They felt like losers in their youth — but that's how these couples met later in life.

It was Valentine's Day 2006, and 32-year-old Neil Katcher was standing on stage reading poetry he'd written in high school.

This was part of "Mortified," a hilarious stage performance where adults could come together and share their most hilariously embarrassing and angst-filled moments from adolescence, usually in the form of diary entries, poetry, or chat transcripts.

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On that night, Neil was reading a selection of love letters that, as an awkward teenager, he'd been too afraid to send out of fear of rejection.


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You know. Stuff like this:

GIF from "Mortified Nation."

After the show, a woman named Christine came up and introduced herself to him. "She was wearing 2-inch heels and she’s already like an inch taller than me. So she was like towering over me and I had no idea she was flirting with me," he told Upworthy over email.

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The rest was history, and their first child turned 3 last year.

Neil, Christina, and their little guy, in 2013. GIF from "Mortified Nation."

"It’s kinda fun that this love letter I wrote as a kid — where I wore my heart on my sleeve — ended up getting the very thing I wanted — a girlfriend/wife — only 15 years later," he said.

Of course, that wasn't the goal when he started "Mortified" with his friend, David Nadelberg, back in 2002.

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They just thought it'd be funny to do a one-off night where people could read and share and laugh at their own delightfully awkward teenage memories, whether it's their funny chat transcripts with the girl next door or the erotic poetry they wrote about their sophomore math teacher before they had any real concept of what eroticism was or meant or something else as awesomely awful.

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They never expected the project to expand into podcasts, books, documentary films, and a television series, with live-performance chapters spanning three continents. And they certainly never thought so many people would find love along the way.

Founder David Nadelberg. GIF from "Mortified Nation."

The first time that Sara Faith Alterman read at "Mortified," she looked into the audience and saw a woman from her high school staring back.

Sara was already exposing herself by sharing tumultuous stories and poems about her on-again-off-again high school sweetheart.

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But seeing someone who actually (kind of) knew the person that she was back then? That made the whole thing even harder.

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"She hadn’t been the nicest kid, so exposing my teen musings and insecurities in front of her felt really terrible," Sara said.

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One year later, she returned to the "Mortified" stage. And this time, she made a passing joke about seeing someone in the audience that was actually present for the teenage trauma she was talking about.

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A man named Sam used the same angle when he approached her after the show. "Hey, we went to high school together!" he said. 

Sara in high school. Photo used with permission.

As Sara remembers it:

"I thought he was just joking to hit on me. I didn’t mind, because he was really cute. But he was serious. And it took me a minute to recognize him because we only knew each other through peripheral social media connections. I’d been a year ahead of him in school, and we’d run in completely different circles: I was in jazz choir and the drama club, he loved camping and skiing. 

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I fell in love with him immediately."

That was nearly 10 years ago. Today, they're married and live in the Bay Area — though Sara still produces the Boston and New England chapters of "Mortified," back where she grew up. 

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"My husband thinks I’m crazy for remaining affected by high school. I think he’s a robot," she said. "And our baby is basically a crazy robot, so that makes sense." 

Sara and Sam today. Photo used with permission.

Anne Jensen-Smith and her husband, Adam, were both already entangled in the "Mortified" world when sparks began to fly between them.

Anne had been co-producing the Los Angeles chapter's live performances, alongside co-founders Dave and Neil. At one point, they decided to bring in a house band to accompany performances — and Adam just so happened to be the leader of the band.

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That's what got them talking. The first time they went out alone together was after a "Mortified" performance — on Valentine's Day. "Adam and I talked all night long about our upbringings, our high school experiences, most embarrassing moments after that 'Mortified' show nine years ago," she told Upworthy.

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"Now, nine years, one marriage, two kids, two dogs, and one major move (to Texas) later, we decided to open a 'Mortified' in Dallas where, once again, I am the producer and he is the band leader."

Anne in middle school, on the left, and today with her husband, Adam. Photo used with permission.

"The charm of 'Mortified,' and why I think it brings so many couples together, is that it immediately disarms you," Anne said.

"[It] makes it cool, funny, and most importantly it makes you feel OK to talk about that most vulnerable time in your life," she added. "One doesn't often open up like that on a first date, or even a fifth or tenth date, but watching 'Mortified' can really inspire someone to share the tenderness of one's adolescence."

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Sara agrees. "'Mortified' gives people a platform to lay their deep-seated dreams, insecurities, and secrets all out on the table. It’s exhilarating. It’s cathartic."

But the most important lesson to take away from "Mortified"? It's that despite our terrible teenage memories, we ended up OK after all.

As a performer in the "Mortified Nation" documentary put it:

"Having the audience with me, kind of cheering me on, is a remarkable thing. Because I didn't have that when I was teenager. I didn't have anybody saying 'aw' when I was getting picked on. That's a really powerful shift."

It is a powerful thing to reclaim your past humiliations, when you were young and naive and worried about everything. Imagine how your high school self would have felt if you had known that it would all turn out OK — or even better — and that your heinous high school poems about your sexy sophomore math teacher could lead you into the arms of the one you'd spend your life with.

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For some people, that could make the difference between life and death.

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Maybe if I'd known where I'd end up today, I wouldn't have felt so tortured back then. But then I probably wouldn't be where I am — which is writing this story before I go on stage at "Mortified" to sing a song I wrote more than half my life ago.

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The refrain? "Somehow it'll all turn out right."

Me at "Mortified," probably singing "@#$% You, Hotchkiss Lane" or "Love Song in the Key of Amateur" or some other incredibly angsty adolescent anthem that I penned in my punk rock youth. Clearly I haven't changed that much.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Wikiimages by Pixabay, Dr. Jacqueline Antonovich/Twitter

The 1776 Report isn't just bad, it's historically bad, in every way possible.

When journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones published her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project for The New York Times, some backlash was inevitable. Instead of telling the story of America's creation through the eyes of the colonial architects of our system of government, Hannah-Jones retold it through the eyes of the enslaved Africans who were forced to help build the nation without reaping the benefits of democracy. Though a couple of historical inaccuracies have had to be clarified and corrected, the 1619 Project is groundbreaking, in that it helps give voice to a history that has long been overlooked and underrepresented in our education system.

The 1776 Report, in turn, is a blaring call to return to the whitewashed curriculums that silence that voice.

In September of last year, President Trump blasted the 1619 Project, which he called "toxic propaganda" and "ideological poison" that "will destroy our country." He subsequently created a commission to tell the story of America's founding the way he wanted it told—in the form of a "patriotic education" with all of the dog whistles that that phrase entails.

Mission accomplished, sort of.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.