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

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

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

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

 

Being Most Thankful for Family (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Happy Thanksgiving! (Retrieved from www.vintag.es, November 27, 2014)

Happy Thanksgiving! (Retrieved from http://www.vintag.es, November 27, 2014)

On Thanksgiving, what I am always most thankful for is my family.  My family is always there for me in thick and thin.  My family has weathered many storms and enjoyed sunny days together; I can count on my family for love, compassion, and support, and I provide the same to them. I don’t have a very large family, nor do I have much money, but I have a big heart, full of lots of love. My love is shared with and among my family, for whom I am most thankful on  Thanksgiving and every day.

Other things for which I am thankful include food, faith, community, freedom, education, technology, career, and health.  I am thankful for food, though it is not easy to get by from month to month with food prices continuing to rise.  I appreciate my faith because, if it was not for that, I would not be where I am today, and things would likely be much worse.  I am grateful for community, such as organizations that provide fellowship, to my family.

I am always thankful for freedom and I remember my grandmother’s stories about when she lived in Communist Poland, with people fearing for their lives when homes were raided in the middle of the night and people were never seen again.  I am grateful for education, though the large debt required to pay for it is a hardship.  I appreciate technology that makes life easier.  And, I am thankful for career in many capacities, including that of being a mother, as well as for the potential of a stable gainful and enjoyable employment in a workplace with decent people, if that is ever attainable.  I am thankful for my good health so I do not have to pay out-of-pocket to see the doctor as a result of being without health insurance.

So often, organizations such as colleges, churches, and charities have fundraising drives to help give to those in need.  When I am asked to donate, I reply that I could benefit from some assistance, myself.  As a poor single white mother, so often such places overlook people such as myself, as has occurred again this year.  People in my shoes are reduced to begging for even a little bit in return.  People may maintain the perspective that whites have privilege and that is definitely a stereotype that hurts poor white single mothers such as myself because the majority of any aid, as I observe, goes to people of other races.

I am also thankful for the holes in some of my shabby clothes and worn-out shoes, the place that I live even though it is not my own, the student loans that provide opportunity, my nearly decade-old vehicle that is still in great shape, and that sacrifices that I am able to make for the benefit of my family.  I am thankful for the $15 haircut that I get every two months instead of going to a salon and spending loads of money, and the $3 bottle of fingernail polish that I can use for a manicure or pedicure instead of going someplace to have it done for me.  I am grateful for the free lunch that I eat twice each week at my apprenticeship, and for the store closing sale at the local KMart where I can save a few dollars on Christmas gifts for my son.  I am thankful for what little I have because more is always spent than saved.

These are additional reasons why I am thankful for my family, particularly at Thanksgiving.  Every so often, there is that rare person who comes along who might be caring and/or supportive, but with my family, I know they will always be there, in good and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.  People should be more important than money and possessions, and indeed, my family is most important to me.

So, on this Thanksgiving, I invite you to think about family, values, and people in need.  Think about and be thankful for people who are close to you.  Think about people whom you see at work or in church every week who have little or nothing, and who are usually overlooked in their need.  Take action on what you can do rather than what you cannot.  Open your heart and mind to see what you do not want to see, and take action for what you otherwise would not have done.   A little bit goes a long way, especially for folks who don’t have much.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Remember what you are thankful for!

[Author’s Note: Within one day of posting this article, I was solicited by a man on LinkedIn, out-of-state, to contact him by whatever means necessary.  People really need to get their heads out of the gutter, and be open to simply being helpful to those in need without being offensive and/or wanting something (inappropriate) in return.  Solicitation is so offensive, degrading, and dehumanizing to me; is nothing that I have ever done; and it is incredible to me that so many men (I’ve experienced this many times on LinkedIn) do it.  It is unfortunate and tragic for humanity that there are those who attempt (and succeed) in taking advantage of people in need in a sexual manner.]

“Perspectives on Gift-Giving” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Wrapped Gift Boxes (Retrieved from http://jeannekolenda.com/a-christmas-gift-for-you-2 on December 28, 2013)

Wrapped Gift Boxes (Retrieved from http://jeannekolenda.com/a-christmas-gift-for-you-2 on December 28, 2013)

Through the years, I have acquired and contemplated different perspectives on gift-giving, especially as it pertains to giving gifts to men.  Basically, I have come to the conclusion that the majority of men are unable to successfully cope with receiving gifts from women.  The situation is even worse when the woman is single or divorced because many men seem to believe the woman has ulterior motives and wants something from him – or wants to give something to him, namely sex – if she gives him a gift.  I would like to take some time to analyze my observations to follow.

There are many reasons that a woman may give a gift to a man.  Within a committed partnership or marriage, there is an expectation that partners are supposed to give and receive gifts with each other.  In situations in which a woman is single or divorced, as in my case, however, I have noticed that most men jump to all kinds of incorrect conclusions, and make misjudgments and inaccurate assumptions when a woman gives a man a gift.  I have always wondered why that is, and what in our cultural and society that seems to cause it to be so taboo for women to give gifts to men, and for men to receive gifts from women, particularly those who are in a platonic and/or professional relationship that does not involve anything sexually intimate.

When I give a gift – whether to a man, woman, or child – for whatever reason, I gain satisfaction, fulfillment, and intrinsic personal rewards from being giving.  It makes me feel good to be giving, and I like to be giving.  Whether I give restaurant gift card to a man in simple gratitude and in return for some nice personal or professional action he has taken on my behalf, or whether I send a card or letter in appreciation, I was taught to be thankful, to show my gratitude, and to give something back in return for what I received.  That was something that was ingrained into me from a very young age.  One does not simply “take” from another without showing gratitude and doing something good and nice in return.

So, this brings me to my gift-giving dilemma regarding men.  In my entire life, I will estimate that there have been only four men who have been able to accept a gift from me of a restaurant gift card, or some other gift, and still continue to maintain a good, platonic, respectful professional relationship with me.  Out of how many men in my life who have ever been kind to me or who have done something nice for me, and for whom I have provided something appropriate in return, it does not say much that only four men have appeared to have been able to cope and interact with me in the same manner as prior to my giving the gift to them.  Most men seem to lose respect for women who give gifts to them, as I have experienced.  And that, in turn, causes me to lose respect for them because they are unable to accept me for who I am.

Of course, there are other reasons that women give gifts to men, as well.  Sometimes, giving a gift to a man could be to test his reaction, to see if he will actually behave and interact with her in the same manner as he did previously, or if he will change in his interactions toward her – whether positively or negatively.  At other times, and because men are so easily driven away by women who give gifts to them, women may purposely do so in order to actually drive the man away.  Of course, there may be reasons for that in that perhaps he has repeatedly harassed or sexually harassed her in the past, and she believes there is no other alternative but to make him stop by creating a similar situation toward him that he did toward her.

Additionally, in my experience, men who are very hyper-masculine have much difficulty in receiving any type of gift from a woman unless it is sexual in nature.  I believe this is due to society’s highly and inaccurately sexualized portrayals that women always wants to fling themselves at men and that men always want sex.  Most men appear to feel threatened in some way by a woman who gives them a gift.  And, it is not only the men who are hyper-masculine who have difficulty in accepting gifts from women, but most average men, as well.  Also, those men who are very insecure and lack confidence in themselves are truly unable to cope with receiving gifts from women.  Once received, they say they don’t want the gift or even return it after, at first, having said it was an item that they wanted.  Only those men who appear to have much confidence in themselves have ever evidenced to me that they can successfully cope with receiving any type of gift from me, both as a woman, and as a divorced, single woman.

Such behavior by men can often leave women confused, disappointed, frustrated, and hurt.  Women typically do not behave in such a manner when another women gives her a platonic gift, in support, gratitude, or appreciation for something.  Women do not appear to have the same strings attached in receiving gifts from women that men have.  So, entering into the realm of gift-giving toward men is a completely different world.  Based on the reactions that I have received from many men to my own gift-giving throughout the years, I have come to the conclusion that it is better to just send a “thank you” letter or send nothing at all.  I think that this is what most men expect when they do something nice for a woman – or, perhaps, they expect nothing at all.

Therefore, I am thankful to all of the men who have not appreciated my gifts throughout the years because they have taught me that it is better to invest in my son and myself, my family.  But for the four or so men who have been successfully able to cope with receiving gifts from me as a woman and/or divorced, single woman who has absolutely no other interest in them but to show gratitude and appreciation, any further gift-giving that I do with men will likely be on a very minimal scale.  Most men truly need to be able to cope with and appreciate receiving gifts from women, without losing respect for them, without changing their behavior and interactions toward them in a negative manner, and without allowing their minds to reach gutter level.  It has been a difficult lesson to learn, though I am thankful for having come to the realization that I have on gift-giving regarding most men.

“Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Pointsettia, December 2013

Pointsettia, December 2013

I would like to wish everyone the joy and blessings of the holiday season, and a happy and healthy new year.  Merry Christmas to those who observe the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth.  Happy holidays to those who observe other religious celebrations.

Especially, I would like to recognize and thank my parents and the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn, Georgia for all of your help and support to my son and I during the past year.  Thank you so much!

May God bless us all.

“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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In Celebration of Spring and Easter” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Easter Chick with Easter Eggs, Easter 2013

Easter Chick with Easter Eggs, Easter 2013

Spring has sprung, and Easter is again upon us!  There is much to be thankful for in celebrating another Easter – Christ’s ultimate sacrifice in giving his life for us, dying a horrible death beyond words and resurrecting his spirit for us.  Jesus is the God who continually forgives our sins and is our ultimate savior, unable to be replaced by anyone or anything.  And, though there are many things in our world by which we may attempt to replace our Creator, what it all comes down to in the end is that God is the ‘be all and the end all,’ the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. 

So, while many of us are spending additional time at church during this Easter season, reflecting, praying, and meditating on Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection, we must always remember that we are all His children.  With that in mind, those of us who have children of our own must be mindful of not only teaching them about our religious values, but also participating in fun Easter events, such as getting pictures with the Easter Bunny, going to Easter Egg Hunts, or enjoying other fun Easter or Spring activities, including something as simple as walking in the park and viewing the flower blossoms on the trees.

Easter Egg Hunt at St. Oliver's, Snellville, Georgia, March 30, 2013

Easter Egg Hunt at St. Oliver’s, Snellville, Georgia, March 30, 2013

I hope that everyone enjoys a beautiful, wonderful, rejuvenating, and refreshing spring.  And, regardless of the religion that you may or may not practice, hopefully, you will take time to reflect upon and be thankful for all that has been bestowed upon you in your life.  For me, as a Roman Catholic Christian, celebrating Lent with the culmination of Easter in spring is a wonderful time of reflection and renewal.  I hope there are events and celebrations in your lives in which you experience the same!  Happy Easter!