Monday, October 15, 2018

Losing Myself

I put out a rather strange request on the Internet over the weekend.

Are there any good places in OM to collect buckeyes aka horse chestnuts?

HoCo local (and sometime blogger) Ian Kennedy made this suggestion:

I don't know of any in Oakland Mills, but there are several trees along Wilde Lake near the boat house and barn.

So I went over there yesterday afternoon and I didn’t get very far because the lay of the land looked different to me. I think I located what Ian referenced as the boathouse, but where was the barn? I’ve certainly seen it before but suddenly I felt like something had changed and I didn’t  know where I was going.

Alas, I was not feeling the joy of discovery at that very moment and I gave up and went home. It had already been a long day for me.

So here’s my question. Has anything changed over there in the last several years that would make that left hand side of the road look different to me? Construction? Landscaping? Or have I just forgotten?
I haven’t driven by in quite a while.

Very likely I would have found what I was looking for had I gone a bit further down the road. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in unfamiliar territory. If I’d had my wits about me I would have popped over to take a look at that McMansionesque house I wrote about recently.

Has this ever happened to you? When you go to a place that you feel should be familiar but for some reason it has a feeling of the unknown?

While I have you here—do you know of any good places I can find buckeyes?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

I’ve been wondering if any folks from Maple Lawn were startled to hear the current County Executive make this statement in the HoCoBiz debate:

When I was on the zoning board, I voted against Maple Lawn. We have to increase our commercial tax base, not more residential density. 

Upon reading the tweet one respondent suggested that Kittleman might have alienated numerous voters from the Maple Lawn community.

Not sure this was a good choice of tweets to “promote.” Odd to be bragging about voting against a couple hundred more high six figure and millionaire families in your county. I’d delete this if I were you.

It does feel a bit like Dad getting up at a big family event and revealing he never really wanted you.

But wait, Maple Lawn. Lest you feel unwanted and unloved, it turns out there’s more to this story. Here’s Mr. Kittleman from 2014:

I was on the County Council when Maple Lawn was first planned. We had the longest Zoning Board hearing in the history of Howard County when it was approved. It’s become such a great project because it has tremendous location, but it also has tremendous residential. It’s clearly a place that’s a mixed use development in Maryland that you can see works. It’s got everything going for it. - - Allan Kittleman

Let me get this straight. He was against it before he was for it before he was against it again. Okay. We all change our minds, right? But why publicize it in this way as a talking point in a campaign debate?

That part is easy. The current tide of public opinion has turned against development. It looks good to be able to say it. 

But that’s not exactly the same thing as telling the whole truth, now is it? 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Loose Ends

A bit of this and that this morning.

Here’s a great article about the importance of pronouncing students’ names correctly. I’ll be writing more about this soon. H/T to BOE candidate Robert Miller for noticing the hcpss mention in this piece.

Interesting conversation on Twitter which begins with County Executive Allan Kittleman saying this:

Kittleman: when I was on the zoning board, I voted against Maple Lawn. We have to increase our commercial tax base, not more residential density. #HoCoBiz Debate

Up this weekend:

Opus, in Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. I did decide to get a ticket to see what all the buzz is about. Free tickets (and more information) available here.

Blogger Harry Schwarz writes about the North side of Blandair Park. It looks like there will be a children’s garden and a nature park after all.

Local podcast Elevate Maryland is taking a bit of a break but intend to be back soon. If you’ve missed any back episodes, now would be the ideal time to catch up.

And now, on to Friday. I’ll see you all tomorrow after a good night’s sleep.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


In one of my favorite Phineas and Ferb moments, Mom Lindana walks by one of their unusual creations and says, “I’ll never understand public art.”

Do you understand public art? Is it meant to be “understood”? Do you know that Howard County hosts a County-side display of public art each year?

For public ARTsites in Howard, all the pieces are in place  Katie V, Jones, HoCo Times

There are twelve ARTsites around the county. I wonder if anyone will take it upon themselves to see them all? I’ve already seen the one at Clarksville Commons. It is entitled Cube in Motion by Hanna Jubran. As I left the Maker Faire at Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods I thought I caught sight of another.

I’m a firm believer that the arts enrich our communities. There are probably folks who think they are a complete waste of time. Or perhaps that the arts are fine as long as someone else pays for them. But to me the arts are an expression of the human spirit,  an essential part of who we are.

Although I was raised in a family that made regular trips to art museums, I’ve always been more of a performing arts person. I think that is possibly because visual art is so difficult for me. I am the art class equivalent of the kids who felt they were never any good at singing. It is only through my education and work as an early childhood teacher that I have come to realize that art is for everyone, and that the process of creation is open to all. We are all artists. 

I encourage you to go around town and see all twelve of this year’s sculptures. Look at them in a spirit if creation and play. Or use the engineering part of your brain to consider how they were constructed and/or what you might have done differently. If you like to take photographs, add yourself to the art by creating your own interpretation of the piece through photography. If you lean towards the verbal, write a poem about one. 

Busy? Snap a pic, compose a tweet.

I’ll bet there are more ways to interact with public art that I just haven’t thought of yet. If anyone decides to go on a quest to see all twelve this year, let me know.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Parade is Coming!

I rarely print press releases “as is” but this is just too cool not to share. Thanks, as always, to CA’s David Greisman for keeping me in the loop.

Veterans Day parade and ceremony in Downtown Columbia on November 11

The Howard County community is invited to honor those actively serving in the U.S. armed forces and the more than 20,000 veterans who call Howard County home at a Veterans Day parade and ceremony on Sunday, November 11 in Downtown Columbia.

The parade will begin at 9:30am, starting at Merriweather Drive and continuing along Little Patuxent Parkway headed toward the Downtown Columbia Lakefront.

A ceremony will follow at 10:45am at the Downtown Columbia Lakefront, featuring comments from Howard County Veterans Foundation President Robert Gillette, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, and Columbia Association President/CEO Milton W. Matthews.

There will also be music by a local high school band, performances by the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts’ Young Columbians, and Color Guard provided by Atholton High School’s JROTC.

The event will feature family-friendly activities, including a card-making station for troops and the opportunity to explore vintage military vehicles.

Hot chocolate, coffee and bakery items will be provided for free by event sponsors Clyde’s of Columbia and Whole Foods Market. Additional food can be purchased from nearby food trucks. Flags will be provided to kids by Columbia Association.

The event is organized by the Veterans Day Parade Committee, the Howard County Veterans Foundation, the Howard County Office of Veterans and Military Families, the Howard County Government, the Howard Hughes Corporation, and Columbia Association.


Reading this put me in mind of a post of mine from 2016 about the Fourth of July, when social media brought out a conversation about flags and parades in Downtown Columbia.

I sure hope those folks will turn out for this Veterans Day parade.

My second thought was of last year’s Veterans Day Parade in Old Ellicott City and how perplexingly white it appeared to be, considering the statistics for military service.

I wrote:

So it’s a relatively new event and next year offers possibilities of improvement. That’s good to hear. Maybe our community can find a way for this parade to bring more people together so that we are honoring and supporting veterans in a way that shows the reality of who we are as a county.

It looks like that’s exactly what will be happening in Downtown Columbia this year.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Going Blue

Today the blog is going blue to honor the life of Grace McComas.

Learn more about Grace and Grace’s Law.

Spread kindness today.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Pleasant Surprise

It seems that a lot of my my life these days involves grabbing dinner with my daughter before a choral rehearsal. This is how I happened to be at YouPizza in Clarksville last week. You may recall I was not entirely convinced by this establishment after my first visit, largely because of this:

With all the problems we have in our society right now around rest rooms, this is not even remotely amusing. This pizza is fine. You can get similar pizza elsewhere in town without being insulted by the restroom. Just a thought. (“The New Market”, July 28, 2017)

Well, last week’s visit was darned near perfect. My daughter and I agreed that of all the local pizza places based on this particular model, YouPizza is the best. And we both felt that was due to how good the pizza crust is. 

As I headed back to the rest room to wash my hands I girded myself for the inevitable annoyance. Instead:

I don’t know when this happened but I’d like to say thanks. YouPizza deserves to be known for its
food, not its bathrooms. 

So, a tip of the hat to the folks at YouPizza. Oh, and if you haven’t tried them, you should. See what you think.

Sunday, October 7, 2018


This is our little plot of land, our piece of earth that we tend and till. In the Spring we cleared it and planted flowers to attract bees and butterflies. Last week on Community Day we cleared it yet again and planted...


Farmer Joe brought us a box filled with what looked like sticks. But they were blackberry plants. 

Growing Blackberries from Cuttings Blackberries can be propagated through leafy stem cuttings as well as root cuttings. If you want to propagate lots of plants, leafy stem cuttings are probably the best way to go. This is usually accomplished while the cane is still firm and succulent. You’ll want to take about 4-6 inches of the cane stems. These should be placed in a moist peat/sand mix, sticking them in a couple inches deep.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Propagating Blackberries – Rooting Blackberries From Cuttings

It was such an odd feeling to yank out all the old growth, remove rocks, break up soil, and then plant what felt like sticks, with only a bit of green showing to hint at life. The picture above is of our work completed.

It doesn’t look like much.

Today I feel like that barren and seemingly empty garden. I feel that the work of those who are good has come to naught. What good is the love and care and toil if our land is left almost naked, filled with nothing but sticks? 

I’m struggling. 

I think of the saying (rooted in a Greek poem):

They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds.

I think of the closing song from Candide:

We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.

It doesn’t help.

The act of gardening holds the promise of new life but today I feel death. I feel the life force of women draining out. Women who have been damaged and harassed and silenced and betrayed. Women who have fought for the truth for themselves and their sisters. And now they—we—are cut down and broken and expected to somehow take root and rise up again.

But today we are sticks. You can barely see us. You can hardly imagine that our dreams will ever bear fruit.

Saturday, October 6, 2018


Have you ever had an experience where you are listening in to someone else’s conversation and then you realize they are talking about you? 


I had a comparable experience on Twitter this morning while following a thread about the Perkins Transformation Plan in Baltimore. It started out like any other live tweeting of a civic event.

At the Perkins Transformation Plan meeting to hear more about Perkins/Old Town/Summerset plans

.@MayorPugh50 says that Baltimore is going to make sure the residents can stay. She points out that you can go to school at the new City Springs, and then go to community college for free, and then Morgan for free. Keep people in the city.

And then, a comment.

She thinks if we make Baltimore look like Columbia, people will want to stay here. Emblematic of her lack of vision.

And another.

I lived in Columbia for a brief time. I left to move to the City.


I am not always a big fan of Pugh, but this seems like a pretty big win for Baltimore. I hope residents don't get displaced, but this is not going to get us anywhere close to the suburban hellscape that is Columbia.

Wait a minute, now. Them’s fightin’ words!

Although Columbia now has better bike infrastructure than Baltimore, so...

Columbia really isn't that bad.

Looking better every day. Like I said, they’re building bike infrastructure, we’re tearing it out.

Well. That’ll teach me not to eavesdrop. Maybe.

So, from what I can tell, some people think that Mayor Pugh is using a TIF to make Baltimore more like Columbia, which is possibly rather ironic because we know some folks think that Howard Hughes is using a TIF to make Columbia more like Baltimore.

My head hurts.

Fear not, friends, the good news from all this is that the bike people will save us.

Friday, October 5, 2018

More in the Mills

If you’re coming over to Oakland Mills on Saturday for the Fall Festival, it would be an idea time to visit Blandair Park.

Here’s a comprehensive informational piece on the park put together by HoCo blogger Harry Schwarz. Not only will it tell  you what’s  there now, it’s also a useful source of what in the works for the future.

Playgrounds for all ages at Blandair Regional Park, Columbia

My first order of business this weekend involves sleeping well past my weekday morning wake up time. After that, there’s the Fair on Saturday and the Mini Maker Faire at the Chrysalis on Sunday.

Have a great Friday doing what you love. It’s impossible not to.

Thursday, October 4, 2018


It was a lovely night at Clarksville Commons.

Everything was prepared and ready to go.

As night fell, the bonfire came alive.

The homecoming week bonfire has long been a tradition at River Hill High School. It has recently become a joint venture with the folks at Clarksville Commons. I continue to be impressed with how they are inviting community events into that space. 

Last night it was buzzing with teens and their families. Someone was handing out free glow necklaces in River Hill Blue. There was music. The Common Kitchen opened its folding doors to the evening and patrons were happily coming and going with Indian food, Egyptian food, ice cream from Scoop and Paddle, and snacks from Trifecto. Others chose You Pizza. Some parents headed upstairs to Food Plenty to give their teens some space.

It struck me that this was exactly the kind of event to show off what Clarksville Commons strives to be. It feels more like a Village Center than the actual Village Center. And that’s pretty deliberate, I think. They are making the  kinds of choices that put them at the heart of the River Hill/Clarksville community.

A few things made me smile. One was the fellow who passed by our table in the crowd and said, “Dude! There’s nobody here!” (Remember being a teenager? “Where is everybody?”) Another was the man who lay flat on his back on the cobblestones with his young son to watch the sparks from the bonfire fly up to the sky.

As we left, we spotted a small stream of teenagers heading over with food from Wendy’s. Sometimes when you’re a teenager you just want burgers and fries.

A shout out to the River Hill Parents who organized the event and to Clarksville Commons for hosting it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Festival Facts

This Saturday is the Oakland Mills Fall Festival. This year we are celebrating the 50th Birthday Of our Village. Throughout the years it has been an international festival and a cultural arts festival but, whatever the name, it has been an annual source of community fun. There will be live music, food, vendors, kids’ activities, and the whole thing will kick off with a performance by the Oakland Mills High School Band.

There’s a lot going on in Oakland Mills right now. Have you taken a walk across the newly updated pedestrian bridge that connects us to Downtown? Or have you explored the most recent updates to Blandair Park? I’m guessing that you’ll be popping into my neighborhood more frequently once the new international market opens up. I know I’ll be bumping in to you once the Dunkin Donuts opens up...

A special shoutout to Sandy Cederbaum, our Village Manager, and Brigitta Warren (special events coordinator) for all the work they put into the Festival every year. Many thanks, too, to OMCA Village Board Chair Jonathan Edelson and the entire board for everything they do to foster a vibrant and welcoming community in Oakland Mills.

I hope I’ll see you this weekend. The fun starts at 11 am.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Them’s the Rules

A few thoughts about the Board of Ed race and the rules. I am increasingly wary of how we apply them.

It all depends. If we like a candidate, and we see misplaced campaign signs, we are more apt to say they were placed by over-zealous volunteers who don’t understand the rules. If we don’t like the candidate, we say it is a sign that this candidate thinks they are above the law and cannot be trusted. This is not exactly an even-handed application of campaign law.

If the candidate belongs to our political party, we say we find it important to know their values and have no difficulty with seeing open campaign support from that party. If the candidate is from a political party we dislike we are quick to point out the outrageousness of their being supported by a political party. They got campaign help, so that must mean they are surely taking money and that their party means to take over the Board of Education

Until very recently, it was my understanding that correct placing of political signs and running a non partisan race were the rules that all BOE candidates were required to follow. And this meant that if a candidate didn’t follow those rules, they were showing disrespect for the process. And that troubled me. I don’t want anyone on the BOE who thinks that the rules don’t apply to them.

What I have learned over the last few months is that no one can point me to the irrefutable truth of why the BOE race is non-partisan and what that means for candidates. It may very well be as simple as allowing independents to vote for BOE candidates is the Maryland primaries. To be clear, the fact that there isn’t one Really Good Explanation ticks me off. There should be.

I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my entire way of looking at a non-partisan race is something that I assumed, based on my own reasoning of why there should be a non-partisan race in the first place. It’s very idealistic, and some think it’s naive. Perhaps so.

I still think I am correct in wanting to avoid a board member who thinks they are above the rules. But I am less and less certain as to whether these two particular rules are useful yardsticks by which to measure this. Why? Because they are applied so haphazardly and based very often on who we like and who we don’t.

Do me a favor. Don’t tell me why your candidate doesn’t have to follow the rules while skewering
the other folks for violating those same rules. It doesn’t make me like your candidate any better, and
all it does is render those rules meaningless.

And now: back to the issues.

Monday, October 1, 2018

A Very Small Local Story

I’m having a serious case of the Mondays.

As I cast about in my mind for topics, it seems that I have written about them all before.

I’m having a hard time thinking beyond what is happening with Brett Kavanaugh and the future of the Supreme Court.

Those interesting local stories just aren’t leaping out at me. Well, maybe one.

Friday night my husband had a craving for bangers and mash so we headed to Union Jack’s. I hadn’t been there for quite a while. It was lovely weather, and early enough to be light outside. Their outdoor patio was bustling with life. Mostly young people. A few families. There was live music. I had a feeling of, “Oh, this is where the young folks are going on Friday nights!” Followed by, “Look—young folks!”

It had a lively ‘downtown’ vibe. Which I wouldn’t have glimpsed if we hadn’t gone someplace we don’t usually go. We sat inside, but the doors were all open so we could still hear a bit of the outdoor music.

I should take a moment to mention that we had excellent service, the food was great, and I felt that the value was good for what we got. Their menu has expanded since the last time I was there, and I had more to chose from.

But this is not a restaurant review. It’s more of a community review. Things are happening on a Friday night in Downtown Columbia. You may have already known that. You may be a part of it all. For me, it was a positive note at the end of a rough week.