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    Thursday, April 23, 2009

I SEEM TO HAVE ADOPTED A FAMILY

No, it’s not Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha. It’s Chris, Beth, Mia, and Owen.

I already have a family. I definitely was not looking for a backup. It’s hard enough trying to convince my own wife and kids that what they refer to as Asshole Behavior other people consider to be Part of My Charm.

Funny how it happened.

It all started with an ego-Google. For those of you who are not as self-involved as the rest of us, let me explain what that is. Just sign up for a Google Alert and God’s Favorite Search Engine will happily notify you every time your name, or your book title, or the name of the person you are currently stalking appears anywhere on the entire World Wide Web.

I’m sure this is very time consuming for people like Kim Jong Il, but for me, it’s the occasional nudge.

One such nudge came my way on November 30, 2007. A blogger called Rude Cactus was talking about me. Rude Cactus — hmm, I can’t decide if the name is lame or cool. So I click and read his review of my first book. He ends it with “Rabbit Factory was, without doubt, the most amusing, wonderfully written, smart mystery I've read in a long, long time.”

Like I figured, this Rude Cactus guy was way cool. I dig down and read a bunch of his blog archives. I learn that his real name is Chris, and that even when he isn’t raving about me, he’s still cool. He’s also a majorly talented writer. But he’s pissing away his Wonder Years working as an IT geek.

I decide to see if I could fix his life. I email him and tell him to drop everything and write one of those really long 300 page blogs they call books. But apparently Chris has a pregnant wife (Beth) and a two-year-old daughter (Mia), and chucking it all to live out Marshall’s dream for him doesn’t make sense.

To ease his suffering I send him a copy of my second book, Bloodthirsty. He loves it. And now I’m loving him. That’s when it dawns or me. My website needs a transfusion. Chris is a computer wienie. I’ll bet he knows html.

We start working on this very website. His son Owen is born. I send a baby gift. I mean, we’re friends by now. As my site gets more involved Chris passes me off part of the time to Beth. She’s a geekette with an attitude. But not the kind that pisses you off. The kind that wins you over. Beth is also a blogger. And before you say oh God not another Mommy Blogger, let me tell you that there are four distinct mommy blogging types — Hallmarky Cute, Martha Stewart Lite, Kickass, and then there’s Beth — a Take-No-Prisoners, Abide-No-Fools, Wear-A-Cup, Super-Kickass Mommy Blogger.

Beth tells me my site doesn’t look authory enough. Too many blah-blah-blogs and not enough check-it-out-folks-I-write-murder mysteries.

By December 1, 2008, we’ve revamped and relaunched the site. It’s all ready to pimp the new book which is due March 31. Beth asks me how I’m going to drive people to actually see the site. I’m clueless. Beth suggests a blog tour. I’m still clueless. She explains it. It sounds like a ton of work for a guy who has a deadline to finish his next book. Beth says she’ll handle it. I say something like, “you’d give up your kids for a month?” But apparently she can do these kinds of things in addition to the Mommy stuff. If you’ve been following the blog tour, you can see she’s done a decent enough job (I see no sense on heaping too much praise on an employee in public).

Yesterday, Beth joined my blog tour and had her own say on me, my book, and she’s giving away not one, but two, copies on her site.

At this point, we are all connected. Chris and I have become guy pals. Mia is pushing four and she is the official spokeskid for Lomax and Biggs. Owen is 14 months, and doesn’t yet have his own email address, so it’s too soon for me to corrupt him.

As for Beth, she told me last night that just because I’m on a blog tour doesn’t mean I can ignore my own site. Write a blog, she nagged.

Alright already. Here it is.

I’ve never met Chris, Beth, Mia, and Owen in person. It’s mostly emails, some phone calls which they hate but tolerate, and gift exchanges by mails — mostly Mia sending dog toys to Jett and original artwork to me.

Somewhere over the past 17 months I realized how close we’ve all become. So I recently said to my wife, I think I adopted a family.

She shook her head at me, the way she always does when I’m wrong, and said, “did you ever stop to think that maybe they adopted you?”

So here’s a question for you commenters: Tell me about a chance meeting that blossomed into a genuine friendship. No promises, but if I get a great story, I’ll use it as character background in a future book (with your permission, of course). And you get to name the character.

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Left to right: Chris, Mia, Beth, Owen. Not pictured: Marshall.

Marshall posted on April 23, 2009 9:55 AM
Comments

I, in fact, met my dearest friend on the internet. We had both joined this parenting message board when we were pregnant and expecting babies in October 1999. Originally sort of scoffing at the idea of "talking" to people online, I was soon sucked in. We met in person for the first time when our babies were about 8 months old. She was there for me when my marriage fell apart. I was there for her when her marriage fell apart. Together, we mourned the loss of a mutual friend. This past December, I was an attendant at her wedding. This summer, she will attend mine. All because I happened to join this website my sister-in-law suggested to me.

Traci posted on April 23, 2009 11:18 AM

I too met my best friend on the internet about 2 years ago. We were both doing a popular exercise program and were posting to their message board regularly. Somehow we began exchanging emails (I think it started by discussing a mutual hatred of cilantro), and our friendhsip began and has blossomed from there. Our husband think we're lesbians of course, which we're not. (Yet.) We met in real life about a year ago, with both of our husbands in tow, just in case one of us turned out to be psycho. The four of us had a fabulous time, and discovered that were were all pretty psycho, so it worked. She lives in Nashville and I in St. Louis. I miss her terribly every single day, and wish we lived in the same city. But we email each other several times a day to discuss what we had for dinner the previous night, whether we have pooped yet, why our husbands make us crazy, etc. You know, the important stuff. We also like to cuss a lot. She is having her first baby in June, and I'm bound and determined to make it to Nashville once the baby is born!

Suzannah posted on April 23, 2009 11:34 AM

How anyone could resist the cuteness of the Cactus/Fish family is beyond me.

Shelly posted on April 23, 2009 1:31 PM

I have not met any "best friends" on the internet. One of my best friends went out to the internet one day, lured me out there and I have yet to find my way home. I still consider her one of my best friends though.

I have been pleasantly surprised that amongst the freaks & loonies (or is it just one? And who would name their kid "Anonymous" anyway?) there are some bright spots who will actually take the time to have a personal conversation. And be good at it. And be interesting. And prompt you to reply. More than once.

I really enjoy all three of your sites. Like, *really*. Ok, that sounds a little creepy, so we'll go back to just "really". All for different & yet the same reasons. Thanks to you all!

harmzie posted on April 23, 2009 1:42 PM

I read and comment on a lot of blogs. One day I was on a site and saw that a commenter was really funny--so I clicked on her link. Allyson was pregnant like me, around my age, and liked country music. Lots in common (and yeah I know, country music blah blah blah). I made a few comments on posts, she checked me out and we became fast internet friends. Our friendship skyrocketed after our kids were born and we've leaned on each other through all the rough times of new motherhood. I honestly consider her my internet best friend, though we've yet to meet in person. She suprised me for my 30th birthday this month and had flowers delivered to me at work, and she sent my son a 1st birthday present. We will meet in July when she comes to Chicago for the BlogHer conference. We are both so excited we can't even stand it. We will be able to hug each other!

samantha jo campen posted on April 23, 2009 2:02 PM

The above commenter fails to mention that we IM most of the day at work to each other and when she told me she was commenting about our friendship, of course I had to come look. She also doesn't mention that we both blogged for several years, and both have followed Chris and Beth for quite some time.

For someone I only see several times a year, our friendship is more necessary to me than with those I see regularly. And we met online, pregnant with girls (who, by the way, are also friends) due the same month, the same year. We also both have older sons, and ex husbands who drive us crazy.

We're very lucky to have each other.

Sharon posted on April 23, 2009 2:31 PM

Sorry to recomment - but I was referring to Traci in my post - when I started to respond she was the only one on here - then work happened. Damn I hate that.

Sharon posted on April 23, 2009 2:34 PM

I also met two women who I now consider to be two of my closest friends via the internet. My son had just had a liver transplant and I joined a support group online for parents of children with liver disease. One woman contacted me privately and we talked on the phone for hours. The very next day, another woman joined the forum scared because her son was to have surgery the next day and she was seeking advice. My newfound friend and I called her and we all talked as if we had known each other for years. A year later, all of our sons were transplanted and healthy - so we arranged a girls' weekend in Florida. I talk with these two women weekly, we send each others' children birthday presents, we celebrate triumphs and cry together about scary tmes. I can't imagine my life without these two women!

Laurie posted on April 23, 2009 3:40 PM

In early 2001, while at a "we're sorry you're moving but it gives the rest of us a fab excuse to get together and spend an entire morning chatting and eating without feeling guilty that we aren't home doing laundry or other mundane mommy-work with the TV and the radio on because we are starved for the sound of an adult voice" party, I began chatting with another mommy. We quickly discovered that we were starving for friendship and drowning in loneliness. Her first baby was about 4 months old and she rarely saw her tax-accountant husband, while I was struggling with 7 month old twins, a 3 year old who rarely slept and a husband with cancer. Despite only knowing each other in the "we go to the same church, but I've never talked to her before" way, we made arrangements for a play-date the next week. After a day strolling the mall with the babies tucked in their strollers, we made plans for the next week. And the next, and once a week play-dates became daily phone calls, and afternoons camped at each others homes doing nothing more than sharing the burden. Four babies later (two for each of us) and two moves (one a piece) we are still best friends.

Meredith posted on April 23, 2009 3:58 PM

In 2000 I picked up everything I owned and moved 800 miles to a town that I found just by closing my eyes and pointing to on a map. It was there that I started working at a convent where I met my husband. To you it may not sound like a chance meeting but having lived in the same town/neighborhood my whole life and then to live in a town where I didn't know a soul was huge for me. Anyway, I wasn't becoming a nun or he a priest we were just the hired help and my life is forever changed because of that move!

Michelle posted on April 23, 2009 6:28 PM

I did the same sort of thing, with this random family of bloggers. I think they go by Cactus Fish or something. :-)

Mr Lady posted on April 24, 2009 2:16 AM

I did the same sort of thing, with this random family of bloggers. I think they go by Cactus Fish or something. :-)

Mr Lady posted on April 24, 2009 2:16 AM

I met my best friend on the first day of anatomy class in college. I was the first one in class (I'm a vrigo and obessesivly early to everything)and she strolls in, takes in every empty seat in the room, and plops down next to me. She then proceeds to go on and on about how she hates her History class and the teacher there is boring. I looked up at her and said, "I know. I sit behind you in that class." She blinked at me and asked it I wanted to go get lunch after class. Now we're best friends, I hang out with her and her husband on a regular basis. It's like parasites. We need each other.

Breane posted on April 24, 2009 7:55 AM

Hey, I just realized I have an answer to this! When I got married, my oldest friend Julie came down from New York to be a bridesmaid. We met when we were four. My husband's friend Scott, who Chris went to high school with for a year ten years earlier, also came down from Calgary for the wedding. They came to dinner last night with their two kids. We take all the credit, of course.

Beth posted on April 25, 2009 8:40 AM

When I'm not doing every other damn thing under the sun, I'm a journalist. I write about booze, which is an incredibly difficult job to do what with all the research and the events and the drinking.

One evening, I've been invited to Morton's to sample their "heavenly mortinis" and get chatted up by their PR person. Since I like drinks and I like being chatted up, I went along. At one point, the general manager of Morton's comes by in his tuxedo-wearing, blonde-haired prettiness and is gentlemanly, but with a touch of attitude. I start to kinda develop a little crush.

Said PR person offers myself and a friend a dinner credit of outrageous proportions and hottie General Manager takes us to our table.

Our main course comes, and is probably the best damn steak I've had in my life, ever. Hottie GM comes by to see how Everything Is. I flirt, and then jump right in with both feet. I asked him to marry me so I could have this steak whenever my little heart desired. He chuckled, was polite and went on about being managerial.

I tweeted (sent out a post on Twitter) that I had just asked the general manager of Mortons to marry me.

Didn't know that his wife was on Twitter. Didn't know she went my the name "MrLady" and got a response about all I had to do was flirt with him. I was horrified. I'd just announced to a few thousand people, including the woman who had borne his children, lived with him in various countries for years and years, and to whom he was going home to that very night, that I was looking to poach her husband for my own ill-gotten steak gain.

I emailed her a prolific apology - one with far too many gushings about how wonderful she was, how untouchably [is that a word? Now? Well, it is now!] GORGEOUS she was - and sat back in hopes that she wasn't going to sneak into my apartment and kill me off while I slept.

Thankfully, MrLady was perfectly cool with other women propositioning her husband, and, even more importantly, she and I really hit it off. We started talking over IM and email - I found out that MrsLady had asked MrLady to google me when I walked into the restaurant so she knew all about me. She knew where I wrote, who I wrote for and had found my twitter account (clearly).

We met, slightly nervously, for the first time last summer, and took her delightful spawn to the beach, where we sat and talked and played with the kids; where her daughter fell in love with me and adopted me; and where we realized that this was a match made in a weird sort of parallel universe. One in which MrLady is totally my stunt double.

We will easily go weeks without talking and then have three weeks in which we are inseparable. now, we share books, we share music, I bring zombie games over for her 7 year old to play, and we drink wine and catch up on whatever we've been doing since we were last in the same room.

Couldn't live without her now, that's for sure.

Colleen posted on April 25, 2009 3:23 PM

....and we lived happily ever after. And Colleen got a really great steak hook-up.

Mr Lady posted on April 25, 2009 3:34 PM

The Rabbit Factory had been mentioned several times on Charlaine Harris' (Sookie Stackhouse) website as a good book to read. I thought I would try it. Good, very good story. Love the characters. Thanks for sharing your talent and forgive me for getting off the subject.

On to Bloodthirsty!

P.

Patience posted on April 26, 2009 8:26 AM

I'm a 42 year old woman IT geek and happily married. A new young kid at work stopped by my desk to say "hi". He had been an intern from the last summer. I kind of remembered him but not that well. Now this "kid" - 26 yr old, 6'3" 375lb. Portugese guy is my best friend. We do everything together. We frisbee golf, ride bikes, take long hikes and cook together all the time. His Mom, Dad and sister call me when they can't get a hold of him. My husband and I even went to his home town for Thanksgiving this year. We're also inseparable and I'm not even sure exactly how it happened.

Sherri Strader posted on April 29, 2009 4:58 PM

The Fanne Fatales & Nate

Dear Mr. Karp:

We love the fact that we read your stories but having to write about our chance meeting that has blossomed into friendships is tough. There are 8 of us that have become intertwined in each others lives and daily routines. We love each other, we get mad at each other, we make up and we move on. Each one of us is as different as the next but there is something underlying that keeps us together, reading & telling stories!!!

Each one of us is as different as the next so we took some time to list out what we think of each other and sure enough we all had similar replies:

Kelly- the single, artistic & creative one, a little crazy and always joking; life of the party; always has the camera; the northeast version of Jolene (loves Disney) & is the glue that keeps us all together

Jan- the Peacemaker, the mom, sweet; a sister wife, doesn’t like conflict, loves to spell check, is our Facebook Queen; a proud mom because she will always let you know what the kids are doing

Tracey- the single blond; our friend from the south; reliable; the southern but milder version of Kelly & Jolene; will travel anywhere you want her to

Jolene-The other crazy gal; the true reader of the group & the Minnesota version of Kelly; life of the party; always has a great story

Megan- The brain, the rational one, our theorist; the one that can dissect a situation and give you the greatest piece of advice ever & a mom

Lorraine- Never relaxes; loves a good story and will go to the mat for you with anything and anyone; loyal to the end; someone you definitely want on your side; the tough one of the group; serious & a mom

Sue- our chatterbox, always on the phone so doesn’t have time to read; the work-a-holic; the non-reader but loves the discussion; has a dry sense of humor but you can harass her to no end & a mom

Nathan- The geek; our tech wizard; the go to guy for all things male; always asking questions; is curious & like our little annoying brother

For one thing, we can all agree as to how we see one another and respect each other for all the idiosyncrasies that make us up.

13 years ago, when Kelly started working for a new company, Jan was Kelly’s trainer. Jan being so calm and nice made Kelly feel the most comfortable in the scary back-stabbing world she was entering. A few years later as Kelly changed roles she started working with Megan, they didn’t hit it off at the first and basically ignored each other just to try and keep the peace & their jobs. Sure enough as time went on they learned to respect each other and wound up becoming great friends. During this time, Kelly started a new position and found herself managing a group of people that included, Tracey, Lorraine & Sue. Sue really didn’t like Kelly when she had to report to her because Sue was not used to having someone challenge her to her potential. Sue has since moved on to bigger and better things and has not only thanked Kelly for the challenge but has formed a close bond with her that surprise most because they are so different.

Lorraine and Tracey were always the easy going ones. Tracey, being in North Carolina had it made because her team was in NJ. She really only needed to speak to Kelly when there was a problem at work. When Kelly left, they kept in touch like you would when you were younger with pen pals and would talk about boys and TV shows. Lorraine on the other hand hated that Kelly left. She always felt that Kelly was the kind of boss that took the time to listen and guide her through difficult situations and was a sounding board. There was a period of time when Lorraine didn’t speak to her when she left. After awhile, Lorraine felt that bygones should be bygones and they chatted over a cup of tea.

In need of a new person on her team, Kelly remembered what Jan had done on that very first day and hired Jan to round out the group. Kelly never really wanted to manage people and never expected that once leaving that department she would remain close with these gals. She thought she would move on as most do and see them in the hallways, maybe they would say hello to her maybe they wouldn’t. Only time would tell. After a few weeks passed, they realized they missed speaking and started going to lunch during the work day and commiserate with one another about their jobs. There was something different about each of them.

Kelly wound up having to go to Kansas. She thought this would be the worse trip ever; she not only had to drive 3 hours from the airport to her destination but also had to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with people she didn’t know. It was dreadful. As she walked into the conference room that morning, a girl sits there and looks up and says, “Hi, I am Jolene”. Kelly being spunky and not loving she was in Kansas replies back with a comment that some might take as rude and ask, “Oh like the Dolly Parton song”. Now if you know about the song Jolene, it’s about a seductress taking another woman’s man. Jolene busts out laughing and says, “Yup, that’s me”. You know how they say everyone has a twin out there, well, needless to say, the trip wound up to be the start of 2 gals finding that they were each others twin.

Ahhhhhhhh, how can we forget, this Kansas trip was also when Nathan came along. Nathan latched on to these 2 women for dear life. He became the little brother they never expected. He called them, emailed them and basically entered our lives without them ever saying ok. He joked with them, made fun of them and also would listen to them when they complained. He wound up leaving where he was working and applied for a job at their company; he got it.

Now that all the friendships had been made, it took one suggestion from Jolene about reading a book to set this little group in a frenzy over Marshall and his books. It was The Rabbit Factory. Well, after reading a review of the book, Kelly was stoked. A murder takes place at a Disney-esque type of place. Could it be? A story she had been waiting for her whole life. They read, they called each other everyday to talk about; they competed to see who was reading the fastest, breakfast, lunch, dinner everything was about The Rabbit Factory and Marshall. They wanted more; they needed more, they needed to know what else this man has done!!!!! Jan found his webpage; they memorized everything on it, they found out there was another book!!!! Kelly loved the story so much she sent an email to this author. She told everyone the next day. They laughed, she laughed, he would never write back; he is too big for them, why would he care what you thought about his book, she chalked it off to an oh well I still told him how I felt kind of moment, even though everyone knew she wouldn’t get a reply.

The next day, they all FREAKED!!! He replied, MARSHALL KARP REPLIED!!!!!!!! What did it say, what did it say, they all yelled!!!! Kelly told them line by line, they sat with their jaws dropped. He has another book coming out in March, OH MY GAWD said in the heaviest of Jersey accents! They were flipping out (no pun intended)!!! He wanted to know who they were, where they were from and even gave them a book suggestion for their next read. They were floored, write him back, write him back they were all chanting. Kelly feeling under pressure tried her best to tell this man their little story. They all knew it by heart but how do you explain the little details while under pressure. She gave him a quick overview of where they were all from & how they loved his stories.

And so, the exchanges with Marshall began and the Fanne Fatales & Nate got their name.

Always,
Your Stalkers Forever

The Fanne Fatales & Nate posted on May 15, 2009 2:41 PM
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