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Modern Families

Two kids wearing backpacks walk to school together.


Over the past 40 years, a sea change has occurred in how kids get to school. Throughout most Western countries, an increasing number of children are driven to school instead of walking or taking a bike. In a new video called “Why did kids stop walking to school?” About Here’s founder, Uytae Lee, cites the U.S. Department of Transportation statistic that in 1969, 48% of kids walked or biked to school, and that number has plummeted to just 11%.

Uytae Lee is an urban planner and videographer passionate about sharing stories about our cities. The video was produced in partnership with TransLink, Metro Vancouver's regional transportation authority.


The video makes a compelling case that more children should walk to school. It’s better for children’s health and reduces congestion and pollution from car exhaust. In a world where we are pushing for people to be greener, flooding the road with cars every morning to take kids on a short drive seems counter-productive.

Some parents drive their kids to school because they fear they could be abducted or hit by a car while walking to school. But Lee doesn’t believe that those fears should be a reason for parents to change their behavior over the past few decades. “As terrible as [kidnappings and car accidents] are, the statistics behind those risks haven't changed significantly over the decades,” Lee says.

The video is a great reminder that reevaluating how kids get to school may be a good idea. When they take a bike or walk, it’s better for their health and that of the planet as well.


This article originally appeared on 5.9.23


If you just got married, chances are lots of people think they know what your life is like.

These people are totally well-meaning! And also, mostly wrong.

Being married isn't exactly like it used to be. Which is great, as there are so many different, amazing ways to be newlyweds than ever before. But it's also occasionally frustrating, as we newlyweds are frequently forced to dispel a lot of myths about our relationships.

So let's get them out of the way in one fell swoop.

Here are the most common (but mistaken) assumptions strangers make when you're a newlywed couple, and what our lives are really like.


Assumption #1: We went on our honeymoon already, and we left right after the wedding.

Just like we imagined it. Because we did imagine it.

Photo via iStock.

Reality: In our dreams, we definitely did — and we had a great time!

In real life, however, most of us can't just take a week (or more) off work at will. The office is hella busy, and on top of that, we live in the only wealthy country in the world that doesn't mandate any paid vacation. Many of us were barely able to get the day of our actual wedding off (ultimately, we compromised with our manager and took a half-day).

We're planning to get to it ... eventually. But it might be a while. We promise we'll send pictures!

Assumption #2: We're going to have babies ASAP.

Yay?

Photo via iStock.

Reality: We love being married! But, you know, we actually haven't decided? About babies? We're just enjoying being married right now. But we'll let you know when it happens. We promise.

Assumption #3: We're going to move out of "the city" one day.

So many cheap noodles, so little time.

Photo by Anthony Quintano/Flickr.

Reality: It makes sense to assume that, like so many newly married couples in generations past, we're already planning our escape from our local metropolis to a less population-dense area TBD. But many of us who live in the city really, really like it! The city is great. There are good schools here. We can get nachos delivered at 3 a.m.! From either the good nacho place or the OK-but-cheap nacho place.

Sure, some of us are planning to one day move to the 'burbs for more space (and many already are), but many of us aren't. And still others of us who already live in the suburbs are making the suburbs more like the city.

Having a yard is really nice, but so is not having car insurance payments.

Assumption #4: We feel superior to our second-cousin Frieda whose boyfriend of 19 years still hasn't proposed.

Look! They seem happy!

Photo via iStock.

Reality: Even though we're feeling pretty good about being married, Frieda and Richard are adults and get to make their own decisions — no matter what Aunt Cindy thinks. Maybe they have financial reasons. Maybe they decided a long time ago they don't want to be married. Maybe they believe marriage is an oppressive, archaic, patriarchal institution that they don't want to participate in, and also they're vegan now.

In any case, leave Frieda and Richard alone.

Assumption #5: We're going to have babies soonish.

Aw?

Photo via iStock.

Reality: So, yeah. Like I said. Really haven't decided about babies. Keeping our options open. But probably not soon? You know?

Assumption #6: One of us changed our last name.

Uncanny, really.

Image by Mary Rose Pickett/Sketchport.


Reality: There's totally nothing wrong with couples who decide that one partner will take the other's last name, of course. But not all of us do. At least 1 in every 5 women decide to keep their maiden names, according to a New York Times survey. And if you haven't taken your partner's last name, it's kind of frustrating to constantly hear yourself referred to as Mr./Mrs. Someone Else (for opposite-gender couples, this pretty much applies exclusively to women).

If you're not sure what last name to use, just ask! We'll tell you what the deal is.

Assumption #7: We're having Guinness Book of World Records amounts of sex.

Photo via iStock.

Reality: For those of us who waited to have sex until marriage — which is, of course, totally cool — you might need a supercomputer to tabulate. But lots of us have been together for a long time already and may even have been living together already, so we're probably having whatever amount of sex is normal for us. It's just a regular part of our lives that throwing a wedding doesn't really have a magical impact on.

After many years in a relationship, most of us take "Netflix and chill" quite literally. And seriously.

Assumption #8: We've finished all our thank-you notes.

It. Just. Doesn't. Get. Easier.

Photo by happy_serendipity/Flickr.

Reality: Never. We'll be writing these until the end of time.

Assumption #9: Hanging out with one of us means hanging out with both of us.

You will listen to us talk about our trip to Block Island and you will enjoy it.

Photo via iStock.

Reality: We're still different people. Each of us is a self-sufficient being with free will. And we're probably totally down to hang out with you, even if our spouse isn't available.

Except you, Greg. We're totally avoiding you.

Assumption #10: We're going to have babies ever.

Bujjy bujjy boo?

Photo via iStock.

Reality: So um, like I said, there's actually a chance we might never have babies? We might decide we don't want them after all. We might find out we can't — in which case, these questions might become extremely invasive and painful. We might adopt a child ... who's not a baby. We haven't figured it out yet.

At the end of the day, It's kinda up to us, you know?

Assumption #11: We never use the garlic press you got us.

Such a great gift.

Photo by Lee Kindness/Wikimedia Commons.

Reality: We use it all the time! Thank you so much!

Assumption #12: One of us is going to stay home and take care of the house from here on in.

We will still make the hell out of some lemonade, though.

Photo via iStock.


Reality: Some of us might want to be a housewife or husband. Others of us shudder at the thought of giving up our careers, or urging our spouse to give up theirs. Still others of us might want to, but might not be able to forfeit the second income. There's really no right — or standard — way to do it anymore.

Assumption #13: We both have all the same likes, dislikes, preferences, outlooks, and opinions now.

Missy and I have been getting really into '80s ice dancing.

Photo via iStock.

Reality: My wife will never convince me to like jazz. And I will probably never convince her to like "Captain Phillips" fan fiction. And you know what? We're OK with that.

For the things that matter, we're committed to presenting a united front. But we're still individuals with different thoughts, feelings, and opinions about what Tom Hanks was up to two weeks before the Somali pirates attacked, 'cause honestly, that's where the real drama of the story probably is.

Assumption #14: We wear wedding rings.

Help. Someone glued our hands together. Please call the cops.

Photo by TanyaVdB/Pixabay.

Reality: Some of us like wearing a physical symbol of our connection and duty to our spouse. Some of us don't as much. So we don't wear them. But don't worry! We're still extreme double married 5000.

Assumption #15: Making us a pink cake that says "baby" on it is going to change our mind about babies.

Mmmmmmmm. Nope.

Photo by Frosted with Emotion/Flickr.

Reality: It won't. But we will definitely eat that cake.

Assumption #16: Our lives are a lot different now.

Married or not, we still have three more seasons of "Justified" to get through.

Photo via iStock.

Reality: Beginning roughly seven seconds after we say, "I do," lots and lots and lots of well-intentioned people ask: "How does it feel?!" seemingly expecting to hear: "So much has changed! We got matching ponies! Being married really is a whole new world!" It feels like we're disappointing them when we answer, "Pretty much the way we did the day before the wedding." Which is silly, since there's no shame in that.

For some couples, life is a lot different after marriage, and that's great. But if stuff is kinda sorta the same, that's OK too! Life was great before. That's why we decided to get married.

Assumption #17: If we're not going to lay out a precise plan for having babies, at least we'll probably get a pet.

Blah.

Photo by Madalena Provo, used with permission.


Reality: OK. This one is true.


This article originally appeared on 11.06.15









Modern Families

Twin brothers are turning heads while fulfilling their dreams as SeaWorld trainers

Working with the animals has taught them a lot about connection.

via SeaWorld (used with permission)

Jakob and Westin Fenton at SeaWorld San Antonio.

Visitors to SeaWorld Sea Antonio, Texas have been doing double takes for the past 5 years after running into identical twin brothers Westin and Jakob Fenton. Guests often catch Westin educating children about exotic birds as a member of the Animal Ambassadors team near the park’s entrance. Then, a few minutes later, spot Jakob in a wet suit at the Orca Encounter.

“Every day it's like, 'Didn't I just see you?’” Westin told Upworthy. “It surprises them,” Jakob added. When Westin had braces, countless visitors frantically approached Jakob with a confused look, asking, “When did you get your braces off?”

The 23-year-old twins have been turning heads at SeaWorld since they were young boys and began attending the park’s summer camps at 7.


"They were the cutest. You could tell how obsessed they were with the animals. It made me so happy years later when they got hired here and to see how well they both do,” Kari Tomarelli, a trainer at Orca Encounter, shared with Upworthy.

jakob fenton, westin fenton, seaworld san antonio

Jakob and Westin Fenton at SeaWorld San Antonio.

via SeaWorld (used with permission)

From a very young age, the Fenton twins knew SeaWorld was more than just a place they visited—it was their destiny. "It was during my time away from SeaWorld that I realized, 'This is where I'm meant to be,'" Westin shared. "We've always been the twins who do everything together. Same friends, same passions, extracurriculars... everything,” Jakob added.

So, pursuing the same career wasn’t a big stretch for the twins.

The twins are incredibly close, but they also allow plenty of space for their animal companions at SeaWorld. Jakob spends a lot of his time, energy and heart caring for two of the park's five orcas: Kamea, a 10-year-old 3,000-pound female, and Tuar, the park’s dominant male, who is 24 years old and weighs over 8,000 pounds.

The pair couldn’t be more different.

"Tuar is very goofy; he has a great attitude," Jakob said, noting that even after a challenging training session, “he's just happy to be there.” Conversely, things haven’t been so easy with Kamea. “It took time to earn her trust, and it took months to develop a relationship,” Jakob admitted. “Now, I actually adore her."

jakob fenton, westin fenton, seaworld san antonio

Jakob Fenton at the Orca Encounter.

via SeaWorld (used with permission)

Even though park visitors see Jakob in a wetsuit, giving hand signals at the Orca Encounter presentation, most of his job takes place backstage, holding a scrubber. “Eighty percent of being a trainer is cleaning,” he told Upworthy. “We need to make sure that these animals are in a clean environment so our morning is 3 or 4 hours of maintaining habitats. Scrubbing ledges, cleaning glass, cleaning fish buckets."

While Jakob's role as an orca trainer may seem glamorous, he sees it as a platform to serve the animals and educate guests. His responsibility is more significant given the scrutiny marine parks have been under in recent years and the fact that this is the last generation of orcas under SeaWorld's care.

“Being able to introduce people who've never seen a killer whale and then have them walk away with an appreciation of the species and a desire to protect them in the wild means everything,” Jakob said.

While Jakob is loading up buckets of salmon for the Orca Encounter, on the other side of the park, you’ll run into Westin, presenting one of SeaWorld San Antonio's 17 exotic animals—most of which were rescued and rehabilitated—to gawking park guests. As an Animal Ambassador, Westin educates guests about exotic reptiles, birds, and small mammals. He also travels with his animal companions to nearby schools, retirement homes and hospitals to introduce them to the public.

jakob fenton, westin fenton, seaworld san antonio

Westin Fenton and Azul at SeaWorld San Antonio.

via Tod Perry (used with permission)

When he’s not taking questions from park guests about his animal companions, such as Star the bald eagle or Azul the hyacinth macaw, he’s flashing his pearly (and recently straightened) whites for photos with guests. He estimates he poses for about 50 a day.

While many would assume training means exerting authority over the animals to force them to do desired behaviors, Westin says it’s all about building relationships. "We're simply asking, 'Hey, would you like to come and participate?’ And Star has every opportunity to say no or to say yes,” he told Upworthy. “Everything is an ask. I'm not expecting Star to do anything. Whatever Star would like, we do."

Even though people have difficulty telling the twins apart, the animals can tell the difference. "They learn our behavior just like we learn theirs,” he told Upworthy.

The twins spend much of their lives together at SeaWorld and as Pilates instructors on the side, so what sets them apart? "Westin is a little more tamed. More reserved and to himself. Whereas Jakob is the life of the party,” Cesi Buitrago, a trainer at Orca Encounter, said. They also have one big difference in diet: Westin can’t stand cheese on his burger, but Jakob loves it.

jakob fenton, westin fenton, seaworld san antonio

The Fenton twins with a beluga whale.

via SeaWorld (used with permission)

For the Fenton twins, life at SeaWorld has taught them a lot about the animal kingdom, but it has also changed how they see humans.

“I had no idea the impact these whales would have on my life and how they would teach me how to be a better human and mentor,” Jakob told Upworthy. “Building my relationships with them, I can use what I've learned when thinking about developing a relationship with a human. They teach me to be patient, to listen, to invest, to really get to know someone. Don’t fake it. I never would have imagined all of these life skills I would have learned from killer whales."

It’s no surprise that Westin has come away with a similar lesson.

"So much of what we do is relationships. [The animals] have taught me what it takes to get to know someone; they’ve taught me patience, just really connecting on a deeper level,” Westin says. “I've learned a lot about life and, ultimately, connection."

Family

I told a kid a riddle my dad told me when I was 7. His answer proves how far we've come.

This classic riddle takes on new meaning as our world changes for the better.




When I was 7, my dad told me a riddle.

"A man and his son are driving in their car when they are hit by a tractor-trailer.

Photo via iStock.

(We were driving at the time, so of course this was the riddle he decided to tell.)

The father dies instantly.

The son is badly injured. Paramedics rush him to the hospital.

Photo via iStock.

As he is being wheeled into the operating room, the surgeon takes one look the boy and says:

'I can't operate on him. He's my son.'

How is that possible?!"

Without missing a beat, I answered:


"The doctor is his mom!"

Photo via iStock.

My dad first heard the riddle when he was a child in the '60s.

Back then, most women didn't work outside of the home.

Few of those who did had college degrees, much less professional degrees.

Female doctors were few and far between.

Back then, it was a hard riddle. A very hard riddle.

By 1993, when I first heard it, the notion that women could be highly skilled, highly trained professionals wasn't so absurd.

To me, it was normal.

I knew women who were lawyers. Bankers. Politicians. My own doctor was a woman.

To be sure, women still faced challenges and discrimination in the workplace. And even 20 years later, they still do.

But at its core, the riddle is about how a family can work. And that had changed. Long-overdue progress had rendered the big, sexist assumption that underpinned the whole thing moot.

A very hard riddle was suddenly not a riddle at all.

I never forgot it.

Now, I'm 30 — almost as old as my dad was he first told me that riddle.

My dad at 30 (left) and me at 30. Photos by Eric March/Upworthy and Mary March, used with permission.

I don't have kids, but I mentor a child through a volunteer program.

Once a week, we get together and hang out for an hour. We play ping pong, do science experiments, and write songs. Neither of us like to go outside.

It's a good match.

One day, we decided to try to stump each other with riddles.

He rattled off about five or six.

I could only remember one: The one about the man, his son, and the surgeon.

Photo via iStock.

I thought it would be silly to tell it.

I was sure that, if it was easy in 1993, it would be even easier in 2014. Kind of ridiculous, even.

But a part of me was curious.

It had been 21 years — almost as long as it had been between when my dad first heard the riddle and when he shared it with me.

Maybe it wouldn't be so easy.

Maybe I was missing something obvious, making my own flawed assumptions about how a family could work.

Maybe the world had changed in ways that would be second nature to a 13-year-old but not to me.

So I began:

"A man and his son are driving in their car, when they are hit by a tractor-trailer. The father dies instantly. The son is badly injured and is rushed to the hospital by paramedics. As he is being wheeled into the operating room, the surgeon takes one look at the boy and says:

'I can't operate on him. He's my son.'

How is that possible?!"

Without missing a beat, he answered: "it's his other dad"

Photo via iStock.

Times change. Progress isn't perfect. But no matter what shape a family takes, at the end of the day, #LoveWins.


This article was written by Eric March and originally appeared on 06.21.16