“In Celebration of Spring and Easter” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Easter Chick with Easter Eggs, Easter 2013

Easter Chick with Easter Eggs, Easter 2013

Spring has sprung, and Easter is again upon us!  There is much to be thankful for in celebrating another Easter – Christ’s ultimate sacrifice in giving his life for us, dying a horrible death beyond words and resurrecting his spirit for us.  Jesus is the God who continually forgives our sins and is our ultimate savior, unable to be replaced by anyone or anything.  And, though there are many things in our world by which we may attempt to replace our Creator, what it all comes down to in the end is that God is the ‘be all and the end all,’ the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. 

So, while many of us are spending additional time at church during this Easter season, reflecting, praying, and meditating on Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection, we must always remember that we are all His children.  With that in mind, those of us who have children of our own must be mindful of not only teaching them about our religious values, but also participating in fun Easter events, such as getting pictures with the Easter Bunny, going to Easter Egg Hunts, or enjoying other fun Easter or Spring activities, including something as simple as walking in the park and viewing the flower blossoms on the trees.

Easter Egg Hunt at St. Oliver's, Snellville, Georgia, March 30, 2013

Easter Egg Hunt at St. Oliver’s, Snellville, Georgia, March 30, 2013

I hope that everyone enjoys a beautiful, wonderful, rejuvenating, and refreshing spring.  And, regardless of the religion that you may or may not practice, hopefully, you will take time to reflect upon and be thankful for all that has been bestowed upon you in your life.  For me, as a Roman Catholic Christian, celebrating Lent with the culmination of Easter in spring is a wonderful time of reflection and renewal.  I hope there are events and celebrations in your lives in which you experience the same!  Happy Easter!

“Scout Sunday 2013: Showing Love to God” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

 

My Son Being Recognized for Earning his Parvuli Dei Religious Medal, Scout Sunday, St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn, Georgia, February 2, 2013

My Son Being Recognized for Earning his Parvuli Dei Religious Medal, Scout Sunday, St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn, Georgia, February 2, 2013

 Scout Sunday was celebrated on Sunday, February 3, 2013 this year.  My son and me had the pleasure of participating in Scout Sunday Mass with Pack 522 at the 5 PM vigil on Saturday, February 2 at St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn, Georgia, where we showed our perpetual love to and for God.  This year, my son earned and received his Parvuli Dei religious medal at this wonderful Scout Sunday recognition mass in which we have participated at St. John Neumann Church for the past three consecutive years. Each year, there is a great turn-out of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts who are affiliated with St. John Neumann Church and/or School, and this year was no exception.  The scouts, parents, leaders, religious, and members of the parish community at St. John Neumann always make Scout Sunday a positive and memorable experience; and we are always happy and honored to participate in it.

Particularly after experiencing certain unpleasant experiences related to privacy and protection in the former pack with which we were associated along with our former parish, it was our honor and pleasure to again participate in St. John Neumann’s consistently outstanding Scout Sunday Mass and Religious Recognition Ceremony.  Both the Mass and Ceremony are always handled professionally, and with sensitivity and sound integrity toward the privacy and protection of the youth involved.  That, as always, is very much appreciated.

“Cub Scout Privacy Issue Transforms into Personal Vendettas Against Concerned Mom” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Car and Trophies, January 2013

Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Car and Trophies, January 2013

On January 19, 2013, a local Cub Scout pack associated with a Roman Catholic Church in my area with which we were affiliated held it’s annual Pinewood Derby.  At the Pinewood Derby happened to be an older man who was photographing every child – scouts and their siblings – whom I had not before seen.  This man had a large professional-style camera, and was aggressively photographing the children, sometimes getting into their faces to do so.  As a former scout leader – who is also still certified, by the way – and as a concerned mom, red flags were raised in my mind about this man who appeared to be a professional photographer, whom I did not know, and who was quite aggressively photographing the children.

Toward the end of the Pinewood Derby when the children were receiving their awards for speed and design, I spoke to the photographer – who, by that point, I decided was a professional photographer – and confronted him about why he was taking so many photos after he tapped me on my shoulder while I was taking photos and told me to move out of his way.  He took photos of my child and every other child, with no advance notice from pack leadership, nor with any opportunity not to provide consent, nor to opt-out of this situation. 

When the photographer would not answer my question, I became more concerned, and asked if someone hired him.  He replied that, indeed, another scout mother (whom I later discovered was a friend of his) hired him to take the photos.  I verbally stated to him that he did not have my permission to use any photos of my son, and he acknowledged that.  He then began to argue with me that he didn’t want to talk with me because he was taking photos.  This created an unpleasant and uncomfortable situation for me as I am interested in the privacy and protection of my son – and that of other children – and that a safe environment be provided and maintained.

Not knowing this man, nor what he was going to do with the photos that he took of every child, I e-mailed four particular leaders within the pack leadership committee whom I knew had the most experience in the pack.  Also, I did not e-mail other leaders because I did not know their names, nor their e-mail addresses.  I e-mailed the four particular folks, expressing my concerns for privacy and safety of my son, and that of other children regarding this individual, whom I discovered was, indeed, a professional photographer.  I requested the name and contact information of the professional photographer so that I could send him my nonconsent in writing regarding the photos that he took of my child without my permission. 

One of the den leaders whom I had e-mailed put up an unnecessary argument with me in response to my concern, and did not at all take the situation seriously.  This den head happened to be the leader of my child’s den, and he used this situation as a personal attack at me, throwing in his own personal vendettas toward me that were unrelated to the issue at hand.  He also used these issues as his reasons to eject my family from the den, which has caused my son to be extremely hurt and betrayed.  Mind you, the man in question is an individual who asked me to serve as a den leader with him, and I did so for a period of one year, always maintaining professionalism and ethics in my interactions with him and everyone in the den and pack.  That he brought his own personal issues against me into the matter were unprofessional and unethical, including that he never informed me about such issues before the current issue at hand.

The pack leadership committee chairwoman then responded to me, also not taking my privacy and safety concerns seriously.  I asked her, in writing, on three occasions throughout a period of one week (seven days) to provide me with the name and contact information of the photographer.  She did not even know the man’s name or contact information!  No references were requested of this man; and no attempt to inform parents beforehand, nor provide any opt-out condition was offered!  It took the pack leadership committee chairwoman all of those seven days to respond to me with the name of the photographer’s business. 

The same pack leadership committee chairwoman also explained to me by e-mail that only a few (four) of the leaders in the pack leadership committee had approved the professional photographer taking photos at the Pinewood Derby, and that it was a change that came about the night before the Derby when a scout mom said her camera was broken and she asked a friend to take the photos.  Supposedly, as was explained to me by e-mail, the professional photos were to be used to create a CD collage for an outgoing leader.  However, without anything in writing to parents in advance, there was no guarantee that this photographer from off the street could use those photos for anything that he desired – as well as the scout mom whom he stated to me had hired him.

In order to inform the charter organization representative in these issues in an effort to gain a positive resolution in my son’s best interests to the matters, I also communicated with and contacted the parish clergy of the church that charters the pack.  I also took the opportunity to address the bullying which my son and other children have experienced within the pack and den – to the point of one child being physically hurt by another and whose family left the pack last year.  When I had informed the den leader about it – as well as when I informed the chairwoman – nothing was done to stop or correct it.  So, this is yet another issue that is not taken seriously by pack leadership. 

When I received no responses from either of the charter organization representatives (priests), I contacted the district council representative, both by e-mail and by phone.  I spoke with him for about 20 minutes by phone, and he was supportive of me that I was a concerned enough parent to raise the issues of privacy and safety – not only for my child, but for all of the children – to the pack leadership.  I stated to him, however, that the pack leadership did not see it that way.  Unfortunately, he also declined from being officially involved in the matter unless no resolution could be obtained with the pack leadership and church leadership that charters the pack.  Therefore, I contacted the church office in an effort to arrange a meeting between interested parties to obtain a positive resolution to these matters. 

On discovering that the head pastor was out of the country for two weeks, he had recently returned to the area, and two days following my phone request to arrange a meeting, he e-mailed everyone, providing his availability for a meeting, and stating that all other e-mail communications about the matter should cease, otherwise he would not be involved.  He further stated that it did not matter to him whether or not the Boy Scouts of America, Supreme Court, or some other international tribunal was involved in the matters.  I took that to say that he really did not desire to be involved, and that is also what I experienced at the meeting that was held.

In the midst of these matters, I also consulted and communicated with a great many people in scouting who are familiar with these types of issues, questions, and concerns.  From a couple of them, I received little to no support, however several others were very supportive, agreeing that I had a legitimate concern – as I also believed – for the privacy and safety of my child and the other children – and that particular policies regarding such a matter were not followed.  From one experienced and knowledgeable former scout employee, I obtained information providing that a unit photographer should have accompanied the professional photographer at the event; and that the entire leadership committee should have been involved in the decision about the professional photographer.

That same former scout employee contact also informed me that neither the pack, nor the chartered organization have the authority to create contracts because they are not considered legal entities.  My question would also wonder why a scout mom could hire an outside professional photographer to come in and take photos of every scout and their siblings at a scouting event, without the parents’ advance notice and permission.  Another experienced scout executive further stated to me that while he believed that the photography was acceptable, parents should have been provided with an official Boy Scout form, stating whether or not they desired to have any type of photos taken of their child.  That was not done in regard to me and my family, nor to my knowledge with any other scout family in the pack.

It must also be noted that one day prior to the meeting, the chairwoman e-mailed parents and informed them that a photographer was present at the Derby, and that photos could be obtained from her of their child(ren).  That would not have occurred had I not expressed my concerns about privacy and safety for the children, and encouraged her to inform everyone.

Armed with all of this helpful information, I attended the meeting between the priest who was the chartered organization representative, the pack leadership committee chairwoman, and the den leader.  The parish priest absolutely grilled me about why I had a concern about privacy and safety of my child and the other children regarding the professional photographer.  Of course, I explained that I was not informed in advance, nor provided an opportunity to opt-out.  I further explained that when I see someone in the pack whom I have never before seen, and he is photographing my child and every other child, I have a legitimate concern. 

The words and conduct of the priest were entirely unethical and unprofessional, and he basically supported the lack of seriousness, ethics, and professionalism about this matter in the manner that it was handled by pack leadership.  At one point, the priest even laughed about the situation of informing us to take the issue to the Supreme Court or higher authority, and also told me that I should have “gone along” with the photography situation.

None of the other three individuals at the particular meeting took my concerns seriously, nor treated me with any respect whatsoever.  The behavior exhibited by all three was bullyish toward me and my family, and reflective of their own intolerance and lack of insight in the matter.  By far, the most offensive person toward me was the priest!  He negatively escalated the situation beyond repair, which I believe was his actual intention.  The anger, hatred, and misogyny that he directed at me was absolutely incredible!  He stated to me that my concerns were inappropriate and over the top, having caused people to become fearful of me; I said that I had a legitimate concern, and did not agree with his characterization of me or my concerns. 

When I stated that my family has been involved with that church parish for the past 12 years, having been faithful and contributing much, he had absolutely no appreciation for anything me or my family had done.  Last year, we  left membership of that parish and joined another parish affiliated with my child’s school; and the priest was quite adamant to point that out and throw it in my face.  I also stated, however, that we were still members of the parish when we joined the pack.  The priest even had some piece of paper that he slid over the table to me, reflecting that we left the parish, and I slid it back at him. 

So, I stated to the priest, therefore, that he also had his own personal issue with me because my family left that parish.  He then went on to inquire as to whether or not he and I had issues between each other in the past, and I replied that there were at least two.  I stated that regarding those two issues (that were of extremely high importance in relation to marriage and family healthcare issues), that he referred me to someone else or did not respond.  He, of course, did not recall the issues, and to me, it was apparent that he did not even believe they were important enough to remember.  There were also two occasions when I approached the parish in my financial need, and was turned away both times, being informed that the parish had no money to give, even though about $100,000 was provided to families in need during one particular year through the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul affiliation.

I also brought up the fact that, in the pack in which we were members prior to coming to our present pack, there were no types of issues of this nature at all – no privacy and safety issues, and no personal issues from pack leadership directed against us.  Last Spring, however, my son and me experienced a situation of a highly obscene and offensive nature from a scout mother in the pack – the same mother, by the way, who supposedly “hired” the professional photographer to take photos of all of the children at the Pinewood Derby.  I went through the appropriate channel of the pack leadership chairwoman regarding that issue, and stated that we were extremely offended, however that I did not desire the issue to be such that it created a negative situation for her or for us. 

Wouldn’t you know that, at the meeting to discuss my concerns about privacy and safety, that particular issue arose by the chairwoman and den leader, saying that it was blown out of proportion!  My son and me were the victims in this matter of this scout mom who behaved in an outlandishly obscene and offensive manner toward us!  How sad, now, that they are protecting and supporting her – the offender of the situation – rather than us as those who experienced it.  In psychology, that is called victim-blaming.  

All of this was yet another reflection to me that neither the pack leadership, nor the church leadership share the appropriate and needed values that should be present within the pack and the church.  Understand me clearly, now, that these are the leaders of both of these organizations.  When I hoped for understanding and consideration, me and my family received nothing but insults, offenses, and lack of professionalism, ethics, and values on all fronts.  That both the den leader and the priest called me a liar when I presented my simple and legitimate concerns about children’s privacy and safety, and that the issue was used as personal vendettas and attacks on me and my family by pack and church leadership, was highly offensive and a complete affront to me, as someone who is always looking out for the best interests of my son and the children. 

To further the affronts, the den leader has unreasonably and irrationally threatened legal action toward me over this issue – the simple issue of desiring privacy and safety of children.  Is this what the Boy Scouts of America stands for and supports – threats and defamation of character that have absolutely no basis?  This situation is truly incredible, and has become unnecessarily unreasonable and traumatic for me and my family.

Therefore, I could see that, ultimately, the best positive resolution for me and my family related to these issues was to leave the pack.  Also, when I asked all present at the meeting for a promise that such a privacy/safety issue would not occur again in the future, no one responded, and therefore, I received no guarantee that this same type of thing would not occur again.  We had been members of the pack for about two years, always being faithfully involved and supportive, contributing much to the fundraisers as well as in officially volunteering for the pack, and in my son gaining much enjoyment, achievement, and socialization with other kids.  Currently, scouting has been his only extra-curricular activity, and as an only child, is something that, overall, he has truly enjoyed over most other types of activities. 

Additionally, at least I was able to locate the photographer’s name and business address, online, based on the business name that the pack chairwoman provided to me; and I both e-mailed and mailed my nonconsent for his use of his photos of my son taken at the Derby without my advance notice or permission.  I should not have had to go through all of what I did simply to ensure the safety and privacy of my son.  This situation would have never occurred had pack leadership informed parents in advance and provided the opportunity to opt-out.

Hopefully, we will find another pack in which we can experience peace, fairness, a safe environment, common sense, and courtesy.  If there is an absence of locating such a group, I will be hesitant to remain involved with scouting at all if my legitimate concerns are going to be turned around against me and my family as personal attacks, making our experience unnecessarily painful and detrimental.  I do not wish to be persecuted simply because my ethics, morals, values, standards, and expectations are higher than average.  We came to scouting for enjoyable experiences – mostly which we have had – however, I am not willing to subject my son and family to being hurt by folks who do not stand up for the right thing for children.  And, I’m not going to “go along” with what is wrong, and against my values and principles.  Those who go along with what is wrong and do not stand for what is right are not leaders to me, and such people blindly take an organization or institution astray due to their own dysfunctional conduct.

By the way, I informed the district council representative yesterday, briefly, by e-mail of what transpired in the meeting.  He personally responded to me by e-mail, stating that Boy Scouts of America is thankful for families such as mine, and is appreciative of my handling of the privacy and safety concern at hand.  He also wished us well, and offered his assistance in helping us locate and become involved with another pack that is basically more in line with our own values.

“The Many Ways in Which School Children are Bullied by School Employees” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Bullying and retaliation are issues that have come to the forefront of our society in recent years.  There is bullying in schools.  There is bullying in the workplace.  There is bullying in social organizations.  There is bullying that occurs in society, in general.  Bullies, themselves, feel good and empowered when they bully others.  They get to throw their weight around, intimidating, degrading, ridiculing, humiliating others.  Bullying in schools definitely creates a downward spiral in the morale of the school.  When students must protect themselves from their bullyish peers as well as adults who are bullies, a stressful and hostile atmosphere is present at schools for these children.

Many victims of bullying keep it to themselves, thinking they can handle it, and they often end up being more taunted, more bullied, and then, the bullying escalates.  Some victims of bullying are pushed over the edge, believe they are worthless, are convinced that they are nothing, and kill themselves.  Other victims of bullying try to stand up for themselves – some are successful in defeating and overcoming their bullies, while others are disbelieved and/or do not receive the support they need from adults to whom they go for help.

In schools, sometimes students get a double whammy with bullying.  Not only are they bullied by certain peers, but they are also bullied by particular adults who are school employees of the school.  What is worse is when the very leaders of the school practice bullying through policies that lack sensitivity, flexibility, and understanding.  Policies in which minor mistakes and insignificant misbehaviors of children such as talking without permission, for example, are enforced by requiring students to run several laps, serve a lengthy detention, or in some schools, be paddled, are excessive, unnecessary, and reflect an authoritarian, punitive, unforgiving, and bullying atmosphere in the school. 

In one school with which I am familiar, a parent survey was issued to students’ families within the past one year that asked many questions about various factors related to the quality of the school.  Regarding bullying, 26% of respondents reported that bullying is a problem at the school.  What is truly sad is that bullying is more of an issue regarding adults bullying students than with students bullying students.  And, of course, when students see adults bullying their peers, they believe it is acceptable, and bully their peers, as well.  What is even more sad is that the adults who are bullies and whose policies are bullyish do not recognize it, they do not care, and the situation worsens, becoming more institutionalized.

There are many ways in which school children are bullied by school employees in schools.  Some of those ways include: 1) issuing excessive disciplinary consequences and punishments for minor misbehaviors; 2) requiring students to run laps as punishment and/or discipline; 3) not providing, denying, ignoring, and/or overlooking needed services to the student; 4) not contacting the parents or guardians when the student has been severely injured at school; 5) denying a sick child the opportunity to see the school nurse or clinician and to go home; 6) denying and/or preventing the student from receiving guidance counseling or other counseling services when requested; 7) not reporting actual abuse or neglect of students to the proper authorities; and 8) issuing unspoken punishments to students that are not identified in the school and/or student handbook.

Additional ways that school employees bully school children include: 9) issuing punishments and/or disciplinary consequences that are more excessive than what is identified in the school and/or student handbook; 10) blaming the child for misbehavior that the adult could have improved by providing the child with greater care and understanding; 12) not recognizing and/or praising the student for outstanding academics or accomplishments; 13) outright lying about and/or misconstruing the truth about situations involving the child; 14) not keeping confidences about the child; and 15) different school employees throughout the school stating that the child needs various evaluations, assessments, therapies, counseling, remediations, etc. when these are not and/or may not necessary.  The latter factor also occurs when school employees make these determinations when they are unqualified to do so; for example, they are not physicians, psychologists, or other qualified and unbiased healthcare professionals.  

There are also many other ways children are bullied in schools by school employees, and those ways are not limited to those that I have identified here.  Some more of those ways include: 16) school employees, including particular school administrators and/or teachers maintaining and carrying out a personal vendetta out of anger toward the child; 17) having nothing good to say or share about the child to parents or others; 18) calling the child’s parents in for meetings and/or conferences about the child and/or the parent, simply as a way to attempt to intimidate, harass, or otherwise bully; 19) basically behaving in an unprofessional manner, such as saying one thing, but doing the opposite toward the child or regarding a particular situation; and 20) school administrators also requiring other school employees throughout the school to also perform any of these identified unprofessional actions without question toward the child or the child’s parents, and if they do not do so, they (and/or their own children if their children are students at the school) experience various negative consequences.

Additionally and to compound the situation of school employees bullying school children, any multitute of the above-identified situations can be occurring toward the child at any given time.  For example, five of the particular situations may be occurring toward the child during one week.  In these instances, school employees are working with each other – and against the child – essentially using the child as their whipping post.  This is not only extremely detrimental to the child, but it is bad for the school’s reputation.

When these types of bullying actions toward school children occur by the very adults who have been entrusted with their care, well-being, and safety, it leaves the children on their own, to fend for themselves.  If a teacher and/or administrator simply does not like a particular child or that child’s parent, in my experience, I have found that punishments and/or disciplinary consequences toward that child are much more severe and unfair than they are toward other students.

When families pay extra monies for their children to attend private or parochial schools, the expectation is that those schools are of a higher standard than public schools, in every area – education, discipline, safety, fairness, faith foundation, services, etc.  Certainly, families have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of particular schools and/or school systems, and find the best complement for their child. 

Sometimes, despite all good intentions and communications with authority figures within the school regarding what can be improved or changed to help benefit the students and the school, including school retention when better practices and policies are exercised, things do not change, and in fact, worsen.  Sometimes policies become even more excessive and increasingly punitive.  Sometimes there is a change in the leadership, and the new leaders are more authoritarian and believe in doling out harsh consequences.  This does not mean that such policies are acceptable or ethical.  Perhaps many students’ families simply tolerate the policies because other educational alternatives to that particular school may be even worse.  One does not want to jump out the frying pan, into the fire, so to speak.

Therefore, I am a person who believes in, suggests, and encourages compassion, understanding, and sensitivity toward children and school students.  Harsh and excessive disciplinary policies effected on young school children for minor misbehaviors teach children that the world comes crashing down on them and they are condemned by school employees if they are not perfect all of the time.  It also teaches that adults in authority at school who are punitive are also unforgiving toward them for minor misbehaviors or mistakes.  Such authority figures are not serving as positive role models or guides for the children, but teachers of severe and unnecessary consequences for rather insignificant issues. 

This is how a bullyish atmosphere is created and maintained within a school by the adults within the school.  This is how bullying becomes a problem within schools – when adults bully children, and children, in turn, bully their peers.  Schools and school leaders can sugar coat and ignore the issue all they want, but things will not change for the better or improve unless they, themselves, recognize their own bullyish policies and change them to being more compassionate and understanding.  That is where true leadership lies – in providing positive guidance and in being positive role models for students, rather than in being excessively and unnecessarily punitive and unforgiving.  The teachings of Jesus also follow that philosophy.  

Therefore, schools must not only be progressive rather than regressive in their policies, but school leaders must actively exercise those positive and progressive policies.  School leaders must implement policies that are beneficial, positive, protective, and guiding for students.  School leaders and educators must also reflect on and enact ways of improving themselves and their own philosophies and perspectives.  In this way, everyone will benefit – the students, students’ families, school employees, and the school system.  This is what is necessary in every school and in every school system, and it is a basic expectation of all students and parents.  Let’s keep working to improve our schools and the policies that are practiced within them for the benefit of everyone, most particularly the children who are the youngest and most impressionable of all.

“Prayers and Support Needed for St. Rose of Lima Parish, Newtown, Connecticut” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Newtown, Connecticut (Reference: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ ).

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Newtown, Connecticut (Reference: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ ).

Prayers and support are still very much needed for parishioners and employees of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as for the survivors and residents there for coping with grief and healing.  Postings on Facebook, CatholicVote.org, Change.org, WordPress, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other organizations speak to the continued need for prayers, support, and good works for the people of Newtown, Connecticut. 

My own regional Women’s Catholic Bible Study group at St. John Neumann Parish in Lilburn, Georgia is also involved in spreading this message, as well as in providing encouragement, prayers, and support for – in particular – the religious employees of St. Rose of Lima Parish.  Please continue to spread the word and share supportive, encouraging words and works of healing for the people of this parish and of Newtown. 

The church’s address is:

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church

47 Church Hill Road

Newtown, Connecticut 06470

Priests at the Church include: Msgr. Bob Weiss, Fr. Luke Suarez, and Fr. Ignacio Ortigas. 

There are also many religious sisters, deacons, education employees, office staff members, and others who are doing their best to emotionally and spiritually support others while also coping with their own grief; and it is my understanding that they really need all of the support that they can get to heal and cope. 

Additionally, the church website that shares prayers of supporters to the parish can be found at the following link: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ .

Please do whatever you can to help, encourage, and support the people of Newtown, Connecticut, and St. Rose of Lima Parish there.  The Church website also has a link where one may make monetary donations for the Sandy Hook families.

References

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.  December 28, 2012.  http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ .

(Note: Please know that I do not support or endorse any of the advertisements that may appear in conjunction with my blog posts.  They are placed there by WordPress, and I have no control over them.  I appreciate your understanding.)

“Christmas Lights Strung with Love” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

A Home in my Area that has an Outstanding Christmas Lights Display, Synchronized to Music, December 2012

A Home in my Area that has an Outstanding Christmas Lights Display, Synchronized to Music, December 2012

There are a few homes in my immediate residential area in and around Snellville and Lilburn, Georgia, of which the owners have decked out their residences with amazing and breath-taking displays of Christmas lights.  In past years, there have been two homes, in particular, at which the Christmas lights have been extremely impressive and enjoyable.  Just this year, I located another home that has an outstanding display of Christmas lights, and it tops my list for my immediate residential area. 

Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

I have taken opportunities this year – as in past years – to tour parts of my area to scout out, view, and enjoy homes with Christmas light displays.  Before Christmas, I was able to take my son and family on an outing to enjoy one such Christmas Light Tour.  It was great to view the displays, express our “Ooh” and “Ahhs,” and identify the parts of the displays that we liked the best. 

Another Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

Another Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

That was also an opportunity for my dad to tell my son about the Christmas light displays he fashioned, painted, and made in his younger years when I was just a baby or toddler.  It was good for my dad – and for me and my mom – to tell my son of what we remembered about my dad’s own festive and creative Christmas lights displays.  My dad recalled that for three consecutive years in our small town in Western New York State that he earned the winning cash award for his displays.  He also remembered that the competition was discontinued when it was realized that no one could defeat his artistic craftsmanship.  For that, he is very proud, and he was able to share that pride with my son.

An Impressive Display of Christmas Lights in my Area, December 2012

An Impressive Display of Christmas Lights in my Area, December 2012

Similarly, I can imagine the pride and joy that is felt by those home-owners who adorn their own houses and yards with 100s of Christmas lights.  There are so many lights that fill the darkness that one can see their glow before even arriving in view of the homes.  I have been able to personally express my gratitude and appreciation to two of the three home-owners at which my favorite three Christmas lights displays can be viewed.  The third home-owner is a professional contractor whom I have not yet met, though a number of photos of his displays are included within this article.

Another Festive Display of Christmas Lights in my Local Area, December 2012

Another Festive Display of Christmas Lights in my Local Area, December 2012

While my family has our own small display of Christmas lights that we can view in our back yard from our dining room picture window, we very much appreciate and enjoy everyone’s festive and decorative Christmas lights for the holiday season.  Most especially, we appreciate all of the time, effort, creativity, expense, and love that is invested into the most impressive of all of the Christmas lights displays.  I take the opportunity whenever I can during the holidays to view and enjoy these displays with my son and family.

“Christmas Trees are Filled with Love” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

 

My Family's Christmas Tree, December 2012

My Family’s Christmas Tree, December 2012

With the Christmas season in full swing, and with many continuing to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, I began thinking about all of the wonderful, festive, holiday trappings that accompany Christmas.  In particular, I took some time to really look at, admire, appreciate, and contemplate my own Christmas tree and all that is on it.  I viewed with love all of the many ornaments, decorations, and lights that are on the tree.

A Sampling of Christmas ornaments and decorations made by my Son, 2009-2012

A Sampling of Christmas ornaments and decorations made by my Son, 2009-2012

Though there are several ornaments of Lenox fine china on the tree that are of financial value, as well as many glass ornaments that I purchased from Disney World and Hobby Lobby, those that are most valuable to me are the ones created and hand-crafted by my son.  The ornaments made by my son as those that have the most prominent places on the tree, particularly toward the top and in the middle, where all who view the tree and see and enjoy them.

Glass Christmas Ornaments from Hobby Lobby

Glass Christmas Ornaments from Hobby Lobby

During the year when the ornaments and decorations are not being used to remind us of and celebrate Jesus’ birth, they are carefully stored in boxes.  I must say, however, that those with which I take the greatest care are those hand-made ornaments and decorations that my son has made.  Those are the ones that are stored in the most sturdy boxes, signifying their unique and special place of love in my heart.

Some Lenox China Christmas Ornaments

Some Lenox China Christmas Ornaments

All of the ornaments, lights, and decorations that adorn the Christmas tree are those that are filled with and/or are a reflection of love – our love for each other, our love for Jesus, and Jesus’ love for us.  Though ornaments and decorations may seem to be simple and perhaps insignificant to many people, for Christmas, they are outward symbols, expressions, and reflections of our love and happiness.  Though we celebrate Jesus’ birth only once per year, it is important to remember His birth, life, teachings, suffering, death, and resurrection for us every day.

“Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Nativity Scene at Maranatha Baptist Church, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Nativity Scene at Maranatha Baptist Church, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Christmas and our celebration of Jesus’ birth is upon us once more as we close out yet another great year!  There is always so much for which to be thankful, particularly the coming of Jesus, and his love for us that is so great and boundless that he suffered and died for us to save us from our own sinfulness.  Though we will always be human – and have all of the mistakes, unworthiness, and errors that come with it – we must always do our best to be more like Jesus.  We must act in ways that are forgiving, understanding, sensitive, compassionate, and giving to others and each other.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from us.  St. John Neumann Church Nativity Scene, Christmas 2012, Lilburn, Georgia

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from us. St. John Neumann Church Nativity Scene, Christmas 2012, Lilburn, Georgia

While most people throughout the world are Christians, celebrating Christmas and recognizing Jesus as our wonderful savior, there are many who celebrate other religious events and holidays.  For them, I also wish a wonderful religious celebration and/or holiday. 

My Son Standing Next to the Nativity Scene at St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Feast of the Epiphany, Snellville, Georgia, January 2013

My Son Standing Next to the Nativity Scene at St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Feast of the Epiphany, Snellville, Georgia, January 2013

So, as I have been blogging on WordPress, now, for the past one year, I would like to take this opportunity to say, “Happy Birthday, Jesus!”, and reflect with this posting that I am a thankful lover of Jesus.  Though my words and actions as a Roman Catholic and Christian will always pale miserably and indescribably in comparison to our Savior, I always try to do my best to have my words and actions reflect His love.

Nativity Scene at St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Nativity Scene at St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, December 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!  May love, blessings, peace, prosperity, good health, and happiness be enjoyed by everyone!

“How Does $650 Worth in School Donations go Officially Unaccounted for and Unrecognized?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

$650 Worth in Educational Item Donations Doesn't Just Appear out of Nowhere to then Become Officially Unaccounted for

$650 Worth in Educational Item Donations Doesn’t Just Appear out of Nowhere to then Become Officially Unaccounted for

Each year, representatives of schools within the United States and throughout the world openly and gratefully receive monetary and material donations and gifts for the benefit of their students and the students’ education.  With economic times being tougher, many schools have an increasing need and appreciation for any and all types of appropriate donations, grants, scholarships, and other support.  One would think that whatever donations are made by people to schools would be accounted for and recognized, however this is not always the case.

In the last year, 2011, I made a large donation of material gifts-in-kind to a local school in the Greater Atlanta Area.  My donation included many items that went directly to five teachers.  Educational materials and items that I donated included a heavy-duty dry erase/chalk easal board, chalk, dry erase board cleaning solution, children’s books, many workbooks in various subjects for primary and middle school-aged students, many laminated educational posters, a globe, educationally-related hard cover books in history and literature, a model of a human heart, a plant cell model, a musical item, teacher grade books, and an audio tape series with an accompanying book. 

Nearly all of the items were in perfect or excellent condition, and are estimated in value to be at least $650 or more.  All of the items were those that I used in my own teaching – in educating my own son or instructing middle school students.  Having not taught for several years and feeling that the school to which I donated them would find the materials useful, I was happy to generously-donate the items for the benefit of the students and teachers there.  I also informed two clergy members, a school principal, and an upper administrator of the school system of my donation.  Two of the four of them, at least, acknowledged my contributions.  However, my donation was officially unaccounted for and unrecognized in the school’s Annual Report.

One must imagine my great disappointment and loss of faith in others in realizing that my donation was unaccounted for and unrecognized in the official yearly report of the school for 2012.  While each teacher to whom I donated the items verbally expressesd their thankfulness, and while I informed several other spiritual and/or school leaders about my donation, one must wonder how such a large donation is unaccounted for and unrecognized. 

Are such donations unvalued?  Are they unimportant?  How often does this occur?  How could nine people know of the donations, yet no one account for them until I informed about the oversight?  (As of December 24, 2012, I received an official letter accounting for my donations, however the letter is incorrect, identifying that the materials were received by the school in 2012, when I actually donated them to the school in 2011.  I have since informed the appropriate people of the error.)

Admittedly, I had considered donating the items to other organizations and causes – or even trying to sell them, but I did not do that.  The particular school to which I donated the items was my first choice, and I believed, my best choice.  But, alas, as has also happened in the past when I made a donation to the school, it went officially unrecognized and unaccounted for.  At least I was recognized during one particular year when I stated that I desired to be recognized anonymously, though this is, in fact, the second time that my donations have gone unrecognized and unaccounted for at the school.  One would think that such a large donation of at least $650 worth of items from a struggling family that is not well off would be officially recognized and accounted for in the Annual Report.

I made a very special effort to donate all of the materials that I did to the particular school that received them.  Items valued at $650 or more do not just appear out of nowhere and then become unaccounted for.  There are many people out there, such as myself, for whom it is a hardship to purchase such items and/or make such a large donation.  Take a moment and imagine if you made such a donation, and how you would feel if it was unaccounted for and unrecognized.  Think of informing many people in leadership positions about the donation, but yet, it not even being identified within the school’s official annual fiscal report. 

It is truly a great disappointment, and places a damper on any desire to make future donations.  Particularly when such donations are officially unrecognized, overlooked, and unaccounted for by the very school leaders who seek them, one loses alot of hope in people that one’s donation was ever meaningful or valued.  One questions the record-keeping and oversight of such donations to schools when situations such as this arise. 

I initially felt wonderful about my generosity in donating so many educational items to teachers at the particular school.  While I believe my donation was appreciated by them, it is very discouraging and disappointing that such a large donation of material gifts-in-kind was not officially recognized and accounted for.  It is particularly discouraging as an individual who is not well off, and for whom it was a hardship to purchase the items, as well as to donate them, not to have been officially recognized – twice.  While I support the school and the education that it provides students, such experiences make me reconsider making future donations of great substance or monetary amount.

“A Visit with Santa Claus” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Talking with Santa Claus, December 8, 2012

My Son Talking with Santa Claus, December 8, 2012

Each year for the past four years, my son and my family have enjoyed our annual visit with Santa Claus at my son’s school, St. John Neumann, in the Gwinnett County City of Lilburn, Georgia near Atlanta.  St. John Neumann is a regional Roman Catholic school, educating children in kingergarten through eighth grade.  And, every year, the Santa Claus Breakfast is a big, “no-miss” event!

For the holiday season, the school is decorated for Christmas with festive trees, pictures, ribbons, bows, and ornaments; and Santa Claus and his eighth grade student “elves” speak with the children about Christmas and what they would like to receive for Christmas. 

A local diner, “Dicky Doo’s,” caters a lovely breakfast of eggs, pancakes, bacon, grits, and rolls, along with toppings of strawberries, chocolate morsels, and whipped cream for the pancakes, all served with orange juice and/or milk. 

The students have an opportunity to purchase items from the Secret Santa “Shop” for family members and friends.  These gifts are inexpensive and thoughtful presents that make the children feel good about being able to give to their loved ones and friends. 

This year is the first year in which professional photographs were made available to everyone who visited with Santa Claus.  A student’s grandparent who is a professional photographer offered some nice photos for sale.  Students’ families could also take their own pictures.

Each year, children can also participate in “cake walks.”  Children walk along a numbered-circle to the sounds of Christmas music, and must stand still on a number when the music stops.  Hopefully, the number pulled out of the hat is the number on which the child is standing so that he or she can select a prize of a cake, cookies, or brownies.  This year, there were many, many baked goods left since there was less generosity with issuing confectionary prizes, however it was still a memorable experience. 

In past years, students also enjoyed singing Christmas songs with Mrs. Claus as she stummed her guitar, however she must have been at home today baking cookies or otherwise getting more prepared for the holidays. 

Breakfast with Santa is always a wonderful experience, and one to which we look forward every year.  It is an affordable and inexpensive way to spend a joyful and festive Saturday morning at school during the Christmas and holiday season.  The best part is remembering and being thankful that it is because of Jesus and His sacrifices for us that we celebrate Christmas.