I coached an all-girls T-ball team. They taught me more than I taught them.

When I was asked to be one of the coaches for an all-girls T-ball team in a league filled with boys, I didn't know what to say.

Meet the Westside Angels. All photos taken by Lauren Ravitz and used with permission.


Yes, it would be fun to be a member of my daughter's coaching staff and have her spend some quality time with her preschool classmates, but my mind started racing to other things...

"The only all-girls team in the league? Wouldn't it be intimidating to compete against boys every week? How could I possibly help these young ladies?" I thought.

"Um, yeah, sure ... count me in," I said. I wasn't quite sure what I was in for at the time, but I certainly do now that I have a few games under my belt.

Here are three things I've learned while coaching my daughter's T-ball team:

1. They reminded me how much words matter.

Right in the middle of our first practice, I found myself helping one of the girls swing the bat properly.

"OK, sweetie," I said. "Hold the bat like this."

She looked up at me with her big blue eyes and uttered, "My name's Edie."

Edie told me to check myself. And I'm glad she did.

That singular moment hit me like a ton of bricks. Although my intentions weren't malicious, I needed that wake-up call from a 4-year-old.

They aren't sweeties or honeys. They are girls with real names.

Do I want these young ladies to grow up thinking it's OK for men to address them with pet names at school, work, or anywhere else? What type of example was I setting with that "sweetie" stuff? Not a good one.

It's important to choose our words wisely when we're talking with our children because those words can have a strong effect on how they will view themselves in the future.

There will be none of this "Edie throws really hard for a girl" nonsense.

Edie just throws really hard.

Her gender doesn't matter. All I know is Edie has a rocket arm.

2. Contrary to what some people may believe, they aren't interested in being "adorable" when it's game time.

As I walked my 5-year-old daughter to the field, I asked her what she looks forward to doing during games.

That's the strut of a little girl who's ready to compete.

"First, I want to gobble up the ball (field the ball) in my glove," she said. "And then I want to keep my eye on the ball so I hit the ball, not the tee."

Then I followed up with a second question.

"Does looking cute matter to you at all when you're playing baseball?"

"No," she deadpanned. Based on the tone of her voice, it was like she said, "Why should I care about that?"

And she's right.

But when the Angels take the field on Saturdays, I notice that a lot of parents on both sides will say, "The girls are getting a chance to play! How cute!" or "Aww ... they are so adorable!"

I'll admit, it doesn't really get any more adorable than watching a group of 4- and 5-year-old girls in matching uniforms on the baseball field. It's just that these girls aren't participating in a novelty act. They want to compete, and that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

My daughter is all business on the field.

When they grow up, they'll learn that they can use that confidence and competitive spirit to be stay-at-home moms, coders, corporate leaders, or whatever their hearts desire.

3. They demonstrate one of the most important traits any kid can have: resilience.

In the interest of full disclosure, we don't really keep score during games.

It's T-ball, for crying out loud. It doesn't matter because if you're coaching 4- and 5-year-old boys or girls, getting a kid to run to first base in a straight line is a feat worth celebrating.

However, I'd be lying if I didn't keep an internal score in my head during each matchup.

And during the first week, we got smoked by the all-boys Royals team. It was baaaaaaad.

So bad, in fact, that I didn't know if many of the girls would want to come back the following week for another game against a different group of boys.

Sylvie wasn't the only Angel who wasn't happy after the opening game.

But you know what? The girls came back. All of them. They bounced back in a way that said, "That's not going to happen again."

And it didn't.

The coaching staff noticed that the girls showed an inner-toughness and a desire to learn and improve that was amazing to witness.

Speaking of which...

Their fielding improved.

Perfect fundamentals by Ashley.

Their hitting improved.

Sydney has her eye on the ball.

And they started having even more fun.

It's all smiles for Eliana as she watches her team's progress.

In a world where some people define toughness by running their mouths and talking a lot of smack, these young ladies demonstrated true toughness by getting back up after being knocked down by the game of baseball.

Because of that, I have a feeling they'll handle any curve balls that life throws at them (pun completely intended).

It's a "man's world"? Please. These young ladies know that they can compete with anyone. Including the boys.

As a dad with two daughters, I want them to believe they can do anything and be anything.

Being one of the coaches for this team reminds me that this message needs to be passed on to all of our girls. Their voices need to be heard in classrooms, living rooms, and boardrooms all over the world because whatever boys can do, they can do. Many times, even better.

Even though I'm one of the "teachers," I want to thank the Angels for reminding me how fun it is to be around (and learn from) such an amazing group of girls.

Go Westside Angels!

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.