Nan Russell: Dueling frames

Like dueling pianos competing for attention at Jellyrolls, a fun piano bar on the Boardwalk at Walt Disney World, the digital frames in my office are competing as well.

To my right sits a frame all about “the girls.” Random granddaughter pictures culled from the last four years since my elevation to Nana status: babyhood, crawling, walking, running, holidays, playtime, bedtime, family time. Each image brings a heart connection of smiles and laughs and virtual hugs to my day.

The frame on the left of my desk is a recent edition; a birthday gift from my husband. Clandestinely scanning hundreds of pictures from our life together, and select pictures from our respective families as we were growing up, his gift brings forward memories long housed in my heart of younger times, family times, sad and joyful times.

Filled with images of people we love, places we’ve lived, and times we’ve shared, this kaleidoscope of emotional connection brings reflective pause to my day.

As I write this, “the girls” frame is displaying a picture of my son, holding his then three month old daughter, who is meeting her great-grandmother for the first time. We traveled with my son and his family to California for this precious moment. As time stopped, the picture captures my mother’s joy at the soulful union with this first baby of her third generation.

Competing for attention to my left is a robust picture of my father on Christmas morning, playing on the floor with my then toddler son. The kind zestfulness in his eyes speaks to me through his pre-Alzheimer’s face, evoking loving memories, and giving me a hit of happiness.

It’s funny about my dueling frames. Some days I spend a few seconds of pause to breathe in the memories; other days, I seek them out so I can connect with these filed away memories or joyful recent ones from my ever evolving life. In both cases, being surrounded by loving thoughts offers a meditative, reflective component to my day.

In the scheme of things, whether it’s pictures that prime the pump of memories, or music, or random loving thoughts, I know I need that connection. I think we all do. We need remembrance of our individual journeys and collective happenings to keep us grounded, and offer us perspective.

My dueling frames have taught me this: we forget ordinary moments in life’s tapestry that provide the backdrop to the why behind the what of our lives. We forget where we’ve been, as we hurry to get to the next place we want to go. And we forget what really matters in this illusionary race to be, to get, to have. I, for one, need gentle reminding.

Nan Russell writes a biweekly eColumn, Winning at Working. Sign up to receive it by visiting: or send an email to: with the subject line, subscribe

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