Friday, May 31, 2019

HoCo Holler: So Long Farewell

Today will be the last day to grab a bite at Joe's Place Deli in Columbia.

I first learned of Joe’s Place through Dave and Ilana Bittner of HoCoMoJo fame. Their business Pixel Workshop is located right next door. For a while the Elevate Maryland podcast used Joe’s Place as their interviewing home base.

Over years since my family and I have visited when ever we happened to be available: in the summer or during a vacation. On most days, if they were open, we were at school. Open Monday-Friday, 8-2, they have had a loyal local following and I know they will be greatly missed.

Their sandwiches are ample and sublime. Joe and his wife Tonya are warm and welcoming and the whole place has a homey, comfortable air. Every time I have gone I wished I could spend more time there. It’s just that kind of place.

Joe’s Place has been a part of our community for 25 years. Known for great soups, delicious daily specials, and sandwiches with quirky and humorous names, it will be missed greatly by its fans. Missed most of all will be the genuine warmth and lighthearted humor of Joe and Tonya themselves.

A hearty HoCo Holler to Joe’s Place. We will miss you.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Different Dynamic

Beyond tired this morning. It was a lovely graduation.

I’m sending you over to a blog post from the music tech company Soundtrap about an innovative after-school program in Howard County.

Girls Make Beats in Maryland , Richard McCready for Edublog at

Yes, a familiar name and face here. This program is the brainchild of my husband in his continuing quest to engage “the other 80” per cent in high school music programs.

had the idea for Girls Make Beats when some of the girls in my classes would come back after school to work on their projects. I noticed a different dynamic amongst the girls when boys were no longer in the room dominating the conversation (as they invariably do in class). 

Read the post, and listen to the composition samples, too. If you’ve ever wondered what kids are learning in music tech classes, this will give you a glimpse.

Our teachers do many things for students which go well beyond their contractual agreements. Perceiving and responding to differing learning needs in order to provide more opportunity can be done in so many ways. A club that encourages young women to flourish in a subject that has been traditionally  dominated by male students makes a difference both now and for the future.

Do you have a story about a HoCo teacher who made a difference for students in a special way? Share it in the comments.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Day

My daughter graduates from high school today. It will be my first experience with a Merriweather graduation ceremony. When I graduated from high school we sat on bleachers next to the school’s running track. The sound from the PA system bounced off of the school’s brick walls and produced an echo reminiscent of the announcer at a monster truck rally. 
We didn’t think much of the ceremony. It didn’t feel like it was for us. The speaker was the newly hired local chief of police. His speech was far from inspiring. We sat and waited for it to be over. I don’t think most of us realized what profound changes we were about to face as we left our years of k-12 schooling.
Naturally I have plenty of things I’d like to say concerning my daughter’s graduation. But her story is not my story to tell. I can’t convince myself that mining her life for a poignant blog post is an honorable thing to do, and so I won’t.
Instead I can only speak for myself. What does this day mean to me? It means I will never again ask her, “What’s for homework?” or pat her sleeping form through the covers to wake her up. It means no more lunch making, rehearsal pick ups,  permission slips, choir trips, no more parent conferences.
I will always be her mother, and I hope she will think that is a good thing. I will no longer be the arbiter of all major decisions in her life. 
Of course this doesn’t all happen magically with a walk across the Merriweather stage. It has been happening, ever so slowly, incrementally, for many years. Today is simply the day we set aside to celebrate it.
In some ways I think my peers and I had a sense of knowing it all on that day we graduated out on the school track. Receiving a diploma was the beginning of a lifetime of realizing how much we didn’t know. Maybe that’s the most important gift education can give you.
One more thing. I still have dreams I didn’t pass PE or that some unknown library books will keep me from graduating. I wonder if that ever goes away.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Our Place

On May 28, 2014 I spoke at a joint meeting of the CA Board and the Inner Arbor Trust in support of what is now called Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. I brought both of my daughters for moral support, and also because I wanted them to see what community advocacy looks like. I know that the meeting was contentious because I found this observation today in my Facebook memories:

You can't get up in a public meeting, say, "let's be objective" and then proceed to spew a lot of opinionated horse-twaddle.

Yes, I wrote  that. And I had reasons, but I won’t name any names.

On Saturday morning I sat in the cool shade of an old tree and took in the sights and sounds of FantasyWood, a three day festival in that very park we were fighting for at the meeting back in 2014. Parents walked by with strollers, teens and young adults in cosplay garb, a group of girls were picnicking on the grass nearby and celebrating a birthday party.

The park was alive with music, and play, and children dancing on the lawn. I sat under my tree and drank it all in. How grateful I am to be connected to this place. How grateful I am to all the people who came out and spoke on behalf of this park. It truly “took a village”.

From “Chrysalis Views”:

There is nothing in Columbia like it. The Chrysalis will forever transform Columbia by changing how we engage with the Symphony Woods land around Merriweather. It will host performances of varying sizes and gatherings of all kinds. Some will take place directly under its outstretched arches. Some will spread out into the surrounding landscape--picnics on quilts, children dancing on the lawn.

This shared community space speaks to what Columbia was meant to be, what it is, and what it can be. As time goes on, our memories will become peopled with recollections of times we spent here. The Chrysalis will become as intertwined with who we are as fireworks at the Lakefront or summer concerts in the shadow of the People Tree.

It will be Our Place.

"I'll meet you at the Chrysalis," we'll say, knowing that good things await us in the woods.

Monday, May 27, 2019


Recommended reading:

Having a Library or CafĂ© Down the Block Could Change Your Life - -  Daniel Cox and Ryan Streeter for The Atlantic

It begins with this statement:
Living close to public amenities—from parks to grocery stores—increases trust, decreases loneliness, and restores faith in local government.
I’m interested in what my readers think of this concept. 
I’ve been thinking a lot about walkability lately. I’ve recently found myself driving in more newly-built housing developments in Howard County and I have realized that I always feel sad for neighborhoods without sidewalks. Each house is an island, unconnected to its neighbors, marooned in a sea of McMansions. One is connected to the greater universe solely by automobile.
I think it is safe to say that the people who live in such areas chose them precisely because of what they are and don’t see anything sad about them. But when you read the article in the Atlantic you can see how developments like these would be considered “low-amenity” and contribute to a lack of trust, loneliness, and a decline of faith in local government. There’s no “there” there.
Having a large house set away from the hustle and bustle of the general population is seen by many as a sign of privilege. Enormous lawns, stands of trees for privacy, and long, meandering driveways are viewed as amenities unto themselves. But none of that connects us with humanity. 
Many of the things that we lament are missing from our political and social life, such as mutual concern, a sense of belonging, and helpfulness, are found in greater degrees in communities that have a sense of place, or at least enough ingredients to make a well-rounded community. 
We all know that Rouse built Columbia with a deliberate intent to connect residents to villages and a sense of community life. We are now experiencing a redefining of what that looks like in the present day, especially in the unfolding of Downtown development.
You may have gotten tired of hearing terms like “mixed use”, “vibrant”, and so on. They often feel like so many slogans in a toothpaste commercial once one has heard them multiple times. In reading the article from the Atlantic I am reminded about why proximity to places of human connection is more than merely a commercial buzzword. It gives us consistent opportunities to be more alive and to be better people. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

When Neighbors Start Talking

It finally happened. I knew it would. Deep inside I knew it was inescapable, but still I harbored the hope that it would pass me by.

Yesterday my husband handed me a letter.

“I don’t know if you’d be interested in this.”

Nextdoor. If you don’t already know what it is, here’s a Wikipedia explanation. Here’s a really sweet write up from the Atlantic. It seems innocent enough on its face. When it first came out I thought it was a fascinating and helpful concept. But then actual humans starting using it.

A hint to what has eventually gone wrong on Nextdoor is in this flyer itself:

P.S. There are already 800 posts on Nextdoor Stevens Forest, including posts about Crime & Safety in the neighborhood.

Ooh! Do I need to be worried about Crime & Safety in my neighborhood? I’d better sign up right away.

Sadly, there seems to be some sort of unwritten code that makes white people in groups think it is a good idea to share posts like, “There’s a suspicious male walking down the road,” when they see black and brown people. Not only is this a sign of deeply engrained racial prejudice (that they’d probably swear up and down that they don’t have) it makes life extremely dangerous for black and brown people.

As a white person I have never had the police called on me because of odd behavior. Trust me, we have all done something odd in our lives that might have warranted a raised eyebrow from somebody. But my whiteness has reliably protected me. People give me the benefit of the doubt because I look “safe” to them.

Groups like Nextdoor are where white people encourage each other that “it’s okay to just call the police if something doesn’t feel right to you.” It’s the ultimate “let me speak to a manager” reaction to neighborhood difficulties. In Columbia we often say that we are a community without racial prejudice. I’d love to believe that is true, but I know from personal experience that it is not.

Sadly, groups like Nextdoor have often become places where white people congregate and lodge complaints. Some are humorous. Some are innocent. Some are not.

So, with some trepidation, I signed up for Nextdoor Stevens Forest. So far it seems like a lovely bunch of folks who are looking for nothing more than recommendations for home contractors and medical specialists. Perhaps it will be different than all the Nextdoor horror stories I have read about.

I sure hope it’s not like this:

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Tiny Threads

In the long departed Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz, a desperate Linus digs up the neighborhood looking for his missing security blanket. That’s very much like my thought process this morning looking for a blog post topic. I have been digging a lot of holes but keep coming up empty.

This is not to say that there is nothing going on around town. There is plenty that might be discussed. But there is a certain thread of possibility that I search for that tells me that this is a story I could tease out or shed light upon. Perhaps the big stories are feeling too big to me right now, and the small ones too petty. Perhaps end of the year teacher fatigue is dulling my intellectual acuity.

A few things that are on my mind:

  1. The cycle whereby well funded schools in affluent areas push their students to procure the most “measurable” achievements of excellence so that enormously high real estate values are justified so that the schools will continue to be well funded. Is anyone surprised that the kids figure out that they are a commodity?
  2. I saw last night that Columbia can have successful over-21 arts events that draw younger folks in addition to the usual older arts supporters we often see. There was a healthy range of ages at Arias and Ales at the Chrysalis. So, what makes a local arts event appealing enough to younger members of our community? What can we do to build those audiences for the future?
  3. I saw a conversation on Twitter where someone referred to Columbia as The Village of the Damned. Yes, I Googled it. And now I’m worried.
Have a wonderful Saturday. I’ll be at Fantasywood with my daughters. Send me your tiny threads if you have any and I’ll see what I can do.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Free Agent

In local sports news, 

Tony Incontrera resigns as head varsity boys lacrosse coach at Marriotts Ridge , Tim Schwartz for the Baltimore Sun

Question: why do we see articles such as these only about sports coaches? I don’t think I have ever seen “Susan Jones resigns as high school choral director.” For that matter, what about English, or science,  math, or languages? 

Why are the comings and goings of sports coaches newsworthy and others are not? 

My understanding of the school system is that your contract commits you to working for the system as a whole. You may work at one school, but can just as easily be transferred, or surplussed. You’re not exactly a free agent. Yet articles about sports coaches in the local press depict sports coaches as independent from that, somehow.

Are sports coaches in a different employment category? Can they come and go as they choose?

I’m curious. 

For the record, I’m still curious about why it’s such a big deal if you’re signing to play basketball at college but not if you’ll be playing clarinet for the same institution.

I suspect it is all about competition, and the pride of place that we give sports over other equally rewarding endeavors.

In the meantime, Coach Incontrera sounds like a wonderful man who deserves to have more time with his family.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Weekend to Remember

Weekend plans:
  • Daughter going to various graduation parties
  • Family cookout
  • Husband going to Orioles game 
And then there’s me:
  • Arias & Ales on Friday night
  • Fantasywood on Saturday
Big guess where my plans are taking place. Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. If you haven’t firmed up your weekend plans, I hope you’ll join me.

  • Chrysalis at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8:00 p.m.
Join Baltimore Concert Opera andJailbreak Brewing Company for a unique music and beer pairing event on May 24th.  This program follows on the heels of BCO's popular Thirsty Thursday shows.  Come learn about opera, drink delicious local beer, and enjoy a night under the Chrysalis.  This event is restricted to guests over the age of 21. 

And, for all ages, especially the under 21 crowd:


Saturday 10-5, Sunday 10-5, Monday 10-3

The FantasyWood Festival hosted by ManneqArt and Circus Siren Pod is a magical 3 day experience being held in Columbia, Maryland over Memorial Day Weekend 2019. Come join us for a walk in the woods with surprises around each corner. Meet mermaids, fairies, watch live knights duel and even see a live unicorn!

I had originally imagined Fantasywood as largely a kid’s event, but I’m seeing a lot of interest from RennFest/cosplay folks which is going to bring quite the vibe to the weekend’s festivities. I’m looking forward to it.

You can learn more at event pages on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


I’m having mixed feelings about senior awards assemblies this morning. Someone posted this yesterday and it resonates with me.

I attended my daughter’s Senior Awards Night last night. There was plenty to celebrate. And yet I feel uneasy about what we say to the students who are uncelebrated. If this is somehow a night for everyone, how do we acknowledge the contributions of the unsung and unnoticed?

I’m not saying that everyone should get a prize. I do think that many students are fighting battles that we know nothing about: mental health, sexual identity, dysfunctional home lives, to mention a few. Many hold the community together simply by being themselves: kind, funny, accepting. How do we create a high school community where those students can feel that they have been known and loved  and honored? Where they can celebrate the exceptional accomplishments of peers because  they know that they themselves have been valued throughout their high school years?

Some students and families live for those awards nights. Many sacrifices have been made to get to that moment. I do not discount that. But I think we do everyone a disservice if we impart they impression that life is all about who wins the prizes. A life where one must always be better than someone else to be happy will be fueled by endless competition, more coffee, more Red Bull, less sleep, more alcohol, more sacrificing of relationships in order to get ahead.

Surely we can give our young people a better prize than that.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Not Gonna Take It

On Saturday evening, around dinner time, my daughter and were headed to Sam’s Mart to buy a couple of lottery tickets and then meant to go from there to Mission Barbecue. We turned onto Stevens Forest Road from Whitacre and immediately had to pull over.

Police cars, paramedics, and a fire truck were headed towards us and into the Sam’s Mart parking lot.   After they sped by we passed on the lottery tickets and headed to dinner.

Later we read the crime report released by the Police Department on Facebook, followed by the same old, same old racist dog whistles about Oakland Mills.

“That area”
“Wrong element”
“Loitering youths”
“Turning into Baltimore”
“Always had problems”

Then, something interesting happened. Residents of Oakland Mills started pushing back. I started seeing things like:

“I love ‘that area’”
“I feel safe here”
“Proud to send my kids to school in OM”
“So much great going on”
“amazing community building”

On Saturday night the same old haters came out strong and they met a resistance they probably weren’t expecting. Oakland Mills was representing. Yeah, we’re used to the trash talk but we just won’t take it lying down anymore. We know our community has challenges but we also know it’s awesome.

Several years back I was part of a core group that created a Facebook page called “Oakland Mills is Awesome”. We were frustrated by the steady flow of negativity about our Village when we knew how great it really was.

The page started as a virtual pep talk, if you will, highlighting events, accomplishments, and exceptional community members. Over time, more and more candidates to our village board brought with them that sense of pride and positivity. Board Chair Jonathan Edelson forged collaborative relationships to support Village schools. Sandy Cederbaum and other OMCA staff went above and beyond to connect residents with helpful information and needed resources.

Sunday morning my daughter and I were back at the Village Center to shop at the Farmers Market. Once we had loaded up on bread, pastries, bacon, strawberries, and sugar snap peas, we headed over to Sam’s Mart to finish what we had started the night before. Yep, lottery tickets.

Winning the lottery would be extremely gratifying.

Living in Oakland Mills?  Priceless.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Summer Arts Scene

I ran across this piece over the weekend and just had to share. From Maryland Theatre Guide:

News: Arts organizations announce schedule of summer events in downtown Columbia

Writer Carolyn Keleman fits the maximum amount of arts info possible into this piece. If you want to know what’s happening this summer, I’d recommend starting with this article. It also has a certain kind of stylishness that made me smile.

As frequent readers of the blog know, I don’t often make it out to public functions, but I did happen to be at this one, held at Cured/18th & 21st. Ms. Keleman described attendees as follows:

These folks – a few artists but mostly influential politicos and business executives – were there to hear representatives from local organizations preview the upcoming summer schedule of arts and cultural events in downtown Columbia.

Well, I dance with preschoolers at the Chrysalis. I guess that puts me in the artist category. I’m also one of the biggest fans of the Inner Arbor Trust/Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. It was fascinating to be in a room so clearly abuzz with so many different local arts ventures. There was a continued slide show running that highlighted upcoming summer events. It was pretty impressive. 

Howard County Tourism’s Art for All page might be a good place to start if you are looking for something to do.There’s a pretty good balance between ticketed events and free ones. Take a look.

Even if the event is free to you, don’t forget that means that businesses and other donors had to put forth sponsorships to make it happen. It’s gratifying to see the range of entities willing to associate themselves with supporting local arts institutions. County Executive Calvin Ball articulated a strong support for arts experiences in his opening remarks, saying that the arts should be a part of who we are as a community, and that the arts make us whole.

I couldn’t agree more.

Sunday, May 19, 2019


The kid (actually a legal adult, horrors!)  had a service gig at Sunrise Assisted Living in Hickory Ridge. It’s a cool thing called “Songs for Seniors” where music students share their talents with residents. I had some time to kill and the perfect plan.

I’d nip over to the Hawthorn Center in Hickory Ridge where the folks at Howard County Pride were having a donut sale fundraiser. I’d get one for myself and one for my musician. Perfect.

Did I GPS it? No. I thought I could get there on dead reckoning alone. I had a general idea of where I was going. 

I ended up turning on a road called Jerrys Drive, thinking it would cut through to where I was going. Holy mackerel. Not only did it not cut through, it turned out to be the craziest amalgamation of housing styles and land use choices I have seen in this area to date. You start out thinking you’re in Columbia but then it’s almost immediately apparent that you are in the Land of Outparcel. 

Yikes. Who knew what mysteries awaited me when I made that left turn off of Owen Brown Road? I have no criticism. I was fascinated. It’s amazing how you can move from total architectural control to “anything goes” in less than half a block. Perhaps I am just easily entertained. 

Well, I broke down and GPS’ed it to no avail. When I arrived at my destination what I saw was a community yard sale. I drove away sadly and landed at Mad City for some iced coffee and a snack. While I was there I glanced at social media posts for the event and realized that the Donut Sale was a part of that community yard sale. I had been so close! 


I went to the Howard County Pride website and made a donation instead. You can, too. From their website:

June 29, 2019

Join us for the first annual Howard County LGBTQ PRIDE festival!
Centennial Park
10000 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, MD 2104

In the meantime:
  • Take a drive down Jerrys Drive
  • Tell me the history of Jerrys Drive 
  • Tell me your story of getting lost in Columbia/HoCo

Saturday, May 18, 2019


Here’s an interesting business approach. Local realtor leads walks in Downtown Columbia to spur interest in Columbia living.

Do you love Columbia and already live here or want to?  Join me on any of the future walks through Columbia to see what makes living in Columbia so awesome! <3  Contact me today if I can help you or anyone you know... 

I’m a fan of Columbia living. I clicked the link.

Wait a minute.

These are walks led by Ned Tillman and Barbara Kellner, put on by the Columbia Association. Our enterprising realtor will tag along and use the time to chat up potential clients. This is somewhat akin to the business I wrote about the other day who sought to link up with Wine in the Woods to get more

I don’t know how I feel about this. On the one hand, it shows some creative thought and a desire to make connections. On the other hand, the thought of a realtor trying to work the crowd during a pleasure/educational walk around town makes me a bit squeamish. I suppose it’s all in how it’s done. And something tells me that Barbara Kellner would not endure commercial glad handers without comment.

If the realtor is also using this as an opportunity to become even more educated about Columbia, well, more power to him. But aren’t there special realtor tours for that? Am I wrong in assuming that the motivation here is to use a free public event to get access to “fresh blood”, as it were?

I welcome your opinions. 

Also, these tours are a wonderful opportunity for anyone. Both of the guides are experienced and extremely knowledgeable. If you are the kind of person who is regularly available Thursdays at ten am, tag along and learn something. Exploring Columbia on Foot tours began in April and will run through October. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Little Things

I’d like to give you a comprehensive write up of our class trip to Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County yesterday, but I can’t. The reason that I can’t is that I took a little trip of my own.

I got thrown off balance by a missing piece in a set of stone steps and fell hard. Onto both knees. I spent the rest of the trip sitting on a bench with two ice packs. I had a lovely view of this fountain. While I can’t vouch for the entire Brookside Gardens experience I highly recommend this fountain. It’s lovely.

I’m not writing this piece to criticize the folks at Brookside Gardens. They couldn’t have been more helpful. And our students loved the trip and the scavenger hunt prepared for them as well. I hope I will get to go back another time soon.

I’m thinking this morning of how it is sometimes the little things that throw us completely off balance  and end up causing significant damage.

Right now our county is awash with big issues that need resolving, So is our nation. Many of these issues have been around for quite awhile, like a broken step in a set of stairs. The people in charge didn’t see them as such a big deal and chose to minimize their importance and did little or nothing at all. I suppose it made them look calm and unflappable. Leaders like that, who turn the public gaze away from uncomfortable issues and broken places have their fans.

But those “little things”, those broken places, don’t go away. And sooner or later will come the fall. And the hurt.

Why are we struggling with our current challenges in Howard County? Because we are actually facing them and not finessing them. Whether it is flooding in Ellicott City, the school system budget, systemic racism, the achievement gap, environmental concerns - - we will make progress only if we are willing to get uncomfortable and acknowledge the seriousness of what is broken and commit to fixing it.

As for my personal injuries I am nothing more than badly bruised with muscles twisted and strained from the fall. It could have been much worse.

I wonder if they’ll fix the step?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Good News

We interrupt the season of contentious budget battles to show you education done right.

Imagine you play strings in your middle school ensemble. Now imagine this.

From Harpers Choice Middle School Music:

Some really amazing moments from our instrumental string concert last night. But everyone stood and cheered even cried after this performance. Thanks to Mr. McFate for coordinating such a chilling moment.

Some background on the song:

"Glory" is a song performed by American rapper Common and American singer John Legend. It was written by John Legend, Common, and Rhymefest. The song was released on December 11, 2014 by Columbia Records as the theme song from the 2014 film Selma, which portrays the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. (Wikipedia)

Another snippet of the performance from someone in the audience:

Guest soloist, introduced as friend of the conductor, came on stage for @hcpss_hcms middle school orchestra/band concert finale. 

Yunisa Sesay is his name. I have a feeling there’s more where that came from. Thoughts @Lin_Manuel ? @SelmaMovie #Glory

From Harpers Choice Middle School: 

We love the creativity and inspiration our @music_hcms program brings! @mjmsuper @HCPSS @hcpss_smil this song was especially relevant to our 8th graders who analyzed the lyrics during their Freedom unit for a Socratic seminar! @hcpss_sla

From a musical standpoint, getting to take part in a piece of music with a vocalist is an exceptional opportunity for middle school string players. Performing a piece of music that is more contemporary in nature is pretty rare. The fact that the piece has deep and challenging  content that is relevant to the students and worthy of study and discussion in a Socratic seminar is well beyond the experience most middle school string players will have.

We shouldn’t overlook the decision of the musical director to include a gifted African American singer in his concert. He is saying to the greater community that the music program values the talents of people of color. He is saying to the students: this can be you. 

Representation is crucial. You can’t be what you can’t see. Mr. McFate at Harpers Choice Middle School made a musical choice that produced breathtakingly beautiful musical results but it was so much more than that.

This is what the very best educational experiences look like. They challenge students to dig deep, to make connections. Most of all, they empower students to grow and become their best selves.

A shoutout to the teachers, staff, and admin who work hard every day to create and foster educational communities where this can happen. A shoutout to the parents and public servants who are working to make sure that there is adequate funding for this to continue.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Weekend Conundrum

I was reminded that Wine in the Woods is coming up this weekend when I saw this advert on Twitter.

I don’t know much about Idea Lab Kids beyond this ad. They look to be a franchise providing STEAM-based childcare options. Some enterprising person over there looked at Wine in the Woods and saw an opportunity: you go have fun. We’ll take care of your kids.

As a lifelong teacher I look at this and see one glaring problem. Who is going to drive the children home? I know from personal experience that you never want to dismiss a child into the care of someone who has been drinking if that person is going to be driving a car. It puts the childcare provider in an excruciatingly difficult position. The safety of the child is your first priority. But the parent is the paying customer.

Well, that’s easy, you say. Have a designated driver. Surely everyone does that these days, right?

Do they?

If you go with a group of friends, I imagine that often one person agrees in advance to be the designated driver. I think Wine in the Woods has a special wristband for that. But imagine that Mom and Dad are have a romantic afternoon at Wine in the Woods. Who is the designated driver?

I’m a childcare professional, folks, I get paid to worry about these things.

If the folks at Idea Lab Kids put a kid in a car with an inebriated adult who then gets in an alcohol- related incident that results in injury to the child, will they bear any liability? After all, the entire plan for this childcare option was devised around an alcohol-focused event. I think Idea Lab Kids is trying to provide a service and make some money here. I would not touch this with a ten foot pole.

I don’t know what the answer is. My daughter suggested that the childcare package should include the cost of an Uber. The best advice I can give is do not ever drink and drive. If you will be transporting children don’t ever put childcare providers in the position of being reluctant to release your own child to you.

Have a plan that involves a sober driver. Period.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Looking for the Light

There’s so much news out there today that I don’t know what to do with it. So. Much. News.

I need to push it all aside for a moment and focus on something else. Sunshine. We’re going to have some at some point, aren’t we?

We’d better get some good weather on Thursday because I’m hoping to go to the Garden Party at the Library. 

From the Garden Party Event Page:

Join us to celebrate our annual Friends & Foundation Garden Party on Thursday, May 16th from 5-7pm in the Enchanted Garden at the Miller Branch.
Enjoy light hors d'oeuvres, desserts, wine, beer, seltzer, and iced tea from local restaurants and businesses.
Bring a guest who is not already a member of Friends & Foundation and you'll receive an extra raffle ticket for our fabulous door prizes! 
Not a Friend yet? Learn more about who we are and what we do here and consider joining us today!
We look forward to seeing you for a gorgeous evening in the Enchanted Garden!
**This event is for guests 21 and older**

I’ve made small donations to the Library Friends group from time to time, but I never seem to make it to any of their events. This time I’ve gone so far as to buy a ticket.

Who knows? If the sun comes out I might actually make it.

Monday, May 13, 2019


I just knocked over a cup of coffee with my chair and most of it landed in my shoes. How’s your Monday going so far?

On a hyperlocal note, I see that the County is looking to add a bike lane in River Hill that seems to conflict with where residents have traditionally parked when there are swim meets at the nearby pool. This would appear to put two very active constituencies at odds with one another: bikers vs. swimmers.

The CA neighborhood swimming leagues are a huge tradition in this town. It’s not an experience that appealed to me for my daughter but most of my friends sing its praises. I’m not sure I’d want to be the one trying to put a bike lane somewhere that might conflict with the mighty swim lobby.

I’m joking, of course. There may be strong opinions here but it’s hardly front page drama.

The bike folks certainly have their own fans. The bicycle master plan continues to move forward. Bikers rightly point out that recreational pathways are not the same thing as being able to functionally get from point A to point B when using a bicycle as a primary form of transportation. There’s a difference.

So, do we say, we totally understand the need for bike lanes but just not in areas where I want to park on the street? How does that work exactly? I’m interested to see how this gets resolved.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

All Wet

I’m experiencing some radical leftist spasms this morning pertaining to Mother’s Day, the roles of women, laws interfering with women’s bodily autonomy, and, well, you get the picture.

Let’s not talk about that.


I want to give a shout out to the folks at HoCoMoJo who posted these words on Friday evening:

After an hour of heavy rain, and most of this storm behind us, Main St has just a bit of running water on the edges.

At that very moment, that is exactly what I was thinking about. How is Ellicott City? Is Main Street okay? It was good to have that reassurance.

Another shoutout to Baltimore Sun journalist Libby Solomon. From fellow reporter Cody Boteler:

Super proud of my friend and colleague @libsolomon for winning the best in show award recognizing her incredible work live tweeting the Ellicott City flood last year from the @MDDCPress.

And, on that note:

Tomorrow at 11:30 am there will be an announcement on the path being chosen to address flooding risks and damage in Old Ellicott City. The meeting will be held at the George Howard Building. More information can be found at EC Safe & Sound.


Have a wonderful day no matter what your reproductive status.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Consider the Difference

The theme of my daughter’s final high school choral concert was “How Can I keep from Singing?” Interspersed with the musical selections of the evening were students who gave brief speeches on the topic, “Why I Sing.” I wish I could share their words with you here.

It struck me as particularly relevant. As the school system is challenged by limited funds and is forced to consider cuts to a variety of programs, Music Education has moved into the spotlight. You’ve probably heard by now that the Board asked the Superintendent to have staff compile a list of programs and their costs to inform their considerations.

Cuts to elementary instrumental music were on that list. Of course that is of great concern to anyone who understands the value of arts education to all our students. But I think it is important to note that music hasn’t been particularly singled out here. It was one item among many that was put forward to be considered.

I’m an outspoken Music Education Advocate. That’s pretty well known. And it is gratifying to see students, parents, and teachers rise up to decry even the mere possibility of cuts. But the situation facing the board today is not about sacrificing arts education specifically. It is about finite resources at the County level and a Board of Education being forced to consider all possibilities to make a school system work.

Everyone seems to have picked their own villain here. Some blame low fees to developers for a lack of revenue. Some say that Howard County has long underfunded schools and that the true solution is to increase revenue is by raising taxes and nobody wants to be the one to do that. There’s a good deal of accusations and posturing and video clips and pie charts.

I’m not here to pick a villain. I would like to remind folks that the last time that big cuts to elementary music were on the table, teachers were being threatened to keep silent. Parents were being  insulted by Central Office and members of the board of education. Anyone who dared to disagree with the decrees issued by school system leadership were labeled as troublemakers.

That’s not where we are today. To my knowledge, teachers are not being threatened or bullied into silence. Board members are responding to parent questions with respect and openness. We may not be happy with where we stand financially but the people who are leading our school system are showing responsiveness, accountability, transparency, and respect. Board members are communicating with the public in a way that shows they are aware that they are public servants. In 2014 many seemed to believe they served at the pleasure of the Superintendent.

That’s a big difference.

Get informed. Get involved. Advocate for the programs that are the most important to you. There are plenty of opportunities for you to do that. You can come to a budget hearing, or attend the next meeting of the Howard County Parents for School Music. Your voice is important. I’d suggest to you tread more carefully when it comes to pointing fingers and assigning blame. Don’t be too eager to jump on someone else’s bandwagon about who the bad guys are. Anyone who tells you it’s simple is either misguided or disingenuous.

Make up your own mind. And take a moment to appreciate that no one is going to call you selfish or a troublemaker for doing so.