Saturday, August 18, 2018

Not Helping

From former police officer Larry Smith @kid_lawrence :

Arresting addicts doesn’t help address addiction. Arresting drug dealers doesn’t either. Sending an armed cop, or several, to deal with someone having a mental health crisis isn’t an answer to anything. The cops shouldn’t be involved.

Baltimore needs ACTUAL social services. It needs to address homelessness and unemployment. It needs to provide children with hope and opportunity. Or we could start small and heat and air condition the schools

All of these things cost money. HOW ARE WE GOING TO PAY FOR ALL THAT??  Oh.... look at this 500 million dollar police budget. 

We (the USA) incarcerate people for petty nonsense. Jails are full of people who are addicted to drugs, are too poor to pay some arbitrary fine, who committed non-violent drug offenses. Oh, not to mention the scores of people wrongfully convicted or talked into a plea.

People need to think outside of the box. Police departments in so many cities operate like an occupying force. In certain neighborhoods at least. The people in Baltimore who live in Roland Park or Guilford aren’t asked for their ID whenever they leave the house.

They aren’t pulled over on a nightly basis for driving a “nice car.” The BPD is not serving the community. It is harming it. And no matter how many therapy dogs they buy or how many pictures of cops playing with kids they post on social media, that reality won’t change.

And before I get the cop trolls (the ones I haven’t blocked) YEP. I did it too. I bought into this shit hook, line and sinker. I locked up addicts for my quick and easy stats. I pulled cars over for headlights out, brake lights, etc.

I made trespassing arrests for guys chilling on the steps of vacants. I was a complete prick most of the time. That shit will eat away at your soul after a while but so many cops don’t realize it or won’t acknowledge it. 

I thought the “war on drugs” was real. I thought I was helping. I wasn’t. Cops don’t help society. Killing unarmed people, tasering 11 years olds and 87 year olds isn’t helping. Things need to change.


Think it over. I’ll be back tomorrow with part two of “It’s Broke”.

You can read more from Larry Smith here .

Friday, August 17, 2018

Judge Not

Apologies to my readers. I’m still working on Part Two of “It’s Broke”. Look for that tomorrow,

Something to think about today: this response from writer Melinda D. Anderson:

This data refutes a widespread (and ignorant) belief in schooling that Black families “don’t value education.” Instead, what most educators value (signing forms, checking homework, room parents, etc.) is not a valid measure of importance of education for Black parents & families.

Black parents are out here taking their children to plays, visiting museums, going to the zoo, and engaged in all kinds of education-related activities. Yet y’all will still say “They don’t care about education” because a Black parent missed teacher conf. held during the workday.

Here’s the data, a report released by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics.

Here’s more about Ms. Anderson:

Why am I sharing this? As we head into back to school mode, I think it’s important to make sure we examine our attitudes about parenting and education. One size doesn’t fit all. It’s a mistake to see everyone through the same lens. It’s wise to take a look at that same old lens you have been using, too. Does it seem to tune out people who are different than you are? (Sorry, that’s a mixed metaphor beyond repair.)

The parent who does not come to a conference during the work day may not be disengaged from their child’s education. They may not have the ability to leave work. Being able to do so is a privilege not everyone has. Or they may be responsible for the care of very young children or an elderly relative and have no back up to fill in for them. 

Can you think of other ways we make assumptions about parents that may show a lack of understanding? How do we shortchange students and families by jumping to these conclusions? How can we do better?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

It’s Broke, Part One

Two separate stories are vying for attention in my brain. And it seems to me that they are the same story.

Story number one: the death of a college football player from the University of Maryland and the subsequent focus on the toxic culture of football in College Park. The coach has been placed on administrative leave. A member of the training staff has been fired.

Story number two: the video of a Baltimore Police Officer viciously beating a man on a Baltimore street while his partner does little to intervene. The officer was suspended with pay. (He has since resigned and been criminally charged.)

The world of football at UMD and that of policing in Baltimore are steeped in a culture of violence. The particulars are not exactly the same, but the sickness goes deep, to its core. I don’t believe, in either case, that it’s a few bad apples that ruin it for everyone else. Both are deeply and thoroughly infected by destructive attitudes. It’s not a bug in the system, as they say. It is the system. It’s baked right in.

I have not come to this conclusion overnight.

Football has long been a hotbed of toxic masculinity. In high schools football often takes precedence over many other aspects of school life. Often schools and parents look the other way at incidents of alcohol or drug use and sexual assault by players. 

Look at what happens when we combine that with all the money involved in college football.  It drives a motivation for winning at any cost and we see, time and again, what those costs really are. College players whose well-being is sacrificed, whose education is secondary. 

In the pros the players’ bodies are destroyed and their right to exercise free speech is mocked and sanctioned. The powers that be will tolerate a certain amount of substance abuse, violence against women and sexual assault, but often draw the line at being gay or speaking out against police violence.

On top of all this, the ongoing research into traumatic brain injury and the many human examples who bear it out are reason enough to declare this a broken system.  

I was in an online discussion about the UMD incident where one man said,

All of football has got to go. NFL, college, high school. Shut it all down.

The response to his comment was, essentially,  “Dude! Let’s not go that far.”

He went on. (Shared with permission)

You can't keep running a system where coaches are paid huge sums of money, which forces them to take a game so super-seriously that they wind up pushing children to the point of exhaustion or death. The only good solution is to stop being a Division I football school. Hire a less intense coach for way less money, and make it clear that, as a school, we don't really care about wins and losses. We just want the children to have a healthy and balanced experience. If you do anything short of that, you're just signalling that you're okay with a system which is intentionally designed to chew up and destroy young bodies and brains. 

I have been struggling all week with how to fit this into one post, and now I have reached the conclusion that I can’t.The second part of this story deserves its own post. 

Today, football. Tomorrow, Baltimore Police and what connects the two.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Getting Lucky With Dinner

We couldn’t figure out what to do about dinner last night. So we fell back on our old standby: Lucky’s China Inn, located in the nearby Oakland Mills Village Center. It’s possible I was influenced in this choice by reading this comprehensive piece by The Unmanly Chef.

Inside Your Local Chinese Restaurant - Hunan Legend

It’s well worth the read.

Do you have a favorite local Chinese restaurant? Who are they, and why do you like them? Is it proximity to your home or a particular dish they do well? It seems that, at least in Columbia, the purpose of Village Centers was to give everyone their own Chinese take out place. How does that work beyond the Columbia bubble?

My apologies for over-sleeping this morning. I’ll set an alarm tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Weight of Womanhood

The other day I read a comment from a man who took issue with the qualifications of a local political candidate based on her physical appearance. Are you kidding me? The candidate, already a public servant with a documented record of service, clearly had a major thing going against her here: she’s a woman.

Women continue to be held to a ridiculous standard as regards physical appearance. In all cases it has nothing to do with their qualifications or ability for the task at hand. Yet time and again they are judged by how appealing they are to the male gaze, as if that is their primary reason for existing.

Then there are the perennial questions about “how will you balance your career with your role as a wife and mother?” that never seem to be asked of men. These questions shift the focus from women’s ideas and goals to being forced to go on the defensive as somehow derelict in their “womanly duties.”

Oh, wait! I almost forgot: “she should smile more” “she’s too directive” “difficult” “unpleasant” and, you know...”b****”.

We have quite a few women running for office in Howard County right now. I happen to think that’s a good thing. I wonder how they feel every time their message is derailed by sexist questions and remarks. I know how I would feel. I would want to be taken seriously and I would feel frustration that, merely because I was a woman, many people didn’t feel I was worthy of that.

A man strides into a room and speaks his mind.

A woman, wearing a peacock blue cocktail dress, married to this man, mother of these children, speaks in a strident tone about something. I don’t remember what. She was emotional.

That is quite a bit of garbage to be forced to carry around, don’t you think? Other people’s stereotypes and expectations are foisted upon any woman who seeks to be a leader. And it’s not only in politics, either. In the private sector, in non-profits, and elsewhere women must fight to be taken as seriously as a man.

But then they are chastised for putting up a fight.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Let’s All Go

The talk of the town yesterday was this photo shared by Black Flag Brewing Company. A tip of the hat to Elevate Maryland’s Tom Coale for bring it to my attention.

The caption reads:

 This sign was put up about the same time as we released a 13.1% beer... not saying its our fault but someone clearly didn’t share their bottle of Double Barrel Black Mage... #SharingIsCaring #LetsGoToTheMallumbia

Yes, I just had to know if this was real or photoshop, so my daughter and I went down there to check. And it is the real deal. Located in a cross street to the right of the Metropolitan, the sign proudly announces, The Mallumbia in Col”.

What the heck? Has it always been wrong or is this the result of a prank? It appears that the sign must be made up of three sections and they were assembled incorrectly. But why would this have escaped notice until now?

I am wondering if this sign will now draw eager locals hoping to take their pictures with it for a bit of fun. Will Mallumbia become a hashtag? A trending topic? Will people write letters to the editor of the Columbia Flier complaining about the shoddy implementation of Downtown Development?

If there is any more to this story, rest assured that I will bring it to you. In the meantime, I just had a thought. Could the”in Col” be a hint that the perpetrator of this mix up is none other than Col Gateway? Has anyone seen him lately?


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Fair Wanderings

Thursday night I went with my family to the Howard County Fair. I was extremely grateful that it wasn’t as hot as the first time I went several years ago. Maryland’s heat and humidity in August just does not agree with me. But Thursday night was manageable.

My husband and I spent time looking at animals, floral displays, awards for jams and jellies, and so on. We talked to a friend from church who comes with her needlework group every year. We observed families of all sorts out for an evening of fun. We stopped to listen to a visiting brass group playing a medley from “Jersey Boys.” We feasted on food from the St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church booth, as recommended by blogger Annierie.

I took a boatload of photos but, after much consideration, I’m going to share just one.

These two, in separate pens, snuggled as close as possible and nuzzling eachother through the bars. I wonder what the fair experience is like for them? 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Down But Not Out

The last time we had WiFi at home was some time Thursday evening. Today Verizon is sending someone out and I suspect a new router is in our future. When we lost internet a few weeks ago I jumped to the conclusion that there had been a nefarious takeover of social media. This time I just felt irked. 

Things I have done since our internet went haywire: washed and sundried a large quantity of stuffed plush animals that I am hoping to rehome in the near future. (Need any? Contact me.) I’ve read more of my assigned summer reading from work, but it’s slow going. I watched Coco with my family. (My husband hadn’t seen it yet.) It’s highly unlikely that we would have done that if internet had been an option. 

My husband and daughter took a big bag of clothing I had decluttered from the bedroom over to Goodwill and came home with a few treasures of their own. Funny how that works. I’ve been sorting though the photos I took at the Howard County Fair Thursday night, trying to decide how to use them in a blog post. My daughter is working on vocal arrangements for her school a cappella group. My husband is building St. Basil’s Cathedral from a Nano Bricks kit.

Occasionally I check Facebook and Twitter from my phone on LTE but the battery runs down pretty quickly. I see a controversy about local politics and I feel strangely detached. I am reminded how dependent I am on electronic devices and how I need more hobbies.

I’ve cleared out the bookcase next to my bed and I’m organizing all my children’s books in one place, so I can find them for work. If I get truly ambitious, the craft books will be up next. We have a box near the door for books to take down the the Little Free Library at the Village Center. Maybe we’ll do that today.

The occasional emails from coworkers remind me that vacation is fast coming to an end. There’s still a few home projects and doctors’ appointments to accomplish. Perhaps a jolt in the Internet was a good reminder that I have other things to do and that it’s good to have more than one way way to look at my world.

I’m still irked though. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

No Comment

Big news! I learned it in a tweet:

The Baltimore Sun has closed the comment section on its articles and my satisfaction with life has already significantly increased.

Yes, it’s true.

Certain local folks, especially a particular former BOE member, are going to have to get a new hobby.

I shut down the comments section directly attached to the blog a while back. I was no longer willing to tolerate trolls who could easily create false identities to say things they’d never dare say in daylight. I direct all my commenters to the blog’s page on Facebook. It may have cut down on the overall quantity of comments, but it has made a difference for the better. 

In order to comment here, you have to be willing to stand behind your words with your identity. I don’t think that, in the case of a small, local blog, that this is an overly burdensome hurdle to clear. 

The ability to post under pseudonyms can be extremely useful for protecting privacy. I get that. These days an employer can scan your social media for unsuitable opinions. And there are crazy people who will trace your name to your location and do you harm. 

Be that as it may, a very dark side of humanity turns up in the comment section. And these people are “why we can’t have nice things” as the saying goes. This is the second recent change to the BaltSun comment policy. Clearly the structure they put in place to monitor the problem was not as successful as they had hoped.

I have read the occasional insightful comment on the Baltimore Sun website. On the other hand, I also learned to my surprise that I was married to a wealthy Howard County developer and that I was a moron. And that’s mild compared to what other locals have endured. 

You may be able to get a refund for your “points”, whatever they are, but you will never, ever, get back the time you spent reading the comments. In the meantime, feel free to comment here:

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Good Stuff

Congratulations to Tom and Cindy Quick, of Cindy’s Spirits, who have, at long last, received the license for the Loft. This is truly a testament to their persistence. I was also heartened by the folks who gave testimony on their behalf at the Liquor Board hearing. The Quicks have clearly earned a trusted place in their community and I feel good about the work they will do in Columbia in their new venture.

Congratulations, too, to Dan Medinger who has purchased the Baltimore Business Journal from owners Becky Magnus and Cathy Yost. I’m all in favor of anyone who believes in local newspapers these days.

I see that the Howard County Library is bring the Undesign the Redline exhibit to their Central Branch. I highly recommend it. Beginning August 16th you will be able to tour the interactive exhibit, which:

...explores the history of structural racism and classism, how these designs compounded each other from redlining maps until today, and how we can come together to undesign these systems with intentionality. (Taken from HCLS event announcement)

I had an opportunity to visit the exhibit when it was at the Enterprise Foundation’s headquarters, and it is truly fascinating. The library is hosting it as a part of its Choose Civility initiative. Please go and tell me what you think.

A belated congratulations to local podcaster extraordinaire and friend of the blog Candace Dodson Reed on her appointment as Chief of Staff at UMBC. You may recall she spear-headed the HoCoForward slate for Democratic Central Committee, which swept the primary. This week she announced her resignation from the DCC, which I know will be quite a loss for the team. I very much admire her ability to make this wise choice in the face of her new job assignment and not overextend herself. It can’t have been easy.

Tomorrow evening I will be braving the wilds of Western HoCo to attend the Howard County Fair. Please send me your suggestions as to what I should see and do.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Lighten Up

I can’t remember what the subject was, but one of my oldest, dearest friends recently responded to something I said by replying, “Lighten up.”

Boy, did that ever tick me off. For some reason I don’t appreciate being told to lighten up. Perhaps that is a sign that I take myself too seriously. Perhaps I have a good reason. Who knows?

At any rate, as an attempt to follow this sage advice, I am opening a completely unofficial search for new topics for the Howard Readers’ Poll. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Best local place to get out of the house with an infant if you are just losing your mind:


______ write-in vote

Best local place that doesn’t exist anymore that you are still mad about:

Welcome Center

______ write in vote

Best Columbia pool to go to if you hate kids:

_______ (not my wheelhouse)

_______write-in vote

Best Non-traditional place to watch Fourth of July Fireworks:

Talbott Springs Elementary School

______write-in vote

Best local Bouncy Castle:

Do they even have bouncy castles any more or have they been replaced by trampoline towns?

So, there you have it. Can you think of some addditional categories that would make you and your friends burst out laughing if you saw them in the Howard Readers’ Poll?

Submit them here:

Monday, August 6, 2018

Category 61

Ahhh...category 61. It sounds vaguely mysterious, like Area 51. It’s actually quite straightforward, though. Category 61 is the newest incarnation of my annual attempt to put this blog in the win column in the Howard Readers’ Poll sponsored by Howard Magazine.

This is the link to the poll.

This is category 61.


I can’t explain why I continue to pursue this particular accolade. It has become my yearly Charlie Brown/Lucy/Football experience. Perhaps that should have taught me that some things are not worth caring about, but, here we go again.

I care deeply about the work I put in on the blog. I value the opinion of my readers. It’s that simple.

You can vote once per device, so it won't be a major time commitment. While you are there you can vote in plenty of other local categories as well. At the end of the poll you have an opportunity to write in your ideas for a new category. I have a suggestion: how about best Howard County Podcast?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Most Precious Thing

I have not led a perfect life. I didn’t do particularly well in school. My first marriage crumbled. I had extreme difficulty making ends meet during my years as a single parent. My house is not ready for visitors at all times, shall we say. I’m not the best at going out and socializing.

But I have my good name.

People who know me from blogging, or teaching, or my work in the community have heard generally positive things about what I stand for. I feel good about that. I have worked hard in my career and in the community to be helpful, honest, supportive, trustworthy. I’m constantly trying to improve, but at my core I feel good about what I do and why I do it.

What happens when someone steals your good name?

Imagine that you woke up to discover that you were falsely accused, those accusations were leaked to the press, and everyone in town was reading about them. Imagine that these accusations negated everything you had worked for years to stand for. Imagine that there was no way to refute the claims without violating the terms of legal agreements and confidentiality concerns.

Got that? Do you feel that hot shame of seeing horrible and untrue things about yourself in the newspaper? Do you feel the sense of helplessness at being unable to defend yourself?

Probably not. If we are lucky this will never happen to us. But, thanks to whomever leaked a confidential (and highly unprofessional) report to the Baltimore Sun, and to the reporter who shared it without adequate research, Board of Education members Cindy Vaillancourt and Christina Delmont-Small are doing just that. Everything about this smacks of careful direction from a former disgruntled employee whose hallmark was bullying and spreading falsehoods about perceived adversaries. Anyone who has done their homework and put this into the context of the much bigger picture sees this.

The stories that ought to be all over the pages of the newspaper are about misappropriation of funds, bullying of staff, mistreatment of special education parents, coverup of mold in schools that was causing chronic illness for students and staff. Now that would be real news based on actual facts. The reason you aren’t reading about it is that 1) the Board of Education entered into a non-disparagement agreement with the former superintendent, and 2) their priority is doing their actual job taking care of the school system.

Keeping your word and doing your job aren’t front page news, apparently.

I have to believe that the truth will come out and that Ms. Vaillancourt and Ms. Delmont-Small will be thoroughly vindicated.

But where do they go to repair the damage to their good names?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Neighborhood of Make Believe

I wrote a tongue in cheek piece a while back about what fun it would be to have action figures of the People Tree. It’s safe to say that not everyone thought that would be a good idea. I still think it would be cool to be able to collect one’s own Neighborhood of Make Believe play set which included the People Tree, a few other Lakefront Sculptures, The Chrysalis, Merriweather, the Rouse Building, and perhaps even the Mall. And a little Colum-bus as the Trolley? Exquisite.

Clearly my recent viewing of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, which is a documentary film about the legendary children’s program creator Fred Rogers, has influenced my view of Columbia as the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Sometimes it feels as though we are living in that sort of stylized Make Believe world and just moving the pieces around to see what will happen.  Although I’d say that most of the time we do this with far too much seriousness and no where near enough of a sense of play.

Mr. Rogers knew how important play was in the life of children. He understood the value of creating a pretend environment where children could safely examine their feelings about new or challenging happenings or ideas. I’d argue that adults need to allow themselves the same opportunty. We all become so serious about our particular issues and it is hard to be flexible or have a sense of humor about them.

Oh how difficult it is for grown ups to take ourselves less seriously. To allow for other points of view. To imagine other solutions.

We don’t play enough. Adulthood doesn’t encourage it. We need to push back and make room for it. People who allow for the “what ifs?”and “what would happen if we?” are the great creators we all admire. Rouse, for instance. Or Disney, his well-known contemporary. But folks like that seem to do better being admired in retrospect. When we bump into someone in the here and now who is trying to bring joy into the picture and challenge the status quo we hardly give them the hero’s welcome.

All of this is a rather roundabout way of saying that, if you want a People Tree Action Figure, you will have to use your imagination and make your own. I saw a few possibilities at the new Home Sense store in Columbia Crossing.



If you want to be a part of a better Columbia you will need to use your imagination to make that, too.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Trying Trifecto

I was headed home from a meeting at work and thought I might pop in the Dunkin Donuts in Clarksville for a large iced coffee when I remembered that there was a new place in town that I had wanted to try.


It’s a part of the new Common Kitchen concept going in at Clarksville Commons. One of the owners is a graduate of Howard County Schools, I hear. I knew I could get coffee there. I checked their website to see if I could perhaps get something to go along with it. Hmm...grilled cheese wasn’t really what I had in mind. Maybe some kind of pastry?

I decided to go and find out.

When I walked in it didn’t much look like anything was open. There’s construction going on in the space at the front, but I spied what looked like a shop in the background, so I kept going.

A friendly fellow greeted me and I was happy to see a case of scones on the counter. 


He directed me to a menu. They clearly intend to specialize in a few things and do them well.


I chose a mocha chocolate chip scone. It was just right. Not too sweet. I decided to stay right there instead of taking it with me.


I had a nice chat with my server about the other spaces that will be going in the Common Kitchen. It sounds amazing. I can’t wait to see it all in action. I’ve been impressed by all the activity in Clarksville Commons: farmers market, school groups performing, live music nights, movies in the courtyard and so on. I love their commitment to community place-making. It is shaping up to be what I think a real Village Center ought to be.

Trifecto is getting foot traffic from the other businesses in Clarksville Commons, but they are looking forward to getting the word out to the larger community. I’m thinking that once school starts Trifecto will see an influx of River Hill students looking for a cool new hangout.

Give Trifecto a try. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

It’s Not in the Article

We all love the the press until they write something we don’t like. I certainly read something that I don’t like this morning.

Howard County human rights investigator accuses some school board members of discrimination, homophobia by Tim Prudente

Here’s the thing. It’s not “Fake News”.  It’s not all of the news. It certainly appears that Mr. Prudente has had certain people driving the narrative as his work progressed. I’m sure he did the best he could. I’m trying to be charitable here.

The flaw in these accusations against board members Christina Delmont-Small and Cindy Vaillancourt is, quite frankly, the two witnesses themselves. I’m not going to name names because you can read the article for yourself and I don’t want anyone to sue me. These two individuals have proven themselves to be anything but credible witnesses. They have a body of work in the community that proves otherwise.

I know this, and a lot of other people close to the school system know this, but apparently the human rights investigator doesn’t know this and neither does Mr. Prudente. Let me put it this way: if I wanted to go up against the Board of Education and the school system, these are not the people I would want championing my cause.

As to the Board members themselves, well, how can you look at this accusation against Cindy Vaillancourt in a vacuum? Where is the connection between this example and all the other examples of the former administration and its allies alleging impropriety or malfeasance? This is a thread sadly neglected here. (Condoms, anyone?)  Time and time again Ms. Vaillancourt was the target of false accusations and the record of them is probably in the Howard County Times.

But it’s not in this article.

As for Ms. Delmont-Small, I suspect her real “crime” is persistently pressing the former administration for a financial transparency that they had no intention of providing. The record shows that her concerns for the finances of the school system were well founded. It also shows that those  who were running the school system during this time period did everything they could to thwart Ms. Delmont Small’s efforts to re-establish Board oversight.

But that’s not in this article.

It is my personal opinion that there are things that occurred during the former administration at hcpss that are very likely actionable. But a part of the severance agreement with the former superintendent stipulated that both sides would cease all litigation. The Board has moved on and is addressing the many challenges left on its plate.

It looks to me as though the former Superintendent has found a way around the “no litigation” requirement. After all, it probably doesn’t say anything about allies, co-workers or friends.

It’s not surprising to see the past administration come back into the news to make false claims about Board members. This action is right out of the playbook that marred our school system and damaged relationships with teachers, parents, and students. This is how people who disagreed were treated. This behavior is not new.

But that’s not in this article.

Again, it’s not “Fake News”. But it is absolutely not “all the news”. These accusations do our community a disservice. I sincerely hope to see them discredited thoroughly.

And then I’d like to read all about it in the newspaper.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


CNN’s Jim Acosta posted a brief video clip of crowd reaction to media coverage at a recent Trump rally.

Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa. I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy.

Closer to home a member of the Republican Central Committee has been wreaking havoc on the Howard County Facebook page, encouraging a confrontational social media “takedown” of a group member whose opinions differ with his own. The attitudes between the group Mr. Accosta shows us and that of the locals who consider it their mission to troll the Howard County Facebook page seem frighteningly similar.

But there’s a difference to me. And that difference is proximity. The fact that we have folks who are willing to go on the attack right here in Howard County is horrifying. It means that, wherever we are in our community, we may be sharing community space with people who are filled with hate, who want to destroy instead of build up. 

Angry and narrow-minded people have always existed but social media and the current presidential administration seem to have weaponized them to such a degree that the normal boundaries for accepted social behavior have disintegrated. When that happens, bullies seize control. 

Whether a working journalist or a long-suffering admin of a social media group, a person taking a stand for the rights of everyone to be heard without fear or persecution becomes a target for these bullies. They’re angry that their perceived truth is not accepted as the only truth, and they laugh at accepted social boundaries because they see them merely as tools used by the “losers” who disagree with them.

Respect for and kindness to our fellow creatures is for everyone. This is not some artificial construct designed for the purposes of social control. It is a way of living that allows people of many differing views to live and work together. It is a thread that runs through our Democracy, whether on a large scale or small.  

When we lose it our Democracy is threatened. Journalists work in fear and neighbors turn on neighbors. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Shifting the Balance

Two articles that are on my mind this week:

Parking has eaten American cities by Richard Florida


Is Wheaton Ready for an Arts Center? A Woonerf? by Danielle E. Gaines

Both articles have a common underlying theme even though they address different topics. How do communities which have been built primarily around the needs of automobiles wrest themselves free of the tyranny of said automobiles?  This is definitely worth considering as we move forward in Downtown development and revitalization projects.

Is Columbia forever stuck being a place where you absolutely must have a car to function successfully? Are there meaningful ways to shift the balance and integrate more bicycle and pedestrian use, especially Downtown? Certainly this is on the mind of folks like
Open Steets Howard County and Bike HoCo .

But what about you? Do you wish that you had more opportunities to part once and then enjoy what Columbia has to offer? Do you want to see a better mix of cars, public transit, bikes, and pedestrians?

Do you just want to know what a woonerf is?

And one more question before I go: what might we do with the massive amount of land that we now have tied up in parking spaces if we didn’t have to adhere to that model?

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Bedtime Story

Well, here’s an unusual post this evening. Call it a bedtime story, if you will.

Before we tie up all our loose ends for the day and make that mental transition into letting go of all our mental gyrations, I want to plant a seed. Just one. I’ll be brief.

This little garden we have here—Howard County, Columbia, your own little neighborhood—we are its stewards. We must be. We can’t just turn our heads away and expect that someone else will do it.

Someone else may very well do it, but without care, or thought. Oh, they may be nice enough but not very able. Or forceful but unpleasant. Or incredibly well organized but inflexible. Or maybe no one will make the effort to do those community things at all. And they will languish. And so will we.

So: politics. Local politics.

I’m not a big fan of “political season” because I am not a big fan of politics as sport. Oh, it has its aficionados, to be sure, who have players and scorecards and stats. They analyze, predicts, recap, and then, for dessert, there’s snark and sarcasm. Biting wit that indicts the opposition and delights the cognoscenti.

We all do a bit of that out of frustration perhaps. It’s funny when you know enough to get the jokes and are sure they aren’t on you.

But back to the garden.

I have some pretty strong feelings about what we should be growing in our garden and I’m looking for people who want to get in there and plant, and weed, and share in both the work and the vision. And, if I decide I want to be an advocate for change, I think it’s my responsibility to focus on how we can make things better. What is worth believing in? Who has earned my trust, and why?

Take this bit of my bedtime story with you. I hope that you will engage enough and learn enough about local candidates that you will go to vote in November full of the excitement and enthusiasm of supporting someone who has earned your trust. Not because anyone told you to fear “the other guy”, but because you are a faithful steward of this garden and you have a vested interest in what we reap and what we sow.

Good night, Howard County. Sleep tight, and dream big dreams.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Checking In

I remember when all the cool kids were doing it. Checking in on FourSquare.  It was all the rage. Do you remember? I never quite got the hang of it.

Now most of us would just as soon keep our locations to ourselves unless we have a particular reason to share them. And Facebook and Twitter have adapted to give us the ability to do that. (They also make sure they are utilizing that data for all its worth.)

Where are the places you “check in” the most in Columbia and Howard County? I don’t mean actually checking in on an app, but where do you go/hang out most often?

Shopping area or mall?

Yesterday I realized that if I had been checking in this summer most of them would have been from a comfy chair at home. As the weather gets warmer the lure of the sedentary takes over and air conditioning reigns supreme. My husband nudged me out of my midsummer lethargy and got me out of the house yesterday. I realized how easy it was for me to let my world shrink.

Quite simply: I need to get out more. I need to have some new experiences. Where should I go? I’m talking Columbia/Howard County here. I saw a post yesterday that there’s a new Challenge Course at Blandair Park. Not sure I’m up for that challenge but I certainly could walk over to the park and take a look.

What are some new things around town that you think I should explore? Or perhaps an old favorite of yours that I might not have visited yet?

Send your suggestions over here:

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Open Call

I don’t often resort to outright copy-and-paste but this event looks like a lot of fun and they are trying to get it together on rather short notice. Please share if you know anyone who might be interested.

From the Downtown Columbia Facebook page:

Announcing a special opportunity to participate in a performance workshop THIS SUNDAY with Sophia Brous, one of this year’s Merriweather District Artists In Residence.


No training needed!!

The inaugural Merriweather District Artists in Residence Program is calling out to the community of Columbia and surrounds to be a part of an open-call Performance Workshop this coming weekend July 29th with inaugural MDAir artist in resident artist, Australian/New York-based musician, inter-disciplinary performer, composer and artistic director Sophia Brous.

They need you!!

For her July 2018 artist residence, Brous will create a major, large-scale choral work for hundreds of voices, to-be-performed as a part of the OPUS 1 Merriweather Festival at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in October 2018.

To do so, the Merriweather District is calling out to community participants of all ages and vocal ranges, skills and background to participate in this exciting major new project.

No training needed!! In fact, untrained voices are welcomed! Participants can be untrained and at any level.

The Howard Hughes Corporation and Merriweather District are putting out a quick response call for individuals to take part in an afternoon vocal workshop exploring different techniques, fun exercises and activities.

Please email SOPHIA@BROUS.COM.AU and register for the workshop on 29 July.


Sunday 29 July  - 2 p.m. to around 5 p.m.
We'll have some snacks and drinks available from 1:30 p.m. if folks would like to come early and meet, have a bite etc before we get started. Please join us!

Two Merriweather Building
5th floor Artists in Residence Space
10980 Grantchester Way
Columbia, MD 21044

(Park in the adjacent lot and enter via the building with the green and blue exterior design, then
go to level 5 via the lobby elevator.)

Wear: comfortable clothes.
Bring: water bottle.

IMPORTANT: The more the merrier! We'd love as many people as possible to participate so please spread the word!!! Again this is NOT for specifically trained singers, though you are also very welcome and will be engaged by the workshop, so all people of age, experience and background are welcome!


Learn more about the MDAir program here:

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Fond Farewell

Today marks a momentous occasion in my family. It is the end of summer camp. My daughter has been saying it marks the end of her childhood and I keep trying to tell her that she can keep some of that childhood inside her. But, deep down, I know she is right.

Next summer she will be a high school graduate. She will probably have a job. She will be getting ready to leave for college. Her definition of summer, which has been the same for so many years, will have changed forever.

Columbia and Howard County have many summer camp options, which is a good thing for working parents who need summer child care coverage. For some these camps are essential. For others they are enrichment, which means that somebody, somehow, is able to stay home with the kids. My husband and I are both teachers. We’ve been able to be home during the summers for the most part, and a week or two of summer camp has been a special treat for our daughter, a luxury.

For some of my friends, being able to stay home with their children in the summer would be the luxury. It all depends on your circumstances.

Through the years we’ve had experiences with the HCPSS GT Enrichment Camps (not even sure that’s what they are called) Slayton House Camp of the Arts, Kids on Campus at HCC, and, lastly, the camp program at Roundhouse Theatre in Bethesda. All gave our daughter exposure to new experiences and ideas. For our musical theatre-driven kid, Slayton House and Roundhouse have been the most influential. 

I wrote about her experiences at Slayton House here.

It is in the summer that I see the highest level academic thinking from her. That is where she does her best GT work. By this I mean she wants to stretch herself. She strives to improve from one day to the next. When embedded in the world of musical theatre she wants to be better than just passing. She gives it the extra effort: practicing lines at home, researching the musicals online, sitting down at the piano to go over music and even figuring out her own keyboard parts.

She talks with us about what she is learning. She gets ideas. Creative ideas. She writes about them on the ipad. She gets ideas for other musicals, ideas for short stories based on musicals. The other evening she was excited about what you would need to do to adapt the musical "Bye Bye Birdie" to the present day. It led to a fascinating discussion about changes in our culture and in the popular music scene.

So today is the last day of summer camp. I’m not ready to call it the last day of childhood, but then, I’m not sure one can ever name such a day. I do know that these experiences have been precious  to my daughter and that she will carry them with her always, wherever adulthood may take her.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Unknown Territory

There are plenty of people in Howard County that I don’t know. There are entire communities whose concerns don’t turn up on social media or in the newspaper. There are neighborhoods I have never visited. There are languages I don’t speak, fears and struggles I haven’t experienced.

I was talking with a friend the other evening about how important it is for the under-represented in Howard County to be seen and their concerns acknowledged. We talked about how the same small pool of community-minded folks keeps cycling on and off of local boards and committees while we have a continuing need for more diversity. How can those boards be representative of the community they serve when the same people are pressed into service over and over? What are we doing to bring other voices to the table?

My friend mentioned that he feels drawn to examine the places in life that are uncomfortable. Perhaps that means places where he or his world-view are in the minority. Most of us aren’t that brave. I know I’m not. I want to learn more about experiences that are not my own but when it gets messy or ugly I want to retreat and put them at arm’s length.

Discomfort at a distance isn’t a philosophy that facilitates community-building. If we truly value diversity—racial, ethnic, economic—we are going to have to allow ourselves to let other people speak sometimes. And then really listen to and process what we hear.

That can be uncomfortable. Especially since any pushback against our engrained system of privilege feels like pushback against those of us who benefit from that system, whether we acknowledge it or not. Those uncomfortable situations quickly escalate into:

“They’re saying that I’m a bad person and I’m not a bad person!”

That can easily be the end of the conversation. Once we make it all about ourselves then we go all out to defend ourselves and we forget that it really wasn’t about us to begin with. I say this not with some holier than thou intent. I am that person, too. I have to push back against my own discomfort and own my own squeamishness.

As we move towards the upcoming election in November and evaluate candidates I am looking to see how much they are willing to promote other voices.  Are they willing to go to those unfamiliar places that we don’t normally talk about in Howard County? We need leaders who model the kind of behavior that true democracy demands: We the People.

Not simply:

We the (White) people
We the (Male) people
We the (Affluent) people
We the people (with the right religion)
We the people (with the approved sexuality)

...and so on.

I’ll be looking for examples of candidates for public office who are willing to get out of their comfort zones in order to facilitate fair and inclusive local government. Have some to share? Send them my way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

At the Hearing

Today is one of those dreaded “I  ain’t got nothin’” mornings. I went to a meeting/hearing of the Liquor Board last night but I don’t have anything definitive to say about it. I also did not stay until the bitter end so I don’t know how it all played out.

I do know that there were a lot of people gathered in that room last night to claim that Columbia/Howard County just does not have room for one more Mom and Pop business. And that makes me sad. (There actually is a liquor license available, mind you. But somehow we have no room.)

It was interesting to note that quite a few Republican candidates for County Council were in attendance, working the crowd in the lobby before the actual hearing began. They also seemed to be there in support of those opposing the approval of the new business.

My personal favorite testimony from the time I was there was the dedicated customer who said she would travel farther to get to the Loft because of their excellent customer service in the same way that she went out of her way to go to the Bird Store. By the time she was done with her testimony I think all of us wanted to go to the Bird Store.

I’m looking forward to meeting a friend today to discuss politics, believe it or not. Surprising, but true.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

New Normal

Last night as it poured for at least the fourth time of the day my Twitter feed was filled with people worried about Old Ellicott City.

This is the tweet that stood out to me:

we should take Ellicott City..... and PUSH IT SOMEWHERE ELSE

In fact it’s the severity of recent storms which has been taking Ellicott City and pushing it somewhere else. But not as a whole. In pieces. In shreds of mayhem and destruction. The force of the rushing water does not care what is in its path.

Look at this photograph from the County Executive’s Facebook page. You may already know what it depicts. But what if you didn’t?

Bringing the clock back after the past two massive floods has been a symbol of the fierce will of the community to rise again. And yet, when I look at this photo I see pall-bearers. 

I feel grief.

I’m literally praying that Ellicott City gets through this rain tonight :/ they cant take a third

I hope Ellicott City withstands!

*worried looks at Old Ellicott City again*

Praying for Ellicott City

What is the situation in Ellicott City ?

its been raining for three days off and on and the skies just opened up.  i'm scared for old ellicott city.  anybody have data?

How’s everyone in downtown Ellicott City doing tonight?  Please be safe! #ecstrong
Does this blog post have a point? Maybe. Am I going to tell you something you did not already know? Maybe not. I am coming to terms with the reality of our “new normal”: a condition characterized by a deep underlying fear every time it rains. Like wives and mothers who scanned the horizon when loved ones were out at sea, we watch the skies and worry.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Helpers

I awoke to discover that I had slept through a major storm and that the news of the day was not good. A thirteen year veteran of the Howard County Fire Department has died as a result of injuries sustained while fighting a seven alarm fire.

Ever since 9-11 I have been accutely aware of how mind-bogglingly brave firefighters are. They run towards danger and disaster when the rest of us would be running away. They are among the helpers that Mr. Rogers told us to look for.

There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.

(Of course there are more details to this story than one fire and one firefighter. For those details you will need a newspaper. You do subscribe, don’t you?)

But for the Howard County firefighting community it will be the story of one fire and one firefighter. Of anguish and loss. It is the outcome that all must face and somehow, in the back of one’s mind, must dread. There is no way I can possibly know. I know what it feels like in a classroom of three year olds in the dark during a lockdown drill, wondering what it would be like if it were real. I do not know what it means to run towards danger.

I am so grateful for our firefighters, the work they do and the risks they take. I offer condolences as you grieve. I offer you thanks for your devotion in caring for our community.