Wednesday, May 22, 2019


I’m having mixed feelings about senior awards assemblies this morning. Someone posted this yesterday and it resonates with me.

I attended my daughter’s Senior Awards Night last night. There was plenty to celebrate. And yet I feel uneasy about what we say to the students who are uncelebrated. If this is somehow a night for everyone, how do we acknowledge the contributions of the unsung and unnoticed?

I’m not saying that everyone should get a prize. I do think that many students are fighting battles that we know nothing about: mental health, sexual identity, dysfunctional home lives, to mention a few. Many hold the community together simply by being themselves: kind, funny, accepting. How do we create a high school community where those students can feel that they have been known and loved  and honored? Where they can celebrate the exceptional accomplishments of peers because  they know that they themselves have been valued throughout their high school years?

Some students and families live for those awards nights. Many sacrifices have been made to get to that moment. I do not discount that. But I think we do everyone a disservice if we impart they impression that life is all about who wins the prizes. A life where one must always be better than someone else to be happy will be fueled by endless competition, more coffee, more Red Bull, less sleep, more alcohol, more sacrificing of relationships in order to get ahead.

Surely we can give our young people a better prize than that.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Not Gonna Take It

On Saturday evening, around dinner time, my daughter and were headed to Sam’s Mart to buy a couple of lottery tickets and then meant to go from there to Mission Barbecue. We turned onto Stevens Forest Road from Whitacre and immediately had to pull over.

Police cars, paramedics, and a fire truck were headed towards us and into the Sam’s Mart parking lot.   After they sped by we passed on the lottery tickets and headed to dinner.

Later we read the crime report released by the Police Department on Facebook, followed by the same old, same old racist dog whistles about Oakland Mills.

“That area”
“Wrong element”
“Loitering youths”
“Turning into Baltimore”
“Always had problems”

Then, something interesting happened. Residents of Oakland Mills started pushing back. I started seeing things like:

“I love ‘that area’”
“I feel safe here”
“Proud to send my kids to school in OM”
“So much great going on”
“amazing community building”

On Saturday night the same old haters came out strong and they met a resistance they probably weren’t expecting. Oakland Mills was representing. Yeah, we’re used to the trash talk but we just won’t take it lying down anymore. We know our community has challenges but we also know it’s awesome.

Several years back I was part of a core group that created a Facebook page called “Oakland Mills is Awesome”. We were frustrated by the steady flow of negativity about our Village when we knew how great it really was.

The page started as a virtual pep talk, if you will, highlighting events, accomplishments, and exceptional community members. Over time, more and more candidates to our village board brought with them that sense of pride and positivity. Board Chair Jonathan Edelson forged collaborative relationships to support Village schools. Sandy Cederbaum and other OMCA staff went above and beyond to connect residents with helpful information and needed resources.

Sunday morning my daughter and I were back at the Village Center to shop at the Farmers Market. Once we had loaded up on bread, pastries, bacon, strawberries, and sugar snap peas, we headed over to Sam’s Mart to finish what we had started the night before. Yep, lottery tickets.

Winning the lottery would be extremely gratifying.

Living in Oakland Mills?  Priceless.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Summer Arts Scene

I ran across this piece over the weekend and just had to share. From Maryland Theatre Guide:

News: Arts organizations announce schedule of summer events in downtown Columbia

Writer Carolyn Keleman fits the maximum amount of arts info possible into this piece. If you want to know what’s happening this summer, I’d recommend starting with this article. It also has a certain kind of stylishness that made me smile.

As frequent readers of the blog know, I don’t often make it out to public functions, but I did happen to be at this one, held at Cured/18th & 21st. Ms. Keleman described attendees as follows:

These folks – a few artists but mostly influential politicos and business executives – were there to hear representatives from local organizations preview the upcoming summer schedule of arts and cultural events in downtown Columbia.

Well, I dance with preschoolers at the Chrysalis. I guess that puts me in the artist category. I’m also one of the biggest fans of the Inner Arbor Trust/Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. It was fascinating to be in a room so clearly abuzz with so many different local arts ventures. There was a continued slide show running that highlighted upcoming summer events. It was pretty impressive. 

Howard County Tourism’s Art for All page might be a good place to start if you are looking for something to do.There’s a pretty good balance between ticketed events and free ones. Take a look.

Even if the event is free to you, don’t forget that means that businesses and other donors had to put forth sponsorships to make it happen. It’s gratifying to see the range of entities willing to associate themselves with supporting local arts institutions. County Executive Calvin Ball articulated a strong support for arts experiences in his opening remarks, saying that the arts should be a part of who we are as a community, and that the arts make us whole.

I couldn’t agree more.

Sunday, May 19, 2019


The kid (actually a legal adult, horrors!)  had a service gig at Sunrise Assisted Living in Hickory Ridge. It’s a cool thing called “Songs for Seniors” where music students share their talents with residents. I had some time to kill and the perfect plan.

I’d nip over to the Hawthorn Center in Hickory Ridge where the folks at Howard County Pride were having a donut sale fundraiser. I’d get one for myself and one for my musician. Perfect.

Did I GPS it? No. I thought I could get there on dead reckoning alone. I had a general idea of where I was going. 

I ended up turning on a road called Jerrys Drive, thinking it would cut through to where I was going. Holy mackerel. Not only did it not cut through, it turned out to be the craziest amalgamation of housing styles and land use choices I have seen in this area to date. You start out thinking you’re in Columbia but then it’s almost immediately apparent that you are in the Land of Outparcel. 

Yikes. Who knew what mysteries awaited me when I made that left turn off of Owen Brown Road? I have no criticism. I was fascinated. It’s amazing how you can move from total architectural control to “anything goes” in less than half a block. Perhaps I am just easily entertained. 

Well, I broke down and GPS’ed it to no avail. When I arrived at my destination what I saw was a community yard sale. I drove away sadly and landed at Mad City for some iced coffee and a snack. While I was there I glanced at social media posts for the event and realized that the Donut Sale was a part of that community yard sale. I had been so close! 


I went to the Howard County Pride website and made a donation instead. You can, too. From their website:

June 29, 2019

Join us for the first annual Howard County LGBTQ PRIDE festival!
Centennial Park
10000 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, MD 2104

In the meantime:
  • Take a drive down Jerrys Drive
  • Tell me the history of Jerrys Drive 
  • Tell me your story of getting lost in Columbia/HoCo

Saturday, May 18, 2019


Here’s an interesting business approach. Local realtor leads walks in Downtown Columbia to spur interest in Columbia living.

Do you love Columbia and already live here or want to?  Join me on any of the future walks through Columbia to see what makes living in Columbia so awesome! <3  Contact me today if I can help you or anyone you know... 

I’m a fan of Columbia living. I clicked the link.

Wait a minute.

These are walks led by Ned Tillman and Barbara Kellner, put on by the Columbia Association. Our enterprising realtor will tag along and use the time to chat up potential clients. This is somewhat akin to the business I wrote about the other day who sought to link up with Wine in the Woods to get more

I don’t know how I feel about this. On the one hand, it shows some creative thought and a desire to make connections. On the other hand, the thought of a realtor trying to work the crowd during a pleasure/educational walk around town makes me a bit squeamish. I suppose it’s all in how it’s done. And something tells me that Barbara Kellner would not endure commercial glad handers without comment.

If the realtor is also using this as an opportunity to become even more educated about Columbia, well, more power to him. But aren’t there special realtor tours for that? Am I wrong in assuming that the motivation here is to use a free public event to get access to “fresh blood”, as it were?

I welcome your opinions. 

Also, these tours are a wonderful opportunity for anyone. Both of the guides are experienced and extremely knowledgeable. If you are the kind of person who is regularly available Thursdays at ten am, tag along and learn something. Exploring Columbia on Foot tours began in April and will run through October. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Little Things

I’d like to give you a comprehensive write up of our class trip to Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County yesterday, but I can’t. The reason that I can’t is that I took a little trip of my own.

I got thrown off balance by a missing piece in a set of stone steps and fell hard. Onto both knees. I spent the rest of the trip sitting on a bench with two ice packs. I had a lovely view of this fountain. While I can’t vouch for the entire Brookside Gardens experience I highly recommend this fountain. It’s lovely.

I’m not writing this piece to criticize the folks at Brookside Gardens. They couldn’t have been more helpful. And our students loved the trip and the scavenger hunt prepared for them as well. I hope I will get to go back another time soon.

I’m thinking this morning of how it is sometimes the little things that throw us completely off balance  and end up causing significant damage.

Right now our county is awash with big issues that need resolving, So is our nation. Many of these issues have been around for quite awhile, like a broken step in a set of stairs. The people in charge didn’t see them as such a big deal and chose to minimize their importance and did little or nothing at all. I suppose it made them look calm and unflappable. Leaders like that, who turn the public gaze away from uncomfortable issues and broken places have their fans.

But those “little things”, those broken places, don’t go away. And sooner or later will come the fall. And the hurt.

Why are we struggling with our current challenges in Howard County? Because we are actually facing them and not finessing them. Whether it is flooding in Ellicott City, the school system budget, systemic racism, the achievement gap, environmental concerns - - we will make progress only if we are willing to get uncomfortable and acknowledge the seriousness of what is broken and commit to fixing it.

As for my personal injuries I am nothing more than badly bruised with muscles twisted and strained from the fall. It could have been much worse.

I wonder if they’ll fix the step?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Good News

We interrupt the season of contentious budget battles to show you education done right.

Imagine you play strings in your middle school ensemble. Now imagine this.

From Harpers Choice Middle School Music:

Some really amazing moments from our instrumental string concert last night. But everyone stood and cheered even cried after this performance. Thanks to Mr. McFate for coordinating such a chilling moment.

Some background on the song:

"Glory" is a song performed by American rapper Common and American singer John Legend. It was written by John Legend, Common, and Rhymefest. The song was released on December 11, 2014 by Columbia Records as the theme song from the 2014 film Selma, which portrays the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. (Wikipedia)

Another snippet of the performance from someone in the audience:

Guest soloist, introduced as friend of the conductor, came on stage for @hcpss_hcms middle school orchestra/band concert finale. 

Yunisa Sesay is his name. I have a feeling there’s more where that came from. Thoughts @Lin_Manuel ? @SelmaMovie #Glory

From Harpers Choice Middle School: 

We love the creativity and inspiration our @music_hcms program brings! @mjmsuper @HCPSS @hcpss_smil this song was especially relevant to our 8th graders who analyzed the lyrics during their Freedom unit for a Socratic seminar! @hcpss_sla

From a musical standpoint, getting to take part in a piece of music with a vocalist is an exceptional opportunity for middle school string players. Performing a piece of music that is more contemporary in nature is pretty rare. The fact that the piece has deep and challenging  content that is relevant to the students and worthy of study and discussion in a Socratic seminar is well beyond the experience most middle school string players will have.

We shouldn’t overlook the decision of the musical director to include a gifted African American singer in his concert. He is saying to the greater community that the music program values the talents of people of color. He is saying to the students: this can be you. 

Representation is crucial. You can’t be what you can’t see. Mr. McFate at Harpers Choice Middle School made a musical choice that produced breathtakingly beautiful musical results but it was so much more than that.

This is what the very best educational experiences look like. They challenge students to dig deep, to make connections. Most of all, they empower students to grow and become their best selves.

A shoutout to the teachers, staff, and admin who work hard every day to create and foster educational communities where this can happen. A shoutout to the parents and public servants who are working to make sure that there is adequate funding for this to continue.