Saturday, January 20, 2018


School System Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano is not happy. And it takes a lot for him to be unhappy. Twenty-two million dollars, to be precise.

Look at my budget presentation to the BOE. I am chagrined that I have inherited a budget with a structural shortfall of $22 M. This is WRONG! I will be seeking help to address a problem that many of us did NOT create & one which is hurting our students & employees. #NotHappy

When I first read this I thought that perhaps the good doctor had been hacked or that I was looking at a parody account. This doesn’t sound much like the relentlessly positive voice we are used to hearing from the Superintendent. It concerns me.

If you followed the BOE campaign, which saw an overwhelming desire for change in leadership, then you are probably well-acquainted with the lack of transparency, responsiveness, and accountability that motivated voters to show up at the polls. And if you listened to campaign statements you are aware of the concerns of candidates like Christina Delmont-Small about how money was being spent without public oversight.  Surely, if you paid attention to the early board meetings of the newly elected board you will have seen many, many mentions of missing financial information. 

All of this is to say that the missing 22 million, which I believe to be from the perennially “leaky” Health and Dental fund, is not a new story to anyone who has been paying attention over the last several years. It’s one of the reasons that a forensic audit was approved and is going forward. And it shouldn’t be a new story to the Superintendent, either. I’m pretty sure that the board we have in place would have been candid about the challenges of the job when Dr. Martirano was considering the position.

With all of this in mind- -why this tweet? If it is a personal expression of the intense frustration at being unable to move forward due to the mistakes of others, it is certainly understandable. That is, understandable but not a good idea in the long run. If you are the Superintendent of Schools you may type out a statement like this, in a moment of intense feeling, but then you delete it before you post.

On the other hand, this could be a carefully chosen way to reach out to the public to let us know that we need to pay attention to something. It certainly grabbed my attention. But, instead of making me worry about the 22 million, it made me worry about Dr. Martirano. And I don’t think that’s a good thing.

Perhaps I have become over-sensitive to impassioned tweets in this day and age when the President uses Twitter to post emotional rants about perceived adversaries. It’s very likely that colored my response to the Superintendent’s post. Despite all that, it still concerns me. I can’t put my finger on it, but something doesn’t feel quite right.

Feel free to add your comments here:

Friday, January 19, 2018

Schrodinger’s Newspaper?

I present for your edification this morning a letter to the Howard County Times:

Mr. Mercado is incensed that there is a difference between the online article and the print article about pay raises for the County Council and County Executive. He notes that a quote from Allan Kittleman is in the online version, but not included in the print edition. Mr. Mercado feels that this particular quote is key to the understanding of the issue as a whole.

The quote:

“County Council folks should have jobs outside and not use their Council job as their main source of income, because I think that causes problems,” Kittleman told the Commission. “So I would urge you strongly not to increase anybody’s salaries. I think we’re all doing fine.”

Here’s the thing. I don’t think I would have omitted this particular quote, but Mr. Mercado thinks that this was not an oversight or a poor choice in editing. He thinks it was done with malice aforethought. He assures the reader that this was done deliberately to suggest that Mr. Kittleman is in favor of the raises.

Why? It’s the “Liberal Media” he assures us. The “Liberal Media” is trying to make Mr. Kittleman look bad in an election year. His last sentence is the kicker:

This is why media cannot be trusted.

Okay, now I have a problem. I can understand noting the difference between the two pieces and the assertion that the omission may have changed the overall understanding of the piece. But taking a flying leap to claiming the “Liberal Media” is trying to sway the outcome of an election in Howard County? You’ve lost me there.

When Mr. Mercado objected to this piece, he understood that he could respond by writing a letter to the editor. He understood that they would print it. He very likely looked forward to seeing it in print. “I’ll show them!” I imagine he thought as he put the final touches on his hot letter.

So he trusted that the newspaper had a forum for public feedback. And he trusted that his words would be shared publicly with the community. In order to even bother to write this letter, he had to believe that.

But the media is not to be trusted, he tells us.

I don’t think you can have it both ways, Mr. Mercado. You have painted a picture of a newspaper that deliberately suppresses facts on the one hand, while openly printing your letter calling them out on the other hand. A sort of Schrodinger’s newspaper, if you will.

As you may have guessed,this piece does not in any way address the merit of the proposed raises themselves, but rather on the wild accusations contained in this letter. Speak out if you believe a subject needs to be addressed. By all means, call out inaccuracy when you find it. But when you start seeing conspiracy behind every tree, it might be time to put your pencil down.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


Sorry, folks, I’m in the thick of writing student reports and my brain doesn’t have enough space left over to construct a meaningful blog post.

I do have several things I am working on, including:

HCPSS budget issues
Tuesday’s APFO Meeting

And, of course, the perennial favorite, why you should run for your village board or as a CA rep. Yes, you.

I’m hoping to get something more substantial up tomorrow morning. In the meantime, Scott Ewart of Scott E’s Blog was on a roll yesterday with campaign finance reports, if that’s your thing. You can take a look here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Plan

In what seems like a lifetime ago, I worked for CA’s Department School-aged Services doing aftercare, first at Waterloo Elementary, then, at Longfellow. While at Longfellow I attended a mandatory training on emergency response procedures. It was an entire evening after what was probably a long work day for everyone.

It was difficult to wrap our brains around the concept of what we would do if we had to go on lockdown or evacuate the school with children in our care and possibility be in charge of them for several days. I know I just wanted to deny it was even possible. Yes, I knew weather events could be unpredictable. And I knew we lived in a world where things like 9/11could happen. But, as the evening wore on with handouts and power point presentation slides, a part of me began to shut down.

Why are we doing this? When are we ever going to use this?

After the false alarm in Hawaii this past weekend, a parent asked the following question on Facebook:

Does anyone know what the school policies are in case something like what happened in Hawaii were to happen here? Or if the threat was real?  Is there lockdown, do kids shelter in place, etc? Awful to think about but I didn’t realize I had no idea what would happen to my son if he was at school until reading all those terrifying stories coming out of HI 

The memories of that evening workshop came flooding back into my consciousness. That was probably 15 years ago. You need to have a supply of water. You need to have backpacks you can take with you quickly with easily portable snacks and things to do. You need to know which of your children require medication. You need to have out of state phone numbers in case local contact numbers are disabled. You...

I can’t remember anymore.

I can say that I am reasonably certain that the school system has a plan. If CA has one, the schools definitely have plans and procedures in place. Each school most likely has a designated staff member assigned to making sure all materials are up to date and each school probably holds periodic trainings to review. For all I know, there is an additional training module to complete on this topic.

All of this is to say that: yes, there is a plan. And when your children are at school the teachers and staff and administrators will do everything to protect our children. We already know how many times they have put themselves in between students and shooters, for instance. As horrific as the thought of what almost happened in Hawaii is to us as parents, it is good to know there is a plan. Comfort. But small comfort at that.

Still, though: do we want to live in a country where these fears are forced to the forefront so often? What can we do to change that?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Owning The Past

This Christmas my sister and brother-in-law received a subscription to My sister has been filling me in as she goes deeper and deeper into our family’s past. It has been fascinating. And fun.

Until I opened this email:

Learned today that we have slave owners on Mother's side.  I found the record that actually listed all of them by name and age.  Also learned that we have a Captain in the Confederate Army in our past.  We found a letter from Mimi that said that we had someone in our past who was there when Lee surrendered at Appomattox.  Maybe that was the same guy.  All the Rylees in the history of the country are all relatives of ours.

When we are done, I will send you the entire tree.  

My ancestors enslaved and exploited the labor of other human beings. There it was. I couldn’t put the possibility out of my consciousness any longer. I’ve known that a part of my family was from the South. I knew I had ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War. But something inside me refused to make the connection that my family might have been culpable, complicit, a participant in such a great wrong.  We were probably too poor for that, I told myself.

Learned today that we have slave owners on Mother's side.  I found the record that actually listed all of them by name and age. 

This makes me sick. I feel heartache and revulsion at my connection to such cruelty and injustice.

On a day when our nation honors the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I am sitting with the knowledge of my family’s complicity in a system of deeply entrenched power and violence that tainted this country from its inception and from which we have not recovered. As long as we don’t want to face the truth of it and the reality of its persistent consequences, we perpetuate its evil.

I am mightily sick of people who begin by saying “Martin Luther King, Jr was a great man but...”

But what?

But when you speak the truth about race I will call you divisive.
But when you ask me to make the world more just for others I will question your motives.
But when Dr. King’s message makes me uncomfortable I will deny it.

Throughout our nation, the work is not done, the Dream is not fulfilled. Here in Howard County, we continue to struggle with facing the truth of racism and realizing that the truth means action. Racist incidents in our schools, the controversy over redistricting, and the upcoming race for County Executive shine a spotlight on who we are. 

“I’m a good person. I didn’t do anything wrong!” We want to say.

Ah, but did we do anything right?

My family. My family. My family did this. I can’t change that. I can change who I am right now, in the present. I will stumble and fall. A lot. But I hope that, when I do, you’ll lend me a hand and remind me why I’m on this road.

Join me?

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Most of us were probably asleep at 2:30 am on Saturday when the roof collapsed at Merriweather Post Pavillion. The pictures were all over social media yesterday. If you haven’t seen them, here’s a link to the Merriweather Facebook page. I know there are more out there but, as I didn’t take them myself, I’d rather not share here without the photographer’s permission. A quick Google search will most likely yield a number of images.

It’s difficult for me to look at these images without having some kind of emotional response. The stage area looks so naked and helpless. The iconic outline of the structure that has defined so many of our summers is suddenly just—gone. Merriweather isn’t merely a structure in our community. It’s almost like a member of the family, a friend.

Seth Hurwitz of I.M.P. was quick to release a statement assuring the public that Merriweather will be rebuilt and ready for the 2018 season. That’s got to be a huge financial commitment on top of what already has been invested in this project. I’m grateful that Merriweather continues to be deemed worthy of effort and investment. Life in Columbia would be irrevocably changed without it.

Believe it or not, there’s probably a little knot of naysayers who’d like to see this spell the end of our local live music venue. (I still haven’t gotten over the gentleman who shouted at me that I was against “putting a bubble on Merriweather” during an Oakland Mills Village election.) I haven’t seen any words to that effect in the last 24 hours, but then, I’m probably not a member of the right listservs.

Looking at the photographs yesterday made me think about the essence of what makes Merriweather “Merriweather”. Is it still our old friend without the old, rather homely, Frank Gehry facade? (Yes, I’ve always thought it was homely. And I’ve come to love it anyway.)

What would you say defines the essence of Merriweather? Here’s my take:

It is painful to see our old friend flattened and out of commission. But its spirit is intact. The gentle slope of the lawn as it rolls toward the Pavillion, the stage where so many amazing musicians have shared their gifts, the echoes of song, the memories of dancing, laughter, joy.

Merriweather has been declared to be ‘down for the count’ more than once during its lifetime. And yet, time after time, it keeps proving those forecasts wrong. I.M.P. and the
Downtown Arts and Culture Commission look up to the challenge to me.

This is a terrible setback. Yes, the damage is significant. But the spirit of the place is resilient and strong.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


I just received a suggestion from Facebook that I spend from twenty to forty dollars promoting this morning’s blog post. Apparently it’s doing better than many similar posts on my page. For just $40 I could reach up to 3800 people!

This is the post to which they referred:

Good to know, Facebook. My absence of a blogpost might be the next big thing. I could be more well-known for not writing than anything I have actually written. If that isn’t a reason to ponder cultivating a little humility, then I don’t know what is.

This entire episode put me in mind of the concept of influence. Who would we say exerts influence over how we think or take action in Columbia/Howard County? Who are our “influencers”?

It was certainly interesting to see the County Executive and HCPSS exchange Very Public Letters to one another this week. It seems likely that Mr. Kittleman chose this method of communication not because his telephone was broken or that his office was out of stamps. For some reason he deemed it necessary to aim his letter at a particular audience, far wider than the intended recipients. Who was meant to be influenced by this gambit? Was it a way of exerting pressure on the Board of Education and Superintendent Martirano by stirring up discontent amongst the citizenry?

I really don’t know.

Some folks are influential because of what they do. Their actions inspire. Some are influential because of what they say or write. Their words shape the public debate. Some are influential because of perceived social, financial, or political power. We may wish we could be like the well-dressed and witty crowd that attend charity fundraisers, for instance.

For me the most influential people in our community are people who make me think. Sometimes they lift my spirits, sometimes they make me uncomfortable. And oftentimes that thinking leads me to action and/or change. I am deeply indebted to them. I used to spend far too much time wanting to be one of the Cool Kids. I am happy to say that, one way or another, I have been “influenced” by a far better crowd.

Oh, and if someone wants to DM me and explain what that was all about with the Very Public Letters this week, I’d appreciate it. I feel like the kid sitting at the dinner table serving as go-between because Mom and Dad aren’t speaking. There’s got to be a better way.

Friday, January 12, 2018


Several times a week I treat myself on the way to work by stopping in at the Burtonsville Dunkin Donuts. The employees there have come to know me. I pretty much have a standing order. A large coffee, just cream, and a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with just a little bit of cream cheese. In warmer weather it’s iced coffee. These folks are so good that they put my bagel in the toaster when I walk in the door.

I smile at them. They smile at me. I tell them how great they are at what they do. I really love that little place.

Yesterday I learned something that may just change my morning coffee routine, however. Here’s the news from OMCA Chair Jonathan Edelson:

 Now, we are pleased to announce and welcome a new merchant to the Village Center. Oakland Mills will be the home of a Dunkin Donuts in the former Columbia Bank building across from The Other Barn!   

This is huge news for the Oakland Mills Village Center. It’s not simply about filling a vacant space, although that in itself is wonderful. And it’s not just about donuts. (Although everyone who knows me knows I love donuts.)

It means that a national brand is willing to let a franchisee take a risk on a business in Oakland Mills. There’s a lot of research and analytics that go into these business decisions. I know from having served on the OMCA Board that a business location must meet a certain threshold of projected foot traffic, for instance. We’ve had feelers from other hopeful franchisees in the past that were rejected by the parent company. It’s frustrating.

This new Dunkin Donuts in Oakland Mills is going to be wildly successful. Who are its potential patrons?

OM residents on their way to work
OM Village Center employees
OMHS teachers and students
Families who patronize the Columbia Ice Rink
Families attending sporting events at Blandair Park
HoCo residents attending events at The Other Barn
Residents who are about to walk over the newly renovated Route 29 footbridge, or just getting back 

And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head. 

But before it can be wildly successful, someone at corporate headquarters has to run the numbers and then decide that our Village Center is worth taking a chance on. “It’s just business,” one often hears. 

For us in Oakland Mills, it’s so much more than business. It’s about supporting a vibrant, healthy Village Center where people want to shop and hang out. A positive sense of place. I think that our Village is going to give this new business an extremely warm welcome.

I don’t know if I can give up my second family in Burtonsville. They’ve become a part of how I start my workdays. But I definitely want to invest in our new OM business the way they are investing in us. 

Somehow, I think I’ll find a way.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Have you seen the video? You know, that crazy clip where a teacher is pushed to the ground and handcuffed for speaking out at a public meeting? Outrageous, right?

It didn’t happen in Howard County, thank goodness. Although I will note that our former Superintendent of Schools increased security protection towards the end of her tenure with the school system. And there was that incident with a Howard County parent speaking out about Common Core at a meeting in Baltimore County...

Here’s the deal. I am wondering how much the race of the teacher in the (now viral) video affects how we view it. If she had been a person of color, would white viewers feel the same indignation on her behalf? I think teachers would ‘have her back’ no matter what, because the issue of low teacher pay vs. high administrative costs runs deep in the teaching community.

But I wonder if the public response would now be qualified.

 “She didn’t do as she was told.”
“She didn’t need to be so angry.”
“That wasn’t the time or the place for that kind of display.”
 “I have to question her devotion to teaching if all she cares about is the money.”

Of course I can’t prove that changing the race of the speaker would have produced this response. But I have seen enough examples of white people’s discomfort with people of color speaking out (see “angry black women”, for instance) to be reasonably certain that the very same words coming out of a different mouth would be lauded less, and questioned more.

This didn’t happen in Howard County. And with the change in our school system, I don’t think it will, for a variety of reasons. But it made me wonder about the underlying (and often unconscious) bias that many of us have.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Community Reads

Two recommended reads for today:

Once seniors are too old to drive, our transportation system totally fails them

How ‘Not in My Backyard’ Became ‘Not in My Neighborhood’

The first is from 2015 and rather long, but it still has some lessons for us in car-bound Columbia. If you make it to the end you’ll find that the offer is recommending a service for sensiors that sounds an awful lot like NeighborRide.

The second outlines the evolution of how homeowners have come to view a sense of legal ownership of the areas surrounding their homes. I found it both informative and fascinating. See if you can see parallels to how we live in Howard County.

In closing, I am going out in a limb and making the assumption that none of my readers were the ones heaping verbal abuse on the school system for declaring a two hour delay yesterday morning. There was plenty of slipping and sliding even with two hours to bring the temperature up. Whether we agree with their decisions or not, I hope we understand how difficult that job is and their intent truly is to get it right for as many people as possible.

Sermon over. Have a great day, and met me know what you think of either of both of the above articles.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

It’s Easy for Them

Welcome to “I don’t feel like it” Tuesday. You’d think that a two hour delay would have produced something deep and/or eloquent, but it has not.

Meanwhile, I stumbled upon an interesting conversation on Twitter last night that I thought was worth sharing. It started with this statement:

Something I wish more people would realise is how alienating it is to be poor/broke when you have financially stable/comfortable friends.

Then, the following separate conversation took place:

Why you tweet my life like that?

     Living in Howard county is all the experience you need for this one.

Like sh** though! Friends going to Columbia mall every weekend to shop and go out to eat and the movies and I only had money for the movie. Meanwhile they had their parents credit card.

     Smh but you not suppose to worry about that, bullsh**. why wouldn't I worry about me being the only one not having fun. we all running the same race but we don't start in the same places.

And it’s easy for them to say cause if they don’t have it they can call mommy and daddy. Which is fine but we all don’t have it like that. Gotta be humble smh.

     Yea and you can't blame nobody cause that's not fair either Smhh sh** hard out here.

Yup just gotta take it for what it is and try to make your own way.

And there you have it, folks. An update from the haves vs havenots in our community.

Living in Howard county is all the experience you need for this one.

We all learn lessons as we grow up about who has money and who doesn’t. That’s nothing new. But there’s a stark divide in Howard County that is shaping our young people’s concept of themselves and the world, and that shapes many of our community discussions as well. When we talk about who “deserves” to live here, for instance, and when family income continues to be linked to where you buy your house and whether that buys your children access to the “good” schools.

Our children see this. They are not oblivious. The innocence of childhood does not blind one to the difference between the kids who have expensive winter gear and those who are shivering in thin, out of season items. They know.

How do we talk about this with our children? I really think we must. Ignoring it is saying it is taboo, and then another generation grows up feeling it is an immovable divide. There are so many ways we are separated from each other today. We’re due for some consciousness-raising on this issue in Howard County.

Talk to your kids. Ask them what they think.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Picture This

The director of the high school musical theatre production gave a speech at Saturday’s parent meeting that was worth saving. And sharing. It was about photographs and video recordings during live performances.

There is a legal aspect, of course. The school does not have license for any recording or sharing of those recordings. Any school found in violation could be subject to legal action. It could be difficult to get the rights to perform future productions. But her point was far deeper than the legal considerations.

She talked about mindfulness and of the joy of live theatre being completely in the moment. The students have worked so long to get to that point, and they are pouring their all into that particular performance. It is our gift to them to be fully present in that moment, and to receive that gift. Holding up electronic devices to “capture” that moment changes and dilutes that gift. It also (negatively) affects the experience of those around you in the theater.

There are many times in life these days when we can switch on a device and consume electronic content such as Netflix, she said. Live theatre is different. As often as we bemoan how our teens are glued to their devices, why would we push away a moment of pure experience by insisting on documenting it electronically? We must be the example for our children that there are some things so important in life that we will not diminish them with phones and iPads and video cameras.

If you want to keep this performance forever, she suggested, come see the play four times and keep it forever in your heart. It is not our right as parents to make a video record of our children’s lives. It is our right, no, our privilege, to be there. To be present.

I don’t know how many times she has given this speech. I do know that, by the time she had finished, I wished that I had recorded the whole thing so I could share it with the world. But that would have been missing the point.

I’ll just have to carry it in my heart.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

What’s Up?

I overslept. I normally wake up around five am and get to work on the blog. I awoke at seven thirty this morning and I seem to have slept right through the window of opportunity that allows my brain to do this crazy thing that I do each morning.

Here are a few snippets to think about today.

Lisa Markovitz of The People’s Voice notes the following:

Hoco locals - take a look at Council Resolution 10 introduced by the new chair, Sigaty. Some procedural changes are good but it eliminates the 5 minute testimony allowance for a group representative.  #hocopolitics

Len Foxwell, Chief off Staff for State Comptroller Peter Franchot, has written a piece for the Maryland Daily Record responding to an earlier commentary criticizing Mr. Franchot’s craft beer reform initiative. I’m generally in favor of this initiative, but something about Mr. Foxwell’s piece rubbed me the wrong way. It will surely cause those who are already convinced of the merits of this reform to clap each other on the back and exclaim, “you go, dude!”  But I’m not sure it will help win over others outside that inner circle.

Just my two cents. Yes, this commentary may be behind a paywall. This might be a good time to remind you about #subscriptionsforSam . Since the legislative session is about to begin, an investment in the Maryland Daily Record is truly invaluable for keeping track of what is going on in Annapolis.

Councilwoman Jen Terrasa has declared her intent to run for the House of Delegates.

Yesterday, after 24 years of dedication and service to the constituents of District 13, Delegate Frank S. Turner announced his retirement.  After carefully considering my options, and in light of Delegate Turner’s decision not to seek another term, I am pleased to announce that I have decided to run for Maryland State Delegate for District 13. 

That piece of news is worthy of entire blog post all by itself. Rest assured that it’s already in the works.

Enjoy your Sunday. I’ll be ‘back at it’ at the usual time tomorrow morning.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Old Hickory vs. New Hickory

Plans for updating the Hickory Ridge Village Center are back in the news again.

Friend and local blogger Harry Schwarz shared his testimony with me and I’m going to share it here to kick off some discussion. I must say that his perspective is not the one that I see most vocally espoused on social media. That doesn’t mean it is without merit, however. He raises some issues that are worth looking into.

Testimony to the Howard County Planning Board Hickory Ridge Village Center (ZB1119M) January 4, 2018

My name is Harry Schwarz, from 11668 Dark Fire Way, in the Clary’s Forest Neighborhood of Hickory Ridge. I also blog at I support the Kimco proposal. The people opposed to it want to keep things as they are, without acknowledging the changing world that we must grow into. They want to allow no growth, even as Howard County added 4,700 residents just last year (according to DPZ). Furthermore, the county is expected to grow by 14% between 2010 and 2035, an increase of about 40,000 people. We can create more suburban sprawl, eat up more of our open spaces, build more highways, and ignore environmental impacts, or we can implement smart growth and meet the challenge of more people by accommodating them in an ecologically sound way. I like to think that we are forward looking people in Howard County.

Increased densities in appropriate locations throughout Columbia, such as the Crescent and the Village Centers, is smart growth for Hickory Ridge, for Columbia, and for Howard County as a whole. Kimco’s proposal helps assure the continued viability of our community by providing additional choices of where to live, how to get around, and how to interact with the people around us. It improves the fiscal health of the County by reducing the need to duplicate infrastructure elsewhere and making efficient use of present capacity. Putting housing on land that currently serves as a parking lot helps reduce our consumption of land elsewhere and allows us to protect valuable open space, farmland, and habitat. Expanded transportation options become possible with higher ridership.

Columbia has always been a model of smart growth. From the beginning, it has been committed to creating “complete neighborhoods” by integrating multiple uses within close walking distance in order to accommodate people’s varying needs. By increasing the density of neighborhoods, Columbia retained more of our land for open space. Mixed land use and varying density are the cornerstones of smart growth. Kimco is offering a great place to live, with all the amenities we are used to, and the option to walk, dive, or ride transit.

 Kimco’s proposal serves the interests of Columbia and Howard County for smart growth. I urge your support.

 W. Harry Schwarz

Mr. Schwarz also envisioned what life would be life in a transformed Village Center in an earlier blog post. It’s a fun read, especially because it’s not the typical gloom and doom prediction.

I know this is a topic about which many feel quite impassioned. A reminder that I’m sharing Mr. Schwarz’s testimony not as an endorsement but rather as a means to beginning a discussion.

You can share your comments on the blog’s Facebook page.

Friday, January 5, 2018


True confession time: I am afraid of the cold. Extreme cold, that is. Not your ordinary, run of the mill, seasonal winter chill. But the thought of going out in bitter cold temperatures actually stirs up feelings of legitimate fear inside me. Today as I contemplate bundling up and going to work, I feel a sense of dread.

Most of us have had brushes with serious cold during our lives. For me it was that day in the second grade when we stood at the bus stop in a snowstorm and the bus didn’t come. Or it was late. I can’t remember. I just remember clutching my book bag as I tried not to cry in front of the bigger kids. Then there was the time my dad forgot to pick me up after a rehearsal, that night in New Haven when I couldn’t get a cab to come pick me up, the winter my landlord took his sweet time fixing our broken heating system.

The memory of being that cold stays with you. And, perhaps now that I am older, I am more prone to avoidance. I read recommendations on how to wear layers, drink warm drinks, and so on. A little voice inside me says, “Yes, you do that. I’m staying under my blanket.”

But life goes on. People need to go to work. And children need to go to school. It’s not realistic for life to come to a complete standstill, I tell myself. Where’s your sense of adventure? Wouldn’t today be a good day to put out trays of water with the students and see how fast they freeze? And indoor recess can mean a good old fashioned dance party and marching around the room with rhythm instruments.

Here’s the thing. My school will have heat. And my students will come to school appropriately dressed, well fed. Others are not so lucky. Students in many Baltimore City Schools are suffering due to lack of heat. And here in Howard County we have students without adequate winter clothing. Last night Vicky Cutroneo, president of the PTA Council of Howard County, started an online conversation by sharing this concern:

How can we get coats/gloves/hats to the students who need them most efficiently ?  Some schools have immediate overwhelming need and students can’t wait for a coat collection drive.

What followed was conversation amongst concerned parents and teachers about what can be done, what is already being done, and what actions would be the most practical and effective. By the way, a related theme was the amazement that so many items of winter clothing end up in the lost and found. Get out your permanent marker and label everything, people. It is the clothing equivalent of micro-chipping your pet. Or, as I used to tell parents, “You don’t need to label all your child’s belongings. Only the ones you ever want to see again.”

Keep warm today. Wear layers. Drink warm drinks. Bundle up your children. Try to find within yourself a sense of adventure and a spirit of fun. And, if you can, find a way to help someone else make it through this miserable winter cold.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Snow Day Shoutouts

First of all: Happy New Year! I don’t believe I remembered to pass along my good wishes to you, my loyal readers. May it be a good one, full of love, joy, meaningful work and just enough time to get out there and make “some good trouble” in the community to make our world a better place.

I was briefly stunned by the announcement that schools are closed today. Yesterday was my first day back. I didn’t even have time to adjust to the old workday routine! In a way I am grateful, because the brutally cold temperatures make it impossible to get the kind of outdoor play that young children so desperately need. In a perfect world all schools will have large and amply-equipped indoor playgrounds. Just a thought.

Happy Four Year Anniversary to Scott E’s Blog! He combined his affinity for stats and an interest in local politics with a zest for social media and created something new with his Social Media Scorecards for local candidates. I imagine he’s getting pretty excited with the next election cycle gearing up. A few years ago Scott helped me promote a contest I was having to generate interest in the annual Wilde Lake Jazz Concert.

Speaking of contests, when are you going to enter my caption contest? Deadline is January 5th at midnight! Prize is a $25.00 gift certificate to the Second Chance Saloon. How hard can it be?


A very happy eighteenth birthday to the daughter of local blogger/podcaster Candace Dodson Reed. Those of us who are lucky enough to know Candace have been following her daughter’s many accomplishments over the years. I feel confident in saying that she is destined for great things. Look out, world!

A hearty HoCo Holler to the folks on Clarksville Happenings who worked together to help get two adventurous dogs home last night before the storm.

Per a neighbor, A Dalmatian and boxer type dog have been seen running through the neighborhood of Simpson woods along meadow wood way. Is anyone missing their dogs??? It’s going to be very cold tonight. Hoping we can get these dogs home.

As much as I bemoan the misuse of social media for online political smears and general, all-around meanness, it’s this kind of “it takes a village” cooperation that just restores my faith in human nature. Three cheers to everyone involved for their tail-wagging goodness.

Finally, three (local) things I am grateful for today: my daughter’s school, the Oakland Mills Community Association, and the Howard County Libraries. Who is on your local list?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A New Year’s Eve Tragedy

I’m going to do two things today that I generally try to limit as much as possible. The first is copy and paste. And the second is to ask for money. For your consideration:

On the early morning of January 1, 2018, we experienced a New Year that we will never forget. Lawrence Aaron III attended a NYE party in Severn, MD with his friends and was struck in the back by a stray bullet fired from an unidentified party goer. The bullet hit Lawrence in the thoracic spine and has resulted in paralysis from the waist down.

Our family is devastated, but truly thankful for God’s mercy on Lawrence’s life. Whether you know him as Lawrence, Larry, L, or Lo – we can all agree that the bravery and strength of this man is unmatched. Lawrence is a 19-year-old from Columbia, MD with an extremely bright future ahead of him.

As an Oakland Mills High School graduate, Lawrence was a standout student athlete in football earning him 1st Team All Howard County Honors and 2nd Team All-Metro Honors. He helped lead his team to one of the best records in the county in football resulting in a full athletic scholarship to Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. Lawrence also excelled on the basketball court helping to lead the Scorpions to a state championship and on the baseball field exhibiting the qualities of a well-rounded student athlete.

Lawrence is currently a sophomore at Marshall where he has excelled in the classroom and made lifelong friends. He is a defensive tackle for The Thundering Herd, who recently won the Gildan New Mexico Bowl Game on December 16, 2017. During his time at Marshall he has shown growth as he strives to achieve his life-long goals.

If you know Lawrence, you know that he has always had a large group of personal cheerleaders behind him. From his little league sports games to the Howard County fields and courts, and more recently the Joan C. Edwards stadium, his support system has never failed at cheering him on. During this difficult time, we will continue to be his biggest fans and cheer him on. We encourage all to join our support team. Donations will be used for medical and living expenses and creating a living environment which will accommodate Lawrence’s current and future conditions.

The family thanks all those that have reached out through prayers, calls, text messages and visits to see him. We understand that this will be a journey as we all come together to provide endless support, love, and care for Lawrence throughout his recovery. Any support during this difficult time is greatly appreciated.


The Family of Lawrence Aaron III

(From the Go Fund Me page established by the family)

For the last twenty four hours I have read heartfelt posts from one of Mr. Aaron’s former teachers and the mother of an OMHS classmate. His story should be one of endless possibility. Now he faces challenges most of us cannot even imagine.

I know many many of us are tapped out from holiday spending and/or end of year charitable giving. If you are able, share a little to help this young man and his family. He needs more cheerleaders than ever right now.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


On December 24th, County Councilman  (and candidate for County Executive) Calvin Ball posted a photograph of himself with his family with the following message:

 From our family to yours . . . May this holiday season be full of love, laughter and hope.

This post received 2000 “Likes”, 119 comments,  and 6 shares.

On the same day, County Executive Allan Kittleman posted a photograph of himself with his family with this message:

From our family to yours, Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2018.

This post received 174 “Likes”, 19 comments, and 0 shares.

But those aren’t the numbers I’m interested in. The number I care about is 2.

Two posts on Dr. Ball’s virtual holiday card were overwhelming negative. Both from the same person, who apparently decided he needed to launch a political attack smack in the middle of holiday wishes. It’s fine that this man holds different opinions than an elected official. Attacking him, even using coarse language to do so, in a post meant to celebrate the season and community goodwill? Pretty lame, if you ask me.

I quickly checked to see if anyone had posted a similar attack on Mr. Kittleman’s holiday message. Nope. Surely there are plenty of folks out there who disagree strongly with the County Executive’s politcs or decisions he has made while in office. I guess no one made the choice to sully a well-meaning holiday wish with political nastiness. That’s good to know.

So this fellow who decided to choose this particular moment to go after Councilman Ball has a business right here in Howard County. It looks to have more than local customers, reaching out to a multi-state, regional audience. I wonder what those present and potential clients would think of  his ‘nastygrams’ on an elected official’s holiday card?


Blogger Susan Garber, in her recent post on Howard County predictions for 2018, advised local candidates to stay local and steer clear of partisan politics. On its face, that seems reasonable enough. But when posting a picture of yourself with your family is considered fair game for smear and invective? I’d say that horse has already left the barn.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Rare and Delicious

The teen had evening plans; my husband did not have a gig. So there we were, on New Year’s Eve, just the two of us. We dropped off the kids at the movie theater and looked at each other. We’re not big partiers, as you may have suspected. We’re pretty much homebodies in the face of most end of the year social offerings.

My husband had an idea.

“Why don’t we go to the Double T Diner and have dessert?” he suggested. “You’re always saying we should do that, and we never have.”

“Let’s do it!”

And so that is how we ended up on Route 40 last night at around seven pm. As we pulled in to the Double T I marveled at the changes to the surrounding landscape. It’s almost as though someone installed a “shopping center in a box” over there. The old diner looks a bit weary in the face of the gleaming lights of all the new eating establishments next door: Glory Days, CafĂ© Bene, River House Pizza, Sizzle Kebab, Zen Garden...

But, despite looking like the little place that time forgot, the old diner had plenty of patrons on the last night of the year. A sign by the door announced that they'd be closing at 8:20. Only half of the restaurant was open. The dining room was still decorated for Christmas, and the wait staff were wearing New Year’s Eve tiaras. Here and there one could see what looked like a variety of “Elf on a Shelf” dolls hanging from the ceiling. It gave a vaguely “Paper Moon” sort of quirky feel to the otherwise staid atmosphere.

I had a chance last night to order dessert. I passed the dazzling display of sugary delights. I considered the suggestions on the menu, especially one that included apple pie, pecan pie, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. And then I ordered dinner. I just wanted dinner. A good old diner Greek- inspired chicken sandwich with chicken noodle soup. And when I had finished eating I was too full for dessert.

Of course.

Does anyone ever have room for dessert at the Double T? They must, or else why would they keep making them? While we were there the someone on the wait staff announced, “We have a Birthday in the room tonight, folks!” All conversation ceased as an enormous slice of cake was borne to the table and we all sang happy birthday for a rather daunted little boy.

In some fast casual chain restaurants one endures the compulsory parade of waiters singing a happy clappy birthday song. Most of us fervently wish it will never happen to us. This was different. Maybe because it was New Year’s  Eve, maybe because it was the little old diner that time forgot. Everyone joined in. Everyone was engaged in the moment. I had a feeling of community, of shared experience.

I hope you enjoyed your New Year’s Eve celebration. Mine was simple. The very best part was the chance to spend some time alone with my husband and engage in good conversation. Not about work, or the to-do list, or parental concerns. About hopes and dreams and personal goals. About ideas. Such a rare and delicious treat.

Possibly even more delicious than the (as yet untasted) desserts in the glass case at the Double T.