Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When Virtual Friends Meet

The engine of my Sonata died as I turned off the key. We were finally at our destination in Northern California after nearly 16 hours of travel across Nevada's desert, and the winding roads of wine country. I peeled myself from the leather seat, and stretched, taking in the scenery around antique fire truck and a sprawling cabin nestled in the redwoods beside a meadow filled with dried grasses. 

"You're tall for a blogger," Tonia said, right after she welcomed me into her home with a big hug. That's Tonia; saying the first thing that pops into her head, breaking the ice with a shy smile.

How funny. It's hard to judge height from a Facebook profile picture, but that's all we'd had to go on for the last six months we had been getting to know each other in the My 500 Words writing group on Facebook. To be honest, I had expected Tonia to be taller. Roslynn, too. I had assumed these women with whom I had so much in common would be similar to me physically, too. We were like stair steps. 
Roslynn, Tonia, and I
I used to consider myself somewhat of an Amazon woman, being one of the tallest among my circle of friends in high school and college, but lately, I've been slightly offended that my medical charts show my height is slipping with age. I went from 5'7" to 5'6" almost overnight, it seems. That Tonia thought I was tall made me stand a little taller. Cool. 

Jeff Goins and Christine Niles manage the "My 500 Words" writing group that I joined at the beginning of this year. It's a large group of authors who banded together on Facebook, and within that group, I became virtual friends with three women who shared a love of dry humor, witty banter, and the creative process.

One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, my son and I had been invited to join Tonia and Roslynn in Mendocino for a summer vacation. Debbie, in Missouri, was with us in spirit. Thus, the Randomocity Road Trip was born.
Debbie joined us at the beach this day. I know it looks like I'm wielding a weapon. I'm not. Really.
What do women writers do on vacation? Well, we write of course. And talk. And eat. And laugh. A lot. The dining room table was strewn with lap tops. At times, the three of us were laughing ourselves silly on Facebook, simultaneously commenting on threads together, enjoying the company of Debbie and our other online friends, while the three of us were physically together. It was much more fun to use the internet together, HEARING the LOLs that Roslynn types in her comments. Yes, she laughs out loud, often, and it is a delightful laugh to hear.

When it was time to write, we each did our own thing. Tonia would excuse herself in the afternoon, seeking out the quiet and solitude of her room upstairs. Ros worked at the kitchen table off and on throughout the day, engrossed in her own world with occasional outbursts of laughter, and sharing whatever it was that tickled her. The early morning was my time. After climbing down the ladder from the loft in the guest cabin, I would make a pot of coffee, and head to the "big house" with my thermos and laptop, seeking out the internet connection.

Walking down the dirt lane, I counted myself lucky to be at this writers' retreat, surrounded by the fog-shrouded redwoods, and spending each day with friends who share a love of words and stories. 

There were opportunities to "fill the well" of our writer selves. Trips into Mendocino, sharing delicious meals, making memories, and time to ourselves for reflection and writing were part of our daily routine. Talking around the breakfast table in the morning, and the fire pit at night allowed us to get to know each other better.

In this day and age, many of us have virtual friends. Personal messages, video chats, and online banter are all wonderful, but nothing compares to talking face-to-face. If you ever get the chance to meet your long-distance friends, I hope you do. It takes the relationship to the next level, where bonds deepen, and friendships blossom. Meeting my virtual friends was one of the highlights of this memorable summer.


  1. I love this. It sounds so fun. I think you might have set a precedent for the rest of us 500ers. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oh, Heather, I hope to get to do more of these in the future. Thank YOU.

  2. Denise,
    This sounds glorious!!! And, I think when virtual friends meet, it's an automatic love because of all the people online, somehow virtual friends were put together for a reason - first and foremost, like-minded souls.

    I met some women at a writing retreat in Denver a year ago. Wayne Dyer with Hayhouse gave a workshop there. The woman I flew out there with was a friend from a facebook art group. My real life friends thought I was NUTS to go on a blind trip with a total stranger!! But, she was far from a stranger! How do you help people understand this if they are not friends with people online that go beyond their family?

    It was the trip of my life. We stayed with another woman in Denver that was in the same group. So amazing. We need to do more of this, I agree!

    Was this a writing retreat you all signed up for or did you make up your own?

    Shari :-)

    1. Hey, Shari! We just made up our own getaway. Nothing was planned; we took each day as it came. I believe you are right about the automatic love; we knew each other before we knew each other!


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