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“Imagine that you worked in an office building, and you couldn’t leave it for weeks at a time.”

Ensign Christine Conlon says, "That’s what it feels like to be deployed on a Navy ship."

The USS Ross in port at Souda Bay, Greece. Photo by Spc. 1st Class Theron J. Godbold/Released/U.S. Navy.


Conlon works aboard the USS Ross, an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer (think three pegs in Battleship) stationed off the south coast of Spain. Every season, the USS Ross and its inhabitants are deployed on a four-month patrol in and around the Mediterranean area.

During those deployments, life at sea becomes pretty boring, pretty fast.

So a letter like this can often make someone's day:

All letters courtesy of Ensign Nick Tsusaki/U.S. Navy.

The letter reads:

Dear Service Member,
Thank you for risking your life for my community. I'm so thankful for what you're doing. Earlier we wrote about how we were brave. I said I let my sister get KFC instead of me getting Taco Bell. That's nothing compared to what you do. I can't say thank you enough. My great uncle was in the military. It would be great if you would write back. I appreciate your courage and sacrifice. Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.
Sincerely,
Your biggest fan,
Destiny



Sailors may be at sea for several weeks at time, so once they've read, watched, and played everything they brought with them on deployment, entertainment can be pretty scarce.

"We really value the small things," Conlon says. “When you get a package and it’s got a new nail polish or new movies, and you can say ‘All right, I’ll set aside time to do this on Wednesday,’ it gives you something to look forward to.”

The enthusiasm for correspondence is universal. “It’s a delight to get mail,” says Ensign Nick Tsusaki, who works alongside Conlon on the Ross. “Everybody looks forward to getting mail.”

In addition to correspondence from family and friends, military personnel receive thousands of letters and packages from strangers — including from kids.

Letters like this one:

Dear Soldier,
Thak you for prtekteg us. I am in 1st grad but I know a lot.
from Juliette.

Back home in the States, community organizations frequently run letter-writing campaigns and package donations for service members overseas. Every time there's a mail delivery, personally addressed packages are accompanied by hundreds of letters and cards from citizens around the country.

The anonymous mail often offers a brand of levity that’s entirely its own — particularly when kids are the letter writers.

“It makes your day getting these little kids’ cards. I usually scan through the package for bad handwriting ‘cause that’s how you know they’re gonna be funny. Kids really do say the darndest things,” Tsusaki laughs.

Dear Soldier,
Hello! I hope you are well. Thank you for fighting for us. My favorite thing is soldier. I love soldier. Are you okay? Well I feel happy for you.
Love,
Kinley


The messages often reveal that the kids have little clue what goes on overseas, but they understand that the sailors and soldiers are far from home and could use a little love.

Dear Soldier,
Thank you for risking your lives for other people. I'm sorry if your friends died. I appreciate everything you do for the country.
Your new friend, Michael.

“Even when it’s crazy stuff, like ‘I hope you don’t die’ or ‘Thank you for giving your blood for me,’ stuff like that, it’s still nice to get something that someone took some time to do,” says Lt. j.g. Sean Mansfield.

“And it’s a good conversation starter for five hours of night watch when you’re standing alone with somebody in the dark,” adds Tsusaki.

Dear Soldier,
Thank you for fighting for our country. You are our hero. I know it is scary. I wish I can help you but I am a kid.

Whether the packages contain something funny or something touching, it’s clear that handwritten notes have an amazing ability to make an impact.

Out at sea, sailors aren't totally disconnected — they're still able to email family and chat online with friends. But it's not quite the same as a card or letter handwritten in the mail.

"It’s nice to get a text saying, 'hey man, you’re the best,'" says Mansfield, "But mail just takes a significantly higher level of care and concern. You know that someone thought about what you wanted, put it in a box, wrote the address, drove it to the post office. You know that person really cares."

Conlon sums it up in a sentence: "It's just nice to know someone was thinking about you."

Want to send a card or letter of your own? You can write to a soldier online via the USO or visit A Million Thanks to learn more about sending physical letters and packages. Your contribution is always appreciated.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Co-sleeping isn't for everyone.

The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.

However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.

Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”

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