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Joy

Woman reunites with her family 51 years after being kidnapped

Melissa Highsmith never even knew her real family was searching for her.

dna test for missing kids

The family celebrate their reunion following a decades long search

In 1971, Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped from her home in Fort Worth, Texas. Her disappearance has been one of the oldest missing person cases in America. Now, she gets to celebrate a long-awaited reunion with her family in what she calls a “Christmas miracle.”

As ABC affiliate WFAA reported, Melissa’s mother, Alta (who now goes by Alta Apantenco) had put out an ad for a babysitter to watch over her then 21-month-old while she was at work. A white gloved, well-dressed woman going by the name of Ruth Johnson responded to the call, but she was no babysitter. After Johnson picked up baby Melissa from Apantenco’s roommate, the two were never seen again.

As any parents would do in this situation, the Highsmiths worked tirelessly to find their little girl, involving the Fort Worth police and even the FBI. Sadly, it was all to no avail. The only glimmer of hope remaining was that there was no evidence of harm, so maybe, just maybe, their Melissa was being well taken care of. And for 51 years, the family held onto that possibility.



Meanwhile, Melissa—who never remembered being kidnapped—led a hard life with the woman who claimed to be her mother. "I didn't feel loved as a child. It was abusive, and I ran away at 15 years old. I went to the streets. I did what I had to do to get by... I worked the streets," she shared in a one-on-one interview with WFAA.

Then in September, everything would change. After receiving a failed tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that Melissa had been sighted, her father Jeffrie Highsmith (now divorced from Apantenco) decided to try his luck with DNA testing. DNA testing service 23andMe came back with a match linking him to Highsmith. Their son Jeff (Melissa’s brother) then found her on Facebook and reached out.

Even though Melissa was skeptical, she was shown a baby picture by the Highsmiths which she admitted looked like her “twin.” According to Good Morning America, Melissa had a special birthmark and celebrated a birthday very close to the child taken all those years ago.

Any remaining shadows of doubt immediately disappeared when Melissa confronted the woman she thought was her mother. "The person that raised me, I asked her is there anything you need to tell me and it was confirmed that she knew that I was baby Melissa so that just made it real," she told FOX 25.

In perhaps the strangest twist of fate, Melissa and her family had been so close, yet so far this entire time—living less than 20 minutes apart.

That discovery is not without its bittersweetness, but so far the family is focusing on making up for lost time and celebrating their reunion.

"I’m just elated, I can't describe my feelings. I'm so happy to see my daughter that I didn't think I would ever see again," Apantenco told WFAA. "I feel like I am dreaming and I keep having to pinch myself to make sure I'm awake," Melissa added.

On their shared Facebook Group page the family wrote, “the joy is palpable amongst all family members” adding that finding Melissa “was purely because of DNA, not because of any police / FBI involvement, podcast involvement, or even our family’s own private investigations or speculations.” They are not alone. Previously a man kidnapped in 1964 found his real family using different ancestry services. There are still miles to go in terms of diversifying DNA databases, but DNA testing has taken on an increasingly significant role in finding missing persons over the years, and continues to be a game changer.

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As for the newly reunited Highsmith family, the plan is to simply take things day by day. According to WFAA, Melissa has officially adopted her birth name (she had previously gone by “Melanie”), and is even planning on remarrying her current husband so that her father can walk down the aisle. These are sure to be hard won memories the entire family will cherish forever.

Sandhya with other members at a home meet-up

South Asian women across the country are finding social support in a thriving Facebook group devoted to them.

The Little Brown Diary has over 40,000 members, primarily between the ages of 20 and 40, and 100 subgroups devoted to niche topics. Some of these include mental health, entrepreneurship, career advice, and more.

Members of the group can discuss their experiences as South Asians, inner conflicts they face, and even bond over their favorite hobbies. The Facebook group has become a safe place for many of its members to find support in the most transformative periods of their lives. These include:

  • Supporting women in domestic violence and sexual assault circumstances
  • Sharing mental health and suicide resources
  • Connecting members to support each other through grief and loss
  • Helping members find the strength to get a divorce or defend their decision to be childfree
  • Helping them navigate career changes
  • Helping to find friends in a new city
  • Finding a community of other neurodivergent people in their shoes

“I joined the online community because I was looking for that sense of belonging and connection with others who shared similar experiences and backgrounds,” expressed Sandhya Simhan, one of the group admins.

“At the time, I was pregnant and eager to find other desi moms who could offer support, advice, and friendship during this significant life transition,” she says.

Another group admin, Henna Wadhwa, who works in Diversity and Inclusion in Washington, D.C., even uses the group to inspire new areas of research, including a study on ethnic-racial identity at work.

“I was surprised and excited for a group that brought together South Asian/brown women. I wanted to meet other women with similar research interests and who wanted to conduct academic research on South Asian American women,” Wadhwa says.


While social media isn’t always the best place to spend our time, studies show that the sense of community people get from joining online groups can be valuable to our mental health.

“The presence of LBD has allowed so many South Asian women to truly feel safe in their identity. The community we have built encourages each person to authentically and freely be themselves. It is a powerful sight to witness these South Asian women be vulnerable, break barriers, and support each other in their journeys,” says Wadhwa.

Hena and Neesha

According to an article in Psychology Today, a study on college students looked at whether social media could serve as a source of social support in times of stress. Turns out, these students were more likely to turn to their social media network rather than parents or mental health professionals for connection. The anonymity of virtual communities was also seen as appealing to those experiencing depression.

“The social support received in the online group promotes a sense of well-being and was associated with positive relationships and personal growth,” the article states.

This is why finding a community of like-minded individuals online can have such a positive impact in your life.

“There are almost half a million women in our target audience (millennial South Asians in North America) and about 10% of them are part of LBD. It’s been a game-changer for our community. LBD is all about embracing your true self and living your most authentic life. It's amazing to see how the members support, relate, learn, and lift each other,” says Wadhwa and Simhan.

A group of students staring at their phones.

The Norwegian government is spearheading a significant initiative to prohibit students from having smartphones in schools. This move comes in the wake of compelling studies demonstrating the positive impact of removing these devices from students’ hands and allowing them to focus more on their learning.

The effects have been particularly beneficial for girls.

Over the past few years, smartphone bans have cropped up in several school districts throughout Norway, allowing researchers to study how the bans affected students. Sara Abrahamsson, a postdoctoral fellow at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, analyzed students at 400 middle schools and found that the bans had psychological and academic benefits.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health published the results.

1 Girls made fewer appointments for psychological help

The study found that there was a significant decrease in the number of visits that girls made to see a psychological specialist for mental health issues. “Relative to pretreatment this is a significant decline by almost 60% in the number of visits,” Abrahamsson wrote in the study.

2. Steep drop in bullying

The study shows that girls experienced a 46% reduction in bullying after smartphone bans were enacted and boys had a 43% reduction.

smartphone, smartphone ban, norway

Boys looking at memes on a smartphone.

via Max Fischer/Pexels

3. Improved grades for girls

The study revealed that introducing a smartphone ban at the beginning of middle school improved girls' GPAs and increased their chances of enrolling in an academic-oriented high school track versus a vocational study. On the other hand, the ban appeared to have no notable effect on boys’ GPA, teacher-assigned grades, or likelihood of pursuing an academic high school track.

4. The ban had a more significant effect on economically disadvantaged girls

The study found that the ban resulted in greater benefits for economically disadvantaged girls regarding academic performance, appointments for psychological symptoms and the probability of attending an academically focused high school.

The positive impact that the bans have on girls is significant, given the fact that studies show they’ve been the most deeply affected by the rise in mental health issues amongst young people that have coincided with smartphone adaptation.

One of the most disturbing trends is the dramatic rise in suicide rates among girls in developed nations.

smartphones in schools, norway, smartphone ban

Students taking a selfie in school.

via RDNE Stock Project

Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness” and advocate for banning smartphones in schools, explained why smartphone use is more damaging for girls than boys.

“There is a special relationship between social media and girls,” Haidt told “The Reason Interview with Nick Gillespie” podcast. “When boys get together … they're likely to organize themselves into groups to compete [on multiplayer video games].”

“Girls are much more interested in talking about relationships. Who is on the outs with whom? Who's dating who? They have a more developmental map of the social space,” Haidt continued.

When there is conflict within peer groups, social media poses a much greater threat to girls.

“Boys' aggression is ultimately backed up by the threat of physical domination and punching or pain, " Haidt continued. “Girls' aggression is equal in magnitude, but it's aimed at relationships and reputation. It's called relational aggression. Video games, if anything, prevent boys from getting in fights. … The platform settles everything. But girls' relational aggression is amplified. The worst year of bullying is seventh grade. I'm really focused on middle school.”


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.

Pop Culture

Dan Rather returns to CBS, 18 Years after losing anchor job in political scandal

“I gave CBS News everything I had. They had smarter, better, more talented people, but they didn’t have anybody who worked any harder than I did."

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather.

Before 24-7 networks like CNN and Fox News became the go-to places for TV news junkies, the newscasters of the "big three" networks attracted 50 million people every night. Throughout most of the ‘80s, ‘90s and early ‘00s, viewers chose between three network news titans: Tom Brokaw on NBC, Peter Jennings on ABC and Dan Rather on CBS.

Tom Brokaw left “NBC Nightly News” in 2004, Jennings left “ABC World News Tonight” in 2005 and Rather was forced to leave “CBS Evening News” the same year after being involved in a controversial segment about then-President George W. Bush.

In 2004, Rather filed a report on “60 Minutes II” critical of Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. The documents central to the story were questioned as fakes and the blowback from the story led to Rather's ouster.


Twenty years later, Rather still stands by the story. “You can argue that we never got to the original documents,” Rather said in an interview. “But nobody has ever proven that they were anything other than what they were purported to be.”

Rather worked for CBS News for 44 years in many roles, including bureau chief, war correspondent, foreign correspondent and White House correspondent. He was the network’s national evening news anchor from 1981 to 2005.

Now, 18 years after his controversial departure from CBS, Rather, 92, returned to the network in a segment aired on April 28 on “CBS Sunday Morning.” In it, he spoke with Lee Cowan, his former protegee, who remembered that Rather taught him that it's not the question but the "follow-up" that matters.

Rather was on the show, in part, to promote his new Netflix documentary, “Rather,” which debuts on May 1.

In the interview, Rather told Cowan that the ultimate job of a journalist is to speak truth to power. “In the heart of every reporter worthy of their name, Lee, there’s a message that news, real news, is what somebody, somewhere, particularly somebody in power, doesn’t want you to know,” he said. “That’s news.”

He also admitted that being forced to leave CBS was the “lowest point” in his esteemed career.

“I gave CBS News everything I had. They had smarter, better, more talented people, but they didn’t have anybody who worked any harder than I did,” Rather said.

When asked why he wanted to be a reporter, Rather admitted that it is just a part of his being.

"I've never quite known the answer to that question,” Rather said. “All I know is it's the only thing I ever wanted to be was a reporter and I get up every morning as soon as my feet hit the ground, I say, 'Where's the story?'"

Even though Rather was devastated after leaving CBS, he remained in the public eye. He has hosted an interview show for HDNet, written books and newspaper columns and hosted a radio show on Sirius XM. He has over 2.6 million followers on Twitter, where he’s introduced himself to a younger audience.

“You either get engaged and you get engaged in the new terms ... or you’re out of the game,” he admits.

News reporters face an uncertain future given the decline of newspapers and social media’s dominance with younger audiences. But Rather is still impressed with the reporting he sees in today’s news.

“The people who are practicing journalism today are so much better than those of us who came up here another time,” he said. “They’re better educated. They’re more knowledgeable about the world,” Rather continued. “They want to do the right thing. They’re doing the best they can.”

Even though he’s dedicated his life to journalism, Rather believes his true legacy are those he loves. “In the end, whatever remains of one’s life — family, friends — those are going to be the things for which you’re remembered,” he said.

Joy

'90s kid shares the 10 lies that everyone's parent told them

"Don't swallow that gum. If you do, it'll take 7 years to come out."

via 90sKid4lyfe/TikTok (used with permission)

90sKidforLife shares 10 lies everyone's parents told in the era.


Children believe everything their parents tell them. So when parents lie to prevent their kids to stop them from doing something dumb, the mistruth can take on a life of its own. The lie can get passed on from generation to generation until it becomes a zombie lie that has a life of its own.

Justin, known as 90sKid4Lyfe on TikTok and Instagram, put together a list of 10 lies that parents told their kids in the ‘90s, and the Gen X kids in the comments thought it was spot on.


“Why was I told EVERY ONE of these?” Brittany, the most popular commenter, wrote. “I heard all of these plus the classic ‘If you keep making that face, it will get stuck like that,’” Amanda added. After just four days of being posted, it has already been seen 250,000 times.

Parents were always lying #90s #90skids #parenting

@90skid4lyfe

Parents were always lying #90s #90skids #parenting

Here are Justin’s 10 lies '90s parents told their kids:

1. "You can't drink coffee. It'll stunt your growth."

2. "If you pee in the pool, it's gonna turn blue."

3. "Chocolate milk comes from brown cows."

4. "If you eat those watermelon seeds, you'll grow a watermelon in your stomach."

5. "Don't swallow that gum. If you do, it'll take 7 years to come out."

6. "I told you we can't drive with the interior light on. ... It's illegal."

7. "Sitting that close to the TV is going to ruin your vision."

8. "If you keep cracking your knuckles, you're gonna get arthritis."

8. "You just ate, you gotta wait 30 minutes before you can swim."

10. "If you get a tattoo, you won't find a job."

Pop Culture

12 professionals share misconceptions about their job they wish people would stop believing

“I run an animal rescue and I get a lot of people who think they're just gonna cuddle animals. A shocking number of people are very upset there's poop and manual labor involved.”

People share misconceptions about their job that they're tired of hearing.

Remember when we were kids and we’d get asked the question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

So often the responses would be fairly glamorous jobsdoctors, marine biologists, firefighters, performers, etc.—all based on simplistic ideas of what the job might be like versus what the job actually entails.

Recently, user stiengineer asked the Reddit community, “What's a misconception about your profession that you're tired of hearing?” And the responses—from graphic designers to vegetable farmers and everywhere in between—just go to show that unless you’ve actually worked in an occupation, you’re probably making a few assumptions about it. (Spoiler: no job is without its fair amount of work.)

Check out what some professionals wrote about their often misunderstood jobs that prove the grass isn’t always greener in the workplace.


1. “I’m a librarian, and people think we just read books all day. In reality, we manage databases, assist with research, and conduct community programs.”

librarian job requirements

Librarians would also like to get paid to sit and read all day.

canva.com/photos

Another librarian added:

“The cardigans are 100% fact, though. The back room and the stacks are two wildly different temperatures all the time.”

2. “I drove a taxi. We don’t meet a lot of famous people. Not all passengers are unhinged lunatics.”

3. "As an electrician, the misconception that it’s not a skilled profession is frustrating. It requires rigorous training and adherence to safety standards.”

4. "Vegetable farmer. We get so many applicants wanting to ‘connect to the soil,’ yet have never touched a shovel before. So many people don't seem to understand that farming is manual labor with long hours and hardship every day. And It's all just to limp by. We aren't making much money.”

vegetable farm near me

"People don't seem to understand that farming is manual labor."

canva.com/photos

5. “I run an animal rescue and I get a lot of people who think they're just gonna cuddle animals. A shocking number of people are very upset there's poop and manual labor involved.”

6. “Fire Sprinkler Designer here: Fire Sprinkler water IS NOT clean and clear like the movies depict...That water more than likely has been in those pipes for decades and is filled with corrosion and cutting oil. As soon as a sprinkler goes off, you are getting doused with black tar water…”

via GIPHY

One person commented:

“Oh so that's why I've seen so many people complain that their furniture got ruined by fire sprinklers going off! It's quite obvious now that you pointed it out, but I always thought it was weird so many things could get so badly damaged ‘just by getting wet.’”

Yep, we all learned something today.

7. "As a software developer, I'm tired of hearing that we're all just nerdy guys who code in dark rooms all day. It's actually highly collaborative.”

software developer jobs

But you can hack into anything, right?

canva.com/photos

8. "I’m a graphic designer, and no, I can’t just whip up a complex project in an hour. Good design takes time and thought.”

graphic design jobs

“Most of the time I'm trying to protect the client from making really bad decisions."

canva.com/photos

This prompted a few graphic designers to chime in.

One wrote:

“Most of the time I'm trying to protect the client from making really bad decisions because they feel they could ‘do it themselves if they could just draw a little better.’”

While another added:

"I had a client one time who didn’t like a color we chose. I asked her what color she would prefer and her answer was ‘I saw this real pretty purple one time. I want something like that.’ When asked what shade of purple it was or what the item was so we could get an idea, she scoffed and said ‘you’re the artist, you should know.’”

9. “Lawyer here. Just because you fail to understand a nuance doesn’t mean it’s a 'loophole.’"

via GIPHY

Another lawyer shared:

“The one that gets me is the idea that we're unethical tricksters just trying to run up our fees. First, there are some slimy lawyers out there, but I think as a whole we're probably more ethical than the general population. Our entire career depends on having a license that can be taken away for minor ethical lapses.”

10. “I'm a long time caregiver to mother who lives with dementia. For some reason, people don't consider it ‘work.’ That includes doctors. I'm on call 24/7. I can't leave for long periods of time. My own health went to shit. Geriatric care costs are astronomical. Yet, all people hear is ‘you're not working.’"

11. “People think being a chef is glamorous thanks to cooking shows, but the reality is long hours in a high-stress environment.”

via GIPHY

One chef lamented:

'”'You must eat so well!' I eat cold pizza while crying, actually.”

And last but not least…

12.I’m a locksmith, and people often think it’s just about cutting keys. It involves complex problem solving and security expertise.”

Family

Every parent thinks they'd never forget their child in the car. But 'never' still happens.

Tragic hot car deaths are preventable, but only when parents acknowledge they are fallible.

No one thinks it could happen to them until it does.

I never thought it was possible for me to forget my child in the car—until the day I did.

I was a super conscientious mom, reading all the parenting books, cautious about health and safety, 100% committed to my children's well-being. I held my babies close, figuratively and literally, wearing them in slings and wraps much of the time and taking them everywhere. They were like physical extensions of me–how could I possibly forget them?

Here's how. My oldest was nearly 4 years old when I had my second child. One day, when the baby was a few weeks old, our family was out running errands. Everyone was hungry, but I needed to grab something from Michaels craft store, so I dropped my husband and 4-year-old at home first to start dinner. The baby was sleeping in her car seat and I decided to take her with me in case she woke up and needed to breastfeed.

Somewhere between our driveway and Michaels, I completely blanked that I had a baby in the car.


I hadn't been in a car with a child for several years without any sound—my oldest was always talking or singing or something. It was never quiet in the car unless I was alone, so my sleep-deprived brain interpreted the silence of my sleeping baby in the car as me being alone.

I got to the Michaels' parking lot, got out of the car, locked the door and went inside. I grabbed a shopping cart and headed to the back of the store to pick up whatever I needed. When I flipped down the plastic seat on the cart where you put a kid, it triggered the awareness that I didn't have a child with me and everything stopped. Even 19 years later, I can perfectly picture the moment it dawned on me what I'd done when the world went into slow-motion as I ran through the store and out to my car.

There she was, blissfully snoozing away in her car seat, totally unaware of my panic. It was a cool evening and she was only in there for 5 minutes, tops, but it was an eye-opening and humbling moment. If a brain blip like that could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.

That's the idea behind a new heatstroke prevention PSA from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Ad Council called "Never Happens." The message is powerful, as there are so many things we swear we would never do as parents that we end up doing. Some of those things are conscious choices as we realize parenting is far more complex than we thought, but some are a result of being fallible humans with imperfect human brains. The key is recognizing that fact so you don't fall into the trap of "I would never."

Watch:

Pediatric vehicular heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related fatalities for children 14 and younger. No parent thinks they could possibly forget their child in a car, but that's how more than half of car heatstroke deaths in children occur. According to the NHTSA, heatstroke statistics can be split into three main scenarios:

- 52.7% of hot car deaths happened because a child was forgotten in a hot car

- 25.8% of deaths happened because a child gained access to an unlocked car and became trapped

- 20.1% of deaths happened because a child was left behind in a vehicle, and the parent/caregiver did not realize how quickly internal car temperatures can rise.

A child's body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult's, so we can't use ourselves as a gauge of how long is too long to be in an enclosed car.

The inside of a vehicle is never a safe place for a child to play or be left alone, because hot cars can be deadly for children in a matter of minutes," Sophie Shulman, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator, tells Upworthy. "No one wants to think they could forget their child, but the facts show it can happen to anyone. Our ‘Stop. Look. Lock.’ campaign educates and empowers parents and caregivers to make simple changes to prevent unimaginable tragedies."

Some of those simple changes might include putting your purse or wallet in the back seat, keeping an item like a teddy bear in the backseat and placing it in the front seat whenever you have a child in the car with you. Both of those simple visual cues could be life-saving. And always lock your vehicle after getting everyone out of it so a child can't get in.

Never think it could never happen. Then, take proactive steps to ensure that it never does.