Shepherd’s Men on Memorial Day

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People entering the welcoming area of the Shepherd Center at the end of the 2017 Shepherd’s Men Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

On Memorial Day, my son and family, and members of my son’s Boy Scout troop attended and participated in welcoming the Shepherd’s Men to the final destination of their multi-day run at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.  Members of my son’s Boy Scout Troop and Venturing Crew in Snellville served in the Honor Guard, posting colors (flags) for the event.  The Shepherd’s men are military veterans – both men and women – who raise awareness and funding to support veterans’ concerns, including those such as suicide, traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress disorder.

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Members of the Shepherd’s Men at the Shepherd Center following their 2017 Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

This year, the Shepherd Center in Atlanta was the final destination of the Shepherd’s Men Run that began in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the location where one of the airplanes from 9/11 went down.  Their multi-day run that ended on Memorial Day was also in remembrance of and to honor civilians who lost their lives in that plane crash. The Shepherd’s Men each wore a 22-pound flak pack, symbolizing the 22 American veterans who commit suicide every day.

The welcoming ceremony included speakers who were wives and/or mothers of veterans, including the wife of a veteran who had traumatic brain injury and came to the Shepherd Center for treatment and the mother of one young soldier who tragically committed suicide without showing signs of being depressed or suicidal.

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Members of Boy Scout Troop and Venturing Crew 548 from Snellville, Georgia as Honor/Color Guard for the 2017 Shepherd’s Men Run, Atlanta, Georgia, May 29, 2017

Other speakers at the event included administrators of the Shepherd Center as well as an Atlanta City Council member.  There were also two singers who sang “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” to remember those who’ve died in service to our country.  Many members of the Atlanta Police Department, including those mostly riding motorcycles, also provided an escort for the Shepherd’s Men as they arrived at the Shepherd Center.

The event was poignant, memorable, and sensitive to veterans and their families who are experiencing struggle with physical and mental illnesses, and those who have experienced personal loss and grief.  It was nice to be present and be a supporter of this event and cause that is so important for the support of our veterans and their families.

Tubing at Sugar Mountain, North Carolina

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Tubing at Sugar Mountain, North Carolina, February 11, 2017

This weekend, my son and I visited Sugar Mountain, North Carolina and had a fun afternoon tubing.  The temperatures were very mild, and there were light sprinkles throughout the afternoon on February 11.  We were overdressed for the weather, and were too warm as we observed the artificially-made snow melt around us.

I’m an expert skier and was eager to hit the slopes, though my son is a beginner, and was not as confident, which is totally fine.  Sugar Mountain has ice skating, tubing, skiing, and snowboarding, so we had many different activities to choose from, and did not have to stick with skiing.  Tubing was really fun, and likely, less potentially hazardous, especially with the large crowd of people who were there this weekend.

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Sugar Mountain, North Carolina Tubing, February 11, 2017

Sixteen years have passed since I first visited Sugar Mountain for skiing.  Sugar Mountain is awesome for skiing, but it is a long drive from our home.  With a stop or two, it takes six hours to get there.  Too bad it’s not a bit closer to Atlanta so we could enjoy it more often!

Merit Badge Work at the BSA Atlanta Area Clinic at Oglethorpe University

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My son with his Saturn V model rocket. Oglethorpe University, Atlanta Area Boy Scout Council Merit Badge Clinic, Atlanta, Georgia, October 15, 2016.

On Saturday, October 15, 2016, my son participated in the Annual Atlanta Area Boy Scout Council Merit Badge Clinic at Oglethorpe University.  This was his second year participating in this huge event, and I can say that he had a wonderful experience both times! Last year, he completed his electronics merit badge there, and this year, his space exploration badge.

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My son preparing to launch his rocket with the assistance of a Georgia Tech student volunteer.  Oglethorpe University, Atlanta Area Boy Scout Council Merit Badge Clinic, October 15, 2016.

Students and volunteers from Georgia Institute of  Technology led the space exploration workshop yesterday.  Everyone was very friendly, knowledgeable, professional, and helpful to the boys.  The highlight of the workshop was being able to shoot off actual rockets, something that my son has never done before.  Learning and participating in the merit badge clinic has supported and further fueled his interest in space exploration, planet study, and astronomy.

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My son and Georgia Tech student volunteer, after having launched the rocket.  Oglethorpe University, Atlanta Area Boy Scout Council Merit Badge Clinic, October 15, 2016.

Thank you to all who hosted, arranged, and led this great clinic of 25 workshops for the benefit of 100s (400-500, possibly) of boys.  We returned for another time this year because of the great experience enjoyed from last year.  It is wonderful that our area can host such an educational and enjoyable clinic for the scouts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Gingerbread Houses! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My son with his Disney-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

My son with his Disney-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

One is never too old to enjoy some holiday fun of building and decorating gingerbread houses, which is what my son and I did today.  WalMart now offers a large variety of gingerbread houses and cookies to decorate.  Just in the past couple of years, the many choices of gingerbread houses have exploded onto the scene.

Showing off my Hello Kitty-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

Showing off my Hello Kitty-themed gingerbread house (November 28, 2015, Snellville, Georgia)

This year, I bought Disney and Hello Kitty-themed gingerbread houses at WalMart, made by Brand Castle at BrandCastle.com in Bedford Heights, Ohio.  They were a little more pricey than the usual style, but for $3 more each, it was worth it.  The cookies not only came with frosting and candies, but also cardboard and plastic platforms.  The cookies were extremely well-packaged, and none of them were broken upon opening the boxes.

Examples of Character-Themed Gingerbread Houses by Brand Castle

Examples of Character-Themed Gingerbread Houses by Brand Castle

While we never create and/or decorate gingerbread houses that look nearly as nice as what the pictures on the boxes show, we always have fun.  And, another great thing about building and decorating gingerbread houses is that they can also be eaten – yet an additional way to enjoy our work!  Happy holidays!

At the Play Therapy Association Conference in Atlanta Today (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Association for Play Therapy Conference, Keynote Speech by Dr. Jeff Ashby, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Association for Play Therapy Conference, Keynote Speech by Dr. Jeff Ashby, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Today, Friday, October 9, 2015, I had the wonderful experience of attending one day of the Association for Play Therapy’s Annual Conference, this year, held right here in Atlanta!  Though attending conferences is an expense, for a conference of an association with which I am affiliated to be held so close to home is difficult to pass up.  I am glad that I was able to attend at least one day of the conference, and heard presentations by speakers sharing about topics that are important to me.

Me in Exhibit Area of Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Me in Exhibit Area of Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

At the conference today, I heard Dr. Franc Hudspeth’s presentation on lasting, traumatic effects of bullying on children with a focus on attachment, and Dr. Garry Landreth’s talk about deep issues in play therapy.  It was also my pleasure to hear today’s Keynote speech by Dr. Jeff Ashby, who also lives in this area around Atlanta – his was uplifting, engaging, and refreshing as a result of his witty sense of humor!

Dr. Franc Hudspeth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Dr. Franc Hudspeth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

I really believe in the power and healing effects of play therapy, not only in child populations, but also in adults of all ages.  Play therapy engages a part of the brain that allows for greater healing and recovery to occur in comparison to therapies that strictly involve talking.  While I support such “talk” therapies, I also and more firmly believe in the therapeutic effects of play therapy because I have observed it to be very effective, particularly in child survivors of sexual abuse.

Dr. Garry Landreth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

Dr. Garry Landreth Presenting at Play Therapy Association Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 9, 2015

One aspect of the conference that I would have liked better is for there to have been some women presenters on the topics I am interested in and on the day that I was able to attend.  Even in the absence of this, I had an enjoyable day, and my learning and beliefs were further reinforced for me.  I hope to be able to attend other play therapy conferences in the future, although it may be some time due to the expense involved.  And, I hope to connect again in the future with those of you who I met today!

The Sweltering Georgia Heat (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Sunrise (Retrieved from http://jkyog-wellness.blogspot.com, July 29, 2015)

Sunrise (Retrieved from http://jkyog-wellness.blogspot.com, July 29, 2015)

Nearly each day during the past four weeks here, outside of Atlanta, Georgia, the sweltering summer sun has been searing at between 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  We enjoyed a cool spring that lasted well into the latter part of May, but are definitely in the midst of the heat of summer now.

Typically, by 10:30 AM, the temperature on our enclosed porch – in which all windows and doors are open – has reached between 80 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit.  That is already too uncomfortable to sit and enjoy for too long.  Most days, the Georgia air is so hot and humid that one does not even have to do anything but sit and breathe, and the sweat covers the skin like a wet film.

Thankfully, there is a public pool near my home that my son and I have frequented every summer since we moved here.  While swimming and being in the water is refreshing, on some days, it still feels as warm as bath water.  At least the pool provides some relief to the unforgiving heat because it is just unhealthy to be in it for very long during the day.

So, while I love all of the sunny days that are experienced in Georgia, I definitely dislike the hot, humid heat that makes being outside unpleasant.  In the 15 years that I’ve lived here, this summer has definitely been the hottest and most unbearable.  I fear that summer temperatures will only continue to rise in years to come, what with the out-of-control global warming that is harming our earth.  It’s not getting any better for any of us.