Friday, November 28, 2014

Forces of Darkness

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, there was a shooting in Oakland Mills. Of course it lit up the news. It is a horrible thing. Gunfire. Crime. Masked assailant. Columbia neighborhood. We wince and shudder against the image of it.

This shouldn't be happening here, we think. Not in Howard County. Not in Columbia. Not in my neighborhood. "And on Thanksgiving!"

No sooner was the news spreading on social media than the familiar comments began to accumulate.

  • "White or black?"
  • "It was the apartments, wasn't it?"
  • "Those people are thugs."
  • "The victim was probably involved in illegal activity."
  • "Columbia will never be safe until we get rid of subsidized housing."
  • "Columbia used to be safe. Before those people came."

Those people. Those poor people. Those black people. Those other people.

As frightening and damaging as the shooting itself is the unapologetic racism and hatred of these comments. It is the attitude which allows the "other- ing" of fellow humans. The attitude of privilege, judgement, exclusion. And from these attitudes can come entrenched policies of disenfranchisement--think Ferguson.

Can we think only of ourselves? What about the poor woman who opened the door? What about the victim? What about the neighbors? What about their Thanksgiving?

Some Columbia residents will use this event as evidence to further their own agenda. We will probably see more calls for improvement that really mean exclusion. Look for neighborhood flyers and emails with capital letters that encourage you to be afraid and get angry. It is completely normal to respond to an event like this with fear or anger. But to use it as a tool to promote a reinvention which is thinly-veiled "purification" is just wrong.

In closing, I recommend to you this piece by Long Reach resident James Howard. He has a request that we choose on Thanksgiving to reach across racial and ethnic divides. "And for once, treat each other as human."

Thanksgiving may be over, but the challenge still stands.

 

 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Faces Around the Table

I found myself thinking yesterday about the many guests I assembled for Thanksgiving dinner in "A Blogger's Thanksgiving." Where are they now? I got bogged down in the knowledge that the event (as it were) could never be recreated. Things change. We lose family and friends to life changes, moves, even death. Nothing stays the same.

 

Sarasays and DinosaurMom have moved away. Annathema, GCGeek, vinotrip, LifesLittleComedies and TJMayotte are no longer blogging. Patch is no more, the Patuxent name is but a memory, and HoCoMoJo still exists, but is not the same. WellandWise has gone through its own changes. Columbia Compass? Hope springs eternal...

 

And of course you know about WordBones.

 

I woke up this morning realizing I had gotten too hung up on loss. Change also brings growth, and new faces around the table. A virtual Thanksgiving today would include people like Kirstycat, urbanbushwoman, and ukhousewifeusa. Lisa Rossi and David Greisman, formerly of Patch, would still be there, but representing American Journalism Review and CA, respectively.

 

Surely the atmosphere would be lively with the addition of 2dudeswholovefood, and with more locally-sourced food from AnnieRieUnplugged. AwayfromtheThingsofMan would keep us grounded, and remind us to be thankful. Dave Bittner of HoCoMoJo would bring a more cosmopolitan perspective, courtesy of his nights at Al Jazeera America. FrankHecker would write up the whole event with a focus on historical accuracy and current day relevance. Spartan Considerations would analyse it.

 

In short, it would still be one amazing party.

 

However you observe the day, take a moment to be conscious of the community that is drawn together around you. Be thankful. There will never be another day exactly like today. Celebrate it. Next year there may be new faces at the table, bringing new blessings. There may be an empty place, whether at the table or in your heart. Treasure those memories.

 

Make room for new ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Tradition

A Blogger's Thanksgiving, 2011



I arrived at Tarragon Park a tad early, and sat in my car listening to NPR so as to avoid seeming over-eager. I brushed my hair, and checked that my ipad was charged.

The door was answered by @Wordbones, gracious co-host of our event. "Come on in. We're just choosing the wines for the meal." Pondering the perfect choices with him were the wine enthusiasts of @vinotrip. I knew right away that the selections for our gathering were sure to be first-rate. I heard some banging from out back.

"Don't worry about that," WB explained. "That's just @53Beers getting his tailgate operation on. He's determined to deep-fry a turkey out there."

Delicious aromas wafted through the house. I headed to the kitchen, where @hocohousehon and @howchow were discussing the finer points of roasting vs. sauteing the Brussels sprouts. Heavy cream and toasted pine nuts sat nearby. My offer of help was promptly refused.

@jessiex had arrived with her hoops, and plenty of them. I wondered if I'd even be able to fit inside one after the meal that was to come. The @wellandwise folks crowded around her, bubbling with enthusiasm for a post meal workout. @annathema and @tjmayotte arrived, fresh from a morning run. I was beginning to feel downright sedentary.

What a relief to spot @kikiverde in a quiet corner. We discussed upcoming holiday craft projects as the rest of the gang trickled in. @examorata sat nearby, scribbling thoughtfully in her journal. @ozoni11 slipped in and stationed himself at the computer, uploading photos he had taken on the grounds of Tarragon Park.

@sarahsays arrived with news of the new, free "Aquatibus", designed to move folks easily to the water facilities of their choosing.

"It never would have been possible with out all the valuable research that @ColumbiaCompass put together," she said. "Those statistics, charts, and his insightful analysis moved mountains!" Naturally, Mr. Compass was nowhere near to hear these accolades. Sarah said he was finishing the details of a deal to bring a microbrewery to the Wilde Lake Village Center.

"It's amazing the kind of work he gets done at the Columbia Mall Starbucks," I said.

Heads turned as a scuffling noise came from the entryway. "No press, no press!" someone was saying.

"This is a purely a social event!"

Of course it was @hocomojo,followed by various Patuxlets and Patchlets. "We'll be the judge of that," claimed @bitner as he slid past the gatekeepers. "Who better to appreciate the social nature of this event than your social media neighbors?"

@Annathema greeted them with a gentle smile. "You are very welcome," she said.

@LissaRossi set up on the couch for some live-blogging. She was joined by @dinosaurmom and @lifeslittlecomedies who offered support with snacks, drinks, wit, wisdom, and general hilarity.

@53Beers burst in with, well, fifty-three beers. A great ice breaker, and at just the right moment, I thought.

"But why 53 Beers?" I heard someone say.

"I was all out of gum," he replied cryptically, and retreated to his makeshift Purple Pit out back, muttering something about 'fishwrap'.

I worked my way over to the appetizers, where TJ and LisaB/Mrs S. were discussing the feasibility of running for the school board. @GCGeek offered suggestions as to the benefits of a witty Twitter presence for the would-be candidates.

@ColumbiaCompass arrived, beaming with satisfaction.

"Really, now. A microbrewery in Wilde Lake?" someone asked skeptically.

"Better than an inter-modal." he shot back easily, popping open a beer.

A call from our chefs brought us to the table. An amazing spread of local fare was laid out before us.

I noticed an empty seat.

"HoCoRising," explained Wordbones. "He's volunteering at Grassroots. He'll be along in a bit. "

Thus gathered, we bowed our heads for the blessing.

***

Happy Thanksgiving to the @hocoblogs community. Please accept this tale in the spirit in which it was intended -- a bit of fun during the dark days as the old year winds down.

P.S. For those who are wondering: of course we would be packing a hamper of the most delightful vegetarian fare for @hayduke and family.

***


 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#BlackLivesMatter

Harlem, by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


My heart is aching this morning.

What can I possibly have to add to the conversation? Here is a sampling of what speaks to me on Twitter:

@wilw: If only there were some process, perhaps a legal process, to present conflicting accounts and statements, weigh them, and come to a verdict.

@rapsodymusic: "It doesn’t take 100 days to decide if murder is a crime, it takes 100 days to figure out how to tell people it isn’t" - @LeVelleMoton

@billmaher: Waiting until night do to what you could in the day seems strange. Reminds me of how the Colts left Baltimore

@michele_norris: Why was this announced at night

@langston_poems: I am so tired of waiting, Aren't you, For the world to become good And beautiful and kind?

@RosalindR: White privilege is me getting to be outraged while my black friend is terrified for the safety of her son.

@nprscottsimon: Pray for the peace of Ferguson.

I write today because if I keep silent on injustice it is a crime. And, to me, deciding that this loss of life is not worthy of a trial is clearly an injustice. All along the way there have been so many opportunities to handle this the right way that have been ignored--no--spurned by those in power. It is not just one injustice but thousands upon thousands, both big and small.

None of us are free.
None of us are free.
None of us are free, one of us are chained.
None of us are free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Strange Happenings

Breaking: Sudden Crater Formations in Oakland Mills Yard!

 

I walked out of the house yesterday to this--


Animal tracks? One very large footprint? Two large footprints?
 
I looked around. More holes in the yard, in no particular formation. Holes, holes, holes. What the heck?
 
And then I remembered something my husband had said the day before.
 
I just found an unopened bag of almonds in my office, so I put some out in the yard for the local wildlife. This little guy came right up to me (closer than I've ever seen a squirrel come) and looked me right in the eyes as if to say "Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Mr. Dude!"

So the squirrel buried them all Saturday and dug them up Sunday. Lack of patience? Intense hunger? Obsessive compulsive behavior? Or--horrors!--a squirrel thief? I hope not.

I have always loved squirrels, as did my mother before me. She used to make them little peanut butter sandwiches with the heel ends of the bread, and they would come to the back door and take them right out of her hand. She once called the nature center because she was concerned that a squirrel was licking a tree in our backyard. It turned out to be a sugar maple--smart squirrel.

Finding out that my husband has a soft spot for squirrels, too, was wonderful. I'm not sure that he knew until that little guy came right up to him and established eye contact. Bingo! He was done for.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go make some peanut butter sandwiches.

 

 

 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

@HCDFRS_Chief

I recommend to you today a man I have never met: Bill Goddard. I have come to respect him solely from my interactions with him on Twitter. I can't remember when I started following him, but it may have been in the aftermath of the shooting at the mall. His Twitter feed has been unfailingly polite, supportive of the community, informative, and wise.

On November 21st, County Executive-elect Alan Kittleman announced that Mr. Goddard had resigned. The Sun article lays the groundwork for the possibility that this was not a decision the Fire Chief came to all by himself. New political administrations apparently have the right to shake things up, bring in their own people. The spoils of war, you know.

Be that as it may, my gut tells me that this is a good, hard-working man who has served Howard County well, and that this is a loss for us. I am not an expert in the fire department. After all, you might say, I only know him on Twitter. What could I know?

I challenge you to go to his Twitter feed and just read. Go back as far as you are able--it's only 140 characters at a time, after all. I think you will get a sense of what I did. This is a humble, very human public servant. Among other things, I think he may be the father of a teacher, because he never missed an opportunity to remind his readers of the dedication and value of those who go into the classroom every day and work with kids.

And maybe that made me like him even more. Just maybe.

This quote from Tom Coale is a reminder of what kind of risks are inherent in a fire fighter's life:

This afternoon, I found myself alongside the funeral cortege for Baltimore City firefighter Lt. James E. Bethea as it went north on 83. As I saw uniformed men and women standing on top of fire engines saluting from the overpass, I thought about how much we hear the term "public servant" during election season without really thinking about what it means. I am thankful there are people in this world like James Bethea; true public servants who risk their lives every day without title or recognition. It is a horrible tragedy every time they are lost.

Take a minute to go on Twitter and thank Mr. Goddard. I think it will mean a lot to him.

 

 

 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Flying South

A flock of geese just passed over my house, honking away. I saw a similar group yesterday as I sat in my car before teaching. The weather is colder, the days are darker. I'm sitting under a blanket, too chilled to get up and make coffee.

Young children are taught to notice the changes in the seasons and to celebrate them. I remember gathering leaves and acorns in the Fall, and getting excited when we got out the winter hats coats and mittens because it meant playing in the snow was not too far away.

But something has happened to me in recent years as the trees become completely bare and the temperatures drop. I'm resisting. I'm cold, and I long for sunlight and clear skies. I feel too keenly a sense of loss and things ending. I feel myself bargaining with God--just one more sunny day!--instead of celebrating what is and what is to come.

For many years I taught preschoolers and kindergarteners to observe the natural world and to be filled with the joy of each season. Why do we do that, and then somehow lose it for ourselves? If it is something they need to know, then it is something I need to know.

It is time for me to get back to basics, and teach myself. Get out my brightly colored Winter nightgowns and find my fuzzy slippers. Bake my favorite cookies. Play music that fills my heart with joy. Finish that craft project that I put down in summer when it was just too hot to make a fleecy scarf.

Light a candle. And stop cursing the darkness.