kindness

Why the Internet Can Be Good (RE: Alex Rayfiel)

The other day as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a link a friend posted that caught my eye. It had a picture of a boy named Alex, who I’d gone to high school with, attached to an article whose title didn’t quite register until after I clicked it.

When the page loaded, my face went white. Alex was sick. Recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. His family had created a donation page in the hope of raising money for a radical new treatment in Israel. I read through the story his wife posted, aching for the two of them and their newly born daughter. It all sounded so completely unfair.

Now, I’d never known this guy. We’d gone to high school together for four years, and I’d seen him around from time to time, but never got to know him. In fact, I only met him once in a brief introduction from a mutual friend at our shared college. But as I read the story about the turn his life has suddenly taken, I realized I remembered him, and how, even in our lack of interaction, he’d left a mark on me.

High school is tough for everyone, often in different ways, and while I wouldn’t say I had a terrible experience, I also wouldn’t volunteer to do it all over again. I was a quiet, reserved student who stuck to what she knew and rarely felt comfortable in her own skin. That being said, Alex made me laugh.

He and his friends had participated in the talent show as the “Finger Flippers” which became legendary amongst our senior class. And during our senior luncheon, they created a video that discussed which of our classmates had celebrity lookalikes. I remember sitting at the back table, nervous as always, counting down the days until I graduated. I hadn’t been sat next to any of my friends, and I was internally apologizing to the people around me for not being more interesting. But then the lights went down and the video started, and I laughed through the whole thing. It was a genuine laugh, the kind that makes you feel lighter, and as I looked around the room at my classmates who felt the same, I felt included. Afterwards, when Alex and his friends mentioned they had plans to post the video to YouTube I took note, excited to have something positive to look back on in the future. I’d forgotten about the video over all these years, and only found it when I searched his name. When I watched it again however, it still gave me that good feeling.

So as I read through his story and then through some of the comments, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to donate, not only because it was the right thing to do, but because it felt like a way I could say thank you for giving me those moments of freedom all those years ago. And even more, allow me the opportunity to be a part of offering him the chance to experience a moment of freedom in the future. Be it through minor progress, or radical recovery.

This is the good part about the Internet. For amongst all the drama and fake personas, there also lie small bursts of goodness. There are chances to read stories of hope and resilience, chances to reconnect with old friends and family, and sometimes, chances to lend a hand to a near stranger. And so, Alex Rayfiel, while we may remain essentially strangers, I hope you know I’m praying for you, and that I’m grateful for what you gave me all those years ago, even if you had no idea. I wish you and your family all the best, and I hope the next time I find you in my Facebook feed, it will be to inform me that you’re on the road to recovery.

If you want to help Alex, you can find his donation page here.

31 Good Things That Happened in May

I have good news and good news. I have only good news!

As mentioned in this blog post, at the end of every month I’m going to highlight all the good things that happened in that 30-day (or so) span, to give ourselves a break from the well known bad.

You can find last month’s here.

Happy May to you!

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1) Since she couldn’t accept his invitation to prom, Emma Stone sent this teen and his date a corsage.

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2) This dad got an amazing birthday surprise

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3) This music video took us back to the 90s

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4) This author announced her new book in the best way

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5)  This guy made a fool of himself for a good cause

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6) Nicki Minaj helped a bunch of students pay for college

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7) This little girl had something to brag about

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8) After realizing he made a mistake, Chris Pratt made up for it in a great way

Instagram does this thing where it mutes all the videos it shows and forces you to turn on the volume in order to hear them. (maybe because most people are watching those videos at work when they should be working and don't want to get caught. I know that's when I do it. 😬) So when I made a video recently with subtitles, and requested that people turn up the volume and not just "read the subtitles" it was so people wouldn't scroll past the video on mute, thus watching and digesting the information in the video. HOWEVER, I realize now doing so was incredibly insensitive to the many folks out there who depend on subtitles. More than 38 million Americans live with some sort of hearing disability. So I want to apologize. I have people in my life who are hearing-impaired, and the last thing in the world I would want to do is offend them or anybody who suffers from hearing loss or any other disability. So truly from the bottom of my heart I apologize. Thanks for pointing this out to me. In the future I'll try to be a little less ignorant about it. Now… I know some of you are going to say, "Hey! Chris only apologized because his publicist made him!" Well. That is not the case. As always I control my social media. Nobody else. And I am doing this because I'm actually really sorry. Apologies are powerful. I don't dole them out Willy-Nilly. This is one of those moments where I screwed up and here's me begging your pardon. I hope you accept my apology. And on that note. Why doesn't Instagram have some kind of technology to automatically add subtitles to its videos? Or at least the option. I did a little exploring and it seems lacking in that area. Shouldn't there be an option for closed captioning or something? I've made them lord knows how much money with my videos and pictures. Essentially sharing myself for free. I know they profit. So… GET ON IT INSTAGRAM!!! Put closed captioning on your app. #CCinstaNow

A post shared by chris pratt (@prattprattpratt) on

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9) This wedding photographer captured some real love

Tonight I was photographing Adrian & Roslyn at sunset. I was setting up those grand sunset scenes… you know the ones… the little people in a big scene… I love those kinda shots… but tonight that just didn't seem enough. Just as the light became amazing I scrapped everything I knew and I walked up to them and said, "guys, stop posing. Just enjoy your first sunset together as husband and wife". They then held each other in the most beautiful way… It was so much more beautiful than anything I could ever set up. Then I said to Adrian, "I have a question for you, but I want you to tell the answer to Roslyn and not me." I continued, "Out of the billions of people on the planet, you've chosen to spend the rest of your life with Roslyn. Can you tell her why?" In a matter of moments I could start seeing Roslyn's eyes glisten, then the most beautiful tears streamed down her face. Then I found myself crying. Oh Love, You are oh so precious.

A post shared by James Day (@jamesdayweddings) on

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10) This guy got into college!

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11) This man embodied perseverance

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12) These moms wrote encouraging letters to other moms

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13) This little girl snuck her pet cow inside the house

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14) This little girl took a picture with a potato

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15) Mother’s Day b1923d25f9b3a9e78692230f1935b976

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16) This mom and son inspired everyone with their graduation photo

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17) Oreo opened the best contest EVER

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18) This deployed soldier got to be a part of his wife’s pregnancy shoot

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19) In the wake of something unimaginably terrible, kindness, love and bravery showed up again

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20) …and again

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21) …and again

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22) This little boy wrote a touching letter to Nintendo about his favorite game

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23) This dog taught his brother how to sit.

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24) This guy continued to make progress

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25) This service dog snagged a spot in his owner’s school yearbook

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26) This guy showed off his talent

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27) Kaley Cuoco adopted a dwarf mini horse named Shmushy

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28) Memorial Day honored life’s true superheroes

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29) This 92 year old Marine Corp sergeant achieved one of his biggest goals

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30) This girl got an amazing surprise

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31) Jennifer Lopez & James Corden took some dance lessons

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what June brings!

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Music Can Still Heal, Love Can Still Prevail

In yesterday’s blog post I talked about KROQ’s Weenie Roast & Fiesta, the concert I attended over the weekend. I talked about all of the different aspects of a concert or music festival and some tips on how to maximize your experience. Then, last night, I got word of the horrific attack in Manchester at an Ariana Grande concert, which killed 22 people and injured over 50. I had no words.

This morning, as I pored over a number of news articles and blog posts responding to the attack, I couldn’t help but tear up. I had just been a concert goer. I had just spent an evening with my own favorite artists, singing and dancing and being carefree. There was an eerie air above my head. I felt almost guilty.

Then, I remembered something.

At Weenie Roast on Saturday, in the 8 o’clock hour, Imagine Dragons was onstage, performing my favorite set of the day. After about their 3rd song Dan Reynolds, the lead singer, took a few moments to speak on hate. He mentioned a problem one of his young daughters was having at school with another student. She’d been pushed down and told her pigtails were stupid and came home crying. He was heartbroken and angry that she had experienced hate for the first time, and was solemn knowing she’d only experience more as her life went on. But then, he shifted gears. He looked out at the crowd and smiled. We were all quiet and flushed from the long, hot day, and he told us we were beautiful. That we were every color and size and shape and ethnicity. And we were all there, together, letting music heal us.

“Because that’s what music does,” he said, “music heals us. It saves us from ourselves and from the world. It brings us together.”

We all applauded, but not the kind that feels obligated or appropriate, the kind that happens naturally, because we understand, because we agreed. He then bowed his head and thanked us all for being there and encouraged us to take the love and acceptance we shared in the space of music and spread it out amongst the world.

This tragedy in Manchester is unfathomable. It has harmed the world and its people in more ways than one. But one thing it didn’t do, it couldn’t do; one thing that terrorism can never accomplish, is destroying our ability to heal. To love. To persevere.

So, as we walk slowly in the wake of such darkness, we must remember that we are all carrying light, and as we continue to let it shine, we are winning. As we continue to let ourselves heal and be healed, we are winning. And if continue to fight hate with love, we will win.

30 Good Things That Happened in April

I have good news and good news. I have only good news!

As mentioned in this blog post, at the end of every month I’m going to highlight all the good things that happened in that 30-day (or so) span, to give ourselves a break from the well known bad.

You can find last month’s here.

Happy April to you!

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1) Pink posted this reminder about weight, especially post-baby weight

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2) This article was posted about the proven benefits of baking for others

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3) This otter learned to swim

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4) National Burrito Day

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5) This girl got into all 8 Ivy League schools

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6) Pioneer Woman (a.k.a Rae Drummond) released this recipe for Triple Layer Confetti Cake

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7) This puppy got moving

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8) This girl celebrated Crazy Hair Day in the best way

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9) Chrissy Teigen paid this woman’s tuition for esthetician school

cruzanchoklate: “Something absolutely amazing happened last night. Many of you know how much I love skin care and my plans to attend esthetician school next month. Last night I posted my tuition fundraiser on twitter and something I never in my wildest dreams happened. My paypal alert went off, and as I looked at my phone, there was amount of $5605. I thought it was a glitch. I then look at my email and realized it came from my fundraiser. @chrissyteigen donated my entire tuition money for school. I have been crying all night and I cried in the office this morning as I paid my down payment for esthetician school. I haven’t been this happy in a very long time. Thank you Chrissy and thank you to everyone else who voted or rtd my link or have supported me this entire time. It means more to me than you’ll ever know.”

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10) This dad finally got to meet his son

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11) After his daughter had an accident at school, this dad picked up her in the best way.

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12) This baby had a bunch of great mornings

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13) This boy became the first person with his type of heart condition to complete a marathon.

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14) This pilot went above and beyond the call of duty.

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15) This girl’s whole family showed up for her game

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16) This easter egg hunt ended with one student learning he received a scholarship

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17) This husband found a way to keep his wife company during her isolation cancer treatment

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18) This grandpa saw color for the first time

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19) This girl found a really great stick she wanted to share with the world

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20) This guy set a new World Record by bowling the fastest 300 game ever

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21) This three year old packed the lunch of his dreams

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22) This marathon runner gave up his own race to help a fellow athlete finish

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23) This little girl tried whipped cream for the first time

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24) This brother put together a surprise princess photoshoot for his 5-year-old sister

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25) This little boy was mesmerized by his mommy

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26) These dogs hugged it out.

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27) This little boy gave his Nintendo Wii to the officers at his local police station

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28) Johnny Depp, dressed as Jack Sparrow, surprised Pirates of Caribbean riders at Disneyland

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29) This boy got to meet his hero, John Cena

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30) April the giraffe had her baby! (which you can vote to name here!)

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what May brings!

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Spring Break Road Trip (Day 6: Bend to Park City)

It was another early morning to start another long day of driving, and with the events of Saturday still looming in the far back corner of our minds, we figured it was only logical to start our day with Starbucks.

Unlike Friday’s departure from Vegas, the drive out of Bend didn’t involve buildings shrinking out of sight in the rearview mirror. It was more of a peek-a-boo. A now you see it, now you’re back in the middle of nowhere type deal.

Fortunately, the drive out was beautiful. The highway cut through a lake, thus sandwiching us between still, glassy surfaces that reflected the slow moving clouds overhead. Green surrounded us. I almost felt out of place amongst the flourishing trees and plants and seemingly endless grass.

About three hours into the drive, we made our first stop for gas, figuring you could never be too safe. And while I won’t bore you with the details of what made getting gas at this station a minor struggle, I’ll share with you the accidental lesson we took from it.

Amongst the frustration, my sister, who was doing most of the grunt work (i.e. getting out to pay for the gas), made the statement, “I hate this 10 minutes!” I, of course, started laughing, so much that I nearly honked the horn with my face. When my sister returned however, she clarified the statement, making it less hilarious and more meaningful.

“You hate this 10 minutes?” I said between laughs.

“Well yeah, I don’t want to say, ‘I hate today’, because it’s really only these 10 minutes that have been bad, the rest of the day could be great!”

Resulting tip: if you have a bad part of your day, don’t assume the whole thing is a wash.

Over the next few hours, we made a new friend in the form of the Snake River. As we made our way through Oregon towards Idaho, the Snake River ran alongside us, constantly making us “ooh” and “awe.” When we started nearing the border (which is also known as “Onion Country”) the land got flat. Trees became rare and mountains ran out into the distance. Seemingly every patch of land was freckled with cattle, some of which moved so slow (or not at all) we thought the Idaho-ians may have planted them there for good looks.

After officially crossing the border, our (no longer lonely) highway turned into an actual freeway, which brought me more joy than I would have expected. There were speed limit signs, there were billboards, there were the occasional brake checks from surrounding cars, it felt like home.

We stopped for lunch at Subway, then stopped for gas, where we met arguably the nicest man in the world. He pumped our gas for us, which is not uncommon outside of California as we’d come to find out, and asked us about our day and our trip. My sister and I were both in agreement that he was, as stated previously, the nicest man in the world, but it was hard to tell if this was true or if we were just so used the cold attitudes in Southern California that any motiveless kindness seemed unfathomable.

Side-Tip: If you’re passing through a town you think might offer a good souvenir, but don’t know where to look/what to get. Find the town’s Wal-Mart and grab yourself a hat. Not only will it make you fit in for a low price, it will also hide the fact that you’ve been sitting in the car for 8 hours and your hair is greasier than a fried Twinkie.

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As a whole, Idaho looked mostly the same. We sped down its highways gawking at the (real or fake?) cows and horses and the snowy mountains far in the distance. If I were to describe it in two words, I would probably have to say its “unmistakably Idaho”, meaning that if you blindfolded me, put me on a plane, drove me out into the middle of Ida-nowhere, I’d probably be able to identify the state. If you’ve been to Idaho, maybe you know what I mean. It just feels like one of those girls in high school that knows who they are now and who they’re going to be later. Idaho is Idaho, and I’m a fan.

Upon entering Utah, we did what anyone (and by anyone I mean only us) would do: we took a side trip to see the World’s Largest Fishing Fly!

If you’ve seen this post, you’ll know that I’ve made it a mission of mine to see all of the World’s Largest Roadside Attractions (or as I call them: WRLA’s), so when I heard we’d be passing right by the only WRLA in Utah en route to our 3rd stop, there was no other option but to pay it a visit.

 

Some tips if you ever decide to visit a WRLA:

  • It will probably be in a very strange, very random and not-always-easy-to-stop-in-front-of location
  • You will undoubtedly receive strange looks from people while you’re taking a picture in front of it
  • You should definitely ignore all those looks
  • Always buy a souvenir when available.

 

The World’s Largest Fishing Fly is in the parking lot of a flea market. There is no sign, or souvenirs, and my sister and I got the attention of a number of passing cars as we took pictures in front of it.

Here I am totally caring what they think:

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After our 5 minute, yet totally worth it stop at the Fishing Fly, my sister and I cranked out the last hour and a half of the trip to reach our friend Mel in Park City. It was just about sunset when we pulled up to her house, so we spent the next few hours talking, laughing, eating Taco Bell, and watching Friends. And like our two stops before this, Mel’s house instantly became a haven for us. We felt welcome and loved and thankful to be there, but most of all, we were excited to see what adventure this next leg of the trip would bring us.

31 Good Things That Happened in March

I have good news and good news. I have only good news!

As mentioned in this blog post, at the end of every month I’m going to highlight all the good things that happened, to give ourselves a break from the well known bad.

You can find last month’s here.

Happy March to you!

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1) Chrissy Teigen opened up about her postpartum Depression

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“I [just] didn’t think it could happen to me. I have a great life. I have all the help I could need: John, my mother (who lives with us), a nanny. But postpartum does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it.”

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2) International Women’s Day

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3) The cast of Hamilton donated their night’s salaries to an amazing women’s charity.

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4) This girl sent a crying classmate flowers

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5) This dog filled in as a zoo mommy

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6) This cat was overtaken by the piano

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7) Delish released a recipe for Pizza Grilled Cheese

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8) This little boy found out he was getting a new heart

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9) This runner made a great statement about body confidence. (via mileposts Instagram)

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“…Both of these race photos were taken on the same day at the same race. In one I looked happy and strong and in the other I was left questioning if there was a part of my body that didn’t have cellulite. This race at some points sucked for me – I got sick – threw up before crossing the finish line and had possibly my slowest 13.1 time ever – but post race the sucky feelings faded and I remember the day being fun – drinking wine with friends after, joking how wine cures all. If you had asked me after if I had a good time I would have said YES!! I still felt that way in the days following the race UNTIL I saw the photo on the left and then insecurity set in and I thought about how that day was not fun. But that’s silly, because it was fun…A race photo is ONE SINGLE moment in time and I let one of them steal joy from me. Most times we don’t look great while we run, but that’s not why we run anyways, we run to FEEL like I look in the photo on the right – HAPPY. Don’t let a photo steal joy – you are worth so much more than one split second – moment in time.”

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10) A pregnant woman gave this man a “Decent Dude” trophy for being the first man–throughout two pregnancies–to offer her his seat on the subway.

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11) Beauty and the Beast was released in theaters!

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12) Internet personality Jerome Jarre started a petition online to get help to Somalia…

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13)…and it worked!

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14) And with the help of people around the world, Somalia is receiving the help it needs!

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15) These boys tried to fool their teacher

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16) These police officers helped a woman get out of her driveway

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17) This service dog did his job

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18) This woman stopped to help

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19) This boy melted hearts with his cheesy prom-posal

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20) And this guy pulled off an adorable Up-themed prom-posal

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21) This mom knew just what to say to her daughter

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22) This IHOP waiter took the time to hand feed one of his customers

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(image via Keshia Dotson Facebook)

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23) This chicken was reunited with its favorite human

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24) National Puppy Day

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25) An 8 year old girl realized she could do whatever she wants

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26) This little girl got a doll worthy of a superhero

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27) This little guy got to hug his hero

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28) Lego & Nasa announced they will team up to release a collection to celebrate the women of Nasa

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29) This mermaid spent her night babysitting…another mermaid

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30) This flower company gave out 10,000 flowers for International Day of Happiness

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31) This little girl made a new friend out of a broken water heater.

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what April brings!

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Rogers!

When I was little my family lived next door to my grandparents, and oftentimes I would walk over after school to watch TV and have an afternoon snack. My Grammie and Papa would get me, my sister and my cousins all settled in with an eskimo pie or a neapolitan ice cream sandwich and turn on our favorite set of afternoon shows. Depending on the day, our schedule would include the likes of Wishbone, Captain Planet, Zoom!, and of course, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

I remember feeling particularly drawn to Mr. Rogers. His show was different than the other ones we would watch. It wouldn’t make me laugh, or cry, or scare me, or excite me, it just made me feel calm. When I watched it, I felt safe. For no matter what kind of day I had, no matter how I was feeling or what I was worried about, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood never failed to be a reliable escape to something good.

Today, March 20th, is Fred Rogers’ birthday, and as a result, today has been dubbed “Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day.” In the past few years I, as well as many I’m sure, have found that the lessons Mr. Rogers taught me as a kid have only just begun to truly resonate now as an adult. I’d like to think this is what he hoped for. That he aimed to provide this escape to good when we were younger, so that when we were older it could act as a reminder that good can always be found.

In today’s society, I think we could use a little more Mr. Rogers, so today, in honor of what would have been his 88th birthday, I want to share some of my favorite quotes, from one of my favorite guys.

1) “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” 

2) “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

3) “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” 

4) “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

5) “The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.” 

6) “How great it is when we come to know that times of disappointment can be followed by joy; that guilt over falling short of our ideals can be replaced by pride in doing all that we can; and that anger can be channeled into creative achievements… and into dreams that we can make come true.” 

7) “Try your best to make goodness attractive. That’s one of the toughest assignments you’ll ever be given.” 

8) “Often out of periods of losing come the greatest strivings toward a new winning streak.” 

9) “We speak with more than our mouths. We listen with more than our ears.” 

10) “Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.” 

Mr. Rogers, thank you for all of the afternoons you spent with me, my sister, my cousins and our eskimo pies. I can only hope I’m doing my part in spreading the good you instilled in me all those years ago. Happy birthday!