North Collins, New York Photos from Yesteryear (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Recently, I was looking through photos of my relatives and ancestors, in order to show and explain to my son about some of his ancestral history.  There are many excellent original photographs that I have of people, and groups related to schools and Girl Scouts in North Collins, New York, where my grandmother, Bernice “Bernie” Gale (Briggs) Babcock-Sprague was raised by her parents, Clarence Briggs (of North Collins) and Julia (Gale) Briggs (of Hamburg, New York).  My grandmother was born in 1912 and died in 1987.

I also have many great original photos of people, and sports teams in Collins, Collins Center, and Gowanda, New York that I will provide in separate posts.  For now, please enjoy viewing these photos from yesteryear.  Please note that I have identified as many names of the people in the current photos as possible.

Bernice Briggs of North Collins, NY, Circa 1923

Bernice Briggs of North Collins, NY, Circa 1923

This is a photo of my grandmother when she was 11 years old.

Bernice (Briggs) and Charles A. Babcock, Gowanda, NY, 1933

Bernice (Briggs) and Charles A. Babcock, Gowanda, NY, 1933

This picture is of my grandparents after they were married.

Charles A., Bernice, & Bruce E. Babcock, Collins, NY, 1948

Charles A., Bernice, & Bruce E. Babcock, Collins, NY, 1948

This picture is of my grandparents with my dad when he was four years old.  My grandfather would have been 37 years old in this picture, and my grandmother, 36.  They waited until they were older before having a child.

View of Main Street, North Collins, NY, Circa 1920-1930

View of Main Street, North Collins, NY, Circa 1906

Here is a picture of Main Street in North Collins from 1906.  Notice the horse and buggy approaching from the far end of the road.

Second Grade Students at North Collins, NY One-Room Schoolhouse, 1920 (L to R-Charles Cocca, Bernice Briggs, Leona Reith, Daniel Mecca, Josephine Tempio, Naomi Heim, Georgia Butler)

Second Grade Students at North Collins, NY One-Room Schoolhouse, 1920 (L to R-Charles Cocca, Bernice Briggs, Leona Reith, Daniel Mecca, Josephine Tempio, Naomi Heim, George Butler)

This is my grandmother’s second grade class in North Collins, New York from 1920.  It was the end of the school year at the time this photo was taken.  They had school in a one-room schoolhouse.

Sunday School Class, N. Collins, NY, 1923 L to R-Mrs Whaley, Emogene Stearns, Lillian Burham, Marie Mackey, Wilma Mackey, Bernice Briggs, Grace Korthale, Marion North, Lorraine Tarbox

Sunday School Class, N. Collins, NY, 1923 L to R-Mrs Whaley, Emogene Stearns, Lillian Burham, Marie Mackey, Wilma Mackey, Bernice Briggs, Grace Korthale, Marion North, Lorraine Tarbox

This is a photo of my grandmother’s Sunday School Class in North Collins, New York from 1923.  She was 11 years old.  Notice that all of the girls are holding rabbits.  I believe they were rabbits from the teacher’s farm, where the photo was taken.  The teacher is identified as Mrs. Lee Whaley.

North Collins, New York First Grade Class with Miss Rockwell, 1918

North Collins, New York First Grade Class with Miss Rockwell, 1918

Here is a photo of my grandmother’s first grade class with Miss Rockwell in North Collins from 1918 or 1919.  My grandmother is seated at the far left row, in the third desk.

A listing of all but four of the the students in this photo includes the following: (Left to Right, Front to Back): First row: Doris Theil; Loretto Ognibene; Bernice Briggs; Naomi Heim; Joseph Diadoto.  Second row: Angeline George; John Alessi; Josephine Tempio; Daniel Mecca; Bertha -; Unknown name; Myrle Long.  Third row: Anthony Pelligrino; Elmer Bellanca; Joseph Musacchio; Carmella Cocca; Unknown name; Leonard Long; Harold Titus; Unknown name; Sam Agio; Charles Cocca; Sam Compisi; Ethel Valone; Dominic DeMaria.  Fourth row: Anthony Veccio; Woodrow Hunter; Jacob George; Peter Compisi; Milly Long; Unknown name; – Compisi.

North Collins, NY School 6th Grade Class, 1923

North Collins, NY School 6th Grade Class, 1923

Here, the 6th grade class of North Collins is pictured from 1923, with my grandmother seated in the middle row, at the far right.  All student in the photo are as follows: (Left to Right, Front to Back): First row: Daniel Mecca; Charles Cocca; Leander Russell; Woodrow Hunter; Jacob George; John Riefel.  Second row: Leona Reith; Elton Whaley; George Butler; Louis Taravella; Charles Pelligrina; Sam Compisi; Joseph Valone; Joseph Diadoto; Loretto Ognibene; Salvator Schillace; Paul Burgio; Bernice Briggs.  Third row: Wilma Mackey; Josephine Macaluso; Marie Ognibene; Nina LiVieeche; Catherine Compiere; Rose Veccio; Lee Percy; Genevieve Geiger; Anna Vara; Mary Thomas; Marion Mendola; Jennie Vara; Conqetta Savage.  The teacher, in the middle, back row is Elmer Stearns.

North Collins, NY High School 8th Grade Class, 1925

North Collins, NY High School 8th Grade Class, 1925

This photo is of the North Collins High School 8th grade class from 1925.  My grandmother is standing, just about in the center of the picture.  She was a top honor student all throughout her education.

Students in this picture are: (Left to Right, Front to Back): First row: Jacob George; Woodrow Hunter; Charles Pelligrina; Salvator Schillace; Jacob Scheflin; Sam Compisi; Elton Blakely; Leander Russell; Frederick Teltz; Harold Rebmann; Albert Smith. Second row: Wesley Herman; Elton Whaley; John Reifel; Nina LiVeeche; Catherine Compiere; Josephine Macaluso; Marguerite Lawton; Leona Reith; Bernice Briggs; Wilma Mackey; Madeline Thiel; Genevieve Geiger; Mary Thomas; Loretto Ognibene; Charles Cocca; George Butler; Daniel Mecca.  Third row: Mae Rehm (Teacher); Myrle Whaley; – Renaldo; Harlan Penharlow; John Ball; Joseph Diadoto; Louis Taravella.

North Collins, NY Girl Scout Troop 1, Circa 1927

North Collins, NY Girl Scout Troop 1, Circa 1927

And, how about this photo of the North Collins Girl Scout Troop 1 from about 1927.  My grandmother is standing in the rear at the right, next to the woman holding the trophy.

Pictured are, from left to right, front to back: First row: Jean Thiel; Doris Thiel; Edith Dickman; Margaret Ball; Dorothy Twichell; Jeanette Roeller; Rosemary Hewitt; Emogene Stearns.  Second row: Helen Ormsby; Delight Tice; Audrey Mitchell; Marguerite Lawton; Lillian Burnham; Marion North; Leona Reith; Pamelia Ormsby; Bernice Briggs; Jessie Walburg.  Third row: Josephine Tempio; Nine LiVieeche; Alice Butler; Elizabeth Thiel; Evelyn Ames; Dorothy Geiger; Genevieve Geiger; Marjorie Tarbox.

Source:

Family photos of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1918-1948.  Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014).  Snellville, Georgia.

“Scout Duty to God Banquet and Meeting Phil Niekro” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Being Recognized at the Duty to God Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

My Son Being Recognized at the Duty to God Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

On Saturday, March 8, 2014, my family and I attended the Annual Northeast Georgia Council Boy Scout Duty to God Banquet.  This year, it was held at Prince of Peace Roman Catholic Church in Flowery Branch, Georgia.  My son has earned both of his religious emblems as a Cub Scout, and was recognized for his most recent achievement from last year.

My son with Phil Niekro at Scout Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

My son with Phil Niekro at Scout Banquet, Flowery Branch, Georgia, March 8, 2014

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to attend and enjoy the banquet, as well as to meet Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro there!  Ignorant that I am about most of baseball, I realized when Niekro gave his keynote speech to the boys, that he is well deserving of that honor, having achieved 318 career victories.  In his keynote speech, Niekro affectionately remembered his late brother, Joe, who – between them – shared 539 wins since he also played baseball.

My lucky son also won a raffle of one of the baseball cards of Niekro that he also signed.  Niekro also gave out signed photographs, placemats, and other memorabilia to scouts and dinner guests who correctly answered questions that he posed.  What a wonderful treat to share in good company, for my son to be recognized for his religious achievements in scouting, and to meet a famous baseball player, who also happens to be of Polish descent, as are my son and I.

Thank you, Scout leaders, for holding such a nice banquet, as well as providing a “cool” speaker for the boys!

References:

Wikipedia (2014).  “Phil Niekro.”  Retrieved on March 8, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Niekro

“On Being a Reluctant Catholic” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Female Praying Hands with Rosary (Retrieved from http://rachelhelie.com/?p=404 , December 23, 2013)

Female Praying Hands with Rosary (Retrieved from http://rachelhelie.com/?p=404 , December 23, 2013)

For the past few years, especially, I have been and would consider myself a reluctant Roman Catholic.  There are many reasons for this, as I will reflect upon herein; and these are thoughts and feelings that I have personally encountered and coped with in the past, as well.  While I do have my own internal, personal struggles with being Roman Catholic, I have always returned to the same realization after much introspection and contemplation – to remain Roman Catholic.  I am sure that the internal struggles that I feel about being Roman Catholic will not just go away, and in fact, they seem to increase with time.  However, for now, I continue to remain Roman Catholic, whether more or less involved as I have been in the past.  My religion and spirituality are a strong part of who I am as a person, and are not things about myself that I take lightly.  And so, serious understanding, thought, awareness, introspection, and consideration are concerns that I bring to my own table in contemplating what being Roman Catholic means for me.

I was born, baptized, and raised Roman Catholic in the Greater Buffalo Area of New York State.  My mother is of purely Polish descent, and was born and raised Roman Catholic.  When my parents married, my dad converted from being a nonpracticing Quaker to Roman Catholicism.  My mother, especially, and my dad, often, attended weekly mass on a regular basis even before I was born.  Therefore, it was a sure thing that I would become Roman Catholic, being indoctrinated in the ways of Roman Catholicism.  It was an expectation that, as the offspring of my parents, I would be Roman Catholic.  My mother made sure that my brother and I received religious education.  We attended public school, and so, took religious education classes every Sunday before going to mass since religion is not taught in public schools.  We both attended religion classes at my hometown church and school from our ages of 5-16.

Even at a young age, the thing that struck me the most about Roman Catholicism was that there were few female role models in my church, and even fewer who were visible, appreciated, or recognized in any way.  Certainly, in the parochial school in my hometown, there were nuns who were principals and teachers, however I did not attend Catholic school and did not regularly experience women’s leadership involvement in my religion.  I attended religious education classes for one hour each Sunday, and went to mass for one hour each Sunday.  Therefore, it was the men in the leadership positions of the church whom I always saw, and who were always prominent in speaking, performing mass, and being at the forefront of the faith.

As a young girl, these experiences caused me to feel that the male leaders of the church were out-of-touch with children.  Of course, they spoke about God, Jesus, His family, and His followers, and how we should love Jesus, however their words always seemed so far away.  They seemed to preach about what they did not practice.  Jesus showed the example of being caring and compassionate for children, but I did not observe any of them being that way.  They did not know how to interact with children, how to appreciate children, how to respect children, how to relate with or reach children.  They were – and, often, still are – out-of-touch.  There was alot more spiritual need that I had as a child that went unrecognized, unnurtured, ignored.  As a result, I felt invisible and unappreciated by the male leadership of the church when I was a child.  They did not know, understand, or care about me.  They preached what they did not practice.  How is a young girl supposed to gain respect for those who are so distinctly separate from her?

When I was five or six, I had my weekly religion class with Sister Mary.  Sister Mary was a very young nun who always dressed in her habit, and who was a role model for me.  She was kind and caring to children, especially to me.  I was one who wanted to stay after class and help Sister Mary clean the chalk boards.  I had alot of questions for Sister Mary who probably thought I was more of a chatterbox.  She seemed to look for reasons for me not to remain after class to talk with her, however I ignored and overlooked her hints, and asked more questions.  Always, she was very kind, compassionate, and understanding.  To me, she always had the right answers, could relate with me, and placed me at ease and at peace.  The next fall, it broke my heart to learn that Sister Mary had been relocated.  I never saw her again.  Sister Mary was like an angel to me – and worse, an angel who had been ripped away from me.  I cried over the loss of my relationship with Sister Mary.  I needed a female role model to look up to, and to whom to ask all of my curious questions, and she was gone.

I never got that feeling back about anyone in a leadership position in the church even coming close to understanding me, as a person, until I took my Confirmation classes with the deacon of my hometown church.  Deacon Louis was extremely knowledgeable, and also very upbeat and enthusiastic about Roman Catholicism and people’s individual spirituality.  I told Deacon Louis that I was interested to learn more about the Rosary, and that I wanted to pray the Rosary but did not know how.  Deacon Louis provided me with a beautifully-pictured and colored pamphlet about how to pray the Rosary.  Wow!  For once, someone who actually listened to me – amazing!  As time progressed, I learned that Deacon Louis was very understanding and respectful about individuals’ faith and spiritual development.  Again, I privately spoke with Deacon Louis and let him know that I was contemplating a few saints to be my patron saint at Confirmation.  He made photocopies of a few pages of a book for me that he had about the saints that I had identified to him.  Based on that information that he provided to me, I chose my patron saint, St. Joan of Arc.  I had a great respect for Deacon Louis.  He was a man who was married and who had three daughters; he understood me and my need for faith and spiritual fulfillment in my religion.

Throughout my life, I have always tried to reach out to priests in the churches that I have attended and/or those in which I have been a member.  In most cases, I have not had good experiences in that the men seem unable to relate with or understand my experiences as a woman.  Most priests are extremely uncomfortable in speaking with me, as a woman, about women’s issues and traumatic life experiences, for examples.  Even less so, most are unable to understand and relate with me about relationship, marital, divorce, children’s, and even career and financial issues.  They often seem to feel threatened by or unable to cope with such topics.  One expects to go to a priest for support and guidance, and when it is not received, it may lead to one questioning his or her faith.  It makes me wonder if they are simply like most men who, when faced with a problem, want to “fix” it; or if they are truly unable to relate with or understand the issues that women, children, and families face.  Certainly, fixing problems is good, however there are often times when women simply want to talk out and vent their concerns, seeking emotional support; most priests seem to be unable to understand and provide that.  For these reasons, I have learned that it is often better not to approach priests with such issues because they are typically unable to understand about and relate to them with me, at least on a personal level.

In my mid to late 20’s, I seriously contemplated becoming a nun in the Roman Catholic Church.  As a person with a strong religious faith and who was single with no committed intimate partner in sight, I thought that religious life might be suitable for me.  I sought to understand whether or not I had “received a call” from God to become a religious.  I was a member of two Roman Catholic Singles groups in Western New York State, and had opportunities for interactions with many religious, both women and men.  In this capacity, I also learned more about religious life and took several opportunities to go on religious retreats with my peers.  I participated in one weekend retreat at a convent in Cheektowaga, New York.  I also personally interviewed with a nun at the convent in Athol Springs, New York.

While both of these experiences increased my faith and spirituality, they did not convince me to pursue religious life.  In fact, they did the opposite.  At the first convent that I went to, I saw women who appeared to do much praying and sitting.  Most of the women were older or elderly, and many did not have the medical assistance they needed.  It seemed that the convent was more like one big dormitory building for women of the same faith who prayed alot.  I did not see their good works, but only saw them living amongst each other in lives that caused them to be excluded from society at large.  I similarly observed and felt this at the second convent where I interviewed.  The elderly woman who interviewed me did so in her small bedroom.  She appeared to have no family, no nothing.  To me, she appeared to have lived an empty and solitary life, and was very much unappreciated.

After more thought, I realized that I did not want any of what I observed at the convents.  I felt sorry for these women, and angry at the Roman Catholic Church for requiring them to make such huge sacrifices in their lives.  I was also upset that the Church required priests to be single.  I did not believe that was fair, or took basic human nature into serious consideration.  It seemed to me that the Church wanted fewer people for which to pay simply by requiring that religious did not have families.  Conversely, I desired the opportunity to be married and have a family.  I also realized, after more thought, that I was pursuing religious life for some of the wrong reasons.  I had experienced a traumatic experience at college as an undergraduate, and pursuing religious life was a way of escaping from it.  I realized that, and decided to deal with it – and did.

As a woman in the Roman Catholic Church, I also realized all of the limitations on and misjudgments about women that it practices.  The Roman Catholic Church is often extremely rigid and insensitive toward people and understanding the basic needs of people.  Certainly, there are many wonderful things that the Catholic Church does in helping and supporting people throughout the world.  I have also received assistance and support from the Roman Catholic Church, but this has only begun being received after having been a member of the faithful for 41 years.  Most people cannot wait 41 or more years before some of their basic needs are met; they would be dead, otherwise.

The Roman Catholic Church is also extremely patriarchal.  Women are excluded from high-ranking positions in the church.  Women are not allowed to be priests or deacons, bishops or cardinals, or popes.  Even if a Roman Catholic woman becomes a priest, she is often not recognized or supported by her followers.  Women – often but for the Virgin Mary – are viewed in a negative light in Roman Catholicism.  After all, followers are typically taught that it was Eve who led to Adam’s downfall, and the resulting exit from Paradise.  There are different versions of this story that place equal responsibility on both Adam and Eve for being removed from Paradise, though those are the stories that one does not hear and that are not taught in the faith.  Whether consciously or unconsciously women are, therefore, blamed and condemned by the Roman Catholic Church.

Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church is also sexist.  In viewing Jesus’ mother, Mary, as a virgin and placing her virginity on a pedestal, the Roman Catholic Church has elevated a woman to a position in the natural world that is unrealistic for all other women.  Certainly, virginity and chastity are important for women, however they are also ideals that are not realistic.  Often, for example, the Roman Catholic Church does not hold the same ideals for men, and this leads to a sexist double standard.  Such standards are biased and unfair.  Further, the many prayers and recitations in the Roman Catholic Church are sexist because they are not gender neutral, therefore excluding and purposely ignoring the need for increased rights, equality, and freedoms of women within the Church.

The Roman Catholic Church is also sexist in regard to its views regarding abortion.  I am a Roman Catholic for whom the choice for life is extremely important, however I also understand that it is important to provide choice, as well.  As a person who has only had one pregnancy, and who has never had any abortions or miscarriages, I believe in the value or life, though I also support the importance of choice.  It must be understood that there are situations and experiences that girls and women have that may be traumatic, out of their control, and/or life-threatening.  The are other situations in which females simply decide against continuing their pregnancy.  Women and girls must have opportunities for choice in whether or not to give birth to children.  It is wrong when the Roman Catholic Church preaches about life, but then, does not provide support or assistance to girls or women who are in need of it.  And, what about the male who has caused a pregnancy to occur?  Typically, the Roman Catholic Church does not hold males accountable to a role of responsibility when women and/or girls whom they impregnate obtain abortions.  Again, the responsibility is usually all upon the female, and the male is absolved of responsibility.  The female, again, is often blamed, stigmatized, and lacks support she needs in the very place that should provide it.

In marriages in which there is difficulty, abuse, or domestic violence, Roman Catholic priests are not consistent in their views regarding what steps should be taken to either maintain or dissolve the marriage.  Such views contribute to confusion and increased sexism in the Roman Catholic Church.  Some priests maintain the view that the wife and children must be subservient to the male, whom they view as the head of the household and the absolute, all-powerful leader of the family.  Such a view is harmfully patriarchal, and in fact, can contribute to a worsening of the situation in which the victims continue to be victimized, blamed, and unsupported.  Men should not necessarily be believed or obeyed at all costs, or it could cost one her life.  (Then, of course, people will ask why she did not just leave the marriage.)   On the other hand, there are priests who encourage marital counseling for a couple who is in trouble, however none of those with whom I have ever interacted are qualified to provide it.  First, they are not licensed counselors, nor do they have experience in marriage, or in having a wife and family of their own.  Then, there are those priests who say that if counseling does not help and if the situation is so bad, then divorce is the best option.  Wait, I thought marriage was supposed to be forever.  Sometimes, however, no matter how much a woman may try to improve and maintain her marriage, divorce is the only viable alternative that remains, whether it is initiated by her spouse or herself.

There is also the issue of homosexuals in the Roman Catholic Church.  I am an individual who is and who always has been heterosexual, though I recognize that there is a need in the Roman Catholic Church to provide support and equality to all peoples, including those who are homosexual.  I am also one who believes that marriage should be – notice that I said “should be” – between a man and woman, though I recognize this as one of my values because this is what I was taught.  I also take care not to impose my values about this issue onto others.  Therefore, I maintain the view that marriage should be between two partners who love and are fully committed to each other, for the benefit of themselves and their families, if they have them.  Therefore, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church should not exclude or condemn individuals who are homosexual, nor create guilt in them or cause them to feel sinful simply because of their sexual orientation.

Further, there are many experiences that I have had in the Roman Catholic Church – a church that promotes Jesus and Christianity – that have been extremely unchristian.  Within individual Roman Catholic churches, schools, groups, and/or organizations affiliated with it, there have been a great number of situations I have had in which people who contend to be Catholic and Christian behave in decidedly unchristian ways, in ways of which Jesus would not approve.  There are many Roman Catholics who are basically hypocrites because they preach about and say they believe what they actually do not practice.

As an example of such hypocrisy, a number of Roman Catholic men throughout my life (both as a child and as a woman) have been sexually harassing (or worse) of me, and have outright wanted to have an affair with me, even though they are married and/or we were both married to other spouses at those times.  I am a person who has never – I repeat, never – had an affair with any man.  Even in a difficult (to say the least) marriage in which there were temptations to be unfaithful, I remained faithful to my then-spouse.  I have also turned down every man who has wanted to have an affair with me.  I understand that he is seeking something temporary and for his own gratification, and does not understand the seriousness or implications that having an affair would create on himself, his wife, and his children.  The Roman Catholic Church and society must teach men to be faithful to their wives and families, even when times are tough.  When times are tough, it is taking the easy way out to throw in the towel regarding one’s marriage and commitment.  More instruction and better role models are needed for Roman Catholic men (and all men) in regard to maintaining and developing healthy marriages, at least from my perspective.

Another major issue in the Roman Catholic Church is abuse and sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and/or harassment by priests toward female and male congregants, particularly those who are younger and/or who are in positions of vulnerability.  In churches and dioceses throughout the United States, in Ireland, and elsewhere, there have been numerous instances of sexual abuse by priests.  While I have not personally experienced sexual abuse by any priests in the Roman Catholic Church, I do know of those who have and those who have perpetrated abuse that was unrecognized by the greater congregation and not at all addressed, corrected, or resolved by higher level diocesan church leaders.  Such abuses have ripe ground to occur in such a closed, structured, hierarchical organization of men who all too often have ignored, overlooked, and not considered the seriousness of the situations.  Instead, and all too often again, abusive priests are ushered along to different parishes where they continue and/or escalate their abuses, and/or continue them unrecognized.  Certainly, there are many good priests, and those who perpetrate abuses give a bad name to those who do not.  And, the Roman Catholic Church has implemented serious steps at preventing future abuses, as one good thing that has come from these situations, however they do continue to occur.  Such abuses by priests have caused many followers to leave the faith, and to lose hope in the very people who are supposed to be Christ-like.  I personally know of several people who have left Roman Catholicism because of these issues – such issues that should never occur.

Because of all of these experiences that I have had as a Roman Catholic, and more, I have become a reluctant Roman Catholic.  In the past couple of years, I have actively sought out and have considered other faiths.  All of the faiths that I have considered are still within Christianity, though they have been either less Catholic or more Protestant than Roman Catholicism.  In these faiths, however, I have found many issues that are similar to those I have encountered in the Roman Catholic Church.  Certainly, in some faiths, women have higher positions of power and might actually be the highest leader of their faith, however I observe that being practiced to the most minimal extent in the area where I live around Atlanta, an area that is mostly Baptist and thus, also highly patriarchal based on related religious and cultural views.  Also, in other faiths, the Virgin Mary is not held in nearly the same regard as she is in Roman Catholicism.  While Roman Catholics may place her on a pedestal and view her unrealistically in regard to virginal expectations of women in society, she is completely absent in some other faiths, leaving me with a feeling that I could become a member of such a faith, but that is the only thing holding me back – that faith’s exclusion of Mary as the Mother of Jesus.

So, I always return to the same crossroads – do I remain Roman Catholic or do I convert to another faith?  While there are many things in Roman Catholicism with which I disagree and do not support, I always reach the same answer – to remain Roman Catholic.  The most important part of my decision always includes that I am a faithful follower and believer in Jesus.  I might not agree with many of the practices of Roman Catholicism, however I do believe in the teachings of Jesus.  I have always come to the conclusion that I can pray for myself, and my friends and enemies.  I can pray that the eyes of those who have sight but who are blind can be opened.  I can work to do more to bring awareness about the importance and value of women and children in the Church, rather than support the male leadership’s exclusion of them.

I recognize that I am one who is not content to simply accept the rigid, patriarchal, and sexist nature of the Roman Catholic Church, but who is one who strives to bring increased equality and support to marginalized groups, including women and children.  While Blessed Teresa and Pope Francis, for examples, are excellent role models within the Roman Catholic Church, and have brought much compassion and support to people around the world, I, personally, continue to experience much rigidity, patriarchy, sexism, and inequality in my faith.  I doubt that the Roman Catholic Church will ever provide full equality, understanding, or acceptance in the Church for women, and while I am intolerant of that, I do accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  Thus, I continue to remain a reluctant Roman Catholic, and will likely revisit this issue at many points throughout the remainder of my life.  I place my faith in God that He will continue to guide me on the path that is right for me.

“On This Thanksgiving, Being Thankful for Who is Most Important, Children” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Being Thankful for my Son, and all Chilldren, Thanksgiving, November 28, 2013

Being Thankful for my Son, and all Children, Thanksgiving, November 28, 2013

Another Thanksgiving has arrived, and again, I am most thankful for my family, especially for my son and all children.  Children are our future.  I believe that children are a blessing and a most precious gift from God.  Children give us joys and sorrows.  They depend upon us, grow with us, and become independent from us.  We are the role models for our children.  We have been given a most important duty of raising our children to the best of our ability.

I believe that all children should have what they need in life – the most important of these being good and decent parents who love and care for them properly and as parents should.  Money is not the most important.  Looks are not the most important.  What is most important is what is inside – the genuine goodness and beauty that can be instilled into a child by nurturing, caring, and compassionate role models.

I believe that life’s biggest responsibility – if one has children – is to be the best possible parent.  So, on this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my son, for being a mom, and for my parents in being role models for me and for my son, their grandson.  I pray that all children will have the loving and caring role models and guides in their lives whom they need.  I am thankful.

For all those who celebrate this important, family-oriented holiday, may you enjoy a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

“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!

“Happy Mother’s Day!” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son's Mother's Day Drawing of and Message to Me, May 9, 2013

My Son’s Mother’s Day Drawing of and Message to Me, May 9, 2013

This week, I was voted #1 mom in the world by my son!  🙂  Being a mom is a wonderful thing!  It is an experience that cannot be replaced, and must be lived every moment of every day.  I love being a mom to my son.  As a mom, I do my best to invest as much quality time and care into him as possible.  Each and every day, I feel and know that I have been blessed by God to be a mom.  My child is the only one I will ever have; and I always do my best to act in ways that will benefit him. 

Not only do I have compassion, care, understanding, and nurturance for my own child, I am concerned for the welfare and well-being of all children.  Children live in a world that caters to adults, including adult interests, needs, and wants.  Sometimes, people overlook what is most beneficial for children, and make decisions and take actions that best serve adults.  As a society that I hope becomes more enlightened, I am one who encourages increased understanding, appreciation, rights, and protections for children.  And as a mom, I believe this is imperative for the benefit and well-being of my child, as well as children throughout the world.

On this Mother’s Day, let us honor, remember, and appreciate our moms.  And, for those of us who are moms, let us remember why we became moms.  Each mother is a role model for her children, and has been given a great responsibility to raise, care for, protect, and nurture her child(ren).  In our world of increasing adult self-interests, it is vitally important to remember and support mothers, so that they can provide for and do what is best for their children.    Thank you to my son and extended family for remembering, honoring, appreciating – and most of all – loving me on this Mother’s Day.  🙂

“Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

It is very upsetting, discouraging, disappointing, and disturbing when one approaches another to seek improvement in and/or resolution to a particular matter, and the other person contributes to being part of the problem by not being understanding or supportive about it, rather than being part of the solution.  I experienced this several times, already, this week in relation to school situations.  The person for whom it is most upsetting and disturbing is the child who directly experiences it.  It is always discouraging to experience situations in which the words and behaviors of school employees are part of the problem.  It is encouraging when their words and actions contribute to solutions.

When a family is spending more money on a private school education for their child, they expect more in every area.  Expected is more support, more understanding, more sensitivity, and at least, fairness, particuarly in situations about which upper administration and administration are informed, regardless of by whom they are informed.  Expected is a positive experience for their child.  Expected is fairness, without bullying of the child by either peers or adults.  As one often finds, unfairness and a lack of sensitivity and understanding may be the norm.  Such a norm should not be tolerated or accepted by anyone, nor experienced by the child.

Therefore, people – particularly those in education who work with children every day – can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.  I much prefer that they be part of the solution, and that it be a positive solution at that.  Situations in which a particular child is repeatedly blamed for standing up for himself or herself to peer bullies who belittle and degrade him – especially in a Christian environment that is supposed to promote Christian values – are particularly frustrating. 

Worse is the educator and/or administrator who can say nothing positive about the child who has stood up for himself or herself, and instead, always finds fault and harshly punishes the child.  Such educators and administrators should be ashamed of themselves for their repeated unfairness, for repeatedly supporting the bullies.  Never do those child bullies receive any consequences for their actions; their words and actions are repeatedly supported.  The victim of the bullying is repeatedly blamed.  Psychologically, this is the blaming of the victim routine.  Unnecessarily, it typically happens to the same child or children who stand up for themselves to the bullies.

It was the same for me when I was in school.  A bully provoked, and provoked, and provoked, and finally, when I stood up for myself, I was blamed and punished by school officials.  The bully who provoked the situation received no consequences, and behaved as though she was the victim to garner more support.  The same types of situations occurred toward my parents and other family members when they were in school.  School should not be a place in which people experience bullying, however it is and has been throughout generations.

I try to teach my child to be patient with others, that when others bully or provoke him, it is their problem.  However, it is difficult and challenging for any child to tolerate or accept being bullied.  In a Christian environment, with a Christian background and upbringing, I try to teach my child to turn the other cheek.  However, others typically perceive those as weak who are patient, kind, and who turn the other cheek. 

Unfortunately, and from what I have found throughout my own life experiences, the most productive way to cause a bully to stop bullying you is to give the bully back some of their own medicine.  For people who are kind, nice, caring, and compassionate, it completely goes against one’s personality to do so.  However, in doing so, the bully typically leaves you alone after that.  They discover that their perception of you was incorrect.  They discover that you have surprised them by standing up to their bullying, to their provocations, to their harsh words and actions. 

I want the best for my child.  I want my child to enjoy going to school.  My child receives and excellent education, however I repeatedly encourage the practice of increased sensitivity, patience, positive reinforcement, support, and understanding.  I do this every year.  Some are more supportive and understanding than others; some will never change. 

There are few who hold the high standards that I do of being caring, compassionate, patient, supportive, sensitive toward, and understanding of children.  To those few, I deeply appreciate you; you are part of the solution.  However, it is those who refuse to see and practice a different and better way who are part of the problem, who contribute to the regression and/or detriment of the child. 

Those who are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, should not be in education.  They are not positive role models for children.  In this day and age, we desperately need more and more positive role models for children.  So, when are things going to change for the better rather than for the worse?  Positive change and a reassessment toward needed support for children who are repeated targets of bullies is imperative – it is imperative!  Fairness and support are imperative, rather than unfairness and a lack of support!  It is exactly this type of unfairness and lack of support that leads to bullicide – the suicide of students who are bullied, by peers or by adults.  By then, it is too late, and another life has been tragically lost.

Therefore, I encourage each of you to be positive role models for children, and to always be part of the solution – whether in education or any other area – rather than part of the problem!  Be a positive role model for children.  Be open to thinking of saying or doing things in a different and better way.  Be sensitive toward, and considerate, understanding, and supportive of children, for the sake of their mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and physical well-being!

“How Time Flies: Graduating From UB…20 Years Ago” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

UB President Bill Greiner and I at Commencement, May 1993, Amherst, New York

UB President Bill Greiner and I at Commencement, May 1993, Amherst, New York

Twenty years ago this month (February 2013), I graduated from the University at Buffalo (UB) in Buffalo, New York, having earned two baccaulaureate degrees in psychology and political science.  Unofficially, I also earned a specialization in music performance in voice and clarinet.  And, I completed my studies at this very rigorous university in less than 3.5 consecutive years.   I completed my studies in December 1992, my degrees were conferred in February 1993, and I participated in the Commencement Ceremony in May 1993.

It is so difficult to comprehend that 20 years have already passed since my degrees were conferred!  It seems like such a lifetime ago that I had graduated from my high school in Gowanda, New York, and began my adult journey in life at UB.  How fitting on this President’s Day, February 18, 2013 – 20 years since I completed my undergraduate studies at UB – that I should recall some of the good memories of my younger and more inexperienced days as a college student there.

As a college student at UB, there were so many activities in which I was involved.  Always very outgoing, I wanted to be involved in as much as possible, desiring to get the most and best that life had to offer.  At UB, the world opened up to me and I took it all in – the good, and the bad, too (when I couldn’t avoid it) – like a sponge.  UB was my oyster, and I revelled in all that it had to offer.

Indeed, I am proud of all that I accomplished and all in which I participated and/or had leadership opportunities with at UB.  With all of my classes, activities, and just living in general, there was not enough time in the day to pack everything in!  During my first year, I carried a heavy load of classes, while also performing in the wind ensemble (and being a soloist) and chorus, as well as participating in field events on the women’s track team (and earning a personal best in shot put at the NCAA championships), being involved in student government and yearbook, and going for tutoring on some evenings for my failure in chemistry.  I also immersed myself into intermediate Spanish during my first year, and was happy to be exempt from introductory English composition, however I had to take courses to catch up on my math proficiency.

As time went on, I also found the Polish, Irish, and German Clubs at UB, and was involved in each one, being both the Treasurer and Homecoming representative of two of the groups.  I will always appreciate my Polish Club Homecoming co-rep for showing up and being a gentleman during one particular year because the co-rep from the Irish Club chickened out and forced me to go solo, which I did during another year, however embarassing that was (needless to say, he never showed his face at the Club meetings again after that).

Being a member of these ethnic/language-related clubs opened my world yet further to students of Irish descent from New York City, as well as those of Polish and German descent from right around Buffalo.  The Irish Club, in particular, was a favorite of mine because I could always “let my hair down” and be myself with my friends in that group.  No matter our background or experiences, we always respected and accepted each other, and enjoyed each other’s company.  Additionally, it was my membership in the Polish Club that opened up opportunities to visit Poland as an exchange student to Jagiellonian University – and travel to several European countries, which I did during one summer, and had an absolutely fantastic time!  It was all just as it was described to me – and so much more.

In changing my major from physics to psychology in my second year at UB, I found my life becoming much less stressful.  No longer pursuing studies toward my goal of becoming a veterinarian, I found classes in which I truly excelled and enjoyed, those that “fit” my personality.  Psychology and the social sciences were right up my alley, and I took opportunities to complete independent research in political science, as well as to be a research assistant in a sensitive graduate-level psychology research project.  Also, the more classes that I took in political science, the more I enjoyed them, and became a double major, desiring to go to law school and become an attorney.  I, therefore, became a member of the Democrats Club, as well as the Political Science Club, and traveled with several members during one year to visit Yale University, a very impressive campus, indeed.  And, in my last semester at UB, I was named to the Dean’s List – miracles never cease!

Also during my time at UB, I was involved in other activities such as the Aeronautics Club, Striders Club (and I often went running independently at night under the lights), Recyclers Club (I had responsibility for managing the recycling in my dorm), and I was a regular participant in the religious celebrations of my faith that were held on campus, where I also became a lay Eucharistic Minister.  I also remembered the memory of a slain fellow UB student, Linda Yalem, by attending a memorial service for her, and running in the Memorial Run in her name.  I also worked part-time on campus, and was involved in so many groups and activities that I have difficulty bringing them all to mind.  Further, I took opportunities to attend college sports games, such as volleyball and basketball, even after having attended so many football games as a member of Pep Band.  It was in Pep Band that I met some really great, “real” people with whom I became friends, and with whom I kept in touch for a number of years as a student at UB (see photo to follow).

Me with my Friends, Karyn and Lori from Pep Band, on Graduation Day at UB, May 1993, Amherst, New York

Me with my Friends, Karyn and Lori from Pep Band, on Graduation Day at UB, May 1993, Amherst, New York

Within all of that, I attended many college events that included students, student-athletes, student government representatives, public officials (such as the mayor and governor), and college leaders (such as the president and his family, vice president and his wife, dean of students, and others).  Not only did I know many students, professors, religious leaders, and coaches, but I also met and got to know a few of the college leaders who so often worked behind the scenes to improve the university and try to make it better for everyone.  Of course, there were situations in which they did not always make things better, but I believe that the majority of them tried to the best of their ability to achieve that endeavor.

Particularly in my last year at UB, I got to know UB’s President Bill Greiner (sadly, who is now deceased) and his wife, Carol.  It often seemed that no matter where I was or what event I was attending, they were there, too!  It was great to see Bill and Carol so “involved” in student life at UB.  It was wonderful to observe and experience their commitment – not only to each other as great role models – but also their commitment and dedication to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and patrons at UB.  I always made a special effort to speak with Carol as she is so intelligent, insightful, and positive, always having something kind and encouraging to share.  I definitely aspired to be more like her as she is such a great female role model and inspiration.

Before leaving UB upon completing my studies in December 1992 to head to New York City for about one year, I asked President Greiner to write a recommendation on my behalf.  Being so proud of myself and all that I accomplished at UB, as well as having some bittersweet memories and having experienced a critically life-changing event in my last semester as a student at UB (and surviving through it in the years to come), I desired something more to take away with me from my UB experience – just some pieces of paper with words written on them about me by others familiar with me.

My First Recommendation Letter, from UB President William Greiner, December 1992

My First Recommendation Letter, from UB President William Greiner, December 1992

My recommendation from President Greiner is the very first formal, written recommendation that I ever received (see document above).  He very eloquently and concisely stated many kind things about me, which I fondly remember and review to this day.  His recommendation is also one that I sent, along with my resume, in my job search to about 100 law firms in Buffalo in 1993-1994.  The piece of paper that I received from him was one that certainly helped to open a few doors for me, and I will always appreciate that, even though I did not pursue a law degree.

In fact, I can look back on it now, and remember a conversation that Bill and I shared one day, during which he inquired about the career I intended to pursue.  When I told him that I was interested in being a lawyer, he actually discouraged me from pursuing a law degree, stating that law firms are like factories.  I believe and warmly recall that he already knew that such a profession would not fit my personality.

There is definitely alot that I miss about UB, and I have fond memories and tearful nostalgia about many of my experiences at and through UB.  UB was a place in which I became an adult, whether I like it or wanted to, or not.  I can remember so many wonderful things about my experience at UB, however one or two critically hurtful things have also colored and clouded my perspective, still, to this day.  However much I would like to remember only the good things, the harmful experiences are also a part of who I am, of who I have become, for whom I advocate, and for whom I support – women (and children) who are victims and survivors of violent crime, trauma survivors.

While I believe that there are reasons for everything, I must be real in remembering my experiences at UB, both good and painful.  While there are many more good things that I experienced as a student at UB, what I experienced that was harmful – I believe – has shaped me into becoming a better, and more insightful, compassionate, sensitive, and understanding individual.  My experience at UB has helped me to become an advocate for and supporter of victims.  And, however painful, I have my experience at UB to recognize for that, too.

I also have that experience in being aware that not all offenders of violent crimes are apprehended, charged, or prosecuted, as well.  Further, such experience taught me that survivors of violent crimes may be revictimized by police and prosecutors.  I would not be who I am today without recognizing and being aware of all of my experiences, and I am now thankful (in a very sad way) for having such an experience because it has helped me to relate more personally with other victims and survivors of similar experiences, including those who are close to me.  While we cannot remove from our consciousness those painful experiences, we can try our best to make them better for ourselves and others.  I, therefore, remember that when I left UB, I intended to change the world, however it has been the world that has changed me.

So, on this President’s Day 2013 – and 20 years to the month that my baccaulaureate degrees were conferred to me – I remember and recall many of my experiences as a college student at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB).  I had many wonderful experiences there, met many wonderful people there, and have many fond memories of my time there.  However much I would prefer not to remember the painful experiences that I had there, I would deny myself and not be who I am today.

And so, I must also be strong in mind, body, and spirit and integrate all of my UB experiences into my life, God willing.  Hopefully in doing so, I will have also assisted and supported others who have had similar good and/or painful experiences in their lives.  Therefore, I must recognize UB, for giving me the wings to soar into my life – in all experiences.

References:

DellaContrada, J. (2009).  William R. Greiner Dies.  Buffalo, NY: UB – University at Buffalo: News Releases.

Scrivani, Maria (1999).  Bill and Carol Greiner: UB’s Perfect Pair.  Retrieved on February 17, 2013 from http://www.livingprimetime.com/AllCovers/jul1999/workjul1999/bill_and_carol_greiner.htm

State University of New York at Buffalo Graduation, May 1993.  Buffalo, NY.

Special Note:

This article was also published by both the University at Buffalo Alumni and RAINN on LinkedIn (February 2013).  Mountain View, CA: LinkedIn.

“Fidelity and Morality” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Fidelity and morality.  They are two different words, yet they are intertwined, especially in association with relationships, partnerships, and marriages.  Fidelity refers to “faithfulness,” while morality can be understood as meaning the difference between right and wrong, or a reference to one’s personal values.  In a marriage, fidelity means being true to one’s spouse or partner, while morality can be described as acting in accordance to one’s values of right and wrong within that marriage. 

In my 41 years, including those 9 years within which I was committed to a serious relationship that resulted in marriage (and, unfortunately, later divorce), I will admit that there were a few occasions during which I was tempted to stray from my vows, to go back on my holy and blessed commitment to my spouse.  I am proud to say that while I never strayed or broke my fidelity, physically or sexually, I am guilty of becoming too emotionally involved on a couple of occasions. 

When spouses stop communicating effectively, cease to love each other, and no longer care about each other in many different ways – by words, body language, actions, degradations said in the presence of others – it is all too easy to look elsewhere for one’s needs and desires to be fulfilled.  When spouses and/or partners in any relationship do not understand, appreciate, love, or respect each other, their bond is deteriorating. 

Sometimes, one spouse tries very intently to maintain and strengthen the relationship bond, while the other is oblivious and uncaring about the problem.  At other times, both spouses may work at it and improve their relationship.  And, in other instances, both spouses may give up hope and throw in the towel because too much hurt and pain has already caused too great of a rift or distance between them that is irreparable.

Recently, a man whom I have known on a completely platonic level, asked me out to coffee.  He is someone whom I have known in my religious community for the past 2.5 years, and we both share the same religious faith.  He and I have always been friendly to each other, and have seemed to appreciate and respect one another, period.  He is intelligent, attractive, … and married with two young children.  Therefore, certainly “going out for coffee” in his mind is not merely and innocently going out for coffee.

Certainly, for a woman in my position of being divorced and single with a child of my own, I admit that I am want for a meaningful, personal, intimate relationship.  I would like to share meaningful events and experiences in my life with a spouse who thinks and feels similarly to the ways in which I do.  It would be nice to share spiritual, emotional, personal, physical, sexual, and even financial situations with a close and caring spouse.  It would also be wonderful to have a man in my life who would be a caring role model for my son.

So, while it is a temptation to become involved with this attractive, intelligent, spiritual man who is also my peer, I declined his invitation for coffee.  In my refusal, I also stated to him that I do appreciate his friendship.  However, he must understand that the platonic friendship is as far as it goes.  I am not one to sneak around and be dishonest.  I am not about to lie and go against my morals, values, and principles.  I try my best to be out in the open with everything, unless it is something that is seriously going to hurt or damage myself or my family in some way.

It took 2.5 years of this man’s friendly relationship with me for him to ask me out for coffee.  Even when I declined, he still held out hope that I might someday change my mind, as that is what he shared with me.  I pray for him that God will help him see that he has a good, committed wife and two wonderful, beautiful children.  While he may wish to fulfill his own unmet fantasies and desires, he does not realize what an affair would do to his own family or mine. 

I already know all too well that many men will say whatever they like just to convince a woman to go to bed with her.  Those men promise all kinds of things, and then, never deliver.  They want all the fun and pleasures, but not the true commitment.  I am not interested in that, and am not about to get involved in something that will hurt so many people, not to mention go against my morals and values.

When a person is married or in a committed relationship, fidelity is precious.  The fidelity that has been bestowed upon the couple has been done so in a holy and/or legal manner.  When we are not happy or things aren’t going well, it is all too easy to give up and throw in the towel.  I have even told my ex-husband that my own parents experienced worse trials and tribulations that we ever did, and they will celebrate 50 years of marriage this year! 

So, men and women out there, perhaps you don’t love your spouse in the same manner as you used to, but remain open-minded and do not become blinded by your unfulfilled or unmet fantasies and desires of flesh that are fleeting and temporary.  Look at and stick to your commitment – strengthen it, make it better…for yourselves and your children.

“Success, Sacrifice, Blessings, and Thanksgiving” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Thanksgiving Roses and Pumpkin

There are so many things for which to be thankful in our lives.  In getting older, my views of what to be thankful for have expanded, and surprisingly, have gotten somewhat modified.  I believe that some of the things for which to be thankful go hand-in-hand, such as success, sacrifice, and gratitude.  While each of these areas mean something different, they ultimately embody similar qualities for me.  Perhaps with age has come greater wisdom and insight about what it is in life for which we should truly be thankful.  It being Thanksgiving Day, it is the perfect opportunity to express and share the meanings and associations between success, sacrifice, blessings, and thanksgiving in my life.

Success, sacrifice, and thanksgiving are all connected in my life.  They each have a very special meaning in my life, and have grown stronger and more intense throughout the passing years.  Firstly, my personal meaning of success has changed throughout the years.  When I was younger – say, a college student or recent college graduate – success meant getting and maintaining a great career position, along with earning a comfortable salary and benefits.  It made me feel secure, stable, and accomplished to achieve that. 

Roses in Georgia, October 2011

Roses in Georgia, October 2011

As the years have passed – such as the past 20 years or so – success for me, personally, now means doing all I can for the benefit of my family, particularly for my son.  For me, success involves “being there” for my son as much as possible, providing him with the most and best possible quality time, and being a compassionate, sensitive, nurturing, caring, and loving mom for him.  To me, that is my greatest success – “the” greatest success – raising, caring for, loving, and being there for my son.  I invest all possible social and emotional understanding, compassion, and nurturing into my son, and I am also thankful and grateful to be able to do so on a regular and consistent basis.

So, for me, success no longer necessarily means having the best job or career position or earning the most money possible.  Although it is important to have a stable and enjoyable career, as well as to earn money in order to live and provide for my family, my highest priority and greatest success is in mothering my son.  So many jobs and career positions demand that people give their lives to their employment; I have given my life to being a mom, and being a sensitive, caring, loving, and nurturing one at that.  It is my hope that in the future, my son will remember all of the time, compassion, care, love, and nurturing that was invested into him, and invest that back into his own future family, as well as to others with whom he comes into contact.

Success also involves doing what I can for my son, my family, myself, and others.  Sometimes that also involves sacrifice – sacrificing my own selfish needs or desires for the benefit of others.  As the years have passed, I have realized that I truly do not need everything that I think I do.  And, when I look around, I see that I, indeed, have more than I need, materially.  It has helped me to refrain from satisfying a compulsive impulse to buy something that I don’t really need by telling myself that I have everything already and that I don’t need it. 

It also helps to remember that my main priority is in providing an outstanding education to my son, and that is where the money must go.  Thus, a wonderful education for my son is the top priority of sacrifice for me to him.  I strongly believe that such an excellent education is the best course of action for him, considering all other circumstances.  Of course, there are also expenses for maintaining good health, well-being, and extracurricular activities, as well as for having a vehicle and driving it, however my son’s schooling helps me maintain my focus of investment in him and in his education.  This is my gift of sacrifice to and investment into him.

Sacrificing and giving to others is also important to me.  When I can, I drive my parents to where they need and/or desire to go.  For one thing, this helps save on gasoline, though it also provides company, comraderie, companionship, and fellowship, not only for me, but also for my son.  I do what I can to give back to my family for all the good that they have done for and provided to me, even in the little things that others may think are insignificant, such as buying some groceries, taking packages to be mailed at the post office, or taking items to the trash pick-up or recycling center.  That stated, I know I could never in my entire life return to my parents all that they have provided in support and assistance to me, and for that, I am also extremely thankful and blessed.

Sacrificing also means giving back to the community, serving others, and helping those who are in need.  I regularly do that as a volunteer in many capacities, including at two churches as a lector and lay minister, as a writer for a church newsletter, donating food and clothing for those in need, volunteering as a spiritual leader at my son’s school in activities that assist local families in need, assisting as a parent helper for school activities, organizing food for and delivering it to local families in need during the holiday season, volunteering my time, talents, and efforts in Cub Scouts whenever possible, and giving of my time by volunteering at the local religious-affiliated thrift store.  Though my desired, intended, and enjoyed career path in teaching has not proceeded as planned, I am rewarded by being able to give of my time and talents to help and assist others – and, in turn, it is also spiritually, socially, mentally, and emotionally fulfilling for me.

So, what I am most thankful for are God, my son, my family, my friends, and the good, competent, caring professionals who are in my life.  Without God, I would be nowhere.  With God, I have, maintain, and develop my strong faith, even when things are not going well.  I believe that there is a reason for everything, even though I may not know or understand what those reasons are.  I also believe that God has our lives mapped out for us, and knows everything that will happen in our lives long before it happens and prior to us even making a choice on what to do. 

Thanksgiving Pumpkins

Thanksgiving Pumpkins

I try my best to be thankful to God everyday and for everthing, both good and bad, because I believe there are learning experiences in everything.  Of course, it is extremely difficult and challenging to be faced with bad, trying, or traumatic situations, though with God as my strength, I know that goodness, love, and mercy will prevail in some way.  With God, for whom I am thankful, I am blessed with the hope and faith that He will guide and show me the best way in which for me to travel.

Thanksgiving is also important in association with my son.  I am thankful for my son because he provides me with the greatest meaning in my life, he gives me the strength and fortitude that I need to live and enjoy each day, he fulfills that place within my soul that has the innate need to mother, nurture, care for, and love him.  I am thankful for my son because I often believe that he is my reason for being, for living, and for sharing and enjoying the most in life that is possible.  I am so moved and thankful to God for my son; he is my heart.

My family are also those for whom I am thankful.  Without my family – my parents in particular – I would not be where I am today.  When I was in need, it was my parents who were there for me and my son.  My parents have been that strong, stable, unyielding rock of strength and persistence throughout my life, showing me that nothing is too great to overcome, that nothing is too great to bear, that nothing is too severe to integrate positively into my life in some way.  Having been married now for nearly 50 years, my parents are wonderful role models for me, and for them, I am extremely thankful and indebted.

I have a few wonderful, close friends, and for them, I am also very thankful.  One is lucky and blessed in their lifetime to find, acquire, and maintain friendships with those who are kindred spirits, sharing similar values, beliefs, and backgrounds, and I am blessed and thankful to have found such friends as these.  Typically, I gravitate toward friends who are slightly older than me because I believe that they are more mature, experienced in the world and in their lives, and can also be wonderful mentors for me.  In fact, there have been a couple of colleagues in my life who have also become wonderful friends, particularly for those reasons.  It is such a blessing to be able to share an understanding, flexibility, and sensitivity with friends who hold similar outlooks, philosophies, and perspectives, and I am thankful for those people in my life.

Also of great importance in my life are those professionals who have been helpful and supportive of me and my family, and who have made our lives easier and more enjoyable.  For these folks, I am extremely thankful and grateful, and for some, I will also never be able to fully express or show my gratitude if it takes me the rest of my life.  Currently, a few of these people in particular include my attorney, a school superintendent, and physicians and healthcare professionals who doctor and/or otherwise assist me and my son.  In the past, such professionals have also included college professors, instructors, mentors, and coaches; and professional peers and colleagues.

Of course, I am also thankful for nature, the environment, animals, flowers, plants, food to eat, shelter, safety, freedom and democracy, diversity, and different peoples, cultures, religions, languages, and customs.  I am also thankful for opportunities, growth, development, life experiences, and being able to live my life.  I am thankful to travel freely and to where I choose.  I am thankful for having sight, hearing, touch, taste, intelligence, honesty, persistence, and a whole host of other qualities and characteristics.  I am also thankful for being female – being a woman, for with that has come pregnancy and giving birth to my son, and enjoying experiences and intimacies that are understood only by women.  Even so with all of these things for which I am thankful, I am most thankful for people and God.

My son and children, in general, are those people in my life for whom I am most thankful because they bring so much joy, happiness, innocence, and fulfillment into my life.  Had I an enjoyable, stable, and loving relationship with a partner, I would also find great fulfillment in sharing such thankfulness and love with him, as well.  I know, however, that a relationship of that nature is in God’s hands, and if such a relationship never presents itself, then I will know and accept that it was not meant to be, however discouraging and disappointing, perhaps it would be for the best.  My love and compassion for children, children’s rights, and children’s welfare would also be high priorities for me to share with an intimate partner, as I am sure he would find similar enjoyment and fulfillment in this, as well.

Westward View of North Carolina Toward Tennessee from Cherokee, North Carolina, October 2010

Westward View of North Carolina Toward Tennessee from Cherokee, North Carolina, October 2010

While this post will end up being published and dated in the day following Thanksgiving this year, it was on my agenda to accomplish on Thanksgiving Day, though other things came up that needed attention.  I hope that you who are reading my article will be able to reflect upon what it is that you are thankful for, and perhaps, also find some correlations between success, sacrifice, gratitude, and blessings in your life. 

Sometimes, we just need to stop and smell the roses, or – before you know it – those roses are gone and we are left wondering what happened.  I took a few moments this evening to cut some roses from the backyard garden and to smell and enjoy them.  Please also take time to be thankful and share all wonderful things on this Thanksgiving.  Take time to “smell the roses;” enjoy all that is good; share with family, friends, and loved ones; and be thankful for all that our wonderful Creator has bestowed upon us.  Give extra hugs and more quality time to your children and family.  Take a moment to appreciate everything, and not take it for granted.  Enjoy it now – it doesn’t last forever!