Thursday, December 13, 2018

Holding My Tongue




As I have gotten older, and possibly wiser, I have tried not to wield this blog as a pointed object against individuals. I have made very few exceptions to this rule.

My patience is being sorely tested by a member of the Oakland Mills Village Board who has violated every imaginable boundary when it comes to local politics and self-promotion. I’ve tried taking a breath and counting to ten but it just keeps on happening.

I have great faith in the OMCA Board Chair and in the overall positive tone of the work the Board has been doing under his leadership. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have a rogue member who consistently disrespects every boundary and operates outside any collegial, collaborative sense of partnership.

Serving on a Village Board is seen to be a deadend, thankless task. Well, that’s only if people even know what serving on a Village Board is. You’ve heard my annual sermons about getting involved in Village Electons but the truth is that a large portion of Columbia residents these days no idea about any of this. Getting people to serve on Village Boards can be almost impossible.

Most folks who step up to serve are good and hardworking people who just want to help their communities. But then, every so often, you get someone who believes that this will be their springboard to The Big Time. They think that this will be Politics with a capital P and they are all about wheeling and dealing, private meetings and secret deals, and a whole lot of self-promotion.

These people are toxic and they can singlehandedly wreck any good work a Board is trying to accomplish. It would be far better to have no boards at all than to have to dig out from the damage caused by people who want to be the big frog in the small pond and don’t mind stepping on everyone else to do it.

Someone suggested to me recently that I was splitting hairs by saying that Columbia wasn’t a city, saying that population alone made it so. I don’t agree. If Columbia incorporated as a city new forms of governance would need to be established and the public scrutiny for holding office would be a good deal more intense. People like my as-yet-unnamed Board Member would be sifted out pretty quickly.

Public service, no matter how small, should not be the playground of bullies, abusers, manipulators, and self-promoters. But around a Village Board table, folks like that see an opportunity to reign unchecked. Who’s going to stop them? It isn’t like there are tons of replacements waiting to take their places.

At this point I have enough material to lay out a comprehensive piece on this person’s escapades. I have quotes, I have photographs, I have screenshots. Or, as they say these days, I have receipts. But I’m not an investigative reporter. I’m essentially a private citizen who has strong opinions. I’m really, really trying hard to stay in my lane here.

If you live in Columbia and you’re a good-hearted individual, please consider running for your Village Board this year. Believe me, you are needed.










Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441













Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Who Cares



By the end of the day I had an ache in my chest and a nasty cough. I was not surprised. I work with preschoolers and many of them have been coming to school with runny noses and that very same cough.  I wash my hands frequently and we disinfect surfaces multiple times per day to no avail. If you are a teacher, you are a sitting duck for every germ that comes along.

Kids come to school sick. There are a variety of reasons for this. Sometimes the runny nose doesn’t make them miserable, they don’t have a fever, and the parent reasons they are better off being with their friends. Sometimes the parent can’t miss work and gives them some medicine and hopes for the best. They hope against hope they won’t get that dreaded call from the office or the nurse.

The ability to stay home with a child comes from financial stability and a kind of autonomy in your place of employment. If you don’t have that, you take any time off at your peril. We can’t roll our eyes and complain about parents who send their children to school sick without understanding the underlying issues that cause that to happen.

It all comes down to an issue which remains unresolved in our culture: who cares for children? Who cares for them when parents have no choice but to be at work? Who cares for them on snow days, or one-day holidays, or school vacations, or when they are sick? Assuming that the norm is a mother who is always on call is woefully ignorant to the realities of life in 2018.  It is hardly a standard against which all families can be judged.

The Howard County Schools have addressed some student health issues though a program called Telehealth, but this does not reach the issue of how we care for sick children when they need to be away from school. Is this an area that needs community intervention? Do we need better supports in place for parents in the workplace?

For some years Harbor Hospital offered a sick child day care program in Baltimore. I don’t know if that is still in operation. But that still means you need to have the money to pay for such a service. A higher paying worker might be able to access that. A minimum wage worker probably could not.

As an early childhood educator, I believe that caring for children is everyone’s responsibility. I think you can tell a lot about a community by the value it places on care for the most vulnerable. So I want to know who will care for our sick children? How will we make that possible?

And I want to know how to get this painful cough out of my chest. Stat.











Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441














Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wish List Redux





Yesterday I shared a wish for Columbia from a local friend. That got me thinking about a wish list I made, long ago, back when Columbia Patch was still a happening thing and Marge Neal was the editor.

From December 20, 2011:


A Letter to Santa — Of Sorts — On Behalf of Columbia
To me, Christmas in Columbia means going to the Symphony of Lights with my whole family. That's when the holiday season officially begins. So, this year, like Barbara Kellner of the Columbia Archives, I started thinking about my HocoLocal wish list.

5. For me: I would like a tour of Elkridge from someone who loves it and knows it well. (I'll pay for gas and snacks.) This is definitely an area where I need to learn more and think more. Any takers?

4. For my village, Oakland Mills: a very special Bridge to connect us to downtown, and span the separation between east and west over Route 29.

3. For the Howard County Public Schools: a variety of truly viable school board candidates and a simple, functional way to have an election. Oh, and a new superintendent who can find new ways to let meaningful learning win over standardized testing.

2. For Howard County: that we may all get better at appreciating and respecting people who are different. E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many: One. And, yes, the 'many' are homeowners, renters and, sadly, the homeless. Let Howard County become known foremost for acceptance and a spirit of community.

1. And lastly, for Columbia, I have saved a special gift. I want to have a "Mayor's Office of Adventures in Fun." We need one. Read this article to see what Virginia S. Baker did in Baltimore City. Then take note of who she was engaging, and why. (The 'why' part you may have to work out on your own.)

Of course, to have a Mayor's Office of Adventures and Fun, we would need — oh, I see I've used up my five wishes. That wish would be another story altogether.

Have a joyous holiday season with the people you love!

*****

It’s interesting to look back. So much has happened since then. Some of my wishes have been partially fulfilled. We got a Bridge Columbia but without the transit piece. We got a better Superintendent and BOE but we’re still ironing out the election process. I think we may even have our own “Mayor’s Office of Adventures in Fun”.

I am a bit disappointed that no one has ever offered to take me on a guided tour of Elkridge. Santa is too busy. I even offered to pay for gas and snacks! This item remains on my local wish list.

I was startled to see how clearly I was yearning for item 2 on this list. Clearly my feelings on this go way back.
2. For Howard County: that we may all get better at appreciating and respecting people who are different. E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many: One. And, yes, the 'many' are homeowners, renters and, sadly, the homeless. Let Howard County become known foremost for acceptance and a spirit of community.

This year, for the first time, I feel hopeful that this particular Christmas wish may have a chance of coming true.

How about you? What’s your HoCoLocal Christmas/Holiday list?



Yesterday I shared a wish for Columbia from a local friend. That got me thinking about a wish list I made, long ago, back when Columbia Patch was still a happening thing and Marge Neal was the editor.

From December 20, 2011:



A Letter to Santa — Of Sorts — On Behalf of Columbia




To me, Christmas in Columbia means going to the Symphony of Lights with my whole family. That's when the holiday season officially begins. So, this year, like Barbara Kellner of the Columbia Archives, I started thinking about my HocoLocal wish list.

5. For me: I would like a tour of Elkridge from someone who loves it and knows it well. (I'll pay for gas and snacks.) This is definitely an area where I need to learn more and think more. Any takers?

4. For my village, Oakland Mills: a very special Bridge to connect us to downtown, and span the separation between east and west over Route 29.

3. For the Howard County Public Schools: a variety of truly viable school board candidates and a simple, functional way to have an election. Oh, and a new superintendent who can find new ways to let meaningful learning win over standardized testing.

2. For Howard County: that we may all get better at appreciating and respecting people who are different. E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many: One. And, yes, the 'many' are homeowners, renters and, sadly, the homeless. Let Howard County become known foremost for acceptance and a spirit of community.

1. And lastly, for Columbia, I have saved a special gift. I want to have a "Mayor's Office of Adventures in Fun." We need one. Read this article to see what Virginia S. Baker did in Baltimore City. Then take note of who she was engaging, and why. (The 'why' part you may have to work out on your own.)

Of course, to have a Mayor's Office of Adventures and Fun, we would need — oh, I see I've used up my five wishes. That wish would be another story altogether.


Have a joyous holiday season with the people you love!


*****

It’s interesteting to look back. So much has happened since then. Some of my wishes have been partially fulfilled. We got a Bridge Columbia but without the transit piece. We got a better Superintendent and BOE but we’re still ironing out the election process. I think we 
may even have our own “Mayor’s Office of Adventures in Fun”.

I am a bit disappointed that no one has ever offered to take me on a guided tour of Elkridge. Santa is too busy. I even offered to pay for gas and snacks! This item remains on my local wish list.


I was startled to see how clearly I was yearning for item 2 on this list. Clearly my feelings on this go way back.


2. For Howard County: that we may all get better at appreciating and respecting people who are different. E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many: One. And, yes, the 'many' are homeowners, renters and, sadly, the homeless. Let Howard County become known foremost for acceptance and a spirit of community.

This year, for the first time, I feel hopeful that this particular Christmas wish may have a chance of coming true.


How about you? What’s your HoCoLocal Christmas/Holiday list?









Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441



Monday, December 10, 2018

Stocking Stuffers



I’ve been pondering a post on what constitutes a suitable Christmas stocking present when Twitter did it for me. It begins here :


why do bloggers think that a diptyque candle is a stocking filler? you’ll get a tube of minstrels if you’re lucky babe

A word of explanation: this thread originates in the U.K. This is a Diptyque candle. These are Minstrels. Despite the differing cultural references, this thread hits on exactly what I had in mind. Just because something is small enough to fit in a Christmas stocking doesn’t mean it is a “stocking present”.

For example, at our house Christmas stockings could be expected to hold:

Toothbrush
Scotch tape
Panty hose or cute socks
Chocolate orange
Inexpensive toys
Post it notes
Hair ties
Guitar picks
Squishy toys

They are not going to contain:

Pearl earrings
Keys to a new car
Diamond tennis bracelet
Expensive perfume
A small gaming device
iPhones
Copic or Prismacolor markers
100 dollar gift cards

You get the picture. Stocking presents aren’t supposed to be the Main Present. Moneywise, that is. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule and no one is going to come to your house to ensure compliance. Don’t forget that, in the U.K., the old school tradition is a pillowcase hung over the bedpost, so I would think you’d need to be even more frugal. Pillowcases are a lot bigger than most American Christmas stockings!

Lest you think there’s no local connection to this post, I give you a Christmas wish with a very local flavor. I saw it online this weekend.* It won’t fit in a stocking or a pillowcase, but I hope Santa is listening to this one:

 My Christmas wish list as a Columbia resident: 

1) A dedicated pathway from Little Patuxent Parkway to the Chrysalis, and signage to accompany said pathway.

2) A playground in Symphony Woods (which I know is in the works...just voicing my support of this much-needed amenity).

3) Better crosswalks and speed control measures on Little Patuxent in front of Merriweather and the Chrysalis.  

Pretty please and thank you, Santa.



*No, I didn’t write it. But I do like it.










Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441










Sunday, December 9, 2018

Mine Mine Mine



An ongoing theme of this blog is the pull that exists between the generation in Columbia known as the Pioneers, and those who are engaging in community life in the present day. Certainly yesterday’s post touched on that tension.

But wait just a minute, Columbia. There are some folks in Howard County that have some feelings about that.


Ouch.

I’ll be frank. A comment like this is a reaction to more than a tweet from WBAL. It’s a reaction to the election of Howard County’s first African American County Executive, a resident of Columbia. 

I think that, given the current political climate, we are going to see more comments like these. The tone set at the national level enables them. The comments about Columbia “attracting a bad element” and dog whistles about Columbia becoming more “urban” have racism baked right in. Howard County was ours, they say, and Rouse came and gave it to...”those people.”

As entrenched as Columbia’s first generation may have become in their life experiences of all that was revolutionary and aspirational about Rouse’s vision, I think it’s wise to remember that there are still folks in HoCo who harbor ill will towards the whole thing. They want their Howard County back. And these aren’t just people who were alive at the time; this discontent has simmered down to successive generations.

And there are some who were fine espousing a “One Howard” philosophy as long as a white man was in charge. Once the person in the leadership role is black, they feel uncomfortable and disenfranchised. As the current saying goes:

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

So it appears that when people have the power, they very often don’t want to give it up. If you think it all belongs to you, look over your shoulder. There’s always going to be someone who thinks it belonged to them.

My advice: if you want to build community, look around you and seek opportunities to make connections. You might have to let go of some of what you are holding on to in order to reach out.  Perhaps giving of your power and privilege freely will reduce the fear that someone’s coming to take it from you.

We are going to have to face this, one way or another.











Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441









Saturday, December 8, 2018

Permission to Create



Remember this?



I couldn’t help thinking of this image when the internet threw this one at me recently.


The caption read: 

This sign is probably meant to be read from bottom to top, but it just reads as a bunch of gibberish. Did they have something against a plain old Christmas tree? Why get creative? It could also be that the letters were piled up at random.

Everyone’s a critic.

The first photo shows what I believe was probably a goof, although it could have been a prank. If anyone knows the truth, send it my way! But the second picture, though equally amusing/puzzling, came about for a different reason. The caption touches on the cause.

Why get creative?

That’s it in a nutshell. Somebody got creative. They had a concept but they hadn’t envisioned the end result as clearly as they might have. Oops.

Still, this isn’t an issue of enormous magnitude. It’s a pretty big jump from scratching your head at the outcome to outright challenging the creative process. 

Why get creative?

Why, indeed? Even though Columbia was itself founded in a multi-pronged, multi-faceted explosion of creative thought, breathtaking in its audacity, still we see pushback against present-day creativity
  • What if I don’t like it?
  • What if I think it looks silly?
  • What if I think it’s too gaudy?
  • What if I think Rouse wouldn’t like it?
  • What if my ideas are the only good ideas?
  • What if I think Columbia belongs to me and my friends and you can’t change it without my permission?
I wasn’t around to bear witness, but there must have been at least a few things that were a part of the Pioneer years in Columbia that some HoCo folks didn’t like, or thought were silly, or gaudy, or a bad idea. And there were probably a few things that didn’t work out as expected, despite the best intentions of their creators. I’d say that’s okay.

Why get creative?

Because creativity is a part of creation. And creation is life. And life means dreaming, and trying, and stumbling, and reaching for a better way all the time. It may, from time to time, be messy. Like the odd sign for the Mallumbia in Col or a jumbled Christmas greeting. 

I’m good with that. I think it’s all a part of being alive, something that I hope Columbia will be for a long time to come.









Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441










Friday, December 7, 2018

Accolades and Self-Doubt



Those close to me know that I have sustained several notable kicks to the ego in recent weeks. As a result, I’ve been wrestling with thoughts that my place in the community is of little consequence and that my work here on the blog is wasted. To be clear, I’ve never thought I was a really big deal in the community, but recent events have made it clear that the space I occupy is smaller than I thought. 

I’ll be honest, that stings.

I’ve come to realize that I compare myself  to others far too much. That’s a dangerous road to go down. As Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I can attest to the truth of that. I don’t think I’ve been consciously comparing, but clearly I’ve fashioned a view of myself in reaction to others, not as rooted in who I think I am.

Into this season of self doubt came the word yesterday that Village Green/Town² won the Howard  Magazine Readers Poll for Best Blog of 2018. This is an honor which I have openly sought for some time now. I can’t pretend I haven’t. It is something I  have told myself “I should” be able to achieve. I have been Charlie Brown every year hoping to finally catch that particular football.

So reading the news was particularly sweet.

Truth in advertising: winning this award does not actually mean I write the best blog in Howard County. It means I have the most number of motivated readers who were willing to vote in an online poll. It is a celebration of the community of readers more than anything else. It truly means that you all are the best in Howard County. I’m proud to be associated with you.

Here’s the thing: the highest award I received yesterday were these words written by my husband. They were a ringing affirmation that he “gets” what I do, and I will never be able to think of this honor without remembering what he said. 

Huge congratulations to my wife, Julia Jackson McCready, for winning the "Best Blog" award in the Best of Howard County 2018. For many years, she has dedicated herself to writing every single day, sometimes heartwarming stories, sometimes highlighting the work and talents of others, sometimes pushing dangerously into local politics and school board issues, sometimes just sharing a funny memory or touching quote, but always making us think consciously about our place in a vibrant and progressive community.

Thanks for reading.






Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar:

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441









Thursday, December 6, 2018

What’s in a Name?



Yesterday brought news that Columbia has been named the safest city in America by personal finance company Wallet Hub. 

There’s just one thing. Columbia isn’t a city. A little background from Wikipedia:

Columbia has never incorporated; some governance, however, is provided by the non-profit Columbia Association, which manages common areas and functions as a homeowner association with regard to private property.

Columbia is not a city. We’re an overgrown homeowners association..

This does not negate the good news of hearing that our community was deemed to be a safe place to live. That feels great. And I don’t think that Wallet Hub just picked our name out of a hat. They claim to have:

compared more than 180 cities across 39 key indicators of safety, including things such as assaults per capita, unemployment and road quality. 

A quick Google search indicates a number of over 19,000 cities in the US. I’m wondering how Columbia came to be considered when we are not actually even a city. Was this something we had to apply for to be considered? What were the criteria for being one of the 180 to begin with?

I love Columbia. I do think it is a safe place to live. I have nothing snarky to say on that front, and, if I didn’t spend my days in a classroom, I’d be online combating the haters who came out of the woodwork on this one. I hear rumors that the team at ElevateMaryland may have touched on this last night, but I haven’t had time to listen yet.

But this raises a point which comes up every so often: should Columbia be a city? Should we incorporate? I think that, as time goes on, we have many residents who don’t even know that we aren’t. But every year when participation in Village and Columbia Council elections is so pitifully thin, I think about it. 

What benefits would Columbia stand to enjoy if we incorporated? What, if anything, would we lose? 

And how on earth did we come to be in the Wallet Hub study, anyway?









Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar:

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Point of View




Since I shared my photo of the swearing-in of the new Board of Ed members,


I thought it was only fair to share my pic of the installation of the new County Executive.



Sometimes photographs don’t do an occasion justice. These images are distant; my experience of the events was vivid and fully present. I had a strong sense on Monday of how important our involvement as community members has been in choosing our newest leaders.

I saw many folks last night who were giddy with the joy of the moment, reveling in the afterglow of winning the day, of being changemakers and history makers in our county. It was their moment, and that moment was sweet. But for me the afternoon and evening felt heavy wth the weight of oncoming responsibility. As sweet as victory may be, it carries with it unavoidable demands and challenges of leadership. 

Yes, those are good challenges to have. But they are challenges nonetheless.

Something that new BOE member Vicky Cutroneo said in her remarks Monday afternoon stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing:

During the campaign someone referred to my supporters as unusual coalition.  I take that as a compliment and I’d like to thank my unusual coalition for their support.

As we move away from the election and the swearing-in, it is my hope that these next four years are marked by many more unusual and unexpected coalitions. Nothing could be better for our school system and our County than public servants who work to draw together unlikely allies and surprising support. Those are the kinds of alliances to foster and build upon.

I believe that our newly-elected officials have the ability to do this. Whether or not they choose to work collaboratively and inclusively may depend on how much we, as citizens, affirm our desire for them to do so. So, in other words, we’re not off the hook. Our job does not end here. Just as we worked to get them elected, we must support their good choices and remind them if they begin to lose their way.

I viewed a transfer of power from a distance on Monday. But my heart and mind have never felt closer to the realities those oaths of office entail. These are real people. A few are my friends. It’s not a game or a contest or a battle won; it’s real life and the stakes are high. The drumbeats of criticism  will start to chime in any minute now, if they haven’t already.

More than any photograph, these words from our new County Executive paint the image that I will carry with me. I hope everyone sworn in on Monday will strive to create and uphold this vision:

Let’s be that epoch of belief about a reality of equality and inclusion for all, rejecting racism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia, ageism, discrimination and hate in all forms.

Let’s get to work. 







Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar:

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441



Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Open Doors



I worked with preschoolers for eight hours, and then made it to both swearing-in events afterwards. And now I am too tired to write about any of it. At this moment I am questioning my decision to push through and make that happen. What was I thinking?

I’m going to need some recovery time on this one. In the meantime you’ll just have to satisfy yourself with the 8,742 photos on Facebook of these two events. (Just making that number up, but really, there are plenty.)

I’m going to leave you with my photo of the BOE swearing in ceremony.




I arrived right at four and the room was packed. Standing room only, with the crowd spilling out into the hallway. And the doors were open

We have come a long way in the last few years.


Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar:

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441



Monday, December 3, 2018

Coming Attractions



I had so much fun visiting Celebration in the Woods on Saturday that I was inspired to have a little fun with the photos I took. So, for my amusement and yours, here is the Celebration in the Woods Advent calendar:

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441

Enjoy!

This afternoon new BOE members will be sworn in and the County Executive and County Council members will be sworn in at Howard High School in the evening. That’s a whole lotta swearin’ going on in the HoCo. At the moment my intention is to go to both, but eight hours with preschoolers stands between me and that decision.

We shall see.

I had lunch yesterday with a wise and wonderful friend who probably wouldn’t want me to throw her name around, so I’ll plug the place we ate instead. She encouraged me to try Georgia Grace, which I somehow had never made it to thus far. I loved it and will definitely be back. (I ordered the Gracie. Yum.)

We didn’t get together to talk Old EC but it was hard not to, given the location. There’s so much that is unresolved and so much acrimony to work through and defuse.We stopped several times as we walked up the street after our meal,  looking at buildings that have been slated for removal and trying to fathom what that would mean for EC and whether it would actually do any good. I noted a Flanagan campaign sign still displayed prominently in a shop window.

I’m sure my friend and I are not alone in wondering what comes next.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A Thing of Beauty




A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

John Keats, Endymion

I stopped by the Chrysalis yesterday afternoon to experience the Celebration in the Woods first-hand. (More on that later in the week.)

While I was there I had a thought which has never before occurred to me in any other location: maybe I’d want to be buried here. 

Not what you were expecting? Me, either. I’ve never really felt that way.

But yesterday, looking up at the cool, green curves of the Chrysalis, and enjoying the sight of families exploring the space with their children, I thought: if I am going to rest someplace forever, I think I’d like to be here.

Perhaps this is a sign of my age creeping up on me. My sixtieth birthday  is looming in the Spring. My “baby” will be graduating from high school. I sometimes read obituaries in the paper. 

But, more than that, I am becoming more and more convinced that my involvement with the park is one of the most significant things I will do in my lifetime. The joy that the Chrysalis and Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods will bring to our community will long outlive me. That’s a good feeling.


I don’t think for one minute that the Inner Arbor Trust has plans to go into the columbarium business. And I’m not sure it truly matters to me that my physical remains be in one particular spot. No matter what happens on that front, the work that so many of us have put into the Park will live on.

Besides, there’s a little piece of me there already.





Saturday, December 1, 2018

Make it Local



Scanning the news for stories of local interest this morning, I noticed this cartoon by Brian Gordon from FowlLanguageComics:



It ran with this explainer:

Today's comic was inspired by a friend whose young daughter was frightened to decorate for Hanukkah after the horrible Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. So I'm decorating (and posting this cartoon) in solidarity.

This, by itself, is not a local story. But we can make it one.

We know that Jewish students have experienced anti-Semitic harassment at school  here in Howard County. And we know that the Pittsburgh shooting cast a very long shadow over Jewish people everywhere in this country. That means right here where we live.The changing political landscape has allowed religious and racial intolerance to slip out of the darkness and say its ugly name with frightening frequency.



That’s what makes this a local story.

I don’t know if putting a menorah in the window is good enough. Some folks felt that putting those “Hate Has No Home Here” signs in the front yard was laughable without concrete action. They have a point there. But where do we begin?

The first night of Hanukkah is this Sunday. What if it were possible for each of us to do one thing for each night that made it easier, safer, and more warmly welcomed for our Jewish neighbors in Columbia and Howard County? What would that look like?

Let’s make it local. Send your suggestions here,




Friday, November 30, 2018

It’s Here!



Advent hasn’t event started yet, but the local Christmas season is in full swing. Somehow one of my favorite annual events has snuck up on me.



The WBAL Concert for Kids is this weekend in Oakland Mills. This year you have your choice of two days and events. Saturday afternoon is the Family Matinee of the Pops Concert, with full Pops Concert in the evening. Then, on Sunday evening at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center there’s the Classical Concert for Kids.

These concerts showcase the work and gifts of our local young people and are a great way to kick off your holiday season. You can get tickets here.

The Howard County Conservancy is having their annual NaturalHolidaySale Saturday from ten am to 3 pm.


Come enjoy our annual Holiday Sale- fun for the whole family! Browse locally crafted natural gifts while enjoying music and refreshments. Children will enjoy creating whimsical critters from cones, pods and seed heads with the help of our naturalists! Vendors include Caldron Crafts, Chesapeake Sea Glass Mosaics, Cross County Garden Club, Dea’s Masks and More, Dorsey Hall Garden Club, Druzy Daze, Ellicott City Sauce Co and Vill’s Dills, Flowers by Eden, Forever Favorites, Greenbridge Pottery, Howard County BeeKeepers, Magnor Natural Beauty Products, Maloney Photography, Mindte’s Meadows, Mossaholic, Neat Nick Preserves, Pocket Pets, Sunroom Studios and Wolf Den Crafts.
I’m intrigued by the new event at the Chrysalis and I’m going to try to stop by this Saturday. Celebration in the Woods features:

artist-decorated trees, live performances, a “snow” ball pit, seasonal crafts, and winter treats such as hot chocolate, apple cider, mulled wine, and more! Also, as a special treat for the kids, Santa will be visiting the Chrysalis at 3 pm each day.

The annual lighting of the Bollman Bridge at Historic Savage Mill is this Saturday at 6 pm.

Holy mackerel! The Mall is hosting a Winter Wonderland Festival Saturday from 1-5pm. (Nordstrom Court)


Join us for a free, family-friendly event featuring a silent disco, crafts, entertainment, giveaways and more! Plus, special appearances by a few of your favorite characters!

What’s a silent disco?

Sunday it’s Jazz in the Mills in Oakland Mills!  Holiday Extravaganza featuring Steve Washington at the Other Barn on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 5:00 pm. Dinner buffet included. Best to purchase tickets in advance! More info on the OM Website.

And, last but not least, the perennial favorite Symphony of Lights is open for drive throughs and
this Sunday for the Festive Families Walk from 5-8 p.m.

We’re just hoping to get our outdoor lights up this weekend. What about you?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Job Well Done



Howard County Board of Education members may not approve of Cindy Vaillancourt, but Howard County voters do. -  - Blair Aimes, HoCo Times (November 5, 2014)


Today will be Cindy Vaillancourt ‘s last meeting as a member of the Board of Education.  Over her years of service she has moved from being a much-maligned voice of dissent on the board into solid leadership. If there were a special gift for the number of times one has been falsely accused she would win it, hands down. Ms.Vaillancourt’s resolve has been tested, and tested again, by people who wanted to get her out of the way and silence her voice. 


To lean a bit biblical here, the fiery furnace was no match for Ms. Vaillancourt. She has shown herself to be to be the embodiment of the now familiar quote:


She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.


None of us will ever fully know the extent of the work Ms. Vaillancourt did while on the Board because she was never an aggressive self-promoter. She made few attempts to put herself in the spotlight at public events. She wasn’t in it for that. She was in it to serve the students, parents, faculty and staff of the Howard County Schools.


More than anything else, Ms.Vaillancourt has listened. She listened when no one else would. She used all the methods at her disposal to help when others didn’t even bother to respond. She stood up for special needs parents, children sickened by mold, elementary school music programs, victims of bullying and sexual assault, LGBTQ students, faculty and staff who were being unfairly treated in the workplace, and more. 


She did all this while being the recipient of one false accusation after another. She was often excluded from the inner workings of the Board as a way to circumvent 
her involvement. She never quit.

She never gave up on the people of Howard County who needed her.

In recent years she balanced two open heart surgeries with Board responsibilities. Even when slowed by health issues her priorities have always been responsiveness, transparency, and accountability. Oh, and a deep and respectful sense of human kindness. On good days and bad, that has been Cindy Vaillancourt.


I hear she is looking forward to retirement where she will enjoy being a first-time grandmother and have the time to cook more. She will also now have to ability to speak on local issue as a private citizen.


I am looking forward to that.