Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Big Deal?

It has been a while since I have linked to Columbia Patch. But, here goes:

Wilde Lake Mansion Listed for $1,150, 000


Why, why why?

Why is this house in Columbia? I’m not going to go on a rant and say it’s an outrage but it is kind of ridiculous. Maybe it’s actually in an outparcel?

It’s not my position that all houses in Wilde Lake (or in Columbia, for that matter) should be exactly the same. But it would be nice if they were mildly harmonious. One wonders what Kate Wagner of McMansion Hell would think of this particular example.

The article says that this house was built in 2005, so that would be before the recession. It would be interesting to know (but none of my business) who has actually lived in this house and how active they have been in the Wilde Lake community. Does one buy a house like this and send one’s children to the public schools? Leave the light on for trick or treaters? Go to the Wilde Lake Old Fashioned Picnic?

It isn’t a requirement to live in Columbia that one must “get involved” in one’s neighborhood or Village. There are plenty of folks who wish to lead quiet lives that focus more on family, work, or hobbies. But, on the other hand, a house like this hardly screams shy and retiring. More like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”.  How does that play out over the long term?

This structure had to go through the complete approval process to be able to move forward. I wonder if anyone felt uneasy about it. Perhaps not. Perhaps I don’t understand how these things work. But I wonder what happens when you add a building to a neighborhood that is so clearly not of the neighborhood. (See a more typical house here.) Is there a long term impact? Does it essentially create a “hole” in the neighborhood?

Yes, friends, I may have backed myself into a corner here wondering if this house has ripped a hole in the space time continuum. I feel certain that I will hear from some of you that this is not that big a deal.

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Yesterday morning I sat downstairs while everyone else was asleep and I gradually became aware that the upstairs toilet was flushing. And flushing, and flushing. I didn’t hear any footsteps, so it didn’t appear that anyone was actually in the bathroom. But it was odd. Why would the toilet keep flushing itself?

Did I go upstairs to check on it? No. It was annoying and weird but it didn’t really seem like a big deal. Eventually my husband got up and did something and the perpetual flushing ceased.

There are some sounds that cause you to spring into action. The sound of breaking glass, for example, or a crying child, or the sound of a pet beginning to wretch (so I’m told). The sounds connect to a place in our brain that this is an emergency and we must act now. Other sounds, even if unexpected, don’t rise to the level of immediate action.

I have read a lot recently about how everyone agrees that over-development and school overcrowding are the main issues that voters in Howard County are concerned about this election season. For a variety of reasons, these are the things that have risen to emergency level status for many HoCo residents.

Masked by the din of of these issues is something deeply concerning that doesn’t get as much “airplay”: racial inequity. Specifically, I am talking about de facto segregation in where people live which leads to segregation in our schools. Allowing these systemic problems to continue without concerted intervention damages students in the here and now but also has an ongoing negative impact county-wide, far into the future.

(An aside here to explain what I mean by long term damage: if there had been women in positions of power everywhere through Brett Kavanaugh’s upbringing, and young women were empowered and defended in ways that put them on equal footing with young men, we would not be dealing with the overwhelming wave of men who believe that superiority is their birthright. What you grow up with, who is in your neighborhood, your schools, your social groups, who your authority figures are: all these things shape you for life.)

Many people whom I admire and respect are deeply concerned about over-development in Howard County and see a strong connection to school overcrowding, This is the emergency sound for them. They hear it and they spring into action. The continuing issues of racial inequity enters their consciousness as something troubling but not an emergency. Like the odd sound I heard upstairs in my house: sure, it was rather troubling and I would at some point have to do something about it. But I did not jump up and run to address it.

I’m including myself when I say that the mental triage that many white people unconsciously engage in is one that puts largely white issues at emergency status and those that affect people of color in the “we’ve got to get around to that...” category. And these are what most of us would call well-meaning people. Howard County also has a significant chunk of folks who aggressively deny issues of racial inequity. But if the end result of both groups is to do nothing, how much difference is there between the two?

If we are saying to our black and brown neighbors “I hear you” but they know full well that we are also saying  “but your concerns are not an emergency for me” then we harm our community relationships. We make our county weaker. And we make our future weaker.

Friday, September 28, 2018

A Musical Interlude

Today’s post comes to you from the musical “The King and I”. We’ll talk tomorrow.

When I was a boy, world was better spot
What was so was so, what was not was not
Now, I am a man, world have changed a lot
Some things nearly so, others nearly not
There are times I almost think
I am not sure of what I absolutely know
Very often find confusion
In conclusion, I concluded long ago
In my head are many facts
That, as a student, I have studied to procure
In my head are many facts
Of which I wish I was more certain, I was sure
Is a puzzlement
What to tell growing son?
What for instance, shall I say to him of women?
Shall I educate him on the ancient lines?
Shall I tell the boy as far as he is able
To respect his wives and love his concubines?
Shall I tell him everyone is like the other
And the better of the two is really neither?
If I tell him this I think he won't believe it
And I nearly think that I don't believe it either
When my father was a king
He was a king who knew exactly what he knew
And his brain was not a thing
Forever swinging to and fro and fro and to

Shall I, then be like my father
And be willfully unmovable and strong?
Or is it better to be right?
Or am I right when I believe I may be wrong?
Shall I join with other nations in alliance?
If allies are weak, am I not best alone?
If allies are strong with power to protect me
Might they not protect me out of all I own?
Is a danger to be trusting one another
One will seldom want to do what other wishes
But unless someday somebody trust somebody
There'll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes
There are times I almost think
Nobody sure of what he absolutely know
Everybody find confusion
In conclusion, he concluded long ago
And it puzzle me to learn
That tho' a man may be in doubt of what he know
Very quickly he will fight
He'll fight to prove that what he does not know is so
Oh, sometimes I think that people going mad
Ah, sometimes I think that people not so bad
But not matter what I think, I must go on living life
As leader of my kingdom, I must go forth
Be father to my children and husband to each wife
Etcetera, etcetera and so forth
If my Lord in Heaven Buddha, show the way
Everyday I try to live another day
If my Lord in Heaven Buddha, show the way
Everyday I do my best for one more day
But is a puzzlement

—Oscar Hammerstein, Richard Rodgers

Thursday, September 27, 2018

One Event Two Ways

I got some great responses to my post yesterday about Opus. Two stand out. From Philip Dodge, Executive Director of Downtown Columbia Partnership:

Good morning - I saw your blog post re: OPUS. Here's my response.

Short version: Yes. You should attend.

Long version: We're trying to explain that while OPUS is cutting edge and brings artists from all over the world to Columbia, it isn’t intimidating and it has something for everyone.

OPUS provides a forest-full of opportunities for discovery, including seven new commissions and an array of dynamic art installations and stages spread across the entire fifty acres of Symphony Woods.

It’s like visiting the MoMA, Guggenheim, Bilbao, and Venice Biennale all in your back yard:

• Explore the wonders of art, technology, and music
• Dance under a piano drum canopy
• Walk inside a laser cathedral
• Taste your way through the expanded Culinary Village
• Bask in a soul cleansing bath of color
• Behold a sixteen foot tall talking owl

From blogger Frank Hecker:

For maximum enjoyment it helps to understand what Opus actually is: it's an all-ages avant garde art and music event: they take a sampling of trendy artists from NYC and elsewhere and bring them to Columbia for a day. If you like that sort of thing (or are open to liking it) then you will have fun at Opus. Otherwise, not so much. Me, I thought it was great last year and am looking forward to this year.

Forgot to add: the target audience for Opus isn't really Columbians, it's hipsters from DC and Baltimore--basically the sort of people Howard Hughes is trying to attract to live and (especially) work in the Merriweather District. It's a signal to prospective office tenants who have relatively young workforces and are concerned their employees won't want to work in the middle of suburbia.

So, knowing all that, what do you think? Avant garde music festival? Walk-through special effects party experience? It sounds like there’s more than one way to approach the event.

One unifying theme is a sincere hope that the weather will stop being a party pooper and cut it out with the continuous drenching we’ve been getting.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Return of the Thing

So, this October 13th might be dubbed “The Return of the Thing” in Columbia. What thing? This thing:

Opus Merriweather

I had tickets last year but as I recall we couldn’t find parking and went back home. I’m wondering if it’s worth trying to go this year.

Did you go? Did you enjoy the experience? Would you recommend it?

Convince me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

On Four Letter Words

A few words today about my new most unfavorite four-letter word: smug.


  1. having or showing an excessive pride in oneself or one's achievements.
    "he was feeling smug after his win"

    synonyms:self-satisfiedself-congratulatorycomplacentsuperior, pleased with oneself, conceited
    "he was feeling smug after his win"

We are all worn out by the angry rants and accusations in the political arguments of campaign season, and rightly so. There’s just only so much venom and bile one can either generate or endure. Or both. But my personal pet peeve right now are the folks who proclaim their superiority by arching one eyebrow, a tilt of the head, perhaps, an artfully intellectual turn of phrase. A gif or meme that only the cool kids will get.

Even if your political views have merit, that’s no reason to succumb to smugness. For one thing, it’s repellent. For another, it’s a deterrent to taking in new ideas and points of view.

I realize that I am once again drawing attention to what an earnest, possibly naive sort I am. So be it. If I am looking for wisdom I believe it will come cloaked in humility and thoughtfulness. Sometimes there will be righteous anger, I get that. But self-satisfied, self-congratulatory, complacent, superior?


I just can’t bring myself to be a member of that club.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Shut it Down

Yes, I am wearing black today. No, I cannot walk out because you can’t actually walk out on four year olds. Weather permitting, we will already be outside. On the playground.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault may be in the national news right now, but the response from all over the country speaks of how local these problems really are. Right here in Howard County  there are #MeToo stories. Even in our school system.

Highly recommended is this thread from Kim Weeden which concludes:

It’s a telling statement about the prevalence of sexual violence in America that women who have never been raped feel like we won the damned lottery. 

And that would be me. Sure, I’ve been catcalled and harassed but I’ve never been the victim of sexual assault. And that is not because I’m a nice girl, or a good girl, or wore “appropriate” clothing or made sure to only engage in “appropriate” behavior. It’s just luck. It’s nothing I did or didn’t do.

What kind of a life is that, living with the knowledge that at any moment you could be a victim but you just have to hope it’s the other girl and not you? Why do we treat these events as something unavoidable like the weather instead of as the outright crimes they are? And why do these particular crimes bring with them the suggestion that they were brought on by the victim?

I suspect that it’s because the rules in place are made by the powerful. And the powerful are those who want to perpetuate the notion that they are not responsible for their actions if it pertains to something “sexual”. Everyone knows you can just blame that on the woman. 

From generation to generation: blame the woman. 

And here we are again, looking at a position on the highest court if the land, and we are playing “blame the woman” once again. Enough. Enough, enough, enough.

It’s time to make it abundantly clear that the people who think this behavior is okay are not the ones who should be in a position to make the rules.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


My husband brought me a bit of Delft-ware. The small and perfect piece was wrapped carefully in his suitcase and made it home from the Netherlands in one piece.

He made a side trip to Delft from Den Hague. To see old churches, he said. And, knowing him, old churches were definitely on the agenda. But somewhere on that day he found the time to think of home, and of me. And to find a perfect treasure to bring back.

Today all the controversies will have to wait. The Board of Ed race, HoCo development, school redistricting, a fix for Old EC. They’re not going anywhere. They’ll be there tomorrow.

At the end of what has seemed like the longest week ever I’m savoring the feeling that we are all here. Everyone is home safe. A perfect piece of Delftware is a treat. The greater treasure is that my husband made it there and back again unbroken. In perfect condition, one might say.

Sightseeing and souvenirs add much to our views of life outside the bubble. But, to my mind at least, nothing beats that first hug of homecoming.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Few Weird Things

Two unrelated things on my mind this morning:

I was surprised to see a thread written by the venomous Twitter troll account “mjm not super” turn up word for word on Facebook as written by a gentleman named Thomas Edward Garb. For one brief second I thought our troll had revealed himself. No dice. Thomas Edward Garb appears to be a made-up account that doesn’t link up to a real identity, so our school system’s toxic troll remains a mystery.

This blog post which focuses on BOE candidate Sabina Taj left me scratching my head. The blog itself, entitled RoCo in HoCo, is described by its author as follows:

So it’s meant to be satire? Or it’s meant to be informative using a fictional premise? It has been hard for me to ascertain the sweet spot that the author is going for.

The piece about Ms. Taj is cloyingly sweet and, if I were she, I’d be embarrassed. In fact, it borders on being creepy.

We sat down to chat about Sabina’s bid for a spot on the BOE. I feared it would be hard for me to focus because Sabina’s big, dark eyes, intensified by her silky tresses, set off by her cafe-au-lait skin, draw you in and won’t let go.

I’m not sure if this piece was meant to “humanize” Ms. Taj who has recently been accused (unfairly, I believe) of unkindness and divisiveness or if it is purely meant to amuse the folks who support her already. In my opinion voters would best be served by attending a meet and greet with Ms. Taj and skipping this blog post. 

RoCo in HoCo as a blog is lovely and gushy and fun. There’s nothing else like it on the local scene. But I strongly question using this particular device for wading into the BOE race. I don’t know that it serves the candidate or the voters. It also sexualizes its subject in a way that detracts from the very real issues at play in the BOE race.

Friday, September 21, 2018


Weekend. I need one. Several, in fact.

Do yourself a favor and go see one or both of these local events this weekend.

“Into the Woods” at Oakland Mills High School, Saturday night. Info here. This production is a fundraiser for the OMHS Fine Arts Programs.

The String Queens performing at the Chrysalis on Sunday.

     3:00 Chrysalis Kids performance for kids and families
     7:00 Chrysalis Cabaret for the grownups

More info here. Be sure to watch the video!

See you here tomorrow after a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


I’ve been in school a few weeks now and I’m still struggling with crushing fatigue. That’s certainly having an impact on my writing time each morning. Thanks for sticking with me. I should be hitting my stride any day now.

I’ll tell you something else I’m tired of: the Old Boys Network. Watching the events unfold in Washington around Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS appointment hearings drives home the relentless power of men covering for men. Closer to home, UMBC is facing a crisis in how it has handled rape and sexual assault on campus. It feels like more of the same to me.

I am beyond exhausted under the weight of how little women are valued in our culture. Their word is not valued. Their experiences are dismissed. Their losses are counted as nothing compared to the potential of men who have harmed them.

Every time I bump up a group of men crowing over their superiority or demanding that women change to accommodate male directives I feel that familiar wave: first anger, then exhaustion. Some days it feels like it will surely grind the world to a halt.

Women have always been told that they must adjust to the way the world is. I’m tired of adjusting. I’m just so, so tired.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Can We Just Make Life Easier?

No blog today but some food for thought.

(a bathroom in my school library)

BOE candidate Vicky Cutroneo shared this report yesterday on Facebook. It’s about the American Academy of Pediatrics report on Transgender and Gender-Diverse children and adolescents.

Let’s talk more tomorrow.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Arts in the Village

It’s Monday morning. Thinking about the weekend yet?

Make your plans for next weekend by treating yourself to a trip outside the Bubble. Pay a visit to historic Dickeyville for a one-man art show and an all-weekend arts event put on by Sam and Joan McCready.

On Saturday there will be activities for children and on Sunday there will be music from HoCo’s Ian Richard McCready. (Yes, it’s a family affair.)

All proceeds from the sale of art will go to local charities.

It’s worth the drive just to see Dickeyville, an old mill village which came back from near extinction to become a lively and supportive community. And the arts event is the kind of thing that Dickeyville does so well. Who knows? You might come home with a new painting for your home.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


Today is my older daughter’s sixth wedding anniversary. Yesterday her cousin announced his engagement. Somewhere I have photos of the two of them playing together as toddlers but I’m going to restrain myself.

Today is apparently Wife Appreciation Day. If you have one, you know what to do.

Not all women are wives or mothers. It seems you must be one or the other or both to have a Day named after you for the purpose of appreciation and gift giving. To be a woman is to be defined by one’s relationship to others.

When we set defaults and choose what is the norm there will undoubtedly be those who are left out.  What if we didn’t.? What would that look like?

If marriage or singleness were appreciated
If childbearing or not were valued states
If bathrooms were for everyone
If schools welcomed and lifted up everyone equally
If the powers that be called dads as much as moms when a child gets sick
If different household incomes were accepted amongst HoCo residents

What would that look like? Some would find it frightening or uncomfortable. Is it even possible?

I don’t know. But I do know that we can do better than the same-old, same-old.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Peak Toxicity

I have one more dance party at the Chrysalis this season. It’s today, from 10-12. It looks like my wish that it not be as hot as the last one will come true. If you have young children or grandchildren, pay us a visit. Come on over to the dj table if you have requests. (Clean language, please.)

I’m thinking a lot about how much I hate politics and election shenanigans. This week was a prime example of just about everything that I loathe. I know that the political process is crucial to a healthy democracy. Participation is vital. I just wish that participants would make healthy rather than toxic choices when stepping into the arena of free expression.

But often they don’t. There is anger, and selfishness, and there are conspiracy theories and an overall lack of seeing a bigger picture than one’s own backyard. There is the firm belief that one’s side is so right and the other is so wrong that it becomes permissible to use any means to achieve the desired end. There is plenty of turnabout but no fair play,

If you have no idea what I’m talking about then you had a far better week than I did.

My cure for the week’s ills will involve standing under the cool green shelter of the Chrysalis and connecting with folks who care nothing for politics and everything for how high they can throw a dancing scarf. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Food for thought:

In wealthy Howard, 25 percent of families struggle to make ends meet, survey finds 

There are some inteeeting numbers and comparisons in the Baltimore Sun article by Jess Nocera. It’s really kind of amazing that the cost of living here requires a basic, no-frills income of $85, 500 merely for survival. The Federal poverty level for a family of four is $25,100 but in Howard County you’d need more than three times that amount. This information comes from the ALICE report from the United Way. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — the working poor.

Next time you are in a group of HoCo residents, look around. Just think, one in four of these folks don’t have enough to get by. 

And yet, it isn’t as simple as that. How often to we find ways to surround ourselves with people like us, so we don’t see those one in four? We can easily live in bubbles where our daily lives insulate us from seeing the poverty in our community. Our neighborhoods, schools, even where we shop can be islands of affluence compared the the struggles of others. 

It feels good to be in our bubble of like-minded people. It feels like home. If someone challenges our comfortable life by suggesting that we open our eyes (our neighborhoods? Our schools?) to that other twenty-five per cent we may bristle. It’s one thing to make a donation to help people who are mostly out of sight and out of mind. It’s quite another to invite them to dinner. To call them neighbor and friend. To make their priorities our priorities.

When the thrift store Second Avenue opened up my family went a few times. After a while I found that I’d come away with a deep sadness whenever we paid a visit. I realized that I was seeing people I never saw. People who didn’t have enough. People who were struggling. It made me sad and uncomfortable. It was easier to look away. 

There are plenty of issues on the table in local elections. I wonder if this one will get the time and attention it deserves. Fully twenty five percent of Howard County residents don’t have enough to survive in our community. Any platform or vision for Howard County’s present and future should include them.

They’re not influential. They don’t have a powerful lobby or matching t-shirts. They (obviously) can’t hope to influence policy through large political donations.

To paraphrase Malcom Forbes,

You can easily judge the character of a community by how it treats those who can do nothing in return.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Better or Worse?

“I, (Name),
Take you, (Name),
To be my (wife/husband);
To have and to hold,
From this day forward,
For better, for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
‘Till death do us part.” (or, “As long as we both shall live.”)

—Traditional Wedding Vows 

Yesterday when Council Representative Jon Weinstein, a Democrat, endorsed Allan Kittleman, a Republican, for County Executive, armchair analysts on social media soon turned the talk to...

...his wife, Margaret Weinstein.

Being a wife in the world of politics continues to be a constricting and diminishing role. The assumptions people make about political wives just floor me. I wrote a bit about this topic during the last County Executive race. 

It must be a hard life to be a political wife, (or husband, although there's still much less of that) indeed, harder than I can imagine. Finding the right balance between supporting one's spouse and yet retaining one's own sense of self must be exhausting.

Margaret Weinstein ran for, and won, a place on the Democratic Central Committee in her own right. If you want to know what her future plans are, reach out to her as you would any person in public life. Do not automatically assume that she exists to manifest the will of her spouse. Is it so difficult to comprehend the concept that Ms. Weinstein is an independent human being, able to make decisions and take action based on her own free will?

We easily allow this for autonomy for men. We don’t place them in a long shadow cast by their wives. In fact, setting this story in the reverse would almost seem silly to most of us, because we are so used to common, everyday stereotypes that paint women as appendages of their spouses.

I reached out to Ms.Weinstein for this piece but, as we don’t know each other well, I didn’t expect to hear back, especially on a day like yesterday. The flurry of Facebook frenzy was rather overwhelming. But, if she should decide she has something to say on this topic, I’d be willing to give her the space to share it. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

This & That and a HoCo Holler

Thanks for all the responses to yesterday's blog post. It’s going to take me a while to get  through them! I must say I’m disappointed that no one had any information/opinions about septic in Western HoCo. Oh well.

The transition between summer vacation and full time preschool teaching is a struggle. Nope, let’s be honest: it’s kicking my butt. I should be fine in a couple of weeks but, right now, when my alarm goes off, my first thought is “when can I go back to sleep?”

I want to give a shout out and a full-scale HoCo Holler to everyone who has chipped in to help
this family in Western Howard County who lost their home in a gas explosion Friday night. Members of the community have reached out to donate money and gift cards to help replace what was lost. Books With A Past has served as a drop-off hub to assist in the process. It’s pretty amazing what the community has done in such a short amount of time. A special tip of the hat to the folks who run the Facebook Group “Western Howard County Shares” for getting the ball rolling and coordinating efforts on this.

One more thing before I close today, I’m remembering the kindergarten children I was teaching on 9-11 and realizing they are all adults. I wonder how that experience has shaped their world?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Just Asking

It’s a typical Monday morning where I’ve got more questions than answers. So I’m just throwing them out there.

The movie theater promo film (“welcome to the theater”) in Columbia is deliberately diverse. Do you think they use that in all theaters or do you think they make multiple ones for different markets?

Do you think there’s any value in an individual citizen concocting their own school redistricting plan? Does this help or hurt?

What does this language about BOE elections mean to you? Extra credit: what does the law itself mean? How would we find out?

How does Western Howard County’s reliance on septic affect the county as a whole?  Do you think that could ever change?

Why couldn’t the County Council agree on giving residents of mobile homes some tax relief? 

Enjoy your Monday. Send me your own local questions, if you have any, and I’ll do my best to find out.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Take a Look

Apparently it’s Fall Back to Sleep Sunday. My apologies for the lateness of this post. Rainy days are great for oversleeping.

Yesterday I read a comment online from someone I know about how moved they were by experiencing the Undesign the Red Line exhibit now on display at the Howard County Library’s Central Branch as a part of their Choose Civility initiative. I agree that the exhibit can be life-changing, especially if the information it contains was unknown to you. It’s definitely eye-opening, no matter what.

Bringing the Enterprise Community Partners exhibit into the library was, in some ways, a bold choice. Yet it’s also a natural for the library’s mission: to provide free access to knowledge and a place to learn. (I’m sure they have a fancier mission statement, I just made that up for this purposes of this post.)

I think that most folks nowadays know that libraries are about more than borrowing books and consulting reference volumes. I don’t know how one could live in Howard County and persist in the old, outdated notion. Go to their website or social media page. (And explore the social media outreach of  Choose Civility while you are at it.)

Right now you will see:

  • A Meet the Candidates event
  • Background information on Undesign the Red Line
  • An event to learn how to support backyard birds 
  • Information about the new tool collection in Elkridge
  • An author event about a new book on Deaf Culture in America
Our local libraries have a lot going on in a formal, structured way while also providing a place for many informal moments of study, conversation, and connection.

With all of that as an introduction, I’d like to recommend this post by Eric Klinenberg in the New York Times: 

To Restore Civil Society, Start With the Library

Klinenberg states:

Libraries are the kinds of places where people with different backgrounds, passions and interests can take part in a living democratic culture. They are the kinds of places where the public, private and philanthropic sectors can work together to reach for something higher than the bottom line.

To take this conversation one step further, I recommend listening to Episode 30 of local podcast “Elevate Maryland” featuring the new CEO of  HCLS, Tonya Kennon. There’s lots to think about.

Back to my rainy day plans—perhaps a trip to the library is just what I need.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Seldom Seen

The other evening I attended a meeting at Historic Oakland but I almost didn’t make it because I couldn’t find it. It turned out it was in a room in the basement. Until that moment I didn’t know that the building had a functional basement. It started me thinking about how Columbia and Howard County must have more than a handful of largely unknown places and mystery haunts that most of us have never laid eyes on.

For example, if you’ve ever wondered if there’s anything under The Chrysalis, there is. Most of it is room for storage and I have actually been there because that’s where I store my materials for the Chrysalis Kids Dance parties. (The last one for the season in next Saturday, from 10-12.)

I don’t know if this truly counts as a mystery space, but it would definitely elicit the envy of Ohio’s John Kasich: I’ve been inside the teachers’ lounges in over 20 Howard County Schools. And they’re  nowhere near the hotbed of labor revolution that he thinks they are.

I think a lot of people don’t know there’s an elevator in the Other Barn. It makes the upstairs loft space accessible for those who can’t do the spiral staircase. It might come in handy if you’re attending the Lavenia Nesmith Jazz in the Mills Concert on Sunday, September 16th or the Board of Education Candidate Forum on October 15th.

And then there’s the cave in the basement of an Ellicott City business.... And the odd pointy building off Route 29...

I’m certain my readers have a wealth of knowledge about mystery spaces in the area. I’m curious. Tell me about it. I’d love to do a follow up post of “I bet you didn’t know that...”

Share your info here:

Friday, September 7, 2018

Final Judgement

Yesterday the alleged killer of WLHS teacher Laura Wallen was found dead in his cell on the day his trial was to begin. According to the account in this article in the Baltimore Sun, he used the bedsheet in his cell to hang himself. Our local news was filled with this story yesterday.
This quote bothered me.

“Today was his reckoning,” State’s Attorney John McCarthy said at a news conference Thursday afternoon at the county Circuit Courthouse. “He took the cowardly way out.”

In recent years our attitudes about those who die by suicide have evolved. We have learned that the process in the brain that convinces the victim to end their own life is not at all rational. Old ideas and old terminology are beginning to fall away. We don’t say “committed suicide” anymore. We challenge the assumption that suicide is a selfish act. As we gain more understanding of the mental illness which brings people to suicide, we gain more empathy.

But then there is Tyler Tessier. Although he was not proven in court to have been the murderer of a beloved local teacher, we are pretty sure that he was. And not only that, this murder involved someone he was supposed to have loved, who was carrying his child. We don’t like Tessier. We don’t even consider having empathy for him. And the statement by McCarthy is part and parcel of that.

“The cowardly way out.”

I am not a mental health professional. But I am wary of jumping in and deciding whose suicide is worthy of empathy and whose it is okay to judge and criticize. This makes me deeply uneasy. If suicide comes from a disordered thought process, from suffering and what we call mental illness, isn’t that true for everyone, whether we like them or not? 

I don’t know. I do know that I wouldn’t say what Mr. McCarthy said. I’d say something factual, perhaps that the Wallen family will now be deprived of the closure that a trial might have provided. I don’t thinks it’s at all useful to know McCarthy’s opinion of suicide in general or this suicide in particular.

Reverting to old stereotypes because the victim is someone we find despicable isn’t at all helpful and may even be harmful.Loathing Tyler Tessier is understandable. But when we speak of suicide, I still think it’s important to get it right.  People are listening when we say things like this. Even in times of anger and pain, our words matter.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Everybody’s Park

Good evening. My name is Julia McCready and I live in Oakland Mills. I’m an early childhood music specialist and for the past two summers I have been donating my time and talents to facilitate children’s dance parties at the Chrysalis for preschoolers and their parents. Our last one for this season is next Saturday. I hope you’ll join us!

Today was my first day of school with thirteen four-year-olds with some very hot playground time and absolutely no rest time. I want to make it clear that there is almost nothing in this world that would motivate me to leave my home, sit through a meeting, and get up in front of people and talk when I could be at home in a bubble bath with a cold drink.

But I’m here because I want to thank Nina Basu, President of the Trust, and all of the Board Members for their time and dedication in growing and sustaining Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods and the programs it is bringing to the community. I also want to thank anyone involved with the Columbia Association, whether staff or Village Representative, who has supported the park and its mission. 

I sincerely believe that choosing to support the park and its programs is one of the most significant choices that the Columbia Association can make to remain relevant in the 21st century. I’ll tell you why. It’s clear to me that this space, which was always meant to be everybody’s park, is finally coming into its own: a place where everyone is welcome, and a place where people want to be, and want to return. 

It’s all about building better community. If we still care about building better community fifty years after our founding, we show that the core of who we are is still green with new growth.

I spend a fair amount of time in the park. On a Saturday morning when I begin the opening music for our dance parties, the stillness of the woods stirs to life. There is a kind of magic in that moment when people appear over the top of the hill and make their way down to the Chrysalis: parents with strollers, grandparents holding a toddler’s hand, children running through the grass. The magic is this: we a raising a whole new generation in Columbia who feel connected to their community, for whom the park is Home.

I am so grateful to be a part of that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Question about a Park

There’s an open meeting of the Inner Arbor Trust tonight at Columbia’s Association headquarters. I’ll be there.  I’m hoping for a vast improvement in the behavior of certain CA Board members who have done nothing but try to undercut and sabotage plans for Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods, and harangue and insult the president of the Trust, Nina Basu.

This year’s season at the Chrysalis has been wildly successful, and it isn’t even over yet. So many people are coming out to events and enjoying the park. It is truly becoming a beloved community space in Columbia/Howard County.

I’ll probably prepare something to say this evening. I usually do. Or maybe I’ll just ask the CA Board members a question: How many events have you attended in the Park this summer? And, if you haven’t attended any, how can you be in a position to have an educated opinion about the Park and it’s future? How can you know if it is fulfilling its mission if you haven’t taken the time to see the Park in action?

In case you ( or the CA Board members) are interested in upcoming events, here’s the link to the Inner Arbor Trust. And here’s what I said at last year’s Open Meeting.

Come Rain or Come Shine (August 8, 2017)

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 NinaBasu, "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. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The First of the Lasts

Today will be the last First Day of School for my daughter as she begins her senior year of high school. Sure, there will be a first day of college but that will not be the same. She will be off on her own. There will be no first day photo as she rushes out the door. There will be no pained moaning sound as I pat her gently to rouse her from slumber.

I’m not sure if this marks the last of the firsts or the first of the lasts. I’m not awake enough at this point to parse that. All I know is that I so enjoy the young person my daughter has become and today I am facing the reality that the day when I have to let her go is approaching. I used to worry about whether she would be ready. Today I am wondering whether I will be ready.

But it’s only the first day of school, you think; there’s plenty of time before that. There will be college applications and concerts and plays and a host of senior-oriented events. There will be Homecomjng and the Prom. Yes, there will be time, and I intend to savor every minute. In my heart I feel that it is all one headlong rush to that moment when we are sitting at Merriweather and she gets her diploma.

And it all begins today.

What if I just didn’t open that bedroom door? What if I let her sleep in? Could I stop the forward march of time? Could I keep her—my sweet, intense, funny, musical whirlwind—for a little while longer?

Maybe you have children who will begin school today. Maybe you don’t. In any case, I am guessing that you have experienced what it feels like to see the future coming and knowing that you must embrace it. It’s exciting. And painful. And tentative. There’s no turning back.

Happy First Day of School.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Truth Hurts

And now, a brief interval contemplating the words of Meghan McCain.

“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” Meghan McCain told about 3,000 mourners at Washington National Cathedral on Saturday morning, a raw mocking of Trump’s slogan that elicited an unusual burst of applause.

Those words made many of us feel good, if only briefly. They pushed back against the current political regime unapologetically. 

There’s just one problem. Those words aren’t true. 

If we are completely honest with ourselves, we know this. America has always been great for white people, white men most of all. America is not great for:

people of color
the disabled
the poor
LGBTQ people 

The lofty ideals of “liberty and justice for all” that stir our hearts and make us want to believe in the greatness of America were based on assumptions made by white men for white men. I know we want them to be bigger than that, but history shows how fragile they are under the weight of our racist systems.

I hate this. I do not want it to be true, but it is. 

I’d like to recommend a Twitter thread that expresses this succinctly. It begin by addressing a statement by the actress Debra Messing:

@maji_jay 1/ I love Debra Messing & I don’t want to rail against her, specifically, here, but I do want to point out that many white liberals hold this false belief—and—if you haven’t already disabused yourself of it, now would be a good time to start.

     @DebraMessing OMG. This is HORRIFYING. The virulent hateful racism has never          been on display like this in my lifetime. I thought we left these grotesque epithets behind decades ago. Trumps America.

Click on the link above (on the word thread) to read this in its entirety. 

This section speaks to my point today:

17/ And so I want to be clear: Every time you see a smart-phone video of a white person  abusing a black person, you shouldn’t think, “I can’t believe this is happening! What has America become??”

18/ Rather, you should ponder why you never realized it’s been happening this whole damn time. You should ponder what America has always been. 

The racism is not new. The technology that reveals it is.

It is painful to want to believe that America was founded on principles so pure and beautiful that they are almost holy and then come to grips with the fact that it was founded by white men who owned slaves and whose wives and daughters were, more or less, chattel. These things are not separate. They are woven into our national existence from the outset.

I imagine that this will not be a particularly popular view right now. The speeches at Senator McCain’s memorial service provided an emotional respite from our current fractured state. We want to imbue these words with more power than they have. We long for magic. We will grasp at any sign of goodwill.

It is possible, though, to reject the regressive and punitive “Make America Great Again” philosophy
while also telling ourselves the truth about who we are and where we need to go as a nation. America will be great only when she is great for everyone.