Learning For Life

From The Pandemic To The Positive

Yes, I love lists. But I'm not "that person" who looks at a terrible situation determined to find the silver lining. Yet alone a list of items. Somehow that changed a few weeks ago when Black and I were working on a Book Bite about exercise. In the P.S. section, which explained why the excerpt's as relevant today as when it was written, we commented that the pandemic made me look at exercise as a way to help reduce my stress and that maybe we should write a separate post about positive changes we've made due to the pandemic. (Similar to the positive things that happened to me years ago when my husband got fired.) As often happens, I thought it was just another one of Black's countless ideas for posts that I'd file away – except it really did get me thinking. So, I decided to create this checklist, although I struggled to keep it to only five things:

  1. Exercise (Stomp?) Away Your Stress
    Yes, the pandemic really did make me look at exercise (again) with fresh eyes. I've always had a love-hate relationship with it, made worse by the fact that Black has always embraced it, keeping to an exercise routine for decades with nothing stopping her (when the pandemic hit, she turned her balcony into a mini-fitness center), which often makes me feel guilty. But like most people, I found my stress levels reaching a new high over the last nine months. One day I'd just had enough (the particulars aren't important) and had to get out of the house, so I literally stormed out the door. Well, the first trip around the block was more of a stomp than a walk, but by the second lap I was on a nice pace, breathing again like a normal person and the steam coming out of my ears had disappeared. By the time I turned the key to re-enter the house, I felt human again. Now I take a walk almost every day although sometimes it does start out as a stomp.
  2. Give Yourself Permission To Slowdown And Enjoy
    Before the coronavirus, I used to look forward to those rare days when I didn't have to leave the house. Between playing chauffeur for my daughter (even once she could drive, I found I still enjoyed taking her places as it gave us quiet time in the car together), seemingly endless errands, dinners with my mom, and plenty of Red & Black meetings, having a day where I could truly stay home was a novelty. Well, today, it's the norm. But a funny thing happened. Instead of things being less hectic, everything seemed more complicated and I found myself busier than ever. Some was self-inflicted as I decided to work on "home projects" that previously I never had the time to do or had previously neglected. Regardless, it has taken me much longer than I'd care to admit to realize that it's ok to "enjoy" doing nothing or doing something for the pure enjoyment of it.
  3. Turn Mountains (Of Paper) Into Molehills
    One of those "home projects" (working from home muddies the distinction between work and personal projects) was to finally start tackling those constantly growing piles of paper that have accumulated over many years. (Yes, years!) Although I sometimes feel like it's one step forward, two steps back, I can now look around me (literally) and realize that I've made huge progress. Black always told me that the piles represented unfinished work, and their mere presence caused stress. Now that the piles are shrinking (not as fast as I'd like but still moving in the right direction), combined with giving myself permission to take breaks, I'm staying motivated and feeling a sense of accomplishment.
  4. Never Ever Take Your Health For Granted
    I'm one of the very fortunate people who always assumed when I woke up in the morning that I'd go about my day and be able to physically do everything I needed to do. Yes, there might be a few aches and pains, or I might get a stomach ache, or catch a cold or even the flu. But I was basically healthy. The same for my daughters (ok, my older daughter's the type that overreacts to a hangnail while the younger one rarely lets anything slow her down). Pre-pandemic I never really thought about our health, except when I reviewed our health insurance. But the coronavirus made me realize that in the blink of an eye everything can change. It's made me realize how fragile life is and how it's so easy to take your health for granted – until it's gone.
  5. Focus On What You Have … Not What You Don't Have
    It's human nature to focus on what you don't have, what you want, what would make you happier. Rare is the person who's completely happy and satisfied with where they are, literally and figuratively. That's not to say that one shouldn't have goals, ambitions, desires, things you want to improve, things you want to accomplish. But there's a huge difference between wanting all of that at the expense of ignoring what you already have. I like to think that I've always appreciated the most important things in my life, which is first and foremost my daughters. But living during a pandemic made me realize that even when it came to them, I needed to focus less on what could be better and fully appreciate that they are happy and healthy. At the risk of oversimplifying things, it's appreciating that the glass is not only half full, but that it has any water in it at all.

Of course, I wanted to know what Black would have to say on the topic. Not only is she extremely pragmatic, but if there's anyone who tends to live in the moment, appreciating what's here, right now, it's my sister. On that she was consistent, but the pandemic did add an interesting twist …

I have always said that you have to live for today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. The pandemic has not changed that – but has made me realize that how we each live our lives today will have a ripple effect on the lives of so many others.

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’ll admit that I hate technology and prefer to keep my ostrich head in the sand. But although I’ve slowly gotten better and try not to immediately default into freakout mode, all this talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI) not only confuses me but scares me. It reminds me of the 1968 movie “2001 A Space Odyssey,” the computer named HAL, and the potential of machines to harm vs. help us. (Yes, I’m being a bit dramatic, but then again, maybe not …)

Black and I have talked about how it can be used to help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, like cancer, but wherever there’s opportunity for good, there can also be bad actors. And it’s all happening so incredibly fast as it seems like there’s some new development almost daily, and I don’t want to have to understand it, let alone learn how to use it.

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It is already impacting society, and although many people play with it like a toy, early adopters see its value as a powerful tool – for good and evil. It does not help that the “Godfather of AI”, as well as one of the creators of ChatGPT (a leading AI system where users can pose questions), are warning us of the potential dangers of the technology and the need to slow things down and have guardrails in place.

It is critical to remember that denial does not change reality.

AI will become increasingly important for businesses that want to stay competitive and will dramatically impact the labor market by automating some tasks. But, it will mean critical thinking skills will be more important than ever. And, as AI becomes more integrated into our personal lives, it will be essential for us to understand the basics – both what it can and cannot do.


  • What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? How does AI “learn” (get its information)?
  • Does AI scare or excite you? Why?
  • What are the benefits of AI? What are the challenges or risks associated with AI?
  • Do you think AI will impact you personally and/or professionally? If so, how do you plan to be prepared?

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".

Sometimes it takes a celebration to get us to stop and think about something. Hopefully, Celebrate Diversity Month will get all of us to think about diversity differently. Especially since too often people focus on differences and who’s “better” instead of realizing that different is … merely different.

Plus, as Black points out below, wouldn’t it be boring if there were only two flavors of ice cream?

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Growing up on Long Island in a Jewish home, I didn’t think twice about my best friend (who’s still a close friend) being Italian, although we did have different cultural and religious beliefs. And although we lived close to New York City, it wasn’t until I went to college in North Carolina that I met a Black person (and a Southerner, no less). She and I quickly became good friends and laughed at the fact we had the same last name, but that’s where the similarities ended. Yet, I had never really thought about diversity, or to be honest, even heard of the term, until you had us working on Career & Technology Education (CTE) curriculum, and we did a soft skills worksheet on it. That’s when I discovered that “diversity” was actually a “thing”, although lately, it seems to have become a political topic .

But once I was aware of it, I realized how much I learned from being friends with people who have different perspectives and experiences than I do. Of course, having a sister who at times seems more like a Vulcan, likes to push me outside my comfort zone, and makes me look at things from different viewpoints, has made me a better person – both in terms of newfound knowledge as well as a greater appreciation for how and why others may see things differently .

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Vulcan or otherwise, there were things to learn from Spock, which highlights the importance of diversity. In the broadest context, diversity introduces us to unique experiences and perspectives. In the workplace, it is often referred to as Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), but I will stick with diversity (for now), which includes not only race, sex, and age, but also gender and sexual orientation, disabilities, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status, and I am guessing there are other differentiators. I think it is as simple as accepting that not everyone is alike. (How boring would that be? It would be like only having vanilla and chocolate ice cream.) And recognizing that differences are not right or wrong; they are differences.

From a business perspective, the more you look at things from different angles and perspectives, the more fully (and more creatively) you will see things, which in turn, helps you better understand and provide value to your target market.

I know I said I would not get into equity and inclusion, but I love this quote from Vema Myers, “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”


  • Define diversity. What does diversity mean to you? What are its challenges and benefits?
  • The concept of diversity in the workplace encompasses acceptance and respect. But that also applies to your personal life. How can your actions and behavior help or hinder the situation?
  • Are your friends and workplace associates a diverse group of people? If so, what have you learned from them? If not, why not? And would you be willing to proactively get to know people outside your "usual” circle?
  • Do you think “diversity” is seen differently by different generations? Why?

It’s been two years since my daughter went through the college selection process. Looking back at the checklist (below) that I created when she was making this life-changing decision (yes, comments like that make it even more stressful, but it’s true), I can see how each step helped her make the best choice for herself. I admit it was difficult for me to let her decide for herself, especially as I didn’t initially agree with her choice, but then I realized I was including my aspirations and wishes into the equation. (Parents, be aware of this tendency!) Since then, I’ve seen her use the process for other college-related decisions, and I’m confident she’ll apply it to other life decisions. My only regret? No one taught me this when I was her age ...

So, the college applications, including financial aid, are done. And even though my daughter understood what it would entail, until you're actually in the midst of it, you don't appreciate it's a lot of hard work. And stress.

Now the difficult part … waiting. Wondering which of the schools will accept you. Hoping that you'll have options, including at least one on your "wish list". Well, before you know it, you'll hear back and will be faced with having to make a decision. One that may feel like the biggest decision of your life, so hopefully, these five steps will help …

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