“America’s Invisible Poor: White Single Mothers” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

The holiday season is the time of year for giving, including giving and generosity to the poor and less fortunate.  This church is collecting food for this food drive, and this bank is collecting for this canned food drive, and this grocery store is collecting these toys, etc.  This is all wonderful and needed in our society in which the poor are often invisible and forgotten.  Following the crash of the housing markets and real estate in this country in 2007, the economy has not been kind to the poor; and, indeed, many of those who began experiencing poverty at that time are still impoverished.  Times are still difficult for those who are poor, and who live at or below poverty level.

In the United States, a country in which the highest current poverty rates are among Blacks, followed by Hispanics, the population by race that has evidenced lowest poverty is Whites.  Even so, in my own observations among Caucasians, those who experience the invisibility of poverty are single and/or divorced mothers.  Perhaps because the present poverty rate among Whites is less than 10% of the population in the United States, and because Caucasians are the majority race in this country, particular poverty among White single mothers is relatively invisible.  I mean, how many White single mothers do you know who are in poverty?  Perhaps because I am more cognizant of it, I am aware of several, though are you able to identify any?  I would like to share a bit about those Caucasian women who are divorced and/or single mothers in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

One Caucasian woman I know, who is in her early 40s, is a divorced, single mother of one child, and has lived below poverty level for the past five years.  She is educated with a master’s degree, but has been unable to acquire gainful employment for the past 5.5 years.  She has received several forms of public assistance within the past four years, received unemployment benefits for more than two years, and is currently receiving food stamps.

While this lady is appreciative of the assistance that she has received, it has not been enough to raise her socioeconomic status, and she continues to live below poverty level.  She has also received some financial, food, and clothing assistance through a charitable organization that is associated with her church in the past two years.  She lost her home, experienced a bankruptcy, does not have health insurance, and has been unemployed for the past 4.5 years.  Also being depleted throughout a period of several years has been her retirement account.  She is also a recipient of food and support from her extended family.  What she desires is gainful employment in order to care for and support her family.

1980-2010 US Poverty Rates (Source: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/218773/0/Poverty-Rate-Rises-In-America)

1980-2010 US Poverty Rates (Source: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/ 218773/0/Poverty-Rate-Rises-In-America)

Another Caucasian woman whom I know is experiencing a divorce.  She is a woman in her late 20s to early 30s.  Her husband had an affair, left her and their four children, and is living with his mistress.  Having four young children, she has remained at home to care for and raise them, and is not employed outside of the home.  She is also not educated beyond high school.  Her husband left her and their four young children, along with a house that she is unable to pay for.  She hired a divorce attorney who is well-known in the area, and hopes to utilize his services in order to secure as stable a financial future for herself and the children as possible.

One young White woman whom I know has three children and is pregnant with her fourth.  She is about 18-20 years old, and she and her children live with her parents.  She does not have a boyfriend or significant partner involved in her life to provide assistance to her or the children.  She remains at home to care for her children, is not employed outside of her home, and does not have health insurance.  She receives food stamps, and is in a program to potentially receive temporary aid for needy families (TANF).  The TANF program requires her to come to four two-hour meetings during a one to two month period in order to receive assistance.

This lady must leave her children in the care of her parents, and take a bus – including a switch-over to a second bus – throughout a long distance, in order to attend the TANF meetings for potential assistance.  She went to one meeting, and did not attend any of the others.  She feels tired and hopeless that she will ever receive the assistance and support that she needs in order to better herself and her circumstances.  For a young woman, she is the most passive and hopeless White single mother whom I know.  I have wondered, myself, if her circumstances involve incest or sexual assault, particularly because she lives with her family and she began having babies at the age of 14 or 15 years old.

Another woman whom I know is also White and single due to her husband’s death.  She is in her 30s, works as a hair dresser, and has four children, including a newborn.  Her husband committed suicide; he did not present with noticeable symptoms to her of being depressed or suicidal, however I would have considered him to be an alcoholic.  She is responsible for the four children, the family home, the costs of the recent remodeling done to the home. and the new truck.  She has received the assistance and support of her parents, as well as by some people in the community and through church.

Percentage of Children in Single Parent Families, 2000s (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/05/Petrilli_poverty_%26_schools.html)

Percentage of Children in Single Parent Families, 2000s (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/05/Petrilli_poverty_%26_schools.html)

Yet a further White woman whom I know is in her 40s, and is recently separated from her common law husband of 20 years, with one child.  While together, the woman and man had their struggles, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and went through a bankruptcy.  The woman has not worked in many years, does not have health insurance, and was reliant on the meager financial support of her common law husband and his parents.

This woman’s parents died when she was a child, and she, herself, was raised by her eldest brother.  She applied for food stamps and was required to provide documentation of her financial status, though she was unable to submit all documents because her partner refused to give them to her.  The food stamp case worker required her to jump through several hoops that she was unable to do because her partner was uncooperative, thus contributing to the further detriment of the woman and their child.

1988-2010 Graph of Poverty in America by Four Races of People (Source: http://tcf.org/blog/detail/graph-poverty-on-the-rise-in-america)

1988-2010 Graph of Poverty in America by Four Races of People (Source: http://tcf.org/blog/detail/graph-poverty-on-the-rise-in-america)

Regarding this woman, at one point, her broke down, and she was unable to pay for repairs, causing further hardship.  She and her partner, both, have had many sexual partners throughout their own relationship, with her partner openly speaking about his current mistress to her and their child.  The woman, herself, has intimate relationships with both men and women by meeting people on ashleymadison.com; some of these liaisons provide her with money and/or high ticket items that she uses to support herself and her child.  In short, she has become like a prostitute, trading sex for money and/or merchandise in order to survive.

A sixth woman whom I know is also a White single mother.  She is in her 20s, has one young daughter, and lives with her parents.  She works, but is not educated beyond high school.  When her daughter is not in school, her parents take care of the girl.  Of the women I have described above, this lady and her daughter might more closely “fit” what many people may believe is the appearance of being poor.  They are both very thin, and their clothing is of a lesser than average quality.  In cold weather, they both wear light-weight clothing and jackets that do not keep out the cold.  They do not speak of being in need, though it clearly appears that they are.

Another woman whom I know is White and in her 50s with one daughter.  She is divorced, and had been employed as an office manager at a small insurance company.  Two of the young male managers of her company praised and praised her for all of her wonderful work, overtime, and upgrading of the company, but were really being deceitful and fired her, taking over her position.  She filed for unemployment, but is having difficulty with her case because the managers are supporting each other and not her.  She was devastated at losing her job – her sole income; and she lost her home and possessions because her property went into foreclosure.

This lady is extremely depressed, and is taking anti-depressant medication.  She and her daughter now live in a rented room in someone’s residence.  She receives food stamps and welfare (TANF).  She had been attending regular TANF meetings, but has stopped coming out of her despair, devastation, and hopelessness.  She has no family in this area to help provide emotional or financial support.  I am very concerned about her, have given her some emotional support, and have privately prayed for her well-being.

These women are examples of some Caucasians in the Atlanta, Georgia area who are divorced and/or single mothers, and who are in poverty or in need.  All of these women – but for the sixth one – dress well, appear to be fit and healthy, and care for their children as best as they can.  Yet, they are often ignored and overlooked in their poverty because – as some have said they have been told – they don’t “look like” they are poor or in need.  These women are experiencing the invisibility of poverty of Whites who are single and/or divorced mothers.

2013 US Federal Poverty Guidelines (Source: Federal Register)

2013 US Federal Poverty Guidelines (Source: Federal Register)

I, for one, would just like to say that looks are deceiving.  The examples of invisible poverty experienced by the women I have described herein are just that – that looks are deceiving.  Just because the women do not “appear” to be poor, impoverished, or in need does not mean that they are not.  People make all kinds of incorrect assumptions and misjudgments about others simply based on the way that they look on the outside, but sometimes, those notions couldn’t be more wrong.

Because there are more Black and Hispanics who are impoverished in the US than other groups, these are the populations that one might typically think of when generalizing about those who are poor.  On any given day, if one visits a local welfare office in and around Atlanta, about half of the people waiting for assistance are Black and the other half are Hispanic.  There are typically no (or extremely few) people of other races there who can be observed seeking assistance.  That leaves Whites at the bottom.

2008 US Child Poverty (Source:http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_912.html)

2008 US Child Poverty (Source:http://www.nccp.org/ publications/pub_912.html)

Because Caucasians are the majority race in the US, and because they experience the lowest rates of poverty in our country, there is an invisibility of poverty among Whites, especially among White mothers who are single and/or divorced, and their children.  Even while researching online to obtain information and images for this article, I did a search on Google, using the key words, “poverty in America,” and found only two images of White women (with their children) in poverty; one image was a famous Depression-era photo.  This is yet further evidence of the invisibility of the poverty of White single mothers in America.

More aid, assistance, and support is needed for White mothers who are single and/or divorced.  Better opportunities for child care, education, and employment are also needed for this population.  Too many White single mothers and their children are being ignored and overlooked in their poverty.  White single mothers and their children need not experience the invisibility of poverty because they are White.  This country can and must do better for those who are in need, especially those who are most vulnerable, overlooked, and invisible.

References

DeGraw, D. (2010).  Census Bureau poverty rate drastically undercounts severity of poverty in America.  AmpedStatus.  http://ampedstatus.com/census-bureau-poverty-rate-drastically-undercounts-severity-of-poverty-in-america/.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Federal Register (2013).  2013 HHS poverty guidelines.  Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 16, pp. 5182-5183Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Fight Poverty (2006).  Child poverty rates across the states, 2004.  Doors to Diplomacy 2006.  http://fightpoverty.mmbrico.com/facts/america.htmlRetrieved November 25, 2013.

First Coast News (2011).  Poverty rates rise in America.  First Coast News.  http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/218773/0/Poverty-Rate-Rises-In-America.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Landy, B. (2011).  Blog of the Century: Graph: Poverty on the rise in America.  The Century Foundation.  http://tcf.org/blog/detail/graph-poverty-on-the-rise-in-americaRetrieved November 25, 2013.

Meier, D. (2013).  Bridging differences: What we talk about when we talk about poverty.  Education Week.  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/05/Petrilli_poverty_%26_schools.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

National American Indian Housing Council (2013).  NAIHC: Native Housing Update: HAC release report and map on rural areas, poverty & housing in America.  http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs165/1102839656375/archive/1112744786740.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Rogers, S. (2011).  US poverty: Where are the super poor?  The Guardian.  http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/nov/03/us-poverty-poorest.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Wallace, B. (2012).  Poverty in America infographic.  Z6 Mag.  http://z6mag.com/lifestyle/poverty-in-america-inforgraphic-1613292.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Wight, V.R., Chau, M., & Aratani, Y. (2010).  Who are America’s poor children?  National Center for Children in Poverty.  http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_912.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

“Fantastic Swimming Experience at Local Park Pool” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Enjoying a Summer Swimming Lesson, Briscoe Park, Snellville, Georgia, July 2013

My Son Enjoying a Summer Swimming Lesson, Briscoe Park, Snellville, Georgia, July 2013

For the past five years, my son has taken Summer swimming lessons at Snellville’s Briscoe Park.  For four of those five years, the area business, Positively Pools, has been contracted to provide life guards, swimming instructors, supervisors, and maintenance for the pool.  It is my absolute pleasure to share the overall wonderful experiences my son has had in taking swimming lessons, as well as in swimming recreationally at the pool.

I would like to take this time, therefore, to thank the managers and staff of Briscoe Park, as well as the employees of Positively Pools for consistently providing my family with such outstanding experiences with swimming at Briscoe Park.  Folks such as Justin, Stephen, Amber, Gabby, Deluir, Gabby, and so many others have repeatedly evidenced their exceptional professionalism, customer service, courtesy, and expertise to us. 

Thank you, everyone, for all of your hard work, commitment, and dedication to consistently doing the best of your ability in being flexible, open-minded, professional, courteous, and dedicated.  It is folks like you who help make swimming an enjoyable and safe experience for everyone – and that’s how it should be.  Keep up the great work!

“Student Exodus from Area Parochial School Could be Avoided” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

St. John Neumann School Billboard, August 12, 2013, Lilburn, Georgia

St. John Neumann School Billboard, August 12, 2013, Lilburn, Georgia

During this Summer of 2013, 15 rising fourth grade students left St. John Neumann Regional Catholic School in Lilburn, Georgia.  Only three new students entered the fourth grade in addition to the 15 who left.  During the Summer of 2012, eight rising third grade students left the school.  Only two students entered the school as new pupils in the third grade.  Interestingly, both of those students also left the school this Summer, after only one year at the school.  Additionally, the vast majority of students who have left are Caucasian; most others are of mixed race parentage.  Each year for the past three years, the school has considerably down-sized in terms of student population as well as faculty.  Currently, all grade levels have two classes; it used to be that most or all grade levels had three classes up until three years ago.

As a person who has been Roman Catholic all of my life, and who has provided a Catholic education to my child, the exodus of students and faculty from St. John Neumann School is concerning and disturbing.  One must ask, then, why there are so many who are leaving the school.  I have the answers to that, and it does not necessarily involve finances, budgets, or economics.

I suspect that I will come across as “the bad guy” to many by sharing this information regarding the school, however it is for my concern for students’ welfare, well-being, safety, and positive growth and development that I am doing so.  Additionally, my son is aware that I have a blog, and he also asked me to include his perspectives; my son is 10-years-old.

First, let me state that St. John Neumann School provides an outstanding – outstanding – education to the students.  Overall, my observations of what students learn through the challenging curriculum are well above my expectations.  Each year that my son was a student at St. John Neumann School, however, was a roller coaster.  There were wonderful and memorable experiences that he had with several outstanding teachers, however there were also many situations that he experienced by peers and adults at the school that were mentally and emotionally harmful and injurious to him. 

I often communicated with both school administrators and school system administrators, encouraging that greater sensitivity, compassion, and understanding be provided to the students.  Some of my suggestions were put into place, and some were not, and some were later removed after they were first implemented.  As an involved parent at the school, as well as an active volunteer for five years there, there was much that I personally observed and/or was informed about by students.  By far, the most serious issue facing students is the bullying, harshness, and often insensitive treatment they experience by administrators and certain teachers and staff.  I often encouraged upper administrators in the past five years to hold sensitivity training for employees of the school, though that never occurred.

Another very serious issue at the school is bullying that students’ experience from their own peers.  Some children repeatedly experienced bullying from teachers, adminstrators, and/or other staff, as well as certain peers.  This has created an unnecessary and avoidable stressful and hostile environment for many students.  One problem is because many of the school employees are so harsh and insensitive toward students, they are bullies themselves, and they therefore do not recognize, nor put a stop to student bullying.  Last year, more than 25% of parents responding to a school survey stated that bullying is a problem at the school.  I am one who has, again, encouraged school system administrators to hold anti-bullying and bullying prevention programs for faculty and staff at the school, however that has also never occurred.  Such training may help reduce bullying and increase sensitivity and compassion of adults and students toward other students.

A further big concern is the overwhelming pressure that is placed on students to be perfect in every area and in every way – academics, behavior, sociality, religion, and extra-curriculars.  Beginning with the youngest children, students who do not complete their homework are regularly disciplined.  In the past, teachers required students to stand outside for 5-10 minutes “on the line” – as they would say, on the outdoor paved parking lot play area, typically in the excessive heat.  This was an unspoken rule practiced by primary and early elementary school teachers and paraprofessionals.  Older children who did not complete homework are required to write answers to particular questions on a “behavior reflection” that reduces or eliminates their 15-20 minutes of recess time. 

St. John Neumann School Parking Lot Play Area, Lilburn, Georgia, May 2012

St. John Neumann School Parking Lot Play Area, Lilburn, Georgia, May 2012

For two of the past five years, another unspoken disciplinary rule practiced by at least three school faculty involved making students walk and/or run “laps” outside during recess on the parking lot, again, typically in the excessive heat.  Sadly, this practice appears to be somewhat of a common, unwritten practice in this area – requiring students to run laps as punishment in excessively high temperatures – as I have discovered that it occurs at many schools.  In regard to one second grade boy, I informed his father that he was required to run laps as punishment by a paraprofessional, outside in the searing heat, and the dad did not believe me.  How sad that some parents are not more concerned about what their child is experiencing at school.

Other teachers at the school regularly separated certain students from their classmates by requiring them to keep their desks far-removed from those of other students, whether for certain assignments or even months at a time.  I often observed where many teachers would use guilt, humiliation, and embarassment toward students to demoralize them into doing what they wanted them to, rather than speak to children with respect, compassion, and understanding. 

Early elementary students are also required to miss 45 minutes of lunch and recess by serving detention in the main office, including for extremely minor offenses.  Such harsh and unnecessary punishments are unethical, demoralizing, and depressing to many students, particulary those outstanding students who get caught in the crossfires of the political drama at the school.  In consulting with employees of other area schools, lengthy detentions are required only in the most severe situations of high school – high school – students, not early elementary students!  I personally requested of school administration to reduce or eliminate this practice, though there was no positive change, and in fact, only a worsening of it, amounting to nothing less than emotional sadism toward students.  When those who are charged with caring for children see nothing wrong with such unnecessary, harsh disciplinary action toward children for the most minor of offenses, definite positive change is needed. 

Also in practice at the school is suspending children as young as second grade – to my knowledge; one very sweet little girl was suspended last Spring for I cannot imagine what.  In other area schools, such a practice of issuing out-of-school suspensions to the youngest students is unheard of and entirely taboo.  Such a practice proves the lack of sensitivity, understanding, and compassion by school administration.

I feel sorry for the students who are at St. John Neumann School due to the harshness, coldness, and lack of sensitivity and compassion that so many experience from alot of adults as well as peers at the school.  I have often encouraged those in charge who could make a positive difference to consider being more sensitive, understanding, kind, and compassionate toward students.   Harsh, demoralizing, excessive, and/or inhumane punishments that are disguised as “disciplinary actions” – even for the most minor of wrongs – are well beyond what school employees should expect of children.

When students get seriously hurt or ill at the school, a parent is lucky to get a phone call or communication about the incident from anyone.  A second-grade student got a serious blow to the head during outdoor play, but no ice was placed on the injury and no phone call was made to parents.  Upon picking up the child from school, it was obvious to the parent that the injury was serious.  When the child spoke of dizziness a number of hours after the injury, the parent took the child to their pediatrician. 

A kindergarten student fell in the hallway and sustained a large gash near her chin.  Parents received no communications from the school about the incident, and only a band-aid was placed on the wound.  Upon removing the band-aid after the child got home, the parent observed the depth of the wound, taking her to the emergency medical clinic where she received four stitches.  There have also been instances in which students were genuinely ill, but when they asked to go to the clinic, they were refused by certain teachers and paraprofessionals.  Keep in mind that absolutely no communications to parents by anyone at the school was made in any of these situations.

Safety is also a concern at the school.  There are no security cameras at the school, so there is no tangible record of situations that occur there – it is one person’s word against another’s.  A parent can inform an administrator about a teacher who belittles, bullies, and yells at a student – such as, simply for asking to use the restroom – but without any recording of it, the administrator does not believe it, does not want to get involved, and further, had already behaved in a bullyish manner toward children, so it is a lost cause.

Additionally, even with improved security measures having been implemented at the school this past Spring, it has not actually gotten better.  All visitors are to sign-in at the front office upon entering the building, however have been many occasion – including since the new policies were implemented – that I personally observed people enter and walk through the building without signing in at all, nor going to the main office.  There are also repeated instances of no one being at the front desk at the main office when people enter the school. 

St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, August 2013

St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, August 2013

Last Spring, there was an actual “intruder alert” that occurred at the school that was not a drill; I was at the school volunteering when it occurred.  Parents were not informed by any school officials that the intruder alert occurred.  While the Superintendent stated in an archdiocese newspaper article that such drills and procedures regularly occur at all schools, a teacher at the school shared that only one such alert – whether actual or drill – occurred there in the past seven years!  If she means that such alerts and/or drills occur every seven years, she would be correct that they occur regularly, however it has been my experience that many public schools, for example, practice them between 2-4 times each year.  Because these drills and alerts are not “regularly” practiced at the school, many teachers really do not know what to do.  When fire and even tornado drills are practiced more than intruder drills, I for one, am concerned about the safety of my child at the school.

Teachers are also known to leave outside doors propped or even slightly ajar when they are supposed to be closed and locked.  Unfortunately, this is also a practice at many schools, so that late colleagues can enter the school undetected by supervisors.  However, that this is regularly being done on the hallway that houses the youngest children is a serious safety concern.

Again, I will likely be viewed as the bearer of bad news by sharing this information, however I believe that steps need to be taken to make improvements in order to progress rather than regress at St. John Neumann School.  I know I won’t win any awards for my article.  That my son – a 10-year-old – also wanted me to share his views about what he experienced at the school reflects the tone and atmosphere that is present at the school. 

While we have had many wonderful and memorable experiences at the school, as well as having met, interacted with, and befriended many people – including some truly great teachers – it is a serious concern when a school does not live up to it’s mission and standards.  When “teaching the Gospel values” of God and Jesus in the Catholic tradition is merely spoken but not actually practiced by many school representatives, there is definitely something that must change for the better. 

So, at $7,000 per student in tuition only, St. John Neumann lost a total of 18 students from the second and third grades in the past two years.  I think that’s a total of $126,000 if I did my math correctly, right?  That’s alot of money to be losing.  In business, it is always said that it is much easier to retain those people who are already part of an institution rather than recruit new ones.  However, in sharing my perspectives about this to both school administrators and school system administrators, there has been an apathy and lack of concern about it.  For me, personally, as a Catholic and having desired for my child to have a Catholic education, this is a serious concern. 

Thus, the reasons that I have described herein, I believe, are those that have caused the increasing exodus from and diminished size of St. John Neumann School in Lilburn, Georgia.  Isn’t it time for a positive change?  My aim in sharing this information is not to be critical, however it is to be honest and urge for positive change and improvements to occur at the school.  St. John Neumann is surely an excellent school at which students receive an outstanding education.  And again, while we have had many wonderful, exciting, and happy memories at the school, there are also a number of issues that deserve both serious attention and improvement. 

It is definitely disappointing when a school of one’s own faith does not meet minimal expectations regarding the value and treatment of children.  Children should not be perceived, nor treated as bad what with issuing so many unnecessary and harsh punishments; it is the perspectives and training of the adults that need drastic improvement.  Maybe if more people put their heads together, praying and working hard in doing what is in the best interests of children, that will occur.

“Neighborhoods that have Gone to the Dogs” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

When was the last time that you were able to take a stroll on your street or in your neighborhood, and not be bothered in some way by a loose dog?  Really, I cannot even walk down my own street and enjoy a leisurely walk with my son and dog without being approached and/or attempt to be attacked by some territorial and/or aggressive dog! 

These situations that I have encountered (with or without my son and dog) of being unable to experience a calm and peaceful walk on my street or in my neighborhood have reached beyond the level of patience, and have entered into the realm of frustration and discouragement.   A neighbor is not a good neighbor if he or she allows his or her dog to run loose.  Whenever I am out walking – whether with or without my son and dog – somebody’s loose dog always finds me.  And, while there is absolutely no reason for the dog to feel threatened, it is going to act like a dog, becoming territorial and/or aggressive, as I have experienced on the majority of occasions.

Pit Bulls may Appear to be Calm, but can be Unpredictable, Retrieved from http://greyhoundinjuryfund.wordpress.com/tag/foster-pit-bulls/

Pit Bulls may Appear to be Calm, but can be Unpredictable, Retrieved from http://greyhoundinjuryfund.wordpress.com/
tag/foster-pit-bulls/

In the past month, I have taken five walks on my street with my dog, with four of the five of those walks also with my son.  On four of the five occasions, we have been approached by a territorial and/or aggressive dog.  I have reached the point with people’s dogs where it has crossed the line; enough is enough.  Literally every time I go out on my street to take a walk, I encounter some confrontation with someone’s loose dog.

The new people who moved in on my street two months ago have completely ignored the leash law that is on the books in my city.  They have a brown male pit bull dog and a black Labrador retriever.  Both dogs ran up to us in a territorial and/or aggressive manner in the street and away from their own property while we were on our walks.  Neither of the dogs backed off, but instead came closer, with one barking and growling at us.  Both dogs got a face of mace, with one getting it twice before it backed off. 

On the encounter with the black Lab owned by the new neighbors, the owner came out of her house when she heard her dog barking, calling the dog inside, at which point I pleasantly informed her about the leash law and to please keep her dog leashed.  I also called the police in regard to both instances, and on both occasions, action was taken by the authorities which is very much appreciated!  Police who take these issues seriously provide a wonderful and needed community service to protect citizens such as myself and my family.  I have since found that these neighbors paid the citation that they were issued; being ticketed and fined appears to cause dog owners to take these situations more seriously. 

Black Labrador Retriever, Retrieved from http://lesliedenning.com/musings-from-the-lake/

Black Labrador Retriever, Retrieved from http://lesliedenning.com/musings-from-the-lake/

Another neighbor on my street has a white poodle and a brown female pit bull dog.  A similar type of situation occurred regarding the bit bull in which I was walking my dog, and the pit bull ran up to us in the street, this time at the location of it’s property/territory.  The pit bull felt so territorially-threatened simply by us walking down the street that it ran up to us with it’s fur raised on it’s back.  The owner was in his back shed, and I yelled out to him, asking if he could call his dog, and he did as I shared with him what had occurred.  He said that the dog is timid, however that he would put her in her pen.  Typically, this dog owner is reliable, however there is always that one time that is unpredictable.

Just today, my son and I were walking down our street with our dog again, and guess what?  You got it, there was a loose white poodle that approached us and tried to attack both my son and I.  This dog belongs to yet another neighbor in the cul de sac nearest to us.  Those dog owners also have at least two Labrador retrievers, as well, though they are always maintained in the fenced backyard. 

White Poodle, Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_Standard_Poodle.jpg

White Poodle, Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/
wiki/File:White_Standard_Poodle.jpg

Regarding this particular poodle, it was barking aggressively and ran over to us from fully two yards away from it’s own property, trying to bite me. To defend myself, I was flailing my leg, trying to kick it, but instead, my sandal flew off.  My son ran in the other direction away from the dog, and the dog went off chasing him.  I called to my son to stop, otherwise the dog would bite him, and I threw my sandal at it.  When the owner came looking for her dog, I explained what happened, and she was very uncaring and insensitive about it.  I therefore stated that she keep her dog on a leash, or I would call the police.

In my current neighborhood, in the past five years, there have also been three other occasions during which I have been approached by other brown male pit bull dogs in a territorial and/or aggressive manner.  It has been because of those occasions that I began carrying dog mace.  I do not desire to be a prisoner of my own street or neighborhood because of being unable to take a leisurely stroll, but without mace or some other protection from people’s loose, aggressive and/or territorial dogs, that is what is necessary to protect oneself at the minimum.

In my previous neighborhood in which I lived, during a three year period, I was approached in an aggressive and/or territorial manner by several of the pit bull dogs owned by one particular family.  In those three years, I called the police in regard to those encounters on four occasions.  While the county animal control agency responded on each occasion, it took four times of calling the police in order for these people to get fined, and to finally begin making sure that their dogs remained penned or leashed. 

These occasions were particularly sensitive because they occurred during a time when my son was a baby and/or toddler, and we did not have a fenced backyard.  Therefore, these pit bulls from three doors up the street from us were often loose, even approaching us while we were in our back yard.  Imagine peacefully playing with your toddler in your backyard, and then staring at a pit bull coming toward you.  I remember that on that occasion, all I had for protection was a broom, which I held at the dog while telling it to go away. 

Here in the Atlanta area, it appears that the dog of choice for many people is the pit bull.  While many people like pit bulls and tell of how wonderful they are, I disagree.  On each and every encounter that I have had with a pit bull – particularly the male pit bulls – they are territorial and/or aggressive, sometimes ferociously aggressive.  And, there is no reason for it.  A person cannot even take a peaceful, leisurely walk in their own neighborhood without having to constantly watch out for and protect oneself from someone’s loose, nasty dog.  All it would take is for people to be sure that their dog is leashed and/or properly maintained in a fenced backyard or pen so that it is unable to get loose. 

So, here around Atlanta, there are many neighborhoods that have gone to the dogs.  Too many people are inconsiderate of their neighbors, and are unable to simply keep their dogs leashed or in their fenced backyard.  In fact, of each of the dogs who have approached me and/or my son, dog, and I on our walks, all of their dog owners have fenced backyards.  Rather than maintain the dogs in the fenced backyards, however, they allow them to run loose.  This certainly creates an unfair situation for all of us dog owners who always leash and control our dogs, and it creates an unnecessary stressful and hostile situation between people who are outside walking and the dogs that have been allowed to run loose. 

It would be nice to be able to take a walk on my street and in my neighborhood, and enjoy it rather than have to face and confront another loose, territorial, and/or aggressive dog that someone has allowed to run loose.  It would be nice, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  There is a leash law in my city, but most people in my neighborhood disregard it.  These people are not good neighbors, and more than that, they are contributing to a situation that may be potentially harmful and injurious for others.  

Therefore, would like to appeal to everyone to keep your dogs leashed or in your fenced backyard, for the enjoyment and safety of everyone.  Dogs can do much harm and injury to people (as reflected in two of the photo sections shown herein) – and even cause death.  All of this is unnecessary if dog owners would remain mindful about their pets, keeping them properly controlled at all times.

“Fun at Annual ScoutBlast Scout Show” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

At Scoutblast Scout Show, Lawrenceville, Georgia, April 27, 2013

At ScoutBlast Scout Show, Lawrenceville, Georgia, April 27, 2013

For the past three years, my family has enjoyed attending and/or participating in the Scoutblast Scout Show at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds in Lawrenceville, Georgia.  This year, the Scout Show was held during this past weekend, April 26-28, 2013.  My son attended this year’s event as a lone scout with me as his leader.

A Lilburn Boy Scout Making a Double Helix Bracelet for my Son, Scoutblast Scout Show, Lawrenceville, Georgia, April 27, 2013

A Lilburn Boy Scout Making a Double Helix Bracelet for my Son, ScoutBlast Scout Show, Lawrenceville, Georgia, April 27, 2013

This year, my son had opportunities to observe and/or participate in activities that he had not done previously.  For one, he had the pleasure of having a double helix bracelet be made for him by another local scout whom he knows, and who is an excellent role model. 

My Son with his Double Helix Bracelet, Scoutblast Scout Show, Lawrenceville, Georgia, April 27, 2013

My Son with his Double Helix Bracelet, ScoutBlast Scout Show, Lawrenceville, Georgia, April 27, 2013

The Boy Scouts from the Lilburn group who created the double helix bracelets truly had their work cut out for them as the bracelets were extremely popular with everyone, from children to adults.

Chess Activity Opportunity for Scouts, Scoutblast Scout Show, Lawrenceville, Georgia, April 27, 2013

Chess Activity Opportunity for Scouts, ScoutBlast Scout Show, Lawrenceville, Georgia, April 27, 2013

Additionally, for nearly one hour, my son participated in the chess activity for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.  Cub Scouts had the opportunity to earn a chess belt loop.  My son has completed enough requirements to earn both a belt loop and pin.

Chess Activity Opportunity for Scouts, Scoutblast Scout Show, Lawrenceville, Georgia, April 27, 2013

Chess Activity Opportunity for Scouts, ScoutBlast Scout Show, Lawrenceville, Georgia, April 27, 2013

Interestingly, the much older Boy Scout who played my son told his friend, prior to the match, that it would be easy to beat my son, as I overheard him say.  Indeed, the match was very challenging.  Further, even though a troop leader approached the boys’ match and coached the Boy Scout in his troop, my son defeated his opponent.  It was a great feeling of accomplishment for my son.

There were also many other fun and interesting activities at Scoutblast for the boys to do, including weekend camping, blasting small objects from a makeshift plastic pipe cannon, shooting off small rockets, observing and enjoying model train sets, and earning other belt loops, such as in marbles, geology, and other areas.

For the two years prior to this, my son participated in the District’s Pinewood Derby Championships, representing his pack.  This year, he did not have the opportunity to do so, however, he still enjoyed a wonderful time at the Annual Scoutblast Scout Show!

“Great Experience at Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

For nearly the past three months, my son has been a member of his school’s chess club in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.  For six months, he contemplated being involved in Chess Club at St. John Neumann School in Lilburn, Georgia, and finally took the plunge in February 2013.  The Chess Club at his school includes students who are in 2nd through 8th grades, and has two of the school’s teachers as experienced co-advisors.

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

The Chess Club at my son’s school typically meets once per week throughout the academic year after school, except for the month of May.  Regular meetings and practice in the game of chess has helped my son to develop and polish some of his skills, even as a beginner at the game.

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

Even as a beginner and only having played and practiced chess for a little over two months, my son tied for fourth place among approximately 50 students who participated in the kindergarten through third grade level at the Archdiocesan’s Chess Tournament, held this year at Berry College Elementary School on April 13, 2013.  To me, as a person who knows nothing about chess, this is an impressive accomplishment!  Three other students from my son’s school received recognition for placing in the top three spots in their grade levels, as well. 

I am happy that my son has an extracurricular activity at school at which he enjoys and excels.  Now, I will have to study about and learn how to play chess so my son doesn’t beat me every time! 🙂

 

“Beautiful Spring Flowers Blooming in Georgia” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Beautiful flowers are in bloom all over Georgia right now.  Today, I took photographs of many beautiful azaleas, wisteria, dogwood blossoms, lilacs, camellias, and other flowers.  I am more knowledgeable of certain flowers over others, so I ask for your patience if I have misidentified any of them.  Please enjoy the following photo collage of many of the beautiful flowers that are presently in bloom in my neighborhood near Atlanta!

Beautiful Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Beautiful Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia,
April 17, 2013

White Azalea Bush and Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 17, 2013

White Azalea Bush and Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Medium Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Medium Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Red Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Red Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Another Red Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Another Red Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Small Purple Flowers, Georgia, April 2013

Small Purple Flowers, Georgia, April 2013

Hot Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Hot Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Dogwood Blossoms, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Pink Dogwood Blossoms, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Beautiful Purple Flowers (Wisteria?), Georgia, April 17, 2013

Beautiful Purple Wisteria, Georgia,
April 17, 2013

Lilac Flowers, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Lilac Flowers, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Camellias, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Camellias, Georgia, April 17, 2013

White Dogwood Flowers, Georgia, April 17, 2013

White Dogwood Flowers, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Pink Tulip, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Pink Tulip, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Pansies, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Pansies, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Yellow Iris, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Yellow Iris, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Purple Iris, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Purple Iris, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Beautiful Purple Azalea Bush in my Area, Georgia, April 21, 2013

Beautiful Purple Azalea Bush in my Area, Georgia, April 21, 2013

Purple Petunias, Georgia, April 24, 2013

Purple Petunias, Georgia, April 24, 2013

Maroon Iris, Georgia, April 24, 2013

Maroon Iris, Georgia, April 24, 2013

White Irises, Georgia, April 24, 2013

White Irises, Georgia, April 24, 2013

More Purple Irises, Georgia, April 24, 2013

More Purple Irises, Georgia, April 24, 2013

Another Medium Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 24, 2013

Another Medium Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 24, 2013

There certainly are many beautiful flowers in bloom right now in my area.  Many of the trees and flowers blossomed later this year because the cooler weather stayed with us longer than usual.  We had daffodils in January because it was mild, but then, the weather turned cooler again.  So, we have the flowers to enjoy a bit later in the season this year.