Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Links And a Request

Looking for some good reads? Got you covered. These three pieces from HoCo bloggers are drawn from the Personal Blogs category. If they have a common thread, perhaps it is travel: to far-off countries, from show to show, or down the pathways of our childhood imaginations.  Enjoy.

"Shark in the Diving Well"

Just Karin Talking About Stuff

"What Theatre Means to Me"

Scrappy Travels

"I bought cat treats to carry in my purse, because of course I did..."


The HoCoBlogs aggregator page has had some formatting issues for a while now. (At least on my iPad, it does)  I'd love to see someone in the community step up and sort this out. Do you know anyone who might volunteer their tech-y expertise to do that? It would be awesome to be able to see that page clearly again and see all the local posts at a glance.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Principal of the Thing

I was reading this article last night:

9 things bosses do that make great employees quit

It's a quick but well-thought-out piece. The author sums up by saying:

If you want your best people to stay, you need to think carefully about how you treat them. While good employees are as tough as nails, their talent gives them an abundance of options. You need to make them want to work for you.

This made me think about schools. And teachers. And administrators. The head of the Lower School where I work is, without a doubt, the best boss I have ever had. She's level-headed, no-nonsense, direct. She's also warm and thoughtful, with a fabulous sense of humor. She's a creative problem-solver. She asks good questions. And she really listens to the answers.

All of this makes a huge difference to the morale of the Lower School.

Now, this year's HCEA Job Satisfaction Survey is out. You can look at the whole thing here. In going through the information summary I found this section fascinating:

It's a snapshot of three schools where morale is high and leadership is strong. The connection is clear. The principal sets the tone. HCEA is taking the time to look at best practices and how they bear fruit. Excellent principals encourage and support excellent teachers. Excellent teachers who feel supported and encouraged can do the best for their students. 

It's a win-win.

How do we nurture and support principals so that they can grow into this role with confidence?

Ah, that's another blog post altogether.

Comments are welcome here:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Columbia Mallaise

People in Columbia have a strong proprietary feeling about the Mall. Remember the Poinsettia Tree debacle? I have to admit that it is hard for me to understand this. To me the Mall is a commercial entity, nothing more. But it's clear that it has served a particularly important role in the evolution of the New American City.

It was Main Street. Meeting Place. Downtown.

And, because of that, some folks feel that citizens maintain a civic ownership of the Mall. They feel that changes should happen with community input and approval. An example, this post from Chuck Bubeck on the Celebrating Columbia Maryland and its Future Facebook page:

Look for some new changes coming to the Mall Center Court starting next week in response to customer requests and to better highlight a major crossroads section of the Mall.  More seating and meet up space will be made available by better utilizing the space currently taken by the fountain, which will be removed.  While certainly an iconic landmark in the Mall, it's suitability and use has lessened as times have changed. What will continue however is the symbolic holiday poinsettia tree, which will still be built and displayed each season as it has for most of the Mall's long history.  The estimated two month work to update the Center Court area will be done at night after closing until 7:00am, beginning in about a week.

                                                            (Photo by Chuck Bubeck)

Responses to Mr. Bubeck's post were, for the most part, negative. A sampling:

  •  Sad
  • Sacrilege 
  • Is it too late to stop this?
  • Don't think I need to visit again.
And one outlier:

I applaud the change.  It always struck me as a waste of potable water and space.

All in all, it was a thoughtful discussion, although it definitely leaned nostalgic. And sad.

I fully admit that there is no way I could understand how long-time residents feel about this. After all, no matter what I do, I can't change the fact that I moved here in 1999. So tell me how you feel. Is this a bad move? 

Should GGP make decisions like this with community input, like CA or County Government? How can it? It's purely a commercial entity. 

Help me out here. Add your opinions: 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

High School Highlights

Yet again I get my news from David Hobby @strobist on Twitter, who alerted me to this:

BIG ups to the one-woman heavy artillery squad on our local HS softball team today, who hit for the "home run cycle".

In response to this from Wild Lake High School:

AMAZING! History made at the @hcpss_wlhs field today! @Fathom_Leslie hits FOUR HR's! A 1run, 2run, 3run, & GRANDSLAM! The cycle of homeruns!

Hats off to Faith Leslie. I hear they are working on a suitably "fear-inducing nickname" for her.

In other high school news, choral assessments were hosted by Howard High School yesterday, and no body tweeted about it. Well, almost nobody. Nick Novak, principal of Howard High School, shared a video clip of his Concert Choir and some positive words. But that's it. Where were all the choral music geeks? Directors? Principals and other admin? Parents?

A bit of background: I track and share any hcpss-related music tweets for Howard County Parents for School Music. And there were plenty for Band Assessments and Orchestra Assessments. The silence on Choral Assessments struck me. Do people care less about choral music? Are choral directors less aggressive when it comes to self-promotion? Are principals and admin burned out after the first two rounds of assessments? Or perhaps the fact that this date had to be rescheduled after the snow day has something to do with it.

Here's a little something I wrote about how choral singing sometimes takes a back seat to other performing ensembles:

Sing Out

What do you think?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Posters and Pageantry

I loved the use of Columbia artist Gail Holliday's Posters as processional banners at the kickoff event to the 50th Birthday celebrations. Here is a photo (not mine) of the assembled banners.
(If this is your photo, please tell me and I will credit you.)

There's going to be an exhibit of Ms. Holliday's work beginning on March 30th at the Berniece Kish Gallery in Wilde Lake. The Opening Reception will be April 9th from 3-5 pm. This exhibit will focus on her posters of Wilde Lake.  

If you are interested in seeing more of Ms. Holliday's works take a look at this Etsy shop, 
Holliday Originals, or at this website of the artist's work. According to the site,  "All the original designs were hand pulled silk screens created by the artist." I wish I understood more about the silk-screening process. 

It looks as though not all of the original posters are extant. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a complete set? This would make a coffee table book par excellence! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Opportunities for Dialogue

Event today at Howard High School:|walking-while-black-l-o-v-e-is-the-answer-film-screening-discussion-hosted-by-congressman-elijah-cummings|124533

From the event page:

Congressman Elijah Cummings is hosting a screening of the newly released film, “Walking While Black, L.O.V.E. is the Answer,” followed by community roundtable discussions featuring the StandUp, SpeakUp Howard Planning Committee! Please join us for this important event & community dialogue, it is free & open to the public.

Also worth your time, this article by Erica L. Green:

Bridging the Divide: Within Integrated Schools, DeFacto Segregation Exists

It is specifically about the Howard County Schools. It sparked a number of conversations online yesterday. Some comments were insightful and others were head-smackingly off the mark, like most of social media, I guess. I have some thoughts on this but I don't think it's fair to lay them on you before you have read the article and done some thinking for yourself.

As always, comments are welcome on the blog's Facebook page.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Columbia in Review

The week began for me at the official kick-off of Columbia's 50th Birthday, held at the Mall. It had bagpipes, a procession, pageantry, songs, and speeches. But the highlight for me was the playlist that let up to the event itself.

Winchester Cathedral
There's a Kind of Hush
Brown-Eyed Girl
The Beat Goes On
A Different Drum
Ain't No Mountain High Enough

...and more from the musical treasure trove of my childhood. Yes, I was singing along to everything, and so was the woman behind me. Oh, the memories. I may not have lived in Columbia, but the music gets me, just the same.

Elijah Cummings was speaking when I had to leave to pick up my daughter from church. As I walked across the parking lot to my car I could hear his voice ring out and echo off of the shops and restaurants around him. I wondered if that had ever happened before. His words were, as they usually are, strong and stirring. (You can see it on his Facebook page. You'll need to scroll down a bit to find it.)

It made me think of the concept of Columbia as Resistance. I'm still thinking about it.

Last night I went to the storytelling event for Columbia's 50th at Owen Brown Interfaith Center. I appreciated what an excellent variety of stories were chosen. Differing topics, differing perspectives. It was a beautifully balanced event. One speaker, Steven Sachs, spoke of the passion and idealism of Columbia's beginnings and suggested that its founders and pioneers had forgotten to share that and pass it along to to the next generation. I was struck by his wistful thought that some days he wished he could return to the time that "Columbia was my Camelot."

Columbia as Resistance. Columbia as Camelot.

What about Columbia as Experiment?

In "Experiment in Community: Lessons from Columbia", Doug and Ken Ulman reflect on both America's social ills today and the goals of Columbia at its inception. Are they still relevant and applicable? It's worth the read. I was a bit startled by the suggested that community life requires:

...arenas for intimate and personal collisions.

Not sure what that means but it sounds awkward and embarrassing. Perhaps that's just my social anxiety talking.

It's only been one week and the one thing I know about Columbia's 50th celebration is that it will have many voices and points of view. 

I like that. 

Comments?  Post them here:

Friday, March 24, 2017

Columbia Talk

This is happening tonight. Be there!

Columbia storytellers on deck are:  Kathie Rouse, John Butler, Min Kim, Candace Dodson Reed, Dr Ashai, Hector Garcia, Lisa Schlossnagle, Sue Garner, John Slater, Ainy Kazmi, Steve Sachs, and Sean Harbaugh.

In a faculty meeting this week, a colleague mentioned a quote which I can only paraphrase: stories are the most basic and influential unit of human existence.

Come on out tonight to the Interfaith Center in Owen Brown to be a part of some Columbia stories.

I hope I'll see you there.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Birthday Request

Update: Forest Ridge Community Center Fundraiser - Here is how to donate: You can come by tonight and attend or leave a donation.  If you would like to send a donation by check, make check payable to Enterprise Homes, Inc. and mail to Rena Ross, Forest Ridge Manager, 5890 Stevens Forest Road, Management Office, Columbia, MD  21045

So, today is my birthday. I know you probably want to help me celebrate. So, here's a suggestion.

Forest Ridge Community Based Learning Center
Fundraiser at The Other Barn
Thursday, March 23, 2017
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
An invitation to the Oakland Mills Community  - Please join us for a Fundraiser at The Other Barn to support the children at Forest Ridge Apartments who attend  
the Forest Ridge Community Based Learning Center.

Due to budget cuts that are directly influencing the Howard County Public School System, the Community Based Learning Centers have lost a lot of the financial support they previously obtained. This weakens the prepared weekly lessons centers hold on healthy lifestyle, since they can't even afford to provide examples of healthy affordable foods. The Community Based Learning Centers are taking it upon themselves to raise the necessary funds in order to keep their centers alive. They are also working to collect the necessary donations in order to keep the quality of their centers high.
We hope that this fundraiser will help bring in a substantial amount of funds in order to keep the Forest Ridge Community Based Learning Center up and running, while still upholding its high standard. We also hope that the presentation the students will put on for the community will remind everyone the benefits of these Community Based Learning Centers and their necessity. We know it takes a village to raise a child, and if you take away the unity and safe space the community has, then raising these students to reach their highest potential becomes even more difficult than society has already made it.
This fundraiser is not only critical to save the Forest Ridge Community Based Learning Center, but it is here to save the Forest Ridge Summer Enrichment Program. To run a success program, funding is needed, and opportunities should not be denied to children simply off of limited financing.
Understanding Your Past to know your Future
The students of the Forest Ridge Community Based Learning Center researched their family's history during Black History Month. They then reflected on their own goals and compared their opportunities and circumstances to those before them. The students also shared how the Community Based Learning Center has helped them explore these ambitions while reinforcing positive skills for success academically and beyond. All the information will be put together in a presentation and all those who attend this event can learn more about our students through a gallery walk. After the gallery walk, dinner will be served and great music will be played, so come on out and enjoy the event!
Date: March 23, 2017
Time: 6 - 8pm 
Cost: $7
Place: The Other Barn 5851 Robert Oliver Place Columbia MD 21045
Donations are welcome.  

I learned about this program when I visited Forest Ridge Apartments when I was running for CA rep in Oakland Mills. The director of the program, Sharon Fulton, told us about an upcoming event that the children were preparing. She was passionate about the students and what they were doing. Her commitment and enthusiasm were impressive.

If you don't have dinner plans tonight, or if you just want to stop by and make a donation, that would be awesome. I'm trying to find a way that you can mail a check and/or click and donate. This would be a great place to invest in the future of our kids.

And it makes a lovely birthday gift, too.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Reason to Fear

I've been sitting on this piece because it felt too difficult, but when I read this post yesterday from a former colleague, I knew it was time for me to speak.

She writes:

I don't know it all, but I feel disgusted about those using the awful rape of a high school girl in Montgomery County as a platform against immigrants and Latinos. I understand that it's an absolutely horrific crime. This does not mean that all immigrants are rapists. It does not mean they're all violent. From 1990 to 2013, the number of undocumented immigrants tripled from 3.5 to 11.2 million, according to an American Immigration Council study. However, violent crime in America dropped 48% during that period, indicating that higher immigration doesn’t mean higher violent crime, which includes murder and rape. The U.S. Government Accountability Office study found that of the three million immigrants — legal or not — arrested during that period, only two percent were for sex offenses. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey shows that whites commit 71% of all documented sexual assaults, while Latinos accounted for 9%. All sexual assault is wrong. But claiming it happened because these men were undocumented is a lie. Using it to spread fear and build support against immigrants is unconscionable.

Since the report last week of the brutal rape of a Montgomery County High School student,  I have read a number of comments which begin, "I am the mother of a girl and I fear for my daughter..."

I'm the mother of a girl, too. And do you know why I fear for my daughter?

White boys. Yes, white boys, right here in Howard County.

White boys like the one who taunts a lesbian student in class that she'd "be straight if she just got good d***."

White boys like the ones who got drunk and posted a racist video online.

White boys like the one who drugged a girl and raped her, then bullied her until she no longer believed her life was worth living.

White boys.

When are we going to stop with all this coded language about "thugs" and Section 8 freeloaders," or "illegals and that criminal element" and really face the ugly truth of the toxic version of white masculinity? When are we going to discuss the price everyone pays when these boys are raised to believe that they are the norm, the Center of the Universe, and that everyone else is defined in relationship to them, their rights and their privilege?

White boys who believe that the rules don't apply to them do things without caring how others could be affected. Those same white boys will get a slap on the wrist or a warning while young men of color would face suspension or criminal charges for identical acts. Who do we protect in perpetuating a culture of entitled white boys who grow into white men who feel justified rather than responsible?

Yes, sometimes I fear for my daughter.

But it isn't skin color or nationality that makes me afraid. It's what is carried in the heart, values, humility, strength of character--or the lack of it--that's on my mind today.

Comments are welcome here:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Names and Relationships

You may already have seen this, but I was struck over the weekend by this post about Open Space by Ian Kennedy.

The Battle for Donoughe Hill and the future of Columbia’s Open Space

Kennedy paints a picture of Columbia's Open Space as more than anonymous locations on a map, but places that are known and loved. Places whose characteristics and "personality" have given rise to relationships and even name-giving, as Kennedy does in the anecdote for "Donoughe Hill." What makes Open Space special and worth defending is how we engage with it: walking, biking, playing, exploring, having neighborhood get-togethers, taking photographs, using our imaginations to engage in new ways.

I loved this:

Imagine a future where you look at a map of Columbia and you see the familiar pathways, pools, schools, neighborhood centers, and lakes, but on top of that you see things like sledding hills, fields for free play, streams with names, spots of interesting scenery or ecological features –like the awesome stand of old beech trees in Long Reach or a boulder-strewn stream in Swansfield that feels like it belongs in the mountains of western Maryland or an isolated rock outcrop overlooking the Middle Patuxent River.

Some years ago I wrote about Tot Lots and how they seemed to exist in secrecy, making them virtually impossible to find for new residents. While the Columbia Association has done wonderful things with signage around town, I have yet to see one sign which announces, "To the Tot Lots". Sigh. 

In "Come To My Party" (2013) I wrote:

Maybe tot lots, pathways, and open spaces need their own fan clubs in each village. We hold concerts and festivals in our Village Centers. We have annual pool parties, often rotating each year from one village pool to the next. If our outdoor spaces had annual events, or ongoing programs, it would be one more way to invite and engage residents to enjoy this wonderful amenity.

It looks like Ian Kennedy is a SuperFan for Open Space. Take the time to read his piece in its entirety. Does it bring to mind particular places near your home? Have you ever thought of giving them a name? 

Maybe you should,

Monday, March 20, 2017

APFO 101 Makes Its Debut

Add this to your calendar if you'd like to understand more about how Howard County ticks:

"APFO 101" at Savage Library 3/22/17, 7:00 pm.   

APFO means Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. Schools, roads, sewer, water, police, fire dept, hospitals, recreation--the kind of things we often take for granted. If you are curious as to how decisions for new housing construction are made, or have concerns about school overcrowding, this would be a good place to start.

This event is described as a meeting put on by community members for community members. Hosted by North Laurel resident Judy Fisher George, the goal is to present APFO information for those who have an interest but haven't known where to get started in getting the basics.

People who served on the APFO task force will present information  and answer your questions. Seating at the library is extremely limited. Depending on interest, they may have another session.

This informational session is being held in preparation of the APFO report being brought to the County Council.  New APFO legislation is coming up in May. It's an opportunity to learn the various county entities and regulatory components, and how they work (or maybe don't work) together. The goal is to help ordinary people understand the necessary connections that make for better schools, roads, infrastructure.

Shedding some light on the process will contribute to creating better-informed citizens who can be more successfully engaged in the process. And if you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know I'm a big fan of that.

This is clearly not my area of expertise, so maybe I should turn up 
to get a better grounding, too.

Comments are welcome here:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Downtown Day

I seem to mention a lot here that I rarely go downtown. Well yesterday was a Downtown day for me.

I had my first real experience of navigating the road closure at Little Patuxent Parkway. I wanted to go to FedEx/Kinko's to make some color copies for work. I wasn't sure what to do at first, but it was a fairly uncomplicated cut-through route via the Mall.

Having left my work to be done at the copy place, I decided I'd return my overdue book at the Downtown branch rather than driving over to Ellicott City. Hmm. After a bit of reconnoitering I found the Mall exit and made it to the library. And the parking lot was packed. As it always is. That place is a hotbed of humanity on Saturdays. . Had a "wow, we really are multi-cultural" moment.

I returned my book, paid my fine, gave profuse apologies. The forgiving clerk actually thanked me for my donation. (!)  Headed out to the parking lot. How on earth could I get back to FedEx? I ended up taking a right and going almost all the way home again. Possibly not the best choice. Passed Whole Foods. Thought, "Ooh! Lunch!" Kept on driving.

For those keeping track at home, I'm on my second enormous loop through Downtown.

While waiting in line to pick up my copies, I met Laurie Lundy, the admin of Addiction Support in Howard County and also of the blog hcCircleofAngels . She was picking up posters for the yoga classes she teaches at the Serenity Center in Oakland Mills on Thursday nights. Mentally awarded myself extra cool points for real human interaction during my Downtown trip.

Back on the road again, I decided to yield to my urge to get lunch at Whole Foods. Saw so many families with young children. Had that "wow, we really are multi-cultural" moment again.

So I went Downtown. I got every thing accomplished on my list and I even got lunch. And, although there was still snow on the ground, it was a sunny and beautiful day. All around me were signs that Columbia will soon be in full bloom.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

More Than Words

I'm sharing this statement this morning in the hopes that it will be seen by more people. I agree that we need more than words to ensure that Howard County is "a place where diversity is our strength, and where neighborliness and civility are the standard," --jam

Local Groups Respond to Kittleman/Weinstein Immigration Announcement

On March 8, 2017, County Executive Kittleman and Council Chairman Weinstein made an announcement regarding proposals to address the needs of immigrants in Howard County.  At no time have these needs been greater.  Council Bill 9 (CB9), introduced by Council Members Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa, would have codified Howard County’s existing practice whereby police officers and other county employees generally refrain from inquiring about immigration status and county police do not engage in enforcement of federal immigration law.  As anti-immigration rhetoric, hate crimes, and immigration enforcement soar to record levels in recent history across the country, we commend the bill’s sponsors for their efforts to keep Howard County a place where our diversity is our strength, and where neighborliness and civility are the standard.

We were extremely disappointed in the veto of CB9 and subsequent failure to override that veto.  While we appreciate that County Executive Kittleman and Chairman Weinstein understand the need for continued conversation regarding the bill, we cannot overlook this missed opportunity to stand for our beliefs and values, and to affirmatively reassure our immigrant neighbors that they are welcome in our county.  

Notably, many of the statements in the March 8 announcement echoed provisions of CB9.  Mr. Kittleman made a commitment that the county will not join in enforcement actions with ICE, and specifically that it will not participate in the 287(g) program.  He also stated that the county, in cooperation with FIRN, HopeWorks, and police, will develop policies to prevent police and other county agencies from inquiring about immigration status unless required by federal and state law. This policy will be written in clear language and posted online and communicated to both county employees and the community.

We believe that these commitments from the County Executive are a good first step, but are insufficient to address the high levels of uncertainty and fear that have been expressed by residents of Howard County, and specifically those that are undocumented and people of color.  

Just last Friday, another Howard County family was split apart, when they reported to ICE for a routine check-in.  We understand that the family has been checking in ever since a traffic accident in 2009, when Howard County police contacted ICE after the family’s vehicle was hit by a school bus.  The family includes two DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students who were also detained on Friday.  As this family struggles to fight back against an aggressive immigration enforcement machine, our local politicians are quibbling over semantics.  

This case makes it clear that Howard County policy has not always adhered to the values outlined by the County Executive last week.  Moreover, mere policies can be changed without notice or any public process, whereas policies codified in law would provide a greater level of trust between the community and the government, consistent with the 
values of #OneHoward.  Thus, while we agree with Mr. Kittleman that not every problem can be solved with legislation, we continue to believe that legislation is necessary to effectively address these issues.

In addition to the commitments outlined by the County Executive, which we hope will be codified in legislation, we also think it is important to ensure that the new policies include an anonymous means of reporting violations by county employees, and that they specify a range of consequences for any such violations.

While we remain hopeful that our county leaders will rise to the occasion and introduce new legislation to codify the protections the County Executive outlined last week, we also look to the General Assembly to address this critical issue by passing the Maryland Trust Act (SB835/HB1362).  This legislation will extend the same provisions outlined in Howard County CB9 to the entire state of Maryland.  There has never been a more important time to stand up for our neighbors, and we hope that we can count on our state and county leaders to do so.  We look forward to Howard County truly being safe and welcoming for all.

Together We Will - Howard County
Young Democrats of Howard County
Howard County Muslim Council (HCMC)
African American Community Roundtable of Howard County (AACR)
Do the Most Good Howard County
Concerned Chinese Americans (CCA)
Howard County Education Association (HCEA)
Maryland State Education Association (MSEA)

Friday, March 17, 2017


In light of news that the President intends to eliminate funding for the arts and slash funding for education, here's a reminder of why the arts--and play based learning--truly matter. Originally posted one year ago on this day.

Key Ingredients

You may have seen the news that the cast of the Broadway show Hamilton traveled to DC this week to perform for students in the White House. This tweet from Michele Norris caught my eye:

Why @HamiltonMusical trip to WH was SO important. Simply put Arts Education matters. So there.

She links to this Huffington Post article by Katherine Brooks, "Why The 'Hamilton' Cast's Trip To The WH Was So Important".

"But the really revolutionary part of Miranda and his dapper blue suit making waves in the the White House Cabinet Room? 

The fact that Obama's administration was honoring the importance of the arts -- and arts education -- in such a momentous and public way."

It isn't the first time. In hosting the Turnaround Arts program, President Obama 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."

The play's the thing. And not just this kind of play, but play itself. Take a look at this article by Lucy Ward about the role of play in the education of young children. (The Guardian) Entitled "Children Should Learn Mainly Through Play Until Age of Eight, Says Lego", it highlights a move in England to value play as a mode of learning. Lest you think from the title that it's all about selling more Lego bricks, it isn't. My favorite quote:

If parents and governments push children towards numeracy and literacy earlier and earlier, it means they miss out on the early play-based learning that helps to develop creativity, problem-solving and empathy, she says.

Creativity, problem-solving, and empathy. These are key ingredients in any field of study, in any career, in any life. This does not mean that play-based learning or arts education are necessarily superior to everything else out there, but it does mean they are necessary components that make all other kinds of learning function better. We reduce and/or eliminate them at our peril.

Consider our current political situation. Imagine what it would be like if we, as a nation, had been making a long-term investment in creativity, problem-solving, and empathy.

Mind-boggling, isn't it?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Moment in Time

The year is 1962. The place is Belfast, Northern Ireland. The occasion  is the wedding of Sam McCready and Joan Carslake. This picture captures the joy and excitement of that moment in time.

Sam and Joan are known today not only in Belfast but in many countries around the world. Beyond their long careers as teachers they have lived just as fully as actors, writers, directors, artists. They continue to travel and perform.

I haven't come to know them because of their performing, though. My story became a part of their story when I married their son. We've been married since 1999, so we have a ways to go to catch up.

Today I want to wish these two amazing, welcoming, and loving people a very Happy Anniversary and say thank you for giving me the greatest gift of my life. Your wedding led to my wedding, and your joy to mine.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Safety First

In case you were wondering about conditions this morning, here's a PSA by a local student to bring you up to speed.

A tip of the hat to HoCo blogger David Hobby, (@strobist) who highlighted the video on Twitter.

Have a wonderful day, bundle up, and be safe.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Spoilt for Choice

There's a new Indian restaurant in Clarksville. It's called Mint, and it occupies the location originally held by Pudgies Pizza. It has been in the works for a long time, and there's quite a bit of buzz on the Clarksville Happenings Facebook page now that it's up and running. My husband and I went there on Saturday night.

The space has been beautifully redone. If you remember the Pudgies layout, you can see how they've turned the central area (that used to be the walk-up counter) into an elegant bar. Of note: they have gender-neutral bathrooms, which we thought was pretty cool.

The service was attentive, perhaps a hair too attentive, but overall it was fine. My gin and tonic was perfect. The food? Well, it was tasty. But it reminded me of the food at Royal Taj: it was too sweet. When I told my teenaged daughter this later, she said that a friend had dismissed Mint as "Indian food for white people."

We are, as my in-laws would say, spoilt for choice when it comes to Indian food in Howard County. For years our go-to has been House of India. In recent years I feel that they are not as consistently good as they used to be. They don't always seem to be giving their best effort. I have come to prefer Flavors of India. I'd like to visit Chutney more often but my husband doesn't seem to be convinced. Or maybe we just have too many choices.

A brief rundown:

  • Ananda--excellent but too expensive for us. Also lacks that feeling of "plentiful portions in Indian restaurants" that my husband loves from his college days in Manchester. This is not ethnic food as cheap eats.
  • Chutney--feisty and exuberant flavors, a very brightly-lit room.
  • Flavors of India--smooth, elegant ambiance, consistently high quality food and service.
  • House of India--like your old friend or family member, an old reliable. Food is usually good but never exceptionally so.
  • Mint--beautiful setting, attentive service, food is tailored to American tastes.
  • Royal Taj--same as Mint but the setting and the service are over-the-top exquisite.

So what do you think? What makes for an excellent Indian restaurant? Have I missed one that you think I should know about?

Chime in here:

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Student Message

This weekend my daughter shared a video with me that was made by the Muslim Student Association at her school. I want to share it here to give it a wider audience. I reached out to the student group and have received their consent.

"And I Am a Muslim"

It's thoughtful, well-constructed, and there are parts which are difficult to watch. We are living in difficult times. These students aren't afraid to address that and look for solutions.

I am so grateful that my daughter goes to school with people like this. I am so glad that young people are taking the initiative to encourage dialogue on uncomfortable issues.

When you have a moment, watch the video and share your feedback here:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

News of Note

Seen in the Howard County Times this week:

Howard hires Ross Hannon as head varsity football coach

I believe they also covered the story when the previous coach stepped down.


I don't remember any story when, say, River Hill High School hired Katie Geiger as their new Vocal/Choral director. And what about when Nick Marini came on board at Oakland Mills High School in Band?


Think for a moment. Do you ever see celebrations in high schools when a musician commits to pursuing their interests in college? "Three cheers for Suzanne B. who has signed to play flute for Indiana!"


Sports programs benefit many of our students and it's great to pay attention to them and celebrate them. But so do music and arts programs. Are we only going to care about hiring and firing and college signing if we can rack up wins and losses? Is that all that matters where our children are concerned?

March is Music in Our Schools Month. HCPSM, the parent advocacy group (of which I am a member) has a request:

Nominate a teacher for HCPSM Music Educator of the Year. It's easy to do. You can find all the information you need here:

Being a music teacher is not about racking up winning seasons. There won't be a whole section in the newspaper dedicated to what you and your students are doing. And that isn't why teachers are in the field of education anyway. But once a year, in Howard County, we stop and shine a spotlight on the many ways that music teachers touch lives and make a difference.

You can help. Nominate a teacher and tell HCPSM why they're great. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Roots and Wings

I had to go way, way back in my posts to find the first mention of Bridge Columbia. Here it is, in 2012:

"Looking for Mr. GoodRouse"

I first learned about the concept of Bridge Columbia while serving on the Oakland Mills Village Board. Since then, I have written about it many times. I even tried my hand at a photoessay of sorts, here:

"View from the Bridge"

As I read the press release about the work that will be done to upgrade the Route 29 Pedestrian footbridge there was something important missing. Where did this idea of improving the Bridge come from? Did the County Executive just wake up one morning and seize upon the notion that this was the right thing to do?

Well, no.

The reason we even have a project and a press release is because of Columbia folks who brainstormed an idea to make the Bridge safer and more user-friendly. And they gathered together more interested and like-minded people and they kept brainstorming. They reached out to bridge designer Fred Gottemoeller who envisioned the importance of making the Bridge a more meaningful connection between East and West. He also created the concept design which has been used to represent the project.

The original group of idea-people became an advocacy group called Friends of Bridge Columbia. A sampling of their work:

  • July 4th events on the Bridge to raise awareness of the project.
  • Attended community meetings, county meetings.
  • Wrote letters.
  • Gave testimony.
  • Met individually with representatives of County government and with Columbia community leaders. 
  • Created and maintained a website, newsletter, and maintained social media presence 
  • Worked to create awareness in local media outlets.

From the roots of the original conversations about making a better Bridge, these advocates have been working to give this project wings for a long, long time. If what we read in the press release really does begin to happen in the Fall of 2017, it's important to note that none of this would have happened without the Bridge Columbia people.

Strangely enough, there's no mention of them in the article.

I know some of the names of the people involved but I am leery to make a list because I will undoubtedly make omissions. If someone would like to send me a comprehensive list I would gladly print it here, because I think it's important to give credit where it is due.

Friday, March 10, 2017


i know I promised to write about the Bridge but something else grabbed my attention this morning.

This tweet:

#ColumbiaMD is full of cops, snitches, minivans, landlords, lawn waterers, tiny dogs, and christians. Y'all are fucking dead.


When you go searching the ColumbiaMD hashtag on Twitter you don't usually find such blunt language. What follows is a recent sampling from this account.

As Columbia approaches its 50th Birthday these biting observations are uncomfortable truths that need to to be faced and addressed. If we are celebrating, has everyone truly been invited to the party?

I'm inviting your feedback:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Bridge Columbia, Kind Of

I'm short on time this morning, so I am recommending this press release for your reading pleasure:

Executive Kittleman Announces Improvements to Route 29 Pedestrian Bridge in Columbia

I am going to have more to say on this but, at the moment, bronchitis is slowing up the creative process. I'm going to give you a little hint, though: the most important people aren't in this article.

We'll talk about them tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Milllion Darkened Kitchens

A Day Without A Woman. A day of protest. A day of solidarity. What would it look like if all those women the country depends on just didn't show up? No more quietly bearing the unbearable, swallowing the anger of injustice. The power of women--who we are and what we do--is formidable.

Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, in one or all of the following ways:
  1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
  2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
  3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman
But a combined show of strength is more problematic. While it's a risk for anyone to take a day, to call in, to lose wages or risk discipline, for women there's something more. More insidious. More deeply engrained.

Women are trained to be the carers, the nurturers. To us falls the emotional labor without which the home, school, and workplace cannot function. So much of that labor is expected without a thought, uncompensated, and--to many--invisible.

For women it cannot just be about "calling in". How can you "call in" for all the childcare and household chores and management and anticipating needs that must be done in addition to (or in place of) a job that earns a paycheck? All of that work has value, and the women who do it should be valued in our country far more than they are today.

What would truly happen if there were a Day Without a Woman? Perhaps it would be like this scene from the movie, "Pleasantville", where William H. Macy's character comes home to an unimaginable horror :   a darkened and empty house. And he has no dinner.

He cannot comprehend a world where everything is not in its place. Everything, and everyone. You get the feeling that, until this very moment, he's never contemplated the notion of a day without dinner waiting, or a house without a compliant wife to smooth the way.

The power of women could change the world/can change the world/is changing the world but the pull to care for, support, and do what is best for others mutes our voice. It's a complicated kind of servitude. And it's a dilemma that adversaries of women are more than happy to watch, reinforce, and even ridicule.

Today I will wear red in solidarity with my sisters throughout the country. And I will go to work, teaching young children who need me, and supporting their parents who need care for their children. But I fear for what this country is becoming. It is my responsibility as a citizen and as a woman to protest injustice.

These words, from A Day Without a Woman website, inspire me today:

In the same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women's March, we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system--while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. We recognize that trans and gender nonconforming people  face heightened levels of discrimination, social  oppression and political targeting. We believe in gender justice.

What will you do today in the spirit of love and liberation?

Comments are welcome here:

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Bean's and Birthdays

The invitations are out. You are invited to the kickoff of Columbia's 50th Birthday celebration. It's at the Mall. On March 19th, beginning at 11am, the community is invited to gather and enjoy the opening ceremony followed by a dayof free entertainment and fun activities.

The opening ceremony will take place "in the Outdoor Plaza in front of Maggiano’s and Seasons 52 restaurants."


This space. In May of 2013, blogger Dennis Lane wrote about the rise and fall of the L.L. Bean store at the Mall in this very location. It would be coming down and replaced by a plaza. This plaza, which I believe was dubbed a "lifestyle plaza" by the PR people at the Mall. 

Dennis Lane was particularly adept at writing about local things that helped us know what had happened in the past while doling out tantalizing glimpses of what was coming in the future. But he was also extremely good at living in the present and sharing the joy of that, too: a walk in nature, a community meeting, dinner with friends, the companionship of a faithful canine friend.

It's great to appreciate the past and imagine the future. But it's vitally important to live fully in the present in such a way that we are actively bringing about the future. I guess there's a balance that is needed between the three, yes? Haven't we all sat in a meeting with someone who's inner clock says "Worship the past, decry the present, prevent the future"?

It would be equally stark to want nothing but delicious fantasies of the future with no knowledge of the past and no anchor to the present. 


There may be a time, in the future, when such celebrations take place in Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. But given our history as The New American City that rose up around the Mall as a central gathering place and a community focal point, it makes complete sense to kick off this Birthday event right there. In the present. 

Mark your calendars. Bring your family. Take lots of pictures. Be prepared to have some fun.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Spirit and the Letter


Now, more than ever, the choice to be a sanctuary county is an important one.

CB-9 is not a bill looking for a problem. The problem has been heading towards us like a freight train and one need only read the news to see why we should take a stand to address it. CB-9 is not political grandstanding by those who proposed it. This bill is a response to a need, to real human beings who live in Howard County who many want to vilify or dismiss.

It falls to Councilman Jon Weinstein to change his vote in order to override the County Executive's veto. It seems unlikely that he will.

As Americans we must have more than an unthinking acceptance of what some call "routine law enforcement." The laws are there because We, the People, have endorsed them. Looking at the spirit of the law and not just the letter of the law involves deeper thinking. It challenges us. And this particular issue requires us to see not just with our brains but with our hearts as well. Without empathy we are simply routine enforcers.

Are we nothing more than that? Are we not meant to stand up for what we believe is right?

A huge shoutout today to everyone in our community who has worked in support of this bill. Nothing would be more satisfying than seeing your work come to fruition this evening. No matter what happens, the work will not be over. Discussion of this bill has revealed divisions among us that are troubling. Fear and prejudice run deep.

Justice and compassion have a lot more work to do in Howard County.

Feedback is welcome here:

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Dirty Words

Felt Board activities can be fun for young children. So my eye was drawn in by one posted on the HGTV Facebook page. Take a look.

No dirt, no mess. Just hours and hours of fun!

It's a felt board garden, complete with soil, blue sky, flowers, and vegetables. Right now when the weather is teasing us with Spring but it is still too cold to plant, a pretend-play garden looks rather appealing. And for adults who have nostalgic feelings about playing with felt boards (or do you call them flannel boards?) the thought of playing "garden" is amplified through our own lens of childhood  memories.

Just one thing though. "No dirt, no mess."

We have far too much of that these days. We're all about keeping clean and using sanitizing wipes and single use disposable items that help keep life germ-free. And it's good to get clean, I don't dispute that. It's good to step up to the sink with warm water and make bubbles with the soap. But first--

Get dirty.

Go play outside, as long as it isn't frighteningly below freezing or pouring enough to wash you away. Dress for the weather. Collect rocks and sticks, build things, dig in the mud. Splash in puddles. Bury your hands in sand or mulch or pebbles and then wiggle them to break free. Pretend you are exploring Mars. Or building a castle. Or creating a secret hideaway.

Play is the true work of childhood. It provides the optimal environment for learning. Playing outside and interacting with the natural environment is enriching from so many standpoints. It is multi-sensory. It encourages scientific observation and experimentation. It is a natural springboard to symbolic and imaginative play. It provides an opportunity to express and test our bodies. Social play supports language and social-emotional development. Solitary play provides much needed "down time" where children can recharge.

Truth in advertising: I didn't do anywhere near as much of this as many children do, because I had allergies and asthma and was prone to illness. As my mother used to say, I "caught every cold that walked down the street." I think that is why I still remain unsure about most outdoor physical challenges. I had very little opportunity to test myself physically as I grew. I never developed that sense of competence about my body and what it could do. And so I thought that some kids were just born good at those things, and I wasn't.

I excelled at sitting in a comfy chair in the corner and reading a book. And that's a good thing, too. But some of my most vivid memories from childhood are of interactions with nature: a treehouse built by a friend's dad, playing in the hills of dirt and mud created as a neighborhood lot was prepared for building. Visiting a certain stream where you could walk across on slippery stones, teetering...

I have a feeling that most of the people who read my blog already understand the truth of what I am saying. But on the off-chance that you or someone you know feels squeamish about dirt and making a mess, perhaps we need a new slogan. How about:

Go outside.
For dirt, mess, and
Hours and hours of fun!

It's good for grown ups, too.

Comments? Post here:

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Who is Bill?

There's Rapid Roy that Stock Car Boy, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, Big Jim Walker, and other tough characters of song and story. But who the heck is Road Kill Bill? And why is the Governor saying such awful things about him?

Since I write mostly about local issues, I've naturally been wondering if this fellow is local to Howard County. Could this be Road Kill Bill? Or this? And why on earth do we see nothing from this poor fellow speaking in his own defense? Stand up for yourself, man!

Yes, it did take me a bit more than a little moment to realize that Road Kill Bill is not a person, but a quick and dirty way to get the Governor's talking point to stick in the public consciousness.  It's not at all helpful to him to call the bill by its actual name, which is the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016. Calling it by its proper name would be the right thing to do, but that might legitimize it. So let's give it a scary, nasty name.

Does "Rain Tax" ring a bell?

I'm not impressed. If you want to make a case for why you don't believe the bill is helpful for Maryland, go right ahead. But it's a cheap trick to give it a nasty name and feel satisfied that name-calling is a respectable strategy. We should be talking about serving the people of the state of Maryland here, not scoring points in a name-calling war.

Having observed years of preschool behavior, I can assure you that once some four year olds discover the power of calling someone a "poop-head", there is an eruption of excitement as others want to join in. While it's a perfectly normal developmental phase, most have worked their way through it by the time they have finished kindergarten. Teachers spend a lot of time encouraging those in question to "use their words".

I would encourage the Governor to use his words. Heck, if he feels the need to use his strong voice he should do that, too. But calling something you don't like "Road Kill Bill" is really only about one step above "poop-head". Don't assume your constituents are four year olds on the playground.

Let's have an intelligent conversation.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Old Stomping Grounds

I'm headed the NAIS conference in Baltimore today. Truth be told, I can't remember the last time that I was in Charm City. I just don't find a need to be there.

I lived in Baltimore City, in Bolton Hill, from 1985-1991 My older daughter and I moved to Rodgers Forge, right over the line in Baltimore County, and lived there until 1999. My life has changed so completely since then that I don't often think much about the old days and my old neighborhoods.

Things that I remember fondly:

The Bolton Hill Festival each Fall.
Artscape (but not the intense July heat)
Being able to walk to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
Walking in the neighborhood to the grocery, pharmacy, video store, and preschool
Collecting pockets full of horse chestnuts on Bolton Street

Memories from the Rodgers Forge years:

Walking to the Tot Lot
Splurging on a little picnic food at Eddie's Market
The free Towson at Night concerts in the Summer
The Towson Farmers Market
Picking out stacks of picture books at the library

It was a long time ago. I'm not sure I ever connected with Baltimore to the extent that I have in  coming Columbia/Howard County. I'm guessing that a lot of that has to do with the fact that, for most of those years, I was on my own and struggling financially. When you are divorced, a single parent, and holding down two jobs just to cover the essentials, how much can you truly engage in your community?

That's probably a good point to remember when considering who gets involved in local community issues here in Howard County. When you're just struggling to survive,  community engagement is a luxury you can't afford. Or, at least, it certainly feels that way.

What do we do in Columbia and Howard County to reach out to people like that? Ideas?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Not Here?

Last night I was scrolling through Twitter looking for local news. This caught my eye.

The tweet refers to this quote in the news report:

"We don't necessarily think the prescription medications are staying on the streets of Howard County. We think that perhaps they're being stolen here and taken into the city to be sold," Llewellyn said.
Now I am (obviously) not a police officer nor do I have any details of this case beyond those listed in the article. But I was intrigued by the suggestion of the tweet that perhaps, just maybe, people in Howard County were using opioids, too. Maybe that's why they were stolen? Is that possible?
We're only just beginning to make headway on this issue in Howard County. And plenty of people just don't want to talk about it. Drug abuse can't happen here. Addiction? In beautiful Howard County? How can it be?
Those who struggle with addiction, and their families members and friends, live with a sad and fearful secret. Better to be invisible than to ask for help and reveal one's failings. In the land of beautiful houses and lawns, "world class" education, and impresssive careers, the suffering and shame of addicts just doesn't "fit in."
It doesn't happen to nice people. It doesn't happen in Howard County. 
But it does. It really does, and it's heartbreakingly close all around us. Those prescription medications stolen from Howard County pharmacies may very well be heading to the city. But maybe, just maybe, they are feeding a very real epidemic right here at home.