American Mental Healthcare Facilities are Woefully Unprepared for Coronavirus

Protecting Against Coronavirus 3-30-20

My Coronavirus Gear

I work as a counselor at an acute mental healthcare facility in the Southeastern United States. I love what I do, but what I’ve observed during the past one month is that acute mental healthcare in the United States is woefully unprepared to tackle the coronavirus. Mental healthcare is something that we’re not hearing much of anything about during this crisis because of the focus on medical care, though protective precautions for patients and employees in the mental healthcare industry – particularly acute, long-term, and residential facilities – must be addressed and improved.

On Friday, March 6, 2020, I began wearing my own N95 masks – that I bought from eBay sellers – to work. I paid a high price for the masks, but it was worth it. I was the first employee (to my knowledge) to wear any type of mask at my place of employment, due to my own coronavirus precautions. Beginning on Friday, March 20, 2020, I also added cotton gloves to my arsenal of gear, also purchased from a vendor on eBay. Keep in mind that I’m not sick, and I’m doing whatever possible to stay that way with having to go to work.

Medical and healthcare policies toward protecting patients and staff from potential coronavirus exposure and infection need improvement in American mental health facilities. Only last week did my facility begin requiring employees to get temperature checks before entering any units. Each person is on their honor to now do their own temperature check and log the correct temperature. No medically-qualified staff are present when this occurs, nor to confirm the results. It may also be a good idea to have staff check their temperatures prior to leaving work, as well, though that has not yet been required.

Patients coming into my facility from other hospitals are generally already wearing masks that they’ve gotten from the previous facility. Only last week did my hospital begin supplying surgical masks to those patients and staff who ask for them. My understanding is that there is a low supply. More and more staff during the course of the past one month are wearing masks, including a few wearing N95 masks, and the majority wearing surgical masks. I would estimate, however, that not even one-quarter of the staff who work at my hospital during the day are wearing masks.

Yesterday, I wore an N95 mask for 14 hours. I wore it for 8.5 hours at work, and also for the rest of the day, including at home. I would ordinarily only wear the mask while at work, but yesterday, I was exposed to a staff member who was exposed to a patient at his other hospital who is in serious, if not critical, condition due to the coronavirus. I did inform two supervisors about it, and I wiped my department office down with Lysol since this colleague was also using my desk. Today, my work colleague got tested. When I checked-in with him, he stated to me that he has to wait 5-7 days for results and stay quarantined for 14 days. There was also a patient on the unit I was assigned to who was sent out to a medical hospital, yesterday, due to potential coronavirus symptoms. So, while I wasn’t exposed to that patient, I was exposed to staff who were exposed to that patient. Thankfully, I wear my mask and gloves at work for everything except eating and drinking, so I hope I’m safe from being infected.

Today, I’ve already worn the same N95 mask for 12 hours that I wore yesterday. I’m taking precautions to protect my family in case I have the coronavirus. I also washed in the laundry today three pairs of cotton gloves that I’ve been wearing – while also continuing to wear another pair. I figure that if I have coronavirus symptoms, they’ll start to appear within about three days, from what I’ve read. By Wednesday evening, I should know one way or the other.

Of course, I’m also doing social distancing, both at work and at home, while also wearing my mask and gloves. I’m also doing my laundry after work, as well as running the dishwasher to keep dishes clean. In the shower, I’m using latex gloves and I’m not keeping my soap in the soap dish, so no one else uses it. I’m also wearing latex gloves while cooking for my family. Hopefully, all of this will help prevent this ravaging virus from infecting me and my family!

I’ve been saying for weeks at work that everyone – including patients and staff – needs to wear masks. At my facility, that has not been encouraged to say the least, though I hope it will be in the near future for everyone’s protection. Everyone in facilities throughout the United States needs to wear masks, and if they’re not already wearing gloves, to wash their hands often and sanitize their areas as much as possible. We don’t know everything there is to know about this virus, though what we do know is scary and tragic. Too many people have already been lost to this horrible pandemic. People in the United States – and around the world – need to take coronavirus much more seriously, including mental healthcare professionals – for our own welfare as well as that of everyone we treat!

 

When your Mom Dies

Bruce and Anna Babcock with 1956 Black Thunderbird, Gowanda, New York, June 1998 (2)

Mom and Dad in 1998

Next month – March 2020 – will be the second anniversary of my mom’s death. Her death has been extremely difficult to put into words, and I’ve purposely waited some time before really delving deeply into its meaning to me. Mom and I were not close, and I still have mixed feelings about her death. Of course, mom is my mother and she will always be my mother, no matter what. But, we never had a close bond. There are reasons for that, of course, that I won’t explain here. It’s something that cannot be changed.

Sometimes I miss Mom and sometimes, I don’t. I miss the things about her that I love, and I don’t miss the things about her that I dislike. What I’ve come to terms with is that it’s okay. Many years ago, I came to accept our relationship as it was. There’s no changing someone who won’t change, so I made little effort to convince her to see things another way. The lack of closeness and bond are losses enough in themselves. There is always that void and emptiness there that will not be fulfilled. I know that, I understand that, I accept that. That’s how it is.

What was so difficult for Mom to endure was all of the suffering that accompanied death. Mom battled cancers for two years before she died. I remember in early summer, one year, when she had flu-like symptoms, but didn’t have the flu. This went on for a week, and I told her to call her doctor. She didn’t. It went on for another week. She still hadn’t called her doctor. By the third week, things still hadn’t improved – and had worsened, and called her doctor and made an appointment for her.

Mom’s biggest fear about cancer was her fear. She watched her dad die from cancer long before I was born, and it was a fear that paralyzed her. But, by trying to avoid to fear and the truth, she was just making it worse. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after many tests, and began chemotherapy. She didn’t want to have chemotherapy, but I told her she had to do it – she didn’t have a choice. She had to try. Mom had an oncologist in Atlanta who was nationally-renowned. She believed in him, she trusted him. He saved so many people’s lives. He became her god, in the hopes that he would save her, too. He didn’t.

I went with Mom to only a few of her appointments. It was my dad who religiously took her to her appointments, even when he was exhausted and felt ill, himself. My dad was available, and so, he took her. I would’ve had to change my schedule, take off work, or cancel commitments, including my son’s school commitments, if I took Mom to her appointments. So, Dad did it.

For nine months, Mom had regular chemotherapy appointments. She was sick, she couldn’t eat, she was hospitalized at times, she lost weight, and she eventually completed her treatments. The cancer and the chemotherapy changed Mom. She lived in fear. She still had difficulty eating. She wanted to be happy when her oncologists told her that her cancer was in remission, but I wasn’t so sure. If the cancer was gone, why did she still have difficulty eating? Why was she still sick?

I didn’t believe that Mom’s cancer was gone. While I wanted to be happy, I was cautiously optimistic. There was something about it all that wasn’t quite right. I told Mom and Dad, together, that Mom should get a second opinion. It wouldn’t hurt to see another oncologist. Again, Mom believed in her god-like oncologist. He knew what he was doing. He had decades of experience. After all, he said she was cancer-free. She wouldn’t seek a second opinion. I couldn’t tell her anything, and she wouldn’t listen. The chemotherapy also made her mind such that she couldn’t “hear” me. It was already too much of an ordeal of suffering and fear that was overwhelming to her.

Mom was to go to get checked, monthly, with lab work for her cancer cell count. Two months after she was supposedly “cured,” her cancer cell count was up, slightly. The next month, it was up significantly more. By four months after Mom was supposedly cured, she was diagnosed with another cancer. Unfortunately – and tragically – I believe this is the cancer she shouldn’t been diagnosed with the first time – peritoneal cancer – a type of intestinal cancer.

When Mom’s oncologist did her surgery to remove her cancerous ovary, he also found and removed cancers from the outside of her intestines. These were cancers he missed on the MRI. This nationally-renowned oncologist was so sure that Mom’s cancer was ovarian cancer that he failed to consider whether it could be something else. I believe that the intestinal cancer had spread to Mom’s ovary – in the beginning – and thus, her diagnosis of ovarian cancer. I believe the primary cancer – the peritoneal cancer – was totally missed…until it was too late. The oncologist, himself, also realized this, and cried with Mom when he was unable to tell her that he could save her.

Having been diagnosed with cancer a second time, Mom was in and out of the hospital for extended stays. She couldn’t eat. She couldn’t sleep. She was sad, angry, and afraid. She just wanted to die. Mom’s intestines were blocked. Fortunately, the doctors devised a way for her stomach to eliminate what little digested food she could eat by having inserted a tube in her stomach. For the last three months or so of her life, Mom ate only crackers, chicken soup, and homemade custard. She just loved that custard. I couldn’t make it as well as she did, but I did my best.

Once Mom’s oncologist couldn’t tell her there was any hope, Mom was discharged from the hospital to home hospice. She was given three months to live. She lived only for just over two more months. Mom apologized to us for putting us through what was about to come. How sad that she would apologize for something out of her control. We just wanted to take the burden away from her.

Dad and I wanted Mom to be as comfortable as she could be. We stayed with Mom in shifts, around the clock. When I worked, Dad had a double shift. We tried to shield my son from Mom’s decline as much as we could, but he also helped us care for her. He was a great help with her, especially because she wanted to get up out of bed, and we were afraid she would fall and break a leg or hip. That would just make things worse. My son made sure Mom stayed put when Dad and I couldn’t stay with her.

We made sure that Mom had an IV drip in her last weeks. A truly inhumane way for someone to die is for them not to have any liquid or nutrients, and we didn’t want for Mom to suffer any more, unnecessarily. We employed a home hospice company that was really good, for the most part. Mom had the meds she needed, and the CNA care was excellent. All but one of the nurses was great. The one that wasn’t great was no longer welcome in our home – as I informed the nursing manager. That nurse should never even be a nurse at all – she was horrific.

The last five days of Mom’s life were the worst. She no longer knew who she was. She no longer knew me and didn’t remember that she had a grandson. She wouldn’t listen to anything and couldn’t understand anything. She wasn’t herself and she was out of her head. I had to tell Mom that I was her sister, in order to comfort her. I later joked with my aunt that I impersonated her to Mom in order to help her feel better.

In Mom’s final two days of her life, the smell of death surrounded her. The hospice CNA told me it was only a matter of time before Mom died. I asked her how long – a day, two days, a week? I wanted to plan and prepare myself. What you discover with death is that you can’t plan anything. Death has its own timetable.

I called people and made appointments. I called and arranged for the hospice social worker to come by in a couple of days with the hospice pastor. I didn’t want for that to scare Mom because she had been terrified when I had earlier asked our church priest to visit her while she was in the hospital. At that time, he was only there to do a healing prayer, and she thought he was giving her last rites. She was unable to understand, and I didn’t want to scare her again.

I also called our church priest and asked him to come by. It was late on a Monday when I spoke with him. He said Tuesday is his day off. Couldn’t he ask another priest to come and visit? The other priest was already overwhelmed by his own responsibilities, I know. The soonest our priest could come was Wednesday. By then, Mom had already died. Father – people still die on your day off.

The day before Mom died, she was very stiff and catatonic. It appeared that she could no longer see. Her eyes were bloodshot and her vision was impaired. She wanted more pain medicine. Dad and I did our best to keep Mom on a regimented schedule with strict dosages, so she was getting enough, but not too much. On the morning of the day that Mom died, I couldn’t awaken her for her medicine. She was comatose. She was breathing, but she was no longer with us. I hadn’t realized it yet at the time.

Dad was sitting with Mom when she took her last breath. He and I had just changed shifts about a half an hour prior to that at lunchtime. Unbeknownst to me, Mom had died, and he sat with her for about a half an hour before coming to get me. She was gone. I couldn’t believe she was gone. For several weeks, Mom had already been using oxygen tubes for her breathing. I believe those helped her body not have to work as hard to breath; they were good for her. Her oxygen tubes were still circulating the oxygen to her nostrils; they seemed so awkward now that she had died.

Mom died at home, surrounded by family. Mom’s immediate death was felt most strongly by my dad – her husband of almost 55 years. Dad grieved very severely for about nine months before I noticed that he seemed to be feeling better. I believe it will always be somewhat lonely for him without his life partner. No one else can fulfill for him what my mom did. I love and miss you, Mom. I know you’re in a much better place, and I will see you again. Please save a place for me at The Table.

Visiting Ruby Falls in Chattanooga

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Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, TN, November 26, 2019

I can’t believe that almost one year has passed since I’ve made my last post on WordPress!

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A ceiling view inside Ruby Falls Cave, November 26, 2019

My family and I have been extremely busy this year, and the time has really flown by at an incredible speed – much faster than usual, I’d say.

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Formations that resemble tobacco leaves. Ruby Falls Cave, November 26, 2019

It has been a great year, however, and my son and I took a couple of days to enjoy the sites in Chattanooga during Thanksgiving vacation.

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Another ceiling view inside Ruby Falls Cave. Notice that some of the formations have been broken off in the past. Tourists were told that people did that in the 1930s during the Great Depression to sell them for money. November 26, 2019

Posted here are some pictures I took while inside the Ruby Falls Cave on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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A formation resembling a leaning tower. Ruby Falls Cave. November 26, 2019

I had never been there before, so I was pleasantly surprised and awed by its beauty.

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Formation that looks like an elephant’s foot inside Ruby Falls Cave. November 26, 2019

I’ve toured a few caves in the past, but this is one of the best I’ve seen!

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A famous formation in Ruby Falls Cave that people are allowed to touch. November 26, 2019

Please enjoy the pictures, although they don’t do it justice.

Making Frosted Christmas Sugar Cookies

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Some of my Frosted Christmas Sugar Cookies, December 27, 2018

I’m at it again – baking for most of the day today! It’s the holiday season, and I really would like my family and friends to enjoy some of my goodies.

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Some more Christmas Cookies, December 27, 2018

Today, I baked two batches of sugar cookies – from my great grandmother’s recipe. They are absolutely delicious, and even better when they’re frosted!

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Cookies cooling after taking them out of the oven, December 27, 2018

Only two of the larger gingerbread man-style cut-outs broke in half, so I did really well keeping everything whole. And, I definitely worked up a sweat more than once today, but the end product is all worth it!

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A tray of cookies after being baked, December 27, 2018

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Baking for Christmas!

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Christmas chocolate cake, December 2018

In the past week, I’ve done some baking for Christmas! Usually, my mom does the baking around the holidays, but with her death in March, I’ve done a bit. We all miss Mom and her lovely peanut brittle, fruit cake, and other goodies. She really should’ve opened her own bakery because she was so talented at baking.

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Chocolate-nut fudge, December 2018

This year, I tried my hand at the chocolate-nut fudge, and it turned out great! It was the first time I ever made fudge. I followed the recipe to the ‘t,’ and was very pleased with the results. My son really loves the chocolate fudge, and I’m happy he can enjoy some at these Christmas holidays.

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Merry Christmas cake, December 2018

I also baked two chocolate cakes, and decorated them with a Christmas theme. I baked one cake for my family and another for our elderly neighbors. Both cakes have a Christmas tree on them.  One cake even has a shooting star at the top – see if you can spot it! Hopefully, I can bake some cookies next…Merry Christmas!

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

Butterflies and Flowers (2)

Butterflies and flowers (Retrieved from http://kollegium.szily.hu, May 7, 2016)

Mother’s Day is here again!  Wow, I can hardly believe another year has passed already!

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there.  May you have a blessed, peaceful, and enjoyable day.  If you are working, may all go smoothly!

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.

On Having a Difficult Mother (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

I wonder how many of you out there can relate to having a difficult mother?  This is a topic about which I have never publicly addressed, however I have privately journaled about it, often, in the past.  I was thinking that, perhaps, it may be somewhat therapeutic for me to put it out there.  So, what makes a difficult mother and how does one cope with her?

Having a difficult mother for nearly 45 years (my entire life) has taught me alot.  Certainly, I am thankful to have my mother and I love my mother, though I recognize that I love her in a manner that is quite emotionally detached.  This is how I have learned to cope with my difficult mother, in order to protect myself, emotionally.

What currently makes my mother difficult is that her behavior can be very critical, negative, jealous, resentful, selfish, abrasive, and stressful.  In times gone by, her behavior was sometimes more than difficult, though I learned to cope with and survive that, too.  Of course, there have been many times in my life in which my mother has been supportive, helpful, loving, and encouraging, though the times in which she has not have been most hurtful of all.

My mother is a person who typically has nothing good to say about anything.  She is a person for whom nothing will please.  A person could knock themselves out making the greatest efforts to please her, and it will never be good enough.  Thankfully, I learned that in enough time (in my teens) to save my own identity from any greater dysfunction or deterioration.

Of course, I have analyzed my mother’s personality and behavior, and I realize that she is who she is as a result of her family, upbringing, and environment.  She is the third of four children in her family, and I believe was likely one who needed a certain amount of attention as a child since she was the youngest for many years before her younger brother was born.  Perhaps she learned to act out for attention, or perhaps she had to fend for herself against her older brother and sister, who seemed to be more bonded to each other than they were to her, as she has expressed.

I further recognize that my mother is her mother’s daughter.  My grandmother “Babcia” was a strong-willed and independent-minded woman, but one whose perspective was also very negative, critical, and pessimistic.  She was further one for whom nothing was ever good enough.  I believe this is where my own mother gets that from.

I came to terms with having a difficult mother many years ago.  I realize that she is never going to change.  After all, why should she?  She is who she is and does not recognize or have any desire for positive change in herself.  She has been the way she is for nearly 72 years, and she is quite set in her ways.

So, I am the one who recognized that, in order to survive, emotionally, I was the one who had to change – and I did.  I changed my perspective about my difficult mother to one that recognizes that she is who she is, she will never change, she does not recognize any need for positive change, she does not realize the hurtfulness and harm that her words and actions often cause, and it is better to readjust my own thinking and behavior not to allow this to negatively affect me.

Consequently, and not out of any actual desire to do so, I have become detached from my mother.  Our society teaches that, typically, mothers are expected to be nurturing, loving, caring, and supportive – all of the characteristics which I reflect to my own son.  However, not all mothers are this way.  I recognize that what I want in my own mother is something that I will never receive.  And so, while it is discouraging and disappointing, it is something that I have accepted.

I additionally recognize that I do not have to be like my mother, as many of her characteristics and behaviors were like those of her own mother – my babcia.  Family is family, and I will always love my family, but I believe there are certain levels and definitions of love.  Love can obviously mean different things to different people.  And, while I love my mother, it is not the same love that I have for my dad.  While I recognize and understand that my dad is always supportive of my mom, even in questionable situations and those that may create increased stress or conflict, I feel more bonded toward him than I do to my mother.  And, I also recognize that it’s okay.  I’m okay with it.

After my son was born, the things that really got to me about my mom, however, were those of her negative and immature behaviors toward him.  There has been many a time where I have put my foot down and have had heated arguments with her about treating my son – her only grandchild – better.  While I won’t go into detail here, some of the manners in which she has treated my son have definitely been difficult, stressful, and unnecessary.

What saddens me the most, though, is that my son is already recognizing that, in order to emotionally-preserve himself from her abrasive words and behaviors – he must also emotionally detach from her.  This is not something that I really want him to learn because I hope that, in the future, he is able to bond with a wonderful woman who will become his wife.  However, I understand and support his need for emotional protection and self-preservation from a woman who is difficult, negative, and critical, and who never sees the harm in others that she causes.  My son is aware of how my mother treated my brother and I when we were children, and she will never treat my son that way, or she knows she risks losing her relationship with us.  It is sad, however, that neither of us can truly be ourselves – and be accepted for it – when we are around her.

I am glad to have a mother, but having a difficult mother is certainly difficult.  It has always been difficult.  This is why I believe that I can listen to other peoples’ problems and issues, and be supportive and understanding.  I’ve had my share of troubles and difficulties in my life, and I can certainly relate to them.  It always shocks, me, however whenever someone comments to me that they believe I have it together, that I do not seem to need anyone (but I do), and that I do not appear to have particular needs.

Perhaps I am good at hiding it, though more often than not, those deep issues are private to me, and are not things that I share with just anyone.  I have to know someone so well that I would trust him/her with my life before I shared some of those deep issues.  And, I recognize that about myself and get the support that I need when I need it, too.  That helps me maintain my own sanity, or I would certainly not appear to be in the “good” mental shape that I would like to believe I am.

So, that’s all I’m going to say about my difficult mother.  I know if she were ever to read this, I would never hear the end of it.  But, at this point, I do not really care.  I love my mother and she knows that – it is just a type of love that is detached and for which I have learned to preserve myself.  I have to believe I am a better, smarter, stronger, and kinder person than I believe my mother thinks I am.  These – and my son and strong religious faith – are that which keep me going, one step at a time.

 

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

Holiday Image (Retrieved from Happymerrychristmaswishesz.com, December 20, 2015)

Holiday Image (Retrieved from Happymerrychristmaswishesz.com, December 20, 2015)

‘Tis the season for happy holiday wishes!  Those of you who are Christian, may you enjoy a merry Christmas.  May you enjoy happy holidays regardless of what faith you may or may not practice.

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!