The Stories Manifesto

It hit me today while I was washing my hair that I am missing out on a tremendous volume of stories. When I called my mom yesterday, a Sunday afternoon routine to stay in touch, I could hear conversation and laughter in the background. Turns out that my sister, my brother-in-law, and my nephew and his girlfriend were spending time with my parents the Sunday after my dad’s birthday. While I felt a touch of sadness while I was on the phone that I wasn’t there to spend that time with them, it really didn’t bother me until today. Distance can be a real drag.

I realized quite some time ago that there would be many things that I would miss by moving almost 800 miles away from my family. I think it’s a factor of getting older that you want to squeeze as much as you can into what you perceive as the time that you have left. The weekly telephone touch-base with my mom and my sister are not doing it for me the way it used to. I’ve relied on Facebook to keep in touch with my nephews so that I can feel a connection, although distant, to what’s going on in their lives. But there is something major lacking. “Liking” a post is in no way as gratifying as a heartfelt hug and speaking words instead of typing them onto a screen. And when your sister and parents aren’t Facebook “friends” it feels like the connection distance is magnified.

It’s evident to me that I am missing way too many stories. I’m missing the stories of what my nephews are doing with their lives because Facebook can only convey so much. I’m missing hearing the old stories of my dad when he was growing up and the wild things he and his buddies used to do. I’m missing the stories of my mom’s childhood and the wonderful and odd things she and her sisters used to do when they were young. Sure, I’ve heard many of those stories in the past, but I think perspective changes as you get older. There might be a little things in the stories, little nuances, that are important – things I may have missed the first time I heard them.

I’m not there for other family events, so it’s rare that I get to see uncles, aunts cousins, etc. thank goodness I saw many of them in June for my mom’s birthday party. Prior to that it had been years. Again, I miss hearing the stories of what’s going on in their lives. Tidbits on Facebook are good, but the reality is that I’ve lost touch with what makes everyone tick.

Maybe it’s just that I miss being surrounded by family sometimes.

Facebook is great. The telephone is wonderful. But nothing can take the place of being there in person to look into the eyes of the people you love and admire.

This is the beginning of my manifesto on Stories.

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Strategy

iPad

I bought an iPad 3 the weekend it hit the stores.  I’d wanted one since the original iPad was introduced, but I could never justify the purchase.  I mean, seriously … buying one isn’t a life-or-death decision, right?  It’s simply want versus need.  But this year, I took some money from my tax return and spent it on a luxury item.  Do I feel guilty about that?  Nope.

It’s a great thing, and I’m sure I’ll come to rely on it more and more as I use it and find other wonderful things it can do.  For now, I’m enjoying taking photos and posting them on Facebook or WordPress; recommending books, music, movies, and more on Hunch; and having instant access to the internet when I want it.

Even more, though, it’s helping me with strategy.  A game helps – backgammon.  Backgammon is all about strategy and the roll of the dice (I downloaded a pretty cool backgammon app for my iPad).  Picking up the iPad in lieu of picking up my project management exam prep books is strategizing about spending a few minutes with my little luxury item instead of reading, memorizing, and preparing for a four-hour exam.  Is it the right thing to do at that moment?  Will I feel guilty about it?  Don’t I really need a mental break from the studying?

And then I strategized about taking the iPad instead of lugging my camera and lenses up to Vermont for an unplanned trip I had to make last week.  Would there be opportunities to take photos?  Would there be anything worth shooting?  Take a multitasking item like the iPad or take the single-purpose Nikon?  Not exactly a tough decision, I took the iPad.  And, as it turned out, there was no opportunity or reason to shoot photos anyway.  My strategy was sound.

Determining a strategy is something we do every day.  We decide how we’ll start our day – hitting that snooze button one more time instead of hitting the shower (do I want to take a chance on sleeping 10 more minutes assuming that traffic will be a breeze, or do I want to get up now and hit the road so I can stop at the Jiffy Mart for cup of coffee).  We decide how we treat our work, our thoughts, our livelihoods (do I take the time to backup my computer or assume the risk of not backing up because hey, it’s a brand name laptop and chances are the hard disk won’t crash).  Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose.

We don’t think about life being a strategy but it is.  Everything we do every day has been thought through in some context to some extent even if we don’t realize it.  It’s decisions, choices, and strategies – some conscious, some unconscious.  We are the masters of our fates, and the choices we make, the strategies we use, say a lot about us whether we realize it or not.

Intro to Vermont

I’m sitting here at my desk at home and looking at a little stuffed moose with the word “Vermont” stitched on its belly.  Above “Vermont” there’s a scene of a lake surrounded by pine trees and a full moon peeking out from behind them, its reflection rippling on the water.  [sigh] I miss my son.

I’m so proud of him for taking that huge leap and going to a college so far from home.  It’s one of the few colleges that offer a forensic psychology program, and since that’s where his interest is, that was his school of choice.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a car up there (he does have one sitting in my driveway but right now it needs a new belt and it always seems to need something).

It’s about an 8-hour drive including stops for gas and breaks.  It’s not a bad drive and I actually enjoy the scenery.  And I love Vermont.  It’s a beautiful state.  Castleton itself is a charming little college town – perhaps a smaller version of Westminster, MD.  Much smaller.

I picked up that little stuff moose in Hoosick, NY at a little gift shop/deli that Josh and I like to stop at when we take the Route 7 route into Rutland.  It’s the cutest little place with all kinds of NY and VT souvenirs and tchotchkies (did I spell that correctly?).  And their food is good too – Josh loves their pulled pork, and the last time we stopped there I got a Moose Trot Wrap – a wrap with roasted turkey, stuffing, and cranberry jelly (I skipped the mayo).

Every time I go to Vermont there are things happening with the mountains and the sky that I’ve never seen before.  I usually stop on the side of the road to take pictures, but some of them simply can’t capture the natural beauty of what our eyes see.  It’s a shame.  I post some of the pictures on Facebook but the best of them are in my mind.