Saturday, December 16, 2017

Why So Slow?

And now a few words about medical marijuana.

Yeah, I never thought I’d write about it, either.

In what may be the slowest roll-out ever, Maryland is finally getting their medical marijuana program up to speed. Kind of.

More than 20 medical marijuana dispensaries in Maryland approved, drug supply low  by Erin Cox

The good news: they’ve increased the number of places that medical marijuana will be available. The bad news: they’ve got very little to sell, at least until March. My goodness. Could we have made this any more arduous?

I became convinced of the case for medical marijuana by observing the lack of it. My mother suffered for quite a long time due to occluded blood vessels that led to her brain. For many people that would mean having a stroke. For her, it meant increasing dizziness, nausea, and fearfulness over loss of balance and equilibrium. Doctors were no help. They admitted that most people who had her condition never lived as long as she had. It just outright killed most people. So there was no viable treatment plan; it wasn't something that could be remedied by medication or surgery.

Gradually, over a long period of time, she became unable to leave her bed. And constant dizziness and nausea made her reluctant to eat. I have become convinced that the use of medical marijuana would have given her a much improved quality of life as she grappled with a condition for which there was no cure. It would have helped alleviate her constant anxiety, and increased her appetite. That, in turn, would have stabilized her overall health.

She endured years of increasing helplessness. It would have given her more of a sense of her own self at the end of her life, I think. Of course, I’m not a doctor, so this is merely speculation on my part. But it’s true that living through this difficult time with my family made me think seriously about what medical marijuana could do to help suffering patients for whom traditional treatments were inadequate.

Does it seem to you that Maryland’s roll-out of medical marijuana is plagued by an underlying sense of ambivalence? Were the years of delays necessary to do this right? I’m curious about all this.

Comments are welcome here:

Friday, December 15, 2017

Shop Talk

This is one of those mornings where I can think of a variety of things to write about, but my brain is just not awake enough to perform the intellectual operations necessary to do them justice. The good news: tomorrow starts my Winter Break and I will have much more time to write.

A little plug this morning for the Breezy Willow Farm Country Market.  I stopped by on the way home from work to pick up some Neat Nick Preserves to give as gifts. I highly recommend this place. In addition to all kinds of locally grown/made foodstuffs, they are offering a variety of lovely holiday gifts. They’re on Frederick Road across from the Rita’s. You can park right next to the store. Service is friendly and helpful.

I’d tell you more about what I bought but some of the gift recipients might be reading this post...

I discovered last night that Home Slyce delivers, and I am now in serious trouble. They are the only place in Howard County that makes a decent baba ghanouj. I ordered online at six, the delivery was due at seven. It arrived at six thirty-nine. I had amazing baba ghanouj and a deliciously spicy chicken calzone and I have lots of leftovers. If you haven’t tried Home Slyce, you should. They are located on Snowden where Azul 17 used to be.

Local bakery Renata’s Tasty Bites made the news this week:

Great news to share with you!
Some months ago we were approached by Shake Shake burger joint to provide some seasonal pies for their new store location at the Columbia mall. Our pies would be mixed with their frozen custard (concrete).
We are pleased to let you know that we are now official vendor for them and making our first delivery next week for their new store opening on December 20th.
We are looking forward to work with them and hope you'll stop by to welcome them in our town.
When you are there make sure you look for a frozen custard Pie Oh My made with our pie.

I am looking forward to noodling around Main Street in Old EC with HoCoHouseHon next week. I can’t wait to visit Sweet Elizabeth Jane in their new location, and I’ve been hearing good things about a new restaurant called Georgia Grace Café.

Have a wonderful Friday.

Comments are welcome here:

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wintry Tweets

As we move into the winter season, there is one thing you can be sure of. If it snows in the evening, students will be on Twitter begging hcpss for a delay or a cancellation. This is the first generation who can use social media to petition for such a favor, and they haven’t been idle. They send photographs, video clips, anecdotes of slipping and falling, and generally do their best to wheedle and convince.

I could be wrong but I don’t think that their wild protestation of weather woes have any impact on school closures. None whatsoever. But, as long as they aren’t outright rude or threatening, it’s pretty much a harmless pastime. I suppose all those tweets remain out there for future employers to search and evaluate, so maybe you don’t want to make a complete fool of yourself.

Just a thought.

This will be Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano’s first winter season at the helm. I wonder how he will take the sudden onslaught of interest in his twitter account every time the flakes start to fall. Will he take it with good grace? Will he show a sense of humor about the whole thing? From what I have observed so far, he’ll probably check to make sure his snowflake socks are ready to go, then he’ll tweet out an inspirational quote about how snow days are so much more joyful if you have put in the effort to complete your schoolwork the night before.

We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, good news from Stevens Forest Elementary School in Oakland Mills:

From PTA Board Member, Jessica Mahajan —

Thanks to the efforts of some great community members, 400 hand-knit hats were donated to SFES (along with many other hats, gloves, and coats). All students were given a chance to choose a hat today, so don’t be surprised if your kiddo comes home with some stylish new winter gear. 

I love this. If everyone gets to choose a hat, no one sticks out as the “less fortunate”. The hats become not just protection against the cold, but community unifiers. “We’re all in this together.”  What a remarkable statement of love made visible.

Now, that’s some snow days news I can get excited about.

Comments are welcome here:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

In Her Own Country

This morning my Facebook feed is full of black women from Alabama with “I Voted”stickers and white people from all over the country celebrating. My Twitter feed is full of information that makes it clear that black women truly made the difference for Doug Jones in Alabama. And that this is not a new thing.

@ShamekaErby: Don't just thank Black women.

Respect Black Women
Protect Black Women
Hire Black Women
Pay Black Women

Local writer and sometime blogger Candace Montague responds:

 @urbanbushwoman9:Let the church say...? #Amen

The time to be celebrating the talents, widom, and persistence of black women is long overdue. But it seems to me that we’re more comfortable celebrating their successes when they happen somewhere else. What about right here in Howard County?

Since the presidential election a number of groups have sprung up locally to promote Progressive causes. Local activist Maureen Evans Arthurs caused some uncomfortable self-reflection for (almost exclusively white women) members by pointing out the stunning lack of diversity in these groups. Not to mention the fact that these groups were founded without an adequate understanding of African American advocacy groups that were already established and functioning.

Elevate Maryland Co-host Candace Dodson Reed, herself the founder of the African American Community Roundtable—with support and guidance from Regina Clay— has expressed dismay at the casual dismissal and sometimes outright hostility by local members of her own political party. Good grief. If a member of the Democratic Central Committee can’t get respect “in her own country” then we are not getting the lesson we need to be getting.

A prophet is not without honor save in [her] own country...

Celebrating the work of black women “over there” but not making room for it “over here” is just more of the same entrenched racism from self-described white allies that perpetuates white privilege. And it destroys any credibility we might have in the African American community. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s who we want to be.If we find ourselves saying, “oh, aren’t they inspiring!” nationally, followed by “why are they always harping on those same issues?” locally, then we have some uncomfortable self-reflection ahead of us.

Let’s end the disconnect.

Comments are welcome here:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Everything Old

One year, I believe it was in 1966, my mother put her foot down and said no more messy Christmas trees. I was in the second grade and I was not happy about it. I loved the smell of pine in the house, the feeling of hanging ornaments on the prickly, bendy branches. But my mother was tired of being the one who had to water the tree and pick up the falling needles. Or she was tired of nagging her three children to keep up with that chore. I guess we forgot. A lot.

It was our first year in Columbus, Ohio, in a newly-built house, in a newly-built subdivision. Everything in my world was changing. The fancy holiday dresses with scratchy petticoats that tied in the back with a big sash were pushed aside for slim, sleek mini-dresses. Popular culture was obsessed with the Beatles and the British Invasion. 

Aluminum trees were new and daring and my mother somehow got a bee in her bonnet that we were going to have one. At the time I felt that this put us at odds with Charlie Brown and Linus in the Christmas special that had debuted the previous season. I didn’t want a “shiny aluminum tree.” I wanted a real tree.

But I was not so much a purist as to boycott the new tree altogether. I was there for its first unboxing. I listened to the magical “whoosh!” as each shiny branch came out of its paper tube. I helped to decorate it and admitted, grudgingly, that it looked good as the color wheel cast its ever-changing glow. But I clung to a loyalty to real trees in my heart.

As an adult I have almost always had real trees. And I realized over time why my mother had gotten tired of the watering and the endless cleaning up of needles. But I’ve never warmed to the second generation, green, “lookalike” Christmas trees. I don’t know why. I just don’t care for them.

Over the last few years I have begun to feel the stirrings of nostalgia for an aluminum tree. If I was going to put aside the joy of a real tree, if even for one year, I wanted it to be for something truly over-the-top, retro, quirky, bold. But my family was dubious. And the cost of vintage aluminum trees was staggering.

Then, when I had pretty much given up hope, a friend from all the way across town in Harper’s Choice let me know that he had one he was willing to part with. At a fair price. And so I finally got my aluminum tree. And not just any aluminum tree, but a gorgeous, full-sized tree with all pieces intact and in pristine condition. With a color wheel. And a rotating stand that plays “Silent Night.”


Perhaps nostalgia gets us all in the end. My heart was full and my mind was filled with so many memories of that first Christmas in the new house in what felt like a whole new world. It wasn’t all happy. Much was uncertain. Just like today, I guess.

Many thanks to my friend for bringing me so much Christmas joy this year, and to my family for being willing to try something new. Now they know how much fun it is to pull each shiny branch out of its paper tube. “Whoosh!”

Comments are welcome here:

Monday, December 11, 2017

Transforming the Message

Greetings from Twitter-Land this morning. As a part of my quest to promote school music programs on social media for HCPSM, I spend time daily reading all tweets mentioning “hcpss”. There’s probably a way to set up a system to do this. I pride myself on doing it “by hand”. It doesn’t take all that long, and I learn quite a bit about what’s happening in our schools.

During the past four years or so, the message coming from Central Office and individual schools was full of educational buzz words. There were daily, if not hourly, references to World Class Education, College and Career Ready, data, rigor, grit, Gallup Strengths Finder, and testing, testing, testing. And let’s not forget Vision 2018.

Controlling the message was a hallmark of the previous administration. It was clear the school administrators felt pressure to conform when composing tweets meant to inform their school communities. Day after day the educational gobbledegook flowed from every source. I often wondered if other parents found it as mind-boggling as I did.

There has been a noticeable shift in what is being shared since the advent of Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano. This is only to be expected. His own Twitter account has focused on kindness, equity, and inclusion. He exhorts the community to be willing to do the hard work necessary to make those things happen. And, naturally, school accounts have reflected his priorities.

But a greater change has been how individual schools are reporting on daily happenings. Admin are reporting on a greater variety of things that show learning, whether academic, social-emotional, arts experiences or physical development through sports. They appear to have much more freedom to simply inform the public of what they judge to be “share-worthy” experiences.

Of course it’s all a part of a larger goal of public relations, but it looks much more like truth to me. As a teacher, I read the hcpss twitter feed with much more joy these days. As a parent, I’m being given a chance to see what is actually going on, instead of strings of eduspeak. I’m seeing a system that celebrates individual school communities, and values the ability of administrators to choose which stories to share.

Yes, there’s an overall unity in priorities. We are a school “system”, after all. But I’m feeling a loosening of the grip when it comes to how The Message is shared.

Truth in advertising: all of my observations here are made as an outside observer. No actual school system employees were consulted for the writing of this piece. So there is plenty that I do not know.

I do know that it’s a whole lot more fun to do the hcpss Twitter scan these days. Our schools are doing some pretty cool stuff. Do you follow your child’s school on Twitter? You should. These days, you might actually learn something.

Comments are welcome here:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Columbia’s Best Ambassador

Once upon a time, back when I was much shyer than I am now, I ventured out to an event at the Columbia Archives. This was back when it was in its old home in the American City Building. I can’t remember the particular exhibit that was being debuted that evening. I do remember being overwhelmed by the number of attendees all of the same generation, who all knew one another, and who, I supposed, had all known Jim Rouse.

They clumped together chummily in the small space. They lingered over the photographic display, sharing personal anecdotes. It was easier to back up and out of the way. I left feeling that 1) I hadn’t really done the exhibit justice, and 2) maybe it wasn’t really meant for me, anyway. 

I felt defeated. I was intrigued by the archives and had great admiration for its director, Barbara Kellner. But that evening suggested to me that perhaps Columbia history was the property of the Pioneers. At any rate, I came away feeling that my attendance didn’t truly matter.

I was wrong.

Unbeknownst to me, Ms. Kellner had noticed me there that evening. And it mattered to her that I was interested enough in the archives to show up in person. I don’t know how she was able to spot me in that crowded room, all while she was giving personal attention to so many enthusiastic guests. Attention to detail is a hallmark of good archivists, clearly.

Anyway, some years later Ms. Kellner was willing to sit down with me at Comptoir at the Lakefront and answer my questions about the history of Symphony Woods, her thoughts on the ongoing process of the Inner Arbor Trust plan, and many other things as well. I learned so much that day and I was very grateful to her for giving her time and expertise to bring a local blogger up to speed.

Back when the Columbia Association discovered social media and everyone got their own account on  Facebook, my favorite was the Columbia Archives account. Ms. Kellner seemed to instinctively know how to use the new platform to engage, pique interest, inform, and build connections. When CA reversed course and shut all those individual accounts down, they made a huge mistake in de-activating the Archives account. It was by far the best ambassador for all things Columbia that they had going. It was Excite Columbia before it was cool.

I had heard this summer that Ms. Kellner was retiring and, despite the time I have had since then to process it,  I still can’t wrap my brain around it. I’m guessing that she would not want the Archives mission to be associated so closely with her that it couldn’t go on in her absence. It’s crucial that the Columbia Archives not be merely “Barbara Kellner’s archives”. If they are to live on along with the New American City, we need to think of them as our archives. No matter what our ages. No matter when we moved here.

Please go read more about Ms. Kellner in this article by Janene Holzberg:

Over quarter century, Columbia archivist made her own mark in history

This quote from archivist Robin Emrich says it all:

Barb is the key liaison between Columbia history and the public. There is no Columbia ambassador equal to her.

The best of wishes to Ms. Kellner in her retirement. We ought to give you the key to the city. But I have a feeling that, if there is one, you already have it. In the Archives. 

Comments are welcome here: