Friday, August 30, 2013

Ignite, Inspire, Excite

First there was Ignite Columbia. Then there was Inspire Columbia. Now there is Excite Columbia. Excite Columbia, which is being launched by CA, is a self-described Citizens Academy. I think that's great. I am curious to learn more. I asked the following questions and received a prompt response from Celeste Olinger, director of communications and community engagement.

Who do you envision is the target audience for this?

Excite Columbia's target audience is any resident that lives on Columbia Association-assessed property, including new homeowners as well as anyone interested in being involved with Columbia Association. We want people to have a greater understanding of the way CA operates and how CA serves the community.

Once someone completes this, what's next? Does it qualify one for anything? Do you imagine it might become recommended for those seeking office? High school or college students? New homeowners?

People will emerge more informed about CA and its role in the community and will hopefully continue to be involved both with CA and the community as a whole.

I'm still curious. Imagining this as a party, who will come? What will motivate them? How will CA reach out to the target audience, who are often disengaged from CA and community issues? Will the presentation of information be dynamic and appealing? And what will completing the program give them that they didn't have before? Will they see that and know how to use it?

I'd really, really like to start a discussion here on what you think of this. To me, Excite Columbia could be the beginning of a much-needed conversation about who we are, and who needs to educated and involved in our future.

So, speak up, Campers! I'm ready to listen.


Thursday, August 29, 2013


From the movie, "A Thousand Clowns" --

Murray Burns: [shouting at rows of houses] Campers! The entertainment committee was quite disappointed in the really poor turnout at this morning's community sing. I mean, where's all that old Camp Chickawattamee spirit? I'm sure I speak for all of us here when I say that I...


Murray Burns: Now, I'd like to say right now that... that...


Murray Burns: Campers, I can't think of anything to say.


Good morning campers! Today is my first day back teaching for the year, I have a middle schooler with insomnia who is waking me up every hour to share her woes, and my brain is running on empty.

Here's hoping that tomorrow is a better day.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Live and Let Live

What's going on over at Inspire Columbia? Well, I'm glad you asked. Here's a question:

How can Columbia grow and expand, while protecting the character of each of our neighborhoods?

And here is one of the answers:

I suggest that we NOT grow and expand.
(AUG 13, 2013 Diana B6)

Why do we need to grow and expand? Instead let us maintain, improve and enrich. Growth is not always better. There will always be someone who wants another store or another restaurant. Let's appreciate what we have. There must be an end to this growth or we will become an urbanized, crowded region like Towson, Silver Spring or Bethesda. These are not places I'd want to live. I came to Columbia because it was attractive, convenient, diverse and suburban. I don't want to fight traffic or walk in the snow from a satellite parking lot to run errands. We can always visit more "vibrant" places when we have the urge to -- and then go home to the peacefulness of Columbia.

The last sentence stands out for me.

We can always visit more "vibrant" places when we have the urge to -- and then go home to the peacefulness of Columbia.

There's that word "vibrant" again. We've been talking a lot in recent years about vibrancy as we work towards the realization of Columbia's Downtown Plan. Where does that word come from?

vibrant (adj.)
1550s, "agitated," from Latin vibrantem (nominative vibrans) "swaying," present participle of vibrare "move to and fro" (see vibrate). Meaning "vigorous, full of life" is first recorded 1860. Related: Vibrantly.

It seems to me that those who object to vibrancy feel very strongly the notion of the first part of the definition: agitated, vibrating, moving to and fro. And they don't like it. They find peace in being still. On the other hand, those who want the place they live to be vibrant are focusing on the latter part of the definition, I think: vigorous, full of life.

How do we resolve the conflict, when it is truly two sides of the same coin? As I search through definitions, I see the conflict ever more clearly.

a. Pulsing or throbbing with energy or activity: the vibrant streets of a big city.
b. Vigorous, lively, and vital: "a vibrant group that challenged the . . . system" (Philip Taubman).
2. Exhibiting or characterized by rapid, rhythmic movement back and forth or to and fro; vibrating.
3. Produced as a result of vibration; resonant or resounding: vibrant voices.
4. Relatively high on the scale of brightness: a vibrant hue.

How does that make you feel? Are you drawn to it? Does it make you want to crawl under the covers and hide?

It's all in how you look at it. One person may find a natural spot in Columbia such as Wilde Lake tranquil and serene, while another will pick up on the pulse of life in this natural habitat. There is movement in water, wind, birds, insects, turtles and other small animals. You might say "humming with activity." And that's vibration.

Another person may visit the quiet Lakefront at sunset and feel not reassured but distressed. Why is it so deserted? The beauty of the scenery without the interaction of people strikes them as a sign of lifelessness: a ghost town, eerie in its inactivity. "As silent as death."

In all truly great cities there is a balance of activity and restfulness. A bustling market, a quiet park with a soothing fountain. In my opinion, that is what we must strive for. Columbia's future belongs to a diversity of ages and desires. We must consider opinions different from our own.

What do you think? Go over to Inspire Columbia and share your vision.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013



When I was on the OM Village Board, I remember having a thorough discussion about where to place bike racks in the Oakland Mills Village Center. But my feeling was that we didn't come to a final decision. Months later I remember asking Sandy Cederbaum, "Whatever happened with the bike racks?" And she said, "Oh, in the end we decided on such and such." And we did get the bike racks, and everything was fine.

One of my few frustrations with being on the Board was that we had so many issues to address that we rarely had time for follow up. Not that the follow-up didn't get done, it did. Any loose ends were taken care of by the Village Manager and any other appropriate Village staff. But the Board doesn't always have time to revisit that. You'd be amazed at how much your Village Board is doing, folks.

I'm bringing the issue of follow-up to the forefront today because of something my daughter said yesterday after her first day of school.

"Guess what? The Sixth Grade isn't going to have foreign language anymore."

Last year local news was filled with stories about how the Middle School curriculum was changing. Do you remember? The focus of many of the articles was how Reading would no longer be taught as a separate subject. The schedule would change to accommodate new priorities, one of which was foreign language instruction in the sixth grade.

There was plenty of frustration over the changes, from parents who worried about the loss of reading instruction, to middle school teachers who hadn't been included in the process to begin with. In the end, the changes were pushed through, and my daughter had French every other day in the sixth grade. And she loved it, I might add.

But I did hear ripples that foreign language teachers felt that the alternating day schedule was not the best for first year instruction. And I got an earful from my daughter about a Reading Module that was boring and poorly executed.

So, now that the middle schools have had a year to try the new schedules, they appear to be making some adjustments. Great. But let's hear about it. The Howard County Schools are jumping into the world of social media this year with both feet, so let's have some follow-up.

"We tried the new schedule for a year. We have gotten feedback from teachers and administrators. Based on their recommendations, we are making the following adjustments, and this is why."

As a middle school parent, that is the follow-up I would like to see. In a day when our students are assessed to within an inch of their lives, let's be honest and forthright about changes that directly affect them. Let's show what worked, what didn't, and what will be done to better meet their needs.

Above all, let us *not* be reticent to admit we could have done things better.

That is the kind of follow-up I am hoping to see. What about you? After the first day of school, do you have some unanswered questions? Now that hcpss is reaching out to us on Facebook and Twitter, we just may get some answers.


Monday, August 26, 2013


Today is the first day of school. I watched my daughter carefully choose her outfit, style her hair, apply make up, pack her book bag, make sure she had her house key and her lunch. She paused impatiently outside for a picture. She was ready to get the day started, to get seventh grade started.

Exactly one hour earlier I watched my husband do the very same thing--well, minus the makeup--carefully choosing the right bowtie to go with his first day of school outfit. He took coffee and an instant breakfast. His bag was packed with class rosters, music, and lesson plans. (He probably won't have time to eat lunch.)

He is a teacher.

He chooses to go back to school, year after year. For many people, school is just one time in their lives, and when they're done: they're done. For teachers life is measured out in coffee cups and Diet Cokes and the rise and fall of the academic calendar. Richard spends the school year teaching music and his summers playing music, writing music, and writing new lessons, exploring new areas in the world of music that he can share with his students.

What makes teachers return, year after year? If you follow what is going on in the world of education these days, you know it isn't easy. I am reminded of a back-to-school letter I received from an eccentric Headmaster of Grace and St. Peter's School as he outlined the faculty schedule for teacher's meetings and opening day assignments. It began,

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead." (Shakespeare, Henry V)

Rather grisly, yes?

Okay, so maybe it isn't life-and-death, but it is most certainly life: the choice, day after day after day to get up early, work late, skip lunch, bring work home, go to evening and weekend events, and to put the needs of others ahead of your own. As in every profession, some are better than others. But when you have a good teacher, or your child has a good teacher, you know it. And you are grateful. And you carry that experience with you forever.

I attended Westminster Choir College (now a part of Rider University) for my Junior year of college. One vivid memory is participating in the annual commencement service which is held in Princeton University Chapel. You can just imagine the opportunities for pageantry and choral music for such an event. A mainstay of commencement is the singing of the "Anthem of Dedication" by Warren Martin.

Legend has it that Martin, a graduate of the school and longtime faculty member, was asked at the last minute to throw together something for commencement. In his annoyance he made the piece as schmaltzy as possible, thinking they would hate it. In fact, it was received with much acclaim and they have been singing it annually ever since.

As the anthem begins, the combined freshmen, sophomore, and junior classes sing,

"Whom shall we send? And who will go for us?"

The seniors respond in song,

"Here am I, Lord. Send me!"

As I watched my husband get ready this morning, I thought of the many men and women who, every year, step into the breach and say, "Here I am. Send me."

And that, my friends, is dedication.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Neighborhood News


Hot off the presses! Here's what is happening in Cinnamon Tree at Talbott Springs and the surrounding environs:

One of my more recent neighbors has a band called Ventura Highway that plays The Second Chance and other local venues. She also sings the occasional tune with the Dave Phenecie Band. She. is. good.

My neighbors across the street completed a significant addition to their house and now my husband wants one. Probably everyone wants one.

Catacorner to us are the young couple who take their beautiful cat out for walks. On a leash. Who knew? Works for them, and makes for a happy cat!

Our handsome young neighbor has returned safely from his most recent deployment. I almost didn't recognize him because of the massive beard he grew while away. Alas, he had to shave it off so I guess it didn't meet the requirements stateside. Upon his return he bought a grill and patio furniture. Hope he's enjoyed some serious summer fun. He deserves it.

Our most immediate neighbor spent the last year training for Iron Girl. At the last minute, health issues forced her to pull out. So impressed that she went anyway, to cheer on and photograph her buddies. What a good sport! Here's hoping next year goes perfectly for her!

If moving vans are any indication, our neighbors down the way who always put out the best Christmas lights have moved out. As the lolcats say, "I haz a sad." In my little neighborhood of modest quadroplexes, their annual display added a much needed touch of holiday cheer.

Word on the street--literally, signs poked into the ground--is that our side of Thunder Hill may get some speed bumps/traffic calming devices. I'm all for it, even though I hate speed bumps. People come zooming down this street without regard to the fact that is a residential one. The curves and differences in grade make it impossible to see around corners. Our car was almost completely totaled by someone speeding as we were pulling out of our parking lot. Not to mention that there is only ONE legitimate crosswalk between Route 175 and the Oakland Mills Village Center...

Bill Woodcock reports that the Oakland Mills Village Board spent yesterday having a Board Retreat, and that excellent things are in the works. He gives props to Board Chair Bill Gray for his leadership. Speaking of Bill Gray, are you getting his newsletter? It is awesome! If you want timely news about what the Board is really doing, this is what you want to read, along with the weekly OM Newsletter from Sandy Cederbaum. No rant, no slant, just a clear presentation with an invitation for all to participate.

I've heard rumors that the tired old Oakland Mills Village Center sign is finally going to be replaced by Cedar Properties. When this actually happens, I'd like to invite you to come down and have your picture taken with it! I know I will. Special thanks goes to Village Manager Sandy Cederbaum for continuing to make this a high priority. The flowers in the fountain/sculpture in front of The Second Chance Saloon are mighty nifty, too.

Closer to home, my front flower bed has been amazing thanks to the multitude of annuals we purchased at the Oakland Mills Farmers Market. We've attracted many more butterflies this year, as well. My adventures clearing our back patio were quite successful right up until I got a nasty case of poison ivy, and we are looking to hire someone to pull up the horrible indoor-outdoor carpeting and lay tile out back. Testimonials on behalf of brilliant, reasonably-priced contractors would be appreciated.

This update from the Summer of Neighbors was brought to you by pools, pizza, snowballs, ice cream, sleeping late, shopping the farmers market, and chilling out in lawn chairs.


Friday, August 23, 2013

There's a New Sheriff in Town

Online news outlets and blogs don't exist in a vacuum. We write, and we make a space for comments. We encourage conversation. As I have written before, some blogs seem to get more comments than others. Sometimes following the discussion is as good as the original post.

Local news outlets have struggled with how to deal with folks who just love to be mean. The Patuxent site used to be dominated by a few choice individuals who loved to come in and shoot up the joint, making actual discourse impossible. The newer Explore Howard site seems to have more moderation. And so the gun-slinging has moved over to Patch.

Professional news sites set a policy for comments. But we, as individual bloggers, have to set our own boundaries. And that is completely appropriate. If you comment on my blog, you are a guest in my house, so you have to obey house rules.

I raise this issue because it came to mind when I was asked to speak about Dennis Lane at the recent HoCoBlogs Party at The Second Chance Saloon in Oakland Mills. (And thanks to Jon Sham and Luke Lavoie, by the way.) One of the things I thought of, but did not articulate very well, was that Dennis had his own set of rules for commenters. He was the Sheriff, but his kind of governance allowed quite a bit of hootin' & hollerin'. He stepped in only when he felt it was absolutely necessary.

I once took quite a beating when I put in my two cents on To2C. When I saw him later he winced a little when I mentioned it, but reminded me that I was a big kid and had chosen to step into the fray. He had a certain code to which he adhered pretty faithfully. He admitted that although he had been rooting for me on the sidelines, he had to let me take care of myself.

But not every blogger is looking to maintain the law of the Wild West. Dennis was good at riding that bronco, and I think he liked it. But there is no law that says that all HoCoBloggers must do this. We don't have to be Dennis, and he wouldn't want us to. "Find your voice," he often said.

Comments are welcome, but commenters should realize that for each blog there are rules of the house. To be perfectly honest, anonymous Trolls are not really welcome in anyone's house, but each blogger will handle them according to his or her own boundaries.

Some folks like the terror of thrill rides. Some are looking for the creeping dread of horror films. Some itch for the adventure of "High Noon", or "Shoot-Out at The O.K. Corral". Some, as Archer Newland described in "The Age of Innocence" want "chiefly to enjoy good conversation."

As quaint as it may seem, I find myself in the latter category: challenges of intellect, yes. Shooting for the gut, no. So, if you want to drink in this saloon, be prepared. We'll always be raising a toast to Dennis Lane, no question about that.

What comes after that? Well, partner, there's a big wide world out there to explore, and plenty of time to ride until sunset.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Test Post Blogsy

Valentine's Day Top Ten--A Woman Strikes Back!

(Written in response to this brilliant rant by Mike Morucci.)

February 9, 2010

Really tired of hearing men dish about how dumb Valentine's Day is, blah, blah, blah. Have they any idea how torturous a day it can be for women? Ready to fill you in, guys:

1. Valentine's Day for many single women is yet another day advertising that you are alone, you don't have anyone, and you are thus excluded for the world of love and couple-dom.

2. However, if you do have someone and he does nothing or something careless or thoughtless, the whole Valentine world is laughing at you. You may have thought you were lovable but in fact you were barely worth a last-minute trip to the Safeway for the last card left on the rack.

3. Although men think women demand they be mind readers, no man was ever killed for asking, "What would you like to do for Valentine's Day, honey?" and then doing it.

4. No, guys, you do not have to spend a million to be a Valentine success. You just have to use the same darn creativity you use to solve problems at work, fix things you really want fixed, or solve those fun games you love to play. Yes, you need to give the matter your attention. This does not cost $.

5. Speaking of attention, if you just gave your sweetheart 15 minutes of undivided attention--no tv, computers, handheld devices or other distractions, you would be amazed at the results. Having a man give you that kind of sincere attention is truly sexy.

6. Notice invisible things. How many invisible things does your sweetheart do for you all the time?
Now would be a good time to say, "Wow--I love how you always______________. It makes me feel so loved and appreciated." This goes a long way towards helping a women realize all those invisible things you are doing all the time for her, which may not, at first glance, seem romantic.

7. If you are not married or in a long-term relationship, but want to have a fun Valentine's Day with your lady friend, (without going overboard)I suggest lightening up and having some fun: be a kid.
How about getting together to make cookies, play with playdough, plan a treasure hunt, have a game night with some really good chocolate and a bottle of wine?

8. Something you need to remember--a woman wants to find something that makes you happy on Valentine's Day, too. If you can stretch out of your comfort zone to meet her where she is, you may discover that she is pretty understanding about what would make a fun day for you. Within reason of course.

9. If you really hate Valentine's Day, or have some kind of phobia that can't be explained by medical science, you can still be a winner. Be honest. And then choose some other day of the year to go all out for your sweetheart. On Valentine's Day, give her a hug and a kiss and tell her how great she is. The memory of your wonderful time together will make all the difference.

10. Don't tell me you don't have enough time to give Valentine's Day the justice a woman thinks it deserves. Every woman in this world knows that you have 364 days to prepare for this day, and even if you only gave five minutes of thought and some loose change daily, you would be ready.
So, be a man with a plan. A cool plan. A loving plan.

Happy Valentine's Day to all--may it be at least a taste of what you wish. And don't be too hard on yourself if it isn't. There is always chocolate, wine, friends. And next year.

I am trying out a new app for blogging on the iPad called Blogsy. Please forgive this random post as I work out the kinks. I am looking for something which will allow me to easily incorporate photos and hyperlinks. --JAM

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Goodnight, Columbia

Came out of Clyde's to the full moon over the water.

I thought I caught a glimpse of Dennis on the way in. Like a scene from a hokey movie, I stopped and closed my eyes and looked again. 

Goodnight, Columbia.

Oh, oh, oh my what a day
Making my way
Around this town.
Oh, oh, oh walking the lakefront with                                                                                   Eager feet. Who will I meet?

The light of the dream is shining its beam
It's like a phone call from yesterday
Oh, oh, oh pulling me closer to plans for a 
Brighter New Day

 Good night Columbia
 Every day sees me lovin' ya
 Every night near the People Tree
 (All the trees sing a symphony.)

Columbia: Goodnight
And some day when the time is right
The world's gonna see what I see
Columbia set free!

Oh, oh, oh look at the lake
Nothing can break 
The stillness now
Oh, oh a table at Clyde's and the best of friends
The night never ends.

The names on the bricks, the people who mix,
they say the dream is worth fighting for   
So, oh, oh don't let it die
Cause Columbia's ready to fly

Good night Columbia
Now the Whole Foods is just a dream
Soon we'll wake to a place to thrive
We'll be walking, won't have to drive

Columbia: goodnight
And some day when the time is right
The world's gonna see what I see
Columbia set free!

I know every Village, each crazy street name 
I know it's important when people came.
But the future is coming, no, it won't wait.
So someone accept it before it's too late.

So, oh, oh, give it a chance
The romance of making a dream come true
Oh, oh, oh something inside of you knows the song-- 
Just sing along.                                              

Pioneers may say "no" but my heart says "lets go!"
It's like tomorrow is at the door
Oh,oh,oh this is the time
One moment, one meeting with fate.

Good night Columbia
Every day sees me lovin' ya
Every night near the People Tree
(All the trees sing a symphony.)

Columbia: Goodnight
And some day when the time is right
The world's gonna see what I see
Columbia set free!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Parties and Profiles

Do you remember the old Dewar's Profiles?  I must have taken myself a little too seriously from an early age, because I always wanted to see myself in one. By the time I was actually old enough to drink, I realized that I hated Scotch. But that wasn't the point. I wanted to find myself gracing the pages of some upscale magazine, having attained the cultural status of a Dewar's Profile.

Sometimes you have to make your own fifteen minutes of fame. So, in honor of tomorrow night's Blog Party at The Second Chance Saloon, I am instituting the HoCoBlogs Profile. Here's mine:

Home: Oakland Mills, Columbia
Age: 54
Profession: Teacher--Music and Movement for Preschoolers with Special Needs
Hobbies: Crafting, Singing, Reading, Blogging
Last Book Read: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind  (ed. J. Glei)
Last Accomplishment: Ran for CA Board from Oakland Mills   
  (Yes, I lost, but running was definitely an accomplishment.)
Quote: "Nearly everything could be improved with the addition of a bouncy castle."
Profile: Caring, creative, with a taste for word-play. Willing to work on the small things while keeping an eye on the big picture.
Blog: Village Green/ Town Squared

I would love to see a bunch of these!  Get creative, have some fun. Submit yours below, or give me one at the Blog Party. I'll post them all here on the blog. If you are a blog reader, that's fine, too. Use the last line to list your favorite blogs, or favorite blog categories. And if anyone knows how to superimpose type over a photo, that would indeed be nifty.

See you at The Second Chance!

P.S. Thanks to my friend Peter who made this:


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

White Space

With one tap of a stubby, clumsy finger, I just deleted today's blog post. It was about how we get our local news.  I am going to have more coffee, and try again tomorrow.  Sorry, folks.

If you have suggestions and comments on the Columbia/Howard County news scene, please add them in the comments.  I'll just go back to pounding my head against the wall.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Eavesdropping on Memory Lane

I spent some time Saturday night hanging out on memory lane. I feel a little funny about it, because I went there looking for someone else's memories. So I was eavesdropping. Or maybe trespassing. I don't know for sure.

I have written in the past about a certain kind of Pioneer mindset in Columbia. By and large I have been referring to people who came to Columbia as adults. Another group I have been increasingly curious about is the kids of Columbia--those who grew up here while Columbia itself was growing up around them. So I went to this page to do some primary research.

Here you will find countless memories of places that no longer exist: a petting zoo near Merriweather, a bookstore/cafe in Owen Brown, a radio station at the Mall, a produce stand in Sewell's Orchard. Scanning through the threads gave me a clearer picture of what the Village Centers truly were in their heyday. I understand much better now what people are missing. 

Another recurring theme is loyalty to one's schools, with a little good-natured trash talking about other schools thrown in. Those who attended Faulkner Ridge seem to be befuddled by the closing of their school. Why Faulkner Ridge? Why can't it be fixed? What does it do to the neighborhood to lose an elementary school?

Larger than memories of Columbia is a nostalgia for a kind of childhood that doesn't exist anymore. There is a longing for days of adventure, unsupervised play, exploring the woods. Again and again I see comments, "Our parents just let us run free." "It was heaven." "I'd never let my kids do that."

This is the part I understand the best, because I had a childhood like that. The personal freedom and independence we had seems foolhardy by today's standards. Of course, we had no idea how precious it was. I was reminded of just how wonderful as I strolled down Columbia's memory lane. 

I can only imagine what the combination of that kind of childhood plus being at the center of the Columbia's beginnings was like. Reading through the shared memories gave me a glimpse into that golden world.


Friday, August 9, 2013

To Be, or Not to Be: Patch

Columbia Patch on Facebook, Thursday, August 7th:

If this guy did what police say, it's obviously horrible for the kids. But think about this: How many well-meaning adults are reluctant to have anything to do with mentoring kids because of charges like these? /todd

And the comments:

Julia Jackson McCready:  I am not sure that I would have added any editorial comment to this one.

MMS:  What kind of comment is this?

MMS:  Not you Julia... Todd... The thinking here is "off".

LLP:  I agree with the above comments! Distasteful, cavalier words.

ML:  Also, does every story have to be about northern Virginia here? I feel like this has become nova patch.

KGP:  I made similar comments to the EC Patch link.

KGP:  I find your presentation of this story, and editorial questioning, in poor taste at best, and offensive at worst. This young lady is not responsible for the reluctance of adults to mentor young people, the alleged perpetrator is a sick individual and a full investigation is due the alleged victim and society without questioning the veracity of the story by the media.

Julia Jackson McCready I'm glad I wasn't the only one who felt this way.

Todd Richissin, Patch:  Thanks, guys. Sorry if the post was less than artfully worded. My point is that there are adults who would like to do great things with great kids but are reluctant to because these kinds of cases can affect how they're viewed. Trust me: I have no sympathy for ANYBODY who harms a child. My point is, not only is there harm to the kids directly affected, but all of society suffers from people who would prey on kids. todd

KGP:  Please remove this and repost it more appropriately (i.e. with no editorializing)

JW:  So you are making the argument that people don't mentor because they think they might be suspected of being in possession of child pornography or of sexually exploiting a 12-year-old? I think you are making an incredible leap. Part of this tragedy is that people's trust was violated. That doesn't mean people stop trusting. Facebook makes it easy to remove a post; I recommend you remove this one.

SB:  Well meaning adults don't sleep with the kids they are mentoring. Your comment implies that he might be set-up. Very poor taste.

SMK: The problem isn't that people bring 'charges like these', the problem is that crimes like this are committed. Shame on you.

First question, who is Todd, and what did he study in school?

Second question, what is going on with Patch?  There have been a slew of articles this week, predicting big layoffs for Friday. (Today) scanning through the list on Twitter, I smiled when I saw this:

@HoCoBlogs: Wishing our #HoCoMD Patch editors the best! AOL To ‘Impact’ Hundreds Of Patch Employees Friday

HoCoBlogs has had a relatively friendly relationship with our local Patch sites and editors. As you know, I started this blog at the encouragement of David Greisman when he was with Columbia Patch. I've written more about this here. At the beginning, it felt as though we were finally going to get the kind of hyper-local news coverage we had been craving in Columbia and Howard County.

Over time, though, there have been plenty of bumps in the road: high turnover of personnel, articles and Facebook threads designed to inflame and produce more clicks/comment wars than to provide information. Less local coverage, and with the format change, less room for any significant content.

I found the following comments on online articles intriguing:

"The original Local Editors were the trained journalists who had lost jobs at print news in 2009. After a year of setting up the local Patch, most realized they could not continue the demanding 18 hour, seven days a week. When the economy improved, it was time to get a more sane job, so they moved on, being replaced by cheaper, less experienced employees. No wonder many of the Patch outlets are failing."

(Ann Wisniewski, commenting on

"Patch actually pays (or paid) some of the highest entry-level journalism salaries around. That could be part of their financial problem, but they were indeed attracting extremely talented young journalists during a time when no one else was hiring. Asking those journalists to be content managers, calendar editors, reporters, copy editors and managing editors is what I think led to content with diminished quality.

(Claire Hanan, commenting on

We are losing newspapers almost daily, it seems.  And yet we need news. We need talented, professional journalists to shed light on the world for us: local, regional, national, international. Although the business models founder, the need for news does not diminish.

I think it is safe to say that I have been rooting for Patch, wanting to see people like David, Brandi, Elizabeth, Lisa, Marge, Brian and AJ succeed in connecting with Columbia and Howard County in a way that was mutually beneficial. After reading a variety of articles pertaining to AOL's business model for Patch, it is clear that my understanding was a limited one.

Already today I am seeing conflicting reports on whether today will hold layoffs and closures or different options for failing Patch sites and editors. To our local Patchsters: thanks, hang in there, and in the future--better luck.

And to Todd: some articles don't need a personal opinion. Trust me on this.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Shameless Imitation Post

Last week I had a blast reading this post on The 53.   The only thing I didn't like about it was that I hadn't thought of the idea first. So, with my debt to Marshmallow Man clearly stated, here are my random thoughts of the day.

Why is Oakland Mills the only Village to have their Annual Summer Pool party in an undisclosed location?  What's up with that? (Actually, this year they did break down and reveal the location on FB, and I don't blame them, because the upgrades to the Stevens Forest Pool are just Columbia Awesome.)

Why am I unable to type the words Oakland Mills without typing it as "Oakland Milks"? Is this some unresolved dairy farm karma going on here?

Is Columbia ready for their own not-ready-for-prime-time players?  This post from Bill on Inspire Columbia has some serious (and by serious, I mean, not at all serious) potential. This should absolutely be filmed at The Mall Starbucks on Sunday mornings.

And, in that vein, admit it, there are people out there in HoCoLand who are seriously bummed that they never got their big chance in the local limelight on the Lane/Skalny/HoCoMoJo podcast: And Then There's That. And these may be the very folks who could sharpen their skills on the aforementioned Columbia Comedy show. Who knows?

Does it matter what kind of grass grows in your yard, really? Because we have been working on several patches where trees used to be all summer, and we have three  small clumps of "real" grass. But other alien species of grass are coming along quite nicely.  Does it make any difference to storm water? Will I have to get permission from the RAC?

Has anyone ever tried to identify themselves as living in the Village of Outparcel?

And one last thing. The last two times I have been to the KFC on Snowden the service has been incredibly good. Are they under new management? They keep the line moving, get the orders out, smile and joke with each other, offer helpful suggestions to the customers. So many times I find KFC's to be the epicenter of mind bogglingly poor service, so this stands out. I hope it's a trend!

And about that KFC food...we really don't eat there that often. And of course I always go @HoCoUnsweetened in the drink department...

Don't forget, the next HoCoBlogs Party is August 20th at the 2nd Chance Saloon in Oakland Milks.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Choose Community

What makes a blog a Community Blog? Should it be a place to post upcoming events in the community? Should it highlight local community news or happenings in local schools? Should a community blogger write about what makes the community unique? Is a community blog a place for musing and pondering about the meaning of community happenings? Or a place to call out bad actors for bad behavior on the local scene? Can a community blogger relate personal experiences pertaining to local life? Or look ahead and editorialize about what the future holds?

Here in Howard County we have HoCoBlogs, a website and, by extension, a collegial association of local bloggers. (We even have parties!) The web page divides blogs into categories: Community, Personal, Politics, Faith, Topics, and so on. Scanning the page each day you might choose to look through it as you used to leaf through the newspaper: certain sections or writers draw you in. You might dip into new topics or blogs if the title intrigues, or if the item was recommended to you by a friend.

Right now Howard County Magazine is asking for your opinions in their annual Best of Howard Survey. And I am making a recommendation to you, as a friend of this blog. Please vote for Tales of Two Cities by Dennis Lane as Best Blog in Howard County. His blog stands as the definition of a true community blog. To2C covers all of the items mentioned in the first paragraph and more: you could also expect to find a bit of local history and trivia, food and wine, real estate news, with music and humor thrown in for good measure.

It would have really tickled Dennis to win this. Now that he is no longer with us, it will mean so much to his family, friends, fellow bloggers, and the greater Community that he loved so well.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Go to the blog yourself. I recommend starting with the category tagged "Scene This Week in". Dip in a little and enjoy.

And then vote. 

P.S. Please make sure to vote in at least ten categories, or your ballot will be discarded.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Comfort Zone?

The weather is glorious. It could be Spring or Fall. The humidity is low, temperature mild, and the sky clear and blue. It's confusing because this is August in Maryland and normally it would be oppressively hot and humid. 

I'll take it. This is my kind of weather. Maybe I'll actually get to the Howard County Fair this year. My excuse is that it is always far too hot to even think of leaving the house.

Excuses. I think everyone makes them, to some degree. Excuses can be helpful when setting necessary boundaries, but sometimes they can take on a life of their own and reproduce like coat hangers in a closet. You turn around and discover you have hemmed yourself in with a sticky web of excuses. And then where do you begin to find your way out?  And how?

"What makes us push ourselves to overcome our fears? There has to be something bigger prompting us.... Cutting through the fear...requires a radical change of mental state. Without that, we may struggle, or try, or attempt. Only when our thinking changes can we "do" it." 
   (Letters to Myself from the Beach, Day Three)

This past Spring I did something that I was completely unable to do. I ran for a seat on the CA Board. I was able to articulate quite clearly why I couldn't do it, but the overriding feeling that something had to change pushed me forward. I just did it. 

In some ways I think that, despite plowing ahead to do the thing that needed to be done, I never experienced that radical change of mental state. I steeled myself. When the election was over, and I lost, whatever armour of might I had put on melted away and I was more entrenched than ever in my previous mindset.

I pushed too hard on the elastic band of life, and wow, did it smack me back.

I am just now beginning to accept the knowledge that the pushing in itself was a victory for me. Win or lose, pushing back against my fears and excuses was declaring war on my comfort zone. People close to me know how I love my comfort zone. I don't always realize how much work I put into preserving it.

Or how much it has come to control me.

I have been mulling over this post (  by AnnieRie for much of the summer. In "Givers and Takers" she highlights the activities of the communities she is involved in to expand the notion of Columbia Compass' #summerofneighbors theme. This is the part that bothered me. "Are you a giver? Or, someone watching on the sidelines? Step up." 

I felt defensive. What do you mean I'm a taker, just because I'm not taking on a lot of extra activities? Why does being on the sidelines make me a taker? I'm not actively taking, maybe I just want the right nothing.


I went back to the post today and realized I had not fully processed her statement in context. She goes on, "Find your passion. Invest in Howard County. Your home."

I feel lucky to know so many folks who are doing this every day. Some are in the local blogging community, some in community service, some are neighbors and friends. All inspire me to learn more, think more, and yes--do more. I can't think of a better invocation to a summer of neighbors, and beyond.



Sent from my iPad

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Time Warped?

I was thinking about the Dookies. I was making my daughter's breakfast, and I thought, "It must be the time to start thinking about the Dookie Awards. Will someone keep them going? Should *I* keep them going?" Then I had to rush around getting ready for Margo's big orthodontic appointment, and the thought went right out of my head.

When I finally had a minute to myself in the waiting room, I looked it up on my phone. December. December? It's not until December? How could I have been so "off" in my timing? 

Time, time, time. We get so used to the way things always go. We are comforted by the rhythms and patterns of our lives. Annierie measures time in planting and growing seasons, Marshmallow Man lives for tailgating season, HocoHouseHon observes life from her precious porch, or yearns for the change of season which will mean it is warm enough to go back out and celebrate with an iced coffee and her journal. I know a young gentleman in Howard County whose life is inextricably linked to the pace of political campaigns; he revels in it.

What is the framework of time for you? Is it the school year? Is it shaped by sport seasons of your children, swim team, perhaps? Or the theater/symphony season? All of us have our ways of making sense of the rise and fall of our days. 
As children we are taught in school to observe the changes of the seasons. We collect brightly colored Autumn leaves, look forward to making the first snowball of Winter, watch for Robin Redbreast in Spring, and run outside barefoot in the grass when Summer makes its first appearance.

Humans like things to make sense, even if it means using our own frameworks to make sense of things. I read somewhere that dreams are actually streams of chaotic and unrelated happenings, but our human brains insist on organizing them in a more orderly, narrative way. And so it is with time. We think we have it under control.

And then something comes and rips an enormous hole in your space-time continuum. Like the loss of a friend. When that happens, it seems to remove the linch-pin that holds everything together. It is humbling to realize then how fragile our personal universe is, how delicately held together. 

I wonder if that is why some Victorians used to keep a departed loved one's room "exactly the way he left it." Was it a way of exerting control over something that felt so out-of-control? Or the custom of mourning dress: a way of marking time instead of losing track of it? I wonder because I don't understand how it feels like seven months have passed since May, and not three.

Grieving has its own seasons. Remembering with joy may be the only signposts we have along the way. So today I am remember the Dookie Awards, established by Dennis Lane on his blog Tales of Two Cities in 2006.

And when December comes, well, by golly, I am going to be ready. 


Ian Kennedy  pointed out that the Dookies began in 2006 on his blog, now-defunct.  (HoCoHayduke) He goes on, "Wordbones certainly made them his own, however, from 2007 on..."