Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Whether Report

Foot's Forecast is practically beside itself.

"6:00 AM 9/30 - Sometimes the truth, though painful has to made known. In this case, it's the realization Maryland may be facing the most significant hurricane threat since Isabel."

The Capital Weather Gang doesn't appear to be as anxious.

You can follow for yourself at the NOAA Hurricane Center:

So, part of the story today is whether we should be taking the possibility of a major storm seriously. The other part is whether the Kittleman administration is ready to marshall its forces to deal with this kind of weather event.

Ken Ulman and his team had the emergency weather thing down to a science. And an art form, if that's possible. They were good at coordinating people to get the work done, and keeping the community informed every step of the way. Veterans of the "Emergency Operations Center" (or whatever if was called) are probably glad that they never have to do that again, but the rest of us benefited from the grueling hours they spent, hunkered down, answering constituent calls and getting services to the correct locations.

I would assume it's not easy to get all this in place. It's a multi-faceted operation. So far we have seen the Kittleman administration responding to snow as best as might be expected for beginners. What was lacking, in my opinion, was the communication piece. If we have to go through a major storm I hope that we'll see much more outreach and interaction on social media.

I also hope we don't lose power, rendering that kind of communication impossible.

Knocking on wood over here. The Oakland Mills Fall Festival is Saturday, rain or shine. I'd like the best weather possible for this annual awesome event.






Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tug of War

So what's up with the Harriet Tubman Building? It's owned by the Howard County Public Schools. But it has historical significance to the community. Tonight there will be a celebratory event marking the 50th anniversary of desegregation in Howard County. Despite years of advocacy by Delegate Frank Turner and others to turn the Harriet Tubman Building into a museum, it remains in use as office space for hcpss maintenance staff.




It's true that the school system is using the building. But I would think that they would have bent over backwards to honor the desires of the community on this one. Surely there's some other-out-of commission building they could put to use?


I don't have all the answers on this one. But I do think we could be making more progress on this if we really put our minds to it.



Monday, September 28, 2015

Sticks and Stones

Following up on yesterday's post in which I expressed my horror at anonymous online comments--if you are interested in the dynamics of what makes people feel free to say these things you'd probably be interested in the upcoming Choose Civility Forum: Would You Say That To My Face? And Other Questions of Online Citizenship.

The African Amercian Community Roundtable is having its Fall Forum this evening in conjunction with HCPSS. I would imagine they have a good bit to talk about. The public is invited.

If you are interested in going a step further and connecting with other people in Howard County (and across Maryland) actively working to overcome racism, a great place to start is this Facebook page: Black Lives Matter: Maryland.

You can support Penn North's new youth center in Baltimore City by attending a benefit concert this Saturday night at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia in Owen Brown. More about Penn North here. This promises to be a fun event for a good cause, featuring well-known local talent.

Many more opportunities to light a candle than to curse the darkness.









Sunday, September 27, 2015

Racial Divide

Lisa Philip's article for the Howard County Times, "Report points to racial divide in Howard County school suspensions" presents some disturbing numbers.

"According to a report issued to the African American Community Roundtable by the Howard County school system, black students in the county were 7 times more likely to be suspended than their white classmates during the 2013 to 2014 school year, the most recent year included in the report."

Seven times more likely.

I'm equally disturbed to learn that AACR asked for this information three years ago but only just received it this past June. That doesn't feel very responsive to me.

I'm not going to focus on the article itself today. Instead, it's the comments that floored me. HoCoTimes puts up articles on many different aspects of community life and often there are no comments whatsoever. Maybe just one or two from those diehards who just cannot restrain themselves.

But watch what happens when they talk about a racial divide. Suddenly everyone's an expert. There are 98 comments. Whether or not you believe that the suspension rate is a sign of institutionalized racism, reading the comments will make it painfully clear that we have a problem in Howard County.

It is beyond my comprehension that so many of these people think they are experts on African American students: their behavior, culture, family life, speech, potential, value to society... The comments section is home to Howard County's own Donald Trump wannabe's. And it's scary. And disgusting.

All these people are able to post under pseudonyms. I truly wish that every single one of these people had to use their own names. It would be lovely if their comments were printed on their clothing, or followed them around In floating speech bubbles over their heads. Everyone should know who these people truly are--employers, businesses they patronize, their friends, family, pastors, co-workers, fellow members of social organizations.

There is a whole mess of invisible racism hiding in the shadows of Howard County. We need a lot of light shining on this. Letting it fester in the darkness and pretending it's not there is no solution at all.





Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fierce Love

Last night I was driving back home from hanging out on the deck at my daughter's house in Stevens Forest. My car windows were rolled down, the early Fall weather was mild and the James Taylor song was building towards the chorus.

I turned into the Village Center and noticed a touch of Fall color on trees and bushes. The parking lot was busy with people doing a bit of Friday night shopping, picking up dry cleaning, Chinese food, heading into the Second Chance. I felt something well up in my heart.

"I forget what to ask for, there isn't anything I haven't been given. How could I wish for anything more as I am here living in heaven? This moment in the sun to feel the wheel turning on."

This is my home. These are my people. The beautiful streets and houses, the seasons changing, people out walking their dogs, the cross country runners from the high school. The teenager who breaks off from his pack to help an older lady who has dropped a bag of groceries.

I love Oakland Mills.

And yet--somehow--there is a small, discontented minority that wants me to be scared, angry, and upset.

I'm not.

They want me to be scared, angry, and upset about the state of my Village. I'm not.

They want me to be scared, angry, and upset about how my neighbors' houses look. I'm not.

They want me to be scared, angry, and upset about the kind of children who attend our schools. I'm not.

They want me to be scared, angry, and upset when the County considers investing in an Oakland Mills property that badly needs investment. I'm not.

Do I ever get scared, angry, and upset? Sure. I'm scared that these people are destroying a healthy future for Oakland Mills. I'm angry that they are mistreating our Village Staff and breaking Village Board rules to get their way. And I'm upset that they care more about property values than people.

But I love Oakland Mills. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I have friends, family, and wonderful neighbors here. We have great schools and a lively Village Center and Farmers Market. Our Village Staff work hard to serve our community.

Can a fierce love for community win out over people who mobilize their troops through fear, anger, and negative emotion? I believe it can, but only if I am not alone. Only if the voices of people who work every day for creating the good are willing to speak up and be heard.

If you are reading this, you might be one of them.



Friday, September 25, 2015


Thanks to that cheery Memories function on Facebook, I am reminded that this happened a year ago, almost to the day. Do you think anyone benefited? Ms. Vaillancourt did emerge as the top vote-getter in the November election, but surely that was not the point.


In a week when I have written about journalists, transportation, Oakland Mills politics, the resignation of a school system employee, and academic outcomes for children who need help with food, Facebook tells me my biggest success was with a piece showing my teddy bear Buddy down at the Second Chance Saloon.




I wonder what I'll think about all this a year from now?


Thursday, September 24, 2015


At 7:22 pm saw the following post on Facebook:

"Columbia folks, explosion info?"

Followed shortly by another:

"Earthquake? Explosion? House just shook!"

And then the conversations were percolating all over the place. The best information was coming from the gentleman who knew how to follow the Howard County Police & Fire live web feed. News was spreading by word of mouth from one Facebook thread to another. Unbelievably, some people hopped in their cars to go take a look and post photos. (In my opinion, not a recommended course of action.)

Social media allows us the ability to do this. And in times of crisis it can be very helpful. We're not alone. We can share what knowledge we have.

But, at the very same time, our local journalists were going into high gear. First Amanda Yeager, then Andrew Michaels, then Kevin Rector (out of Baltimore) went to work collecting information and getting it out to the public on Twitter. A preliminary story went up online, followed later by more complete coverage. (Note: BaltSun reporter Colin Campbell also worked on this story.)

At some point I noticed that television stations were mobilizing to get teams out to the scene. I have to admit I wasn't as interested in that. I don't know those people. They don't have a local connection. I appreciate that they are doing their jobs, and certainly fires and the aftermath of explosions make for great footage. Wouldn't it be great if we had our own television station?

I digress.

Smack dab in the middle of all this was a very local journalist, Tara Boyle, of NPR/WAMU. Why? She lives here, not all that far from where this happened. It didn't matter to her that it was supposed to be a normal evening at home. Once the explosion occurred, she went to work. She was at the scene, sharing information on Facebook and Twitter, shooting still photos and conducting interviews.

Social media gives us a feeling sometimes that we are all reporting the news. We can all be citizen journalists. If you have a computer, an internet connection, and a camera on your smart phone, why not? That's all you need, right?

Last night should be another reminder to us of how much we need professional journalists. Social media produces an onslaught of personal experiences. Some may be accurate, some not. Journalists are trained not just to "cover a story" but to assess information, to look for the truth, as best it can be found in the constantly changing maelstrom of an ongoing crisis. It takes training, and practice, and a special kind of insight.

A tip of the hat to our local journalists this morning. And a huge HoCo Holler to all our first responders who battled the fire and cared for residents.

"@RectorSun: Lessons from a long day reporting: Always run to the news, and be thankful you have a home to return to when you can."









Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Half a Birthday

Today is my half-birthday. For those of you keeping track at home, that means I'm something-and-a-half. When I was little my mother marked half birthdays by baking half a cake. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized the secret of the missing half. She just baked one layer, cut it in half, and stacked it.

This also means it's the birthday of Buddy Bear, who was given to me on my half birthday by my husband and younger daughter. He and I have been through a lot together. He may be as old as ten or eleven--perhaps even twelve?--but he's every bit as much my best friend now as he was the day he walked in the door.

Although Buddy is very likely approaching adolescence, he shows no signs of it. He's still very loving, cuddly, a little bit unsure of himself. He continues to be afraid of heights and isn't at all keen on acrobatics or acts of derring-do. He loves to sing and dance. He tends to ask questions first to make sure he knows what's going on. He ponders things. As you might have guessed, he loves all things honey and adores fruit, especially blueberries.

Turning something-and-a-half is yet another opportunity for considering how old I am, marveling at things and places and people who are gone or irrevocably changed. But today I find myself thinking of Buddy, and all the ways I continue to be childlike. Make fun of me if you will. I'm pretty happy about this part of myself. Like Buddy I'm still asking questions and open to learning something new.

I can't imagine Buddy ever saying, "Get off my lawn!" He's far too interested in making a new friend to play with. In fact, he probably thinks that Buddy Benches are named after him. (I haven't asked.) He's been through four or five different shirts, scary trips through the washer and dryer, and several surgeries involving additional stuffing. None of that has changed his positive, loving, and curious world-view.

I'm thinking I might just bake him a cake today.





Tuesday, September 22, 2015

And A Little Child Will Lead Them

Gotta hand it to Oakland Mills Girl Scouts for schooling certain decidedly unfriendly adults on the Oakland Mills Village Board without even trying. They decided to build a friendship bench for their Bronze Star Project.

"Simran eventually became friends with three girls in her Girl Scout troop, Troop 4709, who also attended Thunder Hill Elementary, in Columbia, and wanted to help her create a friendship bench for a Girl Scout Bronze Star project.

'It's open to fifth- and sixth- graders,' said Simran's friend, Aria Lunt, now a sixth-grader at Oakland Mills Middle. 'First you find something that needs to be fixed in your community, then you find a way to fix it.'"

A friendship bench. If you don't know what this is, look here for the origins of the Buddy Bench.

"The buddy bench is a simple idea to eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the playground. Let's spread the message of inclusion and kindness!"

Inclusion and kindness are two things they really, really need on the Oakland Mills Village Board.

It was announced last night at the board meeting that the OMVB Board Co-Chairs and Architecture Committee Chair called an emergency meeting last Friday with Tom Carbo, Diane Wilson, and the County Executive. Last night was the first time most people had heard about this meeting.

Let's let that sink in a little bit. These OM representatives almost certainly squashed the possibility of the county purchasing Grand Pointe without including the full membership of the Oakland Mills Village Board. They couldn't even allow Tom Carbo of the County to come and present information for the community consider. They wouldn't even include the full membership of our village's elected board in the negotiation process.

Three people out of a board of seven took it upon themselves to halt any kind of learning and negotiation process.

When it comes to Friendship Benches, these folks have planted themselves on the bench and are telling everyone else, "It's our bench. It's full, sorry."

This blog puts a very high value on opportunities where Columbia and Howard County can intersect. That's why I find this action particularly offensive. A partnership between Oakland Mills Village and Howard County might very well have produced benefits for Grand Pointe and for our community. In addition, this behavior violates the Board's responsibility to the community and it violates the responsibility that these three board members have to the full board. Having served on the OMVB, I speak with reasonable authority that this is not how you do business.

"First you find something that needs to be fixed in your community, then you find a way to fix it."

If you live in Oakland Mills, is this what you want for your community? If not, take a lesson from the Girl Scouts.






Monday, September 21, 2015

Deep Background

The biggest surprise to me as a blogger has been when people send me anonymous emails. I just wasn't expecting that. It doesn't happen often, but writers share two qualities: they think someone should know what they are seeing, and they fear reprisal if their identities are known.

The problem for me is that an anonymous email doesn't give me enough to write a responsible post, no matter how important the topic. I combine evidence from the public record, my own first-hand experience, and conversations with people I know and trust to bring balance to pieces that I write. I'm not a journalist by any stretch, but the responsibilities of a journalist still weigh heavily upon me.

That being said, there are two issues that I haven't addressed on the blog because of this, and yet I still think they bear discussion. So I am going to put them out to you in case you have information to support or disprove them. Hello, court of public opinion. I suppose I may regret this.

Here goes:

  • I have been hearing that certain members of the Oakland Mills Village Board have been treating the professional staff of the Village in an unprofessional, negative, accusatory manner.
  • Word has reached me that the transition of power at PTACHC from one president to the next has been quite the bumpy ride. The person who wrote me had concerns about leadership styles.

So, can anyone out there go on the record about either one of these? They are both things I would write about if I had enough reliable information.

And while we are at it, were any of you at the Harriet Tubman celebration at Ridgely's Run over the weekend? Word travels fast in Howard County and if the rumblings I am hearing are true, that's a bigger story than the other two combined.

Keep me posted.



Sunday, September 20, 2015

Transportation Collage

A few snapshots this week on the way we get around town.

Did anyone have a chance to speak with these folks? I'd like to know more.

@maximize2040: Having a great time camping out on @parkingday to #TalkTransportation @WholeFoods in #ColumbiaMD! Stop by to chat.

A blast from the past, courtesy of the collection of Ilana Bittner:
Yes, availability of gas stations in Columbia has an effect on gas prices and on how we choose to get around. And there's definitely a history in Columbia on limiting the number of gas stations. You can see just exactly how people are fighting about this issue in the here and now when it comes to a proposed gas station on Snowden River Parkway.
The most recent Friends of Bridge Columbia Newsletter is out. You should definitely get on their email list if you aren't already. Connecting Columbia with a pedestrian, bike, and transit bridge will definitely change how we get around. For the better.
This next photo is a sign not of what is, but what is to come. The tipping point for supporting successful transit will come only when people are convinced that it will be more convenient and less expensive to leave their cars at home. A startling amount of Columbia real estate is presently paved over and tied up in free parking. But a growing number of residents and potential residents are looking for walkable, bikeable communities with convenient transit systems that make it possible to live car-free, or to leave the car at home more often.
I'd like to be able to show photographs of more sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalks being installed county-wide. Let me know if you've got some. How are we coming along on that? Any substantial progress?
How do you get around town? How would you like to get around?








Saturday, September 19, 2015

Mother Lives On

When I was in high school my mother and I had an ongoing feud over paper towels. I would find one crumpled up on the kitchen counter and throw it out. She'd be furious. "It was still good! I could have used it again. Paper towels are expensive!" I just didn't get it. Paper towels are meant to be disposable. You use one; you throw it out.

She got so ticked off with me, in fact, that one year when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas she shot back, "A roll of paper towels!"

Through the years I have come to understand her behavior through the lens of her childhood during the Great Depression. It shaped how she looked at material possessions. She was the sort of person who carefully saved bakery string, shirt cardboard from the dry cleaner's, margarine tubs, and old birdseye cotton diapers from our babyhoods--the best for washing windows, she claimed.

Waste not, want not.

She absolutely would have used that paper towel one more time, for a spill on the counter or a spot in the floor. And just as I couldn't understand her need to do that, she couldn't understand my profligate attitude. I had grown up in a throw-away culture. She had not.

A few months ago I was startled to see a crumpled, lightly-used paper towel on the kitchen counter. But I knew right away how it had gotten there. My mother had somehow managed to rise up out of my subconscious. The next time I noticed a sticky spot on the floor, that paper towel came to the rescue. And I didn't feel quite so guilty about using paper towels, now that I knew how wasteful they are in the grand scheme of things and how bad for the planet.

My focus is on reducing the amount of waste I produce. Reducing the amount of harm my family does to the environment. In that sense I see paper towels as being expensive in a whole different way. And yet I still can't quite give them up. So I'm using them more than once to reduce my guilt.

You can do your part to reduce waste in our community today by shopping at the Oakland Mills Village Community Flea Market. Give some gently loved items a second life. Keep them from ending up in a landfill. Save some money, see some friends, support the community.

I can't guarantee that you'll come in contact with the spirit of your mother, but you might...



Friday, September 18, 2015

An Untenable Position

Long before Howard County Schools Superintendent Dr. Renee Foose came to town, Rebecca Amani-Dove was a contributing part of the school system. She's a HoCo local. Several people I know have known her for years, and speak highly of her. This is her town, so to speak.

Yesterday Ms. Amani-Dove's decision to leave her position as Communications Director for hcpss was detailed in an article in the Howard County Times. She has accepted an offer from Discovery Communications. She will be the Director of Acquisitions Marketing for Discovery Education, a division of the Silver Spring-based firm.

Having observed Ms. Amani-Dove at PTACHC meetings, I can say that her job was an extremely difficult one to have. She has been in the business of having to go places and say things that made people angry, or at the very least, that were received with suspicion or a lack of enthusiasm. I don't think this job has been any fun for a long, long time.

I get the feeling that she came to feel that local bloggers and any independent parent groups trying to disseminate information were just plain hindrances in her mission to get her job done. I recall her pointed comment at a PTACHC about people "spreading misinformation." Her job was to keep communications "on message" and that seemed to become more and more a process of tightening and narrowing the circle of information.

I don't know Ms. Amani-Dove, and I have no way of knowing her reasons for leaving. But I don't blame her one bit. And I hope she is very happy in her new job. This is her town. The parents, students, and even teachers and staff from Howard County are her neighbors. I would imagine that giving up her role in the spotlight and becoming one of them might be a deliciously refreshing thing to do.


I probably don't need to say this, but please refrain from any personal attacks in the comments.



Thursday, September 17, 2015

Make It Stop!

It's taking over the world, and there's nothing I can do to stop it.

That's right. Pumpkin Spice has returned. "Pumpkin Spice all the things!" said someone somewhere in the marketing department. And food chemists from all over the nation have complied. Here you see a formidable sample of offerings: pumpkin spice tea, coffee, donuts, cereal, snack cakes, muffins, crackers, and even marshmallows.


Something about grouping them all together in one display makes it all the more dreadful. It's an example of how the commercial success of one item, pumpkin spice coffee, morphed into an out-of-control propagation of pumpkin spice products. I'm sure the Food Lion has constructed this shrine shelf to make it easier to find all your favorite seasonal items.

You won't have to wander aimlessly through the store, wondering if you can get your pumpkin spice fix. They've got it all ready for you at the endcap of aisle one. Now, if you were hoping to find an item integrated into its category--pumpkin spice cookies in with the cookie section--that might be a problem. I think they've gone for segregation for the sake of visual effect.

You have probably guessed that I'm not a big fan of the Pumpkin Spice phenomenon. However, I am a big fan of the Oakland Mills Food Lion, so I want you to know they're well stocked. For me, looking at this shelf is not particularly appealing. On the other hand, it serves as a visual reminder that all the rest of the store is Pumpkin Spice-free.

It's all in how you look at it.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Paging Dr. Beams

It seems that the Howard County Times needs a good talking to from Dr. Zaneb Beams, former candidate for the BOE. You may recall that she said the following during a candidate's debate in Oakland Mills:

"We don't have FARM students, we have children who need help with food."

Well, last night a rather odd article appeared online, promoted on Facebook with the following:

"Howard County graduates with FARMS status less likely to attend college, report finds. According to a report on the postsecondary outcomes of Howard County public school graduates from the Class of '07 through the Class of '13, students who received free or reduced meals were 20 percent less likely to attend college than other students."

Head. Desk.

Here's the conversation that followed. The first comment is mine.

  • This is an odd way to frame this. It makes it sound as though students who receive nutritional support have negative academic outcomes. I wonder what would happen if they were allowed to go hungry?

  • Agreed! It's not the free food that kept them from college, maybe it was the cost of college or some other related reason...

  • I actually had to stop reading this article part of the way through...too many things to disagree with.

  • Agree this story is framed horribly. I couldn't even get through.

  • There's a correlation?

  • Wow, college enrollment is not the only measure of success and nutrition is not going to turn a mechanic into an engineer. The whole article is so snooty.

Let me suggest that the preoccupation with so-called FARMS students is both demeaning and unhelpful. This entire article could be replaced by the sentence, "Lower family incomes linked to poorer academic outcomes for children." Period. And once we admit that is the issue, then it becomes our responsibility to work for remediating the poverty that is crushing the futures of these students. A livable minimum wage. Affordable housing. Easily accessible healthcare.

Focus on high-stakes testing, skill-and-drill-centric curriculum, or punitive measures for "teacher accountability" will never address the core issue here, and are very likely counter-productive. It is not a failure of education that puts these students at risk. It is poverty, pure and simple. And however well-intentioned this article may have been, it does more harm than good, in my opinion.

In the meantime, if you you want a more in-depth look at challenges that at-risk students face when they go to college, I highly recommend this piece from WAMU's Breaking Ground series by Kavitha Cardoza. It's the real deal.



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fast! (Not)

Facebook threw me this advert this morning:

"Want to create blog content FAST - without having to write a single line of text?

Download our 'Perfect Blog Post Template' and get your post up and running Today!"

Really? Well, maybe we don't all write blogs for the same reason. It seems silly to me, but then I look at blogging as a form of self-expression. Although, when I wake up at six am and know I have to walk out the door at seven-thirty, the idea of an automatic blog-writing product is awfully tempting.

Facebook also reminded me that five years ago today we hosted a party at my house to celebrate the groundbreaking for the Oakland Mills Walgreens. The progress of that corner in my neighborhood from abandoned, boarded- up bank to "the corner of happy and healthy" was anything but fast. Thanks to naysayers who had nothing else to do with their time but show up and oppose it, bringing a healthy, functioning business to Oakland Mills took what felt like forever.


And let's not forget going door-to-door getting people to sign a petition opposing the Walgreens, while disseminating lies of how it would destroy the Village Center and attract a "bad element" to our village. That took time. Time to break down what other people were trying to build up. Time to spread fear and anger.


My mother taught me to cast a questioning eye on things marked "new and improved." I understand that one cannot simply jump for joy every time a project dressed in the clothing of "progress" walks down the street. There should be plenty of learning, and thinking, and discussing--which is why Howard County has procedures in place for doing just that.


So we're probably never going to see a product advertising:


"Want to create progress FAST - without having to fight a single angry mob?

Download our "Perfect Progress Template" and get your project up and running Today!"

Ain't gonna happen, as they say. If progress has many parents, it also has many detractors. Some folks come to the party with the desire to go backwards. Some desperately cling to whatever they've got right now. And some have absolutely no idea what's going on, because they are busy living their lives and no one has made the case to them to tune in to local issues.

The groundbreaking for Walgreens is behind us. The groundbreaking for the Chrysalis ampitheater is fresh in our minds. In Oakland Mills the County is offering an opportunity to improve a long-neglected apartment complex. I wonder how that will go over?

"When you feel how depressingly slowly you climb, it's well to remember that Things Take Time." -- Piet Hein

Monday, September 14, 2015

Interesting People

I went to a party yesterday, which is practically news unto itself as I am well-known as a shy person who avoids social events. But this post is not about me. It is about Interesting People. The people who came to the party.

You wouldn't think that a birthday party for family and friends would produce such a fascinating turnout, but it did. A glimpse:

  • Former, current, and probably potential local bloggers
  • Columbia Village Board members, past and present
  • Non-profit board members
  • Members of Howard County boards
  • Former and current members of the Democratic Central Committee
  • PTA and PTACHC members, past and present

And this represents a whole lot of overlap. People who get involved tend to get involved a lot, both serially and concurrently. They just can't seem to help themselves.

It resulted in a whole lot of Bubble-Centric conversation. Banter. Repartée. If there were disagreements they were put off with a smile. For while all of these people had strong opinions, they also knew how to behave at a party. So there was much laughter along with the hyperlocal anecdotes and theories. No one here needed to be reminded to Choose Civility.

We all have our own group of friends. Goodness knows that not everyone would want to be surrounded by these folks at a birthday party. But my friend did. Because she's the kind of person who wants to know what's going on. She's going to pursue information and analyze it. She's going to work for the causes she firmly believes in. She's going to speak up to address issues she feels strongly about. She going to put the hours in to get the job done.

So it's pretty darn cool to get invited to her birthday party. You can see why I went, despite my tendency to click "maybe" on everything in life that requires showing up in the flesh. My friend is a natural when it comes to making connections and that's exactly what we all need more of in Columbia and Howard County.

So, as a belated birthday gift to her, I'd like to suggest you read her blog. Her name is Kirsten Litkowski Coombs. She writes about community, politics, family, the school system, and more. Her blog is entitled Kirstycat's Meow! (and sometimes Growl!)

Happy Birthday, Kirsten. Here's to more connections, more good works, and more parties with interesting people. Cheers!