For all of the wonderful things the internet has given us–online shopping, gaming and fantasy sports, Ebay, YouTube, Facebook, email, etc.–there is also a darker side, because you just never know who is lurking behind that computer screen. The internet has both connected and isolated us, allowing people to connect and keep up with each other through a veil of comfortable anonymity.

When I received an invitation to join a small group of photographers in an online group last year, I was delighted. I’d been following several of them and admiring their work while trying to launch my own business and continue to develop my style and hone my skills. I quickly developed friendships with these amazing and talented women, and often wished that we all lived closer so we could actually have the chance to meet in person.

The joke quickly developed that we were all, in fact, a bunch of old, fat, hairy guys getting our kicks by pretending to be a bunch of young, up-and-coming photographers. And I guess you always wonder unless you get a chance to see for yourself who (or what) is hiding behind the screen.

As luck would have it, Erika, one of the photographers from the group, lives in Arizona, so I jumped at a chance to meet up with her as soon as I scheduled my visit. Since it is still hotter than hell here in Arizona, Erika welcomed me and Cadence into her home to meet her two young daughters, Elika and Selah.

From the moment we walked in the front door, Cadence and I felt totally at ease and welcome. There was no old, fat, hairy guy waiting to kidnap us or murder us with a  hatchet. Instead, we were greeted warmly with hugs from Erika and smiles from sweet baby Selah. Just three months apart in age, Cadence and Elika were best friends the moment they laid eyes on each other. They spent the first 20 minutes exchanging hugs and kisses and smiles, before taking off running and chasing each other and playing with Elika’s toys. They hooted and hollered and giggled and yelled and talked and laughed as if they had already been friends for a lifetime.

Funny, but that’s exactly how I felt about Erika too. Sure, I’ve been getting to know her this past year in our online group, but I have to admit, I was sort of amazed at how quickly we clicked and how the conversation never lagged. Add a delicious meal t that Erika made, and you’ve got yourself a damn near perfect day.

My only regret is not taking more photos while I was there, but I guess I just go so caught up in all the fun I was having with an amazing new friend. It’s just too bad that Arizona and Nebraska are so far apart. But, I guess that’s what vacations are for.

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to a day well spent with some wonderful new friends. Here are two photos I snapped of Cadence and Elika’s impromptu percussion concert courtesy of the coffee table and a few of Erika’s knitting needles. It just doesn’t get much cuter than this.



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