Tuesday, November 28, 2023

No Matter How Small

Once again, fortune has not smiled upon me by providing me with a massive lottery win which would enable me to give to every cause I support on Giving Tuesday. The Universe does not owe me this. Nonetheless it’s a longstanding fantasy. Imagine having the joy of having so much money that you could give it away with abandon.

Sigh. We all have our dreams.

If you read this blog long enough you will be aware of the local causes  I support. I won’t drag you through that litany again. I’m sure you have your own. And, like me, you have a finite amount of discretionary income to play around with on Giving Tuesday, or, on any given day of the year.

I  am going to do something different this year.

On Thanksgiving when I bowed my head to say the grace I found I could not give thanks without also offering up prayers for the Middle East. Those in Israel who suffered from the attacks of Hamas. Those in Gaza who have withstood continued attacks from the IDF. No amount of food or family togetherness could put those searing images out of my head.

So today I’m looking at making my small donations to causes outside the Columbia/HoCo bubble:

Doctors Without Borders

World Central Kitchen

Every year I am overwhelmed by the onslaught of institutions vying for donations on Giving Tuesday. I try to remind myself that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. In my dreams the lottery has made me a full-time philanthropist. In real life I must do what I can with what I have.

And then there’s this, my favorite quote in all the world:

“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” - - Aesop, from the story of the lion and the mouse 

If you’d like to make some suggestions about Giving Tuesday to the rest of us, you can share them here:

Village Green/Town² Comments

Monday, November 27, 2023

The Little Answer to a Big Question

 I just had a weird and wacky idea and, since you are already here, I might as well tell you.  It all started when I broke down and finally read this article:

What two empty floors of a Columbia tower can tell us about Howard County’s office market, Giacomo Bologna, Baltimore Banner

It kept popping up in my feed and I kept passing it by. I vaguely remembered writing a post about how the pandemic might derail some of the current downtown development. At the time of writing none of us knew that one of the biggest changes to come out of those years would be a long term desire for many in the work force to work from home.

That change is what has fueled those “two empty floors of a Columbia tower.” In the article, commercial real estate broker Adam Nachlas reveals what that looks like:

“Companies now want smaller spaces with conference rooms and desks for employees who only come into the office two or three days a week.”

We’ve all seen news articles about the methods that companies have been using to try to lure employees back to the office. Some look like the proverbial Carrot, others evoke the punitive feel of the Stick. None of them have worked all that well.

So what should they put in all that empty space?

Child care. Beautiful, high quality, properly ventilated, on-site childcare. Can you imagine the appeal to workers and the goodwill this would engender? Investing in excellent childcare centers would increase employee loyalty and probably increase the amount of time they’d be willing to spend on site. 

It would also result in more traffic to surrounding businesses. Of course it would help if a good chunk of them were child-friendly, so that mom or dad could pick up their child and go have dinner, or stop and have breakfast on the way, for instance. If this transition to offering childcare resulted in more student spaces than the office building needed, they could be opened to the public and that would bring more people to that area, more people patronizing area businesses.

Two big challenges come to mind. One is that really good childcare costs money. This is not a solution that’s going to fill anyone’s eyes with big dollar signs. Someone would have to be convinced by the long term positive aspects of this investment. I can see why it would benefit both workers and their employers but someone whose job it is to add up all the numbers might not. 

The second one is outdoor play. Kids need it. It’s non-negotiable. 

Where to put it - - on the roof? Don’t laugh, Google it. Although certainly there are other places where childcare has been incorporated into office buildings and outdoor play spaces have been constructed at the ground floor level. It’s doable. It would take creative thinking and people who are willing to invest in the big picture. 

So, here’s my pitch. If you want to fill unused office space, provide a reason to get more workers back in the office, and support surrounding businesses…the answer is childcare. Invest in the kids and their parents will follow. 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Hazy About the Plan

 You can read what other people’s opinions are on social media, or you can find out for yourself.

This Wednesday at the East Columbia Branch of the Howard County Library, the League of Women Voters of Howard County is hosting What’s in HoCo By Design?

This event is co-sponsored by the Howard County Libary System.Hear representatives from the County Council discusss the amended new General Plan (HoCo By Design). This event will be a Hybrid meeting beginning at 7pm. In Person:  Howard County Library - East Columbia Branch in the Lucille Clifton Room. Zoom:  The Zoom meeting link will be provided as we get close to the date. Please RSVP to this event so we know how many to expect.

If you are unable to attend, don't worry!  We plan to record the meeting and posting it to our website and our Facebook page.

If you don’t know much about HoCo By Design, you are probably not alone. This is not because anyone was keeping it a secret - - far from it - - but because we all have so many things competing for our attention. We are more likely to focus on our immediate circle: family, home, job, neighborhood. HoCo by Design is a big picture sort of thing which has been developed over several years. That takes a lot of sustained attention. 

Truth in advertising: I have tried numerous times to dig into this and have failed every time. Also true: I haven’t given up. The basic concept is this:

Once each decade, Howard County updates its General Plan, a long-range, visionary document that guides land use, growth, and development decisions. Initiated in 2020, HoCo By Design reflects over three and a half years of community engagement, representing every voice as we create one vision for the County's future. - - HoCo by Design website.

  • Where do we think we are going as a county?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • What is feasible?
  • What are our assets?
  • What are the challenges?
  • How do we envision the end result?

Now that the plan has been written, amended, and passed by the County Council, the work begins to implement it. I guarantee you that the moment the Plan becomes visible in an initiative that directly impacts someone, you will see a good deal of ranting on social media that nobody ever told them this was happening and that the community should get a voice. 

You don’t have to like everything in the General Plan but for goodness sake’s don’t be that person. Be the informed person. After all, it is your Howard County. 

HoCo Hot Topics is an ongoing initiative of the Howard County League of Women Voters. The next one scheduled is in March, 2024. The focus will be education. That should be…interesting. 

To learn more about the Howard acounty Leaguw of Women Voyers, visit their website.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Small and Mighty Local Shopping

I find myself to be downright resistant to the concept of Black Friday but Small Business Saturday holds a lot more appeal to me. In case you are not all shopped out after yesterday, here are a few local suggestions. 

Down at the Lakefront:

Join us at The 3rd for a fun-filled day celebrating local small businesses! We know you want to be intentional with your dollar. This in-person event is all about supporting our gifted Members and their amazing products. Explore a wide range of vendors offering everything from handcrafted jewlery to art! Don't miss out on the opportunity to connect with local entrepreneurs and shop local. Whether you're looking for a special gift or simply want to show your support, Small Business Saturday is the perfect occasion to do so. Mark your calendars and get ready to shop small!

I’m a huge fan of Yolo Health and Wellness plant-based products so I may pop on down there and stock up. 

Savage Mill is kicking off its Yuletide Festival today beginning at ten am. They have released a very appealing advert to entice you but I notice that their version of holiday shopping includes no children or elders. Well, Santa excluded, I guess. 

Savage Mill Yuletide Festival advert

Small Business Saturday is almost here! Bring your family to meet Santa and kick off the season with special guests, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and Councilwoman Christiana Rigby! 

Old Ellicott City invites you to Shop Small Saturday: 

Grab your shopping lists and get ready to be amazed by the abundance of unique, one-of-a-kind gift possibilities. From local art and ceramics to handmade jewelry, trendy and classic fashion, modern housewares, gourmet foods, toys and games for all ages, record albums, wines and spirits, antique treasures, and unforgettable experiences like ghost tours and axe throwing.

Celebrating SMALL has never been this much fun! Join us in supporting our beloved small businesses, and let’s make today a day to remember.

Some stand alone small businesses I thought were worth a mention:

Mother Nature’s in Columbia: Birdseed and anything you can think of for the backyard birder plus a treasure trove of nature themed gifts.

Without you, there is no Small Business Saturday, so let us thank you with a full weekend of savings!  Everything will be 20% off* today Nov. 24th through Sunday Nov. 26th.  So grab a cup of Wassail and let us say thank you for over 3 decades of support! *Optics and Bovano 10% off

Sihaya and Company, based in Old Ellicott City: hand-poured scented candles, Sihaya & Company Seasonal Boxes, themed candle collections, jewelry, and bath and body products.  See what Christina Allen Page has to offer at the Sihaya and Company website.

Feet First Sports at the Wilde Lake Village Center is going all out for Small Business Saturday.

Supporting locally owned businesses is essential to cultivating a strong community, so whenever you can make sure to #shoplocal!

In addition to some great deals, we will have complimentary coffee and (one-of-a-kind) donuts  PLUS you'll recieve a special gift with your purchase of $50 or more!

If you’re thinking of holiday photos as a part of your gift-giving this year, take a look at Richard Twigg Photography. I know that Columbia/HoCo has no shortage of talented photographers but Rick has done great work for our family and deserves a shout out. You can find him on Facebook and Instagram as well.

Image from Richard Twigg Photography website

Breezy Willow Country Market: 9090 Frederick Rd, Ellicott City, MD 21042 (Thursday – Sunday 10:00a.m.-6:00p.m.)

Here’s a glimpse of what they have that I snagged from their website.

Sobar is a local nonprofit but they are a great source for alcohol-free beverages of all kinds. It’s always good to have appealing choices on hand during the holidays for guests who don’t want to drink alcohol. They offer quite the variety at their website.

Do you have any favorite local small businesses you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Unseen Guests

Farmers who plant and tend the crops. Workers who harvest them. Truckers who bring the food to market. 

Farmers who raise animals for food. Workers who process the meat. More truckers, more workers, more transport.

Workers who process fruits and vegetables, canned foods, frozen foods, baked foods, dried foods, fresh foods.

More truckers, more workers, more transport.  Sometimes moving food by train, ship, or by air.

Grocery store workers who receive and handle the goods, prepare it for sale.

Food service workers who prepare and cook food and sell it to customers.

Restaurant workers who prep, cook, serve, clean, and do it again.

Delivery workers who bring the food to you.

Not all of these people live in Howard County. But, if you are eating any food at all today, they have a place at your table. Nothing would be on it without them. 

In May of 2020 I wrote a piece about how some folks were protesting that they hadn’t been designated as “essential workers.”

Today’s news: there are people in Howard County who feel oppressed because other people are called essential workers and they aren’t. As a reminder, essential workers include everyone involved in hospital/medical care, and the folks who make sure you are able to get food and medicine. Oh, and childcare for other essential workers.

Those people who make sure you are able to get food? Today is a good day to remember them. Here in Howard County, they need what everyone needs: a living wage. A decent place to live that they can afford. A community that values them and their work.

Years ago I saw a television promo for the Simpsons where someone, possibly Bart or Homer, was saying the Grace before Thanksgiving dinner.

"Dear God, everything that's on this table I put here myself, so thanks for nothing."

Whether your day involves saying a prayer before a meal or clinking glasses in a toast, you absolutely will not have put everything on your table all by yourself. Others you will never see were essential in getting there. 

Remember them at your table. Remember them tomorrow. Remember them when you think about issues of housing and fair wages. They, too, deserve something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023



I have an early appointment so this will have to be brief. On the eve of Thanksgiving, here are some HoCoLocal thanks:

  • The folks at ENTAA Care who’ve been looking after me with great diligence over the last several years.
  • The people who deliver my groceries.
  • The staff at the East Columbia Branch library who keep me in books from week to week.
  • Tribos Peri Peri. Wow, do I love their food. 
  • Friends who keep in touch with me through social media and answer my oddball questions.
  • My Buy Nothing Group, which connects me more to the community than any other HoCoLocal group I’ve been a part of.
  • The Inner Arbor Trust for creating and maintaining a park that welcomes everyone.
  • Clarksville Commons for building community and filling it with fun while supporting small businesses.
  • Drive-through iced coffee, especially the Oakland Mills Dunkin and the Starbucks at Dobbin and Wilde Lake.
  • All of you who read and comment on this blog and give me information and good ideas. 
However you spend your day tomorrow, I hope you have plenty to be thankful for.

Do you have some thanks to share? Post them here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Television, School Days, Restaurants, and Santa

So, did you watch? 

In case you haven’t - - and you still mean to - - I won’t go into any detail here just yet. I will say that I thought the episode was beautifully done and, honestly, I have no serious complaints. Local realtor Peter Boscas did a beautiful job. There was one thing that was included that I wasn’t expecting and which I was delighted to see. And there was one aspect of Columbia that was completely omitted and I can’t figure out why. 

Feel free to chime in over in the comment section on Facebook. But I have a feeling that I’m way more interested in this show than my readers are. 


By now everyone has probably heard that Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martinaro will be retiring as of January 10, 2024.  There was a time when this sort of announcement would have been a big deal on this blog. I find myself strangely reticent to have any opinion whatsoever. This is largely because I don’t know enough to have an educated opinion. 

I would like to point out that, for some, ignorance has not been a deterrent when holding forth on this particular topic. Am I surprised? No.

What I do know is that the Board has a tough job to find an acting superintendent on such short notice. Beyond that, finding superintendents has become a more difficult task of late. The national pool seems to be shrinking. I don’t know how appealing this job is going to be to the best candidates because of our recent track record with redistricting, animosity during the worst parts of the pandemic, our struggles to keep up with capital improvements, this year’s bus service changes, and the like. In addition, the added stressor of groups like Moms4Liberty makes superintendent positions even less desirable.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we have a wonderful school system. I can be grateful for all the things they do while also understanding the big issues that face us. How will we make ourselves attractive to the kind of candidate we want and need as a leader? 


A couple of small stories to finish off. 

Someone on the Columbia MD Reddit is looking for places that serve excellent chili dogs in Columbia/HoCo and it’s not looking good. Out of all the suggestions made, the only one in Howard County at all is at Jailbreak and the poster hadn’t actually tried it. Fuddruckers had Chili Dogs that were passable, and Hard Times Cafe had better ones as I recall. Both restaurants are no longer with us. Any suggestions?

“He’s making a list and checking it twice,” but the Man in Red has a problem. He needs a chair for his annual visit to Oakland Mills High School for the WBAL Concert for Kids on December 1st. Something like this:

If you have one you’d like to share, reach out to the OMHS Fine Arts Boosters here. I’m rather concerned about what happened to the chair Santa has been using for the last seventeen-ish years. If someone walked off with it, they’re definitely going to be on The Naughty List in perpetuity.   

While you’re thinking about it, don’t forget to buy your tickets for the concert itself. Learn more here. 

WBAL Concert for Kids