Saturday, July 30, 2016

Uneggspected

My family went to Eggspectation the other evening for dinner. We hadn't been there for some years. It wasn't that we didn't like them, but when our daughter was younger the ambient noise was unpleasant for her. And then as years passed we just stopped thinking about them. My husband won a gift card in a contest, so we went.

I was really craving something healthier than much of the delicious-sounding concoctions on the menu. I went with a fish I'd never tried before: Bronzino, served over greens. The only kind of fish we ever have at home is crunchy fish fillets because that's all my natives eat. I adore fish and seafood so I have to get my fix away from home.

When our food arrived I was surprised to see that it was the whole fish. Not a problem for me. I was raised to know how to eat one. The problem was what happened to my husband. His reaction was similar to what one might feel if a plate swarming with poisonous insects had been set on the table. The waitress was a little amused, but balanced this well with a sincere show of empathy for my husband.

This fish was delicious. In fact, I didn't even think to snap a picture until it was half eaten.


My husband, determined to enjoy his steak and chips unassailed by the spectre of a fish head gazing in his direction, put his ever-sharp problem-solving skills to work. He built a wall. (He didn't make me pay for it.)

 
I really didn't know it was going to be a whole fish. I really, really didn't. I promise I won't make that mistake again.
 
We had a great meal, a wonderful time, and our waitress was the best ever. And she got a great story to tell her family when she got home.
 
Truly a memorable evening.
 

 

 

 

 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Fox, Meet Henhouse

Straight from the You Can't Make This Up department comes news of appointments to the audit committee chartered from the County Council resolution to review HCPSS budgets.

 
See anything that strikes you as odd? I do. Ellen Flynn Giles and Ann DeLacy, Board of Education members (whose work is the focus of this audit) have been nominated.
 
That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works.
 
Not surprisingly, other community members who supported the legislation to create the audit and the committee were quick to point out the problem:
 
Isn't is a bit of a conflict of interest to have two sitting board members on a committee chartered due to a lack of confidence with the school system to audit Board approved budgets?

And,

 

It is befuddling that two members of the audit committee will be auditing their own work.

Why are we at a place where an independent audit of the school system budget became necessary? A reminder:

At a public hearing Monday, the proposal, which includes a financial audit of the school system by the council's auditing office, drew support from residents who reiterated coined terms that have become common vernacular at open meetings related to the school system: transparency and accountability.

The members of this committee are tasked with examining the school system's budget process and decisions. It makes absolutely no sense to have two members of the Board taking part in this evaluation. It is the Board's work which is being examined. Their presence in the room unnecessarily influences the kind of independent analysis and frank conversation that will need to take place if this committee is to fulfill its mission.

If you object, as I do, to the nominations of Ms. Giles and Ms. DeLacy to this committee, take a look at this Change.org petition and sign it to register your disapproval.

It is altogether possible that Ms. Giles and Ms. DeLacy will recuse themselves out of a sense of propriety. That would be the right thing to do.

Of course, if we could count on knowing that the school system would do the right thing, we wouldn't be where we are today.

 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Guest Post: Stand Up for All

I first became aware of Lisa Spangler Zovko on Twitter when I was looking for Oakland Mills news. As momzovko (@Zovko1Lisa) she was generating an amazing amount of positive, OMHS-related sports tweets. As one of the Admins for the Oakland Mills is Awesome Facebook page, I'm always on the lookout for OM-centric information. Discovering Lisa was like striking it rich. Her love of the students and the school shines through in everything she writes.

Yesterday she posted the following piece on Facebook and I immediately asked for permission to share it here as a guest post. It speaks to so many things for me: a diverse circle of friends, brought together at Oakland Mills High School, supported by people who live the Columbia vision every day in the here and now. It also speaks to the very real problems our nation faces in acknowledging and dismantling systemic racism.

It tackles issues both big and small. It comes from a mother's love and her belief in the value of all children, not merely her own. And it speaks volumes about the power of an inclusive and loving community.

 

*****

I don't care if you don't want to hear this. You can block me. But this has to be said. In this photo is my son Ryan and all of his closest friends from high school. Awesome right?? They are all wonderful young men that will do great things. Here's the rub. Austin's mother and I don't have to worry the same as Kian's mom or John's mom or Jay's mom or Khaaliq's mom, or Adam's mom. We don't have to worry that someone might think something about them because of the color of their skin. That's called white privilege. That's why #blacklivesmatter. These boys are all like sons to me and I pray everyday that they don't come upon the wrong person with a gun.

We must stand up for all. Every micro-aggression that happens to these kids on a daily basis should not happen!!!!

Ryan is transferring from the college he started at in Pennsylvania in large part because of the levels of racism present among the soccer team and on the campus in general. Racist micro-aggressions were present towards his friend . And when he spoke up about it to the young men who were saying things he was "blocked" from the group chat containing them. So he went to his coach. Unfortunately the coach wasn't that helpful. Everything was swept under the rug and not dealt with properly. I am proud of Ryan for doing the right thing even at his own expense. Because he was labeled "soft" and "weak" by his white teammates for his actions. He was not afraid to stand up for what was right. He was not afraid to use his white privilege to stand up to racism.

It's NOT enough to just believe something you have to speak up and #standup .

 

 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happy Talk

Yes, please.

I read the article in the Howard County Times this morning and I'm mentally doing a little happy dance. What a wonderful way to start the day.

"Proposed multi-purpose arts center envisioned as 'crown jewel' of Columbia" is the title of the piece by Fatimah Waseem which outlines a proposal by the Orchard Develooment Corporation to

...relocate Toby's Dinner Theatre, the Howard County Arts Council, the Columbia Festival of the Arts and the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts. The center, proposed in the Crescent neighborhood, would include a parking garage, a visual arts center, a performing arts space, black box theaters, studios and a cafe.

I've written about my desire for a cultural arts center numerous times on this blog, most recently after my visit to Olney Theatre Center. One of my commenters clued me into the existence of this plan, which wasn't even on my radar. (Thanks, Linda.) Every time I visit a place like Strathmore or Roundhouse I yearn for a home for the arts in my adopted hometown. I really, really hope this is it.

I like the way that housing is included in this proposal:

Artist flats geared for artists who may be part of the center are included in the proposal.

The plans for housing, part of a proposed binding agreement with Columbia's master developer, Howard Hughes Corp., create 209 one- and two-bedroom apartments atop the cultural arts center, around 100 of which would be affordable by targeting people who earn about half of the county's median income of $110,133.

I get extremely tired of people who think that affordable housing is the same thing as Section 8 housing vouchers. "There go my housing values!" they cry. Or, "there goes the neighborhood!" Offering housing at different price points actually means you may be adding teachers, social service workers, or first responders to your neighborhood. I think moderate income residents are the kind of people who would make the best neighbors add a lot to the neighborhood. (Thanks, Debbie.)

And this proposal, geared towards performing artists, is pretty amazing. If we want to enjoy the arts in Columbia/Howard County, shouldn't performing artists be able to afford to live here? Most people I know who make a living in the arts work all the time. It's been a "gig economy" for them since before the term was coined. There are multiple performance commitments, teaching lessons and/or doing workshops, plus often a full or part-time job in an unrelated field just to make ends meet.

So bring on the cultural arts center. And, not to be too tacky, save me a front row seat to watch:

...downtown Columbia's quest for artistic vibrancy, the defining but intangible character of a city that in the midst of major redevelopment.

I know it's "only preliminary". Don't burst my bubble just yet. I want to believe my wishes will come true.

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In the Dark

Mold grows in unseen places: behind, beneath, between. Under, above, maybe just out of reach. It thrives in darkness.

Mold is on my mind this morning because yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my first post about the mold problem at Glenwood Middle School. In "Mold and Truthiness" I outlined the loss of trust with the Glenwood School community because of the school system's failure to communicate promptly and thoroughly about mold in the school.

A parent was quoted in the HoCo Times:

"As a community, we need to demand confirmation of mold remediation and INDEPENDENT indoor air quality testing of all rooms and inspection of walls and ceilings for presence of mold--This should occur FOLLOWING the completion of the HVAC upgrades, BEFORE the start of the school year," read a post about the email July 22. "We cannot allow our teachers and students into a building without knowing that it is a safe environment."

There was a brief moment where the school system seemed to be saying that they "got" the message. It was in November, four months after this parent's impassioned statement. Frank Eastham was quoted in the HoCo Times from a meeting with the community:

"We were trying to identify the source of the problem before we communicated what the issue was, so that we would know if we had a solution to the issue," Frank Eastham said after a parent asked why the school system decided not to communicate with parents about mold growth at Glenwood Middle School immediately after it was discovered. "In the future, we will be more transparent in order to continue to build trust in the community."

The title of the article: School officials say 'lesson learned' about transparency.

Unfortunately, the level of transparency around issues of mold after this meeting did little to build trust with the community. Talking the talk was not followed by walking the walk. Mold continued to be an issue at Glenwood. The school is undergoing multi-million dollar renovations to address this, even though the community was told long ago that all mold had been completely "remediated" and their were no health risks whatsoever.

Hmm.

It should be no surprise to anyone that community concerns led to activism at the local and state level. The County Executive and the County Council took action to look at the issue of mold in all our schools. The State Legislature responded to issues of transparency and accountability brought to them by parents and members of the Howard County Delegation.

Mold continues to be discovered in other schools around the county and communication with parents has been sketchy at best. We have toxic learning environments for teachers, staff, and students, and still the greater focus seems to be on keeping the community in the dark. "Lesson learned"? I don't think so.

As I re-read last year's post, this paragraph jumped out at me:

Once you lose the moral high ground in your community, you lose the authority to make significant decisions that require compliance. You lose the authority to command large sums of money from the County without oversight in your operations. You lose your status as the place parents want to send their children.

It reads now as an almost creepy prediction of the year that followed.

Mold and malfeasance thrive in the dark. Healthy communities do not. If you are looking for a place to find the most up-to-date findings about mold in our schools, it won't be from the school system. It will be on a school parent's Facebook page. Will this be the same a year from now?

That depends on you.

 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Cool at the Pool

I don't know why it's taken us so long this summer, but my daughter and I finally hit the pool yesterday. It was delicious.

 

Yes, those are my extremely pale legs, in the shade, with plenty of sunscreen. Part of what keeps me away from the pool is fear of sunburn. I've already had too many in my life, and I don't want to push it. My daughter picked the two lounge chairs with the most natural shade in the entire place. (Somebody raised that kid right.)

It was a great day at the Talbott Springs pool. As I posted on the Oakland Mills is Awesome FB page:

On a personal note, we finally made it to the Talbott Springs Pool today and the water was lovely. Quite a respectable number of adults and children were enjoying the pool. Swimming laps, using the slide and diving board, playing basketball, and splashing in the baby pool. It did my heart good--I love that pool!

It is well-known that Talbott Springs is one of the pools with the lowest attendance. Yesterday I'd say there were close to thirty people there, which for us is pretty darn good. Of course I don't know what it has been like on the other days. It just made me happy to see all kinds of people there enjoying themselves.

 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My Personal Challenge

I am sharing this piece from a year ago because it's still a problem. A problem for me, personally. I found myself in an online conversation last night where it looked very much like I was saying to someone, "Yes, make noise. But be responsible about it, be careful. It could get out of hand."

So, here it is again, this time respectfully dedicated to @fountain_jade .

Making Noise (July 28, 2015)

"The more affluent children had been taught to submit," he said, describing a job working in a pediatrician's office. "Their mothers would coach them to behave, and apologize to the doctor if they acted out or objected during the exam."

"But the less affluent kids were different. They reacted. They had righteous indignation--'ow! Don't do that! Why are you doing that?' I think you lose something when you lose that righteous indignation."

This conversation happened probably twenty years ago, with someone I knew only briefly, but it has stuck with me. I always thought it was so important to be well-behaved. Here was someone who said we lose something if we no longer have the language of righteous indignation.

We lose the ability to stand up for our rights, to protect ourselves. We lose understanding and empathy for others who are making noise for a just cause. Why don't they just submit? I would submit, a little voice whispers.

Righteous indignation is loud. It can make other people uncomfortable. It can draw criticism from those who benefit from our silence.

I speak from this blog, sometimes rather pointedly, but I find making noise in real life extremely difficult. I have been taught to behave. Don't embarrass yourself. Don't embarrass anyone else. But we are living in times that call for good people to cry out--Ow! Don't do that! Why are you doing that?

  • because guns are valued more than lives.
  • because people of color are valued not at all.
  • because the bodies of women and girls are not treated as their own.
  • because money has replaced the democratic process.

The voice of injustice is loud: forceful, controlling, and bullying. And yet we keep passing judgement on the victims for "breaking the boundaries of good behavior." Why?

Righteous indignation can be messy. But when we lose it we lose a unique power deep within ourselves to stand up. To be heard. To reject oppression. To make noise that bears witness to the truth.