Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Only a Click Away

14 Tamuz 5779.

Through Vacation-Colored Glasses, by Dani
The hardest thing about making aliyah is, of course, being separated from friends and family.

Thanks to technology, we can at least talk inexpensively (and even for free!): Internet phone lines, various forms of "face time," Whatsapp and other instant messaging platforms have replaced long-distance phone calls and email... which long ago replaced handwritten letters for most people. (Disclaimer: I admire those of you who still write letters and postcards. They are beautiful and meaningful, and can be treasured in the special teak-and-ivory box I save for the purpose. But I'm part of the say-it-and-send-it-now crowd, unashamedly.)

Life is busy. Making time to be in touch, especially for those temperamentally of few words, can be challenging. While some of us in the family chatter away on one or another of our various Whatsapp groups, others have been more reticent. We miss them; and while we respect their need for a little less communication, we long to hear their voices.

I'd like to give credit to my far-away (for now) son, Josh, for his brilliant contest that has created a solution for our family.

Unexpected Blossoms, by Sima
Josh knows we are a family of quips and quotations, and that we love a good competition. He designed the "Eastman Pic Challenge" on Whatsapp as a means of enhancing our family communication.

The rules -- at least before each week's evolution -- are fairly simple. Each person can submit up to five photos to the Whatsapp group each week. They can be about anything except family members (and especially kids), because it's no fair using family to sway votes. If the caption is clever, it can increase the points.

Legoscape, by Michelle

Each week's winner gets to choose next week's theme; and while the photographer doesn't have to stick to the theme, more points are available for thematic shots. At the end of the week, everyone gets to vote for first, second and third place (and on heavy-participation weeks, even fourth and fifth place), and an honorable mention. Abba and I frequently cheat here and vote for multiples; but that's the benefit of being old. AHIP: Age Has Its Privileges.

Nostalgic, by Josh

Josh calls himself the Arbitrary Arbitrator, meaning that he gets the final say about the vote tally, and how the rules will change.

We are used to this: Josh declared at the age of five that his life career goal was to be a benevolent dictator. Also, he spent his entire childhood creating amazing board games and role-playing games for his brothers.

All of the brothers changed the rules to games such as Monopoly, Risk, Life... and their friends tolerated and loved the changes in equal measure.
Nature's Nesting Doll, by David

But the Arbitrary Arbitrator arbitrates with the assistance of some fairly sophisticated tech program algorithm... and honestly, we don't care. Somebody is going to win a bottle of something... and will no doubt share. (If he or she lives on the other side of the pond, we'll just have to share virtual l'chayims. Like I said -- we'll work it out.) When the contest ends, Josh plans to make a book of the favored shots for family members to have and to hold. And knowing this gang, there will be future (and of course, modified) Challenges to come.

The Challenge has all of us looking at the world with more attention to detail.

Soft, by Aryeh
We're seeing things around us as we've never seen them, finding visual secrets to share with each other. We're not just using our cell phones to zone out of what's going on around us. We're using them as a means to engage.

Focused, by Ayala
Why So Cirrius?, by Lowenthology
Best of all, the family is communicating at an unprecedented level. Even the quiet ones are participating more than ever before.

There are no politics. There is gentle teasing, but it's all done in good taste. There's a lot of cheerleading.

Since Josh's in-laws are also in the game, we are getting to know them better. (Gosh, they have wonderful senses of humor! They fit right in.)

I'm not sure what I enjoy more: finding out how each of my family members' minds work, how they see the world around them -- or that they are sharing with each other at an unprecedented level.

Way to go, Josh.

Butterfly Flowers, by Abba

If Life's a Beach, I'll Take It, by Tova

The Ever-Flowing Circle of Life, by Naomi

If you're looking for a way to enhance long-distance family or old friend communication that is not taxing but fun, I recommend your own Whatsapp Pic Challenge.


  1. This is a creative brilliant idea, Ruthie! Thank you for sharing it!!!

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Sarah Malka! We are definitely having fun!

  2. What stunning shots you posted, dear Ruti! But more importantly, what a magnificent way to get family members motivated to stay in close touch despite everyone being so busy. Bravo to Josh for concocting such a wonderful idea! Halevi that when I made aliya in the Stone Age there would have been internet and such a manner to stay in contact with my family! Kudos to the Eastmans!

    1. Right? I love that we have so many wonderful ways to stay in touch now. Thanks for reading and commenting, as always, Netivotgirl... and stay safe down there!

  3. Love this! The captions really make the photos. What fun!

    1. The captions definitely add to point-value... and the banter in between is just as much fun. Thanks for reading and commenting, Glenna!

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Romi. Your creative bunch will have fun with some variation of it in the future, I've no doubt.

  5. Always Ruti-ng for the home team !

    1. Love your way with words and puns, my friend!

  6. Such a great idea!! And these wonderful amazing photos prove that! Shep naches, Ruti!!

    1. The photos get better and better, proof that when challenged, we humans like to hone our skills. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  7. Love it! Great idea and great pictures.

  8. Thank you for reading and commenting! Feel free to "steal" the idea. :-)

  9. What a wonderful way to keep the family communicating.

    1. It has not only kept us communicating, but really brought out some wonderful character traits we didn't even knew folks had. So much fun! Thanks for reading and commenting.