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
She tells everybody how amazing her parents are. The thing is, she hadn’t said it to her parents.
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
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
‘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
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
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
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
In 1996, Tomasa Macapinlac was in her early 30s, very successful, and working for one of the tech world’s biggest companies. She was also extremely exhausted.15 years of grinding it out in corporate America had taken its toll. “I was working my butt off. I had two small toddler daughters. I was married at the time, so I had a lot of stuff going on,” remembers Macapinlac.No doubt, many Americans have felt these same burnout feelings, which can have real impacts on physical health. In fact, stressful jobs are a known cause of high blood pressure. Image via iStock. In Macapinlac’s case, it was the severe exhaustion that hit her, and over time, she fell ill — so ill, in fact, that she could barely climb out of bed.”I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” says Macapinlac. “I’m pretty strong immune system-wise, health-wise, and I could usually kick things out. But this time, I couldn’t.”So Macapinlac went to a doctor and was told to get three days of bed rest. But even after that, nothing changed. “I got back up and I was still not well,” she adds. “I wasn’t well for a while.”Macapinlac knew she needed to make a change and start taking better care of herself.She was on the lookout for solutions that would help her feel better. So when a co-worker approached her and suggested she visit a holistic practitioner, it piqued her interest, and she decided to check it out. Image via iStock. Once there, she got up on a table and immediately received some hands-on healing. “It’s very similar to acupressure,” describes Macapinlac. “It’s like being a jumper cable and recharging someone.”When it was over, Macapinlac already felt better. “I said, ‘I don’t know what you did, but I’m coming back,'” she remembers. And that, she says, was just the beginning of her whole journey of self-care.Since then, Macapinlac has taken the time to create a self-care ritual that works for her. Image via Tomasa Macapinlac, used with permission. Of course, everyone is different and self-care is
In a world gone mad, when war is endless and politics are chaos … there’s only one man who can reassure our troubled souls. Photo via Everett Collection. Unfortunately, he’s no longer with us (RIP). Fortunately, we’ve got a lot of Mister Rogers on tape — and for the next two weeks, you can binge him 24 hours a day. Twitchy, the online video streaming service, is currently marathoning all 866 episodes of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” in chronological order. Photo via Everett Collection. That means you have until June 3 to relive the most soothing, gray sweaterful moments of your childhood.It’s an opportunity every American should be pretty grateful to seize right about now — and it’s for a good cause. The marathon is an effort to raise money for local PBS stations, many of which have trouble keeping their funding levels up.As of this writing, over $14,000 has been donated. Periodically, PBS has to fight to survive in the face of apathy and political calls to cut its funding. Now is one of those times. Photo via HBO. A budget proposed by the Trump administration in March 2017 would have eliminated funding for the network. The initial version of the budget did not pass, and PBS remains in on the air for now, but the threat is real for the kind of enriching children’s programming that Fred Rogers spent his life making and advocating for.A 2015 study found that shows like “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street” — available to anyone with a TV set for decades — made low-income children who watched regularly 14% less likely to fall behind in school.”These findings raise the exciting possibility that TV and electronic media more generally can be leveraged to address income and racial gaps in children’s school readiness,” study co-author Melissa Kearney said in a statement.48 years ago, Rogers appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications to convince skeptical elected officials to allocate $20 million for public television. His heart-wrench
Dave Riley has always been an adrenaline-chaser — and he probably always will be.His love for adventure started with his life in the military, which was nothing short of thrilling. With a father in the Army, the military was always in Dave’s blood. So he joined the Army himself, and then transferred to the Coast Guard, where he took on one of the most difficult, high-stakes jobs available — that of a search-and-rescue swimmer. Photo courtesy of Dave Riley. “It’s still the best job I ever had,” he says. “At any moment, an alarm could go off, and you would go and do whatever needed to be done. Anything from cliff rescues to surf rescues, boats going down to sailboats, you know, there’s a lot of high adrenaline. It’s a high-energy type job.”After he was transferred to Mobile, Alabama, Dave contracted an infection from bacteria in the water that made him gravely ill. He became septic and fell into a coma. When he awoke, all four of his limbs had been removed in order to help him survive. Photo via DAV (Disabled American Veterans). At first, Dave felt that his life was over. He couldn’t see a way forward for himself in his new body.After the sepsis was eliminated, Dave recovered gradually and went back to school to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science. But depression plagued him, caused both by his disability and uncertainty over what do with his life. He opened his own IT company in Alabama, but it just wasn’t fulfilling to him in the same way his life in the military had been.”I’d turned my hobby into a job, and then I hated it,” he says. Photo via DAV. It was his caregiver and his community that helped Dave chart a new path forward.Yvonne, Dave’s wife, has been with him every step of the way. In fact, it had fallen to Yvonne to make the decision to amputate his limbs — a choice that saved his life but also altered it forever.”Yvonne has been my caregiver for 30 years, really,” Dave laughs. “20 years disabled, but she’s been taking car