Can I tell you something? I’m tired of autism.

I’m tired of talking about it and writing about it and thinking about it and scrutinizing it. I am especially tired of listening to it.

I’m tired of wanting answers no one will ever be able to give me.


These are my kids. And while I love them, I also get tired sometimes.  Photo by Carrie Cariello.

I’m tired of hearing people tell me how good my son Jack looks and how well he seems and then for some weird reason I feel the need to correct them and say things like, "He really isn’t doing that good, and he barely sleeps, and I cannot even handle the stimming for one more second!"

I’m tired of hearing people tell me how rigid he can be and how he seems out of sorts, and then for some weird reason I feel the need to correct them and say things like, "He isn’t always rigid; just the other day he suggested we go to a different movie theater, which is a really big deal for him!"

I’m tired of autism’s constant contradictions.

I’m tired of my own constant contradictions.

I’m tired of second-guessing him.

I’m tired of second-guessing myself.

I’m tired of never knowing what to do.

Like this week, when he was invited to a birthday party for a boy named Ben.

I didn’t know what to do because Joe and I were going out of town for the night, and even though we go out together all the time — more than most married people get to go out — we hardly ever get to go away for the night alone, and I really wanted to sleep in a hotel and order room service and watch cable television.

(Joe canceled cable last month. He said the kids were watching too much TV. Turns out that I miss it more than they do.)

So, I told Jack he couldn’t go to Ben’s because it was a long party with laser tag and swimming and fireworks and cake and I wouldn’t be home to pick him up if he needed me.

I reminded him that we had what’s called a precedence for this sort of thing: It was the one single drop-off birthday party he has gone to in his entire 12 years on this Earth, and after an hour, he was asking when I was going to pick him up because, in his own words, he didn’t want to talk to people anymore.

He screamed at me that precedence was the stupidest word ever and his older brother Joey was going to a birthday party the same day even though I wasn’t going to be home. I said, "Well, that’s Joey; that’s different," and he screamed back, "I am like Joey too!"

I called Ben’s mom, and she was so sweet and soft-spoken.

She has a background in special education and promised me she would love to have Jack over and that she could manage him with no problem, but I still said no.

And I felt like a selfish toad of a mother because I wanted to go away to a nice hotel and maybe lie by the pool and read magazines and deny my son with autism the chance to go to a birthday party.

He hardly ever gets invited to parties. And by hardly ever, I mean this was his second invitation. Ever.

But I just knew, I knew he wouldn’t be able to handle such a long day and that I wouldn’t be around to help him, and I didn’t want to cancel my plans, but I didn’t want to leave him either.

This is how my autism mother’s brain works, all day, all the time. I want so much to believe in the best, but I have come to expect the worst. Constantly, I taste the bittersweet flavor of hope and guilt, remorse and false bravado.

I am tired of false bravado.

So I told him no. I was very terribly sorry, but no, he definitely could not go to Ben’s party. Some other time maybe. Or we could have Ben over this summer, wouldn’t that be fun, we could even play laser tag and make cheeseburgers on the grill and get his favorite pickles, la la la.

Jack wasn’t buying it. He wasn’t buying the pickles or the cheeseburgers or the precedence or my fake, bright, sparkling voice. He started whirling and screeching all around me.

I sat down at my desk, and I listened to him scream that all he wants is to be like everybody else and it wasn’t fair and pickles are dumb and if I don’t drive him, he will walk there, and I thought to myself, "Nothing should be this hard." I’m tired of everything being hard.

And at the exact same second — literally, factually, actually the exact same second — I thought to myself: "Everything should be this hard."

The truth is, it’s always going to be this hard. Forever and ever and always. But when it’s hard, I have to listen. I have to listen and talk and write and think and scrutinize.

And then it’s like I have to take an invisible dustpan out and clear away all the debris, all the detritus and garbage and falseness, and I have to concentrate on what I really want.

What do I want?

I want to go away for the night and watch "The Real Housewives of New York City" on cable television in a quiet hotel room.

I want to nudge autism aside and stop framing everything within its distorted, biased lens.

I want my son to feel like everyone else for once.

I want to say yes.

I want to say, "Why, yes, Jack, you can go to Ben’s birthday party. Go and play laser tag and swim in the lake and watch fireworks and eat cake. Go and enjoy a party just like your big brother Joey."

So even though I knew in my heart he could not handle this party, I said yes anyway.

I said yes, and then I packed my bag, and I drove away with Joe to a beautiful hotel with cable television.

I said yes because sometimes I just have to say to heck with autism and selfishness and worry.

And so I gave the nice mom all my numbers, and I drove away and all afternoon I checked my phone for texts. At around 4:30, she sent me a picture.

Ben (right) hangs out with a friend. Image courtesy of Carrie Cariello.

I looked at the picture, and I looked back at the TV, and I looked at the picture again. I thought about how handsome he was and the way he was looking right at the camera, and look at his smile — he almost never smiles that way, only when he’s really happy and calm.

I thought about how he broke the precedence. He defied convention; he exceeded expectation. He lasted through it all — the laser tag and the swimming and the fireworks and the cake.

I thought about how I almost didn’t let him go, and I would have robbed him of this chance to be successful and spend time with his friends and look at the camera and run around with laser tag.

I thought about the very last thing he said to me before I put my sunglasses on and we drove down the long driveway:

"Mom. For me. I know I can do this."

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.

Upworthy is sharing this letter from Myra Sack on the anniversary of the passing of her daughter Havi Lev Goldstein. Loss affects everyone differently and nothing can prepare us for the loss of a young child. But as this letter beautifully demonstrates, grief is not something to be ignored or denied. We hope the honest words and feelings shared below can help you or someone you know who is processing grief of their own. The original letter begins below:


Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

Reggaeton and country music. Blueberry pancakes and ice cream. Deep, long sobs and outbursts of real, raw laughter. Conversations about what our relationships mean to each other and why we are on this earth.


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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.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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