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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Lucky, Lucky Questions

My last post was written in answer to the first of five questions given to me by Lisa of Lucky, Lucky Star. And here are her remaining four questions, along with my answers…

Will you be finding out the gender of your new baby at the 20 week mark, and if so, will you be sharing that info with us, your adoring fans? (Pretty please!!)

With O, we waited to find out ‘til he was born, and that was really cool. In a way, I would’ve loved to wait and see with this baby, too. But I was just too curious, and my Old Man felt the same way. We are past the twenty-week point right now (I’m due in September), and our ultrasound indicated that we are having a girl.

I sort of debated whether to let that cat out of the bag here on the blogosphere. I have a weird relationship with sharing this news. If anyone asks, I readily tell them, but I don’t announce it. Nor do I talk about the baby in a sexed way with anyone but my closest circle. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe I’m protecting the baby’s privacy in some small manner. Maybe it reflects my slight ambivalence about the decision to find out the sex. There’s a part of me that loves the mystery and the surprise of waiting ‘til the birth. Still, I’m glad we found out, and I’m very excited at the prospect of having a daughter.

If you could choose between the ability to fly and the ability to become invisible whenever you want, which would you choose?

I have actually contemplated this question before, and it was very easy for me to decide: flight. The idea of flying on my own power appeals to me. I’ve often watched birds flitting and gliding through the sky and envied them. The primary form of flight we humans have access to is abstract and heavy, laden with gear, meticulously planned, and dependent on so much technology and life support that it can hardly be considered true flight. (Hang gliding may be an exception. I’ve never done it, but I’d like to.) Really flying, without any facilitating equipment, seems like it would be utterly exhilarating.

Invisibility, on the other hand, doesn’t hold much appeal for me. I can’t think of anything fun I’d do with it, nor even anything useful aside from maybe escaping chance encounters with people I don’t want to talk to. But there’s a lot of invisibility in human life already. Too many people are invisible to one another, and as we age, I think we become invisible to many people.

So, flight is infinitely more interesting to me.

What is your earliest memory?

Lying nestled in a laundry basket full of sheets warm from the dryer while my grandma and twin teenage aunts bustled about, cleaning the house. It was a sunny, late spring day and I felt perfectly content, snuggled in my little nest, peeling and eating pieces of Buddig turkey lunchmeat, a favorite snack of my early childhood (the thought totally grosses me out now, but I loved it then). I must’ve been about three or four.

Name several of your heroes, and why they are.

This was actually a hard one for me. I guess I don’t have heroes per se. There are people I admire greatly, however.

When I read the book Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder a couple years ago, I came to have a great admiration for Dr. Paul Farmer, the man whose story the book tells. He’s a Harvard-trained physician who has made it his life’s work to wipe out tuberculosis in Haiti and around the world. These days, TB is a disease that really only affects poor communities. Well-fed people with access to decent health care tend not to contract the disease, even if they carry the virus that causes it. But in desperately poor places like Haiti, the disease runs rampant, killing many people, despite the fact that it is in most cases quite easily treatable. Dr. Farmer has devoted his entire life – all his time and energy, his massive medical genius, and practically all of his income – to wiping out TB in Haiti, and helping doctors around the world to eradicate it in other regions where it still threatens many lives. Read the book to find out more (it’s a great story, well written and inspiring), but essentially I really admire Farmer partly because he has chosen to devote himself to helping the very poor when he could’ve gotten rich working in some other field of medicine, but more importantly because he has single-handedly changed the world in a significant way. Read the book, truly. My step-dad read it and promptly bought a stack of copies for his friends and family (me included), that’s how affecting it is.

Margaret Sanger is a historical figure I admire a lot, though with some ambivalence. She too really made an impact on the world by working to make birth control available to average women in the US. During the time she was working as a nurse among the slums of New York City, only rich women could get reliable information and contraceptive supplies from doctors. Poor women usually had to rely on folk wisdom and “natural” methods that were completely unreliable. Sanger saw the misery that unfettered fertility had on poor families, and particularly poor women (whose health was often devastated by bearing and caring for large numbers of children), and campaigned tirelessly to bring effective birth control to all women. All this despite the fact that the US government tried repeatedly to shut her down (confiscating her newspaper, The Woman Rebel, under the argument that it was too “obscene” to be carried by the US mails and throwing her in jail for providing contraceptives at her free clinic at a time when birth control was illegal). My ambivalence about Sanger comes from the fact that later in life she became active in the eugenics movement. Her philosophy of eugenics was not race-based, nor did it condone infanticide or forced sterilization, and she publicly excoriated the Nazis. Still, she held the belief that some people are not fit to reproduce, and that those people should voluntarily refrain from having families for the good of humanity. And that adds an ominous element to her earlier campaigns to help the urban poor, which at the time was rooted in a socialist philosophy very different than the eugenicist ideas she would later espouse.

My mom is someone I know personally whom I admire greatly, for many reasons, including the way that she has always invented and reinvented her own life rather than following a set of expectations laid down by someone else. This is something she continues to do, even in her late fifties, an era of life when many people are settled into their habits and assumptions. She deserves a post of her own, if not a series of posts.

(Thanks for the great questions, Lisa!)


Blogger Orange said...

Aw, baby girl! Send her to preschool in fishnet tights and Doc Martens.

Definitely flying. I've had dreams in which I could fly. It's the most amazing (imaginary) feeling. Being invisible...well, I've never woken from a dream feeling exultant and exalted by invisibility. Flying, yes.

Someone recommended the book about Farmer to me last year. Tell me this: Does the book touch on his religious motivations for his works, or is that a misinterpretation I picked up somewhere? I do like books about doctors and infectious diseases, but somehow I got the idea it's a spiritually driven crusade for him.

(P.S. TB isn't viral. It's caused by a bacterial organism called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Lung-focused medical editors have to know this sort of thing. I can also spell the genus and species of assorted atypical mycobacteria...)

3:43 PM  
Blogger E. said...

Thanks for the correction, Orange - I should've said the bacteria that carries TB. The fact that TB is bacterial is made abundantly clear in Kidder's book because part of the drama of the book revolves around Farmer's attempts to deal with strains of TB that become resistant to multiple of the antibiotics they commonly use to treat it.

To answer your question about Farmer's motivations: they are humanist in a purely secular way. In fact, Farmer is (as I recall - I read the book three years back) an atheist with a socialist bent, though he respects religious traditions that focus on serving the poor (particularly liberation theology).

5:03 PM  
Blogger a happier girl said...

We didn't find out the gender on our first but found out on the second. I thought maybe knowing would make the second less exciting somehow. But I found that while there was less surprised involved the second was kind of sweet and tender because instead of wondering what it would be we could already settle into picturing him in our head and like we kind of already knew him when he arrived. Congratulations!

6:31 PM  
Blogger Orange said...

Huh. Humanist in a secular way? Maybe I'll have to buy that book and add it to my most impressive stack of unread books.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Oh, that was so fun!! Thank you...
And I appreciate your willingness to answer the baby question. A girl!!!! Yaaaay!!! That dear O is going to be the best big brother, oh that lucky girl!

happy summer vacation to you, and I look forward to rich and lively posts about your mother...

8:16 PM  

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