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!

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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."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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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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