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    Posted June 27, 2013 by
    Savannah, Georgia
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    Paula Deen is Already Missed


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Penelope Penn visited Paula Deen celebrity sites in Savannah, Georgia, in February of 2013. Since hearing of the Deen controversy, Penn has rushed to her defense. 'I can't imagine that so many lives will be deliberately ruined by this,' she says. 'Not only the Deens, but all the hardworking families around her. I keep wondering what good will come of this.' Read more on CNN Money.
    - jccarp, CNN iReport producer

    The breaking news of Paula Deens recent firing and lawsuit is both confusing and unsettling to many.

    I had the immense pleasure of visiting the “Deen Machine’s” Savannah restaurants and gift shop in February 2013, a dream I’ve had for years, to learn even more about the accomplishments of one person and her relatively short life.

    After speaking with her staff at her restaurant and shop, and talking with the many visitors who also admired Paula Deen, I learned she was a tenaciously loyal and giving individual who‘s maintained a good and loving spirit, despite her schooling at Hard Knocks U.
    Most people only dream of the empire, success and legacy she‘s built, despite difficult circumstances and times I thought, as I encountered one admirer after another. She has actually done it, despite the odds facing a single mother, a divorce, two babies, deceased parents, and all of it in the Bible belt during times when none of this was “acceptable“ in the court of public opinion.
    I encountered many races, genders and ages employed by Paula during my visit, and no one had a bad word to say about her. No one was spiteful or envious, but instead appreciative of her investments of time, energy, and sharing, and the contributions she‘d unselfishly shared with everyone she touched. And she’s said to have contributed millions of much needed dollars and employee wages to the city, state, and our federal government.
    During several visits, restaurant and shop employees were always open and forthcoming in sharing their positive experiences with Paula, her sons, and their employment. Their loyalty and the obvious connection they felt with someone who could have easily chosen to be untouchable to those of us with less busy and less successful lives were heartwarming. Countless times, employees referred to her as giving, unselfish, and with never an unkind word about or to anyone.
    They talked about how she frequently visited the restaurant with her family and friends and always had time to stop and talk and personally share with them, despite her busy schedule and the full life she has created.
    My first infatuation with this icon, one of the Food Networks pioneers, began as I watched her draw her sons into her show, teaching and nurturing them into adulthood. The same way she drew them into her food business. The ease in which they interacted, and the obvious bond and fun they had maintained with each other was uplifting and also added to the entertainment she’s provided through the years.
    “Here’s a single mother who’s still not only speaking to but actually working with her two sons,” I thought, “when a lot of seemingly ‘unbroken’ families presently don’t even sit down to dinner much less have a civil chat over a home cooked meal. What is she doing right, and what is her secret,” I wanted to learn.
    During my week in Savannah, I learned how much she has positively touched not only the lives of those around her, but her city and all those who have had the good fortune to be employed in her industries, in their words.
    How many of us can add that to our legacies.
    Having recently returned from a long road trip out west, I found myself craving some good ol’ fashun’ southern fried chicken. The minute I stepped into the door of The Lady and Sons, I was immediately greeted by the delicious smell of this incomparable crispy southern staple, fresh vegetables, and homemade biscuits and breads.
    I can definitely recommend the illusive fried green tomato to Southern foodies, or those just enamored with southern foods, and her special “Ho Cakes“  are complimentary with every meal. Her quirky, but oh so southern contagious sense of humor and fun popped from every corner and every table in the shop and restaurant, adding to the fun for all.
    Blues and some lively Jazz played behind the laughter of a packed house each night, and added to the friendly and relaxed ambiance of the charming historic building, one of many Paula has rescued from demise and rehabbed in a city, along with its people, on the brink of collapse and death.
    One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt and says, “A woman is like a tea bag. The hotter the water, the stronger she gets.”
    I hope this is not goodbye, Paula, but one of those bumps in the road life throws in our faces, and that we will see you again soon as a stronger, healthier, and happier than ever Paula who is sharing and teaching us all once again.

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