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Duce's Wild: Keeping families connected with technology

Published: Friday, Oct. 18 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

The gift of the Holy Ghost is a much better guide to aid us in knowing when someone is in need, but technology is a great tool to stay connected and be a source of strength, light and life to those we love.

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Our family just returned from a long weekend away in the middle of nowhere.

No offense to those who don’t like Montana’s Centennial Valley to be called “nowhere.”

It is here, on silent plains, where my husband has one-on-one dates with family members who were lucky enough to draw hunting tags to chase antelope — or more literally, belly crawl in stealth mode to find the fleeting herds. The rest of us enjoyed the warmth of rustic cabins, favorite foods and deep sleep in a place where the only sound is the faint flapping of the white wings of trumpeter swans traveling in mating pairs.

The cabins are far enough off the beaten path that cellphone coverage can only be obtained by standing tall on one foot in a corner of the kitchen by the refrigerator. The difficultly of being connected almost qualified us to be rightfully “disconnected” from the disruptions of technology for three whole days.

Our reprieve from the distractions of our phones and computers was directly proportional to an increase in conversations, laughter and competitive gaming. Our teenagers survived the forced withdrawals by sleeping, reading and catching up on homework.

But before you think this column is going to cast more evil light on smartphone invasions, I surprised myself by realizing how much my online communications actually improve relationships. Being disconnected also meant more distance between me and relatives.

I returned to civilization to find a picture my sister had sent to all of our siblings of our grandparents’ home in Salt Lake City. It’s been about eight years since they sold their home, moved into a wonderful independent living facility and then took turns leaving this life on a good note.

The new owners have painted, put up a fence and turned Grandpa’s rose garden into a low-maintenance ornamental landscape. The sight of the altered place where I spent a significant portion of my childhood actually took my breath away and made me miss my grandparents deeply.

For the next 48 hours, my five siblings and I all took turns sending text messages of our favorite grandma and grandpa quotes. I found myself belly laughing loudly, even at inopportune times, both day and night over the quips and quotes.

Despite the distance between us, simple memories shared through short texts added a few more vital ties that bind on otherwise uneventful days.

Another example: I find myself a little closer to my sisters since we started playing “Words with Friends” a few years ago. We each add a word to each puzzle at night before we go to bed and unintentionally send the message that we’re alive and well and still capable of coming up with 64-point zingers on occasion.

I also have an ongoing game with a sister I visit teach. When I haven’t seen her play a new word in awhile, I’m more motivated to pick up the phone and make sure she’s OK. One recent night, I stayed up writing until 2 a.m. Trying to let my mind settle before I fell asleep, I played a few words with my friends on my phone. I immediately got the message “Still awake?” from this sister after I played a word. Her medical condition had worsened and she found that she couldn’t breathe nor sleep and needed to be taken to the hospital. I don’t think I would have known as quickly about her need if I wasn’t connected to my phone.

Granted, the gift of the Holy Ghost is a much better guide to aid us in knowing when someone is in need, but technology is another great tool to stay connected and be a source of strength, light and life to those we love.

Do you have a story to share about how technology has helped your relationships stay stronger with those you love? Please share in the comment section below.

Stacie Lloyd Duce is a columnist and magazine editor featured regularly in several Montana and Utah publications. Her columns appear Thursdays on desnews.com. Email: duceswild7@gmail.com

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