Thursday, March 31, 2022

Spring Preview?


Today’s weather hardly feels inspirational. The look on my husband’s face when I reminded him it was trash day is pretty much the look I’ve had for the last little while as the promise of Spring turned into something more like a mean spirited hoax. I don’t have much faith at the moment about a real, honest to goodness Spring where the temperatures warm steadily and flowers and trees open up and display their beauty.

This year’s preview of Spring has left me wanting to cancel my subscription and get my deposit back. 

Even if I don’t have faith at the moment, it’s probably a good thing that the folks at Clarksville Commons do. This Saturday, April 2nd, they are holding a Spring Preview Farmers Market.

SPRING FARMERS MARKET THIS SATURDAY! Don't let today's weather scare you away from a great weekend of food,  homemade goods, and LIVE music by Mike Walls. 

Now the Market itself is on Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm, but presumably you’ll be happy all weekend if you start out there. Not an order, just a suggestion.

Some of the expected food vendors include:

Clark's Elioak Farm 

Metro Microgreens

Hensing's Hilltop Acres, LLC 

Great Harvest Bread Co. Columbia MD 


Chez Tania 

Dimitri Olive Oil 

Althea's Almost Famous 

DWP Bakery 

Heka Saucery, LLC 

Mochi Donuts 

My weather app forecasts that it will be sunny with a high of 54. Not exactly toasty but then, I guess should be grateful it’s not snow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

It Could Almost Be Columbia


Have you been house-hunting lately? Or, like me, do you enjoy clicking on listings online and taking a virtual tour? You may have noticed how many of the houses have been updated to resemble the last five minutes of any HGTV show. Oh, the lovely finishes! The rustic sign in the dining room painted to say “home” or “peace” or “family”. The relentless devotion to “open plan” living.

If you have grown tired of the sparkling sameness of these local “reveals”, let me present you with a bit of real estate time travel, brought to my attention on Twitter.

This reminds me of house hunting in Columbia, MD. All the actually affordable homes were never updated and had these kind of finishes and appliances. The commentary is on point!

Ooh. Must check this out, I thought.

As your friendly 1970s real-estate agent, I am proud to announce that my retro neighborhood is now in VRChat Community Labs! Come see and explore homes from yesteryear as they would have looked when they were brand new!

May I present the real estate agent, @thecoopertom.

Even better, go take the tour:

Design C 2234 (It’s only two minutes and twenty seconds. You have time.)

Depending on your age, this will either bring back memories or leave you wondering, “What the heck?” at the colors and design choices. Don’t forget, these houses would have been the state of the art “reveals” in their day, had there been an HGTV back then. 

So some day these 2020-ish updates - - those Fixer-Upper wannabes - - will be every bit as outdated as this virtual home tour is to us. It feels odd to say that. But experience suggests it will be so. Of course, some design trends age better than others.

I do not know the person who has created the virtual reality village, nor do I know why his online persona is a…cat? Also, I think it’s safe to say that this creative venture has absolutely no affiliation with Century 21 Real Estate. (Now rebranded as Century 21: New Milennium.)

So, what do you think? Did this retro real estate tour give you any old-time Columbia vibes? Love it? Hate it? Tell me what you think.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Willing to Learn


I cannot begin to describe my gratitude this morning that the Academy Awards are not a local story. 

Also: I’m not particularly fond of Mondays.


Straight from the pages of this morning’s Baltimore Sun, two pieces that made me think. Sometimes I see connections where others might not necessarily see them. Today may be one of those days. The first piece is:

‘Lynching is local, and that’s why reconciliation has to be local, too’  Three Hartford County Lynching victims remembered with soil collection ceremony, Jason Fontelieu

And the second:

Velma B. Evans - City public schools educator, associate professor at Delaware State University was an inspiration to students, teachers alike, Frederick N. Rassmussen

This is what stood out to me in the first article: 

Dr. Charles Chavis, vice chairman of the [Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation] commission, also noted the importance of continuing to have these conversations and acknowledging the state’s past indiscretions.

“It doesn’t weaken our democracy by telling these stories; it strengthens our democracy,” Chavis said.

We’ve been hearing a quite a lot these days from people who want to silence these stories. I think they are wrong. And I agree with Dr. Chavis that learning the truth about our history strengthens our democracy. That’s why I have followed the work of Marlena Jareaux, the EC Black History Roundtable, and Howard County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation with such interest. Our community must learn and learn from its history in a way that prompts us to be better and do better. 

About Velma Branch Evans, whose life is carefully detailed by veteran Sun journalist Rasmussen, one sentence leapt out at me.

She obtained a Master’s degree in 1957 from Columbia University at a time when African Americans were not allowed to attend graduate school in Maryland. 

1957 was not that long ago, and the state of Maryland could not bring itself to make graduate education open to all its citizens. If you read the piece you’ll see that taxpayer money was used to send Black students out of state rather than allow them to learn side by side with whites as equals. Ms. Evans gave so much more back to the state of Maryland in a lifetime of teaching than Maryland was willing to give to her.

These are our stories, in Maryland and right here in Howard County. Sometimes they make me sad, and angry, and uncomfortable. But I am grateful for what they have to teach me.

Sunday, March 27, 2022



I really wish more people leaned toward curiosity before they chose judgment.

I’ve been hanging on to this quote because it really made me think. I haven’t used it because I can’t remember where I found it and can’t accurately credit the author. I’ve decided I’m going to risk it. Please let me know if it is yours and you would like to be credited. 

The main reason I saved this is that it put me in mind of one of the stories shared with the Howard County Library’s Brave Voices Brave Choices initiative. 

Less of a story and more general observations over the past few months of how parents/community members respond to the call to remove SROs from schools. Not surprising, but still disappointing, how many white parents are intent on keeping SROs instead of listening and seeking out the voices of  students/ families, many who are Black and brown, who are impacted negatively by police presence in school all the time. This would be the time to amplify the voice of someone who has been harmed, not focus on the little interactions one school SRO provides like saying hello or checking in. At times I am left perplexed over the lack of curiosity into new ways of keeping children safe in school, and the lack of empathy for others' struggles with police.

These are the words that came to mind when I saw this post from Republican candidate for County Executive, Allan Kittleman.

@AKittleman  I am asking Howard County families to sign a petition calling on Calvin Ball to reinstate the SROs he removed on April 21st, 2021. This cannot wait until after the election. The safety of our students and teachers is too important. SIGN THE PETITION NOW.

Fresh off of yesterday’s post, I’m not going to ascribe motive to Kittleman’s actions. I’ll take a taste of my own medicine and do this instead.

This is what I believe: School policing disproportionately criminalizes the behavior of Black and Brown students. Having police in schools has not made schools safer.

This is why I believe it: years of research done across the country and right here in Howard County have shown this is the case.

And, finally, my question to Mr. Kittleman and those who are proponents of school policing: are you willing to work collaboratively with those who have been negatively impacted and harmed by police presence in our schools to resolve this important issue?

As I recall, Kittleman has often expressed pride in his late father’s efforts to desegregate schools in the 1960’s. Here’s something I’d like to know: why is it that the notion of putting police in schools was not  considered appropriate until after Brown v Board required school integration?

I’m curious about that.

Saturday, March 26, 2022



The great big thing that will not go away in Howard County is the issue of housing. Over the years I have tried investigating it from any number of angles, to no avail. It’s complicated. 

If it’s not complicated to you I envy you, although I’m not entirely sure I want to be you. Frankly I think we’d be better off if more people acknowledged that housing/land use is complicated rather than huddling together in separate teams that have it all figured out. But differently.

One thing I wish we could separate out and do away with forever is the practice of ascribing motive to the people we don’t agree with. We can truthfully say, “I don’t agree with you.” Is it accurate to negatively label anyone with a differing point of view as being motivated by something terrible? Is it helpful?

  • Developers are motivated solely by greed.
  • People who support increased density are in the pockets of wealthy developers. 
  • Or useful idiots for corrupt politicians who are in the pockets of wealthy developers.
  • Those who oppose housing are motivated by a desire to hoard opportunity.
  • They don’t want to live near poor people or non-white people. 
  • They’re determined to maintain a status quo of white supremacy.

I frankly don’t know the motivation of most people. Some of the above may be entirely true or not even remotely so. You, of course, are welcome to come to your own conclusions.

Here is my question: how is the continual motive-bashing move anything forward? If it wins people to your side, does that mean that they are the sort of people who are motivated solely by motive-bashing? Is it likely to promote open conversation between opposing sides? 

That seems unlikely.

About a year ago I wrote a piece about housing called “It’s Not Enough” in the aftermath of the County Council’s failure to include the Housing Trust Fund in the budget. 

I have a question for those who say they support affordable housing but keep opposing opportunities for the same whenever they arise. Can you please point me towards communities in the US where they are “getting it right” in the way you envision? I have read descriptions of how we shouldn’t do that; we should do this. I have read many of them. 

It’s not enough for me. Show me. Give me concrete examples of cities and towns that are handling affordable housing “your way” and that are succeeding in addressing housing insecurity needs in a meaningful way. 

Today I have a different question. If ascribing selfish and/or ingenuous motives is the best way to resolve housing/land use disputes, then why isn’t it working? It certainly isn’t working here in Howard County. Can you point to some other locale where it has produced concrete, positive results?

This is not one of those “why can’t we all be nice?” sort of posts which aims to flatten disagreement because it’s just too uncomfortable. We have disagreements. It would be ridiculous to deny that. But what would happen if we kept our focus on:

  • This is what I support
  • This is why I support it
  • How can we work together to resolve these important issues?
Will it make things any easier? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that we are continually infecting and reinfecting one another in a way that makes fruitful collaboration impossible. If we convince ourselves that the other side has evil motives, there can never be trust. And without even a scrap of trust, there is nothing to hold a community together during difficult times.

We don’t have to do that. We could choose not to. 

I can tell you that there are people out there in Columbia/HoCo whose response to this will be, “I am done trying to reason with those people.” Perhaps they know things that I don’t know. But I do know that when we start saying things like that we have more or less painted ourselves in a corner. 

Comments are welcome here.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Close to Home


My first pandemic birthday featured eating Indian takeaway with my family via Zoom and playing games with Jackbox. It was weird. I may have cried. 

My second pandemic birthday…wait. What did we do last year?  I am drawing a blank. 

Oh, yes! We waited until April when my younger daughter would be vaccinated and then we did the family get together face to face. Accompanied by dinner from Flavors of India. On my actual birthday we celebrated with those adorable little cakes that have taken the town by storm. It was a good deal more hopeful than the celebration the year before.

My third pandemic birthday…yes, it’s still a pandemic for me, because of lung issues. We would have been eating at a restaurant outside last night had the weather cooperated. (Boo, rain.) Instead we had takeaway from Aida Bistro in Gateway, which was wonderful. We still love Indian food but I was feeling adventurous. And Aida Bistro had the best gluten free choices for my older daughter, which was a delightful discovery.

As for dessert:

Here you see a lemon meringue pie made by my mother-in-law with help from my younger daughter. It was as delicious as it looks. Leftovers just might be breakfast.

One unexpected moment came when my older daughter and my mother in law realized they had both been having dinner at Charleston in Harbor East on the same night - - at the same time - - but somehow never saw each other. Sheesh. I need to get out more.

Maybe next year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Big Bad and the Small Good


The world is feeling big and bad and horrible at the moment. I’m struggling with that. It’s possible that the time change makes it worse. I don’t know.

I went to my page of notes where I keep snippets of things I might want to write about and found this:

Thanks to Malcom at Warrens Barber Shop in Owen Brown and Cutz By Tre for supporting our Young Men of Power today! Couldn’t have done it without the help of @HCPSS Logistics Center! Sharp cuts for our scholars! #HomewoodFamily

Photo from Homewood Center Twitter account

These images brought back memories of a March evening in 2017 when I attended a Columbia storytellers event at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center. Bessie Bordenave spoke of her experiences as a student at the Harriet Tubman school. She stressed how teachers and administrators went above and beyond to care for and lift up their students. One of the things she mentioned: haircuts for the young men.

I hadn’t known until that evening of storytelling that those dedicated Black teachers were not included when Howard County finally integrated all its schools. By law the Black students had to be included. There was no law that said that the Black teachers must be, and they weren’t. No doubt the assumption was that they couldn’t possibly be as educated or competent as white teachers. Or that white parents would never accept their children being taught by Black educators. Why rock the boat any more than necessary?

Learning that part of the story made me angry and sad. How many wonderful teachers were lost, how many students entered unfamiliar learning environments without the understanding and support they needed? 

Ms. Bordenave’s talk that evening made a big impression on me. The love and pride she felt for her school helped me enter into a time and place I had never known or experienced. We shouldn’t be afraid of these stories. We should be far more afraid of being ignorant or lacking the empathy to enter into the worlds of people not like us.

In March of 2022 students at the Homewood Center were able to get haircuts because their academic community strives to provide a school experience that responds to far more than academic needs. In this way it is like the Harriet Tubman School which now exists mostly in the memories of its former students. Will we, as community, fight to keep telling those stories in the face of wave after wave of attacks against teaching the truth about America’s history? Will we make a commitment to keep space for stories we learn from but that may make us uncomfortable?

I hope so. The students at the Harriet Tubman school were every bit as real as the proud and smiling faces in the photos above. Their stories are a part of our story and they must not be excluded.

Why haircuts? You ask. Why today? 

Well, perhaps this is the only defense I have right now against a world that is big and bad and horrible.

To donate to the restoration of the Harriet Tubman School: 

To donate to programs that support students at the Homewood Center:

Monday, March 21, 2022



Well, will you look at that! March 21st is apparently “Common Courtesy Day.” 

National Common Courtesy Day

There’s a day for everything, I guess. This one seems easy enough to get behind, as one tweeter suggested:

Today is Common Courtesy Day and I think we need more of that. Be nice.

I do try to be nice when I am out and about: friendly, pleasant and respectful to store clerks and people I come in contact with. From my years in food service I remember quite clearly what a difference it made when customers treated me like a real human being. It can brighten an otherwise dreary day.  And I suspect that’s the sort of interaction that a “Common Courtsey Day” is focusing on.

Letting someone in front of you in traffic is easy. Hold open a door for someone or give a person a hand with his groceries. Give up your seat on the bus to someone who might need it. Introduce yourself to the new employee or kid at school and take the time to introduce them to the rest of the crew. 

Common courtesy exists largely on the surface, smoothing the rough edges life’s daily interactions. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a useful skill to have. But it’s not the be all and end all of human interaction.

Interestingly enough, I wrote on a related topic almost one year ago to the day, in a post called Mean Speech, which addressed a recent spate of local defamation lawsuits. 

The people who rail against “mean speech” are ignoring the fact that perfectly acceptable polite speech can hide all kinds of harm. One can be pleasant in conversation yet advocate for policies that are exclusionary or repressive. Does that make it okay because they are “civil” in the way they go about it? 

It’s not okay to “be nice” while hoarding resources, excluding those who are different than you are, or dominating discussions in a way that keeps others from having a voice. (And I have been guilty of that last one, to be honest.)

Let’s look at that snippet from the Courtesy article, but add some adjustments.

Letting someone in front of you in traffic is easy. Would you advocate for better transportation options for those without cars?

Hold open a door for someone or give a person a hand with his groceries. Would you prioritize funding for accessibility infrastructure? Lend your support to a living wage so your neighbor can afford groceries?

Give up your seat on the bus to someone who might need it. Would you get vaccinated, boosted and wear a mask indoors to protect those who are vulnerable?

Introduce yourself to the new employee or kid at school and take the time to introduce them to the rest of the crew. Would you welcome changes to your school, or neighborhood, or workplace in a way that empowers the newcomers?

But that’s not Common Courtesy, you may say. Perhaps not. Perhaps we could call it Uncommon Courtesy. I think we need more of it. It takes a good deal more bravery to willingly put yourself in a situation where you acknowledge that you are not the center of the universe and you want to allow others to be empowered. Letting go of the outcome is hard. It’s almost always necessary if you’re serious about letting people in.

I’m not advocating that we dispense with common courtesy. Celebrate it today and every day. But don’t use it as the only framework for what makes a decent human being. We can all go deeper than that.

Be uncommon.

Sunday, March 20, 2022



Today’s blog is a question. 

I was over on Waterloo Road yesterday picking up something from my Buy Nothing group. I’m talking about the portion of Waterloo between Snowden River Parkway and the turnoff to Old Annapolis Road/Route 108. That particular stretch is quite the hodge podge of different kinds of uses. 

How did that evolve? It feels to me to be unlike anything else I’ve seen in Howard County. It’s almost as though outparcels ate some kind of magical food and took over the universe. In just a quick turnoff from the main road you feel as though you’re in a whole other town. But only for one cul de sac. By contrast there’s Shipley’s Grant with its well-organized residential sections and accompanying commercial center. Near, tidy, cohesive in design and layout.

I want to be clear. This is not a rant. This is not innately a kind of criticism of how it all turned out. It’s curiosity, pure and simple. How did this stretch of road get to be so idiosyncratic? Surely there’s a story here. Is it zoned for anything that anyone feels like putting there? 

It can’t be as simple as that.

I know there are readers of this blog who are quite knowledgeable on this sort of thing. Fill me in. As someone said to me the other day, “explain it to me like I’m three.” I honestly want to know. Perhaps because I spend so much of my life in the Columbubble I find the riotous variety on Waterloo Road much “louder” than most people would.

What do you think?

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Everybody Ought to Have a Home


I am not feeling eloquent this morning but there is a topic I care a lot about. Local blogger Jeremy Dommu writes about it thus week at The Merriweather Post.

Patuxent Commons: Innovative Housing Solution seeks PILOT Agreement and APFO Waiver

Dommu outlines the Patuxent Commons project as follows:

Patuxent Commons is an innovative housing solution proposed for Hickory Ridge to help address the housing needs of adults with autism and other disabilities. The intergenerational, mixed-income 76-unit apartment building is envisioned as a supportive community for people of all ages, abilities, and incomes to live alongside one another and commit to being supportive neighbors.  

Take a moment to read his post and get a better sense of what Patuxent Commons will be like. If you are so moved, write a letter to the County Council in support of this project:

Most readers of the blog know that I used to teach preschoolers with special needs in the Howard County Schools RECC program. I wrote about what happens when those adorable preschoolers grow up and people don’t perceive them as “cute” anymore. More importantly, 

They are all beautiful.

It does not matter if they are not typically developing preschoolers. It does not matter if their bodies are not fully symmetrical, or their behaviors are difficult or unexpected. They are beautiful human beings who deserve care, respect and a chance to learn, grow, and enjoy life.

They deserve safe, attractive and supportive places to live, too. 

In my special needs music classes we sang a song by Linda Book with these words:

Everybody ought to have a home. 

Everybody ought to have a home.  

A place to get together or to be alone, 

Everybody ought to have a home.

Photo from

Friday, March 18, 2022

Dream Jobs


Every once in a while those videos of baby pandas will make the rounds and folks will declare that being a “panda cuddler” is their dream job. Who wouldn’t? They’re downright adorable and the responsibility of cuddling these playful creatures would be an ongoing delight of sensory pleasure. Warm fuzzies, if you will.

The other day I chanced upon my dream job quite by accident.

This is Igor, he was very loved in his previous home but is now looking for new adventure. Igor used to love to act out the tiger in 'The Tiger Who Came To Tea' at bedtime and is hoping he can be the main character in someone else's life soon!

What’s this? Someone is rehoming previously-loved stuffed plush animals and sharing their stories? I had to know more.

It turns out that Loved Before  is a company located in London whose motto is “Saving the World, One Teddy at a Time.”

Oh my heart.

Our Story

" A lifetime of stories, memories and love, just thrown away "

"A few years ago, whilst volunteering in a charity shop, I noticed the amount of soft toys that they were receiving. These items which often held great memories and sentimental value, were being thrown onto a pile and often sold as dog toys (or even worse, into the bin!). I witnessed how the love, and the life and the stories were lost and forgotten, just like that."

"Loved Before was born in an attempt to change the way we think about, and use soft toys forever. By challenging our perceptions of pre-owned objects, we can show that instead of losing value, a toy once loved is made even more valuable by the love and life it has already experienced."

Charlotte, Founder

You absolutely must click on the photo above. It completely stole my heart. 

  1. Loved Befores arrive at HQ, meet the rest of the gang and settle in to all the madness here!  
  2. Donated friends visit the Loved Before Spa, where they receive a thorough clean and refresh.
  3. Loved Befores have their own photoshoot, are added to the store and re-homed to find new adventure!
  4. At least half of the profit from every friend adopted goes to Make-A-Wish UK.
Another part of the Loved Before Mission is rather like the Buy Nothing community, Free Bikes 4 Kidz Maryland or Scrap B’more. It’s about changing the throw-away culture and keeping things out of landfills.

Loved Before believe that there are enough soft toys already in the world to never have to produce another again and that through changing perceptions of the pre-loved objects that already exist, we can begin to revolutionise the toy industry, forever. 

It’s possible that might be an easier sell in England than in the US where we are driven daily by advertisements and social media campaigns to buy new, new, new and more, more, more. I don’t know if the Loved Before mission is feasible but I know I want it to be.

Imagine, if you will, this retired early childhood educator interviewing teddies, listening to their stories, and finding them new homes. It’s a dream come true. I wonder if Loved Before has considered opening a U.S. operation.

I don’t know, though. Taking on a whole new venture would be life-changing. This requires some serious thought. I’d better talk it over first with a friend.

What’s your dream job?

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Love, Honor, and Education


One of these people you probably know. The other you definitely should know, and that’s why I’m writing today. On the left is journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones speaking at this year’s Books in Bloom event. On the right is Roy Peart, the late father of Althea Hanson of Althea’s Almost Famous . This may be the only place where you see these two photos side by side but there’s a reason. Both Hannah-Jones and Peart are being honored by becoming the namesakes of scholarships at Howard Community College.

You may have already seen the local announcements from the Howard Hughes Corporation about the Nikole Hannah-Jones Scholarship.

The Howard Hughes Corporation Announces Nikole Hannah-Jones Scholarship in Honor of Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Who Created the “1619 Project”. 

The Howard Hughes Corporation, the developer of Downtown Columbia, has established a scholarship in honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the “1619 Project” for The New York Times Magazine.

The $10,000 Nikole Hannah-Jones Scholarship will be presented to two Black or African American seniors attending Howard County public high schools who have been accepted to attend college. Each year, two $5,000 scholarships will be awarded. HHC created the scholarship in partnership with Hannah-Jones and the Community Foundation of Howard County, who will administer the awards under the umbrella of the foundation’s scholarship program.

Now I want to tell you about Roy Peart.  From his obituary:

Roy was an amazing singer. His songs and graceful voice would bring smiles to many people's faces. His love for music and dancing was great.

The Roy Peart Scholarship for HCC Students Roy Peart worked for Howard Community College for 18 years where he was loved and appreciated by both students and co-workers. Roy was an amazing singer bringing smiles to everyone. He was also known for his jokes that would make laugh for days. 

Mr. Peart’s family is establishing a scholarship at HCC in memory of their father. Because of his deep love of the arts, the scholarship will be used to support students pursuing theatre, music, or dance. On Thursday, March 22nd, Ms. Hanson will be bringing her Althea’s Almost Famous food truck to the HCC Campus for a fundraiser to support the scholarship fund. Apple Core Desserts will also be participating in this event.

Come over to the HCC campus on Thursday, March 22nd to enjoy some delicious food and to support Mr. Peart’s family as they create a lasting memorial to their beloved father through education at a place he loved and served faithfully for eighteen years. 

Gifts can come from many different sources. The benevolence of a multi-million dollar corporation to establish a scholarship at a local community college is both welcome and exciting. The determination of a family to transform their grief at losing their beloved father into an ongoing gift to the community is every bit as welcome and exciting, if not moreso. Both will have lasting benefits.

The Roy Peart Scholarship is one that we as community members can be a part of. If you knew Mr. Peart at HCC, or love Althea’s amazing food, or want to support arts education at Howard Community College, come on out on March 22nd to the The Roy Peart Scholarship Fundraiser Celebration.

If you can’t make it to the event you can donate directly to the scholarship fund here: 

Roy Peart Scholarship Fund (Howard Community College Educational Foundation)

Wednesday, March 16, 2022



I had a bit of a laugh when this morning when I realized that, due to the opening of a new business, my home is now conveniently located between two Dunkin Donuts.


5880 Robert Oliver Pl, Columbia, MD 21045, at the Oakland Mills Village Center


9200 Old Annapolis Rd, Columbia, MD 21045, on Route 108 at the other end of Thunder Hill Road

And me, I’m somewhere between the two. Almost in a straight line. Each is not equidistant to my house - - that would be too perfect - - but it’s still pretty hilarious. If Walgreen’s bills itself as being “at the corner of happy and healthy” then maybe we should bill our house as “the connector between two Dunkin Donuts.”

Oh, my. Despite my life-long love of donuts and my unalloyed enjoyment of those large iced coffees even I know I should probably strive to be more like Walgreen’s and less like Dunkin.

Last night I was looking at a real estate listing for a house in Clary’s Forest which was quite lovely. The interior finishes were completely compatible with my tastes, and, as you know, I can be quite picky. I found myself wishing I could pick up the house and plop it down in Oakland Mills. Sure, it was a great house, but it just wasn’t convenient to all the businesses, places, and people that I love. This could mean that I have become a stick in the mud over the years and have become averse to change.

Or it could be that I legitimately love where I live. 

Real estate adverts often use that term, “conveniently located” to mention easy access to schools, shops, local amenities, important commuter roads or transit. What about you? If you were describing your home, what would be the selling point for the “convenience” of your location? It can be serious or silly. You choose. I chose something silly this morning but I just as easily could have mentioned our proximity to great schools, the Oakland Mills Farmer’s Market, CA pools and pathway system, Routes 175 and 29, the Oakland Mills Village Center, the Ice Skating Rink, the pedestrian bridge across Route 29, the newly opened Laura’s Place Playground at Blandair Park…

Am I going a bit overboard? Maybe.

Anyway, now it’s your turn. Come on over to the comments section on Facebook and tell me about your convenient location. Not your actual address, mind you. This is not a data mining operation. Just a basic, “my home, conveniently located near…”

Maybe it’s a snowball stand, or a house that has fabulous decorations every Christmas. Maybe it’s an easy route across town, a scenic vista, or your favorite coffee place. Or an easy walk to your child’s school. In real estate it’s all about location.

So, what’s great about yours?

Tuesday, March 15, 2022



About a year ago I was looking for a photo online and I discovered it had disappeared.

Erased by Whiteness, March 16, 2021

It disappeared.

I went to the Facebook page to find the photograph of the racist vandalism at Glenwood Middle School and, as I was looking at it, a message popped up:

This photo is no longer available.

And, just like that, the photo disappeared.


That was weird.

Howard County police investigating racist vandalism at Glenwood Middle School, Jacob  Calvin Meyer, Baltimore Sun

This is the photo. Someone sent it to me in response to my post.

Someone (as far as I know, the perpetrator was never found) defaced the school signage honoring Black Lives Matter. They just made that word “Black” disappear. With white paint.

I had the same sort of feeling when I saw the results* of the most recent Goucher Poll. A question to respondents about top priorities for state government yielded these results:

  • public safety 25%
  • education 17%
  • economy/jobs 14%
  • health care 11%
  • enviro/climate 8%
  • housing/community devpt 7%
  • transpo/infrastructure 7%
  • racial/social justice 6%

There it is at the bottom, so small you almost can’t see it. Racial/social justice clocks in at just six per cent. Public safety leads the pack at twenty-five per cent.

It’s simply mind boggling. Maryland and the nation have come face to face with so many blatant examples of harmful, race-based actions and decisions in the last eight years. But when it comes down to it, these poll respondents appear to have processed it all through a lens of “public safety.”

I wonder why.

Throughout his years as Governor, Larry Hogan has framed almost everything to do with Black residents of Maryland in terms of crime. Black elected officials are deemed unworthy and/or untrustworthy, Black neighborhoods are described as crime-infested, projects that would bring greater prosperity and opportunity to Black communities are rejected as a waste of money. In public statements, off-the-cuff quips, and in public policy Hogan has blamed and othered the Black Marylanders whom he ought to be representing fully and without prejudice.

But we can’t blame this all on Governor Hogan. People had to be willing to take the bait. And they have. Time and again Hogan’s poll numbers show that his brand of dog-whistle politics is not a dealbreaker for Marylanders. This most recent poll is no exception, showing an approval rating of sixty-five per cent. This continues to floor me.

Look at the first seven topics covered in the poll question about priorities: public safety, education, economy/jobs, health care, environment/climate, housing/community development, transportation/infrastructure. In Maryland (and nationally) outcomes for every single one of these categories are reduced for Black and Brown residents because of the absence of racial/social justice. Envision racial/social justice at the center with all the other categories at the end of spokes like a wheel. 

It’s all interconnected.

But that’s not the picture people want to see, apparently. They may have their moments of being concerned about racial injustice but it doesn’t last. I don’t know whether it’s just too uncomfortable or whether concern for their own priorities wins out despite moments of empathy or compassion.

Empathy and compassion say: justice. But whiteness says: public safety.

And the Goucher poll says whiteness is doing just fine.

* Truth in advertising: I found these numbers in a tweet by Pamela Wood of the Baltimore Banner.

Monday, March 14, 2022

The Greening of America, HoCo-Style

‘Tis the season. Kicking off cultural (rather than religious) celebrations of the well-known Irish Saint, here’s the Howard County Department of Tourism:

💚 May the luck be with you! Bars, breweries, and restaurants across Howard County are getting into the St. Patty's spirit with special events, menus, and craft brews.


Oh, boy. “May the luck be with you!”

When Star Wars (or the words of the liturgy) collide with American Irish sentiment, who knows what could happen?

If you’ve been reading the blog for quite a while now, you know I’m not too keen about the commercialization of Irish culture in American St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Don’t pinch me, March 17, 2015

Luck, when associated with the Irish, is particularly problematic for me. 

The expression, "The Luck of the Irish" comes from the widely-held belief that the Irish were incapable of great accomplishments, so if they achieved anything out of the ordinary, it was just "luck". 

Not everyone agrees with my sentiments. The way I came at this topic last time brought out some strong opinions from those with deep Irish-American roots. Their responses made me think that I had not fully understood St. Patrick’s Day in the US as a celebration of the Irish-American experience. I was looking for it to be an authentically Irish experience. But there’s more to it than that.

Still, and you cannot move me on this, I take a dim view of restaurants that sell any green drink as Irish and market menu items like Corned Beef Quesadillas or Irish Nachos for your Saint Patrick’s Day festivities. My husband, who is from Belfast, Northern Ireland, has learned to live with the annual cultural appropriation with no more than a wince.

One thing we agree on, though: a drink called a Car Bomb. For Heaven’s sake, look it up, bartenders and restaurant owners. Why on earth would you think this is a celebratory name for a cocktail?

If you enjoy going out to celebrate on March 17th, the link from Visit Howard County will give you a range of choices. I’d like to point out that a) it’s not compulsory to drink alcohol to have a good time and b) COVID isn’t over. I’m not sure I will get much buy-in for either of those statements but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I’m lucky in that I can enjoy Irish traditional music almost any time I want in my own home. Not this Thursday, though. My husband will be out playing a Saint Patrick’s Day gig at Charlestown Retirement Community. 

Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day here in Columbia/HoCo? What does it mean to you?

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Short and Sweet


And, don’t forget: you heard it here, folks: a Howard County hedgehog is a finalist for the next Cadbury Bunny.

Truth in advertising: this story pulled from a Twitter link.

Howard County hedgehog is a finalist for the next Cadbury Bunny Bryna Zumer for WMAR2 Baltimore

Are you familiar with the annual Cadbury chocolates adverts where a variety of animals are depicted auditioning to be the Cadbury Bunny? Here’s the original from 1994.

Cadbury Easter Bunny Tryouts

In 2019 Cadbury used the framework of the original ad campaign to launch a nationwide contest.

Cadbury hosting new Cadbury Bunny contest for Easter Wesley Coburn for

This year there are ten finalists and adorable Maple, a two year old African Pygmy Hedgehog, is one of them. You can learn more about Maple in Ms. Zumer’s article (linked above) and on Maple’s very own  Instagram account. She has over 10,600 followers. Unbelievably, there are at least ten Instagram accounts with variations on that name. Accept no substitutions. Look for maplehedgie.

When I read long ago that in the future everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes, I did not anticipate that pets would be included. It’s possible that Andy Warhol didn’t either. Social media sure sped that up. When I was growing up the only famous pets in my frame of reference were Rin Tin Tin and Lassie, although they were really before my time. Well, perhaps Morris the Cat, the professional mascot for Nine Lives cat food, was the most famous “pet” of my childhood. 

What a long and strange road from Morris to Jorts, eh?

Now ordinary household pets have their own social media accounts and vie for clout and even sponsorships. Their owners generate storylines for them and even sell merch. I’m not quite sure how I feel about all this, in particular: do the animals at the center of this trend actually have happy lives? I sure hope so.

Back to Maple. Here she is, enjoying some watermelon.

Photo courtesy of maplehedgie Instagram 

If you’d like to support the cute little Hedgehog who is Howard County’s first ever finalist in Cadbury’s Bunny contest, you can vote daily through March 22nd. You’ll have to register first but it’s easy and they don’t ask for much information.

Vote for Maple

A bonus for your participation is this:

Cadbury is donating five thousand dollars to the ASPCA along with an additional five thousand donation for every five thousand incremental votes up to a total of twenty thousand dollars.

That’s pretty sweet.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Say Yes to the Dress


It looks like high school proms are returning, bringing back memories of the time my daughter was searching for a prom dress.

New fun game. The Kid and I are sending photos of prom dresses to eachother. I found the perfect one, it’s 600.00.

Next she started sending me pictures of the most atrocious ones. 

Daughter, looking at prom dresses,

“That looks like a watermelon. You’re wearing a watermelon!”

Followed by:

“What are you going to do with your boobs in this dress? Put them in your pocket?”

“This one doesn’t have pockets.”

The pièce de resistance:

What. Were. They. Thinking? 

My response at the time:

I think it looks like someone’s arm is up her dress here, and they’re responsible for knocking her off balance. Also, it’s really sad she had a run in with a jar of exploding baby powder.

When you add up all the expenses associated with going to the Prom, the total cost can be enormous. In 2015 the folks at HC Drug Free made up their own list, which you may notice is pretty heavy on the gender stereotyping.

The message about having a drug-free, alcohol-free Prom is a valuable one. The assumptions about gender roles and what constitutes “a couple” could stand to be updated. (And perhaps they have been. But this was out of date even in 2015.)

This year two local schools are schools are undertaking to make the cost of a prom dress more affordable.

At Oakland Mills High School:

Oakland Mills High School is hosting a Dress Sale on Saturday, April 2nd from 11:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria. NOTHING OVER $20, and some are even as low as $5!! All proceeds go to the OMHS Journalism Department. 

If you have Prom or a formal event coming up, this is a great place to find a high quality dress at a low price! Some dresses still even have the tags on them! 

This event is to raise funds so that the OMHS Journalism Department can afford to print the student newspaper, The Scroll. If you have a dress or dresses you’d like to donate, they are accepting donations until March 28th.

On the very same day, April 2nd, Atholton High School will be hosting Becca’s Closet:

There are 1500 dresses at Atholton high school looking for a student to take them home. Free admission, free dress! Come “shop” on April 2 from 9-2!  No appointment necessary!

What kind of a dress did my daughter choose? I’m not at liberty to say. You know how carefully the young  folks protect their “brand” these days. On the other hand, I’m not quite so protective.

Friday, March 11, 2022

F ³ Remembering Old Friends/Sesame Street

Sunny Day

Sweepin' the clouds away

On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get?

How to get to Sesame Street

Come and play

Everything's A-OK

Friendly neighbors there

That's where we meet

Can you tell me how to get

How to get to Sesame Street

It's a magic carpet ride

Every door will open wide

To happy people like you

Happy people like

What a beautiful

Sunny Day

Sweepin' the clouds away

On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,

How to get to Sesame Street...

How to get to Sesame Street

How to get to...

(Songwriters: Joseph G. Raposo, Jon Stone, Bruce Hart)

Emilio Delgado, the actor who played the character of Luis on Sesame Street for more than forty years, has died at the age of eighty-one. Notifications of his passing took me on a long and winding path of memories of the venerable educational children’s show, which premiered in 1969.

I remember being huddled around our black and white tv in the living room as my mother tried to tune in the UHF channel just right. We had to roll the television pretty close to the couch to make out the picture. As the youngest of three children, I was ten, hardly the target audience for the show. But, honestly, it wasn’t the educational content that drew us to Sesame Street.

It was the Muppets. We were huge Muppets fans. We always tuned in to the Ed Sullivan Show when we knew they were appearing. And that year that the Muppets hosted the summer replacement show for the Smothers Brothers was a delight. We were hard-core Muppet fans. 

I wanted to see Kermit.

I can’t remember how much of the early years of the show I actually watched. Reception was terrible in those days. But I can tell you that over the years I have watched way more Sesame Street than most ordinary people, not just as a child but also through raising two children and a career in early childhood education. 

Luis and Maria figured in many story lines when my younger daughter was little. They are definitely major characters in a video entitled “Elmo Saves Christmas” which I eventually broke down and hid after multiple daily viewings long past Christmas. I remember what a big deal it was in later years when they turned their Fix-It Shop into a Mail-It Shop. 

Sesame Street was responsible for possibly the scariest moment I’ve ever had on the internet. It was probably around 1999 and I was learning how to search things, and I wanted information on how Sesame Street prepared young children for school. Instead, I accidentally clicked on a link that turned out to be from some American Nazi group, complaining at length about how dangerous the show was.

Dangerous? Why?

The writer deemed Sesame Street dangerous and damaging to white children because it showed them being happy in urban settings, when everyone knew that real white children were drawn to healthy, natural, even rural settings. Only Black and Brown people belonged in crowded, dirty, urban settings. In addition, Sesame Street showed white children being happy around people of other races, when everyone knew that white children and white people were naturally happiest around other whites.

The chill I felt going up my spine as I read these words cannot be adequately described. I left the site. I signed out of my personal account on the computer. I turned off the whole dang computer. I went to bed and hugged a pillow for a good long time, trying to get those words out of my head.

Sesame Street has changed a lot over the years. Honestly, I haven’t liked all the changes, but then, the show has a particular mission and it isn’t to please me personally. I miss Roosevelt Franklin, Teeny Little Superguy, and Kermit the Frog doing on the scene news reports from fairy tales in action.

But I never lose sight of the fact the every person who has ever worked on the show, or donated money to keep it going, is engaged in an educational and transformational quest that is as much about human kindness and empathy as it is about school readiness.

I hesitate to use the word “hero” because it has come to mean someone who can be relied upon to do superhuman things while getting no respect and receiving appallingly low pay. Setting that pathetic definition aside, I do think people like Emilio Delgado, Caroll Spinney, Joan Ganz Cooney and many, many others who have contributed to Sesame Street are heroes. Not only for their work in the past and in the present but in how the show is continually shaping the future.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The Magic Question

The quotable quote from Tuesday’s 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County is this:

When we lift up women and girls, we lift up entire communities.

I immediately thought of this story shared by Yale professor Zoe Chance, in an NPR interview about her book, Influence is your Superpower.

CHANCE: The magic question is, what would it take? To illustrate, here's a story to show how it works. In Zambia, there's been a sex trafficking conference where Gloria Steinem was there as an expert talking on this issue and giving advice. She goes to a village that's facing that issue. And three young women have been lost to sex traffickers the previous year. Instead of giving them advice, she asks the magic question. She says, what would it take for that to never happen again? They told her an electric fence. An electric fence? They said, when the corn reaches a certain height, the elephants come, and they eat it, and they trample it. We have no food. We have nothing to sell at the market. We have no money to send our kids to school. And these women and their families were desperate. 

So Gloria Steinem goes back home. She raises a few thousand dollars, sends them the money. And the way she tells it, when she comes back a few years later, there's a bumper crop of corn. No women have left the village to sex trafficking since they got the fence. 

The magic question is magic because, first of all, it's respectful. This is a way that you want to be influenced by someone. So even when you teach it to other people and they're using it with you, you ask each other, what would it take? - and - ah, the magic question. But you tell each other it feels good. The magic question is magic because you get creative and surprising answers that you never would have expected. And thirdly, it's magic because when they tell you, here's the roadmap to success, they are implicitly committing to supporting that outcome. 

So the way I hear this story, it's not that the fence magically prevented sex trafficking. It's that the women who had asked for the fence made sure that after they got it, no one was going to leave the village that way.

When we lift up women and girls, we lift up entire communities.

Over the past twenty years, the Women’s Giving Circle has developed a multi-pronged approach to philanthropy in Howard County. They have become incredibly good at meeting crisis needs quickly  through their Emergency Response Network. And I knew they found ways to highlight particular local nonprofits such as Columbia Community Care, Grassroots, and the Community Action Council through special appeals. Did you know that this year they were involved in the Horizon Foundation/United Way Changemaker Challenge?

This is only a small amount of what they do each year in our community.

I hadn’t known until the other evening that they have built up an endowment of 1.3 million dollars to make sure that their mission will continue in the future. For a small, local nonprofit, that’s impressive.

I’ll also throw in here my own experience with WGC. I’ve never had much discretionary income. I didn’t see myself as a philanthropist. The issues I cared most about seemed insurmountable when I considered how little I had to give. But personal connections I had with members of the Women’s Giving Circle sparked my interest. And then, that magic question presented itself to me: what would it take for you to get involved here?

It turns out that I needed to be convinced that, even if all I had was ten or twenty dollars to spare, that it would be enough. That I could do some good. 

According to the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy:

Giving circles, which tripled in the United States from 2007-2017, help introduce new and increasingly diverse donors into the world of philanthropy.

And, from Philanthropy Together:

Giving circles bring many more — and widely representative — everyday donors to the table to create equitable communities.

Women in Howard County lifting up women and girls in Howard County. The ripples of giving lift up the entire community. Big or small, each contribution moves their mission forward.


Keep an eye out for information about the newest initiative of WGC: The Big Give, a hands-on opportunity to learn about grant-making opportunities for women and girls.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

A Ray of Light


I caught a glimpse yesterday of some local men (fellas? guys? bros?) casting aspersions on the League of Women Voters and International Women’s Day because…you guessed it: it wasn’t for them. They felt left out. And solely for that reason, they deemed both of these entities worthless and unfair.

Oh my.

It isn’t always about you, guys.

On the national scene announcements that hygiene products for those who menstruate will be provided without cost by local governments are often followed by remarks like, “What are we gonna get?”


That brings me to the ongoing discussion on Twitter about greater transparency around wages and what that would mean for women and other marginalized groups. As long as everyone is convinced that they must keep silent on salary issues, disparities persist in the attendant darkness. I highly recommend this thread from Erin Overbey. Ms. Overbey is the Archive Editor of the New Yorker Magazine, and the New Yorker Classics newsletter editor.

It begins like this:

I’ve been following the pay discourse on this site for a while & think it’s important for the movement toward salary transparency (particularly vis a vis gender & race) to continue to grow, so here’s my account. Most ppl like to describe my job as “glamorous” & there are many elements of my job at @NewYorker that I like. Equal pay is not one of them. 

What are you gonna get, guys? Apparently higher salaries. NBD.

And how was your International Women’s Day?

The antidote to all this dreariness was an evening spent (virtually) in the company of some amazing women, celebrating the Twentieth Anniversary of the Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County. Their mission?

The Women’s Giving Circle is building a community of philanthropists and creating a permanent legacy to address the needs of women and girls in Howard County.​

In the twenty years since their founding they have given over one million dollars to their nonprofit partners and have established a 1.3 million dollar endowment from over 1,600 donors to make sure that there will be funds to support women and girls in our community in the future.

One of the statements made last night that I’ll carry with me for a long time is that, “When we lift up women and girls, we lift up entire communities.”

More about that tomorrow. 

To learn more about the Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County, visit their website. And, just for good measure, let’s link you up with the League of Women Voters and International Women’s Day, too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022



Here’s a news article that left me scratching my head:

Howard County parents react to mask mandate lifting in public schools, Alana Haynes, Baltimore Sun

I don’t know the actual number of parents in the Howard County Schools. Ms. Haynes has interviewed three of them. All are women. A quick look at FB suggests they are all white. Two out of the three are in agreement with lifting the mask mandate. One of those two has been actively involved in a lawsuit against the school system. One lives in Frederick County.

This is beginning to sound like one of those math problems I was never very good at.

I am puzzled as to why a good half of the article is given over to the parent who is involved in litigation against the board*, and yet that fact is never mentioned. Maybe, just maybe, this is information that readers need to be able to form an educated opinion?


Friends, I have no earthly idea how journalists select people to participate in articles like this. I know that one could never solicit the opinions of all parents, yet the opinions of three women (aren’t men parents, too?) doesn’t feel adequate. Although it would be incorrect to extrapolate from one piece in the newspaper, some folks are going to walk away from this article saying, “Two out of three Howard County parents approve of lifting the mask mandate in schools.”

I don’t think that’s true. It’s my gut feeling that the anti-masking in schools contingent is known most by its volume rather than by its quantity. No, I haven’t done a scientific poll of Howard County parents and I am not writing a news article. I base this opinion on two things: 1) the number of concerned parents posting online about their support of in-school masking, and 2) the number of people I am seeing in local businesses who are still masking voluntarily.

It’s almost as though someone from on high decreed that they needed “one of those articles where we ask parents how they feel” and that function was dutifully fulfilled but neither the process nor the content truly mattered. There’s just so much out of whack with this piece. 

Oh well. What’s the big deal? It’s just a newspaper article. Who cares?

I bet you know the answer to that one.

I do.

*On an unrelated matter.