Thursday, June 27, 2013

Versatile...check it out!

My DIL and I got lost for awhile--not physically lost and not even lost in regards to our relationship--we just got lost in our sense of time and priorities.  But I had to come back to share asome news about an amazing product that is going to change the world!  Or at least change how in-laws can stay connected...

Maybe some of you have bulky digital pictures at your house.  They have to be plugged into a socket which limits where you can display them AND it's a major hassle to change/add new pictures.  So if you are like my dear, sweet mother, your digital picture frame is sitting on a corner table still showing the same pictures that were originally downloaded (or were they uploaded?) 10 years ago.   Someone coming to visit her would never know that she has 14 great-grandchildren (and they are 'great' in so many ways) who were all born after the digital picture frame was set up.  Three go those great-grandchild belong to me--well, to my sons and DILs, but you know what I meant--and while I have plenty if pictures if them, I don't have a clue how to load them on that digital frame...nor do I want to learn!

Well, enter Versatile.  It's a thin, cordless picture frame that uses color eInk and has a battery that lasts for months.  Because it uses eInk there won't be any unsightly glare nor will it glow in the dark!  BUT the best oart is that you can share pictures to it without having to go anywhere near it!  You take a picture with your smartphone in New Jersey, tap a button and it shows up on Grandma's Versatile out in Oregon.  You take your kids to the splash pool in Maryland at 10 a.m. and snap a picture...guess what Grandpa sees on his Versatile when he wakes up at 7 a.m. In Idaho?  You guessed it...that picture of your kids at the splash park!  Say you're on vacation in Hawaii on great- grampndma's can snap a picture of the family on the beach holding a sign that says "Happy Birthday! We love you!" and it will be on her Versatile with the tap of a button.

But what if you don't have a smartphone?  I don't, but I do take digital pictures and transfer them to my computer pretty regularly.  With a drag and click, I can send a picture to my mom's Versatile, to my MIL's Versatile, or to the grandson's Versatile.  All I need is their pass code and I can share my pictures with them.

And I can send a picture to a Versatile at the same time I'm posting it to Facebook.  It's  going to be amazing!

The developer of Versatile is still looking for donations to get this product going.  He's just asking for a buck from everyone who agrees that this is the best idea around for easily and conveniently sharing pictures with loved ones who live around the block or around the country.  Who want Grandma to  have current pictures of her grandchildren-- of Mac as a 3year old little boy, not as a 6 week old infant (Whuch is what I saw at a woman's house this morning.  I saw a picture if a newborn on her living room wall and congratulated her on a new grandbaby.  She embarrasedly  told me he just turned 3 and she really needed to replace that picture.  What she really needs is a Versatile!)

So, quick...check out this guy on Twitter:  @GetVersaTile or check this website:
Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch his video clip, then scroll up and give him a buck-- or 2, or 3, or more.  And then, share the link with all your friends va email, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.  Spread the word!

I am obviously very excited

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Unplugging the SIL

I am the father of one delightful daughter and 4 great sons. My daughter is the oldest and recently married. She is the first in the family to get married. At first I was excited to be gaining another son, but now after 9 months of having him in the family, I don't know what to think. We are a close knit family. Dinner time isn't just about eating, it's about spending time together. We sometimes sit around the table for an hour after everyone has finished eating because we're still talking. The SIL, however, excuses himself (doesn't ask to be excused, just says "excuse me, please"), then goes into the living room to play on his phone. Even when we move into the living room to be with him, he stays engaged with his phone. It's as if he's in his own world--just him and his phone. That's just one issue. Our family loves to actively play together--frisbee, throwing the football around, backyard baseball, you get the idea. He never joins us even when we invite him to play with us. He simply says "no" (not even "no thanks") and keeps playing with his phone. We're a fishing, camping, hiking family and now that my daughter is married, she no longer joins us because her husband isn't interested in doing those things. BTW, he's the same way when we go to their house. We talk while he plays with his phone or goes in the other room to be on the computer. My daughter says she loves him and I'm certainly not trying to break up their marriage, but I'm sad that I haven't gained another son--I've gained an odd ball. I've resigned myself (sadly) to the fact that my SIL will never be one of us, but the other day my youngest son said to me, "Dad, what are we going to do if sis's future kids turn out like their dad?!" Help!

Wow. Talk about a lame son-in-law. Not only is he a party pooper for you, but a party pooper for his own family too.

When we got this question in, my very first thought was "Buy a cell-phone jammer--they're 60 bucks on some websites (against the FTC laws in the U.S.) and change the password on your wireless internet. Also make sure the neighbors have their wireless secured. Then package your TV and gaming consoles up in bubble wrap and live an Amish lifestyle whenever he comes."

If that doesn't work, then more desperate measures are in order, including (but not limited to) engaging cell-phone gnomes to steal his phone and drop it in the toilet (your own grandchildren are not a good idea because they'll blab at breakfast something like "Hee hee! Gampa paid me a nickel to fwush you fone down da toiwet!" which will just backfire on you and make everything worse--always employ someone else's grandchildren).

You can tell I've put some thought into this.

Sometimes it just takes realizing how fun real life is in order to get people to put the phone/personal computer/gaming console down. Sometimes it helps to cross onto their turf and play a game of "Words with Friends" with them. Either way, don't lose hope. Just plan weekends full of real fun activities and eventually the allure of spending time with family (or your daughter's impetus to actually do something) will get him off the 'droid. And I guarantee that this experience will be great for your other kids when they go to choose a spouse. And as they look at their own behaviors. Count the silver lining.

As for dinner--a good dessert is all it usually takes to keep someone there all the way through to the end.

Otherwise there's always the jammer.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

MIL: Share Now While You Can

I was out hiking last week with a friend and we got to talking about the joys of aging.  Having had to put her father in a care center for a few years before his passing, she came to learn firsthand that the patients who get the best care are the patients who have family and friends coming in to visit regularly, they are the ones who wear clean clothes, are shaved and have their hair clean and combed.

Few of us over the age of 50 don't sometimes worry about needing full-time care in our future.  My friend is being proactive about it.  Every time she sees her kids, she tells them that when the time comes to put her in a "home" she'd like it to be close enough that they can come visit daily.  She tells them they won't need to stay long--but every day she'd like someone to brush her hair, put on a swipe of lipstick and make sure her clothes are clean.

I say good for her...she's not waiting until the day comes, but is speaking her mind now while she still can.  She's not asking for much and is even stocking up on her favorite lipstick color/brand so that when/if the day comes that she can't take care of herself, it will be easier for her kids and ILs to carry out her wishes.

What do you need to share with your children and their spouses now about what you'd like done in your future when you might not be able to take care of yourself?  If you are the child/IL, how could bring up that discussion now instead of later?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

MIL: Serendipity: finding unexpected joy

Last week I mentioned an article I recently read that was written by Richard and Linda Eyre--"Let go of Control to find Unexpected Joy and Opportunity."  So many people get caught on wanting/needing control in their lives.  The Eyres suggest an alternative attitude to the control mode is serendipity.  An interesting alternative.

The Eyres suggest that the word "serendipity" has been overused, oversimplified and perhaps even corrupted in popular culture...being defined as "dumb luck" or having something good happen to you by chance.

They share:

The word and its definition stem from a ancient Persian fable called "The Three Princes of Serendip."  In the fable, the three princes go out in search of their fortune.  None of them finds a fortune, but all of them, through their acute awareness and perception, find things that are better than a fortune--love, truth, and opportunities. to serve.  They are able to make these discoveries because they notice things that other people miss, and thus find unexpected joys and opportunities.

Horace Walpole, a 19th-century English author, reading this fable realized there was no English word that expressed that happy ability to find things that are better than what we think we are looking for.  So he made up the word "serendipity" and defined it as:  "a state of mind whereby a person, through awareness, sensitivity and sagacity, frequently finds something better than that which he is seeking."

Don't you love that thought?  There is so little that we can/should control in this life, but we can cultivate an awareness and sensitivity that will inspire us and guide us to things better than we even know to seek out.  Who knows what great joy and opportunities are waiting out there for us to discover when we let go of our need to control.

The Eyres remind us that control can seem motivating because is appeals to our lust for power and dominion. But is is a dangerous kind of motivation because it is unbridled by humility and can lead to the worst kind of pride.  With a serendipity paradigm we begin to see life as a great adventure where our challenge is not to control, but to perceive and to understand.

Think how much better life would be for everyone in last week's letter, if the MIL would choose to let go of her need to control and instead find joy in the fact that her daughter made it into college and is bettering her life; that her daughter is happily married and working with her husband to made a good future for themselves; that her daughter is interested enough in her opinions/ideas to ask for them--regardless of whether or not she puts them into practice.  That MIL has much in which she could be finding joy!

How can your life and relationships improve by letting go of your need to control and instead work to have the ability to find things that are better than you think you are looking for?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

MIL: Control

I recently read an article written by Richard and Linda Eyre which they titled "Let go of control and find unexpected joy and opportunity."

It began:
 "It's very natural to want to control as much of our lives as possible.  Human nature desires to be in charge, at least of personal things, and to eliminate uncertainty, disappointment and surprise by taking over."

They go on to say that while taking control of our emotions and appetites is a good and desirable thing, most people don't want to stop there.  They go on to list some other things that people want to control--their circumstances, their children and their entire destinies.

Yes, I put those last two together because I have met more than a few parents who really do want to control not only their children (through discipline and rewards), but they also want to control their childrens' destinies.  We recently received a question from a reader that has left me stumped as to how to respond.

Dear O2I,
My DW and I have been married for about a year.  We are young, still in college and we are both close to our parents and siblings.  When we have faced different situations in our marriage (apartment hunting, setting a budget, whether or not to attend graduate school, when to start a family, etc.) we have both, individually, shared these questions/issues (and others) with our own parents and even asked for their input.  The problem is that our parents often have very different ideas.  It's not really a problem for my DW and I because we talk things out and both believe in give-and-take and are happy with the decisions that we've made together.  The problem lies with my MIL.  When she finds out that we haven't taken her advice she gets really mad.  And when she finds out that we've taken the advice that MY parents have given, she has gone ballistic!  This is really hard on my DW and she doesn't know how to respond to her mom.  It's not that we always take my parents' advice.  We have taken her mom's advice as well.  And sometimes, we take the best advice from both sets of parents and come up with our own solution to the situation.  Short of asking my DW to never talk to her mom about problems/challenges we are working on, what can we do so that we don't have to deal with her mother's wrath when we don't follow the advice she's given us?

This mother sounds like one who wants to control her child's destiny--and seems to think she has that right because she's being asked her opinion on some of the issues in her daughter's life/marriage.  And, short of telling the wife in the above question to keep her mouth shut-either when decisions are being made in her marriage OR in telling her mother that they took her ILs advice--I don't know what to tell this young man.  As the Eyres say, some people "seem hard-wired for the desire to control things" around them.

In this article, Richard and Linda remind us:  "We have control of only a tiny island of things around which swirls a huge sea of uncontrollability....and our challenge is not to control this ocean, but to see its beauty and appreciate its waves and currents."

We can choose to be annoyed because our children, spouses, ILs and others don't do things the way we would.  We can choose to be bugged by those same people because they don't want to be what we want them to be or because they are not interested in just what we think should interest them.  Or we can be appreciate the fact that they are independent thinkers and thus don't have to rely on us to make every decision for them.  We can see beauty in the new views and opinions they bring into our lives.  It's really our choice in how we respond when we can't (and shouldn't even want to) control them.

Next time I'll share the rest of this article as the Eyres propose the alternative attitude of serendipity.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

MIL: A new kind of family reunion

A few months ago, Freddy made a case for a new kind of family reunion...Instead of the typical reunion with all your siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, he suggested a reunion where a family gets together with both sets of ILs.  That way children get to spend time with both sets of grandparents and the DH and DW both get to enjoy being with their own parents as well as with their ILs.

Well, over the holidays, Hal and I did just that with Alvie, Gigi and her parents.  After 20+ years of living in the great state of Alaska, but where the winters are long and cold...and did I mention long...Hal and I have decided to avoid winter as much as possible.  So, we have become snow birds.  Our winter resting place of choice is San Diego.  I love walks on the beach, the temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold, and there are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails.  In our minds it's a perfectly perfect place to spend 3 months of the year.

Alvie and Gigi thought spending their Christmas break from college in the warmth of southern CA sounded more enjoyable than heading north the gray skies and rain so they joined up down here.  Gigi's parents agreed that blue skies and sunshine sounded more enjoyable then the usual gray cloud cover that hangs over their city and came to San Diego as well.

The newlyweds were great about sharing their time with both sets of parents.  We each had a few days with them on our own, but also spent some time with all of us together.  We all got together for a day at SeaWorld, one evening we went to their hotel so our youngest and a grandson (who lives nearby) could swim in their fancy hotel pool.  Then on New Years Day we met up for the weekly outdoor organ concert in Balboa Park, a visit to Old Town to see the Mormon Battalion Museum, and then we all had dinner together in the RV.  We all ate too much, but enjoyed reflecting on favorite events in 2011 (Gigi and Alvie's wedding being cited by all of us) and talking about our goals for the new year (Gigi, her mom and I all agreed that fitting into our wedding dresses might be a fun to take on together--at least it sounded fun sitting around the dinner table, now it just seems daunting!).  I love asking people what their "theme" song is--what song sound play when they walk into a room and Gigi's parents were good sports about answering it.  Her mom said that she'd like big band marching music to play to announce her arrival--I think it's a great choice for her delightful personality.

The week together passed much too quickly.  I think Freddie might be on to something with his family "reunion" idea.  It was great fun to get to know Gigi's parents better and to see her interactions with them--as well as see Alvie's interactions with them and their's with him.  I think we've become one big happy family and that future get-togethers like this one are in our future.

Would you enjoy a family reunion with your SIL/DIL AND their parents?  What would be the advantages of such a reunion?  Where would the difficulties lie?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

DIL: Reflections on Why

My husband and I celebrated our anniversary last week.  As I was planning out what to do for us it got me to thinking about how much has changed in my life since we got married.  So many wonderful things have come into my life as a result.  The list is lengthy and broad: from bikes to homemade furniture to two beautiful boys to three times the laundry and dishes to new locations etc.

One of the most special things (and most pertinent to this blog) that I've gained are new friends and family.  People with whom my husband has spent years cultivating a strong enough relationship that it is only natural that it would continue into his married life.

If you haven't caught it by now, I really admire my in-laws.  They are phenomenal individuals.  It's been really neat getting to know them and shaping a good relationship with them.  I recognize this as a huge blessing that many people don't have.  So many people struggle with getting on the same page as their in-laws.  Understandably so: it's a complicated relationship by nature (the default if you will) and only simplifies if you make a concerted effort to allow it to be simple.  That's just it, most relationships take a lot of effort.  Relationships with your in-laws can often times take even more. 

In these situations I feel it's important to remind yourself why it's worth all the effort.  Remember that these people are special to the person you love.  These people are the ones that helped shape him/her into the person they are today.  If you aren't doing it for yourself then do it whole-heartedly for you spouse.  It means the world to me when my husband spends time on the phone with my parents or siblings.   When he sits and skypes with my family despite having many things to do.  Why?  Because they are both everything to me so it makes me happy to see those relationships strengthening.

I recognize that some of your spouses might be just as fed up with their parents and siblings as you are.  If that's the case it may be worth considering putting in the effort to fix that relationship for both of you.  Make it stronger...come to appreciate where the person is coming from and why they act the way they do.  Perhaps you can be the key to getting rid of that void that "empty relationships" leave in us.

Case in point:  Stiffy (My cousin's wife) has done this for her husband.  We rarely saw him before they met and got married.  Then, she decided she wanted to help him bond to both his immediate and extended family.  She "friended" us all on the social networking sites and made a concerted effort to be an active friend.  She kept up on the blogs and started looking into family traditions.  One Christmas she knitted every family an ornament like the one that my grandma used to make us when she was alive.  He is now an active part of family events and his siblings (who were also rarely to be seen) were all at the Christmas party this year (catching up with each other as much as with their cousins and aunts and uncles).  She has sent us gifts for the boys and christmas cards.  Needless to say those relationships have gone from nonexistant to strong in only a few short years.

As you approach the new year I encourage you to reflect on why these relationships are important to cultivate, maintain, and improve.