Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Blogger's Thanksgiving

I arrived at Tarragon Park a tad early, and sat in my car listening to NPR so as to avoid seeming over-eager. I brushed my hair, and checked that my ipad was charged.

The door was answered by @Wordbones, gracious co-host of our event. "Come on in. We're just choosing the wines for the meal." Pondering the perfect choices with him were the wine enthusiasts of @vinotrip. I knew right away that the selections for our gathering were sure to be first-rate. I heard some banging from out back.

"Don't worry about that," WB explained. "That's just @53Beers getting his tailgate operation on. He's determined to deep-fry a turkey out there."

Delicious aromas wafted through the house. I headed to the kitchen, where @hocohousehon and @howchow were discussing the finer points of roasting vs. sauteing the Brussels sprouts. Heavy cream and toasted pine nuts sat nearby. My offer of help was promptly refused.

@jessiex had arrived with her hoops, and plenty of them. I wondered if I'd even be able to fit inside one after the meal that was to come. The @wellandwise folks crowded around her, bubbling with enthusiasm for a post meal workout. @annathema and @tjmayotte arrived, fresh from a morning run. I was beginning to feel downright sedentary.

What a relief to spot @kikiverde in a quiet corner. We discussed upcoming holiday craft projects as the rest of the gang trickled in. @examorata sat nearby, scribbling thoughtfully in her journal. @ozoni11 slipped in and stationed himself at the computer, uploading photos he had taken on the grounds of Tarragon Park.

@sarahsays arrived with news of the new, free "Aquatibus", designed to move folks easily to the water facilities of their choosing.

"It never would have been possible with out all the valuable research that @ColumbiaCompass put together," she said. "Those statistics, charts, and his insightful analysis moved mountains!" Naturally, Mr. Compass was nowhere near to hear these accolades. Sarah said he was finishing the details of a deal to bring a microbrewery to the Wilde Lake Village Center.

"It's amazing the kind of work he gets done at the Columbia Mall Starbucks," I said.

Heads turned as a scuffling noise came from the entryway. "No press, no press!" someone was saying.
"This is a purely a social event!"

Of course it was @hocomojo,followed by various Patuxlets and Patchlets. "We'll be the judge of that," claimed @bitner as he slid past the gatekeepers. "Who better to appreciate the social nature of this event than your social media neighbors?"

@Annathema greeted them with a gentle smile. "You are very welcome," she said.

@LissaRossi set up on the couch for some live-blogging. She was joined by @dinosaurmom and @lifeslittlecomedies who offered support with snacks, drinks, wit, wisdom, and general hilarity.

@53Beers burst in with, well, fifty-three beers. A great ice breaker, and at just the right moment, I thought.

"But why 53 Beers?" I heard someone say.

"I was all out of gum," he replied cryptically, and retreated to his makeshift Purple Pit out back, muttering something about 'fishwrap'.

I worked my way over to the appetizers, where TJ and LisaB/Mrs S. were discussing the feasibility of running for the school board. @GCGeek offered suggestions as to the benefits of a witty Twitter presence for the would-be candidates.

@ColumbiaCompass arrived, beaming with satisfaction.

"Really, now. A microbrewery in Wilde Lake?" someone asked skeptically.

"Better than an inter-modal." he shot back easily, popping open a beer.

A call from our chefs brought us to the table. An amazing spread of local fare was laid out before us.

I noticed an empty seat.

"HoCoRising," explained Wordbones. "He's volunteering at Grassroots. He'll be along in a bit. "

Thus gathered, we bowed our heads for the blessing.


Happy Thanksgiving to the @hocoblogs community. Please accept this tale in the spirit in which it was intended -- a bit of fun during the dark days as the old year winds down.

P.S. For those who are wondering: of course we would be packing a hamper of the most delightful vegetarian fare for @hayduke and family.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Well and Wiser?

Just in time for Thanksgiving I have a brand new reason to be thankful:  those chest pains and shortness of breath I felt on Sunday were not symptoms of a cardiac event. I'm not sure I really wanted this particular scare in order to feel thankful, in fact I know I didn't.  But I'm going to take it as a gift:  a chance to be alive and be healthier.

I insisted that my husband take me to the ER because I knew that I was a bundle of risk factors:  middle aged, overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. I knew that  a woman's heart attack doesn't always present with the same symptoms as a man's.  So, even though I wanted to stay home and not trouble anyone, I went. 

I am thankful to my whole family for supporting me and taking care of each other.  I am thankful, goodness knows, for free wifi at Howard County General Hospital. I am thankful to my friends on Facebook and Twitter who kept me company with online messages of good cheer. I am especially thankful that it was probably GERD symptoms that put the fear of God into me, and not heart disease.

But I am happiest to use this space today to thank everyone who helped me at the hospital:  ER staff,
Triage and Admitting staff, Nurses, Techs, Transport employees, Lab technicians, Food Service workers,
Housekeeping, Janitorial Services, Technicians in Radiology and Nuclear Medicine,  Dr. Levy in the ER,
Dr. Silverman who monitored my Stress Test...

That's a long list, isn't it?  All of those folks, and probably more, were working to make sure I got the best care possible.  They were kind and respectful to me and my family.  They answered my questions. They smiled at my teddy bear. 

Today, encouraged by my family, I am taking a tour at a local fitness facility. I'm going to find the best ways to increase my activity levels, and I am making changes in my diet. 

Last night my family gathered for a happier occasion, the birthday of my youngest daughter.  I realized, for the first time, what an active commitment I will have to make if I want to be around to see many, many more of those celebrations.

This isn't just Thanksgiving for me, it's a whole New Year.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Next on the Agenda

There are evenings when the words "Resident Speakout" can produce a certain anxiety in the hearts of local board members.  If you have had this experience, I don't have to explain. If you haven't, I'll try to make myself clear.

Both CA Village and Board meetings have a time set aside for residents to sign in and speak about a topic that is important to them.  As you might imagine, most people are motivated to do this by something that concerns them.  They may be upset, offended, indignant, outraged, or just generally cranky. I'm pretty sure that it's rare for a resident to come down to a meeting to thank the board members for something they have done right. It may happen, but I don't think it is a regular occurence.

It has been my experience that volunteer board members are not sitting around waiting for people to come and sing their praises.  Our board's most pressing goal is often simply to get through all the items we need to consider during the time we have allotted to meet, and to do them justice.  And let's not forget all of the work our Village Manager has done beforehand to prepare for the meeting.  It is amazing the amount of groundwork she covers so that we can do the best job possible for our village.

Now, back to Resident Speakout.  Perhaps none of us is at our best when already unhappy about something.  But it seems to me that we are seeing more and more people in our culture who come to these opportunities to speak in a combative and suspicious state. Whether at the Village level, Columbia-wide, or throughout the county, citizens jump from concern to conspiracy theories, from irritation to "it's us vs. them!"
This type of mind-set produces very little progress for the resident and extreme stress for the board members.

I have found myself deeply concerned about local matters this week. I want to write about them, but I'm not quite ready yet. Despite feeling low, I still had a glimmer of hope:  this week's Resident Speakout. 

Yes, really.

A group of residents came to speak about a matter that is extremely important to them. They spoke eloquently, and with great respect.  They were accompanied by an elected official who had clearly done his homework and was ready to work with the Board.  Meanwhile, the board was ready to discuss the issue because we had been kept abreast of the particulars by the Village Manager.  We had a wonderful discussion, even a few laughs. Progress was made and, I believe, everyone went away feeling valued and respected.

For those of you feeling as disillusioned as I have been, take this:  sometimes, it works.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Ask Me

I got an email recently from a friend I have known twenty-five years.  We met through church and music connections, and have spent most of the intervening years as members of a congenial group I call The Birthday Club.  We all get together and have dinner when one of us has a birthday, bring funny birthday cards, and catch up on the goings-on in each others lives.

This fellow did me a special honor by giving me away at my wedding in 1999, as my own father was no longer living. "Pay attention," he said to me rather sternly, as we were about to walk down the aisle. "You need to pay attention. You're going to want to remember this."

Those words came back to me as I read the following:

Some time, when you are in Baltimore again and have the time, I would love to have lunch with you. You made a couple of comments at dinner the other night about politics and I'd like to pursue that subject a little with you. I give you my absolute promise to not make it in any way confrontational; I just want to understand what people who I suspect differ from me about it all think. I've tried with Susan (not her real name) and that, as you know, doesn't work so well; you, I know are more, well "agreeable" for want of a better word and will give me your thoughts without being too absolutist. Let me know if you'd be willing; I repeat, I will be a gentleman in every possible way.
This came as a shock. In twenty-five years we have discussed hymns, anthems, English cathedrals, where to get great Chinese food and how to make the best gin and tonics. We have never discussed politics. The Birthday Club follows an unspoken policy to avoid topics that may cause significant discord.
I have become more fearful in recent years of discussing politics. Not too long ago my patriotism and my faith were challenged because I didn't agree with prevailing political views.  And certain radio and television personalities, along with 'commenters' to blogs and online newspapers, believe that the exercise of free speech permits a sort of verbal vivisection of "the other." 
That's not how I work.  So I generally keep quiet.  But I feel this is an offer I can't refuse: an olive branch extended by a dear friend who thinks differently than I do.
And above all, a complete gentleman in every possible way.