Saturday, October 30, 2021

Rethinking the Good Old Days


Sometimes you don’t know.  You think you do, but you don’t.

I saw some unhappiness online yesterday about how some schools celebrate (or don’t celebrate) Halloween. There are some things that touch a nerve in people, because of happy memories in their childhood. I remember that when the Columbia Association was working on what they called the Aquaplan - - to rethink Columbia’s pools - - they came up against this phenomenon.

Don’t mess with things in my childhood that gave me joy. They’re sacred.

If you have memories of happy Halloween celebrations at school when you were young it may feel wrong when that isn’t what happens at your own child’s school.

We may not understand that there are children in our schools whose families don’t celebrate Halloween, perhaps for religious reasons, and so they are excluded from a big happy day with their classmates. We may not understand what it feels like to be that child, year after year, who family has no money for costumes or whose home life is far too chaotic to cope with anything extra. We may not know the fear of a parent, whose child has anaphylactic food allergies, every time there is a celebration at school that includes food.

It isn’t the same as when we were little. Sometimes that is hard to accept. It feels so, so simple to us - - a day to dress up, let off steam, maybe have a little classroom party with a few games - - but it is only simple if we ignore people whose life experiences are different than ours. Is it truly worth it to persist in recreating the school Halloween experience of our childhoods if it hurts others? Excludes others? Makes them feel less valuable or less a part of their own community?

Some times it seems so simple. It isn’t. Sometimes we just don’t know.

For more on this topic, come back in February.

Friday, October 29, 2021

More of the Same

Almost exactly one year ago:

Pride and Shame

The post contrasts the story of WLHS grad Armon Wilson, who walked all the way to his polling place to be there when they opened, with this social media post from another young person in Howard County:

This week brings a very similar story. It’s covered in the November issue of The Business Monthly.

Eagle Scout Fights Back Against Hate Crime

In short: Ryan Lippe, a senior at Marriotts Ridge High School, created an outdoor classroom for Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez Church Preschool as his Eagle Scout project. When he returned to the site some time later he discovered that “someone had carved hate symbols and phrases into every bench.”

The story of how Lippe responded will make you feel good. But the efforts that someone (or more than one person, perhaps) took to deface what was intended to be a learning space for preschoolers make me feel heartsick. 

More of the same.

More of the same.

More of the same in Howard County and still people say that calling it out and asking people to face it is “divisive.”

Here’s what Eagle Scout Ryan Lippe said about his experience coming face-to-face with those hate symbols and phrases:

Excerpt from The Business Monthly, November, 2021

So do I.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Bag on the Bench


Something caught my eye as I walked into the professional building next to the hospital. A ziplock bag, neatly packed, sitting on a bench. I saw a granola bar as I passed by on my way to my doctor’s appointment.

“Oh, somebody forgot their lunch,” I thought. “That’s too bad. I hope they come back and get it.”

When I came out it was still there. I noticed how many different things were in it, including hot cocoa mix and a pair of new, thick white socks. This was not someone’s lunch. It was a charity bag, a Blessing Bag, I believe they are called.I’ve seen descriptions of them on the internet. Church groups make them. Good-hearted individuals make them. They’re primarily intended for the homeless, and may contain a variety of non-perishable foodstuffs as well as personal hygiene items. 

I couldn’t get that bag out of my head. Why did the giver choose that particular location? How would a potential recipient know it was for them?

What’s most important, I guess, is that someone made that bag and put it there because they know we have people in need in Columbia/HoCo and they wanted to help.

The residents of Roslyn Rise in Wilde Lake need our help. Roslyn Rise is one of Columbia’s first affordable housing developments and it is in bad shape. You can learn a little bit more about the people who live there in this post by Jenny Solpietro:

The Voices of Roslyn Rise  Howard County Progress Report

Enterprise Community Partners has purchased Roslyn Rise and is ready to move forward with redevelopment. You can learn more about this project in this piece by Jeremy Dommu:

Roslyn Rise - a Deep Dive Into The Proposed Redevelopment In Wilde Lake The Merriweather Post

You would be correct in assuming that there are some folks opposed to this project, largely concerned about potential school overcrowding. Perhaps that is why the County Council tabled the matter on October 4th instead of voting in favor. It will come up again for a vote on Monday, November 1st. 

The residents of Roslyn Rise are people in need. They are members of our community who deserve decent housing. But it is easier for many to make charity bags to leave on benches than to support fair and adequate living conditions for our neighbors. 

Why is that? Maybe it is because making these bags changes nothing about our own existence and challenges nothing about how we live our own lives. We can walk away with a feeling that we have participated in ‘good works’ while our lives remain unchanged.

I saw this photo on Twitter yesterday and it made me think.

When we set about trying to transform society, we must remember that we ourselves will also need to transform. Our imagination of what a different world can be is limited. We are deeply entangled in the very systems we are organizing to change. - - Mariam Kaba

Now this quote was not written specifically about housing, or acts of charity. But it is applicable nonetheless. While small acts of kindness are never wasted, that doesn’t excuse us from taking a stand for the big things. The big things may require us to transform: in how we think or live our lives. 

If we really care about others in our community we need to be willing to take these on because they are the right thing to do. Leaving a bag on a bench may very well be a blessing for a person who needs it at that moment but new and fully functional housing is more than a temporary blessing. It creates lasting wellbeing and stability for more people than we can imagine.

If you want to write the Council in support of CR 144 and CR 145 you can do so here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Loud Angry Voices


Some of those people who want to remove books from your school library want to dictate school curriculum, too. (I’m guessing that there’s some overlap with the loud angry voices for in-person schooling during the last school year.) There seems to be a growing ‘loud angry voices’ parent movement and Howard County is not immune:

Or, if you just can’t stand what’s on offer from the local public school system, there’s a new homeschooling group forming with a specialized curriculum.

This group is aimed at parents who are worried about vaccines, angry about masks, fearful that schools are brainwashing kids and, most of all, want their children to be taught love of country and America’s Christian heritage.

What is freedom in this context? Freedom to disregard public health? Freedom to remove things from American history that you don’t like? Freedom to remove other religions you don’t like?

At the moment I’m more concerned by the group that wants to control what’s happening in the public schools, but, I’m deeply saddened by the prospect of homeschooled children in Howard County growing up in such a narrowed environment with no opportunity to gain perspective on the community/world around them.

If you’ve read Erica Green’s outstanding piece in the New York Times about how the ‘loud angry voices’ parents came after Andrea Kane, the Superintendent of Schools in Queen Anne’s County, you are already aware of one of the panelists for the “We the People 2” event: Gordana Schifanelli.  Ms. Schifanelli organized a so-called “Patriots” group on Facebook that agitated for the Superintendent’s removal because she dared to tell the truth about issues of race. This alone makes me want to do more research on the other presenters.

Public schools are meant to teach everyone, and they should tell the truth about everyone. I find this growing movement to “take back our schools” extremely dangerous. The hallmarks of this movement are to exclude or distort teaching about anyone deemed different: Black and Brown people, non-Christians, LGBTQ+ people. This is an attempt to foist one narrow ideology onto the lives of many. 

It’s not good for the well-being of our children. It’s shockingly bad educational practice. It’s unhealthy for our community. And, frankly, it’s a crisis for the future of democracy.

Taking away choices and suppressing voices does not make you a patriot. It’s blatantly authoritarian.

I am by nature not a shouty type but it looks like it’s past time for people who believe in an educational system that values all people and is committed to intellectual freedom to raise their voices. Our voices. I’m going to start by writing a letter to the superintendent and the Board of Education in support of the choices our media specialists make to include LGBTQ+ - positive materials in their collections.

Where will you start? 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

An Exceptional Voice


Nothing I have to say this morning is as good as this piece by local blogger Suzi Chase:

“It was an assault”

This isn’t the first time I’ve had that feeling about her writing. Our community is fortunate to benefit from her exceptional voice.

Just read it. We’ll talk more tomorrow.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Got Soul?


On October 8th the Columbia Conversation Facebook page posed an interesting question:

Good morning Conversation crew! Continuing to dig into “what people get wrong about Columbia”   One comment - “that it’s a soulless suburb with boring McMansions” - got us thinking. What gives Columbia SOUL? 

Whether it’s people, places or things, we want to hear your opinion!

I think that’s a great question. I’ve really gotten bogged down over here trying to answer it. My favorite answer came from an Oakland Mills resident who happens to be a reader of this blog.

Its residents who take action from their hearts and passions. There are so many events and organizations with home bases in Columbia, that grew up in Columbia, that started with a resident and their passion. 

This response brought to mind the conversation I had with my friend over drinks and dinner at Ale House.

One thing that came up in our conversation was that we were in complete agreement that all the people who are doing outstanding, transformative community work right now in Columbia/HoCo are women.

These are women who “take action from their heart and passion.” Quite a few of them are in Columbia. I promise I’ll write a post about this but for the moment I’m putting two questions to you:

1. What gives Columbia soul?

2. Have you participated in the Columbia Conversation (FB and/or website)?

As to the second question: I have answered a few things on their FB page but I’ve been reluctant to go ‘all out’ because there’s nothing worse than that kid who does all the talking and takes over all the group projects, if you get my analogy. 

I wonder how many new folks they are drawing into the conversation. That’s been an ongoing challenge. People who have been here for a while tend to take up a lot of space in such conversations. On the other hand they are the people who tend to show up more consistently to participate. Their commitment is admirable.

Way back when CA discontinued the Inspire Columbia project, I asked why. The answer was that they ascertained that it was drawing engagement from more or less the same people that they were already successfully engaging. So it was, in effect, redundant. (And, I’m guessing, an expensive way of hearing from Columbia ‘regulars’.)

It’s a challenge to get a new assortment of voices into the conversation. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. 

So, what do you think? What gives Columbia soul? To get you thinking, here’s a basic definition from Oxford Languages.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Saturday Morning


Yesterday morning I was on a mission to pick out one of the beautiful student-made pieces offered for sale at the Burleigh Manor Middle School Yard Sale to benefit the Homewood Center. At a little bit after ten I was on my way. It’s a good thing I didn’t wait any longer because they had already sold eight pieces by the time I arrived. They were every bit as gorgeous in person as they were in the photographs.

It was a lovely variety of color, texture, share, and size. I wanted almost all of them, to be honest. I mulled over my decision while noodling around the various yard sale vendors. A little while later I was on my way with my selection.

Since I was already out of the house with no particular plans for the morning I headed over to the Saturday morning Farmers Market at Clarksville Commons. 

I’ve wanted to get out there for quite a while now. I hadn’t planned on buying anything but some onions caught ny eye as I passed the Clark’s Farm stall. I have one lonely onion at home whose provenance is unknown and recent news stories about salmonella have concerned me. What better replacement than local grown and cured onions? It’s a good thing I came along at just that moment. She only had a few boxes left.

Mostly I enjoyed wandering around the market and enjoying the sights and sounds. The Clarksville Commons Market has made a point of featuring local musicians. On hand while I was there: Sarah Beth Driver. Ms. Driver has become a familiar face in the local music scene, performing at venues such as the Dandelion Bistro, Lib’s Grill, Linganore Winecellars, and The Rathskeller. Yesterday she was repping Bach to Rock Music School in Fulton, where she teaches guitar and music technology.

An aside: I don’t know this much about every musician I bump into around town. Ms. Driver is a former student of my husband’s and naturally we've been following her career with a certain amount of pride.

I love the central grassy area at the Commons. I know they have used it to accommodate a number of activities including yoga classes and movie nights. Yesterday it looked like someone was having a birthday party. Clues: blankets spread on the grass, a table with gift bags and brightly wrapped boxes. Pretty clever: outdoors - -  perfect location for the unvaccinated - - with a lawn to spread out on, any number of food choices nearby, and live music.

I was happy to see an area set up for free COVID vaccinations and a steady line of people waiting to receive them. I wonder if today’s children will grow up remembering this as a time where people seemed to be getting inoculated every where you went.

When I got home I put my new purchase to good use.

Not a bad Saturday morning for an avowed homebody. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Bigger Picture

Have you seen this? It has recently resurfaced on social media after being released originally in October of 2020. I think you would call it a digital zine, (webzine?) completely student-written and produced. Its title: Hush: Quiet Racism at Glenelg High School.

Lately there’s been a good deal of talk centered on Glenelg High School and some examples of blatantly racist behavior, and with good reason. But I’m beginning to be concerned that it’s too easy to point the finger at just one school and ignore what is happening everywhere else. How neat and tidy to suggest that we have this one school where racism is a problem but we’re just fine other than that.

It is easier to say but it isn’t true.

We have 77 public schools in Howard County and, every day, in more than one of them, something racist is said or done. Every single day. Not because our young people are innately “bad” or their parents “monsters” but because our entire culture is steeped in racism. The easy way, the path of least resistance, the ‘way we’ve always done it’ often boils down to something racist. Look more closely and you will see things you didn’t expect to see.

Yes, some actions are loud and obvious, performed with malice and intent. Those are the ones that we are more likely to hear about. Even then, we might never hear about them at all if it weren’t for outraged students calling them out. Students want the pushback to be as loud as the offense. Adults often shy away from that approach.

There’s also the quieter, hidden, more insidious racism, the every day, ordinary incidents of racism that we may never hear about at all. When students name those experiences they are often met with dismissal or disbelief from the adults they should be able to trust. Hence the title of Allyson Kim’s publication: Hush.

Recently the Wilde Lake  High School Band has been on the receiving end of some appallingly racist treatment. But this story isn’t solely about them. If you think it is, students at Oakland Mills schools would like to have a word with you. And students in more places than than you might expect.

I understand that our schools want to be thought of as safe and effective environments. And the school system overall wants to be known for being able to ‘steer the ship’ competently. They know that parents are relying on them. School systems need that trust to operate successfully. 

Is it tempting to project an image that everything is “mostly” okay, even when it is not? 

Everything isn’t okay, and the problems aren’t confined to that one school that’s on the tip of your tongue. The HCPSS Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion doesn’t exist because of just one school. The Howard County Library System didn’t undertake the Brave Voices, Brave Choices initiative because of one school. Howard County Government doesn’t have an Office of Human Rights and Equity because of one school.

The truth is that, even in the schools we think of as the ‘good’ schools, the ‘nice’ schools, Black and Brown students are being hurt by racist words and actions all while we don’t want to believe it’s there. And we don’t want to do the uncomfortable work required to change it.

We’re used to rallying around school causes where we raise money. For cancer patients, for example, or to raise money for research to cure a disease. We have food collections for the hungry and bake sales to benefit the homeless shelter. 

But taking the time to stop and address racism is nowhere near as easy. It requires that we stop, listen, learn, realize our shortcomings and our mistakes, commit to do better - - that’s uncomfortable work. We may say we are in favor but our approval may only be that: words. If approval means merely that we are not actively opposed? That’s not enough.

It’s so much easier to have a bake sale or collect donations. But this is a problem that those solutions won’t fix. Addressing systemic racism in our schools (and elsewhere) is one of those things in life that we just have to work at: face-to-face work, putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, sitting with our discomfort instead of running away. 

It’s hard because it requires us to acknowledge our misconceptions and to right our own wrongs while working in relationship with others. Relationships are complicated and messy because people are. You wouldn’t think that having a bake sale or collecting canned goods would save a failing marriage, for instance. Things that involve human interaction, introspection, listening, and learning aren’t easy. They involve learning how to change your mind - - quite literally changing it - - changing how you think.

Bake sales won’t do it, or car washes, or food drives. It’s not that simple. And we can’t say it’s all at one school and the rest of us get off easy, either.

I am not denying that there are serious issues at Glenelg. I’m suggesting it’s too easy to have that one school that people love to blame. More than that, it’s harmful if it distracts us from the bigger picture.  

The bigger picture is that we all have a share in the work to make things better, especially if the truth takes us to places we’d rather not go.

Friday, October 22, 2021

There’s No Place Like…

This Saturday, at Burleigh Manor Middle School, Homewood Center Art students will be selling their gorgeous ceramic handmade bowls and jewelry. 

It’s all a part of Burleigh Manor’s yard sale event to benefit the Homewood Center.  Why? Well, because Homewood draws students referred from schools within the system, it is the one school that doesn’t have its own PTA. That means it doesn’t have PTA funds to support student programs the way that other schools can. 

The partnership with Burleigh Manor is particularly brilliant in my opinion because it’s not only a fundraiser but it also allows the community to meet some Homewood students and staff and learn more about the school. The students get to show off  (and sell) their artistic creations. Thus the event is transformed from charity for ‘those people we don’t know’ to an opportunity to learn about and celebrate this school and its programs.

Pretty cool.

I heard from Principal Christina Krabitz that getting out and about is a part of a new rebranding effort this year.

Homewood has too long had a negative reputation and we are taking matters into our own hands to change that. We have a tent that we have taken to one football game a week. We set it up with a raffle wheel, prizes- including lots of HW gear and swag, drivers ed basket raffle courtesy of Greg’s Driving School, student made jewelry to sell, and info on who Homewood really is. We have anywhere from 4-10 staff at the event and a few we’ve had kids present. It’s been awesome to engage with students parents and families from all over this county so they understand who we really are. 

Who they really are, of course, is our children. Howard County children. More than 60% of Homewood's alternative education students qualify for Free and Reduced Meals and, again, they do not have a PTA. That’s a big part of why they hold a Treasure Sale each year so their kids can choose holiday gifts for their loved ones. I wrote about that last year.

Now, to give you an idea of some of the ceramics that will be on offer Saturday, here’s a sampling:

If you can’t make the BMMS Fall Yard Sale Event, please consider shopping the Homewood Treasure Sale Amazon Wish List. Here’s the link: Homewood Wish List.

One closing thought that made me smile: I heard about this event from Suzanne McMurtray, who retired as the Homewood Center’s Community Outreach Coordinator last Spring. She’s still repping Homewood as hard as ever. “It’s in my DNA now,” she joked.

So, remember, it’s this Saturday, October 23rd, from 9 am to 1 pm at Burleigh Manor Middle School. Think of it as shop til you drop with some meet and greet thrown in.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

New and Improving


I returned to my favorite little block in the “new” Columbia yesterday for a haircut at Floyd’s. Although it was all parked up out front, it was easy enough to park in the garage. I guess Columbians have taken to parallel parking more than I thought they would.

Speaking of new, I noticed that the scaffolding around the Metropolitan building continues to be a part of the scenery. How long has that work been going on, exactly? Isn’t that odd for a relatively new building? I met someone who lived at the Metropolitan a while back and asked her how she liked it. She said it all looked lovely when they moved in but it was soon clear that a lot of it was cheaply made and wouldn’t hold up over time.

I never wrote about it because one anecdote doesn’t make for a balanced story. But, as work on the Metropolitan drags on, I’ve started to be concerned. I wonder how the people who live there feel. People who took a chance on the Metropolitan were, in a way, early adopters in the new wave of downtown development. Has their trust been rewarded? Has “the Met” met expectations?

 I guess the upside is that, whatever is wrong, they’re committed to fixing it.

After my haircut I decided to have my first experience at the Mall's new grocery, Lidl. The time of day meant it wouldn’t be crowded, so, why not? 

I confess that I wasn’t particularly wowed. On the other hand, I have no complaints. Some prices were exceptionally good, but I didn’t find that true across the board. It was clean, well organized and easy to move around throughout the store. If you live downtown it gives you an appealing alternative to Whole Foods. 

Have you been there? What’s your take? If there are particularly specialties worth seeking out I’d love to know. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021


I’m operating under a post Benadryl haze this morning after a run in with some kind of allergen yesterday. I have a few fragments on my mind but entire paragraphs will have to wait until tomorrow.

  • Congratulations to the Wilde Lake High School Students for Social Justice winning The Colette Roberts Organization Award presented by the Howard County Human Rights Commission.
  • Concerned about ongoing damage to wildlife around Columbia’s lakes documented by local photographer Michael Oberman.
  • Contemplating the messaging involved in picking a location for announcing a run for political office.
  • Can you imagine catching zebras with…more zebras?
  • Columbia will again be the site of the drug take-back event this this Saturday at the Wilde Lake Village Center.
Perhaps tomorrow I’ll move on from the letter C.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


Today’s news story that’s all over my Twitter feed is this from our local Patch outlets:

Funding has been released for Howard County police officers to begin sporting body-worn cameras before the state's deadline.


Am I alone in thinking that this particular word choice is, well, odd?

My experience with the use of the word “sporting” is not consistent with the implementation of police body cameras. For example,

“All the on-trend teens will be sporting the ripped-denim look this season.”

“The gentlemen were sporting pink carnation boutonni√®res at this year’s fundraising event.”

“All the best-dressed pooches will be sporting neon reflective collars from Dave’s Dog House.”

Do you get my drift?

So, when I read the news story, all I could envision was something like this:

“Up next on the runway, Officer Smith, sporting the latest in body camera-wear, making him the envy of local police officers statewide.”

I did a quick Google search.

Does Sporting mean wearing?

Sporting has a meaning that is a little more specific than simply wearing. Sporting suggests that the item one is wearing is noteworthy for its handsome appearance, or for its stylishness, or as an indicator of one's own individual fashion sense.

“So what?” you say. 

It’s just a word. It’s not a crime. 

But words actually mean things. And body cameras are not fashion accessories. Their use is intended to increase transparency in police work. Of course, how they are used will make all the difference. That part of the story is as yet unknown. I have some opinions but that’s for another day.

In the meantime: please use words in the way that they were meant to be used. There’s an operations manual if you need assistance. I don’t know about whether there are instructional videos on YouTube, but, why not? Let’s all go out there and make the world a clearer place.

If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone. - - Confucius 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Sooner Than You Think


Halloween candy made its first appearance in stores right after the back to school displays, I’m guessing. I’ve been ignoring it. But, as the leaves begin to turn and the weather shifts towards a bit of a chill, my thoughts are turning to trick or treating.

Specifically, I’m wondering if COVID will have left any longer-lasting changes on how we “do” Halloween. If I’m thinking about handing out candy this year, is there any new recommended protocol? My particular neighborhood of (what I call) quadroplexes has never gone out for Halloween with any enthusiasm. We don’t have all that many kids living here. Some years we get trick or treaters, some years we don’t.

When my daughter was younger we were fortunate to have friends who invited us along to trick or treat in their neighborhood: single-family detached homes, spaced not too far apart, great sidewalks. It wasn’t more than a five minute drive from where we live but it was night and day as far as Halloween was concerned.

Your experience of Halloween is probably dependent on where you live in Columbia/HoCo, plus whether you: have kids who are still dressing up or are in the handing out candy phase of your existence. Of course there are people who don’t celebrate Halloween at all due to religious reasons, and those who have long since turned from neighborhood candy solicitation to community events such as Trick or Treating on Main Street or at the Mall. Schools sponsor “Trunk or Treat” events, too.

That’s a whole lot of variables. I’m thinking about how Halloween has its own flavor depending on where you live. Western Howard County? Ellicott City? Columbia? Elkridge? Savage? Old houses, new developments, in-between? How about downright rural? 

Are you planning on handing out candy this year? Are your children excited about dressing up and going out? 

Yes, now that the world is a bit safer for me, health wise, I find myself getting in the mood for Halloween. I may even go get my own pumpkin this year.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Eating Out



That’s what’s on my mind this morning: Columbia’s Village Centers and how they are laid out in 2021. Our Friday night in Wilde Lake got me thinking about whether it would be possible to do the Great Village Center Tour of 2021, eating dinner outside in each one. I’m not entirely sure it would be.

It’s my understanding that, the older the village center, the more likely it was to have been built around a courtyard. But the courtyard model has gone out of style commercially. So some of the older village centers have been reconfigured. I moved to Oakland Mills after the Great Reconfiguration so my experiences are of the new model.

Off the top of my head, I’d say you couldn’t do the eat outside thing in Oakland Mills these days. The late Second Chance Saloon had tables out front and the Cactus Lounge out back. Alas, you can’t have that experience anymore. Oakland Mills has a lovely courtyard but it isn’t particularly conducive to grabbing something from one of the center’s food merchants and dining al fresco. Because the village center is now configured as a “shopping center”,  the courtyard really functions as an additional event space for the Other Barn. The layout makes things different.

I know I’ve had many a summer excursion to Rita’s in Kings Contrivance, where businesses still line the courtyard and there are tables and chairs available for patrons. And there are a few benches in Harpers Choice if you want to enjoy your Rita’s ice over there. (Hmm, I’m sensing a pattern here.)

In the past I would have been looking at this more as a community issue. It still is, to my mind, but now there are folks who are still hoping to eat outdoors for as long as possible due to COVID concerns. That’s how we ended up at the Wilde Lake Village Center on Friday night.

So here’s my question of the day: if you live in Columbia, or patronize the Village Centers, tell me about the one you know best. Is it possible to buy food and eat outside there? If not, why do you think that is? Do you think the configuration makes the difference? Most of all, do you think that being able to do that is a good thing?

Comments are welcome here.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

A Wilde Night


Date night can take many forms. At the moment I’m still celebrating being able to leave the house at all,  so almost any excursion feels like a treat. Last night my husband and I went all out for an evening in Wilde Lake. It was a lot of fun.

We began by picking up some subs at Pizza Boli’s in the Wilde Lake Village Center and eating dinner outside in the courtyard. It was a mild evening and a great setting for some people watching. I was particularly curious about a group of young women having some sort of event centered around a circle of orange Adirondack chairs. They had a table set up with a pot luck snack buffet and they were having a wonderful time. 

It was fascinating to see the new (relatively new, I know) layout of the Village Center on a Friday night and see how people are using the space. Even with the impact of the pandemic over the last year and a half, you can clearly see life and enjoyment and just plain everyday functional use. You will never get me to call it “The Shoppes at Wilde Lake” but, now that I’m getting out more, I’ll definitely be popping over there more often.

As fun as the people-watching was for me, the real vista worth mentioning was this one:

What an amazing tree. And I’m rather delighted by the appearance of the iconic sculpture* in the background, seemingly photo-bombing the picture. If you’re from Wilde Lake this tree is probably an old friend. For me it was a delightful surprise, as beautiful as any of the public art for which Columbia is known. I sure hope that someone is taking good care of that tree.

From dinner we moved on to Wilde Lake High School to experience their Marching Band at a home game. Yes, I understand there was some sort of sportsing prelude leading up to the half time show, but let’s be honest. We’re musicians. We came for the band, and most especially to support the student musicians and their director Saul Green. 

An aside: I haven’t been around that many adolescents in quite a while. I have no idea how my husband works with teens every day. The intensity! Wow. So many teenagers all in one place. If you teach adolescents I salute you. 

The band was, no surprise, the highlight of the evening.

Their director has a lot to be proud of. What a great group of young people, sharing their love of music all while maintaining the determined focus required to perform all that synchronized movement. I would be inclined to call it choreography. I believe that in the band world it is known as “drill.” 

Yes, I’ve seen plenty of high school marching band performances before. It’s not a foreign entity to me. I’ve seen my nephews compete in the Sweet Sixteen band day at the Indiana State Fair, and I enjoyed “Friday Night Live”, the River Hill High School spin on a football game band which included an electrified guitar ensemble. What made this different for me is that this band and these kids have taken so much abuse this Fall just for being who they are. Simply for existing. 

And they are not going to let that stop them. 

It seems like an outrageous question, but I’m going to ask it anyway: what can we, as a community, do to make this county safe for the WLHS Marching Band? And why do we even need to ask this?

You have one more chance to see the Wilde Lake High School Marching Band at home this season: October 30th. Or you could always send an email to the school letting them know you support the kids and their director. Just a thought. 

We had a great Date Night in Wilde Lake last night. Dinner and a show may look different to you, but, for us, it was just right.

*”Family” by Pierre du Fayet

Friday, October 15, 2021

Weekend Excitement, Part 2

At last the weekend is upon us, or, at least close enough that we can taste it. If you read yesterday’s post you know all about the 50th Birthday Celebration in Long Reach. A few extra notes on that:  it’s BYOC for the performances (Bring Your Own Chair) and, to assure there will be enough parking, a shuttle will be running regularly from satellite parking at Long Reach High School. 

Now I’ve got another idea for your Saturday: Oktsobarfest.

Presented by the Ellicott City-Columbia Lions Club in collaboration with Sobar, Oktsobarfest will be on the grounds of St. John's Episcopal Church, 9140 Frederick Road in Ellicott City, this Saturday from noon to 4 pm. From the event page:

This family friendly event features lawn games, samples of alcohol-free beverages and local food trucks. Meet and Greet the Ponies with Safe Haven Equine Warriors and watch Kangaroo Kids performance jump rope team.

You can purchase tickets here and your ticket includes admission, all activities, and drink samples.

I wrote about Sobar in December of 2019: 

You may remember that Sobar and founder Beth Harbinson was one of the winners of the Horizon Foundation’s inaugural Changemaker Challenge in 2017, with a goal to create healthy and appealing non-alcoholic beverages to enhance choices for those who choose not to drink. Since then they have been serving up their creative concoctions at local events. Now they are moving into sponsoring their own alcohol-free events.

I recently bumped into Sobar at HoCo Pride, where they were selling some delicious-sounding mocktails at the event. I see from their Facebook page that they’ve also been having events at Dublin Roasters in Frederick. This group is truly on the move.

Now, about tonight. You have another choice. You can pop in to the Long Reach event or, if you have a hankering for some Friday night lights, Wilde Lake High School has a home game. That would give you an opportunity to support the Wilde Lake High School Band and enjoy their halftime show. 

Have a great Friday, and send me your suggestions for what to do on Sunday. I’m open. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Weekend Excitement


Can you feel the weekend coming? Can you sense it waiting in the wings, eager to make its big entrance? If you thought last weekend was full of cool happenings around town, what with HoCo Pride and Books in Bloom, you might be surprised that there’s even more in store this weekend.

First off: Happy 50th Birthday to the Village of Long Reach! They’re celebrating with a two-day festival and all of us are invited. The event, presented in collaboration with Columbia Association and the Columbia Festival of the Arts, will feature food, performances, fine arts & crafts show and sale, and a special walk-along exhibit from the Columbia Archives.

Check out the event page on Facebook and the website, too.

Mark your calendars for Friday, October 15 and Saturday, October 16 to celebrate the 50th Birthday of Long Reach Village in Columbia, Maryland.  Hosted by The Columbia Festival of the Arts, this FREE Outdoor Festival features Live Music, a Fine Arts & Crafts Show, great festival food and plenty of family-friendly programing.  The Long Reach Stage includes a fantastic lineup of international and local music performances. There is even a magic show and comedy show for the kids.  

Renowned multimedia troupe Squonk Opera’s new project “Hand to Hand” takes center stage both days and promises to thrill audiences with two large hands the size of houses incorporating music, design and staging.  Musical performers include internationally acclaimed instrumentalist Vanessa Collier and LADAMA, a Latin alternative band that has performed at the Lincoln Center.  Other performances touch every music genre from Pop, Rock, Country, and Hip Hop.

The entire Free outdoor festival takes place at Long Reach Village Center located at 8775 Cloudleap Court, Columbia, MD 21045.

If my encouragement isn’t enough, how about this from the County Executive?

There’s a whole new energy and vibe at the Long Reach Village Center and I encourage you to visit and experience it for yourself. There’s no better time than the 50th anniversary of the village, hosted by the Columbia Festival of the Arts and Columbia Association. Join the party next weekend on Friday, October 15th, from 5 to 9pm, and then Saturday, October 16th, from 11am to 9pm. Learn more at

The evolution of the Long Reach Village Center as an Arts hub goes back at least as far as the ArtReach Festival in 2015. County Executive Calvin Ball, then Council member Ball, spearheaded the community process that was evaluating various concepts for reinventing the aging retail center. Despite being temporarily derailed during the Kittleman administration, the work began anew in 2018. 

This weekend’s festivities highlight great collaborations between Columbia Festival of the Arts, the Columbia Association, and the Village of Long Reach. But it’s important to remember that we wouldn’t be in the position to have this event at all if it weren’t for the the vision and persistence of the community itself, supported by Dr. Ball and Howard County Government. There’s a whole lot of good stuff going on here.

Me? I’m drawn to yummy food from Althea’s Almost Famous, performances from Squonk Opera, Damon Foreman, and Vanessa Collier, and anything from the artsy DOODLEHATCH folks. It’s going to be a great weekend.

And I’ve got even more for you tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Live and Learn


Starting on Monday I have seen on social media quite the outburst of anger as well as smug attempts to excuse ignorance pertaining to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Yes, even right here in Howard County.

Ignorance: when you don’t know and you don’t care. (A Mom definition.)

In looking over my post from last year’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day I came across a video shared by the Howard County Office of Human Rights and Equity. It’s three minutes long and it puts the focus right where it should be:

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Ignorance and a fierce determination to defend it are not something to be proud of. Caring enough to learn the truth and come to terms with it are what we should be striving for. 

Here is what the Indigenous Peoples’ Day deniers seem to have missed: it is absolutely possible to love this land, to love our democracy, and at the same time believe we are made stronger by learning the truth about our history and by choosing ways to do better. 

It isn’t weakness. It’s strength. 

Rigidity leads to brittleness. Things that are brittle are more likely to break. Take trees, for example. The ones that have even a small capability to bend are the ones that can withstand heavy storms. We each have a choice: to remain rigid in the face of uncomfortable truths, or to have the flexibility to learn from them. 

I am beginning to be convinced that the future of our nation is threatened to its core by those who demand the former and spurn the latter.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021



Saturday was my first Pride. Not Howard County’s first, that was at Centennial Park in 2019, but it was my first time attending a Pride event. It meant a lot to me seeing Columbia/HoCo open one of its most central public spaces for this celebration.

It was a day I’ll be remembering for a long time to come. County Executive Calvin Ball’s opening remarks were both reasoned and impassioned. When Howard County Pride director Jumel Howard read the names of LGBTQ+ people who have died this year due to targeted violence the silence was heavy with sadness and horror. 

It was a day to celebrate but also to remember. To party, yes, but also continue the work to make our communities safer and more accepting.

Naturally I have souvenirs. Some of them are photographs, like this beautiful shot taken of the booths lined up around the new Chrysalis pervious pathway.

Photo credit Matt Braddock (used with permission)

Some are snippets of information, like the flier for a new group called Unmatched Athlete:

Or a card from a support organization called Mama Dragons.

I got a free mask for the event from the Howard County Pride table by the Chrysalis.

My husband bought me my very first Pride shirt from one of the many vendors and a pronoun button from the CARY booth.

One of the most significant moments of the day takes a bit of explaining. Eight years ago my daughter, full of early adolescent fervor, asked if her school news team would run short daily pieces to honor LGBTQ+ History Month. She was told the school system would not permit it.

On Saturday the Howard County School System had a booth at Pride. So did CARY, (Community Allies of Rainbow Youth) and HCPSS Pride, advocacy groups supporting LGBTQ+ students that have sprung into existence in the intervening years. 

It was a day to celebrate but also to remember. To party, yes, but also continue the work to make our communities safer and more accepting. It seems that, in spite of our best efforts, there is always more to be done. 

I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in Howard County Pride. Let's all join them in doing the work.

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Biggest Lie and its Undoing


Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Howard County and in a growing number of places across the US. County Executive Calvin Ball made the announcement of the change in September of 2020.

Howard County replaces Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day

“Indigenous and Native American history is embedded in our nomenclature and our geography — Patuxent, Potomac, Kittamaqundi. And yet there is a clear erasure of their history and their connection to our land,” Ball said. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day presents an opportunity of all ages and backgrounds to learn more about the people who were here before Columbus and colonization. Representation matters, but it must be more than a rallying cry.”

It can be difficult for some of us to let go of the tales from our early years about brave explorers who discovered new lands. But all those stories are rooted in the basic falsehood that any places that Western Europeans didn’t know about yet were theirs to take. And why did they believe this? Because, to them, indigenous peoples were nothing. They had no rights of ownership. Their cultures meant nothing. Essentially, colonizers got around any concept that they were stealing by claiming that indigenous peoples weren’t really people. Not people of value, anyway. Not “people like us.”

Indigenous Peoples’ Day gives us an opportunity to work on understanding this and coming to terms with all its ramifications. Naturally this has met with resistance from those who want to cling to the old stories they were taught. Stories that made the people they consider to be their ancestors look good. But what about other, older precepts that many are taught to revere, like “thou shalt not steal”, “thou shalt not covet”, and most of all, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”?

People like Columbus and many others were taught those words and still engaged in wholesale theft of land and destruction of culture. Genocide.

I can’t celebrate that. 

Observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day is opening a door to face those truths. We are beginning to acknowledge that the sovereignty of the land we live on rested with those whose stories we have never known. We can deny and suppress that, like our ancestors, or we can do better.

Indigenous Peoples' Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures. On October 8, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a presidential proclamation declaring October 11 to be a national holiday. (from Wikipedia)

Learn something new today. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021


The local news story that extinguished my desire to write yesterday was this one, by Alex Mann and Jessica Anderson, promoted on Twitter by the Baltimore Sun like this: 

Brian and Kelly Sue Robinette, high school sweethearts from Cumberland, had a comfortable life in Ellicott City. Back home, the life of Brian’s half brother, Jeffrey Burnham, was going another way. On Sept. 30, their paths crossed in a deadly encounter.

In itself, the story is heartbreaking and the crime is horrific. But the power of social media means that, as I searched for local stories to write about, I kept reading those words over and over again. Tweets, retweets, quote tweets. Numerous accounts sharing the same story because they knew it would be a reliable source of easy clicks.

High school sweethearts

High school sweethearts

High school sweethearts

Somewhere in there I lost the will to write. I needed to get away from that story and from social media and live some real life for a while, and I did. It was restorative.

The thing that stays with me is the discovery, as the investigation unfolds, that a virulent anti-vaxxing mindset may have been the motive for these murders. It makes me think of all the angry anti-vaxxing rants on social media, the posts dripping with arrogant dismissal of science, the selfish claims that “you can’t make me” wear a mask or observe social distancing. 

Tweet, Retweet. Quote tweet. And more on Facebook. Not to mention all the private listservs we know nothing about. 

Posts like that have poisoned people’s minds against caring for themselves, their families, and their neighbors. They are not merely a point of view I disagree with. They have been the harbingers of death. No, more than that. They’ve invited death right into the house.

And it looks like they may have been the tipping point for a man who took a gun and killed three members of his own family. 

We absolutely do not owe these deadly points of view a place at the table of legitimate discourse. Whether they are railing against local government, local schools, businesses, on social media, or on Main Street in Old Ellicott City, their message is the same: anger and hate fueled by ignorance. And selfishness.

If it turns out to be true that these crimes were provoked by an anti-vaxxing rage, everyone who has promoted these patently false theories shares responsibility. I wonder if any of these people will ever be held to account. Some of them live right here in Howard County. 

Time will pass, and we may “go back to normal”, but I will never forget.


Friday, October 8, 2021

They Get Around


Wishful thinking has not been enough. No zebras have been spotted (sorry) in Columbia/HoCo. And, despite efforts to catch and return them to the farm where they had been living, they are still on the loose. An update:

One Month Later, Five Escaped Zebras Are Still Roaming the Suburbs of Maryland, Ben Panko, Smithsonian Magazine

I’m beginning to see reassurances from animal experts that zebras can winter in Maryland just fine, thank you. These are probably to assuage the fears of children and tender-hearted people like me who wonder what will become of them. Or perhaps this is an indication that they don’t think the possibility of their recapture is very likely. 

I have read repeated statements that the zebras can manage just fine on the loose and also that their prior living arrangement was legal and above-board. I haven’t seen anyone address whether it was good for the zebras. Do they even want to be in the United States at all? In captivity, no less?

The now-named “Maryland Zebras” have given rise to multiple Twitter Accounts. This one is my favorite:

In the meantime, I did get some lovely responses to my question about where the zebras would go if they made it to Howard County. 

The zebras would definitely go to Blandair Park to cavort on the swings!

I was blown away by the mad skills displayed in a response to this suggestion from another reader.

Yes, all five are in there. See if you can find them all.

My two suggestions: (apologies for my primitive technical skills)

I was overjoyed by the variety of locations submitted by another reader.

“And finally. .. at the mall in Columbia... the only choice for zebras....“

Since the Maryland Zebra craze may go on for a while, I’m thinking they need a theme song. Or maybe a playlist. I’m torn between “Born Free” and “I Get Around”. As always, I’m open to suggestions.


Howard County Pride is tomorrow from 11 am to 6 pm.  This year’s location is Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. Admission is free but you must preregister. Here’s the link.

Photo credit: Jumel Howard