Enjoying the Gwinnett County Fair (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

View of Gwinnett County Fair from atop Ferris Wheel, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

View of Gwinnett County Fair from atop Ferris Wheel, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

Last weekend, my son and I took the opportunity to visit and enjoy the Gwinnett County Fair in Lawrenceville, Georgia.  We do our best to visit the Fair each year, doing so many of the fun things that fairs have to offer.  Last Friday evening was perfect for riding several rides, including the swings, Ferris wheel, coaster cars, and walking through the fun houses and 4-H small animal building.

My Son Enjoying a Fun House at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

My Son Enjoying a Fun House at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

Last year, my son and I volunteered with the 4-H small animal building and had a great experience, but we missed out on doing so this year.  We also enjoyed eating pizza, snow cones, and cotton candy; playing some of the many games; and winning a gold fish at the ping pong ball toss.

My Son Petting a Rabbit at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

My Son Petting a Rabbit at the Gwinnett County Fair, Lawrenceville, GA, September 18, 2015

In all, it was another experience of great fun at the Gwinnett County Fair, and we were happy to come away exhilarated and refreshed!

Flowers and Plants Around my Neighborhood (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Flowering Cherry Trees in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Cherry Trees in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

We have had two or three days of rainy weather within the past week that have really brought out the Spring flowers and plants near Atlanta, Georgia. Floral buds are blossoming with fragrant and beautiful flowers.

Red Camelia in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Red Camelia in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Leaf buds are bursting with fresh, new leaves.  The daffodils are already just about done for this year, however the azaleas are just beginning to bloom.  I saw the first azalea flowers in bloom in my neighborhood today – they are on two red flowering bushes.

First Azalea to Flower in my Neighborhood this Year (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

First Azalea to Flower in my Neighborhood this Year (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Please enjoy this collage of photos of some of the my neighborhood flowers, plants, bushes, and trees springing forth the new life that comes with Spring. 🙂

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Flowering Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

The View from Underneath a Flowering Cherry Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

The View from Underneath a Flowering Cherry Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Fruit Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Fruit Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Shrub in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

A Flowering Shrub in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Holly and Berries in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Holly and Berries in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Patch of Clover in a Neighbor's Yard (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Patch of Clover in a Neighbor’s Yard (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Daffodils in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Daffodils in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Pink Camelias in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Pink Camelias in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Tree Seeds on a Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Tree Seeds on a Tree in my Neighborhood (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

Even the dandelions are out in full force already!

The Yard with the Most Dandelions in my Neighborhood! (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

The Yard with the Most Dandelions in my Neighborhood! (Michele Babcock-Nice, March 23, 2015)

I hope you enjoyed this stroll through my neighborhood, seeing many of the flowers and plants that have sprung forth with new life again this Spring.  I can hardly wait until the azaleas are in full bloom!

Dogwoods and Azaleas in Full Bloom (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Pink Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Pink Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

A couple of days ago, following a heavy, soaking rain in central Georgia near Atlanta, many trees and flowers are now in full bloom, particularly dogwood trees and azalea bushes.  They are really beautiful, and I wanted to share some photos of them here.  Happy Spring!

White Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

White Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Purple Flowers, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Purple Flowers, Snellville, Georgia, April 10, 2014

Pink Azaleas, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Pink Azaleas, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

White Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

White Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Pink Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

Pink Dogwood, Snellville, Georgia, April 17, 2014

These are some of my photos of a few of the flowering bushes and trees in my area.  I hope you have enjoyed viewing them!

“America’s Invisible Poor: White Single Mothers” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

The holiday season is the time of year for giving, including giving and generosity to the poor and less fortunate.  This church is collecting food for this food drive, and this bank is collecting for this canned food drive, and this grocery store is collecting these toys, etc.  This is all wonderful and needed in our society in which the poor are often invisible and forgotten.  Following the crash of the housing markets and real estate in this country in 2007, the economy has not been kind to the poor; and, indeed, many of those who began experiencing poverty at that time are still impoverished.  Times are still difficult for those who are poor, and who live at or below poverty level.

In the United States, a country in which the highest current poverty rates are among Blacks, followed by Hispanics, the population by race that has evidenced lowest poverty is Whites.  Even so, in my own observations among Caucasians, those who experience the invisibility of poverty are single and/or divorced mothers.  Perhaps because the present poverty rate among Whites is less than 10% of the population in the United States, and because Caucasians are the majority race in this country, particular poverty among White single mothers is relatively invisible.  I mean, how many White single mothers do you know who are in poverty?  Perhaps because I am more cognizant of it, I am aware of several, though are you able to identify any?  I would like to share a bit about those Caucasian women who are divorced and/or single mothers in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

One Caucasian woman I know, who is in her early 40s, is a divorced, single mother of one child, and has lived below poverty level for the past five years.  She is educated with a master’s degree, but has been unable to acquire gainful employment for the past 5.5 years.  She has received several forms of public assistance within the past four years, received unemployment benefits for more than two years, and is currently receiving food stamps.

While this lady is appreciative of the assistance that she has received, it has not been enough to raise her socioeconomic status, and she continues to live below poverty level.  She has also received some financial, food, and clothing assistance through a charitable organization that is associated with her church in the past two years.  She lost her home, experienced a bankruptcy, does not have health insurance, and has been unemployed for the past 4.5 years.  Also being depleted throughout a period of several years has been her retirement account.  She is also a recipient of food and support from her extended family.  What she desires is gainful employment in order to care for and support her family.

1980-2010 US Poverty Rates (Source: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/218773/0/Poverty-Rate-Rises-In-America)

1980-2010 US Poverty Rates (Source: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/ 218773/0/Poverty-Rate-Rises-In-America)

Another Caucasian woman whom I know is experiencing a divorce.  She is a woman in her late 20s to early 30s.  Her husband had an affair, left her and their four children, and is living with his mistress.  Having four young children, she has remained at home to care for and raise them, and is not employed outside of the home.  She is also not educated beyond high school.  Her husband left her and their four young children, along with a house that she is unable to pay for.  She hired a divorce attorney who is well-known in the area, and hopes to utilize his services in order to secure as stable a financial future for herself and the children as possible.

One young White woman whom I know has three children and is pregnant with her fourth.  She is about 18-20 years old, and she and her children live with her parents.  She does not have a boyfriend or significant partner involved in her life to provide assistance to her or the children.  She remains at home to care for her children, is not employed outside of her home, and does not have health insurance.  She receives food stamps, and is in a program to potentially receive temporary aid for needy families (TANF).  The TANF program requires her to come to four two-hour meetings during a one to two month period in order to receive assistance.

This lady must leave her children in the care of her parents, and take a bus – including a switch-over to a second bus – throughout a long distance, in order to attend the TANF meetings for potential assistance.  She went to one meeting, and did not attend any of the others.  She feels tired and hopeless that she will ever receive the assistance and support that she needs in order to better herself and her circumstances.  For a young woman, she is the most passive and hopeless White single mother whom I know.  I have wondered, myself, if her circumstances involve incest or sexual assault, particularly because she lives with her family and she began having babies at the age of 14 or 15 years old.

Another woman whom I know is also White and single due to her husband’s death.  She is in her 30s, works as a hair dresser, and has four children, including a newborn.  Her husband committed suicide; he did not present with noticeable symptoms to her of being depressed or suicidal, however I would have considered him to be an alcoholic.  She is responsible for the four children, the family home, the costs of the recent remodeling done to the home. and the new truck.  She has received the assistance and support of her parents, as well as by some people in the community and through church.

Percentage of Children in Single Parent Families, 2000s (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/05/Petrilli_poverty_%26_schools.html)

Percentage of Children in Single Parent Families, 2000s (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/05/Petrilli_poverty_%26_schools.html)

Yet a further White woman whom I know is in her 40s, and is recently separated from her common law husband of 20 years, with one child.  While together, the woman and man had their struggles, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and went through a bankruptcy.  The woman has not worked in many years, does not have health insurance, and was reliant on the meager financial support of her common law husband and his parents.

This woman’s parents died when she was a child, and she, herself, was raised by her eldest brother.  She applied for food stamps and was required to provide documentation of her financial status, though she was unable to submit all documents because her partner refused to give them to her.  The food stamp case worker required her to jump through several hoops that she was unable to do because her partner was uncooperative, thus contributing to the further detriment of the woman and their child.

1988-2010 Graph of Poverty in America by Four Races of People (Source: http://tcf.org/blog/detail/graph-poverty-on-the-rise-in-america)

1988-2010 Graph of Poverty in America by Four Races of People (Source: http://tcf.org/blog/detail/graph-poverty-on-the-rise-in-america)

Regarding this woman, at one point, her broke down, and she was unable to pay for repairs, causing further hardship.  She and her partner, both, have had many sexual partners throughout their own relationship, with her partner openly speaking about his current mistress to her and their child.  The woman, herself, has intimate relationships with both men and women by meeting people on ashleymadison.com; some of these liaisons provide her with money and/or high ticket items that she uses to support herself and her child.  In short, she has become like a prostitute, trading sex for money and/or merchandise in order to survive.

A sixth woman whom I know is also a White single mother.  She is in her 20s, has one young daughter, and lives with her parents.  She works, but is not educated beyond high school.  When her daughter is not in school, her parents take care of the girl.  Of the women I have described above, this lady and her daughter might more closely “fit” what many people may believe is the appearance of being poor.  They are both very thin, and their clothing is of a lesser than average quality.  In cold weather, they both wear light-weight clothing and jackets that do not keep out the cold.  They do not speak of being in need, though it clearly appears that they are.

Another woman whom I know is White and in her 50s with one daughter.  She is divorced, and had been employed as an office manager at a small insurance company.  Two of the young male managers of her company praised and praised her for all of her wonderful work, overtime, and upgrading of the company, but were really being deceitful and fired her, taking over her position.  She filed for unemployment, but is having difficulty with her case because the managers are supporting each other and not her.  She was devastated at losing her job – her sole income; and she lost her home and possessions because her property went into foreclosure.

This lady is extremely depressed, and is taking anti-depressant medication.  She and her daughter now live in a rented room in someone’s residence.  She receives food stamps and welfare (TANF).  She had been attending regular TANF meetings, but has stopped coming out of her despair, devastation, and hopelessness.  She has no family in this area to help provide emotional or financial support.  I am very concerned about her, have given her some emotional support, and have privately prayed for her well-being.

These women are examples of some Caucasians in the Atlanta, Georgia area who are divorced and/or single mothers, and who are in poverty or in need.  All of these women – but for the sixth one – dress well, appear to be fit and healthy, and care for their children as best as they can.  Yet, they are often ignored and overlooked in their poverty because – as some have said they have been told – they don’t “look like” they are poor or in need.  These women are experiencing the invisibility of poverty of Whites who are single and/or divorced mothers.

2013 US Federal Poverty Guidelines (Source: Federal Register)

2013 US Federal Poverty Guidelines (Source: Federal Register)

I, for one, would just like to say that looks are deceiving.  The examples of invisible poverty experienced by the women I have described herein are just that – that looks are deceiving.  Just because the women do not “appear” to be poor, impoverished, or in need does not mean that they are not.  People make all kinds of incorrect assumptions and misjudgments about others simply based on the way that they look on the outside, but sometimes, those notions couldn’t be more wrong.

Because there are more Black and Hispanics who are impoverished in the US than other groups, these are the populations that one might typically think of when generalizing about those who are poor.  On any given day, if one visits a local welfare office in and around Atlanta, about half of the people waiting for assistance are Black and the other half are Hispanic.  There are typically no (or extremely few) people of other races there who can be observed seeking assistance.  That leaves Whites at the bottom.

2008 US Child Poverty (Source:http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_912.html)

2008 US Child Poverty (Source:http://www.nccp.org/ publications/pub_912.html)

Because Caucasians are the majority race in the US, and because they experience the lowest rates of poverty in our country, there is an invisibility of poverty among Whites, especially among White mothers who are single and/or divorced, and their children.  Even while researching online to obtain information and images for this article, I did a search on Google, using the key words, “poverty in America,” and found only two images of White women (with their children) in poverty; one image was a famous Depression-era photo.  This is yet further evidence of the invisibility of the poverty of White single mothers in America.

More aid, assistance, and support is needed for White mothers who are single and/or divorced.  Better opportunities for child care, education, and employment are also needed for this population.  Too many White single mothers and their children are being ignored and overlooked in their poverty.  White single mothers and their children need not experience the invisibility of poverty because they are White.  This country can and must do better for those who are in need, especially those who are most vulnerable, overlooked, and invisible.

References

DeGraw, D. (2010).  Census Bureau poverty rate drastically undercounts severity of poverty in America.  AmpedStatus.  http://ampedstatus.com/census-bureau-poverty-rate-drastically-undercounts-severity-of-poverty-in-america/.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Federal Register (2013).  2013 HHS poverty guidelines.  Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 16, pp. 5182-5183Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Fight Poverty (2006).  Child poverty rates across the states, 2004.  Doors to Diplomacy 2006.  http://fightpoverty.mmbrico.com/facts/america.htmlRetrieved November 25, 2013.

First Coast News (2011).  Poverty rates rise in America.  First Coast News.  http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/218773/0/Poverty-Rate-Rises-In-America.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Landy, B. (2011).  Blog of the Century: Graph: Poverty on the rise in America.  The Century Foundation.  http://tcf.org/blog/detail/graph-poverty-on-the-rise-in-americaRetrieved November 25, 2013.

Meier, D. (2013).  Bridging differences: What we talk about when we talk about poverty.  Education Week.  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/05/Petrilli_poverty_%26_schools.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

National American Indian Housing Council (2013).  NAIHC: Native Housing Update: HAC release report and map on rural areas, poverty & housing in America.  http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs165/1102839656375/archive/1112744786740.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Rogers, S. (2011).  US poverty: Where are the super poor?  The Guardian.  http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/nov/03/us-poverty-poorest.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Wallace, B. (2012).  Poverty in America infographic.  Z6 Mag.  http://z6mag.com/lifestyle/poverty-in-america-inforgraphic-1613292.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

Wight, V.R., Chau, M., & Aratani, Y. (2010).  Who are America’s poor children?  National Center for Children in Poverty.  http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_912.html.  Retrieved November 25, 2013.

“Fantastic Swimming Experience at Local Park Pool” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Enjoying a Summer Swimming Lesson, Briscoe Park, Snellville, Georgia, July 2013

My Son Enjoying a Summer Swimming Lesson, Briscoe Park, Snellville, Georgia, July 2013

For the past five years, my son has taken Summer swimming lessons at Snellville’s Briscoe Park.  For four of those five years, the area business, Positively Pools, has been contracted to provide life guards, swimming instructors, supervisors, and maintenance for the pool.  It is my absolute pleasure to share the overall wonderful experiences my son has had in taking swimming lessons, as well as in swimming recreationally at the pool.

I would like to take this time, therefore, to thank the managers and staff of Briscoe Park, as well as the employees of Positively Pools for consistently providing my family with such outstanding experiences with swimming at Briscoe Park.  Folks such as Justin, Stephen, Amber, Gabby, Deluir, Gabby, and so many others have repeatedly evidenced their exceptional professionalism, customer service, courtesy, and expertise to us. 

Thank you, everyone, for all of your hard work, commitment, and dedication to consistently doing the best of your ability in being flexible, open-minded, professional, courteous, and dedicated.  It is folks like you who help make swimming an enjoyable and safe experience for everyone – and that’s how it should be.  Keep up the great work!

“Neighborhoods that have Gone to the Dogs” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

When was the last time that you were able to take a stroll on your street or in your neighborhood, and not be bothered in some way by a loose dog?  Really, I cannot even walk down my own street and enjoy a leisurely walk with my son and dog without being approached and/or attempt to be attacked by some territorial and/or aggressive dog! 

These situations that I have encountered (with or without my son and dog) of being unable to experience a calm and peaceful walk on my street or in my neighborhood have reached beyond the level of patience, and have entered into the realm of frustration and discouragement.   A neighbor is not a good neighbor if he or she allows his or her dog to run loose.  Whenever I am out walking – whether with or without my son and dog – somebody’s loose dog always finds me.  And, while there is absolutely no reason for the dog to feel threatened, it is going to act like a dog, becoming territorial and/or aggressive, as I have experienced on the majority of occasions.

Pit Bulls may Appear to be Calm, but can be Unpredictable, Retrieved from http://greyhoundinjuryfund.wordpress.com/tag/foster-pit-bulls/

Pit Bulls may Appear to be Calm, but can be Unpredictable, Retrieved from http://greyhoundinjuryfund.wordpress.com/
tag/foster-pit-bulls/

In the past month, I have taken five walks on my street with my dog, with four of the five of those walks also with my son.  On four of the five occasions, we have been approached by a territorial and/or aggressive dog.  I have reached the point with people’s dogs where it has crossed the line; enough is enough.  Literally every time I go out on my street to take a walk, I encounter some confrontation with someone’s loose dog.

The new people who moved in on my street two months ago have completely ignored the leash law that is on the books in my city.  They have a brown male pit bull dog and a black Labrador retriever.  Both dogs ran up to us in a territorial and/or aggressive manner in the street and away from their own property while we were on our walks.  Neither of the dogs backed off, but instead came closer, with one barking and growling at us.  Both dogs got a face of mace, with one getting it twice before it backed off. 

On the encounter with the black Lab owned by the new neighbors, the owner came out of her house when she heard her dog barking, calling the dog inside, at which point I pleasantly informed her about the leash law and to please keep her dog leashed.  I also called the police in regard to both instances, and on both occasions, action was taken by the authorities which is very much appreciated!  Police who take these issues seriously provide a wonderful and needed community service to protect citizens such as myself and my family.  I have since found that these neighbors paid the citation that they were issued; being ticketed and fined appears to cause dog owners to take these situations more seriously. 

Black Labrador Retriever, Retrieved from http://lesliedenning.com/musings-from-the-lake/

Black Labrador Retriever, Retrieved from http://lesliedenning.com/musings-from-the-lake/

Another neighbor on my street has a white poodle and a brown female pit bull dog.  A similar type of situation occurred regarding the bit bull in which I was walking my dog, and the pit bull ran up to us in the street, this time at the location of it’s property/territory.  The pit bull felt so territorially-threatened simply by us walking down the street that it ran up to us with it’s fur raised on it’s back.  The owner was in his back shed, and I yelled out to him, asking if he could call his dog, and he did as I shared with him what had occurred.  He said that the dog is timid, however that he would put her in her pen.  Typically, this dog owner is reliable, however there is always that one time that is unpredictable.

Just today, my son and I were walking down our street with our dog again, and guess what?  You got it, there was a loose white poodle that approached us and tried to attack both my son and I.  This dog belongs to yet another neighbor in the cul de sac nearest to us.  Those dog owners also have at least two Labrador retrievers, as well, though they are always maintained in the fenced backyard. 

White Poodle, Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_Standard_Poodle.jpg

White Poodle, Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/
wiki/File:White_Standard_Poodle.jpg

Regarding this particular poodle, it was barking aggressively and ran over to us from fully two yards away from it’s own property, trying to bite me. To defend myself, I was flailing my leg, trying to kick it, but instead, my sandal flew off.  My son ran in the other direction away from the dog, and the dog went off chasing him.  I called to my son to stop, otherwise the dog would bite him, and I threw my sandal at it.  When the owner came looking for her dog, I explained what happened, and she was very uncaring and insensitive about it.  I therefore stated that she keep her dog on a leash, or I would call the police.

In my current neighborhood, in the past five years, there have also been three other occasions during which I have been approached by other brown male pit bull dogs in a territorial and/or aggressive manner.  It has been because of those occasions that I began carrying dog mace.  I do not desire to be a prisoner of my own street or neighborhood because of being unable to take a leisurely stroll, but without mace or some other protection from people’s loose, aggressive and/or territorial dogs, that is what is necessary to protect oneself at the minimum.

In my previous neighborhood in which I lived, during a three year period, I was approached in an aggressive and/or territorial manner by several of the pit bull dogs owned by one particular family.  In those three years, I called the police in regard to those encounters on four occasions.  While the county animal control agency responded on each occasion, it took four times of calling the police in order for these people to get fined, and to finally begin making sure that their dogs remained penned or leashed. 

These occasions were particularly sensitive because they occurred during a time when my son was a baby and/or toddler, and we did not have a fenced backyard.  Therefore, these pit bulls from three doors up the street from us were often loose, even approaching us while we were in our back yard.  Imagine peacefully playing with your toddler in your backyard, and then staring at a pit bull coming toward you.  I remember that on that occasion, all I had for protection was a broom, which I held at the dog while telling it to go away. 

Here in the Atlanta area, it appears that the dog of choice for many people is the pit bull.  While many people like pit bulls and tell of how wonderful they are, I disagree.  On each and every encounter that I have had with a pit bull – particularly the male pit bulls – they are territorial and/or aggressive, sometimes ferociously aggressive.  And, there is no reason for it.  A person cannot even take a peaceful, leisurely walk in their own neighborhood without having to constantly watch out for and protect oneself from someone’s loose, nasty dog.  All it would take is for people to be sure that their dog is leashed and/or properly maintained in a fenced backyard or pen so that it is unable to get loose. 

So, here around Atlanta, there are many neighborhoods that have gone to the dogs.  Too many people are inconsiderate of their neighbors, and are unable to simply keep their dogs leashed or in their fenced backyard.  In fact, of each of the dogs who have approached me and/or my son, dog, and I on our walks, all of their dog owners have fenced backyards.  Rather than maintain the dogs in the fenced backyards, however, they allow them to run loose.  This certainly creates an unfair situation for all of us dog owners who always leash and control our dogs, and it creates an unnecessary stressful and hostile situation between people who are outside walking and the dogs that have been allowed to run loose. 

It would be nice to be able to take a walk on my street and in my neighborhood, and enjoy it rather than have to face and confront another loose, territorial, and/or aggressive dog that someone has allowed to run loose.  It would be nice, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  There is a leash law in my city, but most people in my neighborhood disregard it.  These people are not good neighbors, and more than that, they are contributing to a situation that may be potentially harmful and injurious for others.  

Therefore, would like to appeal to everyone to keep your dogs leashed or in your fenced backyard, for the enjoyment and safety of everyone.  Dogs can do much harm and injury to people (as reflected in two of the photo sections shown herein) – and even cause death.  All of this is unnecessary if dog owners would remain mindful about their pets, keeping them properly controlled at all times.

“Great Experience at Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

For nearly the past three months, my son has been a member of his school’s chess club in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.  For six months, he contemplated being involved in Chess Club at St. John Neumann School in Lilburn, Georgia, and finally took the plunge in February 2013.  The Chess Club at his school includes students who are in 2nd through 8th grades, and has two of the school’s teachers as experienced co-advisors.

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

The Chess Club at my son’s school typically meets once per week throughout the academic year after school, except for the month of May.  Regular meetings and practice in the game of chess has helped my son to develop and polish some of his skills, even as a beginner at the game.

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

Archdiocesan Elementary Chess Tournament at Berry College Elementary School, April 13, 2013

Even as a beginner and only having played and practiced chess for a little over two months, my son tied for fourth place among approximately 50 students who participated in the kindergarten through third grade level at the Archdiocesan’s Chess Tournament, held this year at Berry College Elementary School on April 13, 2013.  To me, as a person who knows nothing about chess, this is an impressive accomplishment!  Three other students from my son’s school received recognition for placing in the top three spots in their grade levels, as well. 

I am happy that my son has an extracurricular activity at school at which he enjoys and excels.  Now, I will have to study about and learn how to play chess so my son doesn’t beat me every time! 🙂

 

“Beautiful Spring Flowers Blooming in Georgia” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Beautiful flowers are in bloom all over Georgia right now.  Today, I took photographs of many beautiful azaleas, wisteria, dogwood blossoms, lilacs, camellias, and other flowers.  I am more knowledgeable of certain flowers over others, so I ask for your patience if I have misidentified any of them.  Please enjoy the following photo collage of many of the beautiful flowers that are presently in bloom in my neighborhood near Atlanta!

Beautiful Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Beautiful Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia,
April 17, 2013

White Azalea Bush and Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 17, 2013

White Azalea Bush and Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Medium Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Medium Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Red Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Red Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Another Red Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Another Red Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 2013

Small Purple Flowers, Georgia, April 2013

Small Purple Flowers, Georgia, April 2013

Hot Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Hot Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Dogwood Blossoms, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Pink Dogwood Blossoms, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Beautiful Purple Flowers (Wisteria?), Georgia, April 17, 2013

Beautiful Purple Wisteria, Georgia,
April 17, 2013

Lilac Flowers, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Lilac Flowers, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Camellias, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Camellias, Georgia, April 17, 2013

White Dogwood Flowers, Georgia, April 17, 2013

White Dogwood Flowers, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Pink Tulip, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Pink Tulip, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Pansies, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Pansies, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Yellow Iris, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Yellow Iris, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Purple Iris, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Purple Iris, Georgia, April 17, 2013

Beautiful Purple Azalea Bush in my Area, Georgia, April 21, 2013

Beautiful Purple Azalea Bush in my Area, Georgia, April 21, 2013

Purple Petunias, Georgia, April 24, 2013

Purple Petunias, Georgia, April 24, 2013

Maroon Iris, Georgia, April 24, 2013

Maroon Iris, Georgia, April 24, 2013

White Irises, Georgia, April 24, 2013

White Irises, Georgia, April 24, 2013

More Purple Irises, Georgia, April 24, 2013

More Purple Irises, Georgia, April 24, 2013

Another Medium Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 24, 2013

Another Medium Pink Azalea Bush, Georgia, April 24, 2013

There certainly are many beautiful flowers in bloom right now in my area.  Many of the trees and flowers blossomed later this year because the cooler weather stayed with us longer than usual.  We had daffodils in January because it was mild, but then, the weather turned cooler again.  So, we have the flowers to enjoy a bit later in the season this year.

“Gwinnett Tech Screens out it’s Own Honor Student, Twice” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

'Gwinnett Technical College' Wording on Diploma Cover

‘Gwinnett Technical College’ Wording on Diploma Cover

Sometimes, a person just has to let some things go.  However painful, this has been one of those things… 

In 2010-2011, I returned to school at my local Gwinnett Technical College (GTC) on Georgia’s Hope Grant, pursuing studies that certified me in healthcare.  In transferring courses from my undergraduate university, as well as completing required prerequisite courses to pursue further program studies in healthcare-related fields, I successfully completed all courses and requirements, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, being named to the dean’s list on two occasions, being named to the college’s honor society – as well as being an active participant in it – and earning a percentile score of 97% on the HOBET, a healthcare admissions examination.  In two of my courses completed at GTC, I also earned the highest possible ethics score of 3/3 for my performance, a score that is rarely issued to students unless exceptional ethics and mastery is reflected.

Having been unable to re-enter into the teaching field for two years – at that time in 2010 – I chose to pursue a career change.  It was my desire to pursue my interest in healthcare, and to enter into a nursing or other healthcare-related field.  Reflecting my interests, schedule availability, and financial need, I applied – twice – to GTC’s program in medical assisting, and was twice rejected from it.  Being eligible for the Federal Workforce Investment Act Grant in Gwinnett County, since I had been laid off from my previous employment, I met all the criteria for receiving the Grant due to employment as well as financial circumstances.  Unfortunately, I also discovered that the Grant was not transferrable to other counties and was required to be used – if issued – in Gwinnett County, since that was the location of the employer that had laid me off one year prior to that.

Devastated that I had been rejected from my desired program of study on the first occasion, I went through the appropriate channels of college administration and made a formal complaint.  In part, I expressed how the majority of the individuals who met with me in the formal interview process were nearly 30 minutes late to the arranged interview time, that there was no apology provided for their lateness, that the program director basically told me that I was overqualified and wondered why I was pursuing a program in which the income was low, and that the interviewers’ questions were extremely negatively-focused.  I also informed college administrators (the president and two vice presidents) that I was told by one interviewer that I would fail (!) the program.  I stated in my complaint that it was obvious to me that the decision had been made to reject me from the program long before the formal interview, and that the interview only sealed the fate they already had planned for me. 

When – as I expected – the president finally responded in writing (see letter to follow) to my complaint and appeal, she upheld the decision of the interview panel to reject me, as well as the decision of one of her vice presidents in refusing to reconsider my application to the program for that semester.  I then met with the vice president who refused to reconsider me, and discovered, in part, that the program director told her that she believed that I would be unable to complete the program due to my financial status.  What?!  The Workforce Investment Act Grant would have paid for my studies, and with my 4.0 GPA and outstanding ethics, I would have likely had nothing but success in the program, once accepted.  The vice president was further concerned that I had written to certain state government officials, particularly the state labor department commissioner, about the rejection that I had experienced, stating that the manner in which I was rejected was unprofessional.  Was it not unprofessional?

Gwinnett Technical College President's Response to my Complaint and Appeals Regarding GTC's First Rejection of me, August 2011

Gwinnett Technical College President’s Response to my Complaint and Appeals Regarding GTC’s First Rejection of me, August 2011

I, therefore, wrote additional appeals for consideration for entry into the medical assisting program at GTC – and explained all of the circumstances surrounding my desire to pursue the program and being rejected from it – to a number of state and federal government officials, some of whom included the governor and his wife, a Congress member and his assistant, the technical college commissioner and his assistant, and higher ranking members of our national government, including the President, First Lady, Vice President, and Secretary of State. 

I received kind responses from the Governor (see letter to follow), the Congress Member’s assistant, an assistant to the US President, and the US First Lady, Michelle Obama.  The technical college commissioner’s assistant also heard me out on a couple of occasions, though nothing was done to overturn the decision that was already made to reject me, nor to reconsider me in any way at that time. 

Honorable Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's Response Letter Regarding Gwinnett Technical College's Rejection of me, July 2011

Honorable Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s Response Letter Regarding Gwinnett Technical College’s Rejection of me, July 2011

The response that included much common sense and understanding about my personal situation was that which I received from First Lady Michelle Obama.  She, in part, suggested to me that I do something else to benefit my community (see letter below).

Letter to me from Honorable United States First Lady Michelle Obama Regarding Gwinnett Technical College's Rejection of me, August 2011

Letter to me from Honorable United States First Lady Michelle Obama Regarding Gwinnett Technical College’s Rejection of me, August 2011

A number of efforts were made by staff at GTC to usher me into different healthcare-related programs, and/or to encourage me to consider other options, including applying for several positions as an instructor at the college.  My heart, however, was set on pursuing the medical assisting program, and so, less than one year later, I applied to the program for a second time. 

On the second occasion in which I interviewed for the medical assisting program, a brand new program director had been hired and who was present in the interview, as well as an entirely different interview team.  Though I thought the interview to have proceeded professionally and well, and believed that I had a wonderful chance at acceptance – even though my second application to the program was overlooked in Admissions and I had to follow-up on it several times in order for it to be recognized – I was rejected again, for the second time. 

Devastated again, for the second time, I decided that enough was enough.  After spending three years in trying to pursue medical assistant studies at GTC and being rejected twice – after also being an honor graduate there – it was time to walk away.  I could see that there was no convincing the folks there of my interest, desire, and need to pursue this career.  They had not provided me with an opportunity to succeed, but only to fail, and it was imperative that I find success elsewhere.  Perhaps they felt threatened by my education, perhaps they did not believe in me, perhaps they just didn’t like me.  After all, the new program director was less educated than I am.  Whatever the reason(s), I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter anymore.

Following this second rejection, I did not write any letters.  I did not make any formal complaints.  I did not call any government officials.  Instead, I was just heartbroken and I cried.  It was just too sad and too much for me to bear.  I discovered that it was actually true that so many people did not want me to succeed.  Even one of the professors about whom I had written a compliment letter to admininstrators, and who was an interview panel member in my second interview, rejected me.  So many people withheld an opportunity for me to be successful, to pursue an interesting career, to be able to care for myself and my family in a manner that would have provided increased financial security.  I resolved that it was their problem and their loss.

It would have been easy to give up following these rejections.  It has been these rejections added to so many other rejections.  It is easy for people to say to try again, to keep trying, not to give up.  However, one cannot get ahead when one continually runs into a brick wall.  A single, divorced mother without employment and who is highly-educated cannot give up.  No matter how much I am down, I always, always find a way back up.  I have strength.  I have faith.  And, I know that God is always there for me, no matter how difficult and impossible the circumstances.  I know that life may often seem unfair.

Needless to say, I have not applied to GTC’s medical assisting program for a third time.  No, I’m not going to do that.  Why waste any more of my time, effort, hope, emotion, and money?  I’ve already walked away.  My hurt has healed.  I realize that the door was closed to me long before I even went to my first interview for consideration into the program.  I need something that can deliver.  I do not desire to be in a place where I am not valued or understood, so I am now thankful for being rejected from a place in which so many did not value or understand me, my interests, or my needs.

So, I look back on all of this, now, and believe that – as I always do – everything happens for a reason.  When one door shuts, another is opened.  I have faith, and I have hope.  And only time will tell.

“Thanks for the Beautiful New Roads in my Neighborhood!” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Yes, here it is, folks!  It’s the road that you’ve been waiting for!  And my, it is quite a beautiful road, I must say.  Seriously, several streets in my neighborhood have been newly paved, and they are beautiful!  I guess this is what you would call ‘resurfacing,’ to someone who doesn’t know alot about the appropriate terms to use when describing road paving.  It is all really nice.

Newly Resurfaced Street in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Newly Resurfaced Street in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

About three weeks ago, the workers, trucks, machines, and equipment were in full gear in my neighborhood, paving two streets and a large portion of one lengthy road.  The workers moved along quickly and appeared to take pride and were professional in their project.  On one particular day, I stopped in my vehicle and spoke to two workers, complimenting their handiwork, and one replied, “The pleasure is ours, Ma’am.”  Not only did the E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. employees of Snellville, Georgia do fine, professional work, but they were also courteous and pleasant, as well.

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

Newly Resurfaced Road in my Neighborhood, Snellville, Georgia, February 2013

So, my thanks goes to E.R. Snell Contactor Inc. and their professional and courteous employees for resurfacing several of the streets in my neighborhood.  They are really beautiful, and the work appears to be of high quality so that the roads will last a good long while. 

I have been wanting to make this post ever since the roads were re-paved, though I must apologize since my son was ill for several days, and I have been ill, and we have also had some other issues going on.  So, please don’t think all of this wonderful work has gone unnoticed – it certainly hasn’t!  It’s not every day that the roads in one’s immediate area are resurfaced; and I, for one, certainly appreciate it.