Friday, March 28, 2014 • 4:38 AM Comments (4)

Virtual Water Coolers in the Real World

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Essentially, that bin is my office.

The two best ways I’ve found to have an office water cooler (of sorts) are these: one, ensure others work in or near your house and two, plug into social media. I have positive experience with both.

Our first year in this house, we rented the top floor apartment to a lovely couple with a baby and for many of those months, the husband worked from home. We often stood in the hallway upstairs and chatted. We thought the house required a water cooler, but we never got one.

What’s more, their baby was less than a year younger than ours, so we had play dates upstairs or downstairs after “school” but before bed. It was a pretty dreamy situation.

Then, they up and moved to California for job purposes and I was really sad. This two-family situation totally worked for me. We’ve had a run of fantastic people living in our midst (and under our roof) for all these years, actually, more of them in barter situations than rentals—and I never want to live in complete single family isolation if I can help it.

Anyway, soon enough, our friend, who happens to be Remy’s godfather and is a terrific carpenter/contractor (Ted Giles) moved his woodshop to our top barn. Thus, I have some water cooler action when he’s around.

As a writer, social media is intriguing for many reasons, one of them its water cooler function. Monday, I got a message from one of my blogosphere buddies. Damaris was basically driving through and could we meet for a few minutes and have a real-life hug? Heck, yes. We did (no paparazzi were there) and I met her kids and husband and she met my son. My son said, as we walked onward (we met by the Campus Center at Smith, true story, although she’s a Mount Holyoke grad and I’m a Hampshire College grad), how “totally nice” they were, as if surprised by that. I wasn’t. I have always known that however unlikely it seems that a feminist Mormon food blogger and a feminist, nominally Jewish not-food blogger would adore each other, we already do. We’ve forged a friendship over years.

How glad I was to learn she took her family to the Eric Carle Museum (website redesign alert--fabulous) the very next day, a trip she’d wanted to make with her kids before she had any kids (but was a student down the road).

On Monday night, my writing group that organized itself from the crew of contributors to Full Grown People met, courtesy of technology (Google hangout). We critiqued and mostly kvelled and exchanged ideas about where to send the essays we’d read and we bonded over the lifey-ness our essays reveal. It’s not the same as sitting in one room together. On the other hand, we spanned space and time—Hawaii to the East Coast and in between. Cool beans.

So, in that power to the Internet spirit, please support my virtual bowl-a-thon efforts for the National Network of Abortion Funds and the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts. It’s easy. It’s access. My virtual efforts help real women in real need of agency over their lives. Access is real—and access is in real jeopardy.

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