In Film

“I’m coming to D.C. in February. Any chance we might meet up?” read the message from Leilani some time late last year. I don’t think I wasted much time responding, “of course! I’ll come to you!” I already knew that my one little word for 2019 was going to be “connect” and there was no way I was missing this particular opportunity to live my word.

Lei and I have known each other for maybe 9 – 10 years, I can’t be sure. Internet years are a little different than calendar years, aren’t they? Thank the powers that be that saw to it that on this day in this bizarre winter of very little precipitation but oh so many snow days and late arrivals both my kids got to school as planned. And on a brisk but brilliant February Monday I went into the city to meet an old friend for the first time.

It’s always so amazing to stand in front of the flesh and blood version of the virtual person you’ve come to think of as a real friend and common traveler through the days of your life. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the thrill and shock of it. I’m pretty sure we stood and stared at each other for a second or two – taking a beat to shift our 2-D images of each other in three dimensions. Then we had a bear hug to end all bear hugs and were off.

Insider tip – a Monday in February may well be the best time to visit the almost always teeming National Mall. We had entire galleries to ourselves, and I was able to take Leilani to so many of my very favorite places in a number of museums. Being able to share these national treasures – spaces and artworks – that I hold as sacred with a kindred spirit, was an honor and a delight.

We didn’t stop talking the entire day, even through our shooting, except for those few moments when the art or architecture overwhelmed Leilani completely and rendered her temporarily speechless. Her ability to marvel and wonder is such a beautiful thing to observe. She manages to bottle that awe in her photographs. I encourage you to go see that for yourself.

Watching her experience places I love, but know well, helped me to see them with again fresh eyes. Our few hours together were such a gift!

Make your connections in real life whenever you can, friends, and always, keep your eyes wide open!


  1. Debbie, You’ve just described a dream I have – to meet up in person with a few of my online friends. Like you and Leilani, there are friends I’ve kept in touch with for years. I’ve watched their work unfold and we’ve encouraged each other along the way. I am happy you shared this day with your friend! I don’t live far from DC, but we don’t make the trip often (darn traffic!), but you’ve inspired me to make a day trip soon. And I visited Leilani’s Instagram and her work is amazing, so vulnerable and bold at the same time. Thanks for this story that made my day!

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