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.

A businessman, a horticulturist, and a missionary. Sounds like the start of a joke, but it's a description of the legend known as Johnny Appleseed.

BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Red, and her two daughters, learned about Johnny Appleseed (who was born John Chapman) in elementary school – a man wandering the frontier and randomly planting apple trees. Looking back, it sounds more like a Disney story (in 1948, it actually was its own video as part of the Melody Series); but Red like to think she's indebted to him because she loves all varieties of apples, especially the ones that are best in the fall, including her favorite, Honeycrisp.

Although Black vaguely remembers the folk story (she was pragmatic even as a child), she's fascinated by the real-life story of John Chapman … a strategic businessman who traveled west and found unclaimed land, planted apple nurseries (not edible apples, but ones for making apple-based alcohol which was very popular at the time) on them to claim ownership, and then later sold the trees and land. But he was about more than making money, as his values (he was a missionary, advocated for animal rights, and ultimately became a vegetarian) defined him … as a man and a legend.

P.S. – There are two dates for Johnny Appleseed Day, September 26 because it's his birthday, and March 11 because he died in March (but not on the 11th) and it coincides with prime apple planting season.

Happy Meals. Lasik surgery. A Supreme Court justice. Any idea what these three things have in common?

BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Although Hispanic Heritage Month started in 1968 as a week-long event, Red, the straight-A student and lover of history, is a bit embarrassed that she didn't know about it, but the theater major in her realizes they're under-represented (and misrepresented) in the movies. When we talked about the comparison of "In The Heights" to "West Side Story," Black wasn't only focused on the business aspects but also how it reflects the times, and now is interested in the many contributions (including patents) made by Latinx, and the need for inclusion and diversity.

P.S. – We were both curious why the month-long celebration begins mid-month (September 15) and discovered it's in honor of the anniversaries of national independence for many Latin American countries.

Can something be "new" if it's made with "old" ingredients?

BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Black's fascinated by the business and marketing aspects of food mash-ups (especially the multi-generational angle), while Red's excited that her beloved Dunkin' has collaborated with Post Cereals and there's now Dunkin' cereal (and both of us love the tag line, "Now you can have your coffee and eat it, too!). Funny thing is that we've all probably been doing our own "mash-ups" for years (ok, maybe not Black).