Today I read somewhere that it is two months until Christmas. This weekend we are expecting our first snowfall. The nights are chilly and I confess I've begun to think about Christmas cards and shopping for my nieces and nephews. That got me to thinking about sending the Christmas package to my siblings' families and a very special Christmas tradition between my sister and I.

Bless This House - Grandma's Tin

After our grandmother died and all the dust settled, there were a few mementoes that we kids were able to choose from. They weren’t the expensive pieces and they could easily have gone into a donation bin but we sifted through them and selected items that brought back
memories. Oddly enough, there was no overlap between what each of us selected until we got to one of Grandma’s cookie tins. It was the only thing that two of us really wanted.
My sister, Christine, and I both have wonderful memories of that tin –and the treats that Grandma made to go in it! We thought about what could make us both happy and found a way to share the tin. Each year at Christmas, we take turns sending it to each other in the Christmas package. Whichever of us receives it gets to keep it for the next year. We are
happy with our decision because we both get to enjoy Grandma’s tin and we have an additional benefit of carrying on a family tradition that spans five generations.

When Mom was growing up, her grandparents moved to the coast. Because they’d moved so far away, they sent a Christmas package every year and Mom still recalls the delight they felt when it arrived. We always send presents back and forth to the kids but Chris and I figured we’d add Grandma’s tin into the mix. It’s something for us to share every year, which is nice, but it’s also a way to encourage the continuation of our tradition and have an opportunity to share our family stories, too.
 
I believe it’s also a way to bring to life a woman we both loved very much. None of the kids were alive when she passed so they didn’t get to meet her in person. This tin, as beat up as it’s
getting, is a tangible connection they have to our Grandma, Mom, Grandma’s parents and my sister & I.
 
This year it’s my turn to send Grandma’s tin to my sister. As it is every year, it’ll be filled with treats both traditional and experimental. As I’m packing and as they are opening, we’ll also
be remembering the huge painted pine-cones and hand-sewn aprons that great-Grandma sent every year in the Christmas package that Mom and her siblings opened every year, too.
Side Views of Grandma's Tin
 
There are so many ways for us to share our photographs. The problem with photos is that there are never enough to go to everyone who wants them (or who may want them in the future!) and they can cost a lot to print. Here are 5 ways my family has used to share our image
collections electronically.

1. Picasa Web Albums www.picasaweb.google.com
I’ve got a variety of my own albums on Picasa. It’s like having an electronic photo album that can be shared with whomever I want. My best friend, Patty, and I took a trip to England a number of years ago and we each took about a billion photos with our cameras. When we got back to our respective homes we both wanted a complete set. What I really appreciate about Picasa is that I can upload and organize my photos and add in descriptions or titles. The
album can be shared by a url address that I can email, or I can just keep them for myself. An added benefit is that I have a backup of my photos just in case something happened to my computer.

2. A family web site
This is a new one for me. A friend and colleague told me that she’s created a web site for her family. I love the idea and have started one for my own family. In case you’re my family and you’re reading this, it isn’t live yet! We will be able to communicate with each other, share family stories and photographs. The site is password  protected so no-one without a
password will be able to access it. I am using www.Weebly.com to create the site. The
domain name (URL) cost me about ten bucks for the year. The downside is that, as
easy as I find Weebly to use, there is still a learning curve and it’s taking a while to upload the photo albums. The reason I’m using this instead of Picasa or Tumblr is that I want to encourage dialogue and photo sharing between families. As we have about 4 generations of computer-savvy aunts, uncles and cousins, this seems like the way to go.
3. Tumblr.com
My sister-in-law uses www.tumblr.com and it’s a great way to share stories and images. She sent us the link and told us the password for the site. We are spread out over Canada and the U.S. and with busy lives, it isn’t always easy to keep in touch by phone. This lets us check in to see what the family is up to.
4. eBooks
Our family has a variety of personal books that we’ve created to share photos, recipes and family stories. Although I love this option, it is limiting in that you still only have a finite number of copies. I did a recipe book last year and printed a copy for each family. Each family has growing children who will hopefully someday want a copy. Rather than print another copy of the book, the program I used provided me with a pdf version of the book that I can share as many times as I want. The one I used was available from www.Blurb.com
5. DropBox.com
On a bit of different note, www.DropBox.com is more of a file-sharing option using cloud storage. Unlike the other options, this one doesn’t have an option for creating albums and such. On the other hand, I love it for just sharing photos between friends and family. You create a folder and then invite others to join. You are not required to share folders, but you can. I’ve used this to scan and share with family members  some of the photos I’ve got from
Grandma. You should be careful, though, when copying files to DropBox folders. Because it sets up like a folder on your hard drive, you need to make sure to copy and not move the files. Once they are in the folder and you’ve invited others to it, they have equal access and could delete or move your images, too. On the positive side, when my last laptop started dying, I was able to back it up to DropBox and subsequently move all my files to the new one.  

You will note that I have not included Facebook. While I do sometimes share photos and I certainly like to look at them, I have not reached a comfort level with FaceBook’s policies. That may be because they do seem to change with some regularity. I’ve also heard rumours that once an image is posted on FB, they then have the right to use the photos as they deem fit. I don’t know if it’s true but the possibility gives me pause for thought. Also, unless you are pretty comfortable updating the settings, you may be sharing your photos with the global community and not just your family!