Photo of Red's beloved stuffed sheep

Photo by Red

I've always loved stuffed animals. And the softer and plusher, the better. They're like family. Only, in some ways, better, but I won't go down that road. Not today, anyway. Some children outgrow their love for stuffed animals (or do they just stopping admitting it?), but not me. And although I've stopped adding to my collection over the years (ok, make that decades), there are always those favorite ones that are loved just a little bit more, squeezed a little tighter, hugged a little longer.

Well, for someone who has a theater arts degree and more than a passing knowledge of Tudor history, I'd say that one of the most useful things I've learned is … the repair of stuffed animals. Over the years, I've patched up more than my share of stuffed animals, my own and my daughters. I've even gone so far as to do what could only be called a "full fluff transplant" – turning a very large (over four feet tall), but very "stiff", frog won at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo into the cutest, squishiest frog EVER.

But I digress. Well, maybe just a little because I promise this is going somewhere. (I can hear Black saying, "Then get there already.") Recently Black emailed me a video with a note that it made her want to buy a Vermont Teddy Bear. Knowing she's definitely not warm and fuzzy, let alone a stuffed animal person, I couldn't imagine what the video could be about to make her say that. I should've guessed there'd be a Make-A-Wish connection (remember Bernie's Inauguration Day mittens?), and I couldn't help but smile when I heard that the Vermont Teddy Bear Company was renting office space to Make-A-Wish Vermont for $1/year.

I immediately picked up the phone to tell her how I've always been impressed by the company, but before I could say how the video didn't surprise me, she starts telling me about their "Limb Loss and Difference Limb Bear" that not only offer love and comfort but supports the Amputee Coalition. Finally, I'm able to tell her that The Vermont Teddy Bear Company has always been great, especially in unexpected ways,

Decades ago, when I visited Vermont on a regular basis, I was traveling with one of my beloved stuffed animals – a soft, cuddly sheep that I had gotten in England many years prior. She had what I'd call "old-fashioned" eyes (the type they probably don't make anymore because they'd be considered a health hazard), and over the years, one of the eyes got looser and looser. And while I did everything I could, I knew that it was only a matter of time before the eye would fall off.

I was at the Vermont Teddy Bear Store and mentioned the "condition" to the in-house doctor (seriously, they have one). The next thing I knew, I was leaving my "baby" overnight at their "hospital" (which is usually reserved for their bears) to return the following morning to pick up the patient, who now had a beautifully repaired eye that to this day is perfect.
Photo by Walter Bibikow on Alamy

The show “I Love Lucy” is truly iconic. And while it’s natural to focus on Lucy, we shouldn’t overlook her partner on the show and in business – Desi Arnaz. Taking top billing in the name of their company, Desilu Productions, Desi Arnaz is recognized as one of the most innovative TV producers, and the first Hispanic to star on prime-time TV. And what better time to celebrate these remarkable achievements than during Hispanic Heritage Month?

I Love Lucy. For many of us, myself included, those three words bring back memories of favorite episodes of the “I Love Lucy” show. And, although I would be hard-pressed to pick my favorites, some may reminisce that the show, which ran from 1951 – 1957, was from a simpler time and is dated. I would argue that the comic timing, the gags, and the chemistry of the characters have stood the test of time.

Maybe it is because they took frustrating situations in everyday life and then pushed them to the extreme – and made them hilarious along the way. For example, your young child wants a superhero at their birthday party. Reasonable. But for Lucy, after unsuccessfully trying to book Superman (Chris Reeves), she dons the costume in “ Lucy and Superman.” A classic.

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So, when Black mentions Redhead Appreciation Day, I know it’s related to Red & Black and not her being “nice” and giving me a day off (or telling me that she appreciates me). And when she asks, “What is it like to be a redhead, Red?” part of me wants to reply, “What’s it like not to be a redhead?” because, for my entire life, I’ve been “Red.” (There’s a story there, but I’ll get to it later.) The honest answer is, well, I never thought about it, until now …

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Photograph of Jackie Aguilera courtesy of Jackie Aguilera

red headred head

I have a confession to make, which I’m sure will make you roll your eyes.

Black's HeadBlack

Interesting caveat and probably true.

red headred head

Every time we meet with Jackie (Aguilera) from the Mayor’s Office of Adult Literacy and hear what she’s doing in the world of adult education, I feel like I’m back in school and having to take copious notes.

Black's HeadBlack

I am more than happy to send you “homework assignments” as I come across relevant articles and research.

red headred head

Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to taking notes. But that does explain why you’re so knowledgeable about literacy.


But, reading information is very different from being at the forefront of literacy innovation. And, if we had never met Jackie, I never would have realized how literacy is more than the dictionary definition, and encompasses more than just reading and writing.
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