Family Histories (Holiday Edition): How I Stay in Touch With Far-flung Family

Celebrating the holidays with family members who can’t make it home for the festivities can be an emotional challenge. Here JACQUI MURRAY shares her methods for bringing family together though miles apart in the holiday edition of FAMILY HISTORIES.

Thank you so much, Adrienne (author of The Tenafly Road Series), for inviting me to again participate in this wonderful exploration of families.

Last year, I shared how my children inspired most of my writing (see below). This year, as I consider another holiday without my adult children, I wanted to share how we stay in touch.

My son Sean serves as a SGT in the Army in Okinawa and my daughter Meaghan is a LT CDR in the Navy at Ft. Meade Maryland. My daytime is my son’s nighttime and my daughter is always busy so staying connected would be a challenge if we hadn’t come up with a variety of ways to make it work:


jacqui 2This is a free Facebook app which allows free phone calls (video or audio) and texting. That’s free even to Japan and my son and I use it weekly. I also set up a family group for texting so we can share daily thoughts, pictures, or whatever with everyone. My kids love pictures of my Labrador, Casey, so I send what I call the Daily Casey through Messenger every day.

Google Hangouts

Messenger doesn’t always work so we have the Google Hangouts app on our phones for video chats. It’s more reliable than Messenger with a few more features. I like redundancy in my life.

Google Keep

jacqui 1Google Keep lets us set up lists or short notes that can be shared for not only viewing but editing without involving a full Word doc.  You can share videos, images, lists–pretty much anything. Whoever you share it with can edit it on their phone so it often serves for ongoing events. Right now, I’m not using it with my kids but I do share the shopping list with my husband.

Google Docs

My daughter does a lot of writing in her job and as a growing passion. She still thinks I can help her with editing so shares the docs with me. I love reading her voice, her ideas, in ways I’d never hear otherwise. Through Google Docs, I can share suggestions which she can respond to.

Google Sheets

jacquiI use this a lot to plan family trips. Thankfully, my kids are happy to travel with me. Last summer, my son had a month leave from Okinawa so took a 2-week trip with me to visit my daughter (his sister) on the East Coast and my sister (his aunt) in Indiana. We left Indiana via train and took that all the way home to California. We organized everything on Google Sheets–daily schedules, stuff we wanted to do, who was responsible for what. Everything. Since it’s accessible from phones as well as computers, I could check it for daily details also.



jacqui 3

That’s about it. How do you stay in touch with your far-flung family?


A recap of last year’s post about how her children’s career choices have influenced some of the books Jacqui has written:

This is a personal how-to on preparing for and applying to the United States Naval Academy.  It’s based on my daughter’s experience in high school where she first thought such a selective school was out of her reach and then was accepted into a life-changing activity that would change her forever.

This story comes from time spent with friends of my daughters who served in the Silent Service. It is a story of brain vs. brawn, creative thinking, and the importance of family in our lives, but at its core is patriotism. Many of my ancestors were in the military though I wasn’t, and by the time I started writing this book, both my children were committed to their paths. I respect the patriotism, single-mindedness, and stalwartness of our warriors–this story reflects that.

This story takes place in large part on a US warship, the USS Bunker Hill. This was my daughter’s first ship after graduating from the Naval Academy. She secured amazing access for me during my research to the ship and its people. She put herself way out there to help me. For that, I am forever grateful.



Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

38 responses to “Family Histories (Holiday Edition): How I Stay in Touch With Far-flung Family”

  1. Jacqui, with your tech skill you’ve ensured you’re close to your children even if physically far apart. How sweet to send the Daily Casey messages and the travel schedule last summer is superb! It’s wonderful that your daughter shares your love of writing and you can help her with editing.

    Adrienne, I always enjoy your Family Histories series and you give generously of your time and blog! hugs to you both xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jacqui, it’s no surprise to me that you’ve found a number of techie-digital ways of keeping in touch with your children. Facebook is fine if you don’t mind the whole world peeking in on your private conversations, but you’re applying a lot of other computer apps so you can keep in touch with Meaghan and Sean, no matter where they are. I’m getting used to the scrapbooks my sons set up so I can see their families at play. And I Iove that Casey has his paw print in there also. Happy Holidays to the whole family, wherever their hitching posts might have tied up their horses. (That goes for your hubby too.)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Adrienne – thanks for having Jacqui over and for her excellent post on the various ways she stays connected with her far flung and busy family … really helpful – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jacqui, impressive higtech ways to keep in touch with your family. We’re an iPhone family so do FaceTime, Shared Activity, Group Text, and FT audio (overseas). It’s so important to keep family as close as we can! I have 2 great-grandkids (1 1/2 yrs old) who babble,wave & send air kisses on FT. Happy Traveling! 📚🎶 Christine

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A lovely post as we gear up for more holidays, Jacqui. My family of origin was always far-flung, and the holidays required choosing to be with some family but not with others. When a grandchild came along that kind of clinched it and we moved to be nearby. Connection with those far away is typically done by phone (particularly with my mom who is blind) but I also send emails and text. And we play Words with Friends with each other. 🙂 Happy Holidays

    Liked by 2 people

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