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Science

17 tips to avoid getting hacked that you might have forgotten—or never even knew

A few lessons from IT professionals about securing your personal data.

identity theft, getting hacked, hackers, computer protection
Canva

There are unsavory people interested in your information.

True
Mozilla

In 2009, Scott McGready stumbled on a massive phishing scam targeting his company's email server.

Thousands of emails bombarded the company in a short period of time. They all came from the same source, pretending to be someone or something they weren't in order to lure people into clicking on shady links and giving up their personal data.

"While investigating it, I stumbled upon the phisher's database which had [the] personal data of thousands of people," McGready says. "I was surprised how little effort was required on the fraudster's part to acquire such a trove of information."


This discovery sparked McGready's interest in information security and teaching others how to protect themselves from fraud. Since then, this journey has taken him from the U.K.'s National Trading Standards department to the documentary series "Secrets of the Scammers" to his own company and beyond.

Here are just a few lessons from McGready — and some other IT professionals — about securing your personal data:

data hacking, browsing, protection, financial

Is your information protected online?

Stomchak/Wikimedia Commons

1. Know there is a LOT of data about you online.

"Having data readily available online means that things like phishing emails can be automatically tailored to targets without much effort," McGready says.

But what does "data" really mean in this case? Um. Er. Pretty much everything. Even if we don't realize it. Something as simple as your basic browsing habits and location history can actually reveal a lot about you. Even if your name's not attached to it, a savvy social hacker could still figure something out.

2. Be aware that your friends may expose info about you — even if you're not on social media.

"We tend to share every detail of our lives on social media because we feel obliged to by peer pressure — whether that be adding your birthday to your Facebook profile because the website keeps asking for it," McGready says. But it's worse when your friend tags you in that photo from high school with your school mascot in the background and — oops. There goes another security question.

social media, data leak, Facebook, friends

Things don't always go as planned with technology.

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

3. Pay attention so you can mitigate the risks (though probably not completely avoid them).

McGready recommends keeping your social media profiles as private as possible and asking your friends and family to do the same. "Even those that intentionally aren't on social media may be easily findable by their friends or family that share the 'dinner table selfie.'"

4. It's better to be proactive than wait until you're compromised.

"We hear about data leaks almost every week, it seems," McGready says. "The general public are no longer asking 'if' their data is compromised, but rather 'when.'"

This might sound scary. But it's also a good reminder to stay sharp.

public, risk, education, accounts

Do you know everyone that's using your computer?

Image via Pixabay.

5. Check the Facebook apps and third-party services that might have access to your account.

"It's worth checking what data you share with specific companies and only giving out the bare minimum in case of a data breach in the future," McGready explains.

For example: Does Bejeweled Blitz really need permission to access everything you've ever put on Facebook, to post on your behalf, and to spam your friends and family? It's not just annoying — it puts you at risk if that information leaks.

6. Take some time to get rid of those old accounts.

A clever hacker might still be able to figure out something through your iwasdefinitelyacool15yearold@aol.com email address. "Many of us, myself included, also have a large number of 'dormant accounts' on websites that we no longer use," McGready says. "I'd fully recommend logging into these accounts and changing all the profile information before deleting the account."

science, history, websites, companies

It's important to know what accounts are open in your name.

Photo from Daderot/Wikimedia Commons.

7. Don't feel bad if it happens to you. Even IT professionals fall for it!

Georgia Bullen, technology projects director for New America's Open Technology Institute, recounts how she was hacked:

"My password wasn't secure enough and so someone had built a program that was logging into not-secure-enough accounts and then spamming."

What she felt at the time is all too familiar for anyone who's been hacked: "Embarrassed, confused, and then really worried that someone else was going to click on something from me."

8. Be smart, pay attention, and know what you're getting into with any website or service you sign up for.

This bears repeating because a little awareness can make a big difference.

security, passwords, service, defense

What type of security for your accounts do you have?

Photo by Marcello Casal Jr/ABr/Wikimedia Commons.

9. Have a solid P@$w0rds plan.

Passwords are the Achilles' heel of the modern world — but there's a trick.

"It's totally possible [for hackers] to take one password, see where you've re-used it, and then get access to those accounts as well. And that's where the bigger danger happens," explains Harlo Holmes from the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

That's why, in general, passwords should be different for every website or service used, and consist of three random words, interspersed with special characters; a DiceWare password like "correct horse battery staple" is a good place to start.

Password managers can help out by creating unique passwords for you. Which leads to...

10. Use a password manager.

Password managers can generate strong, random passwords for you. And they keep track of all of your different passwords so you don't need to memorize them yourself.

All you need to do is remember one super-secure master password in order to unlock every other possible password combination. That way, says Bullen, you can't even make the mistake of verbally giving your password away because you genuinely don't know it yourself! (Unless it's your master password, in which case, ya know, don't do that.)

11. Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) for added security.

Safety is good, but a back-up plan is even better. 2FA sends a code to a device on your person just to make sure that the person logging in is really you. Even if your password does get compromised, the hacker probably doesn't have access to your smartphone, too. (Probably.)

Mozilla's Amira Dhalla explains how it works:

12. Consider using a separate email address — with a separate strong password — for important accounts like banking.

That way, even if you do use the same password elsewhere, hackers will have a harder time getting in to your important accounts. (Make sure this secondary email account has two-factor authentication, too!)

13. Be sure to hover over links before you click them.

"Links may look legitimate, but upon hovering, they actually redirect to a completely different place," McGready says. (Don't believe me? See what happens when you click on www.upworthy.com/definitely-not-an-upworthy-page.)

14. Always double-check the URL in the address bar. (But even that's not always safe.)

Ever notice that green padlock in your browser bar? It's a good sign! ... except when it's not. As McGready explains, "While it's true that this means your data is encrypted between your computer and the website itself, it doesn't legitimize the website."

routers, world wide web, computers, Wi-Fi

Using default passwords on the computer router can leave you vulnerable..

Photo by Michael Geiger on Unsplash

15. Secure your router.

It may seem harmless to use the default password for your router, but that can actually leave you vulnerable to hackers (there are even websites that can be used to find out different routers' default settings). And someone accessing your router can access pretty much your entire home network. So it's worth taking that small extra step of setting up a strong user name and password.

16. Be wary: These days, the internet is in everything from lightbulbs to baby diapers. Which is super cool! And bad.

McGready sees "the internet of things," or IoT, as the biggest online threat on the horizon. Even if you have worried about Amazon spying on you, you probably didn't consider who else could be spying on you through a vulnerable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth system built into your smart home. "The issue comes when these wireless chips are integrated by default on all products, whether the customer wants them or not," McGready explains.

17. Exercise a little extra caution.

It all boils down to the fact that humans are too trusting.

We trust that our friends aren't going to expose our address over Twitter. We trust that some disgruntled Angry Birds employee won't hijack our linked Facebook page because we didn't pay attention to permissions. We trust the green padlock in the browser bar that keeps our credit cards secure, even if the website taking that information wants to use it for a shady purpose.

Simply put, we trust that the internet is mostly good and that people are, too.

It's hard to solve a problem you can't see — which is why McGready is so passionate about teaching online safety.

"Show the public exactly what is possible and what they should be watching out for," McGready says. "It's one thing to tell someone that a scammer can send a text which appears to be from a legitimate company or a known person; it's another thing entirely to send a text to that person's phone which comes from 'Mum.'"

There's no "one weird trick" to protect us from the dangers of technology. But we can do our due diligence — as long as we know where to start.

This article originally appeared on 06.19.17

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Joy

Gen X has hit 'that stage' of life and is not handling it very well

We are NOT prepared for Salt-n-Pepa to replace Michael McDonald in the waiting room at the doctor's office, thankyouverymuch.

Gen X is eating dinner earlier and earlier. It's happening.




The thing about Gen X being in our 40s and 50s now is that we were never supposed to get "old." Like, we're the cool, aloof grunge generation of young tech geniuses. Most of the giants that everyone uses every day—Google, Amazon, YouTube—came from Gen X. Our generation is both "Friends" and "The Office." We are, like, relevant, dammit.

And also, our backs hurt, we need reading glasses, our kids are in college and how in the name of Jennifer Aniston's skincare regimen did we get here?

It's weird to reach the stage when there's no doubt that you aren't young anymore. Not that Gen X is old—50 is the new 30, you know—but we're definitely not young. And it seems like every day there's something new that comes along to shove that fact right in our faces. When did hair start growing out of that spot? Why do I suddenly hate driving at night? Why is this restaurant so loud? Does that skin on my arm look…crepey?


As they so often do, Penn and Kim Holderness from The Holderness Family have captured the Gen X existential crisis in a video that has us both nodding a long and laughing out loud. Salt-n-Pepa in the waiting room at the doctor's office? Uh, no. That's a line we are not ready to cross yet. Nirvana being played on the Classic Rock station? Nope, not prepared for that, either.

Watch:

Hoo boy, the denial is real, isn't it? We grew up on "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, for goodness sake, and it's starting to feel like we made a wrong choice a chapter or two back and suddenly landed our entire generation in a time warp. This isn't real, is it? Thirty years ago was the 1970s. That's just a Gen X fact. So what if we've lived long enough for our high school fashions to go out of style and then back into style and then back out of style again?

Seriously, though, we can either lament our age and stage in life or we can laugh about it, and people are grateful to the Holdernesses for assisting with the latter. Gen X fans are also thrilled to see their own experiences being validated, because at this point, we've all had that moment in the grocery store or the waiting room when one of our jams came on and we immediately went into a panic.

"They were playing The Cure in the grocery store and I almost started crying," wrote one commenter. "I mean, how 'alternative' can you be if you're being played in Krogers? You guys are great! Thanks for making us laugh."

"I couldn’t believe it when I heard Bohemian Rhapsody being played in Walmart," shared another. "That was edgy in my day."

"I know!!! Bon Jovi at the grocery store!!! That was my clue in!!" added another.

"Long live Gen Xers! We have to be strong!! We can get through this together!! #NKOTBmeetsAARP" wrote on commenter.You can find more from the Holderness Family on their Facebook page, their podcast and their website, theholdernessfamily.com.


This article originally appeared on 1.28.24

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

Democracy

Dr. Seuss might be known for his children's books, but his political cartoons were next-level

The well known author wrote more than 400 clever and poignant cartoons during World War II.

Image dated November 25, 1969, via SIO Photographic Laboratory Collection: Selections, UC San Diego Library

This photo was taken of Theodor Seuss Geisel at the UC San Diego Library.

Did you know that in addition to being a beloved author of children's books, Dr. Seuss wrote more than 400 political cartoons during World War II?

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, gifted the world with stories like "The Cat in the Hat," "The Lorax," "Green Eggs and Ham," and dozens of other childhood classics until his death in 1991.

In recent years, however, it's some of his lesser known works from the 1940s that have gained attention.

As World War II was slowly moving toward a reality, Seuss began penning cartoons for PM, a liberal publication, frequently pushing back against the "America First" mentality of U.S. isolationists opposed to U.S. involvement in the war.

So when Donald Trump adopted "Make America Great Again" as his campaign slogan, echoing cries of "America First" — the rallying call for an anti-Semitic and Nazi-appeasing segment of the wartime U.S. population — some of Seuss' cartoons began to find new relevance more than 70 years after first being published.

Like this one, which depicts a mother reading a book titled "Adolf the Wolf" to children while wearing an "America First" shirt, explaining that because the wolf's victims were foreign children, it didn't really matter that the wolf ate them — a clear parallel to the conflicting approaches to our modern refugee crisis.

Dr. Seuss, political cartoon, isolationism, refugee crisis

A Dr. Seuss political cartoon sharing thoughts on isolationism.

Image dated Oct. 1, 1941, via Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons/Special Collection and Archives, UC San Diego Library

"And the Wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones ... but those were Foreign Children and it really didn't matter."

Russia, Germany, Europe, war, political cartoon

Cartoon about WWII and Hitler dragging Russia into the war.

Image dated June 25, 1941, via Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons/Special Collection and Archives, UC San Diego Library.

"A. Hitler taxidermist"

clams, frantic, Hitler, political satire, 1941

Dr. Seuss uses clams in talking about Hitler in a political cartoon from 1941.

Image dated July 17, 1941, via Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons/Special Collection and Archives, UC San Diego Library.

"We Clams Can't Be Too Careful."

political satire, cartoon, WWII, war commentary

A political satire created by Dr. Seuss on the impending World War II.

Image dated May 27, 1941, via Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons/Special Collection and Archives, UC San Diego Library.

"The old Family bath tub is plenty safe for me!"

Suess's other comics took aim at overarching issues like anti-Semitism, racial inequality, and political obstructionism — all issues still relevant today.

To be sure, the comics were far from perfect and reflected some ugly stereotypes of their own. For instance, many of his cartoons amplified some pretty awful impressions of Japanese citizens and Japanese-Americans. And while it's easy to chalk that up as being simply an element of the time, that type of anti-Japanese sentiment helped fuel the racism and paranoia that eventually led to Japanese internment.

WWII, Hitler, cartoon, singing, antisemitism

A Dr. Seuss cartoon depicts Hitler singing.

Image dated July 20, 1942, via Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons/Special Collection and Archives, UC San Diego Library.

"Only God can make a tree to furnish sport for you and me!"

elephant, tank, satire, archives, political, Dr. Seuss

An elephant tries to stop a tank in a political cartoon.

Image dated Oct. 24, 1941, via Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons/Special Collection and Archives, UC San Diego Library.

"Stop all U.S. progress."

pledge of allegiance, flag, political cartoon, racial prejudice

Political cartoon uses 'Pledge of Allegiance' to make a point.

Image dated July 30, 1942, via Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons/Special Collection and Archives, UC San Diego Library.

"The Guy Who Makes a Mock of Democracy."

appeasement, Nazism, America first, political cartoon

Political cartoon suggests the war is coming to America.

Image dated Sept. 9, 1941, via Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons/Special Collection and Archives, UC San Diego Library.

"Relax, Sam, I assure you the express turns off right here!"

If the world of Dr. Seuss can teach us anything, it's that history is our best defense against modern tyranny.

Well, that, and the fact that Americans will always love goofy hats:

satire, analogies, political satire, cartoons, 1940's

Political cartoon suggests burying your head in the sand.

Image dated April 29, 1941, via Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons/Special Collection and Archives, UC San Diego Library.

"We Always Were Suckers for Ridiculous Hats."

See more of Seuss' wartime comics at the University of California San Diego Library's website.This story originally appeared on 03.02.17

Family

Woman goes to huge lengths to adopt husband's ex-wife's baby to save him from foster care

She had lived in foster care and didn't want it for the newborn with no name.

Christie Werts and her son, Levi




Christie and Wesley Werts have taken the idea of a blended family to the next level. When the couple fell in love five years ago and married, they brought together her children, Megan and Vance, and his children, Austin and Dakota.

As of January, the Ohio family has five children after adopting young Levi, 2. Levi is the son of Wesley’s ex-wife, who passed away four days after the child was born. The ex-wife had the boy prematurely, at 33 weeks, and died soon after from drug addiction and complications of COVID-19.

When Levi was born, he was a ward of the state with no first name or birth certificate.


“When I heard about Levi, without hesitation, I said we should take him,” Christie said, according to The Daily Mail, and her reason went far beyond the fact that the child was the half-brother to two of her recently adopted children. “I myself was a foster kid and, although for the most part, I had a great experience, I did not want him going to foster care,” Christie said.

@cjthemom5

Replying to @Journey♥️ Yes, they will always know of her and ill be there for every emotion good or bad. But im also mom, ive been to every game, every doctors appt, sat with them if they needed an ear loved unconditional . I am mom also. #adoption #srorytime #siblings #foryou #loveislove

Before the family knew of Levi’s birth, Christie had a recurring dream about a blue-eyed, blonde-haired boy.

"Before Levi, we had wanted to try to have a child of our own," she told Newsweek. "I'm in my forties, so we knew that we would probably need fertility treatment, so I thought let's just think about it and what will be will be."

The problem was that Levi was in Texas, so the family sold their house and moved to the Lone Star State to go through the arduous adoption process. The situation was further complicated because Levi’s biological father had parental rights even though he had substance abuse problems. The family couldn’t move out of Texas until his rights were legally terminated.

But after a 16-month process, in January 2023, Levi became a legal family member. Christie understands that adopting her husband’s ex-wife’s baby may seem unusual to some people. "It's a lot to process for a lot of people, but honestly, it seems a lot crazier than it was. At the time, it just made sense," she said.

@cjthemom5

Our adoption is official !!! after 17 months!!! #adoption #son #loveyou #ourstory#foryou #fyp

Even though Christie knew in her heart that she must adopt Levi, she wasn’t without reservations. “'If I said I did not [have concerns beforehand], that would not be honest,” she told The Daily Mail. “This was different—I was going to walk into a child I never met and was worried the circumstances would hinder this instant love. But [...] he stole my heart. I also felt this intense need to protect him.”

These days, Levi fits right in with the family, and the rest of the kids are happy to be back to living an everyday life without any caseworkers or inspections.

“He's great, he is the king of the house! We are all very close. He won't understand the journey right now, but someday, I will let him know we fought for him!” Christie said.


This article originally appeared on 8.31.23

Family

Daughter explains brutal obituary she wrote for her father about his ‘bad parenting'

"Everything I was going to write was going to be a lie. He hated a liar..."

Photo by John Thomas on Unsplash

The last resting place for father Leslie Ray Charping.

Everyone is entitled to a few nice words at their funeral, as the adage goes. Normally, this is a non-issue. Flaws can be ignored or overlooked for the sake of harmony and a peaceful, optimistic send-off.

But what if the flaws created too much damage and heartache to go without saying?

Sheila Smith made headlines last week with an obituary that was as honest in what can only be described as a brutal sense. Brutal for the departed, her father Leslie Ray Charping, and brutal for the family that had to endure his life and death.

Here's the obituary in its entirety, taken from the website of Carnes Funeral Home:


Leslie Ray "Popeye" Charping was born in Galveston, Texas on November 20, 1942 and passed away January 30, 2017, which was 29 years longer than expected and much longer than he deserved. Leslie battled with cancer in his latter years and lost his battle, ultimately due to being the horses ass he was known for. He leaves behind 2 relieved children; a son Leslie Roy Charping and daughter, Shiela Smith along with six grandchildren and countless other victims including an ex wife, relatives, friends, neighbors, doctors, nurses and random strangers.

At a young age, Leslie quickly became a model example of bad parenting combined with mental illness and a complete commitment to drinking, drugs, womanizing and being generally offensive. Leslie enlisted to serve in the Navy, but not so much in a brave & patriotic way but more as part of a plea deal to escape sentencing on criminal charges. While enlisted, Leslie was the Navy boxing champion and went on to sufficiently embarrass his family and country by spending the remainder of his service in the Balboa Mental Health Hospital receiving much needed mental healthcare services.

Leslie was surprisingly intelligent, however he lacked ambition and motivation to do anything more than being reckless, wasteful, squandering the family savings and fantasizing about get rich quick schemes. Leslie's hobbies included being abusive to his family, expediting trips to heaven for the beloved family pets and fishing, which he was less skilled with than the previously mentioned. Leslie's life served no other obvious purpose, he did not contribute to society or serve his community and he possessed no redeeming qualities besides quick whited sarcasm which was amusing during his sober days.

With Leslie's passing he will be missed only for what he never did; being a loving husband, father and good friend. No services will be held, there will be no prayers for eternal peace and no apologizes to the family he tortured. Leslie's remains will be cremated and kept in the barn until "Ray", the family donkey's wood shavings run out. Leslie's passing proves that evil does in fact die and hopefully marks a time of healing and safety for all.

The obituary walks a fine line between uncloaked honesty and mean-spiritedness, repeatedly falling on either side. If this obituary is to be believed (no person or account has publicly questioned or denounced this characterization), his family has a right to be both angry for his life and happy for his death. However, the controversy surrounding this obituary isn't the survivors' feelings, but their expression of them.

Sheila, speaking to The Michael Berry Show, a radio program, stood by the obituary she wrote, claiming it was an effort to heal, forget, and minimize the residual impact his death would have on their lives. To realize this, and to fulfill her late father's wishes, the obituary needed to be honest. She said to the show's host, " A week after he passed I sat down and began working on it. I was somewhat blocked and everything I was going to write was going to be a lie," she said. "He hated a liar and he would appreciate this.”

Speaking earlier to KTRK, Sheila said that those who are bothered by this or the notion of speaking ill of the dead, are fortunate to not understand. "I am happy for those that simply do not understand, this means you had good parent(s) -- please treasure what you have.”

She continued to say that whitewashing transgressions that are so endemic and undiscussed in the world, such as her father's issues with domestic violence and alcoholism, serves no greater good.

She concluded, "I apologize to anyone that my father hurt and I felt it would have been offensive to portray him as anything other than who he was," she also said. "This obituary was intended to help bring closure because not talking about domestic violence doesn't make it go away!"


This article originally appeared on 05.22.19


Health

5 things I didn't want to hear when I was grieving and 1 thing that helped

Here are my top five things not to say to a grieving parent — and the thing I love to hear instead.


In 2013, I found out I was pregnant with triplets.

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My husband and I were in shock but thrilled at the news after dealing with infertility for years. And it didn't take long for the comments to begin. When people found out, the usual remarks followed: "Triplets?! What are you going to do? Three kids at once?! Glad it's not me!"

After mastering my response (and an evil look reserved for the rudest comments), I figured that was the worst of it. But little did I know I would be facing far worse comments after two of my triplets passed away.

On June 23, 2013, I gave birth to my triplets, more than four months premature.

My daughter, Abigail, passed away that same day; my son, Parker, died just shy of 2 months old. Before then, I didn't know much about child loss; it was uncharted territory. Like most people, I wouldn't know how to respond or what to say if a friend's child passed away.

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But two years later, I have found that some things are better left unsaid. These comments come from a good place, and I know people mean well, but they sure do sting.

Here are my top five things not to say to a grieving parent — and the thing I love to hear instead.


1. "Everything happens for a reason."

It's a cringeworthy comment for those of us who have lost a child. Sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason for why things happen in life. A parent should not outlive their child. I don't know why my body couldn't handle my pregnancy or why I went into labor at 22 weeks.

This phrase goes along with another I often hear: "God only gives us what we can handle." I remember talking with my childhood rabbi the night before my son passed away, and I asked her, "Why me?" Her response is something I now live by every single day. She said, "God doesn't give us only what we can handle. He helps us handle what we've been given."

2. "They are in a better place."

Instead of comforting, this is a phrase that makes me feel down in the dumps. I longed to be a parent for so many years. And children are meant to be in the loving arms of their parents.

I think I speak for every grieving mother and father when I say, we would give anything to hold our babies again.

3. "At least you have one survivor. Count your blessings."

I like to think of myself as a positive person. But even two years later, my heart still aches for Parker and Abby. And on the most difficult, dark days of grief, it's hard to "count my blessings."

Yes, I am blessed. I have a gorgeous miracle child who is the light of my life. But Peyton should be playing with her brother and sister in our home, not just waving to their pictures and blowing kisses to heaven.

4. "You are still young. You can have more children."

It doesn't matter whether or not our biological clock is ticking. Many people have no idea what couples go through to have a child: Some can't have children of their own; others may face years of infertility or miscarriages. And for people like me, trying for more children may be something too scary to even think about. I came close to death after delivering my children — that's enough to scar me for life.

5. "I don't know how you do it. I couldn't imagine losing two children."

Some days I don't know how I do it either. But we learn how to live with it. We learn a "new normal," and in those tough moments, we celebrate that we survived the day. This comment is a difficult reminder of our grief and the children who were sent to heaven.

So, what should you say to a grieving parent?

Image via iStock.

There are no words to take the pain away, of course, but simply letting that person know you are there for them is more than enough.

For me, the best thing someone can do is to talk about my angels. Say Parker and Abby by name, and don't be afraid to ask questions about them.

While they were only here for a short time, they left a huge imprint on this world. I love talking about my angels, and simply hearing someone else mention them by name is enough to wipe away the grief and warm my heart for days.


This article was written by Stacey Skrysak and originally appeared on 7.15.16