Wednesday, May 22, 2019


I’m having mixed feelings about senior awards assemblies this morning. Someone posted this yesterday and it resonates with me.

I attended my daughter’s Senior Awards Night last night. There was plenty to celebrate. And yet I feel uneasy about what we say to the students who are uncelebrated. If this is somehow a night for everyone, how do we acknowledge the contributions of the unsung and unnoticed?

I’m not saying that everyone should get a prize. I do think that many students are fighting battles that we know nothing about: mental health, sexual identity, dysfunctional home lives, to mention a few. Many hold the community together simply by being themselves: kind, funny, accepting. How do we create a high school community where those students can feel that they have been known and loved  and honored? Where they can celebrate the exceptional accomplishments of peers because  they know that they themselves have been valued throughout their high school years?

Some students and families live for those awards nights. Many sacrifices have been made to get to that moment. I do not discount that. But I think we do everyone a disservice if we impart they impression that life is all about who wins the prizes. A life where one must always be better than someone else to be happy will be fueled by endless competition, more coffee, more Red Bull, less sleep, more alcohol, more sacrificing of relationships in order to get ahead.

Surely we can give our young people a better prize than that.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Not Gonna Take It

On Saturday evening, around dinner time, my daughter and were headed to Sam’s Mart to buy a couple of lottery tickets and then meant to go from there to Mission Barbecue. We turned onto Stevens Forest Road from Whitacre and immediately had to pull over.

Police cars, paramedics, and a fire truck were headed towards us and into the Sam’s Mart parking lot.   After they sped by we passed on the lottery tickets and headed to dinner.

Later we read the crime report released by the Police Department on Facebook, followed by the same old, same old racist dog whistles about Oakland Mills.

“That area”
“Wrong element”
“Loitering youths”
“Turning into Baltimore”
“Always had problems”

Then, something interesting happened. Residents of Oakland Mills started pushing back. I started seeing things like:

“I love ‘that area’”
“I feel safe here”
“Proud to send my kids to school in OM”
“So much great going on”
“amazing community building”

On Saturday night the same old haters came out strong and they met a resistance they probably weren’t expecting. Oakland Mills was representing. Yeah, we’re used to the trash talk but we just won’t take it lying down anymore. We know our community has challenges but we also know it’s awesome.

Several years back I was part of a core group that created a Facebook page called “Oakland Mills is Awesome”. We were frustrated by the steady flow of negativity about our Village when we knew how great it really was.

The page started as a virtual pep talk, if you will, highlighting events, accomplishments, and exceptional community members. Over time, more and more candidates to our village board brought with them that sense of pride and positivity. Board Chair Jonathan Edelson forged collaborative relationships to support Village schools. Sandy Cederbaum and other OMCA staff went above and beyond to connect residents with helpful information and needed resources.

Sunday morning my daughter and I were back at the Village Center to shop at the Farmers Market. Once we had loaded up on bread, pastries, bacon, strawberries, and sugar snap peas, we headed over to Sam’s Mart to finish what we had started the night before. Yep, lottery tickets.

Winning the lottery would be extremely gratifying.

Living in Oakland Mills?  Priceless.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Summer Arts Scene

I ran across this piece over the weekend and just had to share. From Maryland Theatre Guide:

News: Arts organizations announce schedule of summer events in downtown Columbia

Writer Carolyn Keleman fits the maximum amount of arts info possible into this piece. If you want to know what’s happening this summer, I’d recommend starting with this article. It also has a certain kind of stylishness that made me smile.

As frequent readers of the blog know, I don’t often make it out to public functions, but I did happen to be at this one, held at Cured/18th & 21st. Ms. Keleman described attendees as follows:

These folks – a few artists but mostly influential politicos and business executives – were there to hear representatives from local organizations preview the upcoming summer schedule of arts and cultural events in downtown Columbia.

Well, I dance with preschoolers at the Chrysalis. I guess that puts me in the artist category. I’m also one of the biggest fans of the Inner Arbor Trust/Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. It was fascinating to be in a room so clearly abuzz with so many different local arts ventures. There was a continued slide show running that highlighted upcoming summer events. It was pretty impressive. 

Howard County Tourism’s Art for All page might be a good place to start if you are looking for something to do.There’s a pretty good balance between ticketed events and free ones. Take a look.

Even if the event is free to you, don’t forget that means that businesses and other donors had to put forth sponsorships to make it happen. It’s gratifying to see the range of entities willing to associate themselves with supporting local arts institutions. County Executive Calvin Ball articulated a strong support for arts experiences in his opening remarks, saying that the arts should be a part of who we are as a community, and that the arts make us whole.

I couldn’t agree more.

Sunday, May 19, 2019


The kid (actually a legal adult, horrors!)  had a service gig at Sunrise Assisted Living in Hickory Ridge. It’s a cool thing called “Songs for Seniors” where music students share their talents with residents. I had some time to kill and the perfect plan.

I’d nip over to the Hawthorn Center in Hickory Ridge where the folks at Howard County Pride were having a donut sale fundraiser. I’d get one for myself and one for my musician. Perfect.

Did I GPS it? No. I thought I could get there on dead reckoning alone. I had a general idea of where I was going. 

I ended up turning on a road called Jerrys Drive, thinking it would cut through to where I was going. Holy mackerel. Not only did it not cut through, it turned out to be the craziest amalgamation of housing styles and land use choices I have seen in this area to date. You start out thinking you’re in Columbia but then it’s almost immediately apparent that you are in the Land of Outparcel. 

Yikes. Who knew what mysteries awaited me when I made that left turn off of Owen Brown Road? I have no criticism. I was fascinated. It’s amazing how you can move from total architectural control to “anything goes” in less than half a block. Perhaps I am just easily entertained. 

Well, I broke down and GPS’ed it to no avail. When I arrived at my destination what I saw was a community yard sale. I drove away sadly and landed at Mad City for some iced coffee and a snack. While I was there I glanced at social media posts for the event and realized that the Donut Sale was a part of that community yard sale. I had been so close! 


I went to the Howard County Pride website and made a donation instead. You can, too. From their website:

June 29, 2019

Join us for the first annual Howard County LGBTQ PRIDE festival!
Centennial Park
10000 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, MD 2104

In the meantime:
  • Take a drive down Jerrys Drive
  • Tell me the history of Jerrys Drive 
  • Tell me your story of getting lost in Columbia/HoCo

Saturday, May 18, 2019


Here’s an interesting business approach. Local realtor leads walks in Downtown Columbia to spur interest in Columbia living.

Do you love Columbia and already live here or want to?  Join me on any of the future walks through Columbia to see what makes living in Columbia so awesome! <3  Contact me today if I can help you or anyone you know... 

I’m a fan of Columbia living. I clicked the link.

Wait a minute.

These are walks led by Ned Tillman and Barbara Kellner, put on by the Columbia Association. Our enterprising realtor will tag along and use the time to chat up potential clients. This is somewhat akin to the business I wrote about the other day who sought to link up with Wine in the Woods to get more

I don’t know how I feel about this. On the one hand, it shows some creative thought and a desire to make connections. On the other hand, the thought of a realtor trying to work the crowd during a pleasure/educational walk around town makes me a bit squeamish. I suppose it’s all in how it’s done. And something tells me that Barbara Kellner would not endure commercial glad handers without comment.

If the realtor is also using this as an opportunity to become even more educated about Columbia, well, more power to him. But aren’t there special realtor tours for that? Am I wrong in assuming that the motivation here is to use a free public event to get access to “fresh blood”, as it were?

I welcome your opinions. 

Also, these tours are a wonderful opportunity for anyone. Both of the guides are experienced and extremely knowledgeable. If you are the kind of person who is regularly available Thursdays at ten am, tag along and learn something. Exploring Columbia on Foot tours began in April and will run through October. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Little Things

I’d like to give you a comprehensive write up of our class trip to Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County yesterday, but I can’t. The reason that I can’t is that I took a little trip of my own.

I got thrown off balance by a missing piece in a set of stone steps and fell hard. Onto both knees. I spent the rest of the trip sitting on a bench with two ice packs. I had a lovely view of this fountain. While I can’t vouch for the entire Brookside Gardens experience I highly recommend this fountain. It’s lovely.

I’m not writing this piece to criticize the folks at Brookside Gardens. They couldn’t have been more helpful. And our students loved the trip and the scavenger hunt prepared for them as well. I hope I will get to go back another time soon.

I’m thinking this morning of how it is sometimes the little things that throw us completely off balance  and end up causing significant damage.

Right now our county is awash with big issues that need resolving, So is our nation. Many of these issues have been around for quite awhile, like a broken step in a set of stairs. The people in charge didn’t see them as such a big deal and chose to minimize their importance and did little or nothing at all. I suppose it made them look calm and unflappable. Leaders like that, who turn the public gaze away from uncomfortable issues and broken places have their fans.

But those “little things”, those broken places, don’t go away. And sooner or later will come the fall. And the hurt.

Why are we struggling with our current challenges in Howard County? Because we are actually facing them and not finessing them. Whether it is flooding in Ellicott City, the school system budget, systemic racism, the achievement gap, environmental concerns - - we will make progress only if we are willing to get uncomfortable and acknowledge the seriousness of what is broken and commit to fixing it.

As for my personal injuries I am nothing more than badly bruised with muscles twisted and strained from the fall. It could have been much worse.

I wonder if they’ll fix the step?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Good News

We interrupt the season of contentious budget battles to show you education done right.

Imagine you play strings in your middle school ensemble. Now imagine this.

From Harpers Choice Middle School Music:

Some really amazing moments from our instrumental string concert last night. But everyone stood and cheered even cried after this performance. Thanks to Mr. McFate for coordinating such a chilling moment.

Some background on the song:

"Glory" is a song performed by American rapper Common and American singer John Legend. It was written by John Legend, Common, and Rhymefest. The song was released on December 11, 2014 by Columbia Records as the theme song from the 2014 film Selma, which portrays the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. (Wikipedia)

Another snippet of the performance from someone in the audience:

Guest soloist, introduced as friend of the conductor, came on stage for @hcpss_hcms middle school orchestra/band concert finale. 

Yunisa Sesay is his name. I have a feeling there’s more where that came from. Thoughts @Lin_Manuel ? @SelmaMovie #Glory

From Harpers Choice Middle School: 

We love the creativity and inspiration our @music_hcms program brings! @mjmsuper @HCPSS @hcpss_smil this song was especially relevant to our 8th graders who analyzed the lyrics during their Freedom unit for a Socratic seminar! @hcpss_sla

From a musical standpoint, getting to take part in a piece of music with a vocalist is an exceptional opportunity for middle school string players. Performing a piece of music that is more contemporary in nature is pretty rare. The fact that the piece has deep and challenging  content that is relevant to the students and worthy of study and discussion in a Socratic seminar is well beyond the experience most middle school string players will have.

We shouldn’t overlook the decision of the musical director to include a gifted African American singer in his concert. He is saying to the greater community that the music program values the talents of people of color. He is saying to the students: this can be you. 

Representation is crucial. You can’t be what you can’t see. Mr. McFate at Harpers Choice Middle School made a musical choice that produced breathtakingly beautiful musical results but it was so much more than that.

This is what the very best educational experiences look like. They challenge students to dig deep, to make connections. Most of all, they empower students to grow and become their best selves.

A shoutout to the teachers, staff, and admin who work hard every day to create and foster educational communities where this can happen. A shoutout to the parents and public servants who are working to make sure that there is adequate funding for this to continue.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Weekend Conundrum

I was reminded that Wine in the Woods is coming up this weekend when I saw this advert on Twitter.

I don’t know much about Idea Lab Kids beyond this ad. They look to be a franchise providing STEAM-based childcare options. Some enterprising person over there looked at Wine in the Woods and saw an opportunity: you go have fun. We’ll take care of your kids.

As a lifelong teacher I look at this and see one glaring problem. Who is going to drive the children home? I know from personal experience that you never want to dismiss a child into the care of someone who has been drinking if that person is going to be driving a car. It puts the childcare provider in an excruciatingly difficult position. The safety of the child is your first priority. But the parent is the paying customer.

Well, that’s easy, you say. Have a designated driver. Surely everyone does that these days, right?

Do they?

If you go with a group of friends, I imagine that often one person agrees in advance to be the designated driver. I think Wine in the Woods has a special wristband for that. But imagine that Mom and Dad are have a romantic afternoon at Wine in the Woods. Who is the designated driver?

I’m a childcare professional, folks, I get paid to worry about these things.

If the folks at Idea Lab Kids put a kid in a car with an inebriated adult who then gets in an alcohol- related incident that results in injury to the child, will they bear any liability? After all, the entire plan for this childcare option was devised around an alcohol-focused event. I think Idea Lab Kids is trying to provide a service and make some money here. I would not touch this with a ten foot pole.

I don’t know what the answer is. My daughter suggested that the childcare package should include the cost of an Uber. The best advice I can give is do not ever drink and drive. If you will be transporting children don’t ever put childcare providers in the position of being reluctant to release your own child to you.

Have a plan that involves a sober driver. Period.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Looking for the Light

There’s so much news out there today that I don’t know what to do with it. So. Much. News.

I need to push it all aside for a moment and focus on something else. Sunshine. We’re going to have some at some point, aren’t we?

We’d better get some good weather on Thursday because I’m hoping to go to the Garden Party at the Library. 

From the Garden Party Event Page:

Join us to celebrate our annual Friends & Foundation Garden Party on Thursday, May 16th from 5-7pm in the Enchanted Garden at the Miller Branch.
Enjoy light hors d'oeuvres, desserts, wine, beer, seltzer, and iced tea from local restaurants and businesses.
Bring a guest who is not already a member of Friends & Foundation and you'll receive an extra raffle ticket for our fabulous door prizes! 
Not a Friend yet? Learn more about who we are and what we do here and consider joining us today!
We look forward to seeing you for a gorgeous evening in the Enchanted Garden!
**This event is for guests 21 and older**

I’ve made small donations to the Library Friends group from time to time, but I never seem to make it to any of their events. This time I’ve gone so far as to buy a ticket.

Who knows? If the sun comes out I might actually make it.

Monday, May 13, 2019


I just knocked over a cup of coffee with my chair and most of it landed in my shoes. How’s your Monday going so far?

On a hyperlocal note, I see that the County is looking to add a bike lane in River Hill that seems to conflict with where residents have traditionally parked when there are swim meets at the nearby pool. This would appear to put two very active constituencies at odds with one another: bikers vs. swimmers.

The CA neighborhood swimming leagues are a huge tradition in this town. It’s not an experience that appealed to me for my daughter but most of my friends sing its praises. I’m not sure I’d want to be the one trying to put a bike lane somewhere that might conflict with the mighty swim lobby.

I’m joking, of course. There may be strong opinions here but it’s hardly front page drama.

The bike folks certainly have their own fans. The bicycle master plan continues to move forward. Bikers rightly point out that recreational pathways are not the same thing as being able to functionally get from point A to point B when using a bicycle as a primary form of transportation. There’s a difference.

So, do we say, we totally understand the need for bike lanes but just not in areas where I want to park on the street? How does that work exactly? I’m interested to see how this gets resolved.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

All Wet

I’m experiencing some radical leftist spasms this morning pertaining to Mother’s Day, the roles of women, laws interfering with women’s bodily autonomy, and, well, you get the picture.

Let’s not talk about that.


I want to give a shout out to the folks at HoCoMoJo who posted these words on Friday evening:

After an hour of heavy rain, and most of this storm behind us, Main St has just a bit of running water on the edges.

At that very moment, that is exactly what I was thinking about. How is Ellicott City? Is Main Street okay? It was good to have that reassurance.

Another shoutout to Baltimore Sun journalist Libby Solomon. From fellow reporter Cody Boteler:

Super proud of my friend and colleague @libsolomon for winning the best in show award recognizing her incredible work live tweeting the Ellicott City flood last year from the @MDDCPress.

And, on that note:

Tomorrow at 11:30 am there will be an announcement on the path being chosen to address flooding risks and damage in Old Ellicott City. The meeting will be held at the George Howard Building. More information can be found at EC Safe & Sound.


Have a wonderful day no matter what your reproductive status.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Consider the Difference

The theme of my daughter’s final high school choral concert was “How Can I keep from Singing?” Interspersed with the musical selections of the evening were students who gave brief speeches on the topic, “Why I Sing.” I wish I could share their words with you here.

It struck me as particularly relevant. As the school system is challenged by limited funds and is forced to consider cuts to a variety of programs, Music Education has moved into the spotlight. You’ve probably heard by now that the Board asked the Superintendent to have staff compile a list of programs and their costs to inform their considerations.

Cuts to elementary instrumental music were on that list. Of course that is of great concern to anyone who understands the value of arts education to all our students. But I think it is important to note that music hasn’t been particularly singled out here. It was one item among many that was put forward to be considered.

I’m an outspoken Music Education Advocate. That’s pretty well known. And it is gratifying to see students, parents, and teachers rise up to decry even the mere possibility of cuts. But the situation facing the board today is not about sacrificing arts education specifically. It is about finite resources at the County level and a Board of Education being forced to consider all possibilities to make a school system work.

Everyone seems to have picked their own villain here. Some blame low fees to developers for a lack of revenue. Some say that Howard County has long underfunded schools and that the true solution is to increase revenue is by raising taxes and nobody wants to be the one to do that. There’s a good deal of accusations and posturing and video clips and pie charts.

I’m not here to pick a villain. I would like to remind folks that the last time that big cuts to elementary music were on the table, teachers were being threatened to keep silent. Parents were being  insulted by Central Office and members of the board of education. Anyone who dared to disagree with the decrees issued by school system leadership were labeled as troublemakers.

That’s not where we are today. To my knowledge, teachers are not being threatened or bullied into silence. Board members are responding to parent questions with respect and openness. We may not be happy with where we stand financially but the people who are leading our school system are showing responsiveness, accountability, transparency, and respect. Board members are communicating with the public in a way that shows they are aware that they are public servants. In 2014 many seemed to believe they served at the pleasure of the Superintendent.

That’s a big difference.

Get informed. Get involved. Advocate for the programs that are the most important to you. There are plenty of opportunities for you to do that. You can come to a budget hearing, or attend the next meeting of the Howard County Parents for School Music. Your voice is important. I’d suggest to you tread more carefully when it comes to pointing fingers and assigning blame. Don’t be too eager to jump on someone else’s bandwagon about who the bad guys are. Anyone who tells you it’s simple is either misguided or disingenuous.

Make up your own mind. And take a moment to appreciate that no one is going to call you selfish or a troublemaker for doing so.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday Mystery

Um...Twitter strikes again with conversations that pique my curiosity.

whoever set the mansion on fire, YOUR MOM’S A HOE

what mansion ?

the one in ellicott city

Ugh that mansion was so nice! It had all of the furniture and pictures in it still, that’s what made it so different from other abandoned places. Like history was preserved and kinda creepy in a way like they just up and left so fast

i’m definitely sad about it, it was a cool spot.


i knoww 

What’s all this about? A mystery mansion in Ellicott City?

According to Catonsville Patch:

CATONSVILLE, MD — An abandoned house is ablaze on Frederick Road, the Baltimore County Fire Department reported. Crews were dispatched to the fire at 3:08 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, officials said.

So maybe not truly Ellicott City. But definitely the stuff of a good local story. Does anyone out there know more?

Thursday, May 9, 2019


From Twitter:

We were so proud to see Ms Lisa, our cafeteria manager, recognized!   She will not let anyone go without a hot meal at OMMS if they need one! She even uses tips from her second job to pay off student lunch debts!   OM loves you Ms Lisa! 

The world is a better place because of Ms.Lisa.  There’s no question about that. But this bit of information leaves me with some questions.

1.Why does a cafeteria manager in the Howard County Schools need to work a second job?

2.Why is the problem of student lunch debt continuing to fall on individuals like Ms.Lisa?

This situation brought to mind one in a series of adverts by Clyde’s restaurant picturing various employees and why they worked at Clyde’s. This particular one was of a Howard County Teacher. My immediate thought:

Why does a teacher in Howard County need a second job just to make ends meet?

This is Teacher Appreciation Week. In Howard County we celebrate all kinds of school staff as well. What kind of appreciation is this? Working with children is definitely a public service. We should honor that in a systemic way, not once a year with some nice words. 

We have cafeteria managers who are making sure that hungry students get fed, even when the money runs out at home. We have teachers who are waiting tables and working retail and selling real estate and who knows what all while putting our children first, every day. These are the same teachers who will protect our children in the event of armed attack at school, by the way.

A friend of mine once said that, the closer one is to working with the actual students, the less likely one is to have a say in the big decisions that will impact those students. I wish this were not the case. I wish it were proximity to the children we serve that brought both the highest salaries and the power to make the big decisions.

Imagine. Imagine that working with children and young people doesn’t put you at the end of the line.
Imagine acknowledging that the most profound leadership comes from the Cafeteria Manager and the Teacher who know which children need the most help, and come back to work again each day prepared to give it. Imagine challenging the old ways of doling out money and power to make that happen.

That would be real appreciation.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Mother Says

One of my favorite family stories involves my husband asking, “They’re having Mother’s Day again this year?”

Why yes. They are. And next year too, probably.

Let me make it easy for you. Let me tell you what I want.


I want to spend time with you. With my spouse, with my children, I want to do something fun, something that gets me away from cocooning in my comfy chair.

My brother-in-law Evan is a Methodist minister and he often counsels couples that what truly builds and deepens love is shared experiences. You can’t win love or hope to keep it by things you wrap in a box or a bag. You can’t buy it, you need to live it.

Some suggestions for my family?

For my husband:

You know, we still have that gift certificate for Tersiguel’s. How about making time for that Mom and Dad dinner date? And how about looking at this summer’s line up at the Chrysalis and asking which one I’d like to go to? We could have a picnic.

For my kids:

How about working on the garden and the patio together? Or going to the Oakland Mills Farmers Market and cooking together? How about an artsy retreat day? A frivolous trip to Ikea for nothing in particular?

At your house you may want to celebrate Mother’s Day in a wholly different way. I think that’s fine. I have reached a time in my life where I may have had my fill of opening presents. I treasure life experiences. I crave adventures, albeit little ones.

To my family: if, by chance, you have planned ahead and have already purchased presents, I will love them. Because I love you.

But let’s plan on spending more time together in the near future.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Enough Already

From the folks at Cindy’s Spirits:

Thank you to everyone who has supported us in our attempt to be granted a liquor license for The Loft. The Loft would be in the space next to Wegmans in Columbia. A hearing has been scheduled for May 8 at 6:30 pm in the Banneker Room at The George Howard Building. The Howard County Council will be deciding if they will uphold the Howard County Liquor Boards decision to grant us this license. If you are able to attend to show the county council your support for this we would greatly appreciate it!

Here we go again.

Even when you win your case it isn’t over, apparently. Tom Quick is still trying to open The Loft Wine and Spirits and The Perfect Pour (and others) are still trying to prevent it. Consumers want choice. Competitors don’t.

I wrote about this attempt to get the Liquor Board decision overturned in December.

Let me get this straight. Mr. Quick has invested time and effort and money in trying to move this project forward. He met all the requirements the law mandates. The Liquor Board has ruled in his favor. But now the other side who oppose the competition his store represents say it’s not over?

I know this isn’t exactly an election, but—didn’t Mr. Quick win fair and square here? Hasn’t he earned the right to “take office” as it were? While I didn’t necessary expect Barry Coughlin to turn up  at Mr. Quick’s place of business to graciously concede defeat I did think that he’d respect the decision handed down by the Liquor Board.

This move feels profoundly disrespectful to Mr. Quick, his family and associates. But more than that it can’t help but be a suggestion that the Liquor Board didn’t do their job. And I just don’t believe that to be the case. I think they bent over backwards to examine the facts and to hear from the community.  They took their time. They did their job well.

They were thorough.

And I don’t think they are in any way obligated to go back and do it all over again.

If you agree, and think it’s high time that The Loft Wine and Spirits be allowed to move forward, you can do two things:

1. Send a note to the County Council asking them to uphold the Liquor Board’s  decision in favor of Mr. Quick.

2, Show up Wednesday night in support of The Loft. May 8th, 6:30, the Banneker Room in the George Howard Building.

Can a Mom and Pop business break into the tightly controlled Columbia liquor market? It’s clear to me that the voices of consumers will make a difference in the outcome here. If you care about this, say something.

Monday, May 6, 2019


It's May! Time for all the good folks to gather at the Village Green--if only we knew where that was...

So begins my first blog post for Village Green/Town². It made its first appearance on Columbia Patch on May 5th in 2011.

Welcome to The Village Green. According to Wikipedia, a village green “… is traditionally at a central location and provides an open-air meeting place for the people of a village, for example at times of celebration, or for public ceremonies.”  
I am envisioning this space, where I will be sharing my ideas, as a village green of sorts—a place where we have the “customary right to indulge in lawful sports and pastimes.”
Almost daily I read news of Columbia’s villages: calling for participation, creating new visions, or struggling to reach consensus amidst polarizing differences. Just as often I cannot make up my mind whether to be encouraged and frustrated by it all.  So, this will be a place to sort it out with input from you, my fellow villagers.  
In a related entry, town squares are described: “Most town squares are hardscapes suitable for open markets, music concerts, political rallies, and other events that require firm ground. Being centrally located, town squares are usually surrounded by small shops such as bakeries, meat markets, cheese stores, and clothing stores. At their center is often a fountain, well, monument, or statue.”
This sounds appealing to me. I’m wondering if we, as villagers, separated by neighborhood loyalties and generational differences, can come together to make a Town Square for Columbia that is as lively and relevant as a New American City deserves to be.
So where are we today? Are we coming together to make a Town Square?  This original post was written after passage of the Downtown Plan, but before the creation of the Inner Arbor Trust. Much has happened since then. 
Much remains the same:
Almost daily I read news of Columbia’s villages: calling for participation, creating new visions, or struggling to reach consensus amidst polarizing differences. 
Sound familiar?
In the past eight years we have been through a lot together. This space hasn’t always been about Columbia. It expanded into Columbia/HoCo, the school system, overall community topics, local politics, and issues of racial justice. I try to stay local. Sometimes I stray far afield. Sometimes I get personal.
I’m marking eight years today. How should I celebrate? 
And where should I go from here?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Hard Surfaces




If you look around at the relatively new breakfast establishment First Watch, you will see these materials abound. Wood, metal, glass. It’s a look. It’s a feel, a kind of ambiance.

It’s really, really loud. Lots and lots of hard surfaces and nothing soft to absorb sound. I wouldn’t recommend First Watch to folks intent on conversation. If you and your table mates mostly like to sit companionably and read the paper or look at your phones, then this is the place. 

And yet the place was full with folks waiting for tables, so, what do I know? 

An interesting twist: they take your cell phone number for the wait list. No more buzzing coasters for them. My daughter wondered what they would do if no one in the party had a phone. I wondered if I’d be getting follow up promotions now that they had my number.

Getting seated was an efficiently run process. Our waitress got us set up with chilled water and coffee promptly, and took our order. And then we sat, and sat, and sat. No subsequent check ins from the waitress, and no food. At the twenty five minute mark I started trying to find our waitress or any member of the wait staff to find out what was up, it took a full five minutes of trying to make eye contact with numerous employees before I got a response.

They must be trained: never make eye contact.

Our waitress then apologized for the wait. About five minutes after that she returned with our food. Most of it. Half of my daughter’s order wasn’t done yet. It came in about another five to ten minutes.

The food is good. The coffee is just okay. The pancake syrup is mediocre, but, never fear: they have it in a special container that controls the flow so you won’t get much anyway. I adored having a carafe of chilled water on the table. I drink a lot of water.

All in all it was good enough that I’d probably give it another try before writing it off. The noise level is problematic, though.

Funny thing: it wasn’t our intent to go to First Watch. We tried to go to Rise but the line was out the door. The reason we hadn’t been to First Watch before was that, when it first opened, their line was out the door.  

We love eating out in this town, don’t we?

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Summer Delights

I’m so excited to be a part of this venture. Here’s this season’s schedule from Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. Print it out and put it on your fridge, folks. Circle your favorites.

Announcing the 2019 Season! (All dates subject to change)

May 24th Arias & Ales with Baltimore Concert Opera and Jailbreak Brewing Company

May 25th, 26th, 27th The FantasyWood Festival with Manneqart Inc., Circus Siren Pod, and Magic Under Glass Musical

June 2nd Chrysalis Cabaret: Lavenia Nesmith

June 15th Chrysalis Kids Dance Party on the Chrysalis with Julia Jackson McCready

June 23rd Chrysalis Kids The Uncle Devin Show

June 29th Chrysalis Kids Sonia De los Santos

June 30th Columbia Orchestra Summer Pops Concert

July 12th Chrysalis Cabaret Nikki Lerner

July 13th Chrysalis Kids Barry Polisar

July 14th  Chrysalis Kids Dance Party on the Chrysalis with Julia Jackson McCready

August 4th Chrysalis Kids Mr. Jon and Friends

August 4th Chrysalis Cabaret Steve Washington

August 10th  Chrysalis Kids DLC Beat Bugs

August 24th Chrysalis Cabaret Columbia Jazz Band

September Heritage Film Festival

October 13th Downtown Columbia Mini Maker Faire

If you want to know more about any of these events, go to the Inner
Arbor Trust website and then click on Events. Tickets are available 
through Eventbrite, and many events are free. 

There’s going to be a lot going on in town arts-wise this summer: the usual, the unusual, and the exceptional. The Inner Arbor Trust is a part of a multi-faceted arts community that includes events from the Columbia Association, Howard Hughes Corporation, the Downtown Columbia Partnership, Howard County Rec and Parks, Columbia Festival of the Arts, Toby’s/CCTA, and, of course,  Merriweather . At a preview of summer arts experiences County Executive Calvin Ball asserted that the arts are important because they make us whole.

I couldn’t agree more.

Thursday, May 2, 2019


If you have already registered your astonishment at the placement of a Popeye’s in the Giant Food parking lot on Centre Park Drive, let me just say I am late to the game. I haven’t been over there lately. I didn’t know what you were talking about.

My family persuaded me to “try the new Popeye’s” for dinner last night. “What Popeye’s?” thought I.

Friends, imagine you wanted a Popeye’s chicken so badly that you built one in your front yard.  That was how it struck me as we turned the corner onto Centre Park Drive.

As you sit inside the new restaurant you have lovely views of the Royal Farm Store, the Giant, and the drive through line. Incidentally, the way this is all set up means that if there is a long line of cars for the drive through, they will cut off access to the tiny parking lot dedicated for the Popeyes. Even better, once you get into that tiny parking lot you discover there is no way out at the other end. So, if there is no space for you, there is no way out and no room to turn around. You will need to back out. Into the line of cars at the drive through.

Did anyone think this through?

The best view is of the food. It was tasty. It was my first Popeye’s experience and from the food and service standpoint, it was a success. The air conditioning was unnecessarily cold, but, other than that, it was a pleasant enough experience. I do wish their soda dispenser allowed the options of plain water and plain soda water. I hope that can be changed.

I try not to complain about every new thing that gets built in Columbia. Actually, I don’t usually feel any desire to. But this particular placement perplexes me. I feel that someone with a decent Duplo set and some toy cars could have worked out the potential difficulties in advance.

I hope it succeeds, largely because I’m not a mean spirited person. I hope the fender benders I am foreseeing do not come to pass. I hope that Giant Food shoppers don’t get frustrated in the newly configured parking lot and start shopping elsewhere. That’s a lot of hoping.

One last thing. As a newbie I had the Mild-flavored chicken. Should I go for the Spicy next time?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

More to the Story

How about a little trip outside the bubble this morning for a piece about some new development happening in Baltimore City?

From 'The Wire' to mixed-income Station Arts housing, Jacques Kelly for The Baltimore Sun

This photo caught my eye.

Photo credit: Jerry Jackson

The caption: Jacob Wittenberg of Edgemont Builders, left, and Ted Rouse stand at the corner of East Lanvale Street and Guilford Avenue, where they are developing several properties. 

You know my brain went here.

Yes, the developer on this project, Ted Rouse, is the son of Columbia founder James Rouse, though it isn’t mentioned in the article. Another thing not mentioned in the article is how local folks feel about their project. Some comments on Twitter:

Not a single quote from anyone who lives Greenmount West just quotes from the developer. And a "little noticed transformation" by who? Certainly folks who live in the area are noticing this!!

This is nothing but an ad for the development. Utterly foul.

“There was nothing here. I thought it must have been an industrial site.” — Ted Rouse  (Hmm, if only there was someone in the community to ask. Or people in Bmore who know how to do research.) #Plunderers

The writer of the article, Jacques Kelly, knows his local history and is particularly good at writing this kind of feel-good Baltimore piece. It does seem odd to me that it’s only written from the developers point of view, though. Again, from Twitter:

It's times like this we need City Paper back.....

Then, from Brandon Sodergerg:

I will write about this in the @baltbeat newsletter this week. Baltimore Beat

In Columbia/Howard County we seem to live in an endless merry-go-round of “developers bad”/“Rouse good.” In this particular story we have development and a Rouse and what looks like some missing pieces in the narrative. 

Is this a much needed investment in a long-neglected neighborhood or gentrification in the worst way? I look forward to learning more.