Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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You're probably tired of hearing me say this, but I'm so excited that we're offering educators and community organizations our book and other materials as FREE online resources!


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I bet our accountants and attorneys might not feel the same way.


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At this point, I doubt they'd be surprised. They should be used to us putting philanthropy ahead of profits, although pre-coronavirus we were going to start focusing on a new website and new sources of revenue.


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Well, COVID-19 changed everything – for everyone.


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No kidding. But I'll admit that I was surprised when educators reached out to us looking for online resources, including our bestselling book, What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired! It's not as if it's a bestselling textbook.


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But, it is a State Board of Education approved textbook. Although, I am more excited it is student-approved. What caught me off-guard was when they explained they needed it in a format that could be accessed on a smartphone because many of their students do not have access to computers since schools and libraries are closed.


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I know. I also know they were relieved when you said you would immediately get to work on creating the resources they needed, and would also create a new webpage so they could find everything in one place. But what left them speechless was when they asked the cost, and you said it would be FREE.


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It just seemed the right thing to do. We are all in this together. We cannot make ventilators or face masks, but we can try to help educators who are looking for new and creative ways to work with their students.


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The funny thing is when we started accumulating everything in one place, I realized we already had an assortment of user-friendly resources that had been used with middle school students, high school students, and adult education learners. And they could be used for online learning or even independent study. Resources that are engaging, relevant, and interactive.


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Stop! You are starting to sound like a textbook salesman.


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Except everything is FREE! And, as a parent, I know first-hand that teachers are struggling to find effective online resources. Over the last month, I've seen this with both Sawyer and Natasha, so it applies to high schools and colleges. Especially as online resources need to both get – and keep – their attention!


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That is a challenge even when you are in their faces.


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True. That's where I think our newly released animated videos may help engage students of all ages. And the timing couldn't be better!


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When we partnered with Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston initiative to create a new series of short animations on soft skills, there was no way to know that we would end up launching them in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Ok, now that they're done, I'll share a secret with you. When you first told me about the idea to have short (less than a minute) videos on "soft skills" – topics like critical thinking, communications, teamwork, etc. – I thought you were crazy. I know that when we met with Hasbro, they suggested our "sitcom characters" should be animated, and that's what we were doing. But we were supposed to be doing "fun" stories that would be of interest to "mere mortals". Not videos on "less than exciting" topics for educational, corporate, and community organization use.


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One does not preclude the other. Anyway, I had never considered a series on soft skills until I was talking with Peter Beard at UpSkill Houston about my corporate days and how we would hire for technical skills, but fire for lack of soft skills. He was aware we were working on animation and suggested the series.


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I'm not questioning the relevance of the topics. I just felt the subject matter was going to be hard to make engaging and fun.


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Oh ye of little imagination.


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I'll ignore that because once I started seeing the videos "come to life", I realized how great they were going to be. Especially as a "mere mortal mom" who has seen first-hand how important these skills are in everyday life. And before you say it, yes, that's because you pointed it out to me!


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I was going to say that your character in the video is one of the reasons why I think they are so effective. The videos clearly and quickly provide the "textbook" definition of a specific soft skill and why it is valuable to employers, as well as my insight as a former corporate executive. However, you show how the skill has a "real life" application in our personal lives.


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Well, as you pointed out to me years ago, all these skills are transferable not only between industries, but with our personal lives. As a parent, these videos make such great teaching tools.


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I do not have children, but I would not refer to them as "teaching tools" … maybe conversation starters.


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Whatever you call them, when combined with our other FREE resources, I'd like to think we could help a lot of people. I just wish there was a way we could let people know about all of our new and, to me anyway, exciting material.


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Which is why we are creating a new website and a strategy to use social media to build our audience. We have to ask, and hope, that people will then share the information with others.


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But we have all these FREE resources now! Things that might be useful as we go into summer. How do we let people know that there are truly no strings attached? No "trial period." No hidden fees. Free means free. And that we'll do whatever we can do to help educators and students.


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You just did.

For more information on FREE resources to educators, including getting access to our bestselling book, contact Red at education@RedandBlackBooks.com.

To learn more about Red& Black's partnership with UpSkill Houston, click here.

And, to access the Red & Black Soft Skills Series, go to UpSkillMyLife.org/softskills.


Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Photo on Shutterstock by KieferPix



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I don't know about you, but I keep thinking about Jackie's Facebook post on Cinco de Mayo. I'm not sure why I even paid attention to the email notice that she posted something since, as you know, I don't "do" social media.


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Sometimes, inexplicably, something compels us to do things we would not normally do. Regardless, as soon as you forwarded it to me and I read her opening words, "Some may say I don't have a right to talk about this day …" I was curious. And then, infuriated.


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Based on the first words you said when you called me, it was obvious you were livid. Jackie may well be the most amazing person I know, not only for her knowledge and experience in the adult education world but for her creativity and passion. So, for someone, anyone, to say that she's less than who she is just because she doesn't speak her "so-called" native language is beyond unbelievable.


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It is ignorant. Insensitive. Naïve. Racist. Shall I continue? And, it says so much about the person making a judgment about her, based solely on her skin color and last name. As expected, Jackie was very professional as she did not say who said it, but for her to post something that personal means it hit a nerve.
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Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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Is it possible that this summer might actually feel a bit more "normal" than last year?


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Define "normal," as I am confident we are not returning to normal, but instead are transitioning to a new normal.


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Fine. I just meant in comparison to last summer when I was hoarding toilet paper, fully stocking my pantry and freezer, and constantly wiping down seemingly every surface in my house.


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I guess you could call it "the summer of survival" since we were not prepared for the pandemic, especially not the lockdowns.


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Exactly! Which means that this summer will be more like a pre-pandemic summer in that we'll have more freedom, especially for those of us that are vaccinated. And it feels great.
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Something happened the other evening, and before I could become annoyed, I started laughing because I was "guilty" of the same offense … just not recently. Looking back at what, at the time, were my mortifying actions, I realized that anyone who drinks and types (whether email or text messages) has probably done it.

It has been proven that alcohol reduces your inhibitions – some people think they become charismatic, others become the world's greatest dancers (or lovers), while others believe they can see things with more clarity and need to share that knowledge. And, the list goes on. (I know that Red loves lists, but since she does not drink, the list would be impossible for her to understand … although many of us could see it as a checklist, "Yes, done that!")

So, have you ever been holding back your feelings (good or bad) about someone, and then one evening you have a little too much to drink and decide to let them know your inner-most thoughts? It could be a family member, a friend, someone at work, a romantic relationship (past, present, future "prospect"), or given social media, even a stranger. You let your thoughts and feelings run from your head (not sure the brain is involved, other than to help your fingers fly across the keyboard) through your electronic equipment … and then out into the world.

Sometimes you realize it almost immediately, and you futilely try to "recall" the message before they open it. More often, you do not see the error of your ways until the next day when you vaguely remember sending the message (or, possibly, multiples messages), clinging to the hope it was a bad dream … until you see it in your sent file. Or, even worse, finding a response, which you are not sure you want to read.

What made me laugh was that this time I was the recipient, not the sender (the first email was an expression of deep feelings, the second questioning if I had received the first one, both obviously alcohol-induced), and I decided not to let them off the hook. Since I had been out at a business dinner, several hours had passed, so I politely replied, questioning the reasonableness of each email and then asking if alcohol had been involved.

And, I could not help but wonder,

If there are car breathalyzer devices that require you to submit a breath sample, and if your alcohol level is at or above a preset level, it will prevent the vehicle from starting … should there not be similar devices that would inactive the "send" button on your computer or smartphone?

P.S. – I think Wikipedia's breathalyzer entry is fascinating, but doubt Red would agree.