Flowers and Plants Around my Neighborhood (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Flowering Cherry Trees in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Cherry Trees in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

We have had two or three days of rainy weather within the past week that have really brought out the Spring flowers and plants near Atlanta, Georgia. Floral buds are blossoming with fragrant and beautiful flowers.

Red Camelia in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Red Camelia in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Leaf buds are bursting with fresh, new leaves.  The daffodils are already just about done for this year, however the azaleas are just beginning to bloom.  I saw the first azalea flowers in bloom in my neighborhood today – they are on two red flowering bushes.

First Azalea to Flower in my Neighborhood this Year (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

First Azalea to Flower in my Neighborhood this Year (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Please enjoy this collage of photos of some of the my neighborhood flowers, plants, bushes, and trees springing forth the new life that comes with Spring. 🙂

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

The View from Underneath a Flowering Cherry Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

The View from Underneath a Flowering Cherry Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Fruit Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Fruit Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Shrub in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Shrub in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Holly and Berries in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Holly and Berries in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Patch of Clover in a Neighbor's Yard (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Patch of Clover in a Neighbor’s Yard (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Daffodils in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Daffodils in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Pink Camelias in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Pink Camelias in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Tree Seeds on a Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Tree Seeds on a Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Even the dandelions are out in full force already!

The Yard with the Most Dandelions in my Neighborhood! (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

The Yard with the Most Dandelions in my Neighborhood! (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

I hope you enjoyed this stroll through my neighborhood, seeing many of the flowers and plants that have sprung forth with new life again this Spring.  I can hardly wait until the azaleas are in full bloom!

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How to Sacrifice More for a Chapel? What about People?

Virgin Mary Image (Retrieved on March 15, 2015 from kofc1349.org)

Virgin Mary Image (Retrieved on March 15, 2015 from kofc1349.org)

My church has recently been raising money to build a chapel, to be attached to the main church sanctuary. This chapel has been an integral part of the original plan ever since the new church was built a few short years ago. The head priest at my church has been campaigning during Masses to encourage parishioners to contribute, to make pledges to the building campaign for the chapel. The priests of my church are sensitive and caring men of good hearts. They are positive-minded and see the goodness in others, always promoting and proclaiming God’s word. They are men who people look up to, men who are leaders, men who have the respect of the followers.

However, sitting among my fellow parishioners in a relatively new church that was desired by and created for the parish community, it strikes me that the building we already have is more than enough. Why is it necessary that a chapel be built? We can gather, worship, and pray in any location. Must that location always be a church, a chapel, a sanctuary that looks fancy, costs much, and makes us feel good to attend?

One of the concerns regarding costs of the church includes the amount of money it takes to heat it – and likely air condition it, as well. Monies can be saved by applying energy-saving actions to prevent the heated and/or air-conditioned air from escaping. In winter, the set of doors beyond the main entrances should be closed at all times. The same can be done in summer. Side doors to the church sanctuary could be designated for emergency exits only. This will further prevent energy – and money – from exiting the building. What also could have been accomplished – and it may still be able to be done – is to better fortify the church roof with high-quality insulation. Insulation is not something many people think about here in the South, however, it saves $100s to $1,000s in the long run.

Picture of Virgin Mary (Retrieved on March 15, 2015 from turnbacktogod.com)

Picture of Virgin Mary (Retrieved on March 15, 2015 from turnbacktogod.com)

Why do I care about all of this? Sure, I am a member of my church; I am a parishioner. I have been a follower of my faith – despite some disagreements with overall leadership and policies – for my entire life. There are things I like about my faith, and things that I don’t like. However, I also see that other faiths have similar issues. I further care about this issue because of the environment. I wonder how we, as parishioners, can enjoy the best energy-savings and value for our money. I ask what steps can be taken to best accomplish and continue that?

But, even more important, the main issue regarding why I care about this issue is about myself. Why, you ask? I love my God, I am a faithful follower, and I am a supporter of the leadership of my church, however it strikes me as being out-of-touch when parishioners are asked to make more of a sacrifice in our lives so that this chapel may be erected. As one who sacrifices just to come to church, just to attend church services, and just to give what little support that I do to my church, to be asked to sacrifice more is asking far too much. One cannot sacrifice more when there is no more to sacrifice. If I sacrifice more, I would be selling the clothes directly off of my body.

So, tell me, how can those who have no more to sacrifice give more? How is it that many of my fellow parishioners around me pledge $2,000,000 to build a chapel when there are those in their midst who cannot sacrifice more? Why aren’t they inquiring about the well-being of those who cannot sacrifice more? Why aren’t they asking about what happens to those who are unable to sacrifice more? Why aren’t they offering food, work, hope, support? Overlooked are the invisible poor.

They must believe that God will fulfill the needs of those who are unable to sacrifice more – by building a fancy $2,000,000 chapel in which we can worship. Certainly, they must believe that God will provide. Personally, I don’t need a $2,000,000 chapel to attend when there is no more that I can sacrifice. We already have a church, so why do we need a chapel? Perhaps some kind soul could sacrifice a burial plot for me when I am unable to sacrifice more – just as was done for Jesus. But then again, maybe not – they might still be paying off their pledge for the $2,000,000 chapel (that was a joke). By then, it will be too late anyway.

Avoiding vs. Embracing Poverty (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Poverty has a Woman's Face (Retrieved on March 7, 2015 from www.mtholyoke.edu)

Poverty has a Woman’s Face (Retrieved on March 7, 2015 from http://www.mtholyoke.edu)

If I was a gambler, I would bet that no one ever thinks she or he would lose financial stability and become impoverished in our great land of opportunity. I mean, 65 years ago, my mother’s family immigrated to the United States from Poland and Germany because this is the land flowing with “milk and honey.” After all, the streets in the United States are supposed to be “paved with gold,” right? I guess it all depends on who you talk to.

Sure, my immigrant grandparents obtained work and opportunities in America, but they worked and slaved hard to achieve it. Sometimes, they worked up to three jobs at a time to pay for a home, food, and clothing for their four children. Though they worked hard, they were still poor. There was no money for sending any of the kids to college. But, that was also a time when people could make a decent living by having only a high school diploma. Today, the expectation is that one must have at least a college degree.

My dad has also always been a hard worker. Beginning as a little kid, he would sell soda pop at the weekly community bingo games. Then, he would collect the empty bottles back and return them for deposit compensation. He was also a newspaper delivery boy, and then he pumped gas to fill customer’s vehicles at the gas station. My grandfather worked, but my grandmother did not; and my grandfather died when my dad was 17. There was no money for college. I doubt it was even considered. Even so, my dad became a dedicated employee of the State of New York for 37 years.

As a girl, growing up, I had all the expectations about life that many girls probably do.  When I grew up, I was going to have the million dollar family, the home in the suburbs with the white picket fence, a great career, and everything was going to be rosy. We would live happily ever after – or so I thought.

The real fact of the matter is that a few things have been rosy, but most things have been a great struggle. I never imagined that from my upper middle class background that I would be at below poverty level status. I have experienced the feminization of poverty in America. Considering everything, however, I think that I’ve done really well. I have avoided poverty as much as possible, but it is still with me. Poverty has been my lover for the past 7 years now. I don’t love him, but he can’t seem to get enough of me.

No matter what I’ve tried, no matter how I’ve tried to help myself for the past 7 years, I’ve been unable to escape the specter of poverty. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’ve never used drugs, I am intelligent and hard-working, and I am one of the kindest people you will ever meet in your life. I have also learned to be extremely careful with what I have, in both possessions and finances. I am also not one to complain…because I know there are always those out there who are in a worse position than me.

Perhaps these are reasons that no one ever would suspect my true financial status. In fact, when I attempt to broach the subject with people, nearly everyone always brushes it off. They don’t take it seriously. I mean, how many impoverished people look as good as I do? How many care for and support their family as well as I do? One charity volunteer who interviewed me a couple of years ago honestly stated to me, “You don’t look poor.” I don’t look poor. And, I am not poor – I am impoverished.

Throughout these past years, I have tried to do what I can to help myself and my family. I have tried to avoid poverty. I have tried to be as frugal as possible. I don’t have healthcare, nor do I have the money for it. I have been unemployed out of my main career field for the past six years. I have gone back to school, twice, in an effort to jump start my career and get back on my feet. Either those efforts did not work or there were unforeseen setbacks that occurred. I can already foresee student loan payments in the near future that I will likely be unable to make, thus destroying what little progress I’ve managed to make recently.

There are so many other things that I could say and identify that have happened, but there are some things that are just better left private. I do not want the situation to get worse by divulging too much. After all, I’ve learned in life that when you’re down, most people are there to ignore you and/or kick you around.  Those who are encouraging and supportive are truly few and far between.

Life is truly about the survival of the fittest. In our competitive United States, I think cooperation. Where I think kindness, too many others think selfishness. And, people who have never experienced poverty simply cannot and do not understand it, nor can relate to it. When you try to explain it to them, they have no clue about it. For someone such as myself, I do not look for sympathy, but understanding, support, and opportunities for empowerment. If people are unable to relate, then there is no chance for any of that to occur at all.

So, while I have done and continue to do what I can for the best of myself and my family in trying to avoid Poverty, it seems to have gotten the better of me again. Just when you think you cannot cinch your belt any tighter, it becomes even more constricting. So, I have thought that, perhaps, I am doing it all wrong. Maybe I should not try to avoid or run from Poverty, maybe I should just embrace him. But, then again, I cannot do that, or Poverty will have won. Remember, Poverty loves me, but I do not love him. He might think that he has won, but he has not. I will be okay; I will be a Poverty survivor.