Using Natural Family Planning (Bits of Abuse Here and There)–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–June 1994, Part 4

On June 12, I wrote to Peter,

I can’t figure out [Phil’s brother] Dave.  He acts around me like he likes me just fine, but then tells Phil things about me that he thinks are right, but they’re just not true, so Phil gets mad at him and doesn’t listen.

And he told Phil we don’t get along when I only remembered meeting him once, at [my] Pearl’s a few days before (right before you called me the first time last year), and I thought we got along just fine.

And I’ve also started wondering if his fiancée Pearl likes me.  If not, it would probably be from Dave’s influence.  But then, who can figure Dave out?

But the important thing is that Phil loves me and won’t listen to things about me that aren’t true.

But anyway.  Somehow I knew I’d end up with Phil.  I had my suspicions in October and November, and in December I was almost certain that I’d end up marrying him, even though at the time I was still trying to get ahold of him and ask him out for the first time.

Things moved a little quicker than I expected once we finally started going out.


June 13, 1994.  The South Bend Tribune came before anyone got home from work, so I was first to see the headline: OJ Simpson’s ex-wife and “her friend” had been murdered the night before.  This shocked me, but OJ himself was not under suspicion (as of yet).  I read the article (or articles–there may have been two) all the way through.

For the next few days, I paid attention to any news I heard or read.  That was enough for me.  But soon, the news media got so enamored and saturated with this case–and the suspicion of OJ as the murderer–that I couldn’t get away from it.

It was too much, so I went into an anti-OJ news kick, which lasted until after the verdict.  I didn’t want to avoid hearing news altogether; I just didn’t want OJ to be the only news I heard.  I think I was impressed with The 700 Club at this time because they gave it only a few minutes and then went on to the next thing.

Friday, June 17, 1994.  On this night they showed cop cars chasing a white Ford Bronco with OJ Simpson and a friend in it.  It was nothing but the cars driving slowly, never speeding up to catch up, because they didn’t want OJ to shoot himself.

Cars driving…cars driving…cars driving….Very little variation on that same theme, except, of course, when a radio announcer in a helicopter tried to get a message to OJ.

What really annoyed Phil and me was we wanted to see Picket Fences on channel 28, but instead all we got was this annoyingly dull chase on every channel.  We didn’t have cable to escape to, since my parents took it out to help pay for college.  We only kept the TV on because we hoped that any moment they’d stop showing the chase and turn on Picket Fences.

We couldn’t believe the “human interest” reports the next day that said people were actually riveted to their sets watching this dull chase!  Or that they were even interested much at all anymore in the OJ situation, after the media over-saturation.  Phil would even scribble “NO” next to “OJ” on the grocery list.


Phil chugged Mountain Dew and Pringles so fast that there was none left for me.  My mom made him start buying them himself.

After he started at the factory, he began to put a frozen pizza in the oven every night when he came home, rather than eating what my mom saved him from dinner.

He had nothing but Little Debbie snacks for breakfast.  Instead of bringing something healthy from home for his lunch break, he got fast food.

His diet was so unbalanced and unhealthy that I think only his factory job could explain his thin, increasingly muscular physique.  He constantly got nosebleeds; Mom thought he was anemic.

Because dinner was around 6pm, I got hungry by the time he got home, after 11pm, so I asked for a piece or two of the pizza each night.  He complained at first despite how huge they were (probably large pizzas), but finally let me have some.

(You’re reluctant to share a large pizza with your own hungry wife?  How frickin’ selfish can you get?)

But it started to make my stomach hurt afterwards.  It seemed frozen pizza might not agree with me anymore.  I hoped this wasn’t the case, but it persisted.


On June 18, I wrote to my roommie Clarissa,

Phil has been having fun with the computer.  He keeps beating my youngest brother at Risk, and he beat him three times at chess on the computer. And L–‘s the one who would boast about beating everybody on his Marine base at chess.  No wonder L– uses his most sardonic “wit” on him.

On June 19, I wrote in a letter to Helene,

We just had a noisy storm.  And Phil’s scared of the lightning.  I found him lying on my bed with our “son” Benny (a stuffed rabbit).  You’re right, he is a sweetheart.

My dad has an old copier now, and it makes letter-writing so much quicker.  I used to write a letter, then hand-write or type up a copy for myself.  Now I just take a few minutes to copy it.

It’s so odd to not have to pay a dime a copy [like at school], and bad copies aren’t such a problem when you don’t have much money to make more.

In “Clarissa” by Samuel Richardson, Clarissa and Lovelace are always copying letters or having their servants do it.  Then they sometimes copy other people’s letters so their friends can read them.  How they would have appreciated having copiers!

I also used it one day to make a copy of a few pages I found in one of my parents’ books, ABC’s of the Human Body.

It was a Godsend: In S–, we couldn’t find any local sources of information on natural family planning, but here in South Bend we found a center or two.  Unfortunately, there was no answer when Phil called.

He also feared they, being Catholic, wouldn’t want to tell us anything about it anyway, because we weren’t officially married yet.

He feared they’d think we’d use it for “fornication,” but that’s silly because we were publicly engaged and you have to learn about this stuff before you get married (to start charting your cycles a few months ahead of time, etc.).

But because of his fear, I was forced to look in medical books for help.

I finally found most of what I needed to know in this book, which had information on natural family planning and even had three different charts: one for temperature, one for “safe” days based only on the calendar, and one for checking cervical mucus.

I found something about pH testing of the mucus in a medical book my mom picked up for me one day around that time, but it didn’t say how to test the pH, and I didn’t know what to do about it.

There was even an old parenting book at home, that described natural family planning, and said daily testers were readily available at any drugstore.

However, this book was from the ’70s, and the only testers we found were one-use, meant to be used around the time of ovulation (which my periods were too irregular to predict), and way too expensive to use every day.

I wanted to check all three ways, which was supposed to make it about as effective as the Pill.  But the information I found did not describe how to test pH–what tools to use–so I thought maybe we needed pH paper.

I didn’t know where to find it.  I’ll describe later how we went looking for it but couldn’t find it anywhere.

In 1997 or 1998, a magazine, probably Glamour or Redbook, ran an article that described just what needed to be done in natural family planning to make it effective and not a “joke.”  Unlike any other book or article I had found on the subject, it described how to check the mucus.

Here is another good source.

And my husband (Cugan now, not Phil) had finally found me some pH paper because, during our engagement, I planned to use NFP during our marriage.  However, shortly after he found the pH paper, and long before that article came out, I was diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance, and had to go on the Pill anyway!

Though you can also use test strips specifically made for the purpose.  You can also get a pH test strip dispenser on Amazon!  It was so hard for me to do this NFP, but it’s so simple for women these days!

But back to 1994 and the charts I found in the health book.  These charts said how to tell when ovulation will occur, based on these three different methods of testing.

We had to know all we could find out about natural family planning, since, though Phil said he would let me use contraception if I really felt that strongly about it, he also felt like he would be sinning and helping me to sin, and I was afraid of what the Pill would do to my body.

(I’d heard misinformation about what it actually does.)

Plus, we’d have to spend a lot of money to get the Pill.

Basically, he used religious guilt to manipulate me into not using birth control, and doing things his way, out of respect for his convictions.  But meanwhile, he made it very difficult for me to use NFP, because I did not have the information I needed, nor would he take me to look for the pH strips I needed, except after lots of nagging.

I decided to go along with NFP, and it was actually fun.  I started taking my temperature on June 21, a Tuesday.  Before that, I had been using the calendar method–which worked, despite my irregular periods, but still worried me.


Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: