Here is a short list of what we should, as a society, be modeling and caring about:
I am in equal parts - angered, saddened, and horrified that we live in a world that mostly ignores how (and where) these essential and complex concepts are developed but fully supports the ridiculously obtuse notions modeled within our educational system. And to be clear, when I hear that a school official is concerned that a student's individual education plan does not include the NYS curriculum, I have to wonder if they even understand what they are measuring with that rigid, finite, unimaginative, competition based curriculum. Or if they are even worried about supporting that student or simply want to sustain the system.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We are deeply grateful that our Annual Funding Appeal is reaching folks who have never donated before. If you have not already, please consider contributing to Deep Root Center here or you can send a check to 48 Riverside Drive, Canton, NY. Every dollar goes towards supporting "our" kids.
DRC-East is booming! Last week we added five(!) new members! They are grateful to have their new space at the "Life in his Arms Community Church" and would like to make it permanently theirs. You can help by contributing to the Go-Fund-Me set up to purchase it.
And DRC-East sends a huge thank you to Becky and Glen Webster for donating a case of potato chips and a $200 GC to Webster's Meat Shop. They are excited to have fresh meat to cook for their lunches.
If we broke everything down that we do daily at DRC, you would see the very essence of our work comes down to one thing - dreams. We support and encourage young people reach beyond their anxiety, sadness, or even apathy to recognize and understand that it is possible to have aspirations because:
While orchestrating all the above, we also have a few dreams of our own, including:
If you, too, dream of all children having access to a place where they are free to be themselves, can express their brilliance and creativity, and where they are encouraged to explore all the possibilities - please consider becoming involved with Deep Root Center. You can:
Dreaming is powerful; hope is essential, and faith is potent. Nonetheless, it is beneficial to remember that getting the job done - requires the vision and strength of many people, contributing and working hard, together, toward the goal. Thank you for dreaming along with us.
Weekly Creative Meditation
It wasn't until fairly recently that I began to question the basic premise of the Thanksgiving Holiday. Like most other points of World history, it has been whitewashed and otherwise sanitized into a more palatable and easily digestible narrative for general consumption. What a great way to teach young children about cooperation and sharing without traumatizing them with the realistic concepts of genocide, Manifest Destiny, colonialism, and Eurocentrism. #sarcasm!
In any case, despite its misleading beginnings, this blog is not about the blatantly falsified set of historical facts we have all learned through our years of sitting in compulsory Social Studies classes in school. It is, however, about the actual name of the holiday - Thanks Giving.
This year we have an eight-year-old who seems perpetually discontented, displeased, annoyed, and frustrated. This kids' rotten mood tends to hover wherever he has been within the Center, infecting those who are also in the room.
Several weeks ago, after taking the kids' temp at the door and noting it in our COVID log, I asked if they would consider a daily exercise with me before joining any other activity. They agreed. I quickly explained the idea of gratitude. How positive circumstances are attracted to positive emotion in the same way that negative is drawn to negative.
They seemed to grasp the concept. I then asked them to name two things that they were thankful for right at that moment. They struggled. I asked if they would like some examples. They nodded - so I started to list several things that I was grateful for that day - before I got to the third item on my list, they interrupted with one of their own. After they gave two, I said, "OK, this is fantastic. We can do this every day as you come in. We will post it right here on the cork board hanging next to my desk and call it your gratitude list." They interrupted me again, before I could finish - asking if they could name a third thing. To which I responded, "of course!"
Has this exercise worked entirely? No - this child is still pretty gloomy a good portion of the time. Nevertheless, they are more cognizant of that mood and its effect on others when gently brought to their attention. And in doing so, we can often elicit a few giggles.
I have discovered over my 57 years, and through lengthy periods of my own doom and gloom, that thankfulness and gratitude are the keys to contentment and joyfulness - those elusive emotions we try to grasp extrinsically through stuff and our expectations of others. If I can share these ideas of expressing appreciation with kids at a young age, maybe they will begin to recognize the joy found within the smallest blessings within themselves. And then share it with others. I have faith that one child at a time, who feels happiness and serenity through the act of giving thanks - we will eventually spread a new way of being in this world.
Weekly Creative Meditation
On the subject of gratitude - thank you to everyone who has contributed so far to my Facebook Birthday Fundraiser and the DRC annual Funding Appeal. You have heard us say it many times - every child deserves a safe, supportive, educational environment where they are free to be themselves within a supportive community that belongs to them. Your contributions make it possible for us to provide that place for anyone who seeks it out.
Thank you to my brother, Pete, founder of RelHemp for telling me about Linktr.ee. You can find all of DRC's important links here.
Please share the funding appeal within your network. Thank you!
And best wishes to everyone setting aside time this week to share expressions of gratitude with family and friends.
This past Wednesday, as I was driving home from North Lawrence (after helping to move all of the DRC-East "stuff" to their new facility), the word surprise, along with a picture of my baby, Kenzie sitting on my living room couch - flashed onto my phone screen. What? How? All the questions sped through my mind.
They could not believe that I was surprised. You see, I am, by my very nature extremely hard, to catch unaware - when it comes to anything like this.
Surprises, by their very definition, are things that seemingly spring from nowhere. They can be amazingly wonderful or seriously dreadful. Few fall in between those two extremes. I have learned that it is how I respond to the unpleasant shocks that will determine how I ultimately deal with them - both emotionally and outwardly.
When I react to them with frustration, anger, and disappointment, they seemingly grow to an unwieldy, unbearable size that completely overwhelms all my senses.
If I can view them from a perspective of curiosity and adjust to problem-solving mode almost immediately, I can accept whatever it is much more quickly and move on.
To be clear, both of the above scenarios have been present in my life as of late. Even with the understanding that positive begets positive, I fall into the trap of reacting with despair and "why me's" way more than I care to admit.
Here is wishing that all of your surprises are pleasant - but if they are not, that you will be able to respond with inquisitiveness, creativity, love, and kindness.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Both Centers will be open in person again this week! We are so excited to see all of our Peeps again.
DRC-East is now located at 1952 St. Hwy 11C in North Lawrence in the Life in His Arms Community Church. Thanks to the help of a few kiddos and their families, we moved everything from the old space last Wednesday. They are excited to hop back into all of the projects and activities they had begun early in the year.
DRC has a few potential opportunities for fundraising and general development. One: DRC is seeking folks who appreciate our work, may have fundraising, grant writing, or networking skills, and would be excited to join our board of directors. Two: We are investigating the potential of putting together several pieces of a puzzle that will enable us to purchase the church that DRC-East is now renting. We are seeking funding, but also people who can help with the entire endeavor. Please get in touch with Maria to learn more about either of these opportunities.
Our annual appeal is below. If you have not already, please consider contributing to our work. Thank you!
I have discovered that, for the most part, people are insanely grateful to hear "yes," in response to a request. Only because they are so accustomed to experiencing all the "nos."
My question is, why, as a society, do we automatically go to "no," when we know that the affirmative brings with it positive results.
Student members, parents, and staff at Deep Root Center learn very quickly that I will say "yes," to most requests, sometimes with the caveat, "we don't do that (have that) now, but we can figure it out - together."
Again, I ask, why would you say "no," when "yes," inspires creativity, innovation, self-motivation, confidence, conviction, connection, and engagement every damn time.
Oh, trust me, I totally understand that a "yes" often means - more work, more mess, and much more overall hassle; nonetheless, it is utterly worth seeing the smiles and the engaged connectivity where there was formerly none. And the willingness to work harder toward a common goal because they understand that someone trusts them - explicitly and without question.
Weekly Creative Meditations
There seems to be an abundance of news this week. Firstly, we are excited to announce that Angie, Nic, and the DRC-East Crew have found a new home at the "Life in His Arms Community Church" in North Lawrence. We will be renting - but hope to buy the property in the next several months. It combines all of the requirements we would want in a facility including: a commercial kitchen and full ADA compliance, to be the perfect space for us. An enormous thank you to Pastor Belle for agreeing to rent the space to us until we can raise the funds to purchase it.
Secondly, in an abundance of caution, the Canton Center had to close this past week until Nov. 15th due to a positive COVID case. We take our kid's and staff's safety very seriously.
Thirdly, Nic, our DRC-East apprentice, is looking to get a subscription to MineCraft Realms for all of our kiddos. This is just one opportunity to sponsor specific subscriptions. You will find our Funding Appeal below or click here to go to the Donation page. You can specify what you would like your contribution to go towards in your message to us. Find Nic's message below -
We are looking for a sponsor to help fund a Minecraft Realms server! This would allow students to connect with friends in a virtual world and show off creativity in a virtual setting with their peers. Every month there will be a building prompt for the students, and the buildings that follow said prompt they complete will be "screenshotted" for social media to show how creative all of us can be. If you're willing to help, all we need is $96/year or $8/month to keep a creative space for students flourishing and functional. Thank you for your time, and we hope you have a wonderful November! - Nic
DRC Funding Appeal
One day this past week, a staff person and I met to talk about strategies for working with one of our kiddos. They referred to their Autistic Spectrum diagnosis as their "disability" - as a starting point of the conversation. The reference pertained directly to the similar challenges they share. The child we were discussing exhibits behaviors consistent with ASD but does not have the official label.
The staff person's self-identification bothered me - they clearly see themselves as broken. I don't consider them disabled. I, however, do view them as a valuable contributing member of our team - with skills and talents that others of us do not have. They are someone who has immense potential working in a self-directed education environment.
I had another conversation with a staff person also diagnosed with ASD - later in the week. They adamantly refuse to be defined by their diagnosis. They simply think of themselves as a brilliantly creative person who happens to be on the Spectrum.
I don't know why one feels damaged, while the other feels empowered. Nonetheless, these conversations led me to think about the kids we work with and their convictions about themselves. Some are diagnosed with various disorders, and others are not. But - most have experienced mixed levels of trauma and believe they are defective in some way.
They don't recognize their charm, wit, genius, creativity, kindness, wisdom, or the other numerous positive traits I see. They can only experience their brokenness. And they adopt identities and behaviors that are consistent with their narrative, not their true nature.
At this point, my levels of frustration are boiling over. I want to help kids understand they aren't damaged goods, and whatever they have experienced in the past does not define them as human beings. Nevertheless, I have to remember it will take time and patience. I fully believe with unconditional love and support, accessible information, and most importantly, modeling, these kids will take back their stolen identities and embrace their superpowers.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We should know later today whether we can rent the new space we have identified for our DRC-East Center. Stay-tuned!
In other news, Nic, our DRC-East apprentice has taken the original DRC logo and created one using colors the kids chose, that represent many of their native heritage.
Discomfort is an excellent indicator that something isn't quite right. Yes, actual physical pain is an evolutionary response to those things that we should absolutely, without question, get away from as fast as we can. It will hurt - badly!
However, pulling away from something that feels uncomfortable is often an emotional reaction based purely on fearfulness. As a result, when we detect those initial twinges, we back away from the feelings instead of slowly and carefully exploring the whys. Or even poking around at the whats and hows, with positive intent - asking:
The kids I meet are often fearful of trying out new things - whether it is an unfamiliar activity, food, or even an idea. I have discovered that their fear comes from either a previous (or ongoing) trauma or a closely held worldview, possibly inherited from their family. In the end, both completely stop them from exploring the possibilities.
Considering Explore the Possibilities is our (literal) tagline, how do we work around these inhibitions? And, how can we support them to find the things that will change their perceptions of the world and their personal outcomes?
I will always maintain that it is easier to affect change for younger kids. Nevertheless, providing a comfortable, non-coercive environment filled with resources and materials - shared with people who model expressions of joy, gratitude, love, kindness, and have expectations for respectful behavior - is a perfect beginning point. Children and teens are more likely to lean into the discomfort of change and connect with the people around them when they feel supported and comfortable enough to investigate the above questions and then take control of all the answers on their own terms.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We are exploring some potential (exciting) options for DRC East. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, DRC is here in Canton and Lawrenceville for any child who feels like they are not supported to be their best selves by their current school environment. We have rolling membership, which means any child in the NoCo is welcome to join us at any point during the academic year. Contact us today.
And, a huge shout of thanks to the SLU crew who came out for Make a Difference Day to rake the DRC Canton yard and do a deep clean inside.
Productivity, I find, is a judgment call based on each of our personal experiences and is often overrated. No one can determine what is valuable or beneficial for someone else - not how they spend their time, the thoughts they generate, or what manifests from those ideas.
Self-motivation is born from the innate desire to learn - no amount of external criticism, inducement, or punitive action will instigate it. Additionally, when children are in coercive and controlling environments or relationships, they lose the ability to self-regulate and make decisions. It also destroys their natural curiosity and insatiable thirst to explore their world.
For me, practical productivity requires the quiet and (often) dormant spaces filled with the humus of previous generations of creativity, where my brain has free rein to wander (get lost), test out theories, and play!
Weekly Creative Meditations
Student members in both DRC Canton & Lawrenceville are taking on several Social Justice issues related to populations of people traditionally facing discrimination. One nine-year-old is passionate about the injustices practiced at the Indian Boarding (Residential) Schools and the bodies they are finding at those schools. She, with the help of Angie, and a couple of other kids, created and installed this memorial to honor them at the Canton Center. Stay tuned for future projects from the Social Justice Classes.
We all have stories that we tell ourselves. Most, whether we like to admit it or not, are based on emotions, not truth. These secret tales filled with fear, grief, or anxiety, likely stemming from past trauma, often stop us from taking the steps necessary to follow our dreams. And sometimes, they even get in the way of understanding scientifically accurate statements about the world.
These personalized tales, which we all carry around like extraneous luggage on a short day trip, are the main reason DRC's tagline - Explore the Possibilities - exists.
Most of us need the daily reminder to abandon the negative messaging loop of internalized blocks (and baggage). It gives us permission to spontaneously take that (real or metaphorical) left turn away from perceived safety and begin to actively seek out all of the creative opportunities, joy, gratitude, and potential hidden within the benign (boring) routines of every day.
A small sample of the fun we had this past week.
Another Creative Meditation
This is a double haiku written in my head while on a morning walk - which after a few revisions, then inspired this post. H/T to Angie for influencing the middle line in the second stanza.
If your child is ready to break free from coercion and intimidation they are experiencing in school, get in touch today. We provide open enrollment throughout the year.
Thanks again to Mary Ann Ashley for sponsoring our Little Free Library Registration. We received the nameplate. And will be on the world map as soon as our form is processed.
Despite low confidence in my ability to follow my own advice, of last week, I did. Upon calling in sick (thank you Elian and Angie for covering DRC-Canton), and then visiting Urgent Care this past Monday, I was not surprised to learn that the extreme allergy symptoms had again morphed into bronchitis. (To eliminate the possibility of any other ailments in the times of COVID, I requested the test - the results were negative.)
In a pattern that has become all too familiar - my brain cruised into hyper-speed. I was already feeling overwhelmed by illness and too little time in a day to get everything done that needed doing - when an intense volley of schemes hit without warning. The ideas pelted my conscious mind for days, so fast there was no way I could keep up.
Most of you will understand what I mean when I say it was a literal brainstorm. The combination of worries, unease, weird obsessive and repetitive word games (don't ask), feelings of inadequacy, and fear, combined with the new schemes swirled around in my head, blinding me, worse than any snowstorm, to any potential peace or calm.
I wasn't sleeping much. And, when I did, I had intense dreams that placed me in out-of-control situations (run-away cars without brakes, etc.).
I woke up yesterday morning with the conviction to "get out of my head" and get myself grounded. First, I laid on the floor in my typical Saturday morning yoga pose with my feet up on the wall, willing my brain and breath to slow down - repeating my mantra - to no avail.
Then I did something I had not done in months - I pulled on my shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers, grabbed my phone, and began to walk. Within moments, I could feel my brain shifting. I began to notice the vivid spots of color, the sun shining through the canopy, the coolness of the breeze, and birds calling. Then, without warning, words flowed - I began to count syllables, and by the time I had reached my "turn around tree," I had a fully formed haiku in my head.
The combination of physical activity and the sights and sounds of an early Fall morning induced a creative meditation that will always bring me back to myself. (Now, to remember the next time I feel overwhelmed and buffeted by my hyperactive ponderings.)
In this non-stop world, my greatest wish is that you have already found the strategy that brings you back to your essential self (and that you remember to utilize it).