On International Women’s Day, Celebrating Women (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Me with my son, February 2016

Me with my son, February 2016

Life and life experiences bring many joys and challenges, successes and failures, jubilation and pain for all of us.  Of adults, women often seem to face many more challenges than men.  There are different familial, cultural, and societal expectations of women.  Women are portrayed differently (and often less respectfully) than men throughout the media. Women can be leaders or followers or somewhere in-between.  However, women are always women, regardless of the types of experiences and lives we lead.  There is so much that women embody, and there is so much that women do and say.  More often, I encourage women to be more supportive, understanding, and helpful toward each other. One never knows exactly what another person is experiencing, and just a simple smile or word of encouragement can go a long way.  On International Women’s Day, it is the perfect day to promote awareness of all of this.

In my own life, I have experienced many joys and challenges, successes and failures, jubilation and pain.  I recall some of the happiest times of my life being when I gave birth to my son, my wedding day, and each of the days that I graduated from school, college, and university.  Additional happy times have been in celebrating happy occasions and accomplishment of my son.  Some of the most painful experiences I have had have included my divorce, being unemployed, and having financial challenges.  I am thankful for the people in my life who I am closest to  and my faith for helping and supporting me through the ups and downs of my life.  I am thankful for those, whether female or male, who have helped me to become a better, stronger, more sensitive and compassionate person.  I am thankful for all those in my life who supported my life, growth, and development, as well as my beliefs in myself, my self confidence, and my self esteem.

There is so much expected of women.  We are expected to be wives, mothers, teachers, caretakers, bosses, employees, leaders, and followers.  We are expected to carry our religious faith and convictions over to our children, and even to others’ children.  We are expected to help others, to volunteer, to give of ourselves, sometimes until there is nearly nothing else left to give.  What is there left for ourselves, at times?  This is what we have to find, and this is often the balancing act that we have to play.  How do we get our own needs met while also fulfilling (or helping to fulfill) the needs of others?  For some of us, we have it all worked out; for others, it is a lifelong journey.

Some of the most important aspects of my own life have been the support and interactions of family, friends, and/or colleagues (emotional and/or financial); religious faith; education; and career.  Supportive people in my life are sometimes few and far between, however those who are supportive are those I highly value and cherish.  My religious faith has always been there, and while I do not support everything within my faith, I know where I stand with it.  Education has always been something I have supported.  Knowledge is power, and one can never have too much knowledge.  Regarding career, I am a woman who believes that working in a career position, such as a teacher or counselor, is as much a career as remaining at home and raising one’s children.  And, there are many of us who do both of those and do them well.

Therefore, these aforestated aspects of my own life have contributed to shaping me into the woman I am today.  While I am a woman who would like more work and career opportunities in order to be more financially independent and self-sufficient for my family, I am also a woman who is thankful for the opportunities I have had to be an involved mother, role model, and guide for my son.  I am thankful for being able to be personally involved in my son’s life.  I am not a woman who regrets being unable to spend quality time with my son because I am one who has done that.  And, it is my hope that it has contributed to his welfare and benefit, and that he has and will become a better and stronger person for it, as well.

As women, we are all intertwined with each other, whether male or female, girl or boy, woman or man.  I encourage women to be more supportive, helpful, and understanding of other women.  Our society so often encourages men and women to be hard and insensitive on our way to the top.  However, I question whether what society perceives as “the top” might sometimes actually be the bottom, based on my own values and perceptions.  We must all consider who we are and how our lives and life experiences has contributed to making us into who we are.  I would like to ask that, on this International Women’s Day, we all consider and take action toward being more supportive of women, and reflecting on who we are and what has made us into who we are.  I would also like to encourage that if there is anything in those perceptions and reflections that we dislike and/or can improve – in a values context – that we do so.  If all of us do this, it will have a positive ripple effect throughout our society, one that we can definitely use.

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Thoughts on Some Recent Societal Violence (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Talking, writing, and/or teaching about violence in society, and ways to reduce it, are always sensitive issues that tend to stir up many emotions in people.  Unfortunately, many times, emotions sometimes get the best of people regarding situations, and those situations escalate into those that only fuel maladaptive and/or harmful conduct.  Two recent situations that I would like to address include the terrorism at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France, and the killing of a 12-year-old boy (who was holding what appeared to be a real gun) by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio.

As a person who tries to view all sides of a situation or issue, I am one who does my best to think through it before addressing or weighing in on the subject.  My approach is the same in regard to the two above-identified issues.  Knowing that these are sensitive and controversial issues that have created tragedy and turmoil, my approach is one that tries to consider and share different perspectives.  These, of course, are views that others may or may not agree with, and I understand that.

Admittedly, regarding Charlie Hebdo, I know little about this company, but can already see that the satirical cartoons published by it may be offensive to particular people.  First, as a Caucasian, Christian, and Westerner, I understand and appreciate people’s freedoms of speech, expression, publication, and the arts.  Even if what is expressed is offensive – and certainly, there are plenty of publications and art mediums out there that are offensive – there are protections on them that are guaranteed by official government documents in many countries.  For people whose cultures may be middle eastern and/or who practice religions other than Christianity – such as Islam, for example – their upbringing may create views that clash with the majority, including rights enacted within countries in which they live.

I am not condoning, nor do I support any kinds of harassment or terrorism – in any forms – however what I am saying is that increased tolerance, understanding, and sensitivity toward peoples and cultures that are not the majority in particular countries must be exercised.  People who commit terrorist actions appear to believe they are actually doing a good thing.  In the case of those who died as a result of the terrorism at Charlie Hebdo, it seems that the terrorists were acting as martyrs, willing to sacrifice their own lives in seeking vengeance and retaliation (but what they likely believed was justice) for insults to Muhammad and Islam.  In their own way (that most likely view as twisted), they believed they were doing the right thing, even though it is completely against Western values in this regard.

An issue closer to home – in Cleveland, Ohio – about which I read, online, today is about a 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a police officer.  The boy had been holding and/or carrying what appeared to be a real gun, but was apparently a replica of a gun that sure looked real to me.  I’ve also read about situations in the past in which boys who hold guns, including toy guns that appear to be real, have been shot by police.

First, I express my condolences and sympathies for the boy and his family about his untimely and tragic death.  This is certainly an unfortunate and devastating occurrence that could have been avoided and prevented.  But, what drew me to reading this story are the many questions that I have about it.  First, why is a child holding what would appear to be a real gun?  Wasn’t he taught not to hold anything that would remotely appear to be a weapon?  Why does he want to hold it to begin with?  And, hasn’t he been taught that police officers are trained to shoot to kill in these types of situations?  This boy’s actions were like inviting suicide.

With all of the recent bad news about incidents involving police officers around the country, we must also remember and keep in mind that there are many truly good and helpful police officers who place their lives on the line every day in service to others.  Sometimes, it seems that police in some areas have resorted to using increased and unnecessary force.  Requiring that police are competent in training regarding the de-escalation of violent and potentially violent situations is necessary.  Also, police minimizing, covering up, and/or excusing situations that are clearly wrong and/or which could have been prevented or improved upon only serves to increase public distrust of the very people who are supposed to protect us.

So, that brings me back to the boy who was holding what did appear to be a real gun, but was not.  Parents must educate their children that our society has drastically changed.  In today’s generation, there was the horrific tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in which so many were killed, including children.  In my generation, I noticed the change when the violence at Columbine High School in Colorado occurred.  In a prior generation, the change may have been more noticeable as a result of the students who were killed by authorities at Kent State University in Ohio.  What I’m saying is that police don’t play – they can’t.  Police sometimes have only split seconds to decide on what actions they must take – shoot or not shoot.  And, in my understanding and observations, police typically shoot to kill.  They don’t shoot to wound or they may end up being those who are killed.

Therefore, and as tragic as it is for the young boy who was killed, and his family, children must be taught these things.  Guns and weapons – and things that look like them – are not toys.  In this day and age, people aren’t playing, especially police.  It is up to adults to educate children to act in their best interests.  Yes, this boy did a stupid thing, but it is something that could have been avoided.  Because he did not, he tragically paid for his mistake with his life.  How many more children will be killed by police for holding fake or toy guns because they have not been taught otherwise, are taking unnecessary and dangerous risks, and/or don’t care?  People have to remember that police are going to shoot first, and will shoot to kill – that is their training, otherwise they will become the one who falls.

There are many other situations of violence that have occurred in our society, especially recently, that I could address here, as well, however these are two that have captured my attention because of the manner in which they could have been prevented in the first place.  So, while there is freedom of speech, press, and arts in the West, those from other cultures who now live in Western society may have differing views.  Sadly, they are willing to sacrifice their own lives, take the lives of others, and create turmoil out of situations that they appear not to respect, tolerate, or understand.  Increased tolerance, respect, and sensitivity is needed on all sides in order to improve relations between people of differing backgrounds and cultures.

Lastly, people must not invite tragedy to occur.  The boy in Cleveland who was holding what appeared to be a real gun, but which was not real, lost his life because of his actions.  This boy was wronged by a society and culture that either did not teach him that holding what appeared to be a gun was extremely risky and dangerous, or it was not instilled in him enough that he not do such a thing.  While the boy should have been old enough to understand some consequences and risks regarding his actions, parents must also do more to educate and instill in children not to do such things that invite escalating repercussions that might involve loss of life, regardless of whether the person taking the life was a police officer.

May all who have died in these situations rest in peace, and may society learn from these situations so that they do not continue to occur.

References:

Ahmed, B. (January 8, 2015). Charlie Hebdo and the alarming evolution of terrorism.  ThinkProgress.  Retrieved on January 23, 2015 from http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/01/08/3609528/paris-terrorism-evolution/

Cleveland boy, 12, shot and killed over fake gun (January 23, 2015).  CBS News.  Retrieved on January 23, 2015 from  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cleveland-boy-12-shot-and-killed-by-police-over-fake-gun/

True Beauty is Within: A Women’s Makeup Philosophy (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

The "No Makeup" Look (Retrieved from ealuxe.com, October 18, 2014)

The “No Makeup” Look (Retrieved from ealuxe.com, October 18, 2014)

Makeup.  For many women, wearing makeup is a fashion must that has been promoted, encouraged, accepted, and often, even required by our society and culture.  I understand that both genders may wear makeup, and that makeup may also be worn by children and youth, however I would like to address the issue of makeup worn by women.

This evening, I went to a local department store and purchased a tube of facial cleanser that works well on my skin, cleaning it, but not drying it out.  I also bought a tube of black mascara.  Occasionally, I will also purchase a bottle of foundation, in order to apply it under my eyes and to cover blemishes.  And, I will also occasionally buy lipstick or lip gloss.

I like to purchase Clinique products because they are hypoallergenic, however they are also very expensive.  I can get away with buying a cheaper foundation from WalMart, but for things like lipsticks and mascara, I have to get hypoallergenic products, otherwise they feel like they are burning my eyes and mouth once applied.  The same is true about eye shadow and eye liner; I do not wear these products at all for the same reasons.

So, throughout my life, I have spent a fair amount of money on makeup and “beauty” products. However, I am one who believes that true beauty is within.  To me, beauty is only skin deep.  A woman can be made up to appear gorgeous, wearing all sorts of makeup, but is that true beauty?  No, not to me.  When women make themselves up with tons of makeup, they are buying into societal and cultural pressure that states that females must wear makeup in order to be beautiful, sexy, youthful, attractive, and/or desirable.

Woman or Clown? (Retrieved from sassydove.com, October 18, 2014)

Woman or Clown Lady? (Retrieved from sassydove.com, October 18, 2014)

While some people may think that women who wear alot of makeup are beautiful, to me, they often look more like clowns or prostitutes.  Women who wear too much makeup bring themselves down. Wearing too much makeup also sends the wrong message to younger generations, causing them to believe that they have to wear makeup in order to be beautiful.  That is the wrong message to convey. Those who appreciate and understand true beauty can live without makeup and do not demand that women wear it.

The photo of the woman that I have included at the beginning of my post is most similar to my personal makeup philosophy – less is more, with a “natural” look.  Now, I also understand that the woman in the photo is wearing makeup, however she has been made up to appear as though she is not wearing any makeup.  My style is to look similar, with or without lip color.  I can say that, for the past number of years now, however, that less is really more for me – not just for the way that I look, but also to save money by not purchasing makeup.

Really, I have never been one of those types of people who have to run out and buy the latest craze in makeup.  I can have it, or I can go without.  In fact, much of the time, I feel better going without because then I don’t feel guilty about having spent more money than I desired to on makeup.

Additionally, because I believe that true beauty is within, I often observe women in society who wear much makeup, but who appear to be insecure, unhappy, or lacking in confidence in themselves.  Do they wear makeup in an effort to bolster their self-confidence and/or perceived happiness?  Or, are they trying to cover up their insecurities, lack of confidence, and/or perceived flaws with it?

"Two Tone" Skin (from prevention.com, Retrieved October 18, 2014)

“Two Tone” Skin (from prevention.com, Retrieved October 18, 2014)

As for flaws, no one is perfect either.  I, myself, have a couple of prominent scars on my face, though I have learned to live with them and do not cover them with any makeup.  They are what they are, and I believe that people will like and accept me whether I cover them with makeup or not.

Regarding the photo of the woman, above, that reflects skin that has different tones, the gist of the article from which I retrieved the image basically stated that the woman looked better with makeup.  What I believe is that, in order to try to convince readers that the woman looks better with makeup, those who edited the photo used Photoshop to lighten her skin tone, making her appear washed out.  These types of images, along with the articles that are associated with them, are definitely misleading and are not providing correct information.

Perhaps if I was a model, I might think differently, however I do try to be a role model, reflecting that I am not one to get overly caught up in societal pressures, expectations, and demands of women about wearing makeup. Truly, the most “beautiful” woman in the world may be one who wears no makeup at all.  It is all a matter of perspective and philosophy, and to each, their own.

So what are you covering up with your makeup?

Perspectives on Honor and Dishonor (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

There are many countries, particularly in Asia, in which honor is taken very seriously, even too seriously.  In Japan or Korea, for examples, there are many instances of men taking their own lives due to what many in those nations have considered to be failures, particularly if losses of innocent lives have been involved under their leadership.  In fact, it seems that it is even an expectation for men and/or women who have been viewed as failures, particularly when harm or death has come to others as a result, to take their own lives.  It appears that such people who have taken their own lives as a result of these particular instances do so because of their feelings of honor and dishonor.  It seems that there is the expectation that they should take their own lives as a result of actions that may have been considered dishonorable.

Pakistani Activists Performing Honor Killing Skit to Protest 2008 Honor Killings of Women (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.rcinet.ca/english/archives/column/the-link-s-top-stories/pakistani-family-fears-honour-killing/)

Pakistani Activists Performing Honor Killing Skit to Protest 2008 Honor Killings of Women (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.rcinet.ca/english/archives/column/the-link-s-top-stories/pakistani-family-fears-honour-killing/)

In several middle eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, for examples, as well as in countries such as India and Afghanistan, women and girls are expected to remain covered and/or virginal until marriage, according to cultural and/or religious dictates.  If a woman of such culture is raped, however, she is typically blamed and punished, often being disowned by her family, the very people who should be supportive of her.  When a woman is raped in such cultures, society places the burden on her and dictates that she has been dishonorable rather than the man or men who raped her.  Often, then, her family is unsupportive of her and/or may disown her because of her culture’s views that blame, punish, and even torture and kill women for being a victim.  Such killings are known as “honor killings,” however they only bring dishonor to those who have done the killing.  Little or nothing is heard, however, about the man or men bringing dishonor to themselves for perpetrating such crimes.  How often do they get away with it, only to do it again and get away with it again?

Afghan Qamar Jan Survived Attempted Honor Killing When she was Burned by her Fiance (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.judiciaryreport.com/british_muslim_couple_murdered_in_honor_killing.htm)

Afghan Qamar Jan Survived Attempted Honor Killing When she was Burned by her Fiance (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://www.judiciaryreport.com/ british_muslim_couple_murdered_in_honor_killing.htm)

Three hundred years ago, in the United States, questions of honor – at least among men of European descent who considered themselves “honorable” – may have been settled by a duel.  If one man believed he was dishonored by another, he could challenge that man to a duel.  In a duel, it was the accepted notion within society that the man who won the duel by killing his counterpart was, therefore, “the better man.”  To me, this is not necessarily correct.  That one man may have won a sword battle by killing another man reflects only that he may have been more skilled in wielding the sword.  To me, for anyone to challenge another to a fight to the death simply for believing he was “dishonored” does not value the other’s life.  Therefore, is it worth killing another or taking one’s own life in regard to questions or concerns about honor?  I think not.

Today, however, very different views exist in the United States about honor and dishonor.  One may even ask whether or not honor is a quality that is at all considered of high value in American culture and society.  In the United States (as in other countries, as well), there are those who dishonor themselves by having affairs.  There are those who dishonor, not only themselves, but their spouses and/or children when they divorce their spouses for situations and/or issues that they, themselves, contributed to and/or worsened.  There are people who dishonor their children by hurting and abusing them; in doing so, they also dishonor themselves.

Crime victims (particularly rape and sexual trauma survivors) are often quick to be dishonored by the harassment and/or bullying of others, which may, in turn, cause them to take their own lives.  In society, in general, women are not honored when they do not experience the respect, equality, and/or privilege that most men seem to typically give, unquestioningly, to other men.  Children are not honored when they have no voice and are simply told what to do, how to feel, how to act.  People with disabilities are not honored when parking spaces are occupied by vehicles that are not legally allowed to be there.  Female (and male) military service members and veterans are not honored when they seek treatment for PTSD as a result of sexual trauma experienced by their colleagues, and are denied such treatment, thus being blamed and revictimized.

I am familiar with situations in which wealthy American men of influence and power have traumatized women and girls by sexually harassing them and/or committing other acts of sexual misconduct against them for decades.  Such men may have performed such actions against various girls and/or women across generations, getting away with it because their wealth, power, influence, and privilege have always allowed them to get away with it.  Not only do they get away with it, but they discredit their victims, spread false information and ill repute about their victims, and do whatever they can to cover up their wrongdoing, cause their victims to be ostracized, and save their own skin.  Because of their powerful status in the community, state, nation in which they live, however, most people hold them in high regard and are unable to believe that any of them could possibly commit such acts.  These men have, therefore, dishonored not only themselves, but their families, their communities, their churches, and their businesses.

Say NO to Sexual Harassment Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://anujamishraa.blogspot.com/2012/09/break-your-silence.html)

Say NO to Sexual Harassment Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://anujamishraa.blogspot.com/ 2012/09/break-your-silence.html)

What is sad, then, is that most people seem to be unable to see below the surface of these situations, or even to care about them, and/or attempt to change them for the better.  When such situations are discussed, many avoid taking on these issues because they cause controversy.  This often includes legal counsel and/or the legal system.  How can a poor, albeit educated and intelligent woman be successful in bringing a lawsuit against men who have prominence and power in a state or nation?  Further still, what about a girl who has experienced such situations by men of wealth and power?  It just doesn’t happen, and if it is attempted, the female is discredited and portrayed as the liar, seductress, villainess, while the men are innocently reflected as having done no wrong.  While the men don’t realize it, and likely even deny it, as a result of these situations, they have dishonored themselves.

So, my remaining question is to wonder if it is, indeed, correct to believe that there is little or no recourse for victims and/or survivors of the above-described situations?  Those who create, provoke, and perform such situations are those who, typically, seem to get away with them.  While mainstream society may hold them in high esteem, and/or they may obtain success in defending themselves through the legal system, they have still dishonored themselves by being dishonest and by behaving dishonorably.

Ghandi Forgiveness Quote and Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://rodarters.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/the-mechanics-of-forgiveness/)

Gandhi Forgiveness Quote and Image (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://rodarters.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/the-mechanics-of-forgiveness/)

People who are honorable lead in the footsteps of goodness and righteousness.  They lead by example.  Honorable people place value in the lives of others; they do what they can to help and support those who most need it; they recognize where they have been wrong, and seek to correct and improve themselves.  People who are honorable are also forgiving, but also learn to protect themselves from those who are dishonorable as a result of their experiences.  It is honorable to be good and forgiving, though it is also honorable to help oneself so that he or she is not further victimized.

People who are dishonorable care only about themselves.  It seems that they, often, cannot see the harm that they create, nor do they care.  And, when confronted about it, they do not take responsibility for it, but instead do whatever they can to deny it, cover it up, and further harm, discredit, and dishonor their victims.  I have observed and experienced this reflected in people who bully others.  I have observed and experienced this reflected in those who sexually traumatize others.  I have observed and experienced this to occur in people who tend to be narcissistic, arrogant, and who believe that they are always correct, and that their way is the only way.  While these people may not realize it, they have dishonored themselves.  Contrary to their faulty thinking, it is not their victims who have dishonored themselves.

Globe and Figures (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://heartofsigma.org/autism/)

Globe and Figures (Retrieved on May 31, 2014 from http://heartofsigma.org/autism/)

Therefore, it is important that people look below the surface of interactions, communications, and situations.  Sometimes, it is important to analyze, research, investigate, and become better-informed about people and situations before making decisions and/or judgments about others that may be incorrect.  It is important for society to realize and recognize that, just because people may appear “honorable” does not mean that they are.  Especially in the United States, where wealth, power, status, and privilege are held so highly by society, it is imperative for people to look below the surface, to recognize that people may not be as good as they seem.  It is also important for people to recognize that some situations, on the surface, may appear to be the fault of the victim, but were really created by the one in power, even years or decades prior to things coming to the surface.

As a person of honor, I appeal to others to view and consider as many possibilities about a particular situation as they can, and then to also investigate to know and understand the true background of such situations by looking below the surface, prior to coming to a conclusion that may be incorrect, and before making a misjudgment that characterizes the victim as the offender, when it may really be the other way around.  I ask people in our society to consider the true nature of such situations so that they may be understood and revealed.  Only then will the honor of those who are truly honorable be known.

Bullying, Abuse, and Suicide Risk Among Students: Ignorance is Bliss for Disbelievers (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Recently, a man commented on one of my blog posts that I made last year regarding a particular school in which bullying (and worse) occurred by children and adults toward other children.  What was so shocking to me was that the man basically stated that he was physically abused by religious at a parochial school during his childhood, and he inferred that children should currently be treated more harshly (infer more abuse and violence) than what they already endure in many schools.  In responding to the man – and seeking to provide information for his understanding of the seriousness of the issue – I stated to him that bullying, abuse, and violence is extremely serious in the United States.  The United States has the highest child mortality rate of any Western country.  And, in the United States, Texas is the state with the highest single mortality rate (about 4%) of any state.

Why isn’t the American public outraged about that?!  Why do more people not stand up for and protect children, nor seek to listen to, hear, and understand them?  Why is it so easy for so many people to minimize, overlook, ignore, and discredit children?  It is no wonder that so many children and youth commit suicide when they do not receive the assistance and/or protection that they need from their families – or other adults, and then, experience bullying, abuse, and/or violence at school.  Children and youth are so vulnerable.  They are growing and developing, and are going through stages of their lives in which they are most fragile.

Too many people believe that children and youth should be harmed – and then, they call it discipline or disciplinary action.  Children and youth need support, care, kindness, understanding, and compassion.  How does American society expect children to grow and develop in a healthy manner when many of their role models, teachers, coaches, and/or other adults bully and harm them?  What is worse in a Catholic or religious faith-based school is when the expectation is that children are to be valued and appreciated, but are bullied and harmed by many of the very adults who are charged with protecting them.  The situation is not restricted to faith-based schools, but is present in all too many schools in the United States, both public and private.

I believe that much of the issue relates to the toleration, acceptance, encouragement, and promotion of violence – particularly media violence – within our culture.  So many television shows, movies, and other programs that have been deemed “entertainment” are so horrific that I have rarely watched them, now, over a period of many years.  Yet, for many people, the more violence they view, the more they want.  It is as if there is a competition in the United States in media and entertainment to produce more and more violent shows and movies.  That would not occur if people did not spend so much money to view violence, to play violent video games, to participate in sports that are violent, etc.

Thus, I have broached a few more topics about which most people do not want to contemplate, talk about, or take action to prevent or eliminate.  These are, however, issues that must be brought into the open and discussed if there is any hope for improvement in regard to them within our culture.  One person who takes his or her life due to bullying and abuse is too many.  Yet, there are dozens of children and youth who commit suicide in the United States, with such deaths continually on the rise.  Last I knew, there were about 135 reported deaths due to suicide in the United States in one recent year.  There are likely many more that are not reported.  And, many of these children and youth who commit suicide have been bullied and harmed at school, by their peers and/or teachers.

I have taken the liberty to post several links regarding children and youth who have committed suicide in such circumstances so that the man who posted his comment, saying that my article was “stupid” can have a better understanding that when someone is dead, the situation is too late to improve – and is far from “stupid.”  For this man, ignorance is bliss.  Following, therefore, are just a few of the 100s of links on the Internet (in no particular order), all of which I retrieved on April 30, 2014, related to children and youth who have committed suicide due to bullying and/or abuse experienced at school from their peers and/or teachers:

“Bullied 10-year-old girl commits suicide.” http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Girl+Commits+Suicide+On+Camera&Form=VQFRVP#view=detail&mid=7A9D5FDFA0071FC8A1657A9D5FDFA0071FC8A165

“Suicide of Amanda Todd.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Amanda_Todd

“Suicide of Phoebe Prince.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Phoebe_Prince

“Suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamey_Rodemeyer  (One of my student teaching experiences was at a school that he attended, Heim Middle School, in the Williamsville (New York) Central School District.)

“Gay Ottawa teen who killed himself was bullied: Jamie Hubley was a figure skater and the only openly gay boy in his school.”  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/gay-ottawa-teen-who-killed-himself-was-bullied-1.1009474

“Suicide of Kelly Yeomans.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly_Yeomans

“Girl commits suicide after boyfriend sends her naked photos to fellow students, Family receives $154K from school.” http://news.asiantown.net/r/26323/Girl-commits-suici–100-e-after-boyfriend-sends-her-nak–101-d-photos-to-fellow-students–Family-receives–154K-from-school

“Girls, 12 and 14, arrested in death of bullied Florida girl who killed herself.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/10/15/girls-12-and-14-arrested-in-death-bullied-florida-girl-police-say/

“How a cell phone picture led to a girl’s suicide.”  http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/10/07/hope.witsells.story/index.html

“Georgia middle-schooler commits suicide after bullying, being called ‘snitch,’ dad says.”  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/05/17616979-georgia-middle-schooler-commits-suicide-after-bullying-being-called-snitch-dad-says?lite

“Bullying allegations probed after boy, 15, commits suicide after first day of school.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/29/bullying-allegations-probed-after-boy-15-commits-suicide-after-first-day-school/

“Anti-gay bullying cited in Georgia teen’s suicide.”  http://www.projectqatlanta.com/news_articles/view/anti-gay_bullying_cited_in_georgia_teens_suicide

“My bullied son’s last day on Earth.”  http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/04/23/bullying.suicide/  (It is difficult to believe this already happened five years ago; I remember the news about it.)

“Ex-teacher gets 30 days for rape of girl, 14; judge says she was ‘older than her chronological age.’ ”  http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/ex-teacher_gets_30_days_for_sex_with_student_14_judge_says_she_was_older_th/  (I am aware that the National Organization for Women made a formal complaint against the judge in this case, desiring his removal as a result of the sentence that he gave this man.  The girl committed suicide.)

“Teacher Kidnaps, Rapes Boy.”  http://abcnews.go.com/US/video?id=7390696

“Mary Kay Letourneau.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Kay_Letourneau

“Columbine High School massacre.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre

These 17 articles represent at least 29 people who died, either by suicide or homicide, in relation to bullying and/or abuse by peers, or abuse by teachers.  The articles also represent at least two other survivors of abuse who remain living.  The victims and survivors in each of these articles are reason enough why bullying and abuse must be taken more seriously, and be prevented and eliminated, especially in our schools.  Hopefully, the man who commented on a different one of my blog posts in relation to this issue no longer views it as “stupid.” 😦

As a result of the comments made by the particular man in regard to a prior post relating to these issues, I have been inspired to create a new LinkedIn group, “Stop Youth Suicide.”  I created the group today, and promoted it within 30 LinkedIn groups, and invited 70 people on LinkedIn from around the world to join.  Six fellow LinkedIn members – most of whom are mental health professionals – have already joined the group as of 5:30 PM Eastern Time today.  I have also promoted the group on Twitter, and will continue to do so.  Today, I have also gained additional followers and “likes” on Twitter as a result of creating this group.  (As of 1:30 PM Eastern Time on May 4, 2014, there are 55 members of the group!)

The comments made by the particular man – and the thoughts and attitudes of so many regarding these issues – definitely reflect the need for increased understanding, sensitivity, compassion, and support toward children and youth, especially those who are contemplate, attempt, and/or commit suicide as a result of bullying and abuse, that which is especially experienced at school from peers and adults.

Some Photos from my Briggs, Staffin, Ritter, and Gale Family Ancestry (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Nearly all of my vintage and antique family photos are from my dad’s side of the family.  Because my mother’s family were immigrants from Poland to Germany to the United States through Ellis Island around 1950, I have fewer than a hand full of vintage photos from my mom’s side of the family, the Krakowiak side, though I do have a few.  Photos and tin types from my dad’s side of the family include those from the following families: Babcock, Briggs, Gould, Hoyler, Staffin, Gale, McEwen, Crawford, Cole, Ritter, Henn, and Goetz.  And, those are just the images, while there are other families who are part of my ancestry, including Rump, Rodgers, and others.

My direct ancestral heritage – in addition to that of Poland from the Krakowiak family – reflects people from England, particularly the families of Gale, Bulson, and McGee; the French and German ancestry of Adelia Staffin; and the German ancestry gained from the families of Gould, Rump, and Henn; and both Hoyler and Ritter (through marriage).   The Briggs’ and Babcock’s were also from England, but had been settled in the United States prior to the Gale’s.  My ancestry can also be traced back to England’s King Henry VIII, as a result of his many marriages; and Clement Briggs, one of my ancestors, who traveled to Plymouth, Massachusetts from England in 1621 on the Mayflower.  The name “Briggs” has many variations; and is believed to have been derived from Saxon William atte Brigge of County Norfolk, England in the 1200s.  That is the furthest back in time that I have been able to trace some of my ancestry.

The following photos and tin types are those that I have selected to reflect some of the many images of my ancestral heritage from the Briggs, Staffin, and Gale families, as I know it, so that the richness of culture, values, and family can be shared and enjoyed outside of my family, as well.  The photos were taken in North Collins and Collins, New York, near Buffalo.  I will make additional posts with pictures reflecting the other families identified in the near future.  Note that for photos that have estimated dates, I have tried to date them as best as possible to reflect an accurate time of when they were taken.

Wallace Briggs and Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, North Collins, New York, Possible Wedding Photo from Arranged Marriage, Circa 1840

Wallace Briggs and Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, North Collins, New York, Possible Wedding Photo from Arranged Marriage, Circa 1860 (Tin Type)

This is the oldest tin type that I have that reflects ancestors of my family.  The tin type was in the condition seen in the photo when I got it from my grandmother, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, so I have carefully preserved it as best as I can.

Adelia Briggs, my Great Great Grandmother on my Dad's Mother's Father's Side, North Collins, NY, Circa 1845

Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, my Great Great Grandmother on my Dad’s Mother’s Father’s Side, North Collins, NY, Circa 1865-1875 (Tin Type)

Adelia was said to have been a short, but fiery and tough woman.  It is possible that she was married through an arranged marriage to my great great grandfather, Wallace Briggs, because they married when they were kids.  It does not even appear that Adelia is 13 years old in the first picture in this post, however it is believed that she and Wallace were married at about that age.  Adelia and Wallace had five boys (Clarence, Howard, Harold, Sumner, and John); and while I am unsure about how Adelia died, it is possible that she died in childbirth.  She would have been 26 when Clarence was born (the second oldest son) and 37 when John was born.  The oldest boy was Sumner, born in 1879 when Adelia would have been 23.

No one in my family seemed to know how Adelia died, or if they did, they did not talk about it.  I know that she seemed to have died at a young age (possibly under 40 years old), and Wallace married a second wife, Veronica, having four boys (Ivan, William, Lawrence, and Leo) with her.  Therefore, nine Briggs’ boys grew up and at least seven of them (all but for Howard and William “Bill”) had families in North Collins, New York in the 20th century.  Birth and death dates that I have, as recorded by my grandmother, for Adelia’s and Wallace’s sons are as follows: Sumner (1879-1939), Clarence (1882-1953), Howard (1886-1944), John (1892-1934), and Harold (1893-1965).

Sumner Briggs married Frances Creed, and they had four children, including Rexford, Emerson “Coon,” Harriet, and Buddy.  Howard Briggs was a bachelor.  John Briggs married Ella Rieckhof, and they had one child, Lois, who married Harold Rodgers.  Lois and Harold had a daughter, Margo, who had a son, Eric, who would be about my age.  Harold Briggs married Emma North; they had a son, James, who married Mabel Orton.  James and Mabel had three children, including Beverly, Barbara, and Bruce Briggs.  I know that Ivan married Louise Gullo, and they had three children, including twin girls and a son, David (who died in the Vietnam War).  Bill married Ruth, but they did not have any children.  I don’t know about descendants of Lawrence or Leo.

Adelia (Staffin) Briggs was the daughter of John Staffin and Phoebe (Wilcox) Staffin; and she was the sister of Mary Ann (Staffin) Smith (who married John Smith) and William Adam Staffin (who married Cora Wickham).  John Staffin was born in 1830 to Adam Staffen (1804-1869) and Anna (Mathias or Mathis) Staffen (1807-1886), and was brother to 10 siblings.  Anna’s father was Johann Mathis, who was a blacksmith, and her mother was Anna Maria (Schmitt) Mathis.  Adam and Anna sailed to the United States through Ellis Island from France in 1840, purchasing land in Collins, New York.  They had left their home in Saarlouis, Germany to sail from the Port of LeHarve in France, coming to the US with $800.

Adam and Anna were schoolteachers, teaching in a large room of their home; and Adam was also a stone mason and farmer.  At that time, the Staffen’s school was the only one in the area, and young men traveled from miles around to be educated by them.  They taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and were paid in kind with raw materials rather than money. When Adam and Anna Staffen came to the United States, they spoke fluent French and High German.  They were Roman Catholic, and are buried in the Langford Catholic Cemetery in Langford, New York.

Adam Staffen was one of three sons (Jacob, Adam, and Nikolas) of Johann Steffen (1748-1814) and Susanna Girlinger (1766-1833).  Susanna’s parents were Phillip Girlinger and Maria (Bauer) Girlinger.  Phillip was a farmer in Germany.  Johann Steffen was the son of Simon Steffen (1716-1771) and Catharina (Schwartz) Steffen.  In 1741, the marriage record of Stefan Simon (who changed his name to Simon Steffen around 1847) reflects that he married Catharina Schwartz, and that her parents were Franz Schwartz and Apollonia (Everhard) Schwartz.  Simon’s parents were Dominicus Simon and Catharina (Corsain) Simon.  Around 1838, Simon and Catherine moved from Longville, France to Ittersdorf, Germany, although rule changed from German to French rule at that time.  It is possible that the move and name change were due to political reasons.

Thought to be Edward C. Ritter, Husband of a Descendant of the Staffin's

Thought to be Edward C. Ritter, Husband of a Descendant of the Staffin’s

Cora (Wickham) Staffin’s parents were Chauncey L. Wickham and Rosene (Spaulding) Wickham.  Cora married William Adam Staffin – brother to Adelia (Staffin) Briggs.  Cora and William had (I believe) four children, including Marion Staffin, Charleton W. Staffin, Burton W. Staffin, and Burnell E. Staffin.  Somewhere along the line, I do not have an exact record of at least one generation of the family, somewhere in-between Anna Staffin marrying Edward C. Ritter.  I do know, however, that Cora (Wickham) Staffin’s grandchildren included Sara Jane Staffin, Mary Ann Staffin, Robert C. Staffin, and Norman R. Staffin.  I just don’t know whose children they were – Charleton’s, Burton’s, or Burnell’s.

Marion Staffin married, though I do not know what her married name was.  I believe that they had a daughter or granddauther, possibly named, Anna, and she married Ed Ritter.  Ed Ritter, to my knowledge, had several siblings, including Fritz Ritter, Herbert Ritter, Mrs. Hoyt Prince, Mrs. Guy Hickey, Mrs. Clarence Simmons, and possibly another sister and another brother, though I am unsure of their names.  Ed and Anna Ritter did not have any children.  To my knowledge, Ed was a butcher, and I have a tin type of him reflecting that.

My Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, standing at left; Others Unknown. Circa 1870-1880.

Tin Type of my Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, Standing at Left; Others Unknown, North Collins, New York. Circa 1900-1910.

This is a tin type that shows my great great grandfather, Clarence Briggs, as a young man, possibly around 1900-1910.  I do not know the identities of the other young men in the image.

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

This photo shows my 15 additional tin types from my Gale, Briggs, and Henn ancestry that were accidentally discarded by my parents during my family’s move from Collins to Gowanda around 1992.

Clarence Briggs Ice Carting, North Collins, NY, Circa 1930-1940

Clarence Briggs Ice Carting, North Collins, New York, Circa 1930-1940

My great great grandfather owned and operated an ice carting business in North Collins, New York.  He transported blocks of ice to people’s homes for their use in refrigeration, such as in their root cellars.

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1890

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1890 (Photo Taken in Springville, New York)

This is a photo of Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and possibly Howard Briggs, from North Collins, New York around 1890.  It is the best photo that I have of them as young boys.

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1900-1910

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1900-1910

From what I understood from my grandmother, this photo was supposed to be a silly picture of three of these Briggs’ young men.  They went on an outing and had several different photos made on this day, reflecting different backgrounds and venues.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague as a Baby, North Collins, New York, 1912

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague as a Baby, North Collins, New York, 1912

This is a photo of my grandmother, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, as a baby in 1912 in North Collins, New York.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, 1914

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, 1914

In this photo, my grandmother was about two years old.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, June 1930

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, June 1930

This is a photo of my grandmother either on the day of her engagement or wedding to my grandfather, Charles A. Babcock.

Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, Collins, New York, 1946

Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, Collins, New York, 1946

This is the only photo that I have that shows both of my great grandparents, Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, in the same photo.  This was taken in 1946 in Collins, New York at the childhood home of my father, Bruce Babcock.

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Briggs, North Collins, New York, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

This is a photo of John Briggs, a brother of my great great grandfather, Clarence Briggs, from North Collins, New York in 1917 before he went off to fight in World War I.  There were several Briggs’ brothers who fought in the War, and they all returned home alive.

Marie and Veronica Briggs, April 1941, Daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs

Marie and Veronica Briggs, April 1941, Daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs

This is a photo of identical twins, Marie and Veronica Briggs, from April 1941.  They are daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs of North Collins.  David Briggs was the son of Ivan and Louise, and died while serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War. For many years, there was a memorial to David outside the front of the Catholic Church in North Collins, New York.

Twins Veronica and Marie Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1944

Twins Veronica and Marie Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1944

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Bill and Ruth Briggs, Collins, New York, August 1986

Bill and Ruth Briggs, Collins, New York, August 1986

Here is  another photo of the twins.  They were about three-years-old in this picture. Veronica was named after her grandmother, Veronica.

I hope that you have enjoyed viewing these photos.  I will make additional posts with photos that reflect the others of my ancestral families that I identified, shortly.

References and Sources:

Anna Emerling Spengler (~1980).  The Emerling Family Tree: Chapter 7 – The Staffins.  Springville/Collins, New York.

Family tin types, photos, and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1860-1987.  Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.

The Name and Family of Briggs: Manuscript Number 341 (1984).  New York, NY: Roots Research Bureau, Ltd.

Wentland Funeral Home (1968).  Funeral Card of David I. Briggs.  North Collins, NY: Wentland Funeral Home.