Pope Francis: Encouraging Others, Challenging Me

The papal visit to the United States is wrapping up today, and any moment I’ve not been watching coverage, I’ve found myself deep in thought.

Pope Francis has given several speeches this week, including a few homilies, and then speaking to Congress and the United Nations, as well as the Bishops more than once, and then speeches at Independence Hall, the Festival of Families and the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.


photo credit: reuters, dailymail.com

After hearing the Holy Father at all of these events, I’ve found myself encouraged but also challenged.

And isn’t that what a father is supposed to do?

Before the Pope’s arrival, I think many of us were looking forward to the Holy Father coming to our aid in a bold way. “Guess what guys? My dad’s here now and he’s gonna let you know what’s up.” Those of us that are faithful to the Church have found ourselves feeling ridiculed and bullied by our secular culture, led primarily by the media in all its forms. We stand with the Church and her teachings while the culture around us changes in the name of progressivism (progressing towards what I’m not sure). We’re often referred to as being stuck in the past or old-fashioned, or even worse.

Papa arrives, and I’m excited. The visual I have in my head is of myself standing, facing the opposition with my arms crossed, waiting for my Pope to let everybody have it. Instead, Pope Francis opens his arms to everyone and welcomes them.

Fine. I tell myself the Pope will let ’em have it tomorrow at Congress.

But again I find myself a little hurt, and let’s be honest, jealous. “Papa, why are you being so gentle and welcoming? These people turned away from you. They’ve ridiculed God’s Church, and even more, they ridicule me. Tell them they’re wrong!”

Yet again, I find myself in the story of the prodigal son. And, yet again, I’m playing the role of the older son, letting feelings of pride and self-importance run rampant.



But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20





The Challenge

After watching and listening to Pope Francis these few days, I’ve come away with a broader understanding of his mission. When he said “environment” and “climate change” I heard it through the filter of our American politics…how very American of me. But now I hear the Holy Father talking to the masses, calling them to step away from the culture of waste.

The culture of waste starts small. First you’re just tossing out silverware for a shiny new set, then later you find yourself not even grateful for the silverware, old or new. And then this throwaway mentality spreads. People think they have a right to toss out anything unwanted, even the elderly, the terminally ill or the unborn.

Pope Francis is reaching out to the masses, finding common ground, encouraging their desire to take care of our God-given natural resources so that future generations will not only take special care of the environment, but also welcome and care for other living things, like human beings.

And shouldn’t we take care of what God has given us? No parent would allow their child to keep their room in utter disarray, using clothing to mop up spills, all the while saying to their parents, “What’s the big deal? I’m going to grow out of these clothes in a month and you’ll get me new ones.” Rather, parents here on Earth and our Father in Heaven call on their children to show their trust with little things so that they can be trusted with greater things. If we can’t show honor and respect to something like a river given to us by God to provide us with water, how can we show honor and respect for human beings that seem to provide us with nothing except burden?

My challenge specifically? To step away from my pride and petty us vs them constructs. To make love grow.

This means standing for what’s right while simultaneously making people feel welcome. The beautiful Both/And concept the Church teaches.

But what does this look like in practice? Pope Francis warned against getting caught in incessant cycles of explaining of church teachings. I think I could do a little less sharing of articles, blog posts and the like, and do a little more of reaching out to those around me. Calling at least one person on the phone each week. Taking the time to actually comment on social media posts instead of just scrolling by or “liking” it. Finding common ground with those in my life who are opposed to me on various issues. Finding new ways to love my husband in ways he receives love best.

I once heard Fr. Longenecker speak at our parish, and he said something that stayed with me and I think it applies here. He advised to approach all things in life with saying Yes.  At first, this made no sense to me. But then I realized it was the difference between approaching things with a hard heart and a loving heart. The Pharisees led with No. Leading with Yes means truly hearing what is being presented to you, and then making thoughtful decisions instead of being reactionary.

There’s a lot more to be said; I could go on to further explain in detail what I really meant here or when I said this I didn’t mean that. But I think I’ll just let it lay, and end with today’s readings, which I thought were a ideal end to Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.

Today’s Readings

Numbers 11:25-29

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.
Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad,
were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp.
They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent;
yet the spirit came to rest on them also,
and they prophesied in the camp.
So, when a young man quickly told Moses,
“Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, ”
Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’aide, said,
“Moses, my lord, stop them.”
But Moses answered him,
“Are you jealous for my sake?
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”

James 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,
your gold and silver have corroded,
and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.
You have stored up treasure for the last days.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers
who harvested your fields are crying aloud;
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.
You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;
he offers you no resistance.

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

At that time, John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”


Paleo AIP and Me: The Sweets (Part 4)

Here’s Part 4 of my “Paleo AIP and Me” series. Part 1 is an explanation of the diet and why I’ve needed to make this big life change. Part 2 is a list of entree recipes and Part 3 is a list of side dishes. This is a list of desserts and other sweet meals. It’s suggested to avoid sweets, but sometimes to be successful you need something to get you by. We definitely consume too many sweets on a daily basis. That’s just where we’re at right now.

Any recipe in peach text means I’ve made it before, but am not currently due to where I’m at regarding reintroductions. 


Our Breakfast Smoothie 

FoodCodes AllWe eat this every day. And then sometimes at night too, as a dessert. I know variety is the best thing you can do for a diet, but this smoothie is really good and full of nutrition. Throw a small avocado, at least a quarter cup of coconut milk, a banana, one to two cups frozen fruit, spinach, kale and water into a blender. That’s it and you get two servings. You have to kind of adjust the amounts based on your blender. Right now we make this in two nutrient extractor cups instead of our larger blender. You want enough water so it can be easily blended.


Sweet Potato Smoothie

FoodCodes Paleo-NFAs I mentioned earlier, I’m not a huge fan of sweet potatoes. So I have to find ways to add other ingredients to them to help cut the taste. This smoothie is so good, and I love that I’m getting much needed carbs into my diet.



EggNOs Waffles

FoodCodes AllI love these things! Another tasty way to make sure I’m getting enough carbs, and they’re great to make in batches and take on a trip. You can have them the traditional way, with maple syrup and maybe some fruit, or I enjoy them with coconut butter and a no sugar added jam. Also good with a nut butter if you can tolerate it.

notes: maple syrup not recommended for AIP


Rustic Apple Rolls

FoodCodes AllI make these once a week. Seriously. They’re so good. And, again, it’s a great way to get carbs into the diet. At first glance, the recipe seems a bit complicated, but it’s really not. My trick for the “dough” is to lay out a piece of parchment paper the size of a cookie sheet, and place the dough on it. Lay another piece of parchment paper over the top, and then use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a rectangular shape, about the size of a cookie sheet. Throw the top piece of parchment paper away, spread the apple filling on the dough, then lift the left side of the bottom piece of parchment paper to help you roll the dough in on itself (like you’re making a cinnamon roll). Pick up the ends of the parchment paper and lift the roll onto the cookie sheet, and then place the cookie sheet in either the fridge or freezer (depending on how much time there is before needing to slice and put this in the oven). Chilling it, or nearly freezing it, makes slicing much easier; otherwise you’ll end up with smashed rolls.


White Sweet Potato Discs

FoodCodes AllSometimes you just need something sweet to end your night, and this hits the spot. I can’t take complete credit for this recipe. I actually made something like this almost a year ago, but forgot to save the link and then was unable to find it again. I could only remember parts of the recipe, so I used that as a starting point and came up with this.

Peel at least two white sweet potatoes and cut into eighth to quarter inch slices (adjust to preference: thin slices will be crispy). Throw into a bowl with enough coconut oil to coat all the slices and sprinkle with cinnamon. Lay out in a single layer onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350°and flip each slice after 15 minutes. Bake another 12-15 minutes. Divide up the slices onto plates, drizzle with coconut butter (also called manna, and I do more than a drizzle) and a small amount of honey.


Blackberry “Cobbler”

FoodCodes AllAwww…this was the first Paleo AIP dessert I ever made. It’s really simple, and satisfies that sweet tooth.



Sweet and Salty Fudge Bombs

FoodCodes Paleo-NFThese things are just stupid good. Another treat that anyone will like. I’ve brought these to gatherings to be served along with other snacks and appetizers. Although this qualifies as a Paleo dessert, you don’t want to serve this alongside non-Paleo desserts. The all-natural sweetness just can’t stand up to the artificial sweetness of the normal desserts you would find at a party.


Paleo Sex in a Pan

FoodCodes Paleo+AllThis is flat-out the most decadent Paleo dessert I’ve ever had. I made this for my husband’s birthday when he requested that we not go off the diet to celebrate. We had some the day I made it, and it was really rich and tasted just okay. I thought it was a dud. Then had some the next day. Wow. So good. Still super rich, but really, really good. Eat this one in small portions.


Vegan Cheesecake

FoodCodes Paleo-NFThis is a really good substitute for the real thing. The fruit you choose to use makes a difference. I feel like fresh fruit would be best, but each time I made it I only had access to frozen fruit, and strawberry was my favorite. Drizzle paleo chocolate syrup over the top and this is quite good.



Salted Caramel Ice Cream

FoodCodes AllAlthough this is quite the stretch for the phrase “ice cream”, this is still pretty good. Pair this with the apple rolls above, and it’s almost like you’re enjoying apple pie a la mode.



Chocolate Syrup

FoodCodes Paleo+AllThis is a simple chocolate syrup without all the bad stuff you find in a store-bought variety, and it’s really good. What else can you ask for?

Paleo AIP and Me: The Sides (Part 3)

Here’s Part 3 of my “Paleo AIP and Me” series. Part 1 was an explanation of the diet and why I’ve needed to make this big life change. Part 2 was a list of entree recipes. This is a list of side dishes and various accompaniments. It’s not a very long list–I’m more of a one dish kind of cook–but I’m sure to add to it as time goes on.

Any recipe in peach text means I’ve made it before, but am not currently due to where I’m at regarding reintroductions. 


Side Dishes

Lemon Zucchini

FoodCodes AllSides dishes aren’t something I put a lot of time into, but if you’re going to, this is a good one to have. It has a lot of flavor, and is a great summertime dish.

*notes: I’ve actually never made this on the grill, instead I just lay the strips on a cast iron pan so it’s more like I’m sautéing them I guess



FoodCodes AllGetting carbs into your diet can be difficult when you’re on Paleo AIP (and carbs are important, just not in the quantity and kind that the typical American consumes them). Plantains are an acceptable carb, and the addition of onions
and bacon are especially tasty here.


Basic Cauliflower Rice

FoodCodes AllThere are a lot of version of cauliflower rice, but I usually end up making this basic version and then pouring a soup or stew over it. You could even toss in some sautéed veggies and have a great little side. Start by ricing the cauliflower (rinse, cut into pieces, put into food processor until it’s rice-like) and then toss into a pan with hot bacon fat. Add some salt and cook for about 10-15 minutes.


Bacon-wrapped Asparagus, Avocado, Onion 

FoodCodes AllI think we can all agree that bacon-wrapped anything is wonderful. This recipe is one of my go-to’s when I bring a dish to a gathering: (1) everyone loves it, (2) I’m assured I’ll have something to eat, and (3) the avocado version assures me that I’ll have something filling (in case I can’t eat anything else). If you google these, you’ll often come up with some additional steps and ingredients, like pouring a brown sugar sauce over the top, but I’ve found those completely unnecessary. Just wrap in bacon, cook at 425 degrees, flip after 15 minutes, check in another 15 minutes, and then every 5-10 thereafter, and you’ve got something fantastic.

3-Ingredient Naan

FoodCodes AllThis is real easy to make, and the time needed depends on what kind of naan you want at the end of it. Crispy or soft. I follow the recipe, and then take quarter cups of the mix and pour into a hot pan that has hot bacon fat in it. This part is kind of like making pancakes. Cook until each side has a golden color on it and then place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake the naan in a 325° oven for about 15 minutes (less or more…depends on your preference).




FoodCodes AllI made this to go with the paleo chicken nuggets in Part 1, and I’m so glad I did. My husband and I actually prefer this to regular ketchup.

*notes: I once used this with fast food fries and it totally didn’t work–the mix of real with artificial just wasn’t good


Bone Broth

FoodCodes AllA big part of Paleo AIP is eating nutrient dense foods. Bone broth is an easy way to help you do that. When I make a recipe that calls for bone broth, I literally feel like I got some kind of shot after eating a serving of it. And if I feel like a cold is coming on, I’ll go out of my way to use bone broth and it knocks it right out of my system. You can also just drink bone broth by itself, but I prefer to have it via a meal.

Organ Meat: It’s Important

Eating organ meat is a big part of healing your body. I’ve had a hard time with this part of the diet, so I started adding beef liver to my diet using this method. You can also buy desiccated liver tablets, but it’s a lot cheaper to make your own liver “pills” at home. If you like liver–great! There’s good recipes out there, like this one.

notes: I take my liver with orange juice (it masks any thought of taste); sometimes the pills have jagged edges and are hard to swallow–if you let them thaw slightly they’re more like gummy bears and there’s no issue (and this is why orange juice is a necessity for me)


Part 4: The Sweets

Paleo AIP and Me: The Entrees (Part 2)


In my last post, I wrote about how I learned about Paleo AIP and what it’s done for me. I wanted to share that for others that may be struggling with autoimmune disorders, and it’s gotten to a point where they’re willing to make a big change so they can heal. Changing your life in this drastic fashion is hard. But when you see results like I did, no psoriasis and no cycle pain, well, it’s hard to go back. Plus, I feel amazing now that I’m eating healthy. A week before my surgery, my husband and I fell, well jumped really, off the wagon. After two days, he says to me, “When can we start eating paleo again? I feel horrible.” We felt truly awful. And some of the food we had, we didn’t even like! Our tastes have changed, so low quality fast food just doesn’t do it anymore.

In this post, I wanted to share the recipes I’ve accumulated. And, because I’m no skilled chef, you can be assured that if you find a recipe here it’s doable. I must admit, I spend a lot more time cooking than I used to. So if you have other commitments that take up a lot of your time, going paleo will be difficult and you may have to search for sites that teach you how to cook in bulk or make use of a crock pot more often.

Without further adieu, here are my personal favorites. Some recipes are AIP, some are not but can easily be adjusted. Most were created by some very talented person that is not me. A few are my own creations that have helped us get by. All of the recipes have helped with healing.

Any recipe in peach text means I’ve made it before, but am not currently due to where I’m at regarding reintroductions. 


The Entree Recipes

Herb Chicken Nuggets

FoodCodes AllThis recipe is one of our absolute favorites. Throw in a veggie and some mashed cauliflower, and you have the makings of guiltless comfort food. And this AIP version of ketchup is the perfect dipping sauce for these nuggets. The only downside is that frying these guys up takes quite a while.

*notes: I usually double this recipe so we have leftovers, and I fry the nuggets in bacon fat

Italian Sausage Flatbread (AIP Pizza!)

FoodCodes All

Oh my goodness–WE. LOVE. THIS. The first time I made this, the smell was so good I had kept telling myself, “Rachel, calm down. This is AIP so don’t get your hopes up.” Then we ate it and were so happy! This is so good! Even my husband agrees. He’s demanded a weekly pizza night.

notes: I cook the ground pork and veggie toppings in bacon fat, I make 2 crusts at once so I can use all the toppings and then we each get our own pizza

Beef Layer Casserole

FoodCodes AllThe first time I made this I thought to myself, “I could make this for anyone–this is just good food!” Not only does this taste great, but our family of two has leftovers for several days and it’s nice to have meat, veggies and a carb all combined into one dish.

*notes: using brown mushrooms is a must: skipping them or using white results in a dish with a lot less flavor; omit the black pepper for Paleo AIP

Magic “Chili”

FoodCodes AllSo, this isn’t really anything close to chili except that it’s made in a big pot and has ground beef. Sometimes the names of these dishes get your tastebuds going in the wrong direction. Regardless, this is still very good. It’s especially good during the winter time, and the bone broth gives you a big nutritional boost that you can actually feel.

*notes: feel free to throw in additional veggies on this one (I throw in sweet potato so it’s more filling and to help make sure I’m getting enough carbs); you could use store-bought broth but in the end you’ll lose a lot of flavor and nutrition

Hawaiian Salmon

FoodCodes AllWhen sockeye salmon is on sale, I get at least a pound and then it takes about 15 minutes to prep this meal…depending on the number of pin bones I have to pull out, but I digress. I get the salmon into the oven, and then empty a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies into some bacon fat, along with garlic, riced cauliflower, coconut aminos and some salt. Serve the salmon on top of the veggie mixture and it’s a full meal.

notes: check the salmon while it’s in the oven–I’ve overcooked it by just going strictly with the recipe

Julia Child’s Classic Roast Chicken (AIP Makeover)

FoodCodes AllMy husband just loves roasted chicken. So it’s nice to make 2 at once so we have plenty of leftovers. For AIP, omit any black pepper and replace the ghee with olive oil. I rub both chickens with a mix of turmeric, garlic powder and salt, and then with olive oil. I stuff the inside with lemons and onions (I rarely have fresh thyme on hand). That’s it! Just put them in the oven. I add carrots, onions and sweet potatoes coated in olive oil and some salt for the vegetables you add in later.

notes: remember the linked recipe is not AIP–see my notes above for the changes

Paleo Orange Chicken

FoodCodes Paleo+AllPretty easy recipe, but you’ll want to double or triple it. I served over cauliflower rice once before, and found myself wishing there was more sauce. Next time I may also consider adding stir-fry veggies as well. 

notes: the chili garlic or sriracha is not AIP compliant; not sure how omitting would affect flavor

Paleo Chili

FoodCodes Paleo+AllThis is the closest I’ve had to real chili since on this diet, and it’s pretty good. The recipe makes a very large amount, and getting to use the crockpot saves you time in the evening. Adding in a Paleo version of bread makes it feel more like the real thing.



Salmon Bacon Burgers

FoodCodes AllWith this recipe, I only make the salmon patty part (I decided the relish wasn’t worth my time) and it’s really good. It’s a great way to eat salmon, and of course bacon makes everything better.

*notes: I’ve subbed onions for leeks in a pinch and it works just fine; although fresh salmon results in patties that hold together real well, I’ve used a good quality canned salmon too


My Basic Burger Patty

FoodCodes AllThis is my own creation. Burger patties are really easy and quick to throw together, so we usually make this once a week because it means less time in the kitchen for me. Just add a couple sides, and you’ve got a full meal.

Mix two pounds ground beef with some coconut aminos, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Divide into at least eight patties and cook using your desired method.

notes: these are really good with the paleo AIP version of ketchup we use


Creamy Crockpot Lemon Chicken Kale Soup

FoodCodes AllI have to admit, this isn’t one of my favorites. I like it because you can prep it in the morning and then let the crockpot do the work. The flavor is good, although I’ve never been able to achieve the “creaminess” that the creator of the recipe seems to get when she makes it. But pour it over cauliflower rice and you’ve got a meal.

*notes: even if your kale is already cut up (we buy ours in a bag), you still want to cut it smaller so you can eat this without it being a mess


Creamy Coconut Green Chile Chicken Soup

FoodCodes Paleo+AllI actually prefer this recipe over the Lemon Chicken Kale Soup above. If you can have green chiles or peppers, then this is tasty soup. Pour over cauliflower rice to make a complete meal.




Bacon Cabbage Chuck Beef Stew

FoodCodes AllAnother crockpot meal! I love these things. This takes about 10 minutes of prep, and then it’s good to go. It’s really tasty, especially if you use homemade bone broth. I feel like this would be a great meal for non-paleo eaters as well. They could add in some buttered bread with this for some real comfort food.

*notes: I’ve made this with homemade bone broth and then with store-bought broth, and the homemade makes a huge difference with flavor


Paleo Fried Rice

FoodCodes Paleo-EFAnother one of my favorites here. This one takes a bit more time in the kitchen, but after a few times of making it I’ve become more efficient. It really is a great substitute for real fried rice.




Pulled Pork

FoodCodes Paleo+AllSo this is crazy easy to make, and you get quite a large portion. I’ve made this for non-paleo eaters and they love it as well. What I’ve found personally is that non-paleo eaters have the luxury of enjoying this pulled pork on bread or a tortilla, whereas I have had yet to find a suitable “carrier” for it. The pulled pork alone is pretty heavy, so I’d like to come up with a better way to consume it…maybe in a salad? If you have any ideas I’m all ears.


Eggless Hash

FoodCodes AllThis recipe is a great way to get kale and sweet potato into a meal for me (I’m not a fan of sweet potatoes). I haven’t been able to find any breakfast sausage that meets the Paleo AIP criteria, but you can make your own by buying ground pork and adding some spices.



Tuna Salad

FoodCodes AllSo, this is pretty much a weekly staple at our house. We buy good quality tuna (have you read the ingredients list for a typical can of tuna? yikes!) and then pretty much throw everything else in the food processor to save time on chopping. Serve with 3-ingredient Naan and you’ve got a pretty tasty lunch.

*notes: using the food processor does save time on chopping, but I’ve also found the end product isn’t near as pretty and lacks some flavor


Part 3: The Sides


Paleo AIP and Me: Part 1


As many already know, I’ve been on some form of a restrictive diet for a few years now. I wanted to write a post that explains how this all came about; to share why I’m doing this to myself, how it’s helped, and what it’s been like for me. Sometimes I feel like people don’t understand, so I figured a blog post would be the perfect opportunity to share my story. And a note, when I use the word diet, it doesn’t mean I’m restricting calories to lose weight. In this case, the word diet means simply what I eat.

How it All Started

I had been on the “endo diet” for nearly two years, and was pretty frustrated overall. Two years of not eating dairy, wheat, red meat, pork…the list goes on…and yet, no improvements.

At a friend’s birthday party, I met a woman who would become a good friend. She found out about my autoimmune disorders (psoriasis and endometriosis) and told me about this diet. All my husband heard was “bacon” so we had pretty much jumped on board before we even made it home that night.

The Diet

It’s Paleo but with an auto-immune protocol (Paleo AIP). I was willing to try anything; it’s not like upending my life with a change in diet was new to me.

Paleo AIP

Paleo AIP

A friend sent me this meme when I first jumped on board, and it’s pretty much accurate. Paleo AIP consists of good quality meat, lots of fruits and veggies, and good carbs. After an elimination phase, you reintroduce foods back into your diet one at a time so you can figure out what foods are causing issues. A good reference for what you can and can’t eat during the elimination phase is this chart from Autoimmune Paleo.

Fortunately, my husband was going through boxing training at the time I wanted to start this, so I had his full support during the 28-day elimination phase. Plus, after not eating red meat for most of two years, eating Paleo was like a dream. Everything tasted so good!

The Results

It took two cycles before I saw any results, but two months after going Paleo AIP my psoriasis subsided and I had no PMS-associated pain. None. After 21 years of horrible pain at the beginning of every cycle, I now had no pain. It was like a miracle. I didn’t even care about the dreaded CD1 (cycle day one when you find out you’re not pregnant)–I was freakin’ ecstatic to not feel like I was run over by Mack truck the day my cycle started.

Eventually, my psoriasis ended up going away all together. I’ve had psoriasis in some form since 2003; tried topical treatments over the years and ended up learning how to tolerate it and keep it under control. But no more! Now I can wash my hands at a public facility and not deal with the soap irritating my wrists or wear a black shirt with confidence. It’s awesome.

How It’s Been Going

A few months after starting this elimination diet, I did some traveling and that really undid all my hard work. I was in Keystone, Colorado for a few days, and then after that I was in Mexico City for a week. I tried my hardest to keep eating the right foods for me, but sacrifices were made. Not to mention, I rushed the reintroduction process so I’m not a 100% that some of the foods I now eat are things I should be eating. Although my psoriasis stayed away, the pain at the beginning of my cycles came back.

In May 2015 I had surgery to remove endometriosis, and I am hopeful that the procedure, combined with my new eating habits, will result in pain-free cycles from now on.

In August 2015, I restarted the 28-day elimination phase of Paleo AIP. The chart below details my progress regarding reintroduction.

How to Support Me

You might not know it, but this has all been very hard on me. Food is the center of most social situations and gatherings, and to have this taken away has often left me feeling rather alone.

On top of that, sometimes people think I’m being ridiculous or that what I’m doing isn’t necessary. That ends up leaving me feeling even more alone. Just know this: There’s no way I would ever take such drastic measures if it wasn’t necessary.

Plus, the last thing I want in social situations is to have all the attention focused on me. And when you go out to eat or are invited to someone’s house for dinner with as many eating restrictions as I have, it’s next to impossible to not have everyone concerned with me. My number one goal in social situations is to meet the needs of everyone else and not actually have any needs of my own. Now, to be fair, that’s not exactly healthy. And, so, maybe all this has been a blessing. I’ve certainly had to learn how to tell others what my needs are, and then actually let them meet those needs.

And finally, the most difficult thing about the diet, is that it’s a constant reminder that Kelsey and I have been unable to conceive. There’s a connection between food, autoimmune disorders and fertility. Every time I can’t have a bowl of cereal, enjoy some chips and salsa, have an ice cream cone or just eat something where I don’t know all of the ingredients, not only am I sad not to take part in the enjoyment that is eating with others, I’m also sad because I can’t have children in addition to the eating restrictions. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere because of the infertility, and then the eating restrictions just pile right on top of that, leaving me feeling like even more of an outsider.

So, how can you support me? Well, first of all, just know that we love to hang out with friends. All I need is friends who are okay with me possibly not eating at a restaurant or bringing my own meal to dinner at their house. If you can put aside your good manners and desire to cater to me as your guest, and I know that’s difficult, then I still get to feel like I’m a part of the world instead of a hermit 24/7.

Part 2 of this post will be a collection of recipes that I gathered from every corner of the internet and actually use at home. The post will be a good way for me to keep track of the recipes all in one place, not to mention if anyone else is interested in what this diet looks like in practice, they can take a look and get a good idea.

Part 2: The Entrees 

National Infertility Awareness Week 2015: A Catholic Perspective

blog graphic One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of “unprotected” intercourse or 6 cycles using “fertility-focused” intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has “primary infertility” and a couple who has conceived in the past (regardless of the outcome) but is unable to again has “secondary infertility”. Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

 This week, April 19 – 25, 2015 is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.

If you are experiencing infertility, please know you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey

The Experience of Infertility

In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of “what if we get pregnant right away?” There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you’d announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for most couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in six couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered “infertile” by doctors who understand the charting of a woman’s pattern of fertility. At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark the couple “earns” the label from the mainstream medical community as “infertile”.

As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors’ appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teachings of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with options that are not options for us and are told things like “you’ll never have children” and “you have unexplained infertility”; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, “How are you and your husband doing with all of this?”

We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our small families, whether childless (primary infertility) or with fewer children than we hoped for (secondary infertility), make us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teachings of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that makes us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet “no” or “not yet” or “maybe never” from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.

Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose to not say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don’t want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.

One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husband and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a fine line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins – with cramps and bleeding and tears – we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be “best” for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.

Some will experience infertility with a complete lack of cycles. Some couples won’t even get to experience the benefit of being able to really try to conceive because of this harsh reality, which is a constant reminder of brokenness for those experiencing it. The pain and anxiety that comes from a lack of reproductive health can be crippling.

And yet others, despite hormonal dysfunction and health issues, will experience the cyclical nature of infertility through conception itself (or recurring conception). These couples go on to lose their children (early, full term, or shortly after birth, and anywhere in between) either once or many times. If you know that we’ve experienced a loss (something we may or may not have the courage to share), know that we are grieving. It wasn’t “just” a pregnancy or “just another” pregnancy that was lost; it was our living baby that died. And we are more likely to be traumatized by the cyclical nature of our infertility because of our losses. We do not get to choose that our cycles will mimic our losses. We are at the mercy of hope.

Our faith is tested. We ask God “why?”, we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day” that surrounds us at Mass every year will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.


* Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.

* Do not make assumptions about anything – not the size of a family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.

* Do not offer advice such as “just relax,” “you should adopt,” “try this medical option or that medical option” – or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.

* Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a separate calling and should be discerned by every married couple irrespective of their ability to conceive biological children. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.

* Do not assume that if we try to adopt that the process will be successful. Many adoption attempts fail and don’t result in a couple receiving a child placement (temporarily or permanently). Some couples are flat out rejected from attempting to adopt by different agencies and governments. Just like adoption is an incredibly intrusive and emotionally charged issue that is part of a separate calling in the journey to “parenthood”, it isn’t always a possibility for infertile parents. Do not assume we can. And be gentle if we are trying. It’s extra painful to be infertile and not be able to adopt. And we are likely so hurt that we can’t bear to share the details with everyone.

* Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the “real” answer. Often times we answer, “OK” because that’s the easy, “safe” answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.

* Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint’s intercession. Most likely we’ve prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercessions on our behalf.

* Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say “no, thank you” to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.

* Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be patient and kind if we don’t respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don’t “Like” all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.

* Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in a conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.

*Do not exclude us from your life because you think we may be uncomfortable. It is actually more painful to be left out because of the cross we’re carrying, and we know that doesn’t make a lot of sense to our families and friends. We will excuse ourselves from events or situations if we must, and please let us do so gracefully if the circumstance arises.

* Do not ask when we are going to “start a family” (we started one the day we got married).

* Do not ask which one of us is the “problem” – we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.

* Do grieve with us if you know that we’ve experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death (or many). You may not know what to say to comfort us, and that’s ok. Let us grieve at our own pace and on our own schedule without guilt or explanations, even if we have living children. Do not offer platitudes for why you think it happened, how you think it’s part of God’s plan for us to suffer, or any number of things you think might have been wrong with the child. It was our living baby that died. Let us grieve, pray for us, and if you can, let us know you care by being there for us in our grief. Let us know that you remember that our baby lived, no matter how short of a life.

* Do not say things like “I know you’ll be parents some day,” or “It will happen, I know it will!” Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to “just adopt and then you’ll get pregnant” (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds, please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.

* Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan.

Because this topic is so difficult for so many women and men, the best thing our friends and family can do (and indeed strangers we encounter who may be aware of our struggles) is pray for us. We are grateful for those who offer their prayers and support in a gentle way. Your support is invaluable to us.

Lastly, remember that compassion means “to suffer with”. We didn’t sign up for this to happen. We can’t control whether we overcome this. And we’re doing our best to navigate the murky waters and maintain our sanity and our faith and our relationships with our family and friends through it all. We truly need your support and love to accomplish that. Please, please suffer with us and be Christ to us. No other understanding of our cross will be more merciful or more loving than if you put yourself in a situation to sympathize or empathize with us. The pain of infertility is exacerbated by the fact that it draws us into ourselves. We need your help to remind us in the most difficult moments that we aren’t alone, God didn’t forget us, and that we have something precious to offer through the fruitfulness of our marriage even when it isn’t manifesting in the children we so desperately want to hold. Together, we can offer up our shared suffering for Christ. It’s a powerful witness to both of our faiths to travel this road together and we’ll manage it better with your help than if we have to travel it all alone.

This post was made possible through the collaboration of 430 members of a “secret” facebook group of women and men struggling with the pains of infertility in all of its forms that accepts the Catholic teaching on moral law. Together we are stronger. And in having the conversation, we are breaking the silence.

If you are experiencing the pains of infertility and would like to join a “secret” facebook support group, please let me know and I will happily add you to our discussion.

Infertility Awareness 2015

Through being part of a large group on Facebook dedicated to those struggling with infertility who follow the moral law as defined by the Catholic Church, I have learned that April 19-25 is Infertility Awareness Week.

To help in spreading awareness I decided to create graphics that focus on infertility. I got a lot help from members of the group with the content, and then used photoshop to put everything together.

Humor.  It’s how I deal with most everything.  Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes it’s bad; but I’m a work in progress.  Some of the graphics below might rub you the wrong way, especially if you haven’t dealt with infertility yourself. My apologies in advance if they do.  My intent is to provide an avenue for others to put themselves in my shoes.  Some days I am sad, some days I am stricken with deep sorrow, and other days I might be jealous, angry or even full of acceptance for my current situation.  It’s all a part of the journey.

These graphics are free to share.