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It was supposed to be a simple family photo shoot. And to the untrained eye, it was.

The Mayo family: two adoring parents laughing and smiling with their sweet son and cheerful daughter in a cool, relaxing forest down in Louisiana. Their light and joy is palpable. But a closer look — and a refresher on American history — reveals that  these family portraits were anything but ordinary.

That's because this family had their portraits taken at the Tezcuco Plantation, which burned to the ground in 2002.


Photo by Katherine Lea, used with permission.

The woman behind the powerful portraits is photographer Katherine Lea, a Louisiana native.

The Mayo family hoped to have their family portraits taken at a plantation to show respect for their ancestral journey.

Lea, who is also known as scottie, scouted a different plantation home for the shoot, but when she arrived that day, there was a large crowd attending an event. Thinking on her feet, Lea drove down the road and discovered Tezcuco, a plantation built by slaves between 1855 and 1860. The home there was on National Register of historic places and briefly housed an African-American museum until it was destroyed by a fire in 2002.

[rebelmouse-image 19531818 dam="1" original_size="750x498" caption="Photo by Z28scrambler/Wikimedia Commons. " expand=1]Photo by Z28scrambler/Wikimedia Commons.

Lea was unsure if Mayo would go for it, as not everyone wants to hold a family portrait session among literal ruins. (Not to mention, the site was private property, so the shoot required a little trespassing.) But once Mayo saw the site, she was all in.

"When we saw that the plantation had been burned to the ground, we knew that we were in the perfect place," Mayo writes in an email. "I truly believe that fate landed us there for a specific reason."

Photo by Katherine Lea, used with permission.

Though this wasn't Lea or Mayo's first time on plantation grounds, it was no less emotional.

Even for someone who grew up in Louisiana, Lea described her session at Tuzuco as an odd and overwhelming experience. "There's so much history and so much blood that was shed on plantation grounds," she says. "They stand for something that we would all like to actually heal from, and not just hide in the closet."

The experience stirred Mayo to her core as well. While her children are too young to know the horrors of slavery or the history of the site, Mayo felt a shift in them too. "It's always eerie and a heaviness washes over me. Not even my babies were their usual energetic selves," she writes.

Photo by Katherine Lea, used with permission.

Despite the eerie mood, the care and affection the Mayo family has for one another shone through and brightened the darkness of this horrific place.

"It was really hard to think about all of the — negative history that was associated with plantations because it was love. It was just all love," Lea says.

Mayo hopes the photographs start a much-needed dialogue about race and the parts of our shared history that few want to address.

"I wanted people to walk into our home, look at these photos, and feel compelled to have that conversation that so many people usually try to avoid."

Photo by Katherine Lea, used with permission.

After the shoot, Lea shared the photos on Twitter, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

While the photos weren't taken to make an explicit political statement, Lea posted them in response to the hateful rhetoric and violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"We've got to remember that there's love in us, even if there's hate everywhere else," she says.

Mayo is glad the photos are inspiring conservations on race and slavery that many try to avoid.

"There is still so much oppression to overcome. Let these images be a testament to the fact that the oppressed can and WILL prevail."

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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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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