Words & Banter

Tied In A Knot … And Love It

Photo by bhofack2 on iStock

They're usually shaped like hearts, which seems appropriate since I'm in love with them. Always have been, always will be. And I'm an equal opportunity pretzel lover, enjoying both soft and hard ones, although I admit I'm partial to a hot, straight out of the oven, pretzel. Which is why when I visited the Farmer's Market in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania is the pretzel-making capital of America) a few years ago, it was like pretzel nirvana, although I refuse to publicly admit how many soft pretzels I ate that day.

So, how do I explain my pretzel obsession? I'm not sure I can, although one of my earliest memories of New York City (Black and I grew up on Long Island, about a 35-minute train ride from the City) is of the soft pretzels sold on almost every street corner. Depending on the vendor, the outside can be soft or crunchy, different amounts of salt, and sometimes cold, sometimes warm, yet rarely hot. But always huge and satisfying. And although I've tried various topping, I prefer mine straight up, hold the mustard. (On the rare occasion Black eats a pretzel, she even rubs off all the salt!)

Black would be more than happy to explain the business reasons behind the introduction of hard pretzels, but I'm more interested in taste testing pretzel shapes such as pretzel crisps, which are perfect for people who prefer thinner pretzels but not sticks. But my all-time favorite hard pretzel was introduced to me by a good friend (thank you, Bernie!) and is aptly named Unique product, Pretzel Shells. They're hollow, light, and extremely crunchy. But be warned! It's almost impossible to have just a handful.

However, I can't think about pretzels without remembering the "pretzels in the pantry" story,

Several years ago, Black and I were working from her beautifully decorated high-rise when I became hungry, so went into her pantry. It's truly magazine-worthy, as everything's in matching clear canisters (it's like an ad for The Container Store) with food artistically displayed based on their colors and textures. (No, I'm not kidding!) And before Black could stop me, I scooped up a handful of pretzels, and as I began munching on them there was a sickening taste and one word immediately came to mind … RANCID! Only Black would think of pretzels as a decorative item.

So why all this reminiscing about pretzels? Well, it's National Pretzel Day! And although I could easily commemorate the day by simply grabbing a bag of pretzels from my pantry or venturing out to my local mall to get a fresh soft pretzel, I'm considering doing something I've never done,

I love pretzels. I love to bake. Yet I've never tried to make soft pretzels. So, what better way to celebrate National Pretzel Day? Although, I admit I'm a little hesitant. Not because they may not turn out good, but because they may turn out too good! Because, to a pretzel lover like me, a tray of freshly baked, hot, soft pretzels that could be devoured in the privacy of my home would be just too much of a temptation to pass up.

Thanksgiving’s in the rearview mirror, and the New Year is within sight, so we’re in the midst of what Red calls the “silly season”. And she’ll be the first to tell you that when you feel like you’re running in circles, looking at the “big picture” is the last thing you want to do. While Black understands Red feels that way, she explains why Red needs to do it anyway,

I look 20 years out and where I want to be … which makes it easier to make day-to-day decisions as I ask myself whether they are pointing me in the right direction. It does not mean I will not make exceptions – but those are conscious decisions. And, I always remember that life is a journey … not a destination.
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When Red first heard Black talking about the importance of "soft skills," she didn't even know what she was referring to, let alone that they would be important to her life. So, Black explained that it was a term used to describe intangible but essential skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, communications, and conflict management.

Red, trying to be sarcastic, then asked if there was such a thing as “hard skills,” Black matter-of-factly told her those are tangible and technical skills such as computer skills.

Of course, Black couldn’t pass up an opportunity for sarcasm and explained that although there’s consensus about the importance of soft skills, there’s debate about what they should be called, with her favorite being the Texas Education Agency (TEA) calling them "21st Century Skills" – although she's old enough to remember they were important in the 20th Century, too.

But would anyone call them “Mom Skills”? Well, Red couldn’t help but remember the time Black told her, “Your job is every bit as demanding as a corporate position, and, in fact, you use many of the same skill sets.”Not something Red could ever have imagined, but it made sense once she better understood what soft skills are and how they are used. But then Black took it a step further,

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Red was your typical straight-A student, getting great grades starting in kindergarten straight through to graduating from college.(Black’s grades were less than stellar, plus she was a discipline problem – some things never change.) And then, excited and proud of herself, Red thought she was done. Black, on the other hand, thinks of education as something that never ends, and much to the chagrin of students, will tell them,

Homework never ends; it just is called “research” when you get older.

Over the last few years, Red has come around to Black’s way of thinking and realizes it’s a mindset. And that education is more than the classes you take in school.

September is when students of all ages are back in school, but it’s also National Literacy Month, which is about so much more than reading and writing. Literacy includes things like Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy, Health Literacy, and even News Literacy. (As the linked Conversation Starters indicate, Red was the “poster child” of a highly educated person who lacked many of these basic literacy skills.)

So, we challenge you to find a topic that interests you or one you could benefit from learning (personally or professionally) and start doing your homework.

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