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 chatiyanon on iStock

It seems the pandemic has resulted in people “recycling” relationships from their past, and I have already admitted to doing that and then being “ghosted” (the relationship was doomed the first go-round and trying to resurrect it reminded me of why). Although on the surface it may seem rude, there are a few “legitimate” reasons for ghosting, some less obvious than others.

Looking back to decades of dating, a handful of engagements, and two failed marriages, I realized none of them started as friendships. I will also admit that very few started with sparks of passion (I know those fizzle out), but all were analyzed in terms of compatibility. Too bad I was not aware of research indicating the majority of romantic relationships begin as long-term friendships.

This story began as an impromptu business meeting when I asked to speak to the manager of a food franchise I frequented, thinking there might be an opportunity to create a joint marketing opportunity with Red & Black. There was no way to know the attractive man sitting toward the back of the store, who I noticed when I first walked in, would be the district manager.

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


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I can’t believe it’s already May, which means hot and humid weather is just around the corner. All I can say is … ugh.


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Not a scientific term, but descriptive nonetheless. And, I hate to break the news to you, but the science of climate change and global warming means summers will keep getting hotter.


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I can remember growing up in New York and summers being hot, but not like now. Of course, it didn’t help that Mommy didn’t run the air conditioning until it got into the 90s.
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Photo by Epiximages on iStock


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I appreciate that bullet points may not be the typical approach to Mother’s Day, but it seems appropriate to me …
  • Be sensitive to those people whose mothers may no longer be with us, especially given how many have been lost to COVID
  • If you have lost a mother, remember they are always with you – in your heart and in your memories
  • Remember Mother’s Day also includes all those “unofficial moms” and “mother figures” who are like second (or replacement) moms
  • And, last but not least, If you’re a mom, try to enjoy the day by doing something for yourself, as today may be the one day you can get away with it


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This year I write about Mother’s Day with a heavy heart and still much raw emotion, as our mom passed in December. My pragmatic side (yes, that’s usually Black’s area although she did sound somewhat warm and fuzzy above) knows that she had been 94 and led a full life, but that really doesn’t make it any less sad or fill the emptiness. But I find myself, when I least expect it and triggered by the most unexpected things, finding comfort in wonderful memories. And although Black’s first bullet point hits too close to home for me, I’ll try my best to focus on the other bullets.

Wishing all moms a very Happy Mother’s Day!