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Surrogate Grandparenting, Part 2

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

Release Date: 12/30/2019

The Power of Story, Part 3 show art The Power of Story, Part 3

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

Emily wraps up the third episode on "the power of stories" with a chat with an executive from Scholastic, Inc.--the source of all those books sold to grade-school students from newsletters and book fairs. Their conversation took place just before World Read-Aloud Day, which framed their talk about grandparents reading aloud to their grands. THE STRETCH IT TAKES (Emily's Essay): The Genetics of Reading   When I visited the home of my maternal grandparents, I don’t remember seeing a book in any room of the house. It was a stark contrast to our own house with books in each room and a...

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The Power of Story, Part 2 show art The Power of Story, Part 2

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

Continuing the theme from last episode, Emily speaks with a 93-year-old grandfather, author, and active advocate of capturing and then "unleashing" grandparent stories. His creative partner in their website adds helpful details about a program that helps grands become powerful and prolific story-makers. SHOW NOTES Jerry and Deanna's website is grandparentsunleashed.com, and  Jerry's book is The Grandest Love, available .

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The Power of Story, Part 1 show art The Power of Story, Part 1

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

How well do your grands know your story? Emily travels (virtually) to Trinidad to speak with Felicia Chang, a professional in the area of capturing the personal stories of our families, with a special emphasis our elders. Your story has worth and power...and is of priceless value to your grands. EPISODE NOTES Felicia Chang's TEDx Talk about how the stories of our loved ones connect us all is . Her business has a and a . This is Felicia with her dear grandmother, the subject of her movie and the inspiration of her view on capturing stories.

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Distance/Global Grandparenting, Part 2 show art Distance/Global Grandparenting, Part 2

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

Continuing last episode's theme, this time Emily talks with a grandparent in the US and a parent in France whose extended relationships span oceans, languages, and cultures. Adventure seasoned with selflessness is the recipe. THE STRETCH IT TAKES (Emily's essay)   “We’re moving to Brussels.” Those words shocked me even though I was twenty-one, living in my own apartment and working on my graduate degree. My parents called from NH to inform me that my dad had taken a job in Belgium. “Where is that?” was my immediate reply. (I was in grad school for English Lit, and obviously...

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Distance/Global Grandparenting, Part 1 show art Distance/Global Grandparenting, Part 1

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

Back in Season 2, we did an episode on Long-Distance Grandparenting which proved to be a popular subject. When the distances are really long--international--you'd think it would be harder. The pandemic has made distance less of a factor that it once was, so experienced global grandparents can teach lessons almost all of us can apply. EPISODE SHOW NOTES Learn more about Emily's guest, author Helen Ellis, at https://www.distancefamilies.com. Her book will be out in April, 2021. 

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Grandparent Educators, Part 2 show art Grandparent Educators, Part 2

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

Some grandparents have the time, talent, and access to become directly involved with their grands' education. Emily talks with two grandparents and a teacher who have done or seen this firsthand, which may give you ideas on how to approach this in your extended family. SHOW NOTE Learn more about Emily's third guest, Sandra Williams, from her and her book, .  

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Grandparent Educators, Part 1 show art Grandparent Educators, Part 1

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

Grandparents can play a range of roles in their grands' education. In Part 1 on this topic, Emily talks with a retired teacher whose journey through racial segregation in the 1950s shaped her commitment to supporting the schooling of her descendants. Emily's essay is a revealing self-portrait of a third grader, a pen pal, and a missed opportunity Emily's guest Kaaren Rodman provides details on her family's scholarship: "Our family has set up a scholarship that is awarded through the Indianapolis Urban League. Mike and I did smaller grants for several years in the 90's, one for each set of...

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Grandparent Love, Part 2 show art Grandparent Love, Part 2

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

The centerpiece of this episode is Emily's interview with best-selling author Barbara Graham, who has written about the collected experiences of gifted and famous grandmothers. There are lessons to be learned from her work... and from Emily's essay about loving our grands well with the time we find. Learn more about Emily's guest and her work at .    The Stretch It Takes: Competing With Time (Emily's Essay)   If there’s one thing that this pandemic has taught me, it’s that time looks and feels different to different people, depending on their age and their...

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Grandparent Love, Part 1 show art Grandparent Love, Part 1

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

To begin Season 4, Emily talks with two members of her network on how to put our love for our grands into action--with purpose, and intentionality, and clever ideas.  The payoff is a richer relationship, even when it's largely a long-distance one. To learn more about our two guests visit and .         

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Spotlight on Emily show art Spotlight on Emily

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

While we take a break between seasons of The Grand Life Podcast, we're inviting host Emily Morgan to the guest's chair for a change. With husband and producer Mike, she covers choosing content, finding guests, and balancing the living of The Grand Life with her podcasting about it.

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More Episodes

In this episode, Emily examines how real surrogate grandparenting works in an imaginary world--a living history museum where it's always 1836, and the townspeople included Emily's children.  (Photo: Asa Gauen)

SHOW NOTES--AND LOTS OF PICTURES!

Here's Emily with Betsy Gerard:

Emily with Betsy Gerard, historic interpreter

Above Betsy's couch hangs this Tasha Tudor charcoal of Betsy as Prairietown's Kate.

Kate, circa 1836, by Tasha Tudor

 

Here's Grace, sister of guest-essayist Ellen Peltz, from 2009 as Jenny Curtis, circa 1836. Photo: Asa Gauen

Grace Morgan as Jenny Curtis in 1836

Emily's guest Sarah Morin is the Youth Volunteer Coordinator at Conner Prairie. Children can apply to serve as youth volunteers.

 

THE STRETCH IT TAKES: Guest Essay, "My Prairietown Grands"

  Lots of kids have their go-to hang-out spots – the mall, the movie theater, a friend’s house. I spent a significant chunk of my childhood and adolescence in another time period. 

  From the spring after I turned 10 until the summer before my junior year of college, I was a volunteer and – when I was old enough – an employee at Conner Prairie Living History Museum, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum along the lines of Historic Williamsburg in Virginia. At Conner Prairie, we introduced visitors to pioneer life in Indiana by immersing them in a recreation of an 1836 village, complete with farm animals, working blacksmith and carpentry shops, hearth cooking, kitchen gardens and an entire population of villagers playing a host of fictional 19th century characters. As a historic interpreter, as the job was called, I memorized the storylines of multiple characters and learned the talking points of multiple historic buildings. The character I played varied depending on the building to which I was “posted” each day.

  Every morning, before heading out to my post, I would scan the schedule to see which adults I would be working with that day. Please oh please oh please let it be Betsy,” I’d whisper under my breath, or Bill, or Ron, or Gretchen or Tim or Kathy or Dwight….

  The list when on. Luckily for me, I loved working with so many of the adults – many of them empty nesters or retirees looking for something to fill their time and supplement their income – that chances were, I’d skip away from the schedule board happily, wrap a shawl around my shoulders or pull a sunbonnet over my cotton daycap, and head out to connect with my family for the day.

  We all played such a variety of characters that it was hard to keep up with who everyone was. Sometimes I was Elizabeth, sweet and timid, hard worker. Sometimes I was Katie, scrappy and sassy, looking for trouble. Sometimes I had a mother or father in town, sometimes just an older sister, sometimes a grandparent. The roles shifted daily, but regardless of who I was playing in relation to who the adults I loved were playing, we all spent our day doing the same thing – telling stories, together.  Creating a narrative portal to history through which we could pull our visitors – and each other.

  Looking back on these experiences now, I recognize the irony in the fact that I felt so close to people with whom the majority of my conversations were pure fiction - trips, experiences and major life events – births, deaths, marriages – that never happened.

  It goes to show that there is a truth underneath the truth that, perhaps, matters more. I only knew bits and pieces of their real lives, and they knew bits of mine. But I knew their character’s stories intimately. The origins of the deep-seated feud between Dr. Campbell and Mr. Fenton, the outcome of the Zimmerman boys’ last hog drive to Cincinnati, the reason Mrs. Curtis insisted on painting a black and white checkered pattern on her parlor floor. These were the stories I heard over and over, stories I learned to tell myself or to model my own stories after. And in the case of my very favorite adults, they were stories I was invited in to. “Elizabeth here, she has her eye on this blue flower print I just got in to the store,” Ron would say to a visitor, wrapping his arm around my shoulder. Or “Katie, she knows this song, she’ll sing it with me,” Betsy would say, patting my knee with her wrinkled hand. 

  In the context of our actual families, children don’t necessarily have much agency in crafting the story the family tells. We are born into a role and we are known by our relatives in that role, often even before we have a chance to know ourselves. I was Ellen, the oldest, the reader, the helpful and reliable one.

  At Conner Prairie, I took on and shed new roles every day. Not only that, I was invited to be an active participant – a vital part – of the narrative the adults were telling. They made me feel like my contribution was vital to the success of our shared purpose, and that I was trustworthy, capable, valuable.

  Traditionally, the relationship between grandparents and grandchild is based on shared DNA, not a shared work goal. But are the two really all that different? Grandparents – especially those who don’t see their grandchildren on a daily basis – have the opportunity to see and celebrate their grandchild for the ever-evolving people that they are. As a child, there’s a real freedom to not being pinned down to just one narrative. And as the originators of the family narrative, grandparents also have the opportunity the invite grandchildren into the telling and sharing and making of the next chapters. 

  This past December, I received a facebook message from Ron, one of my surrogate grandparents from the prairie. It was a picture of a Christmas ornament with a child’s painstakingly neat handwriting on the back: “To Ron, With Love from Ellen.” “On our tree this Christmas again,” Ron wrote. Looking at the picture of that ornament floods me with memories of making it for him, of chilly spring mornings and sweltering summer afternoons spent on the prairie together stoking fires or sweeping out cabins, of good morning hugs and “see you tomorrow” goodbyes. More importantly, it reminds me that the reason why Ron and so many of the other adults I worked closely with were such an important part of my narrative was because they allowed me to become an important part of theirs. It’s a gift no amount of homemade ornaments can ever repay, and one for which I will be forever grateful.

© 2019 Ellen Peltz