If you want to understand Red's character, you can read the introduction of our book where she uses a lot of blah-blah-blah to describe herself and Black. On the other hand, Black, in typical fashion, cut to the chase and provided the book designer with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

P.S. – Many years later, although Red has certainly "picked up" a lot of Black's ways of doing things and thinking (Black didn't seem to change much), the sisters are still as incredibly different as when Black created this comparison chart. We suspect all families have siblings with very different personalities, which we doubt fundamentally change over time. The interesting thing is we constantly hear from people who describe themselves (and their siblings, family members, spouses, etc.) as being more Red-like or Black-like.

Table as of April 2004What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired!

Chapter 16: I Have Three Children If You Count My Husband

Even before Red's life was turned upside down, she wanted to be the best mom possible, so often wondered and worried about the best way to raise her girls. And when she was in the midst of her "crisis" (her word, not Black's), her daughters were very young – Sawyer was 1-1/2 years old and Natasha just under 5, although she'd proclaim, "I'm almost 5." (It's funny how "young" is subjective, as at the time Red considered them young but now "very young".) But as Red turned to Black for "answers" to everything, Black understood one of Red's top priorities was making sure that the girls weren't getting short-changed. Given Black doesn't have any children, Red was amazed to receive what she's referred to as "Some of the best parental advice. Ever." (Black just rolls her eyes.)

P.S. – Looking back, Red claims that Black's advice not only made all the difference at the time but over the years. Somehow, the simple concept of treating kids as "little people" (Black calls them "munchkins"), so with respect and honesty, trusting them with responsibility and giving them credit for understanding and doing the right thing, was the closest thing to a "magical approach" for Red (yes, growing up, she and the girls watched a lot of Disney) that she's ever found. And, surprisingly enough, has even helped her with managing "big people."

Black's Head Black

Patience, grasshopper. You also have to remember that when I first started dating Larry, his girls were 7 and 9, so I skipped over the phase you are in. I had dated men with children, but none as young as Larry's, so I was not quite sure how to deal with them. So, I decided to treat them like little people. In fact, that is why I started calling them the "Munchkins," like the little people from The Wizard of Oz.

Red's Head

I always wondered about that. Were you the good witch or the bad witch?

Black's Head Black

Neither. I was probably more like the Mayor of Munchkin City. Since I was used to working in a corporate environment, I applied the same people skills.

Red's Head

You're kidding, right?
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Chapter 15: I Need A Warning System

In the midst of Red's "crisis", one of the many things she learned was the importance of communication. But talk about something (pun, intended) that gets lost in day-to-day living, especially when those first months found Red's life turned upside down and she was focused on "fighting fires", so there was little time to talk about day-to-day topics. But Red realized she needed a way for the family to talk about important subjects in a more proactive way than what they'd been doing. And she had come to realize that it needed to be two-way communications, not just parents talking and children expected to listen.

P.S. – When Black first introduced the idea of a family meeting to Red, it was a revelation … the idea that there could be a "neutral" setting that allowed everyone to share thoughts and opinions on topics big and small. So, did family meetings become a regular event at Red's house? It would be nice to say they did, but they didn't. However, the concept resulted in more productive one-on-ones (Black would probably argue those still qualify as meetings) where issues or problems could be tackled in a "safe" environment, and both sides would genuinely listen to the other with an open mind (ok, sometimes it was a semi-open mind). Interestingly, many years later, when Red's girls became young adults, she found they'd have impromptu family meetings, and that made Red smile as it reminded her of Black's initial idea all those years ago.

Red's Head

Got a minute?

Black's Head Black

Maybe. Depends on the topic. If you are calling about hopes, dreams or birthday gifts, the answer is no.

Red's Head

None of the above. I like your idea of sitting down as a family and discussing important issues, like charity. Plus, it will help the girls learn the value of communication. However, I don't want them to think I am lecturing them. Any ideas?
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Chapter 7: My Husband Gets In Hot Water – I Want To Make Soup!

When Red was in the midst of her crisis and trying to deal with seemingly every aspect of her life, it quickly became obvious that she had been living in an old-fashioned sitcom where life appeared to be perfect. Adjusting to reality wouldn't be easy (now, that could be a sitcom!), especially when one of the biggest adjustments had to do with what she viewed as one of her strong suits – people skills. More specifically, her relationship with her husband because Red's expectations of her husband and her marriage definitely weren't related to reality.

P.S. – Since then, Red has learned about how important it is to have realistic expectations in any relationship, but when it comes to spouses/partners, it's essential. And Black has (finally) gotten her to realize that you need to be honest with yourself (ideally about both you and your partner), so that you set your relationship up for success, not failure. But Red will add a warning … understanding the logic of this mindset and approach is much easier than accepting and implementing it. Although she'll agree with Black that it's worth the effort if it results in a more successful relationship.

E-mail From: Black
Subject: Perception vs. Reality
Sent: Saturday, February 7

Not really, or at least nothing that I know of. But our marriage is not paradise. I went into it knowing I had made trade-offs and compromises. And that is OK. I had no false expectations. But at times I have to stop and ask myself if either of us has changed or whether I have merely forgotten to adjust my thinking for changing circumstances. I always thought Larry and I had the potential to be great together. Not because we were a perfect couple, but because we were an imperfect couple that appreciated our differences.

But when it comes to you and Nick … the two of you need to face reality. Together. As a team.

By the way, how is your house-hunting going? That is a perfect place to start working together. And a lot more productive than wasting the afternoon online with me.

Red's Head

I found Black's comment about having a great marriage very interesting since I didn't think it existed in real life. However, her comment got me thinking that maybe my expectations of marriage needed to be adjusted to be more realistic. I guess I was thinking a great or even really good marriage was one where two people were perfect for one another. One where there were never any major issues that tested the relationship. One where problems had obvious and easy answers. One that ran on automatic and didn't require any special effort. OK, so I was living in a fantasy world. Nothing new there!