Sunday, December 24, 2006

Pray for Vilsack

I found this at I was intrigued by it. I pretty much love adoption. I mean, if it weren't for adoption, I wouldn't have my best friend. I love you, Alli!.

Vilsack ponders his life's puzzle
An unsolicited letter reveals the orphanage of his birth, but he wrestles with asking to know more.


Last Sunday, on a rare day off from his presidential campaign, Gov. Tom Vilsack was catching up on his mail.

He spotted a letter from a religious order in Pennsylvania. How odd, he thought, assuming it was a Christmas season solicitation.

Instead, that letter contributed to what Vilsack now calls "one of the most historic days of my life." And it has presented him with a question that thousands of other adopted people have faced:

How much does he want to know about his past?

The letter was from a Roman Catholic nun who runs an orphanage in western Pennsylvania. She was intrigued by Vilsack's life, which she apparently learned about after Vilsack announced his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

She researched the order's records, and discovered that Vilsack was born there on Dec. 13, 1950.

"So, for the first time in 56 years, I knew where I was born," Vilsack said last week during a campaign appearance in Marshalltown.

On campaign stops, Vilsack often casts his personal narrative as an only-in-America success story, describing how a boy who started his life in an orphanage and who was adopted as an infant into a troubled home could become a two-term Iowa governor and a potential U.S. president.

But the governor has said he has never considered it necessary to investigate the circumstances of his birth. He said he always considered the couple who adopted him, Bud and Dolly Vilsack, to be his parents, and left it at that.

"You have loyalty to the family who raised you," he said.

But Vilsack acknowledged last week that the letter - and the realities of a modern-day presidential campaign - may cause him to reconsider.

He said the nun's letter "told me if I wanted more information about the circumstances of my birth, without identifying who my birth mother may have been, then I could write her a note. I'm grappling with that now."

Vilsack did not identify the nun or the name of the orphanage. He said he hopes to reach a decision over the holidays about whether to pursue more information. "You have to have time to think about things like this," he said Friday.

In the letter, he said, the nun informed him that she had served at a home for unwed mothers. "It was a place for young women to go to have their babies, and then decide to leave them there," he said.

A year ago, in a Florida political appearance, Vilsack said this about his birth mother:

"This is a woman who is perhaps alive today, perhaps she is not. But ... I'm assuming when she made this decision to bring me into the world, she did so believing that I would have a bright and better future."

Vilsack said Dolly Vilsack had told him that his birth records were destroyed in a fire. The governor said she probably was trying to protect him.

During his first presidential campaign tour this month, Vilsack stopped at his boyhood home in Pittsburgh. There, he described how his adoptive parents battled financial problems and his mother's alcoholism.

He has described how his mother beat him occasionally, before she left home and quit drinking. Vilsack has often talked with pride about her eventual triumph over alcoholism and return to the family.

Both of Vilsack's adoptive parents are now dead. The governor said he can see how it might be useful to know about his birth mother's history for medical reasons.

There also are practical considerations. In this media age, there are few biographical details about presidential candidates that are not investigated, commented on, or speculated about.

Those are the sort of considerations Vilsack must weigh. But he told voters in Marshalltown that while some details of his background are unknown, the overall theme of his life is well-established:

"This is what America's all about. It's the idea that somebody can start out in an orphanage, and then come to Marshall County and talk to a room full of folks about being the next president of the United States."

To drive the point home, Vilsack said last Sunday brought another surprise: the announcement that his oldest son, Jess, 29, is engaged to Kate Devine of Cedar Rapids.

That "was an interesting day in our household," the governor said.

Reporter Ken Fuson can be reached at (515) 284-8501 or

Let me just say...Heavens yes!

I found this article at I absolutely adore the idea. It's something I feel strongly about. I like thought more than monetary value. I can totally appreciate the time put into selecting presents, and when I have kids, I hope to raise them to appreciate what they have. Ah...a life of simplicity! Here's hoping!

And may all your Christmas gifts be ... secondhand

A few years ago, my daughter wrapped up some Christmas presents for her older brothers. When the boys opened them on Christmas Eve, they found old soccer trophies, action figures and stuffed animals - all items she'd been stealing from their bedroom for weeks. They were a bit horrified she'd been going through their things. But they were happy to have the stuff.

Something old became new again.

This year, I'm dreaming of a recycled Christmas.

I'm not thieving toys from the kids' rooms to put under the tree. But many of their gifts once belonged to children in other families.

When my kids open their presents tonight, they'll find an iHome, Lord of the Rings action figures and dolls - all items they asked for and all items I bought used on eBay or at garage sales.

They won't know that some of the candy Santa is putting in the stockings was skimmed from trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for individual sets of Lego dragons, I purchased 10 used sets on eBay for $53 plus shipping. A little boy in Utah was done playing with them. His mom sent them in a huge box that I wrapped and parked next to the tree.

Even better, we're exchanging used gifts with some friends who also have three kids. The rules are simple: Dig through your toys, books and clothes and find things the kids in the other family will like. It doesn't cost any money. It gets the closets cleaned out. There will be no pile of cardboard and plastic packaging that comes with new toys. The kids are actually giving, instead of buying. Everyone gets presents that are new to them.

This isn't the same as re-gifting where you pawn off a gift you got last year as something new you bought for someone else this year. I'm talking about unabashedly recycling for the holidays. And I'm not the only one who does it.

For years my aunt and uncle have had a tradition that all presents must be secondhand. Christmas means a year-long hunt at garage sales and auctions for the perfect gifts. They saved a ton of money and had a ton of fun.

Some Iowans (and retailers) might be horrified by this idea. After all, Americans are trained to buy, buy, buy. Even if they can't afford it.

A survey from InCharge Education Foundation, a nonprofit personal-finance organization, recently found about half of Americans take up to six months to pay off credit-card purchases from the holidays. Parents have an even harder time affording it.

And what does all that spending buy?

Sometimes it's toys that get stuffed under the bed, sucked up in the vacuum cleaner or played with only a few times. With three kids, buying brand new, plastic toys is downright painful for me. They look just like the toys I bought last year.

But if I can get a good deal on something recycled, in good shape and sans the cardboard packaging, I'm thrilled.

In fact, used is the way to go all year.

When my family decided to get a canoe, I placed a wanted ad in the Register. We got one for $50. When my son wanted a video-game system, I asked my friend's teenage son if he wanted to sell his. He did. When my blender broke last summer, I knew I'd find one at a garage sale. Within a week, I was making smoothies.

For the holidays, buying used gifts isn't easy. It requires a lot of planning and hunting and thought - which is what giving to loved ones should be about anyway.

ANDIE DOMINICK is a Register editorial writer. She can be reached at (515) 284-8203 or


I was super excited to see this article in USA Weekend this morning. I found it intriguing and it will probably lead to me reading more about Joseph, asking questions, etc. So, I figured I'd share it with all of you. Merry Christmas!

Why Joseph matters today

A scholar traces the holy figure's journey from neglected member of the Nativity to modern-day hero.

By Chara Armon

The image of Joseph as a good earthly father to Jesus has made him beloved for 600 years.
In the first family of Christendom, Joseph often has stood in the shadows. There's Jesus the Savior, of course, and his mother, Mary, who long has inspired worldwide devotion. But Jesus' earthly father and Mary's husband, with his low profile in the Bible, often seems like a neglected member of the trio. However, when Joseph becomes a main character in an Anne Rice novel ("Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt"), is front and center in the current movie "The Nativity Story" (see below) and is the inspiration for a men's group, it's clear that his star is on the rise. In fact, for the past 600 years, Joseph has quietly been one of Christianity's most beloved holy figures. And as scholars and writers such as Dan Brown, in "The Da Vinci Code," re-examine the identities of the people close to Jesus, and as Americans worry about the weakening role of fatherhood in today's culture, Joseph is attracting renewed interest. But how did Joseph evolve into a modern-day hero, a model for men and families?

Joseph in the Gospels

The Gospels say little about Joseph, but here's what we know: Matthew explains Joseph's betrothal to Mary, his distress about her premarital pregnancy and the angel's appearance to calm Joseph's doubts and explain Jesus' role as Savior. Both Matthew and Luke discuss his leadership on the holy family's journey to Bethlehem, while Matthew tells of the flight to Egypt, when Joseph saved the Savior by protecting him from Herod.

We also know that Joseph is descended from the house of David, which allows Jesus to be the fulfillment of prophecies that the Messiah would come from King David's line. The Gospels identify Joseph using the Greek word tekton, which means carpenter or building contractor. Both Gospels state that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, but in their reference to Joseph as Jesus' "father," they create uncertainty about Joseph's role. Joseph disappears from the Gospels from the time Jesus is 12. His absence from accounts of Jesus' public life has been interpreted to mean that he died before Jesus began teaching.

Early depiction as comical
Joseph received little attention in the early church. Apocryphal gospels (those not included in the regular canon of Gospels approved by Christian churches), such as the Gospel of James (2nd century) and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (5th to 9th centuries), challenge the canonical Gospels by portraying Joseph as an elderly widower, not a virgin, and reduce his image of holiness by depicting him as a timid father.

In the 5th to 10th centuries, as theologians developed Christian doctrine, Joseph received limited attention because of his potential to confuse teachings on Mary's virginity and Jesus' status as the son of God.

In medieval European plays and poetry, Joseph is a comical elder. In some plays, he even describes himself as a "fool" when he believes that Mary has become pregnant by another man; after Jesus' birth, he says he is too old to go obtain doves for the temple offering. Medieval artists sometimes presented Joseph as a sleepy, elderly figure curled in the corner of a nativity scene and at other times portrayed him as a strong presence protecting both Mary and Jesus, doing their laundry or preparing a meal.

Transformation into a role model
Still, there were glimmers of hope for Joseph's eventual transformation into a role model. At the turn of the 5th century, St. Augustine helped Joseph's case by praising him for fulfilling the role of Jesus' father spiritually, rather than "in the flesh."

When 12th- and 13th-century theologians, including Thomas Aquinas, decided that a virginal marriage could be a real marriage, they legitimated Joseph's unconsummated union with Mary and initiated increasing interest in Joseph as a saint. Although many medieval writings on fatherhood viewed the role as one of power and discipline, some writers used Joseph as an example of the kind of father who parented "by love and service," in the words of a 12th-century monk.

From the 12th century on, theologians defended Joseph's status as Jesus' parent with more vigor. My own research examines several Franciscans who argued that although Joseph was not Jesus' biological father, he served as his father in every other way. The influential friar Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444), preaching in Italy's public squares, presented Joseph as so perfect in his treatment of Mary and Jesus that he should serve as a model for all husbands and fathers. He spoke of how "Joseph held Christ in his arms like a father and spoke baby talk ... [and] with sweetness heard the little babbling child call him Father!" And in France in the late 1300s to early 1400s, church leader Jean Gerson praised Joseph for "all the care that a good and loyal and wise father can and should show to his true son."

Franciscan sermons in the 1400s and 1500s inspired biographies of Joseph, churches dedicated in his honor, organizations named for him and stories attesting to his miraculous powers. Holy relics associated with him became popular. In the 15th century, the Italian towns of Perugia and Chiusi fought over an engagement ring believed to have been given to Mary by Joseph.

Although Christian women had Mary as an example of a virtuous mother and wife, Christian men lacked a comparable model. So the idea of a strong and protective Joseph especially appealed to people in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, when wars, epidemics and famine created instability throughout Europe and heads of families had to be especially courageous.

After Jesuits and others brought faith in Joseph to the New World in the 1500s and 1600s, Joseph became the patron saint of Canada and Mexico, and he replaced St. James as patron of the Spanish empire.

The church fully embraces Joseph
The Catholic Church began fully embracing Joseph in the 19th century. In 1870, Pope Pius IX proclaimed Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church, acknowledging his unique position in the holy family and the Christian faith. Along with Joseph's traditional feast day of March 19, in 1955 the Catholic Church began to honor him on May 1 as "Joseph the Worker," as an alternative to Communist May Day celebrations. Joseph also is known as the patron of a good death and of families, virgins, immigrants and home sellers.

Joseph appeals today because "after Mary, he was the first Christian, a model believer," says Father Joseph Chorpenning of St. Joseph's University Press in Pennsylvania. Joseph's example can give anyone encouragement, Chorpenning notes, because he accepted the mystery of God even though he did not understand everything that was happening in Jesus' life.

"Many men have experienced an absent or emotionally distant father," says Steve Wood, founder of the St. Joseph Covenant Keepers, a men's group based in South Carolina. "St. Joseph is that tangible role model that fathers can have for parenting and protecting their own children, for faithfulness in marriage and for a being a pure man, morally and sexually."

Ultimately, Joseph's story is one of a lengthy transformation from the shadows of Christianity to its forefront, from an uncertain status to a majestic position as the protector and nurturer of Jesus, Mary and Christian believers.

Cover illustration by Marc Burckhardt for USA WEEKEND

Our Joseph Scholar, Chara Armon, who wrote her doctoral dissertation on St. Joseph in the Middle Ages, teaches humanities at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

Go to top


Bringing Joseph to film

On one level, Catherine Hardwicke's "The Nativity Story" is a retelling of the birth of Christ. On another level, though, it's the story of two people who begin with misgivings about each other, but, through faith and emerging love, build a relationship.

Building on the few references to Joseph in scripture, director Hardwicke and screenwriter Mike Rich used history and tradition to fill in the character. "We gave him a community, friends, a context," Rich says, "but his defining attribute is the righteousness -- his sense of fairness. It explains why he is drawn to Mary in the first place: She is virtuous." Righteousness also guides him when Mary shows up pregnant, and he knows the child is not his. "Joseph did not place his pride before her well-being," Hardwicke says. "His decision to accept Mary and her child and to trust the word of God took great faith and courage."

The filmmakers were able to flesh out Joseph's character during the couple's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, when Joseph often is called upon to protect and care for Mary and the child she is carrying. His devotion is rewarded when Mary, who is depicted as not really loving Joseph at the time her parents arranged their marriage, reciprocates his efforts, at one point washing his feet, and at another telling him, "I draw strength from God, and from you." As the couple grows closer, they share their feelings about the responsibility of parenting the Messiah that has been uniquely assigned to them. At one point, Joseph acknowledges that being part of a mystery can be mystifying. "I wonder if I'll be able to teach him anything," he muses.

"When I took this role, I wondered, 'How should I play that I'm having the Son of God?' " says actor Oscar Isaac. "Then I realized that that was similar to the question Joseph must have had. I looked at the great paintings of the nativity. Joseph was always in the back, and that was the answer. The key to his character is his humility."

-- Jamie Malanowski

Friday, December 22, 2006

Letter to Women

Letter to Women, John Paul II 1995

If you've never read this, you absolutely should. It's amazing. It made me cry because to hear women praised and's a beautifull thing, and Pope John Paul II was a beautiful man.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Pray that God will provide for the homeless

I found this on and it really struck a chord with, I'm sharing with whoever happens to read my blog.

Record Number Of Homeless Children Expected In SF
Some volunteers in Sioux Falls spent Saturday making blankets for homeless children in the school district. Their goal was to make 100 blankets by the end of the day. But that will only be enough to help a small portion of the more than 400 children and teens the district has identified as homeless so far this year.

“It's very overwhelming because it means to me there are lots of children out there,” said Gale Swenson with the Sioux Falls School District.

Two pieces of fleece, tied together to make a simple blanket, will soon help to bring some comfort this winter to families and children who are living through hard times.

“We have families who live in cars, those types of things. We don't think about that, and we don't think about the children that can be affected because that's not our stereotype of what homelessness is,” she explained.

Swenson works closely with homeless students in the district. She says district officials keep track of the number of families and children who are without a home as the school year progresses.

So far, they've already identified 422 students who could be classified as homeless. And by the end of the year, they expect that number to pass 700, which is a record high.

“We have had families who have had heat cut off, we have children sleeping on the floor without even a rug beneath them and if we can give them something to put over them and make their night a bit warmer, we'll do that,” Swenson said.

Swenson says the district's method of calculating homeless children is broader than many other organizations, which includes in its count multiple families forced to live together for financial reasons and children who can't afford basic needs.

Nevertheless, she says there is a problem of homeless children in the city, and it’s going to take an entire community's support to give struggling families and abandoned children the help they need.

“Nobody wants to be homeless, nobody wants to be poor, everyone wants to provide for their children so they can have a good education and become good members of the community,” Swenson said.

The blankets will be given to families and children the district has identified are in need next week.

____ For those interested in finding ways to help, here are a few links I found: (They aren't in Sioiux Falls, but still do admirable work in this field.)

Department of Homeless Services

Minnehaha County Human Services

Good Shepard Center

Google maps this has a list of shelters and help centers in Sioux Falls

When this video started playing, I had the window closed because I was checking my e-mail. My media player was still playing a CD, and the song that was on when this video started really struck, I wanted to share it all with you.

Mark Schultz "He Will Carry Me"

call, You hear me
I’ve lost it all
And it’s more than I can bear
I feel so empty

You’re strong
I’m weary
I’m holdin’ on
But I feel like givin’ in
But still You’re with me

And even though I’m walkin’ through
The valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him
Whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I’ve been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will
Ever need
And He will carry me

I know I’m broken
But You alone
Can mend this heart of mine
You’re always with me


And even though I feel so lonely
Like I’ve never been before
You never said it would be easy
But You said you’d see me through
The storm


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blessed and Beyond

I was just reflecting on my life...where I'm at and who is here with me. I realized that I am extremely blessed in many ways. My friends, family, education, opportunities, health, etc. are all blessings. However, the blessing I really want to reflect on right now is my boyfriend. We recently celebrated...or rather passed our three month anniversary, and even though we made a 3AM ER trip, it was a really great day. I think what makes me thankful is all of that we have gone through and all the growing we have done. What strikes me the most is that he is more than I could have asked for...especially because qualities and characteristics that I always knew I wanted in a boyfriend -- in a man -- are almost exaggerated in him. I mean, how does that even happen? How is it that the things that are soo important to me are also important to him? How is it that the decisions I have made for myself long before meeting him, he has also made and committed himself to? How is it that he can speak so passionately about things that set my heart ablaze as well? Not to say we agree on everything, or that we never fight, or that I never think he's ridiculous...because we don't, we do, and he is, but he amazes me and surprises me in how much he and I have in common...and how much he is willing to share and discuss with's tight. I was going to make this slightly more structured and deep, with more musings, but I'm tired. So, I'll just end with this thought. Perhaps it all stems from Psalm 37:4 "Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." I guess we'll find out, eh?

Something more my speed...

Here are some excerpts describing beliefs of those who oppose masturbation. While some may seem extreme...there has to be light to counter the dark.


"We are taught that our bodies are temples of God, and are to be clean so that the Holy Ghost may dwell within us. Masturbation is a sinful habit that robs one of the Spirit and creates guilt and emotional stress. It is not physically harmful unless practiced in the extreme. It is a habit that is totally self-centered, and secretive, and in no way expresses the proper use of the procreative power given to man to fulfill eternal purposes. It therefore separates a person from God and defeats the gospel plan."

"This self-gratifying activity will cause one to lose his self-respect, testimony becomes weak, and missionary work and other Church callings become burdensome, offerings."

"You can win this fight! The joy and strength you will feel when you do will give your whole life a radiant and spiritual glow of satisfaction and fulfillment."

The Apostle offers some practical suggestions for overcoming "the problem:" avoiding being alone; praying; exercising; yelling "stop" when tempted; reciting a passage of a Gospel or the Book of Mormon; singing a hymn; setting goals for intervals of abstinence; imagining yourself as strong and in control; "dress yourself for the night so securely that you cannot easily touch your vital parts," use aversion therapy [for example, if you are "tempted to masturbate, think of having to bathe in a tub of worms, and eat several of them as you do the act."]; reducing the consumption of fluids in the evening; reducing spices; "Wear pajamas that are difficult to open, yet loose and not binding." "In very severe cases it may be necessary to tie a hand to the bed frame."

Within your body you have the power of creation.
This is a very sacred power. The Lord has commanded that you use it only with one to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded. He has decreed serious penalties indeed for the misuse of it.
When this power begins to form, it might be likened to having a little factory in your body, one designed to produce the product that can generate life.
There is, however, something you should not do. Sometimes a young man... might fondle himself and open that release valve. This you shouldn't do, for if you do that, the little factory will speed up. You will then be tempted again and again to release it. You can quickly be subjected to a habit, one that is not worthy, one that will leave you feeling depressed and feeling guilty."


The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) condemns masturbation in Part 3: "Life in Christ;" Section 2: "The Ten Commandments;" Article 6: "The Sixth Commandment;" Topic: "Offenses against chastity."

2351: "Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes."
2352: "By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. 'Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.' 'The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.' For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of 'the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved'."

"To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability." 4

Catholic Answers makes a number of suggestions to its followers who wish to reduce or eliminate masturbation activity from their life:

Pray to God frequently, asking him for the grace "to be pure."
Attend Mass often.
Pray three Hail Mary's each day for purity of mind, body, and heart.
Frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Read Scripture.
Pray the Rosary.
Make the Stations of the Cross.
Develop a devotion to Saint Joseph.
Confess their sin after every masturbation.
Eliminate pornography or erotic images, music with sexual overtones, etc from their home.
Reduce the amount of TV watching; increase exercise or some similar diversion.
Set an intermediate target -- say to not masturbate for a few days or a week, etc. After each success, increase the time interval.
"The prize of true love awaits those that are truly free, because they are the only ones capable of giving and receiving." 7

Conservative Protestants:

(The essay for this group was long and biased against the beliefs of this also contained no direct quotes or, here's a list of the headings)

Masturbation is a form of adultery:
Masturbation is sinful because of the sexual fantasies it generates:
Masturbation is a form of impurity and uncleanness:
Masturbation is addictive and a misuse of sexuality:
Masturbation is against natural law:
Masturbation is a violation of God's purpose for sex:
Masturbation leads to major negative consequences:
Masturbation is not part of God's plan
Masturbation can lead to infidelity and other sinful and criminal behavior:
Masturbation can lead to infidelity and other sinful and criminal behavior:

Color Me Frustrated

Here's the thing: our world, society, etc. totally supports masturbation.It sickens me. It sickens me to read what they have to say. It sickens me that a website supposedly committed to fairly presenting all sides of an issue would produce an essay that purposely shines an extremely negative light on those who oppose masturbation. Here are a few of my findings...but is any of you reading this are struggling with this issue, you may not want to read on, as you may feel tempted to use some of these as excuses.

The Medical World:

"Sex therapists Bill and Carolyn Chernenkoff from Saskatoon, SK, promote both mutual and private "self-stimulation." They say there's nothing more healthy for hormone-crazed teenagers than masturbation. If the kids are engaging in masturbation, then they won't be practicing sexual intercourse to the same degree, and risk catching STDs or becoming pregnant. 2

R. Jandl commented in an "Ask the Doctors" column that masturbation has a number of benefits:

It enables the playing out of pleasurable sexual fantasies.
It releases sexual tension and often produces a pleasant, tranquil feeling.
It helps a person become more comfortable with their own sexuality.
It is an enjoyable experience when shared with a partner.
It can curb impulses to have inappropriate sex with someone. 3

Other Internet and text references list additional benefits associated with masturbation:

No one gets pregnant by masturbating.
It helps maintain good pelvic blood flow and strong pc muscles.
It is safe. One cannot be infected with STDs during solitary masturbation.
It's great for stress relief.
It can help you sleep.
It can temporarily relieve menstrual cramps in women.
A person who masturbates can learn about the sexual responses of their own body, and thus be better prepared for sexual activity with a partner at a later time.

Some negative factors have been cited:

Among males, frequent and vigorous masturbation can produce skin abrasions. This can be avoided by using a lubricant such as KY jelly, Aqua-Lube, saliva or even soap and water.
It does take time away from other activities. Some younger teenagers masturbate a few times a day.
Prolonged sexual arousal in males without an ejaculation can cause pain due to blood congestion in the genital area. This is often called "blue balls". It is easily avoided by masturbating until ejaculation and orgasm occur.

People can and do masturbate throughout their lifetime without any deleterious side effects."

"However, the researchers found that this reduction in the occurrence of prostate cancer was only related to masturbation. They found that men who had orgasms during sex with many women did not benefit with a lower risk for prostate cancer. "

Liberal Christians:

"About the act itself:
Masturbation may be considered to be composed of three to five components. A liberal Christian might analyze them as follows: Manually touching one's genitals: The human body is a magnificent structure, and no part of it is inherently dirty, evil, or untouchable. Extreme close-up photograph (say, a 1/8" square piece of skin) in the area of the foreskin, penis, clitoris, vulva, palm, chest, or neck will show basically the identical structure. If skin throughout the entire body has the same construction and is formed from identical materials, why should one part be untouchable and the other touchable? A religious liberal would probably conclude that touching one's genitals is not considered an evil or sinful act.
Enjoying the feelings arising from manual stimulation: There are many forms of body stimulation that generate pleasurable feelings: luxuriating in a perfumed bath, lying on the beach and feeling the sun's rays beating down on you, manually stimulating the genitals, experiencing a sensual massage. In each case, some external agent stimulates nerve endings which in turn generate pleasant feelings. The only difference with masturbation is the intensity of those feelings. A religious liberal would probably conclude that manual stimulation of the genitals is in no way sinful.
Fantasizing about a person who one is in love with or would like to be in love with: Fantasies are internal thoughts that bring pleasure and do not impact on anyone else. As noted above, they are harmless.
Optionally experiencing an orgasm: An orgasm is a very intense, joyous, sensual experience. Physiologically, the closest experience to an orgasm is the act of sneezing. A religious liberal would probably conclude that an orgasm is a morally neutral, and very pleasant experience. Again, it harms nobody and is thus free of sin.
In the case of a male: having an ejaculation of semen: The testicles produce semen at the rate of thousands of sperm a second. Reservoirs near the prostate gland are continuously being refilled. Each ejaculation partially empties the chambers. But more sperm will arrive to refill them. If they are not emptied by masturbation or intercourse, they will automatically be voided during sleep in the form of nocturnal emissions. A religious liberal would probably conclude that an ejaculation is harmless. It merely speeds up a natural process."


"They regard human sexuality as a gift of the Goddess and God. It is an activity to be enjoyed responsibly in accordance with the Wiccan Rede. One form of the Rede is:

"Do what you wish, as long as it harms no one, including yourself."

Neopagans carefully consider any act in advance, and avoid those that are harmful to themselves or others. Masturbation is no exception. It is not harmful to other people, because (by definition) it is performed while one is alone. Most Wiccans agree with the best medical information indicates that it is not harmful to the individual either, but rather offers many benefits."

Some Conservative Protestants:

There is no reason to be fearful, guilty or...concerned:
Pastor Paul of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Atlanta, GA -- a United Methodist congregation -- wrote:
From my point of view, masturbation only becomes a problem if you are doing it so often that you hurt yourself (bruising or making yourself irritated) and/or you no longer desire a healthy sexual sharing with the person you love. In other words, it replaces the sexual act with your partner in life. If you are finding yourself preoccupied with masturbation and or the material that generally goes along with it then I would say you have an issue to deal with. Otherwise, you sound like a healthy man to me who is concerned that what you do is OK with God. The fact you are concerned about sharing your sex life with the one for whom you love is something I wish there was more of these days.

However, saving yourself for your husband is about not being with any person other then your husband either before or after. While most would not admit it, masturbation is practiced even during the marriage. In fact, masturbation is one of the tools we have for saving ourselves for that special person with whom we will live and maintain our life with. So, my dear child of God, while many in the world may be shaky, fearful and guilt-ridden with an act that everyone does--there is no reason to be fearful, guilty or all that concerned, morally, ethically, or spiritually. 5

New Man, an Evangelical Christian magazine, published an excerpt from Richard Dobbins' book "Teaching your children the truth about sex." 8,9 Dobbins notes that "nationwide surveys indicated that about 55% of all 13 year-olds, both boys and girls" and more than 80% of of 15 year-olds masturbate. He emphasizes the importance of parents talking to their children about the practice because so many are confused and troubled by it.

He writes: "Openly discussing masturbation and sexual fantasy with your teens will help them avoid the explosive damage sexual misbehavior can bring." His prime concern is that the youth, during masturbation, will use either pornographic pictures or fantasies involving a specific person. Their brain will train itself to link the sexual stimulation with the fantasy that they use. This can cause a need for pornography to be carried over into their married life. However, if they direct a fantasy towards their future spouse, "...then there is nothing morally wrong with it." For the teen, "The spiritual issue is the fantasy accompanying the activity, not the activity itself." He suggests that the parent: Inform their child that sexual fantasies are a normal part of puberty.
Teach that for a teen to Involve a specific person in their sexual fantasies before becoming engaged "will devalue that person."
Warn them about the dangers of using pornography or mental images of specific persons to stimulate their sexual excitement.
Teach them that, while masturbating, they should fantasize about making love with their future spouse.
Explain that they should ask God for grace, if needed, to overcome feelings of guilt.
Neither condone nor condemn masturbation.
Review their own experiences during their teen years.

Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, a Fundamentalist Christian advocacy organization, has written:

"It is my opinion that masturbation is not much of an issue with God. It is a normal part of adolescence which involves no one else. It does not cause disease. It does not produce babies, and Jesus did not mention it in the Bible. I'm not telling you to masturbate, and I hope you won't feel the need for it. But if you do, it is my opinion that you should not struggle with guilt over it. Why do I tell you this? Because I deal with so many Christian young people who are torn apart with guilt over masturbation; they want to stop and just can't. I would like to help you avoid that agony." 1
See also a Q&A section in the Focus on Your Child web site. 2

An Article From Tasi

This article was written by my friend Tasi, who shares my dreams of a family-friendly campus. She has a very personal interest in this issue, being a student mother; so, please hear what she has to say.

To new SDSU president: What will you do about the lack of child care?
On a Lark
Tasiyagnunpa Livermont
Issue date: 10/4/06 Section: Opinion & Editorial
PrintEmail Article Tools Page 1 of 2 next >
Media Credit: Ty Carlson
Tasiyagnunpa Livermont, On a Lark
[Click to enlarge]

Imagine a model campus where an annex of the student union would house a complete daycare and student family center. Students with families would have access to a daycare facility completely subsidized by the campus students' association or other campus funding. The facility itself would be run by budding-child care experts and their professors.

Close to the nursery area, small offices would provide privacy for student moms who want to breast-feed their children between classes.

The student family center would offer tuition-free classes on home organization, child development, child-rearing techniques, pregnancy classes and family finances as well as resources for single-parent families.

This campus would also feature updated family student housing apartment complexes complete with fenced-in yards and playgrounds. Each apartment would have a washer and dryer built in and come in multi-bedroom options. Each floor would have an elderly parenting mentor as a resident assistant who themselves successfully raised children while attending and completing a higher education.

Each student-parent would have access to a database of student babysitters who would be paid by work-study or other funding to allow for more flexible daycare when parents need to study.

This, however, is not reality, especially at South Dakota State University, which does not even have a campus daycare.

SDSU does have a pre-school program, which we, as parents, pay for out-of-pocket. SDSU also has a few caring professors who understand when an assignment is late because a child was sick.

Hats-off and a huge thank-you to all SDSU employees who try to explain financial aid or graduation requirements over the phone to students who have children screaming in the background.

But why is it that the rest of academia is still so hostile to family? Is it because women earning a higher education is still so new that the non-academic portions of our campuses are rotting in antiquity?

I believe society still expects us to throw our uteruses out the window and become surrogate men in order to walk through the elite halls of education.

Institutions of higher learning should be the most supportive segment of society to parents. College students are the world's most immediate future, but our children are the future as well. Women, and men, must demand better recognition of tomorrow's leaders and realize that much of these children's lives are just as centered on college campuses as any college student.

My oldest son took naps in the Collegian office a few times when he was younger and I was Web editor. I bought him pizza at Jack's Place and juice for his sippy cup out of SDSU vending machines. Not much has changed except the addition of my youngest son, who ate yogurt and Kashi cereal purchased on-campus, while I worked the Jacks For Life booth.

Pursuing an education and a family should not be societal polar opposites. Feminism still has a long way to go.

For now, I would like to see a plan from our new president addressing these concerns.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Family Friendly

I've been doing some reading, some talking and some thinking. Go figure, right? Well, my friends and I are really excited now that the election is over, not because of the outcome because the abortion ban was defeated, definitely not what we would have liked to see. However, we are realists and seekers of change. So, we're preparing to work within the current circumstances to change the face of our world. The first step, though, will be changing the face of our campus to one that is more family friendly. Now, that of course if famiy referring to any pregnant or parenting student. We want our campus to provide for these women, their children and the fathers of these children. We want our campus to support parenting students because no one should have to choose between their children (the lives of their children or keeping their children) and their education. We want women to know that we care for them before and after their child is born. We want mothers and fathers to be able to go to school because we know that they will be much better equipped to provide for their kids if they are able to get a college education.

This became even more important after I read a keloland. article that stated that even more children are being born out of wedlock. It especially struck me because the woman interviewed in the article said she was less likely to marry her husband because she would have to be married with three children to receive the same financial aid as she will get being a single mother. I really want to make it so that married students are able to get the financial support they need to make it through college and support their child(ren).

Also, I was checking out Feminists for Life 's dream campus and was totally motivated. I mean, check this out:

Feminists for Life University:
"Our Model University

The college pregnancy of a former Feminists for Life board member, which sadly ended in miscarriage, gave birth to a new idea. When she learned she was pregnant, she looked around her campus and said, "Without housing on campus for me and my baby, without on-site day care, without maternity coverage in my health insurance, it sure doesn't feel like I have much of a free choice." At that time, FFL's College Outreach Program focused on educational speeches and ads. By sharing her story, she inspired our work to meet the needs of pregnant and parenting students.

In late 1996, Feminists for Life introduced its first university health clinic kits, which help clinic staff better understand a pregnant student's situation and direct her to the resources she wants and needs. A few months later, FFL moderated the first Pregnancy Resource Forum at Georgetown University, bringing students and administration members together to identify, publicize, and improve campus resources for pregnant and parenting students. Since that time, Feminists for Life has become a catalyst for change on campuses across the United States.

Do pregnant students have a choice to parent and remain at your college or alma mater? If you don't see visibly pregnant women or parents on campus—including professors on the tenure track—that may indicate a problem.

"Feminists for Life University" is our dream college. It is a composite of the best pro-woman, pro-parent, pro-child solutions devised by students and administrators during FFL-hosted Pregnancy Resource Forums, plus a few of our own creative ideas.

For now it exists only as an ideal—only in our minds. But you are invited to take ideas that suit your campus, and work towards making it a reality.

Serrin M. Foster

Our Dream Campus

Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Center — Jane Addams Village
Mattie Brinkerhoff Hall — Susan B. Anthony Child Care Center
Matilda Joslyn Gage Brigade — Alice Paul Library
Dr. Charlotte Lozier Student Health Center — Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell Hospital
Sarah Norton Scholarship Fund
Like many schools, FFLU is committed to academic excellence, training the leaders of the future, and serving the good of all people. FFLU is known for its qualified and dedicated faculty and its outstanding research facilities. But FFLU also offers something more, something that other schools strive to emulate.

When you were researching colleges, you were already aware that our diverse student population includes parents. Some are older, nontraditional students. A few had children before they came to college. Many are married grad students in long doctoral programs who didn't want to wait forever to start a family, so they were grateful to find FFLU. We also accept student transfers from pregnant undergrads, some planning on placing their children for adoption, who wanted a supportive environment for themselves and their children. Faculty and staff have found that the same resources that make FFLU more accessible to pregnant and parenting students also make FFLU an ideal employer for pregnant and parenting staff.

Our commitment to pregnant and parenting students through resources and support is conveyed during orientation and our student handbook. The campus newspaper, named The Revolution Continues after Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's newspaper The Revolution, includes regular resource updates and family profiles. The campus radio station occasionally interviews families as well as university officials. A cutting-edge ad campaign directs students to a website rich with pregnancy and parenting resources.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Center is the heartbeat of the campus. It is named after the suffragist who organized the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. She and Susan B. Anthony fought for the right of slaves to be free, the right of women to vote, and the right to life. Staff and volunteers at the center coordinate resources for pregnant and parenting students, professors (yes, professors—even women on the tenure track!), and staff. A staffer is available by phone 24/7 for pregnant and parenting students. Staff is also trained to address domestic violence and sexual assault.

"When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women
that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, letter to Julia Ward Howe, October 16, 1873
The Stanton Center offers parenting classes and advice on how to balance school and parenting, provides counseling for birth mothers before and after placing a child for adoption, hosts reproductive grief support groups, and offers individual counseling as needed. One-on-one discussions with pregnant and parenting students help them select the resources they need from the school's many options and simultaneously provide the Stanton Center with regular feedback.

There is a flagpole in front of Stanton Center. We raise a flag celebrating the birth of every child of students, professors and staff—just like Elizabeth Cady Stanton did when she gave birth to a son or daughter.

Student mothers anticipating the birth of a "legacy" receive an FFLU maternity t-shirt or sweatshirt. Dads aren't ignored, either. They get caps. Parents get totes, and babies their own FFLU bib.

The Stanton Center director is known for getting corporate sponsors to donate and has instituted a model "recycling" program for clothes and equipment (strollers, cribs, car seats).

The Center staff liaison with off-campus resources. They are in touch with other pregnancy care centers, doctors (OB/GYNs), and adoption agencies. They access government resources as needed, like the financial services available through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC Nutrition Program).

The Center buys supplies in bulk, so parents can purchase the basics for babies at reduced cost (diapers, formula and food).

Stanton Center staff coordinates resources on and off campus. They also ensure that the Center, playground and family homes are all up to code.

Jane Addams Village offers affordable family housing adjacent to campus. It is named for the founder of Hull House, a multiple building settlement in Chicago's inner city that provided housing, day care, elder care, a public kitchen, educational opportunities, and library and recreation facilities to workers and families in need. The first building in FFLU's village was set aside by the board of trustees, a Victorian mansion converted for multi-family use with a washer and dryer in every apartment. As interest grew, additional houses were built or acquired.

At Mattie Brinkerhoff Hall, the communal dining area, parents take turns cooking family style with the guidance and supervision of a certified dietician, so they have only one meal to make every two weeks. The dietician handles specialized dietary needs.

"When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society—so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged."
Mattie Brinkerhoff, The Revolution, September 2, 1869
Susan B. Anthony Child Care Center is named for the great leader of the suffrage movement. She never made it to the Seneca Falls Convention because, as a teacher, she was taking care of everyone else's children. Anthony helped raise the seven children of her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and doted on her own nieces. She even referred to younger generation feminists as her "nieces," and they called her "Aunt Susan."

"Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them."
Susan B. Anthony in Frances E. Willard's Glimpses of Fifty Years, 1889
Through the Anthony Center, affectionately known as "Aunt Susan's Center" to campus parents and children, FFLU offers day care for children of students as well as faculty and staff members. Students majoring in early education supplement the staff for hands-on learning and practicum credit. For student parents, there are special discounts, hourly rates, and scholarships. The university also subsidizes a childcare co-op organized by student parents.

The Anthony Center accepts infants as well as older children. They have pre-kindergarten, Head Start and after school care.

Parents can check in on their children through an online video cam and are encouraged to stop by for lunch or between classes.

Not every parent enrolls his or her child at the Anthony Center. Some choose to telecommute for all or part of their education. Should a student have to miss class due to the illness of a child, for instance, the class is available online.

The Matilda Joslyn Gage Brigade, named for the radical feminist scholar and humanitarian activist, is a student-led volunteer corps with two divisions. The first division provides child care so that moms and dads can get away for study groups, dinner, a movie or a game. These sitters are certified in CPR, and have been trained in home safety, first aid, and nutrition. They have a number to call in case they have questions for child care professionals. The second division does service work for pregnant and parenting students, like running errands and picking up groceries.

Some parents prefer to trade sitting with other parents. Other parents trade tutoring for babysitting services. Many students order groceries and other necessities online.

The campus is fully accessible to people on wheels—both wheelchairs and strollers. We have clearly labeled, strategically placed diaper decks across campus in both women's and men's restrooms. Comfortable places to nurse babies adjoin women's rooms for those who prefer privacy. Our student parents have no need to change a baby on a dirty floor or sit on a toilet seat to nurse!

Classrooms are equipped with desks or chairs and tables that accommodate a pregnant woman.

The Alice Paul Library, named for the feminist who wrote the original Equal Rights Amendment and called abortion the "ultimate exploitation of women," has a sound-proof "crying room" for parents.

Pregnancy tests are free and confidential at the Dr. Charlotte Lozier Student Health Center, named for the doctor who raised several children while teaching and maintaining an active maternal/child health practice. Staff is knowledgeable about resources on and off campus. Maternity coverage is included in health care and additional riders are available for family members.

The Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell Hospital, named for the first American woman to earn an M.D., is adjacent to the campus. This teaching hospital has a reputation for excellence in obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics. Staff is knowledgeable about paternity establishment, and educates fathers about their rights and responsibilities.

Every year the Stanton Center asks someone from Feminists for Life to moderate a Pregnancy Resource Forum at FFLU in order to take inventory of resources available on and off campus and to discover what resources can be improved. FFLU's Pregnancy Resource Forums are always well publicized. Representatives from different campus services, administration members, and parenting students, faculty, and staff receive personal invitations. The Stanton Center is eager to discover and implement creative ideas for accommodating parents' specific needs. FFL staff (really do) take all these great ideas to other campuses who think pregnant and parenting students are still academically capable, but need and deserve our support!

At the beginning of each academic year, all university staff and professors go through an orientation program of their own. Because they are more likely to be approached by students in need, people who work in student health, financial aid, residential life, counseling, and the health center, as well as chaplains, club leaders, coaches and advisors, receive more extensive information from staff at the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Center.

There are many options for students at FFLU who may have trouble attending a full day of classes. FFLU offers classes online, and several professors are willing to take on a number of students per semester for independent study. There are class times throughout the morning, afternoon, and into the evening, so students are free to select the classes needed to fulfill curriculum requirements around their work schedules. The administration and academic advisors understand that it isn't always possible to complete an undergraduate degree in four years, or to finish a post-graduate degree "on time." Faculty and staff work with students to balance family, education and work.

FFLU students are able to attend school part time and retain their merit- and need-based financial aid. Students with athletic scholarships who can not complete the school year or cannot compete due to pregnancy are "red shirted" so they will not lose their scholarships, and can return the next year without penalty.

The Sarah Norton Scholarship Fund is named for the suffragist who successfully argued women's admission to Cornell University and said, "Perhaps there will come a time unmarried mother will not be despised because of her motherhood...and when the right of the unborn to be born will not be denied or interfered with" (Woodhull's and Clafflin's Weekly, November 19, 1870). Funds solicited from donors and alumni are specifically set aside for students who choose to parent while attending college.

If students prefer, they can take a semester or full year of leave.

Should a transfer to another college or university prove the best option for a pregnant student, FFLU accepts and facilitates transfers from other colleges. Students may transfer to FFLU permanently or return to their universities.

Parenting faculty and staff consider FFLU an ideal, "family friendly" employer, because the school extends the same concern to them as to its students. FFLU recognizes that it is in the whole school's best interest to offer parenting employees reasonable parental leave and creative options like flex time and job sharing. Open communication and cooperation among faculty, staff and administration allow the school to find the right solutions for each employee."

It would be a daunting task to get all of this put in place, but even if only some of it can be done now, that would be enough for me. It would be a huge help. I would love to see what it does to change the atmosphere of SDSU.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

I'm not going to lie...I've got marriage on the mind. We're talking about either marriage or pregnancy in like all my classes. I can't help it. So, I'm on a wedding kick...planning and such...not that it'll happen anytime soon, but still. I was thinking. How cool would it be to have a winter wedding...get it, WHITE Christmas. ;) So, here's what I've found:

It's a start, right? ;) I got a while to plan.