12 Days & 12 Ways to Connect this Christmas

Twelve Ways to Connect with Family this Christmas
By Pam Pacelli Cooper
President, Verissima Productions


A few weeks ago, I read a compelling article in The New York Times by Tony Schwartz Titled, “Addiction to Distraction,” it pulled me up short about my own constant presence on the Internet. The last few words of the article were incredibly jarring:


I was sitting in a restaurant with my family when a man in his early 40s came in and sat down with his daughter, perhaps 4 or 5 years old and adorable. Almost immediately, the man turned his attention to his phone. Meanwhile, his daughter was a whirlwind of energy and restlessness, standing up on her seat, walking around the table, waving and making faces to get her father’s attention. Except for brief moments, she didn’t succeed and after a while, she glumly gave up. The silence felt deafening.


When I read this I was reminded of the famous “Still Face” experiment in the world of developmental psychology. In this experiment, a mother is asked to play with her baby in a fully engaged way. Then she is asked to turn away from the baby and when she faces the baby again, to exhibit a “still face” or stone face. All babies follow the same pattern when presented with this face: at first they coo and gurgle and try to “love up” their mothers; then they get angry and protest, crying and yelling and waving their arms; then they turn away and give up (the “glum” little girl in the article). If you want to see what it looks like, click here to see a video of the experiment. Once you see it you’ll always remember.


And then I wondered, how many “still faces” we are showing to our children, our loved ones, our friends and our families when we are constantly looking at our phones or computers? I thought about how the holidays provide a special opportunity to take a break from this pattern. Here are 12 suggestions for a holiday of connecting. They cost little or nothing, but their value can be enormous. As always, I’d love to hear your suggestions for more ways to “disconnect” in the name of person-to-person connection this season in the comments.

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What’s the story?


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Road Trip!

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Click here to learn more about historic Route 66
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Touching Base After an Absence


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A History of Sound

As a quick follow up to last week’s post about creating a sonic history here’s a great video highlighting 100 years of sound history and two excellent web resources to help you find the sounds that you find most memorable.

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Sonic World: Your Aural History

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Opening the Picnic Basket: Reunions, Food, and Personal History

By Pam Pacelli Cooper
President, Verissima Productions

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“Mother’s German potato salad,” “The Rauh sister’s Spice Cake,” “Successful Icing as of 1975,” and “Oy! Lebkuchen.” As I opened the little tin box of my mother in law’s recipes, I was able to see the history of her family in about 100 3×5 cards. Some were written in her mother’s hand (born 1892), some referenced great aunts who were born in the 1860’s, and some (such as the “Successful icing” card) annotated the struggle—over years—to master the art of a 7 minute frosting.


What’s in the recipe box of your family, or in your family cookbooks? Do you always make the same dishes for the 4th of July? Do you have periodic family reunions where each person brings a favorite dish? Or, is your family reunion, the reunion of a “heart family,” friends who get together once every year or two and recreate foods that they ate when they first met? If you’ve been attending for years, how have the reunions changed over time?


Think about the history of food at your summer family or friendship gatherings. Are you a steamed veggie person for 11 months of the year who brings the coconut cake to the party? Or are you the only one who brings Jell-O made with mayonnaise and fruit, a wiggly reminder of family picnics in the 1950’s and 60’s? Perhaps you are the maverick, introducing a new, nontraditional dish to every reunion.


Jot down a few memories that come to you after reading this blog and see what’s inside your picnic basket.


Here’s a recipe that dates back to the early 1900’s in Natchez, MS
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Stories of Friendship: A Reading List

I’ve really enjoyed reading some of your comments and reactions to the last post about the importance of including friendships in our personal histories through social media and I’d love to know what books you’ve read where friendships play a major role. Here’s a list of a few that I’ve read and enjoyed. Add your favorites to the list in the comments section.

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Friends: A Place in the Heart, A Place in Personal Histories

By Pam Pacelli Cooper

President,Verissima Productions

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It was the first day of my sophomore year in high school.  I was opening my locker when I noticed a tall, rawboned girl next to me with a brilliant smile. “I’m Kathie,” she said. “Our friendship began at that moment. Though we live on different continents and live wildly different lives, our bond remains unbroken. We hold experiences for one another in a way no one else can because of our shared history.


If we were married, this year would be our Golden Anniversary.


How much do we emphasize the depth and complexity of friendships when we are creating a personal history? There is always at least a question or two about important friends in our lives, but how many of us showcase friendships as a major category in the audio histories, videos, and books that we produce?


Here are a few questions I might ask in creating a “Friends” section of a personal history:


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