Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Chrysalis Triptych

Last Sunday I launched a new venture in Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods.

It was a free-form dance party with lots of hands-on materials. A varied playlist with everything from Laurie Berkner to Abba to Elvis to Raffi. The Imagination Playground materials for those who'd rather build than boogie. In short, it was fabulous. Huge thanks to everyone who shared the event page, and to all of the folks who took a chance and came out to something that's never happened before.

We're doing it again on Saturday, September 16. Come on along.

This week brought the news that the Chrysalis is on the cover of Architect magazine, featured in an article by Amanda Kolson Hurley. While the opening of the Chrysalis has certainly been a top story locally in recent months, this piece in the journal of the Institute of American Architects shows a  much broader reach. Pretty cool.


While it's too soon to say whether we'll be witnessing a pilgrimage of architects to the site, we do know that Columbia now has more to crow about than a few early Frank Gehrys. And that's good news for the New American City.

The third piece of the picture today is an event to put on your calendar: Under the Harvest Moon.


The inaugural fundraising event for Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods is September 9th. Tickets are $60.00 and you can learn more here There will be food, local beer and wine, music, fun, and a chair auction!  I hope I'll see you there. If you can't make it, check out the other upcoming events--all free.

One last thing: Michael McCall, wherever you are: you done good.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Maybe It's Time to Talk

There was an article by Tim Schwartz in the paper yesterday about the Centennial High School Varsity Football Program. Turnout this year for participation on the team was low. Numbers are not where they should be in order to run a viable program.

Football, especially high school football, is a tradition. It's not just the physical challenge of the sport. It's Friday night lights, cheerleaders, marching band, boosters selling snacks, families turning out to cheer on the teams. It's young kids dreaming of when they'll be in high school. It's parents remembering when they were.

And yet.

It becomes clearer all the time that football has been and continues to be the cause of traumatic brain injury in players. Not just the pros. High school players. The NFL keeps trying to beat back the data and reshape the conversation but the fact remains that youth participants are getting damaged in ways that cannot be remediated.

Does it happen to everyone? No. Would you risk it for your child? I wouldn't.

Maybe, with what is going on right now at Centennial,  it's a good time for us to have a community discussion about high school football. There was a bit of discussion earlier in the summer when requirements changed for getting a baseline concussion test as a requirement for sports participation. But I think we could stand to look at it more thoroughly.

If we say we put our kids first, how do we reconcile that with how much football is hurting them? Why do we accept that, as a sort of collateral damage?

I think I know why.

High school football has deep emotional roots in our culture. We give it a pride of place in our community that is unrivaled. Nothing else comes close. Can you imagine an article in the paper detailing concerns that a high school might not be able to field a Chamber Choir? Robotics team? Debate?

School athletics programs are a place where many kids have the opportunity to shine. I may not be even remotely athletic, but I understand that. But football presents a danger to our young people. There's no doubt about it now. The numbers are there. Can we please take a look at them without the emotional filter of Friday Night Lights?

I wish everyone in the Centennial Football community well. I hope this works out the best way possible for them. I just wish we could stop for a moment and talk about this.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Unpopular Opnion

Recently I've seen discussions online focused around this question:

"What's the most unpopular benign opinion you hold? (i.e. not politically dodgy, just socially derided)"- Stephanie Boland, Prospect Mag

Local blogger/podcaster/community activist Candace Dodson Reed ended up with a thread of 532 comments on Facebook. It was lightheatrted fun. It was only about two weeks ago but it feels like eons. People enjoyed being able to say, "I know everyone else likes this, but..."

I don't like chocolate and peanut butter together. Ever. Just so you know.

Something else I'm not all that exciting by is the upcoming eclipse. I lived through one in the 1970's and it didn't live up to the hype. Of course, my location in Cleveland probably had something to do with that. It didn't feel like a total eclipse. More like a cloudy afternoon. I do remember that there was live national news coverage throughout and that they closed with the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun". No disrespect to Bonnie Tyler, but nothing can touch George Harrison.

And about those eclipse glasses. I'm glad if you can get them without paying an arm and a leg. But you won't be a bad parent if you can't. For heaven's sake make sure they're safe. Of course we had it drilled in our little brains that you must never, never, ever look directly at the sun. But you could make a nifty viewer with a cardboard box.

"In my day we didn't have eclipse glasses..."

Yeah, I know. Perilously close to, "get off my lawn."

For those of you who are looking forward to the eclipse because you have a genuine curiousity about the natural world and take joy in its workings, please forgive my bad attitude. It's not the science I object to, it's the hype.

What's your unpopular (but benign) opinion? Or, tell me why you're excited about the eclipse.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Dangerous Place

I spent yesterday with an all-day migraine plus hours of illness from anesthesia.

I understand your day wasn't so great, either.

When I was able to look at my iPad at around ten pm, it was as though another wave of sickness came upon me.

A president has betrayed a nation.

And on the home front, things aren't much better.

Some who spoke about removing Confederate moments in Howard County were trolled in the most aggressive and vitriolic ways. A citizen who asked her elected officials to make a public statement about Charlottesville was accused by others of trying to stir up trouble or "rally her base" to run for office.

To be honest, I'm still probably too sick to be writing a decent blog post. But this is a time when common human decency does not have the luxury of taking a sick day. So, here goes.

All men and women and created equal. All must be afforded equal treatment under the law: in communities, in businesses, in schools, in churches, in public places. And all of us are responsible for making that happen.

If we choose not to actively accept that responsibility we betray the principles upon which our country is founded.

I'm looking for elected officials to say both in their words today but also in their actions tomorrow that they accept that responsibility. And I'm looking for community members to do the same.

Those of you out there who are opposing school redistricting because it will lower your school's exceptional national rankings--I see you. If you gather together with enough like-minded people you may be able to convince someone that you're acting purely out of parental concern.

Not me.

Our children will benefit from a more integrated world. Supporting one is one of the best things we can give them. Especially in a week where we have seen what marching in groups of the completely "pure" really looks like. That's not a world we want.

Is it?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Still Trying to Make This Happen

Blast From the past


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:



I still think this is a great idea. Obviously mine has changed somewhat since then. I guess I'll need to tweak it. 

But some things stay the same: there's a blog party coming up and I hope to catch up with my blogger and reader friends at Bare Bones Grill on Monday evening, August 21st. And I'm still interested in seeing your profile, if you want to make one. Maybe it could read "HoCo Profile" across the top.

Yeah, I think I like that.

Monday, August 14, 2017

This Has Been a Test

I should be writing. I'm sitting in my chair, I'm drinking coffee and I should be writing. My head is swirling from the events of the weekend and I don't know how to start.

I went to the rally at the mall yesterday. It's there every month. It's a Black Lives Matter rally hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia. I've been a few times before. There's always a stack of extra signs and you pick one if you haven't brought your own and stand along Little Patuxent Parkway.

Yesterday they ran out of signs before I got there and I was not late. The outpouring of anguish from the community to do something to speak out against the events in Charlottesville was evident as people continued to arrive and line the street. Both sides. A gentleman passed me and said, "I bet I know what you'll be writing about tomorrow."

He was right.

I can't begin to guess exactly what motivated people who hadn't been before to show up yesterday. Anger, Fear. Sadness. A desire to do something good in the face of evil. I do know that, to me, yesterday felt like one of the old Emergency Broadcasting PSA's

  • "This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. Broadcasters, in cooperation with the FCC and other authorities (or, in later years, "federal, state and local authorities") have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency."
  • "If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and official information."

When do we decide it's an actual emergency?

Violent hatred isn't just whining in the basement in this country. It's on the march and taking lives. We are going to be required to put a stop to it. We will need each other. Like a family has a home evacuation plan, we will need a meet-up place and yesterday Little Patuxent Parkway was that place. 

Think of it this way:

If you've wondered what you would've done during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights're doing it now. #Charlottesville  -- Aditi Juneja 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Guest Post: Shawn Gladden, HCHS

Yesterday I received this letter in response to my post. I am sharing it today with permission.


I am the Director of the Historical Society and I would like to address your recent blog post about our music concert series.  

I feel it is unfair for you to display us publicly as an organization that is not diverse or that we in any way support segregation.  I invite you to learn about all of our programming before you make such a narrow interpretation of who we are and what we do.

1)  The music concert series is open to any bands that apply, regardless of color, ethnicity or gender.  The band's come to us.  Last year we had two reggae bands (both African American artists) Two years ago we had Tekeytha Fullwood, African American lyricist.  This year none of those artists were available.  With regards to Jimmi.  He is a good friend of mine from High School who has studied and played Blues music and is well qualified to represent the genre. Regardless of his skin color.  

2)  But the music series is not our only program.  I ask you to look at our Lunch Lecture series which has featured numerous topics on local African American History including upcoming talk on Black Churches in Howard County.

3)  I have a master's degree in history specializing in African American history, and yes I am white.   I have gone to great lengths to diversify the programming that we offer at the society including creating a committee on African American History that has gotten three Howard County sites on the NPS Underground railroad trail,  erected signage in the Underground Railroad in Howard County at the Courthouse,  we are currently documenting the history of Fels Lane and raising money to erect signage there and we featured two years ago an exhibit on the Underground Railroad and the United States Colored Troops.  Every year we do an event at Roger Carter center called Songs of Freedom with Howard County Parks and Rec on Martin Luther King Day. We also partner with the African American museum for Nineteenth.  All of these programs were advertised and promoted on social media.

I feel like your representation of our organization is unfair and I will oppose it publicly.  If you, as an educator,  would like to volunteer and assist us in our programming, we welcome that wholeheartedly.  But please do deeper research before you blast us as only promoting white events and promoting segregation.  It's unfair to me and my hardworking staff.

By the way, Jimmie is mixed race.


Shawn Gladden
Executive Director
Howard County Historical Society

Comments are welcome here:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Past Present Future

Last night I noticed that the Howard County Historical Society had added an event. I look a look.

"The history of the Blues with Jimmi Sexton". Cool! After the recent charity event that felt mighty, mighty white, an evening of the blues is a great way to make a comeback in being inclusive. After all, 

Blues is a genre and musical form originated by African Americans in the Deep South of the United States around the end of the 19th century. (Wikipedia)

I went to the Howard County Historical Society's webpage to learn more. I was a bit startled to see that Jimmi Sexton is, in fact, white. (Quick note: if I'm wrong here tell me and I'll publicly correct.) FYI: I was wrong. Mr. Sexton is of mixed race.

Can white folks play the blues?  Sure. Is it a problem for me that the Historical Society booked a white musician to impart the history of an African American art form? Yes, I think so.

Let's take a look at the events booked at the Historical Society this year:

Aug. 19: Fast Eddie and the Slowpokes -- white
Sep. 2: The History of Blues with Jimmi Sexton -- white
Sep. 23: The Classic Hitmen -- white
Oct. 28: Eli August & Nightwatch Paradox -- white, white
Nov. 18: "Historically Inappropriate Comedy" -- white
Dec. 16: Columbia Jazz Band -- two members of color out of about 26 in the photo
You have to wonder. When these artists are selected, what audience is the Historical Society hoping to attract? Do they think predominantly white artists "draw" better? When they think of Howard County, do they just think white by default? (When people say, "I don't think about race," that's often what's really going on.)
I am not "out to get" the Historical Society. I love history. I grew up going to similar places with my family. But issues of race have become so visible to me that I can't just walk by this without noticing. Is the Howard County Historical Society really meant to be the history of white people in Howard County? Or is it somehow assumed that only white people are interested in Howard County's history? Maybe there's just supposed to be some other museum that reaches out to people of color?
That, my friends, is segregation. And segregation is toxic: past, present, and future.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Take the Challenge

Over at Elevate Maryland, the question of the summer seems to be, "ice cream or snowballs?" For me that's pretty simple. Snowballs in the summer. Ice cream the rest of the time.

This week's Howard County Times feature a nice photo-heavy piece about the Snowball Stand in Woodstock. (Is there anything Jen Rynda does not do well?)  I've never been there and it looks like an adventure I should put on my Summer Bucket List.

If anyone had asked me to choose a snowball stand to feature in the newspaper, I would have steered them to Pete's. Pete's Snowballs is a summer tradition in my neck of the woods. It sits at the intersection of Oakland Mills Road and....Oakland Mills Road. I'm not kidding. Here, in a little patch of land that time forgot and decades have not improved, Pete and his family grow produce, make honey, and sell snowballs.

I visited Pete's yesterday and was floored by how crazy that end of Oakland Mills Road has become due to road construction. This must be due to work being done to turn that location into an entry point for Blandair Park. But it has just about decimated any easy access to Pete's. No one would "just happen to be passing by" anymore, under these circumstances. While it's easy to park on the street once you get there, at first glance it seems like an Olympian challenge to navigate the traffic hazards. There's even a misbegotten sign instructing pedestrians to walk in the street. If you followed this direction you would be unable to walk up to the snowball stand. Go figure.

Take the challenge. Pete's has responded to the situation by making a big colorful sign and placing it by the curb to let people know they're still in business. Take them up on their invitation. Just as I need to make a point of making a special trip to the Snowball Stand in Woodstock, I'm inviting you to make a special trip to Pete's to help keep this mom and pop business going during a crazy summer of road disruption.

Do you remember the story of The Little House? While I don't think that this little snowball stand, in its small garden oasis, is going to end up in the middle of a great big city, I do think it's feeling the growing pains of its surroundings as the County ties up loose ends associated with the next phase of Blandair. I'm hoping that once it's all finished that a stop to Pete's is a no-brainer for anyone going to and from the park. Along with the rest of us, of course.

Make mine watermelon. Or wild cherry.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Throwback Thursday

I learned a little tidbit from a friend the other day. This is how it goes:

Centennial High School was supposed to be Harper's Choice High School. It would have been where Cedar Lane Park is now. But, depending on whose version of the story you may have heard, either A) Howard Countians were tired of Columbia getting all the new things, or B) there were Howard Countians who didn't want their children going to school with "those Columbia kids".

You can hear that dog whistle, can't you?

I know I have readers who were around when this all actually went down, so feel free to jump in and flesh out the story.

I continue to bump into reasons why what James Rouse did in Columbia was so revolutionary. Housing: integrated. Schools: integrated. Swimming Pools: integrated.

I think some if us would like to believe that racism used to be a problem but that we've really made so much progress that it's really a thing of the past. The truth is that for every step forward there's been pushback. Even right here n Howard County. Even in Columbia itself.

Last night was the grand opening of Undesign the Redline, hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia in the Owen Brown Interfaith Center. I was able to see this installation when it was at Enterprise Communuty Partners. Looking at photographs from last night's event, it looks like plenty of folks who missed it on that occasion turned out this time. This is to be a long term home for the exhibit. If you haven't seen it, you should. They will be posting tour times soon.

From the County Executive's Facebook page:

At the Owen Brown Interfaith Center for the opening of "Undesign the Redline", an interactive exhibit on structural racism. The exhibit has five sections that discuss the history and current impacts of racial housing segregation during the 1930s, and what we can do to eliminate racial disparities moving forward. Hours and tour times are forthcoming!

I walked away from my experience understanding more deeply why structural racism continues to mar and skew outcomes for people of color all over this country, and that we, in our idealistic bubble, are sadly not immune.

Comments are welcome here:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

On Stage Sunday!

When I'm not blogging or offering my two cents at public meetings, I have another life as an early childhood educator. While I'm working as a generalist these days, for many years my primary focus was music and movement. So, when I heard that the folks at the Inner Arbor Trust were looking for family-friendly programming this summer, I realized I had something to offer.

So, here goes:

Sunday August 13th, rain or shine!
A free family event for parents and preschoolers.

Chrysalis Kids: Music and Movement on the Chrysalis Stage.

Come experience the beauty of Columbia's newest performance space with your little ones. From 10 to 12, Early Childhood Music Specialist Julia McCready will play DJ with your favorite Kids Tunes. There will be plenty of room to move and groove, and hands-on materials to explore!

Admission is free.

Tell your friends. Come along if you have young children and grandchildren. To be clear: this is not a show. It's a free-form, hands-on dance-fest. If you want to bring a quilt for getting comfy, snacks and/or juice boxes--it's all good. If your young ones have older siblings, I'm guessing the Imagination Playground equipment will be out for their enjoyment.

Celebrating the arts in the park is for everyone. Even the very youngest.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Come Rain or Come Shine

I am grateful to have had to opportunity to speak at last night's open meeting of the Inner Arbor Trust. Sadly disappointed with some members of the CA Board for their arrogant and rude behavior. Anyone who has the gall to say to Nina Basu, "I don't think you've thought any of this out," really doesn't have the sense God gave a grasshopper.

Here are my remarks:

I'm excited to be here for a meeting of the Inner Arbor Trust and the CA Board. It gives me the opportunity to thank all of you for your work to support the park and its mission to be where arts, culture, and community come together.

As I gathered my thoughts for this evening I could hear the sound of the rain outside, which brought back memories of the day we broke ground for the Chrysalis, and the day of its official opening in April. So far I've been to events at Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods in the rain, on the hottest of afternoons, in fair and temperate weather, and on pleasant summer evenings. 

Come rain or come shine one thing is notable. I keep seeing more people I don't know. Of course, I naturally look forward to catching up with old friends at community events. But I find it particularly exciting to see more and more new folks at each event. Whether celebrating arts in the park at the inaugural chair decorating event, playing with the Imagination Playground equipment, picnicking at the Columbia Orchestra Pops concert, dancing on the lawn at the Columbia Big Band Concert, or listening to a fascinating author's discussion at Books in Bloom, these people, from Columbia and greater Howard County, are drawn by the opportunity to be a part of varied and entertaining cultural experiences in this beautiful, natural setting. 

Something else about these people: the diversity by race, ethnicity, and age is far, far greater that what we see in this room tonight. In short, the people coming to the park look a lot like Columbia.

The overwhelmingly positive response from our community to the Chrysalis space and to its first official season of events confirms what I have believed from the start: that Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods is an excellent plan which will continue to bring more and more life to this once-neglected space. In just the first phase of its implementation one can already see its promise stirring to life. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Things You Wake Up To

This weekend I walked out of my house to this:

The photo above shows what it had been. The photo below shows what I woke up to.

My first thought was that it was a human prank, which irritated me. But, the more that I thought about it, I realized that it must have been a hungry rabbit or deer. And that's okay with me. I'll miss the flowers. But not enough to be angry at a wild creature whose home is a suburbanized hybrid of the natural world.

What I woke up to this morning:

Cockatoo hair. No one to be mad at but myself, for sleeping with it wet. If only this were a "look" to which I genuinely aspired. Sigh.

Something I woke up to on Thursday was the announcement that this year's Best of Howard County Readers Poll for 2017 is up and running. If you are interested, the Best Blog is category 62. New this year is a write-in category for Best Come-Back from the Ellicott City Flood. I voted for Sweet Elizabeth Jane. My husband voted for the Clock. What do you think?

It's a Monday morning and we're waking up to the aftermath of a rainy night. I hope you have a wonderful day and I hope I still have some of my flowers.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer Project

Have you heard of:

Guerilla art?
Pokémon Go?
Kindness Rocks?

I recently learned about the latter and soon realized that it's very much like a combination of the others on that list.  Here's how it works:

You paint rocks, often adding an encouraging message. You identify them on the back with a hashtag to a local group. Then you go out and hide them. When someone finds one, they photograph it and post it to the Facebook group it has been tagged with. Then they rehide the rock for someone else to find and enjoy.

In our area there are two Facebook groups you can join: Columbia Rocks, and HoCo Rocks.

Here's more information about the Kindness Rocks Project:



I had a rock painting party with my daughters this week. Take a look at the variety of  our creations:

This morning we're going out for a walk in one of Columbia's beautiful natural spots to hide a few. That was a part of my plan, you see: getting us out walking together. I'm hoping to use this experience to kick off a new family tradition. Who knows? Maybe the family that paints rocks together walks together? It's a start.

Here are some of my rocks.


In addition to the group hashtag, the creator can add an individual hashtag to give the rock a personal touch. I decided to tag these with #choose2Bkind , which is the theme for Howard County's Choose Civility project this year. You can learn more about A Year of Kindness here.

Now, if you are out and about and find a rock that really speaks to you, by all means, feel free to keep it. It may be just the thing to keep on your desk or bedside table or next to your coffeemaker that makes you smile and helps get you through the day. But you can pass along that act of kindness by painting and placing a rock of your own. 

If rock painting is not your thing, take a look at this month's Random Acts of Civility calendar for some other ideas for you and your family to #choose2Bkind .

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bigger than the Bubble

Today's recommended reading:

"Henrietta Lacks Immortalized with Street Dedications" by Marge Neal, East County Times.

Never heard of East County Times? From their website:

East County Times is your source for local news, events, coupons and more in eastern Baltimore County. Published weekly, the East County Times newspaper reaches tens of thousands of local residents throughout Essex, Middle River, Rosedale, White Marsh, Nottingham, Perry Hall, Kingsville, Edgemere and Dundalk.
The banner announces that this is their 20th anniversary.
From what I gather, East County Times is what the Columbia Flier used to be, back in the day: locally owned and operated. There's not a lot of that left anymore in the world of journalism. It's also a great reminder to me that there's life outside of Columbia and greater Howard County. 
Writer Marge Neal is a friend of the blog. A search (there's a search bar at the bottom of this post) tells me that this is her fifth appearance. I met her when she was the local editor for Columbia Patch. We've kept up with each other through social media and had a reunion of sorts this summer at Pub Dog.
She brought along a souvenir she'd happened upon that she thought I'd like.

Bigger than Columbia, bigger than the East County Times, is the story of Henrietta Lacks. Read the article to learn about her family's roots in the area. There's also a great book by Rebecca Skloot called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and a made for television film based on the book. Hers is a story with local beginnings and international reach. 

, events, coupons and more in eastern Baltimore County. Published weekly, the East County Times newspaper reaches tens of thousands of local residents throughout Essex, Middle River, Rosedale, White Marsh, Nottingham, Perry Hall, Kingsville, Edgemere and Dundalk.EasCounty Times is your source for local news, events, coupons and more in eastern Baltimore County. Published weekly, the East County Times newspaper reaches tens of thousands of local residents throughout Essex, Middle River, Rosedale, White Marsh, Nottingham, Perry Hall, Kingsville, Edgemere and Dundalk.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Those People

At the doctor's office. The doctor's assistant brings me down the hall, weighs me, takes my temperature, blood pressure, notes them in my chart. She sees I need an EKG, gets me set up, performs the test with a good-natured efficiency. I'm getting pre-op tests because I will be having tubes put in my ears to help with mild hearing loss.

"In my other job I clean offices at night," she says. "And I once sucked up one of those really expensive hearing aids with the vacuum and I was worried whether it would still work after that!"

We chatted about hearing aids, and how they were expensive, and how I was hoping not to go down that road quite yet. And then I was done and the doctor came in to complete the exam.

I haven't stopped thinking about that warm and capable assistant/technician who breezed through all the medical procedures with friendliness and expertise and who spends her evening cleaning offices.

I don't know anything else. I don't know the backstory. It could be happy, it could be sad.

But there's an awful lot of judgement these days about how "those people" deserve no sympathy because "they" don't want to work, "they're" lazy, "they" want free handouts. On the other hand, pundits tell us time and again we should really care about the plight of the "working class."

Does the concept of the working class and the respectability of their labor belong only to whites? I see a qualified employee in my doctor' office with excellent bedside manner who works nights cleaning offices and I want to know why her opinion is not considered valuable to the national discourse. Why isn't her life important, her work valuable, her voice meaningful?

Yes, I have invested in this one woman quite a bit of significance. But I am mightily tired of coded language that is meant to convey that the beauty of the American dream is meant only for some, that those who are brown, or tan, or "foreign" or whose religion is "dangerous" do not deserve respect or basic human kindness. Or basic human rights.

Perhaps if one's mind is poisoned by hate and one's heart is marred by ugliness, then everything one sees fulfills those expectations.

I don't want to be one of those people.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Put 'em on your calendar:

  • Sunday, August 6th, 3 pm: Maryland All-State Community Band. Marriotts Ridge High School. Free
  • Saturday, August 12th, 6 pm: Columbia Concer Band. Lurman Woodland Theatre. Free.
  • Sunday, August 13th, 10 am: Chrysalis Kids: Music and Movement on the Chrysalis Stage. Free
  • Monday, August 21st, 5:30 pm: HoCoBlogs party. Bare Bones Grill. Free.

Not everything in life is free, of course, but these are some pretty cool free local events. See if you can guess which one I'm a part of.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Roots and Wings

Things my mother never stopped mourning: streetcars, really good train travel, and radio. You know, the golden age of radio when an entire family would gather together in the living room for their favorite programming. I was raised in a television era, one in which radios were for listening to music in the car. My teenaged sister sometimes listened to the top forty hits while she ironed every Saturday.

Weekly ironing. Man, I am old.

Something that is bringing back the old excitement of that radio feeling in our culture is the new world of podcasting. While the manner in which we consume the content has changed, the aspect of choosing favorites, looking forward to hearing them, devoting the time to listen is very similar. While we may listen individually, we discuss podcasts in multiple ways, both in person and online through social media.

Some podcasts have a national, even international, following. Some are put together in such a homemade way as to suggest a reach of one or two basements. The technology to make a podcast is readily available. Whether or not it is any good depends on the creators.

My new favorite podcast is Elevate Maryland, which is, as they say, "the podcast with Maryland focus and Howard County roots." I just listened to their most recent episode, with guest Ian Kennedy of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. If you haven't yet started listening, I'd recommend starting with this one. The rapport between hosts Candace Dodson-Reed and Tom Coale  has beèn good from the start (this is Episode 8) but in this one you can feel that they've definitely hit their stride in working together. They're really getting this thing to fly.

(Photo credit: HoCoMoJo)

If you have any questions about where the DAC ("the first C is silent") fits in with Merriweather, the Downtown Columbia Partnership, and the Inner Arbor Trust, this is definitely an excellent place to start. Kennedy does a masterful job of describing all the layers and how they are related. I was amazed by how much information was relayed in such an engaging manner, without a sense that anyone was clutching notecards or prepared remarks.

My favorite part of this episode was a moment when the conversation tuned to how getting people out of their cars and onto bikes or simply walking around town can contribute to valuable moments of community building. When you are out and about, and bump into friends and acquaintances, those chance encounters are little moments of bridge-building. They reinforce our connection to one another. It almost felt like one of those old-timey radio songs in which the crooner waxes rhapsodically about:

The people that you meet
Walking down the street

Podcasting may be the result of highly sophisticated modern technology, but I think you'll find this particular episode to have a distinctly hometown feel. Once you hear this one I think you'll want to go back and listen to the rest.

Elevate Maryland, with hosts Candace Dodson-Reed and Tom Coale, is recorded bi-weekly at Joe's Place Deli and produced by Ilana Bittner of HoCoMoJo (and Pixel Workshop.)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

No More Silence About Consent

Have you seen these announcements by the Horizon Foundation?

How would you like $10,000 for a social change project? Pitch your big idea today. #hocomd 

The link takes you to information about the Changemaker Challenge. In short:

If you have a big idea to make Howard County better, pitch it! Tell us about your idea by September 8, 2017. If your idea is chosen, you will be invited to present it to a live audience on October 30, 2017. If you are one of three winners, we’ll help bring your idea to life — together with $10,000 in seed funding, and project consultation. 

When I saw the announcement, I immediately thought of a student-initiated petition I signed towards the end of the school year. Here it is.

From the language of the petition:

There needs to be a change! Sexual violence, rape, and sexual assault is not a joke! We need to educate people about rape culture, and explain all of the different types of sexual assault. "No means no" is not enough. Instead we need to be promoting a definition of what consent is. There needs to be an education where rape is defined. We need a place where people feel safe. Many people have different cultures and beliefs on what sexual assault/rape is, and instead we all need to be taught the same definition. There are many who are concerned about the lack of knowledge and misunderstanding relating to this topic. Sign this petition to promote a rape prevention education among HCPSS schools. Thanks so much for all the support, and feel free to share the link on social media and friends to spread the word! 

The students include a link to a consent-based K-12 program. Take a look.

I would love to see the creators of this petition make a pitch to the Horizon Foundation. Why? Well, as a part of a parent/student group that looked at the implications of our school dress code and how time and again it was implemented in a gender-biased manner, I have seen how desperately we need to address the underlying attitudes that contribute to rape culture within our schools.

When an article of clothing worn by a girl leads to assumptions that she's "distracting" or "asking for it" or that she's "a slut", the groundwork is clearly laid to blame the victim in cases of sexual harassment or assault. Her educational experience is valued less than the boys she is accused of distracting. A comprehensive K-12 consent-based curriculum would ensure that both students and adults address these assumptions and work on healthier, non-biased boundaries.

Much as we don't want to talk about it, sexual harassment and assault are going on among our young people. And, more often than not, it is the victim who is shamed/blamed. Some of this is actually occurring in our schools. If we don't give our children the knowledge and tools to lead healthier and safer lives, we are contributing to the perpetuation of the problem.

As the students mention in their petition, this curriculum is free. I suspect that educating the public as to why this is a necessary and good thing is where that $10,000.00 grant might come in. I know there are people who believe that anything even remotely concerning sex should be discussed only in the home. (As we know, there are some school board members who think one shouldn't utter the word "condom" in front of an eighteen-year old.)

Introducing a consent-based curriculum in the schools would involve educating adults in the community in order to win their support. I think this could be a tough sell, but I think it would be  worth it. So, students, whoever you are: don't give up on your petition. I think you have a chance of taking it to the next level.

Make a pitch! Deadline is September 8th.

Monday, July 31, 2017

My Summer of Love

Let it be known that, in the 50th anniversary season of its opening, I finally fell in love with Merriweather.

I don't exactly know why it took so long, but, there it is. I suspect I stayed away because I'm not keen on crowds or summer heat. And for a long time our family budget didn't allow for extra expenditures during the summer.

The weather gods have blessed me this year, smiling on both the Paul Simon concert and last night's performance by Belle and Sebastian. For this I am grateful. There's no question that milder temps and lower humidity have contributed to my growing appreciation of the venue. As much as I love music, I hate Maryland summers more, so it's a difficult balance.

Last night my husband and I were surprised by a friend with two passes to the new VIP lounge/area (not sure what it's called). It's a really lovely respite from all the hustle and bustle plus the bathroom lines are way shorter. Everywhere we went last night when it was necessary to show tickets or wristbands or ID the employees were friendly and courteous. Not a dud in the lot.

Despite my reticence to actually turn up at events, I've pretty much always been a fan of the concept of Merriweather since I moved to Columbia in 1999. Hearing music drift over on the summer breeze was an added plus of living in Oakland Mills. I remember being stunned when I ran for CA Rep and an angry voter shouted at me, "You didn't support putting a bubble over Merriweather!" And I thought, "was this even an issue?"

I took a car full of teens to this week's showing of Moana at Merriweather. That late afternoon sun on the lawn was somewhat of a challenge to my enthusiasm, but a cold drink got me through. The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission is hoping to grow a new generation of Merriweather fans through these family movie nights. I think it's a great idea.

But how about some children's programming? Where's Laurie Berkner, Dan Zanes, Milkshake? That would be a great way to grow an audience, too. If Merriweather can't do it perhaps the Chryalis will fill that need. I think we have plenty of kids/parents in the area who would turn up for events like that. Don't you?

Speaking of the Chrysalis, I'm working on something new and different over there that I'm very excited about. More details soon.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Wrong Side

Of the bed, that is.

For some reason today has begun as the kind of day when I would like more sleep and more coffee and a complete do-over. There's no particular reason. The sky is clear and beautiful. I can hear birds singing outside. I had what one might think is a reasonable night's sleep.

But my thoughts are all a-jumble. There's nothing emerging in my brain as the topic of today's post. Of course there ar lots of dribs and drabs floating around competing with one another. A sampling:

The Howard County Food Bank needs your donations of food and/or $ .
The Horizon Foundation has kicked off the Changemaker Challenge.
You can support How Girls Code tomorrow evening by dining in or out at Tino's.
Sign up to attend the next HoCo Blogs Party, August 21st at Bare Bones Grill and Brewery.

And, on a non-local note, a recommended read: On Paralysis and Perfection, by Jennie Barrett.

See you tomorrow when I will (most likely) get out of the right side of the bed.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Weather Report

It rained most of the day yesterday, and into the night.

Local concerns were not so much about canceled plans or muddy feet tracking a wet mess into the house.

Is Ellicott City okay?

Does anybody know?

How are things on Main Street?

One year ago: the deluge. Terrifying destruction and loss of life. A life-changing struggle to bring a city back.

This morning the skies are clear over Old Ellicott City and people are gathered to remember.

(Photo by Tom Coale)

The recovery in Old Ellicott City is remarkable. But it isn't over. One of the best ways you can help this weekend is to stop by and visit. Come out to one of the events marking the anniversary of the flood. Or just come on over to shop, have a meal, say thanks to local merchants for hanging in there. 

The weather forecast for Ellicott City today is for relatively mild temperatures, cloudy with a chance of light rain. Don't let a few raindrops keep you away.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The New Market

Have  you been to the newest of the Howard County Farmers Markets? It's on Thursday afternoons at Clarksville Commons. As loyal as I am to the Oakland Mills Market, I just had to make the trek to Clarksville yesterday when I that they were adding live music to the mix.

My family and I really went for the music, truth be told, but what can you expect in a family of musicians? We're fans of the band, Dog Park All-Stars, a local duo consisting of Mickey Gomez and  Aaron Barnett. (I hear there was a little audience participation after we left.) If you want to hear them and visit the new market, you're in luck. They'll be back August 17th.

Actually, we may need to go back, too, because we were so focused on the music that we didn't do the local vendors justice. My daughter and I enjoyed our first ice cream from Scoop and Paddle. I had Chocolate Covered Strawberry. The flavor and texture (mouth-feel?) were wonderful, but overall it was a bit too sweet for my taste. Maybe we'll try again in August and compare notes.

While we were there we tried out YouPizza, one of the new businesses at Clarksville Commons. It's another addition to the very-fast, pick your own toppings pizza experience. (Think Mod Pizza and Pie5.) The customer service was excellent and the pizza was tasty. My husband was able to eat all of his pizza in one go but I suspect this is because he hadn't had any lunch. My daughter and I both had pizza left over to take home. As we were leaving, lots of folks were streaming in. It looks to be off to a successful start.

One thing, though. Can someone explain these bathroom doors to me?

Actually, don't. I'm pretty sure I know what they mean and it's stupid and unnecessary. With all the problems we have in our society right now around rest rooms, this is not even remotely amusing. This pizza is fine. You can get similar pizza elsewhere in town without being insulted by the restroom. Just a thought.

In summary: we'll be back to the market, and next time we'll come prepared to really shop. As to YouPizza? Not so sure on that.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Public and Private

I'm back from my family's annual trip to the beach. For the past three years we have stayed at a deliciously retro-feeling place in Lewes called the Beacon Motel. It's not fancy, but it's clean and comfortable and affordable. There's no work-out room or free breakfast and the internet is periodically rather thin. But the service is excellent and all the staff are warm and friendly. We'll probably be back next year.

There seem to be two schools on acknowledging vacations on social media. Some folks are right out there in the open, posting as they go. Some, like us, are a bit wary of advertising that they are away from home. By and large I save my photos and travel anecdotes for when I get back. There's no right or wrong way, I guess. It's just what we prefer. And we can all choose what to make public or keep private.

While we were enjoying a day of noodling around Rehoboth Avenue, I realized I was going to need to find a bathroom. And, if you have been to Rehoboth, you know that means finding your way to the public facilities down by the boardwalk. As I made my way down the street I thought about how crucial it is to have public restrooms. How many of us would leave the house for more than brief trips if we were not assured of a place to "go" if we needed it?

Imagine if using the toilet were not considered a normal bodily function that our society took into account. How would your life be different if all eyes were on you if you needed a restroom, if it were the subject of punitive laws and very public debate?

As we see various "Bathroom Bills" come up throughout the U.S., I think it's important to realize this is not some intellectual political concept.

Isolating transgender citizens as a class and restricting their rights to use bathrooms is both ignorant and crippling. I read somewhere that it's a way of attempting to erase transgender people from existing in the public sphere. I agree. Just how far would I get in life if the only place I could use a bathroom was in the privacy of my own home?

Shopping? Work? School? Vacation?

How could I risk it? I have no idea how I would live under those circumstances.

Do you?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Charm

I'm running this post for the third time, on the anniversary of its original appearance, for a reason. In many ways it tells the story of the last several years and what went wrong in our school system. In particular, this paragraph:

Once you lose the moral high ground in your community, you lose the authority to make significant decisions that require compliance. You lose the authority to command large sums of money from the County without oversight in your operations. You lose your status as the place parents want to send their children.

We now know that the story of mold in our schools isn't just about Glenwood. Other schools have significant mold issues and teachers, staff, and students have been affected. The only thing that thrived by keeping this story in the dark was the mold.

Quite a bit has changed since the last time I ran this piece. The school board has changed, the superintendent has changed, and with that has come a reorganization of Central Office staff. The school system is looking to hire an Industrial Hygienist. I most certainly hope their top priority is to find someone has possesses the necessary professional certification (and a proven track record) to deal with mold issues.


In the Dark (July 26, 2016) refers to Mold and Truthiness (July 25, 2015)

Mold grows in unseen places: behind, beneath, between. Under, above, maybe just out of reach. It thrives in darkness.

Mold is on my mind this morning because yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my first post about the mold problem at Glenwood Middle School. In "Mold and Truthiness" I outlined the loss of trust with the Glenwood School community because of the school system's failure to communicate promptly and thoroughly about mold in the school.

A parent was quoted in the HoCo Times:

"As a community, we need to demand confirmation of mold remediation and INDEPENDENT indoor air quality testing of all rooms and inspection of walls and ceilings for presence of mold--This should occur FOLLOWING the completion of the HVAC upgrades, BEFORE the start of the school year," read a post about the email July 22. "We cannot allow our teachers and students into a building without knowing that it is a safe environment."

There was a brief moment where the school system seemed to be saying that they "got" the message. It was in November, four months after this parent's impassioned statement. Frank Eastham was quoted in the HoCo Times from a meeting with the community:

"We were trying to identify the source of the problem before we communicated what the issue was, so that we would know if we had a solution to the issue," Frank Eastham said after a parent asked why the school system decided not to communicate with parents about mold growth at Glenwood Middle School immediately after it was discovered. "In the future, we will be more transparent in order to continue to build trust in the community."

The title of the article: School officials say 'lesson learned' about transparency.

Unfortunately, the level of transparency around issues of mold after this meeting did little to build trust with the community. Talking the talk was not followed by walking the walk. Mold continued to be an issue at Glenwood. The school is undergoing multi-million dollar renovations to address this, even though the community was told long ago that all mold had been completely "remediated" and their were no health risks whatsoever.


It should be no surprise to anyone that community concerns led to activism at the local and state level. The County Executive and the County Council took action to look at the issue of mold in all our schools. The State Legislature responded to issues of transparency and accountability brought to them by parents and members of the Howard County Delegation.

Mold continues to be discovered in other schools around the county and communication with parents has been sketchy at best. We have toxic learning environments for teachers, staff, and students, and still the greater focus seems to be on keeping the community in the dark. "Lesson learned"? I don't think so. 

As I re-read last year's post, this paragraph jumped out at me:

Once you lose the moral high ground in your community, you lose the authority to make significant decisions that require compliance. You lose the authority to command large sums of money from the County without oversight in your operations. You lose your status as the place parents want to send their children.

It reads now as an almost creepy prediction of the year that followed. 

Mold and malfeasance thrive in the dark. Healthy communities do not. If you are looking for a place to find the most up-to-date findings about mold in our schools, it won't be from the school system. It will be on a school parent's Facebook page. Will this be the same a year from now?

That depends on you.