Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Skype keeps long-distance families close

 My family has really spread out over the years. Originally based in Southern California, my siblings and parents are now spread out over four states and three countries. My dad and sister are still in California. My brother is in New York. Another sister is in Hawaii. Another sister is in New Zealand. And yet another sister is currently living in Hong Kong. My mother, brother, and I are residents of the great state of Utah. With all of this space and very busy lives, getting together is nigh impossible. Were it not for the miracle of Skype, we would rarely get together.

For the uninitiated, Skype is a web-based phone service. It’s way cheaper than landline or cell phone rates. In fact, if you call another Skype user within the US, the call is free, no matter how long you talk. International calls are something like 1.3 cents per minute. For one-to-one calls, you can talk with live video streaming like something out of the Jetsons. Conference calls are easy to set up, too. That’s how our family uses it – for virtual Sunday dinners.
About once a month, we set up a conference call. We tease and crack jokes. We catch up on each other’s lives. We discuss pressing family issues and get in arguments. Over thousands of miles, through a vast network of cables, servers, and satellites, our family is able to spend quality time. Our kids know each other. 
So this isn’t an ad for Skype, I promise. The quality can be sketchy at times, with participants sounding like they’re speaking through one of those fast food drive-thru speakers. But seeing as it’s free, it’s a pretty good deal. 
So what do you do to keep your family together over long distances? Messenger pigeons? Smoke signals? Letters?

‘Family Huddle’ tells the Mannings’ story of family and football

Football was a huge part of my life growing up. My dad was a junior college football champ, and football was a constant on Saturday afternoons and Monday evenings in the fall. Some of my fondest memories involved tossing the pigskin with my dad in the backyard. For this reason, I’m not shy about plugging this book.

Peyton, Eli, and Archie Manning, all star NFL quarterbacks, have put together a children’s book called ‘Family Huddle’ about playing football and being a family.

The family has created their own mini-dynasty in pro football. The father, Archie, was a Pro Bowl quarterback. Chances are good that Peyton and Eli will go head to head this year for the Super Bowl as quarterbacks of the Giants and Colts respectively. So it’s nice to see them go back to their roots of throwing passes in the family’s backyard and even spreading some family values while they’re at it.

The book features three brothers growing up in Louisiana, playing football under their parents’ watchful gaze. Just in time for football season!

Families divided between Koreas find small hope in reunions

When the iron curtain fell between North and South Korea at the start of the Korean War in 1950, roughly 100,000 families were separated. My wife’s grandmother was among those who made it to the South but would never see their family who lingered behind again. By fortune or by choice, she was cut off from her loved ones, most likely not realizing she would probably never see them again. Chances are she won’t see them before she passes away and they might not even still be alive.

True, family reunions have been held between the two nations since the war. But the amount of families that have been given the opportunity is a tiny proportion of the total- roughly 16,000 families. During this time, for the other less fortunate families, there have been no phone calls, no letters, and no emails. My wife’s grandmother doesn’t even know if her kin are still alive.

Recent strife between the countries suspended the family reunion program for a year and nine months. With talks resuming this week, Koreans are optimistic that family reunions will initiate again as soon as October. Still, only 100 families are likely to be involved.

I wonder about this woman who has been separated from her family connections for so long. I wonder what it must be like to know that your siblings are a few hundred miles away or to not know if they are even living. For all she knows, they may have all died decades ago. She has pressed on with her life. She lives in the countryside of South Korea. She raises her own groceries and ascends a mountain everyday. She has reared five kids who have continued on to their own lives in South Korea and in the U.S. I ponder if, with all the intervening years, her recollection of her family has faded.

Similar anecdotes came out of the USSR all through the Cold War, especially for Germans and Prussians who unexpectedly found their homelands separated and their kin scattered in the outcome of World War II. Fortunately, those who lived to see the collapse of the iron curtain did have an opportunity to come together with family and reconnect their fractured families.

So, is there hope for Koreans of a enduring gathering with their family alienated from them by an oppressive government? The iron curtain fell quicker in Europe than anyone could have supposed. Maybe someday in the near-future, Kim Jong Il will suddenly release his grip on his people and open his borders. Maybe they will stop threatening the world with a nuclear war they can’t possibly win. Maybe their people will be able to be given the truth about their international neighbors, not fear-mongering propaganda but uncensored truthfulness.

Until then, short-lived family reunions are the only hope separated Korean families have of restoring severed bonds.