That's what SHE said: Super Bowl Prep for theatre folks, NOT saving for your kid's college, to love and lose a foster child, Trayvon Martin should have turned 21 this week, how to be the happy mom, best TED talks of 2015 and more...


For those of us who could use a glossary that actually makes sense this Sunday..."Sudden Death: We call this: Callbacks (and I think we take it more serious than football players do #sorrynotsorry)."


A mother challenges the notion that a college degree promises a more prosperous life. Not willing to have her family plunge into debt to save for a college savings plan, she is raising her kids with the knowledge that their high school jobs will provide them with money to go towards their college expenses... "Mine is a financially average family. We have no impressive social or familial connections, and my kids are not prodigies. When my older daughter began babysitting last fall, it was with the understanding that most of the money she earned would go towards her college expenses. As she continues to work through her high school years, she knows that will be the case. Yet all the money we have saved for college would not pay for four years of one daughter’s tuition, let alone room, board, and living expenses, at any big name university. And while I want my kids to get a higher education, I don’t want them to ruin their – and our – lives over it. Nearly seventy percent of recent bachelor’s degree recipients have debt — an average of $28,400 worth of it. As Thomas Frank wrote in Salon last fall, we are living in the age of “academic capitalism,” an era in which a big name college degree is supposedly a ticket to a more prosperous life – a concept that mostly benefits the industry itself. I think that deserves to be challenged."

A foster mom writes one last "to-do"list before having to let go of her foster son. She prays for a snow day so she and her foster son can have one more lasting memory of making snowmen together before leaving the home he has come to know. A couple days later, the blizzard of 2016 blanketed the east coast..."On the day the high ceiling closed in on my heart, it became clear to me: In this courtroom, where time is tight and details are long, genes trump all else. We were not an option. We were a footnote. Of course, I knew from the beginning that our journey with BlueJay could end this way — or any of a dozen other ways. I knew it in the abstract way you know that anything in life is possible. I knew it, but I didn’t yet have to feel it. Now, I’m feeling it."


On Friday, February, 5, 2016, Trayvon Martin should have been celebrating his 21st birthday. Shaun King takes us through so many "shoulds"including how Tamir Rice should have been able to play in his neighborhood park without the fear of being shot..."A real part of being black in America, though, is being constantly aware of what should've been but never was."

A single mother is forced to confront her greatest fears when a temporary numbness takes hold in her face and arm and she must get an MRI to determine the cause..."I WAS driving my 11-year-old son, Joe, to school. It had been one of those mornings. He was singing opera and doing hip-hop moves when I needed him to put on his shoes. As we pulled up in front of school just in time, I snapped: “I can’t start our day this way. This kind of stress is going to make me sick.”He burst into tears. “Don’t say that!” he yelled. “Promise to never say that again!” He raced out of the car, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. On more than a few occasions, he has expressed his fear that something might happen to me. As the child of a single mother, he clearly has been pondering the same questions I do: Who will take care of him if I die? Who will love him as much as I do?"

An exhausted mother makes a commitment to do one thing every day that makes her happy... "I don’t want to minimize the hard parts of motherhood and to shout just be happy moms! because I know it can be a hard hard thing and you can feel lost in the midst of motherhood and wondering if you make a difference and then wonder who in the world am I and why am I not happy when it seems like the rest of the world has mastered that? Sometimes sometimes sometimes it’s easy to lose us and our happy in the midst of this crazy life journey with twenty plus years of motherhood tucked in the middle. Tears. You’re not alone, sweet mother, if you’ve ever felt this way.


Monica Lewinsky on "The Price of Shame." 'Nuf said... "Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop," says Monica Lewinsky. In 1998, she says, “I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.” Today, the kind of online public shaming she went through has become constant — and can turn deadly. In a brave talk, she takes a hard look at our online culture of humiliation, and asks for a different way." 


Theatre-seekers in LA should be sure to check out some local gems such as  BED  by Sheila Callaghan and How Love Lasts  premiering February 18 at the Echo Theatre Company. John Posey's Father, Son and Holy Coach comes to the Odyssey with an all-new production on February 13 and Tempest Redux comes February 20. In the Valley, Antaeus Theatre Company will put up Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9 on March 10. For Orange County folks, ITC kicks off its 2016 season with Closer Than Ever by Maltby and Shire on February 10.   Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo returns to Segerstrom February 12, PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo will have a limited engagement at Casa 0101, the 24th Street Theatre is bringing back the beloved Man Covets Birdand The Matrix Theatre Company honors Black History Month with Katori Hall's award-winning The Mountaintop. 

New York families should check out The Secret Inside You at the American Museum of Natural History and also, The Astronaut's Tale coming to BAM or The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show coming to the 47th Street Theatre or Step Afrika! at the Brooklyn Center for Performing Arts. For a family pleaser, check out Wicked on Broadway! New York parents looking forward to springtime theatre in New York, be sure to get your tickets now for  David Harrower's new play Blackbird starring Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams. Also, check out The Humans opening on Broadway February 18th. 

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How I became the target of hundreds of white supremacists from a videoof Christmas morning

Over the past three weeks, I’ve been getting hundreds of racist comments every day. They berate me for having adopted black children, they take pictures of my kids and create racist memes, and they say awful things about my boys. If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably seen some if it. Many people have asked me how this also started, so I wanted to provide the backstory. A timeline of the hate, if you will.

It started with a video I took Christmas morning of my girls opening their American Girl dolls Christmas morning. A couple weeks later a video went viral of two young white girls being gifted with black dolls and subsequently expressing their disapproval. I decided to upload a video of my girls receiving their dolls and the joy they felt as an alternative reaction.

The video of my girls was up for a week with very little fanfare, but then suddenly the video starting to get a ton of traffic, and with it, nasty comments. I was getting daily, and then hourly, comments about how disgusting I was, how my boys were going to kill me, how they would rape my daughters . . . all kinds of vile hate. Initially I was deleting the comments. Then they started coming in too swiftly for me to stay on top of it. I contemplated removing the comment option on the video, but then decided to leave it up. I wanted to write about what was happening, so that people could see this kind of overt racism in action in our “post-racial” society. But before I had time to do that, something else happened.

I finally figured out the source of all of the traffic on that video.

A prominent white supremacist “news outlet” had created a video defending the video of the girls reacting poorly to black dolls, making a case that it’s natural for children to only be attracted to dolls of their own race. The video attempted to debunk the famous doll study from the 50’s with all manner of pseudofacts, even suggesting that Martin Luther King Jr. was a puppet of the Communist party. After a tangent on the history of civil rights and the dangerous “Marxist” ideals of desegregation, we’re treated to about 5 minutes of irrelevant footage of white rappers that is, apparently, supposed to horrify us into realizing the ills of race-mixing. And then the video turned it’s attention on me . . . stealing footage from my own youtube channel, my blog, my TEDx talk, and the interview I did with Yahoo news. I was portrayed as a “nauseating” woman who hated her own race and who was training her daughters to be ashamed to be white. Which, listen. I do promote diversity. But I can also appreciate a good English scone, and I’ve never met a kale salad I didn’t like, which is about the Whitest thing anyone could ever eat. It’s possible to value diversity and enjoy your own heritage at the same time.

When I saw that this white supremacist organization had used images of my kids, without my permission, in a propaganda video for segregation, I was livid. So I took to twitter, asking both the organization and the “reporter” in the video, a woman by the name of Lana Lokteff, to remove the video. Until then, the harassment from racists had been contained to youtube, but me calling out these sacred cows of white supremacy on twitter created a firestorm. The racists circled their wagons on 4chan and other online white supremacy forums and came after me.

For several days, I fielded comments coming so fast that my twitter feed looked like the NYSE ticker. The comments all had a general, not-very-creative theme:
  1. I’m disgusting
  2. I’m teaching my white kids to hate themselves
  3. I’m probably Jewish
  4. I’m probably cheating on my husband with a black man
  5. My black children will sexually assault their siblings
That last one was the worst to stomach, but after the shock wore off, the absurdity of it sank in. These men (they are predominantly men) are totally obsessed with the sexual virility of black men. It’s fetish-level obsession. They just cannot stop thinking about black men, sexually. And yeah, it’s racist as hell. But it’s also all kinds of Freudian weird. They are seriously, seriously threatened by the idea that black men are getting more action than they are.

When I was a therapist, I saw a few clients who dealt with psychotic breaks, and several of the men struggled with the compulsive fear that they might cut off their own penis. The paranoia around black men that these guys hold . . . feels about at that level.

However, as ridiculous and ignorant as these people are, they are one thing: committed. Granted, this is probably because they are living empty lives with nothing better to do:

Photo Feb 05, 12 49 26 AM

The harassment was coming in faster than I could report it, so I instead asked people to report the abuse that I retweeted. My friends rallied and a number of the worst offenders had their accounts suspended. I’m sure this post will bring a fresh wave, and I will continue to do the same.

Honestly, I am less bothered by the minions in this whole operation than I am with the leaders. By and large, the people harassing me on twitter seem like uneducated idiots. Most of them are anonymous and have under 50 followers. They are spewing talking points (which they can handily read through on their forums.) They are one-dimensional and their criticism is irrational and repetitive. Dealing with the on twitter is like swatting at flies. Oh, a picture of my black child with fried chicken superimposed on it? How original. Block and report.

But the leaders of this movement? They scare me. Case in point . . . Lana Lokteff, the shrill and smug host of the internet show that stole my content. She’s quite savvy at spinning a narrative to incite fear. She mocks the idea of systemic racism, pointedly mentions anyone who is Jewish, and refers to scientists who attempted to prove that race is merely a social construct as “bullshitters.” She suggests that the ideals of the civil rights movement were Marxist. And her twitter feed is a curated list of crimes committed by people of color – as if rounding up bad things that only people of color do is solid proof of her premise instead of a bad example of confirmation bias. But her minions buy it. (And probably don’t understand the concept of confirmation bias to begin with.) She presents her videos with a mix of history, politics, and science, relevance-be-damned, and speaks in a quick tone like she’s trying to imitate an episode of Crash Course in History. However, her “data” is full of holes. She presents something true and then projects people’s fears into an outlandish outcome. For example, she plays on the idea that eventually scientists will implant a chip into our baby’s brains to cure them of racism. Lana’s currency is fear and xenophobia, and her customers are people who aren’t smart enough to smell the bullshit.

Now, because I’m guessing the trolls will find their way over here, I’m going to address Lana’s minions who keep asking me why I won’t engage Lana in a debate on twitter. Let me try to break it down for you. A straw man argument is a logical fallacy in which one person introduces an idea into a debate that their opponent never even presented. For example, Lana has suggested that I don’t allow my girls to like white dolls. This isn’t true. I never said that. But it gets people riled up. Lana’s recent video about dolls was chock full of straw man arguments.So were ALL of her tweets to me. In fact, it is her main persuasion technique. If you can’t see that, you need to work on your critical thinking skills. But the reason I won’t be debating Lana is because I don’t engage in debates with people who rely on straw man arguments because it’s a waste of time. And an insult to my intelligence. And also because I have a very full life outside of the internet. You should try it!

I know the other question I will get: will this make me stop posting on the internet? No, it won’t. As I mentioned before, this is swatting at flies. I’ve got some plans in place to deal with a few of the offenders (remember, the internet is never as anonymous as you think), but I also think that this kind of harassment is always a possibility for people with a public platform. (Now that doesn’t mean that they deserve it . . . that’s victim blaming. But I’ve always been keenly aware that public criticism is a part of this gig.) I’ve always viewed my blog as a space to promote social justice and racial reconciliation, and this is not going to stop me.

At the end of the day, as my anger about the whole thing recedes, I really actually feel sad for these people. Sad for their miserable little lives in which trolling people with hate is fun. Sad for how sheltered they are. Sad that their world is so small. How pathetic it must be for them to spend their life avoiding things that involve non-European cultures. The experiences they will never have. The places they will never go. The people they will never meet. The food they’ll never eat.

As for me, I’m gonna put some Earth Wind and Fire on the stereo, pour myself a glass of French wine, fry up some Cuban-style tostones and Italian sausages and open a can of Indian chutney to dip them in, and I thank the Lord above that I’ve evolved way beyond the limiting mind of a white supremacist.

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What I want you to know about homeschooling

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Heather Caliri.

If I tell you I home school, and you don’t, I can guess what you’ll say: “I could never do what you’re doing.” I want you to know something: You’re wrong. You could do what I’m doing. Let’s be clear. I’m not saying this in a judgy, “get with the program already” kind of way. I’m saying that I know mothers. And I know we do what needs doing. We get up each morning and serve and work and cook and clean bottoms and do the laundry when someone gets the stomach flu. 
We do what needs doing, period. Whether it’s home school or public school or the NICU or the soccer team. So let’s get this straight: if you needed to, you could do what I do. And I could do what you do. I want to celebrate that, and affirm each of our paths. Sure, we might not prefer to switch places. Which is the second thing I want to say: That’s okay. 
The idea of homeschooling make you want to run screaming? I get it. And that’s okay. I’ll be honest: the idea of school makes me want to do the same. And that’s okay too. But that doesn’t diminish our choices. That doesn’t take away from our freedom to live the life we need to live. That doesn’t mean we can’t lift each other up, affirm each other, and learn from each other. You keep doing things in that weird, broken, blessed way that makes you thrive. You keep doing the carpools and the PTA and the class mom gig. It’s hard, and blessing you, and it’s the right thing. Because I know that the day it’s not right for your family, you will make the hard choices necessary to change. I’m doing the same. I love our life right now, but I know each day brings manifold surprises. I know that if it’s necessary, I’ll be ready to make hard choices about our life too. 
Why am I telling you all of this? Because this is what’s hard about homeschooling: people use “homeschool” as a cudgel—on themselves or other people. Somehow the choice to homeschool—or not--has become another place to feel less-than. It used to be “enough” to be a room mom and serve on the PTA. Or it was enough to have a kick-ass career and be empowered. Or—Wait. Was there ever a time when we were enough? Just as we are?
We have so many choices about our kids that it’s fairly dizzying. Parenting styles and work hours and toys to buy and BPA free sippy cups and extracurricular and media usage. And education: charter, public, private, and homeschool. It would be great if all this choice made us feel freer, but does it? It would be great if all this choice helped us learn from each other, but does it? 

Look, the “mommy wars” are waaay overblown. Here’s what’s not: our awful internal dialogue, comparing ourselves negatively to everyone that seems fancy or intentional. And lest you think homeschooling would solve that inner chatter, it doesn’t. I feel intimidated by parents who seem to homeschool “better” than I do. I get all judgy and insecure over here too.
So let’s lay down our insecurities and decide that enough is enough, and that we, right now, are enough. Let’s affirm and lift each other up, and not be afraid of our differences. Let’s be easy and content with the life we choose, even if it doesn’t sound exotic. Let us never feel the need to apologize—to ourselves or anyone else—for the hard work we do as parents. Because we need all the energy and support we need to confront the challenges that life brings, each and every day.

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Friday Finds

1. The Complete Book of Home Organization: 200+ Tips and Projects | by
2. Sega Toys' Night Sky Projector |  by The Grommet
3. Spy Alley Game of Suspense and Intrigue | Amazon 
4. Dana’s Bakery | Macaron Making Kit
5. 8+ All Natural or Organic Snacks a Month | Love With Food
6. Nixi Silicone Teething Bracelet, Quadro | Bumkins
7. Tools4Wisdom | Planner 2016 Calendar 4-in-1
8. Monkey Weesie Pal Plush Toy Creation For Children With Special Needs | Etsy 
9. Febreze | In Wash Odor Eliminator

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On curbing the mindest of “being broke”

This post was sponsored by SunTrust Bank.

Mark and I committed to something a few years ago. We were really grasping the level of poverty that most of the world lives in, and wanting to feel grateful for all that we have. We also started noticing how often we were saying the phrase, "we're so broke". It's just one of those sayings that rolls off the tongue a little too easily. Kind of like "I'm so busy". We wanted to acknowledge that we were NOT broke, if we have a home, a car, and food to eat. Even if we can't afford some things we want, we are not broke.

Once we stopped saying this, I really do think there was a shift. We certainly didn't have more money coming in. But it just slightly changed our perception of the whole thing by taking that phrase out of the vernacular. We have what we need.


But right now, we find ourselves in, how shall we say, a bit of a pinch, along with the rest of our country. A part of it were some unforeseen events, like a cracked foundation and a surprisingly insane tax bill and the premiums we pay every month just to have insurance. Then there are music lessons, and the declining economy that keeps people from wanting to pay for therapy appointments, and a crashed computer that I had to replace, yada yada yada. And then there were some of our own decisions. Like taking a trip Madrid and not sticking to the budget. And not factoring Mark's lack of vacation pay (or a recession) into our yearly budget. And buying six tickets to Florida for my nephew’s wedding, yada yada yada.

Photo Jan 15, 3 00 35 PM

All that to say, the Howerton clan is tightening the belt in a big way. We are not broke. But we might be a wee bit in the red. And we might find ourselves scratching our heads as to how we will pay the rest of our home remodel that is not even near finished.

According to some statistics from SunTrust Bank, we’re not alone:

Over 70% of Americans are financially stressed
12% of Americans skip going to the doctor because of financial concerns
80% of people admitted that their personal finances keep them awake at night
21% of couples who rate their financial stress as at least “somewhat high” are arguing more
32% of adults say their finances keep them from living a healthy lifestyle

But I am trying to be mindful of the fact that no matter how dire things look in the bank account, we are still so fortunate. I remember reading this a few years ago, which is by an anonymous author, and it was a part of the inspiration that led us to being more grateful for what we have:

If you have food in the refrigerator clothes on your back, a roof over head and a place to sleep . . . you are richer than 70% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace . . .
you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness . . .
you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation . . .
you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

SunTrust Bank is launching a national movement to inspire millions of Americans to take control of their finances and gain financial confidence so they can pursue a life well spent. SunTrust wants to motivate people to move past their worry and take a single step . . . and then another – each step increasing their confidence and moving them toward financial well-being. At SunTrust Bank their purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. When you feel confident about your money, you can save for your goals and spend knowingly on what matters most to you.  

The onUp movement was created to guide millions of people one step at a time towards a more financially confident life without ever losing sight of the moments that matter along the way.

Join the growing number of people transforming their stress into positive motivation to move onUp.

Join the movement


This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.

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