These past several weeks, my heart-racing anxiety has reached a seeming point of no return to (my version of) calm and I feel so completely overwhelmed and exhausted with the details and emotions of life and work that even the simplest tasks seem daunting. Add the stress of exploring and remembering to honor the multiple layers of my newly identified neurodiversity, and you have the perfect storm of self-doubt, recrimination, and feelings of ineptitude.
Amid a particularly rough deluge on Friday night, I remembered the simple tool of affirmation. Write it all down - offer it all to the Universe and give myself respite. Today, I present - in this space - recent notes to myself in hopes that these are helpful for whoever needs to hear them.
My message today: you are where you need to be right now. Celebrate and affirm your personal journey - all the bumps and missteps, as well as the surprises and successes. And you will find, as I have, that those statements of affirmation are destined to become manifestations. Your (our) pure awesomeness is a testament to all of that.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Wow, it has been a whirlwind week. An enormous shout of thanks to Molly McMaster, the owner of Miss Molly's Painting. The DRC Canton facility is looking FRESH and so very fabulous. These are a few photos she took after she finished up the front and south side. Next year she will get to the north side and back.
East Facility update - Last week I mentioned that we would not be able to use the church in North Lawrence. Friday we went to look at another option and it seems like it is the ideal space. Next week I will be able to share details!
Summer Program begins tomorrow in Canton. All three weeks are pretty much full - however, we could accommodate one or two more kids each week if there are families who need us.
Accommodations are something everyone needs in one respect or other throughout their lives. Yes, even all you self-described neurotypical folks. And that is precisely where societal expectations and influences have failed us all. We have been led to believe (falsely) that the only people who require them are, in some way, weird, abnormal, or just plain "broken." (OK, honestly, I happily own the "weird" title and have long before I ever fully understood the levels of my neurodiversity.)
We, as a culture, have developed a coded language for those who differ from the norm. They have IEPs (Individual Learning Plans) and own long lists of diagnoses that have acronyms with every alphabetical combination you can imagine. These act as cues (BIG WARNING SIGNS) for the "normal" folk.
We are, in essence, telling the neurodiverse and disabled that they need to be fixed. They can't (are not allowed to) fit into society - as they are -because they make everyone else uncomfortable.
Therefore, we have programs, such as ABA (that are horribly designed and executed), IEPs with accommodations (that are pure bullsh*t and don't help many), and to top it all off - a population that fully believes that providing assistance is a waste of time and dollars. And anyone who does seek help is a drain on us all.
So instead of committing our resources to mental health and social service providers, we over-fund police departments and watch people who struggle go through an unjust, unabashedly cruel system.
At this point, I realize this has become a much longer post (rant) than originally intended. I don't want to lose the talking point that initially inspired this piece - we all need accommodations at some point in our lives.
I spend my days offering unconditional support to every person I meet. I honestly want them to have whatever they need to progress and thrive. Kindness, empathy, trust, and respect do not cost a dime. I have been asked - "doesn't your generosity get abused - I mean, don't you get burned occasionally?" The answer to that question is - yes, I have - (more than) a few times. Nonetheless, that will not stop me from joyfully continuing the practice of accommodating anyone who requests my help.
"Pull yourself up by the bootstraps" is a euphemism that doesn't account for the long lists of trauma-induced disadvantages that most of us spend our lives unpacking and reconciling. Everyone needs an IEP (or, better yet, an ILP - Individual Life Plan). I have to ask - why wouldn't that be standard practice?
Weekly Creative Meditation
As I alluded to last week - we have encountered a barrier to DRC-East using the church in North Lawrence that makes it hard for us to continue there.
Which means we are "down to the wire" and once again seeking another facility on the East side of St. Lawrence County or even in Western Franklin County - including Brasher, Winthrop, N. Lawrence, Hopkinton, Nicholville, Massena, or Moira. We need a space that is at least 1500 sq. ft. and has a kitchen. Ideally, it is something we can rent with the potential of purchasing. If you are local and have any possible leads - please get in touch. Thank you!
Summer Program - register today! We start next Monday the 15th!
This particular curve ball, last week, hit the strike zone high and inside - where I never saw it coming. I didn't have a chance to swing or react preemptively. (Now, before you get all impressed with the usage of that baseball metaphor. I will confess that I know just enough about some sports to sound knowledgeable. But honestly, it is all just superior observation skills.) As a side note, these talents are enormously helpful when you wear as many hats as I do.
I won't go into detail (today) - however, I wanted to use this incident to showcase our ability to (literally and figuratively) turn on a dime. To say I am proud of this reputation is an understatement.
Many parents find us because they are overwhelmingly frustrated that no one ever listens to their child or them. And to go even further, the system is so rigid in their stance of "this is the way we do things" that these kids are traumatized by their methodology.
When families sit in my office and tell their stories - I listen. No matter how long it takes. Then, often, through many interruptions of more heartbreaking tales, I tell them about DRC - our philosophy and mission - and what we do here on any given day. As you can imagine, it is usually the polar opposite of their experience, and they are blown away.
Everything that we do hinges on one thing - flexibility. If something isn't quite right - we will figure it out together. If a kid wants to explore something that seems impossible - we will find a way (eventually).
At DRC, we are constantly modeling problem-solving skills (otherwise known as the scientific method). Learn as much as possible about the situation, ask questions, brainstorm and think outside every box ever created, play and experiment with the ideas, fail, reject early drafts, and find the answer.
These kids are learning that curve balls are an inevitable part of life - and we will all get blindsided occasionally. The lesson here is to get up (bandage your cuts, scrapes, and bruised ego), explore all the possibilities and (most importantly) the potential buried within the fallout, and move, although sometimes clumsily, with as much grace and gratitude as you can muster - toward the solution.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Thank you to the Foster/Peet crew for taking care of some of the maintenance issues at the Canton Center last Sunday. There is plenty more to do... If you are a handy person with "fix it" skills, please get in touch. We will gratefully accept your offer to help.
Summer Program - begins in two weeks. There are a few spaces left - register today.
This, as it turns out, is an unintended follow-up to last week's post. I have had several ideas circling and cycling through my brain these last few days- but none have cooperated enough to be wrangled into something worthy of my (or your) time.
So with that explanation - I am officially honoring my artistic process and allowing these creative meditations (inspired by the industrious tiny creatures in my garden), which presented themselves and poured out without hesitation, to speak for me this week. Enjoy!
Summer Program is filling up. Don't let your child miss out! Register today.
Have you noticed? Procrastination and guilt are the very best of buddies. They show up prepared - one with cozy blankets, some good books, and a streaming device, and the other follows close behind with snacks - ready to settle in for a while.
I often wonder, seems this is the case - why do I put things off? I am not talking about the small stuff - here, either.
For me, (I think) it comes down to the fear of screwing up those big projects - the inevitable mistakes and the myriad of responsibilities that follow once they have been completed.
For instance, a few days ago, I finally self-published the second book in my children's series as an e-book - twelve years AFTER the first was published and fifteen years after I finished writing it. Yeah, I procrastinated the first one too.
My excuse for the second book was that I didn't have any illustrations (my artist had grown up, left home, gone to college, and got married - jeesh!). And despite my many efforts to find someone to take on the task - it never happened. This past week, I actually figured out how to solve that issue. Duh - I have the tools to create something myself!
Seems I was on a roll - I also made the first one in the series available as an e-book and republished the paperback. I will make the second one accessible in paperback later today, too.
You would think I would feel all the happy emotions - pride, relief, joy... This is not the case - now I feel dumb, super guilty for taking so long, and overwhelmed by the next step - self-promotion. Which, as many of you understand, is not my jam.
There are other biggish things that I put off, too - at this moment, it is a significant grant that I know we will likely get. And the piece that makes it even worse is I literally have the playbook from others (thank you, my LL Peeps) that have written it and received the funding.
Sometimes, I remember to give myself a break - some grace. I am a firm believer in the beneficence of the Universe. She is guiding me - even though this feels (looks) like procrastination, maybe it is simply waiting until everything aligns for the most favorable outcome. Or am I possibly selling myself a line of bull to feel better? (Pass the snacks, please.)
In any case - I am motivated to write (copy & paste) that grant - today or tomorrow... and to start on the book promotion. The links are below. Please share.
May you too find the guidance, inspiration, and grace from the Universe - that informs you (when, how, and where) to do all those things you aspire to.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Summer Program - register today!
The Schoolhouse Gang Series:
Welcome to Streamside! This is the small country schoolhouse in Northern New York where the Schoolhouse Gang - a group of ten-year-old best friends share everything. Follow along on their adventures as they play and learn together.
I will have paperback copies of both in the next few weeks, if you would like to purchase them from me (I will also "make" more by selling them directly). Shoot me a message if you would like either or both. That will help me determine how many to order.
Earlier this week, I wrote the following on social media. It accompanied the haiku that I am using as today’s creative meditation.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Summer Programs - So sorry to announce that we have cancelled the DRC-East Summer Program. There was not enough interest to make it viable.
However, summer program at the Canton facility, during the last three weeks of August, will be running. They have become a beloved tradition for many local families. The program is designed to offer opportunities for hands-on exploration, creativity, and fun that children crave. DRC provides a space filled with resources and materials where kids are encouraged to explore their interests freely.
Don't let your kids miss out on this opportunity - register today.
As weird as it may sound, this is a love letter to myself firstly - which, as I am discovering, is many years overdue. Let me back up and tell this story from the beginning. As you can imagine, I intend for this post to reveal some highly personal truths, and I will likely cry multiple times while writing it. Fortunately, my tears won't influence the readability like it would if this was on paper instead of your screen.
Over the past several months, as I become more conversant with ASD, I have become increasingly aware that I am neurodivergent and likely autistic. However, I shied away from sharing my suspicions with people close to me (or even admitting it to myself) for many reasons - not the least, the fear of appearing fraudulent and attention-seeking.
Then last week, I traveled to the Liberated Learners Conference in N.J. with Bridget, a DRC board member. One of the workshops, "Supporting Autistic Youth at a Liberated Learners Center," was facilitated by JayJay, an autistic staff person from Bay State Learning Center near Boston, MA, who is also an activist. I should also mention that they presented via a virtual platform.
I honestly don't remember much of the actual presentation - because after they explained how, unfortunately, society, at large, views autism as a disorder - a pathology that needs to be fixed - they began to talk about traits that many autistic people share. They listed all the usual suspects associated with ASD and then finished the list with "dyspraxia and face blindness."
One more step backward in this tale - during our nearly seven-hour drive to the conference, I had mentioned in passing that I am extremely clumsy and always feel like I am not quite centered in my body - just a "half a bubble off of plumb," as the saying goes. And that I also experience a mild form of face blindness. I mostly recognize people by their mannerisms and the way they move.
When JayJay uttered those words, I turned to Bridget, and she turned to me, and I burst into messy, snotty, throat-clogging tears. I couldn't get it together enough to ask all the questions. But, I did manage to say (and gesture), through the lump in my throat - "that is me."
To say everyone in the room (including JayJay) was overwhelmingly supportive would be an understatement. The hugs were tight. The unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding of all my pent-up emotions and years of frustration were in plain view. And most importantly, they all acknowledged the validity of my statement, "I am autistic." This is just one of the many reasons I am so very grateful to have these people in my life.
To be clear, owning this label does not change the essential me. What it does - is allow me to fully embrace and unmask that quirky, weirdly geeky, smart, socially awkward, sensory sensitive, creative, "half a bubble off of plumb" little girl inside - who has been hiding (for 57 years) because she never understood her place in the world.
This leads me to my final two points: Autism is not a disease. Full Stop! We are not sick - just differently wired. Which doesn't make us any less - only different. We don't want or need to be pathologized, remediated, or "fixed" in any way.
And secondly, we can advocate for ourselves - as a group and as individuals. We don't need or want neurotypical (conformists) to lead the charge - needless to say, all you neuro-"typs" are more than welcome to join us as a support network. We want to be completely clear that we are not puzzle pieces waiting for you to fit us into the spaces you deem appropriate because we make you uncomfortable.
Autistic people are fully capable of self-advocacy and activism. We are also permitted to, individually, take our places in this world that feel right to each of us - that allow us to be our unmasked, authentic selves.
It is not lost on me that autistic people generally have a shorter life span. This is accounted for in several ways - 1) we are often forced through behavior therapy (ABA) to become "normal" versions of ourselves. 2) this often results in serious mental health issues, and 3) we are shunned and not given a legitimate place in society, which means we are often pushed aside without homes, work, or healthcare.
This is the main reason I requested the above workshop. A good number of the young people who find DRC are autistic - many undiagnosed. I wanted to know how DRC can help them be themselves in a world that desires and forces normalcy and perfection.
In a roundabout way, I found my answer - we simply do what we have always done - provide a safe environment and support them with as many accommodations as they need to joyfully celebrate their purely, unmasked, and fiercely genuine selves.
*Note: JayJay's FB page can be found here. It is a great place to begin learning about ASD from an autistic person.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Summer Programs: The DRC-East three themed programs begin on July 11th. Currently, we do not have a minimum number to make the program financially viable, and if that is the case, we will not run it. Please get in touch before Tuesday the 5th if your child is interested.
I have been updating the DRC website over the past few days. Please take a look and let me know if there any links not working - thanks. PS - I know that the Navigation Menu is not showing up on the blog page. Apparently, it is a Weebly issue that has occurred for other folks too.
Profit. When every single societal system is based on the accumulation of dollars - human connection is the inevitable collateral. In a market-driven capitalist economy, someone makes money when people suffer - whether it be healthcare, education, religion, governmental (political), food, etc.
Historically, those with the money and power use propaganda to divide - pitting one subset of the population against another - black and brown against white, poor against middle-class, Conservative against Liberal, college-educated against working folks, gay against straight... They continuously create and feed reasons for strife and disconnection - which ultimately drives profits.
I believe we are at a point in history when folks are becoming more aware of this blatant manipulation. I see it in the adrenaline-fueled frantic escalation of the wealthy and powerful efforts and doubling down on insanely harmful policies.
And I see it in the faces of the people who are going the extra mile to creatively disregard the boxes they have been placed inside. And abandon their personal biases and compulsion to judge folks - to destroy divisiveness and make vital connections within their community.
I have said before - radical change will be driven by grassroots engagement across our culture. Designing reasons and spaces to connect authentically with compassion is the key - because our very humanity is at stake.
These photos are a prime example. Folks from all walks of life came together to honor the memory of Don Butters, a cherished elder member of the NoCo, by delivering rocks of all sizes and finishing the last 33 of the 1000 ft of stonewall he built during his years here.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Summer Programs - register here.
DRC is a member of the Liberated Learner Network. I am super excited to see everyone at our annual conference held this year - June 22nd-24th at Raritan Learning Cooperative in Flemington, NJ. We have not been together in two years - I can not wait to see "my" people! I desperately need to soak up their shared wisdom and celebrate this "thing" we do.
In personal news - my son and daughter-in-law, Ian and Cassidy, will be visiting from Chicago, this coming weekend. Therefore, there will likely not be a blog post next week.
Happy Solstice! Enjoy the first week of summer!
I have been thinking a lot about rules lately and their role in how we (our children) learn. You all have heard me claim that I don’t follow them - just for the sake of it. If something makes absolutely zero sense and no one will get hurt, I will find another way. I believe that creativity, outside-the-box thinking, flexibility, exploration, experimentation, empathy, and modeling are essential to learning.
Nonetheless, I usually end up having to explain. Yes, we need to abide by the laws of society that keep us all safe. I would classify most of these as “duh” regulations. You know the ones: Stop at red lights, drive the speed limit-ish on the right side of the road, and follow all of the rules of the road (with a driver's license). Do not burn your trash or throw pollutants into the water source (rivers and streams), and wear a mask when there is a public health crisis that has the potential of killing off portions of the community...
But then there are the arbitrary laws that have the outside appearance of being good for all, but were probably created because some special interest groups lobbied (and lied to) lawmakers and convinced (paid) them to pass the legislation. Case in point: On Wednesday morning, I went to the grocery store before 7:30 to pick up the few items on my list. The older gentleman ahead of me at the checkout only had a 12-pack of expensive IPA. The clerk told him she could not sell him alcohol before 8am. He shrugged and simply said, “I will have to come back after work then,” and left. I did not say anything to the cashier – instead, I politely conversed with her while she scanned my groceries and bagged them. But, in my head, I was thinking, what in the actual #*&%? How in the *&$% is this helpful? Anyone who wants to drink will. Not being able to buy it between certain hours will not stop someone from driving drunk.
Let me take a step back. The science is clear - modeling (showing, not telling) is one of the ways we humans learn best. Yet our actions and behaviors pretend this is not true. Think about the thousands of unspoken messages our children receive every day. And the hypocrisy held within each.
We have a law that says someone of legal age (even that is ridiculous compared to the rest of the world) cannot purchase beer before 8 am on a weekday morning, and yet… fill in the blank with all of the things that should be legislated but are not. And you know that the very same dodgy, unethical methods are being used by the smugly pious, self-riotous powers that be - to keep those laws off the books.
When will we use common sense and ethical and equitable ideals to shape the laws of the land? It obviously is not going to be determined by how many people (children) - die senselessly. Or by the number of people who - have to fight institutional racism every moment of their lives, are refused justice and go to prison for minor infractions, go hungry and homeless, are denied female reproductive rights and equality, don't get timely, quality healthcare - including mental healthcare, and are traumatized by the system itself. Not to mention the multitude of folks who struggle daily to fully be their authentic selves in this biased (sanctimonious) world.
Our children are watching closely. They understand that our very lives are being manipulated for the sake of wealth and power or to phrase it even more succinctly - the power that wealth commands. Changing our culture takes on new meaning and importance when you comprehend the lessons being learned by our youngest citizens, and all that is at stake.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Summer Programs will be held at both Centers. DRC-East offers three weeks of themed programming in July. DRC-Canton offers Imagination Station for three weeks in August. Register today.
As mentioned last week, DRC has created a sponsorship program. Each level provides specific thank yous. I have started painting the base for Gratitude Mural at the Canton facility where those contributing on the Mentor level will have their name and chosen quote (or business name and logo) painted in. Those donating at the Explorer Level will have a stair riser painted with their name and chosen quote. Learn how you can help change a life, here.
This past week, near the end of a long conversation, the other person said, "it is ridiculous that DRC is still financially unstable, eight years in." Their point is unarguably valid - we should not be. Nonetheless, this is reality, and we are not unique - it is the fate of so many not-for-profits. Our situation is compounded by the fact that many families who seek our services can't afford anything close to the full fee required to operate on a non-austerity level. Even asking our families to pay a more reasonable minimum (which we will be doing) - does not get us close to the number we need to pay our staff a living wage.
Bootstrapping is not for everyone. Only the folks who are 100% committed to a mission and dedicated to the survival of an organization - no matter what - understand the instincts that drive those of us who do it. Yes, it is understood that a living wage is necessary for the employees, and it is why we work so hard.
Would our situation be different if we used the term - mission-driven organization instead of a not-for-profit? It might.
Deep Root Center is fully powered by our mission. We just happen to have a 501c3 - because that model makes the most sense. DRC provides a safe, flexible educational environment for kids who dare to take charge of their education and life. DRC would be fully funded if I had a dollar for everyone I spoke with over the past eight years who fully agreed - asking, "where was DRC when I needed it?"
Therefore, I don't believe our fiscal issues come down to relatability or comprehension of what we do. But, what about urgency - have we expressed that enough? Have we told an adequate number of stories? What about relationship building - have we done enough of that?
I can't answer those questions - that is where you all come in. What can DRC do to attract more funders?
And with that, I have a few other questions: would you be willing to commit to sponsoring a DRC student member with a monthly or yearly contribution? Would you consider sharing this with your network to spread the word? Do you know any locally owned companies who have found success that would be able to sponsor a DRC member?
With your help, we can get beyond (this ridiculous reality of) bootstrapping. Bootstraps are perfectly suited for boots - not (so much) organizations with a mission committed to creating cultural change. Thank you!
Weekly Creative Meditation
The DRC-Canton lawn showcases our commitment to all of our kids, the pollinators, the native children stolen from their families, and our entire community.
DRC is hosting some work days at the Canton Center. Everyone is welcome to help out. We have a long list of inside and outside tasks that that need to be completed before Summer Program begins August 15th. The next workday is Saturday June 11th from 10-2. Some tasks require particular skill sets and others are for the rest of us. We can't promise that Digby Doo will look on with anything but disdain. Nonetheless, I will be deeply grateful for your help. Please let us know if you plan on coming out to help.
DRC-East Summer Program
We are exploring the idea of having a Summer Program at DRC-East in North Lawrence during the month of July (after July 4th week). Please pass this info to anyone in your network and please be in touch if you or anyone you know may be interested. It will have different programming opportunities and will be geared to children 7 and up. One week in particular will be 12 and up.
DRC-Canton Summer Program
We already have five families signed up. This program will likely be full - register today.
We humans, as I have mentioned before, are wired for story. And frequently, those stories become distorted through several lenses, including - emotion, previously held beliefs, and inaccuracies in previous telling. This is the case for both the author/teller and the reader/listener.
And in that way, culturally speaking, almost everything we believe about the nature of children is based purely on fiction. In other words, untruths - whether from tales imagined by authors (think Lord of the Flies here), inaccurate (false) and mishandled scientific studies, or teachings from religious texts, that have dictated (for the past several centuries) how we treat (and what we believe about) children in our society.
We have this perception that children are lazy - without innate motivation. Therefore, we give them constant instruction and then complain about their inability to self-motivate. But then get upset if they take the initiative to do something on their own that doesn't quite fit with what we think they should be doing.
I spoke with a mother of a 17-year-old this past week. She reached out in pure frustration because her kid was refusing to attend school. Which brings about legal repercussions and hassles that she has had to deal with. She spent fifteen minutes telling me about her frustration with school. She clearly understands that most of the requirements are arbitrary "shit" the system has made up. But in the next breath, she was complaining about how lazy her son is and that he is basically at fault for not wanting to go to school.
She obviously shares this distorted belief about children - continually perpetuated through the individual tales within our own community and broader society. And truthfully (rightly or wrongly), I have little (no) patience with all that.
In most cases - when I have a parent who is verbally vomiting about their child's laziness, lack of motivation, etc., I try to have them put the young person on the phone. I want to circumvent the parent. Because I know it is unlikely that they (the parent) are in a place - to really hear or understand anything I have to say.
If at all possible, I want that child to know - it is not their fault, and I am here to listen to them. Even if it is only for that brief conversation and that family never reaches out again, at least they have heard that someone trusts their instincts, is interested in them as a person, and will take the time to listen.
Sadly, I was not able to do that with this kid. He was in school at the time (and had just sent his mother a message requesting he get picked up). I can only hope this family does reach out again - in response to the email I sent with more information, and I do get to talk to him.
Nevertheless, this interaction reinforced my commitment to destroy these harmful distortions sustained by the fictional tales of innate laziness, ineptitude, heartlessness, and natural sloth. These biases are hurting our children on a level that can only be described as an epidemic.
Our DNA carries the innate ability for story-telling, as well as our creativity, resourcefulness, problem-solving, curiosity, kindness, and compassion. These hard-wired human traits make us intrinsically motivated lifelong learners. I am dedicated to changing our shared culture - one story, one observation, one truth at a time - so there is no reason to believe otherwise.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Not a haiku this week - simply a thought that struck - and, in the moment, seemed ever so slightly poetic.
Both Centers have finished another academic year. It is hard to believe that nine months have passed - yet they have done just that - evaporated into thin air, leaving memories and taller, more mature young people in their wake.
Again sending thanks to everyone - parents and families, donors, community volunteers, board members, mentors, and advisors - who have supported us this past year. We are deeply grateful for your engagement and commitment to our mission.
Three weeks of programming - beginning August 15th. Register here.
DRC has parents covered those last busy weeks of summer vacation.
The common adage that no man (person) is an island holds particularly true in an organization such as DRC. Without the support of so many folks who have jumped onto this "crazy train" called Deep Root Center, whether as staff, kids and their families, volunteers, board members, donors, and supporters, it simply would not exist.
To say "thank you" does not seem like enough; nonetheless, that is all I have.
Therefore, undying gratitude to the people who have my back - always, no matter what over the top idea I come up with next. (You know who you are!) Deep appreciation and credit to everyone involved in the planning and implementation of our Party in the Park fundraiser. And thank you to the Peeps of the North Country who came out for an over-the-top day of amazing music and community connection.
I am humbled and deeply grateful.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Party in the Park - Fundraiser
We made a very good start towards the down payment on the DRC-East permanent home. However - the work is no where near done. Please consider a donation to the DRC-East Fund and please spread the word. Stay tuned for further opportunities to help us toward our goal.
This coming week is the last in our academic year. Our rosters are filling up for September. Please get in touch if you are interested in enrolling your child at either of our Centers.
Summer Programs for ages 5+
Normal is one of those words that drives me a little bit crazy. I am sure we have all heard the expression - "define normal," but I think my aversion to the word goes even farther than the inability to define it. When we use it to describe something, we automatically imply that there are things that are acceptable (good and desirable) and others that are clearly not.
Current educational standards, including standardized and diagnostic tests, are based on this elusive thing we call normal. I know they use actual data to determine it; nonetheless, it is cherry-picked and tells us (absolutely) nothing. We are testing individuals with complex and unique brains - not programmable robots.
Teachers identify children as potentially learning disabled because they are not reading by a certain age, have poor memory and comprehension skills, are not behaving appropriately in the classroom, etc. And frequently, after a child takes one of these tests (or multiple tests) and falls below the standard scoring rubric, they are designated Learning Disabled (LD), with an accompanying diagnosis - verbal processing disorder, ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia, and all the other Dys-s, etc.
All of which brings me to the most problematic piece. Who says that folks with said LDs should be classified as abnormal or challenged? When you look a little closer, what are these assessments actually scrutinizing - the child's ability to sit still in a classroom and blindly obey an authority figure and the capacity to think and behave like "everyone else?" I am willing to bet that we all understand that those "conventional skills" don't actually indicate intelligence and an ability to learn.
Why then do we, as a culture, automatically look at these differences and see disability? What if that person labeled with ASD, ADHD, or... has unique abilities that are more beneficial to themselves and the wider world than commonplace normality?
Imagine a world where, instead of looking at these labels as deficits and shortfalls that hinder that person and society in general, we evolve (dissolve) our definition of "normal" and then create a new meaning for LD - Learning Differences.
In that way, we don't designate bad or good traits and labels and, in the process, disregard a broad section of society. Instead, we can provide all the opportunities to (every) simply uniquely beautiful individual who all play a vital role in our complex world.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Six Days and counting to our Party in the Park!
Plan on joining us on Saturday, May 21st from 10-4 to meet our awesome DRC-East crew in person. (You will find their spotlights, here.) Dance and sing along to a full day of LIVE music with DJ Sal Sarmiento, a drum circle Jam with Sal and Catey Dominy, and three local bands: River Mohawk Band, Downtown, & Playback. Check out all the very cool vendors (including art and craft items created by the East Crew), bid on silent auction items, get your face painted, participate in the 50/50 raffle, and have tons of fun while supporting them to purchase their forever home and create a Cultural Resource Center for the entire community.
In case you missed it, all seven times it was aired, these amazing kids were featured in a piece on WWNY-News 7.
Progress is simply defined as forward motion. Not to say that the old axiom - two steps forward and one step back is not (absolutely) a thing. But, even when that is true, you are still making headway. It may feel like you are moving at a snail's pace, and at that moment, looking down at your feet, you can't really see how far you have come - however if you take a moment to gaze back at everything, you have achieved, it becomes apparent.
I feel like we are at that point at DRC, as well as the country at large. To think I started the process of creating DRC just nine years ago is insane. Two facilities later, with 46 kids actively participating (right now), more than 20 that are homeschooling on their own with our help, and over 200 young people served at one point or another, we have definitely made some progress. Yet, I always feel like we are constantly brainstorming creative solutions to get around, over, under, or through the obstacles placed strategically in our path.
And as a country, we have made great strides in so many areas. Although, right now, it feels like we are not just taking one step backward, but an entire century worth of teeny, tiny steps are being pulled out from beneath us like the table cloth trick - leaving major human rights sitting bare and unprotected on the table.
It really is unfair to compare the two, I know. In the case of DRC, we, the stakeholders, are in charge of making changes that will move us - and our student members positively into the future.
Our country, it seems, is not so fortunate. A few (feel free to insert expletives here, if you are so inclined) are making really bad (horrible, no good) decisions for the majority that will have a detrimental effect on us all - but most especially the kids (I am honored to spend my days with) - for years to come.
No, this is not a politically motivated post - it is an expression of my deep fury and frustration that the word progress has become a four-letter word, and somehow, hypocrisy is not. Since when has empathy, compassion, basic kindness, vision, creativity, and ingenuity become the enemy? Let me guess... was it when we attached the word Progressive to them? (Yes, I am not unaware that this is the moment where the word irony comes into play.)
Progress is not just about making obscene amounts of money. (Which, in case you were not cognizant, is the real reason for our heedless slide back into the early Twentieth Century.) It is about making supportive changes and challenging the status quo for the health and general well-being - of everyone in society - building up and protecting human rights - not tearing them down.
To be clear, progress is not the enemy. Full stop. Let's think about who and what we should be united with, not against.
Photo #1: A is greasing the mini cupcake tins. #2: S is collecting dust as a contaminant to replicate the mold growing bio experiment for the 3rd time after we had more questions we wanted to answer. #3: C brought in her painted turtle and gave a presentation. #4: E helped to bring bottles and cans to the Redemption Center twice this past week. We have collected a total of over $100 for the DRC-East Fund. #5: L&E played on the Seedlings floor creating imaginary worlds.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We will be partying in the park in two weeks! Have you missed live music events? Join us for the day and get your groove back!
Enormous gratitude to Sal Sarmiento for helping to plan our day of music, for DJ-ing for the first hour and playing didgeridoo for the Drum Circle Jam session. A Huge thank you to Catie Dominy for providing percussion for the drum circle. And shouts of thanks out to the members of the three bands (River Mohawk Band, Playback, and Downtown) who will be playing all afternoon.
Come and dance, sing along, and soak up all those live music vibes to help our East Peeps purchase their new home.
We are also still accepting registration forms from vendors.
As a run up to the fundraiser we are spotlighting all of our DRC kids and posting them on social media. If you missed them, find the reflections, here. (Check back frequently over the next weeks as Angie and I write them.)
Humans are hard-wired for narrative - our ancient ancestors, the first hominids to wander the earth, most likely used story maps, and now we have multitudes of mediums to tell our tales. However, one-on-one may still be the most ideal - it is written in our DNA.
We know intuitively that conversation is the conduit for shared observations, questions, ideas, and feelings. Which ultimately provides a flow for deeper understanding, less judgment, and closer connections. The following examples from recent encounters clarify this point.
Since I began working with children in an educational setting in 2003, I have been very vocal in my belief that we humans learn best through active, engaged discussion - not lectures or an adult disseminating information from the front of a classroom. Young people are not empty vessels passively waiting for finite, random facts from a predetermined tired curriculum.
That is why - I am not afraid to make it abundantly clear to every parent (grandparent) and child that school is optional. Some would even say it is provocative to place those exact words front and center on our shirts and other promotional items. And, it is; however, I find it is a great way to create an easily accessible entrance into conversation.
Case in point, last weekend at the Green Living Fair, an older gentleman stood looking at the DRC shirts on display and challenged us by asking, "why is school optional?" We explained that our philosophy centers around non-coercive, self-directed learning, but that was not enough. He was looking for more - and kept asking the same question. Finally, I stepped in and said, "because learning is natural," and then began to relate a few stories from recent weeks. He was hooked.
The exchange continued for another 10-15 minutes. He shared that his 7-year-old grandchild in Denver, CO is in the process of being diagnosed with dyslexia and how worried he was - because it was turning into a traumatic affair for the kid and their entire family. The methods used and the handling of this child's needs by professionals seemed needlessly cruel. This man left our table with a new understanding of how people learn and the knowledge that someone really cares enough to listen to him talk about his grandchild's (and their entire family's) experiences.
Friday, a 16-year-old joined us for the first time. As I usually do with new kiddos, I asked if they would like to check in with me partway through the day. This kid looked at me with a horrified expression and said no, "I'm good, and I am playing a game now." I then had to explain that it was all fine. They were not in trouble or being called out for anything. I just wanted to see how the day was going and refresh my memory about what they are interested in doing at the Center each week. Several kids assured him it was all good.
Once he (this kid identifies as nonbinary, and more specifically agender - and prefers he, him, and it pronouns) finished his game, we settled into the new office space and began to talk. Midway into our 1/2 hour chat, he looked up and noticed the "Gender Closet" sign, giggled a bit, and asked about it. (Side note, after explaining the gender closet, he relayed that he needed a binder - he said while looking down at his chest, "seeing this every day makes me have more body dysphoria." You will find more about this specific request below.) That is the exact point where the conversation took a hard left turn into some serious topics.
After disclosing some of the things he has gone through over the past couple of years, he said something akin to - it makes me angry that there are people who hurt and bully people who have a mental illness or are LGBTQ+. We talked about why these folks are so bound up in hate and want to destroy the things they dislike. After talking about it a bit, we decided it is often because they just do not understand (whatever it is, they are hating on), and the easiest way to deal is through anger or violence.
I then told him about our Social Justice class and our goals of highlighting injustices within various groups of people in the community. We agreed that bringing things into the open with a willingness to talk about them may help people more fully understand the things they judge as bad, inconceivable, or inappropriate. He is thinking about joining that class - I believe he has a lot to offer to the group in terms of experience, creative ideas, and passion.
At the end of the day, life and the act of learning will always be about making those interlaced connections with other people - which sometimes feels frightening, overwhelming, or simply impossible.
Therefore, if you have questions - ask. When something feels icky or uncomfortable - ask. The best way to learn something new, understand things better, or even find the joy within - is to share your observations, curiosities, and stories and then talk about them.
Photo 1: Thank you Anna Campbell for the cool new electronic keyboard and music mat. Photo 2: We grew mold! Our second attempt of the science experiment worked. Photo 3: Shark and Ocean Critters was the second session held in the new classroom space.
Weekly Creative Meditation
As mentioned above, the DRC Canton Center has a Gender Closet, where anyone can take any clothing that meets their gender identity. It is currently open to the community on Mon. and Thurs. from 2:30 -3:15.
Later in the day, after speaking with the above student about his need for a binder, my own kiddo, Kenzie, happened to call. I told them about the request for a binder, and they offered to donate money for us to buy one specifically for him.
Which then gave me the idea to create a Binder Fund - to purchase them for kids who desperately need them. Body dysphoria is debilitating for so many kids. If we can take one layer of trauma off their shoulders and provide a means for them to appear the way they identify, we absolutely will. Each binder costs between $35 - $50 which does not include shipping fees.
To begin, we will offer this to DRC kids, but as the fund grows, we will provide this to any young person in the community as long as we are able.
If you would like to donate to the Binder Fund at DRC, you can do so through the DRC Venmo account - @Whole-Learners Please specify that it is for the Binder Fund in the comments. You can also donate through our Stripe donation box here. (Please keep in mind that Venmo transactions are free, but we have to pay an additional fee for donations made through Stripe.)
DRC- East Fundraising Party
We are less than four weeks out, and things seem to be pulling together! Spread the word - we are still looking for vendors, and then plan on joining us with friends and family on May 21st for loads of fun.
The bottle drive continues as well. Thank you to everyone who has dropped some off so far. E and I have at least a carload to bring to the redemption center this coming week!
Yesterday DRC was responsible for the Kid Zone at the Green Living Fair. I was there with my "bag of tricks" (art supplies, toys, & games) and a table covered with info about DRC. The best part of the day was that I met so many folks that I had not seen in years.
While catching up with one of them, someone I knew while starting DRC, she said in response to how are you doing, "same old, same old, but look at you - you took the leap, and look at you now!" And I replied, "but not all of us should leap - some are exactly where they need to be - doing the good work."
Yes, some of us leap - we are natural problem solvers, never satisfied with the status quo, always looking to improve, change up, or destroy and then re-create the system. Sometimes, we have a carefully (meticulously) thought-out plan (and a safety net) and know what we are doing, but frequently we don't. And for me - that is the key to leaping.
I usually have a general, sketchy idea that I believe will work and then jump in - knowing full well that I can learn anything I need to know. And that I can (and will) work through the technical difficulties, obstacles, missteps, or other stumbling blocks that appear, or I can even change direction entirely. I trust in serendipity. (I may have mentioned, a few times, that it is my favorite word.)
The central point of all of this is that I am not afraid to make mistakes. Scratch that - I am genuinely terrified of screwing up. Nonetheless, what it comes down to is I don't let that fear stop me from doing what I think is essential. And in total honesty, I also know that I have a group of people who understand my passion and will always have my back.
I meant what I said to my friend yesterday - not all of us should leap. So many folks are happily doing the essential work and are where they need to be - at this moment in time. Maybe their time to leap is later or even never.
The way to know if and when you should is to ask yourself these questions: Have I accomplished all I want to in this lifetime? Am I doing the work that matters to me and to others? Am I having fun while doing that work?
If your answer to any or all of these questions is "no," you may want to consider taking the plunge. But not before also asking yourself, will I regret not following that dream, goal, or aspiration?
Overthinking isn't always the best policy. Additionally, crying for six months beforehand probably isn't necessary, either. (Yes, I know this from experience.)
Indeed, it is (damn) scary, overwhelming at times, and often frustrating, but the joy, feeling of accomplishment, and gratitude of the folks I work with is beyond worth that incredible - life-changing leap nine years ago.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We are still seeking vendors for our Party in the Park on May 21st. If you know of someone who may be interested in joining us, please have them get in touch.
The bottle drive continues as well. You can bring them to 48 Riverside Drive in Canton and leave them by the garage door.
DRC has rolling admission - if you believe we may be a good fit for your child, contact us today.
Summer program registration is open. Space is limited. Register online.
Every living thing relies on diversity to survive. Based on the research of Mendel, Wallace, Darwin, and the biological scientists who followed, we understand that widespread variation is a large part of the evolutionary process of absolutely everything in the natural world. We know that there needs to be an array of genetic material for successful reproduction and survival.
When you replicate the concept of evolution into a non-biological application - the same holds true. We need diversity in every aspect of our lives to allow for meaningful personal connections and ultimate success for the entire group.
Yes, this all sounds super high brow and academic (unlike the typical pieces you receive from me) - but I would like you to take a moment to consider how our homogenized, milky white societal ideals have been detrimental to so many - for so long.
Through highly effective propaganda, for a good portion of modern history, we (humans of every stripe) have learned to despise (and fear) the "other" for a variety of made-up reasons. (See the definition of propaganda here. I don't generally use Wikipedia - but this provided a pretty representative definition.)
Therefore, when something very different or new from what we are accustomed to pops up in places - that we frequent, we may feel uncomfortable, startled, or even afraid. This is exactly the desired response and the result of all of that unconscious, subliminal training.
I work with many neurodiverse children - a good number on the spectrum, some with ADHD - and more than a few undiagnosed. I don't actually care about the official diagnosis - because, in the end, we (the DRC staff) recognize the amazing gifts every child brings to the group and we love spending our days with them.
The thing I do care about is the reason why so many neurodivergent kids seek out DRC. I believe that the people in the system they came from feel uncomfortable, do not know how to interact, and do not fully appreciate their talents and uniquely wonderful way of thinking. For these reasons, these kids are, quite literally, forced to change themselves to fit into this homogenized world I spoke of earlier. And, if they don't (or can't), they are frequently admonished or punished. Indeed, Pavlov's methodology isn't just used for animals. Therefore, understandably, they are unhappy, disenfranchised, and anxious, and seek out other educational environments.
When we neglect to openly invite (and remove barriers for everyone to participate), especially those who have diverse ways of thinking and being (not only folks with ASD or any of the other "disorders") into our personal spheres, we are actively traumatizing human beings while ultimately inhibiting societal growth, change, and possibly (probably) our own survival.
Diversity is not a talking point. It can't be achieved by hiring a "Diversity Officer," or implementing token policies and meaningless training sessions. It is deeply entrenched in the basic human need for connection and engagement. And the only way it will happen on a large scale is if every one of us welcomes, into our personal world, those who are not typically allowed a place at the table.
Ultimately culture will only change and grow through inclusionary practices and by exterminating misinformation, our reasons for fearing the other, and unimaginative thinking.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Both Centers are on Spring Break this coming week. However, fundraising efforts are still very much on our agenda.
Find the Color Street fundraiser here. We have had several vendor registration forms submitted for our Party in the Park over the past few days. If you know anyone with a side hustle or small business who would like to promote themselves and have some fun with us on May 21st- please share this link with them. We are also seeking food trucks and local musicians. Please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are still collecting bottles and cans - bring them to 48 Riverside Dr. in Canton and place the bags in front of the garage.
I am sending this out a day early to catch those of you celebrating Passover, Easter, or all the delights of Spring this weekend.
Best wishes from the entire DRC Crew!
In my mind - nothing is ever finished. I literally consider everything I create a work in progress that I can edit, revise, rework, redesign, or delete and begin again - still after being published and sent into the world. Yet I go a little crazy every time I walk into the DRC art room. Where I find not only the detritus from multiple kids and their many projects covering the table and spilling onto the floor - but also the abandoned projects left in varying levels of completion littering every surface.
I obviously understand on a deep level that the process is the principal component of imagination and creativity. And the finished piece is the least important. It is our culture - and the adults within who insist that a project's natural conclusion is - acceptable completion.
I have observed so many parents, teachers, and grandparents hover over a child, making suggestions and sometimes even taking over the entire project. Or, the "art" assignment may consist of pre-drawn, cut, and even colored components meant to be assembled the way the lesson plan shows. And if the child has not "followed directions" and created something completely unique, they are admonished and punished.
In those moments, these important people in the child's life have taught them three things. a) That a perfectly finished project is the desired end product, b) they (that child) are not creative or imaginative, or even good at art, and c) they are simply not good enough (at anything).
As a result of this never-ending reach for perfection, we have a world filled with people who believe that creativity is an unreachable aspiration. And they have no earthly idea how to begin.
Imaginative out-there ideas and people who are willing to see everything as a work in progress, including themselves, are the ones who will ultimately be the ones to save us all (from ourselves).
Therefore, I refuse to be complicit in the destruction of creative thought and processes - even if my blood pressure spikes every (damn) time I enter the chaos - that is the DRC art room.
Weekly Creative Meditation
DRC Imagination Station Summer Programs will be back for the last three weeks of August. Find more information and the link to the registration page on the DRC website. Space is limited to 12 participants each week.
We are still seeking vendors, musicians, and food trucks for the May 21st Party in the Park fundraiser. And be sure to let your creative, business-owning, musical friends know about this opportunity. Register here today. If you have additional ideas or would like to help plan this important event, please get in touch with email@example.com
The bottle drive will continue as well. Bring clean refundable bottles and cans in plastic garbage bags to 48 Riverside Dr. in Canton and drop them next to the garage door. E enjoys the responsibility of helping to bring them to the redemption center.
There always seems to be some point in our lives when we have seemingly run out of options. I'm only guessing that was the scenario for the four families who contacted me in the last four days. For the record, three of them were within 7 hours of each other on Friday. I spoke directly with two parents - one who showed up unannounced at the DRC-Canton door at 8 am Friday (while I was working on Admin "stuff" and before I had finished drinking my coffee). I also fielded a phone call (minutes after that parent left) from an advocate at a local organization that recommends us to families regularly and then, later that evening, responded to a google form consultation request.
Both parents I spoke with directly described sad, angry, and frustrated kids in crisis. And in each case, the parents felt helpless, disheartened, and fearful for their child's future. I could describe most conversations I've had with parents over the past eight years in precisely the same way. They felt like they were out of options and were feeling pretty hopeless.
We often say (sometimes provocatively) that school is optional. We really mean every desperately unhappy, anxious, and depressed kid should leave school - now. It is no longer a safe option for them.
Don't wait it out to see if they can make it to the end of the year. Don't say, "it is only a phase." Or "middle school is always rough. They need to toughen up" And, even, "if they could switch classrooms, I think they would do better with a different teacher. They were fine until this year." Treat this situation as seriously as any other life or death emergency.
Kids who join us after years of struggling - for any (and all the) reasons, often take a very long time to "deschool" (detox). To be clear, this process is exceedingly painful to watch. It may take a year or two before they completely understand that they can take charge of their education and follow their interests wherever they lead. I try to convey that the sooner they leave school, the less time that process will take.
When I say that I can get a child out of an unhappy school situation in ten minutes - that is quite literally how long it takes me to switch out names and addresses in the letter of intent (LOI) to homeschool and print it (or send it to a parent via email). The Individualized Home Instruction Plan is the next step and takes a bit more time, thoughtfulness, and an in-depth conversation with the child; however, families legally have ten days to get it to the school after sending the LOI.
This may sound like I am cavalier or unfeeling about this monumental decision. In fact, I feel deeply for every single one of these kids and their families and often carry their stories around in my heart for a while. The cultural norm of school is so deeply ingrained - I understand the difficulty of hearing the words "pull them out of school now" and the emotions they bring forward.
Ultimately, the decision to opt-out of school rests with each child and their family. I will always present Deep Root Center as an option. Because I remain steadfast in my dedication to the fundamental philosophy of non-coercion that we are founded on.
Yet, I always feel like I have failed a child when they and their family decide to stick it out in school.
On the other side, it will never get old (and I will never take it lightly) to hear a parent say, after asking me to write a letter of Intent and IHIP, "I feel like you have just lifted an enormous weight off my chest. I don't know how to thank you."
No, this is not about "scoring" more kids for DRC. I will continue to do this (as long as I can) to help as many kids in the NoCo - whether they homeschool (unschool) on their own or join us at Deep Root Center. My only goal is to help kids - who are unbearably miserable - get around the enormous obstruction (we call school) blocking their path to autonomy and authenticity - and pure awesomeness.
Scenes from Bio Lab this past week.
Weekly Creative Meditation
DRC accepts new members throughout the academic year. If you feel like you are running out of options - get in touch today.
We are still seeking vendors for Our Party in the Park on May 21st.
Also, do you know a creative or business-minded youth who would like an opportunity to sell or promote their art, products, or services? We have a special vendor fee of $10.00/space just for them. Submit an online form today and send payment to Deep Root Center in Canton.
And we are still collecting bottles and cans for the DRC-East Bottle Drive. DRC Canton at 48 Riverside Dr. is a drop-off point. Drop the bags in front of the garage. Thank you!
At birth, we each have a distinct and unique blueprint for who we are and what we are good at - built inside. That innate plan often goes awry when parents, teachers, and the culture - we are born into determines our educational path.
Children frequently feel unheard and unbearably frustrated when they realize that those who love and nurture them - ignored, didn't understand, or straight-up sabotaged their inherent genius. Mostly accomplished in the guise of, "but we know what is best for you." "This is how it has always been done." "We have to follow the rules." Or, "why can't you just fit in?"
At this point, the behaviors triggered by their resentment grow into "obstructions" to "real" learning, which initiates the traumatic experiences that determine future beliefs about learning and education. If this series of events has not happened by the age of 5 or 6, it will by the time they are 9 or 10 years old. And if not addressed, the teen years are bound to be pure hell for them - and anyone who loves them.
But, you ask, how will I know what my child's "genius" is? Quite simply - pure observation. Watch what draws their attention and what they are proficient at from a very early age. Provide resources and materials and multiple modalities for endless free play and exploration. Then sit back (get the hell out of the way) and let the magic of curiosity and the excitement of independent discovery take over. Kids will inherently solve problems and challenges when they pop up because they have not been taught to fear the inevitable mistakes derived from experimentation. Adult intervention isn't a requirement for learning. It happens naturally. And it does not turn off at the age of 4 or 5!
We see this every day. It takes practice and a fair amount of trust to provide the resources and space where kids feel safe to unleash all that creativity, inspiration, and pure joy of independence and discovery.
Agency allows for confident problem solvers who love to learn new things. When given the opportunity to follow their interests and the goals based on those interests - instead of a predetermined rigid curriculum, or society's expectations, these kids understand their place in the world. And that, ultimately, serves us all.
Scenes from this past week.
Weekly Creative Meditation
You guessed it - DRC-East fundraising activities continue to be the lead story. We are finishing up the Tastefully Simple online fundraiser today. Next up is Pampered Chef. The link will be available on the DRC & DRC-East FB pages as soon as it is up and running. We also encourage you to join the Support DRC-East FB Group.
They are also holding a bottle drive. In addition to the site on the below poster, you can drop off bags of empty and clean bottles at Barney's Wagon Wheel Bar (huge shout of thanks to them) in Malone or at DRC-Canton - 48 Riverside Drive in the driveway in front of the garage.
We are still looking for vendors and musicians for the May 21st Party in the Park. Please share this opportunity with your network.
As humans, we generally wear masks (no, not PPE) for two reasons - to hide our authenticity from ourselves or others or to change our appearance. The first is a metaphorical mask, and the second is usually theatrical - but can also be figurative.
From an early age, most of us learn to alter our essential beings to fit society's expectations, especially when we are in public. Human babies pick up seemingly invisible cues of culturally appropriate behavior. These signals are so subtle adults don't even notice they are giving them off.
And this is when we begin masking our true selves - our quirky personality, anger, empathy, sensitivity, needs, desires, and especially our neurodivergence - because we feel weird, strange, out of place, and unsafe. And that there is something radically wrong with us.
Fun fact: people assigned female at birth are far more likely to be diagnosed with dyslexia, ASD, and even ADHD later in life - simply because they are far more likely to mask the "weirdness" and behaviors associated with those labels.
This conversation is a throwback to last week's post that mentioned forcing disabled and neurodivergent folks to fit into our preconceived notions of acceptability and utility - instead of changing the world and our attitudes so everyone will be comfortable, accepted, and respected.
Eventually, our mask begins to fit so well we can trick ourselves into believing it represents authenticity because it embodies all the feelings of safety. And then it becomes affixed permanently - reflected in the stories we tell ourselves - until we are ready to consciously, with thoughtful intention, strip it away.
This can be a painfully overwhelming journey that reveals the deeply embedded scars from past trauma inflicted upon us - by others, as well as ourselves. However, that rough, pothole-filled obstacle course eventually gets you to a place where you no longer need your disguise and are accepted (by yourself and others) as you are - fallibly, awesomely, human.
It is my pleasure to spend my days unconditionally supporting young people on their path to authenticity in an environment free of judgement, bias, and coercion - where everyone is encouraged to drop their facade and be real.
This past week, during a homeschool consultation, I spoke by phone with a teen to learn more about them - what they wanted to do, and their goals for the future, so I could build their learning plan. I think they were taken aback, at first, after discovering I was open to hearing their preferred name and that I asked their pronouns up front. I think they came into the conversation expecting another adult to tell them what to do and how to be. Once we got over introductions and I asked what are you into? They were so overwhelmed with disbelief and relief, they blurted out, "so much stuff." And then they began to list them accompanied with anecdotes. We talked for over 30 minutes. I hope in that short time this young person understood that I honor and celebrate them fully as a uniquely, brilliant individual who does not need to hide behind a mask.
Weekly Creative Meditation
The latest news continues to be the DRC-East fundraising efforts.
We are also holding several online fundraisers to benefit Deep Root Center-East. Our second one is Tastefully Simple March 19th - 28th. Click the link to the Tastefully Simple ordering page.
And we are still looking for vendors for the May 21st Craft show fundraising event, as well as musicians who would be willing to share their talents for a brief time that day. Please share this opportunity with your network. Musicians can get in touch directly. Vendors can submit this google form and then send the fee to DRC-Canton.
DRC Bling is HERE - we have t-shirts (Y-M, A-M, A-L, & A-XL) with both Canton and East logos available for $15/ea., as well as bumper stickers for $2.50/ea. Let us know if you would like to order any of these items.
The anthropological concept of ethnocentrism is very real. And it was one of the first things I learned as an anthropology student. Ethnocentrism is the fundamental belief that your culture is superior in every way. This theory (as Eurocentrism) is the underlying reason for colonialism (white cultures taking over darker-skinned cultures). As a side note - it is the basis for nationalism, too.
Ethnocentrism also extends to the notion that each of us personally believes we know what is best - it is in our human nature to think that our ideas and ways of doing things - are, in essence, better than anyone else.
Deep down inside each of us, there is that whisper of superiority. You can see where this piece of our essential humanness can get us in trouble - right?
These unconscious levels of snobbery hold us all back - because as a "propagandized" society, we automatically see the other - someone who is so very different from us that we can easily find reasons to disengage and hate. Which ultimately inhibits our ability to make real change for everyone - to create the inclusive world we all desire.
Weekly Creative Meditation
The DRC-East fundraisers continues to be the top news. DRC-East currently rents, by the day, an old church in North Lawrence that is also for sale. We greatly appreciate that we have been warmly welcomed to use this historic old building. However, we want to purchase it to make it our own. Owning it would allow us to use the space more effectively and use our creative talents to personalize it. The student members also envision making it into a community cultural and creative resource center. It will be a place to invite local people to participate in artistic and educational events. Their first idea is to hold a monthly brown bag lunch film series. The resource center could also host guest speakers, live music events, and art shows.
We are currently seeking vendors for our "Party in the Park." Please complete the Google Form to secure your space.
The Thirty-one online fundraiser goes through the 18th. Next up is Tastefully Simple. Join the DRC-East FB Fundraising page to get the latest scoop.
Our world is constantly changing - progress is the act of moving forward and embracing the change. Nevertheless, fear is a powerful driver. And anxiety about the unknown is probably the most commonly expressed. I believe the current phenomenon of trying to inhibit and regulate all the "newness" of those seeking ethnic (racial), LGBTQ+, healthcare, and female equity - are most likely the result of our cultural fascination with preserving the status quo. It demands that people go to great lengths to protect it - when there is the threat of change or the loss of something they value. When we look at life from the perspective of deficit instead of abundance, the fear becomes even more real. Hoarding is just one response, as are behaviors designed to grab the attention of peers, family, or even the media.
This tug of war between new and old ways is as old as humanity. It is the reason we have generational putdowns and misunderstandings. And why our society feels so very divided right now.
But, I can also see this antagonism clearly in the teenagers I spend my days with at DRC. Their lives are especially fraught. The very definition of the teen years is - change and inconsistency. The hormonal shifts and their reach for autonomy conflict directly with their desire to crawl back into childhood where decision-making is easy (do I want to wear the blue socks or the yellow ones) - are crazy-making. They seek out self-determination and all the adult things that come with it - yet they are unsure because it is overwhelming, anxiety-inducing, and they have learned through societal training that they can't practice, because making mistakes, the intrinsic way all humans learn - is unacceptable and straight-up bad.
The most common criticisms I hear about teens are their levels of unpredictability and irresponsibility. I am sure you have seen the meme over the past couple of years, "freedom without responsibility is adolescence." Every time I see it on social media, I want to scream. First off, the expression should read, "freedom without responsibility makes you a jerk (or less polite euphemism) no matter your age." Secondly, teens are not lazy, and they don't evade accountability. They are deep thinkers, and yes they are even conscientious, community-oriented, and kind. But, yes, they can also be ruthlessly unrelenting and fearlessly galvanized when they set out to fix injustices in their world.
I spend so much of my time trying to convince the teens in my life that they are not lazy, irresponsible bums just because they are not doing the rote tasks that society expects from them. These stereotypes spread over an entire generation are the source of damage that I see every day. And when people are traumatized or fearful, they are motivated to behave in ways directly in conflict with their innate nature or intentions.
Weekly Creative Meditation
The first DRC-East fundraiser is live! Please click the link and share with your network! You can also join the DRC East Fundraising FB Group to follow the action. The person running the Thirty-One fundraiser for us is donating her entire commission! We are immensely grateful for her generosity.
Our goal with this series of fundraisers and the culminating craft show/live music event May 21st is to raise the $60k needed to purchase the church that the East Peeps are currently renting. Owning it would allow us to use the space more effectively and use our creative talents to personalize it. The East kids also envision making it into a community cultural and creative resource center. It will be a place to invite local people to participate in artistic and educational events. Their first idea is to have a monthly brown-bag lunch film series. The Resource Center could also host guest speakers, live music events, and art shows.
Stay tuned as details for all of the fundraisers, including the May 21st event, coalesce. Thank you!
"Of course," we say, smugly, both expecting and noticing the worst - the bad behavior, poor choices, and the straight-up rotten attitude. We vigilantly seek out the things other people have done wrong with a false sense of offense and overriding one-up-man ship. We obviously know best, can do better, and then judge others for their exploits and lack of good sense. Because - we know in our deepest of knowing that by pointing out the deficits, we can surely help them become better people.
Full stop. Go back and reread that paragraph. Can you honestly say you want to live in a world created with aloofness, ambivalence, uncharitable thoughts and actions, and absolutely no empathy?
Underneath the veneer of judgment, we understand that we can't change people by punishing them or drawing their attention to their negative attributes because:
On the opposite side, when we go out of our way to expect and notice the positive in other people, they will respond positively. We also understand this concept on a profoundly personal level. Think about the times someone noticed and complimented something you were doing - or offered kindness, encouragement, and support when you were struggling. It probably made you feel capable, understood, or just plain old satisfied. As humans, we all simply do better when we feel better.
This right here is my challenge to you and myself. Actively find reasons to say, "of course," because you fully expected the best - all of the creativity, curiosity, and compassion, as well as learning and growth. Let's build the world we want to live in - together - by activating the inherent strength of kindness and empathy.
Weekly Creative Meditation
DRC fundraising efforts will be kicking into high gear over the next two months leading up to a culminating event at the end of May. Please stay tuned here and on our social media as plans unfold. To increase our success, please like and follow DRC and DRC-East. Our first online fundraiser is Thirty-One, beginning March 3rd - followed by Tastefully Simple.
Our goal is two-fold - to purchase the church in North Lawrence, which DRC- East is currently renting, and to support DRC in general. You can also help these efforts by donating here and specifying what you would like your contribution to go toward - the fund to purchase DRC-East's new home or general operations. Thank you!
Both Centers will be in session this coming week following or midwinter break. You can follow our everyday exploits on both FaceBook pages as well.
Sometimes, because we are trying to be as optimistic or upbeat as possible, acknowledging the validity in those three words feels like the end of the world as we know it. But, as I have learned, by ignoring, pushing through, glossing over, or denying that unavoidable truth, I, in the end, make my life even harder.
In addition to the traumas and other regular "shit" life throws at us, we are also going on two years of dealing with a worldwide health emergency, making everything feel overwhelming - both physically and emotionally. And as per usual, the typical weather pattern of snow and ice, varied with the inevitable thaw, back to freezing again, at this time of year, is not helping the situation.
If all you want to do is stay in bed buried under a pile of quilts, with your beloved pet, snacks, and a good book - while shouting "@$#*$#*@" (choose your expletive) back at the wind that is blasting icy pellets against your window, trust me, you are not alone. Sometimes all you can do is hang on (by what feels like your fingernails), hunker down, give in to all the feelings (swear a bit), allow your mind to wander, treat yourself with all the kindness and forgiveness you offer others, plan for future explorations, and know that this season of unrelenting hardship - too shall pass.
We all understand that life is hard and that we will get knocked down occasionally - accepting it as a time to regroup and rediscover our authentic selves and trusting that all the opportunities will present themselves in time - indicates intentional growth and renewal.
We've got this! Trust yourself and the process. I'll see you on the other side.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Both Centers are closed this coming week for mid-winter break. We are working on some exciting "stuff" that will be revealed soon.
And if you missed it - DRC will have a link to weekly word game every Saturday on our FB page. Here is the one from yesterday - https://metzger.media/games/custom-word/?puzzle=52349
Don't miss a post!
Sign-up here to get the DRC Blog delivered to your inbox.