Friday, September 30, 2022

A Big Win for Birds, or: the Persistence of One Man Who Loves Nature


This is a blog post about:

  • Wildlife
  • Michael Oberman
  • Fishing
  • Columbia
  • Nature photography 
  • Columbia Association
Wait. Let me see if I can get my ducks in a row.

Photo by Michael Oberman

This is a blog post about persistence.

Columbia photographer Michael Oberman, who focuses primarily on nature photography, is not only well-known locally for images like the one above. His photographs have been featured in national and international publications. It has occurred to me that local wildfowl come out to look their best if they see Oberman headed their way. He’s that good. 

His well-trained eye hasn’t just contributed to capturing engaging pictures of local wildlife. His observant nature also identified something far more deadly. It seems that a careless habit of human visitors to Columbia’s lakes was putting the birds he loved in danger. It had to do with fishing.

Beginning in June of 2012, and continuing even today, Michael Oberman has posted at least twenty two warnings on Facebook about the materials that hobby fishing enthusiasts leave behind. Abandoned fishing line, hooks, and lures are responsible for ongoing damage or death to local birds and other wildlife.

In his own* words: 

"The Damage Up Close"  Its left foot already maimed by the fishing line and its right foot totally ensnared thanks to the carelessness of fishermen who leave their deadly wares behind.  I took this photo at the bottom of the Wilde Lake dam where the heron allowed me to get within eight feet of it to take this photo.
June 7, 2012

"What's Wrong With This Picture?'  I first noticed this female Baltimore Oriole building its nest two days ago.  I took this photo this afternoon.  What's wrong with this picture is the fishing line that the Oriole has been using to build the nest.  Notice the line also branches out from the nest.  In all likelihood, this Oriole or her mate or her babies when they fledge will be strangled by the fishing line that has been left behind by fishermen who have no regard for wildlife or the environment.
May 6, 2017

Now for my rant about fishing at Wilde Lake and my disdain for…the fishermen who fish the shoreline portion that is lined with trees.  You invariably snag your fishing lines, lures and hooks and don’t cut them down.  Birds are injured and often killed by your carelessness.  Several years ago, I (I do not fish) went to Bass Pro and bought an extendable metal pole that extends eighteen feet and has a corkscrew loop on the end.  If I can reach fishing line, I pull it out of the trees.  Maybe fishermen should carry one too!
October 17, 2021

It makes good sense that Oberman, who spends a good amount his life in the company of wildlife, would have strong feelings about protecting that wildlife from easily avoidable harm. Through the years he has met with a number of representatives from local organizations to make his case:
  • Fishing should be permitted only in areas away from trees.
  • Those who fish must be held responsible for clearing away all of their fishing materials.
  • This must be consistently enforced.
It has often looked as through Mr. Oberman’s efforts were meeting with indifference, if not outright resistance. Yet in all these years he has never given up his mission to speak up for the beautiful birds and other creatures he photographs.

On September 17th of this year the Columbia Association posted the following announcement on Facebook:

Photo courtesy of Columbia Association

We 💙 the wildlife that call all of our lakes home. We also appreciate everyone who enjoys recreational fishing and do so responsibly.

Starting last month, CA team members increased their patrols of the Wilde Lake shoreline to at least 5 days a week with the goal of removing discarded and tangled fishing line. You can help by:

🐟 Check out CA's updated fishing policy:
📞 Report abandoned fishing line to 410-312-6330 
♻️ Recycling your fishing line in marked tubes
🗣 Spread the word on fishing practices that help protect the wildlife we all love to see at our lakes

#WildeLake #RecreationalFishing #OpenSpace #ProtectWildlife #ColumbiaAssociation #ColumbiaMD

And this:

Photo courtesy of Columbia Association 

We need YOU to help keep wildlife safe around our lakes and take action if you spot potentially harmful fishing line.

You can find fishing line tubes like this one around our lakes where line can be recycled. You're also welcome to call us at 410-312-6330 to report abandoned fishing line. Team members will respond as soon as possible to ensure it’s removed. 

As always, thank you for your continued care of Columbia's open space ❤

#WildeLake #RecreationalFishing #OpenSpace #ProtectWildlife #ColumbiaAssociation #ColumbiaMD

The first person I thought of when I read this was Michael Oberman. When I reached out to him, to propose a blog post, he had a request for my readers: get involved if you see these hazardous conditions around our lakes.

Learn about CA's updated fishing policy.
Report abandoned fishing line.
Recycle fishing line in marked tubes.
Spread the word on safe fishing practices.

One persistent, dedicated nature photographer has done a lot of the heavy lifting to bring public attention to this issue. But this shouldn’t be a one-man crusade. We’re all responsible for being good stewards of our local environment. The more we get involved, the more likely that this important knowledge will spread and incidents of harm will be reduced. 

And the more likely that initiatives like the one CA has recently announced will take root and succeed.

*All of Mr. Oberman’s quotes and photographs used with permission. - - jam

In Defense of Curiosity


Baltimore public radio station WYPR has an ongoing feature entitled The Maryland Curiosity Bureau. Hosted by Aaron Henkin, it encourages listeners to send in their questions about unanswered Maryland mysteries, such as:

  • How did jousting become Maryland’s official state sport?
  • What’s the deal with Pit Beef?
  • What’s Baltimore’s Negro Leagues baseball history?
There’s a process in which questions are solicited from listeners, are put up for a vote from the listening public, and then the winners are researched and presented on WYPR. I think it’s an engaging project and I’ve learned a lot by following along.

If there were actually a physical place called the Maryland Curiosity Bureau, or a physical set for a television show, one can imagine tables and shelves crammed with assorted Maryland oddities and souvenirs. Filing cabinets would be overflowing with old newspapers and assorted ephemera, and the staff lounge would be well stocked with Berger cookies, Smith Island cake, and Old Bay.

I love the name more than anything else. It brings to mind old school “cabinets of curiosities”, with a bit of Ms. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus thrown in. I wish I had thought of it. Or, rather, I wish there were a Columbia Curiosity Bureau. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

It’s very likely that the Columbia Archives really is our Columbia Curiosity Bureau. I tend to think of it as the very respectable repository of significant documentation of the Great Columbia Experiment. And yet the archives probably contain a fair amount of the unusual, humorous, and surprising.  A few weeks ago I stumbled on a bit of Columbia history that I had been completely ignorant of and it was the wackiest, most way-out thing I’ve learned about the place in 23 years.

But that’s another story altogether.

Curiosity is a very good thing. Basically, it is made up of three components: understanding that you don’t know everything, the innate desire and motivation to find out, and the joy of the search/learning something new. At its heart curiousity is openness. When I see people who clearly don’t have that, well? It worries me. For example, when one looks at certain folks - - politicians, television pundits, local activists, angry parent groups, or people who hang out on social media - - that spark is clearly missing. And it’s a very bad sign.

Jen White, host of WAMU’s weekday program 1A, recently did a pledge drive spot that focused on curiousity. It was so compelling that I pledged. In fact, I was so engrossed in what she said that not only did I sit in the parking lot to hear the whole thing, but I also had to re-park my car when it was over. (I’d neglected to pull my car all the way in to the spot.) Public radio isn’t kidding when they talk about “driveway moments”.

If Columbia had a Curiosity Bureau, what would you want to know?

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Field Trip


Have you ever read Baltimore-native Anne Tyler’s An Accidental Tourist? Yesterday morning, as I ended up in an entirely new place, I mused that there are days that my blog might be subtitled: Field Trips of a Confirmed Homebody. Big adventures for me these days are often somewhat behind the curve for everyone else. 

Nonetheless, they are still big adventures for me.

I’ve been working on a longer blog post that requires more than the usual amount of thought. I decided that I needed a change of scene.

I headed over to Busboys and Poets, which is conveniently located adjacent to Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, my own personal center of the downtown universe. I’ve had a visit on my to-do list ever since I learned that friend Candace Dodson Reed has photographs on display there. 

Why not breakfast? I thought. I can get some work done and then take a look around the place afterwards.

I was greeted by Karen, who, once I had confessed I was a first-time visitor, became my instant ambassador for all things Busboys and Poets. As it was early and not crowded, Karen let me pick my own table, all while giving me a rundown of all the things I should see while I was there. 

Considering that I’ve eaten inside a restaurant only once since March of 2020, having my own personal ambassador was rather reassuring.

If you have been to Busboys and Poets and met Karen, you will know what I am talking about. She made me feel like a visiting dignitary but also like her new best friend. It’s a gift, and she has definitely got it. She explained that she has spent her career in the restaurant business and used to be at Clyde’s. I was interested to learn that the Columbia location of Busboys and Poets has brought in a new management team to (fine tune? transform? bring up to speed?) work with the staff and get things just right.

Karen’s eyes sparkled as she described her feeling that the restaurant was really coming into its own now. The future felt full of possibility.

Sitting in the airy and beautifully decorated space I had my own feelings about future and possibility. I was on an adventure and so far it was going really well.

One thing that Karen said has stayed with me. “You know the People Tree?” she asked. “Over in Columbia?” I nodded. “Well, an artist came in and painted the People Tree here. It’s up at the front. You’ve got to come take a look at it before you go.

Over in Columbia.

Over in Columbia? 

I’m still thinking about that. Meanwhile, back to breakfast.

My server was Zoe. She took my order for iced coffee and referred me to the QR code on the table so that I could explore the menu. There was just one problem. My phone wouldn’t open the darn thing. When she came back with my drink I explained my dilemma. She wasn’t surprised. Something about the building makes the wifi wonky, so she suggested I use the in-house password to access theirs.

In the meantime I just told her what I wanted, without benefit of menu, and she made it happen. Like magic.

I ended up with a bit more food than I had planned on, but it was all delicious. It was definitely more than a late breakfast. It made lunch completely unnecessary. 

I did manage to get some work done while I was there but the sensory experience of being in a new place which is so visually fascinating did make it hard to stay on task. (I started taking notes on the restaurant.) I noticed that a lot of the staff were wearing masks, which meant a lot to me. The customer service experience was well above average. It was clear that staff has been directed to attend to the smallest detail. Every interaction was relaxed and friendly. And that includes Zoe. She was excellent.

I am pleased to report that the older gentleman seated across the way - - the one wearing the jaunty beret - - was not actually smiling hopefully at me but at President Biden, who was giving a speech of some sort on the news program running on the large screen behind me. (Silently, thank goodness.) I don’t know what I was thinking. The man was clearly seated next to his wife. They were soon joined by another couple and were having a grand old time. I bet they’re regulars.

In honor of my photographer friend Candace, I took an artistic photograph of the ceiling. The ceilings there are amazing, by the way. My photo, on the other hand, is terrible. The brightness of the light interferes with the contrast between the chandelier and the dark, industrial textures of the ceiling.

Ah, well.

I did take a walk around the restaurant when I was done, following the amazing photographic mural up the stairs to the second floor. I looked at the array of art displayed throughout the restaurant. (There’s a video slideshow running on one of the big screens by the bar which tells about the artists.) I noodled through the book section. By the time I was ready to look at my friend’s photographs I noticed that there were people eating in the booth where they are located. 

I asked my new friend Karen whether it would be rude to take a look. Of course she walked me right over there and explained my presence to the two young women who were eating there. She even took one of the photos off the wall and placed it on the bar so I could get a closer look.

Image is People, photograph by Candace Dodson Reed, on display at Busboys and Poets

Ms. Dodson Reed has a number of photographs on display but this is my favorite: the People Tree. You know, over in Columbia.

As I headed back to my car I gave in to temptation and indulged in a bit of restful swinging.

Here ends this episode of “Village Green/Town² waxes eloquent on places you have probably already been before.” Or, Field Trips of a Confirmed Homebody. 

If you haven’t been to Busboys and Poets, I’d recommend it. They do have outdoor seating, which would have been my choice if it had been crowded inside. To learn more, try their website or take a look at this article in Howard Magazine to get you started.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Snapshots: Images from the Harriet Tubman School and Cultural Center

I managed to change my alarm from five am to five pm. It did not go well. Interestingly enough I was having nightmares about an unsuccessful struggle to make coffee.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the newly-opened Harriet Tubman Cultural Center. I’m going to share my photos with you today. Look for the words to go with them this weekend.

To learn more about the Harriet Tubman School and Cultural Center, visit their page on the Howard County website. 

Look for a follow-up post this weekend.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Synchronicity and Opportunity: The Longest Table Returns

I had an unexpected moment of synchronicity on Saturday morning when I finished writing my blog post and opened up the weekly HiLights newsletter from the Howard County Library. Right there in front of me was an interview with United Way’s Laura Johnson, who I had just finished writing about.

Interview & Invitation: Join us at the Longest Table

Ms. Johnson will be one of the hosts at this Saturday evening’s event, which will be held at Howard Community College, beginning at 5 pm.

Johnson describes The Longest Table:

I love the experience! We are all so busy, and we don’t always stop to see people and connect – beyond “hey, how are you.” This event allows people to stop for a moment and connect for a moment in time – to SEE each other. 

On how The Longest Table connects with issues of racial equity:

We all come from different places and lived experiences, so this provides a respectful and safe access point to build common ground. It also pushes us to acknowledge the internal work we need to do to heal, to speak up, to do something that builds a community where we all have a “seat at the table.” The incidences of hate in Howard County may not always make the evening news but they’re lurking here in this community. We also know there are so many inequities and disparate outcomes across education, housing, health etc.

The first Longest Table event in Howard County was held in 2017, with a goal of building community. You can find other communities hosting Longest Table events across the US., and often it’s libraries who are hosting them.  The Howard County Library’s ongoing commitment to the event may have been sparked by feedback from that very first evening. This paragraph from a Baltimore Sun article caught my eye:

The library's [Christie] Lassen said that they received good feedback from the event and they hope to make it annual. She said one guest wrote an email thanking the organizers, saying: "Events like these … give me faith that our community isn't as fractured as I sometimes perceive it to be."

You can learn more about that first event here:

The Longest Table sparks dialogue at dinner party of hundreds, Libby Solomon, Baltimore Sun

I haven’t attended any of The Longest Table events but this year I’m considering it. The goal is to hold it outside, weather permitting, and that’s a big plus for me. Due to the health considerations over the last several years, I have rarely been anywhere where I could meet and talk to people I hadn't known already. As a generally shy person this hasn’t been terribly painful for me but it does narrow my scope. It’s an opportunity to make connections and experience community in a new way. Also, it occurs to me that an event like this is more successful if it can draw people who have never been before.

I admit I’m curious about an event which prompted that guest to write: 

Events like these … give me faith that our community isn't as fractured as I sometimes perceive it to be."

That’s as important in 2022 as it was in 2017, if not more so.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for high school and college students. Social hour begins at 5 pm. Dinner will be served family-style at 6 pm. 

They’ve even announced Saturday night’s menu: Mixed Green Salad, Lemongrass Chicken (with a Lemongrass Tofu option), Pasta Primavera, Bread Basket, and Assorted Dessert Bars.

Click here for tickets: The Longest Table

Monday, September 26, 2022

Sharing the Universe


Shana Tova! I saw these words echoing across Facebook last night as sunset marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah.

I think that widespread engagement in social media has increased awareness of non-Christian holidays and culture. It certainly has for me. The sheltered world of my childhood taught me little about Jewish religion  or culture. I knew of certain Jewish foods from local delis. We drove past synagogues which looked so different from what I thought of as houses of worship.

That’s it. 

I don’t think I learned anything about the existence of the Islamic religion during any of my years of education. Culture and religion in places like India or China may have been a paragraph in a textbook or something to learn in a book report. They were far away and unconnected to me.

If you weren’t white Anglo Saxon Protestant (or close enough) you were “exotic”.

We were taught all the time about how America was the “great melting pot”. But what we weren’t taught was that all around us were people who lived alongside the dominant culture who had rich cultures unlike our own and deep faith traditions that were lively and strong. Certainly we were taught that America was a place where we don’t persecute people for being different.

But there was no encouragement to learn or engage. It was more like benevolent ignoring. And in the carefully-constructed old suburb of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, multiculturalism was limited.

Several years ago, when I worked at Bet Yeladim Preschool, I had my first experience in being a minority in a dominant culture of observant Jews. It was wonderful. It felt a little weird to me, sometimes. But it gave so much depth to what had only been a thin and brittle understanding of Judaism and Jewish culture. Living it, if only as a welcomed observer, was far different than a paragraph in a social studies textbook.

I’m sharing the following image which was posted on Twitter by Dr. Cara Grant of the Montgomery County School System. If you are not Jewish, you may know about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur but, what about the rest? I surely didn’t until I worked at Bet Yeladim.

What to know about upcoming Jewish holidays and how they affect your colleagues and partners.

There’s a big difference between tolerating those who are different from you and actually seeing and knowing who they are and how they experience life. Caring enough to see outside your own bubble makes the friends, neighbors, and coworkers you are reaching out to feel seen and valued. 

And there’s another thing. It makes their world safer. In the case of increasing incidents of anti-semitism, people who have been content to remain in ignorance are more likely to be swayed by incendiary language and ideas. Their feeling of respect for neighbor/love of fellow creature has no roots. It is all too easily burned away.

We need roots to stand up to hatred and bigotry. Putting down roots begins with empathy, and allowing yourself to realize that your own “normal” is not the center of the universe. That the universe was meant to be shared.

Let us all find ways to celebrate and share a sweet new year with those around us.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Show and Tell


Oh my. I am truly sorry I missed this event.

From the Rotary Club of Columbia/Patuxent: 

JOIN US this Friday, September 23rd, 2022 @ 7:30 a.m. at The Periodic Table - Columbia. Our guest, Wayne Robey, Clerk of the Circuit Court shares everything you'd like to know.

As you may have guessed, this post isn’t about Wayne Robey or the Rotary. It’s about qualifiers. In this event posting, there aren’t any.

Our guest, Wayne Robey, Clerk of the Circuit Court shares everything you'd like to know.



Most people would be able to read this and keep on going. You already know I am not most people. The thought that Mr. Robey was tasked with “sharing everything you’d like to know” set off the wheels of my imagination. My first thoughts were, shall we say, less than serious.

  • Boxers or briefs?
  • Best recipes to get dinner in the table in twenty minutes?
  • Pet Peeve?
  • Favorite restaurant in HoCo?
  • Where does the Tooth Fairy get her money?
This is why the world is better off that I don’t attend such events, and why you really should use qualifiers and say precisely what you mean. 

But, since we are here - - and completely unrelated to the local rotary organization or the Clerk of the Circuit Court - - I present to you a few things I’d like to know:

Why are people complaining that the County Executive is doing a lot of flashy things for the sake of his re-election compaign when they are the very same people who’ve complained at every one of his initiatives for the past four years? He can’t possibly have saved them for the last minute (and they know this) because they’ve been criticizing his leadership ever since he got elected, specifically that he had too many initiatives. 

Just say you don’t like him and be done with it. Don’t make up a whole new way to not like him that’s completely disingenuous. 

Why are people agitating for “parent voice” on the Board of Education when we already have Board Members who are parents of children in the Howard County Schools? Or perhaps a better question would be, why do some people think “parent voice” means “only my voice will be heard and heeded”? Having a voice means the ability to engage and participate. Not dictate.

Public schools are not meant to be the playgrounds of one faction with one set of ideas. 

Last one: 

Why do some people want to talk about food insecurity but refuse to include housing insecurity and inadequate wages in the conversation? It’s all interconnected. Who does it benefit to focus solely on one issue without taking into account the others? Certainly not the people who are struggling to get adequate food.

If you force people to pay too much for housing, or to commute from elsewhere, and if you keep their wages artificially low, they will not have enough money for food. It’s not a mystery. We could fix it in a more meaningful way if we wanted to.

Do you feel like asking any questions? 

I can’t promise I’ll share everything you want to know. 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

New Ways in Gateway


I received an invitation this week to attend the opening of United Way’s Columbia Family Center on October 4th. This one means a lot to me. You may remember that I wrote in June of 2021 about being able to attend a groundbreaking event for this center via Zoom.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an online celebration/presentation about the groundbreaking for a new United Way Family Center, which will focus on care for infants and toddlers.* At the time I found myself mightily impressed by all the various entities that were needed to come together and commit to making this new center happen. I’m going to be writing more about that particular event soon. It made a big impression on me. 

Like the Bauder Education Center in Long Reach, the United Way Family Center (to be located in Gateway) will provide more than childcare. In fact, each of the two centers will support families in additional ways, connecting them with needed help such as opportunities for further education, parenting classes, and/or help with housing, food, or energy assistance. Providing such supports and resources in one place is a proven method of helping people to easily connect with the things they need most to provide a better life for themselves and their children.

The new Family Center is located in Gateway. I’m tickled about that because I’ve always felt that Gateway has so much potential to be more than what it is now. (And I owe all that to the esteemed Col Gateway.)

This article from United Way of Central Maryland explains the importance of the Columbia center. 

Affordable, Accessible Childcare for Columbia 

My favorite paragraph:

The new United Way Neighborhood Zone in Columbia's Family Center will provide parents in the area with affordable, high-quality childcare at a cost below market rate. And all staff working 20 hours or more will receive full benefits and be paid above-average wages. 

Parents desperately need child care they can afford. But it must be high-quality care to nourish every fiber of their child’s growing mind and body. Substandard care can result in cumulative damage or delays. This is precisely why you will hear pushback to the widely-used educational buzzword “achievement gap.” It’s not an achievement gap. It’s an opportunity gap.

And, while we’re at it, high quality early childhood care and education require highly trained, well-educated ECE professionals and they deserve to be paid what they are worth. 

End of sermon.

One more thing. As I was going through my notes this morning I discovered a link to an article back in March about Elkridge resident Laura Johnson, announcing her appointment as the senior vice president and chief innovation and data research officer at United Way of Central Maryland earlier this year.

Baltimore native returns home to help steer United Way of Central Maryland , Billy Jean Louis, Baltimore Sun

I got to know Ms. Johnson when I was serving on a committee that was tasked with doing a lot of work in a very short amount of time. The focus of the work was education and the committee members all had quite a bit to say. I began to lose hope that we would complete our assigned tasks in the time allotted. 

I will forever be grateful to a few committee members who drew everything together and got us headed in the right direction. One of them was Laura Johnson. It can’t have been easy, but she made it look easy. I came away from the experience with two thoughts:

1. I was not made for committees.

2. Laura Johnson is amazingly gifted 

To be clear, I have no idea whether Ms. Johnson has any connection to the Gateway Neighborhood Zone/Family Center. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to give a shout-out out to an immensely capable Howard County resident and to United Way of Central Maryland for having the good sense to hire her. If she turns up at the opening event on October 4th I will tell her that myself.

I came across this image this morning and I’m going to leave you with this thought:

Friday, September 23, 2022

Where the Old Road Used to Go


It’s Free Form Friday! Anything goes!

Today is my half birthday. I know not everyone observes them. When I was growing up my mother would make half a cake on that special day. It took years for me to figure out what happened to the other half. (She only made one layer, split and stacked it. There was no other half.) 

At any rate, thinking of days gone by made me think of things my parents used to say. I suspect that everyone’s parents had a few quirky expressions that were particularly unique to them.

My mother:

  • If they say it’s new and improved, it isn’t.
  • He doesn’t have the sense God gave a grasshopper.
  • If she told you to jump out the attic window to see if you would bounce, would you?
  • He’s a pill.
  • Her face would stop a clock. 
  • God stacked the deck against Adam and Eve. He put that snake in that garden.
My father:
  • That’s where the old road used to go.
  • (When answering the telephone) Howdy! (Pause) Pretty fair, yourself?
  • Down the road apiece (when asked by children how far the destination was)
  • People put ketchup on french fries to cut the grease. (This truly annoyed my mother)
  • Let’s have more of that good gunk. (A recipe he liked)
  • Well, this is interesting. (A recipe he never wanted to eat again)
My parents’ formative years were full of things that were mysteries to me: traveling by train and by streetcar. My mother told stories about running out to pat the milkman’s horse, or how exciting it was when the ice delivery came for the icebox. My father grew up in a much older Cleveland, attending parties in houses that had since been torn down, and had attended plays in theatres that now stood vacant.

They clearly remembered life during the Depression and food rationing during The War. Did you know you could collect a whole dish set just by going to the movies? They talked about listening to the radio in a way that almost made me sorry I’d missed those years before television. They seemed to me to come from a world that did not exist anymore, as far away from me as the American Revolution or the time of Classical composers.

Perhaps part of that was how the world was hurtling forward during my childhood: the 1960’s. Television was moving from live to pre-recorded, from black and white to color. Packaging in grocery stores had been cellophane, waxed cardboard, glass.  It transformed in the blinking of an eye to plastic, plastic, plastic. Rockets were going to the moon, music was electrified and pulsating with new rhythms. Traditionally all-male colleges and universities were admitting women.  

It seemed to me as though my world was running away from the world of my parents as fast as it could. 

Today I am wondering if that’s how every generation feels. Did my parents feel that way about my grandparents’ world? Do my children feel that way about me?

Anyway - - now it’s your turn. Did either of your parents have certain expressions that you identify particularly with them? Have they become a part of your vocabulary? Have they worked their way into family stories?

Tell me. I’d love to know.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Imaginary and Dangerous


Alas. Someone is wrong on the internet.

(Well-known cartoon by XKCD

It has come to my attention that there are people in Howard County that don’t believe in Banned Books Week. They think it’s imaginary. 

Now, there are plenty of things that one is not obligated to believe. Religious beliefs. Things which are a matter of opinion. But, for Heaven's sakes, facts which are clearly available and documented are not in that category.

From the website of the American Library Association:

Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. For 40 years, the annual event has brought together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

Banned Books Week has be around since 1982 and is championed by librarians, publishers, journalists, teachers, and a diverse community of readers. But for the purposes of some local online posters, it’s “imaginary.”

Why do you think that is? 

It may help to know that this line of thinking was used to attack Board of Education candidate Dan Newberger, because he spoke to the issue of banned books in a recent League of Women Voters Candidate Forum. 

Take a listen.

It seems to me that the suggestion that Banned Books Week is “imaginary” is a way of “disappearing” a larger concept. A small faction of our community is trying to “disappear” representation for LGBTQ+ students and families in our schools. Mr. Newberger, championing age-appropriate literature which is welcoming and affirming, stands in their way. It is easier to claim that his words are “imaginary” or “dangerous” than to have an honest discussion of what they truly believe.

There are plenty of things that one is not obligated to believe. Many things are, legitimately, a matter of opinion. But, this widely-circulated statement puts it well:

"Agree to disagree" is reserved for things like "I don't like coffee." Not racism, homophobia, and sexism. Not human rights. Not basic common decency. We do not have a difference of opinion. We have a difference in morality.

Or, from American writer James Baldwin:

We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.  

Here are some things you will need to swallow in order to believe the attack on candidate Newberger:

  • Banned Books Week is imaginary
  • America’s librarians nationwide are unqualified to read and vet books
  • School librarians in Howard County are unqualified to research and choose age-appropriate books
  • People who disagree with this are dangerous
So, essentially, intellectual freedom is at stake in this BOE election. And, intertwined with that is whether we are going to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ students with the same care and acceptance as we do straight, cisgender students.

There are other issues worth addressing in our schools. I hope voters can see this attack on Dan Newberger for what it is: an inflammatory diversionary tactic which is meant to inflame emotions instead of engaging in crucial discussions about what our schools truly need.

The entire League of Women Voters candidate forum is available on YouTube. The BOE portion begins at 4:17:45.  Do your own research. Form your own opinions. But don’t lose sight of the most basic truth at stake here: facts are facts, even if you don’t like them or they make you uncomfortable.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Three Things: HCC


If three things make a blog post, then this must be the day for Howard Community College.  I’ve been hanging on to this image from last week because it made me realize I had never given one thought to whether HCC has its own food service on campus. 

The caption reads:

ROUND UP for the Fueling Dragons

When you stop by HCC’s Café on the Quad for a snack or lunch, the Fueling Dragons program benefits from your generosity when you round up!

Learn more about our Fueling Dragons program:

The Fueling Dragons programs at Howard Community College encompass a number of initiatives designed to meet the dual goals of: 1) providing immediate support for students who are facing hunger or food insecurity; and 2) working to build sustainable nutrition, food sourcing, and preparation skills through educational experiences and workshops. 

The program includes: a campus food pantry, campus garden, nutrition and health education, cooking classes, and meal kits that can be prepared at home. 

Wow. This is a multi-pronged, well thought out approach. Hungry students can’t learn. Healthy students are more able to pursue and continue their courses of study. If you are interested in helping, click the above link to find opportunities to be a part of Fueling Dragons.

And yes, they absolutely have food service options, which include Café on the Quad, Simply to Go, Starbucks, vending machines, and there are microwaves if you want to heat up something you brought from home. 

There is honestly so much I don’t know about HCC. But, I’m learning.

A tweet from the Women's Giving Circle alerted me to an upcoming Career Readiness Expo at HCC:

WGC Friends: Our partners at @HowardCC Howard Community College are looking for professionals to volunteer and provide insight and knowledge to students as they search for their perfect career path at the Career Readiness Expo, 9/28, 2-3:30 pm . (It’s) an opportunity for HCC students to engage with industry pros and employers 1-1. Students will have their resumes reviewed, practice interview skills & be asked questions by professionals. To participate, contact Anne Johnson, Director of Resource Development,

Perhaps you can see yourself participating in this event. The time commitment is brief, you’ll be assisting local students, and, who knows? Maybe you can grab a bite to eat at Café on the Quad. (Don’t forget to round up.)

The third thing (were you counting?) is the one that made me drop everything and write about HCC today.

Join us for HCC’s Drag(on) Extravaganza! An evening celebrating everything that is drag during LGBTQ+ History Month.

We're excited for performances by regional celebrity drag artists and a student drag competition where we will crown HCC’s Queen, or King, of the Extravaganza!

The Drag[on] Extravaganza is on October 6: beginning at 6 pm, and it’s free. I’m not sure if it’s for the HCC community or if members of the community are also welcome. I’ll find out. I wonder if the Pink Couch will make an appearance?

UPDATE: Thanks to HCC for their quick response!  The Drag(on) show is for anyone, is free, and requires no ticket or RSVP. 

There’s a whole lot going on at HCC. It’s almost enough to make me want to go back to college.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Celebrating Our Friends and Neighbors


Here we go again. It wasn’t on my calendar. National Hispanic American Heritage Month had somehow never penetrated my consciousness. Social media posts from the Howard County Library and the Howard County Local Health Improvement Coalition got my attention. In case you haven’t heard, here’s some background from the National Hispanic Heritage Month website:

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

Here are some offerings from the Howard County Library System:

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! From September 15 to October 15, HCLS is honoring the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans who’ve enriched society. We’re celebrating the cultures, traditions, and people from more than 20 different Latin American countries and territories. Here are seven fun (and free!) ways to learn more about the Latinx community with your library card this month:  

  • Explore titles from our collection for children & teens about Hispanic heritage  
  • Browse nonfiction titles for adults including cookbooks, documentaries, memoirs, and more  
  • Check out adult fiction by Latinx authors  
  • Research almost 90 different prominent Hispanic Americans online with Gale in Context: Biography  
  • Children under 6 can learn Spanish language skills with short videos from Little Pim  
  • Students ages 6 to 10 can learn Spanish language skills with interactive online lessons from Muzzy  
  • Teens and adults can brush up on their Spanish language skills with the free Mango app 

The Howard County Local Health Improvement Coalition clued me in to this event on October 6th:

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month @HCPSS Hispanic Achievement Program will be hosting a county-wide Resource Fair on October 6, 2022. The event will be from 6pm-8pm at Deep Run Elementary School 6925 Old Waterloo Road, Elkridge, MD, 21075. Consulates of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador will offer resources and information. In addition, local agencies and non-profit organizations will be onsite, offering resources available in Spanish to you and your family.

Years ago, my family attended the International Night at the old Talbott Springs Elementary School. I remember sitting in the cafeteria/auditorium and listening to performers from the community sing song after song in Spanish. What moved me was seeing how many in the audience sang along. We were surrounded by people who knew these songs by heart and sang with emotion. 

It was a celebration of something particularly special to them, to where they came from, who they were, their memories and their dreams. I felt a sense of awe to be in a community with these families. It was a window for me to learn about people whose backgrounds I did not know, connected by a love of something we shared: music.

Have you seen any other local events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month? Let me know.

Monday, September 19, 2022

A Weekend to Remember


Back when Mondays found me back at work each week, I’d often be asked, “How was your weekend?” Then I’d get that deer in the headlights look because - - I know it’s ridiculous - - I’d already forgotten. Whether it was eventful or just the same old laundry/carry out from Maiwand/chilling out/church on Sunday, when put on the spot by a coworker’s question I’d draw a blank.

Over time I’ve found that taking the time to write in my journal or simply spending a few moments to reflect on what’s happening in my life seems to help it “stick” better. Continually rushing forward in an attempt to get things accomplished left me with big gaps when it came to where I’d been and what I’d done. I think this is part of why I enjoy the Facebook Memories feature so much. 

So, what did I do this weekend? I’m glad you asked.

Friday night was date night at Pepperjacks with the most perfect weather for outside dining. As we sat down with our drinks, the country song that was playing assured us that “it must be five o’clock somewhere.”


There were numerous choices for fun things to do on Saturday but a good chunk of my day was taken up with getting my daughter from college and delivering her to Grandma’s. Said Grandma’s home is in Dickeyville, conveniently located nearby UMBC. (No photos of this. Daughter #2 is fiercely protective of her online image.)

Life goals: be the kind of cool grandma that college kids want to visit on the weekend.

Sunday began with online church and concluded with the Columbia Orchestra at the Chrysalis in Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods.

Before the downbeat, Inner Arbor Trust President Nina Basu paused to honor outgoing IAT Chair Lin Eagan. With remarks from County Executive Calvin Ball (via video), Council member Deb Jung, and new IAT Chair Ellen Giles, we were reminded of Ms. Eagan’s devototion and service to the work of the Trust and bringing the new park to the people. 

At the dedication of the Chrysalis in 2017, Ms. Eagan said, “The Chrysalis is dedicated to be a place for everyone.” 

The turnout for last night’s concert (and all of the concerts this season) are exactly what must have been in her mind’s eye all along.

The last delicious moments of my weekend were spent in the companionship of one the lovely mystery books I picked up Friday afternoon at the East Columbia Branch. It was a good weekend.

What did you do this weekend?

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Honor and Grief


Two things came together in my head this week: a video that was shown at the Rise to the Challenge event and an essay in USA Today by columnist Connie Schultz.

Here’s the video, made to honor those in the community who came together during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic to help others:

Here’s the essay by Schultz:

COVID-19 is still deadly real. Why do we allow disinformation to persist?

It occurred to me, as I watched the video, that some will watch it and see it as a prime example of everything that’s wrong with County Executive Calvin Ball. It was impossible for me to take in the images without remembering the steady drumbeat of naysayers throughout that time, denying the seriousness of COVID.

They’re not in the video. But their self-righteous rants on social media became an unavoidable part of the soundtrack of my life during the last few years. I found myself grieving as the images passed in front of my eyes. How much more could we have done as a community if we had been united in focusing on public health and caring about the needs of all?

The experience of seeing people in my own community use an international pandemic as an opportunity to sow political division has been the greatest disappointment of my lifetime. 

The essay by Connie Schultz describes her experience at a local pharmacy in Ohio as she waits to receive the most current COVID booster. She’s having a positive and friendly conversation with a woman which takes a startling turn.

As we talked, two lines of customers began to grow. Not uncommon in the 4 o’clock hour, when a lot of people are heading home after a day’s work. The pharmacy clerk walked over to me with a clipboard and instructed me to fill out the consent form. “For both your flu and COVID shots,” she said, smiling.

In that moment, my newfound friend dumped me. “I would never put that poison in my body,” she said.

I turned to look at her. “You haven’t been vaccinated against COVID?”

“Nope,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s a government conspiracy. No worse than the flu.”

It gets worse. Read it for yourself. If you use Ms. Schultz’s link it should bypass the paywall.

I have a friend who takes multiple medications now to cope with excruciating pain she never had before COVID. A dear friend from high school lost her apartment while struggling with long term disability due to COVID. People are still getting sick and people are still dying. I can’t imagine what our local healthcare workers are thinking.

Maybe an event to celebrate those in our community who worked together to address COVID is needed not just to help them process those hard times through the lens of their community’s gratitude. Perhaps it is doubly necessary because of the words and actions of angry people who mocked and discounted them at every turn. 

Of course it’s an election year and people are likely to view any action by the county executive as a campaign move or an attempt at political grandstanding. There is bound to be spin of all sorts. That's to be expected.

But, as the incumbent, Ball must run on his record. Clearly he is not running away from the focus his administration has put on public health during the pandemic. When Ball declared his intent to run for re-election I wrote:

It’s interesting to observe that very few if any of the folks dragging Dr. Ball yesterday acknowledged the fact that he has been governing through a pandemic. How would you like to win an election and find your plans and goals sidelined by an enormous life-or-death situation? That’s what it means to be a true public servant, though. You must cope with what comes along. (The Hat, the Ring, and Me” Village Green/Town² June 2, 2021)

But an event like the one this week is not a “look at me” event. It’s a “look at us” event. It is an acknowledgment of the power in a burden shared. 

It’s a “we the people” moment, and not a Sally Brown moment. As much as the video means to remind us what is worth celebrating, I found it an unexpected reminder of what we, in Howard County, have to grieve.