On International Women’s Day, Celebrating Women (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Me with my son, February 2016

Me with my son, February 2016

Life and life experiences bring many joys and challenges, successes and failures, jubilation and pain for all of us.  Of adults, women often seem to face many more challenges than men.  There are different familial, cultural, and societal expectations of women.  Women are portrayed differently (and often less respectfully) than men throughout the media. Women can be leaders or followers or somewhere in-between.  However, women are always women, regardless of the types of experiences and lives we lead.  There is so much that women embody, and there is so much that women do and say.  More often, I encourage women to be more supportive, understanding, and helpful toward each other. One never knows exactly what another person is experiencing, and just a simple smile or word of encouragement can go a long way.  On International Women’s Day, it is the perfect day to promote awareness of all of this.

In my own life, I have experienced many joys and challenges, successes and failures, jubilation and pain.  I recall some of the happiest times of my life being when I gave birth to my son, my wedding day, and each of the days that I graduated from school, college, and university.  Additional happy times have been in celebrating happy occasions and accomplishment of my son.  Some of the most painful experiences I have had have included my divorce, being unemployed, and having financial challenges.  I am thankful for the people in my life who I am closest to  and my faith for helping and supporting me through the ups and downs of my life.  I am thankful for those, whether female or male, who have helped me to become a better, stronger, more sensitive and compassionate person.  I am thankful for all those in my life who supported my life, growth, and development, as well as my beliefs in myself, my self confidence, and my self esteem.

There is so much expected of women.  We are expected to be wives, mothers, teachers, caretakers, bosses, employees, leaders, and followers.  We are expected to carry our religious faith and convictions over to our children, and even to others’ children.  We are expected to help others, to volunteer, to give of ourselves, sometimes until there is nearly nothing else left to give.  What is there left for ourselves, at times?  This is what we have to find, and this is often the balancing act that we have to play.  How do we get our own needs met while also fulfilling (or helping to fulfill) the needs of others?  For some of us, we have it all worked out; for others, it is a lifelong journey.

Some of the most important aspects of my own life have been the support and interactions of family, friends, and/or colleagues (emotional and/or financial); religious faith; education; and career.  Supportive people in my life are sometimes few and far between, however those who are supportive are those I highly value and cherish.  My religious faith has always been there, and while I do not support everything within my faith, I know where I stand with it.  Education has always been something I have supported.  Knowledge is power, and one can never have too much knowledge.  Regarding career, I am a woman who believes that working in a career position, such as a teacher or counselor, is as much a career as remaining at home and raising one’s children.  And, there are many of us who do both of those and do them well.

Therefore, these aforestated aspects of my own life have contributed to shaping me into the woman I am today.  While I am a woman who would like more work and career opportunities in order to be more financially independent and self-sufficient for my family, I am also a woman who is thankful for the opportunities I have had to be an involved mother, role model, and guide for my son.  I am thankful for being able to be personally involved in my son’s life.  I am not a woman who regrets being unable to spend quality time with my son because I am one who has done that.  And, it is my hope that it has contributed to his welfare and benefit, and that he has and will become a better and stronger person for it, as well.

As women, we are all intertwined with each other, whether male or female, girl or boy, woman or man.  I encourage women to be more supportive, helpful, and understanding of other women.  Our society so often encourages men and women to be hard and insensitive on our way to the top.  However, I question whether what society perceives as “the top” might sometimes actually be the bottom, based on my own values and perceptions.  We must all consider who we are and how our lives and life experiences has contributed to making us into who we are.  I would like to ask that, on this International Women’s Day, we all consider and take action toward being more supportive of women, and reflecting on who we are and what has made us into who we are.  I would also like to encourage that if there is anything in those perceptions and reflections that we dislike and/or can improve – in a values context – that we do so.  If all of us do this, it will have a positive ripple effect throughout our society, one that we can definitely use.

Being Most Thankful for Family (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Happy Thanksgiving! (Retrieved from www.vintag.es, November 27, 2014)

Happy Thanksgiving! (Retrieved from http://www.vintag.es, November 27, 2014)

On Thanksgiving, what I am always most thankful for is my family.  My family is always there for me in thick and thin.  My family has weathered many storms and enjoyed sunny days together; I can count on my family for love, compassion, and support, and I provide the same to them. I don’t have a very large family, nor do I have much money, but I have a big heart, full of lots of love. My love is shared with and among my family, for whom I am most thankful on  Thanksgiving and every day.

Other things for which I am thankful include food, faith, community, freedom, education, technology, career, and health.  I am thankful for food, though it is not easy to get by from month to month with food prices continuing to rise.  I appreciate my faith because, if it was not for that, I would not be where I am today, and things would likely be much worse.  I am grateful for community, such as organizations that provide fellowship, to my family.

I am always thankful for freedom and I remember my grandmother’s stories about when she lived in Communist Poland, with people fearing for their lives when homes were raided in the middle of the night and people were never seen again.  I am grateful for education, though the large debt required to pay for it is a hardship.  I appreciate technology that makes life easier.  And, I am thankful for career in many capacities, including that of being a mother, as well as for the potential of a stable gainful and enjoyable employment in a workplace with decent people, if that is ever attainable.  I am thankful for my good health so I do not have to pay out-of-pocket to see the doctor as a result of being without health insurance.

So often, organizations such as colleges, churches, and charities have fundraising drives to help give to those in need.  When I am asked to donate, I reply that I could benefit from some assistance, myself.  As a poor single white mother, so often such places overlook people such as myself, as has occurred again this year.  People in my shoes are reduced to begging for even a little bit in return.  People may maintain the perspective that whites have privilege and that is definitely a stereotype that hurts poor white single mothers such as myself because the majority of any aid, as I observe, goes to people of other races.

I am also thankful for the holes in some of my shabby clothes and worn-out shoes, the place that I live even though it is not my own, the student loans that provide opportunity, my nearly decade-old vehicle that is still in great shape, and that sacrifices that I am able to make for the benefit of my family.  I am thankful for the $15 haircut that I get every two months instead of going to a salon and spending loads of money, and the $3 bottle of fingernail polish that I can use for a manicure or pedicure instead of going someplace to have it done for me.  I am grateful for the free lunch that I eat twice each week at my apprenticeship, and for the store closing sale at the local KMart where I can save a few dollars on Christmas gifts for my son.  I am thankful for what little I have because more is always spent than saved.

These are additional reasons why I am thankful for my family, particularly at Thanksgiving.  Every so often, there is that rare person who comes along who might be caring and/or supportive, but with my family, I know they will always be there, in good and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.  People should be more important than money and possessions, and indeed, my family is most important to me.

So, on this Thanksgiving, I invite you to think about family, values, and people in need.  Think about and be thankful for people who are close to you.  Think about people whom you see at work or in church every week who have little or nothing, and who are usually overlooked in their need.  Take action on what you can do rather than what you cannot.  Open your heart and mind to see what you do not want to see, and take action for what you otherwise would not have done.   A little bit goes a long way, especially for folks who don’t have much.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Remember what you are thankful for!

[Author’s Note: Within one day of posting this article, I was solicited by a man on LinkedIn, out-of-state, to contact him by whatever means necessary.  People really need to get their heads out of the gutter, and be open to simply being helpful to those in need without being offensive and/or wanting something (inappropriate) in return.  Solicitation is so offensive, degrading, and dehumanizing to me; is nothing that I have ever done; and it is incredible to me that so many men (I’ve experienced this many times on LinkedIn) do it.  It is unfortunate and tragic for humanity that there are those who attempt (and succeed) in taking advantage of people in need in a sexual manner.]

My Babcock, Gould, Crawford, Kibbe, Prince, Curtis, Mather, McEwen, and Hoyler Family Ancestry Photos (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My great grandfather, Jonathan Mead Babcock (1878-1933), was the son of Samuel and Jane Babcock of Villenova (Balsam), New York, near South Dayton in Western New York State, outside of Buffalo.  Beyond them, I do not know anything more about my Babcock side of the family.  While there are several Babcock’s buried in Villenova Cemetery, the resting place of my great grandfather and great grandmother, Bertha B. (Gould) Babcock (1880-1963), I am unsure whether or not Jonathan had any brothers or sisters.  I would tend to believe that he was an only child.  When he was born, he weighed 13 pounds.  Perhaps that was enough for his mother to desire not having more children, I don’t know.  Jonathan Mead Babcock was born in 1878 and died on May 5, 1933; he was only 55 years old.  As a man, he was tall at 6’4.”  He worked as the Collins Railroad Foreman and Collins Town Constable.

Bertha B. (Gould) Babcock, Jonathan’s wife, was born in 1880 and died on May 11, 1963; she was 82 years old.  Both she and several of her family’s ancestors are also buried in Villenova Cemetery.  Bertha was one of two daughters born to Albert Allen (called “Arnold”) Gould (1856-1940)and Nancy Ann M. (Rump) Gould (1859-1914).  Nancy was Albert’s first wife; she died and Albert married his second wife, Addie (Prince) Gould.  (Addie Prince had a sister, known as Mrs. Hoyler, whom Bertha called, “Grandma;” I have a photo of her.  I believe that Mrs. Hoyler was Addie’s mother.)  Albert Gould’s parents were Alden Gould (1829-1913) and Arvilla (Barstow) Gould (1829?-1906, age 76).  Bertha’s sister was Hazel (Gould) Crawford Houston.

Addie Prince’s first husband was Job Prince.  They had at least three children, whom I know to be Bessie Prince, Glenn Prince, and Mrs. Harry Trimmer.  Bessie Prince married Charles J. Woodmansee, and they had two daughters, Adiline Woodmansee and Vivian Woodmansee.  I know that Vivian married Clarence Stoddart, and they had two daughters, Joyce Stoddart and June Stoddart.  Glenn Prince married May L. (Baxter) Prince, and they had two children, Winston B. Prince and Ruth V. Prince.  Ruth married Ed C. Sterry.  They had two sons, Ed B. Sterry and Clendon Sterry.  That is as much information as I have on the descendants of the Prince Family.

Hazel (Gould) Crawford (and later, Houston) and her husband had two daughters, Bessie (Crawford) Kibbe and Thelma (Crawford) Ulander.  Hazel’s first husband was Frank Crawford, who moved to South Dayton from Ohio, as an employee of the Stove Mill Company.  After Frank’s death, Hazel married her second husband, Vernon Houston; they had no children. Thelma and her husband lived in Jamestown, New York; they did not have any children.

Bessie (Crawford) Kibbe married James Kibbe, and they had one son, Bryan Kibbe.  Both Bessie’s husband and son predeceased her; Bessie lives in Falconer, New York and is 95 years old.  Bryan developed multiple sclerosis when he was about three-years-old, and struggled with it throughout his life.  He died as a bachelor a few years ago at about age 50.  James Kibbe also died a few years ago.  There are several Kibbe’s that live in Falconer and throughout the United States.  They are all cousins (now far-removed) to my family.

Cousins to my dad on my great grandmother Bertha’s side of the family further include the Curtis’ and Mather’s.  One of Nancy Rump’s sisters was Louise (Rump) Curtis.  Louise married Albert F. Curtis, and they had two children, John Henry “Henry” Curtis and a woman known as Mrs. George L. (Curtis) Mather – it is possible that her first name was also Louise, just as her mother’s.  Henry Curtis never married, and remained a bachelor all of his life.  Henry was an army veteran of World War II.  Albert and Louise Curtis’ daughter married George L. Mather, and they had two children, Curtis G. Mather and Lettie Mather.  Lettie Curtis Mather was born in South Dayton on July 13, 1891 and died in Jamestown, New York on October 9, 1962.

Henry Curtis had been engaged in his early life, though his fiancé broke off the engagement.  From what I understand, he became a miserable and unhappy person after that, and seemed to never recover from it.  I remember meeting him at my grandmother’s home when I was about 10 years old.  All of the other adults did not want me to be around him, and I discovered why – because nearly every other word that he spoke was profanity.  He also spoke very loudly, actually shouting, though he may have done so because he was hard of hearing, I don’t know.  At that time, he was about 95 years old.  I felt sorry for him, and wondered why anyone could be so miserable and unhappy.  Henry died when he was 98 years old – the oldest of my known ancestors.

Curtis Mather, the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Mather, worked for an electric company.  A tragedy occurred during his work in which he was electrocuted, and died.  Therefore, Lettie Mather continued on the descendants of that side of the family.  I discovered this upon speaking with the mother of Michael Denea (formerly of Gowanda, New York) when we began talking about family ancestry while I was about 14 years old.

At the time, I was taking summer piano lessons from Michael, who is an accomplished pianist, and now also an attorney, possibly living in Arizona upon my last knowledge.  Mrs. Denea informed me that she was a descendant of the Curtis Family, which would make she and her family far-removed cousins of my family.  Michael is a fifth cousin to me.  Mrs. Denea provided me with several antique bibles that had been kept in her family.  She handed them down to me – four bibles – which I still have and maintain.

Going back to the Babcock side of the family, Jonathan and Bertha (Gould) Babcock had three children, including Eunice (Babcock) McEwen Hembury, Louise (Babcock) Heppel, and Charles Albert Babcock (1911-1961).  Charles worked at the Ford Motor Company factory in Lackawanna, New York for a few years before becoming employed with the State of New York in Gowanda in the business office of the Gowanda Psychiatric Center.  Charles married Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock (and later, Sprague) of North Collins, New York (I have presented photos and information about her and her family in prior posts).

Eunice Babcock married a Mr. McEwen (I don’t know his first name), and they had two sons, Clarence “Clair” McEwen and Leland McEwen.  Clair married Mary (I don’t know her maiden name), and they had five children.  Their children were Butch, John, Dicky, Betty, and Tom McEwen.  When Mr. McEwen died, Eunice married her second husband, Floyd Hembury; they did not have any children.

When I was in my teens, Clair and his son, Tom, visited my family in Collins, New York, having traveled from Pennsylvania.  Clair was very elderly at that time, and he had wanted to get in touch with the family in Collins.  Likely, Clair died shortly after that; we have not heard from them, nor stayed in touch following that time.  I know that Betty married Joe Hembury; Eunice married her second husband, Floyd Hembury after Mr. McEwen died; and Tom McEwen is father to two girls, including Keeley and another daughter whose name I do not remember.

Louise (Babcock) Heppel married George Heppel in Collins, New York; they had no children.  My father remembered that Louise had epilepsy, and experienced seizures.  He also said that whenever Louise visited his family’s home, George never accompanied her.  He said that he never met George during his life.  Therefore, we don’t know much of anything about George, and have only one picture that includes him – the wedding picture that includes him with Louise, as well as Charles and Eunice.

Charles A. Babcock married Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock (and later, Sprague) (1912-1987).  They had one child, a son named, Bruce (born 1943), who is my father.  Bruce married Anna Maria (Krakowiak) Babcock (born 1944) in 1963, and they have two children, Michele Elizabeth Babcock-Nice (me) (born 1971) and my brother (born in 1972, who is divorced and does not have children). (I will provide more detail about the Krakowiak Family in another post.)

My dad worked for the State of New York in Gowanda, New York at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center (34 years) and Gowanda Correctional Facility (3 years), once the State Mental Hospital was transitioned into the Gowanda Prison.  Nearly the entire time that he worked at the Psychiatric Center, he was a stationary engineer in the Power Plant.  My parents also owned and operated a Sears Retail Catalog Store in Gowanda, New York for many years.

I married John Robert Nice, Jr. (born 1966), a high school physics teacher, in 2002.  John and his family are from Jacksonville, Florida, though John moved to and has lived in the Atlanta, Georgia area for about 20 years.  John has one sister and several half and/or adopted siblings, through the marriages of his parents.  John is a graduate of Rensellaer Polytechnic Institute in Rochester, New York.  He also attended Florida State University to obtain his teaching certificate.  (I will provide more detail about the Nice Family in another post.)

I moved to the Atlanta area for a professional employment opportunity in teaching in 2000.  I had interviewed in many states along the East Coast of the United States for full-time work in teaching; DeKalb offered me the best package, and so, I moved to Atlanta.  I had been a volunteer, substitute, and short-term substitute teacher in several school districts in Western New York State for a few years, but was not offered any full-time teaching positions there, though I had applied to about one dozen school systems.

Still single, and having no immediate family ties of my own holding me to the Buffalo area, I decided to move since I was in financial need and had no full-time work in my field.  After living in Atlanta for about 1.5 years, John and I were introduced to each other, blindly, but through a mutual teaching colleague in the DeKalb County School System.  Within 1.5 years of meeting each other, John and I were married.  The next year, our wonderful son was born; he is now nearly 11.  John divorced from me in 2009, following our separation, totaling 3 years.  We have each remained single since then.

I am a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo (University of Buffalo); the State University of New York College at Buffalo (Buffalo State College); and Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, Georgia.  I also attended the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland through the University at Buffalo’s Study Abroad Program; and I am currently attending Argosy University in Atlanta.  I have two bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree; am certified as a middle grades teacher (grades 4-8) in social studies and science, and in grades 4-12 social studies; and I am pursuing my second master’s degree, this one in counseling.  My total teaching experience, including voluntary, substitute, and full-time work, spans 15 years.

Jonathan and Bertha (Gould) Babcock, Alden and Arvilla (Barstow) Gould, and Albert and Nancy (Rump) Gould, are buried in Villenova Cemetery in Balsam, near South Dayton, New York.  Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, and Charles Albert Babcock and Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock Sprague, are buried in the Protestant Cemetery in North Collins, New York.

Author’s Note: Information and images identifying my brother have been removed from this post as of April 27, 2016 as a courtesy per his request.

Jonathan and Bertha (Gould) Babcock, Gowanda, NY, Circa 1900

Jonathan and Bertha (Gould) Babcock, Gowanda, NY, Circa 1900

Jonathan Babcock (Left), Lawrence, Mike P., and Andrew P. Working on Railroad, Collins, NY, Circa 1890-1900

Jonathan Babcock (Left), Lawrence, Mike P., and Andrew P. Working on Railroad, Collins, NY, Circa 1890-1900

Jonathan Babcock and Frank Briggs at Railroad Depot, Collins, NY, Circa 1900-1910

Jonathan Babcock and Frank Briggs at Railroad Depot, Collins, NY, Circa 1900-1910

Jonathan Babcock and Horse, Collins, NY, Circa 1900-1910

Jonathan Babcock and Horse, Collins, NY, Circa 1900-1910

Louise Babcock (Married Name-Heppel), Sister of Charles A. Babcock, Collins, NY, Circa 1910

Louise Babcock (Married Name-Heppel), Sister of Charles A. Babcock, Collins, NY, Circa 1910

Charles A. Babcock, Collins, NY, 1911

Charles A. Babcock, Collins, NY, 1911

Eunice (Married Names-McEwen, Hembury), Charles A., & Louise Babcock (Married Name-Heppel), Collins, NY, 1913

Eunice (Married Names-McEwen, Hembury), Charles A., & Louise Babcock (Married Name-Heppel), Collins, NY, 1913

Charles A. Babcock, Railroad Depot, Collins, NY, 1914

Charles A. Babcock, Railroad Depot, Collins, NY, 1914

Addie (Prince) Gould and Arnold Gould with Bertha (Gould) Babcock, South Dayton, New York, 1930

Addie (Prince) Gould and Arnold Gould with Bertha (Gould) Babcock, South Dayton, New York, 1930

Mrs. Hoyler, South Dayton, New York, 1930

Mrs. Hoyler, South Dayton, New York, 1930

Bertha (Gould) Babcock (Left, Wife of Jonathan Babcock) with Neighbor, Collins, NY, 1960

Bertha (Gould) Babcock (Left, Wife of Jonathan Babcock) with Neighbor, Collins, NY, 1960

Bertha (Gould) Babcock, South Dayton, NY, 1890

Bertha (Gould) Babcock, South Dayton, NY, 1890

Charles A. Babcock, George Heppel, Louise (Babcock) Heppel, and Eunice (Babcock) McEwen Hembury, Collins, NY, 1925

Charles A. Babcock, George Heppel, Louise (Babcock) Heppel, and Eunice (Babcock) McEwen Hembury, Collins, NY, 1925

George Heppel and Louise (Babcock) Heppel, Circa 1930s-1940s, Collins, New York

George Heppel and Louise (Babcock) Heppel, Circa 1930s-1940s, Collins, New York

Louise (Babcock) Heppel, Bertha (Gould) Babcock, Eunice (Babcock) Hembury, Arnold and Addie Gould, South Dayton, NY, 1930

Louise (Babcock) Heppel, Bertha (Gould) Babcock, Eunice (Babcock) Hembury, Arnold and Addie Gould, South Dayton, NY, 1930

Louise (Babcock) Heppel and Jonathan Babcock, Collins, NY,  August 29, 1932

Louise (Babcock) Heppel and Jonathan Babcock, Collins, NY, August 29, 1932

Eunice (Babcock) McEwen Hembury and Louise (Babcock) Heppel, Collins, NY, 1920

Eunice (Babcock) McEwen Hembury and Louise (Babcock) Heppel, Collins, NY, 1920

Thelma (Crawford) Ulander, Bessie (Crawford) Kibbe, & Hazel (Gould) Crawford Houston, Falconer, NY, Circa 1920

Thelma (Crawford) Ulander, Bessie (Crawford) Kibbe, & Hazel (Gould) Crawford Houston, Falconer, NY, Circa 1920

Thelma Ulander, Jamestown, New York, 1930s

Thelma Ulander, Jamestown, New York, 1930s

Bryan Kibbe, Hazel (Gould) Crawford Houston, and Bertha (Gould) Babcock, Collins, NY, 1960

Bryan Kibbe, Hazel (Gould) Crawford Houston, and Bertha (Gould) Babcock, Collins, NY, 1960

John and Carol McEwen, Pennsylvania, Circa 1950 (Cousins to the Babcock's)

John and Carol McEwen, Pennsylvania, Circa 1950 (Cousins to the Babcock’s)

Frank Crawford and Hazel (Gould) Crawford Houston, Jamestown, New York, Circa 1890

Frank Crawford and Hazel (Gould) Crawford Houston, Jamestown, New York, Circa 1890

Henry Curtis, Circa 1930s

Henry Curtis, Circa 1930s

Henry Curtis and Beth, May 1943

Henry Curtis and Beth, May 1943

Henry Curtis, May 1941

Henry Curtis, May 1941

Curtis Mather, Jamestown, New York, 1918

Curtis Mather, Jamestown, New York, 1918

Curtis Mather or Henry Curtis, Forestville, New York, 1920s

Curtis Mather or Henry Curtis, Forestville, New York, 1920s

Henry Curtis

Henry Curtis

Bernice (Briggs) and Charles A. Babcock, Gowanda, NY, 1933

Bernice (Briggs) and Charles A. Babcock, Gowanda, NY, 1933

Charles A., Bernice, & Bruce E. Babcock, Collins, NY, 1948

Charles A., Bernice, and Bruce E. Babcock, Collins, NY, 1948

Bruce Babcock on his Second Birthday, Collins, NY, August 1945

Bruce Babcock on his Second Birthday, Collins, NY, August 1945

Bruce Babcock as a Child

Bruce Babcock as a Child

Boy Scout Bruce E. Babcock (Age 11), Collins, NY, September 1954

Boy Scout Bruce E. Babcock (Age 11), Collins, NY, September 1954

Bruce Babcock as a Young Man

Bruce Babcock as a Young Man

Bruce Babcock Senior High School Photo, Gowanda, New York, 1960

Bruce Babcock Senior High School Photo, Gowanda, New York, 1960

Bruce Babcock, Collins, New York, Christmas 1960

Bruce Babcock, Collins, New York, Christmas 1960

Bruce Babcock in Psychiatric Attendant's Class at Gowanda Psychiatric Center, Helmuth (Gowanda), NY, 1963

Bruce Babcock in Psychiatric Attendant’s Class at Gowanda Psychiatric Center, Helmuth (Gowanda), NY, 1963

Gowanda Psychiatric Center Aerial View, Helmuth (Gowanda), New York, Circa 1960-1970 By Dexter Press, Inc. (West Nyack, NY) and Aerial Surveys, Henry DeWolf (Rochester, NY)

Gowanda Psychiatric Center Aerial View, Helmuth (Gowanda), New York, Circa 1960-1970 By Dexter Press, Inc. (West Nyack, NY) and Aerial Surveys, Henry DeWolf (Rochester, NY)

Bruce and Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock Wedding, July 1963, St. Joseph Church, Gowanda, New York

Bruce and Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock Wedding, July 1963, St. Joseph Church, Gowanda, New York

Bruce and Anna Babcock, and Parents at Wedding, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

Bruce and Anna Babcock, and Parents at Wedding, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

This is a photo of my parents on their wedding day in July 1963.  From left to right are Emmett Sprague, Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock Sprague, Bruce Babcock, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, and John Krakowiak.

Hazel Houston and Thelma Ulander with Baby Michele Babcock, Collins, New York, August 1971

Hazel Houston and Thelma Ulander with Baby Michele Babcock, Collins, New York, August 1971

Bessie Kibbe, Thelma Ulander, and Michele Babcock, Collins, New York, October 1973

Bessie Kibbe, Thelma Ulander, and Michele Babcock, Collins, New York, October 1973

Bernice (Briggs) Babcock-Sprague with Grandchildren Michele E. & Charles J. Babcock, Collins, NY, November 16, 1974 (3) - Copy

Bernice Briggs Babcock Sprague with Michele Babcock (-Nice), November 1974

Michele E. Babcock, First Communion, Gowanda, NY, 1978

Michele E. Babcock, First Communion, Gowanda, NY, 1978

Michele Babcock Taking Piano Lessons from Michael Denea, Perrysburg, New York, 1985

Michele Babcock Taking Piano Lessons from Michael Denea, Perrysburg, New York, 1985

Michael Denea is my fifth cousin.  We are related because my great grandmother Bertha (Gould) Babcock’s mother, Nancy Ann (Rump) Gould, was a sister to his great great grandmother, Louise (Rump) Curtis, on his mom’s side of his family.

Tom and Clair McEwen, Collins, New York, 1987

Tom and Clair McEwen, Collins, New York, 1987

Thelma Ulander, and Michele and Chuck Babcock, Jamestown, New York, 1987 (3) - Copy

Thelma Ulander and Michele Babcock (-Nice), Jamestown, New York, 1987

Jim and Bessie Kibbe, and Anna and Bruce Babcock, Falconer, New York, 1987

Jim and Bessie Kibbe, and Anna and Bruce Babcock, Falconer, New York, 1987

Bryan Kibbe and Michele Babcock, Falconer, New York, 1987

Bryan Kibbe and Michele Babcock, Falconer, New York, 1987

Michele Babcock, Miss Teen of NY Personal Development Award Recipient, 1987

Michele Babcock, Miss Teen of NY Personal Development Award Recipient, 1987

Michele Babcock, University at Buffalo Senior Portrait, 1992

Michele Babcock, University at Buffalo Senior Portrait, 1992

Christmas with The Nice's-John Jr., Michele Babcock-Nice, and Son, Baby's First Christmas, Conyers, Georgia, 2003

Christmas with The Nice’s-John Jr., Michele Babcock-Nice, and Son, Baby’s First Christmas, Conyers, Georgia, 2003

John Nice, Jr., Michele Babcock-Nice, and Son at Kindergarten Graduation, Lilburn, Georgia, 2009

John Nice, Jr., Michele Babcock-Nice, and Son at Kindergarten Graduation, Lilburn, Georgia, 2009

Family Disney Picture 2006

Family Disney Picture, (Bruce, Anna, Michele and Son with Mickey Mouse), Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, 2006

Four Generations of Cousins-Babcock's, Nice's, Kibbe's, Falconer, New York, 2005 (Jim, Bruce, Baby, Michele, Bessie)

Four Generations of Cousins-Babcock’s, Nice’s, Kibbe’s, Falconer, New York, 2005 (Jim, Bruce, Baby, Michele, Bessie)

Bessie Kibbe with Michele Babcock-Nice and Michele's Son, Summer 2012

Bessie Kibbe (Age 93) with Michele Babcock-Nice and Michele’s Son, Summer 2012

My Webelos Cub Scout Son, 2013

My Webelos Cub Scout Son, 2013

Since the captions associated with each of the photos are self-explanatory, I have not added more information to follow each one in this post.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading and understanding more about my family heritage!

Sources:

Dexter Press, Inc. (West Nyack, NY) and Aerial Surveys, Henry DeWolf (Rochester, NY), 1960-1970. Gowanda Psychiatric Center Aerial View, Helmuth (Gowanda), New York.

Photos and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, 1860-1987.  Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014).  Snellville, Georgia.

Photos and information of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014), 1960-2013.  Snellville, Georgia.

Sears Portrait Studio (2003).  Photo of Nice Family at Christmas.  Conyers, Georgia.

Other photographers of other professional photographs, unknown.

“University at Buffalo Alumnus Personal Biography Update” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

To follow is an alumni update that I posted today at my alma mater, the University at Buffalo.  I am also posting it here so there is awareness regarding what I wrote, and so that my readers may understand a bit about my background.

In my years since graduation from UB in 1993, most of my career experience has been in teaching, mostly social studies and science.  I obtained my MS from Buffalo State College in 1997; and returned to school there for my education certification, receiving it in 2000, also interning for Sam Hoyt.  I moved to the Atlanta, Georgia area for an employment opportunity in teaching in 2000.  In 2002, I was married; and in 2003, my son was born.  In 2009, I was divorced, following a 2.5-year separation.  I returned to New York State and worked for a few months before moving back to Georgia.  Then, I returned to school and obtained my certificate in healthcare with honors.

Currently, I am pursuing my second master’s degree, this one in counseling, at Argosy University in Atlanta.  There, I am an honor student, and am taking double the full-time course load.  My current activities include volunteer work, as well as maintaining two blogs, and being active on LinkedIn with two groups that I founded and manage, “People Against Retaliation and Bullying,” and “Lepidoptera Lovers.”  I also write and contribute, pseudonymously, for both a national and an international non-profit.  I enjoy nature and the outdoors, and spending quality time with my son.

In my experiences at UB, I am thankful for the opportunity to gain a great education, particularly learning about research and participating as a research assistant in the Department of Psychology.  Having experiences in music as a member of pep band, wind ensemble (concert band), and chorus enriched my life.  Being a member of the UB Royals women’s track team, and competing in shot put at the 1990 NCAA championships also broadened my horizons.  Studying abroad in Poland, visiting relatives, and traveling in Europe were also enjoyable.

UB gave me opportunities to expand my interests and personality in many ways, as I was a member and/or leader in many clubs and organizations.  I met many people at UB who enriched my life.  I am thankful for these experiences, and do my best to make a positive difference in the lives of others, including as a result of both the positive and negative experiences that I had at UB. As a result, I have become a strong advocate for children and women, and victims/survivors of trauma and sexual assault.

Michele Babcock-Nice

BA, Psychology, 1993 & BA, Political Science, 1993

“What Happened to the American Dream?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

What has happened to the American Dream?  Is it alive?  Is it dead?  Has it changed?  Does it apply to some people and not others?  I think there are several possible answers to this question, with certain answers applying to particular people and different answers being relevant to others.  I will attempt to explore some of the answers to the initially-posed question, and relate those answers to various Americans, particularly those who live on my own street.

When my parents and grandparents were growing up, I believe the American Dream meant to get married, potentially be educated, have a family, own a home, be employed, and be as successful as possible.  There was talk when I was a kid of the American Dream including families owning a home with a white picket fence surrounding the yard, and generally being happy and successful, much like one would imagine on the TV show, Leave it to Beaver.

Even on later shows such as The Brady Bunch, larger families who were combined as a result of second marriages were portrayed as experiencing the ups and downs of life, yet still being happy and successful.  I would be hard-pressed to select an American television show, today, that portrayed the ideal living situation for most American families.  Perhaps a family more like that reflected on Dr. Pol, having a single, adult son living at home with parents who are senior citizens, may be more like the America of today.

Personally, as an adult, the American Dream for me, meant becoming educated, getting married (to an amazing man who would be both an excellent husband and father to our children), owning a home, and having a successful career that was enjoyable and rewarding, along with having a happy family.  The American Dream also meant helping others and giving back to my community.  Throughout my 20s, I strived toward those aims, and achieved one of them – becoming educated.

In my 30s, I accomplished and/or partially attained some other facets of my American Dream, including getting married, owning a home, and having a successful career that was both stressful and rewarding.  While the marriage was nothing close to the ideal that I had envisioned or hoped to achieve, an outcome of the union was the birth of my wonderful son, a blessing from God for whom I will always be thankful.

I can’t say if the family part of my American Dream was ever really “happy,” though I always tried to put on a happy face for my son so he would not have to witness the stress, loneliness, unhappiness, and other issues that were the reality in the marriage.  The marital union was never really a partnership as it should have been, but more like roommates living together and sharing costs, not the type of situation one would envision for the making of a stable family.

One thing was for sure, however, the American Dream never included divorce.  Marriage is supposed to be forever.  Divorce was not an option.  Yet, even so, divorce became a reality, though out of no absolute choice of my own.  I always had hope for better in my American Dream, not worse.  No matter how hard I tried, my American Dream never improved, but only worsened, at least in regard to marital issues.  One just cannot force a person to change or perceive things differently if he won’t.

So, this brings me to the reality of having lost the American Dream.  For so many years, the American Dream has been an elusive façade that, to me, no longer exists.  Having experienced marital separations and a divorce, as well as being unemployed and a full-time student, both the economy and lack of opportunity have proved too challenging for many such as myself to maintain the hope of an American Dream.

What I have observed is that many people who have experienced divorce have also lost their American Dream.  People who have lost their jobs and/or careers, as well as their homes, have also often lost sight of the American Dream.  For others, experiencing each of these factors, simultaneously, has all but obliterated their American Dream.  American Dream?  “What American Dream?,” they ask.  Particularly after a divorce, in addition to the loss of employment and home, it is extremely difficult for people to recover at all, economically.  They wonder what hope is left for something as intangible as the American Dream.  Indeed, for many, the American Dream transformed into something more like an American Nightmare.

Taking into account those who live on my own street, for example, it is possible to explain how the American Dream has changed.  There are 16 houses on my street.  Of those 16 houses, there are six homes in which extended families are living together.  More specifically, in those six homes that include extended families – which all happen to be Caucasian – there is one or more adult child living in the home with one or more of his or her parents who is a senior citizen and/or elderly.  In three of those six homes previously mentioned, there is a single and/or divorced mother who is also raising one or more children.  So, in those three homes, there are three generations of extended family members living together.  Ten years ago, this is something that was rarely experienced among Caucasian families in the United States.

Additionally, on my street, there are only two young couples who own their own homes.  One couple has children, and the other does not.  Most of the homes on my street are owned by Caucasians who are senior citizens and/or elderly.  There is also one home in which an African-American mother resides with three of her sons who are minors.  And, there is a home in which one Caucasian man who is divorced lives by himself.  There are also two homes in which two adult sons live with their elderly mother, and another adult son lives with his elderly mother.  Also, each of these men has been married and divorced at least once.

This is just the make-up of those who live on my street.  This is just another example of the changing face of the American landscape, the transformation of the American Dream.  It is also a reflection that for certain people, the American Dream may still be alive and well.  For two elderly couples and one older couple on my street, they have their homes to themselves.  They have lived out their lives and appear to have lived the American Dream, as well.  Is it only for them, then, that the American Dream has been accomplished?

So, that brings me back to my initial question.  What has happened to the American Dream?  The American Dream appears to be alive for a select few people, but not for most others.  At least, this appears to be applicable to most of those people who live on my street.  Or, perhaps now, they may have a different conceptualization of the American Dream.

At any rate, the American Dream is certainly not anything near to what it was in the times of my parents and grandparents.  For many, such as myself, perhaps it was just an ideal that was never really able to be achieved anyway.  Those who survive must adjust to a changing world, changing times, and changing ideals.  Having strived for something that was unattainable in its entirety, I have experienced just how elusive and no longer realistic the American Dream really is.  One may have to be happy for having experienced parts of it.

“On Being a Reluctant Catholic” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Female Praying Hands with Rosary (Retrieved from http://rachelhelie.com/?p=404 , December 23, 2013)

Female Praying Hands with Rosary (Retrieved from http://rachelhelie.com/?p=404 , December 23, 2013)

For the past few years, especially, I have been and would consider myself a reluctant Roman Catholic.  There are many reasons for this, as I will reflect upon herein; and these are thoughts and feelings that I have personally encountered and coped with in the past, as well.  While I do have my own internal, personal struggles with being Roman Catholic, I have always returned to the same realization after much introspection and contemplation – to remain Roman Catholic.  I am sure that the internal struggles that I feel about being Roman Catholic will not just go away, and in fact, they seem to increase with time.  However, for now, I continue to remain Roman Catholic, whether more or less involved as I have been in the past.  My religion and spirituality are a strong part of who I am as a person, and are not things about myself that I take lightly.  And so, serious understanding, thought, awareness, introspection, and consideration are concerns that I bring to my own table in contemplating what being Roman Catholic means for me.

I was born, baptized, and raised Roman Catholic in the Greater Buffalo Area of New York State.  My mother is of purely Polish descent, and was born and raised Roman Catholic.  When my parents married, my dad converted from being a nonpracticing Quaker to Roman Catholicism.  My mother, especially, and my dad, often, attended weekly mass on a regular basis even before I was born.  Therefore, it was a sure thing that I would become Roman Catholic, being indoctrinated in the ways of Roman Catholicism.  It was an expectation that, as the offspring of my parents, I would be Roman Catholic.  My mother made sure that my brother and I received religious education.  We attended public school, and so, took religious education classes every Sunday before going to mass since religion is not taught in public schools.  We both attended religion classes at my hometown church and school from our ages of 5-16.

Even at a young age, the thing that struck me the most about Roman Catholicism was that there were few female role models in my church, and even fewer who were visible, appreciated, or recognized in any way.  Certainly, in the parochial school in my hometown, there were nuns who were principals and teachers, however I did not attend Catholic school and did not regularly experience women’s leadership involvement in my religion.  I attended religious education classes for one hour each Sunday, and went to mass for one hour each Sunday.  Therefore, it was the men in the leadership positions of the church whom I always saw, and who were always prominent in speaking, performing mass, and being at the forefront of the faith.

As a young girl, these experiences caused me to feel that the male leaders of the church were out-of-touch with children.  Of course, they spoke about God, Jesus, His family, and His followers, and how we should love Jesus, however their words always seemed so far away.  They seemed to preach about what they did not practice.  Jesus showed the example of being caring and compassionate for children, but I did not observe any of them being that way.  They did not know how to interact with children, how to appreciate children, how to respect children, how to relate with or reach children.  They were – and, often, still are – out-of-touch.  There was alot more spiritual need that I had as a child that went unrecognized, unnurtured, ignored.  As a result, I felt invisible and unappreciated by the male leadership of the church when I was a child.  They did not know, understand, or care about me.  They preached what they did not practice.  How is a young girl supposed to gain respect for those who are so distinctly separate from her?

When I was five or six, I had my weekly religion class with Sister Mary.  Sister Mary was a very young nun who always dressed in her habit, and who was a role model for me.  She was kind and caring to children, especially to me.  I was one who wanted to stay after class and help Sister Mary clean the chalk boards.  I had alot of questions for Sister Mary who probably thought I was more of a chatterbox.  She seemed to look for reasons for me not to remain after class to talk with her, however I ignored and overlooked her hints, and asked more questions.  Always, she was very kind, compassionate, and understanding.  To me, she always had the right answers, could relate with me, and placed me at ease and at peace.  The next fall, it broke my heart to learn that Sister Mary had been relocated.  I never saw her again.  Sister Mary was like an angel to me – and worse, an angel who had been ripped away from me.  I cried over the loss of my relationship with Sister Mary.  I needed a female role model to look up to, and to whom to ask all of my curious questions, and she was gone.

I never got that feeling back about anyone in a leadership position in the church even coming close to understanding me, as a person, until I took my Confirmation classes with the deacon of my hometown church.  Deacon Louis was extremely knowledgeable, and also very upbeat and enthusiastic about Roman Catholicism and people’s individual spirituality.  I told Deacon Louis that I was interested to learn more about the Rosary, and that I wanted to pray the Rosary but did not know how.  Deacon Louis provided me with a beautifully-pictured and colored pamphlet about how to pray the Rosary.  Wow!  For once, someone who actually listened to me – amazing!  As time progressed, I learned that Deacon Louis was very understanding and respectful about individuals’ faith and spiritual development.  Again, I privately spoke with Deacon Louis and let him know that I was contemplating a few saints to be my patron saint at Confirmation.  He made photocopies of a few pages of a book for me that he had about the saints that I had identified to him.  Based on that information that he provided to me, I chose my patron saint, St. Joan of Arc.  I had a great respect for Deacon Louis.  He was a man who was married and who had three daughters; he understood me and my need for faith and spiritual fulfillment in my religion.

Throughout my life, I have always tried to reach out to priests in the churches that I have attended and/or those in which I have been a member.  In most cases, I have not had good experiences in that the men seem unable to relate with or understand my experiences as a woman.  Most priests are extremely uncomfortable in speaking with me, as a woman, about women’s issues and traumatic life experiences, for examples.  Even less so, most are unable to understand and relate with me about relationship, marital, divorce, children’s, and even career and financial issues.  They often seem to feel threatened by or unable to cope with such topics.  One expects to go to a priest for support and guidance, and when it is not received, it may lead to one questioning his or her faith.  It makes me wonder if they are simply like most men who, when faced with a problem, want to “fix” it; or if they are truly unable to relate with or understand the issues that women, children, and families face.  Certainly, fixing problems is good, however there are often times when women simply want to talk out and vent their concerns, seeking emotional support; most priests seem to be unable to understand and provide that.  For these reasons, I have learned that it is often better not to approach priests with such issues because they are typically unable to understand about and relate to them with me, at least on a personal level.

In my mid to late 20’s, I seriously contemplated becoming a nun in the Roman Catholic Church.  As a person with a strong religious faith and who was single with no committed intimate partner in sight, I thought that religious life might be suitable for me.  I sought to understand whether or not I had “received a call” from God to become a religious.  I was a member of two Roman Catholic Singles groups in Western New York State, and had opportunities for interactions with many religious, both women and men.  In this capacity, I also learned more about religious life and took several opportunities to go on religious retreats with my peers.  I participated in one weekend retreat at a convent in Cheektowaga, New York.  I also personally interviewed with a nun at the convent in Athol Springs, New York.

While both of these experiences increased my faith and spirituality, they did not convince me to pursue religious life.  In fact, they did the opposite.  At the first convent that I went to, I saw women who appeared to do much praying and sitting.  Most of the women were older or elderly, and many did not have the medical assistance they needed.  It seemed that the convent was more like one big dormitory building for women of the same faith who prayed alot.  I did not see their good works, but only saw them living amongst each other in lives that caused them to be excluded from society at large.  I similarly observed and felt this at the second convent where I interviewed.  The elderly woman who interviewed me did so in her small bedroom.  She appeared to have no family, no nothing.  To me, she appeared to have lived an empty and solitary life, and was very much unappreciated.

After more thought, I realized that I did not want any of what I observed at the convents.  I felt sorry for these women, and angry at the Roman Catholic Church for requiring them to make such huge sacrifices in their lives.  I was also upset that the Church required priests to be single.  I did not believe that was fair, or took basic human nature into serious consideration.  It seemed to me that the Church wanted fewer people for which to pay simply by requiring that religious did not have families.  Conversely, I desired the opportunity to be married and have a family.  I also realized, after more thought, that I was pursuing religious life for some of the wrong reasons.  I had experienced a traumatic experience at college as an undergraduate, and pursuing religious life was a way of escaping from it.  I realized that, and decided to deal with it – and did.

As a woman in the Roman Catholic Church, I also realized all of the limitations on and misjudgments about women that it practices.  The Roman Catholic Church is often extremely rigid and insensitive toward people and understanding the basic needs of people.  Certainly, there are many wonderful things that the Catholic Church does in helping and supporting people throughout the world.  I have also received assistance and support from the Roman Catholic Church, but this has only begun being received after having been a member of the faithful for 41 years.  Most people cannot wait 41 or more years before some of their basic needs are met; they would be dead, otherwise.

The Roman Catholic Church is also extremely patriarchal.  Women are excluded from high-ranking positions in the church.  Women are not allowed to be priests or deacons, bishops or cardinals, or popes.  Even if a Roman Catholic woman becomes a priest, she is often not recognized or supported by her followers.  Women – often but for the Virgin Mary – are viewed in a negative light in Roman Catholicism.  After all, followers are typically taught that it was Eve who led to Adam’s downfall, and the resulting exit from Paradise.  There are different versions of this story that place equal responsibility on both Adam and Eve for being removed from Paradise, though those are the stories that one does not hear and that are not taught in the faith.  Whether consciously or unconsciously women are, therefore, blamed and condemned by the Roman Catholic Church.

Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church is also sexist.  In viewing Jesus’ mother, Mary, as a virgin and placing her virginity on a pedestal, the Roman Catholic Church has elevated a woman to a position in the natural world that is unrealistic for all other women.  Certainly, virginity and chastity are important for women, however they are also ideals that are not realistic.  Often, for example, the Roman Catholic Church does not hold the same ideals for men, and this leads to a sexist double standard.  Such standards are biased and unfair.  Further, the many prayers and recitations in the Roman Catholic Church are sexist because they are not gender neutral, therefore excluding and purposely ignoring the need for increased rights, equality, and freedoms of women within the Church.

The Roman Catholic Church is also sexist in regard to its views regarding abortion.  I am a Roman Catholic for whom the choice for life is extremely important, however I also understand that it is important to provide choice, as well.  As a person who has only had one pregnancy, and who has never had any abortions or miscarriages, I believe in the value or life, though I also support the importance of choice.  It must be understood that there are situations and experiences that girls and women have that may be traumatic, out of their control, and/or life-threatening.  The are other situations in which females simply decide against continuing their pregnancy.  Women and girls must have opportunities for choice in whether or not to give birth to children.  It is wrong when the Roman Catholic Church preaches about life, but then, does not provide support or assistance to girls or women who are in need of it.  And, what about the male who has caused a pregnancy to occur?  Typically, the Roman Catholic Church does not hold males accountable to a role of responsibility when women and/or girls whom they impregnate obtain abortions.  Again, the responsibility is usually all upon the female, and the male is absolved of responsibility.  The female, again, is often blamed, stigmatized, and lacks support she needs in the very place that should provide it.

In marriages in which there is difficulty, abuse, or domestic violence, Roman Catholic priests are not consistent in their views regarding what steps should be taken to either maintain or dissolve the marriage.  Such views contribute to confusion and increased sexism in the Roman Catholic Church.  Some priests maintain the view that the wife and children must be subservient to the male, whom they view as the head of the household and the absolute, all-powerful leader of the family.  Such a view is harmfully patriarchal, and in fact, can contribute to a worsening of the situation in which the victims continue to be victimized, blamed, and unsupported.  Men should not necessarily be believed or obeyed at all costs, or it could cost one her life.  (Then, of course, people will ask why she did not just leave the marriage.)   On the other hand, there are priests who encourage marital counseling for a couple who is in trouble, however none of those with whom I have ever interacted are qualified to provide it.  First, they are not licensed counselors, nor do they have experience in marriage, or in having a wife and family of their own.  Then, there are those priests who say that if counseling does not help and if the situation is so bad, then divorce is the best option.  Wait, I thought marriage was supposed to be forever.  Sometimes, however, no matter how much a woman may try to improve and maintain her marriage, divorce is the only viable alternative that remains, whether it is initiated by her spouse or herself.

There is also the issue of homosexuals in the Roman Catholic Church.  I am an individual who is and who always has been heterosexual, though I recognize that there is a need in the Roman Catholic Church to provide support and equality to all peoples, including those who are homosexual.  I am also one who believes that marriage should be – notice that I said “should be” – between a man and woman, though I recognize this as one of my values because this is what I was taught.  I also take care not to impose my values about this issue onto others.  Therefore, I maintain the view that marriage should be between two partners who love and are fully committed to each other, for the benefit of themselves and their families, if they have them.  Therefore, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church should not exclude or condemn individuals who are homosexual, nor create guilt in them or cause them to feel sinful simply because of their sexual orientation.

Further, there are many experiences that I have had in the Roman Catholic Church – a church that promotes Jesus and Christianity – that have been extremely unchristian.  Within individual Roman Catholic churches, schools, groups, and/or organizations affiliated with it, there have been a great number of situations I have had in which people who contend to be Catholic and Christian behave in decidedly unchristian ways, in ways of which Jesus would not approve.  There are many Roman Catholics who are basically hypocrites because they preach about and say they believe what they actually do not practice.

As an example of such hypocrisy, a number of Roman Catholic men throughout my life (both as a child and as a woman) have been sexually harassing (or worse) of me, and have outright wanted to have an affair with me, even though they are married and/or we were both married to other spouses at those times.  I am a person who has never – I repeat, never – had an affair with any man.  Even in a difficult (to say the least) marriage in which there were temptations to be unfaithful, I remained faithful to my then-spouse.  I have also turned down every man who has wanted to have an affair with me.  I understand that he is seeking something temporary and for his own gratification, and does not understand the seriousness or implications that having an affair would create on himself, his wife, and his children.  The Roman Catholic Church and society must teach men to be faithful to their wives and families, even when times are tough.  When times are tough, it is taking the easy way out to throw in the towel regarding one’s marriage and commitment.  More instruction and better role models are needed for Roman Catholic men (and all men) in regard to maintaining and developing healthy marriages, at least from my perspective.

Another major issue in the Roman Catholic Church is abuse and sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and/or harassment by priests toward female and male congregants, particularly those who are younger and/or who are in positions of vulnerability.  In churches and dioceses throughout the United States, in Ireland, and elsewhere, there have been numerous instances of sexual abuse by priests.  While I have not personally experienced sexual abuse by any priests in the Roman Catholic Church, I do know of those who have and those who have perpetrated abuse that was unrecognized by the greater congregation and not at all addressed, corrected, or resolved by higher level diocesan church leaders.  Such abuses have ripe ground to occur in such a closed, structured, hierarchical organization of men who all too often have ignored, overlooked, and not considered the seriousness of the situations.  Instead, and all too often again, abusive priests are ushered along to different parishes where they continue and/or escalate their abuses, and/or continue them unrecognized.  Certainly, there are many good priests, and those who perpetrate abuses give a bad name to those who do not.  And, the Roman Catholic Church has implemented serious steps at preventing future abuses, as one good thing that has come from these situations, however they do continue to occur.  Such abuses by priests have caused many followers to leave the faith, and to lose hope in the very people who are supposed to be Christ-like.  I personally know of several people who have left Roman Catholicism because of these issues – such issues that should never occur.

Because of all of these experiences that I have had as a Roman Catholic, and more, I have become a reluctant Roman Catholic.  In the past couple of years, I have actively sought out and have considered other faiths.  All of the faiths that I have considered are still within Christianity, though they have been either less Catholic or more Protestant than Roman Catholicism.  In these faiths, however, I have found many issues that are similar to those I have encountered in the Roman Catholic Church.  Certainly, in some faiths, women have higher positions of power and might actually be the highest leader of their faith, however I observe that being practiced to the most minimal extent in the area where I live around Atlanta, an area that is mostly Baptist and thus, also highly patriarchal based on related religious and cultural views.  Also, in other faiths, the Virgin Mary is not held in nearly the same regard as she is in Roman Catholicism.  While Roman Catholics may place her on a pedestal and view her unrealistically in regard to virginal expectations of women in society, she is completely absent in some other faiths, leaving me with a feeling that I could become a member of such a faith, but that is the only thing holding me back – that faith’s exclusion of Mary as the Mother of Jesus.

So, I always return to the same crossroads – do I remain Roman Catholic or do I convert to another faith?  While there are many things in Roman Catholicism with which I disagree and do not support, I always reach the same answer – to remain Roman Catholic.  The most important part of my decision always includes that I am a faithful follower and believer in Jesus.  I might not agree with many of the practices of Roman Catholicism, however I do believe in the teachings of Jesus.  I have always come to the conclusion that I can pray for myself, and my friends and enemies.  I can pray that the eyes of those who have sight but who are blind can be opened.  I can work to do more to bring awareness about the importance and value of women and children in the Church, rather than support the male leadership’s exclusion of them.

I recognize that I am one who is not content to simply accept the rigid, patriarchal, and sexist nature of the Roman Catholic Church, but who is one who strives to bring increased equality and support to marginalized groups, including women and children.  While Blessed Teresa and Pope Francis, for examples, are excellent role models within the Roman Catholic Church, and have brought much compassion and support to people around the world, I, personally, continue to experience much rigidity, patriarchy, sexism, and inequality in my faith.  I doubt that the Roman Catholic Church will ever provide full equality, understanding, or acceptance in the Church for women, and while I am intolerant of that, I do accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  Thus, I continue to remain a reluctant Roman Catholic, and will likely revisit this issue at many points throughout the remainder of my life.  I place my faith in God that He will continue to guide me on the path that is right for me.