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.



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Got a minute?


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io


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


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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?


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io


Call a meeting. That is what I used to do in the corporate world. I would hold a monthly staff meeting with everyone in my department, whether or not there were specific issues or problems to discuss. I would order in pizza or sandwiches for lunch, and we would talk about different things that were impacting the department. Most of the time it was to provide everyone with an understanding of what each of us was working on and/or things we would like to do or do better. There was no right or wrong. It was an informal forum for discussing things where no one felt threatened or was on display.


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Did you have an agenda? Or was it a free-for-all?


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A bit of both. If there were any specific issues that needed to be addressed, it would be on the agenda; otherwise, it was less structured. And I would usually start the meeting by stating one positive thing the department had accomplished since the last meeting. Then we would go around the table, and everyone would give a brief update of their projects and whether they had issues for discussion or areas of concern. We would write them down and then discuss them. I would end the meeting by coming up with an action item to be accomplished prior to the next meeting.


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Sounds great for a business meeting but a little too formal for a family.


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You asked a question, and I gave you a suggestion. I did not say it was the perfect solution, but I do think it has potential. I need to talk to Larry about some things that are on my mind, so this "Family Meeting" concept might be useful. Let me think about it and get back to you.

I know I have often questioned how Black's mind worked, but one of the things I like best is that many of her ideas are not things I'd ever think of doing. Sometimes I'm not sure whether they're things anyone else would ever think of doing either. But I was intrigued by the idea of a family meeting — not to mention curious how she planned to use the concept for her own purposes.

Chapter 15: I Need A Warning System

Typically, when Red asked Black questions, she received questions in return. Or flippant comments. When Red asked her about charity, and specifically Make-A-Wish, she got straight answers, and that alone got Red’s attention. Before this conversation, Red thought her sister’s involvement with Make-A-Wish was very generous, both of her time and her money, but attributed much of it to the fact she had surpluses of both in her life. But once Black made her realize that her involvement went back to her corporate life, years when she might have had spare money but was working ridiculous hours, Red gained a new respect for Black’s commitment. But when Black said how it had become her “reality check” on life, Red began to understand that we all need something to help us remember what’s genuinely important.

P.S. – Charity and helping others remain an important part of our lives (and, much to the chagrin of our accountants and attorneys, drive much of our work in the education and criminal justice worlds). Black’s long-time commitment to Make-A-Wish set an example for Red’s daughters when they were growing up, and made them aware of how important it is to not only appreciate what you have but to think of others. And whether it’s an ongoing commitment to a single organization, helping various charities throughout the year, celebrating targeted donation days (such as #GivingTuesday or World Wish Day), or when specific natural disasters or humanitarian needs require immediate aid, charitable giving (whether money or time) – can make all the difference. Not only to the recipient, but as Black pointed out to Red all those years ago, for yourself.



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I’m curious about something, though. As children, we were never exposed to charity, so what got you involved with Make-A-Wish? Even Natasha has asked me about Make-A-Wish, because she has seen the kids’ artwork at your house and recognizes the logo from seeing it on your race car.
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Chapter 10: So You Think Staying At Home Isn’t A Full-Time Job?

Even before Red’s husband was fired, she had a lot on her plate. But, in reality, probably no more than any other mom, daughter, and wife, who are often (or should that be “usually”) at the center of everything, with their lives being a combination of chauffeur, referee, nurse, cook, friend, and an assortment of other “hats”. And while it can be very rewarding and gratifying knowing that so many people count on you, it can also be overwhelming, not to mention just plain stressful.

P.S. – Even today, Black’s perspective on being a full-time mom (as a stepmom, she considered herself a part-time mom, although she knew that was an important role) still makes Red smile. And while years ago she might have wished she was just a little less needed, now that her girls are older, it makes her a little sad and very nostalgic.



Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

Another early morning?


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

Yes! Now that I did the Sunday night review, I can see how you wake up on Monday mornings ready to tackle the week. Except today is Presidents’ Day and so Natasha’s home from school.


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Anything special planned?


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Why do I have to have something special planned? In fact, why do I have to be the one who does all the planning?


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Sorry I asked …
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Chapter 9: I'm Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My "To Do" List

Red constantly feels like time’s just flying by, and in terms of her “to do” lists, she’s getting nowhere. (Sound familiar?!) But when she turns to Black hoping to get just a little sympathy or empathy (she should’ve known she’d get neither), instead she gets a sarcastic comment,

I guess I need to tell you my “secret”. Again …

"Once upon a time" is how fairy tales begin, but once upon a time in Red's life, she had lots of things to do but was able to fit everything into any given day. And her worst-case scenario? Something might slide but would still get done in a timely fashion. But when her husband got fired, her fairy tale life ended and she had to take on more day-to-day responsibilities, which meant Red soon began to run out of hours in the day, the week, the month. Luckily, Black's advice about how to manage her time, although not an obvious "approach" until it was explained to her, made a big difference.

P.S. – If Red thought she was busy when her husband got fired, she had no idea what busy was until years later when she had to juggle being a single mom with being the warm and fuzzy half of Red & Black. In fact, this new level of crazy busy (Black likes to clarify that it's "good crazy") has now become the "new norm", which means that Red still struggles with way too much to do and way too little time to do it in. It's then, when she's really stressing out, that Black often has to remind her of the original advice she gave Red, and usually tells her she needs to re-read this excerpt …


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I do have one question. What exactly did you mean by time management? I understand there's a limited amount of time in the day, but unless I give up sleeping altogether, I'm not sure how to find the time to do everything on my lists. I'm already getting up at 5:00 a.m. (and this morning even earlier!) so that I have some quiet time before I start the "mom" thing. Any suggestions? And just this once, skip the smart-ass comments!


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If I could tell you how to create more time in your day, I could make a fortune. There are countless books on time management, but I doubt you will find the time to read one, so I will tell you what works best for me.


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Type faster. What's the secret?
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