Ten months ago I made a mad rush north to Nashville to visit my great-grandmother, after receiving the news that she may only have days or hours left. She was turning 99, and I was honored and heartbroken to hold her hand and tell her I love her. I was also overwhelmed and joyful that she didn’t pass away. In fact, she seemed to have the life breathed into her with all of her family surrounding her. Continue reading “I Carry Her Heart With Me”
Our lives are so full of playing and visiting and new ventures. I’ve hit such a groove of writing and creating that I’m finding it hard to post about it all. I want to keep a record of our adventures, but I certainly don’t want to bore anyone! I’m going to try a few highlight posts and see how they feel.
We were in Nashville for several weeks. We parked Benny in my aunt’s backyard, but mostly lived in her house. We made communal meals, Zeb turned her den into his personal man-cave and we worked. Mostly we decompressed. We were so comfortable and relaxed with her and my soon-to-be uncle and I loved being able to spread out in her kitchen – oh counter space, how I miss you. It was just what we needed.
We met some long-time internet acquaintances, visited their farm, hooped with their family and ate their yummy food. It’s so amazing to finally put faces to the names of people we’ve talked to for several years. It’s great to share our similarities and passions with such honest, authentic, hard-working people as these.
My mom and step-dad came to visit! They didn’t have much time and it was tough to say goodbye so soon. We played at the water park and Zeb and his Grandpa had a couple Waffle House outings alone. We went to breakfast and Nashville’s Parthenon with my mom. It was such a good, slow, easy weekend. I’m not sure we’ll see them again until Christmas. 🙁
We took Zeb to Nashville’s zoo. It was a giant place and it was great to see animals with habitats, rather than just exhibits. Justin loved staring at those giraffes and Zeb adored the elephants. I wasn’t feeling my best physically that day and had a hard time keeping up or enjoying myself. Feeling like I was spoiling the fun was part of my motivation to start seeking some radical alternatives to my health.
Having all that time to sit and Be really gave me space to give attention and words to my physical struggle and find not only acceptance, but also the courage to seek physical therapy. I started Egoscue therapy at the Nashville clinic and finally feel as though I have the tools to recover.
But most importantly, we spent time with our Granny. She’ll be 96 in October and she’s lived an amazing and full life. I had the honor and the privilege to film full five hours of her talking about her experiences, the children she’s outlived, her childhood of poverty, the Depression and so much more. I can’t wait to start editing and sharing them with everyone.
We’ve been here in Nashville, staying with my aunt and visiting with my great-grandma, for a few weeks now. Shortly after we arrived my aunt had the idea of guilting sweet-talking my mom and step-dad into a visit. Mentioning their grandson always works well. 😉 They came for the 4th of July weekend and we spent the time chatting, eating, playing, swimming and tourist-ing.
It was good to see them again, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be for Zeb. He came to eat with everyone Saturday night but sat with his head down for only a few minutes before retreating again. When I went to find him he was curled up on the couch.
I’ve found my role in these moments tends to follow the same pattern: 1) Help him articulate the feelings he’s experiencing and 2) Listen and validate his experience. This time it looked a little something like this:
Me: Hey, what’s wrong?
Zeb: [No answer; he just looks at me. This is my cue to find the words for him.]
Me: Are you angry over something?
Zeb: [Shakes no.]
Me: Are you disappointed?
Me: Maybe that no one was ready for the fireworks before dinner?
Zeb: [Shakes no.]
Me: Are you sad?
Zeb: [Nods head]
Me: Are you sad that Grandpa has to go home tomorrow? (He had to leave before Grandma because of work.)
As soon as I articulate the right words the flood gates burst open. It broke my heart to see him sobbing with homesickness. He told me how much he misses our family and friends, how he hated the RV right then and how he wishes we could be in Vegas.
I held back my thoughts and the urge to say “You were just telling us how much you loved being on the road!” Instead I listened and validated the place he was in. I rubbed his back and reassured him it was okay to feel this way. I agreed how hard it was and how much it sucked to be away from the people we love.
Justin came in and sat down beside us on the floor and fought his own battle not to justify or rationalize. Zeb just needed to be heard in that moment, so we did our best to listen.
As is our pattern though, once he felt heard Zeb slowly drifted toward discussion. He told us how torn he felt, wanting us to have our old life and our new one; wanting to stay on the road but not miss everyone; wanting our old home without losing his Dad to a full-time job again.
Sometimes it amazes me how much validation helps him. In the past we would try to talk him out of his feelings or even distract him from them. (at our worst times, we would even tell him he was wrong for feeling that way.) It was little wonder he responded by keeping his emotions to himself. Now he trusts he can express himself without fear of our reaction; our family powwows are his safe place to let go.
With our validation he goes through a rhythm of expression slowly working his own way toward a place of peace. And then he said he wanted to enjoy the rest of his time with his Grandpa, instead of feeling sad while he was still here.
And we did. We set off fireworks, wrote our names on the ground with sparklers and enjoyed our family. And early the next morning before the rest of us were awake he and Grandpa set off on their second walk of the weekend to Waffle House for an early morning breakfast by themselves.
We didn’t and still don’t have any answers for his feeling homesick. Being together as we are and traveling full-time is an amazing opportunity with gigantic sacrifices. How do we weigh such big decisions and know with certainty we’re on the right path for all of us? One day at a time, I suppose.
One of the key efforts of an unschooling parent is something usually referred to as “strewing”: keeping interesting things “strewn” throughout your home that may be of interest to your child. It’s one of the ways often described to create a rich environment and it’s one of the habits I thought we might miss on the road.
Strewing generally leads to lots of cool stuff rotating around the house…cool stuff we have neither the storage to carry, nor the actual counter/table/floor space to place. “Stuff” simply has no spot to occupy in a 22 foot RV. So strewing has taken on a different look for us now. Instead of things, we strew opportunities: people, places and experiences. The world is truly our classroom…or at least the contingent 48. 😉
Zeb has had a serious interest in mythology ever since being introduced to a video game just a few months ago by some new friends we made on the road. Through means I simply don’t know he can now recite both major and minor gods, what they rule, who they married and their children, as well as many of their stories.
When the Percy Jackson movie came out I knew we had to get it for him. (We keep all our DVD’s in a large CD folder and throw away the cases; we love movies and this ensures we always have space for our regular movie nights.) If you’ve seen it you know that one scene is portrayed right here in Nashville: the Nashville Parthenon! Duh! Of course we had to go!
Zeb really loved it, although he was disappointed there wasn’t more there. Not much of what we saw was new to him, but it was fun anyway. And he hasn’t stopped talking mythology all day. 🙂
Some cool information Zeb wants to share (and me, too!) with his fellow mythology lovers:
- Nashville built the Parthenon as part of their Centennial celebration to highlight their being referred to as The Athens of the South, due to their high number of universities.
- It was originally built from plaster in 1897 and meant to be a temporary structure. Other monuments were also built and later deconstructed but the Parthenon was left. When the plaster began to deteriorate the decision was made to reconstruct it out of cement, a 10 year project that began in 1921.
- As soon as we finish the Harry Potter series, we’ll be starting the Percy Jackson books*!
- The Lightning Thief* was not actually filmed on location, nor was the Athena in the movie anything like the Athena in Nashville. And the lady at the front desk was obviously pretty miffed about this. 😉
- Zeb *loves* the computer game Age of Mythology*. It’s fun, captivating and full of cool information.
- Youtube has some cool videos for you visual learners who want to know more.
- Despite lots of Greek Mythology love, his favorite god is Thor, the Norse God of Thunder.
- And right now we’re getting ready to read the stories in this kid’s book* my aunt loaned us!
What are your kids loving right now? Any other mythology lovers out there?