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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

Revisiting Vale

There is no place to seek the mind. It is like footprints of birds in the sky.
-- Zenrin

Here we are again at a point of serious issue with the powers that be. Those that hold all the cards, the powerful ones. Not necessarily the best or the brightest but the ones who hold tightly to the reins and pick the directions for others less fortunate than they. The puppet masters.

On the one hand here is Rachel, a bright student at S.C.C.C. who has five children. Rach has managed to make dean’s list in school, care for her family and hold a job. The father of her oldest child, a 9-year-old girl, is seven years in arrears in child support, which by the way is $28 per month. With the help of a legal aid attorney she has been trying to collect some of this past due money. So far no luck, not a penny has come her way. She is understandably frustrated and angry. And Rachel angry is not a pretty sight. Where can she go if family court is not sympathetic?

Then there’s Lori’s mom. A streetwise and savvy mom who has 4 children ages 2 to 26. She lives on the now infamous Myenderse Street -- right across from Mohawk Ambulance. This past Tuesday her husband wanted to drop her off at the corner store across from said ambulance center, and she said, “No.”

“This is a very dangerous neighborhood,” she said. “Please take me right to our house -- I am afraid to walk alone here after dark.” The distance from store to house was just to cross State Street, pass Mohawk Ambulance and enter the door -- first house on the right and there you are. But imagine not feeling safe on your own block on your own street. It’s not really a rundown area; Lori’s house is neat and well-kept but still there is a miasma of fear dwelling here.

This is Vale Village; remember all those green houses built there for astonishing amounts of money. Some are still empty, shuttered and still. Waiting silently for the street life to take over. And indeed just last week a man stabbed and killed his wife and then hung himself. This is a high crime area, large groups of kids and young adults run the streets. Guns and drugs are rampant. And group brawls are common. Vale Village is not such a nice place to live or even visit. Such large amounts of money poured into this small corner. Rehabilitation of neighborhoods but no rehabilitation of populace. Did the powers that be really expect middle class people to move in and plant rose bushes?

The cost of these homes were not high, but, and a very large but it is, the houses were assessed at full value and the taxes were very, very high. Most people who bought had to leave. It cost as much to live there as it did in any middle-class neighborhood in Schenectady, the difference being that this was not a cozy middle class neighborhood. Vale Village is an expensive experiment that failed. There was no follow up, no follow through. Now those pretty ecologically experimental houses are no longer pretty and the cost on many levels is enormous.

On the brink

Moving on... I have often written about a small family on the hill which was struggling; now it is on the brink of collapse. Three children, a 16-year-old, and a set of twins aged 10 and a mom and a grandfather both with drug habits that have captured their lives. And in a way, captured the lives of the children as well.

C.P.S. finally came in to remove the children, all of whom have issues with A.D.D. I think they were born with addiction issues; mom smokes crack and grandpa shoots heroin. But then again I am only a caring citizen, indeed what do I know? C.P.S. took the children Tuesday night; mom went to court on Wednesday and got them back. Here’s the deal, the judge lectured mom and told her to cut the crap. She had tested positive for crack many times, including the night the authorities removed the children. Mom must take rehab programming and be available for random drug testing. Grandpa doesn’t even enter into the picture.

The thing is, I know many families with similar issues. I wrote about one such familial group where dad was tested at home and tested positive, (ecstasy was the drug of choice). He was told to do so many sessions of N.A. and be ready for random testing -- yadda, yadda, yadda. Thing is, much like Vale Village, no follow-up and no follow-through. To this day he is using and his girlfriend frequently joins in.

Probably this is what will happen to this family as well. Mom loves the kids but not as much as she loves drugs. She is already approaching a mutual friend and is asking her to please take in her 10- year-old daughter. This woman (I will call her Ellen) talked tonight about that word “enabling.” We both believe that mom will just keep on drugging. Ellen had once entered the same crossroads herself but pulled herself up and out of the morass that was pulling this mom down, cleaned up her act and raised her children. “It was never easy,” says Ellen “but Sheila needs to be made aware of the road to hell she has placed herself and her children on.”

“I will be her friend,” she went on, "but Sheila needs to take control of her life. No one else can do it for her.” Indeed it has to be adult time for Sheila, but my heart bleeds for her and her family. Those children really love their mom. When they are at QUEST, they call mom constantly to make sure she’s all right. These children know mom has been rushed by ambulance countless times to Albany Medical Center as an O.D. (drug over dose) patient. Often when I am driving them home we discuss when mom will be back and if grandpa will be back home when they get there.

The effects of bullying

Now let’s talk about bullying.

New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas D. Knistof writes about Lady Ga Ga on March 1, 2012.
When she was in high school, Lady Ga Ga was thrown into a trash can. “The culprits were boys down the block,” she said, reluctantly speaking about repeated cruelty of peers during her teenage years.

“I was called really profane names very loudly in front of huge crowds of people and my school work suffered,” she said. “I was a straight A student and didn’t want to go to class because I was embarrassed all the time. I was so ashamed of who I was.”

Trying to ease the trauma of adolescence for other kids, Lady Ga Ga came to Harvard University for the formal unveiling of her “Born This Way Foundation” meant to empower kids and nurture a more congenial environment in and out of schools.

Experts from scholars to Education Secretary Arne Duncan are calling for more focus on bullying not only because it is linked to high rates of teen suicide but also because it is an impediment to education.

A recent study from the University of Virginia suggests that when a school has a climate of bullying it’s not just the targeted kids who suffer -- the entire school lags academically. A British scholar found that children who are bullied are more likely to skip school and abuse alcohol and drugs. American studies have found out that bullied children are more likely to contemplate suicide and skip school.

Kathleen McCartney, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said that she and her colleagues invited Lady Ga Ga because they had been searching for ways to address bullying as a neglected area of education- and as a human rights issue. ”As many as 1/5 of all children feel bullied,” she said, adding, “If you don’t feel safe as a child you can’t learn.”

Lady Ga Ga’s aim is to change the culture and create a more supportive and tolerant environment. “It’s more of a hippie approach,” she explained.

Lady Ga Ga is one of the world’s top pop stars and the person with the most Twitter followers in the world. Let’s not bet against her. In any case she’s indisputably right about one point: Bullying and teenage cruelty are human rights abuses that need to be higher on our agenda.

Thank-you Heather Watts for sharing this -- you are my hero. As you would put it so succinctly --- CITIZEN ARTIST!

A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'the universe.' Our task must be to widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
-- Albert Einstein

Or as Joseph Campbell said, "JUMP!"

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