Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Only Living for the Nightlife


This tweet from Fox Baltimore brings up a topic I know nothing about: being single in Columbia. I was single in Columbia for about five months. During that time I was mostly planning my wedding, so, that doesn’t count. 

With Columbia being named the 'safest city' for the 5th year in a row, it comes as no surprise that the city ranks third to last in nightlife options per capita.

Despite my lack of experience in this area, I found something odd about the assertion here. Basically, you can either be “safe” or have a thriving nightlife. 


Even better is the title of the article itself. “Sucks to be single in these U.S. cities, study finds” Nia Fitzhugh, Fox Baltimore  

Oh, brother. 

BALTIMORE (WBFF) — With nearly 50% of all U.S. adults being single and the average date costing over $90, WalletHub released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst Cities for Singles, Monday.

The study compared 182 cities across the country, utilizing 36 key indicators of dating-friendliness to determine where singles have the highest chance of finding love. The data set ranges from the share of the population that is single to the number of online dating opportunities to the average price for a two-person meal.

Ah, WalletHub, our old friend. The almighty survey mechanism giveth it and taketh away, it seems. Out of 182 cities examined, Columbia came in at 174. Baltimore did better, at 138. But not by all that much. 

I don’t dispute that Columbia may be lacking in the kind of nightlife that the WalletHub study was looking for. I do take a dim view of this:

With Columbia being named the 'safest city' for the 5th year in a row, it comes as no surprise that the city ranks third to last in nightlife options per capita.

If you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, you would expect to find that the top-ranked cities in the nightlife study are high-crime areas.

Best Cities for Singles:

  • Seattle, WA
  • Madison, WI
  • Denver, CO
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Portland, OR
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Austin, TX
  • Honolulu, HI
  • San Diego, CA
  • Atlanta, GA

Well, they very likely do have more crime than Columbia on account of being substantially larger. More crime per capita - - who knows? My point is that this is a specious argument in the first place. And something feels a bit smug about it, too.

“Well, you can’t expect to be a magnet for singles if you’ve been named the safest city for the fifth year in a row…”

I pity the poor Howard Hughes Corporation executives who must live with this dichotomy. Like the old-school cartoons, on one shoulder is an angel with a halo saying, “Safest City in America!” and on the other shoulder is a Devil with a pitchfork, intoning, “It sucks to be single in Columbia!” 

None of this matters if you don’t place much significance in the pronouncements of WalletHub. If you’re in the business of marketing it’s a bit more difficult. If you live by the WalletHub you shall die by the WalletHub, I suppose.

I guess what bugs me the most about this reporter’s take on the facts is that it reinforces a point of view I’ve heard invoked locally time and time again. 

We didn’t come here for the nightlife. If you want nightlife, go somewhere else. Don’t turn Columbia into Baltimore. 

There’s always the unspoken suggestion that having a more vibrant nightlife brings crime. And, you know, “those people.” 

In my opinion we don’t need reinforcement of that attitude from Fox News Baltimore. We have more than enough here already.

What do you think? Is the reporter justified in linking the two studies for the purposes of the article? Does it suck to be single in Columbia, Maryland? What does “nightlife” mean to you?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Giving Tuesday: The Faces of the Future


Once upon a time I wrote these words and made an internal commitment to get back to them.

One thing that came up in our conversation was that we were in complete agreement that all the people who are doing outstanding, transformative community work right now in Columbia/HoCo are women. I’d go into more detail but I think that’s a blog post unto itself. - - “Reunions” 7/14/2021

I was reminded of that internal commitment when I saw this article from The Business Monthly. 

The Future of Downtown Columbia”, Mark R. Smith, November 2021

When I saw the title - - The Future of Downtown Columbia - - topped by a photograph of three white men, it was hard not to see an unspoken message: “What’s the future of Columbia? We asked three white men to find out.”

I thought about that conversation with my friend. 

… all the people who are doing outstanding, transformative community work right now in Columbia/HoCo are women. (And not just white women, I might add.) 

Here’s what I will call a sampling, because I can’t possibly know or remember* them all:

Laura Bacon - - The 3rd

Nina Basu - - Inner Arbor Trust

Bonnie Bricker - - Talk With Me Howard County, now a part of HCPSS

Amy Brooks and Jessica Mahajan - - OMO, formerly Oakland Mills Online

Chiara D’Amore - - Community Ecology Institute

Candace Dodson-Reed - - African American Community Round Table, Elevate Maryland

Beth Harbinson - - Sobar

Marlena Jareaux - - Howard County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation 

Ying Matties - - CARY, Community Allies of Rainbow Youth

Erika Strauss-Chavarria - - Columbia Community Care

All of these women have been engaged in creating and building new ventures which make Columbia/HoCo a better place. Their vision and determination are breathtaking. They deserve more 
than a cursory listing and I promise I will make that happen. Soon.

But today is a special day. Giving Tuesday.

GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. - - Giving Tuesday website 

All of the women mentioned above are involved in doing good and encouraging others to do good. With the exception of Talk With Me and Elevate Maryland, all of these organizations have 501 (c) (3) status and could benefit from your donations today.

GivingTuesday reimagines a world built upon shared humanity and generosity. GivingTuesday is a Movement that Unleashes the Power of Radical Generosity Around the World.

And right here in Columbia/HoCo, too. With women leading the way.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Analysis of the Analysis


A few post-election dribs and drabs surfaced over the weekend. This piece in the Maryland Reporter by Len Lazarick caught my eye.


This paragraph got me thinking.

Del. Trent Kittleman, widow of Bob Kittleman, the first Republican ever elected to the legislature from Howard 40 years ago, narrowly lost in her reelection to a third four-term. “I’ve been in politics 55 years, and this is a sad thing we’re going through in this country,” Trent Kittleman told me 10 days after the election as her election night victory slipped away.

“…and this is a sad thing we’re going through in this country.” I wish I knew what Ms. Kittleman meant by that. It’s certainly a safe thing to say. It conveys disappointment and doesn’t place blame in any particular place. Maybe that’s all it was meant to do. After 55 years in politics it’s probably not too difficult to give that kind of response.

But what kind of “sad thing” are we going through in this country, Ms. Kittleman? Virulent racism, anti-semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment? Mass shootings becoming so common that we can’t even keep up with the details? Citizens forced to wait hours to vote because of organized voter suppression tactics? LGBTQ+ students fearful that they won’t be safe in school? Social media campaigns weaponized to attack sound medical knowledge about a worldwide pandemic?

I have a feeling that those aren’t on Ms. Kittleman’s list of sad things. I can’t be sure, of course, I haven’t asked her. Maybe I should.

And another thing: who is this “we” she speaks of? All Americans? Republicans? What do you think?

The other thing that struck me about the Maryland Reporter piece was the accompanying photograph.

No, that’s not true. What bugged me was the caption.

Former Howard County Executive speaks to crowd at his family's farm in West Friendship, along with, from right, Gov. Larry Hogan, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Hogan's endorsement and help had little effect on the outcome. Maryland photo by Len Lazarick

Notice anything?

Count the people in the photo. Now count the number of people identified by Lazarick. Something doesn’t add up. There are four men and two women in this picture but only the men are identified.

“Well, they aren’t important to the story,” you might say. Or, “for the purposes of this piece they don’t matter.” That may be strictly accurate but I do get rather tired of women not being important to the story. Not being identified. Perhaps if this had been an article specifically about Allan Kittleman’s campaign event at his family’s farm, they might have been named.

Here’s the same photo in an October piece about Kittleman. Still not identified.

Using context clues I’d have to say that the woman on the right is an ASL interpreter and the woman on the left is The Democrat for Allan Kittleman. But that’s not truly a fair and accurate description. As insignificant as these two may be in this reporter’s analysis of the election, they are still the only two women on the dais at this particular event. They’re human beings. 

What can I say, these things bug me. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Light Bright Nights

Welp, they got me to click. I honestly thought it was going to be a local story about Christmas lights. Silly me. It’s just an amalgamation of opinions aggregated from all of Patchland. Blah.


Ellicott City Patch: One reader detests inflatables "with every fiber of my being. Another wonders what Mickey Mouse, tin soldiers have to do with Christmas.

Outdoor Christmas Displays: What's Tacky, What's Not? [Block Talk]

Yes, I would be interested in knowing what people from different areas of Columbia/HoCo think of Christmas lights. It might be…illuminating. What’s popular in the New American City? Pet peeves in Clarksville? Ideas from Maple Lawn, Elkridge, Lisbon? It’s a big county, you know. I am so darned tired of political divisions. I’d be thrilled to see if anything unites us here in Howard County.

To be honest, I enjoy all kinds of Christmas lights. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a display that doesn’t make me smile. Some of the critiques in the Patch article feel like much ado about nothing. The only things I can imagine that would be a dealbreaker for me would be constantly flashing lights or broadcasting loud music along with the lights. I can see how that would be hard on one’s neighbors. Update: I thought of one more. If someone integrated their political opinions into Christmas lights I’d undoubtedly be disgusted. 

Giving credit where it’s due, I did discover a HoCoLocal event on Ellicott City Patch.

Green Angels Design Center? Oh. I know that house. It’s near Iron Bridge Wine Company. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it was a business. They’re hosting a drive-through lights event, plus you can register on their website to stroll the holiday garden display. 

There’s no admission fee listed but they are requesting donations of canned goods for the Food Bank.

Since the Patch article didn’t give me what I was looking for, let’s do it ourselves. Here are the categories touched on in the article:

  • Colored lights
  • White lights
  • Net lights
  • Color coordination 
  • Blow molds
  • Inflatables
  • Spacing
  • Themes
  • Layout 

In case you are wondering what blow molds are, here is a photo from EBay of the Santa Mouse we had when I was little. My teenage sister dubbed him “the Turned-On Mouse”, a joke I did not get until many years later.

You can still buy them but they definitely have a retro vibe. They’ve mostly been replaced by inflatables.

So, what are your opinions on Christmas lights? Love them? Hate them? Like them only if they conform to your aesthetic tastes? Let me know. Maybe we can write the authentically local article that can only be found in the place where Columbia and Howard County intersect.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

A Change for the Better


The Community Foundation of Howard County will be hosting a celebratory dinner this Thursday, December 1st, at the Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville. Tickets for the event are one hundred dollars and can be purchased here.

It has been several years since the Foundation was able to hold this event, due to the pandemic. I smiled when I saw this alliterative phrase in the event’s promotional materials:

For the first time in years, we will gather in person for a joyous evening of food, fellowship and philanthropy.

Columbia/HoCo promotional alliteration lives on.

Have you ever wondered what folks actually do at fancy 100 dollar a plate events like these? I certainly have. Let’s take a look.

They’ll be awarding Philanthropist of the Year awards to Dr. Lillian Bauder (individual) and M&T Bank (corporate). Also on the agenda: The Leadership Council Award, which recognizes an up and coming nonprofit leader and the Casey & Pebble Willis “Making a Difference” Award, which is awarded to a nonprofit doing valuable community work. 

The keynote address will be given by Dr. Daria Willis, president of Howard Community College. The theme of her address will include her vision for HCC and the power of philanthropy.

That’s what the Community Foundation of Howard County is all about, of course: philanthropy. 

Our mission at the Community Foundation of Howard County is inspiring lifelong giving and connecting people, places and organizations to worthy causes across Howard County and beyond.

The Foundation, which originally began in 1969 as the Columbia Foundation, is:

…committed to building a vibrant, compassionate and engaged Howard County community. We encourage local philanthropy and offer individuals, families and businesses a variety of easy and tax-efficient ways to impact their community through charitable giving. CFHoCo assists donors in building an enduring source of charitable assets by allowing people to establish permanent endowment funds under the umbrella of one large foundation.

The real reason I’m writing about this today is not philanthropy, or the December celebration. It’s this:

When the Annual Dinner was first announced the venue was listed as the Merriweather Lakehouse Hotel. I was shocked. I wasn’t the only one. You may recall that Lakehouse fired all of its union hospitality employees during the pandemic and refused to consider them for employment when the hotel reopened. I wrote about this most recently in a Labor Day post. 

I decided to send a tweet out into the universe registering my dismay.

Disappointed to see Community Foundation of Howard County patronizing Merriweather Lakehouse. Why would a nonprofit that’s all about helping people boost the social capital of a union-busting business?

Other community members soon chimed in, their concerns similar to mine. I never saw any public response from the Foundation and assumed it was a lost cause. Then, this:

Without any fuss or fanfare (that I am aware of) the Community Foundation of Howard County changed the venue for their event to the Ten Oaks Ballroom. Someone was paying attention, and legitimately listening. I don’t know how it happened but I’m grateful. An organization which is rooted in making our community a better place for all residents should not be shining a spotlight on a business that has behaved so dishonorably to workers.

They changed their minds. Large organizations don’t always find within themselves the flexibility to do that. It means a lot to me. 

The Foundation currently administers more than 300 charitable funds that reflect the philanthropic interests of their donors, and vary from unrestricted funds that support our Community Grants program to those for very specific purposes such as scholarships or the Arts. 

And so, if you don’t know much about CFHoCo, I’m inviting you to go and learn more. Maybe you’ll find something about their mission that resonates with you.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Thinking Big/Shopping Small

Since yesterday’s post was more “free form” than usual, let’s go local today.

This Saturday is Small Business Saturday. The event was created in 2010 by American Express to encourage people to do more of their holiday shopping at small businesses. Often when people in Columbia/HoCo think of Small Business Saturday they think of Main Street in Old Ellicott City. And there is certainly some great shopping to be done there.

Today I’d like to turn your attention to an event at The 3rd at the Lakefront.

From the event page:

Small Business Saturday is a national event that kicks off the holiday shopping season, showcases the power of small businesses, and supports the “buy local” movement!

We will open our doors to the community for a day of fun and shopping!

All vendors are members of The 3rd and women of color-owned product and service-based businesses.

There will be a variety of unique, handcrafted items on sale, as well as delicious food items in our café. Attendee's can also sign up for a 'Make your own Sugar Scrub' workshop, hosted by Queen's Temple Handmade Artisan Soaps and a 'Get Organized for the Holidays' demo hosted by Tidy Milso, as well as personal chair massages from LBH Therapeutic Massage

We will be collecting feminine products to support our partner, The Women's Giving Circle of Howard County, and their feminine products drive in a continued effort to support women and girls in Howard County. All products go to The HoCo Food Bank, Columbia Community Cares and other local food pantries. Look out for the pink bin. Let's fill it a couple of times over!

Register at Eventbrite for your free ticket to Shop Small 2022 at The 3rd. If you can’t make it this Saturday, mark your calendar for December 17th, when The 3rd is hosting their second (annual?) Christmas Bazaar, from 1 - 5 pm.  I should warn you: when I went last year I ended up buying a present for myself. Totally worth it, though. (Heads up: YOLO Health and Wellness will be at the Small Business Saturday event tomorrow.)

When I went last year, I came away with these thoughts. (The Bright Spot, December 13, 2021) 

First and foremost, The 3rd is intended to serve as an incubator space for businesses owned by women of color. But it seems to me that supporting ongoing initiatives at The 3rd will also be a way we can show strong support for a Lakefront that is alive with people and businesses and things to do. 

What can we do? It’s pretty simple. We can show up when they have an event. We can tell friends, family, and coworkers what The 3rd is all about. We can commit to spending money to support these Black-owned businesses. 

The 3rd presents us with an opportunity to rethink which businesses we support, how we spend our money, when we’re willing to show up and be a part of things, how we use spaces like the Lakefront. Maybe even who we are as a community.

Aside from special events like Small Business Saturday and their Christmas Bazaar, there’s especially big news that not everyone has heard yet: 

Image from The 3rd on Instagram

The 3rd Downtown Columbia Lakefront Community CoWorking and Cafe Space is now open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-4pm. That means that anyone can drop in, get coffee, meet friends, grab something to eat, get some work done, have a cup of tea and read a book…

This means you. Make a date to stop by and enjoy the new space. When a friend asks “Is there any great place to get coffee downtown that isn’t a chain?” then you can fill them in. The 3rd’s business model is a perfect mix of both/and. It’s “a mixed-use community hub that provides a gathering place for the entire community while showcasing and incubating WOC owned businesses.” 

Remember when I wrote about the two women in the Howard County Tourism advert? 

The ideal location for them to get coffee is at The Third. But they may not know it yet. You can tell them. You can be them.

Woukd you like to see new life at the Lakefront? You just need to put your money where your mouth is.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Two Cats


I am of two minds about Thanksgiving. On the one hand, I find more reasons to be thankful every year. I am more conscious of my blessings now than I ever have been. On the other hand, my feelings about the origin story of the Thanksgiving holiday become more conflicted the more I learn. It’s an internal battle which has been raging over the last several days. 

Last night a tweet from a Baltimore photojournalist gave me an unexpectedly new perspective. But first it made me laugh.

inside you there are two cats, and every few hours they'll pretend like they've literally never eaten before

It’s a joking reference, of course, to the Two Wolves legend, where a wise elder imparts wisdom through storytelling. An example of this story from the film Pathfinder:

Starfire: "There are two wolves fighting in each man’s heart. One is love, the other is hate."

Ghost: "Which one wins?"

Starfire: "The one you feed the most."

In the case of my Thanksgiving dilemma, though, both parts are equally valid. I do have much to be thankful for. The real history of European white colonizers in North America is violent and shameful. There is not one wolf to feed. There are two cats demanding to be fed.

It’s hard to hold both perceptions in my head without wanting to turn down the volume on the one that makes me uncomfortable. I hope that I am learning and growing enough to make room for both and to value the kind of learning that requires me to be uncomfortable. The fact that I am financially stable enough to have the physical and mental energy to contemplate this is not lost on me. 

It’s a sort of privilege to be able to consider all this. In a warm home. With food in my refrigerator.

So, what’s next? Where do I go with that realization that I have much to be thankful for? Or that my ancestors haven’t told the truth about our history or taken responsibility for it?  What will I do? - - because that’s the next step of the journey.  To return to my earlier analogy, I’m not feeding the cats merely to get them to stop screaming. I am nourishing them with the commitment to see them grow and thrive.

Here is the Thanksgiving Address of the Haudenosaunee* People, which I found when reading “Rethinking Thanksgiving Celebrations: Native Perspectives on Thanksgiving” from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian website.

Greetings to the Natural World

These were not words set aside for one particular day devoted to thanksgiving. They were spoken repeatedly at gatherings throughout the year. Not a celebration, but a practice. A way of life.

However you spend this day, I hope there will be something in it that brings you joy, and that inspires you to share that joy. That’s what turns one day of celebration into a way of life.

*Learn more about the Haudenosaunee people. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

In Praise of the Unexpected

The Poinsettia Tree is back at the Mall. The Merriweather District has already hosted the ceremonial lighting of their Christmas Tree. Political signs have been replaced by ones that say, “We hang Christmas lights.” But that’s not all. The holidays have exploded into my social media feeds. Navigating actual content while avoiding distraction from carefully targeted adverts is beginning to feel like an epic quest. It’s mentally exhausting.

Lucy Van Pelt: Look, Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know. - - A Charlie Brown Christmas 

So why did I get so excited by this*? Probably because it was so unexpected. From The Snowball Stand in Woodstock:

Wreaths and trees are here! Come to us for your Christmas decorations needs… get a hot beverage, snowball, or ice cream while you are looking!

I had a bit of a chuckle when I realized that the usual fluctuations of Maryland weather make it perfectly acceptable to offer your choice of summer or winter refreshment. At this very moment I wouldn’t want a snowball. But, you never know…

Aren’t snowball stands seasonal? I’d thought so until now. I took a look at their Facebook page.

Hmm…they were still open on September 1st when County Executive Calvin Ball stopped by to recognize their success as a valued Howard County small business.

On October 12th they were still open for snowballs and…pumpkins?

They hosted Fall festivals on several weekends in October.

I love the tag line, “And don’t forget about the Snowballs and Ice Cream.”

On November 9th, this announcement:

Don’t forget, fresh cut Christmas trees and wreaths will be coming to the stand soon!

And then, the big reveal:

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… at the snowball stand!

This is small business diversification at its finest. The Snowball Stand - - not just for summer anymore.

I did a little digging around on Google and found this article from 2001 on the Granite Historical Society Website, which indicates that The Snowball Stand had traditionally closed at the end of September. So, is extending into Fall and the holidays a new venture this year?

There’s some other fun stuff in there, including yet another mention of the locally famous Clark family. Granite? Yeah, I didn’t know about that, either. Or the Nike Missile Base.  


True confession: I’ve never been to the Snowball Stand. I have a bit of territorial loyalty to Pete’s Snowballs, and besides, Woodstock isn’t exactly on my side of town. I realize now that a trip to the Snowball Stand is every bit as necessary as my recent pilgrimage to Cindy’s Softserve in Elkridge. I may wait until it’s warmer to try one of their snowballs, though.

The Snowball Stand is located 1970 Woodstock Rd Woodstock, Maryland. You can learn more about them on Facebook and Instagram.

Have any good Snowball Stand memories? Did you know they’re open for holiday shopping this year? Let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments

*All photos from The Snowball Stand’s Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Beware the Thwarting Doom


Odd things I have posted on Facebook, episode 2,472:

I am going on the record now that there will be a hot blog post very soon about the word “thwarted”. You have been warned.

That was October 27. I guess the “very soon” part was not so accurate. Here’s what was burning me up:

Former Clarksville resident’s efforts to bring first public charter school to Howard thwarted for third time by school board, Ethan Ehrenhaft, Baltimore Sun

Thwarted? Are you serious? 

Let me explain. Thwart is a word that carries emotional baggage and value judgement. As such it might belong in an editorial piece, but not in a straight news piece. Take a look at the definition:

thwart, verb
past tense: thwarted; past participle: thwarted
prevent (someone) from accomplishing something.
"he never did anything to thwart his father"
oppose (a plan, attempt, or ambition) successfully.
"the government had been able to thwart all attempts by opposition leaders to form new
Similar: foil, frustrate, balk, stand in the way of, forestall, scotch
- -  Dictionary Definitions from Oxford Languages 

Using the word thwart to lead off this article sets up the reader to believe that the Howard County Board of Education is actively working to prevent the success of this particular venture. But, if you read the article itself, there is no evidence whatsoever that this is the case. In fact, quotes from Board Chair Vicky Cutroneo have a positive tone. It would be more accurate to say “Former Clarksville resident’s efforts to bring first public charter school to Howard fail for third time.”

We have requirements for public schools in Howard County. This venture has not yet met them after three appearances before the board. So far they have failed to present a complete and viable application. Did the editor want to avoid the negativity of the word “fail?” There are still a variety of ways to lead off that don’t inject opinion at the get-go.

  • Public charter group appears before Board of Education
  • Public charter group continues official application process 
  • Public charter group committed to improving their initiative 

These are clearly clunky and could easily be improved by a professional journalist. But any of them is better than “thwarted” which brings to mind someone like Mr. Burns of the Simpsons, rubbing his hands together in glee as he destroys the dreams of well-meaning dogooders.

Ehrenhaft most likely did not write the title. I won’t hold him responsible. Whoever did needs a review in factual vs. opinion writing.

This one from The Daily Record bugged me as well.

Can you spot the questionable word?

Yep, it’s “ doom.” Or, rather, “dooming.” There’s a whole lot of emotional baggage and value judgement here, too.


noun: doom
death, destruction, or some other terrible fate.
"the aircraft was sent crashing to its doom in the water"
Similar: destruction downfall grim/terrible fate ruin ruination rack and ruin catastrophe
disaster extinction annihilation death end termination quietus

verb: doom; 3rd person present: dooms; past tense: doomed; past participle: doomed; gerund or present participle: dooming
condemn to certain destruction or death.
"fuel was spilling out of the damaged wing and the aircraft was doomed"

- - Dictionary Definitions from Oxford Languages 

Am I the only person who took a dim view of doom here? The Daily Record newsletter used this sentence to introduce the article. I think it’s better than the current title of the article.

“Shaky future for Hogan highway project“

Again, it’s highly unlikely that Bryan Sears wrote the title. I don’t think journalists even have any veto power in these decisions.

Why does this matter? After all, these days we’re scrambling for any local news coverage at all. Why nitpick over word choice?

If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant, if
what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone.

- - Confucius 

Using the kind of language that is meant to convey facts is part of what helps us distinguish reliable journalism from pieces meant to manipulate or distort the truth. As readers we look for the clues which set  legitimate news apart from writing which is, for example, personality-driven and gossipy. We need to be able to trust media outlets like the Baltimore Sun or the Daily Record to know what words mean and use them accurately. Yes, it’s up to us to use our critical thinking skills. But there’s no reason for newspapers to make it any more difficult than it is already. 

All that being said, I suggest that if you’re going to get a word wrong: go big.

Image of article by Howard Ulman, East Oregonian 

Monday, November 21, 2022

Good News About Collaboration


For those of you who’ve been wondering why it takes so long to count the votes, here’s the news you’ve been waiting for:

Image courtesy of Howard County Library

It's been a busy two weeks with vote counting at HCLS, but the results are in and we have a clear winner: DOGS. A spokesperson for the cats said they are "staying paw-sitive" and "will make sure next time our campaign is purr-fect".

Special thanks to the @leagueofwomenvoters of Howard County for sending us the materials to hold this fun election at our branches!

I was more than happy to cast my vote for dogs on one of my recent trips to the East Columbia Branch. That’s mostly because I am violently allergic to cats. I’m allergic to dogs, too, but hanging out with one won’t send me to the hospital. Nonetheless, if cats had won the election I’d have no trouble accepting the results, as long as I wasn’t obligated to have one in my home.

I love that this was a collaborative project between the Library and the League of Women Voters. I’ve become more and more interested in how institutions connect and collaborate. 

In news that has nothing to do with dogs or cats, the Columbia Association has awarded the very first Chewy award to Wild Lake CARES. The group was created as a committee of the Wilde Lake Village Board. CARES stands for Community Action and Resources for Environmental Stewardship .

Photo courtesy of Columbia Association 

Here's a touching tale we should all take a bite of! Last night Wilde Lake CARES was awarded the first ever CA Chewy during volunteer appreciation night. The Chewy is a volunteer award given to the most active village CARES or watershed group. The winner gets bragging rights and time with a beaver carving created by local chainsaw artist Evelyn Mogren. Congratulations to the Wilde Lake CARES group-we are so appreciative for all the work your team does to help keep Columbia clean and beautiful.

True confession: as I was scrolling through Instagram, my first impression of this photo was that the woman in the center was holding and enormous cake meant to resemble a roasted Thanksgiving turkey. That was before I read the text. If only I had swiped to the next photo, all would have been clear.

Photo courtesy of Columbia Association 

At this angle it’s obviously a beaver. Also, I’m a huge fan of sculptor Evelyn Mogren, who lives in Oakland Mills. You can learn more about her story in this article from The Beacon:

Lifelong carver prefers using chainsaws, Ashley Stimpson, The Beacon

Ms. Mogren is also the artist behind this piece, based on the story of the Bremen Town Musicians, which she created for the Children’s Garden at Freetown Farm.

Photo courtesy of Columbia Families in Nature

Here’s more connection and collaboration: the Columbia Association bringing in Mogren to create a piece to honor conservation-minded community members, and the Community Ecology Institute centering Mogren’s work in their Childrens’ Garden. (Ms. Mogren has also led carving workshops at the Farm, as well. Not the chainsaw kind.)

Have you ever had the opportunity to collaborate and seen that the end result was so much bigger than the sum if its parts? Or, conversely, have you been involved in projects where leadership was more territorial and collaboration was rejected or discouraged? What are your thoughts on this?

Also, does your Village (or area of HoCo) have an environmental advocacy and action group like Wilde Lake CARES? I’d love to learn more.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Lessons Learned


At least five people were killed and 18 injured late Saturday in a shooting at an L.G.B.T.Q. nightclub in Colorado Springs, the police said early Sunday morning.” Emily Bubola, New York Times

Young people in our community will wake up to this news. What will it mean to them? Will it be another example that the world is not safe for them or someone they care about? Or will it confirm what adults around them have been saying, that LGBTQ people are dangerous and need to be controlled or suppressed? 

It depends on who those young people are, what their friends say, what their parents say, what they see in the news and on social media. My heart aches for LGBTQ kids in Columbia/HoCo who will see this today and feel a deep sense of fear. Of dread. Of overwhelming rejection. 

I also worry for the straight, cisgender kids who are surrounded by negative and judgmental attitudes. Every time something like this happens, they are gradually acculturated to see some fellow human beings as “other”. It could be jokes at someone else’s expense, anti-LGBTQ rants by adults on social media, bullying, harrassment, or worse. If no one around them speaks out or stands up against it, our children will learn that these acts of hate are normal. They are to be expected. No big deal.

LGBTQ-positive programs in schools are important, and not only for LGBTQ students and families. This quote from Rabbi Dana Ruttenberg helps to explain this.


We need diverse representation not *only* so every kid can see themselves as the hero of the story, but also so that every kid can understand that *other* kinds of kids are *also* the heroes of the story.

It is important that every child grow up understanding that they are loved and accepted for who they are. It is also important that children witness that love and acceptance being given to all kinds of children. Not just kids like them. All children. 

Some parents object so loudly to LGBTQ-positive programs in schools that you would almost think they believe such things are contagious. I suspect they are really agitating for the right to make sure their children go through school with their parents’ prejudices intact. It’s not sexual orientation or gender identity that’s contagious,  it’s acceptance, support, open-mindedness. Open the door a little bit, they think, and that stuff will spread like wildfire. 

The recent Board of Education race brought a lot of this kind of thinking to the forefront. Young people watch this more than you think. When we elect Board Members who do not give full support to all children, it teaches them that some children are to be valued more than others. Those are difficult lessons to unlearn. 

Writer and advocate Charlotte Clymer responded on Twitter to the news of the shooting at Club Q::

This mass shooting in Colorado Springs is horrifying and exactly what LGBTQ organizations and leaders have been warning would happen if the violent rhetoric toward our community continued. This is what happens when hateful propaganda goes unchecked.

How we respond to this with young people is crucial. Whether at home or in school there should be an openness to making space for their concerns and fears. We must be firm in rejecting acts of hate, small or large. The seeds sown in childhood will bear fruit, one way or another. When we throw up our hands and say we “just can’t talk about it”, we are actually sending a message that our children hear loud and clear. 

We could care but we don’t. We could help but we won’t.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate—

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

- - “You've Got to Be Carefully Taught” (Rodgers/Hammerstein II)

© 1949, Copyright Renewed, Williamson Music Company (ASCAP) c/o Concord Music Publishing.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

No Rest After the Election


If I thought we’d have at least a brief respite from political brouhaha after the election, I was wrong. Almost as soon as the votes were tallied, there was a new topic for local conversation and controversy. 

Howard County lawmakers Clarence Lam and Courtney Watson propose appointing, instead of electing, two school board members, Ethan Ehrenhaft, Baltimore Sun

And it’s not just two members that would be involved. 

The proposed legislation would allow the county executive to appoint two members, based on recommendations from the state delegation, beginning in 2024. Three members elected by senatorial districts in 2024 and two at-large members elected in 2026 would make up the remainder of the reconfigured board.

I found myself having a rather odd reaction to this announcement. Despite not being one hundred percent happy with the present system for electing board members, seeing state legislators propose such sweeping changes got my back up. It’s human nature, I suppose. 

I was one of the people who pushed for a change in how we elect BOE members. This was when all BOE seats were “at large” and, election after election, the most successful candidates were from the same affluent areas of the county. It takes money to run a county-wide race. I was not alone in hoping that electing BOE members by district would promote more diversity on the board, as well as better representation from less affluent parts of the county.

And I do think those changes have made some improvements in those specific areas. But - - and we were warned this could happen - - there have been some accompanying side effects that have been concerning. Board member elected from a particular area are particularly devoted to that area. It is sometimes difficult for them to balance that loyalty with commitment to the county as a whole, or to areas with differing needs and/or challenges.

In short, there have been moments since this change that I have winced and said, “Yes, I know I advocated  for this, but I didn't know it would turn out like this.” 

But when I read the proposal from Lam and Watson, I found myself liking what we have now a whole lot more. I don’t think it is broken enough to warrant this kind of intervention. This is not a small thing that is being suggested here. I’ll continue to study the proposal, but my gut feeling is that any concerns the delegation has could surely be met without diluting the power of local voters. 

Here comes the controversy. The response to this proposal on social media hasn’t been merely disagreement. It seems we have made the leap from a difference of opinion to making accusations of ill intent. It didn’t take long. One well-known local Facebook group is running a poll of its readers to determine “who is the real influence behind this proposal?” 

Choices include the local Democratic Party, the County Executive, Howard Hughes Corporation/assorted developers and lobbyists - - you get the picture. So far no one responding to the aforementioned poll believes that Lam and Watson thought it up themselves. Over on Twitter, someone has attributed this proposal to the influence of HCEA, known more colloquially as the teachers’ union. 

Oh, brother. The blamers are hard at work right now. 

In addition, our local demanders-in-chief have decided to assign ill intent to any decision that they don’t agree with. Eveything is crooked, or selfish, or mean-spirited, or a conspiracy. There’s very little room simply to say, “we are going through difficult times right now and I’m sad and disappointed.” The loudest voices are the blamers. “Again With the Blamers” Village Green/Town² 7/05/2020

These two frames from Calvin and Hobbes feel relevant.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson, Universal Press Syndicate/Andrew McMeel Publishing

It seems a lot of folks are sure they know the “real motivation” behind this proposal. They’re quick with the easy answers. The truth is undoubtedly more complicated. Clarence Lam and Courtney Watson are smart, thoughtful, and effective public servants. It is possible to believe that and still not like this bill. It is possible to oppose this bill without calling these people names and lobbing accusations of malfeasance in their direction. 

How’s this for a completely unserious theory? I made it up purely for my own amusement: Lam and Watson were afraid that no one would come to the public hearing on December 14th. Devastated by thoughts of low turn-out, they created a proposal that was sure to get people out of their homes and into the seats in the Banneker Room in the George Howard Building.

If you’re one of those people, here’s what you need to know:

The Howard County delegation will hold a public hearing Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building to solicit public feedback on proposed local legislation. Registration to testify in person will be 6:20 p.m. to 6:50 p.m. outside the Banneker Room.

The hearing will be livestreamed and written testimony can also be emailed to

Friday, November 18, 2022

F ³: Making a List, Checking it Twice

Whether you marked the beginning of the holiday season by the arrival of Santa at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade or simply by the onslaught of adverts on television, you knew you had something to look forward to. Toys. The arrival of the Sears Wish Book  was a big day at my house. The weather might be getting colder and it was getting darker earlier each afternoon, but you could turn the pages of that toy catalogue and dream. Make a list.

These days the arrival of the Amazon toy catalogue may provide similar excitement. Plus, it has activities and stickers. What will they think of next?

Last night I came across this question on Twitter, posed by Mental Floss:

What is one toy from your childhood you'd pay a fortune for now? 

My response was immediate: Vac-u-form and Creepy Crawlers.

I didn’t actually own the Vacuform. It belonged to my big sisters. I could watch them use it, though, and I did. I suspect my fascination with it was the reason behind my mother eventually buying me Creepy Crawlers.

Neither of these toys could be sold today in their original form because they are potentially unsafe. Both involved units very much like hot plates that could give you legitimate burns if you weren’t careful.  A lot about things in my childhood were potentially unsafe. Traveling in the back of the Ford Country Squire station wagon with no seat belts, for instance. Playing with my friends in the new housing community that was going up nearby, wandering in and out of unfinished townhouses. 

The truth is that I would not pay a fortune to get these toys back. They probably aren’t even my favorites. But they are symbolic, in a way, of a time in my life when there was a lot more leeway about what kids could do. So I name them to remember that time. To recall that particular smell of hot metal and melting plastic. The enormous basements of my childhood homes. The joy of retreating to the playroom.

The most enjoyment I experienced in childhood was in pretend play. That’s not something you can pay any amount to get back. True, some of that involved Barbie dolls, but most of it occurred in backyards or friends’ basements, on playgrounds and in neighborhood parks. We were pioneers in Colonial times. Brave children resisting the Nazis. The girlfriends of The Monkees. We were performers and movie stars. We were ponies. 

We climbed on an enormous abandoned tree stump and blast off into Outer Space. As we painstakingly peeled the bark off of sticks they became any number of essential props to support our games. Grass, leaves, seed pods, flower petals, pebbles, and dirt became soup or cakes.

 We hid behind bushes and plotted our next moves. 

This is the toy that no fortune will buy me. I remember returning to my elementary school playground on a sunny afternoon after I had begun seventh grade. Soon I would be a teenager. In the last year or so I had been running towards adolescence as though it would be the Next Big Thing. The best toy ever. That day as I looked at the playground I was already feeling nostalgia for childhood lost.

I realized that there was no going back.

Throughout my childhood years there plenty of toys I enjoyed. And it’s fun to remember them as talismans of an earlier time. But the hours and hours of just making it up as we went along are a thing apart. As magical as time travel but also as human as the squabbles, skinned knees, tears, and power struggles of children learning how to get along with one another through play. 

What about you? Is there a toy from your childhood that you’d pay a fortune for now? Or - - money aside - - that you really loved and wish you had it back? Would you play with it? Share it with children you know? Put it on a shelf to admire and remember?

Let’s start a list

Thursday, November 17, 2022



November seems to be the official month for online posts about gratitude, undoubtedly because of Thanksgiving. Some folks do a daily gratitude post, tagging others to join in. I have a friend who is posting simple pleasures for which she is grateful. (I’ve always wondered why no one posts their daily, “ I am sorry for” confessions during Lent.)

While I’m not the sort to do the daily Facebook posts, I certainly do have things to be grateful for. Local things. Community things. Neighborhood things. 

Recently I noticed some surprising activity at the Oakland Mills Village Center. There was a man up on a ladder painting some of the white wood trim that adorns the brick buildings. There he was, as plain as day, performing what real estate shows call “deferred maintenance.” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that happening at our village center. I also spied a sign for a new restaurant opening soon: El Gran Sabor, Salvadoran and Mexican Food. 

The Village Center has a new owner: Klein Enterprises of Pikesville. (Cedar Properties made the decision to sell off all of its commercial real estate.) While I don’t know what the future will bring, the sight of someone up on a ladder performing deferred maintenance makes me hopeful. And grateful. 


Over at the East Columbia Branch of the Howard County Library, the new 50+ Center is going up. It’s fun to watch the progress when I drop by to pick up the next batch of mystery novels the library staff have gotten ready for me. Tuesday when I stopped in I felt myself noticing so many ways the library is involved in engaging with the community. 

I saw a home daycare group getting organized by their caregiver to head out after a library visit. A box was in the lobby to collect feminine hygiene products. A display educating patrons about the Brave Voices, Brave Choices initiative is right across from the checkout desk. Outside Girl Scouts were packing up after a shift of cookie selling. 

As I left, a car from NeighborRide pulled up to the front entrance with an elderly passenger. Maybe she was headed to the current 50+ Center, or maybe she was an avid reader looking for more books. At the curb was a white truck bearing the Howard County logo. The gentleman behind the wheel looked out and said, 

“It looks like snow, doesn’t it?” 
I smiled, nodding.
“I know! It really looks like a snow sky.”

EMILY: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?" Thornton Wilder, 
Our Town


Something to think about, and to be thankful for: in the recent brouhaha about the CA Board, much has been made about the number and variety of people coming out to register support for CA President Lakey Boyd. I don’t know her “in real life” but I imagine she is truly grateful for that. During a difficult time such reassuring voices mean a lot.

As for myself, I am grateful for the brave folks who have stepped up to support President and CEO of the Inner Arbor Trust Nina Basu after the disappointingly slanted Fishbowl piece and the associated unfounded rumor-mongering. It’s easy to write public letters of support when you know all the right people are doing it. It is much, much harder to speak out when you know you are pushing back against very powerful forces. 

I’m grateful for progress at my village center and the many gifts my local library shares with our community. I’m very grateful for people who aren’t afraid to speak out against character assassination. 

If you have any HoCoLocal people, things, or experiences on your gratitude list, feel free to share.