Learning For Life

A Bad Past Or A Better Future? Your Choice.

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".

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Mom's almost 94 years old, so I appreciate that she travels down "memory lane" and reminisces. But what I don't appreciate, or understand, is why she insists on focusing on negative memories and wishing things were different. What makes it worse is how she remembers things, or let's just say her "versions" of what happened, which makes me wonder if we're even talking about the same event.

As you know, I love history, and there's so much we can learn from the past , including how to try to avoid repeating mistakes so you can make "today" better. That applies to people, too. But, with her, I feel like it's only "lip service" when she's said that she wanted to clear the air about past events in the hope we could improve things going forward. Because whenever I've tried to "sort through" things, it seems all she wants to do is prove how she's right and I'm wrong. Then and now.

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You bring up two different but intertwined issues.

First, why people remember things differently. We are a story-telling society, so think about our memories … are they not just stories from the past? Influenced by how we reacted to the "facts" and our memories of the "facts"? If you and I experience the same event, I bet you will remember how you felt, whereas I will have a more pragmatic memory.

Second, what is the objective of looking back? Mom has always dwelled in the past, but her "stories" always defend her actions rather than look at what she might have been able to do differently. Or, even acknowledge how she may have contributed to the situation. Stating the objective as "learning from mistakes" only works when that is what you are willing to do.

Want an extreme, and very serious, example? Look at January 6. Some people want to examine exactly what happened and why to prevent it from happening again, while others are using it for political purposes. And many (most?) are not even being honest about their motives.


  • Do you know people who seem to prefer to dwell in the past? Why do you think they do?
  • Why do you think some people are more interested in "defending the past" than "learning from the past"?
  • Do you think recognizing that different people remember things differently makes addressing issues easier or more difficult? Why?
Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they’re using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created “Conversation Starters”.

red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving this year, especially since last year was the first since Mom passed away, and the dining room table seemed incomplete. Which may partially explain why we ended up sitting around the kitchen table and island instead. And that was wonderful – so relaxed, easy, and fun – but I still couldn’t help but think of her not being with us. It’s funny because, over the years, even as life changed, such as the girls growing up and going off to college, I’ve always taken for granted that Thanksgiving would somehow always remain the same, cooking the same dishes, with all the preparation beginning days in advance.

So, I'm not sure that I truly stopped and appreciated each Thanksgiving Day as I was so focused on everything I needed to get done. This year, though, I plan to take a moment to stop and think about some of the things I'm thankful for, and to start appreciating the day itself. To try to "be present", so to speak, in the present.

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I know that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, but what you just described is gratitude. Gratitude is "deeper" than thankfulness, and the best way I can describe it is … think about when you might write a thank you note – someone gives you something or does something for you. It is a fleeting event. Now think about if you were to write someone a note or letter of appreciation.

You have repeatedly told me that mere mortals often need reminders, so what if this Thanksgiving you start a "gratitude habit"? Make a daily appointment with yourself to find a few quiet moments and write down at least one thing for which you are grateful. It can be as simple as sunlight on your face or the crunch of an apple. You are probably rolling your eyes right now, but it will only take a few minutes and can change your life. Or, at least, how you look at it.


  • If you look back, what or who would you appreciate (or appreciate more) that you didn’t at the time?
  • If you begin to appreciate the value of appreciation (pun intended), what might you want to be mindful of going forward?
  • Do you think a "gratitude habit" might be useful? Would you be willing to "test-drive" (Black's words) one for a month and see if your opinion changes? Explain your answers.

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".

No one likes to feel out of control, unprepared, and scared. But as Red will tell you, life can change in an instant (whether it’s a crisis impacting many or one that seems very personal). She’ll also tell you that when everything seems so negative, it’s difficult to have a positive mindset (or even a non-emotional perspective) …

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In some ways, it seems like decades ago that my husband got fired, in other ways it seems like yesterday. I felt then so many of the same emotions that people are going through today due to the coronavirus. I was so scared. And unprepared. At the time, I thought he'd work for the company where he had been for years until he retired, and by then we'd have a second home and would live happily ever after. I never thought anything would change that plan. Everything was perfect, until my life, literally overnight, became a living nightmare.

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Yes, and as I told you at the time … you needed to calm down. I said that a lot. Still do. Anyway, I remember telling you to take a deep breath … and that you would get through it. And, you did. Although you constantly questioned whether you had the ability to do so.

  • Your life can change in an instant. Can you be prepared? How can you plan for the unknown?
  • What are other unplanned life events?

It’s hot and humid, and we’re all tired and cranky. But if there are kids involved (and even if there aren’t) and you’re looking for something to get you through what’s left of the summer before school starts, check out my list below. (The funny thing is, even though it’s a few years old, it still applies. I guess some things never change.) And who knows, some of them just might have you feeling like a kid again, too.

When I suggested to Black that we have a checklist or menu of items to amuse or, at least, occupy kids over the summer (something that almost every parent with kids home on summer break searches for every year), I thought my work was already done as I'd pull out the list I created years ago for my daughters. Except that I forgot it had been on a computer that no longer exists, and although a copy might be somewhere in a stack of filing, I'd have to start over. Which turned out to be a good thing …

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