What’s for supper? Vol. 250: Flandemic!!1!

Look, it’s Vol. 250! A few months ago, when I noticed this milestone was coming, I decided to do something really special. Then I forgot about it and just kept on cooking stuff. So here we are. 

Today’s post does include two vidyas: One of me thumping the side of my very first flan, to see if it ripples in waves, or wobbles as one; and one of me attempting to turn said flan out of the pan. Stay for the flan drama, which includes schlorping!

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Smoked ribs and brats; spicy Asian coleslaw

Damien got a new smoker to replace the one that was essentially a rusty garbage can. He christened it with these wonderful smoked ribs, while several of the kids and I went to explore Madame Sherri’s castle and forest. There is a short loop trail and a longer loop trail, so we chose the short one, hiked half of it, somehow looped into the long one, did the entire thing, rejoined the first one, and finished that. I think. There was a mountain involved. In my defense, I am stupid.

Anyway, we did get back home eventually, and there were these magnificent ribs waiting for us: 

He made three racks of ribs, and also smoked a bunch of beer brats, too. We had leftover spicy Asian coleslaw from last week , so that rounded out the meal. 

Absolutely delicious. I’ll put the recipe card at the end. 

Jump to Recipe

SUNDAY
Hot dogs, fries

Nothing to report. I don’t even remember what we were doing on Sunday. Something strenuous, no doubt. 

MONDAY
Caprese chicken burgers, broccoli and dip

Elevate that chicken burger! Plenty of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, kaiser rolls, and tomatoes and basil. 

I forgot to get cheese, but nobody noticed. 

TUESDAY
Salad with chicken, strawberries, feta, and walnuts

Here I would like to pause and congratulate myself for serving all the meals this week in the correct order. I had tomatoes, basil, strawberries, and (as you will see) avocados and mangoes, and we ate everything when it was ripe.  I’m just patting myself on my back for this achievement. And it’s easy, too, ever since I grew this third Pfizer arm. *pat pat*

Anyway, broiled chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder; strawberries, feta cheese, red onions, and toasted walnuts. Toasted by putting them in the microwave for a few minutes. 

Oh, and croutons. We had no end of leftover hot dog buns in the house, which make great croutons. Tons of butter, pepper, garlic salt, and oregano in a 300 oven for maybe half an hour. 

WEDNESDAY
Tacos, guacamole and chips, flan with mangoes, palomas

Just regular old tacos, to everyone’s relief. And some guacamole made with a sight tactical error: I used canned tomatoes because the two tomatoes I had set aside the other day vanished down someone’s gullet. I know canned tomatoes are no good, but I did it anyway. I don’t know why. 

Jump to Recipe

Anyway, the big deal was that I wanted to make flan for the first time. I adore flan. I adore custards of any kind. I had heard that flan is rather fiddly to make, but I wanted to at least try. 

Guys, it was really easy. This recipe has five ingredients, and the hardest part is how boring it is to stir the sugar when you’re melting it for the topping. So basically you have to stir it forever over a medium heat, so it melts into a lovely caramel: 

Then you pour it into your dish (I couldn’t rustle up enough ramekins, so I made one big flan) and let it spread over the bottom and a bit of the sides. 

(It hardens like candy at this point; but after it sits for several hours with a custard on top of it, it loosens up into sauce again.)

Then you whisk together the rest of the ingredients — eggs, condensed milk, evaporated milk, more sugar, and vanilla — and blend them well, and pour them into the pan on top of the caramel. Then you bake it, covered, for a long time in a water bath (which just means inside a bigger pan that’s full of hot water. This steams the custard and helps keep it cooking at an even temp throughout). 

You do want your eggs to be room temperature so they meld nicely into the custard. Here’s a tip I didn’t know until this week! You can take cold eggs and put them in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes, and guess what? They warm up! If they’re not warm enough, do it again. How about that? 

So here it is in its bath:

The hussy!

It took considerably longer than expected to cook — almost 2 hours. You will know when it’s done when it wobbles as one, rather than rippling, when you bump it, like so:

 

 

Then you cool it, chill it in the fridge, and then you run a knife along the edge to loosen it, and flip it upside down, and that’s how you get that gorgeous caramel sauce gracing the top. For some reason I thought this, too, was worth documenting on video, so here I am, schlorping it out of the pan:

 

 

And here it is! Lovely, lovely caramel flan, shining like the setting sun. 

It has a bunch of air bubbles along the outer edge, which apparently is a point against it, but it didn’t bother me!

I had a bunch of mangos, so I scattered those over the slices of flan. 

Truthfully, it was fully sweet enough and didn’t need the mango. Next time I will try maybe toasted coconut, or toasted pecans maybe. Or nothing. It was so good on its own. Silky smooth, creamy, mellow, buttery, warm, rich. Just perfect. 

Damien also made a new-to-us drink: Palomas. It’s tequila with grapefruit soda, and salt on the rim. 

It was pretty good. Not as good as the fact that the grapefruit soda is called “Squirt.” 

THURSDAY
Puntas de filete

Something new. It’s basically — well, pieces of meat in a sauce, served over rice or noodles (fideos). That doesn’t narrow it down much, but the kids liked it, and I thought it was tasty enough. The version I made is very mild. 

I browned up some beef chunks in oil, then took the meat out, melted a bunch of butter in the same pot, and cooked up some diced onion, then minced garlic and serrano pepper, then added in beef stock, crushed tomato, bay leaves, and salt. Put the meat back in, heated it through, and that was it. 

Here’s the recipe I used, from an actual paper book called The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico

If you’ve got all your ingredients prepped, it comes together very quickly. I served it with cilantro, on rice cooked in chicken broth, which the kids like so much, I’m starting to think they’re making fun of me in some way.

If you’ve made this dish, tell me your favorite variations! I definitely want to make it again, but with a little more flavor in the sauce. 

FRIDAY
Sugar rub chicken thighs, brats, Fasier cake

Today is Moe’s 19th birthday, so Damien fired up the smoker again, and we’re having sugar rub chicken thighs, which everybody loves, and I guess a Frasier cake. Clara’s been slaving over it for about 48 hours and I’m almost afraid to look. I sure do have weird kids, but they make cakes for each other, so that’s nice. 

For the chicken thighs, Damien uses the same sugar rub that he used for the pork ribs (or I guess it’s never quite the same, but it’s the same basic idea), so if you want to do this recipe (WHICH I RECOMMEND), just do the sugar rub part. 

Jump to Recipe

Oh, one more thing: We’ve been using white pepper a lot, because, I don’t know, we lost our regular pepper. White pepper is really interesting. It’s not necessarily more spicy than black pepper in itself, but it adds a kind of fizzing spark to other things and enhances their spiciness, somehow. I like it! But you have to not get carried away. 

And them’s the facts!

sugar smoked ribs

the proportions are flexible here. You can adjust the sugar rub to make it more or less spicy or sweet. Just pile tons of everything on and give it puh-lenty of time to smoke.

Ingredients

  • rack pork ribs
  • yellow mustard
  • Coke
  • extra brown sugar

For the sugar rub:

  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp white pepper

Instructions

  1. Coat the ribs in yellow mustard and cover them with sugar rub mixture

  2. Smoke at 225 for 3 hours

  3. Take ribs out, make a sort of envelope of tin foil and pour Coke and brown sugar over them. close up the envelope.

  4. Return ribs to smoker and cook another 2 hours.

  5. Remove tinfoil and smoke another 45-min.

  6. Finish on grill to give it a char.

 

 

Stepping out in doubt

Has anyone ever told you there are jokes in the Bible? The one I found the other day made me laugh until I cried.

A little background, first. My old therapist had one of those wretched inspirational posters on his wall. It was a stock photo of a misty lake, and the caption said something about needing the courage to step off the shore so you can begin your journey.

It never made sense to me. What kind of journey is that? We don’t have to wonder what will happen when someone steps off the shore: They sink. Step off the shore, under you go. Bloop! End of journey.

Well, that poster may have been an illogical cliché, but it also turned out to be decent advice—as long as you don’t take it literally. But it was terrifying. Feeling nothing under my feet is the worst thing I have ever felt. There is always the temptation to scramble around and flail your way back to familiar ground because even if you recognize that your old life is a disaster, at least it is familiar.

But I did it: I stepped off into the void many times over the course of several years while I was in therapy. I was learning what in my psyche was craziness, what was garbage and what were traps I laid for myself, but also what was good, sane, powerful and admirable. What truly belonged and could be developed further and how to do it. It was an untangling process, and what was salvageable about myself was much more solid and worthwhile than I had feared. It is such a cliché to say “I found myself,” but that is more or less what happened when I took a big step away from security. I discovered, to my relief, that there was a real me there, in the heart of all the dysfunction.

Then, armed with a new sense of self, I started working on untangling some relationships. This was, if anything, even more terrifying. I knew that if I cut away everything that was unhealthy, there might be no relationship left.

People are who they want to be, and if you are going to become healthier and more whole yourself, you have to let other people be who they choose to be. Sometimes this means the relationship will end. You will lose someone you did not want to lose. This is a thing that happens sometimes, when you step out, away from secure footing. Many of my relationships changed. Some became stronger. Some were lost.

Then, at a certain point, my therapist asked me to look hard at my relationship with God and with the Catholic Church.

Read the rest of my latest for America magazine

Image: Ivan Aivazovsky 1888 Jesus walks on water (detail)  Public Domain

How to achieve peace of mind about your POS

I just dropped off my car at the mechanic. Tell me, is it a bad sign when he takes a look at it and says, ”  . . . woof”?

The good news is, I don’t really care. We only need the mechanic to make it legal for a few more weeks (currently the doors flap open when you take a curve, which I understand is an automotive safety no-no), because we are on the cusp of buying a new car. A car so new, it will require payments to be made on it.

This is a departure from the past, in which my idea of financing a vehicle was borrowing money from my dad so we could pay Bodey the tow boy to get rid of the old car, which had been slowly filing up with mice. I cannot even stand how fancy we are now, and how mouseless. 

Here’s an essay I wrote several years ago, back when we were not on the cusp of buying a new anything, except 12 ice cream cones (and even then, we had a coupon): 

**

A few years ago, my kids were very excited about getting ice cream at Friendly’s. They were so excited that they weren’t careful about how they opened the door to the van, and wham! It whacked the car next to us in the parking lot, leaving a small mark.

Being decent people, we immediately got out, apologized to the car owner, and offered her our insurance information. She, being an absolute lunatic, got hysterical, called the police, and reported us to child protective services because our kids were out of control.

Happily, it was obvious to everyone else that she was crazy, and since the insurance claim went nowhere, CPS refused to investigate, and the policeman showed the woman that the “damage” to her car could be rubbed off with some spit, it was pretty easy for us to just shake our heads and drive away.

But it really hammered home how happy I am that there’s no chance that we’ll ever own a vehicle we care that much about. Having a gorgeous, shiny car does something funny to your brain, and you do things like cry because there is a scratch in your paint, or call somebody obscene names because they put a ding in your bumper.

What peace of mind there is, on the other hand, when you don’t exactly know what color your car is supposed to be, under the grime and the peeling paint. Nothing can compare to the interior freedom you can gain by acknowledging that the rear bumper is not so much attached to your van as stalking it, and that some of the seats were not only designed for another another make and model of car, they seem to be grieving over the separation.

I have such a van. And I fully claim the serenity I’ve earned by claiming it as my primary vehicle. If someone (if!) runs over and starts hitting it with a gravel rake, the only thing I worry about is if anyone’s favorite Elsa sticker from the dentist is going to get messed up. Because then we’ll have some trouble.

It may not be precisely healthy to behave as if your car is disposable, but it sure does simplify things. For your shmedification (that’s schadenfreude-mit-edification), I’ve put together a short list of the levels of car troubles, and what your response ought to be, as the owner of a genuine, American-made POS. 

Things that don’t even register: Drips, smells, rumbles, squeals, groans, blinking lights, shudders, tremors, mice, hiccups, spasms, heat that won’t turn on, heat that won’t turn off, heat that smells like dolphin meat, the unpredictable squirting of fluids, and the occasional refusal to acknowledge who’s in charge here. This is just what it’s like having a car that you aren’t making huge monthly payments on, and if you can’t live this way, then you’re overdue for a fancy pants check, Mr. Fancy Pants. 

Things that cause mild concern: The doors do not close. This can be solved by threading one of the unused seatbelts through the door handle and yanking it taut. If you worry that this system is somehow “unsafe,” just remind yourself that your grandpappy used to drive all around God’s green earth in a rattly old tin lizzy, and he went on to father sixteen children before they all died a horrible death in his tin lizzie.

Things that cause irritation: alarms that don’t stop. This is not a safety issue, unless you take into account what it does to the human psyche to hear “Bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . bong . . . ” for three hours every day. Optimistic drivers may try to make lemonade out of lemons and search for songs that go along with the bonging — the Anvil Chorus works pretty well — but eventually you’ll realize that you don’t know as much Italian as you thought you did, and that’s the end of that. Get the wire cutters.

Things that cause serious frustration: Gauges which work fine, only you have to reset them with a pencil every time you turn the engine on. Only an issue because nobody ever lets you have a pencil for more than a day or so.

Things that cause despair: When you finally break down, either literally or mentally, and go to the garage, where the mechanic treats you like a big idiot just because you assumed that changing the oil was something that only wealthy elitists do, like paragliding in Hawaii or using a napkin. So the mechanic gives you a number for how much it will cost to repair your vehicle, and then you are faced with one of those cost-benefit analysis questions: What makes more fiscal sense? Should I take out a small loan so as to sink more money into a vehicle that will only last another six months, tops, assuming the load-bearing rust holds and the water don’t rise? Or should I just kill myself?

Then you remember that you traded in your life insurance policy for a packet of coupons to Friendly’s. So that settles that. 

Sweet suffering Anna Jarvis

Does Mother’s Day play out in Australia like it does in the US? Maybe in Australia, you mark the day by honoring your mothers in a simple yet meaningful way that builds pleasant memories.

Maybe a little bouquet of local flowers and a heartfelt note of love and appreciation is universally acknowledged as the appropriate thing; or maybe the government has issued vouchers so every female over the age of 16 gets paid to put her feet up while drones drop made-to-order omelettes and mimosas from the skies. You could tell me anything and I’d believe it.

Here, it’s not like that. We’ve taken a simple holiday originally instituted to honor mothers and made it so emotionally convoluted and commercially bonkers that Anna Jarvis, the original founder of the day, eventually petitioned in disgust to have it rescinded, on the grounds that you people are insane.

Well, old Anna is long dead, but if she were alive today and saw what a monstrous and convoluted behemoth the holiday has become, she’d head for the nearest spa with a Mother’s Day special, locate the hot tub, and drown herself. Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image: Red Carnation by Sheila Sund via Flickr (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 249: I’m holding out for a gyro

Man, that was a fast week. The kids were on vacation, so I had the time to cook a bit more than I have in a while. Some tasty meals! Come for the recipes, stay to see the worst thing I’ve ever done to my car.

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Burgers grilled outside, chips

First outdoor meal of the year! I’m very happy. I love eating outdoors, even though we seem to run through tabletops like nobody’s business, and, not wanting to sit at a topless table like a jerk, I always end up perching on a rock and balancing my plate on my knees like a jerk. But I had a dinner companion on Saturday, who perches on rocks and balances things on her knees for fun.

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, veggies

A popular meal, as long as I don’t make it very often, which I do. 

MONDAY
Beef shish kebab, roast corn on the cob

Great price on big hunks of beef, so I cut it up into chunks and marinated it.

I wish I had let it marinate longer, as it was still fairly tough. Good flavor, though. I browsed a bunch of recipes and then came up with my own marinade, which I wrote down on a piece of paper and then lost. Please clap.

Anyway, I threaded the beef on wooden skewers with onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and little tomoots.

I usually soak the skewers in water for half an hour to keep them from catching on fire and to keep the meat from drying out, but this time I was seized with skepticism, so I skipped that step. Guess what happened. So fine, so next time I’ll soak them. 

I had a bunch of corn on the cob (from Florida, apparently. I don’t think of Florida as full of corn fields, but I guess it can’t be all alligators and headlines) but didn’t start any water boiling in time to cook it, and Damien didn’t have any space on the grill for it; so I heated up the broiler, slathered the shucked corn with melted butter, and broiled it for ten minutes or so, turning it once.

Then I sprinkled it with elote seasoning, and it was pretty good! Maybe a little bit dry, but it’s early corn anyway, so maybe that was inevitable. Definitely a decent, easy option. I do love corn that’s slightly charred.

Such an ornamental little meal.

TUESDAY
Lamb gyros

If I told you how cheap lamb was, you’d plotz. It was so cheap! So I did that crazy easy recipe from Tom Nichols’ grandmother, and as usual, it turned out juicy, incredibly tender, and bursting with flavor. I used to go to a lot of trouble inserting slivered garlic into lamb, but believe me: This is a thousand times easier and it really tastes better. 

Jump to Recipe

So I roasted the lamb and sliced it up

and we had it on pita bread with spicy fries, tomatoes, fresh mint leaves, and plenty of garlicky yogurt sauce.

Jump to Recipe

Freaking fantastic meal. 

I love lamb so much, and the mint leaves and yogurt sauce made it truly delightful.

WEDNESDAY
Bo ssam, spicy coleslaw, rice, pineapple, lemon meringue pie

I’ve been wanting to try this recipe forevvvvvver. It’s supposed to be a party dish: You serve up a gleaming mountain of a pork roast, and everybody gathers around and pokes their chopsticks through the crisp, caramelized skin, happily picking out scrumptious tender shreds of meat, which they then dip into various savory sauces and eat wrapped up in lettuce with a little rice. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

We didn’t quite get there. We got close! It was delicious. It was extremely late. It was juicy and screaming with flavor. It was not shreddy. It was the saltiest thing I have eaten since I just straight up ate some salt. The kids mostly loved it and said I should make it again, but that may possibly have been because it was three hours past normal dinnertime. I don’t know! I do want to make it again.

I used the recipe from My Korean Kitchen. You rub the pork with, like, an alarming amount of sea salt and sugar

wrap it, and let it sit at least six hours, or overnight. Then you unwrap it and cook it at a low temp for six hours. Then you slather a sugary mixture over it to finish it up with a nice rich crust, and then you serve it as described above. 

As you can see, I had two smaller pork shoulders, rather than one giant one, so I reasoned I could get away with cooking it for closer to 3.5 hours. No dice. 4.5 hours later, it still wasn’t shreddy, but we were ravenous, so I called it done and sliced it up. 

The flavors more than made up for the deficiencies in texture. I was also bowled over by the dipping sauce, which is made with (doenjang) soybean paste, gochujang (fermented chili paste), sesame oil, sesame seeds, honey, garlic, onion, scallions, and walnuts, all ground up together.

You guys, it was amazing. It was one of those foods that goes, “beep, bop, boop, KABLAMMO” in your mouth, one flavor after another. Really lively and intense. A tiny bit went a long way.

I also made the spicy Korean coleslaw she recommended, which had a lovely, bright kick, and helped balance out the intensely salty pork. I also cut up a couple of pineapples, and set out a big pot of rice and bunch of lettuce leaves. 

Note: This meal is about 46,300 calories per serving. So go run around the block a few times, you’ll be fine. It’s so good. 

And Clara, having made some rash promises to some Amelia Bedelia fans, came through with a lemon meringue pie. By the time it was time for dessert, the pies had slumped a bit, but they were still very tasty.

She used my recipe for cheater’s lemon meringue pie

Jump to Recipe

which is pretty easy, and has only a few ingredients and has a great, intensely lemony flavor. 

THURSDAY
Domino’s pizza

On Thursday we technically went to an art museum and technically ate restaurant food. Promises were made and then technically kept. I complained about Thursday in an essay I just sent off to Australia, so you will just have to wait. The short version is: It’s a good thing I haven’t bought a new car yet, because this is what I did to my old car:

100% my fault, nobody got hurt, and you can totally still open the other two doors, so. 

FRIDAY

Kids are having Giant Chocolate Pancake, adults are having shrimp lo mein. No doubt some people will have both. Imma use my super simple lo mein recipe

Jump to Recipe

and throw some shrimp in there and no one can stop me. Except possibly Pfizer. We had our second Pfizer shots yesterday and I may be just a damp spot on the floor by Friday evening, in which case, the kids know how to make their own pancakes. 

Okay, here’s the recipe cards! In case I didn’t heartily recommend the lamb gyros or the bo ssam enough, I’m heartily doing it again. 

 

Tom Nichols' Grandmother's Leg of Lamb

Ingredients

  • boneless leg of lamb
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • garlic salt
  • oregano

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.

  2. Slash the meat several times, about an inch deep.

  3. Fill the cuts with plenty of garlic powder.

  4. Slather olive oil all over the meat.

  5. Crust it with garlic salt. Sprinkle with all the oregano you own.

  6. Cover meat loosely with tinfoil and cook three hours. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

 

Cheater's lemon meringue pie

I like a pie shell made from several cups of animal cracker crumbs whirred into a sandy texture, mixed with a stick of melted butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a dash of salt. Mix well and press into the pan.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie shell

For the lemon layer:

  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

For the meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350

  2. Mix together the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest until well combined. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

  3. Bake 10-15 minutes until the mixture has a little skin.

  4. While it's baking, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until it has soft peaks. Then gradually add the sugar until it has stiff peaks.

  5. When the lemon layer comes out of the oven, spread the meringue over the top and make a little peaks all over it with a fork or spatula.

  6. Return the pie to the oven and bake for another ten minutes or so until the meringue is slightly browned.

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 6 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2 Tbsp mirin

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

What we’re watching, reading, and listening too WHILE FULLY IMMUNIZED

Just got our second Pfizer shot today! Half the kids have had their first shot. We are so close. 

Today we’re wrapping up spring break by heading off to an art museum. (They’re taking reservations and limiting occupancy and requiring masks, so we feel pretty safe.) Cannot wait to start going places and doing things again! Cannot wait!

Before I run out, here are a few things I’ve been enjoying lately. We have begun severely limiting internet time, and especially social media, so if you have book and music and movie recommendations, I’d love to hear them! I’ll probably write more later about limiting internet, but so far it’s been ::chef’s kiss:: (except for how mad the kids are).

WATCHING
The Sopranos

Groundbreaking choice, I know. This is my second time watching the series, and it’s still the best TV that’s ever been made. That’s it, no debate. I cover my eyes for some of the more violent scenes, and we both cover our eyes during the graphic sex, but this show deserves all the accolades it’s gotten for writing, for acting, for musical score, for everything. If it’s been on your list, watch it!

READING
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Terrible title, great book. The writing style is coming close to getting on my nerves this second time around, but I’m still 90% captivated. I guess it’s . . . Midwest magical realism? A highly original novel about love, family, revenge, justice, and miracles, and it’s SO hard to write about it without it sounding cheesy. Great, immensely believable characters, very moving and funny and has more than one passage that will make you gasp out loud. 

LISTENING TO

Any number of things:

Jade Bird

Kinda bluegrass Americana, but make it smart, and mean. This one’s pretty famous, but she’s really got something. Poke around a bit. 

also this guy, Charley Crockett, apparently, yes, a distant relative of Davey, super fun neo-honky tonk, who really knows what his gifts are and how to use them. Just a neat aesthetic all around, very appealing, even though he’s not exactly a skilled singer. Here’s “How I got to Memphis,” but do look around.  He’s got more than one trick. 

He’s black/Cajun/Creole/Jewish and I like his face a lot. Oops, I don’t think that video has his face! I’ll have to add another one when I get back home. 

From there I strayed into Kassi Vallazza. Her little intro to “Johnny Dear” made me not want to listen, but I’m glad I did:

Switching gears, here is Kimiko Ishizaka playing the Goldberg Variations, with the score highlighted in real time so you can follow along.

I still maintain that Bach is one of the funniest composers. He’s constantly setting you up and then pulling the rug out from under you. I’m not familiar with this pianist, but it’s a captivating and witty performance, and a good antidote if you need a break from Glenn Gould. 

I’m also revisiting Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms and it holds up, which is always a relief when you really liked an album but haven’t heard it for a long time. 1985 was maybe a little better than you remember. 

The featured image is Corrie’s picture of Supereman, just because it’s cool. Truly he and curl, and his unibrow,

are the heroes we need. And here are his muscles:

NH Reporter: 7 sex abuse lawsuits filed against Legion, more ahead; Payoffs allegedly continue

Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in Center Harbor, NH, was a sexual smorgasbord for the Legion of Christ, according to lawsuits.

The disgraced Legion only acknowledged two abusers in New Hampshire, but seven new lawsuits have named more, and there are more lawsuits forthcoming, according to reporting by my husband, Damien Fisher. Not all the alleged victims are male.

The Legion is now allegedly using the abuse reporting process itself as a way of identifying and silencing victims: 

Sources tell NH Reporter that the order has been using the process of reporting on itself to identify victims of abuse, and offer payments in exchange for silence. Center Harbor Police Chief Mark Chase has said several victims stopped talking to him after receiving payments.

An attorney who has helped Legion victims told NH Reporter that the victims are required to sign an agreement before getting the money. The lawyer said the Legion was misleading victims by telling them that their legal claims were timed out, and then it offered them each up to $10,000 in exchange for signing the agreement.

“(A) release of claims that is so broadly drafted that it would include anything the Legion would do to them in the future, such as running them over with a car,” the attorney said.

Damien will continue to follow this story as it unfolds. Read the full article in NHReporter.com

***

Image copyright Damien Fisher

A different NaPro story: Leah Libresco Sargeant speaks on loss and kindness

Last week, during Infertility Awareness Week, I published an interview with a woman who was served very poorly by her NaPro doctor. He failed her medically and caused her unnecessary physical and psychological harm. 
 
Leah Libresco Sargeant had a very different experience. Sargeant, 31, was married in 2016 and has one living child, Beatrice, who is 15 months old. Before Beatrice was born, Sargeant lost six babies. 
 

Those children are named Robin, Ariel, Blaise, Casey, Camillian, and Luca. Her third pregnancy was a possible ectopic, after which she began seeing a NaPro doctor. She then had a very early loss, sometimes referred to clinically as a ‘chemical pregnancy,’ and two more ectopic pregnancies before conceiving and carrying Beatrice to term. 

These are not dueling interviews, and they are not mirror images of each other. I wanted to share both women’s stories to give the conversation around NaPro more depth and nuance, because it’s so often presented in Catholic circles as a miracle cure, and entirely different from what mainstream fertility doctors can offer. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it  isn’t.

As Sargeant says,”Both stories are true. It’s a reason for people to hold Catholic doctors to a high standard of charity, as well as ethics. It’s not an unreachable standard.” 
 
Here is our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity:
 
A lot of people lose their first babies. When did you become aware that what you were dealing with was out of the ordinary?
 
 With our first baby, Robin. I didn’t care if it was out of the ordinary or not. People would say things like, “Your odds are good if you try again,” but who cares? Our baby just died. Nobody would say that if your baby got hit by a car. For each of our pregnancies, we focused on the risk to this baby, rather than thinking of it on some abstract level. 
 
After Blaise [the third loss] it was only partly that we were looking for a NaPro doctor. We were looking for a doctor who was a kind person, which wasn’t how we felt about the two doctors we had seen before. It felt like they didn’t see our babies as babies. They barely saw us as people.
 

When we came in for the last ultrasound, we suspected we had lost the baby by that point, and right before [the doctor] came into the room, I heard her say, “Okay, so there’s nothing there?” And they were brusque with us when we were crying in the waiting room. I’m sure it’s uncomfortable for people to see that, but what did they think was going to happen? It felt as though they had never delivered the news of a miscarriage before. You’re surprised by this? 

Even if it didn’t make any improvement in our medical treatment, [having a Catholic doctor] would mean someone who would take our losses seriously. 

How did you go about finding such a person?

We were in New York City, and we were in a Frassati Group for young married and engaged couples, and they said Dr. Nolte and the Gianna Center was really good. 
 
She took a very exhaustive NaPro history with a dozen blood tests, testing every possible hormone. She also asked about all our miscarriages, and when she took notes, she wrote down the babies’ names in the charts. I spoke to her recently, and she wanted to make sure she had accurately transferred all their names. 
 

So it sounds like this is one of those geographical things. Elizabeth had to drive four hours to get to a NaPro doctor, but you had a choice. 

 

Yes,  just walked across town. It was a 30 minute walk, and there was a park nearby. 
 
How did you first hear of NaPro? 
 
I had heard about in general. I took it with a grain of salt, the same as with people who say NFP is the best possible thing for your marriage, and whatever problem you have, NFP will solve it. 
 

It’s hard to make really strong promises, because women’s health is so under-researched. It’s important not to overpromise, not because the science is unsound, but because women’s health is always under-researched. Progesterone may be helpful. Depending on [your underlying condition] ,some studies have found yes, some have found no. It depends on what the nature of the fertility problem is. It’s certainly plausible it could save the life of some babies, but it’s not a given.

We talked about the side effects of medications, and whether it’s worth the chance to try it. I didn’t notice any side effects of taking progesterone, so there was very little down side of taking it. It might help, and it wasn’t difficult to take it. She said we could always come back and discuss how it was progressing. 

The thing that was most difficult was that it was a lot of different pills to take. It was depressing taking a little pill canister around, taking things at every meal, and having that be a reminder of how hard this was for us. 
 
Did you ever sit down and discuss what the parameters would be, how far you would go, what you would try? 
 
It would  have been something we would have evaluated if we had been [pursuing treatment] over a longer period of time. But we did keep getting pregnant. It was, “Is this baby going to make it?” It wasn’t this long, undifferentiated slog. 
 
You mentioned in an interview that, pre-conversion, you found some appeal in the gnostic idea that the “real you” is housed in the body; and in another essay that NFP did some work to heal that. I wonder if having struggles with your body not “functioning” right awoke that struggle at all. 
 
It’s been a long and continuing conversion of heart. There’s a difference between teaching women that their cycle has a structure, versus teaching as though there is no cycle, there’s just periods, and it’s a problem, and here’s how to manage it. That bodies are basically bad, but you can stay ahead of them if you work hard.  [Although, with some situations with NFP,] it can feel like your body is sending you signals from a distance, and it’s foggy. It’s not as though NFP is a magic bullet. 
 
A lot of women struggling with fertility problems talk about feeling like their bodies are broken, or that they betrayed them. 
 
I didn’t feel that way. Although a lot of medical terminology pushes in that direction. “Miscarried” sounds like you were carrying the baby, but you screwed up. “Losing the baby” makes you feel like, “Did I take my eye off the baby? Somehow I lost him.” A lot of language circles around blame. I didn’t have this [particular] problem, but “incompetent cervix” [is another example]. It’s not like you personally went cervix shopping and picked out one with a bad expiration date. 
 
A lot of medical language ticks me off. It sounds like it’s a woman’s fault. [My doctor wrote on my chart] “early loss,” rather than “chemical pregnancy.” Part of what happened was I felt like my body was doing the best job it could.
 

It was personally comforting for me [that I didn’t have to have a DNC]. I got take care of my baby till the end. It could be in my family without involving aggressive medical attention. 

With Camillian, it was an ectopic pregnancy. The blood tests started getting bad, and when we went in for the ultrasound, we were steeling ourselves to hear that the baby had died. But we got told the baby was in the wrong spot and had probably already died, based on the lack of heartbeat and how far along we should be. That really changed things. We were in the doctor’s office in New York, and they said, “You need to go to the hospital.” We took a train to New Jersey [so as to avoid] a surgeon who had been unkind to us. 
 
It was one thing to lose the baby, and for the baby to leave on their own time, but the idea that they were going to take the baby really upset me. The sense of peace I had with the other babies, I couldn’t feel with Camillian. It didn’t feel like it was happening on God’s time table or on the baby’s time table. 
 
Dr. Beiter had just met us. He hadn’t know us before. But he also stopped and talked through all our options. It was a Catholic hospital. Because the baby had already died, we had more options than is sometimes the case. We wanted to know how can we take care of the baby, even if the baby has died?
 

We didn’t like methotrexate very much as an idea. It would have been licit, but I didn’t like the idea of dissolving the baby. You have to wait longer, and it doesn’t always work. 

[The doctor said,] “You could avoid surgery; isn’t that better? You can go home today, and possibly just be done.” We talked it through, and he definitely had a preference for the drug, but he talked through what we preferred. Both options were morally fine and medically effective, and we made the call, and he took good care of us. 

Surgery is a harder recovery. It was locking in a harder recovery, but we wouldn’t expect to go back for another treatment. [With methotrexate, the symptoms of the drug can be similar to those of a tubal rupture, so you may have to go back to the ER.] I just wanted to go home and be done with everything, even if I’m recovering from abdominal surgery.  
 

That’s a tough thing with not just fertility medicine, but with medicine generally. Sometimes things are black and white, but sometimes there are different degrees of benefit and side effects, and there isn’t a single right decision. 

Did you ever receive any specific medical treatment from NaPro doctors that a mainstream fertility doctor would never have offered?

 

It’s hard to know for sure. Some mainstream doctors won’t consider progesterone at all, but my original doctor tested and had me supplement. There were tests that a doctor might have done later that our NaPro doctor didn’t need to wait for many many losses to do. None of them came through, but if I’d had a clotting disorder, I would have been very grateful for her being up to check.

The big (evidence not fully in) treatments we had were metformin for PCOS, and antibiotics for endometritis (which is different from endometriosis). Both of which, from my review of the literature, don’t have enough evidence behind them to make them an obvious right choice. But they have plausible mechanisms of action and (for me) mild to no side effects.

Did you ever have to deal with Catholics judging you for family size or for not having a honeymoon baby? 
 
We’ve been pretty open about our losses. Anyone who knew us enough to ask would know. Sometimes strangers will see Beatrice and say, “Is she your first?” I usually say “She’s our first to make it to birth.” Just because it’s true. 
 
Despite your good experience with Catholic doctors, is there anything you would like to see changed about the culture around NaPro or the conversation around Catholic fertility issues in general?
 

It’s good to remember that there’s not necessarily anything there to be fixed. [Sometimes people speak] in terms of something secretly wrong with you, and NaPro can fix it. We still don’t know for sure. We really don’t know if there was an underlying problem, or if we were just unlucky. 

If you feel like every person’s story ends by finding and fixing a problem, you can get emotionally blackmailed, by yourself, even. “I must have a really secret, obscure problem!” I saw that a bit in the miscarriage support group I was in. For the most part, it was really helpful, but [people would go to extreme lengths like] really aggressive elimination diets. I think people do that because they’ve tried everything, and it hasn’t happened, so they have to look harder for what’s wrong. 

God does make people who don’t have children, because that’s His really exhausting will for them, and not because His will is that they find and fix anything. It’s not comfortable, but it is true. That means people who do fertility care have to talk about the theology of suffering, not just aspirational fixing. 
 

One thing that helped me is that I have a friend who’s a Dominican sister who cares for people who are fatally ill with cancer. That’s their charism: They care for indigent people who cancer who wouldn’t otherwise have anyone to care for them. Not to cure them, but to care for them. That’s what my job was as a mother. 

Can you say more about that?
 
Some moms get to take care of their babies for the mom’s whole life. That’s not what I got to do. Instead, I got to take care of them for their whole lives. 

To care for them without the hope of curing them: That could be my work as a mother. 

Hopefully it’s because He trusts me with them. “I’m going to give you this baby who’s going to die. I’m entrusting you to love this baby in the way that baby needs to be loved, not the way you want to love that baby.”
 
And I worried, what if I get really good at this and God only wants me to do that? 
 
Is there anything we didn’t cover that you’d like people to know about your experience, or about infertility in general?
 
Sometimes people weren’t sure what to say to us. Trying to get us not to be sad is a lousy approach, but a common one. They didn’t say “Don’t be sad” out loud, but that is what they were saying quietly. If you could say quietly “Don’t be sad” in front of what you’re going to say, don’t say it. It’s better if you could say “I’m sad, too” quietly. 
 
What I wanted to hear was, “I’m sorry I won’t get to meet your baby. I would have liked to meet your baby.” 
 
 
***
 
Leah Libresco Sargeant is the author of two books, Arriving At Amen and Building the Benedict Option, and she runs a Substack called Other Feminisms: Creating a culture that values interdependence over autonomy
 

What’s for supper? Vol. 248: Chomp!

If you look closely, you will see that I got some new plates from the dump. Look closely, I say!

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken on salad

Buffalo chicken (from frozen) cut into strips on salad greens with tomatoes, shredded pepper jack cheese, crunchy fried onions, and blue cheese dressing. It’s just a good, fast, easy meal, and always more filling than I expect.

(Why I expect breaded chicken, cheese, and creamy dressing not to be filling is another question.)

SUNDAY
Pizza

As I promised myself I would do, I only made five extra-large pizzas. There were still leftovers, but only for 24 hours or so, so I’m on the right track.

I made two pepperoni, one cheese, one olive, and one with anchovies, sliced garlic, little blobs of pesto, red pepper flakes, and freshly-grated asiago, which is my new jam. I mean, it’s not jam, it’s cheese. 

Divine. Or at very least, numinous. 

MONDAY
Omelettes, sausages

According to tradition, I made nine lovely, tidy, fluffy half-moon omelettes to order for all the kids, and then a couple of sloppy, runny egg heaps for me and Damien. I don’t know why this is, but it’s how it happens every time. 

Tasted good, though. I had my egg heap with mozzarella, ham, and fried onions, with sausages on the side. 

I also got some help in the kitchen making the sausages. 

Corrie really seems to have a knack for cooking, and it seems to calm her hot little brain, which is no small feat. 

TUESDAY
Cold roast beef sandwiches, coleslaw

I had my sandwich with tomatoes and horseradish mayo. The coleslaw was just a basic mayo, sugar, cider vinegar, pepper deal.

I seasoned the roasts heavily with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and seared them all over in hot oil in a heavy pot. Then I put them in a baking dish with a little water and cooked them at 375 until they were done rare. It was much easier to cut the meat thinly after it had chilled for several hours, so that was nice. I’m a terrible meat cutter.

I skipped provolone on my sandwich so I could have coleslaw, if that makes sense. My current plan is to count calories during the day, and then have a dinner that isn’t insane. I’m giving it a month, and if I haven’t lost enough weight that way, I’ll FUCKING COUNT DINNER CALORIES IF THAT’S WHAT IT TAKES. Excuse me. 

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl and rice; sautéed asparagus and sugar snap peas

This is a popular dish. It has that savory Korean BBQ taste but it’s sweet and not too spicy, so the kids like it. Comes together very quickly, and it’s cheap. 

Jump to Recipe

While the rice was finishing cooking, I rummaged around and found some asparagus and sugar snap peas, and they ended up tasting great together with just a little salt and pepper and red pepper flakes.

Jump to Recipe

They have a good springtime crunch and made a nice greeny side for the medium-spicy meat. Pretty, too. 

You can certainly substitute in all manner of vegetables. I totally forgot I had some red peppers, and those would have been a lovely addition. 

If we have time this weekend, we’re going to see if we can forage some fiddleheads, which taste a lot like asparagus. Although apparently if you undercook them, you spend the rest of your life pooping. Well, maybe I’ll just stick to store-bought asparagus. 

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

I was making supper and thinking about this and that when suddenly I looked down into the bowl and had no idea what I was cooking. I had just been throwing random things into the bowl and thinking about this and that. I pulled myself together before anything too weird made its way in, and just made sure there was plenty of sauce. And that’s-a my secret. 

That, and shredded asiago. 

Here’s my meatball recipe, for when you’re aware that you’re making meatballs. Jump to Recipe

FRIDAY
Tuna sandwiches, chips

I feel like the kids actually requested this meal, but I may be deluding myself. I do remember that I nabbed some $4 smoked salmon and $3 brie not too long ago, but the kids definitely don’t need to know about that. 

5 from 1 vote
Print

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can improve the flavor by using fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but powdered works fine, too. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking. 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (you can skip this, really, or use olive oil, but it adds flavor)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed (or 3/4 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the sesame or other oil in a skillet. Lightly cook then garlic, then add the ground beef and cook, breaking into bits, until the meat is all browned. Drain most of the fat. 

  2. Mix together the brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and pepper flakes, and add to the ground beef. Or you can actually just chuck everything in the pan and stir it up right there. Cook a little longer until everything is combined and hot. 

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

 

5 from 1 vote
Print

Sautéed asparagus and sugar snap peas

a simple vegetable side dish you can make in a few minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 3/4 lbs sugar snap peas
  • 2 tsp oil for cooking
  • salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut the white ends off the asparagus and chop it into 1-inch sections

  2. snip the stems off the sugar snap peas. Cut them in half if you like.

  3. In a pan, heat up the oil. Add the vegetables and cook them on high heat, and add salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Cook and keep the vegetables moving in the pan until a few of them are browned, but they are still crisp.

 

5 from 1 vote
Print

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

Sometimes NaPro is a miracle cure for infertility. Sometimes it’s a nightmare.

Elizabeth Dye never got an apology.
 
She and her husband had gone to a NaPro fertility care doctor looking for help. She’d had a honeymoon baby, then a second trimester loss, then an ectopic pregnancy. Everyone told them that NaPro doctors are the ethical, humane answer to fertility problems, so they drove four hours to see what help there was.
 
Dozens of tests, drugs, shots, and procedures later, she got pregnant again: A second ectopic pregnancy, in the same disfigured tube her doctor chose to leave intact despite her request to remove it. 
 
Fifteen years and seven surgeries later, Dye finally got a medically necessary hysterectomy this year for a condition her NaPro doctor missed. He not only didn’t heal her infertility, he caused her and her husband unspeakable sorrow, stress, and pain.  
 
She agreed to share her story during Infertility Awareness Week because it’s so common for Catholics to tell anyone suffering from infertility, “Try NaPro!” 
 

Sometimes that’s good advice. For many women, NaPro technology is literally an answer to prayer. NaPro touts itself as a cheaper, more effective, morally sound alternative to IVF, and some NaPro sites boast a success rate of “up to 80%.” Sometimes the care women receive allows them to conceive and sustain a pregnancy when nothing else worked; and many women say that, after IVF failed them, they felt treated as a whole person for the first time.

But there are other stories.

Couples with stories like Elizabeth’s often keep quiet, because they’re afraid of discouraging hopeful couples, or because they’re leery of damaging the reputation of a fertility system that presents itself as the medical face of the Catholic church — or because people simply don’t want to hear stories without happy endings. 

But it serves no one — and often leads to greater heartache — to paint an overly rosy picture of what couples should expect when they try NaPro.

Here is our conversation. 
 
***
 
How did you first become aware you had fertility issues, and how did you address them?
 
I didn’t think I would have any trouble because my daughter was conceived on our honeymoon. She was a textbook pregnancy and textbook delivery, a four-hour labor. We thought we were good to go, and we were going to have a bunch of babies. I got pregnant when she was about fifteen months old, and that ended up to be a second trimester loss, a little girl. Pathology said they couldn’t find any anomalies, and it was just a fluke. 
 
We weren’t trying to get pregnant, but we were using the stupid sympto-thermal method that never works for anybody. And that turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy, which was really mismanaged by my traditional doctor and by a hospital. My tube wasn’t removed. I was treated with a chemo drug. The baby was already dead, so it’s a folate antagonist so it shrivels the fetus. She didn’t follow the protocol with the drug, so I had to have several doses, which you’re not supposed to have, and it left the tube really disfigured. 
 

We were hesitant to try to have any more children. My doctor thought maybe I had endometriosis, and we didn’t want to try for another baby if it was going to happen again. So everybody kind of steered me toward NaPro medicine. 

So we went to NaPro and told [the doctor] everything. He scheduled me for exploratory surgery. He’s about four hours away. Everything looked really great. There was no endometriosis, no sign of PCOS. But I told him if anything looks like a liability for a future ectopic pregnancy, please take it out. 
 
The right tube was horribly disfigured. It looked like sausages when they’re in a link, where it’s twisted. He told me he left it in because he felt he could resection it if something were to happen with my left tube. I wasn’t happy with that. 
 
So we went ahead with the charting, and everything that was required. I had to go to the hospital every day for an entire cycle and have my blood drawn and have it spun out and returned to me. I had a freezer full of blood. At the end of the cycle, it would get shipped to NaPro on dry ice, and he would look at my hormones. It was time-consuming and expensive. My insurance company didn’t want to pay to have my blood drawn and spun out and given back to me. 
 
We also had to do a sperm analysis, but you can only do it with perforated condoms, and they have to have it at the lab within thirty minutes of doing the deed, so that was a great experience to have to run that to the lab. 
 
They never really found anything major. My periovulatory estrogen could be a little higher, but there was no smoking gun. So they put me on fertility drugs to try to conceive. 
 
When we started fertility treatment, they don’t tell you how badly they’re going to make you feel. The debilitating anxiety; all the stuff you can imagine when you start messing with stuff on a fundamental level. So I did fertility drugs, I did Clomid, I did HCG shots to trick my body into thinking it was pregnant, to make more estrogen and progesterone. I did intramuscular injections. And I did get pregnant. 
 
Because I had had a previous ectopic pregnancy, I needed to have labs sent every 48 hours to make sure the HCG doubled, and it did. Everything looked great. And when I went in for my ultrasound, there was a perfect baby, in my right tube. The tube the doctor swore nothing could get through, that was completely sealed off and nothing could get in. 
 
It actually ruptured just prior to surgery. I had an abdomen full of blood. I had the right tube removed, finally. 
 
He told me I could try again next cycle. I tried again, I got pregnant, and I miscarried at about seven weeks naturally. 
 
Through all of it, I don’t think my experience was any different than most women who go so a secular, mainstream fertility doctor. They are pushing a product. Their endgame is to get you a baby. They don’t talk about things like how it’s going to affect you, and I think [the NaPro doctor] was willing to continue treatments after that second miscarriage, after such a short period of time. I lost so much blood, and I still had to go have blood draws to make sure my HCG was going down. At one blood draw, I just flat out hit the floor, passed out. I was put through the wringer, and he was like, “Just have one period and we’ll try again.”
 
When you’re on that rollercoaster, it’s really hard to get off. You’re basically hormonally not culpable, almost. You make decisions you wouldn’t make if you weren’t jacked on all these hormones. It’s like crack. You might as well be on a totally illicit drug, they are so powerful. 
 
I wish my husband and I had sat down and set really clear parameters for  how far we would go, because once you’re started, it’s so hard to get off. I’d be on an intramuscular progesterone that would jack me up to third trimester hormones, and then tank after that. It was like having a baby every month .
 
They did so many different things to me, it was just throwing stuff up against the wall to see what would stick. They couldn’t find a smoking gun. I felt like a guinea pig. He did say, “We’re still learning, this is still new, we’ve had success with a few patients” with this and that. I felt like I was learned on. 
 
I was very resentful he didn’t remove the tube when I asked him to, if there was something wrong with it. I had a major depressive episode after having been on and off and on and off progesterone so much in such a short period of time. My husband said we would never go there again. Even if I were to get pregnant again, I would never supplement with progesterone. They had never proved there was a deficiency, and my mental health couldn’t handle it. No on asked me if I was prone to depression and anxiety. He just pushed, “This is what I need you to do if you’re going to try to have a baby.” [Using] licit methods doesn’t make them appropriate. They’re pushers.
 
I imagine it to be the same exact experience with [traditional mainstream] fertility doctors. They would have just kept going.
 
The last time I saw him was when I went into the OR, and he was so shocked [the tubal pregnancy] had happened. He said over and over that in 23 years, he’s never seen anything like it. My numbers had risen perfectly. He was so sure. He never apologized. He never said, “I should have taken that tube out.” He never said he was sorry. 
 
It was horrible. I remember the ultrasound like I was not in my body. I can see myself sitting in the chair, and them showing me the heartbeat, and knowing the pregnancy had to be terminated. I’m grateful it ruptured, because the baby died naturally. 
 
It happened because he knew better. He knew better than I did. And it was my body. I asked him to take out the tube if it was a liability, but he knew better. He thought possibly he could fix it. 
 
[NaPro] was presented as medically superior. They say they try to get to the root cause and really find out what’s going on, instead of just throwing people on Clomid. They did try to get to the root cause, but they still threw me on Clomid. You have to learn the Creighton method for them to see you, and that wasn’t cheap, to go through an instructor. A lot of this was out of pocket, especially to travel four hours away. My husband works for our hospital, and they’re basically self-insured. If you need surgery, they want you to have it there. They only paid a small portion. I ended up having to have two surgeries out of state. 
 
A few months after that, because of all the hormones I had been on, my gall bladder went kaput, and I had to have gall bladder surgery. I had three major abdominal surgeries in a year. 
 
When did it occur to you that NaPro wasn’t matching up to the hype?
 
After I got away from it. There was a part of me that knew from the get-go that someone who’s willing to schedule me for surgery without even seeing me first is kind of strange. They scheduled me for surgery and I had my first visit with him 48 hours before. That’s the standard practice. 
 
I used to be in a Yahoo group with a NaPro Catholic group, and it was full of really desperate women. it was so sad. They just kept going on with the next surgery and the next round and ovarian resections and endo removed from their bowels in an attempt to try to have a baby.  If this is supposed to be so ethical, I don’t understand why these doctors don’t say, “Maybe you should think about adoption. Do you really want to go forward?” People are going to Omaha and shelling out thousands and thousands of dollars, that could be better spent on an adoption agency. 
 
It’s really rough on a marriage, too. This was thirteen, fourteen years ago. It took a lot of healing. It took a long time for my husband to be at peace with us not having more children. They can never really understand what we go through in having babies, in carrying a person, in having that connection. They can never really understand. There’s a part of me that feels sad or sort of resentful, because he really doesn’t get the way I suffered to try to give him another baby, to have another baby. That lingers. Sometimes I felt like he thought I didn’t really give it the old college try. I almost died twice, and I had all these surgeries. When you die, I tell him, you’re gonna know, and then you’re gonna feel like shit. 
 
They should be counseling couples, maybe asking them, “How’s your marriage doing?” If your marriage is shit by the time you get this baby, what good is it? I know there are plenty of women in this forum who probably did get their baby, but their marriage was destroyed.
 
Have you felt pressure from Catholics to be positive about your experience? 
 
For a little while. The further I got away from it, the more realistic I was with people. Every experience is different. They might get a good NaPro doctor. I can’t speak universally. Some women have had a super easy fix and have gone on to have all these babies. Those are the poster children they use. Most women do not, and they are on the same rollercoaster and the same drugs as the women who do IVF or IUI are on. 
 
It’s almost like an unspoken attitude that since you’re doing it God’s way, you’re gonna get a baby. I kind of felt like that. We’re going to such great lengths, surely He’ll bless us with a child. And He did bless me with two more children. They’re just not here. 
 
Have you been made to feel like a second rate Catholic because you don’t have a giant family? 
 
I struggle with this weekly, being part of the Catholic homeschool community where four kids is a small family. I’m sure everybody thinks we’re contracepting so we can can have a fabulous vacation every summer. People have told me, “You don’t even actually have a real family; you only have one kid.” It’s really hard to see a lot of pregnant women in our co-op. I don’t want another baby, but it’s like women doesn’t realize how amazing it is that your body just does what it’s supposed to do. Your body can grow people so easily. It’s just a miracle, when I see it with other people. I wish I had cherished my pregnancy with my daughter more. I would have relished it more if I had known. 
 
And you’re still using NFP now?
 
We use Marquette now, a sort of abbreviated Marquette using mostly Lh strips. 
 

Do you notice a difference in culture between Creighton and Marquette?

It seems less judgmental. It’s being used to avoid more than to achieve, and there’s more support for that. It seems more open to the reasons people would need to avoid, versus the idea that you should just keep having babies until your uterus falls out. Serious reasons are mental health, physical health, my marriage. I need to be a wife and a mom. I need to be alive. 

 
I do have difficulty finding an OB/GYN who will take me as a patient, because I had two ectopic pregnancies and I won’t contracept. That’s another “gift” that’s been given to me by NaPro. It’s forced me back to NaPro. Last summer, I was under so much stress that my period stopped, so I needed to go on progesterone. The NaPro doctor gave me twice as much as was necessary, twice as much as they even give pregnant women. It spurred a big depressive episode. 
 
They kept me on HCG shots for a year after I stopped fertility treatment, because they said it would continue to raise my progesterone and estrogen naturally. I had terrible heartburn. I had to have an endoscopy, and the meds weren’t working. I finally thought that maybe tricking my body into thinking it’s pregnant every blessed month maybe isn’t the best thing to do for my body. I stopped, and the heartburn went away. There were a lot of things like that. 
 
And I cannot get life insurance, unless I get my tubes tied. 
 
What kind of changes would you like to see?
 
If they looked at us like people, and not just a hormone profile. It was so very clinical. I don’t feel we were looked at like people. 
 
Do you still believe in NFP?
 
I do believe in NFP, in general. It has made my marriage stronger. We’ve had to grow as people. It has made us less selfish. We’ve had so much more abstinence than the average couple, because we haven’t had any pregnancies. I would say it’s hard, but worth it. 
 
I don’t feel conflicted. After my experience with hormones, I do believe hormonal contraception is bad. [Women on hormonal contraception] are probably feeling crazier than they need to. I’m pretty open about the fact that we use NFP and it works well for us. 
 
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POSTSCRIPT:

This interview is from 2019. Dye has since undergone a medically necessary hysterectomy — her seventh surgery. The condition that necessitated surgery was not diagnosed by her NaPro doctor.

Dye said:
 

“Not gonna lie, the absence of NFP has been a game changer. The amount of space it takes up in your head is phenomenal — especially if your cycles go off in the weeds, like mine. It’s not that we’re really having more sex or better sex, it’s just the mental burden was so tremendous and I didn’t realize how tremendous.”

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NOTE: I’m in the process of preparing an interview with a Catholic woman who had a very different experience with NaPro. 

 

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Image by Zadrien50 from Pixabay