Imagine not being able to read this sentence …
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: You are now doing something millions of American can't. You're reading this. We'll admit that we never realized how many people are functionally illiterate, until we met someone who was doing something about it.
We first met Jackie Aguilera over a decade ago at a Houston Money Week meeting … her energy, enthusiasm, and passion for financial literacy not only took us by surprise, but it was contagious. (Admit it, financial literacy sounds boring.) But she was integrating it into a literacy and workforce readiness program for adults, and as we became friends and started working together, we realized she was a leader in her knowledge of adult literacy and a pioneer in how she approached it in dynamic and innovative ways. (DISCLAIMER: The next comment is not meant to plug our book, but as an example of her outside-the-box approach to making learning relevant.) And using unusual resources, such as our book, What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired!, to engage students as well as teach a myriad of subjects, even using our bookmark (yes, a simple bookmark!) to introduce important life skills.
Having dedicated more than two decades to the field of adult literacy, she's now the Project Manager of the Mayor's Office for Adult Literacy (MOAL) Houston, working with Federico Salas-Isnardi, Director of MOAL, to carry out Mayor Turner's vision for a Houston where every individual can obtain the skills necessary to prosper and reach their full potential. (Houston is the only major city in the country where the Mayor's Office includes an Office for Adult Literacy!)
Along the way, Jackie has opened our eyes to the number of people who can't read (including one in three Houstonians), and made us stop and think about how that impacts every aspect of their lives … their families … their communities. Last week in our monthly Zoom session, she let us know that there would be a very exciting announcement. And she wasn't kidding! On Tuesday, the Mayor announced the "Houston Blueprint for Adult Literacy," a joint initiative of MOAL and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. We were watching the press conference and couldn't be prouder and more excited knowing that Jackie will be a part of this amazing endeavor. As former First Lady Barbara Bush said many years ago,
If you help a person to read, then their opportunities in life will be endless.
Empowering girls – one cookie at a time. Ok, maybe one box of cookies at a time.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It’s that time of year when many people’s New Year’s resolution of eating better is challenged by the arrival of Girl Scout cookies; something that poses a problem for Red, while for Black, it's an opportunity.
Red remembers growing up with Girl Scout cookies, with her favorite being shortbread (now known as the Trefoil), while hating (yes, it’s a strong word, but that’s how she feels about anything flavored with mint) Thin Mints. However, what she finds interesting is that as an adult, she’s been far more tempted by all the flavors (excluding anything mint, of course) even though she doesn’t consider herself a cookie person.
She bought last year’s “new” cookie, Adventurefuls, but was able to resist the brownie-based cookie with the center of caramel-flavored cream as she’s a brownie purist, but this year’s a very different story,
I’ve been doing so well getting back on track with healthy eating, but with the arrival of the Raspberry Rally, I could be in real trouble. A thin, crispy cookie infused with raspberry flavor, dipped in chocolaty coating, this is going to be almost impossible to resist. The good news is that it’s only available online as I always find it hard to resist all the Girl Scouts who “camp” out, pun intended, in front of my grocery store.
Black, who isn’t a fan of cookies or even sweets (unless you count sweet potatoes), buys a box of each flavor and immediately delivers them to the break room at her high-rise. Of course, she’ll ask the staff to let her know their favorite, but she won’t even try one cookie, not even in the interest of market research.
Black has always been fascinated by the history of the Girl Scout cookie and how a simple idea of selling cookies to finance troop activities has grown over 100+ years into an iconic and extremely successful way to raise funds. But, more importantly, it’s a powerful (and delicious) way for the girls to have fun while at the same time learning valuable business skills and life lessons. Which explains why Black always buys cookies, even if she doesn’t eat any,
Each year I seem to buy more cookies than the prior year since our local Girl Scout council has a program where you can buy cookies to be donated to military and first responders. It is a part of my “calorie free – for me” plan, as it is a great way to support the Girl Scouts and show appreciation for others because everyone loves Girl Scout cookies.
Whether you buy them as “thank you” gifts or just sweet treats for your family and friends (or yourself), please support your local Girl Scouts!
Two years ago, on MLK Day, Red learned the power and inspiration of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And the power of dreams. And as long as there's social unrest and social injustice in the United States (stop and think about the first word … as we’re supposed to be united), the more we can learn from him … as not only did he fight for equality for all, but his approach is proof of the power of peaceful protests.
For most of us, writing and delivering one powerful and/or inspiring thing would be a very difficult task. To be remembered for hundreds is truly amazing.
We grew up in New York, where bagels are almost sacred, but even though they may have started as a Jewish food in Europe, they’re now enjoyed by everyone everywhere (including Red and Black, but in very different ways) – why else would there be a National Bagel Day?
National holidays aren’t the time to count calories.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: We both agree that happiness has a hole in it, although one of us may only eat one bagel a year while the other tries to keep it to only one bagel when she does indulge.
Red admits that although she knows bagels aren’t a healthy choice, she’ll occasionally treat herself, not only because they remind her of growing up in New York when almost every town on Long Island had at least one bagel shop, but because she loves whipped cream cheese almost as much as the fresh, squishy bagel on which she smears it. And while she was a fan of both cinnamon raisin and onion bagels as a kid, the introduction of the “Everything” bagel was a turning point. However, her all-time favorite is technically not a bagel, as it’s a bialy.
On the other hand, it only takes one look at Black’s “selfishly svelte figure” to know that she has the willpower to resist bagels (including her favorite, sesame) as well as all the other carbs that she loves, but when it comes to National Bagel Day and the “health” issues of bagels, she has an interesting perspective,
Bagels are one of life’s true culinary pleasures, often tied to wonderful memories, so you cannot always measure their value in terms of nutrition. But, when it comes to healthy eating, it might be interesting to remember that bagel-cutting injuries are common and result in thousands of people having to go to emergency rooms or urgent care centers … so, celebrate carefully.