My official title is Executive Director and Founder of Deep Root Center – the formal job description that accompanies that particular position is compiled within a three-page bulleted list. Nevertheless, that extensive document doesn’t even come close to describing what I actually do.
My life work, in essence, can be condensed into this straightforward statement: I help young people realize that they are, indeed, utterly and brilliantly, awesome, and that there are no limits to what they can do.
The first step is to listen, carefully. In piecing together someone’s full story, I have come to realize that to thoroughly comprehend and empathize - I need to ask tons of questions, and then focus on their answers with my entire body, as well as my intuition – without judgement. To be clear, I don’t often gain insight after one conversation - no, it frequently takes weeks, months, or even years.
Often times, I learn about all the traumas, fears, regrets, sadness, and why they are feeling disenfranchised and apathetic, before anything else. I hear the powerful truths they have created about themselves to explain and excuse why they are closed to the possibilities and can’t move forward. We all have them – “I am shy, stupid, boring, clumsy, unimaginative, have no interests, evil (yes, I have actually heard that one), etc.” Or, “I have ADHD, ODD, dyslexia, …”
Secondly, I offer positive reinforcement and encouragement – and then, I focus on suggesting various ideas for moving forward, with the full understanding that the person in front of me (whether they are 5 or 75) is completely autonomous and has the right to say “no” to any of my proposals.
As I write this, I realize that it all sounds fairly calculated; in reality, my approach is completely natural and organic. During these formal mentoring sessions and spontaneous conversations, I find myself sharing examples and ideas through humor and story-telling. I am not a counselor following a script. Deep Root Center is not a therapeutic facility. Each and every conversation is authentic, unrehearsed, and focused on encouraging the other person to explore all the possibilities life has to offer, while communicating the reassurance that it is OK to be uncomfortable, to make mistakes, to start something without finishing it, and to make discoveries about themselves that may startle them.
This work fills me up! (Although it is completely exhausting, and I need to take a five-week break, at the end of every year.) Especially, when someone’s behaviors suddenly de-escalate, when they relate that they have discovered an interest - something they really like to do, that, at the very heart of it all, makes them happy. Or, when I hear, “Can I _______?”, and in responding, “yes, absolutely, of course,” in an externally calm and composed manner, find myself doing my internal happy dance. while silently sobbing with joy and relief.
We are incredibly grateful to have received so many donations to our Garage Sale Fundraiser in June. Alas, many items were not sold. We are looking for ideas on how to empty out our now very full garage and make some revenue from it. We have thought of having someone run the garage sale for us for a percentage of profits – selling the items to a place that has an ongoing sale – or trying to sell individual items on FB garage sale sites. If you have a suggestion, or know of someone who could take on any of the above, please get in touch.
The last two weeks of August will be here before you know it! For all those parents who will be headed back to work, we have you covered. Register for our summer programs today.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion. We all have different ideas about how things should be done: however, I firmly believe those opinions need to be grounded in reality.
I will admit, it is hard to determine what is authentic, and worthy of our attention as fake news, “alternative facts,” innuendos, myths, rumors, lies, and straight-up deception proliferate, and bombard our senses, through our personal news feeds.
Beware! Propaganda is the largest and most dangerous form of manipulation. The masses are not always (read: rarely) right. They are all sheep, ebbing and flowing with the tide of public sentiment.
Be skeptical! I will argue that within any big story the facts have been distorted with just enough bias to control an ardent reaction to the issues. Yes, even the reputable news agencies rig the narrative, through sophisticated and calculated language choice and evocative images, to create that all-important emotional response and disguise their true intent.
Dig deeper! Study history! (No, not the fairy-tale version that was written by the victors and celebrated every year.) Probe the side stories! Be willing to research the rest of the tale – the part that was left out because it did not serve their intended purpose. And, as Woodward and Bernstein famously reminded us, while they investigated Watergate – always, always, always follow the money!
To be absolutely clear in my assertions: ignorance (herd mentality), greed, and laziness, combined with a bombastic attitude, used to flaunt bigoted hostility towards various groups (ethnic, political, LGBTQ, religious, etc.) within the human race, is not only ugly, but it is also downright dangerous.
As an autonomous individual, yes, absolutely, your opinion is important and should be heard. Nevertheless, if you have not taken the time to unravel the details, and, as a result, spout misinformation, as well as your contempt and prejudice, do not be surprised when you ultimately end up being on the unsound, and, straight-up, wrong side of an issue, and, in time, history.
Yes, I have finally returned from my multi-pronged, month-long summer adventures. The last leg being at my brother's farm in Vermont to help plant his inaugural hemp crop.
Expand your vision of what education can be ...
DRC is accepting new applications for membership for the coming year. If your child is interested in exploring a different way forward that allows them to be themselves while digging deeply into their interests, within a safe, inspiring environment, please get in touch to make an appointment.
Register your child for the DRC Summer Program, here.
This May, I became fascinated with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I can’t remember exactly what prompted my investigation, but I am hooked. I completed two different online tests and came up as INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perception) – both times. Most of this came as no surprise, as I have mentioned multiple times here, I am an introvert and I operate purely on gut instinct based on all the feelings. However, after reading about the Perception part as opposed to J for Judgement, I began to question that P designation. Simply put, the distinction is that Js are punctual, and don’t like clutter, which does describe me.
I am surprised by the allure of this particular analysis. Every time I have brought it up in casual conversation, the other person (including my mother) has said, something like, yes, I have done that and I am ____, proudly listing their four-letter designation. On Monday, my sister and I were in her car headed to Lowes to pick up more mulch for her garden, and we started discussing the Myers- Briggs test. My niece is studying psychology and has done the test with her. She is an INFJ and immediately questioned how on the surface the two of us seem polar opposite, but, yet, could be the same personality type. I reminded her that underneath it all, we are really very similar. We are both introverts (me more than her), and we are both empaths - pulling in the energy and emotions of others.
Later that evening, my niece opened the Myers Briggs test that she used in class and had me complete it. I read the questions and answers on her computer, while she wrote down my responses. Her test confirmed that I, indeed, am an INFP, along with 4% of the population.
Obviously, the question that begs to be asked is: why do I care? I think a large part of my quest is informed by my desire to unravel the many contradictions that I see in my personality. I am an introvert, yet I purposely chose to place myself in the path of people. I am outwardly confident, strong, and determined, at the same time I am internally vulnerable and self-conscious. I like to be proactive and solve problems, but I don’t (can’t) use logical or analytical processes. I tap into the feelings they bring up in me, instead, and use my intuition and creativity to develop a variety of solutions.
The other piece is my desire to get to know how and why others behave in the ways they do. I am endlessly curious about, and, to be honest, a bit frustrated by those who are my complete opposite. It sometimes confounds me how some people can make decisions dispassionately based on data, numbers, and reasoning; it all seems so clinical, objective, and unfeeling. Which is why I have to remind myself, constantly, “oh, yeah, right - that’s the point!”
The human race needs the full complement of all sixteen Myers Briggs archetypes working together to make the world a better place. We need the extroverted peeps to keep the party going, as much as we need the introverted folks to stay at home taking care of themselves so they can use their gifts for the greater good. Those analytical statisticians and logisticians are the ones who make sure the data is accessible to all of us. The empaths are the people who take in all the pain and send out pure love. And, of course, we need the artsy, imaginative, and explorative folks who are, quite literally, envisioning and actively creating our future.
Thank goodness we are all perfectly unique, with an abundance of innate strengths and weaknesses. I can only hope that as more people become attuned to their own personality traits - that we are able to smash down the barriers (and hatred) created by polarization and pigeonholing to replace them with openness, compassion, and acceptance by recognizing the importance of honoring and celebrating them all.
My travels included the annual Liberated Learners conference last weekend at North Star in the Pioneer Valley in western MA. As always, I came away from the weekend with all my LL peeps re-energized and inspired to begin another year at DRC.
Liberated Learners, the network that DRC is a member of, is hiring a part-time social media manager to kick-start our growth and recognition factor throughout the world. Check out the official job posting here.
I am extending my summer adventures through July 5th. Please get in touch if you would like to schedule an appointment this summer. I will be available the remainder of July and August.
Don’t forget to register your child for our summer programs the last two weeks of August.
MMA Opportunity – Christopher Raymo, DRC’s Seedlings Coordinator and founder of Offensive Defensive Academy (ODA), is offering MMA classes every Friday at Deep Root Center. Check it out.
Well, technically, the main piece of this lesson was acquired during the two days I was at home, and to be honest, over my entire lifetime. However, my summertime travels have resumed and I am writing this from my “little” brother’s beautifully peaceful, scenic, organic Vermont farm, where he lives with his dog “Chester” and twenty-one very reclusive chickens. After years of growing salad greens on a large scale, he is now growing hemp.
Family – we all have them. Consequently, we all know the extreme joy, and, let’s admit, soul-wrenching pain that comes with the unconditional love, tangled relationships, unrealistic expectations, contrasting personalities, infuriating miscommunication, and to top it all off, the complications created by people who become part of that family as a result of partnerships and marriages.
My biological family has been extremely fortunate; my three siblings and I, for the most part, get along. We, obviously, have had our moments, but we are all dedicated to being a cohesive group, behaving with dignity and respect, and taking care of each other, and our Mom, despite the many, physical, miles that separate us. We realized at a very early age that jealousy, greed, and dysfunction if cultivated, can and will destroy familial relationships. Without going into detail, I will simply say, we had several examples of all of the above in both, our paternal and maternal lineage. I remember distinctly making a vow with my sister, at a very young age, that we would always take care of each other without bearing grudges.
This week, we had the opportunity to uphold that commitment. My grandfather, the man, who along with my grandmother, raised my mother, an only child, died on Tuesday, the day that just happened to be his 96th birthday. He passed peacefully with dignity, with my mom, his companion of 8 years, me, and the hospice nurse, gently and lovingly, assisting and releasing him into the next plane of being.
To say, my mother, my siblings, and I had a complicated relationship with him would be under-representing the deeply held emotional baggage we all carry. He was a complex man to understand, with multiple layers of divergent beliefs and logic. He was distant, strict, and often times disapproving with his wife, our beloved Gram, and us, his blood relatives; yet, over the years had many close and loving relationships with those who were unrelated. The dichotomy confounds us. If you entered a room filled with both kin and non-consanguineous folks, you would hear tales about two vastly different versions of this man, which in my mind, having known him for 54 years, is extremely hard to reconcile.
We all know that this man had deeply held regrets in the days leading up to his death. We also understand that he loved us all in his own profound way. He taught us to be resilient, determined, downright stubborn, and just a bit cheeky. We are resigned that we will never fully comprehend his motivations or reasons for why he behaved as he did. However, we will extract the lessons he learned, a bit too late, into our own lives and bravely move forward with a greater commitment to, simply and wholeheartedly, love those around us. Above all, our relationships with each other will flourish, not out of resentment, but as a result of our desire to live our lives with compassion, kindness, and respect, with a ton of humor tossed in to keep us all laughing at the endless twists and turns life tends to throw at us.
After six days in Portland with Kenzie, I am back in Chicago, with Ian and Cassidy, until Sunday evening. This two-week trip, beyond getting me out of my little corner of the world, was absolutely essential to my mental health. I was tired to the point of being short-tempered and uninspired, which was not ideal for me, the people I spend my days with, or DRC. Those profound levels of exhaustion were bringing me dangerously close to burn-out. In the last few months, while dealing with everyday responsibilities and crises, along with all the tasks related to founding a not-for profit, without a significant break, in two years, I realized that despite the deep joy and pride my work produces, I was becoming increasingly ambivalent to everything I had spent nearly six years creating.
No matter how invested you are in your work – whether it is something you have built from scratch or is purely a day job, everyone needs an occasional break. In these two weeks, I have learned, once again, that taking care of myself – doing “nothing” while staring off into space, reading a book for pure enjoyment, wandering, aimlessly, around an unfamiliar city, eating food that delights my palette, sleeping and waking without a schedule, writing, and spending time with people I adore – is absolutely necessary for, not only my sanity, but also, my ability to fully engage with the folks who need me, as well as the growth of Deep Root Center.
Register here today!
My month of travel continues on Wednesday, after a brief stop at home, to visit my brother’s farm in Vermont and then the three day Liberated Learner Conference in Amherst, MA., which is one of the highlights of my year. It is where I am so very fortunate to have the yearly opportunity to connect with my colleagues, who are also building Self-Directed Learning Centers around the Country. I will spend the remainder of the month in Eastern MA. with my sister and then back in VT. to help plant my brother’s hemp crop. I’ll be back “in the saddle,” fully refreshed, the first week of July.