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An Update On The 'Cheerios Girl' 19 Years After She Told Oprah Her Heartbreaking Story

Tue, 2016-07-12 08:37

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When Kate Collinger was 11 years old, her mother was dying of cancer.

For the last year of her mother’s life, Kate and her family devoted their energy to traveling to places like Disney World and Palm Springs, spending time together and making memories. But as Kate told Oprah back in 1997, a few months after her mother died, it wasn’t any particular adventure that stood out the most from that time with her mom. It was a simple box of cereal.

“We went to Palm Springs on family vacation and she was in bed, but I came home after swimming. She said, ‘Can you get me a bowl of Cheerios?’” Kate said. “I remember that... And about a week before she died, before she went into the hospital, I was in their room sleeping. I said, ‘Mom, will you wake me up if you go downstairs to eat a bowl of cereal?’ She said yes, so at 2 o’clock in the morning, we both went down and we ate cereal together.”

After telling that story on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Kate became known as “the Cheerios girl.”

Her sweet Cheerios moment became unforgettable to those who heard it, including Oprah. Today, Kate is 30 years old, and “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” followed up with her to learn about her journey in the years since losing her mother. 

As Kate describes in the above clip, her life began taking a dark turn during her freshman year of college at Northwestern.

“I was in a deep depression. I wasn’t getting out of bed, I wasn’t showering, I was over-eating,” she says.

So, Kate ended up seeing a psychiatrist, who put her on an antidepressant. “He said, ‘If she’s bipolar, this could flip her,’” she says. “For people who are put on antidepressants who are bipolar, it has the capacity to anti-depress them so much that they’ll be sent into a manic episode.”

That’s what appeared to happen to Kate.

“All of a sudden, I was feeling ‘good.’ I didn’t need therapy anymore. I didn’t really need to eat because I wasn’t really hungry anymore. I didn’t need to sleep because I wasn’t really tired anymore,” Kate says. 

The coed says she also began engaging in risky behavior ― and received a startling wake-up call.

“In November 2005, I took a hallucinogenic drug with a friend and got in a car, blacked out. I wake up and I’m pressing the accelerator of the car, having no idea why I wasn’t going anywhere. I look up and there’s an electrical post about 10, 15 feet from my face,” Kate recalls. “They took me to the hospital, and that was my induction into a 12-Step program.”

That year was also the year Kate was diagnosed with Bipolar I. Today, she says she is focused on making proactive choices each day to live a healthy, balanced life.

“It feels like it’s been a very long road. I’m telling a very different story than I did when I was 11 years old,” she admits. 

Kate’s family and friends, she adds, provide the unconditional love and support she needs to help her through it all, and her late mother is still a big part of that. 

“She passed away almost two decades ago, but she shows up for me when I hear ‘It’s a Wonderful World.’ That was her favorite song, and that comes on sometimes exactly when I need it to,” Kate says. “In the letter she wrote to me before she passed away, she said she’d always be in my corner, cheering me on.” 

Kate may say she’s telling a different today nowadays, but she still believes strongly in the profound power of life’s little moments.

“That inherent feeling I had as a little girl when I talked about the Cheerios experience still is very present for me,” Kate says. “It’s not about the vacations or the money or whatever. It’s about the intimate moment of connection that you have on a daily basis with the world around you.”

She continues, “The magnitude and scope of the relationships and love that I have in my life today ... that’s what’s so profound and important and incredible to me.” 

Another 11-year-old’s inspiring update:

Young ‘Oprah Show’ guest with AIDS shares what life is like 18 years after her appearance

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Tony Gwynn's Death From Chewing Tobacco Saved Chris Sale's Life

Mon, 2016-07-11 17:14

Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale, the American League’s starter for the Tuesday’s 2016 MLB All-Star Game, started chewing tobacco back in 2007. But in June 2014, he quit, and he did so for a very particular reason: the death of MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn from oral cancer. 

On Monday, Sale revealed to reporters that he quit the day Gwynn died and hasn’t touched chewing tobacco since. Nine years after quitting, Sale made clear just how much Gwynn’s death affected his life. 

“To say that he saved my life, I don’t think it’s an understatement,” Sale said.  

The revelation surely wouldn’t offend Gwynn. Before his death, Gwynn publicly discussed the negative effects tobacco had on his health, attributing his cancer to a decades-long addiction to chewing tobacco. When he died, however, Gwynn’s doctors wouldn’t definitively say that tobacco was to blame. Even still, he remained convinced that decades of chewing tobacco caused his fatal cancer. Since his death, Gwynn’s family has fought to prove Gwynn right, filing a wrongful death lawsuit against tobacco companies in May 2016. 

Up until Gwynn’s death, chewing tobacco remained entrenched as a baseball player tradition ― a common sight at ball games for over a hundred years. The percentage of MLB players who used it fell from 50 percent in 1994 to an estimated 33 percent in 2014, according to Professional Athletic Trainers Society estimates in line with the MLB’s own numbers.

“When I first started playing, everybody did it,” Red Sox veteran slugger David Ortiz said to The Boston Globe in March 2014. “Now you see fewer guys because everybody knows it’s bad for you.”

Gwynn’s death spurred increased awareness of smokeless tobacco’s dangers, ultimately resulting in MLB banning it from ballparks in March 2016 after years of pressure from anti-tobacco advocacy groups. Because of nicotine addiction and players’ habitual use of chewing tobacco as a playing stimulant, it’s been a hard ban for some players to swallow.

Sale is not alone in his reasoning behind why he quit. In death, Gwynn’s influence as a smart, technical hitter has been overshadowed by what his name now means to anti-tobacco advocates and MLB personnel who want smokeless tobacco out of the game. As Sale knows by now, lives are at stake.

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America: We Are Never, Ever, Ever, Ever Getting Back Together

Mon, 2016-07-11 15:30
I'm embarrassed. I'm sick. I'm an ashamed American with a black son. I have an almost indescribable feeling in my stomach. I want to force myself to puke, in a vain attempt to rid the stomach of these aching feelings of tightness, outrage and dread.

The recent, in a long shameful line, of killings by police of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling has once again ignited my social media feeds with expressions of horror and various contagious hashtags. We've seen it all before and we'll continue to see it. The political classes have no will, or even more tragically, no ability to make changes to this systematic race and class oppression, which has been the basis of American democracy since its birth 240 years ago.

It took me having my own black son to actually feel the injustice that I always knew was there. I look at him and experience legitimate adoration. I'd literally do anything for this kid, even though he is a category 5 tornado of destruction. He is what fuels my understanding of the concept of love; a word, which has unfortunately become almost banal, thanks to marketing and terrible "art."

If you take a Marxist perspective on history and society, which I obviously kind of do, you'll realize that the major function of the police is, and has always been, the protection of the establishment and of the system of capitalism itself. The police must make sure us wage slaves don't comprehend our condition. The police must also make sure the bourgeoisie "feel" protected from the "dangers" of the poor and "criminal" classes.

You can't really blame individual police. Most are victims to their culture and often pulled from the lower classes themselves. What you can, and should, blame them for though, is the way they immediately close ranks and put their hands over their ears and eyes when something like this surfaces. Why wouldn't they want to get rid of these fucking awful people, who dirty all their names with this kind of behavior? This kind of expected brutality has always happened, but now everyone has a camera in their pocket.

I've lived in other counties, specifically England and the Marshall Islands, where I know this shit doesn't happen. Which proves that it doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to have 1 in every 110 people locked in prison. We don't have to have vast swathes of no-go, no-prospect areas in all our major cities, which are full of only black and brown faces. We don't have to agree with those who pretend lacking empathy is a positive character trait.

Like so many problems in the "western world," these problems seem somehow unique to America. And while these problems continue to be not be addressed, discussed or even acknowledged, I will never live in that place, with my black son, ever again.

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Trans Folks Now Have A Safe Space To Recover From Gender Confirmation Surgery

Sat, 2016-07-09 11:27

An incredible new resource is in the works in Chicago, Illinois, that will be a safe space for trans masculine individuals who are in recovery following gender confirmation surgery.

Rhys’s Place is intended to be a location of all-inclusive surgery recovery for trans masculine identified individuals. Currently engaged in a GoFundMe campaign, Rhys’s Place will be an apartment where trans people post-phalloplasty surgery have a place to spend the long recovery period. The initiative is pioneered by Rhys Harper, a photographer who has spent the last several years creating portraits and telling the stories of trans and gender-nonconforming people through “The Transcending Gender Project.”

“I think the most important takeaway for people regarding this space is that many trans people are living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet,” Harper told The Huffington Post. “A space like this is truly groundbreaking -- it will be the first sliding scale place that exists, to my knowledge. There is a surgery recovery retreat called New Beginnings in Florida that hosts top surgery patients, and does provide some food, although it is not sliding scale. The vision for Rhys’s Place is that people will be able to come and access these services even if they cannot pay anything, at all.”

While not a medical facility, Harper told The Huffington Post that Rhys’s Place will function like a “specialized AirBnB.” There will be Netflix, Hulu and HBO, via Apple TV, high speed internet, nutritious meals and people who understand the experience of trans individuals -- all available and at the disposal of patients.

“A space like Rhys’s Place is desperately needed not just in Chicago, but all over. Specifically in regards to gender aligning surgery like phalloplasty, patients need to remain in the area on average for at least four weeks, and sometimes longer depending on surgical complications that may arise. “

The GoFundMe campaign is intended to fund the startup costs for the first year of Rhys's Place. Beyond that, payment for lodging at Rhys’s Place will operate on a sliding scale.

Thank you for this, Rhys.

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26 Illinois Schools Make Forbes' Top Colleges Ranking for 2016

Fri, 2016-07-08 13:16

Twenty-six Illinois colleges made Forbes' ninth annual ranking of the best colleges and universities in the country.

In collaboration with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Forbes used data from the U.S. Department of Education, Payscale and its own America's Leaders list to rank a total of 660 schools based on an institution's return on investment, or ROI.

As Forbes notes, its ranking differs from others because it focuses more heavily on what students are getting out of college rather than looking at metrics that got students into a school, such as ACT and SAT scores.

More from Forbes:

Like every college ranking, this list cannot quantify the mystery of picking a college: how it connects to a student's heart and ambitions. But what it does do is connect directly to those looking for a consumer guide to the ROI of every college. In the last four decades tuition and fees have risen 270 percent at public schools and 204 percent at their private counterparts. For those footing a higher ed bill stretching as high as $250,000, the only question is: Is my college worth the investment?

Among the factors Forbes used to calculate this year's ranking are: post-graduate success, student debt, student satisfaction, academic success and graduation rates (you can read more about the methodology here).

Of the 660 schools on the list, here are the 26 colleges and universities in Illinois that made the cut, with national ranks ranging from No. 15 to No. 643.

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