Monday, October 31, 2011

Walking the Walk

In  a time that seems quite long ago, I joined neighbors and friends in support of  filling the empty commercial space at Thunder Hill and 175 with a Walgreen's store. I had, for 12 years, kept all of my prescriptions at the Bolton Hill Pharmacy in Baltimore because Oakland Mills had no neighborhood drugstore.  I was happy to champion the cause of a much-needed business located "within walking distance of my home."

It's true that I even threw a party at my home when they broke ground, with many of the refreshments purchased at (the River Hill) Walgreen's, just for fun.  I normally get my groceries at the Food Lion, and that certainly hasn't changed. Friends of mine from nearby villages pointed out that it would be more convenient, and a savings of gas, to come to the Oakland Mills store when it opened.  And of course, I crowed, it would be"within walking distance of my home." 

Walgreen's opened on a Friday in mid-June.  It has been a wonderful addition to Oakland Mills.  I have moved all my family's prescriptions there.  And can you guess how many times I have walked there?

Creative people can have a thousand ideas, but fear and uncertainly can kill every one just as fast as it is born.  It had to be" warm enough, not too hot, not rainy, not too cold."  I had to have "new walking shoes, enough time, someone to watch my daughter, no appointments, no commitments."

It turns out that I needed only one thing, or actually, a lack of something: excuses.  This blog post from
Sarah Says about the value of the pathway system to Columbia's citizens reminded me of my Big Talk about the Walk to Walgreen's.  Combined with posts by Miranda, Denise, and Sandy about loved ones running the Marine Corps Marathon, not to mention TJ's updates as he actually ran it, I realized it was time to fulfill my promise.

On a crisp, clear morning on the 31st of October I laced up my shoes, zipped up my jacket, and put down my fear.

(Starting Time)
Home:  9:36
Sohap: 9:43
Walgreen's:  9:49
Walgreen's 10:04
Sohap:  10:10
Home:  10:16

In just 13 minutes I had put to rest the notion that I was too old or out-of-shape to do it. It wasn't the easiest thing I have ever done, nor the hardest. I made some observations about the route as I walked.  The most crucial: why is there no crosswalk at Sohap? In order to cross in the safest and most legal way, I would have to go away from my destination to the crosswalk at White Acre. 

So now I have a new goal--who do I talk to about that?

***Well, if you must know:  hand lotion, a bottle of water, a cheddar cheese snack stick, and the Christmas issue of Victoria Magazine.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Words To Live By

I have been considering this week what makes me a loyal follower of some local blogs, while with others I remain a casual visitor.  We have quite the choice in Howard County: some are witty, some informative,some challenging, some acerbic, some downright depressing.  Some appear to be thinly disguised commercial ventures.

The blogs that draw me, again and again, are ones whose writers appear to be following this simple process:  learn more, think more.  And then, they write.

Perhaps this is the blogger's equivalent of "measure twice, cut once."  Willingness to learn more, and to really think about what is learned gives the blogger the ability to grow and change over time.  This doesn't guarantee that the blogger will necessarily always reach the correct conclusions, or that the blogger is then a "better person" than other bloggers, or even that I will agree with the resulting posts.  It means that Jane/John Q. Blogger acknowledges that she/he is not the Center of the Universe.

When the writer's goal is to be to be the Center of the Universe, then the blog commits to Being Right, all others be damned. And some readers want this.  They want a place where their point of view is mirrored, their opponents skewered and ridiculed. And that will work for them--until, by chance, their opinions change, and the blog no longer "fits" them.

One of my favorite family stories is about an event which occurred when I was too young to really remember.  My sisters were helping my parents take apart the old swing set, to prepare for the arrival of a new one.  Each piece had to be removed before the frame was taken down. And so my sister Barb climbed up on the glider and began to unscrew it. She wanted to do it herself, so she didn't listen to warnings from onlookers.

( I'll allow you to figure this out on your own.)

Though it is far too late for her to benefit from this point of view, I think my sister needed to learn more and think more. In this same way, a blogger who is determined to "take down" the opposition may lack the vision to see the big fall that awaits inflexibility and narrow mindedness.

And so I give a big thank-you those Hocobloggers who allow learning, thought, change, and varying points of view.   Your posts, the discussions which follow them, and our community are the better for your efforts.


Friday, October 21, 2011

All Politics is Local

Yesterday was a big day for my daughter's school, Talbott Springs Elementary. Principal Nancy Thompson set the tone for a positive experience for her students. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman paid a visit to TSES, along with Howard County Health Officer Peter Beilenson, to support the "30 Day Soda Free" Pledge. Also there to show support was Superintendent Dr. Sidney Cousin of the Howard County Public Schools. . When reporters and cameras from local media outlets show up, it's an exciting occasion.

This post is NOTabout the initiative, local dignitaries, Talbott Springs, or media coverage. It is about one child:  my child. And about how my involvement in local affairs has affected her. When asked about the event, she said, "I wasn't sure I wanted to raise my hand (to take the pledge) but it was Ken Ulman, and WBAL was there..." (emphasis hers)

Yes, that's right. She was keenly aware of the presence of local politicos and the press. And that's more than likely my fault. It's amusing and sobering at the same time. Everything about local events that I need to know to stay informed is discussed at home. I have a child who knows the difference between a Village Board and the CA reps. She knows I've gone to County Council meetings and School Board meetings. She has more than a superficial undestanding of the local blogging scene.

Remember, this post is about a child. So it is important to remember yesterday's Big Event from child's point of view. The best part of the "30 Day Soda Free" Challenge?

"It ends right before my birthday party!"

Happy (soda-free) Friday, everybody!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mortality (Not What You Think)

No one is keen on the concept of mortality. We may understand it in the abstract, but it is just incomprehensible when it gets personal. The only way I can get my mind around it is to look at my beautiful daughters. If everyone lived forever and no one died, there wouldn't be room for them. And so we make room. Only love can get me that far, and not reason.

I recently smacked up against mortality in a whole new way after I attended one of the Columbia Associations #AquaPlan meetings. It was extremely well run and I felt they had truly been doing their homework as they moved through the stated process. I came away feeling as though there were many possibilities. I felt hopeful.

But I also had some questions. I wanted to know: how many pools are there per village, and is there any correlation between population and number of pools? When I asked these questions on Twitter, it appeared that this was too touchy an issue to talk about in a public forum. Some of the responses I got came back fast and furious. My immediate response was to crawl under a rock.

Now, I've had some experience with Pioneers who resist change. I'm used to that. But this was different, and I wasn't expecting it. I was beginning to get some insight into a different group--people who grew up here in Columbia. And then I "got" it. It's mortality.

There is something that happens to you, as you navigate adulthood--you begin to treasure your childhood in a whole new way. That is why I go look at pictures of products from the sixties, connect with people from my old neighborhood, listen to old TV show theme songs. It becomes very, very precious. So when people start challenging the Columbia Pool way of life, it's not just a Plan, it's Killing Their Childhood.

You just don't go around killing people's childhoods, folks. If that is how the change is perceived, you are not going to get anywhere. So, how do we move forward? Does the message need to be different? The messengers? The people whose childhoods were shaped by CA Aquatics? How are we going to "make room"?

I don't know. But I have some empathy. Moving around frequently in my youth, I attended three elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school. Of those six schools, only two are still standing. The others were demolished to make way for more modern facilities, or were not replaced at all. I've had to come to grips with that piece of my childhood which I feel is now missing.

I still have ideas and questions about the #Aquaplan. Many may be silly, even crazy. But I think they are worth discussing. But here is where love steps in before reason: I don't want to kill anyone's childhood.

Time for another Beer Summit?


Monday, October 17, 2011

Blogger's Choice?

Village Green/Town Squared

"Congratulations on your award," a friend of mine from the PTA mentioned in passing. "I have to admit, I didn't know you had a blog."

Well...(wincing internally, here.)

Yes, I did have a blog, at Columbia Patch. I wrote eight blogs posts in May and June of this year. The support from friends in the #hoco was encouraging. And then something happened that burst my blogging balloon, so to speak.

I witnessed a decision which I felt was so stupid and wrong-headed that my righteous indignation went into high gear and I poured it into my ninth and most passionate blog post. And then I had to swallow the fact that it was better not to publish it.

Until then my greatest fear about blogging was the specter of nasty comments. But it turns out that the deadliest poison was saying nothing. To choose to say nothing. It's true--sometimes saying nothing is the right thing to do. (In fact, more people should do it.) In a culture that says, "Tell it all!" or, "Don't hold back," we don't get a lot of practice in letting things go without comment. It's a discipline.

But I let the disappointment of that experience keep me silent for the last three months. And then, at Monday's HoCoBlogs party, an unusual thing happened. Jessie Newburn of Hocoblogs bestowed up me one of the evening's Blogger's Choice Awards.

In the early years of the Blogtail parties I would get dressed up, head to the events, then turn around and go home because I lacked the self-confidence to walk in the door. Since then much has changed. I credit my time on the Oakland Mills Village Board for giving me the ability to go places and participate without fear. I credit the relationships I have built with local bloggers and community members for giving me people to talk to once I get there.

The name of this blog is Village Green/Town Squared. On a warm October evening, on the patio of the Stanford Grill, I finally understood what Town Squared really means. It means a mix of County and Columbia, men and women, assorted generations, differing viewpoints--celebrating their connections.

I am so there. And that's this Blogger's Choice.