10 things that made us smile this week

Bad news usually grabs the headlines so it can be hard to remember that we live in a world full of beauty. Here are 10 stories that made us happy this week because they feature amazing comebacks, powerful acts of giving, and one super-amazing cow.

1. Man brushing his cow to Bruno Mars is a moment of pure zen

This video is the perfect example of how man and nature can live in harmony. Thor the cow is in pure bliss as his human friend brushes him at a farm in Emmett, Idaho.




2. Zalia Avant becomes the first Black American to win the Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee

Zalia's achievement is even more spectacular being that she has only been competing in spelling tournaments for two years. The 14-year-old practices about 13,000 words a day for up to seven hours.

3. Visual effects guy transforms himself into random objects and it's pure magic

Toronto-based animator and video wizard Kevin Parry has gone mega-viral for his mind-boggling collection of videos where he turns himself into random objects. In this series of quick clips he changes into everything from a pumpkin to a bright yellow banana and in most of the videos, he appears to suffer a ridiculous death.

4. High schooler mocked for wearing the same clothes every day surprised by football players

When Michael Todd started his freshman year at MLK prep school in Memphis, Tennessee, his classmates made fun of him because he only had one outfit to wear. "I really don't have clothes at home," he told KTVI. "My mom can't buy clothes for me because I'm growing too fast." But all of that changed when two football players surprised him with bags full of shirts, shorts, and shoes.

Football players give student clothes www.youtube.com


5. Record number of Americans are 'thriving'—even more than before the pandemic, Gallup finds

Americans were asked to rank their current and future life on a ladder scale of zero to ten and the number who ranked themselves as seven or above reached 59.2% in June, eclipsing the previous high of 57.3% set in September 2017.

via Pixabay


6. 1980s cultural icon Michael Winslow made an emotional comeback on 'America's Got Talent'

Actor, comedian, and self-proclaimed "voicetramentalist," Michael Winslow was just about everywhere in the '80s. However, he put his career on the backburner to raise his family after the death of his wife in 1993. This week, he made a stunning comeback on "American's Got Talent" winning four big yesses from the show's judges.

America's Got Talent 2021 Michael Winslow Full Performance & Judges Comments Auditions Week 7 S16E07 www.youtube.com


7. Hundreds offer to donate cars to South Carolina mechanic who fixes them for those in need

Mechanic Eliot Middleton fixes old cars and donates them to rural families without a ride. After being profiled on CBS News, people have donated nearly 8000 cars to the cause. "Whatever glowing feeling is inside me, it just transferred from that TV screen and went inside them," he said.

8. Kenyan scientists genetically alter their bananas to save them from devastating bacteria

A bacterial disease was ravaging banana plants in Kenya. So scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) created a genetically modified banana that was bacterial resistant.

via Pixabay


9. Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee beats leukemia

The highly decorated swimmer was a shoo-in for the summer Olympics in Tokyo but had her hopes derailed when she was diagnosed with leukemia. Rikako fought hard, overcame the disease, and won the 100-meter butterfly race at the Olympic trials, earning her a spot in the 4X100 medley relay races at the games. "I was not expecting to win the 100 meters at all, and I was feeling far less confident than during the Olympic qualifiers five years ago," she said. "It's a miracle just to be sitting here – it's a miracle I'm alive."

10. Track star Quanesha Burks goes from working at McDonald's to the Tokyo games

After suffering a bone injury last year, Quanesha was unsure if she'd be able to compete in the Olympics. But by reflecting on her past, she was able to overcome the injury and made the Team USA roster.

"At one point, my coach told me, 'I don't know if you're going to physically be able to go to the trials.' The doctors didn't know if I would be back in time… I was facing so much, but I kept going back to when I worked at McDonald's. I had my goals set and I knew I could do it," she said.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."