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Links of the Week

Machine y la Pequeña Adriana Barrientos
The Internet is so wonderful. Where else can you spend a minute with a gender-confused dwarf and a guy in a monkey mask?

Robert Krampf
Remember sitting in front of the TV and letting Mr. Wizard show you simple, yet fundamental properties of the Universe that you’ll spend the rest of your life in? Robert Krampf pretty much picks up where Don Herbert left off.

The Story of Stuff
Ralph Nader calls it “a model of clarity and motivation”. It’s tough not to be inspired to want to change your lifestyle after watching this. Not as hard as actually changing your lifestyle, but still…

Philly Secret Santa

Christmas 2007 is officially over

Yep. Saturday night Jes and I exchanged our last gifts at Rob and Leah’s with dear friends. The deal: Handmade gifts under $30, secret Santa style. For me, it was memorable because I officially gave birth to The Sutter Puppet, my gift to secret giftee, Niff. I was equally delighted to receive from Eleanor, a handsome, framed, silk screen portrait of myself. She rolled a hot pair of Eleanor Briefs™ into the deal; one which pretty accurately portrays its contents. Thank you so much, Elea.

Meet The Sutter Puppet

The Niff isn’t exactly an easy recipient when your dealing with special occasion, hand-made gifts. Not that she’d be particularly picky, as long as you put some thought into it– it’s just that she’s so damned talented. Someone in my position (with a tenth-grade art education) has only one choice: Be Clever. I riffed off of Rob’s Virtual Stan idea from years ago and created a Virtual Sutter. I probably couldn’t have pulled it off without the help I got from Paul Muller’s videos. After the party, we drove back to Niff’s house in stitches listening to her portray her true love as he would issue instructions on how to give oral sex to a man… er, oneself, in this case. “You go up… down… updownupdown.” I should mention now that I made the puppet anatomically correct (read: he’s got a ween). Sutter absolutely hates this little clone– a sign that it’s a great gift, say some– and I’m really sorry that’s the case. He should have a little self esteem and learn to love himself for all his wonderful qualities. Freckles, button nose, deep voice, six-foot-long legs. Coincidently, Kevin Nocoins, who bagged Sutter himself in the gift match-up, also presented a Sutter doll. His exaggerates (slightly) the length of Sutter’s arms and legs. Penis is distinctly absent. Pure Nocoins.

Merry Christmas, The Niff! I look forward to seeing your YouTube channel light up with Sutter Puppet vlogs.

I’ll let Jes explain her part

Though Ian argues that Niff is hard to make things for, I got Jason Santa Maria (Stan), and I would say that he’s harder. I feel like he’s the type of person who has everything. Thank goodness for the inside source system! Liz Danzico helped me out a lot by letting me know Stan’s current needs. Since I didn’t think potholders would be all that impressive of a gift and I couldn’t guarantee that a bike bag I made could hold pounds of a bike chain lock, it came down to making something NYC related.

As I thought about it, it occurred to me that the only real points of fondness I have for New York came from my visits with my college friend Dan Steinberg. Going to visit Dan in New York meant getting tours of Chinatown and learning about the gang wars it experienced, or getting the first tenement building pointed out on a walk to the store. So, I thought, why not make a(n) NYC guide like a Dan tour? Move over Lonely Planet!

Garnering Dan’s help along with my cousin Miah, the Internet, and coworkers, I developed a conglomerate of little factoids, cool spots to visit, and maps galore to put into a Moleskine notebook. Insert a bunch of cool pictures, rub in the headings, expand the spine to hold it all, and use the leftover map to make a new spine and little case for it, and there you have it! Poor Stan has to try to read my handwriting, but it’ll do. I’m hoping he’ll find it useful enough to not get lost at least, but he seemed to like it. Though Moleskine has already come out with similar books, I think he’ll like mine better.

Thanks Liz!

Not only did Liz save my gift with giving me good hints, she also got my name in Secret Santa.

She made me a little pillow packed with punch. Okay, so it was really just overstuffed as much as possible. I like my pillows to be as close to a sandbag as can be–pretty hard; Ian illustrated my preferences by drawing a cinder block, to give you an idea. Liz’s pillow was certainly firm (and came with extra stuffing just in case), but it wasn’t hard. Though the pillow was undoubtedly awesome with its tissue and thermometer pockets, I was slightly worried it’d be too soft. Until I slept on it. Wow! I am won over Liz! Thank you! Thank you!

Westward! Ho, Ho, Ho!

When I had a miscarriage this past summer, it occurred to both Ian and me just how much we take our luxuries in life for granted. Though a saddening and difficult experience, the miscarriage provided us a chance to evaluate how we were leading our lives. With a baby on the way, I was resigned to stay at a stressful job for a full-year longer than originally planned. But all of the sudden, I didn’t have the excuse to postpone my career goals; by August, I had finally gotten a job as a psychotherapist at a community outpatient clinic and found my life brimming with unexpected potential.

Similarly, Ian and I had talked about taking a trip back to Santa Fe and the luxurious Ten Thousand Waves as something to do in a few years. Realizing that parenthood had promised to be a very significant change to our travel and financial flexibility, we took Baby Beta’s loss as a sign that we needed to do more together now, not later. As a result, this December for our Christmas present to each other, Ian and I took a road trip out to Santa Fe, NM and spent a full week creating a vacation to remember.

On the road again

I don’t know about you, but I love road trips. Although modern interstates and turnpikes have changed the on-road experience from those described by John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac to one of almost non-stop driving and non-existent local interaction, there’s still a wonderful appeal to watching the trees, earth, sky, road signs, license plates and speed limits change as you whiz past. You also get to see those things that almost never change– Cracker Barrel anyone?

New Mexico 104The only challenge with a road trip that takes you almost completely across the country is having to balance time, money, and actual leisurely enjoyment. I had planned a killer itinerary for the trip out there, wanting to get to Santa Fe as quickly as we possibly could. Note to self: anything more than 10 or 12 hours of driving is likely not going to happen. Our anticipated two day trip out west turned out to be about three days; but the pay-off was worth it. The time we would have spent overextending ourselves driving through New Mexico in the darkness to meet our scheduled arrival was instead traded for a day of ogling half-frosted juniper, ocotillo, and mesquite; driving over cloud-covered hills; exploring abandoned gas stations; and eating a very tasty lunch at La Cita’s. We almost got to go to a dinosaur museum also, but we had arrived on a day when they were closed. It was on this third day, when Ian changed our driving course and we stopped pushing ourselves to be at point A by time B, that we finally were able to fully enjoy our road trip properly. Again, we find that our hopes and seemingly best laid plans’ failures are actually to our greater benefit.

Bringing out the best in all of us

Ian at Ten Thousand Waves Upon arrival in Santa Fe we stayed at the International Youth Hostel. Quite a place. Staying in hotels is nice. You don’t have to make the bed or clean the toilets and the soap is wrapped in waxy paper. Most hostels (in the U.S.) attempt to emulate that model but this one is quite different. When you stay in a hotel there are about a hundred other people from all walks of life mere feet from you but you will never meet them. It’s a closed-off system– you stay in your room, I’ll stay in mine, see you in the elevator. At the IYH in Santa Fe, you’re forced to share a (very large, fully-equipped) kitchen and common area with all the guests. You meet people from all over the world, share stories, food, booze and become part of their memories. Ian spent the evening playing drinking games with an Aussie, a girl from France and a girl from Germany. He took on more than his 30 year old body could handle at 6,000 feet above sea level and spent a while regurgitating the fun while naked in the common bathroom. See? Memories.

As one of the shopkeepers said, “Santa Fe brings out the best in all of us”. Ian and I would argue that Ten Thousand Waves brings out the best in Santa Fe. Snowy paths speckled with evergreen trees, steamy hot Japanese-style baths during a snow fall, serene moments of beauty, stylish digs, and an excuse to run around in a bathrobe all day long: Ten Thousand Waves proved to be the oasis Ian and I had imagined for the past six months and better. We stayed in the Silver Moon for a night before the pipes froze; the apologetic staff upgraded us to Full Moon for our last night with its fireplace, full kitchen, and more Buddha chocolates. What a way to spend a vacation!

Coming home

Jane and MeWe stopped off on our way home in Dallas to hang with my college friends Kate and Jory; though Jory had to leave town for job interviews, Ian and I hung out with Kate and their daughter Jane. I love hanging out with any kid at two years old, so I do not think I can accurately describe the visit beyond running down halls, avoiding ticklish fingers, laughing a great deal, and being well cared for by Kate. I get sappy about anything I do with kids as they are bundles of hilarity and emotion; I will spare you all the stories that only really interest me.

To be honest, I cannot remember much about the trip back. It was almost as though the entirety of our time in Santa Fe and Dallas had guaranteed that I would be happy no matter what happened on the way home. And I suppose that is exactly what a vacation is supposed to do–create immense feelings of enjoyment and contentment to spill over into our regular, drab, everyday life. With that in mind, I am going to go pretend I am sitting in a Japanese bath or a sauna and forget that I have so many holiday obligations to fill today.

New Digs

There are maybe ten times a year that I really wish I had a website. Maybe I think I’ve discovered something great and I want to share it, maybe I want to rant about my ISP‘s deplorable customer service, whatever – the fact is, all those times I’ve had a site. Right here at jesandian.com.

Of course, I’m very lazy

And the previous site was so tedious to update that the very thought of posting annihilated the inspiration to do so. I had to do all the XHTML markup for the new post by hand, add the prior post to an archive directory then create and update links to and fro. I updated infrequently enough that I had to re-learn the process every time. It was a retarded system that my limited understanding of web development was content with but it drove Jes and I nuts. To the point where we only updated four times in two years. The other expression-crippling limitation was the lack of photos and video support. But that’s all changed.

Go? Go where?

The erstwhile jesandian.com was hosted by Go Daddy. They were the most convenient place for me to get a domain back in 2004 and their service suited me fine. As I worked in web longer though, I realized that they weren’t the best deal in the world. For example, my 3MB jesandian.com mail account was always teetering on the brink of overflow, I begged them to up the capacity rationalizing that I’m paying for service with them whereas Google was shooting 1GB of email storage out of one of those tee shirt cannons. They robotically offered to sell me more space for some laughable $9.95/mo. Stan suggested Dreamhost to me and even gave me a promo code so I got my first year’s hosting for free one penny. The options for administrating your hosting are a million times better than Go Daddy’s were. Their savvy is right up my alley and they know how to communicate with me– Dreamhost: monthly, text-only newsletter, Go Daddy: telephone calls while I’m with clients. To get a taste of what’s what, compare their homepages: 1, 2. I’ll wait. I currently host four sites on my Dreamhost hosting plan (about $100 per year), they add on additional server space to my plan monthly and they offer free installations of content management systems for those of us who can’t wrap our heads around managing a site, but are too proud to settle for a Blogger page.

Which brings me to my apologies

Apologies to this Scott fella. Apologies to the people who think that using someone else’s work is unethical. The theme of this blog was called Barthelme, created by Scott Wallick. My original intention was to take the PHP modules inside a basic WordPress blog, re-arrange them for my own use, create a slick stylesheet and publish a unique jesandian.com. That proved to be way over my head. So instead, I chose the template that used type the way that I liked most and modified the stylesheet until I was happy. I know, it’s a cop-out. But I really can’t justify spending hours and days learning something that I don’t really ever need to know. Besides, there’s license that says that it’s okay to do what I did. Thanks, Scott.

This new site is simple, there’s no links to our web buddies, no dumbass calendar, no archive. It’s just as basic as a book about two people called Jes and Ian. Thanks for reading.

One Year!

I cannot believe…

that it was one year ago that Ian and I got married. That day seems so recent and so long ago all at once, I am forever amazed that it ever happened. Oh goodness, forgive this girl her twittery heart and butterflied stomach. That day ended up being such an amazing day that exceeded my expectations and filled my heart to overflowing. I do not know what everyone else’s wedding was like for them, but I never had a stronger sense that I was well-loved as I did that day. Our family and friends were there and everyone else was so happy with us (though some folks had a pretty bad day of it with the rainy weather and slippery roads). Everyone’s wedding gifts funded our six-week long roadtrip honeymoon and still the gifts managed to keep on showing up to remind me of that wonderful day. I could go on for quite a while about the greatness of that day, but I’ll spare you my dear reader.

So, Instead

I am going to go on for quite a while about the greatness of being married. What a gift this year has been for me. How is it that I could have found someone with whom I cannot help but want to spend the rest of my life? I have no idea of how to put this into words without simultaneously apologizing to those who recoil from the pathetically mushy. It is difficult to accurately describe how happy Ian has made me since the day he told me that he had a crush on me; I have difficulties not down-playing things because I am not used to being publicly ga-ga over someone. But as I think about how Ian and I have spent all of this time together and grown together in one small (but significant!) year… wow. I like him. How right this relationship is!

Shared memories, shared life

Admittedly, Ian and I have had our hard moments together this year; I cannot lie about that. That boy has driven me quite mad at times and I am sure I have done the same to him, what with my terrible hearing, tendency to mumble, and proclivity for questions when he just wants to be left alone to his thoughts or to his work. But look at all of the highly enjoyable moments we have shared together throughout our relationship!

My marriage counseling professor told us that a relationship is built upon shared memories; my aunt always says that she and my uncle are most grumpy with each other when they do not spend time together. As I look over the shared memories that Ian and I have had over the past three(!) years of getting to know each other… wowzers. You don’t often meet cute men who like to take you on a date to his mother’s with magnifying glasses so the two of you can look at the bugs in her yard. I can’t just find that anywhere, you understand. Oh, I wish I was less verbose and more poetic; I cannot figure out a way to drive home just how joyful my life has become because of my husband.

Happy Anniversary, darlin’.

Musical Torch

I’ve been passed a musical torch by Rob Weychert

The Volume of Music on My computer

17.52 GB (did I just say that!?)

The last CD I bought was

Actually not a CD, I got the album from the iTunes Music Store. Les Sans Culottes, Faux Realism.
Radical 60′s French pop. This band is originally from NY, though the thick French accent during spoken English intros tell a different tale. Before that, I think it was The Essential Johnny Cash.

Song playing right now

Up On The Hill (Traditional), Ween
When I was younger, my mamma told me, she said Gener, I wanna smell it. And then she smelled it and it was smelly and I say Lordy, Lordy, Lord I’m comin’ home

Five songs that mean a lot to me

Tom Waits Jesus Gonna Be Here.
I don’t know if this is a traditional gospel or not but Tom takes my breath away with a simple four chord progression arranged on nothing but stand-up bass, foot taps, two sustained A notes from a slide acoustic (played by Keith Richards, if I’m not mistaken) and his beautifully gravel voice. Sort of the inspiration for my own When the Hell is Jesus Coming Back!? For my money, his trademark “drunken-alleyway scat” doesn’t get better than in the first four bars of this baby.

Frank Zappa The Closer You Are.
My dad was a fan. He put that Yellow Snow epic on one snowy morning and something clicked with me and Frank. I can’t stand listening to endless guitar solos though. I suppose I’m missing what is great about them and that makes me inferior to you, but Frank’s ability to arrange entire sections of vocalists and instruments was extraordinary. Again, I may be mistaken, but I don’t think Frank could read or write muscial notation. Overnight Sensation has got to be my favorite (many a childhood hour was spent staring at the psychadelic album art). The man was truly a visionary and scholar, much more than your modern-day rockstar could hope to be.

The Dead Milkmen Big Deal.
I remember getting the Stoney’s album at Newberry Comics in New Hampshire and listening to it all the way through on the way back to my girlfriend’s parent’s house. Later, while practicing the drums to the album (ah, memories) the line, “You’re late for your class, you’re walkin the halls without a pass- big deal!” suddenly grabbed me. Big Deal was my anthem during that 18th year of my life, the year, coincidentally, I dropped out of high school in 11th grade and picked up a pretty healthy weed habit and was arrested (the first time). While some people will tell you that this is the worst DM album, I think it’s totally awesome. Crystalline, The Blues Song (he’s right about white people and tampons), Like to be Alone – Hello!? Just because it doesn’t sound like Tiny Town doesn’t mean it’s not awesome, Sutter!

The Dead Milkmen All Around The World.
Sorry to pick the same band again, but these guys were such a part of my development that they’ve become integrated into who I am and how I think. Sort of like a tree that grows too close to a barbed-wire fence. Joe’s intimate vocals ride over top of simple, bouncing, echoey synths. His accent is so Philadelphian and there’s never any attempt to cover it up proving that you can be punk at 80 bpm. The album fairly-well winds its way around conspiracies, UFOs, the meaning of life and Shaft. This one for me is the stand-out. I know about the UFOs, I know about the mind-control. I know some things I know I shouldn’t know.

Ben Rush Matthews All of the Fullness.
Ben’s my buddy, buddy boy. If anyone’s heard You Can’t Help Me (also known as the screaming guy song)- you’ve heard him play drums. I met him at a party when I was 19. He was sitting on the floor playing guitar in a gym shirt that had breasts painted onto it, his head was mostly shaved except for two long, unwashed bangs that hung nearly into his eyes. I passed him the joint, he denied. I later learned that he was 14 at the time. I started to record with him a couple of months later. He’s an incredible musician because he goes with what comes to him. There’s no composition! This is the song. You’ll notice that its just him and a mic and a four track. That’s one of the things that Ben very slowly taught me. That you can work all day to make something sound great, like the best it can be, and you can do takes until its so tight that air couldn’t get in, but in the end, you’ve lost the record of the event. I suppose I was more into making records and he was more into making music (maybe the other way around?). Right now he’s living in Arizona with his wife (my wife’s cousin) working as a blacksmith apprentice. Like I said, this guy’s awesome.

Five people who are getting this baton from me

Sutter, Dean Clean (mister boom-diddy-clang), Kevin Cornell, Brendon Small and Jeremy Hedley.

Lesson

Finally!

Tomorrow is my last day of an adventure that you would call “trying to teach an SAT class for the first time ever”. Boy, am I glad. I never fully appreciated the work and effort that goes into trying to teach a group of teenagers something that they really don’t want to know. May God bless all teachers many times over. Coming away from this experience, I realize why I never pursued education as a career on a grand scale. Teaching part-time on a consistent basis would burn me out more than my 50-60 hour/week day job ever will. I have definitely gotten the distinct sense that I need to reconsider any statement that I can teach.

Do not get me wrong now…

I liked the kids. They may not have liked me, but I definitely liked them. I may not have been all that helpful to them, but I certainly liked them. And I like teaching too. I just cannot teach a group of kids, even if I do like them. I have tutored for the past three years, but one-on-one tutoring is distinctly different from trying to teach seventeen kids who are developmentally more focused on their social lives than they are on the short girl with the big hair up front trying to plod her way through her lesson plan. And as for that short girl with the big hair, can I just mention how easily distracted she can get with multiple stimuli? I cannot finish a sentence much less teach a lesson when I am around more than one conversation. And we had plenty of those going on in various parts of the room.

In my defense

I am not saying I did not teach my students well. I do not know if I did. My ability to gauge their progress was limited by a number of things. Most of these things being homework, or the lack thereof. After the fourth or fifth class in which only two or three students did *some* of the homework, I realized I would have a difficult time being helpful. I mean, how does one get a student who is likely already overworked and involved in a number of activities outside of SAT tutoring to buy into doing a few hours of additional homework every week? Additionally, since my main focus has always been teaching my students how to prioritize their needs and taking responsibility for their own performance, it is hard to feel like I was actually teaching the principal lesson in my syllabus.

Did I happen to mention that I had to proctor a test after school hours in which the test materials were locked away in the guidance counselor’s office? Did I also happen to mention the fact that there was only one answer sheet for a total of 33 students? Even if I had taught my kids well, that experience in and of itself was enough for me to feel quite finished with the whole thing.

Time to grab for my center

My aunt once told me a story of when she had a run-in with a very poor teacher. My aunt’s demands flustered the teacher so much, she tried to have administrators kick my aunt out ofthe class. Ultimately in the ensuing confrontation, my aunt advised the flustered educator to “hold [her] center as the teacher”. I have felt as though I’ve been trying to grab onto that center of which she spoke, but I have yet to find it much less hold it as a teacher. Trying to teach a class has simply left me with the vague sensation of trying to swim to the surface when I’m oriented towards the seabed. Counseling? I can do that relatively well. Tutoring? I can do that too, because it comes back down to the individual’s needs and my ability to respond to them with my full attention. Teaching seventeen kids at once? You’re not likely to find me doing that again any time soon.

Garden

It’s simple…

If you ever want to sell me anything, wrap it in green. There’s a good chance I’ll buy it. Not neon green or puke green. Moss green. Fern green. Pea green.

Just as the heat of Summer brings nostalgia for deep blues and fiery oranges of snowy Winter nights, Spring reminds me how much I adore green. It’s all around, beginning in the bud stages, light and pale greens, peeking out from winter’s husk of brown bark and dirt. They give way to brilliant greens as translucent leaves yield to warm sunlight. Vibrant and deep greens roll across marble-smooth hillsides of short, damp grass. Wispy tops on tall grasses form an ocean of pastely, Easter green that wave at me as I pass with my windows down. Dirty greens mix with mossy reds and lichen browns to paint the rocks at the edge of the stream. Pea green wraps the torso of my buddy as she tills the soil in our humble backyard garden.

And it grew…

We started with an idea mid-Spring last year and it pushed out a pretty good yeild. I say “humble” but our plot is actually rather substantial as far as backyards in our neighborhood go. We’ve got about 100 square feet. Enough to have 8 rows about 20 feet long. I’ve been so excited about this thing since early March that I’ve drawn up plans in Illustrator so that we can map out what would go where (pencil gardening, if you will), I’ve ordered loofah seeds online so that we can have free loofah all year long and I bought my best friend a pair of tank tops (mentioned above) to wear out while working beside me. Weeding, watering and watching are the fun parts of the work. The free food is merely a reward.

Breakin’ it down to the ground…

Moving your face to knee-level in everyday life is reserved for things like changing the cat box or tying your shoes; but for a short time each year it changes the atmosphere. Suddenly, on a still, cloudy day it’s humid and cool, you smell the dirt and the insects invite you in as one of their own (mosquitoes included). Once they reach the proper timber and pitch, the plickets of water pattering the evening-lit puddles on the trough floor give you an auditory signal that a given row has been saturated sufficiently. Witnessing things you remember as black specks on your kitchen table blossoming into entire heads of lettuce and cabbage, crawling across the ground and up the fence to personally hand you moutains of cucumbers, exploding into giant florets of broccoli and cauliflower is a reward only a child could top.

Of course, you can’t eat children…anymore.

NFP II

In the defense of mucus…

Though I am sure many of you, if not all, are pretty much finished with the subject of Natural Family Planning, I thought that it would be silly to not speak to the subject since I am the woman in this relationship. It may sound somewhat nerdy, but quite frankly, I am of the mind that every woman should learn the principles behind NFP. Not only can you save yourself from spending hundreds of dollars on birth control methods, stop going to the doctor for completely natural conditions of your body, know you’re pregnant before you even skip a period, and minimize your exposure to a number of health risks (IUDs can cause uterine scarring, hormonal methods come with a number of possible risks including cardiovascular and increased infertility in older women to name only the bare minimum), you also get a much better sense of just what your body is up to and possibly recognize potential health concerns (like PCOS). Can you imagine being a teenage girl and knowing when you are at most risk of becoming pregnant? For some reason, I feel that that’s a moment of empowerment.

Abstaining or Waiting?

Though the principles behind NFP call for abstinence during one’s fertile phase, a similar birth control called the Fertility Awareness Method is exactly like NFP except for the use of barrier methods during the fertile phase. In other words, you’re not limited to waiting if you don’t want to. However, if one were to practice FAM, I think that you should consider the fact that most studies regarding the effectiveness of various forms of birth control occur over a woman’s entire cycle, i.e., even during those days when she is not fertile. So, instead of saying that a condom (without spermicides and used properly) is 96%* effective, it would be more like 81.6% effective since one has about an 85% of getting pregnant without birth control. Granted, I am not a statistician and I have not read all of the studies on the effectiveness of different forms of birth control, so I admit that my logic is somewhat faulty. For instance the 85% risk of getting pregnant is not saying that you are likely to get pregnant 85 times out of 100, but rather, that 85 woman out of 100 got pregnant when not using birth control over the course of one year. So, my calculation is more amateur than anything else. Regardless, with an effectiveness rate of ranging from 90-99%* when used correctly, NFP and FAM are worthwhile options for any woman even if she doesn’t have a husband to chart for her.

Of course…

*As with any statements about effectiveness, one needs to recognize who’s saying what and their investment in the product. I have not seen the studies that provide this statistical information first hand, and finding justifications of effectiveness rates used and the studies referenced for these rates can be difficult to find.

NFP

For the past month, Jes and I have been taking a Natural Family Planning class at St. Agnes Hospital.

There’s lots of talk about vaginas and cervixes and mucus and menstruation and cycles and hormones. That aside, it’s an amazing thing to go through with someone you love and trust as much as I love and trust Jes. Seriously. The things that you can live your whole, entire life not knowing about your body (or a woman’s body) will shock you. NFP (which also coincidentally stands for Natural, Free and Partnership.) was suggested to us by Father Peter while we were engaged in pre-cana. It’s the officially-sanctioned “birth control” method of the Catholic Church so he kinda had to bring it up. Who knew that it would be so interesting? Or free?

Care to not jack your wife up on hormones as if you were Frank Perdue?

I’ll tell you this for free…

Everyone knows that a woman’s body has a monthly routine. If not, they should catch up. Some of the natural science behind the cycle may not be so well known to the average person (or woman!). Once per month the pituitary gland secretes estrogen into the woman’s system prompting the release of an egg from the ovary. This egg has 24(!) hours to travel the inches separating the ovary from the uterus, and get fertilized by her man’s sperm, otherwise it will die and be passed from the body in a method we are all familiar with. A short time after the release of the egg, the body begins to prepare for the possibility of pregnancy and releases progesterone. The progesterone initiates a distinct rise in the basal body temperature. Because this very distinct point in time is critical to determining when a woman becomes fertile and for how long she will be fertile, monitoring the basal body temperature becomes imperative.

Let’s talk Mucus…

Along with charting the temperature to determine ovulation, it’s a good idea to also monitor the lubricative mucus secreted by the cervix. Since the egg can only live a relatively short period of time without being fertilized, the cervix aids nature in it’s chances of creating another person. While the ovary is busy producing the egg, the cervix begins to literally froth with a dense, clear mucus which will shelter and nourish sperm from the harsh pH of the vagina for up to seven days. The cervix also begins to dilate slightly and raises so that it’s opening is pointing almost directly at the mouth of the vagina. The cervix does a lot of the work in making a baby happen. Analyzation of this mucus is also a requirement of the method, wiping it from a tissue with your fingers, noting the color, the consistency and, yes, the stretchiness of it. The more clear and the more stretchy, the closer you are to ovulation and the better the chances that intercourse will lead to conception.

Now WE have a routine…

This is why every morning Jes wakes up momentarily at 6:30 and places an electronic thermometer into her mouth and charts her temperature. At the end of the month, the chart makes it very obvious on what day that egg burst through the ovary wall and started it’s day-long trip down to the uterus. And at least 15 times a month we have a chance to be truly intimate – no libido-compromising hormone additives, no latex, just me and my lovely bride.

And her cervical mucus.