Monday, December 31, 2018

Norm Shifting

An interesting moment in this week’s Elevate Maryland podcast came about when hosts Tom Coale and Candace Dodson Reed turned their attention to shifting representation in the State Legislature.

TC: We’re got the Year of the Woman in the General  assembly.

CDR: (gives numbers of women elected)

TC(going on) the context of two years ago , there being lobbyists were not even just harassing women, but touching them inappropriately. They were unsure how to deal with someone in the General Assembly who was accused of assaulting someone. In that context, the electorate responded with women leaders. And so now, I bet you, they’re going figure out a way to resolve the people that
don’t know how to act, that you know don’t know how to be in that environment. Because, just speaking from my personal experience, you’re not going to have someone like Courtney Watson go down to Annapolis and accept any of that type of behavior and so...

CDR: You’re damn right about that.


I laughed. I think most of us present laughed, imagining Ms. Watson giving a stern dressing down to anyone who got out of line. But, despite the humorous mental image, that’s not really the point that was being made here.

It’s not that we’ll have less bad behavior because Courtney Watson (or any other woman representative) is one tough cookie. Going down that road gets one to an odd place where the responsibility for harassment is placed on the victim. 

No woman working in the Maryland General Assembly should be harassed, demeaned, or assaulted. It should not matter in what capacity she serves or what sort of personality or demeanor she possesses. 

I think the real point that Tom Coale was making is that it’s the increase in the numbers of women in public office that will make the difference in changing attitudes and expectations. There’s not just “safety in numbers” in this case, but the ability to build the kind of power that commands respect. And that gets things accomplished.

It’s important not to lose sight of that point.

This was driven home to me rather abruptly as I rose to leave the taping and a gentleman I do not know well recognized me and moved to hug me. As you know, I’m not a fan of hugging people I don’t know. But in that moment I froze and let it happen because there were so many people there and I didn’t want to make a fuss.

I don’t mean to suggest that this was harassment. But I wasn’t comfortable with it. And yet in the environment of a crowded restaurant I was reluctant to stand up for myself and make my wishes known. On paper I may be a tough cookie. When put on the spot I crumbled.

What we know of past behavior during the legislative session comes from the stories of many incidents, both big and small, where women’s rights were violated and their ability to do their jobs was compromised. This happened not because of any deficiencies or weakness on the women’s part. It happened, and continued to happen, because the number of women was such a small fraction of the total and their power to effect change was so limited.

I don’t think we will ever know how many woman thought of themselves as Tough Cookies right up until something happened to them. And they crumbled. 

A tip of the hat to Elevate Maryland for addressing this particular issue. And here’s a wish for all our HoCo women headed to Annapolis to represent us: may you listen, learn, serve well, and come back safe and sound. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Dollars and Sense

I’m staring at a blank page this morning. And how are you today?

It isn’t that the ideas are lacking. In fact, I’ve got scads of them. But all of them require a bit more research and fleshing out before they are ready for prime time. Funny how that works.

I was walking down the sidewalk at the Lakefront yesterday headed to the Elevate Maryland podcast taping/brunch at Lupa. It was a beautiful day. Almost Spring-like. A young couple was behind me.

He: Actually, I was here yesterday, walking around the Lake.
She: Walking around the Lake? Aren’t you the Hipster!

And there you have it. I thought walking around the Lake was for retirees and Pioneers. Now it’s for Hipsters. Wow, the Howard Hughes Corporation moves fast.

About Lupa. The service is excellent. And their willingness to host a local podcast and its assorted fans (hangers-on?) is admirable. I’m not used to the cost of eating there, though. I spent $45.00, including tip, on brunch yesterday.

Yes, I had one cocktail. Yes, I could have ordered more frugally but I did not order the most expensive things on the menu. Later in the day I did an Instacart order and spent the same amount of money on several days worth of food. And Instacart is a luxury, I know. But the experience got me thinking about money and how we spend it.

Who is the intended audience for Lupa?

Are they folks who absorb $45.00 for one meal and don’t raise an eyebrow? Are they one-off, having a splurge visitors? Who are the Lakefront establishments hoping to draw? And are there enough of them to keep places like Lupa in business?

This has quite a bit to do with how much money you make combined with your attitudes about how you spend that money. It’s easy for me to look at this experience and say, “Will the Lakefront belong to the rich and the rest of us eat at Panera in the Mall?”

Yes, it would be easy but somehow I think it would be intellectually lazy and ignore the greater subtleties involved. I know I have friends out there who have opinions to share on this. I hope I’ll hear from them.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Punishment and the Crime

Two of the four students who defaced Glenelg High School with “swastikas and other racial epithets” have had their day in court. They will serve weekends in jail. Two more have yet to be sentenced.

I am not a lawyer. I am a teacher and a parent and an appalled community member and I have a lot of feelings and opinions about this. Is this what committing acts of religious and racial hatred amounts to in Howard County? Weekends in jail?

I suppose the logical question would be, “Well, how much is enough?” Again, I’m not a lawyer. As the kids say, don’t @ me.

I’ll tell you what would be enough. Take away the one thing that these young men have relied on all their lives to make the way easier. Take away the very reason they have great legal representation and, very likely, sentences that don’t even remotely match the severity of their crimes.

Take away their white privilege.

It’s white privilege, after all, that fed the hubris which fueled the plan to splash vile and filthy language all over what should have been the safest of places: a school.

Let them live their lives like The Man Without a Country.  Let them watch people lock their car doors, roll up their windows, cross to the other side of the street when they approach. Let store clerks ignore them. Store detectives follow them. When they apply for jobs let their applications be moved to the side. Their mortgage applications will be filled with extra requirements, extra fees. Or simply denied.

Let their places of worship be bombed or burned. Let their children be targeted for harassment.

Let them read every day in the news and on social media that their kind are thugs and bring about the decline of neighborhoods. Let their children be steered into lower level academic programs and disciplined unfairly while others look on, not lifting a finger in their defense. If the four of them get together to commiserate about the sadness of their diminished status, let others automatically assume they are up to no good and call the police on them.

Yes, in white privilege was their plan hatched and through white privilege will their consequences be filtered. Imagine the rude awakening if that assumption of superiority was stripped away.

Too harsh, you say?

That’s precisely the point.

Friday, December 28, 2018


It was right before Christmas when the legal paperwork for the Loft Wine and Spirits decision went public. I’m not in the habit of reading legal documents. So I went through it a few times to get a better sense of things.

Wow, is it ever thorough.

The 25 pages (26 if you count the signatures) are a comprehensive summary of evidence and testimony given before the Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board for Howard County, Maryland. (AKA: the Liquor Board.) The decision? The Board has decided in favor of granting the license.

Cheers! Something to toast when you ring in the New Year. A real live mom and pop business made its case, supported by community members.

The hearing, which took several evenings to complete, featured not only those in favor, but also a well-coordinated opposition and even some visits from local Republican candidates. This was hardly a one-sided affair. The process was professional and even-handed. All questions were asked and answered. Everyone had their say.

It was thorough.

And then, I presume, the Board went through all that testimony and information produced by all parties and assessed it according to the requirements they are charged to uphold. To give you an idea of how long such a process takes, consider than the hearing took place over the evenings on July 24, 26, and August 7th.The decision is dated December 20.

I’d been thinking this would make a lovely New Year’s Eve post. I wasn’t in such a rush to get the word out. But today I got word that those opposition forces (notably from The Perfect Pour) have filed to request a new hearing.

Let me get this straight. Mr. Quick has invested time and effort and money in trying to move this project forward. He met all the requirements the law mandates. The Liquor Board has ruled in his favor. But now the other side who oppose the competition his store represents say it’s not over?

I know this isn’t exactly an election, but—didn’t Mr. Quick win fair and square here? Hasn’t he earned the right to “take office” as it were? While I didn’t necessary expect Barry Coughlin to turn up  at Mr. Quick’s place of business to graciously concede defeat I did think that he’d respect the decision handed down by the Liquor Board.

This move feels profoundly disrespectful to Mr. Quick, his family and associates. But more than that it can’t help but be a suggestion that the Liquor Board didn’t do their job. And I just don’t believe that to be the case. I think they bent over backwards to examine the facts and to hear from the community.  They took their time. They did their job well.

They were thorough.

And I don’t think they are in any way obligated to go back and do it all over again.

Thursday, December 27, 2018


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the folks who are my lifeline when it comes to writing this blog. You just can’t do a local thing like this without connections. And advice. And second opinions.  This put me in mind of an old family story I shared years ago on the blog:

19 Closest Friends

Years ago, my sister's high school boyfriend came to her with a story of a nightmare. He dreamed that she had died and had left everything to her "19 Closest Friends." He spent the whole dream trying to find out if he was one of them. For some reason, the story of the 19 Closest Friends became legendary in my family. It still means something to me, many years later.

Or maybe I could think of them like BoE Member Vicky Cutroneo’s “Unusual Coalition”. I like that concept, too.

During the campaign someone referred to my supporters as unusual coalition.  I take that as a compliment and I’d like to thank my unusual coalition for their support.

Except they’re not really any kind of coalition. You might be surprised who they are. You might not. But I’m definitely grateful for their support.

The thing is, as fascinating and as valuable as these people are (and worthy of praise, I might add) it would be just the wrong thing to do to thrust them out on the public stage for the purposes of a good blog post. This is not the “kiss cam” or a roving spotlight bent on creating celebrity or notoriety. “Outing” them without their consent would hardly be a way to show my heartfelt appreciation.

They know who they are. And you’ll just have to take my word for it.

There are some very good people I know I can reach out to for a piece of information or a judgement call. They help me make connections and sometimes ask questions to make me think more. They are a valuable part of what makes Village Green/Town² tick.

Today’s post is a thank you note to them, as well as an admission that no good community writer can do it alone. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Better Building Blocks

The dictates of popular culture for December 26th:  you’ll be dragging your Christmas tree to the curb, buying lots of organizing bins at Target, buying liquor for a New Year’s Eve Party, and reading lots of end of year articles online. Those articles will be divided between the “Ten Top” whatevers and the “Be Better in 2019” New Year’s resolution type.

My recommendation for you comes from The Capital:

A new year doesn’t need a new you by Dr. Benna Sherman

The premise of her piece is that real self improvement comes from an assessment of what you have done right and building upon it, rather than beating yourself up about what you have done wrong. As a parent and an early childhood educator I know this to be true. So what don’t I treat myself this way? Why do I berate myself in a way I’d never do with my family or my students?

There’s a belief held by many people that being hard on yourself will make you a better person. For most people it works the other way. Being had on discouraging and depletes you of the will and energy to grow.

So how can we make this apply to our greater community? How can we we best look at Columbia/Howard County so that we can build on the good we have done so that we can take on even bigger challenges in the year ahead? We tend to throw up our hands and say, “Everything’s all wrong!” When we do that, it seems the only alternative is to burn everything down and start over. And that is a very daunting prospect indeed. Then it is quite understanding that we give up and say it’s too big for us to fix.

Not too big to complain about, mind you. Just too big for us to know where to start to make things better.

Dr. Sherman closes her article by saying:

If you want to build a better you, first affirm that you’re already pretty good.

So, how about it, Columbia/HoCo? What are some of the good things we’ve accomplished over the last year? What are the values we want to keep affirming? What will give us the strength to undertake the big things ahead?

Comments are welcome here:

P.S. Subscribe to The Capital

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Santa Returns

Blast from the past this morning. I hope you enjoy it.

(From December, 2014)

Staff Meeting

Santa and Santa's helpers have been taxed to the max in Howard County this year. It seems that every holiday season brings more opportunities to see the Man in Red. I can just imagine a staff meeting at the North Pole...

"Okay everybody, let's get this show on the road."
"Aw, c'mon man, it's only Halloweeeeeen!"
"You know the drill. It gets earlier every year. Gotta keep up with the times."
"Everybody have their calendar?"

iPads, phones, and Blackberries are pulled out. Santa himself clings to his beloved Day-Timer but his Head Administrative Elf double-checks everything and enters it into the Main Schedule on his MacBook.

"Herb, what are you doing? That's an Advent Calendar. You can't open that up yet!"
"It's last year's. Didn't eat all the chocolate yet."

The Head Administrative Elf sighs and hands him one of those nice glossy calendars that the North Pole Real Estate Agent sent over and a candy-cane ball-point pen.

"Alright! Howard County! Let's get this one in the books!"
"Breakfast with Santa?"
"Pizza with Santa?"
"Polar Express?"
"Firefighters with Santa?"

Various hands are raised, dates written down.

"Brunch with Santa?"
"Happy Hour with Santa?"
Dead silence. Heads come up.
"What the heck is going on, man?"

The Head Administrative Elf looks over the tops of his glasses, down the long table.

"I beg your pardon?"
"What's up with all the extra gigs? I mean, we all love the regular rounds of doughnuts, pizza, milk and cookies, even those cold rides with the Fire Department. But every year in Howard County they're adding more, more, more!"

A rumble of assent goes round the table.

"Where will it end? Sauna with Santa? Dental cleanings with Santa? Dry-cleaning pickups with Santa?"

Another speaks up. "This has gotten out of hand. This county wants Santa at its beck and call from Halloween right through til Christmas Eve. Someone's got to draw the line."

"Yeah! Santa's Helpers need to get ready for Christmas, too!"

The meeting breaks down into general pandemonium.

In the midst of the chaos, Santa himself, the Man in Red, stands up slowly, looking at the scene before him. Feeling his gaze, the dissenters fall silent.

He clears his throat. He sighs.

"Must I remind you? Must I even speak of this?" His voice trembles a bit with anger.
"Once our children in Howard County had a place to go to visit with Santa and share their wishes. They knew once they saw the Poinsettia Tree that the time had come for Christmas joy." His face darkened. Santa's Helpers looked down at their hands, twiddled their pens, shifted uncomfortably in their chairs.

"But commercialism and greed have turned their tradition over to the Dark Side..." His voice trailed off. Everyone knew what he meant. He didn't have to go any further.
Exhorbitant photo fees. Requirements to buy large photo packages. Prohibition of parent-taken photographs. It was now Santa only for the well-to-do. It went against
everything they all believed in.

Herb, wiping the last crumbs of chocolate from his mouth, raises his hand.

"Okay, I'm cool with the Brunch with Santa. Pencil me in."

The meeting continues peacefully. All the dates are filled.

The Head Assistant Elf stands, signalling the close of the meeting.

"Thanks, gentlemen. The children are fortunate that you are on their side. This Christmas will be the best ever."

Santa pats his arm. "Wait a minute. Did we ever schedule Happy Hour with Santa?"
The Head Administrative Elf smiles.

"Oh, that's the Office Party. Second Chance Saloon. Half price burger night. Happy   hour prices all night. Uniform optional. Ugly Christmas sweater contest. Raffle, prizes, fruitcake tossing."

That's one date everyone happily fills in.

"That's a wrap, everyone."


No matter what your plans today, may your day be filled with joy!

Comments are welcome here:

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Message

I toyed with making this a “Christmas Eve Message” but then decided that wasn’t quite right. Not everyone who reads this blog celebrates Christmas. I don’t necessarily need to make my world be everybody’s world today. I don’t have to center everything on myself and my experiences.

I thought a lot about that as my husband and I explored the new LA Mart grocery store in Oakland Mills. It’s not anything like grocery stores I am used to. The shelves are lined with unfamiliar items labeled in languages I don’t know. Much of the produce is unfamiliar to me as well. As we wandered down each aisle we saw couples and families discussing and picking out items quite comfortably. Some spoke in English, some did not.

My husband was filled with a sense of joy and adventure as he encountered each new display. I forget somestimes that he didn’t grow up here. Between Ireland, England, and travel in Europe he is quite used to shopping in markets with multiple languages and cultures included as a matter of course.

It can be discomfiting for some folks whose worlds have always been centered in American English-speaking Whiteness to go somewhere that doesn’t set its compass by them. We like to be the norm. It feels odd to enter a store that isn’t set up as a mirror to our cultural expectations. (I will confess I asked ahead of time if they had any American frozen foods because I was too tired at lunch to do any real cooking.)

It’s so easy to “other” those experiences when they conflict with what we have come to expect. Even well-meaning people shrink back a bit and exoticize meats and vegetables that seem too “foreign”. It’s ironic because Columbia was meant from the start to be so open and multicultural and yet there are some in my Village who think that a market like this is a sign of failure. A market that caters to brown people, people who don’t speak English, people who rent...(well, you get my drift, don’t you?)

I think that the LA Mart has a great opportunity to serve not only people in our Village, but also to draw people from all over the area who want and need these food items. I hope we welcome them and make them feel that Oakland Mills is a place worth visiting again and again. Or maybe even a place worth joining as a new resident.

Some years ago my husband witnessed a disappointing exchange between a customer and an employee at what was once the Food Lion or Weis. I can’t remember which. The woman said, “I am looking for a fish. I do not know what you call it, but in Spanish we call it tilapia.” The store clerk said, “but what is it in English?” She repeated, “I don’t know. In Spanish we call it tilapia.” He replied, “I’m sorry, ma’am. I don’t speak Spanish. I can’t help you.”


My husband was so disheartened by this. He felt that this woman had not gotten the customer service that anyone should receive because of who she was. “And why does a grocery clerk not know what tilapia is?” he exclaimed.

As we left the store today we passed the customer service desk where two employees were chatting. I didn’t catch all of it, but what I heard was (possibly in Spanish)

something something something fish something something tilapia.

I glanced over at my husband. He was smiling.

“Did you hear that?” He nodded. “Do you think that was a message from God?”

“Yes, I think maybe it is.”

So this is not a Christmas message nor necessarily a God message but a message that our communities are not just white or Christian but black and brown and tan and worshipping in many ways and speaking in many tongues and eating food we have never heard of.

And that’s okay. And we are “Columbian”. And “Howard Countian”. And, most of all, truly American in the best sense of the word.

Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Day to Day

We talk about the struggle of folks who live paycheck to paycheck. That was my life as a young married person and then as a divorced mom for many years. But there’s another kind of struggle which comes from too much work, too many commitments, not enough time.

How do you make a life, how do you make a home, when there’s not enough time?

My husband and I both work full time. He works two jobs. We both have extra events on evenings and weekends. Our teenaged daughter has rehearsals, church events, social gatherings...

We just got our Christmas tree up yesterday. If Amazon did not exist we would not be having presents at all.

Perhaps part of our problem is that we are all innately introverts, so we require a lot of recovery time from all those outside commitments. Cleaning the house for the holidays, baking cookies, decorating, sending cards? Nope, we’re cocooning. We have to be nudged to get moving on those things.

Back in the day, and by this I do mean the “white middle class suburban” day, it was Mom’s job to make the home, to shape the life of the family. Her own existence was subsumed into that one goal. Imagine one person in your household whose job it is to make sure everyone else’s world goes smoothly.

If you have that at your house—great! Lots of us don’t.

We struggle. We’re not very good at calendars or planning ahead. We love our family and our friends and we will celebrate the holidays as best we can but it’s not going to be House Beautiful or Southern Living over here. We will treasure the joy we have and revel in the extra time with family and away from the obligations and cares that normally command our attention.

Although we are not well to do, we have enough. We are keenly aware of this and we are grateful. Our poverty comes in the lack of time. It seems there is never enough. We look at the photos of our friends’ homes and social events on Facebook and wonder how they do it.

Time. It’s so precious. Our modern lives are so overcommitted and fragmented. And yet the holidays come anyway and we find our own ways to celebrate. We choose the most important things and let others fall to the wayside. We create new traditions that fit the people we are now.

No matter what holidays you celebrate, I hope that this season brings you some of that precious time to experience what brings you the most joy.

Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Georgia on my Mind

You’re going down to Main Street to pick up your 10-dollar voucher and do some last minute shopping today, right?

May I recommend a visit to Georgia Grace Café?

The food is delicious and prices are reasonable. Service is excellent.

The view from the front window is fabulous. Perfect for people-watching, too.

There’s loads of decorative touches and architectural detail to admire.

Make sure to order coffee. It’s really, really good. 

Leave room for dessert! Or maybe take some with you for later?

George Grace is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 8 am to 5 pm. They are located at 8006 Main Street.

Also today: Clarksville Commons is hosting. holiday pop up market with guest-for-the-day Tin Lizzie. 11 am to 4 pm. Learn more here

And, don’t forget, it’s your last chance to visit Celebration  in the Woods—admission is free today!

Event is free this Saturday!

Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

Friday, December 21, 2018

What a Difference

Breaking news on December 17th:

Front page December 20th:

Breaking news November 6th:

Front page November 8th:

What a difference a day makes, eh?

I’m thrilled that our new Fire Chief got the front page treatment that she and her historic appointment deserve. I guess we can look at that quick turnaround time as progress. Maybe?

There’s still an uncomfortable little voice inside me that says that someone, somewhere thinks it will be easier for Howard County to countenance a white woman in a groundbreaking position of leadership than three Black men. And that troubles me.

Event is free this Saturday!

Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

Thursday, December 20, 2018


A few questions for your Thursday:

1. Can we even think of calling Columbia a city when our high school students can’t have their senior proms here?

2. Did Democrats go underground and create nasty troll accounts when Kittleman was elected? (Have you seen what Calvin Ball is being subjected to by Republicans?)

3. What’s the protocol for a deciding that a budget is “almost one billion”? What’s the rounding-up policy?

4. Has anyone tried the new grocery store in Oakland Mills?

5. Why wasn’t the Bridge Columbia project completed with a fresh cost of paint? It really needs it.

6. Have Columbia Villages made any progress on implementing online voting?

7. Howard County has a Bike Plan, but how about a Sidewalk Plan? Do we have a group that advocates for increased pedestrian connections in Columbia/HoCo? (See Dobbin Road.)

8. If you had 100 dollars to donate to a local cause/nonprofit, what would it be?

9. What is one way you are hoping that Columbia/HoCo will improve in the New Year?

10.  Are you planning to take advantage of the $10.00 shopping vouchers in Old Ellicott City?

You know where to send your answers, right?

Back tomorrow with more answers than questions.

Event is free this Saturday!

Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

What is Best?

A brief moment of protest.

I’m not entirely sure what “Living your best life” entails, but I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t require  the purchase of this or any other product. This piece in Highsnobiety asks,

What Does Living Your Best Life Mean, Anyway?

Looking at this advert made me think of a hilarious recording by Stan Freberg that my family played each year. Entitled “Green Christma$”, it was a send-up of how an ad agency and various business looked to commercialize every aspect of the holidays to sell more product. You can listen to it here

Yesterday my school participated in our annual December all-school assembly. Included in the mix is the time-honored tradition of having faculty and admin act out Dr. Seuss’s Grinch story. It contains a message particularly precious in a Quaker school as we aim for simplicity in a highly consumerized world.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!
― Dr. Seuss

Head of School Tom Gibian talked about the tradition in his family of putting an orange at the toe of each stocking. Of course now it now seems mostly familiar and maybe a bit boring, but the history of how this tradition came to be stems from a tine when it was both precious and exotic. 

While I don’t believe that anything you buy can magically determine whether you are living your best life, I do think you can spread some goodness around by shopping local. As you know, I’m a big fan of From Momma’s Kitchen and Neat Nick Preserves. I read yesterday that Howard County is promoting shopping trips on Main Street Old EC. You can pick up a ten dollar voucher at the Howard County Welcome Center. Learn more here.

I can’t say that you will be living your best life by doing this, but I think it will feel good and bring joy to others, too. That seems like a worthy holiday goal to me. Shop local and celebrate community.

Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Slept through the alarm. It’s a no blog Tuesday. Talk amongst yourselves. Back tomorrow.

Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Happiness and Cheer

I’ve been slow warming up to Christmas preparations this year. I lost a week due to that aforementioned chest cold. All the rain hasn’t helped either.

Tonight we went to the home of HoCoHouseHon (and hubs) for some pre-holiday family time. We got to see their tree and decorations, played a new game (Obama Llama), ordered in Indian food, and capped it all off with a trip through the Symphony of Lights.

All through the evening I felt something inside me unwinding. The stress of all the things that must be done fell away as we laughed and talked. The trip through the Symphony of Lights felt sweeter and also more alive, as the displays are now much closer to the pathways. 

My daughter had chosen her own musical mix for our drive-through soundtrack. Downtown Columbia twinkling with colored lights while accompanied by the Kings Singers and the Christmas Revels was almost too much joy to bear. Looking through the Sparkling Toy Factory to the eloquently simple arches of the Chrysalis behind it felt like loving old friends and new friends all at the same time. Realizing that we were looking down on the Merriweather Stage and all those musical instruments were positioned so they seemed to be waiting in the wings...

So many lovely touches. Old friends. New views. The excitement of turning a corner and seeing your favorite bit—mine’s the gingerbread house—makes returning year after year a treasured part of our family’s Christmas. And not just because of the lights, but because of how we are when we are together.

As we glimpsed the final vista and knew our visit was coming to an end, the children’s voices from A Charlie Brown Christmas began to sing Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here”.  Purely by chance, the playlist gave us a perfect finish.

How grateful I am for tonight, for time with the people I love and the shared experience of a community I love. 

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call

Their favorite time of the year
Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share
Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there
Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year

Lee Mendelson/Vince Guaraldi

Celebration in the Woods Advent Calendar: