Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Murray Stands In

Murray Burns: [shouting at rows of houses] Campers! The entertainment committee was quite disappointed in the really poor turnout at this morning's community sing. I mean, where's all that old Camp Chickawattamee spirit? I'm sure I speak for all of us here when I say that I...


Murray Burns: Now, I'd like to say right now that... that...


Murray Burns: Campers, I can't think of anything to say.

(from the conclusion of "A Thousand Clowns".)


Rough day yesterday. I feel like an extinguished candle under a drinking glass: I can see the outside world but my oxygen has been cut off.

Have a great day--I'll be back tomorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Facing the Past

My bedroom closet is filled with boxes of things I haven't looked at in years. Sure, I 've tried to go in there from time to time and set things to rights but it doesn't take much to derail my good intentions. This summer I am headed once more unto the breach, as it were.

My early adult years were marked by turmoil: a failed marriage, single parenting, jobs that didn't quite pay enough, mounting debt. Each time I moved I'd try to pare down but there'd always be a box or two of things that I threw together and then just couldn't face once I got settled.

So far I have been through three boxes. I've had to go out and get a mask and gloves because of allergies to dust. I'm stocked up with allergy meds and my inhaler. I've filled almost two lawn & leaf sized garbage bags. I've brought out the foam gardening cushion because I just can't work on the floor on my knees like I used to.

The health indications are clear: get rid of the stuff while you are young and it doesn't make you sick just to sift through it!

On the other hand, it has been far easier to toss things that once would have upset me: old leases, divorce documents, financial paperwork. The years have given me an emotional distance. I'm grateful for that, at least. It is easy to spot the few treasures sparkling amongst the trash: a few family recipes, childhood drawings by my now-married daughter, an excellent evaluation of my teaching.

In with a sheaf of old school papers was a group faculty photo from the school where I worked for 18 years. I didn't remember it at all. What stunned me was that I looked at myself and could find absolutely no fault with my appearance. Actually, I look beautiful. Of course at the time I thought nothing of the sort. Like many women I've never been happy with the person in the mirror. And I've probably used that as an excuse for perpetuating a negative inner monologue through the years.

All this time I thought that looking in the boxes and facing the past was about pain. Ugly truths. I never thought I'd run into something beautiful. Someone beautiful. Maybe, instead of putting that picture away again, for safekeeping, I should leave it out where I can see it.







Saturday, July 19, 2014

I Spy

When I talked about finding local news through Twitter searches this week, reader Harry Schwarz suggested I take a look at The Chestertown Spy. I did. You should, too. The Spy is an e-newspaper published Monday through Thursday in Chestertown to serve the six towns of Betterton, Church Hill, Chestertown, Galena, Millington, Rock Hall and the Chester River community on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

I found this paragraph a wonderful description of the need for news in smaller communities today:

It must be said that we collectively mourn the possible loss of the traditional physical newspaper, but there is a real need for new alternatives to supplement or even replace its role in community life. While Internet "blogs" have shown some promise in filling this need, they remain all too often the voice of one person rather than the product of journalism. In addition, these community sites rarely take advantage of the full power of the Internet (streaming video, graphics and hyperlinks), which would allow unparalleled access to valuable information.

I would be thrilled if Howard County/Columbia had something like this. Just a cursory glance shows it to be far superior to anything we have right now. Of course, you'd really have to read it day in and day out to see how it holds up overall. But at the moment I am experiencing local news envy in a big way.

In an era where community newspapers are nothing but small fish to be eaten by bigger fish, The Chestertown Spy is a breath of fresh air.



Friday, July 18, 2014


I talked with twenty five people last night. 25. I'm still stunned by the number. I attended Tom Coale's Victory Celebration last night at the Little French Market in Ellicott City. And there were several more I wanted to to speak with, but it just didn't happen. All told, there were around sixty-five people there, and I talked with more than a third of them. I'm not even running for anything!

I'm making a big deal of the number because I am, at my core, an intensely shy person. Yeah, I know. Some people don't believe that, but it's true. My early attempts at going to blog parties were just that. I'd get ready, drive to the event, drive around the location, and drive home.

It has taken a long time to get to an evening where I voluntarily went to a large public function and enjoyed talking to twenty-five people. Little by little I've been moving out of my comfort zone. I'm lucky to have friends whose passion for and dedication to our community has drawn me out to be a greater participant.

Tom Coale, who is now the Democratic Candidate for District 9B for the Maryland House of Delegates, is one of those people. And judging by the number of people I talked to last night, he certainly isn't alone. It is great to see intelligent, hand-working, creative people come together to support good things for their community.

What inspires you to take a step out of your comfort zone? Do it. It's definitely worth it.





Thursday, July 17, 2014


Just one tweet at the top of the page caught my eye:


"Remember how lucky you are."


And then, suddenly, I do.

Lucky. So lucky.

To have a husband who goes away for work and comes back, safe.

To have daughters who are healthy, high-spirited, and kind.

To have a little front garden where the flowers run riot and make me smile.

To have friends who care about me, and about our community.

To have a home to return to, and food to eat.

To have music.

To have the capacity to enjoy it all.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Unspeakable Word

There's a move afoot to pit parents against parents within the Howard County School System. I first got a taste of this when members of the African Americans in Howard County Coalition spoke during the Public Forum portion of a Board of Education meeting in June.

Words such as "selfish", "niche groups", and "narrow minded" were used, also "a vocal minority" who are doing everything they can to undermine the success of the Model Initiative. The speakers went on to describe the Model Schools Initiative in glowing terms, while dismissing the notion that cuts to music instruction would have negative effects.

Here we go again. Parents who support arts education have so far this Spring been called rumor mongers, sneered at as "those music moms" and now they are accused of having a "me and mine attitude", apparently afraid of giving additional resources to needy children for fear of making their own slice smaller. This has got to stop.

I have a question: If you have a really great plan, why is it necessary to make others look bad in order to achieve its success?

Anyone who tries to tell you that people who oppose cuts to music and art instruction are just priviledged suburban white parents trying get luxury frills for free clearly doesn't think much of your intelligence. And, in my opinion, they don't value your kids that much, either.

How can I say this? Well, let's reframe this for just a moment.

"Parents who are protesting for pure, high quality drinking water in the schools are just priviledged suburban white parents trying to get luxury frills for free."

Wait a minute, you say. Don't my kids deserve clean drinking water? Don't all children?

Yes, I am equating arts education with clean drinking water. That's how crucial it is to our students. But you don't have to take my word for it.

President Obama has said, "The arts are central to who we are as a people, and they are central to the success of our kids. This is not an afterthought," he said. "This is not something you do because it's kind of nice to do. It is necessary for these young people to succeed that we promote the arts."

This is not something you do because it's kind of nice to do. It is necessary.

Michelle Obama has said, "The bottom line here is very clear: Arts education isn't something we add on after we've achieved other priorities, like raising test scores and getting kids into college. It's actually critical for achieving those priorities in the first place."

It's not an add-on. It's critical.

So, let's review:

1. Anyone who tells you that parents who are opposed to cutting music and art instruction don't care about you, or your children, or the achievement gap is not telling you the truth.

2. For that matter, anyone who suggests that these parents are against Vision 2018 and/or the Model Schools Initiative is not being truthful, either.

3. And more than anything else, anyone who says the cuts to music and art are a necessary sacrifice on the road to closing the achievement gap is just plain wrong, and there's plenty of data to prove it.

Howard County is known throughout the state for excellence in music, art, drama, and dance. The parents who are now being marginalized as a small faction of privileged malcontents are, in reality, people who are standing up in favor of something: the transformative power of arts education for all children.

Let me reiterate: If you have a really great plan, why is it necessary to make others look bad in order to achieve its success? A great school system draws parents together, brings out the best in families and the community: it seeks to lift us up. It is truly reprehensible to deliberately drive a wedge between groups of parents, especially along racial lines.

Manipulating public opinion in this way is unethical, and goes against what we as a community stand for. Howard County deserves better than this.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finding Local News

Good morning, Columbia! Looking for local news? A search this morning on Twitter of the term "Columbia, Maryland" yielded the following:


@rtwalton: This Thursday, Free all-ages concert (8-10PM) Richard Walton Group @ Columbia Lakefront Concert Series http://t.co/GlHqO7W6CX

@NightmareGraph: Mark your calendars...Our annual Oops Sale is 7/26!#sale #columbia #maryland #nightmaregraphics #adidas #ravens #screenprinting http://nightmaregraphicscom.ipage.com/NightmareGraphics/

@HoCoTimes: One World Coffeehouse is an outreach for Unitarian-Universalist Congregation: http://t.co/8jZLpXFqvj

@HCDFRS: Fire closes Lucky's in Columbia http://t.co/T86HXtAfvG

@LukeHoCoTimes: Update: 13yo #ColumbiaMD girl on bicycle injured after struck on crosswalk by pickup truck - in stable condition http://t.co/zbcc9ZRDos

@suncolumbia: .@MissionBBQ opens doors at #ColumbiaMD location - co-owners are #HoCoMd residents, say location is special http://t.co/JTpOFh5w3V

@NatPancFdn: Join us this Saturday in Columbia, MD to STRIKE OUT #pancreasdisease! http://t.co/Mg2ny4JUIP

Every day I use hashtags on Twitter to search local news and issues. My top searches are: #hocomd, #columbiamd, #hoco, Howard County Maryland, Columbia Maryland . We don't have a daily paper following Columbia and Howard County. We don't have a television station or a radio station. So we have to search through content on the internet like a child at the ocean with a sieve, looking for seashells.

Now, it is very likely that there are far more efficient ways to set up automated searches of these things that I just haven't learned yet. But, at least for now, if you haven't ever tried this on Twitter, you should. It's the closest thing to a hometown newspaper you can get.

Just be forewarned that you'll have to sift out adverts, spam, personal tweets, the occasional downright rude tweet, and content pushed out by bots. I find it pretty disgusting to see that reports of the Columbia Mall shooting continue to be reposted as though they were being posted in real time. Ugh.

Some of the people who read my blog already use Twitter and probably have a sophisticated approach to finding what they need. Others are more comfortable with Facebook and haven't ventured into Twitter yet and/or don't see the point. So, for those of you far beyond me: no snarky responses, I just have gotten there yet. And for those who haven't known where to start: try something local.

You might learn something new.