The adoptions of my two children are, quite literally, the two best things that have happened to me.

Ever. In my whole life. Nothing has altered the course of my life or meant more to me than becoming a mom to my kids.


My son, Mattix, and me when we met in December 2007.

Before them, I didn’t really understand what unconditional love was, nor did I have a clue how it felt. Now I know — twice over.

My daughter, Molley, and me, when we met in April 2009.

Adoption is amazing. And it’s complicated. It can bring great joy. And it can bring great pain.

Adoption is nuanced. And like anything else, it can be hard to see those nuances when it's not part of your life. That's particularly true when the media is so good at circulating adoption narratives that are a little problematic — like the baby left under the Christmas tree for his siblings to discover.

Photo by Clayton Shonkwiler/Flickr.

I get why people thought it was sweet: A precious new life was placed into an obviously loving family. But I still cringed. Partly because it felt uncomfortably similar to buying the kids a puppy for Christmas. And partly because it made me think of the commodification and trafficking of humans, which unfortunately happens sometimes in the world of adoption.

Thankfully, there are some really great adoption stories that circulate, too — like the one where a grandma lost her mind with excitement when she met her granddaughter for the first time. Beautiful! Most loving grandmas tend to experience unadulterated joy when they first lay eyes on their grandkids.

GIF via Laura Dell/YouTube.

As with most of the important things in life, talking about adoption is complicated.

But at the heart of it is something really simple: More than anything, we want our kids to grow into adults who are respected as the complex and unique individuals they are. Not just representatives of the "adopted kid" stories we see all the time.

There are many, many things I’d love for everyone to know about adoption. Here are nine of them, from an adoptive parent's perspective.

1. My kids are "my own."

"But are you going to, you know, have any kids of your own?”

Most people who ask this question have good intentions. They want to know if my husband and I are planning on having any biological kids. It’s a wording issue for most adults, but for kids who are struggling with attachment or working to feel secure in their families, those words matter.

When you ask this in front of kids who were adopted, you might be shaking an already unstable foundation the family has worked hard to build.

Adopting our kids was our "Plan A." We didn't want to have biological kids.

For other families, adoption may have followed a long struggle with infertility and it can be a painful question for them, especially coming from a stranger or casual acquaintance.

That said, know that...

2. Adoptive parents are approachable!

It's true that we don't appreciate being asked super-personal questions about adoption, especially in front of our kids. But that’s pretty much like most personal topics in life, right? Asking random questions — especially of a stranger — to satisfy your curiosity probably isn’t cool.

For instance, please don’t ask how much our kids "cost" or where we "got" them. A two-second google search for "how much does adoption cost," for example, will provide the info you need. I promise.

Asking respectfully because you really want to learn or have an interest in adopting yourself? That’s a different story.

I’m not an unapproachable lady (I'm even fun at parties!). I’ve been a resource for many people wanting to learn about adoption. I've given my phone number to complete strangers who want to adopt and would like to learn more. The best questions begin with, "Would you mind if I asked you a few questions about adoption?"

That gives me a chance to say "no" if my kids are there or if it doesn’t feel like a good time for me. That also lets me know that if you ask something I don’t feel comfortable sharing, I can say, "I’d rather not talk about that" — and you’ll understand.

3. Yep, we’re all real.

“Do you know who your kids’ real parents are?”

I know what you mean — you’re asking if I know who my kids’ birth parents are. It’s not that I’m offended by the question, thinking that you’re implying I’m not real. My kids’ birth parents most certainly are real.

But the last time someone asked that in front of my sweet then-7-year-old son, he looked at me, the usually bright smile fading from his face, and asked in a quiet voice, "What does she mean? You’re my real mom too. Nobody can take me from you…" — long pause — "... right, Mommy?"

Of course, he knows the answer to that. We’ve been talking about adoption since, well, since the day he came home at 10 and a half months old. Back then, it was me talking about adoption to a baby that didn’t understand. I figured I’d start then to ensure we never stopped talking. And we haven’t.

But a child’s feelings about adoption change over time. So can their sense of security. And having their place in their family questioned at the wrong time can feel pretty unsettling to child who’s in the process of making sense of some of those feelings.

4. My kids' histories belong to them.

Sometimes the details of a child's history are simple. Sometimes they're pretty complicated. And, quite frankly, they're private.

Some birth parents place their children for adoption because they’re not ready for a baby. Some place because they’ve been coerced or pressured into it. Some place because of medical issues — either theirs or the child's. Some place because they don't know how they can afford a baby and there aren't enough services in place to assist them. Some place against their will because they're incarcerated. Occasionally, some truly don't want their kids.

Sometimes we have no idea who our kids' birth parents are or why they placed them for adoption. Sometimes our kids were abandoned. Sometimes our kids came from the foster care system and their family histories are very complicated.

Whatever the reason, it's not something we want to go around chitchatting about with anyone who's curious.

5. We might parent quite differently than you do.

It doesn't mean we're weird. Or coddling. Or over-parenting. Or trying to prove anything.

We’re just trying to give our kids what they need and deserve.

Adoptive parents have to learn about a bunch of things their children could face, and we have to learn how to best parent our kids. Attachment parenting, healing from trauma, sensory processing disorder, and many other phrases become more than just words for a lot of us. When we decide to adopt our kids, most of us put our hearts and souls into doing what's best for them. Sometimes what's best isn't necessarily what most other parents do. That’s OK.

I got up every half-hour all night long with both of my kids for at least six months after we adopted each one. I didn’t do it because I loved being a sleep-deprived zombie that would have traded a kidney for a solid week of sleep. I did it because in my son’s 10 months of life before us, nobody ever got up for him at night. He had learned, rightfully so, never to believe someone would. And when we were finally there to do it, he didn’t trust us. We had to work hard to earn that trust.

I went to my daughter all night long because she desperately wanted me to, but was terrified that I wouldn’t. The people who looked at me, exhausted beyond words, and told me I should just let my kids cry it out had no idea how hard we were working to build a foundation of trust. Ultimately, we were doing it so our kids could grow into adults capable of having healthy friendships and relationships with others.

Plus, isn’t that kind of a cardinal rule of parenting: Don’t offer advice unless it’s solicited?!

6. Those of us who have adopted transracially aren’t suddenly "super sensitive about race."

For 26 years, I lived in a blissfully comfortable color-blind bubble of ignorance. When I decided to adopt children transracially, I began educating myself and came to understand the world doesn’t work for people of color the way it works for me. Now that I’m a mom to two kids of color, I’m committed to being their advocate. I’m committed to being the person they know will always stand up for them when someone at school hurls a racial slur. I’m committed to calling out friends and family members for jokes they might think are harmless.

It’s not about being politically correct or raining on people’s fun parades. It’s about making sure that the world around our kids is as supportive as it possibly can be.

7. It's complicated.

There are three people (or groups of people) who are part of adoption: those who are adopted, those who place their children for adoption, and those who do the adopting. All of those people have feelings and experiences, and they might conflict. That’s OK!

My kids missing their birth parents and wishing they hadn’t lost their cultures, for example, doesn’t mean they love my husband and me any less. My wishing that my kids didn’t have to deal with the pain of loss doesn’t diminish the feelings of pure gratitude and joy I experience over getting to be their mom.

8. One of us doesn’t speak for all of us.

While some things in adoption are pretty universal, one adoptive parent doesn’t speak for them all. Which means that I’m well aware that not every adoptive parent will agree with everything I’ve written here.

And not a single one of us can speak for birth parents or adoptees. We can do our best to lend our voices to our kids as we’re raising them, but when it comes to sharing life from birth parents’ or our kids’ perspectives, that’s not our place.

9. We’re like any other parent in most ways.

I’m pretty normal (whatever that means). I have good days and bad days — days where I think, "Oh my gawd, if my child talks back one more time, I’m going to lose my mind!" And days where I think, "I couldn’t possibly be happier. This is everything."

Like every good parent out there, at the end of the day, we just want the best for our kids. And we’re doing everything we can to make it happen.

My totally adorable kids. And yep, I'm biased! ;)

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

This article originally appeared on 07.22.15



"So just recently I went out on a Match.com date, and it was fantastic," begins Dr. Danielle Sheypuk in her TEDx Talk.

If you've ever been on a bunch of Match.com dates, that opening line might make you do a double take. How does one get so lucky?!

Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date.

Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date. Photo by Thinkstock.


But don't get too jealous. Things quickly went downhill two dates later, as most Match.com dates ultimately do. This time, however, the reason may not be something that you've ever experienced. Intrigued? I was too. So here's the story.Gorgeous!

Gorgeous! Photo from Dr. Sheypuk's Instagram account, used with permission.

She's a licensed clinical psychologist, an advocate, and a model — among other things. She's also been confined to a wheelchair since childhood. And that last fact is what did her recent date in.

On their third date over a romantic Italian dinner, Sheypuk noticed that he was sitting farther away from her than usual. And then, out of nowhere, he began to ask the following questions:

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

This article originally appeared on November 5, 2013


When I saw these incredible photos Angelo Merendino took of his wife, Jennifer, as she battled breast cancer, I felt that I shouldn't be seeing this snapshot of their intimate, private lives.





















The photos humanize the face of cancer and capture the difficulty, fear, and pain that they experienced during the difficult time.

But as Angelo commented: "These photographs do not define us, but they are us."

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Police arrest man suspected of scamming an elderly woman.

There has been a rise in scams against the elderly during the pandemic. According to the FBI, American seniors were scammed for $1 billion dollars in 2020, up $300 million from the previous year.

To stay connected with friends and family during the pandemic, more seniors joined social media, opening them up to new avenues for fraud.

“The combination of online shopping and social media creates easy venues for scammers to post false advertisements,” the FBI report said. “Many victims report ordering items from links advertised on social media and either receiving nothing at all or receiving something completely unlike the advertised item.”

But when scammers came after 73-year-old Jean Ebbert in Long Island, New York, they had no idea they were dealing with a law enforcement veteran. Ebbert is a former 911 dispatcher, so she knows exactly what a scam looks like.

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