Like many people who call themselves New Yorkers, I wasn’t actually born here. I’ve now officially lived here longer than any other state (over a decade!), but officially, I’m a transplant from North Carolina. All of my family lives in a different state (and much of my husband’s family in a different country), and especially now that we have Augusten, it’s a constant juggle to find creative ways to stay closely connected, even with hundreds (and thousands!) of miles separating us.
A few ways I’ve found that work well for me in keeping up with long distance family and friends are…
Schedule FaceTime/Skype calls VERY specifically.
As in, don’t just say, “Let’s Facetime this week!” Because if you’re anything like me, that just won’t happen. Set a very specific date and time, i.e. “I’ll call you at 7:30pm on Monday night, ok?” and STICK TO IT like you would any other obligation.
Mass text photos/videos throughout the day.
Yep, 99.99% of these are of Augusten:-) But it’s a great way to keep the grandparents/aunts/uncles up to speed on the cute thing Augusten did that day, or the adorable outfit he’s wearing that was most likely gifted by one of them. As he gets older and starts to do more things, it will also help them feel as though they’re not missing out on the big milestones, like crawling and talking.
Send snail mail completely randomly.
Not just for holidays, but for no particular reason. Getting a card out of the blue does wonders to lift my mood, so I can’t imagine how happy it must make my grandmothers! Bonus points for printing out photos and including them in the card.
Put a weekly reminder alarm in my phone to call my grandmas on their landlines.
I know when I’m calling my grandmothers I need to have a solid chunk of time carved out to talk to them, and need to be in a quiet space. So clearly calling them en route to the subway just doesn’t work. I set an alarm in my phone every week when I know I have a free hour at home without any other distractions and call then. Also, another thing I like to do before I talk to my grandmas is to jot down what I’ve been up to that week so that we have lots to converse about. Sometimes in the moment it’s easy to blank on what you actually do to fill your days, so having little stories prepared ahead of time helps a ton.
Try really, really hard to show up for big milestones.
Woody Allen is famous for saying, “80% of success is showing up”, and I couldn’t agree more. When a long distance family member or friend is celebrating something important to them…a 30th birthday, an engagement, a new baby, a marriage…make every effort to be there for them. I, for one, know how much it meant to me when people trekked to NYC to celebrate these milestones for me.
And if you can’t, for whatever reason, make it in person, be very sure to send something to acknowledge the big occasion. A nice bottle of champagne goes a long way.
Email articles, recipes, movie recommendations, funny gifs that remind you of a particular family member.
As you come across things throughout your day, forward them to someone you know will appreciate it. It seriously takes 2 seconds, but is such a great way to show that you are thinking of them and their interests.
Read a book that you think someone in your family would love? Either mail off your copy with a note or Amazon Prime them a copy stating why they’re going to enjoy it.
Ok, standing in line at the post office is a bit of a chore, but if you have Amazon Prime, it takes about 2 seconds to send a copy. Also, always check the “Used” book section, this is where I get most of my $0.01 books, and even after you pay for shipping, it’s still a cheap $4 way to put a big smile on a family member’s face.
Always have the next time you’ll see each other in the works, so there’s something to look forward to.
Whether you’re visiting each other at your respective homes or planning a trip together, the anticipation of seeing each other next or traveling together is a great way to keep the blues of not seeing each other on a regular basis at bay.