Looking for something fun and meaningful to do this New Year’s Eve? Think back on 2015. What were your highs, your lows and your glitters?
Last night, my family had our annual “HLG Dinner.” We shared our ups, downs and unexpected moments of 2015. It was a marvelous celebration of various accomplishments and relived joyful moments, as well as a meaningful way to reflect on the rougher events of the year and offer each other support and encouragement.
After dinner, we made sure to record our HLGs in our activity feeds on highlowglitter.com so we have a record of the year.
Feel like sharing? We would love to hear from you.
Happy New Year!
One evening a few weeks before my twin daughters were about to leave for college, I said, “We need to discuss when we will talk.”
“Huh?” one of them said.
“What are you talking about?” said the other.
“When will we talk?” I asked again.
“All the time,” one of them said, sweetly thinking she was addressing my pending empty nest angst.
“Whenever we want!” the other said with a “DUH mom” tone in her voice.
I was sending my kids off to college in my mid-40’s but suddenly I felt very old: “When I was in college, it cost money to make long distance phone calls home. Prices went down at 5pm after business hours, and dropped even further after 11pm and on weekends.”
“Seriously?” one of them asked.
Yeah. Seriously. I remember when Ma Bell (google it kids) broke up in 1984 and long distance plans got competitive. My mother was thrilled to find a plan with cheap long distance rates after 7pm. Cheaper rates aside, we still only talked once a week at most. It still added up. Fast.
My children were mystified. They could not comprehend why we would schedule a time to talk. I let it go. But I shouldn’t have.
At the start of freshman year, the calls home were frequent and focused. But quickly they went from being substantive conversations to snippets of conversations interrupted by friends in dorm rooms or an arrival at a destination or an “important” text needing an instant reply. We tried finding time to “just talk” but it was too easy to postpone or cancel calls. And if we did connect on the phone or over Facetime, distractions still split our attention more often than not.
I wasn’t pissed or even sad. I just noticed. I noticed that despite all the ways we have to stay in touch with each other – email, text, social media platforms, Skype – we were actually communicating less. This revelation in part led me to create HighLowGlitter.com, but while online HLG posts give a great snapshot of the little moments in one’s life, it doesn’t replace a good quality conversation. The kind where you focus all your attention on the person you are talking to and end up having a meaningful exchange that strengthens your connection and relationship.
My daughters are now seniors in college and I am an older wiser 50-something.
This fall, after too much digital-squawking, and too little real conversation, I said “we need to discuss when we will talk.” This time, I did not follow it with a history lesson. I didn’t have to. My girls agreed. I think we all knew we were paying a price for settling for the snippets. We were missing too many details, nuances and subtle intonations that only focused, meaningful conversation provides. Not to mention, the rich emotional connections and idea exchange that come when we talk.
Interestingly, now that we have a committed to conversations, all our quick texts, emails and HLGs are put in perspective. Before they didn’t feel like quite enough, because they weren’t. They weren’t satisfying or sustaining our need for deep, meaningful connection and communication. Now instead, our digital squawking feels like a delicious, fun snack that holds us over to a satisfying, healthy meal.
By Wendy Lutter, guest blogger
The countdown clock is ticking away. It is getting closer and closer to the time we will take our first born to college. We are all going through an array of emotions from excited to sad, to savoring the “this is the last fill in the blank,” to being annoyed with each other and ready to have D-Day be here.
Amidst all our preparations, there has been a constant – at least daily – barrage of emails, texts, Facebook posts and tweets about articles describing the anticipatory grief of sending your kid to college. Based on some of these stories, one would think they are saying goodbye to their child forever, that all communication will be lost, as well as the end of any sort of relationship with their child.
I have been struck by the desperate tone of some of the articles. In one in particular, the mom tried everything to get her son to talk on the phone for more than one minute. She brought up an injury that the dog had, just to get a few more seconds of airtime. Parents want more information, details, stories. But their kids don’t want to spend the time or energy to share.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve learned from doing market research for the High Low Glitter team that you can strike a deal with college-aged kids: “You do High Low Glitter twice a week and I won’t call or text you.” The High Low Glitter questions are specific, so the end results are a much deeper, more intimate snapshot instead of the hollow response to “How is it going?” Good.
When my son went away for three weeks to a college summer program, we tested it out. I was thrilled with the little snippets that he shared, like the glitter about the banana story:
I think this story might have been lost all together had we not HLG’ed.
So when the countdown says zero and we say our goodbyes, I am going to not feel despair. I will eagerly await the inbox message telling me that my son has posted a new High Low Glitter. I look forward to HLG being a helpful tool in the new, exciting, (and I’m sure sometimes painful) uncharted territory of the next steps of our relationship.
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Wendy Lutter is a qualitative market researcher and the principal of Lutter Marketing. She has conducted research with High Low Glitter users on numerous occasions. Wendy lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband and two teen-aged children (although it will be only one two-weeks from now when her son heads off to college.)
Heading abroad this fall? Over J-term? Next summer? Check out Alex Smith’s Study U Abroad: The 5 Keys to Unlock Your Awesomeness and Transform Your World. The book empowers students to stretch beyond their comfort zones and seize the opportunity for self-growth while abroad.
While the entire book is filled with suggestions and strategies designed to make your time abroad richer and more rewarding, one particular sentence caught our attention:
If you’re caught up thinking about what you’re missing back home while touring the Louvre or more concerned about posting pics of the Eiffel Tower to your Facebook page while you’re still standing at its base, are you really in Paris?
Alex’s question points to the importance of being present, fully appreciating the experience you are having and savoring it in real time.
At the Louvre last year I saw a woman walking the galleries with a selfie stick. Her phone was pointed toward the art, but she was looking straight ahead. She barely glanced at the paintings on the wall. She missed the whole thing. I wondered what the High Low Glitter of her trip to the Louvre would have been?
High: Videoed entire Louvre in a few hours.
Low: Phone battery died, could not upload to FB.
Glitter: Didn’t trip while filming.
Wherever you go, go with all your heart. Be there. Soak it in. And from time to time, take a moment to pause and reflect. Study YOU abroad. Record the meaningful moments. Share them with the few who matter most.
Safe, fun, glitter-filled travels.
Alex Smith’s semester in Seville, Spain became the motivation for his leaving the comforts of a corporate job in his native United States to rekindle his love affair with Spain. He currently resides in Malmö, Sweden but has lived and worked in Boston, New York City, Atlanta, Barcelona, and Madrid. He draws on his personal and professional life experiences to help students and expats thrive abroad and back home. Connect with Alex at studyuabroad.com.
So why on earth did I name our much-beloved family dinner time game – now micro-social networking site – High Low Glitter?
I hate glitter.
When my girls were little they begged me to let them use glitter any time they did an art project. More often than I care to admit, I acquiesced. They loved it so much.
I hated it so much. Glitter gets everywhere! Days after the art project is over you are still finding specks of glitter – on the floor, in the bed, on your cheek, in your hair.
If you have ever let a child play with glitter in your presence, you know what I am talking about.
So why on earth did I name our much-beloved family dinner time game – now micro-social networking site – High Low Glitter? What was I thinking? The truth is I don’t remember. But upon reflection, I am so glad we chose glitter.
Glitter is small, but stands out and dazzles. It makes whatever object it adorns – a card, a party hat, a marquee – pop with delight, pulling attention, grabbing our interest and making the ordinary extraordinary.
So does High Low Glitter’s kind of glitter. A “glitter” is the moment in your the day that stands out and grabs your attention. It is a small piece of the day, an exceptional moment that for whatever reason catches your attention and dazzles you. It makes the ordinary extraordinary, exceptional, special, meaningful. And because you take the time to notice it, it sticks with you for days.
Now I love glitter. And am grateful for every minute of it.
Stephanie Ross is the creator of High Low Glitter and co-founder of highlowglitter.com. Stephanie wears many hats including executive coach/consultant and entrepreneur, but none more important than mom to twin daughters Emily and Heather. She can reached [email protected]
What inspired you to create Pass the Salt?
Surprisingly, “Pass The Salt” wasn’t sparked by a traditional family dinner. It was my interactions with college students at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul (where I currently attend) during lunch and dinner that inspired it. I noticed how “normal” it was for an entire group to have their phones out at the tables, sometimes oblivious to each other. I wondered how a parent would deal with the problem. That initial quandary led to a personal commitment not to use my phone at mealtimes even in the collegiate setting. Later, I gave a speech on the subject of “Media Obesity: Technology and Relationships” for one of my classes, and decided a comedic video could engage interest in the topic. My speech professor denied the request to use an original video (I also hadn’t read the syllabus well enough), but I enjoyed the script so much I decided to make the film anyway.
What has the response been? Does it vary by generation?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, even though the video does have technical imperfections. I believe it’s because people resonate deeply with not just the discussion of technology that the video portrays, but also about value. When I was researching the topic for my speech, I discovered that there were greater problems swimming beneath the surface of little things like “texting at the table.” If I am having a deep conversation with my parents, and I whip out my phone I am implicitly telling them “I value the conversations with my friends on the phone more than the conversation I’m having with you.” This can cut deep, even if I didn’t intend it to, and even if it is status quo behavior. No matter what I’m doing, if something causes me to turn a deaf ear to my close friends and family, I hurt not only them, but also my ability to maintain long lasting, tight-knit relationships.
That is more blatant for an older demographic, which can cause tension with a younger generation who may not see any problems with it. On the YouTube thread, both the most supportive and the most antagonistic comments come from opposite ends of the totem poles: the 18 to 35 and 65+ age demographic.
Even the negative criticism I have received has been helpful. One of the flaws pointed out by the audience was the apparent lack of an attempt at conversation before the father slams the typewriter down. I fully agree. Even if there’s a no-phone policy at the table, it is pointless unless it is replaced by healthy conversation. I overlooked that while writing the script and producing the short, but am thankful for sites like High Low Glitter that catch on and point the family in a positive direction. It is far more important to focus on producing good face-to-face conversation than to focus on removing texting from the table.
Have you heard any stories from people significantly changing their behavior after watching the video?
I have heard of dads who have copycatted the video with their own typewriters (I’m not sure what kind of success they had, and I would probably not recommend it). It’s not a video designed to change behavior or model behavior as much as it is just a comedic kick-starter into discussing the topic of technology and relationships. I have received many emails from people who use the video to precede lectures, sermons, or even catechisms (in the case of one Spanish priest). What I don’t expect are emails reading “Matt, thank you so much for helping me not text at the dinner table, it has helped me solve my poor communication with my family.” There are larger issues at hand than texting at the dinner table. The video is simply a gateway (or an attention getter) into a deeper discussion.
Which is ruder: texting at the table or talking with your mouth full?
Whichever one my mother is unhappier with is ruder. Personally, that’s the best way I know how to answer that question.
One additional comment would be to point out that while texting at the table adds more people to the dinner table, talking with your mouth full doesn’t. At least when you talk with your mouth full you are talking with the people around you, but when you text you are including a person in the dinner conversation who is present for you but for no one else.
What was the High Low Glitter of producing Pass the Salt?
My actual parents are the parents in the video. That was the greatest highlight. They were a right fit and have been more passionate about the short film than I have even before it’s viral success. Also, the teens in the videos are lifelong friends of mine from high school, so it was an incredibly fun production to lead. We had some continuity issues during editing, because one of the boys had licked his whole plate clean during shooting and then began asking the other actor’s if he could eat their food as well. A volunteer actor has never been paid so well in pork chops.
I never got to show my speech class the video. I think it has still done okay.
A glittering moment has been the welcome of the video not only nationwide, but globally. It has played in every country, and has been picked up by Vanity Fair Italy, Huffington Post Germany, two TV shows in Tokyo, and many others. The concept struck a chord beyond our border and I did my best to reply to messages and comments written in other languages. It was also shared on the Facebook walls of a few celebrities including Ashton Kutcher and George Takei.
But the story get’s better. All that success was completely unforeseen. None of my other videos have come anywhere near close 100,000 views let alone over 8,000,000. It was a blessing because I have a dream to graduate from college completely debt free, but had put working on video scholarships on the back burner because of a volunteer project through my university’s athletic department. Although it didn’t make sense financially, I was incredibly passionate about the project and felt as if God was encouraging me to continue pursuing it over scholarships. The same week I began drafting the script for the athletic department, the video jumped from 3,000 to 300,000 (a full year after I originally made it). I set up an ad on the video, and the profits have been more than enough to cover my student loans and help a close friends with his finances. Some might call it coincidence. I wouldn’t, but either way God’s blessings have been like glitter; even if I wanted to get away from it I keep finding it in my hair weeks later. I’ve stopped ignoring it and have started being grateful. It makes for some of the best conversations at our family’s dinner table.
High: Launching the High Low Glitter website and phone apps, and making them available to the public. The response has been wonderful.
Low: Development glitches with the first iPhone app release. Cross-platform development is way more difficult than you would think.
Glitter: The amazing, thoughtful, insightful posts from our team of Across the Globe HLGers.
What was your High Low Glitter of 2014? We would love to hear from you.
Happy New Year!