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New Year's Eve seems like the perfect time to stroll down memory lane, although I'm guessing your memories are much more interesting than mine.


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"Interesting" is a subjective word. Regardless, are you talking about memories in general? Or, New Year's Eve celebrations?


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Actually, it was just a passing comment. But since you've always seemed to make a bigger deal out of New Year's Eve than I have, are there any years that really stand out?


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Truth is the most memorable ones are the ones spent with celebrating with closest friends versus crowds. In fact, I think I have spent more than half of my New Year's Eves with John and Diana. Although, I will never forget bringing in 2000.


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Oh, this should be interesting. Where were you? What did you do?


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I do not remember the details. But, I do remember everyone was panicked about Y2K. In fact, for almost the entire year leading up to it, people were certain it would create havoc with computers and computer networks. It turned out to be a non-event.


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That's it? I thought you were going to talk about some major celebration to mark the turn of the century.


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No, although not always successful, I always tried to avoid major celebrations. Anyway, 1999 was when I was collecting wine and many of us were certain there would be a shortage of vintage Champagne. And before you ask, vintage Champagne means it is made with grapes from a single year's harvest which happens only three or four times in a decade.


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Was 1999 one of those years?


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I will not bore you with the details, but Champagne is aged in the bottle (vintage for significantly longer than non-vintage releases) so it was from earlier in the decade. Anyway, collectors starting buying large quantities of vintage Champagne, which can last decades when stored properly, thinking it was "now or never" …


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I know better than to ask how much you bought.


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Enough to last a lifetime. Maybe two lifetimes. Which was a good thing as I lost most of it in the divorce. Anyway, the interesting thing was that because so many wine collectors were stocking up on vintage Champagne, the shortage became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Similar to when people were hoarding toilet paper.


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Only you would compare the two. One's a luxury item and one's a necessity you'll ultimately use. I guess the good news though is that now you'll never run out of Champagne.


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Except, my offsite wine storage was broken into years ago – and they stole all the Champagne. Good news is John and Diana still have their stash.


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So, are you going to spend New Year's Eve with them?


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Not the entire evening, but the three of us plan to toast love, friendship, and the end of 2020 … with masks, social distance, and some vintage Champagne.
Underlying photo by Charles Forerunner on Unsplash

It's funny how one thing can remind you of another thing, sometimes in an obvious way, other times in a "train of thought" (or what Black calls "connect the dots") way. And in our case, that "train" has two passengers.

It began with Red reading a Texas Monthly article about younger tech-savvy people helping older lower-tech people schedule COVID-19 vaccines. Touched by the story, Red mentioned it to Black, who immediately thought of a recent email she'd received from Encore.org about a 31-year-old man living in Hawaii using technology during the isolation of the pandemic to befriend a 60-year-old woman living in Texas. We started talking about the power of one generation helping another, which led to our Banter Bite, Young + Old = Solutions.

Our conversation then detoured (as they often do), and we started reminiscing about the profile Encore published about us. It's not only one of our favorite pieces, but one we share with others as it explains, in an entertaining yet concise way, our highly improbable journey into the world of education (and criminal justice). A journey that we now looked at from a slightly different perspective, or at least Red did …

Looking back, the journey of Red & Black is proof that the experiences and lessons learned by one generation can be shared with others. When Black first created our business plan, she saw us as a "Disney for baby boomer women" because we're baby boomer women. The plan also included younger women (and men) as target audiences, but Black admits that was more "marketing" than actual expectations. Obviously, she was wrong. But there was no way to know we'd have such an unexpected impact (and ripple effect) on so many demographics, from middle school students to senior citizens.

And that's how one article led us to the memory of another article, with a few stops – and important lessons – along the way.

P.S. – For anyone "older" (that's a relative term, but we'll use 60-years-old as Red enjoys the fact she's "under" while her older sister is "over" that threshold), who's looking for a second-act (an "encore") with purpose we suggest you check out Encore.org.

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It probably was not the answer Red was expecting when she asked me, "Growing up, what woman influenced you most?" My reply? "That Girl." For those of you who might not remember the sitcom that ran from 1966-1971, "That Girl" was Ann Marie, played by Marlo Thomas. This was in the days before the internet or cable television. (When you had to get up and turn the dial on the television to change channels, and there were only a handful of channels.) And, I did not realize it until decades later, Thomas had formed her own production company, Daisy Productions, to produce and own the series.

I will not get into how television influences our perception of the world. But, I will say that up until that point in time, women in prime-time sitcoms were either someone's wife, someone's mother, someone's secretary – but never someone independent. Until "That Girl." She was an aspiring actress living on her own in the big city, New York City, so it was easy for me to relate as I grew up just a short train ride away on Long Island.

I was about 9 years old when the series started so, initially, had no idea that the size of her apartment or her fantastic wardrobe was unrealistic for a struggling actress. But, it introduced me, much to my mom's dismay, to being fashionable (as did a neighbor who worked as a saleswoman at a high-end women's store), resulting in my first budget (that is a separate story that still amuses me). And, ultimately, it led me to start working when I was a teenager so that I would have money of my own.

"That Girl" focused on a single woman's dreams and aspirations. A woman who was ambitious. Willing to try new things and willing to fail. But, what made her truly revolutionary was that she made it acceptable to prioritize work over marriage or children, proclaiming, "But I don't want to get married!" Which, growing up, became my mantra.

In the last season, she got engaged to her long-time boyfriend, but the final episode of the series was not them getting married, but about them going to a Women's Liberation meeting. I can remember it as if it was yesterday, wondering at what point she would ultimately call off the engagement. It was not that I believed she would never get married; it was that the timing was not right. She first needed to establish her independence.

And, I was determined to be "That Girl."

Silsbee I.S.D.

Who knew that one of our most memorable speaking engagements would also end up being one of our absolute favorite stories, full stop. And when it comes to Red & Black, all we are … are stories, so that's saying something. But there was no way to know any of that as we set out to do a speaking engagement for high school students. And to this day, we can't decide which part of the story is our favorite … how we got there or what happened once we arrived.

Well, we were off to Silsbee High School in, where else, Silsbee, Texas. Which is about a two-hour drive from Houston and about 25 miles north of Beaumont, which was the closest city we could find to stay overnight as we were due at the school first thing in the morning for a full day (starting with a presentation to the entire senior class, and then one for the students that had used our book as the personal finance textbook in their Economics course).

STORY #1

So, off we go bright and early with me and my paper driving directions, as I'm old school and like to have everything ready in advance, plus I'm not a huge fan of technology. On the other hand, Black's busy on her iPad as we set forth on our latest student adventure. The road to Silsbee (sounds like a country western song) starts with three lanes, quickly drops to two lanes, and before I know it, I can see that it's about to go to one lane, with no signs indicating exits. And my paper directions are now useless! I turn to Black and ask her (well, really, tell her in my "panic") to see if she can find out where we are on her iPad and how to get to Silsbee, and ideally, Silsbee High School. All I can see is ruralness (Is that a word? If not, it should be) all around me, all I'm missing are some cows crossing the road. And Black's reply?

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