Thursday, November 12, 2020

This One's For You, Torii

Several months back there was a giant box delivered to our P.O. Box. I'm talking a box that could easily hold, like, 4 cats. BIG. Inside was an overwhelming mishmash of gifts: bags and boxes of snacks, magnets, a tote bag, face masks, post-cards... a veritable cacophony of goodies.

Once I'd investigated and read through all the postcards, I learned that the box was from four of you readers: Gina, Valinda, Cissie, and Torii. They'd met through Fans of Epbot on Facebook, and had become fast friends. The box was a mini celebration of their first in-person meetup; they'd spent a whole weekend together, including a day at a local spa. Because they'd met through FOE they wanted to share the celebration with me, and sent along face masks and body scrubbers, plus ALL the fun snacks and sweets. 

Aw yeeeah.

But that was only the beginning! 

During their weekend they each brought postcards from their home states, which they used to write personal thank you notes to *me* for inspiring FOE. 

Then there were Harry Potter leggings and an incredible Hufflepuff purse that I think Valinda made, which matches the banner I have in my office!

I took this right after I'd finished opening everything, and you can see I've cried all my eye makeup off from this NEXT thing I'm about to show you.

So naturally the ladies made matching t-shirts for their weekend together. They called themselves the Bare Naked Ladies because of the spa "body shampoo"  experience, ha, and gave themselves nicknames on the back:

 From left to right that's Torii the Collaborator,  Valinda the Party Crasher,  Gina the Instigator, and Cissie the Mastermind.

So after reading all this I reached into the box for the last item, which promptly made me start crying. They'd made me my OWN matching shirt, y'all, and look what they wrote on the back:

They called me the Origin Story. Now I'm crying those happy tears again.

Oh yeah, and here's Eva telling me EXACTLY what she thinks of my request that she get out of the box, ha.

Listen, most of you only know me - and will only ever know me - through text on a screen. So you'll have to take my word for it when I say I genuinely wish I could meet you all in person, give you a hug if that's your thing, and buy you a Dole Whip. I really do care, so it hurts sometimes when I can't give each of you the individual attention and support you deserve. It's a weird balancing act, trying to be a friend to 10,000 people. I do what I can, I reach out in a few crisis points where I think it might help, but overall I know I'm just this flat text on a screen.

That's where FOE comes in. That's where FOE - and to a smaller extent, the Epbot Discord - has been a real life light and community to so many of you. Every month I get letters and cards telling me FOE is where you met your best friend. It's where you met your bridesmaids. It's where you found the people you video-chat or go to dinner with, people who are now part of your everyday lives, and helping you survive all those real life things 2020 throws your way.

This story also has a real life ending, I'm very sorry to say, as I've just learned that one of the Bare Naked Ladies, Torii, is suddenly extremely ill. There was almost no warning, and no one had any idea back when they packed up that big box for me. I've been filled with regret that I didn't share all this sooner; that I didn't publicly tell Gina, Valinda, Cissie, & Torii how much their gifts have meant to me. I've even kept that giant box tucked under my desk all this time, because as I told Gina today, "It's like I wanted to hang on to all this happy, and packing it away would be giving that up." 

Torii, I don't know if you'll get to read this now, but thank you. Thank you for taking a chance and reaching out to a bunch of internet strangers, for letting them be a part of your life. Thank you for inspiring me to reach out more myself, to take more chances on more friendships, because we need each other so much right now. You've made my world and my life better, just by being you. I will never forget that. And I will always be proud to be your friendships' Origin Story.

For everyone else here: please don't wait. Don't hide and hibernate 'til 2020 or the pandemic or whatever is over: live now. Love now. Of course be safe, but find a way to connect with people however you can, because in the end it is only our relationships that last eternity, only the love we leave behind that truly matters. 

I'll say it again, because even though I'm only text on a screen, sometimes that's just barely enough: I love you, and I'm glad you're here. You make the world better - you make Torii's and Gina's and Valinda's and Cissie's and so many others' worlds better - just by being you. Remember that today, and please, pass it on.


UPDATE: Torii passed the morning after this posted. Another reader, Adele, was at her bedside and read this post to her while she was still awake, and reports Torii shed happy tears to see such an outpouring of love from this community. Thank you again, all of you.

Torii and her husband have 6 young children, and there is a relief fund set up for the family here


  1. Wow, this post had a lot of emotions.

    I love that the BNLs did this for you! That box is awesome! I immediately got the theme song from "The Neverending Story" in my head upon seeing the Origin Story shirt. What sweethearts.

    Jen, thank you for being our friend. It takes a special person to inspire complete strangers to send you amazing gifts out of the blue.

    Torii, I am so sorry you are dealing with your illness. You may never see this, but from this post I can tell you are awesome. This part hits extra hard, as the same thing happened with my aunt--diagnosed with cancer in September, she passed away last Saturday. My family is having to deal with services during this situation, just as extra restrictions are hitting my area (I'm in Chicagoland; service are Sunday and Monday). This is so tough and I feel for everyone in a similar position.

    This is why I want to focus on the box. To remember that there are kind and generous people around, and when they do something like this, it keeps them in our memories.

    --Yet Another Jen

    1. YA Jen, we can very much relate. My father-in-law died March 15 near NYC. We were not able to visit him the week before when he was in the hospital and we did not have a funeral until July. We planted a tree that was a gift from close friends in our yard in April on his birthday and had a private ceremony over Zoom with family elsewhere. Even in July we did not feel comfortable going to the funeral home hours nor the restaurant after the outdoor funeral (it was organized by my sister-in-law). Good luck to you navigating that difficult situation.

  2. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story, Jen.
    Kind words on a screen might seem impersonal to some, but kindness transcends the medium to touch hearts.

  3. It's amazing how FOE has connected so many people from all over the world! I help run the FOE Secret Santa, and the outpouring of love with it is just overwhelming! <3

  4. Well said the Original Jen & Yet Another Jen. Treasure times together, whether virtually or in person, and make lasting memories.

  5. It all started, for me, when I was scanning the library shelves for a low-protein cookbook. My then-boyfriend had gone into kidney failure, and I was trying to learn how to cook for him and stave off dialysis for a couple of years. In the spot where the new computer card-catalog said it was supposed to be was, instead, Jen's first book.
    I have been hooked for 9 years.
    I soon found the Cakewrecks site and fell in love with the amazing crossover of humor and horror. I naturally drifted over to Epbot for a peek......and joined FOE.
    You are my people.
    You have gotten me through health crisis after crisis, his heart attack, his kidney transplant, and raising a now 16 year old daughter, which is darned near as scary... O.o
    You are my tribe.
    You are my people.
    You are my friends.

  6. Yet Another Jen, my condolences on the loss of your aunt. How sudden that loss must be.

    Jen (the First) you perform another function, besides bringing us together and providing a happy, positive, safe space -- you give us an outlet for our love. That is a very important function.

    On a more frivolous note, besides loving the Bare Naked Ladies, I love Eva's claiming of the box in typical cat fashion!

  7. whew - what a rollercoaster of emotions. I love coming her to see what kooky/delightful things are going on in your world. I don't always get a chance to see the FOE posts (there are so many!), so I love your summaries. Sending HUGS to anyone who needs one or more. Hubby tested positive for corona this week, so keeping separate as much as possible and cleaning every surface is driving me nuts, along with waiting to see if I show any symptoms.
    Once we're safe(r) from this virus, I will be the person wearing the purple "Free Mom Hugs" shirt as often as possible.

  8. For Jena nd John: on days you feel like your not making a difference in the world, pop on over to the link you posted, and see the ripples your kindness has spread. ("To make a difference in someone's life you don't have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect. You just have to care. ~ Mandy Hale.")

  9. I'm so lucky to have gotten to meet you and John at DragonCon. Your tips on how to handle being in that crowd really helped me manage it every year, and your sites have been a safe place to go to unwind for years. Joining the FoEs, and the other FoE groups I am in has been a lifeline during the pandemic and I am so glad you decided to live online the way you do.

  10. I'm so sorry to hear Torii passed. May her family and all those who knew her take comfort in the memories they made with her.

  11. I love that these beautiful people found each other. I am sorry that one was stolen by the thief in the night that is pancreatic cancer. It stole my mom, too. Never forget that each day is a gift, unpack it and use the heck out of it.

  12. Oh no. Oh, my heart absolutely breaks for her people. I am so glad these friends had the chance to spend that time together and included you, Jen, in their celebration. Like Tara said above, every day is truly a gift and so precious.


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