Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Did you work in your school newspaper? I didn't. My high school years were my poetry years. I worked on the literary magazine. If I am really lucky none of those deeply felt poems are still floating around.

School newspapers have gone digital. It saves paper. I bumped into the current issue of the Oakland Mills Scroll on Twitter last night. I'd like to recommend this editorial, entitled "It's All In Your Head". The author is Deanna Neudecker. It's a thoughtful and astute look at mental health issues.

Over the time period that this student and her classmates have been in school, the emphasis has been on testing and more testing, signing up for multiple AP classes. Many of our students are burdened beyond the coping point. We tell them that this is for the best. They must be college and career ready. They must be good little widgets and then they will win the prize.

But people are not widgets. People have physical and emotional needs. We have shifted the emphasis so far in one direction that it is I wonder that many of our students feel out of balance.

Of course, not all mental health issues are those coming about due to stress. Some are genetic, for instance. No matter what the cause, we need to provide a network of support for young people so that they know that who they are as a human being is every bit as valuable as their test scores. Even more, actually. We need to design the course of study to include a greater variety of learning experiences, and dedicate ourselves to finding a decent social-emotional curriculum as well.

If our kids are struggling, no one should tell them "It's All In Your Head."

Read the editorial.

Then add your comments over on Facebook.

Monday, January 30, 2017


Attendance was estimated at around 1100 people. My daughter and I were two of them. We arrived at twenty after four and almost all available seats were taken. We knew we were going to have to leave early, so we were happy to stand at the back. We had a lot of company.

The event was a PATH action in support of CB-9. The room was packed, standing room only, with others sitting in the floor down front and the lobby almost entirely filled as well.

But it's not the numbers that really matter. It's the hands.

Early on, one of the speakers had us join hands. He said, if we are not connected, if we are not engaged with one another, in relation with one another, then we will feel alone, powerless, lost. It isn't enough to protest and resist. We must be connected. It is in that connection, those relationships, that there is power.

"We, the people," I thought.

Now, holding hands is an intimate act and holding hands with complete strangers can feel awkward and risky. Maybe it seems a little hokey to you. I could feel that the woman next to me was a bit tentative about it. Her grip felt as though she were waiting for permission to let go.

I have been that person sometimes: afraid to cross boundaries, afraid to connect.

But we are living in a time where the deepest ideals upon which this nation is founded are being challenged and discarded. Resistance is not merely an intellectual exercise. Lives are at stake. Families are being torn apart. We must reach out, connect.

Let's be honest. We are holding on for dear life.

We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately
--Benjamin Franklin, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence 

Please feel free to add your comments here.

Sunday, January 29, 2017



JANUARY 29 @ 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM

The Howard County Republican Party cordially invites you to our annual

Golden Eagle Champagne Brunch

with Invited Guest, County Executive Allan Kittleman.

Sunday, January 29 2016, 12:00 pm until 3:00 pm

What on earth will they talk about? (Maybe those pesky "whereas clauses".)
Gold Sponsorship- $400 – for two Golden Eagle guests
Silver Sponsorship – $300 – for two Silver Eagle guests
Bronze Sponsorship – $125 – one ticket or $225 per couple
I respectfully suggest that they dispense with their usual plan for the profits and donate it all to the ACLU.  
Now, there's another event today that won't  cost you a cent. And you won't be squirming to make cocktail conversation while Rome burns, either.

PATH Action - Make Howard a Sanctuary County
Wilde Lake Interfaith Religious Center

Both events can be found on Totally HoCo, a calendar site that keeps the community up-to-date with "what's happening in Howard County."
I can't think of a more telling juxtaposition.

Comments are welcome. Here.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Not Feeling the Love

We've had a bit of a tempest in a teapot this week here in Howard County with the creation of a Facebook page called Howard County Hate Watch. While I absolutely agree that our county has seen an upswing in truly reprehensible hate speech, I find the behavior on this page to be concerning. It's essentially presenting screenshots of other people's posts and condemning them. Something just doesn't feel right about it. As someone responded, this looks more like Howard County Witch Hunt.

The people that I know who support CB-9 and the concept of sanctuary legislation don't operate like this. What I mean by that is:

  • that they don't hide their identities
  • they don't refuse to answer questions
  • they don't delete comments of people who disagree with them 
So who is behind this?

Prominent Republicans have been on a hunt to pin this on a Democrat. Democrats think it may be a Republican hoax. I have heard several names bandied about but I don't think any of them are accurate. Here's why:

One of the people attached to this page is someone who spent a lot of time trying to derail conversations about the school system in the lead up to the Board of Education election. And this person used their online presence to stir up animosity between Democrats and Republicans. I'd love to tell you who that person is, but it was eventually determined that it was a fake account. So whoever is behind Howard County Hate Watch is connected to the Board of Education race in some way, and has a track record of wanting to create discord between Democrats and Republicans.

As a friend of mine said, "It's a distraction." And it is. Someone with their own agenda is trying to reap some kind of political capital using a very real and important issue: sanctuary legislation and how members of our community are responding. This isn't really about CB-9 or hate speech. It's about personal ambition and an attempt to influence public opinion.

I suggested on the aforementioned page that we needed a Love Watch more than a Hate Watch. I'm pretty sure my comment was deleted. At any rate, if you want something about CB-9 that's actually worth watching, try this. It's a new Facebook page called Yes on CB-9. In the description:

The Howard County Council is debating passing legislation to make Howard a sanctuary county. Please consider supporting this bill. Posters to this page are expected to observe the #OneHoward pledge.

I find it curious that County Executive Kittleman didn't issue a statement about hate speech on this issue until prominent Republicans were being targeted. When Blogger Scott Ewart asked him to condemn the nastiness on the No Sanctuary Facebook page, there was no response. None.  Quite the contrast with County Council member Calvin Ball who immediately stepped up to condemn the Hate Watch page, even though it seemed likely that members of his own party might be behind it. 

Caring about members of our community is bigger than partisan allegiance. It was reassuring to see some leadership on this issue. 

Want to talk?  Speak up here: https://www.facebook.com/VillageGreenTownSquared/?ref=bookmarks

Friday, January 27, 2017

Time and Time Again

In a conversation with a four year old student, the teacher asked, "Were you in school last year?" He paused, thought a bit, and responded, "When was last year?"

When was last year? Was that before Christmas? Before summer vacation? Before my birthday? When you are four years old your concept of time is very different than that of an adult.

Right now our local world and our national one are undergoing so much upheaval that I feel a bit like that preschool child. When was last year?

Was that before it was okay to call human beings "cancer" in a public meeting? Before school superintendents sued their Boards of Education? Before students had to contend with racist threats on social media? Before the County Executive rushed to make a statement condeming attacks on those who agreed with him on CB-9, but was silent when the same happened to those who opposed his views?

When was last year? Were we any better then?

I wonder.

Add your comments on the blog's Facebook page. --jam

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Valued Voice

Yesterday I saw a familiar face. A pensive photograph that belongs to a local blogger whose work I deeply admire. Her name is Lisa Marini Schlossnagle and her blog is Lisa B, Mrs. S. She posted for the first time in forever. (Or so it seems to me.) You can find her post here, dated January 24th: What Am I Doing Here? 

Lisa's voice has been missed. Take the opportunity to noodle around in her blog while you are there and you will see why. Today my Facebook memories reminded me of another one of her pieces:

What is Columbia All About? 

Posted on this dste in 2013, it's every bit as good today as it was then.

I can't begrudge Lisa's absence from the blogging world because she lives real life more fully and deeply than most of us. And that takes time, and attention. And focus.

I'll leave you with some of her words that feel a propos for the times we are in:

Columbia is about diversity - of people, incomes, spaces, religions, and thought. It's probably what Columbia is best known for, even if it falls short on really honoring diversity at times.

Have feedback? Share it here: 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Yay, Us?

Howard County has been named the fifth best county in the nation to live in.

According to a survey released Tuesday by financial news site 24/7 Wall St, Howard County is the fifth best county to live in nationally based on three measures of social well-being: educational attainment, poverty rate and life expectancy. Unemployment and health insurance coverage rates also factored into the rankings. --Columbia Patch

The Howard County Library System's annual fundraiser, Evening in the Stacks: An International Affair, celebrates ethnic/cultural diversity.

Guests are encouraged to represent their own culture with authentic, traditional dress. Cocktail attire with an international flair is also welcome. --Ellicott City Patch

Concerned Howard County citizens form a watch group prompted by recent hate speech in our community. 

That's all I've got today. Talk amongst yourselves. Let me know what you come up with.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Flush With Cash

An interesting question came up at one of the Board of Education Forums in October. From my notes:

Question: Tax money for schools. What happened to the casino money? Why is there a budget shortfall?

It turns out that Christina Delmont-Small was closest to the correct answer when she said that the State switched the casino money with prior moneys, replacing the funding.

Take a look at this article by Luke Broadwater who chased down the finer points of what exactly is happening to that money. From the article:

Curt Anderson, Baltimore Democrat:

"I voted against the casinos because I feared all the promises they made would not be kept," he said. "The money is going into the Education Trust Fund, but it's  being siphoned off on the other end."

Former Delegate Heather Mizeur, Democrat:

"Governor Hogan's budget does exactly what I had feared most when I was working against the casino ballot initiative — it does a bait-and-switch on the public, breaking a promise that was made by the initiative's supporters," Mizeur said. "The new money that's in the Maryland Education Trust Fund isn't being used as supplemental revenue to boost education spending. Rather, it's supplanting holes in the general budget."

As far as I am concerned, this isn't a particularly partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats had a hand in selling the "millions for education" concept to the public, and in failing to guarantee that the money would truly go to education. I don't care who is responsible. I'm disgusted.

Lawmakers who haven't ensured that our students come first are rather like those parents who help themselves to their children's Halloween candy. C'mon-- nobody's looking. Who's going to stop them? I don't mean to suggest that anyone is lining their own pockets with this money. But if we are not keeping our promises to connect the revenue stream of legalized gambling with the needs of our schools, then someone is not doing their job. Someone plural, I am guessing.

A local writer who has been watching this situation evolve is Marge Neal. Here's a recent blog post on the topic. From Ms. Neal's perspective, we really should have known better. After all, she wrote about this in 2008 to remind people what went wrong when this was tried before. 

"Let's not buy into gambling for education again," she wrote. 

What follows is a tale of scratch-offs, promises of education funding, and a quick detour to the Maryland Stadium Authority. You can easily see why Ms. Neal took a dim view of  going down that road again. And she was right to be skeptical.

Perhaps if school children were ten feet tall, or had incredibly sharp teeth, it might help legislators and the governor remember whose money that really is. And then our schools throughout the state would not be in the position of struggling to provide the resources the law requires.

Someone may be a winner when it comes to casino gambling. It isn't our kids.

Share your thoughts here: 


Monday, January 23, 2017

The Law of Attraction

I was going to write about something else today but I saw something last night that stopped me in my tracks.

Wow. Just wow.

In so much of the No Sanctuary testimony I have seen, individuals rail against CB-9 because they say it will bring danger and violence to our community. Not so. What I see is that this legislation has revealed where danger and violence already are, right here in this community.

Susan Garber wrote a blog post about how perfectly good people were afraid to testify against CB-9 for fear of being labeled racists by mean-spirited liberals. I do wish those perfectly good people had turned out, because the ones who have shown up so far are largely rude, angry, narrow-minded, and threatening. 

You may not be convinced by this legislation but at least the people it attracts are advocating compassion, evidence-based decisions, and a welcoming community. If the worst they can do to you is suggest that you check your privilege--well--I think you'll live.

A shout-out to Chris Krupiarz who has done a masterful job creating a one-stop location for all things Sanctuary:


You won't find any mean-spirited liberals here. Just testimony, opinion pieces, articles on the law and on how sanctuary cities have worked elsewhere. 

FYI: There's a legislative worksession today which will include CB-9. Observers are permitted, no testimony will be taken,

There is a PATH Action scheduled for January 29th in support of CB-9, beginning at 4:30 at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center.

What kind of people do your ideas attract? Food for thought on a rainy Monday in January.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Coffee and Conversation

I attended my first Coffee and Conversation event with the Board of Education yesterday. Hosted this month by Running Brook Elementary School, it was a chance to chat informally with Board members about matters of interest and concern.

Five out of seven members were in attendance. I got a chance to speak with four of those. One of the members was busy every time I looked over. I admit I didn't persist and stay until she was freed up because I had somewhere else to be. I also had a nice chat with Principal Troy Todd, who I knew from my days teaching music and movement in RECC programs throughout the county.

I was there to express support for the Board and also to give them something to put on their list. The passage of ESSA legislation comes with it the statement that Music and Art are Core Subjects. I wanted to know how the Howard County schools will be responding to that designation. In particular, I'd like to see full music and art instruction restored in elementary schools where it has been cut back. I got some great feedback from individual board members and I feel that they truly listened to me.

I also enjoyed hearing the concerns of other parents. Some that I remember: how competitive things are at the high school level, adequate CPR/Heimlich maneuver training for teachers and staff, training parents on how Canvas works, creating more challenging IEP goals as students master current ones.

As I talked with one parent about our respective school communities and our children's experiences, it came out that I had taught her son. As we parted we shook hands and exchanged names. When I told  her mine she stopped and tilted her head a bit.

"Julia? The Julia?"

I wasn't quite sure what to say.

"McCready, right?"


"Oh, of course. I see your name a lot."

"That's because I'm a bit of a busybody on social media."

We laughed, and parted ways.

I suddenly felt rather conspicuous.

Overall I found the event to be pleasant and informative. There was one man who seemed to stay in one place with the intent to be accusatory and combative, but while I was there Board Chair Cindy Vaillancourt gently but firmly pointed out that there were other people at the table who wanted to speak. He seemed incredulous. Did anybody else want to speak? he asked.

Several of us allowed as how we did. And he reluctantly yielded the floor.

There's a lot of hard work that goes into serving on the Board of Education. It seems that handling difficult people and difficult situations is a necessary skill.

A shout-out to principal Troy Todd and RBES staff (and possibly parents?) for graciously hosting this event. If you haven't ever been to one, you should.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Intellectual Property

They plagiarized the cake.

Duff Goldman: The cake on the left is the one I made for President Obama's inauguration 4 years ago. The one on the right is Trumps. I didn't make it.

I doubt that Mr. Goldman is going to bring suit over theft of intellectual property. Although I think he has a case. Nonetheless,  he wants us to know. Someone stole his ideas and their execution rather than creating work of their own. 

Tacky, is it?

We have a similar problem right here in Howard County. Someone is stealing photographs taken by reporter Fatimah Waseem for the Howard County Times/Baltimore Sun and doctoring them to use in Anti-Sanctuary propaganda.

Fatimah Waseem: That moment you see one of your .@CalvinBallTeam photos (NOT in public domain) being used like this:

Stealing other people's work is theft. It is actionable. Why, one could say it is criminal behavior, 

Those anti-Sanctuary folks have plenty to say about criminal behavior. It's too bad they can't make their point without engaging in criminal behavior themselves.

Friday, January 20, 2017

On This Day

Let's talk about normal things.

The high school had a concert last night. The grocery store has a sale on blackberries. My neighbor has a new puppy. One of my students learned to zip her coat. The legislative session in Annapolis has begun.

Let's talk about happy memories.

That time Dennis Lane said hello to me at Starbucks and made me feel important. The March Fourth concert at the Lakefront. Tom Coale standing on the steps at Portalli's and rejecting cynicism. The outdoor Oakland Mills food give away staffed by neighbors for neighbors. The evening a friend had the audacity to have a beer and pizza summit about race.

Let's play the music that always gets us through.

I sing to use the Waiting
My Bonnet but to tie
And shut the Door unto my House
No more to do have I

Till His best step approaching
We journey to the Day
And tell each other how We sung
To Keep the Dark away. 

-- Emily Dickinson

Let's light a candle, then: pass the light.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Opponents, clad in red, held large, printed signs that read, "No CB-9" and "diversity yes, illegal no"; while supporters held flimsy 8 x 11-inch sheets that read, "Yes." Pamphlets sponsored by the local Republican committee that read "Weinstein: oath of office or law breaker" lay on distant desks in the building.

(From write-up in HoCo Times by Fatimah Waseem)

After watching two evenings of testimony on Council Bill 9 through the lens of social media, I have a few thoughts to share. First of all, I think it is significant to note the kind of money the Republican Central Committee was willing to spend on professional signs opposing the measure and glossy literature targeting Councilman Jon Weinstein. They put their money where their mouth is. 

All I can say is, do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

In testimony after testimony, opponents spoke in anger and stirred up fear using factually unsubstantiated claims. And this is, sadly, what the local Republican Party has invested its money in. And what the County Executive will very likely endorse. Mr. Kittleman, these are your people. No matter what happens with this bill, I'm not sure you will ever be free of that association. Disaffected democrats who voted for Mr. Kittleman ought to watch the last two days of testimony to see what kind of company they are keeping.

It isn't pretty.

I found it interesting that the article in the Howard County Times juxtaposed the kinds of signs each side brought to the hearings. Those testifying in support were carrying the flimsy, homemade signs. But they came bearing facts, evidence, hope, and compassion.

Those with the fancy, professionally printed signs came with the flimsy arguments.

I'll close today with the advice given at the beginning on my faculty meeting at Sandy Spring Friends School yesterday. I'm sending it out with the hope that our county is better than the derision and fear-mongering we have witnessed over the past several days. 

At every opportunity, be peacemakers in your homes, workplaces and communities. Examine your own actions and feelings. Any element of fear, restlessness, discontent, unhappiness and poverty of spirit can lead to violence in any of its forms. We are cautioned not to bury these feelings, but to acknowledge their presence, pinpoint their sources, and transform pain and anger into the power of positive action. 

(Advices and Queries for Friends School Community Life, Friends Council on Education)  

Feel free to add your comments here: 


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Turn the Radio On

Tired of the same old Baltimore Sun editorials? Looking for something a little more balanced? Interactive even?

Tune in at noon today:

Understanding The Rift In Howard County School’s Leadership 

 (Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU))

Invitations to participate have been extended to both Superintendent Foose and BOE Chair Cynthia Vaillancourt. 

It's a call-in show. Call in.

As for me, I'll be eating lunch with three year olds.

I'm a long-time listener of the Kojo Nnamdi show and I'm sorry to be missing this one.

As always, I invite you to share comments here:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bend That Arc

To members of the County Council and to the County Executive,

I am writing to you in support of Council Bill 9 on the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr's national day of celebration and remembrance. I just read these words, and I want to share them with you:

Dr. King assured us that the arc of moral universe bends toward justice, but only if we stand up and speak out for what is right.  (Rep. Mark Takano)

Someone added:

That arc doesn't bend itself

It is my responsibility to speak out because I believe in this legislation. And because I believe in #One Howard.  I believe that all in our county should be included, respected, and valued. All. 

But I have seen some of the most angry, racist, derogatory language containing the grossest generalizations from those who are fighting the designation of Howard County as a Sanctuary county. Their hateful and selfish language alone proves how much this legislation is needed.  I'm guessing these folks haven't signed the #OneHoward Pledge. Their accusations and slurs are the farthest thing from it.

The contrast between the lofty ideals of the pledge and the wholesale rejection and vilification of people who are living and struggling in our county could not be more stark. 
We cannot have it both ways. Either we are #OneHoward or we are not. We must lead in a way that respects all in our community.

Instead of rejecting this legislation out-of-hand, I urge the council to listen to community input and work to make CB-9 a worthy example of our county's shared goals and inclusiveness. I encourage the County Executive to work with them. 

Above all, I expect our County's leaders to respect this for the serious issue that it is, rather than deflect from its importance by suggesting this is an exercise in political gamesmanship. You have an opportunity to show empathy and wisdom and strength by creating legislation that will protect people who are already our neighbors, coworkers, friends, classmates of our children. They are Howard County, too.

Please don't let them down.

Monday, January 16, 2017


Dear Angry Tweeter,

Do you know any Muslims in real life? Do you work with, serve in the PTA with, live in a neighborhood with Muslims?

What about people of different skin color? Or ethnicities different from your own? Or other religions?

Who do you know in real life?

Spare me the sound bite you got from an online article. This is Howard County. We live here. What do you know about human beings in real life?

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weather or Not

I saw a lot of angry Tweets yesterday from students and parents who missed out on a trip to NYC to see the Broadway production of Aladdin because of the school system's decision to cancel all Saturday activities. I can understand their frustration and disappointment. The weather they were experiencing seemed like nothing to cancel school over. They lost both money and an exciting and rewarding opportunity.

But canceling school or school activities is a slippery business. On extremely rare occasions everyone thinks you got it right. The rest of the time, some folks are angry that you closed, or some are angry that you stayed open. It is not an exact science and I would not want that job for a million dollars. My former father-in-law was an assistant superintendent for the Baltimore County Schools, and he gave me some insight into how difficult these decisions truly are.

I would imagine that the biggest goal is that no one gets hurt. In the case of ice, almost anything can happen once people get on the roads. What if one of the hired tour buses to New York skidded off the highway? Is it worth the risk if even one child was injured due to a weather-related accident? Then how would we feel about the decision to hold activities as scheduled?

Our children are precious. We don't want to risk their safety.

Several years ago there was a snow event that came on after the school day started. I frankly thought the schools should have closed early, but they may have missed the time window for making the announcement. I don't know. But I do know that a bus containing early childhood students was involved in a weather-related accident while bringing afternoon students to school. Some of them were special needs preschoolers,  I believe. Students I taught.

I was really upset when I thought of those children that I knew being in that frightening situation. I was indignant that the school system hadn't acted proactively to close schools or maybe to cancel afternoon classes in order to keep buses off the road while snow was so heavy. How could they have been so foolhardy with those precious lives?

But along with the ever-present need for safety is this:

On regular school days, M-F, we have the responsibility to provide instruction, make sure children are safe during the day, and provide food for those who need it. If we cancel school when it isn't truly necessary, we are falling down on meeting those needs. Deciding when to cancel school on account of the weather is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" proposition.

The truth is that there are so many variables that go into these decisions. Perhaps we should have parent representatives "shadow" the people making them in order to see the inner workings of the process. Seems like a way to provide greater transparency and it might even reduce complaints.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sticks and Stones

Let's just get one thing straight: Bill Woodcock is not a racist homophobe.

If you want to know why I'm so steamed up about this, read his recent post on The 53, entitled "Ill-Suited". Then read the comments.

It seems that nastiness in the comments section has become almost a full time job for some people these days. As you know, I've been an outspoken critic of anonymous posters. In this particular case, though, the commenter has identitied herself.

It must have meant a lot to her to be able to hurl that insult at Mr. Woodcock.

As someone who has worked with Bill on Oakland Mills- and Columbia-centric issues, and who has read his blog consistently for years, I can say without hesitation that he is not a racist, and he is not a homophobe. Those are nasty accusations and they are wholly unsubstantiated..

I'm pretty sure that Bill doesn't care two hoots about this comment. But I do. Because words matter.

If you have a good case, you can win your point through stating the truth. Making things up in an attempt to smear someone's good name and then merely repeating them everywhere you go is a poisonous attempt to sway public opinion. Good people get hurt.

If there is one thing this blog can endorse, it is this:

  • Speak the truth. 
  • Put your name on your work. 
  • Don't hurt other people to make yourself look good. 

Look for commenters, and blogggers, and public servants who are committed to living and working in just this way.

If they don't, it's a red flag that they cannot be trusted.

FYI: Trying an experiment. Comments here will be closed. Please comment on this blog's Facebook page instead. I invite discussion in a forum where false identities are more difficult to come by.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Curious and Hopeful, Revisited

Good morning, Friday. I'm looking at the world through what feels like a migraine. I've decided to run this post from three years ago today because of its continued relevance.  Just think of this, and you will know why I'm not done talking about this issue.

Although it wasn't directed at this topic, this quote from President Obama's Farewell speech brought my former students to mind:

Their children are just as curious, and hopeful, and worthy of love.

My People (January 13, 2014)

I work with special needs preschoolers. I love my work. I bring music and creative movement to sixteen schools in the Howard County School System. My students have a wide variety of abilities and disabilities. But they have one vital characteristic in common.

They are all beautiful.

It does not matter if they are not typically developing preschoolers. It does not matter if their bodies are not fully symmetrical, or their behaviors are difficult or unexpected. They are beautiful human beings who deserve care, respect and a chance to learn, grow, and enjoy life.

In our culture we tend to support the adorable-ness of babies and young children. So, even though some of these children might not look "normal", they are more easily accepted as "cute". We just love "cute", don't we? We open our hearts and minds to it.
Occasionally I run into groups of developmentally disabled adults when I am shopping. It might be the grocery, the dollar store, or Five Below. There may only be four or five of them, with helpers and caregivers, having a much-needed outing and life experience.

Other customers shrink from them. People cast sidelong glances, whisper to each other, move away. These people, my people, aren't cute anymore. They are full-sized, funny-looking, maybe even frightening. There is a strong sense of other-ness about them.
Somehow, some of these beautiful children I am teaching now will be those adults in the dollar store. They won't be cute anymore. People will avoid them. And yet they are the same human beings who deserve care, respect, and a chance to learn, grow, and enjoy life.

There are many challenges involved in integrating special needs children into the regular classroom setting. As students get older and the focus is more on academic achievement, the strains on both them and teachers and support staff are tremendous. But as I watch my daughter grow up in schools where she actually has some contact with these kids, I feel a spark of hope.

Maybe, when she is an adult, she will not be afraid of my beautiful people. Perhaps she might even know one of them. If this is a life experience that she gains along the way, I will be extremely grateful.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Goes Up

Proof that the world is coming to an end: page 37 of today's Columbia Flier.

Newspapers run on advertising. Especially this one which has a large free distribution. Full page ads are a big deal.

But, really?

So, if this is the future of Columbia maybe I'll join the Chicken Little Chorus. Maybe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


I'm still pondering this thread on Twitter from HoCo Times reporter Fatimah Waseem:

Key issue in sanctuary debate appears to circle around how a bill that "changes nothing" does so much to compromise safety and funding.

Kittleman said there are no problems in Howard related to local enforcement and undocumented ppl. He doesn't see it as a proactive step.

I ?ed if lack of problem points to fear of reporting issues or inability to reach out to pop. He said immigrant advocates say no prob. exist

If they did, #hocomd will target issues, as in sheriff case. I said issues with sheriff persisted for yrs. He said county was proactive.

Let's look at that last tweet. In reference to the situation with former Sheriff Fitzgerald, the County Executive says that the county's actions were proactive.


Let's look at this post from former Human Rights Commission Chair Genevieve Walker-Lightfoot:

Then there is the issue of our former county sheriff in the summer of 2015 with the complaint alleged by the deputy who filed a human rights violation complaint, among other things, alleging that our former county sheriff routinely made racist, sexist and anti-Semitic remarks. Dr. Sands, the head of the Howard County Office of Human Rights personally contacted me, as the then chair of the Human Rights Commission and adamantly requested that I help her “resolve” the complaint without addressing the matter before the full  Commission, a clear and blatant violation of  Howard County, MD human rights policy and  
procedure for reviewing complaints. I told her that the deputy should have a right to file his complaint with her office, like any other county employee  and that I would not assist her in hiding the matter in violation of not only the deputy’s civil rights, but county law. Not surprisingly, the next month I received a certificate from the county government thanking me for my service, a de facto notice that I was officially not to be reappointed to the Human Rights Commission. 

Proactive? How? Perhaps proactive in preventing this ugly situation from coming out in the open by replacing Ms. Walker-Lightfoot. Trying to squelch justice for those under the Sheriff who were suffering in a misguided attempt to keep it out of the public eye.

No, the response to the problem of Sheriff Fitzgerald was entirely reactive

And that is precisely what Mr. Kittleman is arguing for now in the case of CB-9. "We'll see what happens, then we'll deal with it." How many people will suffer while we figure out how to do this?

The President-Elect has given his own word on numerous occasions indicating how he intends to treat undocumented residents. He has blasted Muslims as inherently dangerous, Mexicans as likely criminals. Are we just going to wait and see what he does?

That is not proactive.

If the approach that the County Executive took in handling former Sheriff Fitzgerald is his go-to example of how to handle really big problems, well, we have a really big problem. 


One more thing: if I have any doubts about whether a commenter is posting under their real name, I will delete them. If they persist, I will block them. Anonymity is not guaranteed here,

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Puzzling Partitions

So Wegman's has built a wall.

Well, not really a wall. It's a lovely little alcove constructed of partitions, some plexiglass and some fairy lights. And I have an illustrative photo to prove my point, but Blogger is making things difficult for me at the moment. Maybe later.

Success! From the outside looking in:

It looks as though Wegman's is trying to feature their Burger Bar by giving it a dedicated seating area.  It's hard to tell, since it is plopped down right in the center of the prepared food area. About half a dozen tables remain on the perimeter. And of course you can still take your food upstairs.

I haven't seen anyone sitting in the new fancy seating area during the two times I have been there since the change. I'm not sure people know quite what to do. Should there be a sign saying "Burger Bar seating"? I'm sure they made this change for a reason. I'm not sure that customers have any idea what that is.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bundle Up

Walking to school. Waiting for the bus. The temperatures are below freezing. Most kids would want to stay inside where it's warm. Heck, so would I. Imagine how kids feel when they don't have a proper winter coat. Or gloves. Or a hat.

Just a reminder that you can help by contributing to the Help-a-Child Fund. From a post I wrote a while back:

"The Help-a-Child Fund is a joint charitable project of the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) and the Howard County Education Association (HCEA). Since 1992, the fund has been the last resort safety net providing retail vouchers for new clothing, coats, shoes, eyeglasses, and more, for hundreds of our students. The fund had 447 requests last school year. So far this school year we have had 112 requests.  

100% of the donations go to the students. Donations are tax deductible. There is no administrative cost to the Fund. All labor and materials are donated. Really, it is the ideal charity – close to home, immediately helpful without a lot of red tape, and for children whose specific needs are identified by our own colleagues who know the child’s circumstances."

I keep reading abou those "greedy teachers and paraeducators" in the comments section of the Howard County Times. Yeah, about that. They're the ones making the bulk of the financial contributions to this fund. Maybe you can be "greedy" like them and write a check.

You can help make a child's mornings a whole lot warmer.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Light and Shadows

In a press announcement dated November 21, 2016, County Executive Allan Kittleman announced the #OneHoward initiative.

“In the past several weeks, I have learned of instances of bigotry, racism and intolerance and this isn’t who we are in Howard County,” said Kittleman. “I’ve heard of students who are afraid to go to school and of residents who feel we aren’t living in a civil society. We are better than this.”

Community members were encouraged to take the #OneHoward Pledge. Here it is.

What does it mean to be One Howard? To me it means that all are included, respected, valued. All. 

That's why I was so puzzled to see Mr. Kittleman pre-emptively announce his rejection of CB-9, which proposes to make Howard County a sanctuary county. To announce this position without listening to citizens as a part of the hearing process is to effectively shut down/exclude differing points of view. How can this be viewed as sharing values of inclusion and respect?

It can't. 

In fact, I have seen some of the most hateful, racist, derogatory language containing the grossest generalizations from those who are hailing Mr. Kittleman's announcement. I'm guessing these folks haven't signed the #OneHoward Pledge. Their accusations and slurs are the farthest thing from it.

Are we better than this?

The contrast between the lofty ideals of the Pledge and the wholesale rejection and vilification of people who are living and struggling in our county could not be more stark. If you think of #OneHoward as a light shining against the darkness of racism and intolerance, ask yourself this: who is holding that light? Who controls it?

If the hand is white, and privileged, and more committed to preserving the status quo than in upending institutionalized racism, then the end result will be to shine the light on those  most like ourselves, those we feel comfortable with. The more people differ from what we see as "normal",  the further out from the light they will be pushed. Into the shadows. Easily ignored. Unheard. Unseen.

Beyond the shadows are those who must actively run from the light and hide in the darkness. That is not "oneness". What may have begun with good intentions has become merely the reinforcement of long-established layers of exclusion. The light is only for some.

We cannot have it both ways. Either we are #OneHoward or we are not. Either we lead in a way that respects all in our community, as Council Bill 9 will facilitate, or we should be honest and call it #MyHoward or #NotYourHoward or #SomeRestrictionsApplyHoward.

Instead of rejecting CB-9 out-of-hand, wouldn't it be wonderful if we had some way to
"...promote community dialogue and reinforce the county’s shared goals of diversity  and inclusiveness"?  

Imagine how helpful that would be in addressing what is clearly a complex and difficult issue.


Howard County has plenty of chain restaurants. There are a few that my family enjoys, notably Bob Evans and Uno's. Some nights just seem to be the kind of night for heading back to the old familiar, sliding into a booth, and ordering one of our usual dishes.

But we are more excited by independent restaurants. They simply have more personality. The recent closing of  Luna Bella in Hickory Ridge reminded me how important our mom and pop places are. Here are a few of our favorites:

El Azteca
Flavors of India
Hickory Ridge Grill
House of India
Joe's Place Deli
Maiwand Kabob
Mimi's Kabob
Second Chance Saloon

What are the great local places you are devoted to? Do you have any particular menu items you recommend? What are the qualities that keep you coming back?

This post was inspired by my husband's bringing home dinner from Mimi's Kabob last night, and the sad realization that I can't eat that same meal again for breakfast. I really could.

Friday, January 6, 2017


January 6, 2011:

It's official! I won an IPad from the Shop Local Contest @elkridgepatch. 32gb -- woo hoo! Thanks, patchfolks! #sojazzed 

Yes, I won a contest once,  and it was pretty amazing. Back in the day when Patch was young and we thought it would be the answer to local journalism, I entered a contest just to be a good sport and I won.

It sounds hokey, but it's true. Having an iPad changed my life. I take it everywhere. I use it for music teaching, for lesson planning, for taking notes at faculty meetings. I take it to restaurants if I'm dining alone. If I'm at a community meeting or BoE meeting, I've got my iPad.

And it's the first thing I reach for every morning when I write this blog.

That original iPad is long gone, I'm on my third now. When I saw the reminder this morning in my Facebook memories it made me smile.

Thanks, Patch.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Perfect Snow

Howard County has a new snow plow tracker. Now I would like to have some snow to go with it. I'm not alone. HCPSS students are already advocating for snow closings. Hope springs eternal.

But how much snow? Hmm...

Enough to test out the new snow plow tracker, I guess. Enough for one really good play-in-the-snow day for kids. Enough for neighbors to work together and help each other out. Enough for hot chocolate with marshmallows, photos on Facebook, and a brief cessation of everyday cares and woes.

But not too much.

How much is too much?

When the same three streets are always the last to get plowed out. When low income families who rely on school meals are running out of food. When neighbors bicker over shoveled out spaces. When emergency responders struggle to reach citizens in crisis. When my widowed friend runs out of  chocolate for hunkering down and/or shoveling money to pay enterprising young neighbors to shovel her out.

Yes. We would like snow. But just the right amount of snow, the perfect snow. The kind of snow that brings a community together. Not the kind that drives us apart, inconveniences us, or puts us in danger.

There are all kinds of weather events, but maybe what makes the difference is us, and how we react.

Here's hoping for the perfect snow--the kind that encourages our better selves.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Like Taking Candy

A bit of light reading last night: the minutes from a recent Oakland Mills Board Meeting.
I've been trying to keep up with the progress of the feasibility study. Remember that?

I wasn't really keen on having the County Executive throw money at this request by the Oakland Mills Village Board, largely because Board leadership had spearheaded a plan to displace Oakland Mills residents in order to build a multi-million dollar sports complex. You remember that, don't you?

When this legislation was coming up for a vote,  I wrote about this here, in "No Rewards for Bad Behavior". I expressed serious misgivings about the leadership of the OMVB, their goals, and their lack of transparency. 

My view was not the majority view, shall we say. The money was awarded, the study moved forward. Meetings have been held and reports have been written. And here is some follow-up discussion from the Oakland Mills Board about the results of that study. (11/29/16)

Here we see Board member Paul Verchinski complaining that the athletic fields belonging to our Village schools should have been considered for redevelopment in the study.  Is this his idea of reinventing Oakland Mills? Take away our children's playing fields and sell the land to developers? "The kids can just walk to Blandair Park, no big deal." 

But those fields, man--prime real estate. 

I didn't think I could be more disgusted than I was when Board leadership suggested taking away the homes of our most vulnerable residents. But this is right up there. Mr. Verchinski is the same man who lobbied hard to get Senior Citizen discounts from CA, rather than ones based on need alone. He also asked me at a candidate night what my "Senior Citizen agenda" was.

I guess we can see what his Senior Citizen agenda is. Kids--who needs 'em? Families--who cares?

Three cheers to the other board members we see pushing back against his proposal. 

Hey, if you live in Oakland Mills and have kids in school, you might want to consider running for the Village Board. Your perspective would be quite valuable indeed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

In the Pink

Wandering far afield today: to the golf course. Recent news on the national scene includes this story of a biographer of the President-elect being kicked off the golf course by none other than the President-elect. As per usual, this post is not about the merits of that decision, but rather on a smaller but pesky detail.

What he was wearing.

Actually, not what he was wearing when he was kicked off the golf course, but what he was wearing when he was interviewed in television. He was wearing an entirely pink golfing ensemble and the Internet commenters just went wild. I confess that, for about the first ten comments, I thought it was amusing.

How rare it is for a man to catch flak for what he was wearing. The shoe on the other foot for a change.

And then the truth of what was happening sunk in. This man was being vilified because he had the audacity to wear pink. And everyone knows that pink is a "girl color." The deep-seated bias against women in our culture was rearing its ugly yet again. It's more than bias. There's really a pervasive hatred of all things perceived to be "female" that comes through in these comments.

The worst thing that could be said about him was that he was "girly". Let that sink in a little.

I take back my initial amusement. It isn't funny if it happens to anyone. What you wear shouldn't negate what you have to say or who you are.