Two Cents on why it's OK to be Disgusted by Ms. Deen

All over Facebook this week have been folks defending celebrity cook Paula Deen, supporting her, saying her words, her actions were being blown out of proportion. For those who've missed it, she has been sued by a former employee, rightly so, for participating in and faciliating a hostile work environment with sexual and racial harassment issues. Her own words during a deposition were chilling. While she has since apologized, I wanted to share with you part of the interview with her, one of the parts that I found most upsetting.

"Deen said she remembered telling Jackson and another employee about a restaurant she went to with an exclusively African-American waitstaff that she wanted to emulate...Though Deen admitted to using the phrase “really southern plantation wedding” she denied having said the N word. 

“I remember telling them about a restaurant that my husband and I had recently visited. And I’m wanting to think it was in Tennessee or North Carolina or somewhere, and it was so impressive,” Deen said. “The whole entire wait staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. And I remember saying I would love to have servers like that, I said, but I would be afraid that somebody would misinterpret. That restaurant represented a certain era in America.” 
When pressed by Billips, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Deen said she was referring to the period immediately surrounding the Civil War. She also said she knew people might “read something into it” if she used exclusively African-American servers at the wedding."
So, is it a bad thing that Paula Deen thinks it is lovely idea to have all black wait staff at an event so as to imitate a time and place when all servers at a wedding are slaves? Is she wrong that she thinks of slavery times as romantic and lovely? The owning of humans? She was so far removed from reality and self-awareness that perhaps she failed to catch exactly what she was saying. And I think this moment that she made public was a small symptom of her entire disconnect, her superiority. Which the plaintiffs attorney was able to show evidence of in her places of business. 
To make an analogy about her "plantation wedding" dream: It seems unlikely that anyone, ever would want a wedding where all the servers were, oh gosh, amputees in camo gear, but ya know, skinny, so as to conjure a certain period of time when POWs were in labor camps in Vietnam.
Because that was sure a great time? Yet somehow, in her mind, that period of Southern wealth and opulence afforded by the free labor of hundreds of thousands of slaves is something to reminisce about. White people being enslaved and tortured is unacceptable, reprehensible. But hoo boy, stick some black men in a tux and put serving trays in their hands and we can pretend slaves were grateful to be serving at a wedding, and not out in the fields! I mean, really, this is where she is where she is going, whether she knew it or not. 
Her ideas, her romanticizing "a certain era" is sad, perhaps accidental(?), but fully ingrained racism. She has no excuse. I don't care that she's older, or from the South. This one conversation exposed doesn't even get at her usage of the N-word in jokes at work nor her family members calling a black employee a "little monkey" nor her restaurants paying white employees more than black employees. For someone well-traveled, well-paid, in the public eye who runs businesses, her treatment of women and people of color in the workplace was and is abhorrent and illegal. 
All the talk on Facebook I read about things being "blown out of proportion" and "racism being gone" and the idea that it must be a "slow news" week to even talk about her legal troubles, I felt the need to respond with a few videos. They are so powerful, I hope you can find a few minutes to tackle them.

And here, I was crying around minute four. Keep watching. And this teacher rocks.

Skin color still matters, sadly. It's all based on lies and fear, hundreds of years worth, but it matters. White privilege is real. It can be subtle, and terrible, like in that first video which should make all of us cringe with shame. And we white folks have to fight it, stand as witnesses to it, and never back down from owning it, as hard as it is. Yes, Ms Deen has a right to free thought and free speech, but we as "clients" of her shows, her products, her restaurants, don't have to support her. The fire she has come under is well-deserved. Don't be afraid to be disgusted, friends.

We can do better than her.She earned her lawsuit, and doesn't need our protection. We should all be glad she and her family have been forced to take a deep look at the way they speak and treat others in the work place.    Let's not defend her or excuse her. Let's hold her and each other accountable for the way we speak and treat each other. And this discussion about race, about privilege, about discrimination is always worth dissecting, slow news week or not. 

Next time: what I meant to write about, my youngest turning three. He is so much cuter than Paula Deen. 


Remember the Baby? The one who needed surgery? *with Update!

* I am humbled, wowed, amazed and grateful for all the donations we've received so far. We are almost to 20% of our goal. See our progress here! I am updating the Surgery for Annan Facebook page regularly with more information about  her, the story, answering questions, so come on by. Please, tell your mom or dad or cousin, anyone who you think could help. Pandering for this little one and her awesome family.*

Thank you. Thank you.

This is gonna get specific, and end with a link to a donation site. Gird your loins.


Blog readers will remember the amazing opportunity our family had this year to host a mom and her sweet baby while they were here in Boston receiving medical treatment, specifically major brain surgery for Baby.

Shortly after Mama B and her little one arrived, we realized our role in their lives would be a bit more than we anticipated. We were excited to have this sweet family here, hosting them for a few weeks while the baby had surgery. But the next day, after a few phone calls to Children's Hospital and Ethiopia, it was clear Mama B was in trouble: the persons who had helped get her and her daughter a medical visa to come to the States, as well as promised to cover the massive fees for treatment, changed their tune. No money.

Baby Annan was here in the US for essential life-saving brain surgery, and Children's Hospital would not even take her pulse without a check for $60,000. There was no option to apply for pro-bono work, despite the obvious fact that there was no way this family would ever come up with that kind of money. That kind of application would take months, and she didn't have months to sit around hoping someone would approve of the treatment.

Hubs and I thought about it and then took a leap of faith like Annan's mother did in hopping on that plane: we covered a major portion of the costs out of our savings, not knowing if we would ever see it again.


The weeks we thought Baby and her Mama would be here stretched into months. I ranted to you all on the Scooping it Up Facebook page about the terrible treatment Mama B received from staff at the hospital, how thoughtless and careless they were in their communication with her about her daughter. About how Hubs and I became major advocates with hospital staff who bulldozed their way past any semblance of sensitivity for someone who was terrified about her daughter's life and was from a different culture and did not speak English.

Mama B kept Amharic alive for our newly adopted daughters,

Mama B helped fine-tune my Ethiopian cooking. 

They became family.


And now, back in Ethiopia, this sweet family has done what they can to pay us some money back but friends, if they pay all the money they make for the next ten years to us, not saving anything for themselves, not saving for their family, they will still be in debt for this surgery. And the fact is, there is a very very high likelihood Baby Annan will need more treatment. She has a lot going on with her brain. And a lot of it isn't good.

We are hoping to alleviate that burden for a family who needs help. Annan is a precious miracle, and she needs help. Now, and for her future. In the US, she'd be receiving intensive, regular medical care. She is in Ethiopia now, and instead of regular MRIs to monitor her brain conditions, her mother was sent back to home with a tape measure and told to "measure to her head to see if it's growing too fast." 

Every dollar counts. Anything you can give is appreciated. The surgery has already been paid for, but now it exists as a debt. Our family, theirs, we could use a little safety net after that leap of faith we all took. It's scary. But I know we are not alone.

If you feel so moved, please share Annana's story,  please "like" the Surgery for Annan Facebook page, and if you can, give $1 dollar, or $6, or $100. We love and appreciate it all. Here is the place to give. 


Greener Grass

The massive problem created by merely looking at houses for sale online is that you realize you hate your house. I've been cheating on our house for a few months now, and the fantasies have turned me into a monster. Maybe this has happened to you: After late night MLS binging, in your mind, the house you love, starts to betray you. Or maybe you betray your house? You start believe it really stinks. There are houses that cost the same as yours out there that have bigger yards, and pools, and bathtubs, or less obnoxious drive ways, in more appealing towns. You start finding the little things that give your house character unlivable. You start thinking this can't go on. By mentally exploring what a new home might be like, one starts flirting with other homes. But if you're like me, who has a hard time not getting emotionally involved, it can turn into an obsession. It's not healthy because in reality, all houses eventually show their quirks, their weaknesses, the flaws in design and floor plan or location. The grass isn't always greener despite the professional, flawless pictures taken for online advertising.

Then, where you realize you might want to actually put an offer on one of those fantasy houses you look around at the Hoarders situation in your own house and realize everything hinges on someone coming over and not thinking Wow, they are hoarders. You must find a way to hide and/or be rid of the colossal amount of stuff one has accumulated over four years of family expansion. Not to mention fixing the damage inflicted by the 3-yr-old Destruction Duo.  I have answered the Vaseline does not ever evaporate or go away, as  am forced to deal with petroluem jelly on several surfaces that I kinda told myself would eventually take care of themselves. (No.)

And did I ever tell you about the time Tsega smuggled a hammer, a real one, into his room one day and I woke up the next morning to find him hammering the bejeebers out of his bedroom walls? There are chunks and dents everywhere. Or the time he stole a pair of chop sticks and stuck them in the electrical outlets (I know. I know) and then broke them off so they are now the prong holes are very effectively toddler safe since there are pieces of chop stick completely wedged and cannot be removed not the outlets used at all?

And remember the blood and marker on Brady's walls? Oh there is so much to do. And so many piles. All because of a hypothetical home sale.

There is nothing worse than children for making it impossible to address the "piles." Please tell me I am not alone in piles. Things that don't have a place, but you don't want to misplace, so you pile them and lie to yourself that you will get to them?

Whilst playing the game Could we sell this house? Hubs and I have been going through piles. I found $200 worth of checks, which makes Hubs want to paper cut me with them. Since I refuse to go to banks with children, they sit, hidden, acquiring food stains and kid drawings until Hubs finds them and asks me Good gosh woman, do you know this is money? It's not like a post-it? Piles are shameful and I do not enjoy going through them with a responsible audience looking on.

Choosing to address the organizational needs of the house means begging children to leave me alone. Which means destruction in another room. So basically, I am trying to clean one room, while in another spot serious stuff is going down. It is a losing game. We've found the best way to be productive is for one of us to be at home, working, and the other must remove the children for as long as humanely possible before someone requires naps or food. It's not a perfect system but we've been employing it for some time. It's all we got until we are rid of toddlers who do terrible things in their free time.

Tonight I need to close down Zillow, and Weichert. Oh, and Bing Maps which has ridiculously amazing overhead satellite images of properties. Way clearer and more frightening than Google Maps. Go ahead. Search for your house on Bing and the clarity will make you seriously uncomfortable. Like, the NSA Brand uncomfortable.

I am gonna go eat my feelings and anxiety over the questions and stress I created, just by looking to see if the grass is greener. Drawer and closet cleansing, toy organizing, book purging, it all feels so good and panic-driven at the same time. And as the dust is vacuumed and we slowly find the bottom of the piles I think

Wow, this house has some really huge closets. It's so pretty here in this room. It's not so bad.


Country Mice?

Hubs and I live deliciously close to Boston. Like, not at rush hour, we can be downtown amid skyscrapers and three hundred-year-old cobblestone in about fourteen minutes. Our town is suburban to be sure, but we have easy access to all the pleasures of city living. We love fancy pants funky vegetarian and ethnic restaurants, we love museums, we love sports, ballet, we love diversity of people, culture, languages that all mesh together in an urban setting. We love bringing our children to the city and do so regularly often opting for sports, library visits and parks there. We love that Boston is a walking city. No matter how cold and nasty the weather, the sidewalks and city squares are flooded with people talking, laughing or grumbling, out together, often consuming ice cream in the act of brushing the snow off their windshields or front steps in a collective middle finger to New England winter.

Man I love the city. I have mastered all fear of driving in Boston and Cambridge. I have looked Boston cops in the eye whilst receiving their common belittling authority trips in front of my children. I don't even let that stuff phase me anymore. I look at parking tickets as kind of a user fee for participating in this amazing privilege of being a Bostonian.

I have often felt that anyone who lives more than twenty minutes from any of these: an airport, a Whole Foods, an art museum, a non-chain restaurant AND at least four world-class hospitals is unknowingly living in some kind of purgatory.

A few years ago I remember visiting my sister and her family who lived in Armpit, Colorado where the only store was twenty five minutes away by a highway and the it started with a W and ended with "mart." I couldn't believe her life, her only access to food, clothing and the outside world was through this retailer. The airport was more than two hours away. Hubs and I sadly shook our heads So sorry for them. (They have since moved near San Diego and we no longer hold any pity for them. I try not to think about their palm trees and weather.)

Our children love the city too. They love when Daddy plays softball in the North End so we can hear the canon boom from Bunker Hill and watch the sunset and the boats out in the harbor. They love Boston Common, the Science Museum, playing in the Christian Science fountain. We love every time we are down town running into other Ethiopians. The girls love the press of crowds, people out and about. People walking feels more like Ethiopia. It feels more comfortable. More brown people, more people. It just feels good to be in the city for them.

But we are thinking about trading in the convenience of our current location and moving from the city. We are thinking about overhauling a few things.  Those who follow on FB know that for a few months my kids have been "interning" at a farm.


Basically, they do chores (read: it's all about poop removal with animals), and we get to learn what it takes to run a farm.


They earn the privilege of learning how to take care of animals, learn where our food comes from, and it supports our raw milk habit.


 Straight from the goat, sometimes.



My kids and I are fulfilling for them a fantasy and for me, a life long dream of animal husbandry albeit on a small, practice scale.


And something magical has happened: Some days, we show up at the farm, work for two or three hours, and my kids say 'thank you' to the farmer, and then we go home. Do you get what I am saying? They are saying 'thank you' for a carton of eggs they collected, and the pleasure of having two inches of goat poop stuck to their boots and having to have ticks picked out of their hair. 

My kids are working their butts off. They are out in nature. They are are learning what real food is. They are enjoying animals, respecting them, the earth, each other and feeling grateful for it. 

It has been life changing. And I wanted to say it has been particularly meaningful and therapeutic for one or two of the kids, but I had to scrap that thought because Hubs and I have seen positive changes in every single one of the children because of this venture.

Tsega and Brady, the Dysregulated Twins, are learning, slowly, how to regulate. They know they need to be calm around animals to not scare them. They are trying. They are learning to listen, to follow rules, to pitch in and help, to remember the routine of what is expected. They can catch chickens.


It is slow work to learn to be calm, but it is happening. It is miraculous to watch.


And as each week has passed, our postage stamp back yard has felt smaller and smaller and less sufficient. We love our house. Our home. It is a very cool house and fits our family beautifully. We cannot complain. We love that we can see Trader Joes' and CVS from the front porch and that closeness to the city we love.

But the freedom, independence our kiddos feel while playing and working outdoors is magical and we just can't do that where we live. We cannot have chickens. We cannot grow a garden that would actually produce enough for this many people. Here, there isn't a remote possibility that someday we could have or ride with any regularity a horse, which is kinda an ultimate therapeutic lifestyle goal we've entertained since I was ten  since we realized anyone in this house with PTSD could benefit from it.



So we look at online listings for houses with land. Not just a big backyard. More than two acres. Room for animals if we wanted to go for it. Houses with barns. All of which means we'd be a little further from Boston. And it scares us because we want to have our cake and eat it on the T (the name for the train/subway in Boston.). We want to have it all. We don't want to move far, in fact, if we ever want to see Hubs who works downtown and our friends and family again, we must stay close.

The question that plagues these days: Can we be city mice and country mice? Can we have it all? Time will tell. The children almost dare not whisper their hope, because we very well may decide to stay put. It's hard to think about something and not get caught up in that, we are all trying to stay cautious. But they would embrace the space with the fury of children who desperately want to be out of ear shot and eye shot in woods belonging just to us, with no danger of cops being called on the mother who practices a bit o' free range parenting.

In the meantime, I am going to keep assisting with amazing feats such as sedating and debudding (burning the living snot out of horn buds) on baby goats the size of puppies.


Because I am learning too. I am grateful too. And who knows what the future holds for us?


The Past is Never Far Behind

They sneak in unexpectedly, in the flow of every day conversation: The reminders that some of my kids, before they came to our family and our home, suffered.

A conversation about what jobs we will do when we get home turns to something like, I used to be at the children house. We had no toys. They lock them up in a closet the toys that Americans bring so we can't touch them. 

Or the children are talking about not liking the current cold going being passed around the family, the coughing, the snot. And then I hear from the back seat ________ got sick and died. I never saw ____ again.

SMACK! It hits me again - that some of the kids in my car, smiling, decked in flip flops and sunscreen, ready for summer fun, have seen hunger, death, loss of the worst kind, neglect in institutions. They have felt the ultimate rejection, confusion and fear.

Sometimes at school I forget my pencil the teacher hit me.

At the children's home the guy in charge, we think he steal the clothes and sell them. American families bring new clothes, and then one day we wake up, they are gone. Sometimes we wear dirty clothes over and over, because we are afraid if we send them to laundry, a shirt we like, we will never see it again.

I not get to stay with my mom. 

The fear of not being worthy, loveable, the fear that maybe this, right here, this family, is somehow going to fail them as well is always there. The fear there isn't enough, the feeling that nothing is permanent. I don't know if it ever fully goes away.

Mom, you never hold me and rock like the babies. I want to go back so I can be carried like a baby. But I am too big. I... 

Then I say, You will never be too big for me to hold and hug you. I promise. You weren't in my belly. But you are still my baby.

me and misir blog

My poor babies.


You Can

The words You can have changed my life in a small way.

For more than three years the saints dressed up like Early Intervention therapists have taught me a profound way to direct my children. Instead of telling them what to do or say, they've modeled adding the preface You can...

Teaching a child who doesn't remember to say hello when a teacher comes in the room. You can say 'hello'!

Redirecting a child who is melting down You can say 'please have banana?'

A child who is stuck in high chair straps and screaming You can say 'help Mama!'

A child who is sneaking into someone's purse You can say 'may I look in your bag?'

A child chucking food across the dining room: You can say 'All done!'

A child who is playing inappropriately. You can turn off the water and choose a toy in here.

A child who is trantruming because he can't have what he wants. You can take a deep breath and talk about what you can have instead.

Kids with special needs, and even neuro typical ones don't know what to say or do much of the time. So they act badly, speak rudely, and panic that they will not be heard or have their needs met. Our team of therapists have consistently, perhaps unknowingly, as a unit, hammered home the concept of telling these clueless tiny people all around me what they can do, since half the time, they literally don't know.

One of my kiddos, new to English, new to family life, new to making decisions and thinking about anything at all, really, does not know what to do a lot of the time. While an excellent follower, if the other children are absent, given the opportunity to make a choice on how to act or what to say, this child flounders, freezes. Looks around at the walls, floor, ceiling, lips pressed, in paralysis, desperate for some clue, some hint about what response may be warranted in this situation, (or may not think any kind of response or action is warranted at all). So I have to get in the trenches. I put on my Speech and Behavioral and Occupational Therapist hat. I pretend this child is like her far younger toddler brothers.

You can say 'thanks for the apple, Mom'

You can take your plate to the sink.

You can read for a few minutes.

You can answer my question after you finish chewing.

You can tell the truth.

You can say sorry.

You can remember to wear your sleep hat.

You can look at my eyes.

You can ask 'can I have a hug?'

You can say 'What time are we going?'

I said it's time to get in the car, so you can drop the puzzle and put on shoes.

You can tell your friend 'Thank you for coming!'

Can you hear the difference between commanding "Say sorry to your brother!" And putting it on the child "You can say sorry."  It is subtle and it makes such a larger impact. All of a sudden the child has options. Can make a good choice. It turns into a potentially empowering interaction and teaching moment instead of dominion and less power for a child who is stuck in a somewhat helpless state.

Of course, the EI angels taught me another trick, to help the little people recognize not only when "they can" but when they do. Today the child in question struggled for a long stint making a good choice. There were tears, but in the end, the child came through and did the right thing. I hinted, like I'd been taught

You can say 'I did it! I am awesome!'

Smiles and wiped snot and hugs. I did it! I'm awesome!

Teaching a big kid who needs the kind of support toddlers need while gaining social and family skills is an  awesomely exhausting parenting strategy. It takes every ounce of strength to remember that this child, though housed in an enormous big kid body, needs what the babies need: a mother who reminds them of  the same stupid things over and over and over and over because two and three-year-olds need repetition. And if a child doesn't get that mind-numbing repetition, that practice in the toddler years, well, then that said child can be going on eight or twenty eight, but he or she will still need someone to dig deep, find courage and say a whole lot of

You can...
to the trees

This is message is brought to you by a mother who has not been using this phrase enough. Bringing it back, starting now.