Sunday, May 24, 2015


Remember Fan Clubs? You could send away a dollar, maybe a bit more, along with your registration form clipped from Tiger Beat or 16 Magazine and become an Official Member. You would receive a membership card and other special memberships items in the mail. Perhaps even an autographed picture.

Today it is not about joining a fan club. Today it is about Fandom, pursuing your fandom, and curating multiple fandoms. Fandom is a multi-modal explosion of entertainment, merchandising, technology, and social media. In an earlier age one might have had one big teen idol or crush, collected some popular item like ceramic ponies or troll dolls, and pursued a hobby such as roller skating, horseback riding or listening to records.

Today's concept of fandom can reach into every aspect of leisure time. You watch a television show/ movie/ musical performer. You can watch again and again on Netflix or YouTube. You can join social media communities to discuss it, create Pinterest Boards to collect images of your fandom, connect with retailers who are selling fandom themed merchandise. You can read or write fanfiction created specifically in response to the shows or performers you like. You can narrow your selections to those highlighting the specific romances that you "ship". You can go to conventions or social events dressed in character.

This makes the old days of joining the Fan Club look very old indeed. Is it better? Is it worse? To me, it is both fascinating and overwhelming at the same time. I think it would be pretty scary if Fandom replaced everything in a young person's life. It is capable of being pretty much everything. To the teen, if feels self-generated. And yet it is also part of an enormous merchandizing machine.

How will this affect how our kids approach other things in life as they get older? Politics, religion, community involvement, love, family...

Yes, in every generation there is something that the young really "get into" and that the parental generation fears or distrusts. That's a part of life. And whatever that is, we all have to learn to cope with it, whatever it is. In general, the more adults denounce, the better it looks to their kids. We have all been there.

I'm not denouncing. But I look at how easy it is to get sucked in and think that establishing balance is more important now than ever. And that's not just a lecture for the kids, but a lesson for all of us. Whenever we allow one thing to be our life and our leisure, our hobby, our game, our goal and our self-image--we are in danger of losing ourselves.

That's what grown ups worry about, anyway. Adolescence is a time of experimentation, teens are pretty flexible. Remember when your mom said, "what if your face gets stuck that way?" It didn't.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Survey

Pools are open for the season! Pictured above is "The Bubbler", a newish water feature at the Talbott Springs Pool in Oakland Mills. I dubbed it "The Little Squirt" last year, which seems to suit it, I think. It's adorable.

So here's my question to readers of this blog.

Do you live in Columbia?

Do you belong to CA Health Club Facilities and Pools?

I'm just curious enough to try something new and create a survey.

Wherever you live and whatever you do this weekend, I hope it's wonderful.



Friday, May 22, 2015

3:53 am

Greetings from 3:53 am. I am charged with waking up my daughter at 4:15 for the big field trip to Music in the Parks, and of course I have been tossing and turning all night with very little sleep at all. Later I will crash. Now I will blog.


Weighing heavily on my mind is a comment made to me in passing that word from the higher-ups in the Howard County Public Schools was the possibility that all play is going to be eliminated from PreK, "so they can really learn". Now this is not a documented fact. I do not have evidence to back this up. So, why am I sharing it?

Well, if the current trend in the school system continues, if this were in the works, none of us would know until it was too late. There would be an announcement, a press release, or perhaps the elimination of play wouldn't be revealed at all, but hidden under a description of increasing educational opportunities. Parent input would be criticized and teacher input would be strongly discouraged, if not downright suppressed. So I certainly hope it is a misunderstanding.

I have worked almost my entire career in the field of Early Childhood. Education trends may come and go, but this remains the same: young children learn best through play. In fact, play is quite legitimately the work of childhood. The most precious experiences are multi-sensory, hands-on, allow for movement, and are extended through imagination and play.

The most valuable teaching creates, fosters, and supports such environments.

I read in the Howard County Times that County Executive Kittleman has formed an Early Childhood Task Force. I commend him for caring about this crucial time of life and our youngest citizens. The article quotes him,

"We have one of the best school systems in the country. However, we must also attend to preparing our children from the very beginning with access to the best early childhood education available," Kittleman said in a statement. "This foundation is a critical component of our work to close the achievement gap in the county and support kindergarteners in the critical first step on a path to success in school and in life."

I sincerely hope that there are professionals with credentials in the field of early childhood on this task force. I hereby issue a heartfelt plea to Mr. Kittleman:

Young children learn through play, and through relevant real-life experiences. We need to close the Achievement Gap by closing the experience gap. The foundation of learning for our youngest students is provided in the nourishing experiences of play, music, dance, dramatic play, art, and experiences in nature.

Opportunities to listen to story books and engage in language play are vital. Using manipulatives to develop number sense and other hands-on math activities should be in the mix as well. But teaching "reading and math" in the academic sense is unhealthy and counterproductive. It will not close the Achievement Gap, but reinforce it.

Children from at-risk backgrounds come to kindergarten missing the life experiences that more affluent children have received at home: nightly story-time, one-to-one conversations and word play, trips to the farm, to museums, and to concerts, creative and social interactions with peers, safe places for experimenting and making a mess, safe and developmentally appropriate spaces for regular outdoor play.

Eliminating play from the daily diet of the young child in order to "educate" them is the equivalent of eliminating lunch in order to teach nutrition: a starvation diet imposed upon the hungriest and most vulnerable. If there is a Bill of Rights for young children, these three things are at its core:

  • Love
  • Safety and Meeting Physical Needs
  • Play

Dear Mr. Kittleman, thank you for caring about the needs of our young children. I ask that you support solutions which meet them where they are, and give them what they truly need. If you do, your legacy in Howard County will be carried in each little person touched and transformed by your leadership.

This almost sounds like a prayer. Maybe it is.




Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dining with Democrats, HoCo Style

Last night I was able to attend my first Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, which is apparently a big deal event put on annually by the Howard County Democrats. Until very recently, my idea of supporting the Democratic Party consisted of voting. Thanks to friends like Abby Hendrix, Marcia White, Dylan Goldberg, among others, I now know there's much, much more.

To be clear, the best part of the event for me was getting to hear my husband play along with his friends from the "Stolen Moments" guitar duo. I guess it's no surprise that if you see me at a big event, I'm probably with the band. I may not know all the movers and shakers in local politics, but I know all the good tunes. It was rather restful that I didn't know all that many folks last night. I chatted with people I knew, then I sat a while and just enjoyed the music.

Last night was a reminder of who I am as a Democrat, and I enjoyed that. Thanks to the Howard County Democratic Central Committee for a chance to reconnect with some great people and ideas.

I wasn't able to stay for the entire event, but I want to comment on the keynote speech by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. He was a great choice for this event, especially with its focus of "Why I am a Democrat." He had plenty to say, and his delivery was exhilarating. But it was one of the quieter things he said, almost in passing, that moved me the most.

Blowing out your neighbor's candle isn't going to make yours burn any brighter.

It flies in the face of so many pronouncements we hear these days, which pretty much boil down to,

It's not enough that I be rewarded, others must be punished. It's not enough that I succeed, others must fail.

We had an interesting discussion at my table over dinner about the complete breakdown of bipartisan politics. We thought about large infrastructure projects, built in the past, which very likely could not happen today. "What's in it for me?" has replaced "What can we do, as a nation, to help Americans thrive?"

Sharing the light would be a start. And not just sharing the light with your friends, or the people who look like you, or think like you. Sharing the light means allowing others to be human, to have value, to be connected to your existence. It means focusing on the connections rather than the "otherness."

Is this solely a Democratic aspiration? In my heart I think not. And if it were purely a goal of one group of people in our society, it wouldn't be enough. No matter who you are, you can't win this one alone. You'll need help. Getting together in a room full of like-minded people is fun, reassuring, and inspiring. The real work of progress, though, will be a good deal messier.







Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bring It

The issue of healthy snacks and drinks is in the news again. I feel certain I have written about this before. I'm convinced we are fighting about the wrong thing. Why are we fighting at all?

Howard County should not be in the vending machine business. Why on earth should we be standing on our heads second-guessing appropriate items for county residents when they are perfectly capable of choosing their own? If you want snacks and drinks, and you have the money to purchase them, bring your own.

The world does not owe us vending machine everywhere we go.

County office buildings should be safe, comfortably heated, cooled, ventilated, with excellent air quality. There should be adequate working bathroom facilities, and plenty of access to clean drinking water: water fountains. Those are reasonable expectations, in my opinion.

The vending machine people want you to believe that "there's a product for every moment" of your day. Do we really want to make the statement that Howard County is for sale?

"I'm Howard County: sell me."

And the vending machine executives are lined up to tell us what to buy.

To be perfectly clear, I think it matters a lot what goes into those machines. This is not an issue of whether or not Citizen A will chose to look good in a swimsuit this summer. This is a public health issue. This is as important to the public good as the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. All the health problems that stem from choosing those products every moment of the day?

We all pay. And it is expensive.

So, if I were casting a vote on CB 17 2015, I would vote yes. But I can't help wondering why Mr. Kittleman, whose aims are to be both fiscally responsible and to promote personal responsibility, wants to have vending machines at all? It would be extremely gratifying to me if he made a bolder statement that Howard County is not in the snacking business.

We'll see.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Crossing the Line

Yesterday I received, through the mail, an anonymous letter with no return address. It was a full page, typed.


Someone who reads this blog decided to commit an entire page to criticizing, not my writing, but my decisions as a parent.


This person found my home address. This person made references to my family which could not have been gleaned from my blog alone.


This is not okay. It is cowardly, creepy, stalkerish behavior, and after much discussion my husband and I have decided to go to the police to document it and ask for advice.


What would you do?


Someone out there knows where I live, knows personal details about my family, and thinks I need their advice about how to raise my child. I have news for you, anonymous writer: reading my blog does not give you the right to do that.


The opinions I express on this blog are fair game if you wish to comment under your own name. My family and personal life are off limits.


I shouldn't even have to say this.


The letter had a Baltimore postmark. It was neatly folded in a business envelope. Someone went to a great deal of trouble to make me feel horrible. I'd feel much better knowing it came from a busybody with really bad judgment as opposed to, say, an axe-murderer.


Wouldn't you?



Monday, May 18, 2015


They keep coming back every year. You would think by now I'd be ready for them. I'm taking about ants, of course, those tiny indoor ants that show up when the weather gets warmer. I typically go through several stages of denial, then totally lose my mind and put out ant baits everywhere.

After a while that usually works. Then I'm stuck cleaning up the oozing gunk from the bait trays. Time passes. I forget all about it.

Then it happens all over again.

Perhaps there are people, somewhere, who have a date marked on their calendars for putting out the ant baits before a single ant is spotted. That would be smart. The ants have their own internal clocks that set them to run their appointed rounds. I guess you have to get up earlier in the morning to outwit them.

Now, in Columbia--you knew that was coming, right?--despite the overwhelming approval for things like Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods amongst ordinary residents, there are diligent detractors who keep getting up every morning and following the predetermined path to attempt to undermine the Inner Arbor Trust and interfere with the progress of Columbia's Downtown Plan.

These folks also follow a Spring cycle to get out the votes for our antiquated system of Village elections. They are extremely good at following the same old trails to find like-minded people and get them really riled up about all the "terrible things" happening in Columbia. The rest of us are just out there living real life: working, parenting, playing, volunteering, trying to hold it all together.

And before you know it, it's Spring again and--ants!

Despite the efforts of quite a few dedicated and forward-thinking people who are trying to open up the process to more Columbians, the election game is still being won by the ants. It's their game, their rules.

Which brings me to the CA Board, and the election of Dick Bolton as a delegate to the Inner Arbor Board. Dick Bolton, newly elected to the CA Board from Dorsey's Search, has had plenty to say on the Inner Arbor plan--in the negative. It looks very much as though Mr. Bolton ran for CA Board to be against things, and now he has a front row seat.

And now, we wait. Wait to see what happens next.

Or do we? Eleanor Roosevelt said,

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

But, does it really? Or does it belong to the ants?