Tuesday, February 28, 2017


A memory from childhood.

Visiting the cemetery to put flowers on my grandfather's grave. It was a sunny day. We walked past the Garfield memorial and there were some special flower arrangements and displays. My mother looked, turned her head away. Almost seemed to shudder.

"What are all those things about?" I asked her.

I could tell she really didn't want to tell me.

And then, hesitating, she told me a very carefully worded story about Germany. And Hitler. And what happened to the Jewish people during the war.

I felt a chill of dread come over me. More than anything, the sight of my mother being afraid to tell me about something was the most terrifying of all. How horrible it must be if my mother shrank from naming it: Holocaust. For years I had nightmares about that day.

We walked past the displays, and the small groups of people who had come to show their respect. There was a placard that read, "Never again."

My mother said, "We can't ever let that happen again. The world didn't do enough."

I thought it could never happen again. Not in America. Americans stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression. We celebrated our diversity.

I was wrong.

Since the election hatred and intolerance have been seeping daily into the national conversation. The prejudice that my childhood self didn't believe existed in America is crawling out from under rocks. Attacking under cover of darkness. The memory of the dead is desecrated. Children in their schools are threatened.

The nameless dread of that childhood day has come back to me. It could happen again, it is happening, and there are those in power who would rather look the other way or keep silent. We can't let them.

We can't keep silent.

Persecuting people for their religion is wrong and it is not American. And it is not lawful. There is a reason we have those laws. And we, the people, must demand that the rights of our Jewish brothers and sisters are protected.

Childhood fears are made of nameless terrors and unknown dread. Now I am an adult. Now I know what happened and what could happen again. And my fear is the fear of staring something in the face and worrying that I will not do enough. That I will, somehow, be complicit.

That, too, is the stuff of nightmares.

Monday, February 27, 2017

More of the Same?

The headline reads "Five reasons to do business in Howard County". The story recounts an event held at One Merriweather by Bisnow. (story) I found myself drawn to the photographs. There are plenty of them. In scanning them, I noted, that, with the exception of Ike Leggett, this event appeared to have a serious lack of racial/ethnic diversity. The speakers, aside from the MoCo Exec, look to be an assortment of white men. Period.

Hmm. Does this mean anything? Should I care? I guess I already do care, or else I wouldn't  be mentioning it. I look at these pictures and think, "the future of Howard County is more pale male heads. Oh, yay." 

Why does it matter? Perspective. This comment made me think.

"The goal [of transportation] is not to move people," he said. "The goal is economic development." (Christopher Leinberger)

Well, maybe. But to those folks in Howard County who'd just like to be able to get  to work and to shop, economic development looks like a decent, reliable system that gets people around within the County, thank you very much. They're probably not going to use your nifty bus rapid transit between MoCo and HoCo. Is anyone in that great big room interested in them?

Maybe all that economic development will trickle down to the little people. We'll see.

Share your feedback here:


Sunday, February 26, 2017


From the crazy ideas file at Village Green/Town², these Dome Houses made of polystyrene:


I say, make Gateway the final Columbia Village and make all the houses like this. With tons of walkability to shops and an appealing "around the Gateway" transit system. Let's do something really off-beat and quirky and fun. Downtown development is moving along all right, but nothing about it is anywhere near weird enough for me.

Well, actually, the plans for Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods were pretty darn visionary. Remember?

Funny thing, the people who strongly objected to these forward-thinking designs were folks who participated in Columbia visionary James Rouse's New American City. These were Pioneers in a new way of living. Does one get to a point in life when one clings to the old vision and rejects any kind of new vision? Is it inevitable?

Columbia is getting ready to celebrate its 50th birthday. I bought a commemorative brick to be a part of it all. (I was a little surprised that I didn't have to reveal how long I've lived here.) It looks like there is a kick-off event of some sort at the Mall on March 19th. Does anyone have a description of what will be happening? I've been enjoying the various retrospectives coming from the Columbia Archives and the articles by Len Lazarick.

On Earth Day, Merriweather Park will be dedicating the Chrysalis in Symphony Woods. That's Saturday, April 22nd. I bought a commemorative plank to celebrate that as well. (It was insanely easy to do, by the way.) I'm so excited to be at a Columbia event that's about looking forwards.

Don't get me wrong. I love history, and Columbia's is fascinating stuff. But the thought of participating in a new beginning for our town, one that combines nature and the arts and bringing people together to enjoy the community is spine-tingling stuff to me.

Every generation should get a chance to participate in some visionary decisions. It sparks the imagination, makes you think about what you believe in. Most of my own personal crazy ideas won't ever make it off the drawing board, but the willingness to consider Columbia from more than one particular vantage point is one I hope I'll be able to keep working on forever,

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Cool Kids, Revisited

Tonight is the Howard County Libraries annual fundraiser, "Evening in the Stacks." For many years I have lamented that I couldn't afford to go. I would look at the photos of the event posted online and have that sense of regret that I wasn't one of the Cool Kids who go to this event and other big-ticket charitable events around town. I did go one year thanks to a free ticket extended to me by a friend. It was wonderful, but for a shy person who came alone it had its limitations.

Now that I am working full time, I am coming to grips with having more disposable income. I am trying to choose wisely when it comes to charitable donations, especially since so many things I believe in are under attack these days. When I woke up this morning I had to face the fact that, now that I have the money to go to Evening in the Stacks, I'm simply too exhausted to want to go.

And I'd have to fight my inner introvert to even make it in the door.

Two thoughts on this:

1. If I thought that the price of admission to being a Cool Kid was merely the disposable income to attend, I was wrong. The Cool Kids have to be willing to make the time, show up, be social, make connections, engage themselves in these events. This is an investment of value. It's not just the money.

2. I feel less concerned about whether or not I'm a Cool Kid than I used to be. Maybe I have found my own ways to make a difference. Or maybe I'm just too tired to care. But I'm definitely done with hand-wringing at the periphery.

Being a Cool Kid takes work. Caring about who is and who isn't a Cool Kid is an effort I'm not willing to pursue anymore. Those folks are clearly doing something I'm not entirely willing to do. I'm grateful that tonight they'll be dressing up and clinking glasses in support of the Library.

Shine on, local social philanthropists. We need you. You make our community better.

Comments? Post here:


Friday, February 24, 2017

Good Choices

The Howard County Board of Education took the time to address the issue of protections for transgender students at their board meeting last night. Here is their statement:

In the Howard County Public School System, each school works with children and families, as it always has, to preserve the privacy and rights of all students, including transgender students. HCPSS reaffirms that commitment and will not change its practices.

You can read more here at the HCPSS website. 

At the same meeting,  Board of Education approved a budget which restores support staff in media, kindergarten, ESOL, and early childhood to 2014 levels. They have also created a position for a diversity/inclusion coordinator. Let's hope it sticks this time! 

It is heartening to see the Board at work making such excellent choices in behalf of students, parents, teachers, and staff. If you'd like to thank them for their work, you can use this handy-dandy form provided by HCEA to show your support.   You can also go to Board Docs to see a complete list of what the Board has been doing this week. 

The new Board has been at work for about ninety days. New members were elected by constituents looking for responsiveness, transparency, and accountability. I'm seeing genuine concern for those issues and a concerted effort to support initiatives which impact students the most. 

Send them your thanks, won't you? And perhaps you might want to let the County Executive know you support their work on this year's budget. It's going to him next. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017


I have allergies and asthma. I was born this way. It can be annoying, uncomfortable, and limiting. I've been through years of allergies shots, taken a boatload of medication, visited the emergency room after a run-in with book mold and cats. I can't have pets, even though I love animals.

But this is who I am. I was born this way, and I have learned to deal with it.

And you know what? Nobody is offended.

No one scorns me, doubts the veracity of my claims, or tries to interfere with my civil rights. What a privilege that is. It's just accepted that "that's the way I am."

Not so for LGBTQ folks. So often they don't get that benefit of the doubt. "This is who I am." "This is how I was made." No, they don't get a free pass because just the fact of their existence offends somebody.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I know my analogy is flawed. Allergies and asthma are an illness, ones I wish could be completely remediated. Being LGBTQ is most definitely not an illness. It is no more an illness than having blue eyes, brown hair, being tall, or petite. But it is the closest I can get to imagining what it would be like if someone looked at something about me that is completely inborn and was "offended."

The violence being done to trans students by the Trump administration in rescinding Title IX protections is incalculable. Trans students are already at a high risk for harassment, bullying, and suicide. Being able to use the bathroom is such a basic need and without it, students can't access education.

Sure, you can have an education. You just can't go to the bathroom. Because I'm offended by who you are. By the way you were born.

This is a blatant violation of civil rights.

We have trans students in Howard County who struggle on a daily basis with getting the system to truly acknowledge and respect who they are. These are our children. How do you think they feel this morning?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Letters for the Lovelorn

News flash! Mr. Trash Wheel is adding "Advice Columnist" to his list of many accomplishments.

This offer brought to mind the predicament of a friend of mine, Ms. Frizz, aka @eye_on _kq . I had lunch with her Monday

It's clear she's still carrying a torch for her old beau, the Lake Kittamaqundi Bell Tower. She's heard he might be be coming back into town, but she can't get any solid details. Maybe Trashy can help. 

Dear Trashy,

My friend Ms. Frizz has been pining away for the love of her life, this handsome fellow.

He disappeared around 2010 and she's been heartsick ever since. She hears from the Columbia Association that he might be returning home soon. Can you do anything to help reunite these two lovebirds?


Your friend at Village Green/Town²


I'll let you know if I hear anything.

If you have any relevant info, or ideas for Letters to Trashy,  post here:


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Wake Up Call

Good morning, friends. It's your Monday morning wake up call. Except it's Tuesday. But for many of us, it feels like Monday.

Here's a post from HoCo blogger Mike Hartley.

He writes THREW Mike's Eyez, described as the original writings, images, videos and artworks of Mike Hartley. It's just the message I needed to read this morning.

I had that same sense of gratitude yesterday as I walked about of a doctor's appointment where, for the first time in my life, I had gotten a high-five from the doctor. We all need a little encouragement on the journey to self-care. I felt very fortunate to have that support.

So that's the message for the day. Find the things you can feel grateful for. Savor them.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Topical Trivia

Dribs and drabs this morning:

There's a new Caribbean restaurant in Harper's Choice. It's in the space where Zapata's used to be. It's called Jazz's Island Soul Cuisine and I stole this impromptu review right off of a friend's Facebook post:

We visited the new restaurant @ Harper's Choice Village Center today. We had brunch (all day every day right now) and the food was delicious! I got chicken and waffles (the rum syrup was so sticky and sweet in the best way), and [my lovely companion] got the meat lovers omelette that came with home fries, grits, fried apples and biscuits (made in a waffle iron). 

Yay for local restaurants with good food!

I got a nice little mailing from my State Senator Guy Guzzone this week, informing me that he's also a realtor and offering his services should we need them. Probably everyone else knew that he is a realtor, but I didn't, so I guess that's useful. We already have a realtor we trust--Michael McKenna of Weichert New Colony--but it's still helpful information to have.

Apparently there's been a traffic snarlup around the Mall on Little Patuxent Parkway due to road work. What's interesting is that is hasn't affected me at all, which means I'm not really going "Downtown" much. Hmm.

It looks like plans are moving forward for the Cultural Arts Center which will give Toby's a new home. May it be everything that Toby Orenstein has wished for. She's certainly waited long enough.

Finally, a shoutout to two HoCo women who have been working long and hard on causes we should all probably know more about.

  • Laurie Lundy, who is an advocate for Addiction/Recovery support in Howard County.
  • Catherine Carter, who is working to get the Atticus Act passed in the Maryland State legislature, on behalf of children with binocular vision disorder.

Have some local current events to add to this mix? Let me know here: https://www.facebook.com/VillageGreenTownSquared/

Sunday, February 19, 2017


The deadline is March 3rd at 4:00 pm. At least, that's when it is in Oakland Mills. There are probably other deadlines in other villages. You can learn more here.

What deadline? Why, the deadline to turn in your paperwork to run for your Columbia Village Board or as your village's CA Representative, of course. At this time of year, some people scope out this year's Spring fashions, some peruse seed catalogues, and some contemplate stepping up to serve the community.

Will you be one of them?

Serving on a village board or as a CA Rep will not make you famous. It is not a reliable springboard to higher office, either. But you will learn more about your village, about how Columbia works, and, most especially, what we all need to do to keep Columbia going. The New American City wasn't meant to run like an automated machine. It needs people to be interested, involved, and active. If we aren't, the things that make Columbia unique will become irrelevant.

Something you will have if you serve in village leadership is influence. The village board sets the tone for how each individual village association interacts within its community. Here in Oakland Mills we've seen a board that thinks it's within its purview to advocate for replacing affordable housing with a multimillion dollar sports complex, or slating school athletic fields for commercial redevelopment. Thankfully, neither one of these misbegotten goals has come to pass, but you can see how the tone is set by those who are controlling the conversation.

In Columbia, we need more people of different ages and backgrounds who want to join in the conversation. If you have been involved in your children's PTA, or at church/synagogue, or other community group, then I strongly encourage you to serve a term on behalf of your village. I don't know the time commitment in every village, but in Oakland Mills it's two evenings per month. It's doable.

I once served on the Oakland Mills Village Board and I'm really glad that I did. I also ran for Oakland Mills CA Representative, unsuccessfully. Would I try that again? Well...

Politics as a competitive sport is not my thing. But it may be just the challenge you are looking for. And running for Village Board is probably the least competitive race you will ever attempt.

You are needed. Columbia was meant to be about all kinds of people. Step up.

Comments? Share them here. https://m.facebook.com/VillageGreenTownSquared/

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Truth About Consequences

Here's a bit of a conversation amongst music educators that I read this week:

I don't know if it is a trend all over or just our little nook of the world right now but every year in recent history, I find it harder and harder to teach first grade.  I honestly feel like I'm teaching preschoolers with some of the behaviors I see and how far I have to simplify lessons.  It's taking them much longer to achieve  beat competency than I remember in years past (been teaching 16 years).  They seem to not have control of their bodies/personal space.  I try my darndest to use this to my advantage and engage them with movement and very "active" things... but when playing games, doing dances, playing instruments, it takes every last ounce of my classroom management efforts (and I have been told that my classroom management is excellent) to just keep them focused long enough to get through something fun!  They just lose sight of the objective so quickly.  I do remind myself to keep it in perspective in that they are only 6/7 years old but I mean it... this is preschool type behavior I'm seeing.  Anyone else noticing this???

Some answers:

  • Because they have reduced their time in unstructured play, where they learn self regulation skills (Lave) and being in a community (Vygotsky).  Read some of David Whitebread's research.  It is all done in PLAY and we keep taking it away.

  •  The absolutely terrifying thing about this is that it happens everywhere, in both public and private schools. We're expecting children to act a certain age but not giving them the opportunity to grow into the age we want them to be. Play is so important in the lower grades but isn't an acceptable part of "instructional time" anymore, so our children are not learning how to regulate their behavior, their emotions, or even how to be self sufficient problem solvers. It's such a tragedy.

  • Yes, this! I want to do so much "work with a partner to do x y z" activities in older grades but they don't know how to work together or problem solve with each other because they never have the opportunity to do so anymore.

Taking away play has consequences. Children need time for open-ended exploration: outdoor play, dramatic play, building and experimenting with materials. They need permission and support to create with art materials and express themselves musically. They need choice and self-directed activities. When schools and parents take that away in favor of producing measurable "academic" goals, the end result is profound.

Early childhood is a time of immense brain development. It is also a time when crucial social-emotional boundaries and expectations should be introduced and supported. None of that can happen successfully if we don't respect children's basic needs.

Play is a child's work: upon this everything else is built. But, if you take it away, then there is no foundation upon which to build.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friends and Foes

I had a little moment this week on social media where I found myself and and my family under attack from the rantings of an anonymous Facebook page. Ive learned not to care too much about what is said about me, but going after my children is off limits. If you have children, I'm sure you would feel the same.

The best thing (if there is one) about this whole unpleasant experience is how many good people came to my defense. I have many friends who refused to be bystanders in the face of online bullying. It truly warmed my heart to witness the efforts of upstanders coming not just to my defense but also supporting others who were being unfairly targeted.

A particular surprise to me were kind words from two well-known local folks with whom I have had many political disagreements. I think it's safe to say that we probably agree on about five percent of what the world has to offer. But both were quick to check in with words of support. Both made it clear that what I was experiencing was unacceptable.

That was truly a "wow" moment for me. Yes, it's just a tiny moment in the swirl of local and national divisions. But it is meaningful just the same. People with profound disagreements can still acknowledge humanity in each other. Perhaps I can't extrapolate that to be indicative of any larger message but I can say I'm thankful.

In a week where being online felt like my house was going up in flames, thankful is good.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


From the nice folks over at Howard Magazine...

This got me thinking. Who is a famous Howard County resident? What constitutes being famous in #hocomd ?

Are there famous people in Howard County? And if there are, why would we want to see their homes? Under the usual assumptions, fame means the added benefits of accumulated wealth. (Imagine wanting to take a peek at the lifestyles of the rich and famous.)

But how much of that, if any, is at work in Howard County? I honestly don't know. There are certainly some people I'd love to have dinner with. I don't know if there homes would be particularly noteworthy.

What do you think? Who's famous, and would you like to see where they live?

Howard Magazine wants to know.

P.S. I'm not famous, and my house is a mess. Just saying.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


On February 14th, 2013, the CA Board voted to approve the concept plan for what was then known as the Inner Arbor plan for Symphony Woods. Here's the article from the HoCo Times. I was eating at an outdoor restaurant along the Riverwalk in San Antonio and following the live tweeting from the meeting. I was, quite possibly, the worst dinner guest ever.

At the time I saw the vote as a vital and positive turning point in the direction that our community was going to take. I'm still convinced it was vital and positive. But nothing is ever a complete and total turning point, is it? There will be push back, and criticism, and attempts to change direction. There will be struggle. The intent to move forward came with it those whose intent was to slow that movement to a halt.

This Spring, on Earth Day, the first phase of the Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods will open: the Chrysalis. I'll be there. I'm hoping this will be more than a celebration of accomplishment. I'm hoping that the joy of this day will be inspiring. Contagious, even. As members of our community experience the beauty of this space becoming a reality, the concept of the park can become more than drawings and proposals: the park is real. The possibilities are real. The joy of this park belongs to the community. The opening of the Chrysalis is not the end of the story.

It is just the beginning.

Mark your calendars for a Saturday, April 22nd.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Friend in Need

You know what makes me happy?

Books. I love books. I love looking at beautiful picture books, browsing through craft books, drooling over cookbooks. I love biographies, historical fiction, classic children's novels...Books can be a delight for the senses. You don't just see them. You touch the pages, hear the sound of the paper as you leaf your way through. You smell that amazingly intoxicating book smell.

I love how reading opens your mind to new things. I love discovering new connections and forging new pathways in my brain. I love discovering new interests, cultivating hobbies.

I love books, and I love libraries. I especially love the Howard County Library System because they're always finding new ways of connecting with the community. They're incredibly reponsive to the needs of the citizens they serve.


Some people don't love books. And they don't like opening their minds to new things. And they don't like libraries. And when people like that start holding a lot of positions in government, well, that is when we need libraries the most. (And newspapers. Don't forget them.)

The Howard County Library system has a big fancy fundraiser coming up on February 25. It's called Evening in the Stacks and this year's theme is An International Affair. Tickets are $150.00 and the food, drink, and entertainment are always superb. Take a look at what's in store.

If you are like me--not quite such a big spender--there are still ways to support the Library. You can come to a Friends of the Library event this Friday at The Turn House. Registration is just $5.00.
Another way to support Evening in the Stacks is by buying raffle tickets, also five dollars. Take a look here and see what you can win.

Libraries need friends, you know. They're always there when we're looking for something. Now they need us to be there for them, too.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Through the Rainbow Curtain

On a Saturday night in February, the high school cafeteria was festooned with crepe paper streamers and Valentine decorations. Music was playing, a colored light ball was rotating. Some teens were blowing bubbles. The entrance was a curtain of rainbow streamers.


There were your usual party snacks: chips, pretzels, pizza, soda, juice. A unique touch: a station making Unicorn Hot Chocolate, which is just like regular hot chocolate with the addition of whipped cream, Lucky Charms, and rainbow sprinkles.

Students took charge of greeting guests, giving out name tags and glow-stick bracelets and necklaces. In fact, students were in charge of every aspect of this meet-and-greet event: planning, publicity, buying supplies, running activities, set up and clean up. Students stood out for hours in freezing cold January weather selling baked goods to raise the funds needed to hold the event.

I was helping to chaperone a party of the GSA at the high school where my husband works. He is their faculty sponsor. The group meets weekly after school in his classroom. One of their goals has been to reach out to GSA groups in other high schools. Last year they held their first County-wide GSA event at UUCC in Owen Brown. It was a small, but good, start.

This year they decided to have it at the school. Howard County PFLAG helped spread the word. About forty students turned out from four or five different high schools plus the homeschooling community. They did what all teenagers do: chatted, played some ice-breaker games, played with bubbles, glow sticks, and helium balloons. Danced familiar line dances. Looked at their phones. Ate, drank, took pictures. Laughed, goofed around, acted silly.

It's hard for me to adequately describe how happy this all made me. On a Saturday night in February, a whole bunch of LGBTQ teens and their friends were able to get together and feel completely accepted for being who they are. There was no one to mock or judge or exclude them. They were great kids having fun and being themselves.

Yet the world is getting a little darker for them as each day of the new Presidential term goes by. Protections for trans students are disappearing. Anti-LGBTQ politicians are receiving appointment after appointment and their goals are clear: to roll back the rights so recently won. To censure and suppress. I looked at these beautiful young people and my heart ached a little. They don't deserve censure. They deserve what everyone deserves: love, and acceptance.

HoCo blogger HoCoHouseHon suggested to me this week, "I'm thinking instead of pink or red we should all wear rainbow colors for Valentine's Day."

I think she's right. What better day to reaffirm that Love is Love?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

When Worlds Collide

Dear Jim Rouse, it was a good dream and vision while it lasted...

A friend posted this yesterday on Facebook. I have a feeling that it's in reference to what we have been experiencing in our community around the issue of the CB-9 legislation.

I don't blame her for feeling that we are experiencing a death of that original ideaism which was woven into Columbia's very creation. But it's important to remember that Howard County existed before Columbia. The New American City was plopped down into an area that wasn't all that happy about the change.

Much of why I started this blog comes from that tension. There has long existed tension between Columbia and all of its almost-utopian-planned-community vibe, and the Howard County that is separate from that, Believe me, there is tension. And it existed way before the Sanctuary legislation was proposed.

From the blog HoCo Connect, written by Duane St. Clair:

Columbia vs. the rest of Howard County returns

    When I moved to Columbia in the 1970's the political split in the County was very noticeable.  There 
were two Democratic Clubs- one liberal in Columbia and one conservative in Ellicott City.  The liberal 
population that bought into Rouse's planned city was a cultural shock to Howard County residents 
who were mostly conservative.  Columbia's population controlled Howard County politics starting in 
the 1980's.  As with the rest of conservatives nationally, the conservative Howard County Democrat 
voters began switching to the Republican party.  This story is told very well with the series that 
Len Lazarick has been telling to celebrate Columbia's 50th birthday.
     So it is somewhat surprising to see the same political dichotomy show up with the recently 
introduced Council bill on becoming a sanctuary county.  The supporters were largely represented 
by the liberal Columbia community and the opponents were heavily represented by residents from
 Elkridge and Western Howard County.  Maybe things haven't changed as much as we would like to think.

I keep seeing posts blaming all of the public anger and unpleasantness we have been witnessing on the Council members who introduced the legislation. This is just silly. That would be like blaming racism on the Civil Rights movement, or the horrors of the meatpacking industry on Upton Sinclair. It's rather like suspending high school students who shared a racist video in order to condemn it.

The passion on both sides of this issue comes from the kinds of people we already have in Howard County. No legislation put it there. However people chose to act is a reflection on who they are. You can't blame rudeness, or anger, or misinformation campaigns, or your inner uncomfortable feelings on Dr. Ball or Ms. Terrasa. Let's be honest: these people are upset that this issue made them look at things they didn't want to look at. Period.

Now, the Columbia vs The County division is not etched in stone when it comes to CB9. I'm sure there are Columbia people who opposed it, and HoCo people who were in favor. My point today is that the values and world-views that we saw clashing at the George Howard Building have been around a long, long time. Suggesting that the mere proposal of the legislation created this ignores the history of both Columbia and Howard County.

Sometimes the place where Columbia and Howard County intersect isn't pretty. If that is the case, we need to own it, not try to find a scapegoat that makes us feel better about ourselves.

Share your comments here:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

My Mother and the County Executive

Lovely photo opp this week over in Gateway for the County Executive. It appears he has great things in mind for this area and is kicking off an initiative to enhance Columbia's corporate park.

The vision, which will be crafted with input from property and business owners and in partnership with the Howard County Economic Development Authority, the county's business incubator and economic development agency, aims to transform Gateway into the top business center in Maryland, Kittleman said.

Now, not everthing makes me think of my dear departed mother, but this certainly did. Remember when you asked for more spaghetti at dinner and your mother said you needed to finish everything else on your plate first? Or you asked for a new toy and your mother pointed out that you had never really played with the last one you asked for? Or perhaps you wanted to have a friend over but Mother had a vivid memory of how you weren't 
finished cleaning up from the last play date?

I think Mother would have something to say about this Gateway venture. She'd say, "Now, Allan, what makes you think you can have that Gateway project when you haven't finished Long Reach Village Center? Maybe if you do a nice job with that, we'll think about Gateway."

The Kittleman administration came into office and pretty much halted any existing agreements pertaining to the Long Reach Village Center. Whatever the Ulman administration had laid the groundwork for was scrapped. The new administration was going to do things "the right way." That was in 2014.

Have you been to the Long Reach Village Center lately? I'm not seeing any evidence of things being done "the right way." And I would really like to see progress there, because that Village Center should be serving the racially, ethnically, economically diverse village of Long Reach.

Let's imagine that the County Executive were saying this about the Long Reach Village Center:

The vision, which will be crafted with input from property and business owners and in partnership with the Howard County Economic Development Authority, the county's business incubator and economic development agency, aims to transform {the Village Center} into {a vibrant retail and community gathering place in Columbia} Kittleman said.

Pretty cool, eh?

My mom would say, if you want people to trust you with Gateway, you have to prove you can do things like Long Reach. You have to show your work.

Does the demographic surrounding the Gateway project appeal to Mr. Kittleman more than that in Long Reach? I think it's an important point to consider. Mr. Kittleman' friends have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to discredit County Councilman Calvin Ball, in whose district LRVC is located. But let's be honest: the most stunning rebuke to 
Dr. Ball would have been the vibrant revitalization of the village center. 

It just hasn't happened.

And now we're supposed to shift our attention to a different, exciting initiative. I don't think so. I think Colonel Gateway can hold the fort until Mr. Kittleman and his team finish what they started in Long Reach.

As always, comments are welcome here: https://www.facebook.com/VillageGreenTownSquared/?ref=bookmarks

Friday, February 10, 2017


Please, please, please forgive this recycled post. Time is short this morning. This appeared two years ago and I recently met someone at a local event who knew me from this post alone, which made me smile.

This post based on a true story.

Clarksville Happenings (February 5, 2015)

On 32 North, past 108, 

at one pm a twist of fate

Brought a mom and her daughter (learning to drive)

And a truck with a box with a sheep inside.

How did it happen? No one knew

if the truck hit a bump but out it flew

Flew through the air and fell to the side

From the truck flew the box with the sheep inside.

Did you see what happened? Does any one know?

Was the sheep okay by the side of the road?

(It doesn't seem safe to try your luck

With a sheep in a box in the back of a truck.)

Past 108, on Route 32

Marks the landing spot of the sheep who flew

Eye witness reports say the sheep survived--

It's truly amazing that sheep's alive.

White sheep, black spots

An unusual sight

Was returned to the box then strapped down tight

In the bed of the truck for a safer ride.

That truck with the box with the sheep inside.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Reintroducing Old Friends

Once upon a time, when Columbia was young, her Village Centers hosted an interesting array of shops and eateries. No, I wasn't here, but I have witnessed many reminiscences of the good old days. There was a really cool pub, a cheese shop, a hardware store, an arcade, to name but a few. And these businesses were a part of what gave those early Columbia years such a sense of local flavor. Off-beat. Quirky. Fun.

"What's wrong with Columbia today? I'll tell you," share those who remember what it was like. What's wrong, they say, is that we don't have Mom and Pop businesses anymore. Everything's a big chain. Rents and commercial real estate are controlled by big businesses from out of town and The Little Guy has been squeezed out.

Wouldn't it be great to see a true Mom and Pop business take hold in Columbia? The kind of family business that really puts roots down in a community? Can something like that happen in 2017?

It can. And I hope it does. 

Right now Tom Quick, who owns and operates Cindy's Spirits in Elkridge, is pursuing a license to run a new store in Columbia. Tom and his wife Cindy are well known in the Elkridge community, not only as successful business-owners, but also as supporters of community events and for their charitable contributions. They're really excited about the possibility of the new Columbia location. I hear their son may even join the business when he graduates.

Cindy's is the true Mom and Pop enterprise.

The problem is that the new location is in that much-debated space in the Wegman's complex. We've been down this road before, and it didn't go well. But this time we're looking at a very different set-up. Mr. Quick is known locally, has years of experience, and is committed to the community. 

I have followed the proposal of a liquor store in that space since the beginning and I can tell you two things:

Who wants it?  Consumers.
Who opposes it? An organization of established liquor store owners who are trying to prevent the prospect of competition. 

It's that simple.

Mr. Quick has a hearing before the Hearing Examiner tomorrow.  She'll be evaluating whether the Planning Board was incorrect in determining that a liquor store is not compatible with a grocery store.  I'm hoping she'll correct that determination. 

We can't turn back the clock in Columbia. And I'm not sure I would want to, although time travel would be nice for those of us who missed those halcyon Pioneer Days. But we can take an opportunity to give a genuine Mom and Pop business a chance to make good in the New American City.

It's our hometown. Shouldn't we do what we can to make it more homey?

As always, comments are welcome here: https://www.facebook.com/VillageGreenTownSquared/?ref=bookmarks

Love Is In The Air

You've probably seen the rows of stuffed animals, gorgeously decorated boxes of chocolates, ads for jewelry and flowers. It would be hard to avoid the pinkified explosion of hearts and glitter that accompanies the lead-up to Valentine's Day.

I have a suggestion for you. Nothing says love like that sweet old couple that have been together forever. That's right, I mean chicken and waffles. Nothing goes straight to your true love's heart faster than this celebrity pairing, and you won't mind a little for yourself, either.

Start your weekend right with this event From Momma's Kitchen:

I ❤️ Chicken and Waffles! 
This SATURDAY, February 11th
4992 Montgomery Road
Ellicott City, MD 
$10/adult.  $5/child
Shrimp and grits, too!
Plus---delicious From Momma's Kitchen desserts all dressed up for ❤️Valentines Day!

Now I myself have never had what is rumored to be an ambrosial combination, but my daughter ordered it once in a restaurant and was very happy indeed. (Although she did not take the waitress' advice to pour on a mixture of maple syrup and hot sauce.) Is that really a thing? As good as the restaurant version was, I doubt sincerely that it can hold a candle to anything made by Momma.

You can learn more about Momma and her delectable baked goods on her Facebook page, which is where I shamelessly purloined this photograph.

Oh--did I forget to mention chocolate brownies?

Chicken and waffles. Valentine's Day and From Momma's Kitchen. I'm thinking it's a good combination.

And we could all use a little more love right now, am I right?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Que Sais-Je?

I signed up for the Senior Seminar in Philosophy back in 1976 because word on the street was you got to have coffee and hot chocolate in class and there was a Spring Trip to Williamsburg to cap off the year. I was less prepared for all the philosophers we had to wade through. A lot of it was really dry.

For some reason my classmates and I found it hilarious that Michel de Montaigne was famous for saying, "Que sais-je?" Those great philosophers--weren't they supposed to know everything? And yet here was one whose catchphrase was, quite literally, "What do I know?"

What do I know?

I'm thinking a lot about that tonight in the aftermath of the Howard County Council vote on CB-9. While I'm happy that the measure passed, I'm deeply disappointed that it was a 3-2 vote.

What do I know?

I know that there is much more hate and anger in Howard County than I ever imagined possible. It's clear that it was there long before CB-9 was proposed. And the presidential election has emboldened people who like to talk about those who are different than they are as "cancer."

I also know that the people I care about are on the side of compassion and justice. I know that we should be able to do better than a 3-2 vote with a certain County Executive veto.

What I don't know is why we aren't going to be.  Why can't we be?

A friend of mine said last night, "Social justice is a process, not an event."

Some say, "If it hasn't happened to me, I don't care." Others say, "This should never happen to anyone, and that's why I care."

Where are we going now, my friends? Who are we going to be?

I don't know.


Comments are welcome here:


Monday, February 6, 2017

Hometown Voices

I often joke around about how my village of Oakland Mills has produced so many folks who want to write, organize, argue, innovate, etc. And I have certainly lamented the dearth of bloggers who write with a village-centric focus.

Here's a piece on HoCoMdCC about the future of Hickory Ridge. After a steady diet of Oakland Mills on my blog, it should serve as a palate-cleanser of sorts. What do you think?


Harry Schwarz writes HoCoMdCC . Take a look around his blog while you're there.

If you live in one of Columbia's villages, what's the news you think we need to know?

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Few Pointers

In the past few months two different friends have reached out to me for advice about blogging. I find this rather amazing. But, I'm happy to talk about blogging with just about anyone.

Most of the time I am. When things are going well.

Yes, when I get up at a decent hour and the ideas are flowing, I can find the appropriate links and the photos drop easily into the text like the last piece in a jigsaw, blogging is a marvelous daily discipline. I'm in the zone. It's one of the best things in my life.

When I oversleep, or ideas are in short supply, or self confidence is at a low ebb, blogging feels more like an exercise in self loathing. The vast whiteness of the blank page with a cursor blinking is the stuff of nightmares.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself if you are considering writing a blog.

  • What drives you to write?
  • Who do you want to communicate with?
  • What is special about your voice that will bring readers back again and again?
  • How much do you really want to do this?
  • What do you hope to get out of blogging?
  • How frequently are you willing to write?

A lesson that I have learned over time is that a shortage of ideas is far less daunting than having things to write about at a time when it would be wiser to remain silent. Not speaking, no matter how wise, is a heavy weight to carry. That's when you need a back up plan. Your commitment to write has to be bigger than the immovable object.

When all else fails, run the post from one year ago on this date. I try not to do that too often. But perspective can be educational.

Of course this assumes that you've already been writing for more than a year.

What are you waiting for? You need to start banking those blog posts now for when you'll need them in the future.

Trust me. You'll need them.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Biting My Tongue

Struggling to write today. So much to say. Unable to say it.

A fire in a trash can closed Marriotts Ridge High School yesterday. Right now it feels as though my whole world is a fire in a trash can.

A typical Village Green/Town² post would include your choice of:

  • Columbia past, present, and possibly future
  • Howard County, especially how our government works or doesn't 
  • School system and/or education issues
  • Music and arts education 
  • How cool is Oakland Mills, anyway?
  • Interesting local businesses
  • Something I learned at the grocery store
  • Being a parent isn't for sissies
  • Have I told you how much I love my husband?

So, today--take your pick. Choose your own adventure. Or select a few and mix them together.

Or go to these two places and drink coffe to support the ACLU: 

Bump n’ Grind, Silver Springs, MD
Gravel and Grind, Frederick, MD
Children's Bake Sale and Craft Sale to support ACLU. Today from 2-4 pm in front of the Clarksville Giant.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Loving America

A guest post today by Dr. Zaneb Beams. Dr. Beams is a pediatrician and a former candidate for the Howard County Board of Education. Her words tell a very personal story of what it means to be an immigrant in this country.


First, a definition: 
adjective: undocumented
not recorded in or proved by documents.
not having the appropriate legal document or license.
"undocumented immigrants"

I write today to tell you why I support Howard County Council bill 9, also referred to as CB9. This is a bill that establishes Howard County as a sanctuary county, simply stating that law enforcement officials will not ask for citizenship or immigration information unless it is legally appropriate. It commits to preventing discrimination by Howard County employees based on citizenship or immigration status. This allows members of the community who need help to access police protection without fear. It creates opportunity for all our neighbors to acquire work without prejudice. It confirms that Howard County employees will always cooperate with federal, state, and local laws. 

Like most Americans, I am the child of immigrants. My parents came here when America was desperately in need of doctors. In the 1970's, we didn't have enough physicians to care for sick Americans. Many doctors did not want to work in poor or rural areas. So scientists from around the world were invited to help. These highly trained professionals came here to help our forebears. And they came to love this country. My parents proudly carry an American passport. They always wear their American flag when they travel in airports. They work in the community to help poor, sick and less educated kids. My parents proudly participate in every election. They taught me to love this country, its laws, and customs, and our people. They taught me to dedicate my life to service and education, and like them, I have. They taught me to respect our American laws and appreciate our American life. I kept a copy of the constitution in my pocket for decades. We love America. 

We love that anyone can come here and educate themselves, work hard, and make a life without the chains of prejudice, poverty, illness, lawlessness, military coups, or  religious oppression. These are all a mundane part of everyday life where my parents were raised. They came here and we became free. And we love America. 

I have family and friends and patients who have been "undocumented." It doesn't mean you forced your way in or you scaled a border wall with a pocket full of pemmican. Sometimes it means you did everything you were supposed to, and then waited for the authorities to complete their tasks. It means that while you complete your training, you depend on fortune and friends to protect and believe in you. In this country, though, administrators in immigration and embassies produce results without bribes or coercion. Because simple acts like getting a new passport or driver's license happen without a dirty handshake, we love America. 

I have spent summers in a country where you are woken by government workers at 3 am to prepare to fast. Here in Maryland, nobody has ever knocked on my door to impose their religion on me. In fact, I'm welcomed by curious friends whenever religion is a topic. I belong to the American Ethical Union as a practicing Secular Humanist, I have friends and family of every religion, and we are not afraid of each other. We can think and love and practice our religions freely here, and that is why we love America. 

We are called on now to stand for these American values: freedom of religion, freedom to work, and the opportunity to be treated as equals, and pursue our happiness. This requires respect for the law, and our legal tradition protects our neighbors in need with due process and equal protection under the law. We must protect our constitution, our American way of life, and our laws. These very laws protect all of us. They protect our freedoms, and thus our very way of life. This is why CB9 is sensible, important, and necessary. 

I urge all Howard County residents and all our council members to support our American way of life by supporting CB9.


You can add your comments here:


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Groundhog Day

Good morning, Howard County. This is where we were a year ago. Mount Hebron High School. #HoCoStudentWalkout #StoptheSilenceStartAConversation

This is the speech given by Lina, one of the organizers of the event. Still relevant. Still important.


 Hello, my name is Lina and I’m a Junior here at this school. I would like to speak to you all about the lingering problems at Mount Hebron. As you all know, recently a student at Mount Hebron was live on camera saying obscenities towards the African American race.

This video was reposted by many people on several different social media sites and highlights a problem that has crept in the shadows of Mount Hebron for many years. We have not come to chastise this individual for the mistakes that he has made but rather our desire is to bring attention to the racial issues going on, not only in Mount Hebron, but our community as a whole. We believe punishing this student with suspension, or similar consequences, will not solve the problems of racial discrimination at the school, but will instead do more harm than good. By punishing the student, you will teach other students who share his views to hide their prejudices for fear of receiving similar consequences.

 Suspending the boy will not stop other students from sharing his views and the efforts made to alleviate the racial issues in our community will fail. Many in the community saw the video and wanted the obvious response to be efforts to end racism in our schools and communities.
Sadly, it is impossible to end racism. Racism is a problem that has persisted in not just schools, but all of American culture since the founding of the nation. What we wish to accomplish instead is establishing an environment of tolerance and understanding among all students so they can work together regardless of racial barriers or beliefs in order to accomplish change. The reason we are talking today is to demand several actions to solve these problems.

First, we want teachers and staff throughout Howard County to take up a more adamant stance towards incidents of racism in the school. All too often racial microaggressions and bigger race issues alike have been ignored and the action that is generally taken is nothing short of appalling.
For example, people have been making fun of my black features such as my natural big hair and lips. Another incident where I was personally attacked was when I was in class and a girl called me the N-word and mockingly told me that, “Black people are ugly when they come out the womb.” After I heard those words I immediately left the class and talked to administration. They offered me empty promises, claiming that they wouldn’t tolerate that behavior and telling me there would be a meeting to address the situation. Nothing was done at all, there was no meeting and  the student was not punished for the derogatory terms thrown at me. Sadly, my story is not unique. If you were to ask many of the other minority students in Mount Hebron, you will hear many stories similar to this.

Action is not being taken to combat incidents of racism and discrimination, and instead the school system is allowing obscenities like the ones directed towards me to go unchecked and unheard.
The recent incident with the individual posting his racist video is being treated the same way. After the video of this student was spread, the superintendent of Howard county contacted Howard County parents erroneously urging them to delete the video. While this was said under the guise that
spreading the video would cause more hatred, and by removing it we would be sparing students from being subjected to his ignorance. In actuality, all this will do is erase the fact that the student ever
spoke that way in the first place. As we all know, the only reason that this issue has gotten attention, the only reason why all of you are here even listening to this speech now, is because the video of this
student has gotten enough attention on social media to expose the racist ideas held by some students.
 We will not delete these videos as a way to show that we as a school and community will not allow remarks like the one’s that have been made to be ignored, nor will we tolerate that kind of behavior.
Secondly we want the school to incorporate mandatory ethnic studies classes into the school curriculum. Ethnic studies classes are offered as an elective in Mount Hebron's course selection, but there are too few students willing to sign up for these classes to actually make them last. These classes commonly end up being cancelled, showing how much Mount Hebron students as well as staff value learning about other cultures. Like most schools in the country, Mount Hebron's curriculum is extremely eurocentric in how it teaches students about history and social science. Ethnic studies courses have been shown to help give students a better perspective as to how other cultures behave.

    It is strange that a school with half of the students being minorities takes no strong action to teach students about how people of different races, religions, and sexualities experience life. It is foolish to think that we could try to create a community full of understanding and tolerance for people of all backgrounds if we take no action to teach students about what those backgrounds consist of. History has shown that if we leave the students to decide for themselves whether they want to participate in these courses, that they will not do it. Mandatory ethnic studies classes are needed in Mount Hebron to promote the tolerance of others in our school.

            The third and final change that we, as students, want are changes to the Student Government Association. The SGA recently had a meeting to address the issue of the students video, but they failed to include Quad A, Delta Scholars, and Alpha achievers; organizations built to uplift people of color. On SGA, only one member of its entire organization is African American. They chose to address an issue about someone attacking the black community without including African American organizations or other minority groups in their discussion. In order to truly create change in our community, we must unite as one, which means including those who are directly affected by situations. Commonly in society, we leave the planning of how to deal with one group's problems up to people that cannot connect with the issue or our feelings. We want to be allowed more participation from other groups and organizations on not just this issue facing us today, but the issues that will affect us in the future.

This speech has been made to address the issues of racism that have plagued Mount Hebron for far too long. Some choose to defend the individual who was in the video, not because what he said was right, but because they want to preserve the good name of this affluent school. To me, this is a form of oppression because our own students and staff are choosing to ignore our biggest problems and silencing those who speak out against them, just to preserve our status. Exposing racism, admitting we have a problem, and actively taking steps to prevent those problems is not the sign of a “bad” school, but the sign of a school willing to learn from its mistakes and come to terms with its own faults.

Hiding issues like this in the shadows and allowing racism, hate, and bigotry to persist in our school system would make us even worse than just a bad school. Those who care more about our communities image rather than solving the issues that plague it are the reason that problems like the ones we deal with now still persist. At the end of the day, our protest is not being done to become friends with those who defend what was said in this hateful video. This protest is solely to demand respect for students of all races, religions, sexualties, and disabilities within the Mount Hebron  community and all of Howard County.

I would like to thank all who helped and supported us in making this possible and bringing attention to issues that need to be solved. All of you have been my inspiration to be courageous in the face of the many trying to stop me from coming out and standing against oppression. We want all of Mount Hebron to use this incident as a lesson of what we are now, and what we should be striving to be. We want these demands to be seen not as attacks, but as a conversation among our community that is long over do. Thank you for taking your time to come out and hear this.


How are we honoring these students today on the anniversary of this event? Share your thoughts here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

One Small Voice

We are living in a time when speaking out matters. And yet it feels as though our voices are small in the face of fierce and seemingly inexorably opposition. What good is one voice in the maelstrom?

Sally Yates, acting Attorney General at the Justice Department, used her voice this week to oppose the Immigration/Refugee ban imposed by the President. It was her job to assess the legality of the measure and she did not shrink from making a difficult decision. As we all know, she was fired.

I have so much respect for Ms. Yates for knowing the right thing to do and then doing it, in the face of almost certain termination. In this moment she had to be willing to stand alone. But she was standing up for the Constitution, and for the ideals which make our country both free and just.

Closer to home, Councilman Calvin Ball introduced legislation to make Howard County a sanctuary county. While the legislation was put forward by Ball and Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, it is Dr. Ball who has been the target of the vilest kind of abuse. Possibly because he is perceived as a potential candidate for County Executive in the next election, local Republicans have done everything they can to delegitimize his intent.

He is not being permitted to have the courage of his convictions. No, that would make him too human. He is painted as a partisan monster who acts only out of political self interest. Such attacks seek to discredit Dr. Ball and deflect attention from the very real issues of CB-9 and the very real people in our county who need and deserve our help.

Over at the Board of Education, chair Cindy Vaillancourt is working to bring about the transparency, accountability and responsiveness that county voters have made clear they desire. The response to her efforts has been almost continuous trolling on various social media outlets, including, but not limited to, ever-changing commenter names, fake Facebook and Twitter accounts, and radio call-in invective.

Let us not forget those days when she was flayed for using the word condom, lied about in statements about ethics and confidentiality, and harangued at a Board retreat. Ms. Vaillancourt has been the small voice against the big guns for quite some time. It is fortunate that she has some supportive colleagues these days. The truth is she has been willing to hold her own because she is determined to be the voice for students, parents, teachers, staff, and all those who don't have a voice but who deserve the very best school system we can give them.

And for this she endures character assassination. Oh, and a lawsuit.

What's the point? What does it matter? What good does one voice matter when the massive tanks of injustice are bearing down upon us?

It matters. One voice can speak the truth. One voice can tell us we are not alone.

One voice can pass the message to another.


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