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



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:

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:

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Gift of Time

To be honest, the only reason I know that it is National Volunteer Week is that I saw a mention of it on Facebook. I didn’t really even know there was a National Volunteer Week. There is. According to the webpage for the national organization:

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world. Each year, we shine a light on the people and causes that inspire us to serve, recognizing and thanking volunteers who lend their time, talent and voice to make a difference in their communities....National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 and has grown exponentially each year.

Certainly there’s a whole lot of volunteering going on in Columbia/HoCo. Both Columbia Community Care and The Community Ecology Institute - Freetown Farm are powered by a committed workforce of volunteers. Over the years I have known people who volunteered at The Route One Day Center, The Howard County Conservancy, the Inner Arbor Trust, A-OK Mentoring-Tutoring, Neighbor Ride, Talk With Me Howard County, their children’s schools...

What does it take to become a volunteer? First and foremost: time. Having extra time is a privilege that not everyone has to give. You need to be committed enough to follow through. In Columbia/HoCo you may very well need transportation. Most of all you need to find a cause that motivates you enough to join in and be a part of its mission. If you feel deeply committed to their success you may very well want to do more to help them achieve it.

Volunteering can be the beginning of finding yourself engaged in a new sort of community, one that shares  a common goal and attracts those with a desire to give of themselves. Some people meet new friends while volunteering. For others the cause for which they volunteer becomes a home away from home and/or the primary source of their social life.

Interested in volunteering? Howard County Government has a place on their website where you can search for something that fits your interests. 

Have you ever volunteered locally? Was it a good experience? Would you recommend it to others? I am guessing that my readers are also deeply involved in their local communities. I’d love to know about the causes and institutions you support through the gift of time.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Take Me Away


I’m having a day over here.

What kind of day? You ask.

I’m having a day where I just want to move away and live in a little beach town where I don’t know anyone and they don’t know me.

I don’t want to know the local players or movers and shakers. I don’t want to be up to date on the local controversies. Most of all I don’t want to have my hopes raised because I believed in the good only to have them dashed by the powerful, the cynical, the well-heeled and well-connected. 

Just for today, I’d like to resign from all that and walk on a beach somewhere far from the taunts of privilege, and racism, and smug self-righteousness. My perfect beach would have no Columbia/HoCo mansplaining, no passive-aggressive Twitter threads, no conspiracy theories. 

I’ve spent the last ten years trying to educate myself on local issues and communicate through this blog the things that matter. But today, my friends, I am so done with that. At long last I’m not so sure about that investment.

What a relief it would be to be far from the endless disputes and small-mindedness. 

So that’s where I’d go today. If I could. 

And I would feel the cool sand between my toes and let my mind wander to thoughts of art and music. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Local Signs


My next door neighbor’s tree is a sign of spring that brings me joy every year.

As for me, I’m no gardener but I have one or two random tulips. That is, if the deer don’t behead them before I can take a picture.

It seems that everywhere you go right now in Columbia/HoCo, glorious blooms abound. Where are your favorite vistas of Spring? If I were going to get in my car right now, where should I go to experience Spring in all its glory? Send me your recommendations.

Of course if it’s your own backyard I promise not to drive over and show up on your doorstep. I’m really thinking of publicly viewable spots. As I recall, the Rouse brothers statue at the Lakefront is flanked by a bed of red tulips. And people are already posting with anticipation about visiting the Brighton Dam Azalea  Garden, which usually looks its best around Mother’s Day.

I’m a huge fan of forsythia but it looks as though it has already had its big moment for the year and is moving on. Sigh. That particular color of yellow is my very favorite. I wish it could hang around longer. What are your favorites?

Friday, April 16, 2021

Sharing Stories


I highly recommend this beautifully written and produced story from the BBC:

Is this the new Main Street, USA? - - Eliot Stein

It tells the story of Rasha Obaid and Majd AlGhatrif, the owners of Syriana in Old Ellicott City. I have been inside Syriana though I haven’t had food there. That’s something I hope to do as I return to the world post-vaccination. 

There’s a letter to the editor in this week’s Columbia Flier that asks a question about hate crimes. The author supports prosecuting perpetrators of such crimes under the law, but wonders what we all could be doing to prevent these crimes from occurring. How could we be more proactive? 

As I read the BBC piece about a married couple from Syria who have made a home in the United States and joyfully share their culture, I thought about how important it is to learn other people’s stories. Learning other people’s stories can prompt one to engage and enter in to relationships with those one might have avoided or ignored. Enjoying the hospitality at Syriana or engaging in conversation with the merchants at the Common Kitchen are ways we can step over the boundaries that separate us. We begin to become neighbors. 

I think that’s one of the ways we can prevent hate crimes. Taking the time to learn someone’s story can be a first step in seeing shared humanity. Once you can identify with someone else you have begun to build a bridge that supports relationship and rejects hate.

“Communities are stories, and between the floods and the comebacks, we now have a lot of shared stories with the people here,” AlGhatrif said. “We feel like we belong to the story.”.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Eyes Open

I’m going to begin by looking back a bit. I think you’ll see why. - - jam

Looking for Mr. GoodRouse (February 10, 2012)

The room grew quiet. It was a depressed kind of silence, as if no one could think of anything to say that would help or make things better.  Finally, someone spoke. "The problem is that we keep hoping for the Great Good Developer who will be to us what we think that Rouse was--and it ain't gonna happen."

He went on, "The County is our Government, and that's where we need to be going if we want things to change.  This kind of magical thinking isn't going to do anything."

We were talking about the Bridge Columbia Project, an idea which would benefit Columbia and Howard County alike.  But we could have been talking about any significant challenge that Columbia faces today.  Insomuch as we have to work with HHC or GGP to get something accomplished, we cannot make them into something that they are not.   They are not like the God-like force protecting the Edo on Star-Trek Generations, looking out for our every need, protecting us.

That's not what developers do. 

The People Tree may have come to represent something inspirational about Columbia, but that doesn't change what it is. In his blog post, "Identity Crisis", WordBones tells us, "In the early years of Columbia’s development, the People Tree image was used as a branding symbol for the new town." 

A branding symbol.  It's Columbia's Golden Arches, and it doesn't belong to us. It belongs to the owners of the brand--who, at the moment, happen to be HHC.  To attach such beautiful, lofty ideals to a branding symbol, and then expect the owners of the branding symbol to take part in the "Great Good" relationship with us--that is Magical Thinking.

We need to make the magic. And we need to forge the relationships that will make that possible. Sitting around waiting for the "Great Good" someone to make things right with Columbia leaves us vulnerable to anyone who knows the real rules of the game and can operate past us in our love affair with Magical Thinking.

We can keep our lofty ideals, and we can fight for the philosophy upon which Columbia was created.  But we need to go where the magic is made, and be willing to make it for ourselves.  And maybe it's time for a new symbol that Columbia and Howard County can share.

Fast forward, friends, to 2021 and a fancy PowerPoint presentation from the Howard Hughes corporation. You may already have seen some of these pages floating around the internet. Of particular interest is the pride HHC takes in controlling cities, describing it as “monopoly-like control.” 

So here we are, Columbia. 2021.

Sitting around waiting for the ‘Great Good’ someone to make things right with Columbia leaves us vulnerable to anyone who knows the real rules of the game and can operate past us in our love affair with Magical Thinking.

Lately I’ve seen some people taking their Magical Thinking and investing it in The Rouse Project. It’s only natural that, in difficult times, people want something to believe in. I don’t condemn that. But cloaking oneself in the image of Rouse when you won’t divulge where your money comes from is just another way of taking advantage of those same people who are still looking for Mr. GoodRouse. 

Tell them what they want to hear. Just don’t tell them what you don’t want them to know.

Anyone who tries to sell you a feel-good Mr. GoodRouse vision deserves more scrutiny, not less. If they want your trust they should have to earn it, whether they’re HHC or The Rouse Project. 

The fact that Columbia was created as an aspirational community has left a mark on us, her children. It makes us vulnerable to the kind of people who know how to say the right words while simultaneously playing a completely different game, a game that may very well leave us out. In our hearts we’re dancing around the People Tree while they’re playing Monopoly.

So, be careful. Don’t give away your good sense to someone who tugs at your heartstrings if they don’t respect you enough to tell you who they really are. Keep your eyes open.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Counterfeit Confusion


Sunday evening we had a little post-vaccination get together at my house. For me, it was far more than a belated birthday celebration. It was the first time all five of us had been together in the same room for a very long time. As you might expect, it felt both slightly weird and completely normal at the same time.

I ordered food from Flavors of India, using their online menu. (It will be easier than calling them on the phone, I thought.) All was going smoothly until my husband stopped by to pick it up and they had never received the order. They also pointed out that the web address I had used was not theirs. This was odd, since I had a confirmation email and had sent my husband a photo of the order in case he needed it. And he did need it, because he had to place the order and pay for it all over again.

The lovely folks at Flavors of India sent him home and delivered our food to us, with complementary rice pudding for dessert.

Meanwhile, I checked my bank account and the charge to my debit card was already pending. This cast a bit of a pall over our family fun. Clearly someone had created a counterfeit website to scam people. Who on earth does this?

Yesterday I contacted my bank, and, after forty-five minutes on musical hold, canceled my debit card and ordered a new one. Today I get to call back and authorize the bank to dispute the charge. Oh, goody. Maybe they will have new music for my waiting pleasure. 

If I sound cranky, I am. Though I should make it clear that I am very grateful that my bank is able to help me. But I’m disgusted that there are people out there who would do such a thing. And I’m annoyed with myself for allowing myself to be fooled by a counterfeit website. In retrospect, there were signs that something wasn't quite right but, since I had never used their website, I assumed I was in the right place.

I have been walking around the house since Sunday night with “This is how the elderly are swindled out of their life savings,” running through my head. In truth, I’m not exactly elderly. And $125.00 is not the sum of my life savings. But you know what I mean.

To conclude: I highly recommend Flavors of India. Call them on the phone or it’s easy to order on GrubHub. If I ever figure out the mystery of the counterfeit website I’ll let you know.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Today We Grieve


From Twitter:

If you wonder why the Maryland State legislature has been working on police reform throughout this session, this is why. If you wonder why they pressed on to override the Governor’s veto, this is why. Throughout this country policing is unequal and oversight is woefully inadequate. 

This must stop.

The same is true for the policing of Black and Brown students in our schools. Police look at them and treat them differently than white students, and the consequences are devastating. We didn’t have SRO’s in this country until after schools were integrated. People in power looked at the prospect of Black and Brown children coming into what had previously been all-white spaces and decided in advance that those they perceived as “different” were automatically dangerous. And needed policing.

It has been a self-fulfilling prophecy from the outset. Police find what they are predisposed to see. Students’ educational experience and future prospects are diminished. White students see a distorted process where Black and Brown students are criminalized for behaviors that would warrant white students a talking-to or redirection. So white students are taught, by default, that this is normal, the right way to do things.

It may be the norm, but it is definitely not right. The injustice meted out in our schools or on the streets shows a systemic pattern of racism and violence. Some are singled out. Some are spared. 

And it goes on and on.

Over and over. 

Students devalued.

Fathers and sons murdered. 

A mother killed in front of her child. 

Anguished protesters tear-gassed and beaten.

In Maryland Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary and her colleagues in Annapolis were not willing for this to go on forever. I am thankful for their work and their persistence. In Howard County we must do the same. We must make it clear to our Board of Education and our Superintendent that police do not belong in schools. No matter how long it takes, we must persist. 

But today we grieve.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Progress Report

A friend reached out to me to share this quote from Tony Conti, the lawyer who represented the parents attempting to strip voting rights from the Student Member of the Board position.

Tony Conti, the lawyer representing the parents...wrote in an email. “... Our only hope is that the Court of Appeals will recognize the urgency and decide the case before our children lose out on another year of education.” (“Howard County parents lose lawsuit aimed to strip student school board member’s vote” Jacob Calvin Meyer, Baltimore Sun)

What the heck? “Lose another year of education?” 

I wonder how the teachers who have been teaching those students day after day feel when they read that. As though their hours and hours of work didn’t exist, meant nothing. Of course distance learning is not the same nor did anyone ever say it would be. It has been the best that could be done during a health crisis that has overwhelmed all parts of our society. How mindblowingly arrogant it is to say that because you didn’t get what you wanted that education didn’t exist at all.

As we continue to load extra responsibilities on teachers due to the expectations of a hybrid teaching model, we are placing an unsustainable amount of stress on the professionals we need the most to support our children. A significant number have already left teaching. More will follow. It is not because they aren’t devoted enough to their students but because they have been treated egregiously by privileged parents who think their tax dollars buy them the right to boss people around.

When you treat people like nothing, you will eventually find you have no one to boss around.

By the way, the piece below shows where we were a year ago. As a teacher I’d have to say we have made remarkably little progress.

Rant Redux, April 11, 2020

I’ve already posted this on my personal social media accounts but it bears repeating:

You’re not a teacher. You’re not an administrator. You have no idea how a school system of almost 59,000 students operates. But somehow you are an expert at knowing what a transition to distance learning looks like for students from k-12, some in poverty, some who don’t speak English, and special needs students. All this during an ongoing international pandemic!!! You think you are an expert because you have this deep-seated feeling that people like you are not getting good service. That you’re not getting your money’s worth. 

You are breaking my heart, Howard County.

Some folks out there are having a hard time understanding what their responsibilities are during a time of crisis. And I’m not talking about mask-wearing and social distancing. I’m talking about what it means to be a parent when your community is weighed down by the effects of a quickly spreading and lethal virus.

I can’t for the life of me understand how anyone’s reaction to this could be “they owe me”. What part of unprecedented national emergency do they not understand? Imagine we are New Orleans after Katrina. Or Puerto Rico after Maria. Imagine this is London during the Blitz. This is the crisis of our lifetimes and they want to know why they aren’t getting better service?

Their children feel the anger and bitterness. They will absorb the disrespect for the school system. These parents are teaching that, in a time of great suffering, it’s all about demanding to speak to a manager. The lesson is: poor children don’t matter, special needs children don’t matter. The teachers and administrators and their families don’t matter. Only we matter.

Teachers and administrators who travel in the same social media circles read their diatribes and are demoralized. With every rant they weaken the bonds that connect dedicated professionals to the community they serve. As schools scramble to create the best learning experience they can, the specter of angry parents looms large.

We all drink from the same social media water, friends. What happens when you poison the well?

You are truly breaking my heart, Howard County.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Memories and Farewell


This week I learned of the loss of a kind and magical person who was a loyal reader of this blog. I want to devote this space to her today and share with you a glimpse of what made her so special.

I first met Penny through my friend Mary Kate. (Mary Kate is very important to my story because she is the person who said to me, way back when, “You should have a blog,” before I even really knew what a blog was.) It was clear from the start that Penny was the kind of person who gave you her complete attention and made you feel valuable and cared for, even if you didn’t know her well. 

Over time Penny became a reader of this blog. But she wasn’t just a passive reader; she participated. She interacted. She made the blog better by putting herself back into it. Penny responded to posts about Columbia with her perspective as a long-time Columbia resident. She was a devoted supporter of arts education. Penny offered words of encouragement when my blog posts responded to injustice or heartache. If I exhorted readers to write a letter about something, Penny would let me know if she had. If I suggested a worthy cause for donation, she would consider it seriously and often sent something along in support.

It made me smile when Penny offered me this birthday wish:

Of course, no blogger can really do that but the sentiment truly tickled me.

In a remembrance of Penny’s life, Mary Kate wrote:

She moved to Maryland as a young adult and made her mark in so many ways. She was an editor of the magazines Spinning Wheel and Ad-Media, the first volunteer Post Mistress at the Oakland Mills Post Office in the brand-new planned city Columbia, and a volunteer-extraordinaire; perhaps most notably for her work done on the annual OM Haunted House in the village center. She was also seen on stage in various theater productions in Columbia. For those of you who know what this means, Jim Rouse told her that she was one of the people on the People Tree.

As I sifted through my Facebook memories of Penny I found a birthday wish I made one year for her.

One of my favorite memories of Penny comes from a time when she had first purchased a convertible. Her delight in experiencing the world with the top down and the wind in her hair was contagious. You felt her joy. 

We all need more people like that in our lives. I will miss her.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Around Town and On the Air

A few odds and ends this morning.

For those of you who might be wondering, “why picnic tables?” after the announcement of this year’s contest at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, here’s a lovely piece from the folks at the Inner Arbor Trust:

Why Picnic Tables Matter

Something to think about:

...these outdoor gathering spaces will continue to be critical - and we believe that this refound love of the outdoors is here to stay.  We need large, socially distanced outdoor spaces to begin to rebuild that feeling of community, that joy of being together in a common space.  

A picnic in the park sounds like just the thing.

Reader Katie Kirk recommended another option for my “first freedom” Saturday:

Tomorrow from 10 am to 3 pm at HCC will be this year’s Howard County Greenfest. You can learn more about this year’s event here.

Lastly, this week marks the four year anniversary of local podcast Elevate Maryland.  It began on the couches at Joe’s Deli (now sadly departed) with the production expertise of Ilana Bittner of HoCoMoJo and Pixel Workshop. Hosts Candace Dodson Reed and Tom Coale then struck out on their own, presenting from local venues like La Palapa, Lupa, The Common Kitchen, then finally settling in to the Howard Hughes event space downtown. Over the last year they’ve transitioned to a virtual format. 

They just keep on going. 

Occasionally they’ve joked that it’s just a hobby, but, frankly, doing what they do is hard work. If you’re going to do it well it takes preparation and a good deal of focus and presence in the moment when interviewing guests. As a listener, I find it’s not necessary to agree with the points of view expressed on the podcast to learn something new and/or valuable.  

Cheers to Elevate Maryland for four years of discourse on our “small little big town”* and beyond.

*Thanks to Dianne Mustapha Henry for the delightfully appropriate monicker.

Thursday, April 8, 2021



Two weeks.

This Saturday marks two weeks from my second vaccination. This means I can think about leaving the house for more than doctor’s appointments or picking up curbside at Walgreens. It’s a dizzying prospect. Where shall I go? What shall I do?

One possibility:

This Saturday, April 10, from 10AM-2PM, Clarksville Commons is hosting the last of their winter markets.* Confirmed vendors include: Bushel and a Peck, Great Harvest Bread Co, Raw Blossom, Highland Designs, The Urban Winery, The Salvaged Stitch, Mom’s Sweet Creations, Hensing’s Hilltop Acres, Soul Cacao, Balti’Marons, and 410 To 407. 

I’ve certainly missed hanging out at the Common Kitchen and grabbing a cup of coffee and a scone at Trifecto, so this is a tempting thought.

I’m also wildly curious about DoodleHATCH. I should check to see if they have any availability on Saturday. I haven’t been able to see what’s up at the Long Reach Village Center so that would be a fun little adventure for long-sheltered me.

I told my daughter I was trying to think of a special place to go this Saturday and she quipped, “Dollar Tree?” Yes, I have missed noodling around the aisles of Dollar Tree but it isn’t exactly where I’d go for my First Trip Out.  

Some fun things to do this weekend that don’t involve leaving the house:

Kukuza Fest  Black Women in Family Music, April 10 from 3-5 pm.  It’s a virtual music festival presented on Facebook live and it is free! Kukuza Fest is an initiative of Family Music Forward. You can learn more about them here.

“Magnificent Movie Music - Under Our Skin” is Saturday evening at 7:30 pm. Presented by the Columbia Orchestra and the Columbia Festival of the Arts, the event the will be presented online. Here’s the event page for more information. From the Columbia Orchestra website:

Lecturer Rachel Franklin uses film clips, witty commentary, & piano demonstrations to explore some of the greatest film music ever composed! Join us for the premiere of Part One on April 10th at 7:30pm for music from Gone with the Wind, Jaws, Laura, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Visit the Columbia Orchestra website to purchase tickets. ($20.00) 

I’m not quite sure how I’ll spend my first Saturday out of the house but I know it will be memorable. How about you? Do you have plans for your vaccinated future self? Or do you have suggestions for what I should do this Saturday? Share them here.

*Spring Markets begin May 1st.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Be A Part Of It

 From the community inspired mural at the East Columbia Branch Library to the fantastical 140 foot long “Parade” at DoodleHATCH, public art has been on my mind lately. I’ve noticed a few more opportunities to be a part of the local art scene that I want to share with you. 

The folks at Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods are kicking off their season with a picnic table art project. From the announcement:

The Trust invites individual artists, students, groups, corporations, non-profit organizations, and others to propose a design to paint onto a picnic table to be displayed in Symphony Woods during 2021.  As we emerge from the pandemic, the Trust wants to create a whimsical picnic area available for the community to enjoy.  

Deadline for submissions 11:59 p.m. on April 24, 2021. Learn more here.

I still remember what a great variety of creations were produced for the “Celebrating the Arts in the Park” Adirondack chair contest in 2017. Here’s an example from the Park’s Facebook page:

I encourage you to make a design and get in on the fun. This is for everyone. Who knows, we could be picnicking at your table later this summer! More on the importance of picnic tables. 

Another local call for art comes from Busboys and Poets, whose opening in the Merriweather District has been anticipated with great impatience since it was announced in September of 2019. This one looks geared for the professional artists among us:

Submit Your Art 

Now accepting applications for Columbia and Baltimore, MD

We review artwork for display at our locations year-round, in the order submissions are received. The artwork is rotated approximately twice per year (every six months). Preference will be given to local artists with a large body of work. Most often, large works stand out best in our spaces. Please submit your materials below and allow 4-6 weeks for review.

Click the link above for more information.

What’s your favorite piece of art in Columbia/HoCo? I’m fond of the statues at the Lakefront but I also have a soft spot in my heart for the Ellicott City Eggplant.