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?