6 Ways to Hold Family Together: Staying Connected with Tools and Routines


My family is very spread out. I have three sisters in Spokane, Washington, my mother, father and four siblings in Port Orchard, many extended family members including grandparents in San Diego, as well as friends and family around the world. Keeping up with everyone, especially the over fifty crowd, can be a bit challenging. We’re very close though. Here’s how we do it.

1. Smart phones. 

All my siblings except the baby of the family have smart phones and we use them, constantly. Chain texts get passed around, often several times a day. We encourage each other before a test, doctor appointments or a date and it only takes a moment to have a chorus of people cheering you on.

2. We gave Grandma an iPad. 

Not kidding. My grandmother is over seventy and it was a bit of a learning curve but now she’s on it every day, sometimes for several hours. She can blow up her reading material until its easy to read and she can instantly watch short videos and see pictures of everyone from wherever they are. Even though we’re far away, she sometimes know about things before my mother and father. The start up effort with this was some what significant but the pay back has more than made up for it!

3. Google Docs

When we were planning my wedding, this was an invaluable resource. We passed plans, kept everyone updated and everyone could get to it from their smart phone and handles things in real time, generally. Some of us also use it to help the younger kids with homework. Mom and Dad don’t always have time, so the rest of us pitch in. I tutored my brother from my smart phone on a bus in Japan while he was studying and commenting in Port Orchard. The chat feature is really helpful.

4. Facebook 

We were all reluctant to get on this and it remains a “kids” only domain but we have given in and done it. Not our primary interaction but more like general socialization. We keep personal matter more private, which has been healthy.

5. Photo streams. 

This has been most popular with sharing with older relatives. We pop out an invitation for a new stream and suddenly Grandma or Auntie can see our whole hiking trip, or salmon fishing adventure.

6. We make it a priority but hold loosely.  

Honestly, you can talk tools forever, but it comes down to making it a priority. So if people aren’t paying attention to you, just drop a line, include them. We’ve learned to give everyone their space even with all these forms of connection. If someone drops off the map too long, we’ll gang up and message them or physically try to locate them, but we don’t take silence after a text as a cause for worry. Holding loosely is the best way. Even the unsocial members can participate this way, without feeling the requirement to participate all the time. We all have days we don’t feel like talking. I know I have!

Do you have any routines or tools you use to keep family together, even as life seems to go faster and faster? Please drop in the comments and let us know!



To Rate or Not to Rate

It used to be that you could go down to the store, find a CD on the shelf, maybe ask the person behind the counter what was “hot” but in today’s online shopping arena, that’s no longer the case. We go online, read Amazon or Goodreads reviews to decide whether or not to buy a book, check Yelp for the latest restaurant experiences or drop into LinkedIn to check on someone’s profile.

It’s a self sustaining system, requiring the constant input of thousands of us as we go about our daily lives. Without the social proof of reviews, a completely wonderful new bar in town or a promising young author is going close up shop and leave us without their new vibe or perspective.

Stars, reviews, votes and shares today are worth more than a single purchase. If you know of an author you enjoy, an artist who’s music moves you or a movie that you thought just rocked, go out and review. Even if its a short one liner or a quick star rating on a podcast, give it a shout out. If we want our favorite businesses, entertainers, writers and artistic to continue to serve us, entertain us or motivate us, then we have to lend them the modern stamp of approval.

The great thing is we can do this without spending money or getting up and delivering a speech. And it means that we’ll likely be enjoying more of what we like.

So get on your keyboards and vote. It’s not just a political thing anymore, it’s a stand for how you like to be entertained, serviced and spoken to.  It does make a difference. Those likes, votes, and ratings are often the first things donors, supporters, publishers and potential interviewees look at.

If you don’t like the social proof that’s being awarded, get out there and give a little to those you believe deserve it. Make the world a bit more how you want it to look, sound or read. In the end, it’s to your benefit.

Life Hacks

Today I’m combining two things for your viewing pleasure, life hacks for technology and the vibrant world of Pinterest. For those of you who may have had a similar idea as I did, that Pinterest was for arts, crafts and planning a wedding, it’s time to wake up and smell the roses, because Pinterest is definitely so much more. I’ve run into TEDTalks, Design Milk pieces, and post on how to solve binomials. If you search for it, you might just find it.

To share with you all, I put together some of my favorite life  hacks on a board. Click here. My favorite pin is the TEDTalk by David Pogue, although charging up an smartphone through the hotel television USB port is also something I’m going to have to remember. It may not all be genius but sometimes it feel like it. The things you wouldn’t think of, but find sensible once you know them.  Love those haha moments!