Thursday, July 31, 2014

Small Victories

The simple statement which began the Facebook thread was this:

" Nothing like the Quarterly for making you feel useless."

Of course, I thought. The Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly. My own copy had recently arrived. And I knew that my friend's comment was a reference to the Class Notes portion of the publication. I've written about Mount Holyoke before. I received an amazing education there, but it came with a burden:

Can women "have it all"? And by all I mean career, family, and saving the world. Mount Holyoke Types, or MoHos, as they are now called, are instilled with founder Mary Lyon's earnest charge: go where no one else will go, do what no one else will do. The response to this falls rather heavily onto the Class Notes.

My friend went on.

"I don't have a problem with the Quarterly in theory. There are things in it that I like reading, like the history bits (there's a funny story in this one about making beer in a science lab in the 70s and a letter in the letters section from a woman who was the station manager at WMHC in the 50s when they went from AM to FM and thought "who will ever have an FM radio?") But I find it difficult to disconnect my own life sometimes, even though I'm generally happy, and not compare myself to others. It's like a grownup version of 'I have more to do than you do.'"

Then she issued this invitation:

"Contribute! Something which depicts your life as it is actually happening, not glossed in Quarterly varnish."

And so, here is a sampling of Real Class Notes:

Linda, who has just realized it has been two weeks since the handle broke off her fridge and she has yet to do anything about it, has a spider bite but no spidey-super powers of which to speak. She has also spent a lot of time starting books but never finishing them this summer. Other than that, she is often bored.

Hannah has not put away the laundry in 3 weeks and is eating pie for dinner because she just can't be bothered to cook. Oh, and she somehow managed to break a finger and a toe at the same time, while already having a torn rotator cuff and impending gallbladder surgery. Her body is telling her she's getting older fast. Fantastic.

Melissa has started wearing eyeshadow again, and recently purchased several new Brita filters so she can stop using the one that has been languishing in her pitcher for a year. She also sorted out the slow drainage problem in her tub. She went to the gym once two weeks ago and didn't cry even a little.

Jenn--It's nice to hear that others feel the same way! The quarterly focuses so much on grads who "change the world". I wish they did stories on the rest of us too. I am happy to work part time and take care of my kids. My victory today was to finish the laundry and give my kids a bath at a decent hour so I can get back into my jammies.

Shannon is exhausted from working full time and commuting 90 minutes a day on public transportation. She wonders how anyone has the energy to take care of kids. She loves her kitties sometimes more than people and looks forward to watching Jeopardy on tv.

Ellen--I think some real class notes would be awesome. I just want to read that someone is plagued by self-doubt and worry, manages to have some fun, is shelving Great aspirations for Good ones, and is mostly doing the best she can. Welp, there's mine.

Lynn-- The one time I wrote in during the last 16 years I did say something about getting engaged, running a marathon, blah blah. Haha. If I wrote a real update it would be: Lynn wishes she could get rid of that extra 10+ pounds of baby weight but cupcakes and ice cream are just too darn good. She spent the last 5 months watching loads of HGTV while her partner was away on a submarine. She thought of a million different ways to renovate and redocorate their crappy rental house but never got around to doing any of it. Her dog died in February and that really sucked. She misses him every day.

Maddie--But last year when you won the London Marathon and cured ovarian cancer was such an inspiring post!

Linda--I like the quarterly in theory as well, but it is nice to check in with your peers to see that we may all be "uncommon women" but we are all pretty normal and have lots of very unexceptional moments in our lives. It is also fun to celebrate small victories...


Elizabeth Topham Kennan, the president of Mount Holyoke College when I was there, said in a speech, "We have no reason to exist if we are not the best." It bothered me then, and it seems to weigh heavily on many of us even now. This thread represents a thirty-year span of graduates. We go along, living our lives, and then an issue of the Quarterly lays us low. Are we Uncommon Women, or merely "others"?

Oh, and my submission for Real Class Notes?

Julia is making the most of her summer break by going through boxes in the bedroom closet and just today finished organizing the kitchen mish mosh drawer.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Off the Wagon

When Margo was in preschool I decided to face my unhealthy eating habits and, as I have many times in my life, went on a diet. This time it was the South Beach Diet. As with all diets, the beginning was painful. However, in a way that was different from other diets, over time my body really adjusted and I found myself craving junk food less and healthier foods more.

I lost a substantial amount of weight and felt wonderful. And then my mother died.

My mother died, and we went to Indiana to stay with my sister and her family. My brother-in-law is a Methodist minister, and we were inundated with the good cooking of kind Methodists. Months of healthy eating habits melted away as homemade oatmeal cookies, chicken and noodles, scalloped potatoes, glazed ham and more marched into the house.

No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to "get back on the wagon" after all that funeral food. Something in me snapped. I remembered a section in the South Beach Diet book that touched on the experience of someone who had failed. "This diet works just as long as you work it," he said.

That seemed too obvious when I read it. And I didn't think it could ever happen to me. But when I looked back on what happened in my own life, I realized the weight of it.

The same is true of daily blogging. When my schedule is consistent, and I get up each day and get to it, then it feels easy. But--take one day off--and I feel as though I may never write again. I wonder what the point is. I question why anyone would read what I write. Blogging, which once felt like the irresistible force, now becomes the immovable object.

I don't know why.

Perhaps the deadly force that creeps in if one pauses is perfectionism. As long as you keep the steady rhythm of writing, it can't catch up to you. Daily blogging works as long as you work it.

All of which is to say that I feel that I have fallen off the wagon and am running alongside, trying to find a way back up.




Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer School

This year marks Margo's seventh year at Slayton House Camp of the Arts. It is truly the high point of her year. She thrives in a total immersion environment of music, drama, art, and dance. Of all the worlds she must function in, this is the most meaningful.

It is in the summer that I see the highest level academic thinking from her. That is where she does her best GT work. By this I mean she wants to stretch herself. She strives to improve from one day to the next. When embedded in the world of musical theatre Margo wants to be better than just passing. She gives it the extra effort: practicing lines at home, researching the musicals online, sitting down at the piano to go over music and even figuring out her own keyboard parts.

She talks with us about what she is learning. She gets ideas. Creative ideas. She writes about them on the ipad. She gets ideas for other musicals, ideas for short stories based on musicals. The other evening she was excited about what you would need to do to adapt the musical "Bye Bye Birdie" to the present day. It led to a fascinating discussion about changes in our culture and in the popular music scene.

This does not happen during the school year. Margo's entire experience in the public schools has been overshadowed by high-stakes testing. Teachers don't get to foster a love of reading or writing. They must produce students who can successfully read the photocopied packets and fill in the proper circles. The best moments of her schooling have come when she has been pulled out of the 'regular' class for small group instrumental learning or for the Curriculum Extension Units with GT Teachers.

Project based learning. Hands-on learning. Multi-sensory learning. This is the most meaningful way for my child to learn, and for most of us, I think. Finding topics that truly interest students and allowing some choice in how to explore the subject matter is what fosters the creation of a self-directed learner. That should be our goal--self-motivation, learning how to learn, and the joy inherent in true, deep learning.

As long as we continue to allow ourselves to be defined by standardized test scores and keep purchasing curriculum programs from the same people who create the tests, we fail our children. I am disgusted by the term "content-delivery" in reference to teaching. Teaching is not some automated system by which we line up all the pigs at the trough to receive their slops at the flip of a switch.

This problem is not unique to Howard County. It is happening all over the country as we have allowed people who don't have any professional training, experience, or understanding of teaching to step in and dictate what schools must do. Now, I can't change the entire nation but I can work for change within my own county. So can you.

The best learning my daughter does all year is at summer camp. We're grateful she has that experience, but I can't help but feel sad that she can't have it the rest of the year.




Saturday, July 26, 2014

Quiz Show

With apologies to Peter Sagal and NPR, this is:

"Spit it Out!!"

the VG/TS Columbia/Howard County current events quiz.

Questions are taken from the week's hyperlocal happenings. Winners of today's quiz will receive a selfie with Dylan Goldberg, locally grown zucchini from AnnieRie, and Dave Bittner's voice on their home answering machine.*

1. This week, Howard County locals were encouraged to show their hocolove by supporting what local event:

a) The opening of restaurant Mission Barbecue

b) Monday evening's County Council Meeting

c) Howard County Restaurant Week

2. At the groundbreaking event for CA's new Haven on the Lake wellness spa, guest were given swag bags which included the following:

a) Salt

b) Autographed pictures of Milton Matthews

c) Brochures on self-hypnosis

3. Local Blogger Marshmallow Man responded to conflict on the County Council by expressing a wish to see Council Members enact what classic Saturday morning cartoon show:

a) Wacky Racers

b) The Archies

c) Banana Splits

4. County Executive Ken Ulman made news when he changed his mind about:

a) term limits. He's staying.

b) rules for vendors of snacks and drinks at county functions

c) Coke. The ones with the names are cute.

5. Bloggers in Howard County did something unexpected by:

a) switching from cocktails to olive oil

b) holding hands and singing in front of the People Tree when Friday night's dance session was canceled

c) agreeing

6. Republican candidate for County Executive Allan Kittleman raised eyebrows when he revealed:

a) his new patriotic-themed Speedo swimsuit

b) a plan to raise funds with all-you can eat buffet events

c) tv ads aimed at Independent and Democratic voters

7. What local event combined Boy Scouts, cookies, politicians, and a sound-proof room?

a) filming for new healthy-eating PSA from HoCo Unsweetened

b) opening of renovated Savage Library

c) local podcast, "Are you Smarter than a Boy Scout?" sponsored by Girl Scout cookies

This week's fill-in-the-blank limerick:

"We're tired of such rude selfish barging

when lots up to date are enlarging

Your stupid "Mine, mine!"

Will get you a fine

Don't park in a space meant for ___________________!"

I hope you enjoyed playing along at home. Stay tuned for future episodes of "Spit It Out!" On the VG/TS network.


*completely false. Just made that bit up.






Friday, July 25, 2014

Three Simple Rules

Several years ago, when I was supposed to be at Beer Club at The Second Chance Saloon, I was actually in the emergency room at Howard County General. Several friends, whom I had encouraged to attend Beer Club, were puzzled at my absence. When my daughter arrived at the Second Chance she explained what was going on: chest pains, just precautionary, no indication of anything major. (And it wasn't.)

"But how can that be? I didn't see anything on Facebook!" someone said.

Alice joked, "I know, right? She's famous on the internet."

It has become a family joke. You know, "You have to take my word on this because I'm famous on the internet..."

It is true that I probably spend too much time on social media. You wouldn't know it, but I do have other hobbies. But something about how social media functions has appealed to me as a shy person who hangs back from picking up the telephone. It very well may have laid the groundwork for me to spend more time with people in real life.

We all know there's plenty of junk on the internet. And as appealing as social media can be, it's also filled with minefields: trolls, toxic attitudes, outright falsehoods dressed in appealing visual form. Possibilities for connecting are also possibilities for misunderstanding and argument. And I have had those experiences and made those mistakes.

But social media didn't create that kind of behavior. I have also had those experiences and made those mistakes in my high school cafeteria, church youth group, the faculty lounge, and on my Village Board. Humans: we're a flawed, fallible lot. So, with that in mind...

Here are my three simple rules for social media:

  • Listen up
  • Link up
  • Lift up

Listen up--Truly listen in your exchanges with others. Your responses should show you were paying attention. Human beings crave the validation of being heard. Social media doesn't change that. Perhaps it only amplifies it.

Link up--Make connections. This is easily one of the biggest benefits of social media. You have the power to make the match between the friend who is parting with a sofa and the group that is seeking furniture to help clients get back on their feet. It could be a recommendation for a great electrician, the possibility of employment, or meals for a new mother. Social media expands your reach to do good. Use it.

Lift up--My favorite people online are the ones who take the time to lift up others. It's rarer than I'd like. Many people are online to say their thing, or to sell their thing. It is truly beautiful to see the outstretched hand of friendship, a pat or the back, and offer of help, a word of comfort. This is not a one-size-fits-all cheeriness. It is a way of being that affirms the value of others.

Have you learned something good from your experiences on social media? What advice would you give?





Thursday, July 24, 2014

Two Tales, One City

Today's post is dedicated to Dennis Lane, who should have been there.



We arrived shortly before ten am on a hot and humid Wednesday morning. Real Columbia summer. As we approached the steps we were stopped by a friendly woman who welcomed us.

"Are you here for the groundbreaking?" she asked. We said we were. She introduced herself and we chatted as she showed us to the starting point for the morning's festivities. Eva (I think that was her name) and a number of other women, dressed in white with shirts bearing the Haven on the Lake logo, were stationed at the ready to greet new arrivals.

This next area was beautifully set up with a variety of little tents where one could sign in, get a name tag and a program, and pick up a refreshing drink provided by Whole Foods: your choice of lemonade, unsweetened iced green tea, or water. A display of gift bags bearing the Downtown Partnership logo had been prepared as parting gifts. The building (still sometimes referred to as the "iconic Rouse building") cast just enough shade for attendees to stand around comfortably during this meet-and-greet portion of the event.

When it was time we were invited to move to an area behind the building, overlooking the lake, where the groundbreaking would take place. Chairs had been set up under another tent. We sat at the back and watched as local notables filed in. It was quite warm but we felt happy to be in the shade, and seated, for that matter.

The speakers were upbeat, focused, and brief. The remarks touched on people, partnerships, and progress. The program moved forward without lagging and soon the golden shovels were put to the ground, cameras were focused, and dirt was flying.

All in all, it was a lovely event. It had been carefully planned and beautifully executed. We picked up our reusable shopping bags (filled with information about Haven on the Lake and other goodies) and went on our way. The conversation on the way home was about the exciting transformation of the Lakefront, and the possibilities that a place like Haven on the Lake will provide.


It doesn't seem that long ago that the Howard Hughes Corporation was throwing a little masquerade ball to entice Whole Foods to come to Columbia. Yesterday's event, with helpful ladies all in white setting the tone, was more like a summer garden party celebrating that success. Pretty tents, chilled beverages, gift bags and all, it showed in a thousand tiny little ways how the redevelopment of Columbia is moving forward.

The success of such events rests in the details. No matter how well planned there are always a few glitches here and there that either make the planners wince or shrug--and this was no exception. Of course, those are the moments that make for a little rush of adrenaline, or laughter. The possibility of the unexpected...

One such highlight was when the new President and CEO of the Columbia Association, Milton Matthews, tried to get away with saying "Lake Kit." The friendly crowd would have none of it, and so he gave it the old college try and got through the whole "Kittamaqundi", to laughter and applause.

Also memorable was the moment when County Executive Ken Ulman realized that no one was going to introduce him, so he just jumped out of his chair and came on down. He kidded about the lack of introduction but then got right to it and did his best to remember all the exciting things happening as a part of the Downtown Plan for Columbia. (There are a lot of them.)

And he did a great job, too, except for mentioning Suzanne Waller as the CA Board member from Town Center. Ms. Waller was defeated by Jeanne Ketley in the last election, and she was in attendance to hear the oversight. Oops.

Community as live theater. It's the best. That's when the most human qualities are revealed, as in the off-the-cuff suggestion from Mr. Ulman that Haven on the Lake should be opened, not with a ribbon-cutting, but with a jump in the cold plunge pool. It was definitely the heat speaking, probably not a carefully scripted laugh line.

As we left my daughter, a Baltimore City girl at heart, looked at me with a twinkle in her eye.

"Do you think he'll do it?"

I knew in a heartbeat what she meant. And I'm more excited than ever to be there when it happens.




Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Empty Book

Yesterday I saw this.

I don't know if the translation is true, but if it is, it really speaks to me. My book is really empty right now.




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Murray Stands In

Murray Burns: [shouting at rows of houses] Campers! The entertainment committee was quite disappointed in the really poor turnout at this morning's community sing. I mean, where's all that old Camp Chickawattamee spirit? I'm sure I speak for all of us here when I say that I...


Murray Burns: Now, I'd like to say right now that... that...


Murray Burns: Campers, I can't think of anything to say.

(from the conclusion of "A Thousand Clowns".)


Rough day yesterday. I feel like an extinguished candle under a drinking glass: I can see the outside world but my oxygen has been cut off.

Have a great day--I'll be back tomorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Facing the Past

My bedroom closet is filled with boxes of things I haven't looked at in years. Sure, I 've tried to go in there from time to time and set things to rights but it doesn't take much to derail my good intentions. This summer I am headed once more unto the breach, as it were.

My early adult years were marked by turmoil: a failed marriage, single parenting, jobs that didn't quite pay enough, mounting debt. Each time I moved I'd try to pare down but there'd always be a box or two of things that I threw together and then just couldn't face once I got settled.

So far I have been through three boxes. I've had to go out and get a mask and gloves because of allergies to dust. I'm stocked up with allergy meds and my inhaler. I've filled almost two lawn & leaf sized garbage bags. I've brought out the foam gardening cushion because I just can't work on the floor on my knees like I used to.

The health indications are clear: get rid of the stuff while you are young and it doesn't make you sick just to sift through it!

On the other hand, it has been far easier to toss things that once would have upset me: old leases, divorce documents, financial paperwork. The years have given me an emotional distance. I'm grateful for that, at least. It is easy to spot the few treasures sparkling amongst the trash: a few family recipes, childhood drawings by my now-married daughter, an excellent evaluation of my teaching.

In with a sheaf of old school papers was a group faculty photo from the school where I worked for 18 years. I didn't remember it at all. What stunned me was that I looked at myself and could find absolutely no fault with my appearance. Actually, I look beautiful. Of course at the time I thought nothing of the sort. Like many women I've never been happy with the person in the mirror. And I've probably used that as an excuse for perpetuating a negative inner monologue through the years.

All this time I thought that looking in the boxes and facing the past was about pain. Ugly truths. I never thought I'd run into something beautiful. Someone beautiful. Maybe, instead of putting that picture away again, for safekeeping, I should leave it out where I can see it.







Saturday, July 19, 2014

I Spy

When I talked about finding local news through Twitter searches this week, reader Harry Schwarz suggested I take a look at The Chestertown Spy. I did. You should, too. The Spy is an e-newspaper published Monday through Thursday in Chestertown to serve the six towns of Betterton, Church Hill, Chestertown, Galena, Millington, Rock Hall and the Chester River community on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

I found this paragraph a wonderful description of the need for news in smaller communities today:

It must be said that we collectively mourn the possible loss of the traditional physical newspaper, but there is a real need for new alternatives to supplement or even replace its role in community life. While Internet "blogs" have shown some promise in filling this need, they remain all too often the voice of one person rather than the product of journalism. In addition, these community sites rarely take advantage of the full power of the Internet (streaming video, graphics and hyperlinks), which would allow unparalleled access to valuable information.

I would be thrilled if Howard County/Columbia had something like this. Just a cursory glance shows it to be far superior to anything we have right now. Of course, you'd really have to read it day in and day out to see how it holds up overall. But at the moment I am experiencing local news envy in a big way.

In an era where community newspapers are nothing but small fish to be eaten by bigger fish, The Chestertown Spy is a breath of fresh air.



Friday, July 18, 2014


I talked with twenty five people last night. 25. I'm still stunned by the number. I attended Tom Coale's Victory Celebration last night at the Little French Market in Ellicott City. And there were several more I wanted to to speak with, but it just didn't happen. All told, there were around sixty-five people there, and I talked with more than a third of them. I'm not even running for anything!

I'm making a big deal of the number because I am, at my core, an intensely shy person. Yeah, I know. Some people don't believe that, but it's true. My early attempts at going to blog parties were just that. I'd get ready, drive to the event, drive around the location, and drive home.

It has taken a long time to get to an evening where I voluntarily went to a large public function and enjoyed talking to twenty-five people. Little by little I've been moving out of my comfort zone. I'm lucky to have friends whose passion for and dedication to our community has drawn me out to be a greater participant.

Tom Coale, who is now the Democratic Candidate for District 9B for the Maryland House of Delegates, is one of those people. And judging by the number of people I talked to last night, he certainly isn't alone. It is great to see intelligent, hand-working, creative people come together to support good things for their community.

What inspires you to take a step out of your comfort zone? Do it. It's definitely worth it.





Thursday, July 17, 2014


Just one tweet at the top of the page caught my eye:


"Remember how lucky you are."


And then, suddenly, I do.

Lucky. So lucky.

To have a husband who goes away for work and comes back, safe.

To have daughters who are healthy, high-spirited, and kind.

To have a little front garden where the flowers run riot and make me smile.

To have friends who care about me, and about our community.

To have a home to return to, and food to eat.

To have music.

To have the capacity to enjoy it all.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Unspeakable Word

There's a move afoot to pit parents against parents within the Howard County School System. I first got a taste of this when members of the African Americans in Howard County Coalition spoke during the Public Forum portion of a Board of Education meeting in June.

Words such as "selfish", "niche groups", and "narrow minded" were used, also "a vocal minority" who are doing everything they can to undermine the success of the Model Initiative. The speakers went on to describe the Model Schools Initiative in glowing terms, while dismissing the notion that cuts to music instruction would have negative effects.

Here we go again. Parents who support arts education have so far this Spring been called rumor mongers, sneered at as "those music moms" and now they are accused of having a "me and mine attitude", apparently afraid of giving additional resources to needy children for fear of making their own slice smaller. This has got to stop.

I have a question: If you have a really great plan, why is it necessary to make others look bad in order to achieve its success?

Anyone who tries to tell you that people who oppose cuts to music and art instruction are just priviledged suburban white parents trying get luxury frills for free clearly doesn't think much of your intelligence. And, in my opinion, they don't value your kids that much, either.

How can I say this? Well, let's reframe this for just a moment.

"Parents who are protesting for pure, high quality drinking water in the schools are just priviledged suburban white parents trying to get luxury frills for free."

Wait a minute, you say. Don't my kids deserve clean drinking water? Don't all children?

Yes, I am equating arts education with clean drinking water. That's how crucial it is to our students. But you don't have to take my word for it.

President Obama has said, "The arts are central to who we are as a people, and they are central to the success of our kids. This is not an afterthought," he said. "This is not something you do because it's kind of nice to do. It is necessary for these young people to succeed that we promote the arts."

This is not something you do because it's kind of nice to do. It is necessary.

Michelle Obama has said, "The bottom line here is very clear: Arts education isn't something we add on after we've achieved other priorities, like raising test scores and getting kids into college. It's actually critical for achieving those priorities in the first place."

It's not an add-on. It's critical.

So, let's review:

1. Anyone who tells you that parents who are opposed to cutting music and art instruction don't care about you, or your children, or the achievement gap is not telling you the truth.

2. For that matter, anyone who suggests that these parents are against Vision 2018 and/or the Model Schools Initiative is not being truthful, either.

3. And more than anything else, anyone who says the cuts to music and art are a necessary sacrifice on the road to closing the achievement gap is just plain wrong, and there's plenty of data to prove it.

Howard County is known throughout the state for excellence in music, art, drama, and dance. The parents who are now being marginalized as a small faction of privileged malcontents are, in reality, people who are standing up in favor of something: the transformative power of arts education for all children.

Let me reiterate: If you have a really great plan, why is it necessary to make others look bad in order to achieve its success? A great school system draws parents together, brings out the best in families and the community: it seeks to lift us up. It is truly reprehensible to deliberately drive a wedge between groups of parents, especially along racial lines.

Manipulating public opinion in this way is unethical, and goes against what we as a community stand for. Howard County deserves better than this.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finding Local News

Good morning, Columbia! Looking for local news? A search this morning on Twitter of the term "Columbia, Maryland" yielded the following:


@rtwalton: This Thursday, Free all-ages concert (8-10PM) Richard Walton Group @ Columbia Lakefront Concert Series

@NightmareGraph: Mark your calendars...Our annual Oops Sale is 7/26!#sale #columbia #maryland #nightmaregraphics #adidas #ravens #screenprinting

@HoCoTimes: One World Coffeehouse is an outreach for Unitarian-Universalist Congregation:

@HCDFRS: Fire closes Lucky's in Columbia

@LukeHoCoTimes: Update: 13yo #ColumbiaMD girl on bicycle injured after struck on crosswalk by pickup truck - in stable condition

@suncolumbia: .@MissionBBQ opens doors at #ColumbiaMD location - co-owners are #HoCoMd residents, say location is special

@NatPancFdn: Join us this Saturday in Columbia, MD to STRIKE OUT #pancreasdisease!

Every day I use hashtags on Twitter to search local news and issues. My top searches are: #hocomd, #columbiamd, #hoco, Howard County Maryland, Columbia Maryland . We don't have a daily paper following Columbia and Howard County. We don't have a television station or a radio station. So we have to search through content on the internet like a child at the ocean with a sieve, looking for seashells.

Now, it is very likely that there are far more efficient ways to set up automated searches of these things that I just haven't learned yet. But, at least for now, if you haven't ever tried this on Twitter, you should. It's the closest thing to a hometown newspaper you can get.

Just be forewarned that you'll have to sift out adverts, spam, personal tweets, the occasional downright rude tweet, and content pushed out by bots. I find it pretty disgusting to see that reports of the Columbia Mall shooting continue to be reposted as though they were being posted in real time. Ugh.

Some of the people who read my blog already use Twitter and probably have a sophisticated approach to finding what they need. Others are more comfortable with Facebook and haven't ventured into Twitter yet and/or don't see the point. So, for those of you far beyond me: no snarky responses, I just have gotten there yet. And for those who haven't known where to start: try something local.

You might learn something new.





Monday, July 14, 2014

We're Going Back to School

Okay, class. Get your pencils out. Open your notebooks. Let's talk about inflammatory statements.

"Inflammatory statements and personal attacks are two of the most common causes of conflict escalation. When people attack other people verbally, those attacked are likely to get especially defensive or angry-much more than they would have had their opponents kept their statements impersonal and focused on the problem." Inflammatory Statements

I was seriously considering taking a day off until this piece was shared by Maureen Evans Arthurs (candidate account) on Facebook. You may recall Ms. Arthurs as one of the Board of Education candidates who did not make it through the primary. I'm curious as to why her campaign account is still active, although that's not the focus of today's blog post.

I had never heard of Mr. Armstrong before today, so I don't have any background information to go on. I can tell you that the piece is full of inflammatory language, personal attack, and downright falsehoods. The piece is beautifully crafted to make the school system look fair and generous and Mr. Lemle and the teachers' union look greedy and uncaring of students. It falls in line with all the major talking points that the Superintendent has laid out in the court of public opinion.

Except it isn't the truth. It doesn't address key issues that the union is negotiating for:

  • Increasing planning time, and time to collaborate among paraeducators & teachers to help members prepare quality instruction.
  • Giving access to technology for all school employees to let support professionals respond to work issues in a timely manner.
  • Adequate staffing for speech pathologists and related service providers, to help them provide quality special education services, and take sick time when they need to.

It doesn't tell the complete story of who gets increases in pay, what a fair increase looks like, and when step increases would go into effect.

And, most galling to me, it suggests that Mr. Lemle sued to keep negotiations private. The union asked the Board of Education follow the correct legal procedure for officially changing the negotiations from private to public. The Board refused. A subsequent legal ruling was in favor of the union. In fact, negotiating teams turned up for every session that had been scheduled--it was the school system that didn't show up.

Then, in the realm of just pathetic is the suggestion that back room deals were made between the union and the County Executive. Enough said.

Yes, I was considering taking a day off, but apparently people who like to rule by smear campaigns and half-truths and worse don't take the day off.

Time after time, Mr. Lemle has invited parents and the community at large to come to the HCEA website and follow the progress of the negotiations. HCEA maintains active social media accounts. Anyone who goes there can read complete and specific information about what the Howard County teachers are working to achieve through negotiation.

It is extremely disappointing to me that not one single response from the school system adequately addresses the actual issues. The same goes for Mr. Williams. Hmm...his piece contains so many errors and seeks to make points through inflammatory language and personal attack. Either his ability to do the most basic background research is quite poor, or he just took a page from someone else's talking points.

I know for a fact that Paul Lemle is doing the job he was hired to do: to represent Howard County teachers.

Who does Mr. Williams represent?





Saturday, July 12, 2014

Interesting Tidbits

Here are a few things to consider on Saturday.

Blogger Bill Santos of Columbia Compass invited friends to join him for last night's Lakefront showing of "Frozen". It is clear that he has more friends than I had imagined. The Lakefront was packed. The MC/Projectionist said it was the largest crowd in forty years. It's good to have friends.

I might add that all his friends are enthusiastic singers.

Thursday's CA Board meeting revealed some interesting changes. The new president of CA is sitting at the table--smack dab in the middle of the table, next to the Chair. The first time I saw Phil Nelson at a Board meeting he was relegated to a little table to the side, rather like a child in a time-out chair. He eventually made it to the actual table, but somewhere in the periphery. I am intrigued to see how this central location for Mr. Matthews plays out.

Another interesting change: reporter Amanda Yeager gave us an article with facts, quotes, and numbers. Awesome.

This Thursday evening there will be a reception for the Columbia Archives exhibit "James Rouse at Leisure."

The exhibit opened on July 1 and will run through September at the Archives. A reception on July 17 at 7 p.m. will be an opportunity to visit after hours and enjoy a program highlighted by a Rouse family member recalling vacations and get-togethers. The reception will also feature some additional artifacts that will not be on display as part of the exhibit. (Columbia Archives)

I have been to several events at the archives and always enjoy the experience. It's not simply about fascinating documents, photographs, and artifacts, it's also about the interesting people you meet and get a chance to talk to. You should try to drop in Thursday if you have a chance.

I'm looking forward to another cup of coffee and a relatively slow day--what about you?



Friday, July 11, 2014

Keeping My Word

Here is my testimony from the Columbia Association Board Meeting last night.


I'm here tonight because on May 28, 2014 I stood in this very spot and said, "I have attended multiple CA Board meetings to speak in support of this park. I will keep coming back as often as necessary, and I am not alone."

And so I must begin with these words. I'm back.

I'm back because I support the Inner Arbor Plan for Symphony Woods. I support it, my family supports it, my friends support it, and the majority of Columbia supports it. We can't wait to see it get started.

But I can't let this moment pass by without sharing two more words: Thank You.

I'm here to thank a small but largely overlooked group without whom we would not have the Inner Arbor Plan. That's right: I want to thank the people who objected to the first plan.

Now, I'll admit that when Mr. Paumier's plan was released I was not a fan. It was not the park I had been hoping for. But I knew that Symphony Woods had been sadly neglected, and that the space was tragically underutilized. And I wanted to be on the same team as the people who were trying to move Columbia forward. And so I winced a little, and I gritted my teeth, and I supported it.

But not these people. No, they had clear expectations and high standards and there was no compromising.

I'm sure that these individuals are far too modest for me to mention them by name tonight--but I could. Because their objections are on the public record: at Village Board Meetings, CA Board Meetings, testimony before the Planning Board, and even letters to the newspaper.

And it is because of these people that CA reached out to Michael McCall, to create a better park. Make no mistake, without their protest we would not have the Inner Arbor plan which is superior to the original plan in every way. It saves more trees, it preserves and enhances the natural environment, it combines nature and the arts, it works collaboratively with Merriweather.

And the CA Board voted to support this plan, because they, too, wanted a better park. And they voted to create the Inner Arbor Trust, to move the plan forward.

So, to those of you who refused to settle, I say: thank you. Whatever you may have done in your lives here up to this point, it's safe to say that your lasting legacy to Columbia will be this wonderful park, and we can't wait to see it get started.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Stayin' Alive


When Wilde Lake was dedicated in 1967 James Rouse remarked that he hoped Columbia would never be finished, that the community would continue to develop and that the residents who would come to call Columbia home would be actively engaged in the process. That has proven to be true and the history of Columbia is an ongoing story. (Columbia Archives)

(Photo from Columbia Archives: History of Columbia)

There's a meeting tonight. I believe I've told you that already.

There's another meeting in the town that was supposed to transform our notion of towns and bring new ideas to community living.

There's yet one more meeting on top of all the other meetings, and I hate meetings. And I will be there.

I will be there because I believe Columbia should live.

I will be there because I believe our community deserves an exciting and inspiring park that invites us to come together.

I will be there because I believe it is time to include more than one generation in the future of our amazing city. The people on the People Tree: they're us, but only if we raise our voices, support, participate, give witness.

I believe in the transformative power of what happens when people come together to work for something.

"I want to be around people that do things. I don’t want to be around people anymore that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things."― Amy Poehler





Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Thirst Game

Are you ready? It's time to play our game.

So, you're thirsty. You get something to drink. Simple. It's a basic human need, and no one should come between you and your choice of beverage, right?

If only that were true.

Beverage companies spend millions of dollars influencing what you will choose when you want to quench that thirst. They have focus groups, advertising professionals, marketing campaigns, street teams, and food scientists tweaking flavors. All their efforts are aimed at you and how you spend your money.

In many ways, the game is rigged before you even start.

The amount of money that groups like the Horizon Foundation are able to spend is a drop in the bucket. They have to work twice as hard to even get your attention. In my opinion, the HoCo Unsweetend campaign has been doing a great job going directly to thirsty people and showing them that there are better choices.

But when it comes to playing our game, the odds are against them.

So, let's think on this. When you're playing the game, you're thirsty and you want a drink. Big Soda is playing the game, too. They want your money. And groups like the Horizon Foundation and the County are playing, too. What do they want?

They're responding to a public health crisis. (One which is costing all of us a good bit of money in health care costs, by the way.) They want to reduce negative impact on the community. So, they want to lessen consumption of sugary drinks and sodas. How? Education, shaping behaviors, and, in the case of health and wellness policies, choosing to exclude them from items offered for sale at County facilities and events.

Which leads us to the Fourth of July. And this is where the game gets tricky. Remember, we have three players here: you, Big Soda, and Public Health. Only now, when you get to an event like fireworks at the Lakefront, the game is suddenly not about public health. It's about public relations.

You can probably tell from what I have written so far that I am rooting for the Public Health folks. And this is what makes this event complicated for me. I feel as though it made the case for healthier drinks looks bad. Getting the public to choose healthier drinks at summer events would be a win. Making so many different groups of people mad is not, especially folks who are inclined to be on your side for the most part.

As I said, it's a difficult game to win.

So here is my armchair analysis, for what it's worth. When folks at the county were deciding to do this, what was the conversation around the table? Did anyone play Devil's Advocate? Did they prepare an adequate response to naysayers? Were they ready to make this decision look like a win for the community every step of the way?

I agree with Ian Kennedy, of the Horizon Foundation, that being chosen as a vendor for County events is a privilege, and not a right. But seems to me that it was disgruntled vendors carping to the press that gave this story "legs". How much time was spent recruiting vendors that would be on board with offering a variety of healthy drinks? If the vendors had been willing partners, this could have been more of a win for Better Beverages.

More of a win. Not an outright win, but a move forward along the game board. Re-shaping human behavior against the rolling tide of Big Soda (not to mention attitudes of those who equate public health with "nanny state") can't be won in one roll of the dice. But I can't help feeling that this was a wrong choice for the right reasons.

People can pass judgement all they want. Actions have consequences. Public actions have public consequences. And the County was willing to put itself out there on this. Why? Because they have a long-term goal of improving the health of citizens. Of reducing costs spent on treating diseases brought on by high consumption of sodas and sugary drinks.

You think it's as simple as "no one comes between me and my thirst"?

Think again. And thanks for playing our game.







Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Tough Game to Win

Throughout our nation's history there have been times when vocal and persistent people had to make the case for paying attention to public health issues.

  • Patent Medicines (leading to the Pure Food and Drug Act)
  • Child Labor Conditions (leading to Child Labor Laws)
  • Manipulation of the public by tobacco companies (leading to regulation of tobacco advertising, also lawsuits awarding communities funds to remediate effects of smoking)

I imagine that even back then there were naysayers and detractors who saw this as mere government interference. Especially those standing to lose profits as a result. Or those who didn't want to let truth get in the way of their ingrained habits.

My own father clung for years to the argument that there was no scientific proof that smoking was bad for your health. He died of COPD/emphysema at 57, and I was sick on and off all through my childhood with bronchitis as a result of his smoking. I had an impressive smoker's cough.

Secret documents from tobacco companies with plenty of damning information finally became available in 1998. My dad died in 1984.

Why today's history lesson? Maybe because those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Study after study shows the link between sugary drinks and sodas with childhood obesity, early onset diabetes, heart disease. A cursory glance at any group of children whose daily intake of these drinks is high confirms the scientific studies. Just look around. And not just at children, at everyone.

It is a serious public health issue. Luckily we have some persistent and vocal people making the case: pay attention! Are we listening?

Now, we can all sit in our comfy armchairs and pick apart the County's recent decision to exclude sugary drinks from Fourth of July festivities at the Lakefront. Help yourself. They put themselves out there, so they have to take what comes next, right? And it makes for lots of extra clicks for the BaltiHoCo SunTimes.

Tomorrow I am going to examine the July Fourth situation in more depth. However, I want to make it clear that any analysis I do is as limited as that of any other armchair critic. I wasn't there when this decision was made. I don't know what led up to it. I didn't hear the discussion in the room when pros and cons were weighed. I just don't know.

But, like you, I have an opinion. To start with I think that getting people to take a public health threat seriously when it may not look obvious to them is an extremely difficult game to win.

So tomorrow we'll play HoCo Quench! -- the Thirst Game.




Monday, July 7, 2014

Please Touch

"Students often come to school with a tactile deficit."

This article from NPR about the Maker movement and mainstream education was introduced with that sentence. It grabbed my attention immediately. I talk a lot on this blog about hands-on education. There's a reason. Multi-sensory education is the most memorable.

It's often the most joyful. And empowering.

So what does a tactile deficit look like?

As a preschool and kindergarten teacher I frequently encountered children who had never used scissors at home, nor glue, glitter, play dough, or paints. "I don't want that mess in my house!" And then there were the anxious parents who made sure to spend extra time every day on workbooks and skill/drill activites with their young child, to help them get ahead.

These children were often lacking in the most basic skills of childhood. Some were reluctant to cut or glue because they didn't know how. Some were afraid to get dirty and risk parental disapproval. On the other hand, some were so desperate to have these messy, squishy experiences that it was hard to get them to do anything else.

There is a deep need in all of us to touch, manipulate, create, build, experiment. It is a sensory need and a cognitive need. It supports a willingness to take risks and fuels a healthy sense of well being.

And none of it can be assessed through high stakes testing.

When we went to the fireworks the other evening at Talbott Springs, my daughter marveled at the activites around us. "We never got to use this field," she said of the big, beautiful green space where children were running free. "Well, sometimes for soccer. And sometimes they made us run around the field four times."


"I don't know. It was some kind of a race between the grades that we had to, I don't even know why they made us do it. We got a sticker on our charts."

She just kept looking around. "They never let us use the field the way we wanted to."


She pointed to a little boy digging in the dirt with a stick. And someone nearby was playing a pretend game at the base of a tree where the roots spread out.

"And they used to let us play over there but they stopped because the sand made our hands dirty."

Some children come to school with a tactile deficit. And some have it thrust upon them. Every time hands-on, multi-sensory ways of learning are replaced by subjects that can be assessed through high-stakes testing, we sacrifice the best kind of learning. And therefore, we are sacrificing our children.





Sunday, July 6, 2014

Still Playing Out

A bit of a postscript on yesterday's post. Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks posted this on Facebook yesterday morning:

Thanks to all who came out for the July 4th Festival and Fireworks on the Lake last night and we hope you enjoyed the show. We do apologize for the delay in the start of the fireworks, which were scheduled for dusk but were pushed back due to a technical issue. We will work to ensure this is corrected for future years.

This was followed by ten relatively civil responses, none of which Rec and Parks bothered to respond to.

I have to admit when I read this, I did the forehead slap--"Oh, Rec & Parks, that explains it!"

Yes, what Rec and Parks does for Howard County is wonderful, I don't deny that. But their record on communication with the public isn't stellar. Consider the difficulties with the Emerson neighborhood concerning Blandair Park: not solely their fault, but would've been an entirely different scenario if they had put communication with residents at the top of their list.

Overall, I have heard plenty of anecdotal evidence that Rec & Parks are the people who don't get back to you. What happened on Saturday night seems like yet another example of a failure to communcate.

I hope that July 4th, 2014 serves as a genuine wake-up call for the County that all departments need to be at the top of their game when it comes to communication. The brilliance that the police department brought to the Columbia Mall shooting situation as they shared information with the public tells us that some folks know how it ought to be done.

Combine the awesome facilities and programs offered by HoCo Rec & Parks with excellent responsiveness and communication. Our entire county will be the better for it.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

How It All Plays Out

After my migraine abated yesterday I ended up having a wonderful day. Some relaxation time with the family, a great party with some friends, and, at the end, a quick walk over to Talbott Springs for our neighborhood fireworks-watching.

I understand that there are a variety of locations besides the Lakefront where people gather to watch the fireworks. We discovered Talbott Springs last year and love it. People set up their chairs and blankets on one end of the field, and children run, play ball, toss frisbees and so on in the rest of the space. And of course there's the school playground right there as well. As the darkness falls, people break out sparklers and glow toys. It's pretty magical.

At around nine-thirty, I checked Twitter for any indication of when the fireworks would begin:

@courtneywatson1: About to lead the countdown to start the fireworks w. @calvinballteam Are you ready # hocoMD? #Columbia

And then, nothing.

So we all know by now that the fireworks didn't start until ten o'clock. I don't want to belabor the point. I am just puzzled as to why the county didn't use social media to keep residents informed of what was happening. It was the single most effective way of communicating with a large number of people in multiple locations.

Nobody likes glitches, but everyone understands life isn't always perfect. It's harder to understand being kept in the dark (sorry) when it isn't truly necessary. It is particularly hard to swallow since Howard County has been so great at communicating through social media in the past--so much so that all kinds of people I know were going to Facebook and Twitter looking for answers. They felt a reasonable expectation that the County would be there with information.

A confession: the fact that there was no communication on social media got my over-active imagination working overtime. I jumped to the conclusion that something horrible and dangerous was occurring and that the only way to keep people safe and avoid mass panic was to maintain "radio silence." Every helicopter I saw overhead confirmed to me that we were dealing with an active shooter or a case of homeland terrorism.

Sometimes saying nothing is saying something after all.

Anyway, I hear the fireworks were great. We headed home after they started because my daughter was exhausted. We'll be back again next year. It's neighborhood tradition. Next year we want to bring some friends and some glow toys.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Greatest Day Ever

When the alarm went off at seven am I was awake only to the extent that I realized I had a migraine and that my husband's back was feeling painful enough that it hurt to reach over to silence the alarm. It didn't feel to me as though the greatest day ever had arrived. Far from it.

We were supposed to go, the three of us, to march in the 4th of July Parade in River Hill to support candidate Courtney Watson. That is not how things turned out. From the looks of this picture, they certainly had enough people.

But that's not what really matters to me at this moment. What matters is that I let down Dylan Goldberg, Field Director for Courtney Watson's campaign. To give you an idea of the kind of person Dylan is, let's begin with this tweet, posted at 12:00 am this morning.

@DylanGoldberg: YES GREATEST DAY EVER HAS ARRIVED #fourthofjuly

If you don't know Dylan, you are truly missing something. He is an inexplicable force of nature, someone who believes American democracy with every fiber of his being. Both his words and his actions are infused with making the community a better place. Whether supporting candidates or collecting food for the hungry, he is the Energizer Bunny of good works and good will. When he gets down in the dumps he watches inspiring episodes of the West Wing. Or iconic political speeches.

I confess that when I first met him he rather scared me. He seemed too good to be true. At that time he was either just finishing high school or just beginning college. How could someone this young be so driven? After a while, you just stop asking yourself this question and accept him for who he is. He's in love with the political process, willing to work, excited about how good government can help people and lift them up.

So Dylan, I'm sorry we let you down this morning, and I hope you really do have the greatest day ever. In a week with troubling news of decisions that threaten the democracy you and I both treasure, it helps to know that there are people like you who won't give up on how great our nation is truly meant to be.




Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sound the Alarm! Again.


It appears that some of the CA Board Members continue to plug away, by any means they can, to stop the Inner Arbor plan for Symphony Woods. They tried doing it on the sly and got caught. Now they're putting it on the agenda.

Here's their plan: to claim that the Inner Arbor Trust has made a material change to the concept design plan and therefore needs approval from the Board for design change.

Why? Because, according to the rules in place, if the change is deemed to be material and not approved, the trust could be found in breach of the easement agreements.

What does that mean to us? It could very well lead to a halt of the project, a court battle, loss of potential funding by the county or private donors.

The truth is that the plans for the park are not inconsistent with the concept plan. To give you some examples, a material change would be something like the addition of a petting zoo or a soccer stadium.

It is disheartening that we have to keep going back, over and over again, to remind a narrow minority that the majority of our community wants this park, believes in this park, and can't wait to see it take shape at the center of Columbia. But we do. It seems almost prophetic that I uttered these words as recently as May:

"I have attended multiple CA Board meetings to speak in support of this park. I will keep coming back as often as necessary, and I am not alone."

Julia McCready (CA Resident Speakout: May 28, 2014)

If you have come before, come again. Bring a family member, a neighbor, or a friend with you. If you haven't come before, now is the time. There is nothing more valuable in a community than the voices of people gathered to fight for something.

As for me, I'm pretty sure my comments will begin like this:









Wednesday, July 2, 2014

In the Line-Up

For some reason I am unbelievably exhausted and have been since we got back from the Midwest. You wouldn't think that an adjustment of only one hour would do that to you.


Instead of a fully-formed blog post, here are some topics that are waiting around for their turn at the near future, I hope.


  • This year's CA elections versus the race for Democratic Central Committee in Howard County.
  • "Clicking contests" vs. voting with your feet.
  • Paying Le Comptoir at Petit Louis a second visit.
  • Why does Oakland Mills needs to be "re-invented for the 21st century?"
  • The strange case of HoCo Times and Baltimore Sun making separate endorsements.
If any of these are of particular interest to you, or you have other topics you'd like to suggest, let me know.


And now: back to bed...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

So, who designed this beautiful amphitheater?
Wait. Frank Gehry?
Our Frank Gehry?
This Frank Gehry?


When the city first determined that a new pavilion should be built, the commission was supposed to go to Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. The original pavilion design was much more modest than the structure that was eventually built, with a smaller shell structure and speakers affixed to poles interspersed throughout the seating area. However, two factors led to the cancellation of the original plans. First, the project's scope changed as a result of additional funds raised by John H. Bryan, former CEO of the Sara Lee Corporation. The second factor was the intervention of the Pritzker family as potential donors. Unimpressed with the pavilion's original design, Cindy Pritzker "mandated that Frank Gehry be involved in its re-design". Jay Pritzker, a prominent Chicago businessman, had died in January 1999; his family own several businesses, including Hyatt Hotels. Jay and Cindy Pritzker had founded the Pritzker Prize in architecture in 1979, and the Pritzker family's Hyatt Foundation continues to award it annually. Architect Frank Gehry had received the Pritzker Prize in 1989. See more. (Bolded words mine)

So Frank Gehry was brought in after the orginal design was deemed unimpressive. Sound familiar?

Some people around Columbia seem to think that doing this sort of thing is a crime. They'll tell you that Cy Paumier is this only person who has the right to design our park. Actually, CA has the right to choose the best design for the park. Just as Chicago did when they chose to go with Frank Gehry.

Why Frank Gehry?

At the time, the Chicago Tribune dubbed Gehry "the hottest architect in the universe" in reference to the acclaim for his Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and they noted the designs would not include Mayor Richard M. Daley's trademarks, such as wrought iron and seasonal flower boxes. Millennium Park project manager Edward Uhlir said "Frank is just the cutting edge of the next century of architecture," and noted that no other architect was being sought. Having Gehry get involved helped the city realize its vision of having modern themes in the park; upon rumors of his involvement the Chicago Sun-Times proclaimed "Perhaps the future has arrived",while the Chicago Tribune noted that "The most celebrated architect in the world may soon have a chance to bring Chicago into the 21st Century". See more.

  • Cutting edge of the next century of architecture
  • Modern themes in the park
  • Perhaps the future has arrived
  • Bringing into the 21st century

Wow! Chicago brought Frank Gehry into the Milennium Park project for exactly the same reason that CA brought Michael McCall into the Symphony Woods project. And he, through the creation of the Inner Arbor Trust, has brought together a world-class team of architects and designers to make it happen.

What is now Millennium Park was first conceived in late 1997 with Mayor Richard M. Daley’s vision of turning the area into a new public space for residents of Chicago. The original plan called for a 16-acre park and outdoor music venue in the traditional Beaux Arts style of Grant Park. Over time, with the commitment of the private sector and the involvement of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the project evolved into an ambitious undertaking featuring a collection of world-renowned artists, architects, planners, landscape architects and designers. See more.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Chicago has an incredibly beautiful, vibrant park. The plans for the space changed over time. A new architect with a new vision was brought in. The entire project is a result of the work of a team of artists, architects, planners, landscape architects and designers.

This is exactly what is happening in Columbia, Maryland. This is how they do things in the real world. It's not about small-minded allegiances and conspiracy theories. It's about getting things accomplished: the most beautiful park for our community. Appealing to all generations. Attracting new residents and hosting exciting community events.

I can't for the life of me imagine what motivated Frank Gehry to slam the Inner Arbor plan for Symphony Woods. He, of all people, knows what it is like when they bring in a new architect to bring vision to a project. I can say that I think his position is untenable. And possibly disingenuous.

And I learned all this from a trip to Milennium Park and some basic research on the internet. Some members of our CA Board need to widen their world-view and do their homework if they want to have something meaningful to say about the future of Columbia.

Perhaps the future has already arrived.