Monday, May 17, 2021

HoCo Holler! Mohamed Elhassan and Arts Education in Howard County


 

Welcome to your semi-annual reminder that arts education is good for everyone. Today’s example merits a HoCo Holler! From the Howard County Schools website:

Hammond HS Senior Recognized Nationally in the Arts

Hammond High School senior Mohamed Elhassan has received numerous national and international accolades for his poetry and artwork. Notably, he’s proud of his poem, “We Ask to Not Be Black,” which earned him a silver national medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and is being considered for the organization’s anthology. Elhassan’s illustration, “And Mama Keeps ’Em Growing,” was selected for the cover of international literary journal, Waxwing.

I think we’d all agree that this is an admirable achievement and cause for celebration. What jumped out at me was the information that Elhassan intends to pursue a career in the sciences.

In the long run, Elhassan hopes to make an impact as a physician and scientist. 

I continue to bump into people who think that arts education is a waste because you can’t make any money in arts fields.  But Elhassan’s story is yet another reminder that arts education is a healthy part of an educationally balanced diet, if you will. 

The arts are not “separate from”. They are inextricably “linked with” our other learning experiences. Arts Education is the oxygen which allows the strictly cognitive paper and pencil work to "breathe" into the student and be meaningfully retained, the leavening which allows the learning process to rise, the glue that makes the learning stick. (“Making it Stick”, November 2020.)

As the pandemic winds down and we return to face-to-face learning, I am becoming concerned by all the talk of “learning loss” and people who hold forth on the need to “remediate.” Almost always when the conversation turns in this direction it begins to lean heavily on test results, skill and drill, content delivery, and what people like to call “core subjects”. 

Guess what usually happens to arts education?

It gets brushed aside as “nonessential” by those whose focus is on test scores. And nothing could be more counterproductive and unhealthy for our students.

Devaluing Arts Education doesn’t make STEM programs stronger. In fact, the inclusion of Arts Education provides students with vital creative and problem-solving experiences. Arts Education in combination with other STEM learning provides a kind of “leavening” that promotes deeper learning all around. They’re better together. (“Making it Stick”)

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

No matter what the future holds, he plans to continue with the arts. Elhassan said, “I’m an amalgamation of my experiences at Howard County, and whatever I do—STEM or artwork—I take them with me. My goal is to put out my thoughts for people to see. It keeps me going.”

A big HoCo Holler for Mohamed Elhassan and Arts Education programs in Howard County. 


Sunday, May 16, 2021

Cookout


It was billed as a cookout in honor of Mother’s Day but we got rained out last weekend. Yesterday was the rain date. Everyone brought their own lawn chairs and came masked. We sat in a friendly circle, commenting on the pleasant weather and how good it was to see one another.

Family? Friends? Kind of. We were at church

Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, small but mighty, is on Owen Brown Road in Hickory Ridge. Guided through the pandemic by a relatively new pastor, congregants emerged from isolation on a lovely May afternoon to eat hot dogs and savor the joy of being together “in real life.” That new pastor?  She brought us through the storm and was at home in the circle of lawn chairs like the rest of us. We’ve grown together.

An interesting twist for me was the discovery that our church driveway is now an actual road with an official road sign and the back of our property is now home to a small community of rowhouses. Since I’ve been “away” for a year it feels as though they appeared by a magic. They didn’t, of course. There’s a long and rather complicated story as to how they got there.

But now they are there and the people who live there will be our neighbors. Who are we to say they don’t belong here? If a church can’t be welcoming, the world is a sad place indeed. This tiny little neighborhood  is near the Village Center - - walkable, even - - as well as convenient to the hospital and HCC. And it’s just a quick hop to the local Lutheran Church...

Having a bunch of townhouses on the back of (what had been) church property was not what long-time members had envisioned, I’m sure. By the same token, none of us imagined going to church via computer, but, we adapted. We learned how to worship and support one another in new ways. When we are challenged by change we always have the opportunity to be our best selves.

It’s not easy, but it’s possible. 

In my mind I’m toasting our new neighbors. I hope they’ll pay us a visit sometime, but, a friendly wave is fine, too. (And of course there’s our irresistible Flea Market.) Whether we meet the “new folks” or not, they are welcome neighbors. They belong. I hope they come to love this quirky little piece of real estate as much as I do. There’s enough room for us to grow together.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Unwanted Gift


 

We have gotten used to public objections to new housing development in Howard County. I noticed the other day that Council member Liz Walsh described the Ilchester Road area as being “consumed” by development. I must admit I find it puzzling that so many people look at new houses with revulsion, however, that is not what this post is about.

Apparently Howard County government wants to give the community a fire station but nobody wants it. Well, I suppose they aren’t opposed to fire stations in theory. They don’t want one in Cedar Lane Park East. Okay, giving up green space is hard. I get that. But it isn’t as though the County wants to put in a toxic waste dump. It’s a fire station, for heaven’s sake. The only reason to build a new one is to increase public safety.

True confession: I am not highly educated on this fire station controversy but I do feel sorry for the county for getting so much hate. I wonder how it feels when you try to give people a fire station and they don’t want one.

Now, here’s a twist: the county has requested that the Howard County School System consider using the land where Central Office is for the new fire station. Hmm. That property contains offices, Homewood School and ARL. How much of that land would a new fire station need? I’m not particularly sentimental about Central Office but Homewood and ARL are valuable parts of the school system. I’d hate to see them displaced.

So let’s imagine that Central Office must go. (All that money spent on the updated board room, ouch!) Where should it be relocated? Any ideas? Who else can we annoy or offend in this process? 

This is what happens when I write a post without proper research. I’m sure it is far more nuanced than this. At face value it feels like an ongoing game of musical chairs and I have no idea how it is going to turn out. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Bad News Friday


 

I’m not enjoying the state of current events this morning.

The County Executive has been accused of being anti-Semitic because of a message he released on the occasion of the Muslim holiday Eid.

The Governor goes straight to an “I stand with Israel” message during the same time period.

The Maryland Girl Scouts organization has voted to sell the Camp Ilchester property.

The Woodlawn home explosion and shooting rampage committed by someone the community had known was troubled for years.

The surprise announcement by the CDC that vaccinated people can go without masks. The big surprise? There’s no way to know whether people around you have truly been vaccinated.

I know it’s Friday and I should be excited about the weekend, but my inclination is to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. Let me know if you have some local good news. I could use some.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

More of the Same


 

Over the course of the last year I have watched a lot of shows about RV’s. It occurred to me the other day that there is an entire script of things that people say on these shows while going through different units to decide which one is best for them. 

Looking at storage: the children could sleep in here, ha ha.

Considering an oven: could you cook a turkey in there?

Converting dining table into bed: I think it would get old doing this every night.

In bathroom: let’s see if we can both fit in the shower together.

Of bunk beds for kids: it’s great they have their own TVs and connections for all their devices.

Looking at outside of unit: of course we need an outdoor tv.

Reflecting on the RV experience: we just want to have more meaningful time together as a family, making memories.

I have begun to think that it would add to the entertainment value if the couples said these familiar phrases in the wrong places, for example:

Looking at storage: let’s see if we can both fit in there together.

Considering an oven: I think it would get old, doing this every night.

Converting dining table into bed: we just want to have more meaningful time together as a family, making memories.

In bathroom: the children could sleep in here, ha ha.

Of bunk beds for kids: could you cook a turkey in there? 

Looking at outside of unit: it’s great the kids have their own TVs and connections for all their devices. 

Reflecting on RV experience: of course we need an outdoor tv.

You get my drift, I hope.

Strangely enough, the reason this is on mind today is a similar feeling that watching the process of HoCo by Design unfold with nonstop commentary from the HoCo APFO social media account is equally repetitive. The same people are saying the same things over and over again to the point where I would love to put all the responses in a bag, shake them up, and dole them out randomly (as above.)

Does anyone ever convince anyone else? Is there ever any growth through collaboration/negotiation? I honestly don’t know. Add to that my discomfort with the anonymity of the HoCo APFO account and I continue to be as nonplussed as ever. I know that I promised to take a more dedicated interest to this topic but, honestly, it’s just the same reruns with all the same dialogue.

Those of you with deep knowledge and/or intense interest will find my impression disappointing, I’m sure. But for me it is rather like watching friends who are consumed by a particular fandom when I haven’t even finished one episode. I’ll keep trying to “get into this show” as I said that I would. I just wish we could get beyond the same old, same old. 



Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Road Trip Request



Every morning, in preparation for writing the blog, I do a quick search of a list of local terms on Twitter. Sometimes this yields an interesting story, but, not always. At the top of the list? Elkridge.

So far, that search term has not resulted in any useful information. If one were to go by Twitter alone, absolutely nothing is happening in Elkridge. Well, that’s not exactly true. Right now you can find out where CVS is administering the vaccine, what flavors Rita’s will be serving today, some job listings, real estate offerings, and health club ads. But this is not what I am looking for. I am sure that plenty of things are happening in Elkridge. I just can’t find them on Twitter.

I have long felt that I don’t know enough about Elkridge. I even wrote this back in 2011:

A Letter to Santa — Of Sorts — On Behalf of Columbia

I would like a tour of Elkridge from someone who loves it and knows it well. (I'll pay for gas and snacks.) This is definitely an area where I need to learn more and think more. Any takers?

So far it hasn’t happened. 

I did a search of my own blog and found that, out of 2892 posts, only 20 reference Elkridge. I think I can do better.

I have decided to undertake my own Elkridge tour but I’ll need your help. I’m looking for The Top Ten Places You Need to Visit in Elkridge. Let me know what they are. You can contact me through the blog or post your suggestions on the Village Green/Town² Facebook page. While you are at it, I’d also like your suggestions for The Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Elkridge. They can be serious or silly; I’m open to your guidance.

Now that I’m out and about (post-vaccine) a local tour sounds like just the thing. 



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Real People, Beautiful People



I’ve been looking at some photographs this morning. Taken by Jeffrey F. Bill of Baltimore Sun Media, they show the recent rally to support funding for the renovation of the East Columbia 50+ Center. You can see those images and read about the event here:

‘It is time to reinvest in this community’: Hundreds rally in support of East Columbia 50+ Center renovation - - Ana Faguy, Baltimore Sun

Those photographs. Such beautiful photos, I thought. Dancers. Speakers. Those in attendance listening attentively, holding signs, spread out over the space like a well-planted garden plot. People of all ages. A diverse and feisty bunch.

Wait. It’s not the photos I’m noticing. It’s the people. It’s the people who are beautiful. Organizing to speak out for what they believe in. Helping one another. Believing that the community has a responsibility to lift up everyone.

From the article:

The Rev. Paige Getty of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia, who is co-chair of People Acting Together Howard County, spoke about why funding the center’s renovation is an “equitable and just decision.”

“The East Columbia 50+ Center is a gathering place for members of this community who are often overlooked because of where they live, because of their race, because of limited resources or because they are otherwise vulnerable,” Getty said.

Getty said the East Columbia 50+ Center serves more older adults of color than any other 50+ center in the county.

“It is time to reinvest in this community and to fulfill the promise of a new expanded 50+ center in East Columbia,” she said.

All the other 50+ centers in the county have been renovated but, last year,  when the project was proposed for East Columbia, it did not receive enough votes. It was cut from the budget.

This all seems disturbingly familiar. Just last week OMCA Board Chair Jonathan Edelson presented testimony to the HCPSS Board of Education about the 2022 budget. In it he pointed out that Oakland Mills High School has nearly $111,000,000 in deferred maintenance costs. He went on to say that two of the schools in the Oakland Mills cluster account for 20 per cent of all deferred maintenance for the entire county. (A reminder: Oakland Mills is in East Columbia.)

There seems to be a pattern of postponing investment in East Columbia. The more it happens, the more it happens. And the less that East Columbia is considered worthy of investment, the less value the people who live there are perceived to have. (Or is it the other way around?)

A while back I wrote a post about how the location of where we live colors our perception of other areas in the county. What do we consider to be “on the other side of town?” Although the distances within the county are not all that great, they have a strong influence over what we consider to be our home base, as opposed to the areas where “those people over there” live.

Decisions about funding are often made by people whose home base is at a substantial distance from East Columbia. Do they have a clear picture of residents or is their perception made fuzzy and indistinct by that distance? Or are the needs of the people all the way across town diminished in their eyes due to something more than distance - - perhaps a lack of empathy brought about by a feeling of “difference”.

Whatever the cause, it is not an accident or a coincidence. It is an ongoing pattern of behavior which elevates some areas of the county while others are left wanting. When decision after decision reinforces an imbalance in opportunity and quality of life, it is crucial that the County examine those choices and make a conscious course correction to address the allocation of resources in a more equitable way.

Remember: 

  • All of the 50+ centers have been renovated but East Columbia. 
  • Deferred maintenance at OMHS is $111,000,000 yet it has not even been placed in the ten-year capital improvement plan.

These things happen only when we allow ourselves to think that “those people across town” aren’t real people like we are, don’t have the same needs, or dreams, or potential. This must stop. A successfully functioning government must have the ability to stand with people and respond to their needs, rather than contemplating them from a distance. This is true whether those people are school children or citizens over 50. 

Here’s where we are right now. The Council held a hearing on this topic yesterday. They will vote on it next week. The project went into budget season with two votes for the center (Jones, Rigby) but will need (at least) one more to move forward. Please reach out to the remaining council members and let them know that you support funding for the East Columbia 50+ center and that you are asking for their vote to make it happen. 

Deb Jung  djung@howardcountymd.gov

Liz Walsh  ewalsh@howardcountymd.gov

David Yungmann  dyungmann@howardcountymd.gov

If you need a little inspiration before you write, look at the photographs in the Sun. Have a clear picture in your mind’s eye of the very real people you are advocating for: real people, beautiful people who are a valuable part of our community. 

Even if they do live on the other side of town.

Monday, May 10, 2021

At Last I Succumb


 

Everybody seems to be pretty excited about the cicadas. Whether pro or con, there’s been a whole lot of local hubbub. So far my feeling is a solid “meh.” I don’t really care one way of the other. Perhaps when there are scads of them I may have a more fervent opinion. 

My husband loathes them. When our younger daughter’s preschool teacher (the last time around) suggested that her students bring one in for “homework”, he was not impressed, possibly because he was in charge of homework that night. Somehow we all survived.

In Howard County, the Conservancy is encouraging you to undertake a Cicada Scavenger Hunt  and/or a Cicada Walk. You can also learn more about Brood X from the Conservancy’s program with University of Maryland expert Mike Raupp. If you just can’t get enough of cicadas, or the nationally-recognized expertise of Dr. Raupp, you can take a listen to this episode of podcast Elevate Maryland. I haven’t yet listened to this one but I heard their is some discussion about the fitness of cicadas for human consumption.

You have been warned.

Now, on the other hand, if you just can’t seem to take cicadas seriously, you might want to pay a visit to Sweet Cascades Chocolatier in Old Ellicott City. They’ve jumped on the bandwagon by creating their own edible insects. 


(Photos from the Sweet Cascades page on Facebook)

You can be a part of the cicada craze by picking up some Chocadas or Chocolate Strawberry Cicadas. The Chocadas come with crispy rice cereal inside to give you that delightful cicada “crunch.” 

<<shudders>>

Well, maybe I do have opinions when it comes to cicadas. I don’t think I could eat one, anyway. The crunchy chocolate ones? Hmm. Maybe.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

In Memoriam


 

It’s Mother’s Day today and all I can think about is Howard Cooper.  

Howard Cooper - -still a child, fifteen years old - - was hanged by a white mob outside the Towson jail in 1885. From yesterday’s story in the Baltimore Sun:

Cooper was convicted by an all-white jury that, within minutes, concluded he was guilty of raping Katie Gray, a white teenager, in an area then known as Rockland in Baltimore County. Neither Gray nor Cooper testified that Gray was raped. His sentence was death by hanging. He was lynched in the early hours of July 13, 1885, before his attorneys could appeal his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today is Mother’s Day. 

Howard Cooper had a mother. Can you imagine how she felt? 

Yesterday Governor Hogan granted posthumous pardons to 34 Maryland lynching victims. They all had mothers, too. And so it goes,  all through America’s history and into the the present moment.

Eric Garner has a mother. She speaks to us in Alan Scott’s music video  “You Only See Me When I’m Gone”. (Watch the whole thing. It’s beautiful and heart rending.)

George Floyd called for his mother as Derek Chauvin crushed the life out of him on a Minneapolis street.

So many mothers. Enough mothers to form a movement. Mothers who had to bury children killed by members of law enforcement or those who claimed to represent it. 

It’s Mother’s Day today and there are mothers who will give their children, especially their sons, extra warnings and advice before they leave for home. As they might do on any given day, because this is the America and this is the way it was made: to consume and destroy Black human beings while pretending to provide justice for all.

If Black mothers in Howard County tell us that school is no place for police, they know. Their lived experience, passed down through generations of brutal injustice, speaks to a truth that we as white parents can’t even imagine. But maybe we could try. Maybe we could put ourselves in the shoes of Howard Cooper’s mother, or Eric Garner’s mother, or George Floyd’s mother...

Today is Mother’s Day. What does that mean if your child has been murdered by the police? 

For Howard Cooper’s mother, and for all of those bereaved mothers whose anguished wails run throughout history as deeply as the blood of their slain children, we should take some time today to contemplate their loss. And we should think about what we can do to make the world different.







Saturday, May 8, 2021

Howard County in Bloom

 


I seem to be going through one of those “I don’t wanna” phases with the blog. It looms over me like an irritable mother demanding that her teen clear their room. This happens every so often. As with many things, the only way out is through. So, bear with me. The posts between now and when I hit my groove again may be rough around the edges.

We have one azalea in our yard which appears to bloom later than all the other azaleas in town. It has a very odd shape and could probably use some professional pruning. But its color is so beautiful and we love it, despite its oddities.


In addition to being a lovely sign of Spring, our azalea also heralds one of my favorite times of year: Farmers’ Market season. The first one in the area began last Saturday at Clarksville Commons, then the Markets operated by the Howard County Farmers’ Market group on Wednesday at the Miller Branch and tomorrow at the Oakland Mills Village Center. 

It used to be that all the local farmers’ markets operated under the Howard County group’s umbrella but, in recent years, a number of independent markets have sprung up: Clarksville Commons, Ellicott City at the Wine Bin parking lot, and Maple Lawn. I think there may also be a small one at the East Columbia branch in Owen Brown.

Update: just spotted this handy-dandy comprehensive schedule in my Howard County Library weekly newsletter!



Of course, the Oakland Mills Farmers’ Market is my favorite. We all have our loyalties. I’m looking forward to actually being able to get out of the house and pick out fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables this summer after a year of being house-bound. Over the years we have also bought jam, baked goods, bacon and sausage, freshly cut flowers, and annuals for our little front flower bed. We’ve also enjoyed prepared food, listened to music, and run into neighbors and friends. Each year is a little bit different, but they’ve all been wonderful.

This year a new attraction at the Oakland Mills Market will be the debut of Althea’s Almost Famous food truck/trolley/cart/mobile catering. Althea has been a presence at the Market for a while now, selling her Jamaican Jerk sauce. She also run a local catering business. Now she’s taking her show on the road and you can see what all the excitement is about on Sunday at the Oakland Mills market.


So, consider yourself invited to the opening of this year’s Oakland Mills market: Sunday from 9-1. Have you ever been to the OM market? Or do you have another local market that you love to visit? Let me know in the comments.


Thursday, May 6, 2021

A Weird Pocket in the Universe


It’s been a while. How about another foray into the world of Other People’s Tweets? Today’s episode starts with this question:

72% of all adults live within 20 miles from where they grew up.  How far do you live from home? I’m 14 miles away from where I grew up.

Person A:

I live 29 miles away from my childhood home, but honestly Western Howard County is basically a completely different country compared to Baltimore. The dude I married is less than 10 miles away from his childhood home, though. And we cannot go a single place without him running into someone he knows.

Person B:

Heck, I knew some girls from Columbia, and they were total space aliens to me!

Person A:

I spent my entire 20s in deep reprogramming.

Person B:

As well you should! Life is not like Howard County!

Person C:

I grew up in Silver Spring and ended up going to UMBC and living in Baltimore County and yeah... Columbia is like its own little weird pocket in the universe. Can’t explain it lmao.

Hmmm...

If I didn’t know better I’d think this was some snappy dialogue from a Broadway play or a witty new sitcom. It’s almost too good to be true. What do you think would happen in this imaginary play? Would you go see it?

We spend a lot of time being so embedded in our own surroundings that we don’t get exposed much to what other folks think of us. I found this exchange interesting. It was clearly irreverent but not mean-spirited. I wanted to see where this conversation went, to learn more. But, alas, this is all that there is: one brief snippet in the vast ocean of Twitter.

I will never know why those Columbia girls seemed like aliens or why life is not like Howard County. Do you? Can you imagine where this conversation might go? 

If I were a multimillionaire I’d commission a play based on this exchange. Or maybe it would be fun to have a contest which would produce multiple results. Just think: an entire festival of “Life is not like Howard County”!

Who knows? Eventually it could become a musical and we could all go see it at Toby’s. A little meta, perhaps.

Have you ever seen a conversation on Twitter that seized your imagination? 






Wednesday, May 5, 2021

X


 


May 5, 2011 (Columbia Patch)

It's May! Time for all the good folks to gather at the Village Green--if only we knew where that was...

Welcome to The Village Green. According to Wikipedia, a village green “… is traditionally at a central location and provides an open-air meeting place for the people of a village, for example at times of celebration, or for public ceremonies.”  

I am envisioning this space, where I will be sharing my ideas, as a village green of sorts—a place where we have the “customary right to indulge in lawful sports and pastimes.”

Almost daily I read news of Columbia’s villages: calling for participation, creating new visions, or struggling to reach consensus amidst polarizing differences. Just as often I cannot make up my mind whether to be encouraged or frustrated by it all.  So, this will be a place to sort it out with input from you, my fellow villagers.  

In a related entry, town squares are described: “Most town squares are hardscapes suitable for open markets, music concerts, political rallies, and other events that require firm ground. Being centrally located, town squares are usually surrounded by small shops such as bakeries, meat markets, cheese stores, and clothing stores. At their center is often a fountain, well, monument, or statue.”

This sounds appealing to me. I’m wondering if we, as villagers, separated by neighborhood loyalties and generational differences, can come together to make a Town Square for Columbia that is as lively and relevant as a New American City deserves to be.

May 5, 2021

It’s May! 

I have been exercising my “customary right to indulge in local sports and pastimes” for ten years now. 

Guess what? We’re still reading calls for participation, the creation of new visions, and the struggles to reach consensus amidst polarizing divisions. After ten years I still cannot make up my mind whether to be encouraged or frustrated by it all. If this blog was meant to be a place to sort it all out - - with input from fellow villagers - - then we certainly have done plenty of sorting. Have we arrived at a bigger or clearer picture as a result?

Sometimes. 

Along the way quite a few community voices have disappeared from the blogosphere. I miss the semi-interwoven net of “colleagues”, if you will: Anneathema, Columbia Compass, Dinosaur Mom Chronicles, Do I Amuse You?, Examorata, HoCoRising, HowChow, Jessie X, Kiki(verde), Kirstycat's Meow! (and sometimes Growl!), Life’s Little Comedies,  LisaB Mrs. S., Rocket Powered Butterfly, Sarah Says, Tales of Two Cities...

Some of us met in real life at Blogtail parties hosted by HoCoBlogs. Eventually the parties got too big and the network of bloggers too small. HoCoBlogs is no more; its familiar aggregator page has disappeared from the tinterwebs. While new blogs have sprung into existence over the intervening years, other ways of communicating have become popular, too: podcasts, videocasts, live video streams and Instagram. (Don’t get me started on TikTok.)

Blogs aren’t the big fish that they were back in the day.  Where does that leave me? I’ll probably keep writing as long as there are good stories and people to share them with. 

I’ll close today with a few things that folks have said about me over the years that meant more than any official recognition.

*Inviting HoCo friends to like and subscribe to a great local blog's FB page,Village Green/Town², written by Julia Jackson McCready with great humanity.

*Damn you and your kindness, openness and desire to help everyone and see the best in people. How dare you exist and show folks that it's possible to be smart and not consumed with blatant self-interest.

*For many years, she has dedicated herself to writing every single day, sometimes heartwarming stories, sometimes highlighting the work and talents of others, sometimes pushing dangerously into local politics and school board issues, sometimes just sharing a funny memory or touching quote, but always making us think consciously about our place in a vibrant and progressive community.

Thanks for ten years, friends. See you tomorrow.





Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Start Today



I have written more than a few Teacher Appreciation Week blog posts. This year the thought of it seems ludicrous. Teachers have endured the worst year of their professional careers while being lambasted on social media at the same time. They have worked longer and harder while being called selfish and lazy.

So now it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Thanks a lot. Have a donut.

Not so fast, folks. I’m talking to those of you who have made teachers’ lives miserable during the pandemic. You don’t get to send in some muffins and go on your merry way, no sir.

Maybe this year we should have Teacher Apology Week. It’s about time that teachers got the apologies they most certainly have coming to them.

  • I’m sorry I said you don’t care about kids.
  • I’m sorry I said you wanted distance learning because it was “less work”.
  • I’m sorry I belittled your union representation.
  • I’m sorry I interrupted your hybrid learning lesson to argue and complain.
  • I’m sorry I treated your health concerns as inconsequential.

That’ll do for starters.

Of course it’s highly unlikely that the people who actually said these things will have a genuine change of heart and have the bravery to face the teachers they maligned. It’s far easier to buy a gift card and avoid any personal self-examination.

The parents who have been supportive and tried to partner with teachers during a horrifically difficult time are the ones who have been showing teacher appreciation all along. It wasn’t easy for you, and you knew it wasn’t easy for teachers, either. You understood that parents and teachers share a common humanity and that, during a pandemic, many responsibilities would need to be shared.

Believe me, teachers notice and are grateful for parents like that. They make days a little easier, lighten a heavy load.

So, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week and again I wonder why we don’t appreciate teachers every day. And, after this year, I wonder why the people who say the worst things about them are protesting loudly that they deserve daily access to those same teachers in a particular way, at particular times, in specific locations. If teachers are so horrible why are you fighting for hot and cold running teachers for your children?

And, if they aren’t so horrible, maybe you could treat them better. Starting today, for example.
 


Monday, May 3, 2021

The Sixth


Today Lakey Boyd begins her tenure as the President and CEO of the Columbia Association. She is the sixth person to serve in that role. I went digging around on the Internet last night to look for a listing of the past presidents and when they served, but I must not have been looking in the right place. From what I can piece together, it looks like this:

  • Padraic Kennedy 1972-1998
  • Deborah O. McCarty 1998-? (Charles Rhodehamel, acting)
  • Maggie Brown 2001-2009
  • Phil Nelson  2009 -2014 (Susan M. Crabbe, acting)
  • Milton Matthews 2014-2021
There’s also a few “acting presidents” in there.

One thing that surprised me was the name Deborah McCarty. I moved to Columbia in 1999 and have no recollection of her. And then I remembered that I was getting married, expecting a baby, and coping with a newborn and a teenager during that time period. This was not a time in my life when I was up-to-date on local current events.

At any rate, this article by Angela Paik in the Washington Post is vintage Columbia. It’s also the kind of local news coverage that has all but disappeared today.

Leader of Columbia Focus of Growing Ire

Columbia's original residents have questioned the commitment of newcomers for years but rarely with such vengeance. 

Gosh, that sounds awfully familiar.

Despite the fact that residents want the essence of Columbia to be understood and respected by its leaders, for some reason the CA Board keeps hiring people from out of town. I find this curious. Perhaps people from out of town seem more impressive, somehow. I often wonder what candidates from out of town think they will find when they get here. Something new and cutting edge? A rather precious shrine to the ideals of the 1960’s?

It’s hard to choose a president in Columbia. This sentence from Maggie Brown’s obituary shows how just difficult it has been:

Mrs. Brown became the Columbia Association's president after the previous president had been ousted and board members couldn't agree on a replacement.

Well, this time the board has agreed on a replacement, and she starts today. I wish Ms. Boyd all the best. Columbia can look pretty impressive from the outside but we’re not always so lovable once you get to know us. From the Post article by Angela Paik:

...many residents are asking whether this new person can be one of them. They want to know whether she can carry on the Columbia spirit, so difficult to define but essential to understand for the one who is the de facto mayor of this unincorporated town that aimed to be different.

Oh, brother. We can be a little hard to take here in Columbia. Let’s hope for positive new relationships and a successful tenure for the sixth President of CA.






Sunday, May 2, 2021

Swinging on Sunday


 

Columbia/HoCo offers a variety of ways to keep fit, from walking the trails, bike riding, swimming, working out at CA facilities or Lifetime Fitness, and many more. One thing I had never heard of until recently is a workout that centers around swinging kettlebells.

What’s a kettlebell? Well, they look like this: 


I found this photo in an article entitled “Kettlebells: what they are and why you should train with them.” Now, you may already know all about kettlebells and how they can be used for strength training but I didn’t until my friend Carol started posting about it on Facebook. I must say she’s been pretty enthusiastic.

The place where she works out, called The 39 Minute Workout, has an annual tradition of fundraising for the Casey Cares Foundation. Casey Cares supports programs for critically ill children and their parents. So how do they raise funds? By swinging kettlebells, of course!

It just so happens that today is the 7th annual Kettlebell Swing a thon . In addition to raising money from sponsors through all that kettlebell work, the Swing a thon also has a Silent Auction with some pretty cool items. Take a look

Whether you’d like to help support Casey Cares or you’re curious about how kettlebells can contribute to health and fitness, you can contact the folks at The 39 Minute Workout here:

39 Minute Workout Headquarters

8001 Hillsborough Rd

Ellicott City, MD 21784

410-935-0967

Today’s event:

Sunday, May 2, 2021

9:00am - 12:00pm






Saturday, May 1, 2021

Weekend Adventure


If you are up for a little adventure today and noodling around in Ellicott City is your sort of thing, may I recommend the Stone House Collective?


My husband headed out of the house last weekend, enticed by a photograph of guitars. No surprise there. What was a surprise was their location: Main Street in Old Ellicott City. 

“They must be new,” I said. “That sounds like it might be a good blog post. Will you take some pictures for me?”

He rolled his eyes. But he took some pictures. 

As you can see, Stone House Collective is far more than a guitar store. They opened on March 6th of this year at 8129 Main Street and describe themselves as “a three-story boutique for art, photography, antique, vintage, and artisan-made goods.”

The top floor is where my husband found the guitars, among other things. Merchant Timothy Ramsey offers not only guitars and amplifiers but also vintage space-related toys from the 1950s and 1960s.


All in all, the Stone House Collective is made up of about 17 small businesses under one roof. If the location rings a bell to you, that’s because it is the former home of Cindi Ryland’s Retropolitan Fine Antiques and Vintage. If you were a fan of Retopolitan, you’ll be happy to know that Ms. Ryland is the manager of Stone House Collective and Retropolitan continues to exist on the first floor as a component of the larger enterprise. You can learn more on their website and on their Facebook page.

Now, for your weekend enjoyment, I present approximately a minute and a half of my husband’s photographs of his visit to the Stonehouse Collective. I have to admit that he is a far better photographer than I am. (Just a note: it’s not all pictures of guitars. For some reason he put them all first...)




                                                          

Friday, April 30, 2021

The Beginning and the End

 


Today is the final day of operation for CA’s Haven on the Lake. They wished the community farewell on their Facebook page.

As we close our doors today, we want to thank you for all of your support over the years! We are honored to have been part of your wellness journey. 

Thank you for sharing all of your favorite memories with us over the last few days. We hope to see everyone again soon!

It occurred to me that I had been at the groundbreaking of Haven. I searched through old post to find my write up. Here it is.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Two Tales, One City

(Today's post is dedicated to Dennis Lane, who should have been there.)


1.We arrived shortly before ten am on a hot and humid Wednesday morning. Real Columbia summer. As we approached the steps we were stopped by a friendly woman who welcomed us. 

"Are you here for the groundbreaking?" she asked. We said we were. She introduced herself and we chatted as she showed us to the starting point for the morning's festivities. Eva (I think that was her name) and a number of other women, dressed in white with shirts bearing the Haven on the Lake logo, were stationed at the ready to greet new arrivals.

This next area was beautifully set up with a variety of little tents where one could sign in, get a name tag and a program, and pick up a refreshing drink provided by Whole Foods: your choice of lemonade, unsweetened iced green tea, or water. A display of gift bags bearing the Downtown Partnership logo had been prepared as parting gifts. The building (still sometimes referred to as the "iconic Rouse building") cast just enough shade for attendees to stand around comfortably during this meet-and-greet portion of the event.

When it was time we were invited to move to an area behind the building, overlooking the lake, where the groundbreaking would take place. Chairs had been set up under another tent. We sat at the back and watched as local notables filed in. It was quite warm but we felt happy to be in the shade, and seated, for that matter.

The speakers were upbeat, focused, and brief. The remarks touched on people, partnerships, and progress. The program moved forward without lagging and soon the golden shovels were put to the ground, cameras were focused, and dirt was flying. 

All in all, it was a lovely event. It had been carefully planned and beautifully executed. We picked up our reusable shopping bags (filled with information about Haven on the Lake and other goodies) and went on our way. The conversation on the way home was about the exciting transformation of the Lakefront, and the possibilities that a place like Haven on the Lake will provide. 

2. It doesn't seem that long ago that the Howard Hughes Corporation was throwing a little masquerade ball to entice Whole Foods to come to Columbia. Yesterday's event, with helpful ladies all in white setting the tone, was more like a summer garden party celebrating that success. Pretty tents, chilled beverages, gift bags and all, it showed in a thousand tiny little ways how the redevelopment of Columbia is moving forward.

The success of such events rests in the details. No matter how well planned there are always a few glitches here and there that either make the planners wince or shrug--and this was no exception. Of course, those are the moments that make for a little rush of adrenaline, or laughter. The possibility of the unexpected...

One such highlight was when the new President and CEO of the Columbia Association, Milton Matthews, tried to get away with saying "Lake Kit." The friendly crowd would have none of it, and so he gave it the old college try and got through the whole "Kittamaqundi", to laughter and applause.

Also memorable was the moment when County Executive Ken Ulman realized that no one was going to introduce him, so he just jumped out of his chair and came on down. He kidded about the lack of introduction but then got right to it and did his best to remember all the exciting things happening as a part of the Downtown Plan for Columbia. (There are a lot of them.)

And he did a great job, too, except for mentioning Suzanne Waller as the CA Board member from Town Center. Ms. Waller was defeated by Jeanne Ketley in the last election, and she was in attendance to hear the oversight. Oops.

Community as live theater. It's the best. That's when the most human qualities are revealed, as in the off-the-cuff suggestion from Mr. Ulman that Haven on the Lake should be opened, not with a ribbon-cutting, but with a jump in the cold plunge pool. It was definitely the heat speaking, probably not a carefully scripted laugh line.

As we left my daughter, a Baltimore City girl at heart, looked at me with a twinkle in her eye.

"Do you think he'll do it?"

I knew in a heartbeat what she meant. And I'm more excited than ever to be there when it happens.

*****

Wow. Milton Matthews was just starting out then, and now he is retiring. And I never did get to see Ken Ulman jump in the cold plunge pool.

I’ve heard many wonderful things about Haven since I wrote my post announcing their closing. I know there are folks in our community who will truly feel this as a loss. They speak highly of the employees there. 

Thanks to all of the staff at Haven who made it such a helpful and welcoming place. Your work will be remembered gratefully by those you assisted, taught, and encouraged.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

It Could Be Fun


 

Note to the reader: what follows is not meant to be a serious solution to a complex issue. Nor is it meant in any way to mock anyone who is deeply committed to advocacy around this topic. It is simply a light-hearted response to the endless arguments in our community. - - jam

*****

Monday I saw this information* on Facebook and I had one of those lightbulb moments you see in the old cartoons.



You see here 2020 census information as regards population changes in several Maryland counties. Clearly Howard County has had the largest increase of the counties on the list. I know that this is seen to be a concern for those who are worried about the capacity of local infrastructure to support an increasing population. Quite a bit of energy is spent trying to limit new housing development with the thought that it will stem the tide of new residents.

Suddenly I had a crazy idea. (Hear me out, now.) What if we’ve been going about this the completely wrong way? Perhaps what is needed is an all-out campaign to convince people to live somewhere else.

At first I wondered if the approach might be to convince potential residents how perfectly awful Howard County is. “You wouldn’t possibly want to live here.” But that didn’t feel right, somehow.

Instead, what about a full-scale public relations effort to sell people on how great it would be to live in a different county? Advocates could create the “office of why you want to live in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, or Carroll County”, for instance. Make enticing brochures. Work with realtors in other counties. Use all that determination and energy to help people find great homes: but not in Howard County. 

Think if it as a similar approach to the one that Mr. Kringle suggests in the old classic Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street” where Macy’s clerks are trained to tell customers if an item they want is available at a different store or is on sale at another establishment. It’s wildly successful, in the movie, anyway.

It could be fun. Helpful. Positive, even. I think it would give people a better experience than the current steady diet of attending meetings to observe, oppose, and object. After all, if the population trend begins to turn those developers will stop proposing projects here and start eyeing those nice counties elsewhere.

Am I serious? No. Do I feel as though we are all stuck in an endless cycle of the same arguments? Yes. So, for today, and probably today alone, I am entertaining perfectly ridiculous solutions to this never-ending problem. Feel free to add your own.


*Many thanks to my friend Cheryl Stricker who was able to locate this information for me in less than a minute. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Not an Early Bird


I have an early appointment this morning and for some reason the thought of it hangs heavy over any inspiration I might have to write. My first thoughts upon awakening were: “coffee!” followed by “let me close my eyes for a few minutes.” Not exactly a recipe for success.

I saw a chart somewhere last night about the relative increase/decrease in population among Maryland counties. Now I can’t find it. If you know what I’m talking about, can you direct me to it? Thanks.

Howard County, as we know, has experienced an increase. And the amount of housing that we have/are building does not match up with the demand. We are seeing the result of that in higher and higher housing prices. 

I have a wacky idea on how to cope with this situation swirling around in my head. I promise no solutions but perhaps a smile or a raised eyebrow. I’ll spend some time on it today and get back to you tomorrow.

Early appointments are for the birds.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

An Expert Witness


On March 31st a reader reached out to me with the question: is this on your radar? The enclosed link took me to an announcement that the Girl Scouts of Maryland were considering the sale of Camp Ilchester. The reasoning was that they would be the best stewards of their resources by using money from the sale to support other state Girl Scout properties and programs.

Almost immediately I imagined a variety of local responses: broken-hearted Girl Scouts, environmentalists concerned about the possible loss of green space, and the consternation of those who oppose an increase of new housing/development in the county. I reached out to my friend and neighborhood Girl Scout leader Jeanne Lay for some perspective. She was trying to maintain an open mind but I could tell that the prospect of losing Camp Ilchester was a significant loss. 

After some conversation I had an idea. I didn’t want to throw myself into this issue without a better understanding of what Camp Ilchester really means in Howard County. I asked her if she could let her former Girl Scouts (since graduated) know I was interested in their thoughts.

Not long after that I received a friendly email from Oakland Mills High School graduate Alex Sellman. She wrote that she’d be happy to help and I told her what I was looking for:

I am hoping to gather some personal stories from Girl Scouts about their favorite memories of Camp Ilchester. They could be funny, or explain what made the camp special to them. My goal is to write a blog post in which the Girl Scouts’ experiences shine through and speak for themselves about the value of Camp Ilchester. 

By the end of the week I received her response, somehow fit in between her classes and other college commitments. Here it is, full of happy memories and the realization of how much these experiences meant to her and her fellow Scouts.

*****

About Camp

Camp Ilchester is a place where I and many of my fellow scouts have called home. Each summer my friends and I would look forward to those two best weeks of the summer. Each year every person at camp would have to come up with a fun “camp name” to be called for those two weeks. It always added to the fun and excitement of our camp experience. We would pack our bags and sit-upons and get ready to load the buses the next morning. We’d sing very joyful songs the whole ride there from “Girl Scout Camp” to “The Duck Socks” and the “The Littlest Worm”. It was an amazing memory before we even reached the campgrounds. When we got there we had a day full of friends, arts, crafts, archery, nature, and snow cones. 

 A Fun Story 

Each day at camp was always packed with fun and excitement. Some of it was the excitement of knowing that in the afternoon we would get to have snow cones or head down to the archery range. The best camp stories come from the times we didn’t even see coming, though. One happened 2018, during the 6th-grade sleepover.  This event is a rite of passage for the girls as they plan to start middle school in the fall and become PA’s/counselors-in-training the next summer when they return to camp. The sixth-grade sleepover is a special night for these girls and the counselors, too, who have waited to go back and work the special event. 

​In the summer of 2018, the weather was terrible. It started to pour right after we had finished making “trash can stew” (a giant stew cooked in a brand new trash can) for dinner. We rushed to pack up all of our stuff and get the girls inside where we set up tents in the main room of the Petterson Nature Center. We made a glowstick fire and sat around and sang songs late into the night. After we decided to turn in we were awoken at 4 am by fire alarms going off. We rushed the girls outside and called the fire department. When they arrived they said it was just a problem with the alarm there was no fire. 

So we had about 30 girls outside at 4 am. What were we going to do? Of course: Morning Yoga! All of the PA’s gathered together with the girls and decided to lead a yoga session in which none of us knew yoga so we had no idea what we were doing. The girls later told us they loved the yoga because it was all about the fun and now looking back it was one of my favorite camp memories. My friends and I still see each other when we are home from college and we talk about this crazy night almost every time. 

 Why Camp is Family

Camp has always held a special place in my heart. It is where I have met most of my best friends. My camp friends are like family to me. Our camp family tragically lost one of our own, Charlotte “Chewy” Zaremba, in 2017. The loss of Chewy impacted many of us very deeply. We wanted to keep her memory alive at camp. Troop 471 made a wonderful bench in her honor that lives at camp and should remain at camp for years to come. 

When the class of 2019 was about to finish our time at camp as PA’s and bridge into adulthood we wanted a way to bring Chewy with us - - because for many years she was there for so many of our favorite memories. For us she will always be a part of of of our camp family. I, along with Anna “Ace”,and Sophie “Ducky”, began brainstorming ways to honor Chewy as we went through this major camp milestone. The day we crossed that bridge to begin our journey as adults we carried Chewy’s memorial bench with us as a symbol that her memory would always be with us. 

Chewy is always in our hearts and minds but she especially lives on at Camp Ilchester. Those campgrounds where we met, and where we had so many fun times, hold all the memories of our friends and the learning and adventures we experienced as campers there.

- - Alexandra Sellman, Texas A&M University, Aerospace Engineering ‘23

*****

If you would like additional information on this topic, I suggest the following:

“Not just a piece of property,” Ana Faguy, Baltimore Sun

Save Camp Ilchester, Change.Org

A message from the GSCM Board of Directors, 4/23/21

I’m sure there are plenty of people around town who have opinions about this. May I suggest that, before you make up your mind one way or the other, talk to an expert: a Girl Scout.


 


 

 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Spring Growth


 

The tree in my neighbor's yard is now producing pink snow. My solitary yellow tulip out front is bravely making its annual appearance. Around town I see people out working on their yards: piles of garden tools, bags of mulch, collections of yard trimmings out on recycling day.

It’s just the right time for some recommendations from the Howard County Library if you have children in your life. (Or if you’re like me and just adore children’s books.) This week’s Chapter Chats entitled “Spring is for Gardening”, presents nine different volumes for your reading pleasure, with descriptions to help you pick a few to check out.

My two favorite gardening books for kids are golden oldies by now: Planting a Rainbow and Growing Vegetable Soup, both by Lois Ehlert. Do you read books to children in your life? Do you have any Spring favorites to recommend?

The Friends and Foundation of the Howard County Library has been running a fundraiser to support the creation of a new mobile library van called On the Road to Kindergarten. The mobile unit:

...will bring library collections, services, and programs to all corners of the community, focusing on preparing children from birth to three for kindergarten. 

To learn how you can donate, click here. To learn more about On the Road to Kindergarten, you’ll find a description here

Whether it’s growing gardens or Kindergarten readiness, the library has a lot to offer our community. 


Sunday, April 25, 2021

WANTED

 


Perhaps this is most suitable for a Sunday. I was just startled by this post on Facebook:

Please join me in praying for these Maryland representatives today. To access the page with active links to sign up for a daily reminder to pray for our public officials and/or to contact these lawmakers and let them know you are praying for them, visit here: https://www.pray1tim2.org/states/md

It was accompanied by photographs of the state representatives in question.

Somehow it came across to me as a collection of WANTED posters. I didn’t find it comforting or inspirational. In fact, it felt more to me like a threat.

Let me clarify, I don’t think it was meant as one.

Something inside of me has become more and more wary of evangelical religion to the point where I wince and pull myself back from public expressions of this kind of Christianity. Maybe from any kind of Christianity.

Readers of this blog know that I go to church and struggle with and care about issues of faith. I’m not anti-religion. I’m not anti-Christianity.

But American evangelical Christianity has become so intertwined with support for guns and authoritarian politics, along with attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, to name a few. They uphold a status quo of systemic racism. They cover up sexual harassment and abuse. They equate a certain cultishness of the Republican party with religion.

They think that Christ’s mission on earth has to do with American exceptionalism.

So now when I see an overt declaration of Christianity I feel it as a malevolent force. And that’s sad. I honestly don’t want to feel that way. But after years of seeing support for things I loathe and attacks on things I earnestly believe in, I have come to have a Pavlovian sort of reaction: this is danger. Protect yourself.

Intellectually I don’t think it’s fair to paint everyone in this category with the same brush. But this is a visceral response which is rooted in many years of observation. It’s possible I will meet individuals who are not like this. I’d be willing to sit down and talk. 

But when this particular brand of Christianity thrusts itself into the news and my social media feed I will probably continue to recoil and feel an automatic urge to protect myself and the people I love. 

If you want to pray for your state representatives you should feel free to do so. Or you can be like my Unitarian mother and “think good thoughts” for them. It’s not my intention to discourage anyone from prayer. If anything, pray for everyone and everything without judgement. Pray that you will act in love to all of God’s creation.

Or simply think good thoughts and live those thoughts. Let your life be love and action without judgment.









Saturday, April 24, 2021

Giving Back in Wilde Lake


 

About fifteen years ago, when my mother died, I was out in Indiana talking with my sister about things that would need to be done. There was an astounding amount of unused medication in the house. My sister didn’t want to put it in the trash for fear it would get into the wrong hands. She suggested flushing it down the toilet. The more I thought about that the more I imagined that 1) it would destroy the plumbing and 2) the medication would get into the local water system.  

As I returned home shortly after the memorial service I don’t know what became of all that medication. I am guessing that my sister called the home hospice organization for advice. 

I now know that local organizations plan periodic drug take-back events to help people clear out unneeded medications. Today happens to be National Prescription Drug Takeback Day. 

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers, 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in 2019. The survey also showed that a majority of misused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.

Wow. You do not want to keep this stuff around the house. 

Today, from ten am to two pm, you can drop off your unwanted medications (including inhalers) right here in Columbia. HCDrugFree is hosting Howard County's drug take back day at the Wilde Lake Village Center.   It will be a drive-thru collection in the Wilde Lake Village Center parking lot. Items accepted: prescription meds, over-the-counter meds, any pills, sharps (needles, syringes, EpiPens), & vapes without batteries.

Whether you want to eliminate the danger of having prescription medication sitting around your house, or you simply welcome the opportunity to declutter and make space in the medicine cabinet, this is the event for you. As always, wear a mask and be nice. These folks are volunteering their time to help us make our community safer.

I have quite a few dribs and drabs of old medications to gather together this morning. Maybe I’ll see you there. 


Friday, April 23, 2021

At What Cost?

 


A few last-minute comments about the CA elections, which are tomorrow. First of all, if you are still able to vote in your village and haven’t yet, please vote! Different villages have different ways of voting so please check to see. By far the most exciting Columbia Village for voting is Long Reach, which allows residents to pick from in-person, by mail, or electronically. 

You probably know that it pains me to say that anyone is better than Oakland Mills, but, Long Reach has bested us on this. On the other hand, we have the best plant sale. Small consolation, but, it’s something.

There have been some stories swirling about on social media this week that suggest all has been revealed about where the Rouse Project money comes from. Sadly, without verifiable proof that’s all they are: just stories. And that’s too bad. By refusing to operate with transparency the Rouse Project has managed to make this year’s CA election more about themselves than the candidates. 

Was that really what they meant to do? I have no idea. But they’ve put their own candidates at a great disadvantage.

About the candidates. I have been religiously avoiding any comment about them because my concern has been with RP, but I want to say something about people dishing dirt about the challenger in Oakland Mills.   Rashida George and I have something in common: being a challenger in Oakland Mills, that is. I remember being the butt of weird insults and rumors while I was running:

  • She wants to get rid of old people
  • She’s a music teacher so she’s not qualified 
  • She’s against putting a dome on Merriweather (???)
  • “That Kevin Ulman supports her and we hate him”

I honestly thought it couldn’t get any worse but this week I saw people running legal/financial background searches on Ms. George and dragging her on social media and I realized that I had it easy. Who would do that, and use fake accounts to make it public? Well, probably someone who looks at a Black candidate and makes the assumption that they must have a criminal record or at least some kind of financial “irregularities”. 

That, my friends, is racist. It didn’t happen to me when I was running because I’m white. Different assumptions are made.  And that’s just vile. I suspect the people doing this are not from Oakland Mills, but I don’t have verifiable proof of that. It just doesn’t “feel” Oakland Mills to me. 

I was going through some old posts of mine and I found this from a post about partisan politics in the BOE race:

What I found the most troubling was the aim to control outcomes in races where members of this group do not reside. My friends who eat politics for breakfast will find me naive. I hadn’t anticipated this and I guess I should have. This is clearly strategic thinking: make a plan, work your plan, achieve desired domination. Control Board votes, control future policy.

Hmm...seems strangely relevant right now.

I think that the Rouse Project has destroyed any chance they might have had to be an ongoing positive force in Columbia, no matter how these elections turn out. Those individual members who have always been good people will continue to be so, and I am grateful for that. But RP as an entity did itself in through sheer lack of transparency (and a little arrogance thrown in.)

To those who say, “it’s the most I’ve heard about these elections in years!” I’d like to say, “At what cost?”

It’s all about the cost, isn’t it?

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Day at the Park


 

On this day in 2017, the Chrysalis made its official debut as a community space for the arts and the first component of Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. I believe it has changed our community for the better. It has certainly changed my life for the better. 

The program from opening day:



 
It was a great honor for me to have my writing included on the program that day. But that was only the beginning of the joy I have had in the park: attending all sorts of concerts, enjoying holiday lights and decorations, exploring the Mini-Maker Faire and the Fantasywood Festival, and, best of all, leading preschool dance parties on the Chrysalis stage.

After a year of quiet due to the pandemic, the park is coming back to life. This season's performance events are shaping up. I’ll have more on that in a future post.

In honor of Earth Day, I want to focus on the work of the Trust as environmental stewards of the land. In this piece on the Inner Arbor Trust website, they describe Going for a Walk in the Woods

...our work is not all playing in the woods and creating events -it is preserving and protecting this piece of open space for the community.  To protect the land we need to deal with the runoff issues and repair the stream.

Luckily, solutions exist, and we are thrilled to be working with great local partners to work through these issues.   

And here’s more from President and CEO of the Trust, Nina Basu:

...we are the stewards of the land.  And the land needs help.  I can rail about the impact of climate change later, but for now, know that we are raising money to install conservation landscaping in this public park.  In other words - awesome native plants that will make the land more durable by helping to manage water, but also containing and treating run off.  

I am most excited that we are working with Howard EcoWorks on this project.  Not only are we improving the land and watershed  - we are working to create green job training.  We are working to try to raise $50K to fully fund 10 trainees this summer in the READY program - trainees earn a wage AND leave with marketable skills that can be turned into a career.  

Your investment improves the watershed, creates beauty, and also funds real-world job training.  

There’s a lot going on in the park right now. They’re getting ready for the 2021 concert season, and they continue to spread the word about the new concept plan for the park, created in collaboration wth members of the community. And, while all that is going on, they’re raising funds to care for the land and make the park enjoyable by future generations.

If you’d like to help, I think it would make a great Earth Day gift:


Meanwhile, if you want to stay up to date on upcoming performances, make sure to follow the park on Facebook.


It’s going to be a wonderful summer. I’ll meet you at the Chrysalis.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Relationships and Connections

 


The secret to building trust in education... Relationships, relationships, and relationships.

I can’t remember who said this. I found it the other day while I was scrolling through Twitter. I’m pretty sure the author is a teacher. At any rate, it’s the ideal way to begin a piece about the upcoming HoCo Rainbow Conference.  The idea for the conference was born out of conversations between a teacher and her students, and their willingness to share openly and listen to each other.

Danielle DuPuis, Media Specialist at Hammond High School and advisor for the school's SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Alliance) Club, was inspired by conversations she had with club members. Some voiced concerns that teachers didn’t really understand them or that they were harassed by other students. They also expressed a desire to meet LGBTQ+ students and allies from other schools. Ms. DuPuis conceived of the HoCoRainbow Conference as a way to engage and educate within the school system as well as in the broader community while allowing students to make connections with their peers as well.

Despite the pandemic, the first HoCoRainbow Conference was held last year on May 15th, 2021 using a virtual format. And they’re back in the virtual format again this year on Saturday, May 15th. This year’s theme is: Focus Your Vision, Find Your Voice: Be Seen, Be Heard.

Here’s the big picture: the conference is free and open to anyone in the Howard County area: students, teachers, staff, parents, community members. All you need to do is register. (Did I mention that it’s free?)

HoCo Rainbow Conference (9 am - 5 pm) consists of:

  • A keynote speaker
  • Over 26 sessions to choose from
  • Rainbow Vision Literary Magazine
  • Read the Rainbow Bookclub
  • Rainbow Pridecast (a podcast)
Keynote speaker Mikah Meyer, founder of Outside Safe Space, is on a three year mission to explore all 419 National Park sites and raise awareness for LGTBQ + people while doing so. He will be speaking on the theme, “You are ordinary and extraordinary.”
 
Participants may choose up to 8 (but the exact number is up to them) of the many sessions being offered. Categories represented are: Advocacy & Social Justice, Health, Self-Awareness, Curriculum & Instruction, Literature, and Creative Expression. There will also be two Breakout Sessions where there will be an opportunity meet others and play some games. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of E.C. Pops and Shake Shack, there will be prizes, too.

The Rainbow Vision Literary Magazine brings together submissions in a variety of categories ranging from short story, poetry, art work, song lyrics, personal narrative, essay, film/video, music/audio, photography, script/play/manuscript, and drawing.  Rainbow Vision will include material that has an LGBTQ+ theme, is written by LGBTQIA+ authors and their allies, and/or is written for an LGBTQ+ audience. Last year’s Literary Magazine received the rating of “Excellent” by NCTE and the REALM program awards.

New this year is the Read the Rainbow Book Club, which has provided students with books on LGBTQ+ themes and/or by LGBTQ+ authors. Grant funding covered the cost of books and participants were able to meet with authors during online book chats.

Also new: Rainbow Pridecast, a podcast to help you learn more more about the LGBTQ+ community. Each episode highlights local (and not-so-local) voices, including allies. Many of the conference presenters are featured.

Circling back to my opening theme of relationships and making connections, I think it’s important to note the growth of this conference in just one year. Under the leadership of Ms. DuPuis and with the support of student interns, the HoCoRainbow Conference has made new connections and drawn in support from other departments within the school system. These new connections have allowed the conference to have a deeper and wider reach. 

The HCPSS Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is supporting the printing of the Rainbow Vision Literary Magazine, and members will be assisting with moderating sessions at the conference. The Department of Program Innovation and Student Well-Being has recently made it possible for students to add their pronouns into Canvas by turning on the pronoun feature. (Canvas is the only digital tool used by HCPSS that allows for pronouns.)  They are also starting an LGBTQ+ workgroup which will begin meeting later this month. So far responses have been received from 150 interested participants: students, parents, staff members, and members of the community.

The best responses to student needs can happen when teachers and students create supportive and respectful relationships, and where students are enabled to pursue ideas and issues that are meaningful to them. That’s exactly what happened here as one teacher and her students nurtured an idea and launched it into the world as a full-fledged community event. In the process they’ve opened up a whole new way for our community to learn and connect.

To learn more and to register: HoCo Rainbow Conference 2021

To connect with HoCo Rainbow Conference: