I don't know about you, but there are days when I just need to vent. And, much to the chagrin of my sister, Black, she's the one who gets to hear it. A few years ago, given my tendency to blah-blah-blah, she asked me to let her know right up front whether I'm looking for advice or merely letting off steam. When I questioned (with some annoyance) what difference did it make, she pragmatically explained it impacts whether she has to listen carefully, or even comment (although she'll throw in questions like, "Really?" or, "And then what?" to make me feel like she's paying attention). Bottom line: she knows that once I've had my vent, I'm good. It's out of my system and I'm (usually) ready to move on.

But occasionally there are times when I still need to talk to her, and although I'm looking for advice it's similar to a vent in that I don't really need her to listen. But, unlike a vent, ironically enough, this is when I need to listen to myself.

Confused? Well, at first, so was I. It started when I found myself not knowing what to do about something (the particulars aren't important), so I called her looking for advice. But as I started talking, I heard myself answering her questions before she even asked them. I was explaining my thought process, going through the pros and cons of the situation, and even running through the various scenarios that might happen based on what I decided. Of course, Black would occasionally throw in a "Why?" (her favorite question), but by the time I finally stopped talking, I had my answer.

Over time, I found this situation repeating itself – sometimes related to our mother or my daughters, a high dollar purchase, or sometimes just a small decision I was struggling with (they often seem the hardest to make) – with me often prefacing the conversation by admitting,

I've found that saying things out loud usually helps me figure things out. So, although it sounds counterintuitive, this is one of those times when I need someone to talk to, but the good news is I'm not expecting you to do anything more than that.

Well, not only does Black appreciate the heads-up, but the first time I said it, it provided the perfect opportunity for one of her smart-ass comments,

In other words, you do not want me to interrupt you while you are talking to yourself.

Exactly! Because sometimes you don't need advice as much as you just need a sounding board.

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

It started when Black sent Red a LinkedIn post about Louis Armstrong, asking her to "connect the dots" (one of Black's favorite things to do). Red knew that he was one of the most distinctive and talented jazz musicians in American history, but it was a complete surprise to learn that he had such a strong connection to a Jewish couple that immigrated from Lithuania and that he wore a Star of David for most of his life to honor them. That alone made it a "truth is stranger than fiction" story. The fact it's also a touching story about kindness and love makes this, at least for Red, even better than fiction.

Black, who prefers the pragmatic aspects of Armstrong's unusual journey – from being an impoverished black boy to an extraordinary career as a musician, singer, and composer – and sees it as a story of overcoming barriers, realizing your potential, and finding freedom (and she discloses an interesting connection between Armstrong and Independence Day).

Our July column, "RED & BLACK … The Sound Of Freedom," connects all those dots and is about so much more than surprising facts about Louis Armstrong. It's also about the power of music, inspiration, and hope, not to mention a very different way of looking at freedom.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Everyone laughs and wants to hear the story when I mention that I was recently "ghosted" by someone I had dated. What I find interesting is that ghosting has become so prevalent in today's society (and is not restricted to dating) that there is a term to describe the sudden "disappearance" of someone who wants to avoid all future contact with you.

Going back decades, I know there have been first dates that, at the time, I thought went well. But, after getting the "I'll call you" line … I never did. As a teenager, I can remember anxiously waiting for the phone (a landline tethered to the wall – and yes, I am that old) to ring, not wanting to go out and possibly miss the call. And, being very disappointed by the silence. Now, I cannot even remember who they were.

Keep Reading ... Show less
Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


I still can't get over that LinkedIn post that you sent me about Louis Armstrong. I almost put it on my pile of things to "read later" as I'm not a huge fan of jazz, although I loved him in the movie "High Society" with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


I figured the subject line, "Connect these dots … Louis Armstrong," would pique your interest.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


Well, it did. Although when I first started reading it, I couldn't figure out what a Jewish family who immigrated from Lithuania had to do with one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.
Keep Reading ... Show less