Q. Tell us about your family and how you came to be a homeschooler.
My husband and I met in high school and have been married for almost 19 years. We have five children (on earth). They are all unique; Liam 17 (the historian), Kiernan 15 (the piano man), Adria 11 (the happy socialite), Brigid 8 (the lovebug), and Margaret 5 (Miss Dimples, who takes care of everyone).
My husband is an environmental engineer and is the director of public works for our city, Holyoke, MA. He's been in that position for the past couple of years after many years in a corporate job. I am a stay-at-home-mom, and yes, we homeschool our children. God kept nagging me to do something, so; I had to give in. We had initially thought we would send our kids to the nearby Catholic School, but somehow it just did not seem like the right fit. We absolutely loved the Waldorf school nearby, but the cost was prohibitive, and we would still have to supplement at home for Catechism. Then we met some homeschoolers, and I thought, "People actually do that?" As we investigated the possibility by going to conferences, meeting more homeschoolers and their children (both Catholic and not), and doing lots of reading and a ton of prayer, we grew to know that these were our people, and this is where God was calling us. My husband didn't think I was crazy, and I have had such peace.
There are abundant options when it comes to homeschooling, and we can integrate both our Catholic faith and the Waldorf method. We have participated in cooperatives. The older children take online classes, and we are also blessed by a sweet little school that allows us to come for some classes as needed for our high-schoolers. Our oldest has also done a few courses through dual enrollment at our local community college and Holy Apostles. We have enjoyed the flexibility to go camping in the offseason, with our school work coming along with us. Or being able to drop morning school to help dump maple sap buckets with my uncle and have school in the afternoon and evening. We get to go to museums and libraries when they are not so busy, and the docents have plenty of time for us. Our flexible schedule allows for getting appointments in during the middle of the day when, otherwise, there aren't openings. I had thought we would do this for a while and then go back to school at some point, but we are having so much fun Homeschooling does have it challenges, but overall, we enjoy it!
Q. Have you always been a Billings couple, or did you use another NFP method prior to Billings?
When we were engaged, there was an ad in the bulletin about NFP. The local gal taught Creighton, and she was very patient and kind. Then, someone suggested that I should teach NFP as the lady we had learned from was no longer teaching. As it turned out, the diocese didn't have anyone else teaching for the past several years. Well, I thought, "Maybe someday, but not while my kids are so little." But I prayed on it and kept hearing this, "Well, then, who is going to do it?" I said, "God, you want me to do WHAT?!" So, I asked my parish priest. He said, "If God is calling you to do something, you should do it yesterday, not tomorrow."
When I suggested the cost of Creighton training the priest said NFP is so desperately needed in today's world that the parish would pay for it if needed. I forged ahead but found that I was not truly qualified to teach Creighton because I had no nursing or medical background. But, I was told they could make an exception. Also, if I could just get a few more ladies who would be willing to go through the training, they would host a training at my parish. My pastor was also excited about this idea. I called some ladies I thought might be interested and one said, "Sorry I cannot teach Creighton when I use Billings." This opened my eyes to the possibility of other options.
Interestingly enough, at that time, I was unaware that other methods even existed. Between my friend and her referral to Eileen Wood, I was convinced that this was the best way to go. There were so many similarities, but oh so much simpler. The clincher for me was that the cause for sainthood was open for Drs. John and Lyn Billings who developed this method. Billings has been so much more natural and not so technical that it fits my temperament. Yet, I can still offer plenty of science for the friend/client who needs to know all the technical stuff.
Q. Having gone through a Teacher Training led you becoming a board member. How has that experience been? Is it what you expected?
I'm not sure what I expected. I am not surprised that I feel ill-equipped and humbled by this whole experience. However, the goodness, patience, and charity shown by all the other members, both new and experienced, have felt very much like a group of good friends working on a serious project together. We all want to make the Billings Method more known and accessible, and it has been very exciting. I have learned quite a lot and when I don't understand some technology like Zoom meetings, or the "why" a certain decision was made in the past, or if there is a difference of opinion on a current idea, there has always been time taken to explain it. This experience has pushed me past my comfort zone in many good ways. Being on the board has sure been a good character-building thing for me.
Q. During our board calls each month, you are probably our most creative board member, always "thinking outside the box." In fact, those who donate monthly have received a Christmas ornament these past couple of years that were personally made by you, using a kiln in your home. How did you end up with a kiln? You're probably the only Billings teacher in the world who has a kiln! What is the process for making the ornaments?
Thank you, that is nice of you to say. I might be more artsy than some, but the ideas that other members have are also very creative. Anyway, my grandmother had a ceramic studio in her home since my mom was young, so I grew up with it. When my grandmother passed away, my mom and one of her sisters decided to split the business. They each took one of the three kilns, selling the third. They split the plaster molds, etc. Throughout high school and college, my mother and I went to seminars and workshops to be certified in the use of different product lines of glazes and brushwork classes. In the summers, we ran week-long kids painting camps, and all year my mom still holds classes three days a week. We joked that the classes just funded our addiction/hobby.
When my aunt downsized, she gave me her kiln which is very old now and needs new heating coils. So, the ornaments were fired in my mom's newer Skutt kiln. Most of what we do is hobby ceramics, which is pouring liquid clay into plaster molds that then form into the vase or plate or figurine. My second son has been more interested in hand building pottery and for his birthday last year got a pottery wheel. That is now in our basement where he has his own space, and the little girls like to watch him. He has even harvested and cleaned his own clay from our stream bed.
Last year, when I made the BOMA ornaments, I put a crochet doily down and rolled the clay onto that into a pancake, cut out the snowflake with a cookie cutter, stamped in the logo, and lifted carefully to drill a hole for the ribbon and allowed it to dry. Once dry, in a few days, we sand them and smooth the rough edges before they are fired (not an oven at 500 but still considered low fire at 1930 degrees). I used a translucent glaze and fired again at a little lower temp.
Q. What other creative projects do you work on throughout the year?
I do like to make things. In fact, I am the handwork teacher at our homeschool co-op. This year we made little notebooks and sewed a book cover. Some of the kids got as far as embroidery on the cover. We made wooden butter knives carved with really sharp knives. We made footstools all cut with a hand saw and manual hand drill and upholstered.
All my children know how to knit, and that is always the first thing that I teach. For small children, it is important for building those brain synapses before learning to read, and there are so many articles about how important it is to use both hands for brain functions. Knitting is my go-to, as it is easily transportable. It is calming, and I end up with something practical or giftable, so I feel I am not wasting time.
I have a sewing machine and like to fiddle making wool pants for my little ones or upcycling some old husband clothes into something cute for my girls. We had an angora bunny for a few years and now have plenty of wool for spinning on drop spindles or treddle wheels. With being on the board, I have had to travel for a few meetings and have taught myself how to crochet so that I don't freak people out with big knitting needles. That has been fun.
Of course, homeschooling presents itself with many opportunities for experiments: kids who want to learn to use the band saw, or painting or drawing about Vikings in the main lesson book, or sewing Laura Ingalls' sunbonnet. Soon we will be spending quite a bit of time in the veggie garden.
Q. We're approaching another board election, what would you say to someone who is considering being on the board?
Well, if I can do it, then no one else should be worried. We are a team, so where I lack someone else has the rest. And, where someone else has the "what if," maybe you have the idea or the know-how to bring it through. It is not a one-person show. I have learned so much about BOMA and also about the people. Here in Western MA, I am the only Billings teacher and one of three NFP teachers. We feel very alone and sometimes out of the loop. Since being on the board, I have met others who are equally concerned for marriage in our time. People who live real lives in the real world, who may have a different approach that helps us all grow, not only as an organization but as a person. There is usually someone who says "wait we need to pray" or someone who just is not sure about a quick decision that encourages discussion, and a new better plan comes up. I have been "stretched," no question, but in a good way. I have learned more computer skills that others seem to have already. I think if you have a unique perspective, which we all do, then maybe you should prayerfully consider being a part of the board.
March 23, 2020
Dear friends of the Alliance,
My trip started on March 3rd from California to Benin in West Africa to attend the world conference of the World Organization of the Ovulation Method Billings (WOOMB). There were 200+ attendees from 20+ countries, most of them from Africa. On several occasions, I served as interpreter since I speak the two main languages represented at the conference: French and English. I also attended an advanced extension course for teacher trainers under the best teaching available anywhere on the planet. My teachers were Marie Marshell and Jillian Barker, senior teachers from Australia, the country responsible for the development of the method by the late Drs. John and Evelyn Billings. During the conference, I met wonderful people and witnessed the formation of WOOMB-AFRICA. This is an exciting development which will encourage the teaching and spread of the BOM on the African continent.
I then travelled to Uganda and arrived at the Entebbe Airport at 2 a.m. on March 13. During the previous 10 days, I did not have much contact with the outside world since I was so involved days and evenings with the conference activities. I really had not kept up with the coronavirus pandemic development. In Entebbe, I was received at the airport by a health care worker who sprayed my hands with a disinfectant, took my temperature, asked health questions, and reviewed the health form I had filled out in the plane. This did not alarm me because Uganda is recognized for their aggressive infectious disease control. They have successfully battled the Ebola virus and prevented the spread of SARS in the country beyond a few cases. Uganda was one of the first African countries dealing with the AIDS virus; they learned so much controlling this disease.
Back at the airport: new guidelines starting that day specified that travelers coming from 17 countries, including the US, would not be allowed in the country; however, if they wanted to stay, they may elect to complete a 14-day quarantine set up at the airport and a few other locations. At this time, more than 1800 travelers are quarantined.
The immigration officer said that she needed to discuss my case with her supervisor. She quickly returned and allowed me to enter the country without restrictions. I was still clueless about what was happening in the world and also about the regulations at the airport. My ignorance was bliss. It is only later that I realized how fortunate I was to have been allowed entry, probably because I did not come directly from the US but from Africa. It took a few days for me to reconnect with the world as I had to reactivate my phone and access the internet. It usually takes 24 hours to achieve, but this time it took 3 days. After the weekend, I inquired why my phone was still inactive. I was told they needed a new photo. All the while, the people in Uganda thought I was quarantined somewhere. It was with some consternation, much joy, and thankfulness when they later realized I was in country and ready to work!
When I finally caught up with the world and talked to family members, most of them in a holding pattern somewhere, I realized how fortunate I was to be in Uganda, where not a single case had been reported so far until today: we have a Ugandan coming from Dubai who presented with fever at the airport, was isolated, tested, and provided medical care. Health officials are doing contact tracing. All fellow passengers were quarantined. Schools closed two days ago, handwashing is stressed, and small gatherings enforced. Ugandans are cooperating; they are used to prevention measures and so very creative!
But I am free to work and travel, and under these circumstances, it feels surreal. It reminds me of a Scripture the Lord gave me 3 years ago when I had concerns about traveling access: “The Lord will guard your coming and going both now and forever” Psalm 121:8.
This gives me great confidence that I’m where I’m supposed to be and that I should take advantage of my freedom and get to work! Even though the door closed to going back to the US at least for the next 30 days, I am not worried. When it’s time to go, the Lord will make a way. I am ready to extend my stay as needed because there is plenty of work to do as we plan to begin construction for the children’s hospital shortly.
I’m concerned about the Church having been sidelined summarily. Churches are inaccessible at a time when they are needed the most. Couldn’t we have small services while observing social distancing? What about the sacraments, a source of great comfort to Catholics? Throughout history, the Church did its greatest work during times of pestilence. The Church is supra-national. It is universal. It is the conscience of the nations. Our societies are quickly becoming secularized and in a profound moral chaos. This pandemic is affecting our national, economic, and personal security. Suddenly, and to our surprise, the states are not able to fix everything: most are still shuttered in their homes, travelers are not able to come home, borders are closed, and unemployment has risen to astronomical proportions, causing great anxiety. And the COVID-19 keeps on spreading, to at least 149 nations so far.
To his credit, President Trump called for a National Day of Prayer. Interesting that our religious leaders were absent and cloistered. But the faithful are rising. In Uganda, everyone is very prayerful. It is truly a Christian nation. A global movement is on the way. Go2020 is just an example. God speaks through His Word and calls us to pray; not any kind of prayer for our needs to be met, but a prayer of repentance on behalf of ourselves and our nation:
“If I close heaven so that there is no rain, if I command the locust to devour the land, if I send pestilence among my people, if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land” (2 Chr. 7:13-14).
Father Peter from the Bujuni Parish in Kibaale made this the subject of his homily last Sunday as it was broadcast on the radio. And today, Pope Francis called for Christians to recite the Lord’s Prayer on March 25. The Church is awakening slowly. It befalls us, Christians, to assume responsibility for the sinful condition of our nation. Atheists and agnostics will not pray. There is a precedent in the Word:
“If today you turn away from following the Lord, and rebel against the Lord, tomorrow he will be angry against the whole community of Israel….But do not rebel against the Lord, nor involve us in rebellion, by building an altar of your own…When Achan, son of Zerah acted treacherously by violating the ban, was it not upon the entire community of Israel that wrath fell? Though he was but a single man, he did not perish alone for his guilt! (Jos. 22:18-20, emphasis added)”
We shall overcome together on behalf of our nation and all those we love.
As for the Alliance work in Uganda, it is moving on well, although we are also experiencing the pandemic’s limitations. Our pilot program for abstinence education in the schools was scheduled for last weekend in Kibaale but was cancelled due to schools closing.
The St. Raphael Hospital committee is meeting today to discuss the way forward; we are selecting a construction company and preparing the site for the ground-breaking event. It is not scheduled yet. At this time, attendance would be limited to ten. We will wait until the crisis passes.
Thank you for your support. It is needed more than ever. May I encourage you to faithfully support the pregnancy resource center as we care for distressed mothers and their little ones? Are you a St. Raphael Hospital founding member yet? We need you to support the building of the children’s hospital. There is so much need: for example, 38% of Kibaale children suffer from malnutrition. Please go online to: https://www.allianceforlifeint.org/donate
Soon, we will share the hospital’s new website with you. So many exciting things happening!
In the meantime, let’s join the Psalmist:
“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of nations will bow low before him” (Psalm 22:28).
In God, we put our trust,
As we all scramble to adjust to the new normal, we are working on being able to offer our previously scheduled Teacher Trainings in April and May as a combination of live sessions via Zoom and the Correspondence Course.
We are currently training a group in Pittsburgh using that format. It’s going so well that we think now is the time to incorporate it nationwide. While attending an in-person training is always ideal and should be the first choice when offered, we are fortunate to be able to provide an alternative during this time when gathering in groups is not possible.
Stay tuned for updates on our website and Facebook pages!
The Importance of Emotional Health during (and after) the COVID-19 Pandemic
We’re living in stressful times with the coronavirus pandemic affecting so many aspects of daily life. But even before current events developed to their present state, couples facing fertility challenges already had an undercurrent of stress and uncertainty in their lives. Now more than ever, serving the emotional health of our clients is critical.
BOMA-USA is excited to partner with Organic Conceptions!
Organic Conceptions’s online cognitive-based program allows couples to engage in its program from the safety of their own home. The course can be a wonderful and timely gift to help already-struggling couples stay well emotionally and remain connected to each other during this time of heightened stress and uncertainty.
Organic Conceptions has put together a very special offer allowing Billings teachers to purchase licenses for just $29 per couple (normal price is $99). For just $59 you can receive a license (for 3 months of access) as well as 1 copy of the workbook & journal kit for your clients.
Lastly, if you are interested in getting educated on this unique program, there is an online certification program. They are offering BOMA teachers a special offer that includes access to the online training, 1 copy of the workbook and journal, plus 1 license for a client that you are working with. You can access the special offer by going to (https://www.organic-conceptions.com/offers/c5wsHQG8/checkout)
To learn more about Organic Conceptions, here is a link to an overview presentation hosted by Craig Turczynski, Ph.D: https://youtu.be/VVKAzoBCwB8
If you have any questions, please feel free to email email@example.com.
By Melaine Myklebust
My grandma was a child when her mom died. My mom was 18 when her mom died. I was 24 when my mom died. I come from a family of strong women who have had to pave the way into adulthood without a mother's guidance. We started our marriages and had children without a mom there to offer advice.
If I live to be 50, I’ll be the first woman in four generations to do so.
In my quest to break cycles, I stumbled across emotional links to our physical body systems. Have you ever been so overwhelmed with grief that your throat hurts? Or have you ever been so worried that you feel it in the pit of your stomach? Maybe you’ve experienced diarrhea before a big presentation or job interview.
Our bodies run on measurable frequencies. Emotions can raise and lower our frequencies. If we are experiencing a particular emotion, our body will store it in an area that is running on the same frequency. (For example: Worry is stored in the stomach).
I became curious about all of this, so I took a peek inside of the book Feelings Buried Alive Never Die by Karol K. Truman. I wasn’t surprised when I learned that the inability to cope with traumatic loss, feelings of helplessness, and holding on to deep hurt are all linked to buried emotions stored in the female organs.
By putting on my brave face for so many years and pretending like everything was ok, I was suppressing some major feelings, and I was on the road to storing them in a place in my body that is exactly the same place that generations before me had experienced cancer. In an effort to learn more about emotional responses, I learned that trauma and emotional responses can be passed in our DNA from generation to generation.
Neuroscientists at Emory University found that genetic markers can transmit a traumatic experience from generation to generation. They did an experiment where they taught male mice to associate fear with the scent of cherry blossoms. They would expose the mice to the scent as they shocked their feet. Then they removed the shock and the mice continued to express fear when they smelled cherry blossoms. They bred the mice with female mice. When the pups were born they had never smelled cherry blossoms. As soon as they smelled the blossoms the first time, they showed fear. This emotional response had been passed from the father to the pups and was triggered in the limbic system by their sense of smell.
The way we respond to the world around us can be from emotional responses in our DNA and our learned coping mechanisms. Is it so farfetched to wonder if constant hip pain might actually be due to suppressed emotions? Or that anger issues might actually be stemming from a liver crying for help?
Dr. Andrew Weil[HT1] says, “No matter how far a resilient person is stretched or pulled by negative emotions, he or she has the ability to bounce back to his or her original state.” This gave me hope.
My passion for health and wellness started when I realized that I wasn't loving my body well. I was on a path of self-destruction. I thought taking care of the physical side of things would be enough, so I ate wholesome foods and exercised regularly.
But it wasn't until I started seeking spiritual healing through prayer and emotional healing through forgiveness that everything came together. Healing begins where the wound was made. We cannot heal if we don’t deal. We cannot deal if we don’t feel. I needed to be the one to heal so I don't inadvertently pass my woundedness on to my daughter.
As a child, I was taught to stuff emotions because, in my family, crying was a sign of weakness. I had years of suppression waiting to spill out. But once I started allowing myself to feel the ugly things I had been burying, the floodgates opened, and an overwhelming sense of peace has filled my body. In the process of learning about my emotional well-being, my physical body started to transform as well. I have more energy. I’ve lost a few pounds. But the best part about digging deep is the freedom that comes with healing. We were made to be free.
Melaine Myklebust currently resides in Rockville, MN, with her husband and four children. Melaine graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2008 with a bachelor's of science degree in education and received her master's degree in curriculum and instruction from St. Catherine University in 2013. Melaine has a passion for wellness and education. She loves to cook nourishing meals for her family, homeschool her children, and educate others about how to live with purpose and intention. You can find her blog at www.lemongrassandsage.com
Executive Director Teen STAR USA
When he found the Billings Method, Deacon Santi Molina called it a treasure. His discovery led him to become a trainer, supervisor. and, most recently, executive director of Teen STAR USA.
Q. Tell us about your family and your work as a deacon in the Catholic Church.
This month, my wife, Laurie, and I celebrated 33 years of marriage. We met at the University of South Florida in 1985 and married March 21, 1987. We both worked as high school teachers in Tampa for four years before moving to Tallahassee in June of 1990. Our daughter, Clare, was born in 1998. Laurie works at Florida State University both in administration and as a faculty member teaching geography education; I teach anatomy and physiology at Tallahassee Community College. Clare is a dancer and is currently a trainee at the Ballet Theatre of Maryland in Annapolis.
I became interested in the diaconate when the priest who married us, Fr. Pat Rebel, suggested it to me. After we moved to Tallahassee, Fr. Mike Tugwell sponsored me in 1996. On May 20, 2000, I was ordained a permanent deacon by Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ (Bishop Emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahassee). Then, I worked in various parish projects at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More but became more involved with Hispanic ministry. Currently, I serve at St. Eugene Catholic Mission and Student Center in Tallahassee and St. Margaret Catholic Church in Monticello. My duties include marriage preparation, religious education, Natural Family Planning, annulment advocacy, Bible study, prison ministry, and more. I work under the supervision of Fr. Anderson de Souza, SVD, pastor of St. Eugene. I truly love the work and feel honored and privileged to have been called to do it.
Q. Years ago, I remembered you joined us for a teacher training in Laredo, Texas, and you were switching from the Creighton Model. It's always intriguing to hear the reasons why people choose Billings over other NFP methods they have taught or used. Would you mind sharing your reason for that?
Well, I was intrigued by Natural Family Planning from the moment I took my first class (thank you, Pat & John Wermuth!). They taught Laurie and me the Creighton Model, and it worked very well for us. Since I am a biologist by training, the science and the theology behind it really interested me. So, in 1989 Pat and John sponsored me to take the Creighton training. It was intense, and I began teaching. However, I was not able to complete the certification process, as it demanded an effort that I was not able to engage in given my job as a teacher and coach at the time and also given the fact that we were moving to Tallahassee. When we moved to Tallahassee, I inquired about completing the certification process. Still, after a year of attempting to finish, I was told that I needed to do the training again (and pay again). My interest in NFP did not waiver, so I began to search for alternatives, and I had always been curious about the original method of NFP, the Billings Method. So, in 2004, I got a hold of Sue Ek of BOMA-USA. It turned out that there was a teacher training in Laredo, Texas. I was very happy and grateful to discover this treasure! While the Creighton Model is good, the Billings Method is simpler to teach, learn, and apply and is backed by solid scientific research. Since then, I have been teaching it to couples from the parishes in my area and beyond. And I have become a trainer and supervisor, particularly with the Hispanic side of BOMA.
Q. How has your work training new teachers changed your appreciation of the Billings Method?
It has been a blessing as well as enlightening. Just to go further into the research and the variations that can occur in cycles has made the Billings Method more and more fascinating to me. The simplicity of its rules and how well they apply to ANY situation in a woman's reproductive life don't cease to amaze me. Being able to communicate this to new instructors and help them understand it more and more is very rewarding as well. We owe enormous gratitude to Drs. John and Evelyn Billings, Dr. Erik Odeblad, and Dr. James Brown. Their work is inspiring, and if I had "another life," I would have liked to go into research to continue their work. Fortunately, we do have researchers and doctors like Dr. Pilar Vigil, Dr. Mary Martin, Dr. Lek-Lim Chan, and many others who are continuing their work.
Q. Your skills as a bilingual speaker, who is also a professor of anatomy and physiology, are huge for us. Going from a teacher to a trainer and then to being a board member shows a significant commitment to the Billings Method and what we do. What inspires you to keep forging ahead?
As I mentioned above, God led me to this treasure, and I have become passionate about it. I don't know that I can explain it other than that the Holy Spirit continues to push me to stay the course and continue to support and help in preaching this gospel!
Q. Last year, you added another significant responsibility to your list when you became the executive director of Teen STAR USA. Congratulations! Filling that role from the years of work that Dr. Hanna Klaus devoted to building Teen STAR International must seem daunting! What does the future look like for Teen STAR in the United States and abroad?
When working with engaged couples, I discovered that most of them come to the marriage prep and NFP classes without having any understanding of their bodies and even less about NFP methods. Most of them are either already contracepting and living together, or planning on using contraceptives—mostly because their doctors or someone else have convinced them that they are the only things that work. It occurred to me that we needed to begin to teach younger people about this earlier. When I brought this up to Sue, she directed me to Sr. Hanna Klaus and Teen STAR. It took me a while before I could find the time to investigate what Teen STAR was all about. I finally became involved in 2015, when I went to a seminar in Brazil, given by Dr. Pilar Vigil. So, as I got more and more involved with Teen STAR, we began conversations with Sr. Hanna, who was already looking for a successor.
We eventually worked together in a teacher training, and then I began to implement Teen STAR in our parish with small group meetings. We ended up working on a new edition of the manual, along with a whole team of Teen STAR teachers.
By the end of 2018, the Teen STAR board appointed me interim executive director, and after a year, I was named executive director of Teen STAR USA.
Sr. Dr. Hanna has done such an amazing job that I know that I will never be able to fill her shoes. So, yes, it is daunting! She has been incredibly supportive and kind to me. Her vision of Teen STAR is truly another gift from God to the world.
The future of Teen STAR is very bright, as we continue to grow and promote the curriculum at three levels: middle school, high school, and young adults. In March of 2019, we received a grant from Our Sunday Visitor Institute that has been helping us bring Teen STAR to Hispanic communities in the US. We have plans for teacher trainings for Denver (now postponed, but soon to be rescheduled) and San Francisco/San Jose, California (June 4-6). I feel I must clarify that Teen STAR is not "NFP for young people." It is a curriculum that uses basic fertility awareness as the background for young people to understand themselves as human beings, sons and daughters of God. It includes topics such as anatomy and physiology, fertility awareness, Theology of the Body, communication, parent/child interactions, the adolescent brain, responsibility, commitments, assertiveness training, and much more.
The girls learn to chart their fertility but not as a method. We do address the methodology of Billings, such as the rules, but toward the very end of the curriculum, after they have a good understanding of responsibility, commitment, and assertiveness training (saying NO to proposals that lead them to disintegrate their humanity). Its pedagogy includes self-discovery, use of the Socratic method, etc.
Q. If a Billings teacher is interested in adding Teen STAR to what he/she offers, what is the first step?
He/she should check our list of upcoming trainings on our website: www.teenstar.org. If people have questions not answered on our website, they are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 850-212-7106. We are also happy to go to other locations if at least ten people are committed to attending.
The trainings are similar in format to the Billings teacher trainings. They usually last three full days (8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day). The cost is $400 per person, which includes manuals and resources to get started with the program.
Q. We've announced our combined conference with Teen STAR that is scheduled to happen in August. Even though BOMA and Teen STAR have shared exhibit tables at other conferences over the years, the August conference will be the first-ever collaboration. While final details are still being decided, is there anything in particular that you hope to accomplish by sharing the conference with us, besides expenses!
I hope and pray that we will be able to continue this partnership. Many BOMA instructors have expressed interest in Teen STAR, and this will be a great opportunity for them to get more information and education about Teen STAR. As mentioned above, Teen STAR does not teach a method but has used the Billings Method as its basis to teach fertility awareness to young people around the world. Many Billings instructors might be interested in becoming Teen STAR instructors... or at least promoters of Teen STAR.
BOMA-USA Teachers must apply for Renewal of Certification every three years. In October of each year, BOMA-USA will notify each Teacher needing to renew Certification in the following year. Renewal of Certification and the BOMA-USA badge will be issued by BOMA-USA in June of each year. Membership in BOMA-USA is required for Certification and Renewal of Certification.
Please note: Our August conference will count toward renewal of certification! Those who are due for renewal of certification this year will be notified by June.
Requirements for BOMA-USA Teacher Renewal:
Business card template available!
In our continuing effort to keep our marketing consistent using our logo, BOMA-USA has a business card template available for all teachers and teachers-in practicum to use:
Simply email your contact information to Sue Ek (Sue@boma-usa.org) and she will add it to the template and email it back to you. Then, you can email it to a local print shop of your choosing.
by Sue Ek
In 1978, at a WOOMB conference in Melbourne, Australia, Dr. John Billings asked Dr. Hanna Klaus to develop something for the young people because “no one was doing anything with them.”
Dr. Klaus had just moved to Washington, D.C., and was the Associate Professor of Ob/Gyn at George Washington University Medical Center and director of Ob/Gyn education at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland. As she tells the story, “In a series of providential events, Kay Ek’s sister, Mary Thormann, Ph.D., a professor of early childhood education at Marymount College (now university) in Arlington, VA, was delivering Meals on Wheels with Eunice Kennedy Shriver for their parish, Our Lady of Victory, in Washington, D.C. Dr. Thormann spoke to her of my interest in teaching fertility awareness to teens. At the time, Mrs. Shriver was the Executive Vice President of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation for the Prevention of Mental Retardation. She became interested as premature babies were at higher risk for mental retardation, and teen mothers often delivered prematurely. I met with Mrs. Shriver, and eventually, the Foundation funded our initial research on what became the Teen STAR (Sexuality Teaching in the Context of Adult Responsibility) program.”
Early on, the program found a strong foothold in Europe. However, as Dr. Klaus explains, “Teens are open to learning about sexuality and fertility the world over.”
It’s just not an easy reach because of the limitations that come from varying factors. She cited one problem of not having enough people to promote the program. There are also disturbing setbacks that come from the gate-keepers. Their roadblocks run from objecting that the curriculum is not academic enough to fears suggesting that, when teens track their fertility, they will take advantage of using the infertile time for promiscuous activity. The list goes on.
The main challenge, as Dr. Klaus sees it, is, that, “The wider culture encourages teens to engage in intercourse ‘as soon as they are ready as long as they don’t get pregnant.’ All of the professional societies in the United States, and many internationally, are pushing this.” She added, “They seem oblivious to the tripling of sexually transmitted infections and depression in the 25 and under [age] group.”
She added, “Puberty is the time when interest in coming to terms with one’s sexuality and fertility is at its peak. Teaching teens at this time is the logical approach to fertility acceptance in one’s life. Pre-marriage is too late for too many as sexual activity and contraception have begun much earlier.” She encourages all Billings teachers to learn Teen STAR and promote it “as a primary prevention.”
As Dr. Klaus puts it, “The essence of the Teen STAR program is experiential learning of fertility signs. It is not primarily a biology course.”
So, what is involved to become a Teen STAR presenter? “Teachers are trained to deliver middle school, high school, or college level programs. Women teach the girls> Men, the boys.” The training of a Teen STAR teacher (or “Monitor” in Latin America and Spain) starts with a 35-hour teacher training workshop. A mentored practicum follows that. New teachers are supported by experienced teachers either in-person, by phone, or email, depending on the location. Then, after two years of teaching, teachers become eligible to become trainers.
Looking to the future, she says, “Thankfully, the International Teen STAR Association is well-established and led by the next generation. Materials are constantly updated to keep up with new knowledge while keeping the essence of experiential learning maintained.”
The near future will see BOMA-USA and Teen STAR sharing a conference in August in Washington, D.C. at The Catholic University of America. Teen STAR will begin meeting on Thursday, August 6, and will continue on Friday, August 7. BOMA will host its one-day Billings-specific topics on Friday, August 7. Then, the two groups will share general sessions on Saturday, August 8.
We are looking forward to announcing our exciting topics and speakers soon on our website.
by Ann Marschel
Have you heard that when the sun rises, you should also rise? Or that when the sun sets, that is when you should go to sleep? This is a common saying because of something called the Circadian Rhythm. What is the Circadian Rhythm exactly? It is our bodies’ natural response to being alert and sleepy throughout the day. In other words, we have an internal clock that runs in the background and triggers times of alertness and sleepiness throughout a twenty-four-hour period. Both men and women have a Circadian Rhythm.
Now, have you ever heard of the Infradian Rhythm? The Infradian Rhythm is a rhythm that occurs longer than a day, such as the tidal waves, monthly menstruation or seasonally changes. For the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on women and their infradian rhythm as it relates to their menstrual cycles.
Alisa Vitti, an expert in the female Infradian Rhythm, started her journey with many health problems. It was from these health issues that she had to make a choice: take lots of medication or be stuck with irregular cycles and possible infertility due to PCOS. She decided to do some of her own research and now, twenty years later, she has written two books about women’s health and has her own women’s health clinic.
Once Alisa took her own health into her hands, she found that she was not the only one dealing with these unpleasant symptoms and health concerns. In fact, research has proven that over 50% of women currently struggle with hormonal issues. That is a lot of women!
There are many factors that play into these hormonal imbalances. One factor Alisa discovered was that each woman has an Infradian Rhythm. She realized that if women would know about this and utilize the components of how their bodies naturally respond to different elements throughout their cycle, women could excel in their health rather than struggling with it.
Diet, Exercise, and Sleep
There are many diet fads out in our world today. In Alisa’s book she touches on many of them, including Paleo, Keto, and Intermittent Fasting. Overall, no matter what type of diet you are on, the Infradian Rhythm allows a woman to know what she should eat.
Each woman’s metabolism changes dramatically throughout her cycle. For the first half of the cycle, a woman’s metabolism is slower. Women don’t need as many carbohydrates. This is a time when women can cut their caloric intake and do more intense physical workouts to acquire leaner muscle mass metabolically. This is also a good time for women to get up earlier in the morning to work out.
After ovulation, a woman’s metabolism speeds up. This is the time for a woman to eat complex carbohydrates to keep blood sugar stable. A woman should also vary her exercise routine and do less intense exercise in the later part of her cycle. If a woman uses high intensity interval training the last part of the cycle, it will turn on fat storage and turn on muscle wasting. This is also a good time for women to get up 30-60 minutes later in the morning. Allowing for gentle movement when waking up and keeping the heavier workout for later in the day is the best plan. Women also need more rest after ovulation.
Overall, Alisa states it’s not the what, but it’s the when. Utilizing this knowledge of the Infradian Rhythm and how a woman’s cycle correlates with her brain and the other functions of her body will allow her to improve and sustain her health. Putting the above strategies in place will allow a woman more sustained energy throughout the month. Ultimately, it will help her utilize and be efficient with her body and how it is designed.
*Information about the Infradian Rhythm was taken from this podcast/article with Alisa Vitti https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-is-our-infradian-rhythm as well as this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=166NrR5A7Ng . Alisa also has written two books titled Women Code: Perfect Your Cycle and In the FLO: Unlock Your Hormonal Advantage and Revolutionize Your Life.
Q. Tell us about your family and where you are living.
I’ve been married for almost 20 years to Jacob, and we have three children, ages 16, 14, and 10. We live in Southeast Louisiana about an hour north of New Orleans. Two years ago, we returned home after being gone for eight years. During that time, we lived in South Texas near the border of Mexico and Washington, D.C.
Q. Tell us about how you happened to convert to Catholicism and the Billings Method. How did all of that happen?
My conversion to Catholicism is a pretty long story. The short version is that I grew up in a Christian home. My father is a minister. However, I met and fell in love with a beautiful Catholic man and, staying true to my upbringing, knew that if I was going to be married to a Catholic man that I would have to become Catholic. I did it out of obedience to the word of God and in submission and respect to my husband as the head of our household. Over ten years or so after getting my master’s degree in religious education at a Catholic university and reading “Humanae Vitae” and Theology of the Body, I came to a very deep appreciation and understanding of the truth of the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage and contraception.
As for my conversion to Billings, I began my NFP journey by teaching myself a sympto-thermal method after learning the truth of how the Pill can work as an early abortifacient. When I had my conversion after reading Theology of the Body, I talked to my priest. He encouraged me to be certified in a method of NFP. I didn't even know that was a thing, and I had been through RCIA three times by then! It was 2013! The Billings Method was the one promoted in our diocese, so that is the one I chose. Even though I charted sympto-thermal, I was not interested in getting into a potential argument with anyone about methods, so I decided to go ahead with the Billings Method since that was the one promoted in our area.
Q. What inspired you to become a Billings teacher?
My priest. I had no idea there were people out there helping other couples learn how to use fertility awareness-based methods. The other thing that inspired me was I saw this was a huge need in the Church. Our culture and the Church have completely bought into the contraception lie. Once God opened my heart to the Church's teaching about God’s plan for love, marriage, and the marital embrace, my eyes opened to the reality of the contraceptive mindset and how far we’ve fallen in this area. The sexual revolution could not have occurred until the development of reliable contraception. Contraception is not a new idea; we have just never been as good at it as we are now. We are so good at, in fact, that we have forgotten the natural reality that sex leads to babies. We are so good at not getting pregnant, that we feel we have a RIGHT not to get pregnant. We feel we have a RIGHT to sex without consequences, so when the natural consequences occur, we feel we have a right to negate those consequences. Our culture views children as an unfortunate outcome of what should be all about pleasure. Contraception leads to abortion. Abortion is the final answer to failed contraception. I’ve shed many tears and prayed many prayers about this connection that few seem to make.
Q. While you’re taking some time off now, it tends to be in the blood for years and years. What would you say to encourage others to recommit to teaching?
When I teach an intro session, I get a good response, but follow-up is almost always nonexistent. My advice is just to do what is in front of you. If that means one couple, teach the one couple. I tried to anticipate what could happen in a sort of "if you build it, they will come" mentality. Nobody came. Now I do what is necessary, even if it means not teaching at all until a couple asks. Also, find others who teach. We are invigorated by each other's successes and passion. Don’t do it by yourself.
Q. For a while, you were with the St. Augustine Foundation. What kinds of projects did you work on for them?
My first project was an online course for the Billings Method, but we quickly realized that video-based courses don't turn into real clients, and without proper follow-up, method effectiveness rates decline. Next, I created a 13-week online course in sex education. This class included sections on moral decision making, sexual morality, chastity, sexually transmitted infections, pornography, relationships, and basic fertility charting. My goal for this course was to lay a foundation and promote body literacy that would give young women the tools to understand their bodies. They would know the parameters of a healthy vs. unhealthy cycles, and how their body speaks to them through their charting. With this foundation, the jump to using NFP for family planning would seem like a natural transition.
I see a really big hole in our education of women. We begin to talk about cycles and charting when they’re engaged and preparing for marriage. In this culture, it’s too late by then. Most women are already sexually active, on the Pill, or both. We’ve got to get to our girls when they start menstruating. Doing this in conjunction with a chastity course and sex education is a natural fit.
Q. Your involvement with bringing the Billings Method to the United Nations (UN) is so interesting and impressive. Tell us about that.
The WOOMB International team goes to the UN to attend the Commission on the Status of Women every March. Our mission at the UN is to educate and promote the Billings Ovulation Method worldwide. We had the wonderful opportunity to partner with the Holy See twice to promote the method. Most years, however, we host parallel events where we present the method and lately have added others who share in our mission to raise awareness regarding natural methods of fertility management. Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning are a natural fit for women in poverty and refugees in particular. Women in these situations have no access to doctors to manage contraceptive prescriptions or the side effects of those prescriptions.
Additionally, women in African countries do not want the contraceptives. A more natural approach to fertility is more in line with their culture. However, our main goal at the UN is to promote the authentic use of the Billings Ovulation Method for family planning for women all over the world.
Q. As one of our faithful monthly donors, what would you say to encourage others to give monthly? We want to boost that end of our financial base, so hearing from someone who has been committed to giving for a while means a lot.
It takes money to do the work. The more I do in philanthropy, the more I recognize the need for funding. My monthly giving is for that very reason. I see the necessity of consistent funding, and I want to be a part of the solution for that.
BOMA-USA provides education and training for The Billings Ovulation Method® which is a natural method of fertility management that teaches you to recognize the body's natural signs of fertility.