Cluster of wheat image Grapes and vines image Cluster of wheat image
November 9th, 2009


I’m 86, I just got back from a Natural Family Planning course, and here I am, all excited all over again! I am, perhaps, not in the usual NFP demographic, but I never cease to be amazed at the wonders of the human body and I’ve been writing about the efficacy of NFP for years now.

I am also totally amazed that supposedly intelligent people, all green and natural, with their filtered water, their organic veggies, and their free ranging chickens, are willing to pollute their one and only body rather than – God forbid – abstain from sex every now and then. There is just no end to the variety of non-biological carcinogenic steroids that they are willing to ingest, insert, or apply as rings, things, pills and patches, rather than learn to understand their bodies and behave rationally.

Quite conveniently I have come across an old article of mine with a September, 1993, quote from the British Medical Journal authored by Dr. R.E.J. Ryder, Department of Endocrinology, Dudley Road Hospital in Birmingham, England. In it Dr. Ryder says that the Catholic church offers and approves a method of birth control which is “cheap, effective, without side-effects…and may be the family planning method of choice for the Third World.”   His article provoked “unprecedented debate” in Great Britain and there was “enormous resistance” to its publication.

Dr. Ryder repeated the well-known facts that a woman’s egg has a lifespan of about 24 hours and is fertilizable for only part of that time. The sperm, however, may remain viable from four to seven days. “Thus a woman is potentially fertile for no more than six to eight days of her cycle, probably less in most cases.” Hormonal studies as well as ultrasound studies have confirmed that the clinical observations of changes in cervical mucus and body temperature as taught in Natural Family Planning can accurately identify the time of ovulation. He cited a World Health Organization study of 869 women of proven fertility in five centers (Auckland, Bangalore, Dublin, Manila, and San Miguel, El Salvador) showing that regardless of culture and education 93% of the women —  even those who were illiterate — could recognize the mucus symptoms. “The probability of conception from intercourse outside the period of fertility defined by cervical mucus observation was 0.0004.”

Another study of 19,843 poor women of Calcutta found a failure rate for Natural Family Planning similar to that of the combined contraceptive pill (less than 2%). In closing his article Dr. Ryder wrote: “There is no doubt that it would be more efficient for the ongoing world debate on overpopulation, resources, environment, poverty and health to be conducted against a background of truth rather than fallacy. It is therefore important that the misconception that Catholicism is synonymous with ineffective birth control is laid to rest.”

One has only to Google any contraceptive medication to learn about their myriad complications and side-effects and realize they are all harmful to normal female functioning. (Dr. Herbert Ratner has called it chemical warfare against women!) A woman on the Pill can be a paying customer for 30 years.   Doctor, pharmacist, and drug company all profit all that time. Unfortunately, nature has no lobby.

I went to this NFP meeting because I had heard that nowadays the NFP people have a new “one rule” which makes it easier to determine a woman’s fertile and infertile periods. Yes, there are still charts to keep (at least until you are well acquainted with how your particular body functions), temperatures to take, and mucus and cervical signs to record. The new rule is more about looking at the whole picture rather than any particular bodily indicator. For particulars, two resource sites might be helpful.

I was particularly intrigued by the wonders of cervical mucus. Who would have known? It turns out that there are various kinds of cervical mucus at various times during a woman’s cycle, some dense and unwelcoming, but there is a “slippery and stretchy mucus,” resembling raw egg white, in which the sperm can live for 2 to 3 days while waiting for a fertilized egg to arrive. Microscopically, it forms string-like channels and provides transport (‘swimming lanes’) for sperm cells. It produces a “wet, lubricative sensation at the vulva.”

I have read that the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s order) have been able to teach effective natural birth control in India relying primarily on the mucus factor. As I recall, the instruction went something like this: Moisture makes babies grow; dryness prevents growth. (I don’t remember the exact words, but you get the idea.)  There has been  no more ardent advocate for natural family planning than Mother Teresa.

Who would think I would one  day write a blog post on the marvels of mucus?  Swimming channels for sperm in women’s cervical mucus!  How much more accommodating could we get?

Surely, we are fearfully and wonderfully made!


One of the most demanding things for me is travelling everywhere – and with publicity. I have said to Jesus that if I don’t go to heaven for anything else, I will be going to heaven for all the travelling with all the publicity, because it has purified me and sacrificed me and made me really ready to go to heaven. – Mother Teresa

November 4th, 2009


Body of Work, published by Penguin Press in 2007, was picked up by a friend at a dollar sale.  It is available new, in hardcover, on Amazon for $6.   Subtitled “Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab,” this is an extraordinary book in that the author takes us through her first year in med school from the time she met her cadaver, Eve, until she finally  removed Eve’s face and held Eve’s brain in her hand.  She says the book is about dissecting a dead body in the hope of one day making living bodies more whole.  She was older than most med students, having been previously “a poet, a university writing instructor, a high school English teacher to a group of troubled kids.”

This not a book for the squeamish and not something I would have bought on my own, but  I am particularly intrigued because at one time, in 1947, I too had my own skinny female cadaver which I shared with three other students during my first quarter in the University of Chicago medical school.  By the second quarter I was both married and pregnant, and that was the end of that.

Another point of personal interest is that at the time of writing Montross reports  “my grandmother recovers from her stroke and my grandfather begins to die.”    Her grandparents are in my age bracket and her comments about their illnesses and incapacities are touching and revealing.  She was very close to this grandmother who was a “truth-teller” who  had once told her that one of the best things about getting old was that she didn’t have “a speck of pubic hair” left.

This is a handsome book with beautiful woodcuts of various body parts, skin off,  from the 1500’s.  The author delves into the history of dissection, going back into medieval times when dissection  was forbidden out of respect for the human body.  She herself experienced a kind of visceral reluctance to cut into and invade the body of Eve, her cadaver, so-named because she had no belly button.  (We never do find out why not.)

It is a book about the dead and the dying, how a fledgling doctor  approaches and deals with these realities, how one  learns to both distance oneself and cope with feelings.  It is a sensitive tome about a macabre subject — recommended for those who can handle it, who want a better appreciation of the wonder of the human body and the making of a doctor.

In the course of her story Christine Montross refers often to conversations with her partner, Deborah.  Towards the end of the book she casually mentions that she hopes she is pregnant.  The very last sentence in the book reads: “And to Maude who is simply a dream come true.”  The back jacket flap tells us Dr. Montross lives in Rhode Island with her partner, Deborah, and their one-year-old daughter, Maude.  It would seem there is a whole other story here and Christine writes well enough that I’d like to read it.


And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man. — Genesis 2:20

And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. — Genesis 3:20

October 9th, 2009


William Kamkwamba is only 22 as I write this. Born in Malawi, Africa, in 1987, he was one of seven children (he was the only boy) and lived in a house without electricity and with water from the local well. His father raised maize and tobacco, they were church-going Presbyterians, and the



children made their own playthings from whatever they could find in the village. Because he lived in “modern” times, some of their playthings were broken down radios.

William was a questioning child and he wondered how the radio took the sound out of the air and made it audible. He took radios apart, studied them, and soon he was able to fix other people’s radios.  Another thing that intrigued him was a bicycle he saw which had a headlight powered by pedaling the bike. How did that work?

William  was fortunate enough to live near a scrapyard where he could find “machine parts and stripped bodies of cars and tractors.” He learned about batteries from discarded radios and cassette players. There was a library with a pitiful selection of books which he couldn’t read but he pondered the diagrams and learned about electrical wiring.

This year William Kamkwamba, with the help of Bryan Mealer, has written a book (The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) about how he, at the age of 14, built a windmill from scraps and findings  that brought electricity into his house.

He started secondary school but was unable to continue because he couldn’t pay the fees and didn’t have the proper uniform. One year the crops failed and their food supply in Malawi dwindled as they gradually cut down to one meal a day,  that meal  only a few mouthfuls. He watched his family and neighbors turn grey and gaunt. There was barely any food for Christmas, 2001. Cholera followed the famine. Finally, the spring planting thrived and then waiting, waiting, waiting for the first ears of maize to be ready. At last — a feast on corn!

Such want and suffering in the third millenium, A.D.!    Such a triumph of the human spirit!

William was considered crazy as he struggled to achieve his dream. Eventually he received some publicity and was invited to tell about his windmill at a TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conference in Arusha where scientists, inventors, and innovators share their big ideas. On this trip he flew on his first plane, stayed in his first hotel, met his first computer, met the internet and Google! When he googled ‘windmills’ he came up with 5 million hits. Where was Google when he needed it?

This is that first talk.

Great book!

And here is William’s blog.

September 8th, 2009


Kim Komando has been a guiding light for me ever since I had a computer, which is close to 15 years.  Just about everyone would benefit by subscribing  to her free newsletters and her daily tips.  If there is anyone more technically savvy and easily available,  I don’t know about them, but she remembers there are always newbies out there learning and tells them that when something she writes is underlined you can click it and it will take you to the relevant material.

In fact, I applauded Kim  in a blogpost over a year ago.   Looking back at that post,  she had written about a virtual pedometer that lets you measure the distance from here to there, and the link to that site still works!  I was really pleased to be able to measure the .67 miles from my house to my church.     Here is that exciting link again!

Kim’s little boy Ian is now 7 years old and today she writes about giving him his first cell phone.  When he started to take out his phone at the dinner table to contact a friend, she felt that was a  ‘no-no’  and that it was time to set up some rules of etiquette for kids with cell phones.  All told she has 11 such rules.   She wants Ian to understand that “family comes first” and you should ask permission to answer your phone with “Would you mind if I took this call?”

Among her rules are:

You are not permitted to purchase anything using your phone. No games. No ringtones. No apps.  Nothing

Cell phones should never make bodily sounds. Ringtones and apps that fart, belch or puke are funny, once. They don’t belong on your phone.

Your phone has a camera. Never take pictures of your private parts, or those of others.

I have to wonder about that last rule as I remember the old story about the parent who left his kid with the baby sitter, saying in jest, “Behave yourself and don’t put beans up your nose.”  It was something the child never would  have thought of on his own and that is exactly what he did!  It might be better not to have a phone with a camera once such an idea is in a kid’s head.

Way back when we got out first radio (I was about 12) I had heard people say there were things on the radio not appropriate for kids.   Need I add  that once everyone was out of the house I did my best to locate those inappropriate programs?  It was a real disappointment not to find
anything naughty.

Left alone with a cell phone with a camera, what’s a kid to do?

Kim also provides a link for cell phone plans for children.


Let the little children come to me. — Matthew 9:14

September 4th, 2009





September 3rd, 2009


Lately I’ve been musing on the concept of authority– who has authority and  why?   This train of thought was initiated by  two of my favorite TV programs, Dog Whisperer and Supernanny.  Cesar Millan on the National Geographic channel has for years been going to the homes of people who can’t tolerate their dog’s behavior and showing them how to fix the problem.  It has to do with recognizing the nature of a dog and a dog’s needs, and the nature of the dog pack.

In the natural, dogs run in packs.  Each pack has an alpha male which has achieved that status by strength or intelligence or both.  As a pack the dogs work together to protect each other and to achieve whatever their doggie ends happen to be.  They all do better because they cooperate.

When a family acquires a dog they intend to feed and shelter it, and it is their hope that doggie and family will enjoy each other.  Sometimes that doesn’t work out as planned.  Doggie is fearful or belligerent or destructive.  Cesar describes his work as “rehabilitating dogs and training
people.”  The dog entering a human family has become a member of a new pack and the humans are the new pack leaders.  The humans need to learn how to assert their authority and doggie has to learn to be submissive to that authority.   Everyone is more happy that way.   Occasionally Cesar will take the dog from its home and put it with his pack of dogs – a kind of boot camp – to learn how to get along in a pack.  When you ask Cesar who is the alpha dog in his pack he replies without hesitation, “I am.”

Here is a sample of Cesar at work calming down an aggressive dog.


There are numerous other videos available on YouTube for those who do not have the pleasure of watching Cesar at work on television.

On to Supernanny.  Jo Frost (website here) is an English nanny whose program has been a hit in both the UK and the US.  She aims at maintaining consistent adult authority, while creating a safe and peaceful environment in which children thrive. She goes to the homes of out of control kids and shows the parents how to create a more serene home and happier children.  Children are, after all, almost always less knowledgeable and less experienced than the parents, and the parents are almost always reasonably caring and mentally competent.  Parents need to be in control for the good of the family.   It is as bad for the children to rule the roost as it is the for inmates to run the asylum.  Jo goes to an unhappy home and  the next thing you know the kids are going to bed at a reasonable time, getting along with each other, and not throwing tantrums in the supermarket.

Meet Jo Frost here in this  YouTube clip

We are members of God’s family, his flock, his pack, if you will. We are his, “the work of his hands.”   God says he loves us and we should not be afraid.  If we are able to believe in a good and loving God, a God who is obviously far more intelligent than we, we do well to listen to what he says and accept his authority.  God’s rules will be for our benefit.  We can choose to live in harmony with our neighbor, not lying, not stealing, not harming each other.    Or we can choose to go our own way and not get along. Ultimately we can choose not to belong to the pack.

That, they tell me, is hell — an eternity of life without God.


I will meditate on they precepts and fix my eyes on thy ways,
I will delight in thy statutes, I will not forget thy words.  – Psalm 119:15-16

It is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100:3

May 29th, 2009

DADDY 1976

Americans -- 1976

Americans -- 1976

Memorial Day and I’m thinking of my Daddy and how proudly he marched with his fellow veterans as long as he was able.  Dad served in the First World War and this is, perhaps, his last picture (bottom row left).  He died in 1978.   I am now as old as he was in this picture.   I have posted a photo of Frank Hodson  as a young soldier and his war-time diary previously.

I didn’t know if I could scan this newspaper clipping right in the frame and through the glass.   As they say, nothing ventured…..

Miss you, Daddy.  Thank you for serving your country and your family so well.   See ya.

May 25th, 2009


An e-mail which arrived in my in-box a few days ago began in this way:

Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio.

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.  It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written.

My immediate response was WOW!   What a column! I have to look into this woman.

And I did.   This is the way her column actually started:

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.

It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here’s an update:

So Regina Brett is still a youngster!  You can’t trust those e-mails.   They tend to morph as they make the rounds — they are embellished, truncated, tweaked, and “improved.”   But, even at the tender age of  50, some of Regina Brett’s  columns have been good enough to be nominated for Pulitzer prizes.   This one I thought, with my 86-year-old sageness, is well worth passing on:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

You can learn more about Regina Brett here. Her column on Alzheimer’s Disease is especially poignant.  It makes me wonder if I am up to level one.


The young sow wild oats.   The old grow sage. — Winston Churchill.

May 15th, 2009


So sad.  So sad.  I’ve been watching  live streaming video of the protest at Notre Dame – Catholics protesting the most prestigious “Catholic” University in the world honoring the most pro-abortion president the United States has ever known.  Watching a black woman crying “Shame!  Shame!”  “Something wicked came our way last fall…..this is not the America I was born in 59 years ago.”  “This is terrible,” and she turns away in tears.

She has seen Father Norman Weslin, 78, of the Lambs of Christ, painfully handcuffed and carried away.

Banners of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn,  were prominent,  with the caption “Defend her Honor.”  She is, after all, Notre Dame.

Blue-shirted Notre Dame Security Police stand  by watching the recitation of the rosary.  Alan Keyes, former presidential candidate, speaks and prays that their witness will go throughout the world as a light in the darkness.  He explains that it was a “movement of the heart” that prompts him to be present, to be arrested.

Stan Solomon asks that people phone Bishop D’Arcy’s secretary in Fort Wayne, 260 422 4622 x 3321 to use his authority to stop arresting Catholics for being Catholics and stop inviting anti-Catholics to affect and infect the minds of young people.  He asks that you call the number nicely, respectfully, in a way that would not embarrass your mom.

Joe Scheidler, of Chicago, reports that he is bringing four buses full of people and asks us to pray for the conversion of Father Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, and President Obama.

Randall Terry’s statement on the site reads:

Our hearts soared when Bishop D’Arcy announced his boycott of Notre Dame’s graduation because President Obama will speak.

Our hearts sank when he urged Catholics to “to stay away from unseemly and unhelpful demonstrations against our nation’s President or Notre Dame or Father John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.”

I wish the Bishop had followed biblical teaching, and contacted me before making his public statement against our efforts. Since he has spoken publicly, I have a duty to respond in the same venue.

It is ironic that Bishop D’Arcy chose Good Friday to issue a statement urging Catholics to remain silent in the face of this treachery. Sadly, it appears that he is following in the most regretful steps of St. Peter.

……There are times it offends God if we only pray. If you could feed a starving man, yet don’t, and tell him: “I’ll pray for you!” you have sinned. If you can save someone’s life, yet you pass by like the Priest and Levite did in the parable of the good Samaritan, you have sinned. If you know the right thing, and don’t do it, you commit the sin of omission.

We must pray – yes – and then act courageously. We must seek justice, rebuke the ruthless, defend the fatherless, and cry out for righteousness.

This I know for certain: Bishop D’Arcy has stepped far beyond his canonical authority by urging the faithful to abandon the babies  – and thereby abandon Christ – and to honor President Obama and President Jenkins with our silent cooperation. We do not deny Bishop D’Arcy’s right to question certain tactics, but he has gone far beyond that. He has asked us to commit the sins of omission and silence. Respectfully, we will not.

Tune in Sunday for live coverage at to see how this all plays out.

It is sad – so sad.  God help our nation and our church.


So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. — Revelations 3:16

April 21st, 2009


Usually when someone sits down at my computer they complain that the mouse is on the left side and that doesn’t work for them. Since I’ve been right-handed from Day One, what’s the scoop? The answer is simple: I’ve changed a habit. About ten years ago when the right side of my neck was annoying me, I thought maybe it was the result of too much right-handed computer use and I tried switching to the left. By now, left-handed clicking has become second-nature. The neck is still annoying but I learned something about habits. Even old dogs can change them.

Later, when troubled by a left hip problem, I thought perhaps it was because I always cross my left leg over my right. So, I switched.   Now I’m comfortable with my legs crossed either way. The hip problem did disappear and I’ve become fascinated by habits.

When I got my Jeep I had a whole batch of old habits that needed to change and I wondered if I was up to it.   Now, three months later, I have a whole batch of new Jeep habits (the old ones still lurk a little but are on their way out). The habit I’ve had to work hardest on was clicking my seat belt in place. On my old Olds it was easy. I could do it without looking. The Jeep was obstinate. It refused to cooperate and I would have to turn and look in order to click. Somehow, it has finally happened – it will usually click into place without my looking. I do not understand what I am doing different. My hands seem to have learned what my brain couldn’t. I am pleased but puzzled.

Habits can be useful – or not. I had never really studied them before. I have developed the habit of taking my morning medication right after I make my bed. It works for me. I squat when picking something up from the floor instead of bending over. I figure it is good for my quads.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and do my parenting over again. I would pay more attention to what my kids are learning from me. I read about a woman who suffered with a husband who always left doors and drawers open. When she finally visited his family, she understood. That was what was done in their home! I notice with pleasure that when grandson Jaime visits, he always takes his glass or plate and leaves it in the kitchen sink. Chalk one up for his mother, Mary!

Habits can work for us or against us. An ingrained undesirable habit can be very difficult to replace but it is worth the effort. I’m a firm believer in (a) the power of practice and (b) the power of prayer. “All things are possible with God.”

Lately I’ve taken to genuflecting in church on my left knee. Why? Because I can. Because for 85 years I’ve done it the other way.  I don’t want to grow up lopsided.


Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. — Proverbs 22:6