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 by Joseph Sohm for Shutterstock


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When I read the "Breaking News" email about the passing of Colin Powell from complications from COVID-19, I realized that many of us didn't even know he was being treated for illnesses that weakened his immune system. To me, he always seemed to be one of those incredibly strong and resilient men that could overcome anything, as I knew he served as the country's first Black national security adviser (during the Reagan administration), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (under President George H. W. Bush) and secretary of state (under President George W. Bush).

I first became aware of Powell during Operation Desert Storm and was living in Hong Kong at the time (shortly after I married a Brit, Shell assigned him to the Far East). I can remember being halfway around the world from home while watching seemingly non-stop news briefings featuring "Storming Norman" Schwarzkopf, with his "larger than life" details about the extraordinary precision of the airstrikes. At the time, it almost seemed more like a computer game than an actual war.

However, Powell had a far greater impact on me as he exuded calm mixed with steely determination, projecting an air of confidence that you sensed came from experience and deep personal commitment. And at this time of war and conflict, he provided a comforting feeling of power and control.


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I will not pretend to be a history buff, nor will I reflect on Mr. Powell's greatness as a military figure, statesman, and trailblazer. I will leave that to others. But, several things stand out about Powell as a man. First, he put America ahead of political party, stating, "I'm just a citizen who has voted Republican, voted Democrat, throughout my entire career, and right now I'm just watching my country and not concerned with parties."

Thanks to Punchbowl News, I learned that as a young man, he worked in a toy store, and the owner, a Russian immigrant Jew, admired the young Powell so much that he impressed upon him the importance of getting an education. Powell was so touched by this that he stayed in contact with him for the next 50 years. (I loved the sprinkling of Yiddish phrases as Powell tells the story.)

Of course, I could not help but smile rewatching this video of Powell along with two other motorheads, Jay Leno and (at the time) Vice President Biden "racing" Corvettes. And, may explain why one of my many favorite Powell quotes is, "Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror." But in his passing, you cannot help but look back over all he did for our country.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. May he rest in peace.

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


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I can't believe that Halloween's almost here, and the house isn't already decorated. Can I use the fact this is the first year I'm an empty nester as an excuse?


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Does that mean that you are not going to decorate?


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No! But without Sawyer home asking about it or prodding me by pulling the decorations out of the garage, it's still just sitting on my "to do" list. But fall is my favorite time of year, and I love seeing the house with all the Halloween decorations, so it will happen.


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I would think you could just put out the inflatables and be done with it.
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Image by Arseniy45 on iStock


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I know Columbus Day is a federal holiday, so banks are closed, but otherwise, it's barely celebrated. Growing up, it seemed like it was an important part of fall, not only because we had off from school, but because I can still remember (yes, those straight-A student school memories) learning about America being discovered by the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Especially since he was trying to find a new way to get to the "riches" of Asia (without having to sail around Africa) and found the Americas instead! I still recall hearing that some people thought the earth was flat and his ships would fall off, and although it may not have been many people – it still made a lasting impression. Regardless, he became one of the most famous explorers in history.

I love history, so I loved everything about the holiday and even remember the names of the three ships, Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, all these decades later. And although I've long forgotten most dates in history (after knowing them for the test, of course), the year 1492 is etched on my memory, as I suspect it is for many people.


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Obviously, Red needs to "update" her history on Christopher Columbus, and I am not talking about "obscure facts" like that might not have been his real name. Information has been discovered (pun intended, although this is a serious situation), leading to significant discussion and controversy about Columbus "the person" versus the romanticized hero originally depicted in history books.

As you would expect from any explorer traveling the world, there would be encounters with indigenous people. However, historians now believe Columbus' interactions were despicable (my word, not theirs) due to his use of violence and slavery, and forcing people to become Christians. In addition, he exposed the New World to diseases and other complications in what is now referred to as the "Columbian Exchange."

So, in keeping with the spirit of today being a holiday to celebrate, a "replacement" holiday, Indigenous People's Day, was created. And, although technically not a federal holiday, it does fall on one and hopefully will help us all refocus. In fact, this past Friday, President Joe Biden issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples' Day, stating,

"For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures. Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples' resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society."