Letting Go, Letting Liz

Guest post today from my friend and fellow writer Mindy Shannon Phelps. 

A journalist by training, Mindy is a project management and communications specialist.

How remarkably we humans are made, that once a child reaches a certain age, she is able to say goodbye to all that is known and familiar to her – parents, mother, father, sister, cousin, close friends – and her bedroom, her house, the only home she has ever known –and, just, move on.

Remarkable that the human child willingly and even longingly leaves the familiar – the scents, the sounds, the comforts – 19 years of cuddling and coddling – pancakes for breakfast and tea in bed –  I will admit the first 12 years were more fun for both of us than the next seven – but she is just so ready to be an adult daughter and I can’t see beyond her beautiful little hands and sweet, expressive, perfect face. She will always be my little Liz. My baby.

I had just said goodbye to Lizzie.  I’d hoped it would be a warmer parting, even though she was eager to get to her dormitory and the small space we created together for her yesterday and just settle in. But, at the end, she seemed tired and ill at ease from the days we had spent together.  Uncomfortable, and in need of privacy.  I noticed that she had not read her Bible or written in her journal – had only captured her thoughts and emotions in the emails she had written and sent each evening to people she did not identify for me.

It’s hard to read Liz – often difficult clearing the fog off the hard glass she surrounds herself with.  Her glass is not brittle but it is breakable and I try not to shatter the shield when she has it up and in place.  It is her safe enclosure and there is no need to breach it.

We had been traveling together for three days, from Kentucky to Colorado in her tiny Volkswagen Beetle. Our travels were glorious—the billboard-sized copy of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in the middle of a Kansas wheat field,  the vivid blue September skies and the rain we could see a hundred miles away that never touched us.  So peaceful and fun and adventurous, even blessed. 

And now, the end.

Liz would keep her car at the school where she would begin training as a missionary with an international NGO. I would fly home after helping her settle in.

 A quick ride to the airport and, suddenly, Lizzie seems as if she doesn’t want me to go.  She wants to park and come in with me.  I think this is what she wants to do, but, again, her glass is up and I can only peer in, bringing my nose and eyes and face up to the enclosure, trying not to cloud the view with a sudden exhalation.

I decide a quick goodbye is for the best because my prayer this morning had been for a bit of grace and a letting go with joy.  This is what I’m supposed to do, I think.

So I quickly hug her and say too loudly, “I’ll call you when I get home.”  “Yes, do that,” she replies.

And I turn and go, denying Liz the tears and sorrow of saying goodbye – an emotional farewell we might have shared but did not. It’s for the best, I think.

I turn and walk a few steps and begin weeping as I enter the terminal.

 I still weep when I think about the time I let Lizzie go.

Now 27, Liz is married and expecting her first child.


 (Note:  When Lizzie was born, Mindy was an evening news anchor for the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Ky. Viewers (about 250,000 at the time) avidly followed Mindy’s pregnancy and loved Lizzie from the moment they saw her.)

Awards Ceremony 101

Allow me to apologize in advance (you’ll soon see why) and assure you that, although things in Haiti seemed to be heating up a day or two ago, they’ve just as quickly calmed back down, as Aristide’s arrival has been delayed until housing and security can be arranged—several days, maybe even weeks.

So during this brief lull in exiled-former-presidents-coming-home to Haiti, I’ll finally and officially accept the Memetastic Award Clouded Marble cursed honored me with last week. 

This long-anticipated acceptance requires several things of me:

1. Displaying the “disgusting graphic” (words of the award creator Jillsmo, not mine) of the award itself—a Meme Kitty dancing among balloons and shooting stars, gleeful and glorious in award winning form. 

2. Posting 5 “facts” about myself—4 of which must be bold-faced lies.  (This will be the fun part.)

3. Passing the award along to 5 other bloggers, who will, in turn, do the same.  (This is where the apologies come into play.)

4. Linking this post back to the “Memetastic Hop,” so award creator Jillsmo can track its path through the blogosphere.  (Supposedly failing to do any of the above will cause Jillsmo to haunt and taunt me through the rest of what, I’m sure will be, a short-lived blogging career.)

So, here are some fun-filled “facts” about me.  (You pick out the one that is true.)

  1. Sara and Kathy met on a train from Istanbul to Ankara.
  2. Kathy taught English at Oral Roberts University for 6 years, before leaving to teach writing to inner-city St. Louis teens in trouble.
  3. During the 1980s, one of Kathy’s sisters served in the Peace Corps in Sri Lanka, where she still lives with her Delhi-born husband and 2 sons.
  4. Someone in Kathy’s immediate family won’t allow Kathy to mention him or her in this blog and has asked her to write as if he or she does not exist.
  5. Kathy’s father was a preacher from Ft. Lauderdale.

(Let me warn you, this list is tricky.  The fact must be entirely true to count.) 

Finally, I must part with my prize and pass it along to other entirely-worthy-of-bigger-honors-than-this bloggers I read regularly. 

(Audience cheers expectantly, while best-of-the-best bloggers cower in corners, pens poised to attack if they are indeed identified.)

And the winners are (apologies all around):

  1. Lisa at “Notes from Africa.”  Lisa’s blog was freshly pressed several weeks ago.  She writes about the science she observes all around her in South Africa.  Brilliant blog.  Amazing photos.  You must read. 
  2. Mrs. H. at “A.Hab’s View of the World.”  (Sorry, my friend, I adore your blog and want others to read, as well.)  Mrs. H. writes, sometimes amusingly, but always passionately, about her ambivalence for academia.  She is currently teaching World Lit at the university where she is finishing a Ph.D. in English. 
  3. Tori at “The Ramblings.”  What can I say?  Tori is a 23-year-old mother of one from Tennessee, who is, in fact, one of the best writers I have ever read.  As I told Sara the other day, Tori  writes like Anne Lamott, but “out-Lamotts” Lamott herself.  Tori is wickedly funny and was once freshly pressed twice in one week! 
  4. Deanna at “A Mother’s Tonic.”  Deanna is a Canadian blogger who writes poignantly about both the challenges and joys of motherhood.  She makes me think, she makes me smile, she makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.  I think you will love her too. 
  5. Terri at “Into the Mystic.”  Terri is a wife and mother, a bowling fanatic, and kidney donor, who writes about “dragging [her] feet toward empty-nest-hood.”   Terri was also freshly pressed a while back.  I know you’ll enjoy her wit and insight.  She’s sure to make you laugh. 

So there you have it folks.  I believe I’ve fulfilled my obligations according to Memetastic Award protocol.  

May award creator Jillsmo hunt me down and menace me for life if I have failed in these Memetastic duties.  I am indeed a believer in the cause. 

Thanks, again to Clouded Marble, for this great “gift.” As I’ve said before, please read her blog, despite her poor judgement in passing this prize to me. 

Long live the “Meme Kitty” !!!!

I will blog—forever—

A proud winner of the Memetastic Award!!!!

(Applause continue, even as this pronouncement is posted and Meme Kitty exits stage left————-)

A Frenzy of Freshly Pressed

I had a less-than-cool response to being Freshly Pressed.

I may have over-reacted.  I may have caused a scene.

For those of you who don’t know, for those of you who are just now tuning in, I blog from Haiti, where not a lot of positive things have been happening lately, what with the January 12th earthquake, Hurricane Tomas, cholera, and now the close-to-coup political uncertainty.

To distract myself from this atmosphere of never knowing what’s next, I began blogging again after a year away from posts and comments—from Search Engine Optimization and RSS feeds.

I poured indecent amounts of energy into my renewed foray into the blogosphere.  I was a down-right bloggerly drudge when it came to reading and commenting on the blogs of others. 

I wrote and posted—

Wrote and posted—

Commenting maniacally in between.

For three whole weeks—

Until Tuesday—

When I did my daily duty of checking Freshly Pressed, posted most mornings by 11 Eastern Standard Time.

I had developed a near religious devotion to this posting of posts, ten blogs featured each weekday on WordPress.com. I knew my duties as a devotee, arriving with the requisite ritual beverages (coffee and Coke Zero, of course). I knelt at the altar of blogging greatness— and clicked.

Strangely—the list of featured posts included one that had not only stolen the name of my blog, but the name of my post, as well.

This was a desecration.

A cardinal sin against the goodness that is Freshly Pressed!

Until it hit me.

Oh, may the gods of blogging forever bless the shrine of Freshly Pressed—for, in the name of blog, indeed,

I had been Freshly Pressed.

Heavenly choirs were singing as I twirled my Port-au-Prince kitchen dizzy—



Twirling and shrieking—

Shrieking and twirling—a dervish of posting devotion.

And in this blogging frenzy, I did what any blogging diva worth her salt would do in such a moment.

I called my mother—

(Called my mother with the zeal of a six-year-old, just home from kindergarten, ready to show off her printing practice sheet, S’s marching capital and lower case across the page.)

“Mom, this is costing gobs of money, so I can only talk a minute, but I’ve been Freshly Pressed.”

“You’ve been what, Dear?”

“My blog.  My blog has . . . “

(How should I explain it?)

“My blog has won a prize.”

“Well, that’s lovely, Dear.”

“What kind of prize?”

(I dare not mention “Freshly Pressed.”  She’ll confuse that with French press or launch into a discussion of ironing!)

“It doesn’t matter, Mom, just a really cool prize.  You should hurry and check your email.  I sent you the link.”

“You sent me what, Dear?”

“The link.  The blue LINK!”

“Oh, the BLUE ink, yes, I know, Dear.”

“But wait, let me write that down.  I don’t want to forget—BLUE ink?”

(To better appreciate my mother’s memory issues see a post called “Airing Family Secrets via Haute Couture.”)

“Just go check your email, Mom.”

 You know how the story ends—

Not with my mother delightfully 72, trying to figure out this world that was once Smith Corona and is now Google, Facebook, Twitter. 

Rather with me—dizzy in my kitchen—reeling with the down-right, unabashed, writing-posting-commenting joy of it all—



Re-naming America?

(I know I’m supposed to be blogging about Haiti and I promised a post today about the Port-au-Prince airport—but, I swear, the issue I address below is an “event horizon,” of sorts.)

In case you missed it, yesterday, BabyCenter.com posted its list of top 100 names for 2010—an annual event that’s more than making a name for itself!

So—I hate to ask a seemingly indelicate question.  But—What’s up with baby names these days?

Why are the first names of most newly-born kids in the US names that merely decades ago would have been nothing other than good, old-fashioned last names?

Why are we so obsessed with family names, we’ve nearly abandoned the sacred tradition—centuries, rather millennia in the making—of assigning “Christian names” to our newly hatched Madison’s and Mackenzie’s?

I know the American “family” is in decline.  I know many now say America a “post-Christian” nation—(which is itself a misnomer, I might add).  Does this underlie the confusion? 

Seriously!  What’s up?

Why is every Tom, Dick, and Harry now named Taylor, Devon, or Yale? 

And what about these names with oblique, more often than not overt, allusions to the aristocrats of academia? 

My own nephew, born last month, is named “Rhodes”—God bless his little, “high-IQ-ed” heart.  I know his grandfather is a professor, and his aunt, yours truly, spent WAY too many years not making NEARLY enough money in academia—(thus, the high dollar move to blogging)—but that’s a lot of pressure on a little guy!  How’s that for a “you-better-make-the-grade-or-else” kick-in-the-ass?

Now, I know I should keep my family out of this.  I know my brother could and probably should kill me. (But he has a really great sense of humor; his name is “Tyce,” by the way, if that tells you anything about the DNA of naming in my family.)

I know, as well as you do, that a rose by any other name should smell as sweet, but what about poor “Baby Rose?”

Why has she morphed into little “Reagan?”  Yes, I kid you not; she’s number 66 on this year’s list of most popular girls’ names in the US.  I love the old Gipper as much as the next left-leaning, non-Bible-toting, “doesn’t-give-a-hoot-about-Hollywood,” Democrat in America.


Enough is enough!

My mother called me “Kathryn” for a reason.  I was named after my grandmother, her first name, I might add.  And there were a total of three “Kathy’s” in my kindergarten class—I was born in an era, now sadly past, when “normal” naming still happened in America—was right up there with good breeding!

Speaking of breeding—does it say anything about all that’s vogue in naming that my dogs are “Ralph” and “Lucy?”

What’s next?

BabyCenter.com has itself used a “top-secret algorithm” to determine what names will climb in popularity next year, and according to the “online parenting and pregnancy destination” the boy’s name “Max” is predicted to “gain momentum in 2011”—climbing from its current spot at number 46.  Are the sons (and daughters) of America already being named after their canine companions?

Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

(And tomorrow—I’ll yap about the Port-au-Prince airport—I promise!)

Airing Family Secrets via Haute Couture

Two days ago, on her 72nd birthday, my mother shared her newest mnemonic device.   And I thought, in all fairness, I should pass along the technique, in case you want to remedy your own memory deficits by adopting my mother’s method.

This all came up when I asked my mom to call us in Haiti during our family’s annual let’s-celebrate-mom’s-birthday-event scheduled for yesterday afternoon.

When I asked my mother to make the call, she said, “Well, I’m afraid I’ll forget.” 

I reassured her that she didn’t have to worry.   I would email my sister and ask her place the call. 

“No,” my mother declared confidently. “I’ll just clip a clothes pin to my lapel.”

“Really,” I replied. 

“Of course,” she claimed.  “Someone is bound to ask why I have a clothes pin on my blouse.  And when they do, I’ll remember we were supposed to call you.  It works every time.”

“Every time,” I said, dumbfounded that my mother had used the technique enough to have gathered such data.


“Wow,” I added.  “I think I’ll have to blog about that.”

“Oh, you should! It works really well—-and everybody has an extra clothes pin hanging around!”

“Sure they do . . . “

. . . but—-for those of you whose laundry habits have surprisingly not carried the clothes pin over into the 21st century or, god forbid, who lack the sartorial daring to add clothespins to your accessory repertoire, my mother claims the piece-of-paper-in-the-middle-of-the-living-room-floor technique works almost as well.

But, of course, I wouldn’t want to hang all  my family’s dirty laundry out to dry.