The unexpected reason why this dad is looking forward to life after raising kids.
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Whirlpool Congrats Parents

Every spring, Dan Berman and his son Matan had a tradition: They would travel to the coast of Florida for the major league spring training games.

The training games were an especially fun trip, as fans could get up close and personal with their favorite players. Dan and Matan also love traveling together, and the games were a perfect excuse to drive along the coast.

One year, however, things didn’t exactly go as planned.


The Braves, Matan’s favorite team, had started requiring people to pay money to talk with the players.

“He was incensed by this,” says Dan. “He was into the spiritual side of baseball. [He believed] that everyone should have access.”

So, rather than give up on talking to his favorite player Eddie Pérez, Matan stubbornly sat in the bullpen for an hour, watching the pitchers and catchers warming up. And when Pérez came out, Matan started yelling, trying to get his attention, and asking him to throw a ball his way. To Dan and Matan’s surprise, it worked: Pérez signed one and threw it right to a beaming Matan.

In that moment, Dan could not have been prouder. Seeing his son’s fearless determination, even at just 12 years old, offered him a glimpse into the adult Matan would one day be. He was someone who believed that no one should be left out, rules be damned — not in baseball, and not in life. It was moments like these, thought Dan, that made being a parent so special.

But parenting isn’t just about these wonderful experiences. It’s hard work, especially when you’re a dad to three rambunctious boys.

They hadn’t even necessarily planned on having three kids, but after the second, Dan’s wife wanted a girl, so they decided to have one more. Of course, they wound up with another boy.

With three energetic boys now running around the house, it could get overwhelming, Dan says. “There is always so much to do around a house with three boys that those parts of our history are almost a blur.” The laundry, the cooking, the dishes, the late night homework assignments — it may come with the territory of being a parent, but that didn’t make it any easier.

Even getting the boys to help mow the lawn was a challenge in itself. “I [had to] pull the lawn mower out, fill it with gas and start it to get their attention,” Dan jokes.

But it was important to Dan that the boys help around the house, and that included helping him with the laundry when they were old enough.

"When we give our kids everything, teaching them the basics in life, like doing laundry, mowing the lawn, seem like such simple things," he says. "But these lessons may be more impactful than of the organized group activities they participated in as kids."

Parenting requires sacrifices, too — Dan loves to cook, but he didn’t have much time for it as a Dad. “I didn't do that much cooking when the kids were younger other than unhealthy kid fare.” The meals that are fun to cook for an aspiring home chef aren't necessarily what a kid wants to eat — especially compared to macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and other kid classics.

That said, there was one thing he could make that they’d eat: eggs. “I am the egg specialist in the house [though],” he says. “I can make an egg any possible way a young boy could want it.”

Finding calm in the center of that chaos was one of the big challenges of parenting, and he didn’t always get it right. But no matter the challenge — whether it was a picky eater or an algebra assignment — Dan always found a way to make it work.

Image via Whirlpool

This May, Matan will finally don a cap and gown and walk across the stage to get his high school diploma. Dan, along with hundreds of other proud parents, reminded once more of the determination that brought them there, the sacrifices they made along the way, and the young adults their kids have grown into.

This will be a proud moment for Dan, but also bittersweet, as both begin a new chapter — Matan is headed for a gap year abroad in Israel, and Dan will be left with an empty nest.

Of course, this change comes with challenges, but Dan’s excited to focus on who he’d like to become.

“I’m ready. I do have mixed emotions,” Dan says. “I’ll be sad and I’ll have tears, but I’m ready for the next stage of life.”

While “empty nest syndrome” isn’t a clinical diagnosis, a last child leaving home can still have a mental health impact, like any major life event. An empty nest can sometimes leave parents feeling lonely or anxious. It can even feel like they’re grieving a loss.

But Dan knows the best way to prepare for a transition like this is to just dive right in.

His advice? “Start to prepare by changing routines [and] trying to find different ways to fulfill your life,” he explains. “I’ve always had other interests! I exercise a lot, I love to cook, I like to go mountain biking and things like that. I plan to just do more of it.” (And now, of course, Dan will get to be more than just an “egg specialist,” cooking the meals that he enjoys most.)

Therapist Jasmine Banks agrees, noting that empty nest transitions can be “really powerful moments of transformation.”

There are plenty of ways to encourage that kind of transformation, too. Whether it’s reconnecting with a spouse, or discovering a new passion, parents can turn their grief into motivation to lead more independent, fulfilling lives.

Many parents view caregiving as an important part of their identity — but an empty nest allows them to concentrate on who they are apart from what they do for their kids. “Use some of that freed space to reflect on [your own] needs and wellbeing,” Banks explains.

Transitions like high school graduation can also be the perfect time for kids to celebrate everything their parents do.

Even the little things — like getting dinner on the table, scrubbing stubborn grass stains out of that baseball jersey, or helping with algebra homework — all had an important part to play in getting grads in the cap and gown, though they can sometimes go unrecognized. While graduation is a rite of passage for teens, in many ways, it’s one for parents, too.

That’s why Whirlpool has created "Congrats, parents" as part of its Every day, care® campaign. By sharing meaningful, uplifting messages for parents of the class of ‘18, they’re celebrating the parents whose work often goes unappreciated:

Congrats parents and grads!

These dedicated parents deserve as many congratulations as their graduating students.

Posted by Upworthy on Tuesday, May 8, 2018

“It’s one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs I’ve ever had. [And] it never, ever, ever goes according to plan,” Dan laughs. “[Matan is] a wonderful, wonderful kid with challenging 18-year-old tendencies. I don’t have any doubt that he’s going to be a success in life.”

While walking across that stage will be an unforgettable moment for the graduating class of 2018, it’s no less momentous for the parents who supported them along the way. And the chapter ahead can be filled with exciting new adventures for both of them.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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