When childhood photos remind us of our most precious relationships
Gretchen Kelly (left), Annie Reneau (right)
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When I was a kid, we had an entire living room shelf full of photo albums to pore through when we wanted to relive family memories. Now, several decades later, we flip through digital albums, instead. But the feelings that family photographs invoke are still the same. Every photo tells a story, and some photos hold tales and truths that are particularly dear to our hearts.

I was visiting with my friend Paula recently when she pulled up a sweet old photo of our sons together.


Paula Fitzgibbons

Paula and I met in a parenting group 15 years ago. Our oldest daughters were nearly identical in age and we both had newborn babies, so we started planning regular play dates together.

Soon those play dates became a lifeline to our own sanity, and our friendship blossomed. We got together several times a week for years, essentially raising our kids together. Paula didn't have any family living nearby — no grandparents to gush over her children, no cousins to bond with — so our family became their extended family.

"I entered parenting without having been parented well myself," says Paula, adding that our marathon playdates gave us a chance to parent in a community. "Sometimes I'd even call and say, 'I can't parent today. How about if I do all the cooking and you do all the parenting?' So we did. In that way, I learned how to be the parent I never had."

While our girls were same-aged peers, our sons were seven years apart. Paula says that her son Sevvy had always wanted a brother, and when my Isaac was born, it was like Sevvy's wish was fulfilled. Indeed, our boys grew an incredibly sweet bond, less like friendship and more like brotherhood. Isaac followed Sevvy around like a puppy, and Sevvy doted on Isaac with a mixture of mentorship and protectiveness.

Life happened and we eventually ended up moving to different parts of the country. Our boys are now 18 and 11, but we still get together and reminisce about how those formative years meant so much to both of our families. This photo encapsulates the joy and care that defined our families' relationship.

Annie Reneau

Gretchen Kelly also has a precious sibling photo, but hers holds beautiful, bittersweet memories of her beloved baby brother, Todd.

At 16, Todd was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare type of bone tumor that generally hits people at a young age. He was eight years younger than Gretchen and 11 years younger than their older sister. "He was the baby of the family and spoiled rotten by all of us," Gretchen says. He passed away in 1999 at age 18.

"There's a photo of he and I that tugs at my heart because he has his arm casually draped over my shoulder and it perfectly captures our relationship and dynamic," says Gretchen.

Gretchen Kelly

"I don't remember what he said when we took this picture, but I know he said something to make me laugh while he stayed casual and cool for the photo. That was his way. He could keep a straight face and make you laugh in spite of yourself. And he could ALWAYS make you laugh."

"This is the picture that always leaves a lump in my throat," she adds. "It makes me smile—it is exactly how we were together. He was the baby brother who I adored, but at times, as he matured, it was as if he was the older sibling. Protective and wise beyond his years. But mischievous. Always mischievous."

Gretchen keeps another photo of Todd on her "inspiration wall" in her office, this one during his cancer journey.

Gretchen Kelly

"Obviously cancer was already taking something from him at this point," she Gretchen. "But not his smile. He somehow made all of us laugh and smile even when we were terrified of everything he was going through. I keep this picture on the wall in my office. His smile is what I will always cling to, his determination to not let cancer steal his joy or his humor. This serves as a reminder of determination and grit. When things get hard, as they tend to do, I look at this picture and he reminds me we can do hard things, and sometimes we can smile through it."

Photos aren't just snippets of our lives — they are images of joy and love, of family and community that can move us and inspire us. But these days our photos frequently get lost in the digital deluge of modern life. They end up archived on a hard drive somewhere or buried deep in social media.

Google Nest is trying to make it easier to keep treasured photos front and center with the Google Nest Hub — a device that serves as a digital photo frame and personal assistant. You can choose any album from Google Photos, such as "Family" or "Favorites," and the Nest Hub will display them on rotation. The Live Albums feature takes the work out of updating the photos by letting you create an album that automatically adds photos of the people who matter to you most. You can share a Live Album with anyone you want, just like any other album in Google Photos. The Nest Hub even adjusts to the lighting in the room so your photos look less like images on a screen and more like real photos.

Here's to the snapshots that remind us of our loved ones at all stages of life. They truly are among our most precious belongings.

Google is providing Nest Hubs to USO families to help them feel closer this holiday season. Join us in supporting the USO at uso.org/googlenest.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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Public Domain

A very simple thing happened earlier this week. Dr. Seuss Enterprises—the company that runs the Dr. Seuss estate and holds the legal rights to his works—announced it will no longer publish six Dr. Seuss children's books because they contain depictions of people that are "hurtful and wrong" (their words). The titles that will no longer be published are And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot's Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat's Quizzer.

This simple action prompted a great deal of debate, along with a great deal of disinformation, as people reacted to the story. (Or in many cases, just the headline. It's a thing.)

My article about the announcement (which contains examples of the problematic content that prompted the announcement) led to nearly 3,000 comments on Upworthy's Facebook page. Since many similar comments were made repeatedly, I wanted to address the most common sentiments and questions:

How do we learn from history if we keep erasing it?

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

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When an earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused a nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 most people who lived in the area fled. Some left without their pets, who then had to fend for themselves in a radioactive nuclear zone.

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The government has asked the 57-year-old to evacuate the area many times, but he says he figured he was going to die anyway. "And if I had to die, I decided that I would like to die with these guys," he said.

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