The fabric of our nation • Family and Friends

shari jo sorchychI’m going to date myself – just thought I’d admit it right up front.

I grew up in a small farming community in Minnesota. Weather permitting, we played outside with friends and rode our bikes everywhere – if we had done our chores before hand. When the temperatures were subzero or we were snowed in, we listened to music, played games and actually talked with our friends. Life was good.

Family gatherings were common. Aunts and uncles with cousins in tow visited for an evening of card playing for adults and just playing for us. Grandparents were our favorites to visit because they spoiled us. Great Aunts cooked up a storm and invited us for what we kids considered dreaded family dinners, or suppers, as they were called.

For the record, dinner was a huge meal in the middle of the day. Lunch was mid-afternoon – a cold, lighter meal, often sandwiches, cold drinks and desert. I learned at an early age farming is hard work and the men got really hungry.

canfield cartoon
What we experienced though, through these family gatherings, was a sense of belonging – truly being part of this extended bunch of people connected by blood and marriage. Family first!

Okay, this is not an historical piece … fast forward.

It all started with email. No voice to establish tone. No certainty about emotion. Trash made of the English language in the interest of saving time. Most of us are now slaves to our email. Watching the messages arrive in your inbox is downright depressing at times. If the SPAM filter doesn’t work very well, there are quite a few messages that can simply be deleted. Yay! What’s left in bold is the stuff that rules much of our time during the day. There is value in each one. If we fall behind schedule, the fun ones are left unopened, relegated to another day when we think we will have more time.

Somewhere along the way the noun “text” became a verb. Our high school typing teacher (there’s that age thing again), Mr. Hazelton, would implode if he could see the current two-thumb typing approach. He’d be using his favorite, “You’d bloody well better get with the program,” to express his displeasure and in his own special way, urge 100 percent compliance with his idea about how things should go on a keyboard. The massacre of the English language continues. Since we save time (and perhaps money) if our messages are shorter rather than longer, prepositions, conjunctions and other “nonessential” words are left to the imagination. Frequently we receive messages without proper capitalization or punctuation. The crux of the message might go missing along with tone and emotion.

We now have many social networking opportunities, including the ever popular Facebook and Twitter. The degradation of the language imposed by the 140 character limit for “tweets” astounds those of us who yearn for a complete sentence and, short of that, a complete thought. The amount of time spent following someone, much less numerous people, throughout the day on Twitter is inexplicable.

Facebook, although free of character number restrictions, creates its own set of challenges, over and above the quandary about what to write. The security and notification process is incredible – a constantly moving target that requires time and attention on a regular basis to ensure privacy. It’s easy to lose track of time while visiting friends on Facebook. Hours can go by.

What have we lost along the way?

If you don’t remember receiving personal letters in the mail, you missed out on something very special. Time spent reading something handwritten especially for you was priceless. Often, a reply would be written within a very short time – a week or so, which resulted in a constant flow of thoughts and ideas. At times, there would be a word or letter crossed out, indicating a change of mind or mechanical error. Each person writes in a unique “hand.”
Because no two people have exactly the same handwriting style, it can be studied and used to identify an individual.

There is discussion of late to consider eliminating cursive writing instruction in our education system. How sad. It is one of the many ways we artfully distinguish ourselves.

Handwritten thank-you notes used to be an absolutely necessity. Proper etiquette required a note be sent within a week for a birthday or holiday gift, a dinner in someone’s home or a helping hand from a friend. Emily Post must be cringing.

Spending time with family and friends was easier in times past because everyone lived in relatively close proximity. And although we didn’t have many of the existing time-saving devices and technological advances, we had time for one another. Inviting someone to spend time talking with you in your home over a simple cup of tea or coffee has now become a ritual trip to the nearest coffee shop. Since it is almost impossible to have a private conversation, we talk of things that can be safely overheard by anyone.

When is the last time you were able to give each of your friends a hug? Guys, read that handshake or pat on the back if you are not a hugger.

How about your family? So many of us now live such great distances from our parents and siblings we and our children rarely interact with one another, much less as an extended family group. Cousins find each other online rather than getting to know one another through personal visits.

All relationships require serious effort – an investment of time and energy. Write a letter, share a recollection of time you spent together or send a short note to tell someone you were thinking of them. Call a friend to make a date to spend time talking together and if that’s not possible, spend time talking voice to voice.

We need to do everything within our power to honor and celebrate our family and friends – the fabric of our nation.

“Family and Friends,” a new Sonoran News feature, is the best way we know to help. “Family and Friends” will boast “photographs and paragraphs” about celebrations and milestones in the lives of people who are most important to us.

If your family has a reunion and you take a five generation photo, we’d like to share it. When you reach your next milestone birthday and don your favorite party hat (or not), send us the best shot. Becoming engaged? Introducing the newest member of your family with a birth announcement? Celebrating your marriage? As long as you honor and celebrate Family and Friends, let your creativity abound!

Family and Friends submissions can be emailed to Please use Family and Friends as the subject line. If you don’t have a digital photo file, we will scan your photo. Unless you have an iPhone, the resolution of photos taken with cell phones is often too low for newsprint. When you send your photo, please include a paragraph of information you’d like to share with our readers about the person(s) and the occasion. Photos should be original high resolution jpg files. We will crop them if you wish, based on your instructions.

If you have thoughts to share with us about Family and Friends (yours or ours), please email You can also find us (of course) on Facebook and Twitter.