It probably won't surprise you that Black ordered several pairs of "Bernie's mittens" soon after the Presidential Inauguration – not as a "fashion statement" (although they are!) but to support Make-A-Wish.
But we have to tell you … they recently arrived during the heat of Houston's summer (Black wasn't the only one interested in them, as there was a long backorder). And even Black, who doesn't typically wear mittens, thinks that they're wonderful. And Red's thrilled that Black ordered a few extra pairs as she's now the proud owner of the "softest mittens I've ever had."
To learn more, and maybe "entice" you to order your own pair, we're delighted to rerun "Bernie's Mittens Do Good" …
Bernie Sanders is now a fashion icon? Well, not quite, but his inaugural appearance warms the hands and the heart.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It was a truly historic inauguration that was memorable for so many reasons ...
But who would've guessed that Senator Bernie Sanders, showing up as if going out for a gallon of milk in a Vermont snowstorm, would've been a "quiet" sensation? Was it the outfit? Was it the attitude? Was it the posture in the chair? The answer's probably all of the above. (Curious about the photo that went viral? Check out this Rolling Stone interview of the photographer.)
Red was clueless that Bernie's mittens were taking on a life of their own, with the Vermont teacher who had made them from old sweaters being inundated with orders, until Black brought it to her attention. It's not a story you'd expect Black to follow, except there was a business angle as the teacher, Jen Ellis, was now teaming up with the Vermont Teddy Bear Company to bring them to the world. Plus, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of "Vermont Swittens" will go to Make-A-Wish Vermont. As soon as Red heard that, she knew the Make-A-Wish connection would've gotten Black's attention as she's been on the Board of the local chapter, Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana, for years (maybe decades) as well as having raised over a million dollars for the charity.
What Black didn't know though, was that the story had a connection to Red as well. When Red was growing up, but after Black had left for college, she'd go with her parents up to Vermont three to four times a year. Then, as Red got older, she continued to go to Vermont. At first by herself, and then sometimes with her husband as she dreamed of living in Vermont one day. It's a dream that she still sometimes thinks about. However, it definitely subsides when the weather in Texas dips below 40 degrees and she realizes it's probably below zero in Vermont!
It was on one of those trips, when visiting Burlington and a small town just south of there, called Shelburne, that Red discovered the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. It was love at first sight. Plush stuffed animals, a beautiful setting close to Lake Champlain, and even an in-house "doctor" that over the years mended more than a few of Red's favorite stuffed animals.
So, when Red heard that they were going to start making Bernie's mittens, aka Vermont Swittens, she couldn't get online fast enough to learn more and sign up for switten updates. And while Black may only buy them because of the Make-A-Wish connection, you can be sure that Red will be getting at least one pair as a reminder of not only how much she loved Vermont, but all the happy hours spent over many years at the Vermont Teddy Bear Company store.
Ok, let’s be clear (pun intended) … Communication is critical. Whether in your personal life or in business, not to mention communication skills are transferable between the two (Black even suggested Red hold family “business” meetings). And what better time to work on how we communicate, and maybe even have a new attitude toward vocabulary and “50-cent words” (Red loves those, but terminology scares her!?), than during Effective Communications Month.
Talking isn't the same as communicating. And hearing isn't the same as listening. Think about it.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Being an effective communicator, whether in our personal lives or at work, is a critical skill but one-size-doesn't-fit-all as we each use very different methods and styles … ranging from lots of words and talking stuffed animals (Red) to bullet points and racing flags (Black).
When Red learned that June was Effective Communications Month, she had to laugh, as the first thought that popped into her head was,
Oh, Black will have a field day with this given my tendency to blah-blah-blah. Plus, I don't know how many times she's told me that whatever point I'm trying to make often gets lost in my "sea of words". Of course, when she's told me this in person, I get the added emphasis of seeing her roll her eyes. At least, it's not what I call "The Look", which is a step beyond the rolling of her eyes when you can only imagine what she's thinking, but you know it's not good. But, I digress, which, I guess, is part of my communication "challenge".
The fact Red's warm and fuzzy, and likes to couch her words (whether spoken or written) so as not to hurt anyone's feelings, and to provide full explanations to avoid misunderstanding, is a good thing but is still only half the equation. Communication requires both the sending – and the receiving – of a message. But if the other party isn't listening, it falls on … well, deaf ears. Which often means you repeat yourself (oh, and we all know how our tone of voice changes when we're saying something for the millionth time), and although it may initially have been said with good intentions, ends up being seen as nagging.
Black, on the other hand, has never been accused of being quiet or shy, and given her extremely pragmatic business-like personality, has a much more direct communication style. Some of which Red recognizes can be useful,
I've often said that you write, talk, and probably even dream in bullet points. And while I might think of them as "abrupt" at times, there's no question that they provide a very clear and succinct way of communicating. Which is why I preface some of my longer emails that cover lots of topics and explanations, with, "I'm borrowing some of Black's beloved bullet points …"
So, what's the most effective method? Well, you can spend hours on the internet reading countless articles about the benefits of effective communications, the various types of communications (not everything is verbal and written – think about things like body language and facial expressions), and ways to improve communication skills, but Black tends to look at things slightly backward …
The reality is that we each have our own style of communicating, but we need to remember that communication is a two-way street, and the objective is connecting with other people, and sharing thoughts and ideas. Sometimes the best way to get our point across is to work backward and think how the other person will receive what we want to express. And then listening, truly listening, to their feedback.
Most workaholics can rationalize working all the time. At least to themselves.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: “Gizmos” already blurred the lines between the workweek and the weekend, but the WFH (working from home) “revolution” caused by the pandemic has destroyed the line; except for people like Black, who have always treated every day as a workday.
So, is being a workaholic a bad thing? Well, we both agree that having two days where we (hopefully) get time to do what we enjoy is exactly what weekends are all about. And while Black will admit that she doesn’t love every aspect of her work life, there’s nothing she rather be doing. (And points out to Red that could also be said of parenting.) Regardless, Red has always found Black’s total love of work a bit perplexing, and she’s definitely not the only one who has used the phrase “she needs to get a life” when describing her sister. Black, of course, sees it very differently,
Whether it’s just a regular weekend or, even better, a long holiday weekend, I look forward to the “time off” to work on strategic projects needing large blocks of uninterrupted time or one of my passion projects. From the outside, others might see it as “working”, but I am doing what makes me happy.
Red knows better than to argue with Black and wasn’t surprised that she could make being a workaholic sound like a good thing. But since Black lives alone and never had children (although she always finds time for Red’s girls), our priorities and ideas about a “wonderful weekend” are very different,
While it often seems like my weekends are as busy as my weekdays because I’m catching up on all the personal things I don’t have the time to do during the week, it makes me appreciate the “time off” even more – whether escaping to a movie (ok, my passion is popcorn), going for a Dunkin coffee (it brings back memories of growing up in New York), reading, or climbing into bed to watch some old episodes of Downton Abbey.
So, while Black may roll her eyes at what Red chooses to do with her quiet time, she'd be the first to point out we all have very different ways of spending our weekends, but we should all do whatever makes us happy. Wouldn’t you agree?
We all “celebrate” Memorial Day differently, but we all should remember it’s a day to honor those who gave their lives serving this country.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Memorial Day may be the unofficial start of summer, and Red remembers celebrating over the years with family get-togethers, barbeques, and pool parties; whereas Black “celebrates” most holidays by having a quiet day to work uninterrupted, but it’s important never to forget the significance of the holiday.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the festivities, but as a lover of history, I was fascinated to learn the history of Memorial Day goes back to the Civil War. But what’s most important is that we each find a way to remember that Memorial Day honors those men and women who’ve given their lives for this country.While Black believes,
Today is a day to put aside politics and think about patriotism. It is about gratitude. About sacrifice. About honoring those who paid the greatest price for believing in something that is bigger than all of us.
Think about what the day means to you or read the words of others who pay respect to fallen members of the military (here and here). And join us in observing the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. local time.