Deli Owner Gets Hundreds of Letters for Santa, Responds to Them All

Deli Owners Santa Mailbox
(YouTube/KENS 5)

When Aleem Chaudhry decided to spruce up the deli he owns in Texas with some holiday decoration, a bright red “North Pole” mailbox seemed like a good idea. What he didn’t count on, though, was that kids would soon start filling it with letters to Santa, as if it was a real mailbox to Santa.

And so Chaudhry decided to make the holiday special for the kids, and began answering every letter as “Santa.” Every kid that sends a letter to Santa gets a personalized response.

And what started as a simple decoration has now grown into a tradition, as Chaudhry has leaned into the attraction, setting up a letter-writing stand with paper and supplies for kids to write their letters in the store.

Last year, he received and responded to more than 400 letters for area children, and he expects to do even more this year.

Chaudhry said he does it for the kids, but he also enjoys the reaction from parents.

“What’s better is when I look at the parents and the parents look so happy,” he told a local news station.

“I’m doing this for the Christmas spirit,” he told Yahoo.

And if you need more to get you in the Christmas spirit, you can read about how some malls are opening early so autistic kids can visit Santa in a calmer setting.

Hacker Combines Mario Kart, Ring-Fit, and an Exercise Bike for Some Reason

ring fit exercise bike mario kart
(YouTube/mechachoi)

When it comes to video games, they’re my relax time.  I think it’s pretty awesome that there are games out there like Ring-Fit Adventure that can be good for your health, but I like to keep gaming and exercising separate.  It would seem that tech guru and Nintendo fanatic Mike Choi feels the same way but needed to find the motivation to stay in shape.  Regular old workouts just wouldn’t cut it for him, so that’s where his new creation comes in.  It’s a combination of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a custom Labo exercise bike, and Ring-Con accessory.

The end result is something that works every part of your body at the same time and it looks… diabolical.

The ‘Labo Fit Adventure Kart Kit’ is a “total-body exercise program that gets you fit while playing Mario Kart!” and would probably have me sweating mere seconds after starting to use it.

The three key components to making the kit function are:

  • The Bike-Con, which is an exercise bike with Labo sensors attached that gauge how fast you’re pedaling, increasing your karts speed in-game.
  • The Ring-Con, which you use to steer by tilting it left and right and squeezing to use power-ups.
  • The TAPBO, which Choi created himself.  It’s a little device (which he even turned into his own Amiibo) that attaches to your Joy-Con and inputs button presses based on what you’re doing with your limbs, which in the case of this “total-body exercise”, is ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.

To win a race of Mario Kart with this kit requires steadfast determination, strong calf muscles, and plenty of coordination.  You’re holding your arms up constantly to steer, pedaling like a madman to gain speed, all while trying to focus on your race at the same time.  Could you imagine 200cc while using this contraption?

I might be laughing now, but Choi’s ingenuity here is admirable.  It’s very impressive what he’s pulled off and he even mentions that this creation of his has kept him working out regularly.  My hat goes off to him, but I’ll just stick to my regular pro controller Mario Kart thank you very much.

After Dog Suffers Life-Threatening Burns, He Becomes a Burn Unit Therapy Dog

Dog inured in fire becomes therapy dog for burn victims
(Facebook/Taka's Journey)

Taka, a 9-Year-old Shiba Inu, is helping burn victims cope with their own injuries in a way that no other therapy dog could. Because unlike other therapy dogs, Taka understands the fear and pain that many burn victims experience. On a fall day in 2018, Taka’s entire life changed when his Georgia home caught fire.

The fire was so massive it quickly destroyed the family’s porch, and tragically, Taka fell through the quickly-deteriorating floor. The terrified dog managed to escape, fleeing to a neighbor’s house – all the while, Taka was still smoking from the fire. The alarmed neighbors jumped into action, contacting a local vet named Crystal Lesley who rushed to meet Taka without hesitation.

At first, it seemed unlikely that the traumatized dog would make it. They sedated him to prevent him from feeling the unbearable pain of his injuries – even with her years of experience, Lesley had never seen burns this severe. Lesley saw Taka’s determination to survive and posted a fundraiser on her clinic’s Facebook page to help get Taka to a specialist.

The community generously stepped up, and before long, Lesley and Taka left to meet the South Carolina specialist.

“He and I lied on the floor in the waiting area crying together,” Lesley told AKC. By this point in time, Taka’s owners had surrendered him to the vet – they were unable to take on the financial burden or the immense amount of care Taka needed.

Taka spent a month and a half at the specialist, with Lesley driving up to visit every weekend. After being released into Lesley’s care, the determined vet spent weeks tending to his wounds around the clock. News of Taka’s story spread, and soon Lesley was contacted by the Joseph M. Still Burn Center who volunteered their services free of charge.

“We were incredibly humbled and awestruck at the magnitude of service they provided for this amazing dog,” Lesley says.

Against all odds, Taka made a full recovery. Lesley had selflessly poured her heart into caring for the injured dog, and unsurprisingly, fell in love with him. When Lesley realized she couldn’t part with the 9-year-old pup, she made the adoption official.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Taka (@takajourney)

News of Taka’s recovery spread around the community, and a local nurse realized that Taka could fill a very special role. “I was approached by a nurse at the burn center about Taka coming in to visit burned children, in hopes of giving them something to relate to,” Lesley recalled.

The pair began training together, and soon, Taka passed his certification tests with flying colors. It truly did take a village to get Taka where he is today. From those who supported Taka financially to those who offered monumentally important services free of charge, no role was too small when he came to helping Taka in his time of need. And now, tail-wagging, Taka is happily back to others when they need him most.

Tributes Pour in for Broadcasting Giant Larry King

Tributes to Larry King
(Getty/Donald Kravitz)

The legendary broadcaster, dad, and Ghostbusters actor Larry King passed away this weekend at the age of 87 after an iconic TV career. His TV career spanned six-plus decades and he’s remembered as one of the best interviewers of all time. He’s known for interviewing everyone (literally, presidents, actors, newsmakers, and randos of all types) on his show, “Larry King Live”, which he hosted on CNN for more than 25 years.

He retired from the show in 2010, after recording 6,000 episodes. That’s the type of career that makes you as familiar to viewers as the channel itself almost, you’re just a fixture at that point, known around the world.

King was so familiar as an interviewer that he made frequent movie cameos in that role, typically interviewing a major character or commentating on some major event in the movie. He was never better in this role than he was in Ghostbusters.

Not only was King at the top of his game for many years, but he also stayed relevant far longer than most his age. It was just months ago that he was trending for his interview of Danny Pudi and it’s “Larry I’m on Duck Tales” moment.

He was a TV giant, having interviewed more than 30,000 people on his show, ranging from President Ford to Obama (and all between) to random viewers calling into his show. Many of his colleagues and former guests took to social media Saturday to remember the broadcasting legend.

Pedro Pascal’s Helmet Makes Meeting Mandalorian Fans Awkward AF

Mando No Helmet Bill Burr
(Disney+)

The Mandalorian is a sensation. The Disney+ Star Wars show has captivated audiences with its tale of a badass bounty hunter and the baby Yoda he’s trying to protect.

Its exploration of the hidden corners of that galaxy far far away, complete with introductions to new characters, live-action versions of fan favorites from the cartoons and expanded universe, and appearances from some of the most legendary characters from the original trilogy has made the show a huge water-cooler hit.

On a normal show, this would make the lead character a major star, and while Pedro Pascal, the man who plays Mando, aka Din Djarin, has his share of fame, the fact that he’s almost always wearing a helmet keeps him a bit anonymous.

This can make for some tricky fan encounters, as Pascal explained in an interview with Stir Crazy.

The actor explained that it’s not always easy to impress his young fans when he’s without his Beskar armor or the adorable “child” by his side, and he’s often left with little more than his voice. Which brings its own complications…

“I always feel bad. A parent that I meet, they have their kid, and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to impress my child so much. I’m introducing them to the Mandalorian. But then it’s like my face, and I don’t have The Child with me; I’m not wearing a helmet,” the actor explained while doing press for Wonder Woman 1984, in which he plays “messed up loser guy” Maxwell Lord. “And they look and they’re like, ‘Who’s this guy?’And then, if I’m going to speak to them in a Mando voice, it’s kind of strangely like a bedroom voice. Totally inappropriate. So it’s kind of just like, [awkward sounds].”

Check out the full interview:

Chocolate Factory Prequel To Trace Willy Wonka’s Origin Story

Wonka Origin Story
(Paramount Pictures)

After spending nearly a year in limbo thanks to the covid-19 pandemic halting most productions for at least a few months if not longer, Hollywood is hoping to roar back this year. As usual, many of the productions being mounted, for release in 2022 and beyond, rely on existing material. Even material that has already had a few goes.

The latest IP to get a movie piggybacking off previous success? Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! You may recall the ill-fated Tim Burton production from a few years back, featuring a pre-scandal Johnny Depp as a bizarre version of the famous chocolate and candy bar magnate, but don’t worry, he won’t be back. Instead, Wonka, set for release on March 17, 2023, will be a prequel!

To be directed by Paddington’s Paul King, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Wonka will focus on “a young Willy Wonka and his adventures prior to opening the world’s most famous chocolate factory.” One rumor has Dune’s Timothee Chalamet being discussed as the star.

Apparently, this is not a new project, as it’s been floating around Hollywood for a few years, despite the fact that seeing Willy Wonka before he runs a fantastical candy factory populated by Oompa Loompas doesn’t seem to have all that much appeal. In fact, the 2005 Johnny Depp movie featured some Wonka backstory and I don’t know that anyone wants to revisit that.

Not much is known about the script, which was written by Simon Rich and is being tweaked by the director and Simon Farnaby, but the news is sure to start trickling out. If anyone cares!

Hero Kindergarten Teacher Continues To Teach Virtually While Getting Chemotherapy

Remote Teacher Chemo
(Facebook/M Health Fairview)

Teachers are incredible. If you didn’t think that before, you DEFINITELY think that now after seeing what they’ve had to endure to teach kids during a global pandemic. From inventive remote learning techniques to handling the flux education patterns and plans, teachers are redefining going above and beyond for our kids. And one, in particular, has set the bar at an even higher level. Kelly Klein, a kindergarten teacher from Minnesota, has continued to teach remote kindergarten DURING her chemo treatments for a second bout with ovarian cancer.

After she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer for a second time, Klein made the decision to teach for as long she could. She told Good Morning America teaching is her passion, as her three-plus decades in the game can attest.

“I’m going to make the most of my time,” she said. “I don’t take anything for granted.” So she made her treatment facility, a room at a local health care center, her virtual classroom and teaches 5-and-6-year-olds while getting chemo treatments. She literally brings her laptop and all of her supplies and gets to work.

“When you’re at chemo and you’re around a lot of sick people, it’s kind of a depressing place to be. For me, to be around 5-year-olds during that time, it’s like a slice of normalcy in an abnormal environment.”

Her principal said the teacher is beloved by students and colleagues alike, and that she did not want to take a leave after her latest diagnosis. Klein said she gets energy from the kids, and that they help her through the five-hour treatments since she’s not allowed to have any visitors with her during that time.

She’s been described as the type of teacher that students remember long after they’ve moved on, and it is not hard to see why. Just legendary, to battle cancer a second time WHILE having the energy to be there for students, which is not easy even when you’re healthy.

Truly next level stuff, and a testament to the profession.

Scientists Say Rewatching Your Favorite Shows Can Improve Your Mental Health

Science shows that rewatching old favorites can improve mental health
(Getty/Ryan McVay)

TV FOMO no joke, the “Fear of Missing Out” on shows that fill social media feeds and dominate conversations. It’s almost guilt-inducing, watching an old favorite after a stressful day instead of digging into one of the many shows on your forever-growing “to-watch” list. But in reality, is that such a bad thing? Scientists say no – in fact, they say returning to an old favorite can actually be good for your mental health.

In a study conducted by Cristel Antonia Russell and Sidney J. Levy from the University of Chicago Press, they call the phenomenon “reconsumption.” According to the study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, rewatching an old show, rereading your favorite book, even visiting a restaurant you love can trigger a feeling of comfort.

The study compares our brains’ responses to forced repetition to their responses to repetition by choice. When we choose to revisit something that makes us feel good, we essentially anchor ourselves to a moment in time where we felt at peace.

“We find that ‘connections between successive presents’ are localizable in reconsumed objects: reconsumption can serve as a ‘system of replay, resonance and echoes . . . which transcend spatial locations and temporal successions,’” the study explains. “The reconsumed objects fuel an active synthesis of individualized experiences rather than the passive synthesis of habitual reconsumption.”

In simplified terms, no matter where we are in life – no matter what stressors, challenges, and uncertainty we’re facing, we can more or less re-center ourselves. The connection to who and where we were 5 years ago can be connected to our present selves and eventually our future selves by revisiting something that holds meaning to us. The experience of reconsuming things like movies and TV shows actively invites our brains to combine and organize those experiences, finding comfort in them repeatedly over time.

“Unlike the survival motives that drive evolutionary psychology, we find that consumers who chose to repeat hedonic experiences even just once are expressing and affirming their individual experience and its special meanings to them,” the study concludes.

While some repetitive behavior is driven by our desire to survive, behaviors we choose to repeat simply because they make us feel good can reinforce who we are. If you’ve ever been in the car when a song that’s meaningful to you comes on the radio, you’ll understand this idea in real-time. Often, you’re transported back to the time the song gained significance for you.

You may feel things that aren’t relevant in the moment, but were impactful at one point in time – and those thoughts and emotions are forever tied to that song (or TV show, or movie). Those feelings are real though, even as you drive along the highway far removed from whenever that song first gained a special meaning to you. And as the study explains, you’re welcome to revisit those moments as often as you need them.

So yes, Netflix may have hundreds of new movies every month. Social media may be buzzing with talk about a new show every few months. But as we all know, those trends are fleeting. It’s ok to pass on “the best show ever” (how, even, can there possibly be 5,000 best shows ever?) – sometimes the best thing for your mental health is holding onto your security blanket of a show, immersing yourself in the moment, and embracing the comfort it brings.

Brady Throws TD Pass to Brees Son in Dad Moment After Legendary Playoff Matchup

Brady Brees' Son TD Throw
(Twitter/Jpalmertv)

It was one of the most hyped NFL playoff matchups in recent memory, as Tom Brady took on Drew Brees for the first time in the playoffs. Two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the position, with more than 150,000 passing yards and scores of touchdowns between them during their decades of play. But after the dust settled, they were just dads, and one of the coolest moments of the season was seeing the two of them hang out on the field long after everyone else left.

Two legends, just kicking it, with their kids playing around them. Brady embraced Brees, and the two spoke for a while kids bandied about, and then Brady threw a touchdown to one of his Brees’ sons.

Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs won the game, which may have likely been the last of Brees’ outstanding career. For Brady, game recognizes game, which is why the two of them sharing a special moment after the game resonated with so many fans.

Despite a game and season full of highlights, it’s two dads talking and throwing a football to kids that got millions and millions of views. The throw, for what it’s worth, was actually right on the money and pretty incredible to do it so nonchalantly (although the young defender could’ve pursued more aggressively, perhaps…still a sick pass either way).

The touchdowns you throw to your kids may not mean the most to everyone else, but it’s bigger than any other to them, and it’s cool that even the two legends get it.

Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, Baseball’s Longtime Home Run King, Passes Away at 86

RIP Hank Aaron
(Getty/Tom Lynn)

There aren’t a lot of heroes these days, not in a world in which everyone’s lives are on full display, flaws and all. And now that baseball legend Hank Aaron has passed away, we’ve got one less.

The legendary slugger from Mobile, Alabama got his start in the negro leagues, and went on to become a mythmaker from baseball’s golden age, capturing the all-time home run record long before steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs started inflating numbers and sullying the record books. Aaron, 86, played for 23 seasons, 21 with the Braves (first in Milwaukee, then Atlanta), and hit 755 home runs, surpassing Babe Ruth’s record and hanging onto his own place in the books for 30 years (before finally being broken by Barry Bonds in 2007).

Aaron did it while black, in an era when black baseball players, especially one on his way to dethroning one of the game’s earliest icons, provoked anger and violence in the form of hate mail and death threats.

“On the field, Blacks have been able to be super giants,” he once said. “But once our playing days are over, this is the end of it and we go back to the back of the bus again.”

Aaron’s perseverance in the face of racism and work as a civil rights leader are as much a part of his legacy as his athletic prowess, as were his efforts to support his community and his commitment to philanthropy, facts acknowledged by the Braves organization in their statement.

“We are absolutely devastated by the passing of our beloved Hank,” Atlanta Braves chairman Terry McGuirk said in a statement. “He was a beacon for our organization first as a player, then with player development, and always with our community efforts. His incredible talent and resolve helped him achieve the highest accomplishments, yet he never lost his humble nature. Henry Louis Aaron wasn’t just our icon, but one across Major League Baseball and around the world. His success on the diamond was matched only by his business accomplishments off the field and capped by his extraordinary philanthropic efforts.

“We are heartbroken and thinking of his wife Billye and their children Gaile, Hank, Jr., Lary, Dorinda and Ceci and his grandchildren.”

When he eventually broke the record, the footage became almost as legendary as the moment, with a pair of fans running onto the field to congratulate Aaron as he rounded the bases, before he arrived at home plate to a mob of teammates and family.

Aaron was the National League MVP in 1957 — the same year the Braves won the World Series — a two-time NL batting champion (1956, ’59), a three-time Gold Glove winner in right field (1958-60) and a record 25-time All-Star.