Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Friendship and the Christmas Spirit

My husband and I were talking the other day about blogging and the internet. And people that you meet online. As like alot of people, he doesn't seem to understand the "community" into which I find myself today. I know that word has been thrown about a lot. People try to define it. Even to those of us that firmly find ourselves entrenched in it, it's hard to actually pin down. Mike finds it odd....and a "little creepy" (his words, not mine!) that I have so many people that I talk to online. People that I don't know in "real life". People that could be "stalkers" and "serial killers". He said to me, "Don't you ever WATCH the Chris Hansen Dateline episodes? Or Criminal Minds?" I had to laugh. From the almost 3 years I've spent book blogging, and the few years before that on a Book Message Board, those thoughts had never actually crossed my mind.

Maybe it IS weird to feel such a bond to people that I have never actually "met" before. But you what? I don't care. I think I've stated many times before, I don't have a lot of friends in real life. Don't get me wrong...I have tons of acquaintances. I can take a walk in Bartonville, and run into quite a few people I have gotten to know over the years. People that know me as Ana's Mom or Bella's Mom. Chad's mom or Mike's wife. I have people that I know from work. And people that I know from church, or the library, or even the gym. But friends that KNOW me??? Very few. Most of the ones I had, I seem to have alienated in my efforts to gain back control over our financial life. Working so much, I am not able to do a lot (if any) Girl's Night Outs or Fun Nights. I can not remember the last time I actually sat down at a bar with a friend and had a drink. Or even out to dinner with anyone other than my family. My one true friend is Mike. And these days, he is feeling the stress of life as much as I am. It's hard to lean on him when I know he is struggling too.

So...I reach out here. In my blog. And I vent. Not all the time. And hopefully not all that much. Although this year, I do seem to be doing it more and more. Kind of a "blogging transformation"....but something that I'll discuss another day. Hopefully, you all don't get sick of hearing it. And do come back for the "Book" stuff. Because it's the book stuff that started this whole journey. I love to read. I love books. THAT is what makes my friendships with all of you possible. It's the common thread that brought us all together in the first place. But what keeps me coming back day after day is the friendships that I have made because of the books. No, I haven't met you all in real life. But I know about your lives. I know about your kids and jobs; your schooling and pets; hobbies and significant others. And I value that.

I know I mentioned a few days ago how I received a couple of books in the mail from 2 dear friends. The Secret Santa Blogging Exchange was one of those "conveniences" that got pushed aside this year because of all the "necessities". And I was really sad about it. Apparently, I pouted about it a little too much, because some of you took notice. My intent was never to cause a stir. But apparently, I did. This week is a bit busy for me. Christmas time in the restaurant business, although more lucrative that normal, can be challenging. Because we are an above average NICE restaurant, we are hit with lot of Christmas party business. This week, I'm working 3 double shifts: Dinner/party shift, then on to the Red Cross for overnights. 3 nights in a row. Then again on Saturday and Sunday. It's my last chance for some extra money for the holiday. But timing-wise, I'm going from one place to the next without a break. Normal season, I can have an hour or two between shifts. A little downtime or a chance to eat dinner with Mike.

Today, as I was running out of the house, I grabbed the mail and threw it in the car without even a glance. It went in with my clothes for my shift at the Red Cross. As usual, I was running late. (the pilot light on the water heater had gone out and jumping into a COLD shower about gave me a heart attack! By the time I figured out what was going on, I was running behind!) So when I went to grab my things tonight to change into, there was a pile of mail. On top was a package...with a customs sticker from Portugal. Tears welled up in my eyes when I realized that Nymeth (or Ana) had sent me a Christmas present as well. Not only did I get a wonderful card, a chocolate Santa, and a beautiful handmade bookmark, but I got a copy of the "best book ever!". Nation by Terry Pratchett, a book that has been HIGH on my wish list all year.

Then, just when I thought my day couldn't get any brighter, a small little envelope caught my eye. Now...I've been blogging for almost 3 years exactly. But before that, I was in a few online book clubs that met, at first on the Oprah message boards. Ana is 7, and I'm pretty sure I joined "The Classics Club" the summer she was a year old. I was one of the first members of the club. And although time constraints have kept me from reading with them for the last few years, I still keep up with them through email, and the yahoo group. Chris from Book-A-Rama and Michelle from Michelle's Masterful Musings are two old friends that I have known since that summer. I'm still a little fuzzy on who exactly is part of the founding group and who isn't. I just know I've known these beautiful ladies for years. I opened the card and found an insanely generous gift card for a Spa day. In MY TOWN. I can't imagine the research that went into finding this place (which is adorable, by the way. I've had the girl's nails done there. As a gift to them). But they did. And they sent it to me for a day to treat myself. So...tears in eyes turned into flat out bawling. At work. Tom, my third-shift cohort thinks I'm nuts anyway. Now, he's sure of it. When I told him I was crying because I was happy, he just shook his head!

Chris, Debi, Michelle, Christina and Nymeth: There is no way I can repay all your generosity. From the gifts to just listening to me vent. To giving me a shoulder to lean on or cry with. Just know that I thank you all so very much. You have truly made my year a little brighter. And you certainly know the real meaning of Christmas.

And if anyone asks me if I think online people can be REAL friends, I will whole-heartedly say YES.


Debi said...

Oh you sweet silly girl, don't you realize that there is no "repaying" involved?!! The gift of your friendship is truly one of the most treasured gifts I have...and it's a gift you give every day! Love you, Stephanie!

Chris said...

Aw, you're welcome. Michelle is the mastermind behind the spa idea. She just told me what to do. She did all the research and everything.

I hope you can get a few moments to pamper yourself. Bring a book or two!

Diane said...

I feel the same way as you about the wonderful friends I've made online. I prefer to believe they are real and genuine, not stalkers or serial killers...LOL

Amanda said...

I feel the same way about my book blogging friends. :)

Ladybug said...

I agree with you online friends can be real friends! I think there are many of us that misses time for friends IRL. I feel that after I have joined the ranks of the grownups with a family, a job, house and studies we seldom have time for sitting down with friends anymore.

Sure there can be some weird people out there, but I
like to think that the majority are normal people just like you and me. You're very lucky to have found such great friends online, Stephanie :) Enjoy your SPA day, it sounds great =D

Michelle said...

Honey, you made me absolutely sob this morning when I read this post. You are SO welcome, and I agree with Debi, absolutely no repaying of any kind! It was for you, to know what we love you and support you in spirit, even if we can't do it in person. After everything you have gone through this year, the least we can do is provide you the opportunity to take care of yourself, knowing that you have been taking care of everyone else (and shouldering a pretty heavy load) for the year. Enjoy yourself thoroughly. Love you, Stephanie!!

Nymeth said...

*hugs* What Debi said! And you weren't pouting about the swap, NEVER! It's just that we love you <3

Also, I feel the exact same way as you re: real life acquaintances, being more open online, and friendship.

Melody said...

That's a lovely post, Stephanie! I feel the same about my blogger friends! :)

Tif said...

I can relate to you so much regarding friends in real life vs those online! This past year, I have discovered people that simply get me more so than those IRL. It is such a wonderful feeling to feel accepted and understood, even though it may not be face to face. Beautiful post, and thank you for being you!

Kailana said...

I am glad all your mail brightened your day. I knew about some of it and I couldn't think of a more deserving person for some Christmas cheer!

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

How wonderful!! You totally deserve it!

Eva said...

Beautiful post Stephanie! And I feel the exact same way as you do about my blogging friends. My best friend here in the Springs doesn't really get it, so I don't talk about it to him, but my mom gets it which is nice. :) But then, since I'm a military brat, we're used to having long-distance friendships.

I think it's often times it's easier to talk about more genuine stuff via e-mail anyway. And I love how I've made friends from such different walks of life, who without the internet I'd never get to know at all.

lol @ stalkers...when I first began blogging, that idea made me nervous, and I didn't post pictures or mention where I was geographically other than 'the Midwest' (I was still in college). But nowadays, I'm much more open, and I've never had a problem! I think even over the internet, stalkers would just set off the 'creepometer' bell, you know?

Stephanie said...

Debi - Still. I feel so freakin' humbled that you all thought enough to do what you did. Just makes me proud to be your friend!! Love you too!

Chris - Oh, you make it sound like you had no part in it. And you did. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it!! I'm SO looking forward to a day off, just to use my card!

Diane - Agreed. Would rather not give in to the serial killer theory!! My hubby, though. Just watches too much TV!

Amanda - That's cause we have a lot of the same friends. And they are pretty special, aren't they?

Stephanie said...

Ladybug - You are right. With all my adult responsibilities, friend-time just doesn't happen much anymore. But connecting to the net is easy. Even for us busy gals! I'm totally looking forward to spa day!

Michelle - Glad you were sobbing too!! At least I wasn't alone. I can not begin to thank you for your kindness. You are truly a great friend. I am honored to call you that. Love you!!

Nymeth - And Ditto what I said BACK to Debi! Wow, that was the easiest response I had all night! Seriously though, my deepest and most sincere thanks to all of you.

Melody - Thank you. I was amazed that Mike couldn't understand the closeness. I really need to set up a music blog for him. THEN he will see what it's like.

Tif - The people I have met here TOTALLY get more than my friends IRL. Sometimes, it makes me wonder what made us friends in the first place, other than being in a common place. Then again, most are really super people. Thanks!

Stephanie said...

Kelly - Thank you!! And just know that you are another one of most favoritist people online. (that is so totally not a word, but I like it anyway!)

Natasha - Thanks! It's great to see you stopping by!

Eva - Thank you!! It's funny how this post evolved. Mike and I got on this long conversation after I got the books from Debi and Chris. Then boom. Next set of packages. All from the most extraordinary group of people I know. The bloggers I have met are like that. Yeah, I'd like to think I'd be able to discern a stalker!! :)

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