Fellow chocolate lovers, you're going to be soooooo giddy about this news.

As someone who keeps a bag of chocolate chips going at all times, I've often found myself bummed out by reports on the chocolate industry. Many chocolate producers use cocoa harvested by child labor, which is totally not OK. (It's why I try to buy fair-trade chocolate whenever possible.) Some national parks in West Africa have been demolished to make room for more cocoa farms — again, not OK.

But some recent news out of Brazil has us chocolate fans jumping for joy over our beloved cacao bean.


Dried cacao beans. The magic has already begun. Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images.

According to a report from Reuters, Brazilian cattle ranchers are starting to transform their used-up pastures into cocoa farms. Cattle ranchers have been the primary drivers of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. (You know, that big bunch of trees that provides 20% of the Earth's oxygen.)

Thanks to environmental regulations, ranchers are restricted from clearing more of the forest to graze their cows.

Clearcutting the Amazon rainforest to graze cattle? No, thank you. Filling this land with cacao trees? Yes, please. Photo by Antonio Scorza/Getty Images.

And thanks to cows who eat gargantuan amounts of grass each day, ranched land is becoming too depleted to continue growing grass to feed them. So ranchers are moving in a new direction — toward chocolate.

"Move toward chocolate" is pretty much my life motto, so I'm totally feeling this change. And thankfully, so are environmental groups.

Because deforestation for ranching has had such a detrimental impact on the Amazon region, alternative use of land that includes planting greenery is a welcome change. Both The Nature Conservancy and the Amazon Fund — a Brazilian government initiative to combat deforestation — support the move to plant "chocolate forests." They're even helping finance new cocoa plantations, with the Amazon Fund giving more than $5 million in grants to cocoa farmers.

A cocoa farmer in Brazil checks his crop for me. I mean, not exactly for me, but kinda for me. I'll happily buy your chocolate, sir. Photo by Yasoyoshi Chiba/Getty Images.

That's good news for ranchers-turned-farmers because according to a study done by Brazilian environmental group Imaflora, cocoa can be up to five times more profitable than cows.

"Besides being a means of avoiding deforestation," The Nature Conservancy said on its website, "cocoa plantations favor the local, regional and national economy."

I'm going to forgive The Nature Conservancy for their lack of an Oxford comma because hello, more chocolate!

Is there anything more beautiful than a big ol' bin of chocolate with a big ol' scoop in it? Maybe the Amazon rainforest. Could be a tie. Photo by Stephen Chemin/Getty Images.

Ranchers trading in cows for cocoa means less Earth-killing deforestation and more life-giving chocolate. In other words, all our dreams are coming true.

Let's just recap, because I can't get over the awesomeness of this news:

The Amazon rainforest affects everyone in the world as does its destruction. Not only does a fifth of the oxygen we breathe get produced there, but the process of deforestation also adds more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Deforestation = bad. Chocolatization = good.

A farmer in Brazil tending to drying cacao beans. I like him a lot. Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images.

Not only can cocoa farms can help reclaim some of the Amazon land that's been clear cut for cattle ranching, but ranchers-turned-farmers can make more money and have a more sustainable livelihood with cocoa. Boom.

Economic prosperity = also good.

And then there's the environmental aspect. Cocoa farms offer many of the same benefits as natural forests, absorbing carbon dioxide, boosting water resources, and helping revive native plants and wildlife.

In addition, some environmental group funding includes a mandate that farmers plant native species, such as mahogany and ipê, along with the cocoa plants. Taller trees provide shade for the cocoa and help replenish the natural landscape.

Reforestation = so much good.

Look at all the pretty green. Life-giving oxygen, life-giving cacao pods. Perfect. Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images.

Did I mention this also means more chocolate for us? *HAPPY DANCE*

The chocolate industry has taken a big hit in recent years. I've seen several reports of a "chocolate crisis" due to disease, weather, failed crops, etc. Some experts have even predicted a global chocolate shortage in the next few years.

OMG, THAT'S SO NOT OK.

This is why a cocoa boom in the Amazon is extra, extra good news for us chocoholics. And the fact that this boom is also helping the environment — in addition to helping farmers in Brazil's struggling economy — means we can feel extra good about our chocolate habits.

I feel you, Lucy. GIF via "I Love Lucy."

I'm telling you, this is Cubs-win-the-World-Series kind of news. I'm just going to revel in it as I toss back my daily serving of chocolate chips. (Fair trade, natch.)

Cheers, chocoholics!

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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