Learning For Life

Fact Or Fiction? Not As Easy As It Sounds.

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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I’m not going to reminisce about the days when the nightly news (this was before cable) and newspapers (print) reported the news using facts, and op-eds (opinions and editorials, although that’s not how the term started) were labeled just that – not “marketed” as the news. Regardless, I like to think that I’m fairly well informed, although there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with 24-hours news and the constant bombardment of news update emails. And I can’t imagine what it’d be like if I were on social media.

But even though I get my news from well-known and reputable sources, I also know that several of them are biased, which means I have to process everything through that lens and then think for myself. Until recently, I never thought about how easy it would be to be deliberately “led astray” by information that is either knowingly wrong or strongly biased, especially when we live in an age where even nonsense (and photographs!) can easily be made to appear legitimate. (My daughter has shown me the magic of PhotoShop.) Unfortunately, as my sister, Black, first told me decades ago … some people never let facts get in the way of a good story.

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I will not get into the studies that indicate people “choose news that supports their views” (confirmation bias) versus looking for a range of perspectives, including those that might challenge their views. (I admit that I love opposing opinions, but then I think of “arguing my position” as sport.) I also enjoy doing my homework which means finding research and facts (which are different from something that sounds like a factual statement) from credible and unbiased sources. (I am sure people hate when they include me on the email distribution of something they find interesting, only to have me do a fact-check and let them know it is not accurate.)

The concept of news literacy can be overwhelming not only due to all the legitimate sources of news, but because the internet and social media have made it very easy to get – and share – information and misinformation. Quotes and soundbites can be taken out of context, drastically changing their meaning. Combine that with the old adage of “seeing is believing,” and it is easy to see how videos filled with fake news or misinformation have potentially dangerous consequences.


  • What is “news literacy”? Why is it important? And before now, have you ever thought about it?
  • How do you evaluate the reliability of internet websites and other resources? How do you locate appropriate and credible sources of information?
  • Does the internet and its wealth of information have a positive or negative impact on your productivity? Your workload? Your stress level? Your happiness? Explain your answers.
  • Obviously, becoming news literate has a profound effect on the individual. What are potential ripple effects?

P.S. – You might be interested in this animated video on Research & Analytical Skills we did as part of a soft skills series for The Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston initiative.

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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