Friday, February 24, 2017

Good Choices

The Howard County Board of Education took the time to address the issue of protections for transgender students at their board meeting last night. Here is their statement:

In the Howard County Public School System, each school works with children and families, as it always has, to preserve the privacy and rights of all students, including transgender students. HCPSS reaffirms that commitment and will not change its practices.

You can read more here at the HCPSS website. 

At the same meeting,  Board of Education approved a budget which restores support staff in media, kindergarten, ESOL, and early childhood to 2014 levels. They have also created a position for a diversity/inclusion coordinator. Let's hope it sticks this time! 

It is heartening to see the Board at work making such excellent choices in behalf of students, parents, teachers, and staff. If you'd like to thank them for their work, you can use this handy-dandy form provided by HCEA to show your support.   You can also go to Board Docs to see a complete list of what the Board has been doing this week. 

The new Board has been at work for about ninety days. New members were elected by constituents looking for responsiveness, transparency, and accountability. I'm seeing genuine concern for those issues and a concerted effort to support initiatives which impact students the most. 

Send them your thanks, won't you? And perhaps you might want to let the County Executive know you support their work on this year's budget. It's going to him next. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017


I have allergies and asthma. I was born this way. It can be annoying, uncomfortable, and limiting. I've been through years of allergies shots, taken a boatload of medication, visited the emergency room after a run-in with book mold and cats. I can't have pets, even though I love animals.

But this is who I am. I was born this way, and I have learned to deal with it.

And you know what? Nobody is offended.

No one scorns me, doubts the veracity of my claims, or tries to interfere with my civil rights. What a privilege that is. It's just accepted that "that's the way I am."

Not so for LGBTQ folks. So often they don't get that benefit of the doubt. "This is who I am." "This is how I was made." No, they don't get a free pass because just the fact of their existence offends somebody.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I know my analogy is flawed. Allergies and asthma are an illness, ones I wish could be completely remediated. Being LGBTQ is most definitely not an illness. It is no more an illness than having blue eyes, brown hair, being tall, or petite. But it is the closest I can get to imagining what it would be like if someone looked at something about me that is completely inborn and was "offended."

The violence being done to trans students by the Trump administration in rescinding Title IX protections is incalculable. Trans students are already at a high risk for harassment, bullying, and suicide. Being able to use the bathroom is such a basic need and without it, students can't access education.

Sure, you can have an education. You just can't go to the bathroom. Because I'm offended by who you are. By the way you were born.

This is a blatant violation of civil rights.

We have trans students in Howard County who struggle on a daily basis with getting the system to truly acknowledge and respect who they are. These are our children. How do you think they feel this morning?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Letters for the Lovelorn

News flash! Mr. Trash Wheel is adding "Advice Columnist" to his list of many accomplishments.

This offer brought to mind the predicament of a friend of mine, Ms. Frizz, aka @eye_on _kq . I had lunch with her Monday

It's clear she's still carrying a torch for her old beau, the Lake Kittamaqundi Bell Tower. She's heard he might be be coming back into town, but she can't get any solid details. Maybe Trashy can help. 

Dear Trashy,

My friend Ms. Frizz has been pining away for the love of her life, this handsome fellow.

He disappeared around 2010 and she's been heartsick ever since. She hears from the Columbia Association that he might be returning home soon. Can you do anything to help reunite these two lovebirds?


Your friend at Village Green/Town²


I'll let you know if I hear anything.

If you have any relevant info, or ideas for Letters to Trashy,  post here:

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Wake Up Call

Good morning, friends. It's your Monday morning wake up call. Except it's Tuesday. But for many of us, it feels like Monday.

Here's a post from HoCo blogger Mike Hartley.

He writes THREW Mike's Eyez, described as the original writings, images, videos and artworks of Mike Hartley. It's just the message I needed to read this morning.

I had that same sense of gratitude yesterday as I walked about of a doctor's appointment where, for the first time in my life, I had gotten a high-five from the doctor. We all need a little encouragement on the journey to self-care. I felt very fortunate to have that support.

So that's the message for the day. Find the things you can feel grateful for. Savor them.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Topical Trivia

Dribs and drabs this morning:

There's a new Caribbean restaurant in Harper's Choice. It's in the space where Zapata's used to be. It's called Jazz's Island Soul Cuisine and I stole this impromptu review right off of a friend's Facebook post:

We visited the new restaurant @ Harper's Choice Village Center today. We had brunch (all day every day right now) and the food was delicious! I got chicken and waffles (the rum syrup was so sticky and sweet in the best way), and [my lovely companion] got the meat lovers omelette that came with home fries, grits, fried apples and biscuits (made in a waffle iron). 

Yay for local restaurants with good food!

I got a nice little mailing from my State Senator Guy Guzzone this week, informing me that he's also a realtor and offering his services should we need them. Probably everyone else knew that he is a realtor, but I didn't, so I guess that's useful. We already have a realtor we trust--Michael McKenna of Weichert New Colony--but it's still helpful information to have.

Apparently there's been a traffic snarlup around the Mall on Little Patuxent Parkway due to road work. What's interesting is that is hasn't affected me at all, which means I'm not really going "Downtown" much. Hmm.

It looks like plans are moving forward for the Cultural Arts Center which will give Toby's a new home. May it be everything that Toby Orenstein has wished for. She's certainly waited long enough.

Finally, a shoutout to two HoCo women who have been working long and hard on causes we should all probably know more about.

  • Laurie Lundy, who is an advocate for Addiction/Recovery support in Howard County.
  • Catherine Carter, who is working to get the Atticus Act passed in the Maryland State legislature, on behalf of children with binocular vision disorder.

Have some local current events to add to this mix? Let me know here:

Sunday, February 19, 2017


The deadline is March 3rd at 4:00 pm. At least, that's when it is in Oakland Mills. There are probably other deadlines in other villages. You can learn more here.

What deadline? Why, the deadline to turn in your paperwork to run for your Columbia Village Board or as your village's CA Representative, of course. At this time of year, some people scope out this year's Spring fashions, some peruse seed catalogues, and some contemplate stepping up to serve the community.

Will you be one of them?

Serving on a village board or as a CA Rep will not make you famous. It is not a reliable springboard to higher office, either. But you will learn more about your village, about how Columbia works, and, most especially, what we all need to do to keep Columbia going. The New American City wasn't meant to run like an automated machine. It needs people to be interested, involved, and active. If we aren't, the things that make Columbia unique will become irrelevant.

Something you will have if you serve in village leadership is influence. The village board sets the tone for how each individual village association interacts within its community. Here in Oakland Mills we've seen a board that thinks it's within its purview to advocate for replacing affordable housing with a multimillion dollar sports complex, or slating school athletic fields for commercial redevelopment. Thankfully, neither one of these misbegotten goals has come to pass, but you can see how the tone is set by those who are controlling the conversation.

In Columbia, we need more people of different ages and backgrounds who want to join in the conversation. If you have been involved in your children's PTA, or at church/synagogue, or other community group, then I strongly encourage you to serve a term on behalf of your village. I don't know the time commitment in every village, but in Oakland Mills it's two evenings per month. It's doable.

I once served on the Oakland Mills Village Board and I'm really glad that I did. I also ran for Oakland Mills CA Representative, unsuccessfully. Would I try that again? Well...

Politics as a competitive sport is not my thing. But it may be just the challenge you are looking for. And running for Village Board is probably the least competitive race you will ever attempt.

You are needed. Columbia was meant to be about all kinds of people. Step up.

Comments? Share them here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Truth About Consequences

Here's a bit of a conversation amongst music educators that I read this week:

I don't know if it is a trend all over or just our little nook of the world right now but every year in recent history, I find it harder and harder to teach first grade.  I honestly feel like I'm teaching preschoolers with some of the behaviors I see and how far I have to simplify lessons.  It's taking them much longer to achieve  beat competency than I remember in years past (been teaching 16 years).  They seem to not have control of their bodies/personal space.  I try my darndest to use this to my advantage and engage them with movement and very "active" things... but when playing games, doing dances, playing instruments, it takes every last ounce of my classroom management efforts (and I have been told that my classroom management is excellent) to just keep them focused long enough to get through something fun!  They just lose sight of the objective so quickly.  I do remind myself to keep it in perspective in that they are only 6/7 years old but I mean it... this is preschool type behavior I'm seeing.  Anyone else noticing this???

Some answers:

  • Because they have reduced their time in unstructured play, where they learn self regulation skills (Lave) and being in a community (Vygotsky).  Read some of David Whitebread's research.  It is all done in PLAY and we keep taking it away.

  •  The absolutely terrifying thing about this is that it happens everywhere, in both public and private schools. We're expecting children to act a certain age but not giving them the opportunity to grow into the age we want them to be. Play is so important in the lower grades but isn't an acceptable part of "instructional time" anymore, so our children are not learning how to regulate their behavior, their emotions, or even how to be self sufficient problem solvers. It's such a tragedy.

  • Yes, this! I want to do so much "work with a partner to do x y z" activities in older grades but they don't know how to work together or problem solve with each other because they never have the opportunity to do so anymore.

Taking away play has consequences. Children need time for open-ended exploration: outdoor play, dramatic play, building and experimenting with materials. They need permission and support to create with art materials and express themselves musically. They need choice and self-directed activities. When schools and parents take that away in favor of producing measurable "academic" goals, the end result is profound.

Early childhood is a time of immense brain development. It is also a time when crucial social-emotional boundaries and expectations should be introduced and supported. None of that can happen successfully if we don't respect children's basic needs.

Play is a child's work: upon this everything else is built. But, if you take it away, then there is no foundation upon which to build.