Thursday, November 26, 2015

Taking Stock

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Community
  • Music and the Arts
  • Writing

I'm thankful. There's my list. It's my "right off the top of my head" list of things I'm thankful for. But there's another list. It's almost a shadow list, an invisible list. It's the "enough" list.

I am thankful for enough:

  • Food for me and my family to eat
  • Adequate shelter, clothing, healthcare
  • Money to pay the bills
  • Time to be involved in my children's lives
  • Respectful treatment from the powers that be in our society

There are so many people in our community (and the world) who long for just this, just enough. Not a free ride, not excessive luxury, just "enough".

We love to watch videos of newly adopted pets experiencing for the first time the joys of having a true home. It's thrilling to see them celebrate being clean, fed, cuddled, played with. For the first time in their lives they have "enough". And for them it is hitting the jackpot. We like to see that. It makes us feel good. It's a success story.

What about people?

So many human beings, our fellow creatures, are out there waiting for those same simple experiences. I'm thinking a lot about them today.


Special Thanksgiving Bonus Features:

The traditional thanksgiving post can be found here.

A blast from the past in honor of Lisa Rossi, who celebrates in Iowa now. We miss you, Lisa!




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Lovely Story

There's a sweet, human-interesty sort of piece about PTACHC President Reg Avery in the Howard County Times this week. Complete with two family photos, it paints a picture of a family man devoted to community and education. I would certainly love to have an article like that written about me.

There's just one problem. It doesn't accurately describe the Reg Avery I know and worked with on the Oakland Mills Village Board. Not even remotely.

I'm not going to go into detail here, because it is not my intent to turn this post into a personal attack. But, more than once, Mr. Avery has been dogged by questions of conflict of interest. It is difficult to understand how he is able to wear so many hats in so many different capacities and remain true to each one.

Mr. Avery loves to run for things. He loves serving in leadership positions. Since I have known him he has run for County Council twice, served on the OM Village Board, served as CA Rep from Oakland Mills, served in PTA leadership positions, and there's much, much more. You may, as the article seems to suggest, interpret this as the purest of desires to serve the community.

My bigger concern about this article is that Mr. Avery is possibly positioning himself for a run for Board of Education. Or perhaps he is being encouraged to do so. As President of PTACHC he has publicly aligned himself with the Board of Education. It is my belief that PTACHC should provide an independent voice for parents. It simply cannot function that way if leadership serves at the pleasure of the BOE or Central Office.

Being President of PTACHC gives Mr. Avery another opportunity to be in the public eye and get his name and picture in the paper. If he is using it as a springboard to run for the Board of Education, well, that feels like a conflict of interest to me. The motto of the PTA is "Every child. One voice." I think it would be wise to see how true Mr. Avery is willing to be to the spirit of that organization.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Stepping outside the Village Green/Town² boundaries today. I'll be brief.

Once upon a time, when I was little, it was presidential election season. A story about George Wallace came on the evening news. "Ugh," said my mother. "He's a demagogue."

"What's a demagogue?" I asked.

"He just says what the people want to hear," she answered, in disgust.

At that very moment the reporter cut to interviews of people attending a Wallace event. "Why do you like George Wallace?" he asked.

"Because he says what I want to hear!"

We burst out laughing. She was the perfect illustration of what my mother was trying to teach me.

But demagoguery is no laughing matter. The campaign of Donald Trump for the Republican nomination is a case in point. 14,000 people showed up for an event yesterday, despite the fact that Trump is playing fast and loose with the truth. His ability to appeal to people's basest fears and anger and stir them up to the point where truth is no longer an essential is a frightening thing.

Yesterday CNN asked, "Does Donald Trump transcend the truth?"

What does that even mean? Merriam Webster defines the word "transcend":

to rise above or go beyond the normal limits of (something)

What the heck? How can one "rise above" or "go beyond the normal limits" of the truth?

This may in some twisted way appeal to people whose feelings are bigger than facts. And that is a scary thing. When emotions take over and there's no room for the truth, we are all in danger. Because any one of us, or group of us, could be on the receiving end of a negative force fueled by ignorance and anger.


Monday, November 23, 2015


Babies cry and wake you up in the night. Toddlers get into everything, and are prone to tantrums. Preschoolers have difficulty delaying gratification. When you have a young child you struggle to keep up with their changing behavior. You read up on child development. You talk to your pediatrician, your friends. You learn about what is developmentally appropriate for your child's age and stage.

But once that adorable baby is a teen, where does that focus on development go? For many people: out the window. Despite the fact that multiple scientific studies show the adolescent brain to be in a continued state of (wildly fluctuating) development, many adults make and enforce rules for them that assume they are mini-adults and should "just know" how to behave.

Even schools which once may have had a more supporting and guiding role towards teens are now forced by ill-conceived ed. reforms to focus on test scores and "raising the numbers." Well, you can try forcing teens into this emotional straight jacket all you want but the driving force of human nature will pop out when you least expect it.

Take clothing, for instance. Learning how to dress oneself is a completely age-appropriate thing to do. We as adults should understand that teens many go through multiple stages of "trying out" different looks as away of expressing themselves. Just as we lived through the endless crying, sleep deprivation, and temper tantrums of he younger child, we must live through this, too. It's not about morality. It's about development.

Yes, parents and responsibility adults set guidelines for safety. But we need to make sure that we are interacting with teens with an eye to fostering their development as whole human beings. Pulling a student out of class for a dress code infraction tells the student that clothing which conforms is more important than his/her education. Pulling girls out consistently more than boys says that 1) girls need more controlling and policing and 2) their need for education is not as important as it is for boys.
In closing, I'd like to share a piece of advice from a wise friend.

This is the week of parent/teacher conferences! You're all invited to state to each teacher something similar to, "If you think that the attire that my student wears in the classroom may be disruptive to their ability to learn, please contact me directly. Any conversation should be between you and me, while my student remains in the classroom."


If you try this, and I intend to, I'd love to know how that works out.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Let There Be Light

This is typically the time of year that I start stressing about the change of the season and the feeling of impending darkness. And I write about it. On this date in 2008:

Cursing the darkness. Note to self: buy candles tomorrow.

And that is, of course, related in my mind to one of the best Peanuts strips of all time.

I've been thinking a lot about light and darkness lately. Kicked off perhaps by the time change, the change in seasons, even the announcement of the cancellation of this year's Symphony of Lights. Human beings are truly attuned to the light; we lean towards it. (Plants, too, but that's another blog post.) Loss of light can bring about physiological and emotional changes in us.

Last night I was driving around in the Clarksville/Highland area after dark, taking my daughter to a party. Wow, it was dark out there. It was, as my mother used to say, like driving around on the inside of a pillow case. "What do these people have against quality street lights?" I thought to myself.

There's a tradeoff, of course. Where I live in Columbia it is well lit, on the main streets, anyway. But when we look up at the sky we can seldom see the stars. They are obscured by light pollution. I'm guessing that out where Blogger AnnieRie lives they get better views. Interesting. It's right there in the title of her blog: AnnieRie Unplugged . What happens when you pull out the plug on unnecessary artificial illumination?

You can see another kind of light show, I guess.

As for me, I love my lights: sunlight, long daylit afternoons into early evening. Candle light. Christmas lights. And, most definitely: street lights. When it's just me and my GPS in unknown territory, any light along the way improves my journey. Whether I'm wandering in Clarksville or Baltimore City, any shining beacon is cause for rejoicing.

Maybe someday I'll learn how to navigate by the stars. But probably not while I'm driving.


Saturday, November 21, 2015


Just had a lol moment. You know, "Laugh Out Loud" in response to something on the Internet. Except, of course, I didn't really laugh out loud. Well, my brain did. At the bottom of an advert email from a Big Lots was an array of social media icons with the exhortation, "Join the Conversation!"

What kind of conversations are people having about Big Lots? What kind of conversations are people having with Big Lots? Okay, I'll bite. I took a look on Twitter. The Big Lots account pushes out promotions....okay, here's a response to a compliment...there's a response to a complaint...Well, better than some. But all thanks tweets are just about identical, and same with responses to complaints.

Do people actually talk about Big Lots on Twitter? Amazingly enough, they do. Some of my favorites:

@WILDcnservativE: U kno u getting old when u sign up for a big lots card

@alowee13: The big lots Black Friday commercial is the most annoying commercial in the world

@nurenbergallie: My mom and I just go to big lots and Home Depot for fun now what is wrong with us

@RobbLarry: Big Lots commercials are just ideas that didn't fly with other retailers

@wickedwych: The big lots Christmas commercials are the best Christmas commercials

@isabellalutley: every night I get into bed and my last thought is always "why am I not cool enough to hang out in the big lots parking lot"

So maybe this isn't the kind of conversation Big Lots had in mind. But any mention is money in the bank for your brand, right?


@Old_Town_Saloon: Just to clear the air there was NOT a stabbing at Old Town, the stabbing was in front of Big Lots. So come out a party tonight!!

Really good social media conversation is actually two-way, you know: conversation. I think some people doing "social media engagement" for commercial brands just don't get it. Customers who turn to Twitter to resolve a problem or ask a question will soon tire of preprogrammed accounts that exist only to push out content, for instance.

Truth be told, the best conversations I've had on Twitter have been about teaching, the arts, affordable housing, discussing articles about place-making and community building. Those are the conversations that happen organically, not driven by cute themed brand "chats" with prizes awarded, or tweets about how product X will improve my holiday season.

Conversation is good. I like it. I guess for a better understanding of how brands can employ it without looking ridiculous I should do some more research. Or ask ScottE.


Friday, November 20, 2015


Last night this blog took home the Mobbies award for Most Influential Blog or Account. It was also Runner-Up in the category of Best Suburban Blog. I had prepared a speech, in case one would be necessary, but when The Moment came the speech felt too long and I went with an abbreviated version.

Here's the whole thing:

Wow. Thanks to the Mobbies for the awesome party, and for this award, which I'd like to accept in memory of the late, and wonderful, Howard County blogger Dennis Lane. His amazing body of work at Tales of Two Cities blog is what inspires me and pushes me forward every morning when I get up to write.

Now, we all know that the real truth about the Mobbies is that it's not really about the bloggers. It's about the energy in the communities around the blogs. Nobody takes home a Mobbie unless there are those enthusiastic readers who are willing to click, and click, and click again--because they're invested in the outcome. They care who wins.

So that means that this award is really not my award, but their award. But I'm more than happy to pick it up on their behalf, and share the bragging rights.

Thanks again to the Mobbies, especially for opening the doors to writers outside of Baltimore. And a special thanks to members of the Howard County blogging community. We may be weird, we're definitely feisty, and above all, we love what we do.

So congratulations on your award. And thanks for reading.