Monday, October 20, 2014

Recommended Reading

I read this post from Bill Woodcock of The 53 last night, hoping to see what I had missed at the PTACHC County Executive Forum. It was not what I expected.

Please take the time to read it today. No matter who you plan to vote for, it is worth the time to think about what we stand for in Howard County and what is important to us as we elect a County Executive. We are more than the struggle for one election. We're a community of citizens.

I agree with Bill that "this is not Howard County." Do you?


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Were You There?

Yesterday morning, from 8:30 to noon, Columbia Association hosted #ColumbiaSpeaks. Were you there?

If you weren't, you can see some community input by searching the hashtag, #ColumbiaSpeaks, on Twitter. There's also some discussion on the Columbia Facebook account as well.


I'm doing a completely non-scientific survey. If you live in Columbia, and you weren't there, what were you doing?


Dear Columbia Association, between 8:30 am and 12 noon--


I was hanging out at home with my husband--our daughter was at her grandparents. Time with spouse, without parental responsibilities--priceless.





Saturday, October 18, 2014

Addressing the Achievement Gap

As we get closer to the election, and try to sift through the candidates for the Board of Education, I wanted to talk about one of the issues that is at the forefront of many minds in our community: the achievement gap. Here is some interesting information.

"Music education seems to benefit children across the board. And it turns out that the least privileged among them may be the ones who benefit from it the most."

This quote comes from "Why Music Education Matters", a post by Blake Madden. Contained within the article is this section, "Arts Education in General Significantly Benefits Disadvantaged Youth".

In 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts released a report titled The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings From Four Longitudinal Studies. It made the case for arts and music education, using more than twenty years’ worth of academic results.

Focusing specifically on children from lower socioeconomic status or "low-SES" backgrounds, the researchers found that the more arts education these children received, the better their life prospects seemed to get:

"According to the data, 71 percent of low-SES students with arts-rich experiences attended some sort of college after high school. Only 48 percent of the low-arts, low-SES group attended any sort of college. And more than twice as many high-arts students from the low-SES group, compared with low-arts students in that group, attended a four-year college (39 percent versus 17 percent).

This also translated to degree attainment: 24% of children from a high-arts, low-SES background were able to attain associate’s degrees, versus 10% of low-arts low-SES children. 18% of high-arts low-SES children attained bachelor’s degrees versus 6% of low-arts low-SES children. The NEA report also cites higher rates of volunteerism and general civic engagement in both high- and low-SES children.

Unfortunately, these studies mostly stop following the students’ progress by the time they reach their early to mid-20s, providing little information on long-term career prospects. Given the links between college education and employment/earnings however, it seems reasonable to ask if arts education in general should now be a part of the larger conversation about income equality.

Here is the chart that accompanies that passage:

So we have data that shows that an arts-rich education (music, art, drama, dance) has a significant benefit to all children, but most especially to at-risk children. So, as you evaluate candidates for the Board of Education, it is crucial to know where they stand on arts education--that is, if addressing the achievement gap in Howard County is important to you.

I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't care about the education of all of our children, have you?


Friday, October 17, 2014

A Lot of Heart

On Thursday night, while husband is at school having a meeting of choir parents, I drop off teen at Peabody Chorus, then head to Second Chance with a craving for chili dogs (no onions). A woman dining alone is not a big deal these days...with an iPad...and 2nd Chance always feels like home.

Ping! Facebook Messenger--

Hi!! Anyone able to pick us up at the Dobbin Center? Car is dead :-(

I need to finish dinner at Second Chance but then I could?

That's great. We're gonna grab something to eat from Panera, so take your time!

My neighbors on the corner were stuck, sent out a call via Facebook to our little group of neighbors, and boom! problem solved.

I am deep down a shy person. I have really learned everything I know about this kind of neighborliness from my husband. He has been a great influence on my behavior. If it's the kind of thing Richard wouldn't hesitate to do, then I feel comfortable doing it, too. It truly is something you have to learn.

The good news is that you don't have to learn it as a child. It's never to late to learn to be a neighbor and we can learn from each other all the time. Even if you are shy. Even if you are coming late to the game.

So, in the spirit of a #summerofneighbors that can last all year long, I have thrown myself into the new "Oakland Mills is Awesome" Facebook page. We share highlights, triumphs, good ideas. This tutorial on how to say hi to someone on the street made me smile. After all,

So when a wonderful neighbor shared this piece, it all came together in my mind.

What is the village effect?

The village effect is a metaphor for the social contacts we all need as humans in order to thrive. These are the strong social ties that develop naturally in a village, where by necessity you cross paths with each other repeatedly every day. When you think of most villages, there is a central square, a public area where everyone converges or passes by going to the grocer or the post office or city hall or to sit at a cafe.

What we need to survive, and to thrive, are not fewer poor people, not higher test scores, not luxury condos. Human interaction, human connection, and empathy towards our fellow-beings are at the core of what we need.

It can start with something as simple as a wave on the street, or a ride home to a stranded neighbor. Yet it is the most signigicant transformation--dare I say re-invention?--that will make a difference in how we, and our neighbors, will live.

"It's a vibrant and diverse community, with a lot of heart," said a parent at the Oakland Mills Cultural Arts Festival. I couldn't agree more.



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Memories of a Place

Yesterday my older daughter and I had coffee together at this Starbucks on Route 40.

Now, this may be just another unexceptional Starbucks among many to you, but to me it is special. It is featured in the Tales of Two Cities post of May 15, 2010, where WordBones bumps into Courtney Watson and they discuss the state of the campaign over coffee.

We all have our fandoms, or "geekdoms", as my teenaged daughter likes to say. Somehow Howard County, Columbia, community building, blogging, politics, education, villages and neighborhoods have become mine. And so, some places are not just places to me. If all of this geekdom had a map, these places would be highlighted with special markings and labels.

Where are your important places? Where did you make a difference, take a stand, make a friend, support a cause? Who did you meet, and what did you learn along the way?

I joked with my daughter that they should put up a plaque inside the Starbucks commemorating the date when the blogger and the politician sat down together for a chat. We laughed.

There won't ever be a plaque, I guess. But there is a sign out front.



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Active Engagement

Yesterday, after I posted about Saturday's CA Community Engagement meeting, a friend said, "While I appreciate child care, Saturday mornings are usually busy for families. Fall festival at nursery school this weekend for us. I also appreciate the desire to hear from more voices but would like CA to seek them out rather than passive engagement."

And when I started thinking about active rather than passive engagement, two organizations came to mind. I'd love to see the Columbia Association go where the people are, like the Burp Better folks or Healthy Howard. That's it! CA needs a Street Team! So I asked my friends on Facebook.

Columbia peeps! Where are a few places you go, every week, in Columbia? Farmer's Market, Library? Help me make a list.

  • RC Community Center, Hobbits Glen Golf Course (lately), HCC (oops RCCC is Ellicott CIty)
  • Swim center, Supreme, Dorsey Search village center, Jackson Pond (weekly at least in summer, less but often now).
  • Pathways and playgrounds
  • Farmers Market, pathways, and Supreme.
  • Library, Starbucks, Lifetime, church ..... some weeks Harris Teeter or Wegmans, but not every week.
  • The Mall ( to walk and/or to shop and eat), Hickory Ridge Village Center (shopping and eating), pathways everywhere, The Hawthorn Center (work). My husband visits the Athletic Club (he calls it the "old people's gym").
  • Hickory Ridge Grill, Wegmans, to play with the kitties at Petco
  • Icerink
  • The only places we visit EVERY week; the pathways, food lion, farmers market, the library. Swimming pool.
  • Wegmans, church, Lake Elkhorn
  • church, food lion, school
  • Coffee at Wegman's . Walk around Elkhorn. Gotta add Second Chance to our list now that we know how to get in the back door, also, I'm at Slayton House every week. LOTS of activity there. Multiple dance classes plus Big River opens this weekend.
  • Farmers Market, paths and Supreme.
That's where CA needs to be, engaging people. (Okay, maybe not jumping out at people on the pathways.) That is where they can be communicating their message best as they help people learn more about the Columbia Association: programs & services; communications & engagement; and governance. For too long the CA model has been passive. The assumption is that you will find the Customer Service center on your own, you will find your Village Center staff on your own, and you will engage with your community by going to meetings.

Do I have I tell you again how I feel about going to meetings? I thought not.

If you look at the list above, it is pretty clear that's not what is happening. And to be honest, once the data from Saturday are analyzed, I think the attendance will be overwhelmingly from one specific slice of our population. If CA wants to be truly helpful, and relevant, it needs to go where the people are. It is great that they want to give people a chance to be heard. But maybe they will need to change their model of engagement to really hear what people have to say.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Piece of Your Mind

If you live in Columbia, the Columbia Association wants to know what you think. They have already been soliciting your ideas through Inspire Columbia, an online space for sharing suggestions for community improvement. This Saturday they are hosting a community-wide event. Their goal? To bring more people together--different kinds of people, people they many not have heard from before--to discuss what matters most to them about Columbia.

"Columbia Speaks: CA Listens" will be held this Saturday morning from 9:30 to 12 noon at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center. A social hour begins at 8:30. Click the link to register.

Columbia Association (CA) wants to hear more from you — and from more of you. That's why the External Relations Committee of the CA Board of Directors will be hosting "Columbia Speaks. CA Listens," a community input meeting. The meeting will be on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center (10431 Twin Rivers Rd, Columbia 21044), with a social hour from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Pre-registration at is encouraged but not required. Child care will be available.

Columbia is made up of many kinds of people. But, if you have attended CA Board Meetings, you may have noticed that the diversity that is Columbia is rarely represented. Younger residents, parents of young children, residents from different ethnic groups, and those who are less than affluent are seldom if ever heard from.

CA is aware of this and wants to get more people "in the room" to discuss what Columbia means to them. What are your hopes? Goals? Suggestions for improvement? If the loudest voices are always the same voices, representing only a narrow slice of our community, then how can we truly know what our community wants?

I know that giving up an entire Saturday morning to go to a meeting is a big deal. If you can make it happen, though, your input will be greatly appreciated. As Columbia moves forward, we will need many voices--many different voices--to help chart the course and steer the ship.

You should be a part of that.


Here is the press release for the event. It's worth the read.

Save the date and register now for

"Columbia Speaks. CA Listens"

Saturday, October 18, Wilde Lake Interfaith Center.

Social Hour from 8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m., Program runs 9:30 a.m. - noon.

Columbia Association (CA) wants to hear more from you -

and from more of you.


That's why the CA Board of Directors will be hosting "Columbia Speaks. CA Listens," a community input meeting that will be held on Saturday, Oct. 18, at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center (located off Trumpeter Road across from Wilde Lake High School). The meeting will go from 9:30 a.m. to noon. A social hour from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. will precede the event.


Facilitators will help moderate the meeting and guide discussions. Pre-registration at is encouraged but not required.



"We're seeking to engage people more than we have in the past and make them feel like they are more a part of the process and a part of this community," said Nancy McCord, chairwoman of the CA Board's External Relations Committee and the board member representing Wilde Lake.


"We also want people to talk to us about how they feel, what they think and what they see, both the positive and the negative," McCord said. "We hope to reach people who don't normally attend CA's meetings. Everybody is welcome, though, whether they've attended meetings or not. We want to spread the love and bring more people in so that they understand more about Columbia Association."


Child care will be provided on Oct. 18. Those seeking assistance with transportation to "Columbia Speaks. CA Listens" should email CA is also looking into ways for those who cannot attend in-person to still be able to participate electronically and to submit comments afterward.


In addition, there are other ways that community members can have their voices heard on a regular basis. The CA Board offers "Resident Speakout" at its meetings. Board members and CA staff can be reached via the email addresses and phone numbers listed at And CA has a community engagement website at