I've been finishing my late father's bucket list. Things got tricky when I got to the political part.
Adrian Bacolo (bacolosphotos.com)

The classrooms were empty.

Never did I expect to see my former high school, in Delaware, as the site of the Democratic National Convention on TV, but there it was. There was my study hall and my study hall teacher, who also happens to be the former second lady.

When I graduated college in Delaware, I hightailed it out of there, like most people my age. I had big dreams in New York. I wanted to be a writer.

That summer, my father was killed by a distracted driver. She'd gotten lost and pulled off a highway, picking up her phone at a red light to call for directions. She zoomed right through the next red and plowed into my dad, who was turning left. He died instantly. Or so I was told. I was 25, and decided to keep going. I inherited a small insurance settlement. I used it to stay in New York. It was how my dad would have wanted it, I thought.

Now, seventeen years later, those dreams had come true. I'd been published in national magazines and newspapers in addition to copyediting national magazines. But I still wasn't fulfilled. No amount of career success could erase what had happened. I was still working on making it right.



"After our son Beau died of cancer, I wondered if I would ever smile or feel joy again," the blond woman in the green shirtdress, Dr. Jill Biden, said on television. "It was summer, but there was no warmth left for me. Four days after Beau's funeral, I watched Joe shave and put on his suit. I saw him steel himself in the mirror, take a breath, put his shoulders back and walk out into a world empty of our son. He went back to work. That's just who he is. There are times when I couldn't even imagine how he did it. How he put one foot in front of the other and kept going. But I've always understood why he did it…he does it for you. Joe's purpose has always driven him forward. His strength of will is unstoppable, and his faith is unshakable. Because it's not in politicians or political parties or even in himself — it's in the providence of God."


WATCH: Jill Biden's full speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention | 2020 DNC Night 2 www.youtube.com


A week after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, my life took an unexpected turn, too.

My brother had just moved into his first condo. My husband and I drove the four hours up to Salem, Massachusetts, to see him. Once there, my brother and future sister-in-law revealed a treasure they'd discovered in their move: our father's bucket list.

"Talk with the President." "Correspond with the Pope." "Surf in the Pacific." It was the kind of thing you find and chuckle over. His indecipherable handwriting, the wild things this man from Delaware wanted to do. But I didn't just laugh. I felt a pull to action. My husband felt it too.

"You have to finish this list," he said. "And then write a book about it."

I'd been an activist for three years, twisting my work as a journalist into a platform. But I hadn't found the right medium. And the numbers of car fatalities kept going up.

"The burdens we carry are heavy, and we need someone with strong shoulders," Dr. Biden continued. "I know that if we entrust this nation to Joe, he will do for your family what he did for ours. Bring us together and make us whole, carry us forward in our time of need, keep the promise of America for all of us."

It's not easy. Moving on, trying to make sense of unimaginable tragedy.

I've understood what families have gone through the past six months. I know the pain of getting a phone call to learn your father has died. There is a helplessness. An anger.

My dad never would have wanted me to talk about his death my whole life. My dad was hopeful, joyful, a storyteller. He would have wanted a better story.

"Be invited to a political convention" was item 53 on my dad's bucket list. After "talk with the President," it struck me as the least feasible. But in August 2019, I gave it a go. By then I'd checked off 27 of my dad's dreams.

First I wrote to every Democratic candidate. Then I wrote to every college alum who worked for the press, to every TV show who'd interviewed me. Finally, I tried a University of Delaware alum who worked at the local paper. He said he had no connection to Biden, but could put me in touch with the Delaware Democratic state party.

The Delaware Democratic chairman was kind. He said if I was a registered Democrat, I could attend their next convention.

That sounded like an invitation to me.

I walked out of the New York skyscraper where I worked and just before I reached the subway stopped and cried. Of all the conventions I could have ended up going to, I'd never imagined one in my home state. The place I'd wanted nothing to do with 20 years ago. But it was exactly where my dad would have gone, had he checked this off himself.

A few months later, a story about my mission to finish my dad's list was published in my college's alumni magazine. It was to come out that spring.



But by then, the whole world had fallen apart.

My husband came home from work early on a Wednesday in March. "I'm not going back," he said. "We have to work from home indefinitely."

We jumped in the car and drove to Whole Foods to stock up. I texted everyone I knew, asking them how they were handling this craziness. I got no response.

The pandemic hadn't hit them yet.

"We just need leadership worthy of our nation," Dr. Biden said. "Worthy of you. Honest leadership to bring us back together, to recover from this pandemic and prepare for whatever else is next. Leadership to reimagine what our nation will be."

In the next few weeks, I decided I wanted more than just an invite to a state convention. And so as the country shut down, I collected signatures to become a national delegate. I had to do it digitally because my state was sheltering in place. I attached a photo of myself in a tuxedo (another list item, "own a black tux"). I asked my neighbors to put down whatever they were doing and please sign my list. But then the governor waived the need for signatures.


A councilwoman in my town emailed me. She said she could get me in. She shared my story with a friend who shared it with another friend and next thing I knew, the Joe Biden campaign was hearing about me.

Weeks went by. My University of Delaware magazine article came out. They'd put me on the cover. People said my story gave them hope during an uncertain time. But I felt lost. Yes, my story was one of hope, but hope in a more simple time. Not hope during a time of 170,000 deaths, 5 million Americans ill and millions out of work in only five months!


My husband and I couldn't even leave our house. I couldn't see anyone I loved. How on earth could my words still make a difference?

"How do you make a broken family whole?" Dr. Biden said. "The same way you make a nation whole: with love and understanding and with small acts of kindness. With bravery, with unwavering faith. We show up for each other in big ways and small ones again and again."

The sacrifices I've seen people make for my dad's bucket list have been countless. It has changed my marriage for the better, thanks to my husband's contributions. Every sibling, cousin, aunt and uncle has chipped in, as have my mom and stepdad and every friend. Every person I know has somehow turned out to be an expert on some list item. They've given me their time for free. Even strangers.

I'm richer in love because of this project, I have friends I never would have known. And they tell me they're richer too.

In June I learned Biden had chosen his NJ delegates for the national convention, and I wasn't one of them.

But by July I felt better about not receiving an invite. Because now, thanks to the pandemic, nobody would. The convention would be virtual, in an effort to protect people's lives.

Then it was announced that even Biden wouldn't travel to Milwaukee. He'd accept the nomination right there in Delaware.

The same state I'd already been invited to for the Delaware state convention. My mom texted me an hour before the second night of the DNC.

"Jill Biden is speaking from her classroom at Brandywine High School, Room 232."

"What?" I said. "I've been in that room!"

How is it possible? I thought. I've been denied an invitation back to my own high school!

But then I suddenly knew. It was because I was too busy trying to be important to remember who I really am.

"Now, Joe is not perfect," former First Lady Michelle Obama said in her DNC speech. "And he'd be the first to tell you that. But there is no perfect candidate, no perfect president. And his ability to learn and grow—we find in that the kind of humility and maturity that so many of us yearn for right now. Because Joe Biden has served this nation his entire life without ever losing sight of who he is; but more than that, he has never lost sight of who we are, all of us.

Here she was, Dr. Jill Biden, this beautiful stateswoman, addressing our nation in a hopeless time, during the most important election of our lifetimes—from my high school. From little Delaware.

From a place that maybe wasn't so little after all.

Maybe I didn't have to make my voice seem big to be heard. Instead of spending the evening in a crowded arena, I spent it on my couch at home, cheering with my mom over the phone when we saw my old stomping grounds on TV.

And hers were the only ears I needed. The only invitation I could want.

A night with my mom at the national convention. And I know my dad was there, too.

Probably laughing at me.


Laura Carney is a writer and magazine and book copy editor in New York and is writing a book about finishing the bucket list of her late father, who was killed by a distracted driver

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

New Orleans Saints safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hope to help bridge the wealth gap by teaching students about investing at a young age.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

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Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

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Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.