She died before we could fall in love. But she taught me one important thing.

Beth Atkinson died. She was one of the best first dates I ever had.

It was a long time ago, so we met the old-fashioned way — on Match.com. We had coffee at Mercury Cafe on Chicago Avenue. We laughed so loudly we made the other patrons blush. You could tell they were merely pretending to study or work, peering up from their books and laptops to witness the splendor of a first date gone well.

After that, we rode our bikes to a taco place and talked about our dreams. She wanted to move to France someday. I did this thing I sometimes do where I look at someone I’ve just met and mentally picture what they might look like in 30 years. Where will the wrinkles settle around that smile? Then we went to my place and made out on my couch.


"When can I see you again?" she asked me. This was what I liked about Beth. Most people were too busy protecting themselves to be direct. Beth made unflinching eye contact when she spoke to you. I envied the congruence she conveyed between her internal and external worlds.

I was moving to another apartment in a couple of days. So, we’d have to wait until after that.

We exchanged text messages for a couple of weeks, delaying our second date due to minor inconveniences and somewhat-full schedules.

Then, Beth stopped responding.

Beth’s roommate, Julia, happened to be a barista at a cafe I frequented. "I haven’t seen you for a few weeks. Did you take a vacation?" I inquired. I fought through the embarrassment that Julia probably knew I had gone out with Beth and that she knew what horrible thing I must have said or did — or what gaping personality flaw or physical deformity I must have had — to make her stop returning my messages.

While removing a biscotto from a jar, tongs in hand, Julia froze and turned ghost white. "You didn’t hear about Beth?"

I hardly knew Beth. But I knew her in ways that her closest friends didn’t know her.

Normally, when someone you care about passes away, you have friends and family in common to commiserate with about the departed.

I didn’t have those outlets as I grieved Beth. The funeral had passed. It seemed perverse to try to talk to Julia because she had been riding with Beth during the bicycle accident. It felt selfish to seek solace from a near stranger who had known her so deeply and experienced the tragedy so closely.

As I sat in my dark apartment with a glass of gin by my side, I read Beth’s mother’s wailing Facebook updates. The contrast in loss was cartoonish. How much of my grief was for Beth, and how much of it was just grief for myself?

I wrote to Match.com to let them know what had happened to Beth. Her profile was gone within 30 minutes. I wondered about the other guys who might be disappointed to see her disappear.

When I see people treat each other flippantly, like e-commerce items they can customize with a swipe, I wish they could learn what I learned from Beth:

Whenever I’m tempted — by what I think I want from the world — to forget someone’s humanity or to fool myself into shying away from a real connection, I remember Beth’s blazing blue eyes, patiently locked with mine, awaiting my response.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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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."