Shepherd’s Men on Memorial Day

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People entering the welcoming area of the Shepherd Center at the end of the 2017 Shepherd’s Men Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

On Memorial Day, my son and family, and members of my son’s Boy Scout troop attended and participated in welcoming the Shepherd’s Men to the final destination of their multi-day run at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.  Members of my son’s Boy Scout Troop and Venturing Crew in Snellville served in the Honor Guard, posting colors (flags) for the event.  The Shepherd’s men are military veterans – both men and women – who raise awareness and funding to support veterans’ concerns, including those such as suicide, traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress disorder.

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Members of the Shepherd’s Men at the Shepherd Center following their 2017 Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

This year, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta was the final destination of the Shepherd’s Men Run that began in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the location where one of the airplanes from 9/11 went down.  Their multi-day run that ended on Memorial Day was also in remembrance of and to honor civilians who lost their lives in that plane crash. The Shepherd’s Men each wore a 22-pound flak pack, symbolizing the 22 American veterans who commit suicide every day.

The welcoming ceremony included speakers who were wives and/or mothers of veterans, including the wife of a veteran who had traumatic brain injury and came to the Shepherd Center for treatment and the mother of one young soldier who tragically committed suicide without showing signs of being depressed or suicidal.

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Members of Boy Scout Troop and Venturing Crew 548 from Snellville, Georgia as Honor/Color Guard for the 2017 Shepherd’s Men Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

Other speakers at the event included administrators of the Shepherd Center as well as an Atlanta City Council member.  There were also two singers who sang “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” to remember those who’ve died in service to our country.  Many members of the Atlanta Police Department, including those mostly riding motorcycles, also provided an escort for the Shepherd’s Men as they arrived at the Shepherd Center.

The event was poignant, memorable, and sensitive to veterans and their families who are experiencing struggle with physical and mental illnesses, and those who have experienced personal loss and grief.  It was nice to be present and be a supporter of this event and cause that is so important for the support of our veterans and their families.

Tubing at Sugar Mountain, North Carolina

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Tubing at Sugar Mountain, North Carolina, February 11, 2017

This weekend, my son and I visited Sugar Mountain, North Carolina and had a fun afternoon tubing.  The temperatures were very mild, and there were light sprinkles throughout the afternoon on February 11.  We were overdressed for the weather, and were too warm as we observed the artificially-made snow melt around us.

I’m an expert skier and was eager to hit the slopes, though my son is a beginner, and was not as confident, which is totally fine.  Sugar Mountain has ice skating, tubing, skiing, and snowboarding, so we had many different activities to choose from, and did not have to stick with skiing.  Tubing was really fun, and likely, less potentially hazardous, especially with the large crowd of people who were there this weekend.

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Sugar Mountain, North Carolina Tubing, February 11, 2017

Sixteen years have passed since I first visited Sugar Mountain for skiing.  Sugar Mountain is awesome for skiing, but it is a long drive from our home.  With a stop or two, it takes six hours to get there.  Too bad it’s not a bit closer to Atlanta so we could enjoy it more often!

Beware of Lilburn, GA Man with Road Rage

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I feel sorry for people with road rage. (Retrieved January 3, 2017 from politicalcartoons.com)

This morning, I experienced the worst situation of road rage in my life from a man in Lilburn, Georgia.  This man should absolutely be ashamed of his abominable conduct; I definitely feel sorry for someone so enraged by a situation he actually created, deliberately placing both us of at risk of harm.

Driving toward Five Forks Trickum Road in Lilburn on Martin Nash Road, a dark-colored hybrid car, GA tag PVG 7307, pulled out in front of me at the last moment from Dearwood Drive.  While I was oncoming at 50 mph, this man apparently assumed that I was able to slow down or stop for him to turn. Or, he wanted me to collide with him.  Anyone who drives a truck or SUV knows that one cannot stop on a dime, on slick, wet roads, at 50 mph.  So, this is a man who placed me and himself at risk, as well as any other oncoming drivers.  He turned out in front of me with such little distance between us that I was forced to pass or would have rear-ended his vehicle.

Continuing onward, this man flashed his lights as he raced to catch up with me, and then, attempted to cut me off as we transitioned into the turn lane.  Approaching the traffic light, this man has rolled down his window and is yelling and swearing at me from behind me, making hand gestures, and blaring his horn.  When the traffic light changed, I turned onto Five Forks Trickum Road and stopped in the median to allow him to pass.  Still with the same behavior, this man pulls up next to me and stopped traffic behind him; I let him eventually pass and so did the driver behind me who stayed some distance behind us.  Finally, this man decided to drive away and not wait for myself or other vehicles to follow.  Taking his license plate number, I called 911 and reported this incident. What was his problem?!

Again, never in my life have I experienced such a severe situation of road rage.  Is it becoming the norm for older white men to become enraged and be unable to control themselves behind the wheel, and believe it is okay to harass and terrorize women when no one else is around?  I am a courteous driver, but I also do what I believe is the most safe course of action in the moment.  If that means passing someone who pulled out in front of me at the last moment, rather than rear-ending them, then that’s what I’ll do.  Anyone with any sense would have first waited for me to drive by, and not turn out as I’m oncoming.  Further, once I passed this man, had he any sense, he would have realized that this was the best course of action I could have taken to protect both of us.

I will not be intimidated by idiots on the road who place lives at risk, whether mine, theirs, or those of others.  I will, however, pull over, let them pass, and call the police.  Too many people drive dangerously on the road, and I experienced the worst of this type of situation this morning.  My record reflects that I have a history of being a safe, defensive driver. Therefore, when the severity of the situation reaches a level to what I experienced today, it becomes important to me to make of record of it and inform other drivers for their own safety and protection.  Beware!

 

 

Merit Badge Work at the BSA Atlanta Area Clinic at Oglethorpe University

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My son with his Saturn V model rocket. Oglethorpe University, Atlanta Area Boy Scout Council Merit Badge Clinic, Atlanta, Georgia, October 15, 2016.

On Saturday, October 15, 2016, my son participated in the Annual Atlanta Area Boy Scout Council Merit Badge Clinic at Oglethorpe University.  This was his second year participating in this huge event, and I can say that he had a wonderful experience both times! Last year, he completed his electronics merit badge there, and this year, his space exploration badge.

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My son preparing to launch his rocket with the assistance of a Georgia Tech student volunteer.  Oglethorpe University, Atlanta Area Boy Scout Council Merit Badge Clinic, October 15, 2016.

Students and volunteers from Georgia Institute of  Technology led the space exploration workshop yesterday.  Everyone was very friendly, knowledgeable, professional, and helpful to the boys.  The highlight of the workshop was being able to shoot off actual rockets, something that my son has never done before.  Learning and participating in the merit badge clinic has supported and further fueled his interest in space exploration, planet study, and astronomy.

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My son and Georgia Tech student volunteer, after having launched the rocket.  Oglethorpe University, Atlanta Area Boy Scout Council Merit Badge Clinic, October 15, 2016.

Thank you to all who hosted, arranged, and led this great clinic of 25 workshops for the benefit of 100s (400-500, possibly) of boys.  We returned for another time this year because of the great experience enjoyed from last year.  It is wonderful that our area can host such an educational and enjoyable clinic for the scouts!

How to Get a Same-Day Doctor Appointment: Call 4 Doctor’s Offices

Last week, I was sick with a sinus infection and congestion.  You know, it’s that really icky, mucky mucous in your sinuses of the most ugly sort.  I had the pasty eyes, sore throat, plugged ears, and awful sinus mucous.  Not to mention, it just leaves you feeling drained, achy, tired, and miserable.  I managed with it for five days until calling for a doctor’s appointment to get some antibiotics to treat it.

Now, I have a regular doctor who is my primary care physician.  My pcp is a great physician, however the issue with him is that his office does not have a direct phone number, and all calls go through this type of routing system.  (I’ve also been double-billed on my most recent two appointments, necessitating calls to get that corrected!) The folks who answer the calls in this system are completely unhelpful, and it just becomes a waste of time to even call with a simple question, not to mention trying to schedule an appointment or get a call back.  I called my pcp’s phone number, asked to speak with a nurse in his office, and was refused, with an operator identifying their “protocol,” which I already know is not to transfer any calls to his office.  So, I called my “alternate” doctor.

I contact my “alternate” doctor when my pcp is unavailable and/or unaccessible, for whatever reason.  (I can’t just drive 45 minutes to my pcp’s office for the thrill of it and without an appointment unless I’m in the area of his office for other business reasons; he does not take walk-ins and does not “fit” you in to his schedule.)  So, on calling my alternate doctor’s office, he was booked for the day and they were also unable to “fit” me in to his schedule.  By the way, this alternate doctor is located about 1 hour away from me – even further away than my pcp.

Still feeling miserable and wanting an appointment for the same day, I decided to search for other physicians in my area.  Searching online, I located an office of physicians at my local hospital in Snellville.  On calling, I was placed on hold for 10 minutes, only later to be told that I could not be seen that day because one entire day was needed for the “system to upload my information.”  Really?  I let the receptionist know I would keep looking.

On continuing my online search, I located another office in my area.  Low and behold, it was a family practice that accepted walk-in patients!  And, it was two minutes from my house!  Was this too good to be true?  I decided to find out.

I called this doctor’s office – my fourth call in my quest for scheduling a doctor’s appointment to treat my sinus infection – and I spoke with  a receptionist who said it was a good time to come by right then!  Wow, I jumped at that opportunity.  I went to the facility, completed a few papers, waited for about 1 hour, and was seen as a new, walk-in patient!  I also come out with the prescription I needed to treat my illness, and went to my pharmacy, getting it filled that day, as well.

In all, the time I spent at that doctor’s office as well as getting my prescription filled took about 2 hours.  I had a great experience there, and will definitely be going back when my other doctors’ offices continue to have obstacles in scheduling me to be seen for treatment!

Building Gingerbread Houses! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My son with his Disney-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

My son with his Disney-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

One is never too old to enjoy some holiday fun of building and decorating gingerbread houses, which is what my son and I did today.  WalMart now offers a large variety of gingerbread houses and cookies to decorate.  Just in the past couple of years, the many choices of gingerbread houses have exploded onto the scene.

Showing off my Hello Kitty-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

Showing off my Hello Kitty-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

This year, I bought Disney and Hello Kitty-themed gingerbread houses at WalMart, made by Brand Castle at BrandCastle.com in Bedford Heights, Ohio.  They were a little more pricey than the usual style, but for $3 more each, it was worth it.  The cookies not only came with frosting and candies, but also cardboard and plastic platforms.  The cookies were extremely well-packaged, and none of them were broken upon opening the boxes.

Examples of Character-Themed Gingerbread Houses by Brand Castle

Examples of Character-Themed Gingerbread Houses by Brand Castle

While we never create and/or decorate gingerbread houses that look nearly as nice as what the pictures on the boxes show, we always have fun.  And, another great thing about building and decorating gingerbread houses is that they can also be eaten – yet an additional way to enjoy our work!  Happy holidays!

An Amazing Day at the Circus! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Squeezing my Clown Nose at the Circus, Duluth, Georgia, February 21, 2015

My Son Squeezing my Clown Nose at the Circus, Duluth, Georgia, February 21, 2015

Yesterday, my son and I went to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Georgia!  What an absolutely fabulous and fun time we had! The circus performance was so much more and better than I ever imagined it would be!  Oh my gosh!  I have never seen any performance quite as amazing and incredible as that which I saw yesterday at the circus!  I recommend to anyone who can go, to see these wonderful and astounding performances.

Alexander Lacey Hugging a Leopard

Alexander Lacey Hugging a Leopard

At the circus, my son and I sat in the third row, right up in front. I got great tickets from StubHub.com for $25 each only a couple of days before the show. It was incredible to save about $40 on the ticket prices, and still get such fantastic seats! I still can’t believe it!  The money I saved was then spent on food and souvenirs. Thank you, StubHub!

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

There were so many performances and shows that my son and I enjoyed seeing at the circus. Alexander Lacey – the lion tamer – put on a great show with several lions and tigers doing many tricks.  We had prime seats to watch as he rubbed a lion’s tummy, and kissed lions and tigers. He also rode through the arena in a fancy, motorized circus car with a leopard that he hugged and kissed!

Elephants Standing on their Hind Legs

Elephants Standing on their Hind Legs

We watched as Joseph Frisco, III, and Mario Bovio superbly-handled up to six elephants at a time. There was one portion of the show in which four elephants stood up on their hind legs, with most of them placing their front feet on the backs of the other elephants. It was really incredible to see!

Some of the Many Circus Performers

Some of the Many Circus Performers

We saw the Tuniziani Troupe perform on the flying trapeze, with at least one performer doing a triple somersault while flying through the air. There were the men of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe whose acrobatics included jumping through hoops that were up to ten feet off of the floor. The women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe skillfully spun and twirled diabolos in the air in synchrony. And, the men and women together formed a giant peacock while either riding and/or standing on top of two bicycles and each other while on the bicycles.  It was pretty neat!

Women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe

Women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe

The Torres Family, who ride motorcycles while inside a giant steel ball, left my son speechless and myself both amazed and concerned for their safety. Beginning with a group of four motorcyclists, they steadily increased their number up to eight during their final performance.  All of the motorcyclists rode in circular patterns inside the steel ball, while not having any collisions!  Their performances amount to a world record achieved every day!

The Torres Family Motorcyclists

The Torres Family Motorcyclists

The Tchalabaev Cossack Troupe gave astounding performances by riding their horses. These riders did not just “ride” horses by sitting on them, but also stood atop of them, sometimes standing with one foot on each of two horses galloping next to each other. There were also performances of men in the group who hung off the horses in what was called the “dead-man rag,” in which it appeared that the horses would nearly kick them. Other performers (two at a time) also climbed over and under a horse while it was galloping. They also performed a five-person pyramid while the horses were at a gallop. It was all pretty amazing!

International Folklore Dancers and Elephants

International Folklore Dancers and Elephants

There were performances of clowns, dancers, dogs, goats, and the motorcycle highwire – which was almost directly above us, with no nets – that were also wonder-inducing. My son was amazed to watch a dog jump into a man’s arms from 16 feet off of the floor. Hans and Mariya Klose, and Vicki Zsilak and Alex Petrov, respectively, did a great job with the dogs and goats. The clowns were so funny, too, and kept us laughing. The dancers added even more vigor and vitality to the overall show.  The performances of the goats, dogs, and miniature ponies were great, too.

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos

The folks on the motorcycle highwire, riding back and forth, and even spinning around the highwire, were incredible to watch. Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos, the Ringmaster and his sidekick, were the gel that pulled it all together in this cool show. To top it all off, the Ringling Brothers Band played live music during the circus performances!

Joseph Frisco, III and Elephants

Joseph Frisco, III and Elephants

If I might have changed one thing in the circus, it would be for the elephant that wore the mammoth suit to have it removed. Elephants are such wonderful, intelligent, and sensitive creatures, and to see an elephant dressed up in a full-body costume was distressing. Certainly, the animal was alright and was not being hurt, however it leaves me to wonder how much stress it really creates in this creature.

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

The one and only previous time that I had ever been to a circus was a Barnum & Bailey event sponsored by the Shriner’s. I went with my brother and other children on school buses when I was seven-years-old.  I think I remember seeing some elephants, but we were seated so highly up in Buffalo’s War Memorial Auditorium – and because the adult chaperones with us showed absolutely no eagerness or excitement at all – I don’t remember much of it except getting separated from the group when we left.  Thankfully, I was able to flag down a friendly policewoman who was directing traffic, and she took my brother and I to our school bus. That is the most I remember about going to a circus as a child – being left behind and having to step up to fend for my brother and myself amidst a sea of people. I expect that was the reason I never got to go see the circus again as a child – due to the careless “supervision” I experienced.

Performers at the Circus

Performers at the Circus

So, one can imagine what a wonderful treat it was to take my son and watch such an incredible and breath-taking circus!  Anyone who can go to and enjoy seeing the circus should do so in order to enjoy all of the wonderful and astounding performances that are in store!  Thank you to Nicole and Alana Feld for producing such a wonderful show!