Connected While Separated

For as long as humans have explored the earth, they have had to be separated from loved ones.  Things have changed A LOT though.  Initially communication could often be maintained through mail.  A conversation could take days, weeks or even months before a response came to one’s questions and comments.  Then the telegraph, followed by the telephone, email, pagers and instant messages, text messages, and now we video chat or have even a group gathering any time we want with people all over the world..and sometimes even outer space.  Modern technology has been a game changer. 

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Yet even with these incredible advances that help us connect, countless people struggle with the constraints of social distancing.  Not to say I’m great at it, but living states away from most of my family and friends and even an ocean away from one sibling, I have a fair amount of practice staying close to people I can’t gather with (in person) frequently.  So if you’re looking for some ideas, here are a few ways to connect.


Book Club

Over a decade ago, two of my siblings started a Halloween book club.  Each year they read a creepy story, like Pet Cemetery or Dracula.  The selections always felt a bit too dark for me to get onboard until my brother became a parent and a middle grade novel (Neil Gaimon’s Coraline) was picked.  That was the first year I joined.  On Halloween we got together to enjoy one another (costumes optional) and talk about the book: what we liked, didn’t, what resonated, which characters felt relatable, fantastic or horrific.  After a few years of all four siblings, occasionally spouses and even our mom joining in, we realized we had so much fun talking about books together that we just kept carrying on year round.  This year we’re taking turns reading each person’s favorite book from the past decade.  It’s a smorgasbord of tastes, fiction and non-fiction, some very academic in nature and some incredibly humorous and mostly aimed at entertainment.  Each person brings very different insight and perspective, and we chat every 2-4 weeks on a video call to discuss a section of each book.  It’s a fun way to connect with people you enjoy, consider new ideas, learn and have a purpose to congregate (digitally or in a safe way in person).

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Photo by Anna Shvets on

Question Game

My husband’s family is predominantly based on the east coast, with a couple of stragglers (like us) out of state.  Fairly frequent phone calls were part of our pre-pandemic regiment, but as those who live closer were isolated, our family matriarch called a whole-family zoom call.  Since then we’ve had a standing Sunday morning family gathering.  It lasts just 30-40 minutes, but everybody shows up and connects for a little while.  To add a little fun and structure, one person brings a question for everyone to answer at each call. 

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They have varied from “What is your dream vacation?” to “Would you rather be twice your width or half your height?”.  The most unexpected question came this last week: “What has been the best thing for you that has come from this pandemic?”  Taking turns and discussing thought provoking ideas can be a great way to bring people together and encourage connection.

Family Dinners

Was your family so busy pre-pandemic that you rarely sat down all together for family dinners?  Studies show a lot of benefits to making time for this, including less depression for teens, larger vocabularies for young children and higher academic performance for kids (even more helpful than homework or sports).  We are pretty big fans of the family dinner, but to add a new layer, we have started having family dinners with one other family online.  We are starting with our siblings’ families.  Once each week or two, both families sit down at the table together with a meal…and a computer at the other end.  We eat and chat simultaneously.  One family at a time rather than the whole group or just one person offers a nice flow of communication and intimacy that the whole family can distract from (though we really enjoy both).  We take the same approach on family vacations too and tend to enjoy a little breakfast here, lunch or outing there with just one sibling’s family or even a parent so we get large and small gatherings.  I’ve found something about sharing a meal can provide comfort and open doors of communication as well.

family having dinner together
Photo by August de Richelieu on


Weekly Friend Date

I feel very fortunate to have a treasure trove of friends.  There are more than I can catch up with every week or even every month.  With lockdown keeping me away from lots of outings and in-person get togethers, I find some time opens up and I really enjoy reaching out to friends who I rarely get to see.  Nearly once a week I reach out to a friend who is either far away or someone I don’t bump into often.  We either text (especially moms with young kids) or find an hour or so to catch up.  I know it is all too easy to let once close friends become holiday card friends or only Facebook friends.  Maybe now is a good time to go through your contact list and see who you want to set up a time to catch up with…or if not, what purpose do they still serve being in your phone?

With modern technology, we may not physically touch many people as much, but can stay in touch better.  Carve out space, take a little break from Netflix, news or whatever you use for “filler” and make time and effort to connect with those who you care about.


A Moment to Explore


The world feels entirely off kilter for so many.  As jobs, schools, gathering places and now even laws and the ways they are enforced are in limbo, the natural world goes on as usual. Animals forage. Flowers blossom.  The sun keeps rising and setting. And really, as people we go on too.  Our moods and plans shift, but we still need to breath, eat, sleep, connect. We need something to do all day.

So here are some ways to escape or dive in, depending on your perspective.  A few explorations are human-centric, the majority focus on plants, weather and animals. This is an invitation to get outside, to get curious and NOTICE what’s around you.  These are mindful meditations in action.  Feel free to try one, or spend a whole month trying something new each day.   Anxiety, politics, work and bills will always be there.  No doubt they need attention.  But just for now, take a moment to leave them behind, get curious, and explore.

Take a New Turn

Go for a walk, jog, hike or bike ride.  Take just one new turn. Where does it lead?  Do you see any flowers, trees, people or homes you’ve never noticed?  Do you see things you always notice?  Why do you pay attention to them?  Why not the new weed growing beside your left foot? Or under your right one.  Is it clean or speckled with mud? Is it blooming, aromatic, or looking really parched? Can you relate today?  Do you feel calm or stressed and out of your comfort zone taking a new turn?  How far will you travel the new path?

Greet People

Try smiling at people as you pass. Wearing a mask?  Try waving.  Want to be really brave?  Verbally greet people (strangers and friends).  Then notice how you feel.  How fast is your heart beating?  Do you feel like smiling more?  Is it easy, tough, maybe awkward finding something to say to people?  Do you feel like doing it more or shying away from it?  How did you see others’ respond to your greeting?

Rain Walk

Take a walk or go outside in the rain: feel free to wear rain gear or get wet.  How does the earth look different than when it is dry?  Do you notice a difference in the sounds, smells or movement of plants and animals?  Who is outside and what are they doing?  How fast are they moving?  How fast are you moving?  What happens if you just stand still for 2 minutes?  

Garden Glance

Do you have a garden or see a garden?  Are there weeds in it?  How many plants?  What kinds?  Do they look messy, neat, pretty?  Are they large, medium sized, small, or as my daughter likes to say: “teeny tiny”?  What shapes are their leaves?  How about petals?  How many shades of green do you notice?  What other colors do you find?  Are you curious how any of the plants taste?  Maybe try a leaf, stem, or blossom (do check into whether they are poisonous first here’s a helpful start).

What else is there to explore outside today?

The House Is On Fire

More than 400 years ago, people of color started being treated horrifically in the Americas by white men who gave no value to the lives of the indigenous people they devastated.  Here we are in the 21st century and we see the same behavior continues.  White men participating in and watching with no emotional regard to the fading life of a son-brother-father.  

How has this continued for so long?  How can a person look at another and not care what happens to that human being, as if that person is any different from their own mother, brother, best friend or child?  How have religious justifications carried on for millennia, proclaiming one group of people superior to another?  Religion at its heart proclaims love and kindness for all.  Does anyone truly believe Donald Trump was full of love and kindness for all his nation’s citizens as he had them pepper sprayed, then stepped in front of a church for a photo op with a Bible?

Photo by Adonyi Gábor on

The house is on fire with rage, bullets and blood,

with petty crimes harshly punished,

with innocent men locked up or killed.

The house is on fire with innocent children in wretched schools,

with angry boys toting guns to protect themselves because their fathers can’t from prison,

with mothers who work so hard only to be able to barely feed and shelter their families.

The house is on fire with politicians and preachers proclaiming what is right

with mansions cleaned by people who work harder and listen better

with laws and beliefs touted that grow and spread oppression.


The house is on fire with courage long overdue to take its stand, 

with voices too long silenced,

with hearts too long aching.


I am an ordinary human, a citizen, a woman, mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend.  I didn’t really know where to begin to make changes.  Then I read a post on Medium written by someone who has long been deeply involved in making changes for decades.  Research has been done and there are lots of ways to improve things.  You can read findings and a well researched report about it here.  

What Am I doing to bring change?

My first career centered around positive communication and instilling in others a sense of self-worth.  In my current role, I have open conversations with my daughter about the fact that people have been hurt, even lost their lives.  Lots of people are angry.  Not everyone has been treated kindly, just because they look different.  Isn’t that sad.  We wrote a letter to the Floyd family.  She expressed wishing she could give Mr. Floyd a hug…and I wept.  I wept out of sorrow she can’t hug a man she knows was hurt/  I wept with hope for the world she will help shape.  With such sentiments, our world will find more love, less hatred. 

 Admittedly, I have felt very angry recently.  I have felt incredibly sad.  I have felt helpless at moments, and empowered at others.  I am shaping my approach.  I value and utilize my freedom to vote.  I continue to appreciate the freedom of press in our country and read and support and believe journalists. I read a variety of press to try to get a well-rounded picture.  I write my politicians and sign petitions.  I write stories to spread joy, peace and love.  I teach my children to see and treat everyone kindly and respect people’s differences.  I take deep breaths…a lot.  I read and listen to learn what I don’t yet know.  There is SO much.  I guess I already work for this cause, but there is clearly much more to be done.

I still need to reach out to my local leaders: starting with my mayor and Police Chief to learn what they are doing to be a part of solving this long engrained tragedy of racism. I need to hold them accountable for what they do or don’t do. I need to give them a chance to be transparent, thanked for what they are doing well, and honest about where there is room for growth.

We each have our own part to do.  One person can only do so much, and yet one person can do a lot

You don’t have to fix the whole world today. 

But do ask yourself, what am I doing?  Let’s all start with a deep breath.  

Show Up for Someone Today

I’ve noticed a pattern among people.  We fail to perform at our peak when we are tired or hungry.  Tired and hungry…talk about a total disaster waiting to happen. But when someone is less than rocking it at life, there’s an amazingly simple way to help.  

Just be there for someone.

My 2 ½ year old is perfectly capable of dressing and undressing herself. But whenever she is in what we call a “Maslow” state -missing one or more of her basic needs to function like her normal, happy self- (e.g. hungry or tired), clothes seem to stick to her body relentlessly and a tear-filled meltdown is nearly inevitable.

One night, “Maslow” had set in and the pajamas just weren’t going on. My daughter cried out in desperation, “I NEED HELP!”  I bent down, simply touched the fabric and told her, “You can do it.  I’m here, it’s okay.  Keep going.”  Sure enough, she solved her own problem in under 5 seconds.  I literally did nothing to help her with her pj’s, but having the sense of support, she felt comforted, calmed and empowered enough to resolve her own challenge.

anchor couple fingers friends
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How often do people underperform simply because they feel unsupported?  Our world is filled with so many individuals, groups and societies who, not at all to say they are unproductive, but who struggle and can’t reach their potential because they lack the basic needs to be able to focus and perform at their highest ability. Food scarcity, hunger, exhaustion, lack of safety, financial hardship, loneliness, and the lack of stable housing are all very real challenges hundreds of millions of people face all over the world. They are refugees crossing the globe to seek shelter and neighbors on your own street looking for a friend.  

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We all need support from time to time. Some of it is physical or monetary and often it is just letting someone know you are showing up for them. Sometimes it’s as simple as a chalk message on the sidewalk or a phone call.  

Who can you show up for today?