Underlying image from White Mountain Puzzles

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Every Saturday morning when we post one of our animations it reminds me of growing up in New York and watching cartoons on Saturday mornings.


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Careful, you are showing your age. That was back when there were only a handful of television channels and they had specific lineups, including Saturday mornings full of children's programming. It was long before there was the Cartoon Network. And, well before you could stream cartoons or watch them on smart phones.


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I don't want the history of cartoons; I want to reminisce about the simpler times. I remember sitting in front of our black and white TV in the playroom with a bowl full of cereal watching my favorite cartoons.


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I remember Mom had all the cereal on the bottom shelf of a kitchen cabinet so that we could make our own breakfast.


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Yes, and I tried so hard not to spill any milk but invariably did.


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Well, that may explain why I have always eaten my cereal dry. And, often straight out of the box.


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Gee, you were efficient even as a kid? Although, I have a hard time imagining you sugar loading on cereal and watching cartoons. Anyway, I can't remember us ever watching cartoons together.


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You are five years younger than me which, at that age, was a huge difference. Plus, we probably did not like the same shows. What did you watch?


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That's easy! The Flintstones, Magilla Gorilla, and Mister Magoo.


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The Flintstones was one of my favorites. That and The Jetsons. Did you know that The Flintstones started out as an animated show for adults? And, was the first animated show to air on primetime?


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You really are determined to give me the history of cartoons, aren't you?


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You brought up The Flintstones, not me. Anyway, the show's creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, had created Tom and Jerry, and were certain there was a market for adult animation given the success of relationship-based sitcoms. Shows like I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, The Donna Reed Show.


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Isn't that the same logic you used when you thought you could turn my crisis into a relationship-based sitcom?

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Yes. Especially when I realized there was an entire cast of supporting characters. But, we never would have hired an animation firm if Hasbro had not suggested it when we met with them.


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True. Regardless, I love that we post our animations on Saturday mornings. It's like going full circle!


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That is fine … as long as cereal is optional.

We never expected to be in prison!

Photo by Lynn Lane

You know that your life has gone down an interesting path when Gayle King references prison slang and you don't need the explanation. It happened the morning after Derek Chauvin's jury verdict was reached and she referenced how Chauvin had been placed in "ad seg" for his protection. And then in the next breath started to explain what it meant, but not before I thought to myself, "oh, administrative segregation, that makes sense."

So, why would a warm and fuzzy mom who lives in the middle of suburbia, and to any casual onlooker would look like the least likely person to know anything about prisons and prison terminology, have this kind of information? Well, it's all my sister's fault. She was the one who got us involved with criminal justice, first by having us present at a Prisoner's Family Conference and then with her "field trip" to a men's prison south of Houston.

And my attitude towards all of this? After all, aren't prisoner's criminals? You know, lock them up and throw away the key. Well, our involvement over many years led me to a greater understanding, which included that nothing's black and white, especially when it comes to the world of criminal justice – and incarceration. And I came to realize that just because someone made a bad decision doesn't make them a bad person.

Looking back, it's been a long but interesting journey that started when my husband got fired (I thought of it as a crisis, whereas Black saw it as a book that would be the basis of a sitcom) and has resulted in some very unexpected detours – how could a Neiman Marcus launch lead to our book being approved by the (Texas) State Board of Education as a textbook and then … drumroll, please … being used as the basis of a personal finance and Life 101 program embraced by the Chaplaincy Department of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. (Trust me, you can't make this stuff up!)

So that explains some of my prison "education" (I've also learned that many people personally know men and women who either are or have been incarcerated, but they're often ashamed to admit it). Still, it doesn't explain why I specifically know about Ag Seg (or what many people call solitary confinement, although Black has told me it's now called restricted housing, but that doesn't change what it is). Well, our book was initially used for Faith-Based dorms and then General Population, but most recently has become an independent book study program used in, you guessed it, Ad Seg.

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Photo by Red


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Today's "Take Our Kids To Work Day," which made me think about how incredibly lucky we were that Daddy worked from home. Every day was take your kid to work day!


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Yes, back then, many people had home offices, but they were typically separate from the house. For example, doctors and dentists whose practices were in extensions on their house. But, I also remember when Daddy worked in a "real" office.


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Well, my memory is of Daddy working in his office in the basement. I'd come home from school, open the door to the basement, and shout down that I was home. Then, even before getting a snack, I'd go downstairs, plop down in the wooden chair in the corner of his workroom, and tell him all about my day.


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Even when Daddy worked at a corporate office in New York City and commuted on the Long Island Rail Road, getting home just in time for dinner, that never stopped him from immediately asking about my day. No matter how tired he might be, he was always genuinely interested in everything and anything I wanted to discuss.


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I never remember Daddy being tired, he was always present and engaged. I can remember asking him questions about his drafting table, the blueprints, and what he did, but it seemed based on math which was never my strong suit, so not much of it stuck with me.
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Underlying photo by Charles Forerunner on Unsplash

It's funny how one thing can remind you of another thing, sometimes in an obvious way, other times in a "train of thought" (or what Black calls "connect the dots") way. And in our case, that "train" has two passengers.

It began with Red reading a Texas Monthly article about younger tech-savvy people helping older lower-tech people schedule COVID-19 vaccines. Touched by the story, Red mentioned it to Black, who immediately thought of a recent email she'd received from Encore.org about a 31-year-old man living in Hawaii using technology during the isolation of the pandemic to befriend a 60-year-old woman living in Texas. We started talking about the power of one generation helping another, which led to our Banter Bite, Young + Old = Solutions.

Our conversation then detoured (as they often do), and we started reminiscing about the profile Encore published about us. It's not only one of our favorite pieces, but one we share with others as it explains, in an entertaining yet concise way, our highly improbable journey into the world of education (and criminal justice). A journey that we now looked at from a slightly different perspective, or at least Red did …

Looking back, the journey of Red & Black is proof that the experiences and lessons learned by one generation can be shared with others. When Black first created our business plan, she saw us as a "Disney for baby boomer women" because we're baby boomer women. The plan also included younger women (and men) as target audiences, but Black admits that was more "marketing" than actual expectations. Obviously, she was wrong. But there was no way to know we'd have such an unexpected impact (and ripple effect) on so many demographics, from middle school students to senior citizens.

And that's how one article led us to the memory of another article, with a few stops – and important lessons – along the way.

P.S. – For anyone "older" (that's a relative term, but we'll use 60-years-old as Red enjoys the fact she's "under" while her older sister is "over" that threshold), who's looking for a second-act (an "encore") with purpose we suggest you check out Encore.org.