It's official! The holiday "silly season" (as I call it) is now underway and before I know it, it will be New Year's Day and I'll be looking back and asking, "Where did December go?!" This year's holiday goals …


Avoid feeling exhausted, get everything important checked off my list, and have time to enjoy the spirit of the season.

I love my lists, but when it comes to the holidays you can truly go crazy! There's lots of detailed holiday checklists online, but I felt overwhelmed just reading them. So, I created the following checklist to help me stay focused on what's important, and hope it gives you some food-for-thought.

  1. Gifts – Gifts – Gifts

It's really easy to drive yourself crazy, so it's critical to write down not only the WHO and WHAT, but also WHEN to shop. Remember to consider things that can cause stress later – small things like you forgot to get gift wrapping supplies to the large like large January credit card statements, so make sure to have and follow a BUDGET.

  1. Wishing All Happy Holidays!

I started to call this a holiday card list but then realized that the only cards I give are to my daughters. Everyone else I either email, text, call, or FaceTime. To me, it's making sure I reach out to everyone on this list.

  1. It's All About The Food

I don't know about you, but it's not a holiday without our favorite foods. But those don't just magically appear. It has to be planned – starting with what to make from scratch and what can be bought already made. Add in shopping, prep time, and actual cooking, and you have a plan. The holidays are definitely a food marathon, but a little bit of planning and time management will go a long way.

  1. Making Your Home Festive

For me, that means at least one inflatable on my front lawn and decorations in the most used areas of the house. (Black would call them "high traffic" areas.) I'll admit that I have fewer decorations than I did when the girls were little, and I love it that way. The house looks festive but it doesn't take me days to set up and then put away.

  1. What Are We Doing Today?

It doesn't matter whether it's your kids asking this question or the adults in your life – everyone wants to "do something" during the holidays. Of course, I'm usually responsible for planning holiday activities, and with this year's corona-craziness it will mean a little more thought and creativity. But hopping in the car and looking at Christmas lights or just taking a road trip for the day may well be in my future!

  1. Remember Others

I don't need to tell you that the holidays are a tough time for so many, and this year it's going to be even more so. So, think about possibly doing something for others – whether making a donation, delivering food, giving some of your time, the possibilities are endless. And will put you in the holiday spirit!

  1. Don't Forget About You!

If you're the person "in charge" of making sure the holidays are special for everyone else, it can be stressful and all-consuming. In the past, I'd "escape" for a few hours to the movies but, unfortunately, that's not an option this year. (I admit it … I miss movie popcorn!) So remember to do something for you. For me, the best gift is time. Time to do whatever I want, even if it means doing nothing.

As always, I wondered what Black thought/would put on her list, if she even has one as she's definitely NOT a holiday person. Her response? "Well, my holidays are much simpler as I live alone and have a very short list of people and business associates who receive gifts and, with the exception of my nieces, most are edible treats I order online. For me, charitable giving is year-long. And, I stopped sending holiday cards years ago and no one seemed to miss them. But, I do have one holiday tradition on my checklist that is being modified this year."

  • Black's Holiday "Blast From The Past"

Every year, I send about a dozen people a very short, personalized, and to-the-point email to let them know that I am thinking about them. Starting this year, I am going to add a few people to the list who I have not "spoken" with for some time, just to let them know they have not been forgotten.

If you have gotten this far, I have one last item …

HO-HO-HO Happy Holidays!
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People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


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There's so much discussion right now about trying to change people's minds about getting vaccinated, but I'm not sure how you change people's minds about anything. Growing up, and actually up until my crisis when you forced me to do otherwise, my preference and tendency have always been to avoid conflict. And most of the time, I can still do that.

But I'm curious, since you're the debate queen, how do you change people's minds? I suppose you're going to tell me it takes having all your facts and figures ready, that no one wants to hear all the warm and fuzzy "logic". And, as the saying goes from the 1950s TV show Dragnet, "Just the facts, ma'am."


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Ironically, the key to changing someone's mind may be closer to your natural tendencies than you realize. First, I think we can agree that telling someone how wrong they currently are (or right you are) does not work, unless you want a debate – not a productive conversation.

But contrary to what you think I am going to suggest, I know that facts and figures can be intimidating and boring for most people. (I know it makes your eyes glaze over.) They are important, but not as important as meeting people where they are. Find something on which you agree versus being on opposing sides, and go from there. Try to understand WHY they see things differently from you and explain your position and why – but not by reciting facts. It may be how the issue is framed, or maybe not everything relevant was taken into consideration. Not surprisingly, this approach uses the same tactics that many successful salespeople use. Combine that with the fact (pun intended) that we are a story-telling society, and it becomes obvious that to changes someone's mind, you also have to touch them on an emotional level.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Have you ever tried to change someone's mind? How did you approach it? Did it work?
  • Has anyone ever tried to make you change your mind? How did they approach it? Did it work? Why or why not?
  • What do you think of Black's approach to first find common ground? Is there's always common ground? If not, what can you do?
  • When trying to change someone's mind, do you think about WHY they believe what they do? Do you ask them to explain their position? Or, do you start out stating your position in an attempt to change their mind?


Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


I don't understand why there's this backlash against science and scientists. I never thought science was something that you believed in or didn't believe in. It was just, well, science. (And for the record, although I was a straight-A student, I found all my science classes difficult, and it seemed only the truly "nerdy" students really "got it".) But now it seems that so many people are questioning not only the "truth" of science but the scientists themselves.

It's one thing to talk about so-called "mad scientists" – either the ones who were genuinely brilliant or the weird ones in books and movies (my favorite being Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein) – but to question the ethics and motives of scientists who are proven experts in their field makes no sense. And going through thousands of personal emails looking for evidence of wrong-doing when they're trying their best to not only find the truth but explain the situation, even admitting when they don't know the answer, is unbelievable.


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And dangerous. And, lately, has become extremely political. Dan Rather recently did a great piecing "defending science" but the fact that it was even necessary is alarming. There is no denying that science has always been important, whether in everyday applications or eradicating diseases.

But, the bottom line is science is a process. And I trust the process. It includes not only a scientific method but, more importantly, scientific consensus. It is never just a single scientist's conclusion. The associated hypotheses and evidence are vetted by other scientists that are experts in that field, and if the findings are substantiated, are then published. But it does not end there. More experts continue to review the results, ask questions, and challenge the conclusions. (Think of it as a jury of geeks.) It is not a quick process – it is an evolution – which means things may change. But, this very process of inquiry is what makes science, science.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • What does the word "science" mean to you? How has science impacted your life?
  • Can you trust something you might not understand?
  • How do you reconcile science with religious beliefs? With political beliefs?
  • Why do you think some people trust vaccines and others don't?
Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


I always thought that literacy was simply the ability to read and write, and didn't think much about it. Until Natasha was in elementary school and was struggling, and then I found out the hard way how critical those skills are, not only for being successful in school but in life. Interestingly, I learned that there are just over 200 words that are critical to being able to read (the Dolch list). Fast forward years later, when we found ourselves "teaching" financial literacy at KIPP, and although the word "literacy" was being used to describe understanding money and personal finance, I still didn't think much about it. But recently, I was shocked to learn that millions of people in this country can't read. And now, I'm hearing about "functional literacy" and things like digital literacy and even health literacy. It's all very confusing. Or, is "literacy" just the new "buzzword"?


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As a literacy expert recently told us, "Literacy … there's more to it." Functional Literacy takes the basic concept of being able to read and write, and expands it to having the skills necessary to manage daily living and employment tasks, and topics such as financial literacy, digital literacy, and health literacy.

I recently read a comprehensive, and inspiring, action plan, the Houston's Adult Literacy Blueprint, that was developed by the Mayor's Office for Adult Literacy (the only office of its kind in the nation) in partnership with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to break the cycle of poverty by improving the literacy skills of adults. The detailed plan is based on significant research and input from key stakeholders, and there is also an executive summary. However, I know I am the data geek, not you, but think that you will appreciate this quote from the study, "When parents teach children how to read, ask questions, solve problems, and ultimately navigate the world, they are developing the building blocks for academic and life success."

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • How would you describe functional literacy? What skills do you think are necessary to manage daily life? To be successful in the workplace?
  • Have you or your family been personally affected by literacy issues or challenges? If so, how have they impacted your life?
  • Obviously, becoming functionally literate has a profound effect on the individual. What are potential ripple effects?
  • What can you and/or your company do to help reduce adult illiteracy?