Words & Banter

Red & Black ... A Blueprint For Life

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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Sometimes I really question whether we're sisters. I know you love research, but some of us, myself included, find studies and statistics boring. And tedious.


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Ah, but at least you can read and understand them; you just do not want to. Huge difference.


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Good point. Although I do struggle with statistics as, unlike you, I've never been comfortable with numbers.


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Is this going to be one of those philosophical conversations, or do you have something specific in mind? And, FYI, having skill with numbers and mathematics is called numeracy.


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Whatever. Although I'm guessing numeracy falls under the umbrella of literacy. And, yes, I'll admit that, until recently, I thought "literacy" just meant the ability to read and write.


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Most people do, which is understandable since it is the dictionary definition. I will not quote statistics on how many people do not have those basic skills, but even if you do, it does not mean you know how to apply them to ask questions, get information, and make informed decisions. That is functional literacy.


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Even though I was a straight-A student with a college degree, that's one of the first things you had to teach me when I had my "crisis". So, why do I feel like I'm about to become a poster child for illiteracy?!


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I hate the word "illiteracy" as it has a negative connotation of being ignorant or uneducated when, in reality, it probably is never having been exposed to the subject matter and/or recognizing its importance.


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Like me when it came to money. I was 40+ years old and not only didn't know how to budget, I never even thought about why it was important. But it wasn't until we were asked to develop and teach a personal finance course at KIPP Houston High School that we learned it's called "financial literacy." At the time, I thought it was the education world using an impressive-sounding phrase instead of being more straightforward.


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Terminology aside, financial literacy is about making informed financial decisions. Regardless of your financial situation, as I have proven. Remember, early in my career, I almost declared bankruptcy because I did not apply what I learned in business school and the corporate world to my finances.


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That story always seems to resonate with so many people, myself included. Especially if we're looking for a reason, or at least an excuse, for not knowing what we should know. I used to think, "Ignorance is bliss." Until you made me understand that what I don't know can hurt me. And my family.


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It is even more far-reaching as there is a ripple effect on communities and cities, and so on. Before reading Houston's Adult Literacy Blueprint, the joint initiative between the Mayor's Office of Adult Literacy (when created in 2019, the only office of its kind in the nation) and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, I never realized the impact of literacy – including financial, digital, and health literacy.


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I admit that when you sent me the Executive Summary, I only looked at the quotes and sentences that "pop out" from the rest of the text. But, even so, I was truly shocked to learn that one in three adults in Houston lacks the necessary skills to fully participate in the workplace and society! And when I saw the "What is functional literacy?" diagram, I not only didn't even know what digital and health literacy meant, I was almost too embarrassed to ask.


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Hence the purpose of the Blueprint. It is a strategic plan to ensure more adults acquire the literacy skills they need to succeed in the workplace and in life, but also is a document to raise awareness of the issues.


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Be honest. Besides people like you, how many will read the summary, let alone the full report?


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For organizations or companies addressing the problem, it is a valuable document. If you are looking for employees or are interested in breaking the cycle of poverty, it will be of interest. Or, maybe you merely need documentation to satisfy people who want "proof" or supporting backup about the importance of literacy.


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But isn't it important for all of us to understand the importance of literacy since it impacts all of us?


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Yes. But, as you said, it is unlikely people will read the studies. Good news is September is Adult & Family Literacy Month, and that should help increase awareness. So, how did you find out more about digital literacy? And, I am talking about the concept, not you personally, as I know that in an ideal world, you would never have to deal with technology, whether your computer or your cell phone. Although you have become more tech-savvy than you realize.


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Until we met with Jackie Aguilera from the Mayor's Office of Adult Literacy, I never thought about how you need basic digital skills (such as emails and other communication tools, using the internet, and even the ability to get on a Zoom call) not only to be able to get a job and move up the ladder but now, thanks to the pandemic, to attend online classes.


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Plus, using the internet means you need the ability to find and understand information, especially to make sure it is accurate and credible. Unfortunately, so many people repeat whatever they find, thinking it must be true.


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That's a topic onto itself. But let's face it, not everyone's as critical as you.


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You say that like it is a bad thing.


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Cute. But lately, there's no shortage of conflicting information, whether on the internet or in the media. And it's confusing. For example, the COVID-19 vaccines. Which brings up health literacy. Again, I didn't know what it meant until Jackie explained it could be something as basic as the instructions on a prescription or the nutritional information on food packages, but it's all part of understanding general health information and services to be able to make smart decisions.


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Even I find health issues confusing. Too many moving parts to our body and, like a car, so many things that affect its performance.


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Of source, a car analogy! Well, it turns out that I'm health literate and I didn't even know it. Who knew that all those years asking questions about the girls' health issues – ranging from routine ailments like colds and stomach aches to sports injuries and reading challenges – to the more complicated and long-term issues that first daddy and now mommy faced – were all part of my "training" in being health literate?!


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Yes, but remember when it specifically came to health insurance, you initially needed plenty of help deciphering it. Until you realized it followed the same formula as everything else … ask questions, get information, make informed decisions.


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The funny thing is that, at first, when it was financial matters, I didn't think I could do it. But once I tried, I realized I could. Which then gave me the confidence – and motivation – to tackle other topics. Now we just need to tell more people about the power of literacy and how it can be a blueprint for life.


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We just did.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

When we reread the post we did two years ago (see below), we felt it was worth repeating … as even though mental health’s being discussed more, too many people still don’t want to talk about their situations because they feel ashamed and/or they don’t know “Where To Start – Mental Health In A Changing World” (the theme of this May’s Mental Health Awareness Month) or who to contact. (Remember, there’s a 988 lifeline.)

Millions of Americans face mental health issues each year, and it’s important to remember that no one has to face it alone.





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I’ve only recently started listening to country music, mainly because that’s what Sawyer’s always listening to, but I already knew of the mother-daughter duo, The Judds .


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Hard not to, as it was the most successful female duo.


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What’s hard to believe is that the day before her and Wynonna’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame , Naomi committed suicide. As a mother, your instinct is to put your children first, so that shows the overwhelming depth of the depression she was battling.


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I am sure people questioned how someone who appeared to have everything, and was about to be awarded one of her industry’s highest honors, could feel so bad about herself or her life to want to end it.
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Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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As you know, I love history, but I appreciate many people don’t.


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I am one of those people, so not sure where you are going with this.


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Exactly. So, when you first wanted to talk to me about the history of credit cards, I should have known something was up.


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Or, at least been curious.


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How was I supposed to know it would make a difference in my life?


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Why else would I want to give you a “history lesson”?
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Photo by mevans on iStock
Let’s be very clear. Autism has no correlation with intelligence; it’s a developmental disability (or what Black refers to as “DIFF-abilities”). And it’s a spectrum disorder, which means each autistic person has their unique mix of abilities, challenges, and ways of seeing the world (can’t that be said of all of us?!) So, as we celebrate World Autism Acceptance Week, remember it’s more than just awareness – it’s about acceptance.

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Did you know that April's Autism Awareness Month? I wasn't aware (pun intended) of it until I read our local homeowner's monthly newsletter and it caught my eye.


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Actually, last month the founding organization, the Autism Society, changed "Awareness" to "Acceptance" to foster inclusivity, as knowing about something is very different from accepting it. But I am guessing that is not the point of this call.


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Although it isn't autism, it reminded me of years ago when we found out that Natasha has learning disabilities.


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I think you mean DIFF-abilities.


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Of course, that's another thing I remember. I was focused on the negative aspects of her diagnosis until you asked me, point-blank, "Why are they called disabilities?" And proceeded to explain that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.


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Exactly! Imagine the world if everyone excelled at math, but flunked English. Or, a world of lawyers, but no musicians. Some people are better at social skills, while others excel at handling technical data. Why not just say that people who have different skillsets and abilities have DIFF-abilities versus making them feel like they have shortcomings?
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