January 31, 2010

Working from Home - Part 1

So here it is, the end of my first week as a full-time freelance artist.  It feels weird to say that!

How many of you reading this work out of your house?  If any of you do, I'm sure that you're familiar with everything I'm about to say.

For the past seven years, I have had a 40 hour/week job where I leave the house, put in my time and come home.  So this week was the first time since late 2002 where I've been at home (besides vacation) more than weekends.  And when I did work part time before, my other time consisted of watching a LOT of TV.

Not so anymore!  This week, needless to say, has been an eye-opener.  From actual studio time, to ordering business cards, opening business accounts at the bank, setting up my new-and-improved Etsy shop and ordering supplies - it's been a CRAZY week!  I knew there was going to be a lot to do but I completely underestimated all that opening a business, however small, entails.  Because Brian's been through all of this before, he has been a godsend as far as helping me out.  He has thought of things I would've completely overlooked.

The first thing that surprised me is how little time I spent in the studio.  Monday and Friday were great days, and I'm sure now that I have things set up and in place, there'll be more time this week to simply create.  I have an Etsy showcase coming up on Tuesday, so I want to be sure that I have enough pendants to sell for that.  I did have my first sale this week (see the photo on the left) - that was fantastically rewarding! 

I have already learned so much about the discipline that it takes to be your own boss.  In every job I've ever held, I was given tasks to do and I did them (most of the time) willingly and cheerfully.  It was, after all, what I was paid to do.  I enjoyed the "menial" tasks the most, because when filing, data entry and processing jobs are done, they're done and there was (for me anyway) a sense of accomplishment.  This new stage in my life is completely foreign to me.  The freedom to do what I want, when I want is a little overwhelming.  I sometimes feel like I'm getting away with something if I take 45 minutes for lunch rather than a half hour.  I actually talked on the phone a couple of times this week - and I felt guilty about it!  Now granted, I also worked about 9-10 hours a day as opposed to the normal 8, so it evened itself out.  I still make my ATCs at night, too - but that's my "fun" work (even though it's all so fun!).

I'm sure I'll be writing more later about this new adventure but in the meantime, I can't wait for the new week to start!  Art rules!  :D

January 29, 2010

Feeling Emotive :D

Because I collect all kinds of ephemera, it's natural that I have some fantastic old letters in my collection.  My favorite is a love letter from a suitor to his beloved named Florence Pettigrew (GREAT old name!) dated December of 1909.  There is no name given for him - it's written on hotel stationery (see the photo, left).  It's very sweet, and you can tell they were truly in love - the last line of the letter is, "Goodnight, my dearest.  Oh how I love and want you! As with you the only thing that seems worthwhile is being with you. - Your Boy".

*SWOON*!  Isn't that wonderful?  But who writes like that anymore?  Who writes anymore, period?  It's been a very long time since I've gotten a love letter so I wonder - do people text their devotion now?  These days, is it considered "formal" if the love letter is in the form of an e-mail?

To be fair, I've scrutinized my own writing and I am embarrassed to discover (well, I already knew, actually) that I use FAR too many emoticons.

It's an addiction, really.  If you were to check my Facebook page, nearly every, if not all, of my status updates feature this guy:  :D .  It's my "I'm super happy!" emoticon, and it has become ubitquitous, perhaps even synonymous, with my posts.  I checked back on my most recent status update, and here's how is reads, verbatim:
"Hooray!  I made it to W5RAN again!  :D  Thanks D'Ette!!"  (I won't even discuss my overuse of exclamation points.)

Now, it's not a put-on that I am actually quite thrilled that D'Ette Cole, proprietress of the website W5RAN.com, used another of my ATCs on her website.  It's a fantastic site, and I'm very flattered that she likes my work.  But couldn't I have just said that I was happy that W5RAN used my work?

Imagine if we had texting 400 years ago; maybe Romeo & Juliet look like this:
"Yo Ro - where U at - hate on my daddy & C U later!!!  :P"
Doesn't have quite the same panache, does it?

I was going to do an experiement whereby I denied myself any smiley faces or exclamation points for a whole day, but I know I can't do it.  If I'm commenting on someone's photo on Flickr, would the person rather see, "COOL!!!  I love this!!!", or "Great photo."?  I just can't convey my excitement over the Interweb without aid.  The only place I can write well, it seems, is right here.  And even that is questionable.  :D

See?!?  I can't stop!  Help!!  :D 

January 27, 2010


By now, you've probably heard about the new iPad that Apple put out today - sounds like a feminine hygiene product to me!  I haven't taken a good look at the features yet but I'm sure we'll hear all about it in the coming days (and more jokes about the name, too!).

To me, though, this new gadget is just another in a long line of devices that I'll probably never use.  Call me old school but I'm sitting at a desk, using a keyboard, on a PC.  Not a laptop, not a notebook, not a smartphone - just a regular old computer.

My question is, at what point did using a computer become old school?  I'm sure the majority of people still use one, but I'll bet that in 5 years I'll be in the minority.  I'm not against new stuff - hey, when your husband develops websites for a living you live with new stuff - but doesn't it seem like the new stuff is coming at us faster than ever?

Last night Brian and I were watching a rerun of Modern Family, this really funny new sitcom.  The jist of the episode was that the wife couldn't work any of the remotes or electronics.  We both laughed really hard because it mirrored our household completely.  I swear I'm not making this up, but I can't turn on our TV downstairs.  Brian has always done it, and I wouldn't know where to begin.  Don't even get me started on the Blu-Ray player.  And everything I know about this here computer thingy is because of Brian.  He has the patience of a saint.  Honestly, I wouldn't even know how to upload photos if it weren't for him!

As I was walking on the treadmill this morning, listening to my iPod (that, I can use!), a Frank Sinatra song came on.  This reminded me of my dad, because he loved Sinatra.  And then I started thinking about how much he would've loved the iPod.  He died a year before they became mainstream but I know if he could've he would've owned one.  He was the first person on our block to have a Walkman (he was also the first person I knew to walk for his health - in the 70's, NO ONE walked - why would you?).  He also was the first person in our neighborhood to have a boombox, which made us very popular with the kids on our street.  My dad loved gadgets, and he was great at figuring them out.  Too bad I didn't inherit that trait!

Just think of the advance of electronics since the Walkman!  It makes me wonder what life is going to be like in 2040.  I'll be 71.  Hey, maybe by then we'll all have robot maids!  Or Hovercars!  Or those cool toilets like they have in Japanese restaurants!  Maybe we'll just have our computers wired right into our brains.  Which would be great for me, since then I wouldn't have to figure out how to use it.

January 26, 2010

Plastic - Fantastic?

Okay, most of you who read my blog know that I'm not really one for celeb gossip - I couldn't possibly care less who's going crazy this week.  But I heard via my sister Jen about that Heidi Montag plastic surgery debacle, where she had 10 procedures done in one day.  Because I couldn't believe that anyone could be so vain (or stupid), I had to check it out for myself.  This time, the tabloids got it right.  YIKES!!

Basically, she had a bunch of stuff done to her face (brow lift, collagen injections to her cheeks and lips, redone nose job, ears pinned back, etc. etc. etc.) and a lower body liposuction and boob job.

Are you FREAKIN' KIDDING ME?!?  This girl is 23 years old - we're not talking Phyllis Diller or Joan Rivers here!!!  Word is that she's obsessed with fame, that she'll do anything for the attention, blah blah blah.  Of course, this little twit didn't have these things done because she was getting older (she couldn't - she was born 3 months after I graduated from high school!), she just didn't like how she looked.  But what about those of us over a "certain age" - or as I like to call it, 40?

Right around this time, one of my facebook friends posted as his status that he thought that plastic surgery didn't make one look younger; it just made one look like they had plastic surgery.  I "liked" the comment, because I happen to agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly.  I believe I also commented along the lines of "I have never seen a celeb who looks better because of it (the surgery)."

Well, one of his other contacts shot back at me and said, "Well, Mel, perhaps when you turn 40 you'll see things differently.  A tuck here and there isn't a bad thing sometimes."  I laughed out loud when I read this, because little did this guy know that I am, in fact, 41.  Jason, my facebook friend who wrote the initial status, told the other contact this bit of information and the conversation stopped right there.  But I had to chuckle on that one.

I've been told my many people that I look young for my age and yes, I guess I do.  I think part of it is that I just don't care.  I've never used wrinkle creams, never tried to conceal anything with make-up, and I'm a tad on the heavier side right now so whatever wrinkles I do have are probably plumped up (so go ahead, ladies -  have another piece of pie!  It cures wrinkles!).  Even when I do get wrinkles, though, I won't care.  Why should I?  It's not like I can literally turn back time with "reparations"!  Whether I look it or not, I will continue to age. 

And let's get to the real problem here - what is so wrong with getting older?  Let's put aside for a minute that tiresome double standard of aging men = distingushed vs. aging women = old bats.  Why are we all so afraid of what lies ahead?  Because we won't be attractive to the opposite sex anymore?  Because we won't be able to party as much as we'd like?  Because stuff sags after awhile?

How about the great things about getting older, and these are things I've noticed already - I've stopped caring what other people think about me; I am finally learning from my mistakes; I'm not sweating the small stuff; I don't take things like my health or my family for granted anymore.  I'm not saying these are lessons that everyone has to learn - maybe you were lucky and learned them early on - but aren't these far better things to dwell on than whether or not that cute boy at the mall will notice you, even though he's 27 and you're 45?  Do you really want to live in Cougartown?

I do wish that our culture wasn't so obsessed with how we look.  At what point will our personalities cease to be important?  Will we stop connecting with people because they don't look as good as we'd like them to?  Where does it end?

January 25, 2010

Feeling "Geri"

As I'm waiting to go to the bank to set up the new checking account for Brian's and my new joint art venture, I was ruminating on the grocery shopping trip I just took. 

Firstly, grocery shopping at 8 a.m. ROCKS.  I had the store to myself!  I don't know where all the seniors were - maybe they had a rough night at the casino or something.  Either that or they were through shopping at 6.  But I know now that 8 on a Monday morning is the Magic Hour.  Here's something else that may seem apparent to anyone over 50 but took me awhile to learn:  Buy the Sunday paper!  I mean, I've had a subscription for 5 years but I never took the time to clip coupons.  By the simple act of looking through the glossy flyers that come with the paper, I saved 8 bucks today!  Combine that with the in-store savings and my 2-week grocery bill went from $210 to.....wait for it....97 bucks.  That's like a 55% savings, my friends!!

Now, keep in mind that I am also not buying convenience foods anymore - goodbye, delicious but expensive sushi platter and ready-made quiche!  Goodbye, Lean Cuisines!  Goodbye, ridiculously priced lasagna!  (By the way, all those things that I just named?  If you total them up, it's a savings of $62 every two weeks.  EGADS!).

Okay, I just reread this and I do realize that I sound like I'm the crabby old lady that holds everyone up by paying by check and double-checking with the cashier that she indeed got all of those coupons but still disputing every sale price on the print-out.  I can assure you that I do none of these things, in case you were wondering.  :)

The moral of the story?  It pays to do research and make stuff from scratch.  Although, I may be retracting that statement after Brian eats my home cookin'.  I'll let you know.

January 23, 2010

Last Day

You know how it is, when you know it's the last of something?

Actually, if you really think about it, we don't often know when it's the last of something, and I think it's better that way.  Imagine going through life knowing it was going to be the last time you ever ate chocolate (because of an impending allergy). Or saw your house (because it burned down the next day).  Or had a good night's sleep (because of a bout of insomnia that would eventually last the rest of your life).  Egads!  We'd be blubbering piles of goo!!

But alas, I did happen to know that it was going to be my last day of work yesterday, because I had made that decision a little over two weeks ago (I believe my last day at work was overshadowed by some other guy's last day at work, though!).  It was the longest day at work that I've ever had - I had run out of work to do by 11:30 (and I had to be there until 4).  Pair that with the anticipation of a fun going-away party, and you've got yourself one heck of an impatience sandwich.

By the time 4 o'clock rolled around, I was quite ready to get the heck outta there.  I went around to all the departments and quickly said my good-byes, so as not to prolong the agony (I think part of leaving is knowing WHEN to leave - is there anything worse than that guy who doesn't know when to call it quits?).

I was very, very moved by everyone's well-wishes yesterday and the day before, when the Finance department threw me a HUGE going-away potluck complete with a cake, a lovely card (signed by everyone at the RepAction), a generous gift certificate and a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  It was the finest send-off one could ever hope for, and I will never forget it as long as I live.  Honestly, I felt like I was retiring!  In a way, maybe I was.

So with that, I would like to extend the largest THANK YOU I can muster to everyone that I've worked with over the last 4 1/2 years.  I count my years at The Reporter as some of the best times I've ever spent at a job, and I mean that with all sincerity.  It was a truly fun place to work (99 % of the time!), and I will miss everyone dearly.  I always felt like I was part of something important, and I worked with people who put their heart and soul into their work every day.  It was a truly wonderful experience.

As I move on to something completely different, I will take with me the things that I've learned from this job - patience, perseverance, integrity - and incorporate those things into my new work.  I'm so grateful to have learned these valuable lessons with people I truly treasure.  That was the best gift of all.

January 19, 2010


I don't know why it's been happening so much lately, but my head is filled with earworms (no, not earwigs - that's an altogether different story for a different time).

What's an earworm?  You've all had one - it's that damn song that you cannot remove from your brain, no matter how hard you try and force it out.  Arrgh!!

I'd bet that all of us reading this have at least one Facebook friend that, if not now, then last week, had "Pants on the Ground" as their status update.  This is the classic earworm.  This is the type of song that one may not even enjoy, not even remotely - yet it still has managed to creep into one's subconscious and drive a person insane.  I don't even watch "Idol" and it happened to me - but the Jimmy Fallon-as-Neil Young version.  Have you seen it?  It's marvelous.  I highly suggest viewing the video, even if you can't abide "Pants" any longer (P.S. - as I was grabbing the URL for this clip, I noticed that "Neil Young" has also covered the theme from "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air".  Great.). 

I've noticed also that when I catch myself singing something to myself, I can sometimes tell what mood I'm in by the song I'm singing.  For example, I've had "Fireflies" by Owl City in my head on and off for about the past three months.  I love this song, in spite of myself (one of my friend's husbands said, "It's one of the stupidest songs I've ever heard - and I really like it."  Yes!).  So when this song is in my head, I can pretty much bet that it's going to be a good day.  It's like humming "Happy Together" or "More Today than Yesterday" - you're probably not going to have to be talked down off the ledge if you're thinking of these songs.  Conversely, if I have "The Other Side" by David Gray spinning through my cranium, I may as well just stay in bed.

I have to admit - I had a sinister plan when I wrote this entry.  I wanted to get you thinking about your OWN earworms so that I didn't have to suffer alone.  I hope for my sake (and sanity) that it worked.  I hope for your sakes that it didn't.  Heh heh heh.....

January 18, 2010

Some random thoughts about the Golden Globes

So, did any of you watch the Golden Globes last night?  It's one of my favorite awards shows, and I'll tell you why - the stars show their true selves when they drink (or intoxicate themselves in the manner of their choosing - I'm looking at you, Jeff Bridges).  Some earn my respect after that, and some lose it.

Seriously!  Have you ever seen some of those people act so un"star"-like?  It was fantastic.  I also loved the cheap shots that Ricky Gervais took at the actors as a whole, but also individual jabs at people like Mel Gibson & Paul McCartney.  I think Ricky was right when he said he wouldn't be asked back, but I loved his schtick.

Here are a couple of other things I noticed about the evening:

1.  James Cameron is a tool.  In fact, he's the tooliest tool that ever tooled the tool.  Tool.  Seriously - tool.

2.  Why did "The Hangover" win best comedy?  I liked the movie fine, and parts were hilarious, but Best Comedy or Musical?  Really?  Oh, and couldn't you just feel the seething from Meryl Streep?  I mean, they didn't even show her after the announcement of the Hangover win but I swear I could hear the foam coming out of her mouth from the comfort of my living room.  Because Ms. Meryl may appear humbled by every award she gets, but let's be honest - if YOU knew you were the best actress of your generation - hell, let's go so far as to say maybe the best actress EVER - would you really be that humbled?  And maybe, would you start thinking that, just maybe, YOUR movie should've gotten the Best Comedy or Musical award, especially because you were in TWO of the five nominated?  Maybe?  I thought so.

3.  Who seated Paul McCartney next to Julia Roberts?  Didn't that seem totally random?

4.  What was the deal with Robert DeNiro's "sex with film canisters" joke about Martin Scorcese?  Seriously, Bob - let it go.  It was funny the first 30 seconds but after that you ventured into some very odd and disturbing territory (see what I mean about the al-kee-hol showing us what people are really like?).

5.  What percentage of the viewing audience do you really think cares about the Best Foreign Film award?  Oh, you think 1%?  Really?  I think that's high.

So, what was YOUR favorite part of the show?  It didn't have to be a good part, either - maybe it was the hilarious cut to cameras that weren't focused on anything.  Maybe it was the bumpers before and after the commercial breaks where they showed the celebs mingling and seeing them look like deer caught in the headlights because they didn't know the camera was on them (HORRORS!).  It was all good.  I just wished someone would've streaked or something.

January 17, 2010


The old saying goes, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."  I remember seeing this on those old inspirational posters in the 70's - you know, like the kitten hanging by its front paws with the caption, "Hang in there!".  It's a great message, to be sure, albeit a tad hokey.

Flash forward about thirty years.  Back in December, I happened across a trailer for a new doc coming out called "Lemonade".  Unfortunately, I can't remember who of my contacts had posted it as a link on their Facebook page, or I would give them a mention.  I watched the trailer and to say the least, it gave me pause.  To say more than that, it was the start of the end.

"Lemonade" was created by Erik Proulx, a 37 year-old ad exec who lost his job in '08.  He started a website called Please Feed the Animals, a resource for other ad execs who've been laid off.  From the website came the documentary.

When I watched the trailer, I openly wept.  I have been surviving rounds of layoffs at my current job pretty much since Day One (that's 4 1/2 years).  Now, for anyone who has indeed been laid off, you may think to yourself, "Boo hoo, Mel.  You still have your job.  I actually LOST mine."  Excellent point, and one that has hit close to home, as I have lost many, many work friends this way.  At the time that I viewed this, no layoffs were on the horizon and, as far as I know, Gannett is holding off for a while.  But it was at that moment of viewing the trailer that I realized I was nearly at the breaking point.  The stress of wondering when (not if) it was going to be my turn became too much to bear.  So I decided to take matters into my own hands and give this art thing a try.

Now, before you think, "Geez, this doc is a total downer; why would I want to watch something so depressing?", you need to watch it.  Because the layoff part is only the beginning.  The real heart of the movie is the uplifting and inspirational stories behind the people being interviewed - what they did with their lives AFTER the layoffs.  Because most of the people interviewed are ex-ad execs, you're dealing with a very creative bunch.  And yes, in case you're wondering, many of them did have the upstart capital to make their post-career dreams a reality.  But some of the people (including the documentarian himself) bet everything to fund their new lives.

I was talking with a very good friend of mine the other day - she is one of my friends who was a casualty of the layoffs at my workplace.  When I told her I was leaving, and how it'll be interesting to see what life will be like with a 25% decline in our household income, she said to me, "You know, when I first was laid off, the lack of money kept me up nights.  But it's funny - after a while, your budget just adjusts naturally.  You just make do with less, and it's not as bad as it seems at first." 

I can't say enough good about this movie.  It puts everything in perspective, no matter what station you're at in your life.  I admire the tenacity of these folks being interviewed; they could've just landed themselves another ad agency job somewhere else in a scary job market, but they didn't.  They took control of their lives and tried something new.  I never considered myself a risk-taker, but this movie helped me to see that everything is going to be okay.  Really.

Incidentally, one of my Facebook friends, Jennifer White, is trying to get the movie to play in either Milwaukee or Madison, in theaters.  If you'd like to donate to the cause, visit her blog.

January 9, 2010

Following a Dream (Subtitle: Goodbye, Steady Paycheck!) :D

Quite a few things happened this week that set the tone for many years to come.  Have any of you ever had weeks (or days) like that?  Where you could look back on that time years later and realize that it was a turning point for you?

I already know that this week will be fondly (and scarily) remembered for the rest of my life.  You see, I gave my two weeks' notice on Thursday.  Yes, I will be leaving the newspaper industry, most likely for good this time, given its condition (The Reporter was my second paper; the first was the Green Bay Press-Gazette).  I love the newspaper biz and it's very sad to see its decline.  It has been an institution of American life for so long, it sort of feels like an old friend is moving away.  But that's not why I left - I left to follow my dream.

Now comes the scary part - the dream part.  The dream to which I'm referring is my goal of being a professional artist.

I've had some wonderful people help me already in this realm - Carolyn Brady, Gary Warren Niebuhr, Steev Baker, Ronna MogelonJill Berry, Kathy Malkasian (Valley Ridge), Kim Rae Nugent (Raevn's Nest), D'Ette Cole (W5RAN.com) and most recently, Pam Kueber (Retro Renovation).  These fabulous boosters have given me the encouragement and confidence that I need to make this dream a reality.  Without any of them, I would be still be searching for the right avenues to explore.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

The hardest part about following your dream is that it is an uncertain path.  Of course, I have goals that I'd like to attain this year; but unlike a 9-to-5 job, there are many factors that I cannot control.  I'd be lying if I said that I didn't love the security of knowing what I was going to do every day and knowing I was going to get a paycheck at the end of the week.  But as time marched on, I began to realize that the gnawing feeling of doom in the pit of my stomach was not going to go away.  Sure, some of it was due to the layoffs that kept occuring on a regular basis and living in fear of being one of those who were laid off.  But I think more than that was realizing that I could take control and do what I love.  Is it going to be hard work?  Hoo boy.  It is scarier than you-know-what?  Oh, HELL yes.  But I do believe that it's going to be worth it beyond my wildest imagination, and not just monetarily.

Before I conclude this post I would be remiss if I didn't thank my wonderful husband Brian for everything.  He is my rock.

To be continued......  :O)

January 3, 2010

The (Vanishing) Art of Conversation and Small Talk

Well, the holidays are officially over - the trees are losing needles, the leftovers are almost eaten, the gifts are put away, and the party season is winding down.

My sister Jen and I were talking about the parties we attended this year, and the topic turned to interaction amongst fellow partygoers and the interesting social behavior that came of it. 

One party that Jen attended was thrown by the parents of my niece's friend, and the whole family was invited.  My bro in-law Mike had to work, so Jen went with my nieces and Mike met them there later.  Now, Jen had met the dad a few times (he stays home) but never the mom (she works).  The dad greeted Jen at the door but the mom never introduced herself, nor did anyone else there.  So she took a seat by the food.  There was one other couple there that she knew, but that's it.  So there were times that she was sitting there by herself.

She posed the question to me: If I were at a party, and I saw someone sitting by themselves, wouldn't I make a concerted effort to include this person in the conversation?  I of course said yes; nothing is more uncomfortable to me than seeing someone being excluded.  I've always had issues with this - I was the kid who was the first to talk to the new kid in school.  Nine times out of ten we didn't wind up being friends, but I always empathized for the people that were in that situation.  I still do.

Jen and I have never had a problem with striking up a conversation with complete strangers.  Growing up, our mom and dad were quite good at sharing the gift of gab - mom especially.  Because we've been surrounded our whole lives with people (including my very charismatic Grammie) who engaged in the lively art of conversation, we thought nothing of it.  It came very naturally to us, especially in adulthood.  In fact, it was just expected that we behave this way.  So it's always a bit of a surprise to us when we find that many, many people have a hard time with this seemingly innate ability.

Here's the real question:  Why?  Is it because we're so used to just posting things on Facebook now and having people respond?  Is it because, even though most of us are around people all the time, we are so overwhelmed with our daily lives that getting to know someone new feels like a chore?  Or is it because, as a society, we are so narcissistic and me-centered that we've forgotten that good conversations require talking AND listening?

I tend to think that the give-and-take of conversation is a vanishing art.  It's becoming harder and harder to make friends, let alone find people who can engage in a talking-listening dialogue.  I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that many people think that conversing means going on and on about themselves.  Of course, when getting to know someone, one should be genuinely interested in what the other party is saying.  But it has to be a two-way street.  I also find it interesting that the people I've met who go on and on about themselves without reciprocity are also the same people who think that we're great friends, even though they don't know anything about me.

I read in a travel magazine that there is a "salon" in Chicago called the Violet Hour, where conversation is encouraged and cell phones are banned (that's a whole OTHER entry!).  Doesn't that sound wonderful?  I would love to have a place around here to gather with friends, meet new people and talk about IDEAS, rather than just gossip.  I'm glad to see the salon idea being rejuvenated; it scares me that technology could render us unable to interact without the aid of a smartphone.  Because no matter how many "friends" we make on the social networks, we should ask ourselves - how many are true friends?