Thursday, October 17, 2019

Heart and Soul

Elijah Cummings has died and the world will bend a little less towards justice without him.

He was a warrior for justice. He didn’t merely push back against what was wrong, he proclaimed the truth boldly. There aren’t a lot of people who can do that with such authority. Representative Cummings walked the walk. He was more than entitled to talk the talk.

I’m too stunned to say much this morning. Even though I knew he had not been well, I still feel such a sense of loss.

Elijah Cummings spoke at the kickoff to the Columbia 50th Birthday celebration at the Mall. His speech about Rouse’s revolutionary vision was a keen contrast to the prepared remarks of other local dignitaries. I soon found out why.

I contacted his office to get a copy of his speech. After some back and forth, a staff member admitted that, although his office prepared speeches for him, he never followed them. He spoke from his heart, from his own life experiences, and he spoke to the issues he knew people needed to hear.

Rest easy, Mr. Cummings. Thank you for all the battles that you fought to make our country better and stronger in the face of injustice.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

New Noms

It wasn’t that long ago that my husband refused to go out to dinner on Friday nights in Columbia. It didn’t matter where you went, there would be a wait. And no one took reservations. In recent years the number of restaurants entering the local scene has exploded. My husband has stopped begging off Friday night meals out.

And the restaurants keep coming. Howard Hughes recently announced a future Busboys and Poets, followed by word of GrillMarx and three other new establishments. I have moved from celebrating a decent choice on a Friday night to worrying whether Columbia can support this many restaurants. Columbia had one French restaurant, Petit Louis opened and basically put it out of business. And then even Petit Louis didn’t make it. Margin of profit in the restaurant industry is very thin.

One addition to the local food scene I’m not worried about is HoCoNomNom, a blog about local restaurants.

... this is not a review site. What I mean by that is that my goal is to provide information, announcements, impressions, and rumors of restaurants but I am not here to criticize or complain about a certain experience. There are plenty of sites that you can go to if you would like to hear about that. So I ask that if you are commenting, please stay positive and if you don’t have anything good to say, take it somewhere else.

The writer gives a tip of the hat to the much missed HowChow blog in his introduction, and his identification of his child as Little Nom is reminiscent of the “Little Chow” of his predecessor in food blogging. He is to be commended for his efforts in protecting the gender of said child. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve been pretty blunt recently about writers who aren’t willing to put their own names on their work. Traditionally an exception has been made for those in food writing, who wish to visit restaurants and give candid opinions. I can understand a desire to fly under the radar under the circumstances. It’s particularly understandable since it is clear that the writer has a young child whose identity he wishes to protect.

I also get the feeling from what I have read so far that HoCoNomNom is going to use his platform responsibly. Take a look for yourself. I think it’s a welcome addition to the blogging scene.

What newly announced restaurant are you looking forward to the most?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


About a month ago a lowly cricket made news at the George Howard building for making its presence known in a very vocal way during a legislative hearing. Coincidentally, I had cricket on my mind at the very same time, having recently heard a piece on WAMU about the opening of a new cricket ground in Montgomery County.

Not the same kind of cricket, I know. But bear with me.

Cricket Is Growing In Popularity In Montgomery County. Now, There’s A New Field For People To Play - - Dominique Maria Bonessi, WAMU

Ms. Bonessi interviews Bijal Shah, the co-founder of the Maryland Premier Cricket League.

Shah says he remembers going to a Rockville permit office and asking to file a permit for a field to play cricket. He says the woman at the office thought he was talking about an insect.

Cricket - - the sport - - is not very high on the radar of most Americans. It’s generally assumed to be something “very British” and impossibly esoteric, You might be surprised to learn that it actually comes in third in international popularity.

Montgomery Parks Director Mike Riley says as the county’s population mix changes, so does the demand for different types of sports.
“The sport of cricket has been around a long time,” Riley said. “We have residents increasingly coming from countries who play the sport of cricket and have played it for decades.”
The sport began in the late 16th century in Great Britain and spread to other parts of the British Empire. It’s especially popular in India, Pakistan, Australia and many other countries.
“[The] British left obviously, but the game stayed,” Shah said. “There are about 30 to 40 countries playing international cricket on a regular basis.”
Today, it’s estimated that millions of people watch the World Cup of Cricket every year. 

As I did more research on the new cricket pitch in Montgomery County, I suddenly had a vague recollection of Howard County doing something similar. That’s when the fun began.

We have Ken Ulman and cricket:


Allan Kittleman and cricket:


And Calvin Ball and cricket:


 It looks like Howard County was ahead of the game on this.

Cricket in  Howard County goes back to at least 2010 when Guy Guzzone and Jen Terrasa worked with the beginnings of the local cricket community to set up a cricket pitch at Murray Hill Middle School.  In 2012  a partnership with Howard County Rec and Parks  eventually led to the construction of the county’s first cricket pitch at Schooley Mill Park.  Today Rec and Parks even offers cricket instruction .

My husband, who grew up and went to college in the U.K., says that cricket is best learned from an early age, over time. It’s pretty hard to take up as an adult. So starting them off young is probably a good idea. Just because we didn’t grow up with cricket doesn’t mean our kids can’t have a go at it.

I’ll never forget seeing my husband’s face light up when we walked into Flavors of India in Gateway and discovered they were showing “the cricket” on their big screen tv. Cricket and “the footy” both give him that feeling of home. I imagine the reason that cricket is growing in popularity in Maryland is that our region has welcomed many new residents who have enjoyed watching and playing so much in their countries of origin.

Love of sport, full of team loyalty and rivalry, is a recognizable facet of the human condition, no matter where you are from. The joy of talking about the sport that you love reaches across national boundaries. And, just as we enjoy and learn about new cuisines as new residents come to our area, so can we enjoy and learn about sports that are new to us. Like cricket.

Our worlds expand. Our experiences ares broadened. Our communities are enriched. 

The building of a cricket pitch is more than adding an ordinary municipal amenity. It is a response to new residents and an affirmation that they and their cultures are seen and valued within the larger community.

A cricket pitch may have no personal value to me but I can value it as something we as a County do for the common good. I don’t have to get a direct benefit to know that it makes for a better community. 

The lesson for me here is more than the game itself. Communities that welcome and value differences, people who are willing to adjust to change and to try new things - - that’s the kind of community I want to be a part of. It’s what I believe Howard County can be. 

Some days we get it right. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Untapped Resource

I have reached the time in my life when some of my women friends are becoming grandmothers. I find it odd that our culture seems to look on this as a life achievement when, in fact, there is absolutely no personal effort involved. Other people do all the work. It is not a goal one can work toward, now, is it?

Yesterday I heard a piece on the TED Radio Hour on WAMU which gave me a completely new take on the status of being a grandmother. Entitled “How Can a Team of Grandmothers Make Therapy Accessible to All?” it tells the story of a mental health initiative in Zimbabwe. Mental health professionals are in extremely short supply. Dr. Dixon Chibanda, one of only fifteen psychiatrists in the country, created a new and rather unexpected model for bringing mental health care right to where people needed it most.

So in very simple terms, the Friendship Bench is really - literally a bench which is used to create space for healing. So I work with grandmothers - community grandmothers, who are trained in basics of cognitive behavioral therapy. That's just a form of therapy which is often delivered by highly-skilled professionals such as clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.

So what I did in 2005 was I trained a whole lot of grandmothers to deliver this intervention. And when you looked to this part of the world, grandmothers are considered to be the custodians of local culture and wisdom. And they are rooted in their communities. And they have this amazing ability to listen in a very empathic way. They have this amazing ability to be attentive. And I think they are such an amazing resource.

This initiative has been so successful that they are beginning trials in other countries. 

As I listened I suddenly remembered something I had seen from the Horizon Foundation.

Emotional Support Humans Wanted

The top five reasons why you should be an Emotional Support Human for the people in your life are…

  1. You care, but you may not know how to show support. Don’t let that stop you from 
  2. reaching out. The only way to learn what they need is to ask.
  3. Telling someone to “get help” isn’t always enough – sometimes they need help getting help.
  4. The only guaranteed way to let them know you care is to tell them.
  5. They might need to talk – And they could be waiting for you to show that you’re willing to listen. Don’t be afraid of bothering them; they don’t have to talk to you if they don’t want to.
  6. Doing nothing can make things worse – when we don’t talk about mental health, we allow the stigma around it to continue.
You can learn more about the Emotional Support Human concept by going to their website. Unlike Dr. Chidaya’s program, there’s no formal training involved. And you don’t need to be a grandmother. (Although I suspect it wouldn’t hurt.)

While the two programs have very different purposes, they do share a vision of enlisting ordinary people in a community to be valuable resources for those in crisis. Think about it. We are an untapped resource. We could be the one person that helps someone in a hard time.

Interested?  Take the pledge.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Often Overlooked

My apologies. For some reason my body is craving sleep more than blogging this morning.

One local story that interests me is this one by Baltimore Sun’s Christina Tkacic:

The Rathskeller to bring German food and drinks to Elkridge’s historic Main Street

We’re used to seeing articles almost daily about Ellicott City’s Historic Main Street. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one referencing Elkridge in this way. Is this just another way that Elkridge generally “don’t get no respect” in Howard County?

Is the goal to make Main Street Elkridge a destination in the way that Ellicott City is? Is there a well-defined “Old Elkridge”?

Years ago I wrote a piece in which I expressed the desire to be given a tour of Elkridge by a knowledgeable local. It still hasn’t happened, but maybe someday.

Saturday, October 12, 2019


Sometimes you just have a hankering for a turkey club sandwich. Not just any old turkey sandwich, mind you, but the real deal: an old school, impossibly tall edifice of goodness. Frilled toothpicks required. It’s probably one of those nostalgic cravings from the days of my youth.

Last night was that night, and I was on a quest for the best. I remembered that they had a decent turkey club at the Cheesecake Factory, but I wasn’t particularly in a mood to deal with the Mall on a Friday night. My other thought? The Double T Dinner on Route 40 in Ellicott City. So off we went.

I was not disappointed.

It was the best of its kind: the bread perfectly toasted with just enough mayo. Real roasted turkey, not deli meat. Generous amounts of bacon, perfectly crispy. The right balance of lettuce and tomato. Even the frilled toothpicks were on point.

Oh, my friends, it is a blessing to find joy on a Friday night after a long and weary week in something as humble as a sandwich. We all need this kind of joy.

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Better Place

I  saw this sentence in an inspirational meme this morning:

In six months time you can either be in the same place or a better place.

Where are we going to be in six months, Columbia/HoCo?

A friend of mine shared with me that she is trying to imagine a time on the other side of the redistricting decision. I admitted I had a hard time doing that. I would imagine that many folks are so consumed by what’s happening right now that they would find it hard to envision something beyond  it.

We are not going to be in this place forever. This issue isn’t going to be the only issue forever. What are we doing to make sure that in six months we are in a better place, and not the same place?

I’m going to spend some time this weekend trying to picture what March, 2020 could look like if we were in a better place.