Love The Kid Whose Name is Left Out for Privacy

The following arrived in my in blog comments this morning.  I saw it when I first woke up, have been thinking about ever since and am thrilled to finally have a second to share it.

Hi! I go to (name of school left out for privacy) school and in Jessie’s grade. She is an amazing girl with a true heart! I know some people are mean to her, but let her know that (name left out for privacy) really does like her.


Wow.  Just wow.

I showed it to Jess and it is safe to say she is pretty much the happiest kid on the planet right now.

She has told me that she is going to give (name left out for privacy) a hug when she sees her.  So, too, am I.

Not so happy about the people being mean to her, however…


Who doesn’t have an email inbox overflowing with crap that we neither care about nor bother reading?  I know that mine is inundated with notices from American Eagle, LLBean, The Vitamin Shoppe, Old Navy, LivingSocial, Groupon and Goldstar[1] and, admittedly, I have managed to miss “important” emails amongst the clutter just like everybody else.  Periodically I will spend some time “unsubscribing” (which, incidentally, doesn’t always work but is remarkably easy to do) and experience, if even temporarily, a little bit of accord in my inbox.  I, along with throngs of other people, do so without fanfare, malice or the need to draw attention.

Well, apparently unsubscribing is meant to be shared as last week I received, in the comment section of this blog , a note that simply said:

Please delete my email address

 Upon initial glance I thought it was spam until I looked further down the page and noticed that it was from someone whom I have known for better than thirty years.  I wasn’t entirely surprised by the request (although I had necessarily anticipated it) but I was surprised by the fact that this someone would take the time to submit a comment as opposed to just, well, unsubscribing.  And, of course, it made me wonder why.[2]

My blog can be unsubscribed to quite simply.  At the bottom of the email it states, as clearly as humanly possible, to click here and voila, you are done.[3]  Frankly, unless I am terribly bored and have scads of time on my hands, I will never scour or even peruse the subscriber list[4] and, therefore, will not even know that you have taken your leave.  (No offense.)  By now (as in 2014) I know of no one who does not know this little trick.  Why, then, did my former subscriber choose to not just click the button but instead made sure to let me know that she[5] could no longer tolerate seeing my posts arrive in her inbox?  Hmmmm.


So I, ever the over-thinker, have been contemplating this for days.  (To be clear, my ruminations are less a function of caring much about this particular person, more about the human condition.) My conclusions:

  1. This person (or anyone who opts to draw attention to an unsubscribing) doesn’t like/enjoy/appreciate/understand/have time for/give a shit about/know how to read what I write;
  2.  Wants me to know that she feels all of the above;
  3. Doesn’t understand how to click on a button that says unsubscribe;
  4. Cannot “tolerate the ambiguity” of the story;
  5. Is sending me a thinly veiled message of her disinterest/discomfort/disdain/discomfort.
  6. She wants me to know how she feels about me…nothing to do with the blog at all.

Contrary to how it might appear (given my dedication of an entire blog post to this transaction) I truly (and proudly) do not care that she is over the blog.  A few years ago (oh, who am I kidding?  A few months ago) it may have upset, angered or concerned me.  I might have even shot back a snippy email.  But no, all I did was send a very friendly email with instructions how to unsubscribe[6] along with well wishes to her and her’s which was only slightly irreverent.

Now I am off to covertly unsubscribe to the emails taunting me in my inbox.

p.s. I just checked to see if she had, indeed, “deleted her email address”…and, in fact, she has.

[1] If you do not know about you should.  Go check it out.  You’re welcome.

[2] Um, have you met me?

[3] I am telling you this as part of the story and, to be clear, not as a suggestion.

[4] Although, to be honest, I have.

[5] That is the most I am going to let on who this person is.

[6] Note: I cannot “delete” a subscriber; it has to be done from their end.  So, armed with that information, you are free to do so.  Although I hope you won’t.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Lisa and Ellen

Everybody has a story.  I have often written these words, but this week I learned two new stories which will stay with me: the stories of Lisa and Ellen.  I have not met either of these women face to face (and likely never will), but did spend a long time chatting with each of them on the phone.  I admire them both for the strength they may not even know they have.

Lisa hit my car in the CVS parking lot.  Had she not left a note I might not have even noticed the scratch and dent on my “rear quarter panel”.  In fact, I almost didn’t even see her note.  I had gotten into my car at the end of a frustrating day[1] and only wanted to get home.  As I drove up the hill nearing my house I saw a small white piece of paper flapping under the wiper blade…never good.

“I am so sorry. I hit your left rear fender.” – Lisa xxxx,

I read the note, which she had written on the back of a receipt from the nail salon in the plaza (a girl after my own heart) and probably swore.  Argh.  My first reaction was that this was going to be a pain in the ass, expensive or just plain unpleasant.  Happily, it was none of the above.

I placed a call to Lisa and got her answering machine and began to leave a message.  It was a real (old fashioned, even) answering machine.  I know this because midway through my speaking she picked up the phone anxiously awaiting my call.  (She has not recognized the number and wanted to see who it was before committing to a “hello”.)  She was the first to speak, apologizing profusely for having hit my car.[2]  I admit to starting out a bit angry (frustrated is probably more appropriate, but I was not prepared to drop anger all together) but that cooled instantly.  She was so genuinely sorry for what was nothing more than the true definition of an accident that it was hard to stay mad.

And then we got to talking.  She told me that she has been a little scattered and distracted as she was beginning chemo the next day.  She did not tell me this to be manipulative, but rather to further explain the depth of her upset over yet another bump in her road.  I hear cancer and immediately forget all about the car.  I ask her how she is feeling, if she is getting plenty of Zofran[3] and how she is holding up.  I share with her that I, too, have had cancer but was fortunate enough to have been spared chemo.  We talked for 45 minutes.  I know that she has never married, is 72 years old, her sister-in-law is also her best friend (and happens to be named Julie) and she lives in the town next to mine.  We talked about great restaurants there.  We talked about losing her hair.  We talked about, almost as an afterthought if she was going to pay for repairs or put it through insurance.  She was utterly lovely.  I think she may even be a nun.

I took the car in for an estimate: $1,400 and four days of labor meaning I will need a loaner.  I have already called my insurance company and we will take care of it all.  I am going to call Lisa this weekend to tell her not to worry about it.  And, more importantly, to see how she is feeling.

And then there is Ellen.  Last night my  phone rang with an unfamiliar number.  I, like Lisa had, hesitated in picking it up but not having a old fashioned answering  machine I knew that if I didn’t pick up, I might have a return phone call to make so, in an unusual move for me, my curiosity won out and I picked up.

Ellen: “May I please speak to Julie”

Me: “Who is calling?”[4]

Ellen: “My name is Ellen, I was given her name and number from Karen at the Dana Farber.”

Now it was I who anxiously admitted she had reached Julie and that I had been expecting her call.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from my fabulous oncology nurse.  With nearly ten years together, we have developed not just a nurse/patient relationship, but a friendship.  (We are even Facebook friends…big doings) When Karen called she asked if it was okay to give someone who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer my name and number as she is trying to decipher the options she is facing in her treatment and wanted to talk to someone who had been there, done that.  Of course I would.

My first question out of the gate was to ask how she was doing.  The time between diagnosis and treatment is horrible, frightening, surreal, obnoxious, overwhelming and, at times, unbearable and she was in the thick of it.  Her response was that she was “half crazed”.  “Only half?!” I retorted.  And she laughed.  An easy, natural and genuine laugh.  And then we talked for over an hour.

I learned that she is married to, and has been with the same woman, for better than twenty years[5].  They moved here from across the country, a move that was difficult for Ellen but she now realizes how deeply she has bonded with her community as evidenced by the outpouring of support, encouragement and love she is receiving.  I told her all about my experience, my fears and how it feels now, nearly ten years later.  I told her to accept offers of dinner, to make this about her and to not worry about not returning calls.  We talked a little bit about Jess[6] in the context of other life issues that don’t go away just because you have cancer.  I offered to show her my boobs, to be available to her as much or as little as she wanted and to answer any question about anything.  I am, as you all know, nothing if not honest. (Aside: Breast cancer messes not only with your body, but with your very identity.  To this day, I notice everybody’s boobs everywhere I go.  I never thought twice about mine or anyone else’s before all this…I swear.) And then she told me, as matter –of-factly as I speak of Jess, that she also has MS.  Wow.  Some people have all the luck.

Ellen and I (like Lisa and I) laughed frequently during our candid exchanges.  We shared things with one another easily.  Two women who I would never happen to meet both popped into my life this week.  Both are on my mind and both of their numbers are now saved on my cell phone.  I made sure to ask Ellen if she texts.  I plan to text her to tell her of her cameo in the blog (which we also talked about).  I will continue to think of these women and their stories.  I will try to remember on the tough days that everyone has a story.

I do not normally go the preachy route, but …reach out to someone today.  Someone whose story you may or may not know.  It will make them feel good.  It will make you feel even better.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

[1] Damn car moved spots on me in the Target lot and was, when I left the store, no longer in the spot that I was absolutely certain I had left it.  Turns out I had my Targets mixed up and recalled, vividly I might add, the correct spot only in a different town.  I literally walked for thirty minutes looking for it.

[2] Truth be told, it is a terrible lot.  I don’t know anyone whose car hasn’t hit or been hit in it.

[3] For the uninformed, Zofran is the magical anti nausea drug that should be hoarded even for the just-in-case moments.

[4] Visions of telemarketers dancing in my head…

[5] Go Massachusetts!

[6] I figured as a card carrying lesbian she would be cool with Jess and her story 😉

Stormy Weather To Come?

As I sit here, mentally bracing for yet another snowstorm, Jess is sitting behind me at the kitchen table doing her homework.  At least I think she is doing her homework.  She has a newly sharpened pencil complete with a neon green eraser on the end, her backpack at her feet and worksheets (aside: I kinda long for the smell of mimeos from my childhood) are strewn about.  She is listening to music.  Correction, we are listening to music – the volume of her iPhone leaving me to wonder what exactly the headphones are accomplishing.

I began by suggesting which morphed into asking (with a touch of pleading) and then outright demanding that she do her work for hours now, finally putting my foot down and threatening to take away not just one, but all of her myriad electronics if she did not do it rightthissecond.  She wasn’t buying it until I unplugged her laptop from the desk where it was charging and began to walk out of the room with it cradled under my arm.  Apparently I hit her sweet spot and she relented.

What is so remarkable about this scenario is how utterly unremarkable it is.  This scene could be (and probably is) playing out in homes across America.  Boys, girls…they are all supposed to be tackling their homework but instead many are relishing the fantasy of (yet another) snow-day.  I am vaguely aware that there are children (although I have never birthed one) that approach their homework without argument, threats or tears (mine, that is).  That has not been my experience. Which I kinda like right about now what with its total normalcy and all.

Jess is, in many ways (although certainly not all) a typical tween.  She’s got the attitude, the internal conflict and the utter inability to get up in the morning.  A part of her wants to remain a little kid, while another part fights fiercely for her independence and freedom.  Earlier tonight, in fact, she overheard a phone call I received inviting me to come meet for dinner right around the corner.  Her Eddie Haskell-esque insistence that I go and “take some time for myself” seemed a wee bit too enthusiastic, leaving me to wonder exactly why she was being so (apparently) selfless.  I opted to stay home.  I am quite sure her desire for me to go out was more to create an opportunity to watch inane television and eat junk food in peace than anything else.  It most definitely was not to create a quiet homework environment.   She is at that delicious age that I did not fear anything more sinister or sophisticated behind her apparent sensitivity to my (scant) free time.  I am relishing it as I know how quickly we move from tween to all out teen.

She has now migrated back up to her bedroom where she insists she is completing her math homework.  I have told her that she must come down and show me the completed assignment which is funny, actually, since she and I both know that any math she does is lost on me (has been since third grade) and any sheet with numbers, circles and arrows (arrows are a math, thing, right?)  would, to me, seem like a great mathematical accomplishment.  For now we (sorta) understand one another… I guess we are both luxuriating in the calm before the teenage storm which could well come as quickly and inaccurately predicted at tomorrow’s weather.