The Direct Opposite of "Normal"
Do you remember two and a half years ago when collectively all we wanted, wished, asked, and prayed for was a return to normal? All these months later, now that we are (mostly) there (despite continued presence of COVID), we understand how much "normal" truly sucks.
I think we forgot in our distress that there is no normal. It is a construct of our culture to keep us in line, give us a false sense of security, and ensure compliance to keep a faulty system alive.
I believe what we were truly looking for back then was authentic and honest connections - the basic human need that drives our emotional health.
Unfortunately, normalcy requires we try to make those connections through superficiality and meaningless chatter. Deep, thoughtful conversations take time and openness - a willingness to be moved, changed, and enlightened - all things that are not part of what we consider normal.
I challenge each of us to confront the small talk, flashy half-truths, and sexy click-bait language with genuine, honest conversation. Take time to dive deeply into your authentic (weird) self, let the other person (people) know you appreciate their quirkiness, and ask questions that convey your interest and help you understand their point of view.
We will all be richer for the experiences, and normalcy will take a back seat to sincere engagement that builds connections and trust.
Weekly Creative Meditation
This week's news leads with an "ISO" list.
A family donated a computer to DRC-East; we are now looking for a screen, keyboard, and mouse so the kiddos can get it up and running. Please get in touch if you have these things to donate.
After tearing down the DRC-Canton vacuum to figure out why it wasn't working, the kids discovered a few frayed wires in the motor. Needless to say, we are scrapping it. If you have a working vacuum that you would be willing to donate, please let us know.
You can also find a list of items on our Amazon Wishlist. You can order, and the items get sent directly to us.
Stay tuned for our annual funding appeal and an announcement of the dates for our open houses. We hope you will plan on joining us to meet our kids, staff, and families and to see our facilities.
A few scenes from this past week at DRC-East
And a some actions shots from DRC-Canton
What We Know
What We Know
The grant I have spent the past few weeks writing (obsessing about) was submitted at 7:52 Friday morning, (a full) 16 hours and 8 minutes before the deadline. (Thank you, again, to the folks who offered feedback, expertise, and valuable input.) I can now admit there were a few moments of panic when my MacBook suddenly turned off when I was adjusting a few words while looking it over one final time before clicking the (big blue) "submit" button.
This proposal was written to fund a project with the big fancy name, Healing Through Free Creative Expression - something we provide daily in our non-coercive, self-directed, and innovative environment.
We know that access to open creative expression activities, such as art, music, free play, and movement, is the key to learning positive emotional expression for those who are neurodivergent or have had adverse childhood experiences. Research data supports these claims, and we witness it every - single - day, even for those who do not fall under the aforementioned categories. And our families agree; several of them wrote testimonials to attest to our affirmative impact on their family's lives.
We also know that kids who can express themselves positively - are more curious and are likely to find the natural joy in all their discoveries while learning everything they need to survive and thrive in this world.
This grant will fund additional staff for both Centers. This will relieve me from everyday facilitation to focus on investigating the possibility of opening new Centers in the NoCo for all the children who need us. As part of the grant agreement, I will also develop (with help) a detailed framework of the entire project that other institutions and organizations can use to replicate our methodology within their programs. It will also fund the abundance of supplies, materials, and equipment required for our kids to engage in all that free, open, creative exploration. We have also proposed a two-month summer program at both Centers at no cost to participants from the community who do not have the means to attend summer camps or other activities that come at an inaccessible cost.
We can only hope that the folks who read our proposal will agree with all we know and deem it a necessary project for the health and well-being of the children of the NoCo.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Thank you to the SLU Men's hockey team for coming to the Canton Center for their Make a Difference Day. They spent an hour and a half cleaning inside and raking all the leaves from the yard. We are grateful to be Community Partners with SLU.
We will be holding open houses in December at both Centers. Stay tuned for details.
Scenes from DRC-Canton - including a photo of the fox who decided our backyard was a great place to hang out for the day.
And from DRC-East
The Hard Stuff
Yes, I know, it seems like we, collectively, have been doing nearly three years of the hard stuff - or maybe even farther back to six years. In any case, I am deeply into working on something overwhelming and just plain hard - with a solid deadline that is approaching entirely too fast. Yup, this creative storyteller is writing a grant with pretty significant potential for all of DRC. (No pressure!)
Thankfully, I have help - people who have experience in the fields we are focused on in this project, writing grants, or are skilled in the thing I really "suck" at (researching correlating data). With their support, I think we have a competitive grant.
I have mentioned a few times that I am a writer - but not a grant writer. Maybe, I have to revise that statement - I can write them as long as I am willing to feel completely overwhelmed and uncomfortable by the process and to spend large portions of time floundering in a sea of words that seem to move around at their own volition. And I have people behind me who are willing and, more importantly, not afraid to give suggestions and honest feedback (not platitudes).
We all come up against things we think are not in our wheelhouse. The stuff that makes our heart rate speed up, anxiety levels crest, and make us so uncomfortable we want to avoid them (at all costs).
My point today is that you can do the hard stuff - if it matters enough, you are willing to put in the work and time, ask for help, make mistakes, and if you are prepared to feel uneasy and awkward - maybe even make a fool of yourself.
How do I know this? I just did all that - and in my mind's eye, I am envisioning the email saying, "we are pleased to fund your project."
Weekly Creative Meditation
Both Centers have hit "cruise" mode. The kids are happily engaged, generating their own ideas for what they want to spend their time on.
We are always looking for volunteers to share their interests and talents with our kiddos at either Center. If you would like to spend time with some really cool kids - fill out the volunteer application here.
Scenes from our Canton Crew
Fun times at DRC-East!
As most of you have probably surmised, I don't like to be told what to do or how to do it. And the control I despise the most is manipulation that is so subtle - you have to be hyper-aware or "clued in" to notice.
This came up for me earlier yesterday when I realized I was feeling angry because a word game I play to relax (yes, I get the irony there) forces me (every weekend) to participate in a tournament I have no interest in. I am required to touch the screen to "win" stars to progress to the next word puzzle. It feels "ickily" scammy and unscrupulous (I feel resentful) - yet I choose to continue playing.
Then I began making a few connections. Our entire culture relies on similar manipulations to get us all to behave "normally." Do this so you can get that - sticks and carrots. Even when we could give a flying f**K about the reward - we still participate because it is expected. So much brilliance is hidden behind compliance.
DRC exists purely because I have always done the exact opposite of what is expected. (Yup, I know that means I should probably delete the word game.) My guiding mission is to support all the kiddos who, like me, want to buck the system - to reveal their brilliantly authentic selves to the world and shout, "ready or not, here I come!"
Weekly Creative Meditation
Five weeks in and the DRC-Canton Peeps are hitting their stride. We have a fairly stable schedule of offerings and they are happily engaged in independent (or group) projects and activities that they are interested in.
The DRC-East Crew is settling into their new home. They are creating a wish list of items that they would like to make the space as functional as possible. I will share that with you all next week.
Notes on being a Writer (Artist)
This past week I had a lot of driving time - over to North Lawrence to pack up and drop off "stuff" to a Winthrop storage unit for DRC-East and home to Pierrepont, back yesterday to pick some of it up, deliver it to their new digs in Massena, and then all the way up "the" hill to home. Driving is my thinking time; therefore, last week offered plenty of opportunities to ponder.
Most of you will not be surprised to hear that I identify as a writer. I perpetually have ideas running through my head - even in my sleep (and when I am driving). Playing with words is one thing that makes me insanely happy. Yes, I am a neurodivergent word nerd on the highest level.
This means my brain is wired to get lost in the delight of weaving words together to sound "right" and tell compelling stories. It, however, does not remember grammar, spelling, or punctuation rules - for shit - which is why I write everything in Grammarly - from this weekly blog and social media posts to important emails. (Yes, it is an essential hack I use to keep from embarrassing myself.) The one downside is it flags most adverbs and many adjectives with "word choice." Sorry Grammarly, I like using descriptors. They are delightfully interesting and "chewy" words - you can sink your teeth and imagination into. In that way, I also consider myself an artist.
Will, a gentleman who helped us move the large items yesterday and fix a table, told me about the furniture he makes from repurposed pallets. He explained before he starts projects, he can see things in his mind's eye. Will understands this quirk as the ability to see in the 4th dimension. I told him he is an artist too. Which he immediately scoffed at - it was clearly a label he did not want to own. I am chagrined to say I was insistent on the point - even though he clearly defined himself as a woodworker - plain and simple.
I have to remember - not everyone in this world wants to be an artist. They are happy to imagine and innovate on their own terms - within their own definitions. This is precisely what we need more of in this world - people who are thoroughly, unabashedly, and delightfully themselves. Thank you for reminding me of that, Will.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Much of the week at DRC-Canton was spent in preparation of moving DRC-East - although we still managed to get most of our scheduled sessions in, too.
Spending out shouts of thanks to everyone who has helped to move DRC-East into their new facility. Between two large trailer and truck loads and several overburdened cars, most(!) of the "stuff" has been delivered, from various storage areas, to 47 Perkins Rd. in Massena. Now comes the fun of arranging it all into a space that seems like it was created just for us. Have fun - my East Peeps!
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