Sunday, June 30, 2019


Electronic devices such as tablets and smart phones have created a world where people consume self-chosen content while tethered to ear buds. Families don’t watch television together as much anymore. A long car ride doesn’t necessarily mean singing along to the car radio. We can live and travel in our own separate bubbles with our own individually curated playlists and watch lists.

Live music is a shared experience. We partake together. There is just nothing in this world like a live concert experience. Not only for the music, but for the human connection, the power in communal listening.

At Merriweather Post Pavilion last evening the joy of that shared experience was evident during the first concert of Darin Atwater’s Soulful Symphony.

“Symphonic Music isn’t dead,” Mr. Atwater stated. “It just needs to be resurrected.”

There was something almost church-like in the air as the orchestra and vocalists moved through a program filled with audience favorites and a few vibrant art pieces from Soulful Symphony’s repertoire. It was a performance that invited engagement and response. Audience members called out, sang along, clapped, swayed, even stood up to dance.

Over the past few years I have learned how Quakers believe in the holiness and power of shared silence. It isn’t simply the silence that’s important, it’s the corporate nature of Meeting for Worship. Last night’s Merriweather concert spoke to me in a similar way: the holiness of shared music, the power of experiencing that music together.

If the power generated by last night’s performance could be bottled, we’d be able to light up Columbia for quite some time. The expression “taking me to church” comes to mind. Urban Dictionary suggests it is synonymous with another expression, “giving me life.”

I believe music has the power to give us life. And I believe that sharing music together is sharing that life, valuing the communal nature of the musical experience.

Soulful Symphony has two more concerts this summer if you’d like to share some music with your friends. And a lot of friends you haven’t met yet. In deeply divided times, places we can joyfully experience shared connection are holy indeed.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Summer Sermon

At approximately twelve noon yesterday I hit the self-indulgent part of summer. I had accomplished my one Really Big Goal for the summer and I found myself in line at the Giant putting a box of Barnum’s Animal Crackers in my cart. Impulse purchase. They don’t have the little string on top for carrying but they do have a cardboard handle. It’ll do.

When I was little (yeah, lookout) a box of those animal crackers was one of the few things put directly in the face of children at the grocery for the sole purpose of having them wheedle and whine until they got them. Now every grocery store is a minefield of such items, edible and non-edible. I only remember my mother buying them for me once. I think that may be why the memory is so sweet; it was truly a special event.

Later in the day a post about providing summer meals and weekend snacks to hungry children jolted me out of my nostalgic reverie. We continue to have families who are struggling with food insecurity and children who are hungry in Howard County. Summer time may mean a self indulgent box of animal crackers for me. It means no breakfast and lunch at school for others.

I am so grateful that Howard County is the kind of place where the school system and county government see and respond to that need. And let’s not forget our amazing library system that is a dynamic partner in this program. Feeding hungry children isn’t solely a nice thing to do or a charitable act one ought to do. It’s a long term investment in the success of children. And that means greater opportunities for them as they grow, better outcomes when they are adult members of our community.

The current political climate has contributed to a good deal of finger pointing and blaming in regards to poverty. Some people seem to think they have the authority to state who deserves to be helped and who does not. We are only to help the “deserving poor” according to their particular parameters of worthiness. We are only to feel empathy for some children, some families, some suffering.


Our hearts and souls will be polluted by this line of reasoning and our society will be damaged and corrupted. A child is a child. And we, as adults, have a responsibility to help, as individuals or through our community institutions. A country (or a county) where residents feel no connection to one another will, in the end, will have no cohesion. Without connections the whole thing just won’t work. We will fall apart.

This did not start out being a sermon. It was simply about summer, box of animal crackers, and the memories of childhood. Right now Howard County is building memories for children that will include kindness, and welcoming adults, and enough to eat.

That’s a sermon right there, all by itself,

Friday, June 28, 2019


Nowadays everyone has a social media account and a brand and a mission. Even apartment communities.

From The Paragon, this Tweet:

Hosting a dinner party in your apartment and need supplies? Trader Joe's, The Perfect Pour, and Costco are within walking distance!

The Paragon, whose official name is Paragon at Columbia Overlook Apartments in Elkridge, Maryland, uses their social media account to establish and promote interest for their brand. Well, of course they do. That’s the point. They want to draw interest, entice potential renters to pay them a visit, to imagine being a part of The Paragon experience.

No criticism here.

Just a question. Are there sidewalks? When I read that places like Trader Joe's are within walking distance I want to know if anyone could actually walk or whether they’d be talking their life in their hands. Would the most direct route be through a parking lot? Sidewalks and plentiful crosswalks are key to a claim of convenient walkability. 

I don’t know the answer here, so I’m going to check it out and report back. I do know that there are plenty of places locally that could be walkable but the lack of sidewalks and crosswalks prevent that. And most of us have lived here so long, reliant upon our automobiles, that we don’t even consider that someone would want to walk there.

The new development Downtown is being built with walkability in mind. But what about the rest of town? Is it possible to add walkability retroactively? Is it worth the attempt? Younger potential residents are looking for it. What are we doing as a community to make that happen?

As a postscript, my most recent walk of any length was yesterday, around the parking lot near Roggenart, trying to find where I had parked my car. My own personal walkability could stand to undergo some major overhaul.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

All Are Welcome

The Kona Ice truck was there. The Tiger Sharks Swim Team was there, selling hot dogs, soda, and chips.There was live music from Soultet, face painting, rock painting, and a kid’s prize raffle. Oakland Mills knows how to kick off the summer with a Village party for everyone.

In Oakland Mills our motto is “We Value Connections.”  Part of that, for me, is a deep conviction that all are welcome here.

Last night, as in any night that events are held by the Oakland Mills Community Association, all were welcome. Everyone was invited.

But not everybody came.

Last night, as I sat with my family enjoying the music, I was keenly aware that some of our neighbors were missing. On a day which began with ICE sweeping into town and landing in Long Reach, a simple trip to the Village Center for a party might have been an unnecessary risk.

Yes, there are very likely undocumented residents in Oakland Mills and yes, I think they ought to be able to come to a community party instead of staying inside in fear.

I am not going to argue with anyone about what constitutes criminal activity. Frankly, ICE has been weaponized by the current administration to be an instrument of hate and oppression. Let me state here that the criminal activity I am concerned about most are actions taken to harm, exclude, and terrorize people for being brown. And poor. And “different”.

Last night Oakland Mills put on a wonderful party. Everyone was invited.

I wish everyone could have been there.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Thinking and Knowing

As I looked out once more from the fifth fooor of 2 Merriweather at Downtown Columbia views, a question came to mind.

When did cities become bad?

There was certainly a time when watching big buildings go up was cause for excitement. Think of old film footage of NewYork City. The development and density of NYC meant the Brooklyn Bridge, the Chrysler Bulding, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center.

Of course, Columbia was never intended to be that big but it was intended to be a city. Yet with each new component of the Downtown Plan set in motion, I see protests that this is taking Columbia away from its roots and its true mission. And the underlying assumption is that cities are bad.

As I went through school there were many times that teachers taught me a particular line of thought:

We used to think_______________. Now we know_______________.

We used to think gods and goddesses controlled nature and the planets.
Now we know about science.

We used to think illnesses were caused by humours.
Now we know about infections and antibiotics.

We used to think slavery was a part of life.
Now we know it’s wrong.

I think we all know that that old trope just doesn’t work in all situations. (Especially for that last one in particular.) I mention it because there seems to be a local feeling that:

We used to think cities were good.
Now we know they’re bad.

Blogger Dan Reed (Just Up the Pike) shares this bit of text referring to Montgomery County.

“...artificially replacing what had once been an authentic place.”

Mr. Reed asks,

Having grown up in Montgomery County, I sometimes wonder when there will be room for nostalgia about this place that is not rooted in

1) farms
2) 1950s suburbia
3) white people with farms or in 1950s suburbia

There’s quite a lot of similarities between HoCo and MoCo. 

Back to last night. When I look at the buildings going up I imagine new people living, working, and enjoying life in Columbia. I imagine Columbia finally becoming the City it was meant to be.

We used to think:
Now we know:

Do we?

Is rural always better?
Was suburban an improvement?
What kind of development is best for people and the environment?

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

News and Nightmares

I have just awakened from anxiety dreams that featured my college bound daughter as an infant, and my suddenly being back in residence at my alma mater for no good reason. This must be because we attended college orientation yesterday. It was quite the experience. I continue to be impressed by how UMBC handles large scale events. But my take away from the day overall is how parental expectations have somehow changed from when I went to college and how places like UMBC have adapted to meet the changing needs.

I need some time to process the experience, and my weird dreams. I’ll get back to you on this.

In the meantime, did you know that Whole Foods has a hot breakfast bar on Sunday mornings? I stopped in to pick up breakfast on the way to the Chrysalis Kids concert this week. There it was, practically calling my name: challah French toast with butter and real maple syrup, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and a hot oatmeal bar with toppings. It was a special treat for me to pack up a delicious hot breakfast to take the the Uncle Devin Show at the Chrysalis.

Of course one can always purchase snacks and drinks at the park itself, and that includes mimosas.

I went with a cold brew in a bottle from Whole Foods, which I soon regretted. It was ghastly.

I’ve been receiving quite a few book recommendations lately. It is the season for summer reading. I ordered the book Simple Abundance following Representative Dr. Terri Hill’s recommendation on Elevate Maryland. I’ve also put Dream Hoarders and The Color of Law on my list after recommendations by Tom Coale and Roger Caplan, respectively. I broke down and ordered a copy of the children’s book Yard Sale! after referencing on the blog the other day. Definitely worth revisiting. In the meantime I am trying to finish Michelle Obama’s book which I started over the winter break. So much to read!

An outfit called newbreakapp is posting an article from Maryland Reporter with the baitiest of clickbait headlines:

Columbia’s oldest office building being demolished to make way for more density

It’s easier to go on over to Maryland Reporter to read this article by Len Lazarick,
where it bears this title:

Columbia’s oldest high-rise being demolished to make way for more development

Mr. Lazarick’s article outlines future changes to the immediate area without the use of emotional language. His approach is dispassionate while acknowledging how some in the community will feel as the face of the Lakefront changes. It seems to me that the repackaging of his article by newsbreakapp was done with the goal of scaring readers with that devil word “density” and thus prompting extra clicks from emotionally fraught local residents.

Density. Development. All our local dirty words for another day. I’ll get back to you on that, too.

I’m going to see if I can catch a little more sleep of the non- nightmare variety.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Friday was Columbia’s 52nd Birthday. There may have been cake down at the People Tree. Were you there? It’s amazing how two whole years have managed to fly by since the much-celebrated 50th Birthday festivities.

And it can hardly be possible that this Sunday, June 30th, will be the third Community Pops Concert given at the Chrysalis by the Columbia Orchestra. Three years already? It really does seem like yesterday that I was putting a blanket down on the grass and waiting expectantly for the opening notes. I watched the crowd as it grew, hoping with all my heart that they’d like this new concert space as much as I did. I felt proud to be there with my daughters for the beginning of something new in Columbia.

Now, the Columbia Orchestra wasn’t new. No, not at all. In fact, if you think about birthdays, Columbia was only ten years old when it decided to play strings. (Nowadays students jump in a bit sooner, but Columbia was an entirely brand-new being, after all, so we won’t be judgey about that.)

Yes, in 1977 some local string players got together and formed the Columbia Chamber Orchestra.

It may have started small, but those musicians who came together for the love of the music persisted and the group grew, and flourished, and became the Columbia Orchestra we know today. These musicians have contributed to our local arts community in many ways, year after year. A quick glance at their website shows concerts of traditional symphonic music, but also contemporary performances. Beatboxing. A silent film score. Collaborations with choral groups and with dance. Chamber music, young people’s concerts, instrumental petting zoos, and the much beloved Pops Concerts.

Take a look at this snapshot from my search over at the Baltimore Sun.

All of this is a reminder of how Columbia has always been a fertile growing place for the arts. Almost from the very beginning there has been music, dance, theatre, literary societies, and venues for visual arts. Columbia grew up on the arts. There’s no denying it.

And now there are new arts ventures starting to burst forth in Columbia. As the New American City moves solidly into the 21st century, new art and artists are joining our vibrant arts community and making their own place to grow and flourish. The old welcomes the new, just as the Columbia Orchestra “christened” the Chrysalis three years ago and introduced a new space to old friends.

Sunday’s concert is at 5:00 pm. Get your free tickets here. It looks like a lot of fun.

Join the Orchestra and conductor Jason Love on June 30, 2019 for a FREE Summer Pops Concert at the Chrysalis on the grounds of Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. The whole family will love film favorites from Superman, Magnificent Seven, and The Lion King, plus Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, patriotic songs, and the ultimate outdoor classic: The 1812 Overture! Crowd-favorite Sola Fadiran joins the Orchestra for some of Broadway's greatest hits!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Flight of Fancy

Airborne. It’s the art exhibit from the MD Air project, and it’s on display this weekend in the Merriweather District. It’s not your ordinary art show, and it’s free. A few glimpses:


Airborne is funded by the Howard Hughes Corporation. Dubbed an “artists in residence exhibition”, its home is the fifth floor of the Two Merriweather building. When you step out of the elevator, helpful teen docents are there and located throughout the exhibit to provide assistance.

There’s an interactive graphic novel exhibit that’s quite the experience. It takes a serious topic, acid attacks on women, and presents it in a completely unorthodox way. You'll be prompted to download an app and then you’ll see the magic happen.

Possibly the best part of the exhibit for me was the translucent colors applied to the windows which gave an interesting glow to the space. I spent more than a moment here admiring the views of Columbia and contemplating what the future holds.

The last open gallery time is from 4-6 today. It’s free, it’s easy to park, and it’s unlike anything you’ve seen locally. Unless you went to Opus, that is. If you did, you’ll see some familiar sights here.

I’m not an art critic, and I have only given you the barest glimpses of what you’ll see here. Go and see for yourself.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


I’ve been seeing a lot of articles posted lately about the damage that moving schools can do to students. All of those feel like efforts by worried parents to push back against the very real possibility of school redistricting. These articles talk about mental health, long term social-emotional damage, negative impact on school work, friendships, sense of community, and so on.

Then I saw this article:

Lake Elkhorn Middle incident involving two students violated Howard schools sexual discrimination policy, Jess Nocera for The Baltimore Sun

First of all, a big fat zero to the person who wrote that headline (not Ms. Nocera) and made it look like both students were culpable of violating something. The article says something else entirely. One student threatened another with sexual assault. The school investigated this and found it violated their own guidelines for behavior. The outcome?

The alleged victim’s mother said her daughter will transfer to a new Howard middle school for the upcoming academic year.

Wait, what? The victim has to move? How does this make any sense? Remember all those educational articles that talk about mental health, long term social-emotional damage, negative impact on school work, friendships, sense of community? Now imagine your child is the victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault. That’s absolutely the worst possible time to separate them from community, friends, relationships with teachers, familiar routine. It must feel like additional abuse on top of what has already happened. Or punishment because they called out the abuse.

Image your next door neighbor breaks into your house, does damage, and steals things. There’s an investigation. The upshot? Your neighbor stays, your only recourse is to move.

Crazy, right? It’s almost as though the unwritten rule here is:

If you didn’t want to be a victim of crime, you shouldn’t have lived in this neighborhood.

Over and over again I see accounts of sexual assault/harassment in the Howard County Schools where the victim has to move. This is not okay. In the face of their child’s very real distress, parents may be persuaded that changing schools is a helpful accommodation being offered by the school system. Parents just want to help stop their child’s pain, assure their future safety.

But this is almost always the worst possible response. The victim has already experienced loss: of safety, of personal boundaries, of self-worth. Adding to that a loss of school community is not a solution. It looks a whole lot more like punishment to me. 

Perhaps even a deterrent to reporting abuse.

If you knew that the end result of naming your abuse/abuser would be losing your school community, would you do it? 

It is long past time for the school system to do better by these victims and their families.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Time Travel Friday

This just in from the Double T Diner in Ellicott City:

#WJZ That moment when you are surprised to see a working pay phone.  Almost wanted to call someone! #raresight

Yes, that’s right. The esteemed Vic Carter of WJZ reports this unlikely story and he even includes a photo:

                                                             Photo credit: Vic Carter

In the spirit of the children’s book Yard Sale! By Mitra Modarressi, let’s imagine that this is a telephone for calling the past. And since it’s in Howard County, let’s say it’s for calling Howard County’s past.

Who would you call?  Why?

I’d want to call Jim Rouse, of course. I have a few questions. And I’d love to talk to County Executive Ed Cochran during his years in office (74-78). I’d call Columbia circa its early years and talk to anyone who answered the phone. I’d call the librarian in the very first library and ask what people liked to read. And of course I’d call Dennis Lane.

It’s Friday. Do me the favor of playing my little game. If the pay phone above were really a portal to Howard County’s past, who, where, or what time period would you call? Why? What questions do
you have?

In the meantime, I probably should mention that I love the Double T Diner but I never have room for dessert.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Thousand Words

I got a variety of interesting responses to my post about the historical preservation of residential areas. (Musings on Invisibility) Some readers supposed:

  • I must be in league with the developer 
  • I didn’t understand that history was going to be erased
  • I was upset that significant African American historic sites hadn’t been preserved
  • I was irresponsible to raise these questions if they might influence the local conversation around Lawyers Hill.
There was a time when I lamented that people didn’t comment on the blog. It seemed to me that one of the marks of a successful blog was that it elicited responses, a desire for dialogue. So I am gratified that readers took the time to share their views, especially since the discourse was civil. That’s not always the case on social media.

As I have been pondering the responses, I came across a tweet from the Howard County Historical Society.

Historic photos can be found anywhere. This photo of a Howard County family was bought at a Columbia flea market in the 1980s. 

Photo taken ca. 1870. Courtesy of @hchsmd 

Here is the photo, from the collection of the Howard County Historical Society (used with permission.)

In light of local celebrations yesterday for Juneteenth, and especially in light of national discussions around reparations, I bring you these people. Howard County residents. 

It isn’t that I want you to feel sad or sorry about the people in this photo. I want you to understand that the choices made to demean, disenfranchise, marginalize, demoralize, and defeat these Howard County residents live on today. And that either we acknowledge that, and do something about it, or we are complicit.

It’s not just about slavery. It’s about what happened during Reconstruction, Jim Crow, redlining, segregation. Yes, even right here in Howard County. Our common history is full of stories of white people choosing to protect/preserve their own heritage by excluding or downright stealing from those they deemed to be “other”.

It’s not simply an issue of historical sites and stories unpreserved and/or neglected. It’s about the very real economic impact which began early in our history that persists TO THIS DAY. It’s not about museums. It’s about money. And property. And equity in the workplace. And in the schoolroom.

This photo should be everywhere in in Howard County where we are making decisions. If we are troubled or uncomfortable when we see it, or feel the need to question its current relevance, that’s a sign we haven’t truly come to grips with the very real consequences of our history.

These are the people I want to be visible. Either we are working to make that happen, or we aren’t.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

It Starts with T

I have several Very Large blog posts bearing down on me. Those are the ones that I generally try to find some reason to put off. They might be too controversial, or they need to be perfect and I’m not sure I’m up to the task.


Did you hear that Target in Columbia is going to offer you the chance to shop without going in their store at all?

Target expands drive-up service in Maryland , Lorraine Mirabella for The Baltimore Sun

Shoppers can place their orders in the Target app, wait for a notification on same-day pickup and drive to a designated spot in the store parking lot. Their orders will be delivered to their cars within two minutes of arrival.

Well, everyone else is doing it, right? Grocery stores, and big ol’ Target competitor Walmart...

But wait just a darn minute. Are we not killing the goose that laid the golden egg here? Don’t the vast majority of Target sales come from customers who go in planning to buy laundry soap and a birthday card and emerge with several large bags and a receipt for $50 or even $100 dollars? Using an app and a pick-up service will force customers to make a list and stick to it.

That is not the Target experience, ladies and gentlemen. No indeedy. Not by a long shot.

Yes, we’ve got trouble, right here in Howard County. And it starts with T, and that means Target.

Why in the name of all that is holy would they mess with our suburban rituals? It is our American equivalent of what my Irish husband and mother-in-law call “going round the shops”. We haven’t a “High Street” anymore in many places. But we have Target to noodle around in, bump into friends, co-workers, and even our children’s teachers, sometimes.

When our daughter was a baby sometimes the only way to “get out of the house” and wander about in a dazed, sleep deprived stupor was to take a trip to Target. It gave us a sense, however limited, of freedom and autonomy as we walked up and down the aisles. Pathetic? Perhaps. But I think we were far from alone in our weekend-afternoon wandering.

Sometimes we had things to shop for. Sometimes we didn’t. But, of course, there were usually one or two things we needed. Shampoo, maybe. Or diapers.

Am I looking back in those days with nostalgia, or am I just grateful we survived them? It’s hard to say. I do know that, for us, anyway, Target hasn’t been simply a place to acquire merchandise. It’s an experience. Not exciting, mind you, but- - perhaps - - comforting. It fills a need.

None of this will be prevented by the new Target app and same day pick-up service. It will meet the needs of folks who always just wanted to get in and get out, no nonsense. They will very likely be glad to avoid the wandering zombies and “out for a stroll around town” folks like the rest of us. Maybe it will attract new customers. Who knows?

But I just can’t escape the feeling that giving folks the option of sitting in their cars is going to bring those receipt totals way, way down.

In trying to keep up with a popular trend Target may really be missing the mark.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Big Dream, Better Choice

I was quite excited to be enlightened by readers who responded to yesterday’s post about Frederick. A tip of the hat to Linda who let me know that a 1976 flood was at the root of the transformation. This article she passed along from the Frederick News-Post is fascinating.

How the flood of 1976 changed Frederick: Carroll Creek flood control project is one of a kind by Nancy Lavin

As Howard County moves forward to address devastating flooding issues in Ellicott City, it’s interesting to note this project which was a dream big, long-term solution. I’m sure anyone involved in Ellicott City flood remediation knows all about this, but, I did not. And so, for me, wondering how we can possibly protect Ellicott City and preserve its character takes on a new perspective when I see how it might be possible to make choices that also create something new.

Not “the same as” Frederick. But, similarly transformational.

Sometimes dreaming big and making the big investment is also the wisest economic choice. And the best choice for the life of a community.

Topping off my education about the Carroll Creek project is this piece by friend and journalist Marge Neal. On her blog, Scribbles from the Margen, she brings us a lovely story about how the flood project was tested by storms in 2018.

This past week, the system got quite the workout. As it was designed to do, the flood control system deposited much of the flood waters into Baker Park. The current mayor was quoted as saying something along the lines of “the fact that Baker Park is flooded is good because that means downtown Frederick is not flooded.”

Ms.Neal goes on to tell the story of how the community pitched in to help some local flood victims who found themselves high and dry as the waters were receding. It’s definitely worth the read.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Far Afield

For Father’s Day the plan was to drive to Charles Village in Baltimore to try a place called Doner Bros. My husband’s college years in Manchester left him with a deep love of all things “doner kebab” and he’s always up for finding a new place where he can indulge his cravings. (He’s deliriously happy about Halal Guys.)

At the last minute we realized that Baltimore Pride was on Saturday and that getting in and out of Charles Village might be impossible. To the Internet! It was soon established that there was a place called Doner Bistro in Frederick. So, to Frederick we went.

You know the deal. I don’t get out of The Bubble much. A forty-five minute drive just for dinner is not the usual for me. But this was for Father’s Day, and it was a beautiful evening, and it was family, and it felt like an adventure. (And yes, I really should get out more.)

When we arrived in the vicinity of the restaurant we saw lots of cars parked along the streets. Soon we noticed folks walking along carrying lawn chairs. Hmm. “Must be something going on tonight.” We found a public parking garage and set out on foot to find out destination.

If you’re familiar with downtown Frederick, you know. But, I didn’t. There’s an entire commercial center built around a creek which feels very much like San Antonio’s Riverwalk. Holy mackerel. I had no idea. And we just happened to be visiting on a lovely early summer evening when everything was darned near perfect and there was an outdoor concert at a park on the waterfront. (Hence the lawn chairs.)

The restaurant was casual and the food was good and plentiful. We ate outside and enjoyed people-watching and dog-watching. People of all sorts were out and about. We heard the musicians begin to play. We might as well have been on vacation a million miles away from home.

After dinner my daughters walked further down to take a glimpse of the park where the concert was kicking off.

A:  What kind of music do you think it will be, based on the audience?
M: White peoples’ greatest hits.

She was right. We walked back to the car to the strains of “Come and Get Your Love” and “Brown Eyed Girl”.

Now I’m interested to find out how that area along the creek came to be and how Frederick got to be such a happening place. Who knows? Maybe it always was.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Lakefront Love

I would like to thank the weather gods for giving us beautiful Lakefest weather. My daughter and I went down to the Lakefront Friday evening and it was gorgeous. The weather, I mean. Well, also the Lakefront. Filled with the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of a festival weekend.

It was cool to see a table set up to help folks register to vote. (Now if we could only get them all to vote in Columbia elections!) The fountain was on in all its glory. Folks were putting their blankets down on the lawn to listen to musicians from our local School of Rock show off their skills.

I was sad not to see Monica Rogers Williams and her team From Momma’s Kitchen  at Lakefest this year. They’re usually ensconced over by The Hug statue, giving free samples of delicious cookies and filling orders at the speed of light. Apparently Festival management said no food vendors this year. I’m sure they have their reasons, but really? From Momma’s Kitchen is a locally owned and operated business and their cookies are consistently of high quality, with a wide variety of flavors.

They’re also way more affordable than most of the art that’s offered for sale. Just saying.

This is not to criticize the art. It’s gorgeous, and I always enjoy the variety of ideas and materials represented. This year I kept I was sorry my husband wasn’t with us.

My favorite was probably the guitar made out of stone which included an accurately formed matching amplifier. (Lower left in the photo.)

After examining the festival food trucks assembled in the American Building parking lot, we decided to go with Whole Foods instead. It allowed us to choose some healthier options and we still had a great view of the festivities. We did circle back for Kona Ice, though.

The Festival team is doing a great job on social media this year. I note a healthy vibe of energy and enthusiasm in their frequent posts. Good for them.

I hope you will go down today if you haven’t been yet. Take a look at the event page on Facebook to see what’s happening today. It feels good to experience Columbia as a “happening”, in full-on party mode. It was pretty cool to see the line forming outside the Soundry as we were leaving Friday night. It definitely feels more like a Downtown since they opened.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Musings on Invisibility

When I was a child my family toured many historically-preserved homes/museums. I remember that, when we visited Mount Vernon, I embarrassed my mother by asking where all the bathrooms were. Not because I needed one at the time, mind you, but because it concerned me that George Washington and his family didn’t have anywhere to relieve themselves.

Did that mean people in those days didn’t go to the bathroom? No. But how they did that was, to me, invisible. I didn’t know about outhouses. Or indoor plumbing. I got a lesson pretty quickly as a result of that question.

This moment has been on my mind recently as I ponder the concept of saving land and buildings in Howard County that have historic import.

Warning: I’m going to make a big leap here. Fasten your seatbelt.

As an example, looking at the Lawyers Hill community, I wonder how many of those homes have ever been owned by Black families. Any? Ever? Certainly not at the time when they were built. I’m guessing one could wander through much of the history of that area without seeing non-white Americans as equal members of society.

Does that mean there weren’t any non-whites? No. But they might as well be invisible.

So, here is where this leaves me. Why would Black residents of Howard County have any interest whatsoever in preserving a history that excluded if not downright oppressed them?  Why would they? I’m trying to wrap my brain around this. Wouldn’t an opportunity to live in a beautiful area in a new development that welcomes everyone be a more logical choice to support?

Is it hubris for White residents of Howard County to expect everyone to share a passion for preserving what is largely a whites-only history?

This is not to say that Lawyers Hill and its famed Assembly rooms don’t have historic value. But I do wonder whose history we are valuing here. I have heard some people say that once the land is built on we can never get it back. But isn’t there a good deal of American history that was cruel and violent and inhumane and why wouldn’t the descendants of those who suffered want to see it all plowed under?

When decisions are made about buildings and land and history in Howard County, are we making sure everyone is visible?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Bargains and Blessings

              I never know quite what to expect. Each year brings its own oddities and mysteries.

                                                     It’s a penguin. But I don’t know why.


                                          It’s a turtle for all seasons. (Or seasonings, I guess.)

There may be a bear for biker enthusiasts.

A place for a horse lover to place their head.

And there will always, always be something you can’t explain.

Yes, it’s The Great Unpacking for the Abiding Savior Lutheran Church Annual Flea Market.

Flea Market Week has its own succession of rituals.  My favorite is called "The Great Unpacking." Early in the week, volunteers gather to participate in a liturgy of unloading, unpacking, and categorizing mounds of donations.  Our Fearless Leader lures in her helpers with promises of free pizza, which is probably how adults motivate their offspring to come along to assist in the
proceedings. Our communion is pizza and soda eaten standing up, without plates, in between forages into costume jewelry, books, linens, and knick-knacks. (“The Great Unpacking” June 6, 2012)

Every year the proceeds from the Flea Market are donated to a charitable cause. 


June 15, 
8 to noon;
Owen Brown and Cedar Lane
All money raised will be donated to Blessings in a Backpack to provide children with food over the weekend: Running Brook, Talbott Springs, Jeffers Hill, and Swansfield,

Please come shop on Saturday. Bring your family. Tell your friends. Meet friendly Lutherans, and help feed hungry kids. I promise you will find something that makes you smile. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Challenges Accepted: Jane Dembner

I had just found the following quote and was pondering what it meant when I got word that Jane Dembner had died.

Somehow the juxtaposition of events doesn’t feel coincidental to me.

Jane Dembner was Columbia Association’s Director of Planning and Community Affairs. I’m not sure there is any job title that could contain the combination of ideas, initiatives, energy, and deep thinking that her work in Columbia embodied. I did not know her well but she always took the time to talk with me with respect and interest.

The last time we spoke was at an event held on the Chrysalis stage. She was telling me about a venture she was involved in to actively promote and support racial integration in Columbia. I was struck by the difference between me, a blogger, who writes about local issues, and Jane, who saw the issues, made a plan, and worked the plan. Hers was by far the more challenging work, messier, and involving the building of many bridges. 

In his tribute yesterday, Tom Coale Of Elevate Maryland wrote:

She deftly fought back against the forces of selfishness and exclusion without ever appearing to “fight”.

In reading her obituary I noticed a request that, in lieu of flowers, people make donations to the Columbia Housing Center.  Here is their mission:

We aim to honor James Rouse’s legacy by enhancing racial integration so that all of Columbia 
is attractive and welcoming to all ethnic, racial and religious groups. The Columbia Housing Center will provide a one-stop locator service that helps landlords find tenants and tenants find homes that further racial integration in and around Columbia.

This must be the initiative that Jane was telling me about that evening at the Chrysalis. Reading about it and remembering her persistent work for good in our community made me smile. I made a small donation and hope that you can, too, in honor of her many gifts of time and talent to our community.

Returning to the quote I shared at the beginning of this piece. I’m going to guess that Jane would have seen it differently. More like this:

To survive as a productive and healthy society we’re going to have to find out a way to create equity, real equity, of opportunity and access, to good schools, housing, health care, and decent paying jobs.

She wouldn’t have seen it as a warning of gloom and doom. She saw it as a challenge. And it was a challenge she accepted.

Columbia will not be the same without her. She was an amazing spirit, an exceptional Columbian.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Watch your Words

Today, in news that just grosses you out:

An Uber driver charged with rape and best place to get a steak were some of the most read stories on Maryland Patches this week.

Really, Columbia Patch? It’s practically “Rape, steak, and weather at 8:00!”  Did anyone think about how this looks? If you want to be our “source for all things Columbia” you’ve got to do better than that.

I see that Patch is trying to raise revenue by creating a “membership” option. After a quick read of the details, I’m not convinced. If you want to “support local journalism” you already have some great options that operate on a much higher journalistic level.

In other local news, this upcoming event caught my eye:

June 15- World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Workshops and Shred Event

Please! Do NOT shred your elders! That is definitely elder abuse.

A few more just for fun. This one turned up in my Facebook memories today:

Thank you HoCo Times for today’s laugh.

“She credits her longevity to drinking tea and her family.”

And who could forget this classic from the Johnsonville company:

We don’t make sausage. We make family. And sausage.

Sweeney Todd-esque? Well, I just hope that shredded elders aren’t a key ingredient,