a while the “getting a new pet” conversation came up. We kept putting it off, but the time had come for us to take action.

After a little back and forth, my wife and I came to a compromise. The finalists in the “New McGlothlen Pet” sweepstakes were hamsters, gerbils or fish. Because both of our daughters loved looking at the fish when we go to Meijer or the pet store, they are relatively easy to care for and both my wife and I had fish as children, we figured why not.

One day with our youngest at daycare, we took Hannah out to lunch and she asked to go to the pet store. While there, she asked if she finally could get her fish. We agreed, so the hunt was on to find the perfect one to join our family.

In addition to picking out a tank, rocks, and the other goodies, Hannah found her fish. Selecting a pink Danio, Hannah named her new pet “Pinkalicious.”

Once the tank was assembled, Pinkalicious was swimming in her new tank, awaiting her roommate, who would come later when our youngest picked out her fish.

Much to our surprise, Pinkalicious was found floating upside-down just 30 minutes later. Initially Hannah was sad to lose her new pet so soon, but recovered nicely when she found that she would be able to get a new fish when Alexis got hers.

As we said our goodbyes to the fish, Hannah quipped, “Pinkalicious is deadalicious.” I had to laugh because she was taking it so well. I also hoped that it was just a fluke that this fish passed away so soon.

Later that afternoon two new fish were swimming in the tank. Hannah’s new fish, “Angel,” was joined by Alexis’ fish “Cuckoo.” Life was good, the girls were happy and loved showing their fish off to anyone who came over.

Within a matter of days, both fish were history. Our water was fine, we followed all the directions that came with the tank as well as the “pet store professionals,” and we were still unsuccessful with the fish. Once again, the girls took it well. For now, I think we will stick to cats. However that zebra is sounding intriguing right about now.

When is a good time to tell the truth?

July 23, 2012 by Mark McGlothlen · Leave a Comment 

The obvious answer is always, of course! I will say that I have not always been honest and a few little mistruths might have crept out of my mouth every now and then. Very few times, mind you!

But in any event, I admit that I have told a few stories in my time. I hate to say it, but sometimes, it just feels easier to say something that might not be totally accurate in order to save face, avoid hurting someone’s feelings or whatever the reason. It isn’t right, but sometimes you just do what feels right, even if you end up regretting it later.

Telling the truth after you have told a lie though, that is the hard part. Do you fess up? If so, how do you do it?

Being up front is one way to do it, but Val Patterson from Utah had a unique way to spread the truth about some things he had said or done in his past: he came clean in his obituary!

Now, I am not suggesting that this should start a new trend, but his obituary was not only clever and entertaining, it also had a message.

The obituary, which he wrote months before he died from throat cancer, was much more like a letter to those who both knew him and never heard of him.

What comes through in his writing is that he was a man who truly loved life and cherished his wife.

“I was a true Scientist. Electronics, chemistry, physics, auto mechanic, wood worker, artist, inventor, business man, ribald comedian, husband, brother, son, cat lover, cynic. I had a lot of fun. It was an honor for me to be friends with some truly great people,” Patterson wrote.

And he went on to say this about this wife, “But, the one special thing that made my spirit whole, is my long love and friendship with my remarkable wife, my beloved Mary Jane. I loved her more than I have words to express. Every moment spent with my Mary Jane was time spent wisely.”

I am sure those words provided comfort for his wife, as well as those who knew him best.

Then Patterson says the following: “Now that I have gone to my reward, I have confessions and things I should say now.”

Admitting to being the one who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in 1971, Patterson also admitted that he wasn’t quite who his “title” proclaimed him to be.

“Also, I really am NOT a PhD. What happened was that the day I went to pay off my college student loan at the U of U, the girl working there put my receipt into the wrong stack, and two weeks later, a PhD diploma came in the mail. I didn’t even graduate,” he wrote. Patterson said that he in fact only had three years of college credits.

Patterson also reminisced about his youth, telling his friends that they grew up in the best time in American history to grow up. “The best music, muscle cars, cheap gas, fun kegs … TV was boring back then, so we went outside and actually had lives. We always tried to have as much fun as possible without doing harm to anybody — we did a good job at that.”

But he did express one regret: smoking. Saying that he felt bad for robbing his wife of more years or happiness together, Patterson said, “I feel such the “thief” now — for stealing so much from her — there is no pill I can take to erase that pain.”

I have checked various sources to verify that this story is true, but even if it wasn’t, would you use your obituary, your final goodbye, to admit to wrong doing? Even though my dad has passed, I will admit, I was the one who put his foot through the window well cover back in the early 1980’s. Sorry.

One less thing I can keep out of my obituary!

If you want to read the full obituary, just do an internet search for “Val Patterson Obituary.”

Baby, it’s HOT outside!

July 10, 2012 by Mark McGlothlen · Leave a Comment 

You don’t need a meteorologist to tell you that it is hot outside. It isn’t even hot, it is unbearable. In fact, a quick stroll out to get the trash can the other morning resulted in me breaking out in a sweat after just stepping a few feet outside my door!

We often complain that our meteorologists get paid too much money and can never give us an accurate forecast. I can see why people say that, but the weather is a crazy business. But why is it when I want them to be wrong, they are right on the money? They could at least play fair!

I actually asked WWMT Chief Meteorologist Keith Thompson about this very matter. He said that he does not often hear comments from people about never getting the forecast right. In fact, he says it is just the opposite. “But that’s probably because — even in this age of seeming inconsideration — people are too considerate to say that to me,” he said.

Thompson said people will jokingly say, “I wish I could get paid for being right 50 percent of the time.”

His response? He tells people he is actually underpaid! “I tell them that Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter get paid many millions of dollars, and they’re only right about 30 percent of the time,” Thompson said. Of course he is joking, but you see what he is getting at.

The heat wave we have been experiencing has been miserable to say the least. It is so hot outside that you want to stay inside. My wife and I have been trying our best to think of things to keep our girls entertained during the really hot times when we would prefer they not be outside. But heck, even they are smart enough to know that it is too hot to play outside and to stay in where it is cool.

I remember the heat wave back in the late 1980’s. We did not have central air back then, just fans and open windows. I am not sure how we survived!

Another side effect of this weather pattern that we have been stuck in is the lack of rain that we have received. My grass went from soft and green to yellow and crisp. Really crisp!

I made the mistake of walking out in the yard barefoot to pick up firework remnants from the last few days of festivities. Not my festivities, mind you, but my neighbor’s.

I have mentioned our wonderful neighbor a few times in this column. The guy who is in his late 40’s but acts more like he is 19. He is the kind of guy who mows his yard at nine in the evening, comes home with his music blaring and windows down (at all hours), has a “vintage” car that he loves to leave idling in his yard, letting the exhaust float into our windows while revving the engine, and on and on.

Anyway, for the past few nights he has decided to light off fireworks at 11 p.m. Thankfully, our windows are shut tight and the AC is on, so the sound is not too bad. But like I mentioned before, our yard is dry. Our water bills are high enough up here, so watering the yard is out of the question. Besides, if I water it, I will have to mow it and that is the last thing I want to do in 100 degree weather.

My neighbor decided to shoot his fireworks into my yard. Sometimes I just wonder what goes through people’s minds. A small part of me was hoping my yard would ignite into a ball of flame and I would watch him scurry to put it out. But then I thought … would he have the common sense to do anything at that point? And get this, he has been watering his yard all summer long, but picks my yard to shoot his flame throwers into. Makes total sense, eh?

Instead, I picked up all of the junk that he sent into my yard, put it in a plastic bag and hung it on his side of the fence. I am hoping my subtle hint will register with him, but I am not holding my breath!

On a side note, Keith Thompson said he hopes people have noticed that forecasts tend to be more reliable than they have been in the past. “And that’s not because the forecasters are necessarily any better. The rapid advance of computer technology has made it possible to devise newer, more accurate forecast models,” he said. “Without accurate computer models, any forecaster is doomed.”

So don’t blame your local meteorologist if you do not like the weather. Blame the technology!

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