This Wild Weather! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

The Earth's Face (Retrieved from huffington.com, January 16, 2016)

The Earth’s Face (Retrieved from huffington.com, January 16, 2016)

As a society, we must become increasingly concerned about the weather, the environment, our planet, and the sustainability that remains on Earth.  On Christmas Day here in Snellville, Georgia in the United States, the outside high temperature at my home was 76.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  While it was wonderful to enjoy such balmy weather in the winter, we must be reminded that such a temperature is off the chart for this time of year!  Such high temperatures in winter are definitely disturbing and unsettling.  The expected temperature in my area for this time of year is likely between 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so the 76.5 that was reached recently is definite cause for concern.

During the last week of December 2015, it was so warm at my home that I had windows open and the heat was off.  My heat was off for the entire week – in the last week of December!  Rather than turn on the air conditioning – which I simply was unable to bring myself to do – I believed it a better alternative to allow the outside air to flow through the house by opening some windows.  I’m not sure that Mother Nature knows what is going on either; she definitely appears to be confused!

This brings me to the causes of such wild weather.  If we look back even 100 or 150 years ago, we will see a more substantial amount of forest coverage on Earth.  Last year, my son completed a project about international deforestation, and the information he gathered was shocking!  The Amazon rain forest, as well as old growth forests in Columbia, Canada, the United States, and other countries continue to disappear at alarmingly rapid rates.  When I think of the absence of all of those trees, I also think about the decrease in oxygen produced for our consumption, and the increase in carbon dioxide that also contributes to higher air temperatures and the greenhouse effect.

Pollution and acid rain are other factors that negatively affect our environment, increasing air temperatures and damaging or killing trees, respectively.  The United States is a country that has implemented and done much to enforce laws to decrease pollution being cast into the environment.  While more could be done here, it is already more than what is being done in many other highly populated countries around the globe.  In places such as China, Russia, India, Mexico, and other countries, I wonder what, if any, laws regulating pollution exist or which may be enforced at all?

About 25 years ago, I first visited Eastern and Western Europe, studying in Poland for part of one summer.  I recall that the smog and pollution in Warsaw, Poland hung over the city like a large black cloud.  When I first saw it, I thought it unusual that a rain cloud appeared so low over the ground, and concentrated and immobilized directly over the city.  In the next moment, I realized that it was all of the pollution in the air.  It was incredible!

While washing my hair in the shower in my dorm at Krakow, Poland, it was as if brown dye was coming off of my hair – and I have never dyed my hair!  It was sickening to see and realize the great amount of pollution in which the people in Poland lived.  While I stayed in Poland, I made sure to drink imported, bottled spring water, and to occasionally wash the dirt and grime out of my hair with it, as well.  It is no wonder all of the people who had cancer, miscarriages, and other medical conditions in Poland when they are breathing polluted air, and cooking with and drinking polluted water.  It was definitely angering and saddening to think that I could do nothing about it to help those people.

Further, this brings us to sustainability.  How many more resources remain on Earth to sustain people, plants, animals, and to maintain a healthy and safe environment for all into the future?  It is quite possible that Earth is already beyond it’s carrying capacity.  With average yearly temperatures continuing to increase, the Polar ice caps melting, vast forests disappearing, pollution continuing to devastate the environment, further expansion of the holes in the ozone layer, huge oil spills in the oceans, what will be left, not only for us, but for our future generations?  Will there be future generations that will be able to adequately function and survive on Earth?

We, as a people, have contributed to the destruction of our planet.  We are destroying our beautiful habitat.  So much more must be done to save our planet, but I wonder if it may already be too late?  We all have to do our part.  Sometimes, we may wonder how much one person can do, however I believe it is important to do whatever possible.  One person can recycle as much of their waste as possible – plastics, metals, glass, paper, cardboard.  One person can use less electricity, natural gas, and gasoline.  One person can wear a sweater or use a wool blanket rather than cranking up the heat another notch or two.  One person can take fewer and more economical trips driving a vehicle, combining all errands into one trip rather than several on different days.

Certainly, I do not have the power to enforce laws that regulate pollution or that protect our environment, especially when it comes to big companies.  However, I am one who can say that I have done my part, that I have done as much as possible to preserve the environment, and to teach and encourage others to do the same.  I can encourage children and adults to have an appreciation for the outdoors, to learn about the environment, and to be aware of ways to save and protect it.  I can take responsibility for reducing the pollution and energy use that I cause, and to oversee the recycling efforts of my family.

I have to believe that one person can make a difference, even if it is a small difference.  And, I am a person who lives to make whatever positive difference that I can, not only for myself, but for others, as well.  How will you make a positive difference for our environment, for future generations?  What will you do?  Whatever you will do, do it now, before it’s too late!

Blogbymichele 2013 Stats in Review (Blog by Michele Babcock-Nice)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,000 times in 2013. If it was a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Personal Message from Michele:

A great big “thank you” to all of my readers throughout the past two years!  I am happy to see that I have written about issues of interest to you.  My greatest goal in writing is to bring the truth and fact of information to readers, whether in articles that have a focus on the issues that may be perceived as positive, neutral, or negative.  It is only by being open to accurate and factual information – even if it is perceived as negative or controversial – that we, as a people, may understand particular issues, and improve upon them rather than make them worse, as unfortunately, so often occurs.

This is exactly why freedom of speech is so important – particularly freedom of speech without retaliation – so that all types of perspectives related to all kinds of issues are able to be presented.  Only with complete, thorough, factual, and accurate information can we form thoroughly-thought decisions, rather than making potentially incorrect judgments or assumptions.  This is also why it is important that writers present as many perspectives as possible about issues, not just those that are only perceived as positive, or solely those that others want to hear.

As people, it is our nature to only want to hear the “positive,” however there may be aspects about issues or situations that may be “negative” that get silenced, ignored, or overlooked – whether purposely or not – that do not give an accurate picture of the reality of those issues or situations.  It is my view that by society being more open to those issues that it doesn’t want to hear, as well as by being open to improving aspects regarding the realities of those issues, that people will progress rather than regress.

Thank you, again, for reading my blog.  Please return often!

Michele Babcock-Nice (Blogbymichele) 🙂

“What is a True Friend?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

What is a true friend?  What makes a person be a true friend to another?  There are many qualities of a friend that people may categorize as causing someone to be a true friend, and some people’s characteristics of a true friend may differ from others.  There are many qualities of what makes a true friend for me that I would like to share.

Firstly, a true friend likes, respects, and appreciates you for who you are.  A true friend is supportive, understanding, encouraging, and honest, and is not unnecessarily led or influenced by others in their opinions, decisions, and judgments about you.  A true friend sees the whole picture, not just what’s on the surface.  A true friend seeks to know and understand you, to be sensitive to you.  A true friend is there for you, encouraging you to be true to yourself, to help and protect yourself, to be your best, to improve yourself – your inner self.  A true friend knows you, seeks to know you, and appreciates what they know about you.  A true friend is always a friend, regardless of the issue or situation.

Next, true friends are those who can listen to and hear you out on any subject.  Sometimes, in providing others with certain information about ourselves, we are seeking to know whether or not we can fully trust and confide in another person.  Most people are uncomfortable with information with which they cannot cope, whether it is information about a topic that causes discomfort to them, or whether it is just plain a topic that they cannot handle or put up a wall against.  A true friend can take in all information and remain supportive and understanding because such information may lead to something better, a deeper relationship and more trusting relationship, a confidence in the other person that one can share anything with them, any issue, any detail, without them shutting you out or turning you away.

Sometimes, just when you believe you have found a true friend, someone on whom you can count, confide, and trust, you discover completely the opposite about that person.  It is particularly painful in those for whom one cares or loves, such as family members, close friends, or those others with whom one has a close emotional and/or spiritual connection to discover that they are not a true friend.  One may discover that they are led or blinded by their own discomforts, biases, judgments, beliefs, and/or the pressures of others and even the institutions that they may represent.  They are incapable of being a true friend when they have sight, but cannot see; when they have eyes, but no vision; when they are bound to their own discomforts, and are unable and unwilling to see the bigger picture; when they are a puppet to the rules and policies of the institutions that they represent, yet they don’t realize it, and are being led astray.

At other times, however, one may discover that they indeed, have found and maintained a true friend.  There are at least a half-dozen people throughout my life whom I would consider as true friends, those with whom I can share anything, and time and time again, they have responded to me positively, supportively, and encouragingly.  They appreciate and support me for who I am.  They reflect the care about me that I would like to think that I similarly do for them.  They help me to realize and be myself.  They open doors for me rather than shut them.  They break down walls and barriers for me rather than create them.  They are those whose actions have continually and regularly surpassed those of others in wanting, doing, and assisting in the best for others.  They are true friends.

I am so appreciative of those people in my life who are true friends!  It seems that those people, similarly to myself, who are true friends and whom I consider to be true friends, have the same characteristics.  We are warm, kind, understanding, sensitive, honest, supportive, encouraging, intelligent, confident, and assertive.  We want the best for ourselves and others, and to bring out the best in ourselves and others.  We are people who are helpful, rather than harmful or destructive.  

True friends also bring and seek to bring important issues to others’ attention and awareness in order to effect positive change, improvement, and enhancement in our lives and those of others.  We are concerned for the welfare and well-being of ourselves and others, and we always seek and strive to achieve and accomplish that with our honesty, sincerity, and genuineness.  Leaders and public figures such as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Mahatma Gandhi are those whom I would consider to be a true friend to others on an even greater level than a close, personal true friend.

Sadly, too often, however, many people feel threatened by those positive qualities and characteristics that I previously described.  They may feel threatened due to their own insecurities and/or discomforts, shut us out, and refuse to listen to or hear us.  There may be something much greater at stake for the good of many others, yet when we are shut out, overlooked, denied, disrespected, discredited, or worse, it is they who have shown themselves of being untrustworthy and perhaps lacking in character. 

In those situations, one cannot count on that person to be a true friend, and must either seek the support and consult of someone else or rely on oneself.  I think this reflects that many people see only what they want to see, and not necessarily what is reality.  Too often, people are content to see only what is on the surface, and not ask questions, not dig deeper, and thus, they miss out on enjoying more meaningful and satisfying relationships with each other.

By being followers, such people are also not being leaders.  Leaders must be open to all information, all sides of an issue, all sides of a situation that they may not have even considered.  They must ask questions and seek to discover, not necessarily believing all that they see on the surface as deeper issues may be discovered that end up being for everyone’s benefit.  It is so sad to me that so many shut themselves out to the deeper issues, close themselves off due to their own discomforts and insecurities, fall short of potentially making situations, policies, and understandings of issues better for others rather than potentially worse. 

It is especially sad and disappointing to me when individuals who represent organizations or institutions shut out others, particularly when it is part of their job to be open to others.  One cannot speak with others who will not listen.  One cannot convince others of a different perspective when they have already made a decision to shut you out.  If you cannot trust a person to be open about hearing or considering one serious issue, there is no sense in presenting other important issues.  They think they are right and you are wrong; they think their way is perfect and your way is flawed.  This situation is potentially damaging and diminishing for everyone, and they may not even realize it. 

For how many years, decades, and lifetimes do people maintain sensitive or personal information all due to the fact that someone shut them out and would not listen to them due to the discomforts and/or insecurities of the other?  This is a perfect example of how individuals such as Jerry Sandusky are able to continue their damage and destruction upon others, when people don’t ask enough questions, when too many people don’t listen, when people shut each other out, when people choose to be blind rather than use their vision, regardless of the consequences. 

There are other situations in which red flags appeared prior to particular tragedies, yet those individuals who may have potentially stopped the situations from occurring either did not act or did not behave in a way that protected and saved others from harm.  Regarding the recent tragedy of senseless killings and injuries at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater by James Holmes, here is another situation when potential blindness of others failed to protect and save lives.  And, further, in situations in which child sexual abuse – or similar abuses of power – by Catholic clergy is covered up by male church leaders such as Msgr. William Lynn of Philadelphia, one wonders what male leaders, if any, within the Catholic Church can be trusted?

A true friend, therefore, is also someone in whom one can confide their most sensitive issues (of course, as long as those issues are all legal, moral, and ethical), and will find that the friend keeps their confidence.  One finds that another is not a true friend in confiding their most sensitive and painful issues to another when that person shares those issues with others, especially to those who thereby unnecessarily misunderstand, misconstrue, and misjudge them because of it.

Someone is definitely your enemy if they do not have your best interests at heart.  Someone who incorrectly shares sensitive or confidential information without knowing the whole picture or all the facts, thereby damaging you, is definitely not a friend, but an enemy.  Those who are very direct about it are easy to identify, however there are also those whom I characterize as wolves in sheep’s clothing who take in sensitive information, twist it around, and use it to harm you.  We must all be especially cautious and aware of the wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Throughout my life, there have been many of those, from whom I still feel and experience some of the damaging effects today.

There are few people in one’s life, therefore, whom they may consider to be a true friend.  A true friend, after all, is extremely hard to find.  A true friend is even harder to maintain.  Even more difficult to experience is the friend who turns into an enemy, a friend who by their own discomforts, insecurities, or feelings of being threatened by information that they don’t want to hear – or which information may be biased or incorrect to begin with – puts up a wall against you and shuts you out.  I feel sympathy and pray for those people who are missing out on developing a richer and more full relationship with others, simply by refusing to be more open to and honest with others. 

Importantly therefore, one must be very thankful for those people in their lives who have truly shown themselves to be true friends.  It is also important to remember to show one’s appreciation for their true friends.  Don’t take them for granted as they may be few and far between.  Are you a true friend?  And, how have you behaved as a true friend toward someone lately?