Saturday, May 8, 2021

Howard County in Bloom


I seem to be going through one of those “I don’t wanna” phases with the blog. It looms over me like an irritable mother demanding that her teen clear their room. This happens every so often. As with many things, the only way out is through. So, bear with me. The posts between now and when I hit my groove again may be rough around the edges.

We have one azalea in our yard which appears to bloom later than all the other azaleas in town. It has a very odd shape and could probably use some professional pruning. But its color is so beautiful and we love it, despite its oddities.

In addition to being a lovely sign of Spring, our azalea also heralds one of my favorite times of year: Farmers’ Market season. The first one in the area began last Saturday at Clarksville Commons, then the Markets operated by the Howard County Farmers’ Market group on Wednesday at the Miller Branch and tomorrow at the Oakland Mills Village Center. 

It used to be that all the local farmers’ markets operated under the Howard County group’s umbrella but, in recent years, a number of independent markets have sprung up: Clarksville Commons, Ellicott City at the Wine Bin parking lot, and Maple Lawn. I think there may also be a small one at the East Columbia branch in Owen Brown.

Update: just spotted this handy-dandy comprehensive schedule in my Howard County Library weekly newsletter!

Of course, the Oakland Mills Farmers’ Market is my favorite. We all have our loyalties. I’m looking forward to actually being able to get out of the house and pick out fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables this summer after a year of being house-bound. Over the years we have also bought jam, baked goods, bacon and sausage, freshly cut flowers, and annuals for our little front flower bed. We’ve also enjoyed prepared food, listened to music, and run into neighbors and friends. Each year is a little bit different, but they’ve all been wonderful.

This year a new attraction at the Oakland Mills Market will be the debut of Althea’s Almost Famous food truck/trolley/cart/mobile catering. Althea has been a presence at the Market for a while now, selling her Jamaican Jerk sauce. She also run a local catering business. Now she’s taking her show on the road and you can see what all the excitement is about on Sunday at the Oakland Mills market.

So, consider yourself invited to the opening of this year’s Oakland Mills market: Sunday from 9-1. Have you ever been to the OM market? Or do you have another local market that you love to visit? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

A Weird Pocket in the Universe

It’s been a while. How about another foray into the world of Other People’s Tweets? Today’s episode starts with this question:

72% of all adults live within 20 miles from where they grew up.  How far do you live from home? I’m 14 miles away from where I grew up.

Person A:

I live 29 miles away from my childhood home, but honestly Western Howard County is basically a completely different country compared to Baltimore. The dude I married is less than 10 miles away from his childhood home, though. And we cannot go a single place without him running into someone he knows.

Person B:

Heck, I knew some girls from Columbia, and they were total space aliens to me!

Person A:

I spent my entire 20s in deep reprogramming.

Person B:

As well you should! Life is not like Howard County!

Person C:

I grew up in Silver Spring and ended up going to UMBC and living in Baltimore County and yeah... Columbia is like its own little weird pocket in the universe. Can’t explain it lmao.


If I didn’t know better I’d think this was some snappy dialogue from a Broadway play or a witty new sitcom. It’s almost too good to be true. What do you think would happen in this imaginary play? Would you go see it?

We spend a lot of time being so embedded in our own surroundings that we don’t get exposed much to what other folks think of us. I found this exchange interesting. It was clearly irreverent but not mean-spirited. I wanted to see where this conversation went, to learn more. But, alas, this is all that there is: one brief snippet in the vast ocean of Twitter.

I will never know why those Columbia girls seemed like aliens or why life is not like Howard County. Do you? Can you imagine where this conversation might go? 

If I were a multimillionaire I’d commission a play based on this exchange. Or maybe it would be fun to have a contest which would produce multiple results. Just think: an entire festival of “Life is not like Howard County”!

Who knows? Eventually it could become a musical and we could all go see it at Toby’s. A little meta, perhaps.

Have you ever seen a conversation on Twitter that seized your imagination? 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021



May 5, 2011 (Columbia Patch)

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

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 or 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.

May 5, 2021

It’s May! 

I have been exercising my “customary right to indulge in local sports and pastimes” for ten years now. 

Guess what? We’re still reading calls for participation, the creation of new visions, and the struggles to reach consensus amidst polarizing divisions. After ten years I still cannot make up my mind whether to be encouraged or frustrated by it all. If this blog was meant to be a place to sort it all out - - with input from fellow villagers - - then we certainly have done plenty of sorting. Have we arrived at a bigger or clearer picture as a result?


Along the way quite a few community voices have disappeared from the blogosphere. I miss the semi-interwoven net of “colleagues”, if you will: Anneathema, Columbia Compass, Dinosaur Mom Chronicles, Do I Amuse You?, Examorata, HoCoRising, HowChow, Jessie X, Kiki(verde), Kirstycat's Meow! (and sometimes Growl!), Life’s Little Comedies,  LisaB Mrs. S., Rocket Powered Butterfly, Sarah Says, Tales of Two Cities...

Some of us met in real life at Blogtail parties hosted by HoCoBlogs. Eventually the parties got too big and the network of bloggers too small. HoCoBlogs is no more; its familiar aggregator page has disappeared from the tinterwebs. While new blogs have sprung into existence over the intervening years, other ways of communicating have become popular, too: podcasts, videocasts, live video streams and Instagram. (Don’t get me started on TikTok.)

Blogs aren’t the big fish that they were back in the day.  Where does that leave me? I’ll probably keep writing as long as there are good stories and people to share them with. 

I’ll close today with a few things that folks have said about me over the years that meant more than any official recognition.

*Inviting HoCo friends to like and subscribe to a great local blog's FB page,Village Green/Town², written by Julia Jackson McCready with great humanity.

*Damn you and your kindness, openness and desire to help everyone and see the best in people. How dare you exist and show folks that it's possible to be smart and not consumed with blatant self-interest.

*For many years, she has dedicated herself to writing every single day, sometimes heartwarming stories, sometimes highlighting the work and talents of others, sometimes pushing dangerously into local politics and school board issues, sometimes just sharing a funny memory or touching quote, but always making us think consciously about our place in a vibrant and progressive community.

Thanks for ten years, friends. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Start Today

I have written more than a few Teacher Appreciation Week blog posts. This year the thought of it seems ludicrous. Teachers have endured the worst year of their professional careers while being lambasted on social media at the same time. They have worked longer and harder while being called selfish and lazy.

So now it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Thanks a lot. Have a donut.

Not so fast, folks. I’m talking to those of you who have made teachers’ lives miserable during the pandemic. You don’t get to send in some muffins and go on your merry way, no sir.

Maybe this year we should have Teacher Apology Week. It’s about time that teachers got the apologies they most certainly have coming to them.

  • I’m sorry I said you don’t care about kids.
  • I’m sorry I said you wanted distance learning because it was “less work”.
  • I’m sorry I belittled your union representation.
  • I’m sorry I interrupted your hybrid learning lesson to argue and complain.
  • I’m sorry I treated your health concerns as inconsequential.

That’ll do for starters.

Of course it’s highly unlikely that the people who actually said these things will have a genuine change of heart and have the bravery to face the teachers they maligned. It’s far easier to buy a gift card and avoid any personal self-examination.

The parents who have been supportive and tried to partner with teachers during a horrifically difficult time are the ones who have been showing teacher appreciation all along. It wasn’t easy for you, and you knew it wasn’t easy for teachers, either. You understood that parents and teachers share a common humanity and that, during a pandemic, many responsibilities would need to be shared.

Believe me, teachers notice and are grateful for parents like that. They make days a little easier, lighten a heavy load.

So, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week and again I wonder why we don’t appreciate teachers every day. And, after this year, I wonder why the people who say the worst things about them are protesting loudly that they deserve daily access to those same teachers in a particular way, at particular times, in specific locations. If teachers are so horrible why are you fighting for hot and cold running teachers for your children?

And, if they aren’t so horrible, maybe you could treat them better. Starting today, for example.

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Sixth

Today Lakey Boyd begins her tenure as the President and CEO of the Columbia Association. She is the sixth person to serve in that role. I went digging around on the Internet last night to look for a listing of the past presidents and when they served, but I must not have been looking in the right place. From what I can piece together, it looks like this:

  • Padraic Kennedy 1972-1998
  • Deborah O. McCarty 1998-? (Charles Rhodehamel, acting)
  • Maggie Brown 2001-2009
  • Phil Nelson  2009 -2014 (Susan M. Crabbe, acting)
  • Milton Matthews 2014-2021
There’s also a few “acting presidents” in there.

One thing that surprised me was the name Deborah McCarty. I moved to Columbia in 1999 and have no recollection of her. And then I remembered that I was getting married, expecting a baby, and coping with a newborn and a teenager during that time period. This was not a time in my life when I was up-to-date on local current events.

At any rate, this article by Angela Paik in the Washington Post is vintage Columbia. It’s also the kind of local news coverage that has all but disappeared today.

Leader of Columbia Focus of Growing Ire

Columbia's original residents have questioned the commitment of newcomers for years but rarely with such vengeance. 

Gosh, that sounds awfully familiar.

Despite the fact that residents want the essence of Columbia to be understood and respected by its leaders, for some reason the CA Board keeps hiring people from out of town. I find this curious. Perhaps people from out of town seem more impressive, somehow. I often wonder what candidates from out of town think they will find when they get here. Something new and cutting edge? A rather precious shrine to the ideals of the 1960’s?

It’s hard to choose a president in Columbia. This sentence from Maggie Brown’s obituary shows how just difficult it has been:

Mrs. Brown became the Columbia Association's president after the previous president had been ousted and board members couldn't agree on a replacement.

Well, this time the board has agreed on a replacement, and she starts today. I wish Ms. Boyd all the best. Columbia can look pretty impressive from the outside but we’re not always so lovable once you get to know us. From the Post article by Angela Paik:

...many residents are asking whether this new person can be one of them. They want to know whether she can carry on the Columbia spirit, so difficult to define but essential to understand for the one who is the de facto mayor of this unincorporated town that aimed to be different.

Oh, brother. We can be a little hard to take here in Columbia. Let’s hope for positive new relationships and a successful tenure for the sixth President of CA.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Swinging on Sunday


Columbia/HoCo offers a variety of ways to keep fit, from walking the trails, bike riding, swimming, working out at CA facilities or Lifetime Fitness, and many more. One thing I had never heard of until recently is a workout that centers around swinging kettlebells.

What’s a kettlebell? Well, they look like this: 

I found this photo in an article entitled “Kettlebells: what they are and why you should train with them.” Now, you may already know all about kettlebells and how they can be used for strength training but I didn’t until my friend Carol started posting about it on Facebook. I must say she’s been pretty enthusiastic.

The place where she works out, called The 39 Minute Workout, has an annual tradition of fundraising for the Casey Cares Foundation. Casey Cares supports programs for critically ill children and their parents. So how do they raise funds? By swinging kettlebells, of course!

It just so happens that today is the 7th annual Kettlebell Swing a thon . In addition to raising money from sponsors through all that kettlebell work, the Swing a thon also has a Silent Auction with some pretty cool items. Take a look

Whether you’d like to help support Casey Cares or you’re curious about how kettlebells can contribute to health and fitness, you can contact the folks at The 39 Minute Workout here:

39 Minute Workout Headquarters

8001 Hillsborough Rd

Ellicott City, MD 21784


Today’s event:

Sunday, May 2, 2021

9:00am - 12:00pm

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Weekend Adventure

If you are up for a little adventure today and noodling around in Ellicott City is your sort of thing, may I recommend the Stone House Collective?

My husband headed out of the house last weekend, enticed by a photograph of guitars. No surprise there. What was a surprise was their location: Main Street in Old Ellicott City. 

“They must be new,” I said. “That sounds like it might be a good blog post. Will you take some pictures for me?”

He rolled his eyes. But he took some pictures. 

As you can see, Stone House Collective is far more than a guitar store. They opened on March 6th of this year at 8129 Main Street and describe themselves as “a three-story boutique for art, photography, antique, vintage, and artisan-made goods.”

The top floor is where my husband found the guitars, among other things. Merchant Timothy Ramsey offers not only guitars and amplifiers but also vintage space-related toys from the 1950s and 1960s.

All in all, the Stone House Collective is made up of about 17 small businesses under one roof. If the location rings a bell to you, that’s because it is the former home of Cindi Ryland’s Retropolitan Fine Antiques and Vintage. If you were a fan of Retopolitan, you’ll be happy to know that Ms. Ryland is the manager of Stone House Collective and Retropolitan continues to exist on the first floor as a component of the larger enterprise. You can learn more on their website and on their Facebook page.

Now, for your weekend enjoyment, I present approximately a minute and a half of my husband’s photographs of his visit to the Stonehouse Collective. I have to admit that he is a far better photographer than I am. (Just a note: it’s not all pictures of guitars. For some reason he put them all first...)