Late last summer on my Susie Young at Heart Twitter account, @susieyoungheart, I came across a lovely lady named Jennifer and started following her. I was drawn to the photos of her lush California garden and her scrumptuous recipes. Wow! Another pie baker! But the bonus was that she was a writer, like me. With a completed children’s book manuscript, Jennifer was ready to build her following and find an agent.

We were soon chatting about our writing projects via direct message and ended up reading each other’s work. I got to read the first three chapters of her delightful fairy story and she ordered Novel Friends. I was touched that she wanted to read my memoir, and when she later posted on Twitter that she had already finished reading it, I was stunned. This lady was the real deal–so supportive and kind.

As the fall and winter progressed, we learned more about each other’s lives beyond writing, and I knew I wanted to meet Jennifer in person some day. That opportunity came last weekend when I hopped on a plane from Minneapolis to the San Fransico Bay area.

As a Minnesotan, you’d think I’d be singing the Mamas and the Papas song, California Dreamin’ all winter. But for me actually it’s a little different –  when I’m in California, it feels like a dream. Surrounded by flowers everywhere, you can actually take in their scent as you walk through the neighborhoods. Maybe the natives don’t notice it, but I do. Meeting Jennifer made my California dream complete.

As you know, I’ve met many an online friend, so I usually don’t worry too much about the basics. I know I will like my new friend. But until I meet that person, I don’t really know their essence. Their true essence is always much more than what I can ever hope to learn from the limitations of online interaction. I always try to fill in the blanks with my imagination, but it’s never quite the same.

Jennifer picked me up at the airport, apologizing for being late because of traffic. I told her she never had to apologize to me for being late since I’m usually a little late for everything! My Airbnb served only as a crash pad since Jennifer took charge of all other hosting duties. Homemade lemon meringue pie and a cup of tea were served upon my arrival, and somehow, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. It wasn’t surprising that she remembered lemon meringue was my favorite pie, nor was it surprising that she would offer gracious hospitality. Of course homemade dinner rolls were in progress and soon I would be served a delicious dinner of rolls, fried chicken, vegetable casserole, and fruit.

I met Jennifer’s family – her gregarious husband and I bonded immediately, their sweet granddaughter gave me a warm hug, and their daughter sat down for a friendly chat. Not to be left out, Daisy, their corgi, jumped up on my lap for a cuddle. Too bad my Airbnb didn’t allow dogs!

Jennifer and I spent two magical days with leisurely outings filled with easy conversation. We were “in the moment” and often lost track of time. Friday started with lattes and patisseries at an outdoor table and then it was on to the Cantor Museum to look at art. I loved strolling through the museum together commenting on the pieces. I feel you always get to know someone better at a museum!

Saturday, our leisurely stroll was through a garden festival we stumbled upon. This was true serendipity. “Let’s take our coffee and sit in the garden,” Jennifer had said, expecting it to be quiet. As we approached the garden, we saw that tables had been set up for a luncheon and small tented vendor stalls were scattered about. How fortuitious! I do love a party!  We were able to secure tickets for the lunch, and in the meantime, spent the morning shopping around the vendor stalls.

Jennifer and I both love fine china and were equally engrossed in the offerings at the garden club fundrasier sale. I had to limit my purchases to what I could fit in my carryon bag, though! I fell in love with a footed candy dish that was sold as a pair. Since I didn’t want two, Jennifer should have the other, shouldn’t she? Then we could always remember our special day.

There’s so much more I can say about Jennifer and our time together, too much for a blog post, but let me just say one more thing. Jennifer is an self-admittedly happy person. This is obvious, but what I didn’t know is that she’s always happy. She wakes up happy. One of the things I bought at the sale was a beautifully framed bird print. I fell in love with it immediately, and even though it did’t quite fit in my carryon, I bought it and carried it on the plane wrapped in paper. I hung it in my bedroom next to the bed. I’ve decided that I’m going make a conscious effort to look at it every morning when I wake up and be happy like Jennifer.