Monthly Archives: August 2009

Big Surprise

Some things you just know. I (and thank goodness I have back-up on this one) knew I was having a baby girl. At 19 weeks, the sonographer scratched her head and said, “Huh. I thought it was a girl too,” but printed out a picture that said “It’s a boy!” And off we went to announce to everyone that mama’s intuition is a myth and that we better buy some Vikings baby gear. I was confused by the news that disproved both my gut feelings and a beautiful dream that Joe had of his long-haired daughter chatting him up, but I didn’t want to act like i didn’t want a boy. I would love a boy. So I started trying to love my “boy.” But every now and then we’d ask each other, “What if the ultrasound technician was wrong? What if all these blue clothes are for a little girl?”

“As long as the baby’s healthy” is one of the cliches mocked in the song “Pregnant Women are Smug.” Of course, I found myself saying it today, since this was the sonogram that I mentioned in my last post, to determine if the baby was too small. And no, not too small. Not too big. Just not a boy. One of my best friends flew in to visit within an hour of the appointment and was able to join us in the doctor’s office. To her credit, she said to our new ultrasound technician, “I still think it’s a girl” moments before we learned that she was. We all saw clear as day that the baby due to arrive in one week is a GIRL. I’d post a sonogram picture for you, but when I say clear as day, I mean it. And I don’t think that’s how she should make her first appearance on the Web.

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Filed under All The World, Gender, Health

The Landscape of Your Eyes

imagesIn exactly three hours, President Obama will be hosting a town hall meeting on healthcare reform. The town is the small Montana town I now live in. He’s here; he’s here; he’s here seems to be the refrain echoing in this valley. Last night at a dinner party, a friend told about how the preparation for the event had touched him. Working on a job up at the ski mountain, he heard a deep rumbling in the sky and waited for it to approach. He looked up as dark green helicopters skimmed towards him along the tops of lodge pole pine trees. Both helicopters were emblazoned with “United States of America” in blue. This man, a gentle horse-loving man, waved. One of the uniformed men in the helicopter waved back. “They were checking it out,” he explained, making sure no ill-doers were hanging in the woods nearby the mysterious lodge slated for the President and his family. I smiled at the visual. I also sighed with the relief of a common person. I am not the President or a famous person who, by sheer role, needs hundreds of people (and thousands of dollars) to scour a place before I go ahead and land.

But it did remind me of the time I met President Bush in my brother’s hospital room. No one patted me down. No one looked inside my purse. Perhaps, without my knowing, they did a background check on my name. The only physical check was a haunting one. A secret service man shook my hand and said, “You are about to meet the President. You will address him as Mr. President.” As the standard words slipped from his mouth, he burrowed his eyes into mine. It was a mental strip down. Any lie I’ve ever told rose to the surface. He knew everything. Did he catch my profound irritation and near hate for the important man I was about to meet? Uh oh. He could see, though, that this young woman had no desire to tackle Mr. President. Secret service people are trained to read the intricate movements of eyes, to look for something suspicious. Imagine if we all knew how to read the landscape and intention of each other’s eyes. Is it an animal instinct we once had? What a powerful and terrifying tool.


Filed under In The News, Orienting

Beauty in Wicked Heat

In the midst of such fertile (ha ha) conversation on Crucial Minutiae about babies, books, and the environment, I offer something slightly different.


What’s the deal with the trees? you might think. The deal is that it is overcast, currently 80 degrees outside, in Austin, at 7:30pm, and it might even rain. For the last, oh, two months, the daily high temperature has been over 100 degrees, and we are in the worst drought in 50 years.

I do not complain about the summer heat in Texas very much. I acknowledge that it was fully my choice to move here, and I do hate to expose myself to scorn or chastising from friends more northernly-inclined.

All I will say is that a “cool front” in the middle of August is incredibly welcome. Now please excuse me, I have some sitting outside to do.

Beauty in a Wicked World is a weekly column by Jennifer Gandin Le. It appears on Wednesdays.


Filed under Beauty in a Wicked World, Environment, Random

It's a boy! It's a girl! It's a book!

I’ve decided to continue the trend of baby talk, but with a twist. I’m just about to “give birth” to my own kicking, screaming, possibly overweight baby–a book. With the deadline looming (August 15th), and a month of pure bliss in the form of a writer’s residency in Italy, you’d think that I’d be in a state of real joy and a sense of release. It’s almost done! It’s almost perfect! It’s…wait…oh, yeah, that’s not how it feels at all.

In my limited experience, every time I finish a book, I feel totally unclear about how good said book actually is. Once you live with something for that long, nit pick it and obsess over it, fact check it and get it critiqued, revise it and revise it, it’s hard to have any real perspective on it. I know I chose great people to profile. I know that I have written things before that people liked. I know that there are nearly 200 pages of words in a Word document. And I know I’ll just have to wait and get some distance from it before I have any sense of whether I actually like it.

In this regard, I imagine, real babies are much different. Even if that sucker is all wrinkled and purple and covered in stuff, crying and squirming, having just caused you the most intense pain of your life, you can’t help but think it’s the most perfect creation.


Filed under General, Generation Overwhelmed

Small Worries

country-mamaI’m going to take a page out of Girl with Pen‘s and Dooce‘s sites and “pregnancy blog.” Less than two weeks to the day when I get to meet this person who has been using my ribs as a jungle gym and my cervix as a moon bounce for the greater part of this year. Outside of a couple of scares and the headaches of switching OB offices three times to finally find a doctor I liked (who then quit her practice after two appointments with me, but I’m guessing not because of me), gratefully, this has been a smooth pregnancy. And yet, I’m up from roughly 3:00-6:00 a.m. the last three nights, thanks to my newest doctor’s newest concern. “You’re measuring small.”

How many times in a woman’s life is this an insult? A threat even! “Your husband’s over 6’3″? If he was 5’8″, I might let this go. No, we’ll have to do another sonogram to make sure the baby’s not growth restricted and that there’s enough fluid, or we’ll induce.” Since I’m guessing that not all of you have read the latest books and documentaries on how interventions in pregnancy lead to more interventions in delivery, I’ll just cut to the chase by voicing my personal preference for tea and sex as induction methods over an IV drip of manmade hormones, reported to dramatically increase the intensity of contractions. Did you see the New York Times article on how redheads feel more pain?

“Maybe we’re having a Sardinian baby,” Joe says cheerfully.

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Filed under All The World, Health

Babies and Your Carbon Footprint

footprintHow many children do you have or want to have? Oregon State University just released a study that having a child dramatically increases your carbon footprint. 

“The average long-term carbon impact of a child born in the U.S. – along with all of its descendants – is more than 160 times the impact of a child born in Bangladesh.

My response: Obviously. Your response:                                

Does that mean none of us should have children? It’s a touchy subject. One that grates sufficiently on me. I understand the reality of dwindling resources. Oil. Water. Food. Someone somewhere is going to lose out; and it’s likely that most people who live in my country won’t be the ones picking at scraps. 

But my bone is with the field of science, one I respect and value for being a critical workhorse, one I also find heart-numbing in the way it undercuts a round picture of “humanity.” Because science with a capital S depends on numbers. Science rarely charts the emotional human quotient. What about the capacity of an individual to profoundly affect their orbit, whether that orbit is one of high-powered government officials or the small-town residents at the one grocer who need that smile to get them through the day?

My bias: I assume that each individual is born to offer a unique love, perspective and learning in his/her community. One we can all learn from. But…. Continue reading


Filed under Environment, Orienting

Kindly Observing Yourself

Natalie Goldberg’s most recent book, Old Friend from Far Away, came out in 2007, but I didn’t discover it until earlier this year, when I had the privilege of hearing her at an Austin synagogue. This book is focused on the practice of writing memoir, and is as rich as all of her other books on writing.

One chapter is titled “Practice Notebook.” In it, she suggests keeping a small separate notebook where you write a brief note about your practice every single day. You write down the date, whether or not you practiced, and any other short notes about the day’s practice. The idea is to be aware of your writing practice, rather than feel ashamed or derailed by the days that you don’t write. It’s all part of the practice. She says, “This act of noting makes your writing–or not writing–conscious. It plants a seed; you stay connected.”

I’m now keeping a practice notebook for my writing, and, indeed, I feel the ways that this kind observing of myself has started to transform the evil, self-judgmental voices in my head that crop up when I skip a day.

This style of radical self-acceptance and awareness is useful beyond writing practice, too. I’m using it to observe myself around other habits that I’d like to change, and it’s such a relief to see the habits clearly written on the page, rather than seeping like mist through the dangerous regions of my mind.

What places in your life could use this kind of loving, non-judgmental attention?

Beauty in a Wicked World is a weekly column by Jennifer Gandin Le. It appears on Wednesdays.


Filed under Beauty in a Wicked World, Career/Life, Writing