Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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Well, I figured it would be one of our best speaking engagements, or worst.

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If you review it in terms of all our speaking engagements since COVID, it was both.


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That’s because it was our only one. Although I’ll admit once we started talking, everything came back.


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That could be because we are just being ourselves and telling our real-life stories, so it is not like we have to memorize them.

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Yes, that definitely makes it easier. But you know me, once a straight-A student, always a straight-A student. And because we custom tailor each presentation, I need to make sure I know exactly what we’re including and how we may be personalizing it.

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That is why our slides are images, not words. Not only because that makes them more interesting, but they are prompts for us. Which is critical as we speak on a wide range of topics – from personal finance, one of our most popular, to various Life 101 things like relationships, time management, handling stress, and even your piles of paper.

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And that doesn’t even get into business topics. But given your comments are sometimes “off the cuff”, I can get distracted.

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Like years ago, when I threw in the slide of one of your stuffed animals asking you to tell the story of it writing you letters.

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I wondered why everyone was laughing, and then I saw the slide. However, I was thinking of the time we were talking about relationships, and you suggested taking emotions out of the equation. I know you’re a Vulcan, but I really wanted to be sitting in the audience instead of standing next to you. Not only because I couldn’t wait to hear what you were going to say, but I didn’t want to figure out how to respond.

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But, that is what makes Red & Black, Red & Black. We are real. And, we have different ways of looking at things. As do our audiences. All we do is give them food for thought.

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Speaking of which, I laughed when you opened our recent engagement to a room full of people who were fasting for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the holiest Jewish holiday, with a warning that you were going to use a four-letter word starting with the letter “F” … Food!

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I never know how I am going to open until it happens. But, I know the day is about reflection, making fundamental changes, and trying to become a better person. And, is why Rabbi Scott asked us to present a workshop about money.

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When he first invited us to do a workshop in 2014, I questioned whether we were appropriate speakers for a spiritual journey since our approach is to “laugh and learn”.

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They are not mutually exclusive. And, explains why he had us back this year.


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It’s funny, but until we were asked to speak on Yom Kippur, I never realized how many of our stories involved food.


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I know. Even our first speaking engagement was at a professional women’s breakfast. And, our detour into criminal justice began at a prison with the only kosher kitchen in Texas. We seem to mention food at every turn.


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Which the audience loved. And with all my personal finance “duh moments” – from mindless spending at Jamba Juice to expensive grocery stores – it certainly gave them plenty of food for thought. Sorry, couldn’t resist.


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Impromptu comments like that, and even your apologies, make you more of a warm and fuzzy mom and less of a “perfect student” and, therefore, relatable. Not to mention, you were 40+ years old when your husband was fired, and you were forced to learn many life lessons you had managed to avoid.


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Thanks for pointing that out. Not my crisis, the unplanned comments. I remember how I freaked out the first time you changed the “script” on me. I was probably like a deer in headlights.


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You were. Which made it even more fun. For me, at least. Except I never changed the message or the order of the topics; I merely fine-tuned my comments based on “knowing your audience”. That is why I make a point of talking to people before we speak; I consider it “audience research”.


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And I’ve come to expect that from you. That’s why I enjoyed returning the favor the time we were about to step on stage in front of over 400 eighth graders at 8 a.m. and said, “Good luck and have fun, and oh yeah, eighth graders have the attention span of a gnat.”


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Oh, I remember. I also remember the feedback, and it ended up being one of our best events. The students, especially the girls, loved that I raced Ferraris and used car analogies, but the fact you were this warm and fuzzy mom admitting all your mistakes, freely and with humor, made you very relatable. And, your messages memorable and valuable.


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Well, we all know that kids will listen to almost anyone other than their parents. But I guess that can be said of spouses, too.


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No one wants to be told what to do. Full stop. But, everyone loves stories. And, we tell many of the same stories regardless of whether we are talking to students or educators, businesses or community organizations and religious groups. The only difference is that we select the stories based on the event and our audience.


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Which is why I like to be prepared and study my notes. Especially as we’re constantly adding new stories based on our lives. The good news is that we’ll never run out of stories. Or topics. However, my absolute favorite part of our speaking engagements is the end.


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I assume you do not mean when we leave the stage, but rather when we open it to Q&A.



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Exactly! In fact, I’d love it if our events were almost entirely Q&A. Especially since there’s nothing the audience can’t ask us. After all, you put my crisis into a book. And our daily lives online.


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That works for me, but how do you plan to “study” for questions you do not know in advance?

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Sometimes I think you prefer asking questions to answering them.


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And, sometimes, you think you can avoid my questions.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Photo by Rabbitti for iStock

It’s #GivingTuesday, and although it’s always a good time to think of others, remember all the people who are continuing to deal with the aftermath of natural disasters long after the headlines have been forgotten.

And even though Black believes charitable giving can be “secretive”, she also knows there’s science proving helping others is good for you. (Warning: she likes to recommend the book “Wonder Drug: 7 Scientifically Proven Ways That Serving Others Is the Best Medicine for Yourself.“)

P.S. – Wherever you may choose to donate, beware of potential scammers. So, if in doubt – check them out! (Black likes GuideStar and Charity Navigator.)



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I know today’s Giving Tuesday, but what I always find so amazing is how you treat every day as “Giving Tuesday."


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What makes you say that? I do not donate to an organization or charity every day.


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You’re always so literal. I meant that the spirit of “giving to others”, whether donating or providing support in some way, seems to be part of your daily life.


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I think you are exaggerating.
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Photo courtesy of Red’s eldest daughter, Natasha


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At the risk of asking you a warm and fuzzy question, have you thought about what you’re most thankful for this Thanksgiving?


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Yes.


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I should’ve guessed that you’d take the question literally. Could you expand on that a little, or at least give me a hint?
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Photo by htomas for iStock

When Red was a child, toilets represented more than a place to go when, well, you had to go. Much to Black’s amusement, Red saw cleaning them as a reward. (Really! Check out Red's post below.) But neither of us realized that billions of people don’t have access to toilets. And if it weren’t for today being World Toilet Day, we never would have known the magnitude of the associated health and safety issues – or the connection between sanitation and groundwater.

RED: What can I tell you? When I was a kid, one of my all-time favorite things to do was … clean the toilet. Yes, you read that correctly. And it wasn’t because I was a germophobe or a clean freak. I just loved being able to sit on the floor, using as much Bon Ami (I’ve no idea why I remember the brand) cleaning powder as I wanted. And the best part? All those bubbles!

It kept me entertained for hours. Not to mention, my mom was thrilled because it kept me “contained” and out of her hair. So much so that if I was very good and behaved myself, she might even give me “special permission” to clean the toilet in my parent’s bathroom. Of course, Black, being five years older and understanding the situation, found it all extremely amusing. Even now, decades later, she still gives me grief about it,

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