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Thanksgiving is upon us

Christine Vernon

Thanksgiving is upon us in the U.S. and it's a sweet time of year. As far back as I can remember, this was my favorite holiday. It is without the commercial aspect and the stress of the Christmas Holidays. The emphasis is on family and friends. It is at a time of year that is visually beautiful to me also. It is the time of the year that it is most visually satisfying to be a Midwesterner. Breathtaking color! As the landscape becomes increasingly barren though and there are enormous piles of dead leaves through the landscape, often we see an overcast steel gray/blue sky and the last of the colorful hearty Fall leaves dangling from the trees. We take stock of our lives and our situations. With surroundings stripped of extraneous life, we become more aware of, and we count our blessings. We reflect with gratitude on what we do have, literally and figuratively, our “Harvest”. There is no meal which, to me, has a more sacramental feel than a gathering around a Thanksgiving Day table. True that for years it has been pretty much a gluttonous food fest in a country becoming known for a growing number of health/weight-related issues but many people are scaling back on all consumption in their lives. Not only because of health and money but because of an increased awareness of what overconsumption means in terms of the planet and shared resources. That enlightenment alone is cause for thanksgiving.

Here at Women's International News, there is much for which we feel grateful What has begun as a grassroots undertaking, our website launched in May, is picking up steam with increased content being submitted at an expanding rate. We can't wait to bring additional stories and videos to our readers. No longer a one man (woman) band but more like a quartet at present, our staff is also expanding. We are working towards a full blown symphony here and as our content and readership grows, it's looking good.

Midge Hough, someone who's life has been transformed to a life of political activism by the loss of her daughter-in-law Jennifer Fritts and Jennifer's unborn baby girl, has written an update on her efforts to advocate for health care resulting from the grief of the loss of Jen. Midge has not missed one opportunity in Chicago to attend a rally or meet with a politician to garner support for a public option in health care. She works tirelessly to this end. The most recent rally she attended was November 17th in Chicago in front of Blue Cross Blue Shield. In addition, she has met with politicians and groups working for health care reform. Midge and her family are the faces and the story of how health care insurance injustice impacts families. We have added an update from her and some info and pictures, including a video her husband took when she was asked to speak at a rally of Tea Party People in a Chicago suburb. It was a very difficult experience for Midge and it speaks for itself. We have posted her written update, photos and videos of some of her experiences as she continues to fight for what she knows to be right. We will continue to chronicle Midge's experiences.

Barbara Mullarkey, another public health advocate, is President of the Illinois Coalition for Vaccine Awareness. She was a columnist for her hometown paper in Oak Park, IL for fifteen years and wants answers to questions about the flu vaccines. She well remembers “the 1976-77 vaccine fiasco, when Joseph Califano, Jr., new secretary of the Department of Health Education and Welfare, halted the vaccine injections”. It seems more than fair to ask questions about the vaccines and fair to expect answers from responsible government officials. What's more, it is necessary for consumers to have those answers in order to make an informed decision on whether or not to use them for ourselves and the loved ones dependent on us for good care. Barbara's article appears under “Health”.

Chris Mickens, writer/web designer/editor for Women's International News, reflects on the Fort Hood massacre and how the proper way to honor the victims is to work at improving our service rather than assigning blame. Chris spent her childhood around military personnel and knows well the sense of community that exists in that setting. When you talk to someone with an insider's knowlege of that experience, I am always impressed at the degree of discipline and unselfishness of the people who serve our nation. I am always impressed with the seriousness with which most people in the service of our country take their responsibilities with so little financial compensation or reward. The murders equal a tragedy compounded by a tragedy. It is impossible to live in this day and age without feeling the sting of the effects of what we can only describe as mental illness, sometimes mild and sometimes in the extreme, even though most of us witnessed this particular disaster from a “safe” distance. Still, it impacts all thoughtful, caring people.

In “Spirit” Anita Banas has provided us with an inspirational piece about the birth of her granddaughter, Amelia. Anita's moving account reminds us of the enormous depth of feeling evoked by this rite of passage. She has captured the essentials of what we can look forward to and what to expect at the arrival of a new baby in our life and, and in her case, the arrival of her new role of a grandmother. It is a transforming experience and she had done a good job capturing the beauty of a birth. Would that all babies were born into such loving circumstances.

Selene Plum is our latest featured artist. Selene has been a practicing artist for the last twenty years, and for the last four years, she has been working in encaustic wax. The images in pictures don't totally do the actual works of art justice. The wax has a depth to it and a sheen that cannot be recreated in a picture. The paintings are truly each unique and when you look at her pictures of her living circumstances, the influence of her surroundings is very clear. Living on a farm outside of Madison, Wisconsin, is a setting that inspires her and suits her life and artistic work. One person that Selene referenced several times in our conversation was the influence of her mother when we sat down together to talk about her life and work. Selene was in Chicago where she often returns to see friends and family. She is a person who has sought and found a life that is perfectly suited to her and she has good advice for other women.

Also, featured briefly is Melissa Thodos, the twin sister of another artist we featured, Diane Thodos. Melissa is the founder of Thodos Dance Chicago. There is a link to a public television interview and a link to her website. In addition, we have added an interview Diane Thodos did with New York Art Critic Donald Kuspit. So much talent in one family, a wonderful phenomenon.

Building a Global Community under “Travel” is a brief look at an organization on the North Shore in Chicago, the North Shore International Network. It is a group of women from around the world who meet to learn from each other, tour Chicago and environs, and have fun. Families relocated to work abroad have unique challenges - where do they find the food they are accustomed to? How do they get situated in a new country? What is the best place to send their children to school since English is not their first language? These women meet for support and companionship. They have a unique global perspective on life, politics and people. It is a wonderfully rich collective and they are gifted in their abilities to adapt to new cultures. In the future we hope to write more about them and their experiences. They are the “brotherhood of man”....scusi, “sisterhood of women”.

Special thanks to all the people who have provided the newest visuals to our site including Dominique Kelsey for pictures for the North Shore International Network. Justin Jach for a video about the Health Care Rally. Dan Hough for the documentary about the Oak Lawn Teabaggers. Bruce Bailey for pictures from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Care Rally. You have our grateful appreciation.

We hope that life is peaceful in your part of the world. With modern news sources coming at us each day, it is impossible to be naive enough to think it is peaceful everwhere as we hear of all of the human suffering and tragedy around the world and the abuses of human rights by individuals and governments. Still, righteous people everywhere hope and work for justice for all as a way of life. That is our hope, too, and in thanksgiving for all that we have been given, we rededicate ourselves to that work each day.

Enjoy our site and we are happy to hear from you any time. We are thankful to Educo Web Design for the work, dedication, and creativity they devote to making our site possible. Enjoy our site and we are happy to hear from you any time.

Christine Vernon

Christine Vernon is the founder and editor of Women's International News.