Monday, January 31, 2022

Don’t Look the Other Way


From “Sleepovers” in March of 2019:

“The Sheraton at the Lakefront is going to have a new life as a Marriott. Not just any Marriott, mind you, but the four-star Marriott Autograph brand. In an article for the Baltimore Business Journal, Carley Milligan writes:

Owner and developer Costello Construction will add 70 rooms, bringing the total to 290, and update the entire interior and exterior of the hotel that sits on Lake Kittamaqundi at 10207 Wincopin Cir. The focus will be on creating a "high quality" and "luxury" product, Costello Construction President David Costello said.” (Words in bold by Carley Milligan, Baltimore Business Journal.)

You may have read that the Sheraton has now reopened as Merriweather Lakehouse. They’ve been posting some lovely photographs online. What you may not know is the story of how they laid off all their staff and have refused to rehire them.

Workers protest reopening of Merriweather Lakehouse Hotel that hasn’t rehired laid-off employees, union says Katie V. Jones, Baltimore Sun 

More than 100 employees, including housekeepers, banquet workers and cooks, many of whom are members of Unite Here Local 7, a labor union representing workers in Baltimore’s hospitality industry, were laid off when the hotel closed. None were recalled back to their positions for the reopening, according to Tracy Lingo, staff director for the union.

Also concerning: what happened to the two U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program loans the company received, a total of $2.5 million, for the purpose of helping with payroll and preserving jobs? Workers did not see any of that money nor were their jobs preserved.

County Council member Liz Walsh has introduced a bill, CB 10, to protect hospitality workers’ right to return to their jobs as business returns during the pandemic. Baltimore and Washington have already passed such bills.

CB-10 needs four votes to pass as emergency legislation and make the biggest difference for the greatest number of hotel workers. Councilmember Walsh, who sponsored the bill, and Councilmember Rigby are strongly supporting CB-10. Council Chair Jones  and Councilmember Jung have not taken public positions and Councilmember Yungman has been leading opposition to the bill. Send an email to these Councilmembers now asking them to vote in favor of the bill and ensure economic stability for Howard County hospitality workers. - - PATH, information from Call to Action: Equity and Justice for HoCo Workers.

Howard County advocacy group PATH is spreading the word about this issue and asking members of our community to get involved. Click here to learn more:

To me, this is the central issue here:  the employees that were cast off  during the pandemic may not look like me or you. They may not be our family or neighbors. But I think you’d be surprised to learn that many of the workers ARE our neighbors. Not all, but many live in Columbia, worship at the congregations in PATH (and other local congregations). Not hiring them back will make it harder for us to live into Rouse's vision that Columbia “ will provide a housing opportunity for anyone who works there, from the company janitor to the company president…”

We haven’t felt their desperation or experienced their hardships. But they exist. And if we, who have so much privilege, do not use it to work for what is just, who are we? Should a pretty hotel succeed on the backs of wronged Black and Brown workers? And is Columbia the kind of place where we just look the other way?

Please take the time to learn more about what PATH is doing to support this upcoming legislation.  They are making it easy for you to get involved. Then write the members of the County Council to support CB 10. They need to hear that our community is not the kind of place where we ignore this kind of injustice and human suffering. 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

A View from the Quadroplex


Usually by the time there’s this much light in the sky the blog has long since been posted and I am on to other things. 

This is the view from my desk. I’ve always loved this view since the summer I moved here. At some point over the last year I decided to put my work table here so I could soak up as much of it as possible. It was a good decision. Regardless of the season, this view never ceases to make me happy. I enjoy the changes in nature, watch birds and squirrels, follow the rhythm of my neighbors comings and goings each day. I’m still trying to decide if it would be polite to smile and wave, or whether that would make them feel “watched.”

I’m working on several larger pieces at the moment. I imagine them simmering away on back burners, not ready yet but approaching completion. 

Some fun dribs and drabs this morning:

If you’re thinking of making Valentine’s Day plans, this might prove to be a memorable celebration.

Celebrate 2022 Valentine's Day with your sweetheart by solving whodunnit together at this murder mystery dinner in Columbia, Maryland. Join us on Monday, February 14, 2022. But watch out. This is so much fun, you might die laughing!

Very limited attendance. Advance reservations required.


Was it the Colonel in the Kitchen with the Candlestick? Or the Professor in the Parlour with the Lead Pipe? Join Whodunnit for Hire and the Doubletree by Hilton in Columbia for the murder mystery based on the popular 1940s board game. But watch out! This is so much fun you might die laughing.

A 50/50 raffle will take place at the event. The winner will get 50% of the money, the other 50% will be donated to Maryland Public Television (

The company, Whodunnit for Hire provides “team building and mystery entertainment” in Baltimore, Carrroll, and Howard Counties. Depending on your personal tastes, this might be fabulously fun or painfully awkward. It caught my eye because they were hosting one Saturday night at the DoubleTree Hilton which is less than five minutes from my house.

Another event which caught my eye was a story walk created by the Media Specialist for the students at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School. 

Our media specialist, Mrs. Spangler has set up our very first StoryWalk for the picture book Hello Summer, Goodbye Autumn by Kenard Pak! Students can walk and read! Students then have the chance to share about the story walk on pallet or paper leaf too!

Photo courtesy of HCPSS 

Although the original tweet from the school appeared in November, this story caught my eye in a piece shared by Ellicott City Patch:

StoryWalk Inspires HCPSS Students To Read More , Kristin Danley-Greiner for Patch

[The media specialist] tapped into the talents of Howard County Public School System's print services team and produced a series of panels featuring the text and illustrations from Kenard Pak's children's book "Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn." They were strategically placed in a small garden area toward the front of the school, which allowed students to walk around and read the story outdoors.

"Reading outside was definitely new and fun for many students. It not only gave them the freedom to move around while they were reading; it allowed them to make valuable connections between the story – which talks about changing seasons – and what they see and feel in their daily lives," Spangler said.

I’m a big fan of story walks. Have you ever visited one? I know there have been several in Columbia/HoCo over the last several years. At the moment I’d only be interested in one taking place at various stops within my house. It’s cold out there!

Author Jason Reynolds came to Busboys and Poets in Downtown Columbia on January 22nd in Columbia and I am very sorry to have missed that. I’m not even going into grocery stores these days, so this event was a no for me even though my heart said yes. If you went I would love to hear your impressions. Reynolds is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. If you want to know more about him, I highly recommend this interview with Manoush Zomorodi on NPR.

Jason Reynolds: How Can We Connect With Kids Through the Written Word?

Apropos of Friday’s post about making our personal calendars more inclusive, my husband came home from work with a Chinese New Year goodie bag full of treats provided by parents at his school.

And just this morning an offer for a more inclusive calendar appeared in my Facebook feed. It is presented as a free download for teachers but I’m sure they’d be happy for anyone to read and learn from it.

My plans for the day involve buying a bird feeder and working on those other simmering blog posts. Have a wonderful day and keep warm.


Saturday, January 29, 2022

A New Year’s Resolution


This was the image on Instagram that caught my eye:

For some reason it put me in mind of a certain lovable character from Disney/Pixar. I stopped my scrolling to see what it was all about. 

I have to admit I was surprised to see it was on the Howard Community College account. 

What’s it like being a engineering student at HCC? Well, last semester, engineering students participated in a semester-long project with projects ranging from campus game-room screen protectors, accessible drone piloting systems, to open-source COVID-19 pulmonary respirators. It all came together  in December for Engineering Project Night. Take a look!

Here’s the link to the short video of the event:

It’s pretty darned cool. There’s nothing in my background that’s even remotely engineering-related, but, after watching this video, I wished I could take that class. The projects are fascinating, the students knowledgable, and their engagement and enthusiasm is obvious.

As an early childhood educator I’ve always been a big fan of project based learning. So many topics benefit from taking a hands on, student directed approach. So many learners do better that way. You don’t have to be a preschooler to appreciate that building something yourself is superior to taking notes in a lecture.

Here’s a YouTube video about another Engineering Projects Night:

Engineering Projects Night, 2019

If this kind of stuff fascinates you, take a look at this one, too:

HCC students are building a Formula One style vehicle (April, 2021)

Why did this surprise me? Probably because my perception of what HCC does is either far too vague or far too narrow. I knew it was a great place to get pre-requisites out of the way before transferring to a four year institution. I knew they had professional certificate programs for things like computer science, culinary/hospitality, and early childhood/childcare. All of that is true but clearly that only scratches the surface.

How can community college be this up-to-date (dare I say “cutting edge”?)  and this much fun? I feel pretty foolish. I mean, I’ve come to have a very high opinion of HCC over the years, but I haven’t exactly gone very deep in my understanding. 

Anyway, if you knew all this, bear with me. I’m going to get to work becoming better informed about a place I guess I’ve been taking for granted. Finally! A New Year’s resolution I think I can keep: learn more about HCC.

If you are interested in learning more about engineering programs at HCC, click here. To learn more about HCC overall, visit their website, follow them on Facebook, Twitter @HowardCC, and Instagram @howardcommcollege. And TikTok - - who knew?

Now I want to go back to college.

Friday, January 28, 2022

A Day of Reckoning


One of the coolest things about Facebook is that it keeps me in regular contact with a friend (American) from high school  who lives and teaches in Singapore. Also cool: that friend introduced me to his friend who is from Singapore. I follow her life through her engaging photos and posts. Visiting her elderly aunts. Teaching during the pandemic. Adopting a stray cat.

Yesterday she posted about just not being excited about an upcoming holiday. Holiday? I wondered. Just for fun I googled her hashtag, thinking, this must be some esoteric holiday specific to Singapore. When I arrived at the answer I felt very small indeed. #cny2022 = Chinese New Year.

Oh. Well, of course. I knew that. But I just wasn’t thinking. 

Chinese New Year is on the calendar, of course, but it isn’t on my calendar.

I had that same feeling yesterday when I saw the many posts about Holocaust Remembrance Day. I took the time to read them, and think, and respond, but it was clear that my Jewish friends who had posted had anticipated this day. They had been ready. It was an important day that must be marked and observed.

As for me, as important as I think it is, it wasn’t on my calendar.

Last November the Columbia Assocation scheduled a pre-budget informational session on November 4th: Divali.  Divali is a popular Hindu festival which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. It’s very likely that the holiday was on whatever basic calendar that Columbia Association uses, but, it’s not on their calendar, if you know what I mean. To their credit, they responded to their oversight with grace and worked to make sure that their meeting had not been a lost opportunity for Columbia residents who were celebrating.

What am I getting at?

I’m realizing more and more how being pleasantly oblivious to other people’s holidays, Holy Days, and important days of observance is a kind of othering. I could be doing a lot better. Just saying that I accept everyone and I don’t mean any harm but still remaining ignorant is a choice. And as much as I don’t want to admit it, it’s hurtful. 

If I don’t take the time to learn and understand I am essentially saying that it’s fine for people who aren’t like me to remain irrelevant in comparison to my own life. Sure, those days are “on the calendar” but they aren’t on my calendar. Not knowing is a choice. And it’s in the same neighborhood as not caring. It has taken me a long time to realize that.

I don’t like that about myself. 

If we surround ourselves with people who are just like us, then we never have to take a second look at our calendars. Especially for people who are cisgender, straight, white Christians in this country:  the best way to remain comfortable is within a protective pod of sameness. 

We like to think that’s not who we are. In Columbia/HoCo we make a BFD of our inclusivity and diversity. But I’m beginning to think that saying “Oh! I didn’t have that on my calendar,” is just another way of saying, “I didn’t have you on my calendar.”

I can do better. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Fully Educated


A word about yesterday. I wrote a post objecting to the use of a photo containing Howard County students to accompany an opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun. I still stand by that opinion. However, the piece was perceived by some to be a personal attack on the teacher involved. That was absolutely not my intent. After some thought I decided to take the post down. I’m not here to be hurting people. 

So, that’s that.


In other news, I saw a post on Twitter this morning that indicates that there will be a protest this evening at the Board of Education. The post is a screenshot from a private Facebook group called “Fully Educate All HoCo Kids”. As I don’t know whether this was posted with the group’s permission, I’ll refrain from sharing the screenshot.

Here’s the gist of it: they’re protesting against wearing masks at school.

Friends, I am tired. And depressed. We are dealing right now with a variant that is highly contagious. We are only beginning to understand the long term damage that Long COVID can do to both adults and children. This is not a case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

And one more thing: families. Every child, every teacher, every staff member goes home to a family every night. What we do in our schools during a pandemic impacts them as well. Wearing masks at school is something we do not only to protect those at school, but also those at home.

Take a look at this:

Children are losing parents and primary caregivers all over this country. This is a traumatic loss that will forever alter these young lives, including their educational lives. Why shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to cut down on the number of cases of COVID generated in schools and going out into the community?

Almost every family unit contains someone whose health is more precarious than the rest. It could be due to age, or poverty, or illness. When people say that all they care about is whether kids can be unmasked at school they propose putting all those other people at risk. Is it necessary to sacrifice them in order for our children to be “fully educated”?

That’s not what fully educated means. 

Of course these parents have the right to protest. The BOE/Central Office has been the site of any number of demonstrations in the past. I do hope that members of the Board are influenced more by public health recommendations than by disgruntled parents.

And, about having a group called  “Fully Educate All HoCo Kids”? I have some opinions about that, too. More on that soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Remembering This Day: 2014


On January 25th, 2014, there was a shooting at the Mall. When it was over three were dead and five others injured. It was a sad and terrifying day for our community. 

Today I’m remembering. 

I found this article in the Baltimore Sun written on the one year anniversary of the shooting. I don’t recall reading this the first time around. 

A child, a cause: the legacy of the Columbia Mall shootings, Jean Marbella, Baltimore Sun, with contributions from Jessica Anderson and Alison Knezevich

This piece is so thorough and so carefully crafted. Marbella takes the time to tell the stories with respect, shaping the flow of the words with a tender hand. We don’t get to read a lot of local journalism like this these days. It’s too bad that the best example I can think of is rooted in a community tragedy. Is that the only time journalists are allowed the time and space to do this anymore?

Outside Zumiez, two black floor tiles — one engraved "B" and the other "T" — memorialize the co-workers who were shot just over an hour after they had opened the store that Saturday. The mall had no plans for a formal commemorative event, but issued a statement saying that "not a day goes by that we don't think of Brianna, Tyler and their families."

Zumiez is still in business at the mall. I didn’t know about the memorial tiles. Have you seen them?

I’ve never been a big mall person. The shooting didn’t influence my willingness to shop there one way or another. I know it had a huge impact on others, though. For some it was a moment that changed how they felt about the mall (and Columbia) forever.

The shootings have had a lasting impact on the quiet Howard County town. Columbia, built as a community of villages rather than a conventional suburb, was shaken by the attack on a mall that residents viewed as their town square.

For me it was a different event at the mall that deeply hurt me and challenged my faith in my community. But that’s another story for another day.

Today is January 25th, 2022. There are some complicated and contentious issues swirling around Columbia/HoCo right now. Add to that the overall challenges of the pandemic, the current omicron surge, a recent spike in inflation, and the memory of this day eight years ago might easily slip by.

Don’t let it. Take a moment to remember. Read the Baltimore Sun article. If you don’t subscribe, you can access the paper through the Howard County Library website. Do a good deed, share a kind smile, refrain from that one biting comment you probably have every right to say. 

Can we declare a truce, just for a moment - - or even a day? - -  on all battles and skirmishes that darken our thoughts and consume us, day in and day out? 

Into that moment put Brianna, who loved her son Elijah, and Tyler, who worked to help others struggling with addiction. Sit with them a moment today. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Still Excited


I’ve been listening to the Elevate Maryland interview with State Delegate Brooke Lierman, candidate for State Comptroller. I highly recommend it. So many times candidates and elected officials feel constrained to pick their words so carefully and restrict themselves to a certain image, which makes the end result feel less human somehow. Not so with Ms. Lierman. I’m struck with how comfortable she is in her own skin, and how gifted she is in presenting her vision for the State Comptroller’s office in a clear and engaging way.

Personally, I’m a rather artsy, math-anxious sort of person. When Ms. Lierman talks about budgets and how we can best spend Maryland’s money I’ve been fascinated. I think that having a candidate who makes financial issues more interesting and understandable is an excellent thing. 

I attended on online announcement event for her campaign way back on December 17th, 2020. Facebook kindly reminds me that I wrote:

I had no idea I could get excited about a brand new political campaign at this point in time but I am so impressed by Brooke Lierman for Maryland Comptroller following her kick-off announcement this evening!

At the time I pondered writing about my impressions and I decided it was probably too early. I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t at least take notes. Hindsight, you know. Relying on memory alone, what struck me was her ability to show how the Comptroller’s Office is so perfectly suited to shaping priorities for things that deeply need addressing across Maryland. This may be a no-brainer to you, but it was a bit of a revelation to me.

As someone who has experienced a number of financial lows and struggles, I’ve come to look at budgets and finances as things you have to keep on top of purely so you don’t get in trouble. You must look after the money stuff so that the bad things don’t catch up with you. You take care of needs before wants or face the consequences. I realize that this is painfully basic but on the other hand I don’t think I’m alone in this mindset. I think that the more limited your finances, the more likely you are to operate this way.

Listening to Ms. Lierman I sensed that “lightbulb” realization that it’s entire possible to look at our budgetary choices through an equity lens, or an environmental/climate change lens and make choices that reflect our priorities. Again, this may be elementary to you but it wasn’t to me. I’ve lived my whole life compartmentalizing the “money stuff” in one room and my “real life” in another. Following her announcement event I really began looking at these things in a new way.

Essentially what Ms. Lierman helped me realize was that zooming out and having the big picture about Maryland’s finances enables us more effectively address priorities we deeply care about. 

So, here we are more than a year later and I’m actively choosing to listen to Delegate Lierman talk about “the money stuff” and I’m still fascinated and my eyes are not glazing over. That’s why I’m recommending you take the time to listen to this episode:

Elevate Maryland: A Comptroller to Get Excited About with Brooke Lierman 

Now if I can just learn to apply all of this to my own finances.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

CA’s Internet Sensation

Without a doubt, the coolest video I have seen on the internet in a very long time is this one from the Columbia Association posted this past Thursday on its social media accounts. At one minute and thirty four seconds, it’s definitely worth your time this morning.

Kyle Cope was one of many behind the wheel in the wee hours of the morning clearing our pathways to make sure they're safe for everyone. Thanks to Kyle and our entire snow/ice removal team! 

Here’s a screenshot of what makes this video so cool. It’s the inside of Bridge Columbia, the pedestrian and bicycle bridge that spans Route 29 between Oakland Mills and Town Center.

The short but impressive piece has almost a sci-fi movie feel. I mean:

Honestly, this must be the closest thing Columbia has to a thrill ride, even if it is only on one level.

All fantastical musings aside, this video got me thinking about all the places around town that the Columbia Association looks after during snowy weather. A quick trip to YouTube turned up this piece, posted four weeks ago:

It’s also featured on the CA website on December 14, 2021:

Winter Weather Prep: How Open Space Keeps Columbia Safe 

The short informational video, hosted by Nicholas Mooneyhan, CA Open Space Operations Manager, answers just about every question I’ve ever had about how the Columbia Association responds to snow events. If you’ve ever had one of those “what does CA do, anyway?” moments, this video will give you a glimpse of what it takes to stay on top of all those pathways and sidewalks when it snows.

Of course, we don’t get as much snow as we used to these days. But we seem to be in for a bit more of a “wintry” winter this year, so it’s good to know that these folks try to stay in shape to deal with the white stuff. 

In the meantime, my whimsical suggestion of the day: I think CA could make good money selling rides across Bridge Columbia on Kyle Cope’s Magical Machine. Even if it weren’t snowing. Would you take a ride?

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Driving and Thriving

What do you know about Neighbor Ride? Here’s what I knew: they help older adults without transportation by providing rides to places like doctors appointments, shopping, church, and social events. I knew they were a nonprofit powered by many volunteers. I have a friend who volunteered with Neighbor Ride and she said it was one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences she’s ever had.

I did a little basic research and learned how it all began:

In 2001, the Howard County Office on Aging conducted extensive research which projected that the county’s senior population would double by the year 2020.  Seniors surveyed in the study identified health care and a lack of transportation options as their top two concerns. Neighbor Ride was founded in 2004 to address these concerns with a safe, friendly and reliable means of senior transportation designed to strengthen connections and help older community members live the life they love. 

Here’s what I didn’t know: requests for rides from area seniors have gone up sharply and Neighbor Ride needs more volunteer drivers than ever to respond to the growing need. From their website:

Neighbor Ride is experiencing a steep rise in requests for rides. Volunteer drivers are needed to:

  • Provide rides for medical appointments, shopping, and other day-to-day needs
  • Make deliveries of food or medical equipment

You can make a difference in the lives of Howard County seniors by driving just twice a month. Simply pick the rides that are convenient to your home and daily routines. Opportunities are available 365 days per year. Be prepared to enjoy a fun and rewarding volunteer experience! To get started call 410-884-7433, email or click here.

The pandemic has contributed to increased isolation for many older adults. Yet they still have the same human needs and desires be independent, take care of themselves, and remain in connection with others. As much as we love Columbia/HoCo, we also have to acknowledge how automobile-centric it is. It truly isn’t possible for many older adults to navigate if they don’t have access to transportation.

To learn more about the requirements for being a Neighbor Ride driver:

Once you indicate your interest, you’ll be scheduled for a 45 minute orientation session: 

Learn the ins and outs of our process and and our easy-to-use database to see if driving for us will work for you. Schedule your 45-minute Orientation by calling, emailing or clicking Join Our Team.

Neighbor Ride is offering the orientation both virtually and in person based on volunteers’s schedules and comfort levels. They have also established common sense protocols to keep riders and drivers COVID-safe.

Those are the basics for getting started.

Now I’m going to reveal the secrets behind my motivation to write this piece. When I started doing my research, on a whim, I went to YouTube. Sure enough, there are some engaging short videos that make the case for Neighbor Ride in a way that text alone simply cannot. Here are a few if you want to dive in and get a better feel for what this amazing service is like. 

From about 10 years ago: Neighbor Ride, Inc.  (4.30)

More Recently, around 2018: Neighbor Ride, Connecting Our Community (3.01)

Neighbor Ride 2011 Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Award - - Volunteer Team (4.01)

Neighbor Ride Coordinators 2019 ACX Humanitarian Community Impact Award (3.33)

And, finally, a short informational piece made to promote charitable giving for Giving Tuesday in 2021:

Neighbor Ride Giving Tuesday (1.25)

Take a look. Whether you are a potential driver or donor, or see yourself as someone who may be needing rides, these videos will give you the information you need to see how you might connect. Not to be underestimated: you’ll be informed enough to tell your friends. And that’s vital to the ongoing success of a volunteer-driven organization like Neighbor Ride. They need to continue to make new connections in the community in order to keep this vital service both surviving and thriving.

You can help.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Feeding the Falsehood


I am tired of people arguing about babysitting. 

Yesterday the school system made a decision about the weather and the weather didn’t pan out. It happens. It’s inconvenient. I worry less about affluent parents and more about the hardship for kids who may not eat. Believe me, the folks who make these decisions know. 

But it galls me to see the old argument arise yet again when frustrated teachers respond with the angry, “parents just think of us as babysitters.” 

Why does it gall me? Let me tell you.

Babysitting is when Mom and Dad or other primary caregiver want to go out to the movies or whatever and hire what is essentially a casual employee at an hourly rate, probably in cash. 

What parents struggle with on an unexpected day off from school is not a lack of babysitting. It’s childcare.

Childcare should not be a dirty word. But we treat it like it is. From even the earliest age levels, I see parents and teachers say, “Oh, I wouldn’t want that,” or, “I wouldn’t do that. It’s just childcare.” 

Having worked in facilities that provide care from infants on up, I can assure you that childcare is education. Every, every minute. Whether it is learning that you are safe, that your actions will bring a response, that there are adults who want to interact with you and meet your needs - - all of that is the beginning of education. Brain development and speech development don’t happen in a vacuum. 

Each developmental level builds on the one before. That doesn’t stop when a child begins their “formal education.” But our culture pits “teachers” against “caregivers” both in terms of status and pay. And, the older the level one teaches, the more respect one is accorded. 

I often wonder why that is.

Is it purely because we see the curriculum at the highschool level as being more complicated stuff, so that those jobs are more intellectually rigorous? (And therefore more valuable?) Is it because we value education more when the students are perceived to be focused on the content alone? Primary teachers get less respect than secondary, probably because of the perception that their role requires more caregiving.

This is a ridiculous distinction which, in my opinion, should be smashed into a million pieces and then burned. And, let’s face it, it probably stems from the fact that childcare was for so long considered the responsibility of mothers, which is to say: a woman who has no choice providing a valuable service for no pay whatsoever.

We are in this mess because our culture puts high expectations on requiring parents or other primary caregivers to be employed while placing a low value on children. Period. This perpetuates the desperation to find and keep good childcare while also devaluing the people who provide it. I know many good teachers who feel demoralized by a feeling that they are looked at as nothing more than free childcare. 

I am deeply sorry that they feel demoralized. I know they are good and dedicated teachers.

But the truth is that people need childcare! That is not something to feel shame about. Wanting to provide the very best care for one’s children is one of the greatest aspirations we have as parents. But American culture isn’t centered around that very basic need. We don’t value families and children. And, as long as the only lifeline we have is free K-12 education, that’s where all of parents and children's needs will be piled.

It is wrong, it is exhausting, it’s counterproductive, and it’s unsustainable. I don’t blame teachers for pushing back.

It makes me sad, though, to see such a rejection of childcare as a part of the equation. Because, the truth is, those teachers who “just want to teach” are caring for our children all the time. The elementary teacher who fosters independence in a way that helps students academically and socially. The middle school teacher who has an open door lunch policy for lonely or awkward students who have no one to sit with. The high school teacher who is the first to notice an abusive relationship and coordinates with other staff to get help. This is all childcare, because it is caring for children. 

It is not separate from, or less than. Teaching children and caring for children are extremely valuable and deeply intertwined. Our culture doesn’t honor that. That promotes this false distinction which makes everyone feel terrible and does nothing to help children. 

Let’s stop feeding the falsehood and work to fix the real problem.

Thursday, January 20, 2022



Every Thursday morning the Columbia Flier appears in my inbox. I’m a digital subscriber. 

When I was working I accumulated quite a few subscriptions: New York Times, Washington Post, Maryland Daily Record, Baltimore Sun/HoCoTimes/Columbia Flier. Due to budgetary constraints, I’m down to just the last one. I want to support journalism, especially local journalism. My father was fascinated all his life by printing and publishing. He adored seeking out local newspapers whenever we traveled. 

I think I must have caught the bug.

If you read our local paper you probably have been noticing that the actual space allowed for local news is getting smaller and smaller, while content purchased from outside sources seems to grow weekly. Something else I’ve been noticing: where are the letters to the editor?

Almost every issue of the Flier used to contain an editorial piece from the paper, an actual political cartoon about local happenings, and letters to the editor sent by local residents. I can’t remember the last time that was happening regularly. Have people stopped writing in? I know they haven’t stopped having opinions. 

Has the advent of social media as a place where everyone can publicly display their opinions made editorial pages less viable? Or is the cost of vetting letters, researching and writing editorials (not to mention paying cartoonists) now considered to be too costly by the corporations far away that own local news organizations? As I recall, an editorial page can’t run advertisements. Is that part of the issue here?

The last time I submitted a letter to the editor someone reached out to me to let me know that they printed them in the order they received them, “as space permitted”. 

It looks like space is no longer…permitting?

Not everything that goes away deserves to be saved, necessarily. But this one concerns me. It is isn’t merely that I enjoy reading what people are riled up about, and who is riled up, for that matter. It’s also the time and attention that the paper used to invest in learning and thinking about local issues well enough to write about them. 

When that goes, part of the soul of a local newspaper goes. It’s not that the journalists and their editors who cover Columbia/HoCo news don’t care. It’s that financial decisions far above them cut and cut away at what they are able to do. So they do what they can, within the limitations that are given them.

What do you think? Do we lose something if we lose a local editorial page? Or has the internet and modern life rendered it obsolete? Do younger residents see any relevance in reading the letters to the editor anymore?

When does a local newspaper stop being a local newspaper? 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Savor It

Yesterday County Executive Calvin Ball announced that the county, in collaboration with the school system, would be giving teachers an $1,800 bonus in recognition of their work during the pandemic. From Dr. Ball’s Facebook page:

For our teachers and support staff, these past two years have been especially grueling, and I believe it is more important than ever to retain those committed educators who make our school system among the best in the nation. I’m thrilled to announce that the Howard County Board of Education matched my commitment of $8 million in bonuses for our educators. 

Together, we have secured $16.1 million in bonuses for all our full-time* Howard County Public School System employees. I appreciate that our Superintendent and Board of Education have acted and joined me in demonstrating our gratitude for our educators as a reward for their hard work and dedication to our children.

A bonus is a gesture in good faith to recognize exceptional performance, effort, and dedication. It is symbolic in that it could never come close to the actual “cash value” of what has been accomplished. Yet it is also a concrete example of thanks from our community to our educators. One that they can “take to the bank”, as it were.

I’m happy that Howard County and the school system have made this a priority. It takes work and collaboration to make things like this happen, despite what you read on social media. Some folks seem to think that large sums of money are given away with a wave of a magic wand and solely for the purpose of showing off or impressing the public. I suspect people like this have never worked in public service.

I’m inclined to say a few words about other things. Things that our teachers really need that are as yet unaddressed. And you know I will, eventually. But today I want to stay focused on gratitude for this one thing. 

Let us just sit with this for a moment. While announcements like this are made by administrators and politicians, this moment is for teachers. Can we just take the time to stop and savor it?

Our teachers have worked extremely hard and the pandemic is not over yet. Many times they have felt frustrated, downhearted, and burned out since March of 2020. They have pivoted, adapted, folded and multiplied themselves to respond to current challenges and community expectations. A bonus in recognition of their work is a sign that the school system and county government see and acknowledge the importance of their sacrifices.

It’s so easy to rush on past the good news to other issues and complaints. We do this all the time. Don’t. Let this action provide us with an opportunity to fully experience our gratitude to teachers during an incredibly hard time. This is their moment. 

It’s always a good time to send a note of appreciation to a teacher who is making a difference. I imagine that it would particularly gratifying to receive a note right now that not only spoke to their special qualities, but let them know how happy you are that they will be receiving a bonus for their extraordinary efforts.

You are worth it. You have made a difference. Our community is grateful. You can feel proud of what you have done. 

What an exceptional bonus that would be. 

*Correction from BOE Member Jolene Mosely: The bonus is for full time and part time employees. The $1,800 is prorated for part time employees.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Howard Hughes Meets Grandma


My eyes don’t usually linger over adverts on social media but this brought my reading to a halt.

Wait. Isn’t that…?

Photo by Elizabeth Janney, Columbia Patch

I’d say there’s a startling resemblance. For just $69.99 (marked down from $129.99) it looks like you can have your own home version of Azlon I,  that impressive kinetic art piece purchased and installed by the Howard Hughes Corporation in the new Merriweather District. Take a look:

Decorative Design Home Windmill

According to an article, in the Baltimore Business Journal, artist Anthony Howe describes his Azlon sculpture as having almost mystical properties:

"It can literally slow your heartbeat and silence your mind, like a meditation,” Howe said in a statement. Howe has created other kinetic sculptures in Dubai, Dallas and Moscow, to name a few locations.

Hmm. I wonder if a knockoff version from Grandma’s can do the same? They list the dimensions as 10 X 10 X 10 inches. Hmm. That probably won’t slow your heartbeat and silence your mind, but it might make traffic on your street slow up a little or get the neighbors talking.

“Wait! Slow down, honey. Isn’t that…?”

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Here, Again


To be Jewish in America. To be Muslim in America. To be a person of color in America. To be a woman in America. To be Native American in America. To be Asian-American in America. Is to live wondering if you are next.  - - Barbara Malmet

I went to sleep last night terrified for the worshippers taken hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. I awoke to news that they are now safe. I was about to say “they emerged unharmed” but that is almost certainly untrue. They have come away with their lives, yes, but the harm will be lasting, not just to them but to their friends, families, and community. 

Like other similar events before this, I’m left feeling angry, fearful, and sad. Jewish people should have the freedom to worship safely.

Those who look different, worship differently, are differently abled, love and/or identify differently are every bit as American and deserving of acceptance and respect as those who represent the predominant cultural attributes. This isn’t just a nice thing to say. It is a foundational belief of our nation.

I wrote those words in 2019 after a shooting in a Kosher grocery store in Jersey City that killed five and left three wounded. And here we are again. I’m struggling to think of something new to say. I’m coming up empty. 

I give thanks for the safety of those in Colleyville. I mourn the world that vilifies and endangers them. 

Here’s that post from 2019:

 This Means War (December 13, 2019)

There is no war on Christmas. Christmas as a cultural phenomenon starts flowing out of every faucet before Thanksgiving. Even if you have no intention of celebrating Christmas, you cannot avoid it. The trappings of American Christmas celebrations bombard you at every turn.

It may have become more commercial and more secular through the years, but Christmas is what each family chooses to make it within their own home. It is not under attack. No one is endangered for celebrating Christmas.

What is under attack in our country is Judaism. The recent murders at a Jewish Market in New Jersey are just another example of a steady stream of violent acts which have been building over the last several years. A possible change in the law to identify Judaism as a nationality rather than a religion harkens to similar decrees during the Third Reich.

We can’t be silent about this. This shouldn’t be a concern only for our Jewish neighbors and friends. At a time of year when we share common themes of lighting candles to illuminate the darkness, we need to reach beyond our usual circles of celebration to acknowledge the fear and anger of this moment in our nation. We need to say, “I will be there for you. You are not alone.”

There is no war on Christmas. But there is plainly a growing attack on those who are perceived as “different” in this county. First you are different. Then you are feared, then hated, then “othered”. Then you are in danger.

Those who look different, worship differently, are differently abled, love and/or identify differently are every bit as American and deserving of acceptance and respect as those who represent the predominant cultural attributes. This isn’t just a nice thing to say. It is a foundational belief of our nation.

This is the kind of war that can only be waged with the fierce persistence of acts of love and justice. I am searching for ways to show my Jewish friends, neighbors, and coworkers that I am an ally in a dark time.

Join me.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Yesterday and Today

One year ago today I was writing about the installation of Dr. Denise Boston as Howard County’s first Equity and Restorative Practices manager.* Today I am wondering how her first year has been. The internet tells me that she moderated a virtual conversation about Cultural Competence and Implicit Bias in July, as a part of a series called Difficult Conversations About Race. She is a member of the Racial Equity Alliance, which, partnered with the Howard County Library to create the Equity Resource Collection at Central Branch.

Why don’t I know more? First off, Dr. Boston doesn’t appear to be the sort of person who wants to “see her name in the paper” all the time. Secondly, I’m not involved enough in the work of the Howard County Office of Human Rights and Equity to be adequately informed. And that is entirely on me. Reading Facebook posts and the occasional tweet is just not enough. If I want to know more, I need to be willing to learn more. 

Recent news stories I am thinking about:

A new director, Fred Campbell, has taken the lead at the Howard County Historical Society. In an article by Katie V. Jones in the Howard County Times, these sentences caught my eye:

A former college professor, Campbell said he hopes to lead more bus trips to focus on topics such as the National Road. He would also like to see more diverse groups featured in the museum.

“Our voices need to be broader,” Campbell said.

Naturally this put me in mind of Marlena Jareaux, the EC Black History Roundtable, and Howard County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation. I’ve written a bit about her/their work here. Will the transition to new leadership at the HCHS open the door to a more collegial/collaborative relationship in examing Howard County’s History? I certainly hope so. Howard County’s history is incomplete without a thorough examination of the lives and deaths of Black residents. The research will not always take us places we particularly want to go. All the more reason we should put aside our discomfort to go there.

This week Dr. Daria Willis began her term as President of Howard Community College. Here is her message to students. Dr. Willis is the first African American to lead HCC since its inception 51 ago. Of interest to me:

Dr. Willis earned her Ph.D. in history from Florida State University. She holds a master’s degree in history and a bachelor’s degree in history education from Florida A&M University, a historically Black college in Florida.

I imagine that many other of her abilities and professional achievements were highly influential in making her the top candidate for this position. And you can read about them on HCC’s website. In my own humble opinion, there couldn’t be a better time to add someone whose speciality is history,  especially history education to the academic community in Howard County. I look forward to seeing what she does at HCC and her involvement in the community.

In closing, I’d like to give yet another shoutout to this moving and award-winning song by Laurel Musician and Composer Alan Scott. I’m thinking it’s about time for a sing-in in the Senate.

John Lewis Lives

*The Equity and Restorative Practuces Unit is a Department of the Howard County Office of Human Rights and Equity.

Friday, January 14, 2022

My Salad Days

Let us talk of lettuce. And salad. And how we expect long rows of assorted greens and bags of premade salad mixes at our fingertips. Even in January.

America was not always thus. I grew up in an iceberg nation. There was the wedge of iceberg with Thousand Island dressing, or my mother’s Italian salad: iceberg, tomatoes, cubed mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, Italian dressing. (Perhaps black olives. Can’t remember.) In summer when the kitchen was too hot for cooking, we might have Salmon Salad: tinned salmon augmented by iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, hard boiled egg halves, and Miracle Whip. 

This was a time when all sorts of things were called salads. Of course, potato salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw were (and still are) staples of pot luck events. Three bean salad. Pickled beets counted as a salad at my house. But this was also the tail end of an era that raised the term“jello salad” to heights which, frankly, it did not deserve. I shudder to recall lime jello with cottage cheese and pineapple topped with a dollop of Miracle Whip or Marzetti’s slaw dressing. Tomato aspic/gelatin salad. Perfection salad. (It wasn’t.)

Occasionally, in a restaurant, I would run into some darker, or curly, bitter greens in my salad but I did not acknowledge them to be lettuce. They were to be avoided if at all possible, or swamped in salad dressing.

This was in Ohio. Food was still “seasonal” in those days. I suppose if one lived in warmer parts of the US one might have had access to a wider variety of fresh produce and for more of the year. I don’t know.

Changes in agriculture/factory farming combined with changes in transporting food for long distances completely transformed this. By my college years my mother was buying a variety of lettuces to wash and then dry in her new-fangled salad spinner to make salads with mixed greens, minced scallions, green olives, and shaved kasseri cheese to tempt my father’s taste buds.

And then came the march of the bagged salads. I admit I thought at first that using them was cheating, somehow. Then, between working full time, raising children, and the advent of the Ranch dressing my younger daughter craved, I caved. Bagged salads it was, and was to be - - and for quite some time, too. Recently the reasonably-priced produce at LA Mart in Oakland Mills has coaxed me back into choosing my own salad greens. (It’s the logical thing to do because they don’t carry bagged salad.)

Between the labor shortages caused by COVID, the recent snow storm, and a listeria recall, bagged salads have been notably missing from grocery stores lately. This has generated quite the hue and cry on social media. Civilization as we know it is under attack!

Many of the empty shelves photos I am seeing are in the lettuce aisle. We expect our bagged salads. We demand our bagged salads.We don’t think for a minute how they get there.

Factory farming. Petroleum-based fertilizers. The fuel required to move the freshly grown food from where it originates to places where farming in winter is an impossibility. The plastic the bags are made of. The energy required to keep all these things refrigerated. The massive amounts of cheap labor that fuel it all. 

While I love salad, and it’s a relatively easy way to get members of my family to eat vegetables, I don’t think we should place our expectations for what makes a functioning society on its availability. Must we demand bags of salad 24/7, 365 days a year, in every season? Especially once we contemplate and enumerate its costs?

Is it worth it?

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Worries in Wilde Lake


If you live in Wilde Lake, or follow local goings-on via NextDoor or Facebook, you probably know that David’s Natural Market came very close to shutting down its Columbia location recently. It looks as though the community outcry has been helpful to them in deciding to keep the business going, at least for now. It’s also possible that there has been assistance/intervention from the County and or local officials. I don’t know that for a fact; it just seems likely. 

My own experience with David’s is pretty limited. I love their curried chicken salad. And, when my daughters were going to and/or working at Slayton House Camp of the Arts, stopping at David’s (pre-renovation) was pretty much a daily thing. It was our go-to place for a muffin, or cookies, a cold drink, or a place to grab a quick lunch.

As excited as I was to see David's firmly established in the new Shoppes at Wilde Lake plan, somehow the actual execution has never felt as though it supported what is best about David’s. Being as how I don’t live in Wilde Lake nor do I rely on David’s for my daily bread, I never thought my opinion was worth writing about. What mattered most was how the community perceived and responded to the changes.

It was heartwarming to see to public support of David’s when it looked as though it was on death’s door. People recounted happy memories, talked fondly of the management and staff, waxed eloquent over their favorite menu items. We’ve seen this before when much-loved businesses are coming to an end. There was a sense of almost absolute unity around the Wilde Lake David’s location, combined with indignation and outrage against whatever perceived “villains” were responsible.

What I have found interesting to watch is the shift in tone on social media since it was announced that David’s is going to stay in business. (At least for the time being.) It may be subtle, but it’s definitely there. Comments have moved from declarations of love and support to “helpful suggestions” about how David’s should make certain particular changes of the poster’s choosing. 

“If they really want us to shop there, they should…” 

What follows is every bit as revealing as the declarations of love and loyalty. It seems telling that we move so quickly from adulation to - - what is it? - - criticism? “helpful” unsolicited advice? Are we now unwittingly seeing the dark underside of community support? 

“Great, you’re not dead. Now, if you would’ve just taken my advice…”

When I was running for CA Rep in Oakland Mills, there was a contingent that was up in arms about any possible changes to the piece of land called Symphony Woods. At the candidate night I asked a question: how many of you have been in Symphony Woods, enjoyed it as a park, within the last year? Two years? Three years? Five years? Very, very few hands were raised.

“You say you love your mother,” I joked, “but how often do you come and see her?”

You say you love David’s Natural Market. Great. How often have you shopped there in the last year? Two years? (You get my drift.) And if you truly don’t love David’s by shopping there frequently, well, that’s why they are in trouble. They’re a business. Not a museum. We can’t insist they remain operational because it makes us feel good.

If you find yourself making recommendations to a local business that would in some way make them less than or different from who they are, or that fail to take into account the realities of doing business in Columbia/HoCo in 2022: well, maybe it’s not really that business you want.

What do you want?

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Are Operators Standing By?


Today is the first day of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session. Did you have that marked on your calendar?  I did, because I’ve been meaning to write about an issue that I hope will get some prompt attention (and major funding) between now and Sine Die.

I honestly hadn’t known anything about this until reader of the blog Debbie Nix reached out to me about:

…the new MD 988 crisis line and the need for funding the call centers and related crisis services to support such a call center.  Our families and kids deserve better than ending up in the back of a police car handcuffed when having mental health or behavioral health crisis. 

Maryland legislators need to hear from individuals and organizations who support the MD 988 Crisis Line about setting aside funding to enable it to function successfully. This will be the number that one can call for all kinds of crisis services,  including mental and behavioral health crises. 

My memory was jogged Monday when I noticed that HoCo nonprofit Sobar was running a brief survey soliciting ideas about how we, as a community, can best respond to these very same circumstances.

Tell us what you think. What will improve the community response when you, a loved one or neighbor is in distress due to mental health or substance use?

Help improve services for mental health and substance use by sharing your ideas and views. Many people are working together to shape a better approach for the region.

Please take this survey to tell us what you think:

If you are interested in sharing your ideas, just click the link. Your responses can be 100 per cent anonymous if you wish.

Now, I’ve done some looking around to get more information on the 988 Crisis Line. The website Fund Maryland 988  is the online component of an advocacy campaign to do exactly that:

Beginning in summer 2022, 988 will be the new easy-to-remember phone number for the National Suicide Prevention and Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline.* 988 will be available around the clock, 365 days a year. Calls to the line will go to counselors at local crisis call centers who can provide free, confidential advice and emotional support for people in distress. Counselors can also help connect people to community mental health and substance use services at moments of crisis.

Here’s the catch. That will only happen if the State Legislature funds it. A telephone number alone cannot work magic or miracles. There have to be qualified, well-trained counselors to make it work, plus coordinated crisis services. Here are the stated goals of Fund Maryland 988.

We are calling on Maryland legislators to:

Establish 988 as Maryland’s behavioral health crisis hotline for mental health and substance use crises;

Establish a state fund to invest in 24/7 call centers, mobile crisis teams, crisis stabilization centers, and related crisis response services; and 

Allocate an initial $10 million in 2022 to the fund to ensure that call centers are adequately staffed and available 24/7.

Proponents for the 988 Crisis Line funding are encouraging residents to sign a petition in support of this measure. You can learn more and sign here if you are in support:

Petition to the Maryland General Assembly

To me this issue has two very simple components: 1) the 988 Crisis Line model is a better response to mental health and substance use crises than what we have in place. 2) It won’t run unless we “put gas in the tank,” as it were.

I’d love to be able to stir up some interest for this issue and get people talking about it. Can you help? If you are in support, please sign the petition. If you want to do more, write you state legislators. And an easy this to do would be to share the petition on social media. You might even share this post. 

Whe it comes to supporting Marylanders in crisis, we need to put our money where our mouth(piece) is.

*Congress has already authorized the states to designate 988 as the new phone number for mental health and substance use crises which will greatly increase the number of calls for help.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Other Woman


I don’t know what to think about Laura Neuman. The most basic of information tells me that, until she decided to run for Governor as a Democrat, she was a Republican. I know that she has a Howard County connection, serving as Chief Executive Officer, Economic Development Authority, from 2011-13. She had a brief stint as Anne Arundel County Executive. Until today, that’s about all I knew.

I have made much of my disappointment that there were no women running for Governor from the Democratic Party. Now there is one. I must admit I’m wary of someone who seems to have become a Democrat solely for a political campaign. People do change parties, of course, and it perhaps it shouldn’t be an automatic disqualifier, but, it gives me pause.

I decided to go back to what I stated as my first priority in a gubernatorial candidate way back in October of 2020. As I took a moment to consider present State Comptroller Peter Franchot, I wrote:

Maryland needs someone who is a champion for racial equity. We need to smash the current administration’s racist dog whistle policies towards Baltimore City and transform statewide education funding to support our most vulnerable populations across the state. I want to see a Democratic candidate for Governor who is unapologetically telling the truth on this and has some kind of tangible track record that shows he or she has been doing the work.

My feelings about that haven’t changed. Does Laura Neuman meet those qualifications?

The Neuman campaign released a “meet the candidate” video yesterday. There’s quite a bit of information in it about her background that I had not known. If you have time, take a look: 

I am torn between wanting to call it emotionally powerful or emotionally manipulative. I’m just not sure.

I do have a gut feeling that, after watching that video, one would not be surprised to see a slogan along the lines of “Laura Neuman: because all lives matter.”

There is no doubt that Ms. Neuman has worked hard in her life and has overcome many obstacles. But is she in the race, as she says, because we have failed that little boy who lives in her old, troubled neighborhood, or because she sees herself as a viable choice for the Democrats who voted for Hogan? And there’s no reason it couldn’t be some of both, I guess. 

Were she elected Governor, Ms. Neuman would be following Larry Hogan, who pundits have dubbed as a sort of “Republican for the Democrats.” What that means in reality is that she would be inheriting a state that has endured little more than gaslighting on issues of equity. The present Governor has used his “Bully Pulpit” to vilify Baltimore while failing to address the city’s legitimate needs. 

That’s not the only challenge the Maryland faces right now, not by a long shot. But it’s a big one, and it’s connected to so many things: the legacy of redlining, underfunding of schools, inadequate public transportation, food deserts, generations of lead paint poisoning, how police operate in predominantly Black/Brown neighborhoods. Those aren’t issues solely in Baltimore City. They arise in various forms and combinations throughout the state. (And the country, for that matter.)

Whoever follows Hogan in Annapolis is tasked with addressing this. We’ve had eight years of missed opportunities and in some cases, outright hostility. 

How does Ms. Neuman approach that? How do any of the candidates approach that? One good way to begin to do your research is to examine what they have done so far. I’ll be taking a close look at Ms. Neuman record to see what it tells me.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Lines and Dots


This Wednesday at the Central Branch of the Howard County Library: you’re invited. From author Lawrence Lanahan:

Fingers crossed some of you will join me Wednesday evening at the Equity Resource Center at @HoCo_Library Columbia branch. I'll revisit episodes from our region's history in THE LINES BETWEEN US and connect the dots between James Rouse and Port Covington.

This in-person event will be held Wednesday, January 12th from 7-8:30 pm in the Equity Resource Center at Central Branch. You can find out more, and register, too, on the Library’s event page.

Join author Lawrence Lanahan at the Central Branch of the Howard County Library System as he discusses The Lines Between Us: Two Families and a Quest to Cross Baltimore's Racial Divide.  

Mark Lange and Nicole Smith have never met, but if they make the moves they are contemplating—Mark, a white suburbanite, to West Baltimore, and Nicole, a black woman from a poor city neighborhood, to a prosperous suburb—it will defy the way the Baltimore region has been programmed for a century. It is one region, but separate worlds. And it was designed to be that way.

… This eye-opening account of how a city creates its black and white places, its rich and poor spaces, reveals that these problems are not intractable; but they are designed to endure until each of us—despite living in separate worlds—understands we have something at stake.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Lanahan turned up on the blog almost exactly one year ago today in a post about housing. 

I shared this photo, taken by Lanahan while reading the morning paper, which highlights the stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots when it comes to where they live.

Photo used with permission 

On the left is a contemporary home whose footprint is enormous. It might as well be the Americanized version of something out of Downton Abbey. On the right is an article about who has prospered during the pandemic. I can’t read every word so I’ll need to paraphrase:

This pandemic has created winners and losers...Higher-income households and households that own their homes or a second one are big winners. Losers are lower-income households who are likely to rent or are struggling as homeowners.

If you haven’t heard Mr. Lanahan speak this would be a great opportunity. It also gives you a chance to investigate the new Equity Resource Center. I know there are people who think, “oh, that equity stuff isn’t my thing.” But perhaps housing or community building is your thing, or recent Maryland history, or fascinating book talks, or libraries. After all, libraries are meant for everyone. You don’t have to be a specialist to be welcome. 

I’d say that the single greatest quality of people you’ll find at the library is curiosity. And you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you weren’t a curious person, so, I think you are qualified to learn something new or deepen what knowledge you have already. 

If you can’t make it Wednesday, take a listen to Episode 72 of Elevate Maryland where Lanahan is the featured guest. From Elevate’s Facebook page:

"I wasn't interested in 'beat the odds' stories.  I wanted to write about the odds." - Lawrence Lanahan
This podcast will make you think about where you live, how you live, and the manner in which other people live differently.  In his book The Lines Between Us, Lawrence Lanahan examines the legal boundaries that separate us from one another through the lives of those he profiles.  This story includes Columbia, but, as Lawrence describes, not as the happy landing spot that some may imagine.  

Oh yeah. I forgot the mention that The Lines Between Us has a Columbia connection. Have you read it yet? You may have to wait a bit if you want to borrow it. All twelve copies owned by the library are checked out. Hmm…there’s clearly something fascinating about this book.

I’m curious.