36 years before her, Blake Shelton used this girl's textbook. That's not a great thing.

Imagine opening up one of your textbooks to learn that it used to belong to one of the top country music stars of our time. Pretty cool, right? Maybe not.

When first grader Marley Parker opened up her new reader, she saw a familiar name scrawled in the sign-out page: Blake Shelton. It could be a neat coincidence (Marley and her family live in Shelton's hometown of Ada, Oklahoma, and though Shelton hasn't commented on whether it was his, it is possible), but regardless — the 1982 date by Shelton's name means the book has been in circulation for at least 36 years.

Marley was excited. Her mom, Shelly Bryan Parker, was not. Shelly wrote in a Facebook post, "I am EMBARRASSED!!!! I'm 40 and these people are my age!!! Thank you to every teacher/parent/support staffer/etc. for fighting for my kids education!!! Don't give up until education is FULLY FUNDED!!!!"


Marley is EXCITED that her “new” reader belonged to Blake Shelton, but I am EMBARRASSED!!!! I’m 40 and these people are...

Posted by Shelly Bryan Parker on Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Several commenters on the Facebook post didn't seem to see the problem.

One commenter wrote:

"Oh my gosh man you have to be kidding me. It’s a fucking book! It still has pages and the child can learn!! If teachers really cared about teaching, they would print shit off and teach!! Not complain about what they don’t have! They are forgetting about teaching at the most important time of year, the kids should be studying for tests, not worried about teachers not wanting to teach!!"

Another added:

"My main question is when did they change the alphabet that they need to buy a new book ... the letter A is still the letter A right? Or did it change to an S?"

But the issue isn't about whether the content of the book itself is outdated. The commenters are probably right that not much has changed in the world of first grade literature in the past few decades. They're also right that the book looks to be in fairly good condition. The issue is that many old textbooks being used in Oklahoma schools are outdated or in a virtually unusable condition.

Oklahoma teachers began April 2018 with a walkout, calling on the state legislature to improve their pay and fund their classroom needs.

Parents, teachers, students, and supporters marched on the state capitol building to urge lawmakers to approve $200 million in annual education funding increases, and they're making a good case. According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, inflation-adjusted funding per student in Oklahoma dropped 28.2% between 2008 and 2018. Factor in that Oklahoma, a state that heavily subsidizes energy companies, has the lowest teacher pay in the nation, and they're absolutely right to feel a bit outraged.

Thousands gathered outside the Oklahoma state Capitol building on April 4, 2018, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin added fuel to the fire when she criticized the teachers for being entitled, saying, "It's kind of like having a teenage kid that wants a better car."

That comment came after the state approved a roughly $6,000 a year pay increase for teachers, and a $50 million funding increase, well short of the teachers' request. Previously, she said she hoped teachers would stop by the capitol to "thank" her and legislators. It doesn't seem that she understands the situation.

Teachers do this work because they love children, because they want to help inspire a new generation of leaders. They know going into it that they're going to be overworked and underpaid, but they do it anyway. What Gov. Fallin and other elected officials in favor of cutting public spending are doing is nothing short of exploitation. Teachers are finally saying "enough," and it's on all of us to stand with them, and their students, in their fight for fair treatment and adequate funding.

Thousands gathered and marched in a picket line outside the Oklahoma state Capitol building on April 4, 2018, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images.

It's on us to fight for a world where no student has to use 36-year-old textbooks.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less