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What the mom behind the viral rainbow Christmas lights wants people to know.

Here's hoping we see many more supportive holiday displays.

What the mom behind the viral rainbow Christmas lights wants people to know.

Lexi Magnussen left the Mormon Church in 2012 because she disagreed with its views on homosexuality.

Then, a few months ago, her new neighbors moved in.

Shortly after, the mom of the neighboring family came over to introduce herself to Lexi and her husband, who were standing on their front lawn.


Lexi and her family. Photo via Lexi Magnussen, used with permission.

The woman, like Lexi and her husband, happened to be Mormon, which Lexi says is why she thinks the woman reached out, hoping they'd have something in common.

Their conversation started out pleasant enough, but then took a rather uncomfortable — and homophobic — turn.

"Basically she told us she moved here to get her children away from the gays," Lexi recalls in a private Facebook message. According to Lexi, the last straw for her neighbor was when a girl rejected her son asking her to the prom because the girl already had a girlfriend. She just couldn't understand a school that promoted "the gay agenda," her neighbor told her.

Lexi says she tried to keep her cool and reminded her neighbor that their kids were going to be exposed to LGBTQ people no matter where they went, and she was glad for it.

Photo by Lexi Magnussen. Used with permission.

"[Kids] know not to be horrible to each other based on who they are or how they were born," Lexi explains.

Needless to say, the conversation ended quickly, and from that day on, Lexi says her new neighbor acted like her family didn't exist.

The painful situation hung in Lexi's mind for months, until the presidential election results came in. With Christmas coming up, Lexi decided to act.

Like many people nationwide, she was devastated by the election, not only because she didn't like the outcome but because of the onslaught of hate crimes targeting marginalized groups that followed. With her conversation with her neighbor in mind, Lexi knew she wanted to do something to publicly show her support for the LGBTQ community.

So she grabbed 10,000 rainbow lights and got to work on her front yard:

Photo by Lexi Magnussen. Used with permission.

"I love Christmas lights [and] realized my front hedges would be the perfect place for a rainbow flag of lights," Lexi explains of the decorations.

Lexi's neighbor has yet to comment on her vivid display, she says, but the rest of her neighbors love it, as do the 14,000 other people who've liked her post on Facebook. Despite the initial disappointing exchange with her neighbor, however, Lexi says she's open to furthering the conversation between them.

It doesn't take a monumental action to make a big difference, especially to the people you see every day — your neighbors.

The Magnussens' bright response to hate is just one of many people have carried out in recent months. One artist in Arkansas covered up hateful graffiti with a loving message and has made it her mission to keep doing it. A group of Michigan neighbors decked out all their houses with rainbow flags in response to a bigoted letter one neighbor received.

The messages these displays send aren't so much a rebuke to people — like Lexi's neighbor — who don't believe in them as much as they are an affirmation to those who are targeted by hate speech and hate crimes. I see you, I love you, I am here for you, these artistic displays of solidarity say to those who need to hear them.

Making a difference and rejecting bigotry can start with a kind word and the willingness to listen to the problems people in your community are facing. If we can protect each other on a local level, that's a huge step in the right direction.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around 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!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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