Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Fantasy Baseball

I have long indulged myself in fantasy concepts for local landmarks. Some examples: redoing the Columbia Flier building as an HGTV-esque Extreme Home and living there, redeveloping the Wilde Lake Village Center as “children's bithday party central” complete with bouncy castles,, transforming the Wilde Lake Village Center into a History of Columbia theme park…well, you get the idea. I just like brainstorming and sometimes my ideas lean a little on the wacky side.

That’s why I immediately recognized a kindred spirit in the writer of this tweet:

Move the Bowie Baysox to Howard County and introduce the world to the Columbia Crabs. Replace the dumbest parts of the Mall with a stadium. Who says no? They could keep like half the dang mall.

Well! That’s certainly an idea I had never thought of. I’m not particularly a sports fan, though I wouldn’t want to prevent others from enjoying them. In contemplating this suggestion I had two questions:

  • What would that do to traffic?
  • What exactly are the dumbest parts of the Mall?
Remember, this is not a serious proposal from County government. This is a (light-hearted, I think) suggestion from a sports fan who prefers the Baysox to malls. So, in that same spirit, do you think that would be fun? Can you imagine a world in which that would work? Would tailgating in the Mall parking lots become a thing?

I’ve seen various ideas in the past for what might happen with the Mall real estate if the entire mall concept eventually becomes obsolete. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a stadium proposed. 

A mall-stadium hybrid. Hmm. Not sure I can quite wrap my brain around that but I’m curious to hear what my readers think. Is a sports venue the Next Big Thing that the New American City ought to have? Or are we just fine without one?

Come back tomorrow when I reveal how commenters responded to this suggestion. It isn’t what you might expect.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Sunset at the Corral

Yes, I overslept, but I can’t let the day go by without telling you about this cool new way to celebrate the Fourth of July in Columbia.

Just another reason I love Oakland Mills. Now that we have that upgraded bridge across Route 29 we want to share it with everybody!

In order to keep all those bikes safe they are recruiting volunteers to staff the bike corral. This post from the Horizon Foundation explains more:

The bike corral is being organized by volunteers from Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake with funding and support from the Oakland Mills Village Board, Town Center Village Board, Columbia Association, Howard County, Bike Hoco, and the Horizon Foundation. That’s an impressive amount of collaboration!

I can see why the Horizon Foundation is supporting this: biking is good for your physical health, and using bikes instead of cars will cut down on fuel burned and spewed out in car exhaust. Good for people, good for the environment.

If you’ve ever tried to get home from the Lakefront after the fireworks, you know why every car taken off the road by bikes is an enormous help.

I know that some of my readers enjoy bike riding, including some who participated in the recent Columbia Bike Around. Does this proposal to bike to the fireworks appeal to you?

Oh, by the way, if you want to pick up some food for your evening, the Oakland Mills Village Center has a lot to offer:

  • Pizza Man (much more than just pizza)
  • Lucky's China Inn
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Little Caesar’s 
  • Sam’s Mart
  • LA Mart
(If you’re into healthy options the fruits and vegetables on offer at LA Mart are outstanding and reasonably priced.)

What will you be doing for the Fourth this year?

Monday, June 28, 2021

My Favorite Scenario


An update on the county’s HoCo By Design process came my way via this thread on Twitter by local blogger Frank Hecker. It starts here. A tip of the hat to Hecker for breaking down this information into easily manageable chunks. 

A reminder for those not in the loop on this. HoCo By Design is described by the county as follows:

Once each decade, Howard County updates its general plan, a long-range, visionary document that guides land use, growth and development decisions. From now through the end of 2021, the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning is leading a community outreach effort to create a new general plan, called HoCo By Design. County officials want to hear from every voice to create one vision for the new general plan.

Back to the Twitter thread. I found this part the most interesting: the proposal that Columbia Gateway be an area for future residential development. I’m not over there all that often but I certainly have imagined it as another Columbia Village. It feels as though there is ample room for places for people to live and possibly even some schools. 

I was happy to learn from Mr. Hecker that scenario C calls for a redesign of Columbia Gateway road access from MD 175 and Snowden River Parkway. I think that’s a great idea as, at the moment, there are very few ways in and out of Gateway.

Does the idea of Gateway as a fully fleshed out “microcity”appeal to you? For some reason it truly sparks my imagination. I think there are a lot of opportunities to get some things right there in areas where Columbia has struggled. Transportation and walkability come to mind. 

HoCo By Design is a visionary process. That means that both planners and citizens are engaging in a process that involves some imaginative thinking. That’s why there are multiple scenarios. Even if you haven’t been a part of this process so far, there’s still time for you to participate.

At the conclusion of the thread, Mr. Hecker gives this reminder:

P.S. I forgot to mention: You can sign up for an in-person "New Town Design Session Open House" on July 1 to talk to the #HoCoByDesign planners face to face. Make your voice heard! 

Sign up here.

It wasn’t so long ago that we were defending Columbia with statements that used the hashtag #morethanGateway. Maybe it won’t be that long into the future that we decide to make Gateway something more. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

No Memories

I was startled to find this in my Facebook feed this morning.

What do you mean, “no memories today?” How is that possible? I’m torn between thinking there is a glitch in the FB system or that somebody woke up this morning and just didn’t feel like doing it.

I know that feeling. 

At any rate, at least I have another place to go to check on my memories. And, oddly enough, about six years ago, I was writing about Facebook Memories. 


TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

The Opposite of Memories

Facebook has the nifty little feature that tells you each day if you have "memories" from that particular day. I find it both fun and informative to take a look back. I can see what life events I was going through, my commentary on local happenings, and hints at the evolution of my daughter's childhood.

Many themes that run throughout my posts remain the same today: family life, my teaching, the local blogging scene, my village of Oakland Mills, Columbia "politics", Howard County government, education and the antics of our Board of Education. Suddenly I had an idea. Perhaps more like an idea for a piece of premise fiction--what if Facebook woke you each morning with posts from your future?

One year from today--

Two years from today--

Three years from today--

Weird, eh? What if Facebook could analyze all of your information and somehow send you the opposite of memories: news of the happenings that haven't happened yet?

If the old French expression is true, then there are plenty of hints to our futures in what we are doing today. And in Columbia this seems particularly possible, as some folks have been stuck in a feedback loop whose purpose is to recreate the past and shut out the future. 

So, what do you think? Based on your knowledge of local happenings, what would Facebook be sending us? Especially in these areas: your neighborhood or village, Columbia/Columbia Association, Howard County Government, Board of Education/HCPSS. Based on what you know now, what will be happening:

One year from today--

Two years from today--

Three years from today--

Are we in a rut that cannot be changed? Can the trajectory of future events be influenced, transformed? 

How would you like to do that?


It’s interesting to read that and think of everything that’s happened since then. I must admit I winced when I read the phrase “the antics of our Board of Education.” At the moment I think I’d prefer antics over recent events at the BOE. 

Has anything major changed since then? Are we stuck in a rut that cannot be changed? 

Oh, and on a personal note, did you have any “Memories” today? I’m still a bit disgruntled about that.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

A Good Week for Mental Health

I’ve been watching a program on PBS called The Mysteries of Mental Illness. It’s fascinating. One of the issues addressed in last night’s episode was what they called “the bright white line” that seems to run between issues that are labeled as physical health, and those labeled as mental health, especially when it comes to coverage by insurance. 

Most people seeking mental health treatment soon discover that the coverage they have, if any, is dismally inadequate. In addition, the availability of in-patient treatment options continues to be far lower than the actual need. That’s certainly true in Maryland, which is why I was happy to read about the new Sheppard Pratt center opening in Elkridge.

Amid high demand for psychiatric care services in Maryland, Sheppard Pratt opens new, specialized treatment facility Hallie Miller, Baltimore Sun

I found this quote from the President and CEO of the Sheppard Pratt Health System enlightening:

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in terms of people needing access to services,” Trivedi said. “There are more beds needed; however, a general bed doesn’t work. If we built 12 general beds in this county or that county, it doesn’t solve the problem.

“It’s about having the right continuum of services for what people need and services that are specific to the problems people have.”

It stands to reason that meeting someone’s needs with the appropriate treatment might avoid the likelihood of that person having the kind of crisis that necessitates an in-patient stay. This will not always be true, of course, but some crises can be averted by appropriate proactive treatment. But both the scarcity of mental health services and the stigma around getting help often lead to the need for a reactive response. 

In physical health care we often hear about preventative measures to stay healthy. But with mental health we are more likely to ignore the whole thing until it becomes a big problem. 

We tend to think we all need “medical doctors” because we all have bodies that need physical care. Why do we not have the same attitude about mental health care? We all have brains, thoughts, emotions - - why don’t we consider regular, preventative care of these to be essential?

The PBS program introduces a question I hadn’t really thought about. Is anyone truly “normal” or do we all exist on a spectrum? 

Back to the quote: 

It’s about having the right continuum of services for what people need and services that are specific to the problems people have.

This piece of news this week in some ways feels like a response that that sentiment.

Howard County police will defer mental health calls to counselors  WBALTV 11

Sending police to handle situations where someone is experiencing a mental health crisis has frequently had tragic results. Police are not trained for this. Their responses can be inappropriate to the situation and have been known to cause more harm rather than prevent it. 

Howard County will be responding to calls like this with the ‘right kind of responder for what people need who has the right training for the problems these people have.’ Makes sense, doesn’t it? While the program announced is limited to cases where the 911 dispatcher assesses there is no immediate danger, I would like to see mental health professionals trained in crisis situations included in police responses that do present a degree of danger. Their professional expertise would be invaluable.

I hope we are moving in that direction.

What are your opinions on this topic? Is mental health care in Columbia/HoCo something you are concerned about? Do you think there is enough access to high quality mental health services? I’d love to know what you think.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Where We Are

Last night the Board of Education voted to approve the new MOU with the Howard County Police Department. SRO’s will continue to be present in Howard County Schools. The vote was as follows:

In favor:

Chao Wu

Jennifer Mallo

Vicky Cutroneo

Christina Delmont-Small

Yun Lu, Ph.D.


Jolene Mosley

Antonia Watts

Zachary F. Koung, Student Member of the Board

Every single vote in favor is deeply disappointing to me. One in particular galls me. That’s all I’ll have to say about that right now.

I can’t tell you the intent of the people who originated the practice of school policing, because I don’t know. But at this point, with years of data for us to analyze, it doesn’t matter whether they had good intentions or not. What matters are the results.

School policing does not make schools safer. Having officers in schools has not provided significant protection in the case of school shootings. Black and Brown students, as well as students in special education programs, are consistently targeted more often by police for punitive action, and they are arrested more often.

School policing does not provide the benefits that its proponents claim it does and it has actually introduced additional harms. 

On the other hand, devoting funds to more counselors and mental health supports, along with training in restorative justice practices, produces consistent improvements in making school environments safer.

When I was in school it seemed that an ongoing theme was how the human race was continually evolving for the better. Once people created myths to explain the natural world; now science gave us a more accurate picture. The origins of political systems were crude, violent, and autocratic, but look at the great improvements of democracy. Medical practice once involved ignorant and unproven methods based on incomplete or even non-existent knowledge. But just look at what our doctors can do today!

Perhaps my education was overly hopeful. It did not include a rather important piece which would have been helpful to me in my adulthood: in every time of moving forward there will be a significant number of people who adamantly, desperately do not want to evolve.

They don’t want to admit that what they believe could be wrong. They don’t want to understand new ideas or adapt to new practices. The personal comfort they derive from staying the way they are far outweighs the possibility that things could get better. And that is where we are this morning in Howard County, Maryland. 

So, what do we do? We keep working. Students are depending on us to do what is right. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Today and Tomorrow

My alarm goes off every morning at five am. I get up, get my coffee, and write. Some days it doesn’t take. I drink my coffee, scan social media for local stories, and doze off. 

Today was one of those days.

Looking on the bright side, at least this week’s Columbia Flier was in my inbox when I awoke. For some reason it consistently shows up later than the other local papers. I can’t figure out why this is. Surely it is ready to go long before any of us wake up. It’s a mystery.

A highlight in this week’s local events is the opening of the new Bauder Education Center in Long Reach. The center will provide more spaces for young children in the county’s Head Start program, operated by the Community Action Council. Early childhood experiences are a huge influence over future social-emotional and academic success. High quality childcare programs are crucial. And everywhere that families are struggling financially, it is important that those programs are also affordable. If they are not, they become a just another way that our society perpetuates an opportunity gap which continues through schooling and beyond.

As an early childhood educator I was thrilled to see County Executive Calvin Ball use this moment to write a piece for the Columbia Flier. 

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball: Early childhood education is an investment in our future - - Commentary

There are plenty of things going on in Howard County that Ball might want to highlight. That he took the time to lift up a commitment to our community’s youngest and most vulnerable means a lot to me. Not everyone finds this topic as compelling as I do, as hard as that may be for me to believe. But the gist of what Dr. Ball has to say here about Head Start is certainly consistent with his overall theme as County Executive:

  • investing in children and families 
  • supporting our community’s health 
  • economic vitality
  • investing in our future

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an online celebration/presentation about the groundbreaking for a new United Way Family Center, which will focus on care for infants and toddlers. At the time I found myself mightily impressed by all the various entities that were needed to come together and commit to making this new center happen. I’m going to be writing more about that particular event soon. It made a big impression on me. 

Like the Bauder Education Center in Long Reach, the United Way Family Center (to be located in Gateway) will provide more than childcare. In fact, each of the two centers will support families in additional ways, connecting them with needed help such as opportunities for further education, parenting classes, and/or help with housing, food, or energy assistance. Providing such supports and resources in one place is a proven method of helping people to easily connect with the things they need most to provide a better life for themselves and their children. 

I’m grateful that Executive Ball took the time to put this issue forward. Access to to quality, affordable childcare is in critically short supply in Howard County and throughout the nation. The little ones who get a better start today are the face of our community tomorrow. I wouldn’t be surprised if his commitment to early childhood programs is something we’ll be remembering him for, far into the future.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Bullet Points

Today is one of those days where I feel as though I could write one sentence apiece about a number of subjects. Not exactly a blog but there you are. Let’s do it.

  • There are too many people running for Governor (even more than the last time I mentioned this) and STILL none of them are women. Ugh.
  • Former Board of Education member Brian Meshkin is in trouble with the law and I am not surprised.
  • I went to Boarman’s for the first time and had the great experience everyone told me I would. Also, I think everyone should have to wash their hands before entering a store but then I am a preschool teacher.
  • Althea’s Almost Famous food truck will be at the Oakland Mills Village Center tomorrow from 12-6. I am reading rave reviews in the Howard County Eats Facebook group. 
  • Apparently Friday will be the last day for Howard County Times reporter Ana Faguy. As always, I wish our local journalists well as they depart but I continue to have serious concerns about the future of local news coverage.
  • The Board of Education is going to be considering a new MOU with the Howard County Police Department on Thursday. It’s not too late to send an email: We need counselors and not police in our schools.
  • My favorite bit of returning to normalcy this week had to be when CA was set to host its first movie night of the summer on Monday evening and a big old storm came and rained it out. That’s definitely the Columbia summer I know.

I’ll see you tomorrow for actual paragraphs.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021



Meanwhile, back at the Lakefront…

A year ago I wrote this post about the closing of Clyde’s  and the Soundry.

The Way We Were

This year the County is bringing back the traditional July 4th fireworks and festivities at the Lakefront. That’s a big step back to the way we were. Something new to the celebration will be an opportunity to support the Inner Arbor Trust and free arts programming for the community while enjoying prime seating at the fireworks.

You can take a look at details for this event here. Last year I wrote wistfully about an experience I’d never had:

I always wanted to be amongst the celebratory diners who enjoyed lobster and corn on the cob down at the Lakefront on the Fourth of July, surrounded by the famous patchwork quilt of families attending the fireworks. Alas, it was not to be. If you ever got to do that, I’d love to know what it was like. 

This is the same space that will be used for the arts fundraiser. The menu will be more down to earth (burger, hot dogs, etc.) but the proceeds will support a local nonprofit with a proven track record for bringing a wide variety of arts experiences intended for everyone in our community. 

I’m tempted.

Also down at the Lakefront is The 3rd, the new entrepreneurial (incubator?) space spearheaded by Laura Bacon. They held a Juneteenth pop-up picnic on Saturday which looks to have been quite a successful event. A reminder: The 3rd is located where Luca and its predecessor Petit Louis Bistro were located. For a look at Saturday’s event and to learn more about current happenings at The 3rd, check out their Facebook page. Their social media has been excellent.

Howard Hughes may well have lovely plans for the Clyde’s and Soundry spaces but in the meantime they continue to dazzle and wow us over in the Merriweather District. (No, I haven’t been over there yet but I only just started going places again.)  All the shiny new places and spaces are enticing, to be sure, but I still have my eye on the Lakefront. 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Lost and Found


Last week I had a bit of an adventure. Of course this is one of those “I took a wrong turn in Columbia” stories. I was coming home from picking up an item from my Buy Nothing group and found myself in unfamiliar territory. It was a cul de sac but without any houses around it. A dead end, I suppose, and I was about to turn around when I saw this guy.

He was so friendly that, when I rolled down my window to get a better picture, he just about climbed in my car. It was one of the many times in my life that I lamented being allergic to dogs. Those eyes! That sweet nose! That goofy tongue!

I went home and posted it on social media. So did someone else. This fellow was making the rounds! Later I read that he had been taken to Animal Control. 

Then yesterday someone posted this:

Same dog? And, if so, why is this poor guy still on the loose with no collar? Also, what about the dog that was taken to Animal Control? I’m hoping that someone reading this will recognize this dog. I’d love to help him get home.

Speaking of photos that tug at your heartstrings:


I had to laugh at myself because, even though the photo clearly identifies the location, I immediately assumed that the shop was located in Old Ellicott City. Sweet, quirky, off-beat: must be Ellicott City, right? No, no, no. Comics to Astonish is in Columbia, on Snowden, and I knew that. Really, I did. It’s funny how one’s brain makes assumptions. Columbia doesn’t have anywhere near enough sweet quirky off-beat shops, in my opinion.

Anyway, if you know this cute little lost plushie, well - - you know - - let’s help them get reunited with their (probably distraught) owner.


P.S. Tonight at the Lakefront, the return of movies with Mr. B. This evening’s offering is “Ralph Breaks the Internet”.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sweet Saturday

At nine am yesterday I was up, dressed, and waiting in line.

If you are wondering what could get me (and my daughter) out of the house first thing on a Saturday the answer is simple: doughnuts.

Blondie’s Doughnuts is a Baltimore-based, Black-owned business that brings freshly-made deliciousness to locations throughout the area by way of an adorable retro-style camper. It’s a Serro Scotty Sportsman, a name that would have mean nothing to me before I started watching Flippin’ RVs on GAC.

I’ve been seeing raves for Blondie’s all over Facebook. Somehow word of her delicious brioche doughnuts even reached my daughter, who travels in completely different social media circles. When I told her there would be a pop-up event in Columbia, starting at nine am on a Saturday morning, she was up and ready to go. We were there at nine on the dot and there was already a line forming.

The line moved at a reasonable pace and the service was pleasant and helpful. The variety of doughnuts, sweet rolls, and sticky buns was impressive. My daughter chose an amazing strawberry shortcake doughnut. I went for maple bacon. We picked out something chocolatey for Dad.

As for a report on the eating experience? Amazing. They do not taste like commercially made baked goods. They taste like they were made by a friend or family member who loves you very, very much. They are very rich but they are not too sweet. My husband and I had to divide ours into two portions. The Kid plowed right through hers but then ate nothing else until dinner.

These are special-occasion doughtnuts. At least, they will be for us. At $26.50 for three doughnuts this isn’t something we can do every day. Let me assure you, though: they were worth every penny.

You can follow Blondie’s on Facebook, and find them on Instagram: blondiesdoughnuts .

Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Real Deal

Almost as soon as I wrote this wishful vignette for my April first blog post, I realized how truly “not the news” it was.

Not the News”, April 1, 2021

County Executive Calvin Ball announces the repurposing of the Wilkins Rogers Mill in Oella as a huge, mixed-use project which will combine housing at a variety of price points, a grocery with pharmacy, an urgent care facility, and an elementary, middle, and high school. The surrounding parking lots will be replaced with playgrounds, playing fields, pervious pavement parking, and generous tree-planting. Local advocacy groups will be meeting to find something to object to.

The problem, of course, is that the building is actually located in Baltimore County. Oops. I got a bit carried away there. Setting aside that painful lack of knowledge on my part, let’s take a look at the real news about the Wilkins Rogers Mill.

Developer seeking to restore Oella flour mill into 190-unit apartment complex with retail on ground floorCameron Goodnight, Baltimore Sun

I’d like to point out that my fantasy proposal for this site was far more interesting, but what’s on the table shares some of the same components: housing and retail. 

Plans call for the Frederick Road property to transition into a multipurpose structure known as Ellicott Mill, housing 190 apartment units, retail space, a restaurant and a museum.

Ooh. A museum. Now why didn’t I think of that?

The project is in its early stages and the developer is David Tufaro of Terra Nova Ventures LLC. You may recall that Tufaro is a former candidate for Mayor of Baltimore. You get extra cool points if you remember that I wrote about him in the early days of the pandemic. I wonder how many folks took his advice to heart?

Who would even have thought that your neighborhood dry cleaner would be suffering? Mine is down 70% in business. My advice: While working from home, please dress as though you were going to work.

I wonder if his plans for the Wilkins Rogers Mill include a dry cleaner?


Out and about:

Bike Around Downtown Columbia event by CA with DTC and the Merriweather District, Saturday and Sunday. Block Party Saturday from 11-3.

Farmer’s Market at Clarksville Commons, 10-2

Juneteenth Pop-up Cookout by The 3rd, Downtown Columbia, and Jamila Wright-Jones, 2-4

Columbia Jazz Band: A Swingin’ Evening at the Chrysalis, 5-7

Friday, June 18, 2021

Mike and Laura


Dear Mike and Laura,

You are surely grown by now and very likely not even a couple anymore, but: there you are. Immortalized by an act of youthful romance. I wonder what the day was like when you carved your declaration into this tree in Symphony Woods. Or perhaps it was at night, under cover of darkness. Maybe it was marked by a moonlit kiss.

I’ve lived in Columbia 22 years now and I’ve never laid eyes on this tree before. That’s because I’ve never been in this part of the woods before. I’ve had no reason to. 

Last night - - an indescribably perfect June evening - - this part of the woods was alive. Eric Byrd was at the keyboard, playing Gershwin and Ellington and singing the kind of jazz standards that just plain make me happy. Drinks were available, food too. People were spread out under the trees in their folding lawn chairs. Children, comfy on blankets, played at the feet of their parents. Small groups, maybe families or groups of friends, were seated at the newly-decorated picnic tables.

Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods is more than the Chrysalis. If you’ve seen the new concept plan you have a sense of that, but I think many folks don’t truly understand that yet. The park is for everyone, is meant to be enjoyed by everyone. Not just on event days but all the time.

You get a different perspective being in this part of the park. I got to see the people who have made this stretch of land a part of their daily walks, some accompanied by their dogs. The buildings of the New American City were to my left, the familiar outlines of Merriweather Post Pavillion were on my right. But in the middle was this cool, lush haven filled with music and happy people.

Dear Mike and Laura - - you weren’t alone last night. You were surrounded by friends. If Symphony Woods was once the place you thought of as “your place” you’ll be happy to know that a new generation of Columbians is discovering* it. 

Some will be walkers or runners. Some will be attending concerts and other arts performances. Some will be dancing on the grass, like the two little ones in front of me last night. All will be making connections with the park.

The next free Happy Hour in the Park is Thursday, July 1st. Click on this link to see all the events coming up this summer. 

After a long, long time of isolation I hope I’ll see you in the park.

*To be honest, I hope that none of them carve their names on trees. I don’t think it’s very good for them. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Words and Actions


“If we all have been socialized to have certain biases and prejudices, then we are capable of enacting those biases in our words and actions.”

- Kevin Nadal, Psychology Professor

It’s as simple as that. 

While this quote comes from an article about microaggressions experienced by LGTBQ+ individuals, it is equally relevant when considering the treatment of Black and Brown people in our country and in our community. I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote this week. There are so many people in Columbia/HoCo who deny that these biases and prejudices are at play even as the evidence surrounds them.

The recent videos of Ocean City Police using tasers on young people for vaping on the boardwalk constitute something significantly greater than microaggression, however. This is physical assault for an act that clearly does not warrant such a response. Sadly the video is both horrifying yet not surprising: of course the young people were Black. Had they been white, that would have been surprising.

How can we ask our own young people to attend schools that bring the representatives of such violent and racially skewed actions into the building to police them in a place where they schould be learning? Where they should feel safe? It’s preposterous to suggest that SROs will provide examples of “what the police really are.” These students know quite well what the police really are. More accurately, what the police really are for Black and Brown people.

They see the videos. They hear the stories from friends and family. Or they already know from personal experience. 

If the police will tase you for vaping on the boardwalk, why won’t they tase you for smoking in the bathroom?

White parents who continue to demand the presence of police in schools are somehow comfortable with dismissing the evidence Black and Brown students are disproportionately targeted for punitive action. I can only guess that this is because it’s not their child. It’s not their child who is traumatized, whose learning is compromised, whose future is hanging in the balance. 

It’s a lack of empathy. Instead of responding by thinking, “no one’s child should be treated this way,” they think, “they must have done something wrong.”

We have all “done something wrong.” As white people it’s highly unlikely that we have been tased for it, or put in a chokehold, or arrested. As a teenager I snuck into a movie with some friends once. I got caught up in wanting to do what my friends were doing. I felt horrible almost immediately. I still feel guilty. 

Lesson learned, right? Teens do stupid things and need guidance. They need mentors and caring adults to set healthy boundaries. I truly believe this and I believe this is true for all our kids, not just the white ones. This is why we need funds to provide counselors, mental health support, training in restorative justice techniques. These are investments that can lift all students up. This is an approach that meets needs, rather than allowing bias to direct response.

If we all have been socialized to have certain biases and prejudices, then we are capable of enacting those biases in our words and actions.

Please, if you haven’t already, write the Board of Education to let them know that you support an end to school policing. 

If you want to participate in an action to protest the treatment of the young people in Ocean City, there’s an event planned for today in Annapolis.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021



The last day of school.

The official beginning of summer.

Pools will be open this year. There will be concerts and fireworks, family vacations. It seems as though we are speeding forward to regain something we have lost. After so many months where nothing felt normal, this summer beckons to us with the promise of normal life. 

But let’s stop for a moment. It’s the last day of school. A moment worth thinking about. 

Teachers have somehow held it together during the most challenging time in their careers. I don’t think we will ever truly understand how difficult it has been for them. They were asked to extend grace and patience to students and families, but often that same grace and patience was not extended to them. Their own health concerns were not respected. Work expectations were impossible to fulfill. Criticism came loud and clear on social media.

They say that the loudest voices aren’t the only voices but it can be hard to distinguish positive messages when the din of negativity threatens to drown them out.

Teachers know there have been positives. They know that students have learned and built relationships. They savor the moments when parents have shown support. And they won’t forget the times that colleagues or admin gave the kind of  love and care that made it possible to go on.

As teachers pack up their classrooms for the year I hope they can savor those times most of all. 

But their are challenges ahead. There’s no vaccine yet for children under twelve. The plans for responding to this are, as yet, incomplete. Teachers are keenly aware of what it’s like to be told to go forward when plans are inadequate. They are as anxious as we are to experience the joys of summer but these things still weigh on their minds. 

One more thing. I was talking online with some Howard County folks and this comment* struck me. 

One thing we learned is that slowing down is important and we can't let life continue to rush us through.  The concern our family has is we think next school year’s transition back to the new normal for both teachers and kids may cause the same,  if not more anxiety issues than the start of the pandemic. Change is hard for many, even when it's good.

That’s worth some thought. We don’t have to rush back to the way things were. We have an opportunity now to make things better. 

In some ways today will be like every last day of school before it. Teachers will observe their end of year rituals. Families will, too. But, before we close the book on this school year, some thanks:

  • To teachers and staff who gave it their all and then some
  • To parents and family members who partnered with them to support their children
  • To the students (whose education we all care so much about) who struggled, adapted, got tired, tried again, made connections, moved forward
Thank you. Thank you all. 

And now, let there be summer. But let’s not forget where we have been together and where we need to go.

*used with permission 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Order, Chaos, and the Big Plant


Yesterday’s sermon at church centered around gardening symbolism and one part of it really struck me. Our pastor described two kinds of gardeners: one that plannned everything out carefully and neatly, and the other that just threw everything out there and hoped for the best. This second method she called “chaos gardening.”

That would be me. I’m continually amazed by things that turn up that I don’t even remember planting. This little guy, for instance:

As an example of this kind of gardening Rev’d Groen described a plant that turned up in her yard which sprang up to impressive heights almost overnight. Her neighbors took a dim view of this thing. She herself had no problem with it as it even gave her a bit of shade on her front porch. As she described it a light dawned for me. I knew that plant.

Yup, we had one a few summers back that threatened to take over our back patio. At the time my friends informed me that it was pokeweed. Harmless, it would produce purple berries that the birds liked. On the basis of that I thought we should leave it alone but my husband (like our pastor’s neighbors) found something alarming about it. 

I took it out.

I’m definitely a chaos gardener, possibly because I was not raised by gardeners of the other sort. Or perhaps because there is something deep inside me that resists neat and careful planning. It could be some of both. My mother-in-law's garden in Dickeyville is a marvel. This year in particular she has invested a good deal of herself in making it “just so.” I think it may be a way of emerging from the pandemic by giving herself and her neighbors the joy and beauty of living things.

I think there’s probably a sermon in that, too.

I know that this isn’t particularly a local topic post, but the concept intrigued me. Are you a chaos gardener? A more traditional one? Or maybe you want nothing to do with gardening whatsoever? In the interests of trying to take a stab at making this a “community” post - -

Do you think these sorts of personality types come into play when we get together to work on community issues? I have a few ideas but I want to hear what you think.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Loose Ends

Recent blog posts have produced some interesting feedback. Here’s a sampling:

A Teachable Moment: Apparently asking people to come back to a playground later if all the parking spaces are full is highly offensive. So far it has mostly been men who are offended. And - - oh my! - - they are quite an authoritative bunch. I’d like to remind readers that the post was intended as food for thought, not a demand, and that my blog very likely has no influence over Howard County policy. 

Small Town Feelings My comparison of Columbia, Maryand to Wetumpka, Alabama, inspired by a show on HGTV, ended up being more of a learning experience for me than for readers. Not only is Columbia’s population far more than ten times the size of Wetumpka, it looks like many if not all of Columbia’s villages have larger populations. Thanks to Jeremy Dommu of The Merriweather Post for pointing me towards this report from the Columbia Association. I expect to return to this topic in a future post, once I digest the full report.

Finding My Way Judging from the response I got to this post, many people have gotten lost in Columbia. Reading reader responses to this was some of the most fun I have had in a long time. Some advice from locals:

  • Everything is in a circle.
  • The Mall is at the Center.
  • You can get anywhere in Columbia in ten minutes. Or twenty. (Varying opinions on this)
Midtown Mystery Many thanks to readers who offered information on the puzzling broken yellow line on the sidewalk. From one: It’s part of an expanded bikeway/pedestrian route, and I think connects to the similar stuff on LPP near Merriweather and the library. Another suggested: Those are the awesome wide paths/sidewalks that were part of the Complete Streets Project. I did see a post on Facebook about improvements to the multi-use pathway on Twin Rivers Road in Wilde Lake, which is where I was driving that day, so there does appear to be some connection.

A friend in Oakland Mills discovered what looked like a new pathway off the Walgreen’s side of Thunder Hill Road. Now I’m curious about that. I think that’s the spot where I recently noticed a sign from CA about pathway improvements. I should have stopped to read it, I guess.

A recommendation for your Sunday: listen to the June 9th episode of Elevate Maryland: Belonging Before Belief: Prisms of the People with Hahrie Han.  It’s a manageable length and filled with insights that you will want to jot down and think about later. One of my favorites:

Often in Democracy the work that is most important is the work that is the most invisible: it’s that invisible work where people develop the kind of habits and skills that it takes to work with each other to solve problems that we often can’t see.

I have a feeling that I’ll be coming back to this interview in another post in the near future.

By the way, sorry about yesterday. I apparently had a date with some extra sleep.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Midtown Mystery


I was driving to a doctor’s appointment Wednesday when I noticed what appeared to me to be a relatively new broken yellow line. (I don’t get out much; it may have been there several years for all I know.) While it’s true that we see broken yellow lines all the time, this one caught my eye.

It was on the sidewalk.

Hmm, let me review what a broken yellow line means:

A broken yellow centerline means that a driver may cross the centerline to pass another vehicle on the left as long as there is no oncoming traffic. Drivers should never cross a solid yellow centerline in order to pass.

What does it mean on the sidewalk?

Is it to keep pedestrians traveling in opposite directions from hogging too much of the sidewalk? Is it there to permit pedestrians to pass one another on the sidewalk? (Perhaps there are speedy walkers in that neighborhood.)

Does it have something to do with bicycles? The only bicycles I’m used to seeing on sidewalks are ones with kids on them. Is this a way to help pedestrians and kids on bikes “share the road” safely? I’m not trying to be cute. I really have no idea.

I noticed that Howard County passed funding for pedestrian and and bicycle infrastructure projects recently in the 2022 budget. I wonder if divided sidewalks are a part of that. Will I be seeing more of them? Will I ever learn what they are for?

As my readers know just about everything, I expect several of you to bring me up to speed on this shortly.


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Finding My Way

When I first moved to Columbia I got lost almost every time I left the house. I wrote detailed directions on how to get to the Long Reach Safeway and the Owen Brown Giant. In fact, my husband broke down and bought me my first cell phone after I ended up at a pay telephone at a convenience store near Long Gate, unable to find my way home.

When I traveled to as many as nineteen elementary schools, teaching Music and Movement to preschoolers in the RECC Program, I printed out directions from Yahoo and kept them in a folder in my car. I discovered how dependent I was on them when one day I needed to travel between two schools that I had never before taught on the same day. It was a test as to whether I could find something by dead reckoning, and it was a rather hairy experience. But I made it.

Over time I have become acclimated to Columbia’s quirky layout. More or less. GPS makes everything easier, so it’s hard to tell. And boy, has cataract surgery made reading address numbers a breeze! 

All of this came to mind this morning when I saw this exchange on Twitter: 

He: 5 years in Maryland and I’m still lost.

She: Unless you’re in Columbia there is no excuse.

How about you? Do you find it easy to navigate Columbia/HoCo? Does it drive you nuts? Do you find the non-Columbia part of the county easier to traverse? If you have any great “getting lost in Columbia” stories, I’d love to hear them.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Ignorance and Malice


The recent decision by Governor Larry Hogan to discontinue the federal subsidies for unemployment related to COVID is yet another example that A) he truly does not understand people who are not like him, and B) he considers his responsibility is to govern for “people like us.” I remember once defining the word “ignorance” for my young daughter as follows:

Ignorance is when you don’t know and you don’t care.

That would be Governor Hogan. 

Of course there exists the possibility that he does know but doesn’t care, which would be malice. Yes, I had a child-sized definition for that, too:

Malice is when you mean to be mean.

Today’s post is inspired by this piece by Crystal Peters at Maryland Matters. (It’s a guest post.)

Opinion: Governor’s Decision on Unemployment Benefits Hurts Women, Children, and People of Color

Take the time to read it if you can. It raises some important issues about about who exactly is relying on those benefits and what will happen when they are discontinued earlier than expected.

Embedded in this discussion is another important point:

There are also only 213,960 available slots for child care in Maryland, but 844,563 children who need it. That helps keep the cost of child care high and the availability for child care low.

So the Governor wants to force people back to work because he thinks they’re just slackers relying on the government dole. What on earth will happen to their children? Isnt the Republican Party all about “family values”? 

And why hasn’t the Governor done anything meaningful during his terms to address the critical shortage of quality childcare?

As Crystal Peters says, someone should ask him.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

A Sad State

Well there certainly are a lot of people running for Governor. Democrats, that is. With Wes Moore joining the race yesterday it looks like this:

Rushern L. Baker III

Jon Baron

Peter Franchot 

Doug Gansler

Ashwani Jain

John B. King

Wes Moore

Mike Rosenbaum

You may be noticing something about this list. I do. There’s no women. I find this incredibly frustrating. It seems that in Maryland there’s a distinct lack of willingness on the part of the fellas to set their ambitions aside and get behind a woman.

This is true not only at the gubernatorial level. Back in 2017 I wrote about how women are marginalized in Howard County local affairs:

...and yet all women have experienced this treatment. One is rendered invisible. A woman might be thought of as good conversation, great to bounce around ideas with, and just the right person to host an at-home candidate event. But would that favor be returned? (“A Report from the Front”, June 7, 2017)

Do men think it is “unmanly” to support a woman?

Yet again a look at Congress and the Senate shows all electeds from Maryland are men. Sheesh. Thank goodness we have women representatives in the state legislature.It does look as though that’s as far as the Maryland political system is willing to go when it comes to women in higher office. 

It’s 2021 and, as far as I am concerned, that’s a pretty sad state of affairs. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Small Town Feelings

Last night I watched the final episode in a special HGTV series called “Home Town Takeover.” In it, the small, spunky, but struggling small town of Wetumpka, Alabama receives a makeover courtesy of renovation experts Ben and Erin Napier. (An impressive array of additional Discovery Channel notables assist.)  

Throughout the series I kept feeling as though something was missing. Last night I realized what it was: complaining. Controversy. How could one town undergo so much change with nary a peep from the naysayers? Here in Columbia such a scenario would be impossible. We can’t even redo a Village Center without protests, committees, and mediation. Oh, and don’t forget meetings. Numerous meetings, contentious meetings, interminable meetings.

Of course none of that kind of behavior would make for the kind of television that HGTV is after. And I suspect that plenty of legal documents were signed to make sure that Wetumpkians behaved themselves and were suitably grateful. At least in public. But you know there’s got to be folks behind closed doors who don’t think much of those sherbet-colored business facades or that new hoity-toity farmers market down by the Coosa River. They liked the atmosphere better at Coaches Corner before those out-of-towners got their hands on it.

It’s human nature. Some people have a hard time with change. Some people truly enjoy complaining.

I laughed at myself a bit as I made the comparison between Columbia and Wetumpka as “small towns.” Wikipedia set me straight.

Columbia, a census-designated place, had a population of 99,615 at the 2010 United States Census. It is the second most populous community in Maryland after Baltimore. More recent estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey put the population at approximately 103,467 as of 2015.

At the 2010 census the population of Wetumpka was 6,528.

Okay, we’re not a small town, even though I often feel that we are. 

I wonder though, if there is a generally known percentage of people who are involved in their communities that remains constant whether the population is six thousand or a hundred thousand. What about complainers? Does every place have about the same percentage, or are some locations just more prone to it?

We’ll never know if there were any hot words exchanged at City Council meetings in Wetumpka over the months-long transformation. That’s not part of the HGTV “concept.” But, here in Columbia, well, we can just imagine.


Sunday, June 6, 2021

A Teachable Moment


Some thoughts today about parking.

I’m thrilled that the new Play for All Playground at Blandair is bringing people to my side of town from all over Columbia/HoCo. I don’t think that Play for All means that we all have to be there at the same time, though. As I opined last week:

When I encouraged you all to visit the new playground at Blandair I didn’t mean you should all come on the same day. Really. We drove by there yesterday and it was wildly overcrowded. Not only was every parking space filled, but people were parked on the shoulder on both sides. I don’t mean to promote exclusivity but I do think there’s a limit of how many children can play on a playground successfully. 

Of course it’s new and that adds to its appeal. But maybe they should prohibit that “creative overflow parking” in order to keep the playground experience safe. In the meantime if you have special needs children and/or children with sensory issues, you’ll definitely want to choose off hours to avoid meltdowns. 

As an early childhood educator I am used to contemplating the needs of young children in a variety of ways. One of them is making sure that a classroom has enough square feet to accommodate the number of children in a class. That doesn’t mean simply “will they fit in the room?” It is crucial that children have enough physical space to move, play, interact, be able to have some quiet ‘down time’, and so on. When you don’t have enough space (have too many children in the space) you consistently see the negative impact on the students.

I’d like to suggest that the same is true with playgrounds. I don’t know who is in charge of calculating it, but there has to be someone, somewhere who figures out how many children a play space can accommodate safely. If you have been to an overcrowded playground you know that it is harder for kids to play and much easier for accidents and injuries to occur. It’s incredibly difficult to keep track of one’s  own children on an overcrowded playground, too. Add to this the expectation that this particular playground is meant to accommodate children with special needs and you can see that overcrowding comes with the additional hazards of excessive noise and stimulation. 

So: parking.

What if we decided to agree that the number of official parking spaces allotted for the playground is a sort of guideline for how many people the play space can accommodate? Note: I do not know if this is how parking spaces were allocated. It’s my own hypothesis.

It seems to me that this is like a self-assessing activity. If you come to the playground and all the parking spaces are full, that means the playground is at capacity and you should come back at another time. It is not an invitation to park on the side of the road. There are other play spaces in Blandair Park worth visiting. 

Is this so difficult to ask people to respect? An overcrowded playground is less fun, less safe, less accessible and less inclusive. Of course it is disappointing to arrive and discover the parking lot is full. I get that. Perhaps that’s an opportunity to talk about how we all care about one another by respecting boundaries that keep our friends and neighbors safe.

It’s also an opportunity to visit the other Blandair play spaces and, while you are at it, get a snowball at Pete’s.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Little Things


I slept very late this morning, which was delightful. But let me tell you some good things about yesterday:

The River Hill High School graduation went without a hitch and my husband got to celebrate with his students and school community. He followed this up by going to the ballgame and the Orioles won.

I don’t know how I can top that.

I did manage a bit of venturing out myself, taking a bag of old jeans to the denim recycling drive at Mom’s Organic Market.  I will have to go back soon because they have totally redone that store since the last time I was there and it is gorgeous. (Yes, that shopping center counts as being “on the other side of town” for me.) 

But my real reason for being there was to have my first “noodling around” adventure at the Dollar Tree, post-vaccination. I honestly don’t spend a ton of money there. Well, I guess that’s the point. Let me rephrase that. I don’t usually buy a ton of items there. I just enjoy doing what my mother called “noodling around.” I guess other people classify that as “browsing.” Considering my health over the last year, noodling around now counts as legitimate exercise. I spent about eleven dollars on mostly useful things, got a idea for a craft, and saw a man walking a tiny white dog whose paws, ears, and tail had been colored a pale shade of pink.

I’d say that was a pretty successful work-out.

The day ended with my daughter and I ordering dinner from our neighborhood reliable standby: PizzaMan. (They deliver.) Probably the high point for me was briefly registering an oxygen level of 97, although visiting Dollar Tree was a close second.

It’s the little things.