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.

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.

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A day to clean up your desk?! It will take way more than a day …

BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: No one is immune from piles of paper, not even Black, the master of organization, but there’s a huge difference between a desk with a few small piles and some scattered papers (although her laptop’s keyboard needs serious cleaning) and Red’s “workroom” that usually looks like a tornado hit it.

Which is why Red rolled her eyes when Black mentioned today’s National Clean Your Desk Day, as it’d take her significantly more than a day to “clean up this mess,” but then she remembered Black’s advice on how to keep her piles (and piles) of paper under control and felt inspired. Red admits often feeling like she’s drowning in paper, but that’s because she lets the piles get out of control before reminding herself of Black’s very easy, straightforward approach to turning her mountains of paper into small manageable hills. And, significantly reducing stress along the way, because as Black points out,

Sometimes, it is more important to know what you are ignoring than it is to deal with everything in the piles.

Last year, it was a day of despair and disbelief, but also one of hope and pride … this year, the feelings of hope and pride seem to have disappeared.

BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: If possible, the concerns and feelings of despair and disbelief we had a year ago about the January 6 Capitol riots are even stronger today as there’s more video footage, photographs, and first-hand testimony. While there’s no denying there was bloodshed and lives lost at the Capitol, some may debate, usually influenced by their political beliefs, the ramifications of the day. But as Black alluded to when it first happened – you can’t help but question whether Democracy will prevail long-term … because last year, the world witnessed something most people would never have thought possible in the United States of America.

Today, there will be events and speeches commemorating this “Day of Infamy,” and we hope that, as the Speaker of the House stated in her Press Release about specific events at the Capitol,

These events are intended as an observance of reflection, remembrance, and recommitment, in a spirit of unity, patriotism, and prayerfulness.