Thursday, August 31, 2017

Life is a Highway

Dear People Who Improve the Roads,

Now that most (maybe all?) of that work in Route 29 is done, I wanted to thank you for how gorgeous it is. Driving through that section after I get off 32 on my way home from work brings a kind of delicious little thrill. So smooth, so open and well, functional! All that waiting was worth it.

You folks do good work. You're out in all kinds of weather and no one is ever happy to see you. The work is hard physical labor and you don't get positive feedback from end-users, I'm guessing. Just complaints.

"How long is this going to take?"

 "Will they ever finish?"

I may not know who you are in real life, but I think of you every time I drive that stretch of road. Somehow I don't think that the community is going to hold one of those nice little wine and cheese receptions for you and show a lovely slide presentation of the highlights of the project. No testimonials from local officials on your dedication and expertise. No article in the newspaper about how your contributions to the community are improving our quality of life.

Why is that?

I would think that every person who worked on this years-long project would like to feel some closure, some sense of appreciation for their work. I wonder if the Maryland State Highway Administration has any way to celebrate completion. You can't exactly stage a ribbon-cutting on a highway. At least, it doesn't sound like a practical proposition.

Anyway, please spread the word around that I'm grateful for what you have done. I'll bet that lots of other folks are, too.

Comments are welcome here:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


I don't do it.

Cute, that is. As far as I'm concerned, "cute" is a four-letter word.

I've been teaching in the field of early childhood for almost thirty years and one thing I have never had the remotest interest in pursuing is "cute".

Young children are curious, enthusiastic, creative, imaginative, thoughtful, and energetic. Their work is play. Their play and playtime creations can be thought-provoking, funny, complex, unusual, deceptively simple, unexpected, engaging.

Teachers are there to support that vital work, and give them the tools to grow as artists, detectives, scientists, creators of worlds and builders of relationships. Too many people think that early childhood is handprint turkeys and identical holiday headbands. How often do we look at videos of tiny performers who were made to get up and parrot adorable songs for the amusement of their elders?

"Oh, they're just too cute!"

No. Just no. The work of early childhood is joyful, and playful, but it is not cute. In my opinion, it is the most important work of all because young children are in such a crucial time of brain development, physical development, and social-emotional development, all of which provide the foundation for everything that comes afterwards.


When you witness an excellent early childhood classroom, the words that should come to mind are, "Cool! "Wow!" "Aha!" or perhaps a thoughtful, "Hmm..."

If you were to observe my teaching and you came away saying, "cute!", I would feel that I had failed..

From the blog, Not Just Cute, by Amanda Morgan:

As supervising teachers in the child development lab, my cohort and I would often lament that if we heard one more student teacher describe an activity on her lesson plan as “cute” our heads might literally explode.

Cute is not a developmental objective. Our kids deserve so much more than “cute” when it comes to their education and development. 

If you look at your child and are filled with the joy of how cute they are, that is your right. But it is not the child's job to be cute, nor the preschool teacher's job to produce cuteness. The abilities and imaginations of young children are far, far larger than that.

Give us the room to be bigger than cute. You'll be amazed at what happens.

Comments are welcome here:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A New Frame

"Bridges are perhaps the most invisible form of public architecture."*

"Most people don't notice a bridge unless it's particularly ugly or clogged with traffic"

"Bridges become frames for looking at the world around us."

On September 5th work will begin to transform the Route 29 footbridge that connects Oakland Mills with Downtown. This project started with a dream that looked more like this:

And it included crossing capabilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit. The project that was approved and is moving forward does not include transit. I think that's a missed opportunity. But you can't always get 100 per cent of what you want, I guess.

A shoutout to all the folks who dreamed this dream and then worked to make it happen. It's not Bridge Columbia in all its glory, but it's going to be a much, much better bridge.

Comments are welcome here:

*Quotes used are from Bruce Jackson: SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Professor of American Culture in the departments of American Studies and English.

Monday, August 28, 2017


Crazy day for me today. Parents and students will be visiting classrooms. My brain is going in a thousand different directions.

In lieu of a full-scale blog post, I'm going to recommend that you read this article:

"The Disconnect Between Liberal Aspirations and Liberal Housing Policy is Killing U.S. Cities", by Shane Phillips

It seems to be a relevant read as we are in the throes of APFO-mania around here.

As always--what do you think?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Showing Up

The Lower School "read" at SSFS this Summer was Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. The book takes a hard look at issues of shame and what it takes to get beyond shame into a state which she describes as wholehearted living. I found the book a difficult read, not because I disagreed with its premise, but because I felt so personally convicted by the message. In particular, I saw how necessary it would be for me to let go of perfectionism and what people think.

Sometimes you have to stop telling yourself that your work has to be perfect and, instead, be willing to show up and do what you can do without judging yourself and sabotaging yourself. Perfectionism is ultimately paralyzing. Being willing to show up and do the work with all of one's imperfection is where that daring greatly comes into play.

These concepts serve as a backdrop for me to this week's announcement by Courtney Watson that she is entering the race for State Delegate in 9B. This quote from the campaign press release struck me:

“The thing about Courtney is that she is tenacious and energetic. She gets right to the heart of the matter and works quickly to find a solution. When the devastating flood hit Ellicott City last year, Courtney organized a donation drive for flood relief supplies that were critical to the recovery of businesses and residents. She doesn’t just talk, she takes action,” said Angie Tersiguel, owner of Tersiguel’s French Country restaurant in Ellicott City. 

Showing up. The narrative of Ms. Watson' life since her loss in the County Executive race in 2014 has been rich with incidences of showing up to do the work. Founding Bridge to Give on Facebook to connect ordinary HoCo residents with ways to help their neighbors in need. Working with others to collect books for children in the Sandtown neighborhood in Baltimore City. Springing into action after the flood in Ellicott City to provide residents and businesses with neccesary supplies. Serving on the Clinton campaign, making connections with people throughout the state of Maryland. Supporting efforts to move the Confederate monument from the courthouse grounds.

It's easy to withdraw when you experience loss. I know this from personal experience. It takes bravery and inner strength to learn and grow as much from loss as from success. The political landscape in Annapolis is full of starts and stops and frustrating obstacles. A successful state delegate is one who makes connections, looks for new solutions, and most of all, keeps showing up to do the important work.

I look forward to observing Ms. Watson's campaign. She is in an excellent position to take the positives of her ability and experience and use them to serve a community she knows and loves. 

Comments are welcome here:

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Hero's Welcome

Acting Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano is making a big splash going from school to school during the inservice days leading up to opening day. He has been greeted by high school bands, cheerleaders, glow-in-the-dark percussion ensembles, and even made an entrance through the River Hill High School inflatable football tunnel in billowing clouds of smoke.

What is this all about?

Local residents who have endured carefully crafted media releases over the last few years can be forgiven for having a jaded mindset when looking at these celebratory images. Is it just more of the same but with a different slant? Are we in danger of getting suckered once more because we're just so relieved to be starting something new?

I haven't been present at any of these events but the information I am taking away gives some decent clues as to what the underlying message is. The hero being heralded at each of these events is not the Superintendent. It's the teachers and school staff. And the students they serve.

The message is loud and clear that Dr. Martirano knows that our teachers care about students and want to do their best possible job teaching and lifting them up. The stories he shares are about building relationships and putting equity in education at the forefront. He's opening the door to amplifying teacher voice and challenging those teachers to amplify student voice.

If the former administration was all about controlling the message, this one seems to be reaching out to students and teachers and saying: you are the message. The school system celebrates you and supports you.

The Superintendent  is coming into a system where teachers have been demoralized, misrepresented, micromanaged, and ignored. It looks like he is seizing his "15 minutes of fame" to establish a relationship of compassion and trust. In my opinion, it is well worth the investment of time and effort to make that happen.

It may look a little wacky to those of us on the outside. But if it breathes some joy into places that have felt very little in recent years, it will do a world of good.

Comments are welcome here:

Friday, August 25, 2017

Reader Request

So, I need your help

I'd really like to win Best Blogger in the Howard Magazine Readers' Choice "Best of Howard County" Awards. Voting runs until the end of August. (Limit one ballot per person and per device.) So this isn't a crazy clickfest, you'll be glad to know. Just look for Category 62.

If you have another favorite, that's okay with me. But if you're a frequent reader of my blog I'm hoping you'll consider casting a vote for me and helping me by spreading the word to others--the more the merrier!

Readers of my blog are smart, committed, compassionate, and engaged citizens who have done amazing things to help make our community a better place. Surely nudging a little hometown blog along should be a piece of cake.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Once upon a time, before they moved the monument, before the rally in Arizona, was the Eclipse. Can you remember that far back? You recall, it was the event I wasn't all that jazzed up about because of all the hype. No one at my house was, really.

Well, the morning of the long-awaited event dawned relatively clear. Things looked promising and I began to see posts from folks in town and those who had ventured far afield to get a better view. I began to feel a little tingle. A twinge, even. Was it FOMO?

What if this eclipse really was a big deal and I was going to miss out because I was pulling a Cool Kid/Not Easiy Impressed attude?


I saw a friend put out a desperate Mom-call for a pair of eclipse glasses. I saw another, generous mom respond in the affirmative. And then I made my move. I messaged that generous mom privately and asked if she might possibly have one extra pair of eclipse glasses. Of course, if she didn't, that was No Big Deal.

She did. She'd be glad to pass it along but she was going to be running errands so could we meet up someplace?

And so, on the morning of the eclipse, I found myself in an unfamiliar place, waiting for the Drop Off. (Story aside, it was the EZ Café off Route 40 and I give it high marks.) I bought an iced coffee and a croissant because I didn't want to look suspicious. I worked nonchalantly on my iPad while keep an eye on the entrance.

At long last my contact appeared and we made the switch. I asked if I could pay her. She graciously declined. I asked if I could make a donation somewhere in her honor. She smiled. She gave me some suggestions. We departed.

And that, friends, if how I came to make a donation and become a member of the Howard County NAACP on the morning of the Eclipse. It was something I had been meaning to do for quite some time. It had just slipped my mind. You can learn more about what's happening with our local NAACP here.

I confess to you, my dear readers, that I did not remain firm in my rejection of all things eclipse. I waffled. I thought about the beauty and precision of the natural world and the opportunity to witness something pretty amazing and a wave of excitement came over me. I wanted to share that experience with my family.

And so I did. It was pretty darn cool, too. My husband was probably the most excited. Our teen went along with the whole thing, but, to be honest, she was nonplussed. She was playing Sims and we interrupted her several times and really, from her tone, I think it was No Big Deal.

The innate ability of teens to be unimpressed is most likely a feature of the natural world, too. It's stunningly reliable. Just like an eclipse.

I'm glad I changed my mind.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Fair Weather Friends?

The Confederate monument has been removed and will be placed in a museum where it can take its place in an accurate historical context. Very likely this means among items illustrating the Jim Crow era.

Coincidentally, this may be the only time I ever wrote to the County Executive and got action within 24 hours.. (Of course, I had put off writing my letter...)

For the first time ever, I feel rather sad for the County Executive. It seems that a bunch of the folks who voted for him are truly mean-spirited people. And they don't look to be too loyal, either.

I'm serious about this. Don't take this as snark. It can't feel good to see people who elected you spew ignorance and hatred. I don't usually recommend reading the comments but this time it's mighty educational.

I'm not a political blogger. I certainly have political opinions. It was quite an eye-opener to see supporters of the County Executive say that this one act destroys his chances for reelection. Their narrative went like this:

1. Real conservatives will never vote for you again.
2. If the Democrats run someone popular, those Dems that broke from the pack and voted for you last time will return to the fold.
3. You're sunk.

In short: you're not conservative enough for the Conservatives, and you're not progressive enough for the Progressives.

Somehow I feel that this argument should be followed by a "nyaah-nyaah" or a rude noise. Formed in the heat of anger, it's meant to wound, or perhaps it's a bit of a threat. Get back in line, Mr. Kittleman.

Surely the County Executive knew all this when he made his decision. He's had enough political experience to know how this would play out. He moved forward anyway.

I want to make sure to point out that Mr. Kittleman didn't make this decision in a vacuum. Many good people mobilized to bring the existence of the monument to light and to work for its removal. The County Executive didn't just wake up one morning and decide to take action. His decision comes as a response to listening to the community. Without community activism I'm not sure this would have happened. At least, not now.

When it comes to politics, I firmly believe that this is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. All Americans should know enough about our history to understand a) why that monument was placed by a courthouse in the year that it was, and b) why it needed to be removed.

I wonder how many Howard County citizens will visit the Howard County Historical Society to find out?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Knowing Better

Let's talk about tomatoes. There was a time when they were generally considered to be poisonous.  Deadly. They were were classified with Bella Donna and Nightshade and people were warned away from what would surely be disastrous consequences were they to be consumed. Probably no one was harmed by shunning tomatoes. They just didn't know any better. Now we do.

Remember learning about legends in elementary school? Primitive cultures made up stories to explain what nowadays we are able to discern as scientific phenomenon. They just didn't know any better. I'm sure in elementary school we didn't go into the possible consequences of those primitive world views. (Human sacrifice, for instance.)

We just shook our heads and said, "that was a long time ago and they didn't know any better."

Now let's talk about the Nazis. And the Holocaust. We look at the pictures, or look away because we can't bear to look. We know someone who lived through it. Or fought. The thought of the institutional reach of such inconceivable cruelty hits us viscerally. We don't say, "oh, there was a time when some people thought that Jewish people (and others) were inferior and even malevolent so they thought they'd make the world a better place by killing them all. They just didn't know any better. Now we do." Shrug.

We don't do that. We say, "Never again."

Why? Because it is closer in time, and therefore more vivid? Because the victims look like us?

You know why I want to talk about this today, don't you?


Many, many Americans give slavery a pass because they do that disconnect and tell themselves a story that goes like this--

"Once upon a time people believed that slavery was okay. We know better now because we are more advanced. But that was a long time ago and they didn't know any better. We shouldn't judge them. That's just the way people were back then."

Why do we do that?

Is it because it is farther from us in time? Is it because we want to believe that the story of humankind is always a progression of primitive people becoming more advanced and feeling better about themselves?

Is it because the victims don't look like us?

Please, please, please.

It has never, ever, from the beginning of time, been "okay" for one human being to own another, to buy and sell another. Period. It was just as wrong then as it is now. And always will be. 

Slave owners, and those whose livelihoods and well-being depended on the racist systems  codified by slavery, do not get a free pass. That means us, too. If we look at a Confederate monument outside a courthouse and do not feel the visceral wounding of lynchings, and suffering from the lash, or families broken up and distributed like so much grain--there is something wrong with us. Something which ought to be innate in our being has been removed by years of careful upbringing.

This is the inculcation of white privilege whose survival depends on our not feeling that pain.

The sight of Nazis marching with torches has stunned many Americans who haven't been really paying attention up until now. But they aren't really any scarier than anyone who can look at slavery and institutionalized racism and say, "It's not my problem."

If we do that, we lie to ourselves and to others. And the consequences--in our communities, schools, and government--are poisonous and deadly.

Monday, August 21, 2017

As Sands Through the Hourglass

The last day of summer vacation has arrived for me. For those of you who work all through the year, I understand you may take a dim view of my taking the summer off. For many years I couldn't afford to. My gratitude at getting this time to spend with my family is immense. The luxury of having as much time as I want to write is both thrilling and daunting.

A few local stories that are on my mind today as I watch the sands of summer fall through the hourglass:

Rouse and swimming pools. I took two teens to the Hopewell Pool yesterday and remembered what was said when I went to the Undesign the Redline event hosted by Enterprise Community Partners. Rouse made sure every neighborhood had its own swimming pool because he was making a radical statement about integration: we all swim together here. I worry that we really need to do much more of that kind of 'swimming together' in our daily lives.

Calling the police. I saw an online discussion in a community group about unfamiliar young people suspiciously looking at someone's truck. The person wasn't sure what to do, but they felt that it wasn't a good sign. Others assured them that they were right to be worried and they should call the police next time it happened.

"But they weren't committing any crime." Call anyway, people said.

When would you call the police? When would you go outside and talk to the unfamiliar young people? Would you feel safe enough in your neighborhood to do that? How well do you know your neighbors that you'd be sure that a group of young people didn't belong there?

I don't know the particulars of this situation, and I do think it's great when neighbors work together to promote communication and share concerns. But sometimes calling the police escalates situations needlessly. What's your opionion?

There's a much-promoted Blog Party tonight at Bare Bones Grill for bloggers and their readers. I'll be there with HoCoHouseHon. As the numbers of possible attendees have increased, my desire to be there has decreased. So, if there is anyone out there who for some odd reason had hoped to touch base with me, I'm probably going early and leaving early.

In closing, I think it's pretty cool that someone wrapped and covered that Confederate monument at the Howard County Courthouse. However, it never should have been there in the first place. Let's work together to get that thing removed.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Gift of Song

He's not from Columbia or Howard County. But he is from Maryland. Kyle James Riley, actor, musician, graduate of UMBC and former student of my father-in-lawSam McCready, now lives in Ireland with his wife and children.

And he makes music. My kind of music.

Watch this video of one of his original songs, filmed in Ireland. It captures the essence of why I love doing what I do. There's so much joy.

These days there are so many difficult conversations we need to have and crucial actions that we must take. But, right now, in this moment: a song.

Feel free to use your social capital on this one: "Like" the video on YouTube, subscribe to his YouTube channel, share the video with someone who would enjoy it. Give the gift of a song today.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Chrysalis Triptych

Last Sunday I launched a new venture in Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods.

It was a free-form dance party with lots of hands-on materials. A varied playlist with everything from Laurie Berkner to Abba to Elvis to Raffi. The Imagination Playground materials for those who'd rather build than boogie. In short, it was fabulous. Huge thanks to everyone who shared the event page, and to all of the folks who took a chance and came out to something that's never happened before.

We're doing it again on Saturday, September 16. Come on along.

This week brought the news that the Chrysalis is on the cover of Architect magazine, featured in an article by Amanda Kolson Hurley. While the opening of the Chrysalis has certainly been a top story locally in recent months, this piece in the journal of the Institute of American Architects shows a  much broader reach. Pretty cool.


While it's too soon to say whether we'll be witnessing a pilgrimage of architects to the site, we do know that Columbia now has more to crow about than a few early Frank Gehrys. And that's good news for the New American City.

The third piece of the picture today is an event to put on your calendar: Under the Harvest Moon.


The inaugural fundraising event for Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods is September 9th. Tickets are $60.00 and you can learn more here There will be food, local beer and wine, music, fun, and a chair auction!  I hope I'll see you there. If you can't make it, check out the other upcoming events--all free.

One last thing: Michael McCall, wherever you are: you done good.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Maybe It's Time to Talk

There was an article by Tim Schwartz in the paper yesterday about the Centennial High School Varsity Football Program. Turnout this year for participation on the team was low. Numbers are not where they should be in order to run a viable program.

Football, especially high school football, is a tradition. It's not just the physical challenge of the sport. It's Friday night lights, cheerleaders, marching band, boosters selling snacks, families turning out to cheer on the teams. It's young kids dreaming of when they'll be in high school. It's parents remembering when they were.

And yet.

It becomes clearer all the time that football has been and continues to be the cause of traumatic brain injury in players. Not just the pros. High school players. The NFL keeps trying to beat back the data and reshape the conversation but the fact remains that youth participants are getting damaged in ways that cannot be remediated.

Does it happen to everyone? No. Would you risk it for your child? I wouldn't.

Maybe, with what is going on right now at Centennial,  it's a good time for us to have a community discussion about high school football. There was a bit of discussion earlier in the summer when requirements changed for getting a baseline concussion test as a requirement for sports participation. But I think we could stand to look at it more thoroughly.

If we say we put our kids first, how do we reconcile that with how much football is hurting them? Why do we accept that, as a sort of collateral damage?

I think I know why.

High school football has deep emotional roots in our culture. We give it a pride of place in our community that is unrivaled. Nothing else comes close. Can you imagine an article in the paper detailing concerns that a high school might not be able to field a Chamber Choir? Robotics team? Debate?

School athletics programs are a place where many kids have the opportunity to shine. I may not be even remotely athletic, but I understand that. But football presents a danger to our young people. There's no doubt about it now. The numbers are there. Can we please take a look at them without the emotional filter of Friday Night Lights?

I wish everyone in the Centennial Football community well. I hope this works out the best way possible for them. I just wish we could stop for a moment and talk about this.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Unpopular Opnion

Recently I've seen discussions online focused around this question:

"What's the most unpopular benign opinion you hold? (i.e. not politically dodgy, just socially derided)"- Stephanie Boland, Prospect Mag

Local blogger/podcaster/community activist Candace Dodson Reed ended up with a thread of 532 comments on Facebook. It was lightheatrted fun. It was only about two weeks ago but it feels like eons. People enjoyed being able to say, "I know everyone else likes this, but..."

I don't like chocolate and peanut butter together. Ever. Just so you know.

Something else I'm not all that exciting by is the upcoming eclipse. I lived through one in the 1970's and it didn't live up to the hype. Of course, my location in Cleveland probably had something to do with that. It didn't feel like a total eclipse. More like a cloudy afternoon. I do remember that there was live national news coverage throughout and that they closed with the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun". No disrespect to Bonnie Tyler, but nothing can touch George Harrison.

And about those eclipse glasses. I'm glad if you can get them without paying an arm and a leg. But you won't be a bad parent if you can't. For heaven's sake make sure they're safe. Of course we had it drilled in our little brains that you must never, never, ever look directly at the sun. But you could make a nifty viewer with a cardboard box.

"In my day we didn't have eclipse glasses..."

Yeah, I know. Perilously close to, "get off my lawn."

For those of you who are looking forward to the eclipse because you have a genuine curiousity about the natural world and take joy in its workings, please forgive my bad attitude. It's not the science I object to, it's the hype.

What's your unpopular (but benign) opinion? Or, tell me why you're excited about the eclipse.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Dangerous Place

I spent yesterday with an all-day migraine plus hours of illness from anesthesia.

I understand your day wasn't so great, either.

When I was able to look at my iPad at around ten pm, it was as though another wave of sickness came upon me.

A president has betrayed a nation.

And on the home front, things aren't much better.

Some who spoke about removing Confederate moments in Howard County were trolled in the most aggressive and vitriolic ways. A citizen who asked her elected officials to make a public statement about Charlottesville was accused by others of trying to stir up trouble or "rally her base" to run for office.

To be honest, I'm still probably too sick to be writing a decent blog post. But this is a time when common human decency does not have the luxury of taking a sick day. So, here goes.

All men and women and created equal. All must be afforded equal treatment under the law: in communities, in businesses, in schools, in churches, in public places. And all of us are responsible for making that happen.

If we choose not to actively accept that responsibility we betray the principles upon which our country is founded.

I'm looking for elected officials to say both in their words today but also in their actions tomorrow that they accept that responsibility. And I'm looking for community members to do the same.

Those of you out there who are opposing school redistricting because it will lower your school's exceptional national rankings--I see you. If you gather together with enough like-minded people you may be able to convince someone that you're acting purely out of parental concern.

Not me.

Our children will benefit from a more integrated world. Supporting one is one of the best things we can give them. Especially in a week where we have seen what marching in groups of the completely "pure" really looks like. That's not a world we want.

Is it?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Still Trying to Make This Happen

Blast From the past


Parties and Profiles

Do you remember the old Dewar's Profiles?  I must have taken myself a little too seriously from an early age, because I always wanted to see myself in one. By the time I was actually old enough to drink, I realized that I hated Scotch. But that wasn't the point. I wanted to find myself gracing the pages of some upscale magazine, having attained the cultural status of a Dewar's Profile.

Sometimes you have to make your own fifteen minutes of fame. So, in honor of tomorrow night's Blog Party at The Second Chance Saloon, I am instituting the HoCoBlogs Profile. Here's mine:

Home: Oakland Mills, Columbia
Age: 54
Profession: Teacher--Music and Movement for Preschoolers with Special Needs
Hobbies: Crafting, Singing, Reading, Blogging
Last Book Read: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind  (ed. J. Glei)
Last Accomplishment: Ran for CA Board from Oakland Mills  
  (Yes, I lost, but running was definitely an accomplishment.)
Quote: "Nearly everything could be improved with the addition of a bouncy castle."
Profile: Caring, creative, with a taste for word-play. Willing to work on the small things while keeping an eye on the big picture.
Blog: Village Green/ Town Squared

I would love to see a bunch of these!  Get creative, have some fun. Submit yours below, or give me one at the Blog Party. I'll post them all here on the blog. If you are a blog reader, that's fine, too. Use the last line to list your favorite blogs, or favorite blog categories. And if anyone knows how to superimpose type over a photo, that would indeed be nifty.

See you at The Second Chance!

P.S. Thanks to my friend Peter who made this:



I still think this is a great idea. Obviously mine has changed somewhat since then. I guess I'll need to tweak it. 

But some things stay the same: there's a blog party coming up and I hope to catch up with my blogger and reader friends at Bare Bones Grill on Monday evening, August 21st. And I'm still interested in seeing your profile, if you want to make one. Maybe it could read "HoCo Profile" across the top.

Yeah, I think I like that.

Monday, August 14, 2017

This Has Been a Test

I should be writing. I'm sitting in my chair, I'm drinking coffee and I should be writing. My head is swirling from the events of the weekend and I don't know how to start.

I went to the rally at the mall yesterday. It's there every month. It's a Black Lives Matter rally hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia. I've been a few times before. There's always a stack of extra signs and you pick one if you haven't brought your own and stand along Little Patuxent Parkway.

Yesterday they ran out of signs before I got there and I was not late. The outpouring of anguish from the community to do something to speak out against the events in Charlottesville was evident as people continued to arrive and line the street. Both sides. A gentleman passed me and said, "I bet I know what you'll be writing about tomorrow."

He was right.

I can't begin to guess exactly what motivated people who hadn't been before to show up yesterday. Anger, Fear. Sadness. A desire to do something good in the face of evil. I do know that, to me, yesterday felt like one of the old Emergency Broadcasting PSA's

  • "This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. Broadcasters, in cooperation with the FCC and other authorities (or, in later years, "federal, state and local authorities") have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency."
  • "If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and official information."

When do we decide it's an actual emergency?

Violent hatred isn't just whining in the basement in this country. It's on the march and taking lives. We are going to be required to put a stop to it. We will need each other. Like a family has a home evacuation plan, we will need a meet-up place and yesterday Little Patuxent Parkway was that place. 

Think of it this way:

If you've wondered what you would've done during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights're doing it now. #Charlottesville  -- Aditi Juneja 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Guest Post: Shawn Gladden, HCHS

Yesterday I received this letter in response to my post. I am sharing it today with permission.


I am the Director of the Historical Society and I would like to address your recent blog post about our music concert series.  

I feel it is unfair for you to display us publicly as an organization that is not diverse or that we in any way support segregation.  I invite you to learn about all of our programming before you make such a narrow interpretation of who we are and what we do.

1)  The music concert series is open to any bands that apply, regardless of color, ethnicity or gender.  The band's come to us.  Last year we had two reggae bands (both African American artists) Two years ago we had Tekeytha Fullwood, African American lyricist.  This year none of those artists were available.  With regards to Jimmi.  He is a good friend of mine from High School who has studied and played Blues music and is well qualified to represent the genre. Regardless of his skin color.  

2)  But the music series is not our only program.  I ask you to look at our Lunch Lecture series which has featured numerous topics on local African American History including upcoming talk on Black Churches in Howard County.

3)  I have a master's degree in history specializing in African American history, and yes I am white.   I have gone to great lengths to diversify the programming that we offer at the society including creating a committee on African American History that has gotten three Howard County sites on the NPS Underground railroad trail,  erected signage in the Underground Railroad in Howard County at the Courthouse,  we are currently documenting the history of Fels Lane and raising money to erect signage there and we featured two years ago an exhibit on the Underground Railroad and the United States Colored Troops.  Every year we do an event at Roger Carter center called Songs of Freedom with Howard County Parks and Rec on Martin Luther King Day. We also partner with the African American museum for Nineteenth.  All of these programs were advertised and promoted on social media.

I feel like your representation of our organization is unfair and I will oppose it publicly.  If you, as an educator,  would like to volunteer and assist us in our programming, we welcome that wholeheartedly.  But please do deeper research before you blast us as only promoting white events and promoting segregation.  It's unfair to me and my hardworking staff.

By the way, Jimmie is mixed race.


Shawn Gladden
Executive Director
Howard County Historical Society

Comments are welcome here:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Past Present Future

Last night I noticed that the Howard County Historical Society had added an event. I look a look.

"The history of the Blues with Jimmi Sexton". Cool! After the recent charity event that felt mighty, mighty white, an evening of the blues is a great way to make a comeback in being inclusive. After all, 

Blues is a genre and musical form originated by African Americans in the Deep South of the United States around the end of the 19th century. (Wikipedia)

I went to the Howard County Historical Society's webpage to learn more. I was a bit startled to see that Jimmi Sexton is, in fact, white. (Quick note: if I'm wrong here tell me and I'll publicly correct.) FYI: I was wrong. Mr. Sexton is of mixed race.

Can white folks play the blues?  Sure. Is it a problem for me that the Historical Society booked a white musician to impart the history of an African American art form? Yes, I think so.

Let's take a look at the events booked at the Historical Society this year:

Aug. 19: Fast Eddie and the Slowpokes -- white
Sep. 2: The History of Blues with Jimmi Sexton -- white
Sep. 23: The Classic Hitmen -- white
Oct. 28: Eli August & Nightwatch Paradox -- white, white
Nov. 18: "Historically Inappropriate Comedy" -- white
Dec. 16: Columbia Jazz Band -- two members of color out of about 26 in the photo
You have to wonder. When these artists are selected, what audience is the Historical Society hoping to attract? Do they think predominantly white artists "draw" better? When they think of Howard County, do they just think white by default? (When people say, "I don't think about race," that's often what's really going on.)
I am not "out to get" the Historical Society. I love history. I grew up going to similar places with my family. But issues of race have become so visible to me that I can't just walk by this without noticing. Is the Howard County Historical Society really meant to be the history of white people in Howard County? Or is it somehow assumed that only white people are interested in Howard County's history? Maybe there's just supposed to be some other museum that reaches out to people of color?
That, my friends, is segregation. And segregation is toxic: past, present, and future.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Take the Challenge

Over at Elevate Maryland, the question of the summer seems to be, "ice cream or snowballs?" For me that's pretty simple. Snowballs in the summer. Ice cream the rest of the time.

This week's Howard County Times feature a nice photo-heavy piece about the Snowball Stand in Woodstock. (Is there anything Jen Rynda does not do well?)  I've never been there and it looks like an adventure I should put on my Summer Bucket List.

If anyone had asked me to choose a snowball stand to feature in the newspaper, I would have steered them to Pete's. Pete's Snowballs is a summer tradition in my neck of the woods. It sits at the intersection of Oakland Mills Road and....Oakland Mills Road. I'm not kidding. Here, in a little patch of land that time forgot and decades have not improved, Pete and his family grow produce, make honey, and sell snowballs.

I visited Pete's yesterday and was floored by how crazy that end of Oakland Mills Road has become due to road construction. This must be due to work being done to turn that location into an entry point for Blandair Park. But it has just about decimated any easy access to Pete's. No one would "just happen to be passing by" anymore, under these circumstances. While it's easy to park on the street once you get there, at first glance it seems like an Olympian challenge to navigate the traffic hazards. There's even a misbegotten sign instructing pedestrians to walk in the street. If you followed this direction you would be unable to walk up to the snowball stand. Go figure.

Take the challenge. Pete's has responded to the situation by making a big colorful sign and placing it by the curb to let people know they're still in business. Take them up on their invitation. Just as I need to make a point of making a special trip to the Snowball Stand in Woodstock, I'm inviting you to make a special trip to Pete's to help keep this mom and pop business going during a crazy summer of road disruption.

Do you remember the story of The Little House? While I don't think that this little snowball stand, in its small garden oasis, is going to end up in the middle of a great big city, I do think it's feeling the growing pains of its surroundings as the County ties up loose ends associated with the next phase of Blandair. I'm hoping that once it's all finished that a stop to Pete's is a no-brainer for anyone going to and from the park. Along with the rest of us, of course.

Make mine watermelon. Or wild cherry.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Throwback Thursday

I learned a little tidbit from a friend the other day. This is how it goes:

Centennial High School was supposed to be Harper's Choice High School. It would have been where Cedar Lane Park is now. But, depending on whose version of the story you may have heard, either A) Howard Countians were tired of Columbia getting all the new things, or B) there were Howard Countians who didn't want their children going to school with "those Columbia kids".

You can hear that dog whistle, can't you?

I know I have readers who were around when this all actually went down, so feel free to jump in and flesh out the story.

I continue to bump into reasons why what James Rouse did in Columbia was so revolutionary. Housing: integrated. Schools: integrated. Swimming Pools: integrated.

I think some if us would like to believe that racism used to be a problem but that we've really made so much progress that it's really a thing of the past. The truth is that for every step forward there's been pushback. Even right here n Howard County. Even in Columbia itself.

Last night was the grand opening of Undesign the Redline, hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia in the Owen Brown Interfaith Center. I was able to see this installation when it was at Enterprise Communuty Partners. Looking at photographs from last night's event, it looks like plenty of folks who missed it on that occasion turned out this time. This is to be a long term home for the exhibit. If you haven't seen it, you should. They will be posting tour times soon.

From the County Executive's Facebook page:

At the Owen Brown Interfaith Center for the opening of "Undesign the Redline", an interactive exhibit on structural racism. The exhibit has five sections that discuss the history and current impacts of racial housing segregation during the 1930s, and what we can do to eliminate racial disparities moving forward. Hours and tour times are forthcoming!

I walked away from my experience understanding more deeply why structural racism continues to mar and skew outcomes for people of color all over this country, and that we, in our idealistic bubble, are sadly not immune.

Comments are welcome here:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

On Stage Sunday!

When I'm not blogging or offering my two cents at public meetings, I have another life as an early childhood educator. While I'm working as a generalist these days, for many years my primary focus was music and movement. So, when I heard that the folks at the Inner Arbor Trust were looking for family-friendly programming this summer, I realized I had something to offer.

So, here goes:

Sunday August 13th, rain or shine!
A free family event for parents and preschoolers.

Chrysalis Kids: Music and Movement on the Chrysalis Stage.

Come experience the beauty of Columbia's newest performance space with your little ones. From 10 to 12, Early Childhood Music Specialist Julia McCready will play DJ with your favorite Kids Tunes. There will be plenty of room to move and groove, and hands-on materials to explore!

Admission is free.

Tell your friends. Come along if you have young children and grandchildren. To be clear: this is not a show. It's a free-form, hands-on dance-fest. If you want to bring a quilt for getting comfy, snacks and/or juice boxes--it's all good. If your young ones have older siblings, I'm guessing the Imagination Playground equipment will be out for their enjoyment.

Celebrating the arts in the park is for everyone. Even the very youngest.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Come Rain or Come Shine

I am grateful to have had to opportunity to speak at last night's open meeting of the Inner Arbor Trust. Sadly disappointed with some members of the CA Board for their arrogant and rude behavior. Anyone who has the gall to say to Nina Basu, "I don't think you've thought any of this out," really doesn't have the sense God gave a grasshopper.

Here are my remarks:

I'm excited to be here for a meeting of the Inner Arbor Trust and the CA Board. It gives me the opportunity to thank all of you for your work to support the park and its mission to be where arts, culture, and community come together.

As I gathered my thoughts for this evening I could hear the sound of the rain outside, which brought back memories of the day we broke ground for the Chrysalis, and the day of its official opening in April. So far I've been to events at Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods in the rain, on the hottest of afternoons, in fair and temperate weather, and on pleasant summer evenings. 

Come rain or come shine one thing is notable. I keep seeing more people I don't know. Of course, I naturally look forward to catching up with old friends at community events. But I find it particularly exciting to see more and more new folks at each event. Whether celebrating arts in the park at the inaugural chair decorating event, playing with the Imagination Playground equipment, picnicking at the Columbia Orchestra Pops concert, dancing on the lawn at the Columbia Big Band Concert, or listening to a fascinating author's discussion at Books in Bloom, these people, from Columbia and greater Howard County, are drawn by the opportunity to be a part of varied and entertaining cultural experiences in this beautiful, natural setting. 

Something else about these people: the diversity by race, ethnicity, and age is far, far greater that what we see in this room tonight. In short, the people coming to the park look a lot like Columbia.

The overwhelmingly positive response from our community to the Chrysalis space and to its first official season of events confirms what I have believed from the start: that Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods is an excellent plan which will continue to bring more and more life to this once-neglected space. In just the first phase of its implementation one can already see its promise stirring to life. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Things You Wake Up To

This weekend I walked out of my house to this:

The photo above shows what it had been. The photo below shows what I woke up to.

My first thought was that it was a human prank, which irritated me. But, the more that I thought about it, I realized that it must have been a hungry rabbit or deer. And that's okay with me. I'll miss the flowers. But not enough to be angry at a wild creature whose home is a suburbanized hybrid of the natural world.

What I woke up to this morning:

Cockatoo hair. No one to be mad at but myself, for sleeping with it wet. If only this were a "look" to which I genuinely aspired. Sigh.

Something I woke up to on Thursday was the announcement that this year's Best of Howard County Readers Poll for 2017 is up and running. If you are interested, the Best Blog is category 62. New this year is a write-in category for Best Come-Back from the Ellicott City Flood. I voted for Sweet Elizabeth Jane. My husband voted for the Clock. What do you think?

It's a Monday morning and we're waking up to the aftermath of a rainy night. I hope you have a wonderful day and I hope I still have some of my flowers.