Middle-class income isn't the only thing that's been declining since the 1970s.
One of the biggest challenges deployed service members face is the feeling of being separated from their families, especially when they have children. It's also very stressful for children to be away from parents who are deployed for long periods of time.
For the past four years, the USO has brought deployed service members and their families closer through a wonderful program that allows them to read together. The Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program gives deployed service members the ability to choose a book, read it on camera, then send both the recording and book to their child.
Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program www.youtube.com
The program was created through a partnership between the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation and the USO. Hope was one of the most beloved comedians of his generation, and he traveled the world for over six decades, putting on USO shows to boost the morale of the nation's service members.
In 2019, families shared more than 39,000 stories through the program.
The program has been an incredible way for U.S. Army Captain Justin Meredith to connect with his young son Jayden and express himself creatively. Just before he was set to be deployed to the Middle East, he checked into the local USO center where he was introduced to the program. At first, he felt a little awkward in front of the camera but soon took a real shine to making the videos.
When he arrived, he became a regular at USO Camp Buehring in Kuwait where he'd show up every day to read a new book to his son. He began to really liven things up by adopting funny voices, wearing costumes, and using props.
"The zanier that I am on the camera and the goofier the voices, the characters, the props, the more he just really engages with it," Justin said. "My son is so engaged, and he's so happy and he lights up seeing me."
Justin's nightly readings to Jayden had a profound effect on the family by keeping them close while he was away.
Justin Meredith's son and extended family members ended each day by listening to the latest book recording in their custom-made "Just-In-Time Center" while Justin was on deployment in the Middle East.via Courtesy Photo
"It became a life-changing thing, a better way to stay connected, and it was great because while my wife [was] technically raising him [while I was deployed], I could use the books to help influence and mold and help him out with some of the initial things that he's going through," Justin said.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Ruben Pimentel is a father of three and uses the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program to connect with his family while he's deployed. He loves that the recordings will live on long after he's returned from his service overseas.
"I know I'm not there, but I'm able to connect with my family. Even when I'm 60 years old, I'll be able to look back and see myself reading to my kids. It's a family heirloom," Pimentel said.
Sgt. Nick Masi reads a book to his four children while stationed in Afghanistan.via USO
The program is especially popular during the holidays. In 2019, the USO held a special event where service members read "The Night Before Christmas" in front of a festive, fake fire in a costume of their choice.
Sgt. Nick Masi, a father of four, thought the program helped him feel close to his loved ones during the holidays.
"It felt as though the reading program had transported me to be with my family, even if just for one story," he said.
The USO had to temporarily shut down in-person events in centers last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn't stop service members from keeping the tradition of reading to their families alive. Service members who are USO volunteers at USO Erbil in Iraq outfitted the back of a pickup truck with a trifold to make a "room" for them to read to their families.
A service member reads a book to his child in the back of a pickup truck. via USO Erbil
The USO team decorated their makeshift set, grabbed some books, and set up a chair.
Then, they hit the road, sharing their studio with service members on-base, stopping at popular places as well as remote areas. The USO's goal was to reach as many service members as possible.
Deployment is hard on service members and their families, but they do it so we can all enjoy peace and freedom at home. So, it's our job to keep them as happy and comfortable as possible during their times of sacrifice.
Click here to see how you can contribute to the USO and support services like the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program, which has helped over 100,000 service members and their families be together, or share a story, when they're miles apart.
The concept of virginity is a very loaded issue in American culture. If a woman loses hers when she's too young she can be slut-shamed. If a man remains a virgin for too long, he can be bullied for not being manly enough.
There is also a whole slew of religious mind games associated with virginity that can give people some serious psychological problems associated with sex.
Losing one's virginity has also been blown up way beyond proportion. It's often believed that it's a magical experience—it's usually not. Or that after having sex for the first time people can really start to enjoy living life—not the case.
What if we just dropped all of the stigmas surrounding virginity and instead, replaced them with healthy attitudes toward sex and relationships?
Writer Cayce LaCorte is going viral on TikTok for the simple way she's taught her five daughters to think about virginity. They don't have to. LaCorte shared her parenting ideas on TikTok in response to mom-influencer Nevada Shareef's question: "Name something about the way you raised your kids that people think is weird but you think is healthy."
"I'm gonna get a lot of shit for this, but what are you gonna do?" she said in the video. "I'm raising my five daughters to believe that there is no such thing as virginity.
"It is a patriarchal concept used to control women and serves no purpose other than making women feel bad about ourselves," she explained. "Just because some guy randomly sticks his penis in you at some point in your life, it does not change your worth. It does not change who you are. It doesn't do anything other than it happened."
She also responded to those who may criticize her for encouraging promiscuity.
"Sex is important. It's a big deal; it should always be a big deal. It has nothing to do with your first time. It's just ridiculous. The whole concept is ridiculous," the video explained.
She also believes that sex shouldn't be so closely associated with one's moral character.
"I'm raising them to be good people and have solid foundations and make their own choices and make intelligent choices. Not because some book says not to," she concluded the video.
The video made a lot of people realize that virginity is so ingrained in our society that the concept is rarely questioned.
"I never really thought about this to be honest," one commenter wrote. "I will absolutely be adopting this!! Thank you for sharing."
"I have 2 girls, and I think this is how I will teach them when they are older. This would have made me feel more self worth when I was younger," Samantha wrote.
LaCorte's comments about women and virginity need to be heard. But there should also be more discussion around how men also fight the stigma associated with virginity.
There's an unwritten law that says men must lose their virginity by the age of 18 or by at least 21 or that somehow they are less of a man. For men that are virgins into their 20s, "Sex goes from being something to be enjoyed to a giant monolith of titanic proportions that casts a shadow over everything they do and who they are," dating coach Harris O'Malley writes.
Sex is a tricky issue that everyone should be able to approach in their own way, at their own time. It's great that LaCorte's video has gone viral for illustrating the fact that virginity is just another obstacle on the road to sexual maturity that shouldn't factor into whether we decide to have sex or not.
It’s that time of year again, the holiday season is when we get the pleasure of spending way more time than we’re used to with our families. For those of us who’ve moved away from our immediate families, the holidays are a great time to reacquaint ourselves with old traditions and to realize that some of them may be a little strange.
Every family seems to have its own brand of weirdness. In fact, I wouldn’t trust anyone who says that their family is completely normal.
On November 18, “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon gave everyone a reason to celebrate their unique families by asking them to share their favorite stories under #MyFamilyIsWeird. The responses were everything from odd holiday traditions to family members that may have a screw (or two!) loose.
Here are 17 of the funniest responses.
It's Hashtags time! Tweet out a funny, weird, or embarrassing thing a family member has done or said, and tag it with #MyFamilyIsWeird. Could be on the show!— jimmy fallon (@jimmy fallon) 1637264081
At Thanksgiving, my family sings “Rock The Boat” every single time we pass the gravy boat from one person to the next. #MyFamilyIsWeird— PDB435 (@pdb435) November 23, 2021
Could this be because someone spilled the gravy boat years ago and no one wants to eat dry turkey or potatoes again?
When I was just starting high school my older brother rode the bus with me, he bent over to pay and get off the bus when he split his shorts down the middle, no underwear on for everyone to see, he turned to me and said, I get to wear the underwear tomorrow...#MyFamilyIsWeird— Ian (@TheLast_Ian) November 18, 2021
Now, that's some quick wit.
Every Thanksgiving, my family hides a sweet potato in the house. Whoever finds it first gets $20 and a six-pack of Miller High Life. #myfamilyisweird— Renee Jordan (@ReneeJordan78) November 22, 2021
Do they have to drink the entire six-pack of the "Champagne of Beers" that day, or can they take the leftover bottles home? Also, thinking about starting this tradition with my family. Who fronts the $20?
My grandmother lost her dentures once and we spent 4 hours searching the house for them before she remembered that she had put them in her bra. #MyFamilyIsWeird— Erin (@etes_97) November 18, 2021
Let's hope that grandma found the dentures herself.
I see no problem with this as long as there is enough whipped cream to go around.
My friend’s family has a massive group text, and then a bunch of smaller group texts to gossip about what happens in the big group text. #MyFamilyIsWeird— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) November 18, 2021
Nothing good ever came out of a family group text.
My family had one of those silver aluminum Christmas trees when I was growing up. One year our TV antenna on the roof blew off in a storm so my dad rigged the tree up instead. We actually got better reception. So we had a Christmas tree on our roof all year long. #MyFamilyIsWeird— DeeDee SMITH 🌊 #GetVaccinated (@DeeDee_SmithTN) November 25, 2021
That works better than any coathanger or bunny ears that people used back in the day to improve their TV reception. Now, can the Christmas tree pick up HBO?
My mom will always watch a new series by starting with the final episode, and then pretend like she knew the plot the whole time. #MyFamilyIsWeird— Elise//209 days (@elise_millsssss) November 18, 2021
I wonder how long it took for the family to figure out that she was cheating? Does she also read the last chapter of a mystery novel first?
My parents come from a country where it was the culture to not smile in photos, and thought the same applied here. So I have many childhood photos from happy occasions like birthdays, where we are all staring blankly into the camera like the Village of the Damned #MyFamilyisWeird pic.twitter.com/2egtQCMJWl— Dumb Jokes Only (@DumbJokesOnly) November 18, 2021
That has to be freaky, especially if they are taking photos with members of the family that were born in the U.S. and some are smiling and others are not.
My mom once hung AND filled an extra stocking from the fireplace… for my boyfriend. I was single at the time. She said it was for if I happened to get one in the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas. Way to rub it in, mom. #myfamilyisweird— EmmyAnn (@EmmyAnn412) November 18, 2021
Wow. Imagine how annoying her mother gets after she gets a boyfriend and then immediately starts asking for kids and hanging little stockings up by the fireplace.
That's freaky, he looks like the Headless Horseman or Jack Pumpkinhead from "Return to Oz."
When I was younger my mom would always try to set me up with my college professor dad’s physics students. I finally said no, they wear plaid pants! Then my grandmother said “it’s not what they look like in their pants, it’s how they look without them” 😳😖 #myfamilyisweird— Steel Cowgirl (@Steelcowgirl) November 18, 2021
Eww. Grandma, that's gross. Get your mind out of the gutter.
My Dad, when I was little, found a wild pine tree to use as a Christmas tree, but when he brought it in, it was too big. So to fix it he cut off the TOP. 😳 Wish I could find the picture of it. We laugh about it every Christmas. 😂 #MyFamilyIsWeird— Donna 🇺🇸 (@dddonnnaaa) November 23, 2021
That had to be a seriously stumpy-looking tree. How in the world did he put a star on top?
My brother decided to come out during family thanksgiving dinner. Right after the blessing - literally after the “amens” - he screamed “I’M GAY!” My mother calmly said “we know” and started cutting her turkey. #myfamilyisweird— Eleanor Semeraro (@eleanordowling) November 18, 2021
Sometimes, the entire family knows. They're just waiting for you to say it.
I had to teach my dad how to use an iPhone when they first came out. I explained to him that he had to slide to unlock the screen. Rather than sliding his finger across the screen, he stood up from the couch and started sliding his feet in the living room. #MyFamilyIsWeird— Joey Jweinat (@CosmicJoey415) November 18, 2021
"Slide, baby, slide! Slide, baby, slide!" – "Tootsie Roll" by 69 Boyz.
my great aunt collects vintage dolls.. each year she strips them & repaints them to resemble each of her siblings. She then burns them in a bonfire and sends us Christmas cards with the before and after photos of the burnt dolls.. #myfamilyisweird pic.twitter.com/DW9ksbtlcu— LUCΛ GUΛDΛGNEGRO ☻ (@LucaGuadagnegro) November 18, 2021
Oh no. Voodoo aunt needs to stop. That is totally not in the Christmas spirit.
My mom found these fall decorations that we all proudly display in our homes. Every year we send texts/post messages saying “The Corncob Cowboy rides again!”— Mirrrrrr (@MirmeeV) November 25, 2021
Many jokes ensue. #myfamilyisweird @FallonTonight @jimmyfallon #dickjokes pic.twitter.com/ouqaUd0t5V
Does anyone else think this is creepy? This is like a white elephant gift that will never go away.
Success is measured not by a list of our accomplishments, but by a legacy of people inspired by our passion.
This past Sunday (November 28), Broadway royalty gathered together in Times Square to pay tribute to Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist who created legendary works for six decades, and whose name is practically synonymous with musical theatre. The tribute came after his passing on Friday.
The massive crowd is a sea of recognizable faces, including Sara Bareilles (“Waitress”) and Josh Groban. Perhaps most easily spotted is teary-eyed Lin Manuel Miranda, a modern-day Sondheim in his own right.
Miranda would later be seen reading a passage about “Sunday in the Park with George” from Sondheim’s memoir, which read:
"Once during the writing of each show, I cry at a notion, a word, a chord, a melodic idea, an accompaniment figure... In this show, it was the word ‘forever’ in ‘Sunday.' I was suddenly moved by the contemplation of what these people would have thought if they’d know they were being immortalized, and in a major way, in a great painting.”
Towards the verticals of trees— Howard Sherman (@HESherman) November 28, 2021
Forever . . .
By the blue purple yellow red water
On the green
Orange violet mass
Of the grass
In our perfect park
Made of flecks of light
And parasols . . .
Bumbum bum Bumbumbum
Bumbum bum . . .#Sondheim pic.twitter.com/AG9e5zoAND
In an age where we’re more likely to stay at home and watch Netflix than go to a live concert, let alone go see a musical, there are many who have not experienced that inexplicable, magic quality that live theatre possesses. At its best, it inspires people to use their voice, practice empathy and come together in community with one another. Sondheim was the very best of the best at embodying this quality in his works. And if this video is any indication, he will be sorely missed.
Sondheim too will be immortalized, perhaps in a way he’d never imagined during his lifetime.