Thursday, December 13, 2018

Holding My Tongue




As I have gotten older, and possibly wiser, I have tried not to wield this blog as a pointed object against individuals. I have made very few exceptions to this rule.

My patience is being sorely tested by a member of the Oakland Mills Village Board who has violated every imaginable boundary when it comes to local politics and self-promotion. I’ve tried taking a breath and counting to ten but it just keeps on happening.

I have great faith in the OMCA Board Chair and in the overall positive tone of the work the Board has been doing under his leadership. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have a rogue member who consistently disrespects every boundary and operates outside any collegial, collaborative sense of partnership.

Serving on a Village Board is seen to be a deadend, thankless task. Well, that’s only if people even know what serving on a Village Board is. You’ve heard my annual sermons about getting involved in Village Electons but the truth is that a large portion of Columbia residents these days no idea about any of this. Getting people to serve on Village Boards can be almost impossible.

Most folks who step up to serve are good and hardworking people who just want to help their communities. But then, every so often, you get someone who believes that this will be their springboard to The Big Time. They think that this will be Politics with a capital P and they are all about wheeling and dealing, private meetings and secret deals, and a whole lot of self-promotion.

These people are toxic and they can singlehandedly wreck any good work a Board is trying to accomplish. It would be far better to have no boards at all than to have to dig out from the damage caused by people who want to be the big frog in the small pond and don’t mind stepping on everyone else to do it.

Someone suggested to me recently that I was splitting hairs by saying that Columbia wasn’t a city, saying that population alone made it so. I don’t agree. If Columbia incorporated as a city new forms of governance would need to be established and the public scrutiny for holding office would be a good deal more intense. People like my as-yet-unnamed Board Member would be sifted out pretty quickly.

Public service, no matter how small, should not be the playground of bullies, abusers, manipulators, and self-promoters. But around a Village Board table, folks like that see an opportunity to reign unchecked. Who’s going to stop them? It isn’t like there are tons of replacements waiting to take their places.

At this point I have enough material to lay out a comprehensive piece on this person’s escapades. I have quotes, I have photographs, I have screenshots. Or, as they say these days, I have receipts. But I’m not an investigative reporter. I’m essentially a private citizen who has strong opinions. I’m really, really trying hard to stay in my lane here.

If you live in Columbia and you’re a good-hearted individual, please consider running for your Village Board this year. Believe me, you are needed.










Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441













Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Who Cares



By the end of the day I had an ache in my chest and a nasty cough. I was not surprised. I work with preschoolers and many of them have been coming to school with runny noses and that very same cough.  I wash my hands frequently and we disinfect surfaces multiple times per day to no avail. If you are a teacher, you are a sitting duck for every germ that comes along.

Kids come to school sick. There are a variety of reasons for this. Sometimes the runny nose doesn’t make them miserable, they don’t have a fever, and the parent reasons they are better off being with their friends. Sometimes the parent can’t miss work and gives them some medicine and hopes for the best. They hope against hope they won’t get that dreaded call from the office or the nurse.

The ability to stay home with a child comes from financial stability and a kind of autonomy in your place of employment. If you don’t have that, you take any time off at your peril. We can’t roll our eyes and complain about parents who send their children to school sick without understanding the underlying issues that cause that to happen.

It all comes down to an issue which remains unresolved in our culture: who cares for children? Who cares for them when parents have no choice but to be at work? Who cares for them on snow days, or one-day holidays, or school vacations, or when they are sick? Assuming that the norm is a mother who is always on call is woefully ignorant to the realities of life in 2018.  It is hardly a standard against which all families can be judged.

The Howard County Schools have addressed some student health issues though a program called Telehealth, but this does not reach the issue of how we care for sick children when they need to be away from school. Is this an area that needs community intervention? Do we need better supports in place for parents in the workplace?

For some years Harbor Hospital offered a sick child day care program in Baltimore. I don’t know if that is still in operation. But that still means you need to have the money to pay for such a service. A higher paying worker might be able to access that. A minimum wage worker probably could not.

As an early childhood educator, I believe that caring for children is everyone’s responsibility. I think you can tell a lot about a community by the value it places on care for the most vulnerable. So I want to know who will care for our sick children? How will we make that possible?

And I want to know how to get this painful cough out of my chest. Stat.











Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441














Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wish List Redux





Yesterday I shared a wish for Columbia from a local friend. That got me thinking about a wish list I made, long ago, back when Columbia Patch was still a happening thing and Marge Neal was the editor.

From December 20, 2011:


A Letter to Santa — Of Sorts — On Behalf of Columbia
To me, Christmas in Columbia means going to the Symphony of Lights with my whole family. That's when the holiday season officially begins. So, this year, like Barbara Kellner of the Columbia Archives, I started thinking about my HocoLocal wish list.

5. For me: I would like a tour of Elkridge from someone who loves it and knows it well. (I'll pay for gas and snacks.) This is definitely an area where I need to learn more and think more. Any takers?

4. For my village, Oakland Mills: a very special Bridge to connect us to downtown, and span the separation between east and west over Route 29.

3. For the Howard County Public Schools: a variety of truly viable school board candidates and a simple, functional way to have an election. Oh, and a new superintendent who can find new ways to let meaningful learning win over standardized testing.

2. For Howard County: that we may all get better at appreciating and respecting people who are different. E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many: One. And, yes, the 'many' are homeowners, renters and, sadly, the homeless. Let Howard County become known foremost for acceptance and a spirit of community.

1. And lastly, for Columbia, I have saved a special gift. I want to have a "Mayor's Office of Adventures in Fun." We need one. Read this article to see what Virginia S. Baker did in Baltimore City. Then take note of who she was engaging, and why. (The 'why' part you may have to work out on your own.)

Of course, to have a Mayor's Office of Adventures and Fun, we would need — oh, I see I've used up my five wishes. That wish would be another story altogether.

Have a joyous holiday season with the people you love!

*****

It’s interesting to look back. So much has happened since then. Some of my wishes have been partially fulfilled. We got a Bridge Columbia but without the transit piece. We got a better Superintendent and BOE but we’re still ironing out the election process. I think we may even have our own “Mayor’s Office of Adventures in Fun”.

I am a bit disappointed that no one has ever offered to take me on a guided tour of Elkridge. Santa is too busy. I even offered to pay for gas and snacks! This item remains on my local wish list.

I was startled to see how clearly I was yearning for item 2 on this list. Clearly my feelings on this go way back.
2. For Howard County: that we may all get better at appreciating and respecting people who are different. E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many: One. And, yes, the 'many' are homeowners, renters and, sadly, the homeless. Let Howard County become known foremost for acceptance and a spirit of community.

This year, for the first time, I feel hopeful that this particular Christmas wish may have a chance of coming true.

How about you? What’s your HoCoLocal Christmas/Holiday list?



Yesterday I shared a wish for Columbia from a local friend. That got me thinking about a wish list I made, long ago, back when Columbia Patch was still a happening thing and Marge Neal was the editor.

From December 20, 2011:



A Letter to Santa — Of Sorts — On Behalf of Columbia




To me, Christmas in Columbia means going to the Symphony of Lights with my whole family. That's when the holiday season officially begins. So, this year, like Barbara Kellner of the Columbia Archives, I started thinking about my HocoLocal wish list.

5. For me: I would like a tour of Elkridge from someone who loves it and knows it well. (I'll pay for gas and snacks.) This is definitely an area where I need to learn more and think more. Any takers?

4. For my village, Oakland Mills: a very special Bridge to connect us to downtown, and span the separation between east and west over Route 29.

3. For the Howard County Public Schools: a variety of truly viable school board candidates and a simple, functional way to have an election. Oh, and a new superintendent who can find new ways to let meaningful learning win over standardized testing.

2. For Howard County: that we may all get better at appreciating and respecting people who are different. E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many: One. And, yes, the 'many' are homeowners, renters and, sadly, the homeless. Let Howard County become known foremost for acceptance and a spirit of community.

1. And lastly, for Columbia, I have saved a special gift. I want to have a "Mayor's Office of Adventures in Fun." We need one. Read this article to see what Virginia S. Baker did in Baltimore City. Then take note of who she was engaging, and why. (The 'why' part you may have to work out on your own.)

Of course, to have a Mayor's Office of Adventures and Fun, we would need — oh, I see I've used up my five wishes. That wish would be another story altogether.


Have a joyous holiday season with the people you love!


*****

It’s interesteting to look back. So much has happened since then. Some of my wishes have been partially fulfilled. We got a Bridge Columbia but without the transit piece. We got a better Superintendent and BOE but we’re still ironing out the election process. I think we 
may even have our own “Mayor’s Office of Adventures in Fun”.

I am a bit disappointed that no one has ever offered to take me on a guided tour of Elkridge. Santa is too busy. I even offered to pay for gas and snacks! This item remains on my local wish list.


I was startled to see how clearly I was yearning for item 2 on this list. Clearly my feelings on this go way back.


2. For Howard County: that we may all get better at appreciating and respecting people who are different. E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many: One. And, yes, the 'many' are homeowners, renters and, sadly, the homeless. Let Howard County become known foremost for acceptance and a spirit of community.

This year, for the first time, I feel hopeful that this particular Christmas wish may have a chance of coming true.


How about you? What’s your HoCoLocal Christmas/Holiday list?









Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441



Monday, December 10, 2018

Stocking Stuffers



I’ve been pondering a post on what constitutes a suitable Christmas stocking present when Twitter did it for me. It begins here :


why do bloggers think that a diptyque candle is a stocking filler? you’ll get a tube of minstrels if you’re lucky babe

A word of explanation: this thread originates in the U.K. This is a Diptyque candle. These are Minstrels. Despite the differing cultural references, this thread hits on exactly what I had in mind. Just because something is small enough to fit in a Christmas stocking doesn’t mean it is a “stocking present”.

For example, at our house Christmas stockings could be expected to hold:

Toothbrush
Scotch tape
Panty hose or cute socks
Chocolate orange
Inexpensive toys
Post it notes
Hair ties
Guitar picks
Squishy toys

They are not going to contain:

Pearl earrings
Keys to a new car
Diamond tennis bracelet
Expensive perfume
A small gaming device
iPhones
Copic or Prismacolor markers
100 dollar gift cards

You get the picture. Stocking presents aren’t supposed to be the Main Present. Moneywise, that is. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule and no one is going to come to your house to ensure compliance. Don’t forget that, in the U.K., the old school tradition is a pillowcase hung over the bedpost, so I would think you’d need to be even more frugal. Pillowcases are a lot bigger than most American Christmas stockings!

Lest you think there’s no local connection to this post, I give you a Christmas wish with a very local flavor. I saw it online this weekend.* It won’t fit in a stocking or a pillowcase, but I hope Santa is listening to this one:

 My Christmas wish list as a Columbia resident: 

1) A dedicated pathway from Little Patuxent Parkway to the Chrysalis, and signage to accompany said pathway.

2) A playground in Symphony Woods (which I know is in the works...just voicing my support of this much-needed amenity).

3) Better crosswalks and speed control measures on Little Patuxent in front of Merriweather and the Chrysalis.  

Pretty please and thank you, Santa.



*No, I didn’t write it. But I do like it.










Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441










Sunday, December 9, 2018

Mine Mine Mine



An ongoing theme of this blog is the pull that exists between the generation in Columbia known as the Pioneers, and those who are engaging in community life in the present day. Certainly yesterday’s post touched on that tension.

But wait just a minute, Columbia. There are some folks in Howard County that have some feelings about that.


Ouch.

I’ll be frank. A comment like this is a reaction to more than a tweet from WBAL. It’s a reaction to the election of Howard County’s first African American County Executive, a resident of Columbia. 

I think that, given the current political climate, we are going to see more comments like these. The tone set at the national level enables them. The comments about Columbia “attracting a bad element” and dog whistles about Columbia becoming more “urban” have racism baked right in. Howard County was ours, they say, and Rouse came and gave it to...”those people.”

As entrenched as Columbia’s first generation may have become in their life experiences of all that was revolutionary and aspirational about Rouse’s vision, I think it’s wise to remember that there are still folks in HoCo who harbor ill will towards the whole thing. They want their Howard County back. And these aren’t just people who were alive at the time; this discontent has simmered down to successive generations.

And there are some who were fine espousing a “One Howard” philosophy as long as a white man was in charge. Once the person in the leadership role is black, they feel uncomfortable and disenfranchised. As the current saying goes:

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

So it appears that when people have the power, they very often don’t want to give it up. If you think it all belongs to you, look over your shoulder. There’s always going to be someone who thinks it belonged to them.

My advice: if you want to build community, look around you and seek opportunities to make connections. You might have to let go of some of what you are holding on to in order to reach out.  Perhaps giving of your power and privilege freely will reduce the fear that someone’s coming to take it from you.

We are going to have to face this, one way or another.











Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441









Saturday, December 8, 2018

Permission to Create



Remember this?



I couldn’t help thinking of this image when the internet threw this one at me recently.


The caption read: 

This sign is probably meant to be read from bottom to top, but it just reads as a bunch of gibberish. Did they have something against a plain old Christmas tree? Why get creative? It could also be that the letters were piled up at random.

Everyone’s a critic.

The first photo shows what I believe was probably a goof, although it could have been a prank. If anyone knows the truth, send it my way! But the second picture, though equally amusing/puzzling, came about for a different reason. The caption touches on the cause.

Why get creative?

That’s it in a nutshell. Somebody got creative. They had a concept but they hadn’t envisioned the end result as clearly as they might have. Oops.

Still, this isn’t an issue of enormous magnitude. It’s a pretty big jump from scratching your head at the outcome to outright challenging the creative process. 

Why get creative?

Why, indeed? Even though Columbia was itself founded in a multi-pronged, multi-faceted explosion of creative thought, breathtaking in its audacity, still we see pushback against present-day creativity
  • What if I don’t like it?
  • What if I think it looks silly?
  • What if I think it’s too gaudy?
  • What if I think Rouse wouldn’t like it?
  • What if my ideas are the only good ideas?
  • What if I think Columbia belongs to me and my friends and you can’t change it without my permission?
I wasn’t around to bear witness, but there must have been at least a few things that were a part of the Pioneer years in Columbia that some HoCo folks didn’t like, or thought were silly, or gaudy, or a bad idea. And there were probably a few things that didn’t work out as expected, despite the best intentions of their creators. I’d say that’s okay.

Why get creative?

Because creativity is a part of creation. And creation is life. And life means dreaming, and trying, and stumbling, and reaching for a better way all the time. It may, from time to time, be messy. Like the odd sign for the Mallumbia in Col or a jumbled Christmas greeting. 

I’m good with that. I think it’s all a part of being alive, something that I hope Columbia will be for a long time to come.









Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441










Friday, December 7, 2018

Accolades and Self-Doubt



Those close to me know that I have sustained several notable kicks to the ego in recent weeks. As a result, I’ve been wrestling with thoughts that my place in the community is of little consequence and that my work here on the blog is wasted. To be clear, I’ve never thought I was a really big deal in the community, but recent events have made it clear that the space I occupy is smaller than I thought. 

I’ll be honest, that stings.

I’ve come to realize that I compare myself  to others far too much. That’s a dangerous road to go down. As Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I can attest to the truth of that. I don’t think I’ve been consciously comparing, but clearly I’ve fashioned a view of myself in reaction to others, not as rooted in who I think I am.

Into this season of self doubt came the word yesterday that Village Green/Town² won the Howard  Magazine Readers Poll for Best Blog of 2018. This is an honor which I have openly sought for some time now. I can’t pretend I haven’t. It is something I  have told myself “I should” be able to achieve. I have been Charlie Brown every year hoping to finally catch that particular football.

So reading the news was particularly sweet.

Truth in advertising: winning this award does not actually mean I write the best blog in Howard County. It means I have the most number of motivated readers who were willing to vote in an online poll. It is a celebration of the community of readers more than anything else. It truly means that you all are the best in Howard County. I’m proud to be associated with you.

Here’s the thing: the highest award I received yesterday were these words written by my husband. They were a ringing affirmation that he “gets” what I do, and I will never be able to think of this honor without remembering what he said. 

Huge congratulations to my wife, Julia Jackson McCready, for winning the "Best Blog" award in the Best of Howard County 2018. 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 reading.






Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar:

https://calendar.myadvent.net/?id=11dfaa56f70578e204b73fee207a6441