We had barely introduced ourselves when the newspaper editor held up our book, gesturing to our "two-faced" logo on the front cover and said something along the lines of …

Ok, off the record, admit it, you embellished the characters in the book to be more entertaining.

When we finished laughing, we explained …


that actually we had toned it down, feeling that no one would believe what we're really like, especially Black. With a journalist's healthy degree of skepticism, he politely smiled, put down the book beside him and we proceeded to do what's most important when you're at Kenny & Ziggy's Delicatessen, deciding what to eat.

And then, what else would two Jewish women (sisters, no less) meeting with Michael Duke, editor of the Jewish Herald-Voice, one of the Gulf Coast's oldest Jewish newspapers, do? We talked. And talked, and talked. About how we grew up in New York. About how we took very different roads in life, yet both ended up in Houston (Black as a career choice, Red because it's where her British husband had been transferred). And how Red had a crisis that Black turned into a book, a brand, and a business. One that was supposed to go to Hollywood but ended up in the world of education, having completed our first semester of teaching at KIPP Houston High School less than a year after Neiman Marcus had launched the book.

So, it began … a breakfast meeting that lasted until almost lunch. We had hoped for an article and ended up with a front-page cover story, with one of our favorite titles, "Raising Kids, Racing Cars." But we never expected that we'd soon begin writing a monthly column for the Jewish Herald-Voice. But now, over ten years and over 120 monthly columns later, here we are. Life has a funny way of taking you in directions you never expected.

Obviously, we didn't know any of that as we reluctantly got up from our table. As we started to walk towards the front cash register, Michael, who we now felt had become a friend in a mere few hours, paused, turned to us, and said:

You're right. You downplayed the characters.

Want to read our monthly column? Here's a list.

So, when Black mentions Redhead Appreciation Day, I know it’s related to Red & Black and not her being “nice” and giving me a day off (or telling me that she appreciates me). And when she asks, “What is it like to be a redhead, Red?” part of me wants to reply, “What’s it like not to be a redhead?” because, for my entire life, I’ve been “Red.” (There’s a story there, but I’ll get to it later.) The honest answer is, well, I never thought about it, until now …

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Photograph of Jackie Aguilera courtesy of Jackie Aguilera


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

I have a confession to make, which I’m sure will make you roll your eyes.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

Interesting caveat and probably true.


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

Every time we meet with Jackie (Aguilera) from the Mayor’s Office of Adult Literacy and hear what she’s doing in the world of adult education, I feel like I’m back in school and having to take copious notes.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

I am more than happy to send you “homework assignments” as I come across relevant articles and research.


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to taking notes. But that does explain why you’re so knowledgeable about literacy.


Black assets.rebelmouse.io

But, reading information is very different from being at the forefront of literacy innovation. And, if we had never met Jackie, I never would have realized how literacy is more than the dictionary definition, and encompasses more than just reading and writing.
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Photo by Lynda Sanchez on Unsplash

As Black knows, going to the movies is my escape (and even sends me research about it), but she also knows that it’s all about the popcorn. So, it should come as no surprise that’s how I like to celebrate my birthday. And even though she’s not one to “celebrate” birthdays, she does indulge (or maybe the word is “tolerate”) people who do, and whenever my birthday falls on a workday, she gives me “permission” to escape to the movies.

Which is what I’m doing today on my milestone birthday, and although the “rerun” part of this post (below the line) was from last November, some things never change. Except … this year, as I’ll be waiting for the movie to start (and waiting to start eating my popcorn as I refuse to eat even a single kernel beforehand), I know I’ll be wondering, “How did I get to be 60 years old?!”

It's a running joke in my family that the only reason I go to the movies is for the popcorn. And while that isn't 100% true, it's probably close as I can't remember a time when popcorn wasn't an essential part of the experience. (I'll admit I couldn't believe it when I recently read that South Korea's banning movie popcorn in the theater!)

I can still remember seeing "Young Frankenstein" when it was first released (in 1974) at the Massapequa movie theater, which was literally at one end of an old strip shopping center. It bore no resemblance to the multiplex cinemas of today, and the concession stand offerings were very limited. It was dark and a bit dingy, and the seats were old and uncomfortable. But I didn't care because the popcorn made up for it. And while I sat through multiple showings of the movie (hey, it's still one of my favorites), I was grateful that my dad had given me enough money to get multiple popcorns as in those days, there was no such thing as the big bucket, let alone free refills.

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