So, curious how Red & Black started? Well, on the surface, it would seem our journey started with the launch of the book I co-authored with my sister, What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired! But we all know that what leads up to the "start" of a journey can be just as important, and sometimes even more important. It's like a vacation, the actual vacation falls somewhere in the middle – after the planning and packing and before the post-vacation "recovery" phases that always seen to include lots of laundry.

But I digress (warning, I do that a lot). The real beginning of the journey started on a rainy Friday in January 2004.


(The year's important as the economy was strong, and also because it was before we all were constantly accessible via smart phones.) I was preparing dinner, while my two young daughters, Natasha who was 5-years old at the time, and Sawyer, who was 1-1/2-years old, were playing in the family room section of the kitchen.

I didn't think about it at the time (that happened several hours later and for a long time after that), but I would've described my life as happy and secure. A stay-at-home mom with two beautiful, healthy daughters. A marriage to a husband who was a good father and a good provider. He had a great job with a major company which resulted in us living around the world, and he had dedicated his life to it for almost 25 years.

But at 5:00 p.m. that Friday my life was changed in an instant … when he came home and told me, totally unexpectedly, he had been fired. Forget about long-term plans and dreams for the future. How were we going to get through today and tomorrow and next week?

Even today, I can remember how I felt as if it was yesterday. I was terrified. I was devastated. Emotionally I was a wreck. I could've killed my husband for doing this to the family. Yet I felt incredibly sad for him. His entire career had been dedicated to the company, and he didn't deserve this. I was ashamed. Yet, I had to be strong and put on a brave face for him and our daughters.

And what was I going to tell people? I'd eventually figure that out, but first, I had to tell my sister – the one person who knows everything about my life and who I talk to almost every day. I thought I was a strong person and well-educated, but I wasn't sure I had the skills to handle this. So, I did what I thought best … I sent her an email telling her that I needed to talk to her as soon as possible. That something serious had happened to Nick. (Obviously, I was in shock because as someone who likes to blah-blah-blah, I neglected to provide any details).

And then, I logged off my computer … never realizing that my journey had just begun.

We never expected to be in prison!

Photo by Lynn Lane

You know that your life has gone down an interesting path when Gayle King references prison slang and you don't need the explanation. It happened the morning after Derek Chauvin's jury verdict was reached and she referenced how Chauvin had been placed in "ad seg" for his protection. And then in the next breath started to explain what it meant, but not before I thought to myself, "oh, administrative segregation, that makes sense."

So, why would a warm and fuzzy mom who lives in the middle of suburbia, and to any casual onlooker would look like the least likely person to know anything about prisons and prison terminology, have this kind of information? Well, it's all my sister's fault. She was the one who got us involved with criminal justice, first by having us present at a Prisoner's Family Conference and then with her "field trip" to a men's prison south of Houston.

And my attitude towards all of this? After all, aren't prisoner's criminals? You know, lock them up and throw away the key. Well, our involvement over many years led me to a greater understanding, which included that nothing's black and white, especially when it comes to the world of criminal justice – and incarceration. And I came to realize that just because someone made a bad decision doesn't make them a bad person.

Looking back, it's been a long but interesting journey that started when my husband got fired (I thought of it as a crisis, whereas Black saw it as a book that would be the basis of a sitcom) and has resulted in some very unexpected detours – how could a Neiman Marcus launch lead to our book being approved by the (Texas) State Board of Education as a textbook and then … drumroll, please … being used as the basis of a personal finance and Life 101 program embraced by the Chaplaincy Department of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. (Trust me, you can't make this stuff up!)

So that explains some of my prison "education" (I've also learned that many people personally know men and women who either are or have been incarcerated, but they're often ashamed to admit it). Still, it doesn't explain why I specifically know about Ag Seg (or what many people call solitary confinement, although Black has told me it's now called restricted housing, but that doesn't change what it is). Well, our book was initially used for Faith-Based dorms and then General Population, but most recently has become an independent book study program used in, you guessed it, Ad Seg.

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Today's "Take Our Kids To Work Day," which made me think about how incredibly lucky we were that Daddy worked from home. Every day was take your kid to work day!


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Yes, back then, many people had home offices, but they were typically separate from the house. For example, doctors and dentists whose practices were in extensions on their house. But, I also remember when Daddy worked in a "real" office.


red head red head assets.rebelmouse.io


Well, my memory is of Daddy working in his office in the basement. I'd come home from school, open the door to the basement, and shout down that I was home. Then, even before getting a snack, I'd go downstairs, plop down in the wooden chair in the corner of his workroom, and tell him all about my day.


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Even when Daddy worked at a corporate office in New York City and commuted on the Long Island Rail Road, getting home just in time for dinner, that never stopped him from immediately asking about my day. No matter how tired he might be, he was always genuinely interested in everything and anything I wanted to discuss.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


I never remember Daddy being tired, he was always present and engaged. I can remember asking him questions about his drafting table, the blueprints, and what he did, but it seemed based on math which was never my strong suit, so not much of it stuck with me.
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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.