Thursday, February 21, 2008

SOS: I Need YOUR Help!

Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit another city."
--George Burns

My mom was one of seven kids, eventually producing 23 grandkids altogether. Most of us lived within a few miles of our grandparents. There were huge Sunday afternoon gatherings on Grama's lawn, complete with games of Red Rover, Freeze Tag and No Bears Are Out Tonight. Easter Egg hunts, sleepovers, and Christmas Eve pageants were traditions that included zillions of cousins plus aunts and uncles, who tossed me in the air, and magically pulled quarters from behind my ear.

The tradition of walking to Grama's house didn't get passed down to my family. With kids and grandkids flung far across the country, it's not often that we can all get together.

Last summer one of our out-of-town families came to visit, and half of our clan had a pizza party at their hotel/condo. There were 12 adults and 11 energetic kids under 9. While our enthusiastic kids caught up with each other, and our excited grandkids ran wildly (trying to catch up with each other,) Dee and I sat dazed, each of us bouncing a fussy newborn baby. It was loud and chaotic, and wonderful, and Dee said, "Just think, if they all lived here, we could do this every Sunday!" They don't, so we have to stay connected in other ways.

Since many of you are part of far-flung families, or have observed some, I really want your help. I'm speaking at the BYU Women's Conference in May. My topic is on strengthening family ties using blogs, email, web-sites, etc. If you have a suggestion that I can incorporate, or an idea that would spark other ideas, PLEASE COMMENT! Lurkers, that means you, too!

You don't have to have a blog to leave a comment. It's fine if you want to remain anonymous. If I use your idea, I will give you credit, unless you say not to. Example: "Jane Jones from Timbuktu exchanges knock-knock jokes with her grandkids via email." "Kathy Jones found her long-lost cousin Jane Jones accidentally by linking to her blog." "A friend suggested collecting family recipes and posting them on a family web-site."

In case you haven't got a topic for your own post today, or any day, you could write a response on your site and give me the link. (Two birds with one stone!) Take this opportunity to advertise your blog!

Do you know of another blog that has helped strengthen family ties? I'd love to check it out. If you know of a particular post that applies, please tell me where it is so I can find it.

Recently I heard a woman say to her cousin, "We ought to have a giant week-long reunion." The cousin replied, "Let's not, and say we did." While a big sleepover sounds fun, I'm hoping for ideas on how to plan reunions in cyberspace.

*Another SOS: I used to read a blog by a woman in England who was writing her life story on her site. I have forgotten how to find her. If anybody knows who I'm talking about, please send me her URL. She was a nurse during World War II, and she later became a model...does this sound familiar to any of you?


Ashlee said...

This past Christmas my dad got us kids and my mom all webcams. Two years ago all of my siblings lived here close, and now I'm the only one left here. They all moved away. The furthest one away is only 4 hours, but's away. My mom misses her grandkids terribly and so my dad, being brilliant, thought this would be a great way to keep us all connected. He came and hooked up one at my house a few days before Christmas and then snuck into the computer room at his house Christmas morning to hook up one on their end. We video phoned each other and then my dad went and got my mom. My son got to say the big "MERRY CHRISTMAS!" to surprise her. He thought it was so great. And now instead of just chatting on the phone, we can all chat on the computer and SEE each other.

Holly said...

My mother would love it if we all lived closer together. She likes to live with the illusion that we'd all live in blissful harmony. I have 3 sisters and we're all so different that it's hard to believe that we come from the same family. We love each other, but it's easier to get along with distance between us. Short visits work the best!

I blog so that they can know about our life. My other sisters don't blog, but we all send periodic email updates to each other with pictures. It's great. My in-laws live in England so the blog allows them day to day access to their only grandchildren.

I think the idea of family blogs are great. Everyone is able to post and they can post pictures and things about each family. You can have family discussions. You can keep it private for just your family too.

(If you use this, just keep me anonymous, ok?)

Yuliya said...

For the second SOS...
You probably meant Pat from

I read her blog everyday - just like yours. :)

kenju said...

Yes, it is Pat and you have missed a lot if you lost her!

Our family is not so far away from each other, so we can get together once every 2-3 months.

bedelia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bedelia said...

well for the life of me I couldn't get half of my siblings to participate, but an older sibling created a blog (its private) and I posted questions as titles and family members were expected to leave answers in the comments. I got the questions from this site On the right of this page there is a link to a "personal history worksheet." I thought it would be cool to compile the answers into a "book" yearly, divided by individual. But alas, I have siblings who hate the computer age. My sister and I have fun though just reading each other's answers. Its fun because there are things we see differently and that we never knew about each other even though we are only 4 years apart.

gwenelle said...

I just found your site today, but I have a suggestion for you. I got engaged in September, and although most of mine and my fiancé's friends and family aren't that far away, we still don't get together often, so I created a wedding website for us. I also keep up a blog specifically related to wedding stuff on there, and have links to our own personal blogs too. You can check it out at

SydneyMin said...

My poor parents do not have any of their 5 kids living in Utah any more! A couple of ways we all stay in touch... GoogleTalk or bulk Gmail conversations using "respond all" keeps us in touch or at least thinking of each other when we see someone pop up as online. That can be exciting if you haven't seen someone for a while or if you have heard rumors from another sibling of exciting goings-on! It's always best from the horse's mouth - or from their IM. Also, my mom is really good at typing up her old tried-and-true recipes and emailing them out to all the girls in the family (daughters and daughters-in-law) especially around holiday times. Then when we do actually get together we typically have a list of special foods we haven't had for a while, and that continues on the traditions. Finally, even though no one else in my immediate family has a blog, it is a fun way to keep up with blogging cousins, etc., that I probably wouldn't hear from otherwise. Good luck at the conference!

Bev said...

having only one child does make this communication thing easier -- I blog almost daily, she calls (family cell plans are wonderful) almost daily

I have a dear friend in California that has far flung family and she (at age 78!) sends out a weekly email that talks about what she's been doing during the week. She has become the "information central" for an ever growing list of family, friends, ward members that have moved away, etc., helping all of us keep up with each other's weddings, babies, funerals, etc. Its a wonderful thing!

Is there any chance the conference will be available for viewing on the web? I would love to get to see it (and you!)

Marty said...

Thanks for your suggestions! I'm so glad to find Pat at Past Imperfect again! This web research team is awesome.

I've received a few emails with questions. I appreciate knowing there's life on the other side of my computer!

BYU makes some of the presentations available on the web. There are a total of 96 speakers, many of them speaking as co-presenters. BYU has asked for handout-type materials, patterns, instructions, etc. telling us not to pass them out during the classes. They will be available free of charge, through the Women's Conference website starting May 3 (the day after it ends.)

They expect up to 20,000 attendees over 2 days. There is a keynote speaker twice a day both days and 3 hours of "Layered Presentatioins" each day, where you can pick which class to attend.

Mom2My6Kids said...

I have 10 brothers and sisters and none of us live by each other. Blogging has become a way to erase the miles between us. Not all of them blog yet but I know that they are on my blog daily and they email me or call me about things I post and when we do see eachother, which is maybe once or twice a year, we don't feel like complete strangers. And my parents aren't missing out on all the little daily things that go on in my children's lives.

We haven't set up a family blog but we do have a private family recipe blog that we share recipes with each other on. There's no reason why it is private other than it helps keep it more on a personal level. One of my favorite things about blogging is that I have a sister on a mission in the Philippines. She is my 6th sibling to serve a mission. I am the oldest and so I have been married and lived away from home through all of the other missions. All the information and pictures I got was second hand through my parents. My sister has a mission blog (which is private) and once a week she posts pictures and experiences. I love this because then I don't feel like she is so far away. She's as close as any of my other brothers and sisters are, just a click away!

(I'm happy to remain annoymous if you use any of this.)

Mom2My6Kids said...

Okay, I'm sorry, I just thought of one more thing. When I blog, it's kind of like my journal so I write different than I would if I was sending a letter. Because I am so much older than several of my siblings, they only know what I was like as the older bratty teenager. As they read my blog, they have commented how much they learn about my personality and how I become more real to them as a person and friend then as just the older sister that they don't know at all. Did that make any sense? Since we don't live around each other we only have the memories from when we lived at home or the few brief days that we get together to endure total chaos. Blogging lets us look more personally into each other's world and we learn to appreciate that we really are very similar no matter what our ages are or our place in the family. Okay, I'm done now.

jordan said...

My mom has eight children and all of us live all over the country. All of us have a blog, she has a blog, and even my 90 year old grandmother has a blog. We still talk on the phone a lot but blogs help us stay tuned to the every day things going on in each others lives.

Virginia said...

I wrote a post at BlogHer called Living Online: Are Your Virtual Friends Important to You? that might have a few ideas you can build on for your talk.

Hawley said...

Hi Marty,

I love your blog....thought I'd let you know how my nieces and nephews keep in touch sometimes. I'm now a member of Facebook where every member has a wall other members can write on, whatever they want etc. Since Dad got a new Mac with webcam capabilities, I've used it to post video notes on my n&n's walls. I've got the cutest videos back, one of them from Hannah singing "You are the B-E-S-T best of all the R-E-S-T rest...." Adorable. Also Facebook has random groups for people to join. For example, most of Mel's grandkids belong to the Bagley Family Christmas Party Group, a group that was started last November when Dad sent out his party invitations. The kids really had fun conversing and joking about the party to come and made plans and wrote skits pre-party via this group. As a side note, I belong to a group, also on Facebook called "People with the name Hawley".

I do enjoy the relationships with our youth, and a there are so many ways to promote these relationships on the web! Good luck with your speech.

Love Hawley Raye

James said...


Nephew James D here. I didn't read all your comments yet, but carrying a blackberry all the time, my boys send me email when I'm on the road. It's nice to get their messages when I'm in a meeting or otherwise occupied and the discreet messages we pass back and forth when I'm supposed to be "engaged" in a meeting is a fun escape.

Jenibelle said...

I laughed when I read your examples...I reconnected with a childhood friend through blogging. When I was growing up in Turlock there were four of us girls, all the same age within 6 weeks! We did everything together and even were all baptized on the same night. Life being the way it is, we lost touch and moved here and there and life happened.
Her stepson is dating my daughter! He sent his Dad & Stepmom my daughters blog address to check her out and wa-la! There was a picture of me and Lauren and my friend (who I have not seen in 15 years) recognized me. We have since talked many times. She was in touch with one of the other girls, I was in touch with the other one. All four of us have been in touch and realize we all have daughters at BYU-I. We are getting together in Rexburg at the end of March for our own version of Mother's Weekend. It has been wonderful to reconnect. Those feelings of caring, friendship, love and concern come flooding right back. It is interesting because all four of us are in need of great friends right now and who better than people who have loved you for a lifetime? I know most talk about blogging as a way to stay connected to family and that's wonderful!! I use it to stay connected to friends also. Friends in other cities and states who have moved in and out of
close proximity. I also use it as a way to reflect and journal my thoughts. I have made new friends also who are teaching me every day about being a better mother and wife and person in general. Also, it is an extremely creative way to express humor and the joys of life. Technology is a wonderful, wonderful thing!!!

Connie said...

I have seven sibs... two have died.
We started the tradition of having a surprise party for each of us when we turned fifty. For the two youngest we did the party when they turned forty. We all live in different cities and a few states.
We have two more birthdays to go. We all show up in the city, not on the birthday, in a resturant. The birthday person has no idea. Its worked so far. Last time we had Karoke. I think we should start over and celebrate turning 65.
It's so much fun. Otherwise, most of stay in touch with emails. Remember when long distance phone bills kept us apart. No more of that. I loved reading your list of games ... Red Rover.. Remember kick the can under the streetlights, running breathlessly out of the shadow to send the old pea can clanging down the street.

cjs said...

For the last few years, a friend of mine has been battling infertility...she created a blog called "Waiting for Baby Hutcheson" in which she chronicled all the details of her struggle - from hormone shots, to the details of infertility. In doing so, she developed quite a large network of others in her shoes, not to mention, her family stayed current, without her having to repeat news several times. She's now expecting in April (blog is now "Waiting for Lily"), and shares the joys of her pregnancy, including weekly belly shots, nursery pics, etc.

Her blog is

cjs said...

by the way, love your blog!