Entertainment

A U.S. Army soldier sent her parents a surprise for the ages, and it's pure magic.

She tells everybody how amazing her parents are. The thing is, she hadn’t said it to her parents.
Elva “Lala” Torres is a soldier in the U.S. Army.Growing up, she says, her parents always did all they could to bring out the absolute best in her. They saw something special in her that Lala often didn’t see herself. No wonder having to leave home was the hardest part for her. All images via Minute Maid. But even though her parents, Raoul and Marta Torres, now live more than 2,000 miles away from her in Layton, Utah, they send her loads of love and encouragement in their own little way — by mailing care packages. “I am halfway across the country from my parents, but it doesn’t feel that way,” Lala says. “Getting care packages from them motivated me to keep going during those moments when I was ready to give up on myself.” That’s why Lala wanted to show her parents just how much they mean to her. So she decided to flip the script and send them a reverse care package.She included some goodies and mementos and, most importantly, heartfelt letters to both her parents with everything she’s ever wanted to say to them. She even threw in a special surprise you’ll have to see for yourself — check it out:When Raoul and Marta received their daughter’s care package, it was pure magic.They opened the box to see all sorts of amazing photos, a bottle of sand from the same beach where Lala and Raoul had trained — Raoul was also in the military for 27 years — and handfuls of little green toy soldiers that Lala played with growing up.The best item in the box, though, might just be the beautiful letter that Lala wrote for her parents. “Dear Mom and Papa,Even though we may be many miles apart, I wanted to send you a couple of items to let you know that your love and wisdom carries with me wherever I go. When I told you I was thinking about joining the military, you taught me to never question my potential. You showed me that I could dedicate my life doing whatever it was that I w

Entertainment

Meet the photographer empowering women of color with her gorgeous portraits.

10 years ago, Sasha Matthews was pregnant and felt so alone.Matthews was pregnant and had little support from her family. She spent most of her pregnancy by herself, talking to other pregnant women online. In fact, Matthews only has one or two pictures of herself from those 40 weeks. One doesn’t even have her face in it. “My whole life dynamic changed,” she says. “I felt very shamed and hidden away and didn’t feel very important.” So when she transitioned from her career in mental and behavioral health to photography, she knew she wanted to support and empower women, especially women of color.Today, Matthews, founder of Green Tangerine Photography, takes absolutely stunning photos that showcase women of color during the seasons of their lives. All photos by Sasha Matthews/Green Tangerine Photography, used with permission. She’s best known for her maternity photographs. With stunning gowns, compelling poses, and happy, confident mamas, Matthews’ beautiful work celebrates black motherhood the way it deserves to be celebrated. “I knew — particularly with women of color who are often shamed for the number of kids they have or how they have their children or how their motherhood is constantly in question — that I wanted to show the side of ‘Look at these gorgeous mamas!'” she says.Matthews encourages her clients to rock fabulous dresses, makeup, or anything else that makes them feel beautiful.A firm believer that you can never be overdressed for a portrait, Matthews even keeps racks of gowns in multiple sizes in her studio for women who can’t afford to spend the money on something new to wear. She also researches poses and styling to make sure women of every size feel elegant and powerful in their photographs. “Taking pictures is hard for me even,” she says. “If you look better, then you’ll feel more confident.” She’s had the privilege of watching families bloom and grow seemingly right in front of her eyes. From engagement photos and maternity photos to

Entertainment

These high school students threw an LGBTQ prom that few will forget.

Prom night for Blair Smith didn’t begin in a stretch limo. It started with a broken down car in a high school parking lot and a ticking clock.Smith had spent the last four weeks pulling together the dance amid a punishing schedule that included fundraising, advertising, and studying for AP exams. Now he had chaperones to organize, food to distribute, and a quickly dwindling supply of minutes.Frantic, he hitched a ride home, borrowed his mom’s car and sped toward the event hall, where he and his fellow student organizers helped put the finishing touches on their hard work.By 7 p.m., the room was ready. Photo by Brian Reach. This was no ordinary prom.There was no king, no queen, and few tuxedos. Instead, there was a space for over 300 LGBTQ youth to dress and dance how they wanted and, more importantly, a space to be completely themselves without fear of judgment. The students at NOVA Pride Prom gather for a group shot. Photo via NOVA Pride. The May 12 event, dubbed “NOVA Pride Prom,” began two years ago at Loudon Valley High School. Smith, who took charge of planning this year’s event as his senior project, partnered with local LGBTQ advocacy organizations to expand the celebration to include all of northern Virginia. The goal was to create a prom less beholden to tradition and more open to free expression.The theme was “Celebrate Our Past,” and the venue was decorated with artwork paying tribute to LGBTQ heroes and history. “There wasn’t the typical prom drama that happens where, ‘Oh my god, she’s wearing the same dress as me,’ or ‘Oh, is he dancing with her?'” Smith explains of NOVA Pride Prom. “It was really just a place where people could come together and meet for the first time.” Smith (center) with advisor Amy Cannava at Pride Prom. Photo via NOVA Pride. In addition to the dance floor, Smith and his co-planners set up a lounge with board games and couches for students to socialize and tables where local advocacy organizations — NOVA Pride, GLSEN NO

Entertainment

These shorts got her daughter sent home. Mom's letter to the school is straight fire.

‘Here are the specifications you have to work with. I wish you loads of luck.’
Sexist school dress codes: They just won’t go away.Girls all over the country are routinely targeted and disciplined for wearing yoga pants, shorts, skirts, and tops deemed “inappropriate,” or worse, “distracting.” Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images. Outrage over these policies swells each school year, and while some school districts have taken action, the overwhelming majority still treat teen boys with kid gloves (they mustn’t be tempted!) and punish girls for it.This year, one mom is taking an interesting approach: She’s inviting her daughter’s principal to take her shopping.Really.Catherine Pearlman wrote on Today that her middle-school-age daughter was sent home two days in a row for dressing “inappropriately.”In an open letter to the school’s principal, Pearlman doesn’t come off as angry so much as exasperated (with more than a hint of sarcasm).”To reward you for treating my daughter with such concern, I am cordially inviting you to take my daughter shopping,” she wrote.It might sound simple to old-fashioned (and, frankly, often male) administrators to pick up some clothes that fit the dress code. But oh how wrong they are.Pearlman explains:”Here are the specifications you have to work with. I wish you loads of luck.She is 5’7” and 13 years old. Built more like her father, she has exceptionally long legs and arms.She doesn’t like anything pink or purple or frilly.She won’t wear pants because she gets overheated easily. Trust me I’ve seen this. It will cause a scene in the school yard.She absolutely will not wear a dress either.”Doesn’t sound too hard, right? We’re not done.”No item of clothing can have a logo visible because to her that’s not cool. She will however, wear any type of superhero, Green Day or USFL T-shirt if you can find them. You might be able to try for an occasional Beatles reference but that’s touch and go.Now, don’t forget that you will have to find some

Entertainment

An awkward boy falls for another guy in this short film, and people are loving it.

It’s just 25 seconds long, and no one says a word in it. But the trailer for “In a Heartbeat” has the internet talking.Even the two creators behind the project can’t believe the response.Beth David and Esteban Bravo, students at Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida, were “floored” when their Kickstarter page for the short film reached its initial fundraising goal a mere three hours after launching. The film — the duo’s senior thesis project — looks downright adorable, sure. But it’s the subject matter that really makes the short stand out among the rest.Watch the trailer for “In a Heartbeat” (article continues below): “In a Heartbeat” is about a middle-school boy who “runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams.”It’s a story that most audiences have not had a chance to see before.“Being gay is a subject that hasn’t been widely explored in computer animation,” Bravo explained in a video promoting the film, noting that rates of bullying for LGBTQ teens are much higher than their straight and cisgender (non-transgender) peers.  The film is a heartstring-tugging reminder that those kids — and LGBTQ adults — deserve their stories be told on-screen, too.“We want to put out a message of love and self acceptance to all the kids and young people who struggle to identify as LGBT+, just like [the main character] Sherwin does,” David said. David and Bravo have had fun promoting the film using parodies of iconic movie posters, like “The Fault in Our Stars.” Image courtesy of “In a Heartbeat.” And 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain.” Image courtesy of “In a Heartbeat.” But the film’s rapidly growing online fandom is even cooler, reflecting audiences’ hunger for a delightful, important queer love story like this one.The hashtag #InAHeartbeat has been filled with creative works from devoted fans on Tumblr and Instagram. And they definitely give you a sense of just how important this film is shaping up

sports

Our 2021 Baseball Futures are now up!

It is time for us to continue our additions here at Notinhalloffame.com.  We have added to our Baseball Futures section by adding those who will be eligible for Cooperstown in 2021.The complete list can be found here, but here are each of those who could appear on the ballot for the first time in ’21.A.J. Burnett: An All Star in 2015 who led the American League in Strikeouts in 2008.  He is currently 31st all-time in that stat.Aaron Harang: Harang led the NL in Wins and Strikeouts in 2006 and would finish 4th in Cy Young voting.Adam LaRoche:  A winner of both the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove in 2012.  He has over 250 Home Runs over his career.Alex Rios:  An All Star in 2006 & 2007.  Rios would win the World Series with Kansas City in his last season.C.J. Wilson: A two time All Star in 2011 and 2012.Corey Hart: A two time All Star who is known most for his time in Milwaukee.Dan Haren:  Went to three consecutive All Star Games (2007-09) and also led his respective league in SO/BB three times.  He is currently 7th all-time in that category.Dan Uggla:  A three time All Star and one time Silver Slugger recipient.Grady Sizemore:  Sizemore went to three straight All Star Games (2006-08) and won a Silver Slugger and two Gold Gloves.  He would lead the AL in bWAR for Position Players.Grant Balfour:  The first Australian to be named an All Star (2013)Jason Marquis:  An All Star in 2009 who would win 11 Games six seasons in a row.Kevin Gregg:  A Relief Pitcher who was in the top ten in Saves four times.LaTroy Hawkins:  A middle reliever who is 10th all-time in Games Pitched.Mark Buehrle:  A five time All Star who helped the Chicago White Sox win the World Series in 2005.  He is currently 61st all-time in WAR for Pitchers.Michael Cuddyer:  A two time All Star who won the National League Batting Title in 2013.Nick Swisher:  An All Star in 2010 and a World Series Champion with

Entertainment

A baseball player screwed up, but his apology can teach us all a big lesson.

Kevin Pillar screwed up. Here’s what he’s doing to fix it.
A professional baseball player just demonstrated what a good, genuine apology should look like.After striking out during Wednesday’s game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves, Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar had some choice words for Braves’ pitcher Jason Motte, and things got heated. During the exchange, Pillar shouted a homophobic slur at Motte. Pillar during an April game against the Boston Red Sox. Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images. It wasn’t a good look for Pillar, and he knew it. The next day, he offered an apology to both Motte and the larger LGBTQ community.Emotions were clearly running pretty high, but the next day on Twitter, Pillar shared a heartfelt message of remorse:”Last night, following my at-bat in the 7th inning, I used inappropriate language towards Braves pitcher Jason Motte. By doing so, I had just helped extend the use of a word that has no place in baseball, in sports or anywhere in society today. I’m completely and utterly embarrassed and feel horrible to have put the fans, my teammates and the Blue Jays organization in this position. I have apologized personally to Jason Motte, but also need to apologize to the Braves organization and their fans, and most importantly, to the LGBTQ community for the lack of respect I displayed last night. This is not who I am and will use this as an opportunity to better myself.”There are three elements to an effective apology, and Pillar’s message is a great example we can all look to.Because let’s be real: We all screw up, and there’s always an opportunity to grow from our own mistakes. The question is whether we want to. Here’s how to do it, according to experts. Pillar during an October 2015 game against the Texas Rangers. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images. Christine Carter, a senior fellow at the University of California-Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, outlines the three key components of effective apol

Entertainment

How is Starbucks giving baristas the perfect way to avoid student debt? Free tuition.

Ah, yes. COFFEE. GIF via Starbucks. We love it. No doubt many of us rely on it. And in one year, well, we’ve collectively spent around $40 billion on it. (Yes. BILLION.)Now, thanks to an initiative from Starbucks, some of that money is going to a pretty awesome cause. Check it out: Student loan debt is now nearly double the size of credit card debt. This program aims to address that crisis.Posted by Upworthy on Monday, May 15, 2017Through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP), eligible baristas get full tuition coverage for every year of college to earn their bachelor’s degree.That’s right. FREE TUITION. I mean, how awesome is that?To put that into perspective, the average college graduate in 2016 finished with over $37,000 in debt. In fact, estimates indicate that student loan debt as a whole for the U.S. has reached a whopping $1.31 trillion.The program started in 2014, when Starbucks partnered with Arizona State University to offer their online college to dedicated baristas across the country. Whether they want to pursue business, filmmaking, or even dance instruction, Starbucks arms them with all the tools they need to succeed. All images via Starbucks. For Starbucks employees who have been looking to finish their education, this is game-changing.”When the program first came out,” explains Bryanna, an SCAP student, “I was intrigued by the fact that, you know, you could get your degree for free and you only have to work part time. It just seemed too good to be true.””There’s financial aid, but financial aid only goes so far,” adds Genzel, a fellow SCAP student. In addition to having their tuition covered, baristas receive support from a team of coaches and advisers and 24/7 tutoring on all sorts of subjects. They can also choose from over 60 undergraduate degrees. On top of that, baristas who have served in the military have the option to extend their SCAP benefits to a family member of their choice.When companies find ways to support the peop