Tough week, huh? You might have missed these 7 awesome things that happened.

Hey, quick question: How are you doing? Are you hanging in there?

It's been a rough couple of weeks, no doubt about that. You don't need a recap; just flip on the news or check Facebook, and you'll be knocked over by the avalanche of horrifying political developments that have taken place over the past 14 days.

It's a little overwhelming, to be honest. Things have felt hopeless, and even all the good people out there fighting for what's good and right sometimes seem like just a drop in the ocean.


But I'm here to tell you it's not all bad! A lot of it is bad, definitely. But, somewhere scattered underneath all the rubble of alternative facts, Muslim bans, and special operations gone horrendously wrong is evidence that this world we live in is, indeed, worth the fight.

Victories big and small are happening, along with pieces of news that are just a welcome reprieve from the madness.

Here are seven awesome things that happened this week you may not have heard about.

1. An amazing federal judge in L.A. demanded an Iranian man with a valid visa be allowed into the country.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

According to Matt Hamilton of the L.A. Times, Ali Vayeghan had been waiting for years to fly from Tehran to see his son in Los Angeles. He just so happened to book his journey right as Donald Trump's already infamous executive order came down.

Vayeghan was detained when he arrived at LAX and promptly sent back to Iran by way of Dubai.

ACLU lawyers petitioned the courts and won a decision to honor Vayeghan's travel visa, but by then he was back in Dubai. So U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee told authorities to transport him back to the U.S. immediately.

No word yet on whether Vayeghan has been reunited with his son in the U.S., but knowing there are judges out there willing to uphold the Constitution is a victory in its own right.

2. We thought this adorable frog was extinct but recently discovered it was just hiding!

Science and discovery still matter, damnit. Just ask the cave squeaker, a small African frog that hadn't been seen for nearly 50 years.

That is until a team led by Robert Hopkins, an associate researcher with the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo, found a handful of them in Zimbabwe. The frogs had simply changed breeding sites, which made them hard to track down.

Scratching just one species off the extinct list is a major deal, and now we can work on protection and conservation for these little brown hoppers so they can thrive again one day soon.

3. A Texas mayor came out as transgender, and the support was overwhelming.

A transgender mayor of a small, red town in Texas? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, and that's what Jess Herbst expected when she came out this week as transgender.

Much to her surprise, the reaction from her friends, neighbors, and peers couldn't have been more supportive.

One of my Facebook friends challenged people to post a picture from high school and current. So here is mine. 1977-2017, I haven't changed a bit.

Posted by Jess Herbst on Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"I was hoping for tolerance, and what I've gotten is overwhelming support," she said, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Read her brave, and refreshingly honest, open letter to the people of her town on the official New Hope, Texas, website.

4. A woman arrested for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband was finally released from imprisonment.

In 2010, Marissa Alexander's husband threatened to kill her. Protecting herself and her newborn child, she fired a warning shot from a gun she owned and scared him off.

Though the bullet did not hit her husband, Rico Gray, and the fact that Gray had a known history of abusing her, Alexander was convicted of aggravated assault with a lethal weapon. She has been in prison and under house arrest ever since.

Until this week.

Having accepted a shortened sentence in 2015, Alexander's punishment is finally, and fortunately, over. She's now free. And though what happened to her was a travesty, her story is going to fuel the fires of anti-domestic violence workers everywhere for a long time to come.

We have a lot of work left to do.

5. The Boy Scouts are finally allowing transgender boys to join.

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

The Boy Scouts have not always been known as the most, er, progressive organization on the block. It took them a pretty long time to get comfortable with the idea of gay troop leaders, all the while doing a pretty poor job of handling accusations of abuse.

But, hey, this week at least, there's some progress.

The Boy Scouts of America finally announced it would honor the gender listed on a child's application instead of the birth certificate. This paves the way for kids who identify as boys to join.

After all, everyone deserves the chance to learn how to tie sweet knots and race wooden cars.

6. Two Republican senators vowed to vote "no" on Trump's pick for secretary of Education.

You may have heard a little about Betsy DeVos, who is currently awaiting confirmation to become secretary of Education. In short, she is immensely unqualified for the job.

Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped some of Trump's other picks from coasting their way into his cabinet.

This time, though, it seems there may be a few Republicans willing to stand up for what's right rather than playing party politics. Both Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said they could not support DeVos in the upcoming vote.

Whether that ultimately affects her path to the job remains to be seen, but it's at least a good sign not everyone in the GOP is willing to let Trump have his way when the stakes are high.

7. Beyoncé and Jay Z are having twins. Twins!

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

OK, this might seem trivial, but it's honestly been a while since a non-Trump story grabbed the country's attention the way Beyoncé's Instagram post announcing her pregnancy did.

We need trivial and giddy news like this to nourish our souls.

Think about it — we used to complain, but don't you kind of miss the days when pictures of cute puppies and all the latest Brangelina rumors ruled the internet? So do I.

Queen Bey has brought us back to that time, if only for a moment.

There's bound to be great news next week, too. You just have to look a little harder for it these days. But I promise you, it's worth it!

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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."