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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

The importance of names

Speedy hailed from a family broken in all the usual ways. As a kid he asked to navigate alcoholism, fighting, estrangement and inappropriateness on top of dysfunction stacked high onto sadness.

One day he’s in town and invites me to dinner. “I’ll even pay,” he says.

We talk about his job, his return to school. His greater responsibility and his newfound leadership role at the oil refinery.

I ask what he did on Sunday. “Well-we go to Mass, then we head off to Mimi’s Cafe. The kids can order anything. We always go there. Then we go to Barnes and Noble. Every Sunday for 2 hours. Now, you know my cheap ass is not gonna buy any books. No, everyone picks out a book, and we all go to our separate corners. They be havin’ comfortable chairs at Barnes and Noble. Then when times up we put the book back. We don’t sweat it. We’ll be back next Sunday -pick up right where we left off.”

“You know the kids did bug me to buy the new Harry Potter book,” he continues,”so what the hell I broke down and broke down and bought it.”

“Now you know what we do every night?” I sit in my recliner, we turn off the T.V. And my three kids read Harry Potter out loud. First, my oldest my daughter, reads a whole page. Then she hands it to my son, and he reads a whole paragraph. Then the baby with help from the other two, reads a sentence, barely. And it gets passed back, you know page, paragraph, sentence. And, “I,” he starts to buckle and his voice trembles “I--just close my eyes, sitting in my recliner---listening to my kids--read--out loud.”

—Tattoos on the Heart, G.Boyle

“Creative imagination is the essential element in the intellectual equipment of the true scientist and Fairy Tales are the childhood stimulus to this quality.”—Albert Einstein

You know names are important. It seems, sometimes the main occupation of gang members is writing their names on walls.

It’s important to know kids by their names, their real names, the ones their friends call them, the one their mom calls them when she’s not pissed off.

How well do you know the kids you see every day or even once a week. Do you take the time to find out and ask? Do you speak to them or yell at them? You may be the only person on that day to see them, I mean really see them. Are they alone, are they crying, or yelling, what is their posture, are they sagging or strutting? Do they look you straight in the face? What do they call you? Do they call you anything at all? Do you see each other for who you really are? Not their sagging parts, or tattoos, or body piercings, but them as they really are and not whom they present to the world at large. You may never have a chance to speak to this individual again. This is the moment, the living in the now moment, make it count. And for God’s sake SMILE.

The number of homeless children living in America has gone up by 73% since 2006.

Fox News- Christian America responded to this news story by saying: “These kids are lazy.”

The optimum words here are children and lazy. When you were a kid, were you homeless, were any of your friends homeless? Did you ever have any understanding of what homelessness was. We all related to those wicked stepparent fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, even The Old Woman who lived in a shoe. But these were fairy tales, just stories, no need to be afraid mom would say, just stories you’re safe here, and Mom and Dad would tuck you in and give you a hug and a kiss and leave the night light burning. The moon would shine in your window and you would hug your stuffed dog or your real cat and drift off feeling safe and cared for. Did you ever imagine sleeping on the street? No shower, no real blankets. People walking right by your head and pretending not to see you, shop keeper and police coming by and making you get up and move. “Sorry kid you can’t stay there, you're in the way.”

How many of you have ever really sat down and thought of all the different ways of being ignored and the insults these people have to bear, not to mention the cold, or the rain, or the problem with just finding a place to pee or defecate? Think on this, folks. These are children not animals.

“It is not easy for men to rise whose qualities are thwarted by poverty. Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” —PrnaThawes Karphachon

And speaking of comfort or the lack there of or sleep. Which is certainly common to all of us. My husband as is his wont was running through Central Park Sat. morn and he passed 3 different police cars, in an otherwise deserted area, the cars were very noticeable, sore thumbs all of them, and all of them manned by sleeping cops. Sleep on guys, nothing is happening in Central Park at 7:30 on a chill Saturday morning.

On the other side of the coin, on Friday when I was pulled up at Stewart’s buying ice cream for a car load of kids there were two men in the parking lot, one begging for spare change and one 50 year old man leaning back in his seat holding his iPhone up to his face and singing along with whatever was playing. Singing and jiving and happily as hell he made me happy just watching him have such a good time.

And my kids added to my pleasure by asking if we could give our change to the man that needed it, wanted it for whatever reason. And we are all made whole together that fine fine evening.

Spring Alert! Spring Alert! Just saw my first chipmunk running across my deck, tail held high as he scampered like the little rogue he was. And in my house the little calla lily is blooming, may be it is time to take my flannel sheets off and put away my long undies. I will wait until next weekend, I can be cautious folks, I can wait a little longer.

On June 14th QUEST will host a Community Unity day we will be three, three agencies, locally that is, nationally thats Krip Hop out of Berkeley California, and CEPINY out of Albany but also working extensively out of the Philippines- my old friend John McKnight, running that outfit, and me, I’m on the board. Krip Hop is an agency that focuses on the Arts for people with disabilities, be it physical or mental, and pushes the envelope for more civic engagement and equality.

The day will start at 1p.m. and go until 9. All kinds of vendors, entertainment inside and out, and a DJ, and kids stuff and information. I am truly excited about the scope of this enterprise and the areas it covers, maybe someone would like to organize a wheelchair race, and a street/chalk drawing event. Wheel chair race could include costumes for that artsy atmosphere. Schenectady has never had anything like this.

Krip Hop will be fresh from a tour of Canada (Toronto-Montreal), Chicago and the Big Apple I am excited and so proud to be included. Lets show them how inclusive and welcoming Schenectady can be.

Oh yes there will be a kid contingent also so come on down or up as the case may be and play with your kids, cause if you don’t I know I will.

What Gets Us In The End

not old age
not dis-ease
but the dead weight
of our lost loved ones.
finally bursting the walls
of our hearts

Life carries
certainty of loss
Death rides shotgun
perched just above the left shoulder
a part of the journey.
Is this what sweetens
every moments?

Knowing this,
I hold each moment
up to the light,
and bless it
before I let it

-Judeth Prest, Jan. 2014

I have two dear friends very, very ill dear ones. And I don’t want them to suffer and I don’t want them to die. And this reminds me also of my mortality. Death comes for us all. And just what is a good death anyways? This world is too beautiful to leave easily. And I hang on with my teeth, and clench my fists as if that could make a difference.

There is probably no second go-around. We do not live on a carousel after all. Though of course there are similarities. But I would rather think of life as a swing. With room for one or maybe two if we squeeze together. Up and down back and forth, heading up into the sun and wind, their back to earth and back even further staring at the ground below and the world spinning like a top beneath us, until in one giant push we rise and rise and go over the bar crossing over and becoming one, spinning eternally into the deep blue heavens.

and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian urn.

To catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
for a renaissance of wonder.

-Lawrence Ferlinghetti: I Am Waiting-95 years this week.

I am going to talk about food now, food and hunger and small corner stores in the poorest sections of this city. Today a political figure told me she would never go into the Chain Small Store on Brandywine or it’s sister on Nott Terrace. I was taken back because I go there daily with assorted kids, grimy yes, but compared to the bodegas scattered throughout the slums veritable palaces of commerce.

This all came about because of a discussion about loosies, and the new city laws.

If you have never been a customer in any of these stores you really should not be speaking about them. W.A.M.C. this morning called it harassment of small businesses. The thing is you do not have to go inside searching for the loosies. The outside of these stores are always deep in grit and surrounded by illicit activity. You would have to be blind not to see it. The kids know what stolen goods are for sale, and are often runners for black market commerce. If we cannot get a handle on this how will fishing for loosies help? It often is not the store but the help or the customers. Cutting down on smoking, by cutting down on loosies is so funny it’s bizarre. We’re talking about dope smoking, gun toting teens. Openly smoking and dealing on multiple street corners. You can watch it all go down in broad and sunny day light. No holds barred.

And the thing is there is no other stores to go in the poorer areas of our city. Closest Super Duper Market is on Eastern Parkway, hardly within walking distance. People have tried for decades to bring a moderately sized grocery to Hamilton Hill and have been shut down by the powers that be on every turn. Even the store that was all set up to go, site and all was blindsided by the city. So no food at reasonable prices and convenient distances. Only the most expensive food sold at bodegas to the poorest residents. It is common practice for these shops to go to the day old places cross out the buy good dates and charge full price. Now that is surely against the law. Could we start with that? Why should the cheapest groceries be sold in Niskayuna and the most expensive food, outdated food, be sold in Hamilton Hill? Think on it.

I am still here, I plan to be here for a while, the old curmudgeon carrying her tales from infinity to beyond. All hail Buzz Lightyear.

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