No American had done it in 42 years. Leave it to the only mom on Team USA to pull it off.

Americans don't medal in cross-country skiing at the Olympic Winter Games. It just doesn't happen — until now.

Neither Kikkan Randall nor her teammate Jessie Diggins had been born yet the last time an American took home an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing. For decades, America's attention and medals have gone to their Alpine counterparts.

But on Feb. 21, in a near-photo finish, Randall, 35, and Diggins, 26, broke an American dry spell more than 15,330 days long to win a gold medal in the women's cross-country team sprint. It's the first medal for the women's cross-country team, and it comes 42 years after the last U.S. cross-country skiing medal by any gender, a silver earned by Bill Koch in 1976.


Randall and Diggins won the race in heart-stopping fashion, securing the top spot by just 0.19 seconds.

"The goal was ski smart, stay out of trouble, and just stay strong at the end, and yeah, it really paid off," Randall said in an interview with NBC after her race.

This huge win is a longtime coming for Randall who started her Olympic career 16 years ago at the Salt Lake City Games.

In appearances across five Winter Games, Randall had 18 attempts in multiple events but had never finished higher than sixth place, including a heartbreaking defeat in Sochi in a quarterfinal round.

"That's the beauty of the Olympics and also the agony — it's one day. And if it doesn't quite go right, that's your chance," Randall said in an interview with NPR.

Kikkan Randall during the Sochi Winter Olympics. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

After earning the trip to Pyeongchang for her fifth Olympics, Randall like many athletes, stared down the possibility of ending her impressive athletic career without making it to the podium.

But with perseverance, grit, and the support of amazing teammates, she pulled off what previously seemed impossible.  

Jessica Diggins  (L) and Kikkan Randall celebrate as they win gold during the Cross Country Ladies' Team Sprint Free Final. Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images.

Especially notable about her is that, in addition to her history-making gold-medal performance, of the 244 athletes on Team USA, Randall is the only mother.

There are 20 fathers on the team, but Randall is the only mom in the group. (Team USA doesn't disclose whether athletes chose adoption or had children pass away, so we recognize that this is a pretty limiting definition of parenthood.) While there's no official reason given for the mom disparity, it could have a lot to do with pregnancy and childbirth affecting a person's body and the fact many child-rearing duties are still relegated to women.

Balancing the physical, emotional, and mental demands of being a pro-athlete and primary caregiver is a challenge and commitment few among us could even fathom. But it's one Randall not only accepted — but surmounted.

While her toddler son, Breck, stayed with his grandparents in Canada instead of making the trip to South Korea, he was never far from Randall's mind.

"I won’t get to see him for a full month, which is going to be really hard because I’ve just gotten so adapted to life chasing around a toddler," Randall told The Huffington Post before the competition. "But he is doing great with his grandparents. ... I know he’s in a good place, so now I can focus on what I need to do."

And focus she did. All the way to Team USA's first gold medal in a sport she's devoted the last 20 years of her life to.

"Did we just win the Olympics?" Diggins asked.

"Yeah, we did!" Randall said.

Kikkan Randall  (red bib) and Jessica Diggins celebrate on the podium. Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!