Monthly Archives: February 2014

The End of the Anonymous Care Package

Robin Botie's friend's daughter packs her stuff into a plastic shipping envelope in Ithaca, New York.We’re not at our sharpest in the throes of grief. Even 3 years into healing from the loss of my daughter, I have to be wary of my emotional responses to situations. Like recently when an anonymous package was mailed to me containing a 2-piece bathing suit, an expensive cellphone, 2 hundred-dollar bills, a postcard addressed “Lover” and assorted items related to staying healthy (see previous post). 2 days after I published the article about receiving this “care package,”

* after inspecting and inventorying the contents with the State Police
* after visits to Verizon to recycle or switch over to the new phone
* after spending $20 at the Computer Room to try to reset the phone
* after posting thank yous to my unknown benefactor on Facebook and Twitter
* after giving away half the money and using half the remainder to make a care package for a friend who just lost her husband
* after several sleepless nights wondering if some crazed guy from West Virginia who’d found my address was going to show up at my house
* and after 10 days on a wild ride trying to figure out who sent the package and why, and how I should be feeling about this gift –

I got an email from my friend’s daughter:

Robin, it’s my package!! It’s all my stuff!!!
I’m so sorry! It is extra things that I didn’t want to continue carrying and Mom suggested I mail it to you so we could pick it up … I thought she would have told you. I’m so sorry I didn’t include a letter – it was a last minute scramble to pack and get to the airport.
I feel so silly and sad. I hope this doesn’t disappoint you, but clarifies a huge mystery. I couldn’t believe as I read your blog post…. Wow.

Suddenly my emotions were exploding in every direction once more:

* This meant I did not get a Valentine’s Day care package after all.
* There was no more kind but kinky secret admirer.
* The prayer for happiness was not for me.
* Good thing I didn’t trade in the cellphone or throw out the sim card.
* I have to replace the money I spent.
* How will I tell my readers? It’s so embarrassing.
* Why the heck didn’t she put her name somewhere in the damn package so I could have been spared all this?

But mostly I’m laughing because this was something my own daughter would have done. And the whole thing was pretty silly.


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Gift for the Grieving

lovelightpower “I didn’t order anything,” I say to the lady at the Post Office as I sign for a bulging package. “No name or return address on this. Isn’t that strange?”

“I’m curious too now,” she says and offers me a scissor. Opening the plastic envelope, I halfway pull out a belt and two articles of clothing. I hastily sift through the contents for a card. There is none. So I ask her to trace the package. But searching the number on the tracking slip yields nothing more than the name of a small postal unit in West Virginia. “Maybe you have a secret admirer,” she says, as I wonder how to thank the sender.

When I get home I empty the envelope onto the kitchen counter. The two articles of clothing turn out to be a two-piece bathing suit. I’m squirming because it looks like my size. I rifle through maps of shrines to hike to in Japan, a blank journal, an opened bag of cough drops, a Thai recipe book, … When I unwrap an expensive I-5 cellphone and two hundred-dollar bills, I throw everything back into the envelope, put the whole thing outside in case it’s a bomb, and call the State Police.

Four hours later, standing over my counter between the immaculately polished state trooper and my tattooed son in his undershirt, we’re discussing remote detonation devices, secret surveillance cameras, stolen cellphones rigged with porn videos or obscene messages, and anthrax scares. Is the half-used sheet of decongestant pills and container of candy-laxatives really illegal drugs? I’ve landed in the middle of a strange movie involving high tech identity theft and gangland mystery.

“This is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” the trooper says. He inventories each of the twenty items as I suffer hot flashes and chills. From the back of the phone he un-tapes a postcard with a message that begins, “Lover.” I recall the recent shout-out on Twitter from my son’s friend, Jon Bones Jones, advising his followers to check out my website; within seconds a tweet had come back calling me “a hottie.” Then and now, I cling to my cover:

“I’m just a heartbroken grieving mother, my kid died, I’m a mess, I’m almost 63, no one should want me.”

“Did you mention you were sick recently?” the trooper asks. “There’s aspirin and cold remedies, Kleenex, vitamin supplements and a prayer from a temple. There seems to be some cultural thing we don’t understand here. Someone cares about your health.”

Or my sender also knows loss. I take another look at this anonymous care package. At the phone that turns out is not stolen but is locked, unusable, into a TMobile account. At the warm red design on the handmade coaster. I’m still wondering what to make of this gift. But I pass the maps and half the money on to my friend’s son, an exchange student in Japan who needs cash. I start a care package for a friend who just lost her husband.

And I tape the paper with the  prayer for happiness to my wall.


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Valentines for the Lost and Lonely

Valentines for the Lost and Lonely“Its heart is broken,” I say, to the woman at the counter, holding up a damaged box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. I buy it anyway. Plus ten Mozart chocolate balls. The shelves around me drip pink and red heart-shaped boxes and stuffed animals with bows. I hug my purchase and tell myself it’s “from Marika,” the daughter I loved so much that my heart broke when she died. On this holiday, one of her favorites, I will treat myself the way I treated her for twenty years; I will spoil myself.

For days I had listened with envy as my married and partnered friends yammered on about the jewels they got last year, the gifts they are expecting, and where they will be taken for dinner. I would not be receiving any bracelets or chocolate.  No chance this year; the men in my life being my son, my cat, Anderson Cooper of CNN nightly news, and this picture I took of an ancient Mesopotamian genie at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that’s sat on my desk for months waiting to be photo-shopped. If I wanted Valentine’s Day to happen, I would have to give up my lost and lonely cover. I would have to become the angel with the arrow.

So I mailed out cheerful cards to my mother, my Aunt Bope and friends who, like me, don’t have Valentine dates this year. And I lined up a dinner and chick flick with a neighbor for evening of the 14th. Then, in honor of my chemo warriors, survivors and deceased, I donated blood. Listening to the special V-Day music mix on the CD my daughter had made, I photo-shopped Facebook valentines for friends and made a list for Friday the 14th:

Send mushy email shout-out to my son.

Light an online candle for my father.

Light real candle and drink port for the memory of his mother, my beloved Omi Rosie.

Post online valentines and good cheer.

I feel like the Valentine fairy. In this coldest winter, I flit around crazily looking for good cheer to pass on. This holiday is just a silly opportunity to send out some welcome sweetness and warmth. But someone somewhere said the best way to mend a broken heart is to keep giving love to others. I say it’s to remember that life ends but love can live forever.

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Tweeting to Heal

friend of Robin Botie in Ithaca, New York, calls out her window to blue twittwer birdsWhat if, at any time of day or night, we could open our windows and yell out to the world who we are and what we need? And then be recognized and responded to?
“I’m Robin Botie. I lost my daughter to leukemia 3 years ago. I wrote a book and want to get it published. Please follow

There’s something compelling about being heard and validated, and the image of people all over Earth hanging out howling. With this in mind, I brought home 2 books about Twitter for the weekend. In between morning hikes and Super Bowl commercials I would try to gain some understanding about this online site that promises community, connection, sharing, and conversations that flow around the world.

On it feels like I’m in a crowded marketplace in another country where vendors scream in foreign languages from every direction to attract my attention.  The books tell me I can find people with similar interests, and even agents and publishers on Twitter. But reading the opening chapters, I am horrified to learn that for months I have been tweeting all the wrong things. Twitter etiquette demands you give thanks or praise to others, or share useful news, or, if you must direct attention to yourself, you may tout some wonderful accomplishment. All in no more than 140 characters including punctuation and spaces.

Envious of friends’ networking successes, I am determined to make Twitter work for me. I will get subscribers to my blog and feel validated in my online community among more than half a billion active users. Maybe I will attract an agent to my site. Maybe someone from a big publishing house will tweet me back, “ Your writing is superb. I want to publish your book.”

My son’s friend sends out a tweet, “Take a look my friends moms website and blog, and follow her.” Jon Bones Jones has 800,000 followers. Surely a few of these folks have lost someone or something and will want to see my photos and read my stories about climbing up and out of grief. With fists clenched under my nose, I watch the screen. A tweet comes back almost immediately.

“robin botie is a hottie!”

My social media mentor, Simply Franee, calls me.
“Robin, you had 600 new visitors to your site on Sunday.” That’s neat, I’m thinking, now totally obsessed with calculating my responses to stay under 140 characters. And I’ve grown inches taller, my head in the clouds, remembering that I’m “a hottie.”

What do you think of Twitter?

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