Words & Banter

Happiness Has A Hole In The Middle?

Bagels. Whether it's memories of growing up in New York or because decades later it's still one of our favorite foods, these approximately three-inch circles of carbs make us, well, happy. So, when Red was catching up on her New York Times reading and came across the article, The Best Bagels Are in California (Sorry, New York), the mouth-watering images made her think about growing up on Long Island, New York. And how we lived about half a mile from what will always be our favorite bagel shop. (It's long gone, although there's now another bagel shop in that location.)

It was a Sunday morning routine, but looking back, it was a perfect Sunday morning. It's late morning, I've just woken up, and I'm still in my pajamas. I wander downstairs to the kitchen and there on the table is the large brown paper bag of assorted bagels, still warm, because Daddy had just bought them on his way home from the golf course. Sometimes he'd still be in the kitchen and we'd talk about his game; sometimes I was alone. I'd sit down, having toasted my bagel, a huge schmear of Philadelphia cream cheese on each side (who cares, I was a kid, and who knew from calories, fat, and cholesterol in those days), the Sunday New York Times awaiting me. And there, at the kitchen table, I spent the next few hours. Eating and reading.

Of course, Red was curious if Black had the same memories, and although Black had fond memories of Daddy and his Sunday morning ritual of golf and bagels, she also remembered that Mom would have him cut her bagel into four or five slices as she was on Weight Watchers and wanted to make every bite count. Black has done the same thing for years (or, if eating out, scoops out the guts). Not to cut back on calories, but because she has always preferred the crust of bread more than the fluffy part. (Hmmm, is there a metaphor for life there?)

Fast forward, and we each went to out-of-state colleges and, ultimately, moved out of New York, and, in Red's case, out of the country. That meant it became the "Bagel Dark Ages" as once you moved away from New York, you soon realized there were no bagels to be found. Keep in mind this was before the days of online shopping and overnight shipping. And anyone who said frozen bagels are the next best thing when you don't have fresh isn't a bagel connoisseur. It'd be like comparing a Fiat and a Ferrari, both are Italian cars. (Guess which one of us came up with that analogy!)

When Black moved to Houston in the late 70s, there were bagels, but nothing like what she remembered but memories have a way of distorting things. But over time, more New York transplants arrived, and with them the art of making New York bagels. When Red arrived in 2001, she was thrilled to find authentic bagels. And, much to her great surprise, even bialys – bagel's lesser-known, but equally delicious, "cousin". Not only could bagels, once again, be part of her Sundays but she'd introduce this "tradition" to her two daughters. (Red will admit, health consciousness has turned it into a monthly "splurge" vs. a weekly event, and Black rarely eats them but when she does, savors every bite.)

So, back to where this started … The New York Times article, and if you can get past the pictures, you'll learn that California's "best" bagels are either made by New Yorkers or are based on bagels made by New Yorkers. Either way, there's no getting around the fact that for so many of us …

It isn't really about finding the "best" bagel as it's about the pure enjoyment of "experiencing" bagels …

When Red first heard Black talking about the importance of "soft skills," she didn't even know what she was referring to, let alone that they would be important to her life. So, Black explained that it was a term used to describe intangible but essential skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, communications, and conflict management.

Red, trying to be sarcastic, then asked if there was such a thing as “hard skills,” Black matter-of-factly told her those are tangible and technical skills such as computer skills.

Of course, Black couldn’t pass up an opportunity for sarcasm and explained that although there’s consensus about the importance of soft skills, there’s debate about what they should be called, with her favorite being the Texas Education Agency (TEA) calling them "21st Century Skills" – although she's old enough to remember they were important in the 20th Century, too.

But would anyone call them “Mom Skills”? Well, Red couldn’t help but remember the time Black told her, “Your job is every bit as demanding as a corporate position, and, in fact, you use many of the same skill sets.”Not something Red could ever have imagined, but it made sense once she better understood what soft skills are and how they are used. But then Black took it a step further,

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Red was your typical straight-A student, getting great grades starting in kindergarten straight through to graduating from college.(Black’s grades were less than stellar, plus she was a discipline problem – some things never change.) And then, excited and proud of herself, Red thought she was done. Black, on the other hand, thinks of education as something that never ends, and much to the chagrin of students, will tell them,

Homework never ends; it just is called “research” when you get older.

Over the last few years, Red has come around to Black’s way of thinking and realizes it’s a mindset. And that education is more than the classes you take in school.

September is when students of all ages are back in school, but it’s also National Literacy Month, which is about so much more than reading and writing. Literacy includes things like Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy, Health Literacy, and even News Literacy. (As the linked Conversation Starters indicate, Red was the “poster child” of a highly educated person who lacked many of these basic literacy skills.)

So, we challenge you to find a topic that interests you or one you could benefit from learning (personally or professionally) and start doing your homework.

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For many of us, Labor Day marks the end of summer (temperatures aside), and as we switch from a summer holiday mindset back to the “real world”, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed.

You don’t need us to tell you how falling back into a work or school routine can be challenging, especially if you’re facing a backlog of tasks and responsibilities. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, the “silly season” is just around the corner. (Red has been seeing Halloween decorations since mid-July, which means Thanksgiving and all the winter holidays aren’t far behind.)

But you don’t need us to tell you why you feel overwhelmed; you need help dealing with being overwhelmed.

When our new website goes live next year, one of the major sections will be THE DAILY HELP, where you’ll find easy-to-implement tools to get your day back on track and feel more in control.

But that doesn’t help you … NOW. So, here are a handful of our favorite posts to help you deal with daily challenges we all face. (Red admits that she picked the ones she felt she needed to reread.)

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