The Sinner’s Guide To Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher – A Review

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family PlanningThe Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning By Simcha Fisher.

This book came highly recommended, so when one more person recommended it to me, I decided that it was time to get a copy. Well actually two copies, since the deal right now is if you buy the hard copy you get the kindle version for free. That worked out really well since my wife prefers hard copy and I prefer e-copy.

I should start this review by saying my wife and I have been practicing NFP for more than 14 years, and we have been teaching it for just over 13 years. So while I was excited about reading this book, we have some experience in helping people who have questions about the why’s and the where’s and the hows of NFP. We have heard many of the complaints, promises and hype about it. We have lived a lot of the pains and joys of it as well. And in the last few years we have gotten rather tired and probably jaded by all of the sunshine and unicorns side that you see most of the time.

This book, is not one of those sunshine and rainbows, puppies and kittens. Well maybe it is because, as anyone who has ever had a puppy or a kitten will tell you, that while they are super cute and there are some great benefits to having one, they can also be a pain. Ruined floors and furniture, torn up shoes, walks in the middle of the night that and unexpected puddle that gets your socks wet right after you turn the lights off.

So on with the review. This books starts with a disclaimer. This book will not teach you NFP. It will not tell you about all the different methods, it will not even tout one version of NFP over all the others. It won’t tell you about the dangers of using artificial birth control. So if that is what you are looking for, this is not the book for you.

After the disclaimer, the first few chapters are about the realities of living with NFP. Why you might choose it, and some of the common arguments. And I enjoyed reading about them. Even though I knew it was the case already it was good to hear that other people struggle with using NFP as well. The chapters on why, biologically speaking, the struggle can be so darn hard was especially nice to see.

For a long time my wife and I called ourselves the NFP dropouts. After reading this book, the title no longer seems all that appropriate. While my wife says she already kind of knew this, believe it or not, outside of class, guys really don’t talk about these things. So it was nice to see that there are other couples out there that are just as much “dropouts” as we are.

I have only given this book three stars. And all three stars are for the first half to two thirds of this book. the last third of the book deals with, well, it deals with sex. Ok NFP is about sex. Not entirely, a good portion of what NFP is about is learning to listen to and interpret your wife’s body, in order to help prevent or to achieve a pregnancy. But that is just a start. NFP is about respect and love and intimacy that extends way beyond the bedroom.

While I suppose it was good information to get out there, and as one of the reviewers pointed out, that normally you would only find this kind of information in a very intimate conversation with a close friend, some times it would be good to keep more of that information to those close intimate conversations.

I am a prude. I will admit it. But, I am a prude who is willing to talk about just about anything in a one on one conversation. We have had couples ask us some of the questions that were handled in the last third of this book. So it is not that the subjects are “off limits” or something. The problem I had with this section of the book, was that it was no longer a close personal intimate conversation. If I had not been laying on the bed right next to my wife, I would have been really uncomfortable reading this. After all, if I were talking about this kind of stuff, I would have her there with me, so if I were reading it I would need to be sitting right next to her, even with that, I was glad she finished the book before me so that she knew what it was that I was reading. To say it made me uncomfortable would be an understatement. While I know there are those that would disagree with me, I feel that some conversations are best left to intimate situations when both the husband and wife are involved. So while I appreciate the effort Mrs. Fisher made in getting this information out, I kind of wish she hadn’t. As it stands by the time I was finished with this section of the book, I was soured on the whole thing, and really had to try hard to put my feelings aside to write anything positive about the book at all.

My last comment on this book is this. Who am I to say one person’s writing style is better or worse than another. So I want to make it clear that, that is not what I am saying. I know that Simcha has a very personal and rather informal style of writing. I do like her style for most of the things that she writes, but some things require a more formal style. I think if some of the subjects that I found uncomfortable were written with a less irreverent and a more formal style they would have been easier to deal with.

If you are struggling with NFP and feel like you are all alone out there, and if all you are hearing from the people around you is the puppies and rainbows side of it, this is likely a great book for you. If you have been using NFP for long enough that you know that it is a struggle and that there are other people out there like you, this book might be just more of what you already know. At best it will be an affirmation, at worse it will make you uncomfortable if your not reading it with your spouse.

View all my reviews

Since you know what I think about it, and you know my wife read it as well, here is her review.

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What the Pope Said

Vatican PopeLike everyone else, I was very interested in what Pope Francis had to say in his most recent interview. I had seen a couple of the summaries of the interview from both the secular and non secular media. While a couple of them did an ok job talking about the high points. I think most of them, especially the secular media missed an important point. I think, there was one really over arching message.

What was that message you may ask. Well before I tell you I am going to give you the same advice many others have given. And in the process I am going to echo Reading Rainbow. “Don’t take my word for it.” Go read the entire article here. It is rather long but it is really worth your time.

You went and read it right? No? Well before you continue you really need to read the article so here it is again.

I don’t think that I can cover all of the topics that Pope Francis talked about. I don’t have a hope of being able to analyze it as well as some of the professional journalists or and more particularly the theologians. Having said that let me give you my thoughts on this interview.

First, Pope Francis did not say anything new. He really didn’t. 3-popes

To understand what I am talking about let’s start here. This picture or one like it has been circling the internet likely since the first day that Francis became Pope. And a lot of people are making a big deal of the differences between Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the now Pope Francis. But I think that this picture says it much better than anything else.

All three of the last three popes have had different styles it is true. Pope John Paul II helped bring the teaching of the Church to Her members. He needed to make himself and through him the church, more accessible to the people. Think about World Youth Day. Pope Benedict XVI was an academic and he helped us to understand why the things that Pope John Paul II showed us were true. He did this by digging into the history and doctrine of the church. He was harder to love, harder to understand, harder to follow. Not because he was unlovable or even unlikable, not because he was hard to understand, not that we could not follow him, but for one simple reason. He knew, in depth, in great depth why it was that the things that Pope John Paul II said where true and he gave us those lessons even if they were very deep and hard to understand. He challenged us to learn those things that were hard for us to learn. Pope Francis is challenging us again and sometimes makes us uncomfortable. He builds on both of these by taking what both of them have done and showing us how to apply it to our lives. But not just by telling us, but by getting down on his knees and kissing the feet of the sick and the imprisoned, by embracing the poor, by loving those around us that we sometimes think are unlovable.

pope-francis As I said Pope Francis is not saying anything new. But, but, but, you say. And I say wait a minute. In the last 50+ years the Church (meaning her members, all of them) have had a huge learning curve. Vatican II basically took the teachings of The Church and opened them up to Her people making them more accessible to everyone. In doing that it caused a bit of a stir. Everyone from the youngest child sitting in the pew learning his or her catechism for the first time to the Pope and everyone in the middle has had to run just to keep up with it all. And some of us have done so very well, some of us have failed miserably and everywhere in between. I don’t know where I fit on this scale but it is likely near the bottom. The teachings are not changing, it is that we have been given the opportunity to really understand those teachings and there is a lot for us to understand.

We have looked to our priests and bishops, our cardinals and especially the Popes for guidance and teaching. The Inauguration Mass For Pope Francis

What Pope Francis is saying (and this is I hope what he is saying) is that there is a great danger in turning inward. Having spent the last 40+ years learning about what Mother Church teaches us we want to focus on that, to the detriment of actually following those teachings. We focus on one teaching or even a group of teachings and ignore the over arching message of the church. Instead it is time to turn around and share what we have learned. And not only share it but live it.

Yes, The Church teachings tell us that contraception is wrong, but we can’t condemn those that use it. Yes, abortion is a terrible thing, but we can’t hate the people who have had them or even those who preform them. Instead we have to love them. All of them.

What is going on here is that Pope Francis is saying that we need to stop focusing on the things that divide us and focus on the things that bring us together. After we have healed those wounds only then, can we start talking about the things that make us different.

For example, don’t ignore that a couple is living in sin, instead embrace them, Love them, give them of yourself. Help them to understand what we have been taught, what we have been given the opportunity, through the last two Popes to understand. We, the members of The Church, have lived through a time where we have been extremely lucky. We have been allowed to have the time to learn and understand the teachings of the church. With the three best teachers possible.

Now it is our turn. Instead of slapping the hand of those who are not following the teachings of the church, it is our job to reach out and take that hand. But the hand is not enough. We need to grasp it firmly and pull the person close in an embrace. For many of us (myself included) that is going to be hard. I have learned to hate those sins within myself and it is easy to translate that outward into hating another who has the same sin. But That is not the right way. We have to instead love them, the way that the last three Popes have loved us and give them the chance to learn what we have learned.

The only other thing that is not covered by what I have already said is that the Pope said prayer was important. That also is nothing new.

Once again here is the Article with Pope Francis

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Some Thoughts about NFP from an NFP teacher

nfp-poster-2013-470x363px[1]Some of you might not realize this, but I am an NFP teacher. To others of you, it might not come as a surprise at all. To still others of you, I know you are snickering behind your hands because you know that we have ten kids and you are thinking, “Yeah? and how is that working out for you?” To you I say, “it is really terrific.”

I could talk a lot here about how NFP is not “Catholic Birth Control,” and how what we teach encourages couple to be open to life, but first of all that kind of sounds like sour grapes even to me, and second of all that is not what I want to talk about. Besides you have probably heard all of that before.

samplechart[1]My wife and I have been NFP teachers for a long time, 13+ years in fact. We have been using NFP only a little longer than that. We did not use it when we got married thinking it was one of those things that was really not that important. Boy were we wrong.

Over that time though my view (our view) of NFP has changed. when we started using NFP we were at a rough patch in our relationship. We were young, we had been married for a couple of years and while we had known each other for quite some time before we got married, as any married couple will tell you, that is not the same as being married to the person. There are ins and outs of each other that you have not figured out, and at some point in time in the first five years usually, couples start having some problems getting along. This was were we were.

Picture 36For a long time after we started using and then teaching NFP, I credited it with saving our marriage. I thought it might have been the necessary communication that is required to make NFP work. While I am sure that is part of it, that obviously was not all of it. And that is what I wanted to talk about.

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The method of NFP that my wife and I teach and use, is called the Sympto-Thermal method. This means that, as the name suggests, we look at several different indicators to determine when a woman is fertile and when she is not. The beauty is that the more important it is to the couple that they avoid getting pregnant or that they conceive, the more indicators you can use and therefore the more accurate it can be. If you are one of those couples like us (most of the time) that really just need to know when (in round numbers) there will be a pregnancy and when there most likely will not, you don’t have to be that accurate, and if you need more, then there is more information for you to use.

However, no matter the method you use, and I am not picky, all of the programs that I have encountered tend to make these wild promises in their promotion pitches. NFP couples have lower divorce rates. NFP couples have more Sex. NFP couples are happier. They have smarter, healthier, happier, lower sodium marriages. Ok that last one I have never heard but you can imagine it if you have ever heard a serious NFP pitch.

The truth is some-what less that these things and more than them at the same time. While it is true that NFP couples do tend to have a lower divorce rate, most couples who would bother to take the time to learn NFP already are highly invested in their marriage in the first place. They usually tend to be the ones who really believe those things they said in their wedding vows. So yes, we as a group do have a lower divorce rate but it can’t be attributed to NFP alone.

How about the big one. A better Sex Life. Lately I have seen a couple of posts running around on the internet that claim that Catholic couples have better sex lives. By Catholic couples I think they mean NFP couples, based on the ones that I have read. This again is not really a true statement, well maybe it is, but let’s look at where it is coming from.

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Couples who practice NFP, strictly as a form of birth control, there I said it, will probably find the methods frustrating and even might find that they are having less sex than promised by the articles. SURPRISE! The truth is that NFP, at least the method we teach, is at its heart two things. First, it is fertility awareness. We teach a couple how to read the signs that a woman’s body gives off to help them interpret fertility. Second, it is about respect. Respecting life primarily, but respecting the sanctity of the person as well.

As I said before, if a couple is going to take the time to learn NFP, the likely have some level of this respect for each other already, the classes we teach can’t magically make you respect your spouse any more, but maybe we help couples to understand something new about each other that gives them just that little bit more to respect about each other. Giving couples the monthly, weekly or even some times daily conversation about, are we open to life, are we ready to commit or do we need to wait, is only a stepping stone. And while it might open the door to more and better communication, it is not necessarily going to lead to a better sex life.

20130325-212904.jpgSo what about the better sex life? Those studies can’t all be wrong can they? Again, I point to the couple who is already committed to their marriage. To them, if they have another baby, planned or unplanned, it will likely not effect the state of their marriage. These people, even if they are trying to avoid pregnancy, somewhere in the back of their minds understand this, and so yes, will be more likely to say, something like, well we could interpret today as the start of phase 2 or we could be seeing the evidence of last night. Or Well we have waited and we have seen the thermal shift and it is going in an upward trend so I think we are safe. Or even, well I have always loved the sounds of the pitter patter of little feet. Those couples who think like that, really probably are going to have a better sex life. But once again that is much less to do with NFP and much more to do with the couples attitude toward life.

I am not saying that NFP can’t help these things. But I believe in telling people the truth. NFP will help your marriage, but you have to actually have a marriage I mean a real marriage before it will.

100_2961The last point that I will cover is respect. I am going to be talking mostly to the guys here. Being a guy, I am in the unique position to do that. This is going to be a little off topic because, well it is my own little sales pitch for NFP. While the rest of this has been about understanding what it is and what it is not, this part is going to be about me telling you guys why this is important.

You (as a husband) have to have respect for your wife. PERIOD. But there is more to respect than just flowers on occasion and remembering when her birthday is. There is laundry and dishes and housework even when you don’t feel like it. I am not saying that I am a perfect husband, far from it. I am not saying that NFP is going to make you a perfect husband, but it can’t hurt. Your wife, as you know, has this on again off again fertility thing. Now it can be somewhat controlled using drugs. But that does have some consequences. First, if you have ever used cruise control in an 80’s model car you know that it can be a little unpredictable. Sometimes it creeps up, some times it shuts off, sometimes going up or down hills it can be unpredictable. While cruise control and birth control drugs have gotten better over the years they are still not perfect. And like cruise control there are some dangers. If you have ever gone around a corner at 65 that really should have been 55 or more like 45, you know that cruise control can be down right dangerous. The same can be said for birth control drugs. You are introducing something into a woman’s body, in there fertility cycle, that is unnatural, and can be dangerous. Just listen to the end of a YAZ commercial if you doubt me.800px-Cruise_control_Mercedes_C220[1]

Now, all drugs can be dangerous. This is true. But we strictly regulate them and hopefully we are careful about when we take them and only take them when they are necessary. used all the time the risks go up and well you end up with problems. Life is precious guys. Probably most of you would really get upset if something ever happened to your wife, and life is full of dangers. If you can look at the woman across from you and say, “Hey I want you to take this drug for the next 20+ years that is going to increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and maybe even cancer, without flinching then go for it. That would be like telling her, “Get on the beltway in Baltimore, get the car up to 65 push the cruise button and just keep it on until you reach Denver, because the car gets better gas mileage that way.” Yes, she might be able to make it but the risks of something going wrong along the way that are related to that even speed are pretty darn high, and I would hope that you would have more respect for your wife to understand when to moderate the speed on her own, or even with you. In the same way I would hope that you have the respect for your wife to understand her fertility, and share that with you.

If you would like to learn more about NFP, you can contact me, or feel free to check out some of these wonderful sites.
Couple to Couple League international
I use nfp
The Billings Method
Creighton Model

Cycle Go Pro A Review

Images in this post come from wikipedia, CCLI, USSCB, and some are even from me.

CycleProGo – An App Review

CycleProGo

3.5 of 5 Stars

CycleProGo is the new online and app based charting program from Couple to Couple League International (CCLI.) This is an updated version of the charting software called CyclePro, and it offers some new features and of course the ability to use it online and via a mobile device. This application is based on the Sympto-thermal rules developed and taught by the Couple to Couple League.

I will say right up front that I do work for (Volunteer) CCLI as part of a teaching couple, so as a teaching couple the app costs me nothing other than my time as a volunteer teacher. However, I do hope to offer an honest and fair review of this application.

Warning!

I can’t say this strongly enough. I don’t care what method you use, or what application you like, If you are going to use NFP in any form be that a app like this one, or just basic Charting, please, please, please take a course or at least get the books from a course.

If Money is the problem (because some of the courses are expensive) there are free courses out there, and they are pretty darn good.

Reach out to a teaching couple or provider in your area they might be able to help you find resources that will help you.

It is worth your time to take a course. If you don’t NFP probably won’t work for you as well as you had hoped.

As I noted the app costs me nothing. And you can download it from the Itunes store, or Amazon for your Android Device for free. While It is free to download and get a look at, you can’t actually do anything without paying for it. The price is pretty high at $5 a month or $12 a year. I will refer you to their site as to what you can do with the paid verses the free version I think the app would be much more accessible if the price were not to steep.

One of the best things about this app is the ability to share with other devices. My wife uses a kindle, I have an iPod touch, and we both are in front of a computer quite a bit. For me having the most accurate and up to date information is the key to his application working at all. And I really like being able to check or enter the temperature or whatever else from where ever I am at the moment.

Once inside the app it does offer you a lot of very nice features. If you are a CCLI member or have ever taken one of these courses much of the charts that you are used to seeing will be presented right up front for you. Entering your data is very easy and straight forward.

I have an ipod touch Gen 3 and I do seem to sit at this opening screen for a long time. I Don’t know if it is trying to sync or just that my device is a little old and slow.
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I do like that the first screen after the loading screen gives you a daily tip, shows off new features and just give yous general information about the application. Most of of this information is available in the help screen, but who ever reads those right? It also gives you a place to give feed back about the application.
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Once in the app itself, you are presented with the current month, that gives you a quick view of where you are in the cycle with color coding at the bottom to tell you what phase you are in. Click on or touching any of the days including the current one will allow you to enter or update your information for that day.
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Choosing the Charts button at the bottom of the screen brings up a menu that allows you choose your current chart to add information to, choose another chart to review, change your phase date based on the rules you want to follow, or look at a general overview of your cycle history.

I have to say that the ability to change your phase based on other rules is probably one of the best features of this app over other ones that I have used, especially since CCLI does teach multiple rules that you can use based on your needs.
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The charts screen presents you with what you are probably used to if you have every used the sympto-thermal method. (I have cleared all the data out of this chart since the only way to get a screen shot was to show you our chart, and yeah not so much.)

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Clicking on the connect option at the bottom of the screen probably one of the biggest disappointments with CycleProGo in general. First in the mobile app, the connect button brings you to the screen below, which is not all that helpful.

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Updated As is the nature of software, there has been an update and they have made a change to one of the biggest problems I had with this app. As noted in the comments, there is now an option to share your charts with anyone via a URL that you can send to people. This is a huge improvement as far as I am concerned.

    Attach Chart

  • choose the chart you want
  • scroll until you can see the bottom of the chart
  • click on “Attach Chart to Public Message Board Post”
  • In the middle of the next screen there is a button that says “Create a Public URL.”

This will generate a url you can send our chart to someone.

If you use the web based version if does allow you to set and use some sharing options. Here is were this falls down. It does not allow you to share with any one outside of CCLI members or teachers. You might be asking yourself why you would want to share this with anyone else. (I am sure there is a joke in there somewhere about sharing too much with a bunch of teaching couples, but we will leave that your imagination)

However, let’s say you wanted to share your chart with your doctor, and they were not ccli members? There is a lot of information on this chart that a doctor can use to help you diagnose problems or even just help you determine a due date. In its current form there is no way to share that information with any one outside of CCLI beyond getting screen shots and e-mailing them. Just an example of this, our primary care physician is a Creighton method trained physician, she was interested in looking at my wife’s charts, and we were unable to send our charts to her, or allow her access to our charts so she could monitor the information through out the month without her becoming a member.

sharing

The settings screens and the sync screen don’t have a lot to offer beyond what a standard app would have. The Settings screen allows you to do things like change your password change from Fahrenheit to Celsius and how often to polls data from other sources.

The settings screen also allows to add “events” to the list of things that you can note quickly on your charts. These are broken down into categories that include emotional, Physical, Medical, Pregnancy and custom. If you have ever tried to type a note about anything with a mobile device you know that having drop down lists of things that you use frequently is a good thing. Also being able to control the things on that list is good thing so that you are not scrolling forever.

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The Sync button does just that, it forces a sync with all other devices that you might be using.

As I said at the beginning I give this App a 3.5 out of 5. I think that it has come a long way since the old cyclepro version, and it does have some pretty nice features. But I think there are some definite drawbacks, like not being able to share with people outside of CCLI. There are also seem to be some issues with the web based version and changing the rules you want to use. You are able to select some of the rules sets in the mobile version that although they are options in the web version they are not select-able.