+

When Abby Van Metre turned 18, she wanted an iPhone. Instead, she got ... a box?

She remembers plopping down on the living room floor of her Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home a few days after her birthday, next to her dog, and staring at the aged brown container. It had been her great-great-aunt's jewelry box. It was over 100 years old and had been passed down to Abby's grandma and, now, to Abby.

But she didn't know what was inside.


Her parents explained that the box was a time capsule filled with letters and keepsakes from Abby's 1st birthday. It had never been opened.

All photos via Abby Van Metre, used with permission.

Instead of gifts, everyone in her family had written young Abby a card or a letter. They also stuffed the box with some newspapers from 1999 and other keepsakes. Then, her parents tucked it away for 17 years. Abby never even knew it existed.

As she started to go through the time capsule's contents, including letters from close relatives who had since passed away, Abby was overcome with emotion.

"I started crying. It was happiness. It wasn't sadness at all," she said. "It was sheer happiness that I got one more conversation with loved ones, one more 'I love you,' one more piece of advice."

One letter, from her uncle who was killed in a car accident three years ago, hit Abby particularly hard.

"It was just a very visceral thing for me, and the moment I started reading it, I couldn't handle it. It was like I was talking to him," she said.

Other letters were lighthearted glimpses into the past.

Abby said one of her cousins — whom she describes as a "big burly Marine" — was 7 when he wrote her a letter for the time capsule.

"In his letter, he attached his favorite Pokemon card, and in his letter he says, 'When you open this, can I please have that back?'"

Abby's mom filmed the whole thing and posted it to Facebook, where it quickly went viral.

"She said, 'Don't worry, it'll just go to my 300 Facebook friends,'" Abby recalled.

When they checked a few days later, the post had racked up millions of views, shares, and comments from around the world.

Letters from Heaven. This week Abby turned 18. For her 1st birthday we asked all our loved ones to write her a letter...

Posted by Susie Aldershof Van Metre on Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"It really put things in perspective for me," Abby said.

"Like, sure, I'd love to have 100 boxes of presents to open and expensive things. But, in reality, I wouldn't trade this gift my parents gave me for anything."

Right now, the box is in Abby's kitchen, where she said she's still going through the letters, two or three at a time, to make sure she's absorbed every word and every ounce of love.

And for the rest of us who wish we'd thought of this ourselves, Abby's story serves as a powerful reminder that, years from now, what we'll value most is the time we shared and the memories we created with our loved ones.

Even if the only place we have to keep them is our hearts.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

Keep ReadingShow less

People have clearly missed their free treats.

The COVID-19 pandemic had us waving a sad farewell to many of life’s modern conveniences. And where it certainly hasn’t been the worst loss, not having free samples at grocery stores has undoubtedly been a buzzkill. Sure, one can shop around without the enticing scent of hot, fresh artisan pizza cut into tiny slices or testing out the latest fancy ice cream … but is it as joyful? Not so much.

Trader Joe’s, famous for its prepandemic sampling stations, has recently brought the tradition back to life, and customers are practically dancing through the aisles.


On the big comeback weekend, people flocked to social media to share images and videos of their free treats, including festive Halloween cookies (because who doesn’t love TJ’s holiday themed items?) along with hopeful messages for the future.
Keep ReadingShow less

She's enjoying the big benefits of some simple life hacks.

James Clear’s landmark book “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide. The book is incredibly popular because it has a simple message that can help everyone. We can develop habits that increase our productivity and success by making small changes to our daily routines.

"It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis,” James Clear writes. “It is only when looking back 2 or 5 or 10 years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”

His work proves that we don’t need to move mountains to improve ourselves, just get 1% better every day.

Most of us are reluctant to change because breaking old habits and starting new ones can be hard. However, there are a lot of incredibly easy habits we can develop that can add up to monumental changes.

Keep ReadingShow less