Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Lemonade Stand Kids


What could be a more quintessential sign of suburban summer than a lemonade stand? Even if we drive by in a hurry, we smile at the sight of one. We remember carefree days of our own childhoods. If we do stop we usually put more money in the till than they are asking, especially if it’s for a charitable cause.

I, too, have gotten home from a drive and posted the location of a lemonade stand on social media to try to drum up more business for them. It’s almost as though there’s something precious about this occurrence. I feel an inner responsibility to help preserve it. 

So many things that children used to be able to do independently are now gone. 

The lemonade stand is a reminder of all those other things we used to do on our own, without parental supervision and hovering. If it disappears then all of that golden magic of our childhoods is gone forever. Once we were that eager child hoping to make a sale for the sheer fun of it. Now we want to enter into that joy as the smiling adult, full of appreciation and enthusiasm for a cold drink on a hot day, and for the children themselves.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we love our lemonade stands in Columbia/HoCo and what a stark contrast there is in attitudes towards the young entrepreneurs in Baltimore City who turn up every day to wash windshields*. In fact, I’ve seen some people get outright angry at even the use of the term “young entrepreneurs.” Their brains will allow only one definition for the squeegee kid: criminal. 

I’ve read of communities rising up to support local kids whose lemonade stands ran afoul of permitting laws. It’s interesting to note that in these cases the police are called “over-zealous”. The children are not called “criminals”, even though they were (albeit unknowingly) breaking the law.

“Ah, but it’s different!” you may say, and I’d agree. There is a very big difference between the Lemonade Stand Kids and the Squeegee Kids. 

The Squeegee Kids really, really, really need the money. They do this not for fun, but for survival.

So, indulge me for a moment. Imagine a world where every driver greeted those young people with the appreciation and enthusiasm that they extend to the Lemonade Stand Kids.

Hear me out. 

Imagine parents making sure they always had a dollar in their car so their eager child could hand it to the young man and get a high five. Imagine feeling an inner happiness as you pulled up to the intersection and rolled down your window to say “good morning”, and “thank you” for a clean windshield. Imagine how that brief human interaction could brighten your day and theirs.

This is absolutely possible and the only thing it would take is a change in attitude. From us.

Doing these things would not make the squeegee kids disappear. It would make them wanted. It would make them valued. Can you imagine how that would impact their daily lives? If you can’t, think of the faces of children when you have stopped to make a purchase at a lemonade stand. They are filled with the expectation of good.

Now think of what a gift that would be to young people who turn out day after day on the street corners of Baltimore to wash windshields. It would be life changing, and not just for them. It would change us, too.We would begin to see squeegee kids the way we see our neighborhood children as they play at being shopkeepers: human, precious, full of potential. 

That gradual change in attitude could begin to change many other things.

*I’ve written about this recently (“Symptoms”) 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Is Columbia a City of Secrets?

Well, the primary election is over and there are no more secrets, at least about who won and who lost. I’ll have a few more words on that soon, but first…

Apparently Columbia has plenty of secrets yet untold, according to the tweet from Moe Lane.

The full Columbia, Maryland: City of Secrets. “This was one of the first RPG settings that I did for the Patreon, and I finally put it all together in one place…

Who is Moe Lane? And why did he make what looks like a game out of our secrets? Well, according to Amazon, Moe Lane is:

…a stay-at-home father and unrepentant geek who is interested in fantasy, science fiction, and roleplaying games. He's had a variety of jobs over the years, from retail worker to political New Media blogger/digital activist; but now he writes books, short stories, and gaming supplements. He finds it all very, very restful.

He has a website/blog where he informs the reader that he is “…an evil giraffe. Who no longer blogs about politics.” His blog used to have a right -wing political focus, which may explain the underlying assumptions in Columbia, Maryland: City of Secrets.

Columbia, Maryland. It is arguably the second­ largest city in the state, and it’s definitely one of the most affluent areas in the country. Virtually everything about it, down the lake that centerpieces its geography, was constructed in the mid­1960s: the area is as artificial as Brasilia or Washington, DC. Columbia was carefully designed to lack a unified city government, to subtly discourage the presence of individual churches, and to take full advantage of its proximity to Baltimore, Washington DC, and I­95. And pretty much nobody living there knows anybody else’s business at any given moment.

As Mr. Spock would have said, “Fascinating.” 

Read the rest if you’re interested in the premise of the game. I’d have to disagree with the last sentence of the above paragraph, however. There’s a whole lot of people knowing other people’s business going on here. Sometimes too much. And yet, I don’t really know any of my neighbors. Hmm…

UPDATE: Mr. Lane was kind enough to unlock the full description of “City of Secrets” for us. You can see it here.

It was with this knowledge simmering in my brain that I came across the next tweet, which I found somewhat alarming:

Welcome to the network, Phelp's Luck Pool! We are now LIVE at Phelp's Luck Pool in Columbia, MD! Stream the pool live or watch on demand for 30 days. For a chance to be featured, send us your highlights! 

If you think you have any secrets left worth protecting - - for Heaven’s sake - - don’t go to the Phelps Luck Pool. Now folks will be watching your antics live or saving them for later. Daring swimsuit? Your date is not your spouse? Awkward leap off the diving board? Too many trips to the ice cream truck? Live Barn is watching. Yikes.

Why live stream a community swimming pool? Why Phelps Luck? Somebody, somewhere is a monumental busybody and/or has too much time on their hands.

Of course, I was completely off base here.

Launched in 2015, LiveBarn provides Live & On Demand broadcasting of amateur and youth sporting events. Our patented technology and camera system automatically follow the flow of the game - similar to a traditional television broadcast. LiveBarn currently broadcasts from over 1,000 facilities, including hockey, baseball, soccer and basketball venues. We are constantly adding new venues and features, further cementing our status as the largest amateur sports broadcaster in the world.

It’s about swim meets. See for yourself. I personally find it a bit creepy but then I have never been into youth sports. What do you think?

In the meantime, I’m still pondering Columbia as a city of secrets. And since I am who I am, I’m imagining all sorts of silly and outrageous secrets just for fun. Those are almost always better than the real ones.

Friday, July 29, 2022

F ³ Preservation


I’ve been thinking about preservation since I heard a piece on NPR about video game manuals.

Every English Super Nintendo manual is publicly available, thanks to this streamer,  by Megan Kim, Sarah Handel.

Kerry Hays, known as "Peebs" on Twitch, has archived copies of every Super Nintendo game manual in the English language, and made the collection available to the public.

You might be surprised that I was interested in this particular topic. I don’t play video games. What drew me in was the dedication of Hays to completing his task. It was clearly meaningful to him, and worth every minute of the work. This quote contains the nugget which has been rattling around in my brain ever since.

"Preservation to me is everybody has access to this stuff when they want it and where they want it," he said. "It would be lovely to get paid, you know, a standard paycheck for this. That's just not what it's about." - - Kerry Hays

What was important to Hays about the preservation of Super Nintendo games manuals? “Everybody has access to this stuff when they want it and where they want it.” For him preservation meant sharing, providing access with no obstacles.

That’s a far cry from the kind of process which places the objects of preservation behind locked gates, whether material or metaphorical. For instance, what is gained by preserving historic property which passes from private owner to private owner when that history is deeply painful and represents generational hurt, damage, and oppression?

This image from Preservation Maryland made me think:

What do we do when “preserving the tangible” is a tacit endorsement for people who chose to suppress (if not outright destroy) the cuisine, music, and stories of an entire people? How do we justify that? 

Can we?

Working to preserve something so that everyone can share in it is, perhaps, a noble thing that we shouldn’t expect from everyone. Most people have neither the leisure nor financial stability to support those kinds of efforts. And yet I believe that the question of “who will benefit?” should run through all preservation efforts.

Whose lives will be lifted up? Who will have access? Who is honored? Who is ignored? Who is disempowered?

In the same way that those who have means have preserved the temples of their own privilege, people who write history have often preserved the accounts that center their own ancestors. In the United States that amounts to a kind of historical/cultural genocide of Black and Indigenous peoples. We don’t necessarily preserve what is most precious. 

The people with the most money and power decide.

I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Columbia Confusion


An online reference to an establishment called Café Columbia took me on a merry chase last night. 

Enjoyed a tasty savory crepe at Café Columbia for lunch. 

There’s a place called Café Columbia and I’ve never heard of it? Where is it? How long has it been open?

This is Café Columbia:

(Photos from a Google search of Café Columbia)

They are located at 5550 Sterrett Place, #103, a location described by one helpful reviewer as, “…tucked in behind Cana Hair Salon and near Whole Foods and Exxon.”

From Café Columbia:

We're a café that serves crepes, Belgium waffles, ice cream, milkshakes, coffee, teas, and more. Our mission is to create a comfortable space for people to connect over a crepe or a cup of coffee.

They don’t have a traditional website or Facebook page, but you will find plenty of information at the link above. I haven’t been able to ascertain when they opened, however. 

So far this all seems pretty straightforward. Until I looked at this map.

(Image from Google Maps)

On the left you see Café Columbia in a cluster of other Lakefront businesses. On the right you see…the Columbia Café?

Not to be confused with Café Columbia, the Columbia Café is located at  6500 Old Waterloo Road in Elkridge. That’s right, the Columbia Café (not to be confused with Café Columbia) is not actually located in Columbia. (Perhaps they are trying to associate themselves with some of that “Columbia Privilege” I keep reading about.)

All joking aside, the Columbia Café appears to have opened in the Spring of 2020. They have a Facebook page and a website.

(Image from Columbia Café Facebook page)

Welcome To The Columbia Cafe Looking for some good desi food to eat?? But don’t know where to go.We are excited to introduce our Pakistani food culture in the most sophisticated café style to you. Café Columbia offers all kinds of desi foodstuff to satisfy your hunger. We are a family-owned restaurant that offers all types of desi burgers, bun kababs, and other Pakistani food items which you are craving for a long time.

Don’t be confused by their Facebook photo that says they’ll be “opening soon.” They’ve been there a while already. 

So. Let me see if I’ve got this straight. For crepes- - sweet and savory - - waffles, and ice cream, head to Café Columbia. 

For everything from breakfast, burgers, juices, smoothies, to samosa chaat, aloo paratha, and falooda, you want the Columbia Café.

This was all news to me. I wonder if anyone has ever turned up in one place while look for the other?

If you have been to either one, or both - - let me know.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022


If you’re interested in comedy, or if you’re interested in what kind of things are happening Busboys and Poets in Downtown Columbia, may I present:

From the Twitter account of “unsung comedy legend @RobertMaction”:

#WaitOneWeek to catch me #standupping at @busboysandpoets in Columbia, MD. #WOW! #MarkYourCalendars Check the 8/1 link in bio and don't forget to tell your friends! #Thanks.

As for me, I’m just interested in the hashtag. Standupping? When did that become a word? Has it entered common usage while I wasn’t looking? I’m a word person. I want to know.

It reminded me of the time I discovered a new word while waiting in line at Starbucks.

Not Trend-Worthy

As I waited for my Venti iced coffee (just cream, no sugar) I noticed one of those little chalkboard signs announcing a new product. Now, when you order your drink “with a shot”, you can have it “updosed”.

Wait, what?

That’s right, “updosed”, a made up term which means you can chose how strong you want the added shot of espresso to be. At least, that is my understanding from reading the chalkboard before I drank my morning coffee at the Wilde Lake Starbucks.

I got it into my head that I was going to make “updosed” a thing.

You can now have your espresso “updosed” at Starbucks . Congrats for coming up with a word we didn’t know we needed.

Am I now going to be confronting “standupping” as I go about my daily life? The thought is enough to make me want a signigicant updose to my morning coffee.

A basic social media search leads me to believe that the use of “standupping” is limited, at last for now. Perhaps if comedian @RobertMaction becomes wildly popular his hashtag will go viral and we’ll all be using it.


I’ll close with another usage of standupping I found in my search which feels more personally relatable:

I'm at that age where my standup don't be standupping like it use to. It's like your body has to process that you actually just stood up. Like "Oh, that's what we doing?"

I like it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

What is Twelve?


On Monday, in the middle of the night, a twelve year old girl in our community died suddenly and unexpectedly.

Perhaps you can remember yourself at twelve. Or maybe you have children or grandchildren whose childhood years you can remember clearly.

What is twelve? 

The end of elementary school and the almost the beginning of being a teenager. It is a time of so much change. Parents often see strengths emerge that will form major pillars of their children’s adult selves. All the while, remnants of childhood co-exist with burgeoning plans for the future: stuffed animals on a bed or cuddly animal-headed pajamas.

Twelve is what has been and what will be and a million other contradictions. 

Today a child will never realize her dreams and plans. Her mother will never see the unfolding and fluttering wings of young adulthood. Will never see her soar.

The story of how she died is all over social media and the news, most likely. You can find it pretty easily if you want to know more. I’m not going to write about it here today. What I will share is that her mother has established a Go Fund Me account in order to pay for her funeral. She needs our community’s help.

Go Fund Me : Funeral Expenses for Josseline 

It’s simple. A mother is grieving and reaches out to her neighbors for support. All the other online conversations about this grievous loss are noise. If you can help, help. If you can’t, say a prayer or think good thoughts or do something to bring some good into this world.

A world without Josseline, twelve years old and at the beginning of everything.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Election Day Hindsight


A few years back I wrote about some problems at the polls during a recent election.

Supercharged October 30, 2020

I don’t know whether I thought at the time that such controversy was an anomaly. I do know that I didn’t understand why it had to occur at all. It may sound very over-the-hill to say this, but why can’t election volunteers for campaigns be friendly and courteous to one another and to voters, and leave it at that? 

Why am I raising this issue again? Well, because the same old multi-headed monster has been on the rampage in Columbia/HoCo since the primary. This time it has widened to include candidates, racist tropes, and more. These accusations of bad behavior have been popping up on social media along with outrage both real and manufactured. 

All of it - - surprise! - - confirms what the person or group thought already. 

I wasn’t present for any of this and it would be irresponsible for me to try to write about it in any journalistic fashion. It would be more of what you can read on any number of Facebook groups. “He said and she said and well, I never.” Yes, I have opinions. They’re complicated.

Is it a very white, middle-class notion to want everyone to be on their best behavior on Election Day? It might be. I honestly don’t know anymore. I do know that standing off to one side and telling people how they should behave can be singularly unhelpful. 

My expectations for electioneering probably rest on my days in retail and food service. You need to be pleasant to everyone no matter what. If they are unpleasant you suck it up and try to redirect the conversation to safer ground. If you can’t you just smile and thank them for something, anything. In this case it would be for voting. 

But in retail you can always send them to your manager. It’s not that easy at the polls. So what do you do in the heat of the moment? 

The last time I wrote about this topic I was criticized for not taking sides. Or rather, for not actively taking the side of one of the injured parties. And here I am not doing it again. Feel free to take me to task on this if you wish. It isn’t that I don’t have opinions. It’s because I’m far more focused on why this happens and if there’s anything we, as a community, could do to make things better.

Since last week I have honestly pondered whether body cameras were an option. Would it make any difference? Even if video footage were available, would it serve merely to reinforce what the viewer thought already? We bring all sorts of deeply-held beliefs and biases to everything we do. And see. And hear. 

From “Supercharged”

When we care a lot about something, and invest a lot of ourselves in it, then the things that occur within that sphere are intensely important to us. That’s only natural. But is there a point at which it becomes hyper magnified? Can we lose perspective?

And what does that mean for the other folks who exist outside of the circle of intense interest? Do we even forget that they are there, sometimes? Is it possible to move from “dedicated to a cause” to “cut off from everything else” and not recognize it is happening?

When does it stop being about communicating a cause to the greater community and become an all-consuming fight to the death against the operatives on the other “team”? And, when it does, are we sacrificing our long term goals by going all out to win the short term battle?

Two questions: as a voter, what kind of an experience would you like at the polls when you go to vote?

If you are a candidate or a campaign poll-worker: what kind of an experience would you like when working at the polls?

Why isn’t it happening?

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Mystery of the Week


“How do you close a lake?” I saw a friend ask on Facebook. 

A dome? A zipper? A tarp? My imagination took off in several directions.

I was not alone. Over on the Howard County Recreation and Parks page, the following announcement drew a flurry questions.

The lake at Centennial Park is currently closed.  We apologize for the inconvenience.

That’s it. No other explanatory information. 

People wanted to know more. They wanted to know why. They wanted to know for how long. They wanted to know particulars of what this meant for park visitors. Sadly, whoever posted this did not anticipate the necessity of human interaction. As far as I know, they posted this and then went on vacation.


And, you know what they say about nature abhorring a vacuum…

People started making things up. Go and look for yourself. Hints of a crime scene were suggested. Elsewhere I saw a friend suggest Lake Monsters.

At some point someone shared a post from Special Olympics MD Howard County which announced that Centennial Lake would be closed due to an algae bloom. Okay, that’s a start. But it’s not enough. Clearly residents want to know what that means to them. 

But of course there’s no interactive communication going on. This was Friday. Now it’s Sunday and there’s still no response. The account appears to function for the sole purpose of pushing information out and not for interacting with the public. 

Or maybe this was the last post before the weekend and nobody monitors the account on the weekend. That’s not a crime. Everyone deserves to have a weekend. But it’s still a communications failure, especially because weekends are precisely when community members are most likely to have the free time to visit the park. And use the lake.

Social media is a great way to keep people informed and get your message out but, honestly, it can come around and bite you in the backside if you don’t understand how it works. If you leave a bunch of readers unsupervised without a good deal of helpful information, don’t be surprised if they start talking amongst themselves. Sometimes too little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

All that being said, let’s have some fun with this. Tell me your wrong answer for why Centennial Lake is closed. It can sound reasonable or be wildly unlikely. For example:

  • Reasonable: heavy rains washed away portions of the banks at the lake’s edge, posing a safety hazard.
  • Wildly unlikely: aliens. Aquatic ones.
In the meantime, here’s some helpful information from the CDC about algae blooms:

Avoid Algal-Bloom Associated Illness


An update from yesterday’s post: the Coral Reef Encounter will not take place this afternoon as originally planned. From the Columbia Association:

Due to the incredible turnout today, we unfortunately need to cancel tomorrow’s Coral Reef Encounter event at MacGill’s Common Pool. 

Don’t worry… we’ll see you again next year! Thanks to everyone who came out today 

Hmm…I wonder…acquatic aliens?

Saturday, July 23, 2022

An Eventful Day

There’s some pretty cool stuff going today in Columbia/HoCo.

Continuing its successful run this season, the Farmers Market at Clarksville Commons will be open from 10 am - 2 pm.

Today’s Farmers Market is going to be hot but plentiful! 15 different vendors, kids crafts with Clarksville Youth Care Group, and music by Mike Walls. Come out to shop and join the fun!

Click here for more information about today’s vendors.

Down at the Lakefront, The 3rd is hosting a pop up event featuring “kidpreneurs”.

The 3rd is a non-profit based in Columbia that aims to support and elevate women of color entrepreneurs. But this Saturday, we are super excited to support local kid business owners who will be vending at The 3rd!!! Let's pack The 3rd tomorrow and show our youth the love and support needed to keep them growing, learning, and earning as entrepreneurs. 

The 3rd is open outside, so come out and purchase products from the young in our community tomorrow, Saturday, July 23rd, from 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm. 

Today and tomorrow, from 12-5, Coral Reef Encounter returns to the pool at Magill’s Common. It’s free, and no CA membership is required. There will be live music and food trucks in addition to the snorkeling experience. Check out their website for more info.

The Coral Reef Encounter is an experiential art installation presented in July 2019 and coming back this summer of 2022.  The spectacular beauty of a reef will again be simulated by hundreds of fabric fish, hand-crafted coral constructed of recycled objects, and life size reef photography on the interior walls of the pool.  To our knowledge, this amazing environment is the first simulated swimmable reef ever created in a swimming pool!  Over 600 excited children and 320 enthusiastic adults attended in 2019!  Many folks learned to snorkel for the first time and were obviously delighted by this new skill, circling the trail many times.  Being able to see clearly underwater and be able to breathe while looking down is a real treat.

Starting at 10:30 am at the Miller Branch of the Howard County Public Library, an introduction to seed starting workshop, presented in partnership with the Community Ecology Institute (CEI). Click here to learn more and to register. It’s free.

Are you a beginning gardener and interested in planting your fall crops from seed? This session is for you! We'll cover the best crops for the fall season, starting seeds indoors and outdoors, seed starting soil mixes, helpful seed starting tips, and low-cost seed starting supplies. You'll leave not only knowing how to start your fall crops from seed, but how you can start your spring and summer crops next winter.

Join us after the seed starting session at 11:30 am for thirty minutes of Q & A with the gardeners from Freetown Farm.

UPDATE: forgot one! Unmatched Athlete is having a Meet and Greet event at the Dancel Y from 1-3 pm. 

Will we see you tomorrow at the Meet and Greet? 1-3pm Dancel YMCA. It'll be chill and fun. Some light games, a lot of talking, some snacks too! Sign up if you can on our website!

Unmatched Athlete is a Maryland-based non-profit that encourages youth who identify as LGBTQ+ and allies ages 5-18 to participate in sports and fitness. We encourage our youth to explore their athletic creativity and become well-versed student athletes that excel beyond their time in school. Our hope is that every youth that participates in our organization becomes an instrumental member of the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

To close out your day, how about a local summer favorite? This free concert down at the Lakefront sounds like it will hit all the right notes. (Sorry.) It begins at 7:30 pm.

I’m honestly not going very many places in this heat, but the description on the event page is truly enticing. Go read it! You’ll be packing a bag with a blanket and some bug spray and setting out your dancing shoes before you are even done reading. 

If you have any other interesting events for today (or tomorrow) share them in the comments and I’ll add them in if I can.

Have a great weekend and stay cool!

Friday, July 22, 2022

Back to the Bathtub


I’m taking you back ten whole years for a little post-election reflection.

Love Made Visible, November 12, 2012

Yes, folks, it's going to get a little awkward today. We're going to talk about love.  Not the lovey-dovey, stars-in-your-eyes kind of love, either.  The messy, "why do I always have to be the one who cleans the bathtub?" kind of love.

And I mean that quite literally.  For thirteen years I have been cleaning hair out of the bathtub.  And it's not my hair.  I have gone through stages on this.  First there was a honeymoon period, then annoyance, then anger, then resentment, then forgiveness, then...

My mother died.  And something odd happened.  She started turning up in unexpected ways during my daily life:  when I read to my daughter, or listened to music, or watched a program on television.  And when I cleaned the bathtub.

I realized that, in all the years while I was growing up, our bathtub was immaculate. I never gave one thought to it. I thought that all bathrooms, by their very nature, were sparkling clean.  So that day I had a vision, I guess, sort of "Our Lady of the Bathtub."  My mother, with whom I had a stormy and heart-wrenching relationship, had been cleaning that bathtub year after year, like magic. And I had enjoyed that, without knowing how it happened.

Only it wasn't magic.  I now saw it as an invisible act of love. Love in action, love as an act of the will.  And I had a choice to do the same.  I didn't have to do it, but I could choose to do it.  I could choose how I wanted to look at it. It may sound highly unliberated to say that I found a way to ennoble the act of cleaning hair out of the bathtub.  But what is liberated about it is the choice.

(Here it comes--the connection!)  

Some things in our community life are like cleaning the hair out of the bathtub.  School redistricting. Supporting non-profits. Attention to aquatics infrastructure. Careful stewardship of our land. Transportation. Serving on a Village Board. You don't have to do them. You have to make the choice.

The post-election internet has been filled with anger and hurt feelings on both sides. I've been struggling with how to react, what to feel, what to do. Yesterday, while reading annieriedora's post I had a familiar epiphany:  choose to do the messy, unsexy thing which is your way of making love visible--in your community, and in the world.

"If I could wave a magic wand,"  or "If I won the Lottery," I'd never have to clean the bathtub again. Have you said it?  I have.  But the things we can't throw magic or money at still need to be done. They are the things the others may enjoy without ever knowing who did them. And that doesn't really matter.

What matters is that these are the choices that will make connections between people, rather than dividing them.  I'm grateful to the community of voices in Columbia/HoCo for reminding me how simple it is to begin.

And keep at it.

Thursday, July 21, 2022



In this week's issue of the Columbia Flier, a story from July 5th:

‘She’s an inspiration for gender equality’: Wilde Lake’s Chantal Ridlon Thacker to be first woman JV head football coach in Howard County, Jacob Steinberg, Baltimore Sun

The quote in the title of the piece is from Matt Sillers, assistant principal of WLHS. I’m not sure I would have featured it so prominently. Being an inspiration for gender equality isn’t that far from being stuck with accolades like being a credit to one’s race. 

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m happy to see Ms. Thacker getting a job doing something she is good at and that she clearly loves. I’m a bit uneasy with the burden than this kind of coverage places on her. It could go one of two ways. Is it truly a celebration of who she is or does it set her up to be carrying the ball for all women who want to move forward in traditionally-male careers?

Speaking of traditionally-male careers, last time I checked HCPSS had not even one single band director at the high school level who is a woman. We have twelve, soon to be thirteen, high schools. Zero women band directors. Surely there are women who are motivated and qualified to be high school band directors. Why don’t we have any?

Nationally there’s a good deal of what I would call “bro culture” in the band world, especially where marching band is concerned. Does it somehow trickle down from the football games they come out to support weekly during the season? Perhaps, but it’s a good bit more complicated than that.

The fact remains that women are less likely to be hired as high school band directors across the country. It’s changing, but very, very slowly. There’s a lot of deeply entrenched sexism out there. I belong to a Facebook group called “Women Rising to the Podium”.

For all the great discussions about repertoire, successful concert experiences, and so on, tales of demeaning treatment appear pretty regularly. A woman in the band world can expect to be ignored, talked over, or excluded. People will go to a male intern or even a male parent volunteer and assume they are in charge. A woman band director will have her choices of concert apparel scrutinized and criticized in a way that a man in the same position never would.

People will probably not come right out and say it, but, for many - - in their mind’s eye - - a high school band director is supposed to be a man. They’re just more comfortable with the status quo. Parents may carry inside them an expectation that this is the case even if they’ve never conciously thought about it. This puts women at a disadvantage in creating their own high school band environment and leadership style. Parent volunteers are absolutely essential to a successful band program. Their “buy in” to the school’s band director can make or break a program.

Let’s face it, many people just want things to be the way they were when they were in school. Football coaches and Band Directors were men. That’s just the way it was. I can think of a lot of reasons why that should change and almost all of them have to do with improving the educational experience for students. So far, movement in that direction is painfully slow. 

It isn’t that applicants for these jobs should be hired because they are women. They should be hired because they are the best person for the job: the best prepared, the most skilled, the most temperamentally suited to work with high school students. Often, though, they are just invisible. Not considered. Or they are aware of the dynamics and so don’t apply.

I hope that Coach Thacker is beginning a successful tenure at Wilde Lake High School. I hope her hiring will open the door for similar hires. I worry that a lot rests on her success as she is “the one and only.” I’d love to see HCPSS make progress in hiring and supporting women as high school band directors as well.

But let’s not hang the “inspiration for gender equality” mantle on them when that happens.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Big Reveal


Now that it’s all over I might as well tell you how I voted. There were so many names on the ballot it’s hard to remember them all. Here they are, in no particular order:

In Health and Wellness I voted for Accupuncture and Integrative Medicine, in Eye Care I voted for Physicians Eye Care. And why wasn’t my dentist a nominee? Grr.

Plumbing? Earhardt. Heating and Air Conditioning? Environmental Systems.

Best place to have an event: The Other Barn, Oakland Mills 

Caterer: Althea’s Almost Famous

Farmer’s Market: Oakland Mills, of course

Garden Center/Store: Freetown Farm

Community Non-profit: Columbia Community Care

Childcare: Bet Yeladim Preschool

Boutique: Sweet Elizabeth Jane 

Art Gallery: Horse Spirit Arts Gallery

School Principal: Rick Robb, Patuxent Valley Middle School

Elected official Calvin Ball, County Executive 

Pastor/Congregational Leader: Paige Getty (Let’s get ASLC’s Lura Groen on this list next year!)

Blogger: Me. 

Well, why not?

I didn’t vote in all the categories. You don’t have to, you know. Just like I didn’t vote for any Judges of the Orphans Court. But that’s another story altogether.

You weren’t expecting this? Fair enough.

I wasn’t expecting the candidate I supported for Governor to be knocked out of the race early on last night, either.

Gosh, I hate politics.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Election Day Musings


If you haven’t voted yet, today is the day. Make it the most important thing on your schedule, because: it is.

A few thoughts: the states where reproductive rights are safest in the nation are the states where Democrats hold the majority in the state legislature. Maryland is one of them, and yet, because of the actions of a Republican Governor, necessary funds for training providers haven’t been released. 

I’m not seeing any Republican candidates campaigning on reproductive rights. In this case, the concept of people suffering and dying due to a lack of appropriate health care is not a top issue for them.

It is for me.


I continue to be more excited by the candidacy of Brooke Lierman for Maryland State Comptroller than any other race in the state. (My apologies to all the other candidates.) If you want to know why, here’s my piece from earlier this year.

“Still Excited”


Pet peeves: misplaced political signs and sign theft. For Heaven’s sake, people. Can’t we get a handle on this? Are candidates not able to communicate adequately to staff and volunteers where signs are allowed to go and that you never steal another candidate’s signs? Are human beings completely unable to follow the most basic rules imaginable?

I don’t have an answer for that. 


A huge thanks to all the people who will be working today to keep each poll location running smoothly. One of the things I miss about voting on Election Day is thanking them in person. Yes, I’m that person who actually says “Thank you all for being here today so that I could vote.” 

You should try it. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

Core Values


You may recall now-retired radio journalist Chris Core, who gave daily commentary on WTOP under the title, “Core Values.” Clearly I’m snagging his concept. The values, however, are all mine.


I said I’d write about the Board of Education race when I wrote last about values. The more I think about it, one of the most telling differences between this crop of candidates is whether they frame themselves as running because they are for something or against something.

I am most drawn to the candidates who have clearly articulated what and who they support. I find the candidates who have targeted their energies into what they are against not just uninspiring but in some cases, actually dangerous. I see quite clearly where they could do significant harm to students, teachers, and our school community.

  • Since I think schools are for all children, I’m looking for candidates who share that value. That means clearly articulated support for LGBTQ+ students, special needs students, Black and Brown students, students of all religions, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. Not just lip service, mind you, but understanding and promoting programs/supports/curriculum that lift up these students.
  • I believe that telling the truth about history makes for stronger students and, eventually, a stronger nation. I’m looking for candidates who support teachers and librarians in teaching the uncomfortable topics right along with the straightforward ones.
  • As a parent and a lifelong early childhood educator I know how crucial social-emotional skills are to school and life success. Social-emotional learning at every level supports student mental health as well as academic success. In my mind, a candidate for BOE should understand and support that.
  • After writing for over ten years about community issues, I’m concerned about the disparity between different areas of the county when it comes to infrastructure and the physical condition of school buildings. Are candidates willing to look at these disparities honestly and support investment in traditionally neglected areas? 
  • Lastly, I care a lot about how the BOE functions in relation to eachother, the community, and the school employees they are running to serve. Does the candidate’s philosophy (and behavior on the campaign trail) tell me that they would show respect, work collaboratively, be willing to learn new things and/or entertain a variety of opinions in making decisions?
In addition to how my own values have shaped my assessment of the candidates, there’s one simple but sometimes overlooked question: do the candidates understand what the BOE position truly entails? Trust me, in every election some of them do not. A long time ago I ran a survey for candidates that went like this:

Question, "What do you think the job of a Board of Education member is?" Please address the following:

1. What power does the position convey?

2. What is the best use of that power?

3. To whom is the Board of Education member responsible?

It was truly educational. In most fields you can’t get hired if you don’t understand how the job works. This is unfortunately not true for BOE. Do they have a clear understanding of this and are they coming to this challenge with the expertise and experience necessary?

In conclusion, the candidates who have my support* are ones who have made their campaigns about supporting, accepting, including, building, collaborating. I guess you could say those are my core values.

*It’s pretty late in the game, I know, but if you still haven’t voted and are looking for more guidance on this race - - reach out to me through the blog. I don’t see myself as being an official endorsing body but I’m happy to share my opinions privately.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Drive-by Views

It seems as though I’m doing quite a bit of driving these days, what with the weekday Baltimore commute. The first few trips were all about paying attention to the directions. After that I could relax and become more aware of my surroundings as I drove. One unexpected sight became the start of a rather entertaining Facebook thread:

Why is there an abandoned backyard grill in the median on Route 175? Odd place for a cookout.

Somewhere, there's an abandoned Plymouth on someone's patio and their grill is missing. Imagine how confused they are right now.

We saw that yesterday!

You’ve got to grill when the spirit hits you!

Police are grilling suspects right now.

Thanks for the fyi on the BBQ!

I saw that grill today myself. Its legs were detached and so it is stuck there.

Wait - - so you mean it won’t be able to walk away?

Not unless an EMT stopped by and fixed it up!

I am blessed with many witty friends.

How would you just happen to drive by and eject a barbecue grill on Route 175 while driving? No one’s car windows are big enough to roll down and then chuck the thing out. And, then - - why?

Twitter told me there’s an even more fascinating sight I didn’t see on 95 South, in a spot I pass almost daily.

In case anyone in Maryland wants to start a carnival, there is a teacups ride abandoned on the side of 95-S, before the exit for Columbia.

What? A teacup ride? Seriously? I needed to know more.

Which side of the road? The right-hand side as you are driving south from Baltimore to Columbia?

Correct. Southbound, right hand side, just before exit 38 for Columbia. Folded up, similar to this.

Friends, I never saw it. Did you? I’d love to know that story.

Back to Route 175. It looks to me as though whatever is growing in the median strip this year is different. Rather than the usual scraggly suburban lawn grass we are used to, it appears to a mixture of grasses, some of them flowering. Perhaps it’s an intentional assortment of native plants that will look good even as they get longer and help absorb rainwater and reduce runoff?

Am I hoping too hard here? 

If you work for the country and know exactly who I should reach out to, I’d appreciate direction. I sent an email but haven’t heard back yet. How often do they get letters saying, “I love the media strip?” 

I promise I won’t ask them about the barbecue grill.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The R-Word

This week there’s been some hubbub about a local political endorsement which leaned heavily on Jim Rouse’s name in an attempt to assert credibility. The subsequent discussions were mostly about who has the correct ideology to invoke the name of Rouse.

I object. I would like to be done with this practice now and forever. I have decided to create a new term for this: “Rouse-signalling”.*

My objection is to anyone trotting out Jim Rouse’s name when it serves them - - especially when they want to win something - - as though it’s a celebrity endorsement. I felt the same way about The Rouse Project. I do wonder every so often what Rouse would think of various goings-on today. Of course, if it were possible, it would be fascinating to get his take on the here and now. 

But that’s not how life works. And I’m guessing he didn’t think he was God. He probably thought we’d be able to stand on our own feet by now, but: who knows? 

At least, I think we should.

Right now in Baltimore there’s a new musical, “Do It Now!” about a larger than life figure in that city’s history: Donald Schaefer. Here’s a piece from Sue Kopen Katcef for MPT that touches on Schaefer, the musical, and the process of how it came about. (Added bonus: HoCo local Wendy Baird is in the cast. See if you can spot her.)


If you don’t have time to watch the entire piece (approximately three and a half minutes) go to the three minutes ten seconds mark or thereabouts where the composer describes what he hope the audience will take away from the musical. It’s possible to be be aspirational in looking at the life of a local icon without making a god out of him.

As an aside, I’d totally be up for a local production of “Rouse! The Musical” if it gave the protagonist the right to be human.

If you think it’s sacrilegious to compare Schaefer to Rouse, my apologies. My intent is to suggest that it’s a healthy response to people like this if their lives can prompt us to think. It’s unhealthy to make gods out of them and plop them down into political discourse to win points.

Back to Rouse. It’s counterproductive to use his memory to sell things. If you want to convince me to vote for you, you need to be a strong enough candidate in your own right that you don’t need to use Rouse as a crutch, or a kind of deus ex machina celebrity endorser. Enough already.

I propose that henceforth in Columbia/HoCo, all candidates of any stripe take the No-Rouse pledge. Yes, everybody. No more turning in his grave, no more raising him from the dead. Let that man rest from his labors. He has earned it.

As always, please direct comments here:

*Or, perhaps: “Rouse-baiting”?

Friday, July 15, 2022

The Gift

I had only one first cousin in this world, Kenneth Keep, the son of my mother’s brother Harry. I met him exactly one time. He was driving across the country to San Francisco where he was going to get married. Ken had cooked up a plan to visit all the members of the Keep family as he traveled from one side of the country to the other and to document all of us in photographs. He brought a professional-quality camera with him and snapped pictures throughout his visit.

He told us that the Keep family in the US is so small that everyone with the Keep surname is related. I’ve always been fascinated by that, though I haven’t put it to the test. My mother mused privately that he must have been motivated as much by securing free room and board on his trip as he was documenting his relatives. Maybe. 

He was young - - perhaps 29 - - and a naturally playful sort of fellow. I was fourteen. We enjoyed the visit and learned some new family stories. When he got to California he mailed us some photos. Here are two of me.

Then we lost touch. Every once in a while I’d try to find him through online searches, without success. It was as though my cousin had just evaporated.

Then last February or March I received a call from a lawyer in San Francisco, informing me that Ken had died of COVID and had left no will. The lawyer had been put in charge of doing all the necessary investigations in preparation for the dispersal of the estate. Ken was divorced twice, with no biological children, so first cousins (my two sisters and I) were being contacted as a part of the process.

It felt very sad and strange. I saw no reason why I would receive anything at all. I did ask that I be considered for any photographs he had taken on his visit if they still existed. There were forms to fill out, things to mail. And then I forgot all about it.

Last week I received a thick yellow mailing envelope from San Francisco and a check. I was stunned. The amount was not small enough to be blown on a fancy dinner but not big enough to be earth-shaking. Yet it was just large enough that I would need to give it some serious thought.

And then, suddenly: this eureka moment. What better use for this unexpected gift than my bird feeder, my bird bath - - my retirement hobby on a modest income. And along with a dedicated birdseed fund, there are times I’ve wanted to donate to a worthy cause lately but just couldn’t swing it. Now I’ve been given an opportunity to remember my cousin in small acts of giving: feeding the birds, or hungry neighbors, or supporting community initiatives.

The money won’t last forever but it will be a source of love while it lasts. I think that’s a good way make something good out of loss.

Something else I need to do now that I think of it: make a will.

Ken Keep entered peacefully into rest in San Francisco, California on January 14, 2021. He was 76 years old.

Born March 22, 1944 in New Jersey to parents Bernice and Harry Keep, Ken worked as a senior activity coordinator for the last 15 years of his life. An active member of First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, he is survived by many loving family members and friends, and will be deeply missed.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Primary Concerns


From Wikipedia:

A slate is a group of candidates that run in multi-seat or multi-position elections on a common platform. The common platform may be because the candidates are all members of a political party, have the same or similar policies, or some other reason.

In United States legislative elections:

In states whose state legislatures are elected from multi-member districts, it is common for groups of candidates to form slates in primary and general elections. Elections to the Maryland General Assembly are a prime example, with most districts electing one member of the Maryland Senate and three members of the Maryland House of Delegates. Candidates for senator and delegate (usually incumbents) often join together prior to the primary election, registering their slates as separate campaign committees to enable them to raise funds separately. They are commonly called "Leadership Teams".

Today’s post is about my Democratic state representatives, known around Columbia/HoCo as “Team 13”. Until very recently this slate was made up of State Senator Guy Guzzone, and State Representatives Shane Pendergrass, Vanessa Atterbeary, and Jennifer Terrasa.

Shane Pendergrass, Vanessa Atterbeary, Jennifer Terrasa

At some point during the last year I started hearing rumblings that Delegate Pendergrass might be retiring. As is usually the case, certain names began to float to the surface as possible candidates to replace her. I was particularly excited to see two newcomers throw their hats in the ring: attorney and local activist Becca Niburg, and Amy Brooks, teacher and co-founder of OMO.

It is possible to win election after election and gradually become more insular and less attentive to other ways of thinking. It’s easy to fall back on things that have always worked before. That’s why I was so hopeful to see two candidates whose expertise and life experience could bring variety and added depth to our representation in Annapolis. It seemed to me that this was a very good time to bring in fresh voices to provide new insight to this already successful group.  

And, as was expected, Ms. Pendergrass did announce her retirement.

I have to admit my complete surprise when another candidate declared for this race. If I were more closely involved with the local Democratic Party perhaps I might have been aware this was coming. I wasn’t. That third candidate is Pam Lanman Guzzone. Ms. Guzzone has a Masters Degree in Public Management from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, and has been active as a community advocate and loyal Democratic Party volunteer.

Pam Lanman Guzzone

So far, so good. It’s the next bit that threw me for a loop.

At this point the good folks of Team 13th did what they’ve always done. They invited the three candidates to interviews and then selected the one they felt was most compatible with the slate. That person was Ms. Guzzone, who was henceforth integrated into “Team 13” on campaign literature, signs, photographs, and t-shirts.

Why did this bother me? Haven’t I observed this process before? Well, yes. But, for the first time, it felt really wrong.

We’d all love to pick our coworkers. I can definitely see the appeal there. But the tradition of running as a slate and getting to pick their own candidate runs contrary to the intent of the primary.

If the existing representatives get to pick their coworkers, why do we have a primary at all?

This is one election season where I think it would have made much more sense for Team 13 to have minded their own business and allowed the voters to pick the winner. It would have shown respect for Niburg and Brooks who are taking the risk to step up and serve, and it would have avoided the uncomfortable assumption that the endorsement was a slam-dunk for a traditional party insider. 

I don’t know if I’m more dismayed at what this does to Becca Niburg and Amy Brooks, both highly- qualified first-time candidates, or embarrassed for Ms. Guzzone who now does not have the opportunity to prove she could win in her own right. I don’t suspect there was any particular mean-spiritedness involved, but I do think it was an error in judgement.

What does this mean to you, if you live in District 13 and haven’t voted yet? It means I’m encouraging you to look at all three of the new candidates for the Delegate position. All three deserve a look and your serious consideration. It’s my understanding that you can vote for up to three. (I thought at first that this was a race only for Shane Pendergrass’s seat, but the incumbents are running for re-election as well.) 

If you aren’t familiar with the incumbents, look them up, too.

So - - drumroll please - - there does exist a possibility that all three challengers could get through and the incumbents knocked out. This is highly unlikely. I’m not saying I am advocating for that, either. But, all slates aside: you get to choose. It is your vote that will be counted.

Perhaps this entire episode is an example of why you need to be open to new views every so often so that you don’t get stuck doing the same old thing. What do you think?