Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bits and Pieces

Last night as I walked toward Clyde's with my daughters, we saw two gentleman get to the door before us. One turned back, saw us, and waved. He didn't really know us. But we were wearing red. So were they.


When we walked inside the staff directed us to the bar right away--again, the red tipped them off. Huge bunches of red balloons adorned the bar area.

Clyde's did a beautiful job handling everything. I can see why Dennis loved it so much.

After awhile we decided to move on and have dinner at the Tomato Palace. This marks only the second time I have eaten there, the first time inside. We had excellent service and the food was delicious. As we left we noticed the inviting exterior of Le Comptoir. I felt a tingle of excitement. Imagine coming down to the Lakefront and having multiple to places to choose from.

This could be a place I want to go more than once or twice a year.


Some follow-up on The Second Chance Saloon situation from Bill Gray, chair of the Oakland Mills Board:

There has been some progress on keeping the Second Chance Saloon open and we hope to be able to retain this valuable asset for our community. We are in discussions with Cedar Properties, the owner of the Village Center, to work out the concerns. We have received substantial help from Calvin Ball and Howard County Economic Development Office in reaching solutions that will keep Second Chance here as a solid business. Cedar Properties agreed to extend the lease for Second Chance through the end of March to allow time to reach agreement. I hope that this will all be worked out soon.

Also, from The Second Chance:

Awesome news: We did not make fave bar/tavern of the year for the Restaurant Assc. of Maryland's nominations but Wendy & Declan Have been nominated for Restaurateur of the Year!!!!! So happy for them, they deserve it! We will keep you informed on how to vote!! ... We are honored to be nominated in this top category. We have our wonderful staff, community, and customers to thank!


Lastly, take a look at the obituary for Tyler Johnson. My husband knew him through community volunteer work. He was a beautiful young man.

Tyler Joseph Johnson, 25, of Mt. Airy, MD, died Saturday, January 25 in Columbia, MD. Born August 2, 1988 in Columbia, MD, Tyler was the first child of Howard P. Johnson, Jr. and Nora Ryan Johnson of Mt. Airy, and the first grandchild of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Ryan, Jr. of Southbury, CT and Howard P. Johnson of Montclair, NJ and Katherine Addison Johnson of Annapolis, MD. A 2006 graduate of Centennial High School, Tyler worked towards a Culinary Arts degree at Howard Community College. He worked as a chef at several area restaurants before starting a retail job at Zumiez, a specialty gear and clothing store for skateboarding and snowboarding enthusiasts at the Columbia Mall. For the past two years, Tyler served as the youngest member on the Board of the Serenity Center in Columbia, MD, where he implemented new anti-sexual harassment behavior standards, ran late-night meetings, and inspired young participants to dig into their pockets to give back, effectively doubling basket donations within a very short time. He also worked closely with the Howard County Drug-Free Program, speaking at local high schools. Assisting others with recovery from addiction was his passion, and he was making plans to obtain a degree in counseling. Tyler was a fiercely loyal friend and a terrific and beloved son, brother, and family member. In addition to his parents, Tyler leaves his Sister Anna Eames Johnson, his maternal grandparents Bernard and Jean Ryan, devoted Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and many, many friends. Donations in his memory can be made to the Community Foundation of Howard County, Tyler Johnson Memorial Fund, 10630 Little Patuxent Parkway, Century Plaza, Suite 315, Columbia, MD 21044. Donors may also make Memorial or Honorarium gifts online at Please include"Tyler Johnson" in the Memorial or Honorarium field provided.

Published in Baltimore Sun on Jan. 30, 2014


Hope, memories, sadness, working towards better things. All in one day--

Columbia, Howard County. Home.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Places We Save

Forever in our hearts.

A black banner with white letters hangs at the Mall in remembrance of the recent victims of violence in our community. Seeing it made me think of Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr. My thoughts are full of community grieving, shared sorrow, memories of pain that cannot be changed.

A memorial is a place we set aside to honor the one we have lost. It can be formal, like a banner, or a statue, or a gravestone in a cemetery. A memorial can also be a gathering, full of life, shared by those united by a connection to the departed. A place to remember. A place to celebrate.

Some memorials are not so public. Just as the sign says, it is the love we keep forever in our hearts that shows itself in a thousand tiny ways. Lighting a candle, making a toast, saving a space at the table. Wearing red.

I have to remind myself that not everyone who reads this blog knew Dennis Lane. It is his birthday I honor today by wearing red, joining with friends for a drink, and making a contribution to the Dennis Lane Memorial Fund of the Community Foundation of Howard County. Sometimes our hearts are so full with the forevers of those we miss that we have trouble looking outward. Today is that sort of day for me.

But even if you didn't know Dennis, I am pretty sure that you have loved, felt pain, grieved, and remembered. It is part of being human. And the places that we save, be they public or private, are sacred to us. Life is precious. Love is essential.

And although our hearts are full we must always make room for more life and more love. We need to save a space for that, for what comes next. Do I, today, feel tuned in to the exhilaration of being alive? Not so much.

But that's what is on the agenda. Today, at 5 pm at Clyde's Columbia. Come for Happy Hour, to celebrate the birthday of Dennis Lane, in a place he frequented and loved. A time to remember, a time to celebrate.

Forever in our hearts.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Liturgy of the Commonplace

"Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover's Corners....Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking....and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths....and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every,every minute?" Emily, from Our Town, by Thornton Wilder

As I get older, I find myself treasuring the ordinary moments of my life. Over time our days develop their own patterns. I find myself looking forward to end of the day time with my husband, just the two of us. We settle in to bed after the usual routine. After almost fifteen years of marriage he still gets up to "fix the sheets" if they have come untucked and I still doggedly hold on to mine so they don't get pulled away.

Just a little thing. A silly little thing. We fuss at eachother, territorial about the covers on the bed. But the argument has no teeth to it. It's a part of the ritual as we nestle in to sleep, like a dog turns round and round before settling in. It is part of the liturgy of the commonplace, "new ironed dresses and hot baths...and sleeping and waking up."

Today I am contemplating the loss of American musician Pete Seeger, who lived to a great age and left us all with enough musical treasures to last many lifetimes. And I am mourning the loss of the young people whose lives were cut short at the Mall and will not get to share their gifts or develop their own liturgy of the commonplace.

I am so blessed by having a loving family, wonderful friends, and an amazing community. I feel myself hungrily drinking in the nourishment of it, the deliciousness of their wisdom, and caring, and humor. At times like this we desperately need that sustenance.

I discovered this song as I combed through iTunes this morning, looking for music to share with my students. This one, though, is for you.

Lyrics to Wonderful Friends :

(Lorre Wyatt and Pete Seeger)

When I think of the ways that I've grown

I know I couldn't a' made it alone

I owe a lot to the sharing, caring, daring

Wonderful friends that I've known.

I owe a lot to the sharing, caring, daring

Wonderful friends that I've known

Here we are all in one place, all gathered together,

We've helped each other down this road whatever the weather.

We have no need for pots of gold, for friends are a treasure.

So hold hands, and sing it again

Many years ago when I was feeling discouraged

I found that singing with my friends would fill me with courage

It's a rough and rocky road we're on, so when we get worried

With old friends, we'll sing it again

It looks like we might sing all night, but looks are deceiving

That old clock upon the wall says, soon I've got to be leaving

And though we go our separate ways, there's no need for grieving

Just hold hands, and sing it again

When I think of the ways that I've grown

I know I couldn't a' made it alone

I owe a lot to the sharing, caring, daring

Wonderful friends that I've known.

I owe a lot to the sharing, caring, daring

Wonderful friends that I've known


Monday, January 27, 2014

Who Is My Neighbor?

It's Monday morning. We've had a rough weekend but we keep moving forward. I drink my coffee as I scan the morning tweets.

@kenulman: Pls use the hashtag #hocounited & share your thoughts on why our community is strong & resilient. #HoCoMD

Flashback to Saturday, where I saw tweets like these:

@acarvin: Columbia Mall is our community refuge, gathering place. The local motto is "Choose Civility." One shooter can't change that. #ColumbiaStrong

@ColumbiaAssn: Our thoughts are with those affected by the tragedy at Columbia Mall. #PrayForColumbia

Columbia. Howard County. On some days we have an uneasy coexistence that rivals the town/gown relationship in places like New Haven/Yale where both sides warily eye the other for signs of disrespect. Hostility aside, many residents do not begin to understand the basic differences between what the Columbia Association does and what Howard County does.

Well, they say you really get to know who your friends are when times are tough. It is important to remember who we saw rushing in to help: Howard County Police and Fire Department first responders. Stepping up to the microphone to communicate and reassure: Howard County Government. They didn't come "from the outside" to help Columbia. This is every bit as much their jurisdiction as any other community in Howard County.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is asked, "who is my neighbor?" After recounting a tale of a traveler attacked by thieves, he asks, "Now which of these three seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?" The response, "He who showed mercy on him."

This is what #hocounited means to me after this weekend. We need to understand how truly interconnected and interdependent we are. There are residents of Howard County who may not live in Columbia but still admire and respect the vision. There are residents of Columbia who are grateful for the support and services we enjoy because of Howard County.

This is the end of the blog post. But it's not the end of the parable. The parable ends with a challenge, "go and do likewise."

Show mercy. #hocounited




Sunday, January 26, 2014

Remember, Only You Can Prevent...

WTOP News Radio posted a link to this article this morning on Facebook. If you follow WTOP on Facebook, you will be able to see that a lively discussion ensued. In brief, "Lawmaker seeks signs to move slow drivers over." And, "He thinks slow-poke drivers can cause road rage."

Patrick Hogan of Frederick County wants signs instructing slow drivers to stay to the right. Because apparently slow drivers in the fast lane make people angry enough to be dangerous. He calls it the Road Rage Reduction Act.

Road Rage Reduction Act? Where is the acknowledgement that road rage comes from people who allow themselves to be consumed by rage? We are each responsible for our own feelings. I'm all for safe driving and obeying the law. But what amazes me is that this seems to place to blame for road rage on the victims. Sure, I have been cut off on the highway, or frightened by others' unsafe driving, but that doesn't make me violent.

Even more amazing to me were the number of responses in the comments vilifying slow drivers and speaking of them in threatening, abusive terms. Not everyone, to be sure. But for a while there the thread did seem like a great place to see who was an apologist for road rage.

Any woman who has ever been on the receiving end of spousal abuse knows the horrifying chill of being asked, "what did you do to make him angry?" Nothing she could have done justifies a violent response. All relationships have conflict. But the responsibility for violence is squarely on the abuser. Period.

In the same way, we as drivers will run into a variety of situations on the road, not all of them pleasant. We may have a bad scare, or feel badly mistreated by another driver. Those feelings are real. But each one of us has the responsibility to deal with those feelings in a safe way. If we can't, we shouldn't be driving.

I share this with you today out of a deep sadness for what happened in Columbia yesterday. The two topics may appear at first to be unrelated, but they are not. I highly recommend this piece at bonnevivantelife about yesterday's shooting. Most especially,

I believe it sucks when someone feels a really bad feeling–be it anger, frustration, grief, sadness. Or it sucks if someone does not like the answer or turn of events, or feels life circumstances aren’t fair or just. Yeah, usually it more than sucks. It can be personally devastating. You may feel like you want to die, or you may feel like you want to hurt someone, or even want to kill someone. But see, feeling suicidal or homicidal is very different than being suicidal or homicidal. How does someone cross that line?

This morning at the 9:30 am press conference, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said, "Let's rededicate ourselves to making this world a better place. We're better than this."


Yes, we are. Let's begin by taking responsibility for ourselves, our own feelings, and our own actions. And by making this world a safer place for others to do that, too.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Far and Away

This morning, in the cranky haze of a sinus infection, I checked recent postings on Facebook. The Polar Bear Plunge has been cancelled, thank goodness. Ian Kennedy is drumming up support as a celebrity bartender for Evening in the Stacks. Two wonderful young people have just had their first child. A friend from college has adopted (yet another) Maine Coon cat.

Tom Coale has written a letter to the paper encouraging participation in upcoming Columbia elections, and immediately someone has jumped in to rain on his parade. Of course.


When you take a head cold, multiple medications, not enough sleep or coffee, and combine it with this kind of information, something strange is bound to happen. Here it is.

Yes, it's the Oklahoma Land Rush, as depicted in the 1992 movie, "Far and Away". Just imagine it's Columbia, with all the Pioneers rushing in to take their places. (Bear with me.) The land is theirs. The concept is theirs. All the spots on Village boards and local committees are theirs.

Now replay it in your mind in 2014. You're a young person, or a newer resident, attempting to participate in community affairs. Our Oklahoma Land Rush now looks more like an adversarial video game, with opponents popping up behind every bush and boulder.

"You can't do that." Zing!

"We were here first." Zing!

"Everyone's out to get us." Zing!

This is not the recipe for community building. Filmed this way, our land rush would be more like the Great Massacre of 1893. It is no wonder more people don't get involved in the workings of Columbia. When people came here at the beginning, it was a great adventure. Now it seems more like an exercise in futility.

What if the most valuable gift we could give to Columbia was allowing younger and future generations to have the great adventure that the Pioneers had? I wasn't here. I didn't have that experience. But I have had that joy and exhilaration of a meaningful challenge in my life. Truly, it is what makes life worth living.

If we care about Columbia, then we have to understand that it is not a "given". It would be extremely foolish to assume that it will always be here. Deeply entwined in the vision for this place is the requirement that we must get our hands dirty to make it work, and we must allow others to do the same.

For those who came at the beginning, it may be far and away the most difficult thing they have ever had to do. It is also the most important.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Blame It on a Blog Post

Councilwoman Courtney Watson posted the follow last night on Facebook:

Parents, please walk your children to bus stops tomorrow if you can and bring a shovel. Help make the bus stops safe for children to stand by clearing the snow. Be safe!

I thought this was great advice, and a good example of thinking ahead to deal with a tough situation. However, this did not stop my mind from taking off on a hippity hoppity spree as I imagined legions of parents taking to the street with shovels. Cue ominous cinematic soundtrack...

Nothing good can come of this, you are thinking. You are right.

Now that one can Google the term, "carrying a shovel" none of us are safe from Too Much Information. I learned a lot from an article called "10 reasons to carry a shovel with you at all times". This is not to be confused with an Oatmeal post with a similar-sounding title, "4 reasons to carry a shovel at all times". Don't click on that, just don't.

My favorite, however, was the following from a NaNoWriMo website:

I've decided that one of my characters will be carrying a magical shovel when he goes through the magic portal to a fantasy world. What I can't figure out is why, since when he left home he was planning on meeting someone for coffee before she leaves town for distant parts, he would be carrying a full sized shovel. His having the shovel is actually an important plot point.

-- Serpent Rose

If you are wondering how I happened to get so carried away this morning, you need look no further than this blog post by Mickey Gomez, "Vintage 50s Hair-Don’ts". One need only read one of Mickey's blog posts to find oneself sucked into a Twilight-Zone-esque universe where good intentions morph into instant disaster and hair brushes are malevolent beings.

The goodwill of caring parents bearing shovels didn't stand a chance. Soon I imagined people all over Howard County, dazed, disoriented, looking for magic portals. Others, more resourceful, might be using multi-purpose shovels to cut down trees, make a fire, and cook lunch. If you see anyone in the check out line with a shovel, let them go ahead of you. Trust me on this.

In conclusion: read Mickey's blog post, buy tickets to the Howard County Library's Evening in the Stacks, and save a little money to tip a celebrity bartender. If you're wondering what to wear, well, they say shovels look good with everything...


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wacky Wednesday

My brother-in-law is a Methodist minister. I have learned a lot from him over the years. Visiting small-town Indiana and having the opportunity to attend his church services, I often had experiences that I just couldn't get back home. On one such visit he had to duck over to the church for something called "Wacky Wednesday".

What was this Wacky Wednesday? A new kind of liturgy in the Methodist church, perhaps? An untraditional bible study group?

He explained the concept. You can't just assume a junior high or senior high youth group. You have to grow your youth group. You have to provide the opportunities for shared experiences that help the kids form the bonds that will lead to positive youth group dynamics in their teen years. So you start in elementary school.

Every Wednesday afternoon in the summer there were special activities for the older elementary kids--water balloon fights, crazy hair day, scavenger hunts, and so on. And he, as the pastor, was right in the middle of it. Of course his church had a religious education director, and a youth group director, and parent volunteers, as well. But he still felt he needed to be there.

Why was it so important to "grow that youth group"? Well, in their church, those young people were actively involved in worship, service projects, and more. They formed a safety net for each other during challenging adolescent years. They helped elderly members in the congregation, and made care packages to mail to the congregation's college students for exam time. The teens were a valuable link in the chain that connected everyone in the church.

All of this prologue comes to this: are we, in Columbia, growing our own youth group? Are we making the connections across generations to ensure active participation for the future? It often feels that this business of Columbia is very much tied up in certain people fighting to maintain control. But if that struggle becomes the central struggle, then we are missing the opportunity to reach out to younger residents.

Yes, I know I have talked about this before. It's a familiar theme. But it keeps coming back because the need to address it is ever more important. A one-generation church cannot survive. Nor can a one-generational community. As the Columbia Council/CA Board rejects one kind of leadership in search of another, I have another question for them.

What are you doing to "grow" participation and a sense of ownership amongst younger residents? I have a gut feeling that time may be running out on this one. A plan to respond to the needs of older adults is great--who will be there to support them when they need help? Who will appreciate their experiences and advice? Who will carry on their dreams?

May I respectfully suggest that it's time to get Wacky.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Location, location, location

A friend of mine in the neighborhood has a lovely house and an inviting yard that always shows signs of life. Bikes and other children's play equipment hint at the active fun her children must be having. It's a perfect example of suburban loveliness imbued with liveliness.

But her house holds a secret. A darker side that surely didn't come to light until after they had lived there for awhile. As any realtor would tell you, it's all in the location. It's halfway down a small street that is the only connection between two more important thoroughfares. There's a bit of an incline.

What this means in good weather is that her home is under almost constant police surveillance. Well, not really. It seems that this spot is the ideal one to nab folks who roll through the nearby stop sign. I have to admit that I would feel a bit unnerved by that much togetherness on a daily basis. But she and her family take this in stride. It's just the way things are.

However, in the winter, it's a different story. Ice and snow on the little road mean my friend is on the lookout for misplaced motorists--in her yard. Something about the incline of the road, and the location of her house, and the speed of drivers combine into the perfect recipe for disaster. She has seen people take out street signs, mailboxes, even careen into her yard.

"Why me?" She must be thinking. And yet, I don't think she does, because she is far too positive-minded and, frankly, too busy to allow this state of affairs to fill her with dread. All houses come with challenges. This is theirs.

Well, I am forever getting involved in other people's business, as you know. I want to see if problems can be fixed, connections between people forged to start the process of improvement. And so, I wonder. Is there anything about this situation that could be changed that would make the little road safer, and keep her house out of the 'line of fire'?

I know some incredibly helpful people who work for the County. And I am going to ask them, but not today. I think they are going to be very, very busy. In the meantime, please keep my friend and her lovely house in your thoughts. It could be a very exciting day for them.

Under the circumstances, I think an uneventful day is what she's wishing for.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gossip Girls

I will admit that there have been some mornings when I wished something truly interesting was going on in local news. When you try to write every day you don't always wake up knowing what you want to write about. Well, be careful what you wish for.

Friday afternoon, slipping into the Twitter stream without warning (for most of us) was the news that the CA Board had not renewed Phil Nelson's contract as President of the Columbia Association. A big shout-out to Luke Lavoie for starting off with a tersely written press release and working to flesh it out into something more like actual communication on a Friday night.

In the hours between the press release and the subsequent update, curious folks had nothing to do but wonder. "Inquiring minds want to know." We have an announcement and precious little information. We are only human. So, we begin to speculate.

My daughter and I were hashing out various scenarios in the car on the way to the Mall. My husband said nothing. Finally he jumped in and put an end to the conversation. "You don't know. You have no way of knowing. So, just stop this. It's gossip." I'll admit I was offended. Gossip? Gossip to me is, "Betsy is flirting with the UPS man," or "Did you hear what Bob did at the office party?"

But, we stopped. We sat in silence for the rest of the ride. Inside, though, my mind was still going, percolating. I care deeply about Columbia. I want to know why this happened. I want to know what will happen next. In my gut I worry that the whole business was not as fair as it should have been. And I know I am not alone.

Whether or not you want to call it gossip, the fact remains that if you make a big decision that affects an entire community and you try to slip it into the Friday news dump with no explanation, you are leaving yourself open to speculation. A whole bunch of speculation.

For example: Where is the transparency? Where's the opportunity for public input? What is the real timetable of how this all went down? Most importantly, what's the rush?

I find it reassuring that good, reasonable, intelligent people are discussing this on Facebook, Twitter, in blog posts, and probably over a few beers and even with coffee at the Columbia Mall Starbucks. Anyone in Columbia, really even in Howard County, has a reasonable stake in the future of this place.

Ask some questions. I have more than a few. At the top of the list--what about those members of the CA Board who demand transparency at every turn? Where do they, who claim conspiracy behind the shade of every tree, stand on a decision made behind closed doors and released without any useful explanation? And what are their chances for re-election this Spring?

Let the election season begin. Start asking some questions.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Champagne and Cake

Today we are going to a wedding at the National Cathedral, for two friends who were in our wedding almost fifteen years ago. There is so much I could say about this, but I won't.


Suffice it to say that these are two people who befriended me at a rough time in my life and who were, in a sense, midwives to the relationship which became my marriage and present family. They stood by me. And us.


This week I heard the Baltimore Men's Chorus sing these words, written by Thoreau. In lieu of explanations, recollections, or wishes I share them in honor of Gerry and Travis.

Two sturdy oaks I mean, which side by side,

Withstand the winter's storm,

And spite of wind and tide,

Grow up the meadow's pride,

For both are strong

Above they barely touch, but undermined

Down to their deepest source,

Admiring you shall find

Their roots are intertwined




Friday, January 17, 2014

Personal Connections

Sending out thanks and positive vibes this afternoon to Phil Nelson, who will be leaving his position as President of CA effective April 30, 2014. Offering here a reprint of an early Village Green/Town Squared post, entitled, "Phil Nelson Is On My Refrigerator".


May 11, 2011 (originally posted on Columbia Patch)


Phil Nelson Is On My Refrigerator


Yes, you read that right. I have a picture of CA President Phil Nelson on my refrigerator. Is my husband jealous? I haven't asked him. Should he be jealous of this bit of "beefcake"showing Mr. Nelson in his swimsuit, smiling from the pool at Supreme Sports Club? Of course not.

So, why is it there?

Personal connections.

This is the first piece of promotional material I have ever received from CA that made me seriously consider joining. I've met Mr. Nelson, heard him speak, watched him participate in meetings, even had a bit of small talk with him. And it occurs to me that posing topless in a pool was not at the top of his to-do list. But he took a leap of faith on behalf of Columbia.

Personal connections are a powerful motivator. I recently took part in the Howard County 20 Minute Clean Up because of a personal invitation from friend Anne Gonnella. Sure, I wanted to participate even before she posted a Tweet about it, but her outreach made it an event for me – a "happening."

In fact, I trace the beginning of my involvement in Oakland Mills to encouragement from OM's Revitalization Vice-Chair, Mary Kate Murray. She put a plastic lei around my neck at an outdoor steel drum concert, welcoming me to the event. She included me. And, as a result, I "joined."

One night last year, over dinner at The Second Chance Saloon, we were brainstorming ideas for events that would encourage people who had never been there to give it a try, and to keep coming back. I'm an early childhood music educator, what did I know about pubs and nightlife?

That's when I dreamed up the idea of "A Little Lunch Music". Come have lunch with your kids, listen to their favorite music, and the little ones can get up and dance, explore hands-on materials, and get a prize to take home.

I was beginning to apply the personal connection approach. Wendy Binder reached out to her community, and I reached out to my community of parents with young children.

Local blogger Tom Coale has been using his blog, HoCoRising, to make the issue of community involvement more accessible and personal to his readers. Here is someone who is young and hip, who many can identify with, who is taking the risk to get involved and is inviting us along for the ride. I am excited about this positive influence spreading, from his blog posts, his involvement in his Village of Dorsey's Search, to his presence on the CA Board of Directors.

It's rather like the old days of passing notes in elementary school, only this one says, "Get involved. Pass it on!"

Is your picture on someone's refrigerator?

Friday's Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award

Fingers are important. We do a lot with them. They figure prominently in many of our idioms. Pointing a finger, wrapped around a little finger, working fingers to the bone...and that is just scratching the surface. (Insert rim shot here.)

The classic 60's/70's comedy sketch show "Laugh In" used to present an enormous finger trophy: the "Flying Fickle Finger of Fate" award. Wikipedia states:

The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award, salutes actual dubious achievements by the government or famous people, such as the announcement of a new Veterans Administration hospital to be erected in Southern California shortly after another such facility was destroyed in the Sylmar earthquake of 1971. The trophy is a gilt, outstretched finger atop a square base.

I am resurrecting the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate as a way of recognizing the crazy world of political financing which has so many of my friends clicking "refresh" in order to sort out the monetary pecking order of the current candidates. I just can't stand this. Yes, I'm told it is just a part of the deal but that doesn't make it any more sensible to me. So I'm giving it the Finger.

We all do things that don't make sense. Speaking of fingers, I realized recently that I had developed a rather odd habit when using the iPad. Once I had pressed the screen to "copy" something, I found that I was keeping my pointer finger elevated until I "pasted" the item somewhere else. Something in my brain had decided that once I had performed that action, the information was then in my index finger until I completed the task. I realized to what extent I had internalized this ridiculous assumption when I found myself protecting my index finger on the way upstairs after my ipad had run out of charge--was I really thinking I could transfer the information from my finger to my husband's iPad?

I wasn't consciously thinking at all, of course. Once I realized what I was doing I had a good laugh at myself.

While it's true that I am "poking" fun at political fundraising today, I am also offering up a VG/TS HoCo Holler to candidate Tom Coale, who is running for State Delegate in 9B. Despite the crazy demands of campaigning and political fundraising, he is giving you a chance to do something meaningful with your finger today.

A "share" or a "like" today will mean a donation of his own money to the Community Action Council of Howard County. Go here to read all the details. I love this because it is a true expression of Tom's core values: a desire to help others, support non-profits, engage the community, and put a sense of humor and fun into civic participation.

So take your finger and click for the CAC. First though, make sure there's no information leaking out of it...


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Planning Ahead

Have you ever noticed that Facebook seems to be the place where people get to have their little Seinfeld moments and say, "What's up with that?" It might be an odd experience at the store, a weird quote from a politician, or the way our brains work or don't work. Social media gives us a chance to say: Seriously? And the response is mostly likely: I know, right?

The other day my husband posted this:

Is the term "planning ahead" redundant? Shouldn't we just say "planning"?

A discussion followed. Almost all respondents were in agreement. But I am not. Although I am not the greatest in the planning department, I do recognize different types of planning: short-term, mid-range, long-range. I think "planning ahead" refers to the ones not immediately on one's doorstep. And that's where you come in.

Yes, you.

There will be Columbia Village elections in April. If you have been concerned about things happening in your Village, you are the ideal candidate for your Village Board. If you want to be a part of how Columbia Association works together on behalf of all Villages to benefit the here-and-now and the future, you should consider running for your Village's CA rep position.

Don't wait. Plan ahead. I know some great local folks, many of them active in PTA, or Scouting, or their churches, whose talents and expertise are sorely needed at the Village level. In addition, there is a serious need for generational balance on many of our Village Boards. We need a better balance of young professionals, parents of young children, and others who bring different perspectives to the mix. Equally needed: racial and ethnic diversity.

Brief personal vignette: there is a great disparity between the vision in my two eyes. I got by without wearing glasses for many years by leaning on the vision in my good eye. However, I lacked depth perception. My hand-eye coordination was abysmal. My experience in tossing a Frisbee around went something like this: I saw the Frisbee being thrown. I saw it moving through the air toward me. It disappeared. It hit me in the head.

Sometimes we get upset, angry, or deeply concerned about a issue in our Village. That's when we are most likely to talk to friends, send an email, or attend a meeting. Then the crisis passes and we go back to our normal lives. But that often means that we release that sense of personal responsibility. The Frisbee disappears. But without our involvement, rest assured that the likely outcome will be an unwanted blow to the head.

Oof! Those issues that matter to us? There they are again.

Summing up: in the short-term, consider a run for a Village office. Mid-range: find out requirements and deadlines; visit a Board meeting. Long-term: make Columbia a better place.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stepping Out

I'm excited about tonight. It's been on the calendar for awhile now. I've cleared my schedule, planned my outfit, set a little money aside...

I'm stepping out on the town with my best girls for a little ladies' night fun, at the Second Chance, of course. Village Green meets HoCoHouseHon with a little Bridge to Tomorrow thrown in. I am anticipating drinks and snacks, possibly dinner and some all-around silliness and good fun. A most excellent way to face the ides of January, don't you think?

For all of you word geeks out there, here's this from Merriam-Webster:

Definition of STEP OUT

1. to go away from a place usually for a short distance and for a short time

2. to go or march at a vigorous or increased pace

3. die

4. to lead an active social life

5. to be unfaithful —usually used with on

Wow. That is way more definition than I was looking for at this hour of the morning. Let me assure you that I have no intention of dying or cheating on anyone. But I bet you knew that. What I do have are two amazing daughters and an itch to live it up a little in the middle of a gray and miserable week.

It's not networking, it's not the eager ambition of a social climber, or an exploratory social event of someone looking to improve one'e political chances. It's one night carved out and set aside for the two local bloggers who are nearest and dearest to my heart.

Just the thought of it is putting a little spring in my step.


Monday, January 13, 2014

My People

I work with special needs preschoolers. I love my work. I bring music and creative movement to sixteen schools in the Howard County School System. My students have a wide variety of abilities and disabilities. But they have one vital characteristic in common.

They are all beautiful.

It does not matter if they are not typically developing preschoolers. It does not matter if their bodies are not fully symmetrical, or their behaviors are difficult or unexpected. They are beautiful human beings who deserve care, respect and a chance to learn, grow, and enjoy life.

In our culture we tend to support the adorable-ness of babies and young children. So, even though some of these children might not look "normal", they are more easily accepted as "cute". We just love "cute", don't we? We open our hearts and minds to it.

Occasionally I run into groups of developmentally disabled adults when I am shopping. It might be the grocery, the dollar store, or Five Below. There may only be four or five of them, with helpers and caregivers, having a much-needed outing and life experience.

Other customers shrink from them. People cast sidelong glances, whisper to each other, move away. These people, my people, aren't cute anymore. They are full-sized, funny-looking, maybe even frightening. There is a strong sense of other-ness about them.

Somehow, some of these beautiful children I am teaching now will be those adults in the dollar store. They won't be cute anymore. People will avoid them. And yet they are the same human beings who deserve care, respect, and a chance to learn, grow, and enjoy life.

There are many challenges involved in integrating special needs children into the regular classroom setting. As students get older and the focus is more on academic achievement, the strains on both them and teachers and support staff are tremendous. But as I watch my daughter grow up in schools where she actually has some contact with these kids, I feel a spark of hope.

Maybe, when she is an adult, she will not be afraid of my beautiful people. Perhaps she might even know one of them. If this is a life experience that she gains along the way, I will be extremely grateful.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday Silliness

Yikes! I've been tagged by a member of my Music PLN to participate in a bloggy questionnaire. If Catherine Dwinal were not one of the most wonderful, brilliant, and energetic people on the planet, I would have given this one a pass. However...

Take a look at her blog and you'll see what I mean.

Now, to the challenge!

Share 11 random facts about yourself.

I was the star of the fourth grade play.

I have terrible fine motor skills.

I once considered a career in food service.

I love lavender-scented sheets.

I chose Elizabeth, mother of John, as my saint's name because she is not a virgin, widow, or martyr.

I once had an irrational fear of old birthday party balloons.

I sang in the Yale Freshman Chorus even though I didn't go to Yale.

I attended a party at Mount Holyoke where Albert, Prince of Monaco, was rumored to be in attendance.

I am eligible to be a Daughter of the American Revolution and a Daughter of the Confederacy, but have never pursued it.

My two sisters and I used to sing in three part harmony and called ourselves "The Lemon Sisters."

I thought I was fat in high school. I wasn't. I wish I had known.

Answer 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.

What was your favorite food when you were a child? Pineapple upside-down cake.

What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod? Wiggles, "Hot Potato."

What is one of your favorite quotes? "No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted."

What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity? Indoor: crafting. Outdoor: picnicking or writing in my journal under an umbrella at the beach.

If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor? Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way.

If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be? I've always wanted to go back in time to discover if my husband and I ever met each other before we actually "met" each other. We were in a lot of the same places at the same time.

When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time? Two words: social media.

What would you name the autobiography of your life? "Heart On Her Sleeve."

What was the last movie, TV show or book that made you cry or tear up? My daughter's blog post--"A Letter to Me".

What did you do growing up that got you into trouble? Being myself and not doing things my mother's way.

Where IS Waldo? In my husband's classroom.

List 11 bloggers

LisaB,MrsS, Columbia Compass, HoCoRising, The 53 , Examorata, Scratchpad, Steve Charing OUTspoken, AnnieRieDora Unplugged, How Chow, HoCoHouseHon, Away from the Things of Man

I am not the tagging sort, so I am finishing off this post by saying, "these are some of the people I read. You should, too."

If you want an assignment? Read yesterday's post.




Friday, January 10, 2014

The Test to Nowhere

I was thrilled to see this article by Sara Toth, local Education reporter. I am also extremely grateful that the Howard County PTA is taking a stand against administering the MSA's this year. Now that we have shifted to using the Common Core Curriculum, the MSA's are no longer a relevant or useful assessment.

But they're going to give them anyway? Just because "We have to"?

It is the responsibility of the Howard County School System to put the educational needs of its students first. Administering these tests when they no longer correspond with our curriculum and will not provide useful information about our students is a violation of their mandate. Standing on the side of rules, regulations and legalism is not where our school system should be.

I don't care if if standing up for the rights of our children is considered tilting at windmills. It is our responsibility to hold the school system to its promises. They seem to need a reminder right now. Here's a good one:

Goal 1: Students

Every student achieves academic excellence in an inspiring, engaging, and supportive environment.

We believe in...

Achieving excellence in all we do

Developing each student's unique gifts

Engaging students in relevant, experiential, and personalized learning

Cultivating creative problem solving, critical thinking, and innovation

Promoting integrity, civility, and global citizenship

Enriching learning by honoring our diversity

Fostering a culture of collaboration, trust, and shared responsibility

Removing barriers to success


How does forcing students to take unnecessary tests fit into this picture? It doesn't.

If you stand with the Howard County PTA, let them know and ask how you can help. I recommend writing the Superintendent, the Board of Education, and your State legislators. Every night we encourage our children to follow up on a day of learning by doing their homework. Now it is time for us to do ours.



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Age of Innocence

This morning I've been hunting down a phrase on Google: the dread argument of the individual case. I thought it was "a thing". I thought I would find plenty of entries, possibly even a Wikipedia article explain its meaning and origins. No such luck.

It turns out that the reason this phrase stuck in my head is that it's from my favorite book in the whole world: The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton.

"But to love Ellen Olenska was not to become a man like Lefferts: for the first time Archer found himself face to face with the dread argument of the individual case." Book II, Chapter XXXI

Yesterday I was surprised and concerned by the school system decision to have school as usual in the face of extreme cold. There was plenty of discussion online about this, on both sides of the argument. There are plenty of things to consider, either way:

Children waiting for buses

Children walking to school

Children inadequately dressed

And on the other hand--

The importance of education

A hot meal for those who might not get it otherwise.

A warm building for those whose homes might be cold.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I am familiar with snow, ice, slush, and cold temperatures. I also grew up in a time when girls had to wear dresses to school. Only later did they allow us to wear pants under our skirts for walking and recess. Were we tougher? Maybe.

When you live in Cleveland Ohio, you expect that kind of cold. Our bodies, and our children's bodies, are not used to it. There are plenty of things we can do to help--dress them warmly, feed them a hot breakfast, drive them to school, or wait with them in a warm car at the bus stop. But what about the children whose parents cannot do that for them?

Apparently yesterday, because of reduced ridership, buses were arriving at stops too early and some children missed their rides. That seems like something that thinking people might have foreseen and prevented, doesn't it? A simple directive to bus drivers would have sufficed.

In the end the decision was made for me when my daughter woke up with a sore throat and a cold. I cancelled my classes to stay home with her. I am lucky to have the freedom to do that.

Oh, about the dread argument of the individual case? While weighing the pros and cons of the situation yesterday, I came across a tweet from a concerned citizen noting cold, miserable children waiting for a schoolbus. It struck right to my heart, not because I am an overprotective parent, but because I have been that cold, miserable child. When you are little, it is frightening to be that cold. So, it's not just painful, it is scary.

I know that the decision is bigger than that. I know that there are many factors to consider. Yet that one tweet was enough for me.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Keep Those Cards and Letters Coming In, Folks


Photo Montage by Margo.



Show your Second Chance love by nominating them in the "Favorite Bar or Tavern" category in the Maryland Restaurant Association's 60th Annual Stars of the Industry Awards Gala. This is another another concrete way that supporters can show their commitment to Keeping the Second Chance On The Map.

Please share this information with your friends! Thanks.


FARM Report

No post today-- it's a Migraine Monday. But here's some important information from Councilman Ball's Office:

Quarterly Meeting, Board of Education and County Council

C. Vernon Gray Conference Room

3430 Court House Drive

Ellicott City, MD 21043

January 8, 2014

8:15 a.m.



Walking path near Dunloggin Middle School and Northfield Elementary School

Distribution of children (# and %age) eligible for free and reduced price meals (FARMS) among schools and correlation with academic performance in the schools

The public is welcome to attend.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What Goes Up

This just in from Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services:


"There has been quite a bit of concern about the department approved fireworks activity in the County this evening. Needless to say, we could have done a better job informing our community that the event was going to take place. As we all share and learn about the use of social media as a method to keep our community informed, we at HCDFRS apologize for creating any concern by the citizens and visitors to our County."


I arrived home last evening to the sound of fireworks in the distance and a small explosion of concern on social media. I was not the only one who heard the fireworks. In fact, the sound seemed to be carrying quite a distance. At one point I was following four distinct threads on Facebook. There was a significant amount of concern.

Basically, it boiled down to this: if you hear explosions, and it isn't a time you expect to be hearing fireworks, then what is it? Is it a house booby-trapped with home made explosive devices? Could we be under attack? (Someone did mention the possibility of alien invasion, but I don't think they were serious.)

"This is a test. This is only a test. If this were a real emergency, you would be prompted to check in with your nearest form of social media for instructions."

Okay, so it wasn't meant to be a test, but it certainly functioned as one. Although it didn't produce a "War of the Worlds" sort of response, it was certainly educational to the Howard County Fire Department. These days the right of free assembly apparently includes the right of concerned citizens to bunch up on the internet and ask each other, "What the heck is going on?"

Once I pried myself off of Facebook, I found the answer I needed on Twitter. Not surprising. Twitter is just set up better for information dispersal in real time, cross-referencing, category searching, focusing on immediate location and the like. To their credit, @HCDFRS jumped in relatively soon with this:

@HCDFRS: The loud booms heard this evening in western Ellicott City were from a private fireworks display. The event ended shortly before 10pm.

I responded-- @macsmom: @HCDFRS Thanks. I'm thinking that, should this ever happen again, you might use social media accounts to inform people before-hand?

@HCDFRS_Chief: .@macsmom - Certainly agree! I could have done a better job and sincerely apologize to all who were rightfully concerned! #HoCoMD @HCDFRS

So, thus suitably informed, I carried the news in my little bucket back to Facebook, dumped it out, and watched it spread. It was, as Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Outside the Bubble

I have now lived slightly more of my life in Columbia than I did in Baltimore. I arrived in Baltimore in 1985 and, over the course of fourteen years, lived in three different apartments in Bolton Hill and two in Rodgers Forge. Before that: Princeton, NJ; South Hadley, MA; Stamford, CT; and Cleveland, OH.

I say this to prove that I have been other places.

Last week I drove to Parkville to pick up an item I was purchasing on Craigslist. As soon as we got off the highway and onto the local roads I felt the difference. Joppa Road, Putty Hill are all familiar to me as places to shop when I lived in Rodgers Forge. But now it all looked different. There's plenty of retail on Route 40, but is all set back from the road. It was interesting how much I felt that difference. The businesses seem crowded up towards the street.

Then we entered a neighborhood of modest brick houses with neat little front yards. Everything felt foreign to me. In the past fourteen years I have grown used to Columbia architecture. I have grown to accept shops and houses set back from the road as the norm. (Historic Ellicott City being the exception, of course.)

I had to laugh at myself. It hasn't taken very long for me to become completely acclimated to the Bubble. And clearly I don't get out as much as I used to. Almost everything I do is in Howard County these days.

When I first came to Columbia everything looked weird. It would never have occurred to me that someday all that weirdness would become what is normal for me. It's nice to have a place that feels like home. I have learned to appreciate the Bubble. But I don't want it to completely dominate my world view.

I need to get out more.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bringing Light into the Darkness

We may have passed the tipping point at the Winter Solstice, but it is still dark, and cold. We may be starting to put away the trappings of our holiday celebrations, but we still need to keep a candle burning in our hearts to get through the days ahead. One time-honored tradition to fight back against the darkness of the season is music.
There will be music, frivolity, drama, and general carryings-on, followed by wine and dessert. A free-will offering will be taken for the Clutha Pub Disaster Relief Fund. A Facebook page for this event is here.

Join us!



Wednesday, January 1, 2014


If you are thinking of how you would like to change, grow, and improve in the new year, I would like to recommend to you the following article:

"Dog Training Tips That May Also Work On Your Husband"

In addition to being both brief and humorous, it also contains valuable insight into how we should be treating ourselves on our journeys of self improvement. I once read a description of how having a successful relationship with one's husband was very similar to training a dog to bring the newspaper up to the house.


Well, the process of fetching the newspaper is actually made up of many tiny behaviors that the dog needs to master. For example: getting the paper, remembering to come back to the house, bringing the paper up the sidewalk, bringing it up on the porch, bringing it in the house, getting it without ripping it to shreds, and so on. The key to that mastery? Rewarding approximation. It's key that every successful step on the way is celebrated. The dog feels that he is winning.

We all work better if we feel the teacher likes us. We all enjoy relationships when we feel that we are winning. But what if the teacher is us? Do we take the time to build that winning relationship with ourselves?

My hypothesis is that, if I work on treating myself as a valuable partner, that it may spill over into how I approach relationships with others. It may seem simple. We have all heard "love thy neighbor as thyself." The dark side is how our relationships fail if our treatment of ourselves is punitive and judgemental.

James Taylor sings that "The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." Here's to fostering enjoyment in the new year: of life experiences, of friends and neighbors, and of ourselves.