Where to Find a Good Group?

Communities need to offer and provide groups for people who are seeking to join a good group. Now, one’s definition of a “good” group may differ, and I certainly have my own expectations of what I’m looking for, but good groups are really lacking these days. Where are the “good” groups in my area that suit my needs and interests?

In the past six months, I have joined two groups. One is a small dinner group for seniors about a 45 minute drive away from me that I’ve been unable to attend since they always meet during weekdays when I’m working. They don’t drive at night. I guess I’m not used to that. I can definitely understand and relate, but it doesn’t help me that they only meet during the day.

Another group I joined is faith-based, mostly composed of seniors, and has a strong following of more than 1,000 people in my region – but that’s just it – it’s a regional group. In the past six months, I have been able to attend only two events – playing volleyball – and those were held in the first month of my joining the group, and they were one hour’s drive away from me on Friday nights in traffic. Almost all of the various meetings and get-togethers of this group are in locations 1-2 hours drive from me and/or weekend trips that I am unable to attend. I have already appealed to the group leader, twice, to offer more events in my area. The funny thing is, what I’ve found is that more events are actually being held even further away from me now!

Three friends have suggested that I look into my church or area churches for activities and events. I have looked, and I have participated in several activities in my church and other area churches in the past. I have enjoyed Bible study, but I want to meet people. I like being a minister, but I want to meet people. It’s great to be a lector or greeter, but I still want to meet people. I’ve done Vacation Bible School – same deal, I want to meet people. You may say that by doing these things, I am meeting people, but churches cater to families, and they are not geared for what I am seeking.

The Senior Center in my city has offered membership in the past for people 50 and older. I just looked at the website and the age requirement has been raised! What?! I reviewed all of their groups and activities, and every single group they offer only meets during daytime hours when I’m working anyway. There is absolutely nothing that meets in the evening. They also have weekend get-aways, but again, I am unable to participate.

You might ask, why don’t you create your own group? Yes, I’ve thought of that. I am so busy and have so much going on already that I’d prefer that responsibility to be left to someone else at this point. So, I’m out of luck. And don’t even think about those awful online groups. People either want to trick you out of money (or worse) or they want that other thing that we all like. You just place yourself at risk and in harm’s way with those online groups. I was recently reminded why they’re not good. Meeting people at work is also not a consideration, and I’ve never done that. I’ve seen the mess it creates for other people when things don’t work out, and I don’t want any part of that.

So, there is no “good” group available that is suitable for my needs and interests. I feel excluded due to age, distance, and/or work and personal/family responsibilities. It is exasperating. I would like to have a life. Work has to be my priority, but it would still be nice to meet and catch up with people someday, sometime – whenever that might be!


Thankfulness and The Road not Taken

Two Roads Diverging in a Yellow Wood, Retrieved March 8, 2023 from https://pallottines.ie/two-roads-diverged-vocation-story-brendan-mccarrick-sac/

There has been much that I have been very thankful for, lately. Of course, I am thankful for everything, everyday, but this has gone above and beyond recently. I am most thankful for God, family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. God has blessed me with some wonderful people in my life who have helped and supported me, personally and professionally. I do like to believe that God puts good people in our lives to help us, even in the most turbulent times. I am most thankful for my son and those who have gone before me, especially my parents. Without them, I would never be where I am today. In fact, I dread the thought of where I might be without them.

I have a few personal friends, but they are good friends who I trust and respect. Friends are people who care about and support you, and who are there for you as much as they can be; it is a two-way street. I have several colleagues who are friends, and while they are friends generally only at work, they are good people I can count on and vice versa. In my work, I have been very blessed to have wonderful supervisors, and I am so thankful to be able to work with them in the venues that I do. I have only a couple of neighbors who I would reach out to for something, but they are helpful in times when it is needed.

I must also say that I am thankful for my work. It took me until late in my 20s to discover my calling in teaching. I love teaching, learning, and imparting knowledge to my students, coupled with building relationships and observing growth in different forms along the way. Later in life, I discovered counseling, and that is also rewarding work for me. We all need help, support, guidance, and people we can rely on during our lives.

I am a person who is open to helping others, but also learning from others, including those who I may be helping, as well. This helps me to grow more as a person, and to remember to take nothing for granted. Sadly, there is always someone out there who is in a worse situation than you. In my counseling training, I learned that it is important to hold the belief that people have it within themselves to help, change, and/or improve themselves. Sometimes, people don’t believe that, but it starts with Number One. People have to truly love themselves, within, before they can love, help, and/or support others.

So, this brings me to a post that I made several months ago, here, that I deleted because it was too personal for my comfort level. I am revisiting the same idea again, but in a slightly different way. The post related to Robert Frost’s (1915) famous poem, “The Road not Taken,” republished to follow from The Poetry Foundation at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44272/the-road-not-taken:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

I love this poem. I have loved this poem since I first read it in school. It is so real. It is so applicable. It is so palpable. Robert Frost hit the nail on the head with this poem since it so exquisitely relates to many real life experiences. I often share with my son, students, and others that life is all about choices. Frost’s poem is not only about choices, but also about potentially making the “right” choice. Sometimes we know the difference between right and wrong, but we may need some guidance in selecting and/or staying on the right road.

I am so thankful that I have been blessed with such a great friend who has helped me more than once to choose and remain on the right path. Obviously, God has brought my friend into my life for a reason, or perhaps, many reasons. He is a good personal friend who has leant his ear and his wisdom, helping me to carry on in the right way, without tripping, falling, and then, regretting my error. On two occasions in the past year, my friend’s support has saved me from snares that I would never have even considered before this time in my life.

Sometimes, when you feel you’re getting older and life is passing you by, you wonder what things would be like if life was different, but you must always be honest, responsible, and accountable; keep a clear head and conscience; make the right choices; and follow the road less traveled. My friend’s words of wisdom often echo throughout my brain, and I have good reason to keep them at the forefront of my thoughts.

Therefore, that brings me to the final thought about my post: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – And it truly has made all the difference! I am so blessed!

No Place Like Home

For the past three months, I had my home for sale and I just took it off the market. What I experienced was a very slow, disinterested market. There were only five showings of my home in the three months that it was on the market. There were also a few inquiry calls, but nothing beyond that.

In searching for homes, I surfed 100s of them on the Internet, toured 15 of them in-person, and found only three that I would have considered buying. I have a very nice home and property, and maybe I am a bit spoiled, but I love my home; it is just a lot to take care of and is no longer in the most desirable location for me. I found, however, that I have much more invested in my abode than any of the homes I viewed, including houses that were listed at half a million dollars and more.

I was really interested in potentially moving to a smaller home in an area further away from the hustle and bustle of my metro area city where I could feel more comfortable. I was ready for a change. But, after seeing the prospects that were available, my mood and interest changed pretty quickly. What surprised me about the homes that are on the market in my area is that people are so willing to sell or move into a place that is lacking in quality. I am not one of those people; I can afford to be choosey.

In one pricey home, I saw pearly-white Martha Stewart cabinets in the kitchen. And, while those are certainly very nice, I prefer my solid oak cabinets. No home I looked at had anything even close to those. The property was comparable to mine, but the home was absolutely huge. I would’ve felt lost in it.

Another home I considered was nice and within my price range, but I would’ve wanted to remodel the kitchen and add a Sunroom. I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate the buckled laminate floor and outdated kitchen cabinets, nor the missing Sunroom; it wouldn’t have been worth the price to buy it and then, remodel it. I spend time in my kitchen and I enjoy convening with nature in my Sunroom. Additionally, when one is accustomed to a beautiful hard wood floor, laminate flooring just doesn’t cut it.

Yet another home that I considered had beautiful stone countertops, but they were in a small kitchen without any natural light. Why would you put expensive, stone countertops in a small kitchen? Overall, the more expensive homes were too spacious without the quality, and the smaller homes were too small and needed work. There was nothing out there that fit what I wanted.

Additionally, I had already reduced the price of my home to make it more “competitive,” and while that seemed to attract more interest, it was not enough to generate an offer. And, I certainly was not coming down on my price any further; I already came down more than I wanted to.

During the time that I was house-hunting, I also made several improvements to my own home and property, as well, causing me to like what I have even more. So, it got me thinking that I already have the best home for me. Unless there is something that can out-do my home, for the quality and price, I will stay here and deal with the absence of ideal locale.

My house also contains innumerable memories for both myself and my son, and is extremely convenient to my son’s college. And, my son does not want to move. This house is one where my son has spent most of his life with the closest members of his immediate and extended families. It is also close in vicinity to his best friend. I don’t want to throw a wrench in their friendship by moving away. Considering his needs is also very important.

Having my house up for sale has taught me a few things. The most important of those things I learned is that I already live in the best house for me. Until something genuinely better and nicer comes along, with a comparable investment and similar quality, I will be happy staying right where I am. Atlanta – you have to do a better job of it. There’s no place like home!

First Time using a Chain Saw!

Stihl Chain Saw, Retrieved from http://www.uhireniltd.com/equipment/chain-saw-18/, February 15, 2023 – This is not the one I used, but is one I would like to have.

This week was the first time in my life that I used a chain saw. I have to say that I’m quite proud of myself! I also bought myself a nifty mini 6″ chain saw and have used that several times already. Wow, those things are really powerful, including the mini!

I actually borrowed the big chain saw from my neighbor. We got to talking about the yardwork that I was doing, and I suggested that what I really needed was a chain saw. He said that he had one and got it out for me. He tries to be helpful sometimes, though he is elderly and was having some difficulty with it. So, I said to him to let me have it, and I used it.

I’m quite sure that my dad was turning over in his grave at my use of the chain saw. Sorry, Dad. I love you and miss you, and may you rest in peace, but you had an opportunity to teach me how to use a chain saw at my request several years ago, and didn’t. I do respect my dad’s decision for not wanting to teach me how to use a chain saw. He said chain saws are “dangerous.” But, now I need to know how to use one.

I can certainly see that chain saws – including mini chain saws – can be dangerous. One has to be aware and be careful, thinking about what they are doing all of the time. I fully read the instructions for the mini chain saw, as well as watched a YouTube video about chain saw handling and use, before trying out my new toy. The directions, by the way, were awful – incomplete and not thorough at all.

When I was using the big chain saw, I had to be very aware of where I was placing my hands. I used both hands to hold it, and when I wanted to move my hand up, I realized that I would’ve put my hand on the chain while I was using it. So, yes, chain saws can be dangerous, but one really has to think carefully and clearly, and have all their wits about them when using them. All the time while I was using the chain saw, my dad’s words echoed in my mind, so I was remembering to be very careful.

Also, holding the chain saw out in front of me, even for a short period of time, was tiring. I was sweating bullets and all out of breath after just a few minutes – phew! Those things are heavy to hold, especially when you’re not used to them. Oh my goodness!

And then, I had trouble with keeping the chain tight to the blade on both the mini chain saw and the big chain saw. The chains kept coming loose to the point of coming off of the blade. This was frustrating and challenging because I kept tightening as much as I could, and that didn’t work, even after replacing the chain on the mini. I’ll have to do more research to figure out how to get it to work correctly for me.

At any rate, $50 for a mini chain saw has been a really great investment! That beats paying $100s for a landscaping crew, especially when they are inconsistent with their work – fabulous one day and terrible another day. As long as I can do some of my yardwork, myself, I am a happy camper. And, I’m getting my fill of yardwork therapy to boot – there’s plenty of it to keep up with!

Festively-Decorated Valentine’s Day Cake

Well, it is late, but I finally got to it. It was a busy day, and I meant to bake a cake earlier, but didn’t get to it until later. I enjoyed doing some yardwork therapy today in my yard since the weather was so absolutely beautiful! Yes, I actually do enjoy doing yardwork, at least when it doesn’t wear me out too much.

WordPress will actually show this post on February 15, but I did, in fact, make it on February 14. So, it is still Valentine’s Day. I hope you all enjoyed a Happy Valentine’s Day. Please celebrate with me with my festively-decorated chocolate cake! It’s not perfect, but it tastes just fine. I haven’t made a cake in forever. There are actually some Christmas candies on it – some of what I had left over from my Christmas cookies. And, I enjoyed some of my cake while it was still warm – yum! Hopefully, you found a way to make the day enjoyable.

The Power of Positive Relationships

Relationship-Building, Retrieved February 8, 2023 from https://vocal.media/journal/reasons-building-relationships-is-important

Today, I have been thinking about the power of positive relationships and how important they truly are. I have been thinking about this for several reasons. First, I am thankful for all of the positive and supportive relationships that I have – and have had – in my life. Sometimes, people do not think much of relationships or give them much credit, but they are extremely valuable and important. My connections with family, friends, colleagues, and community members are based on positive relationships. Now, sometimes, we may not always like to hear or to share certain realities about things, but a true friend will find a way to do it in a healthy and positive way.

I was able to be supportive to two colleagues who reached out to me today with some shocking and unexpected news. They are physically okay, but their lives have been somewhat altered. Without saying what they experienced, suffice it to say that they will have to go in a different direction now. I always believe that when one door is closed, another is opened, and there are reasons for that, even if we do not know exactly what those reasons are. I gave my colleagues – who are also my friends – as much encouragement and support as I could. I am thankful that they both have a strong and positive family network that they can rely on for support because the support I can provide is only minimal.

My being able to be supportive of my collegial friends today is also a reflection of the strong, positive support that I have recently-received in my close relationships. I believe that because of the support these folks provided to me, I was better able to be a support to my colleagues today. Last week, I reached out to a good friend about an issue that I was struggling with, and he responded with wonderful support. He shared his insights with me in an honest, real, and positive way that was helpful to me in clearing my head and getting me back on track with my focus. I also spoke to my son about the same issue, but in more age and life experience-appropriate terms, and he was supportive, as well. I further spoke with a colleague at work about the same issue, and she was additionally supportive. So, these are three people close to me who I spoke with about this issue – and it was a very serious and upsetting issue – and they all provided support and helped me. All three of them gave me excellent counsel to help me overcome the issue, reminding me about what is good, right, and honest. Of course, I know what is good, right, and honest, but in certain situations, one’s brain can become muddled and it can be challenging to clear away the mud.

Therefore, I am so thankful that I have people in my life with whom I have positive relationships that I can reach out to. It takes time to develop relationships, and it takes even more time to maintain strong, positive, and healthy relationships. I understand and appreciate that, but sometimes, people do not want to invest that time or energy, especially for fear that those relationships will not last. Being hurt is definitely no fun. This is sometimes one of the negative effects of divorce – that people are hesitant in investing into a potential future relationship because promises and commitments made in the prior one were not honored. Or, perhaps, someone may have experienced trauma or abuse in prior relationships, and that can be another reason for people to be cautious about investing in relationships, due to the memories of painful experiences.

My ultimate point here is that positive, healthy, supportive relationships are extremely valuable and they are definitely something to be thankful for. I have recognized that more and more throughout my life, and as I have gotten older. The saying is really true that love is like a garden – you have to water it to make it grow. The same is true of any good relationship. And, as my son reminds me, “friendships are good.” One does not necessarily have to be in an intimate relationship with someone to have a good, positive relationship. I am thankful that he reminds of that, too.

The Always-Inspiring Mowogo Lodge Annual Banquet

The proud mom with my son at the banquet, January 14, 2023

Last evening, my family and I attended the always-inspiring annual banquet of the Mowogo Lodge in Clayton, Georgia. The Lodge is the Northeast Georgia Council of Boy Scouts of America Order of the Arrow Honor Society. My son has been a member of Mowogo Lodge and its most southern chapter – Lau-in-nih – in the Council for the past several years, being a leader in his chapter during one year. My son is an eagle scout with several palms, and absolutely loves scouting, as well as the fellowship, community, camaraderie, and service opportunities that scouting provides. Since he has been a member of the Mowogo Lodge, we have not missed an annual banquet, except for the one that was canceled due to COVID in 2020.

Keynote Speaker Emma

I always enjoy attending the annual banquets held by Mowogo Lodge. It is great to see and catch up with friends, make new friends, partake in a delicious meal, celebrate and recognize the Lodge and outstanding members, and hear inspiring and motivating speeches. My family sat at a table with another family, of whom two members were recognized with awards for outstanding service. While dining at this table, we got to know them a bit, as well as the advisor of their chapter, who also sat with us. We ate delicious breaded baked chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce, crab cakes, and prime rib, along with yummy veggies and desserts.

2023 Lodge Leadership

We also heard words of encouragement and motivation from a young lady named Emma, the Keynote Speaker, who is serving as Section 9 Order of the Arrow Secretary – a huge and impressive job for a high school student. Emma spoke to the Lodge, encouraging everyone to be a catalyst to spark energy for continued positive growth and development in the organization. It was also my pleasure to speak with Emma more personally, and we discovered that we had each been former members of Girl Scouts. I am happy that Emma can shine in Boy Scouts, an organization that appears to more closely fulfill her goals. Lodge Advisor, Rusty, reminded everyone what OA is all about, particularly doing cheerful service for others as well as recognizing “those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law…” (https://oa-bsa.org/about/mission-purpose).

2023 Lodge and/or Chapter Leadership

I do not generally make many posts about scouting and my son’s involvement in it, in order to respect his own privacy and intentions, however I wanted to take moment and share. My son, overall, has had an excellent experience in scouting. He gives back to scouting by serving as a troop assistant scoutmaster in Loganville. He is also a Camp Rainey Mountain staff alum and a Northeast Georgia Council scholarship recipient. Scouting has helped to develop my son’s character in wonderful ways, and now, he serves as a role model and guide for others in scouting. I appreciate the opportunities that scouting has offered my son throughout his life, and I am thankful that he can remain in scouting and participate in meaningful ways through his council, lodge, chapter, and troop!

Note: I am reposting since Google has still not picked this up after four days, which has not happened before.

Beautiful Rainbow in Snellville

One side of the rainbow in Snellville, January 12, 2023

For most of the day today, there was a tornado watch in and around my area, just another sign of global warming as this should not be happening here in winter. We experienced high winds, heavy rain, and thunder and lightning under an eerie sky. Prior to the storm, the sky appeared to be light green and light yellow. I’ve observed light green skies in the past in my area, as well, and always heed them as a warning of a possible tornado. This is not something I ever experienced in the area where I grew up, so it is something that I’ve had to learn and look out for.

Other side of the rainbow in Snellville, January 12, 2023

After the storm and once the skies broke, the Sun shone through the clouds very brightly. I happened to look outside because it became so bright and there was a beautiful rainbow, stretching from one end of my neighborhood to the other! Wow, how gorgeous it was! I have never seen a rainbow such as that in my neighborhood, though I have seen rainbows in this area before. The rainbow lasted for only about 10 minutes, just enough time to get outside and take some pictures, however clear or blurry. It was wonderful to see this beautiful rainbow today!

Polar Vortex Freeze Damaged my Gardenia Bushes

Bush damaged by Christmas 2022 Polar Vortex freeze in Snellville, Georgia

I have begun to notice this week that several of my gardenia bushes in my yard and around the house were hard-hit by the Polar Vortex that went through Georgia at Christmastime. I noticed a couple outside the picture window in my dining area, and another near my mailbox where most of the leaves were brown. On doing more investigating, I discovered that at least one dozen of my gardenia bushes have been severely damaged by the deep freeze from the Polar Vortex. I believe it was Christmas day or maybe the day afterwards when the low here in Snellville was 5 degrees Fahrenheit with about a -20 degree windchill due to all of the wind.

Damaged gardenia bush due to Christmas 2022 Polar Vortex, Snellville, GA

I’m not used to having to look out for my outdoor plants, and now I’m saddened that so many were hit. Had I realized they would have been damaged, I would have covered them with sheets or tarps. I didn’t even think about it until I saw a few azalea bushes covered at a business in Norcross. By then, it was already too late for mine. I also had several large azalea bushes that were damaged, as well. I literally have 100s of azalea bushes in my yard that my parents planted throughout the years, but the ones that were hurt were big ones around the house.

Another damaged gardenia bush from Christmas 2022 Polar Vortex, Snellville, GA

The majority of the leaves on these damaged bushes are brown instead of green now. I’m worried that they won’t come back. I’ll just have to wait and see at this point, and hope for the best. I just love the scent of gardenias and the beauty of all of the azaleas. I hope they will be able to bounce back, but they don’t look good right now.

Christmas Sugar and Gingerbread Cookies (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Some of my finished Christmas sugar cookies, December 29, 2022

Yesterday, I had time to make, bake, and frost my favorite sugar cookies – and I also frosted some gingerbread cookies that I bought from the grocery store! I just get so busy with so many things that I have to make time for holiday cooking and baking, and yesterday was a good day for it. Every year, if possible, I like to make my Great Grandmother Bertha (Gould) Babcock’s sugar cookies. It is also a recipe that I have shared on this blog in the past, and will republish it again. These sugar cookies are so sugary and good, and if you have a sweet tooth like I do, you will love them!

Following are some of my steps in making these sugar cookies.

Here, I have rolled out one ball of dough after I’ve chilled the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Here, I made cut-outs of my cookies. For this roll-out, only a few came up with the cookie cutters. I had to pick the others out of the dough because I rolled out the dough too thin and I didn’t put enough flour underneath the dough. I made corrections after this first roll-out, and didn’t have those issues again.

A cookie sheet of cookie dough cut-outs on parchment paper, ready for baking.

Another cookie sheet of baked cookies.

More of my frosted sugar cookies.

Yet another cookie sheet of frosted sugar cookies.

For this go-’round, I made a double batch of these cookies. My son and I just love them, so they go quickly! On doubling all of the ingredients, the recipe made approximately 56 cookies of varying sizes and shapes. I made a lot of Christmas tree cut-outs because they are easiest to frost and decorate. The cookie cutters were my mom’s, and they are from the 1960s or 1970s. They are really great and easy to use, and are much better than the cheap cookie cutters that are out there today.

My son also likes gingerbread cookies, so I buy those from the grocery store. Of course, I could make them, but they are readily available in the store during the holiday season, so I just get them from there. This year, I got two boxes of holiday gingerbread cookies after Christmas for 50% off, and they were a great buy! I frost them using my own homemade frosting since eating that E-Z Icing that comes in the box is more like eating glue – although I’ve never eaten glue, but that frosting is disgusting. Sorry, but we have to enjoy our gingerbread cookies, y’all!

Some frosted gingerbread cookies.

Doing gingerbread cookies the easy way by buying them from the grocery store, on sale after Christmas!

So, I frosted some gingerbread cookies with my own frosting and made my yummy sugar cookies this holiday season. The holidays definitely seem a bit more complete for me, now, after making my favorite holiday sugar cookies. I try to make it an annual tradition; it’s not the same without them!