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There I sat, cross-legged on my bedroom floor watching TV. And there they sat; Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd and Ellen Burstyn, laughing, joking and teasing each other -- talking with Oprah about "secrets." For me, at least initially, the secret was trying to figure out what a Ya-Ya is. I definitely felt like I was missing out on something.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is one of the standout hits of 2002. Rebecca Wells' "chick-flick," based on her best seller, is set in a sleepy Louisiana town where a group of lifelong friends help a girlfriend forgive and finally accept her exceptionally eccentric mother. These friends constitute a Ya-Ya sisterhood.

But I wonder what a Ya-Ya really is, how I get one, and why it's so divine. Finally, Oprah asks what it means, and Bullock answers, "…the talking, the gab -- conversation."

That's it? All the hype is just about "conversation?"

That's it.

Sisters in Spirit by Monica Stewart
Sisters in Spirit
by Monica Stewart

Now I understand. A Ya-Ya sisterhood is a group of friends who are always there for each other. And right here, invading my bedroom via my television screen, are all these groups of visiting Ya-Yas showing Oprah pictures from their Ya-Ya meetings. I felt pitiful… bemoaning the fact that I wasn't anyone's Ya-Ya.

I called my oldest daughter to ask her what was wrong with me. She reminded me of our family bonds, a sisterhood of sorts. I happily agreed, assured and buoyed up by my sensitive and nurturing child. As I rested the phone back on its cradle, it occurred to me that I am part of another amazing Ya-Ya group -- outside my family.

A Ya-Ya Cyberhood that includes sisters -- and a few brothers, too. My Ya-Ya, a hard-working group of writers, offers support extraordinaire.

When my mother grew too weak to care for herself and moved in with my family, they were there -- in love and spirit. When she died, my electronic mailbox overflowed with messages of comfort, consolation, prayer and expressions of the truest kind of friendship. These were no longer just cyber friends. They became, in the most exquisite sense of the word, my best friends, and they're awesome.

When someone sells a book or an article, everyone does our "happy dance." It can be downright embarrassing when they decide to do it naked.

When one of us suffers rejection, the others quickly offer encouragement and assurance of the writer's brilliance and talent. The losers soon become those readers who weren't allowed to experience such profundity.

In our deep connection, we also share pain and sorrow.

Whether a friend has died unexpectedly, a loved one has committed suicide, or a family is falling apart… our hearts are safe in the hands of our e-family, and there are tears for each other's pain or grief.

And then, oh my goodness! There's the fun. The Rolling-On-The-Floor-Laughing-Out-Loud kind of fun.

I remember one morning in particular. I climbed out of bed, fell over the dog (or fell over the dog getting out of bed), then stubbed my toe as I ran to answer the phone I could hear ringing but couldn't find. Finally, I spied the evil phone-antenna peeking out from under the chair on the other side of the room. As I leapt over the back of the couch to grab it, I landed on a dog wanting to play this fun game with me. The silent phone mocked me.

Trying to catch my breath, I stumbled to the kitchen for coffee. Cold. The pot has a "most convenient" automatic shut-off. And since I didn't roll out of bed at 5 a.m. with my husband, hot was no longer an option.

Continuing on my breakfast adventure, I decided to just have toast. Comfort food. One piece of bread -- with mold on it -- remained. I moved on to the possibility of cereal. However, my husband had finished the cereal and the milk. Well -- forget phone; forget breakfast.

Switch gears. Check email.

First message began: Warning: do not read with a mouthful of coffee…

I grinned from ear to ear, knowing my day had just been given a new beginning. The smile stayed with me the rest of the day. I silently thanked my friends.

A group of individuals I've never met -- yet I feel closer, more trusting of them than all those "friends…but-not-really" I've ever had. I realize I'm almost deliriously happy as a thriving, reciprocal member of my own cyber Ya-Ya sister- and brotherhood.

Wells' Web site, "Ga-Ga for Ya-Yas," reminds me that the she has touched thousands of lives across the country. It really is all about that dynamic web of kinship, friendship, love, and loyalty.

I experience a moment of epiphany. Awareness is awesome.

My Ya-Ya Cyberhood really is … divine.

Bio: At her website, writer/editor/researcher and writing instructor Edwina King Lewis shares her experience, some favorite links, her special interests and dreams. Find out more about Edwina at www.edwinalewis.com.

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