We came across the photo above when updating our "About Education" section, and it brought back such fond memories. You may be thinking, "What? Are they calling those students guinea pigs???" Well, actually, yes. And before you think ill of us, please know that we use the term with great affection, deep gratitude, and utmost respect. And, these eight amazing seniors from the Class of 2010 know that's our nickname for them because ...
We started calling them our "Guinea Pigs" as soon as they volunteered to help us develop our Red & Black Personal Finance and Life 101 program at KIPP Houston High School. It was important they knew this was truly an "experiment" as neither one of us were teachers or financial experts.
It all started at our first speaking engagement, when during Q&A a woman asked why the topics in our book weren't taught in school. The next thing we knew we were sitting in the office of Bryan Contreras, Director of KIPP Through College, and being asked to not only develop, but teach, a semester long course to their high school seniors, during their spring semester. (Yes, the months right before they graduate.) While Red looked like a deer in headlights (we barely considered ourselves authors, yet alone teachers) Black responded as she often does, with a simple:
Sure, not a problem.
While Red went home to carpool and baking cookies, Black did what she does best – use her corporate and business experience to tackle the challenge. So, she requested a "task force" of seniors to help us develop the curriculum because, as she put it:
If it is not relevant, why bother? And, who knows best what is relevant to high school seniors? High school seniors.
Black introduced them to the business concept of a working lunch (which might also be considered a pizza bribe), and we met for five Fridays. We gave them a list of select book excerpts they'd be expected to read each week so we could then discuss what they thought should be included in the curriculum. That first week, they seemed motivated to help – but we weren't sure what to expect.
They came back excited and totally committed, with two of them having read the entire book and the rest having read much more than the assigned excerpts. Luckily, Red had been a straight-A, copious note taking student, although she could barely keep up with their comments and feedback, and conversations among themselves generated by the conversations in our book. You could see their interest in personal finance (and many other Life 101 topics) was strong and genuine, and they explained that learning from the mistakes of others was extremely powerful. One student, after prefacing his comment with apologies, stated:
When I grow up, I don't want to be Red.
We'll always be indebted to our Guinea Pigs for their enthusiasm and suggestions, as using our book as the textbook was their idea, not ours. And through their feedback of the book and the lessons they were already learning from it, which began at those pizza lunches, the answer to how best to "teach" a Red & Black class was obvious to them. It was as simple as a book club. For us, it took a little longer to come to that realization as we were hampered by our own preconceived notions of how lessons are taught in a classroom. So, although the initial intent may have been for us to be the teachers, and them to be the stduents ... we learned from each other.
P.S. – For those of you interested in a more "educational" look at our detour into the world of education, including "feedback" (student quotes, Black's "non-scientific" surveys and KIPP press releases) from our two spring semesters when we "taught" at KIPP Houston High School, please check out "It Started With A Question … It Started At KIPP".
I Love Lucy. For many of us, myself included, those three words bring back memories of favorite episodes of the “I Love Lucy” show. And, although I would be hard-pressed to pick my favorites, some may reminisce that the show, which ran from 1951 – 1957, was from a simpler time and is dated. I would argue that the comic timing, the gags, and the chemistry of the characters have stood the test of time.
Maybe it is because they took frustrating situations in everyday life and then pushed them to the extreme – and made them hilarious along the way. For example, your young child wants a superhero at their birthday party. Reasonable. But for Lucy, after unsuccessfully trying to book Superman (Chris Reeves), she dons the costume in “Lucy and Superman.” A classic.
I will not get into the scientific reasoning why people love watching reruns, but they do. And, it may explain why “I Love Lucy” has been on air for 70 years. (Note: I watched them as reruns, not when originally released.) However, the concept of reruns was, to a great extent, invented by "I Love Lucy" (technically, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) when they negotiated with CBS for the right to own their filmed episodes. (Back then, networks would air shows only once, and when they took breaks from filming, would air a different show – not reruns.) It was a brilliant business decision because it was not long before the real Lucy (Lucille Ball) became pregnant and wanted to ease her production schedule, so the network reran shows, paying the couple (via their production company, Desilu Studios) for the rebroadcast rights. And, they created a second-run syndication market along the way.
Even her pregnancy was groundbreaking, as Lucille Ball was the first woman to appear pregnant on one of the three major television networks (although the show never used the deemed-vulgar word “pregnant,” she was “expecting” or Ricky’s version, “spectin”). “I Love Lucy” was also a first in portraying mixed couples when Lucille Ball, already a star at the time, wanted her real-life husband, a Cuban bandleader, to play her on-screen spouse. Oh my, an all-American redhead married to a Latino man! But, America loved them. And, it seemed that Lucille Ball and her character were interchangeable.
But were they? Lucy Ricardo was constantly trying to break out of the role of a wife who stayed in the kitchen. And dreamed and schemed to break into show business. Often convincing her best friend, Ethel Mertz (I always thought it interesting that Fred and Ethel never had children, and accepted it although I did wonder “why”), to be her partner-in-crime. I felt they were always trying, using comedy as their messaging medium, to say there was more to being a woman than the traditional roles of wife and mother.
Clearly, Lucille Ball was much more than an actress and comedian; she was a trailblazing producer and very shrewd in business. She became one of the first women to own her own TV production company when she bought out Desi’s share of Desilu Studios several years after their divorce. And, besides producing TV classics such as "The Untouchables" and "Mission: Impossible," she was brilliant (and brave) enough to get behind the original Star Trek TV series,
I love Lucy, and the years of laughter and enjoyment. But, I admire Lucille Ball, a true badass back when the censors would never have allowed that word on air.
As soon as Black wrote it, it became one of Red's favorite posts, so although we had to wait a year to feature it again, we've always known it would become a new Thanksgiving tradition. After all, what could be a better Turkey Day tradition than a perfect memory about a perfect turkey?
And for everyone, we want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving that, as Black says below, is … filled with memories that will last a lifetime.
Today is Thanksgiving, and I cannot help but wonder why we are online. However, everyone has their own way of celebrating. I know that Red is in the kitchen cooking – and watching a marathon of "The Godfather" movies. Which is perfect as turkeys take such a long time to cook and patience is important when you want it perfectly browned. So inviting, so appetizing, so … naked?
Growing up, our house used to be where everyone congregated for the holidays. Not because my mother was a good cook, or even liked to entertain, but because my parents bought a house on Long Island while the rest of her family continued to live in apartments in Brooklyn and the Bronx. In other words, they had the most room.
Thanksgiving was always a house full of people and everyone always gathered in the kitchen, which made food preparation a challenge. Especially as everyone loved to nibble on ingredients during the process. For the most part, Mom was a good sport about it. But, the closer we got to the turkey being ready, the more food she would move into the dining room, hoping we would follow the food.
I remember one year when the turkey cooling on the counter looked like something from a magazine – it was perfectly browned. Normally, it was splotchy, although you never knew it once my father was done carving it. (Although an engineer, he had dreamed of being a surgeon and every year as I watched him carve the turkey, I would think he missed his true calling.) Anyway, my mother was so proud of this perfectly browned turkey that she would not let anyone near it, and was delaying the inevitable carving.
However, she made the mistake of taking the balance of the side dishes into the dining room and my father must have been helping as my cousin and I snuck back into the kitchen. In a matter of seconds, we had striped that turkey naked. Enjoying the crispy skin (ok, this was well before the days we were told it was "bad" for you) and laughing until my parents returned to see what was causing the commotion.
Mom was less than pleased, while Daddy tried to hide his amusement. My cousin ran to the safety of his parents, while I stood there defiantly asking if could have a wing. To this day, I cannot see a perfectly browned turkey without remembering that Thanksgiving. And, I venture to guess it has become a favorite memory of my Mom's, as well.
So today, at the risk of being warm and fuzzy (which is Red's area of responsibility),
I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving … filled with memories that will last a lifetime.
It's a running joke in my family that the only reason I go to the movies is for the popcorn. And while that isn't 100% true, it's probably close as I can't remember a time when popcorn wasn't an essential part of the experience. (I'll admit I couldn't believe it when I recently read that South Korea's banning movie popcorn in the theater!)
I can still remember seeing "Young Frankenstein" when it was first released (in 1974) at the Massapequa movie theater, which was literally at one end of an old strip shopping center. It bore no resemblance to the multiplex cinemas of today, and the concession stand offerings were very limited. It was dark and a bit dingy, and the seats were old and uncomfortable. But I didn't care because the popcorn made up for it. And while I sat through multiple showings of the movie (hey, it's still one of my favorites), I was grateful that my dad had given me enough money to get multiple popcorns as in those days, there was no such thing as the big bucket, let alone free refills.
Fast forward, and at the risk of sounding like I'm making light of the pandemic, one of the toughest adjustments was not being able to go to the movies, as it's always given me a way to deal with stress by providing a much-needed "escape" from real life. If only for a few hours. Now, thanks to the vaccines and enhanced cleaning and airflow procedures at theaters, I feel safe going back to the movies and my movie routine, which, I admit, is designed around my popcorn consumption. (Black would probably say obsession.)
First, I ask them to fill the large bucket "really high, please, I haven't eaten all day and I'm starving." Ok, so I probably did eat earlier, but I need some excuse for asking for a ridiculous amount of popcorn, don't I? Which takes me to the next part of my routine. If the bucket's filled to the point of overflowing, I know exactly the pace to eat it so that it lasts for almost the entire movie. (Trust me, I'm not kidding!) And then, the final part of the routine … I don't start eating my popcorn until the movie (not the coming attractions) begins. (Unlike Black, who races to finish her small size popcorn by the time the movie starts as if it's something to be ticked off a "to do" list.)
So, think what you will, but for me, the popcorn's a critical part of what makes going to the movies so enjoyable. And has become an amusing memory for my youngest daughter and me as many years ago when we were on the concession stand line, she asked me what size popcorn I was getting,
I love you, honey, and you're so smart, but that may be the silliest question you've ever asked me. And, quite possibly, will ever ask me.
To this day, she still remembers it, and almost every time I get home from the movies, she'll jokingly ask me what size popcorn I got, and in the same breath, answer the question. Because she knows that there's only one answer. The biggest bucket available.