At the 2017 National Jamboree

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My son and I at the 2017 National Jamboree, Summit Bechtel Reserve, West Virginia, July 24, 2017

For more than the past week, my son and his Boy Scout Troop 3127 with the Northeast Georgia Boy Scout Council have been at the 2017 National Jamboree!  There are 33 scouts in his troop, and 3 scout leaders.  My son is a member of the second council contingent troop for our council; there is another troop with approximately the same number of people attending Jamboree, as well.

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My son at the Summit Bechtel Reserve – 2017 National Jamboree, July 24, 2017

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience people from around the country, including many international scouters from around the world, who have come to the National Jamboree!

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My son with his base camp in the background. 2017 National Jamboree; July 24, 2017

I had the pleasure of visiting my son at the 2017 National Jamboree, held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, near Beckley this week.

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My son at the West Virginia State Police exhibit, 2017 National Jamboree, July 25, 2017

While I had to leave early on Monday due to President Trump’s visit and speech at the National Jamboree, I visited all day on Tuesday.

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My son standing in line, awaiting his turn at the U.S. Army simulator, 2017 National Jamboree, July 25, 2017

It was a wonderful experience to visit my son at the 2017 National Jamboree, and walk around (lots of walking!) the area, enjoying various exhibits, meeting people, and trading patches.

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My son at the U.S. Navy simulation area, 2017 National Jamboree, July 25, 2017

I especially appreciate the presence of the West Virginia State Police and Fayetteville Sheriffs in and around the 2017 National Jamboree.  It was great to observe the many police and sheriffs stationed around the area, for everyone’s safety and protection.

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My son with Regis, the bald eagle, and his handler. 2017 National Jamboree; July 25, 2017

On Monday, my son heard President Trump’s speech, after lining up to enter the speech/arena area with his troop at around 1:00 PM.  It was an all-afternoon wait to hear Trump talk – and while his speech was controversial for some, he did have many good things to say to the scouts.

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My son talking with an Eagle Scout Association representative. 2017 National Jamboree; July 25, 2017

On Tuesday, my son and I spent most of the day on Freedom Trail where the military and police exhibits are located.  My son really enjoyed participating in the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy simulation experiences.  He also received patches from military personnel, there, as well.

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My son talking with a scout representative at the Commissioner’s Tent. 2017 National Jamboree; July 25, 2017

While there was much walking, it was pleasant to talk with many fellow scouters at the 2017 National Jamboree!

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My son with Venturers from the Grand Teton Council. 2017 National Jamboree; July 25, 2017

We spoke with many kind folks at different areas, including the National Eagle Scout Association Tent (where we also saw Regis the bald eagle); William T. Hornaday Award Tent; Commissioner’s Tent; and others.

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My son with a scout representative at the William T. Hornaday Award Tent. 2017 National Jamboree; July 25, 2017

My son also earned a merit badge in mining – right there in coal mining country! And, he earned a religious award, a scouting award, and attended both a worship service and a mass on Sunday.  He has also spent time enjoying the Sustainability Tree House.

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My son at the Sustainability Tree House. 2017 National Jamboree; July 25, 2017

Yesterday, my son participated with his troop on a hiking trek up Garden Ground Mountain. Last Friday, his troop completed a Day of Service by painting three picnic pavilions at a local park. He has been keeping busy!

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My son with members of his troop, painting a picnic pavilion, for their Day of Service. 2017 National Jamboree; July 21, 2017

There is so much to do and see, and so little time at the 2017 National Jamboree.  I’m happy for the opportunity that my son and I have had to be at there!  I had a great time!

Yellowstone was Nice, except for some Park Rangers

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My son and I at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, July 9, 2017

My son and I visited Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park in the past week.  We enjoyed seeing beautiful scenery, picturesque views, and wildlife in only a few days of visiting both of these parks.

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My son at Roosevelt Arch, Yellowstone National Park, July 8, 2017

Yellowstone is a huge park, with primary points of interest scattered around it.  That caused much driving and time on the road to see places such as Mammoth Hot Springs; Steamboat Geyser at the Norris Geyser Area; the Roosevelt Arch; Yellowstone Lake; Grand Prismatic Spring; Mud Volcanoes; and of course, Old Faithful.  We enjoyed seeing bison, elk, cranes, deer, and other wildlife.

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Bison at Yellowstone National Park, July 8, 2017 (zoomed in)

We drove to Yellowstone through Grand Teton National Park, and enjoyed amazing mountain views, beautiful lakes, and pretty wildflowers.  We saw a herd of bison some miles outside of Grand Teton National Park, between Jackson, Wyoming.  And, Teton Gap, driving down into Jackson was pretty amazing, too!  What a view, and such pleasant weather and temperatures we enjoyed!

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Elk at Yellowstone National Park, July 9, 2017 (zoomed in)

Besides all of the driving, and delays from road construction in Yellowstone, the most unpleasant thing we experienced, overall, were interactions with park rangers.  One of the first encounters with a Yellowstone park ranger was outside the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs.  He was a self-appointed Elk Police Officer who was totally over the top in accosting, stalking, and harassing my son and I while observing and photographing elk near the visitor center.

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Grand Teton National Park, July 8, 2017

On July 9, my son and I were at least 50 feet away from several elk and their young that were laying on the ground, yet the park ranger accosted us from his position across the street, telling us to stay away from the elk! At 50 feet away, he yelled at us to stay away from the elk, and then, he stalked and continued to harass us about it as I called to him that we were going to our car.  He actually crossed the street, harassed us, and followed us to our car.  He only left us alone once we got in our car.  I told the guy to get lost, and he replied the same to me!  Wow, what was his problem!?  He was definitely extremely unprofessional, and a pathetic example of the park rangers employed at Yellowstone.

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Yellowstone River at Yellowstone National Park, July 8, 2017

That was the worst experience we had at Yellowstone, and one to cause me not to want to return.  We definitely don’t need to be treated in such a horrible manner!  There were also two other instances of park rangers at Yellowstone being less than professional.  One accosted us from afar, again, at Old Faithful.  We reached down to touch water on the boardwalk, and the guy told us we committed a “federal crime.” Really?  We were on the boardwalk, and he was trying to tell us we weren’t.  Was he blind?

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Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, July 10, 2017 (zoomed in)

Chalk that up to another sexist male park ranger who has issues with women – or at least single women.  Neither of the those rangers treated men in the same manner.  On the boardwalk, a man reached down and touched water, and nothing was said to him.  And, at Albright with the elk, there were two other instances of men my son and I observed who were no more than 10 feet away from the elk, taking pictures, but the Elk Cop didn’t harass or stalk them, or make them feel threatened by chasing them into their cars.

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Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, July 10, 2017 (zoomed in)

Yet another park ranger refused to allow me to use a restroom in a campground.  I had to drive to another location 12 miles away to use the restroom for goodness sakes!  There were at least as many negative as positive interactions we had with park rangers at Yellowstone.  We did have good experiences hearing rangers give talks at Steamboat Geyser and the Norris Educational Center.  Thank you, Rangers Diana and Laurie, for those educational and interesting ranger talks. Your professionalism helped make our visit a little more enjoyable. My son also earned a junior ranger patch by completing the associated book; thank you to Ranger Jim for making that a positive experience for him.

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A waterfall at Yellowstone National Park, July 9, 2017

That stated, my son and I enjoyed a fun time at Yellowstone, overall.  Visiting Jackson, Wyoming, and seeing the Teton Mountains was lovely, too.  It would have been nicer, however, to photograph a few elk without being unnecessarily and unprofessionally harassed by a park ranger, especially after traveling across the country and spending $1,000s to visit Yellowstone.  While Yellowstone is not my favorite park of all of the national parks I’ve visited, it was nice to see and good to have as protected land, even though some of the park rangers need to work on their people skills!

 

Do People Think Before They Act at Church Functions?

St. John Neumann Church Sanctuary, Lilburn, Georgia (Retrieved from Pinterest.com, July 2, 2016)

St. John Neumann Church Sanctuary, Lilburn, Georgia (Retrieved from Pinterest.com, July 2, 2016)

If one does not have continual time to volunteer in and/or be active in church functions, is he or she no longer needed at church?  And therefore, with regard to those within the church who make such decisions about others’ involvement, do they truly think before they act and/or put themselves in the others’ shoes?  These are the questions that I will seek to answer in the present post, based on certain experiences I have had at my church and within my faith, in general.

Throughout my life and within my faith, regardless of the church of which I have been a member, I have noticed that if one is not continually available to help, volunteer, assist, and/or otherwise minister within the church, he or she is not needed, or at least, does not appear to be as valued in the church as those who do.  Additionally, there appears to be a lack of consistency between people, philosophies, and perspectives in relation to value, importance, and need regarding members who volunteer and/or who are simply involved in various church activities.  All it takes is for one person to be unappreciative, disrespectful, and/or offensive, and it casts a poor reflection on the whole group.  This causes the church to potentially lose people and/or for some members to take their time and talents elsewhere.

Within the past five years, there have been four particular activities that I have been involved in at my church at St. John Neumann in Lilburn, Georgia, as well as two activities that my son has been involved in there, within which there has been this inconsistency of value, understanding, and/or appreciation toward us.  In describing several of those activities to follow, suffice it to say that this number of activities (6) is too many within which not to be valued or appreciated, to the point in two cases to be downright offended by others’ conduct.

While there are also many activities, volunteer efforts, and other church involvements in which we have been valued and appreciated, it was during those times that we also had much time and energy to invest in such activities.  They were also activities and efforts in which we were agreeable and accepting of the experience we had.  They were activities within which the leadership was good and the event was safe, proceeding well.  In instances, however, where leadership has been questionable and/or the event biased in some way, having identified those situations to church leadership and positive change was not observed, these have also been experiences in which feedback appears to have been used as a reason to alienate and/or exclude.

The mission of many Christian-based churches often includes being open to and accepting of all people.  This, however, appears to be true only if one continually has much time and/or money to invest in the church, and/or as long as there is no disagreement with anything that occurs within the church.  As an approved volunteer with a clean background check, I take offense when I am treated like a criminal in coming to pick up my child from youth group, find the church doors to be locked, and prevented from entering by the group’s volunteer leaders, as one example.  While this, in fact, may be a safety measure, it can also be viewed that the leadership has something to hide.  When I am unable to have access to my child, no less in a completely voluntary-type setting, and am treated as being guilty before being innocent, this is a major concern.  The church has itself to blame, in covering up countless abuses of children by religious, and must not treat concerned parents as criminals.

Some time ago, at a church potluck dinner, I was admonished by two senior citizens (a man and a woman) for filling an extra plate to take home to my family.  The woman stated that I should leave more food for others, and I explained to her my financial need.  The man stated to me that I basically was taking too much chicken.  In response to him, I was so offended that I said nothing.  Why is it that people are unable to put themselves in another’s shoes, even in one’s own church?!  Why is it that people see a Caucasian woman who reasonably takes care of herself and has a positive attitude, but they cannot perceive need?  Would they enjoy living at or below poverty level for many years due to various hardships?  Why is it that Caucasian single mothers are so often overlooked, blamed, disrespected, and offended by others?  This is something that has often been discouraging to experience.

Now that my schedule has changed and I have had good work opportunities, it appears that the time and efforts of both my son and I are no longer needed by the church.  This is another reason that I state that the church only appears to need those volunteers who continually have time available to minister and assist.  When the call went out for volunteers to assist with vacation Bible school, I offered a day when my son and I could help, and was turned down.  In the past, when we were both available to assist during an entire week, then it was fine.  Now that we have limited availability, we are not needed, to the point of our time and efforts being rejected.

In having lectored for a few years, I was scheduled to read once in a six month time period.  On that one day that I read, I took the day off to do so, reflecting the importance of the ministry to me…that I would sacrifice a day’s pay just to read at church!  Then, on the one other day that I was available to read, on a day off from work, in a period of three months, I was not scheduled to do so.  Others in the church, regardless of availability, often read two or three times in a three month period, yet being schedule once in six months truly shows me that I am not needed, my schedule cannot be accommodated, and people are unable to walk in my shoes.  Once I complained, efforts were made to attempt to accommodate me, however it did not appear to be something that would ultimately work out.  Thus, I do give the particular minister credit for his efforts as that is more than anyone else has done.

So, in answer to my questions originally posed, it seems that only a certain few people are able to think before they act in church and those certain few people are able to walk in others’ shoes, however it does appear that church members are no longer needed to assist, minister, and/or be involved in church activities and functions if they do not have continual time available to do so.  It is much easier for people to pass judgment on others rather than ask, “What can I do for you?,” or “What can I do to make this better for you?”

Perhaps there are some churches that have so many volunteers that they actually do not need everyone and can turn people away, however it is generally my experience that when people are not needed, valued, treated as important, and turned away, that they take their time and talents elsewhere.  That is why I left the previous church at which I was a member, and the one prior to that.  And, while I keep in mind the many positive aspects of my church, there are also a great many things that can be improved, these being a few examples.  Everyone needs to be treated with value, respect, and importance, and people must be able to walk in another’s shoes.  In absence of that, some sheep may seek a different place to graze.

A Day to Recognize Atlanta-Area Catholic Scouts Earning Religious Awards (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

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My son with Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory at Atlanta Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting Annual Religious Awards, St. Monica’s Church, Duluth, Georgia, February 27, 2016

What a beautiful day it was, today, for dozens of scouts around the Atlanta-area to be recognized and receive the religious awards that they earned in 2015.  The Archdiocese of Atlanta Catholic Committee on Scouting, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, and many others were in attendance today, celebrating the accomplishments of area Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Venturers, and American Heritage Girls for their accomplishments in broadening their understanding of their faith by having completed different types of scouting-related Catholic religious emblems programs.

A mass and celebratory reception were held at St. Monica’s Church in Duluth today to recognize the scouts, with Archbishop Gregory giving an inspiring homily about the Prodigal Son.  Gregory stated that all fathers should be like the one who forgave the Prodigal Son, welcoming back into the family after being lost and then found again.

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My son receiving his Ad Altare Dei medal from Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory and Deacon Tom Gotschall at Atlanta Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting Annual Religious Awards, St. Monica’s Church, Duluth, Georgia, February 27, 2016

As co-coordinator of my son’s religious program for his troop, I am very proud to celebrate with him in earning the Ad Altare Dei religious award in scouting.  This is the third religious award he has earned, thus far, as a scout.  He has previously earned the Light of Christ medal and Parvuli Dei award.

My son invested 30 hours into the Ad Altare Dei scouting religious program.  Included in the program was religious instruction and study, religious community service, attendance at sacramental events such as weddings, participating in a retreat or religious day of reflection, attending masses and confessions, interviewing a priest or other religious, and receiving communion.

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My son with his Ad Altare Dei medal at Atlanta Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting Annual Religious Awards, St. Monica’s Church, Duluth, Georgia, February 27, 2016

All of the scouts receiving Catholic religious awards, today, worked very hard and invested much time and effort into their accomplishments.  It was wonderful to be there in support of these wonderful endeavors that serve to strengthen faith and spirituality in our youth.

Multiculturalism and Social Justice in Counseling (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Multiculturalism and social justice in counseling are areas necessitating increased understanding and competence. This essay addresses the revised American Counseling Association (ACA) multicultural and social justice counseling (MSJC) competencies (Ratts, Singh, Nassar-McMillan, et al., 2015). Identified will be committee composition and controversial text. Addressed will be competency-meaning to this author, and ways of competency-inclusion in education and practice. Finally discussed will be difficulties regarding competency-integration into education and practice, and ways to lessen challenges.

Multicultural competence is “having…the ability to work effectively across diverse cultural groups and…expertise to treat clients from certain culturally diverse groups…[and]…minority and underrepresented groups” (Tao, Owen, Pace, & Imel, 2015). Social justice in counseling means understanding “societal structures…that marginalize and oppress individuals,” while broadly-addressing inequalities (Roysircar, 2008). The competencies have expansive personal meaning, though are not all-inclusive. An example is that the committee was diverse, though mostly included men and minorities. Most counselors are Caucasian (Hays, Chang, & Havice, 2008), with White women warranting inclusion. Further, divisive wording throughout the competencies, identifying counselors as “privileged and marginalized,” should be revised (Ratts, Singh, Nassar-McMillan, et al., 2015).

There are several ways to include the competencies in education programs. Students can be required to complete relevant courses and intern at diverse facilities. Another way is to require achievement of specific continuing education credits. Potential barriers to achieving this include finances and time needed for program completion. Ways to overcome these barriers are obtaining student loans and adding educational requirements.

Counselors must take opportunities to experience diverse cultures and social justice issues, aimed at practice-application. Therapists must periodically check-in with clients during sessions to ascertain understanding. Challenges to applications in practice may relate to personal background and beliefs. Another challenge may relate to low degrees of diversity in some areas. Counselors must motivate themselves to expand experiences and apply competencies with broader populations to overcome challenges.

Over two decades ago, Sue, Arredondo, and McDavis (1992) encouraged multicultural competency implementation. Those standards were recently-revised, adding social justice competencies. Concerns remain, however, with this overdue revision. Challenges exist regarding competency integration into education and practice, though difficulties can be overcome. The MSJC competencies provide a framework for counselors regarding associated knowledge and skills.

References

Hays, D.G., Chang, C.Y., & Havice, P. (2008). White racial identity statuses as predictors of White privilege awareness. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development 47 (2), 234-246.

Ratts, M.J., Singh, A.A., Nassar-McMillan, S., Butler, S.K., & McCullough, J.R. (2015). Multicultural and Social Justice Competences in Counseling. American Counseling Association.

Roysircar, G. (2008). A response to “Social privilege, social justice, and group counseling: An inquiry”: Social privilege: Counselors’ competence with systematically determined inequalities. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work 33 (4), 377-384.

Sue, D.W., Arredondo, P., & McDavis, R.J. (1992). Multicultural counseling competencies and standards: A call to the profession. Journal of Counseling and Development 70 (4), 477-486.

Tao, K.W., Owen, J., Pace, B.T., & Imel, Z.E. (2015). A meta-analysis of multicultural competencies and psychotherapy process and outcome. Journal of Counseling Psychology 62 (3), 337-350.

Author’s Note: This is an essay that I recently submitted for the American Counseling Association’s Doctoral/Graduate Essay Contest.  Fifteen awards were issued, nationwide. Although I was not fortunate to be selected as a winner, I have the satisfaction of having participated in the competition.  It is certainly difficult to create an essay of 500 words or less and include thorough references, as ethically should be done.  I could have included approximately 120 additional words in my essay without the references.  The sponsors of the competition might consider expanding the word length of the essays to 1,000.  I originally wrote an essay of that length, and edited out half of it!

 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Happy Thanksgiving (with verse by Ralph Waldo Emerson; retrieved from ourdailyblessings.com, November 26, 2015)

Happy Thanksgiving (verse by Ralph Waldo Emerson; retrieved from ourdailyblessings.com, November 26, 2015)

To everyone, may you enjoy a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!  Remember all that there is for which to be thankful. 🙂

 

How to Sacrifice More for a Chapel? What about People?

Virgin Mary Image (Retrieved on March 15, 2015 from kofc1349.org)

Virgin Mary Image (Retrieved on March 15, 2015 from kofc1349.org)

My church has recently been raising money to build a chapel, to be attached to the main church sanctuary. This chapel has been an integral part of the original plan ever since the new church was built a few short years ago. The head priest at my church has been campaigning during Masses to encourage parishioners to contribute, to make pledges to the building campaign for the chapel. The priests of my church are sensitive and caring men of good hearts. They are positive-minded and see the goodness in others, always promoting and proclaiming God’s word. They are men who people look up to, men who are leaders, men who have the respect of the followers.

However, sitting among my fellow parishioners in a relatively new church that was desired by and created for the parish community, it strikes me that the building we already have is more than enough. Why is it necessary that a chapel be built? We can gather, worship, and pray in any location. Must that location always be a church, a chapel, a sanctuary that looks fancy, costs much, and makes us feel good to attend?

One of the concerns regarding costs of the church includes the amount of money it takes to heat it – and likely air condition it, as well. Monies can be saved by applying energy-saving actions to prevent the heated and/or air-conditioned air from escaping. In winter, the set of doors beyond the main entrances should be closed at all times. The same can be done in summer. Side doors to the church sanctuary could be designated for emergency exits only. This will further prevent energy – and money – from exiting the building. What also could have been accomplished – and it may still be able to be done – is to better fortify the church roof with high-quality insulation. Insulation is not something many people think about here in the South, however, it saves $100s to $1,000s in the long run.

Picture of Virgin Mary (Retrieved on March 15, 2015 from turnbacktogod.com)

Picture of Virgin Mary (Retrieved on March 15, 2015 from turnbacktogod.com)

Why do I care about all of this? Sure, I am a member of my church; I am a parishioner. I have been a follower of my faith – despite some disagreements with overall leadership and policies – for my entire life. There are things I like about my faith, and things that I don’t like. However, I also see that other faiths have similar issues. I further care about this issue because of the environment. I wonder how we, as parishioners, can enjoy the best energy-savings and value for our money. I ask what steps can be taken to best accomplish and continue that?

But, even more important, the main issue regarding why I care about this issue is about myself. Why, you ask? I love my God, I am a faithful follower, and I am a supporter of the leadership of my church, however it strikes me as being out-of-touch when parishioners are asked to make more of a sacrifice in our lives so that this chapel may be erected. As one who sacrifices just to come to church, just to attend church services, and just to give what little support that I do to my church, to be asked to sacrifice more is asking far too much. One cannot sacrifice more when there is no more to sacrifice. If I sacrifice more, I would be selling the clothes directly off of my body.

So, tell me, how can those who have no more to sacrifice give more? How is it that many of my fellow parishioners around me pledge $2,000,000 to build a chapel when there are those in their midst who cannot sacrifice more? Why aren’t they inquiring about the well-being of those who cannot sacrifice more? Why aren’t they asking about what happens to those who are unable to sacrifice more? Why aren’t they offering food, work, hope, support? Overlooked are the invisible poor.

They must believe that God will fulfill the needs of those who are unable to sacrifice more – by building a fancy $2,000,000 chapel in which we can worship. Certainly, they must believe that God will provide. Personally, I don’t need a $2,000,000 chapel to attend when there is no more that I can sacrifice. We already have a church, so why do we need a chapel? Perhaps some kind soul could sacrifice a burial plot for me when I am unable to sacrifice more – just as was done for Jesus. But then again, maybe not – they might still be paying off their pledge for the $2,000,000 chapel (that was a joke). By then, it will be too late anyway.

Avoiding vs. Embracing Poverty (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Poverty has a Woman's Face (Retrieved on March 7, 2015 from www.mtholyoke.edu)

Poverty has a Woman’s Face (Retrieved on March 7, 2015 from http://www.mtholyoke.edu)

If I was a gambler, I would bet that no one ever thinks she or he would lose financial stability and become impoverished in our great land of opportunity. I mean, 65 years ago, my mother’s family immigrated to the United States from Poland and Germany because this is the land flowing with “milk and honey.” After all, the streets in the United States are supposed to be “paved with gold,” right? I guess it all depends on who you talk to.

Sure, my immigrant grandparents obtained work and opportunities in America, but they worked and slaved hard to achieve it. Sometimes, they worked up to three jobs at a time to pay for a home, food, and clothing for their four children. Though they worked hard, they were still poor. There was no money for sending any of the kids to college. But, that was also a time when people could make a decent living by having only a high school diploma. Today, the expectation is that one must have at least a college degree.

My dad has also always been a hard worker. Beginning as a little kid, he would sell soda pop at the weekly community bingo games. Then, he would collect the empty bottles back and return them for deposit compensation. He was also a newspaper delivery boy, and then he pumped gas to fill customer’s vehicles at the gas station. My grandfather worked, but my grandmother did not; and my grandfather died when my dad was 17. There was no money for college. I doubt it was even considered. Even so, my dad became a dedicated employee of the State of New York for 37 years.

As a girl, growing up, I had all the expectations about life that many girls probably do.  When I grew up, I was going to have the million dollar family, the home in the suburbs with the white picket fence, a great career, and everything was going to be rosy. We would live happily ever after – or so I thought.

The real fact of the matter is that a few things have been rosy, but most things have been a great struggle. I never imagined that from my upper middle class background that I would be at below poverty level status. I have experienced the feminization of poverty in America. Considering everything, however, I think that I’ve done really well. I have avoided poverty as much as possible, but it is still with me. Poverty has been my lover for the past 7 years now. I don’t love him, but he can’t seem to get enough of me.

No matter what I’ve tried, no matter how I’ve tried to help myself for the past 7 years, I’ve been unable to escape the specter of poverty. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’ve never used drugs, I am intelligent and hard-working, and I am one of the kindest people you will ever meet in your life. I have also learned to be extremely careful with what I have, in both possessions and finances. I am also not one to complain…because I know there are always those out there who are in a worse position than me.

Perhaps these are reasons that no one ever would suspect my true financial status. In fact, when I attempt to broach the subject with people, nearly everyone always brushes it off. They don’t take it seriously. I mean, how many impoverished people look as good as I do? How many care for and support their family as well as I do? One charity volunteer who interviewed me a couple of years ago honestly stated to me, “You don’t look poor.” I don’t look poor. And, I am not poor – I am impoverished.

Throughout these past years, I have tried to do what I can to help myself and my family. I have tried to avoid poverty. I have tried to be as frugal as possible. I don’t have healthcare, nor do I have the money for it. I have been unemployed out of my main career field for the past six years. I have gone back to school, twice, in an effort to jump start my career and get back on my feet. Either those efforts did not work or there were unforeseen setbacks that occurred. I can already foresee student loan payments in the near future that I will likely be unable to make, thus destroying what little progress I’ve managed to make recently.

There are so many other things that I could say and identify that have happened, but there are some things that are just better left private. I do not want the situation to get worse by divulging too much. After all, I’ve learned in life that when you’re down, most people are there to ignore you and/or kick you around.  Those who are encouraging and supportive are truly few and far between.

Life is truly about the survival of the fittest. In our competitive United States, I think cooperation. Where I think kindness, too many others think selfishness. And, people who have never experienced poverty simply cannot and do not understand it, nor can relate to it. When you try to explain it to them, they have no clue about it. For someone such as myself, I do not look for sympathy, but understanding, support, and opportunities for empowerment. If people are unable to relate, then there is no chance for any of that to occur at all.

So, while I have done and continue to do what I can for the best of myself and my family in trying to avoid Poverty, it seems to have gotten the better of me again. Just when you think you cannot cinch your belt any tighter, it becomes even more constricting. So, I have thought that, perhaps, I am doing it all wrong. Maybe I should not try to avoid or run from Poverty, maybe I should just embrace him. But, then again, I cannot do that, or Poverty will have won. Remember, Poverty loves me, but I do not love him. He might think that he has won, but he has not. I will be okay; I will be a Poverty survivor.

Protecting Girls from Sexual Predators by Being Aware and Making Informed, Intelligent Decisions (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Stop Sex Offenders (Retrieved from converseprisonnews.com, February 27, 2015)

Stop Sex Offenders (Retrieved from converseprisonnews.com, February 27, 2015)

Sexual predators come in all shapes and sizes, all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. Unfortunately, the all seem to have the same thing in common – committing sexual offenses against others in efforts to show power, control, and domination, and to make themselves feel good while hurting their victims. Another very sad thing about those who commit sexual offenses against others is that they typically see no wrong in their actions. In efforts to normalize their thoughts and actions, they often appear to be in denial, externally blaming others – including their targets – rather than admitting their actions and taking responsibility for them. They often go to whatever lengths necessary to blame their victims, cover up their offenses, and manipulate others into believing their falsehoods.

In this article, I will discuss the manner in which girls can and do become sexual targets. Boys, men, and women may also be targets of sexual predators, and this article does not minimize their experience, but is to solely focus on how society often fails to protect many of its most vulnerable and innocent members.  Perhaps if parents, educators, and/or others in our society are more aware and informed about the manner in which girls are targeted, more girls will be protected from sexually traumatizing situations that they should never experience.

Research has shown that most individuals who are sexually abused or assaulted are those who are known by their targets. Often, those who target them are family members or “trusted” pillars of the community, including those in positions of great wealth, power, influence, and/or authority. Men (and women) who sexually abuse and/or assault girls are those who believe that their thoughts and actions are correct. Their perspectives and behaviors, however, are pathological, including their actions of grooming their targets throughout time, potentially gaining the trust and friendship of the target’s parents or family, and taking whatever measures possible to see that their inappropriate interactions with their targets are secret, silenced, overlooked, and/or otherwise minimized.

Sadly, many sexual offenders are never caught. Many of these highly esteemed pillars of the community are so powerful and influential – or have such strong ties with a connective network of powerful and influential people who believe and protect them – that they continue their inappropriate actions and sexual offenses throughout their lives, always getting away with them. What is to be done for girls to protect themselves from such people? Nothing? If the girls or their families went to police, they would be laughed at and humiliated out of the police station due to the infiltration into police networks by these powerful and influential people. If the girls and their families publicly identified such people, they risk being financially, socially, and professionally ruined by such people and their large network of supporters with whom they are connected.

Must victims of their sexual offenses continue to suffer in silence? No. It is up to survivors to speak out because, in so doing, the offenders are not protected. The offenders count on tactics of fear, intimidation, and ruination to silence and destroy their victims and their victims’ reputations. Being silent only protects the offenders. By speaking out about offenders, society is informed and becomes more aware of those in their communities – and perhaps, even in their own families – who are so powerful that they get away with their sexual misconduct and offenses. In these ways, at least people are informed, whether or not they believe the truth and heed the warnings about the offenders’ harmful and pathological behaviors.

One way that sexual predators groom and prey upon girls is by sizing up their parents and/or families. If those targeting girls judge that the girls’ parents are unaware, uncaring, weak, or oblivious in any way, then their daughters are prime targets for grooming by sex offenders. Parents and/or other caregivers must be loving and caring toward their daughters, having created an atmosphere in which open and honest trust is shared, in order that these girls feel safe enough to be open with them about any inappropriate actions or offenses performed against them.

Next, parents must not be too free – and should be more guarded – about with whom their daughters spend time and what activities they do. A safe environment in which everyone has passed background checks and drug tests are among the most ideal places for parents to believe their girls are safe, however people must recognize that those with enough money and power who are involved in these environments may have had their offenses undocumented. People must not always trust that the authority, stature, and appearances of those in power are necessarily honest, honorable, and respectable.

Particularly in regard to young girls, people should be aware and informed about those with whom they have interaction and contact. Outside of a girl’s family, there are those in church, at school, and at other community events and even regular family outings, such as to the local grocery store, gas station, or other business, who may target her. People, particularly men, who have regular contact and/or interaction with a girl, long enough to speak with her in a way that gains her trust in some way are those who could be suspected of grooming a girl in order to sexually harm her. Should such interactions be overlooked and/or not perceived, then such grooming will continue and likely escalate. The grooming can escalate to sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. Then, a host of excuses, cover-ups, and denials begin, as well as a discrediting of the victim.

Men who hold powerful positions, and who are looked to as trusted community members, are sometimes those who commit sexual harassment and/or misconduct against girls.  Some of these men may include priests of parishes that have churches, schools, and children’s activities, as well as millionaire or billionaire members of those parishes who lead and/or participate in church and/or community activities involving children. Those men who are so wealthy, powerful, influential, “trusted,” and “esteemed” in their communities and greater regional areas who perform sexual misconduct against girls have already duped everyone before a girl realizes what has happened, before her family can support and/or defend her (if at all), and before the girl’s healing process begins (if at all). Because these men are unwilling and/or unable to be responsible and accountable for their actions, they deny them and do whatever possible to cover them up, discredit their victims, and continue to victimize others.

The small Catholic parish in my small hometown of Gowanda in Western New York State is one such place of which I am aware that several people have had these experiences throughout a period of decades. To my knowledge, no one has ever officially reported the instances of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault that have occurred there and/or as a result of powerful people who are parishioners there. Many of those who have committed such offenses remain leaders and active members of this parish. A current priest there from Salamanca, New York threatened one former parishioner with Mafia action due to her knowledge of his sexual harassment and pedophilia toward girls. The survivors who have left the parish are aware that the shear wealth and power of those people would extremely outweigh anything they could ever say or do in any futile attempts to obtain justice. In effect, obtaining justice is impossible, and the lies, cover-ups, and misconduct will likely continue far into the future since those particular people are tied to the area.

Therefore, people must always be aware of and informed about others. Sometimes, those who dress well, have money and power, and/or be in positions that are spiritually-supportive of others are the very people who should not be trusted. This is further correct, especially if such men have free and open access to children, and even if they can pass every background check. Just because a “trusted” and “esteemed” man can pass a background check does not mean he does not have a sexualized pathology. People must be active in guarding and protecting children, even in places typically considered safe, such as churches. People must be aware that appearances are not always what they may seem, in order to be activists in adequately protecting children.

This is also not to say that all men who are involved in children’s activities are sexual predators. Certainly not. I recognize that there are many more men of honor and respectable character in our society than those who are not. Thank goodness for that! It is simply that, in a world where children have no rights and are often manipulated, controlled, objectified, abused, and/or sexualized, those vested with their care must be more vigilant and effective in our protection of them. Even those who do all they can and who have the best intentions toward protecting children may be unable to protect them. However, we must always do whatever possible to achieve that end.

An Amazing Day at the Circus! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Squeezing my Clown Nose at the Circus, Duluth, Georgia, February 21, 2015

My Son Squeezing my Clown Nose at the Circus, Duluth, Georgia, February 21, 2015

Yesterday, my son and I went to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Georgia!  What an absolutely fabulous and fun time we had! The circus performance was so much more and better than I ever imagined it would be!  Oh my gosh!  I have never seen any performance quite as amazing and incredible as that which I saw yesterday at the circus!  I recommend to anyone who can go, to see these wonderful and astounding performances.

Alexander Lacey Hugging a Leopard

Alexander Lacey Hugging a Leopard

At the circus, my son and I sat in the third row, right up in front. I got great tickets from StubHub.com for $25 each only a couple of days before the show. It was incredible to save about $40 on the ticket prices, and still get such fantastic seats! I still can’t believe it!  The money I saved was then spent on food and souvenirs. Thank you, StubHub!

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

There were so many performances and shows that my son and I enjoyed seeing at the circus. Alexander Lacey – the lion tamer – put on a great show with several lions and tigers doing many tricks.  We had prime seats to watch as he rubbed a lion’s tummy, and kissed lions and tigers. He also rode through the arena in a fancy, motorized circus car with a leopard that he hugged and kissed!

Elephants Standing on their Hind Legs

Elephants Standing on their Hind Legs

We watched as Joseph Frisco, III, and Mario Bovio superbly-handled up to six elephants at a time. There was one portion of the show in which four elephants stood up on their hind legs, with most of them placing their front feet on the backs of the other elephants. It was really incredible to see!

Some of the Many Circus Performers

Some of the Many Circus Performers

We saw the Tuniziani Troupe perform on the flying trapeze, with at least one performer doing a triple somersault while flying through the air. There were the men of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe whose acrobatics included jumping through hoops that were up to ten feet off of the floor. The women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe skillfully spun and twirled diabolos in the air in synchrony. And, the men and women together formed a giant peacock while either riding and/or standing on top of two bicycles and each other while on the bicycles.  It was pretty neat!

Women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe

Women of the Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe

The Torres Family, who ride motorcycles while inside a giant steel ball, left my son speechless and myself both amazed and concerned for their safety. Beginning with a group of four motorcyclists, they steadily increased their number up to eight during their final performance.  All of the motorcyclists rode in circular patterns inside the steel ball, while not having any collisions!  Their performances amount to a world record achieved every day!

The Torres Family Motorcyclists

The Torres Family Motorcyclists

The Tchalabaev Cossack Troupe gave astounding performances by riding their horses. These riders did not just “ride” horses by sitting on them, but also stood atop of them, sometimes standing with one foot on each of two horses galloping next to each other. There were also performances of men in the group who hung off the horses in what was called the “dead-man rag,” in which it appeared that the horses would nearly kick them. Other performers (two at a time) also climbed over and under a horse while it was galloping. They also performed a five-person pyramid while the horses were at a gallop. It was all pretty amazing!

International Folklore Dancers and Elephants

International Folklore Dancers and Elephants

There were performances of clowns, dancers, dogs, goats, and the motorcycle highwire – which was almost directly above us, with no nets – that were also wonder-inducing. My son was amazed to watch a dog jump into a man’s arms from 16 feet off of the floor. Hans and Mariya Klose, and Vicki Zsilak and Alex Petrov, respectively, did a great job with the dogs and goats. The clowns were so funny, too, and kept us laughing. The dancers added even more vigor and vitality to the overall show.  The performances of the goats, dogs, and miniature ponies were great, too.

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos

The folks on the motorcycle highwire, riding back and forth, and even spinning around the highwire, were incredible to watch. Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo Dos Santos, the Ringmaster and his sidekick, were the gel that pulled it all together in this cool show. To top it all off, the Ringling Brothers Band played live music during the circus performances!

Joseph Frisco, III and Elephants

Joseph Frisco, III and Elephants

If I might have changed one thing in the circus, it would be for the elephant that wore the mammoth suit to have it removed. Elephants are such wonderful, intelligent, and sensitive creatures, and to see an elephant dressed up in a full-body costume was distressing. Certainly, the animal was alright and was not being hurt, however it leaves me to wonder how much stress it really creates in this creature.

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

Alexander Lacey with the Big Cats

The one and only previous time that I had ever been to a circus was a Barnum & Bailey event sponsored by the Shriner’s. I went with my brother and other children on school buses when I was seven-years-old.  I think I remember seeing some elephants, but we were seated so highly up in Buffalo’s War Memorial Auditorium – and because the adult chaperones with us showed absolutely no eagerness or excitement at all – I don’t remember much of it except getting separated from the group when we left.  Thankfully, I was able to flag down a friendly policewoman who was directing traffic, and she took my brother and I to our school bus. That is the most I remember about going to a circus as a child – being left behind and having to step up to fend for my brother and myself amidst a sea of people. I expect that was the reason I never got to go see the circus again as a child – due to the careless “supervision” I experienced.

Performers at the Circus

Performers at the Circus

So, one can imagine what a wonderful treat it was to take my son and watch such an incredible and breath-taking circus!  Anyone who can go to and enjoy seeing the circus should do so in order to enjoy all of the wonderful and astounding performances that are in store!  Thank you to Nicole and Alana Feld for producing such a wonderful show!