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Joy

Woman who gave $100 to two refugee sisters on a plane is reunited with them 23 years later

Little did she know how life changing that act of kindness would be.

woman finds stranger she gave $100 to 23 years ago
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Who knows where kindness may lead?

Often, we have little awareness of how our actions might affect the lives of others. Our kindness simply goes into the ether, maybe to return as good karma, who knows? And most of the time that’s fine, considering that the act was probably done to help someone else, not for recognition. But still, have you ever done something kind for a stranger, and wondered, whatever happened to that person?

In 1999, two sisters boarded a plane from Amsterdam to the United States, fleeing their home in the former Yugoslavia. The Republic of Yugoslavia had been continuously bombed by NATO for three months during the Kosovo War, in an attempt to thwart widespread ethnic cleansing of Albanian civilians. The sisters didn’t have a penny to their name—they left behind everything they knew. Only one of them could speak English.

A woman sat next to them on the plan, and, reminded of her own daughters, was moved by their frightening plight. She reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope. Inside she placed dangly earrings, a $100 bill and a handwritten note, which read:

“I am so sorry that the bombing of your country has caused your family any problems. I hope your stay in America will be a safe and happy one for you–Welcome to America–please use this to help you here. A friend from the plane–Tracy.”

The word “safe” had been underlined. For the refugee sisters Ayda Zugay and Vanja Contino, that had meant everything.


Zugay recalled to CNN, "It was the first time that I felt, like, relief. This is a safe place, and we can build a future here. We went from this drastic horror into this beautiful act of kindness." Zugay’s CNN interview would later help her and her sister reunite with Tracy 23 years later, and let Tracy know just how life-changing her gift was.

The search for Tracy had been a passion project years in the making.

For Zugay, Tracy’s note became a “diamond in the dark” as she navigated through her new life in America, facing prejudice toward immigrants. The impact it made was so great that every year as Memorial Day and Thanksgiving approached, Zugay would renew her search.

Over the years, Zugay had enlisted the help of airlines, hotels, Reddit and several refugee organizations. In a recent video, Zugay shared what little clues she uncovered:

“Tracy, by this time, would be a middle aged or an older woman who is amazing at tennis and had traveled for it in the past. She would have flown from Paris, where she stayed at a Holiday Inn and where she played tennis, to Amsterdam, where we met on that flight. She would have flown from Amsterdam to Minnesota, and this would have been on May 31, 1999.”

Though people were moved by her story and offered information and encouragement, she mostly met dead ends. That is, until her CNN story began circulating. More than 2 million readers saw it, including one of Tracy’s close contacts.

As Zugay surmised, Tracy (whose last name we now know is Peck), was indeed a tennis enthusiast. In 1999, she got a chance to travel internationally to play and watch the French Open. Her friend Susan Allen, a tennis coach, saw Tracy’s note on social media and recognized the handwriting.

Allen was able to put Peck in touch with Zugay and Contino, who now live in Boston and Connecticut. The three were able to finally share a long awaited emotional reunion over Zoom.

The sisters gave Peck two decades worth of stories: how they were able to survive the entire summer off of that $100 bill by eating pancake mix and Coca-Cola, how Zugay was able to graduate from Boston University and work with a nonprofit and how Contino became happily married with two children, instilled with Peck’s inclination to pay it forward. As they shared the untold chapters of their story, Zugay wore the dangly earrings given by Peck all those years ago.

We might never know where our goods deeds lead. But one thing is for certain: kindness is powerful. That next act of generosity toward a stranger could be the very saving grace they needed to change their life forever.

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3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

There was a time when every other girl was named Ashley. That time has ended.

As we know, baby name trends are constantly changing. One generation’s Barbara is another generation’s Bethany. But it doesn’t make it any less odd when you suddenly realize that your very own name has suddenly made it into the “old and unhip” pile. And for many of us 80s babies…that time is now.

In a now-viral TikTok post, baby name consultant Colleen Slagen went through the top 100 girl names from 1986 to find which ones “did not age well” and were no longer ranked top 1,000 today. Such a descent from popularity would mark them as what she calls “timestamp names.”

Spoiler alert: what might be even more surprising than the names now considered old school are the names that are still going strong.


The first name that Slagen says is “officially out” is Heather. That’s right, not even cult movie fame could help it keep its ranking.

via GIPHY

Other extinct names include Erica, Courtney, Lindsay, Tara, Crystal, Shannon, Brandy and Dana. Tiffany, Brittany and Casey are also heading very much in that direction.

“My name is Brandy. The Gen Z hostess at Olive Garden told me that she’d never heard my name before and it was so unique,” one viewer wrote.

However, Andrea ranks “surprisingly high,” and Jessica, Ashley and Stephanie have survived…so far.

Gobsmacked, one person asked “How is Stephanie still in there? I don’t think I’ve met a Stephanie younger than myself at 34.”

But the biggest holdout still belongs to Jennifer. “She was a top 100 name all the way up until 2008. Round of applause for Jennifer,” Slagen says in the clip.

@namingbebe Sorry Lindsay, Heather, and Courtney. #babynames #nametok #nameconsultant #girlnames #80skid #1986 #nametrend ♬ original sound - Colleen

If your name has found its way into relic of a bygone era status, fret not. Slagen, whose name also ranks out of the top 1000, assures it just means “we are creatures of the 80's.”

Of course, while we still have baby names that become incredibly common for extended periods of time (looking at you, little Liam and Olivia), the real contemporary trend is going for uniqueness. As an article in The Atlantic notes, for most of American history families tended to name their children after a previous family member, with the goal of blending in, rather than standing out. But now, things have changed.

Laura Wattenberg, the founder of Namerology, told the outlet that “Parents are thinking about naming kids more like how companies think about naming products, which is a kind of competitive marketplace where you need to be able to get attention to succeed.”

But again, even with a keen eye on individualism, patterns pop up. “The same thing we see in fashion trend cycles, we see in names,” Jessie Paquette, another professional baby namer, told Vox. “We’re seeing Eleanor, Maude, Edith—cool-girl grandma names.”

So who knows…give it time (or maybe just a pop song) and one of these 80s names could make a comeback.

Rodney Smith Jr. mowing a lawn in West Covina, California

Rodney Smith Jr., of Huntsville, Alabama, was recently profiled by KMBC for his generous donation to two 11-year-olds who fulfilled his 50 Yard Challenge in Gadsden, Alabama. Ja’Torrian Taylor and Tevin Rice, founders of TJ & JT Mowing Service, completed Smith’s challenge to mow 50 yards for the elderly, veterans, and people unable to care for their lawns for free.

"I’m heading down to Gadsden right now. These are good, hard-working kids that deserve some gratitude," Smith, known as "The Lawnmower Man," told KMBC. Smith had been told that Taylor and Rice were sharing an old lawnmower that a neighbor had donated to them.

When he arrived, he gave both teens a mower, a blower and a trimmer for their hard work, hoping they’ll use their new equipment to expand their business. "Giving these boys lawn equipment is teaching them discipline," Smith said. "If they tell someone they are going to mow a lawn, they need to mow the lawn."

"Remember, this is not the end; it’s just the beginning," Smith added. "This could be the beginning of a successful lawn service."

Smith’s commitment to taking care of people’s lawns started in 2015, and the following year he went viral for helping a 93-year-old woman who could no longer mow hers. The photo of Smith and the woman received over 1 million likes.

Five years ago, Upworthy profiled Smith for setting a bold goal of mowing lawns for free in all 50 states. His goal was to promote his initiative that "provides free lawn care to our elders, those who are disabled, single mothers, and our veterans, who do not have the time, resources, and/or money to manicure their yards."

As part of this goal, he created the 50 Yard Challenge, which has been a smashing success.

As of May 2023, 4,588 pre-teens and teens are participating in this challenge across the United States. If everyone completes the challenge, that will bring the total number of lawns mowed for free by Smith’s Raising Men & Women Lawn Care Service to 229,400.

Kids and teens can take part in the challenge by sending them a photo holding up a sign that says, “I accept the 50 Yard Challenge,” and in return, they’ll receive a white Raising Men/Women shirt along with shades and ear protection to get started. For every 10 lawns cut, they will get a new color shirt.

• 10 lawns earn an orange shirt

• 20 lawns earn a green shirt

• 30 lawns earn a blue shirt

• 40 lawns earn a red shirt

• 50 lawns earn a black shirt

After completing the challenge, the child or teen will receive a mower, a blower, and a trimmer, just like Ja’Torrian Taylor and Tevin Rice from Alabama.

Smith’s story is an incredible example of how one good deed from a kind-hearted person can lead to an outpouring of kindness across the country. It also teaches young people the values of giving back and self-discipline as well as the entrepreneurial spirit.

Learn more about Smith’s nonprofit and donate at Weareraisingmen.com.


This article originally appeared on 6.23.23

Woman refuses to communicate information to mother-in-law

Women are often saddled with the mental load of the household in romantic relationships, there are multiple articles covering the topic. It can be daunting to be in charge of remembering all of the things, essentially becoming a house manager by default. Many times this isn't an arrangement that is discussed, it seems to be either an expectation due to parental modeling or falling into gender roles.

Morgan Strickell was not planning to fall into the trap of being her family's sole organizer and distributer of information. This was a boundary she and her husband were clear about before getting married but recently had to reinforce. The soon-to-be mom, took to her TikTok page to explain that she is not interested in being her husband's "kin keeper."

Strickell is pregnant with her first child and after news was posed on social media, her mother in law's feeling were hurt after finding out the news second hand. It was this situation that prompted the woman's video.


"I refuse to be the primary communicator with my husband's side of the family," Strickell starts. "A few weeks ago my mother-in-law was on the phone with us and she expressed that she was a little bit hurt because she keeps finding out things about our pregnancy from her sister who sees the posts on social media."

The woman explains that this is news to her as she assumed her husband had been communicating the news to his mother. So when they had another ultrasound appointment she reminded her husband to send the information to his mom, to which he asked why she couldn't inform his mom for him. That's when Strickwell had to reinforce her boundary, reminding him that it is his job to inform his side of the family of important information.

Strickwell has a good relationship with her mother in-law and speaks to her on a fairly regular basis, so it's not a matter of an unpleasant relationship. The soon-to-be mom is simply not adding additional things to her plate that then become the expectation. Many people in the comments agreed with her approach.

@morganstrickell #family #momsoftiktok #inlaws ♬ original sound - Morgan Elisa Strickell

I'm on your side and I'm actually the mom of three boys who don't communicate with me, but it is their responsibility to keep me in the loop not their wives," a commenter says.

"Last year my husband told me I was wrong for not including his mom in my Mother's Day shopping and I kindly reminded him that we in fact do not share the same mom," another writes.

"Stay strong on this, it only gets worse after the kid is born," someone declares.

"You are correct and the next thing he'll have you do is buying birthday presents birthday cards for his family and everything becomes your responsibility," another person says.

In another video, Strickell clarified that her husband isn't worried about his communication in with his mother. She also says this isn't an issue that comes up often in their relationship because he is very good at communicating with his family. But Strickwell's intention was to use that example as a means to make sure people are aware that the responsibility of communication doesn't have to fall on the female partner in the relationship.

www.youtube.com

British high schoolers try southern food for the first time

Southern food is beloved by many, and those of us raised on it just consider it dinner, not a special cuisine. But since Southern food is pretty geographical, there are plenty of Americans who haven't had the opportunity to try authentic Southern food. There are a few soul food restaurants that get it right sprinkled across the country, but all are not created equal.

Since Southern cooking isn't available throughout all of America, it shouldn't be a surprise that it's not a staple across the pond. Josh Carrott, author of "Once Upon A Time in Carrottland," runs the YouTube channel Jolly, where he has people try new foods. He decided to invite a group of British schoolboys to try a few Southern staples. The boys are in year 9 in England, which means they're between the ages of 13 and 14.

Since Carrott isn't Southern, or even American for that matter, I can't say how the food was prepared. What I can say is that my very Southern grandmother would give the sausage gravy preparation the side eye, but other than that, it looked as authentic as possible.


The boys were served biscuits that were perfectly golden, and there was immediate confusion. Apparently biscuits are flat and hard in England, so the boys were sure they were being served scones. It only took one bite for them to come around to the idea of the buttery fluffy delight that is the Southern biscuit. But the taste test for the biscuits wasn't over—Carrott mixed up some white sausage gravy and smothered the delicious bread.

None of the boys were eager to try a meal that many Southern households eat regularly.

"Let's call it interesting for now. I'm not going to make a judgment," one boy says.

"It looks like a chopped-up ferret," another lamented.

To be fair, if you've never seen biscuits and gravy, it doesn't look instantly appealing, but once you try it, the dish suddenly looks amazing every time you encounter it moving forward. Maybe it isn't everyone's favorite thing, but being able to drive through a Whataburger and grab it to go brings me childlike joy.

After trying everything offered, all of the boys agreed that the Southern food was delicious, including the sweet tea. Several of them said they preferred it over their British hot tea—no one tell their parents. It feels like it would be as shocking as finding a Southerner who prefers unsweet tea. You can watch the entire video below.

This article originally appeared on 6.22.23

Sergio Reis/Youtube

Odds are you’ve heard Wally de Backer, aka Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

It’s the Australian musician’s biggest commercial hit, selling more than 20 million copies since its release in 2011, making it one of the best-selling digital singles of all time. Not to mention it inspired several amazing covers, which you might have also stumbled upon.

The music video, in its poignant simplicity, is every bit as iconic.

Gotye stands naked facing the camera, as featured singer Kimbra faces him. As they sing, they are slowly “painted” into and out of the background of geometric shapes using stop motion animation. There’s a very Wes Anderson feel to it that adds so much to the story told in the song, making it all the more memorable.

All this to say…it would be a challenge to recreate the magic that’s so inherent in the original. And yet, one dance company has clearly understood the assignment.


All this to say…it would be a challenge to recreate the magic that’s so inherent in the original. And yet, one dance company has clearly understood the assignment.

Netherland based dance troupe CDK recently went viral for their highly stylized movement performance to the well known art pop ballad.

As thousands of viewers were quick to note, it’s not just the incredible dance moves that make this performance so captivating. It’s a killer combination of choreography, camerawork and costumes that make the piece impossible to turn away from.

“This is pure art,” one person wrote. While another added, “I think I’m going to watch it everyday for the rest of my life.”

Take a look for yourself:

CDK - Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye

This group is clearly at the top of their game, by how easy they make it all look (like, I've already convinced myself that I can pull off those moves). But what’s more evident is that they enjoy what they’re doing to the nth degree.

To find even more of CDK's performances, follow them on Instagram.

Fun fact #1: Gotye allows small independent projects, like student films—and probably this dance piece—to use his music free of charge. "If someone wants to use it commercially I look at what the budget is and the creativity of the project," he said, according to News.com.

Fun fact #2: CDK isn't the only group to have recently breathed new life into the song. A few weeks ago, an electronic remix of the song titled "Somebody (2024)," created by electronic music producers Chris Lake, Fisher, and Sante Sansone, debuted. Much like it's predecessor, "Somebody (2024) is topping the charts.


This article originally appeared on 3.6.24