Snow in Snellville! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

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Snow-covered tree in Snellville, Georgia, January 23, 2016

It has been about two years since there has been snow in Snellville, Georgia.  I, for one, have missed it!  It was a pleasure to awaken this morning to a slight covering of snow on the ground.  I took some photos around my yard this morning at 11:00 AM, reflecting some of the snow.  By 1:00 PM, it had all melted away!

With the blizzard conditions being experienced to the north of us, I was hoping that we would get more snow here today.  It’s always fun to make a snow man with my son or pull him around in the sled through the yard.

This weekend, we were planning to take a ski trip to North Carolina with my son’s scout troop.  What a disappointment it was not to go as a result of the weather conditions!

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Daffodils on snow-covered ground in Snellville, Georgia, January 23, 2016

When one grows up in ski country, one must take advantage of all the fun that the snowy winter conditions have to offer.  For all of those folks who have a distaste for snow and winter weather, I dislike the cold, but I love the snow.  In order to avoid cabin fever, it is important in areas that experience snow to have outdoor activities that one enjoys.

What I really miss about not living in a snowy winter region is the skiing, as well as snowmobiling.  Making snow people and snow angels, having snowball fights, munching on icicles – or just walking in the snow and enjoying its beauty – are activities that I miss.

Of course, I do not miss the high heating bills in winter, nor driving in treacherous conditions involving snow, ice, and slush.  I do not miss the road salt that eats up my vehicle, and requires me to wash it, frequently, at the car wash.  I do not miss water dripping through the ceiling due to all of the snow on the roof of the house.

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Icy bird baths on snow-covered ground in Snellville, Georgia, January 23, 2016

And, I do not miss frostbite (which I have experienced once in the past) due to the polar conditions.  I can further leave behind the extreme wind chills that make the outdoor temperatures so much colder than they really are.

There are definitely positive and negative things that one can experience as a result of snowy, winter weather.  I’m glad to have had these experiences, particularly so that I can know how to best care for myself and my family in conditions such as these.

Be prepared, think carefully, and be safe out there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examples of Character-Themed Gingerbread Houses by Brand Castle

Examples of Character-Themed Gingerbread Houses by Brand Castle

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

Fun at the Snellville First Baptist Church Trunk and Treat 2015 (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My son as a Pokemon Trainer for Halloween at the Snellville First Baptist Church in Georgia, October 30, 2015

My son as a Pokemon Trainer for Halloween at the Snellville First Baptist Church in Georgia, October 30, 2015

What a beautiful evening it was on October 30 for the Trunk and Treat event at the Snellville, Georgia First Baptist Church to celebrate Halloween!

My son as a Pokemon Trainer for Halloween, with Minions, at the Snellville First Baptist Church in Georgia, October 30, 2015

My son as a Pokemon Trainer for Halloween, with Minions, at the Snellville First Baptist Church in Georgia, October 30, 2015

The multitude of people giving out candy and kids receiving it made for an enjoyable event for the many who came to the event.

My son being "eaten" by the red M&M at Snellville's First Baptist Church Trunk and Treat, October 30, 2015

My son being “eaten” by the red M&M at Snellville’s First Baptist Church Trunk and Treat, October 30, 2015

I dare say this was probably the most fun my son has ever had trick or treating for Halloween.  Thank you to everyone for making this such an outstanding event! 🙂

At the Play Therapy Association Conference in Atlanta Today (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Association for Play Therapy Conference, Keynote Speech by Dr. Jeff Ashby, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Association for Play Therapy Conference, Keynote Speech by Dr. Jeff Ashby, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Today, Friday, October 9, 2015, I had the wonderful experience of attending one day of the Association for Play Therapy’s Annual Conference, this year, held right here in Atlanta!  Though attending conferences is an expense, for a conference of an association with which I am affiliated to be held so close to home is difficult to pass up.  I am glad that I was able to attend at least one day of the conference, and heard presentations by speakers sharing about topics that are important to me.

Me in Exhibit Area of Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Me in Exhibit Area of Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

At the conference today, I heard Dr. Franc Hudspeth’s presentation on lasting, traumatic effects of bullying on children with a focus on attachment, and Dr. Garry Landreth’s talk about deep issues in play therapy.  It was also my pleasure to hear today’s Keynote speech by Dr. Jeff Ashby, who also lives in this area around Atlanta – his was uplifting, engaging, and refreshing as a result of his witty sense of humor!

Dr. Franc Hudspeth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Dr. Franc Hudspeth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

I really believe in the power and healing effects of play therapy, not only in child populations, but also in adults of all ages.  Play therapy engages a part of the brain that allows for greater healing and recovery to occur in comparison to therapies that strictly involve talking.  While I support such “talk” therapies, I also and more firmly believe in the therapeutic effects of play therapy because I have observed it to be very effective, particularly in child survivors of sexual abuse.

Dr. Garry Landreth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Dr. Garry Landreth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

One aspect of the conference that I would have liked better is for there to have been some women presenters on the topics I am interested in and on the day that I was able to attend.  Even in the absence of this, I had an enjoyable day, and my learning and beliefs were further reinforced for me.  I hope to be able to attend other play therapy conferences in the future, although it may be some time due to the expense involved.  And, I hope to connect again in the future with those of you who I met today!

Enjoying the Gwinnett County Fair (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

View of Gwinnett County Fair from atop Ferris Wheel, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

View of Gwinnett County Fair from atop Ferris Wheel, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

Last weekend, my son and I took the opportunity to visit and enjoy the Gwinnett County Fair in Lawrenceville, Georgia.  We do our best to visit the Fair each year, doing so many of the fun things that fairs have to offer.  Last Friday evening was perfect for riding several rides, including the swings, Ferris wheel, coaster cars, and walking through the fun houses and 4-H small animal building.

My Son Enjoying a Fun House at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

My Son Enjoying a Fun House at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

Last year, my son and I volunteered with the 4-H small animal building and had a great experience, but we missed out on doing so this year.  We also enjoyed eating pizza, snow cones, and cotton candy; playing some of the many games; and winning a gold fish at the ping pong ball toss.

My Son Petting a Rabbit at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

My Son Petting a Rabbit at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

In all, it was another experience of great fun at the Gwinnett County Fair, and we were happy to come away exhilarated and refreshed!

The Sweltering Georgia Heat (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Sunrise (Retrieved from http://jkyog-wellness.blogspot.com, July 29, 2015)

Sunrise (Retrieved from http://jkyog-wellness.blogspot.com, July 29, 2015)

Nearly each day during the past four weeks here, outside of Atlanta, Georgia, the sweltering summer sun has been searing at between 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  We enjoyed a cool spring that lasted well into the latter part of May, but are definitely in the midst of the heat of summer now.

Typically, by 10:30 AM, the temperature on our enclosed porch – in which all windows and doors are open – has reached between 80 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit.  That is already too uncomfortable to sit and enjoy for too long.  Most days, the Georgia air is so hot and humid that one does not even have to do anything but sit and breathe, and the sweat covers the skin like a wet film.

Thankfully, there is a public pool near my home that my son and I have frequented every summer since we moved here.  While swimming and being in the water is refreshing, on some days, it still feels as warm as bath water.  At least the pool provides some relief to the unforgiving heat because it is just unhealthy to be in it for very long during the day.

So, while I love all of the sunny days that are experienced in Georgia, I definitely dislike the hot, humid heat that makes being outside unpleasant.  In the 15 years that I’ve lived here, this summer has definitely been the hottest and most unbearable.  I fear that summer temperatures will only continue to rise in years to come, what with the out-of-control global warming that is harming our earth.  It’s not getting any better for any of us.

Too many Truckers don’t Follow Rules of the Road (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Semi-Truck in Passing Lane on 985 in Suwanee, Georgia, June 25, 2015

Semi-Truck in Passing Lane on 985 in Suwanee, Georgia, June 25, 2015

When I was growing up and all throughout the nearly 30 years that I lived in New York State, I never recall observing any truckers driving in the passing lane – particularly on highways and thruways – at least for any longer than it took to pass slower vehicles and return to the “slow” or “truck” lane.  Ever since I began living in the Southern United States 15 years ago, I keep seeing more and more truckers (especially semi-truck and big-rig truck drivers) actually driving in the passing lane.  And, those whom I see are typically driving very fast and are not just passing to pass – they are trucking along in the passing lane.

On the highways around Atlanta, Georgia, the typical speed limit is between 65-70 miles per hour, which is really already more than fast enough. Driving at high rates of speed creates less control of a vehicle, but when truckers are driving even faster than the speed limit – and in the passing lane – it’s a recipe for disaster.  There are too many truckers taking too many risks on the road, with driving too fast, driving in the passing lane, and thinking they are able to control their rigs (when they can’t) at those rates of speed.

For these reasons, and because there is so, so much truck traffic on the highways all throughout the South, I am very hesitant to drive on them, particularly with any family members riding with me.  I do my best to be a defensive driver.  If I see someone being reckless, I hang back.  Those who are driving fast, I just let them go right on by.

Last summer, I was driving north on 85 out of Atlanta, and a driver in a car passed me at – I would estimate – 100 miles per hour or faster.  I prayed that the driver would not kill themselves or others as I expected for an accident to occur.  Surely enough, I eventually got up the road a bit further on 985 about 10 minutes after the driver passed me, and found that he/she had crossed the grass median, crossed the double-lane highway on the other side, and was in the woods.

This driver has nothing to do with truckers, however the example is one that reflects the high rates of speed at which most people drive in the South.  I am proud that nearly all drivers pass me on the highway.  I am content to travel at the speed limit, and will happily move over and give much room to those who fly by so fast that I can’t even read their license plate number.

Coca Cola Semi-Truck in Passing Lane on Buford Drive near Mall of Georgia, June 25, 2015

Coca Cola Semi-Truck in Passing Lane on Buford Drive near Mall of Georgia, June 25, 2015

Back to the truckers, however, it really got to me today when I was doing business in and near Buford, Georgia that I photographed two semi-trucks in the passing lanes of the highways.  Now, certainly, it is not illegal for truckers to drive in the passing lane, however it makes the roads less safe for everyone traveling on them.  One trucker was driving in the passing lane for at least two miles on 985 near Suwanee, and a driver of a Coca-Cola semi-truck was driving in the passing lane on Buford Drive just south of the Mall of Georgia for five or more miles.

It is tiresome to regularly observe truckers driving in the passing lane, creating potentially unsafe situations for other drivers, and just plain not following the rules of the road.  Too many truckers have no regard for drivers in vehicles with babies, young children, or the elderly.  And, typically, I observe young male drivers take too many risks in their vehicles by cutting off and swerving in and out of lanes to get around truckers.  This just puts everyone on the road at risk of injury or death.

The need for speed in the South is obviously much greater than a respect and appreciation for life and safety.  Every time people drive on the road, they are at risk, but the risks can be reduced if everyone drives more slowly and safely.  But, unfortunately, I know that’s not going to happen.

The Beauty of Charlie Elliott State Park in Georgia (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My son at Charlie Elliott State Park, Georgia, May 2015

My son at Charlie Elliott State Park, Georgia, May 2015

Recently, my family and I had the opportunity to fish and enjoy the peaceful, beautiful outdoors at Charlie Elliott State Park with a youth group in which my son is involved.

Partial view of a lake at Charlie Elliott State Park in Georgia, May 2015

Partial view of a lake at Charlie Elliott State Park in Georgia, May 2015

Only about one hour’s drive from our home, Charlie Elliott State Park and its surrounding area reminds me of the rural country in which I grew up outside of Buffalo, New York.  A youth in our group found a turtle and gave it to my son to hold before placing it back in the lake.  And, a man who was fishing there caught a large mouth bass of impressive size!

A happy Georgia fisherman at Charlie Elliott State Park with his large mouth bass, May 2015

A happy Georgia fisherman at Charlie Elliott State Park with his large mouth bass, May 2015

At the park, one can definitely take in all of the natural beauty of the environment.  Getting back to nature is certainly calming and relaxing at the beautiful Charlie Elliott State Park!

Summer VBS Fun (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My son with an alpaca at VBS, Summer 2015

My son with an alpaca at VBS, Summer 2015

Vacation Bible Schools in my area are in full swing during this time of the year!  School is out, summer has (definitely) arrived (it is sooo hot!), and VBS is a popular activity for kids and youth during summer vacation.

My son with a donkey at VBS, Summer 2015

My son with a donkey at VBS, Summer 2015

Both my son and I have participated in VBS experiences in our area during the past 4 out of 5 years.  This year, my son had the opportunity to be a leader for younger participants, and he did a great job.

My son with a rabbit at VBS, Summer 2015

My son with a rabbit at VBS, Summer 2015

On the last day of VBS at St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn, Georgia this year, a petting zoo was included for the kids so they could enjoy even more of God’s wonderful works.

VBS is a great opportunity for children, youth, and adults to get closer to God, learn more about God’s teachings, and invest in the church community.

Some Highlights of Attending This Week’s American Association of Suicidology Conference in Atlanta (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Me at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

Me at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

This is my second year as a member of the American Association of Suicidology.  Earlier this Spring, I happened to peruse the association’s website and discovered that the annual conference was to be held in Atlanta, only a short distance from my home!  How could I pass up an opportunity to attend the conference?  It would have been unthinkable not to go.  So, this week, I invested the equivalent of two days throughout a three-day period into hearing presentations, attending workshops, meeting colleagues, and getting photographs.

Me with Dr. David Miller, President, American Association of Suicidology, Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

Me with Dr. David Miller, President, American Association of Suicidology, Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

The conference was very affordable at $150, plus receiving a free student seat to a half-day preconference workshop on Tuesday, presented by Dr. Jim Mazza and Dr. Alec Miller. I wasn’t required to fly or drive in over a long distance (although driving in the downpouring rain wasn’t very pleasant on Wednesday morning), I didn’t have to shell out big bucks for a hotel stay, and I didn’t have to pay alot of money for food.  I parked at a self-serve parking lot on Spring Street, just one block away from the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, paying $4 per day for each of the three days.

Dr. Marsha Linehan and Dr. Michael Anestis, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

Dr. Marsha Linehan and Dr. Michael Anestis, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

Yesterday, I enjoyed eating lunch at the buffet of a nearby Chinese restaurant, paying only $8.50, including tip for my meal.  One thing I did miss out on today, however, was the $10 student lunch voucher.  I arrived too late, and there were none left, so I had to go without.  The wonderful bagels for breakfast, however, certainly made up for the lost lunch opportunity.

Dr. Thomas Joiner and Dr. Michael Anestis, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

Dr. Thomas Joiner and Dr. Michael Anestis, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

I’m still extremely happy to have enjoyed the free student seat at Wednesday’s workshop, as well as to have met a huge presence in the field of counseling and psychotherapy, Dr. Marsha Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy!  I snapped a couple of pictures of Dr. Linehan, but missed out on my chance to be photographed with her when a kind lady was unable to navigate my camera – and Dr. Linehan was in a hurry.  To hear her presentation about her personal background and how it relates to her creation of DBT is incredibly inspiring!

Iris Bolton Speaking at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

Iris Bolton Speaking at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

There are so many additional, wonderful presenters that I heard, as well, including, but not limited to Dr. Thomas Joiner and Dr. Cheryl King (who both autographed my program booklet – thank you!), Dr. Matt Nock, Dr. Michael Anestis (Conference Program Chair), Dr. David Miller (Association President, with whom I did get a photo!), Kathik Dinakar, Dr. David Klonsky, Dr. Keith Hawton, Adam Horwitz, Raymond Tucker, Stephanie Pennings, Dr. Sarra Nazem, Dr. April Smith, Chris Hagan, Iris Bolton, Dr. David Mayo, Dr. Madelyn Gould, and Dr. Peter Wyman.

Autographed Program Booklet, Name Tag, Book Bag, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

Autographed Program Booklet, Name Tag, Book Bag, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

While I did not do much networking, there were folks who I met and spoke with, making the experience more personal and enjoyable.  One particular colleague with whom I networked on each of the three days I was at the conference was Stephen.  Additionally, all of the staff and volunteers of the association were extremely helpful and friendly, particularly Justin, Sarah, John, and Pollyanna.

Dr. Keith Hawton Presenting at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

Dr. Keith Hawton Presenting at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

All those employees of the Hyatt Regency with whom I spoke were also very friendly and professional, providing an excellent reflection of the hospitality provided by those at the hotel.

Dr. Madelyn Gould Presenting at American Association of Suicidology Conference, with Dr. Cheryl King looking on, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

Dr. Madelyn Gould Presenting at American Association of Suicidology Conference, with Dr. Cheryl King looking on, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

There was so much that I learned, and I’m so happy to have had the chance to attend this year’s 48th annual conference.  I hope that I will be a more effective, compassionate, and professional support to those who have been affected in some way by suicidality, as a result of attending this conference.