Thursday, September 30, 2021

Primal Parenthood


Let’s talk about being a parent. 

When my daughter had just learned how to read I suddenly realized that the headlines of the tabloids were now accessible to her as we waited in line at the grocery store. I had a little talk with her about how those kinds of publications were different than newspapers like the Baltimore Sun, and that they sometimes twisted or stretched the truth, or downright made things up. So, I said, full of the wisdom of a young parent determined to raise a child with discerning critical thinking skills, “If you see anything on those papers that you don’t understand, I want you to feel comfortable asking me about it.”

The very next time we were in the grocery store, on a day that was rather quiet in the checkout line, my daughter’s sweet young voice piped up with confidence.

“Mom? What’s ‘kinky sex’?”

Be careful what you wish for.

My definition, an on-the-spot, off-the-top-of-my-head explanation for a six year old, went something like this:

“You know how you like chocolate bars? Chocolate bars are really good, aren’t they? Well, when people use that word kinky it’s kind of like saying that there are people who can enjoy the chocolate bar only if they stole it. That’s what makes it special to them.”

There was more, and I’m hoping it was a little better than that, but remember: we were in the checkout line, paying, and carrying grocery bags and I was thinking on my feet. At the time I was pretty darned proud of myself. Now I look back and wince a little. (Okay, maybe a lot.)  What’s more important is that this was only one conversation of many conversations about sex and other difficult-to-talk-about topics. I don’t think I ruined her life. You’d have to ask her, of course. She’s thirty four.

Yesterday I came across this quote shared in honor of Banned Books Week:

That’s it. Sometimes as parents we encounter something that makes us fearful for our children because we think it may hurt them and we have a strong emotional reaction that it’s our job to protect them. In many ways it is our job to protect our children. That’s no lie. But there’s a big difference between something like contaminated drinking water or unsafe streets and books in a library. 

Now let’s talk about Banned Books Week. (September 26 - October 2nd) It’s almost over, but its observance in Howard County has been marred by some parents who had read something on social media about some other parents in Fairfax, Virginia who were really angry about a book in their adolescent child’s school library. In some circles this topic has surpassed denying that there’s racism in Howard County as the outrage du jour. 

And, verily, I say unto you: this stems from a strong emotional reaction to something that makes these parents fearful and uncomfortable. It taps into a primal fear that says, “here is something threatening and potentially dangerous.” Their subsequent reaction would be more in line with responding to an oncoming car or a wild animal attack. 

This is a problem. 

And here’s another one: when we talk about school libraries, your child is not the only one in the school. Your child will by design have a school library that is composed of books meant to meet the needs of all kinds of children in their school community. That’s truly what libraries are supposed to do. Librarians/Media Specialists are highly trained, extremely well-educated, inquisitive, responsive, and community-minded. In the case of school librarians, their community is the school. They work together with other librarians in the school system to make the most age-appropriate/developmentally appropriate selections to serve the students that will be using and learning in their libraries.

We as parents make decisions with the aim of caring for and protecting our own children. We are not given the power to control the whole world to make it the kind of world that we want our children to see. Honestly, there have been times that I have wished that I could. But that’s not the way things work. Our task as parents is to love, support, and inform our children in a way that will prepare them to grow into healthy and whole human beings.

More tomorrow. Also…

Duhn duhn DUHN!

…another educational story from my own parenting experience. 

Decisions, Decisions

Autumn can be a glorious time in Columbia/HoCo, with an abundance of days that are not too hot and not too cold. It’s traditionally a time for harvest festivals and all sorts of outdoor events. This year’s autumn events come with the added reassurance that being outside is a safer place to be in the world of COVID. Part of me wants to go to all of them for just that reason.

Tonight in the Park (Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods) is this year’s last outdoor happy hour of the season. It’s free but you must register so they’ll know how many people to expect. Oh yes, there’s also yoga on the Chrysalis stage if that’s your thing. I keep forgetting to mention that. 

Last Thursday Happy Hour featuring Moonstone, 9/30 from 5-7 pm

Saturday is an explosion of choices. My day will begin at the Oakland Mills Fall Festival. This is one of the events I really missed last year when public events were canceled due to the pandemic. It begins at 11 am but the OMHS band will be kicking it off a bit before the hour so, if you like band music, make sure you’re there by 10:50. It’s a free event. There will be food and drink for purchase, live entertainment, children’s activities and - - well, it’s all on the poster.

Oakland Mills Fall Festival, 10/2 from 11 am to 4 pm. Oakland Mills Village Center,Robert Oliver Place.

The East Columbia Branch of the Howard County Library will be hopping with with two different events. At noon it’s Community Circles: A Longest Table Event.  

Share an outdoors meal and conversation with some people you don’t know and discover both common ground and new ideas. Opening remarks from Trent Day Hall, a local leader in thoughtful dialogue and facilitation, from the Howard County Office of Human Rights and Equity.


  • Catered boxed lunches
  • Facilitated, small-group conversation
  • Separate circular tables provide more social distance and more intimate conversation

Then, from 2-5, it’s the HCLS Five-Star Showcase:

We are celebrating and you are invited. HCLS is a Five Star Library, as ranked by Library Journal for excellence, because of our services, initiatives, and most importantly – you! 

Bring your family and friends, and meet us outdoors for a great time. We have fun activities and interactive experiences planned for your entire group!  

Whether you want to give the 360° photo booth a spin, get hands-on with HiTech carnival games and flex your skills in a Ten80 race, grab a meal from a food truck to sit and take in tunes from the live DJ, enjoy a cozy storytime and kids crafts at our new Pop-up Library, or just relax in one of our outdoor lounges and connect with someone new, we can’t wait to see you there.  

Lastly, the event you’ve probably been hearing the most about: the Hops and Harvest Festival, which leads off its description of the day like this: Unlimited tastings. Live Entertainment. Fresh Local Food.  Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 at the door. Needless to say, drinking alcoholic beverages is limited to the over-21 crowd and: be smart. Pick a designated driver.

As the Irish side of my family would say, you’re spoilt for choice this weekend. If there are other local events you’d like to share, add them in the comments.

Saturday looks to be shaping up to be sunny and gorgeous. My only challenge will be deciding what to do.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Spots and Stripes


The alarm woke me in the middle of a dream that involved an animated Snoopy (from Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip) dancing on one page of a book and playing ice hockey on the next.

This may explain why I woke up with a taste for fluff this morning. So, fluff it is.

Not exactly a human interest story but rather an animal one: the five zebras on the loose from a farm in Upper Marlboro have captured the public’s imagination. It appears that area journalists have been unable so far to resist using the phrase “zebras have been spotted.” 


This article from DCist asks a question I hadn't even thought of yet:

Could the escaped zebras survive roaming around Prince George’s County forever?  , Rachel Kurzius

Yes, it includes the “zebras have been spotted” line but I’ll give it a free pass because it also includes a reference to one of my favorites songs from the old Captain Kangaroo show of my childhood.

“People that are curious may say, ‘Oh, they’re horses with striped pajamas — I can get close to them’ and that could be dangerous.” 

Oh, say there, Captain?

Now so far our story is only tangentially local. But what if the zebras make it all the way to Howard County? (Yes, I’m going there.)

Map courtesy of Maryland State Highway Administration 

Hmm…that means they’d have to make it all the way through Anne Arundel County first. I’ll admit it doesn’t appear likely.

But, since it’s the middle of the work week and I woke up with a taste for fluff, let’s ask this hyperlocal question. Assuming the zebras make it to Columbia/HoCo, where do you think they would go and why?

An example:

The zebras would clearly go to the Lakefront for a drink and to play in the fountain. 

Now it’s your turn. Live it up! Let yourself go. We can be serious tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Hope with an Edge: HCLS Opens New Equity Resource Center


Yesterday afternoon found me on the second floor of the Central Branch of the Howard County Library for possibly the second or third time over the past twenty-ish years. I was there for the opening of the new Equity Resource Center, which will also be home to the Undesign the Red Line exhibit until February 22nd. Here is HCLS President and CEO Tonya Aikens making a few last minute notes before the the event:

(Yes, you’ll be glad to know that professional photographers were on hand and I will add a link here as soon as I have one.  I’m no photographer, despite my good intentions.)

Update: photographs by Geoffrey Baker, courtesy of Howard County Library System.

Most important to me about yesterday’s event was learning that the impetus for an equity resource center came from the community. Ms. Aikens described the process that led to the creation of this new space and the library’s subsequent investment in a collection of over nine thousand items. She outlined the many partners that participated in the project. The Equity Resource Center is response to a need. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately impacted people of color, and following the murder of George Floyd, the community began calling for spaces where they could come together to learn more about people different than themselves (e.g., race, culture, belief, gender identity) as well as more about their own cultures and histories. They wanted a place to share ideas and formulate solutions. The new Equity Resource Center is in response to those needs. It provides space for ideation and for people to talk about how to build a better Howard County. (From the press release for the event.)

I’m going to be returning to the space to learn more in the near future, so there will definitely be another post about the collection itself. Today I want to focus on my impressions of yesterday’s event.

The inclusion of music was a meaningful choice. Through both the powerful rendition of “How Great is our God” sung by Donna Lakins and the achingly beautiful simplicity of a piece on ocarina played by Jingya Liu, music was a reminder of how human beings use music to express cultural heritage and how music can transcend those boundaries and reach hearts and minds beyond the divisions we make for ourselves.

The County Executive’s speech spoke to my heart. Often speeches at such events are a collection of Very Nice Words and the most one can say is that there was not a thing wrong with them. This was different. Ball spoke with honesty and sincerity about the needs in our community for a space to come together and learn and interact and grow in a way that will make Howard County a more equitable place. He spoke to the deep challenges that have come with COVID but also to the deep hurts which long pre-existed the pandemic: hurts caused by inequity and injustice.

It was a simple yet eloquent reminder: if you wonder why we need this? This is why.

Each speaker brought to light a different and valuable facet of why the creation of the Equity Resource center is important and of the possibilities it brings for our community. Two that stood out for me were the remarks from Jennifer Goldberg of the Howard County Jewish Federation and those from Meina Lu, the director of the Howard County Chinese School.  The former spoke of her own concept of equity with a definition that was both comprehensive and clear on the particulars. She affirmed that working for justice is very much congruent with the Jewish concept of tikun olam, or “repairing the world.” The latter spoke with heartfelt gratitude about the members of the Howard County community who came out to stand with the Asian community at the solidarity vigil at the Columbia Lakefront in March.

Something you should know: there were a lot of people there yesterday. More than you might imagine and certainly more than could be expected on a Monday afternoon. I suspect that’s because many of the people  present had been actively involved, in one way or another, in bringing this project into being. And there were also a good number of those, like me, who really care about this issue and/or are committed supporters of our library system.

I sensed a feeling in the room yesterday which might be described as hope. Not a casual hope like “I hope it will be sunny tomorrow,” but an earnest and watchful hope. 

If I could put that feeling into words it would be this:

We start here. We are building on what has come before and we move forward with hope. Each step is important. Each person we invite along on the journey is a bridge to more conversation, more learning, more connection.

There has been so much hurt. There has been so much injustice. We see how hurt and injustice will go on ceaselessly if we do not take a stand against them. And so we must. 

It might be hope I felt, or determination, or purely the belief that it is within our power to do better. Hope with a backbone. Hope with an edge. Hope on a mission to repair the world


Monday, September 27, 2021

In Search of the Sun


Does it seem exceptionally dark to you this morning?

Some good reading to go with your darkness:

Performing group to watch: Maryland Winds. Their concert at the Chrysalis yesterday with the musical equivalent of <chef’s kiss>. Here’s a snippet of how they sounded. Their rich sound complemented by the Chrysalis acoustics made for a perfect Columbia evening.

Can you tell that I’m having a mild case of the Mondays? When some light starts streaming through the front window I should begin to reanimate. I hope. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Insulation Remains

It has been a rough week in the old Columbia/HoCo. I looked back to see what was happening a year ago and came across this:

Bursting the Bubble

This paragraph made me think:

I’ve said that I’m not going to write about the Board of Education race this year, and so far I’ve held to that. But I’d like to leave you with one thought: no one should be serving students and families in Howard County and still feel content to operate almost completely in a world of whiteness. That is not what the job entails. We cannot keep electing people who can insulate themselves from the harm being done to others. 

Does our current BOE understand the lived experiences of all of our students, or just some? Do their words and actions show true comprehension and empathy?

For our students, their introduction to community “life and how we live it” begins in school. Are the experiences they are having equitable and just? Are we preparing them for a lifetime of learning and growth or are we acculturating them to endure and tolerate inequity and injustice?

I’m really struggling with this. I still believe that having a Board of Education that can insulate itself from the harm being done to others is the biggest challenge that we face. Not test scores, not school ranking, not “questionable” books in school libraries.

If people in power are silent when certain kinds of students get hurt, they are sending a message, teaching a lesson: only some people’s problems will be elevated. If that’s not you, too bad. You are out of luck. We teach students who are watching that there are certain times when it’s okay to look the other way. Yes, we are teaching them to perpetuate this behavior in their adult lives.

That is wrong. And any school system that isn’t willing to come to terms with this falls short of its mission.

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. 

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.

If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

(©1972 Dorothy Law Nolte, All Rights Reserved)

Saturday, September 25, 2021



Notice anything different about this week’s Columbia Flier/ Howard County Times? I did. And I tweeted about it.

Great! The Columbia Flier is now running syndicated content from Miss Manners. 

I would write a hyper-local Manners column for them for free! 

No, I wouldn’t. I’d probably want to paid for my work. And that’s what’s wrong with real people who live in your community. They want to be paid and treated like real human beings. #localjournalismmatters

And I brought it up on Facebook, which prompted this exchange:

Friend: They couldn't take the money they pay for Miss Manners and use it to hire a part-time reporter? Is Miss Manners that cheap? (well, you know what I mean ...)

Me:  Think of how many papers TribPub has. They probably get a package deal. 

I have nothing again Miss Manners. I do find it distressing to see our only local newspaper being padded more and more with syndicated content. Every piece like Miss Manners is occupying space that could (and should) be occupied by local stories. It’s like watching your home fill up with boxes of other people’s stuff, while less and less of it is accessible as your home anymore.

It’s sad.

It’s not that the editor of the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times thinks that we are particularly in need of etiquette content or even that we really want it. Someone higher up than that continues to cut away at monies for real-live journalists. Someone who doesn’t see or doesn’t care about the difference between “live, local” content and premade, general interest content.

Honestly, that kind of someone should not have any authority in the newspaper business. And yet, here we are. The local journalists that we do have are working as hard as they can and bear no responsibility whatsoever for syndicated content. Just imagine the stories we’d be reading about if we had more journalists. It’s mind-boggling.

Now, about that local Manners column. Would you read a hyperlocal one? Would you write a letter asking for advice? In some ways NextDoor has turned into a place where people vent their frustrations about interactions with their neighbors and ask for advice. Or maybe it’s merely a forum for self-justification. After all, Miss Manner was once all the rage. Now our society is tuned into forums like AITA, which is almost a reality show for inexplicable human foibles.

After this week I’m just itching to dispense advice on acceptable behavior. The more I think about it, being Columbia/HoCo’s Manners Maven might just be the second career I’ve been looking for. 

If only it were a paying job.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Whether Report


Weather report from the Capital Weather Gang:

Today’s daily digit (A somewhat subjective rating of the day’s weather, on a scale of 0 to 10.)

10/10: Not. A. Complaint. Not a single one. An incredible, “perfect” weather day is upon us. Read more about it while outside IN IT (with midday sunscreen, please)!

Express forecast

Today: Sunny. Slight breeze. Highs: Low to mid-70s.

Tonight: Clear. Calming breeze. Lows: Upper 40s to mid-50s.

Tomorrow: Mostly sunny. Highs: 72-78.

Sunday: Mostly sunny. Highs: Low to mid-70s?

Whether report from Village Green/Town² :

Whether you live in Wilde Lake or anywhere else in Columbia/HoCo, tonight’s going to be a perfect Fall night to come out and support the Wilde Lake High School Marching Band. (Oh, and the football team. I confess to having a musician’s perspective.)

Friday, September 24th WLHS Marching Band will be hosting Future Marchers Night! Come out and show these future WLHS students how we support our Football Team and the rest of our Wilde Lake community! 

Bring a bit of cash for entrance fees and concessions. Bring a sweater or a jacket. It’s going to be a bit chilly in comparison to recent temperatures so that’s why I’m admonishing you to dress accordingly. 

Update: The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for students, cash only. The game is at 7 but you’ll want to get there early tonight because it’s Future Marchers Night. You can park at the school or in the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center lot. *

Basically, it’s going to be a perfect night for Friday night lights and for showing support for student musicians who deserve far more respect than they’ve been given recently. 

*Can’t make it tonight? Still want to support WLHS Band? October 15th and 30th are both Home Games so the band will be performing their halftime show.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Update and Recomendations


An update on yesterday’s post: board member Antonia Watts provides an update on her Facebook page and indicates that Superintendent Martirano will speak on this issue at today’s Board Meeting. I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Recommended reading: local blogger Frank Hecker’s series on Howard County Council Redistricting. So far:

A bigger Howard County needs a bigger county council 

A more diverse Howard County needs a more diverse county council

A Howard County concerned about equity needs a more equitable way to elect its county council

Mr. Hecker is, to me, the definition of someone who does their homework when setting out to cover a subject. Take a look if you have time. 

This weekend: “Maryland Winds, Music from stage and screen” at the Chrysalis. The concert is Sunday at five pm and it is free. Reserve your tickets here at Eventbrite.

One more recommended read:

Howard County Sports Q&A: Oakland Mills volleyball senior Zhenzhu Nelson, Jacob Calvin Meyer, Baltimore Sun

The bit that intrigued me: 

But Nelson, now a senior, is much more than just a volleyball player. She’s also a member of Oakland Mills’ wrestling and track teams, a former competitive pianist and a self-described “bookworm.” 

Local journalists give you local stories that you can’t find anywhere else. This article is a good reminder.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

An Unwarranted Attack

Last Friday night the match-up was between two unlikely parties: football fans from one high school and the marching band of another. 

What the marching band did: assemble to play their half-time show.

What the football fans did: target them with booing, throwing trash, shouting the F-word, the N-word, using the middle finger hand gesture.

Before you ask: yes, there is video tape. I also happen to know multiple eye-witnesses to this event.

Does it matter who these students were, where they were from? Of course it does. But today I want to focus on the actions themselves.

Shouting obscenities and making obscene gestures is rude and poor sportsmanship.

Throwing trash at fellow students is an act of violence, however small you may think that is.

Shouting racist epithets is what reveals the greater purpose. It is what draws all these actions together.

We show you profound disrespect, we curse you, we mock you, we throw trash at you, because you are Black.

What did the marching band do to deserve this? What does anyone ever do to deserve this?

Nothing. Racism is an unwarranted attack. Its animus has no basis in fact. Its victims have done nothing to provoke it.

Racism and racist acts in the Howard County Schools harm everyone, but most especially the targets. They actively degrade the educational experience of our Black and Brown students. They create an unsafe environment for learning.

No one who has anything to do with our schools can ignore it.

To be honest, I’m still looking for a statement from the Superintendent calling this out, condemning the racist actions and expressing support for the students in the marching band. True, if he says something, he may be criticized. There may be negative pushback. But if the school system doesn’t publicly address this incident the message to students and our community will be far louder: addressing racism is uncomfortable. Is easier to give it a free pass than wade in to the struggle.

Silence in the face of racism is consent. I absolutely do not give my consent to racist actions in our school communities. 

A reminder: racism is divisive. Talking about racism isn’t. Sweeping it under the carpet will never be a solution.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

An Accidental Diner


Last week was too busy for me. An adventure into Baltimore to find Taharka Brothers Ice Cream, dinner with the family in Harbor East, happy hour in the park. My goal on Friday night was to go absolutely nowhere. I knew I’d be going to the BSO concert at the Chrysalis the next day and I just wanted to hunker down in my own home and be a couch potato.

I was thwarted in my plans by the sudden cravings of my husband for “a good fish dinner.” To him that meant Union Jack’s, and, since they have ample outdoor seating, off we went.

The cloudy skies from earlier in the day had cleared up and it had turned out to be a nice night to eat outside in Downtown Columbia. We were seated adjacent to an open tent where we saw a band setting up. Around us Friday evening traffic came and went. My husband surveyed the view.

“At least we’re not looking at our car,” he quipped, referring to the local joke that all outdoor eating in Columbia/HoCo comes with a scenic view of one’s own vehicle.

“No, those are other people’s cars,” I said, gesturing to the mall parking lot. As I did the picture changed.

A bus pulled up, flashing Harbor East as its destination. It brought to mind our dinner on Wednesday night at Gunther & Co in a serene courtyard, complete with soothing water features, a restaurant fashioned from the buildings of an old brewery. A very different ambiance.

Could one just hop a bus at the Mall and have dinner at Gunther? It’s something to think about. Or perhaps to people in Harbor East the prospect of a trip to the Mall in Columbia is appealing.

We had a lovely time. The food was good, service was attentive and our table wasn’t too rickety. The other patrons around us were pleasant enough. I did find it interesting that, although there were plenty of Black servers, the restaurant customers were largely white. From where we were sitting it was one hundred per cent white. I am not saying that I think that non-whites were excluded, but rather that, at least on Friday night, Union Jack’s was really, really white. 

In a place like Columbia that’s notable. Or, at least it makes you think.

Friday night Downtown dining al fresco turned out to be a satisfactory experience for this blogger whose original plan was to stay home. A steak sandwich, a cold drink, some innocent people-watching, and some very good company.

Where’s your go-to outdoor place these days?

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Respect and the Lack Of It


If you read yesterday’s post you know how excited I was about the BSO kids concert at the Chrysalis. If you haven’t read it yet, there’s always time to go back and read it now.

Today I present a different kind of performance. It’s my live-tweeting of events at the concert. You could call it another episode of Other People’s Tweets but it’s mostly mine. Think of it as an on-the-scene account.

Wow @MerriweatherPP . Just wow. Just disgusted

I am never buying another ticket to anything at Merriweather Post Pavilion as long as I live.

What profound disrespect that @MerriweatherPP has for our community and the @BSO. 

I am sitting here in a capacity crowd at the Chrysalis and the BSO concert has been stopped by a rock concert rehearsal at Merriweather. (Correction: it was a sound check.)

Leadership at @MerriweatherPP knew well in advance that this concert was happening. What utter hubris.

Children and families from all over our community came for this amazing opportunity to hear the BSO and you spat on them.

Here’s a thought: it’s too bad there isn’t any kind of independent community arts organization to manage Merriweather and work with community arts organizations. That’s what is sorely missing here.


Things I have learned since the event: 

  • This isn’t the first time this has happened. It also occurred during the Coast Guard Band concert at the Chrysalis on August 3rd. 
  • The BSO concert was moved from 2:00 to 1:00 specifically to accommodate a sound check at MPP, so it’s clear that communication was going on between the two entities.
  • Early in the week Chrysalis leadership was assured by MPP that they would respect the time period of the children’s concert.
  • They didn’t.

I have plenty of editorial things I could say right now. I’ll leave it at this: I don’t know why the BSO would take another chance on the Chrysalis when they have first-hand experience that MPP doesn’t keep their word. 

I’ve often read what a treasure it is to have a place like Merriweather in the heart of our city and that we should be proud, grateful. And I’ve never particularly disagreed. Until yesterday.

I don’t feel grateful, I don’t feel proud. I feel deeply ashamed.

By the way, the BSO played brilliantly, what we could hear of it. I heartily recommend sending a donation to them in support of free programming. And of course to the Inner Arbor Trust, who take the goal of presenting free concerts to a whole new level.

It appears some folks in town don’t think that’s worth their respect.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

New Beginnings at the Podium


After an absence in the neighborhood of thirty-ish years, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra returns to Howard County to give a free concert for families and children at the Chrysalis. At the podium, Jonathan Rush, assistant conductor of the BSO. From their website: 

As the 2018 winner of the Respighi Prize in Conducting at age 22, Rush made his professional orchestra debut with the Chamber Orchestra of New York in Carnegie Hall. 

His Masters Degree in Orchestral Conducting is from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. 

Photo credit Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun

Rush grew up steeped in gospel and other roots-based genres. "What I bring is something so different," he said. "My foundation was gospel. I'm not just going to bring classical, I'm going to bring soul ... the whole music world that makes up Jonathan Rush. People my age, we have something to offer, and it’s completely different.” (Experience:

Featured performer for the concert is rapper Wordsmith, whose artistic partnership with the BSO opens the door to “reimagining classics and introducing more inclusive programming.” (Max Weiss, Baltimore Magazine)

Photo credit Mike Morgan

The basis of hip-hop is storytelling. And classical music tells the greatest stories, just through instrumentation. You can literally close your eyes and it will take you to so many different places. There’s a stigma that only one group of people should be playing and listening to classical music. And that’s just so far from the truth. My words are just enhancing it. (From the Baltimore Magazine interview with Max Weiss.)

At the heart of it all is the Chrysalis and the park it calls home: Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. The concert, at one pm today, is described as having been “created with budding music enthusiasts and their families in mind.”

Photo courtesy of the Inner Arbor Trust

Since its opening in April of 2017, the Chrysalis has made a name for itself as the place in Columbia where you are most likely to experience something new. Certainly the familiar is also on offer, but the richness of opportunities for a wide variety of musical and other experiences is consistently the hallmark of this space.

Integral to the Park’s mission is that their programming will be affordable, accessible, and inclusive. This is more important than ever now, as vulnerable populations impacted by the financial hardships of COVID-19 may be slipping ever further from connecting with transformational arts experiences which not only feed the spirit but open new doors for living.

So often the arts are the playground of the well-to-do. The more that *money* is the key that unlocks arts experiences, the more that audiences will be white and affluent. The Chrysalis operates with the commitment that local arts and culture must speak to more than one audience. It’s no surprise that the BSO, looking to come out of the pandemic with more diverse and accessible programming, chose the Chrysalis as a welcoming venue. 

You may have heard Peter and the Wolf before. So have I. But a new generation of “budding music enthusiasts” will be there today to experience it for the first time. For some members of the audience it may be the first time they can picture themselves in that musical world. Wordsmith talks about how “you can close your eyes and classical music will take you to so many different places.”

Today they can do that with eyes open, too. Representation is important. Accessibility is vital. A local performance space that opens doors is transforming our community, one concert at a time.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Take Action


Sleeping through my alarm two days in a row isn’t an accident. It’s a trend. Something about the morning light must be changing as the season begins to lean towards Fall. Sigh. I must adjust.

I saw this on my morning exploration of Twitter and thought, “Huh! I didn’t know that.”

GET READY! Tomorrow is #HungerActionDay! We have an amazing donor, the Ellicott City – Columbia Lions Club, matching DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR for ONE DAY ONLY in support of the #HoCoFoodBank.

This was a tweet from yesterday. So, “tomorrow” is today, if you would like to have your donation matched by the Ellicott City-Columbia Lions Club.

I did not know that September was Hunger Action Month. It looks like Hunger Action Month was established in 2008 by a group called Feeding America.  

Hunger Action Month was established by Feeding America back in 2008, when it decided it was time for a nationwide push to get involved with the hunger crisis across the country. 

In Columbia/HoCo the CAC and the Howard County Food Bank are well known. Other, smaller groups have also worked to combat hunger in our community. Food for Tomorrow comes to mind, the group that has collected food donations during area Fourth of July parades. Since the onset of the pandemic other initiatives have arisen to meet the growing need to feed our neighbors: Columbia Community Care, food distribution by ION HoCo, and other groups I don’t even know about. 

Individual churches collect food for donation, civic groups, too. Schools now have food pantries. Outside the Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbia there is a Little Free Food Pantry. 

Hunger in Columbia/HoCo did not begin with the pandemic but it has been both broadened and deepened due to illness, job loss, business failures and cutbacks.

If you can help in some way, I hope you will. One does not have to be a large corporation or a millionaire to make a difference. It is always a benefit to be a friend who tells a friend, so that the gifts may be multiplied.

I’m happy to link you up the the  CAC donation page but I also want to put in a plug for Columbia Community Care. I continue to be amazed by this completely grassroots organization and the difference they have made during the pandemic.

One last thing. If you, like me, are contemplating the ever-growing challenge of hunger in our community and in our nation, you might want to listen to this TED talk by Jasmine Crowe:

What We’re Getting Wrong in the Fight to End Hunger

Tell me what you think.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Responsibility and Empathy


How did you observe this year’s 9/11 anniversary?

Did you ever wonder how Muslim Americans observe it?

This press release from CAIR stopped me in my tracks.

CAIR condemns 9/11 related bullying of Maryland Muslim student, calls of Howard County Schools Superintendent, Board to investigate and take appropriate action 


The family tells CAIR the incident was prompted by a lesson on 9/11 when the fifth grade student, who was wearing a Muslim prayer cap, was instructed by his teacher to explain to the class “who was behind the attacks.” They say that after he attempted to describe the attackers as “Saudi nationals,” students in the class started mocking and ridiculing him and chanting “you’re Muslim like them.” 

In response to inquiries about this story,  Board of Education President Chao Wu shared a memo sent by Superintendent Martirano written to members of the Board. Since he shared it in a private group I don’t feel comfortable passing it along without his permission. I double-checked his (Dr. Wu) public-facing social media accounts and he doesn’t mention the episode at all. A brief synopsis of the memo might be that the family didn’t follow the proper HCPSS channels to report, CAIR didn’t contact the school system before publishing the release,  and that the school system believes there are inconsistencies in the family’s story. 


The memo is thorough but the one thing it is not is sympathetic. I’m puzzled by this, but I guess we have to wait to see how this plays out. I have a hard time understanding why any Muslim student would want to draw attention to themselves by falsifying a story like this. 9/11 is an extremely difficult day to be a Muslim in this country. Why would anyone take a risk to point a big arrow at themselves without a good reason?

In America white Christians are never put on the spot to answer for the entire ‘white race’ or for their religion. No one has ever demanded of me why my people enslaved Africans, or why my Christians have committed all sorts of atrocities in the name of faith. Yet these things are asked of those we deem “other” all the time. If you can imagine someone using the term “you people” about a non-white or non-Christian person (or persons) then those are the people who are targeted for such questions.

People feel comfortable asking these questions and singling out people who are different, who are marginalized in our culture. They would be dumbfounded if the tables were turned. Why is that? Why do we ask such ridiculous questions and why do we think we are exempt?

Even though I have never experienced being put on the spot in this way, as a teacher I have no doubt that being treated in this way is detrimental to a student’s learning environment. You can’t learn if you don’t feel safe. As I have said here in the past about the effects of school policing on Black and Brown students, or the punitive treatment of young women and girls through sexist dress codes, we have a responsibility to create safe and healthy learning environment for all students.

Not just those that we deem to be the “typical” student, or the students we feel comfortable with or naturally empathize with. 

All of them.

To be clear, a memo between a Superintendent and a Board of Education is very likely to be all business, just the facts as we know them, a “let me bring you up to speed” sort of document. I look forward to a public statement from Dr. Martirano that contains the kind of empathy and insight for which he is known. In my own opinion a touch of humility, taking responsibility, and a believable commitment to do better would not be amiss.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021


This past week I splurged on a home delivery of Taharka Brothers Ice Cream. They got me with an online advert describing two limited flavors: Watermelon Sorbet and Peach Crisp. I eagerly awaited the delivery on Sunday.

But when it arrived I was sad to see that Peanut Butter Cup had been mistakenly included rather than Peach Crisp. Not a big deal except that 1) I hate peanut butter and 2) Peach Crisp was about to cease production for the season. I reached out to the folks at Taharka and worked out a deal to drive to their factory in Baltimore and pick up my pint. I didn’t think they should have to come to Columbia just for that.

Sure enough, when I arrived, the gentleman I had spoken with was waiting for me and presented me with two pints of peach crisp for my trouble. It was a perfectly lovely experience all around plus I got the adventure of driving through the Hamden/Woodberry area and marveling at all the quirky restaurants and businesses there. I am now particularly curious about an establishment called “The Queen’s Truckstaurant.”

A shoutout to the first fellow I talked to at Taharka who said, “Now, I’m going to be in and out today because I’m having a baby over here.” I wished him the best of luck.

I had another similar experience this week when I arranged to have the interior of my car cleaned/detailed.I had emptied it all out to take my daughter to college and it truly hasn’t been entirely empty more than once or twice in its existence. (It’s a teacher thing.) I thought this called for a celebration.

Or at least a good cleaning.

I’d seen numerous recommendations online for Antonio Artis who owns Dream Auto Detailing. I decided to give them a shot. The price was affordable for me and we set up an appointment for Saturday. Then I got a text that his team was running late. Two hours later they still weren’t there because were still looking for a necessary product for cleaning my car. 

I was not a happy camper and I canceled the service.

Mr. Artis reached out to me on Monday and clearly wanted a chance to get this right. I rescheduled for Tuesday. He and employee Kaelin arrived early. Kaelin worked for hours to get the interior of my car to a state of perfection that may be superior to what it was when we bought it new. He used fragrance-free products at my request and I was thrilled that there were no strongly chemical fumes when he was done.

Getting good service is always a thrill as far as I am concerned. But there’s something special (and very telling) about companies who go the extra mile for the customer after a bumpy start. It’s mind-boggling to me when businesses are rude, deny responsibility, or offer no opportunity for redress. That’s just bad business. When you have that kind of experience you 1) cross the business off your list and 2) tell your friends.

On the other hand, the companies who work to make things right are the ones you return to again and again. Treating your customers like respected human beings builds loyalty. Plus, they tell their friends.

A tip of the hat to employee-owned Taharka Brothers Ice Cream and to Antonio Artis (Dream Auto Detailing.) They made my week and earned my loyalty.

And I’m telling my friends.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Two Sides

Yesterday when I went looking for “the photographs I can’t escape” I thought I might find them on the CA website. I didn’t. But I did find something surprising: a blog.

To be honest, I think I knew that the Columbia Association had a blog at some point but had long since forgotten. Why? Because they don’t promote it. I checked their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds to be sure. Nope, nothing. Blogs can’t thrive without readers and, in my opinion, reader feedback, so this puzzles me.

The two most recent posts intrigued me. They might be of interest to you, as well.

Open Letter: Inclusion at the Lakefront

A Statement on the Resignations of Members of CA’s Board of Directors

Both are dated September 10, 2021. The first piece is a response to a recent letter to the editor printed in the Columbia Flier. (I mentioned it here.) The second is a business-like, matter-of-fact announcement that two of the CA Board members have resigned.*

I am not here to critique or review these. If you live in Columbia, or are interested in Columbia goings-on, you probably want to read them. If CA wants people to read their blog they might want to put themselves out there a bit more. Just a thought.

I was disappointed that I didn’t get any captions or backstories for those photos yesterday. But, it was a Monday. I’m going to give you a do-over. Here they are. (These photos are the property of the Columbia Association.

And one more thing from yesterday’s post. When I think of a renowned local musician in Columbia/HoCo, the name Damon Foreman comes to mind.  What about you? Mr. Foreman has played at those Lakefront Concerts pretty regularly. I’d also love to see Alan Scott Band, Marvillous Beats, JayMoney Hackett…

Update: an astute reader pointed out Lavenia Nesmith as a renowned local musician and now I am going to go soak my head in milk because I can’t believe I blanked on that. She is fabulous!

Any suggestions?


*Somehow I doubt it’s as business-like and matter-of-fact as they describe it.

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Wrong Side

When the alarm goes off during REM sleep I am not a happy camper. This probably accounts for why all I can think about this morning are things that bug me. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On today’s episode of “Things That Bug Me”:

The Columbia Association is running a membership advert that includes two stock photos of people in the gym. That is, I think they are stock photos. They feel very staged to me. If I had only seen them once or twice I think they wouldn’t bother me. But, the algorithm of Facebook being what it is, I keep seeing these artificially grouped people and after the 100th time they have begun to disturb me. What are those people in the photo thinking? What was the photographer thinking? What was CA thinking when they chose these particular shots?

I guess that familiarity makes me think too much. And that is not a good thing. I’ve become convinced that these photos need captions. The people in them need backstories. I’d share them with you to invite just that but of course you can’t “go looking” for adverts on FB. They just come at you in their own sweet way.

Update: Found them!

                                 (These photographs are the property of the Columbia Association.)

Have you seen the ad I’m talking about? Does it bug you, too? Or is it just me?

The other thing on my mind this morning is this: 

My objection is not based on anything of a political nature. It’s a grammatical mistake in the promotional poster. Can you spot it?

“Performance by Locally Renown Musician”


It’s “renowned.” Or, you could say “a local musician of great renown,” I guess.

Yes, we all have our own typos. I correct my own, daily. There may even be some in this post. But, on a promotional poster for such a solemn event, you’d think they’d proof it several times.

I had never heard of Mr. Phebus so I looked him up. He is, as they claim, locally renowned. He’s both a singer and the owner of his own trucking business, which reminds me of this earlier post about life as a working musician. This article, by neighborhoods correspondent Nancy McKenzie, is a delight:

Mount Airy bids farewell to season with last concert of summer series (2015)

Linda Brightwell, of Mount Airy, had something fluffy on her lap, but it wasn't a pet. She was knitting a lap robe for wounded veterans at Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

"I can hum along and knit," said Brightwell, a member of the Lap Robe Angels, a Mount Airy group that knits lap robes for the medical center.

Those neighborhood correspondents bring a personal touch that’s truly irreplaceable. I really hope they are not being discontinued by Baltimore Sun Media Group.

Okay, so I started out cranky but that piece in the Carroll County times brought a smile to my face.

I’ll leave you with a question. If you saw a similar poster promoting a “locally renowned musician” in Columbia/HoCo, whose name would be on it? I can think of one right off the bat, but I’m curious as to what you think.

Have a great Monday. Mine appears to be on the upswing.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Round ‘n’ Round


I can’t remember where I saw this but it definitely caught my eye:

Roller Derby? In Howard County? Yes, and they even have their own Facebook page. Will wonders never cease.

Event by Patuxent Roller Derby

Alpha Ridge Community Park

Public  · Anyone on or off Facebook

Have you ever wanted to be a roller derby skater but didn't know how to get started?

Now is your chance to dust off your skates and get rolling again!

Patuxent Roller Derby is hosting a beginner boot camp on Saturdays, 09/11 to 10/30.

It's only $75 for 8 weeks of training

No experience required. Must be 18 & over to participate.

Register here:  

Although yesterday was the first day of the session, I believe they are still taking registrations if you are interested. 

I grew up thinking that the roller derby was scary and violent and the domain of “tough broads” who were “largely unattractive.” (Can you hear my mother’s voice here? I sure can.) But I have women friends who adore the roller derby and appear to be drawn to it as a liberating force. It seems to have a ‘smash the patriarchy and thumb your nose at societal expectations’ vibe.

One question: if they’re fielding a team, will they need a local facility to host events? Would CA’s roller rink suffice?

Columbia/HoCo has attracted heightened interest over the last few years for its growing community of cricket players and the corresponding adaptation of fields to be used as cricket pitches. And this summer we hosted a weekend of Quidditch competition play. So, why not Roller Derby? We can be quirky when we feel like it. There’s more to us than summer swim leagues and soccer play for preschoolers on up. 

I should mention here that Howard Community College has an e-sports team, although I have to admit I don’t understand why this qualifies as a sport. Perhaps my personal definition is too narrow. 

Are there any quirky or generally unexpected sports you’d like to see take hold in Columbia/HoCo? Snooker? Darts? Underwater hockey? If you’re looking for ideas this might be a good place to start.

Saturday, September 11, 2021



Dear friends and readers, there is nothing I can say today that is the right thing. I’ve been searching for the right words as this day approached and last night came upon this from Amanda Zamora, co-founder and publisher of The 19th News:

As a journalist who has spent the better part of two decades planning and executing news — including anniversary coverage — I just can’t deal with the saturation of 9/11 news right now. It is e-ver-y-where. And we are already struggling to survive the overwhelm. 

I just can’t.

Yes. This is it. 

I have so many things running through my head and they all feel sacrilegious and wrong. More than anything else I am convinced that the world does not need my take on this today. The best thing I can do is to wish peace and healing to all for whom this day lands heavily.

The one piece I would readily recommend today is this by Howard County resident and Navy veteran Laura Newberger. Many thanks to Howard County Progress Report for bringing it to my attention.

My 9/11 Story

In closing, a blessing. Or at least it feels like one to me. These words from local writer Mike Morucci have become as much a part of this day for me as my own memories.

If you want to do something in honor of 9/11, acknowledge a stranger, a fellow human, instead of ignoring or (worse) fearing them.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Starting Tonight!


If you’re in the mood for thrills and chills, mystery and suspense there’s an event just for you this weekend in Columbia/HoCo. The “Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity Con” is taking place at the Doubletree Hilton Friday - Sunday, September 10-12. 

To be clear, this is a writer’s conference, not the kind where you are sure to run into costumed fans. There will be book signings, and classes with topics like “Twenty ways to jumpstart your writing”, “Writing espionage, intrigue, and police procedurals”, and “Earning Your Ending: How to Use Clues, Reveals, and Red Herrings." If your writing leans in the swashbuckling direction you’ll be interested to note that there will be a demonstration of sword fighting techniques.

Registration for the full 3-day conference is $285, which includes 5 meals, all panels and keynote speakers. You can also register for one day only for $160. If you would rather register at the door you can do that too. Bring cash, your credit card or a check made out to Intrigue Publishing.

Even if you aren’t up for committing an entire weekend plus the required funds to attend the conference, Friday night’s event might tempt you:

The C3 Noir at the Bar event is free and open to the public. Sounds intriguing.

I was just about finished reading up on this event when this caught my eye:

Yes, they’re having a Basket Raffle to support the Howard County Library System’s Project Literacy. How cool is that? If I were going to have a writers conference that is exactly what I’d do. Who loves reading more than writers? Who needs readers more than writers? 

I was already inclined to like the sound of this event and this absolutely sealed the deal. 

Alas, I already have plans for this weekend but I think I want to get on their mailing list. I’d love to see what an event like this is like. Especially since I’ve recently been immersing myself in the two mystery series written by Kerry Greenwood: Phryne Fisher and Corinna Chapman. (I might add that I’ve been supported in my quest to read every single one by our good friends at HCLS.)

Maybe next year.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

A Bad Case

Everybody has them. Days like this, I mean. Days when you wake up with a solid case of the I-don’t-wannas. Things that seemed highly motivating the night before stare at you, gray and uninteresting. I don’t know what causes this. As far as I know there is no cure for the I-dont-wannas, although it’s possible that research is ongoing.

The five am I-don’t-wannas are particularly challenging.


I was reminded this morning that today is the two-year anniversary of when my friend discovered a snake in her car. I am forever indebted to her for allowing me to share this story on the blog. 

Panic at the Supermarket, from September, 2019

New and up-to-date is this piece by James Rouse, Jr. in the Baltimore Sun, writing about the future of Harborplace in Baltimore.

A Contrary View for Baltimore’s Harborplace, September, 2021

This piece prompted all sorts of thoughts for me. I’m not sure I agree with him. I lived in Baltimore during some of the years that Harborplace was experiencing its peak success and I always felt it was designed for out-of-towners. As brilliant as Rouse was, he was still essentially a white guy from out of town bringing a concept rooted in nostalgia for his childhood home in Easton, Maryland. 

Harborplace seems to me to be predicated on the notion that what would make Baltimore better/safer was a magnet to draw more white people. A huge amount of effort has been expended through the years to police Baltimore residents (you know, Black residents) who might possibly scare off the cash cow of white tourism. Was the concept wrong from the get-go? Or was it a pleasant enough experience which is simply past its prime?

Or perhaps Mr. Rouse, Jr. has a point.

I’d love to know what you think. 

Just for fun, here’s my rather twee recollection of the day I met Jim Rouse, Jr.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

See It


Available on line and probably in this week’s Flier/HoCo Times, two letters to the editor worth reading. The first one appears under the heading “Columbia Lakefront Concerts Lack Diversity”, the second, “Racial Inequality Has A Long History”. These letters leapt off the page for me this morning because I had a bit of a run-in with my peers on a music teachers’ Facebook page yesterday on an issue that was rooted in race.

It began when some well-meaning person posted a rather well-known meme.

Every time I see this I wince. So yesterday I decided to do something about it. I made my own meme.

I posted it along with the question, “why don’t we ever see memes like this?”

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of positive feedback. But the negative was pretty much what I expected.

“This is supposed to be about music education. You are making it about race.” 

After going around in circles a bit on this I got frustrated and wrote:

Can you give me any good reason that an adult choir, orchestra, or student ensemble would not contain *any* Black or Brown musicians?  The only one that makes any sense is that the people in these photographs live in a universe where Black and Brown people do not exist.

And I just don’t think that’s likely.

I want to add that I have no sense of “holier-than-thou” about this. It’s only in the last five years or so that I’ve truly “seen” this. As a white person I might look at the traditional meme and see “choir”, “orchestra” and might respond to the second meme “Black choir, Black orchestra” because we are raised to see ourselves as the norm, the default. That’s not healthy for anybody and it’s really bad for students.

You can’t be what you can’t see. - - Marian Wright Edelman

Anyone who can look at a photograph of an all-white choir, orchestra, and music class and not see that it is about race is someone who sees being white as the default state. Often when people like this say, “I don’t see color” it is truly their own color that they don’t see. And they strongly dislike being asked to look at that, examine that, talk about it.

In this week’s letters to the editor we have two examples of community members seeing issues that involve racial disparities and asking us to consider them. I don’t know how much people read letters to the editor anymore but I hope that you will.

On that note, have you made a submission to the Brave Voices, Brave Choices  initiative sponsored by the Howard County Library? We all have stories. Go over and read what community members are sharing and then add one of your own.