At speaking engagements, Black will often ask, “Who likes math?” followed by, “Who likes money?” As you can imagine, a lot more hands go up in the air for the second question than the first. But imagine if she asked if money made them laugh. It’s probably safe to say no one would say, “Yes.” Although they’d be wrong because people laugh (and learn) at basic, but potentially life-changing, stories about Red and how, when it came to money, she was clueless and intimidated.
It could be the story of Red putting her theater degree to good use as she freaked out about vocabulary. Especially since she was a straight-A student and avid reader who prided herself on her vocabulary. (If words set her off, Black could only imagine the “scene” that would have occurred if she had asked Red this handful of questions.) But Red’s financial crisis did prompt the ever-pragmatic Black to envision the power of a sitcom with entertaining money episodes because … Money IS A Laughing Matter!
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Life can change in an instant, and the repercussions not only begin instantly but will forever change your life. And often, the lives of others.
However, there was no way to know on that rainy Friday, Red’s crisis would be the start of her journey to take control of her life instead of letting her life control her. It wasn’t surprising that Black’s version of that day was very different, but that may have contributed to the creation of Red & Black … and our journey filled with many detours …
So, curious how Red & Black started? Well, on the surface, it would seem our journey started with the launch of the book I co-authored with my sister, What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired! But we all know that what leads up to the "start" of a journey can be just as important, and sometimes even more important. It's like a vacation, the actual vacation falls somewhere in the middle – after the planning and packing and before the post-vacation "recovery" phases that always seen to include lots of laundry.
But I digress (warning, I do that a lot). The real beginning of the journey started on a rainy Friday in January 2004.
(The year's important as the economy was strong, and also because it was before we all were constantly accessible via smart phones.) I was preparing dinner, while my two young daughters, Natasha who was 5-years old at the time, and Sawyer, who was 1-1/2-years old, were playing in the family room section of the kitchen.
I didn't think about it at the time (that happened several hours later and for a long time after that), but I would've described my life as happy and secure. A stay-at-home mom with two beautiful, healthy daughters. A marriage to a husband who was a good father and a good provider. He had a great job with a major company which resulted in us living around the world, and he had dedicated his life to it for almost 25 years.
But at 5:00 p.m. that Friday my life was changed in an instant … when he came home and told me, totally unexpectedly, he had been fired. Forget about long-term plans and dreams for the future. How were we going to get through today and tomorrow and next week?
Even today, I can remember how I felt as if it was yesterday. I was terrified. I was devastated. Emotionally I was a wreck. I could've killed my husband for doing this to the family. Yet I felt incredibly sad for him. His entire career had been dedicated to the company, and he didn't deserve this. I was ashamed. Yet, I had to be strong and put on a brave face for him and our daughters.
And what was I going to tell people? I'd eventually figure that out, but first, I had to tell my sister – the one person who knows everything about my life and who I talk to almost every day. I thought I was a strong person and well-educated, but I wasn't sure I had the skills to handle this. So, I did what I thought best … I sent her an email telling her that I needed to talk to her as soon as possible. That something serious had happened to Nick. (Obviously, I was in shock because as someone who likes to blah-blah-blah, I neglected to provide any details).
And then, I logged off my computer … never realizing that my journey had just begun.
I Love Lucy. For many of us, myself included, those three words bring back memories of favorite episodes of the “I Love Lucy” show. And, although I would be hard-pressed to pick my favorites, some may reminisce that the show, which ran from 1951 – 1957, was from a simpler time and is dated. I would argue that the comic timing, the gags, and the chemistry of the characters have stood the test of time.
Maybe it is because they took frustrating situations in everyday life and then pushed them to the extreme – and made them hilarious along the way. For example, your young child wants a superhero at their birthday party. Reasonable. But for Lucy, after unsuccessfully trying to book Superman (Chris Reeves), she dons the costume in “Lucy and Superman.” A classic.
I will not get into the scientific reasoning why people love watching reruns, but they do. And, it may explain why “I Love Lucy” has been on air for 70 years. (Note: I watched them as reruns, not when originally released.) However, the concept of reruns was, to a great extent, invented by "I Love Lucy" (technically, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) when they negotiated with CBS for the right to own their filmed episodes. (Back then, networks would air shows only once, and when they took breaks from filming, would air a different show – not reruns.) It was a brilliant business decision because it was not long before the real Lucy (Lucille Ball) became pregnant and wanted to ease her production schedule, so the network reran shows, paying the couple (via their production company, Desilu Studios) for the rebroadcast rights. And, they created a second-run syndication market along the way.
Even her pregnancy was groundbreaking, as Lucille Ball was the first woman to appear pregnant on one of the three major television networks (although the show never used the deemed-vulgar word “pregnant,” she was “expecting” or Ricky’s version, “spectin”). “I Love Lucy” was also a first in portraying mixed couples when Lucille Ball, already a star at the time, wanted her real-life husband, a Cuban bandleader, to play her on-screen spouse. Oh my, an all-American redhead married to a Latino man! But, America loved them. And, it seemed that Lucille Ball and her character were interchangeable.
But were they? Lucy Ricardo was constantly trying to break out of the role of a wife who stayed in the kitchen. And dreamed and schemed to break into show business. Often convincing her best friend, Ethel Mertz (I always thought it interesting that Fred and Ethel never had children, and accepted it although I did wonder “why”), to be her partner-in-crime. I felt they were always trying, using comedy as their messaging medium, to say there was more to being a woman than the traditional roles of wife and mother.
Clearly, Lucille Ball was much more than an actress and comedian; she was a trailblazing producer and very shrewd in business. She became one of the first women to own her own TV production company when she bought out Desi’s share of Desilu Studios several years after their divorce. And, besides producing TV classics such as "The Untouchables" and "Mission: Impossible," she was brilliant (and brave) enough to get behind the original Star Trek TV series,
I love Lucy, and the years of laughter and enjoyment. But, I admire Lucille Ball, a true badass back when the censors would never have allowed that word on air.
It may seem odd to talk about footprints in the snow when most of us are experiencing record heat. But, as we all go through our busy days, it is easy to overlook how the steps we take in life, whether intentional or unplanned, good or bad, lead us to where we are today. And, while it is easy to focus on the past, the future is an untrodden path, waiting for our next step …
Back in 2004, I met an older couple participating in a Ferrari rally, and after a deep conversation over a long lunch, they became dear friends. It was an event that would change my life in many ways, and several months later, shortly after my husband “surprised” me with a divorce, the husband sent me an email that so moved me that I put it in my “Blue Book”. (A Circa planner with a blue leather cover, hence the name, that includes not only my calendars but also a section with a few things I re-read on a regular basis.)
Last month, he passed away. I always made a point of letting them know that “Footprints” had become an important part of my life. They are words to live by. And, in honor of my dear friend, who is loved and missed, I want to share that email. With no edits … as we do not get to edit our lives …
In the spring of 1972 Sue and I had been married for 18 months and we were dissatisfied with our existence. After some serious soul searching we decided to make a radical change in our lives. Both of us had read a book by the author Louis Bromfield that rhapsodized about the joys of farm life. We were young and adventurous, and we did not realize that Mr. Bromfield was independently wealthy, he was in fact a famous Hollywood screenwriter and not even remotely dependent on farming for a living.
We sold all of the extras that we had accumulated such as our house, my AA Fuel Dragster, Dragster Trailer, and miscellaneous spare engine and associated parts, cashed in my life insurance and moved to a small farm in North Central Missouri twelve miles South of the community of Marshall. We had chosen that latitude carefully reasoning that the land around us needed to change as much as possible during the year if we were going to stay in one place all the time. Marshall, Missouri has four distinct and nearly equal seasons with a long Spring and Fall, a real contrast to the monotony of Houston, Texas. The first year of our Missouri residence we saw the temperature swing one hundred and thirty four degrees, from a high in late July of 106º to a low in January of 1973 of 28º below zero. The land changed around us indeed.
One of my real surprises was learning how much I liked cold weather. I had never really lived anywhere where it snowed very often. I was delighted when we had snows during the night that formed ice crystals in the surface so that when the sun came up in the morning the snow sparkled as if there there was a diamond studded white blanket draped across the fields.
One morning in that first winter I left the house early while I was waiting for the coffee to finish brewing. It had snowed about six inches during the night but dawn broke on a cloudless sky with the blue that only a cold clear morning sky has. I wandered with the rising sun at my back to the top of the closest ridge. When I reached the crest I could see before me a gently undulating pristine white scene with only the sounds of the early morning birds to keep me company. It was a glorious day.
After a few moments I turned to leave and there in the otherwise unbroken white lay a path of solitary footprints. Dumbstruck I realized that I was looking at a metaphor for my life, that each step that I had ever taken led precisely to where I was standing. I turned back around and looked at the future, unmarked waiting for my next footprint and I had an epiphany. If I wanted the footprints of the future to go in a certain direction, or to have a particular shape then it was up to me to make each individual step count. The footprints of the future would leave a history of my choices. That morning in the snow my life changed and I started the footprints that surely lead to where I am standing now.
In time I came to understand that each footprint was necessary to help me reach this moving destination, each misstep, each stumble, each mistake and fall, each heartache and all the joys have made me into the man I am today.
I don't regret a single one.
Drive carefully my friend, the future is before you, the footprints of the past cannot be changed.